Ironman Wisconsin Pre-Race and Swim

For the last 9 months, dedication has pushed me to achieve new limits and prepared me for Ironman Wisconsin 2014.  This journey has been full of highs and lows and nearly everything in between.  Every step of this journey has been worth it and every step has helped me achieve my goals and get to the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin.

Pre-Race:

We were fortunate enough to be staying in the guest suite of the Nolen Plaza Condo complex thanks to Sue and Michele…my “separated from birth” sisters.  Nolen Plaza is only about 3 blocks from Monona Terrace (the location of T1/T2) and the finish line.  We couldn’t have had a better location for lodging.

Can you guess which condo is ours?!?!?!?!?
Can you guess which condo is ours?!?!?!?!?

The alarm went off at 4:30 am, but we both woke up a few minutes before ready to start what was sure to be a spectacular day.  Waking up this early is pretty normal in our household, so our bodies were use to it 😉  I ate my cream of rice cereal with raspberries, drank my orange juice and Osmo Preload, jumped in the shower (I normally don’t shower before a race, but I knew it was going to be a long day and thought a shower would be a great way to get it started) and donned my lucky red TYR swimsuit before we were to meet Sue and Michele in the lobby of the condo.

I had ZERO anxiousness, nerves or negative emotions.  I only had pure excitement and joy for my long day that was in front of me.  We walked to the finish area and dropped off our special needs bags before heading to Monona Terrace where the swim start would take place.  Once at Monona Terrace, I got body marked, pumped up my tires, put my bike bottles on my bikes (2 water and one Osmo Active Hydration), set out my tracking devices to acquire satellite signal, turned on my Garmin and attached it to my bike, double checked that no one had moved my T1 and T2 bags and then went into the parking garage to get my wetsuit on in solitude.

getting wetsuit on
Not my best side…getting the wetsuit on is always a struggle.  Photo courtesy of Sue Fink
Racing with Tim Jenks...gone, but never forgotten!!
Racing with Tim Jenks…gone, but never forgotten!!  Photo courtesy of Sue Fink

The spectators were already getting themselves lined on the helix (ramp to the parking garage) when we walked down to the swim start.  The fan support in Wisconsin is like no other Ironman (except maybe Kona, but I don’t have experience racing there)!!  Sue and Michele took our morning clothes bags and we parted ways at the bottom of the helix knowing we would see them really soon as we exited the swim.

fan support helix
Fan support on the helix is AMAZING!!  Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

As we filtered through the swim start area by 6:40 am, we saw Lora and Allen.  It was so great to see them and get one last hug from each of them before walking down the boat ramp and submerging ourselves into the water.

swim entry fun
Who’s ready to have fun today?!?!?!  I am 🙂  Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum
swim entry
Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

Swim:

Ironman Wisconsin is a floating swim start, so we found our place in the water with about 15 minutes until the cannon would sound for all of us age group athletes to start our day.  At 6:50 am, we heard the cannon sound for the professional triathletes to start their day.  As we floated, the voice of Mike Reilly only solidified my positive feelings about the day to come, “The only thing you have control over today is your attitude.  When doubts creep into your mind, you can control whether you allow them to take over your day, or squash them and keep yourself positive.  Think of this as a really long training day with 2800 of your close friends and you get full service, including catering.  You will be an Ironman today!!”

Those are people in the water ready to start swimming...not seaweed or birds
Those are people in the water ready to start swimming…not seaweed or birds like some might think.  Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

Right before 7:00 am, the Iron Hippie and I gave each other one last good luck kiss before the cannon sounded and the swimming frenzy began.

In 2011 when we participated in Ironman Wisconsin, the swim was a two loop course, but it has been changed to just one really big loop.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 7.07.15 PMWhen the cannon sounded, I immediately found myself in a smooth and easy “gear.”  I felt like I could swim forever.  That feeling was short lived…I soon found myself among LOTS of other swimmers.  Many people did not properly seed themselves…instead, they started a bit too far forward for how slow they swim.  I swam over some people who were slower than I was and others who continually zig-zagged across the water…take a few seconds and site people!!  I was only in this congestion for the first leg of the swim, but that was long enough.  Thankfully I remained calm and never panicked…keep a positive attitude, Kecia 😉

Swim frenzy :)
Swim frenzy 🙂  Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

As I approached the first turn buoy, I lifted my head just briefly to hear all of the swimmers “moo” in true Ironman Wisconsin tradition…but no one was “mooing.”  I was very disappointed, so I put my head back in the water and rounded the turn buoy.  As I turned my head to breathe, I yelled, “moo” hoping to remind those around me of this awesome tradition.  I continued on to turn buoy #2, where I was immediately freed from the chains of swim congestion.  At this point, I decided to take advantage of the open water around me and swim full speed ahead.

After some time, I rounded turn buoy #3 and shortly after that #4.  I was on the home stretch to the swim exit!!  I saw a volunteer on a stand-up paddle board nearby, so I asked her what time it was, but she did not have a watch.  She thought we may have been swimming for about 1 hour.  WHAT?!?!?!  I remained calm and just kept swimming.  As I approached the last few buoys indicating the swim exit, I started to kick a bit more to get the blood flowing in my legs since I would soon be standing on them.  I also noticed the swim congestion pick up again, but I continued to remain calm.  I swam full speed ahead until my hand touched the bottom of the boat ramp.  I stood up, ran out of the water, and took off the top of my wetsuit as I ran to the nearest wetsuit stripper I could find.  I laid down on the ground, the awesome gentleman quickly pulled my wetsuit off, helped me stand up and sent me on my way toward the helix.  As I approached the bottom of the helix, I saw Sue, Michele, Lora and Allen all cheering me on.  I asked them what time it was and Allen responded with, “8:23.”  WHAT?!?!?!?  I just set a new PR on the swim, but didn’t know my exact swim time.  WHOOP!! WHOOP!!  What a great start to my day 🙂

Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum
Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

Transition 1 (T1):

I jogged nice and easy up the helix and went into Monona Terrace where I grabbed my T1 bag…went into the change room, ate a homemade Cheerio bar and drank some water while I did a full change.

T1 bags (this photo was taken when we dropped our bags off on Saturday).  Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum
T1 bags (this photo was taken when we dropped our bags off on Saturday). Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum
Women's Change
Women’s Change…Photo courtesy of Lora Bierbaum

All of the volunteers were busy helping other athletes, but eventually one came to help me.  If you have never been in T1 (either as a participant or volunteer) you don’t know what you’re missing!!!!!  After thanking the volunteer who helped me, I exited Monona Terrace and ran to my bike.  Since my bike was near the bike exit, I knew I had a long way to go from the change area to my bike.  I decided to carry my shoes with me and put them on at my bike.  An awesome volunteer got my bike for me while I put my shoes on.  I put my tracker on and ran with my bike across the timing mat where I met the mount line and the start of a whole new adventure…the Bike 😉

Swim Time:  1:21:52…A PR by 9:53 🙂

T1:  14:15

Another One Bites the Dust…Ironman Kansas 70.3 Race Report

This last Sunday I raced Ironman Kansas 70.3 making this event my 5th 70.3 mile triathlon race finish.  Ironman Kansas 70.3 was my first Half Ironman distance event on June 7, 2010, which I finished with a time of 6:46:24…It was time to go back and see just how far I’ve come in my training over the last 3 years.

Ironman Kansas 70.3 - 2010 Race Results
Ironman Kansas 70.3 – 2010 Race Results

Since then, I have completed Ironman Branson 70.3 in September of 2010 and Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance in July of 2011 and 2012.  I have gotten slightly faster in each discipline of the 70.3 mile distance (although it doesn’t look like it on the run below…bad run day).  I set a new PR for the 70.3 mile distance on July 22, 2012 at Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance with at time of 6:32:44.

Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Iron Distance - 2012 Race Results
Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Iron Distance – 2012 Race Results

Going into Ironman Kansas 70.3 this year, I knew I was feeling really good (both physically and mentally), but I had no idea that I was about to SHATTER my previous PR!!

We saw this safety mascot that I named "Safety Sally" on the side of the interstate in Kansas City as we were passing through.  It was fun to see that people still have fun on the job...even when serious work is being done!!
We saw this safety mascot that I named “Safety Sally” on the side of the interstate in Kansas City as we were passing through. It was fun to see that people still have fun on the job…even when serious work is being done!!

We arrived in Lawrence, Kansas on Friday evening and went straight to athlete check-in before they closed for the day.  We then went back to the hotel and checked in, unloaded our car and went to find some dinner, before calling it an early night to get some “good sleep” as Coach Julie calls it 🙂

Athlete Check-in complete!!  I'm ready to race :)
Athlete Check-in complete!! I’m ready to race!!
YUMMY gluten free pizza at Wheat State Pizza in Lawrence, Kansas
YUMMY gluten free pizza at Wheat State Pizza in Lawrence, Kansas

I had every intention of sleeping in on Saturday morning, but I woke up at 5:45 am.  Adam would be so disappointed, but he would also know that this was sleeping in for me!!  🙂 After some breakfast and lounging in the hotel room, I packed up my swim gear (for a pre-race swim), run gear (for a short pre-race run), and Mojo (to leave in T1) to head to the race site.

We left the hotel at about 10 am and drove the bike course before heading to the race site.  Having completed this race in 2010, I had plenty of time to forget just how hilly this bike course was and wanted to get every hill and turn fresh in my mind for Sunday…Oh yes…my nemesis was at mile 50…

There were only a couple of flat miles on this bike course.
There were only a couple of flat miles on this bike course.

After driving the bike course, we ended up at the race site by 11:30 am.  First things first…I needed to get Mojo checked into T1 and scout out my spot in both T1 and T2.  As we were waiting in line to enter T1, I found out we didn’t have to put our bikes in transition on Saturday due to the 60% chance of severe storms over night (with the potential for hail and straight line winds).  I was very pleased with this since the winds were already well over 20 mph and many bikes were being blown over.  Some people decided to leave their bikes in T1 anyway, but I wasn’t one of them…Mojo would be spending the night with me in the hotel room…YAY!!

At Bike Check-in with Mojo on Saturday at T1
At Bike Check-in with Mojo on Saturday…T1

We encountered many athletes from our Zoom Performance team at the race site Saturday and thus talked to many people over the next 2 hours.  By 1:30 pm, we hadn’t really gotten anything accomplished…except my race number tattoos in place…

801...Like 801 Grand, I plan to tower over my competition!!
801…Like 801 Grand, I plan to tower over my competition!!

…no pre-race swim, no pre-race run, no bike check-in (although I did see my spot for T1), no T2 scouting, lots of talking to people…and I was HUNGRY and drained of energy.  I convinced my husband to leave and go find something to eat.  As we were leaving the race site, who should we stumble upon, but Craig Alexander (AKA…Crowie)…

A little pre-race mojo with Crowie...professional triathlete who has won Ironman Kona 3 times
A little pre-race mojo with Crowie…professional triathlete who has won Ironman Kona 3 times 🙂

We left the race site, grabbed a late lunch (3 pm) and headed back to the hotel where I showered, got all of my race gear organized for morning, revisited my race goals, did some race visualization, went downtown for a couple of gourmet cupcakes and then went to bed (at 6:30 pm)…that 3 am alarm clock would be early…

Getting Race Ready!!
Getting Race Ready!!
Gear
Let’s do this!!

In typical pre-race fashion, I didn’t sleep well…every 20-30 minutes I would wake up and look at the clock.  At 2:55 am I woke to look at the clock one last time and decided it was time to get up and do this!!  I had 3 servings of my “superfood” breakfast with almond milk and fresh strawberries and a glass of Trop50 Orange juice, got into my race gear, revisited my race goals, loaded the car (we were checking out before going to the race site) and off we went to the race site.

My Pre-race "superfood"!!
My Pre-race “superfood”!!

There had been storms overnight, but they did not affect the race start.  Arriving at the race site by 4:15 am gave me plenty of time to really get organized and get all of my gear into each transition…yes you read that correctly, the bike to run transition (T2) is in a different location than the swim to bike transition (T1), so I really had to think through what I needed at each transition location.

Everyone had to be out of both transition areas by 6:15 am.  Because I had gotten to the race site so early, this was not a problem for me at all!!  At 6:30 am, the professional men started their race, at 6:35 the professional women started their race and then the age groupers went in waves.  I was in wave 12 and was allowed to enter the water at 7:02 am.  Because this is a floating swim start, we had to swim out to the start buoys and float until 7:04 when the air horn went off.  I love the floating swim start…it gives me plenty of time to acclimate to the water temperatures (and increase the temperature in my wetsuit a little 🙂 ) before starting the swim.

7:04…we were off!!  “OH MY…This water is rather choppy!!”  I was trying to do my bilateral breathing, but it wasn’t working.  I took water in with nearly every breath.  “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate back down.  Ok…let’s try this again, but breathing every stroke with 3 strokes on the right and then 3 strokes on the left…3…2…1…go.”  That wasn’t working either…these waves were getting in my way and I was still taking in water instead of oxygen…not to mention all of the other athletes kicking and hitting around me in the same dilema all floundering for a little air.  “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate down.  Ok…let’s try this again, but breathe only on your right side with every stroke.  This is where you are most comfortable anyway, so give it a try…3…2…1…go.”  Finally something that works…well occasionally!!  “Nice and steady, straight swimming, breathe…Nice groove you are in!!  Keep this up!!”  I continued to stay mentally focused throughout the swim.  As I approached the swim exit, the swim traffic really picked up as athletes of many different waves were all trying to exit the swim at once.  I stood up, ran up the ramp, looked at my watch…”HOLY COW!!  39:05 with those waves…AWESOME.”  I yelled to my husband…”39 minute swim…Wahoo!!” and continued on my way to T2.

39:05 swim for 1.2 miles in rough water...YAY!!  PR number one for the day...
39:05 swim for 1.2 miles in rough water…YAY!! PR number one for the day…

At T2, I inhaled my Oreos, stripped my wetsuit, drank some water, geared up for the bike and was off…4:38 in T1…What was I doing?!?!?!?

Onto the bike…I knew this was a challenging bike course and decided to take it easy out of the park and up the first big climb.  “Keep your heart rate low, stay focused, believe in yourself and your training.”  I was staying focused and really excited about how I was performing on the bike…about mile 18 I dropped my chain on a hill climb, so I quickly put the chain back on and continued to climb…”Remember, focus on what you can control…yes your chain dropped, but it is back on and you have the ability to let it bother you or throw your frustrations in the ditch and leave them on the side of the road…” I chose to leave my frustrations in the ditch and move forward 🙂  I continued to feel strong and in control!!  At the first turn around, I was excited to get around the cone and have the wind at my back…oh yeah…it was predicted to have winds at about 10 mph winds from the WNW, but they were closer to 17 mph with gusts over 20.  “Wind…Kiss Me Harder!! Push me back to the next turn around cone…”  I continued to feel strong and in control of my race.  I was alternating Oreo cookies and Carbo Pro for nutrition every 30 minutes and drinking lots of water, so I felt really good.  “Finally, the 2nd turn around and I can head back to Clinton Lake Campground…YEEHAW!!”  At about mile 50, my nemesis appeared, but this time I was going to conquer it!!  In 2010 I remember struggling to stay around 5 mph while climbing this hill…NOT TODAY!!  I was able to maintain between 9 and 10 mph as I climbed…YAY!!  I have gotten stronger on the bike!!  Time to push into T2…

Coming into T2 from the 56 mile bike ride through the hilly Lawrence country side...
Coming into T2 from the 56 mile bike ride through the hilly Lawrence country side…

At T2, I quickly changed out of my bike gear and into my running gear (or so I thought)…2:57 for T2…WHAT AM I DOING IN MY TRANSITIONS?!?!?!?!?

Oh well…put it behind you, focus and get out on the run!!  I usually struggle to keep my heart rate low when I start the run since I usually start out too fast, but I was able to keep my HR low and maintain a nice, even pace around a 9 minute mile for the first couple of miles.  I was feeling really full off the bike, so I decided to just drink water and suck on orange slices for the first few aid stations, see how I felt by mile 6-7 of the run and reevaluate whether I would consume the Honey Stinger Chews I was carrying.  This plan worked quite well for me and I ended up not consuming anything other than water and orange slices for the entire 13.1 mile run.

Feeling strong on the run!!
Feeling strong on the run!!

While running a race, I typically spend the first 1/2 of the race finding my groove (depending on the distance of the race)…both physically and mentally.  During the second 1/2 of the race, I start to look for people to “pick off” while I’m running.  As I pass people, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” chorus plays in my head…it has been known to escape from my lips on accident a time or two…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNQRfBAzSzo

This experience held true on Sunday during the run portion of my race.  After completing the first loop of the run (only walking through the water stops), I made a pack with myself that I would continue to push forward, finish strong and only walk through the water stops.  This strategy allowed me to pass MANY people on the run and “Another One Bites the Dust” continued to play in my head.  Remember that wind on the bike…well, it made for some good air conditioning on the run.  Adam was in my head…”Kiss me harder wind.”  With only 2 miles to go, I picked up the pace a bit and finished strong…1:59:18…YAY!!

Finishers medal around my neck!!  70.3 miles in 6:05:53...that is nearly a 27 minute PR!!
Finishers medal around my neck!! 70.3 miles in 6:05:53…that is nearly a 27 minute PR!!
Finisher Certificate
2013 Finisher Certificate

I was overjoyed with my finish!!  While I didn’t quite reach my sub 6 hour time goal for this race, I did meet every performance goal that I set out to accomplish and I still had a 27 minute PR on a VERY challenging course…What could make this day better?!?!?!  How about a finisher photo with Hines Ward (professional football player for the Pittsburg Steelers)…

Zoom Performance Athletes and Hines Ward...Congratulations to all!!
Zoom Performance Athletes and Hines Ward…Congratulations to all!!

When my husband asked Hines which hurts worse, getting hit by a linebacker or completing a 70.3 distance event, Hines immediately responded with, “Definitely this!!”