Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Flick Conquers Kentucky, Looks to Kona

Three years ago I watched Kona Ironman World Championships on TV inspired seeing what it took to become a top class ironman, i saved all my babysitting money to go watch my friend Monica Moreno, now captain Jeri Howland and my hero pro Meredith Kessler in IMAZ. I stood for 17hrs that day glued to scene I waited hrs to give them one little cheer and it was one of my greatest days in triathlon- that day i walked away totally inspired my heart was set, one day I was going to be ironman . Within a short 2yrs I quickly entered and had success on the triathlon scene, not being able to ride a bike, experiencing a bike crash that saw a handle bar go through my knee and a pedal through my foot, left not being able to walk for weeks and a fractured leg, I worked hard everyday (but for me it was not work I had found a passion) early mornings, late nights, many sacrifices.

My dream started to come true I place top ten in all half ironman and ironman races 2011/2012 as well as qualifying for the World Championship 70.3 Ironman Championships in 2011 and 2012 going sub 5hours at Vineman 70.3, and one slot off Kona ironman world championships in my 2nd Ironman at AZ with a 10.41 - 5th place, taking overall winner in two Aqua bike long course competitions, and 2nd at the regional aqua bike championships this year. It had been a quick rise and I found it really hard to even believe I was doing what a couple years ago I sat in ore at those who did this, it still really didn't ever set in that I had achieved what I had.

Then August 26th 2012, 10wks post stress fracture of the femur came the day I became one of those people I used to sit in the crowd and wonder how they could race 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike and then run a marathon and not just make it but race it ?????? and win, winning my fiercely competitive age group at the Kentucky ironman one of the hardest on the circuit, something I never in my wildest dreams thought could really happen, and as I described the moment of running down fourth street in my fb post nothing ever ever could buy that moment or can ever take it away from me- to win my AG at an ironman just my third time, I thought about all the sacrifices, the people that had helped me get there, finding I was stronger then I thought I could ever be, I step over that line and I cry, so emotional, I can't explain it nor would words do it justice the feeling of what you have just achieved and Its only an ironman that you can share tears with a complete stranger in the volunteers arms who shared tears with you and it be the most amazing moment !!!!

My coach found me, the look of pride in his eyes and the hug that represented that of the journey we both had been on the kiss on the forehead as if to say I know - we did it! That moment will stick with me forever.......

The next day I stood up on the podium in first place, thinking this is me actually up here, where only yesterday it felt like I was in crowd going wow how in the hec do they do this thing?!!!!

It also taught me you just need to know what you want and get after it, if you really want it you will find a way. I won on a hand me down helmet, hand me down glasses, entry level bike shoes i had had since i started riding, borrowed wheels, working endless hrs after long days of training and studying when i so wanted to go to sleep etc the list goes on but you know it didnt make any difference and in fact when it got tough out there it made me stronger and gave me fuel to keep going for those who had supported me and to remember all those long nights were for this what I saved so hard for it was time enjoy!!!!

And there it was my slot to Kona to be amongst the best of the best- a dream come true !!!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Desert Heat Wins 1-0!

Jeri Howland's 70.3 Ironman Worlds Race Report
I arrived in Las Vegas Friday morning with a winning attitude and a strong well-prepared body. I knew it would be hot so I grabbed a few extra items of clothing to change into upon arrival from the SF Bay Area and hitched a ride to the 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championships expo and registration, located at T2 in Henderson, NV.
When I stepped into the expo I simply was aghast. The heat was intolerable to me-- I felt like I had on an astronaut suit on, head gear and all. I met a few friends from the Bay Area and the talk was easy - it's hot, have you swam yet, aero helmet or no aero helmet for race day, etc. It occurred to me that this weather was hottest I've ever been in. let alone raced in. The temp in my friend's car was 106. 

To avoid the muddy waters of Lake Las Vegas, my buddies and I went out to Lake Mead for a swim. How strange,  - the water felt like it was coming from  thermal hot springs. It was what you would expect from a hot tub, not a high desert lake surrounded by big mountains. It was the next glimpse at the conditions we'd be dealing with for race day.

Race day:
I awoke in plenty of time to have my pre-race breakfast and coffee and walk 1/2 mile to race start. I stepped onto the deck off my hotel room and looked at the lake. Unlike a typical race  morning in Kona, there was no movement. The palm trees were still, the lake was still. The air temp was 85. Compared to the whipping winds of Kona this seemed like a good thing. My wave was the first of the amateurs at 6:40 am which meant I would have a real chance of getting in before the heat of the day - except when the day begins at 85 degrees you're already there.
At the swim start,I put myself at the front of the wave and when the gun went off I dug deep and went as hard as I could for 400 yards until I was clear of the pack and able to get into my sustainable pace. Nothing felt bad, though nothing felt great on my swim and though i was 2nd out of the water for my age group  I had a record slow 1.2 miles for me. 34 min. I have to say my new Zoot Speed Suit felt fantastic and it was easy to get it off. The run through transition was long but once I got to my bike I was close to the big hill out of T1 that takes you up to the bike mount line. Check. I had everything i needed on the bike - regular helmet vs aero helmet so i could soak my head with water, race fuel in my little waist belt,  race #, sun glasses, shoes. Bike was ready to go.
I was no sooner out on the course than I realized my #s, particularly power, were low. While it seemed I was pushing i was coming up short. Why I wondered. Don't worry, ride hard, this is the world championships. The course was hot already and soon enough studly young guys were passing me. That's ok, stay focused. Drink. Drink. Drink. Why don't I have zone 3 #s on my power meter? In the end, my bike was slower than i planned and my energy on the low side. Buy when I got off the bike (remember....this was my 4th race this year after 32 years of racing -- I'm no stranger to the brick!!), I felt like i had a car on my shoulders. I could barely hold up my body. But the determination was there. Go. Go. Do not fret this - get ice and drink drink drink.

I put a block of ice inside my bra and one down my shorts. The latter made it hard to run so it came out, but i did make a serious effort to keep ice on body whenever possible. The aid stations came soon enough. And I was not motoring through them like I did 2 months earlier at Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens where I won my age division by 13 minutes. Today's run was a struggle from the first mile and I hated to see myself get slower and slower. By mile 8 my muscles from my hips to big toes were cramping, at times stopping me dead in my tracks. Never did i think i would not finish but there were a few moments where the body was challenging the mind. I would lash back with a thought like this: 'come hell or high water we are finishing this event." And onward at a pace and mindset I really didn't plan for at this event. I had my mind set on a podium finish, like 2006 at Clearwater. Well after my intended goal, I finished with the rare no-smiley Jeri Howland face. I didn't even punch my arms in the air, something I love to do at every finish line. This week has been a low one because I feel very disappointed in my performance but I force myself to glean what's possible and look towards a better day in the future. 

Lessons learned:

1. Finishing is infinitely better than a DNF, no matter the finish time.
2. Pride may be hurt, but it will heal (one week later, I'm still a bit upset but my sights are moving forward to racing in the winter!)
3. There are many very impressive athletes in our midst - old and young a like  - and this inspires me.
4. My body is a mystery. There is still more to learn about how to work it under these conditions, but I may choose to completely avoid hot races.
5. My husband is still my most wonderful wonderful ironmate and no matter how lousy I feel about these matters, he sees the silver lining and reasons to love me more!

Natalie's Ironman Louisville Race Report – 8/26/2012

Well, 5 weeks after Lake Placid, I decided to give another go at another tough Ironman course.  The reason for this is that I felt good after Placid (well, I thought I did – not injured at least, or so I thought!), and I was not done for the season in my mind. I was coming off of a great Lake Placid experience, and I was still hungry to race.  We knew that we had no idea how my body would do with two such challenging races back to back, but I wanted to give it a shot. I had nothing to lose!
The only issue that developed in the weeks leading into the race is that left leg/foot issue that was slowly developing before Lake Placid was steadily getting worse/not better. I my sports med doctor, a neuro (albeit not a sports neuro), did nerve conduction testing, went to PT, etc. No one could figure out what was causing this strange issue while on the bike.  I could still ride, but just awkwardly with that left leg and it was not that comfortable. I certainly had a hard time putting out higher power numbers, but Ironman watts seemed to be manageable. So I decided I could still go forward with racing and just see what would happen.  I had no idea to be honest how my leg and foot would hold up over 112 miles in the heat.  I knew that I had just done it though, albeit on a more “normally” functioning leg, so I had that to draw from. Things seemed to be good on the run, but I probably felt a little “off” with my left calf and foot, but not nearly the issues I was having on the bike.  The rest of my body felt awesome!

So I have to say that I got to Louisville to race the least confident I have ever been about a race. I did not share this with many people, my coach included, but I was nervous as hell about how that bike would go and how it would affect my run.  The last time I felt like anything similar to this was at Ironman Hawaii last year when I raced with a torn hamstring and just could not run! I knew this was different in that I was pretty sure I could get my body in some form or fashion to the finish line. The question would be if good enough for top 2 or 3 in my age group so I could try and qualify for Kona.  Although, I honestly went in having mixed feelings on if it would even be worth it for me to go to Kona feeling like this, but I figured, “cross that bridge if and when you get to it”…you need to get there first.

Pre-race meal and day were identical to that of Lake Placid.  Woke up at 3:50 AM Race day again so that I could get to transition by 4:40 to set up my bike quickly and then get a place in line for the time trial swim start.  Had my shower, usual breakfast and off I went.  I got to my bike and put my food and bottles on the bike, SRM head unit and then went to find my friend Heather who brought her pump to transition. We pumped the front no problem, but found the rear tire would take no air. It had gone completely flat overnight! Now I was glad I had left some air in my tires overnight so I could see I had an issue. I panicked for a moment as I knew I need to get in line for the swim start, but I had to see the bike techs to fix my issue. Luckily it was early and line not too long. After about 30-45 minutes there, they fixed my flat with a new tube, and I was able to get going to the start. Everyone I knew racing was already down there, so it was nice to take a few minutes walking by myself to think POSITIVE thoughts about my day ahead and the fact that hopefully all my misfortune had passed at this point. I got to the long line that had formed and luckily found Felicity and Seth pretty close to the front, so I was excited. Now it was round 6:00AM so only an hour to wait.   Took my gel around 6:45 and two salt tabs and got ready to start. We jumped in the water at 7:07, so we were in pretty good shape as to the start time!   The Time Trial start was a blast.  Don’t get me wrong, you are still dealing with a lot of people around you, but you can get around them. I swam inside, close to the island until we turned to head back to transition and then stayed next to the buoy line. Never had a draft, but that was ok, I just swam my race and it felt good.  Warm, but good! I got out of the water at 1:05 and I was happy for a non-wetsuit swim.  

I got onto the bike, half praying that my issue would have miraculously gone away, but it was there from the first pedal stroke, so I just put it out of my mind and said “deal with it!”  The first 10 miles are flat and fast, so I chose to push higher watts here and really pushed the watts a bit higher until the start of the first loop.   I was going back and forth a woman in the 45-49 age group for a long time and we were having fun.  I saw some packs, but nothing like Lake Placid as this course is all about rollers and they break up pretty quickly.   The Louisville bike course is definitely hilly and challenging, particularly on a hot day! My nutrition was spot on, I was taking 1-2 water bottles at each aid station, and I was making do with my leg. My watts seemed to be where we wanted them to be, or really the best I could ask for with my leg.   The second loop, all of those rollers catch up with you and it certainly is getting quite hot. I felt that I was still able to hold my watts pretty well, but we were also starting to battle a head wind, so that was not fun!  Because of my awkward pedal stroke, my left foot was getting really sore and hot on the metatarsal area, so I kept dumping water on my foot and moving it around to try and help the pain a bit.  The last 10 miles are flat again as you come back to town, but it was now quite hot and we had quite a headwind…not fun!   I felt my bike was strong all things considered and everything except the leg felt good!   That bike course will keep you honest for the run with 5500 feet of climbing!

In transition I was a bit slower than normal, going to the bathroom, making sure I drank, getting sunscreen, etc. so I knew I was ready for that hot run.  When I took my left bike shoe off, I saw that I had bloodied one toe and one was already developing a bad blood blister due to the awkward pedal stroke. So I put some hydropel on those areas and just HOPED all would be ok on the run.  Everything started off ok, albeit hot.  I also took my first gel and salt tabs at mile 4 on the run and started walking the aid stations here.    I also thought that with the walk breaks I could try and take away some of the pain on my feet.  Unfortunately, I was not so lucky this time.  I had excruciating pain starting to develop at the ends of my toes and the ball of my foot on the left side, each step was very difficult.  Sometimes, it would come and go, but it was pretty much there most of the race.   By about mile 10, I knew I was in for a long run. I never felt good, this one was going to be a struggle.  I was now in 2nd place, but hoping my body would hold out for a good marathon at least. I had just done this 5 weeks prior right?  I took my gels every 4 miles and salt tabs and alternated IM perform and water at each aid station, but my legs felt like LEAD (I am ignoring my foot now). They just got heavier and heavier and just would NOT move the way I wanted them to.    It took every bit of positive mental strength not to just stop and walk. I had never felt like this before.  My guess is LP ironman was still in those legs.  By mile 21 I was seriously questioning my ability to finish, but I quickly put that out of my mind and just kept going- SLOWLY – but going. My foot was in so much pain at this point, it almost did not matter.  This is where I was passed by 2 women in my age group, but I did not know what loop they were on. I assumed BOTH were on their first loop, so it was a little disheartening to now think I was in 4th, but I was bound and determined that I was NOT going to quit and I would finish.  I also did not want to get passed again.   So, I am not sure how, I swear, but I crossed that finish line absolutely miserable!    Gardie was not there, but the catchers took me to medical as I was really not able to walk very well. I spent two hours in the med tent, getting an IV and also icing, etc.  I think I got some nausea medicine as well!   It was then I found out I actually got 3rd! WOW, I was shocked and thrilled! Although part of me wishes I just could have pushed that extra minute SOMEWHERE along the way to remain at second. But I could not think that way as this is where the cards fell on that day.  To be honest, I knew that it would be SILLY to race another ironman even if I HAD qualified for Kona until I got my left leg figured out in some way!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vineman Success

Wow the team is on fire another big weekend of racing and podiums. Flick went back two weeks after a sub 5hr 70.3 Vineman to podium in second place in the Southwest Regional Aqua Bike championships, placing 4th overall female, 7th overall male and female with a new bike PR!
Meanwhile out on the course also was Sandy doing us proud crushing her competition to take 1st in her Age Division and 10th overall in the highly contested Barbs Race way to make your mark back into the racing scene can't get much better then No. 1 awesome job!!

Natalie Jackson Top-10 at Lake Placid Ironman

Team member Natalie Jackson showed them what we are made of when she lit up the bike course at Lake Placid Ironman on July 22 ,coming home with impressive results - finished 8th overall woman and 4th in age group (fiercely competitive).  Nat's comments "Was a tough day with heat and winds on the bike…making an already tough course even tougher!! Now I am taking my fitness and moving on to race Louisville!" way to represent Nat!

Supporting the Marin Century

This past weekend saw the team support a local event, the Marin Century. It was an epic day! Fun, fast, cold - great opportunity to work on some new nutrition plans with use of great aid stations and course mapped out!!! Fun to see team members popping up everywhere amongst it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Look out 70.3 World Championships, here comes Jeri Howland!

Team Director Jeri Howland recently qualified for the 70.3 World Championships by winning her age division with an impressive third victory at Lake Stevens 70.3 race. Don't count her out on September 9 in Las Vegas; she's hit the podium three times at the Long Course World Championships.

Race day at Lake Stevens 70.3 was cold, wet and windy. Jeri was first of the ladies in white caps coming out of the 1.2 mile swim; the new 56 mile bike course proved to be especially technical with the rain; but she held her ground eventually capturing the age group win by over 13 minutes to her nearest competitor. The cooler temperatures, she agrees, suited her well although it took 4 miles to feel her feet on the run!