Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One Minute Matters- Ironman Arizona Race Report

I had the most unbelievable, yet bittersweet, race of my life.  I'm cutting right to the chase here with the race report- I have a pre-race report all written, I'll post it tomorrow for those of you who are interested. I'll also add pictures/minor corrections in the next few days. Here's how my day went down...

THE SWIM- Where I almost quit.

I had my garmin set to beep/vibrate every 20 minutes- I should be at 40minutes at the turnaround to know if I was on pace for a 1:20.  As you all know, I am NOT a fast swimmer… but for this race I was “good enough” to be in the main pack mix… which was NOT a good thing-  aaaahhhh the washing machine- I was getting bumped and smacked constantly!  I did my best to relax, and I knew I was swimming strong.  Believe it or not, I was PAST the turnaround, almost to the first buoy when the 40min beep went off- YES!!!! I was probably on pace for a 1:15-1:17!  However, this is where it started to fall apart- I was REALLY getting pummeled- kicked in the gut, goggles slapped off, I was starting to get panicky, which has never happened in a swim for me.   I also made the mistake of swimming buoy to buoy instead of sighting “far-ahead” and following a more direct path- according to my Garmin I added about .2 miles because of this.  I would recommend to anyone doing this race that they actually go to the bridge near the turnaround before the race and check out the buoy line…

 About halfway back, it happened- my right calf completely seized and locked up- I screamed in pain.  I tried dorsi-flexing my foot to stretch it out- it would cramp even worse on release.  People were swimming over me, my goggles got slapped off again, I was freaking out.  Finally, I left it alone.  It was PULSATING very painfully, but I pretended like I was swimming with a pull buoy and just tried to finish up as best as I could- I ended up with a 1:21 swim, still a 3-minute PR and only about a minute off my goal time. 

T1 – so pissed.

I came out of the water SO pissed- damage had been done to my calf and I knew that it would be tight the rest of the race.  Adapt and move on.  It was a long transition run and the change tent was full and busy.  A volunteer helped me and I got out there as quickly as I could- I’m not a transition specialist, but I did alright.  My biggest dilemma was whether to wear arm warmers or not (~58 degrees at bike start) I chose to wear them.   A volunteer said he would grab my bike – but grabbed the wrong one! Oops- but that got fixed quickly and I was on my way.  Total time was 5:30-ish.

asi photos

BIKE – the best ride of my life!

Getting out of town I took it easy- there were TONS of cyclists.  I didn’t fret- once it opened up I would get my groove on.  I took in my nutrition, made sure all my “junk” were in the right pockets and tried to stretch out my calves a little bit.  For the first 10 miles I chilled.  I was ready to roll once we got on the Beeline… but uuuggghhh.. the drafting on the first loop!!!  I have had friends who got penalties for drafting unintentionally, so I made SURE that when the dudes passed me I fell back 4 bike lengths before passing them back.  I was getting a little frustrated, but I stayed calm.  The only time shiz hit the fan during my ride was when I was holding race watts, going up a little hill when this pack of about 10-15 “athletes”, male and female, overtook and surrounded me.  I sat up, coasted, waiting for them to pass me- they didn’t!!  After about 1 minute of this nonsense I firmly told the final members of the pack to PASS ME- they obliged, I fell back, then put my head down and time-trialed past those BoZo’s and left them in the dust.  Have a nice race A-Holes.  
asi photos

We had a headwind going out on the first loop- I averaged about 19mph until the turnaround, but boy it was FUN heading back!!  Holding 27-30 mph is what I’m talking about!!  I  hit timing mat around 1:45- holy cow!!  I figured I would slow up a bit during the next two loops so I didn’t even do the math.  I also didn’t see my people on the first loop, so I was looking forward to the second go-around!

Heading out on loop 2 I was moving!  Watts were good, a tiny tad higher than planned, but I constantly re-assessed and was feeling great.  I saw my Mom working at the aid station at mile 5 (of the loop), and my friend Margaret and her fiancé at mile 12 on Gilbert Rd.  On this section I chatted a bit with a girl in my AG, Shawna, who was also riding really strong!  It was her first IM and I was giving her tips on how to pee on the bike LOL.  She is definitely an athlete to watch out for- there were some dudes trying to draft off of her- it was pretty funny to watch as she smoked them!  At the turnaround I saw MY MAN DAN and my brother Don- they looked like they were having a blast- yay!  I kept on truckin and felt super- I finished the lap and hit the timing mat with a 1:45 split- again!  Holy cow I’m done with 2 loops already??  I then did some math- and my breath was taken away for a moment when I realized I was on pace for a FREAKING 5:15 bike split!!  I dismissed the thought, but was thinking I would actually get a 5:25- holy smokes!!  I’ll reassess at the turnaround.
asi photos

Well, 3rd lap started and now we had a tailwind going out- crazy!  I just. Felt. Awesome.  I didn’t stop at special needs, so I made sure to take extra gels at aid stations so my nutrition plan would stay on target.  My calf was loosening up a LITTLE bit, it wasn’t painfully seizing anymore.  I saw my boys at the turnaround, then hit the headwind- but it really wasn’t that bad.  I guess all those LODA rides paid off!!  I did some math… assessed my effort and how I was feeling… looked at my pace… and realized I what I was about to accomplish… Oh.My. Gosh.  I crossed the timing mat at 5:15:00 and was ECSTATIC.

T2: Am I in the game?

I got through T2 as fast as I could- I knew my bike split was hellafast- but was I in the mix??  Time was 2:30-ish
asi photos

RUN- the hardest run of my life.

Going into the race, I knew the run was going to be the biggest wildcard.  I started off at a moderate pace that I had consistently trained at- about a 8:35-8:45 mile.  It wasn’t easy- my calf was soo tight, my ankle and my heel hurt- but my brain blocked out that pain, and I focused focused focused.  Dan was my “spotter” the whole run and when he told me around mile 3 that I was running in THIRD PLACE I was in shock- this shiz was REAL.
asi photos.  feeling fresh... not for long!

I stayed calm and continued on at my own pace.  I passed 2nd place around mile 5, and was now running in second- I knew there was one girl behind me running quicker, but I HAD to be smart so I wouldn’t blow up.  2nd place was a surefire spot to Kona.  There MAY be 3 spots, as there had been 3 in my AG in the past, but I wasn’t positive.

asi... focused.

asi... still focused.

I can’t say the miles ticked away, because they didn’t.  After about 10 miles, my legs were getting heavy, and my injuries were getting painful.  I put my head down and trucked on as hard as I could.  Miles 13-14 is when my body started giving out on me- I was giving more and more effort, but running slower and slower.  I NEVER let up- I took it one mile at a time.
asi... hurting.

I had a system at aid stations- 2 sponges- I got my face, arms, quads, and hamstrings, took one water and one perform (miles 1-13) or one coke (14-finish).  I took a swig of my liquid shot every 4 miles.  I was also taking salt tabs consistently, as I also did on the bike.  I never cramped on the run, I just didn’t have the durability from my limited run training this year.  It hurt very, VERY badly.
asi... love these photos.  They sum up the last 13 miles.
asi... I was really pushing through some pain.

This paragraph is heartbreaking to write…I was in 2nd place for 20 miles.  I never let it get to my head, because I knew I was NOT running at Kona-qualifying pace- if I stayed in second, I would be very lucky.  I knew 3rd place was gaining on me very quickly- I gave every ounce I had to hold a solid pace, but my body couldn’t deliver.  Mile after mile she still hadn’t passed me, and I held on tight…Even at mile 25, I knew I wasn’t safe… and sure enough, as I running through the crowds ½ a mile from the finish, it happened.  She BLAZED by me and didn’t look back- Dan tried to get me to SPRINT to go with her…I tried with all my heart, but my legs wouldn’t let me.

I never looked at overall time during the run- I only had my garmin displaying my “lap time” – an easier way to mentally break it down. My marathon ended up being a 4:01.  As I turned the corner to finish line, and I saw the clock say 10:46, I could NOT BELIEVE IT.   I had BLOWN my finish time expectations out of the water.  For the moment, I forgot about the pass, and reveled in my finish line glory!!  I’m still trying to comprehend that I’m now a 10:46 athlete- that’s FAST!!!

After I greeted my entire support crew with hugs and kisses, I HAD TO KNOW if I made my pie-in-the-sky goal: A Kona slot.  I found the paper posted on the massage tent… and there it was… 2 slots for my AG.  My heart sank, it stings to think about it.  I missed a Kona slot literally, by one minute.


I didn’t get a Kona rolldown- it looks like I’ll have to earn it the old-fashioned way.  I signed up for IM Louisville next year, and without a doubt I’ll be gunning for a Kona slot.

It took 2 ½ days for my stomach to feel OK after the race, and here I am 3 days out and I’m still having a lot of trouble getting up/down and walking… my calves are so damn tight if you just POKE them I’ll scream in pain… especially the one that cramped up in the swim.  My ankle/heel is in a lot of pain- I’ll be seeing my doc soon about options to “fix” that ASAP during the off-season.  I don’t know HOW I pulled off a 4:01 marathon judging by the shape I’m in now!

I’ve done many many triathlon races prior to this- but I’ve always considered myself a participant; sure my goal at almost every race is to race against myself and PR, but I was never too concerned with other athletes’ races- this has changed.  On Sunday I proved to myself that I am a COMPETITOR, and I sure as hell raced like one. A 10:46?? That’s a FAST girl’s time… MY TIME.  I know that I had the BEST race I possibly could that day- I truly left it all out there- and it got me on the podium.

I trained like a “participant” for years- hitting the important workouts, but skipping workouts that wouldn’t have a “big” effect on my finishing time- well guess what- ONE MINUTE MATTERS.  Those words sting.  That is going to be my mantra for next season- what is going to get me out of bed, in the pool, on the road, etc…


My race was very bittersweet- Despite missing a Kona slot, I blew my finish time goal (10:58) out of the water with a 10:46- OVER A 1-HR PR, and I freaking PODIUMED at major race!!  I also PR’ed IN EVERY section of the race, including transitions.  I put in the training, the hard work, and the suffering, but I couldn’t have gotten here without some MAJOR help:

My husband:  Dan is amazing.  Even being overseas for most of the year, he found ways to motivate and bring out the best in me- he was sooo accommodating during all my taper and pre-race anxiety and crabbiness, and did everything he possibly could for me to have the best race.  He wasn’t even supposed to BE in Arizona…having him there truly made my weekend.  I LOVE you Dan!!  He really needs to look into a career with all this sports statistician stuff- he’s GOOD at it!!  He was ALL over that course giving me times and telling me exactly how fast I had to go to maintain my position, etc… Team Wheatley is going to dominate next year!

My family:  My sweet mom, brother, and in-laws all flew out to watch and were the best spectators and support crew I could ask for- they have been so positive and helpful all year- THANK YOU!!

My sponsored team:  GO TRAKKERS/REV3!!  The passion of these individuals is contagious, and support I receive from them is unbelievable.  REV3 Events are top-notch and I can’t wait to compete in several of them (Knoxville, Portland or Maine, and the Dells) to prep and tune-up for IMLOU next year!!

My coach: Jen Harrison did it again… she turned a participant into a competitor.  She also had an amazing race herself at IMAZ and got 3rd in her AG ( the biggest female field) and turned down her Kona slot.  What a woman… Thank You Jen!!

Bloomington Cycle and Fitness:  For keeping my bike in top-notch condition!  I beat the hell out of that thing, so they have no easy task :)  They also worked extensively with me on my bike fit, and it paid off- I rode comfortably the WHOLE race.  I felt strong and powerful without any back/neck/etc. pain!

My local team and training partners: TRI-SHARKS!!  Mick- Thanks for hosting the weekly time trials- they are training weapons!  Tamara and Brian- thanks for making me ride 50 miles straight into headwinds week after week.  It wasn’t always fun, but it paid off :)  Steve- thanks for RUNNING with me (and Winston) and letting me borrow your helmet!!  Chris- thanks for all the advice, gear help, and mentorship- it has definitely helped shape me as an athlete.  To all the guys that kicked my ass on the bike (Mark M., Mike D., Doug, Brad, ROSS, etc…)- THANKS!!  I also used the club wheels (Zipp 404 and Disc) which were AWESOME.

My sponsors: 

Kestrel bicycles for providing the machine I powered to the 6th fastest female bike split of the day (fastest in AG, AND I beat 4 pro’s)-I LOVE my bike!!
SBR Sports- Kept my hair and body feeling fresh all year, but more importantly, NO CHAFING with Tri-Slide, and NO FOGGING on my goggles (even after being knocked off twice) and sunglasses with Foggle!! Thank you!!
First Endurance: I never had ANY GI issues all day, and I was fueled by EFS, liquid shot, and pre-race capsules.  Nutrition can make or break your race, and I was able to race what I was capable of without any GI stress!
TYR:  Even in the chilly water, my Hurricane wetsuit kept my body temperature up and just fine!  I swam my way to a PR, and its only going to get better :)
Recovery Pump:  During my biggest blocks of training and hard workouts, I was able to recover very quickly and bounce right back into training.
Avia: For providing some FUN, flashy shoes!!

To all my friends and supporters: I am amazed and humbled by the support and encouragement I received via email, text, facebook, and twitter!!  I can’t believe how many of you took such a portion of your day to track me- Thank You!! 


Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on a ggreat race and pushing throw the pain from the calf

PS AZCENTRAL.COM has a picture of you on the bike, riding through an aid station, pretty cool photo

Caratunk Girl said...

Ok. I just wrote a comment and it went away. DANG YOU BLOGGER!!!

NOW. I want to say that you are freaking amazing. What a race, what a recap!! That swim sounded crazy!! And to have you calf seize handled everything so well. And you are blazing fast!! What an amazing race. Bummer about the Kona slot, but you know you are in striking distance. I call it - IM Louisville you will KQ!

kati said...

I'm withe everyone else, you were AMAZING and so, so fun to track online!!! Can't wait to see you race next year and cheer you on to that Kona slot!!

Hollywood said...

Even missing that Kona slot, you were a badass out there. You put together a great race, and I know you'll use the fire from it at LOU next year! Congratulations!

tribirdie said...

Congratulations Laura on your breakthrough race!! What a fabulous bike you had!! Way to stay strong on the run, that takes guts!! You are going to have a fabulous race in Lou!!

Jennifer Harrison said...

YOU really had a SUPERB race....just amazing considering all you went thru in 2011. SHOULD get you fired up for all the great things ahead in 2012!!! CONGRATS again and again!

JP Severin said...

WOW! what a race... 5:15 is seriously BLAZING. I train with a couple guys who are pretty nasty on the bike and one went 5:12 and the other went 5:19. You are not just a fast girl, you are fast period.