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Thursday, August 29, 2013

IM Mont Tremblant race report-standing on the edge of everything I've never been before

After Placid, there wasn’t much rest for the wicked.  I was back to work within a couple of days, both in terms of triathlon and the physical therapist duties.  I had no idea what to expect training-wise with the short three week turnaround between Ironmans.  Jesse stepped in at that point and set up my schedule for me.  I originally balked a bit when I saw the middle week-a moderate number of hours, a couple of longer rides, and a fair amount of intensity.  It was a weird balance of recovery, trying not to get out of shape from tapers and recovery, and resting for the next race.  I wasn’t so sure of myself, but I was sure of those guiding me (some of the best in the business), so I shut up, put my head down, and did my work  It at least included some workouts I hadn’t seen before that were actually sort of fun, in the way that athletes find things fun.  What worked out favorably for me was the fact that Dave and I were on a semi-real person vacation (as real as you can get when trainers and wetsuits are brought along)with my parents in Cape Cod for a few days, meaning that I could get in my longer sessions earlier in the week and then focus a little bit more on recovery and glorious sleep than I’m normally able to on a daily basis.  When I made it through the week, I was feeling halfway decent-my numbers weren’t as good as they usually are in my last “sharpening” week before an IM, but they were reasonable for a build week, and I was feeling about 90%-not great, but not terrible.  Before I knew it, I was packing (or really just getting the still packed bags and moving them towards the door), dropping the bike off at Towpath for a sweet wheel rental, and preparing to head out to Ironman #2 in three weeks-game on!

Vacation day 1.  Living the high life.  4.5 hours, baby.

Vacation day 2.  Started with a 50min "swim" in this crap (the only swim when I didn't get attacked by jellyfish, probably because it was too rough for them to see me), then proceeded to a ride, then proceeded to a run where I had to run faster than I probably have in the past six months, and finally likely ended with using Jesse's name in vain.  Until I remembered I'd asked for it.  Darn it!
Ok, I have to admit that swimming in this almost was nice, minus the fact that I kept thinking my wake was actually Jaws swimming up to me.

Dave made a friend at the ocean that morning.  Bill.

Nothing to do with anything triathlon-related, but this jerk was just laying in our backyard when we got home, eating everything.  Then she just stood there and looked at me.  Go back to the park and be destructive there, Ms. Deer.
 I was also admittedly nervous for this race.  Normally, my goal is just to execute my plan and race to my fullest potential.  Tremblant was weird-I was there with a purpose, sort of a pass/fail proposition, no real continuum, and I knew I wasn’t going in 100%.  I was making the mistake of looking at prerace predictions and start lists and points scales and rankings; I was hardly the main story but I also wasn’t completely off the radar anymore.  I wasn’t entirely sure where my head was at, to be perfectly honest.  The nerves were kicking in to a greater degree, but more of the dread nerves than the excitement nerves.  A couple of days before the race, I cut myself off from almost everything.  Going in, I knew where I stood and what I needed to do.  I briefly chatted with Jesse after the pro meeting just to get an idea of what to do and what to expect, with the main theme being avoiding stupidity on the bike, never questioning my ability to run off the bike (including downshifting the power if I felt like it), easing into the run, and settling in on the crushed gravel path.  The last half of the run, I was told, could get ugly, but just hold on.  He assured me that I didn’t need to do anything crazy, but given the strong international field that was assembled, given this was the North American Championships, I still knew that I needed to be on top of whatever game I had in my in order to earn myself a trip to Hawaii.  Every woman out there could move, and many of us were coming in with the same goal.  I couldn’t take anything for granted, and I knew it.  
Signs you're a jerk: you do this when your husband has you do his IM registration, and then you delight in his dismay over how many likes it gets on facebook.

Speedy wheels!  Complete with classy electrical tape holding my excess amount of flat repair crap in place.  Oh well, I've basically become the master of cramming two tire levers, two tubes, three CO2 cartridges, and an inflator stealthy into a Cobb.  Then I peed on it all the next day.  Boom!

Personalized bike station-it's like celebrity status!

And my equipement velo even got its own seat.
I went to bed race eve still trying to ward off just a bit of a scratchy throat, runny nose, burning head, and burning/itching eyes, and then proceeded to spend half the night struggling to fall asleep and then waking up sweating profusely.  Perfect.  Luckily, I felt halfway decent race morning (other than the fact that it was 3am), and I pushed any thoughts out of my head other than process-oriented ones.  Dave and I got to transition extra early (for us), and I had plenty of time to take care of all of the pre-race business.  I was at the water early enough to execute my new swimming strategy-the 10-15min warmup, complete with pickups.  I know that it takes me a good 1000y or so to get going during every swim workout I do, so why it’s taken me until now to realize that half-heartedly stroking around for a few minutes because I don’t particularly like swimming and don’t want to do more of it than necessary on race day wasn’t cutting it, I’m not sure.  But, a good warm up in Placid had allowed me to actually make a group, so I’d give it a shot again.  In looking at the pro list, I knew there were a bunch of women on there that I might be able to hang with if I really got off to a good start, and I was thinking it’d be preferable not to swim the entire 2.4 miles alone.  Soon enough, we were pulled out of the water for the national anthem, some Canadian jets, and fireworks to accompany the men’s pro start-Mont Tremblant really went all out!

The race was a beach start, which I think I’ve only ever done in Florida before, which ended up being interesting with surf.  The water in Tremblant was obviously a different story.  I figured that having a little bit of a run at the start of the swim might help me (ha), although I never really know when to transfer from running to swimming.  We were set off, and I sort of copied what everyone else did.  The lake was crystal clear, so I just fought to keep my head in bubbles.  When the scrum cleared a bit, I found myself in a fairly sizable group.  I could see Sarah Piampiano and Kim near me, so I knew I was in a good spot-and that was how the rest of the swim went.  I think we had about 6-8 women in there; I wasn’t exactly sure.  Positions changed a bit here and there, sometimes I felt like I was really fighting to say on feet where others I felt comfortable.  Some of the age group males passed us, but I was able to keep contact with the women.  The last few buoys seemed to take forever to get to, but finally I was out of the water.  I initially read my watch as 1:12-ugh!-until I looked again and realized that it actually said 1:02.  Score!  Another minute off the swim PR (draft-aided, but good enough for me)!  I felt like my Placid performance was somewhat validated, at least, especially given that my pool swim times have been stagnant for a few months now.
Striking my signature pose, the watch stop, post-swim.  I was probably wondering if I'd accidentally hit stop ten minutes early while still swimming when I saw the time.

There's just a lot about that one that sort of disturbs me.  I didn't even know that my face made such a creepy, pale, emotionless expression.  And what am I doing with my hands?  Who runs like that?
Kim and I ran through the changing tent together, where our bags were sitting on labeled chairs for us-royal treatment!  I proceeded to have an incredibly remedial mounting experience (just when I thought I’d nailed it..), but settled in soon enough.  I can’t say enough about the amazing road condition on this course.  The fresh, smooth pavement meant that even an aero weenie like me was able to stay down on descents and around curves.  Part of that was just because I knew I was going to need every last ounce of speed I could get out of the watts I was able to manage (the goal was about 5-10 watts lower than Placid, where I’d really gone for it on the bike and put everything I had into that ride).  I eased into the ride, and then pushed it a little bit once we got out onto the main out and back highway on the ride.  The pace was honest but comfortable-my power was sitting a bit low, but I was ok with that during the ride, the numbers would fall where they fell.  When I felt good, I’d move ahead for a bit; when I started to fade, Kim would move ahead of me again and encourage me along (I owe her my freaking life for getting through that ride, I don't know if I could have done it if I'd had to think for myself).  I hit my low point somewhere in the 30-35 mile range (I think) and fell back a bit to collect myself.  The plus side of 2 Ironmans in 3 weeks was a total lack of caffeine in my life for the better part of a month, though, meaning that once I started on the caffeinated gels, I started to feel much better.  After getting through the steeper hills in the last section of the first loop, I could see Kim again, and just willed myself to keep her in my sights.  We were moving up in the field nicely, and I still felt under control.  I probably gave Jesse one of my typical noncommittal shrugs when he asked how I was doing, and set out onto the second loop, feeling a little revived.
I sort of secretly hope that they'll make it so pros can't leave their shoes in their pedals either, so I won't feel like a loser for not being able to do it.  At least I've figured out how to push the bike one-handed by the seat. That's progress.

Even though I've been racing with the Rudy project helmet all season, I still can't get over how gloriously straight it is on my head.

Once back on the highway, I just concentrated on continuing to tick off the miles and get in my nutrition.  One thing that I’d noticed in my training between the races was that I had a tendency to dehydrate and bonk a little more easily, so I was careful to stay on top of what I could.  My stomach was actually feeling better than it ever had that far into an IM bike leg, so I focused on that positive-not a hint of nausea (at that point, at least).  Kim and I had a group of age group males ahead of us for a while-they were all riding pretty legally, but just at legal distance, meaning that I’d have to push past all of them in order to get ahead.  We had an official with us for a good portion of the ride, so I wasn’t willing to even chance anything (even though I did get a thumbs up when they passed at one point).  For a while, I was fine with settling in, but around mile 80-85 I began to see my power drop and I began to worry that I was losing valuable ground.  I’d had a few miles of relative rest by that point, so I put my head down, pushed past the group, and put in a few hard miles.  Most of them would end up passing me back on the last hilly out and back anyways, but I was grateful to have ~10-15 miles of clear road.  I passed Jesse again around mile 100; he assured me I was in a good position, so I didn’t kill the last portion and took care of some final business (hydration, nutrition, water dump over the head, and, um, well, the other stuff that goes on).  I actually felt better over the last portion of the bike ride than normal for an IM.  I ended up coming in with solid numbers, overall in line with a good training ride and about 10 watts lower than what I’d ridden when I’d plastered myself on the bike in Placid, so I was satisfied enough with it.  Now, onto the final question-would I be able to run?
I have no recollection of biking past anything that looked all nice like this.  I just wanted to admire my flat back here, though.  Look at me!  Look at my (Towpath's) disc wheel!  Look at me being in aero!

Another hideous facial expression.  I'm guessing this is one of the points where I was thinking about how biking with dry contacts sucks, and how I needed to call for a Lasix consultation when I got home, because I was actually thinking about that quite a bit on this ride.  I still haven't called, though.  I hate making appointments via phone.  It's so hard to think of when I won't be training or working on the spot. 

 It’s funny in an Ironman-sometimes, competitors will say things to each other that have more of an impact than what they might realize at the time.  In Placid, it was Dede’s “go win yourself an Ironman”, in Tremblant, it was Bree Wee telling me to “go run them down” during the last couple miles of the bike.  I transitioned and started out the run exit feeling, well, I didn’t know.  I hadn’t doubted that I could run while biking, but I wasn’t sure how fast it was going to be.  I was in eighth off the bike; I was in a good position points-wise but some insurance would be good.  I knew that I at least needed to hold my spot.  Jesse just told me to settle in and let the legs come around.  And the legs came around, maybe a little too quickly, in retrospect.  Within the first couple of miles, I was rolling at sub-7 pace and feeling good.  Of the Ironmans I’ve done so far, this run course became my favorite-a few rolling hills in the beginning, similar to some of the terrain that I train on, followed by several miles of an out and back on a cinder trail (which brought me back to the old PHS track).  The crushed gravel was a lifesaver on my unsure legs.  I made it to mile 7 or 8 before everything started to catch up with me.  My stomach and legs weren’t entirely sure how they were feeling anymore, and I was starting to slow down a bit.  I did some damage control at that point, readjusting my pace goal, taking in coke and salt as needed, taking my time at aide stations.  Kim was off absolutely destroying the run, and so I focused on just holding my place (no margin is ever comfortable in a race).  Once off the trail, I started to really hurt around miles 11-12 or so.  The doubt started to set in-could I make it through this?  I kept reminding myself that I’d asked for it, begged for it, and had no one to blame but myself for what was going on.  I was definitely hurting by the halfway point, though.  Jesse just told me to “give it another hour and a half”, and told me that I was moving good and that no one was coming up from behind me.  
Smile away, nerd, because it's about to SUCK

Huh?  There were boats?

Still looking confused, just in the other direction.  Huh?  How many kilometers?
I allowed myself to ease up a little bit for the next couple of miles, telling myself that I’d probably feel better once I got through the hills and pavement and back onto the path again.  Luckily, I was right, and I had a few miles of sort of revival from about 15-19 or so.  I managed to pass Haley for seventh somewhere in there, so I knew I really had to keep going.  After that point, the simple survival countdown began.  Sub-7s became sub-7:10s, and gradually morphed into sub-7:20s.  Support from QT2 teammates (especially Jacqui, who somehow always manages to smile no matter what’s going on in her own race) at that time became crucial, as I was deep in the pain cave.  I passed Mary and just did what seemed right-a pat on the back and a grunted out “thank you” (still amazed she was able to make out my late marathon jumble speak).  Around mile 21, I caught up to Erika Csomor for sixth, and for what would become the points that sealed the deal.  I’ve never actually made a pass that late into an IM marathon, and I was feeling beyond rough by that point, so I wasn’t positive of my abilities to keep the position.  That was when I just put my head down and went with mind over matter.  My lower back, for some odd reason, was screaming with every step.  The course and aide stations were crowded, and I was getting too tired to maneuver, almost running into people at times, as bad as it sounds.  I didn’t care what I looked like or what I was even putting into or onto myself at aide stations, all I cared about was getting to that line.  Miles 22 and 23 came quickly enough, but after that it was a complete fight.  My legs were absolute bricks, and were questioning every signal coming down from my brain telling them to move.  I was too busy working for the position and the line to even notice I had a good run time going.  I wanted to smile at the awesome crowds lining the final miles, yelling encouragement in a fun blend of English and French, but I couldn’t find the energy.  
There it is!  There I am bringing sexy back with a great version of my run pain face! When the heck did we run past water?  Why do I not remember water at all?
Finally, mercifully, I made it to the final mile, and just fought my through the final minutes.  When I got to the final split between the second lap and the finish, I managed to muster one small smile and wave (high 5s were also beyond my energy level) as I ran towards the line, realizing that I’d done enough, finally.  As soon as I crossed, Jesse intercepted me with a hug/hold up for my body that I’d just squeezed everything out of, as my legs were just done, telling me that I’d done it and reminding me I’d asked for it all at the same time as I think the first words out of my mouth were something along the lines of “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life!”.  If you want raw emotion and pure honesty, just come to an Ironman finish line.  The day that I become an emotionless pro robot across the line is the day that it all stops being worth it, after all.  I’d pushed that run to a level beyond what I had in my previous Ironmans this year, and I knew it.  I saw Kim being led through the finish area just ahead of me and called out to her, knowing that I had her to thank for keeping me going throughout that entire day.  We hugged and cried and chatted excitedly until she was led off to drug testing, at which point I just slumped into a chair and started on my next task-trying not to barf and pass out.  I thanked myself for throwing a couple of Pepto tablets into my back jersey pocket earlier in the day, and nibbled on those while sipping water for a bit, just in a happy daze for a bit.  
Hey, is this picture from last weekend, or is it the same one that's taken at every single freaking race I've ever done?
Luckily, Kyle got some finish video of it and Kim managed to select one frame in which I looked halfway happy and wasn't stopping my watch.  Thanks guys!

I know this one has been everywhere, so I'm going to resist the urge to say something self-deprecating and sarcastic here, because it's actually one of those good Ironman human emotion shots (even though my legs were no longer working).

Finally, in the cloud of dizziness, the emotion hit me-Kona.  I was alone at a table at that point, and I found myself holding the towel I’d been handed at the finish line to my face and shaking with some sort of dry crying as I let it set over me.  A volunteer came over with concern and asked me if I was ok-I’m fine, this is good, I’m going to Hawaii, it’s my first time, it’s just setting in, I assured her.  She smiled for me and congratulated me, we talked for a bit. I may not have been in triathlons for that long; it’s not like I’ve been trying for years and haven’t got in; it’s not like this was even in the plans for this year, it just kind of materialized.  I had told myself before the race that I wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t happen, at least I would have tried, I need to respect the island, after all-should I really get in the first time I genuinely tried?  But still, I feel as if this has been in the making for a long time.  Day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year, with the exception of a couple of months of injury when even cross training hurt back in 2006, I've been training and racing consistently since 1996.  I was always just not good enough at running to make it to the big meets by myself.  Don’t get me wrong-I would have chosen running at a state meet with my teammates as a team or relay member over going individually any day-but on my own, I'd fall short.  In college, placing at conference meets or making it to regionals was far beyond anything I could have dreamed of doing.  Maybe it’s selfish, maybe I could be doing more with myself in other fields that would benefit society to a greater (any) degree, but I’ve had this sense that this was something I wanted to do.  I didn’t head into the season thinking that the time seemed right-it just started to come to me, to seem right after each hard training day or each race, as I started to have some results beyond even my craziest dreams.  There’s a place for patience and there’s a place for bullheaded stubbornness in chasing after what you want in life, and maybe I’ll live to regret these past few weeks, but I'll come back to this race and this report and remember my why.  Racing and training and this sport are as much a part of my identity as my mop of brown hair, my love of chocolate, and my affinity for animals, so to have this opportunity...well, it means a lot, to say the least.  Sometimes, I think we just need to stop worrying about when we're going to be ready for certain life events, and just take a shot that we might be, for better or worse.

This is Irina and me.  I met Irina after the race, she volunteered this year and is registered for next year!  Go Irina!  We'll be rooting for you!

  The next day, when Dave (who finished with his own PR and his first sub-10, as well as a sub-60min swim, even though I've had to hear him ponder incessantly about how it could be possible that I ONLY biked a minute slower than him) and I went to rolldowns, I watched other athletes snatch up their slots, laughing and crying and exclaiming, and I it.  So, in early October, provided all goes according to plan I'll be heading off to Hawaii and taking my first shot at toeing the line with the fastest women in the world, the ones I watched last fall on the couch in our den surrounded by friends and petting our dogs.  It's certainly exciting and frightening all at the same time, and I've got a bunch of work to do in the meantime, as I know I have an opportunity that many people will only dream of, so it's my responsibility to prepare myself to make the most of it.  When it comes down to it, I only qualified ahead of 3 women.  I definitely fall into the "grateful just to be there" category, but at the same time I'm not going just to have a party for myself.  I at least know that I can race well in the heat if I prepare to do so, off with the fan, on with extra clothes, and back to work!

Pro women's podium.  The awards ceremony came complete with a couple of numbers from a disco band-ha!

Kim and I, taking our normal post-IM "we finished one spot apart and got identical trophies" picture.  Yay!

Schwabenbauers and Hansens!  I'm fairly certain that Kyle traveled as far as the rest of us did on race day with the awesome camera shots and encouragement!

 Once again, thank you to everyone that continues to follow and support me!  You guys all have a way of making an ordinary girl who happens to love to train and race feel like a total rock star.  I continued to be inspired and touched by the people who take the time to reach out to me in any way, shape, or form.  Thanks you to the support system of my family and friends, who allow me to do this and believe in me.  Thanks to all of our sponsors including Quintana Roo (definitely a part of the fact that I'm hanging with the husband's bike splits, much to his chagrin), Normatec, Rudy Project, Powerbar, and Fuelbelt.  And, of course, thanks to Mary and Jesse and all of QT2 for getting me here and squeezing more out of me than I would have thought possible!

Friday, August 9, 2013

An evolution of my bike setup through the years: the parade of awesome

   While reading my Placid race report, Dave looked at one of the biking pictures and commented that my position looked good.  Because I'm me (and because I'm either in workout clothes or in work clothes but looking haggard by the end of the day and never look nice anyways), I took this as a higher compliment than anything else he could say about my outward appearance.  It made me think though-my bike position and setup has come a LONG way, and it's been the source of a good amount of entertainment (and disdain) throughout the years.  So, without further ado, here's some pictorial evidence of how far I've come.  Yikes.

Sideways is the way to ride
 Finger lakes triathlon, 2009.  Not the clearest picture ever, but the only thing I could dredge up.  I'm going to cut myself a little slack here, as it was my first ever triathlon, and I'd figured out how to operate the front derailleur the day before the race (before this summer, my bikes had consisted of a 3 speeder with coaster brakes and a garage sale hybrid from Walmart that probably weighed 75lbs).  Obviously, we shouldn't expect any miracles from my position.  And actually, I'm on a road bike, so the position is pretty reasonable.  What's not reasonable is everything else that's going on.  What isn't clear in the picture is all of the wires and twist ties that were going on with that bike computer (I remember that they were there).  I also know that there's a bottle cage on the downtube (ok) with a bottle in it (ok) that was strictly for show, because I couldn't get to it while riding at the time (or for the next 3 years-not ok).  I figured if I got too thirsty, I could just pull over and stop and drink from it.  In an Olympic tri.  This never happened, so I just went the entire time without drinking.  Also, let's look at my getup here.  I've got a sweet Walmart helmet on, and it was a little chilly that morning, so I decided to pack the largest tech T that I owned to pull on in transition.  Nice sail there, Jennie.
We've moved to 2010 now, to the year of my "aero road bike" setup.  What that means is that I made Dave buy me clip on aerobars.  Their main purpose ended up being a water bottle holder, because I never actually used them to ride in aero.  As you can see, I skillfully attached the massive double cell bottle in there horizontally and held it in place with rubber bands at a really awkward angle.  That alone would be enough for this picture...but wait!  What is that sneaking in over my left shoulder, otherwise concealed by my 15 tons of hair?  Why yes, it is a Camelbak tube.  I rocked that Camelbak in my first half iron.  At least I had a good run...?

 Later in the season.  At least the water bottle is straight.  Aerobars still aren't getting any love.

 Early 2011.  By now, I've graduated to a tri bike.  However, I'm still scared to ride it in aero, so I'm in what I liked to term "half-aero".  This was an Olympic distance tri, so at least my hydration setup isn't too atrocious-front small aero bottle.  You'll notice there still isn't a bottle in my downtube bottle cage.  Nope, still can't get at it-saved that for my flat kit.  Shortly after this picture was taken, I finally succumbed to aero for the first time-the only positive that came out of this particular race!

Everything is crooked.

If anyone wants to cross the Sahara, I've got enough fluid on board
 Musselman 2011.  By this time, I'm finally in the aerobars.  Good job Jennie!  I've also got a race wheel on.  You'll notice, though, that I didn't say that I'm in aero, because this is quite possibly the most non-aero aero on the planet.  I look like I'm sitting up.  My helmet is slightly crooked, so that epidemic had started by this point.  But the real focus of this picture should be my hydration setup.  That's right, the real bottle cage still has a flat kit taped in it (still can't get to that), with my friend the 40oz double cell bottle in between the bars and the true champion of the picture, a 64oz Neverreach attached to the back of my seat.  I think I was contemplating if I still needed the Camelbak before the race.  Dear Lord.  2011 Jennie, please go learn how to do a bottle handoff.  As a side note, I secured my pro card with this exact setup in a couple months later Vegas.  If you biked faster than 2:37 that day...breathe a sigh of relief.  If you didn't...keep this image in your head the next time you ride, because it outbiked you that day.  The one positive of these pictures is how skinny I was at the time.  Thank you, month long stomach thing that ruined my appetite and made it physically impossible for me to eat large meals. 

Don't I look totally pro here?

Start of the 2012 season here-aka, before I horrified Jesse for the first time, leading to him running his first round of Jennie bike interference.  I still couldn't get to that bottle cage, bottle handoffs were just out of the question, and I was starting off the season at a hot race-so, I saw nothing wrong with the front aero bottle (smaller but still flailing sideways), the giant downtube speedfil, and the rear xlab to hold another bottle (which I was doubtful that I could reach anyways) with my flat kit in it.  Oh, and my aero is still totally unaero.  I did try to wear sunglasses here to look a little more official, but they weren't helping much.  Conversation after this race included "your watts and speed completely don't match", "why do you have 400 different tubes and crap going everywhere all over your bike?", and "I actually thought that you were sitting up when I passed you".  Needless to say, this was the last race for that particular speedfil.  And for several of my spacers.

Totally ordered like, 30 of these prints and sent them in our Christmas cards.  Or not.
Later in 2012.  I'm down to a front aero bottle, although I thought that I could get away with the giant one for this race without getting something said to me, so I did-and I got through without having to do the dreaded bottle handoff.  Then there's the rest of everything that's going on here.  I still wouldn't stay in aero when going over 25mph or so, so I'm back in "half-aero".  My position has only been slightly improved over the start of the season.  And then there's the helmet and facial expression.  I mean, come on.  Seriously, just...I have no words.  

I'm smiling because I executed a bottle handoff
 Fast forward to later in 2012, post Placid-camp fittings.  Closer to looking like I hold a pro card.  I've graduated to a Speedfil between the bars and a single bottle cage.  I'm a little more aero, although still not that great.  My helmet is still crooked, but not at as severe of an angle.  I'm racing in Placid and doing bottle handoffs without getting off the bike.  Better, Jennie, better.  Almost there.

And finally, the "after" picture
And finally, the picture that inspired Dave's compliment.  The QR fits like a glove, so my back is actually practically flat.  I've got the hydration setup under control.  My flat kit is split up and tucked inconspicuously around my saddle (although, I was not too thrilled to have to touch it on my ride a week later...).  The combination of my new Rudy Project helmet and aero braids mean that my helmet is actually on straight.  And I'm riding a disc.  It only took four years, a variety of excessive hydration setups, multiple fittings, fear of beratements, and (sort of) getting over my fears of wind, downhills, riding in aero, and bottle handoffs to get here (look!  I'm riding without my training wheels now!).  So I maintain...if there's hope for me, there's hope for everyone!  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

IM Lake Placid race report-I can't be told it can't be done

How do I put this into words?  I don’t know if I can, really.  I’ve already said a lot and have been absolutely flooded with kindness and support beyond what I deserve.   I guess I should describe some of my motivations for this race.  Often times, even when I was training for Texas, I was thinking of Placid.  I don’t know, it just seemed to carry more emotional baggage for me.  I think from the outside looking in, it seems like, oh, she’s had a couple of seconds, that probably really fueled her desire for a win.  And, I don’t know, for some reason I just never felt like that was necessarily a big driving force for me.  My seconds were absolutely awesome.  I was thrilled on those days, and never really once thought man, I wish that I’d won.  With the women in those fields, second was as good as I was going to do.  I know when someone’s better than me, and really, to win would have taken something bad happening to someone else, which I’d hope that no one ever wishes upon fellow athletes (if you do…that’s pretty screwed up).  Winning by default is hardly winning.  With that, though, knowing that Placid was a lower points race sandwiched between higher points races when many already had their Kona slots secured, I was hoping I might have a shot, even though I hate making any sort of placement goals-just too many variables, just causes unnecessary, unhelpful anxiety.  Anyone can bring it on any day.  But in a way, it almost seemed scripted, fated.  I kept thinking back to the summer of 2010, when I’d entered my first 70.3 at Musselman, where I’d run myself into second place, which seemed improbable to me at the time.  I’d returned the next year, come off the bike a few spots higher (ironically, I think I was third off the bike there as well), and run to victory.  I had meaningful memories of high school running in Geneva.  I had meaningful memories of high school running in Lake Placid as well.  The parallels in my mind were drawn (luckily, I knew that they meant NOTHING without work.  Lots and lots of work).

But really, the date of Placid stuck with me, as well as the significance of all that had happened since that day.  July 28-the last day last year that triathlon life seemed normal.  The day afterwards, I’d come in from putting up (part of) a fence to see Heather’s name and picture on the news for the wrong, horrifying, gut-wrenching reason.  We still haven’t finished the fence, actually.  Complain away neighbor behind us, but you don’t get it.  A week later, I was at her memorial ride, where at least half a dozen people were telling me she had been glued to the athlete tracker while I’d been racing Placid, and had been updating them throughout the day.  Funny, because I’d been tracking her the weekend before that at Musselman.  That spirit, that love, that life-deserves to continue on in us.  Since then, here in Rochester we’ve had trials and sentencings and anger.  And then more grief and sadness, two weeks before Placid.  Dave and I made it to the end of Michael Coyle’s calling hours.  Maybe it was because we were some of the last people through, but here was this grieving family, telling us how wonderful and supportive the Rochester triathlon community was-a fact that I certainly knew.  At the end of the day, children are growing up without parents and spouses are lost and races are completely inconsequential.  But I love my city and the people I’ve met here through sports, and, for the love of God, we just needed something to smile about.  

The weeks before Placid seemed to crawl.  Dave and I didn’t get in until Thursday night.  From that point on, my time was filled with the normal meetings and buying of last minute stuff and equipment prep and such.  I kept busy and didn’t dwell (which was a little difficult when I was alone all day Saturday while Dave and Aaron had their bromance ride day).  Once I was in Placid, though, I was just happy and grateful to be there.  My training had been great in the last two weeks before the race, although the week before had given me some pause-my quads and calves had been a bit funky-I pushed the doubts out of my mind and felt ready.  Once I’m done with work at the race site, race morning always rolls around quickly.  I woke up feeling good and shared good luck hugs and wishes with my friends and family before suiting up and heading over to the swim start. 
How I spent my Friday.  Living the life!

Ready and waiting with her twin.  Awww.

Hugging my lucky charm.  Last time Alyssa and I were in the same race, I won the AG in Vegas.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Oh yeah, she won the AG this time too!

Before the start of the swim, my nerves were actually fairly well under control.  I chatted with several of the other pro women, and soon enough we were lined up and ready to start.  The first portion of the swim didn’t seem like as much as a flat out sprint as normal, and when the pack cleared I found myself working to stay on some feet.  I wasn’t sure whose feet they were, but I could tell that I was fighting to stay on them, so I figured that if I was working hard in a draft, I was probably moving fairly well.  I’m generally far more positive towards swimming when I’m not alone, so I was feeling pretty good on the outbound leg until just before the first turn buoys, where the first age groupers started to engulf myself and the two women I was following at that point.  I lost track of them at that point, and became slightly discouraged as I fought to figure out where they were amongst the pack, to no avail.  When I realized I was then behind, I regrouped myself, moved to the buoy line, and decided that I’d just try to catch some brief draft from the swimmers that were then passing me.  The new swim start meant that instead of being caught by packs, I was being caught by a steadier stream.  I was still getting jostled and grabbed at and swam over, but I never found myself on my own, which ended up working out in my favor.  I could still see the women that I had been with just ahead of me, as well, even if I wasn’t directly behind me.  Just before the first lap ended, I was passed by a larger clump of athletes that I discovered I was actually able to sort of hang with until exiting the water the first time.  When I ran out onto the beach, I glanced down and saw 31:16 on the garmin…31:16??  I was pretty pumped by that alone, given I’ve never even swam that in a 70.3 (legitimately).  I actually smiled a bit, and then dove back in.

The second loop of the swim was more of the same on the outbound leg-I did my best to hang with the group that had passed me, and found that I was able to stick with it to some degree.  I was hoping for a 65min swim heading in, and I knew that I was well on my way by that point.  The way out passed by quickly.  The return trip became a bit trickier, as I started to run into people on their first loop.  I managed the crowds by jumping on the feet of a male age grouper and following his navigation.  Honestly, I didn’t really feel that I was hindered at all.  Eventually, I even made my way back to one of the women I had been swimming with originally.  I was watching the numbered buoys pass by, and soon enough was headed back to shore, where I was thrilled to see 1:03 on the watch-just a huge improvement for me over last year both in terms of time and outlook, and a great start to my day.  The last time I’d gotten out of a race and saw a time on my watch that was faster than what I thought I was doing was during the first tri of my life nearly four years ago, so I’d take the pleasant surprise-finally!  I was still 11 minutes back, but 11 is quite a bit less than 17, and I wasn’t starting the bike in the very back of the pack by a minute, either.
A rare post-swim smile from me, and a look that says "this girl was freaking annoying my feet the entire last leg of the swim" from my unknown male swim friend.

I made the run through transition with a smile on my face, calling out to anyone who happened to be there that I knew that I swam a 63 (I felt like the world should know about the upgrade from “totally remedial” to “poor/mediocre”).  As soon as I got on my bike (I didn’t fumble getting my shoes into the clips quickly!  Baby steps!), the chance of rain materialized.  My brakes at least worked adequately to keep me from flying into the hay bales at the base of the first sharp downhill turn, and I settled in on the open road.  The early portion of the bike was a bit crowded but honest, and I started to work my way up, discovering that my legs felt pretty good and that hitting my target wattage was seemed reasonable.  I had to calm myself down from the excitement of the swim PR to maintain control on the first climb out of town.  Soon enough, I was upon the dreaded Keene descent.  By that point, I had few others around me, which was for the better.  What wasn’t for the better, though, was the rain.  I had mentioned to Dave the day before when I had seen the forecast that I just hoped that it wouldn’t rain for my first descent down Keene, as I’d probably be a little more relaxed on my next trip through.  So of course it poured.  My hands were wet and cold, meaning that they were slipping on my hoods and struggling to reach the brakes.  As a result, I ended up making it down to the bottom in record time for me, which still isn’t staying much.  Pleased that I was upright, though, I started off onto the always enjoyable Jay/Ausable Forks portion of the ride.

As I headed out up 9N and out on the first out and back, I began to really enjoy myself.  The power was coming easily, and the legs were behaving.  I was riding happy and comfortably (minus a few instances of the normal cat and mouse with a few male age groupers…it’s ok to get passed by a woman here and there.  Really, it’s ok).   I moved up a couple places on the out and back, which was encouraging given that I’m so used to not seeing any women for miles upon miles.  At the out and back, I was able to see that I was about 10 minutes back-not losing any time, which was good at that point.  The first climb up towards Wilmington was manageable.  I entertained myself with the creative signs here and there.  The first loop was passing by quite quickly; at one point, it dawned on me that I actually didn’t even know how far I’d gone, because I was riding happy and not dwelling on how much riding was still ahead of me.  Even the first climb up out of the notch felt good; I appreciated the fresh paving and the much improved road condition over last year.  I knew that the town was waiting at the top to provide a boost.  I smiled my way up the three bears and into town-easily my favorite part of any bike I’ve ever done in an Ironman, without a doubt.  The crowds were electric, and I was pleased with my speed at that point, having made it through the first loop in 2:37 or so.  I had no idea if I’d put any time into the leaders or where I stood at that point, but my ride was going well.
From the Ironman gallery.  They rode next to me for a while taking pictures.  I always feel like I should smile when someone's taking pictures of me.  I don't know.

Having fun on my way back into town.  Clearly the first loop.  Obviously.

This course really is beautiful.  On another note, once you go can never go back.  Whomp, whomp, whomp.

On the way back out of town, I did start to actually look forward to my next trip down Keene-one, because the relative rest would feel good, and two, because I needed to, cough, “dehydrate”, as they delicately put it in our pro meeting.  The rain had stopped, so I figured that trip down would be easier.  Wrong.  The rain was replaced with wind, so Jennie and her bike handling skills and her second ever race with a disc had some issues.  The brakes were applied a couple more times.  Plus, by that point, I was entirely alone, which although probably safer also means that I tend to be more tentative-I’m usually a bit more likely to tell myself to stop being a total wimp if I see someone else speeding past me and staying upright.  I breathed a slight sigh of relief when I made it to the bottom unscathed.  On the next trip out towards the out and back, though, fatigue started to click in, and I started to second guess myself.  Had I been overbiking up to that point?  I didn’t think so, my numbers were the same as they’d been in Texas.  Was I making up any ground?  When I got out to the out and back, I must have mistaken a female age grouper for the lead pro, and somehow thought that I was something like 20 minutes back.  Even though I made a couple more passes on the way back in, some seeds of negativity started to sprout up in my brain.  Keeping the power up was becoming a bit of a fight right at the point where I should have been thinking about trying to pick it up again, around mile 85.  By that time, I was actually starting to look forward to climbing the notch, just because I could change positions and it’d force me to get the numbers back up (or so I thought).  My calves were concerning me about cramping-I’d had a random charley horse in the pool on Tuesday morning, which never happens, so of course I’d been worrying about them all week.  My stomach was also revolting a little bit.  I switched from Perform to water and salt tabs for a bit to bring everything back under control and reached for the double caffeinated gel to try to revive all my systems.  I also tried to remind myself-ride like you want it.  

I did start to feel a little better by the Haselton out and back, as well as through the first portion of the Wilmington climb.  This only lasted so long, though, as somewhere around mile 100 I began to really struggle.  The seeds of doubt were really sprouting by then.  I was willing my legs to work.  I did pass one more woman in there, eventual runner-up Katy, whose did transfer some of the enthusiasm she carried throughout the day to me with some much-needed encouragement as we briefly commented on our twin bikes.  Still, I was hurting.  I told myself that I always hurt at the end of long rides, and that I still somehow always manage to get off the bike and feel halfway decent running.  I’d hit my nutrition and hydration and electrolytes, so all systems should have been a go there.  Still, even though I was climbing, I was really having trouble keeping the heart rate and the power up.  I hit the portion of the course where Dave and chalked “Heather is with you #48” onto the pavement, and took a big dose of “suck it up and go” with me back into town.  I again tried to smile at the cheering spectators as much as I could going through the last few miles towards transition, convincing myself that it’d make me feel better.  When I made it to T2, I was still feeling a bit weak and disoriented, though.  I hustled my way through as quickly as I could, though.  I honestly was unsure of my ability to get through a marathon feeling the way I did at that point, but at the same time, I had to just trust that my run would come around.
Telling Mary that I felt like crap shortly after T2, as evidenced by the baggy of pretzels I'm carrying.  I always put a baggy of pretzels in my run gear bag, and then feel nauseous and toss them at the first aide station.  What a pretzel and baggy waste.

Exiting T2, I was told that I was in third, about 8 minutes back of first.  I was a little bit confused-I didn’t know that Hillary Biscay had unfortunately fallen ill and hadn’t started, and I knew that she and Dede would have come out of the water well ahead of me and maintained the lead on the bike.  I also knew that I hadn’t yet passed Carrie.  Oh well.  I was slightly encouraged to hear that I’d gained ground on the second lap of the bike, even though the last ten miles had been an exercise in tanking.  I was definitely feeling off, though, so I sucked down a gel ASAP and really eased into the run-my heart rate was sitting very low the first couple of miles, and I just concentrated on taking a buffet of fluids at every aide station (even though I had to pee…I don’t know, when I’m tired, I just reflexively drink).  Luckily, despite the low heart rate and slightly wooziness, I was running at a good clip, and within a few miles, everything began to come around, both the legs and the systemic stuff.  The calf cramping that had been threatening on the bike was luckily a non-issue as soon as I started running.  My lead biker tried to offer me some encouragement; unfortunately, I wasn’t a very good conversationalist at that point.  Once on River Road, I just began to look forward to nearing the out and back to get my first look at where I stood.  I began to see some of my QT2 male teammates coming back the other way, who offered me encouragement, with Tim Snow winning the award for enthusiasm, as he told me it was mine right then and there (I wish I’d been that confident!).
 Watching the mile signs as I approached the turn, I realized that I was within a mile of Carrie, who was leading the race at that point, and I had Dede within my sights by that point.  I passed Dede somewhere in the vicinity of the turnaround  (the memory’s a little hazy at that point), who offered me encouragement, told me I was gaining, told me to be patient, keep my pace, and take my time, and then said the words that sent chills down my spine at that point-“go win yourself an Ironman”.  Dave and Aaron had run down to mile 8, and told me I was within a few minutes.  By the time I turned off River Road and headed back up towards town, I was hearing gradually decreasing splits to the lead as I went along.  I kept Dede’s words in mind, though-patience.  I knew I’d have to fight-I was surrounded by women who are just as strong, talented, and capable as I was.  My stomach was reasonable for an Ironman at that point, but not great.  I could tell that my body was going to want a couple more gels, so I’d have to be careful to make sure that I was able to get (and keep) them down.  The crowds along the streets were awesome-being from Rochester, I could definitely feel some sort of “home field advantage” in Placid (to the point that a couple of people I was running with commented on how many fans I had out there).  I had the lead within my sights by the time I got towards the second climb on the run.  The excitement of the spectators was contagious, but I knew it’d be foolish to put in any sort of surge and rush anything, because I’d pay later.  I stayed steady, and (much to the delight of my parents, who were stationed right there), finally moved into the lead just before the halfway point, at the second turnaround.  
Blog running picture selection rule 1: Choose one where you look sort of happy, particularly if it features a volunteer looking really happy for you.  I love this volunteer.

Blog running picture rule 2: Choose one where you look like you have nice muscles.  I think I'm near Alexa's boyfriend's house here, actually.

Blog running picture rule 3: Choose one that's taken at a flattering angle for your thighs, particularly if the "Finisherpix" is covering the problem upper inner thigh area.

Holy.  Freaking.  Geez.  I had just moved myself into uncharted territory.  I’d thought that running in second place in previous Ironmans was nerve wracking.  But nothing could have prepared me for taking the lead.  The thing is, I’m just not that used to leading anything other than small local races-so an Ironman lead was a whole different ball game.  As a poor swimmer, I’m used to chasing, not being chased.  The women behind you all look like they’re moving more quickly than you feel like you’re moving, regardless of what the reality may be.  Still, when crowds are cheering for you by name, you can’t help but smile for a couple miles, regardless of how the body’s feeling.  Jesse warned me that I still had a lot of race left as I headed back out (a fact that I was all too well aware of), and gave me the “don’t do anything stupid” advice.  After the nice little downhill semi-break, I was back out onto the lonely River Road stretch.  That’s when the mental games set in, and sheer determination took over.  I started playing the “x miles left…you’ve run that far feeling rough many times” game, I started telling myself to just make it to the next aide station and get some life blood (aka, coke), I got myself through a stomach cramp, I told myself I felt worse at that point last year and had made it through, I looked down at the smeared Sharpie on my arm, where I’d written Mike and Heather’s initials and scrawled “just remember what you’re here for” and felt a sense of sheer will for them and for everyone in the Rochester triathlon community as a whole.  We need a pick-me-up, I’d told Dave after leaving Mike’s calling hours just over a week before.  A year ago that day…Heather had still been with us, for the last day; “Heather strong” had been spray painted at the far lonely end of the road for me.  The one thing I didn’t think about?  How winning would feel.  I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.  One step, one minute, one mile at a time.
I don't know how this got started, but it didn't stop amusing me the entire day.

The mile splits continued to pop up with surprising consistency; I was hurting but not fading for far longer than I’d ever managed in an Ironman marathon before.  I needed to get to the turnaround, to figure out how much of a lead I had.  Doug, Pat, Matt, and Tim all continued to encourage me as I approached the turn, despite being deep into their own races.  I checked my watch as I got to the turn and made a mental note of what it said.  The further I got away from the turn before seeing anyone else, the better I began to feel.  30 seconds-ok, at least one minute.  A minute-ok, at least 2 minutes.  I eventually calculated my lead at close to five minutes at that point with about 8 miles to go-meaning I had more than 30 seconds/mile to give back.  I was still running right around 7:00/mile at that point, so my chances were good if I could just stay on my feet.  I forced myself to stay steady, and I found myself in some new sort of zone.  Get fluids, stay calm, keep going.  Get to the base of the hills feeling ok.  Get to the crowds.  Don’t burn the last match before the climb.
Late in the run.  The Jennie pain face is in full effect.  I'd love to know what the guy pointing to me is saying.  Probably, "I think that she's going to keel over".

I made it to the climbs; I kept running.  Four, three, two miles to go.  I was gaining confidence; I knew I’d run a couple miles before in worse states.  The crowds were thickening; they were cheering and pushing me along.  I absorbed their energy.  Five people called me Cait-if I want to be mistaken for anyone at mile 24 of an Ironman marathon, it’s one of the best runners in our sport, I thought to myself.  I kept running for that final turnaround-I had no idea how far in front I was still (Dave Bradshaw had told me no one was coming a few miles ago, but…I’m a Bills fan.  You don’t count on anything until it’s over).  Finally, I reached the turnaround. 3.5 minutes later, Katy and I were giving each other one final smile and congrats until after the race.  I was at mile 25.7.  I relaxed, I smiled, I began to allow myself to think that I was going to be hitting the tape.  My awesome biker and I reached the oval, and she turned off with some final words of encouragement.  Between leaving the crowded streets and hitting the final straight was one brief moment of solitude.  I could hear the finish line; in seconds I’d be brought home by Mike Reilly and the rest of the spectators.  But it was there, those brief seconds that what was about to happen really, truly hit me.  The hands went to my face, and I started some sort of dry crying.  I floated around the oval, and truly just reacted to what was going on-unscripted, unrehearsed, just raw emotion.  
Hey moron-you have a seven minute lead with 10m to go.  Stop sprinting 6:30 pace and smile.  Actually, I think I thought that I was smiling here.

I managed to finish without sponges...but at least I'm stopping the garmin.  Wouldn't want to ruin my signature move!

In case everyone hasn't had enough of this picture...

This seemed like the thing to do at the time.  I don't know.

The Hansens have to touch

I think this same picture was taken last year

And this one too

Interviewing with Mike Reilly-yeah!

Kind of fun!

They gave me an Olympic torch-how sweet is that!  Everyone male wanted to light it.  What is it with men and fire?

I can't come up with a valid reason why I'm grabbing my own ass.  Thanks crowd!  I like to touch my butt!

 Hitting the tape was like the release of every emotion that’s built up from every battle I’ve fought against myself, and no one else-every lung-busting swim rep, every time I’ve had to will myself to JUST keep up with Dave on a long ride, every run in some sort of extreme of the weather spectrum came to fruition in one brief moment.  It’s the kind of moment that you bottle up and save next to the other self-triumphs, the one that you open up and take a whiff of the next time the going gets tough, and you’re wondering why on earth you’re rolling out of bed at 5am to swim or spending 5 hours in your basement on the bike yet again.  It’s the blue label bottle on my shelf; the one I’ll keep and look at and only use on the most special of occasions, because I don’t ever want it to run out on me. 
At the same time, I’m not going to rest on this.  One victory does not make a triathlon career, nor does it even put me in the realm of the top women of this sport.  I still know where I stand and how much work is left for me to do.  This win has been absolutely incredible, and I’ve been completely and entirely overwhelmed by the kindness and support shown to be my complete strangers, including some of the women who I so greatly admire.  I know it sounds silly, but in some weird way, winning this race has restored some sort of faith in humanity.  I’m completely taken aback by some of the messages and congrats I’ve received.  I’m just doing what I love to do to the fullest of my abilities, like so many thousands of others out there; I just happen to have been blessed with the genetic predisposition and the life circumstances that have allowed me to rise to a certain level.  I don’t see what I did as any more worthy than what thousands of others were doing that day.  Walking back to our house, watching those finishing in 14, 15, 16, 17 hours is just as inspirational to me.  A patient stopping at mile 24 of her own marathon to give me a hug as I cheered her on-well, that’s pretty freaking special to.  When I think back on every race I’ve ever done, there’s always been someone who’s said the perfect thing at the perfect time, who’s put out some sort of sign that’s made me laugh, or who’s run across the road to make sure I got the coke I so desperately wanted (awesome volunteer man at mile 21) that I remember, that’s contributed to my journey in some way that’s more significant than they’ll probably ever realize.  It takes a village.
Dave and I and my torch.  We almost look like proud parents here.
Katy and I during the last hour!  So much fun!

The inflatable alpaca.  He was there from swim start to final finisher.  The inflatable alpaca is clearly awesome on many levels.

Anyways, I think that I’ve gone on more than long enough here!  So of course, I’ll wrap up with the specific thank yous-as always, Mary, Jesse, and the whole awesome crew (you guys were EVERYWHERE and were incredible) of QT2, Quintana Roo for my favorite bike ever (fastest bike split for the first time!), Normatec for the recovery assistance through some hard training weeks, Powerbar, Pearl Izumi.  Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to congratulate me or send me a kind message-I read everything and take it all to heart, so thank you!!  Thanks to all of the Rochester/WNY triathlon communities, I've been taken aback by how many of you were following me on that day, and I hope I provided a smile or two along the way.  And of course to my closest friends and family, without whom I could never, ever do any of this.

Oh, and thanks to Charlie Abrahams and Kelly Gallagher/Sonic Endurance for most of these awesome photos.  Props!

Scenic coffee the day post-race.  Oh coffee.  How I missed you.  We just wrapped up one blissful week's time to say goodbye again.  Tear.

Why do I have a giant smile plastered on my face?  Because I'M STANDING NEXT TO ANDY POTTS!!!
Things that are awkward: Looking at yourself while poking around town.

Oh, and yes.  I’m racing again.  Very soon.  A couple weeks, in fact, in Mont Tremblant.  I’ve had a season well beyond my expectations, and it’s put me in a position that I never thought I’d be in-the Kona bubble.  I have no idea what’s going to happen there.   I’ve been told that it’s not exactly a good idea.  Still, I’ll never know if I don’t try, and when a carrot (or, in this case, piece of tropical fruit) is being dangled in front of me-well, I have to at least go for it.  I’ll be thrilled if it happens, but life will go on if it doesn’t.  In October, 35 (well, actually 37) well-deserving, talented, hard-working, and dedicated women will take on Kona, and I’d be elated and honored if I end up being one of them.  If not-then I keep working, because I do this out of love.  Mont Tremblant will be a different ballgame than Placid-the North American Championships, huge amounts of points and prize money and a field that reflects that.  This time, I’ll be lucky to break into the top ten.  I’m in completely uncharted territory right now.  I don’t know what my body will do or how it’s going to react, but as long as I can give it the heart I brought to Placid, I’ll finish just as happy.  So, saddle up-here goes nothing.
Two Ironmans in three weeks?  This calls for a little bit of man up.

Oh, and I was in the news and stuff.  In case anyone's still reading this by now... interview (thanks Bethany Mavis!)
The D&C (thanks Leo Roth!)
The Buffalo news (thanks Amy Moritz!)