Friday, August 17, 2012

Iron Summer

What a summer to be on IronTEAM! This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Kona, Hawaii to watch my teammates race, train my butt off here in LA, and travel to Sonoma, CA three times to train, to cheer, and to race the Vineman Aquabike!

Finish line in Kona

Hawaii Cheer-Squad
At the beginning of June I was fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii where a number of my teammates were racing the Kona Ironman 70.3. While I wasn't racing that weekend, I was of course still training, and also there to support and cheer for my fellow teammates (and give some of them race-mohawks).

I had never been to Hawaii before and it was an amazing experience to be there and watch my team race (with the pros- including Lance Armstrong, who won the race)!
Kona graffiti

After the trip to Hawaii, we took over the LA Velodrome on a Sunday morning for a little indoor cycling- I had done this a few times before- but it never stops being super fun, and a little scary!

At the end of June, the Team traveled up to Sonoma for our Vineman Training weekend- to give those racing the Vineman full triathlon an opportunity to experience the full course before the race. Over the course of the weekend, each of us did just about the equivalent of a full Ironman in distance, just spread over the 2+ days we were there.

Running with Riz
Go Team!

Mid- July, I again traveled up to Sonoma to train a little more on the Vineman course, but mostly to cheer for my coaches and teammates racing in the Vineman Ironman 70.3.

Amy and me at packet pick-up
At the end of July, we traveled up to Sonoma one more time. Many of my teammates raced the Vineman full triathlon (the same race I did last year), while many of us who are training for Canada raced the Aquabike (the full 2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike, with no run). It was an amazing weekend, and it was awesome to see so many of my teammates complete their first Ironman!

Unfortunately, I had food poisoning the week before the race, but I still managed to have a good day- I decided to take it easy on the swim, and take the bike course one leg at a time. I actually had a great race and finished the bike course with a personal best time!

Cheer Squad superheroes!


 Now on to Canada! We have been training like crazy people (because we kind of are crazy people) for what will be 10 months. It has been such a rewarding experience to spend so much time with some of the best people I know, working toward this goal, while trying to help people in need. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wildflower Long (Hot, and Dry) Course

Shot of Transition- next to the lake
This weekend, I finished Wildflower Long Course in 8:25:12. I ranked 1741 out of 1800, which means that ~97% of those that finished Wildflower Long Course, finished faster than I did. Now, that is not where I'm generally used to being on a bell-curve, but I suppose in comparison to the rest of the general population, I'm somewhere on the other side of that "nasty-grade" hill of a curve in terms of fitness, so I'll take it. Anyway, 70.3 miles later- I did it! And really, even attempting it is what counts in the end, right?
After crossing the finish line
It was a hell of a race, and my very first half-ironman distance event (they call it the Long Course because it is not an Ironman-brand event, but it's the same distance as a "half- ironman", or "Ironman 70.3" race). I suppose I did things a little backwards by doing Vineman full last summer before ever having done a half, but either way, this may have been the hardest race I've ever done.

As anyone who has read my race reports before knows, I do not handle heat very well (perhaps I should start looking into races in Ireland or Norway), and this race was no exception- though while it only got up to about 80 degrees or so, the 12% humidity is what really did me in- it was SO DRY! Oh, and did I mention the hills?

Getting ready to roll down to the start from our campsites
If you have never been to Wildflower at Lake San Antonio in Bradley, California, you should know that you must camp there in order to participate- or at least to get the full experience. I suppose there are hotels, but they are prohibitively far away, and especially because we were there with a team- part of the fun is camping out with your fellow racers! Some of my teammates (wisely) rented RV's for the weekend, whereas I (economically) chose to sleep in my tent. You may be thinking: "Wow, sleeping in a tent on the ground after finishing a triathlon sounds terrible!" and you would be correct. Other things that are kind-of terrible to have to contend with before and after completing a race like this include: not having a shower, running water, electrical outlets, a chair to sit in, air conditioning, space to change clothes, the list goes on. But I guess this is all part of the experience. In the unlikely event that I ever do it again, I will be with the RV crowd.

But back to the race...
Before this weekend, I had never seen the bike course before, so some of my teammates and I decided to drive the course the day before- it was good to know what I was up against- at least on some level. There is a portion of the bike course called "Nasty Grade," which is a hill at about mile 42 of the ride, that lasts about 5 miles and climbs almost 1000 feet. The biggest issue here is not the steepness or the length of this hill (though it is certainly not an easy hill), but the fact that it comes so late in the ride- when you're already getting tired, and then afterward have another 11 hilly miles to go.

My swim was relatively uneventful, with the exception of the fact that I think I set a PR (personal record) for my time at just over 38 minutes! I tried to steer clear of other racers in the water but had to fend off a few overly aggressive swimmers that came my way. I made it back to transition, made sure I put on plenty of sunscreen, and headed off to the bike.

The bike started off with a hill pretty much right out of the gate- which was not fun, but definitely a taste of how tough the day would be. Luckily for me the ride was pretty uneventful, as I tried to push myself more than usual as Coach Jason had suggested, to make up for time I knew I would loose on the long climb up Nasty-Grade.

It was hot, and I was glad that I remembered to drench my cool sleeves at every aid station and before the big hill. Slowly but surely, I climbed Nasty, and Orbea hill, and got to enjoy the big descent after. That one descent was certainly not the end of the bike, but it almost made climbing up Nasty Grade worth it. My teammate Rommel took a great video of his descent. I'm not sure how fast he was going, but I got up to 41 mph on my way down.

A few hot climbs later, and I was about done with the bike- I couldn't wait to get off. While I had felt relatively confident about the ride (all things considered- it was hot, and I am notoriously slow on the bike to begin with), by the time I got back into the park and climbed the last "small" hills to transition, I was starting to feel pretty drained.

I had never seen the run course going into the race, and I really wish I had. I knew that it was going to be hilly and challenging, but I had no idea it was going to be as difficult as it was.  I was truly amazed at the steepness and quantity of hills on this course. Miles 4 through 7 were definitely the most difficult, and the weather was no help. Hot, dry, and sunny. By the time I saw Coach Brad at mile 9ish- right around the area they call "the pit," I was getting very dehydrated and very nauseous.  Lucky for me I had seen my friend Kristi ("KJ") on the bike, and again several times on the run, so we we got to talk each other through some of the hard parts of the course. By the end of the run we were walking, then running ahead of/behind each other leap-frogging all the way back to the finish. At about mile 11, I got to see KJ, Coach Brad, Coach Holly, as well as my teammate Kristy- and boy does it always help to see a friendly face or two. By that point the finish was 2 miles away, and I knew the last 3/4 mile or so was completely downhill. I was able to pull myself together enough to run it in to the finish.
Post- race hugs! I love this TEAM!

Riz and me posing for a "finisher photo"
After cheering in the rest of our teammates, and some post race-photos, we all headed back to camp for the night. While most us us had intended to celebrate and "re-hydrate" with beer and tequila after the race, I was unfortunately too exhausted and dried out to party. I stayed up for a bit to hang out around the campfire, but made it a relatively early night.

Mari, Jazzy, Riz, and me at the top of the hill
The next morning, a few of us walked down to watch our teammates start their swim for the Olympic distance race. We saw them off, and headed up the hill to join the rest of our spectating teammates at the top of Lynch Hill. Our team has a fine tradition of handing out beer to racers as they are making their final descent down lynch hill to the finish line, and this year was certainly no exception. In fact, this year we decided to make it a little more colorful and get decked out in german biergarten attire- us ladies in beer maiden dresses, and the fellas in lederhosen (not to mention some other colorful costumes). We were definitely a sight to see!

Handing out cold beers to thirsty racers (don't worry, they weren't completely full) 
Beer O'clock on Lynch Hill
After handing out all our beer, and cheering in all our teammates to the finish, we went back to camp to pack up and head back to LA. Just another day in the life on the amazing IronTEAM!

While this was probably the hardest race I've done, I am so happy to have done it with all my amazing teammates with me. It's weekends like this that make me appreciate all that I have. While we were racing and spectating, we saw a number of racers from the Challenged Athletes Foundation racing along with us, some with only one leg or one arm, and at least one racer who was blind- racing tandem with another participant the whole way- swim, bike, and run. Seeing them really makes it hard to complain about something as silly as the weather! Its things like that, as well as our TNT mission that really get me through the tough parts of these races. Sure it's hard, but at least I have my health/all my limbs/don't have cancer- and you never know when those circumstances could change. Remembering that helps me to push through when things get hard out there. I put one foot in front of the other because I can, for those who cannot, and because there may come a day when I can't either. For now I'm making the most of every minute -spending weekends in the sunshine with my amazing team making the most of our time, our health and our ability to help others along the way.

Stay tuned for more updates as I continue my training for my big race this year- Ironman Canada in August! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rain, Wind, Sandstorms, and San Diego

This spring, my team and I have seen it all- rain, wind, sandstorms, hot, cold, and a few lovely Southern California sunny days sprinkled in:

(From left)  Riz, Me, and Kelly after doing hill-repeats to the top of Mandeville Canyon, on a beautiful morning in LA

For a while we had several weekends in a row of non-stop rain, but because we are IronTEAM, of course we trained anyway. We ran a half-marathon: 13.1 miles- in the pouring rain.
Even the camera was soggy
Splashing through puddles!

Selling some of my Hollybars after the run... I think these were the White Chocolate Macadamia flavor- yummm
 I'm glad that I waited until the next weekend to get new running shoes. Everybody got soaked!

On another weekend the wind speeds reached up to 35 mph! That Saturday, our practice at Zuma Beach in Malibu (I know, boo-hoo, right?) consisted of an approximately 60 mile bike ride, with a 10 mile run afterward. Before the bike we also practiced our T1- transitioning from wetsuit to the bike.

About to transition from wetsuit to the bike...
You can see my hair is going everywhere- the winds were so strong it was hard to even run over to our bikes!

It was a tough day on the bike to say the least. With the headwind, we did the equivalent of biking uphill for about 20-30 miles. Even going downhill was a challenge with the resistance from the wind!

When we got back to the beach to transition to the 10 mile run, we discovered our gear had been almost completely covered in sand! 

My T2 gear covered by a passing sand dune in the parking lot

On the run, the wind did not let up- it seemed to even get worse at times. In the way back at the end, I had to keep my head down to avoid losing my visor to the wind, and to avoid getting pelted in the face by the sand being blown up from the beach!

We waited in the cold and wind for everyone to finish, and did a quick GO TEAM! cheer. I think I still had sand in my ears and hair a few days later!

A very windy "GO TEAM!"

Luckily for our ride down to San Diego, the weather cooperated. It was a little bit foggy at times but had a good day with very little wind. Not too hot, not too cold, and even a little overcast to shade the sun a bit. 
Pai took this great portrait of our team before we started rolling (for those playing "where's waldo," I'm in in the back, just right of center)

We rode down, and did a 30 min run after hopping off the bike- then grabbed a bite at Pizza Port, and jumped on the train back to LA.

A sometimes-foggy, but lovely 80 mile ride down the coast to San Diego

No one ever said training for an Ironman was easy- by the end of the season I will have swam, biked, and run hundreds of miles. But I know that fighting cancer is even harder, so when the weather is bad, when we're getting blown off our bikes by the wind, or freezing in the pouring rain, I remind myself why we're doing this. 
I swim, bike and run to help those who cannot.  Please consider making a donation and help me help LLS find a cure for cancer.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Desert Tri 2012 [So Hot Right Now]

 On March 4th, my teammates and I participated in the Desert Triathlon (International Distance). For many of them, this was their first triathlon- ever! The day before the race we all traveled out to Palm Desert for practice- which ended up being about the same distances as our race would be the following day- 25+ miles on the bike, 10k run, plus a swim in the lake.  Not exactly ideal for racing, but since Desert Tri is not our team's main event for the season, we just look at it like a "very organized practice".

I had been fighting a nasty cold the week before, so on Saturday I took it a little easy at practice, and did a little extra hydrating- knowing what was ahead of me on Sunday. I didn't feel 100% on Sunday morning, but I was really glad I was there to practice racing, but even more glad to be there to watch my teammates run their first tri- and help as much as I could with any questions they had. It ended up being a great race- great weather, swim in calm water, flat bike and run course. The swim started out a little crazy- the girls in my wave were a mean this year- punching and grabbing and swimming over people. All that is par for the course, but they seemed exceptionally nasty this year! After the first buoy, things calmed down a little, and the swim was nice and calm.

The bike course was flat, with the exception of some small little hills right out of transition- and the terribly paved roads leading into the park! I lost a bottle two days in a row biking down that road! I stopped to pick it up, as it was so early in the race and I knew I would rather have my gatorade + carbopro and loose a minute going back for it, than trying to power through on water from the aid station. The rest of the bike course was pretty uneventful- with the exception of my speedy teammates passing me and shouting "Go Team!"

The run started out OK- my first lap of the two lap course around the lake was alright, though the day had really started to heat up. I didn't power though too hard- I wanted to save some for the second loop. Unfortunately as I started lap 2, I got a familiar feeling- a little nausea, water sloshing around in my stomach, and then some chills. I was overheated- just like at Vineman last July. I knew what to do- I slowed down, poured water over myself and tried to cool down. I also knew that I really was not going to be able to run much more of the course. I walked most of the rest of the second loop, but pulled it together to run it in for the last 1/4 mile or so- to my cheering teammates!
I decided the best way to cool down would be to get in the kiddie pool full of ice and water... and bottled water, too.

We all waited for everyone to finish and cheered everyone in. It was a great day for the team- everyone did really well- and we even had a few people podium in their age groups! Amazing!
After the race, we cleaned up a little and went to Chipotle (as we always do after this race) before all heading back to LA. I re-hydtrated all the way back, but still ended up with a raging fever by the time I got home. Oops!  Life lesson learned: Don't do two international distance triathlons two days in a row in the desert when you're sick! Despite being sick and having a not-so-great race, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. As I said to Coach Brad after the race, even though I was sick, we do it "for the love of the game"- the game in this case being triathlon, and hanging out with super amazing people!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Recommitment- We're REALLY doing this!

Our team recently had out "recommitment" for the season- the time when everyone confirms that they are in it to win it- to raise money for LLS and sign up for our event races for real. I'm so excited to be on track for Ironman Canada in August, it's going to be quite a journey to get there!
Trying on my friend Louis' visor from Ironman Canada last year... I'll get my own in August!

Before my big race, I'll be participating in several other "tune-up" races this season: Desert Triathlon in March (International distance), Wildflower Triathlon in May (Long Course, aka half-Iron distance), and the Vineman AquaBike in July (Full Iron distance swim and bike, without the run). It's going to be a fun-filled, jam-packed season!

I still have a long way to go with my fund-raising to meet my goal of $4700 for this season, but I'm working on planning some fund-raisers, and I'm already selling some cakes and energy bars to raise money.  It's going to take a lot of baking to get to my goal!