Blogs tagged with "Gu"

Today the temperature hit an unseasonable 60 degrees F in Cleveland and I almost realized how slow I am on the bike due to lack of training and some serious weight gain. I averaged 16mph on the way out but when I turned around I was then "with the wind" and averaging well over 20mph. Who knew? I also confirmed what I already suspected: Peanut Butter Gu is one of the all-time greatest treats. I'm still sad about how heavy I am these days, so I drew my fat. My husband Jim says it looks more like a pile of poo (which is how I feel lately, so it's a good representation I guess).

Today the temperature hit an unseasonable 60 degrees F in Cleveland and I almost realized how slow I am on the bike due to lack of training and some serious weight gain. I averaged 16mph on the way out but when I turned around I was then "with the wind" and averaging well over 20mph. Who knew?

Despite what seemed like a crap season, this was a highlight,
talking about my flat on camera after IM 70.3 Vegas.

I always like to write a post-triathlon-season review blog, mostly to reflect on the lessons learned and decide where I want to go the next year. But this year, I find myself in a 24/7 crunch time at work as my cohorts and I have been feverishly cramming (seriously, it's like we're college students doing all-nighters) to put the finishing touches (or at least some kind of touches) on my employer's - The Cleveland Museum of Art's - updated website. The reason for the cram is that the museum is launching an iPad application which plugs into our website content management system - in order to launch the iPad app by the deadline, we have to have the new website (my responsibility) done. Why did I tell you that? Because - despite the fact that I have been keeping up with my "Drawing of the Day" blog series - I hope it explains why I've not had much time to write a blog post.

But I HAVE had an enormous amount of time to think about the past year. Every time I run or get on my trainer or (very infrequently) visit the pool, I relive the pain of my 2012 season. And even though it doesn't feel like unfinished business, I still want to put it to rest and not have it float like a specter above everything I do in 2013. I'd like to avoid living next year like I have something to prove.

I've decided to make a quick list of the disappointments and then try to focus on the positives. In the disappointment category:

  • Based on my memories of a great race in 2011, I started my 2012 tri season with very high expectations at Ironman St. George in May. What actually happened was a two-week upper-respiratory infection followed by a second infection that hit Monday of race week. I spent the week in bed with a 102-degree fever, started the race only to be hornswoggled by horrific race conditions (high surf, 40-mph wind), constant bouts of coughing, and a broken shifter cable around mile 70. I managed 16 miles of the marathon with a antibiotic-compromised digestive system, and finally threw in the towel - claiming that I was no longer having fun. (I wasn't.)
  • I tried to make a comeback in early June at Ironman 70.3 Mooseman in New Hampshire only to end up crumpled over in respiratory distress (again), but this time due to a severe allergy-induced asthma attack.
  • Ironman 70.3 Racine proved yet another disaster, this one of my own making - a major mistake in sodium intake found me crumpled on the side of the road (again) with medical personnel. This time the diagnosis was the opposite of my usual nutrition problem of hyponatremia - it was severe dehydration.
  • As the defending age-group champ in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Vegas, I was the first age-grouper out of transition for the second year, but this time, I ended up on the side of the road (yes. again.) with a blow out at mile 3. After watching everyone go by while changing my tire, I managed to race myself back to a third place finish in very tough (100-degree heat) conditions.
  • And finally, feeling in the best shape of my life, my trip back to Kona turned all wrong when something went terribly awry with my biomechanics. After pushing through severe hip and groin pain for 90 miles of the bike leg, I found myself in the Kona general hospital for x-rays and a potential stress fracture. I was discharged with a cane only to hobble around airports the next day.
There was a point in 2012 when I thought I would never again see an Ironman finish line. But where would I be if I weren't stubborn? There were several experiences in 2012 that lifted me up enough to fight another day:
  • The biggest one was that I finally found the right products to solve my nutrition issues once and for all. I switched to all Gu Energy products - Roctane drink and gel are what I now build my entire Ironman fueling regimen around. And Gu Brew has become the savior of my run special needs bag.
  • On the racing front, I won the overall women's race at the GNC Pittsburgh Triathlon with my fastest time ever on that particular course. The most enjoyment came, however, in passing women on the run who were less than half my age - and knowing they were not happy about it.
  • I set the age group course record (just recently found out) at Ironman Louisville. It was hot, it was hard, I was nursing a shoulder injury, and I went out too fast on the run. But I fought for every second of that race, I made it fun, and it paid off.
  • In Burlington, VT, I raced my way to a spot on Team USA for next year's ITU Age Group World Championship in London, England, one of my favorite cities. I will now have the opportunity to swim in my favorite urban park in the world - Hyde Park - and race in the tracks of Olympians.
  • Oh yeah, and it seems like a long time ago, but also I got a Masters Athlete of the Year Honorable Mention from USA Triathlon.
In retrospect, my year wasn't all failure like I had originally thought. It just wasn't the year I wanted it to be. Especially after a stellar 2011. My biggest races ended in disaster, and I had to regroup mentally several times. Most strikingly, I didn't run any marathons this year. Running marathons always keeps me a little more sane because it puts me in my athletic comfort zone (it's my endurance racing macaroni and cheese).
Although 2012 made me consider it, I guess I'm not ready to throw in the towel on triathlon yet. Amidst the turmoil of work and the frenzy of the holidays, I have found myself thinking about next season. Although I may not be talking about it just yet. Ask me in January.
Out of my element in time, space,
AND temperature.

An old saying goes: "There's a first time for everything." In the world of Ironman - or triathlon in general - this is the oft-spoken response to those who say things like "whoa, I never DNFed before," or "I never peed on my bike before," or "I never flatted in a race before." But on Sunday, just like that, one of those things-that-will-eventually-happen-to-you-if-you-do-this-sport-long-enough finally happened to me.

Yes, I flatted - in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas. In fact, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill flatting. It was an old-fashioned blowout, right at mile 3 of the 56-mile bike leg.
But before I talk about my blowout at mile 3 of the bike leg, something else - much less likely - happened to me this weekend. Something SO unlikely and so downright bizarre that it would NEVER prompt that old response: "There's a first time for everything." It did, however, invoke that expression's not-so-common cousin: "Now THERE'S a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing."
We're calling it the Great Exploding Glass Disaster (GEGD) of 2012. And unlike the Great Smoke Detector Incident of 2012 (in Louisville, KY), the J-Team was the innocent bystander in the GEGD. Freakish events like the GEGD have usually been pinpointed as reasons for my nickname "Disaster Magnet."
GEGD glass carnage: this was only the
immediate area of the end table but the
blast radius reached much further

And so it happened in the wee hours of Saturday morning, without warning, my husband Jim and I were awoken by a loud crashing noise. We lept up and scrambled to turn on the lamp next to the bed. What we found was mystifying. The sheet glass cover on the bedside table in our hotel room had seemingly just "exploded." But infinitely worse was that it sent glass schrapnel everywhere. Several chunks of broken glass resembling a shattered car windshield were still lying on the table. There were tiny shards of glass in the bed, on the floor, in our luggage, and clear across the room. And all the objects from the bedside table (except the lamp) were now on the floor - the telephone, my watch, and my jewelry.

We glanced around the room in disbelief. What just happened? And how? And what should we do about it? Realizing the importance of sleep two nights before my race, Jim immediately started to clean it up to get me back to slumberland. But the cold hard truth was that glass was EVERYWHERE. We were unable to walk around or touch anything in the room without fear.
We called the hotel desk. They said they would send someone up. The bellhop arrived first and we showed him the disaster area. He was equally mystified - and intrigued. His explanation: there must be a ghost in the room. He called maintenance with instructions to bring a vacuum while he moved us to another room. I was almost done gathering up our unaffected belongings when the maintenance guy arrived. He had NEVER seen anything like it, but his technical assessment was a hairline crack in the glass set off a chain reaction. Seriously, though, I thought the ghost explanation was more feasible. Whatever the cause, it was hard to do anything but stand there scratching our heads.

I was eventually sent to the new room with instructions to go back to sleep while Jim and the maintenance guy tried to eliminate glass from my race gear. It just so happened (as it does with most disasters) that my most important race necessities - my transition backpack and bike shoes - were right in the line of fire below the end table. But miraculously, about 1.5 hours after the GEGD, I was able to put the whole thing out of my mind so that I could get up early for a practice swim.

The Hoover Dam: amazing feat of modern engineering.

The next day, although we found little conversation that wasn't directly related to the GEGD, we did some sightseeing. We visited the Hoover Dam in 105-degree heat and then spent the evening with my great friend, fellow athlete, and founder of Punk Rock Racing, Ron Harvey. It was Ron's first time at a World Championship event and hanging out with him and his son Nick was one of the highlights of our trip. I usually like to "get away from it all" the night before I race by finding a restaurant far from triathletes and the hype, and Ron had no problem honoring that wish. He's also a good person for me to be around because of his totally chill attitude (although, I think he's just as jittery as the rest of us and its just an act).

Race morning with Ron (before the flat): note that you
can see Ron's teeth in that smile - this is not his usual
pre-race "I'm cool, mellow, and collected" pose.

And so we had no more (exploding) disasters until race day. At mile 3. When I was struck by the aforementioned exploding tire incident. Thus the question became, and remains, were the two events related? (Was it the ghost?) Or was it a mere coincidence?

The most unfortunate thing about getting a flat in this particular race was that I had decent swim (29:50 for 1.2 miles) and was leading my start wave (and therefore my age group) out of transition that morning. I had no expectations on Sunday because I was looking at no taper and only two weeks of recovery since Ironman Louisville. But leading my age group out of the water was a pretty good start for a race with no expectations.

(Blog Interlude, Jim's photos from the start and T1):

Lake Las Vegas Bike Transition at 3:30 a.m. (from the hotel balcony)

My wave start at Lake Las Vegas
Last year's winner, Craig Alexander
(I have no doubt that Jim took this photo just for me) 
Craig Alexander's custom painted lid
Yes, that's me, all alone in T1 before anyone else got there.
First amateur up the hill, super happy, but not quite as cool as Crowie.

The blowout changed everything. I went from no expectations to high expectations to low expectations in a matter of minutes. It was the worst sound I ever heard while riding my bike. At first, I thought it was a gunshot (coincidentally, there was a police car right there when it happened). It was my front tire. I stopped on the side of the road and hastily went about fixing it. A lone spectator wanted to help me - he talked me through it, and he even called Jim (at my request) to tell him I flatted and would be slow getting to T2. It was a new tire and I struggled a bit with the long valve stem and getting the tube out. Then, by time I had the new tube in, the mobile tire/wheel support guy had arrived (the policeman called race officials). He was ready with another wheel, but I was almost finished with this one, so he helped me get the tire back on the rim, pumped it up, and I was on my way after many thanks.

I think I lost about 11-12 minutes to the flat, but mentally, I lost a lot more. When I got back on my bike, I had to regroup and reassess what I came Vegas to do. It was the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. My body was fried from Ironman Louisville two weeks prior. Upon learning the temperature would reach 100 degrees on race day, Jim's statement on Saturday was: "your goal tomorrow is to survive." I had been given over to Vegas being a training race, but until the blowout, there was that little part of me wondering if I could rise to the occasion despite the fatigue and no taper... that little voice saying: "what if?"

That voice was now saying "ok, raw deal, Jeanne-o, so NOW what are you going to do?"

My answer was, simply, to enjoy myself. I didn't want to chase. I wanted to get experience in the heat for that big race in Kona. I worked on the same fueling regimen from Louisville (Gu Roctane drink and gel and Gu Brew), hydration, and hill riding - because the Vegas bike course is full of long rolling hills. And I prepared myself for a run in 100 degrees. And just when I thought I had everything under control, one more thing went awry - with 10 miles to go, I hit a bump and launched my only remaining water bottle.

Ok, I lied, there was a slight shoe-launching disaster
as I dismounted my bike (note, I had to pick up and carry my bike shoes)

With the flat, the bike leg took me over three hours (last year it took 2:51), and when I pulled into transition, I had no idea where I was in the age group. Jim said he thought I was fifth - and 10 minutes down from the leader - surprisingly, I was in a lot better shape than expected.

Because of the dropped water bottle, I approached the run dehydrated. The 13.1-mile three-loop Vegas run course was challenging enough in 90 degrees last year, but this year it would be much worse. So I focused on getting rehydrated as quickly as possible and fueled properly. My only goal now was to hold a pace that could be termed "running."

That was warm water I dumped on myself.

The biggest issue in Vegas besides the heat this year was getting ice and cold fluids. People (including me) were asking for ice and when it wasn't available, we took to grabbing it right out of the buckets being used as coolers. At one aid station, kids were handing out (yelling) "warm sponges!" I think it just got worse as the day went on (Ron said he had trouble finding anything cold at the aid stations while he was out there).

There were more people walking and struggling through aid stations than I've ever seen at a race. People even got desperate. At the aid station about a half mile from the finish line, a guy yelling for ice water jumped right in front of the group I was running with. He slipped on a cup (or wrapper), strained his hamstring, grabbed it in pain, and then almost took us all down with him. Obviously the heat was getting to people.

Finish line (finally) - still managing a smile.

By the second loop, I was actually feeling better but not running much faster - my pace was about a minute per mile slower than 2011. I didn't really try to catch anyone, but I know I passed at least three women in my age-group. My keep-running attitude was working - two of them had given up and started walking. The only time I tried to run fast was in the last downhill half-mile to the finish. When I crossed the line, all I wanted was to get out of the heat. I found Jim in the crowd and he told me I did no worse than fourth in my age group. We found out later that I finished third. Not bad for no expectations and a flat.

More photos from Jim's camera:

Men's pro race winner, Sebastian Kienle (again, way cooler than me)
Andy Potts, another one of my favorite pros.
(Do I have to keep stating how cool these guys are?)
Happy but wasted. Ron had enough energy for that pose, then he
"had to go lie down." The medals rocked.

Vegas was a good experience for me to have five weeks before Kona. I know there's no such thing as miracles. I now know I can recover from dehydration to feel good again during a race. I know I need to work on changing a flat faster. And with this race and IM Louisville, I now have a better understanding of how to race in severe heat.

And so... yeah, um... bring on Kona.

Cleveland roads in February

If you've been reading my blog, you know I've spent more time than most contemplating pre-race anxiety, mid-race splits, and post-race fallout inside the blue translucent walls of a porta-john. But on Saturday, during my longest bike ride since Kona, I found an unexpected advantage of what's inside those plastic walls - and it's likely I never would have finished my ride without it. And oddly enough, it had nothing to do with internal distress of any sort.. well, unless you count panic as internal distress.

I scheduled my first outdoor long ride of the year for last Saturday because it was the best weather day of the weekend. By "best," I mean the forecast high was 40 degrees with only a 20% chance of precipitation (in the form of snow). I had an underlying goal to get my first 100-miler in before the end of February. And after several mind-numbing 4- to 5-hour rides on the CompuTrainer, I knew the only way it would happen was if I could get outside. If the temperature hit at least 40, I would grit my teeth and bear it.

There was one major fault in my logic: I didn't consider the wind.

You may ask: how does a person in Cleveland (in winter) NOT consider the wind? I don't know. Seriously. Call it a momentary lapse or just general scatterbrainedness, but I completely disregarded the wind as a factor in my decision to ride on Saturday. I dressed for sub-30 degrees with windstopper mittens and jacket, and I started out with the wind and uphill - it all served to give me a false sense of security. I was already soaked with sweat by the time I headed north/west and into the wind - and I would learn the true meaning of mind over matter while fighting the wind, wet, and cold for the next three hours.

Being a stubborn masochist, I was determined to see this thing through (the usual recipe for disaster). The other option was to turn around early and finish on the trainer. I don't know about you, but getting a taste of outdoor riding then having to go back inside for many hours was even more horrifying to me than suffering in the cold.

So I gutted it out for three hours into the wind - disappointingly slow - while the feeling in my hands and feet came and went with intermittent sun and snow. I continued only with the knowledge of how wonderful it would feel the when I finally turned around to have wind at my back. All the while, I paid close attention to flags just in case the wind direction threatened to change (don't laugh, it HAS happened on more than one occasion).

First major Gu shipment

The only other thing I wanted to focus on was my nutrition. This ride was my first test of Gu's new Roctane Ultra Endurance drink. It wasn't the best day to practice race nutrition, but I did learn some things. Roctane it is the most palatable thing I've ever had on a long ride. The flavor is not too sweet or too strong for the amount of calories you get. And it gets into your system very quickly, saving me on this ride more than once. Suffering and struggling to keep my bike upright in strong wind and cold, the last thing I wanted to do was take my hand off the bars to grab a water bottle. I consumed very little in those first three hours, but thought about it only when I felt lightheaded and fatigued. Roctane brought me back from near oblivion in just a few minutes. It probably also helped that the lemon-lime flavor has caffeine in it. Whatever it was, it worked! I'm looking forward to using it properly on a ride - instead of the "drink-half-the-bottle-once-an-hour-so-you-don't-have-to-risk-losing-control-of-your-bike" method. The one thing I can't comment about yet is whether Roctane tastes as good warm because, for the first time EVER, I still had ice in my bottles when I finished the ride (no, I am NOT making this up).

At long last, after suffering for many miles along the lakeshore while marveling over the whitecaps (waves in Lake Erie?), I was finally heading back and riding with the wind. My expectation to "be going twice as fast once I turn around" was soon dashed to pieces upon realizing my legs and body were toast from the first three-hour ordeal. It was going to be a long day indeed - but the sun came out and I had some moments of warmth.

That is, right up until I got a flat tire. Only ten miles of cruising with the wind at my back and I was sidelined with a flat - just as the sun vanished behind a layer of dark clouds. I was at about the farthest point from home on a miserable cold windy day. There was only one redeeming thing - it happened at Huntington Beach. There might be shelter there. It didn't change the fact that I still had to take my gloves off... or that my hands were already numb. It didn't change the fact that I still had more than 2.5 hours of riding to do AFTER I stopped to change my tire. I walked my bike to the park hoping I could find shelter from the wind next to a building or something - or in the restroom. But the restrooms were boarded up. I called my husband Jim.

Jim's take on this? "By the time I get to you, you'll already be a popsicle [his exact words]. You better at least attempt to change it.... but call me when you're done so I know you're on your way."

I looked up. There was one possibility for shelter from the wind.. in... you guessed it, a porta-john. No, this wasn't just any porta-john. It was one of those huge blue handicapped ones - big enough to have a party in. It was even big enough to... change a tire in. I opened the door and wheeled in my bike. Sure enough, it fit - with room to spare.

Those plastic walls didn't change the fact it was cold outside. They didn't change the fact that I blew out my back tire. And they didn't change the fact that my fingers were numb. But they did keep me out of the wind, and I was able to get the tire changed in about 10-15 minutes. I might even say the cold was a blessing in this case - my nasal passages were so plugged that I was oblivious to any unpleasant odors. My only regret is that I didn't at least take a picture of the whole scene. I just couldn't risk my compromised fingers dropping my iPhone in porta-john nether regions.

I had only 10 miles of hills to go at this point - I still
didn't make it before dark.

But then came the hard part. Shivering and stiff-legged, I still had to get home before going hypothermic. And there was one more thing I hadn't accounted for: the dark. I had begun my ride at midday - and after extremely slow going and now this, getting home before nightfall was no longer a given.

Once I was back on my bike, I rode extra hard to warm up. I even managed to get the feeling back in my fingers for a bit. But, alas, I couldn't outrun the dark. With about 13 miles left, I called Jim to tell him where I was - and ask him to come find me if it got too dark before I made it home. As usual, it did. I don't remember the sun ever going down that fast. But it was winter. In the northern hemisphere. This is what happens. And I was wearing sunglasses.

I took a slight shortcut home to avoid the dark backroads, and when I finally took the turn onto my my street, I stopped one final time to call Jim and let him know I was almost home. He had already left to find me but turned around and managed to get home just as I pulled in the driveway.

I looked down at my odometer. Devastatingly, it read 99 miles. But I was done. Once I saw the garage door opening, neither my body nor my mind could take another spin around the block. I only hope that what I gained in mental toughness (stupidity?) was worth the extra mile.

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