Friday, August 29, 2014

Ironman Louisville - Running to the Podium

It was bitter sweet arriving in Louisville knowing this would be the last year that professionals would lead off the race into the Ohio River. I've commented several times on this blog about how captivated I was by this race last year. This year was no different.  Thankfully, this year I crossed the finish line with a smile (or was that a grimace?) and feelings of hope and jubilation. Yes, I collapsed again, but this year I picked myself back up and walked through the finishers corral thanking volunteers as they offered their heart felt congratulations.  This race held a lot of meaning for me so it is important that I start this post with a sincere Thank you to the town, volunteers, and all the athletes that make Ironman Louisville so special!
Photo Credit for this and all below goes to my AMAZING
homestay Marcia Seiler. What a fam! Thank you.
The pro's start before sun rise, so it's  still fairly dark. After clearing the island to the left (just under 1 mile in) I lifted my head and could no longer see Nina and Kate who were ahead of me. I looked longer and a volunteer kayaker told me to turn left. I wasn't thinking, I was just trying to swim to catch back onto their feet. Left I went. Something didn't seem right. Where were they, I couldn't see anything ahead of me. Soon it all made sense as 2 kayakers approached me to say "you're completely off course." ARGH! How could I have done this. I was redirected back to the turn buoy, and after a good 4-5 minutes rounded the buoy. I was furious. That was enough to get me to kick harder than I ever do in an Ironman swim, and keep the turnover higher than I thought I could. This was not the start I was hoping for. I've never gone off course in a swim before, why now!!! I back tracked for several minutes, wishing I could kick myself at this point instead of the water.  I exited the swim in fourth, with significantly too much room between me and Nina, Kate and Jackie. Get over it, it's a long day. Ride harder CG, let's GO!
When I saw Tim around mile 35 he asked how things were responding. "Awful" I told him. "Heart rate is high/on but I can't keep my power up." He reminded me to clear all of the negativity out of my head and keep fighting. Build!
By mile 60 two other pro women had caught me. It felt easy to stay with them, and that was our game plan. If someone comes by me, stop looking at the numbers and go with them! The only girl that got away from me completely was Molly. This had to be our strategy if I had any chance of achieving my goals on the day.
Tim was all over that course! Dude, you rule!
Throughout the bike I felt better and better. Stronger and stronger. The power started to come around, and my speed continued to increase. If only I rode the way I did over the last 40 miles from the beginning. I never felt hot/over heated on the bike, but this is because I stayed on top of my hydration: water over my head, sports drink/Clif bloks/gels down the hatch.
My bike nutrition was spot on: 12 bottles of Ironman Perform drink, 7 gels (5 caffeinated), 1 sleeve of Clif Bloks, and 2 Envirokidz bars (gluten free & super easy to digest).
Wow, such an improvement in my aero position this year!
My inner thoughts as I smashed a banana into my mouth and ran into T2: do not give up, your favorite 3 hours are yet to come. 9th off the bike, and time to work....time to chop wood!
 Things were heating up as I exited T2. It was time to keep everything together. Time to balance the sense of urgency I usually feel coming off the bike with the patience any marathon demands. I settled into my goal pace for the first two miles and was ecstatic to see my heart rate was under 155 beats (the max I was allowed to see on the day). I was free to fly as long as that heart rate stayed down and showed I wasn't taking on too much heat. Temps were well into the 90's with humidity matching at over 90%. I knew things would get ugly for many out on the run course and sure enough they did.
Within 5 miles I moved into 6th. Ahhhh, into the money. Tim was at the run turn around asking me how I felt. My response: holding 7:20's like clock work, heart rate is under 155, feeling good. Having him out there was simply epic! For 10 months we've been working like mad, and finally it was time to bring it to life. I've put an awful lot of trust into the QT2 methodology, and was ready to see where it would get me.
At mile 8 he reported that no one was anywhere close to matching my pace. Honestly I didn't believe him, I felt great and was ready to go faster. Surely those up the road were throwing down equal splits?!?!  The first 4 athletes I passed are all girls I feel blessed to call my friends: Cindy, Amy, Heather and then around mile 9 I made the pass to move into 5th. I was sincerely sad and shocked to see Kate had relinquished the lead and was struggling. A quick high five (yup, she's one classy chic!) and I welcomed the sight of a lead cyclist.  I wasn't afforded the opportunity to enjoy his company before Tim yelled out "we don't like this cyclist, we want a new one. Find fourth."

My amazing homestay, Marcia Seiler captured the look that summarized my entire marathon. The photo on the left shows me asking (everyone and anyone) "how far to the next girl." Once again the age group athletes were amazing and cheered me on like crazy. Mile 14 I saw Tim again. One loop to go, and my question for him now was: "when can I stop ignoring my heart rate and just go." I was shocked to hear him say "NOW! Go CG." Here I was trying to practice patience, and he wants me to take off like I was shot out of a cannon. Ok then, let's do this. Having a strong coach/athlete relationship enabled Tim to analyze more than my words, but my tone and deep rooted desire. 4th place lead cyclist, where are you?! At some point I knew things would start to hurt, and hurt bad. By mile 18 I was holding pace, but it certainly became a lot more difficult.  Pain was setting in. Time for the mental toughness to take over.
I made the pass into 4th before the turnaround. Home stretch, 7miles to go. Molly was now only three minutes up the road. I could see her, and within a half mile I cut the gap down to under 90 seconds. Another quarter mile and it was 20 seconds. If the excitement in Tim's voice didn't keep me motivated nothing would. Time to turn things inside out. By mile 23 I moved into the last podium spot, but nothing was easy any more. My quads were on fire and my energy was running low. "Tim, I'm cracking!" His response: "Hell no you're not. We don't crack. GO GO GO."
I looked like a bag lady raiding a grocery store as I tore through each aid station (accidentally throwing coke on my face instead of water at one point, oops). Yes, even I thought it was beyond hot out there. Folks, Kona wouldn't hold a candle to this heat & humidity combo!
2 miles to go and I was still 3 minutes out of second. It looked like my rampage through the field was coming to a close. All that was left to do was find that finish line.
Sheer joy broke out on my face as I cruised towards the line. I don't even remember the finish last year because my feet and legs hurt so bad. Don't get me wrong, my legs were killing again this year but it was the expected Ironman pain, not that of injury and limited training volume. It was time to enjoy the moment, and relish in my return to racing.
I didn't admit to many outside of my inner circle that I came to Ironman Louisville to become an Ironman Champion. This didn't happen.  I was beat by faster girls who put together more impressive days than I. That said, I've come pretty darn far from where I was a year ago. I'm healthy and just starting to realize my potential. In order to get there we've (coaches and myself) always said that I must create a "new normal." I had to go out there and prove to myself, more than anyone else, what I am capable of. If I could do this, and only once I did this, would I be able to elevate my training to a point where my ultimate potential will shine.  I'd say posting the fastest female run split by a substantial margin, with few of the male pro's out clocking me, did just that. We have ourselves our new normal Tim - so let the journey continue.

It takes a village to race at this level. I don't take the support I get from sponsors, coaches, medical personal, friends, and family for granted. I'm not closing out this race report offering thanks because that's what is customary to do, I do so because this race was an exhibition of their talent and expertise. I was just the one living it out. Without you I would never have seen the day where I'd stand on an Ironman Podium (my previous best was 4th). This one's for you!
Great sharing the podium with these fierce ladies. Thanks for making me WORK!
Congrats (left to right) AmyJavens, Molly Roohi, (me), and Jackie Arendt.
(note: known dopers do not receive photo credit or praise for winning)
Photo Credit: Chris Hutchens
Tim Snow - there are no words. The QT2 coaches have a method to their madness, and invest themselves in their athletes. Thank you so much for driving 20+ hours to come watch us race. Sharing the day with you made this race pretty darn memorable. I am thankful to be part of the QT2 pro team.  This and all future success is my thank you for your endless commitment.
Chris Daprato, Curtis Cramblatt and Christopher Matock: Each of you played a tremendous role in helping me get over my injuries of the past. You are all masters of your trade and that 26.2 miles of fierce running was a tribute to just that.
Lucy Grace- You've proven that getting through a chronic sports injury is not all about the physical components. I believe, now more than ever, that the mind must work in conjunction with the body.  Thank you for working with me on improving my mental game and my inner voice out there on the course!
My Village! I'm so blessed!
Efforts are underway to try to keep the pro race at IM Louisville next year through private funding (contact me if you have an interest in helping). I don't know if WTC will have anything to do with this, but it is absolutely humbling and inspiring to see the reaction from those outside the professional field.  I'll certainly take this energy and emotion as fuel to power me towards my next starting line!


Darin Armstrong said...
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Darin Armstrong said...

Hello Caroline,
Important question/message to ask if you would you be interested in a mutual following on Twitter. If so, you'll receive ‘anytime’ #RT support & I’ll mention you in my 'Follow-Friday Shoutouts' including your website this Friday & 'future Fridays.' I’m currently following you now & awaiting your follow-back. Note that I have thousands of Professional Ironman Triathletes / Coaches, Marathoners, Ultras following me worldwide. Please check out the number of 'recent' Professional Ironman Triathletes in my ‘Photos & Videos’ section, that follow me & receive my continuous 'Follow-Friday & #RT support. I'm positive you'll know many of these well known professional athletes...

I look forward to hearing from you Caroline & hopefully we can share a mutual twitter friendship in the months & years to come...

"Keeping your Sponsors happy through marketing/advertising via #FF #Shoutouts & #RT support is Very Important to ALL Professional Ironman/Triathletes. And 'Twitter' is a great source to accomplish that goal!" *Strength In Numbers*

Professional Public Relations / Marketing & Communications