Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ironman Cozumel Sherpa Report - part one

This weekend I went down to Cozumel in a whirlwind trip (down Saturday - Back Monday) to watch my friends compete in Ironman Cozumel.

I have read somewhere a suggestion to see / volunteer at an Ironman race before you do your own. I think that's a good suggestion. I learned a lot that I hope will help me prepare for my first race by watching my friends do this race.

The weather was the big story of the weekend with high winds and currents making the swim a big mess and the bike a beast. But to start I'm going to share some general tips.

First, if anybody finds this post and is considering going to Ironman Cozumel I want to share this travel tip.

Traveling to Cozumel
Spend the extra cash on the flight into Cozumel - not Cancun. Yes, yes it is more expensive and yes yes you can take a taxi to the ferry and it is a nice ride over to the Island. But I found flying into Cancun to get to Cozumel was a huge pain and here's why.

The shuttle to Playa de Carmen (where the ferry to Cozumel leaves from) is at least an hour and a half maybe more with traffic. Then you manhandle your luggage (Bike box ... perhaps) down to the pier and onto the Ferry which is 45 minutes and then you manhandle your luggage to your hotel. It takes forever and you have to repeat it on the way back when you're exhausted after the race.

If you ignore my advice then I suggest using Best Day Travel for transport to and from the airport. They were reliable, easy to find and everyone spoke perfect English.

Next ... General tips for spectating an Ironman race.

Spectating / Sherpa Tips 
  • Be prepared for a long day ... a really long day. I was up before 4 and finally made it back to the hotel around midnight. I really think the thing to do is bring a folding chair to be comfy. I was super jealous of the people with chairs.
  • Pick your spot and park it!Scope out the race course the day before and make a plan for where you will be watching for your racers. I was moving all around and that made it harder to figure out where people were and where they would be.
  • Spectating gives you a headache.Pack Tylenol or advil - your medicine of choice because scanning endless participants for your racers will maybe give you a headache. My headache could have been from the endless ringing of the cowbell.
  • Kids or no kids at the race?Kids ... this is a tough one. It is a really hard race for kids to watch because it's sooooooooooooooo long. I did see young kids up at the start and also at the finish late into the night. But I can't imagine that it was much fun for them really. On the other hand what can you do if you the spouse want to be at the finish and you brought your kids with you? It's really a challenge - everybody just has to have their own plan.
  • Know how to connect or choose to disconnect. Tracking your athletes. In Cozumel we were really challenged for access to online tracking. It was really hard to figure out where people were during the bike. Have a plan. My plan was a bad plan.
  • Finding people on the bike course = impossible. Know that during the bike it's like a big vacuum of informationlessness. I saw my swimmers go out onto the course and I saw one on the bike course. But then the next time I found them was heading out onto the run. 
  • Where is Meli? Randy? Janeth? Communicating with those who aren't with you is also a challenge. Bring a way to recharge your phone. If you are at an International race try to figure out what this means for how you will keep in contact with those who aren't there. I was getting texts and facebook messages all day but I couldn't even see them until hours later when I was back in the hotel with wi-fi. 
  • They hand out IVs at these races like candy. You should have an idea where the medical tent is and have a plan for how long you will wait after you think your racer should pass a certain point to check the medical tent. For example on this course we estimated around 2 hours for each bike split. When one racer was over an hour past that we really started to worry. This was the biggest challenge of my day when people were ending up there and I just was informationless about where they might be.
  • Where's my husband? Make a plan for meeting up at the finish line. In Cozumel it was crowded but not overly so and family members were able to get through to see their athletes if they knew where they were going. But it was really confusing. The finish line is a big area and the athletes cross the line and then stay in there a while (food, t-shirt, photo, ice bath, massage). Once you leave you can't get back into the finish chute so many athletes stay there to meet up with others who are racing. Since I had a media pass I was able to go back and forth between my friends and their families to help them find each other. 
  • Expect the best but plan for the worst. Last but not least as an athlete / spectator / sherpa team make a plan for what you will do if you are pulled from the race. It's not anything you want to plan for but it's a good idea to have a plan. For example if you miss the swim cutoff how will you get back to your hotel? Athletes won't have phones or money or anything and they might need help or just a hug. This day didn't turn out at all like they thought it would for about 1/3 of the people I knew who were racing. From not making the swim cutoff to broken toes, endless vomiting on the bike course, and the most unexpected - sea lice in the eyes. Things can go wrong so make a plan. I had no plan.
Lots more later ...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Training Thursday ... again on Friday

Open business items
At the moment in Miami it is marathon season. So for the foreseeable future Triathlon Thursday has been renamed ... training Thursday because there might be more running than anything else.

Today's update is a day late because yesterday I had cut and trace duty in Kindergarten. It's a good thing I'm not a Kindergarten teacher. I was super annoyed cutting all the slices of paper by the end of my shift. So afterwards I had to come home and veg.

Still missing a bit of my mojo
I also ended up skipping my run yesterday because it was already 8 o clock and super dark and I was tired.  The long and the short  of it is that if I don't do my workout early or have an evening training session (like group track) I won't do it. This is a long standing issue with my workouts which resolves itself when I get my lazy but out of bed at 5:30 am.

This shirt arrived in the mail from France this week. Just holding the package made my heart go pitter pat. It says France-Nice on the back so I can't just say ooooh any IM next year.  Hopefully it will help kick my mojo in gear.
I am really a little freaked out about signing up for Ironman France. I'll admit that pretty often I'm considering backing out. But then again I just say to myself ... just do it, you're already registered.

So far I'm the only person I know at the starting line for France. This is a silly thing but I might be too social to enjoy that solo of an experience. I watched my friends finish in Panama City, FL and there was a whole armada of them. They rode up together and they knew they were in it together. So, this is something I have to mentally tackle on the way to France. I'm thinking a few solo 6 hour bike rides will probably let me really know how I feel about being alone that long a time.

I definitely have a new house rule which is that I will not register for races just after 90 mile bike rides. That is a bad idea. Of course I think at that point that I can just do anything. And also ... I'm wrong about that. There is definitely a limit to what I can actually do and we might just see in a few months if that limit is 8 hours on the bike in the mountains.

This is part of my training group. Four of them (not me and not the guy in the back) are racing Ironman Cozumel next week. Also note my super cool Rev3 bike jersey. I love it.
Next weekend I'm going to wing it down to Mexico and be a sherpa for the Cozumel crew. There are like 30 people going from Miami for this race. Since it's a flat course people like it. So, I'll be there to see them go through the whole race day which is something I've never done. I'm putting that down as mental training for France ... file it under "what have I gotten myself into."

Thinking ahead
It's time to make a 2013 plan. Shortly after taking this picture I wrote France down on the page. So there's that. Miami Marathon is probably also on there. Ragnar, maybe. What else ... dunno. I think the pieces will come together in December.

Other random thoughts - 
I raced Rev3 Florida a few weeks ago. This year it was the same date as Miami 70.3. I thought that was an interesting choice. But now they've announced the date for 2013 and I believe instead it is now the same weekend as Ironman Florida. Ironman Florida sold out in about 1 minute with open registration so  a lot of folks didn't get in. Will Rev3 announce an Iron distance for Florida? Hmmm ... I have no idea and also no inside scoop.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday is okay when it's a holiday

An empty house
I have been very lucky to have lots of family in town recently. I love having a full house. This past weekend we had a very full house with my husband's family all staying over. It was great and like all family visits I'm also happy it's over.

Still a bit on the mend
I sort of think I'm all better but I am actually still a bit congested and have the nighttime coughing thing going on still which totally sucks. However, I did get in the pool Friday. I said I would and I did. Not the early morning session but the noon session which may be my plan during cooler weather. I'm not sure yet. The pool was certainly empty enough. The water is plenty warm but it is a weird feeling that the air is cooler on my arms as I swim. It's not unpleasant though - just different. Later I worked out some other muscles by ice skating at a birthday party with the kids. My calves are still sore.

Saturday I took off. There was a bike on the schedule but there were also house guests and birthday parties and ear piercings to take care of and therefore ... I skipped said bike ride.

Sunday I ran slowly with the group heading to Cozumel. They are tapering and I am slacking and therefore we were all on the same pace.

Miami Man
After the run - breakfast and then volunteering at Miami Man - all day. That was fun but also exhausting. I saw my blogging buddy Christina on the run looking very determined. She went on to take 2nd in her division! Woot Woot! I did also get to cheer on my friend Rachel in her first 70.3. She worked hard for her first finish. She thought she missed the cutoff for the bike course and still went on to do the run. I think she was wrong about the cutoff because her results posted and there were a lot of folks who finished after her. I still am impressed by her gumption that she kept going.

It was also interesting to see how people looked coming through the course. I was on the run so I didn't see them on the bike but some folks are in great shape and others are working so hard they look super unhappy.

Its remarkably easy to tell who's in trouble on the run when they are coming toward an aid station. There is, of course, the death march shuffle which gives some people away. But also there were a lot of people who had spittle thickened and white at the corner of their mouth which I think is probably from dehydration and mouth breathing but I really don't know. When I saw that I would try to make sure they got a full cup of liquid because I did not think it was a good sign. Also the confusion is interesting. When you ask a runner if they need something and they are clearly confused ... it's not a good sign. However as a participant familiar with that fuzzy feeling late in the race I tried to get some calories into those folks because that's what helps me most then.

I filled up approximately 10 zillion cups of Cytomax (disgusting stuff in my opinion). My back is a little stiff from bending that one inch forward to fill the cups for an extended time. After being out there all day I have even more respect for volunteers at the long events. It takes a lot of commitment to stay all day and keep working. I'll admit I did goof off for a big stretch toward the end of the day.  There were others who managed to dance and sign and cheer ALL-DAY. Those are super volunteers.

Miami Man had been on my potential race list ... in fact I entertained the idea of jumping in to do the full 70.3 because my last race was shortened but I'm happy I didn't. I'm not sure if I want to do this race actually.  I'm not sure if I like the course. Plus it's the same size in participants as the Rev3 race but I just don't think it's as organized. Maybe I'm being picky ... people who race it do seem to love it.

Volunteers ROCK!
So as a policy I always thank volunteers as I race. Well not during the swim because I'm not sure how I would do that. I always read that you should that I should thank volunteers and so a while back I started thanking folks and I just keep doing it. I thank police officers at intersections on the bike and run and also at the aid stations. I'm definitely going to keep doing that because volunteering really is hard work and also I really am thankful for people out there when I race.

Up Next!
Stretching is in order for today and lifting those heavy things outside ... what are they called again ... oh right, weights.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slacking big time

These past two weeks I've taken recovery to a whole new level.

Admittedly the first week I was down for the count with a pretty severe head cold. So, I did the best I could do which was ... nothing except lie in bed and go through Kleenex like crazy. After a few days I moved up to also going through cough drops like crazy. I might have been a tad grouchy. My husband would not use the word grouchy his word would rhyme with itchy.

Saturday I was feeling better so I did my long run which was supposed to be an hour but my Kleenex was toast by 20 minutes so I cut it short to merely 45 minutes. I felt okay other than the constant running nose. So I planned to do Sunday's 3h30 min bike ride.

Sunday - daylight savings time. Oh the joy. I was, of course, up an hour early. Oops. I caught it while still in bed because I had my phone nearby which had the correct time. All of my various electronics were near the bed because I had stayed up late to watch the finishing video of my friends who raced the Florida Ironman in Panama City. All of my friends did AMAZINGLY well and it was terrific to watch them cross the finish line.

Back to jabbering about me. So it was chilly for the bike ride but otherwise a beautiful day. However, I learned that I was not fully recovered from my cold and that I was entirely too snotty to ride well. There was even a short and pretty hysterical lesson in how to shoot a snot rocket from my riding buddy Enrique. I declined to snot rocket because I think boogers on my arm are ... gross.

I actually fell back from the group which hasn't happened in what feels like a long time. Thank you to my buddy Alberto who got me back to the group. So that was humbling.

Since then I've been resting. My chest still feels tight. And I just haven't found the motivation to get back out and train. Yesterday I thought I'd swim ... I hung up my swimsuit the night before, I shaved my legs, but I didn't go. This morning was my first run. It wasn't great. The first 1/2 mile was especially frustrating but by the end I found my rhythm back and I felt better. I did have a total coughing fit about 5 minutes after I finished so I'm still a little on the mend.

Thinking about biking. I really want to work on being a stronger cyclist. I am a lot stronger than I was so I don't want to ignore that. But I want to be stronger. In my age group at Rev 3 I was 14th out of 18th on the bike. Yuck! I also don't like being afraid of things and so I don't want to be afraid of the wind again. Doing the ride probably helped with that because now I know I can do it. So the brain is working overtime here what should be the plan to get better. I know that part of the the answer is ride more, ride faster, ride harder, ride more. So I have to figure out how to make that happen. Suggestions - tips, ideas, all wanted and needed.

Tomorrow I'm going to swim -- I swear it :-0 . Sunday I'm going to cheer for my friends racing MiamiMan! And in case you're curious next up for me is the Miami Marathon. I'm not actually registered yet but my plan is to run the full.

Last thing - Check out my buddy Christina's new blog which starts with her Ironman Florida race report. She is crazy fast. Also since I train with her I'll just back up what she was saying about not training. She really didn't train much these past few months and she still pulled out a faster Ironman split than I'll probably ever see in my life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rev3 Venice Florida - Race Report

This race report has been a tad delayed because I was sidelined ... am still sidelined a little bit by the worlds worst head cold. I had thought it was allergies from dust/mold in the hotel room but it turns out it was a funky funky virus that sunk it's teeth into me starting Sunday morning - yup race day.

The Big Story - SANDY

The big story with this race is the weather. Sandy cruised through the Atlantic off the East Coast of Florida a few days before the race and kicked up the surf something fierce.

We arrived in Venice on Friday - when we left Miami early Friday the weather was ridiculously bad, windy and wet.
This was the rain on the way from Miami to Venice. Yuck.

The Amy-nator on the bike rack getting a good soaking.

In Venice it was nice and sunny and breezy. We went by the pier where the race would be and the surf was really kicked up. After dinner I walked out to the end of the pier with my kids and was definitely thrown off guard to see at least 5-7 foot rollers toward the end of the pier.
The AG dolls with the birthday girl were all dry for the ride.

 Before the race
Saturday we planned to go to the practice swim but it was cancelled due to high surf.
This was the surf Friday. This may not look like much but it's so much more than it should be. See way out there at the end of the pier. Big waves.
for comparison this is the ocean in Miami a few days before notice no rollers or breakers and the gulf is normally more mild than this.
again - here's the gulf on Friday by the pier. See all the white ... that doesn't belong in the gulf that's all from Sandy's winds. Admittedly in other places like NJ or the outer banks this is nothing but for us it means winds and rip currents.

Then we planned to ride our bikes from the hotel to the race site to check our bikes and attend the pre-race athlete meeting. Also my neices and nephew did the Little Rev Race which was a lot of fun.

The ride over scared me pretty feircly. About 2 minutes into the short ride we went over a canal bridge and I caught a gust and thought I was being blown into traffic. I am not terribly brave on the bike and when the wind grabs my not to  deep aero wheels I feel totally out of control. So I was freaked. I stopped twice to gather my wits and keep going. My brother did try to encourage me to calm down but fear is fear. I really was wondering if I would be able to race the next day.

I made it to the race site where we immediately learned that bike check in was delayed because it was too windy. So we hung out and talked to other racers. Watched the little rev race which was super cute and listened to the Athlete meeting where we learned that the decision about the swim would be made 2-hours before race start.
during the race meeting the sheriff described the city of Venice like this. "Florida is known to have a lot of senior residents. Well all the parents of those seniors live in Venice." Ha! It was a good joke.

The bike mechanic was busy changing peoples wheels out from the deep aero wheels and I talked to a nice girl who was my size who had recently raced in Amelia Island. She said she had never been so scared in her life with the wind. That sounded like how I felt and I decided then and there to change out my front wheel to the stock wheel for the race. Luckily I had brought it with me.
in my pjs after cake putting on my race tattoos. You have no idea how confusing putting your age on your calf is. It's upside down and backwards. Too funny. My daughter helped me get it right. I almost made my age 36. But that's okay I met a woman in the morning who instead of 40 was 04. Ha!

We finished out the day with dinner at an Italian restaurant and birthday cake in the hotel for my daughter because it was her 9th birthday. I changed out my wheel and also decided not to use my aero helmet just because it's new. My decision was just to stick to what I knew so that I could focus on my mental state and not give myself any excuses to tackle this race head on.
Cake in the hotel room!

I went to sleep praying the wind would slow down over night.

Race Day
I slept on the pullout couch and slept lightly waking up every hour or so. I finally got up at 5 and was very congested, my eyes were swollen and my throat was scratchy. We had all been puffy in this hotel room so I blew my nose and washed my face with a super hot towel and headed down for some hot coffee at breakfast.  I also checked the weather - winds 21mph.

I kept trying to think of visual ways to show how windy it was in photos because ... it's invisible. But 20-30 mph of wind is really windy.

At breakfast we learned from another racer that the age-group swim had been cancelled. Start would be a time-trial start onto the bike. I wasn't suprised. My brother was bummed because he can swim through anything and it would give him some advantage. But he also knows that there are lots of people who don't have his swim skills so he understood the reason for the call.
notice the flag. It was windy.

So we killed some time and then headed over to the race site. We dropped off our stuff in transition and went for a warm up on the bike. I was thrilled with the difference with the smaller front wheel. I felt totally in control of my bike and I was ready to race. I was also sniffling a little bit so I tucked some tissues into my tri-suit.
In transition our numbered spots even had our name on them. It was super cool. I took mine home.

The start
We watched the pros start their run which was fun. They are so tall and fit - and of course, crazy fast. Then we lined up and one by one we ran into transition and headed out onto the bike.

The Bike
I was super excited to get on the bike because I now had my skinny wheel and I wasn't afraid to ride. I was ready to buckle down and go. So I hopped on the bike and went. Right from the start the wind was apparent but not bad because it was mostly behind us.

I was immediately sniffling from what I thought was my allergies from the hotel room. But I was making good time for the first 15-20 miles. We went through what was a section right by the beach - it was the most beautiful section of a bike ride I've ever done.

We also went over some bridges which was nerve-wracking for me. At the end of the second bridge I caught a crosswind which knocked me a good 3 feet to the side and really made my heart pound.

I was first passed by my friend Nick. Then Janeth who gave me good advice and Marty who made rocket noises. Then Jeremy my brother.

Then we turned into the wind and it was just relentless from then on. It was noisy in my ears it was hard endless grinding on the bike and I just felt like I was getting nowhere. I was going 13-18 mph (the 18 was not happening often) and I should say that while a lot of folks passed me I passed a lot of people with my 13 miles an hour. It was nuts.

Around mile 25 I realized I wasn't fighting allergies - I had caught a cold. Bummer. and gross too. My gloves were pretty covered in snot. Gross I know.

There were three water/ supply stops during the course and volunteers at every corner. The volunteers were AMAZING! One benefit of an older community for this race is that instead of high schoolers we had seniors as volunteers they smiled, they rang bells, they cheered - it was awesome. Plus they were everywhere. It was tremendous.  In comparison at Motivation Man in June I saw one group of cheering folks on the whole bike (there I somehow missed the one bottle exchange - don't ask).

I was concentrating on taking in my calories (3 bottles of infinit, and 2 gus for the course) and I realized around mile 40 that my morale was low and I was having trouble thinking. I had just passed my brother - who had a flat but I didn't know that then. I needed to refill my hydration bladder and eat my gu and they were all on the right side of my bike. I'm not great at getting to things on the right side of me. So I actually stopped and made sure I filled up my bladder, ate my whole gu, blew my nose and started again. I normally wouldn't do this but it was the right thing for me in this race because even with all my calories it was a really hard day.

In other news my tri shorts and I are not friends. These are Sugoi shorts and they are my coach K kit but man are they painful. They will not be making another race appearance for a race this long. No way. Ouch!

Around mile 50 I actually started thinking that I might not continue on for the run. I've never had that thought during a race but that's how hard this was for me. But then I just sucked it up and went on.
Finally off the bike!

And just like that the bike was finished. I've never been so happy to be off my bike.

The Run
In transition I went to my bag and found tissues. I fully accepted that I had a little cold at this point. I grabbed all my Gu and went.

The run was flat and pretty there were plenty of water stops with ice and food and everything you could want. It was windy but on the run that's not so bad.

I remembered my watch for the run so I was trying to keep my pace as close to 9 minutes as possible and I did that all the way.

I don't love loop courses but it is nice to see the family half-way. I saw Nick and Janeth on the course and Jeremy too. I was surprised he hadn't caught me on the bike and it motivated me to keep my pace up to try to hold him off. Sibling Rivalry - what can I say.

All the runners have names on their bibs so I took to encouraging the folks around me. Just like on the bike the volunteers were amazing. They took their jobs seriously. It's a long day to volunteer for an event like this and they did a great, great, great job. They wore costumes, they rang bells, they cheered us on, they made jokes. I can't say enough good things about these volunteers.

I was worried about staying hydrated so I took water and Pepsi at each station. I ate my gus and even took a powergel late into the course. I walked each water station because I'm unable to swallow while jogging but I tried not to lollygag. Except the last turn-a-round - I walked that whole stretch and really savored it.  I even stopped to go to the bathroom :-) And I still ran 2:10.

The Results 5:26
Okay so my goal was 5:30 and here's a funny thing. I took a goal setting workshop a few years ago and one of the things the woman said was to be specific in your goals otherwise the universe can do funny things to you. Her example was you wish for a weekend with family. Well if you're not specific that weekend with family could be for a funeral. Horrible I know. But in this case I set the goal as 5:30 and I hit it but not really because there was no swim. The universe works in funny ways.
The best cheering crew. The master cheerleader Amanda is behind the camera but it's her who gets all the kids to where they are supposed to be on time and wearing the cute shirts.

I'm really proud of my run. I didn't know if I could do a 2:10-2:15 half after a long bike but I did and it was a really tough bike and I was a little sick.

I'm also proud of my bike. It wasn't amazing or anything but I got it done even though I was afraid. And it points out a huge weakness of mine. So now I can work on those weaknesses. Riding in the wind and better bike control skills.
Here's my brother and me after the race. I was actually chilled in the wind ... or maybe I had a little fever who knows actually. But happy to be with my family and to be finished.

And also by luck I beat my brother by 2-3 minutes. Okay so he got a flat. but I'll take it. Happy Birthday to me!
cool medal, cool race, great swag. Good times.

Other general stuff
This is a great race location. The town and the volunteers really were amazing. The course is very pretty ... I mean some of the bike is just highway and highway is highway but for 56 miles you're gonna get some bland spots.

Rev3 puts on a great race. They were troopers from the start about the weather. They really are nice people and this was a fun time. You can really tell that they are doing this for the racers. When you ask a Rev3 rep a question - you get an answer and not the run around. We asked why bike check-in was cancelled and they said we're afraid the bikes will fall over and be damaged. It was a hassle but seemed honest.
This is me picking up my kids to run through the finish. I cannot tell you what a great thing it is that they encourage this at Rev3. It makes a huge difference to me. My kids LOVE it. LOVE it!

There were just under 500 racers for this event. I'm not sure how many they need to repeat this event but I do hope they continue here because I'd do it again for sure.

In Closing
So if I had one this was my "A" race for the year. I built my endurance for it and I had a big goal. I can't say I hit the goal but I think my training definitely paid off. I know that I wouldn't have been able to complete that bike as I did without all the training. I'm not rushing to sign up for another 70.3 before 12/31 instead I'm recovering from my cold. The 5:30 goal still stands for next year.

And just for fun here's the Age Group video Rev3 put together and I'm in it!