Monday, July 18, 2011

IM CDA Race Report - Part 1 - Pre-Race

At the start of race week this year, I made a promise to myself that no matter how I did in this IM, I would write and publish my race report.  I did not after Placid.  Not sure exactly why but I think it was a combination of anger (at my terrible bike leg) and embarrassment (at my crappy bike leg).  That, and by the time I was finished with IM Placid, I was fried, terribly fried and not wanting to thing another thing triathlon for quite some time.

This year, as I was preparing to race, I wished I had that report.  I remembered many of the feelings and parts of the day and was able to dig up my old race plan, just for comparison, but I really wanted to read the raw truth.  And, I didn't have it.  

So here is my attempt at my first IM Race Report.  I apologize for the length, lack of pictures (will post some eventually but have yet to download) and hope I don't bore you to tears, but this report is really for me.  So that next time (and there will be a next time) I will be able to look back on this report and see how I've grown, and changed and more importantly, reflect on the emotions of the week that make Ironman week so special and unique.

Starting at my pre-race week thoughts . . . 

This year, I was a mix of calm (I amazed even myself), worry (that I was a bit unprepared), and excitement (I was ready to put it out there).  Placid I think helped with the calm.  This time, unlike the last, I knew that I had it in me to finish.  It may not be pretty, but given my last experience - my horrible bike leg, the side cramps, walking my bike and how terrible I felt getting off that bike - and then the amazing gift of one of the most fun and enjoyable long runs in my life, I knew that no matter what the day threw at me, it was a long day out there, things change over the course of the day, and I would persevere.  In fact, the best Ironman advice I ever had from Pro K, to hang in there, assess how you feel, fix any problems immediately and hang on - things will change - was certainly the lesson learned from Placid.  Unbeknownst to me, it would also come in very handy on IM CDA race day.  

The worry part - well, I guess that's only natural.  This year I switched coaches to fabulous Jen H (YAY!) and while I felt very confident with her abilities (she coaches some amazing athletes) my volume and training was very different.  And, on some levels I worried - is it enough?  In fact, I was the one who asked for a true 20 mile run (versus a run for time) and snuck in one last LONG swim of the IM distance the week before the race.   

At the same time, I felt ready.   Very ready.  My body felt strong, uninjured and not compromised.  I felt alive, was able to sleep and didn't feel like a walking zombie.  There were no thoughts of getting sick the week of my taper or being too run down.  And, I was able to hit my last hard training block with confidence and vigor.  I wanted to do that last tough climb up Wintergreen mountain on tired legs and I was ready to do my last long long run - even though it was HOT and very humid at 5 am in the morning that day.   This I attribute to the wisdom of my coach.  The great part of this year's training was that I was excited for the race - and ready to go do it.

Race week, I fine tuned my race plan and goals with Jen.  It was lengthy and detailed - what I would eat, what I would wear and some positive self talk in there to encourage me to be strong, cues of things to think about while on the bike or run.   I read it every day pre-race that week and committed those thoughts and plans to memory. 

We arrived in CDA on a beautiful sunny Wednesday.  CDA had unseasonably warm temperatures that day and the lake was glass.  Our copper roofed house was situated right on the run course and lake.  While a bit eclectic inside, and completely lacking of all window treatments, making for some early mornings, it was beautiful and perfect for the week.  Bart and I lucked out with the first floor master and the view out our bedroom window was stunning.    

We all took a dip in the lake that afternoon (without wetsuits), did a little grocery shopping and enjoyed steaks on the grill and a few glasses of wine.  I felt remarkably calm and a little like I was on vacation.  

My stomach, however, knew I was there to race and so from Thursday until race day, my body was pretty much like a sieve.  I could eat anything and everything, because well, it just didn't stay with me very long.  So I ate.  

Each day leading up to the race, we swam in the lake to acclimate to its cold temperatures.  And each day the water got colder and colder.  In addition to being in the mid 50s, the water was choppy and had white caps most mornings.   After my 20-25 minute swims, my feet and hands were frozen, and I had to concentrate on not feeling seasick.  With each practice swim, my thoughts of a fast easy swim went out the door and my thoughts instead turned to survival and what am I going to wear?

We drove the bike course twice in the days before the race.  I was SO pleased that it was flat or at least fairly flat for the beginning and end sections of the bike.   And from the car, the middle section was definitely rolling but lacked the long steady climbs of Placid.  I was encouraged and felt my 7 hour bike split goal was definitely within reach.  

We did all the usual things pre-race - spent too much money at the IM store, packed our transition bags, ate, went for a little spin on the run course, went for a little shake out jog, ate some more, relaxed with our feet up, racked our bikes, got a little tune up ART (for my neck/shoulder that I tweaked on my last self induced LONG swim the week before IM), slept, visited Jamba Juice, bought toe and hand warmers and gloves.  In fact, the most stressful part of the week was figuring out what to wear race day.  The week was much colder than I had expected and due to the freezing water temperatures, I was really concerned that I would be cold on the bike.  Ended up not using any of my newly purchased warm gear, but better safe than sorry.

For the most part, I did well pre-race.  My anxiety levels were fairly low and I only had one break down - the night before, when we all went to bed.  I must confess I cried a few nervous tears to Bart.  He did a great job of calming me back down and telling me it was okay if I was last to finish in my group of training buddies but that he certainly had all the confidence in my goals and me.  With my cry out of my system, and a myocalm to help me sleep soundly, we went to bed early and, for the most part I slept.  A definite first for me.