Friday, July 10, 2015

IMCDA - no regrets

So IMCDA has come and gone in a flash.  It was an incredible experience!  Geoff and I drove to Coeur D'Alene on the Wednesday before the race.  My lead in to this race didn't quite go as planned, but when does it really ever?  It's the bumps in the road that keeps things interesting and your ability to deal with and manage them is what shapes you as an athlete.

About 4 weeks before race day, my hip problem that I'd had under good control resurfaced and 3 weeks out I had to cut my last long run short.  I got pretty worried and had some concerns that I may not even be able to finish the marathon.  As I had planned, I raced the first mid week tri series race on June 9 (250m swim/5km bike/1.5km run x 2) which was great for some speedwork, then I raced the Westlock sprint tri on June 13 in miserable conditions (i.e. 9 degrees and drizzly). Again I used this as a great speed workout, since speed training was next to non-existent from my run training this year due to the injuries.  My hip was okay during these short races, but my heel pain unfortunately worsened after, so I cut the running back (not that I was even running a large amount! I didn't get the run training in I would have wanted - longest run was 25km and my biggest running week was about 3hr 45min).

Due to the flare ups of my heel/hip, I ended up doing a massive 3 week taper leading into IM, which in hindsight worked extremely well.

 Beautiful morning for a run in the Post Falls neighbourhood where we were staying - you had to get out early to beat the heat!

 This river was only about a 10min run from our house - so pretty!

Race week I did very little training (less than 5 hours), and my body felt completely rested.  I have never felt that good going into a race before!  I did short little workouts each day and my legs were feeling awesome.  Wednesday was a rest day as we travelled to CDA.  About 10 hours later, we arrived at our cozy ranch house in Post Falls, in a beautiful neighbourhood, which was around 10min to the race venue.  Ideal location to stay, if you're ever planning on heading to CDA.  

Such a beautiful location

My lovely TT machine ready and raring to go!

With the extreme heat wave that blasted its way into CDA, race day was looking to be the hottest day at 41C, so race start was moved an hour earlier.  There was some chatter and concerns the race was going to be shortened.  I was happy that this didn't happen!  Pro's went off at 5:30am, AG's started at 5:45am.  It made for an early day!  Alarm went off at 3:30am, my earliest ever wake up call for a race.  Although for all of my other typical races, I normally sleep very well the night before, I have never been able to sleep the night before Ironman.  This time was different, and I actually slept the entire night!  It was awesome.  I ate my usual breakfast of a hard boiled egg, toasted bagel with peanut butter, glass of juice and small coffee. However, I was only able to eat half of the bagel so I just ate a bag of GU chomps when I arrived at the race to make up for it.

Geoff dropped me off at around 4:30, and I was done body marking, setting up my bottles/nutrition on my bike, and dropping off special needs bags by 5am.  I felt like I had so much extra time, it was so strange!  I had plenty of time to do a little swimming around prior to lining up in the corrals for the rolling AG start.  I lined up in the sub 1:00 group a few rows back from the front, as I expected to swim somewhere around or hopefully under 54min.  

Swim - 52:48 (2nd amateur female OA)

The rolling start was okay, but I found there were a lot of aggressive guys who started around me.  They went out fast and were in the way for the first couple hundred meters, but then fell back.  My swim felt great the whole way through. The first stretch to the red buoy where we made the first left turn was quite crowded, and it wasn't until we made the turn that I found I had some more room.  I made sure to swim at a comfortable pace, and to 'race my own race'. I swam with a few guys and noticed one female just ahead and one just behind me .  After Lap 1 we had to get out and run through the arch on the sand then back in the water.  Lap 2 was good, but we started to catch slower swimmers, as well as some pro's (who were permitted to swim to the left of the buoys, and just inside the course), so lots of navigating and passing was required.  My right hand/fingers went numb during the swim for some reason, which was really strange as that's never happened to me before.  I kept trying to make a fist and shake it out, to no avail.  Out of the swim, I had no idea at the time of what my split was, but knew I was happy with how the swim had felt and I knew where I was in terms of my placing.

Swim exit - sorry for all the finisherpix proofs, but I don't have any other pics! I have a couple videos but can't get them to upload!

Bike - 5:43 (top 3 split in AG)

T1 was smooth and I was off onto my bike as first amateur female.  I stayed in this position until about 20km when another female amateur went by.  I let her go and raced my own race.  The bike was awesome, I felt strong and comfortable during the 180km.  I made sure to dial back the effort, and keep it comfortable. I was cautious and conservative.  I kept repeating to myself 'Don't be a hero on the bike' (thank you Geoff for that one), and 'Don't overextend', and of course 'race your own race'.  I honestly felt pretty awesome that day and could have pushed harder, but didn't want to risk the chance of a massive blow up on the run.  My bike computer was messed up near the beginning, showing that I was going 58 or 60km/hr, then it stopped working altogether as the magnet fell off.  So I just went by the clock on the computer and used time of day to approximate my split after the first lap.

There were a few big climbs, with the biggest on the I95.  On the first lap, heading back on I95 toward CDA, my right hamstring started to cramp up as I was climbing a big hill! I nearly panicked but quickly grabbed some gatorade and a salt pill and luckily it settled quickly.  Never had that happen to me in a race before, but thankfully that was the only time it occurred that day. All that training in the mountains I did last year to prepare for Lake Tahoe must have helped, as I felt really strong on the climbs.  It started heating up quite a bit on the 2nd lap but I was still feeling good.  I wore a DeSoto sleeve/shrug top (Geoff got it several years ago for one of his hot races) under my Coeur tri top, and this totally saved me from getting burnt.  I am pleased to report that I did not get any sunburn during the race!  I poured water on my sleeves and head at all aid stations.  

For my bike nutrition, I drank 4 of my own prepared bottles containing Carbo pro and either Nuun's or GU electrolyte tabs (250 calories and about 750mg sodium in each bottle), 2 of these bottles were in my special needs bag and I'd covered one with tin foil, and by the time I picked it up around Mile 63 it was still cold!  I drank a lot of water at aid stations as well as some gatorade, more on the 2nd loop.  I ate 2x Power bars Mixed Berry Blast (one each loop), a roll of Clif shot blox, and 2 or 3 Powerbar Performance blends (yum!).  Total calories was somewhere between 1800-2000 on the bike.  

Run - 4:38 (not sure of place, but way down there)
I maintained my position during the ride and got off the bike in 2nd place female amateur.  T2 was smooth, made much easier by all the incredible volunteers in the women's tent.  They helped me get my stuff out of my bag, helped me put on my shoes, and gave me a cold wet rag to wrap around my neck.

I felt pretty good when I first started the run, but that didn't last long.  I was able to run the first mile or two, then I started walking the aid stations.  Then I started walking between the aid stations.  It felt so hot out there!  Within the 2nd mile, my feet became soaked from all the hoses and water spray.  The spectator and volunteer support on the run course was phenomenal!  There were so many people out on their lawns cheering, blasting music, with hoses spraying runners as we went by. They were awesome! The volunteers at the aid stations were amazing, every time I went through one I just wanted to just stay put but kept pressing on.

My absolute favourite aid station was actually an 'unofficial' aid station somewhere between mile 5 and 6.  A bunch of people had one of those wading pools set up filled with ice, and cold waters, cokes, and other stuff, music blaring, and tons of people cheering.  They were so supportive! They dunked my hat in the ice water for me, which was completely awesome.  The atmosphere was electric, and the community and support during this race honestly tops all the races I've ever done.  It was spectacular!

Coeur gals got heart! 
My Coeur team race kit was fabulous, very comfortable and looks great too!  Thank you to Coeur for your support this year!  Also, it was awesome to see a bunch of other Coeur team members out there in their race kits!

My mantra for the run was 'Run when you can, walk if you have to' (not sure where I heard this, but kept repeating it over and over), and 'Run the mile you're in', and 'Be Tough'.  The run was so tough and painful, and long.  Every time a female passed me, I just continued on with my own race and didn't worry about it, I had no idea who was in my AG as everyone's numbers were washed off their legs by that point.  I walked a LOT, but felt I was walking along at a pretty decent clip.  Once I hit the run special needs bag at halfway, I stopped and put on some dry socks as my toes were already blistering, but it was pointless as my new dry socks became drenched as soon as I put my shoes back on.  I started on the coke just after the halfway point, then it was coke/water/ice at every aid station from there.   My legs were SO sore and every single step hurt on the back half of the marathon.

Once I hit the sign for Mile 25, I felt some relief as anybody can get through a mile, right?  I think the sign must have been in the wrong place, as it felt like the longest mile of my entire life.  It seemed to go on forever.  My hips and quads felt like they were almost cramping up and the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other seemed so challenging and hard to do.

But finally:

Thrilled to finally get to that magical finishing chute!  What a feeling!  I was so happy to see my time on the clock, and about 10min later I realized the clock had started when the pro's went off, 15min before we did :)

Final time = 11:21 (huge PB of 75min) 

I actually didn't feel too bad after finishing, a bit faint but went and sat down for a bit in the shaded tents.  I didn't end up needing the medical support at all.  After some time I was able to eat a piece of pizza, chips, and some fruit.  My legs were so incredibly sore, it was difficult to walk!

I found out later I ended up 4th place in my age group (F35-39), which was a podium placing (top 5 at Ironman events get an award)!  I went to the awards ceremony, and stayed for the rolldown for Kona spots just in case, but unfortunately missed a qualification by one place, as there were 3 spots for my AG and all the ladies above me claimed theirs.  Damn!  I had been hoping one of them had already qualified, but no such luck.  Oh well!  It's probably for the best as I shouldn't be training for another Ironman while still managing these injuries/issues, but it would have been pretty sweet to have qualified.  Kona wasn't really even on my radar prior to this race, as I wasn't sure how my body would hold up during the marathon without the run build that is necessary to perform well.  But I'm very pleased with how things turned out, and I have:


That feeling of crossing the finish line after pushing yourself all day and getting as much out of yourself as you could ever imagine in tough conditions, is truly amazing.

Overall it was a fantastic experience and a great trip!  Congrats to all those who toughed it out that day, it really was a race of attrition.  And huge thanks to Geoff for being my super supportive race sherpa :) xoxo


mike said...

Awesome race report Lisa and again congratulations! You put together a great race on what sounds like a tough day.

Lisa Ulrich said...

Thanks Mike! It was a tough day but great overall. Hope you and Vera and the little guy are doing well!

Iftekhar Ahmed said...

I must appreciate the way you have express your feelings through your blog!
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