Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Ironman Florida Race Report

WARNING: This is a long Race Report but it is appropriate considering it is a long race. ;)

BACKGROUND:  I've been doing triathlons since 2001 and the Ironman distance has been on my radar since 2003. I signed up for my first Half Ironman (Timberman 70.3) specifically to see what I might be getting myself into. Boy was I surprised! I finished my race in 8:02 but knew the moment I crossed the line that I had 2-3 more years of training ahead before I should try to toe the line at an Ironman. I picked Ironman Lake Placid 2006 as my GOAL RACE as that race is in July in NY near my birthday. In Feb 2005, the year I planned to head to Lake Placid to volunteer and sign up, I was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma. Obviously Ironman was no longer a focus, just surviving the year of chemo and my Ironman race plans were post-poned.

Three years later in July 2008, Jim and I headed up to Lake Placid, NY to volunteer so that I could finally sign up for my first Ironman. That weekend not only did I sign up for Ironman Lake Placid 2009 but we got engaged to be married! Stubborn woman that I am, I would not listen when many of my Ironman finisher friends told me "Maybe getting married and training for Ironman in the same year is not the best idea..." I thought I would be fine, we'd get married in April 2009, I'd be in amazing shape for my wedding day because I would already be 8-months into training for IMLP and I would finish my first Ironman on my 39th Birthday in Lake Placid, NY!

Life sometimes has other plans...

We did get married in April 2009 and we both were in the best shape in a long, long time. My training was good but not perfect. Race Day came in July 2009 at Ironman Lake Placid and I finished the swim, and DNF'd by missing the first cuttoff on the 2-loop Bike Course by 30-minutes. A trip to the Medical Tent revealed that I was up 7 pounds in body weight and despite being ravenously thristy...I had hyponotremia. (diluted electrolytes in your blood due to intake of too much hydration) Luckily we caught it early, so there was no trip to the hospital for me...just intake of a lot of V8 juice and salt and a bit of a headache until my electrolyte balance came back to normal. I sat in the Medical Tent with tears rolling down my face, humiliated to have missed the first loop of the Bike cuttoff...knowing that my entire family and several friends has spent money to come to NY to watch me FINISH an Ironman. My husband Jim walked into the tent and through my tears, I said "Honey, there is a race in Wilmington, NC in November called Beach2Battleship...would you mind if I tried again?" Jim kissed me and said "Of course, why let all this great training go to waste...You should sign up when we get home."

So I took 2-weeks off of training and then threw myself back into Ironman training mode and in November 2009, I found myself on the beach with a small group of 500 triathletes racing the Ironman distance at Beach2Battleship. I finished in 16:17:45 and had the swim of my life. (1:24) I was proud that I figured out my nutrition that works for me, survived a flat tire at Mile 107 of the Bike and finally finished my first Ironman. But there was a little part of me that wondered...If it had not been a current assisted swim, would I have finished in 17:00?

Someday I wanted to do it again...I wanted to race an "M-Dot" (WTC) Ironman and erase the small bit of doubt...It would be another 3 years before the opportunity to train for an Ironman presented itself again...

When I signed up for Ironman Florida in Nov 2012, I was just 2-weeks out of a cast on my left foot for a Posterior Tibial Tendon injury and weighing in on the scale more than 30 pound heavier than when I started IMLP & B2B in 2009. I had confidence that 1.) I could rehab my injury 2.) I could take off some of this weight before race day.

Beyond "FINISH my 2nd Ironman distance triathlon, I had 3 goals for Ironman Florida:

1.) PR the M-DOT Swim (1:49 - Lake Placid 2009)
2.) 7:30 Bike Goal
3.) Run/Walk the Marathon - Pain Free


2.4 Mile Swim: 2:01:04

Once upon a time (2006 & 2007), I claimed I would "never" even consider Ironman Florida because it was an ocean swim. What AM I DOING ON THIS BEACH?!?
First Loop: Seeded myself in back of the 1:30-1:45 Finish Corral because I was striving for 1:40-1:45. Got kicked and grabbed and took a blow to my upper forehead (got an little egg shaped contusion on my head!) and yet I stayed calm because my primary focus was to get through the Break and find my rhythm. I looked around about 400yds into the swim - in the middle of a roller coaster swell and thought..."Look at me! I'm swimming with the big kids!"...and then by the second turn buoy, it was just me and the rest of the back of the pack but at least now I had room to practice my total immersion techniques and save my legs for the bike and run.
Finished the first loop (according to Jim) in 57:00  - popped out of the water and heard them announcing that pro-female Rinney was finishing the swim. Looked around? "Where...where is Rinney?" but alas, I had to move on to my second loop. Ran next to another woman who said to me "I don't think I want to do this again..." and I said "Come On, Let's GO!" Not sure what she did but I did head back out for my second loop although I didn't run down the beach far enough and fought really hard to get through the Break again. I remembered thinking briefly "Oh No...What am I doing?" Which I immediately followed with " Come on Holly, You can do this...YOU CAN DO THIS!" and back in the drink I went. I tempted fate and peaked at my Garmin at the final red turn buoy before we headed back to shore...1:40...Well, no PR for me but if I stay steady I will be on the Bike before 9:15AM. Put my head down to finish the swim and get out of the water!
I told Julie B. & Barry (Team MMS swim buddies all summer) that it was in that last loop that I actually realized that no matter what happened after this, I just had a PR of new kind. I swam the entire 2.4 miles in choppy water and stay relatively calm and happy the entire time!

PR of a totally different kind!

Out of the water, got my wetsuit stripped and sadly did not spend nearly enough time under the fresh water shower which I would pay for on the run...SAND IS EVIL!

T1: 12:54:

I changed COMPLETELY from the tri top and shorts I was wearing to a dry sports bra, regular bike shorts, and a cycling jersey, taking time to dry off and apply lots of TRI SLIDE & sunscreen. Had help from an awesome volunteer, stopped by a Port-o-Let in Transition, was handed my bike and I was ready to go! Got some great cheers and love from Meagan C. and family, Julie & Barry, my husband Jim and lots of DC "Team Z" teammates and was on my way...

112-mile BIKE: 7:32:55 

HUGE SHOUT OUT to Montgomery Multisport and Andy because my bike fit was PERFECT! God Bless Andy because I must have tried at least 8 saddles before he helped me get the right one set up. My bike fit was perfect. I was never sore or had any odd pain in my back or shoulders.

This Bike nearly went like clock work. I promised myself to be a "Zone 2 Heartrate Devote" matter how many other people passed me on the bike. Whenever my heartrate monitor beeps at me that I was above my limit (165), I back off my pace. I set my Garmin to beep every 10-minutes to remind me to drink my custom blend of Infinit and at the top of every hour of race time I ate 1 GU. I averaged 325 calories per hour with this plan and felt great, despite headwinds, for the first 56 miles to special needs.

The ONLY mistake that I made on the bike was eating about 10 pringles from my special needs bag. Something about the solid food (which I did not have issues with on stand alone long bike rides...) messed up my digestion. Within 30-minutes, my stomach was feeling bloated, sloshy and crampy. So for the next hour from between miles 65-80, I only drank my Infinit, took my GU and took some extra salt tablets. Nothing changed with my stomach issues BUT in doing some "self checks" I realized that while my stomach hurt, my legs felt good! So I took full advantage of the "tailwinds" that we had at Mile 80 and began to pick up my bike pace and passed fellow athletes for the remainder of the race.
Pulled in Transition around 5:00pm, having finished the ride with a negative split and a huge smile on my face...Just 26.2 miles between me and the Finish Line and plenty of time to go.

T2: 12:07

I changed completely again into my CANCER to 5K running shirt and regular running shorts and compression socks and my Brooks. I had two things on my mind... My stomach was still a MESS of cramps and sloshing and the outside of my left foot was hurting quite a bit. (not the inside as I would expect from the tibial tendon) Rather than worry, I just walked towards the start of run course, stopping at the Port-o-Potty for a pitstop and then getting the Marathon underway.

26.2 mile RUN: 6:48:02

THE CROWDS were AMAZING at the Mile 1 / Mile 13.1 point. Nothing like starting a Marathon between tons of TRI CLUBS and again I saw Meagan C., Team Z and also Cat and Coach Tony from Training Peaks! Having your name on your is a mixed blessing! When you need the love and encouragement it is great to have people yelling "GO HOLLY" but at the same time, when you were struggling or focused on figuring out how to fix stomach issues, I felt pressure to say "Thank you" to every stranger who called out my name. (First World problems, I know...)

My Marathon Plan was Run 1-minute / Walk 1-minute for 26.2 miles or until I could no longer run anymore and to hold the pace at no slower than 15-16-minutes per mile. Nutrition Plan was water, chicken broth and Cola from the aid stations along with 1 GU every 3rd mile. I was in considerable pain with my left foot for the first 6-miles but I knew that in an Ironman, things can change over time. So I told myself that my foot was just tight and that it could loosen up as the miles went on. STICK TO THE PLAN and started my intervals.

I took a long stop at a Port-o-Potty at Mile 4 and discovered that gas was the reason my stomach was cramping so badly. With that resolved, I was feeling much better but still in some foot pain. By Mile 6, my left foot finally stopped hurting! I was having a good time, Run/Walking, looking for fellow Team MMS and Team Z friends and just knocking down the miles. I saw Cason and Mark a few times as well as many of my DC Team Z friends but spent the first 10-mile run/waking alone.

Sometimes around Mile 10, I met Heidi. She was power walking about as quickly as I was Run/Walking and we struck up a friendship. As I was having more and more trouble running, it was nice to have somebody to talk to when I had to walk and by the time we got to Special Needs at Mile 13.5, we have formed an alliance. We would keep each other moving, beat the Mile 19 cuttoff and finish together. I had stuck to Water and GU for the first 13.1 miles (Water whenever I wanted it and a GU every 3rd Mile) We made a very quick stop at Special Needs near 8:20pm and I grabbed 4 more GUs and we really started power walking. We wanted to be at Mile 19 by 10PM, a solid 30-minute ahead of the course cuttoff. Saw Meagan C., my friend Kathi and husband Jim near Mile 13.5 and off went Heidi and I, into the dark for Lap #2.

Heidi and I traded off on who was feeling good. For a few miles she would be just out ahead of me, a beacon to stay close to and then we would switch and I would feel better and she would lag a bit behind. At one point near Mile 18, I really had a 8th wind and pull pretty far ahead of Heidi. Concerned that she was starting to struggle (this was her first Ironman) I actually stopped at a Rest Stop and waited for her to catch up. (Which incidentally really pissed my husband Jim off when he heard about it later..."It's YOUR Ironman! You don't stop and wait for others!") We had both begun to take either Chicken Broth or Cola at each stop but she had skipped a stop or two and was slowing down. I walked back to Heidi and told her that she needed to eat a GU, even if she didn't want to. "Trust Me on this, you don't want to get behind." She obliged...just barely and we push on, hitting out Mile 19 at our time goal. Just 7 miles to go and 2-hours left on the clock...
Heidi and I did not talk much for the next few miles but we were definately in it together. If one of us would groan or sigh, the other would mumble "We got this"...there were also a few swears. We were solidly keeping 15 to 16-minute miles focused on getting through the darkness and knocking out Mile Markers.

AND THEN we hit Mile 22.

I don't know if it was the GU, or the calling of the Finish Line, or the fact that her Coach came by to check on her but DAMN if Heidi didn't find a 9th gear. I'd say she got the IRONMAN FINISH LINE BUG up her @ss and suddenly she was just gone. I heard her voice as she pulled away from me..."Holly, lets do this... 4-miles, we can do this in an hour...let's GO" and as I watch, desperate to walk faster...She was GONE.

AND OH WAS I PISSED!  "M*ther F@@#$$, I waited for YOU at Mile 18!?!"

and then I laughed and shook my head.

and then I looked at my watch, and then I started to try to Run again.

My watch was still beeping away at its 1:00 intervals to remind me to Run/Walk. So I began to Run at the start of every beep, for as long as I could until I had to walk (20-30 seconds) and then I would Walk and recover until it beeped again. I was able to keep this up on and off for the next 2-miles.
Somewhere in Mile 23/24, I came across my close friend Patty. She had been ahead of me by a good 30-40 minutes since the swim, and we would cheer each other when we saw each other on the Bike (near special needs out and back) and on the Run. Still I was surprised to have caught her. I put my hand on her shoulder and said "Hey Patty, Patty!" and she smiled at me and said "Nice Run" and we walked and tried to run together for a few minutes until she told me to "Go Ahead" if I was feeling good. I wasn't feeling "GOOD" but I was so desperately tired of being out there. So I did go on ahead but I wasn't worried about Patty, I knew she would be just a minute or two behind me in the Finish Chute.

Mile 24 was quiet, there were only a handful of us on the course in this area. Most folks were just walking as fast as they could. I passed one guy and said "Can you hear it? We're going to make it" and he responded "I did the Math, I don't think so..." I left that guys side like he had the PLAGUE. There was no way that I was getting caught up in the negative energy. He might not be making it, but I sure as heck was! We still had 45-minutes to go 2.2 miles. If I have learned anything in Ironman, it is that your incapable of clearly doing math...your either behind or ahead...but you need to keep moving forward, no matter what!

My amazing DC Team Z teammates were still out on that abandoned course and there were still 4 of us who were in the last 1.2 miles. When I had finally crossed S. Thomas Street for the last time,  fellow Cancer Survivor and friend Patty J. was standing under a street light. She had come to check up on me and text ahead to the Team to let them know that I was looking strong and on my way. We ran/walked together for nearly the entire half mile and while it could have been considered outside assistance, I didn't care, I was happy for the company. For some reason, even though just a mile before I knew that I had plenty of time and would make it, I had come to believe that I was never going to make it to the finisher chute in time. This was the longest mile ever!  It took about 10x of repeating my current moving pace and the fact that I had 20-minutes to go less than half a mile for me to truly believe Patty and then we turned the corner one last time by the Team Village and the Team Z tents. I got HIGH FIVES from my Coach and Teammates and then there it was...the Finish Chute!

Now I have been to cheer and Volunteer at several Ironmans in the final hour. So I know what an amazing electric party atmosphere it is. I have stood on the side lines and banged on the chute walls and yelled and clapped and screamed "You are an IRONMAN" but never yet had I had the privileged of being on the inside of the chute. My Beach2Battleship Finish in 2009 was a quiet affair in comparison to the party that is an "M-Dot Ironman." So as I jogged down that Finisher Chute, I slowed down and savored EVERY MOMENT. I high fived as many hands as I could and when I saw that the clock was at 16:46:55, I happily stopped when the announcer approached me and let him turn me around so the entire crowd could yell to me "YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!" and then I raise my hands in the air, turned and ran across the official finish line for a a time of 16:47:02.

My Day was nearly perfect! The only snafu was that after I crossed the Finish Line and a Volunteer came to help me, I found out that THEY RAN OUT OF FINISHER MEDALS & HATS! I was told "We are so SORRY, but we had more Finishers than we expected! We will mail you a Finisher Medal and Hat." So I got a Finisher Shirt and the Medal and Hat are "In the Mail." Poor Form, World Triathlon Corporation. It's a good thing that is was knowing my friends and family were out there waiting to watch me finish that got me to the Finish Line and not the promise of a Finisher Medal, eh?

At the end of the day, what I will remember most, is how amazingly good I felt for 80% of the day. My training was good, my Taper worked perfectly and before I crossed the Start Line, my husband Jim kissed me and said "You are ready and you are going to have a great day! And you know that I never say anything that I do not believe is true."

Ironman Florida was a great day indeed and I am proud to say that I quieted the voice in my head who said that maybe Beach2Battleship 2009 was a "fluke".

I am a 2X IRONMAN Finisher.

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I AM AN IRONMAN (again!)

Race Report to follow...Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Full Circles...8 Days and Counting

There have been requests for an update to this BLOG. Friends and Family who want to know WHAT IS GOING ON!


So I sat down to answer this question and realized something pretty significant in the process that blew my mind. 

To answer the question simply: YES, I am ready. I have done the hard work.
To be more specific: Over the last year I have....

• lost 20-pounds of fat and gained some significant muscle mass
•  put in the hours in the pool, including swim lessons to improve my wonky stroke
• put in the hours on the bike, including 4 century plus ride (100-miles or longer)
• upgraded to a TRI bike (2012 Felt B12)
• am finally running again... My posterior tibial tendon injury has been healing and while it looks like this will be my longest marathon finish time, I should be able to cover the 26.2 miles (after a 2.4 mile swim and 112-mile Bike) with no pain.

By the Training Numbers, since November 2012, I have covered...

• Swim: 64 miles
• Bike: 1899 miles
• Run/Walk: 305 miles

Now onto the "Significant Something that Blew My Mind"

In November 2006, there was this small idea brewing in the back of my mind. I thought it was a damn good idea but I was hesitant to share it with other people. I was worried that maybe I was wrong, that is wasn't such a good idea, that talking about it / sharing it with others, might be the beginning of the end. So it was on the weekend of November 3 while sitting on a deck enjoying champagne and chocolates and toasting my girlfriend's 2006 Ironman Florida finishes that I told the first people (aside from my future husband) about my idea for a free running program for fellow cancer survivors that would be called CANCER to 5K. My friends were very encouraging and supportive. Telling me that was a great idea and that I should definitely work to make it happen. Several even offered to help me try to figure out a way to get it funded once we got back to Virginia.

And that was how it all started...the courage and confidence to turn a small idea into an actual program began because I took a chance and shared with friends. While volunteering at my dream race, an Ironman.

And now here I sit, (7 years later) 8 days away from starting my third Ironman distance triathlon. (you can read about my other two Ironman races here: IM Lake Placid 2009 and Beach2Battleship 2009) Ironically the one North Amercia Ironman event that I said I "would never do because I hate swimming in the ocean." (Can you see the pattern, I like to do things that challenge me.)

To date, over 100 cancer survivors have completed the CANCER to 5K training program through the support of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and an amazing group of volunteer Coaches and Sherpas. Well over 141 people have been a part of the CANCER to 5K training program and next Saturday, I have 140.6 miles to dedicate to every single one of them.

140.6 miles to think about how I have come full circle...and how one great idea can make a difference, a big difference, if only you take a chance and share and dare to dream. I'll be wearing my CANCER to 5K shirt for the 26.2 miles of the Marathon. It seems like the only way to cross the finish line of Ironman Florida 2013.


Life is Good! LIVESTRONG!