The last time I sat down on the floor of my shower while the hot water poured on me was when I was pregnant with the twins. Twelve years later and a whole lot of pain, I was again on the floor of my shower at 3:30 am grimacing in so much pain from racing I was nauseous and couldn’t sleep.
This weekend we went and raced Pigman ½ Ironman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I have raced here 2x before and ironically, this was my first EVER ½ IM back…I cannot remember the year. I picked Pigman this year because it is as close to Kona as we can get in the Midwest. It is usually 100F degrees in the shade, OPEN roads, no shade, windy and not wetsuit legal. Imagine my surprise when the day dawned, high was 82F and water temps 73F (it was way hotter than that).
Karen, Jaynie, Stacie and I caravanned to Iowa on Saturday. Luckily, Stacie’s mom (and dad) live out there, so we were able to stay at her mom’s house.
I had a rest week into Pigman and felt well – flat, lethargic and over-rested. Perfect, just how I was supposed to feel.
I raced in the Elite wave at Pigman and we did not start until nearly 8am (after the Olympic race all started). In the Elite wave were ALL the elite men & women and teams. While these starts are usually very aggressive, I needed that practice. All these swim starts with women make us way too complacent…and Kona’s start is so aggressive, this would be good practice.
The only issue: It was wetsuit legal. UGH! Pisser. Frankly, the swim at Pigman is SUPER easy. It is in a calm little lake and there is no chop, nothing. I lined up with Michael & Brianna Boehmer and the gun went off. It was an easy start (damn) and I got out in the 2nd pack and sat there and drafted. I told myself NOT to do anything silly since the water was hot and we were in wetsuits…(good news was the air was still cool). I see the front pack ahead of me and I cannot bridge that gap (these guys eventually swam 26 minutes). So, I sat in and swam with the 2nd pack of men. I almost forget how much more aggressive men swim and how big they are! But, it is so rare that I have feet in a swim, that I had to really behave and be patient and draft. In their draft I was hardly working – I was at a 5 on a scale from 1-10…and I thought, “SHIT” this is too slow. But, I would get out of their draft and try to go around them and I was now at a 7-8. I was cracking up at myself thinking, “IF I could draft in all my races, GOD IT IS SO much easier.” Nice to have men in my wave, a nice treat for me. We exited the water in 28 minutes and one of the spectators said, “You are 3:30 down.” Ok….thanks for telling me where I am next to the MEN. I ended up having the fastest swim of all women that day and fastest Elite female by nearly 3 minutes. I was not expecting that!
On the bike I felt REALLY good. Pigman is long gradual inclines and declines through rural cornfields of Iowa. No major hills but nothing super flat. It usually is windy but on race day it was a slight tail wind going out and a slight head wind coming up. Nothing major, but enough to notice it. I knew the girls would be coming at some point. I think I got passed by the eventual winner around mile 19-20. And, I tried to keep her in my sight, but I was working too hard to do that. Actually, my Quarq did not work when I got on my bike. UGH. I re-started it and still no power. (dead battery we figured out when I got home). I just like the power meter because it makes sure I am not over-riding. I rarely under-ride! Thank goodness I have raced so long without any data, that I know how to do it – and I know what my Half IM watts feel like. I did a good job of managing my effort. At one point I threw up a little bit and realized I should back down. The good news is that 56 miles flew by and I am grateful for that since I have to do 112 miles in 8 weeks. Came into T2 in 3rd place knowing I had fast Brianna Boehmer and Julie Hull behind me.
Headed off on the run and I felt AWESOME. I had my legs, felt light and all around great. The run at Pigman is hilly in the park area and then flatter until mile 6 where there is a long, big hill and then another long big hill at mile 10-11. The hard part about racing Elite is that you are out there ALL ALONE. I mean ALL ALONE. On the bike course I had to make sure I was not off course – because I would see no one for miles.
Again, I had NO data. I forgot to grab my Timex watch (pace) before I headed out. And, frankly, that was ok even though I would have liked it, my job was really to process through this race for Hawaii prep AND race the girls. So, I have no idea what I was running but every time I thought about my pace it was probably 7:20-30s on the flats. At mile 3 Brianna came by me. She was running well (even though she said she felt like awful here) and I could NOT go with her. She ended up running a 1:29 and get 2nd overall!
I was taking in salt, fluids and gels no problem. I carried a hand held flask because they had HEED on the course but I cannot drink that stuff, ICK. At the turnaround I saw Julie Hull (who was having a rare off day) and the eventual 5th place gal and they were far enough back that I could maintain my pace and hold my position. As I was running back towards home it was empty. NO ONE in front of me and NO ONE in back of me….and nothing but open cornfields. A little eerie. I had to dig super deep and not get complacent on that course all alone. OH and they repaved the run road and it is ALL CONCRETE NOW. God help me…that is why I cannot sleep tonight…my legs and Achilles hurt so bad – even my IT band aches from running on concrete all that time!
I made my way to the finish line which is basically uphill from mile 11 onwards and just felt SO good. I really wanted to be in the 4:40s and I was at 4:48. I ended up 4th Elite and 1st Masters by 25+ minutes. I had a very good race and the swim and run felt effortless. I had another gear in both but thankfully did not have to use them. My goal for Pigman was Top 5 Elite and to execute a clean and solid race for Kona final prep. And, I did just that. I felt amazing out there.
Congrats to Katie T, Stacie who broke 6 hours!!!, Karen and Jaynie who all raced at Pigman and had great races! Thanks to Jerome who was home with the twins and being Dad while I went off to Iowa to race.
And, I would be remiss if I did not thank my friend Elizabeth. I really do not like writing my own training plans or self-coaching. I think for too many athletes that thinking for myself is a burden. And, while I love my mentor Dave, he is not the right coach for long distance triathlon racing. He is the coach who trained me for Kona the last couple of times I raced there, but we both agreed it was a little over his level of comfort & expertise. And, while Jerome is superb, I do not like to mix love and racing, so I need to keep the training/coaching very separate from my home life. So, I asked Elizabeth to help me out. The whole thing is so ironic because I coached Elizabeth for a very long time…and was on the other side of her racing for years. And, over the years we have become very close and she started her own successful coaching business. But, what is key in a successful coaching relationship is TRUST; and, I trust her. She has been around me (even though I am sure she is sick and tired of me) for a LONG TIME. She has personally had a ton of success at long and short course racing and has trained athletes for success at Kona and the World Championships. So, because of that and our solid relationship, I asked her to help me (keep me in check). It was a little weird for me initially because while things in life ALWAYS come full circle, it is rare that someone you coached and feel like you were SO involved with on the other side…would be giving you the advice you once gave. Weird. But, frankly, it was easy. Elizabeth and I keep this training very business-like. I am pretty easy to coach (right Elizabeth?) and I just am a solider and do the work and move on. And, we are also able to have our friendship at the same time. A win-win for us! So, thanks to Elizabeth who has guided me to some of my fastest times & races at the age of 42. My race at Pigman yesterday was a course PR.
Next up: No more racing – just a whole lot of training for Kona! Well, after I recover or am able to walk again! Oh, and in case anyone can tell, while you can still go fast at 42, you pay a DEAR DEAR price for that…