Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Canadian 140.6

The course was set, and all that was left to do was....well 140.6 miles ;) I checked on my bike and gear bags and then made my way to the hotel lobby. I hid in a corner and found myself nervous beyond belief. I didn't want anyone to tell me "you'll be fine" or "you've put the work in" or "don't worry that it's Fing freezing out there." I just wanted to be. And my exact words were "there is no way I'm doing Kona. The nerves before that race are this X 900, and this is plenty!" But the fact is, when we work this hard at preparing for race day and care deeply about performing, the nerves are inevitable.
Once I got my TYR Hurricane on I felt a strange sense of ease overcome my body and mind. I jumped in the chilly (but less freezing than the air!) lake and warmed up while the pro start got underway. I was one of the last athletes to toe the line behind the awesome roped off swim start (awesome idea...Kona you should mimic this so Mike Riley doesn't have to yell at athletes for pushing the line for the entire 5 minutes before the start).
Once the cannon went off I took 2 dolphin dives and was on my way. Within 20yrds the guy to my right punched me in the head. He had this stupid urge to get over to the buoy line way too fast. After his second wack at my goggles I slapped him back and went on my marry way. This is impressive for me. Usually I let people beat me up and I stop while they surge ahead. Nope, this was the new and improved open water swimming Caroline. When you are privileged enough to wear the best wetsuit on the market, with the brand slogan "always in front" you better hammer to the front.
Swimming to the first turn buoy was hectic swim, but I was pretty sure I was in the lead pack, with only some psycho fast stragglers ahead. After the first turn I found myself a great draft. There weren't many girls around, so I figured I was doing well. I continuously reminded myself that you "can't over-swim the swim." So I told my shoulders and arms to get in the game and Fing get me to shore.
Brian and Kevin were right there at the TYR swim exit to let me know I killed it ;) Sub 57mins, hells ya!

Once on the bike things were pretty uneventful. I knew I was somewhere in front because there were few girls in sight. Brandy went by me around mile 10 and stayed within sight for a while. Then there were 20miles of frustration as I watched packs form around me. I stayed honest and let them go. Sure enough when we got to Ricters pass the girls couldn't draft with the boys up the climb, and I caught them one by one.

I felt awesome throughout the 6mile climb of Ricters pass! The crowd was AMAZING. Now I know why people say this is a must do race! The crowd was in my face yelling and screaming. I was smiling from ear to ear as they told me I looked strong. Once down the backside of the hill things took a turn. The head wind started to blow, as I told myself to chill out, keep spinning and relax. I hate wind, but I think I'm finally learning how to cope with it and make sure it doesn't kill my race.

I was on top of my nutrition, but eagerly awaited our special needs bags. Problem is, once I got a hold of it I was shocked to see that the bottles did not thaw. I figured, no matter the outside temps, the bottles would adequately freeze within 6 hours. I tried hard to squeeze as much as I could into my quick fill, but knew I was somewhat screwed. I started grabbing bananas and downing GU to make sure I didn't miss out on the calories I rely on from my GU Brew/Carbo-pro mix. Things were still going ok, but my back was tightening because of the relentless head winds and cold.

The Turn: Then as we started the climb up yellow lake things took a turn for the worse. Much Much Worse! Around mile 80 it started to rain. This sucked, but it was manageable. I was cold and really wished the sun hadn't come out earlier, causing me to throw my arm warmers. Then the rain turned to downpour as I started the first downhill section before the major yellow lake climb. My body temp dropped and I couldn't feel a thing. I could no longer handle drinking anything cold, couldn't get the GU bottle up to my mouth, and couldn't even move my hands to shift or break. I thought the next up hill section would help, but sadly the damage was done. I was shaking uncontrollably and didn't know what to do. I joked with some volunteers as I climbed to the top. I thought maybe I could find a taker for my offer of "free beer for life if you give me your jacket." They just laughed and got in my face to cheer me forward.

At mile 100 the long descent starts. By this point it was hailing. The wind was freezing and I was chattering and shaking like mad. People were flying by me but I couldn't move, and eventually started convulsing and crying. I've never had my teeth chatter like that. It killed! I'll admit, I can not handle being cold. But those that were flying by could not possibly feel as I did. I don't exactly remember the moment I pulled over to the side of the road, but do remember a little angel women running up the hill after me. She hugged me and commented on how cold I was. My HR dropped below 80bpm, and I wondered if one of the ambulances flying by with their lights on was for me.
Maridee took the long sleeve shirt she had off and proceeded to put it on me. I couldn't get my helmet off, or get the shirt on. She was my warming angel, and I do know that I told her she probably saved my race. We hugged for a bit and then I went on my way. This all cost me considerable time, but I didn't have an option...I felt like I might die if I continued. Once I started again I was surfing the water as it rushed down the road with me. I held the breaks on the whole way because I couldn't open/close my hands and figured it was better to ride the breaks than not be able to apply them when necessary. I was in complete survival mode!

I ran into the change tent and looking like a popsicle. They instantly hugged me and threw the blanket over me. My run through the T2 change tent symbolized my run out of hell and into heaven. Seriously, I was that bad off! I was still chattering and my legs were frozen to the bone. From there to mile 4 of the run was a complete out of body experience. I don't remember a dang thing about it! It was as if I opened my eyes to see the mile 4 sign and figured "sweet the run is only 22.2 miles now." I still had Maridee's shirt on and couldn't get her generosity out of my head.
The rest of the run was amazing. I kept telling myself to hold back and be patient. My goal was to negative split the run (all the while knowing doing so is highly unlikely). The ENTIRE one loop run course is full of fans and volunteers cheering. The energy out there was amazing! I got a lot of compliments on my hot pink running flats and was told (at least once a mile) that I looked fast and strong. I held back until I saw the park at the turn around. This was the first time I could gauge where I was. I saw a handful of women within 2 minutes of me. It was as if a rocket shot out of me when I made that turn around. I let my legs go and started picking them off one-by-one. I was smiling ear to ear and couldn't believe I felt this good. I even mastered my nutrition on the run. Although, I had to, considering my special needs debacle, and my inability to take in a single calorie for the final hour on the bike. From hell and back I tell you!

The winds picked up and we had to battle a strong head wind for the duration of the run. My pace slowed a little as I made my way up and over the final climbs before mile 20. My sub 3:30 goal was well in sight. he wind took away any advantage that I thought I'd get from the false flat back to town. I asked a few friends along the course if there were any girls within striking distance. I didn't get much of a reaction, so I just stayed within myself and dug as deep as I could. I didn't know I was winning my age group, and surely didn't know I was building on what would be a 20minute lead. I passed a few pro's and an age group girl with 2 miles to go and saw another only 1 minute ahead of me. I dropped my pace below 7 minute miles and emptied the tank as I ran to the finish line. Run- 3:22! I'm still speechless on that one!
After a quick trip to the medical tent I was all over celebrating the moment and sharing in the celebration of those yet to finish. (Brian and I bringing in the final finishers. I have to be honest...I was ready for dinner ;) )
I am beyond proud of myself and my tenacity to "stay tough.". I lost around 20minutes out on the bike course, but never ever gave up. I haven't stood on an ironman podium since my first IM when I was only 23. and it felt good! no GREAT!
Congratulations to everyone who raced through the tough conditions out there. It sounds like all the Canadians coped just fine, but I promise there is something worse than wind and raging heat! (freezing, rain and wind is the worst!). It was an honor to toe the line with so many amazing athletes, people, and friends! Congrats to fellow TYR athlete Mackenzie Madison! You think I ran fast...check out her run split: 3:03! Ya BABY, now THAT is fast!
Congrats to my former age group racing queen, and first year pro, on her overall win! Kick ass performance Mer!
And yes, after a few of these I was convinced to accept the invitation to Kona.
To everyone who sent me messages before and after the race- a huge thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Triathlon can be such a selfish sport, but having the support of amazing sponsors makes it much more rewarding. TYR wetsuits, race kits, and swim gear is the best of the best, and am beyond honored to represent this brand! Thanks guys for a super fun race experience...after all it isn't by chance that I am finally swimming up to my capabilities this year! Three letters: T.Y.R.!!! I no longer hate wetsuit swims ;) To the GU family, thanks for keeping me well fueled, hydrated and full (I actually got hungry on the run! GU Chomps did the trick then!). And that run...I now know the technology and running form that Newton promotes is much to thank. Each of these products are amazing, but the people behind these brands truly make racing that much more thrilling for me. Maridee, THANK YOU for undoubtedly saving my race, and sharing that unbelievable ironman spirit with me. Mahalo!
and to you, thanks for reading along, and being a part of this awesome journey!

Cheers! and ALOHA!