Monday, May 17, 2010

Long Overdue

There is a double meaning in that title...first of all, this update is well past due! The reason is that the past month has been a whirlwind of activity and travel. I visited Galveston Island, TX, the final weekend of April to do the Memorial Hermann 70.3 Ironman Triathlon. The race was originally called the Lonestar 70.3 but it was designated as the US Pro 70.3 Championships and renamed when a new sponsor stepped in. The additional prize money drew a strong international field including a smattering of previous world champions and Olympians. It was a real honor to be part of this event, and I had the luck of being hosted by a wonderful family during my stay. A big thanks to Hud and Christine Hopkins for adopting me and showing me the very best of Galveston!

The race was a good one for me…and I finally figured out the food part of the equation for this distance! The nutritional aspect of longer distance racing has been the monkey on my back for a while now. I know that my running fitness has come a long way, but I’ve struggled with maximizing that fitness because I have been getting hungry and puttering out on the run. No mas! I’ve FINALLY figured out a formula that works for me. Who knew that I could eat so many PowerGels in so little time?!

The swim part of the race was rough due to the relentless wind and I ended up getting out of the water about 5 minutes slower than usual for the 1.2 miles. It’s funny, I don’t usually think much about the swim but on that day it was the hardest part of the race for me! The bike segment was a flat out-and-back course with a steady headwind going out and a nice tailwind coming back. I tried to ride conservatively in the first half then build into a stronger second half, and was able to split 10 minutes faster on the way back in. My other focus was on having a steady intake of fluid and calories on the bike because I didn’t want have a repeat of Oceanside and run out of steam on the run. Mission accomplished! I closed with a 1:32:11 run split, a good 6 minutes faster than I’ve managed to run at the end of a half-ironman before. It’s still not in the league of what the best are running right now but, as I jokingly told Albert, I was the fastest of the slower runners on that day. My effort was good enough for 8th place female and 5th American; best of all, I nabbed a spot for the Ford Ironman 70.3 World Championships in November! It’s nice to have that qualification out of the way so that I don’t feel the pressure of chasing a spot the rest of the season. Now I can focus on getting down to work for the next big task at hand…training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene!

And speaking of Ironman races, we had one of our very own right here in Utah! The week after the Galveston race, Albert and I drove down to southern Utah for the inaugural Ironman St. George. I signed up to volunteer with body-marking, which ended up being an 8-hour date with an air-brush on Friday before the race. It was a different way of marking the race numbers and I sucked in more ink fumes than I care to remember, but it was a great way to meet the athletes up close and personal and to see things from the other side of the fence. Race morning started very early with driving out to the swim venue at Sand Hollow to help catch any stray people who needed last minute body-marking before the cannon went off. Once the athletes headed down to the swim start, I put on my spectator glasses and cheered for everyone I knew out there. It was so much fun! We watched most of the swim and some of the last bikers going out, then we took off for a little training run before heading back into town to catch more of the action. It was perfect timing; we had just gotten some sandwiches and settled down along Main St. when the first riders started rolling in! The run course was two out-and-back loops which ended up being great for spectators because we caught everyone going past four times. Aside from the cold water and some wind on the bike, the weather really could not have been any better for this time of year in St. George. The best part was knowing so many of the athletes and being able to cheer for them by name…what an inspiration! The most amazing thing I saw all day was the guy who had crashed near the end of the bike and broke his collarbone…then proceeded to walk the entire marathon. Talk about tough as nails! The real tear-jerker part of that tale is that two of his buddies ended up stopping their races and walking it with him. Very cool to see. So it was a great experience for me on many levels, not least of which was to see an Ironman in person and draw inspiration from it for my own upcoming stab at the distance. Thank you to Paul the body-marking captain for all your hard work, and to the Olsen family for giving us the run of their house for the weekend!

Since then, I’ve really been able to wrap my mind around the Ironman distance and have been training in earnest for the end of June. My training includes plenty of solo time in the saddle getting strong and practicing nutrition, as well as an increase in running volume. So far so good. I’ll do a test drive at the Boise 70.3 in mid-June (I’ve wanted to do this race the past two years but because of one broken bone or another have had to sit it out…) and then the big one is on the 27th. Anyone want to take a trip to beautiful Coeur d'Alene?!

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