This might just be my longest race report to date. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this race that I am not sure how to sum it all up! I guess as usual, I will start with all the pre-race stuff, because it was so much fun!!
I headed down with Mike, Melinda, and their friend, Jason, on Thursday morning to StG knowing that Ken and the kids would be joining me on Friday afternoon. As always, they are a ton of fun. We got into town and immediately went to Ironman Village. I was so excited about this! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I was posting tons of pics from that afternoon. The Athlete Check in was even fun! All of the volunteers treat you like a rock star and it is so smooth and organized, I loved it! After I got my bag, timing chip and other race stuff, we went to the merchandise tent where they have anything and everything you could ever want from Ironman. It was fun! I bought a finisher's t-shirt, a car emblem, and a bike jersey. I also got Ken a shirt that says Support Crew on it and the kids got Future Ironman shirts. We then waited around for the Pro Panel. Since this is the US Championships, the pro panel was deep! It was funny because I had a question about where the pro panel would even be so I turned and saw a woman with a shirt that said IRONMAN STAFF on it and asked her. She was this really fit, 40 something woman who responded in an Australian accent and pointed where it would be. As I left from talking to her Mike said, "You know who that is, right?" I had no clue. It was Paula Newby-Frazier, multiple world champion and coach to Hines Ward in Kona last year! HA! We then sat down and were waiting for the Panel to actually start and I saw this woman who was also VERY buff, and I was positive she was Meredith Kessler. Well, she was, and I wasn't going to miss my chance to visit with her. She was beyond friendly, and was asking me about my racing and training, and also telling me about her week their in StG. I asked to have a picture with her and she very kindly agreed to snap one with this tri-geek. She was awesome. Can't say enough nice things about her!
We then had dinner and I retired to the hotel early and had a great night sleep. The next day was pretty low key as well, we went to bike check in, drove the bike course, and then Ken and the kids joined me that evening. This whole time I had race nerves, but more excited like a kid on Christmas Eve more than anything else.
|Meredith Kessler is the real deal!|
Saturday morning I woke up early, had my oatmeal and my banana and left for the shuttle to take us up to Sand Hollow. I was in Wave #9 with a start time of 7:24. I had fun in transition visiting with my friends and making new ones. I was able to see Jarrod, Megan, Kim, and Mike. I still say triathletes are the coolest and friendliest people on earth! They are all very encouraging, fun and great support out there!
My swim wave started at 7:24. Before that we were able to watch the pros take off and I was glad that this was a wave start. With 2800 people racing, I wasn't wanting a mass start. I know that many people say that you have to experience it just once, for the whole "washing machine" effect, but I was okay with bypassing that. This was a deep water start where you actually had to swim about 150 yards off the short to the red buoys where you then waited for the horn to blow and start. I got in the water and noticed it was indeed cold, but with the full wetsuit it wasn't bad at all. Some one reported a temperature of 61 degrees. I was, however, very glad to have my neoprene skull cap under my swim cap so I was able to avoid the brain freeze head ache that I got at Rage in Vegas. I swam calmly out to the buoys and I barely got there when they blew the horn so I just kept going! I was glad that there wasn't much contact with other swimmers and the water was very clear. I concentrated on my pace but also on sighting every 4th stroke. I was able to stay pretty much on the line that I wanted, but as always, I tended to drift off towards the right. They had kayaks and paddle boarders everywhere though, so it would have been virtually impossible to get too far off. I made it to the first turn buoy pretty quickly and then had a long straight line to the next one. I started to catch up with people ahead of me from other waves. I also noticed when I would look up to sight or breathe the GORGEOUS scenery around me. I was just in a very happy place during this swim. It was calm, beautiful, and I was doing exactly what I planned to do during the swim. It couldn't have been more perfect. I even started to think ahead to the run and bike and review in my mind my nutrition plan and my strategy. It was a good time. I finally turned around the final buoy and headed into the boat ramp where you exitted the water and that was the only place that it really got crowded or hectic. I made my way out and looked down at my watch to see that I had a final swim time of 40:36, a 5 minute improvement from the Utah Half!
As soon as I was out of the water, I headed up the boat ramp and found the wetsuit strippers. This is so nice! That suit has never come off so fast! I then grabbed it with my goggles, swim caps, and ran right to the porta potties. I then found my bike, put all my bike stuff on and packed up my swim stuff into my bags. This was a new experience with all the transition bags that they give you, but it is very doable and pretty slick, actually. I then ran with Belle to a volunteer that put sunscreen on my since I forgot to do it in the rush to get my bike stuff on. NOTE TO SELF: Take the time to do it yourself next time. I then clicked in and was on my way! Final T1 time was 6:44.
The first half of the bike was awesome. We immediately headed out of the parking lot, had a good down hill then around the side of the lake and up another steep hill. This would be the first of 5-6 significant climbs on this course. These are not little rollers, they are HILLS! For each of these I put Belle on the small ring in a low gear and just grinded my way to the top. I enjoyed how pretty the course was, talked with others around me, and made sure that I stuck to my nutrition whenever the alert would go off on my watch. We made our way through some farm areas, then into the small town of Hurricane. The first aide station was there and I grabbed a water to refill my aero bottle. I was thoroughly enjoying the course, the day, and the awesome downhills that came after all the climbs. Yes, this course has some very hard climbs, but it is also very fast in many places. I loved these parts! I used them as a chance to spin my legs out, or just coast, and chill for a minute before the next climb would come. It was starting to get pretty hot, but I was sticking to my hydration and taking the salt tabs as well. I had just passed the second aid station at around mile 28, when I noticed I had a flat on my rear tire. Dangit!! I have never flatted in a race! I had just barely given a tube to another cyclist that had one not 20 minutes prior! I then noticed that cyclist I had helped out not only took my tube, but my tire levers and my CO2! I had nothing to change this with! So frustrating! Luckily I had some help from another cyclist who helped me get it off and use some of their CO2. I was back on my way, but easily lost 15-20 minutes here.
I headed off again and it wound through the west side of town and we were about 5 miles out of Snow Canyon when it flatted again. This time it just seemed low, and I didn't want to spend much time on it, so I just let someone fill it up for me with CO2. That was a mistake right there, I should have more thoroughly checked it, instead of just putting something in it and being on my way. But, hindsight is 20/20! I got off on my way again, now completely out of supplies, and I made my way into Snow Canyon, passed another aid station where I took more water, and not 10 minutes after that I was flat AGAIN. At this point, I was feeling so defeated. I was tired, hot, and this was NOT going according to plan. I sat down on the side of the road with other athletes speeding past me and just cried. There was nothing I could do. I had no more tubes, no levers, no CO2 and the bike support was no where to be seen. I put my head down and cried. I also said a prayer begging God to send some help or my day was over, and I so didn't want that! Not a minute later I had something thrown at me. It was tube from a passing cyclist. Well, that's a start, but it wasn't the supplies I needed to change it. Then another cyclist stopped and asked if I needed help. I told him my predicament, and he said that he was starting to cramp up anyway and should get off for a break. He was from LA, his name was Kevin, and he is a self proclaimed bike nut. He whipped that tire off and then spotted the problem. There was a thorn in the tire. That is what kept making me go flat! If I had taken the time earlier to look for it instead of just trying to fix the problem and be on my way, I would have seen that! Dangit!! Anyhow, he pumped me back up, both mentally and physically on the bike, and I then started the climbing in the dreaded Snow Canyon. These fellow athletes that helped me today were truly angels. I would not have been able to finish if they hadn't of stopped their own race to give me aid. I am now vowing to never leave another cyclist on the road or in a race that needs help with out at least seeing what I can do to help. Pay it forward people!
I was still pretty defeated, or feeling that way at least. I started to try to calculate how much time I had lost on that dang wheel. It had to be at least 45 minutes. I started to wonder about the bike cut off and if I would make it. I knew in reality that I was still ok, but I wasn't exactly thinking positively or clearly at this point. As we were making our way up this brutal climb, there were several motivational sayings on signs on the side of the road. I really needed them at this point! They said things like, "All you really need is already inside of you", "Do you remember the guy that quit? Neither does anyone else" and "If you give up now, you will regret it". I needed those as a pick me up for sure, because at this point, I was NOT having fun. I had even gotten off my bike at the steep part of the climb and started walking it thinking that if the SAG wagon showed up, I would gladly jump in. I had to walk it because my quads were spasming so bad I thought I would fall over.
Once I got the the top of Snow Canyon, I had the best down hill ever! I decided to try to do the whole thing in aero and even had my stomach turn at one point like it does on a roller coaster ride, but it was freaking awesome! I felt like I was flying as I sped down that hill. I needed that as a boost as well. I knew I was within 10 miles of the bike finish and what do you know, they had another hill for us! At this point I was thinking more clearly and thought that after what I had already been through, I could do anything, and even this hill. It wasn't as bad as it looked and the whole bike thing was over soon enough. My bike split is pretty pathetic, but when I keep in mind that I lost so much time on flats, it puts it into perspective. Final bike time was 4:21:43. Ouch.
I couldn't get off that bike fast enough. It was hot. I knew that my family was probably worried about me taking so long on the bike. I quickly changed, hit the porta potties, and was on my way. T2 time was 5:24.
Ken was just outside the transition area. He hollered to cheer me on and I told him about all my flats. I waved and was on my way for more hills! I told myself that I would power walk the steep hills and aid stations and run the rest. I was able to do this the entire 13.1 mile run. The aid stations were about every mile anyhow. I found that I was in much better spirits and I was able to see some of my friends on this out and back course. I also visited with some other runners around me. I took some salt tabs in and a Gu every 40 minutes or so. The area was awesome but the hills were brutal. I swear, this course was designed by a sadist! I did my best to power up them the best I could, but was starting to feel the day wear on me. As I hit the aid stations I took in water, dumped ice down my top, grabbed sponges and coke. My stomach started to bother me and I couldn't stand the thought of anything else. I knew however, I would be in world of hurt if I didn't at least force the water and the salt tabs. I did this for the entire second half of the run. I was grateful to hit the turn around and was in good spirits, but wasn't feeling well at all. I noticed that despite the 97 degree temps, I was getting chills and my arms were tingling. My stomach was tight and crampy. Not good signs! I just wanted to finish and be over. I managed to run the entire last 3 miles, but finished in rough shape. my Final run time was 2:44:34. Considering how hot and hard this course was, I am pretty happy with that!
Like I mentioned above, I finished in rough shape. My final time for this race was 7:59:01. Not what I wanted, but what choice did I have? I didn't feel well at all. I was very weak, tired, and getting chills. I now know these were probably the early signs of dehydration or bonking. When I got all of those flats, my watch kept beeping at me to hydrate or fuel, but I would just focus on the tire at that moment and ignored those reminders to take in fuel and water. This entirely threw of my nutrition plan, my electrolyte intake, everything. So, to say I paid for it was an understatement. I felt like crap. Usually when I finish a race I can eat a horse. Now the only thing I could stomach was the Coke. I also didn't have an appetite for several hours after the race, and even then, it was hardly anything. I made sure to keep drinking Nuun throughout the rest of the evening to restore what was lost to my poor body! I was also pretty sun burned. Don't trust the well meaning volunteers to do the sunscreen right! I literally have streaks of burn where they didn't apply it evenly or thoroughly. We headed back to the hotel and just vegged the rest of the evening by the pool and I fell asleep pretty early.
You simply can't beat Ironman. They know how to do a race. This was an amazing event, starting with the pre-race stuff at Ironman Village. I kept thinking, if this is what they do for just a Half, I wonder what it is like for a full? Everywhere you went you were treated like a rock star. Even in town, when people say your blue athlete wrist band, you were treated like royalty. It was pretty cool! The volunteers were awesome. The aid stations were pretty well stocked, you name it, they had it! They think of everything! They sweep the roads for the bike and run prior to the race. They sweep the rocks off the sand at the swim start so you don't have to worry about stepping on them. They lay out carpet between bike racks in T1 so you don't have run on hot or gravelly pavement as you head to your bike. And, they have a pretty cool medal! I have to say, that as tough as this day was, it is an amazing course. Very challenging, but amazing. It was the hardest race of my life, but I am glad I did it. I would definitely do it again, I feel that I have score to settle with that dang bike course!
-Sun screen shouldn't be taken lightly. I look like a streaked lobster today.
-Hydration and nutrition are crucial and when you have a plan, stick to it, regardless of what the day throws at you!
-Be prepared for worse case scenario. I should have had more stuff to change my tires, and known better how to use it. And check for the cause of the problem, like the thorn, to avoid future issues!
-PAY IT FORWARD with all the good people that helped me through this hard day, I have to pay it forward from now on!
-I really like the challenge of long course racing. I definitely got to see what I was made of today.
I would be lying if I said that I was not disappointed in my race. It was my "A" race and I this is not what I envisioned or planned for today. I have been pretty bummed about it. But I pushed through some very difficult conditions, heat, a difficult course, three flat tires, and the mental challenges as well! I put myself through the wringer today! But, as I have been bummed, I have asked myself, what else could I have done? I didn't give up. I didn't get bitter (ok, maybe for a minute or two on the bike), and I FINISHED. Most people won't do things like this, much less finish. I can honestly say I did my best with what I had given to me, and at the end of the day, I can't ask more of myself than that. This course and this race, and the conditions, etc, really gave me a chance to see what I was made of, and I am happy with what I found :)
In the meantime, Happy training and racing all!