Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Just in case. . . .

When bad things happen to good triathletes. . . .

I heard about a woman at Ironman Canada who crossed the finish line at 17 minutes after midnight. I feel badly for her. I do consider her an Ironman, although she may not have a medal to show for it! She did the same course as everyone else! It just must have felt horrible to be a mile or two from the finish line at midnight and know the cutoff was happening and you still had a ways to go to get there.

Another woman I know had FIVE flats during an Ironman race. And still finished.

Which made me think today during my workout about exactly what minimum pace I'll need to have to finish the "run" section of the course, in a worst-case scenario. Those finishing the bike leg before the T2 cutoff will probably have plenty of time to walk the course, if necessary.

But what about if I'm just barely able to get out of T2 at the cutoff time, 5:15PM, to be permitted to continue in the run leg? In order to finish by 11:59PM, the run course would have to be completed in 6:44. That's an average pace of less than 15:44 minutes per mile, not even counting aid station or portapotty stops.

I timed myself on the track today at a reasonably comfortable walking pace at 4:40 for the quarter mile. That's a normal walking pace of 18:20 minutes per mile - and I'd probably walk more slowly if I were very fatigued. I couldn't finish the Ironman in time if I had to walk the entire run course. I'd have to jog probably one third to one half of the run course in order to make it over the finish line in time.

Now I know! I certainly hope that doesn't become a consideration, but at least I know what I have to accomplish if for some reason I have a disaster on the bike course and I'm up against the cutoffs.

YMMV, of course!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


.... train anyway.

For some reason I'm still tired from Sunday's bike ride. I was scheduled for a 12-mile run today, put it off till mid-afternoon hoping I'd work up some kind of desire for it, which didn't happen. So I set out with heavy legs and a heavy heart. Thought about Commodore's thoughts on quitting. Visualized being 12 miles from the finish line in the run of IMFL, when surely I won't feel like running 12 miles. At mile 2, I started with the beer bottles: "10 bottles of beer on the wall, 10 bottles of beer...." Every mile, I took down another bottle of beer. And the miles ticked by.

I visualized running with a handful of people in the Ironman, all tired from the bike, all wishing we were done, all of us helping each other along. You can't bike together in the IM, but you can run together. I thought about walking through the aid stations, then saying to my group, "Come on, let's go," and the whole group limps off at a jog again.

8 bottles of beer on the wall.... 7 bottles of beer... come on, gang, we can run 7 miles, look how many times we've run 7 miles before.

I got a blood blister on my toe. It squished with every step. And eventually I got back home, the run was done, I didn't quit, I didn't bag it, and it's more miles in the bank and practice in being mentally tough.

I am going to do this Ironman.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Inching up that bike mileage....

I'm relaxing after a 70-mile bike ride... stats: 70.86 miles, moving time 4:46, total time 4:50 (read: almost NO stopping!!), average 14.8mph. My average speed has increased by about 1.5mph over the summer. I'm looking forward to some faster times on flat roads at ChesapeakeMan and IMFL. I did a favorite 20-mile loop twice and then my favorite 30-mile out-and-back. My lower back and my lateral quads hurt towards the end. After a plate of food and 3 aspirins, I'm feeling a lot better. It was a good ride. A really good ride. But I was glad not to have another 42 miles followed by a marathon.... thought lot about what Commodore said about quitting. I think that essay is going to keep me going a lot in the next 10 weeks. Even though I'm nowhere near quitting anymore, I still think about it, think about taking the shortcut home, wonder just like last year whether I'm up to this venture. Just because I did it last year doesn't mean I'm guaranteed to make it this year. But I will not quit. Not me.

Today's ride finally took me out of Colorado into Kansas, in my fantasy "Tour d'Amerique." For folks unfamiliar with this illusion, I'm mapping my bike mileage as a trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic, starting in Oregon, went south for awhile, and stumbled upon U.S. Route 50, which goes uninterrupted all the way to Ocean City, MD. Click on the link to see my map so far!Someday I hope to actually do this trip. Not necessarily Rte. 50, but definitely from sea to sea. Judging by how straight the road has become, it's flatland, which is no doubt a distinct relief -- maybe I can start making better time now :-)

Actually 70 miles is not my longest ride so far in this training season. About a month ago I did 87, but bonked badly with about 20 miles to go, which I figured out was from sodium depletion. I'd underestimted how hot it was going to get and how hard I was working. It took me a couple of weeks to bounce back (except I didn't bounce, I kind of climbed hand over hand) and during that period of fatigue and slow recovery, I really did think about quitting; in fact told my husband I thought I'd stop training for IMFL, and then I burst into tears.

But that was then, and this is now. I'm feeling incredibly better, due largely to getting more rest days, specifically every other day. Not the usual standard, but I'm going longer and stronger on my training days, so it's working better in the long run.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Family and Volunteers

Every athlete knows we cannot compete without our family supporting us and volunteers on the course.

It's Linae here, official CHEER person and future IMFL 2006 Volunteer. Does anyone have family who want to volunteer? Is anyone interested in getting family members organized? I don't know what I have in mind. Maybe a phone tree of cel phones to give out progress reports when we see one of our athletes. Maybe something else. Or maybe just getting people together so we have as much cheering coverage on the course as possible. We can wear our t-shrits from cafepress.

Suggestions? Ideas?


OK.... who exactly is doing IMFL? Nancy, Commodore, Bolder, Shelley Bev , me (you don't need a link for me, you're here already).... who else?

Since not everyone reads my blog, maybe you who do can put out an APB so that all the IMFL folks will get a heads-up and pop on over to sign in. Or you can just tell me they're doing it.

There is going to be a HUGE crowd of bloggers and emailers who know each other but haven't met yet. How are we going to recognize each other?

I'm posting this on the my own blog as well.

Chime in, folks! Thanks!

Update: Please see the current IMFL 2006 roster HERE, and let us know in the comments if you need to be added!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Wow! What a great day. It's hard to believe that just a week ago I was so tired and discouraged I told my husband I was thinking of giving up on IMFL.

Today's workout was a 40-minute swim followed by a 50-mile bike ride. As I got into the 74*F water for a warmup, I thought how actually the swim is a cool-down --- the swim pre-cooling me for the ride. I had ridden to the lake and didn't know how to handle my wetsuit getting there and then heading right out for the ride, so I didn't use it today.

Now, either I'm going crazy, or getting increasingly dyslexic, or the earth has moved. I always start my lake swims on the right side of the swim area, where the bottom is sandy, then start encountering rocks and boulders and reefs about halfway, which persist until the turnaround 75 yards later. Today, I saw rocks and boulders and reefs as soon as I started swimming, and they cleared as I approached the turnaround. Am I crazy? This is backwards. These boulders are too big to have been displaced by lake currents and transported 75 yards to the other end. But there they were. I swam over them (actually brushing some with my hands while stroking -- incentive to keep my stroke wide and shallow), exited at the now-sandy end, and decided to reverse my direction from usual to make my exit easier for transition. Either I'm going crazy or the earth moved.

41 minutes netted me 1650 yards. Damn. If I'd been watching my laps instead of the time, and doing the math, I'd have gone one more lap to have just over a mile. But I was watching my time and it was time to get out.

Transition was 4:56, including carrying my bike across a couple hundred feet of grass and up a set of wooden stairs. I needed to pee but the bath house was too far away -- I could stop by the side of the road faster, and would.

I could tell as soon as I started biking that it was a good day. Took it easy, trying to keep my effort even (did not use HRM), didn't overexert myself, and had averaged 14.8mph by the turnaround at 25 miles, including a 1/2-mile downhill that I took maxing out at 43.8mph even squeezing my brakes intemittently.

Of course, I had to go back up that hill, which I did in my granny gear. I used it for a few others, too. By the end of the day my average was 14.0, so obviously there was more downhill on the way out, and vice versa.

I didn't take that pit stop till the turnaround. Kept just putting it off. I had my watch set to beep every 10 minutes, when I drank Gatorade spiked with an Airborne tablet, with a longer beep every 30, when I took a salt capsule with water and ate something. Eating every half-hour was an experiment and I found I feel better eating half as much every half hour, than eating more every hour. On the way up the monster hill, I got a sudden, strange, specific craving for turnip greens. ????? And, since I'm a redneck, I just happened to have some at home, which I included in my post-race meal -- canned, since although this is redneck country it's not turnip-green country, too far north. I ate them with cider vinegar; they would have been better with some bacon grease, but I'm not so much of a redneck as to have that on hand. Still, they were so good I ate the whole can, along with a breaded fried chicken breast (more redneck food) and rice with BUTTER. I deserved it.

The ride home was just as nice as the ride out, despite the increased uphills. With about 12 miles to go I got another craving, for the chicken bouillon broth I'd brought, so I stopped, fished it out of my Camelback pocket, and swilled that down. It hit the spot directly. I was taking no chances on sodium depletion today, even though it wasn't all that hot or humid, high 70's, clear, mostly-shaded roads. I kept being amazed at how I was able to go up hills with a nice cadence and relatively low effort on higher gears than earlier in the season (although, yes, I did use my grannies on about 3 of the hills. What the heck, I AM a granny.) I was feeling a little tired after about 35 miles but nothing serious. Got home still feeling great; I had left my running shoes on the picnic bench for a quick transition in case I felt great enough to add a short run, but getting off my bike and looking at the running shoes I decided I didn't feel THAT great and scratched the thought of a run. It wasn't on the schedule custom-designed for me by my coach so it must not be in the stars.

So a pint of chocolate milk, put the chicken on to cook while I showered, sat down to the aforementioned chicken dinner, and I'm done.

My total bike time was only 10 minutes longer than my actual moving time. I had a couple longish stops waiting for traffic, crossing the main road; one to see what noise my front wheel had started to make (I still don't know... sounded like katydids buzzing -- bearings?); one quick stand-up pee stop on the shoulder of the road (girls, you have got to master the stand-up no-mess pee technique); one to get my salt broth out of my Camelback and guzzle that down; and one a couple miles from home for 2 vehicles driven by tourons (a locally-coined word combining "tourist" and "moron"), one towing a boat, the other 2 jet-skis, trying to make a sharp left turn into the angled driveway of their vacation house. There was no shoulder where I could go around them (soft gravel and grass) and I couldn't go around to the left where they were turning. So I pulled my bike off the road (good move, the trailer with the jet-skis rolled back a couple yards to right where I'd been) and sat on the guard rail waiting for them to figure out what they were doing. I had been on a good roll for the upcoming incline but said touron vehicles were fooling around right on the incline, and when I ground to a stop I didn't downshift, so when the touron trucks finally got off the road, it was hard for me to get going again in the gears I was in. But I managed and was soon on my way again. I think IQ testing ought to be mandatory for tourists, but I don't seem to be able to get that program up and running.

So I'm back in the saddle after my bonk 10 days ago and some gun-shy hesitation to get back on the bike, cured fairly well by Sunday's 30 miles and completely by today's 50, enough sodium capsules and a squeeze-bottle of chicken bouillon.

No doubt only a few of you have actually read all this; it's as long as my ride was. But I had fun writing it.

What's a realistic first Ironman time for me?

This is an interesting subject for those of us starting in our first Ironman adventure this year. My personal goal is "to finish" and anything ahead of 16:59:59 and a medal around my neck (the same medal as the 4th place finisher) is just frosting on the cake.

Experienced triathletes say, to estimate your Ironman time, take your half Ironman time and double it, then add one to two hours. That will get me over the finish line somewhere between 16:00 and, um, 19:40 (that won't do at all, nearly three hours after the cutoff!). So I'll work on closer to 16:00.

As a solid back-of-the-packer, in most of my races in the last two years I've ended up finishing somewhere at the 80th to 90th percentile in my age group. Occasionally faster, sometimes slower.

Looking at the results from last year's Ironman Florida was very instructive for me. Here are the ACTUAL times for the 2005 finishers in my age group, which is women 45-49:

Swim time, 80th percentile: 1:41 (2:41/100m)
Swim time, 90th percentile: 1:46 (2:48/100m)

Bike time, 80th percentile: 7:22 (15.2 mph)
Bike time, 90th percentile: 7:30 (14.9 mph)

Run time, 80th percentile: 6:31 (14:56 min/mile)
Run time, 90th percentile: 6:58 (16:00 min/mile)

Finish time, 80th percentile: 15:25
Finish time, 90th percentile: 16:38

Any of those times would be fine with me, and just about what I had been thinking of for realistic finish times - FOR ME. Sounds good to me! Yeah, I'd like to go faster, and I'd like to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day too. But for right now, that's just not realistic for me at my level of training (ya think 1:52 faster than my PR from 9 marathons might take a little while to whittle down?).

It's always helpful to me to check actual performance data of the people most similar to me, rather than relying on what someone says that I "should" be doing (who may be using male 35-year-old age group athletes as their major point of reference).

Why not take a look at your own age group results and see where you might realistically fit? And if you go faster, well, it's always nicer to be pleasantly surprised on race day than bitterly disappointed, right?

Update: Don't forget Phil's handy-dandy triathlon time calculator here - also great to play with to estimate your finishing time from various speeds and transition times.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Great Ironman race report

There's a lot of great Ironman race reports out there - every participant has an amazing story, it seems. Here's a recent one from the 2006 Ironman Lake Placid that I particularly liked:

"From Aid Station to Aid Station I shuffled, never thinking of the full road ahead of me. To borrow the words of E.L. Doctorow, racing an Ironman is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but somehow you can make the whole trip that way. My Ironman headlights only extended to the next Aid Station, yet I knew that this would get me through the entire race. "

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Twelve weeks to go

12 weeks. Including taper. Which brings us down to 9 to 10 weeks of full training until we're on the beach preparing to go into the water for Ironman Florida 2006.

Will I be ready? Will you?

Is anyone besides me getting a teensy bit nervous? Can I convince my body to pedal the bike a mile or two per hour faster, and run each mile in a minute or two less, in a mere 9 or 10 weeks?

Probably not. I'll just do my best to get around the course with a smile on my face, and enjoy every mile of the 140.6 along the way of the journey.

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