Below is my race report for IMFL. When I get more pictures, I’ll post them.
My race at Ironman Florida began long before the morning of November 5, 2011. While I’ve been training specifically for this race since late July, the preparation really began sometime in early 2010 when I decide to take my training and racing seriously. While I firmly believe that anyone can complete an Ironman, I also believe that its really difficult to go fast. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten a lot closer to going fast and this race was another step in the right direction.
Shaun was up at 3:20 a.m. and mixed up my big bowl of applesauce, whey protein, banana and Perform. I ate the massive bowl while still in bed and immediately went back to sleep for another hour. Just before 5 a.m. I woke up for real, got dressed and pulled together my swim gear and special needs bags. I had no plans to stop at special needs for either the bike or run but I packed a set of back up nutrition in both just in case I lost something along the way (at Lake Placid I lost my second loop bike nutrition running out of T1 so I was glad to have the back up). When we left the condo it was in the high 40s so I was pretty bundled up. We got to transition about 6 a.m. and Shaun set up my bottles and pumped the tires (I really am capable of doing things on my own but its so much easier to have someone else do it). I went and waited with my mom while Shaun set up his bike and then we headed to drop off our special needs bags. By the time we dropped off special needs, it was time to hit the beach. At Lake Placid I was completely euphoric heading to swim start. I knew no matter what I was going to set a PR and was excited by the possibility of the day. At Florida, I was scared out of my mind. I knew I was capable of a really respectable time and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to execute to the plan. I made the comment to Shaun that I was really scared and the guy in front of us turned around and told me “we all are.” I lined my self up right at the water’s edge a little right of the buoys and waited for the cannon to go off.
Swim – 1:16:59 (1236th OA / 203th F / 41st F30-34)
The cannon went off right on time and I ran into the water and started dolphin diving on the sandbar. The water was much calmer than on Thursday and I was happy not be tossed around uncontrollably. While the water was calmer the mass start was as tumultuous as ever, tons of thrashing bodies everywhere. I wasn’t able to catch any clean water from the start all the way until the first turn buoy. Once we made the turn, I took the inside line and held tight for the return trip. When I got out of the water on my first loop the clock read :37 and I was happy thinking that I could go below 1:15 for the swim. I ran hard to start the second loop and since the current was pulling hard from left to right, I started swimming well inside the buoys knowing that the current would pull me out. No one else seemed to be taking the inside line so I pretty much swam alone for the third leg. The lack of people let me have a good view at the wild life — lots of jelly fish, a school of stingrays and assorted neons. While lots of people got stung, I thankfully avoided the jellies. I made it to the turn around in good time and headed back to shore. About half way back, the water temperature dropped by about 10 degrees and I felt myself moving backwards. I unknowingly had swam into a rip current that was pulling me back out to sea. It took a few moments to swim out of the current and resume my trip back to shore. I hit the mat at 1:16:59, with a significantly slower second loop.
T1 – 6:52 (266th OA / 53rd F / 11th F30-34)
There’s a pretty long run from the swim out to T1 and I was unfortunate enough to come out of the swim in the fat part of the bell curve. There was tons of traffic running up the beach, I tried to go around the showers and ran right through the wetsuit strippers (I had no desire to get sand all over me when I knew the change tent was indoors). As I made my way to the T1 bags the man in front of me decided to stop and take pictures with the family, I asked him (or maybe yelled at him) to move and he told me that this was an “experience” for him and his family. I explained that for me it was a race and time mattered and pushed my way through. I’m sure I’ll be making a not so positive appearance in his race report. Once I got into the change ballroom all the volunteers were occupied so I stripped my wetsuit, got the bike shoes and arm warmers on and got out of there fast. I was lucky enough that my bike was pulled and waiting for me so I was able to get out of T1 and onto my bike pretty quickly.
Bike – 5:50:48 (825th OA / 92nd F / 21st F30-34)
Goal for the bike was to evenly hold 170 watts for the entire ride. Because the course is so flat there was no need for any spikes in the power profile. The first 5 miles on Beach Road were extremely fast with a serious tail wind but once we turned onto Route 79 North, we started heading into a serious cross to head wind. I knew from driving the course on Friday afternoon that roughly the first 56 miles of the bike headed north and east and that the last 56 miles (with the exception of the 5 mile stretch along Beach Road) headed south and west. The weather forecast called for winds out of the north, northeast at 15-20 mph so I knew the first half of the bike would be on the slow side.
While I knew I would be “slow” I had to seriously check my ego as massive pelotons rolled around me. I felt like every few minutes I was getting enveloped by a large pack of guys and spit out the back. I understand the course was crowded but people were making no effort to separate. At several points in time I felt like I was pedaling backwards just to get out of the peloton. At about mile 15 I ran into Charlie (who was having some bike issues) and we were able to momentarily bitch about the draft packs before Charlie took off. The first penalty tent was at the corner of Routes 79 and 20 and while there about 20 people serving penalties, there were way too many people who got away with flagrant violations.
By the time I had gotten to about mile 40, the packs had thinned out and I was in a bad spot. I felt completely alone out on the course and was pushing 170 watts but only riding about 18 mph. It was a little demoralizing. I knew I was riding into a cross to head wind but it still didn’t feel good to be going so slow. I tried to keep my mind focused on the fact that the wind would change at mile 56 and that I needed to hold things together until then. I hit the turnaround at just over 3 hours (at an average speed of 18.1 mph) and felt the wind difference as soon as I went over the timing mat. I saw Shaun when I was at mile 60 and he was at mile 52 and figured he was just around 30 minutes behind me — not a bad pace for him. Over the second half of the bike, my watts held steady and my average pace kept ticking up. I was especially happy on the back section of Route 20 were there were actually a few rolling “hills.” Not actual hills but enough of an elevation change to warrant changing gears, which helped to break up the course. By about mile 80, I really had to pee badly. While it was enough to coast and pee on the bike, I really didn’t want to spray anyone behind me, plus it was still a little on the cool side and I didn’t want to be soaking wet. Rather than stop at a port-a-potty I decided I would suck it up and wait until transition. The second half of the bike flew by until we hit Beach Road and had to struggle in the last 5 miles against a pretty significant cross wind. I finished the second 56 miles about 15 minutes faster than the first for a total time of 5:50 (a 19.2 mph average).
T2 – 4:48 (462 OA / 86th F / 13th F30-34)
When I got into T2 there was no one else in the women’s change ballroom, so I had a volunteer all to myself. I was able to pull off the arm warmers, change shoes and swap race belts really quickly. I then headed off to the bathrooms banana in hand. After a quick pit stop, I was off on the run course feeling really good.
Run – 4:06:37 (481 OA / 63rd F / 13th F30-34)
Sometime during the past 2 years I became a runner. It still comes as a little bit of a shock to me, that I am now able to have a solid (and correctly paced bike) and come off able to run well. As I ran out of transition my legs felt great and I took off as I passed the first mile marker (plus there was a Corgi at the first mile marker — always a good sign), I looked down to check my pace and realized that my Garmin had froze. Apparently the Garmin had saved a lap for every mile on the bike and the memory was now full. It took me almost a half a mile to delete the memory and re-set the Garmin in run mode. When I finally saw my pace, I was running at 7:48 min/mile — way too fast for an Ironman. I slowed down to 8:45s and began my scheduled power walks through every other aid station. I got into a good rhythm, a sponge, a cup of Perform and a cup of ice at each aid station and a Clif Shot Blok just before every other mile marker. I like consistency, patterns make me happy.
At about mile 2, I passed a girl in my age group and told her to come run with me as I passed her. Little did I know at that point we would end up running side by side for the rest of the marathon. While my legs and my lungs felt good at about mile 4, I started to develop hot spots on the balls of my feet. I think I had gotten sand into my shoes and the sand was rubbing my feet the wrong way. I held 8:45s for the first 7 or 8 miles and then had to take another quick bathroom break. At about mile 10 I was lucky enough to catch up with Ken and we able to run together for several miles. While it was good to have company, at about mile 11 I developed a nasty side stitch (interestingly I developed the side stitch right about the time I passed by Shaun — he was on mile 2). It had to be amusing to watch me running while holding in my side with both hands. While it hurt, I wasn’t willing to stop. I took a Thermotab and started downing extra Perform hoping it would go away. As we hit the turn around everyone is cheering “Go Kelly” for the gimpy looking girl running with a side stitch and no one was cheering for poor Ken. At one point Ken yelled out to the crowd “what about Ken?” Thankfully the side stitch went away by about mile 15, right where two c=Corgis were playing in a front yard, and I was able to run normally again.
The side stitch eventually got better, however I could feel the hot spots turning into massive blisters. My feet hurt but there was no way I was stopping for a skin irritation. While the second loop was painful, I did find humor in the little things. Best of which was my encounter with a cross fit endurance athlete on the first loop of his run. As I lapped him, I gave him a pat on the back and ask “how’s that cross fit working for you now?” Too bad the marathon doesn’t involve any pull-ups.
As I entered the state park for the second time, I ended up dropping Ken but my age group friend was still right next to me. For the last 6 miles we ran side by side. Every time one person accelerated, the other followed. At that point I had stopped with the Perform and ice and was just grabbing Coke at every aid station. My age group friend and I were perfectly nice to each other but neither of us was willing to concede the age group place to the other. By about mile 24, the run was getting incredibly painful. I was increasingly annoyed by groups of people on their first loop walking 4 and 5 wide and having to go around them, I just wanted to run as fast as possible and finish. My mood brightened a little just before mile 25 when I lapped Shaun. Shaun was walking slowly and looked like he was in a world of hurt. Seeing him helped me focus and I tried to pick up the pace. As I passed the turn around point and headed towards the finish, I started my kick at a spot Shaun had pointed out to me on Friday. Little did Shaun (or I) know that the course had changed and finish line had moved. Rather than kicking 200 or so yards out, I was actually kicking at a half mile out — way to early. I started to slow at about 400 yards and my age group friend passed me just before the finish. I looked up at the clock and for the first time during the run saw my overall time — 11:25. I was in serious pain for the last half mile and just stopped dead as soon as I crossed the line at 11:26:02 — right within my projected finish time range.
Total – 11:26:02 (550 OA / 69th F / 15th F30-34)
This was a solid race. I was super happy when I crossed. I headed through the chute and quickly found my mother and Shaun’s mother. After some pizza and grapes I headed back to the condo with my mom to shower and change. I knew from how Shaun looked that he had at least another 2.5 to 3 hours to go before finishing. We headed back to the finish line around 13 hours and watched and cheered until Shaun came in at 15:23. I wanted to stay until midnight but Shaun looked shelled so I took him home.
Looking at my results, even since Lake Placid, I’ve seen some serious improvement. I’m right at the top 20% overall and at the top 10% for women. I was only 30-ish minutes out of 5th place for women 30-34. At this point I know I can do this. I have improvements that need to be made — I need to take about 10 minutes off my swim by Texas, bump my average watts up by 10 watts and get my marathon around 3:50, but these are all things I can do. I am going to go well under 11 at Texas and I’m looking forward to the training I need to do in order to get there.