Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ironman Louisville...

It's a long one, you've been warned.

The road to Ironman Louisville actually started over 18 months ago. No, I'm not that good at planning ahead, but that's when it was determined that I would participate in Ironman Florida, 2014 and I started this blog. And of course how I got to IMFL through a social media contest, and this was before Ironwilled!

Most of you know about the "ironbrick" instead of triathlon that occurred at Ironman Florida. That's right, they canceled the swim. No, it was not a duathlon. It was a modified race because of safety concerns for participants, volunteers, and safety personnel. I completed the race that was presented to me (not everyone did) and considered myself an Ironman. Most of the people in the triathlon world that I look up to and respect felt the same way. But, there were many that disagreed. Some of these people were crass enough to express their disagreement not just out loud but directly to the athletes impacted. Others were couth enough to keep their opinion to themselves. Some who were very vocal had never completed an 140.6 event (either they had never toed the line to start or they started and DNF'd (did not finish). The 2 sides got into heated debates. This was my take on it (and I still feel the same way).

Moving on...I felt incomplete. I did view myself as an Ironman, but in my head, there was an asterisk. Because I acknowledge that my life is very uncertain, I wanted to fill my PERSONAL void while I knew I had the time. I signed up for Ironman Louisville and since it is a river swim, there is no reason to think the race wouldn't go off as planned... unless green slime invades.....

Now that you all are on the same page, let's talk about my IRONMAN LOUISVILLE.

The months and weeks leading up to IMLou, I was a mess. I was constantly worried about not finishing before midnight. The bike caused heart palpitations and tears. Legit (only in my head) fears of a DNF for time. Irony: the only part of the event I wasn't worried about was the swim which is the only leg I had been worried about in Florida. 4K Fridays for the win!

Hear me out on why I was so worried about finishing IMLou before midnight. As I mentioned in another blog before I registered, it was already announced the race would start at 7:30, not 7. That meant there was 16.5 hours to compete the event IF you are the first person in the water. But IMLou is a time trial start (swimmers entered 5-10 at a time). I could have not started my race until 8:15/8:30am. What does that mean? Worst case I get a total of 15.5 hours to finish instead of 17 hours. So what? Rule of thumb is to take your 70.3 finish time, double it, and add 1-2 hours to estimate your finish time for a full. My most recent 70.3 was Lake Logan where it took me 7:25 to finish. Simple math: 7:25+7:25+2 hours = 16:50. See, based on arithmetic, I could be in trouble.

I knew I could do the 140.6. I had trained. I was ready. I was fearful that I wouldn't time qualify and I would disappoint my friends, coach, Ironwilled women and I would embarrass myself. It took till almost race day to come to grips that the handful of people who would be tracking me and hoping for my failure just didn't matter and that the hundreds of people who were pulling for me did.
As race day approached the support and encouragement from all over the world started pouring in. I know my coach wanted me to cut back on social media, but what I explained to him was that it was an incredibly supportive space for me. The women of Ironwilled and my friend Kristen were just amazing. I had already left any group that was drama-filled and I had unfollowed anyone who was causing anxiety in my head.
Compliments of Jeanette
And now the recap of what really happened this race weekend:

Friday I went to check in, attended the athlete's briefing and did a little shopping. As I'm waiting for the athlete's briefing to start, I see this group of women walking towards me.

My heart melts. I mean I know we did a special t-shirt order for the ladies form Ironwilled heading to Louisville, but every time I see someone in Ironwilled gear I have to rub my eyes to believe it's real! I get to meet these awesome women as well as see many other friends. AND, the most important announcement of the weekend: THE SWIM WAS ON! (whew.)

Friday night we headed out to dinner with a small group of solo travelers from the group and Kelly who is local and the volunteer captain of the finish line. She provided a lot of insight for the race.

Saturday was the practice swim. I wanted to get in the water, but Coach really didn't want me in the water any sooner than necessary. Even without the green slime warning, the Ohio River is not known for it's cleanliness and there are many that end up sick from it. Since I was already dealing with some allergy issues, I followed his urging and skipped the swim. However, I did get to meet a few more IW women.
It was a bit brisk that morning.
Not only did I get to meet up with some IW women, I had a chance encounter with my teammates that were also racing.
Vallee and Katie, just 2 of my many incredibly talented teammates.
Now it was time for me to really focus on the race. I headed out on to the course to get a quick ride on MP to check gearing and make sure he was ready to roll. Of course he was, he had just been to Curtis & Crew at Cannon Cyclery. A quick shake out of the legs and it was time to get off them.

The rest of Saturday was running errands, racking my bike, turning in my transition bags and meeting up with my folks for an early dinner. Oh, and mess with my coach some...we might have sent him a text that said, "Tomorrow's race plans have changed some." He wasn't amused and I couldn't keep up the joke. He called in a panic and I caved almost instantly telling him I was completely fine.
Mom has limited mobility so we learned from IMFL last year, rent a chair to help her get places faster/easier.
Off to sleep nice and early with 4 alarms set in hopes that I would actually sleep some. It worked. I did actually sleep.

Sunday morning, way before the sun was up, Stacy humored my race anxiety and had me standing in line for transition (drop bottles on my bike, add air to the tires, turn in special needs bags) by 4:55. In and out of transition as quickly as I could and then she drove me to the swim start about a mile away.

I made friends with the people waiting around me (I know this surprises you...) and settled in for a 2 hour wait. Remember I said I was irrationally worried about cut off times? Solution: Get as much time on the course as possible.

Eventually we put wetsuits on and headed down on to the dock.
photo cred: Kelly's family
There are 2 lines to hop into the river. One puts you about 10 yards further from the finish. I stuck close to the river and saved myself 10 yards of swimming.

The first part of the swim is up river in a mostly protected cove. I didn't really feel like I needed to fight any current and settled in to my swim. There was a little contact that I was prepared for, after all I'm a mid pack swimmer jumping in ahead of much faster swimmers. But it was nothing like the washing machine I have heard about in others' reports. Oddly enough, it wasn't until we were in the HUGE river that someone insisted on swimming into me a few times. After the cove broke, then I felt like I need to push and fight a little to progress up the river. And then, there was the lovely red buoy! (The turn buoy was the first benchmark for me as far as relaxing into the race) That's the one we turn around to head back down river. It was definitely a down river swim, but the current did not seem overpowering.

I swam right up to the steps where 2 volunteers grabbed my hands and pulled me right up to dry land and then coming out Katie spotted me and said hi.

In sum: FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC swim: 1:22:46 (25 minutes faster than what I thought, spot on for Coach's estimate.) Fueling: I remembered to eat the Gu before the swim.

Training plan said to SIT DOWN in transition. Take my time, don't miss anything, it's a long day. I grabbed a volunteer and began to change. Bike jersey, cycling shorts, arm sleeves on. T1: 11:50
The next benchmark I was waiting for was mile 60 of the bike. The cut off for mile 60 on the bike was 3:30pm. Yes I knew this. It was time to get to mile 60.
photo cred: Joana
I rolled out on to the course. I was spotted by my cousin and then I saw Stacy doing what she does best, when not racing, being Sally.
photo cred: Dynamo Betty & Ernie
The bike course starts off nice and flat. I ride as far to the right as possible so it's easier for others to pass and pass they did. That's okay: my race my pace. After a bit of flat there is a narrow out and back that has some rolling hills. The road was freshly paved and smooth as a baby's butt! Coming back out there was a wreck that took down at least 3 cyclists. Everyone slowed down and got around them. I think I heard one of the women broke her arm.
Done with the out & back, it was time to do the loop, twice. More hills. I stuck to my plan: easy up, power down. I tried to keep my heart rate in zone, but it was hard with that many hills. There was some great cheering on the course. I saw some friends, and some friends spotted me. The Dynamo cheering crew was at about mile 30 on the bike. LOVED hearing Betty's horn and voice cheering.
Coming back around on Rte 42 to do the loop again, there was a bit of a head wind, but it was nothing like Florida. And then, and then, we approached the 60 mile mark. I asked someone what time it was. They said is was about 1:30. HELLZ YES! And then the fun REALLY began. I was this close to hopping off my bike to do a happy dance! With that small bit of information, every single ounce of concern, anxiety, fear was swept away. I was so excited, that I almost took the beer that was offered to me on the course.

about 5000 feet of climbing
I kept riding. Up and over, up and over. The sun was out. The air temperature was perfect. It was a beautiful day to be out riding my bike. I was spotted a few times by some of the women in Ironwilled who said hello as they passed by. I love getting to meet my Facebook friends IRL. A quick stop at special needs to replace my bottles and I was rolling again. Then it was time to turn on to Rte 42 for the ride back. It's a straight shot to a right on River Road which takes you to transition. This should make me happy. And it did, but the head wind. Uggg. No, no, no, I'm not whining. Was there a head wind? Yes. Was in unmanageable? No. Everything is relative and compared to IMFL 2014...whatevs.
As it warmed up, I just slid my arm covers into my pocket, photo cred: Joana
In sum: Bike: 7:25:35 (exactly what Coach and I both thought). Fueling: 1 bottle of Infinit every hour on the hour mark. 1 Salty Ball every hour on the :30. I didn't screw this up.

I passed my bike off to one of the volunteers and began my walk in to transition. I wasn't in a rush. I had plen-TEE of time. I grabbed by bag and Karen came running screaming my name. Funny one she is, I saw her in Augusta running her race and she wished me well on  my upcoming race.
photo cred: Karen
A volunteer grabbed me this time and took me over where it wasn't so crowded. She helped me shift gears from bike to run. I decided to leave my cycling jersey on which meant I didn't need a fuel belt. I tossed my Gu into the jersey pockets, switched shorts, shoes and grabbed my race belt and I was out. 
T2: 11:01

Heading out on to the run, I turned a corner and saw Felicia. Stopped to say hi to her and she shooed me on. Bye, Felicia! Just a mile in to my run was my mom, dad and Stacy. HUGS for EVERYONE!
Stacy and Dad were in the middle of the road cheering everyone on, Mom was hanging on the side.
My race plan was to run aid station to aid station and walk each station. This would allow me to get in water, fluids and fuel as needed. I tried to stay low Z2 for the first part of my run. I was a little high early on and then settled in. The fun part of the run is that people are moving slow enough to say hello and cheer on.
On the early part of my run I saw Vallee flying to the finish earning her 2nd in AG and a Kona slot! Then I saw Katie and she was crushing it! 6th in age group! Day-um my teammates are incredible. I spotted Betty on her bike. the run is like playing "Where's Waldo." She hung up on Maria to chase me down for a goofy picture. I actually asked her to call Maria back and tell her I had a great swim.  Nadya and I met in the middle for a quick high-5.
I was running. You know, after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles, it is just logical to run a marathon.
I really need to work on my running posture.
It was a pretty flat course that is a double loop on mostly closed roads and some good cheering groups. Heading back in on my first loop Joe D caught up to me and I held pace with him (he slowed down) for a couple seconds and then I enjoyed harassing him as he ran in to a crazy fast finish. Just after that I saw Les and I thought he would catch me too, but I had to use the port-a-pot and I think he passed by while I was, um, busy. At about mile 12ish I got to hand off my sunglasses and say quick hellos to mom, dad, and Stacy. A very quick stop in special needs to grab my Gu and it was back on my feet.
As I headed back out on my second loop you could tell who was on loop 2 and who was just heading out. Doing what I do, I was chatting up people as I passed them, or ran with them a little. In an attempt to remind myself, as it got later, I started telling other runners it was a beautiful day to be an Ironman.
You hear about hitting the wall. Physically, mentally, I only lost my focus briefly and I wanted to add an extra walk break, but that wasn't the plan and I couldn't come up with a reason to not stick to the plan. I also remembered something Matthew sent me:
Stay Present. Don't project forward.  Don't harp on the past.  Stay in a 5-second window: the three ahead of you, the second you're in, and the second that just passed.  Make decisions in a 5-second window and live here for as much of the day as possible.
I stopped thinking about how many miles were left and just kept running. I synced up with a guy from Philly for miles 23-25. I wish I could remember his name, but when it was all over, everything became a blur. He and I chatted until the last aid station and then he had some pep left, so I assured him he should go. He and his wife (please, you didn't think he was single did you?) found me after the finish area, but there was so much going on I couldn't focus.
I come back in and Stacy is waiting there for me with a huge grin and a big hug.
All that's left is to turn some corners and head to the finish line. I run right into my friend Ron's arms for a huge hug and then it was time to finish the party.
I'm running down the shoot (ok, trotting) and I'm giving out high-5s and I'm trying to find my folks. I knew they would be there. I couldn't find them.
And then I did. I couldn't see them in the spot lights and right as I stepped across the mat, I heard my father. Sad face. I wasn't sure what would happen if I went back over the timing mat so I went to the side, blew them kisses, turned around and there was Felicia!
photo cred: Felecia
Run: 5:15:36 (12 minutes faster than IMFL and faster than my first stand alone marathon). Fuel: Gu about every hour, chicken broth and towards the end cookies and chips (don't judge!)
I got my medal, took my finisher pictures, and finally got to thank Ann for cheering and volunteering all over the course.
I think I look a little happy....
The volunteer who hands you your medal, also walks you through until you see someone you know. First familiar face I see:
Did I mention I have amazing teammates? Vallee and her husband came back out to cheer me in and I got a text from Katie apologizing for not coming back, but she got detained with her parents. What?!? Such great people I've gotten to connect with this year.
Stacy found me and helped me find my folks...
And then these guys who had finished a few hours earlier insisted on see me before heading back to their families.
Rob and Joe are just 2 of the guys that I got to meet because of this race. They were congratulating me on a great race. (Their finish!) We were talking about time and I said I thought I went about 15:30. I had no idea, I was working with the time on the clock and my math was faulty. Rob pulled out athlete tracker and told me my time. You should have seen my eyes light up. I NEVER thought I'd have this great of a race. Apparently everyone else knew, I just wouldn't listen....
Total: 14:26:48

There are so many people to thank I'm going to miss someone and in advance: I'm sorry.

The coaching staff at Dynamo: Maria for not getting frustrated with me and my faulty steering wheel and flat tires; swimming is hard. Shanks for answering questions and helping me work with Champion Systems for Ironwilled. Haley for being awesome. Matthew for patiently waiting for me on the long rides at camp and letting me cry and then not saying a word when I got back on my bike and pedaled away. Thank you Matthew for the email and text around race weekend and for encouraging me and for making me feel just as significant as your athletes you train who podium.

The Dynamo triathletes I got to meet in Chattanooga and Pine Mountain: Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Canada Cat and Linda for showing me that teammates help teammates reach their goals.
photo cred: Vallee
#MyCoachisHot, Brent: Thank you for figuring out how to keep me progressing despite my crazy schedule in the spring with lacrosse. And working around my commitments with Ironwilled: Kids who Tri in the summer and every other thing I wanted to put into my schedule this training cycle. Thank you for listening to me and encouraging me and believing in me when I didn't believe in myself. Thank you for being at Lake Logan all the way till the end. Thank you for riding with me my last 14 miles of my first ever 120 and then even running with me. Thank you for encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone. Thank you for the perfect race plan. Thank you for coaching me beyond just putting workouts into Training Peaks.

Stacy: Thank you for encouraging me to join the Dynamo Family. I used to not like when you would tell people, "Shawna isn't the fastest athlete, but she has more heart and determination than anyone you'll ever meet." I now know what an incredible compliment that is. Thank you for being an amazing friend and mentor. #womenbeshopping

Eric: For many many long rides.

The Louisville Smack talk group: For many many laughs and for allowing me to be a fly on the wall of the men's locker room.

Ironwilled: Women Who TRI: My tribe. Y'all are awesome. Period.

My family: I know you think I'm completely nuts but you love me anyway.

What's next? I am taking a year off from 140.6. This had actually been determined Labor Day weekend. No matter what happened in Louisville, I was cutting back on distance to focus on some other things. Am I returning, who knows? Let's see what life brings my way. Maybe I'll start dating again, I know y'all miss the stories and Facebook posts. I also have some personal things I need to spend some time focused on.

What I do know is this: I am sticking with Dynamo and I'm staying on Team Brent.

Much love and respect and thanks to everyone who played even the smallest part of me reaching the finish line at Ironman Lourisville.

I had: If you have gotten this far wow....but instead, let's end with:


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