Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ironman Canada Race Report

I woke up on Sunday morning with a horrible sinking pit feeling in my stomach. I'd had the weirdest dream overnight... that something had happened with the race and they had to cancel the bike... so they were just going to make it a swim/run... then last minute they figured we could do the bike after all but it would have to come after the run... so last minute change to the race it was going to be swim/run/bike. It was mass confusion and in my dream I did the swim and the run but felt horrible and after the marathon I just said screw it I'm not doing a 112 mile bike ride right now. So I quit. And in my dream I was sitting in T2 with no chip when Nalani arrived in from her marathon and she was also looking horrible- like she'd been through a war. But she gave me this look like WHAT ARE YOU DOING JUST SITTING THERE?? I shook my head and told her I was over it and not doing the bike. She shook her head right back at me and without another word dragged herself onto her bike and set off to finish the race. So of course I was left feeling like such a loser b/c I'd quit for no reason other than I just didn't feel like doing it anymore.

I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I realized that the race had not yet happened... that I still had a chance to go out there and do it the way I'd planned. Phew! There would be no quitting today.

So race morning was easy and pretty much all went as planned. We found a parking space (seriously- our biggest worry!), I got a message saying all 3 of my Louisville athletes were out of the water and on the bike, and then we set about doing all the normal pre-race stuff like pumping our tires, etc. I would not say I was very nervous. Actually I felt pretty happy because I love IM Canada and I knew that in all likelihood this was the last time I'd probably do it. I smiled a lot. :)
Nalani had my back.
We found Krista and Shane and Jen and Karen (from AZ) and lined up on the right side of the swim start...
So Nalani and I went to the front line and stood about waist deep in the water waiting for the horn to go off. Interestingly, I still wasn't nervous. Just super calm and happy. Horn blew, I dove in, kicked fairly hard and took about 15-20 strong strokes in full anticipation of getting the shit kicked out of me. But you know what? I did not get touched. I am not kidding. Not once. No one touched me. All I could think was Did that just happen?? Did I just start an Ironman swim with 2600+ people and not get touched? At all?

You can see me in this picture I'm at the bottom pink cap that is just a little off the front with the bent right arm. Nalani is right behind me (waving). Cleanest swim start ever in the history of Ironman. Unbelievable.
They told us it was fine to stay to the right of the buoys on the way out- we did not have to take them on the outside- just had to go around the turn buoy on the outside but that was like 1600+M away so by that time you'd be with your people so shouldn't be too bad. I find it interesting that even then, just about everyone stayed on the outside (left) of the buoys. I stayed right and swam alone for maybe 1/2 the way to the first buoy then thought maybe I should find some people to draft off of... so I moved over and got on the left side with a group... stayed there for maybe 20 strokes and got jostled some and didn't like it... so I moved back just right of the buoy line and swam alone in peace all the way to the first turn buoy. I felt relaxed and my stroke felt good but I really did not feel like I was working very hard. On the way back I finally found a little group I was happy with so we lined up and swam in a straight line train all the way to the finish. I came out in 58:xx which was not my fastest IM swim but it was absolutely the easiest. Toward the end I found myself thinking that there was no part of me that wished I'd done more fast 50's and 100's in the pool in training. I was grateful for all the 1000M repeats I did and the multiple 5K workouts that people thought were unnecessary... My fatigue level getting out of the water was zero.

T1 was simple- it wasn't super cold (seriously our conditions were perfect could not have really been any better) so I didn't need arm warmers or anything... hopped on my bike and smiled as big as I've ever smiled as I rode out of town. The crowds were awesome and I'd just had the most perfect swim I could imagine and now I got to ride the most beautiful 112 miles around...
Bike was good... First 40ish miles are mostly down and pretty fast- I knew this so my goal was to ride easy but not slow. I passed Nalani and a couple other women but then the roads were fairly clear of riders so it just felt like a great training day! I was happy and felt good enough. At some point maybe mile 20-30ish Kendra (eventual overall winner) passed me- she looked like she was riding strong but relaxed/smart so I threw an invisible 7M rope on her and increased my effort a little. Then another gal passed (in my age group) blatantly drafting off a guy as they flew by. Hmmm. Wonder if she knew that was cheating? I dropped back a bit but watched that gal stomping on her pedals and drafting 3 different people over the next 5-10 miles... I thought maybe she'd blow up and come back to me later but she did not. She went on to finish 3rd in our age group and took a Kona spot.

We turned to climb Richter Pass and I absolutely ignored everyone around me and just climbed at what felt like a steady comfortable effort. That climb was not that hard though it did seem like I got passed a lot. Mostly men but some women too. It was spread out though so I spent a good amount of time riding alone as well.

Then we hit some rollers and maybe mile 50-60ish a whole peloton of ~15 riders came flying by. Really?? I stopped pedaling, let them pass, and saw another gal in my age group sitting on toward the back of the group. I had passed her earlier (she beat me out of the water) and now she was passing me back while sitting on in this huge group. Nice. Eventually (maybe 5 miles later?) that group did split up and I passed that gal back and did not see her again until ~14 miles into the run... though she went on to get 2nd in our age group and took a Kona spot as well. Apparently in Ironman the phase cheaters never prosper does not apply. I do not mind calling these girls out publicly on my blog because what they were doing was not accidental. It was blatant. I know there are some courses where you really have to go out of your way to avoid draft packs because it's just super crowded or whatever... Canada is not one of those courses. It was VERY easy to ride legally on that course. You had to go out of your way to draft/cheat. Not too many people were doing it but some were and it just irritates me that girls who are strong enough to get on the podium still feel like they are willing to cheat to do it. The gal I feel the worst for is the one who got 4th in our age group- missing a Kona spot by 1' to those girls who I saw drafting.

Ok, rant over.

Moving on. I felt pretty good for the rest of the ride. The yellow lake climb was longer and harder than I remembered (80-95 miles into the bike) and my thinking there toward the end of the bike was that this bike course is legit!

It is easily one of the most beautiful courses in the world though and I LOVE it that it is only 1 loop, but by no means would I say it was a 'fast' bike course. Some girls rode it super fast of course, but that was because they are super strong! In the end, I was satisfied with my bike split (5:35) as I thought it was fast enough but did not leave me feeling depleted at all. In fact, after I handed my bike off to the volunteer in T2, I jogged to the change tent and immediately knew that my legs felt good! YAY!

So off I jogged onto the course and I after the first couple minutes I settled into the same pace I'd been running all my brick runs- actually a little slower (like 10"/mile slower) than I'd been training- and I felt perfect. Couldn't believe it- no twinges of cramping, stomach was good, energy levels were good, mentally I was good... It was all good! I ran by Teresa Nelson who was cheering and had the biggest goofiest grin on my face and I high fived her and told her I'd never felt better! I whooped it up with little kids at aid stations and sang out loud to fun songs playing on loud speakers and before I knew it I was at mile 7 just jamming along and wondering when it was going to get hard? I knew it was going to get hard at some point but I was trying to not rush it... thinking that every mile that passed by before it gets hard is one less hard mile I'm going to have to face at the end!
Interestingly, around mile 8 it started to feel a little harder. I say interestingly, because one change I made in training this year was to lengthen my brick run off my long rides... so most weeks my long brick was ~5 hours on the bike then a 7 mile run. So running 7 miles off the bike was an absolute no brainer in training (I did it probably 6x)... which made it also then a no-brainer in racing... So not super surprising then that when I entered territory I'd not exposed myself to in training that it started to feel harder. It wasn't crazy hard yet or anything and I managed to still pretty much hold pace but it just wasn't as light and fun and easy anymore.

After the turn around is when it actually got hard... which is the classic story, no? They say the race doesn't start until mile 13 of the run, which actually isn't true because these days the top girls are so strong that if you're not at least close at mile 13 you're not actually going to catch anyone unless they completely melt down... which is less and less likely as athletes gain experience with training for and racing this distance... nevertheless by mile 13 it definitely becomes very hard to hold pace. Maybe a mile or so after the turn around we faced a short but significant uphill and my left medial hamstring (semimembranosis for you PT types) completely seized up on me and stopped me in my tracks. YIKES! I hate that. I couldn't even stand up straight for a minute or two... just sort of stood there and held it until it released and then began walking... just willing myself to keep moving forward. Eventually I resumed jogging again but pretty much from that point on I was in crisis management mode and only managed to jog for a few minutes at a time before I would walk for a few seconds. I kept my walk breaks short but did them often... My goal was to prevent another full on seizure of that muscle that was clearly feeling pissy. I've had hamstring issues on that left side all year (pretty sure they are the root of my calf issues) so maybe I should not be surprised that 14 miles in it went out on me... In all honesty I'd choose this hamstring issue over a calf issue (if I had to pick) b/c the hamstring will release for me and I can (sort of) keep going vs when my calf goes, it GOES, and there's no pushing through that one. So in good news, my calves were fine for the whole marathon! My quads and hamstrings, notsomuch.

Anyway, the last 12 miles were hard. It was a full on sufferfest out there which is what I expected of course (duh- it's an ironman!) and I think I did a decent job talking/willing myself through it. So while the second 1/2 of the race was certainly slower than the first half, it wasn't as catastrophic of a meltdown as I've had in the past. I was still managing ~10' miles even with all the walking.
Anyway, the last bit felt super hard too because there were so many cheering spectators everywhere and it was hard to not get caught up in that and push just a little harder... muscularly though I just really could not push any harder and I was feeling twinges of cramping coming on again and I was just WILLING my legs to not cramp... don't cramp don't cramp don't cramp... then with the finish line just like 200 meters away I was swearing at myself trying to force myself to keep running and not walk... Funny though b/c in the pictures of my at the finish I look so happy (thanks Jill for all these great shots by the way!!) but I promise that in my head I was just swearing at myself because I wanted to stop and walk so badly! 
10:51 final time... interestingly my swim split was not a PR, my bike split was not a PR, my run split was not a PR, but my overall time was still a 3' PR. Overall, even with the mechanical meltdown there at the end of the marathon, I feel like I executed this one better than I've executed ironmans in the past. I think I fueled it well, my energy level stayed more consistently high than I've managed to pull off before, and my mental state was pretty good the whole time. I think that had I been more muscularly durable and ready for that long run, I might have been able to pull off a better 2nd half of the marathon, but at best maybe 10-12' faster. For this race I was focused on the process vs the outcome and hoping that if I nailed the process that I'd get the outcome I wanted... In the end I'd say I came pretty close to nailing the process... but honestly even if I'd 100% nailed the process I still would have missed the desired outcome because the girls in my age group were just that fast/strong. It took top 3 and a 10:34 for a Kona spot this year so unfortunately that was out of reach for me given my fitness level going into that race. I feel like I did the best I could with what I had on the day and I feel at peace with the race and how it all turned out. Of course I also already have a plan mapped out for addressing my mechanical limiter going forward so maybe I'll post more on that later... :)
Lastly, I want to send off a huge congratulations to all my athletes who raced this weekend... Sounded like IM Louisville was a brutal hot bloodbath... but Armando and Mary grit their teeth and finished even though they were not having their best days (Good JOB!!). Patrick managed to meltdown less than most of the other guys in his age group so he got rewarded with a Kona spot (YES!!). Clearly it was not a PR kind of day in Kentucky on Sunday but it doesn't always take a PR to qualify for Kona! In Canada though it was a different story... before the race Gene decided that 10:20 would be his perfect day- he's now got a new Ironman PR of 10:19! Krista was all smiles all day just crushing the whole damn race- finishing with a 3:59 marathon and a 48' PR at 11:02. AWESOME!! Once again Nalani proved to herself and everyone else that nobody does the back half of an Ironman marathon better- strong finish for her at 11:12. And Shane discovered he has a mechanical limiter like me so he battled some severe cramping on the marathon... together we will work on solving that pesky strength issue... So in the last few weeks Team BSC had 11 Ironman starters and 11 Ironman finishers... with 5 PR's and a Kona spot. We'll take it. :)

33 comments:

JC said...

AWESOME! You were fantastic out there. So great to meet you. Everytime I saw you on the course you were smiles and looked SO STRONG! Congratulations again - way to ROCK IT!

rr said...

So, Liza Rachetto and Judith Coyle are big fat cheaters? You know I had to go look. I'll save all your other readers some time. ;)

Congrats on the PR! Putting it all together is what it's all about. I am never anywhere near the top for any leg of an IM, were it just that one discipline race, but I am consistently pretty good across the three, and it usually pays off. (excuse me for that bit of vanity, but ykwim, right?)

Great race!

Mary IronMatron said...

Congrats on executing an awesome race, Michelle!

hailey said...

so stinky! 4th place is a good friend of mine and raced in St george where it was crazy- sorry to see a spot go to a drafter instead. AWESOME job on th PR!!

hailey said...

4th place is a good buddy of mine, so sad to see a spot go to a drafter instead! Congrats on the PR, awesome job!!

John O'Malley said...

RIGHT ON MAMA SIMMONS. You EARNED IT!!!!

Beth said...

Awesome job Michelle! Congrats on the PR in what appears to be just an overall strong race. :) If you figure out the cramping, let me know. My husband has the same exact problem in his marathons! UGH! Feel for you guys! Anyway, congrats again!!

Ange said...

What an awesome race!!!! I love how great you felt (til end of run of course) and how much ou smiled !!! You really did execute so well!!!!

Teresa said...

Loved seeing your smile out there!!! That kit looks great on you with your amazing tan!

RR cracks me up!!!

Way to go Michelle!

tn

Coffees of Hawaii said...

Congrats! How much sodium per hour on the bike?

Albert

Coffees of Hawaii said...

Congrats! How much sodium per hour on bike?

Albert

idropboys said...

Congrats!! IM PR on a tough course witha tough run - huge congrats to hang tough

Elizabeth Tobola said...

Great blog Michelle! You are very inspiring. I'm looking forward to getting back into a training routine soon!

Steve said...

Congrats. Those things don't seem very easy to me. :)

mmmonyka said...

Congrats on the new PR! And you did it even with those stupid muscle cramps. Just imagine when you do IM next time you will not have any cramp issues and that will another huge awesome PR! I cannot wait till that one. Have you signed up for your next IM already? :)

I hope you figure out why you often have those cramps in IM. Lack of electrolytes, over-compensating with that leg, leg-length discrepancy...? Good luck looking for the cause.

You really do only 7mile runs off the bike? I thought that you crazy IM athletes do like 16milers off the bike, or at least a few long runs off the bike. Interesting.

Recover well!

tejasrunnergirl said...

Omigosh, I was just going to go look up the drafters names but see glad RR did it for me. Now I think I'll hunt around to see if they have blogs and get their perspective on their fabulous races :) Good for you for calling them out, they totally deserve it! Great race report and congrats on the PR!

tejasrunnergirl said...

Omigosh, I was just going to go look up the drafters names but see glad RR did it for me. Now I think I'll hunt around to see if they have blogs and get their perspective on their fabulous races :) Good for you for calling them out, they totally deserve it! Great race report and congrats on the PR!

Katie said...

Awesome job, Michelle! Congrats on the PR and having a consistently strong race :)!

Jennifer Harrison said...

Congrats on your PR, Michelle and so great to see your smiles is right! And, good luck w/ your cramps and getting to the bottom of that!! Enjoy your rest!

Shevaun said...

Great report! I friend of mine racing IMC was within 3-4 minutes of you all day. He said you came charging past him at mile 22 looking really strong.

Damie said...

okay- first off, great race. 2ndly, congrats to BSC athletes- what a great weekend. YES- on calling people out. Nothing pissed me off more than to see a girl at IMTX completely rotating with another guy- getting a red card- and continuing to do it b/c she already got her penalty. She was not my AG, but I was very pissed to see her get a Kona slot and to hear my friend that coaches her brag about her performance on her blog. I thought...you mean her cheating? It is something awful to witness. But, enough about that- so proud of you. I have some thoughts- will email.

Val said...

Getting into your blog as I contemplate my first Ironman in 9/2013. Great post and congrats on a great race! Noticed you were surprise not to get "beat up" during the swim start. How did you adjust to getting kicked/punched/elbowed etc? That's my biggest fear/challenge right now. If you feel so inclined, I'd love some advice! Congrats again!

JB said...

Michelle -

Thanks for a great race report. Sucks to hear about the drafters. One of my close friends is Pia Scaroni (4th). She and I were recently training (i was hanging on to her wheel for dear life!) on the Big Island as she prepped for Canada and he was really bummed to just miss a Kona slot. Thanks for your honest report and especially or calling out blatant drafters.

Jordan

JB said...

Michelle -

Thanks for a great race report. Sucks to hear about the drafters. One of my close friends is Pia Scaroni (4th). She and I were recently training (i was hanging on to her wheel for dear life!) on the Big Island as she prepped for Canada and he was really bummed to just miss a Kona slot. Thanks for your honest report and especially or calling out blatant drafters.

Jordan

Molly said...

Congratulations on a strong race and the PR! Such a gorgeous course and perfect weather for us out there. Glad to see you again!!!

Kim said...

You are absolutely shining in every picture! Congrats to you & your entire BSC crew. You must be proud in so many ways!

Kim said...

You are absolutely shining in every picture! Congrats to you & your entire BSC crew. You must be proud in so many ways!

Kim said...

You are absolutely shining in every picture! Congrats to you & your entire BSC crew. You must be proud in so many ways!

Melissa said...

Great race report.

mtanner said...

Best report Mama! Love the top picture of you. That is how I always pictured you. Love your insight to the day. Cheaters suck. esp. for the big dance.

thesarcastictriathlete said...

Ahhhh cheaters! Congrats on a solid and honest race. Glad you liked Canada eh.

Katie said...

I really enjoy your race reports. Congrats on a great one, sistah!

And I say to call out the big fat cheaters!

Libby said...

love love love your honest assessment of your race- can totally see the coach in you. hate that there were so many blantant drafters, that is so discouraging and disappointing. all in all you had a great day out there and executed well! congrats! wish I could peak at that hammy for you! ugh! congrats on the PR and putting together a solid race.