It's been nearly 3 weeks since I raced my 8th Ironman up in the beautiful village of Mont Tremblant Quebec. I have been processing the day on and off since. I haven't been writing in my blog lately. I know I wrote a little story about the Boston Marathon, but nothing since. I write in my head all the time but I haven't been able to spare many moments to sit and compose thoughts about myself these days. Life with 3 teens is a whole new world of busy.
But as I sit at my desk getting some work done, sucking down coffee hoping it'll seep into my veins and fill me with energy I just can't seem to find this week because I need to head out the door in 30 min for a 16 mile run, I feel the need to write out some of these memories and worries that are overloading my brain right now.
Call it my therapy.
A few years ago, after racing in Kona, I thought I was likely done with Ironman racing. But some time passed, I crept into a new age group, the boys asked why I wasn't racing as much and told me they missed our fun trips, and I decided to go for it again. I missed it. I had/ have a few big goals left to accomplish and there's no better time than the present. So I signed up. Mont Tremblant is one of my favorite race courses on the circuit. If you're considering racing there, GO for it. It won't disappoint.
My prep for the race went well. It was a little different than years past. First, this was my first Ironman without the help of a coach. I have been so fortunate to have been taught and guided by a number of Really great coaches over the years. Seriously.... starting when I was just a little kid in the pool, through High School and College swimming, Track and XC teams and then 10 years of Triathlon. I have learned so much through them and through my own experiences and schooling that I knew I could handle this alone. But, that was the thing. There were times I felt a little bit 'lonely.' You know, that pat on the back after a hard long block of workouts with a little advice or constructive criticism was missed. However, I had to suck it up and keep going. Also, I could always reach out to my buddy Mary for those words of encouragement.
In addition to being on my own, I had just raced the Boston Marathon in April. It wasn't a horrible lead into IM training, but it does throw in some challenge. My winter was absorbed with lots and lots of running and a lot of time with family skiing. That leads to less time biking and swimming. I had work to do after that 26.2 mile Patriot's day run.
It was head down, get the work done, and keep the faith all summer. Of course, I work from home & have three guys I love spending my time with so my training was squeezed into the very early mornings so I could maximize time with them this summer too. It worked out just fine. They are quite independent and had some of their own things going on so we made it work. I hit the starting line feeling very ready. I had put in a lot of high quality work with quite a bit of necessary volume and the combo felt good to me. My rest days were placed exactly when I needed them and my method of adjusting things as I went along worked well. After all these years, I find that I can handle quite a lot before needing rest so I took some risks with my workout plans and challenged myself a little more than I have. I also lost a little weight and felt better myself due to that. I have no idea how much. I haven't stepped on a scale in Years. Truly, I bet it's been 4+ years. This is a little rebellious in the world of Triathlon. Sweat rates, caloric needs, and race weight are all very important. I just know that I can't do it. When I feel good, my clothes are loose and my workouts are going well, I don't want to stand on the scale and see a # that is higher than I want. That will send me to the kitchen for some cookies. It works the opposite way for my brain. So, I go by feel. I know what I need for fluids and calories and I know when I'm at the proper body composition. That's that. I knew that I was 100% ready on race day.
Don't get me wrong. That confidence and self- assurance does not mean there are no race nerves and anxiety!!!! But for one of the first times, I do remember standing on the beach pre-race, alone, with an unusual sense of calm. I just had a sense that all was ok... my head and body were totally prepared.
We had a very hot and sunny summer. I was ready for heat and humidity. I raced the 70.3 in MT in June and it was in the 90s and I was Miserable. But this time I was ready.
However, mother nature decided to test us. Rain was forecasted. Ok...how much rain? I didn't really worry about it. Little did I know. We got a summer's worth of rain in 12 hours I think! Also, despite the 'scare' of a no- swim situation at the pre-race meeting ( fog and thunderstorms were the worry ) -- we were a 100% Go on Race day. Clear skies started the day... so a full Swim Bike Run day was ahead. Yay!!!
Here's how the race went down:
I'll spare you all my race morning prep and details. We all have our routines. :) But it all went Just as planned and I was excited to get things moving. NERVES were on Full Force that morning-- until the gun went off!!!
I think this might have been my first NON- Mass start Ironman. I must say, I liked it. I was NOT a proponent of the change. I mean, the mass start is part of the challenge. That being said, those mass starts have Scared the heck out of me. I have had some bad and scary starts. So I was in the very very last dead last wave. :( I was bummed. I wasn't looking forward to navigating my way through people. However, it wasn't too bad!!!
I hit the water and felt Amazing. I really just felt smooth and strong. I went out hard and could see I was pulling away from the others in my wave. That gave me more of a surge. I started to catch the waves ahead, group by group, but also felt gaps in the water to get through the people. Sure, I got kicked. I had breaststroke legs whack me in the face. I accidentally climbed over others. Oops, sorry. ;( It's all part of it. Goggles got knocked off.... the whole bit.
And way out when we made the turn in the middle the water got Rough!!! We had big chop and huge swells. I just adjusted my stroke and breathing pattern and kept going.
Finally- the sound of the crowd, the blown up arch in the distance and the beautiful shore.... love each finish along the way on Ironman day. Goggles off ( ouch, they always hurt my eyes after an hour with no break ) and dropped to the ground for the 'strippers' to help. I checked my watch and saw my time was sub 60 min.
YES!!! I was THRILLED!!!! I hadn't broken 60" for the swim since my first race back in '09!
YES!!! I was THRILLED!!!! I hadn't broken 60" for the swim since my first race back in '09!
58 min for this leg. Great start. So so happy.
Long run to T1--- into the tent-- this was fine. Typically the volunteers in the tents have sat with me and helped with things. They didn't do this here. They were standing back. That was different but also fine as I didn't have much to do this time. I ran out of the tent and had to take a Left to head to the bikes and WHACK! I totally flew in the air and fell straight down onto my hip. It was embarrassing. But I wasn't hurt. I laughed and ran to the bike.
Don't worry, I wont' talk about 112 miles of biking. Let me just say this. It rained. Hard. The whole time. Very very hard. I was ready for it to be 90. But instead, it was 60s (?? ) and insanely wet. But you know.... you just have to deal with what is given to you! Or, you can quit?
I guess the first 10 miles were ok. I'm not sure. It's always crowded to start and people are all over the roads trying to settle into their spots. The rule is you can't ride closer than 6 bike lengths to the person ahead of you. That is tough with nearly 3000 people on the roads and many of close clusters. There are a lot of people who really don't seem to read or care about the bike rules and that gets frustrating. Especially with bad weather. Those are the issues that seem to be the most noticeable at the beginning. You just get out there, find your space, settle into an "easy" pace, and start drinking and eating.
I was feeling great. I got 2 bottles in very quickly. About 10 miles in...
It started to rain. And then pour. And then pour harder.
It was pelting our faces and honestly, it hurt! That came and went but I remember thinking that a lot. Ouch. I was fine with it for a while. But eventually, the constant torrential rain got rather annoying. I couldn't see. Water was seeping down behind my glasses and filling my eyeballs. The lens were fogged and wet. But if I took them off, it would still be bad and I had no place to put them. My bar tape was super slippery and a few times I lost my grip and slight control. I was on alert. The roads were covered with lots of standing water. On a hilly course, it was a bit dangerous. I decided braking was a bad idea. And while that sounds crazy, I thought it could cause me to wipe out. I spent a lot of energy holding on Very tightly to the bike so I wouldn't fall. My shoulders and back were getting pretty tired.
All that aside, I felt strong. My power was exactly what I wanted. My pace was Exactly what I wanted. I was eating and drinking a lot. My friend Bob passed me around mile 30 and it was nice to see a friendly face. Or I guess I just saw his back as he flew by very quickly. We exchanged, "Great day for a ride!" chuckles... The rain was so heavy that I couldn't see anyone else all day. This course is a 2 loop ride but we pass by the entrance to the village twice on each loop. My family (all my kids, my husband And my parents! ) were able to stand where I could see them twice on each loop! Spectating on the bike is sort of lame.. you see your person for about 10 seconds. :( But for us, it really does mean a lot. I have tried to explain to my kids just how much energy and 'oomph' they give me every time I get to see any of them. There's something about that contact. Touching base... a little burst of sanity and hope when we see people we love out there for us. Mom, Dad, kids, Mark, and all the oodles of friends that were there that day, THANK YOU!!! While the rain was very bad for us--it was also very bad for them. They endured it just like we did.
Around mile 60 my bike was making a horrible noise and completely distracting me. I worried about that a lot......at what point would I have to quit if the bike gave out and at what point could I 'run it in?' 26.2 miles is enough to run.. would I do 35 if I had to? I was thinking about things like that............
The mind has a lot of places to go during 5 hour ++ bike ride...
Finally-- I made it through the torturous 12 miles out and back on the steep and windy climbs and into T2. I was sub 5:40 and honestly, I had tears in my eyes of happiness about my day as I rolled in and handed my bike off to the volunteers. I was realllllllllly feeling good about what was happening.
All I had to do now, was nail a marathon. :)
Ironman is about patience. And pacing. And toughness. Now that I was off the bike, the race was about to start. I had a feeling I was in a good position,but that's all I had. A feeling. I felt myself pull away from the other girls in the swim. When I got out of the water, I looked around and didn't see anyone until I was running to T1. I saw another woman and checked out her calf: P. Hmm.. Pro? ok... I was 22 min up on her. :) From there, I was off on the bike and basically blinded but I knew I didn't get passed by any women. My feeling as I headed off to run was a controlled and cautious confidence. I had a long way to go.
|This guy--100% in my corner. He gave me a "you got this hun" kiss and I headed off to get the job done.|
|Good thing I didn't wipe out-- again. :) What the heck am I doing??!! haha...|
I climbed the first hill that takes us away from the village and out onto the run course and was so excited to see my friend Marni standing there cheering!!! I knew she was in town, but we hadn't been successful in connecting yet. Texting & emailing were totally unreliable for me in Canada and she was staying a mile or two away. It was a great surprise to see her there and fun to get a hug from my friend I rarely see!!
|Marni Sumbal--my first nutritionist to help me with this sport. Owner and founder of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition. :)|
Time to get to work. Ahh... the Ironman run. It's a beast!!! The Mont Tremblant run course is hard, but fair. It's an out and back x 2. For me, it's 4 Lengths. Pool talk. I'm a swimmer at heart and think in terms of the pool. 4 x 25. Or more like 4 x 1000. And, like the 200 fly ( my old college event ) the 3rd 50 is the hardest.
I hit the roads feeling good. Fine. Nothing was bothering me. I remember chatting with a guy about how Great it felt to have dry feet. I had changed my shoes and socks in T2, of course, and the dry socks felt Amaaaazing. The rain had stopped for the moment and I was enjoying that. Although, the humidity was building. My stomach was fine, my legs were waking up-- or adjusting the run motion rather. I've learned lots of things over the years in my racing & one key thing for IM racing is if you feel good, eat! Take advantage of it and get some calories in. I did have a headache, but that's fairly typical for me at that point. I wasn't worried. I just started taking cups of gatorade stuff on mile 2 and sucking on the EFS flask. While keeping myself in check, I started off strong. I felt good and wanted to get a little time on anyone coming behind me and anyone ahead. I wasn't sure where I stood in my age group. I knew I had to find a strong pace that I could keep the whole way. My mission was to Not stop as much at aid stations as I have at other Ironmans and to keep my pace hovering right around 8:00/ mi pace.
Lap1-- I don't remember much. I tried to block out how much more was left. Just run. Block the rest out.
Lap 2-- back to the village. To me that meant--- touch base/ hug/ wave/ info time from my family. It also meant-- time to get serious and be ready for the face to face moments with women running towards me. I wanted to check out where I stood within the race, and at the same time, not show my face. I felt pretty good. My quads were screaming a bit. I figured out a way to deal with it. I allowed myself ~5 seconds or so at aid stations and with both hands I just squeezed both quads and loosened them up a bit. It worked. Quick stop and rub and off I went. Head down, visor low ( stealth mode in case someone was looking for me...;) ) and brain off.
It was raining again. I was feeling a little grumpy about that. My socks were soaked. Shoes were heavy and I could feel a beauty of a blister forming on my left baby toe. As long as it didn't rip or do anything crazy. I knew I had dry socks in my special needs bag. I contemplated that change for about 6 seconds. I quickly changed that thought into, "Age group winners don't change their socks. If you want this. Do not stop. Suck it up babe."
So......... with that I yelled my bib # to the special need bag helper, grabbed my gel flask replacement and left the socks.
Ironman is not about comfort. It is about being tough. It is about hanging on when you want to stop. It is going to hurt. That is a given. If you think you can head into a 140.6 mile race and not have some pain, you signed up for the wrong race. The final 13 miles of the Ironman marathon, to me, are all about digging deep. It's about deciding how badly you really want it. It's about remembering all the hours and hours and miles and miles of hard work & making it happen. It's about NOT feeling sorry for yourself. That is a game changer. It's hard, it hurts, you want to stop. Badly. If you can learn how to put all that aside and instead of feeling badly for yourself for what you're going through.
I ran down through the village at the half way point. I heard so so many cheers from people I knew watching!! Thank you! If you are reading this, it really helped!!! But best of all, I got high fives from Mom and Dad! I got a hug and words with Mark. He told me I was in first in my age group. I saw all the boys. I stopped and hugged and kissed each one. I put my head up against Nick's forehead and told him I was getting power from them. It truly gives me a lift. It means everything to have them there.
I saw Marni again and she wasn't sure about my place but thought at least 3rd or 4th. I knew I had a shot, one way or the other. I made a decision about my "3rd 50." I was going to run "easy." I knew I was running a solid / consistent pace and felt like I could hold on. But I wanted to have it in me to bring it home strong and faster, if needed to. My quads were on fire. My feet were on fire. I have chronic foot pain that kicks in every time I run. Sometimes it's mile 5, sometimes it's mile 13. It comes and goes but it was there this day. I takes my breath away at times, it's so bad. Both feet, from mid-foot on, are just on fire. I squeeze my toes inside my shoes when it happens and know that somehow, at some point, it will dissipate.
I ran that last length away from the village with an easy approach. Not much changed, but I consciously brought my heart rate down and avoided pushing even when I thought I could. The roads were crowded so I had to slow down a lot just to get through people. I started to see friends that were racing and that felt great. Friendly faces offering each other encouragement is always so welcome on these hard days.
I made the turn at the end, took a deep breath and maybe even said out loud, "time to bring it home."
Those last 7+ miles go on forever at times, but I was really feeling good. I started looking at my garmin and the clock. I started doing the math on my finishing time. I knew that if I could hold my pace for the last 4 miles..... I could get in around 10:25. I was Beyond ecstatic with this. But I could NOT stop. I was so so tired. My quads... pain really doesn't describe what we go through at the end of these.
Back in 2011-- I had what I had been calling, 'the race of my life.' That Ironman in Lake Placid went So well. I finished in 10:19 that day. I was 41.
I am 46 and to think about coming close to that was truly exciting for me. I worked very hard, and it was paying off.
There were 2 steep hills that nearly threw me over the edge. I pushed so hard to get up them--- and when I got to the top I stopped. I didn't mean to. But my legs..
I squeezed them as I had been doing and just ran on. One time, some guy behind me yelled, "LET'S GO!!! DO not stop now!!" ! :) I had a lot of support from other racers out there. It was very cool.
I was able to eat and drink all the way to the end. Even on the last mile, I was taking in a few shot bloks. I just wanted to finish strong and I felt good, so I ate. I ran down the hill next to the lake and felt Amazing. I had energy!!! I ran up to the road that winds through the village and felt a surge and just raced so hard to the end. It was done.
10:25 overall time after a 3:34 run.
I won my age group and took 3rd amateur woman and 10th overall with the Pro field mixed in.
Now-- I prep for Kona. I am excited and overwhelmed all at once. The race is one month from today. This is a very very fast turnaround. I guess this will be left for another post-- if I can write again soon. Advice is welcome! So far, I've rested a bit, built back in with some moderate training last week and started hitting it hard again this week. I hope I'm doing this right. I have big goals for myself on that island. This is the last hoorah there.......I have experienced it and now I am going to race. I am on a mission.
|Thank you for all the support Marni!!! I can't wait to see you again in Kona and to share the race course with your speedy husband, Karel!!!|