Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finger Eleven Anyone?

There seems to be a theme developing to the questions "non-triathletes" ask me about Ironman. When I tell them about my race, I am honest and up front. This time around, I have been saying how amazing it is - I do really have fun while I'm competing. But I also say how hard it is, mentally and physically. How for the last 2hours or so, you're thinking of million and one reasons why you should quit.
The usual response is, "how do you keep going?". "Well" I say, "there's something deep that just forces you to move forward".
Yesterday, I came across a blog that had the follow snippet. It sums it up perfectly and is a great 'tool' that I will reference when I need it:

The One Thing (by Rich Strauss of Crucible Fitness)
The run is where the rubber meets the road. Let's consider the entire Ironman starting field and the likelihood of these athletes running to their full potential on race day. A percentage will be eliminated due to improper training. The classic example is training for a marathon, not a 26.2 mile run after a 112 mile bike ride. Another percentage will be eliminated by nutritional and pacing mistakes that begin to express themselves either late in the bike, or mid way through the run.
So when we reach T2, we have a small subset of the entire field who have created the opportunity for a successful run through the skillful manipulation of many variables: training, physical fitness, nutrition and pacing. Of this subset, what then determines who runs to their potential and who does not? The One Thing.
First, a successful Ironman run = slowing down as little as possible. Not slowing down is almost entirely a function of maintaining focus, not fitness. If you are not cramping up on the run, you don't need to be running very fast to have a successful marathon, by Ironman standards. Despite what you might think, the difference between a good and bad marathon time is just continuing to move forward, as best you can, for the entire 26.2 miles. Sorry, but that's about as sexy as it gets out there.
You MUST expect your body to have a conversation with your head at some point during the run:
Body to Mind: "Ok, I'm truly suffering here. I can keep going, but you need to give me a very good reason to continue suffering like this."
Mind to Body: "We suffer because of the One Thing. The pain won't last forever. Just keep doing the best you can do and we'll get there."
My One Thing
The One Thing is whatever has motivated you to do this to yourself in the first place. Before the race you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and identify what your One Thing is. And this is no time for bullshit. Be completely honest because your body will play your bluff when the chips are down. You can't lie to yourself out there.
After four Ironman finishes, I have identified my One Thing as very concrete goals, time or place based.
Ironman Florida, '00: I came off the bike with a shot at going sub 11hrs for my first IM. I used this goal to maintain complete focus on my run and had a successful day, despite donating blood 18 days before the race and to this day not remembering miles 13 through 22. One Thing = sub 11:00, determined in T2.
Ironman California, '01: 30-34 AG qualifying time in 2000 was 10:20. I wanted to qualify but wasn't completely committed to it. At about mile 10 of the run I had seen many 30-34 calves pass me and knew I wasn't going to qualify. I began to lose my focus and ran into some nutritional issues by mile 22. Picked myself up and finished in...10:19. Just below the qualifying standard but a year too late :-) One Thing = Kona, but I wasn't completely honest with myself. After that goal become unrealistic, I should have set an alternate objective of sub 10:10, as a tool to maintain my focus.
Ironman Wisconsin, '02: Not confident in my run fitness and expecting a dogfight with Pedder. However, I came off the bike 15th overall, with a very good chance of qualifying or even standing on the AG podium. Maintained complete focus and ran 3:45 on about 3:30 marathon fitness. One Thing = Kona and AG podium, determined in T2.
Ironman Hawaii, '03: Injury and first time on the island combine to set my goal at having a successful race. One Thing = no execution errors. Without a concrete, quantifiable goal I struggled to maintain my focus and failed to do so, relative to my performances at Florida and Wisconsin. I was a machine on those days, but not in Kona. My One Thing became pain and the desire to make it stop. I had a strong last 5 miles, considering.
Your One Thing
My One Thing may or may not be yours. I know what mine is now and will plan my race goals around it to increase my potential for a successful race.
How do you determine your One Thing?
Identify why you want to do the race before signing up. Are you doing it for you or to prove something to someone else? Be completely honest with yourself. "I'm a doing this Ironman so I can earn a unique title that is mine forever." One Thing = title of Ironman.
Take that One Thing and mate it with your race goals and expectations: "The title is important to me, not the time. I want to finish with a smile on my face."
Remind yourself, daily, of your One Thing and the race goals and expectations you have built around it. Through this process your One Thing will provide clarity of purpose to your training. When the Phunometer is pegged during a 6 hour long ride, you'll know why you are still out there.
In your mental rehearsals before the race, visualize the conversation between Mind and Body when the Body begins to question the Mind's commitment to the One Thing. Prepare your rebuttal beforehand.
On race day, continually remind yourself of the One Thing. Focus completely on its accomplishment. Remember, you can never disappoint your friends or family. They will be proud of you regardless. However, you can let yourself down. In the end, the best we can do is follow our commitment to our One Thing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


This triathlon season definately did not start the way I had envisioned it to.
With a strategicly placed injury I was unable to race an early season IM. Which meant, no qualification to Kona 2009. I officially started my run training somewhere in June - ground zero. 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking - we've all been to that demoralizing place. But everything started to come together and I was able to race a couple of half IM's before the big one and felt like my running for 13.1 miles was pretty decent. Whether or not I could run a marathon was the real question.
I had been having some real issues with motivation. I have been missing my friends and family and have probably been going through a small patch of "depression". A new job had been taking up way too much time. But I felt like I needed to focus on my career for a change. I was struggling to get out the door solo and if I wasn't really into the activity (ahem...swimming) it only happened once or twice a week. I made sure to get in the quality workouts (speed, shoot out) but couldn't force the 'junk' mileage. My longest run was 2:40, with a handful of other runs of 2 hours.... not quite the mileage I was used to.
I was worried about the run but as this is my 5th IM, I new the training was in there somewhere I was just hoping it would show it's face.

I had been watching the southern AZ temps drop all week and was scared of a colder than normal temp. I had done this race in April 08 when temps reached 95 degrees and the drop out rate was the 2nd highest ever in an IM. I loved it. In my opinion, anything below 80 is cold and uncomfortable on the bike. Race day prediction was a HIGH of 75. poo. So at 4 in the am, while we were preparing to enter the 62 degree water, it was low 40's. All I wanted to do was curl up in a down comforter!
15 minutes to race start and I felt the nerves. Perfect timing. Just enough to get you pumped up, not to soon to be wasted energy.

Once we got going, the water felt okay...everywhere but my feet! They were numb.
The April 08 swim here has been my worst IM swim to date. I got crushed, pushed, pulled and was close to having a panic attack. Needless to say, I had a score to settle. I went out fast!! And promptly settled into a rhythm. I was pushing.
I have always looked at the swim of an IM as a warm up for what's to come. My coach set me straight. If he had his way, I would have blown 3 or 4 times in the swim from going so hard. Maybe I'll try that next time.
Anyway, I ended up swimming by myself which was fine with me. The energy saved from not panicing was worth the energy lost by not drafting.
I got out of the water and was shocked to see 1:08 on the clock... bummer. Then I checked my watch and realized that was the pro time.... YES! Instantly back on track!
I took a decent amount of time in the tent to put on a bike jersey, arm warmers and gloves... it was cold!
The bike is a three looper that gradually 'climbs' to a turn around on each loop.
The first and second laps were hell. There was a strong headwind while climbing out that just beat you down. I could see the other top girls around me and at the turn around. I am very proud to say that Wendy Mader, Rhae Shaw (monster on the bike!)and myself did not draft... at all!! Coming out of the water where we did put us on a pretty bare bike course. I am super happy with my time (5:20) and am hoping to do it again on the big island. I am amazed at some of the gals who came out of the water after 1:10 who biked around (or faster than) 5:10....hmmmm... just saying. My coach (head referee) and his team did their best, but there were still packs. Sucky.
I regained feeling in my feet just before reaching the transition (did I say it was cold?).

I stopped at the port a pot in transition for the now traditional, "sit down and collect yourself" pee. I may stop doing this.... I was only 1 minute shy of the AG record and here is where it was lost!! I just couldn't force myself to pee on the bike. I had visions of it freezing to me like in Dumb and Dumber.
As mentioned in previous posts, I was expecting to feel like crap for the first of three laps on the run. I was running with a teammate and feel that this may have caused me to go out a little faster than I should have. My fault. I should have known better. It was great company though, and made the first loop fly by. Unfortunately, I didn't start to feel better. In fact, with every step I felt worse. At half way I was convinced that I needed to stop. I needed to walk. I told myself that I would at the next aid station. The aid station would come and the angel on my shoulder would say "na, you're okay. stop at the next one". For the next mile, the devil on my other shoulder would tell me how badly I hurt and that I wasn't going to make it. He wasn't lying. I felt bad. But I new if I stopped the self loathing I would put myself through would feel worse. This back and forth went on for the next 10 miles. I was in the far bottom corner of the hurt box. The one thing I had going for my was that my stomach was settled (rah rah Infinit). So I kept going. It wasn't pretty. In fact, I've seen the pictures - it was down right fugly. How did I think it was going to feel? That's why we do it.
I kept going. Soon enough, I was at the aid station with just over two miles to go. Seton yelled over the loud speaker that I could make it in under 10hours. "who, me?".
I don't really remember anything until the finishing stretch, but I guess it went okay. I'm pretty sure there was some grunting and spitting but that's par for the course.

I was just happy to stop. Every last ounce of energy was left on that course.
My run time was not a PB, but it was 11 minutes faster than the last time I did this race and it is a harder course than Kona and I was almost 10 lbs heavier. And more than anything, it was a huge personal triumph to overcome that nasty little devil on my shoulder.
I will be in Kona 2010. I will be ready for the race of my life.

If you haven't heard about Rudy: you should. He's an amazing person and ambassador for our sport. He makes me feel foolish for complaining of feeling run down.

A huge thanks to my sponsors:
First Endurance
And my coach/friend: J. Riccitello

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Evolution...... 7 sleeps.

Next weekend, I will start (and finish) my 5th IM.
I don't know if it's because I know what to expect (loosely) or if I don't want to get too excited too early, but it would seem that the effort I am about to put out is just not registering. I am calm. Maybe too calm.
In an effort to get myself 'pumped' I have been looking at old race photos.
Which, of course, I'm about to share.
2006: IM LP
Very naive. Put in lots of miles. Was injured early in the season and did basically no speed work. My coach (at the time) said track work wasn't necessary. I trained in flat southern Ontario and the Placid hills crushed me. I was throwing up and walking much of the last quarter of the run.....5th in AG. No go for Kona, but I was 10th OA. And I caught the IM bug.

I then proceeded to the medically tent for a few hours of therapy. But I was happy. I just became an Ironman!
It was round two in 2007 with IM Wisconsin!! Another hilly slaughter of the legs!
This time, it was my achillies that was the culprit and I was only able to start riding and running with 9 weeks left until race day.
This IM was seen in my eyes as a nutritional experiement. I had no idea how many calories I needed or what kind. I new what I had done in training had been good but my stomach seemed to get pissed off when I exerted myself for longer than 9 hours. I would not recommend the following strategies: chugging a red bull at bike special needs, chugging a red bull at run special needs, carrying a bag of gummy bears and eating the whole thing in the second half of the marathon.
The verdict - too many calories, again ending in the med tent with juice spilling out of both ends, yummy.

Not a bad finish considering, but still no Kona.
Next up, a move to Tucson and an IM to celebrate it! I moved to Tucson and got in a full months outdoor training to prepare. The weather was scorching! 94 degrees. I switched my nutrition to full liquids and used Infinit. I used enough salt pills to give a horse a heart attack and I think it worked. I only had to stop one time for a port a potty and it was 6 miles from the finish. A quick stop and I instantly felt better.

It was my best finish and finally, that Kona spot!!
Kona lived up to it's expectations big time! The wind howled and it was hot! After being mauled by the wind I had visions of not being able to finish the run.... but I held on and reeled some gals in!

All very educational and exciting experiences but the most valuable insights seem to be that: 1) I need to utilize liquid nutrition, and stay away from gels. 2) I should always race in a bathing suit 3) I do well in the heat (the high is only set to be 77 on Sunday).
7 sleeps