Tag Archives: Hawaii 70.3

Honu 70.3 Finisher!

I crossed the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (AKA Honu 70.3) finish line! Since then I have had and continue to have so many different thoughts and emotions about this race. I imagine I’ll post at least few times about it. For now I’ll share my race results and sort of recap each leg of the race.

The results:

Swim (1.2 miles) — 50:56

Bike (56 miles) — 3:20:04

Run (13.1 miles) — 1:58:35

Overall (70.3 miles) — 6:20:21

Swim

I definitely struggled with the swim. I have a hard time sighting the buoys and swimming in a straight line. I’m sure I swam more than the necessary 1.2 miles because of these shortcomings. (I don’t know my actual distance because I don’t use my Garmin in the water.) I was pretty late coming out of the water. Oh but the water, the water was absolutely beautiful! I could see the bottom of the ocean! The sky was blue and the temperature was practically perfect.

Bike

The bike was extremely challenging. The place where we mounted was on a very steep incline so I (along with lots of others) had a hard time with the start. In fact for a couple of seconds I thought something was wrong with my bike because I couldn’t seem to pedal! Then at some point way too soon — I can’t remember when exactly — I began dealing with the notorious crosswinds. I do know I felt them as soon as I made it to the famous Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway — we actually ride part of the Ironman World Championship course — but I seem to recall encountering them almost as soon as I got past the steep incline. Whatever actually happened, these crosswinds are a big reason why this course is one of the hardest in the world. The winds are so strong bikes will slant over to one side while going straight. There were a few times when I truly felt like the wind was going to blow me off the road. (Seriously, picture scenes from “The Wizard of Oz!”) And they don’t seem to give any warning when they’ll blow. At times right when I think it’s relatively calm enough and I’m stable enough to grab my water bottle or a Clif shot, they hit me, and wham or even double or triple wham I’m holding on tight! Proper hydration and nutrition are so important while racing. The heat and humidity make these components even more critical for Honu 70.3. I’m not the most coordinated person either so trying to:

  • drink,
  • down an energy gel or
  • actually eat a Clif bar

while:

  • balancing myself on my bike,
  • bracing for winds,
  • navigating among other cyclists (without breaking any rules)
  • maintaining somewhat good form,

and oh yes shifting gears and pushing myself as hard as possible is “somewhat” challenging for me.

And WOW! I actually saw Lance Armstrong! I like to say, “I passed Lance on the bike!” Granted he was riding in the other direction well beyond the halfway point, and I was at something like mile 15. The cyclist right next to me yelled, “he makes it look so easy.” I completely agree. To see him in action was very, very cool. He’s truly impressive!

Run

The run was hard but not for the reasons I imagined while training. I thought once I put on my running shoes, consume a Clif shot and head out of transition I would feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles. The distance didn’t bother me though. I told myself, “I’ve got this run down. Just tick off the miles.” And the miles didn’t seem long until I was around mile 10.5, that is. That’s when my mind and heart wanted to go faster to finish strong and hard but my legs didn’t cooperate. I was able to pick it up but not nearly as much as I’d like. What made the run hard was the brutal wind and sun. My hat blew off at least once, and I had to hold it down with my hands a few times — not the best form for running. I felt the sun beating down on my arms and its intensity seemed to increase over time.

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1 Day 14 Hrs 51 Min

I’m really glad I arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday. I’ve had some time to acclimate to the hot and humid climate and relax a bit.

Yesterday I went for my first swim in the Pacific Ocean since 2009. I swam at the Kailua Pier and while it’s a busy location with boats coming and going and loads of tourists walking around, I thoroughly enjoyed the water. Unfortunately I don’t think I swam the entire assigned 1500 yards though. I found myself in part of the water with a couple of boats and had to swim out of their way. (Don’t worry. I wasn’t close to being in danger. I had plenty of time to move.) With this distraction I lost track of my distance. However I do consider the swim a success because I loved being in the clear, warm water. (It’s also really salty but the salt is supposed to make me more buoyant so I don’t mind it so much!) I saw fish and coral and actually pointed some of this out to Noah. I like to think he and I enjoyed the swim together.

Today I’ll shift gears to begin preparing mentally and emotionally for Saturday. (Physically I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’ll continue tapering but the actual training for Hawaii 70.3 is done.) I’ve been trying to relax for the past two days because once I check-in today for the race, I’ll start planning out my detailed schedule for the next two days and taking care of administrative and other errands. Also I’m switching hotels so I’m closer to the race site. Very soon I’ll be in the midst of a lot of energy, excitement and potentially anxiety.

I think my key task is to maintain proper perspective and focus on preparing for MY race. I’m doing everything I can to be ready, and I know why I am here.

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One Week to Go, One Week to Get Psyched!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been increasingly anxious about Hawaii.  I keep thinking, “I hope I can finish!”  This race does have cut off times for each stage:  1 hour 15 minutes after the start for the swim, 5 hours 30 minutes after the start for the bike and 8 hours 30 minutes to finish.  I’ve also begun to worry about my nutrition.  While I’ve been able to figure out what I need to consume for each stage while training, I’ve yet to put it all together.  Then reading about Lance Armstrong‘s struggle with race day nutrition reinforced my own concerns.  (Yes, I know, comparing myself to him is a little absurd.  He and I are in very different categories – actually completely different worlds!  He’s a seven time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor who this year returned to triathlons and in fact came in first place last week at Ironman 70.3 Florida, and I’m just an age grouper and bereaved mother who is hoping to simply finish her first Half Ironman.)  Oh and my left knee is still giving me issues every now and then.

Nevertheless, one week from today surrounded by 1,600 fellow triathletes (including Lance, Chris Lieto and other amazing professional athletes), I’ll be at Hapuna Beach State Park on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in my tri-suit with goggles and swim cap on and body marked.  One week from today I’ll swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles and run another 13.1.  One week from today I’ll find out what 19 weeks of the most serious, structured and hard core training I’ve every gone through will do.  One week from today I’ll have another opportunity to honor Noah.

So starting with this morning’s training session I made a point to shift gears and focus on getting myself psyched.  After all, I’ve followed Pete’s training program.  And while next Saturday’s race will be my first 70.3 distance, I do have seven successful triathlons under my belt already.  And I did qualify for USAT 2012 Age Group National Championships.

As I prepared for this morning’s workout I pushed all negative/anxious thoughts out of my mind.  This worked!  During my two-hour ride I actually found myself dancing (as much as one can while on a bike – yes I’m sure I looked pretty funny) to some of the songs on my iPod.  I had to do a 10 minute 80%+ endurance effort and boy it was hard.  But I kept embracing this challenge more and more; digging deeper and deeper.  Towards the end of my ride I even found myself smiling a bit.  Believe me I did work very hard for the entire time.  With the exception of my 10 minute drill (which as mentioned before was at the 80%+ level), I stayed at the high end of my endurance level throughout the ride.  And I finished my session with a strong 20 minute run afterwards.

To continue psyching myself up this week, I’ve decided to think of all of the positives such as:

  • I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.  I recently hit a milestone.  On the bike I noticed it’s now taking me an additional 20-30 minutes to get my heart rate up to my endurance level — a sign that my body is getting into better shape.  (Also a sign that I need to increase my effort level!)
  • I’m back in CA.
  • I’m racing in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • I have the support of wonderful friends.
  • According to my grief counselor I’ve been making good progress.
  • I have MLH.
  • And of course there’s Noah.
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Raced First Tri of the Season

This past Saturday I competed in my first race of the 2012 season: an Olympic Distance triathlon called Rumpus in Bumpass.  It’s not that big of a deal because it’s my “warm up” race – also known as a “B” race.  (Hawaii 70.3 and National’s are my A races.)  My main goal was to remind myself of everything I need to do before, during and after a race; focus on going through the motions.  I was not looking to PR.  Therefore I wouldn’t go all out.

On our way over MLH asked if I was nervous about this race.  I thought about it and I wasn’t at all.  I felt a little odd about this because I believe at the very least a few butterflies should be in my stomach for every race.  After all there’s always the big element of the unknown such as:   Will I finish? Will I have a flat? Will I cramp?  Did I fuel my body with the right nutrients?  What will be my splits?  Will I PR?  How well will I perform?  Did I forget to pack something?  And so on, and so on.  But I wasn’t worried about any of this.  Obviously the main reason is Rumpus is a warm up for me.

I think there’s another reason though – my confidence and state of mind and heart.  After Noah passed away, I tried to return to triathlons.  During the 2011 season, I wasn’t sure if I would be successful with training for and actually completing them, especially given how fresh my grief was.  With my relatively strong performance at Nation’s which is an olympic distance, I decided I have successfully returned to triathlons.  And with the season, already my training has my weekly mileage well above that of an olympic distance (which usually consists of a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run).  Barring any major accidents, I knew I would finish Rumpus.

Mentally I was more than ready as well.  Before heading out to Bumpass I visualized this race.  From previous experience I knew exactly when I’d need to fuel and how much I’d need to hydrate.  I knew how I’d keep myself in check so I don’t push too hard – keep the heart rate within a certain low range the entire time.  Also I was very comfortable staying focused on racing MY race and nobody else’s – not the 45-year-old who passes me on his much nicer, more sophisticated Felt bike, not the young 24-year-old woman who leaves me in the dust on the run.

And my heart for this race was ready because I knew Noah was with me, and I found tremendous comfort from this.  I very strongly felt his presence during different times on the course.  I thought of him as I looked up from the 63 degree water during the swim and saw a beautiful blue sky.  I felt a sense of peace as I swam by each buoy.  I kept thinking of him and his time in the hospital as I began cramping on the bike and yearning to stop for the bathroom. (With the race starting at 10 am, much later than usual, I think I over hydrated in the morning.)  I smiled big time as I thought of him during the run.  I felt really strong and genuinely happy again.  Perhaps he was running right next to me!

As I passed one gentlemen in particular, he yelled out, “good job,” and I responded, “just livin’ the dream.”  Yes, I fully admit that’s a cheesy thing to say but it’s true, isn’t it?  I mean life isn’t fair, and tragedies knock us down hard.  I’ve yet to feel like I can fully stand back up after losing Noah.  But I’m very grateful that I can connect with him through my triathlons and honor him by training and racing.  I think I’m beginning to realize, as twisted as it is, how blessed I am to be able to compete in such races and dedicate all of this to Noah.

My times and rankings for Rumpus are very average.  The competitive side of me is actually ok with this except for the swim.  I admit I wanted to see a little improvement in the water given how much I’ve focused on my stroke this year already but I barely shaved off a minute.  Oh well.

I did identify some areas I can improve on in terms of logistics and transitions, and I want to experiment with some of my gear and nutrition between now and Hawaii.  With that, I’ll consider this B race a success.

Thank you, Noah, for racing with me on Saturday.

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What a Difference a Week Makes!

With my six mile run today I completed my first training week using Pete’s online coaching plan.  It may sound a little funny but already I feel very different.  I’ll go ahead and acknowledge the placebo effect is probably at play.   Something along the lines of “oh wow I’m now doing something different so I must experience a change.”  Placebo effect or not, I’m not sure it matters.  The fact that I feel different is good enough for me.

I wrote in my last post that I rarely did a full cardio segment and a complete strength training session back-to-back.  Well a few days after writing that post I pulled out my training plan for Nation’s (which I created myself).  I have a correction to make:  I did in fact do such workouts (also known as two-a-days) early in my training and quite often. I can blame bad memory for thinking two-a-days are new to me but I think there’s something more to it.  For some reason I felt my two-a-days this past week were…well different.  They were much longer and more intense than what I did for Nation’s.  Also, I’m sure since Pete planned them they’re better structured than what I put together.  And there’s the placebo effect.

During this past week’s training sessions I felt solid.  I did struggle some on the bike, specifically with keeping my RPMs and heart rate at the desired levels.  Also the last five miles of my 30 mile ride yesterday was by no means easy.  (And as mentioned before I did have to push it a bit with the weights.)  However I felt pretty good right to the end.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely worked hard this week but I never felt like I couldn’t finish.  I do realize Pete’s current focus is on base building so I anticipate my workouts becoming much more difficult very soon.

Anyway back to this difference – or really differences.  What are these differences, you ask?  I feel like I’ve taken my training up a level already and I feel more confident.  I think I was a little anxious about not being able to follow Pete’s plan.  Well I did and while I experienced some challenging moments, I completed each session strongly.   I feel more focused.  A lot of this has to do with the need to keep track of my drills during each workout.  But also I’m zeroing in on my very specific goals which are to successfully complete Hawaii 70.3 and improve my splits at Nationals.  With each successful workout my body moves closer to being ready to compete.

I do feel one other major difference but I don’t think Pete’s plan has anything to do with it; I think it’s just a coincidence…or perhaps not.

Over the past week my connection with Noah became much deeper and different.  Outside of training, I think of Noah a lot. Sometimes he’s in-and-out of my mind very quickly and other times I spend quite a bit of time thinking and recalling vivid images of him in my head.  When I train though I believe how I think of him is different from this.

Last May I began feeling a very deep connection with Noah as I became much more aware and grateful that my heart could easily handle my endurance training and I could process the oxygen needed during these workouts.   When I feel or see (on my heart rate monitor) my heart rate climbing and hitting 60-85% effort, it’s almost as if I’m raising it for him.  When I feel my breathing becoming labored, I think of the ventilators he was on and I feel as though I’m breathing extra hard for him.  And it’s the stark and unfair contrast between what I and any other healthy body can do seamlessly with what Noah struggled with all of the time.  It’s this appreciation combined with sadness and a little bit of bitterness (yes still) that helps me dig deeper to find that determination and power to push myself harder, faster and longer.

During my workouts this past week though I’ve started feeling a different kind of deep connection to my son.  I now feel his presence almost constantly and this feeling is definitely different than my “non-training day-to-day” thoughts of him.  During my training, talking to or thinking of Noah is like second nature now.  It’s like at some other level I’m having a constant dialog with him as I swim, run and bike.  I’d like to think he and I’ve gotten used to training together, and our routine has him with me all of the time.  I’ve been thinking about how best to describe this and I’ve come up with “endurance consciousness.”

I continue to push myself to achieve 60-85% of my maximum heart rate (depending on the drill) and reach that labored breathing because there’s that connection I still have with him.  But now I have another one.  I’m so grateful for both.

————–

On a somewhat separate note, please pause for a moment to pray for or send positive thoughts to the parents of a little Heterotaxy boy named William.  After fighting super hard, he became an angel last Thursday.

It’s probably no surprise to you that I spent my first mile on my run today thinking of William and his parents.  I found myself welling up a bit when I thought about what his parents are experiencing right now.  Nobody should have to deal with losing a child.

Noah now has another friend in heaven.  God bless you, William.

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