Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Race Report: IMChattanooga Post of Gratitude #2

This is the race report that is also inclusive of "thanking the sponsors.”  The one blog post that my Momma will claim makes me sound like a television commercial.  I appreciate all these groups do for me and the Big Sexy Racing team.  They deserve to be acknowledged and shown the proverbial love due them.

I plan to progress through the race, keeping everyone in order so that none are excluded.

Pre-race:  Having carefully packed everything into my OGIO 9.0 bag, I have all my gear organized and ready to schlep to transition for set up.  I am up about 4:15 ish having not slept super well, but not super horribly either.  Breakfast is coffee (don’t work out or race without it), a banana, and a Flapjacked Mighty Muffin with a tad of peanut butter.  Sitting in the swim queue line, I have half a Salted Caramel BonkBreaker and I am constantly sipping on a bottle of PhDNutrition Battery.

The Swim (1:09:47)
Finis Swim – Thank you for making all of my swims not like “swimming in water hell,” but actually almost fun and enjoyable.  The Axis Buoy, Agility Paddles, Align Kickboard, and snorkel are super cool to have on the pool deck.  Bright yellow is one of my all time favorite colors – just look at the car I drive.  ;-).  I can honestly say that my girl Christine Cross never led me astray when I asked her for advice on which “pool toys” to buy, and my swim thanks her.

That's me in the Pink Cap on the right.
I wait in line with The Best Training Partner Ever (she was 8th out of the water in her age group – injured…watch out when she is 100%) for our turn to jump in the very warm (83 degrees) Tennessee River.  I felt strong the entire time.  Because I start a bit further back in line, I feel like I had pretty open water lines the whole way downstream.  

This was my first non-wetsuit 2.4 mile swim.  I can say with full confidence that it was not the horrifying event that I had envisioned.  My Blue Seventy PZ4TX fit like a second skin (duh….), and looked even better on than in the mesh bag.  Something I cannot say about my wet suit.  I felt sleek, and fast, and ready to swim.  And … it came off like a dream.
T1:  I gently pull on my CEP Compression short socks and ankle support; get into my shoes; grab my helmet and glasses, then  dig out the Ruby’s Lube.  All of my training rides have included my friend Ruby.  I did not once get on my #PinkPanther without Ruby’s Lube, and this “epic” ride through the rollers of North Georgia was no exception.  Choking down a Kid’s ZBar (by Clif) on my way to the mount line was the perfect kick start to the day’s ride nutrition.

The Ride (7:38:05)
I know ahead of time that the ride is going to a long day in the saddle.  No matter.  I jump on my QuintanaRoo #Dulce (I call her the #PinkPanther) and off we went to see the beautiful countryside.  I am ever grateful for John Cobb founder of CobbCycling for my VFlow saddle.  That combined with my super CEPCompression shorts and #BigSexyGear Tri top make for nearly a pain free ride.  The Reynolds Cycling RZRs from Chris McDonald’s garage feel smooth and fast as I wind my way through the first loop of the course.  There is very little wind, plenty of shade and I seem to be holding a good pace based on the plan.  I don't need my Rudy Project glasses that are perfectly “matchy matchy” with my helmet.  I do keep them on for protection from grit and spraying hydration.   

My bike nutrition is spot on with (over the course of the ride) PhD Nutrition GlycoDurance and Battery in my bottles, supplemented with an Uncrustable, a Bonk Breaker, and some Honey Stinger chews on the first loop.  The second loop is where things got rough.  The shade melts away; my right foot (same leg as the sprained ankle I was still nursing) developed a really, really painful hot spot along the fifth metatarsal; and then it just plain got hot.  I don’t remember being hot, but I know it was and I continued to hydrate and fuel accordingly.  Again, the PhD Nutrition GlycoDurance and Battery combination was perfect, with water, ice, and cold GatorAde more for core temperature management than caloric need.  I kept up the calories with my go to Honey Stinger Waffles and Pomegranate Chews and another ZBar.  Tasty, organic, and easy on the stomach in all conditions.  

I had put on a new chain whose company motto is “Free Speed.”  Whether or not it is true, my drive train was smooth, and shifting dead on.  Ice Friction now has a special place in my equipment arsenal with its waxed PINK chain.  Thanks to the new Power Tap C1 I am able to monitor my watts and cadence and am pleasantly surprised to find that I am maintaining the averages my coach and I had set out as part of the race day plan.

Somewhere on the 116 mile ride course.  B E A U Tiful!
Along about Mile 75-80 I begin to notice an ache in my right foot.  I think at first it might be swelling in my cycling shoes caused by the heat and water/sweat.  I stop on the side of the road to remove the ankle compression support thinking that will fix everything.  Well … It does for about 15 minutes.  Then the ache is back, and more intense, and localized to the fifth metatarsal.  At this point I start to get concerned about how it could affect my run.  So, every 15 minutes or so I stop to rub it gently.  About mile 95ish I take some Advil and just start praying it will take the edge off and allow me to get started on the run.

Try as I may, my training rides and workouts always seem to be spot on both in watts and cadence (courtesy of a fabulous CycleOps Power Beam Pro trainer), but the race day ride of joy eludes me still.  I had originally hoped to be off the bike in seven hours.  I am truly disappointed in the 7:38, but still feel strong overall and looking forward to getting on the run.

T2:  I roll into transition thinking of my cushy running shoes and a lightweight sun visor.  I hand off my bike who I actually did NOT curse nor I say that anyone who wanted her could take her home.  I take that as a positive sign.  Surprise!  It is really painful to walk.  I discover that walking is not going to be as easy as I thought, and my foot is quite "vocal" in its reminder that it is indeed attached to my leg.  I hobble to the tent; put my ankle support back on; slip into my running shoes (felt a tiny bit of relief); grab my race belt, hand held hydration, a flask of Honey Stinger gel, visor; and limp out towards the run course.  I see Shannon (Mark McNees), Big Sexy Steve Watson, IMFL Camper Richard Cables, and a few other Tallahassee peeps near the end of the exit chute and my spirits are lifted a fair bit.

The Run (5:34:12)
This is where I am typically the strongest.  I am totally capable of a 4:15 off the bike if not better.  This is not to be the case this day.  With a 97 degree starting temperature, and a foot that I would have gnawed off at that point, my goal is to run 2:30 minutes and walk 30 seconds for as much of the run as I could, knowing that I would walk through the aid stations and walk some of the hills.

My parents, sister, General Super Sherpa (Neil Snyder), Carla, and The Best Training Partner Ever are less than 1/2 mile from the exit chute, under a bridge in the shade.  I stop (again) for some spirit-lifting hugs.  Jamie has iced arm coolers and a neck cooler waiting for me.  I nearly cry they feel so good.  My Momma tells me she doesn't care, she is going to slow me down and hug me.  My Daddy, who is usually far from demonstrative and emotional, hugs me tight and tells me he is “so proud of me, I'm doing great.”  Then I am off running up the hill to truly begin the marathon.

This is about mile(s) 7 and 19 ish.  On the RiverWalk.
With the exception of the 3-4ish mile section along the Amnicola Highway, this is truly a nice, scenic run.  I would definitely run it as a stand alone marathon, and it is highly likely I'll run it off the bike in the future.  ;-)  Several miles are run on the RiverWalk on the eastern levee/bluff of the Tennessee River.  I can't think of anything better than watching the sun as it went down across the river.  It was beautiful and distracted me for a short time from the pain in my foot.  Just before mile 8, as the route crosses to the west side of the river, Neil, Carla, and Jamie are waiting for me.  Jamie hands me three more Advil knowing that I'm about to head into the "hills" and they are not to be scoffed at.  Trust me.  I knew they were coming, and I/we had intentionally trained on some hills that otherwise would have been avoided.  The crowd support here, even late on a Sunday evening, is wonderful.  Sprinklers, industrial size fans, "free ice", and music are plentiful and welcomed by this girl.  There is a section of out-and-back where you can see friends, teammates, and other competitors as they finish the loop and head back over the river.  I see a few of the Big Sexies here (Jason Tucker, Christy Martin, Jessica Boudreaux) and other friends from Tallahassee finishing their first loop.

Crossing back over the river to begin the 2nd Loop
After running through the "hills" and golf course neighborhood, the route runs you BACK over the river on a fantastic "no motor vehicles allowed" bridge.  There are tons of people here cheering, and a sizeable gathering of Tallahassee friends cheering as I head into the Special Needs area.  I spy Sandy Johnson and ask how Charlie finished.  He got the Kona slot!!!  I fist bump her and keep moving.  I head into Special Needs to grab my refill bottle and see my dear friend and fellow Big Sexy Ed.  That made for three Rusk Family sightings so far (Britta was in the the women's area both times when I got to T1 and T2.  Thank the Stars!).  He hugs me, finds my bag, takes my bag, and "pushes" me back onto the course for the second loop.  Jamie, Carla, and Neil are waiting just a short distance outside Special Needs and I get three more desperately needed hugs.   

The second loop of the run is a "wash, rinse, repeat" type situation.  The only thing better about the second time around is that the sun has set, and the weather has turned "cool."  And by "cool" I mean below 90 degrees.  I am staying true to my hydration and fueling plan, and am really not any more fatigued than an Ironman day would predict.  Just before crossing the river for my second "look" at the hills and golf course, I get my last on-the-course hugs from Carla and Jamie.  I apologize (again) for how long they have been outside waiting.  I felt badly all day for my "posse" and the heat that they had endured to be my support.  Neil sneaks the opportunity to run beside me for a short while.  He takes one look at me and says, "I can tell by the look on your face you have this in the bag.  You look strong.  Get after it."  That is all I need.  One more vote of confidence, and I am off for the final 5.5 miles.

One mile from the finish, my long time running partner Shannon is waiting for me along with a group of Gulf Wind Triathletes (TJ Devliger, Tanya Devliger, Mike Burns to name a few).  She steps up beside me and run/walks (mostly walks) with me until the route directs me down to the finish area.  I knew she would be there as promised.  And, I welcome her company as I am just about empty at that point.  As I am crossing back to the Finish Line side of the river, I can see and HEAR the finish area.  I had ignored it on the first loop so as to NOT get psyched out or down about how hot and slow I felt.  I make the last turn down hill to the finish chute knowing that I will run the remaining distance and hope to pick up momentum as I do.  I high-five people along the barricades, and truly think I am smiling when I get there.  "Hands Up!  Smile on my face!  There will be cameras..."  It's what I tell all my athletes about every finish line.  I see Big Sexy Jason Ball on the fence cheering for me, and I run straight into the arms of Ed who has been waiting to be my personal Catcher.  A friendly face was the best part of the finish.  No kidding.

Ed Rusk - Catcher Extraordinaire
The Finish (14:39:05):  
Ed puts my medal (another great piece by Ashworth Awards) around my neck, holds me upright while another volunteer removes my chip and brings me my finisher shirt and cap.  Another volunteer hands me a bottle of water - open - and yet another gives me a recovery drinkEd fills me in on how all of the other Big Sexies have done or are doing, and we chat about the day for what seems like 15-20 minutes.  I know now that it was really only 5 or so.  I begin looking for Jamie and see Carla just outside the fenced off athlete only area.  I know Jamie must be near by.  I walk out, hardly noticing my foot, but limping obviously enough that Carla orders me and Jamie to immediately head back to the hotel while she and Neil retrieve all my gear.  I call the #SuperSherpaSpouse from Jamie's phone and hear all of the wonderful things he has to say about the day and the unusual conditions I have battled.

Jamie and I walk back towards the hotel, chatting non-stop.  She has all the scoop on how the group from Tallahassee is doing and how her swim went.  Once back in the hotel, we both quickly shower and then I jump into the NormaTec boots that have made the trip and that we have both been using every day.  Lots of water, a "splash" of WoopWoop Cabernet, and nearly a bag of sweet potato chips later I feel pretty normal.  Tired, but normal.

So many people and groups were a part of this day.  It was not the day I had planned, but it was closer to the day I could manage with the conditions and challenges thrown at me.  It is a PR in the sense that it was a 144.6 distance versus the 140.6 distance.  Yes.  I will do another (and probably several others) 140.6 event.  Without the HUGE involvement of the Big Sexy Racing Team and their sponsors (including Chili's Bar and Grill and EPOCH Universal) days like this would not be possible for me.  The incredible support of these organizations is paramount to the success of the Team.  We (and I) could not do it without them.  Thank you.  Over, and Over and Over again.

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Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation

Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation
Love this art work. Click for link to the web site. And follow Team TRI Mac at www.trimac-competingforareason.blogspot.com