Ironman Santa Rosa

I went in to Santa Rosa hunting a race, and not a place. I decided in doing Santa Rosa again because strength begets strength, right? Or so Rebecca encouraged me to believe. And I wanted a strong race. That and my training buddy and friend and fellow adventurer qualified for Kona, and I wanted a chance to join her. So it was an easy choice. I enjoyed IMSR last year. I love the location, atmosphere (even if I don’t imbibe in the wine tours), and just feel at ease in Santa Rosa.

So Santa Rosa it was, with little prompting from my best training partner and friend.

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My parents at Lake Sonoma (the first 1/3 of the ramp to the lake is behind them)

My parents joined us, and that was marvelous. We stayed in the same hotel as last year. But I kept telling myself this year isn’t last year. So I did a few things different, such as where I rode or ran. It’s all good.

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My dad and me walking down to Lake Sonoma. It’s quite a hill. We are maybe 1/4 of the way down.

Like last year I did swim in Lake Sonoma a couple of days before the race. The water was

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Out of the water at my practice swim

mid 60s. I’ve done enough colder swims I knew not to be worried, but I wanted to feel it and remind myself. And it was good. It actually is a perfect water temp for an IM in

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My mom and me dropping off my bike for TriBike Transport to take to T1

my opinion.

Race day prep makes the days fly. And soon Friday was here. I did my last minute items and stayed pretty quiet all Friday afternoon. Friday night I woke up at almost 1 am and the power was out. I had used my iPhone and iPad for an alarm so wasn’t worried, and slept well until 2. Then was restless until my alarm at 3. yep. 3 am on Saturday.

About 3:10 I heard a knock on our door. It was my dad. My parents had also realized the power went out, and wanted to be sure we were up. That right there set my heart in the right place…I’d experienced unconditional love in a pure form. And I was ready. I knew all the cheers from friends were not based on results, but the hopes I had a race that after I could feel good about. This single act from my dad cemented it all together. I was ready.

Carlos and I left at 3:45, and in Santa Rosa by 4:00 (it was a faster than normal trip due to low traffic. Go figure!). I dropped off my special needs bags and got in the line for the shuttle to the race start and T1…about 60 miles away.

Our bus was there right about 5:15. Body marking, tires pumped, T1 bag check (pshew…hadn’t mixed stuff up and had my running shoes!), nutrition check, and wait.

As I headed down the boat ramp for the start I heard a woman say “I don’t have body glide.” I, by some miracle, had mine. I stopped and offered her mine. She was quite grateful and said I was her favorite person at that moment. I was glad to help. I’ve had to borrow from strangers before and was happy to pay it forward. We chatted while she lubed up for the swim, and her friend got her neck.

Later, another woman was deciding which corral for the swim start. I looked at her and said today is the day to be brave. I think I was talking to myself more than her. I have no idea if she listened to me or not. But I did!

It’s always amazing how quickly the start time comes. And soon the cannon went off. I was in the middle/front of the 1:00-1:10 swim Time corral. I somehow got in the far left corral (which I realized last minute and felt relief at that) and moved up quickly. A person raised their arm every 2 seconds and 5 people went off. I was quickly upfront smiling at my gate keeper and…beep!

Swim

I was in the water and swimming. It was 68 degrees and perfect. I reminded myself I was in it from the start and swam. The swim was mostly uneventful. I got whacked good in the goggles and had to stop in front of a buoy to let some water out of my left goggle. It was maybe a second and I was off again. I was surprised at the number of people I passed. I shouldn’t be passing that many if we all self-seeded right. Yes – there are bad days but not that many! At least that spiteful thought passed through my head. I let it pass and kept swimming.

The way back is shorter. And there were no waves hitting me this year. It was terrific. I was soon up and heading in for my second lap. I dove in quickly…more of a belly flop. And my goggles got a little water in the left lens again. So shortly I went in front of a buoy again lifted my goggle to let the water out and was off. Again…maybe a second.

The second lap I passed people on their first lap. On both laps I did get bumped and pushed down a couple of times, but  I noticed it more the second. I felt like I had to fight a bit more. But overall, it was more clear water than not. And another uneventful lap for the most part.

I mostly focused on staying present. And as I neared the swim exit, kicking my legs a little harder and getting ready for. Run up the boat ramp.

T1

I hit the ground running and started peeling my wet suit down. I had been worried as I don’t use my long sleeve wetsuit often, and had actually sat in it the previous day to stretch it out and strategize. It worked as the arms came off and I had it down to where I needed it for the strippers to get it of quickly. I sat, they pulled, and I was up and running again. Up the ramp. Around the corner. Grab my bag and in to the tent.

And T1 is where I tend to sabotage myself. First, I couldn’t pee even when I tried as I dressed. That worried me. I put on my jersey (wanted it warm and dry for the fast descent), skipped my disposable arm warmers (air temp was fine), grabbed what I thought was my clif bar cut up (nope…honey stinger waffle I later learned), EFS gel flask (hooray!) and was off. I carried my shoes to my bike. It’s easier. Quick potty stop (like I said. It worried me I didn’t pee). Not much so..ok. Onward. At my bike and…dang..I forgot my bike computer. I have my wrist garmin but use my bike garmin for timing and having power and heart rate in front of me. I decided to not leave it on my bike as it has kept causing issues (no power, wrong screens, wrong bike, etc) and thought maybe if I put it on and start it a little late it’d work better. Well dang. Ok. Wrist garmin it is then. And then I realized I never calibrated it. It was close enough but I went by feel too. I put on my shoes and to bike exit.

Bike

To the mount line and up a little hill then down the no aero zone.

Not many people passed me. Mostly men. A few would pass me and then Slow down. Later in the race when this happened a couple of times I’d pass them back and not see them again. A few back and forths in the first lap but not much. And not much talking.

Very little drafting. I saw a lot of referees the first lap and heard someone get a penalty behind me (the person he was drafting off of told him), and saw one person just blatantly drafting. So much so that the person he was drafting off of sat up and made the guy pass. I kid you not. People were self-policing where I was I guess. If I drafted 2 miles in total I’d be surprised. And most of that was the legal time allotment or uphill. Which really isn’t much help if you ask me! If I saw it happening I backed off (albeit grudgingly).  As I said, there were the few men (yes…only men) that passed me and then slowed down. That is a sure fire way to tick me off. Don’t slow down! If you are going to pass me, pass me like you mean it and keep going. Get some distance and then take a drink! Ok…I know it’s my responsibility to fall back but it happens often enough that people slow down it does annoy me eventually. Ah the perils of racing and having an ego.

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Out on the bike. It is beautiful scenery. I just never saw it!

I didn’t notice much in the scenery. I know it’s gorgeous. I was paying more attention to the roads. A lot of chip seal and pot holes. They did a good job of marking many of the road hazards, but there were some holes that hid in the shadows. I’d pop out of aero to see the road ahead or dodge potholes that took up most of the road. By about mile 65 I actually felt a headache from the chip seal and pot holes.

I was excited when I recognized the bridge from last year. We were taking it south to north this year vs north to south. I recognized it!

And so started lap 2 soon after. I kept pushing. At about mile 85 or so the wind really picked up and was steady to the end. It seemed like it was always a crosswind, requiring me to counter it while trying to remain relaxed. After the race I felt the vibrations and effort to counter the crosswinds in my pecks I swear! But thanks to my race in Hawaii, the winds didn’t bother me too much from an “I can handle this” point of view. At this point I started to feel fatigue as well. My power went down as, with potholes and wind and fatigue. But I kept pushing and fighting. And I didn’t worry about the run. That’s a whole other beast. And I’ve realized that the bike doesn’t affect the run too much.

I also passed Kevin, Alex’s boyfriend. He recognized me (had to be the kit!) and yelled my name. I was surprised and had to ask who was calling my name, and that’s when he told me. And then he told me to keep pushing and fighting….so I did. He helped me fight that fatigue.

I had my usual music mash up in my head. This time it was U2’s “All I Want is You”, and Justin Timberlake’s “Dancin’” with an occasional “Don’t go Breakin’ My Heart” thrown in for good measure. It was the first time I’ve had 3 songs in my head. A first time for anything right?

Overall I saw very little traffic, very few riders (I was alone for a lot of the ride…it’s a weird feeling. And sometimes wondered if I missed a turn. Not for real but as entertainment).

IMG_0539I ate half my honey stinger waffle at 2:30 of the ride and the other half at 3:15 (bike time, not real world time). I use Infint but have found I need some food to keep things stable for me, slow down the digestion process on long events (>6 hrs or so).

When I came to the train tracks there was no train so I headed right over and straight on in.

There were a few interesting lane changes with traffic. I’d watched the Facebook videos, heard the briefing, but until you do it, it still isn’t perfectly clear, and again, had to pop out of aero to see and navigate quickly and make proper decisions. But all flowed well, and there were plenty of police and volunteers keeping us safe.

Soon I was coming in to T2. I didn’t take off my shoes on the bike but did once I dismounted. I remembered a long run last year and know it’s faster to run barefoot.

T2

I came in and they had my bag. I missed the volunteer with it and had to turn around to get it. Whoops!

In to the tent and still didn’t have to pee. Ok. I had 3 volunteers to help. I realized I forgot to ask one to fill my bottles. I asked and they did. I stepped in to my Race belt (Naked Sports Innovations…fantastic… no bounce), hat, shoes, fluids and out.

Run

And the race begins. I’d been focusing for 2 weeks in the mental. Asking myself what will you do when it gets hard? Because it will. The first 2-3 miles never feel good. I actually, uncharacteristically, had a run goal in mind. I don’t usually, but I truly believed I could do it, and so didn’t tell anyone (not even Matthew, my coach!) but made it a goal. I knew I could on this course.

I remained present. The most I looked ahead is when I saw the signs for future laps I said “soon that’s for me.”

IMG_0543I used my Infinit but only had 2 hrs worth of calories with me. I knew I’d supplement with coke, water, and pretzels. I actually carried a few pretzels in my hand for most of the race, eating one occasionally. I know it sounds disgusting given how dirty my hands were but I’ve done worse (eating ice from my sports bra is one I do all the time).

I’d throw ice down my jersey and shorts when ever I could. I missed a few opportunities because I didn’t stop, and the volunteers weren’t quite ready. I did see pretzels at aid station 2 and went over and grabbed my first handful as no one was handing them out.

I also noticed a little stomach discomfort early on. Um…ok. I also had to finally pee. Quick bathroom stop at mile 4 ish. And then all was well. Mostly. Just burping from then on out.

I kept track of my heart rate and was thrilled that I remembered to have the auto lap on on my Garmin. It’s the little things. I knew what I did last year. I knew I was stronger this year. And had a run goal in mind. I know I’m not really supposed to as every course is different, but I had run this last year. It was positive motivation for me. I really believed I could do it. And it kept me going.

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My parents are on the left as I head out for my next lap

My parents and Carlos, and Alex were at the turn around for each lap, which was a highlight and I saw them 6 times as they were about 100-200 yards from the turnaround.

Lap 2 was my slowest and lowest heart rate. But I kept motivated. I hit the turn around for lap three and had a little more umph. It’s amazing what knowing you are on your last lap does.

Funny thing. I saw the mile signs for each mile I was on. The signs for the miles ahead or behind… I’d spot about half of them. Selective memory/sight I guess?

The last lap I knew I had it. Even when about mile 22 I felt like I hit the wall. Or at least a wall. I kept calm. I ate a pretzel, took in some fluids, kept moving forward and somehow shook it off. I had my mantras. I had Gandalf. Yep…Gandalf. Somehow on my training runs I started thinking of him when he told the balrog “you shall not pass!” And that was my image…the negative feelings, wanting to stop, that lizard brain shall not pass my brain. It will hurt. It is uncomfortable . But I am strong. And ready for this. You shall not pass. I will succeed. And I did. I kept a solid run. Upped my heart rate the last lap. And kept it steady.

By the third lap the run course was filling up but there was plenty of room. Maybe easier than from the first lap when it was mostly empty and you had to decide to be on the right or left.

At about mile 22 my Garmin and mile signs didn’t match. Which should I believe? I went with the course signs. It kept me motivated. And I pushed. Counting them down.

I also noticed officials were policing the course and keeping supporters on bikes off. Which was necessary. The path was narrow and it would have plugged stuff up. I appreciated that. A lot. The less I had to move around to dodge anything the better.

I had no idea of my place. I was good with that. I was chasing a feeling, not a place. I wasn’t going to give up. I wanted to be proud of my race, regardless of position at the end. I actually was convinced it’d be like FL 70.3 this year where I had the same time as the previous year but ended fifth vs second. I didn’t care. I’d had a pretty good race. And kept pushing from the start all day. I can only control me, and not who shows up.

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Coming in on the last lap.

And soon I saw Alex. And headed in to the last push. Last year they wound us around and I wondered where the finish was. This year it was (thankfully) much more direct. I saw my parents and Carlos near the finish and smiled.

I kept pushing. And headed in. I was thrilled with a direct path this year.

Soon I crossed the finish. And it was done. Omg….

Finish

I started walking to the exit. I saw a volunteer and he said I was 7th female. I didn’t know if that was good enough to podium in my age group or not. It’s a tough age group and I take nothing for granted. I had a little hard time catching my breath but was OK. I moved to find Carlos and my parents. They found me quickly. I heard them say 6th place. For a second I was shattered as I thought 6th age group. And then they said 6th female overall, second age group! And no one in my age group could catch me. The closest woman was about 20 minutes back. Holy cow.

Regardless I knew I’d raced what I had as I couldn’t calm down: my breathing was heavy.

I had done it. We didn’t count our chickens but, we were pretty sure my age groups would get 2 Kona slots. I’d never expected to qualify again so soon. I’d wanted to as Rebecca, my friend and training partner, had qualified at IMFL last fall. To race Kona together was a closely held, quiet dream. I know it’s a lot of hard work and finding your race (luck) to make it happen. And it did.  In Santa Rosa. For a second time.

I’d hit my run goal and had a 15 minute distance PR. 15 minutes better than last year. I’d gotten a still water swim PR and bettered my time from last year by about 2 minutes. I did it. I had been in it from the start to race. I pushed and pulled. Remembered my friends cheering and refused to return home saying anything but I gave what I had that day. I let them give me my strength to keep going. To keep me smiling and waving at the volunteers. And keep my focus. To stay present. My husband was there. My parents were there. What more could I ask?

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My mom and me post awards ceremony. It was Mother’s Day. We both are wearing socks with sandals. It was brisk. Glad we raced the day before.
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Our post IM tradition of mini golf continues.
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