Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ironman Race Report

In preparation for my first Ironman in 2003 coach told me the day would bring an array of emotions. The highs would be very high! But the lows could get very low. Ironman athletes hope the highs overshadow the low's. Those who finished this years race hopefully remember their high's for a lifetime!
I of course set several race day goals, however one stood above all others: stay positive no matter what came my way! I knew there would be emotional low's and physical challenges, but it is how we deal with these moments that define the experience and mold our character.
Race time 0:00. It wasn't long until the town of Kona would erupt!

As I stood on dig-me-beach waiting for the pro's start I looked around and was instantly comforted by the number of familiar faces. Seriously, my Kona racing experiences have been so awesome because of the number of other athletes I know there. Sharing the ironman experience with so many friends and training partners is simply the best. It's like San Diego packs up and heads to the big island for the week. My closest beach mate was a former Her Sports team member of mine. It was her first trip to Kona. All week I tried to keep the "kona ironman virgin" mentality alive within myself. There is a fear of the unknown, but also an excitement for the experience. I reminded Darcy to enjoy every moment, and do so with a smile. It brought an instant smile to my face and tranquility to my body! I took off for the line and was ready to enjoy my day.

Swim: There isn't much to report here. I was pummeled from the beginning. I was kicked, punched, pulled, and dunked. I opted to move to the far outside of the course and felt more comfortable having a bit of open water to my left. I had an "out." It didn't take long until I felt my legs tighten. NOOOOOOOOOOOO, not again! I have cramped in the water once before. Just happens it was last year in Kona. Long story short, my legs cramped all over. I said a few prayers and continued on. I wasn't breathing hard, I wasn't trying hard, and I was incredibly frustrated. Why did I do so much swim training if I couldn't even go after the swim. Swimming should be my strength, but in Kona it's been everything but. My ability to stay positive was instantly tested. I reminded myself I was competing in the Ironman World Championships! That was enough to get through this first test.

Bike: The first 10 miles is a quick out and back. It's a hammer fest. My goal was to stay calm, turn the pedals over, and settle into my own race. Up Palani and onto the Queen K.

The bike portion of the race was quite different from last year. My time doesn't tell half of the story! Even though I only dropped 20mins, I felt way better out on the course. The miles went by much faster. My heart rate locked into the 150's and didn't move. I couldn't believe how happy I was, that is until the wind and heat picked up on the way back from Hawi. My nutrition plan, my heart rate and my average speed was right on. I tried to forget about the fact that I felt like I was riding through an inferno. I typically don't mind the heat, but this was ridiculous. I can't even describe the heat and humidity out there, so I won't even try.

I had planned to "start my race" at mile 80. Problem is the wind was turned up 10 notches at this exact point in the race. The entire ride back down the Queen K was into an intense head wind. I was going downhill at 14 mph (not good considering I went up them at over 18mph on the way out). I watched my average pace fall but tried to stay within myself. I felt like I was taking in enough fluids and electrolytes to last my body a lifetime. Mile 90 my glutes and vmo muscles began to cramp. It tried to keep my mind at ease and I remained positive. I hammered my way back to town praying I'd get in under the 6hr mark. I just missed it, but if I pulled off even a decent run this race would be a success.

Run: The first words out of my mouth to my brother were "the head winds sucked." I had to let him know that his morning wind report was a bit off (as a navigator (sailing) half his job is weather and wind prediction). After running around the block towards Ali'i I spotted him again. My comment then "I feel great, I'm ready to rock this." He updated my facebook status with this awesome report (everyone who thought I was updating my own facebook status while racing cracked me up!).

I started down Ali'i forcing myself to slow down and settle into my race pace. On the way out things were all good. I enjoyed every ounce of encouragement sent my way by the countless friends lining the road cheering me on. The Cervelo team was there to give me the thumbs up and encouragement I needed. Soon after I ran by Glynn from XTerra and the GU boys.. I appreciated every ounce of support they sent my way before, during, and after the race!

This race is no joke, and race day on the island included conditions only those present can understand! Many were already experiencing really awful low moments :( It was a scorcher out there and I tried to only take in the sights and sounds that brought about positivity. There were so many images of carnage. And we weren't even to the end of Ali'i yet.

At mile 8 my race took a big turn. Sadly my mental game of "just get through the bike, you don't need your ass to run so who cares if it is cramping" didn't work. In order to extend your legs in front of you to run you need a decently loose gluteus muscle. My run up Palani was a far cry from last year. I was sluggish. 3:30 seemed well out of reach. Gaterade, salt, carbo pro mix. I took it all! After 2 crazy slow miles I sat down. If I could just get this muscle to relax I could get back to my target pace. It helped and I was off: back at 8:15miles. It only lasted 2miles and then I was forced to adopt the ironman shuffle.

At that moment I thought of each and every friend of mine who wishes they were racing in Kona this year. I might have been walking, but I was there, and I was smiling. Everyone that passed me tried to get me to run with them. Last year I wasn't passed by anyone after mile 6. This year there were many. I told myself I could not allow more than 3 people to pass me before I had to run again. Everyone was suffering, but together we suffered along the road where dreams are made: The energy lab sucked me dry. It took everything from me. My friend Jason came up from behind, put his arm around me and told me to go with him. I tried to hang for as long as I could, but eventually sent him on his way so I could sit on the burning pavement to stretch again (the pavement was scorching hot!)

I only had 10k to go. I never ever thought I wouldn't make it to the finish. Although my fist was pushing into my butt muscle, I wouldn't give up. My goal time came and went, and I smiled. I was running down the Queen K in one of the greatest spectacle in all of sports! One foot in front of the other. I couldn't waste this moment on negative thoughts. Too many people wished they were racing (although no one actually there spectating wished this, it was just ugly out there). As we ran down Palani my brother was there to make sure I was enjoying myself. I hurt, but I wanted that finish.
Pain and all, I was happy with how handled the cards I was dealt. I felt the whole spectrum of emotions as I turned the "hot corner." I smiled so big, and held back the tears. I high fived anyone willing to share the moment with me! One wave to those who had been cheering me on for over 11 hours and the finish line was mine.

Those who have competed in Hawaii always say it comes down to the run. Now I understand 100% what they mean by this. The highlight of my race experience came well after I crossed the line. First I was off to the med tent to cry my way to an I.V. Cute Doc couldn't deny me like those stingy nurses. More on the post i.v. events to come in my next post.

Mahalo for reading and cheering me on last weekend. The race came and went, but the memories will last a lifetime. To share this memory with so many friends makes it that much sweeter! MAHALO!
(and revenge awaits...6 weeks Ironman Arizona? It's a possibility...Stay tuned)


Charisa said...

CONGRATS on your race!! Such a HOT HOT day out there!

Uli said...

Caroline, just finally got around to reading. It sounded brutal to say the least, so what you did is as good if not better than last year's effort imo. Lets talk soon. I'll try calling you tonight, if not, maybe fb? Off to swim. Btw, the high for Tempe tomorrow is 101. EW!!!