I Am An IRONMAN! – Lake Placid Race Report

Wow, where to start?  There are so many things that I want to say, but I will try to keep this as short as possible.

I chose IMLP as my first full IM for 2 reasons I LOVE the area and it is a lake swim.  I did not chose my first IM to play to my strengths because as I pretty much suck at climbing on the bike.  The 5800′ of gain on the bike course was my biggest concern for IMLP, so in my training, I focused a lot of my training on hilly routes.  I felt pretty good going into IMLP, but I was also pretty sure that I’d be on the bike for 7+ hours.  I was hoping to keep my run under 5 hours with the advertised 1600′ of elevation gain (it’s actually around 850′ thank the Lord), and my swim around 1:30.  Add them all together, and I was anticipating 13:30 plus transition times, so I figured around 14 hours, but I knew my bike could be longer or my run could be shorter, so best case 13:30 and worst case 15 hours was the range I gave my support crew.  If I finished within that range for my first full, I’d be thrilled.  I also had to keep in mind that I have IMNC in October, so I needed to recover quickly, so I didn’t want to push myself to the limit in this race, and with it being my first IM, I wanted to enjoy the race and take it ALL in.  So, my goals were to finish between 13:30 and 15 hours and to enjoy the day/moment.

My family and I arrived in Lake Placid on Monday before the race.  We rented an apartment through AirBnB for 8 nights.  It was about a half mile from the start and athlete village which made everything very convenient.  If you are looking at IMLP, I’d strongly suggest you check into renting an apartment, condo, or house as the hotels book up quickly and are often more than some of the rentals….plus you have your own kitchen in a rental!

Thursday:

My plan for Thursday was to get up early before much traffic, and to ride out of LP and down the Keene descent.  I wanted to check out how steep it was and the road conditions prior to race day.  My husband got up early with me, and left a bit after I did, so he could pick me up in Keene.  The descent wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be, and I was able to ride most of it in aero position.  The curves were large sweeping curves and there was only a small section of rough pavement. It was much easier to maintain aero than some of the curves and pavement in the North GA Gaps that I had ridden. Jason met me in Keene, and we headed back to the apartment.

Thursday was also athlete check-in starting at 9AM.  My family wanted to play golf, so while my husband took the kids golfing, I headed down to athlete village.  Of course, I arrived early, and check-in and athlete village weren’t open yet, so I wandered through the village anyway as the vendors were still setting up.  Shortly, everything was open, but since athlete check-in was up the road(maybe a 1/4 mile) and I was already at athlete village, I visited the store.  I am not superstitious, and the finisher stuff at Ironman events is now being put out when the store opens instead of waiting until Monday, so yes, I bought a finisher’s jacket along with a shirt, backpack, coffee cup, cycling jacket, visor, and probably some other stuff that I just can’t think of.  I never had doubts that I would finish the race unless something horribly unforeseen happened and I was taken off the course by medical, so I really wasn’t worried about buying the items ahead of time.  They all went in the backpack and would sit in the corner of my bedroom though until after the race.  On my way out of the store, I stopped back by the village and signed my son up for the IronKids race that he wanted to do.

Now, off to athlete check-in.  Nothing eventful here, it was smooth, and I was in and out within 10 minutes.  Then, I walked back to our apartment and the family returned from golfing shortly afterwards.

athlete check-in

On Thursday afternoon, a few of my training partners and their spouses, Clay, Shari, Dani, and Troy, arrived in LP to support and cheer for me at the race.  I can’t thank them enough for traveling so far just to see my first IM.  I was excited to see them and spend some time with them over the next couple of days.

Support crew

Friday:

Friday was spent with the group.  Clay, Dani, and I did an early morning swim of 1 loop in Lake Placid. Then, we changed and headed to Bacon’s Meat & Greet.  I’m sure it was awesome, but we were there early and were starving, so we decided to ditch it, and our families all headed into town to eat some breakfast together.  After breakfasts, the ladies all headed off to shop some, and Clay went with me to the athlete briefing.  I figured I should actually attend this one since it was my first full. After the briefing, I got to snap a quick photo with the Voice of Ironman Mike Reilly.  Then, off to gather the family for the IronKids race.

Mike Reilly

Everyone met by the lake for the IronKids race, and guess who was announcing it? Mike Reilly!  My son probably didn’t care, but I thought it was pretty cool, and I made sure to tell him to give Mike a high five as he came to the finish.  The first race for the kids was a Splash n Dash.  I tried to get my son to do it, but I couldn’t ever convince him, but I’m hoping next time, he’ll be game after seeing the other kids do it.  There were some tiny kids out there and they were rocking it!  A few did the run in their goggles and swim caps still, but they were awfully cute. It was finally time for my son’s mile race, and he had a blast as usual.  He’s really starting to enjoy running, and he’s starting to ask about cycling!  Score!

Iron kids

Saturday:

Through this point, I was feeling pretty calm with no nerves.  After all, this was just going to be another training day to get to my A race in October.  I woke up early and did my short ride and run with Dani and all was fine.  I returned to the apartment, had my breakfast and coffee on the porch in a sweatshirt, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather while my family still slept.

day before

Bike and gear bag check-in were from 10AM-3PM, so the next thing was to get my bags packed.  This was the first(and only) time that nerves actually hit.  Having to pack things the day before and get things in the right bags required forethought and planning.  Something that I’m not prone to doing.  It drives my friends nuts (probably my coach too) that I literally wait until the last minute to pack things, but I work that way.  The less I think about things, the better I do.  Overthinking is a stress inducer and zaps precious energy out of life that I don’t have time for.  My hands were literally shaking as I tried to go through in my mind what I needed in each bag.  I sent Dani a text telling her I was nervous.  This is the only time I remember being nervous prepping for a race, and I totally blame it on the need for forethought.  I got my stuff ready to go in the bags and snapped a quick photo of the contents.  The photo was so I could review what the heck I put in the bags later in the day in case I questioned it because as much as most triathletes are type A personalities, I really am not.  I am not a lists person.  I have what I need jumbled in my head somewhere and then I try to pull it back out.  Sorry to disappoint all my friends who think I am organized and type A, but I promise, I AM NOT.  Now, off to bag drop off and bike check in.

bag drop off

Those are my bags with the red cups and green tape.  It was suggested on the IMLP Facebook page to not double knot your bags because after swimming and riding, your fingers may not work so well to untie them.  Instead, someone said to put a solo cup over the bag and to run the strings through since you hang your bags at IMLP.  This was to keep the rain out and your stuff dry as well.  It did rain after drop off, and my stuff remained dry, so it worked.  The green tape was to help me spot my bags.

After dropping off my bags and bike, my nerves were gone, and I headed back to the apartment to chill until evening.

Saturday evening several churches in LP had prayer services for athletes, so our crew went to one together, then we all went our separate ways for dinner.  I wanted a low key dinner in our apartment, so back we went.

Sunday/Race Day:

For most races, I arrive at transition when it opens, and that was my plan for IMLP.  I got up early ate my usual pre-workout breakfast, drank my coffee, prepared my Ucan and water bottles for the day, and was ready to head out.  This time, I had my entire family in tow to head down to transition(usually they come later).  As we walked towards transition, I realized I had forgotten my special needs bags, so my husband went back to grab them as the kids and I headed on down.  Clay was waiting outside of transition for me, so the kids waited with him as I headed in to put my nutrition in my transition bags.  By the time I came out, Jason had made it with my special needs bags, and we headed towards the two special needs areas to drop off those bags.  Both the bike and run special needs were pretty close to the swim start, so I sat on the grass while Clay took one bag and Jason took the other. They returned quickly, and I made a quick bathroom stop, drank 3 scoops of Ucan, then after a few minutes, it was time to head to swim start.

race start

The swim:

The swim was a rolling start, and athletes were to self-seed.  I got in line around the 1:30 mark.  As I entered the water, my plan was to stay to the far left.  In Mirror Lake, there is a line about 4 feet under the surface that follows the swim course.  Most people battle to get on this line, so I had decided I would stay far outside and avoid the battle.  It was extremely foggy race morning, and I couldn’t see to the next buoy to sight, so I just sighted off the people to my right since I knew the group was following a submerged line.  Even staying outside, I was regularly getting kicked, pulled on, swam over, and hit.  It seemed that no matter how far outside I stayed, there was still someone trying to get over the the right where the rope was.  The first loop was quite the battle.  As I came out of the water and started the second loop, I followed the same plan until I reached the turn buoy.  At that time, I got pushed to the inside, and I realized that I wasn’t being hammered as much, so I stayed there on the line.  I guess once we were on the line, everyone was where they wanted to be, so no one was getting hammered as bad.  The remainder of the second loop was very smooth.  Out of the water in 1:26, and off to T1.

Division Rank: 83 Gender Rank: 429 Overall Rank: 1732

T1:

I had specifically told my crew that I was going to have a picnic in transition because Coach Chuck always tells me not to in 70.3’s, but Chuck and I hadn’t talked a ton about the actual race.  He had given me a race plan, and we had chatted a few times during the week about the course, the town, and the weather, but I hadn’t really spoke race specifics with him because I knew my plan, and honestly, we just don’t usually talk a ton of race specifics because it’s just not something I need.  IMLP was my B race for the year, and we had spoken in the past that I was treating it as a training day.  He had told me earlier in the week to enjoy the day because you only get one first IM, but I guess I hadn’t let him know just how much I planned to enjoy the day and take it all in which I found out later concerned him a bit when saw my T1 time as 12:48 in IronTrac, and my bike and T2 didn’t help.  He was apparently a bit concerned until the first couple of run splits.

The run from swim to T1 was fairly long.  I did run it, but it was a narrow piece of carpet, and I got stuck behind some walkers a couple of times and had to pass them on the uncarpeted part which slowed me down a tad.  I grabbed my T1 bag, went into the tent, dumped it on a chair, and proceeded to get everything together.  Cycling jersey on, baggies in pockets, sunscreen on, gloves on, dried my feet, socks and shoes on, frozen 3 scoops of Ucan in cycling pocket, and off I went…..just not that fast.

As I headed through the bike area, volunteers were getting people’s bikes for them, but as I approached my rack, the volunteer didn’t hear my number and hadn’t grabbed mine, so she took off after it as I stood waiting.  Then off I went to the mount line.

Bike:

The bike course at IMLP is 2 loops.  It starts with a climb out of LP which is a pretty good climb, then a steep descent of about 7 miles into Keene(15 mile mark), followed by about 20 miles of fairly flat riding, to finish the loop with about 20 miles of fairly continuous climbing from Jay back to LP.  Most people just talk about the last 12 mile climb from Wilmington to LP, but you are actually climbing for about the last 20 miles of each loop.  There are a few rollers, but IMO you are climbing for the most part.  Also, most people talk about the 3 bears being horrible, but to me, the worst climb on the course is out of Jay heading towards Wilmington on 86.

Loop 1:

I headed out on the bike and saw my family right at the start.  As I climbed out of LP, I just dropped into an easy gear and spun up the hill.  It was a significant climb, but not bad as long as you were smart. I was glad to reach the top and head down the Keene descent.

As I descended, a lot of people were being cautious, but since I had ridden the descent Thursday, I was able to take advantage of the speed on the descent.  Most riders were very courteous and keeping right if they were moving slower, but a guy and I came up quickly on one rider hugging the yellow line even without anyone to the right.  He called on your left, but she didn’t move, so he went into the oncoming lane.  She glanced over, noticed him, and moved slightly right.  I then called on your left 3 different times, and she never moved over any further, so I proceeded to pass her in the 3-4 feet between her and the yellow line.  She didn’t maintain her line down the hill (which had been stressed in the athlete briefing along with not blocking on the descent), and she drifted into me.  I saw her coming and I was already slightly in front of her, luckily, as she bumped the rear of my bullhorns with her bullhorns.  She jumped, over corrected, and almost wiped out, but she was able to maintain control. I continued down the descent without further incident.

As I made the turn on 9N in Keene, the course became fairly flat and remained that way to Ausable Forks and back to Jay. The lady from the Keene descent hammered to catch me on the flat section and to inform me that I almost made her crash.  We exchanged a few words about rules and maintaining your line, and she pushed on past me.  I quickly caught myself annoyed by her and starting to push myself and settled back into my race. There were a lot of miles left, and I wasn’t going to let her get under my skin.

The ride to Ausable Forks was very scenic, and I enjoyed the views of the river and mountains. The road was a bit rough, but a few weeks before the race, the cracks in the road had been filled, so even though it was rough, there were no dangers of catching your wheel in a crack.  After the turn around in Ausable Forks, you return to Jay and start climbing as you turn right on 86.  This was a long slow climb.  Again, I didn’t want to burn any matches, so into my granny gear I went.  The remainder of the first loop was fairly uneventful, and I came into special needs.  Again, that picnic philosophy here. 😉 I stopped, drank my 3 scoops of Ucan that was now thawed, and grabbed a PB&J out of my special needs bag.  I ate about half of it, then off I went.  As I headed around the back of the Olympic Oval and back out onto loop 2, I felt pretty good.  I had drank about 40 ounces of water with 1 tablet of Nunn in it, had the Ucan, and half of a PB&J.  This was more than typical of me on a training ride, so my nutrition seemed to be fine.

bike

Loop 2:

The climb out of LP on loop 2 presented a bit of trouble.  My right hamstring started cramping.  I had never had issues with cramping on training rides, and my fueling was better than I had done in training, so my only thoughts were that I probably pushed too much on some of the hills on the first loop despite trying to take it easy, so as I approached the top of the climb, it seemed to be getting worse, and I stopped to stretch.  After stretching, it felt better and I had a descent plus 15 or so miles of fairly flat, so I hoped it was gone.  For the next 20ish miles, the hamstring felt pretty good, but then as I headed out of Wilmington, I could feel the cramp returning. It wasn’t a sudden strong cramp.  It was just gradually setting in the more I climbed.  At this point, I just wanted off the bike because I knew if I could get done with the bike, it would most likely loosen up on the run.  I had to stop two more times heading back into LP and my left hamstring decided to join in on the fun by the time I got to the bottom of the 3 bears, so when I reached the top of Papa Bear, I was thrilled because I knew the end was near.  The run was not a concern for me, and I was almost done with the hardest part. The last section is lined with spectators as you come into LP and circle behind the Olympic oval to enter to T2. I was done with the bike in 7:25:41.

Division Rank: 77    Gender Rank: 384   Overall Rank: 1748

T2:

As I came into transition, Clay was working in T2 taking bikes.  He grabbed mine, asked me how I felt, and I was off to grab my bag.  T2 was interesting.  Let me start by saying that I am completely thankful for volunteers and appreciate everything they do!  But, I am someone who prefers to be left alone and likes to handle my own stuff.  I came into the tent, and a volunteered followed me.  Ok, no problem.  If I need something, I’ll ask.  She instructed me to have a seat and she’d help me.  I found a chair, sat down, placed my bag on the seat next to me, and proceeded to remove my cycling shoes.  This is where I started biting my tongue.  The volunteer grabbed my bag off the seat next to me and dumped it on the tent floor.  Ok, the floor was wet.  I have no idea if it was water or pee, but I imagine it was a mixture, and I had my clean, dry stuff in the bag along with run nutrition and water bottles.  Deep breath….I grabbed my shirt, it seemed dry still, hopefully nothing landed in water/pee.  What do you need?  I’m a bit annoyed, so I just bit my tongue.  Maybe if I don’t speak, or ask for anything she will leave?  I grab my socks as well, and they are still dry, then I start putting what I don’t want back in the bag.  She tells me to leave it.  I put it in anyway because I want to make sure it gets back in the bag.  I still am not speaking, and she isn’t leaving.  WTH?  I really just want my picnic time and to be left alone in my thoughts.  Stop talking to me and asking me questions!  I need to think.  I have an order and your questions are screwing with my thought process.  ADD here lady!  Ok, dry socks, run shoes, now a clean shirt.  Can I help you?  -no, go away…ok, I didn’t say it, but God I was thinking it! OMG, now she’s in my personal space pulling the back of my shirt down.  BACK OFF(again, in my head)!!!!  Personal space lady, personal space!  Just keep breathing, just keep breathing.  You’d think this invasion would have sped me up, but no, I was still taking my time, hoping to be left alone.  Shirt is now on.  Ok, sunscreen, this one she can help with.  I finally speak and ask her to apply it to my back.  I grab my nutrition, tell her thank you (for the invasion), and off I go.  Seriously, volunteers are awesome, I just don’t handle help with stuff well.  Keep doing what you do volunteers.  One day, I will need that help I’m sure. T2:  11:23

Run:

Two loops with 2 out and back sections on each, 26.2 miles total, and I’ve already swam and rode for a warm up because I must be nuts.

Loop 1:

My plan was to use a run:walk.  I would run 2 minutes, walk 30 seconds.  Doing this, I can keep an 11 minute mile pretty easy, so that was the plan.  If I felt good later, I could always drop the walks.

The cramps from the bike were gone as I had expected to happen, and my legs felt pretty good. There was a nice long downhill past the ski jumps (which means you have to go back up it), so I cruised down that part feeling pretty good.  As I headed out the long windy road to the turn around, I noticed a lot of people were already walking casually.  I wondered if they were on their second loop or first.  I felt comfortable with my 2/:30 and continued to maintain it.  I was starting to see people vomiting as well which made me start to think about vomiting and hope that I wouldn’t.  I had heard that people often get GI issues that cause it, but I just felt hungry.  So, I started taking in solid food on the run.  I had a Pure Bliss bar ( http://pureblissorganics.myshopify.com/ ) , so I ate it.  My stomach was no longer burning from hunger, and I felt better.  It was also pretty hot, so at every water stop I started putting ice in my bra, dumping ice water over my head, and drinking a few sips of water.  I continued this process through the first loop.  I walked every water stop in addition to my 30 second walk breaks to make sure I got what I needed.  The hill by the ski jumps was a booger, so I finished the run I was on, then I walked more than my 30 seconds up the hill.  I had an entire loop after this one, and I wasn’t going to kill myself on an early hill.

As I got back into LP I passed my family and support crew and I stopped by special needs to grab another Pure Bliss bar and ditch my fuel belt because I wasn’t using the bottles of Nunn in it, and it was just added weight to carry.  I also took a gel for some added energy and electrolytes, but overall, I was just hungry.  The out and back after special needs was lined with people most of the way as you came back towards the Olympic Oval before heading out on loop 2.

Loop 2:

One loop to go, 13.1 miles, it’s still daylight, and I still feel good.  When is the wall going to hit?  I’ve not pushed, but I’ve also never ran more than 4 miles off of a 100 mile bike ride and 15 off of a 50 mile ride.  Surely I’m going to hit the wall.  Soooo many people are now walking.  More people are puking.  I shouldn’t be feeling good still should I?  My stomach is burning.  Maybe this is what it feels like before you need to puke?  No, I think I’m just hungry.  Maybe I need some Gatorade.  –This is the conversation I was now having with myself– So, at the next water stop, I decided I’d start taking in a couple of sips of Gatorade, and I started eating some more of the Pure Bliss bar.  Then, I grabbed some pretzels later on.  The more I ate, the better I felt.  I WAS STARVING!  I really had no idea what nutrition was going to be this late in an IM for me.  I was done well before this is training, so it was all an experiment at this point.  Luckily, my stomach was fine and better with the added solid food.  The further I got into loop 2, the better I felt.  After the turn around about mile 6, there was a guy jamming on an inflatable guitar.  Maybe I was delirious, but my pace was good, I was feeling stronger, and I was having fun at this point, so I stopped for a second to head bang, play an air guitar, and sing with him before continuing on my way. Approaching the big hill gain, I went with the same theory, and I walked a bit longer than my 30 seconds.  I had started picking my pace up a tad on the run portion, as I headed back into LP.  Then, I was there.  I saw my family as I came back before the final turn for the last 2 miles out and back.  I was going to be an Ironman in about 20 minutes.  I stopped and hugged my family, then picked the pace up to finish those last 2 miles.  I could hear Mike Reilly announcing finishers the entire last 2 miles.  What motivation could be better!  I made the last turn around, and headed back.  I skipped the last couple of walk breaks as I ran down the last stretch by Mirror Lake surrounded with people on both sides and made my way to the Olympic Oval. As I entered the oval, words can’t do justice for the feeling you get.  You feel like a rockstar at IMLP as you enter that oval.  People holding their hands out on both sides giving you high 5’s.  Mike Reilly announcing other finishers as you circle the oval.  Then, you come around that corner and see the finish line and the Ironman carpet.  Stephanie-You are an Ironman!

finish line

Run:  4:46:43  Finish Time:  14:02:39

Division Rank: 62  Gender Rank:  297  Overall Rank:  1353

As I finished, a volunteer met me, “how do you feel?”

Me: “I feel good.”

Her:  “You look like you do.  Do you need anything?”

Me:  “Water.”  She grabbed my shirt, hat, and some water after I got my medal, then she put me in line for my photo and went back to the finish line.  As I stood waiting for my photo, I noticed everyone else still had their volunteer.  Hmmm…I finally got my wish to be left alone by a volunteer, but wait, I want FOOD, and I have a ton of crap in my hands.  Those people are sitting down, and their volunteers are getting their food for them.  Well, lesson learned, don’t say you feel good at the finish, and don’t wish to be left alone so much because I could have used some help carrying my food then, but I managed, and my family apparently wondered if I was ever going to stop eating and come out. ;-P

family photo at finish

Thank You’s:

I just want to take a second to say thank you to my husband, Jason, who supports me in everything I do.  I have to say that I am extremely lucky to have a spouse who supports my adventures and NEVER complains about the time that I spend doing them. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have a spouse like him.

I also want to thank Coach Chuck(  http://www.tricoachgeorgia.com/ ) who puts up with my non-sense and smart mouth, yet knows when to tell me to DYJ (do your job).  He has been my coach for 3 years now, and I need a coach like him who can be a smart ass when needed.  I’m sure a lot of coaches would be a bit to easy on me, but I need someone who is willing to push me beyond my comfort zone even though I hate him at times.

And last, but not least, I want to thank my training partners and teammates who have joined me on hundreds of miles, cheered and supported me at my race, and not let me slack when I wanted to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Wrap up/2016 What’s ahead

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, but I’ll try to keep it brief.  A lot has happened since July.  I went back to work full time as a high school math teacher, continued training, and I raced my “A” race which was Augusta 70.3.  I PR’d with a 5:44:41.  I’ll spare you the details since I forgot to write a timely race report, and quite honestly, I don’t remember the details, but I was thrilled with my results.

After Augusta, I had Marine Corp Marathon on the books for October.  With teaching full time, training became pretty difficult, so how do I compensate?  Register for IM Lake Placid of course, and as if that wasn’t enough, sometime during the last quarter of the year, I thought it’d be wise to register for a second IM when North Carolina opened.  Training for MCM continued, and I survived.

The weekend of MCM, Dani and I drove to Washington D.C. Friday night after I got off work.  We arrived at our hotel around 4AM Saturday, raced Sunday, and drove home Sunday.  I wouldn’t advise my travel strategy, but it worked and I got a PR( 4:13:21).  Gotta love road trips, but 20 hours(10+ each way) in the car the weekend of a marathon might not be the best choice.  I like to do things my own way though.

After the MCM, my race season was finished.  I decided in November that I needed some time to figure out my training schedule, so I asked my coach to let me go a couple of weeks unstructured.  He came back with “why don’t you take a month or two off and come back mid-January?  You’ve been training 3 years straight with no time off.”  Ummm, ok.  I needed him to say that in November because honestly, I was on the verge of burn out.  With working full time, the crazy finish to my race season, and signing up for the upcoming IM’s, I was feeling like I was drowning.  I think he had caught on to this considering my Training Peaks account had a lot more red than it has ever had in the last 2+ years with him coaching me.  So, I agreed to take the time off and come back mid-January.  BEST ADVICE EVER!  I honestly wouldn’t have ever decided to take that time off without the prompting from him.  It was the fear that if I took the time off I would lose some fitness and starting back would be hard.  It was also (believe it or not) a feeling of weakness to admit that I needed a break.

Needless to say, my coach knows me, which brings me to this last part.  Just after Christmas, my coach informed me that he was switching to a different team.  I immediately told him I was going where he was going without hesitation and without know what team he was going to.  It wasn’t a question of a team.  It was a matter of staying with the coach that I had chosen 2+ years(3 years next month) earlier and who had gotten me through 4-70.3’s, 2 marathons, and numerous other races with PR’s that were still coming left and right.  I also have my biggest year yet coming up, and I wasn’t changing coaches going into my IM year, so there was no doubt I was going where my coach was going because it was about the trust and relationship we had developed as athlete and coach.  Would I miss my teammates? Yes. Would some teammates not understand why I’d jump ship? Probably. Would feelings be hurt? Yes. Would I still see my teammates? Yes.  Was I disappointed to have to change teams?  Yes.

So, at the end of December I left my old team and followed Coach Chuck (Charles Sims a.k.a BAMF) to TriCoachGeorgia ( http://www.tricoachgeorgia.com ). For someone who keeps her circle small, coming into a team like TriCoachGeorgia should be hard, but they have made it surprisingly easy.  I will probably continue to take my time meeting people in person just because that’s how I am, but the group is very active on their private Facebook page which encouragement, joking, training, etc.  I feel like I’m getting to know a lot of their personalities already, and they have all be extremely welcoming.  The “Do Your Job” phrase they use runs deep with the team through the positive energy and work I see each of them doing.  Talk about motivation, no being a slug with this group of athletes around you busting their tails.  They truly are a fun group that likes to banter back and forth….my kind of people because I’m quite the smart ass, but I’m keeping that on the down low for now. 😉  I think we’ll only let Coach C see that side still for now.

All in all, the transition has been super easy and fun.  I can’t wait to spend this upcoming year racing with this group of misfits!

 

 

Goals accomplished from 2015 & 2016 goals

2016 GOALS:

I’ll keep this list short

  1. Complete IM Lake Placid
  2. Complete IM North Carolina
  3. Finish season injury free
  4. Finish one IM in under 13 hours (yeah, big goal, this is the icing on the cake for the year)
  5. Complete coaching certification-attending class in April in Myrtle Beach

2015 Goals:

So, here are my goals that I posted to my blog in Feb and how I did at completing them.

February 18, 2015

1. Complete a marathon (not in misery) – done 1/25/2015 Time: 4:30:17 completed again at MCM on 10/25 in 4:13:21

2. Complete an Olympic distance triathlon – yep, that little oversleeping incident last year means that I haven’t actually finished an Oly. Done: Lake Hartwell Oly June 27th, 2015 2:45:58 and Lake Logan Oly August 9th, 2015 2:49:32

3. Finish NOLA 70.3 April 19th, 2015 in the same time or better than I did Augusta 70.3 2014 – the swim isn’t downstream, so I have some time to make up on the swim, so I’m not looking to necessarily beat it, just want to at least meet it. Done: 5:52:06

4. Complete at least 1 century ride – need to figure out which one to do or do my own wink emoticon frown emoticon Decided to skip this one this year. It never fit in with my race schedule

5. I will be attending Peak Racing Team’s IMFL camp this year in September – I have some work to do before then to prepare for the camp since it is a 140.6 camp…..Camp was cancelled.

6. Attend the Peak Racing Team’s Gaps camp and complete the rides. I am honestly more concerned about completing the rides at this camp than I am about anything else on this list. I don’t know that I’ll be quite ready to do this in March, but we’ll see. DONE! I survived with the help of Peak Racing Team. Big thanks to Alfonso Ahuja for leading me up the last bit of Hog Pen. It was a great camp and confidence boost going into the season.

7. Run a 5K in under 25 minutes – yeah, that’s going to be a challenge. I originally thought 26, but I’ve come pretty close to that in the middle of a half marathon, so if it doesn’t scare you, you’re not setting your goals high enough, right? I have a 5K in March which will be my first in almost 2 years, so it’s time to set a new PR. I’m hoping to be under 26 minutes at it. Done: The ShamRock ‘N Roll 5K in March came in at 24:46, and I placed in my age group.

8. Register for an Ironman for 2016 – the idea of this no longer scares me, which makes me question my sanity. Done: Ummm, yeah, apparently someone should slap me when ideas no longer scare me because I registered for 2 in 2016! Lake Placid and Beach 2 Battleship, guess it’s going to be a busy year.

9. Finish Augusta 70.3 in under 6:05 – um, yeah, not sure if that’s crazy or what. That’s taking just over 20 minutes off my time of 6:25:39 from last year. I’m hoping to take off about 13-15 on the bike, 5-7 on the run, and maybe 1-2 on the swim, so we shall see. Done: Augusta 70.3 2015 was completed in 5:44:41 I added a tad over 1 minute to my swim unsure emoticon, took off over 26 minutes on bike, and over 13 minutes on the run.

10. Finish Raleigh 70.3 in under 6:30 in May 2015. Since this one is only a month after NOLA, no big plans here….just looking to finish. Done: Finished in 6:09:01

11. Finish the Marine Corp Marathon in under 4:15 – This could be hard considering it’s only a month after Augusta, but we’ll see. Done: Longest run going into MCM was 15 miles, so I wasn’t sure if I’d blow up around mile 20, but I finished in 4:13:21 with strong splits in the last half of the marathon.

12. Finish 2015 injury free! DONE!!!!!!

 

Judge Me By My Size, Do You?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and actually putting it to paper (so to speak) is not very appealing because it means opening up and being vulnerable.

yoda

Yoda is very intelligent as we all know, and I LOVE this quote.  Let’s dig a little deeper…

How many times have you shown up at a race and sized up your competition by their size?  How many times have you sized up your ability against your competition because of your size?  Do you often think you don’t stand a chance because everyone else is so fit looking?  Do you ever think you have the race in the bag because the others don’t look as fit as you?  Have you ever not done a race or activity because you didn’t think you were fit enough because of your size?

comparison

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but who really doesn’t….at least occasionally?  Yes, it is something I work on not doing, but dang, it’s hard.  We all would like to get on the podium at least every once in a while, so if you’re like me, you like to at least think about your chances of placing…..at least at the smaller races(of course, I used to think this was never a possibility).  Then, there’s the thought of racing an Ironman.  Last year, I never thought I’d want/be able to complete one.  Partially because I really thought that everyone that did them was ripped or at least extremely fit looking.  I mean really, who would try to race for 14 hours unless they are in top physical shape and that has to translate to appearance.  I realized at the Augusta 70.3 last year that there were all sizes competing and finishing the half, but still a full????  I honestly expected a different crowd, until I went to IM Florida to spectate.  People of all sizes and ages were finishing, and they were just as amazing in my book.  Maybe a full wasn’t out of the question just because I’m not ripped.

I’m not saying that you won’t improve your own times by losing a bit of weight, but don’t be so quick to count yourself out because you aren’t as fit looking as others.  This is a real struggle for me personally.  I often look at others and think they’ll kick my ass because they are 20-30lbs lighter than me.  It’s taken months and several races with a few placings, but I’m finally starting to realize that my size doesn’t affect how fast I am in comparison to others.  Can I be faster by losing a bit more?  Yes, but just because I’m 5’6″ and weigh 145 lbs doesn’t mean I can’t kick the 110 lbs person’s butt or that the 165 lbs person won’t kick mine!

Recently, I raced an Olympic distance triathlon, and I honestly didn’t think I’d place overall.  It was a small race, but there were enough others there that looked more fit that I figured I’d be out of the top 3.  I placed 3rd overall and shocked myself.  I ran a decent size 5K in Atlanta in March, and I never expected to place in my age group because I’m just not the small fast runner type and plenty of others were.  I somehow pulled off 3rd place in my age group.  At the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta with 54,000+ runners, I would expect someone my size(average I’d say) to maybe finish around the middle(average) of the pack.  I finished in top 9% overall and top 4% of the women.  I often doubt my abilities due to my size, and it needs to stop!  That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to lose a few more pounds to make myself a bit faster (than my current self), but I don’t need to judge my ability to complete a race or to place by my size because so many more things determine that!

Determination, perseverance, consistency, dedication, faith in your abilities, and mental strength have more to do with your ability than your size does.  With those things, you can finish the race, and you can often beat others who are lacking some of those things even if they have the fit body and talent.  You(preaching to myself here as well) have to believe in yourself.

I have some BIG goals for this year at Augusta 70.3 and the Marine Corp Marathon.  I may be average size, but that doesn’t mean my goal times have to be average as well.

So, lose some weight if you want, but don’t let the size you are now hold you back from trying something or make you think that you’re not as good/fast as someone smaller, and NEVER let anyone else count you out due to your size!  Tell them to sit back and watch, then go prove them wrong!

 

IM Raleigh 70.3 (Pre-race)

I’m beginning to realize that this season may be more about me gaining confidence in myself than anything else.  Preparing for my first 70.3 last year, my biggest concern was getting physically able to complete the distance.  I now know that I can complete it but figuring out just how well and where my limits are this year is now my challenge.

After NOLA, I had 6 weeks to prepare for Raleigh, and Coach Chuck ( http://peakracingteam.com/chuck-sims/ ) decided to change up a few things to help improve the run.  I have flaws (yeah, I know, you never knew), and one of those flaws is the stupidity to continue to push when my body is screaming at me that it needs rest even when my coach says to rest or gives me optional workouts.  Needless to say, the continued push started to catch up with me around May 9th (about 3 weeks before Raleigh).  At the end of a long day of riding in the Gaps, I felt pretty beat.  Coach C said we were doing a drop down week that coming week, and then hitting it hard one more week before Raleigh.  I should have taken advantage of the drop down week and skipped (oh yes, I am admitting sometimes skipping a workout is necessary….finding my limits) a workout or two, so I could go hard the next week, but my stubbornness didn’t allow that.  The drop down week ended up not allowing for the recovery my body was screaming for, and the ensuing hard week was miserable culminating with a double brick scheduled on Saturday with Coach C of a 25 mile ride, 3 mile run, 25 mile ride, 4 mile run.  I showed up at Silk Sheets feeling like I’d been hit by a mac truck that week, and apparently I looked just as bad by the end of the workout which I shortened.  Afterwards, I told him I was beat, and my Training Peaks may be red all week.  He said to just do what I felt like and to recover….for once, I heeded his advice.  I honestly didn’t think I’d recover in time to do much of anything at Raleigh how I felt.

With a week of more red than I think my Training Peaks account has seen as a total over a few months, I showed up to Raleigh unsure of how the race was going to go.  I told Coach Tony on Saturday that if someone told me I couldn’t race the next day I wouldn’t be upset.  I enjoy races, and I look forward to them.  I don’t usually get nervous, and I wasn’t nervous about the race.  I just wasn’t excited in any way, shape, or form to be there.  I just didn’t care.  I was hoping I had recovered, but I wasn’t sure since I missed so many workouts.  I was hoping I could pull off 6:15 or better, but if I didn’t it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  The time in my mind was more about me not wanting to be on that freaking course any longer than that on Sunday.  It had nothing to do with PR’s or any logic to that number.  It was simply a number pulled out of a hat that was mentally as long as I felt I could stand to race Sunday.

Saturday morning, Angela and I attended a breakfast with Base Perfomance ( http://www.baseperformance.com/ ). Angela is sponsored by them, and she was able to bring a guest, so I went with her.  It was a fun start to the day meeting the owner Matt and learning a bit more about the company and products.  I had Base Salts and was using them for the first time during a race(more about that later) for this race, but I hadn’t tried any of their other products.  After learning a bit more about the Base Amino and hearing some reviews though, I think I’m going to give them a try soon.

After breakfast, we took our bikes out to T1 to drop off.  It was about a 40 minute drive both directions, so it ate into the day more than I thought it would with a lunch stop along the way at Chipolte.  After a bit more running around, we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom with the Peak Racing Team (http://peakracingteam.com/ ) before heading to our room to prepare our bags for the next day and go to bed.

dinner

Peak racers at dinner

 

Up at 3AM, I prepared my nutrition, packed it in my bags, and was off to head to T2 where I needed to drop off my run bag and catch the shuttle for my 40 minute ride to T1.  For some reason, we couldn’t lay out our stuff in T2 by where we’d rack our bikes, but instead we had to leave it all in our bags on the ground.  Seemed odd, but you have got to roll with it, so we did.  With nothing left to do at T2, Angela and I loaded the shuttle bus and headed to T1.

Arriving at T1, I got body marked, and we both made a quick porta potty stop before heading into transition.  We were again told that we had to leave everything in our bike gear bags here as well, so I basically dropped my bag in front of my bike, poured my hydration in my Speedfil, and headed out to go chill.  That was the last time I saw Angela before the race.

pre-start

I found the Peak Racing Team, and we headed to the shoreline to watch the sunrise and hang out as we waited for the race start.

sunrise

Up next, the race……

 

 

Peak’s Gaps Camp…..(part 2 of 2)

Saturday:

Heading back to the cabin in the truck, we passed the rest of the campers as they headed up Wolfpen on the way back.  Tony drove Chuck and me back to the cabin while Kat stayed back behind the riders.  As we passed them, yes, it crossed my mind that I should have kept going and attempted Wolfpen, but very shortly, my legs were both cramping again as I rode in the back seat of the truck, so I unbuckled and tried extending them the best I could.  Tony was probably wondering why I was squirming around in the back seat so much, but the bent knees were not my friend.  Wolfpen was another 1700′ climb, and it was the 5th Gap that day for the others.  From the sound of it, it was a struggle for some of them to make it up it, so I’m pretty sure I made the right call for me.  Besides, I’d get to make that climb the next day, so it wasn’t a climb I’d totally miss.

Back at the cabin, what remained of the day was pretty low key, laid back, and honestly just a fun time with new and old friends.  The group of campers and coaches that were at the camp were all supportive and upbeat about the day despite the suffering we had all endured.  I’d say we ate a late lunch and then dinner, but I honestly think it was just one continuous meal for the rest of the day and evening.  We had sandwiches when we first returned, and the Peak crew quickly prepared dinner for us including grilled chicken, baked potatoes, salad, apple pie, and S’mores.  My legs continued to cramp every time I moved to certain positions for most of the evening, so I drank some Osmo for the electrolytes along with my well deserved beer.  After everyone had kind of settled down and eaten their weight in food that evening, Tony had the day’s debriefing session.  Hearing everyone’s struggles and accomplishments for the day was motivating.  Everyone faces their own fears in these situations.  While I struggled with climbing the hills and my own self doubt battles, others struggled with overcoming the fear of the descents.  Both battles are just as real and challenging to overcome. Climbing up a 2000’+ elevation gain over 7 miles and believing you can do it seems insane…..until you do it.  Flying down 2000′ of curvy descent being blown around by wind and trusting your bike handling skills also seems insane…..until you do it.  But, the sense of accomplishment of overcoming that challenge is just as rewarding to each person, and unless you’ve ridden Hogpen, you just won’t understand.  I think we all headed to bed that night by 9 or 9:30 and slept pretty hard.

Sunday:

Going to bed around 9, meant that I’d be wide awake pretty early, and so at 5:30AM I was laying in my bunk reading Facebook updates thinking about the day ahead.  I knew my legs were still tired, and the day was going to be a challenge again, but I was going to give it a try and see how it went.  I wasn’t nearly as worried about this day as the day before, but I also wasn’t confident that I’d finish either since Wolfpen would be the final climb Sunday.

strength We were to start the ride at 9AM since the weather was supposed to be warmer, but when we woke up, the weatherman was wrong of course, and it was in the upper 20’s again, but at least there was no dusting of snow on the ground this morning.  It was another chilly start to the morning.

Day 2 cabin

Camp crew on the cabin porch at the start of Day 2

All bundled up, we grabbed our bikes and headed down the ?paved? road from the cabin.  The rough bumpy pavement was definitely not a nice wake up for my tush on the bike seat that morning, but I wasn’t the only one hurting.

heading outThe 3 Gaps that we would cover Sunday were Woody, Neels, and Wolfpen, so we turned left at the main road heading towards Woody Gap.  We started out with about 4 miles of basically flat riding to warm our legs up a bit before hitting the first Gap.

WOODY GAP- It was a pretty short, almost 2 mile climb to the top of Woody Gap.  Thank goodness because my legs were definitely feeling heavy.  (Lol, I just realized I called a 2 mile climb short.  Seriously, that would have NEVER happened before this past weekend.)  It seemed the group dynamics were a bit different today.  We definitely had some different paced riders at the camp, but for some reason, we were more social and packed together as we started the day.  The ride started with a different feel.  Everyone seemed more relaxed Sunday, maybe confidence, maybe a sense of relief of this being an easier day, maybe exhaustion, but I think a big part of it was that the riders more comfortable with hills decided to guide some of us who had mentioned our struggles the night before in the debriefing.  The social atmosphere made the 2 mile climb go a bit faster, and I was glad to see this one end so quick.  3 Gaps today and 1 was done.  At the top, I was still thinking about avoiding Wolfpen though at the end because my legs were tired.  As we gathered at the top, a few quick tips were given on descending Woody Gap since it was about a 7 1/2 mile descent, and we were reminded by Tony of our left turn at the Stone Pile, then Tony headed down to the turn.  Some of the ones who were comfortable with descents headed out first while others hung back to give tips to those less comfortable as they descended the Gap together.  As we approached the Stone Pile, Tony was there waiting for us all to mark the turn.

Stone Pile

At the Stone Pile turn off

We regrouped here before the turn, and as soon as the others got down, we took off.  This particular section was a really fun downhill on my tri bike.  The curves were sweeping, and I could stay in aero for most of it.

Just before Turner’s Corner there was a gas station that we stopped at for a potty break before heading towards Neels Gap.  Everyone caught up here pretty quick and seemed to be getting more comfortable with the downhills.

NEELS GAP- We would hit a short hill before Neels, get a little downhill, then start climbing Neels.  We were told it wasn’t a steep climb, but it was a continuous steady climb that we should be able to find a good cadence and rhythm on.  Well, I was searching for more gears early on again, so my cadence was slow, but I was able to at least find a fairly steady rhythm in the 60’s-70’s to push to the top of the 4 mile 1200′ climb.  With a quick bathroom stop and refueling, we were off down the backside of Neels.  Call me insane, stupid, or an adrenaline junky, but my favorite parts of these rides were flying down the backside of the Gaps and topping out at speeds just under 40 mph.  I hit 37.5mph coming down Neels(39.1 mph coming off Unicoi Sunday….just missed 40 mph).

WOLFPEN GAP- Well, here I was.  One last climb left.  The one I didn’t make yesterday.  My legs weren’t cramping today, just tired, so I had no reason to stop.  One 3 mile climb left to be done.  Wolfpen doesn’t really have any spots that allow a bit of recovery, so it was just a matter of grinding it out to the top.  It was the last one, and after Hogpen yesterday, I was going to make it to the top of this one.  I was slow, and my cadence sucked, but I was getting there.

Wolfpen Day 2 DONE

Top of Wolfpen – the last Gap!

The descent from Wolfpen was short but fun, and we regrouped at the bottom to finish the last couple of miles to the cabin as a group.

Back at the cabin, we had to shower, eat lunch, pack, and debrief before heading out, so it was a pretty busy couple of hours.

I’d recommend this camp to anyone wanting to ride the Gaps.  The Peak Team, coaches, and friends of Peak that attended were a fun group, and I learned a lot about climbing, mental toughness, and overcoming doubts and fears with their support.  Saturday, I said I’d never climb Hogpen again……but I honestly don’t know if I’d want to miss hanging with this group next year, so I might be willing to torture myself simply for the company.  Besides, the second time it’d have to be easier, right?

joycourage

 

 

 

 

Peak’s Gaps Camp…. (part 1 of 2)

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

A few months ago, I signed up for Peak Racing Team’s ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) Gaps Camp.  Before signing up, I asked my coach, Chuck Sims, and our team’s head coach, Tony Hammett, if I was ready for the camp.  They both said yes, and that I should come, so I signed up despite my doubts after learning about what the Gaps were.

In case you aren’t familiar with the 6 Gaps bike route, the peaks range from 1400′ to 3460′ in elevation.  There are 6 named peaks: Wolfpen, Woody, Neels, Jack’s, Unicoi, and Hogpen.  Hogpen is by far the hardest at an average 7% grade for over 7 miles with sections reaching as much as 15%.  The Gaps are spread over about 80 miles and have a total elevation gain of over 10,000′, but the rides including them are often longer.

hills

Leading up to the camp, I started wondering and doubting whether I had done the right thing by signing up.  The closer the camp got, the more freaked out, nervous, doubtful, and scared I became.  2400′ of elevation over 50 miles was hard enough for me, so I didn’t see how I could complete 50 miles on two back to back days with 5000+ feet of elevation gain per day.  I’d never even ridden 100 miles in two days, and now, I decide it’d be a good decision to try it on a mountainous course 3 weeks before my upcoming 70.3 in New Orleans?  I ran about every excuse I could come up with through my head, but it’s kind of hard to come up with a valid reason to bail on your friend who signed up with you, the money you spent to go, and to admit you’re afraid you won’t make it, so you aren’t coming.  This is the first event that I have ever wanted to completely bail out of this bad, and it all went back to fear, fear of failure (this seems to be a lesson that I’m struggling to learn) and doubting my ability.  The week of camp, Chuck had lightened my training load to prepare for camp, and the extra time wasn’t my friend.  I honestly think I almost made myself sick with all the extra downtime to think and stress over it.  I had a couple of days where I slept a ridiculous amount of time, and my legs felt extremely heavy and weak.  I had joked with my coach and on Facebook about bailing out, but those jokes had a lot more truth to them that week than I shared with anyone other than a couple of people.  Facebook messages and text from Jeneen and Dani helped more than they know the week of camp and Friday night.

Friday afternoon: Angela and I met to drive up to the cabin where we were all staying for camp with Peak.  We arrived just before 6PM, unpacked our stuff, and were soon sitting down to dinner provided by Peak.  After dinner, Tony had a short meeting with all of us where he informed us that we would be riding the harder Gaps on Saturday and instead of just 3 Gaps, we’d ride 4.  The coaches gave us all some tips on climbing and descending, and Tony handed out maps, cue sheets, and samples of Foggies and TriSwim hair products from SBR Sports ( http://www.sbrsportsinc.com/triswim.html ).  After the meeting, my desire to do the ride took a hit, and I ended up in tears downstairs in my bunk bed texting Jeneen and Dani and talking to Angela as well as Tony.  I think Tony knew I was concerned about the ride, but this might have been the first time he got a true glimpse of how concerned.  After a bit, I pulled myself together and rejoined everyone upstairs, only to end up in tears again that night in my bunk as I tried to go to sleep.  I’m not one to cry unless I’m extremely mad at someone or mad at myself, so the fact that I was crying was bad.  I finally fell asleep around 1:30AM Saturday morning.

Saturday:

My alarm was set for 8AM, but I was wide awake by 6:30AM for our roll out at 10AM(late start due to 28 degree weather).  By 7:30AM, most everyone was starting to stir and eat breakfast, and at 9:30AM we snapped a photo, finished getting our warm gear on, and rolled out promptly at 10AM.  Tony headed out ahead of us in his truck where he’d ride most of the day marking out turns and regrouping spots, and Kat Hammett stayed a bit behind us periodically leap frogging us all day in case someone needed help.  The Gaps for the day were to be Wolfpen, Jack’s, Unicoi, and Hogpen….oh, did you notice that too?  Yes, they saved the hardest for the last gap of the day.

 

WOLFPEN was pretty short from the direction we hit it first, so it was tough, but it was over with pretty quick.  This short Gap was hard, but not bad, so maybe I could do this.  We regrouped at the top before the descent.  As we were descending, I realized that we hadn’t came to the stop sign on 180 yet for our left turn, and we would have to climb back up the descent we were coming down.  I quickly realized that we were really climbing 5 GAPS on Saturday!  Soooo, Tony didn’t completely lie, I guess?  We were doing 4 different Gaps.  We just happened to be doing Wolfpen twice, and he had only mentioned having to do it on the way out.

Wolfpen Day 1

Day 1, Wolfpen

 

JACK’S and UNICOI were harder since they were each longer than Wolfpen, but I was just checking each off the list of 5 that we had to do and hoping I could complete the one I was on at the time.  I don’t remember much about them other than I ran out of gears on my 11-28 cassette on both Gaps, and I usually ran out pretty close to the start, so the looming thought of Hogpen was constantly in the back of my head.  We all regrouped at the tops of Jack’s and Unicoi to see how everyone was hanging in there, and Tony and Kat met us at the tops of each Gap as well to offer nutrition, take excess clothing, or give us additional items if needed.  We had a good 10+ miles from the top of Unicoi to spin out our legs before reaching Hogpen.

HOGPEN:  The last turn before Hogpen, Tony and Kat met us.  We shed some layers for the 7 mile climb, and I made sure to look at my watch to see what my mileage was there, so I knew when 7 miles were up!  I should have eaten something at this point, but I was still okay on time with my Ucan, and I didn’t feel hungry, so I didn’t eat anything at the bottom of this climb which meant I had eaten nothing since we started the ride over 3 hours earlier.  I know I usually need nutrition with my Ucan around 3 1/2 hours, so it can kick in by 4 hours, but I wasn’t thinking ahead about not being able to stop on Hogpen to get something out and not being in my aerobars to be able to eat like I usually do.  Off we went.  The first bit from the turn wasn’t bad, so I realized that it probably wasn’t part of Hogpen quite yet, but soon, the CLIMB started.  Everyone was finding their own rhythm, so we quickly got spread out as we climbed, and I got in my easiest gear and just figured I’d chug along at my own pace.  My pace quickly began to slow….5-6mph.  About 2 miles up, we got a slight break and small, short downhill for relief before it suddenly began to climb even steeper than before, and my pace dropped to 3-4mph and 40RPM.  These 2-3 miles pretty much sucked as I was starting to feel like my stomach was burning from hunger, but I couldn’t stop because the grade was too steep to start back if I did, and I couldn’t lean on my aerobars to eat, and to top that off, my inner thighs started trying to cramp on and off along with my upper left calf.  I think this was where we saw Kat and Tony standing on the side of the road cheering.

Halfway Hogpen

Just after seeing Kat and Tony

I should know by now not to ask Tony how much farther because he will never give me the answer, but I asked anyway, and he was evasive as usual.  I might have lost Jesus at that point as I yelled something about my legs cramping and perhaps a few other words (ok, maybe this was just the first time anyone was around to witness it), but I kept chugging along as they gave me a little push to try to get my cadence up which quickly returned to less than 40.  At this point lots of quotes started running through my head, and the main one that kept resonating was “Your legs are not giving out.  Your mind is giving up.  Keep going!”  So, I did.  Around the 5 mile mark the slope lessened, but my cadence slowed so much with my legs cramping that I barely got unclipped in time to avoid falling.  My legs felt like noodles, and barely caught me even after getting unclipped.  I had just passed Kat again on the side of the road where another rider was getting out after having a flat and needing to get to a flatter area to be able to start again, so there I stood straddling my bike trying to determine if I was going to throw in the towel and tell Kat I needed in the truck, or if I was going to continue.  Jeff, the rider getting out of the truck, walked his bike up to me, asked me how I was doing, and I told him my legs were cramping, so he said, “let’s walk a minute and stretch them out.”  We walked about 1/10th a mile to a slight downhill where we climbed back on and rode about a mile before needing to walk and stretch my legs again for another 1/10th a mile.  We got back on our bikes with about 1 mile of steep climbing to go, and down the hill comes Al (from in front of us, he’d already gotten to the top) to ride the last bit back to the top with us.  By this point I was pretty well shut down and not talking at all (other than some words I shouldn’t repeat, sorry folks, I usually watch my language pretty well, but this whole weekend pushed me a bit too far), but Al and Jeff kept talking to me and encouraging me.  I have no doubt that I wouldn’t have made it to the top without the two of them staying with me.  Al guided me up the last part of Hogpen weaving side to side to ease the climb (it really does help to weave on steep areas), and we reached the top where the rest of the Peak group was waiting.  I got off my bike for a moment, stretched my legs, took in a PowerGel donated to the camp by  Power Bar ( http://www.powerbar.com/products/ ), and ate a Kind bar.  Finally, something to eat!  As I stood there, Chuck came over and told me good job or something and that he’d never done Hogpen until that day to which I replied that I’d never do it again, and I’d rather run 2 marathons on back to back days than climb that hill on a bike again.  It’d have to be easier.  I also told him he was lucky that I didn’t just punch him right there for telling me I should come to the camp!  Punching him would have made me feel better.  I told Dani before camp that I just thought Chuck was trying to find my breaking point by telling me to do the camp, and I have to say that I think he finally found it.  I told Tony that I wanted to descend and I was done!  I had done the 4 Gaps which was all that was mentioned, and I knew with my legs still cramping I wouldn’t make it up Wolfpen a SECOND time.  Then, down Hogpen we went!

Hogpen Peak

Al leading me to the top of Hogpen

The descent down Hogpen was sketchy at times as the wind had picked up and the road is kind of rough in spots, so I was getting blown left and right pretty good from the gust.  I had to brake a lot on the top steeper part, but the descents are always fun even if a tad bit scary.

We reached the turn at the bottom of Hogpen, and I put my bike in the truck and called it a day.  Chuck came rolling up as we were loading my bike, and the rim wall of his back wheel had shredded on the descent, so his bike was done as well and got loaded in Tony’s truck.  Seeing his rim, I’m just glad he made it down safely.

Back to the cabin…….. (to be continued)