May 13, 2019 - This is my 4th Ironman. My love for racing started 4 years ago when my first ever race was Coeur d'Alene Ironman 2015. I continue to learn and strive for more.
I have approached my year of racing differently in that my bigger race would be earlier in the season. So, when I saw the opportuninty to grasp Santa Rosa, I took it. My lovely family (Adam and our two kiddos, Mia and Liam) and I set off on our journey Tuesday night from Spokane WA after I worked a long shift (I'm a nurse) and we drove until 0100. Come Wednesday we were back up on the road by 0530. We finally made it to Santa Rosa CA by 1700. We have the "short bus" a 19ft triathlon RV that has embarked on many race adventures and makes all this possible with our kiddos.
As far as training goes, I had spent countless hours on the bike trainer in our dungeon (longest ride 4hrs 45min) and only 3 outdoors rides (early season weather). I have logged numerous run miles on the open road (longest run of 2hrs). And spent hours in the lap pool at the YMCA (getting comfortable with a 4200 yd swim) having no opportunity for an open water swim until Wednesday when we arrived at Lake Sonoma. All the hours of training, sweating, and 0400 wake up workouts.....man was I hoping it would show come race day.
This race was different for me; I wasn't anxious. I was calm going into it, which is not normal for me. Being my 4th IM, I felt I was mentally stronger. I usually get the pre-race jitters and even just before going into the swim start, my heart was still. I had one familiar face to look for come race morning, but I was on my own for the day; performing my race. I was calm and relaxed for my first OW swim and my easy taper workouts were light and refreshing just like the water at Lake Sonoma.
I carb loaded heavy staring 3 days prior. I kept a FODMAP diet the week prior. I stayed hydrated daily using my Nuun's. I felt healthy and strong. I have had races before where I have GI upset before, and I have learned that the best way to counteract that is a "gentle" dulcolax tablet the day before first thing in the morning. I stop eating at 1700 the night before. My "keeping fresh" easy jog and swim were done by 1200 the day before. Bike drop and bag drop were done by 1200. Now all I had to do sleep, eat, rest.
Race morning I woke at 0345, had my bowl of oats with protein powder and light brown sugar with cold brew coffee. My husband dropped me off at the shuttle at 0415 while the kids slept. Bus shuttle was a 45 min ride north of T2 location. So I ate, drank, and kept calm. Arrived in T1 at 0510, again I was so calm! I grabbed my bike and went straight to the tire pumps. While in line I prepped my bike with nutrition, base salt, and nuun. Drop bike, go to T1 bag to drop my banana and make sure all was there. At this point it was only 0545, but I was ready. Race start wasn't unitl 0650. I dropped my morning clothes and went down to the water. The wait by the water was peaceful. Water was still. Morning light was coming.
Self-seed swim start. So I positioned myself in the middle of the pack in sub 1:10 finish. There was no swim warmup allowed. We were funneled into the shoot. I was collected, excited, and told myself just be "steady." Off I went!! First lap was calm. I felt smooth and steady. Focused on my form. It wasn't crowded and I tucked in right at the buoy's. This race is a clockwise race, which I wasn't used to, but it felt natural on the turn. I spotted frequently and felt for my watch to let me know when every 500 yds was in. The swim course was a bit long, but I got my first lap in at my 33min like I wanted. Come the second lap, it was CHOPPY. All people were in and what a difference! By turn 2 I had already caught up to some of the 1st lap athletes. It became crowded. People were going for the kayaks for a break, one guy even pulled inward and just went for a back float. It was choppy enough the my goggle strap came forward (note to self - goggle straps under cap next time) which has never happened before. Goggles began to leak so I took the time to reposition and reapply. Took in some water, but again, I didn't panic. Figured I was staying hydrated. Told myself hold your form as best as possible, continue to site, and keep cool. Out of the water 2 min slower but I was okay with that given the second lap chop, crowding, and goggles. Transition is all up a boat ramp (steep) for 1/4 mile.
T1; slowed HR a bit due to transition ramp; shoes on, Team stages head wrap on, helmet on, banana in pocket and go!
Bike course; roads were awful. First 2.5 miles was a strong downhill, so I fueled and took the time to recover my HR. Having driven the course prior, I knew the roads weren't the best, but dang! Noticed my watts were up initially due to pushing through road conditions. Throughout the course, I took advantage on the hills to stand and stretch out. I would hit Z4 briefly and then back off. I knew my mph wasn't going to be the solid 20.5 I had hoped for, but in my head I told myself to hold a comfortable power so as to not fry the legs for the marathon. I fueled every hour on the hour. Ate bananas throughtout, took in my nuun's and base salt accordingly. This race I definitely had my nutrition down! By mile 80 my neck was getting sore from the rough roads and the weaving around bumps and holes. I was having fun though! By mile 90, I began to realize, the course was quiet. It was a 2 loop course. On that 2nd lap, the aid station help was weaning, spectators were few and far between, and I only had the occasional athlete around me. All that was left for me was to hold the power and don't get a flat. Now, I am not only weaving because of road conditions, but now I am weaving around dropped water bottles, CO2, kits, etc. The course was beautiful! Vineyards the entire time! Would have stopped for a wine tasting if I had the time.
T2 approaches. I am eager to get off the bike. Looking forward to only 4 hrs of running. I went into my day with the goal of running the entire marathon and that was what I was aiming to do. At this point I didn't know my overall time, but I felt thus far I had been smart in my race and I had plenty more energy to finish my day. T2; (nothing more awkward than running in a ways with brick legs and bike shoes) socks, shoes, and out with race belt, nutrition, hat and glasses in hand, putting them on as I ran out. I hear my name being called out as I run out and the announcers says that I am one of the lead women! I couldn't believe it. It definitely is not the front lines, that I know, but to be in the front enough to have that being said, my heart was boasting!!
I'm running down 3rd street and there is my husband straight ahead with my babies. I'm grinning ear-to-ear. Such a relief to see them. Such an amazing feeling to see them smiling and knowing that their day looks to be going as good as mine! Adam hollers out that I am 3rd in my AG. Hell yeah! Ill take it! Now I just can't walk this marathon. It is a 3 loop course. Slight down hill with gravel, but with plenty of shade, on the way out. The way back was concrete with all slight uphill. There were 3 "overpasses" that went over the trail that were the up-over-and-across on the way down. At this point, I'm feeding off of the crowds and soaking in all that energy. First couple miles are under me and I look at my HR and I'm high Z2 and I knew that if I was aiming to run this whole thing, I couldn't hold that HR. My coach is in my head at this point to be smart and watch that HR. I eased up, settled in and tried to stay steady. Small thoughts....one lap at a time...one mile at a time...force the beverage. At mile 7, I realize I can't take in anymore solid (banana) due to stomach cramps, so I stayed to my orange slices and water w/nuun. At mile 14, my legs were feeling it. My pace eased up a bit, HR staying steady high Z1, low Z2, comfortable. Seeing my family in town was my goal each lap. Husband didn't know my standing come 2nd or 3rd lap, but I knew I couldn't walk it and I just needed to run my race. I have this theory that Ironman doesn't start until the second 13.1 and doesn't really kick in until mile 20. Sure as sh**, my body knew it. Pace continued to slow, my body was tired, my fuel was burning out. The last 4 miles, it was coke and orange slices. "Just keep running. Don't you dare walk!" Picture the finish. Get my kids' lippers. The last 2 miles were the longes of my life!!! At this point, I have decided that I don't ever want to run the entire marathon in any IM. At this point my stomach is locking up. I have the occasional indigestion with dry-heave. As I come up the "lap 2/3 go left, finish go right" I grin! I hold on, I push, I feed off the people. I see the finish now and then, I see my babies. I cry, I stop and I give them love! I am so overcome with emotion and joy. I am so proud of myself, I am so appreciative of my family; their support, their love, their patience. I am so grateful for my coach who has guided, support, encouraged, and kept me level headed. Then my kids yell at me, "Mom, GO!!!" Adam then follows suit, "GO-GO-GO." An athlete just passed me. I am competitive and I chased her and passed her right back before crossing. My race, my finish!
My goal was 11 hrs, holding good form even when tired, run my marathon! Finish time 10:59:59. 18th female overall, 5th in my age group. I made the podium! I learned from this race. There is room for improvement and there were lessons learned. Now I am hungry for another!