If you are long-time Trimarni blog reader, you likely know that I have dealt with a series of "injuries". Nothing that was able to be diagnosed by multiple MRIs, x-rays or countless PT sessions but something serious enough to prevent me from running for weeks to months at a time....over a course of 3-4 years. With poor judgement as to the serious of a confusing butt/hip problem back in 2007 (just 30 ish days before my second IM - world championships in Kona), I decided to "race" in Kona after over 30 days of not running and no surprise, it really made things worse.....for the long-term My agonizing finish over the finish line landed me on NBC for the Kona coverage....however, not how I'd like to remember that magical (painful) race and something 100% within my control at one time, that has continued to haunt me whenever I head out for a run.
Luckily, I have only be compromised in my hips and glutes, never any pain in my ITB, calves, knee or anything below the hip. Also, no fractures or broken bones in my life..just a lot of muscular skeletal aches and pains.
Back from my swimming days in HS and College, I constantly dealt with back problems due to massive inflammation that never left my back. I suppose that is my body being my body...and I am willing to accept that.
Looking back, I recognize that I have been able to accomplish a lot in my sport career since 2007 but because of my decision to race "injured", I have dealt with numerous residual flare-ups and pains in my piriformis, lower and upper back, groin and hip area. However, I refuse to let any obstacle stop my love for triathlons, running and competition...and luckily, I have been 99% pain free for over a year.
After a PR at IMKY (10:54) in 2009, I learned that I could ride on hills...and I liked them! After Karel riding the IMWI course while at Trek World, he told me this would be a perfect course for me in 2010. Scared as to the difficulty of the course, I went into IMWI in great shape and a goal to qualify for Kona. 10:57 and a roll down slot thanks to Jackie A. turning pro and I qualified for KONA again....it has been a long triathlon journey but I have not only learned to respect my body with training but also to address my strengths as an athlete. Because I don't plan on ending this fun journey anytime soon, I love knowing that I have a lot more work to do to get better..for when you work hard, results will come.
I understand that I am not crazy fast compared to some athletes but in picking my races, I have been able to succeed to the best of my ability..in other words..putting my training to the test. This is something that I strive for other athletes to do for themselves for I find that many athletes continue to race for times and speed and often compromise their own performances by focusing on elements out of their control.... only to try to have a good race on paper (AKA paper/internet race results).
For my strengths of pacing, preparation, nutrition and mentality have allowed me to succeed at the Ironman distance - which is my strength - but keeps me coming back for more fun in the sport of triathlon....at any distance.
As a coach and athlete, I focus on a balanced approach to training, working toward quality over quantity and it works exceptionally well. No workout is without a purpose and consistency is the goal.
But, despite racing in countless races over the past 5 years, I still have it in my mind that I am still "injured".
Thanks to blog world and facebook, I have met an amazing group of individuals who have helped me in my personal and athletic life. I suppose I can call these people "mentors" but I'm also lucky that I can call these people my friends.
For someone who I have never met and lives on the other coast, I can't describe the passion that Gloria (Dr. G) has for helping others who are need of help.
I have been in contact with Gloria over the past year and she has helped me out in so many ways...as a sport psychologist, she is exactly what I needed in my life.
For I did the work on making my glutes stronger, learning that I need regular massages and epson salt baths to reduce constant inflammation, religiously wearing compression when I training focusing on training hard and smart but recovering harder....however, what was missing, was Gloria.
Before my races, I contact Gloria. In my head, I have a lot of work to do. As much as I try to stay positive and focus on myself, I still have limiters with my past. Perhaps, this is part of the difficulty in being an athlete for it is easy to tell yourself to do more but rather, forgetting (or learning from) the past and focusing on the now and what you CAN do.
Here's the email I received from Gloria last week....
"So look.....I know, and you know, that you'll turn it on come Saturday. I want to challenge you to start owning the fact that you can run! All your recent road race performances have demonstrated that. It's evidence that you are doing what is right for your body. Uncomfortable is a good thing, it means breakthrough is right on the other side. Trust yourself and your experience, but don't let the past hijack your present. The point of power is always in the present moment, and the power to chose your thoughts which create your experience. You got this girl! Get your mantra or let it come to you on race day. Bank positive mental images and associated feelings with those images so you can retrieve them on race day. You got what it takes to adjust to whatever comes on race day. To me that's what being a triathlete is about...efficient adjustment to race day circumstances- phsyically and mentally.
Affirm to yourself that on race day you will have the wisdom, discernment and physical ability to make it through each situation with ease, strength, speed, and focus. That your best performance for that day will manifest. That in each moment you are doing the absolute best you can with what you have....and so it is."
And with that - I went into the race confident, positive and happy. There was no good luck needed for this race...I had prepared the best I could. More so, Karel and I have been studying the 70.3 distance - particularly from other notable coaches, professional athletes and other "top" athletes, in learning how to "race" the 70.3 distance. Because the half ironman distance allows for higher-intensity efforts (compared to the IM distance), it's easy to lose form on the swim and swim inefficiently, overdo-it on the bike and suffer on the run. We see this all the time in athletes and it was a goal of mine to race smart and to pace my race.
After our 4 hour drive to Macon, Campy, Karel and me headed to the race venue to check-in my bike and to pick up my race stuff. It was a great feeling to rack my bike near the front of the transition area with a few amazing women (and men) around me. I was #18 and racing in the open category. I wasn't scared or nervous, just excited to put all my training to the test. After doing this race 2 times (2009 and 2010) and coming back for more heat and hills, I was really looking forward to the "cool" mid-80 degree temps, great competition and friendly atmosphere.
We headed over to the Swanger's house (kenny and stefanie - two of our coaching athletes) for the weekend. We had a delicious dinner around 5:45pm at their house - red potatoes, sweet potatoes (both grilled), salad, squash, zucchini and mushroom stir-fry and a hardboiled egg for me. I made sure to eat every few hours, mini meals throughout the day. I had been eating normally all week, slightly increasing my carb intake of whole grains over the past 2-3 days. With smaller meals and portions, I alleviated the normal "bloat" feeling that comes from increasing carbs (which is due to added water with storing of carbs) and although I rarely weigh myself, I have a rule to athletes - don't weigh yourself on race week! You have nothing to prove to the scale.
After dinner, I sipped on a FIZZ from Hammer and we relaxed a little while I multi-tasked by doing some stretching on the foam roller and with my trigger point ball for my piriformis. Feeling great, I had no worries going to bed around 9pm and I slept great...until 3:30am.
Not sure why I was wide awake at 3:30am but I managed to fall back asleep until my alarm went off at 4:10am. Luckily, I woke up again feeling fresh (worried I would wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and be completely out of it - that is why I do not like athletes to wake up and eat and then go back to bed..get your full sleep!).
I let Campy outside while the coffee was getting ready and I prepared a whole grain pita (30g of carbs, which is the minimum I recommend for athletes before a race), with 3/4 large banana and spoonful peanut butter. I topped it with a few pumpkin seeds and cinnamon. Yum - went down great. Had a full glass of water with breakfast, along with coffee and by 4:50am I was almost ready.
I had prepared my bottles on Friday by putting 2 scoops Hammer Strawberry Heed + 1/2 scoop Sustaine energy in 3 bottles and that made it easy on race day morning to just put water in the bottles. I made an extra bottle of 1 scoop heed to sip at the venue. I also prepared 1 gel flask with 3 huckleberry gels for the run mixed with water.
I took 2 endurolytes and 2 Hammer Endurance Amino's and we were off by 5:05am.
I arrived to the race venue calm and relaxed. I kept whispering to Karel "I feel great". He would smile and say "I know..you will do great".
I set up my transition area (which always seems to feel like it takes forever!) and re-checked a zillion times to make sure I liked my layout.
I had my swim cap and goggles (and spare goggles for Karel to hold) and my speed suit.
In my transition area on my pink Oakley towel:
Garmin watch for bike (it isn't water proof so I put it on in T1 - I will be getting a new one soon..hint to Karel!)
Socks (I believe in being comfortable during races and I feel most comfortable with socks)
Cycling shoes (I don't put them on the bike, it takes me 5 seconds to put them on)
Giro aero helmet
Commit Oakley women sunglasses
Race belt (with safety pins for my number because I always seem to pull it off the cord that holds my number)
Once my transition area was set-up, I put on my old (but still good condition) Brooks Launch running shoes (same as in transition) to wear for a run warm-up.
After dropping off my transition bag to the car, I did around 10-15 min of jogging/walking/active stretching and still feeling good, I went back to the car to remove my Hammer jacket and to put on my TYR speed suit.
The water was 84 degrees but didn't feel hot. It was absolutely perfect considering that the air temps was in the low 70's. What a beautiful morning in a beautiful lake!!
I warmed up in the water for around 10 minutes and once I heard the race was delayed for 10 minutes, I was happy to stay in the water.
Around 7:05am, the Open/Elite group of men and women were called to the start and it was a very clam and relaxed vibe. I knew several of the open women (Kelly Fillnow and Nina Kraft) and after the race, met a few of the others (Dee Atkins and Bethany Rutledge). Another bonus of racing...meeting so many amazing athletes and wonderfullly nice and passionate individuals.
And we were off!!
1.2 mile SWIM
The swim felt great. The sun was blarring so it was hard to spot but I tried to do the best I could. I felt like I was having a great swim - ahead of a group behind me but not in the lead group. I stayed focused on my stroke since I have been working on my catch, head position and reach n' roll. Yes - after 19 years of competitive swimming I still "practice" swimming and have to think in the water.
Nearing the end of the race, I felt like I was finally getting my groove. Perhaps not doing a half ironman in 2 years but completing 2 Ironman's since 2011, I have long-distance mentality when I "race" the short distance races. I felt great and as I exited the water, I didn't look back as I made my way up a steep, short climb to the transition area.
I spotted Karel and the first thing he said as I was running up the hill was "your second female behind Nina Kraft!" WOW - I thought to myself...then he said "everyone was slow today in the water."
Seeing the 35 minutes on the clock as I entered transition, I was glad to know that others were slow as well. Oh well - it is what it is...I felt great, not tired at all and ready to bike my plan.
56 Mile Bike
And this is why I love this course.....
Well, more like love this challenging course.
It's hard for me as a Floridian to describe this course because for someone who loves hills but rarely gets to train on them, it's all very relative in my description of this course. But I will be honest and no matter who describes this course, they will say it is challenging. One big loop but a super safe and bike friendly course....although you will get the occasional 1 or 2 (or 3) dogs chasing you along the rolling hills.
The temperature was comfortable but it was getting a little warm (but not crazy). Again, as a Floridian, I didn't find the temps unbearable but rather really great for this day. The wind was picking up a bit and I could feel it on some of the flats and climbs.
My goal was to take it easy for the first 3 miles for if you see the map, the course really starts around mile 15. Therefore, I wanted to build my effort for the beginning punchy hills and to not overdo it. This has been a focus of mine in order to have a strong run off the bike and to ease some of my worries for not having the energy to run strong off the bike..now that I am not injured! :)
I was passed by Kelly around mile 1.5 and she was gone. However, I rode my race (despite my power meter not working - this has only happened twice before in training) so I just focused on what I could control and I monitored my cadence, HR and speed with my new Garmin 500 (happy birthday present from Karel!).
I felt strong on the entire bike and never tired. I sipped on my bottles every 5 miles or 15 minutes and despite being passed by several guys, I remained third female until mile 53. Dee passed me quick and knowing she is a phenomenal runner, I didn't try to go crazy and chase her down but just kept focusing on my race.
I ended up grabbing cold water at the last of 3 aid stations in order to take a sip and to pour on my body to cool my body and to reduce core temp the best I could, before the run.
I saw Karel on his mountain bike around mile 55 and he snapped a pic and cheered me on. I'm the dot in the right of the pic...way up there climbing another hill.
I felt great and had a full tank of energy...questioning if I took it too easy, I just stayed focused as I still had a half marathon to run and that would let me know how well (or not well) I paced the bike. For I pushed the best I could without my power meter working but didn't overcook myself. In analyzing my file and past races (both half and full IM), I know I have a lot more work I can do on the bike. Specifically, I need to get more comfortable pushing a bit harder in the half because I felt as if I was just getting warmed up around mile 50.
13.1 mile run
I quickly found my stride after a super quick transition. I started my garmin in transition so I hit lap as soon as I exited the transition area.
Karel has been helping me with my run by researching the strides of some of the top runners. We have really worked on me having a shorter stride..more like a shuffle and easing into my groove. It totally paid off along with a bank of memories of SUPER tough mile repeaters off the bike.
However, I did have a quick low moment at mile 2 when I thought to myself "oh, I just want to have fun and not race." But that quickly passed when Karel told me that I was fourth female and no other girl was in sight. By mile 2.5, my fun decision stayed with me but I was also ready to race.
With Dee, Kelly and Nina (3,2 and 1st) in a totally other zip code than me on the run, I was reminded by Karel (pre-race) to just "race my race". Yes coach!
This is a really great course for the mind because it has a 4 mile out section, then a u-turn and you run back to mile 6 and make a right hand turn to mile 8, then a u-turn to a right hand turn to mile 9, then eventually another u-turn and back to another right hand turn to run you to mile 10. Then you have a long road (that seems to take forever) until mile 11 and then a right hand turn to a straight shot to the finish. So, a great course for the mind..but a tough one on the quads, calves and hamstrings.
And this is why I paced myself on the run. There is no shortage of hills on this run and with a slight climb to the finish line area, you are either going up or down on this course.....my body will admit that I felt like I was going mostly up!
I sipped my gel flask every mile at the aid station and sipped cold water at every aid station. I had the volunteers pour water on my head (multi-task) as I sipped the water. The volunteers were AMAZING and the cheers were non stop from athletes. I guess I was smiling the whole race because I had a lot of people tell me great job and "great smile". Well, I was happy with how I was feeling and couldn't help but smile...I love what I am able to do with my body!
Since it was hard to monitor my pace on this course, I controlled my heart rate the best I could and when I found it getting high (either from hills or heat), I just jogged (or twice I walked for about 5-10 seconds) for a few seconds to "recover".
Amazingly, not once did I have a low moment. I felt so energized and the race just went by SO fast! I was feeling SO great and I LOVED this feeling....so THIS is what pacing is all about!!!
Having the run of my life, my legs got a bit heavy around mile 10. I saw Bethany in the other direction (age grouper who I met after the race and an incredibly talented athlete) nearing me and she was within 1.5 miles from me. Knowing that she started 9 minutes behind me, I had a feeling she would bump me out of 4th place overall female because she was running FAST but in order to place top 5 for prize money, I didn't take any chances with anyone else behind me and gave everything I could for the last 2 miles.
Something came over me around mile 11 and with my legs getting really heavy I just told myself "well, duh Marni...it's a half ironman and you are racing!"
Oh yeah...racing - Totally forgot what that felt like at this distance...and to be able to "race" a run felt A-mazing!!
My last mile - like always - was for Campy as I always do my last mile of my runs with Campy. It is always a special mile for me because it is fun to see his happy face, running so freely with his 11lb body.
I managed to pick up the pace and just smiled from ear to ear as I was nearing the last 1/2 mile. I was hearing my name from volunteers (which I later learned were blog readers of mine - thank you!) and I gave everything I could to "sprint" to the finish.
(wow - did I really do that?)
(Kelly Fillnow - 2nd place female and a 1:25 run PR!)
(The best coach....and my hubby!)
(I'm totally bummed I missed the awards that were suppose to start at 3pm. They started much earlier. By the time I got Campy who was at their house and quickly got showered, they were done with the overall awards. I always stay for awards when I receive one and I find it important that athletes stick around for awards. The race director handed me my check for $195 and Karel gave me the biggest hug - he was super proud of me...money or no money, I had one of the best races of my life at this distance).
(Thanks to Stefanie - and baby- and Kenny for cheering me on and taking pics...also for the hospitality and great food!! Makes traveling to races super stress-free!)
After the awards, Campy played in the water and showed us how he can attack the tiny waves. Then, off for pizza at a local Macon pizza joint.
Stats from the race
5th overall female
Time: 5:08Swim: 35.14 (2nd open, 3rd overall female)
Bike: 2:48.2 (4th overall female)
Run: 1:42.4 (11th overall female) - 6 minute PR on this course and my fastest ever run off the bike!
Run splits:Mile 1: 7:33
Mile 2: 7:47
Mile 3: 7:27
Mile 4: 8:00
Mile 5: 8:06
Mile 6: 8:21Mile 7: 7:52
Mile 8: 7:57Mile 9: 7:51
Mile 10: 8:06
Mile 11: 8:21
Mile 12: 8:01Mile 13: 7:00 (thank you legs for letting me put my training to the test!)
Average pace: 7:55 min/mile (Finally!!!)
Although I didn't PR and on paper had a "slow" race compared to many, I am so happy with my execution and how I enjoyed every mile...all 70.3. Exhausted when I crossed the line, I felt so alive for all parts of the race.
You see, there is nothing to prove to anyone with a race on paper. It's what happens within a race that will drive you, motivate you and inspire you to become better, stronger and smarter...and certainly, your description of your race may or may not inspire others who may look up to you for what you are able to do..even if you "only" did x-time for x-miles.
For on race day - you are doing the work. Certainly, others helped you get to the race start feeling fresh (sport nutritionist, coach, family, training buddies) but it is up to you to execute a well-made race day plan and to have the right attitude to be satisfied with what the day offers you...for you can either throw in the towel before the race begins or race smart and feel amazing as you crosh the finish line.
This race is one of my favorites for many reasons but what I love about this race is the opportunity to race with so many talented athletes as well as a large group of people who absolutely love triathlon racing. With a distance and race for everyone (duathlon, aquathlon, sprint tri, half iron, relay), this is a great challenging course that is fair and safe. If you are seeking a tough course but a lot of fun (and great food afterward), I highly recommend the Coliseum Rock n' Rollman in Macon, GA.
Thank you to the companies who help me live a consistently great, active and healthful lifestyle...love this stuff!!!