Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Punch bees in the face

I got stung by a bee, again. Riding downhill at 35 mph. R quad. Bam. This is the third time, the first two were on my face. I'm not allergic, but I do swell up like a balloon. The sting happened Sat morning, 10 mi into my ride. I continued to ride another ~15 miles, then ran 12 later that day, then biked 60 on Sunday. I fought the pain (out of fear of Clearwater), but it all caught up with me Monday. The swelling worsened, my leg was like 120 degrees, I was limping—felt like crap.

It's been brought to my attention that I get stung by things a lot (sea lice in Kona just days ago).

But, thankfully, it looks like I'm going to survive this one too.

The funny thing about Saturday is that I saw it coming. I was doing hill repeats, and going uphill I noticed a lot of bees around—at a slower pace, they were sort of bouncing off me. So going downhill I purposely tucked my head in and was literally praying "please don't get stung in the face again." Well, mid pray—right in the leg. Dammit!

To top things off, on Sunday's ride, a bee FLEW INTO MY HELMET (apparently they're out in full force in So Cal right now). Surprisingly I didn't panic, just cussed and threw the helmet off. Sure enough, the little bugger hopped out of the helmet and crawled away.

I almost took it as an omen that I shouldn't ride. But, that'd be wasting precious training time with Clearwater on the horizon...

Btw, the title of this post comes from one of my favorite Dane Cook bits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pt: 4 Kona Aftermath

First, some timely news... I got this in the mail Monday:I'm really excited to put this to good use, and I have some great plans heading into the new year!

Anyways... back to Hawaii. I'm sure you're all getting sick of hearing about it by now, especially D, so I promise to make this my last Kona post, and I promise to keep it short...sort of. But I will have a little ranting toward the end, so, D, I think you'll like this one.

Last Few Days in Kona

The day after Ironman was a little bit like the day after Christmas, and that's coming from someone who didn't even race.

Sunday we all slept in then spent several hours in the Media Center uploading, editing, writing, Internet-surfing and consuming all the free coffee and fruit stomachable (a word?). The goal of the day was to feel good for the Awards Ceremony and post-race parties that night.

An afternoon swim helped me get some energy back, and by 6 p.m., I was eager to get the fun started! Awards had great food, not sure what it was to be honest, but it all blended well on my plate Thanksgiving-style. Plus there was “free” beer (with the $48 admission).

To sum up awards, check out
this video on EverymanTri.com.

Kevin and I ran into Hilary Biscay at awards, and of course Kevin knows her, so thanks to him, he had Hilary add us on the list for the K-Swiss party. Sweet!

Well, en route to the party, just after awards ended, the downpours began. Last year during Awards it rained, this year it waited until right after. But that wasn't stopping us. We got wet but made the ~1 mile walk to Huggos where the real fun began.

Not gonna lie, I was initially intimidated by the all-star crowd—all the top pros, all the top names in triathlon, pretty much everyone except Crowie. It’s one thing to see the pros in a press conference or racing, but to be mingling with them at the same party? It was too much. It took a while to get brave and just go up to people like Andy Potts, Chrissie Wellington, Belinda Granger, Faris Al-Sutan, etc, etc and strike up conversation. And when I did, I tried not to be “that person”—like the teeny-bopper wanting Britney Spears' autograph. Still, I wanted to take pictures with everyone and of everything, but I contained myself and kept it to just a few, including:

We all got kicked out of Huggos too early… so everyone migrated across the street to Lulu’s. Even Chrissie was still energized to keep partying (what is this woman made of??). I have to say, besides hanging out with my new super cool friend from Gu, I think Faris Al-Sutan wins for being the funnest person to meet and talk to. And he was lookin good freshly shaven too... he said, "I didn't want to look like an 80-year-old man anymore." Ha.

I didn’t want the night to end. But sadly, it did. Still, not after everyone hung out in the parking lot after Lulu’s kicked us out too…. talk about stamina among the triathlete crowd.

Most people were leaving town, so I was ready to start enjoying Hawaii minus Ironman.

But first, I hit up the Stand-Up Paddleboard Demo at the King Kam with Chris Lieto, the Multisports crew, Surf-Tech, etc. Got lessons from Lieto and it was a blast. I felt comfortable, it came pretty naturally to me, that is, until I tried tandem with fellow media dude, Kai, from Germany. We ate it a couple times, which was refreshing more than anything!

Also hung out with Jessi Stensland a bit and learned about her new MovementU classes. Really good stuff, and great CEUs for coaching! I’ll be attending the Nov. 7 session in Lake Forest.

After SUP, I headed out for a 1-hour ocean swim (battled some gnarly chop!), refueled then rented a moped to venture beyond my little world on Ali'i. Glad I did. It was so refreshing to cruise around, see the sights and work on my tan.

I even made a pit stop at Target for some cheap snacks and more gum (I’m a total gum addict, it’s bad). After moped-ing for the full 2.5 hours, I got in a 7-mile run. I was feeling really good—actually getting used to the heat, or maybe it’s because I waited until sunset (i.e. cooler temps) to run. Another good night ensued, but this one was alcohol-free and early to bed!

Got in my last hour swim and 45-min run then hit up the farmer’s market for the last time to stock up on fruits and veggies for the trip home—I knew I wouldn’t want to spend $30 for a crappy airport meal. Before I knew it, I was in the taxi waving goodbye.

Then the dream vacation turned sour...
The airport situation was a disaster. I don't recommend flying Mesa Airlines aka Go Air; I learned the hard way that they have a bad rep for canceled/delayed flights and planes with air-conditioning issues. My 4:40 p.m. flight to Honolulu got delayed until 8 p.m. So about 6 hours of sitting in Kona. But that’s not the worst of it: We got to HON at 8:30 p.m. and due to some other BS I dealt with before the trip (rescheduled flights) I supposed to pick up my bags, recheck them and go thru security again—all in time for my 9:10 p.m. red eye back to LAX on AA in a different terminal. 40 minutes to do that? Uh, no chance in hell.

So, what else: I started crying. I swear, it works (for girls, at least). In no time, I had at least 5 airport staffers trying to help me get over to AA while searching for my bag and getting it over to my red eye (I won't even mention the other major mess up by Mesa). Meanwhile, I basically said screw my bag, left it in the hands of the airport Gods and started running because if I missed the 9:10 flight, I’d be stranded in the airport overnight and AA would charge me $200+ to take the next available flight out in the morning because Mesa’s delay “was not their fault.” Argh!

Well, the airport Gods were watching over me: I made the 9:10 flight (got a crappy night's "sleep") and when I got to the LAX baggage claim on Wednesday morning my bag was the first to fall into the carousel. (First off, meaning it was the last on!!) My heart dropped, and I said a mini prayer thanking the folks who helped me in Honolulu in particular.

Made mom pick me up from LA at 5:30 a.m. (heehee) and then I was home.

And that's it.

Alright, D, I'm done :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pt 3: Ironman Hawaii Race Day

No TV special or online coverage compares with seeing this live:

Of course the hours before and after that moment were equally incredible...

I began the day at 3-something-am feeling fresh and ready to charge... and considering the lack of sleep I got and the more-than-average amount of alcohol I drank Friday night, that was surprising. Before heading out, I packed some Clif Bars and fruit from the farmer’s market in my bag, as I had no idea when or if I’d get a real meal during the day. My needs were insignificant on this day.

Now, I’ve been to a lot of triathlons, but I have never seen energy like I saw in this transition area. It was incredible. My HR was increasing just being in the crowd.

I posted up in media-access area, and wouldn’t you know… Ms. Wellington comes right by me and starts getting ready. I tried to get my Flip video cam, digital camera and cell phone on her all at once. This scenario turned out to be a common dilemma of the day: Me trying to manage three media devices, the “trio,” simultaneously. Ridiculously hard! And everything happens so fast it’s impossible to get it all. On top of that, then try rushing over to the Media Center at the King Kam to upload the latest pics & video—it’s just a mess. I’m a "young" journalist at 24 but I’m still old-school with my reporting (i.e. I need time) so this Internet immediacy was beyond hectic for me. But, you do what you can.

Inside the Media Center:

I found a good spot on the pier to watch the swim starts. I shed my first of many tears at this point. I knew enough people out in that washing-machine water and I felt excited/nervous for them all, plus I had met enough new people—pros and amateurs—who I was rooting for, too. And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m a girl, and I get emotional over this stuff!

The pros setting off:

Age groupers lining up next:

Next, time to get busy. Joe and I were given strict instructions that as soon as the pros made their first little bike loop around town, we’d hop in the car with Coach Mario and head out. I really wanted to pee first, and every bathroom around seemed to have mile-long lines, even though the racers were all gone—that’s one thing every triathlon needs more of: Port-a-potties! I wound up in the Starbucks on Palani, where the bathroom line and coffee lines were equally insane. At least I got an Americano.

Watching the first of the racers bike by was a rush. I tried to get as many shots as I could but only several worked out—talk about frantic caffeine-jittery hands.

A wave from Bree Wee; and Crowie:

And before I knew it, we were running up Palani, in the car and driving to the turn to Hawi. We didn’t have access to drive on bike course, so we had to go up and around: long. It was great, though, because for about an hour, I had the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the top triathlon coaches there is. As an aspiring coach, I was in heaven. (Seriously, looking back, I got in some priceless networking on this trip!)
We got to the turn to Hawi (mile 35 going out, mile 70 coming back), and those few hours—as hot as they were—definitely were one of the highlights of the day. My feet, on the other hand, hated it out there and swelled up like balloons. It hurt. I was literally standing in the shade of a street sign to cool them—shade the size of about the size of a shoe box. Pathetic. At least I got some decent shots:

Chrissie, Mirinda Carfrae, Chris Lieto, Andy Potts, Faris Al-Sutan:

And most importantly… me followed by the triathlon media man himself screwing around:

. The only sad part out on the road was when Yvonne Van Vlerken came by at mile 70. She yelled something in German to Coach Mario and he translated to us: She had a mechanical issue and was stuck in her big gear, thus, completely frying her legs. (This eventually led to her dropping out in the run; what she endured on the bike proved to be too much.) Mario was very optimistic and understanding about the situation. “It happens,” he said. “There will be more races.”
I took a half-nap on the way back to transition headquarters, while still trying to chat with Mario and listening to race updates on the radio. I even had my mom working for me sending me the latest from Athlete Tracker.

We got back just in time to see Chrissie go into T2. I literally jumped out of Mario’s car while it was still rolling. I felt bad for ditching him like that, but was later able to apologize… he didn’t mind. The man is all smiles and a genuinely good guy.

I then met up with Ben Greenfield and we ran around the run course a bit trying to get good shots and whatnot.

Sam McGlone (5th):

But the best had yet to come….

I was a wreck… Crying like a baby every time someone significant crossed the finish line (just ask my mom who I kept calling even though she probably couldn’t hear me). The emotions started with Crowie at 8:20, peaked with Chrissie at 8:54 and continued past midnight.

Too many pictures to choose from of the men's finish; several of my favs:

Then the ladies. The buildup to Chrissie's finish was incredible. Would she break PNF's record? We were all holding our breath... and she did it!
Also, as luck would have it, I was standing right next to her boyfriend (didn’t even know she had a BF!) when she finished, so, yup, she came right over to me (well, to him, but I was right there too haha.) How cute: And some of my other favorite ladies:

I stuck around at the finish until just about the 10:10 mark, after I saw Brad Golden cross. Yea, he's my ex but I'm not cold-hearted and I care about his accomplishments in tri. I've seen the guy go from Mr. anti-endurance sports to Kona qualifier. (For the record, there was a time when I could run faster and longer than him!) So, I'm proud of him, like I am of most Ironman athletes who clearly sacrifice a lot to get to Kona. Anyways, after Brad crossed, I needed a breather. Unfortunately, this meant I just missed Charisa, Brian and Nick crossing together, bummer. But I got to see this:
I later went to the post-race pro press conference, and it was great to hear Chris Lieto, Crowie (beer in hand),
Andreas Raelert (3rd, in blue below) and Rassmus Henning (5th, in white) talk about their experiences. Plus, I shoved down some free pizza. At that point the Clif bars & fruit were gone, I had grabbed a sandwich in the Media Center at some point, but was still starving. My calorie burn was probably equal to that of my typical Saturday training day.

Ben G was also in need of a meal, so we skipped out of the women’s conference early for food and wine at this great Thai place right on Ali'i where we watched the last guys coming in from our table. Refueled and energized, it was time for a couple bar-pitstops and crazy antics, then to the finish line for midnight.

The finish line at midnight was, of course, amazing. NBC and tons of others do a good job at portraying that, so I’ll spare ya. For me, the most heart-wrenching part of the night was seeing Matt Hoover finishing and then laying in medical, ghost white. Matt is so much more than “the guy from Biggest Loser.” Imagine the pressure on him… he attracted nationwide attention, he doesn’t have the typical Ironman-athlete build and some were skeptic of the fact that he was handed a Kona slot. Pressure? Um, yeaaa. In my opinion, he earned his ticket to Kona. Just look at what he overcame: From overweight to Ironman. That's inspiring, especially to anyone trying to lose weight and live healthfully. America needs more of that.

I don’t care that he crossed 3 minutes after the official cutoff time. That man is just as much an Ironman as all the rest in my eyes. And, the fact that he wants to do another Ironman next year, well, that speaks volumes. On top of it all, I got the chance to talk to his coach, Jim Vance, about Matt’s day… and oh man. Rough, but remarkable. Read Jim’s blog.

Being surrounded by such athletic greatness all day makes me somewhat ashamed to say that the rest of my night was spent being a little too tipsy. But I eventually found my bed and slept it off.

And for the record, I'm not that obsessed with Chrissie Wellington, despite what you might gather from these blogs :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

IM World Champs Pt 2

To start off, I want to throw out some numbers that were mentioned during the Ironman Awards Ceremony:

During the race, the longest transition time was 57:37 (T2) and the longest combined transition time was 1:01:37 (T1 + T2). Incredible. But what's more incredible is the guy who spent an hour-plus in transition still finished in 12:36:44.

On the flip side, Torenzo Bozzone had the fastest combined T times at 03:40 (01:43, 01:57).

Kona Day 3: October 9


I got in another swim along IM course first thing. To be honest, the first day I was so caught up in the excitement and the free coffee that I didn’t get in a regular butt-kicking sorta swim. So Friday, knowing the course better, I spent a solid hour pushing myself, mainly working on swimming straight while maintaining intensity. I ditched Lava Java and opted for post-swim brekkie (veggie omelet) at a restaurant where I could watch the finish line being built. The lady said there were a lot of veggie omelets being ordered lately, go figure.

With less than 24 hours till race start, there was definitely a different vibe in town on Friday. You could feel the tension in the air. No longer were cyclists and runners passing by every 0.5 seconds. Instead, participants had to drop off their bikes, and some clearly had the wide-eyed, “holy sh*t what have I gotten myself into” looks as they marched down Ali’i Drive. Others, like Linsey Corbin and Faris Al-Sutan were all smiles (photos courtesy of www.finishline-multisport.com):

Kevin of finishline-multisport.com and many others opted to post up at transition all day to watch every single person check in—a great op to meet pros, photos, etc. Plus, it’s Kevin’s mission in life to be friends with everyone in triathlon. I must say, he’s doing an excellent job at it so far. On the flip side, for bike companies and such, this is where they tally how popular they are at Kona. How many people rode Cervelo? We’ll know soon.

I’m a little ADD, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand at transition all day.

Instead, I met up with friends (and made cute new friends like that little dude above) then went for my run, which went a lot better than Thursday’s—I could hold a decent pace and went farther...about 7 miles. On the way I was refilling water and chatted with some local surer bros. It’s was the typical “dude, yea bra, surf or die” sort of convo. I loved it because I had been talking triathlon nonstop and hadn’t even thought about surfing in paradise. Unfortunately, I never had time to do so, but I at least learned where some good spots were from the dudes.

While we were chatting, Torenzo Bozzone ran by—one last quickie—and I pointed out to the surfers that he was in contention to maybe win. Their response, “Dude, that guy has tiny little chicken legs, no way bra.”

I eventually made it to the bike check in that afternoon. Through conversation and thanks to Kevin, I landed a spot in a car that’d be going out onto the bike course during the race. The driver was Mario Huys, a former pro and coach of Yvonne Van Vlerken and rookie pro Mickey Weiss. Mario is such a nice guy—a heavy German accent so hard to understand at times, but I always nodded, smiled and asked more questions. I felt honored that I’d spend half of race day with him. Mario was 11th in Kona the year I was born. Mario's in the middle here:

I also got a chance to meet Rebekah Keat and her twin sis. Super nice girls. I'm really bummed she got DQ'd after the race. I don't know the whole story, and even if I did, it's not really my place to discuss that sort of thing. All I know is she's a phenomenal athlete and she would have been 5th woman had her race counted. I mean, look at her calves compared to mine; she is pure muscle (photo courtesy of finishline-multisport.com):

I stayed at transition until everyone was checked in and it became a ghost town except for the overnight-watch crew, several photographers and some nearby local fisherman. Seeing all the bikes lined peacefully was awesome. There was no turning back now for the 1,779 racers. I talked to one overnight guard, and he was so honored and proud to have the responsibility of watching the bikes. His enthusiasm almost brought tears to my eyes. Here he is:

I also couldn't help but laugh at the placement of the Penalty Box. There's no excuse for cheating or whatever penalty is issued, and the officials clearly don't take it lightly--they really must want the perpetrator to feel in the dumps.

We spent the evening soaking in all the sights. It was like the calm before the storm. Only hours and the place would be going off! photo courtesy of www.finishline-multisport.com:

Luke McKenzie getting in One. Last. Run.

That night, after hearing how cool and fun Thurs night was, I joined the party people at Lulu’s. The guy I was teamed up to work with, Ben Greenfield, got me to drink a foo-fooey cranberry vodka because they are “healthier with less calories than beer.” Whatever, it takes fewer to do the job, so I obliged.

Some dudes showed up, we were all talking, and one happened to be Cliff English, Chrissie Wellington’s coach for a brief time. For those who don’t know, Chrissie has had a tumultuous year with her coaching/team situations. From TBB (Brett Sutton) to Cliff to currently being self-coached. So, I had the balls to ask Cliff the story of what happened with that whole ordeal—particularly why he’s no longer Chrissie’s coach—and he told me! It was an amazing story, and I’ll keep it at that. Cliff is a great guy and I was honored to talk with him.

I found my bed at 1 or 2 a.m. Sweet. I would be waking up at 4 a.m. to head to the race. Maybe not the wisest way to lead into what would be another 20+ hour day, but, again, who sleeps in Kona? I’d worry about that later.

(In fact, as I write this, I’m back home and am catching up on all that sleep I missed: I've had two 10+ hour sleeps since I've been home—rare for me—plus I napped yesterday too.)

I’m saving the Race Day blog entry to be it’s own post. But here’s a little preview. Dean Sprague of San Diego was in our group at Seaside so I watched him eating his pre-race breakfast (gotta note what the fast guys do, right?). Well here’s part of what he ate:

The other part was some Pop Tarts and a GU-mix drink. Classic. And, hell, he raced well so guess it worked! Keep in mind, this is also the same guy that bought us beers the day before and had done his share of partying in the nights leading up to the race...