Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what a lot of you are saying. “I thought you said you would never do an Ironman?” I did say that….a lot. Ironman’s are “stupid” and “dumb” and I’ll never do one. Well, what do you want me to say. I succumb to the curiosity. I went back on my word. I don’t know what else to tell you….So here’s the recap….
Back in July of last year, a group of friends hatched a plan with Karin and I to all travel back to Lake Placid and race Ironman the following year. SO DUMB….but fun. I guess. So I signed up with no real conviction to actually do the race. My participation in the race itself would be solely based on how well training went, or rather, how well it was going…basically a game time decision. The trip would happen no matter what as Karin was all in but I would make a decision rather close to the race as to whether or not I would actually go through with it. Needless to say, training went really well. I’ve found a great balance of work and training. Basically, it involves a LOT less travel and LOT more time at work. I know that sounds weird but it’s really working for me. The less I travel, the less I worry about falling behind at work. That means less stress. The more I’m physically at work and on top of my shit, the less stressed I get. The effects being more solid training and better results. So this past 8 months, I’ve picked races with no travel. I’ve only taken one day off up until this trip to Placid and it’s working fantastic. I’m well rested, stress free and training like a champ. The downside…..now I have to do this fucking race…..ugh.
I always thought it was funny when random Ironman completing triathlon folks used to ask “have you done an Ironman?”…..Me, “No”…..”Oh, you could probably do one. It’s just so much time training.”
LOL….yeah, thanks. I appreciate the advice. The “funny” part about that is, I train more than most Ironman athletes do before I started Ironman training. Most people think that your training hours reflect the race distance you’re doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The training complexion reflects your specific goals (ie race distance)….but rarely do the hours spent training. Sprints, Olympics, Half Ironman, and Ironman all require the same amount of training….and that amount is….as much as you can. Well, if you wanna do your best. I train as much as I can. So I knew the hours spent training would not change. That was an added benefit to help wrap my brain around this.
Another thing that helped sway me was going and spectating a couple Ironman races. I realized something you kind of don’t get with the TV broadcast and that’s the fact that it’s just a triathlon. It’s not some mega super duper event with super human people overcoming some incredible feat. It’s all the same people with all the same bikes and wetsuits doing the same thing you’ve done a million times…..just doing it for a pretty long ass amount of time. But there’s nothing really “special” about it.
So that’s kind of the back story….let’s get to the actual race…..
Karin and I arrived the Tuesday before the race to our AWESOME lake house that we rented through VRBO. We were staying with Caldwell, wife Lauren, Biebs, Mike and Flabs. Evan Hill and family were also there along with other Wattie Ink athletes but staying in other locations. The days before the race were just epic. We were within walking distance of everything we needed and the race itself. The week was just spent lounging with some super light swims in the lake. I did ride and run some but nothing over 15 minutes. Couldn’t have been nicer. We did have some drama the evening before the race when a four story building burst into flames across the lake from us. Thankfully, no one was harmed and the debris didn’t cancel the swim. All of our hearts go out to the local lady who lost everything in the fire. It was rather hard to watch.
Packet pickup, bike check, race morning….all went off without any problems. Lined up for the swim and was ready to get going.
The swim start at Placid is a rolling start much like the start of a running race. You self seed based on your anticipated swim. They had signs like Sub 60 Min, 60-70 Mins and so on. Karin and I lined up in about the second or third row. I anticipated going about 58 Mins or so with a wetsuit and a super easy effort. My real goal was anything around 60 mins with zero effort but I knew the wetsuit would help and there should be some good drafting at the start because of the format. I also knew the course was permanent throughout the year and exactly 2.4 miles…so that helps when coming up with some time goals. (Which I always have in mind, but never react or race to.) I was very relaxed at the start. I love knowing that everything is going to be really easy for a really long time. There’s simply no other way to do long endurance events. So there’s no nervousness at the start. You have to ease into the day and let it unfold. Which I did….just sorta trotted into the water, stayed up a little longer than most and waded out. My theory here is, if I’m going as fast as the people swimming, I might as well walk. Got going swimming soon enough. Start was uneventful. There were not a lot of people around and I was kind of doing my own thing. I did notice what looked like Karin’s suit early on but it was hard to tell. Then I noticed we were swimming side by side. It was funny at first because we breath on opposite sides, so every stroke we would be looking at each other. I knew Karin was swimming very well as I usually out split her by about 1 min in HIM’s. She was right there through the entire first lap. I was really excited she was doing so well. We came out of the water to transition to the second loop of the swim. I looked at the clock and it read 28:xx….I think it was 28:40 but all I cared about was the 28…which was excellent and right on target. A lady also told Karin she was the 6th female. So that helped me as well because everyone knows I’m always battling for top female amateur. We got back into the water and again started swimming stroke for stroke. I was kind of hoping Karin would drop back behind me and save some energy, but she told me after that she doesn’t really like drafting and it’s tougher for her to maintain a solid position to get a good draft than to just swim her own line. When we made the first turn to head back, that’s when we started to run into the back of the pack swimmers. I knew from this point, it was going to be a struggle. Now the speed differential was REALLY bad. You had FOP swimmers catching true BOP swimmers. I lost Karin in the process. I knew she had slightly pulled ahead and that was fine. I was just doing my best not to swim over people and find the cleanest lines I could. It was tough the last 500-800 meters. When I finally exited the water, I looked at my watch…58:xx…rad, right on schedule. I saw Karin two steps ahead of me and was super excited for her. We started the 1/4 mile run to T1 together. Awesome.
T1 was easy and slick. One of the great advantages of coming out of the water in the top 20 is a clear and smooth change tent with lots of volunteers waiting to help. Got through there easy and my bike was waiting for me at the end of the row.
It had rained the night before so the roads were still wet. I was very cautious leaving town as it is mostly downhill. I just settled in for what would be the fastest 5.5 hours of my life. Came up with my power goal prior to the race of around 185 and waited to hear what Stover (my coach) was going to give me. It was exactly the same. So I knew we had a great number to go by. My riding is as predictable as a clock. So there’s really no mystery here. I input my info into Best Bike Split before the race and it came up with an estimated time of 5:35. Which was completely acceptable. The only real challenge would be trying to get down enough calories on the bike. I don’t normally take in a lot of calories on the bike. I did a practice training ride with my nutrition plan a few weeks prior and it was really tough to keep remembering to eat that much. It wasn’t tough on my stomach or anything, just really annoying to be honest. But I knew that no matter how much I was able to get down, it wouldn’t be enough….so I had to do my best to eat and drink everything I had with me. Looking back, I got down about 2000 calories. Which I think was good.
I’d never seen the bike course before the race which really doesn’t matter to me. You put a road in front of me and I’ll ride it at the right watts. Unless the road is really technically difficult, which this course absolutely is not, then I don’t really care if I see it beforehand. I passed Karin a few minutes into the bike as she had a faster T1 than me. I settled into a nice pace and was only with a few other riders out there. Of course I was getting passed by some of the better cyclists coming through which was fine and expected but I was really surprised at how disciplined everyone was. I didn’t see anyone really riding out of the shorts. Everyone was just cruising along at a nice easy pace. Most of the first 10 miles is a slow grind uphill and then you hit a really nice section of downhill. That was really fun and I was able to grab 3-4 spots back as some of the other riders were very hesitant down the hill. Not really sure why as it’s a straight shot with no turns and not a very steep decent. You do get going pretty fast, I think I topped out at 55mph, but that’s just because it’s so long. You never have to hit your brakes for the entire ride down…which is always fun. After that, the road flattens out and is downwind. You can really make up some time there.
I came to the first out and back and noticed the lead vehicle. Cool, I could finally get an idea where I stood in the race. I started counting riders and when I hit the first turn around for the first out and back, I was in 25th. Solid. I also just told myself, “you’re just in 25th. At this point, that doesn’t mean shit one way or the other. Race hasn’t even started yet”. I just focused on my work at hand……and eating….lots of eating.
As we started getting to the end of the first loop, the terrain started to shift back uphill and we had now turned into a headwind. I remember someone telling me about the “Three Bears” climb. I guess that’s some part of the road back to town but for the life of me, I still don’t know where these are. There really isn’t any climbs back into town. It’s sorta uphill but there’s just lots of quick grades that don’t last more than a minute or so. Nothing I would consider “climbing”. It was slow however and the average pace does fall dramatically coming back into town. The support always picks WAY up as now there’s some folks cheering and giving lots of motivation. Right before we got back to town, Dave Mirra passed me. Only reason I mention it is because he’s the only guy I know in my age group and the only person I know to pick out of a crowd. I knew he’d be coming by at the end of the first lap. He was the only person to pass me who actually looked like he was riding really hard.
As I mentioned, the bike went by really fast. Before I knew it, I was back in town at special needs getting my fresh bottles. I ran an aero bottle on the seat tube so I had to pack an additional one because I obviously couldn’t exchange that at the aid stations. That holds the bulk of my liquid nutrition. Once again, a spectacular volunteer was standing there with my bag open with my bottles in her hands. Special needs took literally 10-15 seconds because she was so awesome. Can’t thank them enough. Got going again for much of the same on the second loop. By now the roads had dried and the weather was in a word, perfect. You could not have asked or planned a better weather day than we had. I felt really solid descending again and on the fast flats. After that, I started to get a little fatigued, plus a little sick of being out there. This was the only part of the ride that seemed to drag on….about the last hour and a half. But I did something that I “think” might have helped me later on…..OH WAIT, I forgot to mention that at the end of the first loop, I lost my Power Meter. It started registering crazy numbers so I abandoned it at that point. Didn’t matter from a pacing perspective as I had used it leading up to that point for the first couple hours, so I was dialed in to my effort. But, getting back to later in the ride, around mile 80-90, I remembered some advice I got from Jordan right before the race. He said, “You’re not allowed to get tired on the bike till mile 100.” I got LOTS of advice, solicited and unsolicited, but this stuck in my head because it was so simple. I just kept saying to myself, you can’t give any kind of effort here. You still have 5 more hours of racing. So as I fatigued, I let my power slip ever so slightly. Always staying in the same state of effort. Even though I positive split the second lap by about 6 minutes, I think I did a lot of good for the remainder of the race. It’s also impossible to know because my PM died but it may have been that the head wind in the second half picked up a little bit causing a slightly slower split. I don’t know that for sure, but I do know I made a conscious decision to not allow any additional fatigue to set in.
Even though the ride went by quick, I was happy to be off the bike. I dismounted and my legs were like, “woah, wait, what the fuck is going on, jesus, what’s happening, what are we doing now, christ, we have to run….what the hell?” all the way to the change tent. I felt like a moron running. My legs were not liking it one bit. I sat down and had ANOTHER great volunteer. He did exactly what he should, stand to the side and do nothing till I ask him to do something. I just dried my feet, got my shoes and socks on and downed a small coke I had in the bag on the way out. Finished up the bike in 5:31…right on target. When I got running, I felt “ok”. Legs started to come around and I saw Biebs right out of T2. She yelled some great motivational phrases at me that were awesome to hear. The only thing on my mind at that point was RUN SLOW.
The first 2.5 miles are all downhill. So I knew the pace would be a little quick. My goal was to try and hold something in the low 8’s. Maybe 8:15? I guess. I really had no idea. This is my first IM and my first marathon. I didn’t know how my body would react. I’ve finally been able to get some solid, uninterrupted, run training the last 6-8 months. Only problem is, I need 6-8 years of it not 6-8 months. The miles started to click off at just under 8 minute pace, which was great as grade adjusted, they were like mid 8’s. I didn’t feel great, however. I felt like I didn’t have a lot in the tank. Which was fine…I mean, I only had another 35k to go…what could go wrong? I figured I would have ups and downs throughout the run, so I just kept chugging at what felt like a pretty easy pace. My first hiccup came at mile 4 when I got a really bad side stitch. I had to stop for a second. Right when I stopped the lead biker was coming with the leader back the other way. He said, “just relax and work it out, it will go away”. That was reassuring and it did go away a moment later. I was able to get back on track. Through 10k I was feeling solid. I made my way back to the ski jumps which is the start of the long climb back to town consisting of two formidable hills. At this point I knew the pace would slip. I did a lot of run training in the hills by my house that have similar profiles to Placid. So I knew what the grade adjusted paces needed to look like to average what I wanted. I was still doing great but things were starting to get “not easy” anymore. The effort was now super high for a very low output. I knew the shit was coming.
As I crested the first of the two hills, I saw Biebs again and she was giving me splits up to Dave Mirra. Again, just because he was easy to spot, in my AG and leading my AG. I was closing the gap down. Although at this point, he was no longer in the lead. I finally made it back to the top of town for the second little two mile out and back that goes right in front of our rental house. This is where everyone in our group was hanging out. I got so much encouragement from my friends. Especially Flabs. He just kept repeating how good I was doing, how I was catching Mirra and to just keep rock solid. Things were getting harder and harder as the miles went by. I made it back to the finish line and turned to head out of town again. I seriously could NOT FUCKING BELIEVE I had to run that all over again. This is the moment the race was on. This is the moment I said, “Ok, you need to get this done. No matter what it takes, just keep jogging….don’t stop jogging.” Energywise, I felt ok. I had been eating bananas at every aid station and as much water and coke as I could get down. I would also fill my speed suit with ice at every aid station. I really like the one piece speed suit because it holds ice wonderfully. I could also move the ice around on my chest to cool more areas. It wasn’t very hot out but my engine was working as hard as it could at this point to keep me going.
As I headed down the hill, I spotted Mirra. I could finally see him now and he looked like he was still running pretty well. This mentally helped me through miles 14-16. I was chasing SOMETHING….ANYTHING. It was something I could think about rather than just how much longer I had to run. I kept my cool and knew that my current pace had caught him so there was no reason to pick it up. Just keep chugging and whatever you do, don’t stop. I caught him at an aid station around mile 17. He walked the aid station and I made the pass. I eventually came to find out that this is where he cracked. When I made the turn around, he was no where to be seen. I came back up to him about a mile later and he was stretching off to the side……Well, my carrot was gone and I had 10k, all uphill miles to go. Ummmm……shitballs. I saw Karin moments later and she gave me a sad face. I knew at that moment, her race probably wasn’t going to plan. You also have to remember that Karin is racing to win her AG. So “not going to plan” is still really good, just not what she wanted. At that point, even though I love her more than anything, I honestly didn’t care. I was just trying to not die and poop my pants. I was in a lot of pain and I knew I still had a long way to go. The mile pace had really slipped now to mid 9’s but it was literally all I could do. I had one goal on the way back, don’t walk the hills. Keep jogging. I was just out of talent at that point. I never walked though except the aid stations to make sure I got food and drink down. I made it back to the top of the hill and that two mile out and back felt like it took 2 hours….and I’m not kidding. It was the longest period of my life to date. Everything was in slow motion. I saw my crew again and again, so much encouragement. They really got me through the race. I made it back to the oval and someone was right behind me. I thought to myself, “you have got to be fucking kidding me. If I have to sprint it out with this dude, I’m going to die”. But, I knew I was around the top ten, maybe better than 10 and I knew I could literally be sprinting for a Kona spot. I had to suck it up and make it happen. Thank the lord in heaven that he came by with a 38 on his leg. Oh, thank you baby jesus fetus! Ran down the chute and honestly didn’t even hear the guy say “You’re an Ironman” (It wasn’t Mike Reilly, he must have been on break or something.) I just wanted to stop. I ended up with a 3:49….8:44 average. Not bad, not great. Best I could do. Total race time was 10:27:57 for 10th in Age Group. 46th overall…..and second female amateur….DAMMIT 😉
The volunteers grabbed me and asked if I was ok. They had their normal, over concerned demeanor because of all the over dramatic athletes that come in and collapse. I was fine. I got my medal and headed over to the food. I wasn’t all that hungry just got a coke and some chips until I cooled down a bit. I waited there for Evan, Karin and then Caldwell to come in. We picked up our stuff and headed home. Mission accomplished.
So some thoughts on the race. I would joke beforehand about how I just don’t wanna cry when I finish. Because of all the times I watch the heartfelt stories on TV of those that over come and finish an Ironman and cry my eyes out. But I never had any emotion like that. I never felt anything I would consider “special” or “emotional” during the race. It was what I thought it would be, just a dumb triathlon. It was also super easy….until it wasn’t. Just like it’s suppose to be. The emotion came later…but didn’t have anything to do with the race. It had to do with people. All the people surrounding this event. All the people supporting before, during and after. It was about them. About friendship and making other people proud by fighting for something. Something even as dumb as 10k of running. I was fighting those last miles for everyone who cared. For everyone that was invested in any way, shape or form in the outcome of my race. I wanted to make them proud. My family, friends, fellow racers, whoever. I’ve never been contacted by so many people the days leading into a race wishing me good luck. Wishing me a good time. I’ve never been contacted by so many people after a race congratulating me. In my opinion, THAT’S what it’s about. That’s what is special about doing something difficult or in overcoming a big challenge. It brings us together and makes us closer.
I want to thank each and every one of you that cared. No matter how much or how little. It means everything to me. You were the driving force behind my effort….and I sincerely appreciate that.
Special thanks to my sponsors: Wattie Ink, DiamondbackBike, Reynolds Wheels, Herbalife24, PowerBar, Speedfil, ISM Seat, blueseventy, Rudy Project, 101 Pipe & Casing, Wins Wheels.
Thanks to Brian Stover my coach and Blair Ferguson from VTA. Nancy Reno and CVMM crew. Gerry Rodrigues and the Tower26 crew….and all my training friends. Thanks also to Jordan Rapp for the great advice. Thanks to all my Wattie crew, love you guys and gals. Love Buns!