IM louisville race report

Saturday, October 17, 2015

True story: After the finish line, after the high-fives and the salty hugs, after I saw my time and did the math and realized I PR'd by an hour and 44 minutes, I went back to the hotel room and drank a Seagrams and Fresca and ate leftover lima beans. And then I cried in the shower because I couldn't believe what I had just done. (And I'm talking about the race, not about the Seagrams and the lima beans. That part I can totally believe. Also, the lima beans were from here and they were really good and you should order them.)

Also a true story: I've spent a good portion of this past season feeling inadequate. 

I know you're not supposed to compare yourself to others. It's the rabbit hole effect -- the second you start, you keep falling, and pretty soon that ugly feeling in the pit of your stomach becomes the only thing you know. But with triathlon, when you are surrounded by so many incredible athletes and your friends are bad-ass and it seems like everyone you know is in the top 10 in their age groups or qualifying for Worlds or shooting for Kona, it is hard not to feel like you don't fit in, like somehow you are a total fake.

And it makes you afraid to talk about goals because you second-guess your abilities. You make excuses and explain that you didn't grow up an athlete, that you never took a swim lesson in your life, that really you only like this sport because there are men in spandex with Australian accents. You sell yourself short. You hide behind humor. You get stuck on past performances that didn't work out the way you wanted them to.

My pre-race exchanges with Coach Mark went something like this:

As race day got closer, all I could think about was last year and how I barely made the bike cutoff. It took all of my strength to remind myself that Louisville was its own beast, that I needed to block out the noise and the doubt and remember this was a new race. And it was my race -- not my teammate's or my parents' or the guy standing behind me at the swim start who talked about how he peed in his wetsuit twice already and we were still on land. (Seriously.)

My race. And that became the mantra for the day. 

The Swim

The toxic algae did not win, so into the Ohio River we went. But this wasn't a mass start. Instead, everyone lined up (a painful process of standing in the pre-dawn cold for a long-ass time) and jumped off of two docks. (This video from 2014 is a pretty good idea of what that looked like.) Because it took awhile for everyone to enter the water, even though the race began at 7:30 a.m. (already 30 minutes later than the typical Ironman 7 a.m. start since we had to wait for sunrise), I didn't actually start my swim until 8 a.m. Which meant that in order to make the midnight cutoff, I had less than 16 hours to finish.

So cold and dark in line that my dad couldn't focus.

Instead of freaking out, I told myself this meant as long as I finished, I would PR. And then I jumped in (OK, so maybe I sat on the dock and pinched my nose and held my goggles and kind of awkwardly slid off) and swam. It was rough out there -- more body contact than last year's mass start at IMAZ. I was constantly being grabbed and had to kick people to avoid being swum over. However, the major positive about Louisville: The current. This was the fastest swim of my entire life: 1:29:51. (I know, right? I still think it's a lie.)

The Bike

The course was pretty much the life I dreamed of when I was 10 years old and mad about anything with four legs and a whinny -- gorgeous green pastures, leaves turning gold and orange with fall color, stately brick homes and so many horses.  

Like a Marguerite Henry novel.

Good thing it was so scenic because it was a challenge -- lots of rollers, constant gear changes, no rest. Granted, this wasn't hilly compared to the terrain here in Washington, but if you went out hard, you could definitely blow up. I told myself all I wanted was to make the bike cutoff (and thankfully my unnaturally fast swim gave me a nice cushion), so I rode conservatively and reminded myself to stay alert. (I used to work with a guy who often said: "Be a lert. The world needs more lerts." He had really cool action figures on his desk.) I also imagined Coach Mark as a miniature elf sitting on my shoulder, giving me a pep talk. And then I imagined him in a cow costume. And also as a jester. This was so amusing that I spent a portion of the bike laughing to myself. 

I had no problem making the cutoff. The only issue I had was nutrition -- around Mile 67 or so, I started to get really shaky and felt like I might pass out. So I pulled over, ate a caffeinated gel and a bar and downed a ton of Skratch, and then I was fine. Problem solved. Bike time: 7:41:18. Slow but steady, and being conservative paid off on the run.

The Run

The course was a pancake flat double loop. My goal was to run the entire marathon, one foot in front of the other, only walking through aid stations and only stopping to use the bathroom (which happened three times, actually). I took a gel every 4-5 miles and alternated between Skratch, water and cola for liquids. (Cola is the best thing ever when you need a caffeine boost.)

Running with my mama for a bit!

I settled into the run and held steady the whole way. I didn't feel spent or sore. I just ran. Chatted with people as I went. Passed a lot of guys who had given their all on the bike and couldn't run anymore. Cheered for my Coeur Sports (side note: meeting these gals in person for the first time was incredible -- this is an amazing bunch of talented, humble, generous, inspiring women) and tn Multisports teammates when I saw them go by. Thanked volunteers. Got a big smooch from the mister as I started the second loop. (I know. I was totally that person.) Ran a few miles with a guy in a huge rainbow Native American headdress and glow sticks. And tried really hard to ignore the people barfing. (There were several. And one of my biggest fears in life is to be randomly vomited on by a total stranger, so I was kind of terrified. Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way.) Run time: 5:05:24, just 15 minutes slower than my very first marathon ever.

Coming down the chute to the finish line was amazing. I still felt emotional and slightly incredulous, even though this was my second Ironman. I high-fived a ton of spectators, saw my parents (I love how much they enjoy triathlon and Ironman especially -- they get so into it), saw the mister and his parents (who had the world's loudest cowbell -- so loud the spectators next to them told them to stop ringing it) and crossed that line.

And the announcer pronounced my name correctly. And I ended up with a massive PR.

Swim: 1:29:51
T1: 12:41 (one day I will learn to pee in my wetsuit and not use the port-a-potty)
Bike: 7:41:18
T2: 7:33
Run: 5:05:24
Overall: 14:36:47 -- an hour and 44-minute PR

Note to self: Stop bitching. No excuses. You earned this. And no one can take it away. Also, high-five for not getting puked on. (Which could actually be the real definition of winning.)


Caitlin said...

Congratulations on your PR! That's a HUGE amount of time to cut off your race, and you should be so proud of yourself.

I also appreciate getting to hear more about the Louisville course since I'll be doing this one next year. Sounds like I should do lots of bike training on hills. Even though I'm in Florida, I'm sure I can manage that.

I can totally relate to the part you wrote about up top - not the Seagrams/lima beans, but the part about comparing yourself to all of the rockstars in this sport. I do this too and while sometimes it motivates me to work harder in my training, I have to keep it in check so it doesn't end up becoming a destructive thing.

Thanks so much for letting me know about your race report. I look forward to reading more of your training and racing posts!

Layla said...

Once upon a time, a marathon was your big scary thing. Then a 70.3 was really scary. And a century ride. Then you finished an Ironman with a little bit of time to spare. And now you finished another Ironman with a LOT of time to spare. It's impressive to watch you take on big things and see them through to completion. Thank you for the inspiration. I'm so stinking* proud of you.

*Not that kind of stinking.

Cathryn said...

The best the best the best. So many hugs, beautiful x

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