Thursday, July 31, 2014

Norseman: Swimming in the Fjord!

Today was athlete check in, plus the usual prescribed pre-race short swim/bike/run. It was a really good day...but of course the highlight was the swim!

I ran this morning in Kinsarvik and then we drove over to Eidfjord to do everything else. The very low-key athlete check-in was held in a small hotel conference room. The crew and athletes were friendly and the general vibe around the place was "savor it, enjoy it, have fun." I loved hearing that and feeling the positive energy. We spent some time in the Q&A corner with some very helpful crew members who had done the crew race last weekend - 8 members of the crew raced the entire distance last weekend! They were full of great advice and I'm really glad we stopped to talk with them.

Can't help posting more pics from my run today.
And another one. Gorgeous views EVERYWHERE.
After the very quick check-in where I received the usual stickers for my bike, bib, etc., and Robert received his support team shirt and a wristband that will let him into the transitions to help me, we walked over to see the swim start. I saw another woman wearing a wetsuit and asked her if she was going to swim. I then scrambled around quickly to grab my swim stuff so that I could hop in with her - there is always safety in numbers, especially when you're swimming in a fjord with 2 cruise ships parked in it.

Athlete check-in.
Ok, so this plus the wristband makes it really real.
There's a cruise ship parked right in front of Swim Out.
It turns out that my new friend Penny is a blueseventy ambassador, so she had all the same swim stuff as me - we were matchy matchy from head to toe in our wetsuits, booties, and neoprene caps. This made me laugh and miss my friendies back home.

I was surprised that the water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be (about 60 degrees today). Of course that can change in 2 days - but I was very comfy swimming in my wetsuit, booties, and cap. We swam for about 15 minutes and each breath I took, I was thrilled to see the mountains around me as I looked up from the water. When we finished the swim, we took a couple of pictures and then Penny suggested a practice jump off the dock! After we climbed out, we had to laugh, because at that moment several small children jumped into the water in just their swimsuits. I guess it all depends on what you're used to.
Penny = carefree jumper. Kris = cautious goggle holder. 
Tomorrow there will be a blueseventy swim in the morning and I can't wait to swim again. I am definitely savoring this and taking it all in. Then there's the mandatory athlete meeting at 3 pm...and then I'm sure time will fly by until the race starts on Saturday morning! You can track me here:
A rare photo of the photographer - my hubby and support crew, Robert. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Norseman: Getting to Know the Course

I'll admit that when Dad's itinerary for this trip included getting here nearly a week early, that I grumbled about it - why arrive early? Why not use the vacation days to enjoy Norway after the race instead? So far, though, I've been proven wrong. It's been really good to get here early and get to know the course.

We arrived in Rjukan (where the race ends) on Monday and left this morning (Wednesday) to drive along almost the entire 140 miles of the course to Eidfjord (where the race starts). This allowed for some awesome training in the warm, sunny area around Rjukan/Gaustatoppen. They've been having unseasonably warm weather and it was in the 80s yesterday when I went out to ride and run. I can't think of many things that make me happier than being on my bike, and yesterday's easy spin along part of the run course was incredible. I just took in the scenery and chilled out a bit.

Dad and I got in a couple miles of training on Zombie Hill. We practiced walking/running up it while Robert practiced driving the support vehicle and parking All Four Wheels Off the Road, as instructed in the support crew guide.
We drove up to the entrance to Gaustatoppen and I posed for this picture, then went home for a nap. Hoping I'll get there fast enough to go through that gate on Saturday. Robert and Dad climbed to the top (3 miles) and got to see where the finish line will be!
I received this in my email's getting real.
I was apprehensive about the drive from Rjukan to Eidfjord, but ended up being glad that I got to see the bike course. (Everything looks worse from a car - right, Shelly!?!) We took note of the kilometers that passed between the bottom of Zombie Hill and where we expected T2 to be - this is where the bike will end on Saturday and the run will begin. It's the most scenic run course I've ever seen! Cannot wait to run it this weekend.

Then we started paying attention to the bike course: what the climbs were like (challenging but not impossible), what the road surface was like (perfect in some areas, pretty crappy in others, a fair share of surface not unlike Texas chip seal, and three sections that are just gravel), what the weather was like (constantly changing - sun, wind, hot, cold, rain). It was really good to be able to see everything that I'll do on Saturday - just in the opposite direction.

Once we climbed from the valley onto the Hardangervidda plateau, the weather changed dramatically. The temperature dropped from 80 to 50 degrees, the wind picked up, and the sun went away.
The yellow building is where support crews will be parked on Saturday, waiting for their athletes to complete the first climb out of Eidfjord.

And then you have this to look forward to. Three climbs and descents followed by one final, enormous climb (not pictured here) up to Imingfjell, followed by a long descent into T2.
It took quite a bit of the day to do the drive, and when we arrived in Eidfjord it was exciting to see banners for Norseman and to see, in person, the town that I've only viewed in photos and YouTube videos.

Eidfjord and surrounding area = gorgeous.
We drove about 30 minutes past Eidfjord to where we're staying at Kinsarvik in a cosy little cabin for the next few days. Tomorrow I'll get to swim in the fjord (!!!) and put all of my awesome blueseventy cold weather gear to good use! I'll also get in a little bike and run, in addition to checking in. And then start counting down the days - race day is approaching quickly!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Norseman: Travel to Rjukan (Zombie Hill and Gaustatoppen)

Norway is beautiful. After an uneventful day of traveling (yippee!), Robert, Mom, Dad, and I landed in Oslo yesterday and made our way to Rjukan, the town where the race ends. Every single view on the 2.5 hour drive was as scenic as the photo above.

We packed everything I need for the trip into these 2 bags (plus this little camelbak). The helmet was a fun airport conversation piece. So was the multi-tool in my carryon that was investigated thoroughly at security in San Antonio. They didn't have anything to say about the giant bag of white powder (Infinit) that I was also carrying.
Robert relaxing for a few minutes with all our stuff. Traveling with the bike was a little scary but it all worked out. It cost $100 to fly with it on United. Someone with the exact same bike box as me traveled from Newark to Oslo on the same day - but not for Norseman. Their box was somewhat crumpled when it came off the plane, which scared me, until I saw a second one (mine) come out unscathed. Yippee - everything was awesome...
...until we couldn't fit it in the rental car. So we took everything out of the box and checked the box at the airport to pick up when we leave. Multiple trips to Arizona with Dawn prepared me to pack luggage for 4 plus a bike into the back of a tiny wagon.
Over the next couple of days we'll drive the point-to-point race course backwards to get to Eidfjord, where the race starts. I spent my time on the drive to Rjukan staring out the window and listening to an inspirational mix on my iPod that Dawn made for me. Smiling and thinking Nothing But Positive Thoughts. Many of them revolved around "this is kind of like Mt. Lemmon."

For the first 160 lucky competitors who reach the cutoff at 32k of the marathon, the finish line will be at the end of a 3-mile hike up to the top of Gaustatoppen. But first, all the competitors "run" up Zombie Hill - a 3-mile climb up a paved, switchbacky road. We saw both for the first time today.

Our first view of Gaustatoppen. You drive through a beautiful valley with giant steep cliffs on either side, and then the mountain appears. I'm keeping the word "scared" out of my instead I just started giggling when I saw it.
The first part of the run course is supposed to be relatively flat. Until you reach this signpost and take a left to start the climb up Zombie Hill.
...which was marked on the ground right after the turn. I made Dad pull over so that I could take a photo. 
We drove up Zombie Hill and turned left towards the cabin where we're staying, instead of continuing straight along the race course to Gaustatoppen. We're staying just a little way down the road from where the race will end for the folks who don't make the cutoff - if you don't get there within the first 160 participants, you end the last 3 miles of the race on what had been described as "a flat road in the valley below." Having now driven it a couple of times and run along part of it once, I can say without hesitation that It Is Not Flat. 

After settling into our very cute cabin, I went out for an easy 30 minute shakeout run. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time. It was so ridiculous to be running along this gorgeous, scenic road with Gaustatoppen constantly in my view.

Gaustatoppen: the view from my run. Amazeballs.
The view from our cabin. How crazy to wake up (too early) in the morning and see the mountain that I've been thinking about all summer.
Robert built my bike last night and I took it out for a quick test. This photo was taken at 10:30 pm. That's snow on the mountain behind me.
After my run, we drove down to Rjukan to shop for groceries. I realized that we'd be driving up and down Zombie Hill quite a bit over the next couple of days - I'm determined to make friends with it. Dad and I are going to practice a bit on it today - we're thinking he'll pace me on this section of the race.

Today I'll also take my bike for an easy spin along the flat-ish part of the run course in the valley. My support crew will be hiking up Gaustatoppen while I do this, and they'll be instructed to come back with Nothing But Positive Comments. 

And finally for today, a few more photos: 

This is posted next to the front door of our cabin. I've looked for the fox but haven't seen any sign of it - I haven't seen any cats or coyotes either. ;)
And after all our joking...apparently #norwegia means "cheese?"
This brochure gives me hope. If a baby can do it, so can I.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Norseman: Taper Madness and Here We Go

Fourteen weeks of training and one week of taper have passed since I won my slot to Norseman in the blueseventy Facebook contest in April. And just like that, it's less than a week away: the race is on Saturday, August 2. I've spent the last few days saying to myself things like "next time I run it will be in Norway" or "next time I swim it will be in a fjord." It's all very surreal and I'm excited to take the next step of the journey, which is our actual journey across the ocean to Norway!

Time for a little reflection first, though. When I was training for Ironman Texas last year, I posted an entry about how ironman training is hard (it is). I went back and reread it a few weeks ago and at the time, I thought, well, I'm not falling apart, I must be soooo much stronger and fitter than last year!

Then it hit, and not without good reason. After a race at Buffalo Springs immediately followed by a week of hard training in Arizona, I thought it would be a great idea to do the Castroville time trial in the middle of the next weekend's 80 mile training ride (Dawn did not approve), followed by an hour and a half run on trails, followed by a long run the next day. So guess what, I'm not invincible, I cracked, had a lackluster ride and two terrible runs, and then I cried and begged Dawn to give me a REAL TAPER because I really, really needed it.

I did get a new 40K TT pr, though, plus a little bit of hardware. So that was fun. :)
Dawn agreed, and scaled my training way back. Which, after like two days, left me smack in the middle of TAPER MADNESS. OMG, I'm getting fat. I'm losing fitness. I'm going to get sick. I can't stand not doing anything. But mostly, OMG, I'm going to get fat. So I made the rookie mistake of throwing in an extra swim (hey, one more easy swim won't hurt - except I didn't take it easy), and going to the gym every day at lunch to do pushups and planks and crunches (I've usually gotten these core workouts in twice a week).

It shouldn't have been a surprise that I woke up a couple of days later with a painful shoulder, and by the end of that day, I could barely lift it. I immediately had it checked out by the amazing Justin at Promotion Physical Therapy. He told me it was tendinitis brought on by an increase in volume when I should have been resting. He put me on ibuprofen and scolded me. Dawn scolded me, and I scolded myself for making rookie mistakes - you're supposed to get a little bit fat in the taper. Rest is so important. Come on Kris, you're smarter than this. But it's amazing how the Taper Madness really does take over.

I got it together after that and did the taper the way it's supposed to be done. Some shorter workouts with bursts of intensity to keep the fitness there. And now I feel really, really good going into race week.

After all that - I'll say the training part was almost easy compared to handling the logistics of this race! Training is something that's hard, but that I understand. Packing up everything I'll need for a nine-day trip across the world is not. And planning for everything that needs to happen was pretty stressful. But it's all done. The bike is in the box. The bags are packed. Robert, Mom, Dad, and I are ready for this adventure.

My poor little bike all broken down inside a box. Thank you Orissa for lending me the box, and thank you Greg at Bicycle Heaven for teaching us how to pack it up and build it back together again!
Matt scolded me too. I can't remember what for, but I'm sure I deserved it. ;) These guys are GREAT; they put brand-new awesome tires on my race wheels to handle the questionable road conditions in Norway.
A super fun send-off from the Iron Whiners! Love love love these people. 
One more swim at Landa yesterday to practice in the neoprene cap (it works great). Got one last "good luck" wetsuit zip from Brian and then a fabulous ride with Trent on one of my favorite roads (River Road!) - a great way to spend a last day of training in Texas before the race.
I want to say thank you for all the good luck wishes and prayers. It's a little overwhelming and it means a lot to me that people want the best for me in this journey. I hope to make everyone proud and have some super fun stories to tell when I get home.

The next time I write a blog entry, it will be in Norway!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Norseman: One More Tucson Adventure Before the Taper

If you'd told me 5 years ago that Tucson, Arizona would feel like home to me, I would have laughed my head off and asked what could possibly be in Tucson that's so special. Well, there's a mountain here that's awesome to train on (Mount Lemmon), incredible trails for running (Sabino Canyon), and a gorgeous pool at the University of Arizona. Not to mention the all-around good feeling of "this is the place that triathletes go to train." I love it here, and I'm already crying about having to go home to San Antonio and reality.

This long weekend was the last big training week before I taper for Norseman. Now all the work is in the bank and my job is to stay healthy for the next three weeks (and get all my plans in good order for the race). This trip was a girls' trip - Dawn and I were joined by Dawn's friend from college, Rene. We had a silly, giggly, matchy matchy time together while getting in some awesome quality training.

There were some new challenges on this trip - hill repeats on Mount Lemmon, a run at the top of Mount Lemmon the following day, and a trail run in Sabino Canyon that I was expected to RUN this time. Not to mention I was doing all of this 3 days after "not racing" at Buffalo Springs. On day one of this trip, my legs felt like they did at the end of day 3 when we were here in May. The weather was a challenge this time too - who would have thought that one month after our last visit, it would be monsoon season (that's really a thing - it storms every day), and that when it isn't raining, it's seriously hotter than hell here.

Rene, Dawn, and I took all this in stride and had a great long weekend of training. We also got to celebrate the 4th of July with some of Dawn's dear friends from here, which was super fun. And as always, it's awesome to shop in the Smashfest Queen warehouse (Hillary's guest room). This time we had the added bonus of watching part of the opening day of the Tour de France with Maik and Hillary - it was very cool and a little surreal to watch the bike race with live commentary from two professional athletes!

I'll be leaving tomorrow with some new happy memories (and some fabulous new Facebook friends)! I love this place. Dawn told me last time, build up your bank of happy thoughts to think about while racing...check. Particularly when I'm cold in Norway, I'll think about some of the training that we did on the surface of the sun here in Tucson and I'm sure it will warm me from the inside out! 

Matchy matchy at the pool! Rene, Dawn, and I. Yep, those are 3 grown women wearing matching Rainbow Brite bikinis. Note the storm rolling in in the background. I was praying for lightning to strike during our 4K swim, but no luck.
Every morning started like this - 4 am coffee and Facebook/Slowtwitch. We had to get out early to beat the heat!
...and every afternoon/evening went like this. OMG delicious tacos, fruit cups, and horchata at Pico de Gallo. I could eat this every day.
We tried something new - carrying our running shoes up Mount Lemmon on our backs. Climb for 3 hours, run for one hour, descend for one hour. With some time in the middle for photos.
The running at 8000 feet was so much fun. This happy face says "I'm ready for Zombie Hill at Norseman!"
Surrounded by athletes and kittens at Gail's 4th of July party. For this catlady triathlete, it can't get better than that.
I got to practice with a Camelbak for the first time on our 10 mile run today. I'm sold. The backpack kept my water cold for over 2 hours. We started with Hillary, Dawn, and Sam McGlone, but Rene and I were soon left to our own devices in Sabino Canyon. A highlight was watching some tourists take up-close photos of a rattling rattlesnake - I forced Rene to just keep on running by.

On our last day, Rene and I waited just a little too long to go swim before the afternoon storm rolled in. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I'm Going to 70.3 Worlds! (BSLT Race Report 2014)

When I won the Norseman slot, Dawn and I talked about what needed to happen with the limited time I had to train for Norway on August 2. We agreed that it meant skipping Buffalo Springs, even though I had already registered for it, and spending the weekend training instead. I reluctantly agreed and asked Marti Greer, the race director, to let me defer to next year. Then immediately started begging Dawn on a daily basis to change her mind. I love Buffalo Springs - it's my favorite race. I've raced it the past 2 years, and I didn't want to miss a third.

About 3 weeks ago, Dawn agreed to let me participate! Maybe I wore her down. She allowed it under the condition that I would "not race." That I would have fun with my friends, get in a long training day on the race course, and be fresh for the following week's massive training block. So I begged Marti Greer to let me do the race after all (she's the coolest - she laughed and put me back on the list) and joined Shelly, Aixa, and Trent on the participant list for Lubbock! Yippee!

The night before the race, after giving out race instructions to the other Tri-Belief athletes, Dawn talked strictly to me again about "not racing." Her concern was that I'd dig myself into a hole by going too hard at BSLT, and she was so firm about staying within myself that when I got off the phone with her, I thought she was mad at me. I heard the message loud and clear.

As a result, I was calmer than I've ever been on the morning of a race. The swim went smoothly. I wore my new blueseventy Helix longsleeve wetsuit to practice for Norseman, even though the water was barely wetsuit legal. It was incredibly comfortable and flexible and amazing to swim in, and I know it will be perfect next month.

I aimed for steady, "comfortably hard" watts and heart rate on the bike, which proved to be a perfect plan on an extremely windy day. Riding steady meant going a little easier into the headwinds and up the hills, and going a little stronger with the tailwinds and downhill. Dawn had said to put my ego in my back pocket, and this meant letting people hammer past me as I spun into the wind. I'm learning! I stayed within myself and enjoyed seeing my friends along the course. Marveled at my new bike handling skills as I turned corners with confidence and descended with significantly less fear (a thousand thank yous to Chris Aarhus for this - I can't say enough times how much the instruction I received last month in Arizona helped me). The fear of other riders that I've battled for 2 years is going away as well - when Carlos Miranda passed me and patted me on the shoulder to say "good job," I spent the next few minutes giggling about how I didn't freak out and fall over. I rode into T2 with a bike time similar to last year, but I felt so much fresher than I ever have.

When I took off on the run, I aimed for a strong, steady pace. I chatted with other athletes and yelled some sweet nothings at Jordan Rapp and Jesse Thomas as they ran by to finish the race ("I love you! Run faster!" Hahaha). I was having fun.

Then I saw Dawn sitting on her bike about 2.5 miles in. She told me calmly, "You're in 3rd place. You need to start running." What? Third place in my age group? Yes. But...what happened to staying within myself and saving my energy for the next week of training? Her answer was basically, hey stupid, you're in 3rd place, so move your ass.

As I ran, I realized how much I wanted to stay in 3rd. I wanted the buffalo trophy that I'd seen the winners receive last year. I wanted the shot at a rolldown to the 70.3 World Championships in Mt. Tremblant, Canada, in September! I knew there were 2 slots to Worlds in my age group.

I ran scared. I'm usually stronger on the swim and bike, and then helplessly watch people pass me on the run. Each time I felt footsteps approaching from behind, I thought it might be someone in my age group coming to take away my buffalo. And each time it was a male and not a female running by, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, I reached the turnaround of the out-and-back course and could see who was behind me. There were no women near me, but that didn't mean that someone couldn't run me down. Roland did it last year - after I passed him at the halfway point, he chased me for 6 miles and I had nothing left when he passed me right before the finish. This was in my mind as I continued back into the park.

Throughout the run, I'd chatted and made friends with half a dozen people, including a young lady who ended up winning 2nd in 25-29. As we approached the last mile, she turned to me and told me "let's go, we got this," as she took off for the finish line. With less than half a mile to go, I asked a spectator, "are there any women behind me?" and he answered that he couldn't see any.

For the last few minutes of my race, I was alone, and I allowed myself to really take in and enjoy the last stretch. Thinking about this magical day where everything went right. A perfect day at my favorite race. It was simply incredible to cross the finish line knowing that I'd held my position on the run. On this difficult, windy, hot day, a 5:43 was good enough for 3rd place in my age group. It's also a new personal best time for this distance.

As soon as I finished, 2 volunteers rushed over and asked me if I was okay. I said yes, and gratefully allowed them to support my weight on either side of me. As soon as I was no longer responsible for holding my own body upright, I collapsed. They lifted me by both legs and carried me into the busy medical tent. I grasped their shoulders for a moment but soon felt myself go completely limp as they lowered me to a lawn chair in the tent among 25+ other athletes who were lying on chairs, receiving IV fluids.

Aixa was there (she had collapsed after the bike and had already received her own 3 bags of IV and met Jordan Rapp in the process - jealous) and she helped me calm down and breathe as they covered me with cold towels and got ready to start an IV for me. Even this part was fun, although it was a little bit scary. I have to admit that I felt like this was a part of the full experience of making it to a podium at an Ironman event. I mean, you always see the super fast awesome people being carried off afterwards for medical attention! It turns out I was just one of many with this experience - Aixa asked a race official, and on this very hot day, at a race with 1000 athletes, 450 bags of IV fluids had been provided to participants after the race.

Super happy to be finished and getting my IV.
This lady sitting on top of me is the greatest coach ever.
At the awards ceremony that evening, it seemed to take forever for them to announce the Female 35-39 age group. Although I felt nervous about going up onto the stage in front of a room of people, I was impatient to see if I'd get a rolldown slot to Worlds. If the women in first and second place didn't take the spots, I'd get one. And of course I would take it, although the triathlon budget has been stretched pretty thin already this year, to say the least!

When they called our group, only two of us walked up there! The first place winner didn't come to the awards. We were handed our trophies (the buffalo!!) for 2nd and 3rd, and then the question came - first, to the 2nd place female, "Do you want to go to Canada?" Her amazing words came next, "I'm already going, I already qualified." And then I knew. When the same question came at me, I practically shouted "OH YES!" and took the little card and got my hug from Marti. I thanked her for letting me do the race and reminded her that I was the one who had waffled because of Norseman. She laughed and said she remembered. She really is the coolest!

The buffalo!
I took my card (and my credit card) and walked into a room to sign up immediately for Worlds. I was shaking; it all happened so fast. Then Bree Soileau, a friend from San Antonio, walked in - she had won 2nd in her age group and won a slot to Worlds as well! We hugged and congratulated each other and immediately started making plans for going to Canada.

I'm still in a state of disbelief. I can't believe this happened at a race that I was "not racing," although upon reflection, of course pacing the bike evenly and staying within myself for the first 2/3 of the race is the reason that I was able to hold the run pace that I did. Coachie is no dummy.

This overwhelming year...I am 100% aware that I'm living a dream right now. First Norseman, now 70.3 Worlds - it feels like the sky is the limit. I'm just so amazed by my progress over the last few months and so excited to see what the future holds. And as always...just keep on training, training, training. It works. Hard work works.

I want to say a huge thank you to the people who support this crazy dream of mine: Dawn ElderHillary Biscay, and my incredible Tri-Belief training buddies and dear friends. My coworkers and my family, who have no choice but to listen to all of this on a nonstop basis. The folks at Promotion Physical Therapy who keep me healthy and the guys at Bicycle Heaven who push me to achieve while making me laugh. And blueseventy for providing the sweet gear that makes me feel super legit in the water! And of course my ridiculously supportive husband Robert, who just keeps saying "okay," and understands what this dream is - I know it's not easy and I know how lucky I am. Thank you.