Monday, June 10, 2013

Italy 70.3: Race Report

I am checking in from Italy, about 24 hours after my first European race, Ironman 70. 3 Italy. We are currently driving from Pescara to Tuscany. I will be in Munich Wednesday and Thursday, but return to Tuscany for a little mini-training camp starting on Friday! Before I get into the details of the race, I would just like to thank everyone who followed me on race day and I am sorry that I could not walk away with a better result. I am deeply disappointed and will let that fuel my training and future racing.

Checking in the bike

Enjoying the day before the race

Race day started out as usual. However, the race did not start till 12pm though, so the pre-race routine was a little bit different. I had my usual breakfast, only twice, and the morning was much more relaxing than normal and included a lot of waiting around. At 12pm it was VERY hot and equally humid. Much much more so than I had experienced in Florida 3 weeks prior. This was not expected as the weather had been forecast to be high teens to low 20s. By the time the race started it was a scorching 30 degrees, but with the humidity it felt much much warmer.

Race morning

Warm-up: I warmed up as usual, with some activation exercises, some swim tubing and some PowerBreath to warm up the lungs. I got in about a 10 minute swim warm up and I was feeling good. We were called to line up on the beach about 20 minutes prior to the race start. They didn't let us get in the water again until 10' to start. I was just stifling standing on the beach in my wetsuit for 10 minutes. We finally got into the water and the cool water was a welcome relief. We swam out the race start, which was just past the breakers and about 400m away from the beach. The first thing I noticed while we waited for the gun to go off was the HUGE rolling waves. Was this good, because I'm a strong swimmer or was is bad? I didn't have too much time to think about before the race started.

The Swim: The male and female Pros started all together in this race and as soon as the gun went off, I was immersed in the usual washing machine that consists of various limbs, kicking and punching to make the lead pack. I don't panic when this happens anymore, I just put my head down and go as hard as I can. However, what was incredibly frustrating was that every time I almost got close to a pair of feet a huge wave came and pushed me back. This happened several times in the first 5 minutes and eventually I couldn't waste anymore energy trying to surge for the feet ahead and I settled into a more manageable pace. No one was around me as I battled the huge waves that crashed into me one after another. I had no idea was position I was in, no idea if I was swimming well (it was survival swimming), I even questioned whether I was heading in the right direction! It felt like forever before I was finally inside the breakers again and into calmer waters. I followed the buoys into the shore...but as I approached the beach there were tons of people in the water, blocking the swim exit! I thought I had gone off course and started swimming back the way I came, before a volunteer helped direct me towards the beach. I did dolphin dives until it was too shallow and then ran through the water to the exit. Wow! That takes a lot out of your legs. Eventually I made it onto the beach and ran towards my bike. I had never seen so many people at a race. There must have been thousands of people cheering me on. I didn't know what place I was in, but I though I heard a lot of "tres" somewhere in the mix of cheers. I had a huge smile on my face. My transition couldn't have gone better and eventually I was out on the bike.

The Bike: I started off on the bike and I felt a little big sluggish. The combination of the hard effort I had to put in to survive the swim, the heat and the effect of the water running and long run through transition were taking their toll. My heart rate was soaring close to 190...somewhere it very rarely gets to on the bike. Usually my heart rate is pretty high (never that high!) coming out of transition and then it quickly drops within the first 15km. This was not happening today...I took in a gel, downed about 500mL of fluid...and finally I started to feel a bit better at around 15km. I think the eventually 2nd place finisher caught me at that point as we were climbing a steep grade. She was much stronger so I let her go. Soon after another girl caught me, but we were closer in speed and we rode together for the next 15km. She was stronger on the uphills, but I was stronger on the downhills and the flats. I was handling the switchbacks very well for me: keeping my weight back in the saddle and on the pedals, not breaking during the turns. This was the most enjoyable part of the race. It was still hot going uphill, but the downhills were cooler and allowed for much needed recovery. At the first aid station, about 30km into the race, I was in 4th place. I knew that I needed to cool my body temperature. I grabbed a bottle and poured some on myself and then went to fill my aero bottle. This is when everything came crashing down, literally. I have no idea how it happened, maybe I hit a pothole or maybe I just lots balance...but one minute I was filling my aero bottle and the next I was sliding along the surface of the pavement with my bike on top of me. It's weird what your muscles can do to protect your bones. I felt my hamstrings, glutes and calves all seize they were cramping...probably as some sort of protection mechanism. I stood up and felt pain, but I could still walk. I checked the bike...two fully inflated tires and the handlebars were pointed straight forward. I could shift and brake and there didn't appear to be any damage to the bike, other than a few scrapes, . I guess my muscles protected the bike in addition to my bones :) I was a bit wobbly for a few minutes after getting back on the bike...I stopped and started a few times...and watched as the 5th and 6th place female passed me. I probably lost only a couple of minutes before I was back in race mode. Carefully descending the next set of switchbacks. Could I make it another 60km? I honestly remember very little of the remainder of the bike. I remember trying to grab fluid at the next water stations and pouring on myself and my wounds. I remember seeing another bike on the side of the road, with a girl being helped by ironman support. I remember the roads were full of puddles in the last 30km - I think it did rain at one point. I remember realizing with 20km to go that I had no fluid left in my bottles. It must have fallen out when I fell. It is all a complete blur. I have no idea how I road my bike in that state. When I got to transition I felt like giving up, but seeing all the spectators and my family cheering I thought I should at least attempt the run.

The run: I hobbled through transition and out onto the run course. My hip was tender and I was very thirsty. I was really hoping for an aid station coming out of transition as I had not had any fluid for about 40 minutes. I had no such luck. It wasn't until 2km into the run that I could get some water. I was done at this hip was aching and my heart rate was soaring. I managed another 3km and to somehow run my way into 5th before I saw my family and collapsed in Rikki's arms. I just could not go on.

Overall, I am very happy with my swim and even my bike split. Both showed my improved fitness from last year. The fact that I could still have a strong bike (6th!) and was in my state is very exciting. I am also happy that I have experienced crashing and a DNF. Both were a learning experience. I know I need to practice bottle exchanges now :) More importantly, if I were to crash in a future race I know what I would do differently. Mainly, I would check that I had enough nutrition! A DNF comes with a very horrible feeling. The feeling of letting yourself down, of letting all your supporters down, the fear that you aren't good enough or strong enough. That is a feeling I want to avoid at all costs in the future and I think that will make me a better, smarter and stronger racer.

Stay tuned on twitter and here for reports on my mini-vacation to Munich and my Tuscany training camp. Thank you for reading and endless thank you to my coach, my family, my RMT (Diego) and my sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management, Raymond James Financial, WattsUp, eLoad sports nutrition (so sad my eLoad spilled all over the road, yesterday), Urban Athlete, OUTWET High Technology, Enduro Sport (the P3 is indestructible and fast!).

My indestructable Cervelo P3 still looks good

Post race scars: Swollen hip and scraped thigh

Post race scars: elbow

Post-race day breakfast...mmm

Twirling on the beach in Pescara, forgetting my worries

Last glance at the beach. Looking forward to smarter races.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Italy Ironman 70.3 Pre Race Report #1

It is day 3 of my European adventure and I have lots to report. Mamma and I left Toronto on Monday, June 3, a little behind schedule (close to 5:30pm) on the Alitalia flight direct to Rome. The flight was pretty smooth...except maybe for the fact that the hot water on the plane wasn't working so there was no tea or coffee (there was free wine, though!). Other than having no hot water, everything was great. We got pillows and blankets, I had a great playlist to listen to, some episodes of White Collar downloaded on my laptop and lots of exciting thoughts in my head. The 8 hour flight went by in a blink and before we knew it we were in Rome and I was re-united with my bike. This is always the biggest relief when I travel to all these places. The moment I see my big grey IronCase labelled with my big orangy red Quantas sticker (a keepsake from my travels to Australia) my stress level goes from extreme to non-existent. We then set out to rent a car... unfortunately the Audi A1 they wanted to give us would not fit a bike so we upgraded to an Auda A4 hatchback...not too shabby! Once we figured out how to turn the car on - these fancy cars are quite strange to operate. It doesn't require a key, but a key fob. It wouldn't start until Mamma put her foot on the brake..and it turns off whenever she is stopped for longer than a few seconds...haha. Eventually we made it out of the airport parking lot and were on the Autostrada headed to Pescara. The drive was just beautiful! Two and a half hours of driving and we were at the hotel. Check-in went well and it didn't take long before we were all unpacked and looking for something to eat. Well, I learned something very valuable about Pescara...all the restaurants that had been recommended by the hotel manager were closed from 3:30pm - 8pm! It was 3:30pm and we were famished and so tired. So, we walked around in a bit of a daze for the next 30 minutes looking for food...and eventually settled on some food from a cafe. A bocconcini, arugula and tomato sandwich for me and some sparkling water. Completely refreshing. We were both in bed by 7pm and slept until 7am the next day!

View from the plane

More sights from the plane

On the road to Pescara

Day 2 started out in true Miranda/Mamma fashion. "Where had we parked the car again?" Luckily, Mamma was the one who remembered and we got in the car to drive to the pool. Now, the pool was 3.3km away, but didn't actually have an it was kind of a guessing game where it actually was. That fact, combined with the fact that it was Pescara rush hour and the driving philosophy here seems to be "stop sign? what's a stop sign?" and "no, pedestrians don't have the right of way" ... and we got to the pool a good 40 minutes later (lucky to be alive!). The pool was amazing. It's called Le Naiada and has an outdoor Olympic size pool and 2 25 meter pools indoors. Lane swim was only available in the indoor 25m pool, but just being in such a facility was very exciting for me. I did an hour long swim while Mamma went for a run along the beach. Next, we risked our lives and drove home. We stopped at the supermarcato to get some staple foods for me: bananas, peanut butter, rice crispies cereal, granola, milk, bananas and water. Now, they had about 20 flavours of nutella, but no peanut butter! Oh dear! I sent Rikki an email ASAP to bring some in his suitcase when he arrives on Saturday. Later in the day I did a 45km bike ride...I was a bit nervous given the traffic situation and I was right to be, as I have never had so many near death experiences in such a short time frame! Cars were running stop signs, swerving in front of me and braking, passing incredibly close to me and driving in the wrong lane! I think I actually felt one car on my shoulder. But I survived and got to take in some memorable scenery! The route I chose took me along the gorgeous beach and up some rolling hills that overlooked the towns on the sea and some of the farms inland. After my ride I did a short and quick 10 minute run and felt great! I finished the day quite pleased with the trip so far.

Coffee in Pescara

Biking in Italy

More views from the bike

Dressing nice for dinner

Day 3 began bright and early as Mamma and I attempted to beat the traffic and drive the Italy 70.3 Bike course. We drove 23km to the first town on the route, Pianella. We parked there and I rode for an hour on the next 25km of the bike course and Mamma went for a run. There was a shortcut from about km 45 on the bike course back to Pianella, so I was able to loop back to where we parked the car and do a short run. My running felt even better than the day before and my heart rate was super low for the pace I was holding. All good signs...let's just hope it continues feeling good to race day! Then we got back in the car and drove the last 45km of the bike course. It is a very technical course, with 3 pretty steep descents involving switchbacks...On my ride I did get to descend one of these steeper sections. I know that on race day I will be a little more gutsy, but when you are riding alone and there is traffic brushing you on the shoulder and you never know when a car is going to come rushing out of a hidden intersection this descent was quite scary. I spent too much time on the brakes, for sure! After arriving home, Mamma and I had cappucinos (they are THE BEST in Italy) and then headed to the beach. We spent most of our day there today...relaxing and napping. I did get in the sea for a 30 minute swim. The water is the perfect temperature...not to hot so that you get warm in a wetsuit, but not too cold so that you want to get out quickly. It was relatively calm, but wavy enough to give a better swimming a bit of an advantage. Plus, the salt water definitely adds some extra buoyancy! I am really looking forward to the swim on Sunday. After the swim we had some amazing pasta! The food here tastes so fresh and is so yummy. (Not that I don't miss my Tim Horton's muffins :)

Driving the bike course

Sights from Pianella

View from the beach (what's with my expression!?)

Pre-swim look

Warming up with some swim tubing

Lunch time!

Best smelling flowers ever, and they are all over!

So that is everything so far! I will report back on Saturday with a few more details and some more pictures. Rikki, Papa, Bianca and Thatcher arrive on Saturday. Can't wait!!!