A very belated, way too long 2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe race report

Ironman Lake Tahoe.

Yeah, I did it in 2013. It is 2014, and now practically a full year later. Wish I could say this report reflects a year’s worth of writing, but it is not. Regardless, perhaps it is useful to an Ironman hopeful somewhere down the line.


I am so fortunate to be friends with so many amazing people, including quite a few other triathletes/endurance folks. A group of us ladies created our own little training group, complete with kits and regular weekend adventures. The IronMinxes trained in Tahoe, Yosemite, Gold Country, East Bay, Marin, South Bay, and the Peninsula. Good times, lots of laughs, many Coca-Colas.

We didn’t train with a coach, but instead used our own experiences (and existing events) to create our training plan(s). All of us finished, and given the high DNF (did not finish) rate of IM Tahoe 2013, I think we did a great job planning! If interested, check out the events I discussed last year, or feel free to reach out via comments if you have questions.

I managed to get up to Tahoe once a month, which helped me get a good grasp of the challenging bike course, and how to calm down my breathing on the swim. Hugely helpful, and my top tip for any local-ish triathlete looking to finish IM Tahoe.

Week of the Race:

Altitude prep –
My iron levels are typically low (borderline anemic), which I don’t think helps my acclimatization. I started taking Mega Food Blood Builder in the spring, which seemed to help. Then in August I switched to Floradix, a liquid iron supplement for the last month. From August 2012 to August 2013 I did have an increase in my Ferritin #s (despite all the endurance stuff), which I credit to these two supplements.

Hamburgers are also a great source of Iron and a lovely Sunday recovery dinner. Props to Kwik Way in Oakland!

I took Diamox on Monday and Tuesday of race week, just to help speed up my acclimatization – note that I had already taken Diamox previously, so I knew how my body reacted to the drug. I got up to Tahoe on Wednesday, super late, but still got in my first night of sleep up “high” that night.
Accomodations –
Squaw. Close to everything race related except for swim and T1. Much thanks to Jamie for making this reservation early.
Day before:
There was a small watercraft warning. The lake had white caps. It poured. The wind was a-howlin. Snow was sticking that afternoon at Donner Pass and Soda Springs.
Still, the storm was supposed to clear overnight, so the race was presumed to be a go.
We double and triple-bagged our transition bags, which were all completely filled with every sort of warm-weather gear imaginable. We covered our bike saddles and handlebars with plastic bags so they wouldn’t be covered in ice. We did not leave any nutrition on the bike, lest it be a target for bears – or a frozen mess.
We ate our pasta and stared out the window at the storm. I thought about my snowboard as snow accumulated on the mountain top just outside our window. Heather, creative genius behind Feather West had the brilliant idea to bring inspirational temporary tattoos from Tattly.
“Everyday I’m Hustlin” tat on my quad, upside down so I could read it.
And… to bed.

Day of:

Conditions: Still cold. Woke up to temps right around freezing, but no rain. So that’s good. Expected to get up into the mid-upper 50s? <- here’s where it would have been useful to have written this earlier.
Morning eats: Perpetuem, rice, peanut butter, banana
When I talk about the race now, people usually react by asking about the water temperature. HA! Warmest part of the day, seriously. Thanks to a super hot summer, the lake was balmy. So warm that the cold air + mild water = hella fog, which created some interesting sighting here and there. Sun came out during lap two, was in my eyes for a short time. Overall the clear lenses were a good call.
The rolling swim start was pretty solid. I walked in with the other 1:20-1:30 folks. Minimal contact. I’m not gunning for a qualifying spot and figured that I would either DNF in spectacular fashion, or make the cut-offs pretty easily, so the lost/gained time due to the rolling start was not an issue for me.
Gear: Champion seamless sports bra, swim suit bottoms, wetsuit, double swim cap (goggle strap under the first one), Barracuda goggles – clear, ancient Orca wetsuit. Wool socks that I ditched on the beach <– these were to protect my feet from the frozen sand. They failed.
So the swim was super calm. The T1 tent. It was not. IM Wisconsin was super cushy – indoors, everyone got their own volunteer, plenty of space. This was a madhouse. Some areas were flooded due to the rain, not enough chairs, not enough volunteers, too many people in general. Why? Usually you don’t need to do a major wardrobe change at T1. Here, everyone had frozen hands and feet and needed to fully change. I managed to swing a volunteer (no idea how, just right place/right time) who helped me with my stuff, but it was not pretty. Upon leaving, I saw men fully changing outside of their tent. Later found out that my friend Ryan had all of his cold weather gear lost and ended up wearing a HUGE windbreaker… not ideal for a dude who’s really into being aero.


Same wet sports bra (easier T1, not so smart though)
IronMinx Jackroo bike kit
Jackroo arm warmers
Target women’s knee socks fashioned into arm warmers
Oiselle clear run/bike vest
New Pearl Izumi full-fingered gloves
Smartwool short socks
Cannondale neoprene toe covers
Specialized BG bike shoes
Smith sunglasses

Should have added knee warmers, at a minimum. Another outer layer on top would have also been good, in addition to warmer gloves and something else on my feet. And maybe an ear warmer or hat.

I knew the course pretty well – it’d be flat/rolling for a while. Some small climbs in Truckee, then around to the Big Climbs at Brockway and Martis Camp. I knew that I needed to get around past mile 40 to the climbs, I would probably make it… as long as I also forced myself to eat and drink – even when it was hard to unwrap frozen Bonk Breaker bars on the bike and I wanted hot tea, not cold Skratch.

Toes and fingers thawed out around the halfway point. I think I ditched my vest at some point because the plastic-y coated fabric was a little too warm on the climbs, maybe also lost the fakey sock armwarmers – kept everything else (there was a drop section where you could get your gear back – special needs bags were not returned).

Saw some friends on the bike – Heather, Ryan, Kevin, Jamie. Lots of great spectators and tons of people I knew! Graeme, Tiffany, Stefan, and Scott in Truckee. Steve was out with his parents – great to see him coming back into Squaw at the end. Matt & Liza were at the swim/bike transition – good to get early love, too. Kate, Laura, and Lara – tutu much! Caren – on Brockway, driving so she could get back to Kevin.

Compared to T1, T2 was super chill. I had a volunteer to myself, as expected. I got to pick through my gear and select as needed, apply some sunscreen, no big deal.


IronMinx (Jackroo) run singlet
Same sports bra
Athleta running skirt
Smartwool socks (perhaps the same ones as on the bike?)
Same Smith sunglasses, eventually stored on top of my visor
North Face Ion Blue run visor
Brooks Pure Cadence shoes
Yanks speed laces
Kinesys sunscreen
Mini Aquaphor on hand for chafing needs
Started the run with the sun still up, but not terribly high in the sky. Got my butt out there and just started picking off miles. Slowly. Fortunately, no real low points here. I walked the aid stations and started in around mile five (?) -ish on a good Coke & chicken broth regimen. Totally worked. Even if I didn’t want to see Coke or broth again for a really long time.

Grabbed arm warmers, mini gloves, and an ear warmer from my special needs bag early on (you pass it twice on the course). Left the ear thing and the gloves with a volunteer somewhere with about six miles to go since I was nearing the finish and it was clear that someone would be able to use my stuff.

Spectator support was so key! Jenni’s parents were out there on an aid station. Kate and Lara with their light up tutus and Ryan Gosling posters. Steve and Bob. Steve, seemingly everywhere. Graeme, Tiff, Stefan, & Scott found a time portal so they could catch me back-to-back by cutting off a corner in the course. Mary’s mom and her IronMinx/Go!Running poster. AND seeing so many of my Minxes on the out and back part of the run course.

Seriously though, key here was slow and steady, walk through aid and pick up both broth and Coke. Could I have run faster? I don’t know. Maybe… but I also did not blow up at any point along the way.



And then get really, really, really cold. Steve and his many puffy jackets were true rockstars here. He bundled me up and got me upstairs to our room where I took a hot, hot shower. Got some hot chocolate. And pizza. And hung out on the balcony where we could see the finishers chute! So rad!

The numbers…
Swim 01:24:03
Bike 07:33:12
Run 04:33:01
Overall 13:50:30

SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 47

Total 2.4 mi 01:24:03 01:24:03 02:10/100m 47 255 1173

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 33

Total 112 mi 07:33:12 09:10:40 14.83 mph 33 178 1028

RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 26

Total 26.2 mi 04:33:01 13:50:30 10:25/mi 26 122 751

Transition Details

T1: Swim-to-bike 00:13:25
T2: Bike-to-run 00:06:49

Wildflower Long Course 2013 Race Report

It was about time I had a really crappy race. Big picture, this wasn’t even that bad. I just have certain expectations for myself – and those expectations were not met out there on May 4.

So. expectations. I had expected that my swim would be about the same as it always is, my bike might be a touch slower (since some of my early weekends this year were definitely spent on my snowboard instead of my bike!), and that my run would be a little better than the past, since I’ve been doing 10+ miles for a while now with a lot of hills/trail. Which, overall would mean a time similar to 2010 and 2011, about 6h15min, or thereabouts.


Tough to say if it was lack of training or other things (um, heat) that I couldn’t control. Likely a bit of both.


Good –
  • The fast swimmers in the wave behind me didn’t catch me until I was halfway through!
  • Very little freak-out, breathing was much improved over my Olympic in April
  • Since it was fast approaching 90-100deg F and had been all week, the water was not cold at all
Bad –
  • Rumor is that the swim was a wee bit long
  • Poor sighting/judgement on the second half – seemed like the crowd was swimming closer to the shore, I was trying to follow them, but also stay along the buoy line. Should have just picked one and stuck to it.
  • Crowded finish with the mountain bike sprint fast swimmers coming in around the same time
Time: 42:25
Pace: 2:11/100
About normal for me, but I’d be stoked if distance was actually a little longer than 1.2 miles


T1: Wish I had just stopped for sunscreen. My time looks like I stopped for sunscreen. No idea what happened there.


Good –
  • Felt great up to about mile 30. Average speed was good, enough to carry me through Nasty Grade and still maintain a pretty decent overall average. That’s until mile 30.
  • Nasty Grade, Heart Rate hill. Not bad at all. I had done Mt Diablo x2 the weekend before, also in the heat. Definitely made these shorter climbs seem like nothing.
  • They repaved the descent off Nasty Grade. So. Much. Better. (Even though I didn’t know this until I was already on it and taking it way easy.)
Bad –
  • The mountain bike sprint started 15 minutes after my wave. So in addition to finishing up the swim with these guys, I had to start the bike with them. The first couple miles are all together, which was seriously not fun. Men doing a mountain bike sprint + 35+ y/o women on road bikes + bike relay folks = a major cluster fuck on some roads that are pretty twisty.
  • First bottle exchange (mile 25?) I did sucked. Got a bottle of Gatorade. Put it in my bottle cage. Leg is getting wet. Huh? Oh yeah, the cap was off and Gatorade was sloshing all over. Tossed the bottle. Sticky leg, lost hydration + electrolytes. Le suck.
  • Later, when I tried to get a bottle of water, I ended up with a Gatorade squirty bottle that was too small for my bottle cage. Had to take a gulp and toss it. Also not ideal.
  • Crushing headwind that started at mile 30, and sucked away my hard-earned mph
  • HOT. Headwind was like a furnace

I found out later that they ran out of water at the top of Nasty Grade. Total BS. I really feel bad for those riders, mostly women, who were there after me. Shame on Tri California. They’ve put on this event for over 30 years. They should be able to handle this heat better. Other stories of half-filled bottles (because some riders “just squirt it over their heads anyway” – um, as a way to cool down…) also made my blood boil. Made my unscrewed lid bottle seem like nothing.

Time: 3:30:06
Speed: 15.9mph


Oh crap. Hot.
Time 3:39


Good – 
  • I seemed to be faring better than a lot of the other people out there… tough to say if was a good thing.
  • Love for the crowd support, help from aid stations, all of the people who did their best to try to cool us down by spraying water on us. I did manage to run through the tri club cheer area, which is always a blast. Props to Steve for chasing me down and spraying me with more water.
  • The “Jiffy Lube” aid station at mile 8. COKE. OMG. COKEILOVEYOUCOKE. And Vaseline for my hella chapped and dry lips.
Bad –
  • Furnace temp winds were still in effect through some sections, almost lost my visor a few times.
  • Usually I run everything but the super steep section of the hill at mile 4. There was a LOT of walking.
  • I wish I had brought salt tabs. My hamstrings were on the verge of cramping for about 75% of the run. I have never had this problem before in training or racing. Yowza!
  • They ran out of cups at mile 6. Weren’t sure if there were cups at future aid stations, so I ran with a used cup in my pocket for the next couple of miles. Gross.
  • Never wanted to DNF so badly in any other race. Miserable. Absolutely not fun.
Time: 2:10:32
Pace: 9:57 min/mile


Here are stats from 2010 and 2011. Also,  my 2011 WF LC RR. Basically, I have been getting slower over time. Awesome. So much for the mid-30s endurance performance peak. F*ck.
2010 – 40:33, 2:05/100, 1017 overall
2011 – 41:28, 2:08/100, 1126 overall
2013 – 42:25, 2:11/100, 1301 overall
2010 – 4:55
2011 – 4:35
2012 – 5:06
2010 – 3:21:53, 16.6mph, 847 overall
2011 – 3:26:20, 16.2mph, 843 overall
2013 – 3:30:06, 15.9mph, 1082 overall
2010 – 3:05
2011 – 2:15
2013 – 3:39
2010 – 2:02:14, 9:19 min/mile, 475 overall
2011 – 2:07:07, 9:23 min/mile, 582 overall
2013 – 2:10:32, 9:57 min/mile, 558 overall <- interesting that this is just 3 minutes off from 2011 when it felt like it took an hour longer. Huh.
2010 – 6:12:29, 19/122 in W30-34, 82 woman overall, 634/1860 overall
2011 – 6:16:45, 27/115 in W30-34, 112 woman overall, 680/1813 overall
2013 – 6:31:48, 22/98 in W35-39, 105 woman overall, 789/2089 overall

HITS Napa Olympic Race Report

What?!? Yes, that’s right. I raced. Let’s discuss.

Sunday, April 14. Lake Berryessa. Link to HITS Napa Valley event
Aside from the normal training, I did take a visit up to the area to check out the bike course. The route we did that day included a missed turn, so we didn’t preview that much of the course, but enough for me to see that road conditions were mixed and that I needed to be able to deal with constant rollers and an exposed run course.
  • Water temperature pretty cool (I’ve read water temps were either 53 or 63, going with 63 – cold, but not miserable). Lake was fairly calm, some breeze.
  • Some wind on the bike – was hoping for more of a tailwind on the way back. Of course, that never happens!
  • Air temp was probably in the low to mid 80s. Warm, sweaty, but manageable for a shorter race.
Taper = minimal. I rode an easy 20 miles on Saturday, but otherwise left my training week the same. The race was definitely not supposed to be a major event in my tri season.
Wave 1 – men 39 and under, wave 2 – men 40 and older, wave 3 – all women. Big group, but not terrible. I started out to the side to avoid the fast swimmers, but not in the way back with the newbies. Two loops, double the sprint course that went off right before the Olympic. New to me – getting out of the water after the first loop. Yeah. That was rough. Kind of a traffic jam at the exit, and then the re-entry to the water required a bit of a mental kick. I found myself really kind of battling my wetsuit (since I haven’t worn it in a while) and sucking in a lot of air and water, rather than breathing calmly. Got popped in the jaw by some dude’s elbow towards the end. Pleasant.
Time: 33:02. Pretty normal.
OUCH. The gravel was really sharp and seemingly endless. Very few really good T1 times. Transition area was ordered alphabetically, so no idea of where I was with my AG. No socks, no gloves, just wetsuit off, helmet, glasses, gels in pockets, squirt of a half a Gu and water in my mouth. One bottle on my bike.
Time: 2:41
Fairly constant rollers. Couple aero opportunities. Out and back course. Warm. I choked down a half a gel at some point, but barely had any of my drink (Perform, in prep for IM LT) during the ride. Stomach wasn’t feeling great. Had a group of a few grumpy men and nice lady that I passed on the ascents and then got passed on the flat/down. Pretty standard issue for me. (Even though I really did not brake much at all on the descents!) Was hoping to see an average in the 18-20mph range. Barely made it.
Time: 1h22m, 18.1 mph
Since my tender little toes were covered by bike shoes, T1 was much easier.
Time: 1:25
Now much stomach was REALLY pissed off and felt like a big weight in my gut… but my legs? They felt GREAT. Over the out and back, gradual up and down and up and down course, my legs, thankfully won the battle over my stomach. The long, slight downhill to the turnaround was mentally fatiguing, as I was dreading the uphill return – but the return part was all about just finishing so I could calm down enough to loosen my twisted stomach. (Thank you to Super Dave for the TUMS in the transition area after it was all over.)
Time: 47:57, 7:43 min/mile
2:47:15. 3rd place award in my AG. Very surprised and very happy. A nice welcome back to triathlon after taking last year off.
Props out to…
Steve, for leaving at dark o’clock… 3:30am… to go to the race with me.
Heather, Mary, Rachel, and Don for going to Lake Berryessa the week before for a little preview – and not yelling at me when I made a wrong turn immediately out of the transition area.
HITS for altering their policy to allow for same-day packet pick up
Wildflower Long Course on May 4.

2013 Race Planning

Potential race/event list for 2013…

To date, I’m only officially in for the NAPA HITS Olympic in April and IM LT in September, but here’s how I’m potentially filling up the rest of my season:

Sunday, April 14
Napa HITS Olympic tri
* Training day! Goal – get back into triathlons after my hiatus in 2012.
* First triathlon since IM Wisconsin in Sept 2011
* Weather may be an issue (rained in 2012)
* Get to race with three other friends 🙂
* Registration was super cheap before 12/9!

Saturday, May 4
Wildflower Long Course
* Nervous about doing a tough course early on, particularly with my plans to enjoy the snowboarding season
* REAL test of where my fitness is at, since I’ve done this race twice. I hope that I’m close to my times in 2010 and 2011.
* Travel is kind of a PITA, race is expensive… but so much awesome crowd support and a great time to see other SF Tri Club folks and cheer them on, too!
Link, 2011 Race Report

East Bay Triple Crown Challenge
* I did this series last year (on minimal training) and really enjoyed these low-key (mostly trail) races. Great to get to know my EB parks better and get in some runs where I don’t have to worry about route finding, water, etc.

Sunday, May 19? (not posted yet)
Tilden Tough Ten
* Mostly road, with a short trail section

Sunday, June 2?
Lake Chabot Trail Challenge Half Marathon
* Super fun. Mostly trail. Hardest hills are early on in the race, giving you plenty of time to recover. Write up from 2011 race here.

Sunday, June 16?
Woodminister Cross Country
* Great trail run. Felt awesome until I got to a long hill with a LOT of people walking. I just about stopped in my tracks when I heard there was a mile of hill left to the top. Ouch. Nine miles with 1.5 of straight up.

Aside from regular biking, maybe find a fun century for June/July?

Sunday, July 28
Donner Lake Half (?) Ironman Triathlon
* Altitude practice with a $200 price tag that goes up after 12/31/12. Boo. But maybe necessary.
Saturday, July 27
Vineman Full Aquabike
* Distance practice for swim and bike, maybe a little too flat for real training purposes. Likely to be lots of SF Tri folks out there, would be nice to cheer them on as they finish the run part of the full IM distance.

Sunday, August 4
Mount Shasta Summit Century
* FML. I friggin hated this ride in 2011. All the more reason to repeat it in 2013. Altitude, hill climbs, general suffering = preparation for Tahoe.

Fri – Sat, August 23-24
Hood to Coast!
* Fun relay running event with a lovely group of friends. We didn’t get in to the event in 2012 and are psyched that we were selected for the 2013 event 🙂

Maybe find an open water swim to fit in here?

THE BIGGIE… Sunday, September 22
Ironman Lake Tahoe
* WTF altitude.

Wow. Busy, expensive season. At least I already have most of The Gear (super interested in trying out some compression stuff for faster recovery), so it’s just race fees, transportation, and some lodging.

Please let me know if you want to join me or have any advice on my event selection!

Ironman Wisconsin 2011 Race Report

The race. It was long and so is this post. Get comfortable. 

SWIM (2.4 miles):
Water temp – very comfortable with a full wetsuit
Water quality – minimal waves
Start – treading water 
Equipment – Orca Speedsuit, circa 2005, Barracuda goggles, Garmin 301XT (for the whole race)

Mass start with a big group clumped together right near the line, very densely packed together. I avoided that area and started back where the other non-swimmers were enjoying a little more space between racers. Little bit higher amount of contact than normal, but was able to get myself moving pretty well. The mass start of ~2800 people meant that I didn’t really have to worry too much about sighting, which was sweet. Racers definitely spread out by the second loop, but I swear the most violent contact (got a few kicks and had to push someone off who tried to swim over me) was on the home stretch back to shore! 

I had a pretty good sense of my time here and was expecting 1:30. Was happy to find my actual time was a few minutes quicker. Thank you to all of the other racers I drafted of off and who kept me on the course!

Rank – 1577 overall (2797), 74 (145) in my AG
Time – 1:23:53

T1 (9:02):
Yes! Saw some of my fans right away – Lindsay, John, Steve, Zach, Cara – and blew them a kiss 🙂
Wetsuit stripper!
Jogged up the helix parking structure – ugh. Long.
I wore my bike kit for the swim (thank you, Heather!), which made the transition otherwise fairly easy. Socks, shoes, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen. Got my bike and another volunteer helped me put my Garmin 310XT on my bike mount… switched from T1 mode to Bike mode and I was off…

BIKE (112 miles, 3778 ft climbing – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/114296484)
Course – out, two loops, back. Continuous hills, some sharp turns.
Weather – sunny, warming as the day went on, headwind on the second loop
Road quality – varied
Bike – 2009 frame (built/bought in 2010) Cervelo RS, size XS w/clip-on aerobars 

Started slow, due to all of the turns on the course as we navigated our way our of town and onto the bike path (no passing allowed). Saw a crash around mile 5 – medics already on the scene, rider appeared ok, but obviously hurt and being taken off the course. Once out on the road, I slowly started drinking (not too much at once, trying to avoid any GI issues) – had a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem and a bottle of some sort of electrolyte drink (Gu or Clif, I think). Tried to take it easy out to the beginning of the first loop – just warmed up and got ready for the HILLS! First loop was great. Hills were constant, but very manageable. Roads were crowded and I was definitely in the process of making up time from my back-of-the-pack swim. 

Crowd support through the towns and up the more significant hills was pretty incredible. Streets lined on both sides, folks out in costume, posters, noise makers and even a drill sargent! I saw my fans as I went through on the start of my second loop – Zach, Cara and Steve cheered so loud that a nearby racer had to ask me, “If they’re that excited now, what are they going to do when you finish?” My only possible response – “I am VERY lucky.”

Felt good starting loop two – until the headwind became really apparent. I confirmed with a few other people that I wasn’t just really tired. Yes, headwind. Ugh.

Special needs bags were waiting around mile 58. More sunscreen application, new bottle of Perpetuem and Gu Brew and a bag of salted boiled potatoes. So yeah, what DID I eat out there? On loop one I had a few bottles of water and Gatorade, in addition to my drinks. Couple banana halves at aid stations. Tried to eat my strawberry Pop Tarts (always unfrosted!), but found that it they were more crumbly than usual – and chewing wasn’t really working out so well. The potatoes were wonderful. What didn’t I eat? I didn’t eat a single Clif bar. I think I may have had one gel/Gu, but don’t really remember. Turns out that drinking was the way to go for this event!

So yeah, headwind. Then around mile 70, my butt was pretty sick of riding. Continued anyway, of course.

Mile 95 – I was really sick of riding. Done. Annoyed with the headwind, sad that my mph average wasn’t improving. Definitely wondered (probably aloud) who decided that 112 miles was better than 100 miles. At mile 95, five more miles seemed way better than 17 more miles – which may as well have been 40 more miles, given how I was feeling horrible.

Around mile 99, I finished the second loop and headed back towards town. M2 had warned me that this part was NOT flat, or even downhill, but actually had some up to handle. Still, fueled by anger, eagerness to get off the bike and a reduction of headwind, I rolled into town and actually reported my fastest split of the day. Rode up the helix and gladly handed off my bike.

BIKE SPLIT 1: 54 mi 54 mi (3:06:05) 17.41 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 94 mi 40 mi (2:30:32) 15.94 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 18 mi (55:54) 19.32 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi (6:32:31) 17.12 mi/h

Rank – 1270 overall, 44 AG

T2 (5:55):
Grabbed my watch, ditched my bike and headed in to the Monona Terrace on wobbly legs.
Changed bike shorts for a running SKIRT, thin socks for ones with more padding. Added running shoes, running hat, race number, body glide on a few problem toes and under my arms. Additional sunscreen… and I was out.

RUN (26.2 mi, http://connect.garmin.com/activity/114296496)
Weather: HOT at first, probably in the mid-upper 80s, light/occasional breeze, cooled a little as the sun set
Terrain: some mild hills, one short steep section
Road: Mostly pavement, short section with trails
Route: Two loops with lots of out and backs

I came off the bike expecting to feel bad, but not horrible. When I started “running” and saw my pace hovering around 11:30 min/mile, I knew I was in trouble. My legs felt like absolute crap. My confidence dropped way down. Around mile one I had a quick bathroom break, hoping that would make me feel a little better. Nope. Started walking the aid stations and a little in between, Drank some Gatorade and water, had some banana. My cheering group knew I was in rough shape as I slowly made my way by with a sorry little hello and a forced smile. 

Everyone said to have the Coke (actually, Pepsi), on the run, but that once you start, you have to have some at every aid station (about a mile apart). Lena cautioned me against starting too soon, as she had some GI issues on the run that she attributed to the Coke. I waited until mile five. I needed something to help me get moving… and thought it was worth a shot. 

Somewhere around mile eight, I realized that I could finally go a little farther without walking. From there, I found myself feeling better and better, and by mile 10, I realized that I would probably actually finish! Some of it was probably energy from the caffeine, but also, my legs just felt a little recovered from the bike and then remembered how to run. 

As I started to feel better, I could finally interact with my friends and family that were spread out on the course in three different spots – Amy, then Mom, Sister and Izzy the dog, then Steve, Cara and Zach. They got some very gross hugs, high-fives and lots of love! I was so happy to see them along the course and really felt my attitude shift up each time I saw their familiar faces. Amy made a tshirt that just read “BIRDWELL,” my sister made some tshirts that said “Go Kelly,” and Cara made a poster. Steve, Cara and Zach chalked part of State Street, which I sadly saw *after* the race. Again, I am SO LUCKY to have such amazing cheerleaders.

Back to the running part. I did stop somewhere for more sunscreen and Vaseline and continued to walk/run the aid stations and hills, but was generally running around a 10 min/mile and felt okay. Loop number two was much better. Somewhere around mile 18 a woman asked me about my goal time. Uh, 13 hours? She was aiming for 12:59:59, so we ran together for two miles. It was nice to have company and I got some energy from encouraging her to stay with me. At mile 21 though, it became all business. I was feeling emotional (to the point that my breathing was getting messed up since I was almost crying and had to tuck those feelings deep, deep inside) and also very focused. My fans could tell that I was in some sort of mode and Steve yelled out for me to catch the lady ahead of me, which I did. Looking back at my Garmin data, I felt like I was cruising by at 7:30 min/mi, but really, I was somewhere around 9:30-10 min/mi. Amazing how putting that much distance on your legs skews your perception of speed and effort! 

RUN SPLIT 1: 8.9 mi 8.9 mi (1:41:06) 11:21/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.2 mi 4.3 mi (44:57) 10:27/mi
RUN SPLIT 3: 21.95 mi 8.75 mi (1:32:42) 10:35/mi
RUN SPLIT 4: 26.2 mi 4.25 mi (41:46) 9:49/mi
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi (4:40:31) 10:42/mi

Rank – 917/2797, 30/145 AG

The finish was incredible. I was officially an Ironman. I was carried off by the volunteers and got my swag, walked around with them until I felt okay enough to go on my own – when I fell out of the finisher’s corral and directly into my boyfriend’s arms and then eventually all of my friends and family. I’m actually crying as I type this, over a month later, because it was such a powerful experience. 

Other result info – total geeky numbers stuff is all here. I was super happy to find that I continued to improve at each split! Obviously some of that is a direct result of my bike and run being so much stronger than my swim, but still, pretty sweet. 

Stairs were challenging that night and the next day, but otherwise, I was walking okay the next day. Took me about 5 weeks to get back to feeling like I was back to 100% capacity – albeit a diminished capacity due to the break (not totally off, but not like training), etc.

Will I do another one? I. Don’t. Know. I do know that I saw cows. Mooo.

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report – part I, pre-race

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report (part I)

Boring stuff here, mostly… but potentially useful if you’re thinking about doing an Ironman yourself, or going to support a friend.


Wednesday, September 7. Early morning flight, barely four hours of sleep. Steve and I managed to pack my bike into Darin’s bike case and keep it under 50 pounds. This was not easy. Also, I had no idea what to bring with me – or rather, I knew that I wanted to bring EVERYTHING with me. Clothes for training rides and runs, clothes for rain, sleet, snow, sun, more sun. Sunscreen. All the CliffShots in the world. Many water bottles. I ended up flying with pretty much all the clothing I wanted, but decided to buy most of my bars/gels when I got to Illinois.

Arrived at O’Hare around 1pm on Wednesday and was picked up by my mom, sister and my sister’s dog. Wonderful to see them and get to spend time with them – they had no idea what all of this was like and so it took a lot of explaining about all of the steps and the importance of various parts of the weekend. Still, they’re family, so they went along with me and my crazy plans. We stopped at REI for the bars and gels and then took my bike over to a shop that an old friend of the family had recommended. They promised to have JB cleaned up and ready to race by noon on Thursday.

Big scare on Wednesday – got a call that my bike chain was really worn. Worn to the point that I needed a new rear cassette. WTF? This bike is only 18 months old! My old bike’s (a triple, not a compact double, used for centuries, but only used for sprint & Olympic distance tris) chain seemed to last for close to three years before needing a new chain. Guess I rode a lot. Um, okay. Fix it. And replace the new cassette. This was a really tough call because I wasn’t really having issues shifting, but now that they told me that it was in need of repair, I’d be stressed about it. Of course, they only had a Dura Ace rear cassette in stock. Rad. I always wanted a super high-end rear cassette. And have loads of money sitting around for one. Oh well.

Thursday, Sept 8 – picked up the rental car, picked up my bike and headed to Wisconsin. Managed to get up there in time to be the LAST PERSON to go through registration. Weighed in at 125.2 pounds. Not the 120 I originally planned for race day. Again, oh well. My mom was very patient while I went through all the steps and then at the very end, Cara Peck, one of my best friends, was waiting for me! (She and her boyfriend were visiting Wisconsin for a wedding and football game and stayed an extra day to cheer for me on Sunday. Awesome friends.) Pretty chill night. Short 30 minute jog along the lake. Mom and I went on a walk. It was warm, but in the 80s – not the 90s!

Friday, Sept 9 – Went to the Ironman store and spent too much money (for a bike kit that kind of looks like it’s for the Texas Longhorns, not so much IMoo) and waited in a long line. Met up with Cara Peck, who supervised me while I enjoyed a swim in the lake. Mom and I drove the bike course and I got out and did a little ride, just to stretch my legs, go through my bike gears and test some of the hills. I had hoped to do a longer ride on Thursday (per coach’s recommendations and based on what my friends did at IM Canada), but didn’t have enough time. Regardless, the drive gave me a pretty good idea of the course – some really nice roads, some crappy roads, lots of hills, no mountains… AND WITH COWS!!!!! HOLLA!

I missed my training buddies and thought about how different it would be to have a house filled with other Ironman hopefuls. I imagine that it could have been kind of stressful – lots of nerves in one place, everyone wanting to make sure their stuff is set up how they want it… but then you don’t feel bad about dragging someone out for a long drive to see a bike course, or for your constant need for small snacks, or all the waiting and preparing of gear bags and figuring out how to freeze bottles in a hotel room (enough racers and you can rent a house), etc. You also get to get a table with all your friends at the pre-race briefing (boring for those not racing) and pre-race dinner.

Mandatory pre-race briefing & dinner –

Pre-race briefing – safety, course outline, drafting rules. Pretty normal stuff. Good to get it all tucked in the brain, even though I’m going to need all of the help the volunteers can offer when it comes to what to do in transition so I don’t get lost in giant Monona Terrace!

We were treated to some great speakers during dinner, including the announcer who tells everyone “You Are An Ironman” as they cross the finish. Interviews with the oldest and youngest racers and a couple who does the whole thing together.

And – we finally learned how the race director was going to handle the fact that this race is on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. All first-responders (police, fire, emt, military) were given VIP seats at the dinner. They also got special bibs so they could be identified at the race with special bike racks just behind the pros. Additionally, they auctioned off, at $4000, a poster that was signed by all the pros and first responders. Money went to a charity associated with the Madison Police Department. While I’m sure there were other people commemorating the day in their own way, a local fire fighter who helped on 9/11 was very public about his cause – does races in a normal wetsuit, then changes into an orange polka dot bike jersey to remind Wisconsinites about organ donation (that’s the symbol on the WI drivers license) and then runs in his FULL fire uniform. Which weighs 100 pounds. WOW. For more info on Robert V and Code 3 for a Cure, click here.

Overall, a very positive way to remember 9/11 – by giving thanks to those who helped, instead of those who did harm.

Saturday, Sept 10 – Woke up to a farmer’s market right on the capital square! Walked around a little, had some breakfast and realized that the weekend was heating up. I had high hopes for a low-80s kind of Sunday. Oh well. I forced myself to drink lots of water on Saturday and kept my bottle close by as I did the last few Ironman tasks before Sunday – needed to drop off my bike and my transition bags at Monona Terrace.

Monona Terrace is this giant, Frank Lloyd Wright designed (but not built until after he died) convention center, conveniently located near Lake Monona, one of the three lakes in Madison, Wisconsin’s capital. At IM Wisconsin, your transitions do not happen outside in a tent, parking lot or field – it’s very civilized. You go INSIDE to one of the many big conference rooms, get your bag, then go to another room (men/women) to change. Head back outside and get on your merry biking or running way. Still, seeing thousands of these bags covering the conference rooms was mind-blowing. Overwhelmed, I went back to the hotel to take a nap.

The rest of the day involved very little walking, just some prep for Sunday – bottles, special needs bags, and then an early dinner. My latest pre-race dinner has been some sort of non/low gluten noodle/grain with meat/turkey + marinara sauce. Gnocchi totally fit the bill and I was magically able to score us a table for 4:45pm. After a nice walk back to the hotel, I sent my mom out to the casino with her friends and tried to get some sleep.

Steve, my boyfriend, who had to attend a funeral in Utah on Saturday, managed to just wake me up for a second when he arrived around 2am. What a sweetheart.

Race day report to follow.

Oh yeah… I did finish Ironman

Real race report to come. I was fortunate to take a post-Ironman vacation to Maui with my boyfriend and his family. I mostly unplugged from electronic devices and enjoyed the outdoors with some snorkeling, canyoneering, hiking and swimming. Nice way to come off of the IM high, for sure (though next time I’d add some more “beach-laying”…Steve did *not* just do Ironman and had plenty of energy for adventures).

A few things to leave you with…

  • Finished in 12:52, had kind of thought that 13 hours sounded like a good target, so that’s pretty great
  • Told myself I didn’t want to do another
  • Now considering St George
  • Also considering sticking with 70.3 distance races, maybe shorter stuff
  • I’m not quite sure what to do for now – I want to maintain some of my fitness and I like being active, but I’m debating jumping right back in to full-on triathlete mode and switching gears to do Crossfit and climbing and maybe masters swimming (I kind of laughed at a friend’s suggestion to go to spin tonight, guess I’m not ready for that one)
  • If you’re considering Ironman, give it a shot. It’s a tough road of training. Really tough. There were plenty of days that I did not want to train. I couldn’t skip out every time I wanted a day off. But I’m really happy I did it anyway.