Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Still....(IMAZ Race Report)

Over the moon!!!  IMAZ turned out to be the greatest race EVER!!!  Well, almost but I am still just giggling at how well the day went.

If you've been following along on my journey this year, you have probably come to sense that I have struggled.  In many ways.  But racing was where I felt it most.  Which was such a disappointment to me since I was really counting on feel-good races to lift my spirits.  When that didn't happen, I seriously considered taking myself out of IMAZ.  All season I have had problems with my gut - but only during races.  Up to Vegas, I struggled with high heart rate and low power/pace.  It was sooooo odd.  I thought I was doing everything right but nothing got me to where I felt good and confident about my abilities.  I also had this weird breathing thing - alleriges/asthma maybe??

After Vegas though, I recommitted.  It was only 10 weeks to IMAZ and I figured I could give it a go.  Just really give it my best shot.  Commit to my training.  follow some strict heart rate rules.  And just a week out of Vegas, I had my first awesome run in what felt like 18 months.  But I was really tapered for that run and it was like 50 degrees out - cooler than it had been in months - so I figured it didn't really "count".  It did however give me a glimmer of hope.

The remaining weeks just kind of went like that.  I had a couple amazing training rides out east with my Pack.  These boys are awesome and let me hang on for dear life at 30mph.  One day we rode 90 miles in 4 hours!  Another, 100 miles in 4:45.  And that was my longest ride (which kinda worried me).  Then I just kept watching my run pace go down. And my heart rate go even lower.  I was starting to feel like the "old me".  Whatever that was.  But it sure felt good.  And so I started to be hopeful for IMAZ.  Everyone asked me.....are you trying to qualify for Kona?  And the honest answer was that wasn't my primary focus.  All I wanted was to put together a solid race from start to finish that I could feel good about.  And I also knew that if I could do this, a Kona slot could be a possibility.

The wolf pack snacking in Deer Trail
This was a different build than any of my previous IM's.  I missed workouts.  I cut some short.  My job(s) were keeping me very busy (kids, Wildtree, coaching).  I never even trained over 20 hours in a week - not intentionally just how it worked out.  I even miscalculated the date of the race (thought it was a week later)But things came together right on time.  And, I went into IMAZ fully rested (that's a first) and uninjured (WOW!!!).
PIC and I found many great places to put our feet up and relax pre-race.  So awesome.

Race morning went smooth!  I slept well and had only one weird Ironman anxiety dream (PIC took all my bottles and hid them.....strange, I know).  Breakfast I went with a bottle of Osmo Acute Recovery with almond milk and some coffee.  Love that stuff.  I also stuffed a hard boiled egg down my throat.  After emailing with Stacy at Osmo, I knew I didn't really need all that many calories to start but I did need a little something.  And this seemed to work!  No nausea but I was also not that stressed.  A bit nervous but really under control.  PIC and I just did our thing race morning.  Dropped bags, pumped tires, potty-ed, talked to coach - the whole pre-race thing.  Big hugs before the swim and then jumped in and went our separate ways (cue Journey).

So I lined up at the front thinking of my most awesome swim ever that was at IMAZ in 2010 - my first IM.  I remembered not getting touched at all at the start and finding open water right away.  The cannon went off and I immediately got clobbered.  Darn.  Of course, I was sprinting off the line and some people were trying to swim over my legs which I HATE.  And 2 minutes in I thought I was going to die.  But then I just realized it was because I was sprinting and needed some oxygen.  For a moment I thought I needed to do some backstroke but I talked myself off the panic ledge, relaxed and got my breath back.  It was pretty crowded for a bit but I finally found some open water and got into my stroke.  Funny thing is, I started in the middle thinking I'd stay there for awhile before drifting over.  But I'm pretty sure my body thinks there are magnetic target signs on the buoys because before long, I looked up and swam right into one.  And then I kept doing that!!!  I hit the buoys with my hand 3-4 times!!  Doh.

And that was my swim!  At the turnaround, I started counting the buoys (if I wasn't hitting them) and looking for the bridges.  I could hear the planes going overhead and thinking to myself that has to be a pretty cool sight from above.  There was a guy next to me that I kept pace with and a couple of pink caps in front of me.  So after my less than stellar start, I figured it was an OK swim.  Nothing speedy but not too bad.  I beached myself on the stairs (there has got to be a better way to get out of that water!!!) and some volunteers pulled me up.  I looked up at the clock and it said 8:30.  What?  If it's 8:30 then I swam 1:30?  No way.  But what did that mean?  I was so confused.  Immediately I heard Kristi yelling my name and headed to her for my wetsuit stripping.  Love her!!!  They had that thing off of me in no time and I was off to the changing tents!
Way to go finisherpix.....I'm in the pink cap!

(found out after the race I swam a 58!!  My only faster IM swim was AZ in 2010 with a 57 so I'm really happy with that!  2nd in age group out of the water and top 10 amateur women)

I love the volunteers.  That is all.

Maybe I'll learn how to put my helmet on straight one of these days.

Big smiles from me as I headed out on my bike!!!  The volunteers and spectators really make a girl feel loved!  I had slathered on some sun screen so I took a couple minutes to get that rubbed in before getting serious in aero.  I saw Coach and he told me I was in 2nd so I had a bit of work to do.

Before the race, I figured I would take the bike conservatively.  You know, just a big warm-up for the marathon.  And that sounded good to me!!  Of course PIC and I had a talk the day before and she thought I could nail 5 hours.  I thought she had been drinking.  So on the bike, I started not too aggressively and only thinking about eating and drinking.  There seemed to be a bit of a headwind on the way out and I was kind of bummed but not surprised and I just ate and drank.  The way back was a nice little tailwind and some downhill where my little QR tamale just wanted to go fast.  So I did.  Weird thing was, I was sleepy.  Seriously.  my eyelids were heavy and I thought I needed some caffeine.  I also thought that it was going to be a seriously long ride if I couldn't wake up.  The cold water from the swim sometimes does this to me - makes me sleepy.

At some point, I passed the girl who was leading my age group.  And after the first loop, PIC appeared.  Ahhhh.....just what I needed.  Exchanged a few words and then I just decided to see if I could keep her in my sights.  This is what finally woke me up!!  A challenge!!  And I found I was pacing with her pretty well.  Of course, I thought she may not be having a good day if I was keeping with her (silly me - does she ever have a not good day???  I don't think so!!).  But she provided my motivation and inspiration from that point forward.  And I felt great.  No, I felt awesome.  My legs were in it - no soreness, no complaining - just strength.

A few words about this bike course.....yes, it is darn fast. And with 3 loops and 3000 athletes, it can get a bit crowded.  1st loop is awesome - no crowds, 2nd loop there are definitely some packs and lots of riders, 3rd loop?  Almost dangerous at times.  Too many athletes.  And going high speed is just a recipe for disaster.  I've heard next year will be 2 loops and I think that is a fabulous idea.

Any who, so I'm riding.  I'm eating.  I'm looking at my time and trying to do the math.  I kept coming up with 5 hours for the ride.  And I'm thinking - no way your math is f***ed up.  But on that 3rd lap, I kept riding strong and feeling good and happy.  My nutrition was great and I just had to pee.  And really, it was too crowded and too fast to coast and take care of business.  I come into town and had NO IDEA where I was at.  I didn't know PIC was a couple minutes ahead of me.  I had no idea I was 2nd amateur in off the bike.  I only knew I had biked my little heart out and it was time to see what I had for the run.

(5:02 for the bike. Seriously!  1st in my age group and 2nd amateur)

I love the volunteers.  That is all.

Well, not all.  I stopped in the porta-potty before heading out and all of a sudden knew things were not quite right.  Oh dear.  (BTW, men.....any chance you can actually hit the bowl in the porta-potty?  I mean's a big hole how tough can it be?)

I come out running and immediately see Mac from QR.  And he literally looks incredibly shocked to see me!  He said for me to go catch Sonja - and then I had a thought that I was in pretty good position.  All the spectators were yelling and it was amazing.  Coach was there saying I had a good 6 minute lead.  I had planned on taking the first 6 miles at an 8:30 faster.  And I knew from my training runs that was absolutely possible if not a bit conservative.  But darn it if I didn't look down at my watch and see I was at a 7:45 pace.  Settle settle through the crowds and tried to slow down.  First mile was a 7:58.  Oops.

Of course, my back was killing me but I expected this and knew that it would clear up in the first couple miles.  It did. But my tummy was not happy.  I had the "p's" going on.....pukey, poopey.  Not good.  I made it to the mile 4 porta-potty just in time and that was my first stop.  I hooked onto some guys shoulder (he wasn't too happy about that - whatever we weren't the same age group or GENDER) but I needed the pacer.  After mile 8 I had to take my first mini-walk.  And that's when I entered manage mode.  I'd run as long as I could until I thought I would pukepoop. Then I would walk and wait for things to settle and then run again.  And that's how the next 18 miles went.  I didn't look at my watch.  I saw PIC around this time and that gave me a bit of a boost.  Linsey Corbin told me I was one of the top amateurs and to keep eating and drinking.  On the way back she said "Go Sonja you look awesome"!!  At mile 17, coach told me I was still leading but only by 5 minutes.  I couldn't even tell him how lousy I felt - I just nodded and kept at it.  Mile 18 some awesome friends helped my through my next bout of nausea - telling my to suck the salt out of the pretzels and then spit it out.

At mile 21 I was passed by someone in my age group.  I was so miserable I didn't even care.  Now I was in 2nd place.  Mile 23 coach was there to cheer me up the hill.  I told him I was sick and he just said "I know kiddo".  But he hung around with me for another mile.  Then he told me to fight for it and mumbled something about 15 minutes.  At mile 25, Heidi showed up and yelled I was leading my age group.  I just wanted to, someone passed me, your info is wrong.  But something in the back of my mind thought maybe she was right.  What if??????  I mean, she said she had the latest splits......what if ?????
Mile 25.  Ouch. 
Finally I rounded the corner and saw the street for the finish. My friends were there cheering and Sonja going crazy.

Pretty sure that expression says it all!

Oh glorious Ironman finish chute, how I've missed you!!!  I soaked it up.  I airplaned and touched hands with the spectators.  I looked up and saw my time and I couldn't believe the numbers looking back at me.  10:13!!!  So incredibly happy!

Holy Quad!

PIC and I reunited (that's right, cue cheesy Reunited song) in the athlete area and she confirmed I was 1st in my age group and that she won amateur overall!!!  Duh, the gal that passed me was on her 1st lap!!  See how that race brain works (or doesn't)??!!

Swim 58:37
Bike 5:02
Run 4:04
Total: 10:13:51
1st age group, 7th amateur

***Oh yeah, I'm going back to Kona!!!!!!

Time for the most important part of this post........Thank You's (very appropriate for the day before Thanksgiving).  KompetitiveEdge, QR, Punk Rock Racing - the support you provide is just amazing. I really cannot begin to tell you how much your support means to me so a simple thank you will have to do.  Thank you Stacy at Osmo for your advice - I'm almost there!!  PIC - what can I say?  Another season under our belts.  It's no secret that I probably wouldn't be doing this without you:)  Can't wait for 2014!!  Coach - thanks for sticking with me through tough times. To my friends and family - love you all!  And to the supporters and friends out there on the course at IMAZ cheering for me.....Thank you!!  

And now it is time for off-season!!  I haven't done anything since Arizona but I have thought about it.  A light swim will be in my near future as well as a short jog.  My dog is so happy since she's getting walked 2x daily.  I'll be heading to XC Nationals in a couple of weeks to watch Charlotte compete.  And that's about it!!