Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mooseman Race Report

I find that by the time I have completed the race, told James about it, told my parents about it, told my closest friends who will tolerate triathlon talk about it, and answered numerous questions from people who ask to be kind but think I'm crazy about it that I've often lost some of my steam to blog about it. That being said, I am going to give this a go.

Mooseman. The race I didn't plan to race. The race I didn't know I'd be racing. The race I had 3 weeks to wrap my head around.

James and I drove up to Newfound Lake for registration (and Ironman brand shopping) on Saturday morning. We stopped in Manchester just after 11am at a Bertucci's Ristorante along the way to pick up a dozen rolls. These rolls make my stomach happy and since I never know what sort of food I'll find in a new place, we either plan to eat dinner there (like at FirmMan last year) or bring rolls with us. We got to the race site a little before 1pm. It was a little chilly but gorgeous outside. I stood in line for registration and packet pickup. Chatted with the guy in line behind us who was super friendly. He warned that the roads were in pretty bad condition from the hard winter, with a lot of frost heaves in inconvenient places. When I got to the front of the line the volunteer could not find my name. I chose not to freak out. I know I had registered because I saw the $300 WTC charge on my credit card. A staff person sorted it out. They only had me down as Rachel W, not my full last name. It occurred to James that that might mean when I crossed the finish line they wouldn't call out my name correctly. (He was right.) Got my number, chip, and other goodies in the tent. At this point I started to get the whole WTC/Ironman thing. As James would say its a "racket" and I agree. But because of that you get all sorts of cool stuff. Gorgeous tech shirt for the race. A timing chip strap made of neoprene that was so comfortable that I forgot it was on and it left not a single mark on my leg. Fancy booths so ogle. Etc, etc, etc. We went into the Ironman store. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted the Mooseman cycling jersey. This is my first proper cycle jersey and I was stoked to get my hands on it. It was a little pricey but James bought it for me as a birthday present. I also sprung for a 50% off 2xu tri top. Good deals. I'll take it. We then grabbed my bike and put it in transition. Having registered late my number was high (1106 out of maybe 1200-1300), so I was way in the back of transition, and had to run through trees and over roots to get out and in. We left the park and drove the bike course to get a feel for this 3.5mile 4-16% grade hill I've been dreading. As well as the 5 miles 5% descent that follows. It was not a confidence boost. I'll say that much. I couldn't decide if it was better to know or not know about this hill. At the very least it was better to know about the false flat 2/3 of the way up so it wouldn't break me when there was more hill to come after. After the drove the course we went to the athlete's meeting. We listened in on the the pro meeting and then scooted out shortly after the age-group meeting started. As we got back to the lot there was a pro leaving us a note. She had hit James' car as she was pulling out. Everyone was very friendly but it was a tough and stressful addition to the afternoon. We then drove 30 minutes east to our motel on Lake Winnipesaukee. It was so cute and the view was amazing.

I prepped my nutrition and we headed to dinner by 6. Dinner was not so good. Its hard to mess up pizza (but they managed to). We were back at the hotel by 7:30 and I started to gear down. Reviewed my race plan for the second to last time, played some sudoku and then dozed off as the Bruins-Canucks game started.

Race Morning:
Alarm was set to go off at 3:50am. I woke up before the alarm wondering what time it was and checked my phone (alarm) to see and found it was 3:49. Perfect. Hopped out of bed. Took a Coke Zero, banana, rolls, and sunscreen into the bathroom to start morning preparations.
We were out the door by 5am, for the 35 minute drive back to Newfound Lake. This place was so cute we wanted to stay another night, but alas I had work to go to Monday morning. After a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and an unsuccessful bathroom break we arrived 1.5miles from the lake around 5:40. A cop directed us to park on a side road. James was not thrilled to see others driving past but us getting diverted. It was a long walk with all my transition stuff, hydration, bike pump, etc in tow. But on a 45 degree morning it was good to get moving. I got body marked and set up transition. Transition was very tight. I forgot to do some stuff. Didn't pull sunscreen out of my bad for reapplication after bike. Didn't lube my neck or shoulders for my wetsuit. By the time I was standing in the portopotty line in was 6:30 and we had to leave transition by 6:45 so I realized those things just weren't going to happen.

Definitely a pre-poop face

I'm not looking so psyched to race, am I?
Finished in the line and headed to the swim start. Put on my wetsuit and new neoprene cap. People seemed really cold. Lots of blue lips and shivering. I'm generally not thrilled with my "natural insulation" but on mornings like this it was great not to have any trepidation about getting in the water (which was 60 degrees).

The elite men and elite women went off. My wave was 4th. I lined up toward the right just behind the first row of swimmers. It was hard to know where to position myself. I figured I would rather get swum over than have the wiggle past people right away. Given the modified rectangular route I had to swim in toward the buoys  to get a good line but this wasn't too hard. The announcer counted down and we were off. I swam comfortably. Got my bearings. Quickly realized that this was the most gorgeous lake I had ever been in. Reveled in the clarity of the water and the brilliant morning sun. Oh wait, am I racing? Rachel, are you racing right now? Okay, back to business. I took the first 800 relatively comfortably. Picking people off who were ahead but mostly just looking for feet to follow. By the back of the rectangle we were catching the male wave ahead of us so things got congested a little. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't swimming as hard as I should be. Although I was breathing every stroke (which I never do in the pool) I was hardly kicking and my RPE seemed moderate (at most). I decided that with 500 yards to go I would pick it up a bit (hopefully to get feeling back in my numb feet). In the intervening 500 yards I focused on stretching out my stroke and finding red caps to pick off ahead of me. It felt good to swim harder. Maybe next time I will take the whole swim out harder to see what I can do. I came out of the water and crossed the mat at 34 minutes. I was pleased with this. Maybe if I swam harder in the future I could hit 31? That would be good. [Sidebar - the 30minute time in FirmMan doesn't really count in my mind given the current for the majority of the swim.]

I pulled off my cap and goggles and ran toward the strippers. Dropped my neoprene cap but wasn't going to turn around for it. As I lay down to get stripped a volunteer had retrieved the neoprene and gave it to me (awesome). I jogged into transition and tried to get my frozen feet into my socks and shoes. Race belt on. Garmin on. Glasses and helmet. This takes me a long time.

Compare the determination on this face to how I look in the similar shot post ride...

Off I go!
The bike leg was as advertised. Double loop: rolling, 3.5mile killer hill, 5mi descent, rolling, hill, rolling, repeat, then rolling to finish. I was proud of myself slogging up the big hill. I stayed on my bike and stayed moving. I was very glad to be riding a triple. Those baby gears are money for keeping spinning (is it spinning at 50-60rpm?) on a tough climb. The descents were wild. I've never gone that fast and the roads were winding. I was a little afraid that I would lose control. Saw guys go flying by me on the descents and don't know how they do it. Kept a good effort on the rolling back stretch although my pace wasn't very even. Kept to my nutrition and hydration plan well (4 bottles - 2 w/G2+200cal carbo pro each, 2 water; 4 large dates, honey zinger chews, 1 gel). The gel didn't sit well with me. I think in the end gel is not my best bet [foreshadowing...].  I had been hoping to come in at 3:40. I know this is not a good time. I was figuring that with the hills anything less than an hour slower than my flat FirmMan time (3:09) would be acceptable. I do believe I am a stronger rider now (and want to go sub-3 by the end of the summer), but haven't done any work on hills, so I was going into this blind. I ended up finishing around 3:25. I was pleased with this. I was in T-2 as the winning men were crossing the finish line 100 yards away (ridiculous how fast they are!).
Not looking so great, huh?
 I took my time in transition. I wasn't feeling great so I wanted to give myself a chance to regain a little composure and maybe have my heartrate come down just a smidge. My stomach wasn't very happy with me. Not an all out revolt, but I was immediately nervous about nutrition on the run.

Off I go. That hat didn't last more than a mile...
 The run was gorgeous. Flat to rolling, with a more sizeable hill in the first half of each of the two loops. It was weird running on a double loop because you couldn't really tell who was on their first and who on their second lap. Well, with the fast people you could tell ;-)  The scenery was gorgeous. I tried to take that in.
 The weather (objectively) was perfect. Maybe 70 degrees and we got some cloud cover quickly so the sun wasn't too hot. Regardless, I got to overheating almost immediately. I took sponges at each aid station and choked down my carbo-pro and G2 as best I could. Didn't take any gel or chews on the run like I was supposed to. It was a hard run. From the first mile I couldn't find my target pace. I know there are people who can start slow and pick it up. But for me, if I can't find it in the first 1-2 miles, it generally isn't there. I didn't find it. There were no 8:30 miles. I stopped looking at my garmin and just ran/jogged/shuffled/slogged. The fantasies I had been harboring for the past week of doing an Ironman at the end of the summer (I told no one this) VANISHED. A large part of me wanted to stop. Well, not stop, but not be running. I kept telling myself that walking would just prolong things. So I kept going. My miles ranged from 8:42 (first) to 9:40 (8th - on the hill); mostly they hovered right around 9:00-9:08. When I saw James here at mile 7.5 I told him to expect me 5 minutes slower than my goal sub 2:00 run split.
In the home stretch (3 miles) it occurred to me that I hadn't been running this whole time. I was never in my stride. I was watching other people suffering (or others flying along seemingly effortlessly) and doing the same (suffering). I asked myself, could I be running harder now? It seemed that perhaps I could. I pushed a little harder. And it didn't seem worse (just equally painful). I saw a woman with a 28 on her calf ahead of me and had the thought to catch her. I have never passed anyone in my age group on the run. I swear. Never. At the next aid station she walked through and I passed. I didn't see her again. Then there was another 26 up ahead. I wouldn't say that I took chase, but I certainly did something (stalking and chasing at 9 minute miles seems absurd). And I caught and passed her. I am 90% sure they were both on their second laps so these were true passes. The last mile I pushed. And the last 300 yards I opened the throttle. Garmin says last mile 8:37, fastest mile of the day.
"Sprinting" to the finish
Came through at what I believe will be just over 6:05 official time. Pulled off to the side. Grabbed knees. Sucked wind. Saw stars. Hacked up a lung. Got my medal. Hobbled off to find James.

As bad as the running feels, the stopping sometimes feels worse. I get super nauseous. And do a lot of uncontrollable hacking. And feel dizzy.

After 2 bottles of water I was feeling a little better. Then I got in the lake in my race gear. Instant ice bath! This made things much better. I love this lake! Then James and I got food and ice cream and hung out for a bit. I met the fabulous Mary of Mary: IronMatron. She rocked it with a 3rd place Age Group finish.
 Having not posed for ridiculous pre-race "Manic" photos, James grabbed one as I was rebounding after my dip in the lake, food and soda.
Rolldown was happening by the lake so I swing by to see if I might get a glimpse of what had happened in my age group. I saw something like 45 women in 25-29 and my name was listed 15. Unofficial top third!!! I'm still awaiting results to be posted.

Then we packed up transition and headed home.

It was a great way to spend my birthday. I have a long way to go. But I like the journey.

Swim 34:00 (AG rank, 13)
T1: 3:37
Bike 3:25:23  (AG rank, 20)
T2: 3:49
Run 1:58:27 (AG rank, 15)
Total 6:05:16
Age Group Final 15/45


  1. Great job Rachel and what a birthday present to yourself coming in the top 1/3 of your age group on what I think, IS THE HARDEST Half Ironman course out there! You should be PROUD of what you did out there. That course is no joke!

    Rest up!

  2. Nice job; I love a race report that makes ME feel the pre-race jitters.

  3. Congrats on your race. I do admit, when I saw the name of this blog in my reader I was like, who in the world is this?? :) Then I remember I added you from Boston Kim's site. :)

  4. Well, that explains my inability to race results stalk you! I thought you were racing incognito or something :)

    Overall, AWESOME JOB! Top 3rd is incredible! Especially on such a tough course.

  5. Congrats on your race! I like hoW you snapped out of it during the swim and run to focus on the race and passing people :)