Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coming up for air.

Holy Smokes, it’s been a super busy time since my last blog. I apologize… you will see why I didn’t have a moment to spare to blog…. Here it goes….

Racine ½ Ironman

Can you say heat index of 110??! At one point I felt like my arms were going to burst into flames!
I got to the race the day before and racked my bike, picked up my packet. John and Jack were there, and Jack did well for the most part… but got cranky toward the end. There was a long line to check in, and more than a few people were disappointed with the lack of organization prior to us getting into line.
Here’s a pic of my bike and the sunrise over the swim on race day:

Race morning:
I had a nice quiet ride by myself up to Racine. Found a parking spot and headed down to transition. The sun was just rising and the swim course looked very peaceful.

Once in transition, I set up my gear, gave it a once over and started down to the swim start (about a mile down the beach) The lines for the port-a-potties were long, and I went to the vending area, only 2 people in line, plus no port-a-potty! Yeah! While walking I had the pleasure of chatting with a guy who’s done Ironman Wisconsin for 10 years now… and has been to Kona. It was fun, he asked me what I’ve been doing to prepare for Ironman, and offered a piece of advice which has been rattling in my brain ever since. He said "Don’t overcook yourself on the bike, wait until the second loop to pick up speed."  He then told me every race he has a mantra and for his first Ironman his mantra was: “Hey Asshole, you have a marathon to run after this!” I LOVE IT!!! Lots of nervous people chatting, and it was weird but I didn’t feel nervous at all. This was not my A race, this was just another training day in my opinion. My goal was to run a solid race, stay on my nutrition on the bike and in my zones. That’s all. I chatted a bit with some fellow athletes that my brother trains with and just next to us was Craig Alexander (2x Ironman Champion)! In NO other sport will you ever have a professional athlete preparing right next to you! Too cool!!!  My wave did not go off until 8:16 so I got into my wetsuit about a 40 mins prior, first time with this suit, as I had to send my brand new one back due to several seams splitting. I got in and the water was pretty cold, but after a few strokes the water felt like heaven… trust me all during the run I thought about how nice and cool that water was!!! I remained in the water until just before my start… just to keep cool in the wetsuit. 

Swim: My wave was up and I lined up in the front just to the left. The horn sounded and we were off. The swim was about 100yds out to the first buoy and then a right down a mile and then another right –back to shore. My goal- remain calm, keep my breath under control and just focus on a solid swim. I did just that. Buoy after buoy... they just ticked by. At one point there was a couple of large waves that left me grabbing for air instead of water. Glad that didn’t last too long and we were back to normal. I will say that since Lake Michigan is such a large body of water, it is harder to sight as the up and down of the waves can leave you a little disoriented. But always having the shore along your right was very grounding. One thing I did really hate was the boats and their exhaust… it just hovered on the surface of the water, which made it difficult to breath. But once we got out it wasn’t bad as the boats were more spread out. Coming into the shore, my brother suggested that I take my wetsuit off in the water, since the run back to transition was long and part of it in the sand. It is supposed to be easier to take off when it’s wet. Well, that wasn’t really the case with me… just short of the exit (and outside the photographers view) I plopped down in the water to get the rest of my suit off around my ankles. I just couldn’t do it standing up. I can only imagine what everyone was thinking… although, it couldn’t of been that bad of a choice as I noticed a few others doing the same thing.

Into T1- I flew. No wetsuit to take off, I threw on my helmet, shoes, number…grabbed my bike and nutrition and I was off… but not before I gave John a huge smile for the camera. This is fun!!!

photo courtesy of John Atkins

I mounted my bike and to get out of transition you need to climb a hill. Last year that hill seemed huge and daunting… but after doing the Horribly Hilly Hundred and Galena… this hill was nothing! My Mom said I went up it like the energizer bunny. Hop hop hop! And off I went. I was very very careful about the heat and fueling. So careful, I felt like I was passed by 300 people, most of which I will later pass on the run, while they walk. My coach and brother couldn’t stress enough the importance of holding back and proper nutrition. My brothers words rang through my ears… it will be a DEATH march out there if you’re not careful, and for many it was. I also kept the gentlemans' words in my head that I walked to the swim start with. I thought about what my mantra … what would it be? I came up with “Settle down Beavis, DON’T be a Butthead!!!” Over and over I said that as I watched my heart rate very carefully. I KNOW I could have went much harder. My average on the bike was 17.5MPH… I had more in me, but I did NOT want to be part of the DEATH march. I also kept hearing about how bumpy the course was, and really it wasn’t as bad – perhaps because large sections were repaved? It was only those last 5 miles when the lady bits were tender did the bumps become an issue… but I told myself 5 miles, just finish strong. And I did just that. Along the bike route I made sure to thank all the volunteers and spectators… it was HUGE that they were out there in that heat. I also got a surprise, when my brother popped onto the sidelines about 30 miles in… how great was that!?  A HUGE boost as he shouted that I looked great! I came into transition and flashed another huge smile for John, my Mom and Aunt!!! I felt great and was ready to tackle that run.
photo courtesy of John Atkins

Heading out on the run!!! photo courtesy of John Atkins

T2- EASY. Stopped at the port a potty and off I went. 

Run: It. was. HOT.  And just as my brother said… 70% of the people were walking. NOT me. I nailed my nutrition on the bike, and didn’t overwork it. One change from my orig. plan I walked each and every aide station on the run to make sure I got a full cup of Perform and water. Toward the end the aide stations seemed to come too fast as I was getting full from all the liquid. I passed many, overheard many conversations of people saying they didn’t take enough nutrition and overdid the bike.  I felt pretty good. Took sponges and dumped ice down my shirt to stay cool. 
This guy didn't follow his plan... Love my sponges?
Each mile ticked by fast, and the people who live on the run course were AWESOME—they had hoses set up so we could cool off as we passed by. Thank you so much to every one of you…. It saved many out there! I came in before the second loop and had a little GI issue and had to make a few unscheduled stops at the bathrooms along the way… booo to that. But all in all it was a VERY solid race, executed well.  I listened to my coach and raced the day for the conditions- NOT the time. I finished 6 hours and 3 mins.  I did not walk (except for the aide stations) and I finished with a smile—I did it. 

My AWESOME support group- PLUS Ana, who was watching Jack at home :)
I love the guy grabbing his hamstring... hmm someone needs salt!

The week after Racine, we moved into our new house. I LOVE OUR NEW HOUSE. I love everything about it. I love that I can turn out of my subdivision and be in farm country. In fact I just finished my 2nd 100 mile ride out there… just awesome. I love that we can see the storms coming in from our front porch and that Jack has a playroom and room to run and play. I love that we sometimes can’t find each other – and that I have a counter to get ready on in the morning. (little things) We are not all the way unpacked and there are still boxes and stuff lying about … I’ll tackle those come 9-12-11. Until then, I am pounding out the last bit of Ironman training, and enjoying my family and new digs when Im not training. We are blessed.

Training continues for Ironman. I am officially 1 month out from Ironman, and I feel really good about it actually. I logged in another 100 mile ride, several long swims and runs PLUS the solid performance in Racine! 
I KNOW I can do this… it is getting exciting now with the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter every day. Plans are being made for our support crew as I pull through the last remaining weeks of endurance training. As my brother said… the hay is in the barn. Meaning, it’s all but done, you’ve put the time in now it’s just time to race. I’ve been training and building fitness and endurance for 2 years now. It’s been a great road discovering what I am made of – how far I can push, and all the lessons learned along the way. Juggling a full time job, husband, my son, an unplanned move and training should leave me with a master’s degree in organization and time management! I owe a HUGE thank you to my family, friends and coworkers and bosses for helping me out and supporting me and allowing me to be flexible with my time when things got to be too much. Word of advice to anyone thinking of doing an Ironman… make sure you have a wonderful support  group- you won’t be able to do it without them. 
Also, get a great athletic coaching group surrounding you… I couldn’t of made it this far without 
I’ve been asked by several what I plan to do after Ironman… and I tell them… I need to first FINISH Ironman, and then I will think about after. I’ve heard from some others it’s hard to remain focused this close to the race… but I am finding it to be the opposite… I'm more focused than ever. Each ride, swim or run I am thinking about the race, thinking about what I’ve done, where I started and why I am doing this.  For the remaining weeks I will focus on rest, nailing my zones, eating well and not stressing.  

It’s almost go time.


  1. You are such an inspiration Cheryl! Thanks for starting this blog and sharing your story! Looking forward to screaming my a$$ off, cheering for you at Ironman!
    love you big sis ;)

  2. YOU are truly amazing, Cheryl! Juggling it all and proving to everyone that someone can set goals and achieve them!!! Keep on doing an awesome job w/ everything and you will be ready on 9//11! (speaking of that, I just wrote your schedule thru 8/28!) :)) YAY!!!

  3. Cool bike--red bikes are always fast!

  4. AHHHHH!!! My tummy has butterflies for you just thinking about it!! GO CHERYL!! I will be there to cheer you on!! Room RESERVED! :)

  5. I love this and cant wait to follow along! And yes I think your coach is awesome too! Keep it coming!!

  6. way to go cheryl! dave & i are rooting for you all the way!! 1 month to go!!