Welcome to the blog of Jennifer Hutchison, sports dietitian, multisport coach and endurance athlete.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ironman Los Cabos 2014: Personal Thoughts & Course Review

When I signed up for Los Cabos last September I did so frustrated and disappointed with the major curve ball thrown at me last summer. I planned to ramp up training for Ironman Arizona after the junior triathlon summer camp I run. Unfortunately  during the latter part of the camp I was involved in a cycling accident in which I sustained a fractured sacrum aka a broken ass. I was unable to run for 10 weeks and cycling was limited. I had high hopes on chasing a PR at IM Az and with that setback I knew that was most likely not going to happen.

With that disappointment I felt the need to “find” something else to fill the void. Ironman Los Cabos looked to fit the bill as it offered a tough hilly bike course (which I love) and a destination location that was perfect to get me away from my normal routine at a time of year I thought would be ideal.  I had convinced two athletes I coach to sign up for the Ironman Los Cabos journey. One it was to be her first Ironman and the other his 4th after a 10-year break. I was committed to helping them both get the most of the day and as well as sell the  “it’s going to be an awesome vacation!” 

As the New Year started and my coaching commitments picked up, my coaching schedule took priority over my own training. As each week past, I grew more excited with the training progress of my athletes and less interested in making the time to get the training in let alone push myself the way I know I must if I wanted to be in competitive Ironman race shape. The final 6 weeks leading up to the race I lost my enthusiasm for Ironman and started to dread the coming race. Considering I paid for the airfare and all-inclusive lodging , I hoped to snap out of  the funk and find joy and the motivation to train for myself and not just do my training with others.

Every week as the race got closer, the more stressed I got. I did not want put myself through that kind of course without the proper preparation. I struggled with the thought of not starting or just doing the swim and bike (because all I really wanted to do was ride my bike) but that did not become an option because it would mean a DNF and damnit I do not do DNF. 

After long talks with my most understanding husband I decided, we will travel out there and on Saturday I will make the call if I race of not.  My requirement was I had to have some joy and excitement for the race instead the impending doom I was feeling doing a tough course, with inconsistent training and personal slow time that would stick with me…FOREVER. 
I know that statement sounds quite silly but the fact of the matter, some people you know (and don’t know) tend to judge you based on your race times especially when you are a coach and usually a competitive athlete. I know most people don’t give a crap about times and truthfully I don’t really give a crap what other people think but for some reason this race made me question my own abilities.

As Saturday arrives, I checked in my bike and bags and had the following internal dialogue:

Quit being a baby!! 
You have nothing to prove to ANYONE by doing this race.   
Suck it up and do this race for YOU and your love and joy for the sport. 
Accept what your body has been trained to do. 
Feel gratitude that your body is healthy.
Do not dwell on what you wished you did or any past results.   
Be patient and embrace whatever the day gives you.  
It’s okay to not race and be a participant. 
It’s okay to not be chained to any concept of time, let the finish time be what it will be. 
Just swim then bike and run and take as much time in T1 and T2 as you need to insure you don’t get fried by the sun. 
Make sure your ego does not push you beyond your current ability because you DO NOT want wind up in a Mexican medical tent!  
Have fun and have a margarita when you finish!

So for those interested, this is how my day played out.

Race morning arrives and it was going to be a gorgeous day.  I had a calm mindset. I was doing this race on my terms. 

My goal was a no drama swim, a steady, power focused bike and a run/walk that would get me to the finish line. For the swim start, I opted to not push my way into the mass and actually waited for at least 75% of the field to get in the water. This allowed me to navigate my way to clean water and forgo the beating I am used to with mass Ironman starts.  This approached served me well. Other than stopping on the second half of the swim and literally yelling at a man to get the hell away from me and pointing he to all the open clean water he could choose to swim in instead of repeatedly swim over me, the swim was without drama ;-)

Overall the swim was a very nice venue. It was a wetsuit swim however you could have comfortably done this race without a wetsuit. The sighting was good with all the landmarks you could see during the out and back segments. This year the swim course may have been a tad short and I suspect there was a nice current bump that aided swim times. T1 was a sandy mess but the volunteers and crowd were fantastic.

Coming out of T1, there is a nice steady climb up through Pamilla to the main highway which lead to a 3 loop course where you were either climbing or descending. The course reminded me of a bit of Kona, a spectacular view of the ocean on one side and a dry landscape on the other. Cross winds and headwinds on this course were expected however I did not think it was too bad on this given day. My approach for the bike was pretty laid back. Knowing I was not in a race mind set, I sent a heavy older TT bike with a set of eggbeater Powertap training wheels.

Overall the bike course was tough but fair. I got just under 6000 feet of climbing with most being steady long efforts done sitting up. There was only one hill I felt the need to climb standing. I used a 12-25 cassette and was able spin well up most hills. There are downhill sections that reward an aero set up and I quietly wished I had my BMC and race wheels.  The road conditions in most areas where very good but on the bridges you really need to stay alert as there were spots you could easily get a flat if you hit them. The shoulders had lots of debris.

Speaking of flats, there were A LOT of flats on this course. I felt bad for a number of folks who chose to race with tubular tires and after their third flat, their day was ended riding back on a race scooter.  The aid stations were well stocked with ice water and volunteers were especially wonderful pouring ice water on your back as you fried in the sun riding up hill. The loop back through town and part of the airport toll road was a nice recharge area at the end of each of the three loops. I liked this bike course but to do well you really need to work on sustained power for longer climbs, being comfortable with bombing downhill sections and really dial in the nutrition/ hydration. If were ever to race this course, I would go with a 404/808 clincher wheel choice and a light colored aero helmet with LOTS of ventilation.

I felt pretty good coming in on the bike. I rode strong but conservative. I held true to my not paying attention to time with exception of the lap timer every 5 miles. I normally never stop on Ironman bike courses but this day I opted to stop at an aid station for restroom break and again to see if I could help one of the poor guys who’s day was ended by too many tubular flats. I sat up a bit more than I would have anticipated and I think that caused my big toe to press one the front part of my bike shoe. What’s the big deal with that? Well the moment I tried to run, it felt like someone smashed my toe with a hammer. The pain stopped me in my tracks and I walked into T2. Perplexed because this was something I never experienced, my head space got a bit dark, as the thought of covering the 26.2 with this was questionable.
The  3 loop marathon course started out as a walk even though my legs felt good. I told my husband David I would keep walking and when/if the pain goes away I would go to my 4 min run/1 min IM AZ run plan. I eventually got going but the heat and fact I had a hard time drinking enough to match my sweat rate caused me to revert to mostly walking because of getting lightheaded and dizzy.

This run course was not flat and did have some gradual elevation changes. It was mostly in the sun but there are a few sections of shade that did offer some reprieve.  There were aid stations EVERY kilometer, which made it very nice to get ice water, cola or sports drink. The volunteers were awesome and the energy going through town and near the finish line were very uplifting. The only criticism of the run is they should have had a significant sodium source at the aid stations. No chick broth was offered and other than sports drink you had to look to pretzels if you wanted a non sweet salty option.

You see a lot out there on an Ironman run course when you are walking. So many athletes focused and having what appeared to be very strong days and others who were just suffering and hobbling their way through.  The mostly walk with intermittent periods of a run was uneventful. I was thrilled to see my girl Julie having a very good day conquering her first Ironman. As it turns out she did awesome and got 2nd in the 35-39 age group and earned the coveted Kona spot. My other friend and athlete Bryan had a rough go with the run. Too much plain water and not enough electrolytes on the bike impacted his ability to express the run fitness we achieved in training.  Bryan and I met up a few times during the run/walk and he would feel better and run ahead. Ultimately we met up again on the last lap with 5.2 miles to go and made the deal we would get to the finish line together. We saw my husband David and told him that was our plan and we requested two margaritas to be waiting for us before we entered the finishing shoot. It’s been a long hot day and an ice-cold margarita with extra salt was now driving us to the finish. 

Up until mile 25 I honestly had no concept of the overall clock time, I finally looked at my watch and recalled thinking…”Oh man, I’ve been out here a while. Looks like I will PR today after all……a  new record for my slowest Ironman to date!!! Boy I hope that margarita is there for us when we make the turn to the finish line”.  

And there it came, the final .2 miles. Bryan and I stopped, grabbed our drinks from Lanny, posed for a couple photos then sipped and ran our way through the finishing shoot with margaritas held high and huge smiles. As we got to the top of the finish ramp, we toasted each other and proceeded to get our medals with huge sighs of relief. THANK GOODNESS this is done.

With that, Ironman #13 was in the books.  I did have fun out there on the course although I did have thoughts of hurling myself over the bridge to the marina. I am glad I was able to free myself from the self-imposed pressure to perform. I am certain I would never want to put myself in this position again. So when and if the next Ironman gets put on my calendar, I will make certain it's at a time of year I can dedicate the time to do the work. On March 30th at Ironman Los Cabos I was a participant but next time I come back, the competitor cap will be back on :-)

If you want to get a better sense of the course check out these photos from Triathlete.com Ironman Los Cabos

Monday, February 14, 2011

Long over due 2010 recap & TEM intro

Seems as if I cannot seem to make the time to blog. So many irons in the fire and the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is more typing but I have gotten some gentle nudges to keep this up so I will make another attempt.

Instead of a 2010 recap, all I will say is WOW, what an awesome year. Sure there were some highs and lows but overall it was another great year for the Ironclad athletes. Lots of PRs, tickets punched for World Championship races and folks applying the basic principles for healthy balanced nutrition to get the most out of their bodies.  I was overjoyed to relive my Kona experiences though two athletes who made the very first trip to the Big Island for the Ironman World Championship. A belated and long overdue public display of affection to Michele S and Bill B for enduring and finishing he grandaddy of Ironman. I am blessed to have been a part of the journey with you.

There were many other memorable 2010 performances but when I look back over the year and think about the one performance that I was most proud of as a coach it has to be at Ironman Florida were Marc S executed the perfectly paced and fueled Ironman. Rarely does an Ironman go exactly as planned but in Marc's case he hit or exceeded all the times we had trained for without any GI issues or bad patches in the race. He trusted the preparation and excuted the pacing plan ( giving his best on the swim, riding strong and steady on the bike and holding back a bit on the first half of the run) to finish sub 10:25 with a monster new IM PR. So here is long over due PDA for my man Seaverson, way to go and glad you are on board for the 2011 pain train heading to Lousiville.

As for me, well I finished up the 2010 season racing the Myrtle Beach Triathlon and got a spot for the ITU Long Course Worlds which will be held in Henderson, NV ( just outside Las Vegas) in November. That will be a tough course since its a 4K swim, 120K bike and 30K run. I am still IM Retired but this race is between the 70.3 and IM distance which means some dedicated training will be in order. I also managed to participate in he final 70.3 World Champs in Clearwater. I say participate because it was still a very uncomfortable race for me. My hamstring issue is now resolved but I am having a rough go finding the joy with running......that is going to have to change soon if I want to swap my participant hat for the competrtor cap in 2011.

So here we are in 2011, and there is so much to look forward to. The year started off heading to Colorado Springs for  the inaugural USAT Youth/ Junior Coaching Certification Clinic. I was asked to write the chapter on nutrition for the coaching manual and present on the topic to over 40 of the top coaches leading the way in youth and junior development in the country. After the coaching clinic, I attended the USAT High Performance Team (HPT) Symposium which brought together coaches with existing HPT programs and coaches who had applied for the designation in 2011. I am happy to report that my partnership with fellow coach Marc Bonnet-Eymard in forming the Triton Elite Multisport program was one of five programs to receive the HPT designation for 2011. To find out more about the TEM mission and my passion for working with junior and developing elites please check out our webiste at www.tritonelitemultisport.com

The year is off to a great start so hope to keep the momentuem going!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quick Review on 2010 to date.

Well my one resolution to keep this blog, in particular, up to date has failed miserably!

I am not one who likes excuses but mine is I…….been busy folks! Unfortunately when things pick up, the first thing that goes is pleasure writing. Unless its training plans or correspondence with my athletes and fellow coaches its just not going to happen.

Being a "facts" and "get to the point" kind of gal that I am, writing for me is not about entertainment or to brag about my life via a blog. Quite frankly, writing is a task that takes way more time than I would like and I suspect its because I am not a natural wordsmith who can type 100 words a minute……still a "hunt & peck" typer :-(

Any how, I do have some folks that like to know what I have been up to so here is a recap of the first half of the year:


There have a some changes on my coaching rostering and I must say its all been good. I have said this before but I am blessed to have such a hard working group particularly this season. There have been so many PRs and successful races that it would be too long to list to give "shout outs" but a belated public congratulations to all my IronClad peeps for working hard, racing hard and putting forth your best effort.

In addition to being swamped coaching and with nutrition consults, I have been really enjoying planning and implementing some things for the USAT Florida Region in my 5th year as the Regional Athlete Development Coordinator. This year I have finally found the right support system to help with planning and implementing a Junior Skills Camp, Junior Development Race Series, Junior Regional Championship , Junior Elite Select Camp and Florida’s only Youth/ Junior Elite draft legal race coming up this next month. Its kind of crazy that I devote so much time to the developmental athletes particularly since I do not have kids!

Training / Racing

The year got off to a good start but then I suffered yet another set back. I strained hamstring mid April during a sprint tri and that pretty much took the wind out of my sails and forced me to scrap most of my racing plans. I did manage to do my annual trek to the Gulf Coast Triathlon in May. Fortunately the race was not affected by the awful oil spill that has tainted the Gulf. Under some of the toughest conditions I can remember ( this was my 9th start) I had a decent race but was limited by the lack of run training and I really view it as a lead up to the big race for the early season, the Hawaii 70.3.

After Kona last year, I did say I was done with Ironman and I still am. I for some reason felt compelled to go back to the Big Island and conquer the climb to Hawi Long story short is was an OK race, no PRs or age group hardware but I did manage to grab a spot for the Clearwater 70.3 World Championship so we will see if I can get my body put back together to at least have a respectable race in November. I can now officially say IM DONE WITH THE BIG ISLAND.

Now with the first half of 2010 in the books I can only look back and say Geez, what a crazy 6 months but truth be told, I would not want it any other way J

Now who wants to bet how long it will be before I post something on this blog again……

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in the Books!

As they say time flys and 2009 (with its ups and downs, highs and lows) sure did. But before I can look ahead to 2010 I have to wrap up a couple of things from 09.

Since I have failed to blog since the Kona experience, I realized I did not give a much deserved public display of affection for two gals that successfully completed their first Ironman in Panama City on November 7th. HUGE props to Krista Eyler and Rose Laurence for putting in the work and trusting me enough to help get them to the start line.

Once the start gun goes off , the Ironman becomes an internal mental game as well as a physical test of endurance and fortitude. Coaching only takes an athlete so far, it provides the recipe and directions on how to bake up the satisfying, rewarding experience and provides the fullness of a job well down. Unfortunately some athletes decide to tinker with the recipe by adding some ingredients of their own ( meaning doing something they did not do or try in training) or try to tweak the directions ( alter pacing or nutrient timing) which can result in a less than desirable outcome. Good news is these two woman followed the recipe! They "planned the work and worked the plan" and in the end got to hear what so many triathletes wish to hear: You are an Ironman. So again ladies, helmets off to you for strong finishes....Congratulations Ironwomen!

November also saw the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater come and go. I opted to sit the race out because the hip issue was not fully resolved and I had not put in the desired level of training to be worthy of another World Championship start. The bright side of that decision is I got to watch so many athletes go on to fantastic finishes. My husband David had a another strong performance and I was happy to see a future IronClad athlete Jeff D have a phenomenal day.
One of the sweetest parts of the day was also watching and encouraging Kevin Collington to run and fight for that 6th place overall finish. Remarkable performance and it validates that he could be a 70.3 guy but first things first....he's going to pursue London 2012. Kevin's come along way in the past 3 years and I thankful to have had the opporuntity to be a part of his development. As it stands, Kevin has chosen to take a different direction in 2010 so I would like to congratulate him on a solid year and wish him well in 2010 and beyond!

So now that 2009 is about to close, its time to think about whats next? Well I can tell you personally I have yet to wrap my brain around any particular race. Its surprising but I do not have ANYTHING athletic on my 2010 calender, meaning I have not filled out one race application! Kind of odd but also kind of liberating.

I know I will be racing but right now I am focused on getting all the exciting professional things I will be doing planned. I am also FINALLY running again without any pain or slightest bit of discomfort. I am being very conservative with my running right now so when I feel I can put forth a respectable run off the bike then it will be game on. For now, just going to spend as much time as I can on the bike, get back to regular swimming and enjoying training with some of the old and new athletes I am fortunate enough to coach.

This Kona photo below sums up how I feel about 2009. Exhausting and exasperating at times but overall hugely satisfying!!

Oddly enough I have to say 2009 was a good year and I am hoping 2010, with it being a new decade, brings even better times.

For those of you that read my blog, thank you!
In 2010, I am actually going to work on being better with updates plus I will be launching a new nutrition only blog....IronClad Nutrition. I thought its about time I share some of the tips, tricks and concoctions that help fuel strong athletic bodies........ so stay tuned for that link.

Here's too a happy, prosperous New Year!