My year started off on the wrong foot. I trained smart all winter, but spent most of April with a terrible sinus infection that left me bed ridden for two weeks. I have never been so sick in my adult life. I missed New Orleans 70.3 and went into Ironman Texas a little undertrained after missing a whole training block. My sinus infection forced me to miss my “heat” training camp that I had planned but I honestly thought I would be ok at the race. Apparently, as I age, my ability to deal with heat is going down. My bike came to a halt about 3 hours in when my quads cramped up and I had to keep stopping. Kona dreams flew out the window, and I said to myself “I am never doing another Ironman again”. I also had a flat tire, and some other bike issues. Despite the fact that I felt horrible, I still was able to run most of the marathon.
I was unfulfilled that my day went poorly, so I signed up for Ironman Louisville which was on August 25th. It is a course that suits me because of the elevation gain. I am not the strongest female climber around here, but I can hold my own when things get tough. It is a flat run, which I like, and the swim has easy navigation which is good for my hips and back. I officially began training in early June for my 2nd Ironman in 3 months. This time, I had some friends to train with which helped a lot. I increased my volume a lot before Louisville. Although I am not naturally good at any sport, I work my ass off day in and day out. I have taken the broken road, not by choice… but because that was the road on my map.
My goals for this race:
- Make it through the swim without may hips locking up
- Make it through first mile of bike without my glutes shutting down
- Keep my nutrition on schedule and fluids coming in to prevent nausea or cramping on the bike
- Keep my power within 5-10 watts of my goal
- Run to my capability, while adapting my pace to the heat (this was my major fail of the day)
Swim – I jumped off the dock into the Ohio River around 7:10. I felt really relaxed but not powerful, and I am pretty sure I went a little off course once we got past the inlet. I should have looked further into the distance, because I think I could have shortened my line to the turn buoy. We started up river, and then turned around to head back down river. I couldn’t feel the current, but I knew I was making fast forward progress. The next thing I know, I see the white transition tents coming up and I was floored that I wasn’t tired yet. Usually he last 1/2 mile is rough for me and that’s when my hips get tight. Not even a slight twinge in my hips, so my chiro sessions with Dr. Drew Hoffman are paying off! I also did a lot of 2.5 mile open water swims on my own which helped my confidence. I knew we must have had a solid current helping us along, and I was correct once I saw my unrealistic time. I had to wait for 20-30 seconds to get out of the water because no one would let me up the stairs. I was looking for my pal and volunteer, Bentley, to help me up; but he was no where to be found! I came out with my friend, athlete and training partner Melissa. That was exciting! Total swim time 1:05:13 (23rd in my age group- sounds about right)
Bike-Since my hips didn’t cramp up on the swim, there was a good chance that my glutes would behave on the bike. It is an agonist/antagonist kind of a deal. I was so relieved to make it through that first mile without any pain which means I made it through my second major obstacle. I started off the bike a little under my goal wattage knowing that the hills would bring it up. Sure enough, I came out of the out and back section about 5 watts above my goal and I managed to hold onto that for the first 90-100 miles. As I headed Southwest on 42, I tried to conserve energy. I knew it was a good strategy to part with my watts on the downhill and try to focus on being aero and efficient. My avg wattage dropped a little, but I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to conserve much needed strength for the run. I felt really good on the bike. Looking back, I was a bit winded the last 7 miles, but I also wanted to be done! Total bike time 5:32:36. Now 2nd in my age group and a whopping 1 minute PR. I am going to have to step up my average watts by 10 if I am going to be at the very top of the age group field on the bike. Currently, I’m a top 5 bike split, but I really want to be 5:25ish on a hilly course. Girls these days are so flip’n strong.
Run-I trained super hard to run a 3:30-3:35 marathon off the bike. I had no doubt that I would run close to that. UNTIL…I couldn’t get myself hydrated. I felt really bad at mile 1.5 and I knew that something was terribly wrong. My heart rate was sky high and I was only running an 8:15 mile. So, I walked a second and took in lots of water at the aid station. It helped, but I was already in too big of a deficit. I struggled to make it though every single mile and I drank a ton of fluid at each aid station. I was covered in ice and water the whole time, and I still felt super hot. The damage was done, and it was time to pay for it. So, I ran 8:45s and walked once or twice with each mile. I walked enough to catch my breath and then I would start running again. My legs were never my problem. Just my heart. I saw so many friends cheering on the course, which helped a lot. I was riding a fine line of passing out and finishing. If I hadn’t taken the time to walk a little and hydrate at the aid stations, I probably would have splatterd on the side of the road. I was passed by 3 girls in the first 2 miles of the run. I passed 4 girls in the last 10k. That is what happens in Ironman… death by marathon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a state to run through the aid stations so I had to let go of 2nd place in my age group. I took a calculated risk of managing my issues and still getting 3rd, vs being stupid and not finishing at all. None the less… I ran smart and kept it together. In the end, surviving this run proves to me that I can make it through anything as long as I navigate myself with a smart plan B. Total run time 4:01. Now 3rd in m age group. The strange thing about this race was that gained about 70 spots overall in that slow ass run. That is how hot it was out there. I ended up 5th overall age grouper and 12 overall female.
To be honest, Kona was a dream this year, but not a goal. My goal for the next year or two will be to win my age group. If I train to win my age group, then Kona will always be there waiting. My friend Dave, who is also going to Kona, found me at mile 24 to tell me that there were 3 spots in my age group. A sigh of relief, even though I didn’t believe hi. My athlete and friend, Kelsey, ran on the sidewalk for the last 3 miles and that helped motivate me to put the rubber to the asphalt and run it to the finish. I knew I didn’t have the physical capabilities on that day to hold onto 2nd, but I knew I could pull off 3rd without passing out.
I crossed the line in 10:50:12. It was not the time I wanted, but I fought for every second of it. Not a PR, but my 2nd fastest Ironman time in the worst conditions I’ve ever faced in an Ironman. I pretty much collapsed at the finish line.
There were indeed 3 spots to Kona, and I quickly accepted mine. Getting to Kona is not cheap. If you do it on the cheap, you are still looking at $3-5000. However, I will always take a spot as long as the drive is there. The experience of being and racing in Kona is incredible and my heart has so much more to absorb from Kona race week. I have worked hard for over 10 years to get to this point. I am still not where I want to be physically, but I’m taking steps every day to get there.
Looking back, I should have probably grabbed an extra bottle of perform at the last 2 aid stations. That would have probably helped set me up for the run. It’s just another Ironman and another lesson learned. Other then that… I have no race day regrets. I did everything I could to get through that course as fast as possible. I accomplished all of my goals but the last one. I anticipated an 3:35-3:40 run with the heat index and all I did was survive.
Also, congrats to my clients who finished the race and are now official Ironman and Women!
There were so many great things about this weekend and I am overwhelmed by the support of all of my friends, family and fellow athletes. It takes a village to complete an ironman, and my village was dressed in full battle gear! A special thanks to a few people who played a huge roll in my year:
- 51 Speeedshop (Dave Ripley and Ben Waite) – they did an amazing job with my bike fit and always answer all of my silly PSI questions.
- Dr. Drew Hoffman (Allisonville Chiropractic)
- Massage therapist Michael and Toni (massage envy)
- Josh Prater (#1 bike mechanic BGI)
- Motion Cycling, Runners Forum, Blue Ridge Design, Giraffe X Graphics for your sponsorship support
- Training Partners: Melissa, Joe, Jen, Patrick, Ross, Bryan and Kelsey
- My mom for always making my life easier so I can do this sport.
- Chad for keeping such close tabs on me during the bike and run.
- Polly for giving up her entire weekend to make our lives easier.
- All of my friends, clients and family… you put the wind at my back. Thank you so much!
So begins the recovery and then prep for Kona. I have a lot to do between now and then, but I have a solid team of people around me. I’m spending this week recovering, paddle boarding and planning a trip to Hawaii. Let’s hope I can finish the rest of the year out on the right foot! ALOHA!