Wednesday, May 23, 2018



In the summer of 2017 I signed up for Ironman Santa Rosa for May of 2018. I signed up because living in  San Francisco I had already trained on the course and could train some more on the course. This would be Ironman number eight. Little did I know then that I would be moving to Hawaii and only have a few more opportunities to train on the course. Its been a hectic first half of 2018 with buying a house, doing a pre-planned trip to Europe, getting sick twice, getting partially moved and living like a camper in both places.

I went into Oceanside 70.3 (a half ironman race) in April not having a lot of confidence in my fitness. I had a disappointing lactate threshold test in late February which showed my fitness was not where it had been in 2017, although my run speed had been improving. I attribute the run improvement to losing some weight and becoming leaner. Much to my surprise and delight, I ended up having a good race in Oceanside and came in second in my age group.

I did a follow-up lactate test two weeks before Ironman Santa Rosa. Since February, I had been doing a lot of aerobic training (zone 2) and my fitness and lactate threshold had improved in that time. It was almost back to 2017 levels. I went into Ironman Santa Rosa feeling like I could have a good race. I had also signed up for Ironman Switzerland, so Santa Rosa was supposed to be the warm up race. About a month before the Santa Rosa race, I deferred the Switzerland race till next year because it was going to be too much to travel to Switzerland in 2018 with the move to Hawaii in the same year. My goal this year had been to qualify at Ironman Switzerland for the Ironman World Championships, which will be held in October in Kailua-Kona. I previously qualified at Ironman Lake Tahoe and raced in Kona in 2014.


I got up at 3:30 am and ate a 650-calorie breakfast and boarded the shuttle to Lake Sonoma at around 4:30 am. That gave me plenty of time to put my bottles and food on my bike, pump my tires, put on my wetsuit, and have a bathroom stop before I lined up for the swim start. My Ironman swims have been between 1:11 and 1:20 so I lined up near the front of the 1:10 to 1:20 predicted time sign/corral. 




I swam the first lap not easy, but not hard and finished it in 37 minutes, the same swim time I had for the half ironman in Oceanside. We had to get out of the water between laps and cross a timing map. I was trying to run through that little section but the people in front of me were strolling. 


The second lap, I concentrated on faster arm turn over and stronger kicking until the last section where I concentrated on stretching it out and pulling with my lats. It was a pretty un-eventful swim and my time was 1:16. 


There is a long steep boat ramp to go up to the transition area from the swim exit. They did have about a three feet wide carpet which ran all the way up, with wetsuit strippers positioned about 2/3rds of the way up. I ran, passing a few walkers, had my wetsuit stripped off and continued to run to the transition tent. 

I caught my breath putting on my helmet and socks. Since I my bike was at the far end of transition from the transition tent, I carried my shoes while I ran to my bike and put them on at my bike. 

Then it was just a short run to the bike mount line. My transition time was 7:54 which was a huge improvement from last year’s Santa Rosa 70.3 (half ironman) time of 11:25. The carpet was a huge improvement over running barefoot on the old asphalt.


As I was mounting my bike, my husband told me I was in third place after the swim. It was nice to have the tracker working and that he had cell reception at the lake. 

I was quite familiar with the bike course having ridden on every part of it many times over the years. They had done a really good job of marking the rough road sections (potholes etc.) with bright orange tape. It was a bit crowded for the first half of the first loop and that created some frustration as many people were riding to the left instead of the right, working hard to pass and then coasting once they got in front of me. I yelled at a few people who were not following the non-drafting rules and some guys who got in front of me and then started to coast. I did not want to get a penalty on the bike. It got much less congested for the second loop and at times I had to remind myself I was racing and not just out on a ride in the wine country. I did notice passing one woman in my age group so I knew I had moved up from third to second place.

At 80 miles the wind was picking up significantly with head winds and strong side gusts. I was ready for the bike portion to be over then with 32 miles to go. I could tell my feet were swelling in my shoes as the ball of my foot started to burn. I had toe-warmers on and couldn’t get to the top buckles to loosen my shoes. I got off the bike with a time of 5:59:40. My prediction had been 6 hours so that was darn close.


I got out of my shoes and started pedaling with my feet on top of them with about one block to go on the bike, and left my shoes clipped into my pedals when I dismounted. I ran to the changing tent in my socks. My socks picked up a few rocks so I took the time to change my socks. When I dumped my transition bag out on the floor the volunteer remarked “Wow, a minimalist. I love it.” I find that its better not to have choices in my transition bags. Socks, shoes, a small towel or washcloth to wipe anything off that needs wiping, a race number belt with my food in the pouch, a visor and I’m good to go. My transition time was 4:27.


This was a three-loop run, mostly flat with some of it being on a wide dirt and gravel trail. This is the first time in an Ironman when I have effectively carried out my run strategy. The first loop was on feel, not easy but not hard and not worrying about pace. The second loop try to hold my goal pace. The third loop just run and how fast I’d run would depend on how bad I wanted to be on my goal pace. And as it turned out; how badly I wanted to maintain first place.
In the first mile, my husband and another friend both told me I was in the lead. I’ve been in the lead off the bike in many races and always managed to allow myself to be passed. On the second loop the same friend told me I was still in the lead by four minutes. Near the end of that loop I was told by another friend I was ahead by nine minutes. I had been able to maintain my goal pace and now it was my race to win or lose. 


I stopped at special needs to get more gels out of my special needs bag and a premixed bottle of Nuun electrolytes and water. I drank about a third of it and tossed it at the next aid station. The run started to get very challenging for me at 20 miles. I had been running through the aid stations and getting water at each one. On the third loop I stopped at one aid station to get a rock out of my shoe. I walked through one where I took coke instead of water and I think I just walked through one more while eating a gel and drinking water. I was worried about someone passing me, so I didn’t let myself walk for long.

How bad did I want it? I wanted it badly. I kept running past people who were walking. The brain sees people walking and it tells you it would feel much better to walk. I’m sure this gray-haired lady passing them with the age of 60 on her calf inspired many of them to start running again. I’d start to slow down and I’d make myself pick up my cadence, or add some bounce, or think about pushing off harder with my back foot. Anything to make me pick up the pace and keep my mind from telling me to slow down. As I had negative thoughts about my running, I pushed them aside. I replaced them with things like: how lucky I am to be able to do this, how much work I put in just for this day, if I go faster it will be over faster, you don’t get to Kona by walking, how great it will be to finish in the daylight, and don’t let all that training go to waste. The last six miles is always a battle between the mind and the body.


I crossed the finish line knowing I had run my goal pace or very close to it. I had seen one 63-year-old pass me on the run, but with a three-loop course we could have been on different loops. I was happy to have had the run I was capable of and to finish.  

Then my husband said I won my age group and I didn’t believe him. Was he sure? With the rolling start, maybe someone would come in later who had started after me and had a faster time. But Mike Reilly had even announced that I was the winner of my age group. Finish time 12:18:56.

I WON! I executed my plan! I get to race in the Ironman World Championships in my new home town in October! A two-time Kona qualifier! Wow, wow, wow. It was a hard day, but a smooth day with no major glitches. I’m still riding the Kona Qualification high. The reality of the difficulty of an Ironman in Kona hasn’t really sunk in yet.


Thursday, September 14, 2017



By the morning of the Donner Lake Half Iron Distance race, I had been in the Tahoe area, living and training at a base elevation of 6,200 feet for 16 days. I would have liked to spend six weeks there prior to the race, to fully acclimate to the altitude, but other obligations got in my way. I had trained for high altitude races three times before and each time I felt a significant adaptation after being at 6,200 feet for ten days. After about three days this year, the longer I was there the better I felt on each workout, but I never felt that “pop-now it feels the same as sea level” at ten days that I had felt in the past.

I woke up early on race morning and half seriously said to my husband: “maybe I should just skip it.” My coach had been talking a lot about visualization, but every time I tried to visualize the run all I could visualize was walking up the steep hill on the back side of Donner Lake. While I felt physically ready for this race, my mental game wasn’t up to par. This was my third half ironman in 2017 and I had finished third in my age group at Hawaii 70.3, seven weeks prior. This was my third Donner Lake Half and I had placed first in my age group the inaugural year of the race. The second time, I was the only one in my age group so I came in both first and last. This year I knew there would be at least one other competitor in my age group.


In addition to the Half Iron Distance/70.3 race there was also an Olympic distance race and an AquaBike (swim, bike) race. There were approximately 400 people overall and only around 80 of us were doing the Half. The venue is beautiful, at the West End of Donner Lake. The water is clear and the perfect temperature for swimming in a wetsuit.

The bike course starts with a three mile climb which has about an average of 7.5% grade. After that its predominately downhill with a few long rolling climbs till the first turnaround at 16 miles, then its predominately uphill for 12 miles, turnaround again for 12 miles down, turnaround and head back uphill until the three-mile descent. My Garmin recorded 4,226 feet of climbing on the bike course.

The run is a bit longer than 13.1 miles because its two loops around Donner Lake. All but a very short bit of it is on asphalt. It is relatively flat with about 460 feet of elevation gain.


Because the lake is 600 feet deep there were only two buoys for the 1.2-mile swim, one at each turn, close to shore. This wasn’t a problem for me because whenever possible, I choose a high point on land behind the buoy to sight on rather than looking for the buoy itself while I’m swimming, until I get very close and it becomes obvious. I had a pleasant, uneventful swim and finished with a time of 38 minutes which included the run up to the transition area.

My biggest problem in transition was getting my wetsuit off over the gigantic timing chip which was on my left ankle and safety pinned closed. I spent 5 minutes in transition which was a few minutes longer than usual at this race.

I made the decision to ride my road bike because its lighter and has better climbing gears than my time trial bike. After the race I realized the down-side is that the reason climbing is easier is I can spin in an easier gear which results in me not going as fast. The day began to heat up while riding and I had sweat dripping down my arms and face well before I finished. Usually a breeze created by riding keeps that from happening. My bike time was 3:57, which is the longest it has taken me to ride 56 miles in a half ironman race.

After a fairly quick transition I started out on the run course. My legs felt pretty good but I was getting very hot. There isn’t much shade on the course and it was 98 degrees by the time I started the run and getting hotter. In Donner State Park, I stopped to put my head under a campsite hose bib. I started to think about quitting about six miles into the run. I told myself if I made the first loop around the lake in less than and hour and a half, I’d go out on the second loop. Otherwise I would be done and have my first DNF (did not finish.) I made it to the start of the second loop in 1:27 so I kept moving forward. My “run” time ended up being 3 hours and 3 minutes. There was quite a bit of walking involved and a second even longer stop to run water over my head.


As soon as I could after crossing the finish line, I submerged myself in the lake to cool off. I also soon found out that I was one of only 15 women who completed the half ironman distance race and the only one in my age group to finish. After wanting to quit and mentally beating myself up for such a slow pace, I ended up getting a first-place award. 

I was reminded that no matter how miserable I feel, just remember that my competitors are experiencing the same misery and not to get discouraged by how bad I feel or how slow I think I’m going. I also swore that I’m done with the Donner Lake Half! The next Donner Lake race I do will be a sprint or Olympic distance. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Women For Tri Meet-up
This was a very social race for me, as I knew at least 50 people who were racing, including several of my regular training buddies. In addition, my friend Amy who lives in New Jersey came out to race and we drove up to Santa Rosa together. I also co-hosted a Women For Tri meet-up on Friday afternoon. The purpose of the meet-up was to have some of the women racing meet each other and also meet Mirinda (Rinny) Carfrae. Rinny is a three-time Ironman World Champion with another three podiums at the Championships. She is pregnant right now and didn’t race this weekend but was there to support her Husband, Tim O’Donnell, who placed third. We were pleased to get her to come to our meet-up and she graciously answered questions and posed for pictures with many of our female athletes. We also had a variety of door prizes for everyone who attended. Thanks to ROKA, Dixie Devil, and My Soxy Feet for the prizes. 

I made an effort to train a bit on the course in the months leading up to the race, with four bike rides on the course, a couple of swims and one run. This helped me with my mental preparation, made me less nervous and set me up to be able to enjoy some time socializing before the race.


This race is a point-to-point race with the Swim in Lake Sonoma, which is about a thirty-five-mile drive from Santa Rosa where the bike-to-run transition, finish line and lodging were. With limited parking at the Lake, they offered Shuttles starting at 4 am for the 6:25 am start. I walked over at 4 am with my friends Liz and Leishia and didn’t have to wait long to get on a bus. This was the point where I was bemoaning signing up for this race, because I do not like getting up before 5 am (more truthfully before 9 am.)

We passed a broken-down bus on the way and thought how lucky we were not to be on that bus. We heard later that they got to the start with 35 minutes to spare. I usually need a full hour to set up stuff at my bike, pump up my tires, change into my wet-suit, hit the porta-potty and line up at the start.

Excited to get started!

The wind was up and the water was a little choppy, but nothing dramatic. Ironman had decided to change the direction of the swim since it was going to be windy, so the 1.2-mile course was all right hand turns until the final turn back to the boat ramp. I tend to veer left which made me swing a little wider around the buoys than when it is a left-hand turn course. I did avoid getting smacked and run over by swinging a little wide, though it may have added to my swim time of 39:17. That was on the high end of my normal range for a wet suit swim.


We exited the swim onto a long boat ramp which led up to a road and then to a long chute that went half way around the transition area. A narrow strip of the concrete boat ramp had been carpeted but not the asphalt road or chute, which had a bunch of tiny loose black rocks. I should have worn booties or left shoes at the top of the carpet because I’m a tender foot. Running up the incline wasn’t a problem for me but the pain and little stone bruises on me feet slowed me down. When I wiped my feet on a little towel I had left in transition it got covered in rocks that had been pressed into the bottom of my feet. Two days later and the bottom of my feet still hurt. Lesson learned/re-learned after my first Escape from Alcatraz: booties or shoes!

Beginning of the bike ride

The bike course has more climbing than the old Vineman course, but a lot of the climbing is rollers so I found the bike course to be much easier/faster than the previous course. It’s a beautiful ride, if you had any time to look around. I really had to pay attention to the road because the pavement is pretty variable with some really rough sections and pot holes. The only small problem I had on the bike was when at mile 50 I sort of gagged on something caught in my throat and I threw-up (mostly on my right shoulder.) I took a few sips of water and those came right back up. I needed to get some more calories in before I got off the bike, so at 52 miles I started eating a pack of Honey Stinger Chews and was able to keep those down. My stomach never really felt upset. 

I finished the 56-mile ride in 2 hours, 48 minutes and 21 seconds. This was the fastest bike time of my age group and the fastest I’ve ridden in a 70.3/half ironman. I stayed within my planned effort and still finished in record time. I was in first place in my age group at the start of my run.

On the Run

Running is my weakest link in this sport, so I decided to take a little different approach to the run. The plan was to use the first 3 miles to find my running legs after the bike ride, the next 3 miles to push the pace without looking at my watch, the next three miles to try to hold a race pace of 10:45, the next 3 miles repeat 4 minutes pushing hard alternating with 4 minutes easing off. Then to finish it off by giving it everything I had left for the last mile.

Everything was feeling good for the first 6 miles. When it came time to run 3 miles at a 10:45 pace, the best I could muster was an 11:13. That wasn’t so great for me mentally when my goal was 10:45. For the next three-mile section, I slowed down way too much on several of the 4 minutes easing off. Given all that, it was a mostly flat course and I ended up having my second fastest half ironman run of all time.


Nothing like friends waiting at the finish 
I crossed the finish line to find three of my training partners waiting for me at the finish line in the medals area even though they finished over 20 minutes before me. That was a nice surprise and a ton of fun! I ended up in 8th place of the 81 women who started in my age group with a time of 6 hours and 7 minutes. Only three minutes slower than my fastest half ironman time which I did in 2012.
The highlights of the race were seeing all of at least 50 people I knew out on the race course, coming in first after the fast bike course and having reasonable temperatures and shade on the run. The worst part was having to leave the hotel at 4 am to catch the shuttle to the start. 
Alwayw happy to finish!
Now I have less than three weeks to my favorite race, Hawaii 70.3!

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Ironman Florida was my second full Ironman this year. After not being able to race Tahoe in 2015, I vowed that I would never put all my eggs in one basket again. 

By doing my first 2016 race in April, at the Ironman North American season opener in Oceanside, it was feeling like a very long season of consistent training and racing by the end of October. We were starting to see some rainy days in Northern California which dampened my motivation a bit. As November approached, I was telling myself to just hang in there for a couple more weeks. I must have been getting a little worn down, as I woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday before the race. We had flights, we had a condo, so we decided to head to Florida and see how my illness progressed. By Friday, the day before the race, the sore throat was gone and I just had a congested chest with a cough. What the hell, last race of 2016 so I would have plenty of time to recover.

I felt OK in the morning, as far as I could tell when getting up at 4 am. I still had a bad cough and a migraine to top it off. Not perfect, but I took a prescription migraine pill with breakfast and away I went.

Swim – The Ironman Florida swim is a two-lap swim in the Gulf, each lap being 1.2 miles. I checked the weather in the morning and noted that there was a small craft advisory in effect until 7 am. The swim start was a self-seeded rolling start, and we lined up by our expected swim finish times. Based on my Ironman Boulder swim finish in August, I seeded myself with the 1:10 swimmers. The wet-suit legal race started on time at 6:45 am. The waves were not big and it was shallow quite a way out from the beach. I wasn’t crazy about having to exit and re-enter the water mid-race, breaking my rhythm and adding to the time.

With the swells (not apparent on the second lap pictured above), my sighting on the first lap was less than stellar. I veered left on the final stretch of the first lap and had to swim back to the right again. The squiggly line on this link shows my erratic first lap. I got hit in the head enough times on the first lap that my swim cap was almost off my head when I got out of the water and it came all the way off during the second lap. 

As I was swimming the first lap, I realized I had forgotten to put my computer on my bike and it was in my morning clothes bag which I wouldn’t be able to access after the swim. That, with being sick, waking up with a migraine, and my right glute giving me some pain already during the swim, I wasn’t in the best mental race mode for about 2/3rds of the first lap. I was thinking maybe I wasn’t meant to do this race and hoped there wouldn’t be any major catastrophes. I had a little conversation with myself, in my head, and managed to get my attitude in the right place before the end of the first lap. This is when I started to “race.”

I read after the race that a buoy had moved and swim times were slow, mine was 1:20:57. My Garmin says I swam 4,591 yards (2.6 miles) but those extra yards may have been my zigzag or the run on the beach between laps. Not a good swim time for me but eighth out of the water in my age group.

Swim to Bike Transition (T1) – I skipped the wet-suit strippers because they were having people lie down in the fine sand and the last thing I wanted on a 112-mile bike ride was sand in my pants. It was a fairly long run up the beach, through the transition area to the changing tents. A volunteer yanked my wet-suit off and got me through the changing tent fairly quickly. Although I didn’t have my bike computer I did have my wrist Garmin 920XT on. I wanted to be able to see my watts during the bike without turning my wrist all of the time, so I took the time to put it on my bike in transition. That took a few minutes of fumbling. Lesson learned – empty my morning bag just like I do my transition bags to not miss anything. (T1 was 10:20, way too long) 

Bike – Ironman Florida is a mostly flat bike course and I stayed in my aerobars almost the entire 112 miles and it was comfortable. I sat up at the aid stations to get water. I changed cadences consciously now and then, stood up a couple of other times at the top of the few rollers. I started feeling more in the groove at 60 miles through the finish. It was very windy on the bike course with significant cross winds in places. I was thankful that I have ridden so often on the Big Island because those experiences helped me with the cross winds. I thought about FEAR, stay focused, efficient, aero and relaxed. My official bike time was 5:40:29.

I definitely didn’t go too hard on the bike. If anything, I probably could have gone harder. Link to my bike file.

Memorable moments:
  1. Turning out of a head wind at about 80 miles and saying “Thank God!” out loud
  2. Seeing the time of 5:01 when I got to 100 miles
  3. Passing a young guy at just over 100 miles who said incredulously “Are you really 58? Wow.”
Bike to Run Transition (T2) – Approaching the dismount line, I got my feet out of my shoes and left them clipped into the pedals. The inner thigh of my right leg cramped as I swung my leg over to get off the bike. It took me longer than I would have liked to get my wrist Garmin off the bike and onto my wrist which was counted in my bike time. I had an otherwise smooth transition with a time of 4:35 (3rd fastest in my AG.)

Run – I was pretty overexcited when I passed my husband at the start of the run and he told me I was in second place after the bike. I didn’t feel like I was running hard or trying to push it on the way to the first turnaround. The first 7 miles were in the 11:30 minutes per mile range (which was my target) and I thought OK you can do this, but even with the same (or harder feeling) effort my pace started to drop off. I got a cramp in my inner thigh again at 7 miles, took two salt tabs, and kept running. The cramp resolved pretty quickly but my pace dropped to ~12 minute miles. Learning from my husband that I was in third place at the halfway mark of the marathon, motivated me to work hard and hang onto a podium spot.

My stomach started getting upset at 17 miles. I had been eating a gel every half hour so I skipped the next one. My pace slowed even more at about 19 miles and I was feeling uncomfortable. I finally broke down and did a port-a-potty stop at 22 miles. I felt better after that, stomach wise, but I wasn’t able to speed my pace back up significantly.

I took 2 salt tabs every hour and water at every aid station. I also carried a flask of water with me to drink when I ate a gel. At the 4th through 8th aid stations I also took Gatorade then later switched to coke and water. After 22 miles I switched to broth. I think it was the Gatorade that upset my stomach, but I’m not sure. My quads were starting to feel sore at 22 miles. My glute was hurting though the whole run but I was able to just ignore it.

Run time 5:3, which was not good enough to hang on to that podium spot. Run file link

Finish - Total time 12:47:48, my fastest Ironman. First time under 13 hours. Eighth place in my age group. This was my second time at Ironman Florida. I did my first Ironman here in 2004 and the conditions were perfect. This year was windier and warmer and I’m 12 years older. Apparently experience trumps youth as I bested my previous time by 47 minutes. No matter what time you finish, nothing compares to crossing that Ironman finish line!

Recovery - I’m glad I went ahead and raced even if I felt miserable for quite a few days afterwards. I had a total relapse on sickness, with a horrendous cough, achy body and completely lost my voice. I have an appointment with a sports medicine doc to figure out what is going on with my glute and I have PT scheduled. Two weeks after the race, I’m mostly recovered. I’ve ridden my bike a couple of times just because I wanted to. Training resumes tomorrow and my next half ironman in 25 weeks.

Thanks to: my coach Chris Hauth for a great 2016 season ( , Shift-SF ( for all those early mornings of productive bike training, My Soxy Feet ( for keeping my feet comfy, colorful and cheerful, and to Pierce Footwear ( for fast bike-to-run transitions and light feet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I was determined this year to qualify for and race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships “70.3 Worlds” in Mooloolaba, Australia. I managed to get a slot at my first 70.3 of the season which was in April in Oceanside, California. I planned my race schedule around the chance of qualifying, with 70.3 Worlds coming four weeks after Ironman Boulder and nine weeks before Ironman Florida.


Never having had a race so soon after an Ironman, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body. My coach gave me two days completely off and then started me back into training. I had three “easy” days and then took another day off. The second week I was back at it with a 15-hour training week, then an 11 -hour training week, then a travel and taper week. The first two weeks after Boulder I was just plain tired. I took a nap everyday mainly because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. 

The travel to Australia didn’t take that much out of me and the change in time zone worked in my favor as it was easy to go to bed early and get up early. The Ironman 70.3 World Championships are a little bit like a mini-Kona. There were activities everyday starting on Wednesday. I still had some workouts to do, so I paced myself and only took part in the 1000-meter swim race and the Parade of Nations. We also took an afternoon and drove about 45 minutes up the coast to Noosa for a short hike and Koala sighting. Driving on the left was a little bit harrowing the first day. My friend Nicky (also racing) drove me to scout out the most confusing and challenging part of the bike course. By race day, I felt rested and had no problem getting up at 4 AM to eat, walk to the transition area, get my tires pumped up, bottles and food on my bike and out of transition by 6 AM. 

The goal for this race was to enjoy the atmosphere at Worlds, experience Australia and have fun!


Entering the water with women over 55,
 to swim to the start.
The water had been rough for the two days before the race, but was perfect on race day. The swim start was in waves by age groups about five minutes apart with the women 55+ starting at 6:55 in the middle of waves of the men. The first wave (male professionals) went at 5:15 am and the final wave at 8:20 am. We corralled up, one wave at a time and were let into the water with enough time to swim out to the deep water starting line. The race course was a long rectangle with a swim into shore at the end. My plan was to swim hard the entire time. I focused on swimming fast for the first leg, fast arm turnover after the first turn and strong pulling with hard kicking after the second turn.  

Happy to be here and doing this!

I don’t know how many women were in my wave but we spread out nicely once the swim got going. I was only overtaken by a few men from the next wave just before I was finished. Overall it was a very civilized and fast swim for me, swimming the 1.2 miles in 35 minutes and 30 seconds. I was in 17th place when I exited the water. Especially with a good swim, 17th place is not as high up as I am used to, but this was a field of the best in the world from over 80 countries.


Off to a good start, with a quick swim!
I wish I had an aerial photo of the transition area. It was extremely long and narrow, at least 3 city blocks long. I jogged through the sand to the start of the transition area, grabbed my bike transition bag, ran to the chairs, got my wetsuit off, socks, helmet, and sunglasses on, grabbed my bike shoes and ran to my bike, which was way at the other end of the bike transition. Getting through the bike transition and onto my bike took me over eight minutes which is not very quick.


The 56-mile bike course was totally closed to traffic, which was great! After exiting transition there were a few rollers until we turned onto a highway. The highway section was pretty flat. I was by myself most of the time on the highway, except when I would get passed by packs of men who were drafting. This is against the rules, but at least I wasn’t seeing any women in the packs. I was told by someone after the race that he saw a lot of drafting by groups of women who must have started later than I did. It is a shame that people feel the need to cheat. Several times I saw the referees drive up to packs of men who had just passed me, but they couldn’t tell who was passing who or how long they had been together. I didn’t see any penalties given, but I did see several men in the penalty tents when I rode by them. 

Out on the highway.

Getting into the hills.
After we did an out-and-back on the highway we headed into the hilly part of the course. I’m really glad I took the time to check-out this portion of the bike course ahead of time. There were two loops, really a loop within a loop and around 45 experienced racers somehow missed a loop and were disqualified. It would be pretty heart-breaking to get to the end of the bike course and see on your bike computer that you hadn’t ridden 56 miles. They also threw in a hill here at about 37 miles that had three stair steps. The first two steps were 11 and 12 percent grades and the last one was 18 to 20%. I really could have done without that portion. The race started to bunch up there and it was a little crazy. Relieved to have the loops and the hills behind me, it was eight to ten miles to the finish with a few rollers and a head wind.

My bike time of 3:05, was a decent time for me, but not stellar.  I had moved into 29th place.


I got my feet out of my bike shoes before dismounting and ran what was just about the entire length of the transition area with my helmet on until I racked my bike. Then we had to grab our bags and go down a significant set of stairs (set up just for the race) to an area where I sat in a chair to put my run shoes on, stuff my helmet in the transition bag, putting on my race belt and visor as I left the transition area. I was more efficient with this transition, taking just under six minutes.


Oh the run...We headed right uphill on the run, not super steep but fairly long. My right piriformis and top of hamstring were super tight and not wanting to run. The downhill side wasn’t as long as the uphill and it felt great for as long as it lasted, then onto the flats. I liked the run course which was also closed to traffic and had a view of the ocean for most of the course. It was two loops, so we went up and over the hill four times. I got passed by my friend in my age group, Rose, before I hit the first turnaround. I was expecting her to pass me on the run, just like she did in Kona, but was hoping it would be a little later. I also saw two of the other GGTC members who were racing as they passed me on the run. I didn’t’ have a terrible run but not a great one either. For perspective, this was my 20th half ironman race and it was my fifth fastest run, but 12 minutes off my personal best. With a time of two hours and 32 minutes, in this world class field, I dropped into 45th place. 

In the end, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to race at the World Championships, happy to visit Australia and I had a fun day. Mission accomplished!

Friday, August 19, 2016


I'm almost the only one who looks happy to get this started.

The first goal I set for Ironman Boulder was to get to the starting line healthy and ready to race. The last couple of days before the race, I couldn’t help thinking about what happened before Ironman Lake Tahoe last year and cross my fingers that I wouldn’t be sidelined by some other bizarre incident. When I look at the pictures from the swim start, it is obvious that I was just happy to be starting the race.

Let's get this party started :-) 
The race had a rolling start and people seeded themselves according to what time they thought they would take to complete the 2.4-mile swim. It was overcast and the water was a calm 72 degrees. The swim course was an open rectangle that could be broken down into three legs and I was able to execute my simple plan. Take the first leg controlled but not easy, go faster on the second leg with high arm turnover and stay focused on powerful pulls with more glide with a strong kick on the third leg. I had a fairly easy time sighting the buoys and felt that I minimized zig-zagging. Exiting the water, I saw the race clock said 1:13. I wasn’t sure what time I started based on the rolling start but something less than 1:13 was a great swim for me. It was a good move to wear the new ROKA Maverick X wet-suit which I had purchased a few days before the race. My swim time was a new record for me at one hour and eleven minutes (1:11:45.)
The buoys mark the final leg of the swim course.

Out of water and quickly into transition.
I went through the long transition area pretty quickly (5:51.) I used the wet-suit strippers, put on my socks, shoes, a head band, helmet and sunglasses in the changing tent with the help of a dedicated volunteer. I stuffed my food into my pockets while I was running to the bike. I saw my friend and training partner, Leishia (who came to Boulder to support me) as I was running my bike up the hill to the mount line and she told me I was in 2nd place out of the water. Very encouraging!

Eager wet-suit stripper volunteers!

One gauge of how I was doing after the swim is
how many bikes are still in their racks.
The 112-mile bike course was basically one mini-loop followed by a larger loop which we did twice. The first little loop started out fairly flat with two stair stepped climbs. It was overcast and cool through the first little loop and the first larger loop. The larger loop had some long gradual ups and downs, not rollers. The steepest climb was at mile 37 on the first big loop, where I got passed by one of the top nationally ranked women in my age group. She said some encouraging words as she whizzed past me. I knew at that point that I had dropped into third place. (She eventually dropped out of the race during the run.)

At 56 miles I had been riding less than 3 hours and thought wow, I might get this done under 6 hours, but then thought I should not get ahead of myself as anything can happen. Just stay in the moment. It’s not just about the bike so don’t over-do it just to have a fast bike split and then not be able to run a marathon. As I got nearer the bike finish I was pretty excited to see I would indeed have a sub-six-hour bike ride. My final time was 5:50:09, my fastest time for 112 miles.

Out on the larger loop of the bike course.
I consumed approximately 1300 calories, all in solid food, on the bike and drank 4 bottles of water with electrolytes (Nuun and Osmo) and over three bottles of plain water. It did get hot and sunny on the second larger bike loop and was 93 degrees when I got off the bike.

The bike dismount line was very far from where they took the bike from me. I got out of my shoes before the dismount and jogged the bike in, leaving my shoes clipped into my pedals. It wasn’t a very fast run but probably faster than I could have done in my cleats on concrete. I ran through transition picking up my bag and ran into the changing tent. I grabbed some Vaseline from the table in the tent, put it under my timing chip strap. While a volunteer put sunscreen on my shoulders, I took a full water bottle (with Nuun in it) from my transition bag, put on my shoes, grabbed my number belt (with gels in its pouch) and visor and put them on as I was running out of transition. I had a fast transition time of 5:53, especially given how far we had to run pushing our bikes.


I started out thinking OK, I could run faster but will keep it contained and comfortable. The first two miles felt great, then I started to get hot and uncomfortable even with pouring ice water on my head and putting ice in my bra and down my back. The run consisted of two-loops in a Y shape. The up-side of this is that Dennis and Leishia positioned themselves where the three legs of the Y came together, so I saw them several times and got encouragement. My overall feeling about the run is that it was pretty brutal; hot and entirely on concrete. I just kept running slowly one foot in front of the other. When I saw them on the first loop, I was in fourth place. By the second loop I was just struggling to keep running and not walk. 

 I didn’t have any stomach issues or cramping. I ate a gel every 30 mins (110 cals) and two salt tabs every hour. With 8 miles to go, Leishia told me I was in fifth place and thought I had a chance to catch 4th place. She said everyone was slowing down and “now it’s all you! You have been working all year for this” so keep running and get it done. She knew exactly what to say to motivate me. I really wanted to catch 4th and I absolutely did not want to get passed and let a podium spot slip away. She was wise not to tell me that I had something like a 40-minute lead on 6th place and was being pretty optimistic that I could catch the 4th place woman, but anything can happen near the end of 140.6 miles at 5,200 feet of elevation in the heat and sun. 

At the last turnaround, they were handing out glow-stick necklaces to people who were on their first loop. I was elated to know that I only had a mile and a half to go, mostly downhill and I would be finishing before it got dark. My sixth Ironman and my first finish in the daylight! I took a little time running down the finish chute to high-five spectators, enjoying the adrenaline rush of the finish and hearing the Voice of Ironman (Mike Riley) announce my name and call me an Ironman. 

Final time, and Ironman personal best: 13:14:08. Age group 5th place.
There is nothing like it, every finisher is treated like they won the entire race! Then, to my pleasant surprise, there was Leishia behind the finish line to put the medal around my neck.  

Post Race:

With the rush of adrenaline, I wasn’t sure how I was physically at the finish. None of the finish line food appealed to me and I was afraid of cramping if I laid down for a massage so Leishia agreed to come to our hotel and “celebrate.” Dennis and I walked a short distance to where he had parked and I had to lift my legs with my hands to get them in the car. It seemed that my hamstrings were not responding to my brain. I also started shivering uncontrollably. The hotel was less than 15 minutes away. As we were walking into the hotel lobby, I realized we had forgotten to pick up my bike and bags. That is a first! Pretty out-of-it! Usually I’m preoccupied with the thought I need to get my bike. I texted Leishia and she was able to swing back by the transition area and pick up my bike and bags, as Dennis didn’t want to leave me alone. After a hot shower, some food and drink (they had beer, I had ginger ale) and wrapped in a warm blanket, the shivering stopped and we sat around, satisfied, recounting the day’s events. 

Fifth place female 55-59.
Photo credits: Dennis Bettencourt and Leishia Woolwine