Saturday, November 19, 2011

Putting my Cards on the Table


Before Dan left for his deployment, I wanted to find a major goal or project to keep myself busy… and naturally, being a triathlete, that “goal” was a RACE. 

I chose Ironman Arizona as my target for the following reasons:
  • The longer the race, the more competitive I can be right now.  In upcoming years, I plan to get FASTER at ½ Iron distances- Look out REV3 Knoxville and REV3 Dells 2012!!
  •  It’s late in the year so I had all year to prepare for and train for it (and let injuries heal up)
  • The course suits my strengths – it’s flat and windy (mirroring Central IL weather!) 
  • The weather for this race (in November) typically hasn’t been too hot either (I don’t do well in heat).
  • The 3-loop bike and run courses are ideal for racing (breaks the distance down into manageable sections) and spectating (lots of family coming)! 
  • I’ve done this race before (in 2008) and raced well, so I know what to expect.
Now, my main goal isn’t just to finish this race.  I have FINISHED 8 Iron-distance races, #9 will be a great accomplishment (as ANY Iron-distance finish), but I want something more…

I am going to FIGHT, tooth and nail, to break 11 hours. 

Setting such an ambitious goal very early in season, with injuries, was pretty ballsy.
  •  I will need to take 1 hour off of my best time to date is 11:52, on the IMAZ course.
  • The last 2 years I’ve been plagued with feet and ankle injuries which have been pretty debilitating.
So here’s my honest training recap of the year:

I hired Jen Harrison to coach me through this season- she has an excellent track record of transforming “age group athletes” into Elite, Kona-Qualifying athletes.  She has put up with a lot of my crap this season…


BIKE: I put a LOT of work into the bike, especially since my foot was not taking kindly to running.  This PAID OFF in big ways- I can “hang” with (I mean, off the wheels of) the “fast guys” in town, and I dominated the weekly time-trials in Bloomington- I even took 3rd place at a major Time Trial race in Chicago-land!  I also had the 4th fastest bike split at REV3 Knoxville- only 5 minutes off the leader.

SWIM AND RUN: Well… not much to be said here.  I wasn’t running very much due to injuries, and although I was swimming MUCH more than I used to (i.e. 2-3x/week versus MAYBE 1x/week) I wasn’t completing all the work my coach asked me to do…I realize that I don’t necessarily HATE swimming, it’s just my weakness, so therefore I don’t like it.


There was a lot of personal stress in my life… and unfortunately, I didn’t take it out on training.  Although I was still getting (some) workouts in, I fell off the wagon quite a bit.  I was also second-guessing and even dismissing my goal of breaking 11 hours at IMAZ- I was starting to accept that IMAZ may end up similar to IM Cozumel last year- shitty swim, good bike, walk the marathon.  This is where my biggest regret of the season lies- “giving up”. 

Then there was the Great Illini Half-Iron tri… my first DNF, EVER.  It was not due to fitness- I bowed out after the first loop of the run because my achilles starting bothering me VERY BADLY, and I didn’t want to risk completely ruining my chances of being able to run at IMAZ… this really discouraged me…

When school first started, I didn’t do a stellar job of time management (wasn’t fitting in ALL the training), and my ankle was KILLING ME.  I was actively seeing doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, trying all sorts of techniques, etc… to no avail.  Again, I was wondering how “worth it” it was to get in all my workouts if I wasn’t going to be able to RUN the marathon… I’d be lucky just to get another finish.


Things turned around when my doc looked at a recent X-Ray of my ankle, and concluded that my pain is caused by a bone spur that the achilles tendon is running right over.  I have gotten 2 medical opinions on this, and both docs agree that I am NOT a major risk for a tendon rupture (short-term), and that I CAN TRAIN THROUGH IT this season.  Wait…. Really??


And RUN I did.  For about 2-3 weeks after this “diagnosis” my body (muscles) had to get used to running again- everything HURT!  Tight quads, calves, IT Band, all these muscles were being used in different ways that they haven’t been all season- Don at Aches Away helped me through this with some great sport massages! 

Once this initial “adaptation” phase blew over, I had six GLORIOUS WEEKS OF RUNNING!!  Maybe it was another subconscious defense mechanism, but my ankle and foot didn’t even hurt.  All the cardiovascular fitness I’ve built up on the bike this year carried over- I was running faster (with easier effort) in training than well…ever.  Even the year I qualified for Boston.  Even the year I ran a 1:39 ½ Marathon.

This gave me hope- I now had eyes for that 11-Hour mark.  I got fired up for swim workouts (gasp!)- I am ENJOYING time in water, and I’m swimming faster than I have in 7 years (not saying much, but still).  I endured some RIDICULOUSLY cold and windy long, long bike rides. 

I NAILED all my workouts and training during the last big blocks, like my friend Chris Sweet said, I've "left almost no stones unturned"… but will it be enough??  Or will my mid-season slacking come back to haunt me? Or will the endurance training I've done over the last 7 years make up for some of it?


I feel like the stars are aligning...
  • Weather looks cool (~70 degrees)- perfect.
  • My husband is coming to spectate- he wasn’t supposed to be home until Dec-Jan :)
  • My mom, brother, good friend, mother-, father-, and sister-in-law are flying out to spectate!
  • I’ve been happy and relatively stress-free the last 2 weeks 
  • My race # is 165… my birthday is 6-5
  • My ankle starting bugging a little again AFTER I finished my last big training block… a simple sign that’s its time to rest and let my body heal up
  • I’ve been a little sluggish on the bike… this will make me HOLD BACK and not over-do it!
  • My swim has been coming along nicely- I will swim aggressively!My super athlete (and preggo) friend Trisha just FEELS like I am going to have the race of my life… and you don’t mess with a preggo momma’s intuition.
In the spirit of “laying it all on the table,” here are my goals:

Swim: 1:20
Bike: 5:35
Run: 3:55
Transitions: 0:08

Total Time:  10:58

I am ready to suffer and give it all I got- my late-season training and fitness indicates that these goals are ACHIEVABLE.  I also know that I might not achieve my goals- my early-mid season slacking, along with my lack of running “base” and durability might catch up with me.  Iron-distance races are a long day- anything can happen. Yes I’ll be a little embarrassed that I shared all this with you if I fail… but it will make tracking me on Sunday a little more exciting right?  Also, Michelle aka Rural Girl ALWAYS puts her big season goals out there for the world to see (via blog title)… and then ACHIEVES THEM.  Send some vibes my way girlfriend!

I can’t wait to finish the final chapter of this story :)


Mick said...

Sounds like you're ready Laura. Kick some ass.....and have fun!

Michelle said...

Best of luck Laura! I'll be out there cheering you on!

Rural Girl said...

Yes, put it OUT THERE!!! Grit your teeth and push through to the end!!!! I love it when people say what they want and then get after it. It takes balls and you've got 'em! No, not really, you know what I MEAN! I will be stalking ALL damn day and not getting anything done so YOU get it DONE!

Colleen said...

I wish I had read this prior to today, but now knowing how you did today, it's fun to see what you thought you might be capable of! :) Man... you smoked it!

Girl, you had the cards stacked against you this year. Way to hang strong and dominate! I'm in awe!!!