Thursday, October 16, 2014

So when I said "I'm retired", what I meant was... (2014 in review)

Ah yes, fall leaves swirling around outside on this picture perfect, Indian Summer day.

For the most part, my 2014 race season is over, save for a couple of potential short running races I may do including Monster Dash 10 miler, Drumstick 10k and Polar Dash....

Except for a nagging hip and psoas issue, it's been a pretty good year filled with lots of fun races and events.

The capstone was, of course, Ironman Wisconsin.   Finished with a big smile on my face and with time on the clock to spare, while reaching my overarching goal of enjoying the day and taking it all in.  More on that day in a bit.

Before I get there, just a few other thoughts, comments and pics from my 2014 season:

Switching coaches:  After my former coach, Greg Rhodes, moved to Colorado last May, I started to work with Cathy Yndestad.  I can not say enough about working with her.  She knew just how to push me enough but not too much to cause bigger problems with my hip/posas.  I've been lucky to work with a lot of really great coaches over the year and she certainly ranks in the top two.

Race Recaps:
Fargo "1/2" -- May:   My hip was really bad at this point. Psoas issue hadn't been diagnosed yet....  Limited range of motion, choppy and slow gait.  Although I was signed up for the 1/2 marathon, I was lucky to eek out a finish of the 10K.  One of my slowest times for that distance, but got through the event.   Fargo does a bang up job with this race (marathon, 1/2, 10k and 5k.)  Great course, great course support.  Loads of fun.

Liberty Oly: -- early June:  Our spring was cold and wet.  Race day at Liberty was super cold and super wet.  Transition was filled with loads of deep puddles.  Race was delayed by many minutes.   As I stood under a picnic area awning, watching the cold, wet rain fall and listening to the thunder clap, I decided to bag the race.  There was no reason to risk freezing and/or having my bike slip out from under me on wet pavement so early in the season.  I got my bike,  went to my health club and did the race as an indoor event. Didn't freeze; didn't fall on pavement;  didn't get a medal.

ITU Oly - Chicago - late June:  I had high hopes for this race.  At Ironman events, athletes are treated like royalty.  The courses are well marked, great support, great volunteers.  I figured ITU would have to put on an equal caliber event, if not even better!  Not so much.

Frankly, this was the least organized event I've ever done.  From package pickup to finish line, it was uninformed volunteers and officials; badly marked courses; uninforced rules (can't tell you how many times I got passed on the right by hyped-up, watts driven guys).  It was one of the only races where I actually thought that I might not make it out of the water.

The swim course was out and back, only two buoys, only about 3 support boats.  Lots of swimmers crashing in to each other. Not good.  I thought if I got in trouble in the water, no one would know.

To tell you how bad this was, over 20% of the sprint distance field got disqualified because the run course was marked so poorly.   I got through the race but wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

However, trying to end on a high note here, I will say that the highlight of the race was riding the closed bike course on Lower Wacker Drive.  Completely smooth pavement, course protected from wind.  This helped my bike average to over 22 mph for the 24 plus miles.

Timberman Oly -- July:  I love this triathlon.  My friend, Gary Kubat, turned me on to this race a few years ago.  It is smaller in size; the swim is in Sugar Lake (very pretty, very clear); the bike course has just enough hills to keep it interesting; the run can be a little hot and challenging (lots of horseflies).  This year, the weather was cooler and overcast.  There were still some horseflies, but not too many and I didn't cook on the course.  Time was a whopping 25 seconds faster than 2013.

Nice to be able to do this one with Gary and my Ironman friend, Natalie.

Ironman Racine 70.3 - July:  This was my second year doing this race.  In 2013, race morning, Lake Michigan welcomed us with big waves.  This year, the lake was as calm as could be and COLD.  Sixty one degrees.  Neoprene booties and caps were the order of the day.  Swimming in Lake Michigan is really fun, though.  Much clearer than you'd expect.  I like swimming parallel to shore, so you can see spectators the whole time.  Bike course is pretty flat.  Some sections are incredibly bumpy.  Not very scenic.  Just a course where you can hammer out the miles.  I had a very good bike split (about 18 mph).

My run was typical for this year.  Slow, ploddy, bad gait.  But, I got through it and had some fun. Despite being a bit lame, I beat my 2013 time by 9:00 plus minutes.

My Ironman buddy, Mark Loken, also did this race.  We had some fun hanging out in transition prior to the race and he pointed out all the really spendy bikes.  We drooled a lot.

Madison Open Water Swim - August:  While the weekend itself was sort of a FUBAR mess, the event was fun.  This is another race that I really enjoy doing.   I love being in Madison; I love swimming in Lake Monona.  I have great memories of this race from years past.  Had a good, smooth swim and a PR time.  How bad can that be?

Ironman Wisconsin - September:  Ahhhh.  Ironman.  There is just something about it.  Not just the race, but the whole training thing; the lead up, the build up.  The DAY.

I spent at least one weekend in Madison from May through August training on the course.   Those famous hills on the bike course never really got much easier, but I knew them inside and out.  When to shift, when to push it a little, when to look up and appreciate the scenery.

I learned from 2012 that the trick (for me) is to have race day feel as "normal" as possible.  Doing so many training rides and runs on the course, I knew what to expect at every turn.

All year, I had told myself that this would more than likely be my last Ironman.  I've got the heart and the endurance, but the reality is that I'm getting older and slower.  That 17 hour cut off looms large....

So for this -- my swan song -- I just needed to control the controllables and let go of the rest.

A major uncontrollable is always the weather.  It turned out to be a PERFECT day.  Clear, cool, no wind.

Setting up in transition on race morning, things just all sort of fell in to place.  The sunrise was unbelievably beautiful.  Dark blue end-of-night sky set off by bright orange band bringing up the sun.

Once I was set up, Warren and I headed to my "secret spot" -- a place inside Monona Terrace that not many people know about.  It is quiet and calm, unlike the chaos of the main floor where the thousands of other athletes are hanging out.  (For me, I need a little calm and quiet before this event.  Otherwise I get too sucked in to too much and it is very draining to me.)  We sat until it was time to get in to my wetsuit and then I headed to the water.

I tried a new strategy this year for the swim.  In years past, I've queued up closer to shore and then angle to the first buoy.  This year, I swam out so I was even with the buoy line.  This was a much easier strategy to get me to the inside of the buoy line, where there are less people and an "easier" swim.

The first turn buoy is known as the "moo buoy".  You are supposed to pop your head out of the water and moo loudly.   Not everyone does this.  I do.  I LOVE the moo buoy.   I mooed, and mooed and mooed.  And then I went on.

Swim was done, wet suit stripped off; in and out of transition and the bike ride began.

A controlable -- although a tricky one --is nutrition.  That went as smoothly as it could for race day.  I have a watch that I can program to beep to remind me to eat and to drink.  On the bike, it reminded me every 15 minutes to drink and every 20 minutes to have a little bite to eat.

I was right on schedule for the first 56 miles.  I got to Special Needs and knew there was no risk in me not meeting the bike cut off, so I decided to embrace the day and to really just take it all in.  I got off my bike, I got my turkey sandwich out of my Special Needs bag and took my sweet time eating it (a full 10 minutes).

Another rider came in to Special Needs and the volunteers couldn't find his bag.  I happily shared the extra food I had in my bag with him and then got on my bike and pedaled away.

Warren found me at the top of Timber Lane on both loops.  (He found a golf course near by so he could spend some time swinging a club and still timed it perfectly to cheer me on....)

I made it in to transition with plenty of time, got changed and got out on to the run course.

My plan all along was to do a walk/run.  As per usual, I walked more than I probably should have the first several miles, but finally got in to a little bit of a groove.  I knew that I'd have no appetite for food, but happily drank Coke and chicken broth.

Running through the University of Wisconsin campus (and by my old dorm, a couple old apartments, though Camp Randall,  by Memorial Union and up/down State Street) is always a nostalgic time for me. Lots and lots of memories from my college days.

My darkest spot came as I was coming in for the 1/2 way turn.  I was doing math calculations in my head to try to figure out if I was going to finish on time,and I wasn't so sure.  At this point in to the race, you are tired and a bit fuzzy mentally.

Like a beacon of light, there was my coach.  She got up, cheered me on, gave me a little pep talk and I mentally turned a corner.  I knew I could pull a finish off.

Got to run Special Needs and got to the lemonade I had put in my bag.  Drinking that was like a magic elixir. Sweet and tart.  Sugary but not coca-cola.  Perfect.

Trotted out for the second and last loop.  Warren found me at mile 14.  He, too, gave me a little pep talk and I just trotted off.  I actually picked up my pace for a few miles and then, at mile 23 with lots of time to get to the finish, I decided to just walk it in.  I wanted to open up my senses and my memory to just take it all in:  the sights (full moon), the sounds (cheering crowds); the feeling (pinched baby toe, happy to be getting to the finish).

When I finished in 2012, it was a total blur.  I don't remember Mike Reilly calling my name or telling me that I was an Ironman.

This year, I made it a priority to really take in the finish line.  The crowds, the high fives, seeing the Finish Line banner and listening for Mike.  Not only did I hear him loud and clear, I got to shake his hand.  It was great.

After finishing the race, I posted on Facebook, that I was now retired from 140.6.

Well..... it didn't take long and I rescinded my retirement.  I'll toe the Ironman line again.  Not at Madison, though.  Oh, I'll go ride that course for "fun".   But I think I'll need to tackle a flatter bike course.  I'm thinking about Ironman Arizona, Florida or Louisville for 2016.

Looney Challenge -- October:  The last race for me was the Looney Challenge:  This is part of the Twin Cities Marathon weekend.  The event consists of running the 10k and 5k on marathon weekend Saturday followed with the TC 10 mile run on Sunday.  Signing up for the Looney guarantees a spot in to the 10 mile race.  Otherwise, you take your chances trying to get in to that very popular race via the lottery.

Warren and I signed up for the Looney last spring...Warren ended up having a golf tournament pop up for the same day as the 10 miler, so we both did the 5 and 10K events and then I did the 10 miler on my own.

My pace was slow for each of the events, but still and all, had a blast.  (I'd taken a fall off the bike a week before misjudging a curb in the road.  Landed squarely on the "bad" hip, which re triggered some issues).

On the agenda for the rest of 2014:  The plan is to heal up my hip and psoas and to work on getting my run pace back.  Warren and I will be spending some time doing strength training and yoga.  Oh, yeah.  And catching up on some sleep and bad t.v.