I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I realized that the race had not yet happened... that I still had a chance to go out there and do it the way I'd planned. Phew! There would be no quitting today.
So race morning was easy and pretty much all went as planned. We found a parking space (seriously- our biggest worry!), I got a message saying all 3 of my Louisville athletes were out of the water and on the bike, and then we set about doing all the normal pre-race stuff like pumping our tires, etc. I would not say I was very nervous. Actually I felt pretty happy because I love IM Canada and I knew that in all likelihood this was the last time I'd probably do it. I smiled a lot. :)
You can see me in this picture I'm at the bottom pink cap that is just a little off the front with the bent right arm. Nalani is right behind me (waving). Cleanest swim start ever in the history of Ironman. Unbelievable.
T1 was simple- it wasn't super cold (seriously our conditions were perfect could not have really been any better) so I didn't need arm warmers or anything... hopped on my bike and smiled as big as I've ever smiled as I rode out of town. The crowds were awesome and I'd just had the most perfect swim I could imagine and now I got to ride the most beautiful 112 miles around...
We turned to climb Richter Pass and I absolutely ignored everyone around me and just climbed at what felt like a steady comfortable effort. That climb was not that hard though it did seem like I got passed a lot. Mostly men but some women too. It was spread out though so I spent a good amount of time riding alone as well.
Then we hit some rollers and maybe mile 50-60ish a whole peloton of ~15 riders came flying by. Really?? I stopped pedaling, let them pass, and saw another gal in my age group sitting on toward the back of the group. I had passed her earlier (she beat me out of the water) and now she was passing me back while sitting on in this huge group. Nice. Eventually (maybe 5 miles later?) that group did split up and I passed that gal back and did not see her again until ~14 miles into the run... though she went on to get 2nd in our age group and took a Kona spot as well. Apparently in Ironman the phase cheaters never prosper does not apply. I do not mind calling these girls out publicly on my blog because what they were doing was not accidental. It was blatant. I know there are some courses where you really have to go out of your way to avoid draft packs because it's just super crowded or whatever... Canada is not one of those courses. It was VERY easy to ride legally on that course. You had to go out of your way to draft/cheat. Not too many people were doing it but some were and it just irritates me that girls who are strong enough to get on the podium still feel like they are willing to cheat to do it. The gal I feel the worst for is the one who got 4th in our age group- missing a Kona spot by 1' to those girls who I saw drafting.
Ok, rant over.
Moving on. I felt pretty good for the rest of the ride. The yellow lake climb was longer and harder than I remembered (80-95 miles into the bike) and my thinking there toward the end of the bike was that this bike course is legit!
It is easily one of the most beautiful courses in the world though and I LOVE it that it is only 1 loop, but by no means would I say it was a 'fast' bike course. Some girls rode it super fast of course, but that was because they are super strong! In the end, I was satisfied with my bike split (5:35) as I thought it was fast enough but did not leave me feeling depleted at all. In fact, after I handed my bike off to the volunteer in T2, I jogged to the change tent and immediately knew that my legs felt good! YAY!
So off I jogged onto the course and I after the first couple minutes I settled into the same pace I'd been running all my brick runs- actually a little slower (like 10"/mile slower) than I'd been training- and I felt perfect. Couldn't believe it- no twinges of cramping, stomach was good, energy levels were good, mentally I was good... It was all good! I ran by Teresa Nelson who was cheering and had the biggest goofiest grin on my face and I high fived her and told her I'd never felt better! I whooped it up with little kids at aid stations and sang out loud to fun songs playing on loud speakers and before I knew it I was at mile 7 just jamming along and wondering when it was going to get hard? I knew it was going to get hard at some point but I was trying to not rush it... thinking that every mile that passed by before it gets hard is one less hard mile I'm going to have to face at the end!
After the turn around is when it actually got hard... which is the classic story, no? They say the race doesn't start until mile 13 of the run, which actually isn't true because these days the top girls are so strong that if you're not at least close at mile 13 you're not actually going to catch anyone unless they completely melt down... which is less and less likely as athletes gain experience with training for and racing this distance... nevertheless by mile 13 it definitely becomes very hard to hold pace. Maybe a mile or so after the turn around we faced a short but significant uphill and my left medial hamstring (semimembranosis for you PT types) completely seized up on me and stopped me in my tracks. YIKES! I hate that. I couldn't even stand up straight for a minute or two... just sort of stood there and held it until it released and then began walking... just willing myself to keep moving forward. Eventually I resumed jogging again but pretty much from that point on I was in crisis management mode and only managed to jog for a few minutes at a time before I would walk for a few seconds. I kept my walk breaks short but did them often... My goal was to prevent another full on seizure of that muscle that was clearly feeling pissy. I've had hamstring issues on that left side all year (pretty sure they are the root of my calf issues) so maybe I should not be surprised that 14 miles in it went out on me... In all honesty I'd choose this hamstring issue over a calf issue (if I had to pick) b/c the hamstring will release for me and I can (sort of) keep going vs when my calf goes, it GOES, and there's no pushing through that one. So in good news, my calves were fine for the whole marathon! My quads and hamstrings, notsomuch.
Anyway, the last 12 miles were hard. It was a full on sufferfest out there which is what I expected of course (duh- it's an ironman!) and I think I did a decent job talking/willing myself through it. So while the second 1/2 of the race was certainly slower than the first half, it wasn't as catastrophic of a meltdown as I've had in the past. I was still managing ~10' miles even with all the walking.
Anyway, the last bit felt super hard too because there were so many cheering spectators everywhere and it was hard to not get caught up in that and push just a little harder... muscularly though I just really could not push any harder and I was feeling twinges of cramping coming on again and I was just WILLING my legs to not cramp... don't cramp don't cramp don't cramp... then with the finish line just like 200 meters away I was swearing at myself trying to force myself to keep running and not walk... Funny though b/c in the pictures of my at the finish I look so happy (thanks Jill for all these great shots by the way!!) but I promise that in my head I was just swearing at myself because I wanted to stop and walk so badly!