Monday, July 29, 2013

My First 70.3- Kate W.

My name is Kate.
I did my first ever 70.3 in Racine this July.
What an amazing experience crossing the that finish line. 
I don't need to be first, I already won.  I am a Finisher.
My training and commitment paid off.
Now for next year :o)!

-Kate W. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First 70.3- Kevin's Story

This past Sunday I completed my first half Ironman race in Racine Wisconsin and proudly did so representing Spark Multisport Coaching. I am training for the full Ironman in Madison Wisconsin in September of this year, and like many, Racine is part of that journey. While it is a measure and marker of one’s progress and provides a chance to prepare and practice for the big day it is also an accomplishment in its own right.

For me it was my first race of the season and a culmination of training that started on January 1st of this year and a commitment made last September when I volunteered at Madison IM so I could get a guaranteed spot for this year’s race.  Looking further back it is the culmination of a journey and preparation that goes back several years; learning to run and quitting smoking at age 42, joining a masters swim team at age 46 in order to learn to swim so that I could compete in triathlons, buying a "proper" road bike that same year to start developing my cycling, spending the past three seasons competing in short course triathlons. I had set a goal of doing a full ironman by the time I turned 50 and here I am at 49 realizing that goal.

I was very nervous and anxious in the days leading up to Racine. So many things to coordinate and worry about; making sure you have all of your equipment, that your bike is tuned, all your nutrition is in place, did you taper properly, are you hydrating enough, are you eating the right things for loading your glycogen stores, are you getting the proper rest? Saturday morning I went down to the lake for one last open-water swim before I left. As I swam I felt strong and knew I was ready. I left for Racine shortly after packing all my things into the car and all the nervousness and anxiety was now replaced with confidence and excitement.

Sunday morning the alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. – race day is here. After getting ready I make my way to the race site to set up for the day. I love race mornings, the pre-dawn quiet as the athletes start to gather; even the volunteers are caught up in the anticipation and hopefulness of the day that has finally arrived. As I walk toward the site I can see the lake, yesterday's concerns about water temperatures are replaced with how rough the water is looking. I set about preparing my transition zone, chatting with fellow athletes as we stand in line for one last visit to the port-potty’s before heading to the swim start.

I do a warm up, jump in the water for a brief swim and suddenly it is time for my group to line up. I am calm and focused as we wait for the horn to go off and then it’s begun. It’s a run in start through the crashing waves, some are dolphin diving but it’s an awkward depth so I choose to run as far as I can. Normally the chaos of a mass start doesn’t rattle me but today swimming against the waves combined with all the arms and legs thrashing I find it difficult to find a rhythm and feel the anxiety building. I end up using a water polo stroke with my head above water. Once around the first buoy you are no longer swimming into the waves but are now parallel to the shore and I’m finally able to find my stroke but the waves still make for a challenging swim but I feel like I am making good progress. I spot a change in the color of the buoys and wonder if the turn is ahead meaning I’m near the end. It turns out it was just a change in color and probably only marked the halfway point. I settle in and focus on long steady strokes. Eventually I see the turn and am so happy to see the exit on the shore.

On exiting the water I’m happy that I was able to keep my wits about me and persevere through the adversity of the swim. Running up the beach through the sand toward the transition I trip and jam my toe, and it hurts, but I pick myself up and press forward. Running up the chute there are volunteers there to help you strip off your wetsuits. I haven’t done this before, it’s not something they do in short course races, but I decide to give it a go and exuberantly thank the volunteers who help me with mine – totally worth it. I make my way to the bike and it looks like I made the swim in less than 45 minutes and am pleasantly surprised given the conditions.

It feels good to be on the bike, the course feels flat and fast and BUMPY. Freeze cracks give a constant thump-thump; thump-thump that toward the end start to wear on you. The weather is perfect for riding – a little windy in places – but nothing bad. The 56 miles seem to go by quickly and err on the side of saving my legs for the run but still manage a 2:47.

Back to transition and out the gate for the run. I focus on a quick cadence to get my legs to make the transition from bike to run. The run portion of the triathlon in a challenge for me, both physically and mentally. Running is something that I consider to be my strength but after the swim and the bike it becomes something else altogether. It’s unfamiliar territory; even at the end of a marathon do my legs feel quite like this. I engage all my mental training to focus on keeping form and not spiral into negative thinking. And it’s hot, not as hot as it might have been but plenty hot. I douse myself with water and at each aid station and pour ice cubes down my tri top.

The run is a two loop course and I get to see others; Coach Angela calls out my name as we pass and I’m spurred on, Larissa shouts my name from the sidelines, I see Gene and A.J as we pass each other. On my second loop I am coming up on a runner with a Sargento branded kit, the day before while waiting in line I get into a conversation with a young man who is from Sheboygan, both our first 70.3 race, and sure enough it is him on his first lap. I come up beside him and say hello, he decides to match my pace. We run side by side, talking some, but mostly encouraging each other to press forward, a little bit of grace to goad me on those last four miles and for him to run at a faster pace. At the turn around I thank him and he tells me he will cheer for me in Madison as that is where is he going to school. And there in front of me is the chute for the finish line; I’ve done it, I high five the spectators and the announcer calls out my name as I cross the line.

Some people wonder why we do these things, why we put our bodies through these arduous endurance events. For me it so many things; there is the camaraderie and community that develops, the friendships that are forged, the satisfaction of becoming physically fit, the discipline and training towards a goal, discovering what your capabilities are and how you respond to adversity. All of these things bleed into every aspect of your life and make it better. While it is very individual it is also a shared experience, the fellow athletes, the volunteers, the spectators all coming together, so many opportunities for grace and kindness.

And there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you cross that finish line.

-Kevin P.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Racine 70.3 Race Recap

What a crazy weekend!  Two late nights at pretty awesome concerts, with a little 70.3 thrown in for good measure.  I knew back in the winter when I was buying tickets and registering for the race that it was going to be a heck of a few days, and they did not disappoint.  This was one weekend I will never forget- hopefully I will forget the exhaustion that went along with it.  

But let's talk about the race.  After a week of crazy hot temps in the Midwest we were given a huge break when the Sunday forecast was upper 70's.  You really can't ask for much better in July and with the cool lake breeze, it was going to be a pretty pleasant day.   

Oh yeah, and the cool lake.  For the second time when I have raced Racine the lake "flipped" a few days before the race and the water temp plummeted almost twenty degrees!  This is some sort of phenomenon where the shallow beach water is pulled out into the lake and the cold, deep water replaces it.  I am not particularly fond of this phenomenon.  However, by start time it had crept back into the mid- 60's and was a very manageable temperature.   

While we may have gotten lucky with temps, we paid for it with the waves.  This was definitely not the choppiest swim I have endured but it was constant turbulence for 1.2 miles.  The first 200 meters or so out to the buoy was near impossible as we were diving over whitecaps and getting pushed back towards shore.  After the first turn things were a little easier but still hard to sight to the next buoy as waves were blocking most looks.  Finally after the last turn it was smooth sailing, as the current rolled me onto the beach.

Just before I had started the swim they announced that the first pro men had just finished in 25 minutes. Once I heard that number I knew I had to adjust my goal of 30 minutes, so I was not surprised when my watch read 33 as I trudged (quickly) through the sand to T1.   A dropped chain and some greasy hands later, I was up the hill and on the bike.   
Not too much exciting happened on those 56 miles.  It did feel windy in all directions except heading west.  And, wow, those roads were bumpy!  My first 30 miles were pretty strong, at my goal of over 20 mph, but by mile 40 I was totally over the constant bump, bump, bump.  My head was hurting and my pace slowed.    I was not particularly please with my bike split, but was so happy to be off the bike it did not matter.

So starts the run.  The first few miles felt great and then fatigue starts to set in.   I have not yet broken that two hour mark at the end of a half ironman, although I feel I am completely capable.  Today was no exception.  The first loop was right on pace but starting that second loop, so clearly not going to get my PR of 5:23 on this course, I just couldn't keep it at that 9 mile pace.  My splits climbed and I climbed up to 9:30s, and even a couple of 10's.

But just when you think you have spent every ounce of energy, you are almost there.  The last 1/4 mile of this course is downhill to the finish line and lined with spectators.  This is why you race.  For that feeling of accomplishment and knowing that you gave it your all.  Once I hit that hill a smile spread across my face and I just tried to take in everything around me.  That was the only part of the race that went by too quickly.

Five hours and thirty nine minutes- way off my goal time, but the course seemed a bit slow in general. It is really hard to give that much of yourself and come away disappointed, so I am embracing the feeling of accomplishment that comes with racing long again.  I really had forgotten how much these long ones hurt (and am already starting to forget as researching destination 70.3's).

Congrats also to Elisabeth, Kate and Kevin for finishing their first 70.3's and my husband Gene for running the entire run on his second.  Love you all and as Jay-Z would say "On to the next one, on to the next one."
September 8th in Madison, that is.  

-Coach A