Monday, May 23, 2011

Texas to Kona, tales from the Woodlands

Where to begin? This past weekend, to quote Beth, "race day magic" happened in The Woodlands, Texas. Long story very short, with the glorious details to follow, I wound up 3rd in my age group, 4th amateur overall and 17th female...including the pros at Ironman Texas. Oh yeah, and I got a slot to Kona! Another October vacation in Hawaii? Yes please!!

Knowing that vacation time would be limited this year with all of my (hopeful) travel plans, I knew that I could only fly to Texas on the Thursday and race Saturday, which left little time for acclimatization to a very hot and steamy climate. Thank god for two things. 1. I grew up in Ohio so I am no newbie to the heat and humidity, the bike leg reminded me of home and I had many thoughts of my family and I riding all throughout my childhood. Just around the loop, right mom? 2. Thank my stars for my endless supply of nuun, hydration was going to be the name of the game in Texas. So Iron Anne, yes with the broken metatarsal picked me up and we were off to plan and prep our bikes and race day bags. Along the way, we ran into fellow nuuners, Sonja and Michelle who were going to be guiding Patricia, a blind athlete to a sub 12 hr finish. Need some inspiration? look no further, these girls were amazing!

There was a practice swim on Friday and with all of the overcast weather there was talk of it being a wetsuit legal swim. The rest of the day was filled with dropping off bikes and transition bags, and getting the visual picture in my head of how transition was going to flow so I could visualize that night. After that was done, Anne and I picked up my pre race nutrition go to of Chipotle and headed back to the hotel. We relaxed, triple checked our game plans and called it a night around 8PM. Old ladies? Yes. Fast old ladies? You betcha. Saturday morning the alam goes off at 4AM for a 7AM start and we are up and at 'em fueling up with oats and nuun. Sunscreen on, hottest kit on the market from  on, hair braided and we are out the door. And for all my ladies out there, can I tell you that there is no additional sports bra necessary with? And trust me, this was a new one for me. Phenomenal. No more double bagging.

In transition we pumped up our tires, checked our bags for the last time and headed on down to the water, which was a short walk away from T1. I was hoping for no wetsuits allowed and got my wish, the water was a balmy 79 race day morning. However, I was baffled by all of the age groupers who chose to, despite being taken from the rankings, wear a full sleeve wetsuit in that hot water. I would have overheated for sure. BIG shout out to TYR Sports for getting me into the Torque pro, I had the 3rd fastest swim in the AG and no nasty neck rashes like other suits I've worn. The swim ended down a very narrow canal allowing for a very cool finsih, seeing and hearing all of the fans was spectacular. Into T1 in style I go! The volunteers as always were phenomenal, getting my gear sorted for me and able to tell me that there were only 4 other age group women in front of me. Good news! Total time in the water, 1:05, right on target.

The bike had reports of being very rolling and windy with a lot of chip and seal pavement. Much to my surprise and delight, the roads were unbelievably clean, I actually took notice of the lack of crap in the shoulder. Score one for the IM Texas team. My pretty pony was loaded up with salt tabs and gels in preparation for the ride. The sky's remained overcast throughout much of the ride, keeping the heat and humidity bearable. No Wildflower exams sun burn for me thank you very much. East Texas again is very similar to Ohio, not a lot going on and very beautiful in a calming way. Top age grouper Beth and I spent the majority of mile 20-70 motivating each other riding peacefully through the Texas forest with only the annoying occasional male interrupting our speed train. I heard a male age grouper describe the bike course as "boring" today and I thought he couldn't have been more wrong. I already have such great memories of this place. Did I mention I already signed up for Texas 2012? Total time on the bike was 5:22 averaging 20.87 mph...with a little less wind, I coulda, shoulda, woulda rode... Mrs Consistency was my name this race and I remained in 3rd place in the AG, with only superstars Beth and Jenn ahead of me.

I got off the bike feeling pretty good but knowing that hydration was going to continue to be a factor, even though at EVERY aid station on the bike I grabbed a bottle of water. I could feel in my body things weren't perfect. No problem though, we (to quote super supporter Meredith) keep calm and carry on and focus the first few miles on cooling down and fueling up. Following coach Marks strategy, I wore a hat so that I could put ice underneath it and continually cool my body. My goal was to run 8:15's and set a marathon PR of around 3:35. The day would not see that, only 8:34's for a total time of 3:44, also a PR of 2 minutes and again 3rd best on the day for the AG. See the trend developing? Like I said, it was very hot and steamy and you could see the carnage developing all over the course. And with three laps of it, you could see it go from bad to worse as the day wore on. The real wind developed on the run course and I would have hated to be out on the bike then, it was gnarly!! The run was three laps of almost 9 miles and I thought to myself, just three hour long tempo runs to do. You do one every week, no reason why you can't go do three in a row. This is how it always starts for me. And a very wise woman once told me on the morning of my firs Ironman just one year ago, that I "GET" to go out and do this. There is no "have" to about this day. And so that was my thought process much of the day, especially on the run. I had read a quote the night before from professional Angela Naeth and she said something that resonated with me along the lines of we choose the pain, and if we don't like it then perhaps we should choose to do something different. This would be my motto on the run. Super hot, three laps of madness, only made more fun by the spectators sitting course side at a restaurant and getting drunker every lap. But they still managed to recognize me every time...must be the kit :). Thank the stars for the spectators, they truly make it an amazing day and their job is as hard as the athletes. OK, where was I?

The final six miles were tough, I could feel my body slowing and the desperation to walk at each aid station for longer each time was getting hard to overcome. I did walk through most aid stations and told myself that I could have another break at the next station. This kept me going. I had no one to tell me of my splits or who was coming for me, but I knew that I hadn't been passed out on the run yet and that would be my only way of gauging where I was at, as there was no real opportunity to see the competition. I was hoping to cross the line in as close to ten hours as possible, knowing that on a flat course, this type of goal would be achievable. Turns out, only one age grouper would break the 10 hour barrier, and she is a true star. I crossed the line in 10:18, for 3rd place in the age group and a slot to The Hawaii Ironman World Championships for the second time in as many tries. Over the moon. This would be how you would describe my emotions. And I think it showed going down the finish line...can't wait to see the pics! But first, there would be a quick pit stop in the medical tent, just to make sure I was OK. Not too bad, just needed a bit of warming up and I was good to go. And it was luxury at it's best, the nurses even got the tracking device and were able to tell me my race stats. How's that for service with a smile?

A quick shower later and Anne, (who even with a broken foot and no run training for five weeks before yesterday, finished on the podium in her AG in 4th place) and I were out enjoying a hot meal, a cold glass of vino and an even colder milk shake. One has to replace vital nutrients right?!! And there may have been a stop at Lululemon to treat ourselves to a podium award of a different kind. We watched as the later finishers came in, and then decided to call it a night. Today was very busy as well, I had to go give the WTC all of my money and sign up for Kona, and next years Texas event.

Flying back to SFO, and tomorrow I'll celebrate with Mark on a super swanky date an even more important occasion, our two year anniversary! And I got just the dress for it in Texas. Turns out, not everything is bigger in Texas ;)

Major thanks again to all of my sponsors, you make me faster, and keep me better hydrated and looking cuter than anyone else out there. For this, I am truly grateful.


goSonja said...

Super Awesome, so proud of you girl! Book those tickets to Kona, it's party time! Wasn't that a great interview with Angela!? She is a complete doll, come train in Colorado with us and you can meet her. You are welcome out here any time!

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