Intro written by Stephanie M: We are linking to Jane and Todds personal blog on the trail dog blog today – she has written an amazing account of her experience competing in ( and dominating) the ITU World Championship long course race in Pontevedra Spain. Jane trained amazingly hard for this event and accomplished all her goals- we were lucky enough to witness her and Todd race and travel with them abroad. If you are at all interested in the ITU experience, this is a must read!!
Tokyo Marathon March 3, 2019
What to say about goals…I came out of Berlin in worse shape than I realized at the time. I had been struggling with what I thought was sciatica, but was told had something to do with my hamstring, and it had not gotten any better. I also had plantar fasciitis in my right foot that wasn’t going away. Less than two weeks after Berlin, I had a night of debilitating pain – lie on the floor-dosed up on painkiller-still feeling 7 out of 10 kind of pain. I couldn’t get up; Derek tried to help me up so that I could go to the bathroom and I passed out from the pain. Somehow we got into see a PT that day and he “diagnosed” it as a bulging or herniated disc that was pressing on my nerve. He gave me some exercises to do to help it to get better; if it wasn’t materially better (almost all gone) in 2 weeks than I should go to a doctor to order an MRI and get it officially diagnosed. So I couldn’t run; frankly I couldn’t sit as that aggravated it, I couldn’t really stand for any length of time, so I did a lot of lying on the floor.
It got better – dramatically at first and then slowly. I think I took three weeks completely off from running or any activity really. Then I did 5 miles in the first week of this “marathon cycle.” I started with walk / run (something like walk 5 min, run 1) and worked my way gradually to a light run. I think I built up 5 mpw, then 10, then 14, etc. So – at that point, my goal for Tokyo was just to finish and get my six star medal.
I focused on a steady build, not pressing myself too hard because I didn’t want to set myself back. And I eventually worked my way up to 40 mpw and started doing some tempo or speed work. I still felt out of shape, sluggish, and heavy, but I was making progress.
At some point – I started feeling like I could go after a strong time. I’m not exactly sure when, but sometime in January, my goal became to break 3:45 (and BQ at every major) or maybe even try for a 3:40. Terry was starting to talk to me about going after a PR, which I hadn’t even thought of at all.
Two weeks before the marathon, we celebrated my birthday in Durango. I’m not sure what happened, although I think sitting for a long day on a train was a big contributor, but I spasmed my back on Sunday. I couldn’t run at all on Monday – I tried, but I kept spasming and it was too painful. That brought my goals crashing back down. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to finish – as the cutoffs for Tokyo are too tight to walk the whole thing.
I saw Nick Speegle and he told me that I would be fine – it would ease up and be normal before the race. Rest it for a few days, then ease back into running. And that my fitness would be fine. Terry Casey said the same thing about my fitness – don’t worry about the time away from running, just consider it extra rest. I stayed hopeful. It was really challenging to stay optimistic and keep the faith. After a good amount of progress from my first visit to Nick on that Monday, progress seemed really slow. I still couldn’t run on Thursday even for a few minutes. I finally ran nearly one continuous mile on Saturday. And on Sunday, I got myself to run a total of 6 miles – with the longest continuous segment being 3 miles. It was still weak and feeling twitchy or spasm-y – but I got through it.
We flew to LA on Tuesday night and to Tokyo on Wednesday. My back was making progress but so slowly. It still didn’t feel normal and I wasn’t at all certain about being able to run 26.2 miles. I did feel confident that I could run enough miles that I would finish the race within the cutoff even if I walked the rest, so my six stars would still be achieved.
Derek and I agreed – I wouldn’t set any real goal until the morning of the race. I didn’t need to make any decisions until then. We did a light shakeout on Friday and it still felt tight, but I was able to run. Then Saturday was the short Friendship Run – and I didn’t feel my back, but my left glute felt funky and strained – oh no! We stayed off our feet the rest of the day. At some point that day I decided that I would probably just go for it – run and run hard, for as long as I could do it.
So – I guess in the end my goals were:
A goal: Sub 3:40
B goal: Sub 3:45
C goal: BQ or better (sub 3:55)
D goal: finish and get my sixth star
One of the neat things about doing the World Marathon Majors is experiencing the nuances from race to race – each race does things slightly differently – especially the international ones. You see their culture reflected in the race. In this case – Tokyo is the tightest on start area security. You are not allowed to bring in any plastic bottles or water carriers. So no Nathan flasks – which meant I had to deviate from my normal fueling strategy. I normally take UCAN – I take a serving before the race that I generally mix up and bring with me in a disposable water bottle and I carry hip flasks filled with UCAN and water for the race itself.
We brought some Huma gels with us for fueling instead – I practiced twice with them prior to the race. I had them tucked into an elastic bib belt. It turns out – I’ve never run in that bib belt with so much fuel in it (I had 5 gels tucked into it plus one small vial of Base salt). Once I started running, the bib belt kept bouncing down my body – I thought it would fall down! I had to keep fixing it, eventually I just tucked one of the gels into my shorts to keep the whole thing stationary.
Race day weather was rainy and chilly. I’ve always hear that 45-46 Fahrenheit is considered ideal marathoning weather, so I think the temps were actually favorable – although many reports and other runners said it was really cold afterwards. Unfortunately it was going to start raining around 7am (race start was 9:10am) and rain throughout the race. Thankfully no meaningful wind was expected. So – another marathon in rainy weather – but at least this wasn’t the epic sleet / rain storm that Boston was!
The start area was just outside our hotel. In fact, my entry gate was like a block away from my hotel – so it was super easy. They opened the start area at 7am. Derek and I split up – he had gotten in through the lottery, so he had a different gate to enter. They scan your wristband first – it’s tied to a picture of you that they took at the expo. Then they check your bags and you walk through a metal detector. I didn’t have that much of a wait – so I got through quickly. I dropped my bag off and headed to a central area to find Derek.
It took him awhile to get there. We were huddling under an overpass to try to stay dry. Around 8am, we decided to head to the corrals – they opened at 7:45 and closed at 8:45am. We had different stairs to walk up (Derek was corral B, I was corral D) – so we separated again. Turns out, we could have met up once we got up the stairs, but we didn’t plan that – so it didn’t happen. I decided to take one last trip to the portapot and ended up getting in line for Japanese style portapots (squatty potties). I decided to just stay in that line rather than getting in another line for Western style and I managed.
I need to digress here to talk about toilets. Yup, toilets. In our hotel room and in some of the nicer public areas (e.g., restaurants, etc.), they have toilets that have so many buttons on them that it seems like it would take a rocket scientist to figure them out. Truthfully, I never pushed any of the extra buttons – so I don’t know what they all do (Derek did one time, so you can ask him). But – our bathroom toilet in our hotel room had an extra feature – the toilet seat is warmed! I thought car seat warmers were the best thing since sliced bread! I need one of these for our house!
In contrast – they do still have non-western style squatty potties in some places (fairly rare), notably the portapots. Which struck me as so odd – a society that somehow has managed to invent and purchase the most advanced toilets I have ever seen and yet also has your very basic squatty potty. Even funnier – in many of the western-style toilets out in public areas, there are pictograms (probably accompanied by Japanese text, but since I can’t read Japanese, I don’t remember this much) that show you how to properly use a western-style toilet (by sitting on it with your back to the tank area of the toilet). There are also pictograms that show you the incorrect way to use it (with a big red circle and x through it) – essentially showing a stick figure squatting on the toilet (with their feet on the seat?) facing the tank.
Ok – a digression within a digression – something else we learned while in Japan – anything out of the ordinary can generally be attributed to “foreigners,” most likely from other Asian countries. These pictograms – they are for the Chinese; people who wear colored face masks (not the normal white ones) – probably foreigners; Asian women walking around Kyoto in rental kimonos inappropriate to the season – foreigners. We heard this from our Japanese tour guide in Kyoto, the bus driver, Derek’s old college friend who we met for dinner in Tokyo – so this is a commonly shared belief.
Back to my toilet digression (bet you guys thought this was a race report and not a thesis on toilets in Japan) – along the race course – there would be volunteers holding up signs indicating where the portapot stops were. These signs also had a distance written underneath the normal bathroom sign (I saw distances ranging from 400m to 1.2 km). Neither Derek nor I needed to use the bathrooms on the course – so we both assumed that this was the Japanese being super organized and that the distances indicated the distance to the next set of portapots. What we found out later from other runners was that this was actually the distance to the portapots! So, in some cases, people had to divert an extra 1km off the course to wait in line for the bathroom and then return that 1km back to the course!
Ok – back to the race report – I got into my corral around 8:15am. It was unusual – it was me, an Australian woman, and hundreds of Japanese guys! Ok – there were a couple of Japanese women too – but they didn’t show up until later. I was there pretty early, so it was just standing around, trying to not get too wet, and staying warm. I left my throwaways on until 9am to stay as warm as possible.
The race itself
They announced the elites – I recall hearing the wheelchair athletes and the male elites. And then we were off! The gun went off and they fired off confetti (which was a sloppy mess at the start line by the time I got there). The results show that I was across the start line in about 3 minutes – so really pretty fast.
We ran towards our hotel and then took a quick right turn. Of all the majors, Tokyo was by far the one with the least congestion – I was able to run from the get go and hit pace pretty quickly into it. During our shakeout run, we realized that our watches were not going to track pace or distance well because of the buildings. Thankfully – we had planned ahead and gotten pace bands with the time we should hit every 2 kilometers (the course is only marked in kilometers). So – I had planned to just run by feel and check it when I crossed the kilometer markings.
I had a 3:40 pace band and a 3:45 pace band – I put the 3:40 on my left wrist and the 3:45 on my right wrist. My goal was to stay on the left wrist for as long as possible! Surprisingly, I was doing a pretty good job of hitting the pace times without my watch. I knew my watch was off because it had me running at something like 6 min/mile in that first mile – I can’t run that fast!
I had a huge smile on my face – I was just so happy to be able to run and to (most likely) finish my sixth star! I knew that the cutoff at 10km was one of the toughest – so once I passed there with plenty of margin – I felt confident I would finish the race within their time limits, even if I had to walk. The first 10k of the course is a relatively straight shot from Shinjuku (where our hotel is) toward the Imperial Palace. I did feel my back a bit in this first 10km, so I was a little anxious that it wouldn’t hold out for the full race. But as I’ve done before, I told myself – it doesn’t hurt now, just run, you can deal with it when it does hurt. Essentially, run the mile you’re in. This has helped me not expend precious energy or anxiety worrying during a marathon.
Then you take a left turn and head toward Asakusa and Sensoji Temple. We had visited this temple on our city tour on Friday – so we knew what the gate would look like. The gate was the turnaround point for this out and back. The course itself had several out and backs which was awesome – because I got to see the lead wheel chair athletes at one point and the lead male runners. And Derek and I saw each other twice on the course!
In some ways it was super fortunate that the course was only marked in kilometers – as I generally had no real sense of how far I had gone or how far I had left. So I didn’t think about how many miles I had left – I just ran. I recognized a few sights from our tour – the Sensoji Gate, the Skytree, the Tokyo Tower, a Nissan dealer in Ginza – but mostly it was me just running through random streets in Tokyo in the rain with people yelling incomprehensible things at me.
The crowds were great – there were people the whole way and they were actually cheering for the runners (not like the Berlin marathon which had “just looking” spectators). There’s clearly some cheering phrase they use that, to me, sounds like my name – because I definitely felt a couple of times that I heard my name. I knew it wasn’t my name, but hey – I could tell myself that everyone in Japan was cheering me on!
Halfway passed by, and then I got to 30k – just 12k to go! I was still feeling pretty good. By now, I had stopped noticing my back – so I felt strong. I was even harboring the crazy idea that maybe I would finally negative split a marathon (nope – didn’t negative split it). I just kept telling myself to hold strong – I could do this – I even thought I could hold onto that sub 3:40, which seemed unbelievable in the two weeks before the race. It was my stretch goal even before my back tweak.
The “back” part of the last out-and-back was into the wind. I noticed a headwind, but would have guesstimated that winds were still single digit, maybe high single digit mph, but single digit. I saw an article later that described it as an “unrelenting headwind.” And when I read this statement in disbelief while waiting for our plane home, a woman inserted herself into our conversation saying that the weather was really bad and the winds were strong – she knew, because *she* ran the marathon. (a nicer person than me would have let that one go, but I couldn’t help telling her that we had both also run the marathon).
The finishing stretch of the marathon is on this stone road near the Imperial Palace. Those stones sucked – they were slippery and hard. And I was really trying to push it (although it seems now that it was my “marathon” sprint – which, well, doesn’t really resemble a sprint at all). I wanted to stay under 3:40, potentially negative split, and just finish strong. That last kilometer seemed like it lasted forever. I knew that we still had to turn left before we finished and all I could think was – that finish line better be freaking right around the corner.
Finally I reached the turn! And the finish line *was* very close to the turn thankfully. I put my “after burners” on (LOL) – and raised my arms in victory. Then I did something like ugly cry gasping – overcome with joy for finishing this adventure, finishing it strongly, and posting a good-for-me time.
I picked up my medal, got my six star medal at the Abbott tent, waited to get a photo there and then walked in the now very cold rain to the bag check area.
For some reason – the Tokyo marathon has the bag pickup very far away from the finish line. Okay – maybe not terribly far if the weather is nice. And while running in a chilly rain isn’t bad, the second you finish – you are freezing. And here’s where another cultural experience came in – the Japanese are a very rule-obeying culture. So as we were walking in the cold rain to the bag pick-up area, we had to cross several one lane roads. These roads were closed off (so no cars could cross). Despite this, they had volunteers who manned every cross-walk and actually put their arms out to stop you from crossing against the signal – despite a tiny road, zero traffic, and a blocked off road. When you are nearly hypothermic, it takes all you have to remain polite and respect another culture!
They are also a very clean and neat culture (this trip has explained a lot about Marie Kondo to me). It seemed like every 10 feet or so along the race course, there was a volunteer on the side of the course. Generally this volunteer was holding a plastic bag to collect trash. So I felt obligated to throw my used gel packets into some volunteer’s bag rather than just tossing it on the road.
Finally – after what seemed like an interminable amount of time that even managed to wipe the stupid, silly grin off of my face – I arrived at the bag pick-up area. Thankfully it was inside a building, so it was warm! And Derek met me at the top of the escalator – that’s when I found out how much he had crushed his race! I got my bag and we went into the change rooms to put dry clothes on. I knew I had some bad chafing – I had felt my right underarm chafing from very early on (maybe the first 10k) and my left arm decided to join the party sometime after the halfway point. It was excruciatingly painful to take my shirt and sports bra off. Later on – when we were back at the hotel, I saw just how bad it was – huge red welts on both sides of my body, some redness (blood presumably) on my singlet. Ouch! I had never chafed there before – but maybe the rain, my arm warmers, and a little extra weight did the trick.
We caught the bus back to our hotel area and got ready to party! We were both on cloud nine having had such strong races!
One final note about running a race overseas. Adjusting to jet lag and the time shift can be challenging. For London, Berlin, and Tokyo – we arrived 2 to 3 days before the race (Friday for London, Thursday for Berlin and Tokyo – all of the races were Sunday races). Generally, I have used Benadryl to help me sleep and adjust to the time zone. I would take one or two little tablets each night. When I ran London – I had felt like my legs were really sluggish and heavy early on in the race. In Berlin, I had that same dead leg feeling. So I started wondering whether the Benadryl was having that effect, as I should have been in great shape for both, especially Berlin. This trip, I opted to avoid Benadryl. Instead, we took melatonin gummies each night to help us adjust. I don’t know if this made the difference, but I didn’t have that dead leg sensation – so I think it did help!
In Gender 847 / 8201 (10.3%)
In Division 1242 / 6326 (45-49 Age Group Men and Women) (19.6%)
Overall 6314 / 35431 (17.8%)
US placement 243 / 1038 (23.4%)
I promised myself that I would actually write a race report for Rocky Raccoon 100. I always say “Maybe I will” and then usually, ill scribble down my post race thoughts, send them along to my coach and then keep them to myself. I just haven’t felt like my experiences have been particularly unique, and I really haven’t felt inspired to share. But, this race is different. For a variety of reasons. This is going to be long, but so was the race, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in.
I have been wanting to run 100 miles since I did the 50 miler at Rocky Raccoon four years ago. I made it a relatively quiet goal, since I didn’t really know when I would actually commit to it. Training for 100 miler obviously takes some focus away from triathlon training- and the first step to committing to the 100 miler was finding peace with that. Being ok with maybe the first part of my tri season being lack luster, and maybe pushing my season back later than usual. And to be honest, I had a tumultuous tri season in 2018. Lots of highs, but A LOT of lows, and some experiences that left a bad taste in my mouth. This was it. This was the year I was going to do it.
Before I get to the actual race report here are some big picture thoughts
1) I am going to miss 100 miler training, which means ill definitely be back. It was such a refreshing change of pace- figuratively, and literally
2) I have zero regrets about the race. As a first timer, there were obviously mistakes in execution. And I own those 100 percent. But I was also as prepared as I possibly could have been and I am proud of that
3) 100 miler training shows you how extensive your support system is. From people that shared night time miles with me, to the amazing crew that joined me for the race (lots more on them later), to folks that sent me regular messages of support and encouragement. It took a village, and I wouldn’t have made it without that support.
4) It’s nearly impossible to wrap your mind around what running 100 miles will feel like, until you are in the middle of it. And then there’s this moment that happens: “oh shit , so this is what this feels like”. So if you haven’t done one, erase any pre conceived notion of what this might have been like and get back to me when you’ve done it 😉
5) Jeff had an amazing race at his 100K but ill let him comment on his race because I can only really discuss my race from my perspective ( and most of that is blurry at best)
Ok on to the race. Before I get to the nitty gritty. I need to acknowledge the team Jeff and I had there.
· Alyssa: Those of you that know her know that she is an amazing and inspirational trail runner and I was honored to have her as a part of my crew. We spent MANY MANY miles running together leading into this race. When its time for her to do her first 100 I’ll be right there with her. She also paced me for miles 50-75 and I really am not sure I would have made it through this process without her. She patient, calm, focused and meticulous-and is an amazing friend.
· Sarah ( ABQ): Despite having hip surgery last year, Sarah has been crushing marathon training, AND training for her first 70.3 in Boulder. Jeff and I have lovingly adopted her as our adult daughter (even though she and I are the same age lol) and she paced Jeff for miles 50-63 of the 100K. she was master of the crew lists and has been a voice of encouragement through the entire training cycle
· Ed: Ed is a friend from Chicago, former Marine, and Leadman finisher and my obvious choice for miles 75-100 finisher. I knew that loop was going to be tough, and I was going to need tough love. Ed gained the name “Spandex Cowboy” on race day ( see picture below) and he GOT IT DONE on race day. Youll hear more on this later but I was a mess. He massaged my feet, told me to harden the fuck up, and kept me moving. His friend Kelley was also amazingly helpful and a great addition to the crew. We were so in awe of her willingness to jump right in, and help complete strangers achieve their goals
· Iggy and Sara (Houston). Our amazing Houston friends that really went out of their way to make sure we had the stuff we needed for race day ( our tent and chairs), kept spirits high and alive, cheered like crazy, tended to my feet and were just general crew rock stars.
· Other friends joined at various intervals and were just SO supportive. It as amazing to be surprised by so many friendly faces. We are so blessed and lucky.
Our crew was so epic we ended up on the race insta story
Jeff and I flew into Houston on Thursday evening, and headed to my parents house. After a somewhat stressful trip out of ABQ (apparently my spring energy gels, which are the equivalent of baby food, are a national security threat), arriving in Houston was stress free. Jeff and I along with Alyssa, Sarah and Zack had spent the weekend before the race pre packing and portioning race nutrition. Lap1, Lap 2, Lap 3, Lap4 – meticulously pre planned and set aside. I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time once we got into Houston to take care of this. Also, if you plan on having a crew for a 100 miler, YOU as the racer are responsible for their success as the crew. Sure, you can be like me and pick the most rock star, experienced crew in the world, and rely on them heavily. But ultimately, it was on me to let them know what I WANTED so they could set me up for success. So, I made extensive crew lists of each lap. Things I wanted them to ask me, things I needed them to hand me, things they needed to do. They looked like this
Packing party picture thrown in for good measure
Friday morning was spent shopping for race a crew food, and running some errands with Sarah and Alyssa before heading up to our bed and breakfast with Jeff around 1. Once we got up there we met up with Ed and his friend Kelley ( who was a brilliant addition to our crew) to head over to race check in, do a shake out run and set up our tent on what we termed as “crew row” . Our other friend Sara ( from Houston) provided us with the tent and camp chairs, and she and Iggy came up on Saturday afternoon to round out the village it took to get Jeff and I through our races.
Pre race shake out
Once we checked in, it was time to cook our usual pre race steak dinner ( steak, asparagus, mushrooms, roasted sweet potatoes and rice) and just relax with friends. We laughed, we chatted, we made a final sort through of gear. Honestly, it was the most relaxed I’ve ever been going into a race. Mostly because we were surrounded with amazing people but also, I had zero expectations about this race. I wanted to go out there, do the best I can, and hopefully cross the finish line.
Race morning came fast, after some hanging out at the tend and sorting through my stuff, it was almost time to get started
The 100 miler started at 6 am, so for the first hour we ran in the dark. I have 2 lighting sources so I was perfectly comfortable. It took about 5-6 miles to shake out from the crowds, and honestly I took those 6 miles really easy. Easier than I had wanted to, but I figured that was a good place to start. There were rumors that trail conditions later on in the loop weren’t great. And it did not take long to see what people were talking about. Ankle high water, deep mud covered about 20 percent of the loop.
To be honest, I wasn’t having an issue running through or running around these sections. My feet were not getting wet initially ( mostly because I was still able to run through it quickly enough that my feet weren’t getting completely soaked). But I do remember thinking “ huh, my quads are more tired than I would expect at this point” this was my first sign I should have taken it slower through these sections. This was my rookie mistake- these conditions are hard to run through and take a toll on your body. I was feeling good initially, but as the day went on, it became harder and harder to pull myself out of these mud pits. Lessons learned the hard way I guess.
Just a taste of what the trails looked like in sections
I came back to crew row after loop one (in about 4 hours and 10 minutes. Way too fast it turns out) and decided to keep my Hoka Stinsons on, but change my socks. I knew early on changing my socks was going to be necessary at least once a lap. It was a really quick in and out (Alyssa even wrote down my in and out times on our crew lists like a champ). I was having a blast and in great spirits.
Masterful crewing by Alyssa
Headed out of loop 2 with explicit plans to take it MUCH easier and this really worked great. I felt awesome, nutrition was ON POINT all day (combination of spring energy gels, uncrustables, coke and pretzels). Below is a map of the course. The out and back to the “farside” aid station was BY FAR the most challenging part of the course. It was a steady incline, really difficult to navigate because of the rootiness, and a really really long a desolate stretch. On my second loop, my climb out to farside got a little difficult. I kept clipping my toes on the roots, so I knew I was getting tired. By the time I got to that aid station, checked in with the volunteer (that was their way of keeping tabs on you) I knew that this section would be really really difficult the next two laps. Around mile 40 I was saying to myself TEN MORE MILES TO ALYSSA. I was ready for some company. My brother had come to spectate at one of the aid stations, which was really amazing, and a great surprise.
Came into crew row at the end of loop 2 and I was in great spirits. Ed was singing to the crowds, my parents were spectating, and I was about to pick up my first pacer for the day (YAY ALYSSA). I decided to change shoes and socks, and we decided to take the time to do some foot care. My feet were soaked, and starting to get sore and sensitive from running through all the water. Alyssa and Sara cleaned off my disgusting feet, applied some dougs miracle balm, Ed got me new socks ( THE PINK ONES ED, THE PINK ONES) while the rest of the crew handed me a freshly charged watches, more based salt and loaded my pack with all my nutrition.
This is what it looks like to crew 100 miles
I set off for loop 3 with Alyssa, and was on officially on the longest run I’ve ever done. Alyssa said she had chatted with our tent neighbor who was an experienced 100 mile runner, and he said to advise me to take the third loop extra easy. Its notoriously the hardest loop mentally, with it beginning to stretch into the night time hours it was likely to be harder to navigate especially that stupid stretch out to Farside. We set off walking to let me get my legs moving, and settled in initially on a 6 minute run, 2 minute walk pattern (with purposeful walks uphill and through the mud) this actually worked really great. There were some sections where the walking was longer because of terrain, and I think we switched to a 5/2 and even 4/3 run walk pattern. But, we were still running and still moving well ( I mean look its all relative at mile 60 or 70). We even picked up a friend along the way. He didn’t have much of a crew, and he was feeling really down about running alone at night. It was nice to team together to get both of us to mile 75.
The climb out to farside made me a little weepy, not going to lie. I told Alyssa to make sure Ed knew that my emotions might get the better of me on the last lap.
I was getting a little loopy, and at mile 75, I could tell then next 25 were going to be hard. But it was MY. LAST. LAP.
Came into crew row with the bottoms of my feet really hurting. I would later come to find that despite changing shoes and socks every lap, I had developed trench foot. My crew did an amazing job of taking care of my feet. But I was feeling it. My feet were pruney and raw. I was developing a large blister under my callous. This last loop was going to hurt.
I set off with Ed and told him I would like to try and keep the run/walk pattern going. And initially I was able to! Maybe I caught my 18th wind?? I mean, I wasn’t moving fast by any means, but I was still moving. I saw Jeff and Sarah on his final out and back which was great! I even was on track for a sub 24 hour finish- if I could just keep moving.
And then… things fell apart. In likely the most epic way possible. My legs were seizing. The blister on the side of my foot made each and every step painful. Getting through the mud took excruciating minutes, instead of seconds. My ability to move laterally, or balance myself was non-existent. Luckily my stomach was still doing well ( Miracle of the weekend- perfectly executed nutrition plan) so at least I was still taking calories in. I told Ed I wanted to quit. I told Ed that I I felt like I was letting people down. I told Ed that I felt bad that everyone was waiting for my at the finish line and I was taking too long. I told Ed I couldn’t do it.
Ed told me to suck it up, and keep moving. I wanted to be coddled, but ultimately he did exactly what I needed him to do which was walk ahead of me, not take any of my shit and laugh at me when I said something stupid. He even called Jeff for me, who was done at this point so I could get some much needed encouragement. I just wanted a hug. When I made it to the damnation aid station I told Ed I NEEDED to take of my shoes. My feet hurt so much. It was there that we realized how bad the situation with my feet actually was. I sat down briefly and Ed even massaged my disgusting tired feet ( Guys, that’s friendship right there).
Jeff on the phone with me
Just make it to the next aid station Stephanie. Just make it to Nature center. I came in to nature center in a really bad way. Nature Center is only 3.5 miles to the finish, but I honestly didn’t think I would make it. We sat down at the aid station, took my shoes off and the medic looked at my feet and got to work. We had to lance the blister that had formed on the side of my foot. Ed got yelled at for not having extra socks for me with him ( in his defense it didn’t occur to me to give socks to my pacers). They bandaged me up the best they could. We managed to relieve the pressure from the blister but now I basically had an open wound on my foot, and I still had wet trench feet that were hurting. And now, I had just sat down for 45 minutes, which means I was STIFF. In my delirious mind, I legitimately thought I wouldn’t make the cut off even though there were 5 hours left for me to go 3.5 miles
Time to pop a blister
The aid station volunteer had suggested a walking stick, and Ed found me one just outside the aid station. This is how I was going to make it the last little bit. I was determined to make this happen. I even tried “running” HAH it wasn’t a run, it was just a walk with a little hop in it. But it felt like an 800 meter sprint. We made it over the last couple hills and at the final turn Ed just stood there and looked at me. I scream “ IS THIS IT”. When Ed nodded yes, I started crying all over again. He told me to ditch the walking stick and run it in. I did the absolute best I could to gut it out. The entire crew was waiting at the finish for me and I was so so so happy to see them. I crossed the finish line to cheers from them, and complete strangers and I collapsed into Jeffs arms in tears. I Finished.
There was a little bit of disappointment with how things fell apart around mile 82. But then I had to remember, it was 100 miles. Even the first female finisher (pro) walked lots of the second half with her pacer. The male winner wrote in his blog about how much he slowed down the second half ( slow being a relative term here). This was my first 100. I finished under 27 hours. The race had a nearly 50% drop out rate. I have no regrets.
So where/ when will I run my next 100? TBD.
I am long-winded. Grab a cocktail or hop on your bike trainer and settle in. a good 20-minute warm up can be done with this. If you read fast.
1) Beat my last marathon time 5:38.02
2) Break 5 hours
3) 11:00 avg pace (4:48)
4) aka the Charrissa “Pee your Pants” goal: 10:30 avg pace (4:35)
A very short summary to what was originally a really long intro/background:
We moved back to ABQ in the winter. I found TDT and from week 1, had people who were so encouraging and fast to run with. All of the local triathlons that I would have liked to have done were on weekends where we were out of town. womp womp. So I signed up for 4 half marathons throughout the spring and summer. I PR’ed the 1st two and therefore decided to take the plunge and sign up for the Duke City Marathon. One day I came across the Hanson’s Marathon Method training plan. I wasn’t sure about 6 days of running for 18 weeks but I was wanting to redeem myself from my first/last marathon that I had run in Honolulu back in December right before we moved. So I bought the book and jumped in at week 1, day 1. I did every speed workout, every tempo run, and only missed a few easy runs here and there. I woke up my whole house for 430am weekday runs and suffered through some seriously HOT temps during some afternoon jaunts around the track. No moisture + 90* makes Nicole really freaking tired. But I did it: I fully subscribed to the philosophy the book was teaching and ended up running about 670 of the 730+ miles in the beginner 18-week plan. That’s about 91-92%. That’s an A/A- in college, so yay. The day taper had finally arrived was GLORIOUS, especially as the weather was finally cooling down.
As stated, I talk a lot and that translates to writing a lot. I semi-promise to keep this shortish. Let’s jump to the race. The day of the race all I could keep think was CAN WE JUST DO THIS ALREADY? I had read the books, eaten right, hydrated right, worn the right clothing based on the weather report, KT-taped and body glided all the right body parts (AKA 50% of my body) and slept as good as possible the night before. This all meant to me that the only thing that would stop me was me. I had my little pace card in my pocket and new my game plan. I was not nervous; I was just ready.
The start was wonderful compared to so many large races I did in HI: not having to juke around the folks who want to walk after 50 ft of sprinting made for an easy start out. Plus there was so many friends and teammates at the start cheering for me that I was PUMPED! After half a mile I looked at my watch and saw that crap I’m going fast. I knew that I would burn out if I kept that up, and I forced myself to slow down. At the 5k turn around there was a bathroom coming up and I realized crap I have to pee!! No!! It was WAY too early to have this problem but I knew that if I could get so lucky as to have it be empty I could pull another Shalene and be in and out in < 20 and catch up to Ben who was running the same pace as me. As luck would have it, I had to wait all of 7 seconds before the bathroom became free. SUCCESS! Now I felt ready to rock, and no real time was wasted.
I had planned on settling in to Marathon Pace around mile 4. Well, it happened a little earlier than I was ready for. By mile 2 and turning onto the Bosque, I was already at GMP and feeling good. I was nervous that I was feeling too good because I knew I could bonk if I was going too hard too soon. I kept checking my watch and making myself (and Ben, sorry for yelling) slow down when going too fast. I kept trying to eat as much as I could because I realized while I had a great breakfast I had forgotten to have my traditional stroop and gel prior to the start. I will say that having a water station at every mile was great help. Have you ever tried to run while eating a stroop wafel? IT'S FREAKING HARD. So gel, stroop, and blocks I tried to take in for a few miles. Not easy, but necessary.
My husband Davin had told me he was going to try to cheer for me either at Candelaria or I-40. When we passed I-40 I didn't see him and when we passed what I thought was Candelaria I was bummed. Crap, where is here? Then there was another group of people standing together around the half-marathon turn point. There he was AND WITH OUR DOG, SOPHIE. I was even more excited seeing her there too! I'm sure I annoyed a solid 50 people with my baby voice HI SOPHIE!! but I did not care. It made me so happy to see both of them out there cheering for me. I was beaming and had to slow myself down after seeing them.
The miles ticked by between 7 and 11. My watch was reading the right goal times but it was .2 miles ahead of the course. I knew that and it was frustrating for me bc the watch doesn't matter: the course mileage does and that meant I was slightly behind goal pace. F. But I knew I was still really close and I could do it. The turn onto Paseo was longer than I had anticipated. I thought when I passed the relay hand-off we were almost at the turn but apparently we were like 1/3 of the way there. Another womp womp. Although it wasn't a crazy hill, it was a climb. about a 1/4 mi from the turn i looked to my right and there again was my husband, his buddy Russ, and SOPHIE!! I was so pumped. It helped me get to the top for the turn. I checked my watch. By my watch I had major league PR'ed my half-marathon. By the official numbers I was nearly there too. Ben told me as much after we had turned back towards the Bosque. I was still feeling good. I was able to take off my long sleeved undershirt right before the turn and passed it to Davin when we saw him again. Base layer gone, I was nice and warm and not over heating so I was happy. Plus the air felt good.
After the half-way turn, Ben and I met a guy named Daniel who had run with ABQ Fit and was asking about the Trail Dogs. We invited him to come out sometime, and we chatted while we ran a few miles back to the Bosque. He was super nice and made for great conversation. He eventually peeled back. Ben and I reminded each other that we had trained for the last 16, per the Hanson's Mantra, and now I was ready to execute that plan. Once we hit the Bosque, Ben was starting to hurt. He can tell his own story, but I was sad to lose him. He had been instrumental in us keeping up such a great pace the first half of the race and all throughout training so I was really sad that he wanted to peel off but I knew I couldn't take even a minute walk break without destroying all I had done so I told him to catch up and I'd see him soon.
Once alone, I did some self-assessing. I still felt pretty good. I kept checking my time and was still on pace for my A goal. Mile 15 -16 – 17 I tried to eat what I could stomach. I was worried that I was going to throw up as it all nutrition I took in was so sugary and the base salts were good but just salt, so not very appetizing.
A gentleman in a red tank (which was funny bc that’s what Ben, James, Burney, Tammy and I all were wearing during the race) who I had passed at one time around mile 16 caught me and began to chat with me. He was from Baltimore and was running a marathon in all 50 states. I enjoyed having someone who was running pace with me as it began to get hard. I passed my friend Elizabeth at the 3:15.xx mark and I could see that she was struggling but I was so proud that she was still plugging along. It was her first marathon and so getting to see her on the course made me so happy! She was doing so great!
At mile 19ish I saw Davin one more time. I was so happy to see him then as I was starting to feel fatigue set in. My new friend (whom I of course failed to get his name, sorry friend!) was telling me our splits: 10:26, 10:23, 10:19. We will both tired but we were running at my GMP even into mile 21. Once in the 20s, I was feeling the fatigue in my quads. Ut-oh: large muscle group soreness is never a good sign. But it was manageable. All of the volunteers handing out water were amazing. Except one girl who not once but TWICE handed me gatorade when I had asked for water. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal except she was busy throwing water on her friends as they ran by on the way out and she was not helping the rest of us on the way back. I did call her out as politely as I could that she needed to pay attention as it was beginning to get warm and that’s how people get sick. I was upset as I was really struggling to keep liquid down, so gatorade instead of water was rough. That coupled with a few aid stations that were out of water made it really tough late in the game.
Mile 22ish: my new friend had to peel off. While at first I wasn’t keen on listening to another person’s heavy footsteps and breathing, he ended up being a god send and I was sad to have him go. So now I’m all alone. I am really hurting in the quads and my hips are starting to remind me they are there. There are basically no people around cheering and it’s a rather dull stretch of the Bosque but I knew that less than 2 miles away I would be off the trail and onto the final stretch. Checked my watch and I was still in the right range although a little slower. I got a bit religious and began my conversation with the dead. My grandpa, family members, my BFF’s dad, my ‘aunt’ who we lost a few months ago. It’s not the first or the last time I’ll do this in a race. It helps when I am really wanting to be done, thinking that they would be there encouraging me to keep going. Weird? Maybe. But it works.
There’s a whole lot of nothing after Tingley Beach and although the turn is close by, it didn’t feel like it when I was running. Then I heard the sweet sound of cowbells and my favorite brood of munchkins with their fearless leader screaming. It was the McLaughlin family! I swear they should be hired to cheer for people on courses when they are at their darkest because they made me feel SO MUCH BETTER. I had like 2.5 miles left and I felt like it was never going to end, so hearing them cheering and seeing their smiling faces gave me the boost i was desperately needing. I hit the end of the bosque trail and did a U-turn onto Tingley and headed towards Kit Carson. Davin texts me and I can see the first half on my watch: “you’re at 4:12 and almost here…” Yes! I am so happy to see his text but I am so tired. So tired and I don’t know if I have it in me. I know I am on track but I want to be running faster than my body is letting me. I hit the left at Kit Carson and hear/see the McL’s again and it is the sweetest sound in the world because they are really yelling for me! Christine, you are the best and your kids are too! I don’t know if I would have kept pace if I hadn’t seen you guys when I did.
I hit the corner where the port-os were for the 5k turn around and know that I am so f*%&ing close, yet so far. My legs are moving at pace but I can’t make them go faster like I wanted to. I wanted to be 30-45 seconds faster at this point. I see the final water station and I know that I am going to be right on my pace and I want to pick it up but I am so scared of puking. Half of me wanted to just puke to get it over with and the other half was afraid I wouldn’t stop if I did. I was mostly afraid I would puke at the finish line which would make for a great finisher photo but my luck would have me puking on a poor innocent person trying to hand out medals. The water helped though, so that was good. I shook out my arms and I realized I hadn’t really done that all day and that was a mistake: they were really sore and tingled. I had kept my shoulders relaxed but failed to pay attention to my arms who had been pumping for 23+ miles and for over 4 hours.
Once on central, I saw I was at 15th street. Okay Nicole: 12 blocks. They were some of the longest blocks ever. I think I had forgotten how to count at one point. That’s how tired I was. I really wanted my legs to go faster, but I couldn’t get that request from my brain to my legs or even my arms to help pump me forward. 10 blocks. 8 blocks. 7 blocks. Wait, what’s 8 minus 3? Okay, 5 blocks. I was counting the traffic lights because addition was easier than subtraction at this point. Stay in school, kids. Math is useful, I promise. There are finally some people around again at 6th street. Thank god. 5th street. 4th street. 3rd street YASSS! As are almost all finisher shoots, it felt like another mile long, even if less than .2 miles in real life. I knew I could “sprint” with whatever I had left in me for that distance. I had given it everything I had. I heard people yelling my name but I couldn’t figure out where they were and I couldn’t turn my head to find out. I just kept looking at the finish line. Finally I crossed that SOB and I was handed a medal without puking on anyone. I looked at my watch: 4:37.xx. I couldn’t be mad I hadn’t come in at 4:35 because I was so tired and just wanted to sit. I almost cried but locked that ish down really fast. Plus I think I sweat it all out so I would have looked ridiculous.
My husband found me and gave me a kiss and Burney, Jeff and Steph gave me some big hugs. Tammy, Ellie, and Jim found me too and all of their congratulations made me realize what I had just done. I had to use the railing to keep my self up. BUT! I had beat my last/first marathon by over an hour. AN HOUR. OVER 60 MINUTES. While it wasn’t an original goal, it was really amazing to say out loud. 18 weeks of running 6 days a week had paid off. My official time was 4:37.37. that’s a 10:35/ avg pace. My watch said I had ran an extra .2+ over and so it gave me an official 10:29/avg pace. I like that better, but it’s not official so it doesn’t count (except on strava, which somehow made it into 10:28/avg. Thanks strava).
I learned so much doing this training cycle. About running and myself. I also am so grateful for my husband supporting me even with my 4am alarms, my 9pm bedtimes, and my talking about running all. of. the. freaking. time. I’d be annoyed if I didn’t run, but he was a champ. To the trail dogs who I ran with who made me faster: THANK YOU! Ben and Diane I think I ran the most with the 2 of you and I can’t thank you enough. To Christine who was my concierge pacer in 2 half marathons, to Burney who was always putting a positive spin on things, and to everyone who told me how much I had improved over the summer. To Jeff and Munoz who didn’t even blink when I told you back in June what my goals were and had merely responded with: oh you can do that, no problem! THANK YOU GUYS. I am one of those people who feeds off of positive affirmations and your encouragement and support was so much more helpful than I can accurately put into words.
Now I am going to rest for a few days until I get restless and either hop in the pool, on my bike, or decide to hit my 1000 miles for the year on my 2 feet (I’m 100 miles away!!). Next up: Boulder 70.3 and maybe a marathon after that. AT SEA LEVEL
Last year, I surprised myself and ran Chicago in a sub 3:40 time. That led me to think that I had the capability of PR’ing in the marathon distance (my PR is 3:37:30). And I had signed up for Berlin for 2018. Berlin is known to be a fast course, and it would be the first time that I could qualify for Boston 2020 (when I will be qualifying in the 50-54 age group, so my qualifying time is 4:00) – so going after a 3:40, or a PR would allow me to register with the 20+ min group. Something I would love to be able to do. I told my coach Terry that my pee-my-pants goal would be to run a 3:35 – and hit the open qualifying standard. I wasn’t sure that was possible, but in the aftermath of Chicago, I was bold and optimistic.
So for 2018, the Berlin marathon was my A race. My goals were:
- Gold goal – sub 3:40
- Platinum – PR (sub 3:37)
- Pee-my-pants goal – sub 3:35
I had good races during the season, yet my build-up for Berlin seemed odd. I was hitting the paces and the distances, but for some reason I felt underprepared, not ready. Maybe I always feel this way. The 8:12 pace I would need, seemed manageable even for a 9 mile tempo. Admittedly, I did these on the treadmill because of my work schedule and the darkness, but the last time I had tried to go after a 3:35, the pace felt harder. Terry thought my build-up went well and that I was ready.
We left Albuquerque Wednesday evening and arrived in Berlin Thursday afternoon. I have been battling some weird pain in my left leg (maybe sciatica? Maybe piriformis? Maybe something with my hamstring?). I didn’t tend to feel it when I ran, so I figured I’d be ok for the race. I got a couple of treatments and the last one I got the Monday before we left seemed to help quite a bit, but then over the next few days, the pain starting creeping back. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but it had left me in crippling pain about a week before the race. It was mostly painful when I sat – so the plane flight over was challenging. I had also been managing a low-grade plantar fasciitis issue in my right foot and, of course, it chose now to be a bit angrier with me.
I made it through the long flight and was grateful to have arrived. There was a welcome reception that night and then we hit the hay. I generally adjust to timezones decently well, but to make sure to get some rest – I took Benadryls to help me sleep. 2 each night until the night before the race when I only took 1. This is fairly common for me – although I think I took more this time than usual. Friday we did a bus tour, then the expo (which was kind of a mess). Saturday was the International breakfast run (~6k). We came back for lunch and then made a quick trip to see KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) a famous flagship department store here. We ate at the pasta dinner included in our Marathon tours trip. Then I got ready for the next day.
The weather looked decent – presumably starting just under 60 degrees and finishing just under 70. A little warm, but given how marathon conditions have been going recently, not bad. I decided to try and go for it – go out around 8:10s and see how it felt.
We left the hotel around 7:45am (for a 9:25am start) and walked over to the corral area. I was in the corral super early. So I sat on a curb and just chilled. I stood up around 9am, took my Ucan, and shook my legs out. It was a beautiful day. Jacket off, it was go time. My watch took forever to pick up the satellites. I turned it on at 9am and it didn’t fully pick up the satellites until we had already started moving up to the start line, so probably around 9:20am. There were trees lining the street – so perhaps the trees got in the way.
Then we were off! I could run pretty much right away, which is unusual for a big city marathon. I settled into a good pace. My watch told me I was running 8:10 in the first mile – great! Right on target, felt pretty comfortable, heart rate was low (in the low 140s). I didn’t see any mile markers or kilometer markers until 3km. I didn’t see any water stops. I tried to follow the blue line (the best course) and just ran with my watch – mile one 8:10, mile two 8:06, mile three 8:03. Right on track, actually figured I should take it back a notch. Then I hit the 5k mat – I had calculated that my kilometer pace needed to be about 5:05 so at 5k I should have been at 25:25. I looked down at my watch and it said 26+. I was shocked. At that point, I was more than a minute behind the pace I wanted (as opposed to slightly ahead, as I had expected). I looked again to see the mileage and I think my watch read 3.4-3.5. Way off already. I knew I wasn’t weaving that much and I was running a smart course – so either the 5k was in the wrong place (that was my hope) or my watch was messing up the gps (more worrisome). This discouraged me as I didn’t feel like I could run faster at that point. So I just kept running to my watch, hoping that the 5k was somehow marked long.
I think the first water stop came at 6k (at least the first one I noticed). These were a bit of a cluster. They were generally only on one side of the street, there was little to no warning that they were coming up, and they weren’t that long. So everyone was dive-bombing to get to the tables. Plus generally there was no one handing out water, you had to pick up the cup from the table. And they were plastic cups – so you couldn’t fold them into a nice V to make a convenient drinking spout. Every water stop seemed like it added 15-20 seconds. And was a real dodgeball effort. But it was a hot day- so I needed to stop. It made me wish that I had carried my own water.
Speaking of the weather – it felt hot from very early on. I started feeling hot in the first 5 miles. I was sweating quite a bit already. This surprised me as I don’t think I felt that hot until about the last 6 miles in Chicago and I thought the weather was similar. But maybe it had been a little more overcast in Chicago?
I saw Derek, Beth and Noel at 11k – and by this point I knew this wasn’t going to be my day. The 10k mark had come and I was still similarly over my goal. I had no idea what pace I was running – I was still doing my best to maintain pace on my watch. I had started backing off in my head to a PR (which still would have been amazing). I thought I could hang onto that – except apparently my watch was telling me paces that I wasn’t actually running.
The course was tough mentally. It’s super flat – the flattest course I have ever run. But because I don’t know Berlin (and truthfully, it’s not the most scenic city), I had no landmarks. It just felt like endless miles. Compared to the other big city marathons that I have run, the first half to 2/3rds of the course was pretty sparse in terms of spectators. And where there were spectators, they were “watchers” – you know, the kind who just watch and don’t cheer (or maybe they were just cheering for their runner). In the cold, rainy, windy conditions this year, Boston had more spectators who were way louder.
At halfway, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 1:50:5x – that wouldn’t even project to a 3:40! Man, that was heartbreaking. My legs were already tired. I wasn’t looking at a negative split, unless somehow the second half of the course was shorter. I just tried to focus on getting that sub-3:40. But the wheels kept coming off the wagon. I saw Derek again around 32k – which was much needed, I needed something cheerful, something distracting. He told me at that point that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the world record and run 2:01! That was super exciting and fun to think about. I continued my focus on the blue line – telling myself that I was running in his footsteps.
Since I knew that I would not meet any goals, I tried to really focus on enjoying the experience. Which isn’t easy to do when you still have like 10 miles to go and your legs hurt. I saw a group of alpenhorns and some belly dancers. There were some good bands and drum groups. I read German store signs. Maybe I could still salvage a sub 3:45 and that would feel respectable for the day.
The last three miles, it was all I could do to keep running and not walk. I just kept telling myself- just don’t walk, just don’t walk. You can jog this in. You’ll finish. I still had no idea what my final time would be, since my watch was so extremely off. I had given up paying attention to time, I was just trying to get done.
I saw Beth, Noel, and Derek in Potsdamer Platz around 39k and that was super nice. I was ecstatic that 39k was only 3 more k to go (since I had somehow thought I still had 4k to go), but that felt like the longest 3k I’ve ever run. Finally I hit the finishing stretch – Derek was there right before the Brandenburg Gate. It was cool to run through that gate.
Then a bit more to the finish line. There was no sprint – “marathon sprint” or otherwise. There was just a slog to the finish line.
What can I say – I am a bit disappointed. It feels like a wasted opportunity. I’m not sure what went wrong. Looking back at it – I didn’t have it from the get go. Was I not fit enough? I had gained some weight (a few pounds), so was I too heavy? Was it the Benadryl? Was it just traveling and the time change? Did I walk around too much in the previous days? Was my taper too aggressive? I had a pretty aggressive taper partly because I was struggling with pain in the weeks leading up to the race. I wish I knew.
Nevertheless, I persisted and got my 5th world marathon major under my belt. Next stop – Tokyo!
In Gender 1708 / 12337 (13.8%)
In Division 222 / 1996 (F45-49 Age Group) (11.1%)
Ironman Wisconsin 2018- Ironman #10 .
What doesn’t challenge us, doesn’t change us. Isn’t that what they say? That’s why I keep coming back to this crazy distance. I wasn’t going to write anything about this race, mostly because I am feeling a weird combination of pride and disappointment. Being pulled off the course at Ironman Canada was a real low point for me as an athlete. I have never not finished what I’ve started, even if it was going to be ugly. It’s the one thing I usually can count on- I might not be the fastest, but I always get the job done. Except on July 29th. It kind of haunted me. After the initial rush of emotions that resulted in me saying, out loud “ I’m retired from Ironman, I’m never doing this again”, I knew that that just wasn’t who I am. So I signed up for my absolute FAVORITE RACE ON THE CIRCUIT. Ironman Wisconsin. No matter how this race was going to go – I was SO EXCITED to be back.
Probably the most important piece of luggage other than my bike
This season has been weird for me. I’ve seen huge improvements in training, and my 70.3 distance racing has really come along. I managed to sign up for some of the slowest races available to me ( I say slowest, not hardest, because they are all hard- some are just faster than others). I performed well. Despite a 12th place finish at St George 70.3 I was SUPER proud of that effort .I executed my race plan perfectly, and despite a fall that resulted in a knee injury that kept me from running for 5 weeks, I put up a really respectable time for that course. The competition was JUST that good.
I got a new bike and spent months trying to fine tune the fit ( its still not 100%, as you will see coming up) but I came in 4th overall at Buffalo Springs ( 2nd AG) despite some crazy conditions that day (30 mph winds, 106 degree temps). Slow race, but I was proud. I was feeling ready for a good ironman effort.
But, twice the distance means twice the complications. One day- all the pieces of the puzzle will come together. But until then, I’ll keep chipping away slowly. I havn’t been blessed with a great deal of natural athletic talent (it just doesn’t run in the family 😉 ) so tiny, seemingly imperceptible improvements are usually the result of A LOT of hard work behind the scenes.
Ok so here we are, Ironman Wisconsin:
Before Race day : We got into Madison late Wednesday night, and I had planned on working remotely Thursday and Friday ( I hadn’t really budgeted extra days off). First thing Thursday morning I built up my bike, realized it needed a little attention by a professional, so I went to expo RIGHT as it opened. The Trek guys were awesome, fixed up my bike in 30 minutes and gave it a safety check. While that was happening I registered for the race, easy peasy.
The hotel we were staying at was old. Really old. It smelled musty and frankly, moldy. I am not the kind of person to complain so we just took the room. By Saturday, my throat was scratchy and my nose was runny and I felt like I was going to be sick. I’m allergic to mold. I was NOT about to let a musty hotel room ruin my race. I sent Jeff out for an air purifier, while I headed downstairs to insist on a new room, which I thought was a long shot. Sure enough- they had an open room available, on the renovated side of the hotel ( Why didn’t you just give me the good room to begin with?). Within 24 hours I was feeling better. That little air purifier made the trip home with us.
I also experienced some concerning knee pain on my first shake out ride. I had made several changes to my bike fit and to my cleat position in the recent weeks, and I was concerned the change to my left cleat (that I had made myself) was somehow “wrong”. I rushed into Rocket Cycle where the bike fitter put me on the trainer right away and told me everything looked perfect. Except that my body, specifically my previously injured knee, hadn’t had enough time to adjust to the new position. Muscles that hadn’t been worked in months were all of a sudden being asked to ride hard. The only advice she could give me was to roll, roll, roll. So I did. Every day. 3 times a day. And my shake out rides got better and better. Except the longest ride was 45 minutes, so I knew race day was going to be a gamble.
Swim: Right before I got in line for the swim, I ripped a 2 inch hole in my wet suit, because WHY NOT. We tried to tape it up but it wouldn’t stick. So I just rolled with it. What can you do.
Ironman Wisconsin was a mass start up until a couple years ago when it was changed to a rolling time trial start. While I understand the logic in changing it to a rolling start, I miss the mass start. It was so special.
I kissed Jeff goodbye before he headed off to his volunteer shift in t1, I took my last gel, and got in line in the 1:00-1:10 pace group. I am Steady Eddy when it comes to IM swims- they always fall between 1:05-1:10 depending on the conditions. Madison had experienced some pretty severe flooding in the weeks leading into the race, so the fact we were swimming at all was a miracle. Water levels were 12 inches higher than normal, and the lake was filled with debris. My practice swim the day before the race was ROUGH, and I told myself to expect a swim 10-15 minutes slower than normal. On race morning though, it seemed to have calmed down just a tiny bit.
Gun goes off and I get in the water within 3 minutes or so of race start. You could feel the chop right away. I managed to find some feet to draft behind until we got to the first buoy. That first turn was chaotic- we were swimming directly into the chop at this point, so the swim was a FIGHT. But, I love swimming, I spend a lot of time pushing my swim fitness at masters so I stayed calmed and found my rhythm. After the last turn buoy, I looked at my watch and saw 57 minutes. I knew I would come in around 1:10 by the time I got to shore- and I was TOTALLY ok with that on the day. Honestly, the swim felt eternal, and looking at the data, it seems it was a touch long. Those buoys were never going to be able to stay in place with the way the wind was blowing.
T1: Ironman Wisconsin has annoyingly long transitions- out of the water, run up the helix ( around and around the parking structure 4 times) through the conference room, into changing tent, then out to parking lot to get the bike. This was complicated further this year by the swim being moved down the road a ways because of the flooding. So T1 was long. What can you do. Running up the helix is the BEST PART OF THIS RACE. You feel like a rock star- just for a second. 6 minutes or so to make it all the way through.
Up the Helix
and back down
Bike: Sigh- what do I say about this ride? Other than it started out perfectly. Hitting watts, feeling comfortable, (EASY almost). But somewhere, 2 hours into the ride, my knee started to hurt. I tried not to panic, I gave it a little break on some of the down hills, even rubbed it here and there ( which made it feel better), but by the time I hit special needs, I knew I was heading towards trouble. I finished the “stick” (the way out of town) and the first loop right around my projected time (3 hours or so) but my knee was really starting to hurt. This course is challenging, no doubt, but honestly the climbing felt easy – I was ready. I trained for these hills. By the time I made it back to the “3 sisters” – the three most challenging climbs on the course that you do twice – I was just begging to be put out of my misery. Power was dropping, and I was so uncomfortable. But I still had the long slog back into town. Luckily Jeff and our friend Karin had made their way out to mile 102. I managed to crack a smile – almost back! That ride took over 6.5 hours. Ouch.
Up the helix on the bike and into T2
T2: if anyone needs transition advice for long course I am happy to help 😉 This is the one thing I know how to do consistently lol. IN AND OUT. No time for dawdling. Even if you feel like crap. Less than 3 minutes in a very long T2. Thank you to my wonderful volunteer who noticed I had put my right arm into the left side of my jersey
Run: There is nothing worse than STARTING a marathon with knee pain. But, I LOVE THIS MARATHON. Everyone in the town is out partying, and the spectator energy is amazing. I was in kind of a dark place, but honestly despite my knee pain, running didn’t feel bad. Stomach was good ( which means my nutrition on the bike went well), and my legs weren’t flat. I was just experiencing 10/10 knee pain. Every step was painful. I usually use some mental tricks to get through the run. I don’t let myself count miles until half way- which was the first loop of this run.
No counting until mile 13.
Countdown to Mile 20
“Just get to mile 24”
Last 2 miles are what I call “the Victory Lap”. it really doesn’t matter how bad you are feeling. By the time you get to the last 2 miles the crowds are starting to grow and it’s time to celebrate the day.
The run is extremely spectator friendly, which is good because I needed several pep talks from Jeff. I told myself that I HAD TO RUN until I saw Jeff, then I would use that time to give my knee a break and walk- get a pep talk and keep going. It actually worked out pretty well. I was doubting myself and my abilities. I was mad that I was having another suboptimal Ironman race. But there was no way in hell I was going to stop.
I don’t really have much to say about the execution of this run other than I really did everything I could to manage the way I was feeling. I carried a hand bottle for the first 13 miles filled with my custom Infinit formula and I made sure to get plenty in during the first half of the run. I supplemented with Cola and ice. At mile 13 I dropped the bottle to free myself from the weight of it and relied solely on coke, Gatorade, oranges and ice. My trail running experience definitely helped here- sometimes once you start walking its hard to stop. Except trail running is mostly run/walking, so walking for a short period of time and then starting to run again is no big deal for me.
I saw so many friends and familiar faces while on course that lifted my spirits. I saw Wattie teammates absolutely CRUSHING it. What an amazing day. As I approached the state capital to make the final turn into the finishing shoot I remembered what’s so special about this race. There is absolutely no finish line like Ironman Wisconsin. My face however, might tell you I was having a miserable time….
One day, ill get the full Iron distance right. Until then, I will be grateful for a healthy body that continues to put out these efforts, for an amazingly supportive husband to share this crazy life with, a coach that pushes my boundaries, and incredibly inspiring teammates that make me want to be a better athlete.
Wisconsin, I’m sure I’ll be back.
Several years after getting into triathlon we had some discussions about the Ironman distance and whether we would ever want to train for that long of a race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). We decided that if we ever did we wanted it to be a beautiful place with a great course that we could enjoy while spending the day outside in the elements. That eventually led us to Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia in 2012. We had such an amazing experience for that race – the 9 months of training together, spectacular weather conditions and finishing within 2 minutes of each other over a 12 hour day. Many people finish their first Ironman and either never want to do another one again or want to sign up right away so they can improve upon the things that went wrong the first time. We knew we might do one again someday but we also knew that the day would be very hard to top and weren’t in a hurry to improve upon the experience.
Last year after some great training together and overall good health for both of us we decided that 2018 would be a good year to do another Ironman. After 2012 Ironman Canada was moved to Whistler and we had heard good things about the race and venue. We also had a few friends signing up so we decided that we would once again do Ironman Canada after a 6 year hiatus. We extended the invitation to several friends to join us and with the addition of a 70.3 (half ironman distance) event on the same day, Allison Miller signed up and we had roomies for the week. Stephanie Melkonian Linkus had already signed up with the encouragement of other tri friends so we knew that the entire experience of training, traveling and racing would be challenging, fun and rewarding.
Stephanie, Jane and Allison at the Olympic rings in Whistler Olympic Park
The Whistler bike course was known to be pretty challenging in the past. Shortly after signing up Ironman announced a change to the bike course that made it even MORE challenging! We would be climbing 8500 feet over the 112 mile course – the most of any Ironman race worldwide. And the run wouldn’t be easy with over 1000 ft of elevation gain, though not “hilly” or “hard” by general standards – running 26.2 miles after the bike course would be hard no matter what. We definitely felt like we would be at a great advantage coming from Albuquerque with our higher elevation, plenty of hills for training and hot days to prepare us for the big day.
Similar to the first experience we had a great time preparing for this race. We did a lot of our training together and ended up with plenty of quality time on the bike. We did lots of long hilly days in the saddle and had great friends and training partners to keep things fun and interesting. Our coach was always there to help through challenges, make adjustments where needed and assure us that we were right on track. It really helped also that Todd was not working full time during this training cycle so he was able to absorb some more training stress rather than absorbing lots of work stress!
One really interesting thing that we decided to do this summer was to get our sodium concentration levels tested. We found a place in Boulder, CO and set up an appointment at a time when we were going to be up there anyway. We met with Heidi Strickler of eNRG Performance and had the testing done. This test, in combination with a sweat rate test, will let you know not only how much fluid you need to replace hourly during exercise (modified based upon weather conditions), but also how much sodium you lose in your sweat and how much you need to supplement. This was really key for both of us. We discovered that Todd is a heavy sweater but doesn’t lose a lot of sodium in his sweat, and my sweat level isn’t as high but my overall sodium needs are much higher than I realized. We also worked with Heidi on our overall nutrition plans in coming up with fueling strategies for pre-race and during the race. After some trial and error over the summer we both felt that we had a great plan going forward and felt good about giving our bodies what they needed. If you are interested in finding out more about the sweat sodium concentration testing you can read about it here.
We flew to Seattle and drove to Whistler on Wednesday before the Sunday race. We stayed in a condo in the Upper Village, close enough to be able to walk to most things but also far enough removed that we weren’t among all of the chaos and people. The entire town was bustling with people and families on vacation as well as approximately 2500 athletes there to participate in the Ironman or 70.3 event. We had plenty of time to swim in the lake, drive the bike course, eat lots of good healthy food and relax before the big day. On Saturday we checked our bikes in to the transition area at the lake and dropped off our bike and run bags at the different transition areas. That night we had our typical pre-race meal of steak, sweet potato and veggies and were ready to go.
Alta Lake at sunrise on Friday. If you squint you can see us swimming!
Allison, Jane & Todd at bike drop-off on Saturday
The alarm went off at 3am on Sunday morning and we were both surprised that we got a good night’s rest. I definitely slept better this year than the night before our first Ironman! This race had two different transition areas so there were a few more logistics to consider. We drove the car down the road to a parking lot near transition 2 (the bike to run transition), dropped off our special needs bags (in Ironman you are allowed to have a special needs bag for both the bike and run that you can access at one point during each event. You can put anything you might want in the bag – oftentimes it is special food, or maybe something for weather conditions, a light for the run if you are out after dark, etc), and put our nutrition in the run bags we had dropped off the day before.
Whistler is known for its large population of black bears. I personally didn’t see one this trip, but most of the people that we traveled with had at least one story of a bear encounter and Todd and I had a VERY close encounter with a black bear during our last visit here in 2011 (we were hiding in a bathroom for a while for safety!). With the bear population we were not allowed to place any nutritional items in our bags that we dropped off on Saturday – definitely a situation unique to Ironman Canada!
After we dropped off our special needs bag and run nutrition we got on a bus and headed to the lake. Once we arrived at the lake we went into transition and tended to our bikes – pumping up the tires, putting our nutrition on the bikes, going to the bathroom, any last minute preparations, etc. We thought we had given ourselves plenty of time, but we both felt very rushed for time.
The last time we did Ironman Canada it was a mass start. 2000 people starting in the water at the sound of the cannon. Over the last few years Ironman has instituted a rolling start where you line yourself up based upon estimated swim time and they let 4-6 people in the water every few seconds to spread out the crowds. This was to be our first experience with the rolling start and we were looking forward to it.
In our rush for time we did not get over to the start area early enough to get ourselves placed toward the front of the line with the swimmers who would match our pace. Our initial plan was to put ourselves toward the front of the 1:00-1:10 group. There was a huge bottleneck and we found ourselves standing in the 1:41-1:50 group with no place to go! We decided it would be fine and we would just end up passing a lot of people on the swim. We huddled for our pre-race prayer and right after that a staff person allowed those of us who were faster swimmers to jump the barricade to get up towards the front of the line. I was relieved that we were able to move ahead and really relieved to get over the fence without injuring myself before the day even started! We ended up in the 1:11-1:20 group and were thrilled to be there. As we were walking through we heard our coach Jaime yell our names. We were able to give him a huge hug and he took this picture.
Jane’s Swim – 1:04:22
In general Todd starts out faster than I do and then the longer we go the faster I get. We decided that we would try to stay with each other on the swim if we could. I would start out drafting off of Todd and then when I was ready to pass him I would let him know I was coming by so he could try to hold my feet. This can be very challenging when there are hundreds of other people in the lake – all wearing black wetsuits and either a green or pink cap! The water was very clear though which did make it easier to see the feet in front of you.
Our time started when we crossed the official start line at the edge of the lake. We walked into the water and I was right behind Todd. I yelled out to him “let’s do this!” and we started swimming. I managed to stay on his feet for probably 200 meters or so and then I lost him in the sea of other green caps.
It was a 2 loop swim with each loop resembling a rectangle. When we got to the first turn buoy I looked to my right and saw Todd! I recognized his wetsuit and his red goggles. I passed him going through the turn but I didn’t think he saw me and figured we would likely get separated again.
The official water temperature was 72.5. I wasn’t sure if I might get a little warm in my long sleeved wetsuit but that was not a problem. I was very comfortable temperature wise and the water felt amazing. There were times during the swim when there weren’t many people around me at all and other times where there would be little pockets of people. Overall I felt good. I was enjoying myself, felt like I was swimming pretty straight, had no problems seeing the buoys and was excited to be there.
I looked at my watch at the end of the first loop – 31 minutes! I really wanted to come in under 1:06 – my time from the last Ironman and I knew that I was on pace to do that. I kept up a consistent and steady effort. A couple of times I thought I saw Todd, but it was someone in a similar wetsuit but different goggles so I figured he was gone. On the last short stretch into the finish I picked up the pace, wanting to finish strong as I started to kick to get bloodflow into my legs for the bike and starting to picture my transition. I stood up and hit my watch but didn’t look at the time – I knew it was less than 1:06 but didn’t know exactly what it was. I started running over to the volunteers who were stripping the wetsuits and I heard the announcer call out “Todd Pilger is exiting the water!” and I thought wow – he was right behind me!
Todd’s Swim – 1:04:55
I was getting anxious right before the race with long porta john lines and the bottleneck of the swim start corrals. Jane did a great job of calming me down and recognizing that everything would work itself out. When we entered the water I walked a little slower than I normally would and pointed out rocks for my #ironflower’s delicate feet. Little did I know that she was ready to push through the tenderness and actually wanted me to walk faster. When she told me “let’s do this” I knew it was time to go for it.
I started off the swim with a nice smooth pace knowing that I wasn’t going to make a fast race by sprinting in the first 400 yards. The angle of the swim start allowed us to stay off to the side off the crowds a little without having to swim any extra distance. I was feeling really good but then realized Jane must be feeling even better when she came flying by me and straight into the pack at the first turn!
Jane’s wetsuit has some distinctive silver strips on the calves that made it easier to follow her and not get confused with other swimmers. She did a great job of navigating through traffic and I knew I just needed to concentrate on following her because she would find us a good route. Once we cleared the traffic of the first two turns I realized that I was going to have to work a little hard just to stay with her. I could swim smooth if I was right on her feet, but if I lost concentration she would gap me and I would have to put in some extra work to make sure I didn’t get dropped.
It was great to stay with her for the entire swim (even if she didn’t know it!). I had mental pictures of high-fiving her as we came out of the swim but then she surged to the finish and came out of the water about 10 yards in front of me. I looked at my watch as I stood up out of the water but before crossing the timing mat and was ecstatic to see a time under 1:05. I yelled out “great job Jane” but with all the noise around us she didn’t hear me.
Jane’s T1 – 4:50
One of the nice features of Ironman branded races is the volunteer position of “wetsuit stripper”. They do exactly that – help you peel the wetsuit off your body. They were positioned just past the timing mat and exit to the lake. The volunteers got my wetsuit off pretty quickly, helped me stand back up and I ran over to pick up my bike gear bag. In Ironman you do your transition inside a changing tent. This allows for plenty of space and privacy in the event you want to fully change clothes, etc. There are also volunteers who can help you if you want the assistance.
Initially a volunteer asked if I wanted help and I said no. Then as she walked off I thought “why did I say that? I could use the help!”. Fortunately another one came along and I asked for help. She pulled my bike shoes out of the bag and even opened up some chapstick for me so I could make sure my lips had sunscreen for the long bike ride! When I was all decked out in my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses she put my wetsuit, cap and goggles in the bag and I dropped the bag off as I left the tent. I decided to go ahead and hit the porta potty that was outside the transition tent before getting on the bike. As I left the porta potty area volunteers were applying sunscreen. I had them lather me up on my shoulders and legs (I was wearing arm coolers that covered most of my arms). Then I ran to my bike, grabbed it and ran the bike out of transition, up a little hill, over the railroad tracks and to the mount line. Overall I felt like I had a great transition with no wasted time.
Todd’s T1 – 6:15
My wetsuit strippers were very helpful but the volunteers in our tent weren’t quite as active in assisting. I was able to get all of my gear on and I knew it was going to be a little muggy to start when my sunglasses fogged up immediately. That made it a little harder to see my bag when I was trying to stuff my wetsuit inside and fortunately I didn’t run into anybody when I was running out of the tent! After a quick trip to the porta potty I went to grab my bike and it took me an extra moment to get my bike out of transition because my bike is so tall I had to get creative with the officials and strap my bike to a rack to keep it in place before the race so I had to undo the strap before I could take off with my bike. Then it was just a matter of running out of transition and hitting the road!
Jane’s Bike – 6:37:16
The bike course was 3+ loops with lots of rolling hills. There weren’t any that were particularly long or incredibly steep, but over the course of the day they all added up. There were a few pitches that were 10% but in general I would guess they were in the 6-8% range. Our coach had given us very specific numbers to follow in terms of heart rate and overall power averages. Admittedly when he first gave us our numbers I thought they seemed very low, but the goal was to get to the run without blowing up the legs.
The white stuff on my leg is sunscreen that hasn’t quite soaked in yet!
I reminded myself several times on the bike course to “stick with the plan, trust the training and trust the plan”. Overall I felt like I did that pretty well. We had driven the bike course so nothing was a surprise and we had ridden lots of hills leading up to the day. I definitely felt well prepared for the ride to come.
On the way back from the first turn around on the first lap I noticed that my legs were pretty tired. That made me a bit nervous as there was still a lot of riding to do. I was wondering if I had gone out too hard, if we didn’t get the taper right, if I didn’t have enough sodium, etc. Then I reminded myself to trust the training and to trust the plan. As we got back to the hilly area around the lake (where we swam that morning) I started trading places back and forth with another woman in my age group. She would pass me going downhill and I would pass her going uphill. She was super nice and we chatted a bit when one of us would pass the other. Her name was Amanda and we spent the next full lap trading places. She loved going downhill and I felt like she really helped me remember to keep the pressure and pace up on the downhills to make up for any time lost on the climbs. This is also something I really worked on in training with Todd.
With two turn around areas on the bike and multiple loops, there were plenty of opportunities to see other athletes on the course. On the first turnaround of the first lap I was interested to see how close Todd would be to me. I figured that we would have come out of transition around the same time and guessed that he would ride faster than I did. By the end of the second lap I could tell that I was gaining some time on him and that he wouldn’t pass me on the bike.
After the first loop on the bike I realized my legs felt much better and the reason for the pain earlier was that it was following a section of some significant climbing and some false flats. Then I realized that it would feel that way each lap but there were other parts of the course for it to recover and come back together. Nothing was ruined or going wrong, despite my mind’s attempting to convince me otherwise!
On the second loop I saw a woman up ahead wearing a Team Wattie Ink kit who was on the side of the road changing a flat tire. I thought it was my good friend and training partner Stephanie. I was SO relieved to get closer and see that it wasn’t her after all. Shortly after that, climbing up one of the hills toward the lake I DID see Stephanie on the side of the road. I stopped to see what was going on and what she needed and was so sad to see her struggling with feeling dizzy. I would later learn that she nearly rode off the side of the road – praise God it happened while she was going uphill and not down. I didn’t want to leave her but there was nothing I could do as medical was already with her so I continued on. When I came back from that out and back section and she told me she had been pulled from the race by medical I was determined to channel my inner chipmunk in her honor as I finished the race. She had trained so hard for this and I was devastated for her.
It was a very hot day. Apparently the high for the day was 97 degrees – exceptionally warm for Whistler. I paid a lot of attention to my hydration and took in more fluids and more sodium than usual to account for the extra heat.
I stopped at the special needs area around mile 72 on the bike. By this time I needed to go to the bathroom but I didn’t want to wait in line. Many people actually pee on their bike so they don’t have to stop, but I haven’t managed to learn this skill yet. I tried at one point but it just wasn’t happening! There was only one porta potty at the special needs area. I had decided that I would go there if there was nobody in it but I wouldn’t wait (you never know how long someone might be in a PP during a race!). A guy stopped right in front of me and was about to go in and I asked him if he was going to be fast. He clearly wasn’t in a hurry and told me to go ahead while he went ahead and stretched. I was very appreciative of that! I did my business, got my extra bottles of nutrition from my bag, applied more chapstick and put my extra salt pills in my bento box (I brought extra just in case my others fell out or I gave them away but I ended up needing almost all of them!).
The half ironman distance event started approximately 1.5 hours after our race and shared a lot of the same bike course. The 2nd loop of the bike was very crowded with 70.3 athletes as well as Ironman athletes on their first lap. By the 3rd loop it was much more open and while it was harder with the cumulative fatigue and extreme heat, it was much more pleasant with fewer bikes on the road.
I knew this would not be a fast bike course. I managed my efforts, kept my numbers right in line with our plan, fueling was right in line with my plan, and was perfectly content with my time. The next big question would be what would the run feel like?
Todd’s Bike – 6:58:22
As I started the bike I knew that it would be a challenging but fun course. The first part had several steep ups and downs with lots of curves where my bike handling would be of benefit. I had to be careful to balance my fun and speed with the amount of other bike traffic. Once I got out onto the main road I knew I could just get into a rhythm.
I felt that on the climbs I was keeping my effort in about the range that my coach had recommended but as I went over the tops of hills and down the other side I may have been too aggressive because I struggled to get my heart rate down and my average power on the first lap was a bit higher than planned.
On the second lap I still felt good and it was interesting to see just how many bikes they could squeeze onto that course! I ended up leap-frogging with a lot of the same people who would go harder than me up the hills but then would stop pedaling as they went over the top.
As I started the third loop I could really feel the fatigue starting to build. I had some technical issues with my aerobar hydration system that made it hard for me to drink as much water as I would have liked, especially on the first lap, so I got behind. On the third lap I was really starting to feel the heat and I knew I was slowing down but I knew that with some work I would still keep it under 7 hours, which was the outside goal I had set for myself.
When I was wrapping up the bike and going to transition I knew the big question was going to be how was it going to feel when I got off the bike?
Jane’s T2 – 4:15
Another unique feature of Ironman races is the volunteer position of “bike catcher”. Their job is to take your bike from you as soon as you get off of it. By that point you are perfectly content for someone to take it away! I handed off my bike and started to run towards the area where our run bags were located and I quickly discovered that movement didn’t feel very good. I decided to take off my bike shoes and see if I could run in my socks, but that only felt marginally better so I opted for a brisk walk in my socks. A volunteer pointed out which row to take to find my gear bag and I headed into the women’s changing tent.
I definitely hit the lottery with my T2 volunteer. When I came into the tent she took my bag, and asked me what I needed. My plan was to take a pouch of concentrated electrolytes in T2 (The Right Stuff) so she got me water so I could get it in. She pulled out my shoes and socks and I told her that I needed the tube of Chafex to put on my feet. She pulled it out and I realized that I hadn’t pulled off the silver tab as it was a fresh bottle. She pulled it off for me and I applied it to my heels and under my toes. Then she put my socks and shoes on my feet! I told her how amazing she was and she told me that she was there volunteering because she had such an incredible T2 volunteer during her own Ironman race. She pulled my running belt out of the bag and noticed that my number was only attached on one side, so she fixed that for me and put the belt around my waist and attached it. She handed me my hat and my handheld water bottle, put all of my bike stuff in the bag and sent me on my way. I gave her a huge hug and told her she was my favorite!
Todd’s T2 – 6:51
When I got off my bike and handed it to the volunteer I knew right away that the run was going to be a challenge because just standing up straight and trying to walk hurt a lot! I waddled my way to the run bags and into the changing tent. There wasn’t a volunteer available to help me out so I had to put on my own shoes and deal with my own number having been torn on one side so I had to adjust how I attached it to my run belt. I didn’t know what I was missing with the volunteer experience, but I was probably too delirious to have appreciated it anyway!
I grabbed a cup of water on the way out of the tent and got some fresh sunscreen on my shoulders and neck from the nice volunteers outside. My legs were still so tight that I decided to walk for a bit so I at least walked to the end of transition before starting the run.
Jane’s Run – 4:55:07
As I started the run I immediately saw our friend Katie Tommila. Her husband Chris raced (and qualified for Kona!) and she is a badass athlete herself. She was super encouraging, ran next to me for a bit and reminded me to put ice in my hat and down my pants at every aid station. As she said that I remember thinking “I’m not doing that” because I worry about my feet getting wet and getting blisters. I have very sensitive skin and chafe and blister easily (hence the term “ironflower”) and I didn’t want to make anything worse.
The run course was beautiful. We passed by two different lakes along a combination of roads, paved and dirt trails with some rolling hills, some nice shady sections and a few very hot and exposed sections. It was a two loop course with a couple of out and back sections, so there were lots of opportunities to see other athletes and by the end of the first loop you knew exactly what to expect for the second loop.
The aid stations were approximately 1.2-1.3 miles apart. I knew this might feel a bit long for me so I opted to bring an insulated handheld bottle to carry with me on the run. I don’t usually like to carry something when I run (I prefer to wear a vest) but I was SO glad for this decision as I ended up filling it with ice water at every single aid station and it was gone by the time I got to the next one.
My original plan was to run to each aid station and walk for 30-45 seconds at each aid station while I took in fluids, etc. After the second aid station I felt like I was in trouble. It felt SO long between aid stations and I just had to walk. It was hot and my legs hurt and I started feeling pretty bad physically and emotionally. I was thinking that I had blown it on the bike, that I had gone too hard, etc. Shortly after this I saw Jaime on the run course. He was on his mountain bike and talked to me for a bit. He assured me that I had followed the plan, that the swim was excellent, the bike was very steady and that the day was going to be all about who was able to keep it together. He said that nobody would have any speed and encouraged me to just get to the next aid station. He most definitely was there at the right time with the right words of encouragement.
After that, at the next aid station I decided to start using ice. I could keep myself cool and not risk wet feet by putting ice down my sports bra and also putting it under my hat. I would do that at every aid station for the rest of the run and it made a huge difference! I also stopped looking at my watch. It would buzz at me every mile, but after the first 3 miles I didn’t look. I didn’t want to know. I knew I was doing what I could and that was all I could ask of myself and didn’t want to risk feeling upset or discouraged by my pace. Since we were in Canada everything was in km (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42 km run) and that was actually super helpful because I didn’t have the mental capacity to convert km to miles so I really didn’t know how far I had gone or how long I had left. I kept it to smaller more manageable sections and didn’t think about the bigger picture.
Along the paved bike/run trails several friends and family had written messages of support and encouragement to their loved ones with chalk. Kind of like you see in the Tour de France. It was really fun to see the encouraging words as you ran along, and our coach and his family had written our names on a little hill (that didn’t feel little at all at the time!) so it was really fun to see that.
It was hot. Really hot. Not much wind to speak of. There were a lot of people suffering on the run course. Big, strong looking guys walking. I probably saw 10 people puking on the side of the trail and 2 or 3 lying down. Jaime saw several people on golf carts being taken to the medical tent, throwing up off the side. I heard lots of people talking about how much fun they had on the first 2 loops of the bike. I think the hard bike course and the excessive heat really took it out of a lot of people.
My overall energy, fatigue and pain ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I felt pretty terrible and sometimes I felt “okay”. The second turn around was on a path that paralleled the highway and it was beautiful because it was along Green Lake, but it was so hot and exposed. I went to the bathroom at a porta potty out on that segment and it felt like a sauna in there! I immediately could feel the sweat just pouring from my body.
I saw Todd out on the course a few times. Between seeing him and hearing from Jaime I knew that he was walking and would have a bit longer of a day but I also knew he was in good spirits so I was happy about that. Every time I saw him I told him I loved him and he told me that I looked great and how proud he was of me. I’m not sure that I really looked all that great but I do know for sure that he was proud and happy that I was moving faster than he was!
Overall I stuck with my nutrition plan pretty well. I ended up taking in a little extra food, a lot of extra sodium and a ton of extra water for the heat. One product that I discovered while working Heidi is The Right Stuff. It is basically a concentrated electrolyte/sodium shot. It turned out to be a great way for me to get a large amount of sodium in without filling my gut with salt pills. I ended up consuming 1 pouch on the run plus the 1 from T2 and supplemented with some additional salt pills due to the excessive heat. I am now a huge fan of this product!
When things were really hard I would pray for others to keep my attention off of any pain and discomfort. I also took in my surroundings and appreciated the beauty of Whistler and the mountains, lakes and valleys.
At the end of the first lap coming back into the village the crowds started to pick up. That always helps a lot with overall energy and motivation. I saw our whole support crew and it was so encouraging to hear them cheering me on.
I started to feel better on the second lap. The temperature was starting to come down a bit and I knew what to expect of the course and where the aid stations would be located. I reminded myself that this is where I excel. The longer I go, the better I get. I knew my time wouldn’t be what I was hoping for or expected, but I wanted to know that I gave it all I had. I actually passed quite a few people in the last 4-5 miles of the run. People that had been running and looking strong earlier in the day but simply had nothing left. I wanted to make sure I had nothing left at the finish. I started to pick it up toward the end and really pushed it the last 2km. There is a pretty challenging hill in the last kilometer and as I was running up it a spectator called out to me “is that a smile or a grimace?” and I replied “BOTH!”. A friend sent me this photo after so you can see for yourself:
As I got closer to the finish line I welled up with pride. I had done it. I don’t really remember what the announcer said but I remember coming down the finishing chute, holding my arms up in the sky and crying. It was simply amazing.
Another volunteer “catcher” was there to help me get to my support and she escorted me to the back of the chute where the crew was waiting. My coach Jaime, Stephanie and Jeff and Allison and Chris. It was so great to see them all and give them big hugs. Then my next question was “where is Todd”?
Todd’s Run – 6:08:53
I told myself to go ahead and walk through transition to loosen up my legs after the bike, but even after I crossed over the timing mat to start the run, I realized “uh oh, I’m going need to walk a little while longer because I just can’t run yet!”. The good news is I knew that I had lots and lots of time so that even if I had to walk the entire way I could make the 17 hour cut off. I was hopeful that after some walking and maybe taking in some water and nutrition I could start at least some running. That turned out to be true and as I went along over the first 5-6 miles I was able to do a little more running and a little less walking so my mile splits were getting a little faster each time. That only lasted about 6 miles, but at least I knew that I had some running in me and would just need to manage my energy, my fluid intake and my electrolytes to get out what I could.
Even once I started running my legs hurt a whole lot, but in general I was mentally in good spirits and kept my sense of humor so I could thank the volunteers and joke around with spectators. I even photobombed some volunteers who were taking a selfie! I was really happy to see Jane coming back from one of the out and back sections and while I could tell that she was suffering a bit that she was doing so to give it her all and that she was going to have a great race. I did not bring my own handheld water bottle like Jane did, and while I drank a couple of cups of water from each aid station, I don’t think it was enough to make up for starting the run dehydrated and the high temps on the day. One clue that I was dehydrated was that I didn’t have a lot of sweat running down my face when I normally sweat a whole lot, especially when running.
Jane likes to say that I’m cute when I get a little dopey when I’m tired so I think I got extra cute by about half way through the run. At special needs I picked up my spare fuel and electrolytes, but even though my legs were screaming in pain I forgot to take the Tylenol that I had in my bag for just this purpose. I realized it about ¼ mile after I had gone past, but there was nothing I could do at that point but forge on.
I had a rougher patch for a little while after that point where I was doing more walking than running. The good news is that I could continue to listen to my body and was able to figure out when it was ready to try some running again. This helped me to look for some new little goals to help with momentum such as running to a certain point and aiming to finish before a certain time of the day.
After I got beyond 15 or 16 miles I knew that since walking hurt almost as much as running I would be able to just keep on pushing. At that point I was able to mostly limit my walking to aid stations, some of the steeper hills, or when my legs would cramp a little extra. Fortunately they never locked up entirely like I saw with some other people, so some walking with long strides tended to loosen me up enough to run again after a minute or two. When I had less than a mile to finish I remembered a term that we use to help us finish strong in races – I can do anything for 10 minutes! It still wasn’t fast but I gave myself a final hard push to the finish so I knew I gave it everything I had.
The look of pain as I was coming through the finish chute was proof that I did my best. I was very happy to have done it and I was also very happy to have it over with. It was great to have Jane and all of my friends greeting me after the finish line.
Jane’s Summary – 12:45:37 (14th out of 61 AG)
I never thought I wouldn’t finish. I never tried to add up my time or figure out where or when I might finish. I took things one sport at a time and within that sport one segment at a time. I had some vague time goals in mind going in, but as soon as the run started I knew it would be about giving it my absolute best. I wanted to finish the race knowing that I had given it everything, had no regrets, and left it all out on the course and I absolutely did that. This was such an amazing experience – the race day itself and all of the training leading up to the race. My body is definitely in recovery mode now, but I’m already starting to think about what’s next and looking forward to future chapters and what this body is capable of! Huge shout out to our coach Jaime Dispenza of Laughing Dog Tri. We have been working with Jaime for several years now and the way he works with us and tailors our workouts to our individual needs is incredible. He is also a lot of fun and helps us keep the important things in mind. We couldn’t have done this without him and having him out on the run course was incredible!
Todd’s Summary – 14:24:40 (69th out of 130 AG)
I also knew that finishing would happen. Brief thoughts of quitting had popped up at certain points when I was tired and the course took me close to the finish area, but those thoughts never stuck and I continued to forge on. I still looked at the time just to help me reset my goals so I could keep pushing even if my time was slower than if everything had gone perfectly. The challenge was even tougher than I had expected but that just enhances my satisfaction for having completed it.
FYI – ice cream is an excellent recovery fuel. I’m sure we read it online somewhere…
If you look closely, you can just make out the image of the cow behind us…