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Monday, December 15, 2008

Ironman Arizona...Race Report

Okay, so most of you believed I could do it. I can honestly say- I was starting to wonder if I could as well. 3 Ironmans in 3 Mos- actually, in 57 days. That is a feat only Joe Bonness or Hilary Biscay would attempt, and be really good at. I had some great results thus far at IM UK, taking 4th in AG and finishing in 11:45- a brutal day, weather-wise, and the course wasn't too easy. Then, Kona- of course, beautiful scenery and demoralizing humidity- 11:54, finishing time. Going into Arizona, I was really really hoping to finish in under 12 hours- and praying that my body would hold up and I wouldn't snap an Achilles or strain my IT band and have to pull out. Who knows what you start to think going into a final race- especially when having raced for so long the entire year- and having 2 very long, intense races under your belt prior.

I drove myself to Arizona- Tempe, to be exact. I was having a dear friend of mine from the Midwest, Nicole, come and meet me there. Last time she was at a race of mine, I took home 2nd Place overall and $250. So, she had been good luck in the past. I could hope for better weather than both the UK and Kona- at least, weather that resembled Santa Clarita. Leading up to Arizona, after taking 1 week off after Kona and doing some easy swimming and spinning, I made up a "loose" training plan to lead up to Arizona. Basically- do what I felt like each day, and make sure that I got in at least 1 longer workout a week in each discipline. I ended up only swimming a few times, but did multiple indoor bike workouts- some of which were 2-3 hours, Interval training focused. My runs, I kept off the pavement and made routine drives to go run on trails and on the grass- like Santa Monica, San Vicente...

I got into Arizona and met up with Mike, a friend of mine from college. He took me out and had dinner. Then, the next few days, I just chilled out at the hotel and did some exploring of the course. I had my car, which was really nice- I was able to have that freedom to check things out and drop my stuff off when I wanted..didn't need to wait for anyone to give me a ride, or pick anyone up. I liked that- a lot less stressful.

The days leading up the race, I was actually nervous. Can't say why exactly, but I had some doubt that I hadn't yet felt this year. Perhaps my last "hurrah"- so, I didn't want to screw up my last race. I called my mom- asked for her advice, she gave me some good luck, and after I cried a few times, I felt better. Yeah, I cried. I was super nervous. Nic was getting in very late the night before the race, so I slept lightly until she got into the room at 11 at night. It didn't matter- I was mentally ready, and I told myself- this would all be over in less than 24 hours.

Woke up, drove to the start. Got my bike checked one last time. It was going to be a great day to have a fast bike if I did everything right. I was mentally ready to crush this mo-fo. I was embarassed at Kona- I am not kidding. I thought I should have ridden a lot faster, and I didn't want to do that again. I had worked my ass off on that thing, and I was determined to show myself that I could ride a sub-6 hour bike in an Ironman. No excuses today. I was going to ride hard, and if I blew up in the run, I would- the bike, I needed it for my own sanity.

The swim was a great start- Tempe Town Lake. Dirty, dirty...cold as hell... and a 'jump in' water start. I am the kid at the end of the pool who dips her toes in, then up to the ankles, then to the knees..then...maybe 10 mins later, "in". I hate a jump in start- that is just mean. But, I went in with a new (cute) friend- he counted down, and I couldn't help but jump in with him and follow him to the start buoys.

I love the music before the start- they have such goofy songs to play before the Ironman. I mean, it is a long long race- you would think maybe they would play something a bit more mellow...yet still intense...maybe a bit meditative- no, they play AC/DC 'Thunderstruck'- last IM in Wisconsin- Eminem. Cracks me up- but, got me fired up. Did one last 'P' and was ready for one last long day.

The swim was an out and back. Felt great the entire time...despite the lack of swimming I had done after Kona. I was still in great swim shape, and let me tell you- the roughest swim I have had. Mean, mean people- smacking my head, I don't know how many times. I am not scared- I will get up in that mess. I am an agressive swimmer myself, but honestly- I don't hit people 'harder' on purpose. Some of these athletes get so agro. Funny, it really is.

I headed back into the finish and ran up the stairs. Lots of volunteers there to strip the way. I can take off my own. I had swam in 1:01. Not too bad...Looking good going into T1. Got my bike stuff on, and ready to head off onto the 3-lap course. That was going to be the hardest part of the day- going 3 x's around the same course. But, would be predictable and easy to pace if I did it correctly.

I won't tell you about the entire bike. Just that I hated the first lap, and then it got better after mile 40 or so. Didn't have any malfunctions- Dominique fixed my Kuota up super fine after Kona, so it was running perfectly. I had a great 3rd lap- met a friend along the way, and a few 'not-so-nice' riders. One guy in particular had some beef with me b/c I talked smack about him eating on the bike and not paying attention. He said something to me in Spanish- I understood, but played it off like I didn't. I beat him into T2, so that should have said enough. Coach Nic was taking pics the entire time and she was there everytime I came around for the laps. Damn, I felt good today... Super sunny, and in the 80s. Perfect riding day.

I came in off the bike, and holy sh$t, I rode a 5:31. Yeah, it wasn't too hilly- but the wind was a challenge for us, and you had to bike it smart so that you didn't mash too hard- wondering how the run would feel. I got into T2- penalty/free this time- and changed into my customary marathon apparel. I didn't know it at the time, but I was 3rd in my AG coming off the bike. So, in good position for a Kona spot again.

The run would also be 3 laps. Good because there were lots of people cheering you on. Bad because it was the lap thing again, and it was a bit up and down in spots. Hard on the legs, really is- especially when it is all pavement. The first 6 miles were tough- mainly b/c it was still hot, and not shaded at all. I was holding a 8:45 pace- and then, mile 12, I was feeling a bit hungry and light-headed. Needed to eat a bit more. I had 1 Clif bar on the bike- 16 salt pills, and about 8 gels. Close to 4 Gatorade bottles..enough calories for what I was expending for sure. Just needed a wee-bit more. So, took it a bit easier until mile 20, then my goal was to get under 11 hours. I could do it if I really hustled- and perhaps ran 8:30 miles. It would be a lot to ask, but so darn close.

I was close. 11:01. I missed it by 1 min. And only got passed on the run by 1 other chick in my AG- so, I finished 4th. Not too bad for my 3rd IM in that short amount of time- 4th in UK, 4th in AZ. I had a great, great race, and I was super excited when I was done. Nic and I went straight over to get a beer and Quesadilla at Hooters- of all places, and then met Mike at Applebees for a Oreo Shake.

Onto next year:
*New Age Group: 30-34
New Orleans 70.3
Wildflower Long Course
Ironman France
Ironman Louisville

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kona Final.. Race Day

Woke up at picked up by Lisa and her family. Had my breakfast and my coffee...and, got ready to head to transition for body marking..

The transition area in Kona was really similar to any other, except it was much more organized and they had nice, fake green grass down on the ground around the bikes. Our T1 and T2 bags were hung neatly and our escorts were there in the morning handing out extra bike pumps to make sure we were perfect. No wetsuits to worry about in the swim, so got in line for the bathroom, and headed close to the water. I decided not to wear the skin suit- I will swim like I swim, with nothing on but my sports bra and shorts, and call it good. I was freshly shaven and I felt damn fast anyway..who needs a skinsuit...

The swim start is in the water, and it takes a few moments before they set off the canon. And, hopefully, I won't be right under it, or maybe I will.. Seriously, right under it. It was so loud, and all I could think about was, "this was going to be a long day...have fun". The last two words I said to myself- HAVE FUN.

The swim was very unique and almost calming. It was beautiful how clear it was, and all the fish I had seen the 4 days before were the same- they were not aware of us swimming around in their world. Or, maybe they were- no one noticed. I followed all of the feet to the big boat turnaround- just one turn, that was it. A very straight forward swim, actually. I had reached the turnaround, and had felt a few feet in front of me. I thought they were feet- but, in fact, it was one of the amputees. I was a bit shocked, but then a bit humbled all at the same time. It was pretty amazing to me to know that I was racing with these athletes, without equality in limbs, but with so much passion, drive, and spirit- it really made me happy to be alive and healthy.

I finished the swim, and was feeling great. I had swam a 1:10, which was about 10 minutes slower than my wetsuit time, but honestly, I was happy. I wanted to get changed and get on the bike. I have never really looked forward to this part of the race, and especially this one- I knew the wind was an obvious force and had no idea just how gnarly it was going to be. But, let's just say I was up for anything, and there was no turning back.

The first 30-40 miles were not too bad. Cyclists around me even after 30 miles had white rings around their pants where their sweat had run. I looked at me- same story. I had already started popping salt pills, and after 3 hours, had taken about 10 or so. I had planned to take 30 on the bike, and had enough to last me. I was confident in my nutrition that way. We headed up to Hawi- to the turnaround. It was a very pleasant STRONG SIDE-HEAD wind- not sure what the hell you wanted to call it. All I know was that you couldn't ride aero- no matter who you were. If you were 300 lbs, you couldn't. This wind was serious, but I was singing the whole time. No way was I going to get mad or fight it. I went with it, and knew..only 20 miles and then we can get a little help on the way back...just mind the nutrition.

Turnaround- it was great. People there cheering, and an instant downhill for a bit. The next 30 miles were a bit more of the same, but I kept my cadence high and didn't fight too much. I figured this was a bonus for me. Come mile 90-110 or so, I was in great shape and I actually passed a lot of people who were just dying. A bit too hard in the beginning and now people were in trouble. I actually ran into my friend Graham and he needed some more salt. So, I gave him a few pills- it was going to be a long marathon for him.

Come Mile 105, I had a interesting interruption- a guy in black and white stripes on a motorcycle wanted to bust me for drafting behind the Navy Seal champion guy...the big handsome black dude- do you know him? Anyway, I was only behind him 10 feet when the guy flashed me the red card. I was like, where is the next penalty tent- I am practically on the run.. He said, "In T2- you are probably tired and want a rest anyway- that will be 4 minutes". Funny- the only penalty I have ever gotten, and it was at the World Championships.

I got to the tent- peed, and had a chat with Kathy. Then, got to my T2 gear, changed up for the run, and then headed off to Ali'i drive. Yes, 26.2 miles to go. I don't remember too much about the run except for miles 12-20 out to the energy lab totally sucked- I mean, I was holding 8:45 pace, but that just slowed me down to a 9min mile pace...and I was feeling so tired. I was hoping I would find my 2nd wind...and praying to get out of the lab to the last 10K. You know you have done an IM or two when you start praying for mile 20 of the marathon and hoping to descend your last 10K.

I got out of the energy lab, and had my last solace in a bottle of vaseline, which I spread all over my underarms and thighs. I was greased perfectly, and I even ran by a bag of M&Ms- a huge bag, someone must have had in their special needs, but didn't need. I thought about taking a handful, but didn't have the energy to pick it up. I had 6 miles left, and I wanted to finish before dark. I WAS NOT GOING TO TAKE A GLOW STICK. HELL NO. So, I turned on all the adrenaline I could muster, and looked at my watch- I could definitely whip out a sub 12-hour Kona if I paced this just right and didn't blow. I was on my way...

Mile 23, great. 24, even better. Mile 25- the best sign in the world at this point. You should see me sprint the last mile of the IM Marathon. I look like I have the biggest diaper on that you have ever seen- not sure my hips moved that way. And, my poor feet! I was sprinting, though..and I crossed the line, felt great, and didn't need much help. I was a 2x Ironman and had the biggest smile on my face. I conquered Kona, like my mom said, and it was the most amazing feeling I have had in a long time.

1 more to go...Ironman Arizona...5 weeks...can she do it? Report to follow...

Clancy, Mike and I

Clancy, Mike and I
SB Tri Finishers- Nice Tiles!