Dam to Dam Century Ride – Wabash, IN

Sunday, I rode my first Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash, IN.  It wasn’t only my first D2D but also my first EVER century ride.  I had zero expectations.  My plan was to show up, ride & finish.  Mission accomplished.

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Easy drive to Wabash, IN which is about 80 minutes from my house.  The start/finish & packet pickup were at the local YMCA, plenty of parking and space for the riders.  Packet pick up and breakfast was in the gym.  Well organized.  Fast.  We all received a wristband with a number to call in case we had issues with the ride, our bikes or needed help.  It was a nice touch and one that I certainly appreciated.  I’ve done several organized rides but never one where I felt confident that if I had a problem, someone would actually be able to help. 

I started with the 7:30am crew.  We hit the course early, while the main group started at 8am.  I was happy to get moving. It was cold, low 40s.  Plus, I knew that riding 100 miles would take me just short of forever.  Might as well get started!  We left the Y and started weaving thru Wabash.  I immediately noticed 3 things. 1)  Holy Hills.  We were climbing before our saddles even got warm. 2)  The course was well marked with directional arrows BEFORE the intersection where we would need to turn.  3)  I would be riding 104 miles NOT 100 miles.  Small detail but something I noticed immediately.

It was a beautiful morning.  Cool.  Foggy.  Breathtaking views.  I was happy to be out.  Happy to be riding.  Happy to be tackling something that had been on my bucket list for several years.  Even stopped for a few pictures. 

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And a selfie!  Thanks to Ron at FNA Outdoors for helping me out again this year.  Great guy.  Great bike shop.  Cool gear.  Awesome bike. 

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I rode the 104 mile route.  Aid stations were located about every 20 miles.  Closer in some spots but never further.  The aid stations reminded me of ultra running.  Food, food & more food.  Pic below of the first aid station.  Trail mix, PB&J, cookies, water, Gatorade, tomato juice, pickles, bacon, chips, etc.  Every aid station had different food items, but the food was always plentiful.  If you like ultra/trail runs because of the food, you’ll love century rides! 

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Best part of the day, in my opinion, a field of sunflowers.  So many.  Sunflowers as far as the eyes could see.  I took this while riding and am thankful it wasn’t blurry!

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We rode thru the countryside, across several bridges & dams.  Thru the Salamonie Reservoir & State Park. Red Bridge State Recreation area.  Mississinewa Reservoir.  Past the Stockdale Mill. 

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Once I hit Stockdale, mile 64, I was pretty flat.  I had 3 weeks of building for marathon training & also 3 weeks of building on the bike to be ready for the century.  I was starting to feel it.  I wasn’t exhausted but definitely tired & I had been riding solo for about 10 miles without seeing many other riders. 

After Stockdale, things went downhill fast, mentally.  I was alone.  Fighting some heavy winds.   Mentally breaking down.  I knew it was a mental thing but that didn’t help me get thru it any faster.  From Stockdale to North Manchester, it was a real slog.  As soon as I hit the city limits of North Manchester, a big pack of cyclists passed me.  Then we all hit the aid station at mile 82 together. Riders kept pouring into that aid station while I was there.  Obviously, I hadn’t been out there alone.  I sat for a few minutes, ate 2 brownies, hit the potty, texted a friend that I was on the brink of the “ugly cry”.  Then rolled out, about the same time as 10 other riders.  8 disappeared immediately.  2 were in my sights.  I was not alone.  So I tried to keep those 2 gentlemen in sight.  Helped me focus.  Rolled down the miles a lot faster just knowing someone was close.  Passed thru Largo, then back to Wabash.  We were directed onto a bike path for a short stint.  I was alone again but it was very pretty. 

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Then I made my only directional mistake of the day once I got off the path.  I misinterpreted an arrow.  I crossed the road and started a huge climb up a very ugly hill.  Then I was in a busy part of town.  Then I noticed there weren’t any more arrows.  I messed up.  Thanks to Google Maps, I found my way back to the YMCA.  107 miles total.  Just shy of 7 hours on the bike.  Wow.  Longest. Ride. Ever.

Overall, I was very impressed with D2D.  I’d definitely go back and ride it again.  I’d like to be able to do it as an annual event.  It wasn’t super close to home but manageable.  And it was just a good event from start to finish.  Great directional info, signs, and volunteers.  The aid stations were on point with lots of goodies.  I loved that they were pretty close together, especially when I started to struggle, it helped to know I only had to make it to the next aid station.  The majority of the roads were decent too, which I appreciate.  Great experience, I hope to return next year. 

** Happy Running, Riding OR Whatever YOU Enjoy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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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 **

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Race Review

Ironman 70.3 Ohio is in its infancy and I think we all want to know what kind of race Ironman is delivering in Ohio.  I was interested to see how it compared to other 70.3 events in the Midwest.  I was also interested to see what Delaware, OH had to offer.

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Delaware was about 2.5 hours away from my home in the Ft Wayne, Indiana area.  I was flying solo for this trip so packed & pulled out as soon as I could get Mr. Michael over to hang out with my parents.  Minivan/Bike selfie for the win!  Love being a minivan mom!  When I’m old & wrinkly I’ll probably still be driving one around cuz my bike REALLY  likes riding inside.  Smile

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3 hours later, I pulled into Delaware, OH.  Home of Ohio Wesleyan University.  Easy enough drive.  Cute town.  Beautiful church in the downtown area .  Typical small college town with a main street area lined with shops & restaurants.

The expo was on the Selby Stadium campus.  Big merchandise tent with A LOT of IM 70.3 Ohio stuff.  The merchandise tent was much bigger than Muncie & was larger than what I usually see at Steelhead too.  Not sure why, but it was impressive & I’ve done quite a few IM 70.3s.    Smallish expo otherwise but the highlight was free sunscreen from Ohio Health, then both NormaTec & Rapid Reboot had recovery boots for people to try.  I’m part of the Best TRI Club Ever (BTCE) & we get a discount with Rapid Reboot so I was happy to try out a pair of those to see how they compared.  LOVED them!!! I think they would be great for Aby & I to help with recovery.  Maybe Santa could bring a pair for us to share?!?!?!

Saw one of my BTCE teammates at the expo & we got to hang out, drop our run bags together, then we eventually did dinner.  Thanks, Laura!

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What makes IM 70.3 Ohio slightly different than most 70.3s in the Midwest would be multiple transition zones.  Transition 1 was by Delaware Lake at Delaware State Park.  Transition 2 was inside Selby Stadium.  Below.

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Hard to see all the bike racks because they are sitting on the white lines.  We had to pack our run bags the day before & drop in our T2 spot so that we would have what we needed when we brought our bikes in for the run.  Those bags are the red spots you see on the white lines.

Then after we dropped our run bags, we headed 6 miles away to Delaware State Park to drop our bikes in T1.  I didn’t love this but it was mandatory due to very little parking at the park & a need to shuttle athletes in on race morning.  Last year, there was a tornado that touched down in the park overnight while the bikes were in transition.  Yes, that was definitely in the back of my head.

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Race day started bright and early as we all needed to board a school bus to be shuttled to the swim venue.  We were able to park in 2 different locations.  I picked the one closest to T2 since I would  need to get my bike & all my gear (sans transition bag) back to my car solo.  My parking area was about 0.6 mi from Selby Stadium.

Good news was delivered via Facebook right before we boarded the shuttle. Wetsuit legal!  We boarded buses.  As soon as a bus was full, it would leave.  Lots of buses.  I didn’t have to wait at all.  Easy ride to the venue.  We were dropped near transition.   Went thru body marking.  Then finally had access to our bikes again.  Everything looked fine, just damp with dew.  Biggest challenge was pumping tires when we couldn’t carry in a pump unless someone we knew could carry it back out for us.  We were not returning to T1 after we left on our bikes & there wasn’t room in our bike bags for an air pump.  Luckily, someone loved the lady beside me & she had her tire pump in transition.  She was kind enough to share with me!  Much appreciated!

I set up my spot and prepared my bike bag for when I returned for the swim.  Everything from our swim needed to go INSIDE our bike bag & then volunteers collected the bags & transported our swim & morning stuff to the T2 area for us to retrieve after the race.  Quick picture with Laura before we left our phones in the bike bag.  Then out of transition by 6:45a when it closed.

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Our swim waves were at 8:04 & 8:08a.  Long wait.  I was definitely stiff, tired & ready by the time my wave went off.  The lake water the day before was a bit choppy but smooth by race morning.  We waded into the water & treaded water as we waited for the start.  4 minutes between waves.  Seemed like we swam somewhat parallel to shore to start but according to the map, we swam in a triangle.  First segment to the red turn buoy was 500m, then a long 800m stretch into the sun.  I don’t think any of us would have hit those last 2 buoys on the long side without help from the guards.  The sun was in our eyes & we could see buoys over on the other side but not the ones “in front” of us.  I kept hearing the guards yell, “swim right, swim right”.  Finally we made it to the final turn buoy for a 600m kick to shore.  It was kinda carnage. We could see again but the course narrowed, basically there were more swimmers & the guards were in closer to the buoys so it seemed like we didn’t have much room to swim.  The people in front of us who were struggling were just lounging, kinda stopped in the water.  Or going very slow.  The people behind us were trying to swim over us to get out of the water.  I got smacked in the head & my goggles were dislodged but I didn’t lose them.  The gentleman was very nice about it but I couldn’t get my goggles to reseal after that.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?

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Finally out of the water.  Almost an identical swim split as Muncie even though I felt like I did better.  It seems like the harder I try and the MORE I want to do better, the slower I go.  Is that even possible?   The mysteries of the swim elude me!

On the bike.  Splitting headache & nausea the first 22 miles.  Maybe that guy hit me harder than I thought?   After some ibuprofen & pepto, I was good to go, just in time to turn out of the wind.  Smile   First half of the course was super easy, very few turns.  Good roads & we were frequently separated from the cars by traffic cones.  Last 20+ miles had a lot more turns & the “where are we going now” feeling.  I wouldn’t call this a particularly fast course because of the number of turns toward the end.  And the roads were open.  So we had cars to deal with the majority of the time.  There were several times that the riders were having to wait on cars, or a car would pass us, then have to slow because they couldn’t get around the next group of riders and we’d have to brake to keep from running into the cars in front of us.  Traffic got increasing more congested as we were nearing town for T2.  So as we were navigating the course & all the turns at the end, we were also fighting real traffic.  Very unsafe at times.

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Hit the ground running at the dismount line, onto the track around the football field, onto the astro turf for transition. HOT.  The astro turf was burning hot on my bare feet.  I fortunately wasn’t too far into the rack for T2.  So I grabbed my run bag (that had been sitting since the previous day) & realized that my shoes were burning hot too.  Fun.  It was upper 80s probably by the time we got off the bike.  Quick T2 cuz well, I wanted to get away from the astro turf.

Onto the run.  Two loops.  Still hot.  Some breeze.  Some shade.  A few nice people who brought out water to spray on us or splash us.  One spot where kids with giant water guns were having fun spraying us.  However, the aid stations weren’t as prepared for the heat as most IM events which I have done in the past.  There was ice in maybe 3 or 4 spots over the 13.1 miles.  What little ice they did have would go fast & I didn’t get any on the second loop until I was headed back to the stadium with about a mile to go.  It made me feel really bad for those behind me.

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Great volunteers on the run course.  No vehicular traffic that I remember.  Varied elevation but mostly flat with a few small hills.

Finish.  The sweet finish.  We ran back into Selby Stadium.  Did a partial lap around the track & we were done.  Yes!!!  Nice finish.  I went to pick up my morning/bike bag.  Hands were full!  Then I went to the food tent.  They were grilling hamburgers & chicken but it was gone when I got there & they were waiting for more.  I didn’t feel like waiting.  Went to T2 to get my bike & the rest of my gear.  Quite the balancing act getting the bike & all the gear back to the car without my transition bag.  If I had thought about it, I should have left my transition bag inside my run bag so it was there when I was ready to pack everything up at the end of the race!  Or maybe another backpack.  That would have been helpful.

Overall a good race.  Nice venue at OH Wesleyan. The two transition locations was not ideal for me but I still enjoyed the race.  Volunteers, police & spectators were great as usual.  Plenty of SWAG, pictured below.

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Thanks to Delaware OH for letting us invade your town.  Great hospitality.

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **