Monday, June 26, 2006

Ironman Coeur d'Alene -- A Different Perspective

I've just returned home from a busy weekend in Coeur d'Alene, cheering on the athletes as both a spectator and volunteer. Congratultions go out to all those athletes that participated, whether they finished or not. To quote John Bingham, yet again,
The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
Yesterday, all those athletes had the courage to start. They attempted something great. Many of them succeeded in finishing. Some of them did not. But the point is they all toed the line on race day. They gave it their best shot and considering the conditions, it was a spectacular achievement.

Speaking of conditions, they were brutal. The lake was cold (about 62°F). We heard stories of some people coming out of the water hypothermic. Others had problems with their stomach and were vomiting. Crowding was a constant problem and athletes were getting smacked, kicked, and clubbed; don't let anyone ever tell you triathlon isn't a contact least during the swim.

If the cold of the lake didn't get to them, the heat on the bike did. While many could do the first loop with relatively few problems, by the time they finished the second loop, it was hotter-n-blazes and they were dropping out. If you look at some of the bike splits, you will notice they started out like gangbusters, but dropped that their average bike times dropped by as much as 2 or 3 mph on the second loop. And this was for strong cyclists (or those who may not have completely dialed in their nutrition/hydration needs).

Note to self: Keep working on the nutrition thing. You are going to need it at IMC if it gets as hot this year as it did last year (95°F).

By the time everyone hit the run course, they were feeling a little the worse for wear. By 5:30, a good many of the athletes had been reduced to walking. Almost everyone posted at least slightly, and some significantly, slower run times. I don't yet know what the drop out rate was, but I'm sure it was substantial.

I want to give a shout out to another blogger, Shelley, for finishing her FIFTH Ironman. I kept promising to meet up with her in the women's changing tent during the afternoon, but we did not cross paths even though we were likely within a few feet of each other for at least few minutes when she came in off the bike. However, I did have an opportunity to meet her as I caught her on the run. Here is the picture I managed to snap of her.

As promised in one of her posts, she was there to have fun and I think this little dance she did for me, not to mention the Canadian flags on her head, exemplifies that. Congratulations, Shelley! Ya done good, girlfriend. I know you will find your reasons, or they will be revealed to you, when the time is right.

Many of my non-blogger friends/acquaintances/training buddies participated and deserve recognition: Carole (15:07:55); Mary (15:52:13); Iona (13:52:27); Julie (12:23:38); Patty (14:01:14); Diana (15:41:59). What is most significant about all of these women is they are ALL over 40! CONGRATULATIONS, ladies! You were AWESOME and I am proud of each and every one of you!

Okay, I'll update more later, but that's going to be all for now.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Balance Half Ironman Race Report

I'm going to do my best to publish this race report in a timely manner. I tend to get a tad wordy, but if you've been reading my blog, you know that by now. That's my way of saying it might take me two weeks to get the damn thing up. *sigh*

The alarm went off at 4:00. Kathryn, Cheryl, and I were all sharing a room and we had instructions from our coach, Stacia McInnes, to be at the TZ in advance of it opening at 5:30. Thankfully, our hotel was only 15 minutes away, but with three women in the room, we needed the extra time go through our respective morning routines, get our food into us, and get our bikes and gear loaded into the car.

We arrived in plenty of time and had primo spots to get into the TZ. When they finally opened it up, I made a bee line for the next available end spot and took that. Kathryn and Cheryl racked their bikes next to mine. Later, I learned and saw for myself that Lori Bowden had racked her bike next to ours. Goodness, but even after a baby that woman is tiny! What amazing power she has packed into that little body.

After getting my TZ set up I headed for the porta-potties. It's not that I had to go particularly badly and, if necessary, I could always pee in my wetsuit, but I was hoping to poop. Against my better judgement, I'd had a large meal of spaghetti the day before. That might work for other people, but it doesn't work for me. Carbo loading isn't something that's done the day before a race, it's done in the days (plural) before a race. There is a science to it and just eating a large dinner of carbohydrates the day before a race isn't it.

Anyway, unsuccessful at relieving myself, I went back to the transition zone and donned my wetsuit. My suit must be too big for me, though, as I have almost no trouble ever getting in it. While other people struggle and wriggle, mine just slides on. I head for the water. The biggest mistake I can make before a race is not getting in the water a few minutes before the race start. I cannot just jump in and start swimming. I'm not that good. I need to get into the water, allow the water to seep into my suit, put my face in the coolness and generally just get used to being wet. I'm usually good to go after I take a few strokes, but feel the need to warm up first.

While I'm doing all of that, the young men's wave (19-39) goes off. As I frolic in the water (which was MUCH calmer than the day before when there were whitecaps dancing about), I watch a small sea of green caps head for the first buoy. Once they were gone, the purple caps (all women, except relay) congregate at the start line. Now, I typically position myself towards the back and off to the side for a swim start. This year, I found myself in the middle, closer to the start, but I was not surrounded by bodies. I stood a good chance of maintaining my distance from everyone else and not getting smacked, punched, or otherwise beat up by the other women in my wave, so I stayed where I was. It was a good move.

The gun goes off and we all begin. It doesn't take long and I notice, as I'm sighting on the boathouse half a kilometer away, that some of those women are really fast and are already far beyond me. But I settle into a rhythm, sighting every few strokes, and don't worry about anyone else except myself. On the swim, I simply must focus and remember to stroke, stroke, stroke, roll, and breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke, look up, roll, and breathe. The water was calm enough I was actually able to bi-laterally breathe the entire swim. My goal for the swim was to get as far as I could before I was overtaken by the blue caps (men 40 and over) who would start 15 minutes after me.

As I'm swimming along, I begin to notice that someone is getting perilously close to my space. There is plenty of open space to swim as I'm towards the back of the pack by now, and wonder why this person is getting so close. A few strokes later, I'm being touched, grabbed, and mauled, at which point, I respond with a push of my own. The mauling swimmer doesn't so much as break stroke and I notice her swimming off at an angle diagonal to me. I continue my 3 stroke count all the while keeping my eye out for her. Fortunately she is faster than me, but her sighting skills are deplorable. She swims a crazy zig-zag pattern along the entire course. She crosses in front of me again, but this time, is sufficiently ahead of me that she doesn't impede my progress. Someone needs to give her sighting lessons. She'd get out of the water a whole lot faster.

As I approach the second of the turn buoys, it occurs to me I haven't seen a blue cap yet and I begin to wonder just where the hell they are. If I'm to get run over, it's usually by the men, but even they will make an adjustment if they touch you. They don't typically continue to plow over you like the zig-zag woman did. It dawns on me though, that I'm further into the swim course this year than the previous year. I see that as a good sign and keep on swimming, concentrating now on making sure my hips lift up to take advantage of the buoyancy of the suit and glide along. I notice a kyaker paddling near me and I want to shout out to him, "Please tell me there are more purple caps behind me!" You see, I used to be the last one out of the water and this is still a concern of mine, albeit an unfounded one.

Pretty soon, as I approach the swim exit, I see one lonely green cap in the water. I feel pretty good about passing a green cap, but also feel bad for the green cap. It's almost not fair. He is evidently not much of a swimmer and it's hard to feel good about beating someone that swims that poorly. However, I don't know what his issues were; maybe he was just having an off day.

I exit the water to the cheers of the crowd and do my best to run into the transition zone with out looking like a drunken sailor. It doesn't take long and I've got my wetsuit off. Kathryn's bike is gone, as is Lori Bowden's of course, but Cheryl is there still preparing to take off. As I'm getting my shoes and socks on, Cheryl leaves and I joke with one of the TZ officials about how comical we must all look hopping around on one leg trying to put dry socks on wet feet. She tells me they've all been there, done that. She's right of course, but not all the spectators have and were I one of them, I'd be laughing my ass off at the folks dancing around in circles on one leg trying to maintain their balance.

Okay, shoes, socks, gloves, race belt with number, and helmet on, I head for the mount line. One cleat on the pedal and off I go, swinging the other leg up over the back. Fortunately, the start of the bike is a slight downhill and as I finish clipping in, I get up to speed quickly.

That doesn't last long as I approach the first of the hills. I switch gears quickly and continue to spin as best I can. Spin might be a bit of a misnomer. I continue to pedal, but I can't say I'm spinning. My RPM's are too slow for spinning. This goes on for quite some time. Up, down, up, down, changing gears frequently to take advantage of the downhill sections, or preparing for the up hill ones. This is a hilly course, and I would be changing gears a lot. I was in my aerobars quite a bit, even when going uphill. I just didn't think about my position until a guy passed me and yells at me to get out of my bars. He very nicely continued by saying, "There's no advantage to it. Get out of the bars and open up your lungs." He's right, of course, so I thank him. It isn't until later that I realized I was in my bars because I was comfortable there, not because I expected any kind of aerodynamic advantage. Nonetheless, whenever I approached a hill after that, I made sure to get out of my bars to allow my lungs room to expand with the increased effort.

It wasn't too long after I left the transition zone that I passed Cheryl. And a few minutes later, I even pass Kathryn. While I'm pleased I passed them, I'm sure I'll slow down or they'll speed up and I'll see them later in the course. In what seems no time at all, I'm finally at the left turn that signifies the start of the loop section. We cover this same loop 3 times and there are a couple of longer climbs with some shorter steep sections along with some nice downhills, a couple of flat areas, usually with headwinds, and a few sharp right turns at the bottom of a downhill section. It is the hills and turns that make this a technically challenging course.

This year, I was gratified to find myself flying along some of the downhill and flat sections easily doing 25 mph or more. Unfortunately, those sections didn't last very long before I was going uphill once again where my speed would drop dramatically. Not once, though, did I get out of the saddle. I've been training to climb hills in my saddle. I was not going to jump out now to power up a hill and burn up my quads. I was going to need them later for my run.

One of the biggest problems I have on the bike is remembering to eat. My nutrition on this day consisted of two bottles of orange Gatorade Endurance formula laced with a full serving of Carbo-Pro. That meant about 350-400 calories a bottle. I don't think that's as much as my coach wanted, but it's what I had. Whenever I would see someone take a drink from their bottle, I would reach down and grab mine. I hadn't set my watch for any reminders as on this course, it was almost impossible to do. You had to grab your nutrition when you could because you were changing gears so often. I must have been doing okay in the nutrition/hydration department though as I actually had to stop at the aid station and pee on the first loop.

Loop after loop, I reveled in passing people and being passed. I chatted it up when and where I could and just kept pedaling. I thanked the volunteers and officers as I went by or flew through the intersections. At one point, I saw one of the race photographers standing next to a large motorcycle. I suggested he and I trade bikes. He just chuckled. I took that as a no and kept on pedaling.

As is common in these races, I would play leapfrog with certain individuals. Sometimes I'd drop them and sometimes they'd drop me. I must have really annoyed one gal as I passed her on a downhill telling her she could catch me on the next uphill. She did and I never saw her again. I kept on pedaling.

I have to admit by the time the third loop came around, I'd slowed down some. It was while I was on this last loop that I saw a yellow bike with a woman on it speed by me. I noted the saddle was white. Ah-ha! THAT, my friends, was Lori Bowden. This was confirmed just a minute later as a cyclist came at me from the opposite direction yelling, "That was Lori Bowden that just passed you!" I shouted back, "It was indeed!" I felt no rancor at being passed. In fact, in a weird sort of way, I was even a little happy to be passed by such an icon of the sport.

Thirty minutes or so later, I was thrilled when I came to the end of my third loop as this signified I was almost done with the bike part of the race. It was only a few minutes later and I was braking to approach the dismount line. As I got off my trusty steed one of the volunteers asked me if I could stand. I thought that odd, but realized there were probably many people that weren't used to riding that distance and would be unsteady. I smiled my assent and ran my bike into T2.

I racked the bike, removed my bike shoes, slid on my running shoes, shucked the gloves off my hands, traded helmet for hat, snatched my Garmin off my bike, grabbed my running pouch, which was holding my run nutrition, and headed towards the run. As I did, Bill King (IMC announcer), made note of my progress. He announced to the crowd that I was heading out for the run, that I had previously done a half ironman in 7:39 and 7:37 last year, and that I looked to be on course for a personal best. I can't begin to tell you how exciting it was to hear those words as he was absolutely right and I knew it. I didn't know how fast I'd gone on the bike, but I knew I was faster than the previous year.

The run started well and I was tryng to figure out how long I could hold out before I absolutely HAD to find a bush or if I could wait until I got to the washroom. Stacia said it was only 5 or 6 minutes down the trail, but her 5 or 6 minute jogs cover more distance than mine. I opted to wait as there were lots of folks still on the trail and I didn't wish to be too conspicuous heading off into the bushes in spite of seeing some man doing what I could not, basically, stand up and whiz away without getting his legs wet.

While I was contemplating my need to pee, I also tried to figure out what I was going to do about nutrition on the run. Stacia had told me she would be taking in 5 gels during the run. This told me I needed about 500 calories during the run. I had several bags of Sharkies (140 calories per bag) and I'd dumped them all into my pouch before starting the race that morning. It seemed to me if I could just remember to keep feeding myself Sharkies, I would be okay. When I came upon the first red kilometer mark, I decided that would be a good time to take a few. From then on, at every kilometer, I would pop two or three into my mouth. When I would come upon an aid station, I would walk just long enough to grab a couple ounces of Gatorade and then I would start running again.

Now the run course on this race is billed as flat, but that's not entirely true. While it may not have any long climbs, it is far from flat. There are several places where continuing to run at your regular pace is almost impossible due to the steepness of the terrain. However, all the hills are blessedly short, usually no more than a few steps. But when you are tired, each incline can feel mountainous.

In addition to the varied terrain, the run is all on hard-packed trail around the lake which means you are running on a slightly softer surface than asphalt, but also dodging rocks, roots, and stumps. In spite of this, I managed to run the first 10 kilometers in about 1:10. Since my 10k PR on flat ground is around 60 minutes, I knew this boded well for me. So long as I could keep up the pace, I knew I could finish the run in about 2:20-2:25. I was thrilled with this idea as it would put me close to my super secret goal of coming in under 7 hours. Of course, that goal was super secret because I considered it to be a real stretch of my abilities and I didn't think I would come anywhere near it. But now that it almost seemed attainable, I was fired up and determined to keep running.

I was doing well and maintaining my pace, though with all the trees, my Garmin faded in and out frequently and I wasn't sure exactly what my pace was. Sometimes it told me I was running a 10 minute pace while other times it told me I was running a 14 minute pace. All in all, I just tried to keep it steady and was doing so until I hit got to kilometer 15. That's when things started to fall apart for me on the run. I began to feel the need to go #2.

Folks, during the middle of a race, when I'm about to set a truly awesome PR is not the time when I wanted to have to finally relieve myself of the previous nights dinner. I mean, why couldn't I have done it earlier in the day? Never mind that by now, several additional hours have passed and I've asked my body to carry me through some pretty strenuous activity, but couldn't this please wait a bit? I only had 3 miles to go!

I slowed to a walk in the hopes my bowels would settle down. Every now and then I tried to run a bit, but I would once again be reduced to walking. The longer I walked, the harder it got to get running again. Pain started to manifest itself in my hips, buttocks, and thighs. I began to become fatigued. I was also getting pissed! I was watching one person after another pass me. These were people that I should have been ahead of and I knew it. I was faster than they were, but they were ahead of me on the trail.

Eventually, I came to a section of the path and there was no one in front of me or behind me. The highway was on my right with a field of high grasses between me and it and dense bushes on my left. Unfortunately, I remembered seeing a sign that read something to the effect of, "Caution: field and forest contain ditches." A couple of steps confirmed that there was a fairly nasty ditch on either side of the trail. Obviously, I was not meant to tresspass. Doing so, would be at my own peril. So, I just looked longingly at the secluded spots and wished I had the nerve to just pull down my drawers and go right there in front of God and everyone else.

I continued to walk for the next three kilometers. At every red kilometer sign, I continued to take in sharkies. I figured I still needed the calories. I would try to run for a bit, but it was getting more and more difficult. I finally came upon the last aid station on the loop and they asked if I wanted Gatorade or water. I shook my head no and said one word, "Washroom." They looked at me piteously and told me where to go. I was very glad to enter the stall.

When I emerged from the washroom, my business done and greatly relieved, I noted the trail appeared to me more crowded with athletes. Now how and when did that happen? When I entered the washroom, there was no one in front of me or behind me and suddenly, there were half a dozen. I took my place on the trail and tried to run again, but the left over soreness from my previous forced walk reared it's ugly head and I once, again, went back to walking. I ruefully considered what this would mean to me at Ironman Canada. Would I end up walking 16 miles of the marathon? God, I hoped not.

With only a kilometer left to go, I was passed by a woman with a "G" on her left calf. A "G" meant she was in the 50-54 age group. Hey! That's MY age group. Oh, no you don't! I am NOT going to let you pass me without a fight and I began running again. I did my absolute best to catch her and while I did gain ground, the finish line was upon us before I could and there I was, finishing strong, slightly out of breath, with Bill King announcing my name. Son of a gun. I finished another half ironman. That makes #3. (And no, as my friend Jayne Williams would say, two halfs do not make a full.)

Post Race Analysis
The numbers. It always comes down to the numbers. So here is a comparison of my performance for 2006 and 2005 for the same race, same course.


So, there you have it. A PR is on the books for me. I improved my time over the previous year by almost a whopping 30 minutes! But now I'm greedy. I want to go back next year and take off another 30 minutes. I think with continuted consistent training over the winter, I can do that. Of course, I think losing another 20 pounds will help with that as well.

So, any lessons learned? A couple. First, I believe my hydration was on track considering I had to pee once during the bike and twice while I was on the run (and I don't mean when I stopped for #2). Second, my nutrition during the bike/run was good, but I need to make sure I stick to MY eating schedule and not allow myself to be swayed by other people. I need to find just the right combination of foods and eating that will allow me to relieve myself BEFORE the race and not during it. Lastly, what I'm doing with my coach is working for me and I need to keep doing it.

I'm now looking forward to IMC. Last year, I dreaded it. It's still not going to be easy, but I no longer fear it the way I did last year. This year, I know I'll be ready. Bring it on!

Monday, June 12, 2006

More Cycling Adventures

Oh, geez. I don't know how people work full time jobs, go to school, train for ironmans and ultras, and still have time to blog. I have a hard time keeping up with me, much less blogging and other bloggers. So, dear bloggers. It's not that I'm not thinking about you. I'm obviously just not as adept at managing my time and my other responsibilities as the rest of you seem to be.

But that's really not the point of this post.

I'm currently five days, and counting, away from my first "A" race of the season. To be honest, I've only got two triathlons on my calendar this year and both of them are "A" races: the New Balance Half Ironman and Ironman Canada. Of course, I add other races in as my schedule and training allows, but they are all done as training and not really as races (unless my coach tells me to go for it).

Two weeks ago, I had my longest ride of the year, so far. I began by riding my usual "flat" 15 miles. Along the way, I finally realized, though I'd known it all along but forgot, that this day was the day of the Rainier to Ruston relay. I had done this relay last year with my Y team members and I knew that they were doing it again this year. I was excited that I might get to see some of them and continued to make my way to South Prairie.

Once I arrived, I chatted it up with several of the people standing around waiting for the first ultra-marathoners. They had started earlier than the rest and the first ones were expected around 9:37. Since I had arrived shortly before that, I hung around for a bit. However, by 9:45, they hadn't arrived yet, so I decided to hit the exchange point closer to the start and hope I didn't miss my friends. Unfortunately, I did miss Rob.

To leave South Prairie and get to my next destination, I chose to climb the infamous Dog Hill. This time, I managed to climb it without getting into my granniest gear. In fact, I still had two gears left. I felt really good about that. Of course, my cadence was quite slow, but my legs weren't toast when I was done, so I saw that as a good sign.

Speaking of signs, after I crested the hill and went over a few easy (when did they become easy?) rollers, I began seeing signs that said, "ROAD CLOSED AHEAD." I wasn't sure if that meant there was construction, water over the roadway, or something else going on. I kept pedaling, though, as I didn't see any detour signs, just the ominous "Road Closed" warning.

Evenutally, the meaning and the reason became clear. With all the rain we had been having that week, there was a sizeable mudslide, complete with trees, rocks, mud, and debris completing covering both sides of the road. It wasn't impassable, so I dismounted my bike and walked it across the mud. There was too much debris in the way to ride it.
In retrospect, I should have carried the bike, rather than roll it through the mud. Not only did ooey gooey mud get all over the tires, I then had issues with small stones getting wedged in the brakes and making themselves known on my tire rims. The sound was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Not pleasant. Not having any plain water, I resorted to using my Raspberry Crystal Light water to rinse my rims (sticky stuff). In addition, I have speedplay cleats and they do NOT take kindly to being walked through the mud. Getting clipped in for the rest of the day became a chore!

Eventually I arrived in Wilkeson where Michelle's husband, Eric, was waiting for one of his teammates to come through the exchange point. We chatted for a bit and since none of the relay members had arrived yet, I hoped I might yet get to see Darcy and Michelle. (I later learned that Darcy had to withdraw due to a bad back.) After a few minutes, I decided it was best if I kept riding since that was my goal for the day.

I hopped back on my bike and started riding towards the next exchange point. Along the way, I kept hoping that my friends weren't in one of the cars coming down the hill and that I would miss them. I also wondered who was running that leg. As I traveled, I offered up encouragement to all the runners I saw along the way. Many of them offered it back as they were obviously running downhill while I climbed uphill.

It wasn't long and I was in Carbonado. I only got to spend a few minutes with them, but it was long enough to snap some pictures and hand out some hugs. I had to laugh as Sonya gave me a hug in greeting and stepped back commenting, "Oooh! You're all sweaty!" I'm quite certain she was all sweaty by the end of the day as well. Here is a pic of a few of the "Bustin' for Ruston" team gals. That's Michelle in the center with Sonya on (our) the left and Jenny on the right.

When I detailed my plans for riding up to Greenwater and beyond, Darcy told me the pass had been opened, which meant there would be more traffic. As an alternative, i could keep going along the road I was on. It would continue to climb, but it wasn't an unbearable climb. It was simply steady grinding away. To avoid the traffic, I opted to keep going. It wasn't long before Margaret came down the path and was relieved by Jenny. Then the team was busy collecting their gear and themselves to head off to the next exchange point. I bid them good luck and farewell and continued up into the hills.

The next stop was the bridge at Fairfax. This is what it looks like looking DOWN at the trees. I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure the trees are a good 150 feet below the bridge. All I can say for certain is, it's a looooong way down and makes my heart skip a beat!

Only wanting to stop long enough to collect pictures for the blog I can't seem to keep updated, I continued my climb into the foothills. It was a great day for riding. It wasn't raining, the sun wasn't too hot, and there wasn't a lot of traffic. There was one asshole along the way, however, that was annoyed because he had to wait about 10 seconds in order to pass me. I kid you not, this jerk made sure when he did pass that he got as close to me as he could without actually hitting me! Well, I don't take those kinds of things lightly and I let him know I thought he was number one in my book. Grrrrr....redneck dumb @%#$#@!!!

Okay, so I got over my ire and kept pedaling. Before too long I came to the part of the river where I could snap the following shot.

Not much past this point was the Carbon River Ranger Station. I stopped at the gate and asked if bicycles had to pay the $5 entry fee. Yup. I further inquired if they took debit cards. Nope. Alrighty then, this is where I turn around. At that point, one of the rangers informed me there was a slide a mile or so up the road that I wouldn't be able to get past, so it really wasn't worth my effort or my money. I thanked them and left.

The trip DOWN the hills was a major blast. I got to go fast. VERY fast. The road was totally straight, but the curves weren't too dangerous so I could let go. For one of my miles, I actually averaged over 30 mph! WOOOOOHOOOOO!

Well, all good things must come to an end and eventually, I found myself back in familar territory. By this time, I only had 5 hours of riding under my belt and my coach wanted me doing 8, so I decided to go tackle Mud Mountain Dam Road. Remember, this is a hill that climbs 500 feet in 2 miles with an average grade of five percent. Climbing that kind of hill when you've already been in the saddle for several hours is...well, tough. But I did it and I was darned proud of myself for doing it!

After that, it was back down Mud Mountain. Still needing to add time to my ride, I rode into Enumclaw, then back to South Prairie by way of Buckley. I stopped briefly to use the facilities and headed back towards Orting and home. Except when I got to Orting, I still didn't have enough time in, so I went back to South Prairie.

Now the route between Orting and South Prairie is one I travel frequently. One of the common sights along this part of the trail is the cow pasture you see below. There is really nothing quite like the smell of fresh manure on a early morning ride. Honest. It doesn't smell like "shit." It smells, well, like manure. It's different. Sure, sometimes it can be overpowering, but the other times it just smells like animals. Okay, I give up trying to explain. By now you already think I'm weird.

A not so common sight, but not an unusual one along this portion of the trail, are the buffalo, who share a pasture with the birds below. That's right, the buffalo share space with emus. Now, that's odd.

Well, after my trip back to South Prairie, I knew all I needed to do now was head towards home. As I got closer and closer, I realized I had some serious miles under my belt. All I needed to do was go to the end of the trail and then head home and I'd have completed the full ironman bike distance in that day. Funny thing is that when I hit the turn off for my home, my bike went on automatic pilot and there I was. Home. Nine hours and 108.9 miles later. I missed the Ironman distance by a measly 3.1 miles. Ah, well, I have several more weeks of training in front of me. I'm pretty sure I'll be covering the distance soon enough.

Of course, my day didn't end there. I had to do my transition run, too. Of course, I only had to do 15 minutes, but once I hit the point where I could turn round at 7-1/2 minutes, I felt good enough, that I kept running for another minute and a half. At 9 minutes I turned around and walked for 60 seconds. I figured it would take me longer to get back than it did to go out. Not today, it didn't. The entire round trip took me 18 minutes. I actually got faster on the way back in.

Wow. Something in my training is working. Some of you think it is focus. Maybe it is. I think it's just focusing on being consistent and following through even on some days when I really don't want to. It appears to be paying off. We'll see, though as I have my first race in a few days. More on that later (and I'm hoping not a LOT later).