This race was the most physically and mentally challenging race I have ever done. The course, especially the bike course, is a very hilly and technical 56 miles with one famous 3-mile climb of various grades ranging from 4-16% (with the last 200 yards or so at 16%). I thought the 70 mile Dempsey Challenge Ride I did last October was bad. That was a total cake walk compared to Mooseman!
Originally my plan was to the Patriot Half in MA in the middle of June, but the day I went to register for the race the Women’s AG had sold out so I panicked and emailed my coach to ask her what I should do. She suggested I do Mooseman because she would be there. I knew Mooseman was a very hard course (and usually bad weather) so I was a bit reluctant to sign up, but I coughed up the $300 to register for the race. After Ironman had charged my credit card I learned that there was a computer glitch with the Patriot Half and the women’s AG category was not really sold out. Too late! I was dreading Mooseman for a long time because I was discouraged by my lack of bike fitness. However, as the race was approaching I was getting more excited for it and actually looking forward to conquering the course. And then… the dreaded weather forecast earlier last week. Now, if you live in the Northeast region of the country then you know exactly what I’m talking about. RAIN. Like 6 inches of rain within a 24 hour period. I don’t mind a little 4 mile race in the rain, but 70.3 miles of swimming, cycling, and running did not sounds very inviting. BUT, I had paid the $300 entry week, $150 for a hotel, and did all the training so I was committed.
I had emailed my coach on Friday to get her opinion on what I should wear during the race because I was very worried about getting hypothermia and frostbite. Frostbite in June? Yes. Last winter I got pretty severe frostbite on my right big toe from an overnight winter camping adventure in the White Mountains and came pretty close to losing that toe. Since I had frostbite previously, my toe is now more prone to getting frostbite and thus I have to be careful with it. I decided that arm warmers and toe warmers should be fine for the bike portion. I wasn’t worried about the run since I tend to get hot while running. While packing on Friday night I could only find ONE arm warmer! I just about torn my room a part to find the second one but no luck. I left early Saturday morning to head to Newfound Lake, NH. I took a minor detour to hit a bike shop in Concord that opened at 9am compared to every other bike shop that opens at 10am to pick up some arm warmers. I got to the race site around 12:30 and checked-in and purchased a Mooseman hat to wear during the run. Normally, I prefer visors, but if it was going to pour buckets then I’d rather have a hat. I then walked around transition to find my spot where there was huge puddle right smack where my stuff was suppose to be. Awesome.
Saturday night I had dinner with my coach, her family, and several other of her athletes at Unos in Tilton. It was nice to finally meet her in person! I was in bed at the Super 8 Motel in Tilton by 9pm. I had a good pep talk with Bike Shop Boy via text. I was really nervous about the rain and wet roads during the bike portion of the race. He told me to suck it up and go for it. I slept quite well despite the crappy pillows. I had a dream that they cancelled the swim and bike portion of the race and that we had to run a marathon instead. I woke up around 2am to go to the bathroom and then I managed to fall asleep again and finally woke up for good at 3:30am. I ate my breakfast at 4am and got ready to head to the race.
THE RAIN HAD STOPPED! Thank goodness! The huge puddle in front of my transition spot was also gone! I was so happy! I got my bike racked and my transition set up with plenty of time. There were still puddles on either end of the bike racks, but I could live with it. My rack was across from all the pros, which was pretty cool. I didn’t really recognize any of their names. I would have loved to have seen Cait Snow there. She’s amazing! I had a banana in transition and then got ready for a quick warm up swim. The water temp was about 65 degrees; whereas, the air temp was in the 50s. The race started promptly at 7am with the Pro waves.
My wave was number 4 starting at 7:08am. My wave was small… like about 50 women so that was super nice! As we were lining up at the Ironman arches before we were allowed to enter the water, I had an “Oh Shit” moment. I mean that literally too. I think all the sudden I got super nervous and thought I was going to crap my wetsuit. I’m sure you now have a wonderful picture in your head now… Once we were allowed to line up at the official start in the water I felt fine. I lined up in the front on the right side. Since my wave was so small, I seriously had about 8 feet of water around me at all times. Then the count down…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO…. We were off. I tried to find some feet to draft off of, but there were some seriously fast swimmers in my wave and they just took off and left me in the dust! I consider myself to be a fast swimmer and have always finished in the top few places of my AG in the local races in Maine I have done, but these girls had to be former collegiate swimmers cause they were FAST. I had plenty of room to swim and I swam about 10 feet away from the buoys so I constantly had good clean water. Sometimes someone would grab my feet and I’d give them a kick or I would start to swim into someone so I would have to move around them. Once we reached the far buoys the water got a bit choppy, but wasn’t bad. This was the point when I started to swim into the other men’s wave before us. The remaining men that I was swimming around were pretty ungraceful. They looked like dead fish flapping around and couldn’t swim a straight line for the life of them. It was a pain in the ass to swim around them, but I did on more than one occasion. Then, the blue caps came! These are the speedy men in the wave behind me. At this point I was getting worried. I didn’t see any red caps around me and the blue caps were coming like a bat out of hell and surrounding me. I thought “Crap, I am having a horrible swim!” Then I saw the finish line and picked up the pace. I exited the swim and headed to the wetsuit strippers. Some big guy ripped my suit off in a matter of nanoseconds (I guess it helps that my suit is now far to big for me!) and I was off to transition!
1.2 mile Swim: 36:55 (1:54/100m) 12/20 AG (W25-29) 63/232 Females (w/Pros)
Before the race began I told myself not to care about how long my transition time was from the swim to the bike because I knew I wasn’t going to win the race and thus I’d rather be warm than save a minute or two in transition. I found my bike and surprisingly there were quite a few bikes from my AG still in the racks. I put on my arm warmers, socks, bike shoes (with toe warmers on the shoes already), sunglasses on (I had to wipe them with my towel first because apparently it rained some during the swim), and helmet on. There was a giant ankle-deep puddle at the end of my rack. Since the girl next to me was gone already, I lifted the seat of my bike off the rack and pushed my bike out to the other side. I ducked under the rack and left to the bike out from the other (DRY) side! I thought I was pretty brilliant for this move.
Oh, the bike! I was dreading it before the race and now that the weather forecast called for rains and lots of it I was definitely not looking forward to it. I didn’t really have any time goals for the bike. Mostly, try not to look like a complete idiot and horrible rider on my fancy, expensive tri bike. My worst fear is having a fancy bike and not being worthy of it. I got on my bike and was tempted to start hammering it. My coach told me NOT to do this so I didn’t. I knew it would be a very bad decision if I did, but it was soooo tempting. Now I drove the bike course (or what I thought was the bike course) the day before so I kind of knew what to expect. I passed quite a few people on the way. The nasty
hill mountain was early in the course. As I approach the Shaker Village to make the turn to the hill, I was very surprised when the volunteer said turn left! WHAT?! I went right yesterday! Oh shit. Now, I had no clue what to expect. Soon enough I approached the beginning of the 3+ mile climb. The beginning sections aren’t bad. You go up a bit (probably about a 4% grade) then it flattens out a bit and then starts climbing again. Further into the climb it gets steeper and then at the end it shoots up to a 16% grade. I was huffing and puffing and my heart rate was in the danger zone. I got off my bike and walked up the last 200 feet of the hill. It was the LAST thing I ever wanted to do in a race, but I had too and I don’t regret the decision. I wasn’t wearing my HR monitor but I knew my HR was through the roof. My legs (mainly my left knee) were cold. The only sensation I could feel from them was pain from the grinding and the cold. I quickly hopped back on my bike and began the crazy, steep descend of the numerous hills. This part of the course is very technical. I’ve never ridden anything like this before so I was very timid, especially since the roads were wet. One part of the course had a 30 mph speed limit because it was so dangerous. I rode my brakes pretty much the entire time through this section like a total pansy, but I’m okay with that. You could even smell the burning rubber! Pathetic, I know. After one crazy steep downhill there is a 90 degree turn where you come to a guardrail next to the river. A man was sitting on the side of road with a very messed up looking arm and mangled bike. I could hear the sirens from the ambulance coming for him. I learned afterwards from my coach that two people went over the guardrail at the section and at least three total were hospitalized! Crazy! Once you get out on Route 3 it flattens out some and the roads are in better condition. I used this section to make up some time, but there were large sections of false flats and some hills. I have been whining, complaining, and just plain bitching to everyone (well, mostly my coach and Bike Shop Boy) about my sub par bike fitness and climbing abilities this season so far. Well, apparently they are not as bad as I thought they were. I passed A LOT of people on the hills. I guess I’m not such a bad climber. I just suck at descending hills! Towards the end of the first loop I was beginning to worry about the second one. Two times up that damn mountain! I was determined to stay on the bike this time! My body was still pretty cold, but my muscles started to warm up a bit by this point and I was able to find my cycling legs again. I was also beginning to have doubt about doing IMLP next year. If this course is tough, am I tough enough for that?
As I was beginning the second loop of the bike course I heard someone yell “Go Katelyn!” It turns out that it was Denise and Doug from The Sustainable Athlete. It was so nice to see them out on the course! There was also a couple people with a TriMoxie sign cheering all of us on too! I don’t know who they were, but THANK YOU! The second time up the hill was better. It still sucked, but I concentrated on spinning my legs and breathing. I passed quite a few men this time up the hill. It felt good! And then they all flew by me on the downhills. Oh well, I didn’t feel like becoming road kill today. By mile 37 my crotch was starting to hurt so I would stand in my pedals every once in a while for relief. At one point a man passed me while eating some nutrition and we chit chatted a bit as he pulled ahead. I wasn’t paying attention and was riding a little too close, but then I snapped back to my senses and backed off just in time. A race official on a motorcycle rode up right next to us and I immediately thought “Crap! I just got a penalty for drafting! Dumbass…” But he quickly waved his driver forward and we were fine. The headwind picked up a bit in the last 15 miles and the roads were starting to dry. I was beginning to wonder of my legs were going to be able to run after that crazy bike course!
Throughout the ride I made sure to stay within my power zones that my coach gave me, but it was hard, especially on those climbs. I did my best not to burn all my matches, but I know I burnt some! In retrospect, I’m actually glad I got off my bike on the first climb. I have a feeling that I would have lit all my matches and then some and had myself a pretty little firework show because I pushed too hard on that tiny little section when I had 56 miles to go! Overall, I’m happy with my bike performance. I was slow, but everyone was slow this year. I definitely know that I could have had a better time if the weather conditions were better and I was familiar with the course. Nutrition wise I was very good too. I could have drank more, but it wasn’t hot so I felt fine. I took all my gels, expect the one I dropped. It just slipped through my hands and aero bars and right on to the ground. It seemed to happen in slow motion too. My only thought was “There goes $1.50…”
Bike: 3:33:35 (15.7mph) 10/20 AG 75/232 Females (w/Pros)
Getting off the bike was a little rough, but I managed. I ran through a giant puddle with my bike and found my spot. I had to pee, but I just couldn’t get myself to go on the bike. So, I sat down, put on my shoes and peed. It was glorious! I also took off my arm warmers and put on my hat and Garmin and ran through a couple puddles and out to the 13.1 run!
In the days prior to the race and on Sunday I was most looking forward to the run. Partly because I knew the worst would be over and also because I really enjoy running now. My Garmin finally found a satellite about 0.3-0.4 miles into the run, but the timer started as soon as I ran out the “run out.” My Garmin miles were off compared to the mile markers, but my Garmin at least gave me a sense on how fast I was running. I hit the first mile marker at a little over 9 minutes. I ran a half-marathon back in April at this pace and secretly I was hoping I could run off the bike at this pace, but I knew that it was a rather ambitious goal. I decided to back off a bit and find my stride. I felt really strong throughout the run even though with each step my glutes (and later my calves) were screaming at me to stop. I watched the pro women come flying by me as they were finishing their races. Crazy fast! I took water at just about every water station and walked through them each time since I am not capable of getting water into my mouth if I attempt to run through them. There are two big hills on the run course, one at about mile 2.5 and then other around 3.5. I walked each of these at their steepest points since my power walking pace was about that of my jogging up hill pace. I crossed the 3.3 mile timer at a 9:34/mile pace. I felt good heading back to transition to begin my second loop. I was passing people and a lot of people were passing me, but I kept reminding myself to run my own race. At one point I looked down at my watch and saw that I was cruising at my 5k pace. I felt good, but I still had another 9 miles or so to go so I backed off. Around the turn-a-round point and start the whole loop again. I felt good, even though I was hurting. Mentally I was doing super! I never once thought about giving up and I managed just to zone out and keep running! I hit the turn-a-round mat going at a 9:55/mile pace. Slowing down some, but I still felt good. My feet had thawed at this point and my body temperature was starting to rise. I hit mile 9 and a girl in my AG flew by me. I thought about trying to check her but she was flying! I hit mile 10 and was happy to think I had only a 5k left. At this point I actually thought that I could run a marathon at this point. Bring on IMLP 2013! I hit mile 12 and I picked up speed. As I was approaching the finishing line I started to pick it up more and started passed more and more people. I wanted to be done. One woman spectating made a comment to me that made my day! She said I had the true look of grit on my face and I sure as hell wanted to be done. I wanted a strong finish and I had one. I was so happy to cross that finish line and hear them say my name! I got my medal, space blanket, hat and succeeded to find the food tent. I was hungry! And that was an understatement. I actually ate chicken for the first time in probably 6 months. I needed food and whatever was on that table I was going to eat. I found my coach afterwards and discussed my race a bit before I changed and got my stuff to go home.
Run: 2:09:10 (9:51/mile) 11/20 AG 82/232 Females (w/Pros)
Overall Time: 6:26:33 11/20 AG 480/950 OA
Overall, I am happy with my performance. I went into the race dreading it, but ended up having a strong race. I believe if the weather conditions and if I had ridden the bike course previously then I would have had a much stronger and faster bike time and overall a PR for the day. I PR’d in the swim by 2:40, which is huge! I was hoping to be close to 35 minutes, but such as life. I also PR’d in the run by 20 minutes! That is a HUGE accomplishment for me! The bike courses are NOT comparable and thus I’m not even going to compare my times to Pumpkinman. However, I missed an overall PR by 48 seconds! I’m not complaining because I feel I PR’d on Sunday due to the difficultly of the course and conditions! The girl who won my AG ended up being the 3rd amateur women to finish. There were some crazy fast women in my new AG! If I was still in the 20-24 AG, I would have won my AG by about 10 minutes. It just goes to show you that as you age up, people get faster… Also, the caliper of competition was much higher at this event. I’m happy that I was able to finish in the middle of the pack in my AG! Someday I hope to be back at the top!
PS – In case your wondering, I found my missing arm warmer in my laundry basket last night even though I looked through it Friday night. Go figure…