Sunday, September 4, 2016

IMMT 2016: Perseverence, Heart and Grit

It wasn't the day I trained for or planned for, but it sure was a day. I made a lot of sacrifices this year and prioritized training, recovery, and nutrition to prepare for this race.  I spent way more time in the pool, improving my swim more than I ever have before.  I was prepared mentally and physically for the course and for the day.  
Texting Kim, assuring her I feel 'fine'.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans.  Early on in race week I noticed a scratchy throat, I didn't think much of it other than allergies.  I took some airborne and continued on.  We traveled, quite smoothly with our bikes, to Tremblant on Wednesday and by Thursday I was completely congested and had a nice sinus headache.  I was still convinced this was just allergies and a non-issue.  We swam every day in Lac Tremblant, I did a couple of runs, and had a nice 2 hour ride on Thursday.  Everything still seemed on point, the cooler temperatures and lack of humidity helped me hit some good numbers power and pace wise in those lead up workouts.  I exchanged a few texts with coach on Friday, still sure I was just having
some allergy issues.  Then Saturday rolled around, and I was a hot mess.  Literally hot - I was flat out on my back for most of the morning with a fever.  I didn't want to take meds due to the effect they can have on HR, but I had to give in.  If I didn't start feeling any better I knew I wouldn't have the energy to make it down to rack my bike that afternoon, let alone see the start line on Sunday morning.  A cold washcloth and a cocktail of vitamin c and zinc later I had the energy to get up, pack my gear bags and make it down to bike check in.  I did a short swim and then laid low for the rest of the day.

Best sleep I've ever had the night before an IM!  I woke up feeling decent, went through the pre-race routine and got a ride to the bottom of the hill to take care of business (load food on bike, pump tires, setup Garmin, etc) in transition before walking to swim start.  There was energy in the air and excitement all around me, but I could tell something was off inside me, yet I remained hopeful that my body would perform once the cannon went off.  

Swim – 2.4 Miles - 1:26:11

I was feeling good and confidant going into this swim with the work I've done in the pool.  I felt fine during the swim and was even able to draft for a good portion of it.  I was surprised – not in a good way - by the swim time, we were thinking I'd be in the 1:16/1:17 range with a decent swim and even be sub 1:15 with a good swim.  This was a total crap swim for me, yes the water was rough out in the lake, but I should have swam sub 1:20 at least.  Maybe it was my body being low on energy or who knows what but it was disappointing and frustrating. 

A decently long run from swim finish into the change tent.  Moved as quickly as possible through here.

Bike – 112 Miles - 5:44:37

Fantastic race day weather.
I was able to quickly put the swim behind me, and was excited to get out on the bike course and do some work.  It started out fine and I was feeling good, then just before the turn around on 117 my return to center shifter (bar end shifter on a tri bike) stopped working and any attempt to shift made the chain jump around but ultimately stayed in my hardest gear. Luckily within the next mile or 2 I was able to wave down a bike mechanic.  He tried for about 8 minutes and was able to at least get the chain to stay on a cog when I would shift, but I had to hold the shifter in place in order for it to stay in anything other than the 11 in the rear.  As I got back on my bike I figured I'd finish the first loop and see how things were, hopefully see Adam at the U-turn and ask him to call coach and ask if I should DNF.  At around mile 40 my HR just stopped responding, it became increasingly hard to even keep it where it was at, and got to the point where I felt like I was fighting just to get into zone 1.  Cue my body stopped sweating and the feverish chills came back.  The kickers on the 2nd half of the ‘loop’ didn't seem so bad, though with the shifter issue I had no choice but to remain seated and it made U-turns, eating, and refilling water much more difficult than it should be.  Every time I had to use my right hand for something other than holding the shifter I dropped into the hardest gear, not ideal.  In order to set yourself up for a good run you do a lot more than just ride your bike in an IM and a lot of it requires use of your right hand.  From mile 22 and on I had a decision to make – was what I wanted to do with my right hand worth letting my bike drop into the 
At least my bike got washed.
hardest gear and/or crushing my legs for a minute or so? Refill front bottle, take water at an aid station, and eat all required this decision to be made.  On a course like Mont Tremblant with 5000+ feet of climbing sometimes the answer is keep the shifter in place and take care of food/water etc when you get to a downhill.  Then there were times where I just had to let go of the shifter because my right forearm was killing me.  Needless to say, not my best bike split.  I was very happy to hand her over to the volunteers at the dismount line.  At this point I figured I would get through T2, start the run and see what I could do.  I was hopeful that since I basically just did an IM bike in my recovery zone, perhaps I was setting myself up for a PR marathon.

T2: 2:37
In and out for the race belt, shoes and visor.  I love bike handoffs at IM dismount lines.

Run – 26.2 Miles – 4:36:48
I came off the bike and was running decently and figured I'd hold it there and slowly bring up my effort after the first 6-7 miles.   I was very very wrong, HR started dropping again despite all the caffeine I could handle, I also was pee-ing my pants literally every 10-15 minutes.  Anything hydration wise I put in came straight out.  And not pee-ing resulted in a painful bladder.  As I came through the village around the halfway point I told Adam, I’m sick, but I’ve made it this far so I might as well finish.  I wanted to quit multiple times, I wasn’t a happy camper on the run course and I think my face showed it. I actually managed not to walk at all, though I really perfected the Ironman shuffle by the last 4-5 miles, and it wasn't much faster than walking.  

Finish Time: 11:56:14 (9th Place AG)

Final Thoughts
Bike mechanical and illness tested me throughout the day. I had planned on DNF-ing about 6 times out there. When I got back on my bike after the mechanic 'fixed' (not really) the issue I remembered what Rory Finneren told me years ago while playing yard soccer...'you can't just quit whenever you aren't winning'.   I’m so thankful I was able to remember that in the moment when my day was falling apart in front of me. On the run, since my body wasn’t having any of it, I had the opportunity to cheer on friends and patients, many of them to their first Ironman finish line.  There were moments during that 2nd half 
There must be giants in Mt. Tremblant, the chairs are huge!
of the run where I was reminded, this is Ironman and if you’re capable, you get yourself to that finish line.  There are people who would love to have this opportunity, don’t take if for granted.  In the end I was very happy to not have a DNF next to my name. Mentally and emotionally that was the toughest finish line I've gotten myself to, so thankful for the opportunity to once again cross IM finish line #5 and see what I'm capable of. Thank you to everyone who tracked, cheered, and supported - you all played a part in getting me there. 

Now the door is closed on this race.  It happened, I was lucky to come out of it healthy.  A small silver lining - since I basically did an Ironman in zone recovery, my recovery has been smooth and it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to race another full this year.  An opportunity to really see the culmination of the training I put in this year, an opportunity to have the best day I’m capable of having, an opportunity is all I’m asking for.

**...I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me...**

To answer the most often asked question: Placid or Tremblant?  Hands down for me it’s Placid.  My view of Tremblant is tainted, I know that, but I love Placid, and would go back in a heartbeat.