Monday, July 25, 2016

I had some nerves and apprehension coming into this race because my original intention for it (back in December when I signed up) was to train hard and try to qualify for Worlds in Chattanooga next year. I didn't get to train how I had hoped to and felt unprepared for what I would need to do on the swim and the run. 

My inclination was just focus as hard as I could and do my best with the training I had.  Get to Calgary, get organized,  be nervous up to the race.  My awesome boyfriend Ken, had other plans for me.  He planned a really cool road trip for us.  On the way up we went through Lussier Hotsprings and camped there the first night.  It was gorgeous and took us through Banff the next day as we headed into Calgary.

We hit a some traffic outside of Banff and couldn't figure out why we were stopped on a big freeway....when we finally got up to the slow down we saw a transport truck on its side with crews unloading watermelons, and watermelons strewn through the median. 

Google Maps is the best invention ever and helped us so many times during this trip.  It took us straight to "package" pickup.  I was excited for this because I am a 2016 All World Athlete and had been told I would get a little bit of VIP treatment for that.  Nope.  Calgary is the only Ironman  branded not-for-profit race. I did get a cool black AWA swim cap though.  

The pre-race meeting was informative and I had an ART guy work on me for a few minutes.   He only did my right hamstring (not the left) which I thought was weird and felt a bit unbalanced.  We also went to a pro-panel Q&A session that was really fun.  We checked out T2 and then drove over to the swim start.  We met a really nice couple named Nelson and Wanda who gave us some intel on the course.  Calgary 70.3 seemed like a logistically complicated race but I was still optimistic about it.

We had planned to be as low budget as possible for this trip and Ken and I both are easy going. So we ate dinner,  found a YMCA to shower at and it just happened to be next to a Walmart where other frugal travelers were already parked.  It worked for us pretty well until the ladies in the RV two spots over started talking and laughing really loudly in Spanish. One had the most awesome carrying laugh that I would have loved at any other time than 6:00 am.

Once packed up,  we headed back over to the swim start and T1 to drop my bike and run gear.  I spent a while putting stickers on, testing out my bike, doing a little run and sorting gear into bags. I then dropped everything off where it went.  I ran through transition a few times to get my bearings. 

The swim was in a beautiful man-made lake in a subdivision type community.  It was surrounded by really nice homes and had a community center/beach park on one side. That beach is where myself and the other intrepid racers were lucky enough to get to go for a prerace swim.  Unfortunately I only made about 300 yards before I couldn't stand my leaking goggles any more.  The right lens was filling completely up with water from a broken seal.  While I had a spare pair they weren't really better.  So out of the (beautiful) water I came and asked the closest triathlete where I could go buy goggles.  He was super nice and even looked the store up,  checked that it was open, and called them to ask if they had my brand of goggles.  Canadians!

Google maps came through for us again and we found this great Aquatics Team Supply store hidden in a little industrial area not too far away.   They had all the models of Aquasphere goggles and I was able to try on a couple of styles I hadn't seen before.  I actually picked a different one from my usual (something new on race day,  uh oh) and a Canadian print swim suit (80% off). Ken got me a matching Canada swim cap too.

My mom texted me that she was almost to Calgary and she was going to watch my race.  I was really excited since I live far away from my family they hadn't really seen me race before.  She told me my little sister was going to come later too. We had enough time to drive the bike course then meet up with her. 

So we headed out onto the bike course, only to find that the name of the main road we were to ride on had been changed on the hwy signs but not in Google maps or the course map.  Kinda confusing.  The first part was on a legit freeway too. Scarey! Once we were out on the main part of the course it was really beautiful though.  Really hilly (uphill) going out,  gradual downhill on the back side of the loop. I was kind of worried about the wide rumble strips that took up half the width of the shoulder because I'm a weak swimmer but strong cyclist I spend a lot of time passing people and really need the room to get by.

The drive ended at Glenmore Park. No scratch that: North Glenmore Park. Which was of course T2. I had explained to my Mom as well as I could where we were but she still ended up on the other side of the giant reservoir and wetlands area. She eventually found us and Ken had had time to take a quick nap while I wandered around and explored.  I spoke to a race volunteer who was setting up and got hear more positive things about the race. Mom got to get her bearings for the next day and we decided to leave her car there and go for dinner and then back to her hotel where we would sleep as well.    We found a cool restaurant that served locally sourced, clean food with a twist.  You went up to the chefs at different stations to order and they swiped a card to track what you wanted.  Then a server brought it to your table all plated up pretty and stuff.  Since you spoke directly to the chef it was exactly what you asked for.  I had some really good roasted veggies,  chicken and a salad. 

Back at the room,  I laid out what I needed and measured my nutrition into my bike bottles so I could just add water and go. I set my alarm for 4:15 and went to sleep. OK sort of went to sleep.  It's always hard to sleep the night before but I know I was asleep when the alarm went off. 

I hopped up,  dressed in my kit,  made sure to remember my HR monitor strap, even though I hate wearing it and loaded my gear,  mom, and boyfriend into the car. 

It was not a clean transition so I set up what I needed by my bike and grabbed my wetsuit and my new. ...goggles? Where had I put them?  Ken went back to the car while I struggled to encase myself in neoprene. In transition I was pleased to see that my bike rack neighbor was Nomi Martenson, and that Jayne Anderson, Trish Mack, Kim Bellamy and Ivan Tucker were all close by too. We took some selfies and my goggles magically appeared on the other side of the fence in the hands of my handsome,  cheerful man.  Did I mention that the transition was in two tennis courts? With normal sized "doors"? This would be interesting.

It was suddenly time to warm up so I took my goggles out of the package for the first time and stuck them to my face and dove on in.  Much better with goggles that worked.  I was actually wishing I had my sleeveless wetsuit but since I had a sleeved jersey that wouldn't have worked anyway.

It seemed like no time until the horn sounded and I was heading to the first of many bouys.  The first was the most memorable as I really should have gone wide there.  Full on combat swimming.  Soon the good swimmers pulled away from me though and I found some open water.  I drafted a couple of times but I kept losing the bubble trails.  So many turns to make it a one loop course!  I swam a 2:20/100 m pace which is heartbreakingly slow compared to what I've been doing in the pool but it was finally over and I was heading into T1. As I was coming out of the water I took my watch off and held the strap in my teeth while a friendly volunteer stripped my wet suit for me. 

With suit, goggles and watch in hand I hurried up to my bike and put my feet into my new bike shoes  (sockless) while I bundled my wetsuit,  goggles, cap, etc into  the appropriate bag, and did up my helmet straps.

I ran up the hill to the mount line,  and saw a familiar Fitness Finatics kit next to me.  Trish and I headed out together.  It felt so good to finally be able to go fast that I passed three people in the first block when I remembered that I hadn't pushed the appropriate buttons on my watch at almost the same time that I realized my watch was not there.  I had put it in my T1 bag with my wetsuit and goggles.  Crap! Oh well,  thank goodness the race chip would track me. 

That in mind, I got moving.  I learned that the rumble strips weren't that deep and when people wouldn't get over I just went (noisily) around them.  It's always way hillier by bike than by car but I felt really strong until near the end when I got a bit behind on my nutrition without my watch to remind me to take in calories.  I ate some pieces of bars and took in some U can and Ucan hydration.  That made me feel better and I passed two women in my age group near the end of the bike.

T2 was uneventful, and it was so great to hear my mom and Ken cheering me on.  I decided to take off my sleeved jersey because it was hot and run in my Oiselle bra top. My bike shoes were clipped to my bike still so I didn't need to worry about them, so a quick roll up of my socks,  slipped on my running shoes,  grabbed my hat,  race belt and a gel and off  I went.  I grabbed water on my way by and put on my belt and hat as I went.  The first mile or so of the run always feels kind of bad and this was no exception but soon I found a rythym and even though I don't know what pace I was running I wasn't getting passed very much.  I had no watch to gage pace so I concentrated on form,  cadence and staying mentally strong.  I did the math to figure out what mile each kilometer meant.  Then at the 10k point I felt a slight twinge in my left knee.  Not good.  I concentrated more on my form, especially core.  Suddenly my left leg gave out on a step.  I stumbled but didn't fall.  I walked a few steps and massaged it.  Started running again.  It hurt so much.  From then on every up hill, every down hill I had to walk and massage it.  I wanted to cry. I found I could run on the flats so I tried to make up for the times I had to walk. 

A woman in my age group went by me,  then another and another.  I was so frustrated! Nothing to do but move forward.  The big hill I had been able to run down early on was excruciating to climb back up.  At the top of I had to run by the finish line and out 2k, knowing I then had to run back 2k. I made the turn and was trying to remember how far 2k was.  Less than a mile?  I heard a woman behind me.  No way was she going to pass me!  Except my leg wouldn't listen. I massaged it as quickly as I could as she passed me and I saw the faded 43 on her calf.  This.  Was.  Not.  Happening.  So I ran.  I passed her again and ran just ahead until the pain stopped me again but she wouldn't let me.  This amazing lady put her hand on my back and said "no! We are so close,  let's go!" I mumbled thank you and picked up my cadence,  trying to land as lightly as I could.  1k to go. The longest 1k I had ever run. I finally came around a corner and could see and hear the finish line.  I found a kick somewhere and got it done.  My mom, my little sister,  her boyfriend and Ken were all there cheering waiting for a hug. 

I collected my giant belt buckle medal and went over to the fence to talk to them. I got some post race food (good stuff, not cold soggy pizza). I chatted with the amazing Kelly Craree who had an enormous PR. I looked for a massage table but couldn't find one.  I went back to my family and visited while I waited to find out if there was any chance for a roll down spot for Worlds. 3 spots in my age group only one was claimed before the awards ceremony. 

Ivan was also hoping for a spot as he was also in the top 10 of his age group. (I was 8th even after that horrible run).  The Spokane contingent were nice enough to wait with us while we stood there with fingers crossed while the RD called out the names of the people just a little faster than us and the spots rolled within one of our names before they were claimed.  So no spot.  Yet. :)

Reflecting, I would definitely recommend Calgary 70.3 for the beautiful scenery and friendly people.  It's a challenging course but fast and well organized.  It was really great to have Spokane friends out there and so amazing to have my family and Ken.