elisariva

Seizing life's joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.


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Ironman Chattanooga – An Experience That Helped Me Find My Bootstraps

Last year I signed up to participate in the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga, actually getting in was a feat in itself. Registration to the public filled in the first five minutes. I was one of the few who got in in time along with a few friends. For the past 8 months I trained along side three other friends who also were racing. Two of my friends got through registration in time and my swim partner has her pro card and registered with the other female pro triathletes. I began February first with my coaching group who prepared me well. Training was long and hard – make no doubt about it. I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by an amazing group of friends to train with and skilled coaches to lead the way. The experience was incredibly enhanced by sharing the ups, downs, frustrations and successes with truly outstanding friends. My coaches made it a very personalized program. No cookie cutter training plan at all – tweaks were made weekly if not daily as I trained and raced along the way. I put in the hours, meters, and miles to get me to the start in Chattanooga on September 28th.

IMChoo, as it is nicknamed, brought a few curve balls to the tradition of Ironman. Since its inception on the island of Oahu, an “Ironman” is made up of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. The distances total 140.6 miles – hence the many bumper stickers you may see simply stating “140.6” in an oval. The race begins at 7:00 AM and the athletes have until midnight to finish – 17 hours in total. You cross the finish line to hear your name called out followed by “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) owns the Ironman brand. There are many “iron distance” races but only WTC claims the title of Ironman. A few weeks leading up to the race a few differences came to light. First – when we registered we agreed to a race of 16.5 hours, not the traditional 17 since it was later in the year and the sunrise is after 7 AM. I was in a hurry to get my registration complete in those first 5 minutes and must have missed that detail. Why the finish was not moved to 12:30, I do not know since it is just as dark then as it is at midnight, but that was the decision. The swim was scheduled to begin at 7:30 as a rolling start – so only the first in the water get the full 16.5 hours. Then another more critical issue arose. WTC was not able to get the authorization from all of the municipalities it needed to create the 112 mile bike course. Chattanooga is on the southern edge of Tennessee, the majority of the bike course went into the northern part of Georgia. In order to make the course work, it was 116 miles. Now it became a 144.6 mile course and 16.5 hours to finish. Quite a few athletes made issues on various social media sites. The week before the race the athletes were notified by WTC that the cutoff was extended to 12:15 to make up for the extra 4 miles. Now the athletes had from 16:45 to 16:05 to finish as WTC stated it should take approximately 40 minutes to get the athletes in the water.

With this being my first Ironman, I had anxiety going in. A longer course, shorter time, what did I get myself into? Then there was the weather forecast. The week and days leading up to race day the chance of rain would increase then back off. By race morning the chance of rain went from 60% down to practically no chance. One thing to help calm me – a little.

The morning of the race we learned the water temperature in the Tennessee River was 77 degrees. Wet suit legal cut off is 76.1. If I wanted to wear a wet suit I would have to go to the back of the line and be last in. My swim has become my strongest of the three and I had practiced the day before in a skin suit, which is legal, without a problem. The river current was strong and it was 2.4 miles down stream. I got in line probably in the first third of the line. There were 2,500 athletes so it was not easy to count where I was! One of my friends came to Tennessee to help out and she stayed with me in line as long as she could. She is an experienced triathlete and has done two Ironman races. Having her with me was such an encouragement. I was in the water at 7:39 – giving me 16:36 to make it to the finish line. I had a wonderful swim. I felt comfortable with my stroke, I could tell I was making good time, and I passed quite a few people. I exited the water in 59:55 – incredible, under an hour! My ability is good, but that current made my time great. In a still lake I would expect a time of 1:15 to 1:18. That is how fast the current was.

My first transition took me just over 15 minutes. I changed into actual bike shorts rather than wear a triathlon race short. The padding is thicker in bike shorts and comfort is key when cycling 116 miles. The bike is not my strongest but I had trained well on similar elevation gains as the race which gained approximately 4,300 feet in total. I use a power meter and my coach had gone over with me the power ranges to stay within. For the first 40 miles I was on target. The second 40 miles were a bit more challenging as the winds picked up just a bit and dark clouds began to move in. Then what was not forecast to happen, happened. Rain. Pouring rain and it became very cool for Chattanooga – about 63 degrees. So for the final 36 miles I rode in cold rain with wind. I came in to transition shivering with blue fingers, quivering lips and seriously doubting if I would be able to go on. As I went into transition I heard my two friends call out my name. I told them I didn’t think I could go on. I was soaking wet and cold. Then my friend who stayed in line with me that morning did an amazing thing. She literally gave me the shirt off her back and told me to get my ass out there and run. By the time I exited the second transition it was 5:13 PM. I had 7 hours and two minutes until 12:15 to finish.

The run began okay. The first 4 miles I was on plan with my pace. Then I began to get GI distress. Eating when I should was not easy. I was not taking in the calories I should have. I had been drinking an electrolyte mix during the bike and run, but as I realized later it was not as strong as it should have been. The water stops had Coke and I took advantage of it around mile 8 to help my stomach settle. Even then, I had difficulty swallowing food. By the halfway point I really was having a hard time stomaching food. I would chew and chew but couldn’t swallow. It was dark now on the course and the chicken broth came out at the stops. I could drink that. Not much in calories though. I kept an eye on the time. I was doing a run/walk combo. Around mile 19 two EMS guys stopped me to talk. They noticed my walk wasn’t the straitest. I wasn’t sweating much, but it was cool. They looked in my mouth and didn’t think I was dehydrated. I felt like my tongue was swollen and my speech reflected it. They asked me the typical questions – I knew my name, where I was, what I was doing. So they let me go. I was able to jog a bit and made it to the next stop around mile 20. Two more EMS guys approached me. I asked if the guys back a mile called them. One of the guys looked at me oddly and told me they were the same two people, they had driven behind me the entire mile. I was still standing and took in more chicken broth and went on.

As I went along the course from there I turned left to go up a steep hill, then turned right to be met by an official with WTC. She was stopping athletes and taking the timing chips off their ankles. She told me that at that point they were closing the course and not letting anyone beyond that point. It was 10:50 PM and at the 20.63 mile point. I had just over 5 miles to go. My watch race time was 15:14. I couldn’t believe it. I had covered 139.3 mile and it was over. The race was 16:45, I was 15:14 in, I had just over 5 miles to go. It was possible. But it didn’t happen.

My race watch at the end.

My race watch at the end.

It has been a week since the race. I have had time to process. In the 15 years I have been participating in running races and triathlons I had never DNF’d (did not finish) until this race. But I can still say I have never quit. They had to pull me from the course. Were there things I could have done to prevent it? Yes. I took way too long in transitions, there are things I could have done on the bike to improve my efficiency, and my nutrition was not optimal (in retrospect I think I had mild hyponatremia). I could blame the conditions. I could use the long course and short time as excuses. Nothing will change the outcome. I have built a strong base in my athletic ability. I have learned so much from the training experience as well as the race. My sister called me the day after the race and wasn’t surprised when I told her I want to do another Ironman next year. I still want to finish what I started. I know I can do it – I was out there over 15 hours and I basically covered the distance. I am going to pick myself up and go on. I found my bootstraps.


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Lo Batt

elisariva:

I was pleasantly surprised to receive and email that Chasing Fifty had blogged again. Check his blog out. He always finds a way to add inspiration!

Originally posted on Chasing Fifty:

Sunday morning I rolled out of bed after a mediocre night’s sleep and suited up for my weekly long run. I finished one cup of coffee (pre-run fuel), filled a water bottle, and headed out the door.  I pushed the power button on my Garmin 910 to start the sarellite sync and got an immediate “Lo Batt”  message, followed shortly by a blank screen.  No juice.  A good analogy for life in recent months.

When I was training for a triathlon in 2012, blogging about the experience was as much a part of my routine as running,cycling, and swimming.  Well, maybe not that much, but it was a daily activity that helped keep me focused.  It forced me to think objectively about how I was training.

After I finished my triathlon, I continued to train at a pretty intense level for an age grouper.  I also started working on my…

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My Most Meaningful Finisher’s Medal

Receiving a finisher’s medal has become very common lately. I have them from marathons, half iron distance triathlons, and even 5 mile races and sprint triathlons. On a wall in my guest room I have a row of teacup hooks cluttered with finisher’s medals. This past weekend I received another finisher’s medal and it is already hanging on one of the hooks – but it is by far my most meaningful medal.

Most readers familiar with this blog are aware I had a very challenging 2013 with a variety of health issues. Fortunately this year has been my comeback – I have stayed healthy and my training has gone very well. On Sunday June 1st I participated in Ironman Raleigh 70.3. This race was my fifth half iron distance, but first with the Ironman brand. Before I go into the race, I would like to share a few things leading up to it. First – while this was the first race with Ironman that I participated in, it was not the first time registering for an Ironman race. In 2002 I signed up for the inaugural Ironman Wisconsin – yes the full 140.6. I had also battled with bronchitis several times durning training. After finishing the Muncie Endurathon in July (which now is Ironman Muncie 70.3, but wasn’t at the time) my doctor, who also is a triathlete, strongly recommended pulling out of Wisconsin. My body was not recovering well and it could cause more damage. I followed doctor’s orders and pulled out of the race. Last year I registered for Ironman Syracuse 70.3 and with all of my health issues once again I pulled out. I try not to be superstitious, but I can not deny I had trepidations going into Raleigh – was this going to be the year I actually earned an Ironman brand finisher’s medal?

Second – my training leading up to this race was solid. My coaches prepared me very well. I am swimming faster than ever and my run has improved quite a bit as well. My bike is improving – gaining strength there after all I have been through is taking a while. I caught myself a few times when answering my friends’ questions of how did I think I would do in Raleigh. I wanted to say I am sure I would set a personal record – instead I would answer that I have it in me to PR barring any unexpected events.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so intuitive.

I chose Raleigh for a race venue after a friendly challenge with fellow blogger IowaTriBob. We picked a race location we both could drive to and race. I also have family and friends in the area and knew it would be a fun weekend. On Saturday morning I went to the athlete meeting – the race is point to point with two transitions so I wanted to make sure any questions of logistics were answered. Sitting in the meeting I thought to myself that I finally made it, I was going to finish an Ironman sponsored race. After the meeting I drove my bike out to the lake to set it up at T1 (transition 1). I planned to ride a short ride to make sure all worked well and get my legs going. After a 9 hour drive down the day before, my back was tight and I also wanted to make sure it felt good. It did. Before setting up my bike, I went for a quick shakeout run. Jordan Lake was the swim venue and the access road leading to where transition was set up was narrow with no shoulder. Many triathletes were cycling and running along the road as cars, trucks, and SUVs drove in to set up as well. I ran along the left side of the road and a larger SUV was driving toward me – it became apparent the driver was not going to move over and I didn’t want to get hit by the side mirror – so I stepped a bit to the left and my left foot came down on the edge of the asphalt. I rolled my left ankle, scraped my right knee as I fell, and heard that noise I so dread – pop. I knew I sprained my ankle. The same ankle I sprained rather severely two years ago. This time it was much more mild, but it was still a sprain.

I called my coaches for advice, I texted and called friends for encouragement and prayers. In a snap – literally – my expectations changed from wanting to PR to wanting to finish. My coaches helped talk me through it – I decided to swim and ride for sure and see how I felt when it came time for the run. I could put full weight on the ankle so I knew I could stay upright without issue, how much pain I could tolerate was going to be the test.

Race day – since my perspective changed I was very calm. Just get through this was my focus. Fortunately the water temperature was 75.6 degrees – below the 76.1 cut off for wetsuits. My wetsuit helped me a lot. During my practice swim that morning I felt a little strain sometimes when I kicked. During the swim leg of the race I didn’t kick as strong as I had planned and the wetsuit compensated with buoyancy. My swim went incredibly well – I swam the 1.2 miles in 40:24. I had originally wanted to break 40 minutes but with little kicking, I was very pleased. I also was 32 out of 102 women in my wave. Top third!!

I took my time in transition. The plan was to wear full compression socks for added support on my ankle. Walking and not running, I got to my bike, dried off and put on the socks and my bike gear. The bike course was hilly – most of the time I didn’t feel any strain on my ankle. I know I was more cautious climbing the hills than I would have been had I not had the injury. After 56 miles I entered T2 about 20 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I made it through. Again – I took my time getting my run gear together. I needed the time not only to be gentle on my ankle but also on my mind. I was about to exit transition with a sprained ankle and attempt to run 13.1 miles. I left not knowing for sure if I was going to finish.

On the run I paced myself. The first mile went much better than I expected. I ran without much pain and would walk 15 seconds every several minutes. Just before mile 2 the pain became sharper. From mile 2 through mile 5 I came close to pulling out three times. I would do a pain assessment – it hurt but I asked myself how bad? With all I went through with my health problems last year, I experienced a lot of pain. So much that there actually was one day I was not sure if I would survive the day. But I did. That day taught me I can endure far more than I used to think. My ankle pain was probably a 1 on a scale of 10 with my past experience hitting a 9. I can run/walk through that level of pain. The run course was also very hilly and a double loop. At mile 6.5 I made the turn and knew two things – 1) I had 6.5 more miles of hills ahead to cover and 2) I was going to finish regardless of how long it took. I wanted the finisher’s medal. My coach had asked me the day before how important a finisher’s medal was to me – I told him I am not that big on medals, I have many. On race day with 6.5 miles left my perspective changed. That finisher’s medal represents accomplishing a very difficult race (even when injury free) and my triumph over not completing an Ironman event.

I crossed the finish line and was thrilled to have the finisher’s medal placed over my head. I cried. Instead of a PR, I was 48 seconds faster than Muncie – my slowest half iron triathlon. My fifth 70.3 – my true Half Ironman – was my second slowest and most meaningful. With prayer, encouragement, and trusting in my training – physical as well as mental – I accomplished something I had doubted was possible that morning. Yes, all things are possible.

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Cycling and Why I Choose Not to Race.

elisariva:

I know I have not written in a while! It is only because I am very busy training. I promise to have a post up within the week. In the mean time I want to share the post my friend Jim at Fit Recovery wrote today. I race running races and triathlons because I love – and I mean LOVE – the training. The race goals keep me honest to my training plan. I also am a very average age grouper – winning isn’t my goal. (Finishing in the top 50% is awesome for me!) Jim is a talented cyclist who could podium in cycling races. But he choses not to race. He loves the sport and wants to ENJOY the process. Here is his view, in his own words. Please take a few minutes to read, he is inspiring on and off the bike.

Originally posted on Fit Recovery:

One of the kids who works at the bike shop and who is working on his pro card invited me to compete in a local mountain bike race a couple of weeks ago that was to be held at my favorite single-track. I can pretty much fly on it, especially through the climbs. He asked my time on an average circuit and said that I’d have a good shot at the podium based on that time. He added that I probably wouldn’t win but second or third was definitely possible. His dad races with him and we’re in the same age group so he pays attention to the winning times.

I passed.

I am an okay road cyclist, some say pretty good, and if I gave it some serious effort I could probably race my road bike and win too…

Here’s the problem: I love cycling, a lot more than beating people. I…

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I Missed a Goal

Setting goals can be a tricky task – sometimes one goal can impact another. Which is what happened to me in March. My goal with this blog in 2014 is to write an update at least once a month on my training progress and all I am learning as I prepare for my first full Ironman triathlon. I missed March however. Why I missed writing is a result of all I am doing with training plans, work and staying healthy. (Yay!!) So my goal to train for the Ironman impeded my goal to write about it. It is April 1st and I have a few things I am excited to share.

My experience with my coaching group continues to exceed my expectations. I have three swim workouts a week with one that is focused on building my speed and endurance for my first triathlon race this year, Raleigh 70.3 Half Ironman. I am seeing my progress and I surprise myself at my times. Once it was a dream to consistently hold 2:04 per 100 meters. Currently I am holding 1:55 and I would like to improve on that too.

On the bike I have been training so far exclusively on my Computrainer. It is hard. Very hard. However I can tell I am getting stronger. The real test will come in a few days when I get outside and tackle the hills I have feared for a while. Today is a beautiful day and I will be running outside. Hopefully I will have my bike on the road within the week. My coach sets my workouts based on power levels. Honestly – we haven’t even talked about speed yet. Developing power and sustaining target levels is key – the speed will follow. Fortunately I have a power meter on my tri bike so when I get off the trainer I can continue to monitor my progress.

I did run one five mile race in March. It was not a PR. Miles 3 and 4 were challenging with hills and my 5 mile PR race was run last year on a much flatter course. What I am very pleased with is the race I ran in March I ran the three fastest mile splits in any five mile race I have run. Since the hills got me, my coach has me running a challenging hill workout once every week right now on a treadmill. I am seeing improvements already. There are plenty of hills where I live so I am sure I will test out my progress soon.

Beyond workouts, staying healthy is essential to a training plan. Recently I bought a gadget that has helped me far more than I ever expected. I have shared here before that I use myfitnesspal.com to track my eating and exercise. Teaming with it I now wear a fitness tracker. There are several on the market and I have only used one – the Jawbone UP24. These trackers are first targeted to the mainstream market to help them monitor steps, diet, and sleep. I do not rely on it when I workout to track my distances, my Garmin Forerunner 910XT is far better in that area. Where my UP24 band is most helpful is in reminding me to move during the day in my desk bound job and monitoring my sleep. There is much I want to share, however this post would become so long most readers would give up. Instead, I am setting a new goal for April – post weekly (I hope!) and share more about my experience with the Jawbone UP24 as well as my training.

I continue to learn – especially how precious each day is. I am so grateful to be feeling well again. Enjoying life is essential, not every moment is wonderful but it is a moment I am given to make the most of. As a result, a short term goal here or there may be delayed. It is the quality of the days that matter, not the quantity of things accomplished.


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Spring is Near

It is the last day of February and the Spring equinox is twenty days away. This marks the first day of Spring and the turning point when day light hours will begin to exceed night time. As I write, Northeast Ohio is expecting another winter storm this weekend with a total accumulation of up to twelve additional inches of snow with temperatures in single digits at times – courtesy of the Polar Vortex. It is times like this that optimism, patience, and mental toughness are necessary. These dark and cold days will eventually pass and it will warm up to Spring.

Today also marks the end of my first four weeks of training for my 2014 triathlon season.   I began the program knowing I had quite a way to go to first to regain my strength and endurance as well as significantly build on that base to finish two half iron triathlons and a full Ironman triathlon this year. Like the long drawn out winter, I am finding I need to be optimistic, patient, and have mental toughness to believe I will see the training pay off. So in order of the sports – here is how February has gone -

The swim. Early this month I had a swim session with Ed, one of my coaches. He watched me swim and identified a few areas I need to work on. The biggest improvement I will benefit from is on my stroke. My left arm has very good form but my right arm falls short. It didn’t take long for me to feel the difference when I focused on proper form. Three years ago I strained the muscles in my right shoulder blade area in yoga and the lasting effects have left the area weakened. Many of my swims now include drill work and strengthening exercises. I am seeing improvements in my times even though I am working through the pain of strengthening my shoulder. I also met with Heidi and she gave me a workout plan to help strengthen my core and my back/shoulder area.

The bike. I bought a Computrainer in anticipation of cycling inside through the winter. It is far more than a bike trainer – with computer integration, it simulates a multitude of courses. It is very cool, but fun is not a word I would use to describe it. Training is tough, painful at times, and exhausting. My coach Mark reminds me often that is tough and frankly requires an aspect of suffering to get stronger. I am learning that quickly. I did one workout where I had to increase my watts (power) on the bike in three 10 minute intervals with a 3 minute recovery. The third round when I hit the high end of the power I literally felt like I was hauling a horse behind me. That round only lasted five minutes – I am determined to make it through the entire 10 minutes eventually. I am feeling the pains of the strengthening process, especially when I walk upstairs.

The run. I am a detail junkie and I love gadgets to help me gather the details. One handy tool I use is a foot pod to go along with my Garmin Forerunner 910XT watch. It is worn on my running shoe and wirelessly communicates to my watch. With proper calibration it calculates the distance I run on the treadmill as well as counts my steps per minute. A drill I have been given when running fast is to count foot strikes on one foot in a minute with the goal of 95. When I am running fast that is possible to achieve. After looking at my data from the foot pod, my coaches noticed that when I run an easy pace I am loping – running with a long stride for anywhere from 78 to 82 steps a minute on one foot. Loping may work for a horse, but for a runner it is better to be over 90 steps – easy pace or fast. Once I get this down, Mark thinks I could easily shave a minute off my mile time. It is going to take work and won’t come easy.

February has been a tough month, but a very good month. I feel great, the only pain I have is from muscle strain due to training, and I am seeing subtle improvements. So I am optimistic my training will pay off, patient that improvement will come in time, and I am working on my mental toughness which is not only necessary to get through tough workouts but also challenging races. The snow will melt eventually and the weather will warm up – Spring will arrive one day. And I will be able to swim, bike and run outside surrounded by sunshine.


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Year of the Horse

Today January 31,2014 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Horse. As many of you reading know, last year was not my best year by far. After doing a little research I have learned I was born in the year of the Horse as well. (Since it is a 12 year cycle, that would make me either 36 or 48 on my birthday this March…) I have a feeling this just may be a great year. In December the cause of my pain was identified and earlier this month I was able to “get it taken care of.” I am happy to report I feel great and I am working on gaining my strength back.

Here is what I learned about the Chinese view about the year of the Horse:

“The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).”

Seriously – how awesome is that description?!? The horse’s spirit is the ethos of the Chinese people – the character used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a nation. I definitely want to dedicate the year to improving myself while being “bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and ABLE.” As for covering a thousand li a day – that is 310.7 miles! I will in spirit with my big goal of 140.6 miles literally covered on September 28, 2014 at Ironman Chattanooga.

As for my training plan for the Ironman, I toyed with several options from a book plan to online coaching to one on one coaching. After much consideration I found the path and it is one on three coaching – where I am the one. GoFast Endurance Coaching is the result of three great athlete/coaches here in Northeast Ohio that want to not only coach athletes, but see them go faster. Go figure – great concept. Also, I know athletes who work with them and I am by far the slowest, so I am on board with going faster. I will still work with Heidi on strength training, especially core work.

For the first time in almost a year when asked how I am, the answer “great” rolls off my tongue and I mean it. I actually had forgotten how good feeling good feels! Sure there may be problems along the road, hopefully minor, as well as successes to build on, hopefully lots of those. (I can’t take credit for that last phrase, my coach Mark used it in an email!) My building phase of training begins Monday and I plan on blogging about my journey to the finish line in Chattanooga. I am excited for what lies ahead.

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