Game On!: Half-Ironman on Saturday

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? 

43 responses to “Game On!: Half-Ironman on Saturday

  1. I am very detailed because I am often going to big races with my 3 little kids in tow so I need to make sure they have all they need and I have all I need and make sure the grandparents have all they need to take care of my kids while I race! But for marathon #2 I am going without my kids and meeting my mom there (4 hour drive for me, 6 hour drive for her). Still lots of details: what to wear, race expo and kit pickup, ikea trip to buy a big girl bed for my 2 year old (no kids means I have lots of room in my van to buy necessary furniture!), what I will eat before and after for the drive home, where I want my mom to be and when to cheer me one. Plus my head will be shaved to raise money for a Children’s Leukemia organization 2 hours after my marathon. Gotta get to the shaving site and need to shower and eat beforehand. So there is an insane amount of things I need to keep track off so my race weekend goes smoothly!

  2. Depends on how far I’m traveling and how early I’ll have to wake up, but in everyday life, I am definitely a list lover. Some days I’ll literally schedule out the entire day with time goals just so I can stop obsessing over how much I think I need to do.

  3. Holy crap…you are one BAM for sure. I don’t think I could ever do this. I will for sure be cheering you on all the way from Maryland. I’ve seen all your posts. I know you have worked your tail off for this race. You got this. Have fun and I can’t wait to hear all about it after you have had a chance to get some rest after the race. Thanks for sharing your journey with us all. It’s been fun to follow along.

  4. Go Iron Mom! Good luck and I’m sure you’ll meet (probably exceed) your goals!!!! Can’t wait to read about the recap!!!

  5. Dimity – Thanks for sharing!
    I’m so in awe of you to have found (scratch that…) MADE the time to train for this Ironman while balancing family and career! Listen carefully on Satuday, every mile, but especially on the run as that’d be my favorite leg…I’ll be cheering you on loudly and with heart from Denver!
    May your feet be fast (kicking, peddling, running), your heart be strong and your mind BELIEVE!

  6. I am the same way… I write notes, run thru mentally… I’ve done 11 Sprints and challenged to do a Half Ironman also! I am 43, mom of four… 16, 12, 8, and 6. I run for fun and fell in love with Triathlons. I am going to do my first Olympic in Sept. Will you come do the St. George, Ut Half Ironman May 2014 with me? It will be a blast!

  7. Good luck Dimity!!! I have absolutely loved reading all of your training updates as this is my goal….someday! It sounds like you are very prepared and now try to just enjoy! I have tried to back off on some of the worry and planning and really enjoy being out there and it has made such a difference! Don’t get me wrong – I plan like crazy up until the race but once the gun goes off I try to be in the moment (same thing I have to remind myself at home with kids;) You can do hard things!!!! You already have:)

  8. You are so prepared!!! I love your strategy, especially for the run – 4:1 ratio on the run sounds like a great plan! I can’t wait to read about it!!! Ill be sending lots of good wishes, positive energy & prayers your way this week!

  9. Oh, and I’m a mental planner. I’m resisting making a custom pace chart for my half on Sunday that will take into account a hill, but not ‘make up’ time on the downhill part.

  10. Looking at your nutrition brings up a question I have for when I start prepping for a full marathon: at what time point should you be looking at adding protein to the nutrition calculation, and not just calories from carbs?

  11. I am definitely a planner! I am training for my first sprint Tri in August and am already getting nervous about the logistics. You are a fast swimmer and cyclist! I am much slower than you but I am looking forward to the experience.

    I ran a 10k this past weekend and went out way too fast the first 5k beating my previous 5k PR by two minutes, but sucked the last 5k needing to walk some. I was so angry with myself…….but you made me feel better on Sunday listening to your hour long podcast……when you talked about how we are all just brave for trying!!

    Good luck in the half! You will do great. Remember to enjoy it!

  12. I usually make lists, and when I don’t, I always forget something! There’s something soothing about having my bag by the door and everything on the list checked off before I go to bed.

    Good luck and stay ahead of the calories!

  13. I’m a planner, but like you it often just makes me more worried than helps. So I’ve tried to let my training be my “planning” and then just make sure I follow best training practices on race day. HOWEVER, if I were to ever to a tri, I’d be more anal. I think you’re going to nail it! Best of luck this weekend!

  14. I loved this post – I am in such awe of the undertaking of an Ironmother race. And it is the mental aspects that frighten me ever so much more than the physical. Have a great race and keep those mind monkeys in their cages!

  15. I make mental lists but at my age (51) and with 3/4 time work and 4 kids I’m running out of “space” in my RAM/desktop portion of my brain. So I might follow your lead and make real lists for my upcoming half. Not nearly as complex as what you are undertaking but you know. I snorted hard after you said you wouldn’t pee on Lyle!

    As for the wind – being in Utah, I know my wind and its impact on my runs! 15 mph is the outer limit for help vs. hurt in my book (though if it were 15+ and always at my back, that rocks). 15mph in your face starts to not feel awesome, but if it’s warm it’s a godsend, because the evaporation effect will keep you cool (but then you have to watch hydration, you might need a smidge more). My take on the weather forecast is that that wind might be your best friend in terms of keeping you from wilting on the run. Just checked the course map online, and it’s good news. You’re going to have tailwind for most of the last 3 miles! And since it’s a course with lots of turns, you won’t spend any one great stretch of time with the wind in your face. I don’t mind cross winds, myself.

    Anyway, I will be sending you prayers and vibes on Saturday! I love hearing that you are in the best shape of your mother days!!! You go.

    1. You are awesome, Alison, checking the direction of the winds for me. I’m blaming you if they’re not in my favor. 🙂 Kidding. Thank you!

  16. Dimity – I made the HUGE mistake of racing – not finishing – a half iron two months before my full and I didn’t recover as I should have. I felt so good, I kept training hard and went over the cliff into over training. I battled exhaustion for the last two full months pre-IM and I was not in my best shape come race day. Be smart out there! Please don’t make my same mistake! Remember: CDA is the goal. Have fun at the half!

    1. Thank you for your wise words, Heather…I know I’ll be tempted to push it, but I know how long it will also take me to recover. So yes, training day, training day, training day. Race is still a month away. Thank you.

  17. So proud of you, Dimity! I have such a good feeling about this and the IM. You are inspiring through and through, so go show the world how big your brave is! xox

  18. Heck yeah, I wet my wetsuit – multiple times. I very nearly wet my bike in the Boulder Peak a couple years ago, but an empty port-o-potty miraculously appeared.

    I study the bike/run profiles so that I have general expectations for uphills/downhills. I have also found that mental checkpoints for killer hills really help (like Old Stage).

    I’m bad about race nutrition, which is a lesson I learned at last year’s Boulder 70.3. I didn’t take in enough on the bike because I felt icky, and then I REALLY felt icky on the run. I’m going to plan much better this year.

    Good luck in CDA!

  19. I know exactly what you mean about wanting to have a good 1/2 Iron before the Ironman. I raced Gulf Coast before Ironman Florida. It is the exact same course. Gulf Coast is on the Ironman Florida course, it is just not as many loops.
    Have a great race! Good luck! Don’t think “I have to go twice as far??? How will I do that?”. The taper is wonderful and the Ironman excitement and spectators will get you through!!
    Don’t expect many spectators at the HITs tri. I did the one in Marble Falls and there were only people at the finish. They do have a super sweet transition area!

  20. I write lists, lay stuff out, get organized (helps me get organized mentally too). I don’t go overboard with the course but definitely the longer the race, the mores I try to pay attention. Sounds like you are well on your way. KILL IT! I know you’ll do great!

  21. I’m not a planner, it makes me anxious to think about it the course too much. I kind of go with the ” ignorance is bliss ” attitude. I know that There is no way I will stop on the course regardless of how hard it is and knowing only makes me worry. I definately stalk the weather though! And make lists!

    You’ve got this Dimity! I can’t wait to hear your race report, I just know you are going to rock it like the BAMR you are and have inspired all of us to be! Go get your dream 🙂

  22. I’m a huge (paper and pencil) list maker! I also don’t check the item off the list until it is in my bag. Last year for a duathlon, I decided to make up my 2 Nuun bottles the night before. Not my typical routine so that why I left them in the fridge and didn’t notice until it was too late. Luckily there were water bottles in the goody bags and a nice woman heard me tell my friend I forgot my bottles and gave me hers. Phew!

    Good luck Dimity! Such a HUGE undertaking and very inspirational! Go get ’em! (and don’t forget Lyle)

  23. one thing my husband tried on the IMAZ run course that helped him was chicken broth! he was really starting to feel bad, and they were offering it. he had never tried it while training but he said it helped a lot to keep him on his plan during the last part of that run. that and a prayer!! 🙂

  24. I am the biggest list maker and worrier that ever was!! Even just a half marathon yields a 2 page list and hours of pouring over the race / pre-race details. Somedays I think I just need to quit this madness and just go with it…not sure that will ever happen though!

    I am totally overwhelmed and just amazed at everything you have layed out for this race. You’re going to do amazing, I just know it! Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear all about it!!

  25. I got anxious just reading this…which is why I do minimal prep for my races. The night or 2 before the race, I look over the route, and gather my things/plan on what to wear. Too much planning makes me more nervous!

    Good luck this weekend!!

  26. Reading about the logistics is in itself impressive. After nutrition, add ‘organization’ as a fifth discipline. I hope you have an awesome race on Saturday.

    I am definitely a list-maker, at least for long races (or ones that involve travel). I don’t necessarily study the turn-by-turn maps, but I do like to have a good idea of the elevation profile so I know when to expect the hills.

  27. I’m a list person when I am traveling to a race. My kids laugh because I make the list on Monday and start packing on Tuesday, usually, for a weekend trip.

    I didn’t make a list for Pittsburgh. I got there with everything I needed but then was somehow frazzled in the morning and forgot to put my Garmin on, even after charging it the night prior.

    1. Funny, Nikki…last year when I ran the Poconos Marathon I left my garmin charging in the bathroom at the hotel. Luckily my very observant husband noticed it was missing in time to drive back and get it just in time for the start!

  28. I just started doing pool start triathlons and hope to move on to open water ones soon. I have been following you with great interest. I love your time goals – Can’t wait to see what you achieve – how ever you do this weekend – YOU ROCK – in my book.

    Hey – do you need swim caps and body glide (or equivalent) on your list? (Maybe I missed it?)

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! That’s why I put it out there. Will definitely need some lube for my wetsuit; otherwise, I should be good. I was anticipating getting a cap from the race organizers, but an extra one is not a bad idea. Will add it both to the list. I think you rock too.

  29. It’s funny seeing your hand-written list. In 2005 when I trained can completed my first triathlon — I approached a good friend and his wife (veteran triathletes) to coach me. A few days before the race Rick wrote out my list — and he put bike on there because he said he had gotten down the road and forgotten his bike before. It’s on a small slip of paper that I still use. I haven’t done a tri in about four years but I hope to do one this summer to celebrate a big birthday. What makes that slip of paper so valuable to me is that Rick lost his four year battle with brain cancer about 18 mons ago. It’s funny how much that checklist means to me know. Rock it on Saturday. You sounds focused. Have a great race.

    1. Don’t love that story, Jamie, but love that story. Glad you have a momento from Rick–and a practical one at that. I’ll add my bike to my list. You never know…and Grand Junction is a four-hour drive. I don’t want to realize I’ve forgotten it when I get to the transition area to set it up. 🙂

  30. For marathons. I write everything down and a complete timeline for hydrating, fueling, etc….by making a plan early in the week before it helps settle my nerves

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