The title of this post is the short version of my first Ironman race. If you want the abbreviated version...there ya go...I finished the most brutal day of my life. If you want the long version, pull up a chair, grab the popcorn and a soda...here ya go:)
Ken and I arrived on Monday, 5 days prior to the race. I was so glad that we did this. My mindset was it would give me time to acclimate somewhat to the humidity, and at the same time, if we were spending the money to go to Houston, I wanted to have time to see and do things that I wanted to do as it is where I grew up and there were people I wanted to see and things that were definitely on what I was calling my Texas To Do list. Among the highlights of my Pre-race activities were seeing my best friend from high school, Amanda for dinner, driving through my old neighborhood, going to an Astros game, and attending a pre-race clinic by Endurance Nation. Pics below!
We also attended the Athlete Banquet. I had been told this was a MUST DO, so we bought Ken a ticket as my ticket was included in my registration fee. The food was good, it is always fun to visit with other triathletes, but that is where the fun ended. The actual presentation was lame and we left after 45 minutes of corporate plugs. Pathetic!
I am not normally an emotional person, but I found all week that I was crying at the drop of a hat! I went to packet pick up and the sweet volunteer asked for my name and I got all choked up and couldn't tell her that I was #1198. She just nodded nicely and said, "You're a first timer, aren't you?" Gee, how did you guess?
Then we had bike check in on Friday. It was a muddy mess. It was fun to run into my friends Jenny and Kerri from our Facebook group. I think we were all a little dazed or a bundle of nerves! Ken and I then took it easy the rest of the day. I was way excited to meet up with my friend Jenny who has done this race twice. Reading her blog over the years not only made me want to try a triathlon, but also sparked the IronBug with me. Seeing someone I know go through it made me believe that maybe, just maybe, I could do it as well.
RACE DAY MORNING:
We then lined up in a self seeded fashion for the rolling start which was new to IMTX this year. You line up by projected finish times. I had mixed feelings about this. One, I wanted to experience the mass start of an Ironman just once, and it wasn't happening here. On the other hand, I have anxiety about that kind of start and I didn't lose any sleep over a rolling start either. However, the one down fall is it takes away from that magical midnight finish time because everyone's 17 hours starts when they cross the timing mat at the water's edge. So, pros and cons.
The reality of it was it was slicker than snot! I loved it! It was very smooth and efficient and I felt like I seeded myself right with the 1:10-1:20 group. I got bumped and toes tapped a few times, but nothing like the battle scene I have heard about it mass starts. The water was always crowded around me, but totally manageable. I settled into a good pattern of counting strokes and sighting every 4th stroke. It worked well. The water quality though it was no Caribbean or Bear Lake, wasn't as bad as I expected. Utah Lake is worse! I could see about a foot in front of me on the down stroke. I really focused on counting strokes and not swimming any faster than I could maintain good form for. The first turn buoy came and it did get pretty crowded and crazy around it, but it didn't last long. Then we started swimming back to the bridge and that next third went very well! I was in a very happy place and started to think ahead to the bike, but then reminded myself to stay in the moment and focus on it. One, two, three, site, one, two, three, site, repeat. Before I knew it we were rounding into the canal. I had heard from others that this part is a double edged sword. It is cool from the stand point that the spectators come out and have a great view of the swimmers and you of them. The down side is that it is narrow and you are funneling all of those swimmers into a narrow area and it can get choppy and crazy. I stayed to the far right of the canal, a couple feet out from the side, and I did just fine! Not too crazy at all! The canal seemed to go fast and then it got crazy at the swim exit, but the volunteers literally grab you and pull you out of the water. I was very happy with this swim. I stayed on course, stuck to a good rhythm, and felt physically very strong. I don't feel like I over did it, it was exactly what I would have hoped for.
Final swim time was 1:23:22....Heck yeah!! Thrilled with this especially since it was a non wetsuit swim! I ranked 42/120 in my age group for the swim portion
I will now say that the swim is the only part of my day that went as planned or better :/
I got out of the water and went to do costume change #1. I took off the swim skin and swim suit, then put on my cycling shorts, a sports bra and tri top. I was glad that I did this, but it was much harder to get the dry clothes on a wet body than I thought. Thank heaven for volunteers! They help with whatever you want! They greased my shoulders and back with sunscreen, gave me water, and helped me on my way. I did get my bike shoes super muddy mess, but they will wash.
Final T1 time was 10:56. It seemed like longer than that, so I was pleased.
The first part of this bike was great. I did the best I could to just ride along as the coach at the Endurance Nation seminar had told us. I rode easy for the first 10 miles or so to get my bearings, bring my heart rate into a solid Zone 2, and settle in for what would be a long ride. The first 40ish miles were great, not fast, but smooth sailing. I was loving this course. It was all the great things I love about Texas. Green forests, farm lands, wild flowers on the sides of the road, people coming out to cheer your on, etc. I was sticking to my nutrition plan by taking in my Perpetuem every 15 minutes, taking a shot block or two, and taking salt tabs every 30 minutes. It was great!
Around mile 50 the winds started. I would like to say that they didn't last long, but they lasted until mile 95 or so. Brutal doesn't begin to describe these hot humid winds that were going 20-30 mph and they were a constant head wind. It was like biking in a furnace. It also was hard because this course was more hilly than I thought. Granted, this was not the Triple Bypass, but they hills were consistent and with the winds coming at you, they did get difficult. I just wanted to be done! I then glanced at my Garmin and noticed that I wasn't making good time at all. I was starting to get bummed by this, and started to worry about having enough nutrition to last long enough. I had planned 7 hours of bike nutrition, and it soon dawned on me I would NOT be off the bike in 7 hours. Thank heavens for Bike Special Needs at mile 60! I was glad that was there or I wouldn't have had enough. I was so glad that I utilized this and packed extra stuff.
I got to be a pro at the aid stations, which were every 10-12 miles. I grabbed 2 bottles at every station, one to refill my aero bottle up front and would dump the second on my head to cool off. I was sticking to my nutrition, but it started to frustrate me. It was working in that it was keeping me going, but it was too many moving pieces. The Perpetuem, the Nuun, the Salt tabs, and the occasional Bonk Breaker was just too much to manage while riding. Next time, I will go a simpler route. However, I had to stop 3-4 times to pee, which is a good sign that I was getting enough fluids and electrolytes in.
Physically I felt pretty good except for a couple of things. One, I got a cramp in my right leg at the top of my calf muscle behind my knee around mile 50 of the bike. It never went away. Also, my saddle seemed very uncomfortable, and I am not sure why, but I was so ready to get off that thing! Also, my sore shoulder that has been an issue reared it's ugly t
While on the bike I was getting pretty grumpy and frustrated that I wasn't making the time I wanted. I then would hear occasional sirens of ambulances and it was a quick reminder that someone out there was having a worse day than I was, and Suck It Up Buttercup and just get the job done! I then decided to quit being so hard on myself and just be grateful to get through it in one piece.
I was happy to get to Mile 100 and a nice lady named Dianna and I started talking. She was friendly, happy and positive. She was just what I needed at that point because I was being pretty negative. Thank you, where ever you are Dianna! You helped me to get into the right frame of mind before I started my marathon!
My final bike time was 7:55:09. I am not thrilled with this, but what do you do?
Time for costume change #2. I kept my same tri top on and put on the tri shorts and running shoes. I also took the chance to drink two glasses of ice cold water that the volunteers brought to me and reapply sunscreen. I handed my bags over to the volunteers and started out on the marathon. I felt like I took my time, as mentally I was NOT wanting to run a marathon in the heat of the day, but apparently it was better than I thought because my final T2 time was 10:08
Now to just run 26.2 miles. This is a three loop run course with each loop being just over 8 miles a piece. They run quite a bit along the Waterway, but they also venture off onto some more quiet running trails and into some beautiful neighborhoods with mega-mansions. Other than a few switch back parts, I really liked this run course. The volunteers, crowd support, and cheer stations were unreal. Seriously so much fun! They provided the mental diversions that you need to get through an Ironman Marathon. My run strategy was pretty simple...run the whole thing at an easy pace but stop at every aid station that were every mile. Then I would walk through and take in what I wanted to before I started off to the next one. I was feeling really good at this point and was surprised I was able to stomach the Gu and other nutrition I took in. In my other long distance races, by this point my stomach only wants water and maybe Coke. However, I was able to do just fine with the Gatorade on the course and the Gu I had of my own. About mile 10 a nice volunteer asked if I wanted grapes. I don't know what it was, but that sounded like a piece of heaven and I started taking in a pixie cup of grapes at the aid stations as well. They were wonderful!
The funnest part of this course were Hippie Hollow and the Moxie team cheer stations. They simply made me laugh and smile. I so needed to mental distraction of the Speedo clad dudes and the 70's dressed people dancing and cheering me on, as well as giving me a mental break from the suffering that is inevitable in this portion of an Ironman. We also had tons of kids and families out and it was so nice to hear "Looking good" (even though I am pretty sure I would have been a shoe in for the cast of Walking Dead) or "Looking Strong" (even though I am sure most senior citizens could have gone faster). I loved the signs along the course that not only motivated and made me laugh. It was awesome!
I was able to maintain my strategy of running except at the aid stations. I had to make a few too many stops at the Porta-Potties (maybe the grapes weren't such a good idea after all?) and I found that I made new friends along the way. There was one guy Dennis I met on my second loop. He was just so friendly. He asked where I was from, asked about my training, we talked about how much this hurt but how cool the finish line would be. He was also a first timer. I lost him when we got back to the Waterway, but he was so nice! I also met another guy that was cramping pretty bad. I didn't get his name, but he was walking and really suffering. I knew that I had more salt tabs than I needed so I gave him a few. I sure hope he finished! I saw Ken on both the first and second run loops. Ken told me he was proud of me for making this loop easy and for the fact that I was still smiling.
By the third loop it was the tail end of the night and it was dark. I really mentally had a hard time with this loop. I just wanted to be done. I mentally caved at a few points and walked just because I was sick of running. I was sick of my feet burning. I was sick of thinking about how I was going so slow. I was just DONE. I physically could have gone on running, but mentally, I needed a walk break to regroup. I finally told myself that there was nothing else I could ask of myself other than to finish. I had done my best all day, so get this done, Katie! I was probably at Mile 23ish and I decided I would then suck it up and continue running this. I was so happy to hit the Waterway part again and feel the crowd support again!
I finally hit the part of the run course where it forked between starting the 2nd/3rd Loop and then where you go to the Finisher's Shoot. Because this was later in the evening, and most people had already finished, I had the shoot to myself. I turned there and the energy is beyond anything you can describe. You have hundreds of people on either side that are all clapping, cheering, calling your name and holding out their hands for high 5s as you pass by. It was unreal running down that red Ironman carpet for the 100 or so yards that it was. I ran from side to side to give as many people high fives as I could. The BeeGee's song "Staying Alive" was blaring (pretty fitting considering how the marathon was a exercise in survival) and then I heard Mike Reilly yell, "Kathryn Limb of Syracuse, Utah, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" By this time I was bawling. Pretty funny when you look at my Finisher Pics because I am doing the ugly cry, not anything cute, but the pictures look like I am trying to sneeze. Lovely, just lovely.
Final run time was 6:33:13, and final race time for IMTX was 16:12:48.
WHAT I DID RIGHT IN THIS RACE:
-I stuck to my training plan. I missed very few workouts. I allowed myself to recover well, and I tapered well.
-I arrived at the start line healthy and injury free
-Nutrition worked. I believe that I took in the right amount of everything...calories, sodium, electrolytes, etc, and I stuck to the plan in which to take them.
-I utilized the Special Needs bags...I would have been in a world of hurt if I hadn't done this, especially on the bike.
-I remained mostly positive,
-I smiled almost the entire time.
-I took the time to thank volunteers and to appreciate that I am able to do this,
-I took the time during the race to thank my Heavenly Father for the ability and opportunity to do this.
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
- Simplify nutrition. Though I took in the right amounts of everything and felt good energy wise, there are too many moving parts. I like the idea of having just one source of nutrition where you just reach for a bottle that contains all you need, and wash it down with water. I may need to look into other options to do this.
- Take the time mode off my Garmin for the day, only have it show heart rate and maybe the distance. Especially if for a first timer, the goal should be finish LINE not finish TIME.
-Look into a different saddle. I have never loved the one that I am on, and I am more and more convinced it may just be worth the effort to experiment and find one that I love.
-Take the day after the race off from work. It was brutal having to go to work yesterday morning.
- Have a first aid kit in the hotel after the race. Given the amount of chaffing, blisters, soreness, swelling, etc, I wish I would have packed things like band aids, gauze, first aid tape, Neosporin, Ibuprofen, and things like that to tend to all my battle wounds :)
I am so glad that I had the opportunity to do this race. I have prepared for it actively for a year, but I really think it goes beyond that. I have come so far in a fairly short amount of time. I wasn't raised an athlete. I always admired the athletes in school, because I never thought I was one of them, though I wanted to be. I love what triathlon has brought to my life and the experiences I have had and the friendships I have made. This race was in many ways a coming together of all of that.
I was humbled to the point of tears by all of the posts, tweets, Facebook comments, text messages and phone calls I got from people literally all over the world. I knew people were praying for me and I felt those prayers, especially during the hard moments, and believe me, there were many! I have the best friends, family and support crew ever. I am so thankful for each and every one of you who read this blog, commented, posted, texted, or watched and followed my progress online. It means the world to me, more than I could ever express.
As good as my support crew is, Ken is the rock and my biggest cheerleader, I have said it before and I will say it a thousand times more, I couldn't do it without him, nor would I want to. He puts up with me. He supports me. He never complains about the crazy adventures I take us on. He never complains about the training, or having to pick things up the slack while I was training with kids or things around the house. He's pretty fantastic. I love him more than I can express. No moment was as special as seeing him as soon as I crossed the finish line. Falling into his arms was the perfect way to end my day.
What's next? A break! I need a mental and physical break. My poor body took a beating and I need a mental break as well. Of course I have more races this year, but I'm not stressing over them and they are all just for fun, where I have no expectations other than to enjoy them. I want to focus more on my run, my never ending nemesis (but apparently my bike needs some work too)
So, Happy Racing and Training all!