Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Epic Journey for an Epic Day - Ironman Lake Placid 2018

Frozen Mirror Lake - First Trip to Placid 2015
Our journey started when we first went to Lake Placid in the spring of 2015, Mirror Lake was still frozen at that time but we knew that weekend that we were coming back to conquer it. After a couple of more weekends there and riding portions of the course including the climb to Whiteface Mountain from the Village we were sure that we were able to do it if we planned it accordingly. For that reason, we planned 2 years in advance. From Cozumel, we knew we were going to take a break from fulls in 2016. We needed to give our bodies and minds a break from racing 4 fulls in a lapse of 2 years (IMTX 2013, Challenge AC 2014, IMAZ 2014 and IMCOZ 2015) with a few accidents and broken ribs in between. In 2016 we focused our season on getting Quassy 70.3 aka the Beast of the North East and Cartagena 70.3 done. The first one because it is a training race for many people up here that do Placid so we wanted to see what we were capable of and Cartagena for obvious reasons, racing at home and making it the family vacation. 
Whiteface Mountain Summit

Ice Cream and our IronTex Family
After Quassy which usually is known as being tougher than LP we came out confident about our abilities in the hills. Though we knew we had a lot of work to do ahead of us. After Cartagena, we took a short break for the holidays and dove in to LP training with the rest of the team. We focused our season on our A race. We did Quassy again this year as our gauge and kept on training. I had some good gains during training, my swimming was getting better and my bike riding was feeling solid and with our local club had gotten pretty good as well, my runs were good up to a point and then the miles started to catch up to me during training, usually struggling on the longer 2+ hours runs but I kept on going. 

Race week came, I must say the best decision we made was rent the house. Note:  if you are thinking on doing it recommend planning for that a year in advance. The entire town pretty much sells out for race weekend. Though the town has awesome houses and accommodations that cater to triathletes all year long. Pretty much from Memorial Day up to race weekend and beyond the town is packed with clubs doing training camps from all over the North East. When we did our camp late June there were about 7 clubs that we could count riding and training. Also that was a pretty good decision, no matter how many times we did the route or portions of it before, going and focusing a weekend on solid training was perfect to help calm the nerves. 
The Crew minus Pam

Now to the epic day! RACE DAY!

Before go time
The swim: I knew from training that for the first time I could start with Becky and not feel like she was going to smoke me on the first 200 yds. So, we started together. The first loop we pretty much swam it together, I had her right in front of me but she went on the second loop at bit earlier than me and I hit a bit more traffic as I wanted to stay more on the famous cable. I knew we were a little long on the first loop so I wanted to see if I could gain on the second but came at a cost. My first loop I came out at 34 minutes which is the time I had done the loops the 5 or 6 previous times so I was happy with it. The second loop I knew I was super long, my Garmin ended up with almost 4700 yards but I knew I didn’t let of the pace probably swam faster on that second loop but I just couldn’t get a clear line. Anyways I came out at 1:15 which means my second loop was 41 minutes and about 400 yards longer. For me that was a 2 min PR from Cozumel which has a current and about 5 min off from where I thought I was going to come out, my goal was to keep each loop at 34-35 min but I knew with  the traffic was going to be hard.
The face of a PR

We had a friend from Jersey that was volunteering for wetsuits so as soon as I went out I saw him and yelled his name, he got me with a friend down and out of my wetsuit quick. I then went to transition, that’s a long one for sure, but you get a lot of people cheering you along the way and is an effective way to catch your breath from the swim in a way. I got to the tent and hardly had any place to sit, but I found a seat and got my stuff ready. I didn’t change at all during this IM, a decision I made while packing the bags. Don’t regret it. I got my shoes on (err… Adriana’s shoes on, more on that story on her blog) my helmet, sunglasses and my honey stinger wafer and off I went. I came out of transition got my bike saw a good amount of bikes next to mine so I knew I was in a good place.

Trying not to hurt too badly
The Bike:  The bike course at Placid while it is a hard one is one that you have to be tactical or it can bite you at the end. It has a fair amount of climbing at the beginning that not everyone talks about and a lot of people try to hammer due to the adrenaline before the big Keene descend which is what everyone talks about. I took my time, I kept trying to get my hear rate monitor on and the sucker wouldn’t turn on, it was charged but somehow it was on locked mode and didn’t unlock all day, I tried for a couple of minutes and gave up on it. I knew where my power needed to be. I had set up my bike Garmin to give me a warning if I was out of my zone, not so much on the climbs but on the flats which is where I tend to hammer too much and get too high on it. The climb I tried to keep it controlled too, not getting too far out of my zones and not pushing extremely high watts. Saw Becky who was only like 5 min ahead of me, chatted a little bit with her and then left on the climb before the descend. I went down the descend the first time and noticed a bit of wind which was strange, the previous 2 times we had done it we didn’t really feel that headwind, but still I was right on where I needed to be while being safe. I had a slower descend than in the training rides but during those we didn’t have the traffic we had here so I didn’t want to take my chances, didn’t have to use the breaks too much as the wind helped control it. I hit a little rain after the turn going to Jay, I let air of the tires a little since it was overcast, I wasn’t sure how much it was going to last so didn’t want to take my chances.
Happy to be done
That part I used it to get food and gain some time. Wind wasn’t affecting us then, you are protected by the mountains at that point. I got kind of pissed at he packs of riders that were coming by and people just hanging on to the packs with a lot of drafting, I stayed in my zone, racing my race. Got to Jay and a couple of guys were in the penalty tent, though that didn’t stop others from doing it. Finally saw Becky, Danny, Danang and Adriana on the Jay turn around, everyone was doing great and I was heading up to Wilmington. That part went by pretty fast, before I knew it was passing Jamey and he told me everyone was on the bike as I went by and headed back to town. I noticed there that we had a tailwind, I was pushing 50% my power going uphill and keeping a pretty consistent speed that I couldn’t keep before. Passed a couple of guys and we joked about it and then before we knew it the Three Bears showed up, I actually PRed the 3 bears climb on the first loop from all the other 7 other times we have done it, blame it on the tailwind and crowd at the top. I got to town and checked my time, I was right at the 3 hour mark, I was pretty happy with it, I knew the second loop was going to be slower but I wanted a 3:10 or so on the first loop. The second loop other than the wind going down Keene was pretty uneventful. Also by then the wind going into Jay had picked up but again, kept the power in control and didn’t let that get to me. I came back into town and felt great, usually I know by that time I’m cooked because I tend to hammer it too much on the bike. This time I had a goal and stuck to it. My 6:35 bike wasn’t my best, but I knew I had not done damage on my legs and that’s right where I wanted it. Garmin time is actually 6:29:40 but I stopped about 5 times at the stations to pee. Hydration on point.

When I got to T2 I grabbed my morning back instead of my running bag. I guess I wanted to get it over that quick. I got to the tent and after an F bomb one of the volunteers saw/heard me and went to get my running back and helped me get ready. Adriana had packed Pringles in the running bag and they tasted like heaven. Next time we need to add a coke in it too to chase them down. Put on my socks, running shoes, belt, flag in the back and off I went.

Just on the first loop
The Run: First few miles the legs were not happy, saw Pam and stopped to ask where everyone was, then Michelle and off to the ski jumps I went. I was running keeping a good pace, again perceived excretion because I didn’t have HR to go by. Running between stations, walking through them and getting water, ice, coke, pretzels, etc. I got to see Becky, Danny who was having the time of his life, I missed tutu Sue on the first loop and then I saw Adriana and got the news of the shoes debacle... laughed together about it and moved on, I felt so bad for her but she was trucking along as she always does. Coming back into town its pretty amazing the energy doesn’t let you stop those 3 miles you run in the town. I did my turn and off to my second loop I went. Saw Pam again, I was starting to feel the miles by then, but I just wanted to make it to mile 17 and start counting single digits down. Met a lady from Platsburgh by mile 15 so we started doing intervals, we were doing great and at mile 21 she left me and I started stuggling the most. My energy went down significantly but by then I was just having chicken broth, forgot about the coke or didn’t really care much for it. Mile 23-25.5 still is a bit of a blur, I was stopping not that I was cramping, I just wanted to stop which I usually don’t do. Finally at the last aid station which is by special needs I grabbed two cokes and it was like a switch was flipped on, took out my flag to cover me a little because it was starting to get cold and then before I knew it I was by the tennis courts and that’s the last down hill before the oval. I knew I had PR’ed, I had set a goal of sub 14 for this one. I came short by 5 minutes but I still PR from Cozumel which was the last PR by 9 minutes. I saw Danang at the finish, he gave me the splits and we got everyone back.
Ironman Numero 5

In all, this has been by far our best race. We have had 2 seasons were we haven’t had injuries or major accidents, yes I have crashed on my bike a couple of times but nothing major, pretty minor compared to the previous 2. The key to this race was how we stuck to our plan of having this as a long term goal. We knew what we were getting into when we even set our goal, and we came and conquered it. I have to say, I couldn’t have done it without my partner in crime nor the team we have. Our IronTex Family is a pretty amazing family and our Sherpa squad, cheering squad and everyone that was tracking us really made it that much more special. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

5th season.... how did we get here????

The other day Res and I were doing the math about how many years we have been doing triathlons. We couldn't believe when we actually figured out that we had been at it for 5 years. We can remember it like it was yesterday. We remember that first workout when in a cold February morning (not as cold as our February mornings in NY), we met the IronTex crew.

We were so intimidated by all. Most of them were training for IMTexas and also for IM70.3Texas and they all seemed so fast and "legit". We sucked big time that day... and many more after that. We didn't know what we were doing, still don't a lot of times but we didn't care that day...we still don't care now. We just knew that day that we were hooked to something we didn't know a whole lot about and that we were going to have to work pretty darn hard to get to be somewhat descent and actually start and finish races without dying. We remember that first run.... longest ever run we had done, we had to walk so much. We didn't stop, coach Mike told us to go to a point on the trail and return and we just followed most of everyone while we could and then just stayed together the rest of the time. Took us like 1 hour to do a 4-5 mile run, but we felt like we had just conquered the world, longest run before that was a 5k (a few years prior to that). We felt amazing and everyone was so encouraging to us, of course while they were lapping us because most of them had a much longer run. We didn't care, intimidated and all, we said we will get better and see what we need to do to get where they are. We thought we were in shape... err.. we weren't even close to be in shape. We then went to swim, again, I hadn't swam laps in like 10 years or more, so needless to say, the first 100 yds I thought I was going to drown.... not really but pretty close. Res was just trying to hang and do her best too. Having the swimming background I had, I hadn't forgotten a lot of the technique but I super rusty. Coach corrected a few things, taught us a few others and off we went to take a long nap. Our bodies were exhausted like if we were little kids who had just played all day long, only difference it was only 10 am and we were already taking a long nap. The next day we decided to come out a ride our bikes with them. Luckily we were in a bit better shape for riding, we had taken riding about a year and half before we took on triathlon so we knew a bit more what to expect there, but again we were still rookies. Our bikes weren't fancy or anything, they weren't from Walmart either, but they all had fancy bikes, tri-bikes, carbon bikes. However, we didn't feel as intimidated as the first day, and we were able to hang with a big group that day... of course the fast ones were long gone before we knew it, but we were with a nice group so we stuck with them.

Anyways... that was just our first weekend of trying out this whole new world.... we finished the weekend feeling like we had the world to conquer ahead of us, and talked more with Mike... before we knew it we had a couple races in our schedule and an actual coaching plan. We are so thankful that we made that decision to have a coach. We didn't even know where to begin. Of course the rest is history, fast forward 5 years and a few races later we have accumulated a lot of miles in all 3 sports, have friendships that we not only consider friends, we consider family and no matter the distance (they are in TX and we are in NY) they are always there. We feel like we have learned a lot but there is so much more to learn. Now that I'm a coach, I use my coaching as a way to give back, as a thank you to those who once were so patient with us to teach us, show us the ropes and share their experiences with us, now it is our turn. I know I don't know it all as a coach, like I've said it before, I am probably not near any of the coaches that spend all their lives learning about the human physiology and sports, I use my own experiences and also what I've learned through the years being coached as a kid, and as an adult to help others grow and hopefully meet their goals.

So... 5 years... hoping for many more, We will continue our journey, a journey of learning, sharing, having some fun while at it doing what we love now. It is our lifestyle now and we are glad that we have learned to balance our lives so it doesn't consume us. It is part of our lives but not our life. In this lifestyle it is so easy to get sucked into the racing every weekend, that thrill of accomplishing goals and a lot of times you want to accomplish them all at once. It is like you don't have enough weekends to do everything you want to do. We have learned that our bodies, wallets, and life in general need a break from the whole swim, bike, run. There is family, houses to take care of, mental breaks to be had, and simply we keep reminding ourselves we do this for FUN... we don't get paid to do this... we pay to do this, so might as well we do it to have some FUN.

I guess all I have to say now is.. let's make our 5th season in the sport a badass one... that's why our IG has a #Badass2017 on most of our post. We are trying to be smarter about our racing, training and whole life balancing thing. Commutes from work changed a bit earlier this year so again, trying to find that right balance and training for our A race @ Ironman Lake Placid while staying motivated with the winter days it's been a challenge, but looks like finally we are in a routine and figured out pool schedules, gym, bike times and runs.... all while still feeding ourselves, taking care of our furbaby, the house, shoveling/blowing the driveway when it snows, and you know.. spending some quality time together in between #NotAllAboutTraining.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Post IM 70.3 Cartagena blues.... err Report

Last year, after we finished IM Cozumel while we were exploring the streets of Mexico City an announcement came up on Facebook that Ironman was coming to Colombia. It was a 70.3 distance and was going to be held in the beautiful city of Cartagena. Without much hesitation we called my brother and sister and they were already making plans.
We came back from vacation and by then Brian, whom we were traveling in Mexico with, had already convinced his wife to let him do it and to plan a vacation. So the planning started on our end. My family came to visit us over Xmas so we were able to get some details in person. My sister had a friend who owned a couple of condos in the City so that was the main thing. Getting that squared away since it is the most expensive of all. The next thing we had to worry about was getting there. For us was relatively easy. JetBlue flies direct to Cartagena from JFK at a reasonable price without too many additional charges. The bikes are also one of the cheapest of any carrier, however due to the military status they were free for us. Thank you Uncle Sam.

Our vacation started to take shape when my sister moved to Medellin, JetBlue flies to Medellin as well though FLL and since Adriana had never been there and I was there about 20+ years ago we then planned to go there first and head to Cartagena with her and my parents since they were going to meet us in Medellin to spend a little longer with us.
Medellin will be probably another blog entry on either one of our blogs but I’ll try to focus on the race for this one.  

Getting to Cartagena:
Since we were flying from Medellin, we took a domestic Avianca flight to Cartagena. One way was about $100 each and Avianca being the official airline of the race was taking our bikes for free. Little parenthesis here, TriBike transport announced in October they were taking bikes, but since it was so late for it they couldn’t get the 50 min bikes needed to transport them. It all worked out, but definitely something that the race needs to work on. There were enough groups from the USA that would’ve benefited from the service and for most that were traveling on extended vacations having one less headache would’ve been ideal.  

Once in Cartagena bikes and all, arrived decided to get a big van service. It charged us about US $17 to take 6 of us and 3 bikes. If we would’ve split into UberBlacks might have been about $20 each and needed 2, and forget about taxis, that would’ve been probably $30. So it all worked out at the end. In terms of logistics I think we were pretty lucky. We flew to Cartagena on Thursday 12/1 in an attempt to get acclimated to the weather. Not sure if it worked or not, I might need more time for that after a few fall/winter weeks at home.  

The Expo Shenanigans:

The expo opened up on Friday at 10 am. Guess what... everyone had the same idea, get
the expo out of the way as soon as possible. We stood in line unnecessarily for about 2 hours, luckily it was inside the Convention Center but still we were standing. People that arrived much later were done a lot faster. Only downfall was that the race shirts for women were gone and also the race bag color were limited by then. No biggie, we did some shopping at the IM store since we learned our lesson that most of international races don’t make it out to the regular IM store website, so rather get it or forever hold your peace.  Only time we buy finishers gear before the race and ignore the superstition.

We had done a short out and back ride earlier that morning on the route since our condo was on the route, we did about 18 miles out and back. You go through a toll booth on race day so we just returned right before the toll booth. It was HOTTTT and we got a feel for what it was going to be on race day. Some folks that had done the route said that after the toll booth there were some false flats and the 2 climbs of the route (more on that later).  

We did a little ocean swim again to get a feel for the water, we knew it was going to be different since the swim happens at a bay next to the convention center, so the water is a lot calmer than just open ocean.  Then we went to get the bikes to transition and dinner with the family. Luckily we had 4 of us plus Maria Claudia and Maribel going to transition together and they had a cab that was behind us protecting us because riding on the roads can be a bit scary sometimes. 

Race Day

Race day started with everyone doing their morning rituals for breakfast and all that good stuff. The house was still kinda quiet. No one really talked to each other, everyone was concentrated on their own stuff and things were just moving along. Getting our number tats on and packing up the nutrition. We were so concentrated that we forgot about our sherpas' nutrition and hydration for them. Note to self, always remember their needs too.
We scheduled 2 vans to take the 9 of us to the race start at 4:30 am, so by 4:30 am we were leaving the building. By 4:50 we were in transition. We then set it all up, we had frozen all our bottles since we knew by the time we got to the start everything would've been melted and wouldn't been hot as hell. Nothing worse than warm Infinit. Pumped air on all 4 bikes, set up transition and got everything set. Then it was the waiting game.

The swim:
Race was technically supposed to start by sunrise. However it got delayed. We didn't hear why it got delayed, all we thought was every minute it is delayed now it is more heat and more sun that we will get. By then our Sherpas had taken their positions and we were by the convention center area where everyone was gathering. Our early hydration was done, and the heat was starting to climb. The wait seemed like forever. I came to find out when we were leaving at the airport from another athlete  that the wait was because the buoys that were moving.

 Anyways the canon for the pro's went off and then our waves started to move. My sister, Adriana and Margo were within the first 10 waves, I was 17 out of 20. I wasn't worried about the cutoffs, I was just worried about the heat. Finally my brother and I got in the water. He was swimming with a friend that had OWS fear, so since he wasn't doing the bike then he helped him through the swim. Once our horn went off I waited about 10-15 seconds and started my swim. We were swimming east first so we had the sun in front of us. Our ROKAS performed great but still once the sun is in front of you it just gets annoying. I followed the buoys on the way out to the turn. Once at the turn I knew I was in better shape. The sun was then on our left and by the second turn it was going to be on our backs. I reached the second turn and I went a little wide which cost me swimming maybe 200 yds extra and of course cost me the PR on my swim. My swim split was 40:40 (146 out of 320, finally towards the front of the middle  :), with an avg of 1:47 /100 yds. A little slower than I expected it, I wanted to go sub 40 but I didn't pay attention to it. Got out of the water, the volunteers did great pulling us out of the water, my zipper on my speedsuit got stuck so I couldn't unzip myself. I went to one of the girls and asked her to help me, then I saw my dad and threw the goggles and cap to him. The run to T1 was about 250 meters. Luckily for me I was right at the entrance of transition and since my brother didn't have his bike and was next to me I had some room. I was surprised that most of the bikes on my rack were still there, my T1 was pretty simple, put on the race jersey, helmet, glasses and nutrition. Shoes were on the bike since I knew I had to run out a bit so I didn't want to run on the shoes. T1: 3:41.

The Bike: 

By the time I started the bike it was hot. I had a Gatorade while I ran out of T1 and got on my way. Leaving the city the road isn't great but isn't too bad either, my plan was to settle myself in a rhythm by the time we got out of the busy area which was past our condo. So I was 7 miles just focusing on staying on the bike, road and others around me. Once I got to the divided highway I started the nutrition. The heat was hitting hard, so it made taking in nutrition hard. I kept looking for the girls to see if I saw them going down but I didn't. I saw Claudia, then finally I saw my sister near the turn around. I did the math and she was maybe 5 miles up the road. The bike course is not a flat course. It has a few rollers and then towards mile 25 it has 2 climbs, when I got to the first one I dropped my  chain mid climb, got off the bike and fixed it quickly, so didn't waste too much time. Then got to the second climb and at the top was the turn around. I kept my power where I needed it, 75-80% so I knew I was in good
shape. I actually tried to dial it down a bit since I knew the heat was going to take a  toll on me and there was no way I could keep up. As soon as I turned around I saw Margo, she was doing well, then down the road my sister, chatted with her a bit and 2 bikes down I caught up Adriana. The 3 girls were trucking along. I had about 7 miles and bike traffic got congested. Couldn't pass and it just seemed like it was taking forever to go through those 7 miles. we had a short rain shower earlier that cooled us off a bit but it just increased the humidity. I saw a friend of my brother and we tagged along (keeping a distance) or a bit, but it was too congested so I just stayed back, didn't want to get carded or anything. Officials were all over, they had a ton of motorcycles on the course with officials, I didn't want to get penalties or anything. No drafting means no drafting. My bike was a PR bike by a few seconds, with a 2:48:57 and avg of 19.975 mph I was pretty happy with it. Riding with power and sticking to it really has helped because I got off the bike and had legs which in the past that has never been the case. I usually hammer the bike and start the run with dead legs. I came back to transition put my socks on, got my hat and shoes on and off I went. T2 was faster than T1 with a 2:54 time. 

The Run:
Oh the run. I came back from the bike and while I was feeling pretty good, I wanted to get into a conformable pace. By comfortable I didn’t want to push sub 10:00/miles right off the gates. I wanted to take some hydration, cool my body off a little and see what damage I could do on the run. The first kilometer right off transition is outside the wall and you enter into the walled city right after the first aid station. While running that part, I saw Angela (my sister) and Adriana come in, I knew they were safe and sound back home. I hadn’t seen Margo but I knew she was probably another 30-40 minutes behind them according to my math. I managed to get some Base Salts in me and water on me. The sun was hitting hard on us, and by the time we entered the city no wind, just sun, heat, humidity, and more heat. 

The streets were packed with tourists, cheering crowds, DJs at the aid stations cheering us, it was pretty fun to run through the city. Finally I saw my mom standing and Claudia, Shayla and my dad in the back, I have my mom the biggest sweaty wet hug I have ever given her when I saw her. She then sent me off, saw them back on the return and asked for my sister and brother. I knew my brother was jumping again into the race to run with my sister to take her from the bike to the finish line but I hadn’t seen them. My dad said they were already together. I then saw  Adriana, she was going out on her first loop and I was coming back. She had lost her Base Salt vial, I gave her mine, I knew I could just finish it without it. She looked strong but was missing the salts. I saw my brother and sister and they were shuffling away, lastly I saw Margo, she looked pretty good, but I knew the bike had taken a toll on her,
however once on the run I knew she will get it done. As you are returning on your loop they take you on the wall for about 1 kilometer, at the top of it they give you sponges, however it is probably the hottest part of the race. Imagine a 500 year wall made out of limestone at noon. That thing is HOT!!!!. The first time I went through it fine. I got my sponges and got out as quick as I could. Then I went to finish my first loop and get back into the second loop. I started talking to a few guys and we kept motivating each other, but the heat was just taking casualties. I got back to my parents and I wanted to look strong, so I was attempting to run those stretches, the walking was a lot more on that second loop. Once I got through the second part of the wall I looked at my watch and I just went for it, I was 2 kilometers out so I was just committed to run to the last aid station and then from there get a sprint to the end. 

The finish was packed, they take you under the clock tower and there is where the food and medical tents are. I finally found a place to sit next to a pool full of cold gatorades and ice. I just dumped the towels they gave me in that and cooled my self down. Saw Maria Claudia and Diego (buddies from Texas) then Adriana came so we just stayed there to rest a little. Then my sister came up with my brother, took a picture but she could hardly stand up, she was really struggling with the heat so we went to cool her off immediately and lastly Margo showed up. 

We all finished what we had started. A race that we prepared for all year, a season well planned, no injuries, great shape, strong in all 3 disciplines. We knew it was going to be hot, just wasn’t expecting it that hot. Was it a PR? No it wasn’t, I still got my PR at Atlantic City, did I want a PR? Yes I did. Did it matter? No. To me what mattered the most was being able to spend 2 weeks with my family, race with Adriana, my brother, sister as a family and of course our plus 1… Margo who became part of the family on this trip.

In general, for those looking to do Cartagena, I highly encourage you to do it. I really hope that Ironman continues it. Cartagena is a city that if you plan your trip well it caters to the tourist and to the families. Does the organization need to tweak things, of course they do. It is the first time an event of this size comes to the city or even the country. The pros had a fiasco with their running routes…