Friday, May 19, 2017

Ironman Gulf Coast 70.3

May 13, 2017

Training for this race started way back in January! Cold swims and bike rides early on, which was very different from last summer's training for Augusta. I had high hopes this time around. I knew what to expect with training. I picked a slightly tougher training plan this go around, since I felt like I need longer bike rides. My swims were longer in distance, and I tried to keep in more running days. I had more events during this training cycle, also. A couple of half marathons, some 5Ks a 15K and some longer organized bike rides, which included my longest ride ever, 70 miles! What I didn't expect from this training cycle, was for my Ankylosing Spondylitis to flair up! I have had this chronic condition for over 7 years. The pain has been managed by low does of anti inflammatory medicine. Well, something happened in March to cause a flair up that left me in extreme pain. I had a hard time sleeping. Every time I tried to swim or run, I got painful spasms across my back. My rib cage just did not want to expand for me to get in a good deep breathe. My doctor put me on a new medication. After a couple of weeks of no relief, he switched me to another medication. It took a good two weeks for me to start feeling any positive benefits of the new stuff. Even then, I was adding advil on top of it to get through some workouts. So my last 2 months of training was painful, when I could do it. I did give up on some training days, and scaled back the intensity of other days. Every once in a while I would have a decent day, which helped to boost my spirits a bit. I had a lot of dark, tearful days, though. I had my last swim in May 7th, about a week before the race. It was tough conditions and I could feel the tug on my mid back during the pull phase of the swim, so I decided to not swim at all the days leading up to the race, to give that area some time to recover.

Normatec boots. These are awesome!
Wendy and I left Sarasota Thursday morning, 2 days before the race. It was a pretty long drive up north. I was surprised to find out how far we would have to drive, once we left interstate 10. It was around 2 hours to get to the coast! Most of it was on a two lane road through countryside and small towns. We arrived at the host hotel, where we were staying, in the late afternoon, just in time to check in. As we drove to our condo, we passed right by the hotel's convention center, which happened to be just a couple of buildings over from our one room condo! Perfect location. We got our bikes and luggage unloaded, cleaned up a bit, then walked over. I was surprised at how small the expo was. There were 3 vendors in the halway outside the main room. Inside the main room, there were two vendors with wheels, then only three other vendors besides the Ironman shop! Check in went smoothly. We went from table to table, getting our various race items, then into the Ironman shop. I held back on my spending this time. In part, because it wasn't my first one, so I didn't feel like I wanted everything in sight. :) The other reason, was because of the lack of actual race branded merchandise. So much less then in Augusta. They didn't have the Gulf Coast pins we wanted to buy, to add to our backpack. No coffee mugs. The cashier at checkout said the other event that weekend, in Santa Rosa, was bigger. They had more participants. After shopping, we tested out the Normatec compression boots, then went to the pre race meeting. We got good information about the course and what to expect race morning. It was then time to head out to meet team members of the Kennedy Law Racing team we both belonged to. It was great fun meeting more members of KLR, including the man the team is named after, Tom Kennedy! There were around 25 KLR athletes doing this race. I was looking forward to having their support on the course. We also got to meet Nina, another Sarasota athlete.

Wendy heads out with the KLR boys.

Friday morning, after going to the local Walmart (we thought there was no better place, we now know better!) to get some snacks and drinks, we headed to the beach, so Wendy could get in a swim. We met some other KLR peeps there, then they headed in. The surf was rough. A storm would be moving through later in the day. Wendy said it wasn't that bad. It had been worse for us at Siesta the weekend before. Word was going around that the temp had dropped. So with that, and the incoming storm, it was pretty much a given we would be wetsuit legal the next morning. I wasn't very worried about the swim. I felt pretty calm. Knowing I would wear my wetsuit, helped a lot. Later, we drove the bike course. We were happy we did, as we discovered an overpass bridge that is similar to the Ringling bridge. Otherwise, it was mostly an out and bike ride, with little to look at. We met up with Bob and Stephanie for dinner at a pizza place (yummy gluten free options), then headed back to the room to get everything sorted out and rest.

Transition on race morning.
Me, Nina and Wendy, checking out the high and dangerous surf race morning.

Race Morning: Wendy was up at 4am and I was up 10 minutes later. I had plenty of time to eat half a bagel, drink a cup of coffee and scroll through facebook. It was there, that I started seeing posts about the swim being cancelled. Transition had opened at 4:30am (race start was 6am) and people were posting about the news they were hearing once the got to transition. I kept checking out the official race page, where they had said they would post the water temp by 4:30, but nothing. So, just before 5am, we decided to leave our wetsuits in the condo, and head over the pedestrian bridge, to the transition area. As we crossed the bridge, we heard the announcer call out over the loud speaker, that the swim had been cancelled. The race would have a later start, to give the volunteers and race setup crew, time to get the bike course finished. We went to our bikes, left our gear, then walked over to the beach, to check out the condition. Yep, the water looked very rough. The rip currents were very bad. It would have been very tough to fight the waves and current, in order to swim out almost half a mile! We found Nina and some other Sarasota people, chatted with them a while, before heading back into transition. The bike ride would start with the lowest bib number, and the next cyclists would roll out every 4 seconds. I went to my bike, got my gear set up, added some lube to my bike chain, then sat around for a while. After one more porta potty stop, I was ready to get this thing started. I didn't feel nervous at all, just ready to go. I was #501, so it took a while to get to my row in the coral, but soon we were all lined up and walking over to the start. I got up to the line and then pushed off, clipping in and not falling! :)

The hill!
The Bike, 56 miles: Heading out of transition was very different then normal. What I like about this start, was that you didn't have someone right in front, or behind or to the side of you, trying to start as you started. There was an up hill right away. We had been warned at the pre race meeting, that we needed to take it slow going down on the other side, because it was steep and there was a sharp right turn at the bottom. I took the hill nice and easy. I had no problem making the turn at the bottom, I just took it wide. I'm sure if there had been other riders around me, it might have been
Just after coming down the overpass.
more stressful. We rode through the main road of the hotel/condo complex, which had a few speed bumps, then turned right onto Richard Jackson Blvd. Then, we had a quick right onto Beach Road. The wind was coming from the south/west, so we had a bit of a headwind for a few miles, heading out. We then made a right turn at the shopping center, where we had eaten the night before. We crossed over a major road, (thankfully police where there holding up traffic) before entering the detour part of the course. This was a great road as it was very new! So smooth. :) We had a mile or two on this road, before making a right onto Hwy 79, where we would stay until mile 28ish. The bridge crossing just after mile 10 wasn't so bad. The wind was at our back now! Occasionally, we would change directions a little and get a bit of headwind, but for the most part it was at our side or behind us. I kept looking at my bike garmin, seeing high 19mph to 21mph! This is where my nutrition started to fall apart. I had not had much to drink by mile 10 and by the turn around, I was just finishing up bottle #1! Not good. I had also tried a couple of my peanut butter crackers. For some reason, they were stale and super dry in my mouth. Yuck. Thankfully, I had two fig newtons. Not enough fuel, so I should have been getting my nutrition from my Tailwind, but like I said, I wasn't drinking enough. Once we made the u-turn and started heading back, we felt the wind, right away. I pushed through as best as I could. Trying to remember to drink more and trying not to get run over by all the fast guys, zooming up on me, then dropping RIGHT in front of me. It was crazy. No "on you left" for these guys! I saw the race officials a few times, more then at Augusta. I think because they had to be out there for all the fast age groupers, and for the men, who started behind me in transition, that meant they were often near me. At the mile 46 water stop, I put my 3rd bottle into my front water bottle rack, grabbed half a banana, managed to peal the thing, while still rolling through the short aid station. I didn't want to drop my peal outside of it and get a penalty! Going back over the bridge, into the wind, was rough. I looked down at my garmin, as I reached the top of the bridge. 8mph!! When we turned left, to go back down the new road, we had a bit of a break from the wind. Felt good to spin my legs easy for a bit. Then, once we made that turn back on to Beach Rd, we had the wind at our back for the last 5 miles. The course was not closed to traffic and the bike lane was pretty tight or had sand in it, so I tried to hug the line as much possible. But, at this point in the day, the traffic was much heavier. I could see the runners, on the other side of the road, already on one of their 3 loops! I was ready to join them. Thankfully, we did not have to ride back over the overpass bridge. We took a right off the main road, into the parking lot of transition. I got off my bike at the proper place, then starting walking. My quads where tight!

The bike course.

Transition: Not a great transition time! But, I needed to use the porta potty. Since my bike rack was in the middle of the huge area. I placed my bike against the porta potty as I came into transition, tried to get in and out of there fast, before heading to my spot. I guess I should have hustled a bit more, but I was feeling the lack of nutrition on the bike and I was very hot. I racked my bike, took off my helmet and gloves, then pulled on my shoes, belt (with bib) and visor, then headed out. Time: 5:16.

Heading out on my first loop of the run.
The run, 13.1 (3 loop course): I started out running, but once I hit the overpass bridge, I needed to walk. It was pretty steep. Once I got to the top, I picked up the pace going down. There were lots of people at the bottom and along the road, heading out to the main road. I saw Jackie and Park (KLR) just outside the resort. Just about a mile in, I was starting to feel super hot and tired! The water stops were every mile, so when I saw the first one just ahead, I opened the little pouch on my race belt, to grab a Gu. Everything was sticky in there! The Gu packet had a small opening, so a good 3rd of it was all over the other stuff I had inside there. :( I swallowed the rest of it as I got to the water stop. I drank a cup of water, quickly got some base salt in, then drank another cup, all while walking through the aid station. My plan was to walk through all of them, before running again. I started running, but immediately felt my stomach upset and still overheated. I walked some more, then ran to the next stop. Just before this stop, I spotted Wendy on the other side of the road, finishing her bike. She looked strong! At the second stop (and many more) I had a cup of flat Pepsi. It tasted soooo good, but was not the thing to do during a race, when I'm not used to it! Got more water and a ice cold sponge. Thankfully they had sponges at a couple of the water stops. I held on to mine, so I could get them wet again at each stop, without taking a new one. At each water stop, it got harder and harder to start running again. Some of this was a mental issue, that I just could not get past. Once I started running, I kept a decent pace. It was just getting myself to get going again in the heat. There was zero shade! I wasn't the only one walking though. Most people around me were taking walking breaks, so I wasn't alone. About a block before we make the turn back to Richard Jackson Blvd (and the start of another loop), we pass by a water park, with a long view of a wonderfully refreshing looking, lazy river. So cruel!! The 3 times I passed it where very hard. I wanted to jump the fence and get in so badly! The next two loops were a daze of some running and lots of walking. I did come across Wendy in loop 2 or 3 (I really can't remember!). We walked together for a bit before we started running again and then I pulled ahead. She had a great ride, meeting her time goal. I was very happy for her. As I came up to my final turn on Richard Jackson Blvd, I was able to pick up my pace just a bit. About a quarter of a mile or so down the road, I finally got to make the right turn back into the resort complex. When I got to the overpass bridge, I knew I wouldn't be able to run it, so I briskly walked up, then ran down the other side, We turned to the right, then ran under the bridge, along the side of the main building, around another corner (where was the finish!!), then finally the finish line! I DID do a little jump across the finish, but the photographers didn't get the shot. :) I was so happy to be done!! Time: 2:27:16
Finish time: 5:42:19

So, not the race I had really wanted, but, I did take off 6 minutes on my bike from Augusta. Added 6 minutes to the run though. :( I really enjoyed seeing the other KLR athletes on the course. All of them were supportive. I've got a lot of things to work on over the summer before Augusta in September!

My "jump" at the finish.

Wendy and I in the KLR tent. We did it! Again! :)