Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ironman CDA, the race on the surface of the sun

I wanted to get this post out while it's still fresh on my mind, pain in my body and a slight hangover from yesterday's celebration.

Ironman is hard.  Even on a day with perfect conditions it will test your body, it will test your mind.  You can train 20 hours a week or 6 hours a week and the end result is going to come down to how well you EXECUTE a plan, and what kind of grit you can pull out on the day.

Last year training for this race everything went flawless.  I followed my plan to a T, I rested and I recovered.  This year was a little chaotic with a lot of travel then followed by 6 weeks of caring for sick dogs and packing up to move to CDA for the summer.  I wasn't resting, I wasn't recovering and all of my workouts were not the quality I would like.  However, in the last couple of weeks leading up to the race my dogs were recovering, my stress was low and I was doing what I needed to get my body and mind race ready.  I was feeling great!

In addition to getting myself ready, I had my biggest year of coaching and 5 amazing athletes getting ready to race CDA as well.  We were dialing in our race strategies with fueling, hydration and pacing.  They all had a plan and they were ALL very ready to race an Ironman.  The 10 day forecast came next and this is where everything began to change.  Honestly, I never actually believed it was going to be 100+.  This was my 5th time racing Ironman CDA, and it has NEVER been over 85degrees.

As the days clicked off and the weather only got worse, it was time to adjust our plans.  All but one of my athletes lives in Arizona.  We train and we suffer in heat, we know what it takes.  That said, we do NOT go run a marathon after being out in the heat and already training for 6+hours.  We wake up early and we get as much done before the sun is up and the temps are blazing.

As part of TeamBSC all of our athletes are getting the personal coaching from either Michelle or myself, but in addition they get a community and support of a team as a whole.  While we were all getting race ready and adjusting our plans Michelle was doing research.  She was having 1:1 discussions with the Osmo creator Stacy Sims getting exact details on what we should be doing to stay hydrated in this heat.  We all adjusted our plans (drink ALL the OSMO) doing everything in our power to keep our bodies healthy.

Before going into my race report, I just want to say that my day was hands down made 100 times better being able to watch every single one of my athletes out there on the course fighting through the conditions, sticking to their plan, not once even considering giving up and doing it ALL with a smile and high 5 when I would see them.  Those smiles and seeing them out there only pushed me harder when my body wanted to do nothing more than stop and or walk.  I can't thank you all enough for making me so proud, and helping me out there even if you didn't know you were.

My 2015 race!

Before the weather forecast my plan was to swim strong, bike strong and have the run of my life.  I had been given some intel on my competition and I knew it was TOUGH.  I knew a Kona slot was a long shot, but it's Ironman and anything is possible.  While I may not be the fastest one out there I know how to execute a race.  I have been training with power for a year now, and I knew exactly where I needed to be to have a solid day on the course.  I was able to do a few of my long training rides out on the hilly section, and had my numbers dialed in.  On a light wind day I estimated a 5:50 bike split.  Holding my power, and eating all of my nutrition and hydration would set me up to run about a 3:45-3:50 marathon.  I had been training out on the course and had no problem running 8:30's -8:40's on trashed legs.  With a 1:05-1:06 swim I figured a 10:45-10:55  would put me in contention for a podium spot, and then give me a shot at Kona.

And then the 105 degree forecast happened.  My swim and bike plan did not change, with the exception of having to basically double my hydration plan.  This meant not only stopping at special needs (planned) for Osmo refills, but also going through EVERY single aid station to grab more water, soak myself with water and also stop to refill my bottles and mix Osmo.  I've never stopped on my bike in an Ironman.  My run plan was to do the same with Hydration carrying Osmo with me the entire run.  I also added a cooling towel to my special needs.  I figured I would assess pace when I got off the bike, having no idea what my body could run in 100+temps that was the wild card.

The swim went great!  I lined myself up exactly where I did the previous year at the front of the 1hr + wave.  My first split was 31:30 and I was stoked!  Having done this race so many times I new my second lap would be a little slower, but my tendency to swim to my right definitely slowed me down getting off course a bit.  I swam a 1:06 and was 8th in my AG out of the water.

Out on the first out and back on the bike I felt AMAZING.  I flipped my garmin to show me cadence and 30" power.  While my legs felt unbelievable my power was higher than I planned.  I slowed myself down and just started my hydration.  By mile 20 I already had to pee.  I climbed up the first big hill on the second out and back, and as soon as I descended I was able to go what would be my first of 6 times peeing on my poor bike!  While I wasn't hot yet, I was still pouring water on me at every aid station.  I was passed by a friend, and girl in my AG and as much as I wanted to go with her, I held back and stuck to my plan. Just before the turnaround (so maybe mile 35 ) I stopped to mix up my 3rd bottle of Osmo.  It took some extra time, but I was determined to stick to my plan and do everything in my power to set myself up for a good run.

I could feel the heat picking up as I headed back into town to start the second loop.  My back started to feel the sun, and while my body temp was fine I was wishing I hadn't walked passed the sunscreen people coming of T1.

I picked up my special needs bags with additional calories and more Osmo and headed back out on the bike.  The big climb on the second loop was where I really had to test my patience.  My power was at the top of where I wanted it, but I had at least 3 girls in my AG pass me.  It was SO hard to not start my race then and there, but I just prayed and trusted that my plan was going to work.

After the climb I was actually running out of water.  I had already gone through both of my Osmo bottles, but there wasn't an aid station for a while.  I just watched my power and stayed on target and kept stuffing down my nutrition.  I flip flopped with a guy on the bike that was covered in sunscreen and asked him where he got it.  He handed me some Zinc and let me coat my sizzling skin with it.  Seriously, I love making friends on the course!!!

At the next Aid station I stopped yet again and mixed more Osmo, had them pour water on my head and back and then was on my way.  My pace and dropped just a little from the extra time at the stop, but it was worth it.   On the way back into town I could just feel the heat radiating of the asphalt (I later read that the fire department said it was 148degs coming off the highway).  I had to make 2 more stops to deal with a wheel issue, but thankfully it was just the tape covering my disc that had come loose with all the water.  I started taking at least 3 bottles at each aid station to pour on myself.  If I was wet, I was cool. 

In my last 10 miles this is where things got ugly (not for me).  I saw people WALKING their bikes up the hill heading out to the turnaround.  I saw at least 15 people just sitting in the brush on the side of the highway seeking shade.  Kits were covered in salt.  People just looked ROUGH.  I was so thankful to see each and everyone of my athletes smiling and just doing their thing out there knowing they would all make it off the bike!

My bike time was 6:10, and I moved down to 13th place in my AG.  I drank 6 bottles of Osmo, at least 5 bottles of water and about 8 more poured on me.  I peed 6 times and consumed 1800-1900 calories.  I took 12 xe21 and zero additional salt.  My stomach felt fantastic the entire time!

As I headed into T2 I was shocked to feel how amazing my legs felt.  I purposefully left my bike shoes on so that I didn't burn my feet.  Everyone around me was barely walking to the changing tent so I did the same.  Then I realized what am I doing???  My legs felt great so I grabbed my bag and I booked it in there.  I dumped my bag out, did a first time sock change, drank my diluted Osmo pre-load, stuffed my gels down my top and headed out with 2 other girls in my age group (they had passed me and I had I guess caught back up with them).

My origional plan was to run 2x9' miles then drop it down to 8:40's and hold.  With the heat, I had no pacing strategy.  My plan was to run what I could and dig when I needed to do.  Within the first half mile I looked at my garmin and was running about a 9:30 and it felt comfortable.  I had to stop at a porta potty just before mile 1, and after that I was on my way.  I ran with a girl in my AG until the second aid station and she fell back.  Another girl passed me and shortly after one more.  I just kept doing my thing.  Sipping on my osmo, running about 8:45-9' pace but walking through every aid station taking in ice, and water.  I ate a gel every 4 miles, refilled my bottle with Osmo and topped it off with ice water when needed.  I took sponges and water every chance I had.

At the turnaround I realized I was gaining on 3 girls in my age group.  I walked up the steep hill, and cruised down it.  My energy felt great, and I was doing what I could to keep my core temp down.  I stopped at special needs and grabbed another premade bottle of Osmo, more gel and more e21.  I also had a cooling towel that I wrapped around my neck and tucked in my bra.  I ran through every sprinkler, and let everyone with a hose spray me.

Somewhere between miles 15-20 I passed 3 girls in my Age Group.  Shane & Theresa came out on the course to tell me what Michelle had passed on to them to run myself into 5th place.  At one point they thought I was in 4th and with 5 miles left I DUG.  I gave it every ounce of everything I had left in me to hold pace.

At mile 23 my friend came flying by me and as much as I wanted to try to go with her I did not have that speed left.  She was gone.  But, I didn't give up.  I picked up the pace as much as I could, walked the last 2 aid stations, ditched my towel, ditched my bottle and when I turned on to Sherman I clenched my teeth and held back tears.

For the first time ever I ran 6 girls down in my age group.  I RACED that Ironman like it was my last.  I took in 4 bottles of Osmo, 4e21, 5 gels and maybe one cup of cola total.  I never felt stomach issues, I never felt bonked, I never cramped.

Run time 4:10, 3rd fastest run split in my AG and putting me in 7th place with a finish time of 11:33.

I found Shane, got out of the finishers chute and headed straight to dump myself in the lake.  It felt amazing.  We walked to some shade and that's where everything changed.  I started to go white, and I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Shane half walked, half carried me to medical where they moved me from the chairs then to lay down, then when my eyes started rolling back in my head and I couldn't stop shaking they carried me to the "back."  I don't remember a lot of what happened other than a lot of questions and hearing my blood pressure and O2 stats not being good.  I got wrapped in a blanket, and an IV inserted.  I started coughing.  They called Shane and got my inhaler, but that made the coughing worse so they started a nebulizer breathing treatment.  After I finished that things started to go much better!  My blood pressure went up.  My body soaked up the IV in record time and I could hold my eyes open.

I don't know how long I was in there, but I can't thank those volunteers enough for taking care of me!  They were simply amazing.  Having never been in there, I witnessed some very scary stuff and was just happy I was not in worse shape!

I can hands down say that this was THE hardest Ironman, or any race that I have ever done.  It is also one that I am most proud of.  Holding back on the bike and taking extra time to hydrate was the best plan for me.  I'm simply amazed at how my body endured that run, and I have absolutely NO regrets!  I earned Baxter THE best medal to date!  This one was all for you, B!

To top it all off each and every single one of my athletes finished the day with a smile, and I couldn't ask for anything more!!!

What's next?  I have absolutely NO idea ;)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to my amazing support crew.  All the cheers on course (Shane, Jen, Tracy, Teri, Dad, Cindy) the virtual support (far too many to name!), and the best sponsors providing me with everything I need (TriScottsdale, Tribe, Osmo Nutrition, Recoverye21, Planet Sun Hawaii and BeetElite).  And to my coach and TeamBSC Michelle.... words can't even begin to say what I want to thank you for turning me into the coach and athlete that I am today, and we're not even close to being finished :)

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