I took some time to think about how my day went at the Topeka Tinman last Saturday.
Short story, it was a hot day and I suffered right from the start. My paces were much slower than I would have liked but it ended up being a good training day.
Now for the long story. The drive to Topeka is nice and I made it in plenty of time for packet pick up. When I arrived the temperature was about 95 degrees and humidity was high. The original plan was to camp at the race site but with the heat I decided to break down and get a hotel room. Pizza for dinner and I was off to the hotel. I laid out my race needs for the day, filled my water bottles, and changed the tires on my bike. Got in bed around 10:00 PM and while I did not sleep great, it was sufficient.
Up and off to the race site at 5:30. One of the first to arrive I found my spot in transition and got most of my stuff ready, checked out my bike, and settled in for the 7:50 start. Watching the waves that went before me, I had figured out that there was a good place to line up on the right side where I could take a nice wide path to the first buoy. At the horn I jumped in and pushed to the first turn with the leaders of my wave. Once I made the turn my race started to unravel. For reasons I still don’t quite understand my form fell apart and I really started wasting energy. Compounding the wasted energy I also had decided to take advantage of the buoyancy and wear my wetsuit even though the water temp was 76. About halfway through the swim I realized what was going on but did not understand just how bad I had fallen apart and that I had started to overheat. I focused on ten strokes between sightings, a nice easy long stroke, and trying to get my kick going. Attempting to limit the affect the swim would have on the rest of my day, I set out distance goals with breaststroke breaks but I never fully relaxed and swam like I am capable of. 2:00 per 100m pace is way slower than the effort I put into that swim.
Trying to run up the beach was the absolute worst I have ever felt coming out of the water. I literally walked about half of the way up the hill because my legs were so tired. Even at IronmanAZ ,sick with the stomach flu, I came out of the water smiling and gave a thumbs up to my friends. Saturday there would have been no thumbs ups! Quick transition and off on the bike. I was really looking forward to the bike ride, first race on my new Quintana Roo CD0.1. This bike is a small rocketship that has produced some moments of sheer speed on the few training rides we have done this spring. Highlight of the day was getting my shoes on while riding without incident. Try as I might there was no power coming from my legs. Every trick was implemented, higher cadence, sitting up, stopping to check my back wheel. Nothing worked because I was plain old tuckered out. Again the theme was set small goals, pick up some speed when my body would allow and granny gear up the hills. Complicating matters, my nutrition had fallen off my bike and I only took in about 100 calories during the ride.
Overheating is one of the most horrible feelings ever! Somewhere in the middle of the bike I noticed the tell tale slight headache that means I am overheating. A little squirt of water on my head and I felt a lot better. Most of the ride I kept thinking about getting to the run. If I could just get there I could run easy and still feel good about my finish. Coming into transition, I slipped off my cycling shoes, dismounted, and had a really quick turn. Another highlight of the day. Running out of transition I heard one of the volunteers tell me how good I was doing and I had the quick thought of “if you only knew”.
I decided to head out on the run at 7:00 minute pace to gauge how I was feeling and thought I could cruise there or drop it down a little if I started feeling better. About 1 mile in and I really started feeling cooked. Knowing that pacing duties at Western States were only two weeks away I decided that every time I got goose bumps I would walk until they went away then pick it back up again. So that meant about .9 of a mile at 7:30 pace with a .1 mile walk and repeat.
All in all it was a tough day for everyone. I could have done better, but I also could have called it a day. I’m happy with a 6th place age group finish and am looking forward to the next race.
Things are still running through my mind about that swim. I really think I was carrying a lot of tension from my lower back to my feet. During the bike my lower back was aching (not normal) and I think I was clenching it during the swim while flexing my legs trying to kick. Oh well I am going to take a little two week break from swimming and see if I can reset a little.
Shout out to Topeka Tinman for putting on a quality event. Highlights include a sweet bike course, tough run, and great volunteers- especially at the water stations on the run. The only negative was that they did not check bikes out of transition.
*I didn’t intend to write two race reports in this post, but I did!
I have several independent goals for this race season. They are attainable if I put the work in, focus, and dig down when I need to.
Goal #1: Have a good race at Boulder 70.3 on August 4, 2013. I’ve never done a 70.3 before. I just went straight from Olympic distance to Ironman. For those that don’t know, a 70.3 is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. “Have a good race” is a pretty vague goal, I know, but to me it means a few things smushed together. I want to have a good run. I want to feel strong and comfortable on the bike. I want to have a decent swim time. I’m not going to make actual time goals until I get closer to the race, but I want this race to be on my radar as one that I will be well prepared for. It’s in less than 8 weeks. I’d better get crackin’.
Goal #2: Go sub-3 hours at HyVee 5150 US Championships on September 1, 2013. I’ve never had a sub-3 hour Olympic distance race. An Olympic consists of a 1500m swim, 20k bike, and 10k run. I’ve come shockingly close… 3:00:49 at HyVee in 2012. I know I can do it.
Goal #2a: Run a sub-1:00 10k at HyVee. I’m not a speedy runner. I’m getting better and I’ve had several good runs lately. I mentally wuss out on the run and either slow down or walk. Last year at HyVee my run split was 1:03:23. I think that’s the best 10k I’ve run in a race. I’m going to focus a lot on my run this year and hope to finally conquer some mental demons.
Goal #3: Finish Run Rabbit Run 50 on September 14, 2013. Cade and I have gone to Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat Springs, CO each year since 2011. We were going to take a year off from the race this year, but I just couldn’t stay away. My sister, Kerrie Bruxvoort, is a super awesome ultra runner. In 2011, she was just getting started with this whole trail running thing and told us that she had signed up for Run Rabbit Run. Sounded cool. Sounded a little nutty. The race was sold out, but, on a whim, Cade put is name on the wait list. He was contacted a couple of months before the race and told that he had a spot if he wanted it. Run Rabbit Run was our first introduction to the ultra trail running community. It. Is. Amazing. I’ll let Cade recall his experience at Run Rabbit Run 2011 if he chooses, but I’ll just say that it was a hell of a day with some really challenging conditions. It was raining, cold, snowy, windy, nasty, wet, and un-forecasted. People were dropping left and right due to the freezing conditions and potential hypothermia. But Cade pushed through and was able to finish in 11 hours and 11 minutes. So awesome.
In 2012 I decided that I wanted to give it a shot. I knew I would be slow and probably right against the cut off times (16 hours total with an early start plus intermediate cut-offs along the way) but after experiencing the race as a supporter, I just had to participate. 2012 was a rough year for us. Our beloved horse, Lucy, fought a terrible illness that put her in the horsey hospital for nearly a month. We lost her on August 1, 2012 and it was really hard on both of us. It still is almost a year later. The whole time she was sick I think I ran twice. Maybe. I know I raced twice but didn’t do much else. I ran a marathon in May, 2012 but after that my longest runs prior to Run Rabbit Run 2012 were the 10k run legs at the Omaha Triathlon and HyVee Triathlon. That was it.
Going into Run Rabbit Run 2012 I knew that I didn’t have the training to push hard. I still wanted to try to finish, but went into the experience with an open mind knowing that I would have a lot of time alone in the woods to process what had been on my mind since we lost Lucy. I took the early start to give myself a little more time and started off up the dark mountain. I was quickly by myself and remained alone for the majority of the day. I climbed mountain roads, jumped over creeks, hop stepped over rocks and tree limbs, fell over my own two feet, saw some of the most beautiful scenery my eyes have ever seen, met some great people, ate a lot of food, and made the 28 mile cut-off with a few minutes to spare. I decided to drop at mile 28. I was getting tired and knew I would be fighting cut-offs all night long. Cade was ahead of me, but he had to drop too because his knee was bothering him. We hung around and drank a couple beers with the aid station crew and hitched a ride back into town. I didn’t finish last year, but it was one of the coolest experiences that I’ve had. This year I plan to be more prepared and get to the finish line to earn my giant glass mug and fill it with local Steamboat brew.
Goal #4: Finish Ironman Arizona 2013 in under 15 hours on November 17, 2013. I loved Ironman last year. I was terrified beyond belief going into the race and knew that my training had not been what I planned. See my summer filled with no training above? That continued. I was not able to pull out of my Lucy loss funk. With not very much time before the race I began training again out of fear more than anything. Fear of getting myself into a pickle at Ironman and letting a lot of people down. Turns out I had plenty of training in the bank to carry me through the day. My experience at Ironman Arizona 2012 was amazing. Cade was sick with the flu leading up to the race (I’ll let him tell that story too) and I was worried about him. We jumped into the water together just before the swim start. I will always remember floating there with him full of anxiety, fear, excitement, joy… emotion. We gave each other a hug and kiss in the water and shortly thereafter the cannon fired and we were off.
My swim went really well. I was comfortable the whole time and didn’t run into much traffic. I got rubbed and kicked a few times, but that’s to be expected. I just got into a rhythm and chugged along trying to stay smooth and relaxed. After the turnaround point, the trip back seemed to just take a blink of an eye and I was turning toward the exit stairs before I knew it. 1:26:42.
T1 was pretty slow. I must have ordered a pizza in that tent or something. I remember getting my wetsuit stripped off right at the timing mat and running up the long chute to the change tents. My friends Michelle and Polly yelled at me as I ran by and told me that Cade finished the swim and was only a few minutes ahead of me. It was a relief to hear that he was doing ok. I grabbed my bag and went into the tent to get my cycling gear on. I realized that I had a pretty nasty rub on the back of my neck from my wetsuit that stung like crazy when I put sunscreen on. There was nothing that could be done about it so I slathered on some vaseline and grabbed my bike. 10:11.
I loved the bike. The course is three loops that go out into the desert. I got to see the pro field zoom by a few times. It is amazing how fast they are. I planned to stay within myself and enjoy the bike course. I ate honey stinger waffles and chews, I drank super strong gatorade and water, I ate electrolyte pills like they were candy, and, about halfway through the bike I followed the simple advice of those who had come before me: I chewed a piece of mint gum for about 30 seconds. It was the most amazing thing at that point in time. The mint was refreshing and made my mouth feel clean after eating all that sticky sweet stuff all day. That may be the best advice I got for Ironman. The bike course has a long hill going up to the turnaround. The first loop was challenging as there was a headwind going up the hill. I saw Cade going down as I was going up on the first loop. He wasn’t that far ahead of me. Zooming down the hill after the turnaround was fun and it was a great opportunity to flush out my legs and prepare myself mentally for the remainder of the bike. One loop down, two to go.
I saw Cade again just before I reached the turnaround to start the second loop. He was still about 5-10 minutes ahead of me. We yelled to each other briefly and I kept going. Only a few miles after the start of the second loop, I saw a guy stopped with is bike on the side of the road. As I got closer I realized it was Cade and he got on his bike and rode along the course with me. He told me he was done. He hadn’t eaten much in days because he was sick. He didn’t have the energy stores to complete the race and he was afraid if he continued that he would bonk hard and risk real harm to himself. His bike handling skills were diminishing and continuing would be dangerous. We talked it out for a few miles and as we reached the next aid station he made his final decision. It was the right thing to do. I stopped with him, gave him a hug and a kiss, and he told me to “go finish this thing for both of us.” With tears in my eyes and renewed determination in my body, I turned on to the beeline highway to climb the long hill for the second time.
The second climb up the hill felt easy. I was going much faster than I had on the first loop. Little did I know that the wind had shifted and my headwind on the first loop had become a tail wind on the second loop. I figured that out after I turned around. No big deal. I stayed with my nutrition plan and kept chugging along. I got my bike special needs bag around mile 62 on the second loop. I pitched my arm warmers (soccer socks with the feet cut off) and picked up a new bottle of super strong gatorade for the second half of the bike. When I reached the turnaround point to start the third loop Cade was there cheering for me with his mom. It was so good to see him. I found out later that after he got back and told an official he was done for the day he got checked out at the medical tent, lay down on a curb for a while feeling terrible, and spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom. But he was still out there cheering for me.
The third loop was challenging. I still had the wind to contend with and I was starting to get tired. Tired in general and just tired of being on my bike. I made a deal with myself this time going up the hill. I started counting pedal strokes to give my brain something to do. I would count every time my right leg pushed down 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… until I got to 100 and then I would stand and coast for a few seconds to give my butt a break. Then I’d sit back down and start again 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill. Counting pedal strokes kept me from going to that dark place mentally that everyone talks about experiencing in an Ironman. I never went there. At the turnaround (mile 92 or s0) I saw my friend Michelle working the aid station. It was so good to see her! She gave me some fresh water and ran along side me for a bit asking how I was doing. I felt good and her energy helped renew my spirits. I owe a lot to Michelle. She’s an Ironman too. When I was terrified the morning of the race I was overwhelmed and emotional and started crying. I told Michelle I was scared and she gave me a hug and told me I could do it and everything was going to be okay. She was right. 7:05:55.
T2 was slow too. I knew my friend Polly would be working as a volunteer in the T2 tent so I looked for her and ran straight to her. She was finishing up helping another athlete so I slapped her on the ass, got a big hug and squeal, and plopped down on a chair. Polly asked how I was doing and I felt pretty good. I was still with it mentally and could tell her exactly what I needed. I ate some chews, I changed into my Salomon running shorts, grabbed my hat, put some more vaseline on my neck, got some more sunscreen, and was on my way. 11:21.
I started out running and just after I left the transition area I saw Cade, and his mom, and my brother, and my sister-in-law, and their two kids. There may have been other people standing there cheering for me as well, but I don’t remember. It was so awesome to see my family and to hear them cheer for me to keep going. I get emotional during races and that was a special moment for me. I’m getting choked up recalling what I felt like in that moment.
My plan for the run was to run between the aid stations and then walk through the aid station and walk an additional .25miles or so before running again. I knew that I had 8 hours to complete the marathon and was confident that I could do it even with my very limited run training. I didn’t run all that much. I’d say that I ended up speed walking 2/3 of the marathon. I ran when it felt good- mostly the downhill slopes and some of the flats. I walked any time there was a slight incline. I kept a close eye on my pace and my watch so I knew I had plenty of time. I made several porta potty stops along the way. I continued to run when I could and walk when I felt like I needed to- or wanted to. I saw my amazing friends at aid stations where I munched on salty potato chips, flat coke, and chicken broth. I saw more friends each time I crossed the Mill Avenue bridge. Cade and his mom were on the Mill Avenue bridge the first time I came across. He cheered me on and off I went into the darkness.
I talked to some interesting people on the run course. There was one guy that talked about how he did Ironman New Zealand. Another guy was bummed because he knew he wasn’t going to make the time cut-off. He was a lap behind me when I saw him. I got encouragement from more experienced athletes when I told them it was my first Ironman. There was a spectator lady who had a boom box playing music for the runners and she was hitting a cow bell with a drum stick to the beat. She was out there all night just playing the heck out of that cow bell. Who doesn’t need a little more cow bell? There were two people on the other end of the course playing music, dancing, and encouraging athletes that ran by. There were people dressed in those stretchy neon body suits running around encouraging athletes. The community and spectator support was awesome.
Cade kept popping up a few different places on the course. He would walk or run along near me and I would tell him what was going on. I’m sure I told him some interesting things. I felt totally lucid the entire time and Cade said that I looked amazing and was smiling every time he saw me. It was great to have his support even though I knew he was struggling and feeling sick.
My friends finished at their volunteer posts and I started seeing them on the course too. Michelle and Polly cheered for me and told me that they were so proud of me. I saw them all for the last time at about mile 24. I knew they would be waiting for me at the finish line. Off I went again into the darkness, alone. During those last two miles I was able to let my mind wander and reflect on the day. The day went so fast. It was almost hard to remember getting into the water at 7:00 a.m. It seemed like it was a different day. Even the bike seemed like it was a different day. I made my last potty stop near the cow bell lady and turned west along the South Shore Path of Tempe Town Lake for the last time.
As I got closer and closer to the finish line I could hear Mike Riley calling finisher names. I couldn’t believe that I was actually doing it. I was going to finish and I wasn’t anywhere near the cut off time of 17 hours. I got in with two other ladies about a half mile from the finish. One was a first timer like me. The other had completed other Ironman races. We walked together for a bit and the other first timer decided to run. I saw New Zealand guy just in front of me. Right before the turn up through the parking lot to the finish on Rio Salado Drive, there was a lady handing out glow stick necklaces. She asked me if I wanted one and I said yes. I wanted the purple one way on the bottom of her stack. She dug it out for me, put it around my neck and told me to go get that finish line.
By the time I got to the edge of the finish chute I was running. I burst through the darkness into the bright lights of the chute and saw hundreds of people lining the stands. I ran with a huge smile on my face taking the whole experience in. I didn’t actually hear Mike Riley say my name, but I did hear “Bennington, Nebraska You are an Ironman” and knew that was for me. I heard people calling my name from both sides of the chute. Michelle and Polly were on the left. Cade and his mom were on the right. I raised my hands above my head in triumph as I crossed the finish line and was caught by a volunteer. My legs shook as I stood there with him. He handed me my medal and congratulated me. 6:50:56.
As he was walking me through the finisher’s chute, I heard my name called from the left. It was my big brother, Brandon. He had been tracking my progress all day and came to see me finish. I wasn’t expecting him to be there. It was so awesome that he came.
I picked up my finisher’s shirt and hat, got my finisher’s picture taken, and went to the massage tent. My quads were totally trashed and my hip flexors were very tired. I got some compressions from a great sports massage guy then Polly and Anne helped me to an area with some chairs. I had some pizza, a few french fries, some water, maybe some pop and my friends came over to congratulate me. I sat there for a while wrapped in my space blanket to keep warm. Cade went and gathered our things and then we headed back to Brandon’s home. Walking was challenging. My body was definitely done. It was a slow walk to the car.
Perhaps the funniest thing that happened that night was this: When we left the finish area to head to the car, I had just the tiniest hint of needing to go to the bathroom. Brandon’s house was only about 15 minutes away so I figured I’d just go when we got there. After a couple of minutes in the car it went from a hint of needing to go to I Need to Go NOW or I’m going to pee in the car. We were on an on-ramp to the freeway and I had Cade pull over. There was a bush on the side of the on-ramp with my name on it. I hobbled over to the bush, pulled my pants down, tried to squat down and fell backwards into a fence. I was propped up by the fence a bit- good enough for me- so I went. Cade had to get out of the car and help me up or I would’ve still been stuck on that fence with my pants pulled down the next morning.
I didn’t really mean to just write a race report from Ironman Arizona 2012. There are a lot of details missing. Perhaps one of these days I’ll actually write a full report. Perhaps not.
Back to Goal #4: Finish Ironman Arizona 2013 in under 15 hours on November 17, 2013. I can probably cut a couple of minutes off of my swim. I know I can cut at least a couple of minutes off of my transition times. I can bike faster too and probably gain 10-15 minutes there. If I am able to really focus on my run this year, I am definitely capable of cutting some significant time off of my run. I’d like to actually run more of the run this year and that alone will make a huge time difference. There will be a HUGE group of people I know racing this year so I’ll see friends as fellow racers on the course. I know I can cut :45:05 off of my time. I will do it.
*I didn’t mean for this post to be quite so long. I got caught up in reminiscing about my past experiences. I’ll leave talking in detail about my plans to achieve my goals for another day. My basic plan is: Keep swimming and keep doing master’s swim at Pinnacle with my awesome coach and friend, Erin, do lots of brick workouts even if they are shorter, do hill work and speed work on the bike, keep up with some strength training, and really focus on my run.
It’s going to be a good year.
On Sunday, June 4, 2013, I competed in the Omaha Women’s Triathlon for the third year in a row. This race holds a special place in my heart and history because it was the first USAT sanctioned triathlon that I raced. The first year I was a bundle of nerves, unsure if I could even complete the distance. This year I went into the race knowing that I’d completed an Ironman just 6 months prior and could treat it more as a training exercise than anything else.
I arrived at the race site about 7:10 a.m. The transition area was set to close at 7:45 a.m. I don’t like to waste a lot of time hanging around so this was plenty of time for me. This race has bike check-in the day before the race so there was one less thing to worry about. I set up my transition area, checked the tire pressure and gearing on my bike, got body marked, picked up my chip, and headed to the swim start.
I went in to this race knowing that I didn’t have the fitness I’ve had this time of year the past couple of years. After Ironman, I took some time off. I took too much time off. I didn’t train much over the winter. I gained some weight. I lost a fair amount of fitness. I didn’t want to train during the cold, dreary spring we had. But, I knew that what I had fitness wise was what I had, so I decided to make the best of it. My only goal of the entire race was to push it a bit on the run and not walk no matter what.
Swim (17:00) I positioned myself to the front and inside for the swim start. This worked well for me as I didn’t have much traffic around me. However, I had goggle problems throughout the entire swim. My goggles were leaking and I had to stop three times to clear the water and attempt to get a good seal. That was frustrating and made for a rough swim with a not-so-good attitude from me. I was a tad slower than last year due to the goggle problems, but overall, I’m okay with my swim time. (2012- 16:49, 2011- 18:45)
T1 (1:38) I’ve never had a problem getting my wetsuit off in a race. I spent the entire (short) run from swim exit to my bike pulling on my wetsuit zipper string but it would not budge. The girl at the rack next to me offered to help when she saw me struggling with my zipper. Turns out that there was a little bit of neoprene stuck in the zipper making it difficult to un-zip. Thankfully she helped me and I was able to quickly strip off my wetsuit, put on my cycling shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and jet out of there. (2012- 1:01, 2011-1:28)
Bike (47:28) My bike was not good. I was struggling the entire time. I just felt like I was moving through mud the entire time. The bike is usually my best leg and I just didn’t have it this year. Come to find out a few rides after the race that my rear wheel was on my bike crooked- ever so slightly- just enough to create extra resistance for me to push. I still don’t have the bike fitness I should have, but at least that partially explains why I had such a dismal bike split. (2012- 44:36, 2011- 45:46)
T2 (1:00) I ran my bike straight in and racked it by the brake levers to save time. I changed shoes, grabbed my handheld, hat, and race belt and was on my way. (2012-:40, 2011- 1:57)
Run (30:35) My only goal for this race was to push myself a bit on the run and NOT WALK. I have mental problems on the run. I’ll be chugging along totally fine and my mind screams at me to walk, so I do. Usually I don’t need to walk but I succumb to the voices in my mind telling me to conserve. I took it easy up the big hill out of the park and used the first downhill to get my turnover up and use some “free speed” to loosen up my legs. I felt good going down 192nd street and down Old Lincoln Highway. It was nice to see several friends along the course cheering. I was able to keep my pace up and, I did not walk. I’ve never not walked during a tri so that’s a pretty big deal for me. My run split was not smoking fast by any means, but it was under 10:00/mile pace which is good for me. I was very happy to look down and see that I was cruising about 9:00 pace at times. (2012- 31:39, 2011 32:03)
Total Time: 1:38:03 (2012- 1:34:48, 2011- 1:39:57)
I was a bit disappointed that I was over 3 minutes slower than last year, but with my current fitness that was to be expected. This race was a good day to show me that I have a lot of work to do this year.
This will always be one of my favorite races. It is a unique experience to race with all women and a huge percentage of first-timers. It is not uncommon for athletes to encourage and cheer for each other on the course- even when suffering themselves.