Adventures of the Ironman Gang of Four; Zan, Deb, Robert and Nicole
Sunday July 8th, 2007
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
My finish time: 6hrs 53mins 1sec
There’s something to be said for good planning and good rest. I’d had a good recovery week prior to the race, with just a few short workouts, and lots of great meals. I think there’s also something to be said for a looming August Ironman, because I wasn’t worried about the half at all.
I pretty much had a solid plan for the race, and pretty much followed it, resulting in my best race ever.
I took almost a whole hour of my Half Ironman time from last summer, and also felt much better during the race. Mostly I felt like it was going by too fast, and I didn’t it want it to be over after all that prep work! I know the Ironman will be even worse, when you have worked for a whole year for this race that at the very most can only last you 17 hours. I have to remember my favorite quote “the journey is the destination”.
I slept a solid 6 ½ hours the night before the race, and woke up to a good calorie packed fruit smoothie and coffee with lots of soymilk. I tried to drink some grape recharge up until the race but I was so full I could only sip a little of it. We got to the race site before 5am, and had plenty of time to fuss with all of our stuff. There’s only so many times that I can lay out my bike and run shoes, and check and re-check my bike tires to make sure they aren’t flat, so I went and took pictures of Nicole, Deb and Robert fussing with their stuff and checking their tires…. Like I said before, I wasn’t too stressed about the race, and was really happy to be around some of my closest friends in some of our best moments; we all love triathlons.
THE SWIM: 38mins 55secs
For the Lake Stevens Half Ironman the swim started in waves 5 minutes apart by gender and age group, so I went out in a pack of 53 other women at 6:56am, with my good friend Nicole in that pack. Deb was in the next wave, and Robert was somewhere after Deb. Most open water swimmers know that there is just something creepy about looking down at the bottom. The coffee colored water in Lake Stevens was no exception, especially as all the things you could see below were not meant to be there; trash, rope, soda cans, large yellow plastic buoy rods…. So I tried to look away from all that stuff and find my position in the pack, when about 4 minutes into the swim I realized wait a minute, the rope is holding up the buoys, which are lining the course, which means if I swim over the rope, I have an automatic guide the entire swim, and I will never have to look up. For those who don’t swim open water, not having to look up is a huge advantage, because you lose a lot of speed and form when you constantly look up to sight a landmark to know where you are going. Having the underwater rope as a guide was the best gift ever, and as I settled into my stroke I began passing people (which I almost never do after the first 5 minute clamor for space). I forgot to look up for long enough that I even managed to swim under one of the giant inflatable orange buoys that are used as your visual landmark, and so I took a breath to the side and my face was in the orange buoy. Later I found out that Deb had done the same thing, inhaled buoy for a breath. I knew I was swimming well and fast, and I was listening to my swim coach Laurie in my head tell me to drop my fingers and raise my elbows. I started to pass men that had been sent out in waves 5 or more minutes ahead of me, and I was feeling really smug, but wondering if I should slow down. I got out of the swim at 38 minutes and was elated at my fastest swim time ever. I ran into transition ready for the bike.
THE BIKE: 3hrs 42mins 02secs
So we all drove the course in the days before the race, and as Robert put it: “They managed to find a course that is all uphill”. It was a hilly two lap course, so you had to repeat the endless hills, twice. I went out strong and my asthma kicked in really bad within the first 5 miles. I had already used my inhaler three times in the race, and I used it two more my breathing was so bad. I couldn’t tell if it was the hills, my pace, or all the vegetation that was growing in the area. I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to finish the race, but knew I’d biked harder roads on hotter days with worse asthma, so I kept going. Deb caught up to me and passed me too quickly for me to really talk to her, so I sprinted to pass her again so we could talk some more. Deb won’t compromise pace for conversation, and I always will. So sprinting a hill in a race with asthma is a dumb idea, but I wanted to talk to her and see how her swim was. She caught up again, we exchanged a couple lines and she went off ahead. I was keeping a fast pace on all the hills (and by fast I mean most people were still passing me, but I was doing well for me with my little lungs), so I was feeling good. Robert caught up to me next and did his usual yelling “ZANIMAL” from behind (my tattoos on my arms make me easily identified from behind, which I love)… and I yelled really loud back “NUH UH! ROBERT!”. He caught up and we exchanged a few sentences about the best swims we both ever had, and about that cool rope that lead us the whole way through the lake, and off he went ahead. I knew Nicole was ahead of all of us, so I wouldn’t see her until late on the run if at all. With my gang accounted for I biked my little lungs out, and my asthma got better 1/3 of the way through the bike course. My second lap felt harder but I didn’t check my watch to see if it was any slower, maybe I was just not looking forward to all the hills again, so I spent some time talking to other riders on the course, exchanging encouraging words. I drank as many calories as I could, and felt really bloated… I am usually good at sensing my nutrition needs, and even though I followed my plan of calorie intake, near the end of the bike I couldn’t tell if I was under calories or over calories, so I forced myself to drink more perpetuum even though I didn’t want it. I knew I was going to need a lot of fuel for the run, so I would rather be over in calories, in fact that is what you aim for towards the end of the bike. I had an aero bottle on the front of the tri bars that sat empty for the whole race. I was going to put water in it before the race even started, but there wasn’t any water anywhere near the race start, which is odd. I figured I’d get water at mile 28 when I was planning on filling my perpetuum drink again anyway if I wanted it. Well, I never filled it with water (I drank perpetuum and cytomax only, no water), and so there were a few jokes at the end about how I biked with this fancy aero bottle for the whole race, and it was just for show as the thing stayed empty the whole time.
THE RUN: 2hrs 20mins 05secs
I used the “port a let” as the race directors called it, in transition before the run, in hopes that I could run the whole thing without stopping for a bathroom break. The first three miles always hurt on the run, even if you are running first thing in the morning after a nice breakfast and stretch. The first three miles on this race hurt extra for some reason, I think maybe because I had just come off of 56 miles of all uphill. My feet were hurting in places they never hurt, which I was happy about, because none of my injury spots were hurting. You expect something to hurt on the run, and as long as it is not a new or old injury, you are elated…. It’s all relative really. After the first three miles I felt much smoother and got into a fast pace run. I walked every aid station to get water and dump some on my hat to keep cool. I talked to other racers as I ran, and monitored my asthma which was not doing too badly on the run. I saw Nicole first on the run, she was a couple miles from the finish and I was about 8 miles from the finish. She didn’t look so good but she gave me a double high five and I knew she would be the first to cross the finish line. Next I saw Robert and he yelled his usual “ZANIMAL!” from behind and we exchanged a few excited sentences. Then I saw Deb on the return of the first run lap, who was looking strong and about 3 miles ahead of me. We encouraged each other as we passed, and I felt great knowing my gang was all out there. I’d been cheered on by Mary Beth and Deb’s family along the course, and the kids had drawn “GO ZAN” in chalk on the run course, and I was moved to tears as I ran over it… I wanted to tell all the runner’s around me “That’s my name in chalk!!! That’s me right there!!!” I picked up the pace and ran a really solid second lap. I saw Deb again on the return of the second lap, and I yelled from down the hill “DEBBBBBIE!!!” because she was in an obvious orange tank top and easy to spot. She yelled back “ZAAAAAN!!!” and we crossed each other telling each other how well each of us was doing. She was 2 miles from the end, and I was about 4 miles from the end. I happily ran the last 3, and ran next to Sister Madonna for a bit on my last mile, one of my Ironman heroes, and we chatted for a bit until she told me to “Bring it Home!” and I sprinted the last bit, through cheers from Deb and her family that were now all at the finish line. I crossed with my arms up and a smile on my face and I gave Deb a huge hug. We had all four had a great race. I saw Robert a few minutes later and we exchanged hugs and stories of the race. Nicole had long left, incoherent and too low in calories, so her friend took her for food and we chatted later on the phone.
Some more sun, a few sessions sitting in the ice bags in the grass, a couple stretches and some food… and I was feeling pretty good. I was happy more than hungry, and felt no pressure to eat dinner, because nothing sounded good. I later settled into some veggie Pad Thai, and easily ate the whole thing. Deb and I looked at the results on line, then I fell asleep in my running clothes (clean ones at least), and didn’t move or wake for 9 hours. All in all I am really happy with my race, and now I can plan for how I am going to race next month’s Ironman, with only a couple changes…. Mostly I think I’ll make sure my water bottle has water in it next time… the rest was pretty much perfect.