Half Ironman NC – B2B Race Recap

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Warning…this might be long ūüôā

Preparations almost done for Beach to Battleship Half Ironman. ¬†One last very important thing to do, one very pathetic thing. ¬†Time to meet up at Poe’s Tavern with some of my triathlon group, the Pathetic Triathlon Group. ¬†I so wanted to wear my Pathetic shirt, but I was already out and about and the meet up time crept up on me. ¬†But seriously isn’t this shirt awesome, its a classic retired design.

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So time for the meet up, a few of us were able to coordinate our schedules so that we could meet for beers and burgers, fairly early after bike drop off. Met some amazing people, the kind of people that make that group great, though it does have it share of trolls, these people were amazing! We even had a very high quality yet pathetic sign marking the spot.  A lot were local, so it was good to get some insight on the swim course from local experts.  Then we were off to view the swim course exit.  Talked to the Ironman official there, which was good.  Then off to our respective homes and hotels.

I had a super hard time getting to sleep. My body was still on Alaska time. But wake up at 4 am was going to come fast, so I tossed and turned and before I knew it, boom time to get up.  Start my usual morning race prep.  Bathroom, Quest protein shake, diet coke, and a energy bar.  I fail at nutrition so badly its actually comedic. But my body is not used to eating before 10 am. I just cannot do it.

Now comes the hard part, which kit to wear.  I guess I should have figured this out the night before.

Team kit won.  Felt I needed to represent my other Tri Club, Tri-It Together out of Temecula, California.  I felt that a Cali kit would summon the warm sunshine.  Grab a jumper, because it was cold, and headed over the Hilton to grab the shuttle to Transition 1 and onward to the swim start.  Load up and low and behold who comes sauntering down the aisle?  My high school friend Charlie!  How awesome. I had hoped to run into him while I was here as we have been talking about this race for the better part of the year.

Once in T1, we both check on our gear bags and our bikes. We are down at this point near the swim exit. It is cold, even this alaskan girl is cold.  Charlie and I wait for our turn to load up on the bus for the swim start. We both quickly put on our wetsuits on the lower half to keep warm.

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Swim start time. We had to wait about an hour after we got there, we were early, but thats better than late ūüôā ¬†I was given the wrong colour swim cap, so I was very confused about when I should swim. I got florescent orange instead of dull orange. So I start asking people, what age group are you….over and over till I figured it out.

Swim start time. I line up in the last 1/3 of my wave. ¬†I didn’t feel like getting run over. ¬†And we are off, congestion and flailing arms, per the usual swim start. ¬†I tried hard to get out deep near the fastest current channel, but I could not get past the wall of people. So I ended up in the slowest swim current channel. ¬†Had a decent swim not great but not as good as it should have been with the current assist. ¬†I ended up swimming 2,171 yards in 36, but I had to wait a while to get a ladder and got pushed around a bit there as people clammered over me, which was pretty spot on, so my spotting was much better this time. ¬†Honest, I have not swam sine July. ¬†I know…..I should swim more but my pool has been either closed or on weird hours. ¬†The transition to the bikes was about 0.25 miles with no shoes on concrete and asphalt.My tender baby feet did not like that. ¬†I ran through the showers, careful to wash off the “channel beard” and did my best to trot over to T1.

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T1, grab my bike bag and head to the changing tent.  I get my shoes and towel out. Had to put socks on because it was pretty chilly and I did not want to get cold feet.  Its so damn hard to put injinji socks, aka toe socks, on wet feet!  Drats! I forgot my chamois butter, but thankfully the lady next to me had and extra one use packet and offered it to me. Thank you most awesome lady person!  I dry my arms enough so I could get on arm warmers. Then trot into the sea of bikes to find mine. Boom, there he is and I get everything secured down and make way to the bike exit.

Now things get fun and not in a good way.  The first 10 miles of the course were so congested.  You could not help but to draft.  I am a strong biker and I had a hard time passing people as many would not give way and let you past.  The wind was also playing havoc on those with deep dish or disk wheels.  The wind was about 12mph for 2/3 of the bike course. UFDAH!  Finally we got off the big overpass, which was the worst. The concrete was grooved and the wind was howling. It really pushed me around and I was only running Zipp 404, which are a moderate deep dish wheel!  I can only imagine what it was like on a rear disk!  Once we got off that overpass and onto the highway, things got a little better. Still lots of packs of riders but much more manageable.

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I wish I had photos, but there was a railroad crossing, which was rough, that you passed over twice. It was bike bottle carnage. There were at least 15 bottles and various bike parts there when I passed over it! ¬†I so wanted to stop and pick up some of the ejected goodies ūüôā ¬†But I pedaled onward. ¬†The first 2/3 of the bike were that horrible headwind. I saw my speed plummet on flat ground trying to keep abreast of the wind. OMGERD. It was harder than hills for sure. I love hills, hate wind. At least with hill I see my progress, with wind I feel helpless going forward. ¬†Bike was uneventful until about mile 20 right after the first aide stationand rats! ¬†I have a flat. ¬†I am not good at changing flats. Its usually lots of cursing, beer, and about an hour of me fussing with it. ¬†Okay Susie, you got this. I pop off the bike and get my tire gear out of my jersey. ¬†Lever it off, pop in a new tube, and one chance with the CO2. Thank you tire gods,I got it done in less than 5 minutes. That is amazing! ¬†And with no help.

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The rest of bike was uneventful. Finally once we hit the turnaround of the loop section, we got the blessed tail wind.  I was seeing speeds on the flats of 29.5 mph. I am flying past everyone now. I was surprised how many I passed. I think a lot just blew themselves out in that headwind and had nothing left.  I paced myself in the headwind, buying time for the tailwind. I had a half IM PR of 3:08 even with a flat. My last half IM bike was 3:40. Take that!

The transition in T2 was pretty long. You dismount quite a way and have to motor your bike down a long rubber path in the middle of sand and rocks. ¬†My legs were like drunken sailors. I could not get my feet and legs to obey me. ¬†The lady behind me was a royal pain and kept running her bike into the back of me. She was not pleasant at all. As I was about to give my bike to the bike handoff person she rammed me in the back with her elbow as she tried to get in front of me while I was handing off my bike. Seriously lady, be nice! ¬†So I stumble with my bike and about take out the bike handler. Sigh…..But I run as quickly as I can in cleats in the dirt to my run bag. Head over to the changing tent, get my race belt, shoes, and cap. ¬†Then I am off down the long run transition, which was about 0.45 of a mile. ¬†Whew.

The run, well that is always where I struggle. ¬†I give to much on the bike usually and that leaves me little gas for the run. I did my best to pace myself and start off doing intervals. ¬†I kept up with intervals for the whole run portion. ¬†Run 5 @ 10.30 per mile (roughly) and power walk 2 @ 13.30 per mile. This strategy worked pretty well. I was passing people even when power walking! ¬†There were a lot of runners, shuffling…they should have power walked and saved the energy and actually moved faster doing that! ¬†Course ran out roughly 7 miles then back to the start and finish area, minus some distance. ¬†I ran mostly with myself, but during races where I cannot have music, I make my own. ¬†I admit, I sing a lot during races. ¬†I can’t help it.

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Around mile 11 I ran into John, who is the chapter captain of another  RWB group.  Best sight all day. Chris from my chapter hooked me up with the Wilmington group.  Seeing John cheering and so upbeat, really gave me a lift to get the last 2 miles done.

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Power through the last 2 miles and there is the finish line. All I can think of is pizza and soda.  I wanted that finishing soda so badly for some reason.  I throughly enjoy a nice cold diet coke after my runs!

And then, I hear Mike Reilly announcing my name over the PA and I have crossed the finishing line.  6:56.  Under 7 hours, which is great. But I know I had more in me and without that flat or the wind, could have easily broken 6:30. Next time, I will do better!

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I hung around at the finish for a while, then went to collect my gear. Now I know why people bring others to help with this part. Its hard when you are so tired, to grab your 3 gear bags and you bike!  Next time I need a handler! I did make it back to my apartment, showered and notified my people that I finished!

I went back out to cheer on the last of the full finishers. Got to cheer on a few eagles, one of which was the racer that John was supporting. She finished looking strong and amazing in her new black/white RWB kit.  She looked sharp.

Finished the evening with a relaxing dinner with a fellow racer, who has done what seems like a billion Iroman’s, which is totally awesome!

Now to plan for my next adventure.  Hopefully soon there will be some official race photos to share!

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Why Not Tri…..

Another Sprint Triathlon in the books this past weekend.  I traveled down to Wasilla, Alaska which is about 5 hours via car from my home.  I neither saw Palin, nor Russia, so in that respect I was a little disappointed ūüôā  This is one of my favourite sprints in the state. It small and friendly.  It is still early season here, so the swim is conducted in the Wasilla Pool, but the best thing is for a pool swim its 2 per lane!  NO circle swimming.

The good news is that I got my new race wheels in, bad news is I was not sure if I had time to mount them. So I took them over to GoldStream Sports and had them look them over and tube and rubber them up.  Thank goodness they are so awesome.  It took like 20  minutes from start to finish.  Heck, some days it takes me 3 hours, 3 beers, and a lot of explicatives to change a single tire.

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OMG, So Pretty ūüôā
I drove down early Friday morning so that I could pick up my bib.  It was raining most of the way and the forecast was not looking so great. The forecast was cool temps, wind, and rain. Sigh….this might not be pretty at all.  I pick up my packet and back to my hotel on Lake Lucille.  I took a short walk around the lake to get loose from the long car ride.  Hopped over to my favourite sub shop and had dinner.  That sub shop is the ONLY decent place to eat in this town, sad to say.

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Windy at Lake Lucille
I got up super early and had my yogurt and half a Quest bar before I headed over to set up for the race.  I was bib #2, so I had a first wave spot and a primo rack spot.  This is one of those small races where you have to bring your own bike stand. Lucikly no rain. It was super overcast and 46 degrees.  I was pretty lucky. After I finished the wind really picked up and it started to lightly rain. So glad I did not have to bike in the rain.

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Bring Your Own Bike Stand
Swim was one of my worst. The pool was so hot, it was like swimming in a bathtub.  I am used to swimming in the UAF pool which is one of the coldest in the state.  The hot water really slowed me down.  I also was off on my strokes and kept coming up half a stroke short of the wall, so I had reach and it really messed with my turns and push offs.

 

I head out of the pool and meander to my bike. I felt that my transition was slow, but because it was so cold I took the time to put on my socks with my bike shoes as well as an ear band under my helmet.  My bike was pretty darn good.  I had no idea at the time because I was not timing or using my garmin for this race. I forgot to turn it on as usual.  I motored on through the hilly bike course, with an average of over 17mph, which for  me on a hilly course is pretty darn smoking!  I did unfortunately bike an extra mile.  The course volunteer got confused between the bike and the run legs and sent the first handful of bikers onto the run course at an intersection.  Bikers should not have turned but she kept yelling at me I listened to her.  I have done this race many times before and knew the course, but because of her yelling I thought they must have had a last-minute course change for some unforeseen reason.  Well I should have listened to my instincts.  Even so I still had an amazing bike.

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This was uphill, but smile for the camera!
Off came the helmet and on come the running shoes and my trusty Brooks running cap.  Dang it, I forget to take my gloves off. So I stripped them off and dropped them at the aide station that was right after the run-out spot.  Which I proceeded to forget to pick backup after the race. Guess I need to buy a new pair now ūüôā  The run was uneventful.  I did walk for about 1 minute out of transition so that I could get my hat secured and my race belt on.  The run course mimics much of the bike course but just a much smaller rectangle. So the first 1.5 miles of the course is up the big hill and the next 1/4 is downhill and the last 1/4 is mixed. I was able to keep the turnover good going up the hill, which was my big goal for this race.  I am pretty pleased about my run. I only got passed by one female runner, who was hauling tail coming up the hill ūüôā  It was during the run that I was super happy that it was overcast and cool. I did not have to worry about over heating.

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Hey Look…..Another Camera….Smile Pretty!
As I cruised into the finish line I was fairly confident that I had made a Personal Record on this course.  Finishing time 1:22 Officially 8 minutes PR, but if I deduct the extra biking in it was more like a 12 minute PR.  Which is AWESOME!  This is my 3rd triathlon so far this summer/spring and each race has been a course PR.  My targeted training over the winter has really made a difference in my early season races. I am also pretty sure the 10 pounds I have dropped have made a difference as well, especially on the run part.  I also find my runs increase or decrease the most when my weight fluctuates up or down.

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Finishers medals were awesome this year ūüôā
I really enjoy this race and I hope to race again next year.  I have another sprint coming up in June. That race is a brand new one for me, so I have nothing to compare that course to.  This looks like it is shaping up to be a great season for me ūüôā

What Does it Take to Clock a 15 Minute PR?

Two words.  Hard Work.  Who would have thought that hard work and consistent training would make all the difference?  Not the shiny new bike or the fancy new kicks. I guess I have been doing it wrong all these years.

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I have been training hard over the winter. ¬†Lavaman was my reason to keep training during the winter on a structured plan. ¬†I certainly didn’t want to travel that far to do poorly due to under conditioning. ¬†Well that hard work really paid off during the season opener triathlon this past weekend. ¬†Our season opener is the BreakUp Triathlon, which is for Fairbanks, Alaska, an early season event. ¬†Because it so early season for us we do our swim in the University pool instead of open water. ¬†The ice that still covers all the lakes it a pretty strong deterrent from swimming.

I have run this race every year since it started and my time has been fairly consistent within 3-5 minutes. But this year, all bets were off and I knew I could run a course PR based on my performance at the Lavaman Olympic distance.

Race day started out a little chilly, which always makes it hard to know what to wear.  I decided to go with my club kit.  My club Tri-It Together is based in Temecula, CA so I hoped it would bring a little luck and a lot of the So.Cal sun and warmth.

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Even my hat matches!

I bought an early lane bid. I hate circle swimming and will gladly pay the charity donation in order to avoid it. And the bonus is I get to start in the first or second wave so I finish early instead of rolling the dice as to what my start time will be.

Swim was uneventful. ¬†Just right about where I normally am, so no surprises. ¬†Glad my lane partner was a little faster than me, it pushed me to try to keep up which kept my speed up. Transition was slow’ish which is normal for me, but I got out on the bike easy peasy.

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Look at those high elbows ūüôā

Now is when it gets interesting.  No socks, so my feet immediately get cold and stay cold and clammy.  I felt a little off the first two miles or so.  Turns out  I was in the small chain ring instead of the big, like I should have been.  Crap no wonder I felt like I was spinning out of control. Get that taken care of and honestly struggle a little though the first half. I felt really slow.  Then notice, crap, I forgot to start my Garmin. Of course I did.  I buy a fancy Garmin 920 and half the time I forget to actually push the button. So I have no gauge on the bike to know how I did.  The course is flat-hill-rolling-flat. With the hills around the turnaround.  After the turnaround I felt a lot better and was able to pass the one racer that passed me going out. I passed her and did not see her again until the run portion.

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Head into T2 and get my socks on my clammy feet and grab my hat and head out.  My feet are like frozen blocks. This course is pretty brutal for a sprint in that a huge half mile hill is the first thing out of the gate.  I ran 3/4 up then conserved a little energy and walked up the last 1/4 which is by far the steepest part.  I did try to power walk, but walking was the right thing to do. Helped my feet as well. I crested the hill and was able to run the remainder of the course with no issues.  Its always the first mile off the bike that is the hardest then I can normally find my groove.

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Whoa…is that a smile?

About 1/2 the lady I passed on the bike whizzed by. ¬†But I was able to pass one other runner, which felt good. ¬†Then my team mate John passed me 3/4 of the way to the finish. I was so hoping to hold him off, but I just couldn’t keep up. ¬†Maybe next year I can beat him. ¬†At the finish John said, wow, you were really fast this year. ¬†Considering I had no watch time or clock time I told him maybe 5 minutes or so. ¬†But John disagreed and said it was way faster. ¬†I guess he was right ūüôā ¬†Note to self: Never argue with another scientist. ¬†I finished in 1:38 which was a major improvement over the prior year of 1:53. ¬†OMG, I totally killed it. ¬†So much happiness that I was able to that much better.

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Looks like a leisure walk in the park

The rest of my team finish, and all of us did better this year than last year.  This race was bittersweet though.  This will be our last race with our teammate and colleague Georgina.  She is off to a new adventure in the lower 48.  With that in mind I am so glad we all had one last chance to race together and enjoy the camaraderie.  As you can see we were a very happy group of racers.

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Team Nothing to Lose

I guess the moral of the story is consistency really does pay off. ¬†I have another race in a few weeks, also another local’ish sprint tri. ¬†My goal is to do at least 8 minutes better than I did last year. ¬†That may be a little optimistic, but I think I can do it.

Running has always been my strongest, at least until about 3 years ago.  I have been spending a lot of time working on my running and I think that is paying off. Even just a minute a mile really pays off!

 

 

Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes…

LavaMan Triathlon. Redemption in the form of an Olympic Distance Triathlon. As the title says, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, I triumphantly busted out an almost 50 minute Personal Record ūüôā ¬†My last Olympic distance was December 2014 with the less than stellar HITS Palm Springs Championships.

Lavaman has been on my list for a long time.  I was registered last year but had to pull  out after contracting that water borne illness at that fateful Palm Springs race. This was my year for redemption.

Honestly, who doesn’t secretly want to race on parts of the Ironman World Championship course? ¬†I know I will never qualify for Kona, so this is the next best thing. Me racing down the famous Queen K Highway, just like Chrissie Wellington.

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Morning run to A-bay

I found myself in Waikoloa Village 4 days pre race. Found an amazing condo close to the start in Anaeho’omalu Bay (A-bay) I figured this would give me a few days to acclimate. ¬†Every morning I went for my 6am run before the sun came up. What a feeling! I did not swim much in the Bay before the race. ¬†Swimming is the best ¬†part for me. So I concentrated on getting my running feet underneath me in the heat.

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Thought my Phoenix  INKnBURN was appropriate

Saturday before the race, I picked up my packet and attended the pre-race briefing.  The briefing was a joke, but mandatory, so I went.  Relaxed the rest of the day and prepared my race kit and bag. And turned in early.

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Check the list to make sure I have it all

Race morning, up at 5am. ¬†Transition opens at 5:30. Ride the half a mile over to A-Bay to rack my bike, set up shop, get numbered, and grab my timing chip. OK, so I went over super early and then had a lot of time to kill ūüôā

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My spot is all tidy.

Saw both Kinsey and Marcus, from home. These two are amazing athletes and incredibly nice people to boot. Got my pep talk from Kinsey and wished her well, as she was starting with the elites. Turns out Kinsey won the overall women’s title, with Marcus coming in 5th male. ¬†Amazing I tell you ūüôā

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Pre-race selfie

I made it to my swim corral and waited as we swam out waist deep for our start wave. Boom, time to swim. ¬†So much congestion. ¬†I started out mid pack and quickly found myself in the “washing machine” ¬†I clawed my way out a bit past the worst of the congestion. I then after that first 500 yards, had the best swim I have had in months. ¬†Swim, slice, pull through the water with ease. I did not even have issues like I normally do with sighting my position.

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Out of the water, whoops I feel waterlogged!  Trudge up the sand and across the pavement to Transition #1. Get my feet clean and geared up for the ride.  Considering the distance to T-1 I feel like I had a pretty good transition.

Whoomp, Whoomp, Whoomp go the wheels of my Cervelo P2 as I head South on the Queen K. ¬†Now here is where things get fun. ¬†Wind….check. ¬†Sun….check….Traffic….check. ¬†Ok girl, you got this. ¬†I get down in Aero and push through the wind. ¬†And then it happens, I, yes I, start passing people left and right. What a feeling. ¬†All these hours this winter spent on my trainer are paying off. ¬†I was able to hammer in a way I know I couldn’t have done this time last year. ¬†The turn around was sketchy. ¬†It was a no pass zone, but this one lady just had to cut me off and pass. ¬†She almost took out my front wheel doing it. ¬†But once we got back on the main highway, I quickly overtook her and in the distance she fell behind.

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Transition 2 was quick. Just pull on the socks and a hat and off.  Now the pavement is scorching hot.  I can feel the heat from below and above.  The course has limited shade the whole way, so I made sure to stop at each mile marker aide station for a quick drink and ice.

Here is where I struggled.  My runs are always decent, but today that heat was just to much.  I could feel myself struggling right out of the gate.  So for the first 3 miles I did a run walk, until I felt better.  At the mid-course turnaround a light breeze came and I was able to run until I hit the lava/coral/beach section.  This was mostly single track at this point.  It was narrow and hard to run on. This section was about 3/4 of a mile. I went with the flow of the group around me. So much of this was walked during the narrow sections.

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This point we are all running adjacent to the beach. It was so hot all I could think of was jumping into the water, but not yet. ¬†I could see the finish line ahead. ¬†Okay Susie, you can do this. ¬†You can run through all this loose sand and finish strong. ¬†I dug down deep….to keep running even when I could barely keep my footing straight. Finish Line!

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Woot, look at me I am done ‚ėļ

Celebrate……I crossed it 3:38. ¬†I beat my goal of coming in less than 3:45. ¬†The Phoenix has done it. ¬†Lavaman 2016 finisher. I couldn’t be happier.

 

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…and so begin the nerves

It’s not often I get apprehensive about a race. But for some reason I am very apprehensive about Lavaman. ¬†I wish I could say it was the distance I need to travel to get there, Alaska to Hawaii, but that not it. I often travel far and wide to race. ¬†Just last month I traveled to San Diego with all of my tri gear to practice with my amazing So. Cal Triathlon Club.

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This will be my first “real” triathlon since I broke my foot last summer at the Nevada Lamoille Canyon Marathon. That really derailed my training a lot. I still completed a Half Ironman with that broken foot, which in hindsight was not the smartest thing I have done. I also kept biking and swimming, which were all okay with my doctor. ¬†I really really have not gotten back into full on running shape. ¬†It’s been HARD, so HARD.

Ive dropped the 15 extra pounds and that still hasn’t effected my pace, still finding myself slow at around 10:45 per minute. ¬†Sigh, still a lot of work ahead of me to get back to where I was before.

My trusty steed is all packed and secured.  I love my Thule Round Trip Traveler bike box.  It is amazing. Wendy, my amazingly awesome Cervelo P2 is all tucked in nicely waiting for the long haul over the Pacific. May she arrive safely with no drama.

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Snug as a bug in a rug.

Wetsuit or no Wetsuit? I guess I will be taking mine but not sure if its worth wearing it.  It often impedes my stroke. The water should be just under the USAT limit.  My other Tri Club here in Alaska is suggesting a wetsuit and most of them are already on the Big Island and are training with their suits.  I guess I will make the call on race day depending on how the surf is. If its churning then I will go with the wetsuit for the extra floatation, if its glass I will not wear it.

I also got a new triathlon suit. A shout out to Triflare. They make the most fun and amazing prints. ¬†Even though I look like a busted can of biscuits, I will post a photo. If I can’t post it here then how the heck do I plan on wearing it out in public ūüôā ¬†My Tri It Together club kit didn’t get to me in time, so I headed down to BodyPhlo in Anchorage this weekend and picked up this beauty.

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more like 7lbs¬†stuffed in a 5lb bag ūüôā

I know that I have this in the bag.  I know the heat will be killer for this Alaskan just coming off winter. I know its a short course, Olympic Distance and I know if worse comes to worse I know I can at least finish.  But I want all these hours in the pool, treadmill and bike trainer all winter to add up to something.

I need to shake off these nerves and get to packing all my gear. ¬†This year I have smartened up. ¬†No more taking nice clothes to the island. My bag will be full of nothing but my tri stuff, swimsuits, and my INKnBurn shorts and tanks ūüôā ¬†I might as well look good while keeping cool and well it packs so much nicer than my other clothes.

Onward and forward to Sunday….Wish me godspeed and goodluck!