Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

I came to Wisconsin to try to win my first Ironman title. In no way did I think anyone was going to hand it to me or I would walk away easily with a win. But I was prepared to go down fighting for it. I think I accomplished what I came to do - other than the win portion at least.

The day before the race I was excited and ready. I went to bed the night before, lay there for an hour and started to feel incredibly nauseous. WHAT?! Nooooooooooo!!!!! Body what is wrong with you?! Why do I feel sick?! I slept maybe 2 hours, then it was time to get up, force down half a bowl of rice cereal which I was sure I was going to puke back up and go about pre-race preparedness, scared to death I was not going to be able to race. At all.

Swim start - photo Ali Engin.

By the time I lined up for the swim I didn't think I was going to throw up anymore, but in no way did I feel fresh and ready to duke it out for an Ironman race. I kept telling myself I would probably keep feeling better and better as the day went on. There will always be things that do not go right on race day, this was mine. [Insert sarcastic YAY! here]

The gun went off, I got on some feet, swam hard, passed some feet, got on some others, and got somewhat overheated in my comfortable wetsuit. On the long section on the back side of the course it was choppy and I decided it best to just sit in behind the feet I was on, rather than power through the choppy waves solo. I tried not to be the-annoying-girl-tapping-feet of the leader. I am sure I failed. By the turn I pulled ahead and led our little B-group of swimmers in to shore.

SWIM = 1:00

I exited the water 4th (with another pro female) in an hour flat and was happy to be done with that portion. I did not feel well. I figured I needed to get onto the bike and get some fluid and calories in and I would feel better.

The first 35 miles of the bike were miserable. I took in fluid and calories and still felt horrible. I was trying to race and was moving backwards. Several girls passed me and I had nothing to even attempt to go with them. I wanted to cry. Instead I kept reminding myself I would come around. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise and it would keep me from going out too hard?? Ironman is in fact a long day. I tried not to get angry at my body that it seemed to be failing me on one of the more important racing days. I threw up once and was actually excited about this because I thought I might feel better. It didn't really happen, instead I just had to make sure I stayed on top of calories better to replace those lost.

Finally, once I hit the first of the climbs I started to come around. My stomach started feeling better. A guy with a drum chased me up the large steep climb and I found myself smiling for the first time all day. It was a huge relief to realize I could now move from scared-to-death to okay-let's-race-and-get-back-in-this-game!

I spent the remainder of the bike climbing my way back up from the 7th place I had fallen to. I smiled, I raced, and I truly really enjoyed the rest of the ride. I knew my chances at a win were most likely gone (I was getting splits that I was 14 minutes back of the leader), but I felt good and it was a beautiful day to race my bike in the hills of Wisconsin!

 Photo Ali Engin.

BIKE = 5:29

I came off the bike in 5th position and knew I was in a good place to hopefully run some girls down. Within the first few miles I had moved into 3rd and was joined by my friend and Cannondale and Zoot teammate Beth. We live in the same town and occasionally train together, so we did our best to encourage each other, work together, and mostly get both of us moving faster and higher up the podium.

 Photo Ali Engin.

The crowds and volunteers, along with our bike escort were great. We look a bit like twins (except Beth forgot to braid her hair!) so it seemed to result in more cheering. We cruised along taking chunks of time out of the leader's 14 minute lead - it dropped to 9, 6, 4, we were going to do this! The 2nd place girl was running just as fast as we were and moved into the lead, giving us a new carrot to chase. We each had bad patches and when we did, the other one took the lead. Around mile 14ish I had one of these bad patches and fell back a bit. The gap opened up a little (we were running in 3rd and 4th at this point - but during my bad patch moved into 2nd and 3rd). I came back around but was struggling to close down the gap that had opened. 

Photo Ali Engin.

Beth and I are both great runners and being able to feed off each other and help each other for those first 14 miles was a part of Ironman racing I absolutely loved. I often think there are scenarios that enhance racing to a level you can not even imagine in training and this one was one of those great moments. Racing on the edge and trying to eek every possible bit of speed out of your legs is exciting. Around mile 21 I was still focused on closing down the gap and knew I needed more calories. I grabbed one of my gels and as soon as I took a gulp, it was almost a gag reflux and I puked all of it back up. Ughhhhhhhhh yikes no - I need those calories IN ME! My stomach felt fine, but my body was done with gels for the day. Thank goodness for Coke.

In the end I was not able to close down the gap and Beth deserved every piece of her 2nd place as she ran a 2:59! I am extremely competitive though, and although she is my friend, it was a bit bittersweet for me that I was unable to stick it out with her on this particular race day.

Photo Ali Engin.

However, good things seemed to come in pairs and just before mile 23 I picked up my friend Jesse on the course. He had mechanical problems on the bike that forced him to the side of the road and to the back of the men's pro field. But Jesse has an amazing attitude and not once in those final 3 miles did he complain about his day. He exemplifies true sportsmanship. He picked me up along the course, kept me moving, made me laugh and forced me to stop thinking about bonking or tired legs. 

RUN = 3:05

I ended up 3rd and I can honestly say I am very happy with this race. I did not get the win I was looking for, but there are moments I had (both good and bad) during this race that I would not trade for anything. 

My mom greeted me at the finish and you would have thought I had won based on her excitement.

Congrats to Elizabeth Lyles on the win, she had an awesome race! And of course Beth on 2nd, Kathleen who I always enjoy racing - we go back to the days of racing Kona as age groupers together, and Hillary. These women are tough as nails and bring the best out of each of us.

TOTAL = 9:43, 3rd Place

  • Coach Elliot - Thank you for laughing with me, pulling me back and pushing me. I take back all the times I cursed you during recent workouts! :)
  • Zoot -Teamwork!
  • Profile - fast wheels, great aero bars and hydration!
  • Cannondale - my Slice is NICE!!
  • Extreme Endurance -best way to recover!
  • Tribe Multisport - It is great to have a supportive bike shop on my team!
  • Powerbar - scientifically tested fueling that tastes great - green apple gels are my favorite!
  • Rudy Project - Love my helmet & sunglasses. Especially the green ones!
  • - I love both my jobs.