Wednesday, November 25, 2009

and THAT's a wrap!

I honestly wasn't so sure how the second Ironman would go. I've never done two ironman's in a year, let alone 2 in 6 weeks. I went to bed Saturday night feeling a bit uneasy. I woke up feeling the same. The hip pain I experienced after Kona was still present and my back and legs felt tight. I would be lying if I didn't admit thinking "what am I doing?" But quickly I responded any uncertainty with "I'm going to kill this race and make it count!" The day before the race I found a lucky penny face up on the sidewalk. I tucked it into my wetsuit, thinking I might need a little luck along the way.

I saw so many familiar faces before jumping into the freezing Tempe town lake. I wasn't alone in my quest to tackle some unfinished business from Kona. Jumping in the water right ahead of me was Lindsey Corbin, Sam McG, and my favorite Aussie Kate Major. I waited for the pro start, took a big gasp and entered the frigid waters feeling calm and confident. I was ready to give it my all, and hope for the best.

Swim: The gun went off and I felt like I was having a strong swim. I swam 99% of the race alone. This is something I NEED to work on. I hate swimming amongst the crowd, but sadly that shows in my swim times. I exited the water, saw 1:03, and knew I once again drastically failed to reach my potential in the ironman waters. I quickly got over it and concentrated on warming up out on the bike course.

Bike: It was a cold start, and when I hit Bee-Line Hwy we were greeted with a decent head wind. Negativity entered my mind. Thing is (unlike kona), when we made the turn around there was a nice tail wind to brighten my thoughts. My speed soared above 30mph and for the first time I stopped thinking about a DNF and started thinking about succeeding.
I set my expectations high, and hoped to ride sub-5:30...if all went really really well! Loop 1 (of 3) was completed in 1:40. Nice! But I needed to settle down. My mind was racing and I was still unsure how my legs would go at this distance so close to my previous IM. I refocused and reminded myself that this race was between me, myself, and I. I internalized things and just stayed calm for lap 2.
When I rounded the turn for lap 3 I realized "I'm doing this!" I was riding amongst mostly men, and wondered at this point where I was in the field. Thankfully I knew most of the officials on the course so got a quick update "Caroline, you're only 20mins behind Kate and well into the top ten age group women." No way, the pro's get a 10min head start, so if this was all true things were going quite well! From then on my mind remained strong and confident. My legs followed suit. I experience some stomach issues and back pains, but was able to respond and adapt to the unexpected without letting the race get away from me. I couldn't get all my bottles down (GU+CarboPro of course!) because I kept burping and almost throwing up. I supplemented liquid calories with a banana and GU gels. I wasn't worried about hydration but knew I couldn't start the run low on calories since I struggle to get anything down out once I leave the bike.
I rolled in at 5:26 with a giant smile on my face. I had no clue where I was in my age group. But I had an entire marathon to figure it out. This race was mine for the taking!

Run: I came out of T2 running strong. My HR remained low, my leg turn over was high, and my pace was strong! I held under 7:50 for the first 10k (pace wise. actually the splits were just over 8:00 because of all the 180degree turns on the course that make the run a bit slow). I was passed by a girl in my age group, Marie. She got a bit ahead of me, but I reeled her back in and stayed with her for the second loop. My pace remained well under my goal pace for the marathon, but my HR was under control so I allowed myself to run strong and race.

As I made my way through loop 2 I felt the effects of a sidewalk marathon run. Seriously, who thought a run course on sidewalks was a good idea. Oh wait, Roch and Huddle...darn them! It hurt! Marie ran away from me at the start of the third loop and I started to slow. I felt the effects of my early fast pace. Mitch was out there and offering me the perfect words of encouragement throughout. At this point he yelled to me "breath Caroline, don't let this get away from you. Stay within yourself and just relax." He read my mind! I was thinking about everything but what I was doing. I wanted to know where everyone else was (it's impossible to figure out on this 3 loop winding course!).

I wanted to podium and was told I was in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. Clearly no one really knew. At mile 20 I accepted my first cup of Coke, and tried hard to focus on just getting to mile 24 (I try to think of the marathon as 4x6miles. The last 2 take care of themselves). The concrete was taking it toll. My legs were screaming and the wheels were falling off. I started counting every quarter mile. Not good. I tried hard to keep the pace under 9min miles. Not good, but it was all I could do.

With 2 miles to go I thought I could break 10:30. No Way! Really! The turn over picked up, the smile found its way back, and I charged for the line. When I came around the corner and entered the finish shoot I thought I saw the race clock at wait that's a 1. 10:21, Seriously! No Way!

I crossed the finish and instantly felt overjoyed. Now THAT is what I worked so hard for this year. The W30-34 came to play! 10:21 was a new Ironman AZ age group record...but this year there were 9 of us that beat it. I raced amongst some amazing girls! How inspiring. 10th overall femaleis something I never imagined accomplishing at a major Ironman event!

Diana and Nick handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers just before I crossed the finish. So sweet! As I walked to gather my bike and gear bags everyone was asking if I won the whole race. I smiled and said "nope, but I won MY race!" This really was a race without expectations and only for myself. I won that race, and couldn't be happier about it!

The day went far better than I could have ever dreamed. A special thanks to TriBike Transport for giving me the chance to end my season on this high note! Thank you to Cervelo for refusing to let a cracked bike frame get in the way of my dream race. and of course GU for fueling the fire within!

You don't have to feel good to race good! The door is officially closed on the 2009 season. 4 half ironmans, 2 ironmans, and a slew of shorter races in between. It's been quite a journey! Thanks for joining me for the ride!!

post race soak in the FREEZING pool offered a temporary cure for the pain


beth said...

congratulations! so exciting to see you accomplish your goals and set a PR. yay! now, rest.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Great job Caroline - congratulations on a fantastic race! YOUR race! Woo hoo -have a great off-season and cheers for the next year! And oh man about that concrete! Yikes!

Charisa said...

Congrats on your awesome race!!! Enjoy the off-season :) You earned it all 100%!

Christi said...