This year, the race was only 7 days after the West Championship XTerra race in Las Vegas. I arrived home on Sunday night, had a few days to "recover", and then headed to St. George with my Tri bike. I knew going into it that I would be tired and I had very little long distance training.
However, I enjoy being with friends and doing this early season race. I overestimated my ability to bounce back after a hard race and traveling in a car many, many miles in one week!
I got up early Friday morning and tried to focus on setting up two different transitions and checking in. Each year I am so scatter brained at this race. I was determined to make the process go quickly, smoothly, and efficiently so I could rest and put my feet up the better part of the day. Unfortunately, I haven't changed.
I checked in and realized I forgot so many things. Half my nutrition, my salt tablets, my Garmin charger (and my Garmin was dead). I hadn't planned food and needed to shop, which is stressful for me. I forgot to plan my electrolyte drink. Things were not looking smooth.
I check in and then headed straight for the Iolite tent at the Expo. This little gadget can actually help a serpentine swimmer such as myself, swim straight. Operator error, it does not correct, however! (More on this later).
I set up my transitions, did my short pre-race brick, called every friend I knew in town and finally found a charger for my Garmin. I was tired, stressed, sun-burnt and hungry by the time it was all completed. Needless to say, I didn't have a hard time getting to sleep that night. Staying asleep is another story.
Ironman Triathlons are the complete opposite of XTerra. The tension is palpable. I check and re-check how I've laid everything out. I second guess and third guess how I should lay out my gloves and socks. We wake up so early to catch a bus to sit around in transition and stress about tire pressure.
Finally, we are herded into huge corrals and I find people with the same color cap I have. I feel like we are sheep. Safety in numbers as we huddle together, slowly moving toward the water...
All of the sudden I feel this overwhelming calm. It happens every time. When I see the wave before me enter the water, the calm comes and I no longer think about the far future on the bike and "what will happen on the run?" I have this calm excited feeling that soon I will be in the water and get to swim. The swim is a great way to start a triathlon because I feel confident and can focus on what I enjoy doing and stop stressing about the long day and all the unknowns I might face.
I swam about the same as every other race. The Iolites worked great keeping me fairly straight at each turn buoy until the final turn to shore. They draw a straight line and show a green light if I stay on that straight path. Unfortunately, my goggle were foggy so I could only find the first yellow buoy that should be in a straight line to the "swim out". The problem? The yellow buoys were actually curved in a C shape to my left. I swam straight for the buoy, but the path to the swim out was slightly to my right. I kept trying to swim correctly while the Iolite goggles kept telling me I was too far to the right. My friend had no problem because she could sight correctly and swam straight the first 10m which is all that is required for this awesome gadget. Better luck next time!
My next problem was, and always is, getting out of my wet suit. I pull the rubber down to my elbows where it gets stuck. In frustration, I ALWAYS try to pull the other arm out, where it also gets stuck. So I become stuck in a black, rubber straight jacket. The awesome volunteers in their enthusiasm to help, began rolling my wet suit down off my elbows, making it completely stuck because it is rolled over and over onto itself. Finally, I find a way to instruct them to hook a finger into the elbow-stuck part and pull down. This releases my right arm and I can unroll my left arm and slide it off. I sit on the ground and POOF! freedom in seconds as they whip that sucker off my legs! I grabbed my wet suit and run across the timing mat, which now has a much slower swim time by about 1 minute than I wish it did. Oh well.
The rest of the race is pretty boring, so you can stop reading here, or blame me for the loss of time you might experience! I rode my bike up some hills, then down some hills, then ate a PowerBar Gel, then rode some flat, and on and on... I also had three very long bathroom breaks, which is stressful, too. I sit in the outhouse and hear all the people I just passed, riding past me sitting there. I realize I just lost a lot of time. Again.
Then came the new section of the race where you ride up Snow Canyon, back down, do a U-turn and ride back up. I think about 75% or more of the riders might be asking for that section to be re-thought! But I noticed one thing about the U-turn. I cornered it great and had already geared down for the immediate climb right after the U-turn. I noticed many people hadn't planned for that and going from a near stop, turn and back to climbing was awkward. Thank you, mountain biking for preparing me for that!
Other than that, it's just riding. And pedaling and riding some more. Heading back into town, I reached top speeds. That was fun.
I got to transition, grabbed my run stuff and felt great. For about 1 mile. I'd say it was "All downhill from there", but it wasn't. The run starts uphill, then continues up. One pro said it like this: You climb a mountain for the first three miles and then run up some hills at the top. Yeah. Like that. I obviously hadn't recovered from my traveling and racing the week before.
I felt so tired. I actually had a second energy drink and still felt like falling asleep. There was an over-whelming desire to curl up on the curb and take a nap. I walked. I ate gels, I did the caffeine thing. Nothing. Finally, the last two miles I was closing in on two women in my AG and I focused on them. When they would walk, I would run my lightening 12 min. mile shuffle and hope I could pass before the finish line.
With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I crept up on them and "blasted" pass so they wouldn't try to take back the lead. I was probably moving at a blazing 11-minute mile pace. And with about 1/4 mile to go, I noticed another person in my AG. Was it possible? Could I actually catch someone else? Wow, with rocket boosters pushing me to what was probably 10.5 minute miles, I passed her, too, and maybe had a 4 second lead at the finish. Small triumph.
My legs immediately seized and I spent the next 48 hours sleeping and eating. Usually I can't eat for hours after Ironman Events. This time, I downed pounds of food, went to bed just to wake up in the middle of the night to eat some more. It went on like this for 48-60 hours.
The next week was a recovery week. Which couldn't have been anything but recovery. I spent most of my days eating, sleeping, and trying not to think about how much I wanted to start riding and running again. The second week I began doing more workout-type things and by the end of the second week I was feeling almost "normal" again.
I was shocked at how tired I felt. Not sore, but tired. I was shocked how long it took to feel better.
I still love doing Ironmans. It is not "Disneyland Fun", but it is social fun and challenging fun. I like being with others, and how Ironman treats you like you are special. No matter HOW you do, WHAT you do makes you a rock star on that day. The volunteers, the brand itself, makes you feel like there is nothing more important that day than getting you across the finish line. It's fun in an "I just did something miraculous" kind of way.