Monthly Archives: September 2011

Weekend racing

You would think that after Ironman, I would be taking a break from racing for a few weeks. While that probably would have been the smart thing to do, I couldn’t pass up two races this weekend.

Saturday was Al’s Run 8k for Children’s Hospital. I do this race every year, and I didn’t want to skip it. It was my first run since Ironman (actually my first workout of any kind besides walking). I ran the entire race with Steve, and we finished in 36:11, or 7:17 pace. Though it was over a minute off of my time from last year, I am surprised I was able to run that fast. My legs were really feeling it the last couple miles. I took 9/225 in my age group, which I was happy with. I have no pictures because we rode our bikes to the race and I couldn’t bring my camera.

Sunday was the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon. The kind people at The North Face were nice enough to offer me an entry to this race, so I really couldn’t pass it up. I though if nothing else, I would just run/walk it for fun. This was my third year in a row participating in this event. I did the half marathon in 2009 and the 50k in 2010, and it is one of my favorite races of the year. It is incredibly well-run, the trails are beautiful, and the race swag is awesome.

I started the race towards the back of the pack, and there was a huge bottleneck in the beginning. I took the first few miles slow, and then tried to crank it up a little. It was sort of an experiment, because my legs (quads) felt like they were on the verge of blowing up for pretty much the entire race. I decided to just go for it, push myself, and see what happened. It was fun because I was picking people off the entire race, and I really never got passed. I made it my goal to reel in one person at a time. It is a fairly hilly course, and while the up-hills were hard, the down-hills just plain hurt. I saw my friend Joel volunteering on the course at mile 7, and he told me to get moving. I saw him again at mile 10, and he told me that it was almost all downhill to the finish. I told him my quads were killing me, and he basically said to suck it up and let ‘er rip.

I did just that and was able to catch another girl with a mile to go. I ran the last mile in 7:08 and felt strong crossing the line. I couldn’t believe how fast the race went by, and I finished in 1:47:42, or 8:14 pace. I was 7th overall female out of 176, and less than a minute away from winning my age group. I wish I would have pushed it a little bit more in the beginning, but I really can’t be upset about anything considering what my body has been through in the last week.

After the race I got to meet ultra running superstar Dean Karnazes, and I got him to sign my bib.

I heard him tell someone that his next goal is to run a marathon in every single country in the world in one year. Awesome.

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My husband, the Ironman

Two years ago, Steve was a smoker. He did not work out. At all. In 2009, he watched me finish Ironman WI, and he made a decision. He would be an Ironman. Thus, his journey was set in motion.

In January 2010, he ran his first 5k.

In July 2010, he completed his first triathlon, an Olympic distance.

In September 2010, he completed his first half-iron distance race.

In May 2011, he ran his first marathon.

In July 2011, he completed his second half-iron distance race, 40 minutes faster than his first.

On August 10th, 2011 the unthinkable happened.

On September 11, 2011…one month and one day after getting hit by a car, Steve became an Ironman.

To say I am proud of him is such an understatement. In two short years he has come so far. His determination, will, and tenacity are inspiring. His enthusiasm for the sport is contagious.

Congratulations babe, you are an Ironman!

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Ironman Wisconsin 2011

I don’t think I have ever gotten less sleep the night before a race. Our hotel was in the middle of the UW Campus, and the Badgers had won earlier in the day. Students were out partying all night long, and the noise found its way up to our 6th floor hotel room without a problem. I got a few hours in early, but was wide awake with no earplugs (forgot them) and a hacking cough from 12:30-2:45am. By the time I drifted back off to sleep, my alarm was going off at 3:45. I was actually relieved to  just get up and get going.

Pre-race was the same as any other, coffee, bagel, peanut butter, orange juice. We filled our bike bottles, grabbed our wetsuits and morning clothes bags, and began the one mile walk to transition. I’ve said it before, but there is an electricity in the darkness of the city that magnifies as you approach Monona Terrace. Athletes spill out of the surrounding hotels, and you can feel the nerves, the excitement, the anticipation. This day will truly be a culmination of hard work, sacrifice, and drive to a common goal: to be an Ironman. It means something different to each athlete that sets foot in the water, yet somehow we are all in it together.

The bright lights of transition come into view, Mike Reilly’s voice is booming, and everyone is bustling around. It’s like a little city buzzing within the city. We get body marked and head to our bikes. I put my bottles on my bike, pump up the tires, and load up my nutrition. I meet back up with Steve and James, and we head down towards the swim start. As Steve and I are standing in line for the Port-o-Potty, he realizes he forgot to put his nutrition on his bike. Transition closes in 10 minutes. He hands me his bag and books it to get back up there in time. I use the bathroom and then wait for Steve. Athletes are getting in the water, and here I am with my bag and his bag, standing there waiting. Talk about a stressful situation. Before long he is back, crisis averted. We get our wetsuits on and snap a pre-race photo.

As we are waiting to get into the water, there is a moment of silence for 9/11. As the national anthem is being sung, we are still making our way towards the lake. We get in the water with only a couple of minutes to spare. There is no time to get nervous while treading water. I take a few deep breaths, kiss Steve, and the canon fires.

The Swim 

Here we go, into the washing machine. I am able to start swimming almost right away. We started far outside of the buoys and towards the back, which helped. I am amazed and shocked to find clear water on the first stretch. Of course there is plenty of contact with other swimmers, but nothing like the violence I remember from two years ago. I get into a decent rhythm up until the first turn, and then it is a mess of elbows, legs, grabbing, kicking. I take an elbow to the head that nearly knocks my goggles off, and I tell myself to just keep swimming. The back stretch on the first loop is terrible. I find myself much closer to the buoys and I can’t seem to get outside of the crowds. People are swimming right up my back, grabbing my legs repeatedly as if they are going to go right over me. I respond by kicking harder. Before I know it the first loop is over. I think I am making decent time. The second loop seems twice as long as the first, yet it still goes by fast. On the last stretch coming in towards shore, I jam my toe on something, presumably someone’s head. I am glad I didn’t get a look at my toe until after the race, at which point I wondered if it might be broken.

Total time for the swim: 1:21:28. Not speedy by any means, but about 6 minutes faster than last time, which I will take. I exit the water, get my wetsuit yanked off, and run up the helix through the cheering crowd into transition. It is going to be a great day.

T1: 10:14

I run through the transition room and grab my bag, then head to the women’s changing room. I have opted not to change clothes at all this race, unlike last time when I did a full outfit change in each transition. I put on my socks, bike shoes, helmet, gloves, and sunglasses, and I’m off. Outside, I hit up the sun-screeners to get slathered. As I am running towards my bike, a thunderously loud jet flies overhead and I get pumped up beyond belief. I run through, grab my bike, and before I know it I am riding down the helix.

The Bike

It takes me a little while to settle in on the bike. Within the first couple of miles, there is a no passing zone on a narrow bike path. Less than two miles in, there is a biker down and a huge bottleneck to pass through. I glance over and see it is a woman down in a neck brace, and I think what a horrible way to end a race. The first 16 miles out to Verona my legs feel ok, but not great. Once we are on the familiar loop, I find my rhythm. Right away up the first hill on Valley View Rd I can pick out the people that will be struggling later on. They are mashing up the hill in a heavy gear, some standing up. This is not the time to expend energy on this course. I use my small chain ring and focus on putting forth as little effort as possible. The weather is perfect, and I am feeling good. I make sure to drink a lot, and grab a new water bottle at each aid station. I stay on top of my nutrition, which is almost all liquids with a few bananas thrown in.

The whole time I am looking forward to the three hills towards the end of the loop, because I know I will see my mom and Joe. I spin up each hill like it is nothing, and know that my training has paid off. On the second big hill, I spot Joe and he starts running alongside of me up the hill. I pick my mom out of the crowd and wave to her, all smiles. The spectators are amazing and provide so much energy it is unbelievable. Back into Verona and halfway through the bike, I check my time and see 3:03. My exact thought at this point is “I am rockin’ this bitch!” I know the second half will likely be a bit slower, but I am excited by the prospect of a 6:10 bike.

Around mile 70, a sharp pain develops in my left knee. Every time I push down on my pedal, it feels like I am being stabbed. I try to just push through it, but the pain persists. I’ve never had anything like this in training. I think about the run and I almost start to cry over the possibility of this ruining my day. My speed slows considerably, as it hurts to put pressure on my leg. I find that it actually hurts less on the up-hills, and I am able to coast the down-hills.

I don’t expect to see my mom and Joe on the second loop, so it is an awesome surprise when I reach the same hill and they are still there. Joe runs with me again and my mom snaps a great pic.

By the time I am back in Verona, my knee is a little better. The pain is no longer sharp, and I am able to pick up my speed on the final stretch. By the time I reach transition, my bike computer reads 114 miles and I am so ready so get off of my bike. Total bike time: 6:20:29, 17.66 mph average.

T2: 7:19

Back into transition, grab my bag, and into the changing room. I get a great volunteer named Amy to help me, and she is awesome. I put on my hot pink compression socks, my running shoes and hat, and make the executive decision to not run with my GPS because I don’t want to obsess over my pace on the run. By this time my bladder is ready to explode. I didn’t want to stop to pee on the bike (and I will never pee myself on the bike as some people do). While doing my business I check my watch and see that if I can run a four hour marathon, I will break 12 hours. Let’s do this.

The Run

The first few miles of the run feel rough, but not so much physically as mentally. The beginning of the loop is not really exciting, and there are not a lot of spectators. My legs feel ok, but my head is not in it. I have no idea what my pace is, but I pretty much write off the possibility of a sub-12 finish. I keep moving forward, stopping to walk only at the aid stations. I take in a gel or some fruit every few miles, and before I know it I hit State Street. I knew I would get a boost from the crowds here, and I needed it. By mile 7 or 8 my legs are feeling pretty good, and I start to perk up a little. I purposely do not check my watch until I hit the half-way point, and when I do I see that I am exactly on pace. I know I can maintain the pace for the second half, and everything starts coming together.

I start to break down the course into tiny sections, one small goal at a time. Get to Camp Randall, make it up Observatory Hill, rock it down State Street.

I see my mom and Joe on State Street and yell “See you at the finish!” I get the chance in the next miles to run with a few different people, and it helps to keep pace with someone. I see Steve headed the other way and he is all smiles, which gives me a boost. With 3.2 miles to go, I check my watch and see that I have 30 minutes. It will be close. I give it everything I have in those last miles. I no longer stop at the aid stations. I am on autopilot and the finish line is my singular focus. The last mile I feel myself slowing down even though everything in me is screaming push harder, this is it.

Photo credit: Bill Flaws

I turn the corner towards the finish and am swallowed by the screaming crowd. I hear for the second time “Laura C from Milwaukee WI, you are an Ironman!!”

I cross the line with my arms in the air and see 11:58 on the clock. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would break 12 hours, and I was slightly in shock. Three days later, it still hasn’t fully hit me, and I don’t know if it will. I will say that I could not be happier with this race, and especially with a top 10 age group finish.

Official Times

Swim: 1:21:28

T1: 10:14

Bike: 6:20:29

T2: 7:19

Run: 3:58:54

Total Time: 11:58:24

464/2449 overall, 61/590 female, 10/120 female 30-34

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We rocked it!!

I blew all of my goals out of the water at Ironman WI and finished in 11:58:24, and Steve finished his first Ironman in an amazing 13:13:19. What a great day!

You know a long winded race report is coming soon, I just wanted to pop in with an update.

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Ready

Bikes are racked.

Bags are in transition.

Practice swim is done.

Dinner is in my belly.

The last thing left to do is sleep.

I am ready. Bring it on.

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Ironman check-in

Steve, James and I made it to Madison yesterday without incident, and went directly to athlete check-in. The whole Ironman check-in process is long, and took about an hour. There are waivers, USAT licensing, weigh-in, and then a line to get your bags/swim caps/wrist bands/etc. After that we headed into the official Ironman store, where I wanted to buy some water bottles and a new race number belt. I got in a crazy long line to check out, and when it hadn’t moved after about 10 minutes, I gave up. Hopefully it is a little less crazy today and I can get what I need for the race.

I love how you can literally feel the excitement in the air. The whole city becomes electric with Ironman. The wristbands make it official.

I may or may not have squealed a little when I found out my swim cap is hot pink. Maybe the swim won’t be so bad after all.

After checking into the hotel and relaxing for a little bit, it was time to walk back to Monona Terrace for the athlete dinner and mandatory rules meeting.

The food was average, but the whole point of the dinner is to get everyone pumped up for the race. Mike Reilly spoke, giving a bunch of statistics about the race, like which states have the most participants racing. All 50 states are represented, as well as a bunch of different countries. The field is 26% women, and I am in the largest female age group, with around 180 women. He also honored the 200 first responders that will be racing on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and the 10th anniversary of Ironman Wisconsin. Pretty cool stuff, and I’m sure it will be an exciting and emotional day out there.

After the dinner, we just had to stop at the Chocolate Shoppe on State Street for ice cream. It wasn’t even my idea, I swear.

Fat Elvis = banana ice cream, peanut butter chunks, and liquid chocolate chip swirl. Oh yes.

Today we will be checking in our bikes and gear bags, and getting in the lake for a little warm up swim. Then it will be an early dinner and hopefully an early bed time!

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Ready to go

My bags are packed.

I could not find my detailed packing spreadsheet (nerd alert!) from 2009, so I had to wing it. Let’s hope I didn’t forget something important like bike shoes or peanut butter.

We have fuel for the race. Note the peanut butter on the left. Check!

I have had a cold this week if you are wondering about all of the Vitamin C, Wal-Born (I am too cheap to buy the real thing), and NAC. I have been downing all of this stuff like it’s going out of style and it’s working! I am determined to feel great on Sunday morning.

We are headed to Madison, and I cannot wait to get there and soak in all of the pre-race excitement. If you are interested in tracking us on race day, you can do so here. I am #378 and Steve is #1464. I will try to update from Madison pending the internet situation in the hotel. And we’re off!

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