Final Race Weekend Tips

15 10 2009

Thanks to Coach Scott G for these very helpful final tips for those F4 athletes racing this weekend in Denver, Moab, or Humboldt:

We have traveled a long distance together, my friends.  In fact, if you’ve done most of the workouts, I estimate you’ve probably run between 200 and 250 miles since we first met back in June.  And a good portion of those miles were uphill.  J

As you know, however, having done all that training does not guarantee success on race day.  All the training does is stack the odds in your favor, and increase your potential for success on race day.  But now that you have the potential, can you turn that potential into concrete success?  Put another way, you’ve painstakingly worked to plant the seeds, foster the growth of the trees, and harvest the lemons.  Now, can you make lemonade?

Bobby McGee often says that on race day, 90% of athletes race below their potential, 9% race at their potential, and 1% actually race above their potential.  The difference between your potential and where you actually perform is what sport psychologists refer to as “performance loss”.  The factors that can contribute to performance loss are, among others:

Leading up to the race

  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor hydration
  • Too much stress
  • Not being fully rested

On race morning

  • Not eating proper breakfast
  • Not eating far enough in advance of start time
  • Stress of getting prepared and getting to start on time
  • Improper warm-up

During race

  • Going out too fast
  • Not sticking to race plan (or not having one)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor hydration
  • Being overdressed, underdressed
  • Negative attitude
  • Unnecessary stress
  • Lack of belief in oneself
  • Lack of toughness

Obviously, there are others.  The challenge is to do everything you can to eliminate as many of these as you can, if not all of them.  If you eliminate all of them, you should be able to run to your full potential, which is a great feeling.  There’s nothing better than finishing a race and knowing that you couldn’t have done it any better.  In fact, success on race day is more about removing obstacles to the great race that’s already inside you, waiting to be released.  Your main concern over the next few days should not be whether you are capable of running well.  Your main concern should be eliminating anything that might stand in the way of that happening.  So, with that in mind, here are some thoughts on things you might want to consider over the next few days to help you be in the top 10%, those that perform to, or even above their potential on race day.

The Next Few Days

Really pay attention to what you put into your body.  You’ve tuned it up really well, and it’s like a race car waiting for the green flag to drop.  But it won’t be able to perform if you put low grade fuel (food) into it over the next few days, and don’t keep it lubricated (fluids).  Even one bad meal in the next few days could cost you.  So really be diligent.  If everyone is going out tomorrow from the office to have Twinkies and deep-fried lard, you might want to politely excuse yourself.  Everything you eat and drink for the next few days is fuel for your race.  Choose the high-octane stuff.

Likewise, hydrate well over the next few days.  Keep a bottle nearby, and continue to sip throughout the day.  By race morning, you should be peeing clear and copiously.

Try to do everything you can to go into the race well rested.  The purpose of the tapering period is to allow you to be completely healed and recovered from all the workouts.  Resist the temptation to do anything that will jeopardize that.  Now is not a good time to be pulling weeds, going to the rock gym, moving your barbells up to the attic, pulling the transmission on your pick-up, painting the house, hiking Sanitas, going for long bike rides, etc.  Make smart choices, and certainly avoid the temptation to get in one last hard workout.  It definitely won’t help, and will probably hurt.  Save your energy.  You’ll need it.

The Night Before

Do as much of your race preparation as possible the night before your race.  Set out everything you’ll need so you won’t have to go on a frantic scavenger hunt in the morning.  Put on your race clothes to make sure you have everything.  Pin on your number.  Set out your bottles and food.  Clear the memory on your watch.  Make sure you have your Body Glide, sun block, and anything else you’ll need.  The idea is that you should be able to wake up the next day and have everything prepared.  Have a good healthy dinner on the early side, which will help you get to bed early.  Set two alarms, and leave yourself 15 minutes more than you think you’ll need to get to the start.  As you go to sleep, visualize success on race day.

Race Morning

When you wake up, smile.  It’s race day!  Take a moment, and a deep breath before you get out of bed.

Your morning meal should be completed at least two hours before start time.  This will give your body the proper amount of time to digest and process the food.  If you eat less than two hours before start time, you run the risk that there will still be blood in your stomach processing your food.  If you start running before this process is complete, you force your body to choose between sending blood to your stomach to process your food, or to you legs to help you run.  Either way, you lose.  Note that it’s OK to have a very light snack about 10-15 minutes before the start to top off the tank.

Before you leave your room, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that you’ve done enough.

At The Start

In the time leading up to the start, stay relaxed and focused.  Immediately terminate any negative thoughts that might pop up.  Stay away from anyone who is spewing negative, self-doubting BS, or complaining about one thing or another to excuse themselves in advance for not having a good day.  Decide that regardless of what comes up, there is nothing that can knock you off center.  Be the person that everyone looks at and thinks to themselves, “There’s someone who is really relaxed and confident …”

After The Gun

Settle into your pace as soon as possible.  Ignore the madness that is going on around you.  As people run by you, remind yourself that you there’s a pretty good chance that they don’t know what they’re doing.  More importantly, remind yourself that is doesn’t matter.  You have a plan, and nothing is going to sway you from doing what you need to do.

Pay attention to the things that matter and are under your control, and ignore the things that don’t matter, or are out of your control.  Stick religiously to your nutrition and hydration plan.  Continue to check in with yourself with respect to your form.  Are you relaxed?  Are you holding tension?  Is your cadence good?  By running with good form, you make the whole task easier, and increase the chances that you’ll have a lot left for the push at the end.

Each mile marker, check your splits, and remind yourself that it’s all “excellent”!  J

Look forward to the more challenging parts of the race.  You’ve probably trained more than anyone on the hills, and they are to your advantage.  Remember to push through the crests of the hills, continuing your effort for a few more strides as you go over the top.

At The Finish

If you’ve run a good race in an attempt at a challenging goal, you might experience a bit of discomfort as you near the end of the race.  This is natural, and not a sign that something is wrong.  Know that you can handle it, as you’ve had plenty of practice.  Think of the discomfort as an old friend.  Continue to ask yourself, “After all I have been through over the past 17 weeks, after all the work I have done, am I willing to do just a little more?  Am I willing to push for just a few more minutes?”

As you approach the finish line, regardless of whether or not it has been a good race for you, allow the last 100 yards to be a celebration.  Resolve to cross the finish line with a big smile on your face, and your arms in the air, because every finish line is cause for celebration.  There most likely come a time in the future when you will not have the ability to do things like this any more.  Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is not a trivial accomplishment, and one that most people that walk this earth will never experience.  Whether or not you think you did it well, it is still cause for celebration, because one day, you will look back on that moment as one of the times when you were at your very best.  If you want to pick apart your race, wait a few minutes until after it’s over.  But during those last few yards, focus only on what you have accomplished, not what you have not.  Remember, it’s not just the end of a race, it’s a milestone on a much bigger journey.

Hope that helps.  Have a great race!

– Scott


Barb is all about the 364

22 09 2009

Don’t ask me how my race was.

Why Am I Not Disappointed? This is the question I kept asking myself after IM Louisville.  I had missed my goal time by 20 minutes – what went wrong and why didn’t I care more?

Training had been great.  I am the most happy when I’m training – so for 6 months of the year I feel great, and for the other 6 months I look forward to feeling great again later – this is kind of creepy.  I have a weight problem (upwards of 200 lbs on a 5’4” frame at my heaviest) – which I am only able to keep in check by either incredible diet vigilance or massive amounts of training.  Diet vigilance is depressing.  I can’t describe how good it feels to someone who was at one time so out of shape they could not pull their child up a hill in a sled – to be able to do an Ironman.  I can’t begin to tell you how if feels to me to ride my bike to Jamestown, or to work, or to Cheyenne.  The feeling of screaming downhill with your BFF (thank you Jennifer) right behind you on a warm summer day – there is nothing like it!  Swimming in a lake at sunrise – running like a horse on a long trot…to me are some of the most intense pleasures in life.  So why do an Ironman?  Why not just train all the time?  Hmmmm….because its not the same….even I need the voice in the back of my head that says – “get up now and go to masters – THIS IS IRONMAN, THIS IS NO FOOLING AROUND!”

So we did the training, with fantastic teammates and coaches.  We did a road trip.  We suffered, teased and shared our most intimate secrets.  (Lots of time for this on an 18 mile run).

Race time – what an experience.  This was my third Ironman.  Each experience is different.  The fist one was absolute elation because I finished, the second one was absolute elation because I got faster, the third was just elation, why?…but I’m ahead of myself,  one thing about Ironman is that stuff is going to happen, it’s just how you deal with it that matters.

Fly to Kentucky – this was fantastic, I was not nervous at all this time.  No doubts about my physical ability to finish.  Enjoyed all the pre-race prep, all the energy, all the hype, in fact I kept running into Scott in the Expo when I was supposed to be “relaxing”.  Loved the pre-race swims and both dinners.  Had a great time doing Jennifer’s hair, writing really lame song lyrics in the middle of the night, and being proposed to by men on the street (twice in one day – not too bad for a prior fat girl in her 40s).

Race morning – got in line with all our teammates, this was a riot because the race organizers had neglected to have the sprinklers turned off, so in order to stay dry the guys picked up a blue room and moved it to block a sprinkler, the water pressure was quite strong so we though we were under attack every 45 seconds or so.  The sun came up, the seconds ticked off, we jumped in the river.  My swim went according to plan.  I stayed out of traffic, drafted when it was convenient and moved out into the channel a bit for the down current.  I came out of the water almost exactly when I predicted I would.  Ran to the tent, put on socks, shoes, glasses, and helmet.  Ran out and on to the bike, completely missing the sunscreen.  About ¼ mile into the bike my eyes began to itch and I began to sneeze, also my nose was running incessantly.  This lasted for about an hour – I think I was allergic to something in the river.  Started to see the F4 men as they caught up to me.  This was great. Saw Scott, Jen and Lida twice – a nice lift both times. Borrowed some sunscreen, ate and drank according to plan.  Had a very hard time using my power meter on the hilly course as the watts numbers were all over the place – in retrospect I rode too conservatively.  On the way back into town I got cramps in both my feet, incredibly painful – I just pushed through it as I knew I was almost done.  I know I usually get these on the bike if I stay on one foot too long when coasting down hill – I must have lost focus and forgot to keep even pressure on my feet when coasting. Bike time was off goal by about 16 minutes.

Into transition – my feet were still cramped as I hobbled to get my bag, Fiona (Jennifer’s daughter) was there – how nice to see a familiar face.  By the time I changed my feet were back to normal.  Strapped on my Garmin – Low Battery – not sure how that happened since I had charged it right before putting it into the bag – oh well.  Started on the run, I had decided earlier (after many, many bouts of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in races and on long training runs) that I would not consume anything that didn’t sound good.  I drank water, ate oranges, grapes, bananas and a couple of cookies – I never felt sick.  So that was a huge positive thing to learn.  I did feel sore though and very tight hamstrings kept my pace to a very slow jog.  I think this was because I had spent nearly the whole bike ride in my areobars, and the position was somewhat new to me, having got a new bike as a surprise barely a month before the race.  OPR (other people’s relatives) were all around the course and had the kindness to cheer for me – they can’t imagine what an uplifting feeling that is.  Also my other BFF Corinna was on the course – this is the first time I have raced without her, and she seemed to show up at just the right moments when mental and physical torment were about to take over.  My pace was slow but steady, the fastest I could manage.  Lida was very encouraging as I got close to the finish.  As I came into town the lights and the crowd and Scott and Jen at the finish were all too overwhelming, I was ecstatic.  My time was crappy (off by about 12 minutes on the run), I didn’t care…

The next morning at breakfast I was wondering why I wasn’t more disappointed, when Scott said “I know why”  I was thinking of all the positive things he would say about my race, all the things I learned, all the ways I would be better next time….but instead he said “You’re not about the race, you’re about the other 364 days of the year”.  Of course he nailed it….so… don’t ask me how my race wasThe race is just an excuse to train.

See you next year, and maybe someday Kona – by lottery or by ageing, I hope to get there.


Donna Does Not Fail!

18 09 2009

Ironman Louisville 2009  “A day to remember’ –Donna Mitchell

So being a very experienced triathlete (one sprint and the bike leg for a relay), somehow I found myself in a training program for the Ironman.  It was actually an wonderful program filled with just great people.  Though the training was ‘well training’ , it was fun because of my training partners.   I had successfully stayed healthy and injury free, until the taper.   Ten days before, I became ill with some type virus and found myself barely surviving a day at work, let alone a day of Ironman, getting Iv fluids x 3 days and really getting worried that I would feel well enough to compete.  Ultimately, even arriving in Louisville, I still felt really bad, not eating well, and really concerned that I would get to start the race.  The good news is that by race morning with some drug therapeutics, I felt decent.  My head still really hurt but it was tolerable.

Race Day

We got up early, changed, ate a little bit (but ultimately the stomach really didn’t want food) took a Pepcid & meds and headed down to check the bikes and get in line as early as possible so to have as much of the 17 hours as possible to finish.  The morning was cool, and the high was to be in the low 80’s.  I kept thinking that this ‘totally abnormal’ August weather, must be a sign, an omen that it was going to be a good day! The waiting was the worst part, but with all of my F4 teammates around, somehow I had an inner calm.  Maybe it was because, I had repeated the mantra “I have trained enough’ (thank you Scott G) for the last 10 days and I also knew that I have spent a lifetime working 36 hours straight.  I knew I had endurance and could pace.  I was also happy that I felt well enough to compete.  It would have been a sad, very sad plane flight back to Colorado, to sit with 2 Ironmen and be an Ironman want-a-be.

“The Swim: did I bank enough good karma with the water gods?”

The hardest part of the whole day was that first leap into the river.   I found the swim to be actually good (a comment from someone who just started swimming freestyle one year before, so what do I know).  I liked the fact that it was easy to site and the water was warm. Other than getting beat up by some aggressive swimmers, I kept my goggles on and stayed in my bubble.  I wanted to check my watch, but kept hearing Michael’s words in my head (you can only lose in the swim}.  I kept my nice, steady pace (albeit slow).   When I got out and looked at my watch, my time was pretty much on target 1:52:19.   I survived the swim.  I knew in my heart that baring any major problems;  I would be an Ironman at the end of the day.  Life is good!

Transition I

I have decided that the Ironman is awesome, because they give you helpers and a tent to change.  Screw that little towel!  There, greeting me was daughter, Jessica and Lida who were volunteering.  Their hugs and smiles, made me feel so good.  Swimsuit off and bike attire on, I was now a cyclist.  I spent an extra couple of minutes to eat an oatmeal cookie and really cover myself with sunscreen.  Then off to the bike.  (Why don’t they let you run through a shower, as you come out of the water????)

The BIKE (How many tubes and CO2 cartridges will I use???)

I was familiar with the bike route, especially the part along the river.  We used to ride this a lot when we lived in Louisville.  I had a chart taped to my bike to help me stay on target (primarily, to make sure that I made the appropriate bike time cuts).  My plan was to bike conservatively the first 60 miles and then made the appropriate adjustments.  Most importantly, I was not going to ‘eat the paste’.  My bubble was set.  We had a whole lot of family/friends staked out on Hwy 393 at the high school.  They were great inspiration and I did take a few minutes to stop and give hugs and chat with them.  My sister had printed up T-shirts and they were all wearing the “Team Mitchell’ shirts.  Just awesome!   The turn at mile 60 to start the second loop came well in advance of the cutoff.  I kept my pace, stopped briefly with family for the last time on the bike then grabbed my special needs bag.  Took out my two York Peppermint patties, re-medicated myself, bathroom break,  re-applied the ‘butt butter’ (something you should never forget to do) and prepared a bottle of  Sustained Energy.  I knew I was 20 minutes off my pace, and I got a little panicky since I was starting into the last 50 miles.  I knew I still could make the cut off but didn’t want it to be at all close.  I pulled myself out of the river that morning, and therefore refused to not finish because of the bike segment.  Overall, I felt good and decided I could pick up the pace.   The new pace was fine, and as I rolled into T2 , I had made up my time and more.   8:03:01   I realized that I probably could have ridden the entire way at the faster pace.  I was very excited that I came in with time to spare for the cut off and with almost 7 hours to do the run.  Amazingly, no flats!  Life is good and maybe getting better!

Transition 2

Once again that wonderful tent!.  Off with the bike clothes.  Wet ones to wipe down the face and arms.  Clean running clothes and socks. AAAH!  The simple pleasures of a ‘Ironman to be”. Then off I went for the run.


My plan had been to walk the bridge and get my legs moving again in a different plane of motion.  When I got back into the city, it was time to run.  I fell forward and let my feet catch me and off I went.  I found a pace that was sustainable and it was really amazing how quickly most of the aide stations came.  I walked them, drank coke and took additional salt tablets.  It was fun seeing other F4 runners along the way.  My family and friends were cheering from close to the turnaround.  It was exciting to know that I would see them soon.  I saw Stephen and Doug, hugs and kisses exchanged, and I continued to run.  Saw my family (including my parents now) and made the first turn.  Hugs to the family and then I continued back into town.  I was nearing the turn when I heard Lida screaming my name.  She saw me coming.  I made the turn towards the finish/turn around.  People are cheering, giving high 5s thinking I am finishing- but I had to make that right hand turn and head back out.  It was just getting dark, the lights on the mall were on and I told myself I would be back to finish.  To my right was Jen, she ran with me for a few moments and then off I went into the night.  It is interesting where we find some of our best moments.  Oddly, I had always presumed that I would walk a substantial part of the 26.2 miles, but I was running and it was actually feeling good.  Miles clipped by.  I saw Stephen, first.  We crossed the center-line and with a hug and a kiss told him to ‘go become an Ironman’.  A little later, I did the same thing with Doug.  More coke, an occasional gel and keep pacing.  I kept waiting for the ‘wall’ or the ‘line’ or the self-doubt.  It didn’t come.  I knew that after I made the turn and saw my family, I was 7 miles and heading home. My sister, Pam ran along the road with me.  We were talking and chatting about Ironman, the day, how cool to finish will be and time flew by quicker.  I thanked all the volunteers and tried to encourage all those who were struggling as I passed them.  I am slow, steady and most people pass me.  So it was incredibly enjoyable to be finishing an Ironman and passing anybody.  I passed 50 more  people, but  worried that they would not finish before the midnight hour.


During that last ½ mile, my mind was a frenzy with thoughts.  What completing the Ironman meant for me, what incredible coaching had allowed me to complete this goal, how many times Scott Gurst’s comments about mental toughness and believing in yourself had gone through my head that day, that I ‘did eat the paste’, that I was proud of myself, that I had finally learned to swim, that coming back to my hometown to do an Ironman was extra special, that my family and friends were awesome,  that my kids were at the finish,  that I got the opportunity to train and do an Ironman with Stephen, that I didn’t fail.

I hugged my sister and gave her my ‘light necklace’ so it wouldn’t mess up the photo and slowly turned the corner allowing her to run through the crowd to the finish.  I wanted to take this moment in, the people, the music, the lights.  I glanced to my right and saw two Team Mitchell shirts,  worn by Doug’s sister  & brother -in-law and went to give them a very big and sweaty hug.


I then continued down the cobblestone path, people were banging on the advertisement boards, the neon lights were brilliant and their geometric design led you in.  Extended hands everywhere asking for a gentle slap of mine as I continued to the finish.  Arms in the air and I was across!   Life is really good!

All I can say is that it is as cool as you can imagine.  There is no way that you can’t smile and feel incredibly accomplished.  As I crossed the line, there was Stephen, Doug and Scott.  Stephen placed my medal over my head and made me an Ironman.  What a memory!  I looked left and saw my dad, standing there with tears streaming down his face.  What a day this has been!  Surrounded by F4 teammates (there is a plus to coming in last), family and friends, it was a grand celebration.   Run time, a very consistent 13:40 pace for 5:58:07.

Total length of my call day:  16:25:12

Overall, I felt great!  It had been a good, correction great day, an awesome day!  Ultimately, I wouldn’t really change a thing.  Well maybe I would have biked a little less conservatively, but who knows, it may have meant I would have done a lot of walking.   I was actually the proudest of my run, only 39 minutes slower than my marathon PR.  As for my long call day, well I don’t think I could have done the ENTIRE day better!  Ultimately, it was a perfect day, a day to remember!

Important points!

Definitely put your times on your bike to keep you on task.

Sustained Energy (unflavored) totally rocks!!!  You get so tired of ‘sweet”

There is nothing better than Coke on the run.  Go caffeine!

Butt Butter always makes a long ride better!

All of that time in the Union and Boulder Res, makes for a better open water swim!

Nothing is better than training with your friends at F4!

There is no ‘race day magic’ so stay within your ‘bubble’, but race day can be magical if you do.

Changing into different clothes adds time, but makes you so much more comfortable for that segment of the day!  You got a tent and helpers, so why not?

Mental preparation is important to keep the Dementers (see Harry Potter) from sucking the ‘life breath’ from you.

Ironman registration $550; new tri-bike, F4 attire $3500; Ironman medal around neck with family looking on::::::PRICELESS

Dirk “Gets it done” in Madison

17 09 2009

Ironman doesn’t start with the sound of the cannon driving a bass-deep percussion through your chest, bobbing up and down in the algae-stewed Madison, WI lake, staring down a 140.6 mile “workout”. It doesn’t start a year earlier when you plunk down your Visa for a $550 commitment or a $3000 bike. It didn’t even start when my ridiculously supportive wife relentlessly encouraged me to, “Just get it done.” It didn’t even start for me when I crossed the finish line at my first triathlon in 2000, and reflected at what fun I just had exerting my anarobically-trained, basketball body in a way I never thought possible.

No, Ironman started deep within me. It began as a 13-year-old boy watching Wide World of Sports in my basement in late November, 1982. I was engrossed, inspired, and humbled by a bunch of “weirdoes” I had never heard of: Dave Scott (who I would actually meet in 2008), Scott Tinley and Julie Moss; no, not Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, like most teenage boys and my heroes at that time. That year, Scott Tinley, a 25-year-old aquatics instructor from San Diego, passed Dave Scott in the marathon and finished in a record time of 9:19:41. Julie Moss collapsed in front of thousands of cheering fans, and what still amounts to be one of the most inspiring finishes of all-time, crawled the last few yards to finish only 29 seconds behind first-place finisher Kathleen McCartney. Goosebumps still rise on my arms replaying that image in my mind.

My Ironman started that November day in 1982 by quietly saying to myself (in a voice only I heard and certainly didn’t share, because what those people did was crazy!) that someday I’d like to be an Ironman. That idea quickly went dormant, as I got gassed riding my bike over to my best friends house just 6 blocks away.

However, the manifestation process had begun, taken hostage of my subconscious. So, at the age of 40, I find myself toeing/floating to the start of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles bicycling and 26.2 miles of running — WOW, it is going to be a gloriously long day. I love my wife so much; she is why I am bobbing in the water right now. She made sure this day is here.

But, I got to go now because the cannon just started my IRONMAN.
Anna we’re BBQing Later today! =)

The song “Barbeque” by ALO is one of my all-time favorite tunes. And the lyrics are very apropos:
The road is long and winding
Like a good mystery unfolding
It twists and turns
In colorful subplots and sunburns
And fake out endings
And sometimes my patience in the whole process starts bending

As I attempt to unravel the web
By rehearsing and reversing and perversing and traversing
Along the doubt laden extension chord threads
Of my life

And in this life we’re free to dream what ever we want to
But that doesn’t’ mean that your dreams are gonna come true
Instead as a way of getting us to move
Life dangles your dreams in front of you
And unable to resist the temptation
We continue

And it’s clear to me that this life is gonna be
All about the dangling possibilities that keep turning in and turning out

Yes it’s clear to me that this life is gonna be all
About the dangling possibilities that keep turning in…
The road is long and winding
Full of twists and turns
But before you can rise from the ashes
You’ve got to burn baby burn

Welcome to your Barbecue
Where we roast all the dreams that never came true
Welcome to your Barbecue
Pig out and dream a new

Welcome to you’re, welcome to you’re, welcome to you’re barbecue…

The 2.4 mile Swim:
Right before the cannon sent me and 2700 other lunatics off, I found myself slapping and splashing the water like a happy beaver. I can’t believe this moment is here. Now it’s finally real. With so many people all starting at once, one of my biggest fears for the day was how rough the swim start was going to be. I found a somewhat open area on the start line, about 30 meters to the outside. Within the first 25 meters of swimming, a nice comfortable space opened up. I said loudly, in that quite voice in my head, “I can’t fricken believe I am doing an Ironman.”

My coaches, Scott Fliegelman and Michael Kelly, trained me to get in my bubble, which is a great metaphor for focusing on yourself and what you can control inside your own space. My comfortable, bubble swim-space closed and opened numerous times over the first 1000 meters, but I was able to find my groove.

Before I knew it my first of two laps were done. The second lap felt as smooth and easy as the first. Actually, I couldn’t believe how quickly it seemed to be over. There were absolutely no issues – sighting was great and perceived exertion was very comfortable. I did wonder if the several accidental sips/gulps of the algae-rich lake water were going to come back to haunt me – it didn’t.

When I went to check my watch to gather some important effort feedback, I noticed I had only started the heart rate monitor, not the timer. I told myself: don’t worry, just hit start again. I was wearing my wife’s rudimentary watch, as two days before I left for Madison, my deluxe model broke after the face plate somehow got smashed. Little did I know it would be a blessing to have simple feedback to rely on.

I popped out of the water and took note of the clock, which read 55 minutes. How could that be? Did I cook the first lap that fast? That was 10 to 15 minutes ahead of where I thought I’d be at that point. Coach Scott always said not to rely on accurate swim courses, but that just seemed too far off. Oh well, I felt great. Off with the wetsuit, I found and kissed my wife, and moved swiftly up the helix (parking garage circular drive). What an awesome feeling to be running up through the crowd, which was set 4 to 5 people deep.

Transition #1:
The volunteers were so awesome! Nordstrom’s could take lessons from these guys in customer service. Easy and flawless. I had my plan down and knew what to expect.

The 112 mile Bike:
I had two issues pop-up; given the spectrum of things that can go wrong, they were very minor, especially for an Ironman virgin. Issue one, I forgot my two Gatorade bottles I was going to load my bike up with for the first 45 minutes of the ride. I realized this as I was walking down to the swim start. So, I started my bike knowing hydration or fuel was not going to come for a bit. Oh well, I stayed in my bubble and I was fine.

I stopped at the first aid station to pee and catch up on fuel. The bike was smooth and felt great, just like Coach Michael said it would. My goal here was to keep my HR to 140 or below, but 150 for the first 10 minutes felt like nothing. The first hill came and I knew I had to back the HR down. I sat up and soft pedaled up.

I was passed by countless knuckleheads absolutely mashing their pedals. I actually caught myself laughing out loud – were they forgetting about the 100 miles of riding and the marathon? On the back side of the first hill, my HR dropped to 142 and essentially stayed there, comfortably, for the next five and-a-half hours.

My race plan was to ease up the climbs and to use downhills and flats to my advantage. This was perfect, until my second issue of the day emerged: my wheels. Renting race wheels was something I wanted to treat myself to, and on my short pre-race ride on Thursday, the wheels all seemed good.

However, at about mile 33 of my race-day ride, when I hit the first really steep climb and had to drop into my lowest gear, the most awful, consistent squeal from somewhere on my bike kicked-in. I stopped. It wasn’t the break pads…EXPLETIVE! I kept riding. It stopped. A few minutes later, it returned … EXPLETIVE! About three terrifying miles later, I figured it out: the rear cassette was not put on correctly, so the chain was rubbing against something in the lowest gear.

I had four major climbs ahead that I would tackle in second gear. Since I wasn’t attacking the climbs, it ended up to be just fine. I just was anxious my bike was going to unravel later – fortunately it didn’t. The two big climbs, done two times, were so much fun. I got a feel for what the Tour de France riders feel like when they pound through the gauntlet of crazed spectators up the L’Alpe d’Huez. It made me want to get up off my seat and mash the pedals, but I knew better. Time to laugh at those who were crushing it. In my head I said, “See you on the run, suckas.”

My cheering, support crew – wife, my kids, Liv and Mason, and hosts, Kira, Tom and Brayden Dott – were waiting for me after the first climb. First time through it was a welcome sight; their energy immediately infected me. I got it again from them at mile 85. However, around mile 90 some negative demons crept into the gray matter. All I could think of was how badly I wanted to get to T2 without any mechanical issues. Ultimately, the body felt great, relatively speaking of course. The bike finished off without a hitch.

Transition #2:
Did I mention how great the volunteers were? T2 was easy and smooth. Off to my favorite, running. Time to catch those bike-mashers.

The 26.2 mile Run:
My training led me to believe 8 minute miles for the marathon was reasonable to pull off. The race plan called for a slow start (8:30/mile first 6 miles), with a push for the last six miles. The first mile was super smooth, easy and felt like it was maybe even slower than an 8:30 mile. My HR was exactly where I wanted it, 151.

At the first mile marker I checked my watch. I clocked a 7:10 pace – whoa Nellie, I needed to back it off. Second mile was 8:15. Whew, I was in my rhythm, passing tons of racers who were already struggling (voice: suckers on the bike!). It was at this point I was psyched to not have my watch giving me pacing feedback, as I know I would have been obsessed with watching the data instead of finding my groove. Mentally, the first lap of the course, 13.1 miles, clicked by in no time at all.

A very cool sub-plot developed on this first loop. Just outside the Camp Randall football stadium, I noticed I was running right behind another guy, who was getting barked at in a foreign language by someone on the sidewalk. Since our race bibs had to be in front, all I could see was his name on the back of his race shorts – Petr. This is usually the sign of a pro racer.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, as I was in my bubble. However, as the run continued I took note that he started running right on my hip, clearly pacing off me. When we went through an aid station, I read his bib, #4. Yep, a pro. I asked how he was doing/feeling, and he shouted, “Nein! I’m several minutes behind.”

We kept running together before I ignorantly realized he was finishing his race, using me to pull him in. That felt really cool. Following my own race plan, in which I was going to walk through every other aid station, Pro-Petr told me I would be better if I didn’t stop for aid. In actuality, I found I would catch him soon after I got my aid (clearly he was looking after himself – I felt so used and trashy).

We got to the end of the first loop for me, his race finish. We slapped each other a high-five. I congratulated him and he wished me well for the last loop. Later I saw where Petr Vabrousek was the last male pro to qualify for Kona 2010. After his finish, I realize now that I was out of my bubble. The day quickly started to take its toll.

I knew where Anna and Kira would be up ahead at mile 17, and greatly looked forward to my cheering section. My arrival did not disappoint. It couldn’t have been better timed, as the doldrums were settling in. It is really funny to hear from loved ones and general spectators, “You look great! You look strong! Nice work!”, when you know you look like shit, feel like shit, and just want to stop.

The irony, hitting my funny bone at this point, carried me to mile 20. At 20 I knew all I had was 6.2 miles between me and “Dirk Walker you are an …”. Whoops, not yet. The fat lady can warm up, but I still had some work ahead. No time to celebrate, but the adrenaline rush was on and my bubble was back as I visualized a track workout. Scott said to envision feeling the same way on that workout as you want to feel on the marathon. It helped. I don’t know what my split was for the last 10k, but it had to be respectable.

Rounding the corner of the state capitol, I was floating. I saw Anna running alongside, and heard her shout out, “Go Dirk!” The look on her face said it all – I got it done. I could see the turn into the finishing chute. I stopped, turned around looked at the amazing crowds, eyed the beautiful capitol building, absorbed the moment. Spun back around, I grabbed as many high fives as the spectators would give me. As I gave my last ounces of gusto for the line, thankfully not a Julie Moss moment, my bubble became as big as the universe.

There are only three other statements that are superlative to the one I was about to hear: “I pronounce you husband and wife”; “It’s a girl”; and “It’s a boy”. Now, add to the list, “Dirk Walker, you are an IRONMAN!” After ten hours, fifty minutes and thirty-five seconds, I dropped emotionally into the arms of my loved ones. There seems to be a trend here for the top four moments in life!

Roll credits: Anna, this day may not have ever happened without you. I love you so much! Liv and Mason, thanks for your support you were fantastic this whole year. My favorite quote comes from Liv, 20 minutes after finishing the race: “Yea, now daddy can help me fix my doll house.” (You got it sweetie!). To Scott and Michael, you guys nailed it – my mind, body, and spirit couldn’t have been better prepared. To my family, friends, FastForward teammates, the guys at Colorado Multisport and the folks at Solepepper, thanks for all the encouragement, accountability, gear help and karma – I used all of it on long training days and on race day. Finally, huge amounts of gratitude to our Madison hosts, the Dott Family – you guys were so enjoyable and easy to be around. Your hospitality made the weekend go off without a hitch with a lot of humor.

The Ironman is an individual event, but there is no way you get to, or through it, without amazing support. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to you all!

Because it is a race ,the results are as follows:
Total time: 10:50:35
Division Place: 28 out of 368
Swim Division Place: 57 out of 368
Swim Overall Place: 320
Swim Time: 1:05:36
T1: 8:03
Bike Division Place: 97 out of 368
Bike Overall Place: 594
Bike Time: 5:55:09
T2: 4:14
Run Division Place: 12 out of 368
Run Overall Place: 80
Run Time: 3:37:35
(Special Note: I passed 404 other racers on the run. As Lance Armstrong’s book says, “It’s Not About the Bike” )


Jennifer is Iron(wo)man

16 09 2009

Thoughts and Observations of the Louisville IM from the Carousel Pony

My 3rd Ironman, how did I get talked into It again? It had been 3 years since I said “never again.” Barb Kauffman, that’s how. She introduced me to the F4 team and I was on my way to a great 9 months. This race turned out to be very different for me than previous races. It wasn’t about would I finish, or how fast I would go on the swim/ bike or run. It was about the journey, rather than the destination, and all the wonderful people I met on my journey.

When I met Scott and my teammates, and I was hooked again. I managed to stay healthy and uninjured, on my way to the start line, a very important thing. For me the group rides and runs were the highlights. My most memorable rides were Carter Lake, where Doug ordered a Cheeseburger and my ride with   Barb to Cheyenne on the 100 miler. I developed good friendships with all the pink ladies. The trip to Lubbock with Jenny and her bike was a hoot (Jason’s humor was hilarious too). Donna’s mantra of “I don’t fail” stayed with me for the whole season. Michael’s minutes were informative, and entertaining, and Susan’s smile was infectious.

I arrived in KY on Thursday; Dan, Barb and I were on the same flight. I was impressed with the terrific hotel. My bed was very bouncy; I always like to test the bed on arrival. Barb and I were roomies and had a blast. I hadn’t slept well up to coming to KY, and hoped to relax and sleep. But it wasn’t to be as I continued to sleep poorly and felt very tired, even short of breath walking the stairs. I know people say it’s normal to feel sluggish prior to the race, but in my previous races, I have always felt very energetic. I would have to see what race day would bring.

Friday evening was the welcome dinner and athlete meeting. The highlight was Steven going up on stage to be recognized for being the youngest competitor in the race. He handled himself with grace and wisdom beyond his years.

The weather, I must talk about it. We were expecting hot and humid and had raced in Texas to prepare for it. The weather gods were kind. Both Texas and Kentucky were comfortable days.  On Thursday, Scott, Jen Szabo, Barb and I drove the bike course in the pouring rain. The hills are always easier in the car.

Saturday was a day of preparation, and of dropping off bike and enough gear bags to cloth a small army. A short swim in the river, followed by a short bike ride to make sure all was working, and finally, a short jog to stretch my legs. All working good. Saturday was the team dinner with everyone’s loved ones. It was also Young Steven’s 18th Birthday. We sang and shared in the giant cookie he received for his birthday. Scott then stood up and said a few words to the group, and then the fun really began. Sticking to a Kentucky Derby theme, he and Jen Szabo had come up with the idea of giving each team member a small horse as a souvenir. But first he had to assign a different type of horse to each team member based on their personality, and temperament. This was very fun.  A few examples, Cary was the thoroughbred; fast and athletic, Margie was a Welsh pony, Tim the Quarter horse, and Barb the Belgium pony BIG and blonde to name a few. I was the carousel horse, bright, colorful and entertaining, but still only a make-believe horse. WHAT’s UP WITH THAT?  Then it was off to bed to try to sleep again. NO LUCK. Even Barb had some trouble.  So she wrote a song when she couldn’t sleep “The 12 Weeks of Ironman Training“. She will sing it at the party it’s hilarious.

My family was in position, and ready to cheer me at every opportunity. My 13 yr old daughter Fiona volunteered and gave out gear bags for bike to run to racers and loved being in the mix. My Dad came from Chicago to cheer me on, he is my biggest fan. Last, but not least, Corinna, a friend of Barb and I, flew all the way from Denver just to cheer us on! She has also done the Ironman on 3 occasions, each time with either Barb or I. So that won her the title of Head Cheerleader.

Morning of race was the usual; up early, eat, pee and go. I meet Scott in the transition area where he pumped up my tires. I was a little worried about breaking a stem off or something bad.  Dropped off special food bags and walked the mile or so to the swim start. Donna and Jenny had gotten up early to get a good spot in the line for the swim. Bless you both. Most of us with no integrity pushed in beside them, while a few good men went to the back of the line. The swim start was crazy with the time trial start. Once the gun went off we all filed down very quickly and dived in the water and swam like a Kentucky Catfish.  Swim was good, except getting someone’s hand up my butt! The water temp was great; no wetsuit was fine, current not noticeable. I did have a slight problem; my swim cap would not stay on. I swam with it hanging off the back of my goggles most of the way. Also I rounded a buoy and stopped for a sec to sight and came across a chip which I stuffed down my swim suit and continued. At the end of the swim I was surprised to see Scott right at the exit with all the volunteers. It was a nice surprise and he shouted “Good Swim Jennifer “and off I went in search of my kids in the mass of people. I did not see them. I went to the changing tent hoping to have our teammate Lida assist me with my every need, LOL. But Erica was already there so I had to settle for another wonderful volunteer. I got my bike and started up the long chute to get out to the road. I still hadn’t seen my family, so I shouted “Where’s my family?” and the crowd answered “We’re your family “it was priceless. I then tried to mount my bike but was a little wobbly; I almost took another biker out (Yikes), but that was when I saw my kids. So I thought I had better stop to hug and kiss everybody before I embarrassed myself anymore. After all I still had many more hours to go.

Bike felt too easy in the beginning and I kept saying to myself don’t eat the paste. But my legs did not listen. At about mile 30 those lovely F4 men started to pass me, first Cary passed me on a hill, but did slow down enough to talk which was kind of him. Then came Tim and Steve who also had a little chat. On the second lap of the bike I started to wonder,”How many matches have I burned?” My legs were feeling it. I saw Lida, or let me say that again, I heard Lida before I saw her, cheering at the top of her lungs and taking photos. Then Scott and Jen around the corner with calming words of advice.

Two small problems on the bike, my Powertap stopped working at 1: 51 mins and chain came off on second lap going up hill. Powertap starting working again after about 20 minutes when I just pushed the buttons and hoped for the best. Chain got stuck in between small cog on front and bike frame.  Tried to get it back on with no success.  Just oily hands and Gatorade all over my bike.  I asked a few guys coming up the hill if they could talk me through it, but they just ignored me (bad karma for them). At this point, I had a mini melt down and swore even more than normal.  Decided to go to the shifter since muscling the chain back on wasn’t working and it shifted back on. Wasted about 10 minutes or so, but in a 15 hour day, what is 10 minutes between friends?  Unfortunately, I let this “take the wind out of my sails” for a while. But then decided to count my blessings and not dwell on it. It could have been a lot worse.  Round the corner were Lida, Scott and Jen again. I got off the bike then and went to the port-a-john to ‘get a grip”. After that all was well, except for the occasional, “When can I get off this damn bike?”  During the last 3 miles, Doug passed me and I thought “Oh good, I can talk his ear off on the run”!  My daughter was in transition to give me my transition bag and shout a few words of encouragement.  I came out of the tent ready to do the “Death March”, aka the marathon. We ran up a bridge over the Ohio River.  I was on my way back on the bridge when I saw Doug, he must have had a cheeseburger in the transition tent he took so long!!!!

During the bike I had eaten and drank very well. But I know from past experience that continuing to eat and drink on the run was one of the keys to a good run.  I went with my plan to run from aid station to aid station, and then walk through the station eating and drinking. My stomach was not “too slooshy”, but I was getting slower with each mile. I really enjoyed seeing all the other F4 athletes out on the course. This helped pass the time.  I talked with everyone and anyone who was near me. I ran with the girl with the pink wig and boa. I danced with the guy at the inspirational mile booth. My message at the inspirational mile said “GO BRUNO”.  I told my husband to come up with something to make me laugh, not the usual, ”Go Mom, we love you!”  But “GO BRUNO”?  What the hell did that mean? I later found out that was not what he wrote, someone must have overwritten his message. Second lap of the run I started to feel blisters on my feet, and started to have some stomach issues. Something I have never experienced before, diarrhea. I stopped eating then and switched to coke and water. I knew now it was going to be mind over body at this point. So I dug deep and kept moving forward. The finish chute is a unique experience; I don’t think you can describe it unless you experience it yourself. I heard the words “Jennifer Dretzka from Northglenn, CO you are an Ironman!!!”  And all the pain was gone, at least for a minute or two. Then a familiar face was there again, Scott! He acted as my personal volunteer, put my medal around my neck, got me my t-shirt/hat and a drink of water. That was truly a nice ending to a great day.  I reunited with my family and Barb and we went and had pizza and came back to see all 3 Mitchells, and Dianna cross the finish line.  100% finish, not bad for the F4 group.

The week following the Ironman is always strange to me.  The best part to me is waking up and not thinking “what day is today, what is my workout for today”?  I hope to see many of you in Canada. For now, I have decided to do a ½ marathon in October. Thank you Scott, Michael, my teammates and family I couldn’t have done it without you all. See you all at the IM party on the 20th.

Iron(wo)man  Jennifer Dretzka

Michael Kelly’s Ironman Canada Report

15 09 2009

This race report got a little long.  Ok, it got really long.  Actually, War and Peace called at some point in the middle because they were worried I was going to take the title of longest novel from them.  I tried to keep the writing somewhat entertaining, but it’s still a little like watching a triathlon – you have to be really into this sort of thing to enjoy it.  You’ve been warned.

The Short Version

IM Canada rocked.  I had a great time before, during and after the race.  The swim was beautiful and not too crowded.  I swam a little too easy, but decided it was better that than swimming too hard.  The bike started out well, but to the fellow racer that so strongly encouraged me to crash: please pay more attention in the future, thanks.  The bike course is mostly awesome even when your shoulder stings and the seam in your shorts irritate the road rash on your hip.  The run course is really nice, and I felt pretty great until about mile 10.  To the resident at mile 10 who’s lawn I totally puked in, I’m really sorry.  To the resident at mile 13.5 whose lawn I napped in, thanks.  Mile 14 to the finish rocked, and passing about a dozen people in the last half mile was really fun.  Missing my goal time by 3 minutes was a little bit of a bummer, but a 7 minute PR and being able to leap across the finish line is still totally worthwhile.  The rematch is on the calendar for next year, and I’m already excited about the training and the trip up there with Fast Forward!

The Long Version

Pre Race

We flew into Spokane having heard that it was not that much shorter of a drive from Vancouver and the plane tickets were definitely cheaper.  It took us almost 6 hours to get to Penticton, and about 5 hours on the return trip.  Next year, we’ll be flying into Kelowna which is a little more expensive but only about 45 minutes from Penticton.  Well worth it to avoid such a long drive.  All of the logistics leading up to the race went very smoothly.  Our pre-race swim was fun – the lake is clear and beautiful and the atmosphere is very relaxed.  Packet pickup was easy – we picked a good time to go (1pm) after all the type-A triathletes had come and gone.  As type A minus athletes we have a big advantage.  Our pre-race dinner was great – good friends, good food, good times.
Everyone was surprisingly relaxed and yet still excited for the race.

Race Day

The forecast called for 92 degrees and no cloud cover, so I didn’t have to make any major last minute adjustments.  Breakfast went down well at about 4:30, and I packed a PB&J for a little later in the morning.  We piled seven of us into the Subaru and made the short drive down to the race site.  Parking was surprisingly easy and we were all able to get to our gear and do what needed to be done before the race start.  At about 10 minutes before 7, I was in the water swimming a quick warmup.  With a few minutes to spare I made my way to the starting spot I wanted which was right on the front and about halfway between the point right in line with the buoys and the far left edge.


Shortly after listening to the Canadian anthem the announcer counted down the race start.  I got a good clean start and was swimming in open water at a strong but not ridiculous pace.  No one climbed over me from behind and I was rarely crowded from either side.  When people got close I just made sure my elbows found them (gently) and I never had any issues.  Rounding the first turn at about 25 minutes I felt like I was swimming just a touch harder than I might like.  I caught a glimpse of my HR and although it was right about where I expected it to be, I made a point of making sure to draft very close on the feet of the person in front of me to keep my effort minimal.  After rounding the second turn to head back towards shore I felt like I was swimming a little too easy.  I tried to pass the person I was drafting off of, but it seemed like a lot of work and I decided that I would rather get out of the swim feeling like I had done nothing at all, rather than go harder than I should.  Although it was the right decision at the time, based on what I know now, I should have pulled closer to the main line of swimmers and used their collective draft to pull myself along a little faster and hope to find some feet that were accelerating at the end of the swim.
As it was, I got out of the water a few minutes slower than I hoped which was a little disappointing.  Still, I knew exactly why it had happened and I was totally fine with the decisions I had made.  Ironman is a long day and I had a lot of time to make up the 3 minutes that I missed my goal swim time by.


I had heard from veteran athletes that the swim exit is a bit rocky so I continued swimming until the absolute last possible moment and had no trouble exiting the water.  I found my bag quickly and jogged into the very crowded transition tent.  I skipped trying to find an empty chair and just pulled up a spot of grass near the exit.  I keep my transitions very simple, so all I had to do was throw on my shoes and socks, helmet and glasses, grab some chamois cream, and stash my nutrition in my pockets.  Everything went smoothly and I even managed to stuff most of my gear back into the bag to make sure it didn’t get lost.


Normally I don’t run in my bike shoes to my bike, but as it turns out, my bike shoes are pretty easy to run in, as far as bike shoes go.
However, I didn’t count on the fact that my nutrition might bounce out of my pocket on the way.  I had more on the bike, so it wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but just after mounting the bike I was rolling along and another athlete came up behind me on the bike and asked if I had dropped them.  He then handed them off as we passed each other, and I really hoped that he would get that good karma back at some point later in the race.

Just a couple of miles into the bike another athlete had dropped something right in the middle of the one lane we were riding in.  She had gotten off her bike and was warning other athletes about it while trying to find a way to step into bike traffic to try to retrieve it.  I certainly didn’t want to run into her or the small container she had dropped so I moved over to about 3/4s of the way across the lane.  After I had moved over, another athlete came past me on my left, and then cut over too quickly.  His hip hit my shoulder and I leaned against him to keep from falling over and to notify him that he had just run into someone.  He kept pushing towards me, and unfortunately I kept leaning into him thinking he would straighten up.  Instead he simply pulled away from me, leaving me leaning on air.  A few seconds later I was sliding on my hip and shoulder across the road towards the curb.

I stayed very calm but stood up quickly to check to see that I was ok.
I could tell I was going to have some nice road rash, but otherwise I felt ok.  Two spectators reminded me to check my bike, and I lifted up the rear end to checking that the pedals still turned, which thankfully they did.  The front brake had been pushed out of position, but that only took a moment to fix.  The only real casualty was my water bottle cage which had broken off and was beyond repair.  I had another cage which I had luckily installed a couple of days before the race and fortunately it worked great.  After one last deep breath I took off again and made a very conscious effort to ride no harder than I had been riding before.

As I started riding I worried that I had bruised my hip in such a way that it would affect my run, similar to a MTB crash I had earlier in the season that had kept me from running for a couple of weeks.  It didn’t feel that serious, but then again I had a marathon to run which under the best of circumstances is not easy.  I tried not to think about it, which honestly wasn’t that difficult since the sting from the road rash plus trying to maintain a steady pace, plus remembering to eat and drink on schedule was more than enough to occupy my little oxygen starved brain.

As you might expect, compared to a crash, the rest of the bike course was really pretty fun.  I got passed by people on the climbs because they ride much harder on the uphills than they do on the flats.  I kept my heart rate within 5 beats or so of where I was riding on the flats and felt great.  The descents on the course were a lot of fun.  None of the were particularly technical, but I still managed to pass people in some of the turns and in some cases just by pedaling whenever the descent started to flatten out and tucking whenever it was too steep to pedal.

I checked my watch after the first 40 miles to get a rough idea of where I was at time-wise.  I was WAY ahead of schedule even though I had been riding extra easy for the first hour.  A tailwind and an overall loss of elevation make for some fast miles.

Richter Pass was entertaining.  Someone had told me that it was three pitches, but I wasn’t sure what constituted a “pitch” so I was content to just keep climbing until the road went downhill.  Even as I started going downhill I could see another big climb up ahead.  It looked like the world’s biggest roller.  As it turns out the top of this next climb is actually lower than the top of Richter pass, but all I knew is that after descending for a minute I was busy climbing again.  Once I crested this climb I got a nice downhill and then enjoyed some flat to lightly rolling country roads until the out and back section.

The out and back section was a little tough because you end up heading back the way you came on a parallel road for 7 miles, the roads are a little rough, and there are more small hills than I felt were strictly necessary at this point in the race.  At the end of the section I picked up my special needs back and enjoyed a still somewhat slushy Dr. Pepper which I had frozen the night before.  I also picked up the rest of my nutrition and a little more chamois cream.  All very welcome treats!
The return trip was fine and when I finished I thought I was pretty close to the climb to Yellow Lake.

Just after the out-n-back things started to get a little tough.  I was expecting the climb to Yellow Lake and looking forward to the descent on the other side.  Instead I was faced with about 7 miles of very gradual uphill – just enough to slow me down, but not enough to justify sitting up and settling in for a climb.  Not expecting this section, and not knowing how long it would last made this a rough section for me.
Fortunately, I have a very stubborn auto pilot which settled me in at the appropriate effort level and chipped away at the miles until I reached the start of the climb to Yellow Lake.

Climbing up to Yellow Lake was great.  Any time I get on a climb, I start getting passed by people.  This has nothing to do with my climbing skills (which are solid) or my power to weight ratio (favorable).  It’s simply due to the fact that most people push hard uphill just because they feel slow when they’re climbing.  Since I knew there was a descent on the other side, I was willing to push the effort slightly (heart rate
5 bpm above target) but no more.  I waved goodbye to all the paste eaters knowing that I would see them soon.

After the climb I was very much looking forward to the descent.  I was at a point in the race that I just needed to regroup for a minute or two and I felt that the downhill would be the perfect opportunity to do that.  When I saw the sign reading 200m to go, I was stoked.  When I reached the “summit” I was suddenly less than stoked.  It was flat for as far as I could see (at least a couple of miles) and there was a bit of a head wind.  Bummer.  Again, I had to just let the auto pilot kick in and I cranked out the next 5 miles of flat (including another small
climb) without being particularly happy about it.

As I started the final descent I got my chance to regroup and after just a minute I felt much better.  I worked hard to get up to top speed and made sure to pedal through and flattish sections to make as much of the downhill as I could.  Although the downhill came much later than I would have liked, it made up for it by being slightly longer than I expected and dropping me off right in Penticton, less than 5 miles from the finish of the bike.  The last few miles I ended up having to make the choice between working hard and passing folks or just sitting up and taking it easy to avoid drafting penalties.  I chose the latter and it paid off by making the transition from biking to running very very comfortable.

Calories: 2100 (370/hour – exactly as planned and practiced)
12 Fig Newtons (600 cals)
18 Clif Bloks (600 cals)
1 Dr. Pepper (300 cals)
4.5 Gatorades (600 cals)

Fluids: 136oz  (24oz/hour – 8oz/hour lower than planned) 100oz Gatorade 24oz Dr. Pepper 12oz Water

Sodium: 6390mg (375mg/8oz for 1200mg/hour – exactly as planned and
16 salt tabs (5440mg)
100oz Gatorade (950mg)

I had a moment of concern getting off the bike.  My hip was a bit sore
from where I had crashed on it and I wasn’t sure it was going to loosen
up.  I slowed to a brisk walk, picked up my transition bag and headed
into the tent to change.  I took the opportunity to stretch my hip
before putting on my shoes, hat and fresh sunglasses.  When I started
jogging again, my hip was feeling better and I just hoped it would hold
up for the run.

The run started off VERY well.  I felt much better than I had ever felt
starting an IM marathon.  My plan called for holding back by 30 seconds
per mile for a pace of 9 minutes/mile.  Without a GPS watch I had to
guess a little at the speed, but I had a pretty good sense of where I
needed to be and I came through the first mile in 8:45.  I walked the
aid station casually, and ended up running the next mile in exactly 9
minutes.  At this point I looked at my watch and realized that with if I
could run a 4 hour marathon I would break 11 hours easily.  This seemed
incredibly doable since I had run sub 4 the previous year with
significantly more discomfort.  I was relaxed, running well, and felt
that I had nailed my bike nutrition.  As an added bonus, my stomach felt
pretty decent and I gingerly tried a a clif blok at mile 2, a half
banana at mile 3, and then a gel at mile 4.  I even tried a couple of
pretzels for a little extra salt but were too dry to be really worth the
trouble.  Since none of those things tasted that great I went back to my
original plan which was to rely on mostly liquid nutrition.  I wanted to
hold off on the coke until I really need it, so I alternated Gatorade
and water at aid stations, and continued on the salt tabs (3/hour).

I came through mile 6 at exactly 54 minutes feeling like I had barely
started running.  Perfect.  At this point the plan called for picking it
up by 30 secs per mile and I was ready.  Over the next three miles I
started to feel a little fatigue, but nothing unusual or unexpected when
hitting a pace that was appropriate to my fitness.  My stomach starting
feeling a little worse, but again nothing I hadn’t experienced before.
I don’t remember feeling that bad when I hit the big hill at mile 10.  I
shortened up my stride a little and pushed on up completely under
control.  At the top I suddenly realized I didn’t feel very good at
all.  I pulled over into the shade and immediately vomited up the entire
contents of my stomach.  It was a substantial volume of fluid, easily
30oz when it was all said and done.  Although my stomach now felt a lot
better than it had in miles, I was left feeling a little drained.  I
found a buddy to run with for the next mile or so and really took it
easy.  After about a mile I was feeling better so I picked up the pace
every so slightly.

I felt good enough for the next couple of miles until the turn around.
After rounding the turn, I again pulled off into the shade.  I was
feeling pretty weak and light headed and thought it might be a pretty
good idea to sit down for a bit.  I put my head down between my legs and
that felt so good I decided that lying down completely might not be a
bad idea either.  That felt even better and so I decided to lay there
for a minute.  I could definitely feel myself improving, and I figured
my body would tell me when it was time to get up again.  As it turns I
didn’t have to wait that long – the paramedics stopped by to say hello
and that kinda kicked me into gear.  Like a lot of competitive souls I
don’t like appearing weak and so when the paramedics asked me if I was
feeling ok I of course answered that I was.  When they asked if I needed
help sitting up, I assured them I could do that on my own and sat up
with what I hoped was convincing speed.  Then they asked if I need help
standing up, and I of course had to show them that I could do that too.
The light headedness hadn’t completely subsided so I leaned against a
telephone pole just in case.  I’m pretty sure the nice paramedics were
still waiting for me to collapse so after a little bit more polite
conversation I decided it was time I started running again.

In hindsight, I think I laid down for pretty much exactly the right
amount of time.  I think if I hadn’t stopped I would have been in really
bad shape, and if I had stayed down much longer it would have been more
than I needed.  As it was, when I started running I got the chills badly
enough to cause my teeth to start chattering, which was definitely not a
good sign in 90 degree heat.  Fortunately, it passed after a couple of
minutes and at the next aid station I started in on the coke.  I started
feeling better almost immediately and felt like I was back on pace.  At
the next aid station I had two cups of coke, and at the next I
discovered that I could take the ice they were offering and dump it in
the coke which made it even more palatable.  Every aid station from
there to the end I had two cups of coke and was running like a champ.
Although I felt like I was running 8:30s, with the aid station breaks I
was closer to 9 minutes/mile.  Given the setback I had received at the
turn around I just wasn’t concerned about my pace and stayed very
focused on my effort.  I was pushing as hard as I felt I could do safely
given the number of miles left in the race.  When I hit 5 miles left to
go I felt really good, and powered up the hill into town passing people
left right and center.  The next few miles are rolling to slightly
downhill and I pushed for all I was worth.

At about mile 25 you pass within spitting distance of the finish line
before heading directly away for about .6 miles.  As I passed, I could
hear the announcer telling the crowd to give it up and cheer hard to
bring as many athletes as possible in under 11 hours.  I looked at the
finish clock and saw that with only a little over 6 minutes remaining I
was not going to be one of those athletes.  Still, I wanted to get as
close as possible so I pushed as hard as I could.  About 9 minutes later
I crossed the line, thrilled to be an Ironman for the 4th time.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of being simultaneously thrilled and
disappointed.  I raced as hard as I could have on the day.  I played the
game as intelligently as I knew how.  I had a good plan, the best I
could come up with given my experience and the knowledge that I had
begged, borrowed and stolen from everyone and everywhere.  I had
practiced my plan to the best of my ability all summer.  I executed the
plan better than I had in any prior race – for once I never had a real
lapse of concentration or execution.  Despite not feeling as good as I
would have liked on the run, I still managed a very respectable 7 minute
PR for the race as a whole.

All of these things together, combined with the excitement of crossing
the finish line healthy and happy, truly thrilled me.  Still, there was
a part of me that was disappointed to have missed my goal time by such a
small margin.  There were so many ways in which I could have made up
those three minutes.  I could have swum a bit more aggressively, I could
have avoided crashing on the bike, I could have taken more salt, or I
could have started on the coke earlier in the run instead of aggravating
my stomach with solids and Gatorade.  There’s a part of me that is
disappointed that I didn’t perform as well as many of my team mates.
Another part of me is scared that the next time I get to the start of an
Ironman that I won’t be as fit as I was this year.  I’m scared that I
won’t have the same good fortune to remain uninjured for the entire
season, and I worry that the conditions next year will be worse, or that
I’ll experience a more significant problem during a race.

And then I just take a deep breath and let it all go.  I raced as well
as I could have on the day and there is absolutely no sense in second
guessing the decisions I made on course.  I’ve certainly learned from
the decisions that didn’t work out so well and I’ll incorporate
everything I’ve learned into next year’s plan.

There’s no point in comparing my performance to anyone else’s.  Every
athlete is unique, the day’s conditions and the course affect everyone
differently.  If I’m worried about my fitness next year, that’s good –
it’ll keep me motivated and excited to start training again next year.
I’ll keep these feelings close to my heart all season and use it when
I’m dreading the winter, or the hard workouts, or the long workout days.

There’s also no point in worrying about the weather next year – it will
be whatever it will be and 12 years of racing and training in all
conditions has me better prepared than most to handle whatever mother
nature throws at me.

And I can’t believe I’m worried about the race not going as “well” as it
did this year – I crashed on the bike and puked on the run!  Sure, it
could have been a lot worse, and I’m very very grateful that it wasn’t,
but let’s be honest – it could have been a better too.

Regardless of what the race throws at me, I’ll do the best I can with it
and when I cross the line I’ll be proud of how I handled and the day and
I’ll celebrate the fact that I am privileged enough to even attempt a
2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.  The fact that
I get to take on a challenge like this with my wife, with good friends
and great teammates is way more than any person has a right to ask for.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2009 Fast Forward Ironman season
so memorable, and here’s to F4 Ironman Canada 2010!

Marjie is an Ironman!

14 09 2009

Louisville Ironman  8.30.09

Marjie Hemstreet

I have really enjoyed the FastForward Tri and Run training these last few years.  I had never really thought of doing an Ironman.  It was never a goal of mine.  So, it was natural that I deleted the email from Scott August 2008 regarding the Louisville Ironman training (no offense Scott J ).  I don’t even think I actually read through the entire email.

As the week progressed however; my attitude towards doing an Ironman changed drastically.  A few exchanges with friends and a dare…”Steve said he’ll do it if you do!”…and just like that I had a new goal for 2009.

8.29.09  Night before the Race

I felt great.  We had a fun group dinner together @ a local Italian restaurant.  I wasn’t really that nervous…just ready to do the IM!  Swim practice went well that morning.  Everything was prepped (morning bags, special needs, clothes, etc. etc.) and bike was already in transition waiting for my arrival.


Woke up at 4 am and ate breakfast.  I ate the usual fare like toast, with pbj, banana and coffee.  Left for swim start @ 5:05 am.  Found fellow F4 IMers and hung out in line with everyone.  Once the pros started the line moved relatively fast.  We all wished each other Good Luck and we were off to start our day.


It was a time trial start so I jumped off the dock and started swimming.  It was pretty cool swimming without a wetsuit.  The water was warm…a little dirty but warm.  So many swimmers!  I kept trying to get away from a woman who kicked me and then smacked me in my right eye.  I didn’t sight a ton as I just followed the mass of people.  Besides, I tend to go off on my own too much.  I felt like a poi fish in a small pool at feeding time.  People kept trying to swim over me so I ended up kicking way more than I usually do.  Before I knew it I was done. Yeah!


T1  Lida helped me in the changing tent.  I really took my sweet time.  I found that I had a lot to do in that changing tent.  I went to the bathroom.  I chatted with Lida.  Finally, I was on my way.

Right away I noticed a bunch of stuff…I witnessed a guy take a turn too fast and he crashed not even a mile into the ride.  Yikes.  I drank some Gatorade and kept a fairly slow, even pace.  In looking back I think I got distracted too much and didn’t stay very focused.  I saw some guy in a pickup truck (stuck in traffic) giving all of us riders the finger.  I also noticed a huge chalk sign on the pavement of ‘IRONMAN’ with a line through.  Great.  Then I saw  a tween boy throwing Huge sticks in the street maybe wanting to see a crash?!  Nice.  Other than these issues I thought the police, volunteers (loved them!) and spectators were awesome!

I had a minor muscle cramp in my left calf that just got worse as the day went on.    I’m sure it was from all the kicking I did to carve out my own space in the swim.  It really started hurting around Mile 30.  I was constantly standing up and stretching it.  Also, my cyclometer decided not to work on race day.  I kept messing with it until about Mile 60 or so and finally realized I was not going to see my cadence number or mileage.  That was kind of a drag because seeing my cadence helps me so much when my mind starts to wander.   Oh well.

After stopping for Special Needs bag and using a Port-O-Potty I charged through LaGrange for the 2nd time.  I was looking for Mike, Hana and my parents since somehow we had missed each other at the Swim exit (I later heard they were worried and thought I needed medical attention!).  I saw them as I was going downhill and starting to pick up speed.  That helped make my cramped calf a little more bearable.  After the rush of seeing them, I lost it a bit and got emotional.  I kind of felt a little wacky and tired at that point.  My calf pain kept increasing and would not subside no matter what I did.  I saw Lida, Jen and Scott for the 2nd time.  Scott told me to eat some bananas…of course!  By this time though, all of the aid stations were out of bananas (yes, we have no bananas…).  I upped my salt intake and kept stretching whenever possible.  I tried to keep the negatives out of my head.

At around Mile 85 I got a really bad side cramp.  Oh good I thought, now I can focus on a different part of my body.    I kept drinking a ton of water and trying to talk to the other cyclists to pass the time.  “Hey…isn’t that tobacco growing over there?”  most ignored me.  Did I already say I get off task?  I don’t think I will ever drink Perpetuem again.  I feel that it caused my major side ache.  I kept drinking water and massaging my side.  Finally, I was in the final stretch so I forced down a GU and more water and rode to T2.

T2  Bathroom Break.  I was a little wishy-washy on what to wear.  A Tank or a Long Sleeve shirt?  I asked my volunteer and we discussed it at length.  I ended up ignoring her advice and wore my new Long Sleeve white tech shirt for fear I might get cold on the run.

RUN…It was all about the Tylenol and Coke

Once I was out of T2 and on the run I realized I was way too overdressed!  So, I wrapped that Long sleeve around my waist and ran in my jog bra for the first half of the run course.  I actually stopped a race photographer from getting a shot of me at Mile 2.  I had no intention of seeing my pale stomach anytime soon.

I saw everyone from FF which made the race more enjoyable.  I was so glad to be on the run and be able to talk to people.  Other than a bathroom break and finally finding a banana the first half of the race was fairly uneventful.  At the beginning of the 2nd loop I ran with 2 young guys…23 & 26 yr. olds. We ran together for 6 or so miles.  It was great to run with them but they ended up taking too long at the Aid Stations and by this time I just wanted to finish!  My body was really achy.  My lower back was killing me and so were my feet.  I was definitely running in Zone 1.  I took a Tylenol around Mile 18/19…Relief!!  Yeah.

I got into a grove at each Aid Station…first getting ice water and then Coke.  The Coke was the highlight of my run.  I am not a big soda drinker normally but I felt like an addict during that run.  I was almost in a panic when a volunteer at an Aid Station said she didn’t have any Coke.  “Really?”  I made her repeat it.  Thankfully, every Aid Station had  an ample supply of Coke after that.  Once the Tylenol kicked in I was able to pick up the tempo a bit and keep good running form.  I was feeling really good the last 10K.  I couldn’t help smiling as I turned the corner.  I saw Lida and Jen smiling!  Almost there.  I ran to the Finish and heard Hana say ‘Go Mommy”.  I saw Mike and my parents and felt so awesome and proud of myself.

And just like that I did my first Ironman.  It was done.  That was that.  Yeah!  What an awesome year I have had.  I loved the wonderful experience of training with my new FF friends and learned so much from my coaches, Scott and Michael.  Philip and Susan were really inspiring too.  Canada?  I’ll be there…

Next Time    ~ Transition:    Be more decisive and pick up the pace a bit

~ Ride:           Try to stay more focused and ride a bit more aggressively.  Also,

be prepared for leg cramps…pack bananas

~ Run:            Be more decisive about what to wear

Swim:      1:35:04

Bike:        7:39:39

Run:         5:06:39

Overall:  14:43:56

T1:  11:46

T2:  10:43