Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Exiting Conclusion of Ironman 70.3 Switzerland!

Now, least you should forget the hard facts and data, in a span of less than six miles I had nearly 1100 vertical feet of climbing. And I had to do that two times. To make a comparison, almost every year since 2001 I ride my bike 100 miles around Lake Tahoe and out to Truckee, California. Over the 100 miles there is 2693 feet of climbing. OVER 100 MILES. The longest/biggest climb was 576 feet over 8 miles and the steepest climb was 492 feet over 2.2 miles. Alright, so the altitude is much higher in Tahoe, but still it pales in comparison to Switzerland!

As I was coming in to the transition area, I saw the race vehicles shadowing the last athlete on the bike course. That has got to be so disheartening to have the tail end escort and to have to watch everyone else head back in and then be out there on your own up those climbs. I started preparing to hit T2 with a vengeance. I got my feet out of my shoes and started spinning out the legs. I did my impressive flying dismount and ran the bike quickly into T2. Total time out on the bike course: 3:24:42 and a personal worst. I am guessing that I probably spent a good 10 to 12 minutes off the bike dealing with the cramping and the trudging up the hill. I am usually a sub three hour bike leg, but on this course I was happy to be done and on to the run.

In T2 I racked the bike and tossed the helmet and slid on the shoes and socks. NO...I did not pour red Gatorade on my toes this time. I grabbed my Fuel Belt and visor and ran THE WRONG WAY in the transition and had to backtrack to make it to the exit and the timing mats. D'oh! Also did a double take seeing a gal with no top on. They were real. HEY BABE! CHANGE TENTS ARE OVER THERE! Total T2 time--2:15

My goal on the run was to keep the heart rate steady and manage the pace. I felt good other than my right arch of the foot seemed cramped up. I ignored it and after a few miles, the discomfort went away. There were tons of people on the run course and just as many spectators. The only bad thing about this was that most of the spectators were smoking. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SECOND HAND SMOKE WHILE I RUN THIS HALF MARATHON!!! Gads, come on folks. There were some bands along the way that provided distraction. The first section of the run took us up along the shore of the lake on a run path that had lots of nice shade. By this time it was almost 3 pm and it was hot. We ran under a bridge that connected the west shore with the east shore and then we headed into downtown Rapperswil. The aid stations were well stocked and well manned. I was glad they had an ample supply of sponges. I took about 4 and put one down my bra top, squeezed one over my head, and carried the other two in my hands. I had to keep a light grip on the sponges so that I wouldn't squeeze all the water out of them and the relaxed hands really helped keep the entire body relaxed.

We were now running on cobblestone and through the crowds that were eating at the place where we had dinner the other evening. The food smelled really good. The second hand smoke smelled really awful. We weaved our way, up and down, through the city streets until we came to the huge letters that spelled out IRONMAN that we ran through on the way up to "The Stairway to Heaven". I looked up and saw men trudging up the stairs and they looked punked out. OK, the plan was to keep a consistent speed on the stairs and not to trip. I zoomed past two guys on the way up and then it was down hill back to the edge of the lake. I knew there was one of those public fountains up ahead and I stuck my head under the spigot and re-soaked my sponges and I was off again. I found an aid station that had ice and I poured a cup full of ice down my bra top and kept going grabbing 3 cups of water to slurp down as well.

I was on my way back in to where the swim start was and while I was trying to keep my eyes peeled for Lauren, my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I caught sight of a well endowed mid 20's aged guy in bright green tri shorts that was hanging all to the right. ZOINKS!!! WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!! As Steve in a Speedo would say, "Major Moose Knuckle". I also saw several women AND men in WHITE TRI SHORTS. Who's brilliant idea was that? And these people bought them and were wearing them! I passed the swim start and saw Ryan heading in towards the finish and I headed over the bridge that was over the area where we had exited from the swim and headed out on the other half of the run loop. Again, we were on a running trail but there were less spectators and all that meant to me was fresh air!

I was doing good and drinking off of one of my 10 oz. bottles of Accelerade and grabbing lots of water in the aid stations. I swapped out a very hot sponge for a nice cool one to stuff down my bra top and kept going. I took in the landscape and the landmarks. The reeds were tall along the shore of the lake and on the other side of the trail were the back yards of houses. There were some children that were collecting the tossed sponges and re-soaking them and handing them out and shouting "Hopp Hopp Hopp" at us. They were cute. I gave them a high-5. We ran by a beautiful country Church with a clock up on the bell tower. The announcer by the Church gave me a shout out and also added a "HOPP ARBIETSGRUPPE!" Now I had figured out that Hopp meant "GO" but Arbietsgruppe was puzzling me. I ran and thought about that for awhile as I ran through a vineyard. I passed another group of 4 men with those huge yokes on their shoulders with the ginormous cowbells and they were making a ton of noise along the side of the run path. I dug back into my study of linguistics when I was back in school. English is a Germanic based language so I thought about similar sounds. Gruppe = group. "Go Group"??? WAIT! "GO TEAM?" Could it be??? OMG!!! I think I possibly got a "GO TEAM!" in Switzerland. So that pumped me up as we ran into a sports complex where people were playing soccer. We had to run around a track and before we left the track, volunteers slid a black stretchy hair loop around our wists. There was also a big pile of yellow ones which were probably for the people on their second loop.

As I headed back into the vineyard, I kept an eye out for Lauren. I exchanged sponges and drank more water. I saw some people trying to help a guy who looked like he collapsed at the side of the run trail in the grass. YIKES! Keep moving! I still had not seen Lauren. Where was she??? I made it back in to the swim start area and had to go up along side of the Diner's Club Arena and head back out for loop 2. As I was heading towards downtown Rapperswil, I saw Lauren. She waved and smiled and I caught sight of THE BLACK STRETCHY HAIR BAND on her right wrist. WTF!!! Where did she pass me??? Was it on the hill when I had the quad melt-down??? My brain was flashing "DOES NOT COMPUTE" messages to me. I love Lauren to death and I do want her to do well, but I have always been way ahead of her when we do rides or runs. So none of this was making sense to me. I was now tired and it was now almost 4 pm and feeling pretty low. The brain starts playing tricks on you. I ran past all the smokers and the band that was only playing intermittently now. COME ON GANG! I NEED THE MOTIVATION! My legs were toast and aching but I kept moving. I wove my way through town and up the Stairway to Heaven. I stopped at that fountain and stuck my whole head in it. I needed to snap to it and find my motivation again. I walked through the next aid station and drank more water. It was the first time to walk and it was mile 7.5 or 8 at this point. Come on, pick it up! I got running again and on the way back in to the swim venue, there were less people heading out to town. Ack, the athletes are thinning out. Dang it! Ryan is already done and had a massage! Come on, pick it up! No more walking allowed unless I was drinking. And then, as if it was divine intervention, I heard a shout from the crowd..."GO TEAM IN TRAINING!!!" YES! I was half a world away from home and someone knew what it was that I was racing for. I found my motivation right then and there! I had finished one bottle of Accelerade and now it was on to the second bottle with more S-Caps.

Those landmarks I had searched out earlier were very helpful on the second loop. It made things seem like they were passing faster. I saw Lauren again and she had a YELLOW HAIR STRETCHY on her right arm. Dang, that meant that she was heading in to finish and I still had almost 5 miles to go. How did I get that far behind? HTFU and run! No pity parties allowed. I passed my land marks and the cowbell guys. I walked through the aid station at the sports fields and the track to exchange sponges for the last time and take in more fluids. I picked it up to go get my YELLOW HAIR STRETCHY. Once I had that stretchy, I knew it was only 2.5 miles to the finish. There were less people heading out to the track to get their yellow hair stretchy, but I kept telling myself that I was ahead of these people and that was good. The little kids were still out there cheering for us. I passed the Church and kept an eye out for the Castle up on the hill at the top of the Stairway to Heaven.
Once I saw that I knew I would be close. More people were walking and hobbling. I kept running. I came around a bend, and there was the castle off in the distance. YES...less than a mile to go! I had one more aid station to go through. I was going to ditch the sponges here and grab one last cup of water. On the other side of the aid station, I saw Ryan with his camera and I gave him a smile and a wave as I turned off the loop and headed towards the finishing area about 350 to 400 yards away. I ran up the side of the Diner's Club Arena and around the corner and saw the most beautiful sight of the day...THE FINISH LINE! Run Time--2:15:41 (only 10 minutes slower than my Lonestar run time), Finish Time--6:24:37

I crossed that line with a smile on my face and got my Finisher's medal while volunteers took my timing chip and the black and yellow hair stretchys. As we were herded like cattle through the finishing area, we had to pick up our Finisher's Shirt and our print out of our splits. I saw Ryan waiting for me at the exit and we gave each other a big hug for finishing the race. I told him that Lauren had finished before me because I saw her with the yellow hair stretchy. He said that he had not seen her, but that he was going to check the results board on the way over to the transition area.

Ryan said he did not see her finish time on the results board yet. We were going to see if she had gone to transition and was there. Nope, no Lauren and it looked like her stuff was still in the same place as she had left it after the bike leg. WTF!!! There was some dude lighting up a smoke as he was leaving transition with his bike and gear. That is NUTS! Ryan was going to pack up his stuff and then wait by Lauren's gear if she showed up while I got my stuff together. While I was packing up, I saw more public nudity from both men and women. I modestly changed out of my sweaty stuff with my arm warmer bolero tied around me and put on my Finisher's Shirt. Ryan said he thought that he heard Lauren's name from the announcer and he was going to go towards the Finish area and find Lauren. I packed up the last of my stuff and left it there to go chase after Ryan.

We found Lauren after she got her Finisher's Gear and she told us how she had a black hair stretchy from her braids on here arm and the volunteers gave her a yellow one. Then there was great confusion as she started to head out on her second loop and the volunteers tried to get her to go to the finish since she had the yellow hair stretchy. We went into the Diner's Club Arena where they were serving food and playing a highlights video from the day. After we ate, we headed back out to the transition to grab our stuff and get going. They were about to start awards and do the roll-down slots. I was pretty far down the list so I don't think that I would have made it, but you never know. Well, anyway I had already been to Clearwater, it was someone else's opportunity to get to go this year. Oh, and I finally figured out why the race mascot was a giraffe. The transition area was up against the giraffe compound of the Children's Zoo. The giraffes were out and looking over the fence as I was packing up my race gear.

We got our transition bags and what did we do next? We hopped on our bikes for the 6.5 mile ride back to Staffa and our hotel. The roads were pretty empty and we took it easy on the way back. Needless to say, we got off our bikes and pushed them up the last hill to the hotel, LOL. We showered up and walked into town and had dinner and toasted our success on THE HARDEST race course we had ever been on. We did it!

I hoped you enjoyed the installments. Good Luck to all my friends who are going to be at Ironman CdA this weekend. I'm glad it is not me, lol.

Later Gators!



Benson said...

Great race and fun to read your narratives.
I remember the Beast part of the bike course well...3 times.
You were so tuff to deal with those cramps and keep going. You really came around on the run and finished well.
I loved those huge cowbells too.
It is so beautiful there and you were so blessed to have a nice day for a race.

Jeff said...

I would think running through all of the smokers is kinda like running through Houston in summer, no?

All I can say is WOW. What an amazing day. You rocked. Thanks for sharing the story. (How do you remember all that stuff?)

Steve Stenzel said...

Wait, wait, wait.....smoking while walking out of Transition?!? That's CRAZY!!! Well, all in moderation, as they say.

What a day!!! Great post!! Fun photos!!

Rainmaker said...

Awesome! Congrats! I love how everything is just so colorful and lively looking. Looks like an incredible time!

Ryan said...

Nice job!

I could totally feel your pain and confusion during the run!

During my last race at one point I thought, my next race I should run with an umbrella to shade myself.

Hopp Hopp Hopp!

Viv said...

What kind of race is this. Second hand smoke, topless women, I guy showing his unit in his shorts, white tri shorts with probably
ungroomed whohas. OMG! It is like Rick's caberet outthere!

You look so strong in those pics. Man, to do a 70.3 and look so solid.

My fav pic is that chic in the red shirt as you holding your prinout.
WTF is she looking at?!?

Awesomely done Liz!! Thanks for the great report. I will probably never EVER do that challenging course. Start scoping out the "easy" 70.3's for me ok.

Spokane Al said...

Liz, that was a terrific report. I am glad to hear you had such a great time on a tough course.

monica said...

great report, liz!!! congrats on finishing what souns like a pretty tough course!!

man, you mad me miss switzerland. i raced there in lausanne with team usa in '06. luckily, i was just doing the aquathlon and didn't have to do the grueling hilly bike!! that's switzerland, though. hills hills hills. and i too was TOTALLY BAFFLED by the smoking spectators. WTF?? i remember the public fountains everywhere too.

oh the cows. i'm a sucker for cows. so many cute cows in switzerland!!