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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Ironman70.3 World Championship Race Report 9-9-17

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I wasn’t expecting to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee when I raced Puerto Rico Ironman 70.3 back in March. My surprising second place finish provided me the rare opportunity to race alongside the best women in the world within my age group (F45-49). This was one of the best race experiences for me. I loved this event and never smiled so much during a race. It was definitely one of the hardest and most challenging triathlon courses I have ever raced on but it was amazing! I am so grateful to have met so many incredible people from all over the world. I was honored to be there among such strong, awesome women!

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We flew directly from Burlington to Atlanta and then drove up to Chattanooga. I am not a fan of flying or the crowded flights. In fact I dread the whole flying experience. However we ran into another couple from Stowe while waiting to board our flight which made the travel so much more enjoyable. It was so great to connect with Kelly who is an accomplished triathlete and coach. She was also competing in the 70.3 World Championship within the F35-39 age group. The universe must have known I need more triathlete friends in my life because they sat right behind us. It was so great to chat about triathlon with Kelly for a couple hours! And it was so fun having pizza and beer at the Mellow Mushroom with Kelly and Nick after the race! They both rock!

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We shared a wonderful river house just 12 minutes outside of downtown Chattanooga with Mary, her daughter, granddaughter and a young talented athlete named Brittany. The house was spacious, clean, with a rustic, cozy vibe. I loved being right on the pretty Tennessee River. I would definitely rent this house again if we ever do the regular 70.3 or full Ironman in Chattanooga. I am disappointed we had to leave a day earlier due to hurricane Irma. I was looking forward to having more time to relax and enjoy the river-front property. And I was hoping to swim right from the docks. Maybe next time!

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Thursday evening and Friday went by pretty quickly as we always had something to do or get done. Our first stop on Thursday was lunch at Whole Foods Market, then going through athlete check in and then back to Whole Foods for a big shop. Having Whole Foods conveniently located on our way to the river house was really nice! Thursday evening our last task was a short shake out run. Brittany joined us and we drove out to find quieter roads. We did find some pretty running by the river but the roads were a bit windy and it was a little sketchy out that way. At least people seemed friendly.

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Friday felt really busy and I never had time to just relax and enjoy the river house. Our first task was to do a practice swim down by Ross Landing. This was super fun and we both really enjoyed swimming the short course set up in the river. So many athletes were swimming and it felt like a real triathlon swim but much less violent. It was actually enjoyable and the water felt beautiful. I was wearing my Roka Skinsuit as we  weren’t expecting to have a wetsuit legal swim. The hydro electric plant was running and causing a good current so it was slow going against the current. I did the loop twice and my overall pace was 2:30 minutes per 100 yards! Yikes! But we were promised the current would be lower in the morning.

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We then drove the hilliest part of the bike course and I’m so glad we did. It was a crazy long steep 3.5 mile climb up Lookout Mountain! It was like climbing the App Gap here in Vermont but with an extra mile. But on race day I ended up enjoying this climb as that is what I did best back in my bike racing days 20 plus years ago. Later we brought my bike and transition bags down to the appropriate locations. It was always fun going into the athlete village and the area around Ross Landing. It was also a blast to keep running into our local Vermont friend Angie who is an amazing Ironman athlete and vegan like us!

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The women raced on Saturday and the men on Sunday. This was Ironman’s first women only race which was exciting. I can’t say enough good things about having our own race with no boys! My wave was the last to go off at 8:58am. This was tough since the first wave went off at 7:30. We got down to transition at around 6am and I brought my nutrition to my bike and checked my tires. We then found a great coffee house where we relaxed for over an hour. Talking to a nice father and daughter from Australia helped calm my nerves. And it was great to meet Marlies, the 5th place woman of my age group in the coffee house with her husband.

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The Swim

The swim was a win for me that morning. I had been stressing over the strong currents from the hydro electric plant for a good solid week. The reports on the Slowtwitch triathlete forum had me worried about making the 60 minute time cut-off! Even Mary who is a similar swimmer to me was worried. But I also kept hearing the currents would be lower in the morning and the power plant would keep the currents low. The way it works is the less energy used by the general population, the less power and current. So the earlier in the morning the better!

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Going off at 8:58 and starting towards the back of 219 women did make for an interesting swim. I thought I could feel the current increasing but wasn’t quite sure. Hearing other reports within my age group confirmed that I wasn’t imagining the increased current. My time ended up being 41 minutes and 42 seconds and for me that was a very good swim! The best news of the morning was that we did get to wear our wetsuits. The temperature got down to 76.1 F and they were announcing this in the morning! I’m so glad I packed my wetsuit!! So that was helpful in my success that morning in the water.

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The swim turned out to be uneventful for the most part. I started towards the back and it never got too crowded or anything near violent. There were times when I had women all around me but it was manageable and not stressful like previous swims. I was a bit worried about not having a warm up swim before the race so I started off conservatively and that worked well for me. Better than having an anxiety attack!

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After turning right and heading up river, I could not see a g*d damn thing! The sun was directly in my eyes and I had a lot of trouble seeing the yellow buoys. I was making sure I always had women in front of me and around me so I knew I was going in the right direction. But at times I got worried when I couldn’t see any buoys. It sometimes felt hard and tedious with the current and chop but I just kept plugging away. The bridges did help me navigate. And it was cool seeing the city sights to the right. It really was a neat swim!

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I was so happy to see the turn buoy and the orange buoys which indicate that you are heading back! This was a diagonal line which was a little tricky because I had to make sure the current didn’t push me down stream where I would miss the next turn buoy. I had to swim a bit harder and aim a bit higher. I was still swimming with a couple women who seemed to be good company and my same speed. I think they caught up to me on the other side and we were around each other for a while. I ended up swimming with them to the exit. Sometimes it was helpful using them to sight.

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Once I got to the final turn buoy I was so happy to be swimming down the river! It wasn’t a very long stretch, but it wasn’t as quick as I had expected. While I knew I was swimming faster with the current it didn’t feel that fast. Maybe I was just getting tired. My arms were fatiguing a bit but luckily I was still swimming well.

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It was hard to get out of the swim exit and there was water churning against the concrete walls making it challenging. I was so thankful to have two volunteers help get me out of the water. That was tricky! I was a little shaky after that swim but knew I did a good job. I hadn’t seen my Garmin time and just focused on getting my transition bag and getting to my bike. Scott cheered me on while I was running to transition and even got a photo of me getting my bike gear on my body. It was so great having him support me for this race!

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Overall I was very pleased with my swim. While I was in transition Scott told me I swam 41 minutes and I was satisfied with that time after dealing with the stronger than expected currents. Honestly I thought I had done a 45+ minute swim!

The Bike

The bike course was epic and extremely challenging on many levels. This was a true championship bike course. And it should be hard! To be honest I didn’t look at the course until a few weeks after Ironman Lake Placid in July. I had heard that the normal IM and 70.3 course in Chattanooga had some hills but nothing crazy. But the course was changed and re-routed up the long steep road to Lookout Mountain. Mary strongly suggested we drive the course which I wasn’t planning on doing. Heck, I love to climb so I wasn’t really worried. I was too busy obsessing over the river currents. But I’m glad we did preview the first 20 or so miles.

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After a slow transition between the swim and bike it took a few minutes to get myself warmed up and settled into the ride. The first 5 miles were through downtown Chattanooga with some technical turns and obstacles to avoid. Luckily many things were marked in bright red like pot holes, lid covers, rough road sections, etc. There were a couple women who passed me on this section but I knew I would be passing many on the climb up Lookout mountain.

After a few quick turns through more residential neighborhoods I was climbing up Lookout Mountain. This portion was a long 3.5 miles but I actually really enjoyed this. It was my favorite section of the course because I love to climb. It wasn’t quite as steep as the famous Vermont App Gap but it was longer. I never had to get out of my saddle. I just kept it in the granny gear and spun up efficiently and smoothly. I was passing many women the whole way up the climb. In retrospect I could have ridden a bit faster, but I knew I had a total of 22 miles of climbing and rolling hills ahead of me.

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It was so pretty and the views were amazing. I got to appreciate the views the day before getting out of the car and taking photos. On the bike I was more focused on my own ride. I did love all the crowd support at the top of Lookout Mountain. There is a whole community that lives up there. Scott and I were thinking it would be a lovely place to live.

After leaving the Lookout Mountain community there was a nice downhill section before tackling all the rolling up hills and additional elevation gain. One cool thing to note is that after Lookout Mountain, we crossed the state line into Georgia so that the bulk of the loop was raced in the state known for peaches. It was very mountainous with pretty views. Being a mountain girl, I was appreciating the rural country roads. Even the surface conditions were pretty good. I was still passing women but also leap frogging a few where they would pass me on the down hills and I’d pass them again on the climbs. This went on for a while.

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There were a couple aids stations out that way where I filled my front water bottle with clear water. I was doing well with nutrition and feeling good. This was a nice contrast from feeling sickly and awful on the bike at Lake Placid. I was also diligent about eating my shot blocks and drinking my bottles. But I did leave a bit left in the second one. It wasn’t hot and the weather was cool and sunny (high 60sF and low 70sF for the bike).

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Eventually I came to the long descent which went well. I took this carefully but also didn’t want to hold back too much. I passed a couple women carefully but also had a couple women pass me on the descent. They were definitely going much faster than I felt was safe but each to their own. After mile 28 the terrain was flatter with some rollers and one small climb. I felt like I rode this section well averaging 20 miles per hour even with a good head wind and cars blocking me. Yes, there were cars allowed on the course and I had to deal with them on the last 20 miles or so. This was a first for me! It was the first time they were riding in the same lane going the same direction. There were a few that slowed me down and I had to get out of the aero position. They were certainly distracting and I was very angry about this. I even passed a couple cars on the left side which wasn’t safe but my good decision-making skills went out the window in the heat of the moment.

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With about 10 to 12 miles to go, I noticed my quads were getting fatigued and decided be a bit conservative as I knew the run was going to be super hilly and hard. But I still focused on a good race pace back to the finish. The 5 mile section back through Chattanooga was uneventful but I had to remain focused on the obstacles circled and highlighted in red. I didn’t need to go down on the final stretch!

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Once I handed off the bike I knew I had a pretty good ride. I was really hoping to have gotten under 3 hours but my official time was 3 hours, 1 minute and 13 seconds. That is close enough considering the hills, wind and cars in the road. This was a good bike ride for me. My neck did much better after getting re-fit on my bike so my discomfort levels were much lower compared to Lake Placid and other events. And I nailed my nutrition plan! So that was a win for sure. Overall I’m happy with my first word champion bike ride! It was my slowest 70.3 bike ride, but it was also the most challenging one I’ve seen!

The Run

The run course was super challenging due to so many hills. Who knew Chattanooga was so hilly! It was designed to be tough with constant up hills and down hills over bridges and through neighborhoods. With over 900 feet of climbing in 13.1 miles after such a tough bike course I was happy with my overall results. It wasn’t my fastest 70.3 run but I did enjoy it for the most part and smiled a lot during the hour and 45 minutes it took me to run. My official time was 1:45:20, 8:03 minutes per mile overall. Of the 219 women on the Ironman results site, I had the 25th fastest run. I was a little disappointed in this as I’ve always been the fastest or second fastest runner in my division. I was hoping for a top 10 run. But it was a world class field so being in the top 11.4% percent isn’t so bad after all. And I probably wasn’t fully recovered from Ironman Lake Placid 7 weeks ago.

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I really didn’t have any solid pacing goals for this run. I figured if I ran 8 minute miles, that would be respectable with all the hills. It wasn’t that hot (we lucked out!) and the weather was beautiful and sunny. Maybe in the mid 70sF. Perfect day! But with little shade, the sun did wear me down on the second half of the run. Plenty of ice on the course and cold wet sponges kept my body temperatures cool, but being in the sun for well over 5 hours took a little bit of a toll.

The first mile was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the first part running along the river and seeing Lisa cheering me on. I felt decent and was ready to run! Mile two was a gradual climb up Riverside Drive heading out of the city. It was warmer and felt challenging. But I was running well doing sub 8 minute miles on this. There was a woman in my age group (Bib 626) who ran by me looking very strong but I had to run my own race. However, we would end up leap frogging for a good part of the race. The course then took a sharp left turn and went back the other direction towards town through the only shady section of the course along the river. This was the famous Tennessee River walk. It was pretty and I enjoyed this section.

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The run became tough again heading up and over the Veterans Bridge over the Tennessee River. It was sunny and very warm and again I saw Lisa cheering me on the course on one of those city rent-a-bikes. The next section of the course was very difficult and went up a long climb and back down in residential neighborhoods and then back up again. There were a lot of folks cheering us on. I passed Brittany and we chatted very briefly. She had bike issues but was OK. So I continued onwards.

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After this difficult section we were rewarded with a nice descent back towards town and then over the Walnut Street bridge which is just for pedestrians. I loved this bridge! It was made of wooden planks with beautiful views of the city. Scott and Lisa were both out there cheering me on and taking photos. I was so happy to see them. I was still feeling OK but felt the bright sun was taking its toll. I said to Scott that “I’m tired”. Honestly I just felt like stopping and laying down but knew I had to soldier onwards. I was doing fine but just didn’t feel like running the second loop.

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I actually did fine on the second loop. I was just a little slower but not by a lot. The run back up Riverside Drive felt hotter and harder but I just ran conservatively to save energy for those final climbs across the river. Lisa was there again on her rent-a-bike and cheering me on and telling me to take long strides on the down hill. This was mile 8 and I had one of my fastest splits with the down hill clocking in at a 7:40 pace. The next three miles were slower between an 8:08 and an 8:29 pace through the hilly area across the bridge. But I was still running strong and respectable. I was enjoying running with such awesome women and that somehow gave me more energy.

Again the shaded Tennessee River Walk was a welcome relief and I tried to really enjoy it. I was still playing leap frog with # 626 but I felt like I would eventually lose her which did happen. I think she slowed down in that hilly residential section as she did finish a few minutes behind me. I wish I gotten the chance to chat with her after the race.

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The climb over the Veterans bridge was harder and very warm but Scott was out there cheering me on. The run up the first long climb in the residential area felt very hard the second time around, but I knew I would feel good again heading back down the hill. And the second long climb back up the hill was also challenging but I was getting excited to see the top. This was mile 11 and I was still maintaining a decent pace.

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Miles 12 and 13 were back towards the Walnut Street bridge, over the bridge and back towards the finish. I actually felt pretty good knowing I was almost done and the hard climbs were behind me. My paces were an 8:06 and a 7:43 for those miles. I saw Lisa and Scott again on the Walnut Street Bridge and was sooooo happy! I was almost done! I ran pretty fast into the finish and celebrated by raising my arms and smiling. I was thrilled! I finished a super hard course and completed my first world championship race very successfully. I did it!

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It was really fun to have Lisa and Scott at the finish area with me. I got to meet Lisa’s other client named Joyce. And it was nice to sit down, relax and have a beer in the grass. It was so fun to see Angie again at the food area. I was so happy and thrilled to have finished that beast of a course! My work was done and it was time celebrate!

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Thanks Lisa for all your help getting me here!

While we were disappointed to leave a day earlier, we made the most of the morning we had left in Chattanooga. We got to watch some of the men start their swim on Sunday which was really enjoyable and emotional. It was so amazing to see what I did on Saturday. As I watched the men swim up the river, I just couldn’t believe I had done that same swim course the day before. Tears welled up in my eyes! We also got to watch the top pro men run over the Walnut Street bridge. They were so impossibly fast! I really enjoyed the morning in Chattanooga. Before we drove down to Atlanta, we did find a nice brew pub called the Terminal Brewhouse which had some tasty vegan snacks (hummus and pita and fries) and delicious beer.

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I miss the friendliness of Chattangooga and the beautiful Tennessee scenery. It was one of my favorite race venues! I truly hope to go back again someday to race the full or half Ironman. The people there really embrace the Ironman events. Thank you to everyone who made the day possible. The volunteers were amazing and the event was top notch!

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Thank you to the best husband ever! I couldn’t have done this without you!

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Ironman Lake Placid July 23, 2017: One of My Toughest Races

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Ironman Lake Placid is one of the oldest and most historic Ironman events. It is also a beautiful race set in the New York Adirondacks. Lake Placid, New York is also home to the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, so it is steeped in rich sports history.  It is a special place for so many athletes. And being mountain people, we felt right at home. 

We signed up for the 19th annual Lake Placid Ironman after our first Ironman in Mont Tremblant Quebec last summer. While we had a very successful first Ironman in Canada, we wanted to do the Ironman that many of our local friends love and rave about. We have friends who have done this event 3 to 11 times, so that says a lot. Lake Placid is a special race with an incredible atmosphere. We both love this area and hope to be back someday.

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Scott and I both had a tough race in Lake Placid, but I was especially disappointed with feeling sickly on the bike with stomach issues and a very bad headache. And then I had escalated stomach problems on the run. I later learned that there might have been a virus going on during the Ironman weekend. That would make sense with my symptoms during the race. I also got very sick after the race on Monday night into Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, another severe headache, diarrhea and major dehydration. So perhaps I was affected by a virus.

My last 7-8 miles of the run were very rough and I had to walk for the first time ever in a marathon. It was more of a combination of walk/run, but things got dark and ugly at the end. I almost didn’t make it to the final run around the oval. I did cross the finish line, but it was so tough just to get there. I learned a lot about myself that day. No matter how miserable and bleak things feel in a race, I can always push forward. And that was what I did in Lake Placid. I soldiered on until I eventually crossed the finish line! It was a long day but I did it!

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I knew going into this Ironman my shot at a Kona qualification for the Hawaii World Championship was going to be tough with a very stacked field. My age group F45-49 had over 165 women on the initial participant list. But I was still hoping to come into the top 5. That did seem feasible if I had been healthy on race day. But on the last 3 miles two women in my age group ran by me and left me in 8th place overall. The shocking statistic was that I still had the fastest run split in my age group even with being passed at the end. Those women must have started ahead of me in the rolling start swim. But a top 10 finish out of 149 women who finished is still a solid accomplishment. An 11:30 Ironman time at Lake Placid is still respectable.

Scott had some stomach issues on the bike and run as well, but it was the warm sun that caused his Ironman marathon to unravel. But he did finish strong and persevered like a true Ironman. That day we both became 2x Ironman finishers.

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We stayed at the Lake Placid Club Lodges which are older ski-style condos right on Mirror Lake Drive. Our condo was shared with our good friend Seth. Jamie who organized the condo was supposed to be our other condo-mate that weekend but an achilles injury left him side-lined. The condo was spacious and had the potential to be a great place. However cleanliness was the main complaint. We arrived to find potato chips and pretzels all over the rug. After walking around barefoot for an hour or so we both were shocked to discover both our feet were black! I don’t think the floors or carpets have been cleaned in over a decade! The main positive aspect about the condo was that we were just a few minutes walk from the swim start and about a 10 minute walk from transition. It was super convenient. We left our car parked all weekend.

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We brought Carin’s magic lasagna and vegan donuts and pastries like we normally do for a big race. We also followed the same nutrition plan that brought us both success in Mont Tremblant last year. So what went wrong? I have done a lot of speculation. Scott thinks I ate too many shot blocks too fast on the first few miles of the bike. Lisa felt that I didn’t have enough water with the carbs/sodium in my drink mix and shot blocks. Perhaps I did have that virus that was going round. Either way, I will be looking closely at my nutrition plan for my next Ironman. It’s very tricky to get nutrition right during such a long race. But I did it last year and I’ll do it again.

The Swim

The swim was the big surprise of the day! While it was still a stressful and difficult swim for me, I did better than expected. Based on what I have been swimming in the pool and our open water swims, a time of 1:15 to 1:20 seemed realistic. While these are not competitive swim times, I was thrilled to make that goal. And my time ended up being a 1:16:53 which for me was almost a 10 minute PR from last year. I was 37th in my age group but I am usually far behind when I get out of the water in a triathlon. I was still pleased with seeing progress in my Ironman swim!

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My coach, Lisa wanted me to start up front with the hour to 1:05 swimmers which felt very aggressive for me. I wanted to start with the 1:15 to 1:20 people but I decided to listen to my coach as she has so much experience! It was a bold move but it might have made my time a bit faster as I never had to swim around anyone slower than myself like previous triathlon swims. But I did have constant contact, causing me to stop several times and it was extremely difficult for those 2.4 miles!

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The rolling start had 10 swimmers go off every few seconds and this still made for a crowded, chaotic swim. I started on the right side and got to swim along the famous cable for most of the first lap out. For the first few minutes it was great swimming along the cable and not needing to sight much. But then came the people behind me swimming faster and wanting that line as well. I constantly had people hitting my feet and lower legs and swimming all around me and passing me. These were the faster swimmers and I felt like I didn’t belong there. I dealt with this for most of they way down before turning. I only got punched in the head once and luckily was OK. I did deal with a lot of other body contact mostly from being surround by more aggressive males in the green caps. It got so bad that I decided to swim left and stay more on the outside.

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Swimming away from the cable and line of buoys did help but there were still a lot of people and chaos around me. I felt the swim was also very choppy with all the swimmers. No smooth sailing on this swim. But I was doing OK and kept pushing along. Getting around the buoys at the end was also messy and crowded with lots of feet in my face and more contact but I stayed out of trouble. At one point I noticed the mountains in the distance and thought it was such a pretty swim. But then I had to get around the last turn and buoy before heading back. After this I found more clear water. There were times heading back where things weren’t so congested and stressful. But then I’d have more people catch up to me and pass me. I don’t think I ever passed one person on this swim!

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I was happy to finish the first lap, get out of the water and “re-set” myself. This time I started on the left away from the cable as I just didn’t want all the body contact. I didn’t want to fight to be close to the cable. It was still hard and I was still anxious. I was not enjoying one minute of that swim. Again there were a few times I’d get surrounded, hit hard and have to stop just briefly, but not as bad as the first lap. Again I made it safely around the last turnaround buoys.

On the last lap back all of a sudden a large group of faster swimmers swam right around me and past me. But it was very distressing getting stuck in the middle of them and they swam very close to me with plenty of body contact. I’m guessing they were from the next wave after mine. Eventually they were gone. I would sometimes find some clear water and kept going on the final lap back to shore. I would try to stay on feet when I could but I’m still not good at that. Closer to the finish it got really crowded again. The last few hundred yards were a mess with bodies everywhere wanting to finish the swim like myself.

I was so happy to get out of the water and find the wet suit strippers. I finished a very tough Ironman swim and was looking forward to getting on my bike. I didn’t know my time, but did stop my Garmin watch. I preferred to find out later after the race so I didn’t have any added anxiety during my bike leg. But my time was almost 10 minutes faster than last year so that is a win for me!

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Scott had a very tough swim as well but still swam a solid time. He also lined up with swimmers that were just a little faster than him since I was instructed to do the same. He described his swim as a “scrum”. It was violent and aggressive and he got hit hard a few times where he had to stop and re-group. He would have been faster without these incidents that caused him much anxiety. Scott is a strong swimmer and pushed through a really tough swim. I’m so proud of him. He still had a good swim time and was almost 7 minutes faster than me!

The Bike

The Lake Placid Ironman bike course is famous for being very hilly and challenging. The Ironman website states the total elevation gain at 6,898 feet. We spent a weekend in Lake Placid riding the bike course a month before the race so we were prepared. It’s actually a great bike course with a lot of variety so it was easy to break up in chunks mentally. However most of the climbing comes during the last 19 miles of each lap.

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For me the challenge came when I got a screaming headache in the back of my head on the flat section after the long descents. And this very distracting headache stayed with me the rest of the bike leg. I also noticed I wasn’t feeling right and something was really off. I was riding on 4 out of 5 cylinders (metaphorically speaking). And to make matters worse I had a few waves of minor nausea and threw up in my mouth several times, even on the second lap. It wasn’t bad enough where I considered pulling out of the race, but I did wonder many times how I would get through this Ironman bike!

Considering I was unwell on the bike I didn’t have a bad bike split but I was still about 13 to 18 minutes slower than I had hoped and expected. My bike time was 6:13:16 hours. Out of 149 women who finished I had the 14th fastest bike split. That is definitely a disappointment since I had the second fastest bike in Puerto Rico last March. And I used to be a solid hill climber back when I was a competitive cyclist 20+ years ago. So I was having a very off day for sure! Even my coach was surprised I didn’t at least do the bike in 6 hours.

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The climb out of town wasn’t bad and I was riding as expected. I was conservative up the long climbs but steady and strong. It was cooler with plenty of cloud cover but the climbing kept me warm. The new one mile out and back section was flatter and fast and uneventful. The aid station at the end was in a good spot and I picked up my first bottle of clear water for my front bottle.

After the beautiful iconic Cascade lakes, I was ready for the descent which I took conservatively. It was cold, a bit windy and not very enjoyable. I stayed out of trouble and rode to the right hand side avoiding the guys going down the hills at dangerous speeds. There will always be a few riders who take crazy chances like that. Once I got into Keene after the long descents I felt so cold and my hands started to get a little numb. So I worked hard on the flat section heading north towards Jay. Much to my dismay it started to rain and I had trouble getting warm. Luckily it wasn’t a long shower which ended before Jay. That was the last of the rain for the day. I did warm up but started to feel ill as I mentioned above.

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I was still riding steadily but remaining conservative in my efforts on the Au Sable Forks out and back. This is a longer section with some gentle rollers. The road conditions are a bit rough but the potholes and large cracks were filled in with tar. I was playing leap frog with one woman in my age group. I was also trying not to ride with any packs which did happen a few times on the Rt 9N flat section. I always did my best to get through the packs or just stay back. I eventually lost that woman on the final climbs up the Notch.

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Once I turned right on route 86, the climbing began and I just rode steadily and conservatively. I was still feeling badly with my headache and having minor bouts of nausea but just kept soldiering onwards. My legs were doing pretty good which was a nice surprise but I just couldn’t get the rest of myself to feel good. The climb through the Notch had a nice tailwind and I was thankful for that! I was riding steady and smart for my current state. The bear climbs finally came and even those really didn’t feel that tough. Mamma bear and baby bear were fine and I enjoyed all the crowds and support on Papa bear before heading towards Mirror Lake Drive. Before turning off Mirror Lake Drive I was so happy to hear some friends of ours cheering me on!

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I got my special needs bottles after completing the first lap near the oval and this was a very smooth, efficient process They had my bag when I pulled into Special Needs! The volunteers are amazing! I wasn’t feeling terrible when I started my second lap but knew I was still not feeling 100%. My headache was still going strong and I was feeling the first lap in my legs on the climb out of town.

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The wind picked up a bunch going by the Cascade Lakes. And the descent was windy and long! Again I stayed out of trouble riding conservatively on the right hand side. And again there were more crazy dare-devils riding dangerously fast down the descents. There is about a mile of rough section and both times I was very conservative on this section. I was actually surprised there were no lost water bottles here.

There was a head wind on the flats heading to Jay and Au Sable Forks. But I just kept pushing onwards and trying to maintain a decent pace. It was again crowded on this section but I never really felt stressed out like I did in Puerto Rico or last year on the Mont Tremblant bike course.

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Again I did my best to be strong yet smart on the final 19 miles of climbing. I was trying to appreciate all the signs and crowd support along the way. I also tried to appreciate the stunning views of Whiteface Mountain. My legs were still doing OK but I was feeling the fatigue of the final climbs. And my headache was still persistent. I only had maybe one more wave of minor nausea and then it seemed to subside on the last 12 miles. I was actually surprised that I was still cruising along on the Notch section. I wasn’t killing it, but I wasn’t dying either. My legs were actually feeling better than last year at the end of the MT bike course. There was still a nice tailwind so that did help my bike speed!

I was so happy to get up the three bear climbs and make that right hand turn on Northwood. Again the crowds were really awesome on the Papa Bear hill. I was pretty happy cruising along Mirror Lake drive as I’d soon hand off my bike to a volunteer. It was exciting to hear my named called out as I was riding through the last few turns in town just before the transition area. The crowds were really cool! The whole town comes out!

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Scott was a good five minutes faster than me on the bike similar to last year’s Ironman. But he also suffered a few bouts of nausea as well. So maybe he had a touch of the virus like myself. He still had a strong bike split and paced himself well. I’m proud of him for riding so well in spite of a tough day.

The Run

I was very happy to be back in the transition tent and very pleased to see there were very few women in there. I had a wonderful volunteer take care of me during my transition, helping me sort out my stuff, spray on sun screen and fetch me water after I ate a gel. She was a gem and even packed up my bike gear. The volunteers are truly some of the best in Lake Placid!

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I was a bit worried to discover that I was feeling rather badly starting my run. Last year I felt good starting my run and was thrilled to be finally running. Running is what I do best! This year I was feeling rough right from the start. It also felt very warm and humid this year as the sun was shining  brightly. But I was very concerned that my whole stomach hurt and felt crampy. It was almost like I had a small bowling ball in my stomach. I was hoping this would go away but it never really subsided causing me much discomfort during this run. My headache seemed to be gone so that was a plus!

My goal for the Lake Placid marathon was to run a pace of around 8:10 to 8:20 minutes per mile which felt realistic especially since I ran so well last year in Mont Tremblant. Lake Placid is a very hilly course with two good climbs on the end of each lap. Overall I was running well until about the last 7-8 miles when things fell apart for me. I’ve never had to walk during a marathon until this one and it was really tough mentally. I ran a 3:47:03 marathon which is still a good time for such a challenging course. And I was shocked to discover that I had the fastest run time in my age group. Even with two women in my age group passing in the last three miles! They must have started ahead of me in the swim as mentioned above.

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The run started with the steep down hills out of town and some flats and then a good downhill before turning onto River road. These two miles were my fastest, but I still tried to have a nice controlled conservative pace. During mile 3 on River road I noticed I my stomach was still feeling crampy and bloated, but I was running at a good pace. On these miles heading out on River road I kept slowing down my pace a bit since I was concerned about not feeling well on the run so early. Again I was feeling really off. But I just kept running steadily and smart. My paces heading out and then back on River road averaged about 8:09 to 8:21 pace. I felt like I could maintain this but it would be very difficult the way I was feeling. I would have to dig deep! I was taking ice and putting sponges down my jog bra to keep cool. This helped a bit but didn’t help my stomach. I was taking gels every 30 minutes and water at each aid station.

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Running back up the first hill towards town after River road didn’t go that badly and I even ran slowly and very conservatively up the steep hill into town and up to Mirror Lake drive. I was able to run about an 8:35 pace on this section from River road to Mirror lake drive. Heading back on Mirror lake drive I managed to do an 8:10 pace which was surprising. My legs were getting fatigued and tired but was still running well even if I wasn’t feeling well. It was great to see Chris and Jess on the course in town. Chris yelled out that I was crushing it. The down hills out of town were slower this time with a pace ranging from 8:12 to 8:20. I knew I was slowing down and my body was heading into survival mode.

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The next couple miles on River road felt rough and warm. My stomach still felt really badly like I still had a small bowling ball in there. Miles 16 to 18 were the last miles where I was purely running. My paces were slowing a bit to 8:23 to 8:32. I decided I would walk the aid stations when I was almost at the turn around. This was a good idea and I drank more water and even started drinking a bit of coke (just a few gulps in each cup).

I remember feeling really awful at the turnaround but kept running. However about a mile or so heading back I just had to walk a little bit. And then I got to an aid station which allowed me to walk again. I was trying to run to each aid station but eventually I had to walk/run in between the aid stations. I was trying to run very slowly instead of walking, but my legs would not let me do that. I either had to run my normal cadence or do a power walk. It was awful. It was almost as if my legs would hurt trying to run really slowly. I would try and run the same pace as a slower runner but either had to pass them or just walk. Very frustrating! 

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Once I left River road, I had to power walk up the first steep hill. Many other people were doing the same. I started to run again on the flats and a woman in my age group ran with me for a bit. She said I was in 5th place. That gave me some spark but then I had to walk the steep hills heading into town. She passed me running very slowly but I was in agony. My body was shutting down and I couldn’t stay with her. With less than 3 miles to go it was pure survival mode. Even power walking through town and up the little Mirror lake drive hill was rough. I was power walking almost bent over. It was so ugly. The crowds were kind and encouraging. So many people were cheering me on! I was humbled by the kindness I received when I was suffering so much out there.

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I did more of the  walk/run on Mirror Lake drive. My body was still shutting down. I was so happy to see the turnaround on Mirror lake drive. I knew I just had about a mile to go. Another woman in my age group ran by me on the way back. At this point I didn’t care anymore. I was getting worried about just getting to the finish line. I was deep in the pain cave!

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Once I got onto the Oval I was so relieved I didn’t have to run around the entire thing! I knew I only had a few hundred yards left. I was stumbling and in sheer misery. It was hard to appreciate the final red carpet hurting that badly. I heard Mike Riley pronounce my name wrong and tell people to “help this one in”. I almost ran into the photographer, but did cross the line. I fell right into Marty and Kristen’s arms (both volunteering as catchers). What a relief. I made it!

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Scott had a tough run once the sun came out in full force. But he was smart about doing a combination of walking and running. He is a hero for finishing after he had such a tough day as well.

Overall it was one of the hardest and most challenging races I have ever completed. But I am so proud of myself for finishing and not giving up when things fell apart at the end. It was a crazy, hard day but we both did the best we could that day. I personally left it all out on the course. I had nothing more to give when I crossed that finish line!

I do feel this is an amazing  race. They do an incredible job with this Ironman in Lake Placid, NY. It’s so well organized and the volunteers are amazing. Thank you to everyone who made the day possible. Someday I will return to Lake Placid and redeem myself. I am not done with this Ironman. I will race these hills again when I am ready. Next year we are looking at doing an Ironman in Europe. Life is short and we want to do this while we can!

Next for 2017 is the Worlds 70.3 in Chattanooga, Tenn in early September. This will be my first age-group world championship race. It will be interesting and a great experience!

Thank you Lisa for getting me to the starting line and helping me through a minor injury the last three weeks heading into the race. I could not do this without you!

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Thank you Kristen for the plaque! Means so much to us!

Happy Birthday to Scott who turned 49 at midnight of the Ironman!

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The Wicked Hot Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 Race Report March 19, 2017

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We finally made it to the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 this past March. I originally signed up for this half Ironman back in September 2015 when I was recovering from my severe stress fracture in the top of my femur bone. I thought it would be healed in time to race in March 2016 but I just wasn’t quite there yet. I had just started back up with my running but nothing more than maybe 7 to 8 miles at that time. So we deferred our race to 2017. Luckily for a fee, the race directors let you do this. So I was very excited and grateful to have completed this awesome race successfully. And because it was during my birthday week, that made it even more special.

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I highly recommend signing up for this half Ironman.  It was such a well organized and challenging race. It’s a true gem in a beautiful place. We both would go back and do this again someday. We loved Puerto Rico, the people and meeting so many racers from all over the world. It was such a great experience on so many levels. It’s a difficult race, but the volunteers are excellent and the crowds on the run were very supportive.  It’s all about the run at the end which is very hot, super hilly and quite humid. It was my slowest half marathon and slowest long run in a long time but it was still an awesome run course and I loved it! The 2 weeks in Florida were helpful in acclimating to the Puerto Rican sun and humidity. I’m so glad we were able to do our Florida trip right before flying into San Juan.

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My goals going into this 70.3 were not really set in stone as I didn’t know how I would do in March especially traveling to such a warm climate after sitting inside on the bike trainer all winter. I was hoping to hit the top 5 but I surprised myself by placing second in my age group which is a tough one: Females 45-49. These old birds (myself included) are a tough crowd and are fiercely competitive. So when I found out I was second back in our hotel suite, I was thrilled! I ended up with a qualifying slot for the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn this September, I was so happy! Only 30 spots were available to about 1,500 athletes and initially only one was allocated to my age group. But since there was an extra slot from one of the older age groups, it went to my age group which had about 75 women. And I was awarded the slot. Yippeee! Smile

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My new friends who live at the Caribe Hilton

We flew into San Juan on Thursday night with both our bikes in their strong sturdy Bike Alan cases. Traveling with two bikes and luggage is a challenge but after flying to Florida and then to San Juan we were becoming pros at this type of travel. Racing in Europe doesn’t seem so daunting after you do this a few times. We stayed at the Caribe Hilton which was the race headquarters and conveniently located to the swim exit, transition area, and the finish line. This is a very nice hotel beach resort with beautiful grounds right on the ocean. We even saw the actor Ron Perlman and his cute little doggie a few times who likes to stay there. However it’s an 80 year old hotel (first one in Jan Juan) and not all the rooms have been renovated. We upgraded to a very nice suite which was a bit costly but we were told it was much nicer than the room we originally booked. There were a few minor problems, but overall we were happy with a gorgeous view overlooking the beach and ocean. I loved sitting on the balcony and enjoying the fantastic views. And the extra space was very nice and helpful with two bikes and lots of gear.

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View from our hotel suite

Friday and Saturday were focused on preparing for our race. Friday we went through athlete check-in and hit the Expo and Ironman store which is always lots of fun and amusing. It’s like black Friday for triathletes when shopping for race shirts and all sorts of fun Ironman gear. I’ll admit I had a ball in there Smile. We later swam a few laps in the photo above which was really wonderful. It was a little wavy but not bad due to the barrier. The water wasn’t too warm but did feel lovely. And I got to test out my new fancy Roka skinsuit for the first time. The big job for Friday and Saturday was fueling and carb loading for the race. I eat like it’s my job before a race and felt we did a good job. We also did a nice run on Saturday morning, checking out the swim start which was less than a mile from the hotel. Cycling in San Juan is a bit dangerous but now they have bike lanes going into Old San Juan. Still we just did one short easy ride around the transition area to make sure our bikes were good to go. Getting our bikes to transition on Saturday afternoon was our last big task before our final epic dinner in Old San Juan before the race.

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We were up early on race morning to get our running and cycling gear into the transition area at 4:30am! I felt more nervous and apprehensive about this race compared to the half and full Ironman in Mont Tremblant last year. I am not sure why. Maybe I felt that so many other athletes we know were tracking us. I was also nervous about my swim after working so hard with Lisa and Dave. Would I let them down? Would I be slow without a wetsuit? I was also nervous about the heat and the run. And I was nervous about how Scott would handle the heat after a brutally hot day last year in Mont Tremblant for the 70.3. And to make matters worse, I ended up with real dairy milk when I asked for soy milk for our oatmeal. Luckily I don’t think I had enough to really make me physically sick. But I did feel a bit nauseous and worked up that morning, even walking to the swim start. I was really feeling badly at the start due to nerves. However, that all changed once I started racing!

Swim

The swim takes place in the protected waters of the Condado Lagoon but then finishes in the ocean waters which are a bit choppier. I thought this was a beautiful swim and loved the lagoon. It wasn’t very deep and it was really neat seeing the bottom only a few feet down once we got towards the Dos Hermanos Bridge. I read several blogs and race reports and everyone seemed to agree that it was a very calm swim except for the currents under the bridge. For our race, the waters were calm and nice until heading back towards the bridge where it got a bit choppy the closer we got to the bridge and ocean. And once we got past the bridge, the waves were bigger and the current was strong. I felt like I wasn’t going very fast even though I could see the swim exit. But we were told in the athlete briefing to just keep swimming and we would all get there even if it didn’t seem like we were moving.

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Swim Start beach on Saturday morning

The one big problem for me was that only the pros were allowed to have a warm up swim and I need about 1,000 yards to truly feel good and warmed up. So my strategy was to start out a bit more mellow to avoid any panic attacks like my previous 70.3 in Mont Tremblant last June. I started a couple rows down on the outside closest to the beach. Each wave started in the water but it wasn’t cold and we could touch the bottom. It was very pretty and I loved the views of the hotels along the lagoon. My wave had combined all women aged 40 to 49 so there was a lot of us in bright green caps!

I didn’t have any panic or anxiety attacks in the beginning and it didn’t take as long to settle in and just focus on swimming. But I am still not a confident triathlon swimmer and I let people cut me off and take my water. I am not aggressive in the swim portion and I need to learn to hold my own. Lots of women passed me because of this.  After about 10 minutes, I was starting to feel decent and tried to pick up my pace. This was gradual but I felt like I was getting faster after 20 minutes. I caught up and passed a few women in the previous wave that went off 4 minutes before us. But eventually the fast swimmers from the next wave passed me too. Turning at the buoys was a bit messy and chaotic but the second one went better.

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Heading back felt like a long stretch. It got choppier and wavier as we got closer to the bridge and ocean. There were a few women in my wave who I swam with for the stretch back. They seemed like decent swimmers and I felt like staying around them wasn’t a bad idea as I didn’t have to sight as much. Sighting was harder with the waves and I had to take my head out of the water higher (back to my bad habits and this probably slowed me down). But I was keeping up with the same small group of women. I felt someone on my feet for a good stretch heading back and got a bit annoyed as they kept hitting my feet. So I sped up and kicked a bit hard to get away. Other than that it wasn’t too violent or aggressive out there. (Scott said his wave was violent and very aggressive with kicking and punching)

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Scott is such a strong swimmer! He rocked this!

The waves and chop increased by the time we got to the bridge and the current was going against us. This swim was nowhere near as bad as IMMT but still slow going on the last stretch. Underneath the bridge it wasn’t as scary as I had expected due to the strong currents. After the bridge it was wavier as we were close to where the bay meets the ocean. But it was great to finally see the end of the course. I swam hard still around the same three women in my group. I was so happy to get out of the water and surprised it took me a little over 42 minutes. I was almost 5 minutes slower than MT 70.3 but this swim was without a wetsuit and the bay wasn’t as smooth as I had expected.

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Overall it was still a successful swim. I didn’t have any panic attacks. My official time was 42:20. I was 29th out of the water which is what I normally do.  It was my first swim that was partly in the ocean. It was also my first real open water swim of the season. Lisa says my swim is still a work in progress. Scott had an amazing swim! He swam a 33:48 which was a great time for that particular swim. I’m so proud of him!

The run from the swim exit to the transition area was about 700 meters and many people including ourselves had a pair of shoes near the swim exit. I’m so glad we had the shoes since it was such a long distance to cover barefoot. We purchased some cheap Walmart running shoes in Florida for under $20 each, but they were comfy and did the job!  I probably lost a minute weeding through the crowd of people and putting on my shoes but they were easy to find. The race director encouraged this as running on a small pebble or rock could ruin your whole race day even though the roads weren’t that bad at all. Better to be safe than sorry! So my transition was 5 minutes and 48 seconds.

 

Bike

My bike ride was the big surprise of the day. I honestly didn’t know how this would go as there were just so many variables. I had only been riding my bike on the roads in Florida for two weeks and spent the rest of the winter on the computrainer down in our basement.  I had my best bike performance since my stress fracture in 2015! Lisa had me working very hard on the computrainer. I was feeling strong from pushing some long difficult intervals with high wattages. The four hour windy bike ride we did with Lisa and Kate in Clermont was also very helpful as my key training ride before tapering. But without any big hills or substantial climbs, I didn’t know how I would do since hills were what I did best 20 years ago racing.  I surprised myself and rode very well and strong on race day. I biked my way into 6th place from 29th with the second fastest bike split in my age group (the fastest woman was only around 30 seconds faster).

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For the first 15 to 25 miles it was quite stressful and difficult dealing with a crowded course with packs and constantly leap frogging the 3rd place woman, a few other women and a big pack. The pack was frustrating because I would pass them and then they would pass me. I had to keep slowing down and speeding up. It wasn’t fun and I was not a happy camper. This situation seems to be normal on Ironman branded courses with a lot of racers. But I was riding strong and seemed to feel decent. And for a while I was averaging a good pace (21-22 mph). But I did have a little tail wind or favorable cross wind on the way out. I was riding well but still being a bit conservative as I was expecting some places to be very windy but it was never too bad. Perhaps all those crazy windy days in Clermont, FL made race day in Puerto Rico feel reasonable.

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On the first loop heading back a motor cycle came up to the pack that kept leap frogging me and gave one girl a blue penalty card. She was annoying and blatantly riding with the pack. Didn’t these people go to the athlete briefing?? The race director and referee were very clear about the drafting. The large packs of riders and constantly worrying about a penalty card cost me a few minutes overall since I had to keep slowing down and backing off.

On the second loop it wasn’t as crowded and the pack seemed to have dispersed a bit. I was still riding well and keeping on top of nutrition and hydration. I filled up my front bottle with water 3 times after I finished most of the tailwind in it. I felt I did a really good job with my shot blocks and taking in enough Tailwind and clear water.  It was getting hot and I was prepared for the rest of the ride and the run to come.

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The roads were quite rough in several places on the loop and that wasn’t fun as I kept worrying about my wheels or getting a flat. And during the second time on the loop there were lots of water and gatorade bottles on the ground and I almost hit a couple of them. This was very nerve rattling, but I stayed upright. It was a little windy right by the water heading back both times but not too bad. I would be riding between 20 to 21 mph in the windy, rougher sections. And about 21-22 mph on the favorable sections. This is fast for me even on the flats for a 70.3.

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On the final 10 to 15 miles I had to fight a bit to keep up my speed as the fatigue was settling into my legs. I was also getting warm out there. The sun was getting strong and there was not much shade at all on the course. And it was getting humid! Also my neck was so darn uncomfortable in the aero position. I got out of my aero bars a few times especially up the small rollers at the end to give it a break. The last couple miles are slightly frustrating as I didn’t know how the course ended and kept thinking I was at the end but would have to make another turn. However, it did end and I was so happy to see a respectable time on my Garmin. It was my best ride in a long time! My official time was 2:41:13 which was 20.84 mph and was great for March!

The third place woman Ayesha was the one who played leap frog with me for most of the ride. For the last third of the ride she was ahead of me but I caught her on the last few miles. I ended up just a few seconds ahead of her. She was faster in the transition area by almost 2 minutes! (yikes) But I knew I would meet up with her on the course. I wasn’t worried as the best part of the day was about to happen! I love to run!

 

Run

The run was epic! It was a beautiful out-and-back course in Old San Juan with much of it having ocean views and great crowd support.  And we ran it twice! The run is a beast and the race director built it with the purpose of being super challenging.  It’s extremely hilly and I felt like I was either running uphill or downhill. And the heat was brutal! It was in the mid to high 80sF but the humidity was killer. And I think being closer to the equator makes the sun feel like you are in an oven. Even the local racers felt it was very hot!  It was a crazy hard 13.1 but it was awesome! I was so hot out there, but I still loved this run!

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So this was the hottest and hilliest 13.1 run I’ve ever done in my life! But I did prepare for the conditions. We both did a bit of sauna training after our masters swims a couple weeks before heading to Florida. I also made sure I did a few runs in the hot Florida sun including some hard intervals. I was still a bit slower than anticipated but overall I had a good strong run in spite of the conditions. My run placed me into second place and my run was the second fastest in my age group. The winner from Bermuda ran over 4 minutes faster. Coming from Vermont, I’m OK with that, especially for a March race.

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Lisa suggested starting off at 8 minute miles which seemed reasonable. My first mile was around an 8:04  and that felt like I was pushing things a bit so I backed off a little so my next couple miles were around an 8:11 to an 8:17 pace. And that included climbing the “wall” for the first time. It was slow and very steep but I ran up it conservatively concentrating on good form, high cadence not pushing too hard. And this worked well. The next part of the course still had plenty of climbing but it was more gradual and I regained my pace. I was doing a good job of taking water and ice at the aid stations. And I was diligent about taking a power gel every 20 minutes (alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine).

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The “Wall” – we walked the course on Monday

Eventually I was on a good downhill and then another steep downhill on the dreaded cobblestones. They weren’t as slippery as I had been told but I was still slower and careful on them. Then we ran under the gate and out onto the Paseo Del Morro which has been nicknamed the “microwave”. It was hot but not quite as brutal as I had anticipated. It was the only section that was “flat”. I wasn’t able to run faster but was still pushing a respectable pace of around an 8:15. I was hoping to see more feral cats but only saw one orange kitty from the corner of my eye. The cats that live out there are protected and fed.

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Running back up the steep cobblestones was difficult and slow going! And then back up the next hill after turning left was hard as well. But this small section had some shade. Many athletes were walking but I just jogged up steady trying to stay light on my feet. I was still 20170320_114228doing pretty well as my pace evened out to an 8:31 after all that climbing. Heading back on the main road to the finish area was still hot and oppressive, but I was still trucking along. I was still running up a gradual hill before running back down towards the finish area. When I was going back down with a mile to the finish on the first lap, I caught up to the 3rd place woman Ayesha. She was a local woman and many people knew her on the course. She was also pushing a good pace of around 8 minute miles or slightly faster. I stayed behind her for a bit as it seemed like a good pace I could handle at that moment. At the aid station close to the finish we both took water and ice. So she knew I was right there and we went back to playing leap frog which was fine by me.

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We ran up and down the cobblestones!

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The “Microwave”

On the second lap I lost Ayesha going up the gradual hill in the beginning by the water. And then I never saw her again. It turned out I was over 3 minutes faster on the run so she 20170320_122002must have slowed way down. I eventually forgot about her as it was getting really hot and I was wondering how I would handle the hills again. I did OK on the “wall” but that mile was a little slower and my overall pace even after running a while was closer to an 8:45 as opposed to an 8:17 on the first lap. But then I recovered with an 8:02 mile following that. It must have been on the flat “microwave” section. This felt hotter on the second time around and I was getting very uncomfortable. I was actually worried about the next 5 miles and maintaining my pace. But I knew I could suck it up for 5 miles. Running is what I do best!

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Running jogging back up the steep cobblestones was slower than the first time. Everyone else was walking. I just focused on a nice quick turnover and one foot in front of the other. The long climb back up to the aid station was also more of a jog and the next gradual hills were slower too. My overall pace was about a 9:12 on that mile which wasn’t bad as my initial pace going up the cobblestones was around 11 minutes per mile! eeeeek! Glad I picked it up. My next mile up the gradual hills on the main drag was about an 8:14 pace which wasn’t bad and I realized I wasn’t going to fizzle out or have a bad ending to the day.

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The last mile I tried to savor the experience and take in and appreciate the sights and festive spectators. I was in Puerto Rico doing an epic race! How many people get to experience this!  We are so lucky! And I felt decent at the end and picked up the pace a bit. I think my last mile was around a pace of 7:20 and 7:30. But it was a gradual downhill. Much to my disappointment we did have to run back up that short little hill at the end when we first started. And that felt a little rough. But I knew I was almost done. I ran strong to the finish. I also celebrated by smiling and raising my arms with excitement and happiness. I was so thrilled to finish. It was a great run! It was my slowest half marathon with a time of 1:47:35 but it was my most memorable one for sure. And I’m proud of this one! Scott had a tough run in the heat but he didn’t get sick like his previous 70.3 last June. He was conservative and took it slowly as he still has troubles in the extreme heat. But he is a champ for finishing well!

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Awards Ceremony!

On Monday we spent half the day walking the race course and exploring Old San Juan being tourists.  We probably shouldn’t have walked so much and let our legs recover. I wasn’t feeling too sore, just a lot of fatigue in my quads mostly from the bike ride. It was so fun to see the sights. Plus I wanted to meet some of the feral cats that I didn’t see while running on the “microwave”. Later I did get into the water and swam a few recovery laps from the hotel beach. That felt nice and relaxing after a long day of walking.

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On Tuesday we did a little snorkeling in the morning over at Scuba Dogs which was right by the race finish area. They were great and I felt confident to snorkel for the first time ever! It was nice and relaxing and we saw some pretty fish. I also saw fish when swimming laps on our beach area by the hotel but with the snorkeling equipment it was easier to see the fish.  Later in the afternoon we sat by the ocean on the hotel resort grounds and drank several delicious pina coladas! It was the only time we truly indulged in fancy drinks like that. It was an amazing afternoon and we both enjoyed it so much! Sometimes you just have to live a little! Smile

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My new friend Igor the Iguana

On Wednesday we celebrated my birthday by hiking in the El Yunque rain forest. We rented a car for the day and drove 45 minutes out to the beautiful national forest. Getting there by 9am in the morning was the smartest thing we did all week! Later in the day hordes of tourists were parked all over the place!

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We hiked about 2.6 miles to the top and had amazing views from the tower. The trail was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being in the woods so much. There were only a few people we passed and for the most part it was nice to be alone in the rain forest. It took longer to get back as we made one wrong turn and ended up hiking about 6 miles. It was not really a problem as I was surprised at how well my legs had recovered by Wednesday.

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Food and Beverage Report

We found a couple great vegan-friendly restaurants in Old San Juan. Our hotel had several restaurants but only the Pina Colada Club had a clearly marked vegan black bean burrito which was very tasty. We ate that one 3-4 times! The Palmeras also in the hotel served breakfast.  Before the race we ate their oatmeal and bagels. They did have soy milk. They had a huge buffet with fruit and we were allowed to take a few bananas. The hotel also had a full service Starbucks which was so awesome. We discovered they had this “Perfect Oatmeal” which was great breakfast food. They also had plain vegan bagels which were fine with jelly. And their soy lattes tasted just like the ones at our local Starbucks.

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Café Berlin was our go-to place for good hearty vegan meals pre-race. We had dinner Friday and Saturday night there. They have several clearly marked vegan options. We even had this great pasta dish with vegan sausages. We also got back there for a nice hearty lunch on Monday after walking the race course! And they had a few yummy vegan desserts. I loved the chocolate cake!

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For my Birthday dinner we ate at truly special and unique restaurant that was also very vegan friendly. The Verde Mesa provided a lovely dinner experience for us both.  I had the special chickpea cous cous dish that was splendid! The only downside was that there were no vegan desserts. The service was excellent and the hostess treated us so kindly especially learning it was my birthday. She even prepared special cocktails for us.

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Overall it was truly a wonderful week in Puerto Rico. I can’t say enough good things about Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3. The people love this race and take pride in their local event. The race organizer does a super job. It turns out that triathlon is a popular sport in Puerto Rico. There were many tri-clubs from the Island and so many locals who participated in the race. It was also the Pan American Tri Club Championship and Puerto Rico did very well.

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For me it was a special race on many levels. I had a breakthrough in my bike and felt so good about finally having a respectable performance. I had a strong run in very difficult conditions. I have work to do in becoming more confident in my swim but it is progressing.

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I miss Puerto Rico and hope to go back again someday!

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