What a season! The 2013 racing year ended yesterday with Ironman Arizona. It's been quite the adventure...I encountered obstacles this year that I never thought I would ever have to hurdle...mostly just due to bad luck! But I look at it as all part of the learning process. All part of the journey. You can't look back, only forward.
The day began at 4am on Sunday, November 17th. I woke up and did a round of my activation exercises and some swim tubing, before changing and getting into my race gear. Then I had a pre-race breakfast of a bagel with PB and banana, coffee, water and some Pepto Bismal. I headed to the race site at around 5am, encountered some unexpected traffic, which was a tad stressful, but made it to transition about an hour before race start. I set up my bike: garmin, shoes in pedals, made sure that my brakes weren't rubbing, bike was in an easy gear, water bottles secured...Then I did a little walk through of transition, checked on my gear bags. Then got my wetsuit on and said a quick hi and goodbye to Papa.
All the athletes gathered at the front of the Swim Start arch. Pros in the front, followed by about 3000 age groupers! I was really not that nervous. I was just excited! There was no pressure for this race. I just was there for the experience, which was very calming. Before I knew it I was jumping off the pier into the water and swimming towards the start buoys. I felt good, strong and full of energy. I was ready.
The gun went off and about 26 of us female Pros were off! I started strong, determined to get with a good group of swimmers. I saw about 5 people take off up ahead. This would be the pack of the strongest swmmers: to 50 - 53 minute type. I knew that their pace would be too fast for me for 3800m so I didn't try to catch them. I ended up swimming beside another female for about 500m. I couldn't see a thing in front of me (I need to get new goggles) so I used her to sight. However, I could tell she was starting to slow and I didn't want to back off the pace that much. I had no choice but to keep going and hope that I was swimming in a straight line. I am sure that I wasn't, but I was all alone and really had no other option. I stayed calm and hoped for the best! Eventually I hit the turnaround buoy and was happy, because I would no longer be swimming straight into the sun. However, it was still difficult to see on the way back. I was sighting almost every stroke and my hip flexors were tightening up. Luckily I still felt strong and my energy wasn't fading at all. Finally, I reached the last turn buoy, but I couldn't see the swim exit. So, what did I do? Stopped, took off my goggles and looked around to see where I was going. I saw the swim exit and quickly put my goggles back on and sprinted towards it! I exited the swim in around 57 minutes. I was hoping for 56 minutes, but goal really was to be in the lead of the chase group and I think I kind of was the chase group! So I had accomplished my goal.
My first transition was a little rocky. I had my wetsuit halfway off, grabbed my gear bag and put my goggles and cap in my gear bag and my my helmet on while running. Ya! I thought I was so good. Then I realized that I had dropped my gear bag off and still had my wetsuit on! OOPS! So I was close to my bike, when I had to run back to the change tent. The AWESOME volunteers stripped off my wetsuit and put it in my bag for me. Then I ran back to my bike and all went smoothly from there.
The bike started out and I was a little chilly. Nonetheless, I was enjoying it. I smiled as I tried to keep my power in check - high zone 2 or 3.2W/kg. This was much more fun than pushing 3.8W/kg, which is typical for me for a half-ironman. It was a 3-looped course, which made it a little more fun, I think. The first half is a gradual uphill, then a gradual downhill back. We had a bit of a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the return. I got passed by about 5 girls in the first 40km of the bike. I was calm though. I had been told that patience was key to a successful ironman, so I focused on my power and didn't worry about the girls ahead. I finished my first loop of the bike in 1hr41mins, so my goal was around 5 hours on the bike. I really started to feel my best once the temperatures warmed, during the middle of the second loop of the bike. I felt so strong, so powerful. However, I did hit a pothole and off flew my water bottle with my concentrated eload/FLY/salt tablet drink. I debated stopping to grab it, but it had rolled too far away from me and I couldn't have stopped to grab it. I would have to rely on the aid stations for fluid, and the extra calories from eLoad gels, but I had NO extra salt tablets :( I pushed the thought of possible cramping to the back of my mind and focused on the things I could control...my power, cadence and heart rate were all on target. I finished the first 90km of the bike in 2hr36min (not bad, considering my half-IM bike splits last year were all in the 2:40s!). Then at around 100km I REALLY had to pee...I thought about peeing on the bike. Apparently that's what most people do...so I tried, but I couldn't! So I held it in for the next 80km...eek. I still felt strong, even though I had to pee...so I used that to distract myself. I actually felt good until about the last 20km of the bike, then my power started drifting into the mid-zone 2 area. I had been warned that I would start to fade in the last 30km so I was prepared for it. I focused on keeping on task, pushing hard enough to stay strong, but not too far beyond my comfort level. Before I knew it I was heading into T2, with a time of 5hrs1min and 2hr25min last 90km!
My second transition went better than the first. The volunteers handed me my run gear bag, then one volunteer put sunscreen on my, the other put my running shoes on and the other put my race belt on for me! I felt like a queen. In not too long I was out on the run course...within the first few 100 meters I saw exactly what I needed...a portopotty so that I could pee! After what was probably the longest pee of my life I was finally ready for the marathon.
The run started out good. I was holding around 4:30 - 4:40/km pace and feeling good. I was taking in water and my gels at regular intervals and I was enjoying myself...this continued until about 10 miles into the run. My quads started cramping, my stomach was not wanting any more nutrition and my pace was slowing...my lack of taking in salt during the bike ride was catching up to me. I got myself through the next 10 miles by taking chips and licking the salt off pretzels that were provided at the aid stations. Seeing Papa cheering at mile 13 and mile 15 helped too! With 6 miles to go, my run turned into a shuffle. And I got the hiccups! REALLY painful ones at that :( So I hiccupped and shuffled towards the finish line, determined to break 3:40 for the marathon...I just had to. My thoughts turned to all of my supporters at this point...I heard Pete K's advice that I had to "have a positive attitude and let it take me to the finish line", I thought of Faye sending me a fruit basket to help me through the tough times in training the past month, my hosts in St. George who believed in me (Kirk and Charity), my cheerleaders during the race (Papa, Bob's family, Deb and Jon), I thought of all the other people who went out of their way to help me get to where I was, my amazing sponsors (WattsUp, eload, Urban Athlete, Enduro Sport, Scott Judges at Fitt1st, Raymond James Financial, Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management) and all the love I have received and feel for everyone involved in my journey. I finished the run in 3hr35 which got me an overall time of 9hr38min and 1st Canadian female, 14th female overall! And that's the end of my 2013 season! I look forward to an exciting 2014...but, first, it's time for some deep fried food and a nice cold glass (or several) of Pinot Grigio!