Thursday, September 2, 2010
Ironman Canada race report:
The day was finally here! 11 months of waiting and it came down to a 3am wake up call for early breakfast followed by a short nap with another 4:15 wake up call for a 2nd breakfast. Then a let’s get this show on the road!
The feel of an early morning race has it’s own out of body feel to it. You’re focused, it’s dark, cold and very quiet. No different this time. You can see people playing their game plan over and over in their minds across the eyes and that long stare off to nowhere. The whole time I’m thinking - no one has said I can’t do this yet...
The days leading up I don’t think of the day as one long ass day, but rather a morning swim followed with 2 hours of easy spin. Then a fun, but intense 4 hour bike ride with a 30 minute spin and a transition run after. The run would be done at comfort, no pace just comfort. So when I hit the beach I was really excited w/ very little nerves. It was going to be a fun day.
I walked the beach and saw a teammate Laura O., who has done IMC a few times and would by the end of the day qualify for Kona! Amazing! She said something like “You’re here, you trained for this...” I can’t remember exactly, but with that I kind of went into “Holy Crap mode” and realized that bigger than the day, almost, was surviving 11 months of mostly hellish training. From early season swims in freezing waters to mountain passes with severe wind and rain during the EWT. Sunday wasn’t about time, but about simply being able to get to the starting line.
I found other teammates and then found my 3 cohorts Sara, Laura and Karen. We were more excited than nervous and I think all of us just wanted to get the day on with so we could start working off all the food we’d eaten the 3 days leading up. *Burp! But really, I think each of us cried a few times on the beach from the shear joy of knowing that we’d made it to the start. The bag pipers made there way down the beach and then the Canadian anthem was sung and the pro’s took off. 15 minutes to go...
My plan was to wait about thirty seconds after the start and then wade in and start swimming when I felt there were gaps enough to really start swimming. Worked out pretty well, I swam at about 70% effort and just kept it nice and easy. My goal was no longer than 1:30 in the water. I felt any longer and I’d be using more energy than if I’d just swum faster.
I don’t get some people in the water? I swim focusing on clean quiet hand and arm entry, with the force coming on the pull. I’ve slowed my stroke rotation down a bit for longer swims this year, feeling like I need to swim with a bigger chain ring ( very Jan U. in the water ) for more of a smoother cadillac ride if you will. Anyways, about 15 minutes in I have a guy just pounding the water right behind me and every 5 seconds or so he’d grab my foot and hold on to it? My first thought was,”that’s got to screw with your stroke” so about a minute of that and about a dozen foot grabs later I sat up and pushed him around me and on his way. I don’t get the whole grabbing and holding on to thing.
However, other than that there was no other real issues in the water. The views or glimpses from under the arms around the turn buoys were not for the faint of heart to say the least. At most swim starts you’re pretty surrounded, but it falls off and by the half way point you have descent open water and can maneuver well enough. Not so much, the line across heading into the first turn seemed to be about 40 yards wide with about 50 yards of humanity wrapped in neoprene thrashing and gasping for air in a terrible Titanic reenactment. I sprinted in the last turn, I figured that would happen a few times and actually trained for that the last few months. I think it’s good so you can get out of trouble and then recover back down to your race pace afterward.
The swim was going well and I kept remembering what Mark had said ‘ the twin towers will never get any closer, so don’t think they will.” That actually helped out because I saw them but didn’t pay attention to them as to when the end would come. You can actually stand up about 40 yards from the end and a lot of people did. We were warned before hand and it was easy enough to swim around. I swam up to about 5 feet of the shore in about 2.5 feet of water because it took no effort and you end up passing 10-15 people with every stroke. I got out and looked back at the route and was just ecstatic.
Swim time - 1:18:26
T1- pretty uneventful so that’s really the best you can ask for.
I’d been waiting for the bike all week. I love riding my bike! The last few weeks I’ve been coming away with some pain from the set up, but I knew this day would be great and just wasn’t going to let the thought of the last few weeks creep in. Out on the road I hit the TN Crew and was so excited to see them, the screams about scared me off the bike, it was pretty funny. Nothing compared to what would come on the run later in the day.
At mile 13-15 just before the downhill off of Mclean (sp?) my seat sank down and the nose pointed straight down. “Grrr” What the ..... before I hit the downhill I stopped and fixed and cleared and negative thoughts out. Took about 2 minutes, not a big deal! Pretty steady out to mile forty where the bike course starts to go up and up and up.
My plan, as in training was to stay easy and comfortable on the climbs. So starting Richter Pass was steady and just letting people go. By the time I hit the halfway point I felt great. I was talking without any pause, heart rate at 160, cadence 92, looking around enjoying the view and the day. Then about 50 yards from the top I got a little impatient and told the guy next to me “oh, screw this” I said it very, very jokingly as I was laughing at the same time. I got up and took off.
Now, I mention this only because as I did I realized I had all kinds of energy and was passing people at a really fast rate. I thought I was putting too much effort in, but it felt comfortable and the heart rate only went to 166. Plus, the crowds up at Richter Pass went crazy when I took off. Riding the course before I knew once over the top I had about 2 miles of recovery to get the heart rate back. I down hills coming fall Richter are pretty straight forward. Long sweeping and open, no blind turns. I was hitting about 36 MPH without pedaling and felt really comfortable. The rollers behind were a bit more difficult due to the fierce head wind. Ave. about 20 MPH on steep roller hills that during training camp ave. closer to 34mph. ‘Blah!’
The rollers get you to the out and back and that just sucks, a little kick in the teeth just to make sure you’re awake. However, special needs is at the turn around, a bag you get to put goodies into that might help brighten your day. I had: Icy Hot patch, Snickers, Pringles and a Flat Dr. Pepper. I slapped the Icy/Hot Patch on my neck, down the hatch with the Snickers and took a swig from the Dr.P and off I was. I couldn’t eat the Pringles, but wanted them with so I emptied my bento box thing and loaded it w/ Pringles, mmmm
Heading out of the out and back I saw Sara, then Karen and had a great shot of adrenaline as they looked to be having great days.
Back on the main road from the out and back the head wind was no joke and I could only manage about 13 mph. Urgh!!! I kept telling myself to treat the head wind like a hill climb, spin and keep it steady. I think I read that or seen an interview with Chris Carmichael a few years back and it made sense. The race officials were patrolling the roads really well, any bunches they would ride in on the motorcycles and break up. Telling rides to back off or pass. With that head wind no one was passing, that’s why everyone was bunching up.
I lost a bit of focus in the head wind. It’s like mile 85 and you’ve been on for awhile and that part of the course is hard. I drifted to a pace of about 13-14 mph when I should of been doing maybe 16. It doesn’t seem like a big difference but you have to consider the overall length of the day. I rode slower for only about 20 minutes and was just trying to make my way to Yellow Lake.
Then we hit a right bend in the road and I saw the “Green Road Sign” It’s the back of a highway sign, much more importantly it’s about 300 yards from the place you first see it and once you get to it it’s only another 200 yards to the TOP OF YELLOW LAKE!!!!
I saw it and went from asleep at the wheel to dancing on the pedals. I didn’t mince words this time and it wasn’t for crowd response. I told the rider next to me “ F**k this hill” And with everything I had I just took off and ripped it up the last 400 yards to the crest at Yellow Lake.
It was a few things. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself and was angry? for lack of a better word. That blended with the fact that once you get you butt over Yellow Lake the bike more or less is over. 12 miles of mostly down hill to the transition zone. So it was the excitement of the moment, I didn’t feel anything in the legs saying slow down don’t push this last bit too hard. All that was coming from the legs was - push, keep pushing, keep going, keep pushing go, go , go! We have this covered! I don’t know if I’ve ever-ever been happier on the bike. I knew the down hill was going to be fast and roads were wet, but no standing water. I yanked out my drink straw out and shoved it in a back pocket and was just tucked down flying. I passed more people on the downs than on the climbs. This is a big deal for me because I’m extremely light, and that’s no help on a descent, I spend energy climbing by people on a climb and they go flying by me on the downs without even pedaling. I had a top speed of 46 mph off of Yellow Lake.
When I hit the last down and hit the lake before town my eye’s teared up and I was laughing out loud. 2.4 mile Swim and 112ish mile bike DOWN! Being my first Ironman I have or had no problem admitting that for each milestone tears of joy would need to be wiped away. Rolling back towards transition we hit the Team tent first and seeing the familiar faces was such a shot. A few blocks down was Sara’s girls, Alley and a few other close friends. You can’t explain the feeling, it’s just amazing.
Bike time: 6:37:59
T2 - again, uneventful. Best case scenario!
I use to be a diehard Seattle Super Sonics fan back in the earlier to late 90’s. The best game I ever watched was a game they lost to the Lakers. The game was everything a basketball game should be. About 20 lead changes in the last 4 minutes of play. 4 players from each team scored at least 2x in the last 4 minutes, teamwork! I didn’t even matter that they lost, it was a great game.
I left T2 and felt really really good. Legs were light and easy to move. Stomach was NEVER an issue and was calm. I knew the training I did would get me to mile 14-16 and from there on it would be work. I was OK with that, I’ve had to scrape it together in a marathon before. I hit the first turn and saw a friend Lauren and was laughing as I waved to her and almost missed and ran into to hard right turn for the small out and back. After that I saw the Girls and Alley again, loud screams and smiles all around.
Then I hit the TN Multisport Tent! My team! There was no screwing around with this group I could hear them a block up the road as I came into view of them. AMAZING! if you’ve never been part of a team that has that much support I suggest to keep looking. So worth it! I was hitting about 7:30 pace - too fast, but my goal was to run comfortable pace at what ever it was and 7:30 was what was on the menu. I hit the team tent and shot up to 6:40 : ) oops. I was running and having fun at what really felt like a jog. I’d reach a group pass through and run to catch the next pack of runners. Legs felt GREAT! I ran 7:40 pace until mile 6, hit mile 6 at 46 minutes.
For me running is freedom. I’ve been injured before and didn’t know how much I loved to run until I couldn’t for months at a time. Pace, movement, form, breathing. I love the feeling of pushing a good pace and know everything is how it should be. Smooth, comfortable, light.
At mile 6 I felt a pinch on the outside of my right knee, I knew exactly what it was. If you’ve ever had an injury comeback to pay you a visit you know exactly what it is. The last time I really felt this was at the Seattle Rock and Roll marathon 2009 at mile 24.
I just passed the 6 mile mark and got a strike of pain down my right leg across the top of the knee. The day was really about to turn. I walked it out and did a quick stretch, but could only run about a minute and the bolt of pain would fire off again. At this point I figured as long as I can run every once and awhile I was OK. I made it to the turn around at mile 13.1. 2:30 hours even. I broke down at this point and fell way in a hole. My right ankle and shin started to become too painful to walk and the down hills were just killing me.
I got to mile 15 and my mouth was tired from having clenched teeth for so long. I got to 16 and the though of just walking 10 miles and having to walk another 10 was way overwhelming. At 18 I felt terrible, then remembered what Mark and T had said as I saw runners still heading towards the turn around at mile 13.1 “someone would love to be where you are” Thinking about that really pulled my head out. Here I was at mile 18 and there are people still at mile 8.
I saw a few teammates running by and asked them to get word to Alley so she wouldn’t worry that I wasn’t in around 5 hours and just walked and cheered for as many people as I could.
I was at the top if the hour an came up with a new game plan and goal. If I could keep 15 minute miles I could come in under 6 hours for the run. I would shuffle a bit and walk 3/4 mile. I made it to mile 22 in a hour and then from there of course my left hamstring finally gave out from having to swing my right leg forward. This was I think the toughest part of the day. Now walking was painful and I was slowly falling off pace.
Back at 21 you round a corner and can see the lights from downtown and even worse you can clearly hear the announcer calling people into the finish. This gave me the energy to start running again regardless of the pain and it worked for about 2 solid minutes. Then my right leg revolted instantly and I went sprawling out on the road like a rag doll. I remember saying out loud “OK, I know! Not an option.”
Mile 23 was dark and lonely, there were plenty of people around but it was quiet. I’d walk a few, get impatient, stumble to a jog then reach down and grab my leg in pain. i was a freaking mess. I could only manage 18.68 min pace. I had this thought keep replaying in my head - I’m going to get the the finish and Teresa N. was going to tell me “I need the jersey back, I can’t have you represent the team : ( this played over about a dozen times running in the dark. Then out of nowhere I see two people running right at me calling my name from the dark. I couldn’t run and felt ashamed, then before I knew it I was running (jogging) with them. About 10 seconds later there was about 4 more teammates running with me and all the worries and pain of the last 20 miles just seem to disappear. Around the corner I saw T. and she yelled how proud she was and I saw Alley and she said the same. Sara’s girls after that and the crowd from there on out was crazy.
The last mile was dark to the out and back. I had a teammate, yet again, Brent I think, come out of nowhere and talk me through a rough spot. He kept saying “slow and easy, just walk you got all day. You are there, you did it. Just walk” I wanted to walk, but I wanted to get back to the lights and the family, friends and teammates waiting.
Total - 14:23:47
In the end it was an IT band pull that changed the day for me. Instead of an amazing day I had a GREAT day! I’ve run injured like that before, only for 3-4 miles. Pushing through 20 miles like that I never really thought of anything else but finishing the day out. I’ve also raced w/ team and family support before, but I don’t think I’ve ever leaned on support and been more proud of my supporters than out there on course that day. The TN supporters were/are Amazing, every time I’d pass them on course racers around me would say “Your group totally rocks!”
Well before the race, during training and even before and during Ironman Canada I said with a few others that 1 IM was good enough. However, after IM we sat around at dinner a few nights later and were talking about how ‘the next one will be different’....
Thanks to Teresa, Mark, Alley, Sara, Karen, Laura, Tom, Kirsten, Jeff and Brent for a great day!