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Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 signs that Jennie has finally returned to training

   Well...offseason has now officially come and gone (thankfully!).  After a hard-fought year with five Ironmans over a 12 month span, I was forced into some downtime-5 weeks of it, to be exact, with some light 30min workouts started after a couple of weeks.  The extra time was nice for a bit-we got new flooring for our kitchen and den, we put a new backsplash into the kitchen, I indulged my desire for junk food (absence makes the heart grow fonder in my case), we raked a whole ton, a bunch of my laundry actually made it into my drawers, a bunch more of my laundry ended up in bags to be given away (thanks to my family), I vacuumed far more often than I normally do, I began to get anal about things being left places, I cooked, I baked, I took the dogs on lots of walks, I slept a bunch, I caught up with friends, I knitted a sweater (just kidding) get the idea.  I generally tried to get myself ahead on life to minimize the time-related stress breakdowns that will inevitably come as the training load increases.  At times, I felt like I was preparing for a hiberation of sorts-how many sports bras could I stockpile?  What about pairs of athletic socks?  However, towards the last couple of weeks of that time, when I was matching socks for hours on end (who knew I had that many matching pairs/), I was REALLY wanting to ride my bike again.  So, here I am, nearing the end of my first week of training.  It hasn't been pretty, at all.  My training numbers, particularly on the bike, are pretty abysmal.  But, I'm starting to feel like my life is getting back to its weird state of normal.  So, without further ado, here's my top 10 signs that training has been resumed:

1.  Hanger
After a couple weeks of being off, I started to notice something peculiar.  Mainly that I...wasn't hungry?  I've never understood certain things about normal people, like how they get full on what seems like such little food, how they get to the point where they can't finish a couple of bites of food, and how they can go out to dinner on a Friday night and not dissolve into a ball of upset and sadness when told that they have to wait an hour for a table alone.  I mean, I spend a great percentage of my life thinking about my next meal.  On Tuesdays, when I work 11-5 without a break, I get scared, because I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to eat lunch.  I don't like not knowing when my next meal is coming.  However, after a few weeks of not really exercising and catching up on the junk I'd been denying myself most of the season, I suddenly started to get it.  I'd get to a meal time, and I'd realize that I wasn't really interested in food.  Huh?  What?  But, thankfully, as soon as I started training again, this feeling became short-lived.  Within a few days, I found myself having to hold myself away from the fridge.  At 5pm on Thursday, when I was within 1.5 hours of dinner, I still found myself digging around in the work fridge, just praying that I'd have an emergency apple in there.  I did.  The world could continue to revolve around its axis.  Earlier today, I told myself that if I managed to finish out a miserable 4 hours on the bike, that we could get some Great Northern Pizza Kitchen on the way home, because darn it, we haven't had it in a long time, and I'm already down one of the extra pounds that I was supposed to gain (As an aside, the gain wasn't hard.  At all).  We split a piece in the car on the way home, because we couldn't make it the 15 minutes back to the house.  Ahhh.  Normalcy.

2. I've already gotten comments that I'm walking funny
On my first day of training, Monday, I swam, biked, and lifted some anemic weights for the first time in ages.  On Tuesday, my legs were crying.  Both of my bosses and a couple of our receptionists commented on my waddle walk.  Darn it!  I couldn't even hide it for a day!

3. I've crouched down at least once, and contemplated staying there because A. the quad stretch felt awesome and B. generating the muscle power to stand back up sounded hard.
This generally happens under two circumstances at work-crouching down to adjust the stop on one of our machines, the Wall Crawler, and when getting iontophoresis pads out from underneath the sink.  It just feels SO good to sit there for a second, until my calves start burning when I try not to fall backwards.  Luckily, by now I've figured out that I can grab the bars on the wall crawler to pull myself up, and I use the cabinet doors near the sink to assist my return to standing.  

4. I fantasize about naps
Self-explanatory.  I had an hour of computer work to do at work on Thursday.  It was one heck of a struggle.  Keeping my eyes open requires a LOT of work sometimes. 

5. Shower recovery beverage has happened.
 What's a girl to do when she finishes her workout at 12:45 and then immediately has to get into the shower to get ready for work?  Why, mix up a tall glass of Endurox and bring it upstairs to the shower, of course.  Nothing adds to the bathroom decor like a nasty glass with chocolate powdery residue, after all.
Contact solution, toothbrush holder, Endurox glass.  Makes perfect sense to me.

 6. I've stopped giving a flying crap about matching my socks.
Seriously.  As long as both feet have socks on them, I'm good.  I hate you, socks.  I don't have the mental power to play freaking memory matching you anymore.

7. Really small things start qualifying as legitimate entertainment.
When training, I sort of exist in a lower level of consciousness, so it takes less to make me happy.  One of the highlights of my week is always taking the Irondequoit Bay outlet bridge home on Friday evenings after work.  It's as close to a social outing as I get on Fridays, and I weirdly enjoy the alternate route.  Other things that entertain me when training are searching for new music on Amazon, checking the hourly forecast before I run, and looking at pictures of dogs on facebook (however, on the flip side, any sort of video of some sort of emotional dog thing makes me all overly teary).  Doesn't take much. 

8. Someone's got a case of the dropsies.
With training comes an extreme lack of coordination.  I'm not coordinated on a good day.  Add in fatigue and slow reaction times, and it gets even worse.  I've already started to drop my stupid pen repeatedly at work.  Yesterday, I sliced my thumb open cutting up a beet.  Then, I went upstairs, ironed my clothes for work, and then tripped over the iron cord when I went to turn off the closet light.  The still on iron teetered precariously on the ironing board as I looked at it in horror, imagining the burns I was about to sustain.  Somehow, I managed to react just in time as the iron crashed to the floor, mere inches from where my foot had last been.  Perfect.

9. Brain fog.
Ahhh, brain fog.  On the bright side, time seems to pass more quickly, because I begin to hone in on the ability to create a time warp that comes SO in handy on long trainer rides.  My commute just sort of happens some days.  When I wasn't training, I probably spent a lot of time telling people crap about myself that they didn't care about at work and talking about the weather just for the sake of talking about something.  When training, I'm more than happy to sit there in a semi-conscious happy little state when conversation reaches a natural end.  I've already found myself staring at charts and screens, not really thinking about anything, just staring.  Earth to to Jennie...  And if I don't write something down on a post-it or text it to doesn't happen.  
The portrait of brain fog-it's debatable who's more blank, Jennie after a long, hard workout, or the Bailey.
10. My couch has disintegrated into a pile of garmins, ANT+ agents, USB cords, newspapers, coaching notes, and Normatecs.
I refer to it as my home office.  It's so comfy, though.
Going to watch some webinars the high life!   

I have to say, though, all of these things make me feel normal, and when I feel normal (i.e. my entire body hurts a bit), I'm happy.  My life without training was ok, but it really made me realize how much I love the life that's chosen me.  A new backsplash is nice, but I get more pleasure out of finishing a long ride than I do out of looking at the area between my kitchen counter and the cabinets.  I'm certainly looking forward to the upcoming season, and all that it brings!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The year review part I: Swimming (Jennie's favorite)

   Now that I'm (mercifully) 3/4 of the way through my offseason, I've had plenty of time (mostly while putting things away and cleaning things out-yikes) to reflect a little bit on where I've been and how I've come along in the past year.  I thought that some sort of year-end reflection would be appropriate.  Summarizing a year, though, is really kind of difficult-how do you organize it?  What's relevant?  With that, I decided that I'd just go through and give a little synopsis of what I did/changed training-wise on the swim, bike, and run, and how that translated on the race course.  Tonight's version?  My favorite thing to talk about (sarcasm): the swim!

The swim

   So, obviously I made a good deal of progress in swimming this year.  In 2011, I was generally a ~33-35min 70.3 swimmer, and my training consisted of two swims per week, totaling about 8-9000 yards.  Not much.  In 2012, Mary took over, and I began swimming four days per week, totaling about 15-16000 yards in my build weeks.  As for my race times?  Well, they didn't really budge much.  My 70.3 swim times still hovered at 33min (on the reasonably accurate courses), and I swam a pair of 1:09's in full Ironmans.  This was frustrating, for sure, but I at least finished the season with a glimmer of hope, as my 1:09 in Florida was swam in rougher, slower conditions than my 1:09 in Placid.  Still, I lost out on a lot as a result of my swim-so again we looked at ways to increase the swim stress. 

   So, this past season, every Monday-Friday, day in and day out, I started out in the pool.  5am alarm (sometimes snoozed to 5:10...or 5:20), 3k-5k yards/day, 5 days/week, ~20k/week most non-recovery weeks.  In addition, Mary made nearly weekly trips up to the pool, which proved to be invaluable.  We tweaked parts of my stroke-first we worked on my catch, then we worked on the back half (finishing my stroke led to some big breakthroughs in pool TT times), then we worked on bringing my left arm out and my right arm in.  Targeted drills were introduced on recovery days.  Mary didn't throw too much at me at once-swimming isn't natural to me, so giving me 30 different things to focus on all at once would have just led to complete implosion.  It wasn't rocket science or magic; it was just solid work and thoughtful guidance.  And at first, I just chipped away a bit.  High 31's in 70.3s.  A 1:07 non-wetsuit effort in Texas.  Nothing huge, nothing breakthrough.  I kept at it, though.  I kept the stonecutter in mind-"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before."  It would give eventually, I kept telling myself.  Just put in the yards and the effort.  And, sure enough, the rock finally did crack in Placid.  I pr'ed my first loop on the way to a 1:03 day-I wasn't going to be leading any races with that, but it did enough to keep me in the game.  Still, I felt like it was a fluke, just a result of having a nice whirlpool thanks to the rolling start- my pool times hadn't really budged in a few months.  But then I managed to back that up with a 1:02 in Tremblant three weeks later-a time that I thought would only happen years from now.  In Kona, I lowered that non-wetsuit best by another minute. 

   The race improvements weren't all strictly from fitness, though.  A good portion of that came from tactics.  In the past, I'd shied away from swimming in groups, and I just had flat out been getting dropped in the initial sprint off the line.  Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that my pathetic, asthmatic little lungs suck the most in the early stages of any swim workout I do.  600-800y, with a little bit of pushing, is really what it takes to get me into the groove.  So, my "casually stroking around a little bit while dreading the impending swim" version of a warm up just hadn't been cutting it.  In Placid, for the first time, I really made a conscious effort to get into the water early, warm up for an extended period of time, and throw in some ~30s pickups in there.  I also figured out the start-start next to the women you want to swim with, not behind them.  The very slight amount of energy I saved by doing that meant that I could dial down the effort just a hair for the first 50 yards or so-which mean that several minutes later, when the pace settled, I'd still find myself with others.  I was fortunate enough to get into some good for me groups in my last few races, which pulled me to some breakthroughs.  Even with those breakthroughs, though, my swim is still my obvious weakness, and I'm losing too much time in the water.  But, shaving off seven minutes was more than I had been hoping to achieve, so I'll take it for the year. 

   As I move forward from here, I know that I'm going to have to push twice as hard to squeeze half as much (if I'm lucky) improvement out of myself.  I have, very reluctantly and with a great deal of complaining about my feeble lung capacity, my overwhelming desire to breathe, and Gus, the wad of phlegm that lives in the back of my throat and chokes me when I swim, started doing flip turns.  I just decided to start doing them after Tremblant (I think I just wanted an excuse for sucky swim splits other than over racing burnout), and I discovered that I had some residual muscle memory from my days of swim club at the age of 12.  They're literally one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done in the pool, at any speed.  My swims these days more or less go something like this: swim, slow down, try to breathe and finish my last stroke close enough to the wall that I don't have to go too long without air, flip turn (usually I make the wall, although sometimes I end up at some weird angle as I try to push off), frantically flail to the surface, gasp, spastically resume swimming while being absolutely sure that my lungs are in fact exploding, regain some semblance of lung composure, realize that the rest of my body feels weak from the lack of oxygen, regroup, swim normally for about 5 yards, by that point, and then repeat.  It's fun.  Unfortunately for my lungs, Jesse already had to go and issue the "all flip turns" ultimatum (I had worked out some little "open turn every 100" bargain with myself beforehand), so awful discomfort it will be!  Other ideas that have been thrown out there for my swimming have so far included a sixth day in the pool (aww..bye, weekends off.  Bye), and master's swimming (which scares the living crap out of me).  So, time will tell, but I do know that hard work and consistency pays off (novel concept). 

   Therefore, even though last year I put up some splits that I sort of doubted would ever be listed next to my name (I swam a 1:37 100y free-breathing every stroke-at that swim club's "C" meet-that is, the consolation meet for those that couldn't make the A or B standards.  Seriously, I sucked), I'm going to just convince myself that maybe I don't have to be terrible at swimming.  If playing swimmer and doing fancy swimmer things like flip turns is what it takes-then so be it, I'm game.  2014 is certainly going to take more work in the water, but if I can get myself to T1 with less of a deficit to make up, the end will justify the means!  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kona race report-bend and not break

   Wow!  Hard to believe that the season that started so long ago and took me on such a wild, awesome ride has come to a close, at the world championships nonetheless.  I was notably quiet on this blog in the time between Tremblant and Kona, for good reason-life was kind of getting the better of me.  Work was very busy and I was getting a bit overwhelmed with trying to get everything done before heading out to Kona.  In the meantime, I had spent a good part of my first week of real training after Tremblant at QT2 pro camp in New Hampshire-an awesome experience, but to be perfectly honest I just got my butt kicked (and I crashed on some railroad tracks-road rash and bruises only, thank God).  I came home sore, down on my fitness, swollen, and bruised.  I managed to pull myself out of the gutter shortly afterwards, but slow, fat, and out of shape basically sums up how I felt throughout most of my Kona prep.  I was putting undue pressure on myself, as well-every time my workout numbers weren't where I wanted them to be, or I stepped on the scale and saw something I didn't like, or I stopped during a trainer workout and took off a shirt I should have left on, or I slogged through a workday with no energy, I questioned everything.  Why do I think that I can compete with the best women in the world, the ones I read about in magazines and have admired throughout the years?  I don't live like them.  I can't live like them.  I don't deserve to be there.  Everyone thinks I'm going to do so awesome, but I'm not training all that well, and I'm going to let everyone down.  It took until the last few days before I left for Kona for me to finally pull myself out of that funk (a surprise birthday/good luck party with all my family and friends there helped lift the spirits for sure-thanks again guys, you rock!).  Maybe I wasn't in the best shape of my life, but I was reasonably close.  At the very least, my swimming and biking numbers had mostly rebounded, and my runs had been within their normal ballpark, although they weren't feeling as fluid and as easy as they have in the past (something that would come back to haunt me on race day).
Some carnage from my run in with the angled railroad tracks

Things that sucked a lot: showering

You know what happens when you open your big fat mouth and talk about how you never bruise?  You eat pavement, and get bruises.  I was lucky though!!!

    Dave and I flew out to Kona the Sunday before the race.  The 24 hours of travel were erased the next morning, as soon as I ate my first dose of fresh papaya (Kona tropical fruit=AMAZING), swam in a virtual aquarium of tropical fish and sea turtles, and ran in the hot island sun.  Everything I'd heard about the buzz of Kona and the magic of the island was seeming to come to life.  I actually even...liked swimming?  I'll blame it on the fish-I really like cool fish.  On Monday, we made it to our condo for the week with roomies Sam, Adam, and Cindy, and settled in.  The rest of the week went by more quickly than I had been expecting, with swims at the pier, rides on the Queen K, frequent trips to the QR tent at the expo (I can't thank those guys enough for taking awesome care of my bike and salvaging what they could after a year of my abuse), stops at the farmer's market (I have to prepare myself to be disappointed by mangoes and pineapples for the rest of my life now, I think), and incredibly long drives down Ali'i.  Seriously, if I had to pick the worst thing about Kona, that drive would be it (although constantly sweating and breaking out in gross rashes would be a close second).  Our condo, which was awesome, was still about five miles down the road from the race site, and I don't think it ever took us less than 20 minutes to make it there.  On my own, this would have sucked, but being in the car with Dave, aka the least patient person I've ever met in my life, particularly when driving, compounded matters.  Anyways.  Before I knew it, Saturday rolled around, and I was eating pancakes with the team, dropping off my bike, riding in the car as Dave drove the bike course, and meeting with Jesse for the game plan.  As I'd done all week (which was no easy task, given the amount of fluid loss just from moving around in Kona), I made sure to keep the fluid and electrolyte levels topped off with a few bottles of Nuun.  I slept well that night (thank you 29 years of east coast time zone!), and woke up feeling ok...briefly.  The nerves that had been at bay all week set in HARD that morning, as I went through body marking, last minute bike prep, and bag drop offs.
View from our hotel room the first morning on the island.  I was ok with it.

But I wanted to pet them!  I didn't, though.

We had a lunch guest!  I wonder if Hawaiians think we're weird when we get excited about geckos.  They're probably about as exciting over there as squirrels are over here.

Moving on, our balcony at the condo.  I was ok with that, too.

We stayed in a gated community.  Oh, the times that I wish I had my crappy car to park between these guys...
Turnaround on the Queen K during one of my rides, just awesome

Yes, on Dave's urging, we did the underpants run.  This blog wouldn't be complete unless I traumatized the masses with this picture of pasty Dave and his speedo butt.

Public near nudity at its finest.

I wore more clothing than Dave
One thing I did was a signing for QR.  Making a face fit for a cover modela.

Waiting in line for bike check in.  Sweating profusely.

    Despite the initial nerves while getting everything set in transition, I brought things down to a reasonable level by the time I got into the water and put in a good swim warmup, something that’s been key to my ability to make swim groups in my past few races.  The five minutes between the pro men’s and women’s starts seemed to still take an interminably long time, though, so I was happy to be set off on my way.  The normal initial scrum cleared after a short bit, and I was glad to find myself in a group of several other women after the first few hundred yards.  I did have to fight a bit for the first ~10min or so, but after that the pace settled nicely, and I was feeling strong.  Another woman and I were swimming side by side, trying to stay on the same feet, until I finally conceded and tucked in behind her-we were in a line, so it made no difference.  And that was basically how the swim proceeded for the entire way out, which seemed to take absolutely forever.  I had two women ahead of me, and at least one behind that I was aware of, which I was thankful for-it meant that I A. wasn’t DFL in the water, and B. had a little bit more motivation to hold my place in the pace line, as I didn’t want to be the slouch that screwed the women behind me over.  
The calm before the swim start storm
    About halfway back to shore, I began to feel as if my effort was dropping.  I contemplated on whether or not to make a move-was the potential savings of a few seconds here or there worth the extra effort of moving out of my draft?  I tried to stay patient for a bit longer, until the “screw it, it’s the world championships” mentality took over.  I figured that the last ~10-15min of that swim were the last chance I’d get to take advantage of the work I’d put in in the pool over the past year (and I have to admit, that after finally forcing flip turns upon myself, my lungs were feeling pretty darn good in that open water), so I surged around the two women ahead of my and took my turn pulling at the front.  I could see another couple of women just ahead (one of whom would turn out to be Kim).  I tried to close the gap, and although I was unsuccessful in this endeavor, I didn’t regret my decision to try.  The woman behind me followed.  I never fully trust my navigational skills in the water, so I was pretty pleased with myself when I stayed true to course and finally made it to the swim out.  A quick glance at the watch revealed a 1:06-about what I had hoped for, and my best non-wetsuit swim to date.  My swimming will probably always continue to be a work in progress, but to go from barely breaking 1:10 at Placid, one of the easiest wetsuit swims out there, to a relatively comfortable 1:06 in Kona while having the confidence and skills to make groups and navigate and stuff in just over a year-well, I’ll take it. 
    Once in transition, I saw that the woman who had been using my feet was the legendary Natascha Badmann.  I kind of wanted to tell her that she was sort of my hero and totally badass (especially given that I was probably still in diapers when she started competing, and she’s still crushing me), but it seemed a little stalker-ish and inappropriate for a T1 changing tent conversation, so I decided that I had made my contribution to Kona, and continued on my way.  I instead proceeded to the bike exit, where I had one of my more embarrassing “attempting to do a walking mount” situations, and failed miserably.  My Garmin revealed that this little fiasco (witnessed by a huge freaking crowd, and probably caught on tape by someone) took about 30 seconds.  Real smooth, Hansen.  Once I finally managed to get my feet into my pedals (biking 101), I immediately started to push, per Jesse’s instructions-take it out hard to the airport, and then settle in.  The women that I had gotten out of the water with left me during my pathetic little mount, so I just began to crank out the wattage, much to the chagrin of my quads.  They were burning pretty good-and my seat, for some reason, felt low.  Had it slipped?  I reached down and felt the piece of electrical tape I use to mark the seat height.   It seemed to be in place, so I figured that the early intensity was playing tricks on me.  As I’d later discover when I went to disassemble the bike, though, my instinct had in fact been correct-my seatpost had somehow slipped down about a third of an inch.  I’m actually glad I didn’t realize it, because although it probably wasn’t enough to affect anything, I probably still would have had it in my head for the rest of the day.  Anyways, I dug in and eventually caught up to Kim.  I established legal distance…and then just stayed there for the next 2.5 hours or so.  I was feeling ok, not great, and trying to keep Kim in my sights was giving me something to focus on, allowing me to zone all of the bad thoughts out.  The miles ticked off quickly.  I kept waiting for the famous winds, but…nothing.  I began to feel better and better as we moved towards Hawi.  A few male age groupers had started to pass us; I think I had moved up a few places as well, but I wasn’t really sure.  
Deep in thought or something

Sticking my tongue out at Dave.  Nothing sucked yet.  I was at the world championships.  Kona!  Yay!
    Shortly before the turnaround, the age groupers started to pass us with greater frequency.  Kim stopped to refill at special needs, so I continued on, still waiting for those winds.  I figured that if I wasn’t scared in the least, it had to be a really calm day by Hawaii standards.  I began to push the wattage a bit more until the male age groupers began to mix in to a greater degree, causing me to have to sit up and soft pedal in order to fall out of their draft zones quite a bit.  At one point, an absolutely ridiculous peloton of probably at least 30 men passed me, with one guy actually saying “bike race! bike race!”.  These guys weren’t in my race, but I still found myself getting frustrated for those that were riding legally.  I mean, it’s the world championships-don’t blatantly cheat.  Another (legally riding) guy passed me a bit later and actually remarked, “did you know that there’s a bike race going on today?”  But, I couldn’t do anything but keep riding.  By that point, my power was increasing, and I was toying with continuing to push vs. waiting until the last 30 miles or so.  When I turned back onto the Queen K, the headwind had picked up, but I remembered what Jesse had told me-don’t worry about the speed, as long as the wattage is where it should be, which was the case.
    The trip back along the Queen K ended up being a bit of an exercise in keeping my wits about me.  The packs ahead of me had started to break up (and/or get penalties), so I increasingly found myself trapped behind several lines or packs of men.  I’d have to pass the entire line in order to stay legal, so my choices often came down to spiking the power to get ahead, or watching my power drop (right when I really felt like I wanted to push it).  I tried to err on the side of staying patient, but several times I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I’d throw down a surge to try to get myself clear.  Invariably, someone would immediately pass me back (clearly not re-establishing their draft zone prior to repassing), at times passing me and then flat out coasting.  On the bright side, I at least now have more motivation to improve at swimming, I suppose.  Miles 80-90 seemed to drag, but the last 20 miles or so went by quickly, and before I knew it I was finally turning off the Queen K and heading towards transition.  I cursed myself once in transition for forgetting to throw my frozen water bottle in there in the morning, as Jesse had told me, and did my best to cool off with cups of water before heading out of the changing tent.  I also started to rip the elastic lace in my shoe before heading out-thankfully, it held on by a literal elastic thread.  With that, I was off!
    During the first few steps of that marathon, I could tell that I was in for a long run.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was off-it was just a general feeling of blah.  I tried to brush it off at first-I’d been there before.  Jesse told me to just let the legs come around in that first mile.  Well, I waited for them to come around…and it just wasn’t happening.  My pace was ok at first-low 7’s-but I felt like I was pressing.  This was a contrast to my last two Ironmans, during which I’d started the marathons feeling like I was jogging 6:50’s.  Maybe I’ve just been spoiled.  I tried everything I could to get my body to come around-a gel, salt, ice, water, more ice, sponges (of course), but nothing was really working too well.  I was becoming increasingly concerned during the initial out and back along Ali’I, given that’s the easiest portion of the course.  I almost considered just turning off my Garmin at that point, actually, so I’d stop worrying about the mile splits, but opted to give myself some feedback.  So I felt like crap running-big freaking deal.  It was the world championship, and thousands of athletes out there would have given anything to be in my position.  It didn’t occur to me to quit, or give up, or to do anything but continue pushing.  Although my pace wasn’t great, my heart rate was right where it should have been.  I saw Kim as we headed towards the out and back, and we gave each other a look that just suggested we were in the same boat at that point.  Finally, I made it back towards Palani, where Jesse again told me to slow down and get the heat under control as I headed back up towards the Queen K.
Early on in the run...already struggling
    Slowing down I could manage.  Heat-wise, my body didn’t feel bad at that point, but my face was just on fire.  I hadn’t put any sunscreen on it, and I don’t run in any sort of visor or hat-although after that race, I’ve decided that I need to figure out how to be comfortable in one.  I kept pouring ice down my top at aide stations, which felt marvelous, and then pulling cubes out (reaching into the boob area-classy) to rub around my face.  I just kept readjusting the pace goal-under 7:10, under 7:20, under 7:30.  Where is the freaking energy lab??  I think I had the energy lab built up too much in my mind; I thought it was longer than it actually is, and I kept wondering why it was taking so freaking long to get there.  My stomach stopped being happy somewhere around mile 11, and taking in anything other than water started to require some effort.  Why does this seem like it just keeps going uphill?  I saw Mirinda Carfrae hauling back down the Queen K.  Then I recognized Pete Jacobs walking-and I realized that I could freaking keep going.  I vowed not to walk-I didn’t think that I’d be able to start running again if I stopped for a second.  I momentarily felt a little bit better as we made the turn into the energy lab around mile 16 and thought to myself, great, finally I’m coming around, time to roll.  The cloud cover had really thickened by that point, and the face burning had really calmed down.  That stress had been removed.  Unfortunately, though, the feeling better was short-lived.  At that point, over eight hours into my day, three Ironmans in 10 weeks and the less than ideal preparation heading into the race caught up to me.  After all, I can count on one hand the times that I’d run over an hour between Tremblant and Kona.  
    My teammates offered me encouragement down in the energy lab, as did a pro woman who passed me.   I saw Jessie on her way out-see you at the finish, she told me.  A simple statement, but it willed me onwards.  Just keep moving forward was my one mantra.  The wheels really loosened somewhere around mile 18.  I again adjusted my pace goal-under 8:00.  I missed it a few times on some of the uphill miles (3 total, to be exact), but once back out on the Queen K I let go of worry about my overall time, and just concentrated on those sub-8’s, which were still attainable.  Additionally, although my heart rate had dropped a bit, it wasn’t horribly dramatic, just from the high-150’s/very low 160’s to the mid-150’s.  Mentally, it helped.  Around that time, though, I was getting pretty concerned.  I wasn’t really eating or drinking anything, I just felt sick and waterlogged.  I wasn’t hot anymore, so the ice and sponges weren’t giving me any relief.  I was getting pretty out of it, feeling weak and shaky.  Unlike my other races this season, I wasn’t sure that I was actually going to make it to the finish.  I told myself just make it to mile 24.5-after that, it would be all downhill, and I could do that.  The only way that I wasn’t going to finish, though, would be if I passed out on the course, I decided.  At one aide station, they told us we were 2.96 miles from the finish, and I just wanted to cry-that short distance just seemed interminably long at that time.
Grimacing my way back down Palani.  We watched Zoolander after the race, so I feel it appropriate to describe myself as "so hot right now" in this picture.
     Finally, finally, after a string of excruciating 7:50’s, I made it back to Palani.  Jesse told me to go, and I just basically let myself fall down that hill.  The last little stretch before turning down to head back to Ali’i just kept going…and going.  At that point, I wanted to grab every well-meaning person who told me that I was “almost done”, look him or her in the eyes, and just scream, “THAT DOES NOT HELP ME RIGHT NOW!!!”  By the time I made it onto Ali’i for the finish, I had nothing left in me.  My one regret from that race is that my miserable tunnel vision at the end kept me from appreciating the greatest finish line in our sport.  The crowds were awesome, just engulfing the final stretch, but it took all of my energy just to make it through, up the final little ramp, and across the line.  My finish line video reveals me taking a couple of staggered steps, looking a bit shell-shocked, and then leaning over until a couple of wonderful volunteers swooped in and supported me, practically carrying me away from the line.  They were asking if I wanted anything, but at that point I didn’t even want to THINK about drinking anything else (I had to pee within 10 minutes of finishing; water-logged I certainly was).  They soaked my finish towel in ice water for me, which was amazing, and helped me to the finisher’s shirts and medals table.  We finally decided that I could make it without medical attention, and I just deposited myself onto the grassy lawn for a bit, just wanting to relax and not move until I eventually met up with Dave in the pro lounge.
My inspiring finish.  To everyone who may have watched the live feed hoping to watch me come in all motivationally...I apologize.

Totally fried.  I liked when people told me they could tell that I left it all out there.  That's basically code for, "you looked terrible".  It's ok, guys.  You can say it.
    In retrospect, even if I’m not fully satisfied with that race, I have to at least be a little proud of it.  Crushing some PR run while moving up in the field and knowing that you’re putting time on the women behind you-that’s easy.  Continuing on when you know you’re going to run your slowest IM marathon ever, you feel like crap, and you’re getting passed-that’s hard.  But I can honestly look back on that race and say with 100% certainty that after my string of recent racing and less than ideal training, I used everything that I had left in me.  Plus, my swim and bike were actually quite good for me, which I think is important going forward.  I had one woman within one minute of me, two more within two minutes, and a few more within five minutes-so I’m getting there.  I put myself in a decent position to use my run, butit just wasn’t there, which is how it sometimes goes.  No excuses or apologies, it’s just what it is.  The silver lining is that I now have a little bit of ammunition to convince those around me that I do in fact need to do more of my favorite thing in training-running!  Right??  Plus, I feel like I’m heading into the offseason in the perfect position-happy with my final race but not thrilled.  I’m clearly not on the level of the top women, but I can now see that with a few more years, maybe, just maybe I could get a little bit closer.  Unfortunately, my 20th place finish didn’t do me many favors in terms of points for next year, so I’ll basically have to start from scratch, but the good news is that I love racing, and I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to get myself back to the big island next year in a better position to maximize what I have and do well.  Still, I’ve got a little bit of time to recharge the batteries before starting out again, though!
Once again, huge amounts of thanks to so many for this amazing storybook season-for our sponsors quintana roo for providing me with the bike that's served me VERY well this season (and for going the extra mile for me with their pre-race help), Rudy Project for keeping my head cool and fast (and also for going the extra mile to get me a non-cracked helmet), and Nuun, Fuelbelt, Powerbar, and Normatec for all getting me to and through the race!  Thanks to everyone who took the time to track me throughout the day (sorry my run place didn't get any more exciting, haha) and/or offer me good luck and congrats before or after the race-I read everyone's messages even if I didn't get a chance to respond, and I appreciated every last one of them, those are the things that keep me going when it gets brutal out there!  Of course, HUGE thanks to Mary, Jesse, and everyone at QT2 for the amazing guidance and support-not just through this leg of the journey, but throughout this entire incredible whirlwind of a season that's just been filled with awesome races and experiences.  The help I've gotten has been second to none, and having the teammates that I've grown close to out there with me on Saturday really helped the motivation.  And, of course, many thanks to my closest friends and family for putting up with all of my stuff and supporting me to the utmost throughout my athletic career.  Especially to Dave, for being my Kona race sherpa (there, I said it, happy now loser?)
    To wrap this up, instead of describing all of the stuff we did before leaving for home, I figure that pictures tell the story better than I could!  
Reliving my finish the next morning.  I think that I nailed it.
Day after the race, getting into what's important-real Kona coffee before a coffee plant tour.  After nearly a month without real coffee, this was pure bliss in a cup.

The resident rooster/chicken couple at the coffee plantation.  And yes, as they clearly demonstrated during the tour, they are in fact a couple (haha).

The sampling area

One of several cool-looking trees in downtown Kona.  The guys that take care of it caught me taking pictures!

Just kidding.  There's nothing they could have done for me after that race.

QT2 post-race party.  "Dave, get me another drink!" (5 minutes later) "I already had a couple, I don't want that anymore.  Hold the girly drink so I can take pictures.  Sucker!"

Kim and I by the sea, celebrating an awesome season

Kim and I in some lighting where you can actually see us! Love this girl!

Sam and Adam were in a selfie competition all after buying a waterproof case for my phone, I decided to underwater selfie with a snorkel and mask.  Attractive.

The color quality was awful, but here's some sweet fish.Note:  I am voluntarily swimming.

A coral bloom
My race souvenir-some nasty heat rash.  GROSS.  

Two days after the race, we decided to swim to Captain Cook's monument with Buffaloians Aubrey and John, where the snorkeling was supposed to be awesome and dolphins were supposed to come by.  It didn't look that far at first...
And we had fins and stuff (although they didn't make swimming in a bikini any more practical)
...but it took FOREVER to get there.  And there were no freaking dolphins.  And the water got really cold by the monument, so we didn't even want to snorkel around there.  And we had to swim all the way back.  And it was day 2 of my offseason and I was FREAKING SWIMMING VOLUNTARILY.

Proof we made it to the stupid monument.  Oh well, it was a bonding experience with good people!
Last night on the island-some pictures of the sunset from our balcony.  It was so awesome that I even delayed going out to dinner to watch it-that says a lot.

I think this was about the time that we became deeply disappointed when we found out that the cheap sushi place with good reviews was closed on Mondays

At least we had an awesome view while arguing about where to go eat

The next day, we hiked down a 25% grade into a valley

The waterfalls were dried, but they still were cool

Stream with vines and stuff

These horses were just wandering around in the valley.  Dave befriended one of his kind.

The view from above.  We wanted to make it to that black sand beach.  Didn't quite work out (looking at a trail map would have helped), but still a sweet experience.

All kinds of cool fruit trees were growing down there (again, this is probably about as cool to Hawaiians as apple trees are to us.  I was the weirdo taking pictures).

Dave was whining about how he was thirsty, so luckily there were a couple of Hawaiian guys down there just handing out some of the fruit that grew on their land to give us a coconut with a bamboo straw, among other things.  Maybe not so sanitary, but those are the risks you can take in offseason-the guava were fabulous!

Random totem pole

Walking back up the 25% grade hill.  I finally got Dave to admit that he could not in fact bike up it.

Apparently things can get crazy down in there.

Navigating some rocks down in the valley

Eccentric quad loading, anyone?

Finally, we moved on to some waterfalls


More cool viney tree stuff

Flowers you don't see every day back in Rochester

Dave and a bamboo tree

Almost done walking up, getting all sweaty for the plane!