Ironman Canada Whistler, British Columbia Race Report 7-28-2019

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Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia was an epic event! After an exciting European city Ironman in Copenhagen last year, I wanted to go back to the mountains for my next adventure. We had always wanted to alpine ski at Whistler, but never made it out that way yet. So, it was time to do another Canadian Ironman, but on the other side of the continent. My Coach Lisa works at most of the Canadian Ironman events and said we’d love it out in Whistler. She calls us mountain people. And I can’t say enough about how much we loved the gorgeous Coast Mountains in British Columbia. The Ironman was amazing and extremely well organized. Thank you to everyone who made the day happen. Christine the race director did a stellar job. The volunteers were amazing. The course was the most beautiful and challenging so far in my Ironman journey. A five-star event for sure! Sadly, Ironman Canada will be moving back to its original location in Penticton, BC. I am extremely grateful I got to experience the last Ironman event in this exciting destination. Thank you, Whistler!

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Overall, I had a very challenging race with some struggles and setbacks. After 3-4 hours on the bike I had stomach cramping which only escalated on the run. However, I ended up third in my age-group (F45-49) which was an amazing relief after everything I went through that day. Cailla the first-place woman raced Ironman as a professional back in 2003 to 2005. And second place, Marla, lives in Whistler racing this Ironman every year. Marla already had a Kona slot from earlier in the year so everyone including my coach thought I had a Kona slot for sure. However, this year there was only one slot unlike the previous years where there were always two slots. I was extremely disappointed! This hurt! I just couldn’t believe it. It felt like a bad dream. Lisa said I was robbed but there was nothing we could do. It wasn’t meant to be and I have to respect it. I’ll keep trying for sure and I’ll keep showing up!

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Scott did the 70.3 which happened on the same day. It’s rare to have a full and half Ironman on the same day so we jumped at this opportunity since Scott had a rough start to the season. With his injuries last year that lingered well into the winter and early spring, this was his first triathlon of the season. He did so well and enjoyed his race. I’m so proud of him! He’s a champ! His bike split was much faster than my first loop! He has been riding well and his swim and run were also solid! It was a warm day for the run and he paced himself well.

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We flew to Vancouver from Montreal on Tuesday. It’s about 2-3 hours to the Montreal airport when you factor into the border crossing which wasn’t bad at all. Air Canada was mediocre at best. It wasn’t terrible but it felt like an economy airline with little frills, uncomfortable seats, little air conditioning, no bottled water, and no meals for a 5+ hour flight (you could purchase sandwiches). We got into Vancouver around 7:30pm but didn’t get onto the road until closer to 9pm after we had to wait a while for our luggage and bikes (mechanical issues with the belts). Always something! It’s a solid 2-hour drive to Whistler from the airport, so that was very tiring after a long flight. It was a slow drive out of Vancouver as you go through the heart of the city with endless traffic lights. And the twisty roads to Whistler on Route 99 were relentless and tricky in the dark. We got into our condo around midnight (3am our time). Needless to say, we were wrecked but able to sleep in a bit.

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We rented a decent condo in the heart of the Whistler ski village from AirB&B. Deer Lodge was our home for just over a week. The small one-bedroom condo was adequate with a few nice upgraded features in the kitchen and bathroom. I liked the new sinks and flooring. The carpet needs refreshing, but that was probably my only complaint about the condo itself. The condo was very clean and had just about everything we needed. I liked the balcony to hang and dry stuff like our wetsuits. And we overlooked one of the main pedestrian walkways. It was a bit noisy at night, but not intolerable. The worst aspect of the condo was hearing people walking around above us. Otherwise our stay was comfortable. The best aspect of the condo was the location from the finish line and the Ironman village area. It was a couple minute walk to the Ironman tents and about 5 minutes from the finish line. That was certainly helpful after the race!

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It was nice to arrive early to get a feel for Whistler and parts of the race course. On Wednesday we biked to the swim start to check out that part of the bike course and see Alta Lake where we would swim. It was breathtaking with the snow on top of the mountains. It was a chilly day so we didn’t swim. We later ran up to Lost Lake on part of the run course. That was very pretty as well. Lost Lake is smaller but still so lovely in the wilderness. It was a beautiful day and one of the best days of the week.

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Thursday, we picked up our race packets in the morning and hit the Ironman store as usual trying not to spend a fortune. Later, we drove to Alta Lake and had a very nice swim. There were some buoys set up so we got to swim part of the course. The water was around 70F and felt cold for the first few minutes and then it felt refreshing and lovely. It was so clean and clear. I loved swimming in Alta Lake! Later in the day we drove to the bottom of Callahan hill and I rode up to the top to check it out and see how bad it was. I was relieved it wasn’t nearly as steep as some of our usual Vermont routes. I really enjoyed riding up with gorgeous mountain views. Scott drove ahead of me a few times to take photos. (we couldn’t fit both bikes safely in the big SUV we rented). Later on, I did another short run on the run course heading north away from T2. I ate a Cliff bar too fast and then headed straight out onto the run which caused me a serious cramp in my right abdomen. It was so bad I had to stop for a while and cut my run short about 8 minutes. And I ended up walking and jogging back. I was a bit worried but it subsided by the time I was back to the condo. The air is much dryer compared to Vermont so maybe I just needed more hydration.

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Friday was a rest day from swim/bike/run which I didn’t mind as I felt a bit tired. I wondered if I had recovered from that very long travel day. We did hit the athlete briefing in the afternoon. Saturday, I got up in the morning and did a nice short 20-minute run with a few strides to activate my legs. My stomach was fine and no cramps which was a relief. It was a nice cool morning. Later we rode our bikes a couple miles to Alta Lake on the Valley Trail to drop off our bikes and bike transition bags. This went smoothly. We did have to wait about 30 minutes for a shuttle bus back, but it wasn’t that bad. We then brought our transition run bag down to T2 which was only a 5-6-minute walk from the condo. Then it was time to relax and chill out in the condo. After eating a whole Daiya frozen vegan pizza for lunch, I opted for the Daiya mac and cheese that has the little carrots and peas. I find it easy to get down. Carb loading for an Ironman is hard, tedious and all business for me.

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I did get to chat with Lisa on Friday afternoon face to face which was a nice treat. She helped calm my nerves as I was really getting apprehensive by Friday. I had told Lisa that I sometimes I wished I was a middle-of-the-pack racer as there would be so much less pressure on me. I was going for a Kona spot and that added a lot of extra stress. And that doesn’t help someone like me who is already wound tightly before a big race. She helped me feel better about everything. I was healthy, well trained and ready to go. And we talked about how lucky I was to be able to race such an epic distance in a very beautiful and challenging venue.

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Saturday night we were in bed early enough but I never sleep well before an Ironman or big race. I got a few hours of sleep which is the norm for me. The alarm went off at 2:45am but I was up a few times before that. We were pretty efficient in the morning cooking oatmeal, putting on our race tattoos and sunscreen. The goal was to get to T1 before 4:30am when transition opened. We couldn’t leave any nutrition in our bags or bikes overnight due to the black bears. So, I had to put my gels into my fuel belt which has a pack for gels before getting onto the shuttle bus. I also had to drop off my bike Special Needs bag near the buses. Race morning was very organized and we got right onto a shuttle bus with hardly any wait. It was a nice mellow ride to Alta Lake in the dark. The sun was coming up as we got close to the lake and it was just so pretty with the red glow around the mountain silhouettes. I reminded myself how lucky we were to be doing this event. I listened to the conversations on the bus blending together of our fellow athletes. I was nervous as usual, but felt a pleasant calmness on the bus.

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Once at the lake we had several tasks to complete. I added my nutrition to my bike and made sure it was all set. I caught up to Scott and we hit the porto potty one more time. Time was ticking away so I got into my wetsuit with the help of Scott. Lisa found me and it was so great to see her that morning. I only had time for about a 4-5-minute warm-up swim but it was better than nothing. The water felt very warm compared to the air temperature. Soon enough we were all being called out of the water. I found Scott and took some water and last sips of my Skratch drink I had been drinking since I woke up. I kissed Scott goodbye and lined up with my fellow athletes. It was a beautiful morning and I was ready to go!

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The swim

The Ironman swim at Alta Lake was my favorite and best swim so far in this discipline. I can’t say enough good things about the swim in general. In fact, it was the best part of my day. Who knew my weakest sport could end up being the highlight of the whole Ironman? This wasn’t a Personal Record swim in regards to time (a few seconds slower than Ironman Lake Placid in 2017). But I ended up 8th in the swim out of 41 women in my age-group who finished. That is a new record for me. My official time was a 1:17:00 and my goal was 75 minutes. I’m getting close! Lisa and Dave were very excited about my swim and being in the top 10 ten out of the water. I’m usually quite a bit back in the swim and have to work my way up!

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The beauty of the area is really magnificent. Gorgeous rugged mountains with snow on top surround Alta Lake. You can see the Whistler ski areas in the background. The lake itself is clear, clean and pristine. It was about 66F for race morning which felt perfect with a 50F morning air temperature. And this was ideal for a wetsuit swim. At the swim start we were presented with the most beautiful sunrise coming over the mountains. It was truly majestic. And with the fog coming off the water, it was the perfect morning swim scene.

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On social media I described Ironman Whistler’s swim as being the politest swim ever. It was a rolling start with 4 athletes going off every few seconds. I do love the rolling start swims as it’s so much less stressful for me. I started on the far-right corral and entered the water. Because of a very short warm up swim, I didn’t start out too fast. I know better. If I do start fast, I will get panic attacks and have trouble with breathing and a rapid heart-rate. I did feel my heart-rate rise a bit quickly the first couple minutes, but I managed to settle into my swim, slowly getting into a good rhythm of breathing twice on each side.

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The course was counter clock-wise doing two loops without getting out of the water. So, the buoys were always to my left which I seem to prefer. The first leg went fine and I stayed on the outside as I usually do to avoid contact. And I swim better with more clear water. There were always people close by and many in front of me but it wasn’t a problem having space. The only downside with this tactic is that I always swim more distance staying on the outside. My Garmin clocked 2.6 miles instead of 2.4. That is more than Copenhagen last year where I clocked 2.5 miles. But I was swimming well and feeling OK. I was breathless but not red-lining it.

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The first red turn buoy came up quickly and then it was a couple more buoys to the next turn buoy. It’s always more congested around the turns but I didn’t have any problems. On the way back it was beautiful with the sun coming up over the mountains on my right side. I might have been swimming too far on the outside as I would find myself very close to the many kayakers and paddle boarders volunteering for our protection and safety. I would then try to swim a big closer to the buoy line. Then it was around the next couple turn buoys which went smoothly. I had a minor worry I might miss the exit on the second loop or the start of the first loop, but everything was well marked and I just followed the flow and started on my second loop.

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One positive aspect of this swim was that I was passing a lot of people. Very few passed me. I was wondering if I was swimming a sub 75-minute swim. But now I realize many people were not lined up properly. I lined up with the 70 to 80-minute swimmers. Many should have lined up a bit back. But I had plenty of space to pass slower athletes.

The second loop was uneventful and similar to the first loop for me. With many turns, it ticked by quickly. I would feel happy every time a saw a red turn buoy. I kept focusing on a good strong stroke. The bilateral breathing with two breaths on each side continued to work well for me. I was feeling decent and enjoying the swim. That was amazing for me. I liked Ironman Copenhagen’s swim but didn’t enjoy it as much as Alta Lake. This was such a nice swim!

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I was very happy to get to the final turn buoy and head to shore. This swim felt like it went by quite a bit faster than previous Ironman swims. It wasn’t as grueling or monotonous like in the past. It certainly wasn’t easy and I worked hard. This swim gave me a lot of confidence for future Ironman swims. I am no longer afraid to try an Ironman ocean swim. I still need to work on speed and I still want to break the 75-minute Ironman swim goal. And it will happen. I just have to keep working on my swim. Overall Ironman Canada’s swim was a success for me and a big win. I will never forget that swim.

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I do have to mention the volunteers were so awesome in T1. I had a kind woman help me with my transition bag. It was so nice to have this extra assistance. I had to sit down after the swim and having someone pack my wetsuit into the bag was a treat.

Scott had a good swim but he was disappointed with his swim time. The 70.3 athletes went off about an hour and 20 minutes later than us. This was his first triathlon swim since Ironman Copenhagen last August. Coming back from injuries I feel he did a great job out there. He didn’t feel his swim was as spacious as mine and dealt with a bit of anxiety issues in the beginning. Scott is a strong swimmer and finished successfully in spite of a more challenging start to the day.

The Bike

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The Ironman bike course in Whistler was epic in regards to beautiful scenery and elevation gain. This was by far the most difficult Ironman bike I’ve done so far and that includes Lake Placid in 2017. The course has changed several times the last few years due to issues with different towns and last year the course was too congested with three laps. This year they changed it to two laps that included a long climb up Callahan hill which is home to the Whistler Olympic Park. Many athletes were reporting that they clocked over 8,000 feet of elevation. The official website reports 2405 meters (7,890 feet).

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I was excited to sign up for this Ironman when I learned the new course would have even more elevation gain compared to previous years. Living in Vermont we bike over mountain passes and gaps almost every weekend. Climbing is what I do best on the bike and I love the mountains. So, I thought this course would suit me. And I really did love the climbs on this course. While there were several 10% graded climbs up Callahan, it never felt that badly even on the second loop. We have much steeper climbs here in Vermont. Just try biking up the Stowe side of the Notch road! Even our famous Appalachian Gap rides are much steeper and more difficult than anything we rode that day in Whistler.

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However, due to stomach cramping on the second climb up Callahan, my bike race took a bit of a nose-dive on the second half. I had to scale back on my effort to make it onto the run. The cramps sometimes felt a bit better after backing off from my chews but my stomach never resolved itself. My overall time was around what I thought I might ride for a worst-case scenario. I do think I was about 10 or 20 minutes slower compared to if my stomach felt good on the entire bike. I still have to figure how to have a decent stomach for an entire Ironman bike. I have little trouble doing a half Ironman but my stomach has issues after about 3-4 hours of racing on the bike. My time of 6:27 wasn’t stellar but not terrible either. I was 8th in the swim and moved up to 6th place going up Callahan the first time but then moved back to 7th place when I was finished the bike.

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After a great swim (for me) in Alta lake, the bike took us on a couple mile stretch back to the main Route 99. The air temperature was in the low 50sF so quite chilly especially after being wet and having several downhills on the first section leading away from the lake. I had stressed over what to wear the few days leading up the Ironman. It looked like it was going to be in the high 40sF after the swim. So, I almost wore a vest and arm warmers. I did pack the arm warmers in T1 but ended up not wearing anything extra. It was cold but tolerable the first hour. My hands didn’t get numb but my feet were cold for quite a bit. Luckily, I could still eat my power bar (a new item I experimented with this season) on the first 20 minutes.

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The ride to Callahan on Route 99 (the main drag through Whistler) was uneventful and not too crowded. It was a rolling downhill with beautiful views of the mountains. I was still chilly but the sun was out and it was a gorgeous morning. I got water at the first aid station (took water at all of them – topped off my front water bottle). I was feeling fine early on in the bike course. We did a lot of early morning training rides so being chilly wasn’t new for me. My mantra for the day was “There’s no place I’d rather be than doing this Ironman”. And I felt like I was in good spirits so far. Before I knew it, I turned right onto the 7-8 mile climb up Callahan. There were plenty of other athletes but it never felt too crowded like I feared. I was doing well up the climbs, being smart but also pushing past many other athletes. I also decided to eat my second power bar. Lisa had advised on eating well after the swim. When I was almost at the top, Dave was there cheering me on. He also told me I had a great swim and I was 8th out of the water. And after the turnaround at the top I saw him again and he said I was in 6th place! I was so excited and in great spirits. I’ve never been that far up in the rankings early on in the bike course. I usually have to catch many women on the run!

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The ride back down Callahan has many fast downhills with a 10% grade. I was careful and my max speed didn’t exceed 40MPH. I crashed badly in 1997 so a few extra minutes isn’t worth going excessively fast. Of course, there were several men going down at extremely fast speeds. One or two went by me so fast it was startling and disturbing. One wrong move and they would be dead or seriously injured. I was happy to be back down onto Route 99 heading south. Again, it was a lot of rolling downhills. I was able to be in aero for much of this. The 6 or so miles to the turnaround close to Daisy Lake weren’t too bad and I was happy to head back towards Whistler. However, this long stretch back to Whistler was long and tedious. It was also getting warm and it felt a bit hot on some of the uphills. I was still plugging along and riding at a good pace. I was happy to pass Callahan on the left and continue onwards to the Whistler Village area. The rolling uphills were never too bad but there was much climbing in my little chain ring and easy gears, much like Callahan. But the worst grade on Route 99 was maybe 7%.

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It was good to get back into the village with many people cheering by the Whistler Village entrance. We biked past everyone and almost back to Alta Lake but turned around on Route 99 at the light (Alpine road). Then we took a quick right onto a turn off where we got our Special Needs bags. Everyone had to ride through. When I first got to the parking lot area, a volunteer was calling off my number so when I got to Special Needs another volunteer already had my bag. I stopped and quickly gave her my old water bottles with small bits of Skratch nutrition left. And she handed me my fresh water bottles with Skratch nutrition. I thanked her many times and was off again. The volunteers were so great on this course!

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I was still feeling decent on the second loop and noticed my legs/quads were doing quite well. I was still in good spirits and happy to be out there! The rolling downhills went fine and I wasn’t cold like the first loop. It was a beautiful sunny day! And soon enough I was back on the long Callahan climb. This time it felt much warmer and I was so glad I didn’t wear the arm warmers. The hills felt harder this time but nothing terrible. After getting a bit over halfway up the climb I noticed my stomach was getting some cramps. Damn! So, I backed off the chews and drank mostly water. At the top of Callahan my stomach was definitely in distress so I decided to just stick to water until things felt better. I really had to pee and used the opportunity on the way back down the hill. I had to pee a lot on the bike (not unlike last year’s Ironman).

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Once I was off Callahan and back on Route 99 my stomach eased up slightly but I wasn’t out of the woods. I noticed that there were less athletes around me after the last climb up Callahan. I didn’t mind but wondered how I was doing compared to everyone else. The rolling downhills sometimes felt harder with the head wind which had picked up for the second loop. Someone joked that even the downhills felt like uphills. I believe they were referring to that section between Callahan and the turnaround on Route 99 near Daisy Lake.

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The long climb back up Route 99 was hard and hot this time around. My stomach was back to being upset and my cramps were not subsiding since I was working harder up the hills. I tried a few more chews as I would need to have some nutrition for the run but my stomach didn’t like it. So finally, I stopped with the chews on the way back with maybe 40 kilometers to go. I just sipped water and some of my Skratch nutrition in my water bottles. The way back was slower and very tedious. I was hot and ready to get off my bike. My neck had been sore most of the ride but not as bad as Copenhagen last year. Because I wasn’t in the aero position as much my neck never felt excruciating. But I was never comfortable.

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Finally, I was riding past the Whistler Village and was able to pick up the pace a bit. Again, we had to ride all the way down to Alpine road, through the Special Needs section and back. A woman in my age group (4th place) passed me but I ended up passing her on the run giving myself a 30-minute buffer. I couldn’t wait to be off my bike. I still had stomach cramps and hoped I’d be able to run with my stomach in distress. I was so happy to hand my bike over to a volunteer and head to the transition tent. I took my shoes off after I knew I wouldn’t be able to run that far with my clunky cleats. So happy that was done!

Scott had a very good bike ride on this challenging course. His time was much faster than my first loop! I’m so proud of him. He wasn’t able to do all the long training rides I did this season. And he was late getting onto his bike due to a nagging hip issue from November. He’s a champ for tackling that course!

The Run

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When I was in T2 with my transition bag, Lisa was in there giving me encouraging words. I wasn’t in great spirits due to my GI/stomach issues and cramps. She told me I was the best runner out there in my age group, but I had my doubts at that moment. (I was actually the 3rd best runner in my AG for the day but I’ll take it!). Again, the volunteers were excellent. I had one helpful woman assist me with my transition bag much like T1. I took a quick pee stop in the porto poty which was a nice relief. And then I was off onto the run. I had my work cut out for me. My stomach was very crampy from the beginning to the end. I did learn that I am capable of running a sub 4-hour Ironman marathon with terrible GI distress. I called this run Sufferfest 2019! I never want to feel that badly on a run again! I am proud of this Ironman run, mostly because I didn’t give up and pushed through the entire 26.2 miles.

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My official time was 3:55:07. This was my slowest Ironman marathon and a slowest long run I’ve done so far. But it was also the most difficult run course so far in my Ironman journey. The elevation gain was a bit less than Lake Placid but it was tougher especially with a longer hilly trail section. Shaded parts of the course did help but the exposed parts were very difficult. It reached the mid-high 70sF but this felt hot for me especially on the second loop. While it was also the most beautiful and stunning course I’ve run, it was a big challenge.

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From the very start, the run was warm and I was feeling slow and crampy. I decided not to worry too much about my pace and just run conservatively for the first few miles. The first mile slowly climbed up towards Lost Lake on the paved trail through the resort, condos and a golf course. This was a slower section and then it was into the shade which felt good. Soon enough I was on the gravel packed trail cruising the uphill section smoothly. The trail wasn’t technical, just a bit slower due to the loose gravel and elevation. The turnaround came after a small downhill section but soon enough I was running back downhill which provided some relief and some faster paces. Then it was back to the busy section running by T2 with lots of crowd support.

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I knew the next section would be challenging and a question mark. I hadn’t seen the last few miles of the run course heading north. I ran by the place I had the terrible show-stopping stomach cramp on Thursday, relieved my cramps were still allowing me to run. I actually had my fastest paces on miles 4 and 5 (8:22 and 8:17) but slowed it down a bit as I knew with my stomach and warm sunny temps, those paces were not sustainable.

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Running over the wooden bridge next to Green Lake (the turquoise lake) was something I imagined a lot during training and I was finally there! But it was hard to appreciate the gorgeous scenery with my unrelenting stomach cramps. My legs were still feeling decent which was a pleasant surprise. I just had to manage my stomach. At that point I was taking GU gels every 30 minutes with water which is my usual race nutrition strategy during any marathon. I was also taking extra water to dump on myself and grab ice when available. That does make a difference. Thank you again volunteers!

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I was happy to run again through some shaded areas but then it was back into the blazing sun again for a while. Reaching the turnaround felt like it took forever. Where the heck was it? I was running along the most turquoise beautiful lake in the world with snow capped mountains but I was suffering badly! Finally, the turnaround came and I just kept moving forward diligently. It was all business for me! From miles 7 through 11 my paces were pretty respectable ranging around 8:30 to 8:52 depending on the terrain and probably the sun factor. I was still holding it together.

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Mile 12 brought us running past T2 again and up towards Lost Lake one more time. My stomach was still very crampy and I wasn’t finding any relief. I was tired, hot and knew the next half marathon was going to be really tough. I had to dig deep! But I knew that I could soldier on for a while more. I reminded myself of all the tough running races I’ve done. It was slow going back up to Lost Lake. Mile 14 and 15 were my slowest paces at 10:00 minute miles! Yikes! I was thinking that even a 4-hour marathon would not be possible that day. But heading back down the Lost Lake trail, I felt a bit better. The shade was such a welcome! And the best part of the run was seeing Lisa and Dave on the Lost Lake trail as I ran down it. They told me I ran into 3rd place with a comfortable cushion. I was so excited in spite of being in the pain cave. I knew I just had to run consistently and not fall apart to keep that 3rd place. I was also thinking of Kona since I knew second place already had a slot. I still thought for sure there would be two slots. I did yell out to Lisa and Dave that I had a very badly cramped stomach and they told me to just consume water and coke. I did this for the rest of the marathon. And I started walking the aid stations taking water and a few sips of coke. This strategy worked well. It slowed my overall paces but I was making progress and not falling apart. My cramps didn’t get better but I could still run.

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Again, it was great to have all the crowd support going by T2 and heading out on the other long section. I hit mile 16 and knew I could gut it out for 10 miles. I focused on getting to the turnaround first. Dividing the run into sections helps mentally. I slowly caught up to a 27-year-old male (ages are on our calves) who was setting a nice pace around 9-minute miles which was what I was doing for miles 16 through 18. We even chatted for a bit. It was the only interaction I had all day with another athlete. It was his first Ironman. We both agreed the turnaround took forever! But at least I knew where it was on the second loop. I tried to appreciate the stunning turquoise colors of Green Lake with sea planes taking off even with my GI distress. After the turnaround I had 6 miles to go! I did my usual self-evaluation after 20 miles. I was hurting and my stomach was still feeling rough. But I knew I could keep this up for 6 more miles!

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I lost my young comrade but he was never that far behind. I looked forward to different aspects of the course such as the aid stations and shady parts. My paces slowed down to 9:18 to 9:31 on the final miles but I was happy to be moving forward and still passing many other athletes. It was a tough day for many out there! My bowels were starting to rumble and I really needed a port-o potty! My new fear was diarrhea on the last 5K but luckily that never happened!

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The last few miles were tough but I knew I had this. I made the mistake of never checking out the last mile of the run course where it looped back into the village. So, I thought I would be finishing sooner! But alas the course kept going! And on the final mile the young guy who I ran with passed me running very well. I congratulated him and felt happy for him! I knew I was close so I just kept moving along. I wasn’t able to pick up the pace much. It was neat to run through the village with all the tourists. After a little downhill and uphill and a left turn, I could hear the announcer! I ran straight for the red carpet and tried to really appreciate it. For a few seconds I forgot about my stomach cramps and celebrated smiling and raising my arms. I had done it again! I finished my 4th Ironman in spite of serious GI distress. And I held onto my 3rd place finish with a nice 32-minute cushion!

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Lisa and Dave were in the finish area which was so fantastic. I was so happy! I got my photo taken with Lisa and then saw Scott on the other side of the barrier. I was thrilled to see him and learn of his successful 70.3. He ran the whole 13 miles without walking and did so well. I was so proud of him.

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But then all of a sudden, I felt nauseas and started vomiting on the grass. I was feeling sick and couldn’t help myself. I was immediately rushed to the medical tent via wheelchair. I was in there for an hour and felt better once the undigested nutrition was out of my stomach. Soon enough I could eat pretzels and a banana. We walked back to the condo slowly. I was a bit shaky but knew I would be OK. The volunteers were awesome as usual. (we are no strangers to the med tent!)

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Overall, I am very grateful we were able to race in Whistler. Thank you again to everyone who made the day happen. A big thanks to my coach Lisa. She helps me arrive at the start very prepared and healthy. And I could not do this without my awesome husband! I’m a lucky girl!

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We flew back home on Wednesday after a couple mellow days in Whistler. I was very tired on Monday. Tuesday we were planning on taking the gondola up to the top of Whistler but the weather was very cloudy and rainy. So, we just enjoyed some shopping and walking around the village. We did drive out to Green Lake to take photos Monday afternoon after the awards ceremony so I could appreciate the views without the stomach cramps. I’ll never forget that run course!

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Food and Beverage Report

We had plenty of vegan options in the Whistler ski village within easy walking distance from our condo. And there were plenty of local grocery store options. We food shopped mainly at Nestor’s Market which was a couple minute drive right on Route 99. And there was also a nice food market in the ski village which was a 5-minute walk from our condo with plenty of vegan options.

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Our first stop was the Green Moustache which is a small plant-based healthy food chain with locations mainly in Vancouver. We enjoyed vegan waffles with lots of cream and fruit sauce on Wednesday morning. After a difficult travel day, this was very welcome. Most menu options are very healthy and consist of whole foods. This is a health nut’s paradise for sure.

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That evening we craved vegan pizza and found Misty Mountain Pizza which was about a 5-10-minute walk from our condo. They offer Daiya cheese and we happily ate a large veggie pizza with artichokes and olives. It was very tasty. There were other vegan pizza options in Whistler, but we didn’t get a chance to sample more.

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Thursday night we ate at a nice Indian restaurant called the Indian Masala Bistro. This was located just above Misty Mountain Pizza. We decided to walk upstairs and check out the menu and were excited to see several clearly marked vegan dinner options. We ate there on Monday night after the race as well since it was so good. I just love Indian food! It’s a real treat especially to have the vegan options!

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Monday after the awards ceremony I really just wanted to have fries and beer in the village. We discovered a hip, rustic bar called the Amsterdam Pub that served the Impossible Burger along with a couple other veggie burgers. There has been so much hype lately regarding the realistic but plant-based Impossible Burger. We ordered two with fries and beer which was refreshing. The Impossible Burgers were very good. I was OK as long as I didn’t look too closely since it was very realistic. This is a great option for people transitioning to a plant-based diet or just aiming to consume less meat.

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On Tuesday the weather was chilly and rainy. We decided to try the restaurant that Lisa and Dave love so much and eat at almost every night when in Whistler. It’s called the Mongolie Grill where they cook the food right in front of you. I had my doubts, but the sign outside did show options for vegans. I like to support food establishments that offer vegan friendly. We both enjoyed picking out fresh vegetables, beans, tofu and noodles as well as a healthy vegan sauce. Our food was then cooked on a hot grill with other peoples’ meals but plenty of room from any meat-based meals. They used clean spatulas and cleaned the grill for vegans. The meal was delicious and we ate like kings!

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Tuesday night we packed up to leave Whistler on Wednesday. Being a chilly, damp day the restaurants were extra busy and I wasn’t in the mood for crowds. So, we ordered a very tasty vegan veggie burger from Gnarly Roots, a restaurant that served pizza and burgers. It was about a 1-minute walk from the condo just around the corner across from the Olympic rings in the village. So that was super convenient. It’s too bad we didn’t try it sooner.

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Thank You Whistler! We hope to be back someday! Next up is the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France this September! So excited!

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Ironman Connecticut 70.3 Race Report 6-2-19

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Ironman Connecticut 70.3 is a triathlon I won’t forget anytime too soon! I wanted to love this event especially since it’s an iconic race with a lot of history and known for being a beast of a course. Even my coach Lisa along with other top pros from all over the world have toed the line at Quassy in southern Connecticut. This half Ironman event used to be under Rev3 management and was officially called Quassy Rev3. It takes place at a quaint old-fashioned amusement park with wooden roller coasters and many rides and attractions. And it’s located right on a beautiful body of water called Lake Quassapaug in Middlebury, CT. I was excited to learn that Ironman had taken over this event. I love the fierce competition that the Ironman brand draws from all over the world. And they always put on a fantastic and exciting event. Sadly, due to heavy fog that shortened the swim and around 2,000 athletes on the congested bike course, it made for a dangerous and crazy day out there.

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This event for me was purely a training race for Ironman Canada in Whistler, BC on July 28th. The timing on June 2nd was perfect. And a very hilly bike and tough run course were just what I needed to prepare for Canada which is known for an extremely tough course as well. I had already secured my spot at the Worlds 70.3 in Nice, France from doing Ironman Texas 70.3 this past April. So, I really had no pressure for Connecticut. However, I had hoped to make the long podium and cling onto a 5th place. I was a bit sad to have missed this by about a minute. 7th place is a little disappointing for me. However, the field was stacked and I wasn’t fully tapered for this race like I was for Texas. And Lisa reminded me that I had a lot of run volume heading into this race so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I still did well and had a good performance in spite of all the crazy variables on race day! And I never regret doing any triathlon as the experience is invaluable. I always learn so much from each event.

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We drove down to Connecticut on Friday morning. The 4-hour drive was pleasant until we hit the Springfield, MA area. We suffered through heavy traffic on I-91 and I-84 until a few miles from our destination. Being in Vermont we are not used to big city driving similar to Boston and where we lived in San Diego 20 years ago! But we made it to Middlebury, CT in one piece, just in time for the athlete briefing. The perks of getting down early enough is that we rolled through athlete check-in and got our packets with no lines. Scott picked up his packet and got the bracelet even though he wasn’t quite ready to race yet (due to a hip issue in the winter). He was able to walk into transition with me and make sure I was all set. Luckily, he’s back to training and will do the 70.3 in Whistler on the same day I tackle the full Ironman.

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We stayed at a wonderful rental home just 2.4 miles from Quassy park and the race venue which was super convenient. I loved this fully restored farm house so much. It was absolutely charming, cozy and plenty of space for Seth and Alexis who also stayed with us and participated in the race. The house is on a horse farm and animal rescue. We found the grounds so peaceful and pretty with fields, stone fences and woods outlining the property. It was quiet and soothing. We could have lived there! My favorite residents were Bentley and Tonka, two large adorable pot belly pigs who roam the property. They would make their way down to the rental house looking for treats while also munching on grass. We brought them carrots and apples and also purchased romaine lettuce which they loved. The morning we were leaving we heard something banging on the door. It was Bentley knocking and letting us know he was interested in more treats. That was hilarious and one of the highlights of the whole trip! I will miss Bentley and Tonka for sure!

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On Friday we drove the entire bike course which was well marked in bright orange arrows. The bike route went by our house which was helpful as well. I’m so glad I saw the course before the race. I was definitely concerned about the road conditions but our Vermont roads are just as bad if not worse in many places. Later Alexis made it to the house after she picked up her race packet. It was nice to hang out and chat and have a mellow evening.

Saturday morning Alexis and myself did a bike ride on part of the bike course just after 7am before traffic got busy. Scott ran about 6 miles and even did part of the run course. It was cool and nice out. I was a bit concerned with some squeaking noises coming from my back wheel and couldn’t figure it out so I turned around and still managed to get around 30 minutes. And I also did my 5 minute “activation” effort on the hills heading back to the house. Scott was able to fix my bike and it was fine for race day. As I was heading out for a 20-minute run Bentley had made his way down to the house and I met him for the first time. I wanted to hang out with him longer but had to get my run done. I felt decent but a little sluggish in the beginning as usual before a race. We later brought our bikes down to transition and drove the run course. It looked worse from the car than actually running it. But it wasn’t easy!

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Saturday evening Seth finally made it to the house. It was fun and relaxing to hang out with everyone. It really does help racing with friends and sharing accommodations. I get so nervous the day before a race and a bit of socializing helps calm my nerves. I was very concerned when I had stomach cramps before and after dinner but luckily they did go away later in the evening. I was afraid my upset stomach might interfere with my race day. I believe my gut just doesn’t enjoy carb loading that much as I get older.

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We were up very early on race morning. Due to limited parking at Quassy, most athletes were required to park in different lots and take shuttles to the race venue and transition. There were a few hundred parking spots across the road from the park but we had to get there a few minutes past 4am to secure our spot. And we were out the door at 3:58am and parked a few minutes later! I had learned after the race that the shuttles were a bit disorganized and many athletes had to wait a while. That would have been a nightmare for me as I prefer to arrive at transition when it opens. Scott and I are always early-birds but it’s how I cope on race morning. While we avoided much chaos with the shuttles, we now had to wait around for an hour and a half before we put on our wetsuits. Alexis, Seth and I were all very nervous about this race and the extra time just gave us more opportunity to focus on this.

The Swim

Race morning brought thick heavy fog to the area at Quassy Lake and the race venue. We could not even see past the second big yellow buoy on the swim course. This was my first race with heavy fog, so I still got into my wetsuit at my normal time expecting it to clear up a bit. After I was suited up near transition we walked down to the beach and swim venue. I was planning on doing a swim warm up at 6am since the race officially was supposed to go off at 6:30am.

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I did manage to get into the water for a few minutes. It was announced that the water temp was 66F and it felt a little chilly when I first got in, but later felt refreshing in my wetsuit. The water was actually quite nice. But after swimming a few short directions with many other athletes, we heard the announcement. The race would be delayed by a half hour and start at 7am. I got out of the water and sat on a beach chair with Scott and Alexis. By 7am the fog had not cleared one bit. They later announced the swim would be shortened to 750 meters which is only about 39% of the total distance in a 70.3 event.

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The crews worked hard to move some buoys and set up the modified swim. I’m glad Ironman puts safety first when it comes to the water! Soon enough we were told to line up in our corrals and get ready to swim. I lined up with the 37 to 40 minute swimmers since I have had good luck going off with my fellow swimmers. And I usually swim a 70.3 in that time range. Lisa thinks I need to line up with the faster swimmers but the last time I did that I had a brutal and violent swim experience. We waited for what felt like a long time. I chatted briefly to a few fellow athletes which always helps to calm my nerves. It took a while to even move forward. I could see the faster swimmers going off every few seconds.

After a long wait they stopped the rolling start just before the 35 minute swimmers and let everyone into the water. It was total chaos and extremely crowded getting into the water. There is a time limit to when athletes need to be done with the run race so due to time constraints, they let everyone into the water. It was 7:44 am when I hit my Garmin to start my swim race.

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This wasn’t a terrible swim for me considering the craziness. I remained calm and just went with the flow. I knew it wouldn’t be fun but also knew it was a short swim. I just followed everyone else even though we all had trouble seeing the buoys. I did notice throughout the swim that it was choppy as hell. With all the swimmers it was like a washing machine out there! After the first buoy I couldn’t see the next one but just kept going. Finally, the second buoy came and knew I just had to get to the red turnaround buoy. But many of us swam inward and then had to veer a hard left to get to the red turnaround buoy. No wonder my Garmin reported almost 950 yards.

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After getting around the first red buoy I made my way across the course. It still took a while before I cold see each buoy. It was still total chaos. One thing I noticed was that I was no longer nervous. But I wasn’t exactly enjoying this experience. Yet it wasn’t horrible either. There was little clear water but I could still move forward. There was still physical contact but no blows to the head or anything violent. One of our friends wasn’t so lucky and got kicked in the teeth! Ironman swim events can be rough!

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I made my way around the final turn buoy and headed back to shore. It wasn’t bad. The worst part was dealing with a male swimmer who alternated between breast stroke and freestyle. Most swimmers don’t realize the breast stroke kick is lethal in a swim race. I had to avoid being kicked by that crazy frog kick! I was super annoyed. And it was hard to get rid of him as his breast stroke was actually fast! But I did get ahead at the end and was finally out of the water. Thank goodness that was done!

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My official swim time was 16:37 which was not a catastrophe, but wasn’t stellar either. I probably missed the podium by this messy swim but it’s hard to really say for sure. With a clocked distance of 950 yards, my Garmin said my pace was a 1:45 for that swim which is slower than I normally swim in a 1.2-mile race. I know if it wasn’t shortened, I would have had a better swim as it takes me over 500 yards to warm up! Normally my paces are around a 1:41 mins/100 yards in a lake swim. And I would have had more clear water to actually swim properly! I didn’t feel cold and my right shoulder/upper arm didn’t feel sore in my wetsuit. I never felt panic or stressed-out swimming. I just got it done in less than ideal conditions. So overall it went well for me that morning considering everything.

The Bike

The bike was crazy! This was the most dangerous bike course I’ve ridden so far in my triathlon journey. I knew this course was well known for being very hilly and difficult. What I didn’t realize was that the roads were in such bad condition. And with the shortened swim, the roads were extremely congested with so many inexperienced riders. I would have loved this course if it had about 900 riders versus 2,000 riders on the course. My understanding is that the field was much smaller when it was a Rev3 race. It was very technical, hilly with constant ups and downs. Lots of punchy hills just like the riding we have in Vermont. It was the perfect storm for some very bad accidents that did happen. One guy is in the hospital and needs facial reconstruction. This athlete is an experienced rider but got caught up in the mix of bad riders not being able to handle their bikes down a very steep and technical section of the course. If the swim had not been shortened, there would have been a bit more space between riders but 2,000 participants is still too much for this race course. Most of the roads are secondary and not wide enough. Also, the course is open to traffic. I hope that Ironman does the right thing and caps the participant list for next year. I will never do this race again due to my experience in Connecticut.

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I’m glad we did drive the entire bike course on Friday after picking up my race packet. I was definitely a bit surprised and concerned with the road conditions. While I ride on worse road conditions here in Vermont, I was a bit surprised I’d have to race on bad roads, dodging pot holes, large cracks and crevices, pavement on top of old pavement and general rough road needing to be refreshed. Winters destroy the roads in New England! While many of the potholes and cracks were marked in red, there were a few that were missed. I have never seen so many people on the side of the road with flats, bottles all over the road, and even several lost sun glasses and nutrition.

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I had a better transition this time and quickly got my bike to the mount line. I was very concerned to see so many people in transition and so many people getting onto their bikes all at once. The shortened swim created so much congestion from the moment I clipped into my pedals to most of the race. After the swim Scott was waiting for me to leave transition with my bike. He said he saw so many riders falling over just trying to clip into their pedals (at least 20!!). He said it was insane how many people couldn’t even get onto their bike. And because of that he was terrified for me as he knew I’d have to get through and ride around all these inexperienced riders. I used to race road bikes in the 1990s so I have good bike handling skills and can ride anything. But this was special!

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I stayed calm and knew I would have to be very careful and mindful. Tony, the race announcer was telling athletes to stay away from each other on the bike course. I could hear this as I was leaving transition. I felt confident in my fitness and trusted my bike handling skills. It wasn’t impossible to weed my way through the bike course, but I had to constantly pass riders on the left. Too many people were riding 2 and 3 abreast so I sometimes had to ride briefly into the oncoming lane to pass. The first few hills were sketchy as many riders were trying to figure out how to shift into their small chain ring once they hit a hill after a fast downhill. I got very frustrated on one hill when I saw people swerving and trying to shift. I witnessed the worst bike handling skills I’d ever seen in any type of race or triathlon. I’m not throwing stones, but it’s obvious there are many athletes who have not spent enough time developing adequate bike handling skills. Scott was worried about inexperienced riders crashing in front of me or not holding their line down the steep descents and hitting me. Thank goodness that didn’t happen but I never felt safe even though I’m good at staying out of trouble and can respond quickly with my bike.

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One woman in my age group passed me after about 10 or so miles. I was able to keep her in sight for a while. Her bright pink race kit was like a beacon among the packs of riders ahead of me. She was on a road bike and was taking more chances than me on the down hills. For me safety is first and after a while she was gone. I was not going to attack the hills that fast on a tri-bike. I did notice on the results that she was only a minute or so faster overall on the bike but I had a much better run.

I noticed the first 20 miles went by in an hour and a minute which was better than expected for the course. But I knew the rest of the course was going to have even more hills and climbs. I was doing well with my nutrition and was grateful for the cool and cloudy weather. There were even times where I did feel a bit chilly on the down hills. My legs were feeling the fatigue in my quads after 20 -25 miles. But overall, I was feeling decent. My neck wasn’t terrible as I hardly ever found opportunities to get into my aero bars for more than a couple minutes. I really would have preferred to be on a high-end road bike for this course!

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The bike course is very scenic and rural but it was hard to appreciate it while racing due to the constant congestion and bad road conditions. We even saw a bear crossing the road after 40 miles when we drove the course on Friday. I really had to focus and pay attention so I couldn’t really look around at all. So, I missed the vineyards and couldn’t really admire the pretty lakes for more than a second or two. I was still not happy with all the riders I was passing, and still a bit frustrated that the roads didn’t clear up with bike traffic.

After about 35 miles I caught up to a woman in my age group on a road bike who was clearly an experienced road rider. We leap frogged for the rest of the bike course. There were times I just kept her in sight and other times she slowed and I took the lead. While I caught her, she clearly wasn’t going to let me go. She had another teammate who was in the next age group. This 52-year-old was a bit heavier and rode the down hills screaming fast. So, it was the three of us for a while. After about 40 miles there were some very fast extended downhills. I was riding a bit out of my comfort zone making sure not to lose contact with these fast female riders. At this point the roads were a bit less congested with bike traffic but still enough riders around me where I had to remain vigilant.

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The bike course is 53.2 miles so a bit short. And I was totally fine with this! I was very happy to see the 45 mile sign and thrilled to see the 50 mile sign! I couldn’t wait for this to be done. The last few miles passed some very lavish and ostentatious mansions with amazing stonework on the massive grounds. I could see Qaussy Lake to the right of me in the distance. I knew we were almost done. I took the final lead with the woman in my age group (Suzanne) and rode to the dismount line. I was done and made it safely!

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Overall, I was very happy with my bike time of 2:55:28 for that course on that particular day. My overall speed was the same as Syracuse last June. And I’m very happy about that because this course was much harder, hillier and so much more technical. And the congestion on the course also made it a slower ride for me. I will always ride safely and not take unnecessary chances just to be a couple minutes faster. It’s not worth it! Out of 97 women who finished I had the 12th fastest bike. I am a little disappointed but also know I made a tactical error by not starting sooner on the swim. And thus, I had to deal with more bike traffic. I hate to be so negative but that’s how it all went down and this is my experience from that Sunday. Again, I hope Ironman and WTC make this a safer race next year for the bike leg.

The Run

My transition from bike to run wasn’t bad. I’m getting better at this. The sun decided to come out at the end of my bike journey to make my run a bit toasty. I was so happy to be done with that horrendous bike course and start the best part of the race for me. It wasn’t my best 70.3 run but not my worst either. I had a good bit of run volume leading into the race and didn’t have the full taper. So, I’m OK with how it all went down. The course is hard but fair. It’s hilly and challenging but had a few spots with shade. It felt like there was more downhill than uphill but the two little out-and-backs were sunny and harder especially on the second loop. Overall it was a pretty good course with a nice uphill at the end on mile 13.

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The run starts with a good shaded downhill on a twisty road leading to the loop we all did twice. As I was making my way down, I noticed it was very warm and humid once the sun came out. The woman Suzanne who I had been playing leap frog with on the bike passed me on the run going pretty fast. I was surprised as I hardly get passed by other women on the run. She started out at a bit over 7 min miles but slowed down on the second half. She ended up as the 6th woman just ahead of me by less than a minute overall. And she was 2 minutes faster on the run. I feel if this was a full Ironman, I would have closed in on the three women ahead of me. I’m a patient runner! I started the run in 13th place and ended up in 7th with a mile to the finish. As usual I ran out of pavement.

Once I got onto the loop it felt a bit hard. I had clocked a 7:42 on the first mile heading downhill to the loop trying to be conservative. The next couple miles felt a bit hard and hot. I saw Scott at a corner right by the first aid station. It was so great to see him! I was doing fine but it didn’t feel like it was going to be a fast run with the hills and sun. I was grateful for the awesome volunteers. I always had plenty of water and ice at most aid stations. That helped! It wasn’t terribly hot but it was the warmest run after a cold spring in Vermont.

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The end of mile 3 brought me up the first out-and-back which was a gradual uphill and then back downhill. I was doing fine on the first loop. Then it was a long straight stretch to mile 4 and the second out-and-back which had an aid station. This one was also exposed to the sun but not bad on the first loop. After this section it was back onto the long straight-away and down a good descent. I was careful not to trash my quads on this. I’ll admit I didn’t mind the downhill at all. It was a bit fun! The course was a bit crowded and I sometimes had to run outside the cones to pass people but it wasn’t terrifying like the bike course!

At the bottom of the hill we veered right and went up a few gradual hills. Nothing too bad. I was expecting worse. We drove the run course but the back side wasn’t as bad as it looked from the car. We passed the high school on the right with a beautiful track. And then it was a good stretch with sections of shade and nothing too strenuous with elevation. I liked this part of the course the best to be honest. Some nice houses and many trees for shade made for a pleasant run.

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Before I knew it, I was turning right to do the loop one more time. Again, the photographers were across the pond on the left making a nice spot for photos. I smiled and ended up with a couple nice race photos. The initial hills on this loop this were a little bit harder and my paces slowed on this section. My slowest section was mile 8 at an 8:20 pace but I was hot and ready to be done. Luckily, my next mile clocked a 7:49 and I stayed consistent at around 8 min miles for the rest of the loop. Again, Scott was on the corner after the aid station taking photos and cheering me on. I was so happy to see him! That gave me a little boost!

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The two out-and-backs were hard and I just couldn’t get my body to move much faster. Subconsciously I’m not sure if I really wanted to either after such an ordeal on the swim and bike. My effort felt good enough. Do I need to work on this attitude?? Could I have moved faster? Maybe, maybe not. It’s easy to speculate after the race!

The longer downhill was again welcomed and I made my way up the small hills by the high school and again marveled at the beautiful track. The nice stretch with the shade felt a bit harder for some reason. I think there were a couple false flats that I didn’t notice the first time around. But alas I was soon done with the second loop and so happy to head back to the finish.

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The twisty roads back were hard but not impossible. Mile 12 ended on the road back and mile 13 worked its way back to the main road. The big hill wasn’t bad and I even passed a woman in my age group heading up it. I kept my own pace not worrying about her as I knew I could have fought her off if need be. Scott ran this part on Saturday morning and said it wasn’t bad. And he was correct. However, at the end of a brutal 70.3 it’s not exactly easy either! I was so happy to get to the top as I heard Tony announcing the finishers. I was so close and so happy! It was a short distance to the park and I made my way to the finish. Again, I passed another woman in my age group on this stretch. Luckily the finisher’s shoot comes up quickly and I was running down it feeling so thrilled! I was smiling and feeling joyful running to the finish. I loved hearing Tony announce my name and where I was from in Vermont. What a day! I was done!

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My official time was 1:44:19. I had the 5th fastest run time in my age-group which is one of the worst placings for me in an Ironman 70.3 run. I was a little disappointed, but Lisa reminded me that I wasn’t training for this race. My main goals were a worlds spot in IM Texas 70.3 back in April and Ironman Canada at the end of July. This was purely a training race for Whistler, Canada. It’s also getting harder at the top of my age-group. And with a stacked field for this race I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I had a good run on a difficult day. It was a brutal bike course and then a warm and humid run. I’m grateful for crossing the finish line with a respectable run for that day.

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Sadly, none of us made the podium but we all finished safely even if it wasn’t one of our best races. We hung out later at the house for a bit and walked up to the barn to visit the pigs. Scott and I made a stop at a wonderful food store with organic produce and so many vegan options called New Morning. If I lived there, I would shop there every day! Seth headed back to Vermont even after we begged him to stay. Alexis, Scott and I had a beer and enjoyed hanging out and relaxing. While it was quite a sh*t show of a race we did share some funny stories. None of us will forget Quassy!

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Monday morning, we hung out with the pigs and took a bunch of photos with them. Bentley and Tonka both made their way down to the house. I was feeling decent considering such a tough race day. My legs were a little tired and fatigued but much better than Texas. I was surprised at how well they were doing. We were packed up early and made our way onto the road back to Vermont. Luckily, we found an alternative route that took us to Springfield and we avoided Hartford and I-84. It was a much more relaxing drive back home. We made one stop to visit Stella, Anne and Steve since we wouldn’t see anyone until later in the year.

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Overall, I can’t recommend Ironman Connecticut 70.3. And I am very saddened to write this. While the fog was no one’s fault, 2,000 athletes on the bike course is just too dangerous even if the swim hadn’t been canceled. If the participant list isn’t capped in the future, I will never be back. And it’s disappointing since it’s not a bad drive to Middlebury, CT from Vermont. I will note a few positives about this race. The volunteers were awesome! Thank you so much! The announcer Tony Lugo was great! I really enjoy him! He announced at Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 when we did that event in 2017. The lake is beautiful and clean. The venue is unique. Again, I’m still glad I raced Quassy and got to tackle this famous course. I just didn’t like feeling so unsafe out there on the rough roads with that much congestion. I hope Ironman does the right thing with this event!

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Thank you Lisa for your smart and careful coaching. And thank you to the best husband in the world. Scott was so awesome! He took care of three athletes that day!

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Next up is Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia! I’m very excited for Ironman # 4! Stop back again!

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Ironman Texas 70.3 A Stormy Race Report 4-7-19

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I wanted to do an early season half Ironman event for 2019 after taking a long off-season in 2018. Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston on April 7th looked like an ideal race after coming off a long Vermont winter. Galveston, Texas is surrounded by the ocean and I knew I would be grateful for the sun and beach. And a flat course was perfect for literally coming off the bike trainer without any outdoor riding so far in the season. And my goal was to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France! This year Women for Tri was giving out 25 additional slots to women only for certain races this season and IMTX 70.3 was one of them. So alas, I secured my spot to Nice as the 5th place women in my age group. There were 2 standard slots and 4 slots from Women for Tri. Thank you so much to this organization that supports women in sport! I am thrilled to be heading to Nice, France in September!

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This was one of my best 70.3 (mile) triathlons. I had a strong race coming in 10 seconds behind the 4th place women and 15 seconds behind the 3rd place woman. That is so close in a 5 hour race! Instead of feeling sad about this I actually felt very motivated when I saw the results. Third place was Ashley Tappin who is a 3-time Olympic gold medalist for swimming! While she was 12 minutes faster in the swim, I was 11 minutes faster in the run and gaining quickly on her. I just ran out of pavement. It was so close! And first place was a woman who qualifies for a pro card every year but prefers to crush the age groupers (personally I would prefer to race with the pros if I was fast enough. You only get better racing with faster people). I love that the age group competition is so incredibly fierce in Ironman events (full and halves).

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Sadly Scott was not able to race this one with me. He has struggled with a hip issue all winter that originated from hiking both Pitons in St Lucia back in November. As usual I had us overdoing it on a very strenuous mountain hike. Luckily he is recovering and should be able to race this summer. He was the best sherpa and husband as usual. And I have to say it was nice having him focus on my race and take such good care of me. He’s the best!

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Ironman Texas 70.3 is a really excellent event. As usual Ironman puts on a great race! I loved the venue at Moody Gardens and the race courses were all unique, interesting and challenging in their own ways. It’s also a very fast course and many people have personal records on this one. It’s usually very windy but flat as a pancake on the bike course. This Ironman branded race was very well organized and the volunteers were just awesome! Thank you to everyone!

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The big event of race day was a crazy and severe storm that rolled through the area and caused the race to be suspended and canceled. On Saturday there was worry and much talk about the warnings of severe thunderstorms and even the possibility of a tornado! That was scary and I was a bit worried. At the athlete briefing they talked about the weather but the race director didn’t seem too worried about it so I stopped stressing over it. The accu-weather app started to look like the storm might hit us after the race. So I was calm about the weather on race morning. I didn’t need any more stress on top of the usual race morning jitters! I’ll mention the storm later as it came after my run while I was eating food with Scott in one of the big tents.

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We flew into Houston’s Hobby Airport on Thursday before the race which worked well. It was an uneventful flight but still a long day as I do not enjoy airline travel. We rented a nice new Jeep Cherokee that fit my bike box and luggage nicely. Our next goal was to drive west about 30 minutes to Whole Foods and stock up on Groceries. Then it was about an hour drive to Galveston which wasn’t too bad. I was excited to be by the ocean and our condo was right across the road from the Gulf of Mexico. Being on the 10th floor the view was amazing even with all the fog on the first couple days in Galveston. The pelicans flying so close to our window was one of the highlights of staying there!

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We rented a condo from AirB&B and our host was really excellent. The condo was in an older building that has been battered by hurricanes of the past. But the owners have taken good care of their unit. It wasn’t posh, but it was lovely, clean and cozy. I loved that even our bedroom had ocean views and access to the large balcony. Our favorite aspect was having coffee on the beach on most mornings. I find the ocean therapeutic and this condo choice was perfect for us. It was also only a few miles from the race venue and easy to get to in the morning.

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Another fun aspect of our Texas adventure was having one of Scott’s best friends from college race and stay with us. Charlie lives in the Woodlands of Texas and came down Friday. It was his first 70.3 distance and it was so fun to share the experience with him. Sadly he couldn’t finish the race as he had to find shelter from the storm in a parking garage after completing 4 miles of the run. Luckily everyone did get their finisher medals and hats if they got caught in the storm and couldn’t finish.

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After coffee on the beach Friday morning I did a 20 minute shake-out run while Scott put together my bike. It felt was wonderful running along the ocean on a very wide sidewalk. My body was healthy and I was so grateful to be running in the warmth and ocean breeze. Later I took my bike out for a 30 minute spin to make sure everything was working right. The road was very busy and even with a big shoulder I wasn’t comfortable riding. I was supposed to ride again on Saturday but I just felt like it was a bad idea with the traffic and no safe place to do short intervals. So Lisa suggested I do another 20 minute run with a few strides. It’s important to fire up the legs a bit before race day. She calls it activation. So I got the job done.

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I was told by our AirB&B host that we could swim in the ocean across the street. But it was quite wavy and scary looking the first couple days! And there were warnings on the beach not to swim due to dangerous currents. Luckily we found the Lasker Park Community Pool a few minutes from the condo. And we were able to log two swims on Friday and Saturday before the race. I love outdoor pools and this one was a pleasant surprise! We even swam on Tuesday after the race. I love swimming outdoors in the sun!

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Athlete registration was accomplished by the three of us on Friday afternoon after our swim. Scott picked up his packet since he would be able to get into transition and help me with my bike if there were issues. We hit the Ironman Store as usual but not quite as hard as Copenhagen. We did find some nice clothing once again. We just can’t help ourselves in there! Hanging out with Charlie in the condo was fun and helped calm my nerves. The joke was that I call myself Not-fun Joyce before a race and Fun Joyce after the race. So we kept joking about it when I would get tense or stressed over something. Thank you Charlie for having a good sense of humor before the race!

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I didn’t sleep terribly before the race and managed a few hours of sleep which is good for me. Luckily I slept well the first couple nights. The bed was very comfy! Race morning went smoothly and we left the condo on time after our usual bowl of oatmeal. We got there early and had good parking close to transition and the porto pots. Getting my stuff into transition went smoothly and my bike was all set. I even got to say hi to Dede, one of my favorite pros! After a couple more porto-pot stops we made our way down to the swim start. There was no swim warm up for this race so I made sure I did a jog to get myself warmed up. It was very humid while running but I got my heart rate up for the swim.

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Swim

I had a good solid swim for this race. It wasn’t my fastest but not my slowest either. I was hoping I would have improved more this winter after having some video analysis from a Swimsmooth instructor and getting better at bilateral breathing. Our masters swim coach said I was swimming faster but I am not sure it translated to the swim on race day. It’s really hard to say as the swim was choppy and wavy from the incoming weather event. Nothing worse than what I’ve seen so far in races. And several people did confirm for me that they also thought it was a rougher type swim. In spite of the conditions I still had a decent swim without issues.

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It was my first wetsuit swim of the season so that was a minor challenge. We were not allowed to swim the course prior to the race due to a large old fashioned steam boat that took people out for cruises. Luckily we found the local community pool close to our condo. My swim time was 40:43 which is 3 minutes slower than my best 70.3 swim times. Out of the 112 women who started I was 16th out of the water which was a big surprise. I’m slowly improving on that metric. Usually I’m 37th or something like that out of the water. This improvement is encouraging. And out of the top 5 in my age group, my swim wasn’t the slowest!

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We started the swim from a pier right by the Palm Beach at Moody Gardens. This swim went off in age group waves. We were the first group right after the female pros. After doing a short 8 minute jog, I got my wetsuit on with the help of Scott and made my way onto the pier with the other women in bright pink swim caps. The morning was very pretty and the storm was hours away. I made sure I took note of how lucky I was to be doing this race in a beautiful place when walking out on the pier with my age group. I was nervous but excited. I felt lucky too. We watched the professional men and then the women start their swim after the cannon went off each time. Then we were allowed to jump off the dock into the water. It was cold but refreshing. I breast-stroked a few yards over to where we were starting. And within a couple minutes we were off! I was ready!

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It was a bit chaotic at first but nothing out of the ordinary. It had been 2 years since I had done an age group mass start swim but it didn’t go badly at all. Just a lot of congestion at the beginning. As usual I stayed on the outside which is where I am most comfortable. It wasn’t far until the first turn buoy as we headed out diagonally in the opposite direction of where the race would end. My swim stroke was a mess and it took a while to get into some sort of groove. It was also very choppy too. I couldn’t bilateral breath on the first leg to the turnaround buoy. I just did my best to keep moving forward even if my stroke was not great and I wasn’t acclimated to the wavy conditions. I was also having that old sore right shoulder thing from the wetsuit but it was never too bad. It didn’t slow me down but it was a minor distraction.

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I was happy to get to the turnaround buoy without much problem. The way back was a long stretch. And it felt like a while before the buoys turned yellow to orange indicating the halfway point. But I was starting to do some bilateral breathing and getting into a better rhythm. I would breath twice on each side and then switch. That seemed to work well and I could see what was happening on both sides. I kept noticing that I usually had clear water and could move forward without contact from other swimmers. Sometimes there were people close but no problems. There were a few swimmers from the next wave who went by pretty quickly. But I did catch up to other women in my age group. Not a ton but some.

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After I was about half way done with the swim I could see the Moody Garden pyramids in the distance and it looked so pretty. I made sure I felt grateful for that experience. I was doing something so cool! But I had to keep on trucking along as I still had a ways to go. Sometimes I was close to the buoys and sometime I swam too far to the outside, but not as bad as previous swims. My Garmin did clock 1.3 miles so I didn’t swim as straight as I had hoped. The long leg back to the next turnaround buoy did have a lot of waves but they seemed to be almost in our favor pushing us in the right direction. I still can’t tell if that helped or hurt me as the water was a bit rougher than I would have liked. But it wasn’t a hardship. Just another aspect of the adventure!

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Finally I made it to the last turnaround buoy and only had a few hundred yards left. The sun was peaking a bit through the clouds but it was never blinding. It also felt more choppy and harder to push through but nothing terrible. This last leg did feel a bit more crowded and I had trouble seeing the line of buoys a bit. And it was hard to see the swim exit but I made my way there without problem. I was so happy to cross the swim finish line and was smiling a lot! I needed two people to help me out of my wetsuit. I do love the wetsuit strippers! And then I was running in the grass to the transition area to find my bike. I didn’t know what my swim time was, but Scott did say I had a good swim when I left transition with my bike. That made me happy!

Bike

I had my best bike split in a 70.3 triathlon ever during this race! And it was one of my best executed bike rides so far in my triathlon journey so I was very happy with my ride. That all being said, the Ironman Texas 70.3 bike course is by far the fastest and flattest course I have ever ridden! It’s purely a time trial course. My time was a 2:36:44. I was very happy with this result since it was my first real outdoor bike ride of the year coming off the bike trainer in Vermont. Going from trainer to race course ended up being a surprising success for me. The big factor in the race was the wind! With a tailwind and cross winds on the way out, the ride was fast! But coming back was sometimes difficult with the wind. It wasn’t anything worse than Denmark when I did Ironman Copenhagen or worse than a windy day in Vermont. But it made the ride back more challenging. I would have preferred a head wind on the way out and a tail wind on the way back, but mother nature usually doesn’t cooperate on race day.

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One of the best aspects of this bike course and race was that it never felt crowded and I always had plenty of space to do my own race. I thought it was because I was the first wave after the pros but others who started later felt the same way. And it never looked too crowded for folks going out when I was heading back. I really liked this course for that reason! I didn’t notice drafting being a problem or see huge packs like many past races.

The sun was still peeking out of the clouds and the morning was still very nice. I was happy to grab my bike and head out of transition. Seeing Scott taking photos also gave me a boost. I couldn’t wait to start my ride and see what I could do out there! The first few miles were a bunch of turns and curves. The race director during the Saturday athlete briefing warned everyone to take these sections slower and cautiously. Soon after a couple miles I was onto the main highway that goes down the length of Galveston Island (Route 3005, Termini-San Luis Pass Road). And this section is mostly very flat and fast. It’s an out-and-back course with no extra turns or loops.

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Miles 5 to 15 were very fast and I was averaging around 24-25 miles per hour which is very speedy for me. My heart rate was right at my 70.3 race effort so I knew I was moving along just fine. It was hard but manageable. More clouds moved in and it got a bit more grey and the sun was no longer peeking through. With a non-crowded bike course I was able to keep my head down more and look mostly at the road just a little bit ahead of me and not strain my neck as much when I need to see the riders in front of me. This helped my sore neck situation a lot. It was still sore but not as bad as usual in a race.

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On miles 15 to 28 the winds got a bit more confusing where I wasn’t sure if I had a head wind or a tail wind or just a weird cross wind. Those miles slowed down to about 21-23 miles per hour. A quick water stop also slowed my overall pace but I never miss out on filling up with clear water. After 20 miles or so I crossed over the bridge to the next island. This was pretty and had a little incline up the bridge which helped me stretch my legs briefly and get out of the saddle. I enjoyed the next part of the route where it was still flat and fast with the ocean to the left. There were less houses and commercial buildings. I knew we’d have to come back here to visit after the race!

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I was very happy to see the turnaround and made my way back. The head wind was going to be tough but I wasn’t feeling badly. My legs were getting fatigued and my neck and upper back were getting cranky. But I was still able to stay in the aero position for most of the ride. On the way back I did have to get out of aero a few times but nothing like previous races. My speed dropped with the wind to mostly just over 20 miles an hour, sometimes hitting 21. I was still moving but the wind was taking its toll. The way back was uneventful and I tried to focus on the side of the road or just a small bit ahead to help my neck. I did get passed by some of the 40+ men and passed some women. Nothing notable about any of the guys. No drafting was happening near me and most people were just doing their own race.

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With about maybe 10 miles to go a woman in my age group wearing the US colors rode by me. I believe I passed her early on but she stuck close behind me. We took turns taking a lead without drafting on the way back. At this point, my legs were tired and my body was ready to get off the bike. Another women in our age group caught us and we rode together on the last couple miles of the turns and curves before heading into Moody Gardens. We finished together just a few seconds apart. It turned out both those ladies were not strong in the run. And I passed the women wearing the patriotic racing kit within the first half mile of the run. The other woman was sitting across from me while we both put on our running shoes. She said she wasn’t a good runner. But she was very nice and friendly.

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I was so happy to see that I did a sub 2:40 bike ride! I really had no idea how I would do with the wind and my first outdoor bike ride of the season! If I had been training in a warm climate that winter maybe I could have come closer to the 2:30 mark but I’ll call my ride on that course a win for me! I believe my bike was the 7th fastest within the 112 women in my age group. I’d like to improve on that metric for sure! I know I have it in me with a competitive cycling history. And I’ll get there!

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Run

I had a very good run coming off a harsh Vermont winter. I knew I was running well for March but was I in race shape? We didn’t train in Florida for a week or two before the race like we did for Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico two years ago. So the only “heat training” I did was sitting in the sauna for about 15-20 minutes after each swim for a few weeks prior to the race. It might have helped but it didn’t prepare me for the extreme humidity during the run. That was the big obstacle in the run for me that day. It was right before the storm and the air was heavy. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off a good run when I initially started but ended with a very solid and surprising run. My time was 1:40:26 overall with the second fastest run in my age group. I was so happy about my run when I finished!

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After my bike I tried to do a quicker transition but had to sit down to change socks and shoes. Again my transition was slower and at least a minute slower than my rivals. Do they wear wet socks on the run? I just don’t understand how I can be that much slower in transition. But I am!

I was happy to begin the run but right away I felt very sluggish in the humidity. The cloud cover was a huge relief and the temperature was around 70F. It wasn’t hot, just uncomfortably warm and humid. I know better than to start off too fast. Plus I need a couple miles to find my groove. The course is 3 loops around and through Moody Gardens. It’s an interesting course with lots of turns, out-and-backs, and terrain changes such as gravel, pavement, concrete with sand, quick spurts on grass, etc. And it ticks by quickly with all the variations.

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The first mile of the course is through Moody Gardens and the second mile heads out of the park. I enjoyed those two miles each time through the loop. Mile 2 is harder and goes up over a bridge and then turns back around to go back over it again. I usually put more effort into this and ran it well but the inclines over the bridge were notable for sure. Mile 3 heads back into Moody Gardens. But the first part of mile 3 is on an open gravel section which is interesting. Then you head back to the park and get to see a lot of runners heading back out towards the bridge. Mile 4+ is through the park. I enjoyed this mile the most even with the harder little ups and downs and changes. I got to see Scott several times on each loop as he took photos. There is also a section along the water with the sandy concrete that goes by the swim start which is very neat to see. And the sidewalk that leads to the finish is very fun, festive and enjoyable (hard on the last lap).

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On my first loop there were not a lot of other runners so it was sometimes not perfectly clear where to go but luckily there were bright green arrows to guide me. Normally I just follow the other runners but a few times it was just me and I had to pay attention to where I was going! I was conservative starting out as I felt sluggish and slower with the humidity. I knew that my first mile should just be under an 8 minute per mile pace and I did just that. My next couple miles were around a 7:50 pace which was comfortably hard and seemed like the right pace in order to finish strong. Mile four was back to a 7:54 pace. There are some tiny little ups and downs on the forth mile and places where you change from grass to pavement. I liked the changes but with the turns and course variations it did feel like it slowed my pace down a bit. It was fun to see runners going in different directions and not feel alone. I realize now that because of all the turns and variations my Garmin wasn’t picking up 100% of the total mileage (which often happens in trail running) and my actual paces were probably a little faster than calculated on my Garmin.

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Running the second loop felt mentally good. And there were more runners as well. Some people were starting the first loop. It was nice to have more company and not have to navigate myself with the green arrows. I was still running well and consistently. Miles five and six I was still averaging around a 7:50 pace. It felt hard but feasible. Mile 7 I pushed it a little harder over the bridge and had a 7:43 pace. The volunteers out there were fun and encouraging as I ran by. I enjoyed the support! The next mile was a little slower just under 8 minute miles. I was feeling the effects of the race and humidity. There were a few brief and very light sprinkles so I knew the rain was coming. Scott yelled out to me that I was coming into 5th place and the women ahead of me were only a couple minutes ahead. I was really excited and this gave me a big mental boost!

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I was excited to start the final lap. I only had to run by the finish one more time. And that section had a ton of crowd support. It was fun to see everyone cheering on the runners. I was still feeling decent and ready to tackle the last 4+ miles of the race. I was still maintaining a solid 7:50 pace on the first mile of the loop. But the next mile with the bridge was hard! My overall pace for that mile slowed to just under 8 min miles. I knew I had to kick it in if I wanted to catch the women in my age group!

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My last two and a half miles were faster and I pushed harder. I passed a couple women in my age group on the last few miles but it turned out they were on their 1st or 2nd loops (I realized when done). My paces were closer to a 7:46 but that was all I had in me. I saw the 4th place women ahead of me on the last mile. I didn’t think she was in my age group or on her last loop. I’m not sure I could have caught her but if I had known, maybe we would have been 5 seconds instead of 10 seconds apart. I am a little disappointed in being that close but I did my best out there. Running to the finish felt so good and I love the red carpet! It’s such an amazing feeling to finish these events. I was thrilled crossing the finish line and so happy to accept my finisher medal and hat. Scott was there on the other side of the fence and told me how I did. I will admit I was a little disappointed that I didn’t move up to 3rd or 4th place. But I had made the podium with a 5th place finish out of 112 women that started and it still felt great! I had made my goal!

The Storm

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After I got my finisher photo I left the finish area and we walked to a big white tent that had food for the athletes. I filled my plate with banana and orange pieces, pretzels and potato chips. Scott did the same since he had the athlete wrist band. We sat and talked about the race. Another SOAS Ambassador named Amanda came over to introduce herself and chat with us for a bit. After she left to find her husband the storm came upon us very quickly. It started to rain and then the wind was insane. All of a sudden it was like a hurricane. The wind was belting on the tent and we were scared! The palm trees looked like something on the weather channel during hurricane news coverage. We decided to try and get to our rental jeep. But it was too rainy and windy and I was freezing! So we ran into the Ironman Store tent. The wind was still crazy and it was a torrential down pour. I thought the tent was going to fall down upon us and there were at least 100 people in the tent. We ran into one of the Moody Garden buildings for shelter. Soon we learned the race had been suspended and then canceled. I sat by a turtle exhibit hoping Charlie and the other athletes out there were OK. Moody Gardens was so great to let athletes wander around and “camp out” until the storm passed. There were also reports of hail and cloud to ground lightning I learned later. Thank goodness everyone was safe but I did hear that some athletes did get banged up on the bike in the storm. But they were taken care of and no major injuries.

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After an hour or so the storm died down and we made our way to the transition area to get my bike. I was worried it was trashed and my stuff was lost in the storm. But somehow my bike was fine and all my gear was still under my bike. A few bikes had been knocked down and even some porto pots. Luckily my bike and gear made it through the storm. Charlie found shelter in a parking garage with many athletes. He was disappointed not to finish but was in good spirits. He made it through the swim and had a good bike. He knew he could have finished the race strong and is excited to try another 70.3. That evening we celebrated the crazy day with beer and vegan bean burgers at Jimmy’s by the Pier. I had spotted that place on my runs before the race. The sign that said “Local Beer” caught my eye! I also knew from Happy Cow (vegan food guide) that they served a couple vegan options.

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On Monday the three of us had a nice long walk on the beach and lunch at Jimmy’s by the Pier which also had a nice vegan bean salad option. My legs were fatigued but just the usual soreness from a race. It was a beautiful sunny day. Later we said good-bye to Charlie and drove down Galveston Island along the race course and over to the next Island. We even did some driving on the beach which is a thing in Galveston! That was a highlight of the trip! For dinner that evening we found a fun hipster beer bar called Brews Brothers that served a tasty lentil vegan burger and good beer. This was located in the Strand which is the historic downtown area that is charming and cute. We enjoyed walking around in the evening and even caught a gorgeous sunset. Galveston was such a pleasant surprise!

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On Tuesday we decided to visit the Aquarium and Rainforest at Moody Gardens after another swim at the community outdoor pool. I wanted to support Moody Gardens after they were so hospitable to the athletes during the storm. And it’s a non-profit organization that is working to conserve the ocean, rainforests and environment. We enjoyed both the Aquarium and Rainforest. I normally avoid the touristy attractions but did find this all worth it.

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Overall I highly recommend Ironman Texas 70.3 in spite of the storm. I enjoyed the event so much before the storm hit. It’s not the first event that has been canceled by weather. Even in New England we’ve had races end quickly due to storms. It happens. If Scott ever wants to come back and do the race with his friend Charlie, I’m game! It’s a great area and top-notch event.

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Thank you to Lisa my Ironman coach who gets me to the starting line healthy. And thank you to the best husband in the world. I could not do this without him!

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Thanks for Stopping by! Next up is Ironman CT 70.3 in June, Ironman Canada in July and then Nice!

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Ironman Copenhagen Race Report August 19, 2018


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A year ago we signed up for Ironman Copenhagen. I had just completed a very tough Ironman in Lake Placid where I’m pretty sure I had the beginnings of a virus or flu. My body shut down and I stumbled into the finish line. Another 200 yards and I might not have made it. After that difficult race experience, I wanted to do something completely different for 2018. I was thinking of an exciting adventure in Europe. Ironman Copenhagen looked and sounded amazing on the website and it ended up being an epic event and experience. I would highly recommend this Ironman as a “bucket list” race since the city and event were just spectacular! This is an extremely organized and well-run event. The volunteers were amazing too.

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I started my official Ironman training with Lisa in February 2018. The winter and spring went well and I successfully completed a hot and hard Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in June (sadly canceled for the future). I felt really prepared for this Ironman with several 6-6.5 hour bike rides, some long weekend bricks and a 21 and 22 mile long run. Even my swimming felt like I was improving with 4-5 days a week this year compared to 3-4 last year. Lisa and I both felt like I was very ready for this Ironman. A Kona spot felt like a possibility even with a few very fast European women in my age group.

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Beautiful scenes along the Ironman run course

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my Kona spot this year. I was the 5th woman in the 45-49F age-group. Last year there were two Kona spots for my age group in this race, but this year there was only one and the first-place woman accepted it. I was a little disappointed not placing in the top three this year but I really did my best out there and gave a solid performance. Four European women were better than me that day. They are awesome cyclists and good at all three sports. In North American Ironman branded races 5th place earns you a podium spot. However, only the first three places were recognized which was a huge disappointment for me. I thought I had at least made the podium. I was very sad about this at the awards ceremony, more so than not qualifying for Kona. My time of 10:55:37 was a huge accomplishment for me but it just wasn’t quite good enough. I will try again next year at a new Ironman race venue for us! Like Desi Linden said after winning Boston, “if you keep showing up”…..

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Scott has been suffering from plantar fasciitis all season and we almost didn’t think he should do the race since he hardly got any run training in during the year. His foot wasn’t any better for race day but his plan was to run 5 minutes and walk a minute for as long as he could. He did this until about mile 13 where he alternated between walking and running. He is such a champ for finishing what he started and not giving up. He had a strong swim and a faster bike than me by 4 minutes! And he still finished under 13 hours which is very respectable! I’m so proud and amazed at him for doing so well with such a difficult setback! Ironman teaches you that truly anything is possible!

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There are always lessons to learn from every Ironman race experience and this adventure was no exception. While I was very confident and prepared, I did not handle the travel and time change of 6 hours as well as I had planned. We really should have arrived a week before the race. You do need a day for each hour of time change to recover. And we got into Copenhagen the Wednesday afternoon before the race on Sunday. I didn’t have enough time to adjust to the time change. It was also a long tiresome journey. With a 2-hour delay on top of a 6-hour layover in JFK, we were exhausted when we got to Copenhagen. When racing in Europe, get there as early as you can!!

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Another challenge for me was that we had no air conditioning in our AirB&B. Up until this summer it wasn’t really needed as the summers never get too hot in Denmark. But 2018 was the hottest summer ever on record. And it was quite warm when we arrived making our apartment very warm. I have trouble sleeping if it’s too warm. I sleep in AC every night at home during the summer. So I really had difficulties the first couple nights. Luckily it did cool off a bit for the Ironman, but was still warmer than I wanted. We had to keep the windows open at night, but this led to another problem of noise from the other residents in the building complex. One couple had a few social gatherings that were quite noisy! The time change and lack of sleep left me running at about 80-90% for race day!

The brilliant aspect of our AirB&B was that we were about a 3-minute walk from registration, the Expo and the finish line. This was super convenient especially after the race. The apartment was a super, nice, clean modern space with just about everything we needed. Our original AirB&B canceled on us 3 weeks before the race since the owner sold his apartment. I was in a panic but found this AirB&B luckily. It was a good bit more expensive which is why it was still available. But when you are in a bind like that, you’ll pay the extra price! We were very lucky to have secured our accommodations!

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On Thursday morning I did an easy shake-out run for 30 minutes on part of the Ironman run course. It was slow going and felt very warm out at 8:30am. I felt very sluggish and tired but knew I still had a few days to feel better. Later we breezed through registration and hit the Ironman store where we were very generous with buying plenty of Ironman Copenhagen race apparel. We felt like it was a once in a life time opportunity to be there racing! Later after lunch we made our way down to the swim venue to learn the Metro and do a practice swim on part of the course. The Metro was surprisingly easy and getting off at Amager Strandpark was only about a 10-15 minute train ride and then a long 15-20 minute walk to the beach start. The hardest part was walking through mobs of tourists from our apartment to the Metro station which was also a 15-minute walk. It was quite a project to get to the swim venue but I was so glad we made the journey and had a good swim. The water was so refreshing after feeling uncomfortably warm all day long. And we met a lovely young woman from St. Petersburg Russia named Irina. We swam with her and also walked back to the train together. It was so fun to hang out with her. I love meeting athletes from around the world.

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Friday, we tested our bikes to make sure everything was shifting and working properly. We decided to ride during the regular bike commute times which wasn’t the smartest timing. In Copenhagen there is a huge bike culture and bike lanes are built into the infrastructure. Many people commute to work by bike and we hit it when everyone was riding to work that morning. It was a bit stressful since I wasn’t used to this, but a bit entertaining as well. I was worried about taking someone out or causing an accident on my twitchy tri-bike. It was the worst bike for that kind of riding. I was very cautious and rode slowly when I was surrounded by commuters. It was funny to be passed by people in suits and dresses riding 50-pound bikes! But it was an experience we’ll never forget!

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On Saturday morning I did another 30-minute run which went better than Thursday’s run since it was a little cooler. Lisa gave me a 5-minute hard interval which went OK, but it felt a bit harder than I wanted. And my Garmin told me my recovery time was 32 hours which is ridiculous. But I wasn’t feeling 100% and still felt like I was jet-lagged. Our main goal on Saturday was getting our bikes and transition bags down to the transition area near the swim start. This involved a long walk through crowds of tourists, a ride on the Metro and then another long walk to the transition area. But it did go relatively smoothly. We met a nice guy named David from the UK walking to the transition area from the train. We continued to carb load throughout the day which went well. I was nervous as usual but that is normal for me before a big race. That evening was rather mellow where we just hung out and spent time on our laptops. I didn’t sleep well and had trouble falling asleep. I was up quite a few times and might have gotten a couple hours of sleep before our 3am alarm.

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The famous Little Mermaid along the Ironman run course

Race morning went well from the time we woke up. We were very efficient getting ready and cooking our oatmeal. We gave ourselves extra time in case anything happened. And this was very smart as we did have a mix up with the Metro that morning. The train we normally took during the week was different at 4:30am. There are less trains and the one we thought was ours, was going in another direction. We jumped off at the next station and ran into a couple from Ireland where the husband was doing the race. They thought we would be better off taking a taxi so we waited outside for a few minutes. I was so relieved when we all got into a nice large taxi who took us right to the race start. We sure got lucky with that! With the taxi ride, we arrived with plenty of time.

The Swim

The swim went well for me. It wasn’t my fastest Ironman swim, but it wasn’t a notably fast swim course either. While I was a little over a minute slower than last year’s swim at Ironman Lake Placid, this one went so much better and smoother. Last year was terrible and I hated every minute of that violent swim. This time it was uneventful and I had no problems. I was slightly disappointed I didn’t end up with a least a 75-minute swim but I still saw progress over last year. My swim time of 1:18:14 was still respectable for that course. The winner of my age group only swam a 1:12 and only one woman in the “pointy end” of our division swam around an hour.

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The swim course was held in an artificial lagoon at Amager Strandpark which was a 45-minute walk/train/walk from our AirB&B in Copenhagen. It’s a really nice beach area with sand dunes separating the lagoon and ocean with nice wide walkways. The lagoon was ideal for a swim race since there was no rough water and it was rather shallow. I also thought it was pretty neat swimming under three different bridges where spectators could watch and cheer. Scott saw small jellyfish but they were not an issue and didn’t seem to sting. And this swim venue on the beach never felt too crowded with both athletes and spectators like previous Ironmans we’ve done. I felt much less stressed and the atmosphere was a bit more laid back compared to the chaos at other venues.

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There was a nice area to do a swim warm up before the race started which helped me a lot. The water felt refreshing. The warm summer kept the temperatures from getting too chilly as in previous years. Each wave of people (different swim caps) were supposed to warm up at designated times. I went in a couple minutes early since many people were doing the same. There was still plenty of space to warm up. I wore the pink cap which was for the 71 to 75 minutes swimmers. Scott wore the light blue cap for the faster swimmers just ahead of me. The good news is that I was always surrounded by swimmers in pink caps so many finished a few minutes over 75 minutes like myself. I even passed a couple in the light blue caps who started ahead of us.

Lining up I ran into Irina from St Petersburg, Russia who we met at the swim course on Thursday. It was so great to have a friendly face in the starting chute. It definitely helped calm my nerves and I felt more at ease compared to my last two Ironman swims. This was a rolling swim start where 6 of us went off every 6 seconds. Irina went just before me.

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I was happy to get started as it was going to be a very long day. When I went off with my 5 other swim comrades it wasn’t too bad or chaotic. It wasn’t as easy going as Syracuse where everyone went off one at a time, but it wasn’t stressful either. There were still lots of bodies around me but I stayed to the outside (right) and stayed out of trouble. We swam out straight to the first buoy and then turned right to make our way down the long stretch of the lagoon. I broke the swim course into mental chunks which always helps. I focused first on making my way to the first bridge since I swam out to it on Thursday and was familiar with that part of the swim course. I was moving fine and it was nice to be breathing to my left side which is my stronger side the whole course.

I got under and through the first bridge and it was cool to see so many people on the bridge cheering. The next section was another long stretch to the next bridge. I knew once I got past that one it wouldn’t be much longer until we turned around. There were lots of bodies around me heading down the lagoon but I never had too much problem finding clear water. There were some times of congestion but I was able to deal with it and just keep moving forward. I think it was on the way out I got hit on the back of the head but nothing too hard. It was the only time I had some real physical contact by another athlete in the swim. I had people hit my legs and feet at times but nothing out of the ordinary. I also noticed that there were not as many women in this event compared to racing in North America. That was true throughout the day.

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The turnaround buoy was welcomed and not too crazy to get around. Then it was straight across for bit before finally turning around. I was happy to be heading back but knew I wasn’t quite halfway yet. I just kept plugging away on the stretch back and used the bridges to break things up mentally. There were times I kept swimming out too far away from the buoy line and had to swim a bit diagonally to get back. This happened quite a bit. There was no surprise my Garmin clocked 2.5 miles instead of 2.4.

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Swimming on Thursday to check out the swim course

After a while I could see the swim finish vaguely on the other side but we had to keep swimming down the other direction which made the swim seem mentally harder and longer. But I finally got to the bridge on the other end. It was a little bit sketchy going under as there wasn’t a big space to get through. But there were no incidents. Then right away we turned around and headed back towards the finish. Again, it was cool to see so many spectators on that last bridge!

It was sometimes hard to see the buoys or where to go on the last bridge and then heading back to the finish. I had to sight quite a bit to make sure I was going in the correct line. And then finally the turn buoy came in sight and we made a right to the finish. That smaller stretch got a bit crowded as we got close to the finish. And then I had trouble determining the swim finish from the swim start. But it was to the right which should have been obvious for me. I needed a little help getting out of the water but it was such a relief to be done.

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I swam hard and was really out of breath at the end. And I was a bit dizzy and light headed running to the transition area. My transition was a good 6 minutes. No wetsuit strippers or volunteers to help bag our stuff. It’s more self-service in Europe. But my transition time was still slow compared to my competitors! And feeling a bit dizzy it took me longer to get into my bike gear.

The Bike

The bike course was really excellent! It’s a good mix of the city centre, coastline, and rolling country terrain out in North Zealand. And it was my best Ironman bike split coming in at 5:47:54. It wasn’t a very hilly course like Lake Placid but it had several elements that made it almost as challenging as the Ironman bike course in Mont Tremblant. The wind was the big factor especially heading back south in the North Zealand countryside. Wind is no joke in Denmark and race day was no exception. You see wind turbines all over Denmark for good reason! The wind made it difficult heading back on both loops. Also, there are very technical sections leaving the city from the swim course and then heading back into the city after the two loops. It was fun riding in the city but you had to make a lot of sharp and tight turns which really slow down your average speed. Another aspect to make it challenging were the twisty, rolling country roads with varying road surfaces. I enjoyed these roads but they were not conducive to fast time-trialing where you get into a zone. One of the positives is that the Europeans (especially the Danish) had excellent bike-handling skills. So much better than North America! I was so impressed with the riders in this race!

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I was happy with my bike split for sure. My goal was to come in between 5:45 and 6 hours and I nailed that goal! But two glaring issues leave me going back to the drawing board for my bike training next season. First my neck was screaming at me throughout most of the ride where I couldn’t ride in my aero bars after leaving the ocean roads on the second loop. It was excruciating! And this is after a very professional bike fit last fall. My other problem is my bike nutrition for the Ironman distance. While it works well for the half Iron distance, it left me with stomach cramps during much of the bike and into the run. So I have a few things to figure out this winter. But in spite of those difficulties, I still had a good bike ride.

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Leaving the transition area after the swim

It was a nice cool and cloudy morning starting out through the city centre roads. It did take a while to get onto the coastline with the beautiful ocean views. But I have good bike handling skills from my bike racing days 20+ years ago and was enjoying the technical aspects of city riding. It wasn’t crowded yet either so that was nice.

Once on the coastline I worked hard to get into a good rhythm. The wind was coming at us from the side but it was a favorable cross-wind. I was actually feeling warm since I was working hard. This segment of the course which was about 25-30 kilometers had several sections with rolling terrain so it wasn’t quite as fast as I anticipated but I never had to get out of my big chain ring. I was passing riders and many guys were still passing me. There were no real big packs like you see in North American events but at times there would be quite a few of us together strung out. No one was blatantly drafting. This is partly because there were many race marshals out on motorcycles. Much more than what I’ve seen in North America.

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Heading left away from the ocean the bike course took us through rolling, winding and twisty roads with many turns and pavement changes. This made it slower in some sections but I didn’t mind getting out of my aero bars for different sections of the course. It was quite pretty out there in the country side. There was even a wooded section of roads going through a forest. I enjoyed the one skinny road that felt more like a bike/run path. One woman in my age group from Germany (3rd place) passed me going pretty fast. I knew I couldn’t maintain that speed and hoped I’d catch her on the run but didn’t. My run was faster and my swim was much faster but she was a superb bike rider!

My stomach was getting crampy halfway down the North Zealand country side. I stopped doing my chews for and hour and just consumed water which did help quite a bit. Then I went back to my nutrition plan, consuming my shot blocks every 30 minutes. I took water at all the aid stations and filled my front bottle. That did help too.

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There are some larger rollers after the countryside and loads of cheering people on the Geels Bakke hill. It was great to see the crowd support lining the roads. It felt like the three bear climbs at Lake Placid. This was also where I got my Special Needs bottles. This process was quick and efficient with a volunteer grabbing my bag for me. Not as many Europeans use Special Needs like in North America. After Geels Bakke it felt like it took a while to get to the start of the next loop. I thought I might have missed it somehow and stopped briefly at an intersection to ask where the next loop started. I had a few miles. That cost me a minute or two but sometimes we do unwise things in a race!

I was happy to be on the second loop and riding along the coastline again with the pretty ocean views. I was getting tired but my legs were doing OK. My stomach didn’t feel great and still had a few small cramps that I could manage. More water than Tailwind did help but I made sure I still had enough calories The rollers on the coast did feel harder and I even thought about going into my small chain ring but decided against it. My neck was killing me at this point and I was taking turns riding in my aero bars and horns.

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I was happy to get back onto the North Zealand country roads again! After a few miles in the country side, another woman in my age group passed me on the bike. “Not again!” I thought so I made a huge effort to stick with her until a few kilometers from the bike finish. She wasn’t really going too much faster and I knew I could ride her speed. I did this mostly in the horns as the aero position was just too painful. I would try to get back to my aero bars every so often but it didn’t last long. Following this woman was a gift. I pretended I was back in my old bike racing days trying to catch someone or bridge a gap. It kept my mind busy and gave me a task. I made sure I wasn’t drafting and just kept her in close sight. My second loop was faster than my first loop due to this chase. Thanks to her I had my best ever bike split!

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However, she probably wasn’t too pleased knowing someone was following her. There was a guy on a road bike riding along with her on the bike path letting her know about me (he wasn’t in the race). This went on for a few miles. This is illegal and she would have been disqualified if an official saw this. At the Geels Bakke aid station she took a water bottle and I was right behind her getting water myself. She let it go and it dropped right in front of my wheel. Thanks to my good bike handling I was able to ride right over it and avoid a nasty fall. Did she do it on purpose? My guess is yes, sadly. That is not cool. But I’ve seen worse and middle-aged women have a track record of doing unsavory things at a race. (at the race I did in Syracuse, one woman got caught letting air out of her competitor’s tire). Yes, women are as bad as men sometimes!

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Luckily after the water bottle incident there were only about 20 kilometers to go. She picked up the pace and I was game. My heart rate had been higher than I would have liked to see in a full Ironman while following her pace. But I was still doing OK. Lisa said she thought I had been holding back in past races so this was a good test to see what I could do. Once we got back to the city centre I let her go with just a few kilometers to go. I didn’t need to go balls out on the technical sections. It was smarter to be careful after such a long ride. And I knew I’d catch her on the run which I did! (Lisa warned me I’d get passed on the bike in Europe, but would catch people on the run)

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I was so happy when I recognized the city streets and knew I was almost done. It was amusing to bike down the hill into the underground garage and hand off my bike to a volunteer. It was quite a ride. It was super tough with the wind and I never felt comfortable with my neck or stomach. And a good saddle sore added to the mix of discomfort. But I rode the best I could with my current deck of cards and that’s all I can ask of myself. I stayed upright and felt proud of my bike handling skills on the Danish roads and avoiding a crash. Again, my transition was slow. I was winded and a little light-headed. I had to sit down to change my shoes and put on my run gear. Changing socks always costs me an extra minute. And a much-needed port-o-potty stop cost me as well. I had another 6-minute transition. But it was onto the run which is what I do best!

The Run

The Ironman marathon in Copenhagen is spectacular! The course goes through the heart of the city and passes many historic sites and attractions. And the crowd support is the best I’ve seen so far in an Ironman. Thousands of people come out and cheer on the athletes. It’s not quite the Boston Marathon but pretty close! I really enjoyed the spectators! While the total elevation gain is quite small, it’s not an easy marathon course. There are tight turns, hopping up and down curves, pavement changes including cobblestones and tiny but steep hills at the north end of the course which feel harder each lap. You run the course 4 and a half times so that alone is very challenging mentally.

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This was a good marathon for me considering it was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. The cool cloudy weather (70ish F) helped a lot. It was a bit humid but nothing oppressive. My time of 3:36:36 was a nice surprise after I didn’t think I’d do too well after the first 13 miles. My original goal was to run a time of 3:30 to 3:40, but I was hoping to come in closer to 3:30. So overall it was still a solid run and a few seconds faster than my Ironman marathon in Mont Tremblant a couple years ago. Surprisingly my run was the 3rd fastest in my age group. I usually get the first or second fastest run in North American Ironman events, but these European women are just so impressive!

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The run course going through Nyhavn. Yes we ran on the cobblestones!

After a slow transition I ran up the ramp out of the basement parking garage. I was happy to be starting the run but knew I had a big job ahead of me. It was so neat to be running along the water and the old ships and historic buildings. I ran on this section during my short training runs earlier in the week. I wasn’t feeling great but wasn’t feeling terrible. My stomach was still a little crampy from the bike and not digesting the shot blocks very well. But it wasn’t as bad as Lake Placid’s Ironman marathon last year. I was able to just plug away and run conservatively even if my stomach never felt well during this marathon. The goal was to run around an 8-8:15 minute/mile pace. From the beginning I knew this was going to be a tall order, so I just let my body run and not over exert myself from the beginning. My first mile clocked in at an 8:26 pace but I was being conservative.

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The next couple miles continued on the north side of the course going by the Little Mermaid and then up and down those tiny but steep little hills heading out by the cruise ships. On the first lap they felt fine and didn’t impact my pace too much. At the end, there is a turnaround where you collect your colored bracelets for each lap. I had been running with another woman setting a nice pace but I noticed she only had 2 more laps and I had just begun my journey. But she was a good pacer as my next 3 miles clocked in between paces of 8:11 to 8:17. I was feeling OK at this point but not awesome either. It was fun to run back to the finish area section and head through the famous Nyhavn area with the pretty colored buildings. But this was another section of cobblestones that were wet form the aid stations. I was taking sponges and water at each one. I was also being careful not to fall especially in a section where we had to jump over some planks covering up wiring. (this could have been tricky on the 5th time)

I broke each section down mentally which helped a bit. After Nyhavn we ran the other direction with a right turn up another street with a turnaround. And then back to the main road heading out a bit with a final turnaround. Then it was back towards the finish with nice views of the water on the right side. And then it was back through the Nyhavn area, around the famous playhouse and then past the finish line to continue onto the second loop. I was still running paces of around 8:17 to 8:14.

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Dancing on Friday night. Running the marathon by the Playhouse on Sunday.

The second loop was still going well. I was happy collect my second colored bracelet and was just working hard to focus and keep on task. I was taking my gels every 30 minutes and taking water at all aid stations. My paces were still consistent but I could tell around mile 11-12 things were going to get harder for me. Once I went by the finish line I thought I should slow things down a bit for my third loop and save some energy for the last loop and a half where it would be very difficult. As a result, mile 12 was around an 8:50 pace. And that third lap did have slower paces ranging from 8:39 to 8:16. But my body was slowing down and I didn’t feel I could run much faster. After 13 miles I was getting a bit worried that my body might shut down like it did in Lake Placid last year but it never seemed to crash. I just got a bit slower. I was happy when I collected my third colored bracelet. Just one to go! But I wasn’t running as fast as I had hoped. The crowds were still great and I did enjoy all the athletes around me. It was never too crowded but there were a lot of athletes running. I was still trying to enjoy the sites and experience. I was in Copenhagen doing something epic! It was a rare opportunity and privilege to be running in such a beautiful European city!

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My forth loop was very tough and I definitely was slowing down more! I just took it one section at a time. My paces were ranging from 9:03 to 8:27. More miles were closer to 9 minutes but I didn’t have too far to go. After I went by the finish line I knew I just had to do a full loop one more time and then I would get to run down the finish line. I was in good spirits on my last full lap, but it was hurting! I was so tired and my legs were not moving too fast. I was so happy to collect my last wrist band! But those little tiny hills were tough and slowing me down. I was really grateful for the spectators!

Once I was on my final half loop I was really slowing down. I hit my slowest pace of a 9:29 on mile 24. But when I saw I had just over a couple KMs to go I found the energy to pick up my pace. I got down close to an 8:30 pace and my final mile was a 7:44 pace! Where did I get the energy to increase my speed like that? Our mind is a powerful tool if we use it correctly! I ran by the Hoka One One guy one last time and he mentioned me running by so fast. I was just so happy! And running around the playhouse on the wood pier was just fantastic. I was flying and feeling so joyful.

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The finish line was even better. I was running down the red carpet yelling how much I loved Copenhagen. I was celebrating while crossing the finish line! What an amazing feeling. I had been dreaming of crossing that finish line all year! It was very special finishing so strong and successfully. In Europe they post your actual finish time on the finish chute and I was thrilled to see a time of 10:55! I had broken the 11 hour mark and it was a personal record for me!

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On Monday after the race we attended the awards ceremony and walked around a bit. Scott’s foot wasn’t terrible and we were not doing too badly after the Ironman. The best part of the day was sitting by the playhouse right on the water enjoying beers. It was so pleasant and relaxing. I could have sat there all day. And the sunshine felt nice. The temperatures had cooled and we were happy in our new Ironman hoodies.

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One important visit we made was to a wonderful farm animal sanctuary called Fields of Freedom in Espe, Denmark. We rented a car from the airport and drove a couple hours to Espe which is just south of Odense. It was really fun to drive over the long bridge to another island of Denmark and see some countryside. Chris was amazing to spend time with us and showed us around the sanctuary. I got to meet so many animals. They really touched my heart. Chris has given everything and dedicated his life to rescuing and caring for abused and neglected farm animals. He is quite inspiring! We plan to visit a couple farm animal sanctuaries in Vermont this fall.

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Food and Beverage Report

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Copenhagen is very progressive when it comes to vegan/plant-based food. We had no trouble finding delicious and healthy vegan food before and after the Ironman. I had scoped out MadeinItaly before we arrived and was so happy it was only a 4-5 minute walk from our apartment. This small and cozy restaurant was a dream come true for us. The owner, Eva was wonderful and the food was mostly vegan and excellent. Eva is from Italy and everything was vegan except for one pizza type with a biodynamic mozzarella cheese. The rest of her cheeses were vegan and amazing! Her pizzas were all very special with all kinds of creative toppings including potatoes and truffles. I had her delicious veggie lasagna the night before our race. It was the best carb loading we could have done!

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Amazing vegan tiramisu at MadeinItaly

After the Ironman we walked over the pedestrian bridge to the Christianshavn side of the canal for the Copenhagen Street Food Market with stalls and food trucks. This was amazing and many stalls had vegan options including the California Kitchen.

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My favorite was a vegan food truck called the Organic Boho which had the best falafel ever and fresh juice (done at their brick and mortar location in Copenhagen).

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The morning we left we had one more Chiaseed pudding bowl from Grød which was tasty and super healthy. Even the airport had a vegan restaurant called 42 Degrees Raw. While it did have raw vegan food, there were also cooked vegan burgers. We ordered four of these burgers for our long flight home. Healthy and delicious!

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Overall Ironman Copenhagen was an epic adventure for us! We are so grateful to we have the health and means to do these races in such amazing destinations. We love to travel abroad, visit new cultures and meet new people from all over the world. I highly recommend it! The air travel can be rough especially with time changes, two large bike boxes, and long layovers. But in the end, it is still worth it. Thank you to Ironman Copenhagen and to all the volunteers who made the day happen so well. A huge thank you to my coach Lisa who is always patient and provides me with the best training guidance for my unique lifestyle. She has successfully coached me through three Ironmans! And thank you to the best husband in the world. I couldn’t do this without my best friend!

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What’s next? This year we are not doing a late fall triathlon or marathon. I decided we both need extra downtime this year. Scott’s foot is getting better and will run soon. I am letting my body recover from the Ironman and long travel. This fall we look forward to riding our gravel and mountain bikes and doing a bit of trail running. It looks like September will be warm so maybe a few more open water swim weeks for us! And then we start back up our official training in January. Scott will be doing half Ironmans while I tackle the full Ironman once again in 2019!

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Cheers! Stop by again!

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Ironman Syracuse 70.3 Another Hot and Steamy Race Report 6-17-18

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Last weekend we finished Ironman Syracuse 70.3 which was our toughest half Ironman triathlon yet. We chose this race since it was close, convenient and fit right into our training schedule for Ironman Copenhagen in August. Syracuse, New York is a 5 hour drive so no flying was necessary which is always a huge plus for me! I love doing the Ironman branded races since they bring such fierce age-group competition!

This 70.3 is well known to be a very challenging race course for the bike and run. As of 2016 the bike course changed where there are some new hills and climbs at the end of the race starting after 41 miles in addition to the long climbing done in the beginning. The run course was made easier by taking out a long hill but it’s still not an easy run especially with about 2 miles of running through grassy fields. What made the day extra challenging was the temps reaching about 90F during the run! The bike felt toasty towards the end, but the run was very hot and you could feel the temps rising as the run progressed. And it was just as hot as last year’s race!

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While this ended up as my slowest 70.3 so far, I ended up 3rd in my age group. I had a strong race and all three disciplines went very smoothly for me on Sunday. My training has been going well without hiccups and I was ready for this race! While there were only abut 30 finishers in my division I’m still proud of my finish. The winner is an elite athlete from Ecuador and the second woman is a very experienced athlete with decades under her belt. This was my fifth 70.3 triathlon and I’m learning so much from each event.

I do have to say that Ironman Syracuse 70.3 is a fantastic event that I recommend. The organization is excellent and the race directors do a great job. The volunteers were amazing standing in the heat all day. The rolling start swim was my best and favorite so far. The bike course is beautiful in the New York countryside. And the run course is hard but fair. If you want a solid challenging course, this is the place!

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Driving part of the bike course

We drove to Syracuse on Friday morning and headed right to the venue for athlete check-in to receive our race packet. It was pretty low key as there weren’t many athletes yet around 3pm that day. Check-in was fast and smooth. We then hit the Ironman store for a bit and managed not to spend our entire life savings in there! Next it was down to the beach to look at the swim course and snap a few photos. The Jamesville Reservoir is pretty and a nice clean body of water for swimming. Then we made it to our AirB&B which was about 12 minutes away by car. This ended up being a nice comfortable place stay. While it felt like we stepped back into the 1970s, the house was clean and had everything we needed.

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Saturday went smoothly but much of the day I felt so nervous and stressed over the race. I worried about how I would do against the elite women in my field. I worried about Scott in the heat. Heck I even worried my run would be slow in the heat. All kinds of doubt and worry plagued me to the point where I had trouble eating my lunch. I almost felt close to tears trying to get food down.

We did a short 30 minute bike ride in the residential neighborhoods that morning. It didn’t make for a quality ride but enough to get some sprints and quick bursts to shake out the legs and make sure our bikes were working properly. We also did a practice swim on part of the swim course. The water felt so nice and refreshing on a warm day. I enjoyed that! Talking to another couple around our age on the beach was a welcome break from worrying about race day. We always meet great athletes! Next we checked our bikes into transition. I was very happy when Seth and his friend Patrick showed up in the evening. They stayed one night with us. They helped ease my nerves and take my mind off of my own worries. They also completed the race on Sunday.

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Race morning went smoothly as well but my nerves were still acting up. We were up at 3am for oatmeal. Again it was nice to have the company of the boys who helped me relax. And then we were out the door at about 4:40am to drive to the venue. My one complaint was that parking was in the far end of the park and it was quite a long walk to the transition area, finish line and swim start. Our friend Angie who also raced that day said she walked about 6 miles total in addition to racing! That walk got old and tiresome especially after the race!

The Swim

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The swim was my best so far and even my fastest by just a few seconds. A 37:22 swim is not very competitive but this was a good time for me! It felt like a while since I swam below 40 minutes because Worlds had the river currents and Puerto Rico was slower without a wetsuit. I made sure I was in the water for the warm up swim at around 6:30am. The area was tiny and packed with athletes swimming in circles. This was not very effective so I ducked under the lines with a few other swimmers. I was able to do a few short laps counting 25 fast strokes quite a few times. After lining up in the corral, the start was a few minutes late due to race organizers checking something safety related. The rolling start worked so well even after it seemed like a while before I finally went off. Everyone went one at a time every few seconds which worked brilliantly. It felt like I had plenty of room even from the start. There were still swimmers around me but it was so much more civil and less chaotic. The water felt great and it was a beautiful sunny day. I wore my tinted goggles which helped and it never felt like the sun was blinding me.

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The swim was very uneventful. I just focused on swimming strong and taking one buoy at a time. I didn’t feel stressed. There were no panic attacks in the beginning. No punches to the head. This was such a nice swim compared to Lake Placid where I hated every minute of that violent swim. Rounding the first buoy there were a lot more bodies but no real problems getting around it. And then the next turnaround buoy came rather quickly. The way back was uneventful for the most part. Sometimes I had a few people hitting my feet or lower legs.

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At the end of the swim it felt a bit more crowded. I was catching some slower swimmers on the last quarter of the swim and caught up to many at the end. It seemed like mostly green caps (males). One other reason the swim went so well was that I seeded myself honestly. I chose the 37-40 minute group and placed myself closer to the front. This was perfect. I swam mostly to the outside making sure not to stray too far from the buoys. This a good way to stay out of trouble.

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Overall I was very happy with this swim. I did see that I swam around 37 minutes and was very happy with my result. I was 10th out of the water and I’m usually in the upper 1/3 of my field. And then I have to catch many women on the bike and run which is normal for me. I ended up running a little past the wetsuit strippers and had to turn around. But then it was off to ride my bike!

The Bike

The bike went well for me. It was warm and very hilly. I worked my way up to 4th place once I got off the bike. This was my slowest bike split so far with a time of 3:05:07. I had hoped to break 3 hours or at least around 3 hours. But I didn’t know exactly how hilly the last hills would be. In retrospect we should have driven miles 41 to 56 to see the whole bike course. We only drove the first 13 miles and the last 2 miles to see the steep hill at the end. With over 3,000 feet of climbing this course is a beast! It’s a beautiful race course but hill training is a must! And this is coming from someone who lives and trains in Vermont, a very hilly and mountainous state!

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The first 11.5 miles are mostly uphill. It felt like I was climbing for a while. There is nothing too steep and many times the road flattens out for a break. I actually enjoyed this part of the course. The hills break up most packs and the course never felt crowded or stressful like past races. It was still cool in the morning but bright and sunny. I did ride the long climb conservatively as I knew the rest of the day would only get harder and hotter. After about 16 miles there are a lot of turns but there are no significant climbs until after 40 miles. This was the time I was able to ride faster and get into my areo bars. But there are never really enough flat straight-a-ways to get into a groove. This did keep things interesting with many turns and pavement changes.

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After about 21 miles there is a very steep fast downhill that shoots back uphill quickly. This was a bit stressful but I got through it fine. From miles 24 to 28 there is a pretty lake that we biked around. This is the halfway point and I was still feeling decent. I was very good about staying on top of my nutrition and taking water at the aid stations. I would fill up my front bottle and dump some water on myself to help keep cool. I ate my chews like clockwork.

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Miles 30 to 40 still went well and I felt like I was riding fast enough. While my neck still gets sore in the aero position, it wasn’t terrible but I did feel my neck quite a bit. I wonder if that will ever go away. The sun was getting brighter and I could feel the temps rising a bit. I didn’t feel like I could push harder and still make it on the hot run looming in the distance.

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At around 41 miles the new hills started. It felt like there were several climbs with a few downhills in between. One hill was in the shade which was nice. This really shot my overall average speed. But everyone else had to do this as well! After 50 miles I saw an ambulance up ahead in the distance. To my surprise it was Seth! He was OK and didn’t get hurt when his tire flatted at a high speed. He crashed in the grass. I don’t know how he ended up uninjured. He got very lucky! I could see he was OK after asking a couple times. So I continued onwards. I only had a few miles left and then it was down the steep hill with a speed limit. There were timing strips to make sure no one rode over 25mph which would have resulted in disqualification. It’s a dangerous steep hill with a sharp turn so I’m glad the speed limit was put in place!

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Once at the bottom it was only a couple more miles to transition. I was happy to be done but slightly disappointed being a few minutes slower than I had hoped. But I biked a smart race and had energy left for the run. I do hope that I can improve on the bike. The first and second place women biked well under 3 hours. I know I can get there eventually. It’s a matter of more time on the bike!

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The Run

The run was a hot one! It was hard but I still managed a good strong time of 1:45:34. This was the second fastest run in my age group and it brought me to 3rd place. I was hoping I could run at least 8 minute miles but after such a hot hilly bike ride, this was all I had in me. My overall pace was 8:09 according to my Garmin. Good enough!

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It was hot once back in transition and I did my best to get out onto the run as quickly as possible. Changing into fresh running socks probably costs me an extra minute but I like starting out with dry socks. I took my first GU running out of transition and was disappointed there wasn’t a water station right at the beginning of the run. But within a half mile I took some water, a couple sponges and some ice. We started running through the park and even through the parking area onto the field. I didn’t like the grassy field which was about a half mile long and it felt so hot and hard. And it was hilly! My first mile was slow due to this grassy section.

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I was very happy to get onto the pavement with rolling terrain. While there was nothing worse than gentle rollers, the sun felt very hot. I knew it was approaching 90F but I was feeling OK in the heat. I wasn’t feeling great but I was in control. I had done some heat training in the sauna after swimming for a couple weeks leading up to the race. I believe this helped. With a cooler spring, this was the warmest day of the year for us. The next two miles were straight on the main road with small up and downhills. And there was a small section with a little shade which was a relief. There are two out-and-backs on side roads and both went fine. There were aid stations on both which were very welcomed as I continued to take plenty of water and ice. Sticking ice down my jog bra with the sponges helped a lot. And holding ice in my hands always helps. That saved me in Puerto Rico last year!

On the way back I felt a little better. Before the fields there is a small up hill that feels a bit harder. But it goes quickly. Running back through the fields wasn’t as bad with some down hills. And then it was back through the park. At about 6 ½ miles I came to the turnaround and was very happy to be halfway done. I was still running strong and steady. I was very good about taking my gels every 25ish minutes.

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The second loop went very well and I was almost feeling a little better heading out. The grassy field was still not my favorite but it was over soon. Once I was back on the pavement I knew I had this. I just had to keep running at a smart pace in the heat. It was definitely getting hotter! The second loop had a lot more athletes but it never felt too crowded. The second loop was again rather uneventful. My pace was slightly slower but not much. I was still doing OK. I did see Angie running very fast when I was toward the end of the main road. She won her age group and I’m so happy for her! She loves the heat!

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The side roads went fine and I was always happy to see the aid stations and obtain more ice and water. Once I was back on the main road I only had about 2 miles to go. I was quite happy! No problem! It wasn’t easy but I felt like I would have no issues getting to the finish. But I couldn’t really get myself to move much faster in 90F heat. That’s all my body could do in that temperature. I ran happily through the field for the last time. I did notice going downhill was really hurting my toes, hence the blood blisters. But I didn’t care too much as the finish was so close! After the field, I ran through the park on the paved walkway.

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I was very happy to veer right after completing the second loop. I was on my way to the finish shoot. Another guy caught up to me and he asked about who wanted to go first. I joked about not wanting him to mess up my photo and we laughed. He went first and I got my nice finish photos. I was smiling and it felt so joyful to cross the finish line after such a tough race!

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Scott had a tough day out there on the run. He had a good swim and bike. He was only two minutes slower than me on the bike which was a huge surprise since I’m better on the hills. And he has been dealing with plantar issue on his foot and hasn’t trained as much as myself. The heat crushed him on the run. I saw him a couple times on the run course and he looked OK but I could tell he was moving slower than normal. He is a huge champ for finishing and not giving up! Angie and I chatted after the race and we agreed he was the champion of the day for getting through a 90F day run. I did take him to the medical tent after he finished and a full IV bag brought him back to life! They are always so helpful!

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Food and Beverage Report

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The highlight of our post-race time in Syracuse was visiting a well know vegan restaurant called Strong Hearts Café. There are two locations and we visited the one on East Genesee Street on Sunday evening and Monday morning. It was about a 10-15 minute drive from our AirB&B.

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This is a really funky hip café serving delicious vegan comfort food and many healthy options as well. On Sunday evening we had big filling sandwiches and milkshakes. We also took some of their potato salad and macaroni salad from the grab-and-go cooler which was excellent on our drive home. We also went back for breakfast on Monday morning. We were very disappointed when we were told the tofu scrambles would take 30 minutes so we ordered an “Egg Trick Muffin” which was really good! Tofu and vegan sausage tasted great that morning! And of course we had another milkshake!

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Yes it’s vegan!

A nice couple who volunteered at our race told us to check out Mello Velo Bike Shop which was close by. We stopped in and wished we had more time to visit. They have a great café, espresso bar and many taps of local beer. I wish he could have stayed longer. Do check it out if you’re in Syracuse and you love bikes, coffee, beer or all of the above!

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Overall Ironman Syracuse 70.3 was a great experience and I feel proud of my race. I did my best out there on a tough course and super hot day! I learned a lot and feel that I am still reaching my potential. It’s exciting to be racing so well in my late 40s. If you believe it, you can do it!

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Next up is Ironman Copenhagen in August. We are very excited about our first race in Europe!

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The Unplugged Half Marathon Race Report 4-14-18

I’m writing this race report almost 2 months after a really great half marathon that happened on April 14, 2018. Training for my third full Ironman leaves me with little energy and extra motivation these days. But better late than never! I felt Runvermont’s Half Marathon Unplugged was worth a blog post since it’s a really fantastic local race in Burlington, Vermont. Runvermont is the non-profit organization behind the Vermont City Marathon and several other local races including the Unplugged Half. The organization is top notch and the volunteers are amazing. I highly recommend this half marathon! Surprisingly this was my first time participating in the race. Scott ran it in 2014 as preparation for the marathon that year and had a stellar race. Due to a plantar issue with his foot, he sat this race out for 2018.

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The course takes place mostly on the Burlington bike path. It starts off in some residential areas and follows the bike path 9 miles to Oakledge park before completing the last couple miles through an out-and-back residential area. It’s a fast course but not quite as easy as you might suspect. But I had perfect race weather that day! While the race day forecast was very ominous the days leading up to the race with snow, sleet and freezing rain, we ended up with a dry day. And with a strong Northwest wind and brisk temps in the 30sF, it ended up being a super fast race day. Having a tail wind for about 9 miles might have made many of us a minute or two faster including myself! Thank you mother nature!

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This ended up being my best half marathon since my stress fracture disaster of 2015. My time was a 1:30:28 (6:55 min/mile overall pace) and my inner goal was about a 1:31ish (7:00 min/mile pace). So the tail wind and cool temps might have given me that extra speed. I was very happy and thrilled to have my best half marathon in a long time! Lisa did a great job with run specific training while supplementing with much cycling and swimming. Thank you Lisa once again! I am training for a half Ironman next weekend and a full Ironman in August so this supplemented my overall training. I was happy to be the top master woman and 6th overall out of 664 total females (both waves combined). I still seem to have my run legs even at age 48 which is comforting!

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March training run on the Burlington Bike Path (Unplugged race course)

We got to the Airport park early where the race started and I had plenty of time to do my thing and warm up. It had been raining hard when we awoke at 5:30am and I had no interest in getting out of our nice warm bed. But by the time we got close to Burlington, the rain had stopped. It was windy and cold but I do very well in colder temps.

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Lisa wanted me to run the first few miles slower than goal pace. The first mile was a nice 7:08 pace and I purposely ran conservatively slowing it down when it got too close to a 7 min mile pace. I know better to keep it slower in the beginning. Plus I like to enjoy running with all the other runners around me since I run mostly alone. It’s fun to people watch. Then after mile one we made a sharp right onto the gravel bike path back to Airport park. This wasn’t slow but there were bicycle ruts and I had to be a little careful. I was still enjoying running with other people. A couple guys were in front of me setting a good pace so I tucked in behind and kept my pace about the same as mile one.

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After mile two the gravel trail continued up a small hill back into Airport park and across the road where we started the race and into the neighborhoods. Scott was there and I threw him my gloves. Running around the first little loop was fun and I was running well at around a 7:02 pace. I caught up to the 3rd place woman in my wave and then after a few minutes I lost her until she passed me around mile 10. I was running well through the next neighborhood loop and saw Scott again and also Jess. He took some photos. The last part in the neighborhood section was back down a road that to the Burlington bike path. The downhill was fun but I was conservative about not running too fast as I was already seeing some sub 7 paces.

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Once on the bike path I was running gradually faster. I was feeling decent and this is where the nice tail wind started to help my pace. I felt good running over the Winooski bridge with the pretty views of the lake and river. And then miles 6 through 9 were faster at sub 7 paces ranging from 6:54 to 6:43. There were times I would see a pace close to 6:30 but knew that was too aggressive, so I let up on the gas just a little but still wanted to push. It was a fine line between giving it a lot of work, but not to the point of blowing myself up or risking a bad ending. The newly paved sections of the bike path were sweet and it was easy to get into a good zone. And these miles went quickly. I went by Leddy park and saw Aliza cheering me on. Then before I knew it, I was already passing North Beach park. I love running on the bike path along Lake Champlain so it was a neat experience to be racing this. It was still running hard but I was still careful not to blow myself up.

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The race course in March!

Soon I was going by the Waterfront park and hit mile 10. I was still running well and had done a gel right before this which helped. Mile 10 was still a fast mile at a 6:53 and I didn’t really mind when the third-place woman ran by me. She looked young (20 years old) and I didn’t let her get too far. I was running my own race for time, not really placing. Mile 11 was a little harder with a slight incline by the trains on the left and the lake on the right. It was difficult but still feasible. I was pushing hard! Mile 11 finished while I was on the road section before getting back onto the bike path and heading to Oakledge park. This was still fast at a surprising pace of 6:48.

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Mile 12 was hard and I was hurting a bit at this time. My quads were getting sore and fatigued and my overall body was just feeling like I was losing steam and energy. Scott was at Oakledge park and took a few photos and cheered me on. After this I had still had over a mile and a half left. And I had to continue on through the parking lot back onto the bike path briefly and then onto the Cove loop after a much needed little downhill. The Cove loop was a little harder with slight inclines but then a little downhill which was a break. But then it was back up the short hill on Austin drive. I was really tired and ran up that slowly. It was a smart move because I was able to push it hard on mile 13. Mile 12 ended up at a 6:58 pace. But mile 13 was faster at a surprising 6:51 pace. I was in beast mode really working it hard. I saw Bobby as I was running back through the parking lot and he was heading out to the Cove loop. I was also running back into the strong head wind on the last 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. Then it was a right turn to the finish line on Flynn Ave. I saw that I was going to be around 1:30 so I sprinted past one dude and crossed the line at 1:30:28! I wanted to get under the 30 second mark.

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Overall I was very happy I had a strong performance that day! I needed a good run like that to give me more confidence in my half and full Ironman runs. Running is what I do best and this half marathon was a good event to sharpen my legs and prove to myself I’m still a fast old lady! Many thanks to the volunteers who braved the cold and wind! And thanks to Jess and Runvermont for a special day! Thanks to Lisa who has been keeping me injury free since 2015. Most of all, thanks to Scott who is always my best support. I couldn’t do this without him.

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Next weekend we will compete in the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 and then it’s off to Copenhagen for Ironman number three in August! Thanks for stopping by!

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The Barbados Marathon: A Tropical Race Report 12-3-17

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The Barbados Marathon in the Caribbean was my first open marathon since Boston 2014. With a focus on the Ironman and chasing my Kona dreams the last few years, it felt like a long time since I had run a pure marathon. I knew about this race from our friends who ran it in 2016 and enjoyed the hot tropical experience. I had no intentions of running a marathon this year, but after a tough day at Ironman Lake Placid, it sounded like a perfect opportunity to do something fresh and exciting.

We were having beers with Jess and Chris one August evening at the Stone Corral and they asked us if we wanted to join them and run the marathon in Barbados. Why not? Everything sounds great over a couple beers. That night we secured our resort condo and flights to Barbados! I still had the Ironman Worlds 70.3 in Tennessee in a few weeks but the marathon wasn’t until December. Plenty of time to get myself ready!

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Run Barbados Marathon Weekend is a really super, well organized race event. The race director does a fantastic job with various races all weekend long. Friday is a mile run. Saturday is a 5K and 10K. Sunday is the half and full marathon. There is something for everyone. And for those up for a challenge, you can race four events including the half marathon on Sunday. Jess and Chris opted for doing the “Quad” and successfully ran all four races. Scott did the half marathon and ran very well. I ran the full marathon and I’m so grateful I had a very good morning out there. Thanks to Jess and Chris for a great experience! And thanks to my coach Lisa for once again helping me arrive at the starting line healthy!

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A week after recovering from the Ironman Worlds 70.3, Lisa started my marathon training which consisted of much less running than I did for previous marathons. Instead she supplemented my limited running with bike trainer rides, weekend mountain/gravel bike rides and plenty of swimming. It’s hard to say if this worked as well as my previous traditional training from running coaches. Barbados was very HOT and extremely HUMID. My time was a half hour slower than my personal best marathon time back in 2013 during cool weather. I would have run much faster in cooler autumn temperatures but I am not sure I could have run a sub 3:10 marathon. All the Ironman racing (halves and a full) might have taken a lot out of me this year. I didn’t have the long build up with many long runs ranging from 22 to 26 miles. My longest run was only 22 miles. I was hoping to run a 3:30 or faster marathon in the heat but ended up with a 3:37. Still I did my best out there and felt I was smart about my pacing. I was the 6th women (including elites) and 12th overall out of 95 men and women who signed up. Last year my time would have gotten me second place but the women’s field had more elites show up this year.

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We flew into Barbados the Friday afternoon before the race. Not much time to acclimate but I had been diligent about doing hot Bikram yoga once a week and sitting in the sauna after swimming. We had time to pick up our race packet in Bridgetown that evening in our rental car. Traffic was brutal so it took a long time to get back to our resort. We also hit a well-stocked grocery store on or way back to get a few necessities for the night.

We were very fortunate to stay in a very upscale, boutique resort right on the beach called Oceans Two. Chris and Jess are timeshare members and were able to use their discounts for our condo which made the vacation a really great deal. The condo/suite was beautiful with a full modern kitchen, living space, bedroom with a king bed and a spacious bathroom/shower. The marble floors and granite countertops really made us feel like we were living like kings. The only problem with our room was that it was on a very noise corner of the building. Service trucks were in and out below our room. And a loud jazz club kept us up especially the Friday night before our marathon on Sunday. But what’s a marathon without a good story.

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Saturday morning Scott and I did a small run with a few strides down the St. Lawrence Gap round 9:30am. There was some traffic on the narrow roads, but not too bad. Running earlier would have been smarter. Our next task of the day was doing a bigger shop at the Massy Grocery Store a few minutes’ drive from the resort. Then it was time to relax all afternoon. Marathon preparation felt so easy compared to the complexities and logistics of getting ready for an Ironman. So, my stress levels were much lower. I tried to take a nap in the afternoon, but with marble floors in the rooms, noise from other rooms kept me up. It was still smart to stay inside the rest of the afternoon and evening and just focus on fueling myself well for the race and staying off my feet.

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We were up very early the next morning for a 5am race start. After our oatmeal, banana and sports drink we met Chris and Jess in the resort lobby at 3:45am. We were able to convince a local police officer that we were allowed to park close to the race start since we got there just before 4am. This really made life easier that morning. At 4:30am I did a quick warm-up run of about a half mile. It was already 80F degrees and extremely humid. I felt very slow and sluggish on the first part of my warm up and felt concerned with not feeling well. But I knew this could be partly due to nerves. I may have eaten a little bit too much the day before, but in cooler weather I do very well with generous carb loading. I wonder if eating a little less in the heat would have been smarter? Would have I felt better? Perhaps…

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We all lined up together. This was the first time starting a race in the dark. It was also the first time starting a race where I was hot and sweating lightly on the start line. Scott liked how my back was glistening from the sweat. A very friendly woman named Helen from Ireland started up a conversation which helped calm my nerves. We were both feeling concerned about the heat and humidity. Then we were off.

After a few seconds of running I felt cooler and much better. My first thoughts were, “I love to run, this is where I belong”. What a relief! But I knew this was going to be a new challenging experience close to the equator, so I played my cards conservatively. I knew that I had to start off with a pace of 8 minutes/mile that morning. Lisa thought I could start at 7:45s, but not when it was that warm in the morning. I wasn’t feeling badly but wasn’t feeling awesome either. I’m a slow starter so I just relaxed and appreciated this very memorable experience. I enjoyed running with such a diverse running field from Barbados and all over the world. There were many runners around me for the first couple miles and it was fun to “people watch”. Scott was ahead of me for a bit which is typical when he starts a race. But I slowly caught up to him during mile two and told him to take his time in the heat.

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Miles one and two were both run at paces of 8:02. My pacing was pretty good considering I couldn’t see my Garmin and it was pretty dark. There was a huge bright full moon and that made running through Bridgetown very fun and festive. I’ll never forget running over the main bridge and seeing the big orange moon straight ahead. Mile three took us out of downtown Bridgetown and it was still pretty flat and mellow. I wanted to make sure the first 10 miles felt somewhat easy and relaxed which is one of the golden rules of marathon racing. My pace was an even 8 minutes on mile 3.

Mile four took us up the major hill of the race and I was still feeling fine running up it. It wasn’t anything too steep but was much more challenging on the second lap. My pace only slowed a few seconds on this mile and then it was fun to run back down the other side. The sun was starting to rise and I could see the neighborhoods and views of the ocean here and there. It was such a nice morning and most Barbadians were still sleeping. Miles 5 and 6 continued to go well with some minor rolling terrain. At this point it still felt very feasible and everything was going smoothly. Miles 5 and 6 were a 7:58 and 7:59 and I was almost at the turnaround feeling confident and trying to appreciate the experience. The turnaround was uneventful and I was happy to head back on this first lap. I was a quarter of the way done. I like to break a race up into chunks which helps mentally.

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I was actually feeling a bit better on the way back. On the way out, I felt a bit more weighted down and I could feel sloshing in my stomach after I took water from the aid stations. On the way back, this situation improved much. My paces increased and I even felt good running up the small rollers and the longer hill. Miles 7 and 8 saw paces of 7:52 and 7:53. I was so happy to see Scott looking good just before his turnaround. Mile 9 was just a little slower back up the hill but then I was able to run comfortably a couple more miles around a 7:50 pace. The sun was rising and so were the temperatures but I was still moving well at miles 10 and 11.

The next two miles were back in Bridgetown and feeling a little bit harder. I was still able to maintain just under 8-minute miles but I knew the next lap was going to be much more challenging. On mile 12 I ran by last year’s winner Amy and we chatted very briefly. She had been very sick leading up to the marathon and dropped out just before miles 13. That is so unfortunate and I feel for her. It’s always difficult when you can’t finish. But I had a lot of work ahead of me so I just focused on myself going forward making sure I was eating my gels and taking in water at all aid stations. I must say I was very good about taking my nutrition as planned.

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Pebbles Beach near race start/finish

After starting the second lap, I could feel the heat of the morning sun and knew it was going to be very hard on the second half of the marathon. But I was ready to face the challenge. After all, I am a 2x Ironman and have faced much tougher circumstances. Miles 13 through 17 were still strong paces ranging between 7:51 and 8:06 minutes. There is a long stretch before the main hill that is very sunny but I was still running well. However, I knew my heart rate was rising and my effort was increasing as well. I was not looking forward to the main hill. And as expected, I had to slow down my pace as the heat was now taking its toll. This was mile 18 and I knew I had 8 more miles. My pace slowed to an 8:16 on mile 18 and then an 8:20 on mile 19. After that everything started to gradually slow down for me.

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Mile 20 was close to the turnaround which surprisingly came sooner than expected. But I was getting hot and my pace had to slow down in order to get myself back safely without overheating. Miles 20 and 21 saw paces of an 8:38 and an 8:32. Not terrible but my quads were also starting to slow down due to a heavy build-up of lactic acid. I had clearly not done enough long runs. While the heat was becoming a problem, the bigger issue was my legs were becoming bricks and I just couldn’t get them to turnover fast enough. It was during this time that I caught up to the 5th place woman and then she stayed behind me for almost the rest of the race before passing me on the last mile and a half and beating me by about a minute or so. She was very nice and we both encouraged each other. However, she had more than me at the end of the race. She was also about 10 years younger too.

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With 5 miles to go I knew that if I could stay around 9-minute miles or less I’d still get done before 3 hours and 40 minutes. My 3:30 time goal had already gone out the window. I told myself I can run 5 more miles and just took it one mile at a time. Miles 22 and 23 were hard and getting hotter. I was running in that long, flat, sunny stretch that felt like a lifetime. But Jess had warned me about this section and I just soldiered onwards. My paces were around 8:50s and I was OK with that. It was frickin hot!

Miles 24 through 26 were very difficult with the heat and my brick-like legs. They were even slower but my heart rate felt like it was just under the maximum. I knew I would overheat or have to walk if I tried to run faster. I know my body and what I can do. I was giving it my all without putting myself in danger. Running back through town was such a relief but those miles felt never ending. It was sunny and oppressive and I couldn’t wait to cross the line. After 26 miles my Garmin still clocked .46 of a mile and that stretch felt like it would never end! Where was the finish line!! Finally, it was a relief to see it! Scott, Chris and Jess were cheering me on as I was about to cross the line. Scott snapped a few photos and I happily finished my 5th open marathon.

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My body wasn’t completely devastated and I didn’t collapse or do anything dramatic when I crossed the finish line as in past races. It was really nice to finish strong and know I did my best out there. It was hotter than hell and the humidity was off the charts that morning. But I persevered and proved that I could run well even in the heat; even without a full 6 months of marathon training. The Barbados Marathon goes down as a success for me!

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Jess, Chris and Scott all ran very well that morning in the half marathon and it was so fun to see them all during my race. Scott has had difficulties in the heat but that morning he ran strong, safely and well under 2 hours. He is my champ!

While we never had much time at all to acclimate to the hot tropical climate in Barbados, we now had the rest of the vacation to relax and enjoy the beautiful island. I was thrilled to be done with my final race of the season. I had remained strong and healthy for 2 half Ironmans, a full Ironman, a half marathon and a full marathon. Perhaps we do get better as we get older!

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Run Barbados Marathon Weekend is an epic event that I highly recommend. The volunteers were great and it felt like there were aid stations at each kilometer. The course is very pretty with plenty of views of the ocean. The people of Barbados are amazing and so friendly and helpful. I would definitely go back and run again in beautiful Barbados.

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For my half marathon training we both ran the GMAA Green Mountain Half Marathon in South Hero Island, Vermont. I didn’t do a separate blog post but it does deserves some mention. This a super, well organized local event and I also highly recommend doing the half or full marathon that takes place in mid-October. While the weather cooperated with precipitation, the winds were crazy that race morning. This is an out-and-back race along Lake Champlain. On the way back the wind was so strong that I felt like I was running in place during several spots. I kept thinking that it felt like running in a hurricane on some parts right on the lake. High winds are normal for this race but it seems like it was extra special for us that morning! However, it was still a fun race.

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I didn’t run fast that morning. With a time of 1:35, I was about 5 minutes slower than my last open half marathon in 2015. But the rolling terrain and high winds probably made me a couple minutes slower. And I wasn’t quite feeling like I was in marathon shape yet. I have learned there is a difference between Ironman and marathon shape. But I still had a decent training run and ended up as the 4th women overall. And because most of us top women were over 40, I was given first place for the Masters women. I will always try and do one half marathon in preparation for a full marathon. This one did the job well. I’m sure we’ll be back again someday. Thank you to the GMAA for a great morning!

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At the moment we are enjoying two months of downtime. There are no training schedules and nothing too demanding. We have been enjoying our fat bikes and doing some winter trail running on the snowy trails by our house. Ironman training will start up again on February 1st with Lisa. By then I’ll be ready to go, feeling freshly motivated. Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in June and Ironman Copenhagen in August are our big races for 2018.

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Happy New Year and hope to see you out there on the trails, roads, and pool!

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