Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Louisville race report!

Man oh man, it's time to write a race report.

I got to Louisville about 4 days before the race, and proceeded to remind myself of the course, having ridden it in its entirety only once, about 2 months prior. Rode the LaGrange loop again, and rode the out and back, and generally tried to memorize how I wanted to tackle each of the tiny rollers. It felt good to be settled, and after the previous weekend's sleep deprivation crewing at the Leadville Trail 100, I finally had an amazing opportunity to catch up on sleep and start feeling AWESOME. By Friday I was going crazy, super excited to race, and by Saturday the self-imposed laziness was driving me up the wall. Thankfully, I was staying at a fellow racer's home and we helped keep each other calm and in control.

The Saturday before the race, there was a 1.5mile underwear run. You KNOW I was a part of that. I could sense the giddiness in the air as much of the group (maybe 200 or so people?) were doing IMKY the next day. Tensions were running high, the underwear and all the flesh in the heat was awesome.

Photos, if you will:

People starting to gather

This kid later breakdanced for a gathering crowd. Epic. 

Myself and Quentin, he would be doing his first IM!

Sweaty, near-naked bodies... life is awesome!
The race itself... oh boy... what an adventure. Break it down:

Pre-race: It's a time trial swim start so a 2800-person line formed that snaked its way around the paths and grass. There was a great, friendly energy, with people cheering when the pros went off (even though we were miles away and couldn't see anything), and again when the first of the age groupers started. Myself and Quentin started 33' after the official 7am start. We sadly saw the race directors stop people from entering the water as they had to pull someone out; this man had had a heart attack. We watched the emergency crew perform CPR and bring him off the course in the direction of a hospital. He later died. It was shocking. Nevertheless, a couple minutes later, they re-started to send people in and we soon had the extreme pleasure of running giddily down a dock and splash (cannonball!!) into the water! 

Swim: The time-trial start is less stressful, although I do enjoy a mass start and the craziness associated with it (I just thrive off hitting and being hit, I guess). It's down one side of Towhead Island, around it, and down the other to swim back down to transition. The water was calm, it was incredibly warm (obviously no wetsuits allowed). Honestly, I just cruuuuuised, never swimming lazily, but never letting the effort rise too high. I made sure to get all the "bang for my buck" in terms of pulling the water, having a good feel, making my stroke efficient. Super happy with this swim. 

1:06:05, at 1:44/100m. 5/20 AG. 

Bike: In terms of effort, this bike went stellar. Very evenly paced. The course is flat for the first section, then awesome rollers for the rest of the ride, before you come back on that flat section back into town. The flat portion is tree-lined and generally "pretty" for a residential area. The rollers consist of an out-and-back that is rather forested. This section got pretty crowded but people were having a BALL zipping down the one longer climb on the course. I chatted with people (as I passed them, ahem!), and kept on top of my nutrition. Then, we proceed to do the 50k LaGrange loop twice. Think horse country and small towns. It is a rather pretty course. 

- Although muscular, massively quaded up dudes passed me, I passed a fair share of bike blinged out, race-wheeled up, super athletic dudes myself. Of note is the guy that said this as I passed by him on an uphill: "There goes Krystyna, number 71, riding past me on the uphill AGAIN, with her half ounce of body fat." HA! Sucker, lose some weight if you want to climb fast. Then again, at the Leadville Trail 100, there were scientists conducting research on ultra runners, so I pretended to be doing the race to get my body composition analysis done. Apparently, among other stats, I am 112.9lbs with 19.6% body fat. 19.6% sounds like a lot!!!!! One of my friends also did it (a dude), and he had 15%... and he got made fun of the entire weekend for being a fat ass. Ruh roh...
- There were a LOT of people on the course cheering us on. The town of LaGrange brought it OUT and yelled at us, cheered us on, rang their cowbells and got the party started. It was super exciting. 

And now... the Lowlights:
- Nutrition was good for the first half, then I proceeded to grab hydration off the course, which meant Ironman Perform (which I had never used, and turns out I do not like), and water. I had also missed bike special needs (you gotta WARN ME that's it's coming up!!!) the first go around the loop, so I didn't grab my nuun tablet bottle, and on the second time around the loop, I wasn't thinking right and didn't grab it again. Stupid! Because this began my downfall. I did get decent amounts of calories in on the later stages of the bike course (from Perform and some gels, gu chomps, etc), but electrolyte intake really dropped off and water consumption rose a lot. NOT GOOD. I was grumpy in the last 15kms and really felt like something hadn't gone right. Oh, if only I had stuffed a nuun bottle in my tri suit in T1. NEXT TIME, goddammit! 

6:20:50, at 28.4km/hr (17.65mi/hr), moved up to 3/20 AG. 

Run: I know how to run, in fact, in triathlons, my favourite part is the run because I generally CRUSH people, with very few passing me and me passing dozens, if not hundreds. This is where my competitors become my roadkill. So what the fuck happened?? I got off the bike feeling good, as I always do. I never have that jelly-legged or brick-like feeling to my legs. Good start. I try to take in nutrition (again, depending on Perform off the course) and hydration and keeping cool with ice down the tri suit. This works for the first 10km or so, but I'm already feeling that SOMETHING is wrong, so I think "maybe now's a good time to switch over to coke". Usually, if I'm not feeling good, coke picks me up. And it totally did, it really helped me for the next 10km, but the underlying problem of WHY I was not feeling great was still there. Electrolytes, namely the lack thereof. I hadn't taken in enough electrolytes in the back half of the ride, and now here I was stuffing my face with coke (sugar, caffeine... electrolytes, not so much), and water. I had peed a LOT on the bike (more than I normally do), and was peeing a lot on the run. My feet were not happy... I pee while running and I could tell that they'd most likely be destroyed with blisters post-race, but I would worry about that later. 

Anyway, I had come off the bike knowing I needed a 3:56 marathon to get my "perfect day" goal of 11:30. However, after the first half-marathon passed in a respectable enough 2:03, I figured I'd shoot for sub 11:45, knowing I'd need something like a 2:09 or 2:12 back half-marathon to get it. Woe is me, just before the half-marathon mark, I started realizing that I was putting in enough water and calories, but again not enough electrolytes (read: none), and I was starting to fall apart. I can't quite explain. The muscles felt fine, I never cramp, so I never know if I'm behind on electrolytes or not. But I was. I just started to deteriorate, and badly. Nothing was being digested, but I was still putting liquid calories in. I got bloated. I had to stop at a porta-potty, thinking: okay, just the one stop and everything will feel AWESOME afterwards. No, man, I just fell apart. I could barely think. When I reached my run special needs (a bottle of coke, which SHOULD have been the point when I switched to coke, not at the 10k mark), I didn't even want the coke. I did drink about 400 of the 500mls, but I wasn't happy. After I went out on my 2nd loop, I realized just how badly things would get. At every aid station (every mile), I had to stop, walk, take in chicken broth for the salt, take in coke for some calories, and water to rehydrate. My HR was an abysmal 115-123bpm while "running" between aid stations (with the lowest at a measly 99bpm). I had to stop at many many porta-potties, just hoping I would feel better. I ended up losing 45' off my 11:45 time in just the last half-marathon. I was delirious and I could barely think. I had no idea if I should just stop taking in calories and try to run it in, or if forcing food down my mouth would help (the former probably would have been better, at least for a while to let the stomach settle). The weird thing is, I never had GI distress, my stomach never HURT, I just could tell I wasn't processing the food. My muscles weren't acquiring the energy. It was horrible. The miles seemed to crawl by. I would think I saw the mile 24 sign, but I hadn't even passed the 22 mile sign. Finally, with 2km to go, I told myself to shut the fuck up and RUN. I got on that Ironman finishers high for the second time in my life, and I ran it in at a very respectable pace (~5:30/km), finally balls out sprinting the last couple hundred meters. I think I cried, but mainly I was once again overwhelmed with emotion, and yes... once again VERY happy to have suffered through what I had suffered through. I'm disappointed in my run, mainly because I'm disappointed in how I didn't stay right on top of my nutrition throughout the bike and beginning portions of the run. If I train with nuun with such success, fucking use nuun THROUGHOUT the ride, not just the first half. I separate my electrolyte/hydration intake from my calorie intake... I NEVER combine (i.e. sports drink). Why did I think I'd succeed with Perform, water, and some gels? It's ridiculous. 

4:55:02, at 6:59/km pace, i.e. 11:15/mi (SO FUCKING LAME), dropped back to 4/20 AG. 

Ironman Louisville 2011: 12:29:30, 4/20 AG.

So what did I learn, i.e. what will I do next time?
- Nuun bottle in the tri suit in T1; I've become a pro at pouring water snatched off the aid station into my aero bottle on the frame, just plop a nuun in each time.
- Get a bit more precise on how many calories I want per hour on the bike (it's not a static number/hr; I prefer more in the first half and a touch less in the second half, and also greater proportion of calories from solid food in the first half as well)
- Play around with salt tabs, or conversely train with concentrated nuun in a small handheld, and sip at it just before hitting the water at aid stations (as I did in Challenge Wanaka with great success).
- Only let myself get on the coke at the half-marathon mark, when electrolyte intake is nicely set up for the rest of the race.

Anyway, I learned so much from this race, and myself and my coach have a shit-ton of information to work with for the next season. Can't wait!!

My thoughts on IMKY: Amazingly organized, the volunteers were beyond anything I've ever seen at a race (3500 volunteers to 2800 racers), the swim and bike courses are great, the run course isn't as amazing as it could be (thought: don't run out so far on the out-and-back, that's an ugly part of town, do smaller loops through the town center where all the activity is), post-race food should have HEALTHY options, the awards banquet had AMAZING yummy food, the time trial start is unique and really went smoothly, beautifully designed finishers shirt, the expo wasn't awesome b/c it had very few companies represented, it was pretty much the Ironman store and like 5 sports companies, the people of Louisville are INCREDIBLE, including the homeless guy sitting at a bus stop that yelled/flirted with me out on the run course.

In the end: I sincerely loved this race!

Just before the race start!!!

After the race!

Triangular rock, awwwww yeah!

I'm far right getting my 4th place AG award. 
Race photos aren't up yet, and when they are... I'll screenshot them and post them up!! (I do wish they'd lower their RIDICULOUS prices on digital downloads; have race photography companies never studied microeconomics, b/c they'd earn a shitload more if each photo download was like 5$)

OH, and I should really be barred from using a computer in the weeks after an Ironman, because I've already signed up for Ironman Canada Aug 26 2012. Woo hoo!!! Now THAT'S a course I'm looking forward to. One of the last remaining IM races that is one-looped on swim, bike, and run. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Leadville Trail 100 miler crewing experience.

Last weekend, August 20th to 21st, was the Leadville Trail 100-mile run race across the sky -- literally, the race is on terrain at 9,000 to over 12,000 ft when crossing Hope Pass. I was crewing for a friend about to embark on his first ultra racing experience. He dove right in and went for a 100-mile as his first ultra. His friend, who would pace him for the back 50 miles, did the same thing last year and at mile 70 his arches collapsed and he could barely walk... but he did suffer through it, he pushed his body to extremes and he did finish before the 30-hour cut off.

I was confident that whatever happened over the course of the next 30 hours would be amazing to witness, and I KNEW that I wanted to be a part of it. So the option was open for me to pace for about 10 miles, but in general my job was being on top of all things "crewing". Packing the Nathan backpacks, getting all wet weather, cold weather clothes ready, getting all supplies ready (bandaids, body glide, duct tape, sun block, head lamps, etc), and generally just being ON TOP OF IT. The aid stations were 10 miles apart, and Jeremy (his pacer) and I were there for every step of the way.

Ryan wanted a sub-25 hour finish to get the belt buckle but we had no idea what was in the realm of possibility for him. We had NO idea what his fitness could bring him, but more than that, we had no idea what the DAY would bring him. So many things can happen in an Ironman (nutrition, body wear and tear, the weather conditions), but in a 100-mile ultra, amplify that by 1000 times, and body wear and tear specifically by a million, and you'll get an idea of just how wrong or how right things can go.

So Ryan started out conservatively, as you always should when faced with the unknown, and he was on target given past years' aid station splits, to make his sub-25 goal. We saw the day brighten up, the fog burn off Turquoise Lake, the sun beat down on the runners at Twin Lakes, people in all shapes and abilities slowly deteriorate as we saw them from aid station to aid station, and most magically, the headlamps making their way down Hope Pass the second time.

After a solid 30 miles, my guy started to deteriorate. His IT bands tightened up so much, all his muscles seemed to be shredding apart with each passing mile, and although he made the cutoff at the turn around point (the course is an out-and-back) at mile 50, he knew that going straight over Hope's Pass again and down it, would cause such havoc that he'd be crawling. Yet, why stop when you can still go on?? So, at Winfield, knowing he wouldn't make the cutoff to the next aid station, he set off again, this time with his good friend as a pacer. All I knew was that I was going to meet them on the other side of the mountain 10 miles later. At what time? Whenever they'd show up, and I had no idea when that would be. So I got all the gear collected, I took a 30' cat nap, I ate, and off I went again to the next aid station. Mile 60. Once there, I was in radio contact with my pacer, and I heard they were an hour out. Then an hour passed, with still no sign. I got in touch with them again, and they said yet another hour. What on earth was going on? I knew he was hurting, but I had no idea how much. And it's so difficult to tell how far you've gone in the dark, in such conditions. His Garmin had died a long time ago. So, at some point, I knew it was time to set out and start looking for them. I walked towards them, with a headlamp, following the glow sticks set out every few hundred meters. Until I finally stumbled upon them, and Ryan was in far worse shape than I could have ever imagined. After 60 miles (~95km), his legs had entirely seized up and he was taking baby steps back home. He could have easily stopped at Winfield aid station and called it quits, knowing he had a 1% chance of picking up and making the next aid station, but you don't quit until you're pulled from the race. You never quit. Not only was Ryan's determination a phenomenal thing to witness, everyone else out on the course was tough and inspiring, and also so humble.

While waiting in the dark, every so often 2 headlamps would appear -- one was the runner, the other their pacer. I heard snippets of conversation ranging from dispirited to upbeat. One runner was apologizing for not being in running shape ("Hey guys, I'm so sorry you didn't get any running in pacing me." As if it was his fault! He had just traveled 50mi over mountainous terrain). Yet another runner, in some state of delirium, came up to me and thanked me so much for staying out here and smiling for him. He just wanted to see a happy face. Everyone was inspiring, and to not make the cutoff at mile 60 is still such an achievement. I was SO proud of Ryan for reaching the point of no return and still going further, pushing himself further. Most importantly, rather than feel like a failure, he came away from this race knowing he'd given it his all, and feeling especially proud of his accomplishment. He did it until he broke, and then some.

So, after 3 days and only 4 hours of sleep, I'm happy to say I witnessed an incredible event, and took some awesome photos to boot. They're below:

A shirt I saw... 
Ryan at the startline

4am start!
Runners just before the start. Photo credit to Jeremy Ebel.
Off they go... Photo credit to J. Ebel.
Just after sun rise. 
Incredible views, to say the least... Photo credit to J. Ebel

Turquoise Lake at sunrise

Me crossing the finish line... an ultra? I'm doing a 50-miler
soonish, but a 100-miler is still years down the line. I want to
focus on triathlon and especially the 70.3 distance for the
next few years. Photo credit to J. Ebel. 

Jeremy (Ryan's pacer) at the finish line. He finished this race
last year. 

Fish Hatchery aid station

Ryan running to the 30 mile mark. 

Runners moving into the mountains

Me ready with Ryan's next Nathan pack stocked with his
nutrition and hydration. Photo credit to J. Ebel

GO DISCO STU! I think everyone wanted to be Disco Stu at
this point!

Beautiful dogs. There were 6 or 7 of them. 

Just hanging out on the top of a red truck between aid stations.
Life is hard... Photo credit to J. Ebel

At Twin Lakes aid station. 

View at Twin Lakes aid station just before they go over Hope Pass.

Ryan after the 60miles were done, brought him home. Photo
credit to J. Ebel. 
It was a set of days I will never forget... and it definitely put this weekend's Ironman into perspective. I remember my first ironman, and although I did hurt at points, I never really *hurt* so much as what these guys have put themselves through. I'm taking that perspective with me to IMKY. I'm actually SUPER STOKED about this race. Rather than being nervous, I'm positively giddy to race. I can't wait to get out there and have fun. Do some swimming, a little riding, and perhaps a run around Louisville, why not??? It's going to be AMAZING!!! I guess the next post will be the IMKY race report!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mountain villages: Telluride, Snowmass Village, Leadville

Oh damn, so much has happened!! Firstly, after Boulder 70.3 I chilled a bit in Colorado Springs again. Then, onto the next great adventures!


Most notably, this town is awesome because it is a TOWN where people live year-round. Compared to other mountain towns, which see primarily tourists and seasonal workers, I felt right at home here. I went for my last long run here (30k) before IMKY, and it was beautiful!! Muscles responded surprisingly well, just 3 days after Boulder 70.3, but my feet felt a little beat up. Photos:

Dude painting the mountains. Isn't life amazing??

I sooooo needed this (and food, plenty of it!)
after my long run. 

To cap off the long training day, I joined my couchsurfing
host on a group swim at the Telluride Community Pool.
Gorgeous pool... I thought swimming at 7000ft was hard,
try 9000ft!! Then again, I'm just about to hit the Leadville
pool, and that's at 10,152ft! AWESOME!!

Sunset at Mountain Village!

From Telluride, I stayed in Snowmass Village for a couple days, including August 13th -- my 23rd birthday!! I had a birthday ride planned, and it was EPIC!! Before that, however: swimming and more exploring:

Snowmass Village 2-lane 25-yd pool. You'd think that'd be
shitty, but it was actually AWESOME b/c no one seems to
lap swim here? Pool all to myself!

Birthday sushi with my couchsurfing host, Jack. AWESOME!

Exploring the grottos somewhere along Independence Pass.

Maroon Bells, a beauuuutiful 14er. 
And here's some of the birthday ride:

Independence Pass is obviously the big one. The smaller one
is up Maroon Ck Rd towards the Maroon Bells. 


Going up Independence Pass!

Jersey is the MUCyc jersey: Melbourne Uni Cycling Club.
I miss my cycling boys back in  Melb, Australia. They're going
through winter right now, though, so I don't miss that...

Rehydrate from running water by the side of
the road... how perfect is that??

Nearing the top!

AWWW YEAHHHH... surprisingly easy climb, maxing out
at 6.5%. Nothing dramatic. It's about 30km long, though.
Loved it!

Normal, look normal

On the frickin' Continental Divide!

Shit, I'm a narcissist apparently. 

Anyyyyyway, I'm now in Leadville, checking out the town, doing some training and also, most excitingly, I am crewing for a friend attempting his first 100-miler run race. It's the Leadville Trail 100 this weekend (Aug 20-21), and I can't WAIT to be his sherpa. It's going to be epic! I hope to be of some use (he's already got a pacer for the back 50 miles), mainly making sure he's fed, watered, and when he's too tired to think, to take pictures to commemorate this day in his life, and to keep him positive! Should be surreal!