Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ironman World Championships Hawaii 2009


I flew into Kona five days before the race on Monday October 5. I’d never been to Hawaii before and landing in Kona I experienced that sweet feeling of excitement and anticipation. I remember feeling the same way when I landed in the United States (JFK) for the first time as a foreign exchange student more than 9 years ago.

After a short cab ride, I checked into the 2BR condo that I was renting for nearly 2 weeks a couple miles away from downtown. Once settled in, I jogged down to the swim start and did a short 30 minute swim. The bay was pretty choppy on that first evening, but other athletes around me assured me that it is usually much smoother in the morning. I finished the evening with an obligatory visit to Lava Java for a smoothie and an awesome sunset.


On Tue morning I took a longer swim (around 1 hour). When I was just about ready to turn around, I found myself, along with 3 or 4 other swimmers, surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. They were swimming, playing, jumping and doing flips all around us. There were literally on the order of a hundred. They would swim as close as within one meter from me. It was one of the most incredible moments in my life. I swam back to the shore very happy. After the swim, I picked up my race packet and put together my bike.


That night was the Ironman Parade of Nations. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured I’d come down and check it out. I saw different countries gathering in the parking lot behind the host hotel. I found Slovenia, Ukraine and Poland, but didn’t see Russia anywhere. Turns out, I was the only representative of Russia at the event. When there’re less than three representatives for a country, they don’t even have a flag and a sign prepared for you, so I had to put together a homemade sign. I got a lot of cheers during the Parade as the only Russian :)


Wednesday and Thursday flew by – I kept waking up on Seattle time at 4am local time, working remotely for a few hours, then sneaking out for a short swim, ride or run, eating lunch and working some more in the afternoon. My boyfriend arrived on Wednesday and my Mom and her husband Boris arrived on Thursday. They were all really accommodating of my last minute pre-race needs as well my dietary requests and schedule. My family made T-shirts with “Go Lilia!” and an awesome star logo, but unfortunately their luggage got stuck in London. It didn’t arrive till Monday. So they didn’t get a chance to wear them for the race. Nice work, British Airways! :(


Thursday night we went to the pre-race banquet. It was very inspiring to see Rudy Garcia-Tolson speak. He is the first double amputee to race at the Ironman World Championships pedaling a regular bike with prosthetic legs (as opposed to a handcycle). The story of Kyle Garlett was another amazing story of overcoming a lot of odds to compete in Kona. Kyle has won a battle with cancer more than once, however, all the chemo therapy made his heart really weak and he had to have a heart transplant exactly three years ago on October 10. Finally Matt Hoover, the winner of the Biggest Loser was also to compete on Saturday. The oldest competitors were 80 and 79 years old respectively for Male and Female. The youngest Female and Male competitors were both 20 years old.

On Friday morning, I packed my race bags. This process went much faster this time than in Coeur D’Alene. I had a TYR speed suit for the swim portion, thanks to my friend Rhae (who kicked major butt in Kona and came in as the 3rd overall AG woman). I decided to use my regular road helmet after finding my aero helmet way too hot for the conditions. The T1 bag had my bike shoes, socks, race belt, tri top and sun glasses in it. T2 bag had running shoes, a pair of dry socks (that came in handy), a hat, a running shirt and some awesome pink shades. I put some shot blocks and a spare tube + CO2 in the bike special needs bag, and I didn’t use the run special needs bag. I went for the last 3 short workouts – 20 minute swim, 25 minute ride and a 15 min run, before checking in my bike and gear bags. On the way into the transition there were representatives of all bike, components, seat posts, aero bars and helmet manufacturers. Each was counting their respective bikes and other gear represented at the race as the athletes went by.

My current goggles started leaking in the last few weeks (again!) and I made a stupid decision to try some new goggles on that last swim, AquaSphere Vista – they are top of the line goggles made from silicone unlike the cheaper goggles that I’d been swimming in. They fit very well, so I went ahead and bought them. On Saturday I learned the original Ironman commandment the hard way. Don’t ever try anything new on race day!

I drank lots of Gatorade throughout the day and enjoyed a pre-race meal consisting of pasta with veggies and Yves veggie protein and went to bed around 9pm.

Race morning

I woke up at 3:45am. I had some coffee, mango juice, banana and a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. My pre-race routine consisted of taking a quick shower (kind of silly to take a shower before an Ironman, huh? Well, it helps me wake up), putting on sunscreen (yes, it probably all comes off in the swim, but I still do it before every race), body glide, putting on my race clothes, braiding my hair. After doing the final sanity check to make sure I had everything I needed in my pre-swim and my bike special needs bags, I was ready to head down to the race. Boris drove me down to the start at 4:30.


I got body-marked and dropped off my special needs bags. Then, I headed into transition, where two volunteers helped me pump my tires. It was a father and his young son (probably around 8) who traveled from San Diego to watch the race and volunteer. I thought that was pretty cool. More Gatorade was consumed and more porter-potty line chats were had. I ran into Rhae, we wished each other luck and took a pre-race photo.

Rhae and me

My family came down to the race around 6:30. We watched the Navy seals drop from the sky together. Then, I gave my Mom my iPhone so that she could tweet in Russian while I was racing :) Finally, it was time to head towards the beach. I heard the pro gun go off and watched them speed through the water.


The entrance to the beach is pretty narrow, so it took a while for 1,700 age groupers to get into the water. Once in the water, we were supposed to swim out about 20-30 yards towards the official starting line marked by a Gatorade bottle on each end. I realized that my ankle strap with the timing chip was not tight enough and had to come back out of the water to adjust it (this is not usually a problem as all my other races have been in wetsuits). I positioned myself in the back of the pack given that I am not a strong swimmer and this was a World Championship after all. There was a volunteer catamaran nearby, so I followed the example of other back-of-the-pack swimmers around me and hung on to it until the gun instead of wasting precious energy treading water.

Swim – 1h 32m 48s


The gun went off without much warning, I started my watch and off I went. I actually had to swim around a few swimmers, so maybe I started a bit too conservative, but at least I avoided the brutality in the front of the race. It was fun to see the divers underneath. I think there were some in Coeur D’Alene too, but the water here was very clear, so you could see everything unlike CDA. On the way out I actually caught some feet and drafted for a bit which was nice. Despite the fact that my goggles fit nicely when I tried them on I had to stop and adjust them a few times throughout the swim on race day, which made me lose my draft. I didn’t let it get to me and continued on at my own pace. The turning buoy came up before I knew it, we turned right and then turn right again after we cut over about a 100 yards. I checked my watch at that point and was surprised to see that I’d been at it for almost 50 minutes. Wow! I expected to be closer to 40. But again, I just continued at my own pace and kept looking around for any dolphins or sea turtles. I didn’t get to see any – probably way too many people for them. At some point on the way back it became harder to see, particularly out of my right eye. I adjusted the goggles a couple more times and continued on. When I finally came out of the water and took my goggles off, I realized that my right eye was very swollen – that’s why I’ve been having trouble seeing.

T1 – 7m 20s

I was sconcerned about my eye, so after thoroughly rinsing off in the showers and grabbing my bike gear bag, I headed straight to the medical volunteers. They said that both of my eyes were actually swollen, but the right one was in worse shape. It apparently looked like an allergic reaction and it would go down soon. They put a few different eye drops in both of my eyes and said to come by again in T2 to take a quick look. I still don’t know what caused it for sure. I had swum for over an hour in that bay before, so I doubt it was because of the salt water. I don’t remember anyone kicking me in the face during the swim or any jelly fish stinging me. So I am guessing it was a reaction to the new material of the goggles. Dang! I guess no silicone implants in my future :P

Oh well, some temporary swelling of my eyes wasn’t going to stop me from continuing the race. A volunteer helped me put on my bike stuff – socks, shoes, tri top, race belt, sun glasses. Another volunteer spread some sunscreen all over me. I drank some water, ran to my bike, put on my helmet and I was on the bike. I got to see my Mom, Kevin and Boris as I was leaving the transition so I waved at them and they cheered me on.

Bike – 6h 54m 51s


Bike was definitely the most brutal part of the race for me. It turned out to be hillier, windier and hotter than I expected. I followed the advice of Kona veterans Mark and Rhae, and held back on the first half of the bike to make sure I don’t fall apart on the second half. I made sure my heart rate stayed between 150 and 155 (whereas in Coeur D’Alene it was definitely at least 10bpm higher on average).

My right eye was so swollen that for the first few miles I couldn’t actually see out of it. That was interesting. It got better later on though.

My stomach felt fine, so I started sipping my Carbo Pro + Nuun mix right away. I had 2 bottles of that with 400 Cal and 2 tablets of Nuun in each. I finished both of them about a third of the way through the ride. After that I switched to Gatorade. I lost count of how many bottles of Gatorade I consumed. I tried to refresh it at every aid station even if I wasn’t finished with the bottle to get the cold stuff. I also had 2 packages of Clif Shot Blocks (200 Cal each) and I grabbed one of those whenever I felt like it. I went through both packs by the end of the ride. At each aid station I would grab a cold water bottle and pour a bunch of water on my head, legs, arms and body to keep my core temperature down. It felt really nice.

Somewhere between my mile 30 and 40 I saw that first Male pro, Chris Lieto, fly by. I didn’t see much of him, but did notice that it wasn’t Craig Alexander. Then, the rest of the male pros followed along with Chrissie Wellington holding a pretty good overall position. It was awesome to see those guys! I kept looking for Rhae, but I missed her somehow. I also saw Rudy Garcia at some point and cheered “Go Rudy!” as I passed him.

The wind was strong and mostly switched between vicious headwinds and gusty side winds that almost took me out a couple times (ok, not really, but if I was using my own race wheels, 60/90 Heads, I would probably have a harder time than with the 404s that my friend Cathleen kindly landed to me). The last few miles before the turnaround were really hard with the uphill and a headwind – it was heartbreaking to look at the sub 10 numbers on the speedometer.

Instead, I cheered on the other racers that passed me or that I passed. I thanked the volunteers and the policemen whenever I had a chance and waived at the spectators. A few aid stations had some music, so I performed some fine fist pump and raising the roof action.


The turnaround (when it finally came) was very lively with lots of volunteers and spectators. I blew some air kisses at every one and happily made that U-turn. I was looking forward to the tailwind! I did get some nice tailwind for a few miles and even hit some 30+ speeds. It didn’t last too long though. As we turned back onto Queen K, came more uphill, side winds and headwinds.

I definitely consumed more liquid on this ride than I did in CDA so at some point on the way back I really needed to go to the bathroom. However, I really didn’t want to stop. My time was already going to be super slow, so I was hoping to at least keep it in check by not stopping. (Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you don’t care for the details). I figured it’s time to try the whole pee off the bike thing. If Lance can do it, why can’t I? One thing I learned is that it’s not possible to do that while pedaling, so you have to wait for a nice downhill. Once I hit the downhill, it was easy! I felt like I joined some secret club :)

It was again really tough in the last 30 miles into town. It felt like it was mostly uphill and the headwinds were back. I just kept my positive attitude and kept cheering other people which helped me stay strong. At this point I also started to take a sip of Coke at each aid station. It felt so refreshing in that heat. We did get a break from the wind during the last few miles into town, plus seeing all the marathoners was nice. I did get to see Mirinda Carfrae running to her new Female Kona marathon record.

I feel that I executed well given the conditions. Reducing the Carbo Pro bottles from 600 in CDA to 400 was a good call. I never felt overly full and at the same time never hungry. In CDA, I consumed way too many calories in the first half, then couldn’t eat anything for about an hour which lead to being hungry at the end of the ride. Maybe, I could have pushed a bit harder, but who knows that might have killed my run.

T2 – 7m 44s

A volunteer grabbed my bike and I headed to the changing tent via a porter potty. I was happy that I packed a dry pair of socks. It was nice to put on a dry running t-shirt as well. I changed into my running shoes, put on my hat and my awesome pink shades. I asked the medics how my eyes looked. They said still swollen a bit, but much better than in T1. Off I went on the run.

Run – 3h 49m 15s


Coming out of the transition I saw my family and stopped for a second to give some hugs and kisses. Then I heard a helicopter overhead and Mike Reilly announcing that Chrissie Wellington has just finished. That was good timing! :)

I started running really strong. For the first 10 miles most of my mile splits were sub 8 minutes except for the uphill ones. I got lots of cheers from the spectators, some even yelled “Do it for Mother Russia!” – must have remembered me from the parade. I even had visions of keeping this pace and finishing a sub 3:30 marathon.

I did slow down as I went up Palani and turned onto Queen K to around 8:30 minute miles. At the aid stations, I grabbed some combination of water, Gatorade, Coke, bananas and oranges. No gels or other solids though. I also grabbed some ice and put it in my hat at the first few stations. As the sun lowered, it wasn’t quite as hot anymore and I wasn’t in danger of overheating like I was on the bike.

I watched the most beautiful sunset at the Energy Lab. After the sunset there was a fire show on the course - that was nice of them. I just kept chugging away at the miles in the dark. 20, 21, 22… I did slow down some more in the last few miles. 2 people passed me around 22 or 23. But I feel like I still held it together pretty well.

The last half a mile down Ali’i drive was magic! People are cheering like crazy. The finish line is in sights. There’s something different about the Ironman Finish Line when it’s dark outside. It makes it that much more desirable to cross it – it’s like the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw my Mom, Kevin and Boris near the finish. I stopped briefly for more hugs and kisses before I ran down the finish chute. I sped up as I finished and passed 2 people in the finish chute. I felt sort of bad, but they were moving pretty slow. Looking at the results now, they are both almost 1 minute behind me. I high-fived as many people as I could along the finish chute. I opted against the cartwheel because for some reason they build a ramp up to the finish line in Kona. I still jumped as high as I could as I came up the ramp.



I finished in 12:31:56 and felt pretty good after finishing – must have not worked hard enough :) My support crew appeared to be more tired after 12 hours in the sun. I got my finisher t-shirt, hat and medal (sadly, Chrissie Wellington wasn’t there yet giving them out). Then, I dragged my family into Fish Hopper - a restaurant with the view of the finish line. We celebrated with beers, delicious food and watched the other athletes finish.

I learned that Kyle (who had the heart transplant) didn't make the swim cutoff by a few seconds, Rudy Garcia (the double amputee) didn't make the bike cutoff by 8 minutes or so, and Matt Hoover (the Biggest Looser) didn't finish until 12:03 which means he is not an official finisher. That was really sad :( None of the big stories finished the way we were all hoping. I am sure they all will be back again...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2009 Race Report - Kona, Baby!

Before the race


My friend Rebecca and I drove to Coeur d'Alene from Seattle on Thursday evening. We rented a 3 bedroom house a few blocks from the finish line, it was really cute. Our support crew of 8 (!) friends were to come up throughout Friday and Saturday. We also had lots of friends racing and volunteering who were staying elsewhere, so it was quite a turnout of fellow racers and supporters for this event.

Friday morning at 7am, we swam one loop of the swim course and rode our bikes for 30 minutes on the course. The water was choppy and the bike course was windy (turns out even more so on race day). The new goggles I just bought were leaking in my right eye :( It was the same kind that I trained with for the last 6 months, but the current pair started to lose their seal. I guess the new ones were defective. I figured I'd give them another shot the next day, but most likely would have to resort to my old pair. The bike felt good though after the $100 pro tune-up that I just got!

After the swim and the ride, we checked in and picked up our race packets with 5 bags (one for dry clothes to drop off on race morning, one for swim to bike transition stuff, one for bike special needs to pick up half way through the bike ride, one for bike to run transition and finally run special needs to pick up half way through the run course).

I also checked in at the Janus Charity Challenge Tent where they gave me a very cute tri top. It felt more comfortable that the one I was planning to race in, so I decided to wear their top on race day. My total funds raised for Doctors Without Borders were $2,503. This was slightly over what I was hoping to raise - my goal was $2,000, so I was happy with it. I found out at their tent that the top 2 fundraisers raised over $1,000,000 for thier causes. What an inspiration!

The rest of the day Friday consisted of lunch, 2 hour nap, separating my race stuff into 5 piles on the floor for 5 different bags and Ironman-sponsored pasta dinner + pre-race meeting.

On Saturday, I swam about 1000m (the new goggles were leaking again, so I decided to go with my old pair) and ran 3 miles including running through the finish chute and practicing my finish-chute dance :D Very dorky I know, but I am tired of my ever-the-same finish photo with both arms up in the air. I wanted to do something different for my first Ironman! Decided to save the cartwheel for Kona, and just settle on a little finish line dance.

In the afternoon, we dropped off our bikes + T1 and T2 bags at the transition area. Feels kind of weird to drop it off the day before. I like to be able to see all my transition stuff laid out on a towel a few minutes before I start the race. I mentally went through my transition steps a few times to make sure I didn't forget anything.

Saturday evening we hosted a pre-Ironman pasta dinner at our house for about 15-18 folks including our support crew and fellow Ironman virgins Daniel and Hagen and their support crews. It was such a great time! Our friends had signs, T-shirts and leis made for us. It was so amazing! I didn't expect anything like that! Sure, racing my first Ironman was a big deal for me, but I didn't realize that my friends were so excited about it too. I felt really lucky that evening!

I went to bed at 8:30pm. I dreamt about my race and in my dream I finished in 11:08 (which turned out to be 1 minute off from my actual finish the next day). I am not making this up - the morning of the race I told my friend Mark about my dream in the transistion area - he can confirm :)

Race morning

The alarm was set for 3:30. I woke up at 3:20. Am I the only person this always happens to? When I am excited about something the next day I always wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off... How does our body know when to wake up?

I had a bagel with cream cheese, a glass of OJ, black coffee and a banana for breakfast. It was hard to get it all down, as I still felt full from dinner the night before.

It was kind of nice that we didn't have to worry about any transition stuff in the morning since it was all at the race site already. All I had to bring was my wetsuit/goggles/swim cap and my special needs bags. My plan was to not rely on special needs bags for nutrition and only use them for extra clothes if I had to. I put an extra rain jacket (in addition to the one in swim-to-bike bag) in my bike special needs bag in case it started pouring half way through the bike and a long sleeve tech shirt in my run special needs bag.

At 5:30, our friend Tri drove Daniel and me to the start (didn't feel like walking that .5 miles before my 140.6 day). I dropped off my special needs bags, pumped up the tires on my bike, went to the bathroom one last time, put on my wet suit and had a few minutes left for a few pre-race pics, hugs and good luck wishes.


At that point, I started getting a bit nervous. We decided to fix this situation with a scream-off between Rebecca and I. It felt great to just scream as loud as we could on count 3 :)

5 minutes before the start I headed to my strategic swim start position almost all the way to the right. I didn't have much time for a warmup and to be honest I didn't really feel like I needed any, so I just went into the water and did a couple breast strokes back and forth, but not much more. Back to the beach and... the gun went went off in a couple minutes after that.

Swim 01:21:43

The water was choppier than it was on Friday or Saturday, it was rough out there. I am glad I started all the way to the right. Sure, it meant that my swim was a couple hundred yards longer, but it was nice to have enough room to swim without being constantly wacked on the head by someone next to you. It was still crowded, but totally manageable: there was always room to go around that slow swimmer in front of you or swim out of the way of that fast swimmer who insists on swimming over you because it's the straightest shot to the next buoy.

I kept swimming about 30-50 yards to the right off the buoys on the first lap. I hugged the buoys a bit tighter on my second lap and I was surprised to see that the second lap was a couple minutes slower than the first one. Still not sure how that happened, my AVG HR was around 160 for both laps - maybe the chop got even worse on the second lap?

I am pretty happy with 1:21 for the conditions, but I know I can do better at an IM swim. I know starting all the way to the right was the right strategy for avoiding the violence of the washing machine but maybe not the right strategy for a fast time? Will consult the experts before my next IM swim...

T1 04:45

I took off the top of my wet suit on the run from the beach and then 2 wet suit strippers got the rest of my wetsuit off in like 3 seconds. They rock! I had no problem finding my transition bag, ran into the changing tent and found a volunteer to help me fish out the right stuff out of the transition bag. It wasn't raining so I just wore arm warmers and no jacket, put on helmet, sunglasses and shoes and off I went to get my bike with a quick stop for some sunscreen on my shoulders.

Bike 06:05:58

In every triathlon I do, I get really excited during the part when I just leave the T1 and get up to speed on my bike. With all the spectators watching and cheering, it's kind of electric and I feel like that's when my race really begins. As I exited the transition, I saw Kevin, Ashley, Heather and Rob who cheered me on and I got an extra boost of energy from that.

The happy electric feeling lasted for most of the bike course in this race. After the last 6 months of countless miles on the bike, it was a great feeling to be finally out there riding strong. I pushed pretty hard, sipped my carbo pro every few minutes, thanked volunteers as I passed them and kept smiling at everyone around me. I passed lots of folks on the uphills and then they'd catch me on the downhills.

At about mile 30, I heard "Great job, Lilia" I looked up and saw Hagen as he passed me. I thought that guy was supposed to be way ahead of me by now. I guess he had some stomach issues earlier in the race.

It was windy on the way back into town, but I just kept my HR around 155-160 and kept pedaling away. I didn't look at my average speed or time - decided to just go by effort to make sure I don't start pushing too hard to get to my goal average speed. The first lap was over before I knew it and I checked the clock at that point - I rolled in at just under 3 hours, which was a pleasant surprise, I expected to be a bit slower given how windy it was.

It was great to pass by my fans in downtown CDA and hear them cheer me on again. I was just full of excitement - every minute of the ride so far was such a blast. By that time I finished my 2 carbo pro bottles with 500 KCal in each and moved on to Gatorade that they served on the course - right on schedule according to my nutrition plan.

The wind has definitely picked up on the first out and back stretch, but there were no signs of rain so I didn't have to stop at my special needs bag. I was feeling strong and kept going at the same effort. I passed my friend Jonna about 7-8 miles into the second lap. It was fun to exchange "Go go go" with her.

Around mile 75 or so I started feeling too full (perhaps, I shoved all those Carbo Pro calories down my throat a bit too fast). I felt like I couldn't drink anymore Gatorade, so I picked up a water at the next aid station and took a few sips.

I was happy that I felt almost as good on the climbs as I did on my first lap. I rode happily without drinking or eating much till about mile 90 when I all of a sudden started feeling hungry and a little fatigued. I finished the Gatorade in my aero bottle and ate a few cliff shot blocks that I had in my bento box.

I think it was too late, because I started fading a bit. It wasn't a bad bonk, just couldn't output quite the same power. A few racers who I passed earlier on, passed me back on the final stretch into town. At about mile 100, I felt my legs starting to cramp up. I lowered my gear and increased my cadence and rode it out before it got bad.

Once I hit the final short out and back and the finish line was in sight I was back at full speed ready to finish the bike course strong.

I came in a few minutes slower on the second lap partly due to stronger winds and partly due to getting hungry in the last 30 miles, but I was super happy with my final time of 6:05. That was closer to my ambitious target (6 hours) than to my actual target (6:15).

T2 02:53

A volunteer grabbed my bike and another volunteer had my T2 bag ready for me. I ran into the changing tent where I was welcomed by another volunteer who was helping me change. I put on my AdiZero racers, a vizor and a long-sleeve tech shirt and headed to the run start with a quick bathroom stop on the way out.

Run 03:34:18

I was worried that the cramps that started coming on at the end of the bike would screw up my run, but my legs felt really strong in the first couple miles. I clocked 7:23s for both mile 1 and mile 2 and couldn't believe I could be running that fast after the ride I just finished.

I was too warm so I dropped off my long sleeve t-shirt at the special needs bag at mile 1 - it was nice to be able to just toss it to a volunteer and yell out my number, so I didn't actually have to stop.

On the way out of town I saw Kevin, Ahsley and Heather who were going crazy cheering for me and I went crazy cheering right back - I was screaming and jumping. It was so exciting to be on the last leg and feeling strong.

I took some combination of water, gatorade and coke at each aid station and made sure to grab a banana whenever I could to prevent my legs from cramping up.

I just love the run leg of a triathlon! That's when I get to pass so many people :) I think I end up running even stronger than I would on my own because of that. I passed a pro guy about 4 miles into it. He must have been on his 2nd lap, but he was not looking too good. I told him to hang in there and he cheered me back with "Nice pace!".

At mile 5 I caught up to this girl who was going pretty steady, but I was going faster than her. I was hoping I was passing another girl in my AG, when I realized this was a Pro, Haley Cooper who came in 2nd last year and was in 4th position at the time (she was on her 2nd lap, obviously). I decided that going the same speed as her would be good enough and ran behind her for a bit - we were doing about 8 minute miles. She heard me and kept looking back - she must have thought that another pro was catching up to her. After a 1/2 mile I decided to go back to my own pace and passed her. I just said "Hello" as I went by. She must have been happy to see that I was just an age grouper on my first lap of the run. After another mile I realized that her pacing bike was right ahead of me. Either she picked it up to go at my pace or I slowed down. Anyway, I was running right behind the bike that said "4th Place Female" on it and Haley was a few meters back. She is from Spokane, WA which is just 30 minutes away and she had a lot of people support her on the course. A lot of folks knew what she looks like and cheered for her. But there were still plenty that had no idea what she looked like and they thought that I was the fourth female. It was a great little moment of glory for me :D I just totally rolled with it, kept smiling, cheering and hi-fiving everyone around me. I followed that bike for the rest of the first lap until mile 12 or 13, when she had to split off to go to the finish chute and I had to go on the second lap. I cheered "Go Haley!" at that time and she waved and cheered back - that was nice.

I was worried that I may have to pay for my fast 1st lap by walking part of the second lap. I kept waiting until either my legs would cramp up or I would bonk, but neither ever happened. I just ran strong and consumed coke/gatorade/water/bananas at aid stations.

I saw my friends Daniel, Mark, Rebecca, Bryan, Rahim, Hagen, Matt, Jonna and Cari (all of them racing) on the course multiple times - out and back is great for that - you get to high-five and cheer on your friends.

At mile 21 I got to the point where I got really full again. I even felt like I was about to throw up for a minute. That didn't last long and didn't really slow me down. I just couldn't take in any more food for the rest of the race. I only had a sip of water at mile 24 or so from that point on.

Those last 5 miles were pretty tough. I knew I had enough in me to run all the way in, but I had to dig deep to not slow down or at least control my slowing down. At some point during my second lap it started raining, but it wasn't a big deal until mile 24 when it got really cold and the rain got harder. If I had to run more than 2 more miles I would be worried about getting hypothermic and would have probably grabbed one of those blankets that volunteers were giving out, but with only 2 more miles to go, I figured I could tough it out. I saw my friends Shawn and Deb (who were spectating) around mile 24 and it was nice to get a cheer from someone I knew - it helped me go a little faster!

As soon as I turned onto Sherman and saw the finish line I forgot all about how tired and cold I was. I was running fast and strong, passing a few more folks along the way. I was feeling really happy and emotional those last few blocks before the finish line. I heard Kevin, Heather and Ashley scream and cheer when I was within a block or so.

When I entered the finish chute - I high-fived the folks on each side of the chute. As I came closer to the finish line, I did my little dance and jumped as high as I could when I was actually crossing the line at 11h 09m 35s . The finish line photo came out great!

Rob was volunteering as a finish line catcher and he saw me coming in so he caught me at the finish line. It was great to land into the arms of a friend at the finish line. After I got my medal and pictures taken I came out of the finish area and saw Kevin, Ashley, Heather and Brad who watched me finish as well and informed me that I was 4th in my AG. That was great news!

Post race

First things first, I headed to get a free massage. There was no line and it sounded really good. I spent about 10-15 minutes in there - the guy mostly worked on my legs and it fealt great. I grabbed some salty pretzels and water - I didn't really want anything else given that I was still full from my run.

I was really cold - so I bundled up into 2 fleeces and 2 jackets and sat in the car for 15 minutes with the heat at full blast trying to warm up.

Then we walked over to a nearby bar where we met up Hagen and Jamie. I was craving some french fries and a beer sounded good too. I ended up eating 1/2 a veggie burger, french fries and drinking 2 beers.

Then we went back outside to watch Rebecca finish. It was great to be out there cheering for the athletes running through the last few blocks before the finish line. I kind of wish I stayed out there until midnight like last year. Rebecca came through the finish right around her target time. After she got enough pizza and water we had to get her in the car to warm her up as she had the same chill in her bones as I did when I finished.

I had another beer when I got home and went to sleep at about 11pm. I slept well :)

Overall comments

WOW! What an amazing weekend! I was worried about all that post-ironman blues stuff that I heard about, but I am not sure what people are talking about. I was in the state of euphoria starting from the day before the race, throughout the whole race pretty much and for 2 days after the race.

It is such a long and interesting journey - all the training and races that I did in the last 6 months. All the mornings when I had to make myself get out of bed at 6am to come to the swim class or ride my bike to work leading up to this one day have finally paid off!

The course is fantastic! The bike course, while challenging, definitely allows for some fast splits if you pace yourself right. The run, being out and back is great to see other friends racing and cheer them on. Great spectator course given that we go by the transition area 6 times on the bike and 4 times on the run.

The event is tremendously well organized. I guess you couldn't expect less from an Ironman brand race. Volunteers and spectators were simply amazing - they had to work out there in the rain all day too and they weren't moving as fast, so they were colder than us, I am sure. Pasta dinner Friday night and the awards banquet Monday morning were quite a treat as well.

Oh yeah, almost forgot! On Monday, after the race I headed down to the Kona rolldown and it turned out that the 2nd girl in my AG already had a slot from some other race she did. Guess who got a Kona slot? Lilia did! :D

Wow! I still haven't fully digested the fact that I am going to Kona in October! Yes - that means I have to get back into training mode fairly soon given that the race is less than 4 months away. But OMG - I will get to swim in the Pacific Ocean, ride on lava-covered terrain and run in Kailua-Kona along side with Chrissie Wellington and Craig Alexander! Can you believe that???

Could this weekend get any happier?

The answer is Yes, because when I got back home I found out that I became an aunt! Yep, my sister just had a baby boy. Future ironman :D I am a bit in the happiness overload right now!

Thanks Yous

HUGE thanks to all of you who donated to Doctors Without Borders on my behalf: Liana, Tahg, Chad, Amy, Dee, Paolo, Rahul, Gina, Kevin, Russell, Adri, Tim, Brian, Richard, Shawn, Tim, Ali, Anu, Irina, Fred, Emre, Monica, Dan, Michael. Special thanks to Cam who threw a party to help me meet my goal and to all of you who partied with us and supported DWB (there are too many names to list)!

FAT thanks to Rebecca and Daniel for being great training buddies throughout this Ironman adventure and to Mark for giving me lots of very insightful advice and feedback on my training.

MANY thanks to Rob, Ashley, Heather, Tri, Kevin and Sid for coming out to Coeur d'Alene to support us on race day - we had the best fans. MORE thanks to Kevin for putting up with my 15-20 hour training weeks in the last 6 months.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Final Couple Weeks before the Big Day

12 more days till my big race. Tic. Tac. Tic. Tac. After all the training in the last 5.5 months, I am really looking forward to the Ironman.

On one hand I am a bit worried. Worried about the swim, especially the first 500 meters or so. I've heard enough horror stories about people being kicked, elbowed, swam over, etc. Worried that the water will be too cold. Worried about going out too hard in the first half of the bike ride. Worried about blowing up on the run. Worried about not getting enough calories. Worried about consuming too many calories...

On the other hand, just like before a big test at school, I won't get any more prepared and fit for this event than I am now, so I just want it over with so that I can stop worrying about all that stuff.

Here's what I've invested into this endeavour so far this year:
  • swam 175,000 yards, which is almost twice the distance I swam in 2008

  • biked 2,600 miles, which is as much as in 2008

  • ran a little over 400 miles, which is less than I'd like... lots of injuries this year :(

Most of my training weeks were between 14 and 17 hours of training. My biggest week in the cycle was about 20 hours of swimming/biking/running including a weekend training camp in Coeur D'Alene when I covered the full Ironman distance over the course of 3 days and felt really strong doing it. Feels like that was a long time ago now. I hope I am still as fit as I felt that weekend.

I am now officially "tapering", which means I am only training about 6-8 hours a week during these last couple weeks. I am not doing any long or intense workouts either. I feel a bit like a slacker for not doing my 2 workouts a day and not putting in monstrous workouts on the weekends. The idea is that I let my body completely recover, catch up on sleep, rebuild my muscles and replenish my energy supplies. I want to hit that start line very fit, rested and healthy.

If I manage not to screw anything up in these last few days or get sick, hopefully I'll be able to hit some or all of my goals. I always have multi-level goals so that I can feel accomplished and happy even if I don't meet the most ambitious ones, e.g.:

  1. First and foremost, finish strong and healthy

  2. Finish under 12 hours (1h:20m swim, 6h:30m bike, 4h run)

  3. Finish under 11.5 hours if I feel really speedy (1h:15m swim, 6h:20m bike, 3h:45m run)

Unlike my usual summers (when I have all the races planned out for the season), I am intentionally not signed up for any other events this year after the Ironman. There is a good chance I will be too tired of structured triathlon training after this and ready for some spontaneous hiking/trail running/cycling somewhere far and pretty/rock climbing - you name it :-) The risk is that I may not feel motivated to do anything at all if I am not committed, but I'll worry about that once I am done with the Ironman.

Wish me luck and please help me reach my fundraising goal of $2000 for Doctors Without Borders by donating at

Thank you so much to those of you who have already donated! Your support makes it possible for people in emergency situations around the world to receive much needed urgent medical care.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Issaquah Sprint Race Report


I wasn't planning on doing this race, but a lot of my friends were doing it and the weather was promising to be gorgeous on race day, so I decided what the heck and signed up for the race last minute - at 3pm on Friday the day before the race. Unlike before most of my races, I had a pretty normal Friday evening: went out for dinner with some friends and had a couple beers. Not having to worry too much about nutrition and going to bed early prior to a race is a luxury - I love sprints! :-)

I got my stuff packed the night before. In the morning I got up at 5:30, had some oatmeal and headed to Lake Sammamish State Park. It's quite a big event for a local tri - almost 1000 participants in the tri, plus duathlon and 5K/10K folks, so there was some traffic near the park, but I still made it to transition by 6:30 or so, 50 minutes before my start.

I set up the transition area where I ran into my friend Rebecca (who also signed up last minute with me). Then I headed to the beach via the Honey Buckets. They did a good job with the number of bathrooms given the number of people at the event - there was no line. At the beach I ran into a few more friends and wished everyone good luck.

As I was going into the water for my warmup I saw my boss (who also races triathlons and is actually training for the same Ironman as me). As we chatted about the race ahead I mentioned that since he's starting 5 minutes before me I shouldn't see him during the race unless he has a flat or something. Sure enough, turns out he got a flat on his ride. Oops.

I swam about 100-200 yards to warm up. Water was nice and toasty; it felt even warmer than on the day before when I swam in the same lake. Finally, Women 29 and under lined up at the swim start.

Swim - 400 meters - 6:20 (1:35/100m)

The swim course was short for a sprint - only 400 meters, so I knew I could hammer it pretty hard. Even though I am an average swimmer, I lined up right at the front. I feel that it's a good experience for the Ironman to be right up there. Indeed, the first 100m was the most violent triathlon swim experience in my racing history. I got pushed and elbowed, nearly swam over a couple times, but I survived. After the first bouy, I was passing a lot of those girls who were so eager to swim over me in the first 50 meters, but realized that they went out too hard... Oh well, noobes :) The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful - I swam hard and kept a close eye on the buoys on the left. It was over very soon and I ran full speed back to the transition.

T1 - 1:56

Pretty good transition, no issues taking off the wetsuit and getting into my bike shoes. Still, I am certainly on the slower side compared to the other girls in the top of my AG. Need to work on it I guess.

Bike - 15 miles - 39:58 (22.5mph)

I believe the bike was short. I've never hit 22.5 before even on a TT, but I like this number, so I'll leave it up there :)

The bike was an out and back on the E Lake Sammamish Parkway. During the first and last mile both ways were on the same side of the road sharing a shoulder, separated by cones. Naturally, this created some congestion as it was very hard to pass and there were folks of all different abilities out there. I went as hard as I could when I could. I maintained good form and only had to swith to the smaller chain ring once for the last hill at mile 9 or 10. There were a few times when I got stuck behind slower people in the first and last mile, but it wasn't that bad.

T2 - 1:21

Again, I felt that it was pretty fast, but it's one of the slowest in the top 10 women, so I could certainly work on it... If I shaved off 40 seconds combined from my T1 and T2, I would have placed 3rd in my AG instead of 5th... But then again, during an Ironman, transition times are a much smaller portion of your total race time percentage-wise, so I guess, it's not as important.

Run - 3 miles - 19:35 (6:31 min/mile)

It was a cross-country style course with some trails, grass and a little bit of pavement. I love that kind of terrain - reminds me of trail running. Felt awesome and charged the whole way. I just kept passing people and setting my eyes on the next *victim*. Pretty happy with my performance. I had the fastest split amongst women.

Overall - 1:09:11, 5th in AG, 9th in Women, 82nd overall

Great local race to kick off the tri season. It's great to go out there and see so many familiar faces. :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wild Flower Half Ironman 2009 Race Report 5:36:30

Lilia finishing Wild Flower Half Ironman


4 of us (my friends Rebecca, Daniel, Rob and myself) drove down to Lake San Antonio, CA from Seattle, WA. The drive took about 16 hours, we broke it up over 2 days. We got to the camp site Friday around 4pm, set up camp and headed over to the expo where we picked up our race packets and enjoyed some pasta dinner.

It was raining the whole day Friday and we were really worried that it would rain on race day. None of us brought any rain gear. We were convinced it doesn't rain in California, especially on race day :-)

After I packed my race bag, I got out for one final spin on my bike around the camp site to make sure everything felt just right and I saw a little boxer puppy on my way. His name was Kona and he was only 5 months old. He looked just like Ramone (my boxer) did at his age - beautiful fawn with white socks. I had to stop and meet him of course and exchange a few kisses. That meant the race was going to be just fine the next day :-)

Race morning

We all woke up at 6am. I had a bagel with cream cheese, a banana, chilled starbucks coffee and some OJ, then rode my bike to the start with Rebecca. The boys were already there since their race started earlier.

The usual routine to set up transition, then put on sun screen and body glide, go to the bathroom one last time and get suited up. I drank 1.5 x 20 oz bottles of gatorade through the course of the morning and consumed a Gu about 15 minutes before the start. At that point I was pretty full and was worried that I over-ate again like I did at Lake Stevens last summer... But oh well, the wave before us started their swim and we were allowed to do a little warmup in the water.

Swim - 36:59

Best swim ever in a half ironman! All the drills and working on technique paid off :-)

I started out a bit nervous. I haven't done an OWS since January and for some reason I felt a tiny bit of fear that I used to feel on a much larger scale when I first started doing open water swims. I just tried to stay calm and take it easy. Eventually, I got into the groove and found my rythm. For the rest of the swim I tried to focus on my form and keeping consistent pace. My sighting was pretty good for most of the swim. The fact that I am comfortable with bilateral breathing now definitely helped. I only screwed up at the very end when I headed for the starting gate instead of the finishing, which was a bit smaller and less noticeable from the water. I corrected my course after I finally saw the actual swim finish, but I think this mistake cost me at least a minute of my swim time.

Lesson learned: Pay attention to what swim finish looks like before starting the swim.

T1 - 3:05

Bike - 3:12:27

I started out really well and passed a lot of folks on the first big uphill. Then there were some rolling hills, another uphill (where I managed to drop my chain) and a long descent (where I managed to almost loose my saddle bag, so I had to stop to reattache the velcrow). I stayed strong on the uphills and stayed in aero on the rolling hills/pseudo-flats. I wasn't really good at steep descents. I am too much of a chicken - not only were my hands on the breaks but I also used them... A lot people who I passed on the uphill passed me right back on the descent. That's bad news especially given that I am supposed to be a roadie now and posess some bike handling skills.

I hit 28 miles at about 1:33. If I could have hit the same split on the second half I would have broken 5:30 for my total time.

Then came the Nasty Grade hill at mile 42. And it was nasty indeed. The kind of nasty when you want to stand up on your bike periodically. (And it takes a steep grade for me to stand up - normally I prefer to maintain my pedaling rythm by sitting in the saddle the whole way up the hill). Unfortunately, my tri bike is not ideal for standing up. My knees hit the elbow pads if I try to do that, so I just had to mash it all the way up. Then there was another steep downhill and some more smaller hills to the finish. I was happy when this ride was over!

Nutrition: I had 2 x 24oz bottles with about 400 calories of Carbo Pro in each. That was a bit too much. About half way through I couldn't stand Carbo Pro any more and just wanted some regular water, which thankfully they served on the course.

Lessons learned:

  1. Need to work on my descending skills on the tri bike.
  2. Must attach another bottle cage to my bike for regular water.
  3. Should replace my saddle bag with the one that won't fall of during the Ironman.
  4. 800 calories is too much for half ironman. Will try 300 calories in each bottle next time.

T2 - 2:05

Run - 1:41:54

I felt very strong off the bike. Perhaps, if I rode any harder than I did, I would not have been able to put in such a run performance... I just ran as fast as I could and passed tons of people thoughout the whole run. I was great on the uphills, but even better on the downhills (my usual strength). I only got passed by one guy. I slowed down just a bit in the last 2 miles (once we hit the pavement again), but I didn't totally fade and was able to finish really strong.

Nutrition: I drank a sip of gatorade and a sip of water at each aid station and consumed 1/2 a Gu at mile 7

Post Race

Daniel was already done (5 hour speed monster) and took a great finishing picture of me (Thanks, Daniel!) I stretched for a long time and asked for some ice from the medical tent for my calfs since the right one was injured last week. I don't think it was necessary but it felt good. I ate a bunch of oranges and bananas and drank lots of water while we waited for the rest of our group to finish.

On our way North the next day we stopped in Napa for a couple hours. It was a great detour! We tasted some delicious wines at Peju Province winery. What a great small winery. Their Syrah was amazing!

Wild Flower is certainly my favorite of all the triathlons I've done so far! It's the one and only - so hard and so much fun! I'll be back here again some other year! :-)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Half way there, 12 more weeks to go!

Wow! Hard to believe that I am half way there. My training plan is 24 weeks total. As of today, I am done with 12 weeks and I have 12 more weeks to go until the Ironman.

2009 totals to date:

Swim: 96,700 Yd
Bike: 1,346 Mi
Run: 203 Mi

Next 12 weeks planned:

Swim: 120,000 Yd
Bike: 1,600 Mi
Run: 350 Mi

Over the last couple weeks, I started doing more triathlon specific training. I used to do a lot of team rides on my road bike through January and February. It was a great motivation to get outside on my bike in the winter and get a solid base in. Riding with stronger riders challenged me and strengthened my legs. However, on June 21 I will not be riding in a pack. It will be 112 miles of me breaking my own wind on my triathlon bike. Guess what - time to start riding my triathlon bike more often in training. Once you get used to riding in aero position it's actually pretty comfortable (if your bike fits properly). But after riding my road bike the whole winter the first couple rides on my TT bike made my back really sore because different muscles are used to support your upper body on a TT bike compared to a road bike. I started with doing 1-2 commutes to work a week on my TT bike and built up to doing a long ride in aero which I did today.

In addition to longer bike rides in aero, I do more bricks (a double workout with a minimal break in between - e.g., a bike ride immediately followed by a run to simulate the race). For example, yesterday instead of just doing a long run, I started with 1 hour ride and then did my long run. Today, I followed my 60 mile ride with a quick 4 mile trail run at the Arboretum.

As I get closer to the event, my workouts will get more and more Ironman specific. On May 2, I am doing Wild Flower Half Ironman in California. This will be a great test of my fitness 7 weeks before the Ironman. The course is hilly, windy and hot, just like Coeur D'Alene. In a couple weeks after that I plan on going out to Coeur D'Alene and doing a training camp on the course - full 112 mile bike ride followed by a short run on Saturday and a long run on the course preceded by a short bike ride on Sunday.

The first half of my Ironman journey has been challenging but fun at the same time. The second half will have more miles and hours to be logged, but I am going into it with a really good base so I think in some ways it will be a bit easier.

I am training for and racing Ironman Coeur D'Alene in support of Doctors Without Borders. Please help me achieve my goal by donating here. Thanks to everyone who has already donated! :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bike racing: Mason Lake #2 and Tour De Dung #2

Tour De Dung #2 Road Race

Wines of Washington Cat 4 Women are lined before the start of Tour De Dung #2 on March 22, 2009 in Sequim, WA.

Bike racing season is here! I've been in 2 road races this season so far.

Last weekend (March 14 2009) I did Mason Lake Road Race #2 in Mason Lake, WA. Weather was miserable! It was freezing rain the whole time. There were 2 x 12 mile loops around Mason Lake. The roads were wet and slippery and it was hard to see due to rain coming down heavily. Everyone was being cautious and just trying to be safe. No one made any big moves to try to break away. It was my first road race ever, so my goal was just to finish with the pack and not crash.

First lap was mostly just cruising; I stayed in the back of the pack. There were a few attacks on the second lap and I even got out in the front a few times, but none of the attempts succeeded. By the end of the second lap I was so cold that I was worried that my fingers were too numb to slam the breaks if had to.

With about 1 mile to go there was a crash right in front of me. It was too fast to understand what happened. I just saw 1 person go down and 2 more pile up on top. I veered to the right and came to a complete stop at the shoulder to avoid the crash. I realized that 2 of the girls that went down were my teammates and I hesitated for a few seconds before I clipped back in and went on. Since I've never been in this situation before I wasn't sure what was the right thing to do. Turns out, you shouldn't stop even if your teammate goes down - that's what the support car is for. I passed some people after I got back out there and ended up 22nd out of 34 who finished the race. After I finished I just got back in the car and sat there with the heat at full blast for about 20 minutes before I could start doing anything.

Yesterday (March 22 2009), I did Tour De Dung #2 in Sequim, WA. We were lucky enough that it didn't rain, but it was still pretty cold and windy. Our team had a bigger turnout this time - 9 or 10 Wines Cat 4 ladies were there. This time there were 3 x 12 mile loops.

According to Cat 1 women who were watching us from the support car, this was one of the faster and better Cat 4 races they've seen. We were definitely going way faster than at Mason Lake the week before. The field was quite a bit bigger and there were plenty of attacks throughout the race.

I tried to stay in the front of the pack for most of the race. I felt strong and pulled lots. Whenever there was an attack I tried to jump on their wheel so that I could be in the breakaway if it happened. A couple times we had a paceline of 4-5 people going, but the pack always ended up catching us.

At the end of the second lap I watched a very scary crash. We were going downhill pretty really fast and I saw a woman at the other side of the pack totally loose control of her bike. She swirled from one side to the other a few times and then went down, taking down another racer who turned out to be from our team. It was hard to tell what was going on because of how fast we were going, but I am pretty sure I saw a bike flip in the air and then hit the ground a few times and create sparkles as it hit the pavement. It was really scary. I found out later that she ended up getting pretty hurt. My teammate is better of - she is really sore, but didn't break anything and is getting better. The scene of the crash stayed in my mind throughout the race.

I made a mistake in the last couple miles and didn't hold on to my front of the pack position after the last turn. The last mile or so, the road became really narrow with no shoulder and it wasn't possible to move back up to the front. I ended up finishing in the last 3rd of the pack. It was pretty annoying given that I definitely worked harder than the average person in the pack given the percentage of time that I spent in the front.

I am still not 100% down with this whole bike racing thing. Seems like luck is too much of a factor in the end result. You can make all the right decisions throughout the whole race, then make one mistake and you end up at the back of the pack with those who barely hung on to the pack in the first place. Triathlon is more fair this way. You place depending on your ability.

Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun to be going so fast in the pack and be part of attacks and counter attacks in a real race. I think in the future, a key to success for me would be getting into a successful breakaway. I am strong enough to maintain a pace harder than that of the pack, but I am not too strong at sprinting really hard at the end. I am looking forward to next weekend's race. It's supposed to be pretty hilly, which will play to my climbing strength. I will need to try to break away on one of the uphills.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lessons learned in my first 2 months of Ironman training

Ice Breaker Time Trial

^^ That’s me racing in the Ice Breaker Time Trial on March 1, 2009.

It's been over 2 months since I started my official Ironman training program on January 5th. So far this year:
  • 77,000 yards in the pool
  • 954 miles on the bike
  • 125 miles running
That is more swimming and cycling than I did in the first 6 months of 2008. I was doing better on my running last year, but that's because I was training for a marathon last year and wasn't recovering from a foot surgery like I am now. I have been executing on the plan that I set out for myself back in January very consistently. There's been a few times when I had to modify my workouts for the week due to work load or being sick but I only missed a couple workouts and not any important ones.

I've learned a few tricks that have helped me stay motivated and avoid injury.

Log your training. I've been logging my training for a few years now, but Ironman training has made me appreciate it even more. Nothing motivates me more than comparing my totals for this year with last year or seeing that I am only 10 miles away from meeting my weekly or monthly goal. I use to log my training. Here's the link to my personal log:

Have a plan but remain flexible. Having a plan is instrumental to training for something as big as the Ironman. Simply doing what you are up to on a given day is Ok when training for sprint and olympic distances, but it does not cut it for the Ironman. Having a plan makes you more disciplined and accountable. There isn’t a one size fits all plan that works for everyone. Some people choose to work with a coach, but it is certainly possible to build your own plan without hiring a coach. I went a bit OC on my plan and planned my workouts on a daily basis all the way through June 21. I uploaded a copy of my plan here: However, sometimes life gets in the way, a foot of snow falls on the ground or you simply feel a bit under the weather. It’s important to be able to adjust and cut your workouts short, move them around when possible or even skip them entirely, especially if you feel too tired or on the verge of getting sick. Skipping one workout won’t hurt your training. Getting sick or injured and having to skip an entire week will.

Commit yourself by joining a team or taking a class. When you have to put in 15+ hours of training a week on a regular basis, it can get a bit old if you do most of it on your own. Working out with other people makes it more of a social experience. You get to chat with other folks, you push each other to go harder, the workout goes by faster. This year, I do some form of group training a couple times a week in all three disciplines. I go to a triathlon swimming class twice a week. Coach Eric taught me a lot of really neat drills that improved my balance and efficiency. I also go to a Masters Swim workout twice a week where coach Justin makes us do hard interval workouts. I join a local runners group for a track workout every week. I am also on a Wines of Washington cycling team. I go on team rides on the weekends and race in road races and time trials which makes me a stronger rider.

Lots of folks including some local athletes training for the same Ironman have asked how I manage to train outside through the winter months. I am always surprised to hear this question. It’s Seattle! It’s rarely below freezing around here. This winter has been particularly nice – there haven’t really been any rainy days either. I only had to ride in the rain a couple times through January and February. All you have to do is bundle up and that’s not a problem. REI has plenty of cool winter gear handy :-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ironman Coeur D'Alene for Doctors without Borders

06/21/2009 7:00 AM, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. My first Ironman triathlon. A 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finished by a 26.2 mile run. If everything goes well it’s going to take me somewhere between 11 and 12 hours depending on how well I stick to my training plan in the next 5 months. It’s going to be a long day!

Even less comprehensible, between now and June 21, as part of my training I plan to swim about 200,000 yards, bike 2,500 miles and run 600 miles. I recognize that I am very fortunate to be healthy enough and have the opportunity to swim, bike and run every day. There are millions of people in the world who are not so lucky.

This year I resolved to add a new meaning to my passion for the endurance sports and contribute to some positive change not only in my own life. I decided to dedicate my training and my race to Doctors Without Borders, an organization that works hard independently of any political, military, or religious agendas to bring quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. This means that in addition to increased training volume I will also have the challenge of fundraising, but I am looking forward to this interesting and fulfilling experience.