Monday, October 27, 2014

The Final miles- Kona part 4- Time to find that Finish Line!

It's been over two weeks since I crossed the finish line in Kona.  It seems like a long long time ago.  And yet, it's all still quite raw and close in my heart.  You can't just "shut it off" after training and preparing for something for nearly two years. I write my blog to share but also to heal.  I relive it through the words and remind myself just how much I gave out there and it allows me to move on to whatever is next.  

With that... I will briefly tell my story from the final leg of my Ironman that day... the final 26.2 miles of the day. 


After handing my bike to the volunteer, I was off for a trip to the bathroom ( Phew!! I was hydrated fairly well... This is a BIG deal in an Ironman and a Huge deal in an Ironman in the Hawaiian heat!!) 

It's a long trek around all the bikes to the T2 tent. I had a headache, my neck and back and shoulders were stiff from gripping the bike for dear life for 6 hours but I was Thrilled to be throwing on the running shoes. Again, I think I took too long in there but I was trying to hurry. I talked to some lady about the girl who was head to toe in road rash with shredded shorts and hoped they could find her a new pair. ( They didn't. My kids saw her running later. I know it's likely not legal or possible but I had hoped for her. ) I threw on the visor, glasses, garmin, shoes, race belt, sunscreen, grabbed gels and that was it. 

The cheers coming out of the tent and onto the roads are uplifting. I felt good!!!  Then honestly, I don't remember a lot of details about the next few miles. But I remember feeling really good. My pace was spot on &  I just got myself settled. Mostly, I was staring ahead Knowing my crew would be there for me soon.I was excited! I couldn't wait to see them.  Our condo was at the end of the 5 mi we start with on Ali'i. Five miles out, turn and back to town before we head onto the Queen k ( again! ) for the hardest 16 miles of the day.  
I had tunnel vision-- show me the boys show me the boys. I NEEDED that quick contact with my family to reassure them and myself quite frankly, that all would be ok. 

YaY! There they were!!! Running around the road in just their swimsuits. :) THey were running in and out of the water ( beach right on that road with big huge waves ) to cheer. 

 I think I was saying, "IT was SO WINDY!!!! NO! I didn't have a flat I, just winds!!" :) What I love here is the view of Nick running behind me with the camera. Not sure where those photos are... 

I had my quick dose of family and then I was on my own again.  The great feeling I had during the first 3-4 miles had left me. My ankle and achilles were talking. It hurt. I was really hot and started to worry. But the biggest problem was that my right foot was Burning with pain. I battled achilles tendonitis this summer but I have had chronic foot pain for years and years. I had neuroma surgery a long time ago and it helped, but it's not gone.  Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's not. That day between miles 5-10, it was Scorching. I was completely distracted by the pain. The second my foot hit the ground it was hot stabbing pain. A couple times, I stopped and squeezed my toes because that does help. But... the girls I had passed on the earlier miles would start to pass me. I didn't like that ( ! ) so I kept going. Mind over matter. It would go away eventually. Just forget about it! 

At some point, I latched onto a woman who was running near me. I loved the way her stride looked. She just had a way of running that made me want to copy her. Our pace seemed similar so I tried to stay with her. We exchanged words of encouragement here and there.  And if one of us slowed or stopped at the aid stations, we always caught back up and were running together again. ( All of this is before heading out to the queen k.) Along that route, I saw her find her family and kiss her boys. Boys!  She was a fellow boy-mom. :)  That made me smile. 

We rounded the corner on Hualalai ( I think that's it... ) and could hear and see Pro women finishing. ( Jealous! )  One of the motorcycles escorting them nearly hit me. I had to jump off to the side. Just an age grouper here - don't worry about me! grr. 
It was time to climb the big hill on Palani Road. At least it's big at mile 10 of the Ironman! I thought I was ok. But I had visions of walking. (huh?  not really like me. ) Kortney ( at this point I had head her name from her family etc ) came up next to me and said the same thing, "I am just going to walk a minute." I was easily lured.. "me too! just thinking that... " 
But then my HR started to go nuts ( no monitor..just felt it) and I was overcome with the heat and a feeling of sickness. I stopped and put my hands on my knees. oh oh. 

Without a second of hesitation, Kortney turned around and said, "Angela! Let's GO! Run with me. Run now to the aid station!!" 

So I did. We did. Together. 

Thank you. I told her that  a few times:  Thank you.
THAT is one of the great things about this sport. And no, not all sports are like this. But there we are, competitors & we had both been racing and fighting for hours and hours. She had a huge road rash on her shoulder from getting knocked off the bike in those winds I talked about.  And yet, she took the time and Effort to help ME keep running.  A true sportsman. 

That one act alone made my whole day. 

Now, we were heading out for the hardest part. The part where many athletes falter and and lose their focus. The day has been long and it is HOT. Sure, we did have occasional cloud cover but upper 80s/ lower 90s is not cool and that was the temp in Town. Out on the lava fields and in the energy lab, ha, it's not that cool.  

The road is empty except for the athletes coming and going and the aid stations ( Bless those volunteers! ) each mile.  THe 6 miles before you turn left into the Natural Energy Lab are so long. It' lONG long long and the road is basically one steady gradual climb.  My foot had started to behave, my achilles was fine, and I was feeling alright. I was hot and I was starting to feel my quads burn, but, I had rallied from whatever little pity party I was having on that climb and was just running.  

We had our race numbers on our arms but that is it. No age on the leg this time. I was annoyed that I hadn't figured out what age - range was my age group.  I had No clue what age I was passing or getting passed by. I did a lot of back and forths with a group of people. I'd go ahead, then I'd slow to get fluids and they'd go by me. Or vice versa. A few I passed for good and a few passed me for good.  Kortney and I remained close and took turns ahead of one another. 
I definitely got to the point of not caring who was who and just running to get to the end. Dont' get me wrong, I CARED and I knew exactly what I had hoped for and was aiming for, but since there wasn't a soul  on the roads to help me know where I was, I just couldn't stress about it. I tried to catch any woman ahead of me & that was all I could really do. 
I finally turned into the energy lab. Down down down into the hole of heat.  ( They harvest the sun's energy here and make power/ do experiments with it. )  It's a strange place that seems to zap people and eat them alive. I was determined to be FINE going in and out.  However, I started to feel gross and had some belly pain. I battled with my head for several of those miles-- stop at bathroom or not?  Where WAS a bathroom? I am not sure, but I feel like they were Very few and far between. I finally saw one on the other side of the road at mi 18. I ran in. WOAH- not much worse than mile 18 porta potty IN the Natural Energy Lab  in Hawaii. I was in and out of that in a matter of seconds. 

I passed a group of 3 men and one stayed RiGHT on my heels. I wouldn't have cared except he ran SO loud slapping his feet on the ground. It was agitating me beyond words at that moment.  It was so bad, I stopped and let him go! Lame. I would have run faster instead, but, I couldn't. I was doing all I could.  Things were starting to hurt.  I was shutting down. 

I broke the run into segments and at the top of the hill exiting the NEL I knew it was about 10K left. My Final segment. OH how I wanted to run hard and feel good!!  I was doing the math and thought I was on my way to a 3:30 and change run. I was Happy!!!  {What I didn't remember, was that my watch was on Auto-pause. So all those little dumb stops added up and no, I wasn't running a 3:30. I was closer to 3:40+ when all said and done. Bummer. }   

But I guess it worked in my favor because I was watching my watch and was Determined to get in by about 3:35.  I knew that if I just Kept moving forward  at the pace I had, albeit slower than planned, I could do it. NO more stopping. I was now OFF the perform and gels and onto the coke.  My calories had been going in the whole time without an issue, I was drinking at every station + stuffing ice all through my clothes and despite the legs shutting down, I felt ok.  I did, however, notice that my skin was dry. Hmmm.. 
My shoes were soaked and making that squishing noise with Every step but my arms had no sweat on them.  I had been drinking TONS so I just don't know what that was about. But no sweat didn't seem to be quite right at the end of a crazy hot Ironman. 

I just kept my focus and kept drinking the coke. I no longer stopped to make Sure the fluids went down, I just poured in what I could as I ran.  Only 6 mi, 5 mi , 4 miles... I could get by without getting it all in at that point.  I wasn't taking any chances during the earlier miles, but now it was all in my head and heart.  
Trying to describe the way I felt at that might be something that I just tuck away and remember myself. I can tell you this.  I knew that when I did finally cross the line, I would be a stronger person forever. This was definitely the Hardest race I've done and because of that, I am stronger mentally. It changed me. 
My legs were Aching and throbbing and they each weighed a Lot more than when I started. Lifting my feet to run took conscious effort with each step.  I know I was gritting my teeth for miles. Finally, I could see the stop light at the top of the hill where we turn right to go Down the hill that nearly took me down hours earlier. A group of spectators had set up camp at the top of it. They were blasting music and formed a little gauntlet for us to run though, cheering WILDLY as if we each were their best friend. Pure awesomeness at any point but at THAT point as I made my FINAL turn of the Queen K back into.. .it actually took my breath away. 

Unfortunately, it really did. Literally. 
It was at that point that I started to wheeze. I could Not get enough air. I don't know if it was the emotion or some strange physical reaction but I don't have asthma so... there I was just trying to run those last few miles while not being able to breath. The legs became a secondary problem.  But still, I was RIGHT THERE> I could Hear the finish line. And while this was taken a bit Before I got there... 
THIS Is what I saw: 

"If we watch, eventually she will come back." I keep thinking of that quote from Field of Dreams-- If we build it, they will come. :)

MY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   
I ran down that hill ( sort of ran.. in my head I was running and Mark wont' tell me what I REALLY looked like but ..haha... I think I know :))  and SCREAMED to them again, like I did heading up that hill on my bike BANCROFTS!!!  They hadn't seen me and it worked. somehow I found the air to do that!  I ran by them and high fived and you know... it was yet another BEST moment of the day. I was truly going to actually get to that finish line.  Wheezing and hobbling and hot and exhausted and truly desperate to finish, I ran on.  That next stretch is BRUTAL!!!!!!!!!  THankfully, it is lined with people cheering but we have to run down the road about.. 3/4 mile? I am not sure. ( I know I should know ) before turning Right back onto Hualalai and then: ALI'I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
It's a very long long long way when you are really at the last few moments of being able to run. 

And then, it happens. You turn onto that famous stretch. It's a Long amazing welcome back. EVERY single person is there for you. Kids running around with hands out, music blasting, smiles and cheers and ahh... it's truly magical. And, I Desperately Desperately tried to savor every last second of it. But geez, if only I could breath. I was audibly gasping for air. It was pretty rough.   It was also extremely special.  Five minutes or less that is forever etched in my brain.  

And then, just like that, Done. 

I saw the boys and Mark off on the side screaming for me.  I blew them kisses and smiled.  We did it. 

A  relaxing day by the shore. 

three of my guys emerging after some Serious body surfing. Kona doesn't' mess around with waves! They mean business! 

Lots of fun in the water on this trip. I loved the post-race Chill time with the kids and Mark. 
Race night-- Back at the Finish line party to cheer in the final finishers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kona- Part 3- When the game changed...

Ironman is unpredictable. Ironman is long. Ironman is never straightforward.  

I always advise the athletes I coach to make "time" goals with caution.  Triathlon is not like swimming, for example. I grew up swimming competitively and a 200Fly was a 200Fly. Sure, some pools were too warm or too shallow but you could always measure your race in pool A with the race in pool B on any day of the year.  

Racing the Ironman in Hawaii is about the the furthest thing from predictable as you can get. I was well aware of this and prepared for it. However, I didn't realize until October 11th just how "lucky" I had been on the previous two years I had raced there.  

The bike leg of last week's race is when I had to come to grips with the fact that all my goals for a PR time, would have to be put aside.  It was a tough pill to swallow since I was in the best shape of my life and had been biking better than ever before.  I was ready to go fast and end this streak of Ironman races with the best ( at that point I meant  fastest) race ever.  But, I am an experienced athlete and while I was out there fighting on the Queen K highway,  I was able to accept it and continue to fight to do the best job I could do on that day.  It was my only choice!! Well,  it was  either that or have a pity party and give up & quit.  Quit? That is not one of my options, ever. 

If you are a triathlete or a cyclist and you know what it feels like to ride in winds, you can appreciate this. If you aren't, it's a little harder to explain why it was so rough.  To say, "It was very windy and so hot" doesn't begin to touch upon the true conditions in Hawaii that day.  

The first :40 seconds or so of this video talk about it a little bit:

Mumuku Winds

Let me back up--
I ran into T1 and took a deep breath. I haven't looked at the results to know but I think my transitions were a little too slow that day. I can't even remember this one but I consciously took my time ( it's all relative... I was rushing but taking care not to forget anything) to get covered in sunscreen, pull the arm coolers onto my wrists, grab glasses, shoes on ( mistake ) and.... I guess that's all. I clunked my way around the LONG transition path to my bike. ( reminder: keep shoes in Hands until you get there Or keep them on the bike, oops.) 


small part of transition on the day of bike racking 

view from Transition to town 

gear bag-- (the volunteers loved my ribbon to help find my #. Works every time! )
Everything was moving along just fine. I ran out and headed up the road smiling and excited to see my family. It was my only chance before mile 5 of the run ( many hours away ) so I was eager to make eye contact with them. The first ~10 miles are fast and frantic zig zagging through town. It's almost like they wiggle us back and forth on the streets so the spectators have a chance to see everyone. Of course that's not it, but I laughed a little during that time as it feels like we are in a parade. There is no  regard whatsoever for ANY of the biking rules during that time. Everyone is all over the roads, passing on either side, drafting, everything. It's actually a little dangerous and scary because your chance of getting hit by someone is high. 

I rounded hot corner and headed up Palani on the last quick road before THE LEFT hand turn onto the never ending Queen K highway. (Kaʻahumanu is what the K stands for ). 

Yes! Just as planned, they were there. I Screamed "BANCROFTS!!!!!!" at them ( hard for them to pick me out amongst everyone else)  and they saw me. It was quick but it was happy and fun. With that brief 'home contact', I was off. I said a little something to myself but out loud as I made the corner( along the lines of a little prayer since this is the Longest part of the day ) , dropped into aero and started the journey to Hawi.


I'm going to do something different here and just throw together a few bullet point comments and thoughts to summarize what took the next 5.5 hours. Otherwise, I'd lose you all to sheer boredom. 

  • The next 10-12 miles were Great!! I felt strong, fast, power was good, I was drinking like a champ, the roads weren't too crowded, legs were totally responding the way I hoped. My average speed hovered around 21-22mph. All good. It was only 88 degrees.
  • Suddenly ... Boom. They hit. The famous Mumuku winds of Hawaii were making their presence known a LOT earlier on the course than usual.  Madame Pele was talking and she had a lot to say.  To explain a little ( maybe the video I attached earlier too?) but the island is known for it's two conflicting winds-- the mumuku winds from the uplands and the  Naulu wind from the sea. What does that mean to athletes on bike trying to go fast? It means shift to Plan B because CRAZY hard winds are blowing from the Sides and straight at you with a headwind and you have No chance of going too fast. I remember looking at my garmin around  mile 26 and just shaking my head and mumbling out loud, "it's going to be a long long day out here."  But I tried like hell to stay positive.  Everyone was in the same wind. It was a level playing field. 
  • 90 minutes into the ride the temperature was 97. 
  • My speed had decreased from 21-22 mph average to around 17mph.  grrrrrrr  And yet, my average power was basically the same.  
  • I had a decision to make. How was I going to ride? It actually seemed like an easy call for me. I quickly planned to just stay the course & keep my power as close to the original plan as I could.  If I didn't do that, I feared I would blow up on the run. After all, it all comes down to the run and how you run depends on how you ride.  Easy.  No brainer. But since that day, I have second guessed myself a lot. Should I have taken a risk? Should I have gone "with" girl A,B or C who flew by me? I am not sure. I played it safe.  I might always wonder but it's what I chose and what felt smart that day.  I wasn't taking the 'easy' route, I was taking what felt like the Smart route.  With that, I pedaled on and just kept hoping things would ease up and I'd see my pace improve over the next 80 miles. 
  • Two hours in it was 99 degrees.  

this is pretty much what that road looks like with lava rock on both sides--- so 99 + degrees has a special feel to it :) 

  • I was alone on the roads a lot. It was a very clean ride with very few bikes near me for much of the day. Lonely and a little concerning, but clean. The staggered swims broke the groups up a lot and I didn't see nearly as much drafting as I have in the past. I did see a Few groups, but not as many. I also saw a lot of draft marshals that appeared to be taking #s and handing out penalties. Good. 
  • I Finally made a turn to head towards the 18 mi climb to Hawi. For a little while, the winds had let up. I was back in aero ( a position that was Very very hard/ scary to maintain that day ) and feeling good again. I had consumed at least 4-5  bottles of fluids and felt 100% on top of the nutrition. I felt really good despite the frustration of the winds and still maintained hope that I could make it all up.  
  • My coach, Jeff Capobianco of Breakthrough Performance Coaching passed me during that time.  He asked how I was and we had a quick back & forth about the winds and that things were better. With that,he was off.  
  • The climb to Hawi---  a long long slow grind.  Headwinds, heat and hills.  Not much more to say. The winds were back. 
  • The turn around on the corner in Hawi ( mi 60) was both happy and depressing. My 56 mile split ( half way ) was really really slow for me. And yet, I was making the turn and still kept hope that the decent would be fast and the way back better than the way out.  
  • I stopped for :30 sec at Special needs. Two need cold bottles of Osmo (frozen that a.m.) were FABULOUS to grab and refresh with. 
  • Time to go DOWN hill for a change. 
  • Be careful what you wish for Ange. 
  • I flew for a little ways and had some fun. I maxed out at 39 mph. I'm SURE I was braking with that.  ( cautious mom that I am ... ) and my average for a bulk of that descent was 29 mph. Yay! The average speed climbed a bit ( still not where it was supposed to be ) and I was excited.  
  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Without warning, They were back and they were no longer just slow they were SCARY!!!!  Of course, I am speaking of, the winds. 
  • This time-- the Crosswinds off the mountain were CHUCKING us ( at least me ) All over the road. Aero was Not possible. I held the bars with ALL my strength.  
  • At least 10 times I thought, " I am GOING DOWN!"  Yup. I was fully prepared to be thrown off that bike. Over and over sudden massive crosswinds nailed me and I have no idea how I kept that rubber on the road.  But, I did. 
  • I made it to the bottom and we had another hill to climb before turning back onto the Queen K. 
  • My face felt like it was going to explode. It was pulsing. I was so so hot. 
  • The temperature was 104. 
  • Just keep riding, Ange, just keep riding. 
  • My mojo was admittedly slipping a little. The ride was proving to be really rough. 
  • Soon thereafter, we had a brief ( 5+ miles? I am not sure... ) gift of some tailwinds. Alleluia! I was finally "riding my bike." It felt amazing. 
  • And then...... yup. Headwinds! And Crosswinds! Shocking huh?  :) It was a tough day. 
  • Numerous people asked me while we sloowwwwwwwwwwly went by each other ( legally of course ) "Have you been here before?? Is it always like this???"  me: " YES! Twice and NO! This is the worst I've seen." 
  • We were Yelling this because the winds were so loud we couldn't hear & that howling in our ears for 112 miles was making us deaf and a little crazy. 
  • At aid stations, I tried to squeeze water onto my arm coolers to keep my core temp down a bit, but the winds were blowing it off to the sides so hard that I had a difficult time getting any to actually hit my arms. 
  • This is where I started seeing the carnage-- One girl I will never forget. As I rode up beside her for the pass I see her face first. Blood. And then I look more and see her entire left side is road rash. Her face, her shoulder, & her legs. Her shorts are Completely torn such that her entire quad was exposed and the giant road rash very clear. She was semi-crying but still riding Hard. I told her she wins Badass of the day. Hands down. 

Sadly, it became clear that she was not the only one. Many many people were thrown off their bikes and chucked onto the road.  I wasn't having a fast ride but I was in one piece and for that I felt grateful.  

I guess that's about enough of that!!  I wanted to get to the run about as much as you want me to stop writing about this wind possessed ride!!  They talk about the Hawaii Ironman being tough because of the elements. This was one of those years that makes them say that. The other years I was there, while there was some wind and heat, were just a way for me to ease into the real deal. This year was the real deal. 

I came into town feeling optimistic despite being ticked off that my smart ride I did, by that i mean I kept  my power where it was supposed to be, yielded such a slow time for me. I planned to ride ( and have ridden in Kona and a few other Ironman races) about 30-35  minutes faster.  But, I was optimistic that I could now RUN well and still have a really good day. I had NO clue where I stood in the field of 40-44 women. We didn't have ages on our legs, only numbers on our arms, and I wasn't close enough to people to have any clue where I was. 

It was down to 90 degrees in town at the end of my 112, so it felt rather cool.  ;) 

 One of the best parts of an Ironman is handing your bike to the volunteer as you dismount it at the T2 line. ahhhhhhh. 

And that is all I have to say about that.  

Time to run! 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kona-- Part 2- The Swim!

It might be possible for me to write a short book about what it took to get to Kona.  There is no easy way to describe everything that goes into qualifying for and then preparing to race in this Ironman.  To just say, 'it was hard' or 'it took a lot of personal sacrifice' doesn't begin to touch on it.  I'm staring at my keyboard right now thinking, " Should I try?"  Not today.   I'd like to talk about my time in Hawaii for now.  All I will say about my preparation is this:  I committed myself 100%. I never missed a workout. (well.. not more than 2 or 3 all year, that is for sure. )  I never made excuses for myself and I never gave up. I was nearly run into the ground a few times but I fought my way back and climbed on that airplane on October 5th in the best shape of my life. I was healthy, the injury was absolutely under control, I was fit as a fiddle and I was confident in my ability to nail the race.  

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
October 5-11th: 

We landed in Kona on the Sunday before the race. We had nearly an entire week to settle in and 'acclimate' a bit to the heat and humidity before my big day. It was perfect. I absolutely loved being there that early.  We stayed in the same condo complex as 2011. There was a beach across the street ( Kahaluu Beach Park ) that has Amazing snorkeling.  The boys could go over alone to play soccer on the sand, or just walk back and forth with us for a short swim to see the stunning tropical fish. We were all feeling happy and very lucky to be back to this place we fell in love with several years before. 

I swam each morning at Digme beach ( the swim course) & took the boys for a swim with me there one day, enjoyed a brief stop at the coffee boat out on the course,  I swam one morning with a rockstar Pro from NH, Amber Ferriera, and enjoyed staying fairly close to her for that, I did some easy workouts down Ali'i drive and the Queen K to keep the body ready and sharp, we cruised the expo and had fun collecting 'free stuff',  ate at Lava Java, munched on fresh mangos and pineapples,  I had a heart to heart chat with 4x World Champion Chrissie Wellington, ran in the Underpants Run, the boys drove over the Saddle road to get a clear view of Maui and explore volcano vents and lava tubes, snorkeled with tropical fish, sat on a stunning beach and read,  You know, everyday normal things. :) Seriously... we did pinch ourselves a few times!!!  The race was one thing, but just the time in Hawaii was priceless.  A real dream for the family. 

A little photo tour before I get to the swim; 

a local market -- 

We enjoyed several yummy Lava Java breakfasts of course!!  

mark and the boys snorkeling-- the picture didn't come out but who cares

Delicious & fun meal at the Sheraton --  We sat at a fun fireplace table overlooking the Pacific & as the evening wore on, we could watch the Manta rays feeding next to the rocks. 

No words needed...

I was  a Lucky Mom to have my guys with me for this. 

The giant Banyan tree on ali'i...can't rotate it! ahh

So much fun in the waves for the boys... 

Soccer even in Hawaii-- gotta stay sharp for tournaments upon return! Though I'm not sure what this move was. :)  

We all participated in the UPR-- Underpants Run. :) I know, they have bathing suits & shorts on. They are kids after all. And I'm a Mom WITH her kids, so I simply wore running shorts and a jogbra. Nothing crazy for the Bancrofts. But we were there! 

There's my name! A few spots above Tommy's finger...
This little kid had the Biggest fishing pole. cracked me up. 

Gear Bags packed and ready

I managed to stay relative calm all week. (I think so at least. Maybe Mark would tell you otherwise. :)) I do allow myself to get revved up a bit, that's how it works for me. It's my way of getting into that pre-race state.  But, as Mark loves to tell me when I get stressed about being stressed and nervous, "I have never seen you do well in a race you weren't nervous for." He's right! It means I care. It's not just a regular day of grocery shopping, laundry, driving kids to and from everything and a training run. It's Race Day! It's THE race day of the year. And so, a bit of nerves and anxiousness is good for me!  I hate it, the day before makes me somewhat insane, but It IS part of the process.  

Bike is ready to rock--(or as it turned out, ready to sail away but that's for another post  :)

Everything was going very well. I did next to nothing on Friday besides a quick (literally 5 minutes  ) swim across the street to test my new TYR speedsuit ( yes, a little last minute to test it but I knew it would be fine), stuff myself with pancakes, drink bottle after bottle of nuun or perform, read and lay on my butt.OH! I also had a Surprise Face Time call from a few of my best friends from College!! Gina, Wendy and Brendan! I haven't seen Brendan in over 20years and the next thing I know I'm staring at their faces as they are  laughing and smiling at me from Burlington -> Kona! What a riot! Our connection dropped after about 20 seconds but it was still a huge huge smile for me that day.  I racked the bike in the afternoon but that was quick and easy.  I was in bed by 8:00 and miraculously, slept great!  

The 3:30 alarm was actually no big deal. I was up and ready to go. I ate my pre-race meal, took a quick hot shower and by 4:15, all five of us were heading to the jeep to drop me off  at body marking and for them to get their spot "on the wall."  They sat there from 4:30-8!!! It's like getting a good seat at a concert with no assigned seats.  They had to get there early and hold their spot if they wanted to watch the swim. 

blurry one of the boys but at 4 am, I am guessing they were feeling a bit blurry anyway. :) Flying the TriMoxie Colors!  Thanks guys!!! 

I stood in line behind the King K waiting for them to open the Transition / Body mark tent. At precisely 4:45, all the volunteers in the tent gathered together and clapped for us as we walked in. It was very cool.  Thankfully, I was on Small-time ( aka: early - to also explain, my maiden name is Small) and was one of the first to get marked.  WTC used stick on tattoos for our numbers ( mine was 4 digits long ) and mine didn't work. It wouldn't stick.( see, good thing I was early! )  I had to go to a 2nd line "Corrections" and wait there for my turn again. As a result, my 1375 was a bit of a sloppy mess with #s that didn't match. I chose not to care. I would never notice the # again that day, I was certain of that. On to get weighed ( don't look-- # is Not the same as when I left home ) and into T1 to pump the tires, fill the bento and then head to the swim..... 
I was calm and methodical. I got it all done and then I crowded over by a fence to hear, but not see, the Pro Men and Women start. I was sad the pier was set up in a way that prevented most of us from seeing the water while we waited.  But I did find Karen PM, a friend I made while at a Texas training camp that I saw again for IMTX and in Cozumel. We chatted and kept our minds off the craziness that was about to begin.  Everything was good.....  

Age group Women waiting for the cannon

The swim start was different this year.  Pro men at 6:30, pro women at 6:40, Age Group men 6:50 and Age Group Women last at 7:00.  I was Ok with this since the women were all together. The mass start is dramatic and amazing and yet, very scary.  I have had a few rough starts so I had hopes that this would allow me to truly SWIM and not feel trapped and scared for 1/2 the distance.  

I swam out and wiggled my way to the front.  Why not.  I was feeling brave. However, in the final 2-3 minutes, a few women pushed their way in front of me. One even put herself flat out so she was laying on the water, totally ready to start in prone swim position.  Good for her. But her feet were in my gut and I was a little ticked. I couldn't get to any other spot etiher. I shouldn't be surprised really, I was amongst some of the toughest women in sport at that moment, but things were a little bit rough right before that cannon blasted. 

Warning: Do NOT mess with these women! Some of them were ROUGH! 

The swim started off well!!!  I did get punched and kicked and hit and clobbered for a bit, but, I also escaped to relatively clear water pretty quickly.  I had a nice pocket and I was swimming hard.  There was one woman right off my right whose hand kept whacking me and that was bugging me but I found a way to move and avoid it after a while. She did haunt me for that entire swim however. 
I felt really strong and positive as I swam.  I knew that if I could just stay steady and push through without getting blocked, a decent swim time would happen.  I was feeling excited about the broken up start and really hopeful that I could make my way around that course without much trouble. It did feel like a long ways to the Body Glove turn around boat and during that first half, I noticed huge swells taking us for a ride. It wasn't bothering me. It was actually fun to ride them up and down and up and down.  I smiled a lot ( in my head ) and  I was still pushing hard and feeling strong. 
Step by step. My mission all day was to take it all step by step and focus on the moment I was in at that time. I thought about my stroke, pulling hard with Both arms, engaging my lats and not getting lazy.  Over and over-- I just repeated my cues and kept working. 

I finally got closer to the boat and felt the waters getting congested.  I knew it would happen, but hoped it wouldn't be too crowded. I was catching up with the men and knew that would make the way back a lot harder.  After all, you are only as fast as the person in front of you if you can't find a way around them.  I checked my watch and was at 28:xx as I was making the turn.  I was happy with that and Hoped I could keep the 2nd half strong for a good swim time. One I knew I was capable of doing. 

The swells grew bigger and I began gulping water down. I tried so hard to avoid that as I feared it could cause some stomach distress later. Some things are unavoidable when you're swimming in a crowd & the water is churning! Clearly, the swim  back to the pier wouldn't be quite as smooth as the way out. 
And That is Ironman!  A day full of challenges you need to deal with. 
I blocked out the intense eye socket pain I was feeling from my goggles. ohhh if I could just stop and take them off my eyes for 15 seconds! I couldn't. I promised myself not to waste precious time with something like that!!  I just continued to swim hard and weave my way through swimmers ahead of me. I think I swam a good line and only went in a little too far to the right one time.  
Boy that last leg was lonnnnnnnnng though!!! I got really sick of swimming. It seemed to take ForEVER to see the pier and hear Mike Reilly's voice! 
At last, I did. I was next to the pier, trying so hard to push to the end. I hoped the boys and Mark were all close enough to see me. ( I know... I'm the one in the pink cap and the black skin suit! ha. oh well... )   But as I wobbled my way up the stairs onto the pier, Mike R DID say my name! Angela Bancroft from Paris, Maine! And I smiled..  I was there. Racing in the World Championships. For real.  Even the 3rd time it feels Just as special.  

Then I saw the clock, or my watch, not sure which I looked at.  1:04. What?? I wasn't happy  and started doing math to try to figure out how that was wrong. It wasn't.  It was just a long swim back from the boat. As I suspected.  

Ok! It's a LONG day and the swim is OVER!  Time to hit the tent and get off on that bike for a few hours....   or 6.     

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kona! 2014 Ironman World Championships

Ten days have passed since I raced in my 3rd Ironman World Championship. Only 10? A lot has happened in those 10 days so I guess it's no wonder I still feel like I go hit by a bus.  I have so much to say and yet I am at a loss for words. The race report on this is going to be a slow release. I'll write in pieces as I feel like it and as I come up with the words to express the way I feel.  
This one carries a lot of emotion. Why? Don't they all? Yes.... but this may be my last.  I love this event... but I'm not sure I'll head back for another 140.6.  I guess we never say never and even my husband looks at me with a tilted head and certain look in his eye when I say that. But seriously.... for now it is on the shelf. 

My cherished Medal- albeit crooked here :) 

At the end of the day, Ironman day that is, I crossed the line in 18th in the world, in my age group. Top 20. The 40-44 women's age group is one of the fastest in the sports.  I was the 5th American woman to finish in that age group. Did I want more? Of course. I was 7th last time, in 2011. Am I proud of myself? Hellyeah. That was a Beast of a day and I'll be 45yrs old  in 2.5  months.  Unlike when I was an age group swimmer and was at the "top" of the 13-14 yr old age group ( for ex ), being the old girl doesn't pay off anymore.  I didn't just finish that race last week, I raced it from start to finish. I worked as hard as I could. Was I slower than last time? Yes I was. Am I ok with that? Well... no. I am disappointed. However, it was not the same race. It was not the same at all.  On paper it is always the same. But on the Queek K, it can be  a Whole different ball game.  

I have smiled about my day, I have felt proud about my performance and I have also cried big fat crocodile tears.  It's that sort of emotional rollercoaster. For years, literally years, I have put my heart and soul into preparing for those 140.6 miles.  I planned on it going just the way I visualized it during all my very very very long hard training weeks.  I prepared in every way possible. But it did not go according to plan. And yet, my race was not a failure. I didn't have a Bad day. I walked away from that island a much tougher person then when I landed there.  The little blue tracking dot did move slowly at times...but that was thanks to some serious serious winds pushing my big white sail of a bike back and forth on the road. But I didn't stop. I kept moving forward all day long.

So....I didn't walk away with a wooden bowl like I dreamed.  If I was already 45, I would have placed 3rd.  Third!?! Sigh...  But, I am only 44! For 2.5 more months....  :)   Never wish time away!! 

I'm back in Maine, I'm happy to be here for our  beautiful Fall and I'm sorting through the race piece by piece. I will write this blog and think it over for a few more days and then it's time to move on and move away.  It was truly incredible to be one of the relatively few Ironman athletes that qualified for the World Championships this year. I am proud and honored to have accomplished that, I am proud of overcoming the rough beastly conditions of 10/11/14 on that Big beautiful lava covered island and I am going to hold my head high when I talk about my day.  And, what blew me away more than anything and has given me the biggest 'hug', is the amazing amount of support I received from people both before and after the race. I had so many well wishes, I couldn't believe it. I continue to go back and ready them for that warm fuzzy.  One of the best things? Three college swim team friends were together at UVM the day before and surprised 'face-timed' me! How fun is that? We lost our connection pretty fast but it was still the happiest surprise.  

Look at this place!!! 

My 3 Ironboys!!!  Flying the TriMoxie "flag" waiting for Mommy to run down Palani to the finish!!!  

A look down Ali'i from our condo 

Beautiful waters 

post race dinner-- lookin' a little wobbly & worn out still 

Bannar from this year 

My guys on our lanai-- or The "larry" as they called it 3 yrs ago for some reason. The term stuck with us and it is now all we call it. 

And the bannars from my 2 previous years on the Big Island