Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ironman Luck

To race ironman at the highest level it takes more than just skill, talent and hard work.  My experience at Ironman Chattanooga confirmed that when it comes down to it, racing a successful Ironman takes a hefty dose of luck!  Or at the very least eliminating any bad luck!

The Wednesday leading up to the race I set out for an easy tempo run and swim. My run workout was simple, smooth, and focused with a few mile repeats on the treadmill to work turn over. I cruised through #1 and all felt easy-peasy, smooth 'n easy. I jumped to the side of the treadmill belt to take a quick 1minute rest. Suddenly my head felt dizzy, and then things went blank. While I don't remember doing so, I am thankful I had the wherewithal to stop the belt and get off the machine. I was walking to sit down when I passed out, dropping to the ground.  Thankfully others were right there to assist me immediately.  I insisted I was fine but those around me told me I was delusional and needed to be checked out.  Moments later, with sirens roaring, I was surrounded by 6 EMS personal. Looking back I appreciate their better to be safe than sorry mentality.  EMS spent time running every test they could perform on site. All tests completely cleared any risk that this was related to my heart. I consulted my doctor and he too felt it was simply the result of going from hero to zero on the treadmill. Jumping off the treadmill quick likely caused a quick pooling of blood to jump from my legs to my head, causing the dizziness.  I have to thank many medical personal who calmed my fears and confirmed that the fainting episode was nothing to worry about. Each and every one of them told me to race as planned.  
Far end of the awesome bike course!
I thought I was in the clear until I woke up Thursday morning and was unable to walk. Both my ankle and knee swelled considerably as a result of the fall. I tried to run and made it  4 second. I couldn't walk without a limp let alone run. 

My beautiful homestay family called every resource they knew to try to get me checked out and race ready.  Their generosity and kind spirit lifted my hopes and reminded me that I never give in without a fight. I spent the next 2 days working on recovering and getting back into the mental game. Thank you Dr. Mark and Chip Clifton for graciously spending time with me. Your expertise and generosity brought me to the starting line believing I'd be ready to put my training to good use.  It was time to BELIEVE...to believe in ME!
Keeping mood light with endless laughs the day before the race.
A random blow up Ronald with McD no where in sight?!?!? Ok
I woke up race morning with 100% belief that I'd have a great race. The thought of injury or pain never even crossed my mind. I sipped on my cup of java with a huge smile on my face. It was race day! 

I knew the swim would be fast and furious. Due to the assisted current I figured the lead group would hold closer to half ironman effort, and I was right. Thankfully I jumped on their feet and hung on for the ride.  Around the half way point someone moved to the front of the group and picked up the pace. I tried hard to hang on. My self talk: "20 strokes all out, just kidding 20 more, nope they're up'ing the pace again. Must holdddddd on. 40 stroke sprint. Don't give in. Kick harder. You got this, you're in an excellent position." Unfortunately despite the self talk and gritting my teeth the rubber band broke.  From there I swam to the swim exit alone, including a slight detour too far to the left that cost me valuable time.  
 I felt strong once on the bike and was able to hit my power numbers comfortably on the way out of town. I rode alone until around mile 35 and then was caught by a small group.  Our goal for this race was to do what it took to hold on to the girls that came up from behind.  I stayed at the front of the group through the first loop and felt great. I tried to break away on the long descent but was unsuccessful. I then moved to the back of the group just in time for the draft marshals to show up and ding the three of us in the back with draft penalties. Not sure why he didn't get everyone in the group, but that's life.
Around mile 80 my right knee was throbbing. I prayed that it was just aggravated from time on the bike and it would go away once I got out on the run.  I used the 5 minutes in the penalty tent to massage my knee, stretch and mentally get ready to throw down the marathon I knew I was capable of. 
Exiting T2- Let's do this!

The first mile of the run is up hill but I worked hard to try to find my rhythm. My Garmin lapped at mile two and I told myself it was time to react and get moving. My knee hurt pretty bad, but I didn't feel I was doing any damage, so on I went.  By mile 4 my pace didn't change. Frustrating to say the least!  Now, the pain was real, but my mind was convinced I could still pull something out once we got to the hills. Unfortunately once over the bridge my knee started to give out (similar to the feeling of i.t. band syndrome).  When I saw coach Tim and Jesse around mile 13 the tears started streaming.  I was very ready to pull off the best race yet. I nailed my nutrition. I got down to race weight just in the nick of time (and worked very hard to get there). Sitting on a grassy front yard crying to my coach was NOT the way I envisioned my day ending. 
My face says it all: Pain


Tim and I agreed that it wasn't worth hobbling to the finish line. My day was done. What I was doing out there was not running. I am not one to quit but I wasn't willing to risk an actual injury to finish out of the top 10.
The run course in Chattanooga is electric. The streets are lined with people cheering, partying and enjoying the race atmosphere. I wanted so bad to return their energy with a strong marathon. I eventually wiped my tears, put on a smile and walked back to the finish line thanking each and every volunteer I passed. 

Shockingly I wasn't completely depressed in the hours and days that followed. I know I did all I could with my lack of luck! That said, I am sick of these obstacles getting in the way of strong race performances.  My training this season is proof that I have a very strong ironman in me! I hope I can hold onto my fitness, clean up a few details, and absolutely smash an Ironman before calling it quits for the season. I will make the final decision in the coming weeks. I plan to listen to my body and let it be my guide.  If I have one more Ironman in me this season my body, mind, and heart will tell me so. 
Many thanks to Rick and Katie for showing me what Chattanooga hospitality is all about! You never stopped supporting me and believing in me. Once strangers, and now friends for life...this is what I love most about this journey! Rick, it's time for you to discard those flip flops and get your running shoes ready for the 70.3 world champs in 2017!
Many thanks to the 4,000+ volunteers that put their heart into this race!  The energy was non stop, and certainly helped me dig deep and really take myself as far as I possibly could on the day.
There were some great take aways from the day: 
1) Swim: I finally got out with the uber swimmers and held on well beyond the first 200-500m. Next time I need to stay there for 2.4 miles! 
2) Bike: I took risks on the bike and they paid off. Had the course been 112 miles this would of been a new bike PR (sub 5:15). 
3) Run: hmmmm, no positives to be had from this performance...other than the fact that I enjoyed the atmosphere and energy from all the spectators/volunteers. 
Luck surely wasn't on my side leading into this race, but it will only fuel my fire for that day when everything clicks and magic ensues! 


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