Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It Takes a Village....

A month or so before Ironman Louisville 2015, I made the decision not to participate in anything longer than a 70.3 in 2016. My "A" race, the race I was going to be training for was going to be Ironman 70.3 Augusta.

Leading up to Augusta, I was oddly calm. I wasn't counting down to race day, nor was I agitated by other's countdowns. I didn't change my Facebook profile picture to my bib number. I had everything I needed for race day sorted out and ready to pack 3 days before I needed to leave. I had had some great runs leading up to taper. My last work out went well, REALLY well. I was ready.

The weekend before I flew in to Philadelphia to voluncheer at Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City. My good friend was going for her first. I had a travel voucher for Delta. I hadn't been home in a while. All good reasons to pop out of town for a couple of days.

It was a great trip and I was feeling great until Tuesday. As Tuesday rolled on, so did my "Taper Cold". I missed 2 days of work and instead of uploading data, I was reporting in my sleep and nap episodes:
I'm doing everything possible to rest, recover and get ready. Coach pulled workouts in favor of rest. I whined a little but followed directions. This resulted in my taper week being a total of 3 workouts: 2 short swims, and then Saturday before race I hopped on my bike for the first time in 8 days for 15 minutes and then trotted 8 minutes. I told Coach I was going to be the most rested athlete to jump in the river on Sunday!

Minimal to no improvement throughout the week. On Saturday I lost my voice. I still couldn't come up with a reason not to jump in the river. Some of you get this and some of you don't. That's okay.

I had little sleep Saturday night leading into race morning. That's not uncommon for many athletes, but it is for me. I can usually get about 5-6 straight hours of sleep. Not Saturday night, a couple hours and then coughing fits. A little bit more sleep, then coughing fits.

I woke up, grabbed my stuff and walked to the shuttle. My folks came to cheer and Dad's plan was to meet me at the flag pole at 7am. I left the room at about 5.

On the shuttle I sat right behind Lane and I had my first tears of the morning. I still can't figure out why. But they were there. A quick chat with Lane and we hear for the first time the swim isn't wetsuit legal. First time in Augusta 70.3 history.

Into transition to set up my area. Coach had a race plan for me that had heart-rate zones and power numbers. I had written it out and tucked it into a Ziploc bag to shove into my jersey for reference. Set up my bottles, my fuel, etc. Heard the official "no wetsuit" announcement. I could have worn my wetsuit but I would start in the last wave. I was not willing to give up my 8:04 start for 9:20. Besides, as I was reminded by coach: I am a swimmer. The wetsuit would have shaved 5-7 minutes off my swim, but I didn't need it. I packed up my backpack and headed to the flag pole.

Dad and I had no issues connecting and I was explaining what was going on and we were taking it all in. Caught up with lots of friends and a couple teammates to wish everyone well or see what they were wearing so to spot them on the run later.
My #1 fan.
Presentation of the flag, national anthem, and the pros were off. Time for me to go huddle in my wave. Hug to dad (best sherpa of the day!) and I was gone. Saw a few Ironwilled ladies and lots of friends. Sabra says hi to me, and the tears flow again. Why? I couldn't figure out why I was so teary. Don't get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows I cry. One day I'll get my tear ducts under control but this weekend wasn't going to be it. Stacey comes up to me and gives me a hug. I get the tears to stop. Regroup and it's time to walk down the ramp.

The Swim:
Plan: Go hard for about 2-300 yards, find your place, and then pull off a little, but keep swimming strong.
What happened: I started a little too close to the front for my liking, but I held my place the best I could. Big arms, a bit of contact. One woman stroked across my leg and didn't just make contact, but grabbed my leg and pulled. The second time she did that I pulled in my leg, put it on her shoulder and pushed her away. Contact happens, but there is no need for me to feel like you are trying to pull me under. I swam strong and steady. Out of the water. Waves to Kris (the only person to give me a nickname and actually stick to it!) and my Dad. Came out of the water steady enough to trot up the ramp and continue a jog to my bike.
Take away: I am not a fast swimmer, but I am strong and confident. I've learned how to and will protect my space on the swim.

T1: I felt good about this. A quick pause for another round of sunscreen. Socks, shoes, helmet, bike and out.

The Bike:
Plan: Coach broke the ride into 3 segments.Each segment had power goals and hear-rate targets. I felt good about the plan. I thought it was something I could accomplish.
What happened: When I got back to my bike, the Ziploc bag was no where to be found and the ink on my arm was smeared. I'd read the plan at least 5 times, so I knew it was: stay under control and find your legs, then push a bit, then push more. That's what I tried to do. I tried to stay on top of my water; at each aide station I would grab one bottle for my bike to drink and then another bottle to dump all over me. I didn't hit my power goals and my heart-rate was high; but as far as perceived effort, I felt like I was in the right place for the whole ride. With the exception of the discomfort (see next paragraph) I felt good about the data I was seeing every 5 miles. I truly tried to dig deep and stay focused for the last 8+ miles as it's a net downhill... free speed if I could keep pedaling!
Take away: This wasn't the bike course I signed up for! There was a DOT detour so 2 additional climbs were added. I handled them fine, John Cobb says "comfort is speed". I am not comfortable on my bike. I'm comfortable riding a bike, but not MP. My knees started to hurt, my hoo-ha still hates me. It was only 56 miles. I should have been able to ride without such discomfort. I'm not going to gain any speed if I can't keep my cadence up because I'm shifting around in the saddle trying to find a spot that doesn't suck. Every time I stop pedaling, there goes pace. It is time to retire MP, he's a good man. It's not him, it's me. Merry Chrisma-kah to me!

T2: I had a picnic. I was in no rush. I walked my bike in. I took my time switching shoes. I grabbed my Dynamo Trucker hat, my fuel belt so I could always have water with me, and my race belt with my number. I walked to get sunscreen. I was trying to get my heart-rate down as I was high to start my run. Augusta has about .25 mile route in and out of transition. I walked all of it.

The Run:
Plan: I was given a plan I believed I could follow. That had me all in as opposed to going in with any doubts. I know it would be tough at the end, but it was supposed to be. It was time to race! Miles 1-3 nice and easy, Z1. Miles 4-10, kick it up a bit. Miles 11-12, more, what was left? Last mile: Dig deep, get it done.
What happened: My wheels started to wobble maybe a mile in, maybe sooner. It is a 13.1 mile run. I stopped at the first aide station and had them fill my bottles. I started to run easy. Nice and easy, but it felt labored. It didn't feel good. It should have, dang it!

I told myself to shift to aide station to aide station. That process has worked well for me in the past. Let's let it work for me now. Aide is about at every mile. This switched to 4-1, run 4, walk 1. A woman caught up to me and asked if I wanted to join her. I said YES! I hung for the first set, and then I let her go. At about mile 2 I came up to the TriCoachGeorgia and TriAugusta Tents. Lots of friends right there. I think I saw Darsh and then Danielle and I walked towards them and proceeded to have an epic melt down. Jeff saw it. Tears. More tears. I was having a physical and emotional melt down. I was not following my plan, I was having tons of doubts. I was thinking of a DNF. They gave me hugs and I moved on. I saw Tiffanie, who kindly did NOT take a picture of me at that moment. Then I saw Kristin. Probably my guardian angle for the entire race.
Not my best moment of the race, but Kris caught them all.
Kristin asked what was up and I told her I had a blister in my foot. I hurt. Everything hurt. Right then Fred ran up to me on his second loop. He stopped. Heard me mention a blister. I took off my shoe and sock, Fred put Aquaphor on it. I put my sock/shoe back on. Both of them asked when I had eaten last. Through tears I told them, "I don't know". Fred opened a gel and I took it in. He then said let's go. And he stayed with me for about 2 miles. We posed for pictures, we stopped and talked to my folks. He had one of my bottles switched to Gatorade and I filled the other with water. He helped me pull myself together. I started to see Kris on the run course.
Lucky and blessed to be part of the Dynamo Team
At about mile 3.5/4 ish Fred took off to finish his race. To be honest with myself, if not for the help of friends, Kristin and Fred specifically, I might have had my first DNF. I know this shocks those that know me really well, but I was really thinking about it. But then...what would I do with the swag that I bought? Just sayin'....

I got my head together. I abandoned the plan and I created a new one. I needed to finish. There was not a real single reason I could come up with not too. I was sick, so what? It was hot, so what? Finish what you started.

I needed a run interval I could succeed with. So as coach had told me going into this when we both realized I'd be racing sick, small chunks, Shawna, small chunks. And that's what I did. I stopped looking at my watch and I started looking around. Run to the red car, walk to the street light. Run to the street sign, walk at the white car. Rinse, repeat, keep moving forward. I stopped and hugged everyone I knew.

And that's how the run went. Slow. Small chunks. It got done.

At the turn to the finish, Doris caught up to me and said let's finish together. So we did. Holding hands and celebrating the finish line.

Take away: The only thing you can control on race day is your attitude (Thank you Stacy S. for the reminder). I let that go for a bit, but with the help of friends and calories I recovered it. And when the plan no longer works you find a way, and you get it done. There was zero, zero reason for me not to finish.

My triathlon season is over for 2016. I had lots of ups and downs. I PR'd some races. I had some very tough training days. I'm thankful for it all. There will be more from this race for me to remember and reflect on. Lessons learned to take to next season. Two thoughts crept in to my head as I made it through the run: I should retire from long course and then I should retire from triathlon. Nah...I think I have decided on my first 70.3 for 2017.

I'm thankful.

  • My parents were able to spend the weekend with me, my sister was cheering and watching the live feed from home. 
  • My coaches, teammates, and friends believe in me, even when I fail/forget to believe in myself.
  • The triathlon community I've built around myself is the most amazing for taking care of each other. 
  • I am physically able to do this stuff. I am healthy enough to continue working on my mental game.

Ironman 70.3 Augusta was not the race I trained for, but it was the race that I got. I will build on the experience for next year.  Now it's time to get back to my running roots as Marine Corp Marathon is in about 4 weeks. Aidan and I have work to do.

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  1. Make note to self: Never swim with Shawna.

  2. Those demons in your head never win! WY to push through the pain. You'll be running in my back yard for Marine Corps. You are one tough lady!