2015 Ironman Arizona

Competing at Ironman Arizona in my second attempt racing a full distance Ironman

My second attempt racing a full distance Ironman distance was at Ironman Arizona.  I had the privilege of having my ass handed to me by Meredith Kessler after I finished in 9:14, a time that might have been respectable 5 years ago but was in another time zone behind MBK’s 8:44 (the fastest Ironman performance of 2015-so amazing!).  It is good I was on the course with her that day.  It is invaluable to have that performance to shine a light on where I can improve.  Without comparing apples to apples, you never really know where you stack up and I was good in my second attempt but I still need to improve. Continue reading “2015 Ironman Arizona”

2015 Ironman Canada

This quote sums up my 2nd place (and fastest bike split) debut Ironman Canada performance and why I am so happy with what happened but hungry, motivated and determined for more:

“A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.” – Andre Agassi

Coming that close to winning my first Ironman was insane.  But losing the race that late in the race leaves me with the belief that I could maybe win an Ironman.  I don’t know that I truly thought I could win Sunday.  I don’t really feel “bad” about anything on Sunday because I truly gave my best on the day.  The fact I made some mistakes and didn’t win means there is still unfinished business and I am so glad.  It is what drives us.

Danielle Mack executed a super strong race under terrible conditions to win her second Ironman.  Although I love a lot of the girls I race against- because they are amazing people I admire so much- having a former XTERRA age group World Champ win this Ironman makes me very happy.  I am so happy for her and I am so glad she got to experience the wonderful vibe and support my country brought on the day.  So my sincerest, biggest, proudest congratulations to you Danielle on such a great race!

Third place was another Canadian -Jen Annett- who posted the fastest run.  XTERRA girls and Canadian girls are tougher than a $3 steak so the race conditions were no match for us.  Thank you to the rest of the field for making my first Ironman such a hard effort because I wanted nothing less than my best on the day and that is exactly what I gave thanks to you guys.  What a day.

Thank you Whistler for welcoming us, taking care of us and inspiring us.  Through terrible weather there were volunteers and fans everywhere, from Whistler to Pemberton.  I actually had tears welling up coming in off the bike because there were SO MANY PEOPLE!!!!!  It was overwhelming.   Thank you thank you!  I never would have expected an Ironman to create career moments but there are many from Sunday.  Whistler, you rock.  Also thank you to Ironman Canada and WTC for this event.  I appreciated so much the opportunity to race in my home country and seeing the familiar faces from Ironman in Victoria and Whistler helped me calm my nerves.  Thanks a lot guys.

destruction

Absolute destruction

So here is my day:

 “What you feel doesn’t matter in the end; it’s what you do that makes you brave.” – good old Andre again.

The weather was not good for anyone- there are no magical powers that make you good in cold weather it is just 100% acceptance of the situation and immediate problem solving to make the most of it.  Well, and maybe some experience slogging through it (the Canucks and Brits are good at this).  I was just determined to have the best possible first Ironman I could-no matter what the conditions.  I told myself: “No one gives a crap whether you are cold, sore or tired (I was all of the above).  What are you going to do about it?  Make this count.”

I was worried about how much to wear because I am so terrible riding no hands on my time trial bike so what went on was going to end up staying on for the duration of the bike.  I knew it was going to be chilly and cold so I chose long finger gloves, arm warmers and a vest.  The vest was key.  Make no mistake, when it is less than 15 degrees Celsius you better keep your core warm or you are going to burn a bunch of calories you can’t replace. 

So with my outfit planned out I went and swam my first straight 3800m swim.  In hindsight, I need to swim more super long swims.  I stuck on the feet of Karen Thibodeau and Laurel Wassner until we passed buoy number 4 and then I think maybe the lead changed between those two and the feet I was on disappeared.  So I dangled and wondered do I punch it to stay in their group or do I cool it and get dropped.  How much does swimming cost in an Ironman???  So I tried harder for maybe 50m and then I gave up the chase because they really were too fast for me.  I plowed alone in the water all by myself (well other than some REALLY fast AG athlete who passed me at about 2100 m) until the last 100m when a couple of age group men, Liz Lyles and Cait Snow ran by me into transition.  Dangit.

So then we are on the bikes and since it is only a 5’ gap to age groupers I am seeing more Agers already.  Liz had blasted out of T1 without putting many clothes on so I didn’t catch her again until about 15km down the road.  I tried to make a joke when I caught up and went by but she was not happy about the weather.  She is tiny and she needed a parka and a toque.  I was told to cruise it up Callaghan and not go hard so I didn’t.  I did not realize there was a $1000 prime to the top (I think this was good in hindsight).   I had Laurel in my sights but she wasn’t coming back super quickly.  I just stuck to a heart rate and minded my own business.  I think she was planning on the prime because once she won it the gap evaporated and I passed her on the second switchback down the hill.  Then I was in the lead.  Woohoo!

bike riding IMC

Fffffffffffffreezing.

Thank you to Eon D’Ornellas, 4x Olympian and 2x Canadian road race champion for changing my tire for me before the race and offering excellent pre-race cycling advice.   He said to take it very easy on all of the technical bits and I took that advice.  This meant any skills I had were waste because I took absolutely zero risks all day and rode my brakes like a Cat 5.  I was very, very slow on every corner which I am sure didn’t help pad my lead.  I don’t regret that though… I did NOT want to run my first marathon with road rash.

I just kept plowing away in 10cm deep puddles for 180kms all by myself and man, it took forever.   No one was setting any records…. We couldn’t go fast even when it was flat because the flat had a massive headwind.   Not a soul was around so I was singing songs to myself (thanks Beth for the advice!) and smiled to stay positive.  I was passed by a few Agers up to Callaghan but passed up to three or more of them by the Meadows (not sure if they were AG or pro men).  I struggled in the Meadows section.  My hip was hurting from some kind of weird cramp, I was all tense and freezing and I couldn’t hold aero position – so I was standing up a lot.  That was a terrible, terrible section for me.  I also saw the rest of my competition all riding together (legally!) and they really weren’t that far.   Cait Snow was riding by herself, all smiles as usual.  On the run she was cheering for me…haha.  She is such a freaking star.  I would not want to go to an Ironman just to finish for points especially after just kicking ass and winning in France so high five Cait – you are so damn tough.  Thank you for the encouragement out there.  Can’t wait to cheer for you in Kona!

I live in Victoria and have ridden so many rides in my career in equally crappy weather with Houshang Amiri’s http://pacificcyclingcentre.ca/ group.  I just kept going back to that.  “You can live through this, you’ve done this a million times, if it is hurting you it’s hurting everyone.”  That is the benefit of being tough in the winter… you are ready for any race.

When I rode into Whistler the crowds were incredible.  They were calling my name and freaking out.  I almost started to cry.  It was effin crazy.  So I was so stoked to get out there and run when I came off the bike (I was stuck leaning forward for about 15 steps- yikes) I tore into the change tent.  Then I couldn’t get my armwarmers off but got the gloves and vest off ( with helpers), changed my socks, put on a race belt, put on my Fuelbelt and was off running.  My transition was not fast.  I saw Christine Fletcher come ripping out of the portaloo… almost missing her lead biker duty! Hilarious. 

Then my Fuelbelt fell off and a yardsale of random sports nutrition was everywhere.  So I started running around collecting it all and a volunteer tried to spiral pass one of the flasks to me… which I of course missed.  I ran around the corner and the belt fell off again.  Picked it up and put it on again … nope, down again.  The belt I have used a million times in training refused to Velcro shut in this race.  WTF.  So I salvaged two gels and a flask at a feedzone and carried on without the rest of my stuff (salt pills, extra gel etc) and tried to carry the flask.  Which I dropped two more times in the first kilometer.  When the race comes down to about 120 seconds you start to remember these things in crystal clear detail.. haha!

 

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Race belt snafu plus hair tie destruction.  Even my hair elastics weren’t up to the task.

Then I got to running.  Unfortunately, I chose to run based on heart rate rather than on pace.  Dumb dumb dumb.  Now I know you should run on heart rate or pace- choosing whichever is not fantasy. Everyone warned me… including MBK, Brent, Beth Gerdes and Kelly Williamson…..  I think the words were “Don’t go out TOO HARD!!!” by all of them.  So running 6km at 4:00/km pace (2:48 marathon) and another 8 km at about 3:01 pace was stupid, stupid, stupid because the back half of that marathon was at a glacial pace.  Back to reality….  My dream marathon was 3:10 so 4:31/km pace.  Going out like a rocket came back and bit me so hard in the back half.  Lesson learned.  Plus no one told me Garmin’s don’t last through an IM.  You need more than one!  Lesson #2.  Danielle caught me somewhere around 4 kms to go and she was just gone.  Game over.

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Hugging it out post race 🙂

The freaking gong show of people at Whistler cheering at the finish was amazing.  OMG that was the most fun ever in my life.  You guys are so cool… some that I remember hearing (I am so sorry I don’t remember everyone) were Care, Jasper, Mike, Lala, Elladee?, MC, Lisa, Clint, Sara, and Alison.  So great to have a big hug from Jazz at the finish.   I heard Clint a lot out there and I appreciate it so much buddy!  Especially the calming words after I was run over by the tv scooter..haha!  I know there are a million more of you guys but I was kind of in a hypoglycemia induced coma for probably 15kms of that marathon so I was foggy on what happened for a lot of the day but there were people from my mountain bike career, XTERRA people, Victoria folks, Vancouver people.. it was crazy.  Thank you guys so much… I tried SO HARD!!  That feels so good today.. thanks for helping me get that out of myself.

chalk IMC

You guys are soooo awesome!

So thank you to my yoda, Kelly Guest of Livefit coaching, for helping me transform into someone who can actually almost win a race that includes a run marathon.  I can’t wait to try again.  I want to crush a marathon so bad.  Thank you for all the elite juniors I train with that help me attempt to ignore my age:  Hanna, Elspeth, Holly, Hamish, Megan, Abby, and Lydia.  Thanks to Clint Lien’s group for letting me drop in and hang out with some athletes who are my own age and thank you to the Thetis Lake Friday morning swim club for constantly crushing me every Friday.  You guys are amazing.  Thank you to Houshang Amiri for letting me train with his U23 http://pacificcyclingcentre.ca/ cycling stars in the winter.  Here’s hoping I can keep up for a while longer!  Thank you to my regular run training partners Danelle Kabush, Kelly, Nick, Mike, Buttons, Care, Marilyn, Trent, Hilary and Elspeth.   Extra thank you for Danelle.  You are the best- not just as a training partner but also for the mindset!  Look her up for mental training because she will make you unstoppable http://danellekabush.com/sponsors/ .

Thank you to my sponsors who believe in me and see that I can race at the highest level at this point in my career.  Easily, I am as fit if not even fitter than I have ever been in my life.  Trek Bikes is amazing – what a privilege to be on this team.  Thanks to Bontrager for the amazing wheels and shoes.  Thank you to Shimano for pedals and shifting that were bombproof on the worst of days.  Thanks to Rudy Project for the amazing helmets and glasses.  Thanks Blueseventy wetsuits for allowing me to swim solo and lose 3 ish minutes to fast swimmers in my first Ironman.  Thanks Powertap for helping me train on the bike with proper objective data.  Thanks Champion System for the cool clothes with my own designs.  Thank you Frontrunners Victoria and Asics for figuring out my footwear to transform into a runner.  Thank you Procity Racing for heckling me and keeping me grounded throughout my long career… oh and race tuning my machines to perfection.  Thanks USANA for keeping me healthy and Sci Con Bags for keeping my bike healthy during travel, thanks Saltstick and Powerbar for providing nutrition.

 Summer holidays then Challenge Penticton August 30. Right now I am so sore.  Thanks for reading.

2015 Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, NC

2015 was the second year I chose to race in Raleigh.  Now that the race is done the event went better than my first go at the race despite a less impressive placing.  Such is the nature of the 70.3 series this year.  It is not often the women’s field is not packed with fast girls. Less races makes for more competitive races and this weekend was no exception.  Meredith Kessler, Lauren Barnett and Cait Snow took the top steps with super awesome races.  Meredith was consistently solid all around, Lauren put together the best bike/run combo and Cait lit up the run course to pick her way up to the top steps.  Three different but very effective approaches.

 

My race started with a terrible swim (same as 2013).  Not sure why as I believe I am a very good non wetsuit swimmer.  However I was immediately and decisively dropped and lost four minutes right off the bat.  Yikes.  Then I got on the bike and hammered.  I was out of the water pretty much with Lauren so she and I ended up riding the bike together.  We rode ourselves up to fourth/fifth and at 10 miles on the run I thought I was going to catch Holly Lawrence and take third.  However the wheels came off on the way back to town, I never made up another inch on Holly and lost four more places as the top run splits came flying by.  I didn’t need to have a fast run for third… I needed to not die.  Despite a controlled bike and a very conservative and controlled first lap on the run I still fell apart in the closing miles.  I have a real hate relationship with south east heat as this has happened many times before (including 2013 edition of this race).  It puzzles/frustrates/crushes me every time.

 

Positives:

1.      1.  Rode fast.  Turns out three other girls rode as fast if not a few seconds faster.  Still gave myself a chance to get top 3 with that bike split despite my crap swim.

2.      2.  Bike arrived safe and sound with little effort on my part:  the SciCon travel bag really is amazing.  I also rode safely from T1 to T2 thanks to some fancy new Bontrager Tubulars aboard my Bontrager wheels.  2015 is a tubular season from now on.  Thanks Mark at Trek race shop!

3.      3.  Awesome homestay:  Alan and Helen took such good care of me before, during (they in the awesome mile 7 feed zone on the run) and after the race.  I chose to come to this race 100% because I knew I could stay with them.

4.      4.   I am fit – there were just much faster girls on the day this weekend.  Despite dying on the run I really don’t think it is fitness related.  My heart rate was like a flat line.  I had the motor to drive the output but hyperthermia shut it down.  The swim is a question mark but again I have a fistful of crap East coast swim splits to compare to.  I am pretty sure despite my desperate attempts to be on the time zone arriving four days out I just don’t get going until the bike when the races start at 6:30 or 7am EST.  Solution:  arrive sooner?

Since I still to date have never had a race in the Eastern time zone I am satisfied with I think I should not expect to race well in humidity on the East coast without a minimum 10 day acclimation similar to altitude.  Even with good form I consistently fail in the heat and humidity on the East coast… but I have had good races in the heat and humidity in Hawaii.  The southeastern oven cooks me every single time and I am not stoked about that.  If I need to race East I think I need to go early.

That’s pretty much it.  I don’t have anything negative to say  other than I am not satisfied with 2/3rds of my execution and as a result I would approach this race differently if I did it over again.  That has to be balanced with the fact it was a race to get a race in so donating that long to acclimation/race preparation rather than training would have been a trade-off that this year I chose not to make.  I can’t be all that upset just realistic: the races are SO competitive that if you want to be there you need to be firing 100%.  I was fast for a lot of the race but six girls were faster in the end. 

Thanks so much to Trek, Shimano, Powertap, Bontrager and Sci Con Bags for providing and protecting this beauty for race day.

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Thanks to Blueseventy for a sweet swimskin and goggles that I enjoyed wearing for a little too long on race morning. Thanks Champion System for keeping me comfy and cute in my race kit and Rudy Project for protecting my noggin and eyeballs from bike start to run finish.  Thanks to Frontrunners Victoria and Asics Canada for comfy kicks out on the run course and USANA for keeping me healthy.  Thanks to Kelly at Livefit coaching for helping me prepare and focus on the main goals, find the positive and put the negative in perspective and then the rearview.

 

It is such a pleasure to race with such fast girls.  Congrats again to Meredith, Lauren and Cait, the three podium ladies, and congrats to Alexandra, Jacky and Holly for 4th to 6th and Jen in 8th.  Top 8 is dollars ladies!!  Woohoo!  You are all incredibly strong and it is so motivating to keep working hard to try to win another one of these races.  It is so great to be inspired to better your best.  Thank you for the fuel.

And thanks again Alan and Helen. You guys are the best 🙂

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