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Penny Comins takes on another IM

Penny Comins takes on another IM

Headsweats Athlete Penny Comins takes on yet another Ironman – Ironman Kalmar in Sweden this past August. Read her full race update – with emotions and all – below. Congrats Penny!

Ironman Kalmar

Written by Penny Comins

The blue carpet, the blur of the crowd, the music and one voice crystal clear – you are an Ironman. It never grows old. All 15 times it has been a spine tingling moment, only seconds before the immediate release of emotion. The past three months of training, sacrifices and the 140.6 miles you have traveled to get to this moment in time come exploding out. Sometimes it has been joy, sometimes bewilderment and often tears. This time it was tears.

  Ironman Kalmar

I finally got a time trail bike and trained harder than ever on the bike. The plan was to ride 5 hours 30 minutes and run 3 hours 30 minutes to get a new Personal Best. Entering Ironman Kalmar presented a relatively flat cycle course, playing to my strengths. The weather gods had other ideas, as on race morning the flags were at full attention around the small UNESCO town centre.

Penny Comins, IM

Winds gusting from the south at 50 kilometres per hour made the 120 kilometre loop on the open marshland on the island Oland a trudge down and low flying back. Unfortunately I didn’t make up the time lost heading down the island on the way back and was 16 minutes down on my time check heading back over the six kilometre bridge to the mainland. The final 60 kilometres were rolling countryside to Rockenby with a stonking headwind coming back in to town, just when energies were low. It was time to start on the Maxifuel Viper gels and get the caffeine rush in. I came in off the bike at 5.51.56. After a longer than planned swim, or more accurately described as a drownfest, 1.22.55, it was time to get the deficit back on the run.

 goofing around

I stared off at a pace that felt fast but able to hold. As the wind showed itself on the course and my body started to wear down my pace slowed and relaxed at just over five minute kilometres. As the world started to spin I took the precautionary step to slow down through a few aid stations, get some water on my body and in my Headsweats visor to keep my core temperature down. I took on salt; more Maxifuel gels and a few Sports Legs to buffer the lactic build up.

I started to feel better, or was it the finish line feeling looming? Regardless I pushed on. My devoted boyfriend kept popping up in the last few kilometres of the run in the historical city giving me splits and pushing me to go sub 11 hours. I just got my head down, engaged any energy left and pushed with all my might.

 Ironman Finish Line

Relieved to see 10.56 above my head I had done it. I wobbled to the catchers having pushed the hardest I have ever done in all 15 Ironman’s I have completed. Yet tears rolled down my face when I saw David, I felt I had let him down by not cycling a faster time. On reflection the whole field was slower this year with the crowded swim and hurricane winds. The elusive 5 hour 30 minute bike and 3 hour 30 minute run has evaded me again. Well, until Ironman South Africa next year.

My 3.34.27 did give me the 12th fastest ladies marathon on the day, including the pro’s. My Sigvaris calf guards kept my legs in tact to have the power to push when they would normally feel fatigued.

Ironman Frankfurt – A Test of Getting the Job Done

Ironman Frankfurt – A Test of Getting the Job Done

Headsweats athlete Penny Comins talks about her most recent Ironman — in Frankfurt, Germany! Here’s what she has to say about her experience:

Never had I felt so good in the lead up to an Ironman. I was lean and rested. Maxifuel recovery products and vitamins had meant I was strong and at a very lean race weight. It was to be my race.

When I got in to the water I felt light and strong. The Maxifuel gel topped up my reserves just before I hit the water. I was on for a good time until I took a full fist blow to the eye socket. Pulling out of the slim stream I re-adjusted my goggles and checked the fist hadn’t busted the skin on my face.

Feeling the rain drops on my back while swimming I made the decision to take the time in T1 and put on my arm warmers and rain cape. Three hours later on the side of the road changing a slow flat I was pleased with my decision. It hadn’t stopped pelting down and now I was struggling to get my sodden tire off covered in grit. It wasn’t to be the only slow flat I would get of the day, resulting in riding the last 15 kilometres on my rim hoping that my flat tire wouldn’t roll off taking me with it.

Race goal time was out the window. I needed to route deep to find mini goals within the goals. Headsweats visor on, I attacked the run. Having half a Maxifuel gel every 20 minutes not only broke the marathon into 20 minute treats but kept my nutrition even throughout. I spent the first lap of four running between the third and fourth professional woman. This is the reason why we do this sport, to be in the mix with our heros. This spurred me on to keep racing hard despite the disaster on the bike. I was super pleased with how smooth and loose I felt on the run. Crossing the finish line was a huge accomplishment. It wasn’t just about the distance but the mental games I had to play to trick myself to the finish.

I jumped straight in to the ice bucket baths with a Recovermax in hand. The following day I could walk with ease. I put the lessons of the day down in my diary and started to plan out my pursuit to the Berlin Marathon in September.

DART wins entry to the World Championships

DART wins entry to the World Championships

Headsweats is proud to sponsor Team DART with their headwear — helping them keep a cool head as their competition heats up. Read on for their full race report at Untamed New England and their photos! Congrats Team DART!!

Last week, the Untamed New England adventure race drew 49 of the best teams from North America and Europe to the heart of Maine. Team DART-nuunFeed The Machine was made up of Mari Chandler, Ryan Van Gorder, Matt Hayes, and Aaron Rinn.

The four day race started at the outlet of Moosehead Lake with a short run and packraft followed by a canoe across Indian Pond. The teams then paired up and, together with a professional guide, tackled the huge and seriously fun class IV whitewater of the Kennebec River.

From here, teams ran to Moxie Falls for a checkpoint and then transitioned to mountain biking. The riding was challenging and technical, but the trail was scenic. We were moving well until Mari’s bike frame broke clear across the seat tube. Our aluminum bikes are lightweight and we are pretty hard on them. The failure was due to accumulated wear over time, rather than one huge hit.

Many teams passed us as we tried to figure out how to cobble together a solution for the cracked frame. We still had 30 miles of biking to do on this leg.

We found a stick to place down the seat tube to prevent the two pieces from completely separating. Meanwhile “Matt-gyver” earned this new nickname by figuring out how to complete a trail repair using parts of a waterbottle cage, some sticks, and a hose clamp, that Mari was using to hold an extra waterbottle cage to her bike. Mari could only use her lowest gear in the front, and she had to ride carefully. But we started moving again, and eventually Matt found a great route on a road that avoided several miles of slow trails. Unbelievably, the seat tube on Aaron’s bike frame cracked in half just as we arrived at the ropes! The ropes course involved rappelling next to Grand Falls on the Dead River, pulling ourselves across the river in rafts, ascending up the other side, and taking a zip line back over the waterfall.

This repair to Aaron’s bike was going to be more difficult, because it cracked at the bottom bracket joint. However, thanks to the DW Link suspension, Aaron’s bike was still able to work if he stood up, so he had to stand and pedal for the next 15 miles to the next section. We wanted to keep moving, so we would have to deal with Aaron’s broken frame later.

We trekked to Flagstaff Lake, where we blew up our packrafts and paddled across. It was the middle of the night and an approaching lightning storm gave our paddling an added sense of urgency. Our progress was slowed when it took a while to find a checkpoint in the dark on the opposite shore. After more than an hour of searching, we finally found it. We chose to deflate our boats at this point and trek overland land for a few hours. The mosquitoes came out in force with the sunrise. We blew up our boats again to capture the last few water CPs.

We put our rafts in our packs for an off trail climb over a beautiful mountain. The route finding was tough and the bush was thick, but we nailed the navigation. We moved fast, and passed a couple of teams.

At the end of the trek we had devised a plan to repair the broken frames, helped out by a stop at the dump for some extra materials. But as soon as we got to the bike transition, at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, we learned of a bike shop with rental bikes. Mari and Aaron excitedly wheeled their broken bikes to this brand new bike shop. Half an hour later Team Dart was off on the mountain bike orienteering course, which we finished before dark. We had been racing for 34 hours and decided to take advantage of the Numa tents that were set up. The sleep dried us out, and we were reinvigorated as we headed out on an alpine trek. After climbing Burnt Mountain, we headed halfway back down in order to avoid a seemingly terrible bushwack along the ridge. We climbed back to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, arriving with a spectacular sunrise.

Next, we biked to an orienteering relay leg where each team member had to do a section. Each of us made a few mistakes on our sections, but overall we had the fastest time of all the teams. After the last bike section, we arrived back at Flagstaff Lake in second place.

Ahead was a 30 km canoe, which was broken up by two portages, and trekking to find several checkpoints along the way. Team Sole kept us company for this leg.

We finished the paddle at dusk and transitioned to the last leg of trekking and packrafting. Two teams were hot on our heals and came in from the paddle before we left the TA.

We tried packrafting on the Dead River and got passed by these two teams who were on foot next to the river. So we pulled out and put the rafts in our bags. We trekked to a cp where we received the last 8 checkpoints of the race. Those teams plus Team Sole left, but we slept for a half hour in the mosquitoes. We got up cold, plotted, and realized that we had 10-15 miles of packrafting on the same river that had proved so slow the night before. But the river in this section was awesome!! We started whitewater rafting at 3 am and more water was released starting at 5 am. The alpaca rafts ate up the whitewater. Rapid after rapid, we did our best to move downriver, picking off checkpoints along the way. We came up to the last river checkpoint around 9 am and saw a team from Montreal looking for the cp. They were a little early, so when they saw us, they got back in their rafts and followed us to the cp. That started a 2 hour sprint to the finish with 5 cps to go. The last hour, we decided to run the road while they packrafted. We traveled faster than them to the 2nd to find the last cp a few minutes ahead, but we had to blow up two boats to go across the river. We got the cp and their team arrived as we crossed back. From here it was 2k to the finish straight uphill and then straight down to the finish. We ran as hard as we could and finished 2 minutes ahead of the Montreal team.

In the end, with our time credit for our wait at the ropes, we ended up a half hour in front of the Danish team and Team Sole.

We ended up 2nd behind Thule, the reigning world champs. That gave both us and the Danish team a paid entry to the Raid in France in September!!

The team did great working together and having fun the whole time. We didn’t make any big mistakes, never got too sleepy, and just kept moving.

~ Written by Aaron Rinn