As I mentioned in my pre-race posts, I was ready. I was confident. I was calm. While you never know what will happen on race day, for the first time in my active life I knew and believed in myself and what I was capable of doing out there on the course. I didn't question that I could swim between a 1:07-1:10 or bike a sub 6 hour, and I just KNEW (thanks coach for the help on this) I could run around a 4 hour marathon.
Race morning went off without a glitch. We had 9 racers with us, 4 first timers. The nerves weren't crazy and spirits were high. Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the water for the swim start…..Let's start this thing!
The swim is tough. While I only have IM Canada to compare to, this swim course never seizes to fail on the difficulty side. The start is complete chaos and for over a half of a mile you really don't get to "swim." It's mostly head out of water damage control while you try not to get kicked (which I did), punched (which I did) and pulled under (which I did). I'm thankful I knew what I was in for though, so I just stayed calm and did what I could to try to find some open space. I got out of the first loop at about :34:30…. Forgetting that the second loop was a little longer as we have to head back in for loop 2 at an angle adding some distance, I figured I could still swim sub 1:10. I wasn't looking for an IM PR as I knew this would be slower than my 1:04 Canada swim time. The cold water (~54 degrees) started to get to me and while my core (thank you new TYR Hurricane wetsuit) and head (love the nerdy skull cap) were warm, my arms felt like they were completely locked up and I had no control over my swim stroke. As I rounded the first buoy on the second loop there were some pretty big swells that were accompanied by the taste and smell of gasoline. I was taking in water every time I took a breath to the left, which unfortunately is where I was trying to breath and sight….
I exited the water at 1:11 ~ 7min swim course PR. I'll take it :-)
T1 was pretty uneventful - I ran to the end of the changing tent with lots of open space and had an amazing volunteer help me out. I had prepared for the cold with toe warmers on my shoes, arm warmers, long finger gloves and a wind vest. It was the perfect combination to get me thawed out and also easy to toss the layers as it warmed up.
As I headed out on the first out and back I eased into my rhythm. My legs were not there yet, still trying to get warmed up from the arctic swim. I didn't let the people passing me get to my head as I knew they'd pay for it. I was able to see my coach, teammate Nalani (who had the fastest female age group swim time of the day!) and my competition for the day, Daniel (about :15mins behind me).
Without going into all the small never ending details of the bike, I'll try to sum it up as I just didn't have it. My legs finally warmed up about 2hours into the ride, but I was struggling to get my nutrition in. I had a set plan, a set amount of calories that I had practiced for 5 months, including a half IM that went flawlessly. My stomach felt bloated and upset the entire ride, and I was pretty sure it was from too much lake water. I finished the first loop in just at 3 hours and got a huge boost from our support team cheers! I was hopeful I could keep the pace, if not somehow take off a minute or 2 to still get under 6hours, but I was basically in survival mode trying to get in as many calories as possible. I was drinking like crazy, but yet still hadn't peed. I made some adjustments to my nutrition taking in gels instead of my last powerbar, and continued with my plan of 2 x e21s per hour.
I slowed a little bit off my pace when I had to stop to refill my water bottle and eased up the pace to help the stomach upset, but knew the last 15miles were pretty flat & I could make up some speed. Unfortunately, at mile 95 my Garmin popped off my wrist and realized the rest of my day would have to be altered since I had planned on using the garmin avg pace for the entire marathon.
I finished the bike in 6:05, just slightly over my goal but still a :27min course PR.
A quick change of shorts and a potty break & I was out of T-2 in less than 3 mins!
Immediately into the run I didn't feel right. My plan was to use my garmin and hold a 9min avg pace for the first 2-3 miles and then give it whatever I had for the rest of the race. My training supported this and I felt confident in my ability to run strong. I had a gel flask with a combination of caffeine/non caffeine gels to help with my energy for the first half and planned on using the aid stations and coke to get me thru the second half. Without the garmin I had a plan B of hitting splits on my watch to see the mile pace and try to use PE to get me to the right pace to start out. I hit the first mile at about 9mins, but it didn't feel easy. My stomach was really upset and I felt like my tri-top was suffocating me and putting pressure on my bloated tummy.
By mile 2 I had slowed to about a 9:15 pace and wondering how I was going to make it. By mile 3 I couldn't figure out what I could do to make my stomach feel better so I stopped, took my tri-top off and tucked it into my shorts to carry until I could hand it off to someone I knew. This right here should give a clue to how I felt as I have NEVER ever EVER run in just a sports bra. I could care less though. I started walking thru the aid stations drinking water and perform and running between. Here I am only 4 mile into the race and my plan had gone to shit. I was struggling to run like I thought I could, and forcing calories in. I was terrified of feeling like I did in Canada when I had my colossal bonk at mile 16 leading me to walk for 5 miles so I just kept forcing the calories in. I was able to run between aid stations until the hill (the new run course is WAY harder than the old one with these added hills). But I did make up some time on the down hills. My hamstring/glute issue I had been having for a couple weeks was acting up in full force so pretty much I just started feeling like I was sinking into a hole I wasn't sure I could get out of….
I was starting to wonder how much time I had on Daniel. If I was fading this bad, and he was running strong, he was surely going to catch me. As I headed back in towards transition around mile 10 I saw Daniel, looking strong but I realized I had about 7 miles on him and unless he busted out some 8min miles and I walked the rest of the race, he wasn't going to catch me. It lifted my spirits a bit, and I started running in. Shane met me somewhere over the next few miles as I was heading out for my second loop (I think, it's all kinda a blur). I was really struggling and not sure (again) how I could make it. My stomach was killing me and even though I had Shane telling me how I wasn't going to give in, how I had worked too hard for this to give up, I ended up on the side of the road dry heaving and gagging. Next up was a trip to the porta potty to see if trying to pee would help take pressure out of my stomach, but the condition of it was so awful all it did was make me gag more….. Shane told me that everyone he saw was hurting. He had never seen so many people throwing up, looking like death & that most of our group was walking the marathon. While, I hated that others were feeling crappy I have to admit that I was glad I wasn't alone….
DAMN LAKE WATER
I found (made) a friend to run with for the next 10k or so. She was on her first loop and having bad stomach issues so we just kept each other company by getting ourselves from aid station to aid station. Somewhere around mile 21 I think, when I passed Jessie and her daughter cheering (4 times by them was awesome!) and I got a second wind. I'm not sure I've ever gotten such a boost as I did going past this area each time as the infamous Emma was shouting on the microphone. It gave me just what I needed to get to the last couple of miles where I knew Shane would be waiting.
I'd done the math over and over and realized I wouldn't be having a PR over Canada's 11:50, but made a new goal of sub 12. I knew exactly what I had to do to get to it and with Shane's help over the last 2 miles, and pure determination I did it. I headed down Sherman with a big fat smile on my face crossing the finish line in 11:59:14. ~1hour and 10min course PR.
Run time 4:34:14, a 2 min IM Marathon PR & a ~30min course PR.
While this wasn't my best IM time, it was absolutely the hardest effort to get there. I feel proud of what I did on Sunday. Proud of the hard work I put into the training, the recovery and most of all that I didn't give up no matter how bad I felt. It's been an amazing journey and I've made strides I never thought possible. It doesn't get much better than that. I can't thank our supporters enough for being out there all day long on the course, online tracking and most of all to my husband for having more faith in me than I thought possible. Even enough to put $100 on the table to help push me there.
After all, a bet is a bet.