The few weeks leading into the race were a little up and a little down. I continued to struggle adjusting to my new bike position and had a few disastrous long rides that left me in tears. I'm sure some of the struggle came from pushing myself "just one last time" at the end of a long season, but yes, the bike position still needs some work and adjusting to. Worried that I may also be getting a little fried from training and racing all year, I started my taper earlier than normal.
Everything was going well with my taper and I was feeling much more mentally rested and ready to race. Then, a few days out from race day, my back went. Painful spasms. Lovely. It wasn't as bad as it has been in previous episodes - ones that have the sciatic pain thrown in for a dash of flavor - but it was a good one; complete with the inability to bend down to put on shoes and socks nor the ability to sit in a car or chair for longer than 30 seconds without excruciating pain. Having dealt with this same back issue on several occasions, I have my counter attack well rehearsed: anti-inflams; heat, ice, physical therapy (thanks Noonan PT folks!), traction, chiropractor (thanks Dr. Eric), stretch, core work. Rinse. Repeat. Anyone who saw me up until Thursday before the race thought I was nuts to race, but oddly enough it was inactivity that made my back spasm more than if I were to swim, bike or run. So, I stuck to my guns.
It's about a 1.5 hour drive from Tucson to Phoenix and that time period sitting in the car had me more worried than 9 hours of racing. Amazingly, I stepped out of the car at my hotel in Tempe and had NO back pain! Gone. I got out of the car bewildered, marching and running in place in disbelief. My back was still kind of tight and I couldn't quite bend down to touch my toes, but really, how many long-time runners can do that anyway? :) Plus my quads had never been so sore from all the "proper" bending at the knees I'd been doing the last few days to keep my back happy. Nothing like doing 1000 squats a few days before an Ironman...
With no back pain, now I figure, it's ON, baby! I've had loads of solid training this year and despite my bike setbacks, I know I have an Ironman win brewing. My mood was 180 degrees from where it was a few days prior. All that was left was to execute the race according to plan.
Race day was absolutely gorgeous. Partly sunny, little wind, mild temps. A big difference from the 90 degrees + and howling winds we were having a week or so prior. Even though I like the perfect race conditions, I'm always eager to race in the hot, windy, dry weather that Arizona can dish up! The lake water was cool (63F) and after chit chatting with a few other girls, congratulating them on their Kona races and finding out if anyone is hanging around a few days after the race to go shopping (yes, these are the discussions before we race), we jump into Tempe Town Lake. It is still only dawn and overcast at this point, so it is hard to see once you're in the lake and swimming, but I position myself well in the group and wait for the cannon.
My swim started off quite well, I was hanging in the second pack of girls and we started getting strung out in a long line. It wasn't until we approached the first turn buoy that I realized there was a split further up the line and I was missing the fast train. I was on the wrong feet and got off the pack I should've been with. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with my swim time (again), particularly given I had swum 5 minutes faster the weekend before. So, I take a deep breath and focus on getting ready to ride. I'm much happier on terra firma anyway. :)
Swim split - let's not go there. (23rd place)
I'll be honest, this bike course isn't exactly exciting (but race organizers are talking of changing it). Three out and back trips along Beeline Highway and the second and third laps get a bit congested with 3000 other participants all making the same pilgrimage. And despite my training and bike position adjustments, lets just say I left quite a bit of power - unrealized - on the course that day. I did not close the gap to the leaders to get them in striking range for the run, despite posting my personal best bike split (so far) on this course.
I attribute my faster bike split solely to my increased aerodynamics on the bike - thanks to the crew at the Faster Wind Tunnel. But I still have yet to reclaim the Sestriere-busting, Alpe D'Huez climbing cycling power I had during my trip as a guide for Reilly Cycling Tours in France earlier in the summer. It's there; I just need to tap it again. Bike split - 4:56. (11th place)
Let me digress back to the crew at Faster. Top notch people here who genuinely care about their clients and making sure they are completely happy with their bike fit. My continual bike disasters for the last half of this season left me utterly disgusted with the thought of riding my TT bike. Not exactly where one wants to be (mentally) before Ironman races. Aaron at Faster went WAY above and beyond to get me out of that funk. Eternally grateful. :) Do not pass up the chance to see these guys in you are ever in the Phoenix area!
Onto the run. I was pretty far back from the leaders at this point, but that will never stop me from cranking out the fastest run I can muster. I love to run; I love to pick off the competition one by one, as the race momentum swings more into my favor. I had company on this run though, with Ireland's Eimear Mullen exchanging passes we me the entire time. Mentally challenging, but this is what racing is made of! I was not surprised that I had company out there; I knew it was going to be like this and made sure to grind that feeling into my mind and legs during my long runs to prepare myself for it. It helped to have friends and family cheering me on at all different points on the course, especially Linsey Corbin who I'm sure was crawling out of her skin to get out there and run with us. She was jumping and yelling and back and forth all day long with her husband and mine. Thanks also to the folks at TriSports.com, who helped to propel me through their aid station at mile 23, with Bobby on the loud speaker.
I picked off several girls during the run, finally working my way to 7th with a final pass of Uli Bromme with 2 miles to go. I tried to mumble a few words to her to help pull her along to the finish, but I'm sure they only came out as a slurred mess. In the closing half mile of the run, I spotted Eimear up ahead, looking just a little rough (who isn't at this point of the race?). I started to rev up the diesel to see if I could sneak in another pass before the finish, but she looked back, spotted me, and kicked it up a little more too - I ran out of real estate. That could've been an interesting, painful sprint finish and one that I would love to do!
Run split 3:05 (7th place)
Let's just say I am pleased with my race and am glad I bettered my overall time, but I am far from happy about my overall performance. I now have off season time to get the bike fit well-adjusted and, of course, continue to work on my aquatic nemesis. I have a few new strategies to employ to fix that for next year and will look forward to claiming an Ironman victory next year!
I can't begin to thank all those who support me while I train and race. Thank you to Lauren Goss, who let me borrow her Kask helmet for this race, Chris Jeffrey for helping to hold down the LJ Design work while I scramble to get ready to race and for letting me borrow her Timex watch (mine died when it got water in it a week prior), Leanda Cave for so many things I lose count - but most of all for being there to answer my dumb questions and laugh with me, my Coach Jimmy for kicking my butt in training and helping me keep things in perspective, and countless others who offer all the best encouragement. There are many times during the season that I am less than positive, grumpy, overworked, tired and sore. My husband, friends, family, coach, sponsors, employees, clients and homestays who are ever-positive, encouraging and keeping me motivated when I doubt myself. How do you all do that? It's awesome; I love you all. I hope you enjoy my journey of achieving my athletic goals and I hope that is motivates others to set a goal and work hard to achieve it.