This is getting closer and closer. And Saturday it becomes pretty real.

This is getting closer and closer. And Saturday it becomes pretty real.

So I’ve been training for 7.5 months for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and, for various reasons—injury + schedule mostly—have only raced a 5K. Huh. That will change when I take to the wild streets of Grand Junction, Colorado this Saturday, in the HITS Triathlon Series. Although they have races that range from a mini-sprint to a full on Full (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run), I am tackling the half distance: 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run.
I am usually a go-with-it (read: ignorant) racer. Very little race prep, save for soaking in as much sleep as I can and eating carb-heavy Chipotle—light on the beans, thanks—the night before. I usually look at a course profile, but I definitely don’t study it, which means I retain very little of it. I figure, I’m going to have to climb the crazy hills no matter what to get to the finish line; the more I worry about them, the less energy I’ll have to get up them.
This race is different though. Even though Briana Boehmer, my coach, and I are calling it a training day, it’s really a dress rehearsal for the Big Day. I need to check out my gear. I’ve never worn a full-sleeve wet suit before, so we’ll see how my shoulders take to the Zoot Z Force 4.0 WetZoot. And we’ll also see how my most delicate parts handle the minimal chamois in the Saucony Women’s Tri Shorts. (It’s been too cold lately to test either outside.) Most importantly, I want and need to feel what it’s like to transition smoothly, race intelligently, and polish what many people call the fourth discipline in Ironman: nutrition.
Although my taper is going to be pretty minimal and I’m not out to gun it, I’ll be honest: a part of me really wants to nail Saturday. Not only am I in the best shape I’ve ever been in as a mother, but my mind needs a strong race. I don’t want to close out my Ironmother training feeling unsure about the Big Day. Check that: I’m not sure I’m mentally tough enough to handle a bad race on Saturday.
So today, on Mother’s Day, I took my quiet time—which was in between planting flowers, baking brownies, and washing the kids’ hair—and sat down to prepare as best I could.
I looked at the bike course.

The hardest hill comes at 33 miles, goes to about 40, but really isn't bad. This course was made for me and speedy Lyle.

This course was made for me and speedy, two-wheeled Lyle. The hardest hill comes at 33 miles, goes to about 40, but really isn’t bad. I’ve got to climb over 4,600 feet on the Coeur d’Alene course, so I should enjoy this ride.

Then I looked at the run.

Not quite pancake, but pretty close.

Not quite pancake, but pretty close. I’ll climb 600+ feet in IMCDA, so again, I should soak this up while I can. It’s on mostly country roads, so I’m most concerned about lack of momentum to spur me on when it gets tough.

Then, of course, I had to check the weather.

Grand Junction is always the place that is easily 10 degrees warmer than Denver. Hopefully this weather holds, or I might melt on the run.

On the border of Utah, Grand Junction is always the place that is easily 10 degrees warmer than Denver. Hopefully the cooler weather holds, or I might melt on the run. Plus, I have no idea how strong 15 mph winds are. Couldn’t be that bad, right?

And then I got down to business. First, I made a list of everything I need to bring for the race.

gear list grand junction

I didn’t put my bike on the list, but thinking I won’t forget Lyle.

I will use cross of everything I pack so that I’m sure I have it. I don’t want to be driving around Grant Junction on Friday night in search of chamois cream. (Which is another thing I have to test out: if I put on chamois cream before the swim, will it still work during the bike? I don’t think dropping my shorts in the middle of Transition 1 to coat some cream is good triathlete etiquette…)

Then I did some hard math.

Hard for me is 3 x 18. Yep, those calculus days are far, far behind me.

Hard for me is 3 x 18. Yep, those calculus days are far, far behind me.

So I spent some time thinking how long things will take me. Scary to write down—and a bit scarier to post up here. But soon the whole world will be able to see my results on the world wide web, so what the heck?
Here’s how I shook it out (and it’s all pending; I’ve got a call scheduled with my coach this week to go over Saturday):
Swim: A 1.2-mile swim I did last year took me almost 35 minutes, so I went with that. (Hoping the Zoot Force is with me, though: I’ll happily go faster.)
Transition 1 from swim to bike: 1:45 was my T1 time from the aforementioned race. If they have wetsuit strippers, I can probably come in around that again. But I gave myself a little window in case, you know, I have to put on lip gloss. (I was going to say run to the Port-a-Potty, but let’s be honest: I will have taken care of that in the lake. And any triathlete who tells you she doesn’t wet her wetsuit is lying.)
Bike: Like I said above, this is a fast course; based on my training, an average of 18 mph should be very doable. And again: I’ll happily take faster. But I need to be sure to save my legs for my weakest link: the run.
Transition 2 from bike to run: A pretty easy one. Change shoes, change headwear, strap on a number, maybe use the Port-a-Potty. (I  can not and will not pee on my lovely bike.)
Run: My best guesstimate is 10:30ish splits, but I really have no idea. I know I will be using a 4-minute run/1-minute walk ratio for the entire 13.1 miles, but that’s as much as I know. On Friday, I did a 40-minute run/walk after a 45-mile ride and my splits were in 9:30ish. I’ve also had straight runs where getting below 10:00 splits felt impossible. And I haven’t run more than 10 straight miles in my training. So we’ll just say the run will be interesting, and leave it at that.
Which leaves me with these goals:
A goal: Under 6 hours.
B goal: Under 6:15.
C goal: Finishing and not being disappointed, knowing that I am still capable of a really strong race in Coeur d’Alene.
And then there’s nutrition, which is the rest of my chicken-scratching above. Because I weigh 175ish, I burn through the calories—and need to replace them as best I can. Why? Not only do I need the energy to keep going, I start to feel really sick to my stomach when I’m running and I don’t have enough energy in my system, which turns into a vicious cycle: I don’t want to eat because I feel nauseous, and then I feel even more vomitous. I accept that I won’t feel peachy keen out there, especially on the run, but I want to do my best to be as proactive about my nausea-state as possible.
I’ve found that trying to consume between 200-300 calories an hour is best. I feel better when I’m on the high side, but that’s a veritable feast to take in while I’m sweating. I’m mostly going to fuel with GU and Chomps, but I do need a little variety, and I’ve found the good old Nature Valley Oats & Honey granola bars from my youth serve me well on bike rides.
I also need to have some calories in liquid form (see above: veritable feast). I love, love my Nuun—and need the sodium it provides—it’s basically calorie-less, so I’ll have one bottle of fruit punch Nuun on my bike, and two bottles of Powerbar Ironman Perform, which is the drink they have on the course during Ironmans. (Bri has drilled this into me: if you can, drink what they offer.)
I’m 65% sure I’ll carry hydration on the run in my Ultimate Direction Thunderbolt belt; if I do, it’ll definitely be lemon-lime Nuun. Depends on the weather. And I’ll stuff my pockets with my other nutrition, although I may sample what’s out at the aid-stations too. (I’m fortunate; my stomach only protests when I don’t take in enough calories, so I can be a little loose on what I consume.) My goal is 1,800 calories, but I know I’m aiming high. I’ll be happy if I consume 1,500.
I also made two other lists: things I have to do (get more tubes, charge my Garmin) and a snapshot of this week (soccer practices, dinner menu, 1st grade Frog and Toad Performance), but I won’t bore you with those details.
Having gone over the specifics twice now—thanks for humoring me—I feel much calmer now. I’ll pull together most of my stuff on Wednesday night, so I’m not a stress case on Friday morning. I know I can’t control the race, but I’m putting together as many pieces as I can so race day is as smooth as possible—and my mentality heading into my last stretch of training is as positive as possible.
How detailed are you when it comes to race prep? Do you write out lists or wing it? Study the course or skim it?