Ironman Lousiville

I thought this was going to be short, but I realized that since I am racing IMLOU in 2016 I may be adding a lot of details for next year. I’ll try to be generous with the white space.

We left on the Thursday before, and to my happiness, I actually slept both Thursday and Friday nights! This is big.

We kept to a routine with food (yes, we stuck with chains and standards where I knew I could get foods I wanted and were best for me pre-race: Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse it is!).

Friday Matthew called and we went over his race plan for me.  He had given me a race plan for each race I had done with him thuis far, but this time, when talking with him, it seemed different. We clarified details, and worked out final details for me so I was good with it.

After we got off the phone it dawned on me. This wasn’t just a race execution plan….it was a race plan for me to compete. Until now I had race plans, but they were focused on us getting to know each other and making sure I got to IMLOU healthy and strong (again – I was coming back from my hamstring injury and building strength all season. I promise, the good news is after IMLOU, I know it is no longer an issue).  It was an ah-ha moment for me, and a game changer in my brain. Not an ego bloater, but a confidence booster. I realized I could do this. And I would. The three steps I boiled it down to are “internalize, commit, execute”: internalize the plan, commit to the execution, and then execute.

With that in mind, I went through Saturday getting a little short, but overall, not too irritable. And even some what flexible. I did nap while Carlos and my parents watched football, until we went to dinner with Karen and Ashley.

Saturday night it took me a long while to fall asleep. I was thinking about the morning, and timing, and if I was prepared for the weather. Not feeling like I had prepared for starting on my bike in the cold I was a little anxious about what I could do.

First I texted my friend Chrissy, who had just kicked butt at Ironman Lake Tahoe, and asked her since she had worse conditions. I had read her race report, and asked if I should keep my jersey in my bike gear bag so I had a dry jersey on. Her suggestion was no – it’ll take longer and I can handle it. I was good with that…and agreed 100%.

Finally I asked Carlos if we had handwarmers. We did. In the car. He said I could get them tomorrow. I knew I wouldn’t sleep until they were in the room as I was nervous about timing. And so I asked if he would go get them now. And…he did. And I slept….4.5 hours. I had never slept the day before an ironman. At least any notable amount of sleep.

My plan for the handwarmers? To put them in my bike shoes in the morning so they were warm when I started off on the bike. I should have opened a couple more to put in my jersey. Next year (it will probably be necessary).

Somewhere between my realization and the start I decided I would not use my Garmin 910 for the entire race. It had almost run of battery after 8 hours a few weeks before, and I wanted it for the run so I could monitor my heart rate and pace. That and I am not good enough at swimming to pace myself off of a watch. I just go. This plan would mean I would not know how long my swim was, nor T1 and T2. And I felt good with that.

The fact is, if I even partially executed my race plan, I would meet my goal. Like I said – that Ah ha moment was instant confidence and trust. I was all in and committed to execution. So I knew: no watch, on the bike my Garmin 500 to use for nutrition timing as well as monitoring my power and heart rate, and then my 910 for the run only to monitor my heart rate, pace, and timing for nutrition (ideally, it didn’t turn out that way). I should have changed the screen to have a pace window too as that was supposed to be another metric I would watch, but I forgot to do that. Something I need to remember to do next race. Also, the pace metric was (sadly) not necessary for this one. Practice for the next time.

And so I slept, and in the morning went through my routine. And Carlos and I were out the door a couple of minutes after 5. We stopped at transition where I pumped my tires and let others use my pump (having my pump is a safety blanket) while I set up my nutrition. I walked over to the transition bags, and went to put in my extra nutrition and gloves. And…my flask of Coke had spilled in my bag and wet my gloves through. So now no gloves and no portable special needs. OK. No problem. Both items are not necessary, and I will be OK. And I moved on. My socks were still dry if I decided to wear them on the ride.

Carlos and I headed to the swim start. He asked if I needed a warm up. I said no. But, the pace he put for me to walk was a warm up. I guess he had a plan. Then again, I am a pretty slow walker so it doesn’t take much to be an effort when I walk.

We hit up body marking and found Karen and Ashley. Karen had a line by her as she was giving each a talk to start their day off. Ashley was a bit more efficient, and so she marked me and I waited until Karen could take a pause for a hug before we continued to the line.

The line felt like it went on forever, but since family and friends were still in line, it seemed worse than it was. They asked non race participants to move to the other side eventually, and we moved forward quite a bit. Karen and Ashley eventually found us, and they stayed with us, and visited others they knew were in line with us.

Volunteers came down to give us information and direct traffic. And soon we were moving. We missed “My Old Kentucky

In line and moving towards the water entrance
In line and moving towards the water entrance

Home” and the National Anthem, but heard the cannon. And the line moved at a steady pace. Soon I was down the dock and steered myself to the line on the right, per the race plan. No anxiety, just ready to get in the water. I knew it would be warm since it is much warmer than the air temperature.

Swim

And like that I was in the water and swimming. I was in about 23 minutes after they started – about 50% back (they usually take 40 minutes to get everyone in…and expected maybe up to 48 minutes since there were more participants this year). No panic. No shortness of breath. Just swimming strong.

I actually enjoyed the swim, and felt solid. I only got whacked hard twice – once jammed my left hand pointer finger. And the second knocked my goggles some such that I had to pause and shake the water out of the goggles. But otherwise, outside of some zigging and zagging, I did well. Johnny Cash and Fulsom Prison entered in my head and I smiled, enjoyed and swam. After turning around I remembered to extend my body with the stroke – long and strong. I counted the bridges – 1, 2 and soon was coming in Soon I was headed in.

T1

T1I swam to an available volunteer to pull me out of the water, and I was up and running. Volunteers had my wetsuit off in record time, and I was running to my bag.  Along the way I saw Shawna – woo hoo!

It was muddy to the changing tents and we were told to be careful. I jogged carefully. Some participants told me to be careful. I was. Just moving faster than them. I was confident with my pace and that I wasn’t being reckless. It is a race after all!

I was late enough to T1 that I didn’t get a volunteer to help me. No problem. I took a seat, put on my arm warmers, skipped the socks but did use them to dry my feet a little, I put on my warm shoes (and tucked the hand warmers in them), and helmet. I asked if I could leave my bag. The volunteer   said yes and I headed out.

I saw my mom as I neared the mount line and smiled. It was my mom I saw first all day. Sometimes, I would see Carlos, my dad, Karen and Ashley as well, but it was my mom that I always saw. I knew everyone else was near her.

Bike

I started pedaling (of course!). And at first my legs felt…off. No worries. I knew that often the rides I did best started with me wondering “How will I…?”. I knew to be patient and let the day come to me. I followed the plan – a few spin ups and low cadence sessions. And at about mile 10 I knew I had it. The bike was going to be good. I smiled and went.

I neared 1694 (“the finger”) and didn’t see people coming back yet, so I knew I was in a good spot. There weren’t tons of riders around me. I headed out and was behind a woman that knew how to ride. I followed her for a good number of miles. After the turn back I saw that the course was filling up behind me, and saw how crowded it would be. I was glad I had a fairly clear shot through, and didn’t have to navigate around people as that section you can’t really well, even with the new pavement (which was terrific).

I was going to break my timer in to sections, and hit lap as I started 1694, and then realized that would be bad as I would not have a steady timer interval for nutrition. So – I decided nutrition was more important. I would hit lap every hour – nice and easy for timing things with bottles. Of course, I hit lap the first time at about 50 minutes, so I took about 10 minutes to convince myself that the next lap HAD to be 1:10 to get me on track. I kept double checking my math. Now you see why I didn’t want to make my nutrition timing difficult!

I got back on 42 and headed to the lollipop. Both loops I had were pretty free and clear, which was terrific. I never got stuck behind someone going slower, and only got stuck behind a car very briefly maybe twice. On the second lap I did start passing a few people still on their first loop, but the course was still clear. I loved it and was able to focus on my ride.

I executed the climbs as Matthew and I discussed, and I had practiced – using heart rate vs power to make sure I wasn’t taking them too hard, but did spot my power as a secondary metric. I got out of the saddle to only stretch my legs except for the stinger on Old Sligo. That I did power up and over. I knew that’s what I had to do.

Before I hit LaGrange I had my arm warmers off, and tossed them to the crowd as I passed through town. There were a lot of garbage cans out for all the spectators, and I was pretty sure they would be disposed of properly.

My cheering section as I passed by on Lap 2. You gotta smile
My cheering section as I passed by on Lap 2. You gotta smile

Just after LaGrange I saw Betty and Ernie and maybe Rob (sorry Rob – not a lot of time to register everything) which gave me a smile and a boost. Suddenly I felt terrific and ready for Ballard School Road and Old Sligo.

At the end of L’Esprit I saw Carlos, my parents, Karen and Ashley. I smiled and rode on – never breaking cadence.

Carlos looking busy - tracking me
Carlos looking busy – tracking me

And holy headwinds! That section back to 393 for the second loop was tough – both times. Not many people around me, but I kept plugging along. My HR was low, but power seemed OK. I was good with that. For some reason my HR stays low often unless it’s really hot. And today it perfect riding conditions…just a little windy!

Time for the second lap and I was feeling good. At about 4 hours I started to get a side stitch. I had this before at IMAZ in 2011 and didn’t worry. It is why I have pepto bismol in my T2 bag, and know I needed to get coke on the run ASAP. Dang that my SN flask spilled. Suck it up, Princess, it’s not here and you need to do the best you can!  No need to panic.

I missed Betty et al on the second lap, but when I saw my family and Karen and Ashley I gave them a big thumbs up and huge smile…my legs were still going strong.

No attempts to look busy - just having fun now!
No attempts to look busy – just having fun now!

Headwinds again after L’Esprit. OMG. And I had to pop out of aero to let the side stitch pass more often. My power dropped a little, and a fair amount the last 45 minutes. Those 45 minutes lasted forever, and I was passed a few times. I kept taking deep breaths, knowing what was going on would not affect my run, especially since sitting up helped the stitch pass. I had a plan. And the bike doesn’t mean anything for the run. I was doing my best to make hay while the sun shined, so to say…going strong when I could, and popping out of aero to let the side stitch pass, and taking a few deep breaths. It worked, and soon I was coming in to T2. But those last 45 minutes…seemed to last forever.

T2

This time coming in to transition I was in the forefront, and so had my own volunteer helping me (two in fact!). I ran in and they congratulated me saying I was making women proud. First thing was to dump my bag. I grabbed the pepto and took 2, and tucked the rest in my jersey, along with extra sun screen. Hat, socks, shoes, race number belt, nutrition belt and I was off. I stopped for sunscreen and headed to the exit.

Run

Once upright I felt good. A bit worn and my HR was LOW. As in Plan B low. I couldn’t get it up to what Matthew and I agreed I could do (I tried), but was able to get to where he had originally planned. OK – fine. Keep pushing.

After getting on to Third Street I saw Stacy. She asked if I needed anything, and I said Coke. We both knew – it was up ahead. I kept plugging along. Eventually I saw (heard) Betty, and then saw Carlos and my parents.

I tried to take on my infinit but no dice. My body wanted no part of it. In the first loop I should have finished ~ 1.75 bottles. I finished maybe 75% of one. I was taking on coke and water, so was getting calories and working on not getting dehydrated. So I wasn’t worried.

It felt like the longest out on an out and back ever. I wondered where the heck was the turn around. Mile 7 and still heading out? WTF? I knew it would be shorter the second time around, but dang that first loop! I took it all in chunks, but was ready to turn around. Coming back felt much faster, thankfully.

Around mile 12/13 I started to feel really light headed. As in “oh crap” light headed. At special needs I swapped out one of my two nutrition bottles and took grabbed more pepto. There must be sugar in there as once I took it, my light headedness started to subside. Then I saw Stacy and she told me she believed in me. I refused to panic, and just kept going. I was feeling more solid and able to go on. I nodded and kept going. Here my pace slowed for the next 4 miles or so.

I also grabbed some pretzels at the next aid station figuring I hadn’t eaten anything solid all day – maybe that would help. And amazingly it did. Yes they were dry. Yes I took about 1 minute to chew per pretzel (I was savoring the taste and chewing motion). But it worked. AND I was able to take my Infinit in again. Hooray!!! So I was able to switch from Coke to Infinit and kept the water going.

Carlos and Ashley talking strategy
Carlos and Ashley talking strategy

I also saw Shawna – looking strong and solid all the way. Smiling I continued on. Wondering where the hell Vallee was, knowing she was probably was way ahead of me (guessing she got in the swim earlier than me – I never saw her), and that we were separated enough on the run I never saw her.

I also saw Alex ahead of me. She was looking strong and going well. Woo hoo!

About mile 18 my Heart rate started creeping back up. I was recovering from my low. My body was ready to go on. My legs were sore. I wanted to slow down but refused, except when necessary to take on nutrition.

I didn’t see Carlos or anyone where I saw them last time and was disappointed. I started wondering where Betty was too.

You gotta be careful what you wish for. About mile 22/23 there was Betty. On her bike. Cheering and cajoling me on.  And she didn’t leave me the rest of the way in.

She would charge ahead and then yell at me “That’s it. That’s it!” “Matthew says focus on turn over. Focus on turnover!” And she’d zoom ahead again. And then start yelling at me again “Carmen says dig deep!!!” “Don’t worry about speaking focus on your turnover.” “That’s it!”

And I wanted to throw something at her. But I also knew she was getting me to give a little more than if I were trying on my own, and I was beyond grateful. I figured she knew something I didn’t, and wouldn’t be pushing me this hard if there weren’t reason – personal pride and effort probably being the main items. She and Matthew knew I wanted to do the best I could. I refused to back down and with her zooming ahead and feeding me words from friends and teammates I was giving more than I thought I could. By now my heart rate was back in the Plan B zone, and nearing Plan A!!

And then I saw Stacy (I think. It’s all a bit blurry here). And turned corner 1, 1 block turn corner 2. And there was the finish line ahead. I’d be going left, not right for another lap. It’s time. I heard nothing on the speaker, just the cheering of the crowds. The clock was at 6:59….I was going to make it before 7 pm. I kept speeding up. And pushing. And was over the finish line.

Finish

I didn’t see my family or friends, and wandered some. I never saw Karen, Ashley or my parents as I came down the finishers chute. I was too focused. I eventually found Carlos and he told me that Carmen had texted him to go get his bike and find me on the run course. Being the amazingly supportive husband he is, he had, but never found me.

He went to go find everyone else while I sat.  And we were gathered and went inside to get some post- race food while Carlos and my dad went to go get my gear. Inside I saw Alex – she’d won her age group. We chatted, I congratulated her –

Me post race
Me post race

pure awesome. I got to train with her some!!  I like tossing around how awesome my friends and teammates are. Speaking of – I heard while there that Vallee took second in her age group. WOOO HOOO!! Kona bound for Vallee! So excited. So Proud. So..wow.

I stopped at medical to have my finger looked at. I was there all of 10 minutes. Both my mom and Ashley are RN’s but were “off duty” and suggested I have it looked at while we were there. Nothing damaged, just a bit swollen and bruised. But – it was good to have it checked.

Synopsis

For me the biggest game changer was confidence (not cockiness, confidence. The difference is huge). My lack of it has always been my Achilles heel.  After speaking with Matthew about the race plan, and my realization, I had it. It was there. I knew there was nothing in the plan I could not do. I may not execute it perfectly (OK – it was really bad on the run), but I was committed to executing it to the best I had in me that day come what may. I knew it was there.

And so I didn’t mind not having my overall time. It was me racing what I had, and it would be good. I was ready. I wasn’t afraid of the plan. I wasn’t afraid of the course. I didn’t question, just trusted. And knew.

I wanted to do my best. And that plan was me at my best. It was my security blanket; my focus. And I was excited and…confident.

It had been building for so long with all I had done and all the people I have gotten to train with all season. All I had observed in my teammates the past few months was in me! Finally. I am looking forward to building on that confidence, and how it will help me not only in each race, but with my training.

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