Race Distance: 140.6 [2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run]

Race Date: 8/21/2016

Total Time: 11:07:46

Age Group Place [F30-35]: 7th

Overall Female Place: 30th

“World champion big-wave surfer Nic Lamb says being uncomfortable, and even afraid, is a prerequisite to riding four-story waves. But [he] also knows it’s ‘the path to personal development.’ He’s learned that while you can pull back, you can almost always push through. ‘Pushing through is courage. Pulling back Is regret,’ he says.” –Brad Stulberg

Preface

I realize that the introduction to all of my race reports this season has read something to the effect of: I had high hopes of training, but work, life, travel, yada, yada, yada interrupted my efforts…

Translation: Excuse, excuse, blah blah blah.

It’s true; life lately has unfolded chaotically between switching jobs/industries, moving across the country, leaving said job and trying to figure out what to do next with my earthly existence. I interestingly found my unemployed self with less time than my employed self, but also with my focus shifted to priorities outside of swimming, biking and running [shocking, I know]. Maslow and his Hierarchy have a funny way like that.

I, somewhat counterintuitively, trained for this race with the least discipline of my triathlon career, and my run training suffered the most. The fact that this discipline most conveniently fits into travel and erratic schedules suggests that maybe it was for lack of want to run and not inability to train that I didn’t hit the run volume Coach Rotelli had prescribed. In reality, if I truly made the decision to commit to this race, I could have executed my training plan nearly 100%. But was that what I really wanted? What I really needed? Would it have even made a difference…?

To add to the complexity, an undercurrent throughout my entire triathlon life is a constant struggle between capitalizing on potential talent in the sport on the one hand and an adolescent-like refusal to accept the discipline required to cultivate those potential talents on the other. I never entered the sport to compete; it just so happened that I had a knack for it. I’ve always wanted to do “what I want, when I want” without giving up my propensity for spontaneous adventure, mastering being a jack of all trades, pastries, wine and other performance-diminishing “vices”. Coach picked up on this early on and I believe utilizes a lot of subliminal mind tricks to harness the adolescent in me. After all, he coaches kids too.

That being said: I successfully covered 140.6 miles without injury. “A” goal accomplished! I had an excellent swim, held tough on the bike despite demoralizing conditions, and I had a marathon time fast enough to place me 7th in my Age Group. Pretty good for a second Ironman! I feel positive about my performance overall; however, I didn’t have the run that I had hoped for [but I admittedly had the “run” that I had trained for].

Pre Race

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The elusive crackpipe!

I spent Monday and Tuesday trying to find all of the things that had been shuffled around during several relocations over the past six months. Items missing in action included my aero bottle, ATC race singlet, visor for my aero helmet, bike computer, the meaningful piece of my HR monitor… Perhaps I hadn’t gotten quite as organized as I thought. HOWEVER! I DID find my crack pipe!

At the last minute, I decided to rent a set of wheels from Colorado Multisport. Just a week prior, I had Ryan take a look at my bike fit, and he made a few key adjustments including a new saddle. Normally one wouldn’t swap such an important and intimate fixture so close to such a long race, but I lack a healthy aversion to risk–perhaps I should get that someday.

Oh and I spontaneously chopped off 6″ of hair. I regret that decision.

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New saddle and shiny wheels! White Lightning is ready to rock!

As I packed my belongings the night before my departure from Boulder, I made several important decisions*. Since I hadn’t paid attention to data such as power and HR figures the entire season [enacting that aforementioned adolescent rebellion, I refused to do one single FTP or LT test–my Training Peaks bleeds red…], I decided to “eff” a bike computer and HR monitor altogether, as I only had imprecise numbers to pull from and wouldn’t actually use them during the race anyway. And I knew that a bad day would result from a lack of training and not some mystery that post-race data analysis would resolve. LET’S GO OLD SKOOL!

 

*I highly recommend packing at least two nights prior to an event of this magnitude, as giving these capricious decisions another nights’ rest might perhaps guide you down a more prudent path.

I awoke early to pack the car, running behind schedule. I realized at that moment that I hadn’t attempted to shove my Scicon bag in my trunk since I upgraded the cockpit on my bike a good six months prior. Shit. The old one fit perfectly in the trunk of my trusty little Mazda, but this one wasn’t having it. After a few configurations and a whole lot of force, I managed to bend [permanently] the plastic separating the trunk from the back seat enough to squeeze it in. The back seat may never return upright, but who needs passengers when you can have a bike in the trunk?! #priorities [See asterisk above.]

newarkOff to the airport, and my flight eventually took off and landed after a long delay. Then I spent an agonizing five hours in the fly-infested Newark airport as my second flight was also delayed. After accidentally spilling beer on a non-English-speaking German bloke and making too many sarcastic people-watching comments with another fellow Newark hostage whom I befriended, the plane departed. I arrived in Montreal and picked up my sick rental car [Jeep Wrangler happened to be the cheapest option that would accommodate a bike! It was awesome]. It wasn’t until a ripe 2am that I tip-toed in the house that a group of Rotelli Performance Racing athletes shared, and I crashed immediately.

And then there was light. And, oh my, is Mont-Tremblant so incredibly beautiful! I knew this from my highly abbreviated stint to the destination for 70.3 Worlds in 2014, but having the luxury of time to stay longer only increased my love for this place. Not only picturesque, but Mont-Tremblant also lends itself to some pretty fantastic training. As such, the next couple days involved a daily dip in the lake behind our house where I tested my shiny new ROKA wetsuit for the first and second times [as I had shed my former one mid-swim at Boulder 70.3 a few weeks prior]. The second swim occurred after a shake-out ride with Coach, and I assessed wearing bike shorts underneath the suit–more out of laziness than anything. They felt great, and, perhaps, provided a bit of extra buoyancy—I need all of that! So I decided to don legit bike shorts on race day.

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The view from the back deck of the RPR house

On Friday, we picked up our packets without issue and hung out in Mont-Tremblant village, which reminds me of the architectural feel of Vail combined with the small town intimacy of Steamboat Springs, CO. The Rotelli’s took a few trips down the alpine slide while the rest of us chilled on the patio of the restaurant at the bottom. That night, I visited a house of fellow Atlanta Triathlon Club folks where Tony Tosen generously prepared a fanciful feast for Angela and Will, Dustan and some of Tony’s spectathletes.

On Saturday, I was able to hang out with other ATCers: Jerome, Birthday Girl Jess, Heather, Rogue, Jamal and Alison. And during the days prior to the race, I ran into a few other familiar faces in passing like Big Sexy Racing badasses Taylor & Kim and first-time Ironman and the Emory School of Nursing Icon, John King [yes, the son of Dr. Joyce King]. Many other friends were racing who I didn’t have the opportunity to see pre-race and a couple who I unfortunately never saw at all. Had it not been for all of the people doing this race, I never would have registered! Peer pressure is powerful…

I also picked up something to put in my bottles, cause, ya know, it’s always good to experiment with things like nutrition on race day. Too lazy to install additional cages on my bike, I decided to carry two bottles of the super salty “Rescue Hydration” Skratch mix, intended to save you from exercise-associated hyponatremia rather than consume as your everyday beverage, but I usually add extra salt to my bottles anyway, so the Rescue Skratch actually eliminated a step. I’d stash two additional Skratch bottles in special needs and resigned myself to picking up Gatorade Endurance and water on course as needed. For the record: I hadn’t had a sip of the putrid orange stuff prior to race day…

oh-henryOh and having peeked at the weather, which predicted cold rain and storms, I found a pair of full-finger gloves at the expo. There’s not much more I hate than being freezing cold! Ugh. I added these to my bike bag, which I gingerly placed in transition along with my run bag. Checked in the bike and then went to the grocery store on an important mission to find a fun snack to stash in run special needs [unable to find Snickers, I opted for an “Oh Henry!” bar—quite delicious], where I ran into Adam Heiser of ITL Coaching and Performance, who very generously picked up provisions for the 10-or-so ITLians staying in his house. I expressed to him concerns of my lack of run volume, and he relayed to me that he registered for IMMT 2017! Having most recently seen him disappointingly walking at Boulder 70.3, this made me super excited for him!! Hopefully he’ll get the fantastic day he deserves!!

On that note, whenever anyone asked the inevitable pre-race question, “Are you ready?”, I’d respond with similar apprehension over my run training volume. As the race day drew nearer, I continually repeated to myself, Just gotta run a marathon. Even just a jog. Just run a marathon and you’ll have a great day… Don’t pull a Raleigh. There was a very small glimmer of hope that I could actually accomplish the task.

Saturday night, we RPRers cooked dinner at our house and hit the hay early—but only after lip syncing “Bohemian Rhapsody” together in the kitchen—a multi-generational bonding experience that occurred several times throughout the weekend. If this song gets stuck in my head for 140.6 miles… I semi-sarcastically threatened 9ish-year-old Matteo Rotelli, the instigator of the thing. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. But an obnoxious song by Pink did, which I suppose is an upgrade from Tay Swift’s “Shake It Off”, which accompanied every stroke, pedal and stride of Ironman Chattanooga a couple years prior.

RACE DAY!!!

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2/3 Rotelli children and 2/many inflatable Alpacas

Up early. Peanut butter English muffin for now and one to go. Chugged a cup of coffee and a second for the car ride [any mug is a travel mug, if you’re careful enough…] with Julie and Chris and their three troopers of children [as well as a soon-to-be inflated Alpaca, of course]. These kids have been bred as impressive lean, mean spectathlete machines!

 

After dropping off my special needs gear [the bike bag contained two bottles of Skratch and a peanut butter sandwich and the run bag held that Oh Henry bar, a Sprite, and a spare pair of socks], I sauntered over to my position as badass number 100 on the racks. Pretty awesome number and a primo location—the primary benefit of achieving Ironman All World Athlete status, in my opinion.

Brought my bike to the mechanics to allow the professionals to perform such complicated tasks as inflating tires [that crack pipe that I finally discovered after over a year of stubborn refusal to replace it? Yup, forgot it]. Put a regular bottle where the aero one belongs and one in the front cage. Took a second look at my run and bike bags. Looks good!

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Team RPR at IMMT

Found Coach and the rest of the RPRers and together we sauntered to the start, cracking jokes along the way. For the first time for this race, Coach gave me goals. Well we had previously discussed the swim, agreeing that a 1:15 and possibly a 1:10 was in my wheelhouse at this point in my Swimtervention evolution. “Bike a 5:30 and run a 3:50. 10:58 finish,” was all he said. To which I responded, Ok Coach!! 5:30, 3:50, 10:58! Got this. And immediately, I forgot those numbers [I asked Coach to remind me to write this report ha].

Laura and I stopped at a porta potty along the way and rejoined the rest to struggle into our wetsuits, listen to the Canadian National Anthem and hear the BOOM of the cannons as the Pro males then the Pro females took off. The RPR guys left for their start, and I made one last trip to the loo before making my way to the start where I greeted Jess, but forgot to wish her a happy birthday!

14053771_1130193773707507_9194779017905037631_oI’m glad I left with time! The passage to the start was crowded with spectators and athletes—everyone moving in all directions like a herd of oversized, overhydrated cats wearing too much spandex and/or neoprene. I found my fellow White Caps [little did I know at the time how appropriate it was for that day] and saw Denver Hawaiian Ocky along the side. He wished me well and caught a snapshot of me.

SWIM         2.4 mi          1:07:24 [WHAT?!]          1:44/100m          13th

I situated myself on the beach behind the front line of girls on the side far wide of the buoys. I couldn’t help but remember my horrific swim at my most recent race. Taking a few deep breaths, I tried to focus on the countless other open water swims I’d completed with relative ease. Regardless, butterflies beat in by gut, and my heart pounded with a little more force than usual. Against Coach’s advice and encouragement [wouldn’t be the first time I rebelled… #badkid], I made a concerted decision to continue my trusted conservative approach to the swim versus setting out aggressively to better position myself in the pack.

Countdown. Then BOOM! We were off. In no particular hurry, I waded into the water a few steps and then took a couple dolphin dives before starting to swim. Saving a couple seconds up front wouldn’t matter if I repeated the Great Freak Out of Boulder 70.3.

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Where’s Susie?!

As expected, the start was quite crowded, and I became boxed into a pack. Luckily, these swim-mates kept a pace that felt decent by my standards, so I settled in.

The course directed athletes straight out across the lake, turned right 90 degrees for a few hundred meters, then again turned right 90 degrees to the exit a short jaunt up the beach. Since I breathe exclusively to the left, it would behoove me to swim on the inside of the buoys to help with sighting. About half way through the first segment, I decided to gravitate that-a-way.

Slowly, I meandered out to an area with a bit more space. I looked for feet to follow, but either they passed me or [more frequently, surprisingly] I passed them too quickly. So, I applied the “slingshot pass” strategy of cycling. I’d swim up right behind someone and then pass them close to their side in an effort to achieve at least a brief moment of drafting benefit before repeating with the next swimmer I encountered.

About this time I remembered Maria Thrash of Dynamo tell me, “You can swim forever—you’ve got the fitness; we just need to make you faster!” I needed that! Yes, I CAN swim ALL day! Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. I focused on long, powerful strokes and a good high-elbow catch. My ROKA wetsuit helped with hip rotation, and of course, floatation. I felt great! You got this, Susie! ALL day—I can go ALL day!

A few buoys before the turn, I realized someone else had found their drafting match. A few taps on the toes raised awareness of a leech on my feet. Several more subsequent taps on the feet revealed that said leach doesn’t know drafting etiquette [or prudence…].

The turn was crowded, as to be expected. I considered adopting the clever tactic of a certain triathlete friend who on occasion will dive under the buoys entirely to avoid the chaos altogether. I chickened out, though, and fought through with an interruption in my rhythm. I proved during John Tanner 2015 that I’m not a rule breaker…

I spotted the next buoy and charged ahead. Sure enough, I felt a tap tap on the toes again. And another tap tap. And another. Ugh. Seriously?! I don’t care if people draft off of me, but do it wisely! Don’t let your generous puller know you’re drafting! I tried to engage the Bethany Rutledge “Swimming Machine” mentality and not let it bother me, but I relented. I threw a childish temper tantrum and kicked my feet a whole bunch for a few seconds to shake her—I didn’t even care about the energy this wasted. Tap tap. Tap tap. Tap tap. No dice. Oh well. Race your own race! I pressed forward. Tap tap! Ugh.

Long and strong! You can swim ALL day!

Here the water became super choppy with waves approaching from the right–like legit swells. Uh, I thought this was a lake…?! Luckily, my unilateral left-breathing proved advantageous in this instance. I remembered Maria commenting after the Swimtervention-spawning swim at Raleigh 70.3 that one should swim on top of the water rather than fight with the water, so I paid special attention to body position.

I also avoided swallowing water as best I could, nervous of GI upset down the road. I inhaled a good bit of it instead ’cause Boulder lungs can handle it, right?! 😀 And I gave myself pep talks during this portion. You got this! Stay on top of the water! Long and strong! ALL day! You got this—ALL day!

Moreover, I made an extra special effort to swim on the inside of the buoys at this point. No sense in adding additional distance to the swim! A LOT of athletes swam far wide which made me wonder whether a current pushed them out [which would explain why the first part of the swim felt so easy…].

Successfully reaching the second and final turn buoy, I again considered the dive beneath strategy, but again chickened out. The guy in front of me came to a dead stop and treaded water at a highly inopportune time, but I successfully [though ungracefully] swerved around him without contact. Fog and waves obfuscated the next buoy, so I blindly followed the other athletes.

Things felt tougher at this point feeding my suspicion of a current. After a few strokes, I felt another tap tap! Are you kidding me?! That same girl had found my feet again! I threw another temper tantrum in the water, kicking vigorously and adding in a few strong breaststroke kicks for dramatic effect. No dice! Still tap tap tap.

How convenient of you to draft during the hard part, I thought. I was jealous of her more than anything. I have GOT to find someone to draft off of! I didn’t.

Instead, I rolled over onto my back, gave that girl a dirty look and stopped swimming for a moment. She got the picture. She swam around me, and I caught her feet, which I proceeded to slap for the first 10 or so strokes to give her a taste of her own medicine. I then carefully drafted in stealth mode, so she would think that she lost me. Muwahaha.

It felt a whole lot easier swimming behind her! She swam almost too swiftly for me to hold on to making her the ideal draft! Must be nice being so well rested! You’re WELCOME! I thought to myself. I felt like she owed it to me to pull for a while.

She assertively maneuvered through the other packs of swimmers with impressive agility [I wondered if this was an offensive tactic superior to my temper tantrums]. I held on for a while before eventually losing her. Damn! Oh well. I made it most of the way on my own effort, I can definitely finish solo. And besides, I can swim ALL day!!

I saw the flags indicating the exit in the distance and—to my surprise—still felt pretty great. Must be the magic new wetsuit!

Though I could see the bottom of the lake just a few feet beneath me, I swam as long as possible because somewhere over the past couple years, my ability to swim through water surpassed my ability to wade through it. Eventually I stood up in knee-deep water and walked a bit to the exit. Again in no particular hurry, I took advantage of the opportunity to shimmy the cuffed wetsuit sleeve over my watch—something I’ll need to master if I’m going to use this suit for shorter-distance events.

T1          5:27

I found some strong-looking strippers, and a team of four of them yanked off the suit and pulled me up to standing. Nice work, y’all!! I jogged through the very long chute, hearing my name a couple times. I felt good about my swim but didn’t bother to look at my watch, as I don’t like psyching myself out by knowing my swim split. Particularly at the full-iron distance races, it’s kind of irrelevant [to me, at least. A slow time sets me off in a bad mood and onto an over-aggressive bike while a fast time puts extra pressure on me to perform well on the bike and on the run so as to not “waste” the strong performance]. I accidentally saw “1:20” on the clock, which meant nothing to me, as I didn’t know how far back my wave had started.

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Rogue’s expression is priceless.

Oh and though I didn’t know it at the time, apparently I passed Rogue here, whose equally priceless as appropriate expression captures how surprising my swim time performance was for us all.

Anywho. I easily found my transition bag at the end of the row and popped a squat on a chair to don my bike shoes, helmet and the sunglasses Heather Reynolds had generously loaned to me. I had worn bike shorts in the swim, so I was all set!

BIKE         112 mi          5:39:09          19.81 mph          4th

Kind of uneventful! Gathering fodder for an entertaining race report always stands as a “B” race goal [behind finishing in one piece]. Normally tons of things transpire, and many totally hi-LAR-ious jokes come to mind that I intend to later relay. Usually, I forget the vast majority of them by the time I finish running [I attribute this to the brain’s defense mechanism designed to protect humans from painful memories such as child birth]. However, this time I didn’t even garner up much material to forget.

So I’ll summarize some highlights.

The beginning felt slow. It was long. It rained a lot. The end felt slow. The End.

Just kidding! I remember more than that.

I didn’t have my bike computer and contemplated moving my watch to a location both more visible and within range of my Stages power meter [a flaw which I had hoped Garmin/Stages would have resolved by now…] Naahh! I’ll just go by feel! Because A) I only had ballpark numbers to reference, B) I ultimately race by feel even when I do pay attention to numbers, and C) speed is essentially irrelevant on an unfamiliar course [especially in variable conditions], so I ignored the ole wrist computer.

Well, after about 30 minutes, I did take a glance and noted my speed averaging ~18 mph, which was indeed slower than my expectations. Oh well—that’ll probably pick up.

The first out-and-back felt awesome! I passed several people, including Coach. I somehow failed to recognize him despite his bright green bike/kit motif, and I shouted a polite “on your left” [I would have said something snarkier had I known. Although the comment was actually unintentionally yet perfectly playfully ridiculing given the context]. To which he replied, “Hey Kid!! TAKE YOUR GOD DAMN TIME, ALREADY!!” Haha! Perhaps my speed had picked up, after all! I dialed it back a bit. Turns out 112 miles is a long way to go when you have a marathon to run after.

I debated omitting this from this report because I avoid investing thought, energy and emotion into it, but I’ve always written with shameless transparency, so why stop now? During that first loop while I was feeling good, I fell into a daydream. I imagined myself on the Ironman podium stage the following morning, accepting an entry to Kona. My real-life heart began to pound, and I started to cry real-life tears. And my real-life brain immediately considered the financial burden the entry alone—much less the travel and prolonged-full-Ironman-training expenses—would carry during a time in my life when I should be particularly penny-pinching. Not to mention the training to do another Ironman. But then I created a contingency plan as to how I could make it happen both logistically and financially should the opportunity happen to arise. Because I knew a lot can happen over the course of 140.6 miles and extenuating circumstances could put me within reach of a Kona slot.

112 miles is perhaps too long to allow idle minds to wander…

nkc_final_with_text_transpaAside: I told myself long ago that while it would never be a specific goal of mine, if ever I did qualify for Kona, I’d raise money for the charity my family created in my mother’s honor, the Nancy Kelly Cares Program. Leading up to this race, it became apparent that a KQ would be big stretch [though within the realm of possibility]. And I had decided that I wouldn’t do another full Ironman. I’d hate myself if I didn’t leverage my passion for triathlon as an opportunity to fund-raise for this cause [and provide the impetus to overcome my issues with asking for money], so I dedicated this race to her and published this post a couple days pre-race.

An hour into the ride, the rain started, derailing this train of thought. Luckily Mother Nature mercifully granted us tolerable temperatures. I had stashed those gloves in my pocket, but never retrieved them. And I hadn’t bothered to grab the rain jacket I put in T1. And I didn’t need it.

Eventually I made it to the first turn-around and headed back toward Mont-Tremblant village, which included one pretty significant climb. Oh and hurricane-force-feeling head winds joined the demoralizing rain. So a tailwind made that first stretch feel so great!

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Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day. Little Susie wants her way…

As I spun up that hill, I reveled in the rain. In fact, I began singing to myself every song I could think of that featured the word “rain”. My favorite was “It’s Raining IronMen” followed by the Rob Base classic, “Joy and Pain”–a triathlon theme song of mine.

Yes! Let’s make this a mental battle. Since I lack a well-trained body, I’ll win with a well-trained mind! At that moment, I made a concerted decision to “outsmart” my competition by handling the hills ahead conservatively [for both loops], whereas the foolish ones would waste precious running energy by attacking them; to “outaero” them by staying tucked in as much as possible, as Colorado training had prepared me well for wind; and to “outnourish” them by remembering to take in enough calories despite the weather, whereas the others would fall behind.

Still sipping on my two bottles of Skratch, I grabbed water at the aid stations, chugging half the bottle, dumping some on my back [even though it was raining, the cold water helped keep me cool—a factor athletes don’t often consider when it’s raining and relatively cool], and tossing since I hadn’t installed additional cages. About 80 minutes into the ride, I made myself eat a Larabar. And as per usual, after a couple bites, I’m hungry for the rest.

That became a mantra. Outsmart. Outnourish. Outmental. Easy up, hammer down. Eat and drink. Just gotta run a marathon…

“Outsmarting” the competition placed me fourth off the bike whereas I could have led if I [unwisely] hammered. I saw all of the girls that outswam me in my age group. Five of us leap-frogged one another and I hoped that those that hammered the hills would crumble on the run. Would they blow up? Or fall and injure themselves? Or get struck by lightning? [For the record: I didn’t wish this upon anyone, but I needed to remember that the race is long, and anything can happen! Don’t pull a Raleigh.] That would be the only way I’d catch them.

I also passed two female pros during the first loop on the hills, which felt kinda good…

Out smart. Out aero. Out nourish!!

The second loop sucked. So I continued to sing to myself. It’s raining Ironman, Hallelujah! Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain… 

Oh and I must comment that, despite cats and dogs falling from the sky, the spectator support reigned strong. Jaclyn Williams, in particular, stood out as an all-star spectacthlete. I saw her several times out there and, while I didn’t acknowledge it at the time, I appreciated the drenched souls supporting us!!

Oh and only because it’s a bit of a badge of honor in the Triathlon world, I successfully peed on the bike for the second third time in my triathlon career. Only once, though. Perhaps I hydrated sufficiently?

I debated omitting this from this report because I avoid investing thought, energy and emotion into it, but I’ve always written with shameless transparency, so why stop now? During that first loop while I was feeling good, I fell into a daydream. I imagined myself on the Ironman podium stage the following morning, accepting an entry to Kona. My real-life heart began to pound, and I started to cry real-life tears. And my real-life brain immediately considered the financial burden the entry alone—much less the travel and prolonged-full-Ironman-training expenses—would carry during a time in my life when I should be particularly penny-pinching. Not to mention the training to do another Ironman. But then I created a contingency plan as to how I could make it happen both logistically and financially should the opportunity happen to arise. Because I knew a lot can happen over the course of 140.6 miles and extenuating circumstances could put me within reach of a Kona slot.

112 miles is perhaps too long to allow idle minds to wander…

nkc_final_with_text_transpaAside: I told myself long ago that while it would never be a specific goal of mine, if ever I did qualify for Kona, I’d raise money for the charity my family created in my mother’s honor, the Nancy Kelly Cares Program. Leading up to this race, it became apparent that a KQ would be big stretch [though within the realm of possibility]. And I had decided that I wouldn’t do another full Ironman. I’d hate myself if I didn’t leverage my passion for triathlon as an opportunity to fund-raise for this cause [and provide the impetus to overcome my issues with asking for money], so I dedicated this race to her and published this post a couple days pre-race.

T2          3:21

I was happy to get off my bike and hand it off! While the new saddle didn’t cause nearly as much discomfort as the previous one, I suppose 112 miles in any saddle doesn’t feel wonderful down under. I forgot to attempt a flying dismount, so I hobbled in my cleats down the chute, around the corner and into the tent. It was slippery, so I took my time. Again, I easily found my stuff, headed into the tent and stripped down. Yup, I made a full Madonna-esque costume change. Fresh, non-clinging attire provided a psychological lift; I’m starting a new sport. Just run a marathon.

RUN          26.2 mi          4:12:25          9:38/mi          7th

I donned my race belt as I left transition, again tenuous over the slippery surfaces–and likewise apprehensive over the distance ahead of me: a marathon. Uf.

I took the beginning conservatively. I knew that if I maintained a jogging pace, I’d have a shot at a podium performance. Certainly a couple girls would thrown down a 3-hr marathon, which wasn’t in the realm of my possibilities. But I could potentially hold onto 4th or 5th…

I trudged along below my target pace, taking it easy uphill and opening my stride on the downs to give myself the best shot at avoiding a blow-up down the road. The rain subsided, but the sky remained ominous. I wore a visor for the sole purpose of keeping rain out of my face, so I turned it backwards because it kind of annoyed me when it wasn’t raining. Sure enough, the rain came and went throughout the entire run, so I switched the brim back and forth accordingly, although I wanted to ditch it altogether [a tactic I seem to utilize a bit too eagerly]. I refrained.

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I quite possibly walk/ran the majority of the race with my eyes closed.

At around mile ten, I experienced what QT2 coach, Tim Snow, later pointed out to me is “durability”—or, rather, the lack thereof. I developed highly unfamiliar and equally incapacitating pain in the anterior aspect of my left hip, which brought me down to a walk. Sure, my knees ached. My left IT band talked to me. My bunions were sore. But nothing unfamiliar or incapacitating. That hip though! Man! I hadn’t experienced anything like it before!

Must frustratingly, I felt fine aerobically–like Forrest Gump I felt like I could keep on RUN-ning forever. But my body wouldn’t allow it. Like Shakria would say–the hip didn’t lie. Perhaps skipping many of the short runs on my training schedule prevented me from developing the durability necessary to cover the final 16 miles of the race.

Alternatively, I wonder if the terrain negatively altered my gait, causing the pain. The paved path on which we ran sloped at an angle, which perhaps threw my joint alignment off-kilter in a way that caused the pain after repetition over the long distance. Considering the pain essentially disappeared by the following day, this theory holds water [rain water. A lot of rain water :D]. I wish I had worn Boulder start-up’s Stryd running power meter to examine the technical aspects of my gait, especially foot-landing, and compare it to my training runs to provide a better understanding of whether this factor played a significant role. Or if, indeed, simply under-training is to blame…

Although hardly noticeable in comparison to the hip pain, I felt something akin to an “Indian Rug Burn” on my left ankle. Since I was walk-running anyway, I eventually switched the chip to my right side to relieve it, although the sting persisted. Post-race, I discovered a ring of skin and flesh gouged out of my ankle–by far the worst chafing I’ve ever experienced. And never from the timing chip anklet.. [Editing this post three weeks post-race, the wound over my left achilles STILL hasn’t healed…]

To complicate things, the mental aspect of this race likewise came into play [duh]. The novelty of completing my first Ironman had worn off. That item was checked off my bucket list, so the prospect of simply crossing an Ironman finish line provided essentially no motivation–I knew I’d finish. Additionally, I knew I wouldn’t outperform my results at IMChatt, so the drive to compete against myself didn’t propel me forward. And I knew that I objectively had no shot of catching the few girls who passed me early on the run. So the prospect of podium-ing evaporated from my brain.

So I began walking. And RIGHT when I did, I saw Coach, who clearly knew I struggled. He shouted, “C’mon, Kid!! NO PAIN, NO QUIT!!!” which, followed by No Surrender!, is a mantra of his that I’ve adopted. In a wave of indescribable emotions, I sobbed feeling as though I had let down the Coach who I looked up to greatly. No pain, no quit?! How about ALL the pain, no quit? Yeah, that’s more like it. I allowed a few more sobs to emerge, and then I pulled it together and started jogging again. All the pain, no quit! Kelly’s aren’t quitters!!!

Well unfortunately that didn’t last but a mile or so. The pain was simply unbearable, and I vowed to walk only the aid stations and the hills. This alleviated it a bit, although I felt myself get stiff if I walked more than a minute or so. I’d jog a bit, shake out, and then the pain would start again. Woof. I refrained from walking between hills and aid stations as long as possible, but after a few miles, the pain was simply unbearable.

I remember passing folks along the double-out-and-back course, which is great for seeing friends! Searching for people provided a distraction from the pavement-pounding and pain. Funnily enough, every time I passed the likes of Jerome and certain others, I was jogging. They probably assumed I was having a great day. Others I always passed walking–they witnessed the “sub-optimal”day I was having. I tried acknowledging others and providing some encouraging cheers when I could. However, a lot of time, I focused on agonizingly planting my own feet one in front of the other. Sorry, guys!

During a jog, I passed a familiar female face who was walking with a wide grin. I did a double-take and jogged a few steps before she shouted with an accent, “Do I know you from somewhere?” I slowed to a walk [I was due for one anyway] and eventually placed her as a French-Canadian pro triathlete living in Boulder who I met at a Memorial Day party. Ah, yes! Caroline Martineau

She had just finished 6th at Ironman Lake Placed two weeks prior. “I knew it’d be a terrible idea to race another Ironman two weeks later, but ya know. You don’t know until you try!” she said with a laugh. She reminded me of my overly-capricious self.

After a few minutes catching up, she said, “Alright! Time to jog. It’ll take forever  if we keep walking!” She was right. “Just two kilometers!” she said very Canadian-like. And that’s how we proceeded. At first, she kept track of the run-walk. Later, I’d prompt the jogs. Along the way, we had quite the conversation covering everything from training to boys to life in general–ya know, normal race talk ha.

Eventually either she stopped short or I felt like I could keep jogging during one of our intervals. So I kept going solo. I saw Nathan breeze by me and cheered him on. I know he trained super hard for this day and wanted him to achieve the podium finish he deserved! Run ’em down, Nate!! When he asked how I was feeling, I told him I was suffering. He reminded me that “Kelly’s aren’t quitters”, which helped me pick it up a bit–for a moment at least.

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Apparently I could muster a smile even post-special needs [note the candy bar wrapper in my hand..]
Remembering how a PayDay and a RedBull pepped me up at IMChatt, I swung through Special Needs after Adam Heiser gave me much-needed words of encouragement. I had a few bites and chugged half the Sprite before handing it off to the medical crew, joking that I saved the rest for them. They accepted the gift disturbingly gleefully. I, myself, am always apprehensive over gifts from Ironman athletes–we are known to do unfathomable things to cross the finish… I digress.

Eventually the point arrived where walking hurt. Jogging hurt. Every. Step. Hurt. Sigh. So I tried to jog as much as I could, which was probably about half of the time. Perhaps I should have trained properly… Oh well! Try and enjoy the day! 

Close to the finish, I just couldn’t muster a jog. There was no “the end is near” burst of energy that I hoped for. I saw Julie, her kids and the alpaca near the chute. “You’re almost there, Susie!!” the kids cheered. I know, I know, I responded. Again, feeling as though I had let down the team, I managed to muster a jog.

Entering the chute of an Ironman race is an absolutely indescribable experience. I cannot count the number of emotions that overwhelmed me. Relief was definitely one of them. As was pride. And disappointment. Joy. Sadness. Pain. Disbelief. Just to name a few… You’ll just have to do one yourself to understand.

POST RACE

Two volunteers immediately grabbed me by each arm and all I could say was, take off my chip. They didn’t understand. My chip! Take off my chip, please. They did. Then asked me if I wanted a massage. Duh! Of course I want a massage!

Little did I know that the massage tent was like a mile away. I hobbled along, guided by the volunteer wondering when she would stop. Everything hurt. Every step was like daggers in all of my joints–particularly that left hip. And she walked too fast for me to keep up. Had I known, I would have recovered a bit before the rub-down or skipped it altogether, as I’m not sure it was worth the agonizing extra mileage.

I hung out with finishers as they trickled into the food tent. Eventually I made it out to cheer on later finishers as they entered the chute, and, of course, imbibed in a recovery/celebratory beer.

The following day, I felt as though I had done an Ironman. My joints ached in a way that complicated ascending and descending the stairs in our house, and my muscles were a bit sore. That incapacitating hip pain, though, left not a trace. Seriously?! Yesterday I though my leg was ready to necrose and fall off! By the second day post-race, the stiffness diminished precipitously, and I felt like a “normal” person by the third.

The only real “battle wound” I sustained from the effort was an inordinate amount of chaffing around the timing band on my left lower extremity—the result of that nagging “Indian Rug Burn” I felt mid-marathon. My left ankle was nearly entirely circumscribed with a linear wound cutting through to the dermis, with the worst of it lying over the distal aspect of my Achilles tendon. There, three weeks later, I’m still missing a significant hunk of flesh that was gradually gouged out. Perhaps that ritual of washing one’s feet in transition that I’ve mocked indeed holds some value…

LAST WORDS

Circling back to the Nic Lamb quote at the very beginning of this overly drawn-out report, and reflecting on the experience from the distance of three weeks’ time, I’m left with mixed feelings. During this race, I certainly experienced the discomfort he references. Discomfort, perhaps, above and beyond that expected to be associated with Ironman. On the one hand, I feel like I achieved this notion of “pushing through” it, as I successfully battled the pain to complete the race in its entirety. And even managed to run a greater portion of it than I would have hoped. I truly believe that I pushed my body as far as it would physically allow at that time.

However, I did not “push through” the obstacles that confronted me in training—obstacles that all athletes face in some capacity. Time. Money. Relationships. Work. Instead, I “pulled back” perhaps too frequently—skipping or altering workouts to accommodate for other people, opportunities, experiences, and even mental escape. Did this breed “regret”? Yes–to a certain extent [as evidenced by my emotional breakdown prompted by Coach’s “No Quit, No Surrender” on the run]. However, I realize that every individual has to strike a his/her own balance between all of the demands of life and make conscientious decisions as to where he/she invests his/her highly valuable and scarce emotional, monetary and temporal resources. Had I gone “all in” to triathlon and truly committed to the training perhaps the Ironman cookie would have crumbled differently for me [pun intended]. However, I would have missed out on many spectacular experiences, relationships and opportunities that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Triathlon, after all, is a hobby.

As Lamb astutely points out, overcoming discomfort provides an avenue of personal development—one which I certainly experienced on race day, as Ironman invariably forces you to find your limits and stretch beyond them. And I grew as an individual throughout the season–for the better, I think.

Of course, I’ve considered all of the “what if”s. What if I gained more durability by running more? Would I have simply sustained that hip injury earlier, preventing me from toeing the line in the first place [which is half the battle of Ironman–making it to the start!]? Or would this have prevented the hip pain? What if I actually used a power meter in training and racing? Would that have affected my ability to run? I think not, given that aerobically, I felt peachy. And I’m pretty good at riding by feel. What if I had logged a couple stand-alone marathons prior to the race? What if, what if, what if…

On a random note, the trajectory of my Ironman experiences to date have been analogous to the 70.3 distance. I performed quite well at my first 70.3 in Augusta, but followed this up with a highly suboptimal performance at Raleigh 70.3 which was mostly mental in nature. Again, I outdid my expectations at my first Ironman and then failed to bring my A mental game to my second. Would my third bring the KQ? Honestly, I don’t ever see myself training properly for a full, so while no one believes me, I’m retired from the 140.6 distance!

So, what’s the next adventure?!