Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's read as much or as little as you want! Picture at bottom!

Ironman Coeur d’Alene – June 21, 2009

I arrived in Coeur d’Alene (CDA) on Wednesday. It was raining. I wasn’t too excited to see those weather conditions, but there wasn’t anything I could do to change that! I arrived in the evening. I decided that I would go take a look at the lake where I would be swimming. The scenery was beautiful! The lake is nestled between some mountains, making for a beautiful setting for the swim portion of the race.

Thursday morning, I got up and headed to the lake for a practice swim. The water was pretty choppy b/c it was quite windy. Fortunately, in my open water swims at home, the last one I did was in rough water so this was no shock to my system. I kind of freak out the first time I’m in a new body of water so I was glad that I could be there early enough to get a swim in. It didn’t take too long for me to get comfortable in the water. Thursday I just did a short swim so that I could get used to it. On Thursday afternoon, I drove back to Spokane to pick up my friend, Billy, from the airport. He was initially going to do the race but opted out about 8 weeks before the race. He decided he would come anyway to support me.

Once back in CDA, we headed down to take care of getting me registered. I got all my race gear (swim cap, athlete wristband, timing chip, and race info) and also picked up my bike, which I had transported up there. Next stop was the race day wheels tent, where I would swap out my regular wheels for a set of race wheels. These wheels are lighter weight and help in overall performance. While we were waiting for the wheels to get put on, we went back to the hotel to get running clothes on. After arriving back down at the expo area, I picked up my bike, put it in the car, and we headed out for a light 5 mile run. It was cool out, but not too bad.

On Friday morning, I went back to the lake and did a 30 minute swim in the water. The currents were tough to swim against because it was very windy. The course is set up as a large rectangle – 900 meters out, 130 meters across, and 900 meters back to shore. That is done twice in the race. I didn’t swim all the way out before cutting across the course and back. Coming back with the current was sure a nice change to fighting the current! The water was about 63 or 64 degrees on Friday. That is a pretty nice water temperature when you have a wetsuit on! I felt really good in the water and much more confident than the first time I got in!

After the swim and getting cleaned up, Billy and I decided to drive the bike course. Wow. I had no idea how hilly it was! This was probably a good thing because I may have opted for a different race. The first part of the bike course, which is also a 2-loop course, was along the shores of the lake with one pretty good climb both on the way out and on the way back in. The course winds through several residential streets before meeting up with the lake. This portion is an out and back, coming back into town and then heading north back out of town again. The course ‘flattens’ out for several miles before the hills really kick in! There are a lot of false flats on the course! As we were driving along, we got to the town of Hayden, which surrounds Hayden Lake. This is an absolutely beautiful part of the bike course. Some pictures I will post later will give you an idea of the scenery! While the beauty was amazing, the hills were something I could tell I would not be looking forward to! I had done a lot of hills in my training, so I knew I could handle it, I just wasn’t aware that there was so much of it out on the course! The hilly portion lasts about 30-35 miles (of a 56 mile loop)! The course then flattens back out and heads back to town. After driving the course, I figured that even if I was slow, at least it was beautiful and I could enjoy that aspect of the race!

Friday night was the welcome banquet – a pasta dinner and a short program, followed by an athlete meeting. They just covered the course and final dos and don’ts for race day.

On Saturday, I took my bike out for a 30 minute spin to make sure everything was in working order. I had run into another girl I knew and she happened to be staying in the same hotel, so we rode together, which was great! After we got off our bikes, we jumped into our running shoes and did a 15 minute run. My legs felt great! This was re-assuring because for about the last 5 weeks, I had been having a lot of knee pain. I didn’t feel any of that, which was great! I also spent some time Saturday morning putting all my gear together. In a full-Ironman race, you have different gear bags – one for the swim to bike transition, which has all your bike gear in, one for bike to run, which has your running gear in, and then you have two optional bags that you can put food or clothing in for ½ way through the bike and run courses. Volunteers will hand you those bags as you pass by that station on the course. My bike and gear bags had to be down to the transition area on Saturday afternoon. Once I was all set with getting my things together, Billy and I went down and dropped everything off. It is amazing to see over 2000 bikes all in the same place! Millions of dollars of bikes were there! There are security guards that keep watch over night so that nothing disappears.

My down time for the rest of the day was spent resting at the hotel.

My friend, Mark, arrived early Saturday evening and when he got there the three of us headed to the Olive Garden for one last pasta meal! Our wait was short and we had a nice meal together. We all headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Of course, I did not sleep at all that night, in anticipation of racing the next morning. This is common for me. My nerves always get the best of me. I didn’t really have any nerves until Saturday night, which was great!

Now, for RACE DAY!!!

My alarm stirred me at 4:15 AM. I hadn’t slept, so it was more a matter of waiting to get up until the alarm actually sounded. I immediately got up and gathered my racing clothes and got changed and ready to go. The forecast was grim – 62 and windy with PM showers. I got myself bundled up and ready before I woke up the others (who I’m certain were already awake, just not stirring!). With a few additional supplies, my wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles, I was ready to head down to the race site. Phew, my nerves were kicking into high gear! It was very cold and windy outside. Every flag that was flying was perfectly perpendicular to the flag pole! Mark drove me down to the site, with Billy coming a bit later. I went and added my water bottles to my bike and made sure my tires still had air in them. Everything was in good condition so I found a patch of grass to do some light stretching before putting on my wetsuit. I could see the water and it was fairly choppy. The good news, however, was that the water was 65 degrees – which was much warmer than the air temperature at 6 AM! The professional athletes started the swim at 6:25, with the rest of the athletes (myself) at 7 AM. A mass swim start is a pretty impressive thing to watch! I have watched many of them and am always in awe. Because I have seen so many, this is what made me most nervous about my day. 2166 athletes started the race. That is a LOT of people all swimming at the same time in the same place. I opted to stay on the beach for a few seconds to let the masses get started and then I headed into the water. I was surprised to not be anxious in the water. Even with all the people around me, I was able to keep myself together mentally. The first 500 meters or so was tough with all the people surrounding me. Every time I saw a pair of feet heading toward my face, I slowed down my stroke a notch to avoid a broken nose or black eye! Getting to the first turn wasn’t too bad but then we had all those people trying to get around the buoy in a very small space, so it took some maneuvering to get around without getting pummeled. The same thing occurred trying to get around the second turn buoy. Heading back to shore on the first lap was a nice change because now the current was carrying me back toward the shore. The only thing I had to do was swim and try to avoid getting hit by another athlete. Once back to the shore, I had to get out of the water, run across the timing mat, and then get back in the water and do the lap a second time. The second lap was a little harder because there were less people to dissipate the forces of the current and now I was left to face it on my own. Somehow I managed! My second lap was a little slower than the first, but I made it out of the water in 1:28. This was about 13 minutes off of what I thought I would be able to swim it in. However, I gave myself 90 minutes, so I was under my overall goal time! Getting out of the water was the thing I was most concerned about with the race. I knew that if I could survive the swim, I would be fine for the rest of the day! Mission accomplished! (and it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated it would be!)

On to the bike…..I raced through transition to get my cycling gear on. Really, all I had to do was to put my socks and shoes on, as well as my helmet and sun glasses. I ran out of the change tent and towards my bike. I initially ran past my bike and had to do a quick turnaround! I was grateful for a volunteer who helped me out with that one! As soon as I got the line where I could mount my bike, I did. And I was off. The adrenaline was pumping for sure! I tried to get some nutrition in my system right away so I would have strength to pedal fast! My first 56 mile loop was awesome! I averaged about 18.25 mph. This was really good for me, considering the climbing that I had to do. Climbing isn’t exactly my strong point! My second lap was a bit slower (is there a pattern here?!). The wind had picked up another notch and I also wasn’t on top of my nutrition as well as I should have been. At one point, I decided eating something was probably a good idea. As soon as I got some food in me, I was full of energy and started passing people like crazy! That is a great feeling! The last 20 miles of the bike portion of the race were strong. Not too bad considering there was a total of 112 miles to bike! Despite the hills, this was one of the most scenic rides I have done. I really enjoyed taking in the sights even when I was pushing my physical limits. One of my goals, which came from my coach, was to make every mile count. I felt like I did that. I even found it in me to smile as I was cruising along! I had a great time on the bike course!

And then the run….this was a two loop course as well. I felt really strong coming off the bike and on to the run. I paid close attention to my heart rate, as I knew that if I pushed too much in the beginning, I would lose it before I made it to the end. It started getting cooler as I progressed through the first half of the marathon. The hill that leads up to the turn- around point was a killer! I was just glad I didn’t have to run all the way to the top of that blasted hill! J Coming back down gave me some great momentum and I was right at 2 hours at the 13 mile mark. Unfortunately, at the 12 mile mark, the rain started coming down. I was getting cold really fast. I was just racing in my race tank top. There is an area called ‘special needs’, where volunteers handed us our bags which we had packed with various things we thought we might like to have along the course. I knew there was a possibility for rain so I put in a long sleeve shirt along with some food. When I got to the special needs station (about mile 14.5) I had them give me my bag. I got my shirt out, left the food, and carried on my way. That shirt kept me warm for a bit…until it got so wet that it was cold! I had some really strong miles throughout the second half of the run. Every once in a while, I would feel this surge of energy and I would kick it up a notch. And then…the final 4.25 miles came and I lost it. I still don’t know if it was just that I was cold, that I knew I would beat my goal time, or that I just was exhausted that the last 4 miles took me so long. I went from a 9+ minute mile to a 13 +minute mile. No bueno. I was running along and then, seemingly for no reason, I would stop and walk. I got tired of walking through puddles, so I would start running again. It was all I could do to keep running, which I didn’t do a very good job of. HOWEVER, I heard the finish line music and knew I was almost there. The race finishes on a downhill!!!! Once I hit the top of that hill, I cruised into the finish line. “Judy Stowers from Mesa, AZ – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” The clock read 12:20:53. I had done it! My first Ironman! That was an amazing moment! I thought it would take me 13 hours, so I was SO HAPPY with this time!

The finish line was a bit of a blur. I was freezing cold and just about all I could think about was getting warm. The volunteers put a Mylar blanket around me, a medal around my neck, handed me a t-shirt and hat, and then I was off to get my picture taken. My friends Billy and Mark were there at the finish line to greet me. My sister and her family were waiting just down the way! It was SO great to have my support team there! I can’t imagine finishing a race like this with no one there to see you at the end! I was super grateful for their support and being willing to stick out the weather to see me come across the line. At that point, it was still all about the rain – no sunshine in sight!

Well, after I finished, I had a piece of pizza – that never tasted so good! I met my family and friends outside the athlete area. We went and got my bike and gear bags and then headed back to the hotel to get warm and changed. Phew! What a day!!!!

So….some final tidbits from the day….

Out on the bike course, I loved seeing the little kids out helping! They were so great! All the volunteers were great, but these kids just brought a smile to my face every time I saw them! Someone had dressed up as Elmo and was out playing the drums in their front yard – very fun!

On the run course – chocolate chip cookies and coke! When they weren’t soggy from the rain, just a bite gave me the boost I needed before I got to the next aid station!

The best? If I had to choose one thing, it would be making it out of the water alive and with nothing broken or bruised! OR – having people there to support me! OR burning over 7200 calories over the course of the 140.6 miles! J

The worst? The rain – that made for a very long second half of the marathon.

Would I do it again? I don’t know yet. I think with different weather, I could break 12 hours, but weather is nothing you can control so there would never be any guarantees. For now, one is enough. I am open to the possibility of another.

Overall, I just had a great time racing. It was very fun. I have said it over and over again that racing was way more fun than training! However, the long hours of training certainly paid off in the end! It was an awesome experience for me and I’m really grateful that I was able to accomplish this goal! I do have to say, that I could never have done it without my coach, Nick Goodman with Durapulse. He was SO great! He always encouraged me through my training when I was having a hard week and was always ready to compliment when I had a strong week. Thanks, coach!

I’m not exactly sure what is next on the horizon. I don’t know what I will do with all my spare time and I will be happy to be able to spend/save money in ways other than on training supplies!

(I’m sure there are things I forgot to add, but you should get the idea!)

My official finish picture!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Racing, Moving, Playing!

So, I haven't posted in a while so it is time for a brief update.

I am ONE WEEK away from my race in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho! I can hardly believe it! 24 weeks of training all coming down to one day of racing! Mentally, I am in a very good spot for racing. I have put in the time and effort for a great race. I've had a minor set-back with my running. I started having some knee pain about a month ago and it has not resolved itself yet. I'm doing my best to keep it as healthy as possible so that i can finish the race. The doctor says it is muscular and not structural, which is a good thing. It only hurts on the run. As long as I have a good, strong swim and bike, I will make it through the run - somehow! I'm just keeping my fingers crossed! I am excited to do the race - and more excited to be done with all the training!

I am in 'taper' mode, which means that my workouts are minimal this week so that my body hits its peak just in time for the race. It is nice to scale back a bit! I leave for Idaho on Wednesday! It is almost here! I can hardly believe it!

In other news, I moved two weeks ago! I now live in Mesa, in a little condo. I decided it was time for a change and that moving might be a good start. I'm living alone in a little 2 bedroom condo. I like that it also has an attached garage - somewheret to keep my bikes! :) It has been an adventure getting settled b/c I didn't have anything really of my own. So, new kitchen everything, new table and chairs, new vacuum, new side tables and coffee table, and so on. When I get back from the race, I will go find a new bed! Thank heavens for Ikea! It is a great way to get started on a budget! :) There is a lot I miss about living in Tempe, and living with Amy. It was a great place to be and Amy has been an amazing roommate for all these years. It is certainly an adjustment, but I like my little place and am getting used to calling it home!

I spent Memorial Day weekend at Lake Powell (after a quick trip to Idaho for my oldest niece's high school graduation). There were about 60 of us with 2 houseboats, 5 boats, and 4 jet skis. Despite the rainy weather, we had a great time! I made some new friends which was just an added bonus to the weekend! I enjoy being on the water and couldn't quite get enough! Pictures below! I am blessed to be able to get out an enjoy the outdoors!

That's it for today! I'll be sure to report on the race next time around!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My last long ride....

well, at least it is the last long ride with good weather! The heat is coming to the desert, which makes for some grueling hours on the bike. The combination of heat and long hours on the bike typically isn't a good combination for me. I've learned to do better with hydration, but it is still hard for me. It really has been amazing, however, that we have had such good weather up until this point. Typically, it is much warmer by this time of the year than it has been. I count that as a blessing! We will creep in to the upper 90's next week.

I rode 77 miles today. That is a short ride considering what is to come. I'll be up at 100+ on the bike in the next two weeks. I will stay at that for several weeks before I start tapering for the race. Doesn't that sound like fun??!! I did a lot of climbing today, which is always helpful. Not fun, but helpful! I got a flat on the way back down 9-mile hill. Another rider was kind enough to stop and help me, which turned out to be a blessing b/c i had some malfunction with my CO2 cartridge. If he hadn't of stopped, it could have been ugly!

I'm sure my run yesterday was my last long run with good weather, too! I will have to start getting up REALLY early to get my workouts done. I'll adjust!

9 weeks until the big race!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

70.3 miles!

On Saturday, April 4th, I competed (I use that term loosely!) in the Ironman California 70.3 race. This is considered a 1/2 Ironman, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. It was held in Oceanside, CA - just north of San Diego.

I had a pretty darn good race! My swim was slower than I anticipated it would be, and slower than I thought I was swimming! I had to take a quick stop a few hundred yards into it and have one of the lifeguards help me adjust my wetsuit. I felt like I was choking because it was too tight around my neck. Once she loosened it up for me, I felt much better! It's hard to be confident in the water (especially open water - and the ocean!) when you don't feel like you can breathe! 44 minutes to do the swim.

The bike course is mostly out on Camp Pendleton. It is BEAUTIFUL!!! The first half is flat and usually fast, with the second half being quite hilly. Well, it was windy all day and not too many times was the wind coming from behind. I have done a lot of training in the wind lately so it didn't seem too bad. I felt strong on the bike. 3:02 to bike.

The run was ok. I didn't have any stomach issues this year, which was a blessing! I felt pretty good on the first lap. The second lap found me slowing down a bit. It was a mental game at that point. We had to run 1/4 mile, each direction, each lap, on the sand. This was not my idea of fun for a race! So, it was a total of a mile on the sand. Some of it was hard packed, but a good portion of it was soft. It made it an additional challenge on the run. The course is fairly flat, but after a hilly bike course, those little hills felt like mountains!

Overall, I was really happy with the results. I finally broke my 6 hour barrier, finishing in 5:54:40! That smashes my previous time by 23 minutes! I was happy about that! I finished 39th out of 142 in my age division.

It was great to have three friends out there with me to cheer me on, as well as other teammates. We had a great little condo right on the beach and close to all the race action, which was great! The extra support out on the course is SO helpful to keeping my head in the game!

From here, I continue to train for the full Ironman in June. I'm excited! It is going to be an adventure!

A few really bad race pictures. Racing never has me looking my best! :)

In all my spandex glory!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009


I love going to Moab each year for the 1/2 Marathon! The race was held last Saturday, March 21st. I traveled up there on Thursday with my friend, Nicole, who also ran the race. We both took our bikes so we could ride on Friday before racing on Saturday.

The weather was perfect. I did a 40 mile bike ride up through the canyon which the Colorado River runs through. It was so beautiful! There were about 7 of us who did the ride.

The 1/2 Marathon couldn't have been better for me! I felt really strong the whole time and just stayed focused on finishing well. I ran strong and steady. My finish time was 1:46:18, which is 8:13 minute miles (averaged!). I was pleased with that! I came in 29/406 in my age group! fun! It was really a training run in preparation for my triathlon in California next weekend. (picture here - I NEVER look good when I'm racing!)

If you ever get a chance to go to Moab, do it! It is a great little town!

The trek home was an adventure! It was SO WINDY!!! There were times that visibility was zero because of all the blowing dust coming across the road. In fact, it was so windy that my bike rack actually came loose from my car. We had to pull off the side of the road to get the bikes off the car. We could barely open the doors b/c the wind was so strong. We got the bike rack re-attached but left the bikes in the car. A while later, the rack came loose again. So, Nicole reached up through the sun roof and held it on the car for almost 60 miles! Fortunately I had a pair of gloves in my car that she put on so that the blowing dust didn't completely exfoliate her skin! When we arrived in Flagstaff, we ended up taking the rack completely off the car. Not a fun experience! I'm just greatful we made it home safely!

I am beginning to taper for my race in Oceanside. I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, I will head to Lake Pleasant tomorrow to swim in 56 degree water! Burrrrr......Thank goodness for wetsuits!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Belay on...

So, if training for an Ironman weren't enough to fill my time, I have also been going rock climbing 2 or 3 times a week. I learned to rock climb when I lived in Utah. I went once or twice a week up there - always outdoors. Now, 8+ years later, I am climbing indoors. It is taking some time to regain my courage on the climbs but it is progressing nicely. I have a very patient climbing partner who helps me when I need it! That is a bonus! My fingers are regaining contact strength for the smaller holds. It is a lot of fun! There was only one instance of 'not fun'. I almost killed my friend, Mark, when he was coming off a lead climb. (usually we do climbs which are already top-roped, which means if you fall, there is no risk of falling far. On a lead climb, you can fall double the distance of where the last bolt/tie-in is). Mark had gone to the top of the lead climb. I had the rope in wrong and there was no catch on the rope. This means that when he started coming back down, it was only my strength trying to prevent him from plummeting to his death. Fortunately, there was someone close by who helped prevent disaster from happening. We haven't tried lead climbs since then! I got a nice rope burn on my hand which is just about healed - 2.5 weeks later! Like I said - it is a lot of fun! I don't have any pictures of me climbing - yet - so I just added a picture of my gear. Chalk bag, harness, and shoes, and a carabiner that you can't really see!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Back to grade school....

Do you remember grade school, and on to high school for that matter, when you got a progress report every 9 weeks? I used to have a love-hate-relationship with those reports. I loved to see the big 'A' flashing across the paper. I knew I had done a good job. The other letters on those progress reports? Well, those weren't always as fun to see. Fortunately, they were never bad letters (unless you count my freshman year of college - psychology - that was a rough class!), just not as pleasing as was the 'A'.

Reminiscing about those progress reports is actually why I am posting today. I just completed my first 9 weeks of training for my Ironman race, which will be in June! I can't believe how quickly the time has passed! I suppose not all weeks have passed as quickly as others, but it is 9 weeks any way you slice it. To give you an idea of what my training looks like right now, I'll post what a 'typical' week of training is.
  • Monday - Run 5 miles/Swim (abt 2800-3000 yds)
  • Tuesday - Bike 90 minutes followed by a 4 mile run (fast)
  • Wednesday - Bike 30 miles/Swim (2800-3000 yds)
  • Thursday - Swim (2800-3000 yds)
  • Friday - Long Run - 14 miles
  • Saturday - Long Bike - 60 miles with hills
All my swim workouts are specific to form work, speed work, or endurance. Some workouts I like better than others, but they are all typically about 3000 yds - which takes me about an hour with all the variation in sets I do.

Every three weeks, I also do a progress check with running and swimming. The run test is called a MAF test - or Maximum athletic function. For this, I warm up on the track and then run 3 miles in a row, keeping my heart rate at 153 bpm (beats per minunte). When I first started this process, my miles were each about 11 minutes. Now, they are about 8 1/2 minutes. Heart rate training is AWESOME!!! For swimming, I do a pace test in which I warm up and then I do 3, 300 yd swims with 30 seconds in between. I then average the times and calculate a pace based on 100 yds. I have some work to do in the pool yet, but I have improved!

Most days, I really like being on my bike. I am much faster than I have been (not sure if it is the new bike or not but I like to think it is a combination of getting stronger and the bike!). I have been doing a lot of riding with head winds, so I'm getting used to that. I don't care much for the wind, but I'm getting better at riding in it - which is always good preparation for racing!

Overall, I feel really good in my training. I had one really hard week mentally. I still got out and did my workouts, I just had a very hard time motivating myself to do it. I'm glad I've only had one of those! Since then, all has been well. I feel healthy and haven't injured anything!

I will run the Moab 1/2 Marathon on March 21st, then on to Oceanside, CA for a 1/2 Ironman race on April 4th. That will be preparation for the full Ironman in Coeur d'Alene, ID on June 21st!

One of my friends was down last weekend from Utah to do some training in warm weather and he told me a quote, which I really like (and can apply to training AND life!): "The Will to Win is nothing without the Will to Prepare."

This progress report - 'A-/B+'!!! There is always room for improvement!