In May I ran the annual Bloomsday 12k race, for the first time in several years. I had qualified (unexpectedly) for second seed at the St. Paddy's Five Miler, so I was looking forward to starting in a better position and running with my close friend and training partner, Erica. We began the race together, but separated before mile 2 rolled around. I ran a PR time and thoroughly enjoyed the race on a perfect run day!
Later that month, I ran the Windermere Half-Marathon. Based on my five miler in March and my Bloomsday time, it looked like I could set a PR in the half-marathon distance if I maintained my miles. My good buddy, Nate was looking for an easy long run that day, and I wanted to try being paced - so Nate agreed to run with me! I managed to reach my goal and PR'ed that distance by 6 minutes from last August- thanks Nate!
July was a super fun training and racing month...I raced Lake Stevens 70.3 with several of my Tri Fusion teammates and friends. Although I worked very hard on my swim all season, I didn't see a very big time improvement. Still, I was pleased to have a solid ride and stay on my bike in the very wet and cold conditions - it rained for the entirety of the ride and I actually looked forward to climbing each hill just to warm up. I was able to eek out a good run and set a PR for the half distance.
At the end of July, Erica, Kathi, Ronnie, and I traveled to Penticton to spend a long weekend swimming, riding, and running on the IM race course. We were able to squeeze in a couple of open-water swims, my longest ride to-date (then) of 94 miles, and a few runs along the scenic course. We basically trained, ate, and slept...and caught a glimpse of the opening ceremonies and competition of the Olympics on TV. The weekend was one of my most memorable experiences for last season - and one that I hope to repeat in Whistler this season.
August was THE month. It marked my first Ironman, an event I will never forget. From January 1 until race day on August 26, I missed ONE planned training session that my coach (Roger Thompson) provided for me. There were weeks that I added a session or two with friends, but I was extremely consistent toward my endeavor to complete Ironman. Going into the season, my goal was not to simply "finish" the race...I wanted to be as strong as I could be on that day and race well.
I think Penticton is a special place. Greg and I have been going to Ironman Canada for the past six years...either to watch our friends/teammates race, to sign-up, or to do the race. We love the atmosphere because the whole town embraces the athletes and the race. Going early to acclimate before the race was easy and comforting. Erica, Greg, Nate, and I drove up to Penticton on Wednesday afternoon and spent some time riding part of the course to review. Thursday was athlete check-in and a swim and run on the course. Friday and Saturday were pretty much the same...meet up with teammates and do a short maintenance workout, eat, relax, sleep. I felt mostly calm and ready leading up, until Saturday night. I had a moment of sheer fright, a fear of failure and disappointment. Fortunately, it passed quickly and I awoke on race morning ready to go.
There are 1,000's of little, but powerful memories that come from a day like this and I've had months to let the dust settle since I raced Ironman. So, I'm just going to list my thoughts and then finish this race report...
- People: friends, family - they are what make a memory lasting. MY people are among the most incredible humans to exist.
- My biggest fear was of the swim. I like swimming, sometimes I even feel a fondness close to "love" for swimming...but I am not fast. I worked hard this season to get better, but still I knew what to expect time-wise. I've been almost paralyzed with fear at the beginning of a race before. However, I had practiced this season (sometimes unintentionally: see June's sprint race) mostly by eliminating exacerbating factors for the anxiety. It worked. My swim was still slow (duh!) but I was NOT scared and I have a vivid memory of total calm from my IM swim that morning.
- Riding along on the flat section at the beginning of the bike course, I was showered, no drenched! with love and affection from Greg, Nate, Merissa, Jessi, Rog, Dave, and Melissa. This made all the difference in riding my bike and enjoying my bike ride.
- I had two low points. #1: I expected the bike special needs to appear around mile 60, but I think it was really at mile ~75. I was out of fluid at mile 60 exactly, and I needed to pee. I was a little upset for about 15 miles. #2: Around mile 3 of the marathon, my calves started to hurt pretty badly and my hamstring pain flared up. I knew there was Ibuprofen in my run special needs bag, so I just kept telling myself to keep running and soon I'd feel better. By the time I got to my Ibuprofen, I was almost shuffling...but I never walked.
- Roger was at the turn around, running with me a bit and assured me that I could walk whenever I wanted. There was no time goal, no expectation that I had to pursue. I didn't tell him aloud, but I knew I would not walk unless I could NOT run. Shortly after taking the Ibuprofen my legs felt better, I started drinking a little Coke at each aid station, and I finished the marathon happy and pain-free!
- The only goal I ever said aloud to anyone was when I told Erica the night before the race that I wanted to finish in the light.
- Race day flies by, there is nothing like that time warp.
- You meet a lot of amazing people in a long race, all of us hoping to greet the same finish line.
- Greg was EVERYWHERE. He showed up about every ten miles on the ride and then basically escorted me through the marathon on his mt. bike, applauding me and calming me along the way. I owe him :)
- Cathy, a friend I met at the pool about half-way through the season, worked in transition all day, and hers is the face and voice that greeted me from the start to the finish...she even ran with me during mile 25!
- The endeavor to race an Ironman is not easy, but it is worth it. The nightmarish run intervals and pain-inducing power goals, the hours in chlorinated water and time away from home, saying "no" to a tasty cocktail, or going home early...I would not trade the experiences for anything.
- The finish line was like a dream: Erica returned to the finish, put my medal around my neck, hugged me and took finisher pictures with me...priceless friendship right there. My mom and Tom were the first I saw at the beginning of the marathon - and I didn't expect them yet! That was a super surprise. Melissa was so happy for me that she was crying when we embraced, so precious. Nate and Merissa high-fived me on the way into the finish, that was awesome. Jessi, Roger, Melissa, Dave, my sister, bro-in-law, mom and Tom were not only at the finish, but also screaming for me as I entered the last mile along Lakeshore Drive, soooo incredible to feel all their love. My incredibly thoughtful friends that made the trip all the way to Penticton just to watch the race: Nate, Merissa, Jessi, Roger, Melissa and Dave. Greg, well he was everything and everywhere for me the whole season. Ironman week, he made sure I was spoiled and well taken care of. He crossed t's and dotted i's that I didn't even know needed it, especially all my bike maintenance. There's no way my journey would have been as seamless or meaningful without his care and utter belief in my ability to have a successful and powerful day. His embrace after the finish was true love.
Looking forward to next season, I have bigger hopes and dreams, races to prepare for...including Ironman Whistler in late August.