Sunday, September 22, 2013

Challenge Penticton Race Report

wow... it is almost a whole fricken month that I ran over the finish line at Challenge Penticton.  How time flies.  I guess that it is a bit hard to write a race report a month late, but, in so many ways, it still feels like it was yesterday.  Probably what happens when you do an epic thing for the first time in your life.  Full-distance racing is no joke.  It's crazy, its inspirational, it's EPIC!

One question might be "have you done an Ironman?"  No.  I have NOT done an ironman.  However, with this event, I have done the same feat: completed a race that is 4km of swimming, 180km of biking, and 42Km of running.   Last year, as you may know, the city of Penticton chose to go with the Challenge Family, rather than Ironman. It brings a new feel to race week in the Okanagan, but a great feel.  The biggest expression that I have about the whole even is WOW.  What an amazingly put on event from the fantastic volunteers, Felix (The CEO of Challenge) welcoming every athlete over the line, a family oriented event, and perfect details from start to finish, and beyond.  Thank you Challenge.  And, for all of you who love the I-Dot... Give this one a go.  You'll love it. It may not be the road to Kona, but it is the road that screams triathlon community and pure sport.

So, here we have it.

4.2km SWIM.
you think it is 3.8?  Well, this year it was about 4.2, thanks to the wind.  The waves were present, and the buoys off course.  The ability to swim in a straight line was impaired. Challenge offers the swim in waves, rather than a mass start of all the athletes.  My wave went right after the pro's!  so, it was rather special to be able to stand on the beach, and watch the phenomenal pro-athletes take off.  Then, Steve King told all of us to turn around, look at your supporters/the spectators, and wave.  That was a special moment.  And, I am glad that Sean captured it.

I started off the swim fairly in front of the pack, and the whole way out to the turn around, it was super hard to stay on course. I kept on looking to my right, and it seemed like the the other athletes were way way far away.  But, i kept on sighting, and I was feeling strong.  There may have been at least one time that I had a big gulp of water, but, otherwise, I felt steady and strong.  Honestly, I think that is the only way to do this distance swim.  just settle into it, and feel long and strong.  It was SO nice to go around the two turn around buoys and feel like the waves had settled a bit, and swim to the end.

On my way out, I looked at my watch, and it was 1:07.  A solid 5 minutes slower than what I was hoping for.  but, then... I heard that I was 3rd woman out of the swim.  WHAT!??!?  are you fricken kidding me? Comon.  This day was starting off great.

all I remember that was eventful about this, was that i remember telling the wetsuit strippers "398! 398! 398!" hoping that they would get my bike bag.  One of them looked at me and said "you need to take your wetsuit off as well!"  Right.  forgot about that.  it would've been a really long ride.  Super nice to have people in a tent to put your shoes on, and smear you with sunscreen.

180km Bike: 
What can I say:  180km through the Okanagan and Silmilkameen Valleys is a long and beautiful road.  Within the first 30 minutes, I passed the first two women out of the swim.  What that meant, was that for approx 100km, I was the first place AG woman.  I don't know if i had ever imagined that in my race plan.  We had a great tail wind down to Osoyoos, which allowed for the first couple hours to be fun and fast.  I focused on eating, and getting fluids in, and just spinning at a HR that felt super comfortable.  This was probably the time during the race that I felt like I was flying.

We turned up to Richter's pass, and climbed.  I looked up & back towards Penticton, knowing how far I already came, and knowing that I was faster than all those people behind me.  That felt good.  Climbing was feeling good, but, I was ready to descend.  over the top we went.  about 5km later, and cruising toward the rollers, I dropped a water bottle.  Oops.  I stop to grab it, to a little "im wearing cleats" run backwards, and whoops, there goes the first woman by me.  There she was.  Now I knew that I was not the first AG'er out there.  We played back and forth for a while, but then by the time we got to the out and back, I knew she was going stronger than I.  That was where I started feeling fatigued.  At the special needs stop, i stuffed a cookie, some bites of pumpkin cake into my face, and chugged a starbucks frap.  What a great idea!  other than choking a bit on the pumpkin cake, I loved what I had put in my bag!

I saw sean and my mum for the first time on the bike, and I was still smiling, despite my crotch hurting.  I hadn't even peed yet!  (that was a bit of a problem!) I started the mental prep for yellow lake climb.

Boy, did yellow lake hurt.  I have cycled yellow lake before, and I did not remember it being this challenging.  It was the first time during the race i got emotional. I hurt, my crotch was burning a bit & my hams were starting to get tight.  I appreciated the moment to sit up & stretch out, but boy, it was a slow slog up.  When I had some friends cheer for me up the climb, and one in particular reach out and pat me on the back, the tapworks almost started.  To believe that you are doing this, and to believe that these people are standing there cheering for you, and to believe that you are stronger than the pain... its kinda emotional.

over the top, and down into Penticton.  amazing.  That was what that climb was for.  To finish the bike going super duper fast.

I lingered a bit longer than I wanted.  I was getting to a point in the race that I wasn't able to communicate what I needed.  All I knew was that it was time to change into dry clothes, and new shoes.  I did find, however, that my feet were un-reasonably sore.  Kinda crampy, and I have never experienced this before.  I stretched them out, i walked out of the tent with a handful of grapes, and started my run.  

Run 42 km.

Off I went, and it is true that during the first 3 or so km of running, you feel amaze-balls.  You legs say "FINALLY! let me move in a different manner."   Here I am.  Running like I love running!  Then, you realize you have to run another 40k. And, it turns into something different.  
I set my watch to give me a 1km pace, but lapping at 5km.  I thought that having my watch beep every 1km would drive me mentally batty.  I knew that if I kept my 5k's between 30-35mins, i would be under my goal of 4:30.  [Initially, I wanted to run 4:15.  seeing that I have never ran a marathon in my life, i didn't want to disappoint myself, so I said 4:30.]  the first 1/2 of the run was manageable.  I knew that the hills would get tough, and they did.  There was a pretty solid wind that we were running into along lake side.  I knew that if I didn't mentally get myself together at special needs, that it would be struggle on the way home.

I did, but it still was.  Running marathons is no joke.  I got to the aid stations on the way home, and i couldn't speak.  I couldn't decide what i wanted to consume, and I hurt.  There was a series of about 5 in a row, that i just about cried at.  but, then you get back into town, and you know you will finish.  At that point, on south main street hill, I knew I would be well below my overall goal time.  Sean saw me at about this point, and all I could muster was a few wimpers, and a "this is haaard."  

For the last 3k, i realised that I would be really close to my goal run time of 4:30, so I had to pick it up.  I felt so good (in the only way that you can feel good, following 11+ hours of exercise) during those last 2km. I ran along lakeshore with all I could muster.  I couldn't even give my mum a high five.  I just ran.  

And I took it in.  I finished.  I finished more than 20 minutes faster than I had expected. 
Not only that... but, shortly thereafter, I found out that I got second in my age group.  There were 30+ women in my category, so I was pretty proud of that.  I got this sweet award trophy for it as well!!!    After the race, i couldn't muster up energy to spend it with my teammates, but I just went home, and asked my beloved to get my recovery food and rub my legs.  What a feeling.  If you want to see the hilarious photos that marathon photos took of me "in action" check out THIS LINK HERE.. there might be a little zombie apocalypse happening in some of them.  

To get me to the finish line, there are so many people to thank.   Lets start with the athletes who were racing challenge: 
Natasha, Doneen, Teresa, Erin L, Paul K, Chris.  To know that you would be out there while I was out there kept me moving forward.  To train and to relate and to eat with you got me to the line.

To Esther.  Early on in LETC, i could tell that you were on a mission.  You have inspired me this season more than you know, and your hard work has paid off this year.  The big dance is yet to come, and you will ROCK IT!

To the amazing coaches at LETC: Andrew and Doug.  I haven't been on a triathlon team before.  Thanks for keeping us in line.

To my colleagues: for not thinking i am crazy for doing the training that is involved in this.  For listening to me when I obsess about my competition, or show off the most recent strava segment that I got achievements on. 

and finally, to family: my mum and dad who love to be proud of me.  To the birches who have never had to deal with obsession like this before.  To uncle Don and Rob for being ultra-awesome-endurance-inspirations.  And to Maureen, who sends so many encouraging messages.

and, to my little family:  My beloved, the boy I like, and the dog he takes care off.  Without you, this is not possible. 

*i'll not be doing iron-distance next year.  it's time to focus on kicking ass on the 1/2 iron distance.  And, focus on running.  In 2014, look out for a faster runner.*

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

End of my triathlon season!

Boy oh Boy, do I have some race reports to write!  What a few weeks!  I haven't (obviously) posted since after Lake Stevens 70.3, where I think I did the best 1/2 iron of my life.    July and August were fantastic, with lots of sun, lots of bike riding, and all round general beauty of the summer.  I love long days, and they are quickly running away from us.

I wish that I can write a few other things other than triathlon, but, really, I feel like that is all that my life has involved recently.   I am finally on my off season, and I am happy about that.  A few weeks of doing *not much* is needed.  I plan to spend the time at home with my pup and my hubby, possibly to road trip a bit (jasper & lake louise this weekend! hopefully to go see family in October!), eat some good meals, and generally just not exercise very much.   I do have goals for the fall, and most of them include the outcome of being a better runner.  I have really struggled with my running through this season, and I would like to learn to love running.  If not love, at least like.  I tend to think that the fall is a good time to do that: cooler weather, beautiful turning leaves, and more time than during the summer.

I will get those race reports out, but I guess that the general consensus is WOW.  This season gave me a renewed passion for triathlon, and wanting to get faster and faster.

In addition, work is changing up a bit.  I have a new rotating schedule, with not as many weekends (2 every 11 or something like that) and the same hours as Sean, and I am still loving my job.  I do feel like I am still learning so much, and continuing to be a better nurse, and a better professional.  

Even though the weather today felt a lot like summer, I know that the fall is a time of change and difference and new things. That is pretty exciting, and I am looking forward to the next couple months!