My first Ironman of the year was Ironman Texas last weekend – and it was a great way to start the season! An Ironman is never easy – in fact, I feel like you really don’t remember exactly how tough it is until you’re out there again. And each race brings with it it’s own challenges – some you’ve felt before and others you have to deal with for the first time. At the same time, each Ironman brings with it many joys for a whole bunch of reasons – feeling strong, feeling fast, realizing WHY you do this sport and realizing what the human body is capable of doing when you ask it to. Today was a special day for me in a whole bunch of ways. There were some challenges leading up to this event, including breaking my fibula in December, getting pneumonia four weeks from race day, and dealing with some life challenges that resulted in many sleepless nights in recent weeks. When you can put all this aside and just focus on moving forward one swim stroke, one pedal stroke, and one stride at a time, it’s a pretty great feeling. Finally you’re inside yourself and in control of your own body and mind. An Ironman is an incredible physical and mental experience. Here is a recap of the details of the day – I hope you enjoy it!
Pre-Race in Texas:
I was lucky to get an amazing homestay in the Woodlands. Tom and Robbye were amazing hosts and made me and Amy Javens feel comfortable and at home. Thank you to them!
I arrived at Houston Airport on the Wednesday before the race. Went to pick up my bike box at the oversized luggage area. Waited. Waited. Waited… until an Air Canada guy came over and said “come with me”. Filled out the forms for missing luggage and off I went… hoping the bike would arrive soon!! The AC guy said it would be shipped to Houston that afternoon and they would deliver it to Tom and Robbye’s house that evening. That evening came and went… the next morning came and went. I called AC several times only to be told the bike had arrived but was with “the delivery company”. Apparently the delivery company is some mysterious operation and they do not know who they are, what their contact information is, or how to find out the status of something. Interesting. Anyways, needless to say, bike arrived the following afternoon, with a paper on it that said “rush, 1 hour”. I guess that that delivery guy felt he needed a day off, and a sleep in… But I’m happy it at least finally arrived!!
The days leading up to an Ironman are about recovering and eating. And when I say eating, I mean EATING. Really, you start to feel pretty terrible 🙂 One of my favorite moments in Texas before race day is being at Olive Garden with Amy ordering pasta – She looked at the waitress and said “how much is there? I need to eat 3 cups. Will there be enough? I might have to order 2?” Meanwhile she’s a small strong lady with almost no body fat. Then there’s the post-pancake breakfast episode. Suddenly we realized she was 8 months pregnant… with a pancake baby. No joke. I’d post the picture but may lose a friend. :-)) A few days before race day you think of that burger and fries you want to eat afterwards… then on the 2 days prior you start dreaming of eating a vegetable! Enough of that… here’s the details from race day!
Goal number 1 was to try and stay with a pack and not swim on my own like I tend to have a habit of doing. Coach Tara has been making me do a lot of workouts that start out with all out 50’s followed by ironman effort sets, followed by all out 50’s, with the goal of being able to hold a strong effort at the start of a race and not lose the group. Well, I didn’t necessarily succeed at this, BUT I still had my best swim ever in relation to the other pro’s. I swam as hard as I could for a bit and I stayed with the group for a couple hundred metres maybe.. then a big chunk of them swam away (quickly!) from me. The good news was, I knew there were at least a few more behind me.. a few of which were on MY feet this time drafting the whole way. I swam and swam, thinking “keep up the turnover, keep arms wide, keep up the turnover, keep arms wide…” Jesse and Tim were at the race and about 80% through the swim I turned towards shore to take a breath and there was Tim with his floppy hat jumping around screaming at me and doing swimming arms. Lol. I think I sped up a little after that. Really appreciated their support from start to finish! Got to the end of the swim, wetsuit off, through the change tent, and felt GREAT running to my bike. In the past I’ve slogged my way to my bike and had a pretty high heart rate. The best thing was getting to the pro women’s bike rack and seeing MANY bikes remaining… in the past there have always only been a couple left by the time I got there! I thought “okay Cindy, let’s go, this is a good start to the day”!
Having done a faster swim meant there were girls around me from the get-go which was pretty awesome. For the first time I felt like I was actually in a “race” and not off on a long bike ride on my own. I rode close to two other girls for about half to 2/3 of the bike, then we separated. My heart rate was high for the first part of the bike – but the effort seemed okay and power numbers were where they were supposed to be – so I kept with it. The bike course was pretty beautiful.. out in Texas country. But it was tough! It was rumoured to have been flat but there were many rolling hills, but what made it more challenging was the WIND that was pretty much head on for the second half of the ride. This made it hard mentally!! By this time I was on my own and tried to just focus on keeping rpm up and power up where it was supposed to be. Power and heart rate did drop a little about 3/4 of the way through and I think this was from mental fatigue more than anything – the lesson being to focus on being really strong mentally at the end of training rides moving forward. And to continue doing a lot of them on my own (or at least finishing them on my own). Nutrition and hydration were pretty close to plan during the bike. Only thing was a small bladder issue… and I’ll leave it at that. Felt good going into T2.. wobbly legs as per normal, but they went away fairly quickly as I approached the tents.
“Keep cadence up, arms high, chest high” chant chant chant. And the words a friend sent me right before the race “whatever you do, don’t give up… don’t ever give up” chat chant chant. I felt great for most of the run – “great” being a relative term when it comes to Ironman races only!! I was running faster and stronger than I ever have. I started running and Jesse says “there is about 12 minutes between you and about 12 other women”! I had no idea that that means there are actually only 12 other women in front of me… so I just keep cruising along at my own effort (which is what you’d have to do regardless). Lap 1 of the 3 lap run course was great! 1 bathroom stop (related to the issues referred to above..!) and otherwise strong and fast. Lap 2.. 3 bathroom stops… but felt strong in between… Lap 3 was just tough because you’re at the end of the Ironman! Seeing Jesse and Tim on that course so many times helped so much. I wish they would have said “Cindy you’re in 10th.. then 9th..” so I would have maybe found a few extra seconds per mile, but just having them there helped a TON. Jesse with his paper and pen, Tim with his floppy hat jumping around screaming… Another great memory of the day was Tim yelling after lap 2 “Be conservative.. you’re going to F%^k S&*T up out there!” Thank you guys!! Coming around the bend in the last mile and realizing I was going to break 9:30 on a hot day in Texas was a pretty great thing.. I was so happy to get across that finish line, finishing with a new PR at Iron Distance, feeling the strongest I have ever felt in all three disciplines.
Final time – 9:29:53
Thank you Coach Tara of QT2 Systems for getting me here – I am excited about things to come!