Monday, May 25, 2009

Lake Placid Torturefest Part 2

The rest of Torturefest was far less dramatic for me but not by any means easy. On Sunday we got to sleep in a little bit and even ate a bit more than usual before venturing out for our 2 hour and 45 minute run. The day was crisp but beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed this run. We warmed up easy around Mirror Lake and through town before heading out on the official run course. The out part of this course is fairly uneventful. There are some rollers, but nothing too grueling. Once you turn onto River Road by the ski jumps, there is a beautiful river along side the road and a few houses interspersed throughout to keep your interest. I enjoyed having the other gals along for the run. I've done most of my long runs this year by myself with my ipod and it was great to have company and someone to chat with. My legs felt good for the most part and I was enjoying being on solid ground and not my bike. The trip back towards town was a little more challenging. The first hill by the ski jumps isn't too bad, just on the longer side. I'm sure however, on the second loop of the run course it will seem like a mountain. The worst hill is the one back in town. We'll hit this hill at probably mile 12 and 25. Its challenging on fairly fresh legs to run, or shuffle up in my case. Others have said the crowds at this point carry you up the hill with their cheers. Let's hope so. Its a toughie!

Post run, Kate O, Lynn and I took our ice bath in Mirror Lake. The cold water felt amazing on my hip and feet and I enjoyed the looks we got from passersby. Yes, in response to your slightly puzzled looks, we are slightly crazy! :)

Our treat on Sunday afternoon was an hour massage at the house. I highly recommend Lisa who works at the Mirror Lake Inn. My massage was fantastic and much needed. Sunday night the gang headed to Mirror Lake Inn for dinner. The service was fantastic and they had a great wine list but the groups dinner reviews were a little mixed. I enjoyed my beet salad, pork tenderloin, maple syrup creme brulee and probably a little too much wine for a training night.

Monday's training was a full loop of the bike course. I made up my mind before this loop that my goal was just to enjoy myself, ride my own pace and finish the loop. Loop 3 was definitely my best of the camp. The two May birthday gals (Shawn and I) were paired up for the loop. Having Shawn as my riding partner for the day was definitely comforting. She is a steady and strong rider and her bike handling skills (including descents) are great. Shawn rides because she loves it - and its obvious in her demeanor on the course. We kept a steady pace throughout the day and the big descent, while still scary, was no where as bad as Saturday. I managed to use my brakes a little less and tried to relax a little bit. Since I had no coach beside me this time, I just talked to myself out loud and repeated a few mantras as I went down the big hill -- "Relax" and "Pedal." I'll probably do the same on race day . . . hopefully my fellow competitors wont think I'm too much of a loon. Monday's loop also included the Haselton out and back. There's a good sized climb when you are headed back towards Wilmington, but you can move on some of the other parts. The stretch from Wilmington until the named hills was still my hardest section. The road isn't steep, but its a constant slow grind. Midway through the loop, I switched my Garmin readouts so that I could see the percentage grade I was riding. After learning that the last hill after Papa Bear had an 11 % grade, Shawn and I named it "The Bastard." Post-ride we had a transition run down the two steep hills to town (including the worst hill of the run course) for 10 minutes and then back up both hills. My legs definitely felt their previous efforts and Id be amazed if my shuffle up these hills was faster than a walk.

Back at the house, I got my second massage of the camp. This one was only a half hour, but still fantastic. Monday night was my night to cook. Kate O and I whipped up some salmon, roasted green beans, baked chicken and wild rice for an early dinner. Post dinner we begrudgingly put on our swim suits and headed to Paul Smith Community College for swim practice. I was beat and so were my camp mates. The pool at Paul Smith was chilly and without any lane ropes, it felt more like open water practice than swimming in a pool. At times, I felt nauseated and Karen B turned green after our swims around the pools perimeter. Coach K must have felt pity for us so after a 400 cool down, we were released from swim practice. Kate O took some great pics with her underwater camera -- hope you enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Torturfest - Placid Training Camp, Part 1

The subtitle to this post should really be Facing My Demons in Lake Placid.

The trip to Placid went smoothly. Bart, Lynn, Kate and I loaded up the Beast around 7:30 pm with our four bikes, bags and bags of gear and the obligatory wine and some fantastic sweets (even GF ones) and started for Placid. After some bad fog and about 5 and a half hours of driving, we stopped for the night in Wilkes Barre, PA.

The next morning, the fog had disappeared and we were back on the road. Our "quick" stops for breakfast at a tiny diner and lunch in a quaint spot of Route 9 weren't so quick and we rolled into Lake Placid at the hour our cheeks were supposed to be on seats for the first workout of the weekend. Thankfully, the others had also arrived later than planned so we had time to claim our bedrooms in our beautiful accommodations, "Hawthorne," and unpack. The group took an easy spin around Mirror Lake and out the run course to stretch our legs. Bart and I soon discovered that the out and back on the run course was MUCH longer than we ran last year during our volunteer weekend. After our ride, we celebrated my birthday at the Brown Dog Cafe and even had a yummy 3 Fellers Carrot Cake for dessert.

After returning from dinner, we figured out nutrition for the next day's ride, loaded water bottles and set off to bed. At this point, the events of the next day began to sink in and I had my first melt down of the weekend. On our drive into Placid, we rode up the big descent into Keene. The grade on the hill looked steeper than I remembered and the hill longer. I am not confident in my descending skills and so I stressed and cried a bit to Bart before I went to bed. Not a good sign for the next day.

Saturday morning was cooler temperatures and the weather called for rain and some wind. I had my usual "pre-race" breakfast of rice, a banana and some juice and got my bike ready to go. I was in the second group along with Kate, Shawn, Deanna B and Lynn. Shawn brought us down the steep short hill from our house through town (it would become our transition hill) and coached me on descending. I felt uncomfortable from the start. I don't like the fact that bicycle brakes merely slow you down and already, I didn't like the sensation of not being in control. We stopped, descended another short steep hill, and I felt a little bit better, but still nervous as we headed out of town. After the turn at the ski jumps, we were greeted by the first climb of the course. It isn't named, but should be, and so by the end of the trip it was, "the bitch." The miles of climbing out of town took my heart rate up and my mind momentarily off the next step, the descent. My legs weren't feeling particularly strong and my heart rate was higher than I would have liked. Then again, I haven't done much climbing in the mountains yet. When we got to the top, Shawn told us the descents were about to start and to keep loose, hold the top tube with our legs and feather the brakes. I descended behind Kate O and in front of Lynn who kept me positive and kept saying words of encouragement -- "You're doing great" and "Almost there." I was thrilled when we got to the bottom and our SAG car manned by superwoman Kim, but was shaking like a leaf and spent.

We took off a few layers and headed for Jay. This is by far my favorite part of the course. It is flat, fast and along a beautiful river. I kept thinking to myself, why am I racing Placid and not Florida. I love the flats. I can ride 20 mph on a flat and feel totally comfortable but 20 mph down a mountain feels out of control and scary. Even on smaller hills, where I can see the end, I can go much faster and feel fine. Clearly its mental, and I continued to stress about my preparedness as we rode towards Jay and onto Upper Jay. In Upper Jay, you make a left hand turn and the next hill that should be named but isn't appears. As we headed up this hill, I got dropped, and dropped fast. The more I lagged behind, the more I stressed and the worse my riding got. Speedy Bart and Karen B passed me at this point and despite Bart's words of encouragement, I felt like crap. Before Haselton, we hit a potty break, regrouped and headed into Wilmington for our next SAG stop.

After refueling, we headed out of Wilmington and began the climb back to Lake Placid. It was on this climb that whatever positive confidence I had in my riding abilities disappeared and the demons appeared in full force. The Wilmington to Placid stretch, while beautiful and all along the river, is predominately all climb. Sometimes its only around a 2 or 3 percent grade, but there are very few if any "fast" parts. Again, I was quickly dropped despite DB's efforts to pull me up to the rest of the group and hang back. My legs just wouldn't push, and every time I looked at my speeds I was discouraged. How can I "race" at 7 mph? The more I stressed, I think the worse I rode. By the time I climbed Papa Bear I was a puddle. Yes, full force tears streamed from my face for the second time that day. My training buddies were awesome and encouraging. The told me to stay optimistic, have fun and not worry about my speed or pace. I had spent so much energy on the descent and worrying about my place in the pack that I didn't have that energy to spend cycling up all these hills. We plugged on back into town and ran into Coach Karen at the SAG vehicle. She sensed my frustration (it wasn't hard given the tears on my face) and we set off to ride the second lap together.

For Karen's coaching during the second loop I am extremely grateful. As a primary matter, I feel confident that I would not have made it down the hill the second time had she not been by my side. As we started out for the second loop, the wind picked up and gusts were no doubt in the 18-20 mph or higher range. The rain also started to pelt us. I decided that I was going to ride this ride at my own pace and try to relax. The winds were brutal up the hill out of town and coach Karen rode in front and pulled a bit and gave some pedal stroke and shifting pointers along the way. When we got to the top and started the descent, she rode beside me and encouraged me to brake lightly so I could feel it and pedal some so I would feel more in control of my speed. The winds by now were crazy gusty and by half way down, the wind gusted against my bike and it felt like it was being pushed all over the road. I wanted off my bike so badly at this point and was absolutely petrified. Coach Karen didn't give up though and kept encouraging me and talking to me. It was at this point that she told me that there was no way the wind could blow over my bike (which I believed at the time) and we worked on trying to pedal a bit and leg positioning through the corners. Finally, we neared the bottom, and I was incredibly thankful. Thankful to be done with the hill for the day, thankful to have ridden it in tougher conditions than I'll likely see on race day (I hope) and thankful to have a Coach to get me to the bottom and stick with me on my tough day.

The rest of the second loop was much better than the first loop. I'm not sure if I was much faster, but I certainly enjoyed it more. I took it at my own speed and laughed at times wondering what ProKaren thought about my gruelingly slow speeds, but I pushed on and was determined to finish. Near Upper Jay, I had a mechanical issue with my brakes (Bart discovered later that he doesn't think my rear wheel was in position) but we were able to stop the noise and rode on. I had nausea issues twice on the second loop, and tried to rectify them with some salt tabs and some extra water. Midway through the Wilmington to Placid stretch, Bart caught up with us (he and Karen B had done extra mileage with the Haselton loop) and he and I rode the rest of the way into Placid together. This time, I enjoyed checking off the 5 named hills into town - Little Cherry, Big Cherry, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear.

When we finally got back to town, I was so proud that I had managed to stick it through and ride the second loop. That Saturday by far was one of the toughest if not the toughest days I've ever had on my bike. The conditions were windy, the descent terrifying and I had wasted tremendous amounts of energy worrying and stressing. I learned that I had to make peace with this course if I want to have a successful Ironman.

I was so happy to put my running shoes and ipod on and head out for my transition run. It was still raining but it felt so go to have my feet on the ground and to not be on my bike. Although I ran the wrong direction, I had a great run on the road near the lake. My legs felt fast and my tunes boosted my spirits.

Post ride, we feasted on a fantastic dinner of steak, salad, sweet potatoes and wine. I think I smiled the whole evening knowing I had conquered and faced some major demons out there on the bike course. I had won though and had finished my ride. It wasn't pretty, but it was done. I can be tough on myself and I learned that sometimes, it isn't worth it. This Ironman is going to be tougher than I imagined. I needed to step back, adjust my goals, enjoy the experience and just aim to finish.

I think I was the first to bed Saturday night. I was wiped out, but slept well and looked forward to Torturefest day 2 and my long run.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Belated White Lake Race Report

So here it is . . . very belated. Work has been crazy busy with travel to Chicago and initially, I had been chewing on my race few days hoping I might figure out how I feel about it and what I want to share. To be honest, I've had mixed feelings. They still aren't all sorted out, but its so late now, and I've done my first century since WL that I need to get on blogging.

I slept terribly the night before the race. I was in that twilight area of not quite asleep but not fully awake either. And I stayed there all night long. Even my natural sleeping pill that usually puts be out didn't work.

My alarm went off early. 4:45. Since I was already sort of awake, I got up and started breakfast. I've been working on more pre-race calories so at 5 am, I ate breakfast - a cup of rice, a banana, 6 oz juice and a UltraMeal chocolate smoothie. I managed to get most of everything down and was feeling pretty good despite my less than ideal night. I had high hopes and was ready to race.

At 6 we headed to the race site to set up our transition area. I liked having all my stuff in my pseudo transition backpack (my tennis backpack) so I could ride to the race. I got unpacked, organized, body marked and as usual, took a few trips to the porta potties. TG40, Bart and I started to get suited up around 7 in time to warm up as the initial race waves went off. The water felt great like it had all week and I was ready to get started. Pre-race for me is always the worst part. I just want to start so my nerves will settle and I can start enjoying the experience.

At 7:30 when our race wave lined up, none of my fellow navy caps seemed to eager to go to the front of the pack. So to the front I went. I figured getting caught in the initial rush would be good for my mass start experience and I can throw a few elbows if I need to. The horn sounded and our group was out of the gate fast. I quickly moved from the front to probably the front third and just headed for the first buoy. Unlike last year, I couldn't find a great pair of feet to follow, so I just plowed on through the water, buoy after buoy. The back stretch got a little choppy and I laughed to myself because on the previous days, the water had been like glass. I thought about one of my favorite pros Bree Wee and her love of the choppy water and just kept swimming along. At the final turn buoy, I found a draft. I stuck like glue to a girl to the right of me and matched her stroke for stroke on the way into the pier. At the last buoy, she accelerated and I tried my best to follow. Out of the water and down the pier without slipping, I let myself look at my watch. It said 38 something. The timing mat was still a ways a way, so I ran hard to cross it in the 30s. My swim time was 39 flat. Far better than what I expected and definitely my strongest leg of the day.

T1 was T1. I struggled with the arms of my wetsuit but got it off, got my bike and ran to the mount line. Time for my favorite part - the bike. I had practiced my shoe trick a couple of times the day before and it went smoothly again after I got on my bike. I checked my HR - 165 - a little high so I let myself settle in as I rode easy through the small town of White Lake and over the first stretch of bumpy road. Soon I was on the road out of town and the wind was friendly. Again, I felt like I was riding easy and really just concentrated on keeping my HR in zone. About 10 miles in, I realized I had to use the restroom. Unfortunately, I was in the country, on my bike with no bathroom in sight, so I just pedaled and turned the corner to the next 20 miles and THE WIND. At this point my nutrition was okay. I was following my 10 minute plan - a bite of bar or a shot block or a luna moon every 10 minutes and a few sips of Gatorade/Carbo Pro every so often.

After the turn to the back 20, things changed. The wind was right in our faces, my stomach was starting to reject everything and I still had to go the bathroom. At this point, I backed off on all food and just tried to get my drink calories in and let my stomach settle. I tried to go like the pros but couldn't so ultimately stopped by the side of the road. That didn't work either and so after watching about 20 riders (including TG40) go by, and taking a salt pill, I got back on my bike again! My stomach still wasn't cooperating, and every time I got liquids in and started to push again, I gagged it back up. I will admit I let the back 20 get to me. I had to work to repass folks and I felt like crap. My legs had it but my stomach and heart didn't. And I was seeing my goal of a 3 hour bike slip.

After what seemed like ages, I turned the corner to head back into town and the wind eased some. I worked to get some more liquids down, knowing I needed the calories for the run. Seeing TG40 at the out and back and the wind at my back for the out portion gave me the boost I needed to finish the ride. My speeds picked up again on the way back into town and I was able to eat a gu. Even the bumps on the road at this point didn't seem as bad. I was almost done with the bike and if I pushed hard, I would still be under my time from last year. Definitely not the bike I had in my mind when I set out, but that's I guess part of racing. Time - 3:08:35

I got my shoes off in the final 1/4 mile before transition and ran into T2. After racking my bike, I tried to move efficiently through T2. Body glide for the feet, socks and my new racing shoes. Garmin, visor, race belt, running belt, and I was off. My T2 time would say I need to work on my efficiency.

The beginning of the run felt awesome. My hip didn't hurt at all and my legs felt like all the bricks I had run during training - strong and ready to run. My goal pace was 10 min miles and my first mile felt so easy. I stuck to water and oranges at the water stops because that was what tasted good and my stomach still wasn't great. Not a smart move. At mile 4, things started to change. My HR started to climb into zone 4 and my pace slowed. I passed Bart going the opposite way and kept pushing from water stop to water stop. At mile 8, I started to get chills so I downed a salt tab and some enduralyte strips. At that point, I realized I was behind plan on my gus and hadn't drank much gatorade. My pace was definitely slower and I was feeling the run more. But I still wanted a strong finish as close to 10 minute miles as I could. In the last mile and a half, I gave what I had left I pushed past three gals in my age group that I had been playing leap frog with during the back half of the run. I ended up around 10:30 pace average.

As I neared the finish, Bart was there to greet me with a big smile and I cheer. Total time 6:11.07.

One one hand I have really positive thoughts. I had a great swim and an overall 15 minute PR. On the other hand I still struggled with my nutrition and missed my goal times in both the bike and the run. I let my head get to me on the back 20 miles instead of staying positive. And in retrospect, I wonder if I should have pushed harder on the run. Overall though, I think I'm just tough on myself. My HRs were generally where they should have been and I raced a strong race and improved over last year. I have my list of things to work on and will be racing a few more times between now and Placid to try and iron out the kinks.