Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ironman Texas Race Report 2017

Congrats Gina Shand (Virginia) on a stellar Ironman Texas!! Here is her report.

Days leading up - crazy nervous on Friday. Felt nauseous and anxious all day. Wasn't really thinking about the race, not much going through my head, just anxious about what I couldn't control. I knew I had put the work in and really wanted a solid race, ideally a PR, but was okay with solid and no GI issues. Wanted to push, keep my head in the game and not self-negotiate.

Race Morning

Got up at 4am, ate a Clif bar and a banana. Got everything together and headed up to the race. Stomach and head were in better shape than I expected. I did not get as emotional as usual and was not dreading the swim like I had at Placid or Wisconsin. Stopped at transition, dropped off bottles, pumped tires, easy peasy. Decided to use the porta john at transition, figuring the lines would be shorter. Turned out to be a good call. Also, became the hero of the line when we noticed there were a few bathrooms that no one seemed to come out of. I jumped out of line when no one else wanted to check the doors and pulled on one of the doors to find a never been used portojohn. Winning! Line felt I earned the right to use it! Helped everyone out to get the line moving faster. Good race karma.
Munched on some Glukos chews and water on the way to the swim. Nerves were under control. Got to swim, dropped our bags and weaved our way up to the front of the swim pack. The time signs were gone, so we just kept moving forward until we found some space. Turned out to be a good spot because we were in the water within a minute with not a lot of drama.

Swim 1:17:47 - Got my swim title back!

Once in the water, really only took one hit to the face. I'll take it. Felt steady and strong. Not all that fast, but solid. I felt the chafing on my neck almost immediately. My left calf started to cramp as I was headed into the canal. Was able to manage it by flexing my foot off and on. The canal seemed to take a long time and I was getting passed a lot. I knew I wasn't flying but kept moving forward. As soon as I got out of the water I heard Coach's voice asking how do you feel and his hand on my back. Looked at my watch and said, slow I guess. I assumed that my Dave was ahead of me but didn't want to ask. Decided to shake it off and head to the change tent. Nothing I could do to change the swim time but now needed to find 10 minutes on the bike and run.

T1 6:04

Found my bag and the change tent was not busy. Volunteer was great as usual, got changed pretty quickly. Used the bathroom, stopped for sunscreen and confirmed, my neck was in fact chaffed. Ouch. On the run through transition to grab my bike, I saw Frances. Great to see her there! She said that she had not seen Dave. I thought for sure she had just missed him. Grabbed Armando and headed out. I should have used the shower caps to cover my cleats. Ended up with more mud than I needed in them.

Bike 6:05:54

Hopped on and got ready to settle in. Was looking for Dave on the out and back, assuming he was in front of me. Was shocked (but a little giddy) to see him after I hit the turn around. After about 30 minutes, my power meter started reading low so I decided to focus on cadence and not worry about it. Started taking in my Infinit on schedule every 15 minutes. After the rough section before the highway I thought I heard something rubbing my front wheel, made a quick stop to make sure it was all good and got some of the mud out of my cleats because my left foot didn't want to stay clipped in. I really had to use the bathroom coming up on mile 30 but didn't want to stop until I saw Dave. Fortunately he caught up to me right before the aid station so I was able to say hi and then stop. Easy stop and headed back out. At two hours my power meter went out altogether. Didn't faze me too much since it wasn't reading right anyway. I decided to keep my HR down and ride one gear easier than I wanted to. Just wanted to ride strong, keeping an eye on the time to keep me about where my BBS had projected. I was expecting more of a headwind at the turn around and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't that bad. Stopped again at mile 50 to pee ahead of special needs since there wasn't a line at the bathroom.

Got to see Dave again after he turned. Coming up on the turn around, sky was reallllly dark and there was a definite drop in temperature. Stopped at special needs, got my new bottle, some sunscreen and chamois butter. I was rolling on this 20 mile section and knew I would pay for it at the turn around. Kept in aero, rode strong, didn't have any issues with drafting or crowding. Even though the course itself was a bit boring, I entertained myself by watching for Dave coming back the other way. I saw him about 2 miles before the turn around and asked him how bad the wind was but he was gone before he could answer. After the turn, the wind was worse than I thought it was going to be 12/13 mph. I made sure to just spin through it and remind myself that I still had to run a marathon. Got caught by a big group that sucked me in about mile 90. Quickly did what I could to get out of that. Didn't want any part of it. Stopped to pee a third time at the final tollroad turn around. My four stops only cost me 5 minutes, but that is still 5 minutes. Gotta learn to pee on the bike. Went back and forth with a few people on the way back in, but was very happy to see the course was a bit short. I was ready to get off the bike, but not desperate to do so. Stomach was a little upset, but nowhere near as bad as it had been before. I took in all the calories I brought, but did not take in all the sodium.

T2 5:45

Dropped Armando off, ran down the sidewalk, made a quick stop to take off my bike shoes since I knew it was a bit of a jog back to the change tent. Was great to see Coach and smiled because I was feeling good. I actually wanted to run through transition cause I could. Volunteer had my bag, grabbed and changed. Great change tent volunteer. She was a bit thrown when she asked if I needed vaseline and I said yes and raised my arms. I knew they were chaffed but I couldn't see it. She said, oh, you want me to put in on? No one has asked me to do that. Ooops. At least it was my arms. Changed shorts, shoes, knee compression, more sunscreen. Out on the run. I was feeling good. No pepto needed!

Run 4:40:37

Came out, ran into Coach. Totally should have walked and chatted. Looking back I feel bad for making him jog with me. I was supposed to slow down anyway. Felt good to have someone to tell that I was feeling good! Words of encouragement are always uplifting and a good reminder to slow down. On that first mile I had to keep telling myself to slow down. Opted not to take anything in on the first water stop since my stomach was feeling good and I wanted to keep it that way. Made one portojohn stop at the park, but that was my only stop on the run. Was watching my HR and kept it under 150, pace was comfortable, walked briefly at every other water stop for the first loop. Took water and ice at each stop, put ice in the bra to snack on, took chews at every third stop. Mile 7, legs were beginning to hint at cramping, so I took some base salt. It was amazing to run and not feel like I was going to vomit. Got a boost when I saw Frances from the finish line as I was starting loop 2.The little things. I was looking forward to seeing Coach at loop 2 to tell him I hadn’t walked yet outside a water stop. Didn't see him, but probably for the best cause now I needed to make another loop to tell him the next time I saw him. Was getting tired, told myself no walking until 13. Made it to 13, told myself, make the second loop. Thought I might see Dave as he was finishing his third loop and I was finishing my second, but I didn't see him. Got to see Frances again. On my third loop it was crazy that I was the only one running. It kept me moving. Nice and steady. At mile 19 I was really tired and all of a sudden I was walking. I knew I could PR as long as the wheels didn't come off. I was doing the math in my head and I think that it was allowed me to walk a bit. I pulled it back together and kept going. Met a couple people who were on their third loop and we would go back and forth a bit. I couldn't believe my stomach was still cooperating. I took in about 70 calories every 30 minutes or so. My stomach was cooperating and my energy level did not feel like it was going down. Added some coke over the last few aide stations. No consistent salt, but felt like I got enough in because I didn't wipe out at the finish line when I raised my arms.

Total race time: 12:16:07

I am over the moon with this race and this time. I am most proud of how I kept it together all day. I never had the "this sport is BS" moment. Don't get me wrong, there were moments that were not great, but I kept my focus and plan together. It was really one step at a time. I knew I put the work in and trusted that I could go after what I wanted to accomplish. My leg was bothering me all day but because I had pushed it in training I knew the difference between just enough and too much that it is going to go out. It was pretty cool to rely on myself.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ironman Texas. The headwind on the bike was worth the lower temperatures on the run for sure. Now I have to get my leg healthy and figure out what is next for the rest of the season!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Boston Marathon Race Report: Daniel Mikula

Daniel Mikula (Pennsylvania) is fast, a father of 5, and the newest addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon national team. Here is his report from the most famous marathon in the world.

At the risk of losing readers I will do my best to summarize the year leading up to my first (yes I plan to make it to Hopkinton again) Boston Marathon. While I will never admit there is any truth to this, I have been told that I am not as young as I once was. Clearly, my body started to listen to all of this drivel and I took advantage of the two for one special they were running at Hershey Orthopedic…sort of like Wal Mart but the special was on surgeries. They cleaned up a torn labrum in my left hip and did some work on the meniscus on the same leg. Needless to say, there was a long road ahead of me before I could toe the line in Hopkinton.

Fast forward through months of PT and a slow return to training and I found myself just a few short months from Patriots Day finally putting together some solid longer runs, never feeling quite 100% but certainly optimistic that I was on the right track. Then It snowed! One of my favorite things to do is run in the snow, a survival skill I developed growing up in Michigan and that I tap into from time to time living in Central PA. Once again, what I like isn’t necessarily what my body likes and I wound up with a deep calf strain, sidelined by my Physical Therapist for three weeks. Not what I needed to hear as I kept turning pages on my calendar. Back to training and I was doing great…until two weeks before the race when I tweaked the same knee that I had fixed a year earlier. I promptly sought my surgeon’s advice and was promptly told not to run Boston…yeah….right! I spent the last two weeks prepping for Boston running in a pool and on the elliptical, doing anything I could to maintain fitness without aggravating the knee. I know what you are thinking…where is the race report? Well, now that you know that I was feeling undertrained, let me tell you about the good stuff…Race weekend!

I was feeling better and we made the 7 hour drive to Boston the Friday before the race. My family and I (all 7 of us) checked in to the Hyatt Cambridge (great place to stay…they really take care of their guests) and we made plans to head to the expo Saturday morning so that I could get my bib number and we could spend the rest of the day doing the Boston thing with the kids. The Hotel shuttle was able to get us about a half mile from the convention center and we made our way there. You can probably imagine my surprise when we found a line that would take us well over an hour just to get into the building, so we could stand in the line that snaked around the building…for another hour. Not sure what happened there, but the word on the streets was that this had never been the case. I was finally able to get my bib and gear check bags, but the natives were restless…and for good reason…so we headed back to the hotel. The day was pretty well shot, but we salvaged what we could by hitting the hotel pool on the top floor overlooking Boston. We ordered in and had some delicious pasta while hanging out in the hotel, not having enough energy to venture out into the city after line standing all day.

Sunday was Easter and we were able to celebrate Mass at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square before catching a beautiful Easter brunch back at the hotel. Huge spread, but I was good and ate sparingly, not wanting to risk GI issues the next day. Have you ever had a huge spread of fresh seafood calling your name but knowing you are not going to go there? NOT FUN! The remainder of the day was spent lounging about, trying to stay off my feet as much as I could. Unfortunately, that left my Beautiful wife to handle logistics for 5 kids. Have I told you how much I love you Margaret?! The crew went for a walk along the St Charles River and hit the pool again. Can you tell I feel guilty that I wasn’t confident enough to take them sight seeing? It will be different next time! I spent the evening obsessing about what I needed in my gear check bags and had everything laid out the night before.

5:13…time to roll. Needless to say, it was a restless night. I am pretty sure I ran the race 5 times over throughout the night, but I woke up feeling pretty good all told. The weather was beautiful and there was no need to wear the parka I picked up at the local goodwill store. Our Hotel provided a tour bus to the Boston Commons where we would board school busses to take us out to Hopkinton. Shared a seat with a great guy from Quebec and I am grateful for that as the ride out just seemed to go on forever. I remember at various times thinking to myself that we were driving pretty far and that I was amazed that people would choose to run that far…and then I realized I was one of them. I had to chuckle as we got off the expressway because the State Police was stopping all traffic except for us. At first I felt like we were honored guests heading to the dais but then recalled a scene from one of my favorite films…”Dead Man Walking.” Now I know how the bank robbers from the old west felt as they were being led down the dusty streets to the gallows!

We finally arrived at the High School where the staging areas were set up. The B.A.A did an amazing job organizing things and everything was great. As expected, the port-o-john lines were ridiculous, but I heeded some advice I had read and waited until we were being staged towards the actual start line. There is a whole other bank of toilets on the way and the lines were much more manageable. Took care of what needed to be taken care of and it was time to get into my corral. After walking a couple of blocks, I found myself nestled in with my partners in crime and we anxiously awaited our turn. I am pretty sure I heard some mooing and the nervous stomping of hooves before the gates were opened until it started as a shuffle and then we moved in unison as one organism into a slow jog, and then it happened…I was running the Boston Marathon.

I am not one to be glued to my watch, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overcooking it for the first few miles as runners apparently have a tendency to do that with the perfect storm of excitement and the slight downhill run. I was slightly up on my pace so I dialed it back a tad and found myself running the race I wanted to run. I felt great and found myself amongst a pack that was holding a similar pace so I settled in and just enjoyed the moment. Mile 10 came and that is when the combination of recent injuries and slight undertraining coupled with the hot sun started to make themselves known. Nothing too bad yet, just an inclination that this was not going to be a PR day. I wasn’t prepared to give up the ship yet so I did my thing and stayed on pace. At this point, I felt like I still needed to give myself a chance at my goal time. I maintained my race plan for another 5 miles or so and then realized that I needed to be smart about what I was doing. Runners were literally dropping from the field and I saw some pretty ugly stuff out there as the heat was getting the best of folks. I made the decision (well my body had a big part in this too) to adjust the race plan and I shifted into survival mode. I walked a fair number of the fluid stations, making sure I was hydrated so that I could make it across that line in Boston. I am a known to be a pretty heavy sweater and I knew I was working to take in as much as I was putting out. The weather had moved into the upper 70’s. I am not sure if it made 80’s, but it felt like we were running on the surface of the sun out there.

The rest of the miles were a battle of attrition but I kept the train moving forward and found myself on the streets of Boston with only one quad pounding downhill leading into the final stretch left to run. I summoned all of the courage I had and allowed the amazing energy of the Boston faithful to help me bring it home. I had decided that I would run the middle of the famous blue lines which indicate the last mile of the race and I had some room around me, so I followed that line. I have had some amazing experiences in my life…My wedding (love you babe)…the birth of each of our 5 children (love all of you guys)…my first Ironman finish…but Boston is now in the mix. I have to admit that I was feeling pretty emotional when I crossed that line. I didn’t shed a tear, likely because I had no fluids that my body was willing to sacrifice, but I did take a moment to just soak it all in…and it was good!!!!

The rest was making my way back to the hotel to meet up with the crew, being greeted there by the staff of the Hyatt, and my family cheering as I entered the lobby of the hotel. Pretty good stuff if you ask me. After making our way up to our room, I laid on the bed as my kids unshoed me and placed a big bag of ice on my feet. Man did that feel good! A half hour later, I was up in the pool playing with the kids trying to keep the legs moving so that they didn’t lock up on me. My wife and I went down to the bar for a nice celebratory cocktail and we spent the rest of the night at the post party at Fenway. Not much there for the kids, so that didn’t last too long. We hit the rack early and we were waving goodbye to Boston after having breakfast in Harvard Square. That’s it….until next time!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

We're super proud of Cassie Whittington (Ohio) for qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and making the journey Down Under for this prestigious race.

In her own words, this was an amazing trip and race experience that she will never forget!

Before qualifying for the World’s at Eagleman 70.3, I signed up for the first ever Ironman branded race in Ohio. I was super excited to get to race in front of my friends and family. The only problem was Ohio was just two weeks before the World Championships. While this was enough time to recover properly, the two races, with the extra travel time required for Australia, wasn’t ideal for me.

I was just getting use to my new Argon 18 bike when I found out I had to ship it to Australia three weeks before the race, which meant before the Ohio race took place. The Thursday before Ohio I jumped on my older bike I hadn’t been riding, and something about the position change caused my ankle to tweak a little. Luckily I had two days before the race was taking place, so I rested the ankle and hoped for the best. On race day, my ankle felt fine during the swim and only hurt slightly during the bike, and luckily was okay for the run. I ended up having an amazing race, finally breaking 5 hours with a time of 4:56. This was enough to qualify me for World’s next year, a good feeling to have going into the race this year!

A few days after the Ohio race, my ankle started to feel worse. I decided to avoid running and had three massages on the ankle, hoping it would help. I had to fly out on Tuesday for Australia, and on that morning I couldn’t even place weight on my ankle (start the FREAK out!!). I PAINFULLY made it to Australia, with the 24 hours of travel to get there only making things worse as I hobbled through the airports. The 14 hour trip from Los Angeles to Brisbane was painfully long, both in duration and the fact that my ankle was throbbing most of the way. My ankle was swollen, it was definitely impinged, and I could barely walk to the expo to Athlete check-in. I’m sure my competitors were wondering what I was doing limping through the line. I checked in, grabbed my bike from TriTransport (had a quick panic attack, the brakes rattled loose on the flight and weren’t working but the bike mechanics fixed them), and went to my perfectly located apartment RIGHT across the street from the race start to take a quick nap and try to adjust to the 15 hour time change forward. I began doing banded distraction of the ankle…which I continued for the next three days along with plenty of self-massage with a lacrosse ball. This gave me temporary relief, enough to feel a little more confident that I didn’t fly all the way to Australia only to be unable to race.

Since running and biking were out of the question, I attempted an ocean swim. Mooloolaba was simply beautiful with the sun shining and athletes everywhere. The weather felt perfect except for the wind was horrible! It was so bad that the surf club advised that nobody go out into the water! Well, athletes were still swimming so I thought I would try since I would be in a wetsuit. There were big swells and crashing waves (this isn’t Ohio!), so after getting killed by waves, swallowing a ton of salt water and swimming nowhere, I quit after 10 minutes and a messily 200 yards….the only part of the race I was calm about now was scaring me! Being tossed and tumbled made me motion sick, which would show up again race day. I tried to remain positive and smile through all of these obstacles, because it’s insane to complain and be negative when you are at the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN AUSTRALIA! There were athletes from 83 different countries, and I was simply in awe of the magnitude of this race. I enjoyed the parade of nations and the welcome dinner, making friends from all over the world. It was now time to chill and hope for the best race morning…I had so many people sending well wishes that I couldn’t help but be excited and grateful for all the love and support I had, no matter what happened race day.

Race morning was gorgeous!! The wind was much calmer, making EVERYONE breath a huge sigh of relief. My ankle was still impinged, but wasn’t extremely painful like the days prior. I was hopeful and figured no matter what, I was finishing this race! The only positive about the injury was that it allowed me to stay relaxed since my expectation for the race was now only to finish without permanent damage to myself.

I set up my transition and headed down to the start to watch the pros go off, as my wave was the last one so I had a few hours to spare. I’ve yet to figure out why they have our age group go last, as it means we have to pass many slower age groups, but I’m not sure my complaining will get anything done. I stood by many of the pros as they got ready to race, feeling lucky to be able to race alongside such amazing athletes.

The ocean swim had me a little nervous since I’d never raced in the ocean, but it did not start on the beach but instead was a deep water start and I was very thankful for that. Our age group was huge and it was a very chaotic swim with bodies everywhere, I never found clear space and was being hit the whole time. The chaos did help me forget about the ankle for the time being! The rocky-ness of the swim plus swallowing salt water made me a little motion sick, so I swam the whole race breathing every stroke so that I could focus on the sky, which seemed to help. If I took multiple strokes before breathing, something about looking down made me nauseas. I was thankful when the swim was over, yet nervous to run on the ankle to transition for the first time. Swim time was 30:51, not a bad start to the day but not as fast as I had hoped for.

Transition was narrow and LONG, a half mile long to be exact – it took up five blocks of street. Most of that had to be run in my cycling shoes, so I was extremely cautious jogging to my bike with my ankle and was actually shoved to the side by numerous competitors. Definitely my first experience with full on contact in transition! It was a reminder of how serious this race was.

Jumping on the bike is where the fun began. The ankle felt weird from the get-go, so I had to be cautious putting too much pressure on the right pedal. I typically mash the pedals and ride at a very low cadence, but with the ankle I had to pedal lightly and fast. I had a large group of girls in my age group around me, so that was fun as we all kept trying to get ahead. We were going fast for the first 30 miles on a straight highway averaging over 23 mph and I was feeling great since my legs were very well rested. But I knew what was ahead, so I tried to keep myself in check.

At mile 33-ish came a very steep close to 20% grade hill, a grade I certainly have never ridden or seen in my life. I couldn’t believe how many people were walking their bikes up the hills. There was no way I was going to do that, so I weaved through the carnage and got to the top, afraid to death to stand on my pedals because of the ankle, so I tried to do the climbs seated most of the way. I thought climbing was an absolute blast, but the descend was scary! I never had a chance to ride or drive the course before hand, so I didn’t know how the descends were or where the sharp 90 degree curves were, so I had to slow down quite a bit to feel safe. I also didn’t have the handling skills on my new Argon since it’s relatively new and I haven’t ridden it much yet. I lost a lot of ground riding my brakes down the hills, as many flew by me, but I was okay with that. Coming into the last 10 miles, I had a few girls blatantly drafting off of me, which was annoying. I went about my own race without worrying about it. My bike split was 2:42.

Starting out on the run, I felt great. I always try to avoid looking at my watch during my run and just go on feel. I actually do the whole race that way, only looking at time to fuel and never wearing a heart rate strap or using a power meter to gage intensity or looking at my speed splits. For some reason I glanced down at the 3 mile marker and was excited to see 20 minutes…I started to feel good about things! THEN the hill at mile 6 is when my ankle got impinged again and I would get sharp pain on landing. I walked it out for a minute and then managed to run on the outside of my foot to avoid the pain, which was awkward and slowed me down.

I was having an interesting conversation with myself at this point, but certainly wasn’t going to stop. By mile 9 it felt loosened up again and the pain lessened. I began staring at the ground, never looking at the crowd (I wish I did because they were amazing!), and just counting every single step to distract my mind away from the ankle pain. I found a nice pace that felt okay with the ankle, but then by mile 11 I started to cramp in my right hamstring. 

 This has happened before with my left hamstring, but never the right leg…which I attribute to the awkward running gate I had to do because of the ankle. I did walk it out a little, and at this time I looked around at the amazing crowd support along the whole finishing chute. It was so cool, and felt like the crazy fans you see at the Tour.

I began seeing people in my age group passing me, but I knew I just couldn’t do anything about it because my body wasn’t cooperating and I was doing the best I could. I grinded it out and found that finish line! Finishing time was 5:06, enough to place 31st in my age group. Races like this teach you a lot about yourself and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to race!

I am so thankful for all the love and support I received from my friends and family and work family at Goodbodies. Having everyone behind me got me through the toughest race I’ve had. Thank you to Triple Threat Triathlon for the support and Argon 18 for the FAST bike.

Monday, October 17, 2016


B.J. Christenson is a local legend in my state, a 9x Kona Qualifier who has won more races than you can shake a stick at.

After this year's Ironman World Championships???

Let's just say the legend has grown...

Paul Bunyan territory.

Kick back and enjoy this read... hopefully it inspires you to do something epic yourself, in any aspect of life!

The Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI was supposed to be my “A” race in 2016. In fact I hardly raced this year trying to put together a race at the world championships that would finally let me step on to the podium and collect a coveted Umeke. On my final training ride the day before I left for the Big Island I decided to go do some testing to verify the machine was ready to perform. I have a route that I have taken over the past 10 years and have numbers telling me where I am at relative to myself and wanted that last bit of confirmation I was ready. I set out on the ride feeling quite good and after my first 2 intervals I was feeling very optimistic about my fitness. I had 4 intervals left and debated on whether to eat some nutrition before I started my 3rd or after. I decided it would be better to eat after the 2nd and then again after the 4th. Well I took my gel after the 2nd and proceeded to put the wrapper in my back jersey pocket. As I did this I began to veer off the road and when I got back to my handlebars I realized I was getting dangerously close to riding off the road. My anxiety was at full alert as I tried to save it but at the last second my front wheel slipped off the edge of the road and down I went. As a result of the crash I landed on my side and shoulder blade. I felt a deep sharp pain in my back as it happened and thought I may have torn a muscle. I sat on the ground for a minute or two digesting what had just happened and as it sank in I knew I was pretty hurt. A kind man picked me up off the ground and took me to the instacare and with each passing minute I knew I would not be OK to race or at least race the way I had intended.

As a result of the crash I fractured my Scapula for the 3rd time. Albeit the left one this time but nonetheless I was broken and the race was happening in 9 days. After confirming the break I had to decide if I would even go to Hawaii. I decided I would go because after all the freight had been paid and let’s be honest Hawaii with a broken wing is still a great place to be. I called my friend Mike Mamales and Arwa Jundi over to help me pack. Because I had fractured this bone before and that surgery would not be needed I knew that in 9 days it could be possible, albeit slow and painful, to finish before the 17 hour cut off. The Doctor was kind enough to call in a larger prescription so that I would have enough pain medication if I needed it. I knew I couldn’t take my super-fast Dimond race bike out of fear of stabilizing in the hard winds in Kona. I took my old bike with shallow rims and hoped it would be enough. I still didn’t know about racing but thought I would come prepared if I felt it was possible.

The trip over wasn’t too bad at least not when you are taking some good meds and I arrived in Kona with my gear and an attitude of I still have 2 good legs and one good arm. Some people have a hell of a lot less than that and besides I am still in HI. My friend Bob Macrae from the Dimond club picked me up and had to take me under his wing a little while I mended. He was looking fit and focused and also ready to smash the day. I spent a few days doing very little and decided to see if I could swim with one arm fast enough to make the cut off. We went to the swim venue and low and behold when the weight of the arm was supported by the salt water of the ocean it didn’t hurt as much. I couldn’t use it but at least it didn’t hurt. I swam .5 of a mile with one arm and after looking at my watch I knew that as long as I didn’t get hit in the shoulder or grabbed by another swimmer I would be able to complete the swim in time.

After another rest day the next test was to see if I could ride and stabilize the bike in the wind. So Bob escorted me through town as I was scared to death of falling again and I did a 30 mile ride on the Queen K and felt confident I could complete the bike portion. I knew that in order for me to make it I would have to stop at each aid station to drink and eat because doing it on the bike was not going to work. I started to feel more optimistic that it would be possible. I hadn’t ran yet because moving and bouncing my arm caused the most pain.

The Thursday before the race in Kona there is an annual tradition known as the Underpants Run. This is a great way for athletes and family and friends to blow off steam and run around town in their undies of course. This was the only run I did for the race and it hurt like hell. I started to think walking the marathon might be my only option, peppered in with some bouts of jogging. If something was going to keep me from finishing this was probably going to be it.

Race day came and it was time to see just how far this one arm bandit could go. I decided I would start in the back of the swimmers and wrap my arm to my waist with saran wrap out of fear of having it grabbed by another swimmer. My friends Mike and Dan wrapped me up and I headed into the ocean. My strategy was to stay consistent and not panic and take my time and be safe. This was a new adventure and I was going to see the race from a new perspective. One of the coolest things about being hurt was that I no longer felt pressure to perform and was able to relax and really soak up the experience of bobbing around in the pacific waiting for the cannon to fire. Usually I am on the front row wrestling with other men for the perfect start and running through my head how I would attack the day. This time I relaxed and waited and watched the sea turn white without much anxiety other than stay clear and try not to let the women who would start 15 minutes later kill me when they caught me. I let the fish swim away and started my 2.4 mile pacific tour with one arm and one mindset. The mindset was that this was going to be one very long day but I would do my very best to see it through.

I finished the swim in 1 hour and 40 some odd minutes so I was happy to have some time in the bank. I walked into transition calm and collected and rinsed the salt water off of me. I changed into cycling shorts and a jersey because I knew that if I was going to take my time I was going to be comfortable. I walked to my bike and laughed because it was the only one left on my rack. I walked to the mount line and saddled up. The one part of the entire bike I was most afraid of was in the 2nd mile. You do a small loop in town and part of that loop is a steep descent down Palani with a sharp left hand turn. I was able to rest my broken arm on the left bull horn and do the steering and most of the braking with my right. I descended cautiously and made it safely around the corner. Once that was over I felt some relief other than I still had 110 miles to go and the sun was out for blood. My plan of riding and stopping worked great even though I think some people were wondering why I kept stopping only to repass them again later. I saw some of the same bikes dozens of times throughout the day. One thing I began to appreciate even more than ever was the volunteer force at these races. Being in the back you get to see the carnage from all the racers who went through the aid stations as if a tornado had gone through. I mean every aid station had water bottles and garbage spread for at least a half a mile and there were thousands of bottles. The other thing I noticed is that the people in the back often get the raw end of the deal.

Towards the end of the bike aid stations had run out of water and reinforcements were not there yet. They did have Gatorade but I started to feel bad for the times I would take a bottle just to rinse off or cool down when I was at the front end of the race. You think the race organizers should have enough but when they run out before more can get there people suffer for it. In the future I will try to remember that. God bless the volunteers they put up with a lot and because of that we as athletes get to do what we love. I think I will try to volunteer more often and would love to see it as a prerequisite to racing. I took a pain pill about 8 miles before finishing the bike knowing I might need to take the edge off a little for the run.

I finished the bike in 6 hours and who knows how many minutes, I honestly haven’t looked, I just knew I was well ahead of the cut off and that if I needed to walk the marathon I had a fair amount of time in the bank to do it. I got off my bike and walked to transition not feeling the best but hoped a change of clothes and some cold drinks would pep me up. I took my time and changed into my running clothes and put my arm in a sling. Sure enough I felt a little better and set out on a jog starting to feel the pain soften from the narcotic.

My plan was simple and that I would run as long as I could and walk through each aid station, also known as my life rafts. This plan worked like a champ for about 16 miles but the shortened gait and pain in my hips were taking their toll. By mile 20 I walked through the aid station and found I couldn’t jog anymore. By this time I had befriended another athlete not having a great day either and we had settled on walking to the finish knowing we had plenty of time in the bank to do it. The run was a lot of firsts for me. The first time I watched the sunset in the race. The first time I got handed a glow stick. The first time I ate chicken broth. The first time seeing once again what the volunteers do to make this race happen. When I finally made it to the finish line I was overcome with joy. I mean real joy and gratitude for so many people. I thought often of Jason Crompton and grew my side burns out in his honor. There are many finish lines in life and the parables one gains from this race are countless. I have come away with a new perspective and a new fire burning.

The motto of the ironman is that anything is possible. Life has lots of obstacles and challenges and they come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they prevent us from doing what we had originally intended but it will open up a new path that just might give us a new perspective and new outlook that would have never been possible without it.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ironman Maryland Race Report

We're super proud of Elaina (Iowa) and Michelle (Minnesota), who competed at yesterday's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Speaking of Kona, Julia Slyer (New York) has already punched her ticket for 2017... here's her report from her Kona qualifying performance at Ironman Maryland. 

Congrats Julia!!

Although Maryland has been seemingly plagued by bad weather, the race itself was exceedingly well run, and with the exception of a spread out finish area / transition / parking situation, I thoroughly enjoyed my somewhat unusual race day experience in Cambridge. The volunteers were top-notch, and the race director Gerry Boyle is a step above the rest. The only reason I won’t be returning in 2017 is my newly punched ticket to the World Champs!

Swim (or not…)

My goal for the swim was to come out before 1:10, and generally not give up too much time to some of the stronger swimmers in my age group. I was a bit nervous given the chop on the Choptank River on Friday, but was told by several other athletes that the forecast for Saturday was calm. Either way, I was ready to survive the swim and hopefully not see any sea nettles. The self-seeded start was scheduled to go off at 6:45am (before sunrise), and at about 6:43 it was announced that water safety was delaying the start for 30 minutes. After finding my mom and grabbing a jacket to stay warm, we watched the lifeguards attempt to launch their kayaks and paddleboards with little success. I hopped back in line at about 7:10, ready to go, and watched the clock hit 7:15 with no announcement or movement. A minute later, the swim was cancelled and a mass exodus towards transition ensued.

I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the swim, but being my weakest discipline, the change didn’t affect my race much, and I agreed with the safety decision. The only downside was having to take off my wetsuit (which I had already peed in…). All I can say is that my mother is the ultimate Iron-supporter and luckily had a garbage bag in her backpack.

Bike (shortened to 100 miles due to major flooding)

Goals: Average Power 150-160W, HR under 152 bpm, nailing my nutrition plan

I got some really solid bike training in during my first month of school in extremely flat Buffalo, NY, so I was really looking forward to seeing what I could do on such a flat course (~2000ft elevation as opposed to ~5000ft at both IMLP and Kona). Originally, my goal had been 5:36 over the full 112 miles, or 20 mph average. I ended up sticking with my power, heart rate, and speed goals even without the swim and with a shortened bike, and it served me well.

this isn't Julia, but gives you an idea of the day!
Because there was no swim, the bike had a time trial start by number (lowest to highest). As #152, I was happy that I wouldn’t have to weave around a lot of people and risk drafting penalties, but also a bit nervous to be starting ahead of and completely separate from my competitors in my age group. (This is one of my not-so-favorite parts of Ironman’s All World Athlete program). Because I am a middle of the pack swimmer, I’m used to racing to the front, not from the front. I took it as a challenge and decided to use my confidence on the bike to my advantage. I concentrated on racing my own race and not getting caught up with the fast age group guys passing me from behind. With the exception of missing my first sports drink at aid station 1, I matched my nutrition plan exactly and felt great. The course was beautiful for the most part, but the wind was unrelenting all day. I could have pushed a bit harder, but because of the run conditions, I’m glad I held back just a bit and saved my legs for the marathon.

Time: 4:56:29

Avg. Power: 155W

Avg. HR: 150 bpm

Avg. Speed: 20.1 mph

Run (actually the full length!)
Goals: HR 150-156 bpm, 8:30 pace

After a not so stellar run at IMLP (which cost me a Kona slot), I’ve focused more on my running and nutrition to ensure I don’t bonk and have the power in my legs for a strong showing. I started out quite a bit faster than I planned to, running the first 13 miles at a 7:50 pace. The run course was totally flat, with two separate out-and-backs and aid stations every mile on the dot. I was feeling great until about mile 9, when an off-road (and extremely muddy) section took me by surprise. The change of terrain shot my legs a bit, and the second time over this section around mile 11 left me feeling a little drained. By this point, both my mom and my coach were telling me I could slow down a bit, presumably because they knew I had a large lead and didn’t want me to bonk in the second half of the marathon. Around 14 miles, I started to feel a bonk coming on, and took their advice (begrudgingly) by walking the aid stations in order to get all my nutrition in. I was still maintaining 9:00 miles and I was happy with my plan.

The fun really started around mile 18. The road heading towards transition on the run course floods every day at high tide, but due to the high amounts of rain all week, the river was higher than usual. About 100m of the road was under a few inches of water, and while most people were not so happy, I was in a good mood and also a little warm, so I decided to lay down and cool off. Unfortunately no one got a picture, but repeating this in all the large puddles made the run much more fun and bearable. Another section of the course was soon under water as well, and I decided to walk all the flooded sections to save some energy. The only real downside was the heavy shoes and blisters from wet socks. Considering the conditions, I’ve very happy with my time, although I’m curious to see how much I could have broken my 3:44 PR by if the streets were dry.

Time: 3:45:23

Pace: 8:36

Avg. HR: 165 bpm (oops!)

Takeaways – 8:46:33

Although I’m bummed that the race was cut short and would like to have seen what my times would be for the full 140.6, I’m proud of my performance at Maryland. I pushed hard and more importantly remembered why I love this sport and this distance. I also achieved all of the goals, the foremost one being to qualify for Kona again! Placing 1st in F18-24, I qualified for the Ironman World Championships for 2017 and get to return to the Big Island next October to see what more I can do! I’m looking forward to the next year of training and I can’t thank my family, friends, and coach enough for supporting me and believing in me throughout this journey!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Top 10 Ironman Do's & Don'ts

A while ago we posted "Ironmen Don't Walk!!" which laid out the Top 10 things spectators should not say to Ironman competitors. A few members of our team got together for Ironman Coeur d'Alene last week... this follow up post actually crossed my mind a couple times on the course, so thought we'd share it again.

Note: most Iron men & women are positive examples of each of these… a small minority of the field, however, "not so much."

10) DON’T wave your arms in the air like you just don't care encouraging the crowd to really “give it up” for you. You should be excited. You deserve it. Not trying to be rude, but some actions just look foolish. Do you know how many hundreds of people we’ve already seen and rang the cowbell for from this very spot?

9) DO savor the day, especially the finishing chute, and celebrate crossing the line!

8) DON’T showboat at mile whatever on the bike course (eg. I witnessed a few exaggerated, arrogant nods of the head, people flashing the "I'm #1" sign, thumping their chest like a gorilla, etc.). Again, it just looks foolish.

7) DO have some fun out there, and acknowledge every person (a smile, thanks, thumbs up, etc… whatever you can muster) who’s standing in the sun giving you encouragement.

6) DON’T provide fodder worthy of @TriExcuse during or after your race. It’s Ironman, it’s haaaaaarrrrrddd. Everybody knows that.

5) DO promise yourself you’ll give 100% to finish no matter what obstacles come your way during the day.

4) DON’T allow your thoughts to turn negative on you… the mind is a powerful thing.

3) DO stay positive by, among other things, encouraging other competitors where appropriate and (if you have the strength), giving kids “five” if they’re stretching their arm out for you. My son was actually pretty bummed spectating at Boulder last year when he was ignored!

2) DON’T give your support crew grief for not making it to every possible spot on the course… it’s not easy!

1) DO be humble, both during and afterwards. Thank all volunteers as much as you can, as well as any support you may have for being there for you. It’s a long day for them as well!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ironman Canada Race Report

Ever thought about Ironman Canada? Here is Michelle Andres' (Minnesota) race report for some inspiration!

Sometimes it can be the simplest words of advice which mean the most. One day driving in the car with Wes talking about my goal of qualifying at Ironman Canada for the World Championships he simply says…If you work for it, Mom, you can do it. Well I decided right in the car that day…we would be going back to Kona.

Yep, that’s right… I’m still a triathlete. I’m pretty sure it's in my DNA or something because each time I say I’m walking away and I completely plan on walking away (selling my bike and all my gear) I find myself at another starting line. We were having pizza (of course) as a family and one of my boys says, "Remember when Mom was done racing”. We all laughed. Yes, I know….I’m a broken record.

It was May 17th when I decided to race Ironman Canada…about 9 weeks out.

Continue reading here!