Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ironman Arizona Road Trip - Part 3

Monday, Nov 22 - Let's Do It!
The whole point of this trip was not only to see an Ironman race, but to register for next year's race. And Shannon, Kelly and I did just that! It was another day of getting up around 5am. We made it to Tempe Beach Park shortly after 6am. The volunteer line (they get priority registration) was already significant. The general registration line was shorter, but us in that line had to wait until all the volunteers were signed up. Shannon volunteered so she was able to get through the line much quicker. That was nice, as she was able to run to Dunkin' Donuts and get me a coffee (no donuts today). I stood in the same spot for over 3 hours! Kelly got there a few minutes after me and was only a few people behind in line. Everyone was really friendly and just as excited for next year. The conversation focused on the amazing performances of yesterday’s pros, how the age groupers made it through non-ideal conditions and that we’ve all got an intense year ahead of us to train for this race.
registration lines for IMAZ 2011
At 9:50am I was able to register. We are an insane bunch. Spending 18 hours the previous day cheering on athletes, then getting up after only a few hours sleep to wait in line for several hours and drop $600 to sign up for a race that will take place a year from now. All a part of the journey to become an Ironman, I suppose. 

The rest of Monday was lazy as we were TIRED. Made it back to the hotel around 10:30, rested a bit and then went to In-n-Out burger for lunch. I was able to meet Leslie there, which was nice since we’ve only chatted via facebook.
Leslie and I finally meet!
Shannon and I got to eat burgers and I had to get a milkshake. Then we drove the bike course to check it out. There is some elevation gain, but no real hills. I can see how it might get windy out there. Once back at the hotel, we hung out at the pool (I napped) and then back in the room. Shannon and Darby went to the volunteer dinner at the Tempe Arts Center and I met Nina and Dana for dinner at Macayo’s Depot Cantina. Dana wanted Mexican and who is to refuse the wishes of an Ironman!
We were back at the hotel by 8pm and got ready for bed, as tomorrow was going to be another day of early rising and a long day in the car.

Tuesday, Nov 23
Shannon, Darby and I hit the road around 6am, and made a stop at starbucks to get some "fuel." The rest of the day was driving, driving, and more driving. Lunch stop at Arby's in Albuquerque (the last junk food of the trip!) and we made it back to Colorado Springs about 13 hours after we left. I picked up my dog Juno from my brother's house and then went home, took an epsom salt bath and went to bed. But not before I started reading Going Long...

Ironman Arizona Road Trip - Part 2

Sunday, Nov 21 - Race day. This is going to be long….

breakfast at the lake wall
the pros are about to start
swim start

the "washing machine
The race started at 6:50 for the pros and the 7:00 for the age groupers. We wanted to get there around 6:15 to find a nice spot to watch the swim start. We ended up on the wall a 100 or so meters past the start buoy. Spectators were lining up here and on the Mill St. bridge above. The sky was somewhat overcast, water temp was supposedly 61 degrees, which is a little chilly. Air temperatures were in the 40s and they were predicting some rain. Not ideal racing conditions, but it should make for a much more comfortable run.

The race started right on time and the pros were off. Then the age groupers. 2400 swimmers all at once. Quite the sight! A few made their way to near the wall to try to shake off the stress of the open water. One guy lost his goggles but the kayaks are prepared and have spares. We watched a few minutes of the swim then headed to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Mill St for some coffee and donuts. Today I was “doing everything I won’t do next year.” Well maybe not everything, but why not have some donuts for a mid-morning snack. And I promised Ron I’d bring him a donut. LONG LINE at the coffee shops - hundreds of spectators had the same idea I had. Once I had my coffee and a few donuts, I regrouped with Shannon and Darby and we headed to watch more of the race. 
an athlete at the start of the bike
The first pros were already on the bike when we got to the place where the cyclists leave Tempe Beach Park and head out on Rio Salado. This was the spot where the turn-around is on the bike course. Like I said - very spectator friendly. I saw Sonja and Michelle because of their green jerseys. Couldn’t recognize anyone else that I may have seen! After a bit of watching the bikes head out of transition, I worked my way over to the swim exit to see the last of the swimmers. An Ironman swim has a 2 hour and 20 minute cut-off. If you don’t have your foot on the step to climb out of the water at 2:20, you are not allowed to continue in the race. There were a handful of athletes that were clearly not going to make it, and a few that were really, really close. The race announcer kept encouraging them and asked that the support kayaks help keep them in a straight line (so as to not swim any extra distance by zig zagging). We watched a lot of cold people get out of the water. Spending over two hours in 60 degree water, even with a wetsuit, chills the core. It was a sad sight to see the few athletes get told they were not able to continue. Tears are shed by both athletes and spectators. To have worked so hard and have your day stopped after a less than 2.5 hours has got to be disappointing.
lots of volunteers at the swim exit

Matty Reed (in front) racing his first Ironman distance race.
We walked back over to the bike course and he went back to the hotel to get his son. I then walked east along Rio Salado to find a spot on the bike course. I found Shannon and Darby again and we cheered on the athletes. I then walked a little further down the road and kept cheering. I was able to see the lead pros and tried to get a couple pictures. I also saw an amazing athlete - an Army guy who had one leg. Talk about inspirational! He wasn’t even using a prosthetic as his leg was amputated near the hip. We do single leg drills a minute or so at a time - I can’t imagine doing it for 112 miles!
amazing athlete here. yes, he only has one leg.
At this point I met up with Liana (@FITtorrent). We chatted for a while and I told her how great the races in Boulder are! Then the rain came. A brief, but substantial shower. I got a little wet. It would rain on and off for a few hours. Next I made my way back near the bike dismount as the lead pros would be coming in soon. I met up with Ron again, met @HiTriGuy who was volunteering at the bike dismount station, and we found coach Chuckie V (@ChuckieV), pro triathlete Angela Naeth (@tri3angela), and a few of their friends. We got some good pictures of the lead pros coming in off the bike. Chrissie came in about 10 minutes in front of the 2nd place female, and not too far behind some of the male pros. 
Chris Lieto getting off the bike.
Ben (@HiTriGuy) and Ron
Chrissie Wellington getting off the bike
Shannon and Darby's volunteer station - run gear bags
Because the run course was set up in these twisty loops, you got to see the athletes come through transition about 3 miles into the run (and then several times after that). The female leaders looked strong, and 3,4,5 were just within a few minutes of each other. Once we saw most of the leaders and a few age groupers come in, it was time for lunch. Nina was at Hippie Cove so we headed that way. Hung out for a while and had some good burritos while missing another rain shower. A little before 3pm we headed over to the grandstands at the finish line, as the pros should start to come in shortly after 3pm - after 8 hrs on the course. 

I think 8:13 was the course record. Sure enough, at 8:06 Timo Bracht powers in. Soon behind him Rasmus Henning and Tom Lowe (Chrissie W’s boyfriend). Jordan Rapp, last year’s IMAZ winner came in 4th. Not bad after suffering a very serious accident in the spring where he got hit by a car. Joszef Major wrapped up the top 5. Matty Reed, doing his first Iron distance race came in 6th, I can’t remember who came in 7th, but Chrissie Wellington came in 8th overall and 1st female (of course). She cracked the top 10 and her 8:36 was the fastest female time in an Ironman brand race in the world. (She has the fastest iron-distance time of 8:16 at the Challenge Roth in Germany.) Linsey Corbin came in 2nd at 9:05 - 29 minutes behind Chrissie, but still an amazing time! Fantastic to see all that! I hung around and watched some of the lead age group men come in, as well as Sonja- she won her age group! Michelle came in 3rd in her age group, and Steve Vaughan of the Pikes Peak Tri Club came in 5th in his age group at 11:13! I went to go find Steve since he was here by himself, but couldn’t find him! I missed CTS coach Teri Pitman cross the line just a few minutes after Steve. 

Timo Bracht wins with a new course record!
Rasmus Henning comes in 2nd
the stands are full!
Chrissie Wellington finishes in 8:36 and sets a new Ironman (brand) world record for women!
behind the finish lines - volunteers helping the finishers
view of the mill from the finish line
By now it is about 6:15 so I head on down to check out the run course. The sun has set and anyone that didn’t make it to the bike line by 5:45pm wasn’t allowed to continue on the run. I walked down to transition and went under the Mill St. bridge and then walked along the edge of the run course against the flow so I could cheer on the athletes. I kept thinking about how I might feel at this point next year. I’m sure it is just a mental will to keep moving at a reasonable pace. There were a lot of people walking, but the aid stations seemed well stocked and supported from what I could see, although they would still be out there for over 5 more hours. I headed about a mile down the course to the next bridge and then walked back along another part of the course, also against the flow. One thing to note for next year is that the run course, although three loops, is pretty curvy and twisty with a lot of turns. And I will most certainly spend some of my time running in the dark.
I made my way back to the stands and kept cheering on the finishers. At this point there is a steady flow of finishers. Each one gets their name called by Mike Riley announcing they are an Ironman. The emotion on every finisher’s varied, but it was a strong emotion. Some took their time down the chute and celebrated. Others sprinted to beat the person in front of them. I am going to be a celebrator. The crowd is cheering for you so soak it up!
As the night moved on, the party grew. At 9pm U2’s Where the Streets have No Name was played. Three more hours of finishers. Shannon and Darby came to the stands after their volunteer shift. The atmosphere was that of a big party. Energetic songs on the PA, Mike Riley and and assistant (can’t remember his name) were making the evening special for each Ironman. As the night got later, the energy at the finish line increased. The emotion on each finisher’s face appeared to grow stronger. One spectator caught my eye - she was about 12 years old and was holding up a sign that read “One bite at a time. Go Daddy #92.” She waited with anticipation as every finisher rounded the corner and headed into the chute. And each one wasn’t daddy. Hours passed and #92 still wasn’t there so she started crying. But she held that sign up high. The celebration was going on and she kept waiting and waiting. I think it was after 11pm when we finally saw #92 come down the finish line, smiling and enjoying his jog down the to the finish line. What a relief! She had us all worried that #92 might not finish!
blurry, but Linsey is on the left, Chrissie on the right with Mike Riley.
The last hour was a big dance party. Chrissie Wellington and Linsey Corbin came back down to the finish line (actually they’d already been there for several hours congratulating the finishers and giving them foil blankets. They came out into the finish chute and did the YMCA with all of us. They seemed to have a lot of energy after a race like that! And the crowd got louder and louder for each finisher. And as the midnight cutoff approached the antipation grew. Many of the earlier finishers were celebrating in the stands. Nina got Dana settled in their hotel room and then came down. Sonja and Michelle also made it over to cheer with us. Jennifer (@IronJen) finished holding her IronJen sign. With about 20 minutes to go, Leslie, a friend of my parents finished. The crowd went nuts when the last finisher came down the chute with only seconds to spare. I couldn’t help think about how I will feel coming down the chute to the finish line a year from now. It will be such an accomplishment! It will be an extremely challenging year, but quite amazing!

After the last finisher we wandered back to the car to try to get a few hours of sleep. Registration starts at 7 am, the line starts before 6am and this race fills FAST.

Ironman Arizona Roadtrip - Part 1

My progression as a triathlete has finally worked its way to the Ironman dream. 2011 will by the year of my Ironman and for a few reasons I have chosen Ironman Arizona (in Tempe) to be my first Ironman. This race is quite popular (and I can understand why now). As an Ironman is a significant investment in time (and money) I thought it best to go to this year’s race and see what it’s all about. My friends Kelly and Shannon, also triathletes wanting to sign up for 2011 so we planned a caravan. Going to IMAZ would also allow me to see some amazing pros and age groupers race, as well as meet some twitter friends. So we had a ROAD TRIP!

Nicole, Kelly, Shannon, and Darby pre-trip photo
Friday, Nov 19th
We leave Shannon’s house after work, around 5pm. I’m riding with Kelly. Shannon and Darby are in the other car. Darby is Shannon’s roommate and friend who came along to volunteer at the race.

It’s 6 hours to Albuquerque, which isn’t quite half-way. The drive is uneventful, some nice conversations and anticipation about the weekend ahead. I suppose the only “adventure” from this part of the drive was when we stopped in Trinidad for dinner. The Safeway deli didn’t seem to have their sandwich counter open, and Starbucks in the store had just closed (7pm) so we found a Subway. A group of Cubans in cowboy hats and lots of bling (maybe even a gold grill, can't remember) asked us where I-25 was. It was right above us, but some construction made the access a little more complicated. We attempted to explain they just needed to follow the signs, and they went on their way.

Shortly after 11pm we found a Best Western Plus/Executive Suites in ABQ near the I-25/I-40 interchange and got a room to crash for a few hours. The goals was to have breakfast at 6am when the breakfast bar opened and be on the road by 6:30. Nice room for a quick crash.

desert landscape
Saturday, Nov 20th
We got up as planned, had a nice breakfast (by free hotel breakfast standards) and hit the road. The desert landscape made for a beautiful sunrise. More driving, more conversation. More and more cactus filled our view. I-40 was ridiculously windy. We made a lunch stop about 30 miles from Tempe at an outlet mall. Food court! After lunch I hopped into Shannon’s car so we could get to our hotel and Kelly could get to the airport to pick up her dad. We found the hotel - Best Western Papago Inn… reminded me of Arizona pictures from 1950s movies. Ashtrays outside the rooms, a pool in the center of the complex. It was calm and peaceful in there and just enough room for the 3 of us. Once we settled in we went down to the race expo to scope out the scene and check out the layout for tomorrow.
Steve and Nicole
On the way down we ran into Steve V from the Pikes Peak Tri Club. He was all set and heading back to his hotel. At the expo site I was able to meet up with Nina (@ncjack) and her husband Dana (@bigdnla). I haven’t seen them since the USAT Art & Science of Triathlon symposium last February. Dana would be racing. I also got to meet Hank and his girlfirend Julie. Hank is one of Nina’s clients who was racing. He’s a stuntman who recently broke some ribs and collar bone, and had the flu, but he wanted to race anyway. Non-ideal to be entering an Ironman, but they say we triathletes are crazy (and they are right). We strolled down Mill Street in Tempe, which is right near the Arizona State University campus and saw there would be plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and sit down if we needed a break during the long day tomorrow would be. We learned the layout of transition. This is going to be very spectator friendly race. We checked out the over-priced Ironman shop. But you know, they do pretty good business!

gear bags lined up and ready to go
Our evening was relaxing. We grabbed some to-go gyros at the Nile CafĂ© and went down the road to Ron (@PunkRockRunner), Sonja (@goSonja) and Michelle's (@michelleford6p) hotel to chill out at the pool. I’d never met Ron but via twitter and his blog meet him I felt like I already had. Nice to put a real person to the face! He's also sent me some really cool Punk Rock Racing gear that you've seen me wear in my recent races. Sonja and Michelle live in the Denver area, and I’d met them a few times at other races. They would be racing so I was looking forward to seeing them in action (they are endurance sport Bada$$es). I even learned what the 6p stood for in Michelle's twitter name. Their support crew was there and Sonja coordinated the twitter update plan for tomorrow. She also passed out these portable solar chargers from Goal0. These small units can charge portable electronic devices. Since taking pictures and tweeting sucks up cell phone batteries, this would be nice to try.
Finally met the legendary Punk Rock Runner
At about 7:30 or so we all called it a night. Shannon, Darby and I stopped by a grocery store to pick up some snacks for the rest of the weekend on our way back to the hotel. By 9:30 we were all in bed, and for some reason with a few pre-race nerves, even though we weren't racing!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall Series #4 - Race Report

The day started as most of the Fall Series Sunday's do. I got up around 7am, had my standard pre-race breakfast (oatmeal, peanut butter, and a banana) and got a few chores done around the house. The only difference today is that it was about 20 degrees outside when I woke up, highs would maybe hit 40. Just a little cooler than the 60-70s we had been racing in. Just before 10:30 I left the house and headed towards Palmer Park. This park is situated in the middle of town and encompasses a few nice bluffs. Lots of trees and rocks and views (if you can take your eyes off the trail).

Garmin data here.

On the way to the race I drank a bottle of Blueberry-Pomegranate Generation UCAN. This race was supposed to be about 7 miles long so not too long that I would need anything more than water, but I wanted to make sure I was well fueled heading in. And it tastes good.

Registration and warm-up was the same as usual, except I was wearing a few extra layers. About 8 minutes before the start, I stripped off my extra layers and headed to the starting line. I found Kelly. She usually finishes a minute or so before me, so I figured if I could keep her in sight, I'd be doing OK.

See the top of the bluff? We went up there.

The gun went off and the group headed on a gravel road and then turned on to a paved road. We went up. 166 feet in that first mile. Once we were up we turned on the the trail and the fun begins. Ups and downs. Steep ups and steep downs. Rocky ups, rocky downs. Relentless.

Needless to say I warmed up quickly! I took my gloves off around the half-way point and could have gone without my ear warmers. Every so often I would look ahead and for the first 2/3 of the race I could see Kelly just slightly ahead.

Showing some love for Punk Rock Racing
My legs felt good but some of those steep hills were brutal. The entire course had over 900 feet of elevation gain - mile 3 had 250 of it! I wanted to look around and enjoy the views, as you can see a lot from up where we were, but it wasn't smart to take your eyes off the trail for much more than a millisecond. You never know when a rock or a root or a branch would jump out in front of you.

Finally, at about 6 miles we could see the road and the section of the park we started at. By this point I was hanging on as my legs were trashed from the ups and downs. I knew Kelly was a ways ahead now, probably no chance in keeping up! Once we cleared the trails and were back on the grassy field, they threw a few bales of hay in front of us to climb/jump/crawl over. It's always something! But I will say for this race there was no creek!

Bales of hay found in the middle of a trail. Normally unusual, but not in a fall series race!

I headed in strong to the finish line and tried to kick it in. I have no finishing kick so I can easily get out sprinted if someone decides to turn it on. So I just run hard.

That's not a smile, that's a grimace.
Glad to be done with another great fall series race! Turns out I ended up in 2nd place overall in my age group for the series. Not too shabby! More pics, video and results. Now time for an easy week of some strength training and swimming before I head down to Arizona to be a spectathlete at Ironman Arizona next weekend (and of course to sign up for IMAZ 2011!)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Fall Series #3 - Race Report

Sunday was yet another beautiful day for a race. Especially a PPRR Fall Series, kick-you-in-the-rear race! This race took place at Ute Valley Park and was a little more interesting because

  1. It was Halloween so I dressed up
  2. It was the day after our annual Halloween Party
  3. I hadn't run since my final leg at the Bourbon Chase
I got to bed about 2am after the party and set my alarm for 8am. Uggggh. Fortunately the only beverages I consumed were the H2O kind so I was just a little tired. Race morning was mostly typical - ate my oatmeal, peanut butter and banana and then took my time to get ready. The only difference is that my sister was here and she helped me get into character. I was going as a Punk Rocker. I had my sweet black and orange shirt from Punk Rock Racing, I picked up some tattoo sleeves, rocker pins and some gummi bracelets from Wal-Mart the day before, along with a cheap pair of black sunglasses with an orange-ish tint. We also picked up orange and black hair color. I got dressed and Jess went to work. A little bit of black face paint for the eyebrows and lips and I was ready to Rock-n-Run!

The race: This one is a hard one. Here's the Garmin Data. Ute Valley Park has hilly, rocky and this time sandy trails. Throw in a creek (how do they always manage to find the creek??!?) and some bales of hay and you've got yourself one heck of a cross-country course.

Photo by Anya Z, and yes, that's a banana, a gorilla and Elmo: 

We started at an elementary school track and did one lap (a smart thing to do to spread out the field before hitting the narrower trails) and then up we went. Up the trails, down the trails and all around. Walked a bit up the steeeeeep stuff. At about mile 4 I was hoping the hills would go away. But the race organizer always seems to find all the hills for us!

The views were phenomenal (when I wasn't staring at the trail as not to trip on rocks and roots). Some sections were so sandy (we've had a dry summer) that I expected to see the ocean at the edge of the trail.
I hung in as best I could, my legs hating the hills but otherwise feeling pretty good.  About 3/4 of the way into the race we get to the creek. It's not very wide, but just wide enough that I got a little muddy. I was heading up a hill after the creek and heard "come on Nicole!" It was Kelly - she caught up to me. So now my goal was to stay with her as much as I could. I did until the end when her open speed just beat mine. We had one last hill to climb at mile 5.5 and it felt like a long one! Then back down to the track and we had some hay bales to hop.

Heres a link to Results and Photos - lots of Photos! I ended up 3rd in my age group and now am in 2nd place for my age group in the series. One more race to go on Nov. 14th.

Jess was at the finish line with my recovery drink (thanks sis!) and I chatted and introduced Jess to a few people hanging around. Tim Bergsten of got this cool shot.
Jessica and Nicole, the twins...

After the race we headed to REI so Jess could get a Garmin for geocaching and was she cool to pick me up up some bike shoe covers so my feet stay warm in the winter! Then we hit up Sonic for some tater tots and their famous beverages (lemon slush for her, cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper for me) and I dropped her off at my brother's house. Great day!