Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ironman Switzerland 2015

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” T Edison.

In the past seven years of racing triathlon, I’ve learned that the “perfect prep” is an illusion. The truth is, life gets in the way. The fortunate thing is, life gets in the way for everyone. You may be sitting on the couch, missing a session because you are sick. However, chances are that along the way, your competitor misses a session because their car broke down or they had to help a friend in need. I’ve come to realize that the small setbacks along the way are just a part of the game. At Ironman Melbourne in March after a bout of Salmonella just 10 days out from the race, I found out that you can still salvage a good race (not perfect, but good) even when s%$t goes very wrong. 

My prep for Ironman Switzerland was far from textbook perfect, but I’ve come to realize that the imperfections sometimes might just be a part of the perfect prep. 5 & 4 weeks out from Switzerland, I did hardly any training as I was tapering & traveling for Ironman Cairns (the race that wasn’t). When I got “back to work” at home, I was at first freaked out that I had missed “the two most critical weeks” of Ironman prep for a late July Ironman. Once I began training though, I realized that I’ve already done probably 20 critical weeks this year and actually needed a solid break which life incidentally granted me with the DNF at Cairns. My training was better than ever and I took life’s usual hiccups in stride, confident that I had already done the work. Babysitter doesn’t show up for my long ride? Ok, no ride for mom today. Getting a cough two days before the race (which is now bronchitis)? No worries, take some echinacea and ignore it. 5 days of travel to Cape Cod for my brother’s wedding? Just fit in the training you can and don’t be a neurotic freak around your family because it’s not about you. These reminders helped me to get in some solid training, but to also be adaptive and flexible.  

There was also the question of which Ironman race I was going to do. I looked at both Ironman UK and Ironman Switzerland which were on the same day (July 19th). I hemmed and hawed about about the start lists & the course profiles, knowing I needed a podium finish by the end of July to get into the top 28 women in the world who qualify for the Ironman World Championships in the first cutoff (7 more women qualify in August in addition to a few automatic qualifiers). Normally, I just like to race whoever shows up, but this race was different. We were spending a lot of upplanned time and money to get there and I needed to make it count for Kona. To confuse things further, I even threw IM Canada on the table as a possibility. I sent an email to Thorsten of tri rating asking for advice and he essentially said, “You need to have confidence in yourself now that you can podium at any of these Ironmans. Pick the course and race that suits you best and don’t worry about everyone else.” In the end, that’s what I did. I knew UK had a high likelihood of being cold and rainy (not my bag) and Canada was a week later (July 26th) and conflicted with our plans to head to the Phillipines. Ironman Switzerland looked amazing: A beautiful 2-lap lake swim that looked easy to navigate (in-water navigation and rough conditions are not my strong suits). Switzerland also had a challenging bike course with a lot of variety: About 50% flat and 50% ups and downs, but a do-able total elevation gain of about 4000 feet. The run was flat and 4 back-and-forth loops around lake Zürich. Lapped runs are my favorite because you can often see your competition, pace yourself (e.g. 45 minutes per loop) and get an extra boost from the spectators who you see more often on this type of course. So, Switzerland it was. 

Due to our upcoming trip to the Phillipines for Cebu 70.3 on August 3 and then Australia for Sunshine Coast 70.3, we didn’t think it was fair to bring Wynne along to Switzerland as well… Luckily, my sister came to the rescue and offered to look after the Wynnstar while we (hopefully) got the job done in Europe. I realize I’m also incredibly fortunate to have a fiancé that rearranged all of our travel plans and sacrificed our time at home in July in order to get me to this race. Luke literally will go to the end of the world for me and I know he’s a rare catch. This kind of last minute travel is expensive, tiring and logistically difficult, but Luke was dedicated to the trip from the beginning. 

After dropping Wynne off in Chicago, we flew to Zürich where we settled in to Flo & Carole’s house in Horgen- a hamlet just outside of the main city. Flo & Carole are good friends who opened their house to us for the week which was incredible. We had such a good time just hanging out with them it was easy to forget I had a race on Sunday as most evenings were spent laughing around the dinner table with a bottle of wine until after 10pm. 
Lakeside dinner with Flo & Carole

We arrived on Tuesday and took a quick swim at the lake which was INCREDIBLE (and way too warm for wetsuits). Wednesday we had a chance to ride one lap of the two-lap bike course. The course was more challenging than we had anticipated, but had tons of variety and was just gorgeous. The climbs were significant- most notably, “The Beast” which is nearly 3 miles long at 5-6%. The forecast for Sunday was thunderstorms, but I tried to not worry too much and took the “it is what it is” route. I was just happy it was forecasted to be quite hot with highs in the low 90’s. 
Wednesday: Bike course recon. 

Race morning arrived and conditions were absolutely perfect. Calm seas, not too much wind, and no rain or thunderstorms. No wetsuits for pros or age groupers as the water was quite warm 25.8 celcius). I said a little “thank-you” to the weather gods and got my pre-race business done. I took my race-prep jog and felt fresh and at ease. 

The SWIM: 2.4 miles 1:00 (2nd fastest swim) 
My goal in the swim was to have a strong enough start to hop on some slightly faster feet. I was able to do this and ended up on Mareen Hufe’s feet. She historically swims a bit faster than me, so I was pleased and the pace felt perfect. Mareen led us through the first lap and we exited for a short run on an island before diving in for lap 2. 
Mareen (pink cap) & me (black cap/ Blue Seventy)  Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

Luke yelled, “you guys are 2nd”! Yes! We knew Mary Beth Ellis (a very strong swimmer) was far ahead, but I was surprised that we were next as I knew some of the other swimmers in the field were typically faster than me. I dove back in with a smile and continued for a few minutes until some age groupers started to pass us. (Age groupers had started only 3 minutes behind the pro women so the faster ones were able to catch up). In a critical decision-making moment, I decided to leave Mareen’s feet and try to stay on some feet that had passed us. It turned out that the pace felt fine and these feet navigated me all the way to the finish. I was surprised at how many swimmers we had to swim through that were on their first lap. It was really challenging and I think partly due to the fact that IM Switzerland had a rolling start for the first time. With a rolling start, I think the slower swimmers may not even get into the water until almost 20 minutes after the gun goes off, so they are barely on their way as we started the 2nd loop. I got kicked by a few breaststrokers and whacked in the face but whatever I did, I kept an eye on the feet that were leading me. This choice on the second lap was a good one and I was second out of the water, 5 minutes behind Mary Beth Ellis and 45 seconds ahead of Mareen who was in 3rd place. 

The BIKE: 112 miles 5:13 (3rd fastest bike)
I decided for this race to go mostly by heart rate as my power seemed to play mind games with me at IM Cairns (I had a slow start and was fixated on the numbers and that I wasn’t quite hitting them). In Switzerland, I rode my target heart rate, and luckily, for the first half, this netted me my exact target power without focusing on the numbers. I was feeling strong on my SCOTT Plasma 5 and in control. 
famous Heartbreak Hill. 

Mareen, a super biker, passed me by 20k and I didn’t (couldn’t really) go with her. Going into this race, one of my mantras was “let the race come back to you” (pretty sure I just borrowed this from Elizabeth Waterstraaat). I knew that if I executed my own race, I should be able to get to the podium. I didn’t want to take any risks that could derail the outcome that I needed. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

To my surprise, the ride was quite fun. (I typically get really nervous about the ride and the pain and solitude it brings). I enjoyed the climbs and was somewhat cautious on the downhills. I didn’t encounter very much age group traffic, but there was some. At times it was mentally helpful (for pacing), at other times it was an irritating nuisance as I’d have to sit up and soft pedal to drop back quickly enough, etc. There was one longer climb where I had to ride much easier than I wanted - I was spinning up in my easiest gear far below my race watts. However, there were 4 men strung out ahead of me and I wasn’t sure I could (or should, given the effort it would take) pass all 4 of them legally (within 25 seconds each going uphill), so I sat back and ate and drank. Other than that, it seemed to be a fair race and from what I saw of others, they competed fairly as well. The second loop, my power and morale dropped slightly, but that’s Ironman for you and pretty much to be expected. I ate and drank a lot throughout and stayed on top of it all to set myself up to run. I remained in 3rd place alone (1+ minute back from 2nd, 5 minutes ahead of 4th) for the duration of the race, but I actually don’t mind racing this way. It allows me to do what I need to do and I don’t have to base my moves upon those of the other girls. 
Heading into T2. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer
The RUN: 26.2 miles 3:01 (fastest run) 
Off the bike I got some splits: 17 whopping minutes behind to MBE (girl can ride!), and 2 minutes to Mareen in 2nd. Right away, I decided to run my own race as planned. I hoped to catch Mareen, but pretty much wrote off catching MBE and decided I’d be quite happy to be a bridesmaid at the Mary Beth Ellis Show. I threw on my Hokas (Cliftons) and set off. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

I never look at my pace during the first mile and go by feel. I try to run by a “controlled but productive effort” and then I look to see (after the mile) what that split looks like on the day. On the day, the split was right on my target pace and my effort was controlled but challenging. By 3 or 4 miles, I caught up to Mareen and we both wished each other well- we knew we were both in a good position for the Kona qualifying points we needed. After that point, I ran the next 15 miles focusing on solidifying my 2nd place finish. MBE is a world class athlete, multiple IM Champion, top 10 contender in Kona and current ITU long course world champion. I was okay with the fact that her 17 minute lead would probably be out of reach on the day, even if I could whittle down 10 minutes or so. As a result, I got to run in control for the first 3 laps and really enjoy the run! I said “hi” to everyone I knew along the course (Steve, Laura, Luke, Adrian, Joe, Sage, Brian), smiled a lot, and just ran. 

Having a little too much fun at the halfway point

thumbs up

My friend Carrie and I talk about ‘“finishing the business” in training so I focused on just finishing the business and what I came there to do. I had a lead mountain biker with me (Sabrina, who was amazing!) and she let the crowds know I was coming and got me some extra cheers which kept the wind in my sails. By the end of lap 3, though (about 19 miles), I was definitely starting to feel it all and slow down a bit. But, as I came through the finish line area to start the final lap, Luke & the race announcer informed me that Mary Beth had slowed down and that if I kept my current pace, I would catch her by 24 miles. HOLY S%$T. Honestly, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear! I was already happy with where I was, you mean I had to try harder and dig deeper? My legs hurt just thinking about it, but somehow my pace accelerated a bit and by mile 21 she was less than a minute ahead. At that point, the prospect of winning became real and I really went for it. I lifted my pace and eventually passed MBE around mile 23. I kept it going until the finish and had time to celebrate my first Ironman win. 
Photo Getty Images | Ironman

finish line debrief w/ Mary Beth Ellis... can't. stand/ up. 

Overall, I had the most solid start-to-finish race I had ever put together, something I wouldn’t have expected from my choppy prep and mishaps in my last few races. To win an Ironman was my bucket list dream and I get emotional thinking about all of the hard work I put into that very moment and that it has actually all paid off. 

Thank you to our families, who encouraged me to give it one more shot after IM Cairns, to my sister for all her help with Wynne, and of course to Luke, my coach and better half.
Women's pro podium

Thank you also to all of my sponsors for taking a chance in 2015 on the girl who was 20lbs overweight after just having a baby this time last year. We also have a new supporter, mortgage Broker Tommy Ullich #AussieTom and we’re excited about this new partnership. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tour de New England & plans: Ironman Switzerland!

I think we spent almost two weeks at home in San Diego... As usual, it was awesome. As soon as we returned from Ironman Cairns, I strapped my big girl training boots back on and got back to business.
Enjoyed a few family sunsets back in SoCal
Luckily, Scottie (DeFillipis) & Carrie (Lester) were still in town and putting in some big miles so I was able to join them for a few big sessions to get moving. Jess (super cyclist riding for pro team TWENTY 16/ my friend who created Harmony Bars) also was kind enough to accompany me on a long ride from home to the top of Palomar Mountain. I left Palomar with a PR time up there (first time under 1hr 20 for me, and a few minutes under at that). Other than that, Luke joined me for a lot of our typical weekly benchmark sessions. We did our weekly strength efforts up Torrey Pines and I am finally climbing like someone who can actually ride a bike. Our visit home was short and sweet, but I left with some confidence I never had before. Although I tapered for Ironman Cairns and had a few rest days afterwards due to life/travel, I think the extra rest actually helped me kick my fitness into the next gear and I was really able to "turn the screws" (who am I? who says that?) on my training during the end of June/ early July. Luke has been so great for the last few weeks. After recovering from Cairns, he started "taking it easy" which coincides perfectly with joining me for all or part of my sessions and sitting on my wheel or taking pictures or videos as I kill myself on the track. Joking aside, he has been awesome and I love having such a supportive wingman. It also helps bring me to the next level when he's staring me down during every interval instead of off doing his own intervals as he usually is. This is because I work extra hard to see if I can really make him sweat. If I finish an interval and he's a little sweaty or out of breath, I feel quite proud of myself.
Luke pacing me up Bandy Canyon

On July 1, we hit the road (ok, hit the air) for the East Coast, but also packed for potential racing opportunities in Europe, though nothing had been finalized. After Cairns, I debated the pros and cons of racing a few July Ironmans (IM UK, IM Switzerland, IM Whistler) to try to get in for the July qualifying period for Kona. I also debated waiting and doing an August Ironman, but considering I haven't done an Ironman since March and just put in a huge training block, I thought I probably (but not definitely, hah) wanted to cash in on that fitness and race in July. The problem was, we hadn't solidified plans and I was have a MAJOR case of decision paralysis. But, we packed up "prepared for anything" and took the red eye to Boston.
We have this s$%t down to a science! And thanks to Scicon bags we #packsaferidefast ... though they should rename their hashtag #packfastridefast - it's really very simple (or so Luke tells me!) 

First stop on the tour de East Coast was Cape Cod, Massachusetts for my brother's wedding to my lovely and amazing "other sistah" Katy! I love how weddings are always a great excuse for a Gerdes family reunion, and we had a great one. It was great to catch up with all the relatives and I was especially happy that Wynne got to meet her great grandma Gerdes. Between family events, Luke and I packed in some solid training! Everything from bike intervals on the Cape Cod Canal bike path to a track session at the local high school to a long ride out to the tippy tip tip of Cape Cod (Imagine Cape Cod as someone's arm as they're flexing their bicep.

We stayed in the bicep of Cape Cod and rode our bikes out to Provincetown which is the fingertips,  an almost perfect 100 miles round trip). We don't have much (ok, ANY) flat, uninterrupted riding out in California so it was super fun to average over 20mph on a ride... That NEVER happens.
Luckily Luke put a ring on it recently so we could invite him into the family picture with Grandma 
Riding into Provincetown on the 4th of July
After Cape Cod, we hopped on a ferry and spent a short 24 hours on Nantucket Island.
Nantucket is an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod,

We decided to visit Nantucket because I spent summers there as a little girl staying with my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live there and I wanted to see them. We also went because I wanted to show Luke one of the most beautiful places in the USA, or even the world, I think. 
so perfect

Our stay was SO short, but we had an amazing local dinner with my relatives, beach cruisered around town, and took a 19 mile run around the island. It was perfect and WAY. TOO. SHORT. But, we had training to do and the cycling in Nantucket is limited so we bon voyaged back to the mainland.

Island exploring... we were sad they didn't rent SCOTT bikes! 
Cruising to dinner
Luke ....being so Nantucket in his nautical tee. Loving the local oysters
Me & Wynne with aunt Lee & cousin Elsie
This week, we are staying at my mom's house on a lake near Sunapee, New Hampshire. It's been really nice to do absolutely nothing besides train and sit by the lake and relax. The training here is also really good and really different from California. We have a lake out the front door for open water swimming, lots of hilly dirt roads to run on, and new cycling routes to explore.

morning (and afternoon) routine on Perkins Pond
T-run around the lake

T-run around the lake part 2.
Wynne is in heaven at Grandma's and is loving the swimming and the millions of (breakable) knicknacks all around the house. The lake cottage is a bit of a baby death trap, though, with lots of ledges and decks and docks and no options for baby proofing. Needless to say, all eyes on Wynne this week!

So, we will be here until Sunday and then....... Off to Switzerland! We cashed in our miles and got some tickets to Zurich for Ironman Switzerland on July 19th 2015. Europe was NOT in the plan this year, but I must say I am super lucky to have a finacé that easily says "F the plan!" and wants to do what's best for us as a team. I think Luke wants me to race Kona almost as much as I want to race Kona as it was my dream after having Wynne, so off to Zurich we go to try to get a few KPR points. It wasn't an easy decision to make, but now that it's decided, I'm super excited! Besides, I got this fortune the other night at dinner, so I have to go, right?

Monday, June 22, 2015

And so it goes...Ironman Cairns 2015 & Kona Qualifying.

The Race- Ironman Cairns 2015
In April, I was talking to Thorsten Radde of about my plan for Kona qualifying and told him that I would race Ironman Cairns in hopes of getting the last few points that I need. He said, "that sounds good, but statistically, you're "due" for a bad race."  I thought this was a very German response! Wow, how blunt! How very Thorsten :). I quickly dismissed him and went about my business of training harder than ever for Ironman Cairns.

Turns out that (attempted) Ironman #14 for me was the race that wasn't. It all started off well...

We swam in Palm Cove in beautiful Cairns, Australia. The swim was choppy and windy. In all honesty I was terrified of the conditions based on a hectic pre-race swim where I was going nowhere except downcurrent the wrong way. Turns out, all my swim training should have given me a bit more confidence.  I ended up posting by best ever Ironman swim split (58 minutes), but most importantly, was just behind girls I consider to be "better" swimmers. Statistically, I am sure they are. But statistics don't matter, do they? Anyhow, the first half of the swim, I hung on the main pack while Gina Crawford and Liz Blatchford were somewhere off the front. During the second half, the chop increased and we swam upcurrent. I lost a little bit of time as my group disbanded, but not a lot.

Onto the bike I was in a strong position. I wasn't feeling great to be honest. Actually, I was feeling low after what felt like an uphill battle in the swim, but in Ironman, all you have to do is look at your Garmin and give yourself "X" amount of minutes to re-assess, eat, and *hopefully* come good. So, I went about it. I got a split saying that I was 5 minutes from the lead. 5 minutes?!?! That's good for me at this point of the race! Excellent motivation, I pedaled harder. I was a few miles from the turn around in Port Douglas when my rear tire went flat. I stayed calm, filled it with Pitstop, and continued on. All seemed good. For about 10 miles. Then it went flat again. Time to change it. No big deal. After I changed it, the fatal error was clear: The valve stem plus valve extender combo I had included in my flat kit looked long enough, but in fact, just wasn't. In the end, I came about 1 cm short of being able to continue my race. You see, the little end stuck out of the tire rim, but not far enough to attach an inflator and get air in the tire. Eventually, a motorcycle pulled over (not tech support) and radio'd for tech. This was good news! Bad news, after 20 minutes more waiting, no tech had arrived. I was given the option to take my wheel to the standing tech support back in Port Douglas to get some help, but the outside support would mean I had to hand in my chip and resign from the race. So, off I went. The tech couldn't get air in either so they lent me a wheel to pedal home as I was about 45 miles from the finish.
exhibit A

My race had ended, but I had seen Luke in the lead. It was my turn to cheer him on and dammit he better do well after my fiasco (Especially since he had put together my flat kit and taped it to my bike....but now, lesson learned, I need to and should be responsible for my own equipment). Back to town I pedaled just in time to see him get off the bike and start the marathon with a TWELVE minute lead. Needless to say, the next 2 hours and 57 minutes were very exciting and in the end, HE WON! And lucky me, got to greet my fiancé at the finish line with our daughter. (Oh yeah, FIANCÉ! That's a story for a different blog post. Can't mix joy and pain!) But one quick picture:

got engaged to my people on the beach at Green Island! 
So really, who am I to complain? And so it goes....
best moments

memories for a lifetime

The Road to Kona as a Woman 

Ok, I said I had no reason to complain. And I don't. Luke winning the race, having an incredible trip with our families, and getting engaged made it absolutely impossible to sulk after this DNF. But, I need to include a little discussion (okay, monologue) from my perspective after spending the year after giving birth racing Ironmans to get to the pinnacle of the sport, Kona, the Ironman World Championships. I have raced well. I had a "warm up" race at Ironman Malaysia 4 months after giving birth and came 5th, nothing world championship-worth calibur, but a good start. Two months later, in 9:04, I came 4th at Ironman Western Australia w/ a new run course record of 2:58. In the results, I was sandwiched between two Kona podium finishers, Liz Blatchford and Yvonne Van Vlerken. Three months after that, I finished 5th at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships in 9:05, again with the fastest run and not far off (or ahead of) World Champions and podium finishers. (During this time, I also placed 2nd and 5th at 70.3s and scored some more points).

If I were a man, this would have been enough. End of story. After Ironman Melbourne, with my 4,515 points, I could have said, Ahhhhhh....time to rest, re-assess, and plan my build to Ironman Hawaii like a true professional. But alas, I am a woman. Women have 35 slots to the Ironman World Championships and men have 50. There are more men that compete as professionals, hence the arbitrary allocation of fewer slots. However, in the past 10 years, the depth of the women's field has increased dramatically and in my opintion, the top 100 women and top 100 men are completely comparable. Because of this parity, women compete more fiercely and frequently to get to Kona.

The result? Well, if you look at me and Luke (he doesn't mind, he sees what I am going through and is my biggest supporter), you can see. Luke has laid low this year, racing less than I because he had a well-deserved top 15 in Kona last year which gave him a start on his points. He earned that ability to race less. However, after his win in Ironman Cairns, I still have 25 more points than him from my racing, but our current situations are very different.

As a man, he can rest, plan, and get ready to make a damn good show in Kona.

As a woman, I need to spend more time, more money, and more physical energy getting myself to another Ironman start line this summer (and by the way, there are no more US Ironmans for pros in July/ cha-ching! ) . There is no room for bad luck or a bad race if you are racing as a woman.

What will be the result? Well, I hope to get to Kona! But if I do get there? Well, I plan on doing darn well, and I wouldn't continue trying if I didn't think I could. But, can we say that Luke and I will have had equal opportunities for preparation? After racing well in three Ironmans, is it in my best interest to do a 4th Ironman if I want to do well in Kona? Would it at least be fair to women to see if an equal playing field would change the dynamics of the Kona race? Can Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman, really believe that women are making more money in the sport (As he said on Bob Babbit's podcast) when we must SPEND more money to get to all these races and in the end the sponsorship dollars still go to the men? Look at Bahrain 13. A very exciting triathlon team that financially supports 10 men and 3 women. Yes, I'm sure women must be making more money in the sport! Especially when some of must choose to take a minimum of a year off to start a family, then attempt to return to the unknown, often with fewer sponsors and definitely much less sleep ;). Yes, us chicks have it EASY!

Anyway, this is not my complaint. I CHOOSE to do this and I'm excited about continuing to chase my dream. I am not trying to rant, but I do want to build awareness about why I believe there should be 50 women at the Ironman World Championships. There are other ways that I could make some money in this sport, but my goal right now is to compete with the best in the world because I believe I can. And I hope sooner than later, we have 50 women on that start line who are just as fresh and ready to fight as those 50 men.

So what's next? Not quite sure yet, but I believe there will be another Ironman in the next 2 months. Yee Haw!

Thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters along this road. I am so very lucky.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The almost-breaking point aka When the f&%k is taper?!?

Here we are, two weeks out from Ironman Cairns 2015. Although I had a serious buildup to Ironman Melbourne in March, Ironman Cairns has been the big goal for both Luke & I for the first half of 2015. It's actually the first race we have trained for together since Ironman Cairns 2013 when we first started dating! It's been a "fun", intense, and at times daunting buildup. Luke (who coaches both himself and me), has a "leave no stone unturned" type of training philosophy.
post a  "no stone unturned" day of time trials on Fiesta Island w/ Scott DeFillipis and Carrie Lester
work work work
I'm pretty sure we will both reach the start line feeling as though we could have done no more in preparation. Because in reality, we both just reached the point where we literally could do no more. Not quite a "breaking point", but definitely "Is it taper time yet? When the f&^% does this taper start?"
Massive training creates massive laundry. Good thing Wynne folds it all! 

The past few weeks have been mostly a training blur with a few fun stops along the way. May gray (the struggle is real- an endless fog on the Southern California coast) was getting us down in San Diego, so we headed out to the Palm Desert for a few days of sunshine and open roads. Although escaping May gray was a bonus, the actual reason for our trip was to get some uninterrupted training on open roads perfect for time trialing. San Diego is awesome, but it's hard to lay down a good TT session without stops.
Plotting a big loop through Joshua tree national park
roads for days
Heading to the desert mid-week during the off-season is also super affordable, so you can get a nice little vacation only 2-hours drive from home. May has also been chock full of coaching. Most of my athletes who hibernated through the winter (or laid down big endurance bases) are now edging up on race season and are within that 12-week window of their "A" race. Nearly all of my athletes have an Ironman on the schedule this year (with two first-timers!) which makes coaching both exciting and intricate. With athletes who have full-time jobs and kids and travel, the training needs to be juuuuuuust right as to give them the fitness they need to execute their best race while still remaining sane and remembering that this is a hobby they do for joy. Anyway, I love this time of year because we are all so focused on that big race and putting the big training puzzle together towards Ironman Day is one of my favorite things to do. It also gives me an excuse to sit on the couch and  "work" while Luke plays daddy day care on occasion, which is a recovery bonus for me.

On Memorial Day, we also celebrated one year with our little person! Wynne's first birthday called for a fiesta, so we had a fun bunch of little and big people over for Mexican food, margaritas, and milk (for the wee ones). It has truly been an incredible year.
Wynne's first bike- a SCOTT, of course
Wynne has changed our lives (for the better) so much and it's been awesome to grow as a little family. Lots of people have said, "Wow! Time flies!" And I'm like, really? Times flies? This has been the longest year of my life! I feel like flying to Europe last summer with my 5-week old baby was decades ago. We've visited 11 countries and 5 continents with Wynne (including 2 trips to Australia with our 3rd coming up next week). I have trained for and finished 3 Ironmans and coming up on number 4. We became grown-ups: We started college savings accounts, beefed up retirement accounts, and as of today, we are homeowners! We fell in love with a house in an amazing location in Sunshine Beach, Australia and though we won't be living there full-time, it will be a great place to land when we are there and we think it is (hopefully) a good investment. It also has a separate self-contained apartment downstairs that we will be able to rent out which is exciting. So, it's been a long year, but a damn good one. I wouldn't change a thing (except possibly get a bit more sleep and invent a day care section of the plane on long-haul flights).
A 2-mile trail run from our new place in Sunshine Beach, Australia
That's all I got for now. Looking forward to hopping on the big bird to Australia in two days! Ironman Cairns, here we come!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

St. George 70.3 2015

It's been a big week! Two big things happened:

Luke & I raced the US 70.3 Pro Championships in St. George, Utah and we announced the Island House Invitational Triathlon.

Snow Canyon, St. George, UT. Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE

First, the race! Initially, I wasn't going to add St. George 70.3 to my race calendar. Five weeks after Ironman Melbourne, I thought I may still be in a funk or just building back. Facing off against the world's best half ironman athletes within that time frame just wasn't something I was sure about. Let's be honest, half ironman racing has not historically been my strength. I need an entire marathon to catch people. I don't do my best by going fast, I do my best by not slowing down. So, the OG plan was that Luke was going to race and I was going to spectate with Wynne. Somewhere in our talks, however, Luke pointed out that since St. George was 6 weeks out from Ironman Cairns (our next big race), if I was not racing, I'd have to put in a really big training weekend in St. George. That would be logistically harder on us as a team, especially considering Wynne. So, I decided to go the race route and knew I would gain some valuable fitness from racing, without having to put in a monster weekend far from home. Once I committed, I fully committed and got excited! I love the challenging conditions and terrain in St. George and hoped I could improve upon my 24th place pro performance from 2013 (race report here). 3rd times a charm!

My dad, Jeff, decided to make the trip with us, which made this entire trip so much easier as he was the designated Wynne sherpa and super gramps. This left Luke & I to focus on the job at hand.
Wednesday prior to race day, we went out for a final spin in California and Luke unfortunately went down hard in a crash. I had to go home & get the car to come get him and things looked sub-optimal, but we proceeded with the trip and took things day-by-day. Dan from SRAM came big to the rescue and fixed Luke's bike which was not a small job.  On Thursday, Luke was worse (really sore wrist, adductor, & back) and I even told a couple of friends that there was "no way" he would be racing. We went on a spin together and he couldn't keep up with me riding 100 watts. Uh Oh. But, over the next two days, things improved remarkably and he actually made it to the start line. This made me super happy as we certainly didn't travel to St. George just for me to race. I must say, I was less than confident that he had returned to top condition, but in the end he proved me wrong and still came 8th place overall in a ridonculous field. #proudgirlfriend

Road Trip!
Bike Check-In with my wingman. Photo: Sue Hutter
They didn't check her athlete bracelet
Ok, on to my race.
Race morning.

The swim (1.2 miles)
In 2013, I swam 29:12. In 2015 I swam 30:33. So, about 22k of swimming average per week for 104 weeks will net me negative 45 seconds of a swim. No, honestly, my swim was similar to 2013. Similar to 2013, I swam with a pack of girls (6 or 7) and actually felt I had a solid swim. Swim courses and conditions are always different, so it is very hard to compare year-to-year.

The Bike (56 miles)
Onto the bike in 2013, I was promptly dropped by all 6 or 7 of those women and rode myself into the DFL region of the field. In 2015, the opposite happened. I rode with a few of the girls in the beginning miles, but then opened up a gap and began closing in on those in front of me. It took all the way until snow canyon (the bigass climb at mile 40-ish) to catch any other girls, but from that point on, I caught and passed three more women before hitting T2. Those of you who have known me for a while know that those last couple sentences I wrote would have never come out of my mouth prior to this year. My old "best case scenario" was not to be passed by "too many" girls on my bike and to minimize my losses. So, it's a darn good feeling to finally feel like I can ride a bike. I came into T2 with a bike split 8 minutes faster than in 2013 (the course is slightly different, but it was a relatively huge improvement).
Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE

I know that I'm riding a lot better thanks to coach Luke, but I also have the utmost confidence that I am on the fastest equipment out there. My Endura skinsuit- what can I say- I can literally feel the wind gliding around me, I didn't know you could "feel" aero-ness, but you can. My Scott Plasma 5/ SRAM Red is the perfect bike for me and goes perfectly with the ENVE 4.5s I chose for this race (great climbing wheels and handle really well in windy conditions).

The Run (13.1 miles)
I was pretty sure I came into T2 somewhere around 10th or 11th place and thought just maaaaybe with a solid run I could squeak into the top 10, but I didn't really know what was going on up the road. I committed to running my best and just went out with a smile to do some work. I saw Linsey Corbin exit a couple of minutes ahead of me, but I typically don't put any time into Linsey on the run as she's one of the best in the sport. Ahead of her turned out to be Mirinda Carfrae, who well, IS the sport's best runner. No one else was even in striking distance. I also knew that behind me would be super runners like Lisa Roberts and Ruth Brennan Morrey so I had to charge strong all day.
St. George didn't bring the heat as it usually does and I was really comfortable in my skinsuit and felt I could run without wasting time/energy on heat management. The course is incredibly hilly, so I never look at my splits on the uphills. I never really looked at all during St. George because the up/down nature doesn't ever give you a full picture of what is going on if you just look at mile splits.
Wow, really? Running a 1:25 on a hilly course is supposed to look WAY prettier than this! Photo: Sue Hutter 
I ran strong but not all out on the uphills and then turned on the afterburners and charged down every hill like a crazy person. I am not a great uphill runner (though I look like I'd be alright), but I am serious about my downhills. I can get myself to go to that complete point where you nearly lose control in every step and I love it! Since I've been running in Hokas (I race in the Clifton), downhill running has been even more amazing as I really can't even feel the ground or any pounding below me. It turns out that Linsey was having a tough day and I was able to pass her around mile 7, but I didn't make any real inroads after that. I ended up in a no-mans land and just kept running to hold my position, which turned out to be 9th! I ran 4 minutes faster than in 2013 and crossed the finish, elated to be in the top 10 in this kind of field. I noticed at the finish line that every woman who had beaten me holds multiple 70.3 and Ironman titles and I really felt like the first mere mortal to finish in their company.

Looking back, I am annoyed at myself that I ever considered not racing St. George 70.3 because I didn't feel I was good enough in that type of field. No, I am not now the world's best 70.3 racer, but I need to give myself credit, just in actually deserving to be there and give it a shot, rather than always write it off as "I'm not good at this distance". Finishing 9th in the US Champs, 2nd in Phillipines 70.3 and 5th in Pucon 70.3 so far in 2015 tells me that maybe I should actually keep these halves in the rotation, because, well, they're about a million times more fun than racing Ironman, you can recover quickly, and I can actually make a little bit of money doing it!

Post-race Feed... Is Luke flossing with that fork or just suuuper into his Lumberjack Slam? 

Ack, I thought I'd get to the Island House Invitational, but this post is already long enough. I'll save that one for later this week. In the meantime, please check out the website:

Photo: Sue Hutter

Thank you again to my Dad for being an amazing and helpful grandpa and to all of my sponsors and supporters for letting me do what I do. This has me REALLY excited for Ironman Cairns- just 5 weeks to go!
Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE