Category Archives: Race Reports

The Raw Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid 2014

IMLP_MMRF_Reception

From behind the podium, I accepted a microphone and an opportunity to address a 200+ crowd of orange-clad triathletes and their families.

IMG_2560

I’d like to tell you a story about two girlfriends, I said, both of whom are racing Ironman Lake Placid this Sunday. A story about two girlfriends and their fathers. 

The first of these friends was in her mid-20s when she lost her father. While biking, her father was struck by a distracted driver. Her father died before she could make it to the hospital to say goodbye. 

The second of these friends is me. When I was in my early 20s, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and (as of yet) incurable blood cancer. The prognosis read 3-5 years

But that was eleven years ago. 

I explained this as I addressed 110 triathletes and their families who, over the course of the past year and in preparation to represent the MMRF at Ironman Lake Placid, had raised over $865,000 for myeloma research. Some of them had been personally touched my myeloma. Most had not. Instead, they raised those funds in exchange for a highly coveted Ironman bib. It was my task to thank them on behalf of the myeloma community.

Since its inception in 1999, I explained, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has brought six new myeloma drugs to market, one of which has kept my father golfing and cycling and far outliving the stark prognosis he faced eleven years ago. Thanks to you and the tireless work of the MMRF, I have had  the past eleven years to process and express to my father the full extent of his influence on my life. I have been able to demonstrate to him in every Ironman that I race that I was, in fact, listening to all of the lessons he taught me as a young girl about setting goals, believing in the impossible, and defying odds. 

I fought back tears and returned to the story of two girlfriends and their fathers.

None of us know how many final seconds, or days, or years we will have to express gratitude, communicate influence, heal deep wounds, and retire old grudges with our loved ones. But if we start now, we just may have enough time. 

IMAZ with Poppy Smiles Cropped

In May, with my parents cheering me on, I raced Ironman Texas, won my age group, declined my Kona slot, placed 3rd amateur, qualified for my pro card, and broke 10 hours. I was a happy triathlete.

But I didn’t get into triathlon for podiums or Kona qualifications.

So when the MMRF put together a team of 110 triathletes united by a cause greater than themselves, I seized the opportunity to join them, even though it meant two exhausting Ironman competitions in as many months.

IMLP Dmitry

This is why I race triathlon. To be a part of something greater than myself. 

IMG_2557

And that something took Lake Placid by storm.

Speaking of storms, it poured.

IMG_2562

SWIM.

1:05. Luckily, I was on the final stretch of the 2.4 mile swim when the lightning sent the first of many snapchat selfies. Though I was permitted to finish the swim, those further back were not.

IMG_2585

Safety crews directed the latter waves of swimmers to the closest shore, where they began the 1.5 mile barefoot walk back to transition. I was thankful to already be on my bike.

BIKE

5:52. Pelting rain, low visibility, lighting and thunder, tremor-like shivers, numb hands and feet. And a laughing heart.

IMLP Bike Rain

I still find the Ironman distance fairly ridiculous, so when you layer a thunderstorm and piercing rain on top of 140.6 miles, laughing is the healthiest response to the absurdity.

I executed a 112-mile build, holding back in the first quarter, and building throughout the final three. Experimenting with a slower build, I was able to consume more fluid, calories, and electrolytes. I even hit a 112-mile pee PR of 5x!

IMLP Run Happy

RUN

3:30. I started the run well hydrated and feeling strong. In a three hour and 30 minute blur, I slowly moved my way up through the field to capture the top spot in my age group.

Finish Line Hands

I know this race report appears slim on details, but racing an Ironman is about so much more than the miles and watts and the gels consumed. I accepted the invitation to explain this perspective on this year’s Ironman Athlete Panel. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me to embed the Livestream video, but click here to watch my conversation with Mike Reilly at about 11:40-14:30, and again 16:00-17:00. That is the raw race report of every Ironman I race.

Thank you:

-My Sherpa, Sarita.

IMG_2589

-The MMRF organization and its Team For Cures. For giving me the ultimate reason to race.

-To Team Poppy Tony’s supporters. For helping us surpass $75,000 for myeloma research.

-To Alicia and Jane at MMRF. For an incredible five years together racing down a cure.

Kendra and Alicia

Zoot Sports. For my snazzy and functional tri-kit, designed specifically so I can represent the MMRF.

SmartWool. Remarkably, even after all of the driving rain and pools of pee collecting in my socks as I biked, and later after running through sprinklers and dumping cups of water to cool my temperature, I had no blisters. It’s not called SMARTwool for nothing!

Nalgene. For my most well hydrated race yet!

Coach Tim at QT2 Systems. For pushing back.

Rose Physical Therapy. For putting my plantar fascia on the road to recovery.

-And most of all, to a girlfriend and her father.

IMLP Swim Morning

 

 

Ironman Texas 2014 – More than a Feeling

Beats per minute. Carbs per hour. Pace per mile.

Time trials, weigh-ins, sweat tests, fueling windows.

In October, I started working with QT2 Systems — the BEST of triathlon’s data dudes — with the purpose of learning how to use data to up my training and racing game.

IMG_1567

Here is an example of the type of data analysis that Coach performs for each leg of a race:

Half IM Data

Before working with QT2, I trained mainly by feel. In my first Ironman, during which I ran a 3:21 marathon and qualified for Kona, the only data I had were mile splits. No heart rate monitor. No power meter.

IMG_1904

Under QT2, every swim, bike, run is driven by data. Every gel, bar, bottle consumed by fueling plan. And then carefully recorded. And  then commented on by Coach.

By the time April rolled around, I had been staring so long and so intently at the numbers on my watch, that I had forgotten how pools and roads and trails looked. Even worse, I had forgotten how they feel.

I was drowning in my own data.

Drowning in Lake Anna

I’ve noticed that most triathletes love numbers.  Love what numbers tell them. Normalized power, power-to-weight ratio, average heart rate, yards per week, race weight.

But I love how those things feel.

Life is not a Rehearsal_Jenny Holzer_How does it feel2

And I can’t feel them when the metrics are monopolizing my other senses.

And without that feeling, I had forgotten why I love triathlon.

Luckily, as a former teacher, Coach respects that each of his students learn differently.

So we ditched the data in the final month of preparation for Ironman Texas and instead of sending in my weigh-ins, or beats per minutes, or mile splits, I only told Coach how it felt. And it started to feel good again.

IRONMAN TEXAS Race Report

SWIM – 1:04

Credit: Nick Morales

I heard a lot of complaints about dirty water, but at 71 degrees, Lake Woodlands felt so good. The water and air temp combo meant that I could get in early for a good warm-up swim without any Raynaud’s concerns.

The officials allowed us to line up across the entire lake and to swim the first leg inside the sighting buoys. This wide start (unlike, for example, Lake Placid’s start) and my position to the far left minimized kicks and punches to the face and panic to the heart. (Those don’t feel good.)

Cred: Nick Morales

After the cannon, I eased into a strong pace with Caroline and some burly men. I jumped on a few pairs of feet here and there during the 2.4 mile swim, but still find it a great challenge to stay in someone’s draft.

IMTX Swim

I was surprised by how much chop I encountered in the lake, and even more in the canal. Still, my favorite part of the swim was through that narrow waterway. Because it is so narrow, and with so many spectators standing above, cruising through the canal creates the illusion of swimming very fast. That’s a new feeling for me. And I liked it.

Aerial View of the Canal

Despite a winter of never reaching time trial goals in the pool, I emerged from the canal with a new Ironman swim PR of 1:04:30. Of course, I didn’t know that until nine hours later because I wasn’t wearing a watch.

BIKE – 5:18

IMTX T1

That’s me grabbing my bike. I usually don’t see this many other bikes still racked. Good sign!

Like the swim, the bike plan was to ease into a pace. I opted to wear a heart rate monitor for the bike leg as a data point to complement, but not override, how I felt. I knew the heart rate indicators could be particularly helpful in stabilizing effort through high winds.

IMTX Bike Side

Ironman Texas is a single loop course, which is my least favorite kind because I only see my parents at the start and finish, and no where in between. Luckily, the course was carved through the front yards of some fantastic Texans, many of whom made a day of cheering for us. Awesome.

IMTX Bike

Thanks to easing into it, I biked pretty even on the front half and back half, averaging 21.1 MPH over the 112 miles. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time because I had stopped monitoring the data. My beats per minute were uncharacteristically low for how hard my legs were pushing, so I switched back over to feel. And focused instead on throwing sports drink down the hatch and water on my head. It was starting to feel warm.

IMTX Bike 2

The last 15 miles were lonely, but the loneliness allowed me to feel the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my legs. And to be grateful that I know how biking 112 miles feels.

IMG_2145.JPG (2)

RUN – 3:26

Though this was my seventh Ironman, I still can’t believe that I — that anyone — can run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, but in that moment, when the b/f yelled that I was in 3rd place and 5 minutes out of first place, I was thankful I had all those miles left. I knew I would need all of them to crawl out of that deficit and claim the top spot.

IMTX Run

Ironman Texas offers a three-loop run course, so I saw my parents, my coach, Aimee, and the b/f tons of lovely times. Though the out-and-backs were too short to get a quality reading on the rate at which I was closing the gap (compared to Ironman Lake Placid, for example) the b/f updated me as he ran from point to point along the loop.

The course was flat, but not as fast as it could have been. So many turns and paths and roads and curves to navigate. After the first loop, I had moved into 2nd, but only gained about 30 seconds on #1.

IMG_2183.JPG (2)

Kgo and Brian

Thankfully, and for the first time in my Ironman history, I found a running mate going the exact same speed. We became fast friends, stride for stride, and stuck together for over half (!!!) of the run. It felt amazing to work together.

IMTX Brian and Kgo

My running buddy, Brian McKinney

I pulled into the age group lead with just three miles to go, marking a 3:26 marathon.

And a 9:56 total time for the day.

IMTX Finish

First place age group.

Third amateur.

But I didn’t need a watch or a place to tell me what I already knew: When the pain is as deep as the joy is pure, then it’s been a good day on the Ironman course.


IMTX Finish Line Kendra Goffredo

And like every other battle I’ve faced in my life, I felt my parents’ presence every step of the way.

IMG_2144.JPG (2)

Congratulations to Meredith, Helle, Christy, and the boyz!

IMG_2177.JPG (2)

Team Poppy Tony gives HUGE thanks to:

  • All of you in your corners of the world, for tracking us, supporting us, and sending us love! Together, we are 140.6 miles closer to a cure.
  • The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (the MMRF), for giving me the ultimate reason to race.
  • ZootSports, for a wetsuit, kit, and shoes that feel as good as they look.
  • SmartWool, for socks that feel good in 26.2 miles of water-logged shoes.
  • Nalgene, for keeping me hydrated enough to feel my best on a warm day.
  • Coach Tim of QT2 Systems, for his patience in letting me feel my way back.
  • My fantastic support crew of Aimee, Lonnie, my parents, and my most handsome sherpa.

IMG_2189.JPG (2)

IMG_2188.JPG (2)

IMG_2187.JPG (2)

IMG_1922

 

And just for fun:

 

 

Fighter’s Stance: IRONMAN Arizona 2013 Race Report

Zoot shoes

I assume a wide stance, like a fighter. But like a fighter who was just punched in the stomach. 

Knees wide, capped by the palms of my hands, my fighter’s stance supports a violently heaving upper half.

I know how this story ends, I think to myself.

And then, somewhere in the 19th mile of IRONMAN Arizona run course, I throw up for the 5th time.

Yes, I know how this story ends.

Kathmandu Hospital

I recall the last time I threw up with such force and frequency. That story ended in a Nepalese hospital with IVs pumping life into a body succumbed to amoebic dysentery.  Then, halfway across the world, living in a dusty little village, contaminated water was likely to blame.

But now, hunched over in the land of plenty, I struggle to make sense of what is causing this to happen. The nausea, the dizziness, the disorientation.

Going to Cry

This was not at all how things were supposed to be. Not at all what I imagined each morning I beat the sun up to crush wattage on my trainer. Not at all what I dreamed those nights I trained in the dark, skipped the dessert, and put myself to bed early.

No, this was not a part of the plan.

I wonder if my father had a similar thought when the doctor diagnosed a cancer he had never heard of. I wonder if he questioned where myeloma, then with a 5-year-average survival rate, fit into his plan.  And I wonder after the myeloma forced him to trade his 40-year running ritual for a walk, how deeply painful those first walking steps must have been.

I take my first walking steps. Not just of IRONMAN. Not just of a triathlon. But the first walking steps I have ever taken in a race. I had never walked in the Turkey Trot at my elementary school.  Never in my high school cross country meets.  Never in a 5k or a 10k or a marathon.  No, in 27-years of running, I have never walked.

Don't Walk Sign

But today I take my first walking steps. Because I know this story would otherwise end before the finish line.

I take my first walking steps because today, more than in any other trot or meet or race in which walking was not an option,  I need to get myself to that finish line.

With each walking step, I understand that there is no PR or Kona slot or course record waiting for me there.

But I also understand that each walking step takes me closer to the man who taught me the fighter’s stance, the man who assumes that fighter’s stance even from the chair in which he sits each week as the chemotherapy pumps into his veins.

Boxer Triathlete

Right about now, as I am slumped over on the side of the road, tasting a horrifically acidic version of everything I have swallowed in the last hour, I know that my mom is sharing my surprise with my dad. Telling him that the MMRF and the IRONMAN foundation have arranged VIP passes into the finisher’s chute so that he can medal me.

IMAZ Finish Line with Dad

Walking hurts. Walking humbles.

But I need not explain that to my dad. Like so many other feelings I have never spoken, he knows.

So he squeezes me extra tight when I walk across the finish line and into his arms.

IMAZ Finish

The details needed to make this an actual race report:

Swim: 1:08

A bit violent, a little choppy, but pleased with my swimming improvement.

Bike: 5:12

Started to feel nauseous about a quarter into the bike. Did this bike by feel, as my heart rate monitor would not pick up the beat. Erred on the side of a conservative effort, backed off even more because of the nausea, but it never subsided until long after I crossed the finish line. As a result, my legs felt daisy fresh when I finished the bike

Run: 4:13

The best of that story is told above.  The worst has hopefully evaporated in the Arizona sun.

Total: 10:42

Second only to Hurricane St. George in time needed to complete. My sixth IRONMAN, but of course not my last.

IMAZ Run v2

Huge thanks to:

–Dave Deschenes of IRONMAN and Alicia of the MMRF for arranging our finish line father-daughter hugs.

–My parents, Uncle J, Aunt Stevie, Jeffrey, Maja, and Nate for being my support crew!

Zoot Sports: It’s hard to look good while throwing up on the side of the course, but that Zoot kit made it possible.

SmartWool: Though I faced many challenges during this race, blisters were not one of them.

Nalgene: Thankfully, proper pre-race hydration got me across the finish line when my body rejected all during-race hydration.

–Coach Tim of QT2, boy do we have a lot of work left to do.

IMAZ Plan

Kgo in Wonderland: IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report


IMLP Alice in Wonderland

“One can’t believe impossible things,” Alice laughed.

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Six Impossible Things

The queen would have been proud of me last Sunday. As I prepared my breakfast on the morning of my 5th IRONMAN, I too believed six impossible things:

1. That I could swim under 1:05

2. That I could bike to minimize the gap that my strongest competitors had built during the swim

3. That I could break 3:20 in the IRONMAN marathon

4. That chasing these goals wouldn’t land me in the med tent

5. That I could take the amateur title

6. That I could break the amateur record (10:01)

In this race report, I examine the outcome of each of these impossible things.

IMLP Sleeveless WetZoot

1. That I could swim under 1:05.

IRONMAN Lake Placid adopted the self-seeding rolling start this year. Not my fave.

IMLP Swim Self Seeding

Too many burly men with strong kicks overestimated their ability; I lost count of the shots I received to the face as I worked to pass them. Forget the underwater cable stretching the length of the course. Though it was supposed to minimize the need to sight, there were so many others fighting for position that it created a violent traffic jam.

IMLP Swim Loop 1

Luckily, my arms and core felt strong throughout the 2.4 miles, thanks in part to my new sleeveless Z Force 2.0 WetZoot and in other part to the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in the pool this year. I emerged in 1:04, a time I truly thought impossible.

Let’s put that time into context: Three years ago, I didn’t know how to swim, but my desire to finish an IRONMAN overrode my fear of putting my face in the water. Learning to swim is hands-down the greatest athletic challenge I have faced. Last year, my slowest IRONMAN swim was 1:51. Twice I swam a 1:14 though I had put in hundreds of hours of practice in between the two attempts. So when I emerged from the final loop to read a 1:04 on the clock, I struggled to hold it together.

Running and crying tears of joy, I raced over the half mile to and through transition.

IMLP Bike Smile

2. That I could bike to minimize the gap my strongest competitors had established during the swim

Like every other triathlon in which I have competed, I needed a strong bike and run to fight my way back into contention. Knowing that several of the strong swimmers were also strong bikers, I had to believe in the impossibility that I could chip away at their lead before the run.

The formidable bike strength of Katie, Alyssa, and several others, however, served to widen the gap they had established in the swim. I have no regrets believing in this impossibility, though. Without it, the damage would have been even greater, far too great to mend on the run.

IMLP Bike

3. That I could break 3:20 in the IRONMAN marathon

In the week leading up to the race, my coach asked me what I was ready to run. Sub-3:20, I replied. He called that a low-ball estimate, but a good place to start. I knew before I ever jumped into the water that day that, given even my best-case scenario swim and bike, winning the amateur title and breaking the amateur course record (10:01) would require a sub-3:20 marathon.

This was perhaps the most important of impossibilities that I believed.

IMLP Run Peace 2

Hot kicks love to run!

By the time I put on my running shoes, I was 24 minutes behind eventual amateur champion, Katie Thomas. That’s a hell of a lot of time to make up over 26.2 miles when you are racing one of the best triathletes in the country. But I went right on believing.

Even when my lace malfunctioned before mile 1, forcing me to run the first 12 miles with just one shoe tied. Even when I stopped at my special needs bag to change shoes so I could finish the second half with laces.

IMLP Run Downhill 2

Notice the shoe change: The other pair of hot kicks also love to run!

Slowly and steadily, I chipped away at the lead the others had established. The two-loop, out-and-back course allowed me to see how far ahead the stronger swimmer-bikers were, but it also gave us the chance to encourage one another. Each time I crossed paths with Katie, Alyssa, and Marni, we exchanged words of encouragement. I love this about IRONMAN ladies.

Believing I could run this IRONMAN marathon under 3:20 meant that I kept pushing even when I knew that the amateur champion had already crossed the finish line. In the end, I clocked a 3:22, just ten minutes shy of my stand-alone marathon record.

4. That chasing these goals wouldn’t land me in the med tent

Two miles before the finish line, I hit the long and final climb. On that first agonizing step uphill, I literally reached my hand forward as I do to downshift on the bike. Strange feeling of disorientation when I remember that I was no longer biking, but running. That I had no gears to downshift but my own legs. That confirmed what my tingling fingers and lips were telling me, which was that I had raced myself into dehydration.

I struggled through those final miles, watching my average pace nosedive. And as I always do when I am digging deeper than I thought possible, I remembered that I wasn’t just running for me. I was running for my father too.

Kendra crosses the finish  IMLP 2013

When I crossed the finish line, the volunteers whisked me away to the med tent where the doc took my bloods and monitored my vital signs. Within a half hour, and after several cups of chicken broth, I began to inquire about my place and time. That was a good indication that I was on the road to recovery.

5. That I could take the amateur title

Unfortunately, I came up seven minutes short for the amateur title. Katie Thomas is a powerhouse and, over the last few months, has become a friend. And though I really wanted to fly by her in the final loop of the run, the title couldn’t have gone to a more deserving athlete.

Believing in the impossibility of running down a 24-minute lead kept me focused and hungry and helped me to clock a 10:16 on an unforgiving course.

6. That I could break the amateur record

Breaking 10:01 on the Lake Placid course really would have taken a steller swim-bike AND run. I may not be there yet, but part of the reason I believe in the impossible is because doing so has helped me redefine possible again and again. It wasn’t long ago that swimming across the pool was outside my realm of possibility.

I guess the queen knew what she was doing when she set aside a half hour each day to believe in the impossible.

In what impossible will you believe?

IMLP Podium 30-34 v2

Thank you:

The MMRF, for helping myeloma fighters, including my dad, redefine possible

Zoot, for giving me the best gear in triathlon

SmartWool, for the happiest feet on the course

Nalgene, for pre-race hydration

My Coach, the German Sage, for calling out my low-ball estimate

Coach Beth Baker, for her coaching patience and persistence in the pool

Katie Thomas and her family, for their kindness on and off the course

The Greene Family, for adopting me for the weekend

My parents, for cheering so loudly that I could hear them all the way from San Diego

The DC Triathlon Community and Team Wattie, for incredible cheers from racers and spectators alike

IMLP CheerSquad 2

IMLP Wattie 2

And finally, to the town of Lake Placid!

IMLP Snow v2

Triathlete in the Rye: Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

The Only Thing Different Holden Caulfield

There’s a scene from my favorite novel of teenage rebellion, Catcher in the Rye, in which the coming-of-age protagonist, Holden Caulfield, recalls his childhood field trips to the Museum of Natural History. Year after year, everything in the museum “always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish…Nobody’d be different.” Nobody. Nothing. With the exception of one major thing. While nothing inside the museum changes, everything inside Holden does. As Holden explains, “The only thing that would be different would be you.”

Catcher in the Rye

You needn’t have read Catcher in the Rye to understand the desire to halt the forward progression of time. If, as an adult, you’ve ever returned to your elementary playground or classroom to find the exact same place unchanged, yet appear so completely different, you will relate to Holden’s dilemma.

Bathing Suit and a Bike Eagleman 70.3

I thought about Holden and his museum this past Sunday in the hours following my race. This year’s Eagleman 70.3 presented my first opportunity for a side-by-side, year-by-year comparison, for I had never before—in all two years of my competitive triathlon career—raced the same course twice.

Eagleman 70.3 Kendra Zoot 3

A year ago on this course, I spent the entire run making up for time I lost on the swim (35:11) and failed to make up on the bike (2:36). I ran a ridiculous negative split (over three minutes!) on a shadeless, flat, out-and-back course—that only got hotter with each step (1:35). And though I raced my way from 12th into 2nd in the final few miles, I just couldn’t catch #1.

Eagleman 70.3 Start

This year, Eagleman for me was like Holden’s beloved museum–frozen in time. The same slow swim in the Choptank River (37:54), the same bike course into the same wind (2:32), the same out-and-back run (1:34) completely devoid of shade with a radical negative split (nearly three minutes!).

And though I ran my way into 2nd for the second year in a row, I just couldn’t catch #1.

Eagleman 70.3 Podium

Katie, Kgo, Shandra, Leah, Lisa

The course. The conditions. The outcome. Everything was the same.

The only thing different was me.

Like the years that changed Holden, so too did this past year of competition change me.

The novelty born of firsts has worn off: my first IRONMAN, my first podium, my first amateur title, my first Kona. So that even though everything about Sunday was the same, the results were not as fulfilling.

But thankfully, unlike Holden, I do not fear change.

An evolving understanding of my capabilities and limitations has changed me since my first attempt at Eagleman. As I expect ever more of myself, I will encounter disappointment more often than success. But when I do succeed, the richness of the reward is worth the depth of all my disappointment along the way. This evolution of perspective makes me more than a stronger athlete. It makes me a stronger human being.

And that type of strength cannot be measured in PRs and podiums.

Training for Life Star

HUGE thanks to:

My parents for supporting me with love unchanging

The MMRF for changing the future of multiple myeloma

My Coach, the German Sage

My dear support crew, Stefan, Jay and Rae Jean, first time (but not last time) IRONMAN spectators

Eagleman 70.3 Jay and Kgo

Kgo and Jay-Tre

ZOOT, for my enduring, top-of-the-line wetsuit, tri kit, and running shoes

SMARTWOOL, for another 25,000 steps without a blister

Sara and Kendra Wetsuits Eagleman 70.3

Kgo y Sarita

Eagleman 70.3 Mud

Cross Swamp Eagleman before AND after biking 56

ChiTo’s Racing Retirement: Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

ChiTo P3 Tattoo

Some races begin long before the cannon fires. Such was the 2013 Oceanside 70.3 for me.

A week before race day, I flew out to visit the fam and train in some warmer weather. Out on a short interval ride with ChiTo, my one and only bike, I mashed aggressively and blissfully on the pedals. In the zone, breath quickening, I shifted to maximize power, and then lost it all at once. ChiTo’s crank arm stopped dead in its tracks, the chain wedging itself mid-mash between the frame and chain ring before forcing its way through the tight spot and ripping open the carbon. (And with it, my heart).

ChiTo damage

Ouch

Within hours, my dad and I were at the carbon doctor who diagnosed a four-week repair time for ChiTo.  Only a few days separated me from the season opener for which I had traveled across the country to race. I was equal parts devastated and distraught.

Trashcanned

But ChiTo’s un-race-able verdict was handed down just hours before I learned that my parents’ best man, a friend to my dad for 60 years, had lost his noble battle with cancer.

The death of my father’s friend and thoughts of the wife and five kids he left behind were poignant reminders that none of us will ever have enough time with our parents. That too much distance separates my home on the East Coast from my parents’ home out West. That our visits are too few and far between.

Because of my dad’s hot chemo dates with the oncology nurses, he is not able to travel to most of my races. I chose Oceanside 70.3 because he, my mom, and my whole family would be there. Not racing was not an option.

But dropping a few thousand dollars on a bike didn’t seem like much of an option either, so I searched for a bicycle to rent for race day.

AeroBike

Not aero enough

Biker Steve Makes Noise

No room for a hydration kit

Bike Too Orange

Too Orange

Thankfully, Bike Bling of Escondido not only had a Cervelo P3 in my size, they helped me afford it. Their generosity means so much more than they will ever know; replacing ChiTo with the new racing machine means that once ChiTo’s carbon integrity is fully restored, he can remain in San Diego for me to ride as trips home grow more frequent.

Bo at Bike Bling with Baabu the new P3

Thank you, Bo! Thank you, Bike Bling.

I wish the pre-race story ended there.

For obvious reasons, the fit was hurried and imperfect. The aero bars on this new bike weren’t quite right. And 24 hours before the race, I was still making adjustments in my parents’ garage with a ruler and a multi-tool.  I feared what Saturday would bring on a bike not yet ready to race.

Biking without Bikes

Race Day

Freezing in the Harbor

Oceanside 70.3 Swim

I entered the cold waters of Oceanside Harbor and glided through the swim. The waters were smooth, the course straightforward, and the times fast. I hear the course was even short. But all I was thinking about was the stranger of a bike awaiting me in transition.

Climbing the Hills

Anxiety over racing a bike without a proper fit and with just 15 miles to its name freed me from concerns over the course’s hills and headwinds. I had been too busy driving to and from the bike store and carbon doctor to study the bike course’s elevation chart.

Oceanside 70.3 Bike

But I LOVED it. Moving north along the Pacific Ocean with the tailwinds, then into the climbers of Camp Pendleton, and finally through the headwinds all the way back to Oceanside pier. I had the second fastest amateur bike split of the day (2:38:04), behind the very strong Sonja Wieck (2:37:40).

Running Around

Out of T2, I spotted Jocelyn Cornman on her second and final loop of the run course. We exchanged words of encouragement and I pushed myself to maintain her rhythm. Jocelyn is a pro, and a very strong runner—I remember clearly when she blazed past me at Kona last year on her way to a World Championship podium finish. 

Oceanside 70.3 Run

Though out-and-backs can be momentum-busting on tired legs, the layout of this course gave me the opportunity to share cheers with some of the friends I made last year traveling across the country racing triathlon.  I am so thankful for the words, smiles, and thumbs up from Cathleen, Sydnie, James, Mustafa, Rene, and my new teammate, Hana.

I ran a patient race, which is all I could do. With just six miles to go,  I was still in fourth place, still 5 minutes behind the leader. But I worked to keep the risky pace from my first loop and grabbed a new Half-IRONMAN personal best (4:46), an IRONMAN half marathon personal best (1:29), and a place atop the amateur podium.

Hana, Chuck, Kgo Oceanside 70.3 V2

My Zoot mates, Chuck (amateur male champ) and Hana (Czech beauty queen)

Last season, in the days leading up to Kona, I had dreamt of carbon damage so extensive that it sidelined me from competition. So it was truly empowering this week when, after my great fear was realized, I realized everything would still be okay.

Everything is Better than You Thought

In memory of Don Lynn. Sending hugs to the Lynn Family.

HUGE thanks:

To Rybop, Katie, Jenbop, BrotherD, Godmother and Sherpa mother and father:

Oceanside 70.3 Sherpa Parents v2

To my champion nephews:

Podium Nephews Oceanside 70.3 v2

To my new teammate Hana:

Hana and Kgo 2

To my Coach, the German Sage.

To Zoot. Hot new kits! Tons of support. Love this team!

To Smartwool. 25,000 more steps. Zero blisters.

Zoot Shoes at Oceanside 70.3

The #1 reason to race Oceanside 70.3

My Father’s Daughter: Race Report Kona 2012

“I hear the winds in Kona are as fierce as the heat,” my dad said on the other end of the line.

Two weeks separated me from the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.  My dad would be cheering for me from across the Pacific. Since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003, he has more than outlived the 5-year average survival rate. And though he continues to defy the odds, his chemotherapy occasionally cuffs him to California.

“I hope Kona isn’t like Hurricane St. George,” he laughed.

Note: Picture not to scale

I laughed too, recalling that it took me 1 hour and 51 minutes (!!!) to escape the St. George swim alive.

But instead of agreeing with my dad, I told him that I hoped race day would bring the windiest and hottest day Kona had ever seen.  I wasn’t racing for time, I reminded him. I was racing for place.

But I was also racing the strongest, most-experienced triathletes in the world.

On a course with easy, breezy conditions, the outcome will favor the triathlete with the greatest physical prowess.  Having raced my first triathlon only 18 months before and having learned to swim 6 months before that, I knew that I could not compete on the international level on physical terms alone.

But the harsher the conditions, I told my dad, the larger role fortitude would play in the outcome of the race. Should the winds kick up and the sun beat down, my mental game could help me minimize the experience gap.

“Well, you always liked a great challenge,” my dad replied.

 

Swim

1:14:17

The greatest challenge I have faced in the past 18 months is open water panic.

I pinpointed the source of panic as the rough contact experienced during a mass swim start. I set about to overcome that fear with the help of some riot police in Kona.

After some convincing, the riot police agreed to let me swim with them in practice while they simultaneously pushed, punched, and pulled me under water. With each day, I panicked a little less. And before the cannon fired on race day, I felt mentally prepared to face my open water demon.

Drafting in the water (i.e., swimming in someone’s slipstream) is legal, unlike drafting on the bike. AND it leads to faster swim splits.  But until this race, I had lined up far from my competitors, bypassing the drafting advantage that comes with a higher risk of kicks to the head. This time though, I lined up close to my competitors, jumped on a pair of feet, and gained the drafting advantage for the first time in my life. After much body contact, and some salt water in my belly, I exited the water in 1:14. No fear. No panic attack.

Though I emerged 18 minutes behind the leader, my mental game was on. And I couldn’t wait to put it to the Queen K test.

Bike

5:38:25

As I biked toward the Queen K, Sherpa Jeffrey yelled that I was 43rd out of the water. Though further behind than I anticipated, I put it back in perspective.  Two years ago, I laughed at my brother-in-law when he suggested racing an Ironman together. “Brother,” I said, “I can’t swim.”

“If anyone is tough enough to learn girl, it’s you,” he argued.

This memory filled my eyes with tears, momentarily spiked my heart rate, and gave a bolt of energy to my legs. I gave my brother those first 10 miles for seeing something in me that I never would have seen myself.

I focused on even pedal stroke, strong breaths, and catching superior swimmers for the next 50 miles, which got me to the turnaround at Hawi with a 22mph average. Of course, the crosswinds were too strong for me to notice the tailwind. So when I hit the turnaround only to face a brutal headwind, I watched my average speed drop off precipitously. I struggled to keep my heart rate up. My legs felt more like they should at the end of a build cycle. And I still had 52 miles to go.

1267–one of many looking for the draft-legal race

In preparation for those low points, I had written on my left hand the names of five people who would never have the opportunity to do what I was doing, people who know the true meaning of harsh conditions. People whose courage I would honor as I faced the day. I gave each of them 10 miles during which time I replayed in my mind memories we had made long before I knew triathlon.

Those thoughts carried me into T2 with a smile.

Mind and body had weathered the wind.

And we biked our way into 21st place.

Run

3:29:26

My left hand carried five names, but my right carried five words.

Every time I step into my running shoes, I acknowledge that I am doing something that my father once loved to do, taught me to do, but can no longer do himself. When I run, I run for both of us.

With a patient and steady pace over the first 9 miles, I had worked my way from 21st into 17th.

It was around 2pm, the hottest recorded point of the day.  The next 15 miles took me out and back along the boiling blacktop of the Queen K Highway. I hear the heat index exceeded 100 degrees. I hear it felt like a furnace. I hear there wasn’t a single ocean breeze. But I can’t remember any of that.

Instead, I remember my legs and mind running us into a 9th place finish. In the WORLD!

As I lay in bed that night, too elated to sleep, I revisited several of the pre-race conversations I had with Kona veterans. A few in particular advised me to view my first Kona more as a learning experience than a competition. “You’re new to the course, you don’t know that heat, and you’ll make mistakes,” one told me. “Odds are not in your favor.”

That’s okay, I remember thinking to myself.

I am my father’s daughter.

Though not my father, this man carries a similar outlook on life

Mahalo:

To our friends and family who fight for Team Poppy Tony!

To the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) for fighting to advance the cure with body and mind.

To Jeffrey, my patient and loyal Sherpa. More on his awesomeness here.

To my German Sage, for helping me weather The Kona Syndrome.

To Coach Cummings, for teaching me to aim beyond the qualification.

To Muscle MilkZensahChocolate #9, and Optimal Swimming.

And to the 5,000 (!!!) volunteers who make an Ironman World Championship happen! Here, with my favorite volunteers, Tracey and Mike:

This was right after Tracey told me that I got Top 10…I was crying tears of joy 🙂

More Tears of Joy. Thank you, Mike!