I have decided that I have two alter-egos. SLS was the nickname I was given by a bunch of friends in pharmacy school. It was easier to say than my hyphenated last name, which said fast sort of sounds like a German meat. SLS has been a runner for a long time. She has done a couple of triathlons and was probably the one that first thought of signing up for IM. She doesn’t always have a lot of confidence in her ability to become Ironman. She has a few doubts in the back of her mind that ask, “What if I don’t make the cutoffs? What if I can’t make it through the run? Do I really belong in the same class as all of the other great athletes that are going to be at that start line?” SLS has definitely been around the last couple of weeks. More doubts since the foot problems surfaces.
I was given the nickname “Pharmie” by Simply Stu at the WIBA ride a few weeks ago. It was fitting since I am a pharmacist and did in fact grow up on a farm, a double whammy if you will. Pharmie is calm and is very confident in her abilities. She knows that her past tri and running experiences will help her at IM. She knows that she has trained long and hard for September 10th. She was at her best at the WIBA ride, confident that she would actually be able to pull this off. She was at my race today.
The day started off with a 4 AM alarm clock. We had our stuff all packed up last night, so we ate breakfast, put our bikes on the rack (well, Steve actually did that part), and headed up to the race. It was about a 45 minute drive, and we cranked the radio the whole way because they kept playing awesome songs. We got to the site at about 5:15, got rock star parking nearby, and headed to the transition area. The bike racks were marked for our individual spots, so I didn’t get to pick my place. It was just as well, though, because my place in the transition area was really good. Steve did the sprint distance, so he was in a different part of T. I started setting up my huge pile of stuff. I really need to purchase a tri suit for days like today, but for now, I just figured I would change between swim, bike, and run. I knew that this would take longer, but since I plan to do the same thing in Wisconsin, it was a good chance for a dress rehearsal. I finished setting up my stuff and peed my usual 3-5 times while waiting for the race to get started.
I should probably take a moment here to tell you about today’s weather. The forecast was for it to be 101 with a dewpoint in the mid 70s. For those of you not from Minnesota and/or not obsessed with the weather, that is VERY sticky. There was also a wind in the forecast. It ended up being sunny. It was about 95 degrees by the end of the race with a dewpoint in the mid 70s and a wind that was probably 15-20 miles per hour. Whew! If my intent was to prepare for racing in warm weather that IM could throw at me, I guess I did it.
My big dilemma the last couple of days was whether or not I should wear my wetsuit today. The race directions said that wetsuits may be worn without regard to water temperature. I did an open water swim with my wetsuit on Friday at my local lake, and it was so hot that I could hardly stand it. I wanted to try it today since I’ve never actually worn it in a race before. I knew it would be good practice for Wisconsin. Since it is sleeveless, I knew it wouldn’t be quite as hot as if I had full sleeves. The swim started at 7 am and the lake was big, so there was a chance that the water would be a little cooler in the morning. Plus, since swimming is definitely not my strongest event (very, very slow), any extra benefit would sure help. The cons: wearing it could actually hurt my performance if I cooked in it. What to do? I called my friend TriSara Tops yesterday and asked for her opinion. She said I should see what other people were doing today, but she was leaning toward me wearing it. I was too. This morning, I got to the lake and checked out the water. It felt a little cooler than when I waded in it yesterday. There was a lady down there who asked me how the water was. I told her my dilemma, and she told me that she thought that I should wear it. Since she is a 20 year veteran of tris and has done 7 Ironmans(!), I figured that her opinion counted for something. I resolved to wear it. I love meeting random strangers at races.
I squeezed into my wetsuit and headed down to the start. The water looked a little choppy. Boy was that an understatement. My goal was to finish in under an hour. Don’t laugh. I know I’m slow. I’m still working on that part. We went in in waves of 50, and I was in the 4th wave. The first couple of hundred yards were chaotic as usual. I managed to get kicked in the eye nearly right away, but it didn’t do any damage. I was working pretty hard at first, and my usual breath every three strokes had to be cut down to every two because I was running a little short of air. The water was pretty choppy, and waves completely went over me more than once. I headed to my usual position of way to the left of the buoys. I know it wastes energy to go that much further, but I just don’t love swimming in the middle of the craziness, especially since I’m usually the one getting run over. I rounded the first big buoy. Wow. My time may actually be OK today. I headed to the second big buoy. The water on this back stretch was a little calmer, and by then, I had settled comfortably into my usual 3 strokes per breath. I was feeling calm and relaxed. I had a little trouble sighting the second big buoy. The small buoys in between were sparse, so I had to completely stop a couple of times to make sure I was still going the right way. That was my only complaint today with the set up of the race. When I rounded the second buoy, I realized that there was a chance that I could be out of the water in less than 45 minutes. The water on this home stretch, though, was terrible. If you would have been able to read my thoughts at that time, you would have seen this:
Wow. This water would be great if I were sitting on an inner tube drinking a margarita. **swell, swell** Is that a buoy or just another bright orange swim cap? **swell, swell, swell** Wow, this water is really choppy! **swell, swell** Where the heck is the buoy? Is the pontoon in front of it? **swell, swell, swell, swallow lots of water** Wow. I might just make 45 minutes. That is usually my 1 mile time in the pool. *swell* Well, maybe I underestimated the distance. I may not get out until around 50 minutes, but that would still be OK. **swell, swell, swallow more water. cough** It continued like this all the way up to shore. I hit shore in 50:16. On my way up the beach to T1, the guy behind me shouted, “I should have brought my wetsuit. That swim sucked!” I guess I made the right decision. :)
T1: I squeezed out of my wetsuit, threw on a shirt over my sports bra, threw on a pair of bike shorts over my sport bikini swimsuit bottom, socks, shoes, helmet, bike, etc. Time: 3:53. My longest T1 time ever, but I’ve never had to put on that many clothes in T1 before.
The bike started out great. I had the wind at my back for several miles. Then I turned into the wind. Wow. It was not pretty. The course was rather hilly, maybe even comparable to parts of the IM course. The wind combined with the hills did not make for a fast bike ride. I knew that the course was going to be hilly, but I’d never ridden it before, and they didn’t have an elevation chart available. More experience for IM I guess. I tried to keep it at a comfortable pace, one where I felt like I could still be going faster, but parts of the second half were pretty tough, and I know that my HR was high then. I can’t even count how many times I was in my granny gear. I was alone for the entire bike ride. I could see a couple of people about ½ mile ahead of me for miles but didn’t catch up to them until about mile 50. It was a little frustrating having people pass me, especially early in the bike, but I knew that I would need energy to endure the heat in the run. My overall time on the bike wasn’t great. I finished in 3:41. Given the conditions, though, it probably wasn’t too bad. Even the Wisconsin course has flats, and this one only had a couple of miles’ worth.
T2: By the end of the bike, I was so anxious to get out of the swimsuit bottoms. I don’t normally wear anything under my bike shorts, but without a changing area today, I really couldn’t put on the bike shorts without something underneath, and I didn’t want to wear them for the swim. It was probably the worst decision I made all day. I was pretty uncomfortable toward the end. I took off the bike shorts, threw on my running shorts (I needed the ventilation in the heat), and did a quick maneuver that impressed several people around me to get the swimsuit off. It literally only took me about 6 seconds. I changed shoes, hats, etc, and ran out. T2 time: 2:25.
I’m not going to lie to you. The run was just plain hot. I quickly came to love the wind that had plagued me on the bike. My goal was to just keep running and not have to walk. I did walk through the aid stations and stopped several times for ice from volunteers or to get my head hosed off (carefully making sure that my shoes didn’t get wet). I had ice under my hat or down my sports bra for most of the run **clack, clack, clack** The ice clacking against itself brought a whole new meaning to the term “knockers”. My run was slow, and I probably could have pushed it a little more, but I only got passed once and passed about 15 people. I started to wonder during the run if I could break 7 hours. I know that this isn’t a spectacular time, but this also isn’t an A race. I didn’t taper. I broke just about every rule about trying new things on race day. The heat index was 110 degrees. I was happy to still be running and not reduced to a massive puddle. My run time was 2:23. Definitely room for improvement. I finished in 7:01:59.
Nutrition: I experimented big time today with my nutrition. I used the Enduralytes (2-3 old ones per hour), and I am definitely sticking with them. My legs never felt heavy on the run despite the heat, and I never once cramped up. I didn’t drink nearly enough, but it was plenty to get me through the race. It would not have gotten me through IM. I only drank 4 bottles of water on the bike, but I drank at most of the run stops. I ate one packet of fig newtons during the bike and sipped on concentrated Carbo Pro mixed with Gatorade as well. I ate 2/3 of a Powerbar on the run and drank several glasses of Gatorade. It seemed to be plenty to get me through the race. I’m hoping to refine my nutritional plan on my long bikes in the next couple of weeks. Most of it seemed to work today, though.
Overall, I’m fairly happy with the day. I know that my time wasn’t great, but considering the conditions, I’ll take it. Pharmie won today. She knew I could do it, and I did.