A Southern-Style, Chicken-Fried Championship

Expectations. We all have them for one thing or another. We expect the taste of a Grande Americano to be the same at every Starbucks. We expect traffic to be busy during rush hour. You probably expect a blog post from me after a 7 month hiatus. Somethings things fall short and other times our expectations are exceeded.

I’m sitting on a flight out of Nashville, Tennessee. I keep opening my book, but my mind wants to go back to Saturday. Saturday spent in “the South,” in Chattanooga, Tennessee with thousands of others with expectations. Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

I owe you a few other posts about how I got here. The training, the races. For now, I’m going to just write about my race while it’s fresh in my mind. I’ll send out the prequel soon. Just know that it took a lot to get here. I worked my ass literally off my body. I enjoyed almost every moment of it. 

Christine and I arrived Thursday night. We ate waffles, heard our first “y’alls,” unpacked our bikes and climbed into bed. Friday was the day before the race and it was going to be busy. Friday was spent doing the usual pre-race things and a few unusual pre-race things. We swam in the watery treadmill of the Tennessee River. It was warm and it was flowing. I wasn’t worried. I feel like a tough swim gives me a marginal advantage over some weaker swimmers in the field. I was disappointed to hear we would most likely be wetsuit legal. The water was way too warm for a wetsuit and again, I think of it as an advantage. We checked in and checked over our bikes.  A shake out ride did less to shake me out and wound me a little tight with the traffic. I’m still hanging onto a little post-partum anxiety and it likes to rear its ugly head when I’m on my bike.  We got our stuff checked in and ate white rice in our PJs.

On ward to race morning. Alarm went off at 5:15am, or 2:15am Vancouver time. It wasn’t really all that bad. I kept thinking about all the people from halfway around the world racing on a whole different day from home. Coffee, breakfast and out the door. We had plenty of time at the race site to set up and to realize I hadn’t charged my Garmin. Would 47% make it through a half ironman? I guess I will find out. If that was the worst thing to happen all day, I’ll be just fine. We hung out on the pier as the pros were announced and then Christine headed off to the corral as her wave went first. I dropped off my stuff and headed down shortly after fighting back pre-race tears and taking those big deep breaths.

 In our regional races, the rolling wave times start at “Sub 30.” At this race, there was “Sub 25” and a few more until 30 minutes. Wow. Who were these swimmers? Katie Ledecky? With the current, I had NO idea what my swim time would be. I started with the 28-30 gang which was over 75 women back from the start. Again, wow. We hung out on the dock and watched the women dive or jump off the dock 10 at a time. I peed. I think a few others did too as it was wet at our feet and there had been no warm up swim. Such a glamourous sport, eh? It was my turn to get into one of the 10 lanes and wait for the beep. It was awesome. Best start to a race I’ve ever done.

 Beep. I took a running leap off the dock and dove in. Funny thing: open water goggles don’t stay on as well in a dive as pool goggles. Rookie move Liz! I swam strong for a few strokes just to get out in front and then took the 5 seconds to put my goggles back on. No big deal. Keep swimming. The current was definitely less today, but it was still there. I used some sailing smarts to feel for where I should be directing in order to swim to the buoys. I was surprised how many women I was passing. I kept passing. I found one set of feet going the same speed as me and the two of us kept passing all the way to the third turn buoy. Really? All of you started in the under 28 section. I got out of the water feeling great and ready to ride. It was quiet in transition so I knew I had had a decent swim. As it turns out I swam just under 33mins, 32th in my AG. One day I’ll have the courage and the swim strength to start closer to the front where I think I belong. Expectations met.

Onto the bike. If you didn’t know already, I should mention this race was all female. For the first time, Ironman separated the field. The women race Saturday and the men race Sunday. It was a very cool feeling to be out there riding with only other strong women. The bike was expected to be tough. With over 1000m of elevation gain and most of that during one climb up Lookout Mountain, the ride threatened to zap the legs of anyone that didn’t show it the respect it deserved. The climb was a smooth road through a dense tree canopy. I fell into a rhythm and rode my own pace. There are no power zones to meet when you are in your easiest gear just trying to move forward with the steep pitches and a few sneaky descents. I knew I could climb this better than most and I think I did. The lookout portion of Lookout Mountain was amazing with a waterfall cascading off the cliff. I took it all in. As we crested the top, the crowds boosted everyone’s energy. Feeling like a rockstar with a huge smile on my face, I made the turn for the more rolling part of the course through the quiet streets of Georgia state. 

With Christine’s wave being 17 minutes before mine and me being the stronger swimmer, I had a carrot out there waiting for me to find her. I was shocked when I could see her matching Coeur Sports team kit up the road only 15k into the bike. My first reaction was that I had overbiked the climb. I passed her and she yelled “already?” I too had expected to be chasing only on the run. Within a few km, she passed me back. I should have known that would have been too easy. We then rode almost 70km trading places (yes, legally) and egging each other on. Who else gets to race a world championship with her friend, athlete, sparring partner? What a surreal experience.  We hit the dismount line together. Expectations exceeded.

The run. Oh, the run. Like most half iron courses, the buzz tends to be about the bike course. The climbs, the winds, the pavement. I’m fairly certain the race director had someone switch his coffee to decaf when this run course was designed. I left transition just behind Christine. I quickly fell into my usual race cadence and did the little mental assessment on how the legs felt. Tired, but not terrible. No threats of cramping on the immediate horizon. I guess it’s time to run. I passed Christine back and she sent me on my way.

I kept my cadence as my main focus and ignored my pace. Use your arms to power your legs. Light on your feet. Take a cup of something at every aid station and just keep going. Smile! Like any looped course, things get tougher on lap two, but you are encouraged with the fact that the bigger mile markers now belong to you. Kilometer 4? Nope. Kilometer 14 thank you very much. With all the wave starts it was tough to know who you were racing and at certain points it felt like the world was passing me all at once. The support from the crowd, fellow Coeur Sports teammates and other racers was staggering. With the final big climb done, I allowed myself to look at my watch and was happy to see I was still pacing for a 1:45 despite the brutality that was this course. The final kilometer is down hill. Let er rip. I let my feet fly, took a beating on my quads and gave it what I had into that finish chute. Expectations blown completely away.

And that was it. I was done. In 5:14:59 I had put to test over a year of hoping and 6 months of dedicated training. I gave it all I had on the day and I couldn’t be happier with what I accomplished. I placed 27th out of 230 in my age category and 193th out of 1450 of the world’s best female triathletes. I kept the little faces of my boys on my mind. I wanted to honour any time I spent away from them training with giving my best. After the race, I was bombarded with messages and posts from friends and family following back home. Messages from half way around the world. I can’t say how amazing it is to have such an outpouring of support for my little hobby. I thank you all. Special thanks to two especially important parts of my team. To my coach Liz, I love the Liz you helped me find. To my husband, there is none of this without you.

Christine and I spent the rest of our day drinking beer, meeting Coeur teammates and chatting with friends. I can’t tell you enough how the Southern hospitality truly lived up to its name. We poured ourselves into our beds at 11pm completely exhausted and content.

On to the next adventure and to new expectations.

 

 

 

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Jack of all trades.

This week the team of online word warriors answer questions from our fellow members.  Hailey provided me with my topic: Liz- if you could only do one sport (from tri) for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? Then provide some of your fave moments/routes of this sport, or bucket list things you would like to do with this sport.

We meet so many triathletes that have a clear answer for this. That big guy with the shorn legs is yelling, “BIKE!” while the woman with the gills is waiting for the race that gets shortened to just a swim.

I consider myself a “true triathlete,” meaning I really don’t have one clear winner nor one clear loser. That’s me: “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  I’m decidedly run-of-the-mill in all three sports, so which one do I do for the rest of my life? Let’s break it down.

Swim. I’m a naturally decent swimmer.  I’m very lucky that way.  I never took swim lessons as a kid unless you count the few seasons of synchro during those painfully awkward tween years. Nothing helps a girls’ confidence like a bun and nose plugs. I’m not a first out of the pack swimmer, but I don’t work that hard at it either. I enjoy the water and I would not have survived pregnancy without it. I can see how an aging body could continue to swim long into the golden years. However, with the exception of Vancouver’s amazing Kits Pool in the summer, the view doesn’t change much. A black line is a black line.

Bike. There is no sport that makes you feel like a child free in the world like cycling.  Heading out the door knowing you can make it hundreds of miles under your own power is a disaster preparedness plan like no other. I got a late start to biking also.  I was six. SIX! I recall the day clearly. I needed to get to the beach at my Aunt and Uncle’s cabin. I had been walking there in bare feet on pointy rocks and pebbles. I turned back, pick up one of the many bikes and off I went.  The peddles felt so smooth under my feet. I spent the rest of the time of that vacation riding everywhere I could. Bike is a strong contender.

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Does this still count?

Run: all you need are shoes. I could probably end this post on that point. Shoes. No bike to maintain. No water or wetness. There are so many places you can see on two feet. I traveled around Europe solo one summer and was on the other end of many an odd look as I laced up at the hostel and headed out the door to run around a new city. Apparently, I was meant to be so hung-over that I see only the inside of a dingy bunk room.

I have examined the evidence and weighed the pros and cons.  As much as I want to cop out and choose more than one, I shall answer the question as stated. If I could do only one of the three sports for the rest of my life I would choose: running.  It’s social, accessible and I can take up kiteboarding to get the rush lost from riding a bike.  The strangest thing about choosing running is that I really don’t have any “bucket list” running events. Even Boston doesn’t make me tick. There is the ongoing family wager that if I can beat my dad’s PB marathon time of 3:25 he will take up running again (he’s 66,) but that involves running a marathon. Considering it’s been 10 years since my only open marathon, the bucket list might get drawn up very soon.  Thanks for the question Hailey.  Let’s go for a run one of these days. In fact, lets all go: Christine, Jen, Laurel, Caitlin, Elizabeth, and Erin!

 

2016 and stuff.

2016.

The year people can’t wait to be over.

I’m not going to write some post about how many people died and why this was the worst year ever.  I’m also not going to write a counterpoint post about how awesome it was either.  If you read a few posts back, this was clearly not my favorite year (until Aug 19 of course.) My fellow blog pals (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) are all writing about their successes in sport and life in 2016. Instead I’m going to tell you about my 2016 and 1998.  Why 1998?  Well, I just turned 36 years old and it blows my mind that it’s been 18 years.

1.       1998 was the year I graduated highschool and started university. I recall finding my first year science classes completely overwhelming at 400+ students per lecture.  I sat near the back and didn’t pay as much attention as I probably should have, considering I paid to be there.

2.       It’s been 18 years and I still don’t know what I should be when I grow up. On this note, I find it hard to fathom how I was supposed to know what to study at the age of 17.

3.       2016 was the year I took the most naps. I recall being the most tired ever.

4.       I spent my 18th birthday on a plane headed to South Africa, so it was a shortened day.

5.       I spent my 36th birthday in Whistler with my family.  It seemed like a long day and I was in bed at 9pm.

6.       18 is considered an adult.  I’m still waiting to feel like one despite having two kids. I drop my kids off at various activities at the community centre and feel intimidated by the other moms.  They seem like adults; I’m still driving a car with manual locks and often forget my underwear at the pool.

7.       19 is the drinking age in BC so in 1998 I was underage.  I used a friend’s ID to go to the bars on campus.  Once, her lab partner was the bouncer and he let me in anyways.

8.       I spent most of 2016 sober (hopefully for obvious reasons) and I missed beer most of all. I’m enjoying an ale as I type)

9.       Swimming was free for students at certain times at the university pool and thus began my development in the sport. The pool was also a favourite spot to study and by that, I mean the national swim team. 😉

10.   Swimming was my favorite thing to do in 2016, probably because I was rather buoyant.

11.   I got a pair of Roots Tuff boots for my birthday in 1998.  I threw them out only a few weeks ago.

12.   My favourite purchase of 2016 is the power meter for my tri bike despite it continually telling me how out of shape I am. 

13.   This summer I went to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I had never been before and although it seems like a nice place (ie. I don’t want to offend anyone) I have no plans to return. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more with beer.

14.   The movie “You’ve Got Mail” came out in 1998 and my hair stylist thought I’d look great with a short, sassy blond cut like Meg Ryan.  (Editors note: I think she was correct and I still have a similar style)

15.   No movies in 2016 have influenced my style of leggings and nice socks.

16. Despite lows of 2016, this is worth remembering:

 

 

No inspiration intended.

I’m just home from a run that I entitled “Running Sucks” on my Strava profile.  It does. It sucks.  As does swimming and at times, biking.  Basically I suck at sport.

Before I continue let’s get one thing straight: I’m not writing this to be some poster-girl for postpartum fitness and inspire thousands to get fit post baby.  I’m not meaning to be inspiring in the least.  Inspiring people ride unicorns to the organic market to buy spelt muffins and vegan smoothies.  I’m not that. I mostly want a record of how much I suck on this day so one day I might look back and marvel at how much things sucked.

I know baby E is only 2 months old.  That knowledge has not escaped me, but that doesn’t make this suck any less.  I also know I did it once before and I’ll get there, but that doesn’t make this suck any less.

To recap: I did an Ironman July 2015. On Sept 10, 2016 I rode 17km and it sucked.  I stopped 8k into the dead flat ride to catch my breath.  I cried when I got home.

I have managed to get on my bike 20 times since then and I think it’s sucking less.  I could possibly ride 30k again, but I haven’t tried due to the fear of getting 15k away and not making it home.  I treated myself to a power meter to help get back on track.  It tells me my watts are 100 low from where they once were.  Combine that with the 25lbs extra and it makes any hill look like Mt. Ventoux.  So I ride indoors a lot.  Usually while the kids nap which means the baby is getting used to salty milk and the 3 year old is getting used to Paw Patrol when he wakes up 20mins into a 45 min ride. It’s not ideal.

I have swum a total of 2500m in 3 months. I guess that makes sucking at swimming no surprise.

Running is the worst.  I run 2 minutes at a time and by the end of the 120 seconds my heart rate is at threshold and my body hurts.  Then I walk and try to run another 2 minutes. I probably shouldn’t even be running based on how loose some stuff feels, but mental health sometimes trumps physical health.

The definition of the slang version of suck: to be objectionable or inadequate.

So there’s my update. Training is objectionable and inadequate.

#2

Napping is the key to salvation whether it be in the middle of a tough training block or 10 days in to two kids at home.  I’ve always excelled at napping and these days it’s a skill I don’t take for granted.  I napped at least 5 times per week for the last 10 months foregoing only on days my toddler wouldn’t allow it or I had to work (gasp!).  And it’s possible that the frequency and duration of these naps occupied the time I had previously spent writing things on this page.

Although I could have probably found a little time to write some snippets about my summer, I probably would have offended readers.  I don’t think it’s a big secret from my last post that pregnancy and I don’t get along and saying I was a tad grumpy is the understatement of the year.  I was more like a female House (from House, duh) as obviously I consider myself as intelligent as he.  Better I think myself a genius than ridiculously good looking right?

Over the summer, I attempted to keep moving which became harder and harder as the lbs came on and my top speed over land reached that of a giant tortoise.  I did manage to keep swimming and am proud to say my performance in the water was a little faster than a manatee which, as it turns out, is still faster than 85% of the human population of Kits pool.

I also bit off more than I could chew with taking a new job for the summer.  Instead of racing Ironmans, I worked them with the athlete services team up here in Canada.  It’ll be a whole other blog post to go into the detail of a behind-the-scenes look of working an Ironman, but let me just tell you that racing one is easier and takes far less time (for me anyways.)

So without going into the gory details, I’ll tell you that my new little man arrived at 4:04am on August 19th.  The parking ticket my husband purchased at the hospital is stamped 2:59am.  Labour was a total BQ qualifying time of 3.5hrs and there was screaming.  I distinctly remember thinking three things: “I would rather be running an Ironman marathon,” “I can’t wait to not be pregnant anymore,” and “men could never do this.”  Seriously, that’s what I was thinking.  When it was over I nuggled my second son Elliot.

So here I am a mom of two and figuring out the new normal.  I can’t wait to get back out “training,” but to the few people that have asked when I’ll be back on my bike, I’d like to tackle pooping without fear first.  It’s going to be a long slow slog back to fitness, but my mood has improved greatly.  I’m more my usual sarcastic self.  I’ll let you know how it goes as it goes, but for now it’s time for a nap.

 

 

Big plans for 2016…

It’s Wednesday at 11:25am. Henry is already down for his nap so I’m writing this in between planning of an all-girls training camp this weekend. The thing is, for me, this training camp is all a ruse.   I am going to go swim-bike-run, but “training” not so much. My season is now all laid out for me: get huge and not in the Arnold- “pump you up” sort of way. No, in the gain 35+ lbs from doing very little and eventually (very eventually) end up with a tiny person sort of way.

I’m only 10 weeks as I write this so probably won’t post for another 4 or so at least, but I figured the joys of pregnancy are fresh on my brain at this point so I should write them down. Joys such as waking up every day terrified to eat and terrified not to eat as either produce that throat full of saliva about to barf kinda feeling. Joys such as leaving the house for a 30 min run, getting 6 mins in and barely able to walk home. Joys such as begging your toddler to be quiet for 30 mins as your migraine takes hold and you crawl into a dark room for 12 hours.

It’s not all bad though. Oh wait, yes it is. Sorry, but at this point I’m just not the glowing, excited momma to be. In my experience, that will arrive with the arrival of tiny human and not before. I know I should be grateful and I am, but it’s hard and I’m not going to paint it like it isn’t. For all you women that don’t get sick and slow and cranky while pregnant or embrace it all as part of a “miracle”, here’s a slow clap for you.

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Recap of things that make me tick (other than my family): training, wine, racing, beer and to some extent, looking fit. That’s 5 for 5 out. For most of 2016.

So here I sit, an Ironman athlete trapped in a slow, tired body that is getting softer with each passing day. I’m looking into cooking classes, and adult colouring books to try and find something to pass the time. You really do find a lot of free time without training 12+ hours a week.

Luckily, I have my athletes to keep me engaged in the triathlon community and I really can gain almost as much satisfaction from watching them race as racing myself. So there you go, something positive to say.

It’s now 12 weeks in and the glimmer of hope I felt last week of feeling human again quickly left with the reappearance of most of my breakfast this morning. I’ve managed a few workouts in the last few weeks that were legit, but all resulted in my sleeping it off for the better part of the next day. I long to awake one morning without my first thought being “how much did I have to drink last night.” (no, of course I haven’t been drinking.) Yesterday I walked up a set of stairs I usually take two at a time and had to put my hands on my knees to catch my breath at the top. I can hear screaming from my former fit self inside this body. Athletes, even recreational ones, spend most of their time controlling both what goes into their bodies and what they can get out of their bodies. Pregnancy forces you to relinquish that control at least part of the time.

Now I’m up to week 13. A few days ago I was feeling pretty good in the morning. I blow-dried my hair, put on jeans and left the house only to get as far as my car and have to scramble outside to expel a foamy, bitter substance that had the distinct flavor of canned salmon. I realized it was my prenatal vitamin complete with Omega-3 fish oil that was being rejected onto the neighbour’s rhododendron. This was a whole new low and somewhat of a turning point. I found humour in my situation for the first time. Progress.

And here we are at week 14. I’ve finally told my family, friends and athletes. Obviously, the most common reaction is “Congratulations!” But there are always those people that need to let you know “I knew it!” Wow, you sleuth you. You noticed I didn’t order my usual IPA, haven’t been running and my barely B-cups are a solid C? You should really consider being a PI. Here’s some advice: even if it was painfully obvious just stick to congratulatory responses. No one likes a know it all.

So there you go, three months in one post. I’ll apologize now for a summer of posts about pregnant athleticism or lack there of, but write what you know. OH, and a big shout out to the team at Coeur Sports for supporting (another) sidelined athlete. I’m sure they knew the risks of an all-female team of mostly child-bearing age. I’ll still be out there in Coeur colours at races, just not IN them.

I’m open to questions about being a pregnant athlete and I promise the most honest response possible. Hormones and fatigue have pretty much removed any last glimmer of a filter to my thoughts so be prepared for brutal honesty.

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