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Sweat from the Heart: Ironman 70.3 Worlds Race Report

Sweat from the Heart: Ironman 70.3 Worlds Race Report

Sweat from the Heart: Bree’s blog on Coaching, Racing and Life.

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Ironman 70.3 World Championships Race Report

I had the race of my life on September 7, 2014. I say this for many reasons: my mind was in the right place, my nutrition plan was solid, and I made an effort to enjoy every moment- even the ones that hurt. Having fun, fueling right and staying positive are all prescriptions for a good race.

I’m a coach, but also an athlete, so, this report will have two perspectives: sharing my experience as an athlete, as well as a coach. Annnd this report will be lengthy. Consider yourself warned 😉

How I Qualified: This is how it all started! I won a slot to Worlds from my second place finish at Buffalo Springs. There was one slot awarded to the Women’s 30-34 age group, and since the first place woman already qualified for Worlds at another race, it rolled down to ME!!! So there I was, two years since my last race, having just finished my second Half Ironman, and I was going to Ironman 70.3 Worlds!!! With financial support from friends and family, I was able to afford the trip. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your love and support.

Worlds Qualifier. What a blessing!

Worlds Qualifier. What a blessing!

Training: I feel this part is important to share because a race report has everything to do with the training and preparation leading up to the race. I especially want to share this, because I was injured going into Worlds.

For four weeks after Buffalo Springs, my training was going well. I was hitting my time goals, logging in lots of miles and feeling strong. During this time I was training for both Worlds and Ironman Arizona. My confidence was increasing and I was feeling certain I would get a PR at Worlds. I wanted to go sub 5:22 (essentially beating my time from Buffalo Springs). Then on a long run one Sunday, everything went south. And it stayed south. Four weeks from Worlds and I couldn’t run. My ITB and TFL were pissed and the pain was so bad that my left knee could not bend. I figured a massage would fix it and I would be back to running in a few days.

*4 weeks out: I took one week off from running and just swam and rode my bike. I also got a new bike fit.

*3 weeks out: I tried to run, but 16 minutes into my run, pain would set in and force me to stop. So, I didn’t run the rest of the week, just swam and rode my bike. I saw Aaron Haspel, an Active Release Therapist, as well as Dale Londos, another Active Release Therapist. Both are talented in their own way and both helped me tremendously! I also made an appointment with Savitri Frizzell  for Neuromuscular Therapy. She, too, helped me. She gave me stretches to do as homework and I did them religiously at home.

Aaron taped me after our first treatment

Aaron taped me after our first treatment

*2 weeks out: Tried to run again, and this time I made it 20 minutes until the pain would set in and force me to stop. I figured this was progress. {Honesty here: I was beginning to lose hope I could run at Worlds. It took A LOT of effort to remain positive and have faith. Especially when you have to walk back to your car feeling defeated from a run you couldn’t finish}. During this week, I did acupuncture from an Acupuncturist named Leslie, saw my chiropractor, Andy Moore, and bought new run shoes from We Run San Antonio. I was hoping I could do more training this week, such as swimming and cycling, but this week Cora didn’t have school, so I only got to workout TWICE. Twice. I was not happy.

acupuntrure

The needles didn’t hurt!

*Race Week: The last attempt to decrease the inflammation and pain, I tried CryoFit. This, too, helped and the pain was significantly decreasing. At this point I could run 30 minutes until pain would set in. Progress, but not 100%. Also, this week, I ran with the Solers group from the Broadway location, and as I was walking back feeling defeated because I couldn’t run more than 30 minutes and knowing I would be racing in 7 days, Paul Baltutis recommended I try a pair of Hokas. Now for a month I have refused this shoe. Edgar from We Run San Antonio encouraged me to try it, but I always refused. I am clumsy and with a shoe that has me several inches off the ground, I knew I would trip over my own two feet. But at this point, I was desperate and figured it was worth a try. I ran for 5 minutes, after my painful 30 minute run, with minimal pain at a sub 7 minute pace!!! I was amazed. Since the shoe was one that was returned from someone that didn’t like it, he said I could borrow it and give it a try. Eventually this shoe became my race shoe.

SO COLD!!!

SO COLD!!!

So during the month before Worlds, I ran 7 times. My longest run was 34 minutes. This doesn’t give one much confidence going in a triathlon race that includes a half marathon run.

Mental State in the weeks leading up to the race: I had moments of being positive and believing things would go well, and then moments of being negative and feeling like all was lost. I finally had a moment of clarity and realized that I would not get better if I kept focusing on the negative. A negative mind is not going to help my body heal. So, I focused on what I could do – swim, bike and walk – and made a race plan that included doing all three as fast as I could. And to enjoy the fact I was on the race course at Worlds!

Travel: My travel/race buddy was Kris Cordova. I first met her while waiting in line in a small conference room to register for Worlds. We made plans to travel together, share the expenses, as well as the experience. Smartest decision ever!!! Not only was it our first time going to Worlds, but we had so much in common, and had so much fun together! We laughed and laughed at just about everything. And this continued the whole weekend, and even after the race, in which we would get painful side cramps from all the belly laughs with sore muscles. I have never had so much fun traveling on an airplane and riding hours in a car. So. Much. Fun! I can only hope to do another race with her!

Too much fun! Seriously! We felt like kids!

Too much fun! Seriously! We felt like kids!

You never know when you need a helmet! ;)

You never know when you need a helmet! 😉

Pre-Race Preparations:

Friday: The day started with breakfast at the Mont-Tremblant Village. We ate at a quaint cafe that served delicious coffee. Upon ordering, we learned they had a coffee boat on the lake. Once we heard this, we couldn’t wait to swim to it! This will go down as my all time favorite swim. Seriously. We put on our wetsuits, snapped a few pictures of our cuteness, and jumped in the water and started swimming towards the coffee. Hanging on the boat and drinking the coffee was the coolest thing ever! The whole experience was amazing: clear water, gorgeous mountains, triathletes left and right, perfect weather, warm coffee in cool water, the list goes on. This was an incredible, unforgettable swim experience!

Ready to swim for coffee!

Ready to swim for coffee!

Friday Packet Pickup: The lines were long, but we didn’t care. It gave us a chance to meet people and talk about our favorite thing – triathlon. This was also our first chance to really check out the Village. It was so beautiful.

In the village, and on part of the run course! That hill was NO JOKE!

In the village, and on part of the run course! That hill was NO JOKE!

Friday Athlete Dinner: The food was free (it was nice to give our wallets a break) and surprisingly delicious. Salmon, chicken, salad, and steamed vegetables. The presentations were in French first, then English. It was so neat to hear French spoken as the primary language. All of this really made this race feel like the World Championships.

An Alamo 180 triathlete and dear friend, Mary Evelyn, made plans to come and cheer for me at Worlds. She told me that it’s important to have at least one person at a race cheering for you and offering support. She was right! She arrived Friday evening after the Athlete Dinner and I was so happy to see her face. She ended up being the best Sherpa any athlete could ask for. Love her to pieces!

Our Sherpa, Mary Evelyn!

Our Sherpa, Mary Evelyn!

Saturday Bike Ride & Race Bag Drop Off:  We picked up our bikes from Tri Bike Transport and took them out for a 20 minute spin. This loosen up ride was a little scary. Okay, a lot scary. It was raining, the roads were narrow, and there were so many cars coming into and out of the Village, that it made it difficult to safely share the road. Most of those drivers were distracted, so it made for a nerve-racking experience. Dawn told Kris to ride the last section of the bike course – the hilliest part – and to practice the descents. Good idea. I tagged along. We turned left after the traffic circle, as instructed, and headed down the road, which turned into “up the road” and then up, and up, and up. So far up, we stopped in our tracks. The hill was insanely steep and it kept on going. Our heart rates were through the roof and our legs were burning. And we figured this hill was one that we had to ascend AND descend during the race. We were not happy. We both have trepidation on steep descents with switchbacks. And on this day, it was wet. My tires were slipping as I descended the twisty hill. Cars were speeding up the hill and all I could invision was crashing into them as I came down. But I didn’t. I lived! However, this hill would visit me again race morning. Not happy. At least for me, this practice ride did nothing to boost my confidence (which was already low due to my running injury). But I had to let it go. We racked our bikes in transition and set up our T1 and T2 bags.

Stopping for a quick pic!

Stopping for a quick pic!

Setting up t2 bag

Setting up t2 bag

Mental state the morning of the race: As I stood on the beach, with two minutes until my wave started, my new race plan came to me like a bolt of lightning: “to live in the moment with confidence.” To me, it was so beautiful, tears swelled up. It was perfect! I didn’t need to worry about how my bike ride would go, I didn’t need to worry if I could run or not, I just needed to focus on the moment I was living in. This motto gave me an overwhelming sense of peace, and I was 100% ready for that cannon to go off.

Swim: I am pretty sure I was the only athlete wearing a sleeveless suit. I did feel a little out of place, but then again, I overheat in the water, so I wore my suit with confidence (again, my motto!) This suit choice ended up being perfect. The water temp was 65 degrees, and with the fast pace, I quickly began to warm up. If I wore a long sleeve, I think I would have overheated. The start was a running beach start. It wasn’t as aggressive as others I have done, but the pace was FAST from the moment the cannon shot. By the time I got to the second buoy, I was tired. At that moment I began to doubt if I could hold the pace. From reading the swim map the day before, I knew there were 16 buoys. With 14 more to go, and the fact I was getting tired, I needed a plan. To save energy I needed to find someone to draft off of. And then the opportunity struck: I kept feeling hands touch my feet. This went on for about 100m. I said to myself, “I need to be the one drafting, not her!” So I moved far right and slowed down a bit. She passed me on my left, and then I picked up the pace to stay on her hip. She was sighting and swimming straight, so all I had to do was breathe and watch her hips. I could settle into a rhythm and count down the buoys. All of this saved precious energy. When I saw the finish, I kicked harder to wake up the legs and ran out with a smile on my face knowing I had a great swim! This was my fastest swim yet, and my triceps were on fire. They didn’t let up until mid-way through the run. In my years of racing, I have learned that you can swim fast and still have energy to bike and run well. Don’t be afraid the push the pace.

The girl in front is who I drafted off.

I drafted off the girl in front of me. It was so magical I added her picture to my report 🙂

T1: This was the longest swim-to-bike transition I have ever done. While there was red carpet, we were still running on hard asphalt. We made our way into the tent to grab our bike bag (that contained your helmet, bike shoes, sunglasses, and any other bike clothing). Once you grab your bag, you have to run to the other side of the tent to the chairs to get prepped. I wore socks to keep my toes warm as the temperatures were in the high 50’s. The sun was coming out, so I knew I would eventually heat up,  so I wore just my tri suit. Kris and I talked all morning about what we would wear, and since we couldn’t decide, we packed the arm warmers, jacket and beanie in the T1 bag just in case. It’s always good to overpack and decide in the moment.

Bike: I love my Shiv so much that I couldn’t wait to get on it! 🙂 The bike course was either up or down. It was not flat. Many of the roads were narrow, and in fact, there were sections of “no passing zones” (that no one obeyed) and with thousands of athletes on the course, it became difficult to safely navigate, especially on the turns. I was the fourth swim wave, and out of the water in front of a lot of men, so I knew I would be passed by them on the bike. What I didn’t expect were the many pelotons taking over the course. These men, forming groups of 100+, sounded like a swarm of bees coming from behind with no regard as they engulfed you. My first experience with it was while making a sharp right turn at the bottom of a hill. As I was trying to make my way left to take the turn, a group of 100+ men passed me and shoved me so far to the curb, I thought I was going to crash. I became angry.  And again, when trying to pass a girl up a hill, I looked over my shoulder to see another group coming up behind me. I slowed down and waited for them to pass, before I proceeded to pass the girl. I must have had 4 different peloton groups, of 100+ riders, pass me. The drafting on this course was unbelieveable. It made me nervous and I had a hard time trying to stay focused. But then, I remembered my motto, and kept saying it over and over. In retrospect, what I should have done, and what I will do in the future, is hold my ground. I will not let them push me to the side, I will make a pass when I need to, not wait for them to pass me first. I need to ride more aggressively. And if I get stuck, I will use that as a time to fuel up, take a deep breath, and remain positive. I love all these lessons races teach you!

Riding through the towns was an amazing experience. Hearing the locals cheer for you in French makes you feel like a total rock star. I felt like I was in the Tour de France. And several times I was overcome with happy tears. I knew how much of a gift this experience was.

Gorgeous countryside!

Gorgeous countryside!

The last 10 miles were no joke! Up, down, up, down. Wow! You had to get out of the saddle for many of those hills. It was on this section I learned I needed to practice my descents. I would pass athletes on the hills, only to lose them on the descents. I didn’t let it bother me. I just told myself to add that to my training plan as it’s an obvious “limiter.” Ha! So in my trepidation on the twisty descents, I told myself, “live in the moment with confidence.” It really helped.

Oh, and that hill we rode the day before the race….was never part of the race course! Ha!!! We went the wrong way. Once I learned that, I became more confident 🙂 I also had to laugh at myself. How ridiculous!

I never had to pee on the bike. I peed while I sat in transition (on the floor, not the chair – that would be rude and gross).

As far as nutrition, I drank water and EFS drink every 20 minutes. I took my EFS Liquid Shot every 40 minutes. I brought with me gluten free bread with peanut butter and jelly. I also had a Snickers bar with me. I bring solid food at every workout and race just in case I cannot stomach my liquid nutrition. It’s always best to be safe and pack more than you need. Eating/drinking early and often ensures you don’t get into a nutritional deficit. Once you become dehydrated/hungry, it’s almost impossible to reverse it.

T2: Jumping off the bike and having a volunteer take my bike off my hands made me feel like a pro. I ran to my run bag, grabbed it, and ran over to the chairs to get prepped. I sat down on the astroturf and peed. I’ve done both methods – peeing while on the run course and peeing while seated in transition, and I have to say, peeing while sitting is the way to go! And my shoes don’t stink 🙂 I grabbed my Liquid Shot (a new, full one) and took off running.

Run: I knew going into the run that I was injured. I also knew that I had only run 7 times in the past month. I was having doubts, but I focused on my motto, “live in the moment with confidence.” My pace was fast from the start.  I was faced with a difficult decision: slow down and be conservative in hopes I can run the whole distance, or maintain the fast pace and live moment by moment. I decided to follow my motto. In that moment, I felt strong, so I kept going. Every few minutes I would begin to doubt, but I told myself to focus on the moment I was living in. The future was not in the moment. The future was also the unknown. I needed to focus on what I knew – that I felt strong and needed to keep moving forward with confidence. By mile 6, I began to feel my TFL and ITB, but this was also when everything hurt 🙂 I told myself, “the fastest way to end the pain and get off the run course means to keep running fast.” So I gutted it out and kept running. The run course was not easy. It was either up or down. My mind started to wander, pain was setting in, and negatives thoughts were filling my mind. At this moment, I knew I needed to focus on positive things. The run course was the route we traveled all weekend from our condo to the Village, and back. I decided to break up the course with special landmarks: running to Moore Lake where we took pictures, running to our favorite dinner spot, running to our favorite breakfast pub, running to the library, running to the boats were we took pictures on our bikes, running to the Village, etc. All the hilarious memories associated with each kept me thinking about the positive despite the pain.

My expression says it all. I was hurting!

My expression says it all. I was hurting!

Each time I ran over a timing mat, I could see faces of fans from back home. I knew I was being tracked, and it helped so much. It was like virtual cheerleaders. I imagined the cheers, the words of encouragement, and the jumping up and down. It kept me going. So thank you!!!

This was imprinted on my mind

This was imprinted on my mind

As far as nutrition, I sipped on my EFS Fuel shot every 10 minutes, or so, and drank water at each aid station. By mile 8, I began drinking coke. It was the perfect pick-me-up! I looked forward to each aid station after mile 8 as I knew I would get coke. To make my time most efficient, I sucked down my EFS Fuel shot minutes before each aid station, so all I had to do was grab water and drink while I was running. This method proved to MUCH better than trying to take my fuel and drink water at the same time. A few times, I would sip on the EFS Fuel shot only to have a hard time swallowing it. So I would just let it sit in my mouth until I could grab water to wash it down.

I loved seeing Dawn and Kris on the run course! I helps to see familiar faces and cheer for each other as you pass by. Coming through the Village the first time (we had to go through it twice) gave me a burst of energy when I saw Mary Evelyn’s face. She was so happy to see me and that joy gave me positive energy. Seeing her the second time was icing on the cake. She yells out, “Bree! You did it!! You’re done!!” And I was. I had 200m to go!

Finish: Running down the finish shoot was a moment I will never forget. That’s when it occurred to me I had the race of my life. I had let go of fear and doubt and replaced it with confidence. I had lived in every moment and forced myself to find the positive amidst the pain. I crossed the line and the first thing I wanted to do was look at my time. I saw 5:08:14 and cried. I cried so much that an athlete next to me asked, “are you okay?” I said, while crying, “yes, I am so happy. These are happy tears. I was injured going into this race and didn’t think I would finish, but here I am, and I beat my time goal!” We came up to the finishers medal section, and as I reached out to grab my medal, a volunteer told me, “no, I want to put this medal around your neck.” It was a beautiful moment. And the person I wanted to see was Mary Evelyn. I went searching for her and eventually we found each other. I fell into her arms. She congratulated me and kept saying over and over, “I’m so proud of you. You did it.” I kept saying, “I can’t believe I did it!” I’m sure other things were said, but I don’t remember. We were both crying. It was such a beautiful moment. One in which I will never forget. Thank you Mary Evelyn for being there for me.

Amazing moment!

Amazing moment!

We headed back to look for Kris and she was ROCKING it at she ran down the finish shoot! Gorgeous smile and looking strong!

Recovery: Kris and I both agreed, everything that we could have done wrong for recovery, we did it. The food after the race consisted of broccoli, celery, and cauliflower (how in the hell are we supposed to eat that!?) and pasta (I’m gluten-free). So I grabbed chocolate milk, a coke and water. I wanted food, but there was nothing appealing. We grabbed all our gear, and headed back to the car. We showered off at our condo, celebrated with champagne, and went to a pub in the Village. I had a margarita with a burger (with lettuce as the bun). Then, a decaf coffee with a shot of Baileys in it. We woke up hungry in the middle of the night, but there was no food in the condo. We woke up at 5:45am to be out the door by 6:15am to make the 2 hour drive with rush hour traffic to be on time for our flight (which included returning a rental car and customs). We didn’t have time to stop for breakfast. It wasn’t until 10am that we could eat something. This was a long time to go without food. And right now as I type this report, I still feel drained. It’s taking me too long to recover, too long, and I know it’s because we were nutritionally deficient after the race.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Welcome Home Celebration: 

I was floored, honored, and humbled to have my Alamo 180 family waiting for me and Kris at the airport. When we came down the escalators, there they were with flowers, balloons and cards to congratulate us both on a strong finish! I love my Alamo 180 family so much and this was the perfect way to end a perfect race/trip.

Best homecoming ever!

Best homecoming ever!

Bragging Rights!!

My hubs – Thankful for my husband Jeff supporting my personal passion for triathlon. I would be gone for hours and hours and he would watch our daughter so I could get in the miles I needed. He gave me massages, cooked dinner, took Cora out of the house so I could nap, and supported me in any way I needed. Thanks babe! He would have been at Worlds if not for having to teach classes at the studio. Love you!

Race Week – my parents, my aunt Karen, and Crystal and Doug Tomlinson, all took turns watching Cora while I was gone and Jeff was working at the Alamo 180 studio. This is huge because Jeff leaves the house at 4:45am to teach the 5:00am class, so Cora spent the night at their houses on rotation.

Cora – for enduring everything like a champ!

Mary Evelyn – for buying a plane ticket and flying to Worlds to cheer/support me. I thanked her so many times, she finally told me, “stop thanking me!” Ha! Having her there with me made the trip feel even more special. It was fun getting to spend some quality time with her.  Thank you Mary Evelyn (this is the last time I thank you – I promise 😉 )

Reflection:

Things I did right:

1. Rested when my body needed it. Even though I was getting treatment, the fact I stopped running and rested my body helped the healing process. It paid off better than I thought possible.

2. You can’t go wrong with a motto that forces you to live in the moment with confidence.

3. Wearing brand new run shoes in a race isn’t wise, but when the shoes you had before were causing problems, it’s the best option. The Hokas are the $%*#

4. Going into the race with a plan. Don’t make one up as you go. This is a prescription for disaster. It’s hard to come up with a solid plan when your body is tired and your brain is fuzzy.

5. Keep moving forward, even when everything hurts, because it’s harder to start back up once you have stopped. The faster you run, the sooner it’s over with.

6. Overpacked my T1 and T2 bags because you never know what you might need.

7. Put my both run shoes and bike shoes in ziplock bags inside the T1 and T2 bags to ensure the rain would not soak them throughout the day and night (it had been off and on raining).

Opportunities for improvement:

1. Practice descending. I lost a lot of time here.

2. If groups of riders blast by me, I won’t let it anger me, or event startle me. I will instead focus on my goals.

3. I will hold my ground on the bike course. I will watch my line and own it.

4. I will pack a post-race care package after every race. So if we wake up hungry, or I need a snack, I will have it.

5. Make sure I am going the correct way if I’m going to practice part of the bike course.

So what’s next? I am taking this week easy to ensure I am fully recovered. I will go back to the chiropractor, get a massage, and another acupuncture session. Beginning next week, I will pick my miles back up, but conservatively. Ironman Arizona is just around the corner. Race day is November 16th.

A the last bit of advice to leave you with: rest is hard to do. It’s hard for athletes to slow down, take time off, and heal. We don’t like being injured. We feel like failures. But, the only time we are a failure is when we don’t listen to our body. We are not invincible. If our body needs to heal, we need to give it the opportunity. I am living proof that taking time off, even a month, doesn’t mean your race is over. You can have doubts, that’s normal, but you can’t let them control you and negatively affect your race. Remain positive, live in the moment, and have faith!

Contacts: 

Here are the phone numbers to all the professionals that helped me get race ready. When I added up how much I spent, it was a bit shocking, but then again, you’re already invested in the race, so you have to do it. Each was worth every penny!

  • Aaron Haspel, ART: 806-290-6435
  • Dale Londos, ART: 210-860-2010
  • Savitri Frizzell, Neuromuscular Therapist: 210-558-3112
  • Bicycle Heaven (Alamo 180 sponsor bike shop): (210) 342-2453
  • We Run San Antonio (Alamo 180 sponsor run store): 210-698-7600
  • Leslie, Acupuncture: 210-967-4400
  • Andy Moore, Chiropractor: 210-525-9063
  • CryoFit San Antonio: 210-858-8487

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