Good day friends and family. Today is November 8th, yes yes, it’s election day but we’re going to steer clear of that topic…today is also our 6 month nomad anniversary! Six months ago today we loaded up with everything we own on our backs and hit the road to live full time in an RV named Bertha.
What an incredible journey it’s been so far. The longer we live on the road, the more accustomed to it we become and the more we’re loving it. The end of 2016 is quickly approaching and the time will be coming for us to decide what we’re going to do in the new year – put roots in the ground or keep roaming on wheels. We’ll let you know as soon as we know ourselves!
This past week was mostly focused on preparing for Ironman Florida, so we’re going to do the blog a little bit differently this week. We left off last Wednesday as we had just finished our normal weekly chores and were still enjoying time with family. That evening, Jim’s folks took us out to dinner for a continued celebration of Heather’s birthday. We went for Japanese and gorged ourselves on tepanyaki and sushi before enjoying ice cream cake and happy birthday songs back at the house afterward.
Thursday was check in day for the race so we rode down to the beach to wander around Ironman Village and get all checked in. It was a little nerve wracking for Heather because she had taken over sister Jamey’s registration and wasn’t sure she’d be able to successfully check in with her ID. Luckily, we got a volunteer who allowed it and we were in the clear (and were thrilled to discover that the bib said Heather on it!). We got all our gear and swag, wandered around some of the booths, then headed out and straight to our nieces’ gymnastics class to watch them flip and jump with mad skills. We cut out of the class a little early to head back to the RV, we wanted to get some downtime in that evening as both of us were feeling like we were fighting a cold. But first, we had to spend some time getting our bicycles ready to be checked in the next day. As the sun set that evening, we had the bikes ready and were tucked into Bertha for a quiet dinner and early night to bed, this is the night to get a really good rest before the big race.
Friday morning we awoke, prepped the last of our race gear into our transition bags and headed down to Ironman Village once again. We got our sparkly clean bikes all settled into their resting place for the evening, checked in our gear (after buying a couple of small, new items in the village), and headed out for a quick pre-race swim, bike, and run around the area. Actually, it was just a bike and run, we walked down to the beach for the swim portion, all ready to jump in, and were greeted by three jellyfish at the water’s edge. So we decided to skip that part and just hope for the best on race morning, knowing that at least we’d be wearing wetsuits then. We met up with one of Jim’s athletes as she got her bike and gear all checked in as well, she was also doing this as her first full Ironman. Once all the prep work was done, we got back to Bertha for a healthy meal, some rest and an early night, and focused on our mindset for the next day.
This is where we’re going to do things a little bit differently this week. Race day is very individual so we’re each going to tell our stories separately, rather than try to combine them into one jumbled summary….
Heather’s Race Recap
The biggest surprise for me leading up to race day was just how calm I was feeling. We have spent this entire year, and since this past May, talking about and preparing for this race so there was a lot of build up around it for me, especially since it was my first. In the days leading up to the race, we had prepared very well, other than feeling like we might be fighting colds, so when we went to bed on Friday night, I was feeling surprisingly relaxed and calm about it. As an added bonus, Jim had sent me a note that evening telling me how impressed and proud he was of me, making me feel encouraged and even more excited to take on this challenge.
Saturday morning our alarm went off at 3:50 am. I had slept pretty well the night before and woke up feeling energized and ready. We got dressed, prepped the last of our stuff, and downed our peanut butter bagels, a bottle of Ensure, and some Imodium (an awesome tip to keep our stomachs happy throughout the day). Jim’s folks picked us up at 4:45 and we headed down to the beach and starting line. We had done such a great job of preparing that this was the calmest race morning we’d had yet, we finished the final details of preparing our transitions, grabbed our wetsuits, and headed down to the water for the start of the race.
This was the first race I’d done with a rolling start. The other races I’d done had started in waves, meaning that only my age group and gender would be entering the water together. This time, however, I was in a rolling mass of bodies that were all trying to get into the water at the same time. The race was also 75% men, so this was also the first time I was entering the water at the same time with mostly men. I stood in the cool, soft sand watching the glow of the sunrise just starting to peek up over the water as I waited my turn to get in. The cannon went off at 6:45 am and 6 minutes later, I was through the starting line and wading my way into the water. It was barely wetsuit legal temperature (the cutoff is 76.1 and the water was 75.4), making it feel just about perfect. I’ve also learned to loosen the neck of my wetsuit during races, as I often feel suffocated otherwise. I waded into the water until it was deep enough to get horizontal and start swimming. If you want to call it that. The first 15 minutes or so is more a game of survival, trying to find your own space in the mass of arms and legs flailing around you. During the first swim loop, my goggles were knocked loose twice and I took a man’s elbow to the temple. Ouch. I also got discombobulated on the first loop, swimming in the wrong direction for a bit because I couldn’t see the next buoy. The wind was strong that morning, giving way to a choppy swim and large waves. I finished the first 1.2 mile loop at my target time of 40 minutes, got out of the water, ran across the beach for a quick swig of fresh water, then jumped back into the waves to start the second loop. The second loop was a little smoother in terms of the bodies being less dense since people had spread out, I also was able to follow the buoy line much more accurately. But the waves and the current on the second loop seemed to have become stronger, making the swimming much more challenging. I also counted five total jellyfish during my swim, those are just the ones I saw but I was glad to be wearing a wetsuit around those suckers. I made it back to the beach at an hour and 25 minutes, cutting 5 minutes off of my target time. So far, so good, I was feeling pretty happy with the outcome of the swim as I lay down in the sand and let the volunteers take off my wetsuit.
With my wetsuit in hand and my entire back covered in sand, I ran through the human car wash and into the transition area. I grabbed my bag with all my bike gear and headed to the women’s change area, where an awesome volunteer helped me through the transition by pulling out my bike stuff and packing my swim stuff into the bag in its place. I ran through to grab my bike and was out of the transition area in 6 mins and 51 seconds. Now to settle in for 6+ hours on the bike. The week leading up to the race had been hot and humid, typical Florida weather. Race day was the coolest day of the week, thankfully, however, that also brought some significant wind into the equation. Early into the 112 mile course, I was fighting frustration over the headwinds that were pushing me backward, despite my best efforts to pedal evenly and stay aero. I was watching my speed go much lower than I wanted and my heart race go much higher. I remembered Jim’s advice that you can’t control variables like wind on race day, all you can control is your output. So I watched my heart rate closely and stayed in my target zone so I wouldn’t run out of steam too early in the race.
Honestly, for me, most of the bike is a bit of a blur. It was a roller coaster of emotions, frustration over the wind, boredom at times on the endless flat roads, excitement as I passed big strong men, fun when I had the tailwind to push me from behind, and waves of emotion thinking about getting to the finish line. I had quite the playlist of songs running through my head – Moves Like Jagger, Bob Marley, The Chainsmokers, and Avicii (they don’t let you actually listen to music so I had to settle for just what was in my head). The first 100 miles went surprisingly fast for me, but somehow those last 12 miles took forever as they ticked by. The final stretch ran along the coastline and had a nice headwind to contend with, just as I thought I was done with that crap. Eventually I saw my watch turn over to 111 miles, I pulled my feet out of my shoes, and pulled into the transition area once again right at my target time of 6 hours and 30 mins.
Once again I entered the transition area, had a wonderful volunteer help me change shoes, and exited right at the same second as my first transition – 6 mins and 51 seconds. As I ran out of the transition area, I heard family yelling and was able to high five my enthusiastic cheering squad as I started the run. I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling as I started the run, my legs were heavy for the first mile or so, but they loosened up as I got into a groove. Once again, per my coach’s advice, I was only watching my heart rate rather than my pace so that I could keep a steady rate of activity throughout the 26.2 miles. Or at least that was the plan. At about mile 5 I saw Jim as I was headed out on the first loop and he was headed back from it. He gave me a kiss and I told him I was feeling like a million bucks! Totally felt like I had the race in the bag, I was moving at a solid pace and was actually enjoying myself. And what a fun course! The run course is flat and runs through a neighborhood along the coast. Many of the neighbors had set up cheering stations with music, props, costumes, and high-fives, it makes for a much more fun run having people yelling your name and distracting you from the left, right, repeat. The run loop turns around at a state park and as I finished up the first half, I saw family wearing matching pink shirts that read “Team Burho”. With their cheers and energy and some high-fives from the cutest nieces, I started the second loop. That’s when the pain in my legs and the fatigue started to hit and I started to slow down. I tried to fight through it; it’s crazy how close I was to the finish, yet how far at the same time – 13 miles to go means at least 2 more hours! The sun started to set and the night air cooled down, it was really wonderful conditions for the run at this point. But as the miles ticked by, I found more excuses to stop and stretch or to linger at the aid stations, even though I didn’t want to eat or drink anything at this point in the day. I had been surviving on Cliff bars and Gatorade all day so at this point, nothing sounded good anymore. My watch also died around mile 18, and it had been part of what was keeping me well paced. I could no longer track my heart rate, the time, or my cadence (most of the run was a repeat of 1,2,3 in my head as I counted my steps per second, it was a pretty good distraction actually). Eventually I saw the mile 24 marker and forced myself to run the last two miles to the finish line. As I got closer, I could see the lights, hear the music and the crowd, and hear the announcer rattling of names of new Ironmen as they crossed the finish line. At that point, I forgot about the pain in my legs and started high-fiving strangers as I ran down the Ironman branded finishing chute. I heard loud cheers to my left and saw family waving and cheering me on, what an incredible crew! I crossed through the finish line with a silly little hop and heard the announcer say congrats to Jamey Bur-ho from Guatemala City, you are an Ironman (close enough I guess haha). The lights are extremely bright and in your face at the end, making it a bit disorienting as you’re trying to find familiar faces and find your way through the crowd. They took off my timing chip and I looked up to see my husband standing there, holding my medal with tears of pride in his eyes. He put the medal around my neck, gave me a strong kiss, and told me just how proud he was of me. Poor guy had finished almost an hour before me and had stood there on sore legs and shivering in the cool evening just so he could be there to give me my medal. We were escorted out of the finishing area, where we were reunited with encouraging family members, full of hugs and photo ops. My legs were starting to feel tight and painful so I couldn’t stand there long before Jim and I headed to the massage tent to get our legs worked out. I can’t believe how much 15 mins of having someone compress my legs helped. After the massages, we headed to the food tent, where we both downed between 4 and 6 slices of pizza and I started to feel like a normal person again.
All in all, I feel like I went into this day very prepared. I had gained so much knowledge from Jim over this past year and we had trained pretty consistently, so race day was really just the reward for the months of training. There were no major surprises or hurdles that I wasn’t prepared for, and that was largely thanks to Jim’s experience and advice. My final time was 13:25:53, a time that I was pretty happy with, and I’m very thankful to have been able to check a full Ironman off my bucket list. 140.6 miles is in the bag!
Jim’s Race Recap
Though we’d only heard the sound of an alarm clock less than once a month since the start of our year on the road six months ago, the familiar sound at 3:50am meant only one thing on this particular morning: it was race day. Having checked and rechecked everything the night before, Heather and I were organized and set for a smooth morning in preparation for the long day ahead. We scarfed down toasted bagels with peanut butter and banana on the drive to the starting line that my parents benevolently offered us, themselves having to wake up hours before the sun to help us minimize race day logistical stress. We had spent the last 11 months training for this day and we were as ready as we could have been.
Once at the beach, we double-checked our transition bags, prepped our bikes and bike nutrition, got down to race weight (tee-hee), and donned our wetsuits before heading to the beach for the swim start. The sun still below the horizon, the sky was lit with morning light as dawn had come to show us the 2.4 mile challenge before us. Early morning winds that would eventually come to fight us on the bike had come early enough to create massive waves off the coast. The cannon went off and the front runners charged from the beach into the warm, barely wetsuit legal gulf waters that were teaming with white caps. Ironman Florida has gone the way of most Ironman races these days, opting to do a rolling start where triathletes self-seed their positions relative to their estimated finishing time. This reduces the cluster that is mass swim starts, but doesn’t remove the washing machine effect all that much. We filed into the water as fast as we could and the race was underway.
Bodies on top of bodies. 3000 rubber people pulling, kicking, hitting each other as we all tried our best to pull ourselves through the choppy water. At the furthest point out from the beach the waves towered high above our heads, making course buoys, athletes, and boats invisible. This was by far the hardest of the 9 swims I’ve done in Ironman’s infamous 2.4 mile swim start. I felt good though and, despite my watch getting its lap button bumped and skewing my swim data, the swim went quite well. While I didn’t get a PR time (personal record – the gold standard for self-improvement), I felt this was my best swim on race day yet, considering the conditions.
After the swim I charged up the white powdered beach toward the transition area, skipping the wetsuit peelers (volunteers there to help you remove your wetsuit) who had oddly been staged in the sand, leaving athletes covered in sand for the bike course. I heard my father’s unmistakable voice yell out, “Go JB!!” as I turned the corner into transition and looked over to find my amazing family yelling and cheering for me (it’s remarkable they could even pick me out of the crowd!). I quickly ripped off my wetsuit in transition, threw on my helmet and cycling shoes, and then ran out to grab my bike. Again I heard my family and saw them at the bike mount line as they wished me luck on the 112 mile bike ride I had ahead of me.
The wind on the bike was crushing, both mentally and physically. This was my first race with a power meter, a force strain gauge on my pedals that precisely measures how much energy I’m using at any given second to help me regulate my output, which will maximize both my bike and run times (leg fatigue being cumulative, going harder on the bike will make for a slower run time, and vice versa). Based on my training and current fitness levels, the goal was to hold 183 watts for the full 112 miles. Based on the genius physics and mathematical computations, 183 watts would have put me right at a 5 hour and 15 minute bike split – assuming no wind! I was elated to find after the race I had held an average of 186 watts, nearly perfect, though my bike split was more than 45 minutes slower than anticipated, completely due to the wind. It was the perfect example of why you can’t set goals based on time, pace or speed; they simply aren’t variables you can control.
Overall the bike split was boring and there wasn’t much to see. I did enjoy the mostly flat terrain (I’m not a hill climber by any stretch of the imagination) but the wind made the bike leg more frustrating than anything (that, and the two Paula Abdul songs – Straight Up and Cold Hearted Snake – that were stuck in my head on repeat most of the day).
Hands-down best part of the bike was just shy of mile 90, where the course doubled back on itself and I heard Heather call out, “Go Team Burho!” from the opposite direction. I was so happy to see her and beyond impressed that she was only about 10 miles behind me. She seems to find ways to amaze me every day; I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to see her perform so flawlessly on her first 140.6 mile race.
I raced back towards transition, taking my shoes off around mile 111 and prepared for a quick dismount and transition to running. I had one of my best/fastest/smoothest dismounts hopping off right at the dismount line at a nearly full sprint, running my bike to the bike catching volunteers who would take my beloved Cosima (a bike without a name is no bike at all) back to her rack while I changed into running gear. I blasted through T2 as fast as I could, swapping out my helmet for a visor and sunglasses and silicone spraying my feet before putting on my socks and shoes. I grabbed my number belt and took off out of the tent to start the long marathon run.
Immediately I noticed my heart rate monitor had stopped working; a terrifying race day variable to overcome as I now would have to entirely listen to my body to pace myself for the 26.2 miles ahead. Normally not such a big deal, but on race day adrenaline takes over and tricks you into thinking you’re much more relaxed than you actually are. I definitely went out too fast initially which I would pay for in the last 4ish miles. At the 1 mile marker, I heard the familiar sound of a train horn which was actually my awesome brother’s truck horn (yeah, we’ve had some fun with that) and was all choked up to see he and his wife and two little girls (nieces, extraordinaire) holding up a “Go Team Burho!” sign and cheering their heads off as I trotted by. It was the perfect way to start the positive momentum I would need to carry me along for the next several hours.
While entirely flat and full of some of the best fans and spectators I’ve seen at a race, the run course was looong. Every little turn felt like the turnaround had to be just around the corner, yet it just kept going. I finally made the turn around and heard another voice cheering for “JB”, a name only family calls me, and realized only after the race it was my Aunt Pam; I didn’t even know she was coming to the race!
Heading back towards the start to finish my first lap and start the next, I came across my incredible wife again who said she was “feeling like a million bucks” there early on in her marathon. The best part of these out and back run courses is getting to double-back on everyone in the race; this is especially huge when that person is the love of your life and she’s doing her first full Ironman race. I finished the first lap, finding my brother and his family were now joined by the rest of the crew to include Dad, Mom, and Aunt Sionna. My brother, his wife, and two little girls were now all wearing shirts that read “Team Burho” on them! I actually teared up – so much love!
On my second lap I saw Heather again and could tell she was actually gaining on me and was fairly certain she was going to catch me! I’ve never been so proud of anyone before; she was literally amazing on race day. The miles eventually caught up to both of us though, and around mile 22 for me, I was slowed to 12 minute miles and had struggled to go faster without pushing into too high of an intensity without my heart rate monitor there to keep me objective and honest. I finished the race 11 minutes behind my current PR on a racecourse that should have made for a big PR, had it not been for the wind. I did PR the run course though, and would have probably done even better on the run had I had my heart rate monitor to help slow me down in the beginning.
I waited at the finish line, hiding among the volunteers in my heat blanket, trying not to freeze while I waited for Heather to cross and earn the title “Ironman.” I finally saw her bright teal headband bobbing down the finishing chute and I raced to the front of the volunteers and asked for a medal to put on my wife. I saw her come across the line, all smiles, and then scanning the finish line crowd. She saw my teared up eyes and I placed her much earned medal around her neck and kissed her.
Ironman Florida 2016 was in the books. I had a great race all around and continued to learn more about myself and ultra-course triathlon racing. Heather had gone the distance with an impressive first timer performance. We met our incredible family at the finish line and grabbed a few pictures before they headed home. I’ve never felt so much love on race day.
Once the race was over, we made it back to Bertha pretty late and finally stumbled into bed around 1:30am. We expected to sleep well into the afternoon on Sunday but were surprised that we were up and ready to start the day around 9:00am, seems we still had some residual adrenaline pulling us into the new day. Both of us were tired and chafed with sore legs, but were overall feeling pretty good. Jim cooked up some eggs and bagels for breakfast while Heather got started on cleaning up the mess of triathlon gear that had exploded all over Bertha. Heather then got to work on her grant writing schoolwork that she was dumb enough to put off all week but was now due today. We then headed out to Morgan and Erica’s pool for hot dogs, beans, pasta salad, and beer as we soaked up the perfect weather and wonderful company. Though the girls wanted to play tag, jump rope, hide and seek, and pull-me-around-the-yard-in-this-cooler-please…we were not quite up for their requests just yet. An afternoon nap was in order before we headed to Jim’s folks’ house that evening for another wonderful meal of pork loin, brussel sprouts, rice, and freshly baked bread. After dinner, we hopped into their hot tub with a scotch in hand to relax our aching bodies. We were like jello after that as we headed back home, fell into bed and slept for 10 hours that night.
Monday we awoke feeling a little extra soreness as the effects of the race had fully set in. We had a mostly relaxing day, spent some time by the pool, flew drones with Jim Sr, and spent the evening playing with our nieces as we had a
delicious taco Monday dinner.
We know this was an extra long edition of the Team Burho blog, so if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and following along. We plan to spend the next two weeks prior to Thanksgiving down at a beautiful Florida beach and catching up on some overdue work and plan-making.
Good luck with election day and much love to you all!
Total RV Trip Miles: 10,403
(Bertha has been decked out in Ironman Florida gear—>>)