Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ironman Cozumel: the end of the beginning

Readers guide ;)....If you only have a couple minutes, skip the swim, bike, run ish and scroll down to where it says Read this part...  for a bit of a summary and parting season thoughts.
"The cure for anything is salt water: Sweat, tears, or the sea" Isak Dinesen
Writing this post is bittersweet as it's my last race report of my first year competing as a pro. This year has had its fair share of ups and downs and my last race at Ironman Cozumel was honestly somewhere in between.

Going into this race, I knew I was ready for a break. I've been working hard and racing since March and I think its time to treat my body to a little RnR. Being healthy for an entire season is wonderful, but it sure allows you to stack up a lot of "work".

Although Ironman Arizona is a much closer year-end race for me, logistically, Cozumel was more do-able because I have Thanksgiving week off of from my job so I didn't need to take any time off. I also felt Cozumel was a better course for me, where the heat and wind allow the race of attrition to play out a little more dramatically.

I arrived in Cozumel Wednesday night (for a Sunday race) and spent the first few days trying to not act like I was on vacation. All I wanted to do was lay around in the sun and drink fruity cocktails, but I tried to reign it in a bit and do my best impression of "serious athlete". The island is beautiful and pretty easy to navigate by scooter (by far the best way to get round town & p.s the cool kids wear the helmet backwards).

safety first!

 Luckily, I was bunked up in a condo with Amanda & Luke McKenzie. The McKenzies arrived a week ahead so they were super helpful in helping me get my bearings and were pretty much a Cozumel Clif Notes in general. If you need to know where to get the best Churros, rotisserrie chickens, dirt cheap tacos, or deals on scooters...Amanda is your girl. But do not expect to be anywhere near the beaten path- the girl forges her own trail & sniffs out all the best local stuff.

Ok- the real deal.....RACING.
Photo by Jay Prasuhn/LAVA... Dolphin show at swim start! (way cooler animal feature of the race than the tiny jellyfish that sting your whole body during the swim)
The Swim: 2.4 miles (1:11....OUCH)
Race morning we were faced with some wind and some really strong currents on the swim. The swim is a rectangle where you start in the bottom middle of the rectangle, swim 800 meters to the right along shore up current, turn left and swim down current for about a mile, then make a final left and swim about 1,000 meters back to shore (upcurrent). kind of like this....
swim situation

I managed to hang on a nice pack for the first 800 meters to the first turn buoy but then I lost the feet. I swam alone, but still felt like I slayed the back downcurrent section (um yeah, i think those were everyone's thought's i'm sure- it was fast!) and looked at my Garmin as I made the final turn...It said 41 minutes- I was killing it!!!!! Yeah, killing it until it took me 30 minutes to swim the last 1,000 meters. Holy moly. A super strong current made it slow going and despite picking up my efforts, I felt like I was going nowhere. Looking back, I really should not have followed the buoy line on the last stretch as it seems as though those that stuck closer to shore avoided the currents a little better. Liz said she passed me during that stretch swimming closer to shore - and put 5 min on me by the finish) Anyway, I exited the water in 1:11 - that would be over a 5 minute personal worst for me. I tried not to get discouraged though as I saw lots of pro women bikes still on the racks (I was 17th out of 28 pro women starters) and I knew it would have been a tough swim for most.

Amanda had written me a note before the race that said, "Never ever give up". I mentally repeated it through T1 and moved onwards.

The bike: 112 miles - 5:21 (20.1 mph) 
I was quite excited for the bike course. It's three laps and they're all flat, but include one loooooooong brutal headwind section on the back side of the island.
ok, not that you can read this, but you get the idea...

My Slice looking good...
I had an idea of the kind of watts (power) I could hold for the race and set out to do that by watching my SRM. Right away my heart rate was pretty high, so I let the watts drop for a bit to try to gain some control. My heart rate dropped, but my watts weren't coming back up as I hoped they would. On the second lap, I started seeing black spots and at one point an official came by to ask me if I was ok. That's never a good sign! I eased up for a bit and crammed in some food and drink and kept pedaling. I eventually came good, but never had any real high points on the bike. It was HOT. I was TIRED. It was also frustrating to see trains of AG men and some pro women cruise by like it was a group ride. Anyway, I reminded myself to Never ever give up and trucked on to the bike finish.

The run- 26.2 miles- 3:02:39 (6:58/mile)
In T2, I  prepped myself for the 26.2 ahead. I threw on my Zoot Ultra Tempo 5.0s (I would marry these shoes!), threw my hair on top of my head in a bun and charged out of there. Amanda and Rockstar were there cheering and giving me splits to the next girls ahead. I was in 18th place....OUCH. The run is 3 laps of 14k each and I set out at a pace that felt comfortable. I found a pro man on his second lap and began running with him. We clicked off 6:30s/6:40s and felt good. I knew it wouldn't feel good forever and I prepared for "the fade". I belive that "the fade" in Ironman is inevitable, it's just how you manage it. Many will disagree with my Ironman approach- some people like to go out at their projected IM pace and "hold back". I prefer the "go till you blow" approach...I bank seconds and minutes every mile by going "fast" and then just fight not to slow down once it starts getting really hard. I KNOW I will slow down. But I have planned for that ;). I wouldn't exactly call this "sharing my secrets" because it definitely falls into the "don't try this at home" category. For the most part. But, I do believe you've got to go with the flow. If it truly feels easy...go with it.

Lap 2 things started to get hard. Really hard. I was hot and tired and my legs were complaining. I had picked off only 1 or 2 girls on lap one and was disappointed I'd likely not make it into the top 10. I thought my legs were cramping but I think I was mostly just making excuses in my head. Somewhere halfway through lap 2 Amanda & Rockstar gave me splits to a few girls ahead and I turned my head around. I remembered what Linsey had told me...Be Stubborn. And I added that to my mental mantras. I thought that if I gave this run literally everything I had, maybe, just maybe I could squeak into the top 10.
Where's Beth-o?

It would be a huge ask, but I had nothing to lose if I blew up. Never Ever Give Up. I started talking positively to myself (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....repeated over and over 1,000 times along with my cadence) and trucked along. After mile 18, I took my "bull in the china shop" approach. The course got really really crowded and I was getting dizzy looking up and around. So I literally got tunnel vision under my visor and just plowed through people. Never Ever Give Up. Be Stubborn. I was picking off girls nearly every ten minutes and it felt good. I was redeeming what had, up to this point, been a pretty subpar race for me. I was fading to 7 to 7:10 minute miles, but I knew I was still on track for something around 3 hours if I didn't blow up. I knew the run course record was 3:02 so my personal goal was to beat that.

Read this part....
9 hours and 39 minutes after I took my first stroke in the water, I crossed the finish line in 9th place (of 28 pro women starters) and finished my 7th ever Ironman. With the all-star field that started, I was proud of myself for trucking it up to the top 3rd and for never ever giving up. It's not easy to be ridiculously far off the back after the bike and keep your head in the game. But I did it, and I'm pretty proud of that. Turns out I had the fastest run of the day (by one second..) and now hold the fastest female run ever on that course. If you can't win the big things (yet), take pride in the small accomplishments.
Thanks to Liz Lyles hubby for all these pics...

Finish! (with men's pro time still up there...)
Finish line with one of my favorite competitors- Liz Lyles- Badass Ironman Wisconsin Champion.

As I head into the off-season and reflect on the race and my season, I feel lucky that things are so clear to me. I had a bad swim (as did many) in Cozumel, so I'm not going to dwell on that. I am however going to make it my mission to find 10 to 15 minutes on the bike over this winter/spring. My weakness is glaring and for that I'm pretty lucky. I don't need to agonize over whether to hone in on the bike or run and wonder where I should spend my time. Until my bike improves, there is no real point in trying to become a better runner. The good news is, there is TOTALLY hope for my bike situation. Remember that Never Ever Give Up part? I'm ready to give it what I've got and make some big changes. I know its not hopeless...And if any of you saw me ride a bike 4 years ago, you would understand and maybe even put your money on me that it will happen. Four years ago , going 14 miles per hour was a big ask. Yes, seriously. I've come a really really long way with the help of so many people and I know there is still a really really long way to go. A friend said to me this weekend, "I will never ever be a 3 hour runner...." But me, I know that I can be a 5 hour (okay, maybe 5:05 ;) rider on a course like this. And  that, my friends, would put me in the game. From my first year in Kona (2010) to my 2nd year in Kona (2011), I improved by bike time by 30 minutes. Sure, the faster you get, the more dear each and every minute becomes, but I know it's possible. 

I'll be the first to admit it. At the start of this season, I did not believe in my heart that I had what it takes to be competitive as a professional triathlete. I knew I could be "ok" and get by and just prayed I didn't get beat by too many amateurs. Eight months later those thoughts are very long gone. I don't just believe I can be a top Ironman athlete...I know it. But it will take some big changes, some leaps of faith, and a lot of freaking hard work. But knowing, and truly believing in yourself, may be half the battle. Maybe that's the extra 1% I've been missing - well, rather one of the extra percents because I believe there are about 5. My only regret of 2012 is that I didn't believe in myself more. Don't make that mistake yourself. 

Post race photo album...

Peace out 2012!

Post-race dinner with Amanda B. & the one and only Samantha McGlone
When in doubt, scoot it out!

Or follow Luciana & Luke's post-race is very necessary.

All the proper thank yous to come later....but here are the quickies...
Thank you to Zoot for taking on the local girl and supplying the best gear & shoes out there. Raced for the first time in the Ovwa 2.0s and they carried me to another fastest ladies run split- couldn't do it without the shoes. seriosuly.  Cannondale- my Slice is the perfect ride decked in SRAM, & Race Day Wheels ,and my SRM powermeter.. Thanks to Nytro for keeping it all in working, blinging' order (Russ, Chris & Matt are my heroes... Thank you to them for being my "bike fairy", I know I'm high maintenance. Thanks to Studeo DNA for my bike fit & so much more. Thank you to Tri Bike Transport for getting my bike here so nice and easy and for taking it off my hands right after the race- no better feeling!!! 
*Thank you to  Dan SelstadRehab United, & MRM for helping me build my chassis, recover quickly and stay healthy-.I use so many MRM products, but I couldn't function without my Hydration Factor & Reload. Rehab United- functional strength 2x/ week, ART with Selstad every other week...the secret sauce! 
*Many gracias also to ISM saddlesBetty Designs, & Beaker Concepts  for making sure I'm comfortable, stylish & fast. I never race without my Adamo racing 2, my betty designs wrist band or my Beaker Concepts Blaze.


Molly said...

I absolutely loved this report and your thoughts on the season!!! I was tracking you all day and cheering you on, especially when you hit the run and I knew you could do some damage. AMAZING job holding it together to pull yourself up the rankings. You've really had an amazing year for your 1st pro year and shown you can hang with the big girls - and all while working and so many other things you've had to deal with this year. Congratulations, Beth! Enjoy the off-season, you deserve it!

JC said...

Such an AWESOME attitude. You are such an inspiration (I am going to borrow some of your mantra's). No doubt you are going to be on TOP. AMAZING year for you. Enjoy the down time. SUPER CONGRATS ROCKSTAR!

jaime vigaray said...

Great report . Now time for some R&R , in both senses, but not too much. Winter is excellent to work on the turbo and improve on your bike. Next year will be even better .

Katie said...

babe, I don't say this very often because I think it's trite and overused, but you inspire me. this was a great report and a great recap of your season, as well as an honest assessment of what comes next. thanks for keeping it real, you're a good egg.


Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

No small accomplishment. Congrats!

Alison said...

Congrats on your rookie pro season - amazing! I have been following you ever since Jason & I met you in Kona at the pre-race banquet in 2011 (and thanks for the quick "hi" on the 101 when I was down in August!). It's funny, I checked in Cozumel partway through the bike, and said to Jason: "she'll be top 10 for sure by running her way through the field with a 3-hour marathon" - good stuff!

Jason races the same way - goes out hard and tries to manage the fade. Congrats again, enjoy your off-season and I'm looking forward to following you next year! Cheers.

Roz said...

Hi Beth! You passed me on the run when I was hitting the half way point and you were bringing it home. I wanted to cheer you on but couldn't get it out (moving much slower than you but still working hard for me =)). Although you feel it wasn't your best race, way to hang tough and set a new run course record. Your run is always amazing. After meeting you in Hawaii I started following your blog and I am very impressed with your season this year. And I also admire and draw inspiration from your work ethic and that you keep it real on your blog. I think you have proven this year that you have what it takes mentally and physically to go far as a pro. Best of luck on your journey to THE TOP!

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

To think that you raced so well this year without full on confidence means that next year you will be unstoppable given that you've found your confidence. You had a great year, sprinkled with a lot of huge and small can't underestimate the effect of those changes on you racing. Speaks even more to how your next season will unfold and I am so excited to cheer you on. And I am not even a triathlete:)

Jennifer Ward Barber said...

Holy inspiring post, lady! Thanks for sharing what keeps you going. I hope I can be along for the ride once in awhile to witness you slashing some of those minutes off this winter! :)

Emily said...

Beth, you amaze me and I love reading your posts and lovely stories! I can't wait to see what happens in 2013!!

X-Country2 said...

You are such a damn rockstar! I've loved following your blog from the beginning. (And I'm just speaking as one of my bazillions of readers, but we always believed in you. :)

Marc Nelson said...

Amazing report!Setting a new run course record is indeed a wonderful accomplishment. Congrats!

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Jennifer Harrison said...

AWESOME Race Report, Beth! Congrats on running your way up to 9th and celebrate your successful 1st Pro year! :)

MissFancyPants said...

SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!! Congrats girl! What a way to end the season - nothing but good things ahead!

The Suffer Seeker said...

Sub 3 would be a better run course record. I think you should take care of that next year after your 5:05 bike split.

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete said...

So proud of you! I've been really enjoying all your race recaps from this season especially. Your confidence has definitely grown from the being of this season! I was actually in Cozumel the Thursday before the race (Royal Caribbean cruise with the family), and I kept looking around to see if you would be riding your bike somewhere or running! Beautiful place for an Ironman despite the heat and rough seas. ;)

Allan Marsh said...

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