Friday, October 3, 2014

Ironman Malaysia: It's just like riding a bike

The thing about racing an Ironman less than 4 months after you have a baby is that no one is pegging you for the win or expecting the performance of a lifetime, so I was lucky to go into this race without mammoth expectations. Of course, in my own head, I wished for a miraculous extra 20 watts to appear on Ironman Malaysia race day, but we all know that 6 weeks of solid training isn't going to gift you that. Race day magic only works when you  have put in the work, and I just didn't have the time to put in the body of work yet.

I actually felt really good going into the race and was prepared to surprise myself. BUT, I knew my biggest limiter would be that depth of endurance that you just can't get going from ground zero to Ironman in 8 weeks. I wanted to give my best, but not be too hard on myself. When you come from a place where you want to win races, it's hard to downgrade to "I just want a respectable finish" but I knew I had to race within my means. Luckily, Malaysia is stinking hot and not only do I love hot conditions, but I know it forces all athletes to slow down a bit (or risk an epic blowup). So, my hope was that my steady eddy pace would eventually reel in a few people and I could make some KPR (Kona Points Ranking) points and earn a paycheck. When I got those "What the heck am I doing?" and "Will I even remember how to race after a year off?" feelings, I reminded myself that it's just like riding a bike. Because, well, it IS riding a bike.

check, check, check. 
Everything pre-race went as smooth as possible in a completely foreign country and I had a fun time exploring (See my Ironman Malaysia: Travelogue). I got all the Ironman gear bags to the right places, had a pre-race swim with Julie on the course, and tucked myself into bed super early the night before the race. Race morning was a little different as I had to add in extra time for pumping (yes, still exclusively breastfeeding) at my hotel and then again right before the race start. Oh, the glam life!

Pre-race swim with Julie. 

swim venue the day before- Kuah bay
The Swim- 2.4 mi/3.8k (1:03 - 1:40/100m)
First of all. HANDS DOWN my favorite Ironman swim of all time for a few reasons: 1) super warm (like bathtub!) water and non-wetsuit so I got to wear my Zoot Speedzoot which I love. 2) The most well-marked course I have ever swum- flags every 25m and large buoys marked 1-10 every 450m 3) Kayakers everywhere- this course made it simply impossible to go the wrong direction (and believe me I can often find a way!) 4) a clockwise one-loop swim. I breathe to the right so I pretty much never had to look up for sighting.

Really cool pics from - check out this "IM Swim for Dummies" course- so rad!
I cracked open a fresh pair of Aquashpere Kayenne's and headed to the swim start. The pro women started at 7:16am, one minute after the men (daylight didn't even break until about 7:00am). I had a clean start and not much of the usual anxiety I get at race start. I think the warm water and relatively small field (10 pro women) helped. I swam my own pace from the get-go and was please to find a pair of feet to trail behind for the first 1200m. By the time we rounded the far turn buoys, I was on some different feet, but always had at least one person to swim with which was refreshing. I exited the water happy and feeling good. I yelled around, "what time is it?" Someone said, "8:20" and I knew I had swum in a nice ballpark for me at this stage.

T1: Big surprise- FOUR other bikes still on the rack! That meant I was in the top half of women out of the water. My smile got a little bigger.
Transition. Bike Bling!

The Bike- 112mi/180k (5:34- 20.1mph)

up the hill....P.S. the new Smith Overtake aero road helmet is the bees knees for a hot race! 

I knew that I wouldn't be able to ride "hard" on my current/limited fitness, so my goal was to ride steady and strong.The course starts with three pretty big climbs with fast descents and I was immediately passed by a couple of girls.  I knew my limit on the climbs and decided not to go above them- it was going to be a long day. The course winds its way around to the north side of the island and the Red Bull "tough zone" out to Datai Mountain. The "tough zone" was a series of 5 hills where age groupers competed for fastest segment. Also near the tough zone was the "monkey zone"- 12k of the course where eating gels and bars was not allowed due to the prevalence of local monkeys who would literally jump at the chance for an exotic treat. I feel like I rode steady and attempted to ride strong throughout the bike. My Cannondale Slice RS fits me so well and I was super comfortable the whole way (the ISM Attack saddle helps- LOVE! Also, based on the course profile, I chose a Zipp 404/808 wheelset which turned out to be perfect.)   Midway through loop one, I had just gone ahead of Michelle Duffield and then promptly decided to take a wrong turn off course where we were supposed to U-turn. I didn't see signs for a U-turn and thought the yellow barricades were blocking the road (not indicating the turnaround), so off on a solo mission down a random road I went. I figured it out soon enough and turned around, probably only losing a minute or two. My bad, though, as I didn't hear of anyone else making that mistake. Other than that, my ride was uneventful, but I was aware that I was executing a slow fade to the finish, my 2nd lap watts dropping about 5 below my first lap watts. I was happy to leapfrog with Michelle on and off throughout the day to keep the motivation high and make me feel in the mix of the race. 

Though my ride was uneventful, the actual course was far from it! Some of the race route roads must remain open to local traffic for the residents and this requires the athletes to be on their toes. Lots of families on scooters buzz by going every direction and occasionally you'd be behind a line of cars. Also, monkeys and wild dogs galore so there is always something to look out for or speed away from. Nothing felt really unsafe as the traffic was respectful and the dogs weren't too fast, but it definitely added more of a video game element to the ride- dodging obstacles on the 112 mile mission is fun! I rolled back into Kuah town just behind Michelle and heard Pete Murray (he's like the Australian Mike Reilly) announce my name of course along with "just had a baby" and "wife to Luke McKenzie" (hah- maybe one day?)... but it gave me big smiles all around.

heading to T2
T2: There were not many red run bags left on the pro female racks (only one besides Michelle's and mine) so I knew there was work to do. (Okay, I already knew that, but the lack of bags confirmed that there was work to do). I threw on my Zoot Ultra Tempo 6.0s, visor, Smith Pivlocks and ran out.

The Run- 26.2mi/42k (3:30- 4:59/k)
I know a certain heart rate where I can successfully run a marathon off-the-bike. On my best day, this gives me around a 3:00 marathon. With the Malaysian heat (someone said that the temperature at 9PM was still 100.4 degrees F! Thorsten, from analyzes the results and said IM Malaysia 2014 was the overall slowest Ironman run of all time), I decided to run at my designated heart rate, regardless of the pace, in order to successfully make it to the finish line without blowing up. Unfortunately, on Ironman Malaysia day, this heart rate didn't give me 3:00 marathon pace... It gave me 3:30 marathon pace! Some of that was due to the crazy conditions, but some was due to pure lack of that deep race fitness. BUT, I felt strong and controlled throughout (while still fading a bit at the end). I was able to pass a couple of pro women and ran into 5th place by the finish. I logged my slowest ever Ironman marathon (out of 12 Ironmans) but truly feel that I gave it what I had on the day. I think the Ironman run is where race fitness truly reveals itself and I just wasn't bike OR run fit enough to run a fast marathon. That will take another couple of months of work to get that depth. The good thing is, I've been there before and I know what I need to do to get back there. Nothing in this sport comes for free and it would be criminally unfair if I could just pop out a 3:00 marathon right after a baby, right? I've been careful in my run training to build slowly to avoid injury, and sometimes there just are no shortcuts.

My first finish over 10 hours in the past 3 years, but the time on the clock can never tell the whole story. Happy as can be. 
At the finish I headed to the ice bath, post-race massage (best post race massage i've EVER gotten) and then straight into a changing tent to take the edge of my gigantic (okay, maybe B cup instead of A) boobs that had filled up throughout the day. After catching up and telling stories, I headed back to my hotel, packed up and left early the next morning. I'm never one to miss a post-race extravaganza, but I had a baby (& Dad-in-Ironman-training) on the other side of the world to get back to....

And what a welcome home it was....

my people

Mom and Dad are out training again and I need an Acai bowl.. Can someone get the kickstand for me?
[Speaking of my people... If you ever wonder why my Instagram doesn't feature the little miss very often, it's because much of the baby love, adventures, and funny (well, we think so) captions are poured into the @wynnemckenzie account to save those of you who actually just want a race report]
Thank you to my sponsors for sticking by me through my pregnancy hiatus, to our families (espcialy Jacque!) for making my training possible, to Wynne for being the most angelic & flexible baby who has slept through the night since 5 weeks old, and most of all to Luke for coaching me, loving me, and believing in me.


rr said...

Skipper, you rock. Cannot wait for coffee date to meet the little one on Thursday. And to see you - it's been way too long. xo

Alyssa Neiers said...

Impressive Beth! It's awesome that you were able to execute a great race especially after having a baby 4 months ago. It really sounds like you completed a very smart race for your fitness! Which is also very important! Can't wait to hear about your next race!

Fabiolas Energy said...

You are amazing Beth👏👏👏

BriGaal said...

I am so interested to know how you continue to breastfeed with these long races/training! I did some sprints but couldn't imagine going that long without pumping until I was weaning my son. How do you do it??

debtrisforkona said...

WOW what an achievement!!! Congratulations!!! You are an inspiration!

Libby said...

you're incredible. nice race chica, very inspiring. my boobs could not have gone 10 hours without a pump at that phase :) would have had to have a pump in transition. can't believe you are still nursing! amazingness.

Kristin M said...

Still amazing after having a baby!! rock on!

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