Ironman 70.3 Steelhead–2017 Edition

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This year was my 3rd consecutive showing at the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead event in Benton Harbor, MI.  The race was Sunday, August 13th.  It was my “A” race although I certainly did NOT show up recovered & rested enough to perform at “A” level.  It was my own fault.  Not enough time between IM 70.3 OH and Steelhead.  I “possibly” should have picked one race, or the other, rather than doing both.  Smile  Regardless, Aby & I and a few others headed to Steelhead to have some “fun” in the sun.

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We hit the expo on Saturday around noon to listen to the Athlete Briefing, pick up packets & do a quick warm up swim.  I personally wasn’t planning to swim.  I had pulled something in my shoulder earlier in the week (while sleeping, of all things).  I didn’t want any additional strain on it until I had to hit the water for real.  However, once we arrived at Jean Klock Park and finally caught a glimpse of Lake Michigan, we noticed that the water was rough.  Really rough, white capping with big rolling waves that were 5+ feet, plus there was a small craft advisory.  My crew opted out of the warm up swim for fear that it would create additional anxiety.  Normally the water calms down over night, that’s what we were hoping for because we came for a 70.3 triathlon, not an abbreviated event.  Crossing our fingers!

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Race day arrived bright & early.  Race site was buzzing with energy.  Air was cool. Water was calm with gentle rolling waves.

This year, Steelhead had changed the swim start.  They moved to a self seeded rolling start that would allow us to start with those of our own ability level vs the normal age group start.  I was happy with this decision.  I thought it should result in a smooth swim without us swimming up on slower swimmers who had started before us and it would prevent faster swimmers from doing the same to us.  Good deal, right?  Overall, I think it went well but the water was still rocking and rolling and some underestimated how long it might take them to do the swim.  So I was still swimming up on quite a few but it was less chaotic than normal.  I took 3 swim lessons before this event.  I’ve swam in triathlon for 10 years now, without lessons, without a coach & without any real guidance.  I’ve met my goals in that time span and am happy with what I’ve accomplished; however, I have not improved in the swim over that period of time, in fact, I’ve gotten slower.  So …… swim lessons!

After the 3 swim lessons, I felt lost.  I knew everything I was doing was wrong.  Its impossible to correct everything at once, and I’ve basically been swimming in SLOW MOTION in order to focus on a few things.  As a result, I didn’t know how the swim would go for me.  I am happy to report that I felt in control.  I really focused on keeping my head down & that allowed me to cut thru the waves vs ride the up & down roller coaster that Lake Michigan provided.  I was pushing thru my stroke.  I still don’t have the catch right but I did push thru my stroke & I think it was working (at least better than normal) because when I would get beside someone, I’d be past them quickly with one or two pushes thru my stroke.  So it went well.  I swam until I could dig sand, then stood up.  I looked at my watch even though I wasn’t out of the water.  44:00 flat.  Then it took me almost a minute to fight the waves and wade out of the last little bit of water.  But I was still faster, in Lake MI, with the waves, than my last two 70.3s this year, which were both slightly over 45 minutes.  Happy dance!!

It should have just kept getting better once I got out of the water but I hit transition and immediately recognized that it was busy.  Really busy.  I normally get out of the water with my age group.  We are all in the same area of transition.  You know how you did in the water based on how many bikes are on the rack vs gone.  This time, since we did the self seeded start, transition was total chaos.  People were everywhere, sitting, standing, in various states of dress or undress.  I was dodging people & wetsuits just getting to my transition spot.  Now, transition in Steelhead is along the beach.  Long and narrow.  So be prepared to run & definitely know your spot.  Bikes as far as the eyes can see.  Further actually.

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This year, I felt like we had more space on the racks between bikes.  But the rows seemed tighter.  Or maybe it was just because there were more people in transition when I got there?  It was tight.  Regardless, got out of my wetsuit, got my bike & was running out of transition dodging people.  One person even told me to slow down.  What?  Finally got out of transition and the bike mount line was on one half of a round-a-bout.  Not a big one.  It was about the width of half a road.  One lane of traffic.  And EVERYONE in front of me had stopped on that mount line to get on their bikes.  What?  I was trapped.  And the people directly in front of me could not get clipped into their bikes.  Total chaos.  After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I became impatient, picked  up my bike, ran thru the round-a-bout, dodged spectators & put my bike down on the edge of the road away from the mount line.  I titled my bike to get on & a spectator yelled to me, “hey, you dropped your chain!”  What?  Me?  Is he talking to me?  I didn’t drop my damn chain.  I haven’t even been on my bike yet.  This bike doesn’t drop its chain.  What?  I look down (opposite side of the bike) & my chain was hanging.  What?  A bazillion things went thru my mind.  I moved to the other side of my bike.  Moved myself & my bike further out of the way so as not to interfere with those who actually were able to clip in and start riding.  And I was just standing there, staring at the chain.  Probably with a stupid look on my face because a spectator came up to me & said, “let me help you with that”.  Huh?  And I stupidly stared at him while he put my chain back on the bike.  Like I didn’t know how to put a chain back on my bike?  Right.  I’ve done it a thousand times.  But apparently I had the “damsel in distress” or worse look on my face.  He got me fixed up & I was on my way.  Still wondering what had happened.  But I’m on my bike, riding gently to get the gears settled back into the right spot.  Immediately I hear/feel a catch somewhere on the bike.  Something was catching/rubbing.  Either every wheel turn or pedal stroke, I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I looked down to make sure my brakes weren’t rubbing.  Not that.  No idea what was going on but decided to ride the bike til it broke or I couldn’t ride it any further.  It was a long ass 56 miles.  The bike was not smooth.  I could feel the rub/catch continuously thru the ride.  Then the course was pretty rough.  I had been up & rode the course on Memorial Day and was surprised as to how much the roads could deteriorate over 10 weeks time.  We did have a reroute due to road construction but that road wasn’t any smoother.  The entire ride, short of the out & back on 63, was just rough.  Add that with the catch in my bike & it made for a slow, not so fun ride.  Plus my legs were definitely fatigued from OH.  I usually pass A LOT of people in the last 20 miles.  Not this time.

Finally back to transition.  Onto the run.  Let’s just finish this!  But by this time it had heated up and we just ran.  At whatever pace we could manage.  I ran between aid stations except for a couple decent hills that I walked.  But otherwise, I ran.  Slowly.  And just kept moving.  I’d walk thru the water stations to get the water/ice that I needed.  Then moved on.  I like the Steelhead run course.  Starts through a beach  community.  Past a golf course.  Up a hill, to the main loop that we run twice.  Past the fire station, down some nice community roads where there is always a family handing out beer shots.  Always makes me giggle.  Do people actually drink the beer shots?  Aid stations every mile or so.  Port-o-potties, first aid, pretzels, chips, cookies, candy, oranges, bananas, gels, coke, red bull, water, ice.  Whirlpool campus.  Some shade, paved & grassy/dirt trails.  Big hill.  Back to 63 for a short jaunt, then back to turn by the fire station to start loop 2.  After the repeat of the loop, then we head down the hill & back toward the finish.  That’s when the smile emerges & I know I’m about done.  That I have once again conquered the 70.3 distance.

I think I’ve done 13 or 14 at this distance now.  Its still not easy.  There is so much that goes into Triathlon between the 3 disciplines.  The longer the race, the more variables to add.  The bike, which is the longest distance, has additional issues.  Flats, mechanicals, other racers dropping things in front of you or veering into you.  Triathlon is not for the faint of heart but I do believe that anyone can do it.  If they have the desire.  If you have been thinking about it, I seriously encourage you to give it a TRI.  Smile  You can always email me with questions at amanda@tootallfritz.com.  I will respond.  I’m happy to help with questions regarding gear/races/training.  But I’m not a coach.

SWAG & finishers medal below.

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My beautiful bike, which was indeed “broken” during Steelhead.  A bolt in my stem had snapped. I’m lucky I didn’t crash.  Although it has since been fixed, the front wheel now has too much “play” from side to side.  Paint has also been chipped off the front fork/head tube area where someone must have slammed into my bike while trying to get thru transition.  That’s probably how my chain dropped too.  I just didn’t notice because I run my bike on the opposite side of the cassette & chain ring.

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Cheers to the 2017 TRI season.  Its in the DONE column.  I had considered trying to get in one more 70.3 to try to maximize my training and make another go at my “A goal” but there just isn’t time.  I’m riding the Dam to Dam Century Ride on September 10th.  I just got my bike back this week but I definitely need a couple longer rides ASAP. And its marathon season once again.  Marathon season where its you, your body & the elements.  Less drama.  Less chance of unknown mishaps.  Never predictable but so much easier in so many ways. So I’ll be seeing you on the road.  Soon.

If you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead, see my report from 2015 & 2016.  I hope you are having a great season.  Let me know which fall marathons you’ll be running & maybe I’ll see you.

** Happy Running & TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Review – 2016

It’s no secret that Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is one of my favorites.  In fact, I’ll sign up for 2017 as soon as the event opens for registration.  Its “my” race.  Its in a familiar place.  I have friends in the area.  And I love Saint Joseph MI.  In fact, I raced this year, even though it was on my 17th wedding anniversary.  Oooops.  Sorry, honey.   Or I should say, thanks, honey. Smile

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Steelhead is set in a picturesque, beach town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The venue is Jean Klock Park which has a Benton Harbor address, just one mile north of Saint Joseph, MI.  The views are breathtaking and the park is public so you can go visit anytime.  Take a swim in Lake MI.  Ride the marked bike route.  Go for a little run.  Fun!!

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I arrived at Jean Klock Park for packet pick up on Saturday morning around 11am.  It had stormed on me the entire 2.5 hours that I spent driving to the location.  The sun was out on the shores of Lake MI but “something” definitely hung in the air.  It was hot.  The wind was blowing.  And the waves were rolling.  Looks like a perfect day at the beach but not perfect enough for me to rack my bike.  I have been having issues with my bike all season, the gearing & derailleur, no need to leave it out in the weather overnight in less than ideal conditions.

I quickly grabbed my packet, which isn’t as quick at an IM event as you might think. They are very organized but there is a process of checking identity, updating information & walking thru the various stations for bib/swim cap, shirt, & chip that takes a bit more time than a normal packet pick-up.  Fortunately, I got thru just in time for one of the pre-race meetings.

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Always fun.  Nothing had really changed from last year course wise, just a few rule changes.  But then they dropped the big bomb that the water temp was almost to the point of being too high for wetsuits.  Since it was a very warm day, we should stay tuned for a last minute call on if the race would be wetsuit legal.  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.  The swim is in Lake MI and I’m pretty sure it’s never NOT been wetsuit legal.  The water stays pretty cool, even in the summer.  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

Packet picked up.  Race meeting attended.  Walked thru the expo quickly.  Bought some TriSlide ….. cuz that’s the way to make sure you can definitely wear your wetsuit, have extra lube so you can get into it!!  Found my spot in transition for reference.  Off to check into Hotel de Jude (not a real hotel in St Joseph – I always stay with a friend).

As the rest of the crew started filtering into Hotel de Jude, the air was light.  Most of us were on a repeat trip to Steelhead and knew what to expect.  We went about our business of cooking dinner, getting bikes ready for race day (cuz nobody from our group actually racked their bike), prepping nutrition & focusing on last minute rehab.  I’m thankful for friends who have all the cool toys that I can’t afford and I took full advantage.  Normatec Recovery Boots?  Yes, please!  Ed modeling his boots, I’m using Ryan’s.  Thanks, Ryan.  If they go missing, it wasn’t me.  I swear.  Smile  Super compression from the toes to the hip.  I’m in love.

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Left my legs looking very “compressed” and super scary!  IMG_0664

Car buffer to rub out sore muscles.  I can afford that, $30 at Home Depot & I’ll be getting one soon!  There are also high tech muscle “massagers” that are more official for a much bigger price tag.  But this is essentially the same thing and much more affordable in my world.  Weird sensation!

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I was all in on the recovery front.  As a little background, I had spent the week hitting up the chiro and the massage therapist trying to bring my legs back from the dead.  The Chiro has figured out that due to some low back damage from my college years, then a fresh round of irritation this summer, my low back muscles are not firing properly.  My glutes aren’t working.  As a result my quads are overworked and apparently underpaid cuz they are revolting.  They are dead all the time.  It is a struggle to even climb the stairs at home.  When I get on the bike, all that is magnified and basically I’ve got zero power on the bike,  despite better training and better nutrition.  So, it is what it is and I have exercises to help correct the issue but it’s a slow process.  I was hoping to have a great race at Steelhead so invested some extra time & $$ into recovery.  Did it work?!?!?

Race day is always early.  The crew was up by 3am.  Pre-race prep and we had to put Hotel de Jude back to its original state of perfectness.  Off to the race site by 4:15am for a long day.  We were rolling our bikes into the venue when we heard the announcement.  Water temp was 77+degrees.  NOT wetsuit legal, the cap for wetsuits at IM races is 76.1 degrees.  The news did not hit the crowd well.  In fact, I wasn’t real happy either and I know I can swim the distance without a wetsuit.  It’s the waves.  The up and down of the waves that slow us “recreational” swimmers.  We don’t cut thru the waves but rather ride them up and down.  The wetsuits help our buoyancy, confidence & swim split.  But not at Steelhead 2016.  No wetsuits.

Transition set up quickly.  Then we wait.  Donna, myself & Wendy waiting for transition to close at 6:45a and the race to begin at 7a.

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IM races always start on time.  The three of us (above) were in the 40-44 category and our wave started at 7:24 am.  The other ladies warmed up with a quick swim, I just stood on the beach socializing, awaiting my wave start.  Lots of nervous people on race morning.  The normal nerves were intensified by the “no wetsuit” call.  I spoke to several people who had never swam without a wetsuit.  Some who were so nervous they couldn’t hardly even speak.  I felt bad for them and still wonder on how they did.  I’m hoping once they got into the water, they just got down to business.  The 1.2 mile swim course is very user friendly.  5 yellow buoys out, red turn buoy, 3 more yellow buoys, then 3 orange buoys (once you hit the orange buoys you’re half way), then a red turn buoy, then 5 more orange buoys to the beach.  The swim was not easy but I’ve had worse.  I’m not a fast swimmer even with the wetsuit so I was happy to see my swim split of 55 minutes once I got out of the water.  That’s a decent swim for me, especially without a wetsuit & considering the rolling waves.  The waves were rolling so high that spotting was difficult.  Normally I don’t have to lift my head real high to see the next buoy but I wasn’t timing my siting correctly and each time I lifted to site, I could only see the wall of the next wave coming at me.  Oh well, I just tried to be patient and focus on the next buoy.  Just keep swimming, right?  Made it out of the water with a smile on my face.  Saw Valerie who had VIP access right next to the swim exit & she captured my happy exit from the water.  Yay!  Thanks!

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On to the bike and the real test as to if my attempt at recovery did any good.  I knew within the first mile that it was going to be a long bike.  I had 56 miles in front of me.  And my quads felt horrible, very fatigued, just like every other day for the last 3 months.  I’ll be honest, I was scared.  I keep getting slower & slower with every race and I just didn’t want to have bad race at Steelhead when I love the race so much.  Took me a minute to think but I basically had a realization.  I remembered something that someone told me when I first started riding.  They said, “when your legs get tired, pull UP on your pedals instead of pushing down”.  So I refocused my efforts on pulling up vs pushing down and I had an instant turnaround in power output.  I wasn’t able to harness as much power as last year, or the accompanying speed, but I did well with the new pedal stroke.  This used different muscles and pulled power from my hamstrings vs my tired quads.  Worked for me!  3:04 for the bike, 18.1 mph average.  Best I’ve had all year and in case you were wondering, my gears did fail.  I only had big gears.  The shifter on the left side slid out in my hand within the first few miles.  So I didn’t bother trying to use it, for fear of breaking down.  I just used the big gears, pounded down the hills as quickly as I could, rode the wave of the up as long as possible, then I stood up from the saddle and rode the remainder of the hill when things got tough.  I’m always willing to improvise to avoid catastrophe.  Side note – Felt send new shifters for me, so I’m hoping the next couple weeks of training (and REV3 Cedar Point 70.3) will go more smoothly.

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I want to toss out a huge thank you to the bike aid station volunteers.  They always impress me so much.  They are very attentive.  We call out what they want, then they basically hold steady so we can grab water/gatorade/banana/gel, etc.  Or they run with us for a second to help us connect with what we need.  Nerves of steel!  Thank you for being brave and so attentive.

Pro Tip:  Do NOT pass someone 2 seconds before an aid station on the bike.  This goes double if you plan to STOP at said aid station to get something from the very first volunteer, after cutting in front of me someone 2 seconds prior to stopping.  The way the  aid stations work, there is always spillage from water & gatorade bottles.  The ground is wet.  I had to lock up my brakes at the very first aid station in an attempt to not hit a person who passed me, then stopped immediately.  I didn’t crash.  I didn’t hit him.  But I’m quite confident the scenario could have easily gone a different way.  I’ve been riding for a long time.  There are a lot of people out on the course who are less experienced.  We got lucky.  Our race could have easily been over at mile 15 of the bike course.  Thankfully, luck was on our side.

Bike aid stations – 3 – every 15 miles on the one loop, 56 mile bike course.  Great layout.  Great volunteers.  Potties, food, fluids.  Smooth roads the majority of the race.  Well marked course (that is marked year round).

Run course – 2 loops – a couple decent hills.  Aid stations every mile.  Varying terrain, we even get to run some of the trails behind the Whirlpool Center!  So cool!!!  By the time we got to the run, it was really heating up.  I definitely struggled but just focused on getting from aid station to aid station.  Then I made sure to hydrate, take ice & just stay calm.  Good run considering the heat.  2:23 for the 13.1 miles.

Finish was 6:31.  That’s 7 minutes slower than last year but to be honest, it felt like a huge win.  I haven’t had a decent TRI all year.  I’ve been fighting the good fight and focusing on getting thru the races to which I committed, but it’s been rough.  Overall, the TRI Gods came thru for me and delivered a better race than I could have hoped for and I’m very grateful.

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SWAG – Cuz that’s what everyone wants to know, is great.  IM does some of the best swag in the business.  They went kinda cheap last year with the backpacks and the same shirt for every event.  However, I think we all let them know that we were unhappy in our post race surveys.  This year, the swag improved considerably.  Different shirts for each race and the backpacks had the name of the event vs just a generic IM 70.3 logo.  Yay!

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Overall, a great race.  I love it.  I definitely hope to make a repeat visit next year.  Here is my 2015 race report, if you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead.

** Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Report

As I previously mentioned, life around the TTF household has been slightly chaotic thus the lack of a timely race report.  In fact, it’s been down right stressful!  But we keep on keeping on, right?  Yes!  So I showed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead overweight, undertrained but ready to tackle whatever the day tossed at me.  Remember, I do this for fun.  I run, train, TRI as a stress reliever and for a little bit of “me time” amongst the chaos.  Total bonus is when I get to spend time with friends.  Aby and Julie M were my race weekend support crew and we rolled into Saint Joseph & Benton Harbor MI with smiles on our faces!

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We hit packet pick up, listened to the pre-race meeting, figured out the new swim course, racked my bike and hit the expo while Aby constantly reminded us that she just wanted to go to the beachIMG_7760

There is something final about leaving your bike in transition.  Most of us are on our second or even third or more bike.  We started at the bottom with a low level road bike and worked our way up.  We have an emotional attachment to our bike that is hard for people who do not ride to understand.   Most of my friends actually have a name for their bike, I do not.  But I still love it.  And I spend a lot of time with it.  And it never sasses me or talks back.  Smile  So I bid my bike farewell and it sits in transition, awaiting my return and trying to soak up the calm before the chaos of race day begins.

When I return it is race morning.  It’s full on chaos.  Transition is packed.  It’s still dark.  Trying to set up transition in the dark, with 2499 of our new friends, just begs for things to be forgotten at the bottom of the transition bag!  But we are finally set up and started inching our wetsuits on for the swim start.   Wendy, myself & Judy getting ready to head to the beach for our 1.2 mile swim!

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Swim waves went out in 4 minute increments.  Judy was in the first wave at 7:00 am and Wendy and I were 12 minutes behind at 7:12am.  There was a last minute change to the swim course to keep the swim start & finish close together on the beach.  The change resulted in us having to swim further out into the mammoth body of water known as Lake Michigan.  What Lake MI delivers on a given day is just a surprise so I was ready for the worst like IM 70.3 Racine in 2013 and hoped for the best.  New course:

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Water was calm at the start!  Yes!  But the course wasn’t as nice as the pretty picture above.  We were swimming at an angle and it seemed like every buoy turned us a bit and we had to reposition.  It wasn’t as easy as it appears, plus I felt VERY crowded in the water, both by the ladies in my wave, as well as the fast swimmers behind me.  It took me a good 3 buoys to get myself together and just do my own thing but then as soon as I’d get in a groove I’d have a swimmer in front of me swimming perpendicular to me.  I need to be more aggressive in the water but I’m not at this point.  Swimming is the easy part of the TRI and I don’t really rush.  When someone is swimming the wrong way in front of me, I stop and let them clear my path.  Doesn’t make for a very speedy swim but keeps me comfortable.  Something I need to work on for the future!  Anyhow, I finally navigate the swim course, it was marked well and easy to follow.  No clock when I got out of the water, which was odd, but I could make out the start line clock, that read 8:00 am real time.  That put me in the water for 48 minutes and I was happy with that considering my lack of swim training.  However, Ironman clocked me at 55 minutes via my chip so I’m not sure how I messed that up.  Or why I was in the water so long because overall the swim was decent, I wasn’t panicky, there were some rolling waves out on the back side of the course but nothing too crazy.  I kept moving but yes, I did stop numerous times to avoid “random” swimmers.  But it was a beautiful day and I kinda enjoyed the cool, crisp, clear water.

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No wetsuit strippers but I managed to get unzipped and unsuited.  On to the bike!  The bike as you know, can make or break you and is the longest segment of any triathlon.  This race is a half ironman, AKA 70.3 race, where all the mileage equals 70.3 miles at the end of the day.  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike & 13.1 mile run.  I had been having bike issues most of the season.  Issues with my shifters.  Issues with getting out for longer rides.  Too many issues.  I really had no idea what I could do on the bike so the plan here was to hold back on the first half, eat, drink and relax.  Get thru the nasty/bumpy section of bad road, then try to be somewhat “fresh” for the last half and all those uphill sections (which suck the wind and energy right out of me).  One loop course, which is my preference.  I hit the half way mark (28 miles) right at 1 hour 30 minutes and vaguely remember thinking, “wow, if you keep this pace, you might break 3 hours”.  But then I dismissed the thought immediately because I knew that there were some nasty uphill sections to come.  I really didn’t have much of a strategy.  As I’ve said, I’m super bad riding uphill, I was down into single digits so many times, 9mph was very common.  But I USED the downhill.  No matter how tired I was when I got up the hill, I was ready to rush the down.  And I did that to the best of my ability. At the end of the ride, when my butt hurt so bad I wanted to toss my bike I was tired, that’s what held me together, crushing the downhill.  Then eventually the thought that just possibly, if I kept pushing, I might, just might break 3 hours on the bike.  And I did.  2 hours 59 minutes on the bike.  HUGE triumph for me after a summer (full year really) of trials and tribulations.  Happy girl.

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After a phenomenal (for me) bike, I hit the run.  I hadn’t done one brick all season and my legs had trouble spinning off the bike.  Took about 3 miles to get in my groove.  Course had two run loops.  There were 3 big hills on the first loop.  2 on the second.  I walked the entirety of each hill.  I also walked thru each of the aid stations and made sure that I got enough fluids, ice and refueled with coke and small bites of banana.  Run went well.  I wasn’t dead but not speedy.  I thought I’d run a 2:15 but at the end of the day I was at 2:21 with the walking.  It was a good day.  We had cloud cover, which was  a HUGE help (especially to those who melt in the heat, like me).  Temps were in the high 70s at the finish (78 degrees).  It was a bit sticky with humidity but manageable thanks to the clouds.

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I’ve now participated in all 3 Midwest Ironman 70.3 events.  Muncie in 2012, where I took a DNF due to a torn tendon in my foot (race was also downgraded to Olympic distance due to extreme heat – 108 degrees).   Racine in 2013 where the monster waves and bumpy roads stole the show.  And now Steelhead.  There were things I liked about each of these events.  The bike course at Muncie was FUN and the hills seemed manageable.  Not too steep but big enough to produce some speed.  The run in Racine was beautiful with scenic views of Lake Michigan.  But Steelhead was different.  It felt like home.  My family goes up to Saint Joseph MI on occasion for day or weekend trips, year round.  My friends Judy & Julie M both have “cabins” within a reasonable distance of the race site.  In fact, we actually went up and I was able to ride the course once before race day.  So, yes, it’s a big fancy race, but one that felt like it was on our home turf.  And there is no denying the home field advantage.  And that’s how this race felt, like I had an advantage cuz I knew where to hold back on the bike and where to push.  I really enjoyed Steelhead.  Great race.  Great volunteers.  Plenty of aid stations on the bike (3) and on the run (5 each loop).

In closing, I’ll address the full Ironman issue one more time.  I’m frequently asked “when” I’ll do a full ironman.  First, a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) just isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to realize that it’s just not what some people call fun.  But for myself, I’ve been dreaming about the full distance since my first half in 2008.  Then I was blessed with a bouncing baby boy in 2009.  Baby boy is growing, CRAZY and is becoming more self sufficient each and every day.  In fact, he started kindergarten this year and will be turning 6 in just a couple weeks!!!

Aby & Michael - First Day of School - 2015

I think we are finally at the point where I could tackle it, IF I could justify spending the money to register.  In fact, I’ve been upgrading my equipment for years so that I’ll be ready when the time finally arrives.  However, the last year has brought us a lot of change and financial strain.  We have taken steps to rectify the problem (Hello, NONPAYING IL renters, I’m talking to you.).   Then, maybe, I can tackle the full ironman.  It’s something that I think about every day.  I even think about it when I should be sleeping.  It’s definitely “on the list” but I need to make sure that its something the family can endure in terms of time commitment to my training and also the $$ commitment of the registration fee and travel expenses.  Plus, I need to find a race that will NOT interfere with Aby’s Cross Country season.  So those are a few of the reasons as to why I’m not YET an IronWOman.  But I’ll get there and it will be all the sweeter when I do because I waited for the right moment.

just because

Keep Pushing For YOUR Dreams – Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ready Or Not ….. Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

I didn’t ride my bike or swim at all in 2014.  The move (packing, finding an IN house on a tight time table, finding renters for the IL house, and actually getting all of our stuff from the old house/barn to the new one) was quite a project.  I ran when I could but that was pretty infrequent too between April & September (2014).  When spring 2015 came around, I had a real itch to get out on my bike.  However, I wasn’t real familiar with all the roads in my new area.  Drivers here had ran me off the road while running more than once.  And I knew of 2 ladies who were hit and killed while riding their bikes in IL (different areas) early in the season.  I was a bit nervous about getting out on the road.  Actually, I was scared.

fear

I finally got my bike out after the local coffee shop, Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings, ran a promo for Bike Month in May.  I think the promo was that they would give a free coffee to anyone who completed 7 items on the bike month promo sheet.  I never did turn in my sheet but I did dust off my bike toward the end of the month and take it for a spin.  And I was a happy lady.  I started riding around my area.  Even found a couple good routes with a few hills.  Set my basement up for some marathon bike trainer sessions because I was  having trouble getting out the door between kids, work and Aby’s Cross Country schedule.  Signed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead.  And then my basement flooded with my bike trainer in it and all plans were halted.

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When there is a crisis at home, mom doesn’t leave to go ride her bike.  So all swimming and biking stopped with the basement flood.  It was emotional.  It was exhausting because we (hubby, kids & I) had to clear out and demo the basement.  Insurance didn’t help much at all.  In fact, it didn’t even help enough to pay for the replacement of our geothermal heat/air unit.  And when it rains it pours, right?  So it was at this exact same time that’s our IL renters decided they weren’t going to pay rent anymore.  Now our home is in a partial demo’d state with no heat/air.  Current basement pic below.

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We’re paying for 2 houses and an eviction lawsuit to try to get the renters (can I call them that if they aren’t paying???) out of our IL house.  Lot’s going on and not much to do with training or triathlon.  But over the last three weeks I’ve tried to get my shit together mentally & physically salvage my training because the IM registration fees are pretty high and am hoping for another 70.3 finish.

attitude is everything

I’ve only managed a couple swims but I’ve ridden numerous times, mostly 25 milers but I’ve been riding.

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I even took a day off work to go ride the Steelhead course with a few amazing athletes.

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We took a practice swim that really sucked in Lake Michigan but at least Laura N. was able to get my wetsuit zipped  This is a real win because of course, I’m now “a bit” heavier than the specs of the suit recommend.

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So the good news is that I won’t drown because my wetsuit technically fits.  And I should be able to cover the 56 miles on the bike because I’ve trained for almost a full 3 weeks.  Smile  And well, I can run a half marathon.  So I guess I’m ready to do a half ironman!  Right?  Right!

So there it is, all laid out.  Steelhead, I’m coming.  Whether I’m “Ready or Not”.  I wasn’t going to win anyhow, so I’ll just keep ticking off the miles until the finish line is in sight.

success occurs

** I TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Hidden Treasurers …. The Spencerville Covered Bridge

I took all of 2014 off cycling due to the sudden move from IL to IN.  The stress of finding a new house while packing up the IL home.  All while working full time.  Being a full time mom with a hubby who had pretty much already moved ahead of us for work.   And let’s not even talk about how crazy long it took to complete the move itself.    I basically didn’t do much last year other than run to maintain sanity, then try not to lose my mind while I wasn’t running ….. and I didn’t even do that very well.  Regardless, since last August, I’ve been running on my country roads here in rural Indiana.   Should be boring, right?

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Wrong.  I’ve had a couple close calls where I was almost struck by unaware motorists.  One time a lady was so close to me that I could have reached into her car and touched her child who was riding passenger.   Did she see me?  Probably not.  Was the sun in her eyes?  Maybe.  Or was she trying to teach me a lesson to “get off the road”.  Possibly.

As a result, I was a bit worried about getting my bike out.  In fact, I was scared.   While running, I’m legally obligated to run facing oncoming vehicular traffic.  While cycling, I’m legally obligated to ride with vehicular traffic.  Blind to what is coming behind me.  Blind to the fact that someone may be unaware that I’m on the road.  On a bike.  Vulnerable.  At His mercy.  If it weren’t for my love of triathlon; I’d probably have left my bike on the trainer again for 2015.  But I’m signed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead.  And I must ride.  Outside.  On the road.  In the wind.  Up and down whatever hills I can find.  Alone.

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All of a sudden, I remember how much I love cycling.  How much I love my bike.  How great it is to fly down the hills.  How horrid it is to struggle UP the hills.  How freeing it is to be able to ride for hours on end to parts unknown.  On one of my recent rides, I went looking for something that I had read about, in a small town near my home.  A covered bridge.  Indiana is known for it’s old covered bridges (98 in all) but I had no idea that one was so close to my new home.  The Spencerville Covered Bridge was built in 1873 and it’s a mere 11 miles from my house!

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A hidden historic treasure.  Basically in my backyard.  One that not many locals think about since traffic has long been rerouted away from the bridge to protect it from overuse, modern vehicles and big massive semi trucks that have previously damaged this old girl.   Now she just sits awaiting our arrival.  While I was there multiple people pulled up and snapped pics.   One couple even lingered, looking at this piece of modern day history, walking the interior planks.  There is a small parking area on the east side of the bridge for those who want to do more than just drive by.  If you are in the area, go check it out!

I’m thankful to be back on the bike.  I’ve been trying to ride more and run less.  Easier said than done for this runner.  But I’m enjoying the journey.  Enjoying my bike and the wind in my hair.  I love finding hidden treasures like the Spencerville Covered Bridge.  I enjoy riding new roads and finding new routes, particularly if there are a couple hills on which I can practice climbing and shifting. 

** Get Out and Find YOUR Local Hidden Treasurers!  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz