Friday, July 02, 2010

bringing harmony back

I woke up with a head cold and laryngitis this morning. I am certainly getting a broad range of symptoms during this recovery. I worked a half a day in the office and then slept for 3.5 hours in the afternoon. When I woke up, I felt amazingly better. My cold is not gone but my body is coming back. I am going to be ready for a light workout tomorrow. I am even looking forward to it. I am going to stick with swimming, biking, and light lifting through the end of next week and then try out my running legs after that. I don't want to force things too fast.

The thing I am most happy about right now is that I am switching back to being a vegetarian. I ate meat as an experiment in performance and recovery, but I am no longer willing to sacrifice my personal values for this. There are ways to be successful without eating animals. The last meat I ate was the yak burger on Monday at the natural foods store in Idaho. It feels like a relief to not have to eat meat anymore. It brings a sense of peacefulness to my life knowing that no being suffered or was killed for my plate of food. This has consistently bothered me for the last several months and I don't see that changing. My life is in harmony only when my actions agree with my values.

In the next couple of weeks, it is my intention to bring my life back to balanced harmony in all the ways it has gotten off course during Ironman training.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

post-race week

Monday:  Overall very tired and sore, nothing bothering me in particular. Feeling out of sorts. I wanted to spend time at the race site to be around the athletes and go in the water again. I felt a loss coming on. Mo and I went paragliding on Lake Coeur d'Alene as her reward for putting up with all the Ironman craziness. Very fun!

Tuesday: Travel back to Austin. Came down with 101 fever and aches and nausea. Vomiting on plane, chills, bad ear pain, and headache. Still sore but walking normal. I should have been in bed, not traveling on planes all day. Very hard day.

Wednesday: Slept until noon, half day at work. Still sick but doing a little better. Stomach still sensitive. No appetite. Depressed.

Thursday: Went to work for half day in the morning, got massage. Still a little sick but fever is gone. Not sore. Doing better. Still depressed and out of sorts. Not ready to work out yet. Can eat again but neurotic about gaining weight. Haven't unpacked bag yet. Starting to get ready to think about what I will do next.

Reflections on IM CDA

I didn't set PR's in any of the sports or overall even though I thought I could do so in all of them. The swim logistics were beyond my control and I know that my fitness is much better than a 1:16. Nutrition and bike comfort got me on the bike, plus I think I should have done more hill training. I didn't know that the course was going to have such steep hills like the IM Wisconsin course. My only controllable mistake of the day, I believe, was not forcing myself to get down more liquid and calories during the second half of the bike.

I feel good about how I did on the run, how I was able to pull myself out of a nutritional bonk and wanting to quit, to feeling good and finishing in an acceptable time. If I hadn't worked on my mental training and had my head able to adjust to alternative goals and ways to stay positive, I wouldn't have been able to stay in it as well as I did.

My finish time is a bit disappointing because I can't stand feeling like I am just average or mediocre and my 12:48 finish is just too "mid-pack" for me. On the other hand, I feel that I had a good race because I worked with the conditions of the moment during every part of the day and was able to let negatives go. I executed my race plan well and was able to adapt to problems as they came up.

I am sure there are many people who would find it odd for me to think that my race makes me average. I was 33 of 131 in my age group but this just isn't good enough for me. When I do things, I want to be at the top, not just in the top quarter. When I do something, I go all out. The trouble with Ironman is that in order to go "all out" on it, you need to sacrifice all your time, money, friends, loved ones, and all your other interests in life. It is just not possible to put in all that work and live a balanced life. I have tried to make that work and can't. Perhaps I didn't sacrifice enough this time around.

This was my third Ironman and I have decided that it will be my last. Ok, don't hold me to that forever, but I have no plans to do another one for a long long LONG time.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report - part 3

Bike-Run Transition
It went like this. Stop at mount line, get off bike, hand bike to volunteer. Take off bike shoes and run to get gear bag. [oh boy, notice how legs are super stiff and feel like bricks, go easy, work it out...] Grab a cup of water and chug it down. Run into changing tent and empty gear bag on floor. Strip down naked and put on run clothes. Put on plenty of body glide to avoid chaffing. Run to sunscreen volunteers and get more sunscreen. I got burned on my hands and part of my back during the bike so I let them take a little longer to cover everything this time. Stop at the porta-pottie. I moved through this transition quickly but steadily. I made sure to do everything I needed to do to help me be more comfortable on the run. A few seconds more here would be worth it later. I ran out of transition and onto the run course.

The first section went along the beach where the swim took place and there were so many spectators out there it was very motivational. I felt absolutely terrible starting the run. I could hardly move my legs and was doing something like run 3 minutes/walk 50 steps for the first 2 miles. My glutes and hamstrings were cramping up and were seriously painful. It crossed my mind to quit the race. I didn't know how I was going to make it 26 miles. I deliberated about this for about 10 minutes. I knew I would be mad at myself for quitting after traveling all the way to the race and training for so long. Giving up over something like sore legs felt like it would be disrespecting everyone else wanted so badly to be there and was willing to work through it to finish. I couldn't stop. I had to finish, no matter how long it took me. I wasn't going to qualify for Kona so did it really matter what my finishing time was? I would simply do my best and enjoy participating in an Ironman even if things weren't going perfectly. That was the plan.

I tried to sensibly take in as many calories and liquids as I could and after about 3 miles I began to feel better. That bike bonk was really messing with my mind. After that there was no question in my mind that I would finish. My strategy would be to walk the aid stations while getting all the fuel that I needed. This averaged out to roughly running 1 mile, walk 1 minute. I alternated drinking water and cola, finished my Liquid Shot flask, had a few gels, oranges, potato chips. The cola tasted good and was the best all-purpose fuel.

The run course was two laps with a long section along the lake. It was mostly flat but then had a big hill just before the turnaround point. I walked the hill on both laps, not wanting to use energy on it. There were three aid stations with music and announcers out there to keep things fun. I was wearing a t-shirt from the Lake Mills Triathlon in Wisconsin and got several comments from people from Wisconsin. It felt nice to have a little connection with my old triathlon community.

I started to feel really good on the second lap of the run. I was comfortable running a 9 minute pace and was having fun. It is amazing how things changed for me over the course of 10 miles. I was smiling and enjoying the day. When I got to the top of the big hill and ran down it, I was at mile 21 and had only 5 more miles to go. I can do anything for 5 miles, right? That's when things starting to get hard and I had to begin digging deep and remembering that I want it. Things got progressively darker until mile 24 and at that point I was struggling to run at all - maybe 2 minutes run/1 minute walk. My feet hurt and I was exhausted all over. At mile 25 when I was a little teary-eyed and walking, a volunteer said to me "Margo, when you get to me this is when you start running... ok? ... ok, now. Go!" I started running and people around began cheering for me. I smiled. I only had a couple more blocks until the finish chute. I was almost there.

I rounded that last corner onto Sherman Avenue, and could see it was less than half a mile downhill to to the finish line. The sides of the street were packed with cheering spectators. There were a few other runners around me but I basically had the whole crowd to myself. Thousands of cheering people. It is an unforgettable amazing experience. I broke out in a huge smile and got choked up from the emotion of it all. This moment made it all worth it. I savored that last 2 minutes of the run and felt no pain as my body was floating. I high-fived the hands of dozens of people as I ran. I was there. I did it! "Margo Baxter from Austin Texas, you are an Ironman."

Run time: 4:36
Goal time: 4:00

[goal time: 11:30-12:00, previous PR: 12:36]

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report - part 2

Swim-Bike Transition
It went like this. Exit water and run 50m on sand to get to the grass. Run to wetsuit strippers and lay on ground as they pull off my wetsuit from the waist down. Run to get gear bag and run to changing tent. Empty contents of bag on the ground, strip naked out of swimsuit and put on bike clothes. Run out of tent and to sunscreen volunteers who slather me in sunscreen. Run to grab bike, run to bike exit, mount bike, go. 1:22 on the clock.

There were tons of people around cheering so the start was really fun. It felt like some huge bike race or something :) My legs were a little heavy to start and my speed was a little lower than I thought it should be. It was not until 8 miles later that I notice that my front brake was rubbing the wheel even though I checked it before the race. That happened in training and I was so careful about checking it, but it managed to happen during the race :( I may have used a little extra effort in the beginning but I don't think it affected my overall day too much.

The ride was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. The first part of the loop went out and back along the lake, then there is a flat part through small towns, then the hilly section. I drove the hills but hadn't ridden them until the race so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was a little worried because some of them were pretty steep but I know that hills often seem worse in the car than when you are riding them - this was the case here. None of the hills were too bad. I just got in my lowest gear and kept moving the pedals until I got to the top. There were a few tight turns and downhills and I wasn't sure how to ride them since I hadn't practiced. I probably could have been faster if I had been more confident on the course.  The first lap felt good and I was on top of my nutrition with 3 bottles of EFS and 3 Larabars. I got back to town in 3:15 to start the second lap. If I could hold that pace, I would still be on target to hit my 12 hour goal.

The second lap got harder. The beginning section through town was fun with all the spectators, and again I enjoyed the lake scenery. I felt positive until about halfway through the hills. They seemed much steeper the second time around. I got tired of being on the bike. My back started to hurt and it was hard to stay aero because of the back pain. My head started to get negative and I slacked off on my nutrition. I saw all the bikers heading back who were in front of me and I started to get a little hard on myself for being that far back in the pack. I have to work so hard at biking and don't see the improvements I wish I would see. Why didn't I do more hill repeats in training? That was not the time to be having those types of conversations with myself. I made it through the second round of hills and was able to refocus my mind knowing that I just had to make it back to town on a flat section, however the wind had picked up and it was now going to be a headwind. A strong headwind for another 20 miles. My back was killing me more than anything. My stomach was getting a little gurgly from the solid foods and I switched to Liquid Shot for calories. I only got down about 500 calories and 2 EFS bottles during the second half of the bike, which was not nearly enough. I ended the bike in a state of bonk/dehydration. My second lap took 3:28. Given the fact that I didn't know this course, and that my biking is a little weaker this year than other years, I am generally happy with how I did on the bike. It wasn't perfect but it was decent for where I am at right now. My nutrition was much better than at my last Ironman.

Bike time: 6:43
Goal time: 6:20-6:30

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report - part 1

Race Morning
My alarm woke me up at 4am after 5 hours of good sleep. My race morning checklist went into action immediately - shower, dress, eat breakfast (oatmeal, 1/2 banana, peanut butter, 1 egg, hot tea). My stomach was a little nervous and it was hard to eat all this. I was feeling full already from eating extra the day before. This morning, however, it wasn't about what I felt like eating, it was about getting the fuel in my body. We left the hotel at 4:40 and were down at the race site with a good parking space by 5am. Next was to get body marked, pump my bike tires (they had special volunteers for this), put my food on my bike, and put chamois butter on my bike shorts. I was done with all of this early and was able to go sit on the beach wall for a while to sit and relax. There was a bit of a chop in the water but not too bad. My stomach was still nervous and I tried to calm myself by remembering that this is just another day of long workouts, something that I do all the time.

At 6:30 I made my last trip to the restroom, put on my wetsuit and caps, ate a Powergel, and walked to the timing mat to cross and enter the swim start area. I wasn't sure where to place myself, but I wanted to be fairly close in with the buoy line. The start was a running beach start and I didn't know how it was going to play out. It wasn't very crowded where I was standing so I thought this would be a good thing once I got in the water.

The cannon went off and we all ran into the water, taking maybe ten steps and then diving in to start swimming. The water temperature was 61 degrees - cold, but not terrible. In practice, I was fine in my wetsuit and neoprene cap. When I dove in I didn't feel particularly cold. However, it was less than 30 seconds and my lungs started to close up and I couldn't get enough air. I didn't think I was going that hard so it must have had something to do with the water temperature and sudden entry of it. There were people everywhere around me kicking and pushing and pulling, trying to get ahead. I couldn't continue my stroke and had to stop to try to catch my breath. People continued to battle their way around me as I struggled to stay above water. I remembered what EN Coach Rich said about if you have to stop during the swim, you should backstroke so that you don't look like a buoy to the other swimmers. I flipped on my back and did backstroke while taking as deep of breaths as I could. At least I was moving this way. I was not even 5 minutes into the Ironman and I was already backstroking.

I kept alternating backstroke and freestyle until I was able to swim freestyle continuously again. It probably took about 5 minutes. Ugh. The whole rest of the way out on the first lap was super congested with people. Someone kicked me hard in the top of the head and my jaw slammed down. It was more about survival than about swimming. When I slowed down, so many people passed me that I was now in the middle of slow swimmers and it was hard to get around them. I couldn't stretch out on my stroke because I was running into people.

I thought things had already gotten ugly but when we all reached the first turn, that's when they really got ugly. It was a major crush with 2500 swimmers converging on too small of a space. The rescue boats were too far in and there was nowhere for anyone to go. We actually all STOPPED in the water and everyone had to stay still treading water for probably 15 seconds until we could move. We started moving and then 100m later at the next turn, this happened again. I was aiming for 16 minutes out to that second turn buoy and my watch said 21 minutes. Ugh. I was getting so mad at all these people for being in the way. I'm sure they were all just as mad at me.

After the first lap, my time was 37 minutes (goal 32 min). Again ugh. I was hoping I could get some clear water and decent drafting on the second lap. I didn't sight well and went too wide as I headed back out. I had clear water there, but I ended up swimming much more than I needed to. When I worked myself back onto the course, it was packed with people again and I never got any space to myself for the rest of the swim. Second lap: 39 minutes (goal 33 min). At least it was over. I needed to let it go and just focus on the rest of the day. It was disappointing and maddening but I knew the extra time it took could easily be made up with a good bike and run. Time to get my head on.

Swim time: 1:16
Goal time: 1:05