Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just an Ordinary Ride

Yesterday, I went for a bike ride from my home in Woodinville to my church in Redmond via the Lake Samammish River Trail. It's a route I take regularly, but this time was a little different in two ways.

First, on my journey to the church, I passed some familiar Team Fastt faces, and it was great to see them out! I came up behind two people running, and recognized them immediately (especially with the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman shirt). As I passed, I said "Is that Nikki and Stacey?!" They said hi, and we cheered each other on like we were still in the half-ironman race :) It made my day. I also saw Gordon pass by me going in the opposite direction on his bike. I think he was too focused to notice me, but I was glad to see him.

All of this made me realize that encouragement during routine workouts and training is just as important as--if not more so than--encouragement during a race. In a race, we have myriad fans, endorphins, and the race excitement working in our favor. It's often the dirty work of training where we need the most support. Discipline is not easy.

And speaking of dirty work.... On my journey back home, after working diligently to prepare for Vacation Bible School, I came across some trash that was scattered all over the grass along part of the trail. I passed by it, and thought to myself, "Someone really ought to clean that up." The farther I got from the trash, the more I realized that that "someone" really ought to be me. It's a lot like the parable of the Good Samaritan, when the "religious folk" passed by an injured man on the side of the road--it was a Samaritan (an outcast) that actually stopped to help the injured man. So, after wrestling with my thoughts and pride, I turned my bike around to go pick up the trash. It was a bunch of beer bottles, plates, forks, napkins, etc., and it was pretty gross.

There was a couple sitting nearby that came over to help me. They commented that they wouldn't have done anything had I not stopped to clean it up. So sometimes when our paths come across something unpleasant, God might be calling us to be the ones to do the dirty work. Perhaps, no matter how futile it might seem, we'll encourage another person in the process.

That was my ordinary ride for the day.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gordon's Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report

Decision to Enter: I have done triathlons for 20 some years, but have never done longer than Olympic distance. I had not intended to enter this year's race, but after seeing the enthusiasm on TEAMFASTT and hearing my niece and her husband had entered as a relay I started giving it some thought. After two weeks of good weather and finally getting some bicycle miles I registered a week before the event.

Race Expectations: Being number orientated I have the habit of of projecting how fast(or how slow depending on your perspective) I can do the event. Comparing to my Olympic experience I would swim at my Olympic swim pace. Since I had felt fairly strong riding the course recently, I planned riding fairly hard, but trying to hold back some on the hills. On the run I knew that I would be slowing down, so I put my expectations to try to hold 9 minutes miles, as I had recently completed 7.5 miles at that pace after a 38 mile ride. Therefore, I thought I should be able to break 6 hours and optimistically go 5:40 with a 35 minute swim, 3:05 bike, and then going under 2 hours for the run. Hopefully my transition times would be included in swim/bike, but could be made up with a faster run. Of course there was always the possibility I would “bonk” and come in much slower. This was not an impossibility, as just a few years earlier I was doing a 83 mile bike ride and at about mile 60 after climbing a short steep hill I was “wasted” and had to limp in at less than 12 MPH.

Race Preparation: My main concern was how much nutrition/hydration. For the Olympic distance I froze two large water bottles of Gatorade mix with added salt which seemed to suffice. I decided to carry three bottles and get replacement(s) at the bottle exchange. How much solids such as gels was unclear and decided to pack a few in my Bento Box. This was after consulting with several participants, even a couple at the transition area on race day(they were probably placing bets on when I would drop out). The night before the race I must have gotten only a couple hours sleep as my anxiety level rose. I left at 4:15 AM and felt a bit groggy. However, upon arriving at the transition area I quickly perked up and was ready to race!

The Swim: I started in the last wave before the relays. My group was smaller so I got off to a “clean” start. I considered the swim as a warm up for the rest of the race -- just keep relaxed and stretch out the muscles. By the time I rounded the end yellow buoys I had caught up with some swimmers in the previous waves. However at this point I started keeping further to the right of most swimmers as I had noticed the last orange buoy was set to the left. I exited the swim feeling energized in 34:06. My bike was on the nearest rack on transition entry – easy to find, and made it through transition in mediocre 2:39.

The Bike: Starting in the last waves has its advantages psychologically. Instead of constantly being passed in the bike, I was passing numerous bicyclists. I was still feeling pretty good as I made the turn onto Lake Roesiger Road and began the climb up the hill. Shortly I heard honking in back of me and thought: “This may get dicey with a car trying to pass everyone on the hill”. The honking continued and all of a sudden the leading pros, already on their 2nd loop, passed me like I was hardly moving – so much for thinking I was “tearing” the bike course apart! At this point I decided to try downing a gel. Fumbling to open it, I squeezed some into my mouth, but also got on my hands. I guess I would stick to gatorade as I spent the next few miles licking my sticky hands. As I approached the halfway point I prepared to discard one of my water bottles for a replacement. They were passing out both water and Gatorade in the plastic bottle. As I passed the halfway bike point I noticed my time was just over 1:30 – I was on schedule for my bike split. Shortly thereafter I noticed a strange noise coming from my bicycle – not a good sign. After a few miles I realized it was simply the thinner Gatorade container rattling in my bottle cage. I continued downing fluids and took another Gatorade at the bottle exchange. I didn't feel like I was strong in the 2nd loop and my 2nd half time confirmed that out by being over 9 minutes slower. Total bike time: 3:10:17(1:30:19/1:39:58).

The Run: As I dismounted my bike I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder(which quickly went away) and a sore lower back. Since I had downed 90 ounces of Gatorade on the bike, I took a bathroom break and exited transition in 3:22. After the first couple of miles my lower back loosened up and I actually felt like I was running. For miles 3-5 I was running in the 8:40 range and thought: “The run isn't going to be all that bad”. I came through the halfway point at about 57 minutes. The first part of the 2nd loop I thought I was still feeling pretty good, but I noticed my mile 3 was almost 1 minute slower than on the 1st loop – I didn't feel like I had slowed down that much. The next two were even slower, closer to 10 minutes. However, I was almost done – back up over the hill and to the finish! As I approached the finish line I was energized by the cheering crowd and elatedly crossed the timing mats. My run time was 1:59:53(57:01/1:02:52). Total time was 5:50:15.

Conclusion: As I look back on my 1st Half Ironman I can say I wouldn't have entered it weren't for being on TEAMFASTT and seeing the enthusiasm for it. The race was made much more enjoyable with all the support and cheering along the course. I'm just thankful I was able to complete a new challenge, even after all the years I've been doing triathlons. My race was by no means perfect, but was right in the middle of where I had predicted. I certainly could improve my nutrition routine(I mainly drank water on the run). My muscle endurance was definitely lacking which more time in the saddle could help. However, since my future schedule only includes Olympic distances, maybe I needn't get too serious about Half Ironman optimization.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lake Stevens 70.3 - Tracy's Race Report

In triathlons, as in life, each participant has a unique story to tell even though we all run the same course. This is my story of the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman, on July 6, 2008.

Race day began with two alarms (mine and my husband's) sounding simultaneously at 4:00am Sunday morning. Ouch. Thankfully, I had gotten a relatively decent night of sleep, all things considered. But once the alarms sounded, there was no more sleeping to be had, as the race excitement immediately took over.

We were lodging at a teammate's house nearby, which was such a blessing because we didn't have to get up even earlier! So thanks to Marci for housing three Team Fastt race participants (Nikki, Stacy, and myself), plus my husband, Scott. In fact, Marci's two little boys were excited to camp out in their parents' bedroom so us triathletes could use their beds. Not to mention all the other little things they did to encourage us in our race, like provide goodie bags and oatmeal for breakfast. May God bless you all for your kindness!

After getting ready--including applying team tattoos to my arm and leg--and eating a quick breakfast, Scott and I left to catch a shuttle to the race site...only to realize I had left my two drink bottles in Marci's refrigerator at the house. Oops. Thankfully, we hadn't gotten too far, so we turned around to get them. I couldn't race without my water and energy drink.

I arrived at the transition area at about 5:30am, a half hour later than I had hoped. My good friend and teammate, Serene, was already there. We have been training together for this race for most of the year, and it turned out we were right next to each other in transition; she was #640, and I was #641. It couldn't have worked out better. We went through all the motions to get prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually. We made sure all of our tri gear was in place, we psyched each other up, and we prayed with other teammates who were also racing. We donned wetsuits, caps and goggles, and waited in line with our age group (29 & under) to enter the water. As we were waiting in line, I told Serene, "Now I can finally relax." The preparations are so mentally taxing that it makes the race seem easy. Though in all reality, I knew it wouldn't be. But I had trained hard, and was ready for the challenge of a half-ironman.

When the announcer said "Go!," we were off. I was in the middle of the huddle, and got kicked a few times, but still kept my calm. It has taken me several races to get used to the swim starts, and this was the first time I didn't have to stop and catch my breath. I felt great, and tried to focus on my swim technique (thanks to Lisa!). About halfway through, the group behind me started to catch up, easy to spot in neon pink swim caps. Several passed me, too close for comfort. I got kicked, and had to stop once or twice when swimmers passed on both sides at the same time. But I persevered, even passing a few swimmers in the groups ahead of me. I exited the 1.2-mile swim course at 40:47.

In the transition area, I had a hard time finding my bike. I counted the racks, and knew which row I was in, but somehow I passed right by my bright orange and yellow towel. I probably wasted about 15 seconds just looking for it. But I finally found it, and prepared for the long 56-mile ride ahead of me. On my way out of transition, I heard my brother, Tyson, and his girlfriend, Andrea, shout words of encouragement. It definitely made me smile. :)

So, onto the bike. I was bummed earlier in the week when I heard that they had altered the bike course just days before the race. I had practiced the course three times, and felt ready to conquer it. But then I got a little nervous once they changed it--I even had a dream that I got lost on the bike course, causing me to come in last. I did not, however, get lost, and finished the course faster than I had anticipated, in 3:11:42. (Mom, if you're reading this, you might want to skip the next sentence...). Also, according to my odometer, I got up to 46 mph! That's the fastest I've gone on my bike thus far, and I don't intend to go much faster. With that said, the bike course was hilly, technical, and fun. Rather than a flat and monotonous course, this one made me feel like I had really accomplished something afterwards.

My bike-to-run transition was much smoother than the first transition. I racked my bike, took off my gear, and put on my running shoes. Running is generally my strongest area in triathlons, but once I got started, I didn't know how I would survive 13.1 miles. But just as we must trust in God to carry us through that which is too big for us, I had to trust that my training would carry my body through the run course. And it did.

The run course consisted of two loops. I felt a little sick on the first loop, and my heart rate kept jumping up, especially when going uphill or passing someone. But after about four miles, things settled down and I fell into a good rhythm. On the second loop, I actually caught up with Serene, who wasn't feeling very well. We jogged together for a few minutes. Before I ran ahead, Serene said, "I'm praying for you!" Likewise, I prayed for her, too, and gave thanks to God for bringing such a great friend and training partner into my life. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). In fact, that's the best part of being on Team Fastt--we are able to encourage and build each other up.

Beginning way back in January, I had decided to memorize Hebrews 12 during my training, because I needed something to think about during the long workouts, and figured that would be a good challenge. Though I didn't get through all of it, I did memorize the first 13 verses, which I then used to help me persevere during the run course. I estimated one verse per mile, with a sprint at the end. I think it helped out a lot, not only in the race, but also in life.

Family, friends, and fans also helped me persevere through the run. It was great to run past the crowds of people and hear them cheering me on. It made me smile, even if I was in pain. In all honesty, finishing a half-ironman would not have been possible without their support. Many thanks to Scott, Tyson, Andrea, and everyone at Team Fastt!

And are you ready for my finish? My goal was 6 hours, and I finished strong at 5:59:59! What's even more amazing is that I had no idea what my time was after mile 3 in the run, because my heart rate monitor decided to reset itself. So without even knowing my time, I beat my goal by one second. Crazy.

After all that training, and after finishing my first half-ironman, I was overjoyed. Not only did I finish, but I had a great time doing it. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11--the verse I focused on at mile 11!). There is a reason for training, whether for a triathlon or for life, and reaching your goal far outweighs the pain it takes to get there.

Oh yeah, and my favorite comment from a fellow participant: Someone passing me on the run said, "I like your fish." He was talking about my temporary team tattoo on the back of my leg. :)

Congrats to all Lake Stevens HIM finishers!!

Tracy Mikula

Stacy's pictures

Stacy Wingard's First Half Ironman

I forgot to attach pictures....here they are!

My First Half Ironman

Lake Steven’s 70.3 Ironman was my first Half Ironman. It was also a blast! I can’t wait to do it again….WOW! I can hardly believe I’ve grown this much as an athlete in a few short years! Well, here goes my first attempt at a race blog….After a long winter of training in rain, sleet and snow (with Kathryn who talked me into signing up for HIM, Robin who pushed me to ride faster, Nikki my training partner, and several others who would join the diehards) and then unusually frigid water temperatures until just a few weeks ago I really appreciated the perfect race weather the morning of Lake Steven’s 70.3! I need to mention that staying the night before at Marci’s near the race site was a huge blessing! She was so awesome! She even got up with us at 4:00am the morning of the race and had breakfast and coffee ready! I couldn't eat much as I was a bit nervous since our briefing the day before. When I got to the swim start my stomach settled down as it didn’t look as scary as I had imagined (I had viewed last years Coeur d alene Ironman swim start and it looked like a raging sea!) Also, as I approached the dock there was Lisa was on the dock snapping pictures! So at this point I relaxed and really had a good swim, very steady and when I finished the swim portion I was feeling absolutely great and ready to get to my bike as this was the part of the course I knew like the back of my hand as I had been out here riding the course for several months! I had a great ride. I felt strong the whole way and the hills were my friends…I knew exactly where they were J I was very relieved when I finished the bike without incurring a single penalty…(the orientation meeting the day before freaked me out as I listened to all of the rules from the head officiate and I was sure I forget something and see their motorcycle flagging me down. Also, I was worried if I had to drop back 7 yards every time someone passed me I would end up back at the start!) It is funny how our minds work overtime—As it turns out I had nothing at all to worry about , because when the really fast pro’s go by they are flying and there isn’t a need to drop back because within the 25 seconds they are way ahead! I was strong and had fun passing other riders too! When I came to the second loop I saw Rich cheering us on and that was a cool surprise seeing him out on a part of the course where there aren’t many spectators! It was during this loop that my stomach started cramping up and as much as I tried to stretch it out and get rid of it before the run it continued. When I left the transition area to head out for the run I had to keep telling myself that that my legs were not connected to my stomach so my feet had to keep moving! I was in the 3rd leg of my half ironman and I was tough enough to finish strong through anything! So, most of the times I was moving pretty slow but I smiled none the less, encouraged others running in pain by shouting “finish strong”, and prayed! Every time I passed the downtown transition area (5x) there was a mass of Team Fastt supporters and my huge family crowd (15 of them) in blue teamfastt t-shirts cheering me on. That was the equivalent of Super Gu and energized me for miles! Three miles from the finish I caught Nikki and almost started tearing up as I realized we would get to finish the race together! We trained as partners for this race the past several months. (She is a faster swimmer than I and was ahead of me on the swim by 9 minutes…) She told me I couldn’t get emotional because she was saving her cry til the finish line! So we ran …and at one point we saw the finish line around the bend it we realized that we were just minutes away from completing the race! We Finished Strong, beat our personal time goals and more than anything dug deeper, pulled stronger, and pressed through to our finish! I have a long way to go in rankings but I personally WON my race! I couldn’t be more satisfied. I Finished Strong The Race Marked Out For Me. With Perseverance! I checked a huge goal off my list. Now I’ll set a new goal, one bigger than me, one that will stretch me as I train for it! That life list seems to keep growing as I do triathlons…I realized as I added a full ironman to it as I was running this race! Who knows when I’ll check that one off the list…Next, I am going to support Kathryn and Jo Ann at Ironman Canada and catch athletes at the finish line… :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ironman Goals - Ironman CDA 2008

Couer d’Alene was my second Ironman but not my last. Although there were so many differences between this year versus last, the journey nonetheless was again so memorable.

The first few days in Couer d’Alene were spent with teammates Rich and Faye (and her husband Michael), my daughter, Sydney and her friend, Brittney. Apparently they were on “my training plan” for the week which included a few swims, runs and rides as well as great food, fun conversations, much laughter and a lot of walking! In looking back, maybe I should have followed theirs?!

By Friday I was joined by my husband, Tim, and son, Sam and friends, Lisa and Kathryn. Teammates Robin and Christy also rolled into CDA. Our house became the “Team FASTT” hangout and I enjoyed the constant flurry of activity.

In so many ways this trip to Ironman was so different than in the past. Last year my goal was to finish. This year I had more defined goals. My coach suggested I set and write down 10 goals for Ironman but that they could not be time specific. He told me that regardless of my finish, if I met most or all of these goals, I would be able to say that I had a great race. I met 9 of the 10 so I can easily say, I had a great race! (More about this later.) The time goals…well, yes, I had those listed on a separate piece of paper!

Three AM comes early but who can really sleep before an Ironman? Kathryn and Lisa were up with me as they made me breakfast and ensured I had everything that I needed. I felt so spoiled and yet so fortunate. Rich and Faye soon joined us and we headed to the beach.

One of the biggest differences for me this year was that I was never nervous. NEVER! As I stood there on the beach with Rich, Faye, Christy and Robin, I felt so fortunate to be sharing this with such wonderful teammates. The sound of the gun caught me by surprise. With the swim not being my strength, I waited a few seconds before heading to the water. Somehow I found myself in the thick of it all and I was repeatedly kicked and hit. At some point early on I came to realize it was going to be a brutal swim. On the first lap as I was headed back to the beach I decided to swim to the inside of the buoys in search of some open water. Somehow I ended up going
a bit off course but pulled it back together and as I exited the water I looked at my watch and saw that I had a :40 minute swim. I was just a bit slower than I had hoped since I was aiming for a 1:15 finish but thought I could improve my time on the second lap as I was feeling strong and the masses seemed to have cleared a bit. As it was, I had a 1:24 swim but I was okay with that as I wasn’t supposed to have time goals anyhow, remember?

Out of the water I was feeling good – even warm (as the water temperature was 59.5 degrees). I love the wetsuit strippers. One yank and they had my suit off and I was running to the tent. The changing tent was busy with athletes and volunteers. All of the volunteers were busy with other athletes so I was on my own but it went well and I was out of there fairly quickly. I was anxious to get on my bike. As many know, that is my favorite leg of the race. (Well, that and chocolate chip cookies on the run!) At the end of the first loop I was 5 minutes slower than I had planned. Was this going to be the norm today as everything was about 5 minutes off? A few times the winds picked up on lap two and caught me by surprise but I was still feeling strong. I love coming through town and hearing and seeing my friends and family. They give me something to look forward to and they are such an inspiration.

Just towards the end of my ride I caught a friend, Patty, who is a fun, talented, local competitor. I figured the race was going to come down to the run between us. I left T2 feeling really good. My stomach was bothering me a bit - apparently I thought a few Gummy Bears would help as I grabbed a package as I ran through T2. I don't even like Gummy Bears!

The first few miles went well but then I started to hurt, physically that is. The mental would be later. I had put a lot of training time into my run this past year hoping to put it all together for this race. But I also have been plagued with injuries and about 3 miles into the run I was beginning to hurt. I stopped to stretch and this was soon to be the beginning of a run/walk run portion of my race. As some point I caught up with George McKinnon. We kept one another company as we stuck together for a portion of the race supporting one another and
moving forward. There were times when I really felt like I could continue running and run well but each time I tried I limped back to a walk. I was feeling discouraged but not disappointed as I had a good race thus far.

Late in the run I saw a ‘friendly’ wave just 75 feet or so in front of me. It was my friend Patty who had caught and passed me early in the run. I took a few long and ever so painful strides to catch up to her. A friendly face…good company…run time goals way off…my choice was clear; I would finish the last portion of the race with Patty.

As we rounded the corner to the final stretch home my coach, Scott, stepped out from the crowd to remind me that I was not meeting one of my goals. Oh’ yes, now I remember….that list of ten goals that I had written and sent to him prior to race day. It was the one goal that I knew was going to be the hardest to meet…to not walk any portion of the run except the aid stations….and here I was, walking! As he checked in with me I realized that I was having a fantastic day; out there doing what I enjoy, with people I enjoy and absorbing every moment.

That moment lingered for a few hours as I stayed at the finish line until the last TF athlete crossed. Of course I ate my Gummy Bears then too. After that I returned home just long enough to shower (I am certain a few were pleased about that), eat and celebrate with a nice glass of wine before
returning back to cheer for those Ironman athletes that would cross just before midnight.

The next morning realization set in….a few of the crazy ones, Robin, Kathryn and Faye had signed up for next year. Of course I did not want to be left out. So, as I continue to train, I will work at ensuring that I meet my missed goal; I will not walk the run.