Allison’s Virginia 70.3

I’m Allison Paul, and new to the team this year.  I’ve been running since I was 12 and started doing triathlons in my mid-twenties, since I suffered from overuse running injuries. My husband, who was a world-class speedskater & PT, got me on the bike doing long group rides. We often rode our tandem from Milwaukee to Madison and back over a weekend. Reluctantly, I learned to swim in the open water, started doing local triathlons and eventually Ironman Wisconsin. We had 10 bikes, no kids and lots of time to train!

A dozen years later, 3 kids & a move across the country, I got back into triathlons and started racing again. With a full-time (traveling) job in medical sales, homeschooling kids and a few dogs, I wasn’t sure there’d be enough time to train sufficiently, so I didn’t invest in triathlon gear but rather raced on my road bike with clip on aerobars. 

After winning a handful of local triathlons over a few years, I joined the TMS IOS team and decided to invest in a bike. Cid and his bike experts at Inside Out Sports helped me find a sweet ride that makes my training and racing rewarding. (It’s a FELT IA with disc brakes and electronic shifting, BTW). 

My preferred triathlon distance is 70.3 because of the longer run and I started this season with Ironman 70.3 Virginia. It was the first year Ironman put on this event, but in typical Ironman fashion, it was very well organized with a big turnout. 

In the early hours of the morning on race day, a storm rolled through Williamsburg and soaked our gear. Thankfully, the rain held off for the swim start. 

The swim was choppy and it felt like we were swimming against the current. According to my Garmin, I swam nearly 2500 yds, (which is how I justify my 5 min slower swim time!)  There’s a long, uphill run to transition packed with wetsuit peelers and sunscreen appliers. Again, race support was great. 

As soon as I mounted my bike, the rain started. The course was pretty flat, with lots of turns that required us to slow down considerably (due to the rain). Unfortunately, my teammate, Millie crashed on the bike course, but amazingly she still finished in a great time! 

The run was a 2-loop, out and back course along the paved Virginia Capital Trail. It was mostly flat with lots of aid stations and support; however, there was a short distance we had to run (twice) on the mud-soaked grass. The sun came out just in time for the run and finish. 

I ended up third in my age group (out of 91 and missed Worlds by 1 spot), with an overall time of 4:58:08. 

Swim: 34:07

T1: 3:51

Bike: 2:37:25

T2: 2:49

Run: 1:39:57

Tough Women take on Tennessee

I am pleased to say that I got to end my season on a high note this year at the Tennessee Toughman Half. To be completely honest, this race wasn’t even on my radar until a few weeks ago when NC 70.3 was canceled due to damage from Hurricane Florence. How relieving it was to find another half on the same weekend within driving distance! Clearly a lot of other former NC 70.3 athletes felt the same; the race had a strong presentation of other last minute registrants. The race director and crew put on a great race that didn’t leave me feeling like I was “missing out” compared to an IM-branded race.

Myself and two other teammates arrived in Knoxville a couple of days before the race, with plenty of time to scope out the course and get situated. I’d be lying if I said my nerves weren’t firing up at this point. This was my A race for the season and I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do well here; I have been feeling the fittest and the fastest I’ve ever been, and I really wanted something to show for it.

On race morning we woke up to chilly air temperatures and a light rain, which would continue throughout the day. After sleepily downing breakfast, we made the drive to the race site. The ride was less than 30 minutes, but I was wishing it could have been longer so I wouldn’t have to get out of the warm, cozy car. Our gracious sherpa dropped us off right by transition, where we unloaded all of our gear and picked up our packets. We were some of the first to arrive, which ensured us prime real estate since the rack spots were a free-for-all. In the light of my headlamp, I got most of my gear set up before heading out for a quick spin on the bike.

I immediately noticed that my front brake was slightly rubbing, which had not been an issue at all in the days prior. Concerned about tinkering on race morning, I brought my bike over to the on-site mechanic. The mechanic fiddled and fiddled, but my brake was only getting worse as he worked on it. I started to feel a bit of panic at this point – I had put so many months of preparation into this race, was it really going to be derailed by a mechanical issue before it even started? The start of the race was encroaching, so I left my bike behind and scrambled to get into my wetsuit. With less than 10 minutes before my wave start, I ran back up to the mechanic and saw him running towards me with my bike – “IT WORKS GREAT NOW!” he shouted as we made the hand off, and I thanked him graciously as I ran back to quickly rack it and get down to the swim start.

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Much to my advantage, the race start ended up being delayed about 10 minutes, which gave me enough time to do a short swim warmup and orient myself to the course. I found my teammates and we all said our final “good lucks!” before our wave was released. Despite the fact that we did not start near one another, within the first 100m I found myself tucked into a draft right on the feet of my teammate Cath. To sweeten the pot, Cath was riding the heels of another swimmer in front of us. Riding this draft train kept me focused and motivated throughout the swim, and I stayed right behind Cath for the entire two-loop course. She was quick to call me out later for how much I was slapping her feet at times… sorry, Cath! I am not a subtle drafter.

It was just a quick run up from the swim to transition with a pitstop at the wetsuit strippers (insert wetsuit stripper appreciation here). Less than a minute later I was on my bike riding away. The bike course was a T shape, with two loops along the upper bar of the T. The stem of the T, which we started and ended on, had some pretty steep hills. The road was beautiful and winding, and I’m sure it would have been quite fun on a dry day, but the wet roads had me playing the descents fairly conservatively. Once the course turned to the top of the T, we were actually on a fairly large two-lane highway. I was little concerned about this when we had been driving the course the day prior, but the road had a huge shoulder and traffic was minimal on a Sunday morning. This part of the course was just gently rolling, and it sure felt fast – I ended up really enjoying it despite the wind and the rain and the cold. I couldn’t feel my feet, but my legs were holding up their end of the bargain well enough. Approaching the first turnaround I looked for other women, I realized that I was in second place behind Cath – there were no other women ahead of us. Despite some volunteers telling me to go chase her down, I focused on racing my own race and pacing as I had planned. I made sure to keep fueling and hydrating throughout, which is easy to forget when the weather is grim, and came off the bike feeling prepared to run.

During T2 I really got an appreciation for how difficult it is to take off a helmet and put on socks and shoes when you can’t feel your fingers or your feet. After an embarrassingly long struggle with these tasks, I finally made it onto the run course. The course was a double-out-and-back, decently hilly but nothing too extreme. Early on, I tried to be patient and let my run legs come under me. By the end of the first mile, I started to feel pretty good and worked my way into the lead. From there, I let my legs do the thinking and went along for the ride. It was just one of those magical days where everything comes together; I felt strong and was even more energized by all the support I got on the course from other athletes cheering me on. Not to mention that while the mid-50s, overcast, rainy weather had been unpleasant on the bike, it was downright perfection for running. And well-stocked aid stations (with competent volunteers) were every mile, which made it easy to keep up with nutrition and hydration. As I got towards the end of the run, I realized that I was on track not just to win the race, but to beat my open half marathon PR and well exceed my time goal for the whole event. That realization was enough fire to keep me going strong through the finish, even as my legs started to really feel the burden of the effort.

In the end, despite the fact that the weather was grim, my bike almost didn’t make it transition, and it wasn’t even the race we had originally signed up for, the Tennessee Toughman ended up being exactly the race I wanted it to be.

tn splits

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Ironman Chattanooga Race Report.

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report. Completed my 5th Ironman Distance event. I’ve learned a lot in the 2 Ironmans I did this year. After my first Ironman in 2015, I set a goal to do at least 1 Ironman a year, get stronger/faster and learn a lot to be ready to put it all together in 2019 when I move up to the next Age Group. Despite having my 2 slowest* Ironmans ever this year, I feel like I’m right on track. The big takeaway from this race was that I think I nailed my nutrition, finally! When I finished the race, they asked if I needed to go to medical and I said: No, I’m fine. It was a nice way to finish the race…followed by a big hug from my Mom (Valerie Lehr) & brother (Jeff Lehr)!!

Hamstring: Since straining my left hamstring on September 1st, I’ve had numerous PT sessions & dry needling (both in North Carolina at The Running PTs) & in Ohio) done to try to get it in shape to run the marathon. I rested it some and did elliptical “runs” too. Tried a longer run on Sept 13th, but had to stop running just before Mile 15 because of soreness. More PT & Dry needling, rest & elliptical “Runs”. A week before the Ironman, I rode 2 hours and then attempted a brick run. Had to stop 1 mile in due to soreness. That didn’t give me a great feeling about running an Ironman in a week after a 116 mile bike!! It’s possible it was sore due to dry needing 2 days before. The week before the race, I enjoyed my taper. Also had a 2 hour massage that ended up going to 3 hours by Lynn at Seoul 2 Soul Massage Therapy. She was AWESOME and really helped/stretched me. I ended my therapy the Friday before the race in Chattanooga with a light/laser treatment that is supposed to reduce inflammation & I also had them apply KT tape to help limit the stretching of the hamstring during the run. I wasn’t optimistic in being able to run the full marathon after an 116 mile bike, given I had to stop the training runs and that it hurt only after a mile run a week before the race. But surprise, surprise…it held up the whole race! Thanks for all the prayers & well wishes. They worked! 

2018 Santa Rosa 70.3

In July, I completed a 70.3 in Santa Rosa, California. Well, it was actually a 69.1 race since they cancelled the swim. Short story, I was bummed about the swim cancellation and decided to just have fun with the day, enjoy the beautiful wine country scenery and drink all of the wine after the race. For the long story, continue reading.

The backstory: Santa Rosa was my goal race for the summer. It was also an excuse to spend some quality time with my triathlon bff and a few other friends on a much need adult vacation exploring wine country and Lake Tahoe. Thanks to my wonderful husband (aka Super Dad) for making that happen! About six weeks leading up to the race, I had some hamstring/hip flexor tightness. I ended up pushing through a few track workouts I probably should have not pushed through. Over the next few weeks, the tightness became progressively worse until I could barely push the gas pedal driving to work, much less run well. Also, I thought it would be great idea to do the Triangle Sprint, two week before the race, and “take it easy on the run”. Yeah, sure. After Triangle, I was in a lot of pain and did very little running, dry needling, started PT, massage, and stretching. Fast forward to the race.

The race is a point to point, which means there are lot of logistical things to tackle. One thing I had not thought through was how to transport my bike from athlete’s village in downtown Santa Rosa to T1 at Lake Sonoma 56 miles away. We rented the smallest possible rental car to save money. Luckily, TriBike Transport was shuttling bikes to the lake for a small fee of $40..ugh. That’s on top of the $350 I already paid them to ship it there. Anyway, the day before the race was spent doing all the logistical pre-race stuff, which included a swim in the beautiful Lake Sonoma. The water was a nice 74 degrees (the air not so much..107 degrees), perfectly calm and crystal clear. I love swimming and I was very excited to swim in this lake. Unfortunately, unseasonably warm afternoons and cool mornings at the lake leads to fog.

On race morning the visibility was very poor which forced a delayed start of the race from 6:30 am to 7:45 am. At 7:15 am, the race director announced the swim was cancelled and a time trial bike start would be used. I had no idea what that meant. I had also spent the last hour nervously eating all of my extra snacks in my transition bag and I felt very full. Cycling is not my strong point, so at this point, I decided the race was not so much a race, but more of a fun day. I changed out of my wetsuit and lined up for the time trial start, which was a rolling start based on your bib number. It was pretty cool to watch the professionals start their bike.

The bike course consists of rolling hills with endless views of vineyards, estates and tasting rooms. It was beautiful. I’m kind of glad I took the time to enjoy the scenery. The ride went by pretty fast, but I was wondering about the run in the back of my mind. I had no idea if I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles.

Transition was in downtown Santa Rosa and went very smooth. The run course is two loops out and back on a greenway leading around and then away from downtown and it was mostly flat. The run was pretty warm, not much shade and provided varying surfaces to run. It was very similar to the ATT in some sections. I started running out of transition and surprising my hamstring/hip felt ok but I knew that wouldn’t last long. I decided to find a pace that was comfortable and see how long I could hold it. While running, I made a new friend from San Diego. It was her 50th birthday and she was doing her first 70.3. She is a runner who just learned how to swim. Amazing! Once I started the second loop, the course became crowded. However, it provided opportunities to see my friends who were racing and that was a big boost! It was also super awesome to see the professionals running at blazing speeds and cheer them on! My hamstring tightened up around mile 11 and I spent the last few miles talking to my leg asking it to not fully cramp and just finish the race. I also had some stomach issue most likely from all the snacks I nervously consumed during the delayed start. In the end, I finished. Not my worst race, but far from the best. Most importantly, it was FUN!

After the race I got to meet Mirinda Carfrae! Highlight of the day for sure!

In the end, it was a little disappointing to not actually do a triathlon, but it was great day and trip with friends! I’m going back to Santa Rosa one day for the full 70.3 and more wine!

Thanks for reading!

Lindsey M.

Fun in the Sun at Beaverdam

After a disappointing swim cancelation at Collegiate Nationals, I was eager to do a triathlon that was, well, an actual triathlon. And so I was excited to find that Beaverdam was only two weeks later, and would indeed feature all 3 legs – what a concept!

A convenient local venue meant I got to sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a plus. On race morning, after rushing around to set up transition despite the fact that I arrived early with “plenty of time to get ready,” I lined up for the start. Funnily enough, despite the face that I had signed up for this race primarily because of the swim, suddenly facing the 1500m course I wasn’t so excited to plunge into the water and get racing. Despite my qualms, the gun went off and the race was underway.

I ended up being quite comfortable in the water; the lake was pretty calm and a nice temperature for a wetsuit legal race. I drafted off a couple different fellow teammates early on before splitting off and navigating the rest of my way solo, doing my best to sight the far-away buoys as we headed straight into the sun.

Out of the water and onto the bike, I was the third female out of transition. The course was a rolling out and back that started and ended in the park; I’d speak to the scenery but to be honest I was a little more focused on my bike computer and the athletes ahead of me I was trying to chase down. I maintained a steady power output for most of the ride, until the end when I got to do a bit of freewheeling as we hit some vehicular traffic coming back into the park.

I had been nervous about the run since I had started looking at the race day weather forecast days beforehand. The forecast had called for heat and sun, and it certainly delivered. By the time I got out to the run course, despite it still being relatively early in the day, it was already getting quite toasty. Fortunately, the run course, which was a rolling double out-and-back, was at least partially shaded. I started the run in second place and felt good for about a mile until I hit some uphills and full sun. My non-heat-acclimated body rebelled and I started to slow down, slipping back into third place. I was grabbing ice and cold water at aid stations, but by the last couple miles I was really started to feel disorientated. Despite the struggle, I managed to hold things together enough to maintain my place and crossed the finish line with a podium finish.

Despite not feeling my best towards the end of the race, I still consider it a great wrap-up to my spring season. It was a blast to see all my other TMS-IOS teammates out on the course putting in work! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer holds, and promising myself that I will be at least a little more heat acclimated for whatever comes next.

beaverdam

Ironman Lake Placid – Keep to your schedule!

Completed Ironman Lake Placid in what was my toughest ironman to date on a mostly rainy, windy day.  1.75 hours of sleep is not enough sleep the night before an Ironman event!

A few reasons for the sleep issue: The AirBnb we stayed at only had a window air conditioner and it didn’t work that well. I didn’t lay out a rigid schedule & stick to it like I usually do for a race. Also arrived on site on Friday so less time required more diligent time management. So hot temps & a bit extra stress from finishing things “just-in-time” put me on edge. Good lesson hopefully learned.

Certain courses match my strengths & weaknesses better than others. I learned Placid isn’t a great fit for me. River/current swims are better for me than Lake swims for me & the bike course had one large descent instead of multiple descents spread throughout. I did enjoy the run & think I would have done a bit better on the run with more of a full night’s sleep (5-6 hours).

 

Penalty

A week ago, I raced in my last Collegiate Nationals as an undergrad. It proved to be a most unusual race weekend.

Like last year, the race was held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Unlike last year, due to some torrential downpours, the flood gates upstream of our race site were opened and USAT was forced to cancel the swim three days before our race. Suddenly, my teammates and I were unintentionally signed up for our first duathlon and in the case of Kelsey and I, our first two duathlons back-to-back Friday and Saturday. Ever heard of a draft legal duathlon? It was new to us!

Fortunately, Coach Dave was able to give us insightful race strategy advice the day before Draft Legal. In a nutshell,

1. run for your life

2. get in a good bike pack

3. then catch people on the second run

 

Sure. In reality, the first two steps were easy enough to achieve after a nice, fat taper week (minus the fact that the “good bike pack” became a massive peloton of swerving, unstable and competitive triathletes). However, the second run hit me harder than expected and I watched in misery as almost all the racers of our bike pack (who had been feeding off my back wheel!!!) came careening past me out of transition.

Thankfully, I had a second chance at duathlon right the next day and I was already signed up! This time, I saved some of my legs on the first run and biked blissfully free catching some 50 of the 60 odd people who had beat me on the first run. Running just short of top 10, I got to witness for the first time the calm energy and polite vigor of other coaches who cheered on their athletes with ill-concealed warmth: “COME ON [NAME]. PUSH YOURSELF. I SAID PUSH. YOURSELF. 40 SECONDS TO [UNIVERSITY]. HARDER. I EXPECT YOU TO GET THOSE POINTS [NAME]! PUSH [NAME]!!!!”

When I approached the finish, my own coach did not issue his usual “Go get her!” but instead a discomforting “Hold her off!” and I knew I’d have to take that burn in my legs one step farther, knew I’d need one more gear that I had not yet created.

Though I held her off to the finish line, she overtook me on the leaderboard some time later in the day when I was graced with my first bike penalty: a 2:00 position penalty. With close to the fastest bike split on a crowded course, that was indeed bitter. Whether it’s a mistake I can learn from or a misinterpretation, I’ll never know. However, the UNC women’s team came in 9th place, making the weekend an overall victory!

Battle at Buckhorn 2017

BuckhornI have done this race a few times in the past, and it has always been competitive and lots of fun. This year was no different, and since it was at the end of September the weather was perfect! The water temperature was also cooler, so it was wetsuit legal this year.

My swim went well. I started out behind Bri Gaal, and stayed close to her for part of the swim but fell behind a little by the end. I think I was 5th out of the water, but two of the girls ahead of me on the swim must have had slower transitions because I never saw them on the bike or run. My time was 12:30, which I was happy with.

As I ran into transition and found my spot I saw Bri was already heading out on her bike. I quickly got out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear and headed out on the bike right behind Braden Walsh. Once on the bike Braden and I passed each other back and forth a few times before I was able to put a small gap between us. I rode by myself for a while, and this section of the course was a little slower due to the wind. About half way through the bike I heard a familiar voice as one of my teammates, Sara Larson, caught up to me. I was happy to have someone to pace with again and we finished the bike together. Time 49:48, not my best time on the course but still pretty good.

I made good time in T2 and started on the run just ahead of Sara. Unfortunately, Sara is a faster runner than me, so she quickly passed me and put some distance between us. Since the run was out and back I could see that Bri was the only one ahead of Sara and me. I also knew Braden and Millie Barrett were not far behind, so I could not let up on the run. I was happy to be running OK after a pretty bad ankle sprain a few weeks before the race. I managed to hold off the girls behind me to finish in third place overall. Run time 22:56, and total 1:26.50. After the race I enjoyed hanging out with my fellow TMS-IOS teammates and other tri friends while we waited for awards. This year FS Series gave cash prizes in addition to the prized belt buckles, so that was a good way to finish off the last race of the series!

And We’re Off (Sampson County Super Sprint)!

Last weekend, I opened my 2017 triathlon season with a crew of friends at the Sampson County Super Sprint. I’ve never done this race before, but since it’s hosted FS Series, I knew it would be a great event. Plus, when I looked at my training calendar it seemed like a great day to sneak in an early season race and follow it up with a long bike ride on less-traveled roads well outside the Raleigh area. Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and we were treated to warm temps and sunny skies.

I can honestly say that this was the shortest triathlon I’ve ever done, and like all sprints, every second promised to hurt. To ensure even more fun (read: pain), the women’s field was pretty stacked. The TMS-IOS team had 4 ladies racing, the NCSU triathlon club team showed in full force, and the ever awesome Bri Gaal made a last minute decision to join in on the fun.

To avoid making this post longer to read than Sampson County took to race, I present you the race in bullets:

* 250 swim: smooth, small traffic jam around the 100 mark but nbd. Squeezed through and got around it.

* T1: didn’t drop my bike or knock over any racks; win

* 7 mile bike: ow. pass some people. ow. annoying water in my ear. ow. tight turn around… unclip… put my foot down (yeah, on the ground; I’ve got no moves). ow. ow. ow. Finish! Managed close to 23 mph; I’ll take it.

* T2: did some stuff and started running

* Run: ow. ow. water in my ear still. ow. this is gonna hurt. getting hot. ow. I hear breathing. Must be that guy I saw. Crap, sounds like a girl. Dangit, pink. It’s Bri. I’m screwed. Run faster. ow. Keep running. Where do I go? Bike out, yeah that’s it. Wait, no that’s not it. Veer back, oh yeah the finish chute. I’m done!

* T3: Lay on the ground at the finish line in the fetal position.

In the end, top 3 women were within 9 seconds of each other. Bri ran me down, but she also probably forced that extra second out of me to take 2nd. Cath had a killer bike!

results

It was a great race, and the team represented well. Here are the TMS-IOS ladies with Adam (teammate and overall winner) after the race.

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IM Chattanooga

After racing half IM distance and shorter triathlons for the past nine years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first full IM last September after volunteering at the 2015 Chattanooga race.  I was really unsure how I would be able to manage the increased training volume with a full-time job and a very busy schedule with the kids’ activities.  It hasn’t been easy, but with the help of my coach, my husband and many friends/training partners, I was able to get it done, and even had some fun!

Pre-race

We arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday around dinner time, three days before the race.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Chester Street, which was only a few blocks away from Ironman village and that ended up being worth it with all the walking back and forth we ended up doing.  After unpacking, we got together with a group of friends from Cary that were also racing and headed to the Bluewater Grille for dinner, which was pretty good.
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The next day my friend Anne and I went for an easy 25 min run.  During the run we passed by the organized swim in the river and decided to come back later to swim.  After a little breakfast we gathered the others in our group and drove over to Coolidge Park on the other side of the river to get in a short practice swim and see what the current was like.  This swim is known as a “down hill” swim because you swim down river with the current. I didn’t really feel the current on the way up stream, but once we turned to swim back it was amazing to see how much faster we covered the same distance.  After our swim we went to the IM village to check in for the race and walk around the expo for awhile.  We met up with the group again for lunch at the Village Grill.
After lunch I tried to sit in the shade and listen to the 2:00 athlete briefing.  It was so sunny and hot, and the forecast for race day was for more of the same.  We had heard the humidity levels would be low for the race so at least it wouldn’t be as bad as it was training in NC this summer! So we thought…
Then it was time to relax at the hotel for a bit.  The Gaal’s had rented a condo on the river, so we drove over to visit with other OSB athletes and friends from Cary for a few hours before meeting back up with our group for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant downtown, Alleia.  The pasta there was homemade and delicious!  We had a relaxing dinner and were all excited and looking forward to race day.
Saturday morning we went to the Bluegrass Grill on Main Street to have a big pancake breakfast as our biggest meal of the day.  I had a little bit of everything!  When we got back to the hotel we went for a quick bike ride to check that everything was working, and then organized all of our gear into the bike, run and special needs bags.  This was a little stressful for me since it was my first full IM and I had not yet totally decided exactly what I would carry on the bike and run for nutrition and what I would put in special needs.  One big decision that I had to make was whether or not to wear a fuel belt for the run.  I always wear one in training, mainly because there are no aid stations on training runs.  Some people prefer to carry their own nutrition in a race and others don’t want anything around their waist other than the race number belt.  I had decided not to use it for the race and trained with Gatorade Endurance the last month or so of my training so I would feel comfortable drinking what was available on the course.  However, with the forecasted high temperatures I started to second guess this decision.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get enough fluids this way. In the end I decided to start with an old hand held bottle that I could toss if I got tired of carrying it.  Once the decisions were made I put everything in the correct bags and my husband and I walked my bike and bags down to the transition area to check everything in.
For the next several hours I relaxed in bed at the hotel to stay off my legs as much as possible.  I ate a pb&j sandwich for lunch rather than go out to eat.  We decided to get take out from Tony’s Pasta Shop with our friends and eat a small pasta dinner back at the hotel rather than wait in line for a table.  This worked out well, and we all went back to our rooms early to try and sleep.

Race morning

I had set my alarm for 4:00 am, but woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep, so at 3:45 I decided to get up.  I went downstairs to the lobby and got a bowl of oatmeal, two pieces of toast, and a banana and brought that back to my room to eat. I also drank a bottle of Infinit.  I added lots of ice to all my bottles, got dressed and we headed to transition to put my nutrition on the bike, pump my tires and drop off my special needs bags.  Then we hopped on a bus to the swim start at around 5:25.  When we got there we set up towels on the sidewalk so we could sit or lay down while we waited for the race to start at 7:30.  I realized at around 6:30 that I should have brought more food to eat at the swim start as I was starting to get hungry.  I did eat another banana I had brought but wished I had a bonk breaker or something.  As it got close to race time I did a short jog around the parking lot to get my blood flowing, and hit the bathroom one more time.  When I got back to my spot I had to hurry and get my swim skin on because it was almost time to start.  I took a salt stick capsule and Gu and had a few sips of water and then put everything but my cap and goggles in my morning clothes bag to drop off near the swim start.

Swim (57:20, 10th AG)

The pros started at 7:20 and the first age groupers at 7:30.  We had a pretty good spot in line and the line moved very quickly, so I was in the water by 7:36.  The water temperature was 83 degrees, which felt good to me.  I tried to swim towards the middle to get as much current as possible and avoid getting into the crowded water closer to shore.  As I got close to the island I started heading left closer to the buoys.  We swam under three bridges and then headed to the swim finish where there were a bunch of volunteers waiting to help us up the ladder and on to the carpet to run to transition.  I looked at my watch and saw that my time was about what I expected based on last year’s times, so I was happy with my swim.  I pulled my swim skin down to my waist and took off my goggles as I ran to get my bike gear bag and head into the women’s changing tent.  As soon as I came into the tent there was a volunteer there waiting to help me get ready.  She dumped everything out of my bag and helped me get everything on and out the door.  T1 time was 5:38, not too bad.

Bike (5:58:45, 7th AG)

I headed out on the bike and checked my HR.  Oops! My HR was already about 10 beats higher than the range I had planned to maintain for the bike, so I tried to relax and get into the lower zone.  I couldn’t seem to get my HR down even though I didn’t feel like I was riding that hard so I just went with it.  I would still hold back on the hills to keep it steady and try not to let it spike higher.  I kept my pace as steady as possible.  I kept hearing the words “HOLD BACK ON THE BIKE” and “STEADY IS FAST” which was good advice from my coach and others.   I don’t like to hold back on the bike, but I knew it was best, especially with the forecasted high temperature in the mid 90’s.  I kept thinking about the marathon and tried very hard not to use up any excess energy.  The first loop went by pretty quickly.  I was hungry so I ate a bonk breaker in the first half hour of the bike.  I alternated drinking Infinit Go Far and water, and took one salt stick capsule every hour.  I felt full after the bonk breaker so I didn’t eat anything else during the first half.  The course was beautiful, so I tried to just enjoy being out on my bike in the sunshine since it wasn’t too hot yet.  As I came in to Chickamauga, GA there were spectators lining both sides of the street, and I saw my husband and Anne’s husband on the side of the road screaming and waiving as hard as they could.  They had said it was too much trouble to get there so they probably wouldn’t see us on the bike, so it was a really good surprise to see them there.  It definitely got me pumped up and ready for the second loop.  But first I had to make a quick stop at special needs to get my two bottles of Infinit Speed for the second half of the bike.  I was so happy to see that they were still cold, and actually still had a little ice.  The Podium Ice bottles in an insulated lunch bag worked well.  The second loop was not as fun as the first one.  The sun was high in the sky and it felt like I was riding in a furnace!  Also, we seemed to have more of a head wind on the second loop.  I just kept plugging along and drinking as much fluid as possible.  I was really happy when I finished the second loop and turned back on to the highway for the final stretch.  That part felt a little easier and I was excited to be getting off the bike soon, even though the run wasn’t going to be fun in the heat.
I decided not to do a flying dismount off the bike since I had bottles in the rear cages, so I left my bike shoes on and got off the bike.  It was really awkward running in bike shoes after riding 116 miles let me tell you (the Chattanooga bike has an extra 4 miles). I should have just taken them off and run in my socks.  I eventually made it to my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent.  I had three volunteers helping me all at once, and in my rush to get ready I forgot to tape up my toe that rubs on my shoe, so I had to take my shoe back off and get that taken care of.  One of the volunteers added ice water to my bottle which had Infinit powder in it, while the others helped me get my run gear on.  They had me all ready to go in no time, but since I was not able to go to the bathroom on the bike I made a quick stop at the porta john right outside the tent.  I probably didn’t drink enough on the bike to make it through 6 hours without going.  T2 time was 8:46.  A little slow, but still not bad.

Run (5:01:23, 7th AG)

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I started the run with a hand held bottle full of Infinit since I wanted to make sure I got enough to drink.  However, I have never really liked running with something in my hand and today was no different.  I ditched it by mile 2!  Starting out the run felt kind of rough.  I managed to run a 9:30 pace the first mile but my pace slowed quite a bit after that.  I had decided I would walk through all aid stations and try not to walk more than that for at least the first half of the run.  The first 4-5 miles were on a boring highway with no shade and if it weren’t for a guy from VA named Brandon who starting chatting with me I don’t know what I would have done.  He told me we would turn off of that road soon and then we would have some shade.  It was so much better once we turned and started running on a the riverwalk greenway trail that took us through a wooded park and along the river.  That was my favorite part of the run course.  Unfortunately at around 6 miles I started having stomach issues and had to use the bathroom again.  The extremely high temperature was making it difficult to process the calories I was taking in on the run.  Once I got back on the road again my stomach felt better for awhile and I was able to keep up my slow running from aid station to aid station, although I did have to stop one more time during the first half of the run.  After running for awhile on the riverwalk we ran across a bridge to the the back half of the loop, which is mostly up and down hill.  So many people were walking on this section of the course, but I managed to keep running for the entire first loop.  I told myself I could walk more in the second half if I needed to.  After the hilly section we ran over the Walnut Street bridge where I got to see my husband again.  That lifted my spirits again for awhile.  When I finished the first loop I still felt OK, so I decided I would keep running as long as I could.  I had to make another bathroom stop at mile 19 and started to worry.  My stomach issue was getting worse, so I thought maybe I should walk for awhile.  After walking nonstop for a mile I decided I was OK and only had 6 more miles to go, and the sooner I finished the better. I was pretty sure at that point I would be able to finish so I went back to running when I could.  This time when I got to the hilly section I decided I would walk up the hills and run down them.  I hardly saw anyone running at this point.  Once the hills were over and I reached the Walnut Street bridge again I was almost finished!  As I headed over the bridge and made the turn toward the finish I could hear the announcer as others were finishing and picked up my pace for the final stretch.  It was so exciting getting to the finish with everyone cheering and hearing “Cari Soleo, you are an Ironman!”  Total time 12:11:52 (7th AG).
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I was so happy to be done, and feeling OK.  After seeing Lou and getting my picture taken I went to the medical tent to make sure I was really OK.  They gave me ice to help me cool off and offered food and water. A guy sitting next to me told me to drink chicken broth, so I did.  That really helped!  After 3 cups of chicken broth I was feeling so much better!  I watched my friend Anne finish and then walked back to the hotel to shower.  At about 9:00 we met up with Anne and her husband and went to celebrate with pizza and a beer at Mellow Mushroom.  The next day at the award ceremony we learned that the high temperature had been 97 degrees (the hottest on that day since 1931!) and 87% humidity.  The DNF rate was over 25%, the second highest in Ironman history!  Times were about 1-1.5 hrs slower this year compared with last year’s times.  While my final time wasn’t the time I was hoping for, I am happy that I did as well as I did considering the brutal conditions.  And I managed to finish happy and healthy, so I can’t complain.