Up to Speed in 2012

2012 is firmly upon us and it is truly hard to believe. When you are a kid and your parents tell you that time just flies by, it sounds absurd. Now I completely understand, days run into weeks, weeks run into months, and months run into years. Next thing you know another year has flown by.

Over the past couple of years, I have fully completely embraced my new found athletic position as recreational athlete. Long gone are the days of training for hours and hours.
The days of multiple workouts are a thing of the past. I am happy to just be able to get a workout in during the day to get my fix. Now fully removed from the life of a professional athlete, I do what I enjoy doing without much thought put to why, where, when. I just head out the door for the pure enjoyment of being active. My favorite thing to do has always been and will probably always be heading out for a run in the trails. Now that my speed is no longer what it is, I have migrated to running longer and at a much more relaxed pace. This transition has been a nice change. With my second 50 mile running event looming on the horizon, people ask me when I am going to do a 100 mile running event – like the Western States 100. I will be very honest when I say that this does not have any appeal to me whatsoever. While I say that I have migrated to longer, slower running, I still like “running”. I am not a good walker, nor do I really like walking. When you get up to a 100 Mile event it is inevitable, at some point you will be walking. 50 mile events definitely push this limit for me – I feel like so long as things go OK, I can run the majority of the event, so it feels like a “run”. Don′t get me wrong, I am sure that I will have to walk during my 50 mile event, but less of it will be walking and more of it will be running. I have the utmost respect for athletes that do 100 mile running events, but it is just not something that I see in my future.

Heather

It is amazing how one can lose track of time

t is amazing how one can lose track of time. We get rolling in our own life, our own routine, and then next thing you know a year has gone by, or maybe two. This is definitely the case with updating my website. So, let’s get up to speed on the past 18 months.
Now having fully stepped away from racing as a professional, I have been thoroughly enjoying staying in shape and becoming a recreational athlete. I am sure that most of you would not believe this, but over the past year, my priorities have changed and exercising is now for peace of mind and to stay healthy rather than to be in shape to compete. As running has always been my passion, this definitely takes first priority. I run whenever I can, and stay in decent enough shape to be able to pop into races here and there. Over the past couple of years this has included numerous Xterra Trail running races including the Xterra Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii, the Rock and Roll San Diego Marathon and most recently the Catalina Marathon. Getting out on the bike these days is now a luxury rather than a necessity, and paddle boarding has taken the place of swimming.

Do I miss competing in Ironman races? I can answer this with complete conviction when I say no, I do not. I feel like I have done everything I could have ever wanted in the sport of triathlon, had 18 great years of racing – so there are definitely no regrets in stepping away. This is when you know that you have made the right decision – when you can be at the swim start of an Ironman and feel the excitement, but be content with being a part of the excitement from the beach rather than in the water!!

Do I miss being in Ironman Shape – well of course! I miss the feeling your body has when it is in top shape. Needless to say, these days, things wobble a little more (OK a lot more) and the muscles are much less toned.

The past couple of years I have enjoyed working at the Ironman events, as the pro athlete liaison as well as the VIP Director. It is fun to be on the other side of the fence, and I now have a full appreciation as to the work that goes in to putting on a world class event. As athletes, we show up, we do our thing, and more times than not, we notice what wasn’t there rather than what was. Now I see the incredible attention to detail that goes into organizing an Ironman event.

I have also worked very closely with NEWTON RUNNING acting as their athlete liaison. It has been great, watching the NEWTON Running technology take shape and to see how it has been embraced in the running and triathlon communities. From the first time I tried Newton Shoes, I never went back. It has now been 4 years, and I have not run in regular shoe – I cannot imagine even trying. I appreciate Newton allowing me to continue to be a part of their team!

Some new projects on the horizon for me are:

  • Centurion Cycling is the new brain child of NA Sports founder Graham Fraser. The passion and insight that Graham had to bring Ironman racing to where it is today in North America, is now focused on revolutionizing cycling – enter CENTURION CYCLING. Look for great things to come. I encourage you to jump into a Centurion Event, I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed!!! Check it out: www.centurioncycling.com
  • MOLOKAI 2 Oahu – Paddleboard race. Known in the paddling community as the World Championship event, Multisports.com has now teamed up with Epic Sports Foundation and PCH Sports Marketing to bring the event to another level. Try paddling 32 miles in some of the most difficult conditions you will ever encounter – that is what these guys do! Check out the website: www.molokai2oahu.com

I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring – never a dull moment. Hopefully it will not be 18 months before I update again. Until then be safe!!

Heather

Kona Just Around the Corner

Well, it really is hard to believe that it is September and Kona is just around the corner, I am not sure where the year has gone. This update is very, very tardy on my part. I have been meaning to do an update for months, and it just has not happened. We′ll better late than never, here is what has been happening this year.

At the end of last year, I had decided that 2008 would be a year of change. One where I would focus more on work and less on doing any structured training or racing. I have been fortunate enough to be the VIP Director and Pro Liaison for NA SPORTS this year. Basically it is the best of both worlds – I still get to go to all of the NA Sports events, but without the pressure of having to perform on the race course. Many people have asked whether or not I miss being out there racing – I can honestly say that I have been keeping so busy that I have not missed it. It is amazing how quickly an Ironman day can go when you are on the other side of things. The gun goes off and before I know it, the athletes are coming in off the bike, and onto the run. This is much different than being out there racing. I really do feel very lucky that I have been given the opportunity to make this transition from full-time racing to full-time working, and for this I have to thank Graham Fraser and the NA Sports crew.

So while work has been the focus for 2008 – I have certainly found many ways to fuel my competitiveness. This has ranged from off road Xterra Running races to Paddleboard races. I have enjoyed getting back to my roots of running, and the numerous off-road running races that are available now make running even more fun. I have tried to do a number of the Xterra running series races – and look forward to doing many more. The great thing about these races is that there are no expectations because each race is so different that you can′t compare one to the other. I am planning to run both the XTERRA running series – National Championships in Bend, OR on Sept 27th and the XTERRA Running Series – World Championships in Oahu, HI on Dec 6th. Another fun thing about this year is that since turning 40 – I am now able to race in the Masters category – so this was the case in both the National XC Championships and the Carlsbad 5000. Masters running is a whole new world – it is amazing how many fast women there are out there 40+!!!

So while the running races fuel my competitiveness, the paddleboard races are a big serving of humble pie. I thoroughly enjoy the paddleboard races and have done quite a few this year ranging from 4-14 miles – but I am far from being “good” or competitive. I guess this is where the allure is for me – I can go and race and give my best effort without any expectations. I have no delusions of grandeur – I will never be a top paddle boarder, but I really like being out there and pushing myself to the limit. As with someone that is new to any sport – there is so much to learn and I feel like a sponge trying to soak up all the information that is out there.

Of course Roch and I have had to fit in some adventures during the year to keep things fun and exciting. This was the first year that I have been in Lake Placid without racing. So in the past I had not had the opportunity to see all that Lake Placid has to offer because I had been focusing on the race ahead, or recovering from the race. This year Roch and I decided that we would paddle across Lake Placid to the trail head for Whiteface Mountain, climb up Whiteface and then paddle back. We had a great time – the paddle was about 1 hour each way, and then about 3 hours to hike up and down Whiteface. It was a lot of fun, and great to see a part of Lake Placid that I had never experienced.

The next adventure would be on our way to Ironman Canada. Early in the year, Roch suggested that we complete the ride that he did last year from Calgary to Penticton – which was 480 miles in 4 days. Last year I was not able to do the ride as I was competing in Ironman Canada, and for Roch it was the jump start to his Ironman Hawaii training. This year, I was not doing IM Canada, and no Hawaii for Roch, so it seemed like a good idea – we both needed to be in Penticton to work at the event anyway.

Because misery loves company, we rallied our good friend Homer to join us on the trip. We knew he would be in for the adventure and it would make for a very fun time. He of course obliged and came from Toronto to meet us in Calgary to start our adventure. When the reality of the 4 days ahead set in, I was a little concerned to say the least. The 500 or so miles that we would cover was more than I had done in the last 6 months combined – it was not going to be pretty.

Of course along the entire ride, I made sure that I took advantage of all the sprint points I could get – sitting on all day, and then sprinting past Roch whenever I saw a city limits sign. Most of the time he had no idea that Homer and I were scheming behind him, until I would go by to nab the points. So all in all, I think that I won the Green Jersey (with Homer′s help), but Roch definitely won the YELLOW and the Polka Dot Jersey.

It was an amazing trip – one which I would suggest to anyone that wants to do a fun bike trip. The great thing was not only the company or the scenery, but the fact that we had no set time or pace that we were trying to ride – when we were tired we went slower, when we were feeling good, the pace picked up a bit.

So as you can see this season has been one of change and one full of excitement. Next up… more of the same

Season Update 2008

Well, it really is hard to believe that it is September and Kona is just around the corner, I am not sure where the year has gone. This update is very, very tardy on my part. I have been meaning to do an update for months, and it just has not happened. We’ll better late than never, here is what has been happening this year.

At the end of last year, I had decided that 2008 would be a year of change. One where I would focus more on work and less on doing any structured training or racing. I have been fortunate enough to be the VIP Director and Pro Liaison for NA SPORTS this year. Basically it is the best of both worlds – I still get to go to all of the NA Sports events, but without the pressure of having to perform on the race course. Many people have asked whether or not I miss being out there racing – I can honestly say that I have been keeping so busy that I have not missed it. It is amazing how quickly an Ironman day can go when you are on the other side of things. The gun goes off and before I know it, the athletes are coming in off the bike, and onto the run. This is much different than being out there racing. I really do feel very lucky that I have been given the opportunity to make this transition from full-time racing to full-time working, and for this I have to thank Graham Fraser and the NA Sports crew.

So while work has been the focus for 2008 – I have certainly found many ways to fuel my competitiveness. This has ranged from off road Xterra Running races to Paddleboard races. I have enjoyed getting back to my roots of running, and the numerous off-road running races that are available now make running even more fun. I have tried to do a number of the Xterra running series races – and look forward to doing many more. The great thing about these races is that there are no expectations because each race is so different that you can’t compare one to the other. I am planning to run both the XTERRA running series – National Championships in Bend, OR on Sept 27th and the XTERRA Running Series – World Championships in Oahu, HI on Dec 6th. Another fun thing about this year is that since turing 40 – I am now able to race in the Masters category – so this was the case in both the National XC Championships and the Carlsbad 5000. Masters running is a whole new world – it is amazing how many fast women there are out there 40+!!!

So while the running races fuel my competitiveness, the paddleboard races are a big serving of humble pie. I thoroughly enjoy the paddleboard races and have done quite a few this year ranging from 4-14 miles – but I am far from being “good” or competitive. I guess this is where the allure is for me – I can go and race and give my best effort without any expectations. I have no delusions of greatness – I will never be a top paddler, but I really like being out there and pushing myself to the limit. As with someone that is new to any sport – there is so much to learn and I feel like a sponge trying to soak up all the information that is out there.

Of course Roch and I have had to fit in some adventures during the year to keep things fun and exciting. This was the first year that I have been in Lake Placid without racing. So in the past I had not had the opportunity to see all that Lake Placid has to offer because I had been focusing on the race ahead, or recovering from the race. This year Roch and I decided that we would paddle across Lake Placid to the trail head for Whiteface Mountain, climb up Whiteface and then paddle back. We had a great time – the paddle was about 1 hour each way, and then about 3 hours to hike up and down Whiteface. It was a lot of fun, and great to see a part of Lake Placid that I had never experienced.

The next adventure would be on our way to Ironman Canada. Early in the year, Roch suggested that we complete the ride that he did last year from Calgary to Penticton – which was 480 miles in 4 days. Last year I was not able to do the ride as I was competing in Ironman Canada, and for Roch it was the jump start to his Ironman Hawaii training. This year, I was not doing IM Canada, and no Hawaii for Roch, so it seemed like a good idea – we both needed to be in Penticton to work at the event anyway.

Because misery loves company, we rallied our good friend Homer to join us on the trip. We knew he would be in for the adventure and it would make for a very fun time. He of course obliged and came from Toronto to meet us in Calgary to start our adventure. When the reality of the 4 days ahead set in, I was a little concerned to say the least. The 500 or so miles that we would cover was more than I had done in the last 6 months combined – it was not going to be pretty.

Of course along the entire ride, I made sure that I took advantage of all the sprint points I could get – sitting on all day, and then sprinting past Roch whenever I saw a city limits sign. Most of the time he had no idea that Homer and I were scheming behind him, until I would go by to nab the points. So all in all, I think that I won the Green Jersey (with Homer’s help), but Roch definitely won the YELLOW and the Polka Dot Jersey.

It was an amazing trip – one which I would suggest to anyone that wants to do a fun bike trip. The great thing was not only the company or the scenery, but the fact that we had no set time or pace that we were trying to ride – when we were tired we went slower, when we were feeling good, the pace picked up a bit.

So as you can see this season has been one of change and one full of excitement. Next up… more of the same!!

Ironman Canada 2007 Race Report

I am happy to say that the 25th running of the Subaru Ironman Canada is now one for the record books. The event in itself certainly did not disappoint. Having never raced this race, despite being a Canadian and having race Ironman races for 18 years – I did not know what to expect. I remember how much support the race received from the community the last time I was here watching many, many years ago, and could only imagine that things have only gotten better. This certainly was the case; the City of Penticton really embraces this event and has turned it into a phenomenon. NA Sports also made a conscious effort to step things up, wanting to make the 25th Anniversary very special. Numerous anniversary celebrations, made the week leading up to the event fun filled.

One of my favorite events of any race is the kid’s run – this event was one of the biggest that I had ever seen with upwards of 300 kids participating. Included in the field were my two nephew’s Kieran and Landon Fuhr. They did awesome and really enjoyed the run and of course getting the finisher medal was pretty cool too!!

Another one of highlights of the pre-race activities is the Underpants Run. I had heard a lot about the Subaru Ironman Canada version of the Underpants run, so I knew it was an event that I could not miss. Give the conservative Canadians an opportunity to run around in their GAUNCH – and you won’t believe how many people will turn up. Paula even got to participate in her first ever underpants run!!! Money was raised for children in need and everyone had a blast.

The race itself was going to be an exercise in execution for myself. My training leading up to the race had gone well, and I was ready to race but I knew my limitations. I set a very specific race plan for myself based upon the training.

For the swim, the plan was to swim strong but under control and minimize the damage.
The water was great and I had a relatively uneventful start. I settled into my pace – unfortunately just missing the feet ahead (which would have put me a couple of minutes faster). The swim time was slow, but then I realized after having heard how far behind I was that it was slow for everyone.

Once on the bike, I raced with my SRM power meter, and from training, I knew that there was a very specific wattage that I would be able to push and if I could stick to that, the ride would only get better throughout. I stuck to the plan on the bike – the girls up front were putting in a great deal of time into me early on, but I did not panic or get upset – I just hit my wattage. As the ride went along the time gap started to stay the same as the girls upfront were starting to feel the damage of the early part of the ride. I did have some rough stretches, in particular the rollers after Richter Pass – we had Kona like winds through this section which was making getting into any rhythm difficult. A little reprieve from the wind during the OUT of the out-and-back section and I was able to regroup and feel strong to the finish of the bike. Sticking with the plan, I came into transition quite a few minutes down (about 15) but very happy with my ride. I did what I had set out to do and what was within my realm of capability given the training that I had done.

Now it was time to put the Newton’s on and hit the pavement. Out of all my training, my running has felt the best it has in a long time. This is a good and bad thing. Good in that I hoped to be able to run a strong marathon, bad in the fact that sometimes it is hard to hold back to a reasonable pace at the beginning if things are feeling really good. My plan was to run conservative the first ½ of the race and then try and be strong for the last 6-8 miles where the wheels usually fall off. So off I went running at what was feeling like a very comfortable pace – but based upon the mile splits it was probably a bit too fast. I got to the turn around and I was gaining time on the leaders. At the ½ way point, Lisa Bentley had overtaken Linda Gallo for the lead Sara Gross was just behind that. I was about 10 minutes behind Lisa, 8 behind Sara and 5 behind Linda. Figuring out the math, I was going to have to do something pretty incredible if I was going to catch Lisa, but there was the possibility that I could catch Linda. I kept running, but I did start to feel the affects of the pace that I had set on the way out. So much for running strong the last 10km – back to survival mode it was. One of the great things about the run course in Penticton is that there are people cheering you pretty much the whole way. So, even when I started to feel tired, the crowds were there to keep me going. Finally at about 22 miles I caught up to Linda Gallo to move into 3rd place. I kept running as strong as I could to the finish and was very happy to cross the line in 3rd place in my first ever Subaru Ironman Canada.

So, all in all the day was a great success. I went out there and did what I could do based upon my limited training, and did so with a smile on my face. A huge thank-you to NA Sports for putting on a great event. Joe Dixon the race director made my first trip to the Subaru Ironman Canada very special and I thank him and his crew for that. From being on the other side of things more this year, I do know how much work it is to pull a race like this off – it is no small feat. Everyone involved needs a huge pat on the back!!!

No it is time to get back into some mountain biking and paddle boarding. I am looking forward to getting back on the trails with my mountain bike and doing some paddle boarding. These two activities have been put on the back burner over the past couple of months.

My next goal is running my first ever straight marathon. I will be doing the Bizz Johnson trail marathon on October 7th. I have never done a marathon without having swum 2.4 miles and cycled 112 miles before hand, but have not really had any desire to do so. This marathon caught my eye as it is one trails and more importantly, it is a great course. On an old railroad bed, the trail is nice and smooth and is 8 mile of gradual uphill and then 18 miles of gradual downhill. I think that has my name written all over it.

For the first time in 17 years, I will not be toeing the line at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona. This was a very conscious decision on my part after my race there last year. I look forward to experiencing Kona in a different way – and have no regrets on the decision at all. I feel like I have accomplished everything that I have wanted to in Kona and will thoroughly enjoy being on the sidelines.

Ironman Hawaii 2006

Well, the 2006 Ironman World Championships here in Kona has come and gone for another year. A huge congratulations to Michellie Jones (Australia) and Normann Stadler (Germany) for their impressive race from the front wins!!! For Michellie it was her first win here in only her second appearance and for Normann it is his second title after a disappointing race here last year.

I wanted to give you all a personal update on my race yesterday here in Kona. For those of you that have experienced this race before you can understand when I say that this race and this Island are like no other. This was my 16th time on the start line here in Kona, and I have enjoyed almost every experience imaginable during those years. What took place yesterday was certainly not what I had hoped for. I was in great shape and looking for another strong performance here in Kona.

I am a firm believer that every time a person races here in Kona, they leave part of their heart and soul out there on the course. Over the years, I have had many, many races where I have had to dig very, very deep to overcome the Kona demons and pull out a good race. Much of who I am as an athlete is associated with this race, and I have left a great deal of myself out there on the lava fields. I am very proud of each and every time that I crossed the finish line here, but today was not meant to be. Some might ask – why did I not just keep going and achieve that goal of crossing the finish line?? It wasn’t like I couldn’t keep going; I could have slowed down and made it through the day – something that I did last year. It is something that is hard to explain, but yesterday, my IM Kona tank was empty!! There is a point where there is nothing left to give – and yesterday I reached that point. This is not to say that I won’t be back to tackle these demons, but yesterday it was not meant to be.

It was a very tough decision to make out there on the race course. I saw Roch and he supported whatever decision I made, but wanted to make sure that I was OK with it. I went over and over it in my mind with the same result. It was a very emotional choice – but the one I had to make. I spoke with Paula Newby-Fraser on the phone and it was comforting to know that she totally understood the demons I was facing out there. After a little bit of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I would make my way up to the Ironman Live studio and see if I could help out in any way. This was the best thing that I could have done, as it helped me to gain a lot of perspective on the day. Life will go on, there will be many more races, and this is just a little blip on the radar screen!!!

A special thank-you goes out to all of my sponsors and support crew. Without their unwavering support over the season, I could not do what I do. Despite my disappointment yesterday, the year has been great. I have not been broken, and I will be back!!!

Beginning the Final Push To IM Hawaii 2006

It has been quite some time since my last update after Ironman Japan. A lot has happened since then, and now it is already time to get started in the final preparation for Ironman Hawaii on Oct 21st.

It has been a fun 3 months since Ironman Japan, and I have enjoyed doing some shorter races and getting away from the norm by doing some paddleboarding and mountain biking. After Ironman Japan, I had decided that I would step away from the long distance training of Ironman and do some shorter races to try and build up some speed. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I still get excited about changing things up. As an athlete, there is nothing better than feeling fast, and this is not something that I normally focus on.

My first test of fitness would be the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 race – which was 1 month after Japan. From what I had heard about the course, I was looking forward to a hilly, hot race. Texas was actually having a cold spell, which I suppose was good thing – temperatures in the upper 80s rather than 100+. When we flew in, I was wondering where the hills were – I couldn’t see anything that resembled a hill anywhere in sight. We went and checked out the course and they actually did find a few hill for us to climb. There was a good strong field at the race with Natascha Badman, Desiree Ficker, Andrea Fisher, Amanda Lovato and a number of other athletes. It was a good feeling to get racing again. The race went pretty good – nothing spectacular but all in all a good effort. Natascha smashed the course and Desiree was strong as well – and I came in third.

After the trip to Texas, I was sticking close to home for a while. I have always been a home body, so staying home for an extended period of time is always enjoyable. During the summer in San Diego, we have plenty of local races, running & triathlon. I can always find something to slip into if I want to get in a good workout. Continuing on with the speed theme, I stepped into the Scripps Ranch, July 4th 10km. It was fun to do a running race – I hadn’t done one in a long time – especially a 10km. I started out conservatively and felt strong and was able to build throughout the race. That same weekend I would do the Carlsbad Triathlon. It is a local race – I could sleep in my own bed, and ride my bike to the start line. I wanted to try and have a good solid swim and bike segment of the race. Well, the swim was dreadful, but the bike was great – so I accomplished half of what I wanted. I was able to toe the line with the likes of Michellie Jones. Of course I would be of no threat to her in a race so short, but it was fun once again to get out there and mix it up.

The final race in my line-up was Vineman 70.3. I had always wanted to do this race, but have never had the opportunity. This year, because the race is now a 70.3 race, it attracted a very strong professional field. We were really spoiled when it came to traveling to this race. A good friend flew us up to the local Santa Rosa airport in his jet. No packing the bike, no dealing with airport security – it was amazing. It would really be hard to go back to flying coach after that. The race course was really nice – but unfortunately I wasn’t having one of my best races, so even riding and running through the amazing vineyards wouldn’t help. I struggled through the race and was glad to cross the finish line. It was then end of a long string of training and racing and I think my body was a little tired.

After Vineman it was time to do something totally different. I had enjoyed doing some paddle boarding with Roch. The ocean water temperature was amazing this summer, so it was fun to get out in the water. Roch was very patient with my feeble attempt to learn the sport. The first time we went out, there was some surf. Roch had to take both paddleboards in and out through the surf as I swam. I was too afraid to go through the surf with a 12 foot paddleboard. Once out through the surf, it was a lot of fun. My arms were ready to fall off the next day – but hey, it has got to be good for swimming!!!

The real adventure of the summer would be the TransRockies Challenge 7 day Mountain bike race. This was a 7 day stage race covering over 300 miles and climbing over 30,000 ft. (www.transrockies.com) I would be on a team with our neighbor and fellow triathlete Jason Tuffs, while Roch was on a team with friend and sponsor Mike Dannelley (American Interbanc.com). We really did not know what we were in for. Arriving at the start of the race, I was like a fish out of water. There were all of these amazing mountain bike athletes and then there was me. Everyone kept asking me if I had been doing a lot of mountain biking – well no I really hadn’t. This started to make me nervous. The race was probably one of the hardest, scariest and most fun things that I have ever done. You can check out some updates along with photos that I did on the TransRockies on the Multisports.com website at: http://www.multisports.com/news.html .

Now it is back to reality and back to the task at hand – getting ready for Ironman Hawaii. I am hoping that by switching things up a bit this year with my preparation, I will arrive at the start line with a fresh outlook on things and a body that is ready to go!!!

I will keep you posted on my preparation. Also as we get to the final week before the race, you can check back here for a more regular blog of my final prep and all the happenings on the Big Island.

Heather

The 2006 Racing Season Finally Begins

This season has been a little different than any other. Being sick for the better part of a couple of months left me questioning when I was going to get my racing season started. My plan was to do some 70.3 races early and then Ironman Coeur D’alene. Well the 70.3 races never happened, and due to certain commitments it looked like IM CDA was going to be questionable. In the middle of April, Paula came to me with a proposal. How about doing IM Japan?? This was something that had not entered my radar at all – but it got me thinking. There were a couple of reasons that this started to sound appealing. First of all, it would be nice to do something different – for the past 5 years, I have pretty much done the same thing each season. So, to mix things up might add that little spark that I needed. Secondly, after the disappointment of Hawaii last year (when I focused so hard and for so long on the one race and then to have it turn out like it did) – this would be about as much of a 180 from that as you can get. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to go into an Ironman race a little on the underdone side of things? To put in some good training, but not focus for months and months getting everything just so. So from the point of deciding that yes, this sounded like a good idea, we had about 5 weeks to prepare. This would give us time to get in about 5 long rides and 3-4 long runs. Paula made the commitment to train with me and go and do the race as well. For her, this would be her first opportunity in a couple of years to do and IM race, and her only opportunity this year. Our training went well – it is amazing how quickly things come around when you don’t force them. We kept the majority of the long rides well in control, and a couple of the longer ones at a low HR. By doing this, we got ourselves into pretty decent shape and by no means over trained. Wow, imagine that!!!!

Before we new it, we were off on our journey. I had not been to Japan for 9 years – I have done and won the IM Japan race 3 times (1995-1997) but it had been a long time. Also, when I did the IM Japan race it was in Lake Biwa, for the past 6 years it has moved to the Fukue Island. So this was going to be a new experience. Luckily Paula had done (and won) the race in 2002 – so she had an idea of what was going on. She was going to be the tour guide for the trip. I was very impressed with how she very quickly remembered where everything was – I spent the whole trip not having a clue where anything was – including the race course. I always tell everyone that you need to take the responsibility to know the course – well this was something that I certainly did not do. I had only seen about ¼ of the bike course – I was going with the assumption that ignorance was bliss!!! The Japanese are very, very organized, so I knew (or hoped) that the course would be very well marked and that there really would not be any chance of going off course.

After arriving in Fukue – things continued on the “go with the flow” theme. Our bikes did not make the short commuter flight with us and would have to be ferried over – so needless to say we were not going to get them until Thursday. So when we arrived on Wednesday we headed out for a run and went to the local pool. As soon as we got our bikes on Thursday – we headed out for a ride. I got a chance to get a small taste of what the course was going to be like. The bike course is one of the more challenging IM courses around. Friday arrived with pouring rain – well, I guess we weren’t going to be able to ride our bikes. We waited around until 10am to see if there might be the slightest chance that the weather would clear – NOT!! So, we went out for a little jog – in the pouring rain and gale force winds. Not knowing what else to do with ourselves we decided to take a taxi to the pool again. This was a running joke between Paula and me. With the taxi ride and admission to the pool, we were basically paying about the equivalent of $100 for our 2 short 1000m swims. We truly were desperate!!! Saturday arrived pretty similar to Friday with the exception that the wind had died down. We were really hoping that at some point we could get on our bikes, just as a last minute check to make sure everything was working – we had only ridden once so far!!! Mother Nature did cooperate and allow us to get in a short 45 minute spin before handing in all bikes and all of our gear.

The Japanese are very “rules” oriented – the rules are black and white and you don’t question them at all. I have never seen such an extensive check in as they had here. Like I do at all races, I trimmed down the numbers that go on my helmet – this was a clear violating of the rules. I had to remove these stickers and put in new ones. Paula had a little issue with her helmet as a tiny piece of the inner foam had come away during the travel. They almost did not let her use the helmet – that would have been a little bit of a nightmare. Needless to say, we got everything handed in and all that was left now was to wait for the race.

The big talk around town was the weather – what was it going to be like on race day. The organizers were even setting up contingency plans – due to the fact that if the wind was like it had been a couple of days before there was a good chance that the swim would have to be either shortened or cancelled all together. This was certainly out of our control, so we just waited to see what would happen race morning. We awoke to clear skies but very, very windy conditions. Luckily the wind was the opposite of what it had been and the swim was going to be able to happen. Even though the swim is the least enjoyable part for me, when you travel thousands of miles to do and Ironman – you want to do an Ironman.

We made our way to the swim start which was about 20 miles outside town. I had not been nervous at all during the week, and wasn’t even that nervous in the morning. I guess excitement was more how I would describe things – I wanted to get our “racing experiment” underway. The wind continued to howl as we got ready for the race – it was going to be an interesting day. Not only is the course tough, you add in the wind and it was going to make for a very difficult day.

Before I new it, the gun went off, and we were on our way. All looked good for the swim until you got out past the breakwater and then it was like being in a washing machine. I was certain (and hopeful at that point) that when we came around on the first lap, they were going tell us that the swim would have to be shortened to 1 loop. No such luck!! We were going to have to go through it all again on the second lap. I was really happy when the swim was done. I came out of the water in my usual position – a ways back from the leaders.

Off on the bike we headed into the windy, hilly conditions. I always have trouble getting going in the early parts of the race and this was no different. I just kept telling myself – just pretend you are on a training ride and keep going. I started to get rolling after about 40 miles or so. The bike course is awesome – you don’t get bored on bit. It really is my type of course with very few flat sections. The blessing also is that because it is hilly, a lot of the time you were sheltered from the crazy wind. Not to say that there weren’t many points where I was cursing the wind, but it could have been much worse. By the end of the bike, I had caught back up to Aussie Angela Milne (she had passed me early on in the bike) and only had Sarah Fein ahead. Sarah was quite a ways ahead however – 10 minutes or so.

After the disastrous run in Hawaii last year, I must say I was a little anxious about the run. Would my old form return??? I started the run, and my legs felt incredible – had I really just swam 2.4 miles and rode 112??? It was a great feeling. Now I just had to focus ahead and try and catch Sarah. I just plugged away and at about 12-13km I caught her. I continued to run strong and get a bit of a cushion. A marathon is a long way, and you just never know what is going to happen so I needed to get as much distance as possible between myself and Sarah. There really was no way of knowing just how far ahead I was, so I tried to maintain a decent pace the whole way. My legs started to tire a little the last 10km or so, so I just did what I could do to minimize the damage. I made my way into town towards the finish line. It was a great feeling – I was going to win my 15th Ironman title. At this point in my career, I never know whether I will win another or not. So it is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying feeling to win!!!! Sarah Fein came in second and Angela Milne 3rd. Paula held strong for an impressive 4th place.

Well our “racing experiment” was successful. You really can get yourself ready for an Ironman in 5 weeks!!!! Now it is time to get recovered – I have a feeling that this will be the downside of the experiment, the recovery may take a little longer. My plan is now to do some shorter races, some of the 70.3 races and local events before getting ready for Hawaii. I am going to take a page out of this book when it comes to my preparation for Hawaii – less is more!!!!

 

Happy Holiday

It is hard to believe the Christmas is just around the corner, and that the 2006 Season is coming fast. I have enjoyed these past couple of months since the Ford Ironman World Championships. It was quite clear after the race, that I needed to step away from things to gain some perspective and to give my body and mind some much needed rest. I have done just that.

I have always preached to the athletes that we coach that at the end of the season a person needs to get out of shape to get back into better shape. This is something that I strongly believe in but for some reason last season I never followed my own advice. After the 2004 Ironman Hawaii race, I was very jacked up and excited and never really took any time at the end of the season. I told myself that I was taking a break but now when I look back I really didn’t– by Christmas I had already done a few 5 hour rides, and I was doing interval runs. At the end of this season I promised myself that I would go back to the basics – take an extended break, and get out of shape. I have taken this to a whole new level, but have loved every minute of it.

During the two months since Ironman, I have tried to step away from the swim/bike/run of my everyday life and do some different things. I have played a few games of golf – I am truly awful, but I really enjoy it. Roch took me out on the paddleboard one day – I thought my arms were going to fall off!! We also went on our first true vacation – 2 weeks in Costa Rica with Huddle and Paula. We had an incredible time. The theme of the off-season continued. We kayaked a few times, went ATVing, Zip lining, and walking – yep I said walking!!! I have never been one to walk – I always said, I am either running or I am driving – I don’t walk anywhere. Since I wanted to take a break from running – Roch and I did some great walks and I now have an appreciation for it. You certainly are more aware of the things around you when you walk. I came back from the vacation with my batteries recharged and with a refreshing new outlook on things.

Now it is time to think about slowly stepping back into reality. I am going to continue to enjoy myself over the holiday season, and then start to get back into a regular routine. The key to starting back will be patience – I cannot try and rush getting back into shape. It will come – it might take a little longer than in the past but I know I will be stronger both physically and mentally.

As a little aside, please check out the Jan 2006 Issue of GLAMOUR magazine – on shelves now. I did a photo shoot for Ford and Timex and it is in the Jan 2006 Issue.

To everyone – have a wonderful holiday season. We will see you out at the races in 2006!!!

Ironman Hawaii 2005

We as we all know, the Ironman World Championship for 2005 are now in the record books. It was a tough day at the office for me. After 15 years, I have experienced the gamut of emotions and performances out on the lava fields. There are those great days, there are those good days, and then there are the days like I had on Saturday. Here is a little account of how things went on race day.

The swim is the part of the race that I get most nervous about. I have never had a great swim in Kona – not one that I feel I am capable of. Fortunately, the race has never been won in the swim. With a few minutes to go to the start, the swim marshals start to bring the athletes back to the line and ready for the start. For some reason this year, some of the athletes mistook a comment by someone on the pier as the signal to start, and away they went. Assuming that the paddlers would bring them back, I watched as they swam away. To my dismay they did not bring them back and about 5 seconds later the cannon went off, and the race was officially underway. Lesson #1, if you see people start swimming – start swimming yourself!!! After the physical contact of the start, I was able to settle into a pace and find the feet of Lisa Bentley to draft off of. Lisa tends to have good consistent swims here, so by being on her feet, I thought I would be in pretty good position. We exited the water in a relatively slow swim time, but I have learned over the years that the actual time is not all that important, but rather how far behind the leader is more relevant – it was time to focus forward.

I was off on the bike through the Kona town loop before heading out on the Queen K. I felt OK starting the bike, I could tell however that it was going to take a little while before my legs started to come around. I rode as fast as I could based upon what my legs would allow me to do on the way out. From all accounts, I was losing time to the leader Michellie Jones pretty consistently. Learning to never get discouraged, I kept plugging along. After the turn-around in Hawi, I could feel like I was coming into my own, and the time gap pretty much stayed the same on the way back. We really had incredible weather conditions on the bike ride. There were very few sections that we had a headwind, and never had the terrifying crosswinds of past years. It was going to be a fast day out there!!!. I felt strong all the way back into town and kept picking off some athletes along the way. I got off the bike just outside of the top ten, and I had the fastest bike ride that I have ever had here – 5 hours and 9 minutes – this was very encouraging.

Now the fun was going to start. I was now in my domain, the run segment of the race. If I could have a consistent run, realistically I could move my way up through the field and a top 5 finish would not be out of the question. I started the run not feeling too great, but that is quite normal for this race. I ran the first 9 mile segment of the run very consistently, making up small amounts of time on the girls ahead. Something was just not right however, I didn’t have that bounce in my step that I normally do. I needed to stop at a couple of aid stations to try and regroup and see if I could get my energy level to where it needed to be. Things only continued to go downhill from there. By the time I reached the highway at about 10 miles, I had slowed to a jog and stopped again at the aid station. I can’t say for sure what was going on, but it was becoming clear that for once my run was going to let me down. I have always said that there would be a race somewhere, sometime when this was bound to happen, but I hoped it wouldn’t happen here. My focus changed from trying to move up through the field to trying to keep forward momentum. With about 7 miles to go, I met up with Michael Lovato. Michael was having a rough day as well with some GI distress, so we decided that misery loves company and we made our way towards the finish. We would make little plans along the way – walk for 3 minutes and then run for 7, walk to the next power pole, and then run to the 5th. I must say that it was nice to have the company on what was a disappointing day on the lava fields. I have way too much respect for the race and for the forces of the island – that dropping out was not even an option. If someone like Sara Reinertsen (the first female leg amputee to compete in Ironman) can be out there competing and overcoming the hurdles she has to be there, I can certainly continue on and get across the line as well. I have always been under the opinion that all athletes, pros, age-groupers and PC athletes are all out there with the same goal – to cross the finish line. Today it became clear that this is not something to take lightly or take for granted.

I did cross that finish line and I did get my finishers medal. It may not have been in the fashion that I had envisioned but I did it and I am proud of that!!!! Often times, we learn the most about ourselves on those days when we have to deal with adversity. I did learn a lot about myself out there on the lava fields, and while I can’t say that I am not disappointed with my performance, I am focusing forward and can’t wait until next season. Now I am ready for some quiet time and a much welcomed holiday!!!

Thanks to all of my incredible sponsors and support network. Your continual, unconditional support is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed. Without this support I could not continue to do what I love to do.

Heather