Thursday, November 26, 2015

Part three: The Race

Thanksgiving 2015
I believe we all have time for what we want to have time for.  With that being said….it’s been a long time between part two and now part three.  The race feels so long ago and maybe part of the reason it feels so long ago is how tight my jeans are.  Race shape leaves quickly when eating too much pizza with 5 teenage boys and baking cookies.  I thought I better post the rest of my blog dealing with Ironman Wisconsin since my head has already moved on to ideas of a new blog post and adventures for Team Andres.  I’m getting the blog post done Thanksgiving afternoon while everyone is napping or hunting. 

Part three… The RACE
If I would have listened to my bike numbers or run paces at IM Wisconsin I’m pretty sure I would not have been the first female to cross the finishing tape. I did what I could in the swim with my fitness and swim ability.  However, on the bike I rode harder than I probably should have – given my fitness level.  The run…it was just one step in front of the other the whole way.  I was talking myself out of walking at the 5 minute mark and started doing a countdown in my head….just 3 more hours, and then just 2:45, and ….so many times I wanted to walk. At times, I thought there was no way I could run one more mile much less a block.  BUT, I didn’t walk. I didn’t give up on myself.  I found a new limit each time I told myself…just keep going. 

Ironman Wisconsin 2015 wasn’t my fastest Ironman and I didn’t go faster than my course record time from 2012.  However, IM Wisconsin 2015 is the race I am most proud of to date.  In 9 weeks I transformed my body and my mind and on race day I was able to execute a race I am extremely proud of which got me to the finish line as the first female. 

It had been over a year since I did a triathlon. My last triathlon was the Lakes Country sprint in August of 2014. An entire year had passed since I felt all the nerves associated with racing.  I had some running races, but I don’t put pressure on myself in a run race like I do for a triathlon.  The feeling was definitely one I didn’t have a problem remembering.  I did have other thoughts entering my mind on race morning…like…why am I doing this??  I remember on my way to the swim start I passed a small group of people finding a spot to watch the race drinking coffee and I was very envious of them.  I was thinking…that looks so much more enjoyable right now. 

I headed for Madison on Wednesday before the race all by myself.  The boys all needed to be in school through Friday.  Lee and 4 of the boys came Friday night and Mitch made the 5+ hour drive alone after his hockey games on Saturday.  I know I am fortunate to have amazing “people” in my life.  These 6 guys are definitely my “people” and have my back no matter what.  They mean the world to me. 

In a race when I know I want to put it all on the line I need to be in my own space leading up to the race.  Lee knows this and gets this about me.  He made sure the boys had plenty of trips to Ian’s pizza and I was able to do what I do pre-race…which is…a lot of  nothing…eyes shut, feet up the wall…race prep.

I check in as early as possible.
I organize all my gear and lay everything out.
I create a race morning to do list and literally go through each item and cross it off my list.
I have a race week plan which covers everything every day from the time I go to bed to the time I get up along with what I eat. 

My taper for this race was short since I had very little fatigue in my legs.  For Kona it was almost a month long taper.  This time it was a week or so.  I always like to keep my frequency and maybe even swim more often.  Everything is fast (faster than race pace) and short with lots of rest.  I like to keep the frequency, increase the intensity, and drop the volume. 

Race morning:
I’m like a robot.  I have my list and cross everything off step by step and once done I find a spot I can put my music on and close my eyes.  By this time I’m not nervous anymore.  I work to let it go and focus on the task at hand.  The day is very long and I feel it’s all about making decisions and the more correct decisions I make the faster I get to the finish line.

My cheat sheet I made for Lee...funny how accurate the times were.
I wake up about 2:30am and eat a big breakfast and then go back to sleep.  My favorite and what works for me is 2 sandwiches with potato bread.  One sandwich has nut butter and jam.  The other sandwich is nut butter, banana, and honey.  When I wake up at 4:30 I have black coffee and roll on my roller while listening to music.  Lee always gets up and walks down to transition with me so I can use my own bike pump and then he will take the pump back and drop my special needs bags off for me.  However, this year I didn’t use any special needs bags for the bike or the run. 

My motto for the day…. Be Brave
I think it takes bravery to put yourself out there.  To push so hard that either something great will happen or you will crash and burn.  On Sunday, September 13th I chose to push harder than I ever have and as soon as I thought the tank was empty I somehow from somewhere found a little more.  I came so close to crashing and burning. 

One goal for the day ... Control the controllable.
When the canon fires there are too many things I have zero control over.  So instead of letting them consume me I focus on what I can control and my controllables are my reactions and my attitude.  It’s a long ass day that is for sure.  For a little over ten hours I was racing…constantly in motion trying to cover 140.6 miles as fast as I can.  

I was in the water early and was chilled waiting for the race to start.  The swim is my least favorite part of the race.  Yes, it’s the shortest, but for me I feel like I’m swimming for hours.  There was no exception on this day.  I knew if I had an epic day – a great swim I would be at a 1:10.  A really bad swim would be a 1:25.  My goal was 1:12.  While I was swimming I thought FOR SURE the clock was going to read 1:25.  I felt so slow…I felt I was being passed constantly. I felt I was swimming in the wrong direction all the time.  I was preparing myself to see the clock saying 1:25 when I excited.  I glanced at my watch when I excited the water and was extremely happy and surprised with seeing 1:12.  Sweet!!

I’m not big into tracking my data.  I just like to listen to my body and race.  The only thing I use is my regular watch…no GPS type watch…just a standard watch.  I hit start at the beginning of the race and usually try to hit the lap before the bike and the run. 

Transition was super smooth and I sprinted to my bike carrying my shoes.  Grabbed my bike off the rack and carried my shoes almost to the mount line before putting them on and taking off.


I knew the fastest bike split I could do on that course was a 5:20 and a bad day would be a 5:45.  My goal was a 5:30.  My actual race time was a little over 5:20. 

I rented race wheels and went with two Zipp 808s.  Thankfully it was not a windy day or I may not have been able to handle those wheels.
As I started biking I realized my Garmin on my bike wasn’t picking up anything.  At first I tried to hit a few buttons, but then just said…oh…well.  I know the course and have mile markers and knew my total bike time from my watch.  I don’t race with power, but being able to see mph and running times is always nice.  Not this time.  Looking back at the situation…not having the Garmin was probably a blessing in disguise.  In 2012 I was in way better bike shape and my bike time this year was almost identical to my bike split in 2012.  I’m thinking I would have told myself I was going too fast and should slow down if I could have seen my bike speeds.   I love the Madison course.  The course requires you to be focused the whole bike ride.  I feel I’m changing gears constantly and knowing the course is a bonus.  Being able to ride the tangents, push hard in certain sections knowing there will be time to recover in a bit.


Casey and I getting it done.
I knew my best run would be a 3:20 and a bad day would be a 3:45.  My goal was a 3:20.  I was closer to my “best” day type of run and am still shocked that I pulled that off.
I love to run.  Really.  It makes my heart smile.
However, this run was the most painful run I have ever completed.  It was painful from the first step off the bike.  I see pictures of other athletes racing that day and so many are smiling, high fiving, waving to family and friends.  There was no way I could have done that.  I felt like I was using every ounce of my being to just keep moving forward.  I was quiet. I didn’t smile. I could hear everyone around me, but I seriously I just focused on the bike tire of the cyclist who was escorting me. 
There was period of time I was able to run with a fellow tri friend, Casey Miller.  He asked if it was ok to run together and I said sure, but I won’t talk.  Those were some of the hardest miles for me…physically.  I wanted to stop so many times, but just thought…stay with Casey.  I’m very appreciative of those shared miles on the course that day. 

I had no idea how fast my miles were.  I looked at my first couple of mile splits and they were pretty fast for me.  Then once I moved into the first place position I stopped looking at my watch and just raced.  My shorts were riding up, I was doing a farmer blow, spitting... I really didn’t care.  I could tell my form was falling apart.  I was in pain and all I wanted to do was get to the finish line without falling apart.
It wasn’t until I made the final corner on the course to the finish line and my bike escort yelled to me…”it’s all yours…go get it” that I actually felt I could smile, high five, wave.  I wish I would have slowed down and took more time in the finishing shoot.  It all felt so surreal.  The crowd was amazing.  All the friends and family made the race truly special.

My amazing mom whom I owe my biking ability and my very supportive sister.
At the finish line I was being interviewed and glanced over to Lee and the boys and there next to them was one of my sisters and my mom.  They had made the drive all the way to Madison late Saturday night and slept a few hours in their vehicle before the race started.  I had no idea they were out there all day cheering.  I was so happy to be able to share the finish line experience with all of them.  Definitely a memory I will not forget. 

My nutrition
I consume a lot less calories while racing than years ago and it has been such a blessing.  I have no GI issues while racing and post-race I can actually eat.  My stomach use to be upset for days from all the sugar and it would be hard to get an appetite back.  Now, I’m actually hungry after the race for real food. 

My main source of calories on the bike is EFS liquid shots washed down with water.  I take 5 MAP (master amino pattern) every hour on the bike and the run.  For the run I do coke and water along with the 5 MAP each hour.

Very basic stuff.  I have back up calories on my bike.  I like the Bonk Energy chews and a gel in case I feel I need something or I lose some nutrition. 

Lee and the boys – they were amazing race day.  They were all over the run course on their rollerblades giving me splits on where I was and what my lead was.  A few even stayed back to see me about mile 24 and then had to hightail it to the finish to see me finish.  I feel I tell the boys all the time…anything is possible…dream big dreams…work hard…believe.
However, I think actions speak louder than words and on this day I was able to put all the things I say into action. 

My favorites!!
The boys' all made predictions about my race finish time.  None of them had predicted I would take the win.  I don’t think many people did, but I like it that way.  I like being the underdog… off the radar girl.
They didn’t tell me this until after the race.  How nice of them!  They did have good reason to think that way.  It was exactly 2 weeks out from race day and we were all at a hotel for hockey.  We ordered room service and I had a giant cheeseburger, fries, and cheesecake.  They were like…No mom! You have a race!!  The next morning I woke up and tracked every morsel of food that went in my body and made sure it was a super clean diet.  It all paid off.  I eat pretty healthy the majority of the time.  A cheeseburger never hurt anyone.  It’s a cheeseburger every day that hurts us. 

Lessons learned from IM:

1.       I was not in best physical shape but pulled it off. It's not just the swim, bike, and run sessions in training. In an IM there is so much that goes into the race than the actual training sessions.  I think this is why the Ironman distance has such a special place in my heart. 

2.      You have to be optimistic. Don't waste your time crying over something you weren't or aren't willing to fight for.  Stay positive and work hard until it’s over.

3.      You gotta earn it and when you do its 100x more worthwhile that something being handed to you.

4.      Learn from mistakes. Learn from being a quitter. In the 2014 Chicago marathon I quit.  I regret that decision and used that to fuel me in the marathon to get to the finish line with no regrets.

5.      I learned that dreams and goals change. After Kona my goal was an Olympic marathon qualifying time and stepping back from IM.  Life shifts and goals change.

6.      Be true to yourself cause at the end of the day it's just you inside your own head and if you're not happy... No one around you will be happy.

7.      Race weight/shape and healthy are not the same thing.  

Lastly, we are on our way to see Creed so my next blog may be about me becoming a boxer.  Seriously.  The last movie we saw as a family was Everest and Gavin and I left there planning his graduation trip which is the two of us climbing….to base camp.  Yes, we know our limit and climbing abilities and base camp is our goal.   

Friends and supporters...thank you for all the cheers.