This was the first time I have repeated an Ironman. I did Louisville last year. And enjoyed it so much I had to return.
Heading in to this IM I felt a strong as I have ever felt. I had a few curve balls throw at me towards the end, but who ever has a perfect season? Not me. But I have had an amazingly fun season.
The last curve ball dealt me was developing a cold the Sunday before the race. It took until Thursday evening and lots of rest to get me feeling chipper. Still congested, but I felt good. So maybe it was a bit of a blessing in disguise as I took this taper and “less is more” quite seriously. Although after my IMTX experience, I was already all about “less is more”.
Carlos and I drove up Thursday. I like to get there, register, and chill as much as possible. I was texting friends, and they were doing their best to keep me calm. As was my coach. It took a village to get me to the start line. Literally. And I am grateful to each friend who let me reach out to them.
This year, outside of Carlos, my parents joined us again, as well as the indomitable Karen Lee. Rachel Mudd joined Karen. I knew a few others there to cheer including Stacy, Shawna and Linda, all there to cheer others and I just lucked out to be friends with them and benefit. On race day I was surprised to see a few more people I knew. And again, I benefitted from friendships and associations.
Saturday I was still feeling off, and at lunch asked Carlos and my parents if they minded too much if I got a sandwich to go from our lunch spot (Panera), and eat in the room that night. They were good with that…it meant they could eat anywhere, and later. I just couldn’t face going out, and my stomach was…weird. It was a good choice for me. I stayed in and relaxed.
I did my usual restless sleep and got about 3-4 hours. Which is good for me the night before a race.
I was up in time, and we were out the door a little after 5 to head down to transition. Karen and Rachel came down to hug me out the door. I would see them later as they were start line volunteers.
Carlos and I made it to transition and there was a line! I didn’t remember that last year, so I guess we got there a bit later last year. Once transition opened, the line went fast. And to my surprise, my bike was racked right next to my teammate Kathryn. Whee! We would see each other off and on all day. She was a little behind me in the swim start line, so I wandered back and gave her a hug; she swam faster than me and so was ahead of me on the bike and run. I did see her on the out and back run. She looked great.
While I was putting my gear in my transition bags I saw Patti who was racing her first IM distance. Another hug, and off I go. We all have race morning check lists, and I honor that. Maybe in the one with the most inflexibility? Probably!
I dropped off my special needs bags and to my delight I saw Shawna taking the bike bags. I got a hug and was off to get in to the swim line. At this point Karen and Rachel joined us as they were going that way for their volunteer gig.
Once in line time flies. I chat with the people around me, and try and rest. No need to stand as we all will be moving all day. People chat. I gloop on to the chats not around the race. We discussed sleeping habits (one guy I chatted with sleeps like a baby the night before a race. Lucky!). I had a blanket, layers, and was comfortable.
I saw Kathryn a short distance behind me and walked back and gave her a hug and wished her luck, and then returned to Carlos and my spot.
Soon it was time to put on my wetsuit…which also kept me warm. Then they asked friends and family to wait on the other side…and the line moves up. As we neared the start time I handed Carlos layers of clothing…slowly taking off layers so I kept warm. Soon he left and all I had were my shoes and…dang..left my gel in the pocket of the fleece. I looked around and spotted an unopened bottle of Gatorade sitting there. I grabbed it…not the best but I wanted to top off my calories and I am not above making due!
I took a few sips, as well as of the water I had, and made my way forward. Athletes helped each other with the last bits of their wet suits (I as helped and got helped) as we walked forward after the start. The line moved quickly. I saw Karen and Rachel letting athletes know last minute info, got last a minute good lucks, and soon was on the ramp down.
I headed straight to the ramp on the right, per “the plan”. I wasn’t going to start off on the wrong foot!
In I went and the water was warm. I expected it to be as it was almost not wet suit legal, but after the cold of the air it was still a pleasant surprise. My goggles start to leak just a bit so I stopped, tightened them Quickly and was off.
This is a great swim, but my brain wasn’t in it. I had thoughts of this being my last IM despite my love for training. Seriously…getting to the start for this race was hard for me. I kept thoughts positive: be present. Believe. Be brave. And I swam. I focused. I gave myself permission to succeed. And would continue to do so numerous times throughout the race. I got off course, and was directed by the people I need kayaks. Note: this is a straight swim…up river some, then down river. I went too far in at one point. I was sighting a lot too. Just…focus. Needed that sooner. I was warm in my sleeved wet suit. I kept swimming. I swam but…felt I wouldn’t top last year. I can be my own worst enemy. Note: use mantras for good. Not bad!
Finally,…under bridge one. Thank goodness. I started to feel my wrist band bit in to my wrist. I had made the mistake of it being placed on my left wrist (I normally have it on my right). I wear my Garmin on my left and…it was making the wrist band bite in to my wrist. Motivation to get the swim done! My head moved in to the ‘right space’. Fun returned. Fear…wha? I am racing! Doing what I LOVE! At a race that is designed for me! As my teammate Erin said…I am here now.
Bridges two and three. I only got hit/whacked a few times. And not a big deal. I think I swam over more people this race than normal. But, since I got off course I also swam a fairly clear lane! A benefit, right? Argh…I needed to have my head in the game sooner. The swim is a love/not love for me. I actually started off real,y well…I just got in and no anxiety problems at all. Just started swimming and doing well. Really…my body could not have set me up better. My brain needs to lean to appreciate this more and go strong with it!
Soon I was at the dock, and getting out. I ran up to the wet suit strip overs and found an empty group. I had a hard time getting my suit off.: off my arms, and legs! Never had that before…couldn’t get it over my farming (my helpers did that finally) and someone had to hold me down as someone else yanked my wet suit off my legs. Never had that problem before. And my left calf cramped!! Crap! But. I didn’t focus or worry about it. I’ve had cramps before and they come to nothing. I had 112 miles to ride first. And that was my focus now.
I ran through, getting my bag quickly and headed to the changing tent. I had decided to put my jersey in my bag and put it on. I retrospect…not sure I needed to, but I was kinda glad to have a dry top with the morning chill. Soon someone came over to help me out on my jersey. It was hard to out I even with a towel to dry me off! I skipped the arm warmers.
Shoes. Helmet (with visor), and off. I hit up the sunscreen where Shawna doused me and I was off. My bike was in a great spot. Kathryn was out already. I grabbed my bike and headed out. At the mount line I hopped on, ready to ride.
The first 10-15 miles or so felt hard. As in “oh crap”. But I e also learned not to panic…it can take time for my legs to warm up and be ready. And so I suck it up. I did some spin ups and worked it as best as I could. I focused on being patient,,,letting the day come to me. Be present. Be brave. Believe.
I really didn’t feel cold at all, even without arm warmers. yea!
Once the hills started, my legs came online. It never felt easy, but I didn’t worry about my legs. They had it. My power was reading low. My HR was lower than the plan, but I knew I was I line with my effort. Based on experience, I know I was where I was supposed to be. I knew the power meter was reading low. So I didn’t freak out and over push. I kept it going…steady and strong. I did use the power meter (and heart rate) as a cap for climbing…which worked great.
I have said it before and I will say it again…I love the bike course at Louisville. It is my course: rollers, few turns, a little flat…a little bit of everything all rolled in to 112 miles. Sunday continued my love affair with the bike course.
I played back and forth with a few people throughout the course. At times it was clear, at times working through a pack. All was good. A vanity thread here: One woman asked me as I passed “are you a pro?” My response was “not even close”. I should have thanked her for the compliment, though.
I repeated my mantras: Believe. Be Brave. Be Present. I had a good song in my head. I knew it was a good ride for me.
As I came in this time I felt solid…good. Much better than last year. I was a little afraid of how I would run, but I kept telling myself I came I tired last year and did ok. I’ll do better this year. And I did come in strong on the bike. I still passed people. And kept pushing. Be Brace. Be present. Believe. I kept repeating that to myself…cajoling myself in to confidence.
I got my feet out of my shoes and came in to transition and hopped off, running with my bike, almost losing it on the curb but kept upright. Oops! Coming in early has advantages: a volunteer grabbed me and helped me out with all I needed. She directed me to options (bathrooms right, sunscreen and run course left), got me water, and I was off.
Out I went feeling pretty good. Be present,. Believe. Be brave. The first almost 10-13 miles clicked by. I was on target. First 8 I had to reel in a little. After mile 13 I slowed in pace but kept running. I never walked, but just kept running.
I have learned that my nutrition is great, but a little solid food helps… A lot. So I grabbed pretzels and water at the first aid station. I had gone through a change with nutrition. I stuck with infinit, but actually took them up on the free counseling. I had used the same for the bike and run for a long time, and was getting fatigued on the flavor come the run.
So, after talking with them, I changed both my bike and run formulas. I kept the flavor of the bike the same, but changed to Carmel on the run. And it worked! I kept up with my nutrition! Ok..I added water, coke and pretzels (and potato chips the last few miles…the BEST!!!) But also was able to use my infinit. Because the flavor had been changed! Hooray!
I kept running. I stopped to use a port-a-potty once, because it was a must and I didn’t want GI issues later. And that was it. I just kept going. I’d keep going until my body yelled “Stop!”
Throughout hte run the zipper on my shirt would come down. I felt like, even with a sports bra, I was giving a show. I’d zip it back up. It had to be all the way up, or it would fall down. I tried “locking it” – didn’t lock. Very frustrating. I wanted it about 1/2 down to access my sports bra and the ice and what not I stored there. Having the shirt zipped up all the way made this endeavor difficult. Luckily it wasn’t too hot, and after I didn’t need too much ice.
I saw Stacy and Shawna. And after the turn around and at Churchill downs I saw Carlos and my parents. I turned the corner to the little out and back and saw Karen and Rachel. I waved…and just kept running.
At special needs I called my number and a young boy ran along side me as I dug through for my nutrition bottles and replaced the empty ones on my belt. I ran through each aid station calling out for water (or coke or pretzels or…potato chips towards the end), After I came through special needs I saw April and she told me to keep running. OK!
I saw Shawna again. And kept going. had slowed. This was the first race I ever tried it run with my actual pace showing to me to push me. It worked really well until I couldn’t get my aimed for pace. But it kept me going still…pushing a little bit more than I may have otherwise. It has taken a long time for me to finally say I am ready to race by pace vs what happens. I may have not hit my target pace…but I’m ready mentally to build to it for the entire race.
With about 8 miles left I checked my Garmin, and did some math…as long as I kept sub 10’s…I was going to beat a four hour marathon! That felt very doable. I had slowed, but not enough that going over 10 minute miles was a worry. I was at about 9:15 average at that point.
The second lap feels so much shorter than the first. It is a little shorter, but I mean the out and back. You see the signs for 20, 21, etc. and you just keep moving. I remembered seeing the “To Finish” and “To Second lap” signs on the first lap, and both years I have done this, felt drawn to that “To Finish” sign. It keeps me moving. And move I did. Slower on the second lap but I kept running. I wondered if a walk break would help but…I just kept moving.
As I came in, again, I just felt drawn to the finish. It was for me this time. The electricity pulled me in. The finish line at Louisville is fantastic. I was ready. I headed in and heard the cheers.
And I did it. I pushed in to the last…proud and happy I had given myself the chance to race.
My volunteer stayed with me and asked me if I had anyone with me. I said yes, and started scanning. Soon I saw Karen and Rachel, and eventually my parents and Carlos.
2016 was a fast race compared to 2015. I compared the results. You can’t compare results from year to year, and you realize how many variables there are in a race from year to year. This year was much faster than 2015. The competition wasn’t better or worse, it was the conditions that enabled the athletes to race well. It was amazing. I came in feeling strong and good. Glad I didn’t have to go farther, but good about how I raced. I had a solid bike. I FINALLY broke the 4 hour marathon (even if still short of my goal pace for an IM). This was not my year for the swim…it wasn’t bad but…wasn’t getting better this year either. And IMLOU was no different. I have a few ideas. And I am sure if I tell Maria, she’ll be on me too about next year. I am not too worried. I know I need to work on my run. My coach and I have chatted. And I will. Right now I am happy to take a moment and celebrate where I am. And thank my body for a strong 2016 tri season.