Friday, May 25, 2012

My Ironman Team

Getting to the race isn't always easy, but often more easy than finishing.  I had a lot of help out there and I want to give credit where credit is due.

Infinit Nutrition
Laurie at Infinit Nutrition has been working with me very carefully over the last six months to dial in my Ironman nutrition.  She's been very patient with my Type A ways.  When I found Infinit, I was skeptical at first, but training and eventually racing with it gave me confidence.  On the bike I used a custom blend for cycling, mixed for my weight, how much I sweat, and how hot the race is likely to be.  It took a bit longer to get this dialed in than the run nutrition, but I didn't have any nutrition issues with Ironman Texas.  I saw a lot of people that had gotten sick - not an issue for me.  I used the new Napalm for the marathon to reduce how much nutrition I needed to carry and to eliminate a special needs bag on the run.  Great choice.  I picked up water from the aide stations, and once again, Infinit proved it's worth.  I did my Ironman on entirely liquid nutrition and water.

Duro Tire
Sweet racing tires, Dude!  So they're light, but sticky enough to be maneuverable on corners.  I'd been on a pair of heavier tires, so getting these on the bike was a D R E A M!  Fast and reliable (I got caught in a freak thunderstorm with HUGE puddles on the road during training once) I was a bit nervous taking lighter tires than I was used to out for the Ironman.  And, the course proved pretty brutal - flats and broken spokes everywhere.  But my Duro Slicksters held up to what I considered a beating.  My bike split was sub 6 hours, so I'll be sticking to my Slicksters.

Where do I begin?  The system is similar enough to many of the aero bottles and remote drink systems available on the market today.  But look again.  The bottles don't spill when tilted (like so many other aero systems) and you aren't limited to a specific size bottle or a specific location on the bike.  It's as flexible as you need it, and customer service ROCKS!  So my FlexR Ironman went like this:  Get on the bike, drink nutrition as necessary, refill at special needs stop (it took less than a minute), get back on the bike and ride, drinking nutrition as necessary.

HEY RUDY!  Nice sunglasses!  I'm pretty pleased with the sunglasses and helmet.  Enough airflow in the Slinger helmet kept me cool, and it's light enough that my neck didn't hurt because of the helmet.  I purchased the Rydon sunglasses at the race expo to replace my Hypermasks, and was pretty pleased with my purchase.  They stayed put, stayed clear, sweat didn't drip onto them, and were light enough where I didn't even have to think about them.

Now - I want to really give props to the volunteers.  Without them, we wouldn't have a race.  At all. These guys and gals gave us the ability to really think about our race, while they worried about us, and worried about making sure the course was safe, we were safe, etc.  Most importantly, they kept us going.  It's a hard day for sure to do an Ironman, but to keep a bunch of people motivated who (not all the racers) are running out of any desire to be on the race course anymore takes some really amazing and dedicated people.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my running shoes.  You guys helped me fly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ironman Texas 2012 Race Report

All that training, all that buildup.  I thought the race was the whole point.  I was wrong.  In retrospect, the race still seems like a very long, very hot training day that just happened to be supported and very crowded.  I wonder if that will ever change...

Total time  11:47:58
Swim:  1:20:12
T1:  6:49
Bike: 5:59:30
T2:  5:59
Finishing Rank 19/97 in my age group, 80/485 in women, 458/2016 overall

I should add that I met or exceeded all time goals that I had for the race.


In the days immediately preceding the race, there was a lot to do.  Athlete registration/packet pickup was on Thursday.  I drove in, parked the car and went to the Ironman Village.  Always a fun part of the Ironman branded races, this is where you go to get your packet, and then do any shopping for race souvenirs that you may want or things you may have forgotten.  This year's Ironman came with a really nice tri bag embroidered with the race logo.    Packet pickup went smoothly, and then I took some time in the Village, looking around.  

Next up was the athlete dinner.  Wow.  So many inspiring stories of the journey to the Ironman.  The slogan is "Anything is Possible."  It's appropriate.  Such an emotional event.  And the food was pretty good.  For my part, I enjoyed meeting the gang from and getting to know them a bit better.  They're a fun group of people - and they've been very supportive for the entire year we've been getting ready for this race.

Then off to bed - most who race know to try and get a good night's rest two nights before the race - so that was my goal.  Friday morning was beautiful.  I went to get a short swim in at the gym.  There was an optional open water swim in Lake Woodlands, but I'd heard about how gross the water was, and didn't want to chance getting sick before the race.  After that, (and a quick detour courtesy of my gps) it was back to The Woodlands for a quick ride to familiarize myself with where the swim start and transition areas were.  Then I got my bike, bike gear bag, and run gear bag checked in, and went back to the Ironman Village to see Chrissie Wellington who was there to sign books.  They were sold out of books, so I got a pretty cool poster signed instead.

She is way taller than I expected!

Finally to the hotel to cool off and relax for a bit.  A dinner of pizza (yay pizza!) and a quick trip to the store for more sunscreen for the race.  I managed to get the last two spray cans of Coppertone in the entire store.  Then, back to the hotel for race prep.

Now this is when I usually get organized.  But having to already have turned in my run and bike gear backs threw me off and created a bit of stress for me.  So I did the best I could, preparing my nutrition, getting gear ready for the next morning, and so on.  Race morning was also beautiful.  The stress I felt the night before was gone, and I only felt excitement.  Up and dressed, ate a pop tart and out the door.  Body marking, dropped off the sunscreen for my run and bike gear bags, and set up the nutrition on my bike, and then walked over to the swim start.  Sunscreen, then into the water for the race!

Ironman Texas 



Well, eww.  We crowded down into the water, and many of us tread water for five to ten minutes.  It was really crowded and felt like this:

The gun went off, and the pack was in motion!  And suddenly...  Open water combat!  No seriously. We were all being hit, scratched, grabbed, kicked and swam over.  And it was pretty much like that the entire race.  It wound up being a good thing that I had pinned my chip strap closed at the last minute, rather than relying just on the velcro.  But from the outside, I'm sure that we looked like this:

 I knew how long I wanted the swim to take, but I resisted ever looking at my watch, because all it would tell me is how long I've been swimming since I started my watch.  In the meantime, I must have drunk quite a bit of the lake.  Finally, the canal came into sight, then the very welcome sight of the swim exit.  Thank heaven for the volunteer that grabbed my hand and helped me out of the water.  Without her, I might have fallen over (I very nearly did).  

Transition 1

Interesting, to say the least.  I ran through, grabbed my bike gear bag and went to the changing tent.  Socks!  Shoes!  Helmet! Sunscreen! Sunglasses! Race belt!  Only I took it a bit slow, made sure to wipe the grime, dirt and grass off my feet thoroughly, and covered myself well with sunscreen.  Out to the bike!  I handed off my bag to a volunteer and ran off to the bike, grabbed it and out to the bike start.


What a beautiful course.  It's a loop, starting north, turning west for a short bit at the northern end of the loop before coming back south.  The start of the ride was cool, scenic, and we had a tailwind.  For most of the morning, we also had shade.  A lot of the ride looked similar to this:

But I knew that ride back wouldn't be as nice.  So here's where I need to add a bit of a side bar.  About two months ago, I upgraded my wheels and added a powermeter.  I'd been making full use of TrainerRoad (those guys have built one hell of a program) and working on increasing my power.  I hadn't planned on using power to guide my race, because I'm not as familiar with it as I should be in order to use it right.  But I wound up doing it anyway.  For those who know power, I kept my power about 110 on the way out, and just cruised.  I got passed quite a bit on the way north, and did a few passes myself.  But this was my race - I was only competing with myself - and I didn't want to cook my legs on the way out.

We made the turn to the west, and found the special needs stop.  I refilled my bottles, and I was off again!

THIS, however, was what I'd been training for.  Almost as soon as we left the special needs area, we turned back south.  And into the wind.  I'd spent the spring riding into wind that would slow me down to embarrassing speeds, and hand me my rear. The next 50 miles were amazing.  I powered up and kept my watts around 130 for the back half of the ride.  And all of a sudden I was passing people.  It was incredible.  I kept passing people, remaining strong, into the bike finish.

There were some pretty unpleasant things going on out there, though.  At mile 37, I saw someone a few bikes in front of me dip for half a second, then the bike behind him just ran into him.   The course would prove rough for a lot of people.  Aggressive cycling took one woman out (Someone passed her, then got in front of her too quickly.  He didn't stop after he caused her to wreck, possibly break her arm and definitely her bike.  Shame on you, if you're reading this.)  There were a lot of flats, a lot of broken spokes, and tons of ejected water bottles.   The mouthpiece to my water bottle got caught in my wheel at mile 60, and was ripped off (my own fault for not securing it properly) so I had to hold it for the next hour and a half.  Mile 80 is where I started suffering.  My neck, back and left calf hurt.  And my saddle suddenly wasn't comfortable anymore.  At mile 80 something, I caught someone drafting off me, less than a few inches from my back wheel.  I told him to get off my back wheel, and he powered ahead of me.  Less than five miles later, I saw him doing the same thing to another woman. (Dude, I know your race number, and your name.  If I catch you drafting off me again, I will report you to officials.)

Transition 2

A volunteer took my bike from me and racked it, and I took off to grab my run gear bag.  Thank you to the three beautiful young ladies that helped me in the changing tent.  I wish I knew your names.  They helped me change socks, shoes, put stuff back in my bag, clean my grubby sunglasses and sprayed me down with sunscreen.  Then off to the run!


The marathon was tough.  

I heard later that heat was in the low 90's and I saw a lot of people who were suffering because of it.  As soon as I started running, I got a stitch in my side that made it hard to breathe. I asked a volunteer for a bottle of water, and focused on getting hydrated.  A couple miles into the run it went away.  I still needed to adjust my pace for the heat, and slowed down a bit after the first lap.  Water in me, on me, and ice down my tri top helped me stay cool enough to keep going. 

I saw my family on my second lap, and this was the only point where I nearly cried.  My kids were so excited to see me! I kissed them both, but needed to keep going.   I finally finished what seemed like an eternity later.
Me around mile 20 something...
The volunteers did a great job keeping runners going.  I stuck with water and the nutrition I was carrying, but there was so much else out there (potato chips, chicken soup, pretzels, fruit, coke, cookies, etc).  Unfortunately, lots of people got sick.  I saw several that were bent over, heaving.  It was a hard marathon.  Finally, the last mile, and the finishers' chute.  The spectators had their hands out to be high fived, so I did it.  The energy at the finish line is vitalizing - your pain forgotten if only for a moment.  And suddenly, I was across it, Mike Reilly saying "Rachel Zambrano, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Post Race  

There are volunteers at the end of the race whose only job is to help you, so you can get everything done (swag, pictures) and then safely off - they take you to the med tent if you need it, but each finisher gets a "catcher" that stays with them for 10 minutes or more to make sure they're okay.

I met up with my family, got pictures with the kids putting my medal on (kind of a tradition at the races they're at), and headed off to the shower.  When I got there, and debris from the swim in Lake Woodlands fell out of my tri top, I was pretty grossed out.  I'd had a minnow in there the entire race!  And I wasn't the only one who'd had that happen!  EWWWWWWWWWW!  

Taking stock revealed that I had chafing in a few places, but zero sunburn.  Actually, I don’t even have any new tan, either.  And what I thought was blisters turned out to just be pruny painful skin on my feet from having soaked socks most of the marathon.

Most of what hurt on Saturday night was my knees, and somewhat in my upper legs.

The next two days were a different story though.  Sunday was an adventure in muscle pain and stiffness.  My right leg repeatedly gave out beneath me if I stood the wrong way (but never enough to send me crashing to the ground).  Too much activity produced nausea on Sunday and Monday, and I'm sure it had to do with the amount of lactic acid and muscle breakdown that was going on.  It took 24 hours for my hydration to catch up - I was drinking, but not peeing until Sunday night.  Monday I went for a swim, and even that made me queasy, but the movement felt good, and reduced the stiffness in my legs.  The visit to the hot tub at the gym helped, too.

In retrospect, it still doesn't seem real.  It seems more like a really crappy, well supported, very crowded training day.  I think about the journey to the Ironman, and it seems like that is what the Ironman is all about.  I've met some really amazing, inspiring people, and watched their journey as well.

The journey to the Ironman is not an easy one.  For me it was a struggle to balance life, kids, marriage, work and training.  And the training load, even though exhausting and relentless at times didn't leave me feeling prepared for race day.  And sometimes I wasn't successful balancing everything.  But I learned a lot about myself in the process, and I learned a lot about the people around me.  I got a better perspective on some of the important things in life, and learned not to worry so much about the unimportant things.  I'm in better physical shape than I've ever been in my entire life, and my view on what a healthy person (specifically a healthy woman) looks like is substantially different.  At some point I had to start worrying more about eating enough calories, and stopped chasing a ridiculous number on a scale that only represented what society thinks is beautiful.  Today I am healthy, fit, and comfortable in my skin with the way I look.


The Ironman is about the journey, and who you find on the way, not the race itself.  The race is a celebration of your journey.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ironman Thoughts

Less than four days to go.   I signed up for this race a year ago.  I can remember sitting in front of the computer, waiting for registration to open, and as soon as it did, rushing through in order to make sure I had a spot.

I remember setting up my countdown clock.  When it started, I had 140 days.
Then 99 days.
Then it was 30 days.

Now, in five days, I'll be nursing sore muscles, blisters (and in all likelihood, the worst sunburn I've ever gotten).  But I'll be an Ironman.

I remember seeing the picture on his office desk of my chief finishing the Canadian Ironman when he was my age.  I saw the picture for the first time in 2006.  I remember thinking, "I could do that."

It started with training for a marathon, and my love of endurance sports was born.

The road getting here has been difficult.  Mornings up early, evenings up late.  Training in 110 degree heat and 40 degree cold.  Hours spent inside on a trainer or treadmill. Not. Going. Anywhere.  Taking in the enormous library of knowledge that is triathlon, and finding out that much of it is highly individual.  Desperately trying to figure out how to get in the seemingly endless hours of training while figuring out how to take care of two kids, a marriage and a job.  Trying to rehab various injuries while keeping up the bulk of the training.  Learning what I can and can't eat during racing and training.  Gaining weight, losing weight.  And learning about myself during the process.

I go out Saturday with one real goal in mind.  I'm going to finish.  I have a few time goals in mind that I'd like to make, but I don't have any expectations because this is my first Ironman.

I've met some great people along the way.  I've learned something from all of them.  Most of them have been inspiring.  Some of them have trained and gone to their Ironman races and not finished, but they remain inspiring role models for us all.  They help those of us less experienced get to our goals.  Some of the people I've met have been newer in the sport, but no less inspiring as they achieve their own goals.  I've learned that triathlon is more a team sport than many others, even while we compete against each other.

I'd like to add one final thought - I found a portion of the quote below from someone else, then added to it to make my own.

Ironmen are not created at the finish line.  They are forged...  One mile at a time... One meter at a time...  Through hard work and tenacity.  Before they ever reach the starting line.  The race is only one hard final test that affirms: "I have done it.  I have learned to persevere through whatever has come, and I have learned to not give up until the goal is reached.  I have been tested and been found stronger than whatever was laid before me."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hello Internet Troll

Paul Newman said "If you don't have enemies, you don't have character."

In response to a few inflammatory blog comments, I've decided to respond to the trolls/flamers that would post on here for no other reason than to get attention, or...  Whatever.

So first I did this:

HAH.  Just kidding.  Seriously?  I run a blog, it kinda goes with the territory.  So, since trolls/flamers just want attention, here's your fifteen minutes, guys.  Enjoy it while we laugh at...  I mean, WITH you..

You sir/ma'am win the golden troll award (don't forget to print it out, I mean, you really accomplished something here - Oh, and I left it large so you wouldn't be upset about a tiny trophy):

I found an image for your avatar (you should wear it proudly):

So let's look at the troll flow chart:

Link to a blog post about trolling : HERE

Then, internet troll anatomy (they didn't mention pasty skin, hmmm):

Next, rules for the troll (it's okay, you don't have to worry about feeding them after a certain time, or getting them wet):

Sad realization:

Some troll repellent (we'll see if it works, but not likely):

And just in case you need an informational poster for your office, home, or wherever you get on the internet:

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together.  I got some good laughs out of it, as did others.  There's some pretty funny stuff out there about trolls.