Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ironman Taiwan Race Report - A True Adventure!

"An Adventure".  That's what people said when I told them that I was doing Ironman Taiwan in the months leading up to the race.  I certainly knew I would be in for one, but how much, I had no real idea.  I'm a pretty detail oriented person so I did my best to ask a LOT of questions before I arrived and studied the course maps and area.  However, there are some things that just cannot be prepared for ahead of time.  I soon found out this entire race experience was going to be based on my ability to adapt, be flexible and willing to adjust to change.  I flew over (approximately 20 hrs) on Monday before the race.
 
The good news is that my step-mother, Angela, was kind enough to accompany me to the race site which required a high speed rail and bus ride on Tuesday after our long travels.  She speaks fluent Taiwanese, as this was her home for many years while growing up.  Having your own personal translator is something I would HIGHLY recommend if traveling overseas.  In addition, she's just a great person so it was good to spend some time with her.

 As I rode pre-race I realized the roads were pretty busy as the day went on and there were lots of interesting things to keep me busy, including mopeds buzzing by and stray dogs that liked to sun themselves on the side of the road, occasionally running out to pay me a visit.  It was also heating up nicely by mid-day, so I knew I was in for a real treat on the run!  Finally, on Friday, the other half of Team Schwabenbauer arrived and helped me in my final preparations and mental outlook. 
 We rode the course on a moped the day Kyle arrived and I realized it was going to be slow going out there with a very technical ride, including switchbacks on narrow mountain roads flying downhill and some bumpy pavement climbing back up for the first 90km. We checked the new Quintana Roo PR six in on Saturday and prepared for the race to come!
 Leaving transition they had a little goodbye cheering party for me!  It surprised me so this is my "whoa, ok, you're cheering right now after checking my bike! thanks" face.

Morning bike prep!  I was using a new nutrition strategy for this race which included making my own bottles on the fly from packets in my front aero bottle since the on course nutrition wasn't anything I had ever used or was familiar with at all.  Meredith was kind enough to hook me up with Xlab Torpedo System 400 to try their new bottle and it worked beautifully (when I could actually GET fluid to fill it, more on that later!).

Getting ready to start the swim in my BlueSeventy Swim Skin


My latest swim training has included some of the fastest times of my life so I was optimistic about the swim to come.  However, I also had a feeling I would be swimming alone for most of it as there were only about 12 pro women on the start line and we tend to be spread out in terms of ability (a.k.a. Goodbye Dede and other fast swimmers, have a nice race).

When the gun fired I did my usual, "go as hard as possible, without dying" strategy and I swam behind another girl for about 2-3 minutes before thinking, time to break out of my comfort zone and went around where I knew she would either come with me, or I would be swimming solo.  The rest of the swim I went hard and marveled at the thousands of tiny luminescent creatures just underneath the surface that looked like stars lighting up the dark sky!  It was surreal!  It was a two loop course so we got to swim through the rest of the field when we made the beach run and dove in for our second lap!

Swim time 1:00, 11th

After our bike loop tour by moped a few days prior, I knew I was in for a treat with this course.  The first 90k would consist of a large loop with lots of descending and climbing and I knew I would have to ride the new PR six to its utmost capacity.   Right out of the gate, my heart rate was rather off the charts due to the humidity and I was a full ten beats above what my coach and I had discussed.  I gave myself some time to settle in and calm down, but it really only came down a few beats and my power numbers weren't anything spectacular. I decided to adjust the plan upward by about 4-5 beats due to the conditions and resolve to nail my nutrition to carry me through the run. 

This is not me, it's Dimity, the second place female, on the bike!  I don't have any bike pictures until the husband cuts them from video so this one will have to do for now!  I will say, you didn't get bored through that first 56 miles.  If you weren't paying attention you could have definitely hit a __insert, dog, bus, moped, person, other cyclist not in the race, car, garbage truck etc.__ coming around a blind turn or following them down steep narrow winding roads.  It was not a closed course, so there were a couple of close calls that I won't mention here due to my mother reading these blogs.  Needless to say, that combined with the water (on course nutrition bottles only being half full) called for many adjustments out there including me now grabbing three bottles (including the "sports drink" which I had never used before in my life).  The choice became use it, or don't get enough fluid, which is an obvious way for me to completely implode in the heat on the run. 

A Buddist prayer temple along the course.  There were many of these along the way! 

The view you were rewarded with once you climbed and climbed, overlooking the luscious vegetation

My focus was pretty spot on as I concentrated on only my race plan. I didn't worry much about where anyone else was, but I knew I was somewhere in the 6th-9th range during most of the bike.  I knew the final 90k of the bike would be flatter and faster with three small loops and much less climbing and bad pavement so I focused on getting to that portion to do my thing.  I only started passing my first pro women of the day when I was on the loops so that was a little pick me up to see other pros.  Even my haphazard nutrition seemed to be sitting pretty well and I had to pee at 3.5 hours so that was a great sign for me!  The day was heating up and I knew the run was going to be a scorcher.

Bike Time: 5:15, 4th
Out of T2, I started getting reports that I was in fourth and that 3rd and 2nd weren't too far ahead so I felt really optimistic.  Running is a strength and my training indicated it would be a great day so I was looking forward to seeing what I could pull off.  However, my heart rate was as high as I've ever seen it on a run and I knew this was going to be a balance between what I thought I could hold in the second half of the race vs. what I really wanted to run to reel these girls in.  In a hot marathon, it's always best to start conservatively and the goal of any athlete should be to make sure they do everything in the first half to BEAT their average HR in the second half, or at the very least, average the exact same.  If you can't simulate the heart rate higher in the second half, you either are limited by other factors like durability, nutrition or mental issues OR you went too hard in first half.  I was encouraged every time I saw Kyle, but he wasn't giving me any good news of girls coming back so I knew I wasn't making up much ground once I was in third.  This three loop course was along a highway so the heat and exhaust from the cars was presenting yet another challenge for all of us braving this run!  I focused on getting my nutrition (at the self serve aid stations! What a treat!) and stopping looking at pace as I knew it was going to be disheartening if I examined it.  Today was going to be about mental toughness and heart rate.  I let go of my 3 hour or under marathon dreams and pushed on each lap staying calm and focused. 

Right before the finish, you had to run up a footbridge to cross into the finish line.  I felt like I may fall as my tired legs attempted to navigate up and down stairs at mile 26.1!  The finish line is always such a welcoming sight, and at the end of the day, I knew I gave this race everything my body would let me, physically and mentally.  It wasn't quite the desired outcome I was hoping to achieve, but any day you give your best you are a winner.  That's a lesson I hope to set for my athletes and my fellow triathlete peers during my career.  Coming to Taiwan, I knew it would take my best day and it did.  Dede and Dimity had exceptional races and deserved to take the top two spots.  We each raced clean, fair and honestly and seeing how excited they both were made me very thankful to race with such true professionals who finally had their hard work come together.  

Run Time: 3:15

Final Time: 9:38, 3rd place

A special thank you goes out to my coach, Jesse Kropelnicki, of QT2, who is always there during good times and bad.  He did an amazing job preparing me for this race and I was truly ready to throw down.  Thank you to Kyle and Angela who both traveled so far to be my support team and who love me regardless of how the day comes together.  I have the best husband in the world and I am forever grateful for his support and belief in me.  Thanks to my friends, family and fellow tri geeks who stayed up to watch me in the middle of the night!!  That means so much to me!  Thanks for all the messages of good luck and congratulations via social media.  I read them all!  Thank you. 

As always, I couldn't do this without the support of my 2015 sponsors!


Monday, March 30, 2015

Tri With All Your Heart – Welcoming Quintana Roo To The Family!



I didn’t know it then, but throughout my career I’ve been preparing to be a professional triathlete.  Even as an age group athlete, I spent my hard earned cash to custom embroider my shirts with logos.  I read every blog from those who made the leap and those who had been established for years, and I dreamed of a day when I could ride my bike for a living.  The “for a living part” wasn’t much I understood, but I knew there were people who seemed to be making it work and they were fast and happy.  
 St. Croix May 2008, 3rd Half Ironman - Note: My custom embroidery!

It’s been ten years since I learned to swim, got my first hand-me-down bike and started out in this crazy mess that has become my triathlon career.  Ten years feels like long time to spend at mastering something, but when you look at the Mozarts and Michelangelos of the world, it’s a drop in the bucket.  Technically, I’m in my infancy.  

I’ve been very lucky to have people who have believed in me from the get-go.  From my husband, Kyle, to my friends and family, I consider those around me “my team” who without, none of this is possible.  They truly are my support system, but so much more.  In addition, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter individuals that share my same core beliefs.  They realize the value of helping others and investing in one another for the mutual benefit.   These are people who want to leave this world a little better than how they found it and create a ripple effect that impacts as many people as possible.  

I’m extremely careful who I form these bonds on a business level because the company and their products are an extension of me.  I can’t get behind something I don’t personally believe in using and promoting.  With that said, I’ve been extremely happy with my decisions thus far and this latest addition to my “team” is no exception.  I’m proud and honored to say this year I’ll be riding a Quintana Roo PR six with the support of their amazing company and affiliation with QT2 Systems Coaching.  I’ve been interested in making this shift for quite some time, but the timing had to be right.  We’ve finally reached that place and I couldn’t be more excited about putting this fine steed to the test very soon at Ironman Taiwan. 


I’ve met the owners, Peter, and his wife, Lorraine.  I’ve also had personal contact with Brad, the man behind the design.  These people are truly invested in the comfort, reliability, customer service and product quality for every person who rides a QR bike.  They process every bit of useful feedback, using it to improve things for the athlete experience.  I’m elated to know I have a face behind the brand name that I can call upon to provide real lasting changes.  They are sincere folks who want their athletes to do well and be happy in the process.  It matters to me how a company conducts themselves, and I’ve seen a very high level of professionalism and attention to detail that makes me feel great about the upcoming journey. 

Thank you in advance to them for their support this year.  It means so much to me as an athlete and a person.  I’m happy to converse with anyone about the way this new bike feels and rides. I haven’t been outside much on it yet (the PA weather has NOT been cooperating!).  However, I hope this week that will change and I can get in a few rides with my new Di2 Ultegra Shimano shifting.  This will be a first for me and so far from what I’ve experienced on the trainer it is SO smooth and so seamless.  I think the transition will be very easy and will make a world of difference having it available on both the aero bars and the brake levers.  

Finally, an important piece for all of us tri geeks, I LOVE the way it looks! The flat black paint with red accents is really sleek and the overall look of the design is just fast and aero.  I can’t wait to get outside and do some climbing and descending to see how it handles and really feel comfortable before I race it for 112 miles in two weeks in a country half way around the world! 


Thank you to QR for your support of the QT2 systems team, and me personally!  Thank you to Shimano for your support as well.  


Looking forward to a great year on a new FAST machine!! 


As always, I couldn't do this without the support of my 2015 sponsors!