Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Harvest Moon Half Ironman Race Report 2014

Two nights before race:
We traveled to and spent the night in Pueblo, CO Friday night since packet pickup was ending at 11:30 Sat AM, not very good organization for out of town peeps in my opinion. But we ended up only 2 hours from Denver, where Saturday we drove and easily got our stuff before checking into our hotel in Aurora early afternoon Friday. This did enable us to head out to the lake and take a quick swim and observe the race venue. Our friend Jim scoped out the bike course and said it was "very hilly", which I knew looking at the profile but it proved to be very correct.

H came down with a cold Thursday. I started pumping he and I full of Zinc & Airborne. I felt somewhat panicked about the possibility of being sick with Kona looming. So far, so good. H was able to race and I am still healthy. I took a nasty spill on my bike 2 weeks ago and managed to get road rash down my left arm and shoulder. I cleansed and treated my injuries meticulously and stayed out of the germ infested pool, so far it is healing nicely. I was very lucky not to break anything or anybody else I was riding with. I was in a group and hit a patch of asphalt while busy chatting away with someone. Never saw it coming:

 Some lovely lady stopped in  her car after my spill. She offered and  drove me and my bike from Isleta to my home in the Heights (about 20 miles). Bless her-there are good people left in the world!
So I made it to the start of Harvest Moon half IM with no cold and healing road rash-yay!

Race morning:
I woke up at the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM, unable to go back to sleep. I wasn't feeling all that nervous about the race, just unable to sleep. Going to the hotel lobby, I found even the coffee wasn't out yet. The desk guy graciously made me some and I started chatting with a friend on the East coast who was racing yesterday also. We encouraged each other and I ate the the last piece of carrot cake I had brought from home. Not exactly a breakfast of champions (it was the first of 3 pre-race meals) but tasted so good going down!

Finally, around 5:45, we loaded our bikes in the car and drove the short 10 minutes to Aurora Reservoir where we were met with a 20 minute long line of cars waiting to park and get to transition. I felt frustrated with the situation. Why can't they make these pre race logistics run smoother? Geez…finally getting into the park, we racked our bikes, all my anxiousness for nought. H and I had perfect spots in between swim in and bike out. The race is small, only about 900 competitors in the half IM. The vibe was pretty mellow, less intense than the M -Dot races, which made me feel less nervous.

Dawn at transition..

The race for me, was just a "practice", warm up race for Kona, which is a mere 5 weeks away. I had communicated with my awesome Aussie coach Michael before the race to strategize my race plan. It was as follows:

Swim: getting into a comfortable rhythm early and picking up the pace slightly toward the end of the swim ( last 5 mins)

Ride: I'd like you to ride as hard as you can for the entire ride and consistent through out so that your back half is as quick as the first. You've done the work to have the back end strong so I really want you to work hard on the bike.

Run: using your run/walk method I'd like you to work the run sections a little harder than you would normally without over doing it. Get into a good rhythm out of transition and make sure to get nutrition going straight away. Work the run sections so that you're keen for the walk section. Don't need to over do it, aim is to even pace the entire run.

I felt I could implement this plan..I love having "a plan".  Fills the Virgo need in me so well..So all I had to do was follow the plan, dial in nutrition and just do it!

Swim: I had swam in the Reservoir the day before and was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was. I had done the swim as part of a relay about 6 years ago and the water temp was barely 60 degrees, it was miserable! Yesterday it was almost a balmy 70 degrees-yay! The outside air was cool, but not cold at all. I was in the first wave and soon realized I would be swimming directly into the sun for the first half of the 1.2 mile swim. I had not brought my tinted goggles…bummer (**note to self**. I seated myself inside near the buoys and we took off! I thought at first I was off course, as I didn't get bumped or kicked at all. I headed into the sun. My sighting was simple-head toward the sun! Keeping the buoys on my left was a bit challenging as I am a right breather but I managed to make the long half mile turn around without too much veering. Rounding the buoy and swimming back there was a bit of a headwind and chop. I took a good gulp of lake water at one point and choked a bit. After settling down I swam into the shore. I took it fairly easy on the swim, seemed like it took forever and ever but swim time ended up being not bad:
Time-38:56- a half IM PR, what do you know?

T-1: OMG, what was I doing?  Took me forever to get my wetsuit off, get my arm coolers on, whatever, it took me a long almost 6 minutes to get out on the bike. I was hoping the sunscreen I had put on in the AM was enough for my face and the rest of me not to get too cooked on the bike. 

Bike: The rollers started immediately out of transition. My plan was to race down the downhill and push as much as possible on the hills. None of the hills were long, just long enough to have to downshift a bunch up and by the time I ran out of gears, it was time to fly down the hill again. The first part of the 56 miles were rollers with a net down. Then flat for a bit, then up and up as the rollers went back up in altitude. Just like my Garmin profile looks:


10203040504,9005,0005,1005,2005,3005,4005,5005,6005,700Elevation (ft)
I felt strong drinking, eating gels on my time schedule. I had to pee and didn't want to stop so managed to pee on the bike while pouring water down my legs hoping I didn't regret this decision. The temps were now in the 60s, sun blazing so was very comfortable. My trusty 8 year old Tri bike has still got it. For the first time in 9 months I have no weird sounds or funky shifting, finally getting a bike to work perfectly with the help of several mechanics. Mrs. Venge will not be making the trek to Kona, my Cervelo will have to take me to the big dance..There wasn't suppose to be much wind in Aurora but we did have a headwind up the hill on the way back. And so it goes... I was starting  to get really hot at one point so poured water on my arm coolers, which really worked to cool me off.

Race plan worked so far. My bike time was 3:17 (officially 3:20 as I did stop and pause at an aid station).This was an average time for me at a half IM distance. All the many many miles over the last few months paying off. I felt good knowing that my hard work was finally rewarded..My average speed was over 17 MPH. I'll take that!

T-2 went so much smoother. I racked my bike, grabbed my race belt, nutrition belt, shoes, hat and off I went. I even brought my little sun screen, which I managed to apply somewhere on the run. Time in T-2 2:44. Half the time of the first transition.

Run: I took off feeling my legs were super heavy, which surprised me, all the bricks (run off the bike) I had been doing didn't seem to matter the first few miles of the run. I had my electrolyte tabs with me that I kept adding to my 8 oz handheld water bottle. They immediately were so fizzy they drained out of my bottle as soon as I filled it. I resorted to adding tabs in the water cups at the aid stations and downing them. This seemed to help with the legs. I finally ditched the handheld-piece of s%&*t! My foot was hurting on the toe I had managed to stub in the hotel room in the dark getting up to the bathroom in the middle of the night Saturday night. Ouch! I ignored  it, plugging along a rather hilly run course around the Reservoir. This surprised me, H said he didn't think it was hilly at all so I guess perception is everything when you are tired:


33:201:06:401:40:002:13:2008:0012:0016:0020:0024:0028:00Pace (min/mi)
 I didn't want  to stop and pee with my one piece Tri suit so discreetly ran on the dirt and proceeded to pee on myself, dousing again with water. The clouds were rolling in, I thought I heard thunder at one point. I was getting toastier as the day wore on so the possibility of rain actually was a welcoming thought!  It never rained, but the cloud cover was so awesome! I followed my run 4 minutes/walk one min. Religiously, trying to do the run part faster per Coach Michael's suggestion. This was, at times easier than others. I had to pay attention to my Garmin constantly since my "running faster" kept feeling like it was faster than it really was. Then there were bugs..nasty little annoying bugs trying to fly into my mouth so had to pay attention to keeping my mouth shut. The wind was pretty nasty the last 2 miles up on top of the Reservoir before the halfway turn around. The turnaround was a welcome site! The volunteers at the aid stations every mile were mostly teenage kids, I was grateful for them for the most part. One guy was trying to put water in my bottle and managed to douse it down the front of my suit. Dude! I said, trying not to be the bitchy Grandma but was getting pretty tired at this point. The only thing that saved me was the walk/run. Those walk breaks really gave me something to look forward to especially the last few miles. My legs were exhausted but I was still in fairly good spirits, making myself sing song in my head, usually only the first few lines then would get brain fuzz and have to start a new song. I saw a woman with an Ipod.. Hey wait that's against the rules in a Triathlon!!  I secretly wished I had an Ipod to replace my feeble attempts at self singing, which wasn't working so well to keep me going the last couple of miles. I passed a bunch of young men that were walking-this always makes me feel better...selfishly.. I finally had to stop and go the the bathroom-the real thing. No porta potties in sight I found the only bush I could see in the near distant and hoped the teenagers didn't spot me…I lost about 2 minutes here. Somewhere along the way, I spotted H, who was heading out to the turnaround. He looked in pretty good shape for racing sick!  I was glad he was still out there and smiling.

I finally heard the crowd and I was gonna finish! I had done calculations and thought I would finish in about 6:50 but I guess the pauses and stopping added time so as I crossed the finish line, the clock said 6:58. I was good with that-I broke 7 hours and was certainly happier than the last half iM finish in Austrailia-the race from hell/Geelong 70.3!

Run time: 2:50. I had 2:45 on my Garmin so 5 minutes of farting around time (again).

They were announcing the awards ceremony were to be held in 5 minutes...whaaa? Guess no award for me. Ever the competitor, whether it is a "practice race" or not-When I checked  with the timing folks they didn't have anyone in my age group listed in yet. They went back and printed out new results and said I was either  first or second, two 60-64 ladies had come in. I saw my friend Jim, who was recovering from a hard race. I tried to eat the "Mexican food" they were serving post race and it was disgusting.. So water and animal crackers would have to do. They did the awards and alas I was first place, by 40 seconds! I hugged the 2nd place gal. I looked later at our times and I beat her out of the swim, she beat me on the bike and her run time was much faster. Just a few more minutes and she would have run me down! Wow, I was lucky and thankfully I am a decent swimmer-which finally paid off!

This is me trying to act cool while waiting to see if I won my AG..

 Me trying to climb up on the podium and having a hard time. I was pretty out of it and sore right here!
Delerious, but happy with my first palace award despite the kind of lame mesh bag and USAT hat I received. No prize money or great award Schwag but I am happy with the whole outcome in a race I had no expectations other than to plan my race-race my plan-I did it!

H came in a bit later. He did well, especially with being not 100 % from having a cold. We came back to the hotel, showered and went to dinner with our friend Jim..hmmm barbecue!:

I came in first out of 5 women. In a short 8 days, I turn 60...I guess aging up has many advantages. I haven't experienced  being the "baby" of an age group in quite awhile. At Harvest Moon, I felt kind of like a big fish in a little pond, it boosted my ego. I have no illusions about Hawaii next month. When I saw the first place lady last year did Kona in 11 hours something, I laughed! I am going to enjoy the ride..

And as my coach said, luck has been with me. I came home to my front tire flat, oozing Stan's and looking like this:

Time for race tires to be installed!

In 23 days, I get on a plane to go to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. I can hardly believe it! The race is in 32 days. I feel a bit numb about it all but excited..Last month of IM training-let's go!