2016 Ironman Boulder Race Report
My last post centered on the question, “Is It Worth It?” Now, having completed my second Ironman, I've looked over the results and effects of having raced.
This race was tough and it didn't turn out like I had wanted.
I had a game plan going in and was determined to follow it.
We had a self-seeded swim start and I positioned myself in front of the group I thought I'd finish with but it turns out I probably should have been one group up. It was a washing machine. My only IM swim comparison is Kentucky, in which I couldn't wear a wetsuit but it was 85% downstream and I really didn't have to do much work. This swim was different. I was in a wetsuit and I had to put in work the whole time. It seemed like the swim took forever. There were tons of 'seaweed' or 'lake grass' (not sure what to call it) and I know I'm not the only one who got it hung up in my arms and neck. Since I placed myself in a slower group, I think there were probably more inexperienced swimmers in it, which resulted in being crossed, swam over and pushed around by racers who couldn't sight (noteworthy when choosing a slower seeded group). That's never fun but it is part of open water swimming in such a big group of athletes.
About half way through the swim, I started singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall to keep my stroke consistent. But, I ran out of bottles about 600 yards from the finish... I had to start over.
Overall, I'm pleased with my swim. It's really the first time I've truly pushed myself and didn't question whether I would have energy when I got out.
Swim Split: 1:26:29
Getting into the changing tent was a smooth transition. I didn't rush but I also didn't waste any time. I think it was a half decent transition time (06:54) for as far as we had to run and push our bikes to the mount line.
The course was absolutely gorgeous. GORGEOUS! It was also hilly, but not in an East Texas hilly kind of way. More like long, energy sucking 1-2% grades and false flats that, if not careful, could burn you out.
I had very specific power instructions on the bike. I tried my best to execute those but seemed to struggle with actually reaching some of those numbers, which was extremely frustrating. I ended up deciding it was better to err on the side of conservation than to push myself – I knew I had to save my legs. I adjusted my power ranges down about 5 watts and stayed within those limits well.
The way power works and affects my riding leaves me flying down the hills and many straight aways, and then slowly taking my time spinning up the hills. This allowed me to make a few friends on the course. One, named Beth, was in a great Betty Designs kit and being able to talk to her every 10-15 minutes or so was super helpful for keeping my mind distracted. I had/have plenty of fitness for 112 mile bike, but no matter, you are still ready to get off the bike by mile 90. There were some really awesome and fast segments on this course. I'd say it was equally difficult as it was fast. I can see how it would be easy to blow up your legs on this bike course.
Expect unknowns to happen. Expect them so that when they occur, you're mentally prepared to handle them. I was dealing with some back pain on the bike and ended up starting my menstrual cycle while I was on the bike. I correlate the back pain with this event. I thought I'd be lucky and wouldn't have this problem – but what can you do? I don't really know if this had any effect on my performance (debatable) but I can say that you need to be prepared for everything. That was a mentally rough experience and as much as I'd like to say I took it with a grain of salt – it did bother me.
I was probably looking forward to getting off the bike a little more than most.
Bike split: 5:54:17
I stayed on top of my nutrition on the bike and feel as though I drank as needed and ate as needed. However, coming into T2 I started feeling my stomach become unsettled. This was the longest T2 I've ever been in, or it just felt like it. We had to dismount and run (or walk) our bike a decent way before the volunteers took our bikes and then grab our bag and run into the changing tent, run the straight away on a track and up stairs. (07:07)
This was brutal. As per the usual, I went out too fast even though I thought I had slowed my pace. I knew it would be a long run and I didn't want to kill my legs in the first half. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered.
This was a hilly run course. Because of a history of ITBS, I have avoided training on hills and I think this was a big problem. Add that to fact that I couldn't eat on the run, I put myself in a bind.
I was able to drink water and a little coke but couldn't tolerate any solid nutrition. By the time I started in on Mile 10, I was a wreck. I was dizzy, nauseous and emotional. Ryan, my husband, found me on the course and asked me about everything and I just started crying. Nothing was going to plan and I was completely disappointed and exhausted.
He pushed me to try and eat a pretzel and I managed to start grabbing one or two pretzels every couple of aid stations, when I thought I could handle it. I was weak and just not able to focus well.
Because of the hills and my lack of preparation for them, it led to an incredible amount of pain in my ankles/achilles. As with any Ironman, you expect a certain degree of pain and suckage, but this was a whole new level for me. I walked the face of every hill and sllllooowwwlllyyyy jogged the rest.
The run was a complete disaster. To know what you're capable of and for things to not go as you expected makes those dark times even darker. The back side of the course was already lonely and quiet which makes it difficult to distract yourself from those thoughts of disappointment and dismay.
It was a comfort every time I passed someone I knew from our group. I knew I wasn't suffering alone and I could tell that the course was a struggle for them too.
Kat (my best friend who had talked me into this race) and I found each other in the middle of my physical and mental breakdown – around mile 13 or 14 and I think we hugged each other for a solid 30 seconds. I bawled like a baby – and I think she did too. It was an incredibly emotional moment. I was so proud of her and I was so sick and in such pain that it was just overwhelming to see her.
I'm so grateful for everyone who came to support us in this race. I was so out of it for most of the run that I probably didn't get to show any true appreciation on the course. I'm sorry for any time I didn't respond or say thank you or high five. I feel really bad about that. Please know you being there did my heart good. Knowing I would eventually see those Cobb Mobb flags was one of the things I looked forward to most on the run. That and my husband running beside me to check on me and encourage me. He's always been there at my very worst. I love you, Ryan.
To the Finish Line
The last few miles in an Ironman are both the hardest and the most anticipated. When you know there's just a 5k left and you can hear the crowd and announcer, it gives you a boost of energy. I knew there wasn't much I could do for myself by way of being sick so I tried to just focus in on being steady in my run. The last mile I picked up my pace and probably pushed myself too hard.
I remember going through the finish line and a volunteer coming to my side, but everything after that was a blur. I ended up in the medical tent for about an hour as they tried to restore my electrolytes and getting me back to normal. The only way I can describe how I felt is how you feel when you come out of anesthesia. Completely disoriented, unable to focus, weak, nauseous and loopy.
I tried to explain to them that I had messed up badly on my run by not being able to eat and apparently losing your appetite is common in races at altitude. I don't know if that was my issue or not. I was upset that I couldn't think or focus, but after an hour of forcing chicken broth down my throat, I woke up a little and was able to get back to my family and get ready to see Kat come in.
Run Split: 05:04:25
Overall Finishing Time: 12:39:12
Almost a month has passed since Ironman Boulder. I feel like I've grown leaps and bounds as both an athlete and coach since completing my second Ironman.
It was an emotional race and while, in the heat of the moment, I swore I'd never do another Ironman, the competitor in me had decided that it wasn't worth it because I didn't get the results I wanted. This meant, another Ironman is a must. For others, the experience alone made it worth it. And for many more, having made the journey to that starting line answered this question before the gun ever went off.
This brings me to have this monologue aloud with you all. Was Ironman Boulder worth it? What makes an Ironman experience everything it should, could and can be? How did I fail and what did I learn from that failure? What went right and how do I duplicate it?
I'm being coached by a former badass triathlete turned State Champion Time Trialist who comes from a swimming background. I brought to the table my own background of 20+ years of running. I truly feel like this combination sets me up for higher than average success. I'm a competitive spirit and I'm willing to put in the work. My goals don't encompass beating anyone else and I don't define myself by triathlon. However, I'm well aware that there is untapped potential within myself and when I don't achieve all that I can become, that's when I find myself asking, “What could I have done differently?”
As I reflect on the many areas I could have improved, I become increasingly appreciative of having a coach. As with any coach, you can only do so much – it comes to a point where it's left up to athlete to dig a little deeper, to follow the game plan, to mentally push through. But, the fact that I PR'd my Ironman distance well over an hour, gained incredible improvement in my swim and executed one the most solid bike splits to date, speaks volumes. I run a company, I'm a mom of two young children. I'm a wife and coach. My life is full. I have a coach who made that PR happen despite my many limiters.
I've spent hours in thought and conversation with my coach about where I went wrong, where I went right, how I could improve and the shared lessons we both learned through my experience alone.
So, was it worth it?
Yes, it was worth it.
Because I've become a better athlete, a better coach and I know things now that I would never have known had I not stepped into those dark hours. Certain aspects of my life suffered from my lack of attention, but nothing that can't be redeemed. My children watched me cross that finish line and I know, without a doubt, that seeds of determination, will and drive have been planted within them both.
It was worth it... but I'm not done.
#liveandlearn #betteryourself #workhardplayhard