This race was brought to my attention by my friend Hootie who works for lifetime fitness. I think it was shortly after I had finished Ironman Texas. It appealed to my sense of adventure and my love for travelling. I’ve always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and have been told more than once that I would LOVE Portland. Looking at the pictures of the area peaked my interest as did the many micro-brews in the area!
I was committed (sort of). I spoke about it and I had it on my list of races for this year for sometime. I didn’t sign up, book a flight or hotel really until the very last minute. Hootie and my friend April also committed to doing it as well. Hootie and I were to do the full 250K and April was doing the half at 125K. The distances were as follows 3.1 mile (5k) swim, 138 mile (224k) bike and a 13.1 mile (21k) run.
My fear of committing revolved more around fear of training for yet another long triathlon. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. To that end, I had no formal training plan. After IM Texas I wanted to take the summer easy from triathlon training and focus on PR’ing the Chicago marathon. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from plantar fasciitis and my marathon training was put on hold. My runs consisted of sessions I coached. I ran with my group and different paces with little speed. I felt like speed work would injure my foot and destroy my already tight hamstrings. So I “rested” on the running part. I ran Mondays 4-7 miles and Saturdays up to about 17 miles at a slower than normal pace. I did some long bikes… a few 90 mile rides and some shorter ones. One big 95 mile ride in Wisconsin on Ironman weekend where I did about 6000 feet climbing riding Robbie Ventura’s Gran Fondo course 3 x. I got on the computrainer about 3 x since IM Texas. I raced Steelhead 70.3 my favorite half IM and PR’d :). I swam quite a bit (2-3 times per week) but without as much intensity as for IM Texas. I swam both in the lake and in the pool doing 1 -3 mile swim several weeks prior to the race. The swim had a 2.5 hour cut-off for the 3 miles and was I worried about making it. So that was the training. I knew I wasn’t racing this race but could I do the distances within the cut-off ranges and could I even ride 138 miles after swimming 3 miles? These were the questions that floated through my brain as time grew near race day.
Once I actually signed up for the race I had some decisions to make. Do I fly to Portland and rent a car, how long should I stay, should I rent or ship my own bike. Some decisions were easy – I had waited so long that flying into Portland was the cheapest despite the car rental. Some were harder, I could rent a bike for $60 or ship my bike for 5 x that much; I didn’t think of actually fedexing the bike until it was too late! Doh! This was the breakdown of the cost:
Case rental $75;Bike packing/repacking $100; Extra fee on Southwest $100; packing/repacking at location $80; climbing cassette install and tune up $85; car upgrade to fit the bike box $100.
Not exactly pocket change! I decided not to rent racewheels to save a bit of money there. I did what a lot of people do in this situation, I went to the book of face to ask my tri friends what they thought. Most said take my own bike because of the distance. A couple said to rent. I ended up bringing Paddy and was happy for it in the long run despite the extra cashola.
This was also the hardest race to pack for. We would be facing temperatures anywhere from 30 – 80 degrees. With about 3,000 feet of elevation changes plus some grueling uphills and cold speedy downhills. I ended up packing a ton of cycling gear and barely any “real” clothing.
I arrived in Portland on Thursday afternoon, I rented the car and started the drive to Bend. Portland was overcast with temperatures in the mid 60’s. It got me worried that I didn’t bring enough warm clothes. I ended up being really happy that I decided to drive from Portland, it was beautiful. I was stunned at the varying terrain. One minute your driving through huge pine forests of Mt. Hood in a scene from Twilight the next thing I know I’m driving through the desert in The Treasures of the Sierra Madre! Here is the view as I was driving towards Bend: Crazy changes in temperature too. I got to Bend and the car read 91 degrees. I got out and sure enough it was crazy hot. I dropped my bike off at the bike shop then checked in to the hotel. It was in the “old mill” district of Bend and was a short walk to stores, breweries and to the athlete check in. I walked down the hill to pick up my race packet. As I am walking back up I realize how out of breath I am. Thin air! How was I going to do 138 miles on a bike if I can’t even walk up a short hill! Also the “sisters” area was being plagued by forest fires and there was a slight haze which left a burn in my chest and the air was SOOOO dry. I was constantly parched. Meanwhile, the entire time before the race I was questioning my decision to stick with the 250, Hootie had dropped down to the 125, and was feeling like he was the smart one.
Friday morning I worked (Boo!). Then headed to the course talk at noon. My doubts were doubled as I saw the uber athletes gather and not to mention that the head referee called us all elite triathletes hehe! Hello!!! We went through the rules and regulations and logistics of race day. After the course talk I picked up my bike (where I got to talk to Matt Lieto – holy hotness), packed my transition bags and ate lunch. By that time it was time to head up to T1 which was 60 miles away at Lake Cultus in the Cascade mountains:
The bike got racked and my HUGE T1 bag got dropped off. I had clothes for all eventualities. I already noticed the temperature drop from Bend to here. Bend’s elevation was about 3,400 feet while Cultus was at about 4,400 feet. By the time we got back it was quite late so we all just retired to our rooms and ordered room service. I had a nice pasta and meatball dinner with a glass of fine oregon wine of course. I watched “The Bucket List” pretty appropriate. Snapped a pic of the finish line before heading in:
The alarm went off at 4 am. I got up, made my room coffee and my bagel, hazelnut chocolate spread and banana. I gave myself a full bolus for the meal, roughly 5 units. I got dressed grabbed my special needs bag and my morning clothes bag and headed out to meet April and Hootie at 5:15am. It was still pitch black outside, luckily I had my handy headlamp (which Tom always makes fun of). We all thought we knew where it was but ended up having to back track slightly to get to where the buses were. We finally arrived at the bus around 5:30 with an hours drive that got me to the start at 6:30 not much time to get ready but doable. We rushed on the bus after they took our number down, once it was full it took off. Luckily there were several others on the bus who were also doing the full and had a 7am start (the 125k’ers had a 8am start). The bus moved off, then all of sudden 15 minutes into the ride it did a 3 point turn, it had gone the wrong way! Not the only bus that had done that we later learned. Well now I was beginning to panic but luckily since other buses got lost the race started 15 minutes late. Whew! I quickly got off the bus, filled my aero bottle and mixed my nutrition bottle. I headed into the heated changing tent to get into my wetsuit. It was 35 degrees or so. It was cold. I decided on wearing my neoprene booties but opted not to wear the neoprene swim cap because it felt tight around my throat. When I got out of the tent I started looking for the special needs bag drop. It got brought to my attention that I was supposed to have dropped it at the shuttle start area, no-one had said anything as a reminder and in our rush I forgot . I saw the race director and immediately went over to him. I told him I was a diabetic and the bag absolutely had to be at special needs. He told me to take a deep breath and that it would be there. Yay for small races!!!
As we were waiting to start you could see your breath. So wrong in so many ways…. we were about to get into water whilst so cold. Brrrrrrr! For the swim I had reduced my basal an hour before the start to 40% of normal approx .25 units/hour. I ate a lara bar prior to the start and tested at 180. I had two gels in the sleeves of my wetsuit. Once in the water it actually felt warm at a balmy 58 degrees :). The “over 35 women” were the last to go and there were only a handful of us. We waded out and gave each other props for being there and wished each other well. So civilized! The announcer gave us a great send off. I started off with the group on the toes of the other women, which lasted about 5 minutes, gradually the group was off in the distance and I was left in their wake swimming my pace. The lake was beautiful and clear and farely flat. I started counting the buoys at about the 7th one I see the lead swimmers heading back on their first loop and I knew before long that I would be lapped and despite all the open space around me I cringed thinking about it. As I looked ahead I could see the steam coming off of the lake. Very Cool! Sure enough shortly after I made the turn back I see the sea-doo following the lead guy. Not long now until I get lapped. Well as it turns out I didn’t feel a thing. I saw them pass and was grateful not to have been bothered. Although now I had to worry about possibly being lapped by the 8 am starters. I got through the first lap and got out the water as per the race course, I ate a gel and had some water. I looked at my watch and was shocked that it was only 45 minutes woo hoo! I head back in the water for my last lap. By that time the 8 am’ers had started and were in front of me. Again, I was by myself and last. It was awesome. So peaceful. As I headed back I could no longer keep my fingers together. I was like a cat clawing at a rug. They were numb. I had a nice procession of paddle boarders guiding me in though. The swim out was hard to find because the sun was glaring in my eyes. I got out and the announcer called my name and started joking about Chicago sports. I didn’t really have enough brain power to carry on any conversation with the guy but smiled and laughed as I headed into the changing tent. Well I think this is a laugh or it could be a cry!
Swim time: 1:43:45 – the swim was short so no I didn’t kill the swim. No-one has said exactly how long the swim was but my garmin said 2.8 miles that probably would have put me just under 2 hours if it had been the whole thing.
Made the swim cut off! woo hoo. Now I had to make the bike cut-off. I wasn’t sure if it would still be 7 pm or if they would extend it due to the late start. Anyway that was 10 hours away. Plenty of time to worry about that later. After my hands warmed up in the heated changing tent I tested my sugar. I was at 181! Wa hoo! And I’m happy to report that my pump made it through one more swim in the aquapac. I didn’t bring the dexcom with me on the swim this time because it rarely reads well in the water and last time it crashed and burned on me. I slowly got changed into my bike shorts (first time wearing bike shorts in a tri normally I wear tri shorts). The sun was out but it was still cool at about 55 degrees. I decided on a technical t-shirt base, my bike jersey, compression calf sleeves and my old nike running jacket with removable sleeves. I wore a thin skull cap under my helmet and long finger gloves. Good to go! I ate another gel. I had no problems finding my bike since it was the last one there. I think they were actually dismantling T1 around me. 🙂
I really took my time at a whopping 23:25.
My nutrition plan was as follows: I carried cliff blocks and a couple of gels; I had a bottle with 5 scoops of Hammer Sustained Energy and 1 packet of Hammer Mandarin my goto for long distance races. That puts the bottle at 570 calories and 126 grams of carbs. I ate my blocks as needed and sipped my bottle. I refilled the bottle with another 3 scoops of SE and another packet of Hammer Mandarin at the 80 mile mark. I also ate a few small halloween sized snickers bars and had some coke that they supplied. I grabbed another pack of blocks at special needs as well. I pretty much refilled my entire aerobottle with water at every aid station and dropped Hammer grapefruit fizz tablets in each time, so I knew I was hydrated. I swallowed several endurolytes every hour, so with the fizz tablets probably had at least 30 in total. I estimate I had about 340 g carbs in total or 40g per hour. I know I had more in there somewhere. I adjusted my basil by increasing it to 120% while on the bike. Unfortunately it was too little too late. I was at 300 plus for the first three hours of the ride. I baby bolused several times between 10 am and 1 pm and finally it started to come down. I began to think the connection was faulty. I realize that having hardly any insulin for 2+hours followed by a gel without additional insulin on board was not good. It took me a while to catch up. Here is my Dexcom report for the race.dexcom leadman 2012
The scenery was just as I imagined- fabulous. I was able to take the jacket off at special needs on the first loop as it was getting warm, the sky was blue and the sun was out. The view carried me through the ride even up the gigantic hill twice. The ride up Mt. Bachelor started around 4,200 feet and peaked at about 6,100 feet and lasted over 20 miles before we got some down hill for a total of nearly 7,000 feet of climbing. As I started my second loop I didn’t really feel dread or wish that I was only doing one loop. I actually wanted to do it again. I loved the long hills, they were challenging yes but I just slipped my bike into granny gear and went one pedal stroke at a time. Then the down hill right after that were crazy fast. I reached a maximum of 49 miles per hour and had a guy say to me at the next aid station that I was flying, he saw me just take off and questioned why I wasn’t scared of going so fast. Ha! This honeybadger ain’t afraid of zipping down a hill at 40+ mph! It was awesome. A bit of crosswind had my heart pumping but it was fun. On the second time around, there was an awesome spectator in silver jeep who would drive up the mountain and wait for me to cheer me at the top of each peak. He even offered me his jacket at the bottom of the big downhill since the sun was going down at that point and it was getting a little chilly. I figured I’d be ok though. But how nice! Temperatures ranged from 54 to 82 on the bike. After reaching the bottom of one of the big descents with about 25 or so miles to go I finally looked at the time and started to calculate whether or not I would make the cut-off. Until, then I didn’t care, the only person I was racing against was myself I was just out enjoying the ride. I realized I had an hour. As I made my way toward Bend I figured I better push the pace and as promised by the race director the remaining mileage was truly all down hill. Yesssssssssssssss! I pulled in to T2 with minutes to spare (from 7pm) at dusk, only to see the best sight ever. Hootie and April were there waiting for me god bless them! To see their smiling faces was just heart warming. I felt good.Total bike time : 8:55:39
I headed into the tent to change for a third time that day. I grabbed a snack and tested I was a sweet 150! Yessssss! I was handed a headlight and a glow stick… apparently it was going to be dark!
Total transition time 10:44 – not bad!
Here I go! By this time the temperature was cool but nice for running. (Finish line is just behind me here in this picture). I didn’t really have a nutrition plan. I reduced my basil rate to 60% or 0.3 units per hour. I had my blocks with me but didn’t eat any. The run started along a river trail with a lot of hills, which I walked up the steep ones. It continued along a trail then entered into a residential/farm area. By about 3 miles in I turned on the light, it was getting dark. I ran aid station to aid station and drank coke and ate chips at each of them. Still feeling great. I chatted with the volunteers then headed onward. At one point my light stopped working, it was near pitch black out. So much so that as I was running along I thought I was on the road with a white line between me and the cars so I decided to cross over to the sidewalk. Well, it turned out the white line was a sidewalk and I almost took a header into the street. At another point the path ended and turned into gravel where I nearly tripped and fell over large rocks. Finally a girl at the aid station fixed my light and I could see again. At about mile 8 or so I got off course. I was running along the path and looking down just followed the path along and wasn’t looking up, you really couldn’t see the signs until you were about a foot away anyway. I came across a 5.5 mile marker and thought oh, I guess they made a mistake. I continued on, about 3/4 mile later I asked at the aid station if that was a mistake he said no and tried to tell me that I needed to do another 8.5 miles (not bloody likely). Instead I headed back where I came from to see where I went wrong. I arrived at a roundabout and saw a marker in the middle of the roundabout which is why I didn’t see it. It was about 20 feet across the street with arrows to go straight vs. me following the path. SAG cars passed and asked if I was ok and if I needed a ride. Hell no! I may be in almost last place but I’m finishing this thing! I continued to eat drink the coke and eat chips and had a couple of baby chocolate bars and water here and there. The people at the aid stations were fantastic. Especially the kids! I still felt good! As I approached the finish line there were a few people leaving and giving me cheers I neared the finish line where again I was greeted with the awesome duo of Hootie and April. I finished Chris Navin style with a jump in the air. I am a leadman – goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.
Total run 2:30 including the extra 1.5 miles 🙂
Total race time 13:43:50. There was definitely something to be said for doing a race without pressure. It made it much more relaxing. In reviewing my original goals for as published here –HEAVY METAL AND FREAKING OUT I feel like I succeeded:
- complete the 3 mile swim before the 2.5 hour cut-off-YES!
- enjoy the view and the ride, just pretend I am out for a nice long ride with some friends and just see what happens-YES!
- build some resilienceYES!- I conquered my doubting and did it anyway!
- get some practice doing traveling triathlons (ah hem NZ)-YES! Definitely clued into some things!
- learn from the experience – See Above!
- enjoy the micro-breweries afterwards – See below!
Did I nail my blood sugar? No. I goofed. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long to come back down after the swim. My guess is that I should have decreased my bolus for less time in the water but with not knowing how long I would be I didn’t want to risk it. I also should have mini-bolused for the gel right after the swim. Live and learn. As you can see by the dexcom report above after it came down to normal my blood sugars were in the zone for the rest of the race! I would also like to declare that I was actually civilized in this race and pee’d in the portapottys and not on myself. So nice to be clean at the end!
Would I do this race/distance again? Hell yes!
I was definitely looking forward to spending the next couple of days hanging out with April, Hootie and Lora drinking some great craft brews! We hit a few of them while in Bend which I would highly recommend here are the links if you ever find yourself in the area: http://www.boneyardbeer.com/boneyardbeer/Boneyard_Beer.html and http://cruxfermentation.com/
We also got to see Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Decathlete Ashton Eaton who is from Bend. They had a parade for him.
On Monday April, Lora and I headed into Portland where we had dinner with April’s friend at a local brew pub there. We stayed downtown so on Tuesday morning I wandered around a bit to get a feel for the city. Couldn’t help noticing all the bike racks and the commuters heading to work. Also noticed the sizeable hills they had to climb to get there. I will no longer complain about my commute, except when it is zero degrees out! Sadly, I headed to the airport lugging my bags and my big bike box. Me and Paddy made it home safely (even after airport security took apart the box that I paid so dearly to have packed!)
Next on my list is a long training run called the Chicago Marathon. Part of my training for the NY marathon in a month!