I woke up this morning at 4:30. For a moment, when you first open your eyes, you feel like it is just another normal day….until you try to roll over or move in any capacity and you become immediately aware that it is not any other normal day. It is the morning after an Ironman. The pain, the soreness, the stiffness, and chaffing in places you should never be chaffed…
I got up and waddled to the bathroom, braced myself against the wall and the vanity into a half squat – way too sore and pained to actually be able to even sit on the toilet seat – its never a great way to start the morning. But at the same time, there is always a sense of pride, relief, adrenaline, sometimes mixed with letdown.
Yesterday was the North American Ironman Championships. Every year there are 5 global regional championships events – Asia Pacific, Africa, South America, North America and Europe. These are huge races for the professional ranks and they bring out the biggest, most competitive and deepest fields outside of the World Championships. Yesterday was no exception. For the women’s race, it was arguably the biggest and deepest field ever assembled outside of Kona.
It was interesting going into the race – listening to the commentary and speculation about who would win, be top 3, top 5. There were lots of conjecture, but there was universal agreement – there were 10 women who could contend for the win or a podium spot…and any of those women could be 1st or could just as easily be 10th. It was a race that we knew would be close, there would be some epic efforts, some epic blow ups, and would prove to be an exciting day to follow.
Going into this race I was in the best place I have ever been as an athlete. I felt strong. I felt mentally confident and prepared. I not only knew what I had to do to be competitive – I believed and trusted that I was in a place to be able to execute on it. I was nervous before the race – but not because I was afraid of the competition or unconfident. I was nervous mostly out of anticipation of the day – how long it is, how low the lows can be, and how deep you have to dig. But I was ready!
I never really like to talk about what my goals are with anyone except maybe Matt Dixon and Paul Buick – my coaches. And even with them, we rarely talk about placing – we talk about execution with an understanding that IF I execute, the result will be a great one. This race was no different.
I believed that if I could put all the pieces together a top 3 race was on the table and potentially, a title could be there. Lofty? Yes – I couldn’t have just an average day and pull either one of those off. I knew that. But I truly felt confident and in a place where I thought and believed something great was possible and within me. Matt and Paul believed it too.
I also don’t really like to talk strategy, but here is what I knew – I KNEW I was going to come out behind on the swim. And I knew to be on the podium I would have to bike faster than then almost everyone, and then get off the bike and run a 3-hour marathon. And I was right. If I had biked a 4:41 or a 4:42 and then run a 3:02 marathon or even a 3:03 or 3:04 – I would have achieved that podium result. I BELIEVED heading into the race that I could ride 4:40 and run somewhere between 3:00 and 3:05.
The skinny? I was solid – not bad, but I wasn’t great either.
Am I disappointed? No – I’m not – or at least mostly not. I think maybe the thing I am maybe a little disappointed….or at least feeling ambiguous about is my “warrior” attitude.
I think in this race, for a racer like me (with the level of swim I have), you had to be willing to lay it all out there and take some big risks. Corrine Abraham and Angela Naeth both did that. They rode hard and their rides paid off by bringing them to the front of the race. And Angela’s strategy worked because she ran well. Corrine blew up (but still managed to hold me off by 1 minute!). But I look at the race and admire their courage to put it out there.
My take away was I have to be more aggressive on the bike – not just “conservatively aggressive”. I need to be willing to put it out there.
Swim – 1:04 –
Let’s face it – my swim was dreadfully slow. I came out 11 minutes down from the leaders. Oupppfff – painful.
BUT…not all was lost. I went into the swim with one goal in mind – MAKE the sub 1 hour pack. And I did. I made it. And I swam at the back of the pack until the first turn buoy 1200 meters in.
It was funny because the first 300 yards I was working hard to stay on, but once things settled I was ok. But I was at the back of the pack. And I kept thinking to myself “If Gerry (Rodrigues…of Tower 26) were here, he’d be telling me to try to move up, because if the pack splits, I need to be in a position to go with them.”
And then it happened. Just before the 1st turn buoy one of the girls 3 or 4 people up from me began to fall off. I saw it happening and I swam like hell to move up and ensure that we didn’t get gapped, because I knew once the pack split it would be hard to bridge it back.
I fought hard, but I couldn’t make it happen and from there, that was it. Within 300 meters the group had a 30+ second gap to my new swim group.
So…yeh, my swim wasn’t great, but for me – that experience alone was a confidence builder that I CAN make that pack….and also a learning experience in terms of position in the pack. I can’t settle in at the back.
Furthermore, I ended up swimming with Corrine Abraham, who, like me, has a weaker swim and very strong bike. I felt as though she and I could ride together, and use the company of one another to bridge up and close the gap to the lead women.
Bike – 4:49 –
Going into the race I knew there were some women who were going to put the hammer down on the bike. And I also knew if I was going to give away minutes on the swim, I could not afford to give away minutes on the bike. Point blank – I needed to be prepared to ride between a 4:40 and 4:42.
…and I was right. That is exactly what I needed to ride….but I didn’t.
I guess I have a few comments here. First – that thought about Corrine and I riding together…yeh…didn’t happen. She was in and out of transition in a flash and was up the road before I even knew what was going on. I never saw her again on the bike. As it happens, she DID ride a 4:40 and got a new bike course record. She and I were on the same bike plan…except she executed!
Looking at my numbers – they weren’t bad. My power was actually roughly in line with what I was expecting; my heart race was about 5-7 bpm lower than what I expected.
And lastly, I rode alone – almost the entire ride. This was hard. Even when riding legally (with a 12 meter gap between cyclists) there is a benefit to having someone to ride with and work with the bike. It can help with rhythm and with motivation with you hit a low. Riding (at a legal distance) behind another rider can give you a mental break – it’s a huge huge benefit. And on a course like the one in Texas, that was big.
Angela Naeth and Corrine both rode hard, but I also think they rode incredibly smart races. They rode to get themselves to the front of that race and once they were there, they were able to use each other and push each other. It was smart. It was risky, but it also had to be done.
I built in to an Ironman effort and then just tried to be consistent. And I rode solo.
I learned a lot from that – because in reality, in Kona, that strategy could be hugely advantageous. And what I also learned is that I need to up my training thresholds. I didn’t ride poorly – I rode well. But can, will and need to ride faster, and I need to start mentally as well as physically preparing myself for a different kind of execution.
Run – 3:13 –
For me – I knew the race would come down to the run. I came off the bike in 8th with plenty of contenders in front of me and behind me. There was no opportunity to really falter, the key was a consistent and strong run. I think in an environment like that, it is REALLY easy to go out with guns blazing, but I went out more reserved (which had not been the plan) and I think it served me well in the end. I didn’t have the run I was gunning for – not even close. This was perhaps the only part of the race where I felt disappointed.
As I predicted – LOT’s happened on the run. People melted. People dropped out. People walked. And some people, like Angela Naeth, prevailed. She pretty much executed the race I was hoping to execute – a decent swim, an exceptional bike and a strong, solid run. She was great and I was truly excited for her and inspired by her performance. She was consistent all day long. It was awesome and she earned and deserved that win.
At the end of the day I earned 6th place. And I did EARN it. I worked hard all day. That 6th place didn’t fall in my lap. And while yes – I would have loved to have been better, I feel good about my effort. I guess maybe because I can see some obvious changes to make to a few spots in my training, and I walk away from this excited to make them and see what happens in the next one.
I’ve done 5 races (4 70.3’s and 1 Ironman) in 8 weeks. It is a lot of racing. So this week is all about clean out – just mentally and emotionally resting and re-grouping. Then I’ll get back on the horse. I have 4 weeks until Eagleman 70.3 and 6 weeks until Ironman Austria.
Some Thank You’s – First a foremost, I have to thank Matt Dixon and Paul Buick of Purplepatch fitness. Finding a coach/coaches who are in sync with your personality and mindset and where things just flow and work easily is hard to come by. I have that with them. I value their guidance and expertise immensely and I credit so much of where I am today to them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Matt, Paul and the Purplepatch team.
To my sponsors, but in particular to Cervelo, who were onsite at IMTX and doing everything they could to make sure my bike was ready and my race went as seamlessly as possible. Massive massive thank you to Saucony, Shimano, Clif Bar, Rudy Project, ROKA, PowerTap, Marc Pro, Boheme Wines, Corin Frost and to Red Bull for their support and for making just amazing products. I am truly lucky to be able to wear, ride, run in, eat and drink these brands every day.
To my mother and my brother who were there at the race cheering me on. Yes, I do this as a profession and I am used to doing these races on my own, but having family there to cheer you on and support you after a race like an Ironman means a whole lot. They were huge out there on race day and gave me motivation at times I needed it.
To Brian and Tina Trimble – my host family in the Woodlands. This is an AMAZING family and I always feel right at home every time I am I in their house. THANK YOU for helping make my Ironman prep stress-free.
To so many others – My boyfriend – Mike – who is exceptionally understanding and supportive of my quirkiness and big dreams, to Jordan Blanco and Leslie Lasmachhia for the amazing cheers out on course, to my Purplepatch teammates and friends – Sarah Cameto, Laura Siddall and Laurence Delisle. And to so many others who support me and my dreams, day in and day out. To Verdict Digital for being on course and capturing some amazing shots from the day – love your work!
And finally to my agent, Jane Bolander of JSY Public Relations. She and I partnered in June of last year and she has worked tirelessly to help me build my brand and gain exposure and raise the profile of our dear sport of triathlon. She is a rock star and I cannot wait for what she and I have in store for the coming year. THANK YOU!
Until next time. Don’t dream it. Be it.