Friday, October 17, 2014

And Then Came the Bike...Part 3 of The Incredible Journey

(I am sitting blogging at an Oceanside coffee shop, watching the people who obviously have no sense surfing the big waves during the "Tropical Storm" conditions we are suppose to be having. This is the only sign of a hurricane 220 miles south of the Island. It was raining now the sun looks like it's about to come out..geez all that worry for this?)

The Bike:

Wow the bike took me on an unexpected ride that challenged me physically and mentally. Not in a way I actually ever thought of quitting, but man it was difficult! I will admit near the end I wondered if I would make the cutoff, something I have never been worried about before. I am embarrassed to say I didn't even remember what the bike cutoff was, but knew the hours were passing..too many hours passing for my comfort level. In the end, I made it in time but not without fighting the wind for much of the ride..

It started out coming out of the chute and straight up Palani Dr., probably a 2 block 8% grade hill. That'll wake your legs up! There is a 4-5 mile section around Kona in the beginning which is nice, I got to see spectators and part of the family!!

They took a couple of pics of me as I rode up. At this point I was feeling pretty strong..I was so happy to see my "Team Wess" crew, kids and all:

I was riding Arero, down in the bars for much of the first 20 miles or so. The Queen K is a great road surface, the whole road was closed for the race so smooth sailing from a long bike ride perspective. The only bummer, and this was a big bummer 7 hours later, was that they did not allow spectators on the bike course. Let me tell you, riding almost 8 hours in mostly solitude is very challenging! I did however, have one ray of sunshine ..they allowed folks that were staying in the resorts on the Northwest Coast to go out to the Queen K to cheer folks on. My wonderful sister in law (H's sister) and brother in law (her husband), two of my favorite supporters were staying outside such a resort. I looked for them by the first Aid Station and didn't see them. They had the awesome Team Wess T-shirts on. My SIL told me she was screaming and could have reached out and touched me she was so close! I must've had my eye on the water station because I never saw her going out. The water stations came up frequently, thank goodness. I would grab one water and pour it over my cooling sleeves, then one water to pour into my bottle. I would have to stop to add the electrolyte tabs because they wouldn't go through aero bottle top. I did manage to do it a couple of times on the bike but once the wind came, forget it. That wasn't such a good plan..

The bike to Hawi to the turnaround

The bike to Hawi to the turnaround
The bike up to Hawi to turnaround..

The wind, ah the about mile 25 (aproximately) there started to be wind. I had biked out of Kona with a tailwind/side wind of sorts-it wasn't an issue. So It was windy already but this was a crazy, swirling headwind. Ok, I am in Kona doing the World Ironman Championships and this is why it is considered one of the hardest courses in the world! I carried on, drinking, eating and fighting the wind. I looked at bikes in front of me and they looked like they were struggling also so this somehow made me feel better. I got hit with some side winds that took me and pushed me across the lane of the road. I started riding on the far right shoulder so if I got pushed sideways again into the other lane, I wouldn't hit anyone. It was crazy..that's all I can say. I was soooooo grateful I had done the Acoma Century ride. We had crosswinds on that ride and headwinds, granted not as harsh as this but I remembered that feeling of having your wheels pushed out under you and staying upright. When the wind decided to be against me, I was barely moving on an already sort of rolling course. Nothing I coudn't have rocked had the wind been down. The first real gust of side/headwind, I yelled Bring it!!! Don't know why it was kind of like you can't break me, no matter what you do Madame Pele, i can handle it! So I used that kind of Bring It attitude the rest of the ride up to Hawi. There is about a 6 mile climb up to the turnaround that is a bit steeper and longer than the other hills. Before I got there the Pros started coming back. They were flying, which gave me hope that I would have a tailwind on the way back. I said a little prayer to that affect. I had to stay out of my aerobars much of those 40 or so miles up to Hawi. I saw a woman flat on the ground, race officials around her. I deduced she had been blown off her bike (total of 8 athletes got blown off their bikes in the race)...I tried to remember all my tricks to riding in wind. Keep knees together, use core to center, just plain hang on! I wasn't particularly tired, which is a good thing. This meant I had trained right. It was super hot but the wind was a good distraction from that! Someone told me the gusts were 50 MPH. I don't know, all I remembered was my coach saying it will be windy but nothing as bad a Geelong (70.3-race from hell wind). Uh, Coach you are awesome but this wind is worse. Alot worse it seemed at the time. I tried to look around and enjoy the view. We were climbing and the sight of the ocean and lava rocks was stunning! I couldn't look for long because I never knew when a gust might hit in the headwind so I held on tight, literally to my bike. At one point I realized my arms were so tight they were getting sore..My neck was killing me. I tried to stretch but very hard to move around when you are trying to "stay center". I honestly thought my neck would be a mess the next day..I think I didn't go over 11 MPH for 25 miles...wicked conditions.

Finally, finally I got to the turnaround. The time it took me to get there was LONG and I anticipated flying back with a tailwind, where I would make up for the slow-ass time it took me to get there. The volunteers and spectators in Hawi were so great. Mostly local people, these folks are donating their time and their community for me! I thanked as many volunteers as I could when i remembered to do so. The only annoying moments at Aid Stations was when they didn't open the water bottle. Pretty difficult to do on a bike..Mostly I was smiling because I knew about the downhill coming. Turned around-wheeeee!!! Maximum speed 35 MPH.. The wind was now mostly at our backs, sometimes a sidewind but I didn't care. I tried to fly down the hils as much as I could.

Then, a couple things happened. I couldn't find my last 2 electrolyte pills, thought I left them at Special Need at the turnaround (actually found them later in my bike jersey-geez). I thought well, I can either switch to water, knowing I had a couple hours to go? Or: drink the nasty ass Perform which is like Gator Aid only worse and tastes like crap.. I chose the latter. The temp was in the 90s probably more out on the lava rocks and I knew people get in trouble in Kona because of heat/sweat/electrolyte loss. I was super paranoid about this. Had continued to consume Shotz Gels and 2bars, one with protein. The only thing missing was the electrolyte tabs for the last 1.5 hours.

I still wasn't tired physically, just mentally tired of being on the course. In the wind. I checked my tires a couple of times (they weren't low or flat). I finally had to give in that these were the conditions so suck it up or you better work b#*%ch! (Daughter Allison showed me this-made me laugh soooo hard!). I thought of these random things on my odessey bike ride.

Oh, you've got to be kidding me, then the wind decided to switch and we had a direct headwind for the last 30 miles. I just went with it. This was the race of my life, I wasn't breaking any speed records, NBC wasn't chasing me for the IM Kona TV special-may as well enjoy! I kept leap frogging with two other women in my AG on the way back. They were super serious. I tried to say a few words in passing just being light. One woman said how much this sucked and I said But we are at KONA! She said oh yea, I guess there's that. Then my goal got really small. Beat this grumpy woman on the bike. Every time I would pass her, she would pass me. Well, I guess it is a race, even at 10

My feet all of a sudden felt like they were on fire! Not just one but both. I loosened my new larger sized Tri shoes. Nope..not working. So I stopped and took my socks off. Ahhh, that's better! It bothered me one more time. I needed to stop and take my shoes off to move my feet around. My stomach started to get a little funky at the end of the bike. I pee'ed twice on the bike so knew I was hydrated.

Then I saw my sister and brother in law!!! In the shirts and everything. I yelled Hi guys! but it was brief. Just knowing there was someone in a 25 mile radius around me that knew me was a relief. I worried a little about making the cutoff, I thought it was 5:00. I learned later was 5:30. I picked up a little speed passing the Energy Lab because there were all the runners running in and out. They were 17-23 miles into the marathon. My heart kinda sank for one second. I was about an hour past the time I thought I could do the bike. Oh well, I am in Kona! Finally, was headed toward the turn into town and I passed those two women in my AG and never looked back! I knew they would probably kick my ass on the run. Who cares? I had met my brief yet shining goal on the bike. The wind died down in town then it was just HOT!

This was the bike course and my data:

According to my Garmin I rode thise 112 miles in 7:41.
Official bike time: 7:56. I stopped a total of 15 minutes..
It's all good. I was done with the bike!!! In plenty of time..relief flowed over me. I handed my bike and helmet to the volunteer and said bye-bye Cervelo, probably won't see you again for a long while! I started jogging in transition, I think I took my bike shoes, if not I should have. The transition run felt like a good5k to me but I'm sure it wasn't that far. One good thing about being in the back of the pack is I had the changing tent all to myself pretty much along with 2 people helping me. The volunteer said that people were saying the wind on the bike was the worst they've had in 15 years...I could've kissed her I was so relieved it just wasn't about me being a wimp! There were even Porta potties in the changing tent. How cool is that! Part of me wanted to ignore the urge to go, time wise but what the hell why be uncomfortable? The bathrooms were clean. In fact all the p.p.s I stopped at were pretty clean. I guess the World Championships provide royal treatment porta potties too!
After what seemed like forever like this blog entry probably is, I was out on the run!!!
Transition time: a very leisurely 10:03.





Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Swim-Part 2 of The Incredible Journey

The swim:

I placed myself to the left of the crowd out by the TYR Buoy. The course bouys looked very far to the right but as they went further out to the ocean they veered left, potentially giving me a straighter shot.The cannon went off and I started swimming. The first thing I noticed was that everyone could...well...swim! It seemed I was placed pretty well in the group I was attached to as I got pulled along with 400 other women around the first part of the course. I actually for the first time that I remember, was able to draft off faster swimmers in front of me for much of the first half of the swim. It was amazing! I had my Speedsuit on, (Hawaii waters wetsuits not allowed-water is too warm per rules). I felt really fast though and settled into a good pace for me. My swim watch battery was dying right before the swim so I gave it to H and had to trust my gut on swim speed. As I turned my arms over and over, I thought ok, this isn't bad and I am in IM KONA! I felt so grateful for all the swims I had done in Melbourne earlier in the year because the swells I was feeling as we headed out to the turnaround seemed to get larger. I couldn't tell if I was swimming with the current or against. It didn't matter because I was pretty comfortable. It really seemed like the swim to the turnaround was forever..then I remembered..oh yea this is what an Ironman swim feels like! I got kicked a couple of times, once in the face but the lack of all the male swimmer made the whole thing so much more enjoyable (sorry boys didn't miss getting run over, kicked and elbows that were much larger than mine in my face), I thought of H and the fam and wondered what they were doing. I was grateful for all the swimming lap after lap I had done over these past 11 months. My mask was good this time. I had the USA logo on my mask and it was cool. The only real issue I had was hunger. Before the swim, I realized I was getting super hungry. I had forgotten to bring a gel down to the water. After asking a couple of official people if they had any gels to no avail, I started looking on the ground for gel packets that may have been dropped-nothing. So the whole swim I had this gnawing hungry pain..just suck it up and don't think about! That's what I told myself. It was hard to ingore at times. Stoopid rooky mistake!

Finally I saw the big boat and knew we were close to the turnaround. I swam around the boat, which was rather large and hard to miss! Also the course was lined with kayaks and paddle boards so it was very difficult to get off course at any time during the long swim. This was nice, since I guess at some places it would have been easy to be pulled off course by the tide. I started swimming back and couldn't figure out if I had the current with me or against as I bobbed up and down with the swell of the current. It was trying to pull me to the right I think. Afterwards, folks said definitely we were swimming against the current on the way back. The land still looked VERY far away, geez am I ever going to finish? However, it was still fun, I was still swimming in Kona IM. I wasn't tired, however was ready to get out as I finally saw the cell tower I was trying to sight. I started running into some of the men who were slower swimmers. They had started 10 minutes before us. Only these guys were not so great swimmers. Swimming backstroke, breaststroke, sometimes four abreast. This got a little frustrating as I tried to swim around them. I know this slowed me down, I could feel it. Finally I was looking up and seeing the dock at Kona and said YES, I am here!! I was a little unsteady getting up the stairs, someone helped me eventually get upright. I pulled my speedsuit off and on to Transition 1 I went!

Was bound and determined to smile out of the swim. My swim pics always look so awful!

Swim Time: 1:31:15- Slow for me in an Ironman swim....really slow but my friend Ted reminded me that a wetsuit can increase your speed in the swim by 10 minutes..but all those other ladies didn't have wetsuits either! My swim time was the only thing I was really disappointed time wise in the race..:/ especially since I thought I was going so fast!

T-1: As I passed through the showers to rinse myself off, I asked someone what time it was, I think they said 9:24. Whaaa? I knew I had not swam 2 hrs and 24 min. So was confused but oh well, I was out and getting on the bike! T-1 went smoothly. They handed me my bag, I had my own personal assistant who helped spread my things out nicely and I was able to don all my bike gear on without issues. Yay!! I decided to run to my bike in my socks, someone said people were slipping with their bike shoes. It actually was a tip that was given to me by my bike check in guy the day before, good tip-thanks! Got to my bike and many of bikes were gone around me. Dang! It meant I didn't swim as fast as I thought.l.oh well..I was still in Kona Ironman..

T-1 time: 7:38

I will stop here for now. There is a Hurricane/Tropical Storm heading towards the Big Island for tomorrow and Saturday. I have an upper respiratory infection brewing. Not exactly how I envisioned the rest of the vacation going but going with the flow. Some of the fam are leaving early because of storm. We did however get a boat dolphin tour today with the the whole clan. Everyone got to snorkel and on the way back we followed about a dozen dolphins for awhile. The kids (big and little) were thrilled.

And to add, on the Dolphin Tour, we were on the boat for about 15 minutes. We were all the way out from land following the Coast. The Captain says this is the turnaround for the IM Swim. I was amazed and turned to my son-in-law and said how the heck did I swim that? Ha!



Monday, October 13, 2014

The Incredible Journey..Part One

I don't even know where to start. What do you say about a day where everything was super challenging but exhilarating and joyful at the same time? What do you say about a trip that took me into complete loneliness on the Island of Madam Pele, who chose to rise up with her firey side on Saturday to challenge me on the bike?
The week before the race was excitement building. Friends from Australia, my coach, my whole family all 15 of them arrived, only to bring my energy up for the big day. I spent the night in a hotel room near the race start for 3 nights, to get myself centered and calm before race day. The "dated" facilities were less than desirable, toilet overflowing with sewage several times, ants in the bathroom, and I was a little afraid to sleep on the bed to be honest. But it served its purpose having me near the transition area for bike checkin and race morning so the ants could be overlooked for a couple of nights.
H and I went to the Pre Race Banquet and heard what sounded a little too corporate for me. It also was LONG! The entertainment (Hawaiin Dancers and Drummers)were amazing! We enjoyed the company of friends but I was antsy, hasn't seen the kids much, so we left early,
I checked my bike into transition on Friday. I was met with a personal escort, who took me to help me rack my bike and walk through transition getting my T-1 and T-2 bags ready for RaceDay. I felt a little like royalty! It was organized and seamless:
I was impressed. It was lovely to unload some of my stuff, the weight on my shoulders felt somewhat lighter! I tried to relax the rest of Friday. It was difficult. My hubby and daughters helped me get settled, my nerves were running a bit high. I had met with Coach Michael one last time prerace to talk about my "race plan". Then after my youngest Allison told me Mom, breathe God in, breathe Debi out (good advice for crazed pre-race Iron Mom-thanks honey!) they said goodbye and I was on my own for a bit. Since I had time to myself I went to a local eatery and ordered a sandwich and n/a beer, people watched and ocean gazed for a while. I went the Expo and wandered a bit. It felt good to do my own thing for a few hours. I tried to drink all the Electrolyte drinks I could shovel in, preload planning for the hot sweaty day ahead.

Eventually I made my way back down to the "Sugar Shack", where the whole family is staying in our big home away from home. My son-in-law, an excellent cook made me a huge pasta and chicken Italian dinner. It was delicious and so good to see my kids and Grandkids the eve of the race. The little ones knew they were going to see "Grandma race" the next day but not sure they knew exactly the long day of excitement they were in for on Saturday. But get'n love from grandkids is the best medicine for a case of prerace jitters! My sister in law and her husband flew all the way from New Jersey to see me race. I was humbled and honored and it was so great to see them!! They joined us for the prerace dinner also. Every single person had a blue "Team Wess" T-Shirt on during race day. It made it easy to see my crew. Special cowbells were made with "SWTrigal" on them. Thanks Allison!!

Becca, an older daughter offered to come stay with me to help prepare for the short night, early morning ahead. Hubby stayed in another room, he wanted to sleep later than my 3:00 wake up call. I had a good night sleep there on Thursday night, after the pre race Banquet. Friday night, not so much sleep. We went to bed about 9:30, I was wide awake at 1:00 AM. All fear of "oversleeping" was banished! Wandering down to the hotel lobby, I managed to make some instant coffee and start trying to preload much needed calories for the day ahead. It is really hard to get in the several hundred calories prerace but I managed a bagel and a half, along with a banana, hoping it would be stored up in me like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter..
This is me eating bagel while Becca playing "Eye of the Tiger" and others inspirational prerace music..
Becca was an awesome Sherpa!! So was my dear hubby. I felt all the love he sent off with me that day..
At 4:15 we started to head down to transistion. I got body marked as I was ushered into to the "athlete only" tent, then went out to meet the family again. All these kids and grandkids had showed up by then. I wasn't sure with the early hour whether that was possible but was soooo happy to see them!
This is part of my Crew. They all had matching TShirts on that said "Team Wess" I felt so loved and supported...
I also had my T.E.A.M from Australia, the one I have been a part of since last year before IMs Melbourne. I felt better just seeing Michael and he giving me encouragement. He is an awesome athlete himself so I wished him luck too.

These are my coaches (My main man is Michael on right end)
These are all some of my favorite people in the World! So glad to be a part of their journey. The support I have gotten from my Melbourne folks since January is incredible!

I got kisses and hugs from everybody and off we went to get in line for the swim. The men went first but not before a beautiful Hawaiin prayer was said to send special energy. This is Lauren, Jody and I waiting for the swim to start. Lauren WON the women's swim. No, I mean she really was FIRST PLACE out of the water. Quite a future ahead of that little gal!
The drums were beating, the cannon went off for the men. I guess I didn't feel nervous at all. All the swimming I did in Australia truly prepared me for the ocean waters of Hawaii..I had no butterflies, nothing, just joy! We lined up in the water about 50 yards into the deep and treaded water. I took a moment and looked at all the spectators, heard the cheers, just took it all in. I got tears in my eyes. I thought I wanna remembered this moment forever! The cannon went off without a countdown and we were off! I was beginning the Kona Ironman Worlds Championships-wow I never thought I would be saying that, in my wildest dreams!