Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ironman World Championships 2015

At the risk of writing "just another race report",  I'm about to write "just another race report" on the Ironman World Championships 2015. I feel like these things are easier to write when something goes terribly wrong, or conversely, amazingly right. I didn't really have either of those experiences in Kona last week, but it's still something I want to remember and, most of all, learn from.

Sometimes on my blog I write, "this is for me", but in some ways, it's for "you" too. It's for the women whose blogs I have read for 7 years and continue to read to this day. It's for the few folks who I actually do know spend the time to read my blog and enjoy it for what it is. It's not always sparkly or mind-blowing. Blogs aren't even cool anymore! They are sooooo 2008. It's for those who think "its just another race report" when writing their own, but may not realize that people like me, actually care and read them. This one's for those who have been there and watched me through good days and bad. Well-written, funny race reports and boring ones alike. I just saw that "california training" has reached over one million page views. Who knows if there is anyone still here from the beginning, but if so, this is for you (Kerrie? Rachel? GZ? I don't think GZ is here anymore, but he is one of my original faves.)


The lead up.
This is the stuff you try to keep off twitter because you want to limit the number of excuses you put out into the universe, but it's stuff that still counts. We flew to Kona from Australia just over 2 weeks before race day on what is going down (for now) in history as "Wynne's worst flight yet". None of us slept. At all. Overnight. About 20 hours with connecting flights, layovers, etc. Once we arrived in Hawaii properly strung out, Wynne proceeded to simultaneously get a full body rash, a fever, cold and hacking cough. Awesome. The rash subsided after a few days (heat rash maybe?) but poor thing was sick (& hence not sleeping). None of us slept. After about a week, we had to call in the reserves and shipped her off to Grandma & Grandpas condo so we could get a good nights sleep. We are athletes after all?! Or were we? It was rough and both Luke and I got milder versions of the baby croupe. I pounded Emergen-C and Zinc for 5 days and came out ok about 3 days before the race.
So, it was all far from ideal, but as usual, I remind myself that most other competitors out there have their own version of "unideal" before a race and you just deal and move on.
Our condo was in a great location, but with no A/C  in one of the hottest Kona seasons ever, we had yet one more reason to complain. Oh the joys in our house those first 10 days! It was good times. Real good times. The actual bonus there, though, was that it was too hot to cook inside, so we got to eat out almost every night which saved me lots of trips to the grocery store and sweaty prep and cooking time.
Why tell this part? Honestly, all this crappiness had nothing to do with how I actually performed on race day. But while it's happening you think, "oh my gosh this will ruin my race, blah blah blah I can't believe my baby chose to get sick NOW, oh my gosh." But you know what? In the end it was fine. Ideal? No. But do I think my race would have been any different if we were all happy and healthy the 2 weeks before the race? Nope. In those pre-race moments when I worry it's all gone to s$%t because of some flu etc, I call up in my mind other people's "just another race report" and remember that it's actually par for the course.

Training on course with Luke. Photo: Aimee Johnson

The week of... 
The week of the race was busy and we overcommitted ourselves a bit, but Kona is the one time each year that you get to see most of your sponsors and be involved in some really cool media stuff like interviews, videos and lots of photo shoots. Triathletes like to complain about not being treated like they're important and then they like to complain that it's "all too much" when people act like they're important. I love it all. I just have to make sure to stay focused on the race at hand and schedule in down time. We write our schedule for Kona week about a month out. We stick to it as much as possible. It's not rocket science. I'm not Beyoncé.

I also had an "extra" something-something going on as my new sponsor, Gatorade Endurance, was featuring me in a soon-to-be-released short Win from Within documentary. I felt super important having a Los Angeles based film crew (think 5 people!)  follow me for four days, but I was admittedly a little tired at the end of it all too. I am not naturally "on" all the time, so I needed to decompress a bit after it was over. Overall though, it was an incredible experience, probably once-in-a-lifetime and I can't wait until the finished product airs.

 G Endurance was awesome and scheduled the bulk of filming to be completed 4 days before the race. So, once the-day-before-race-day hit, we had properly relaxed and tapered and I was nothing but ready for the race. I had done the training. I had ridden the course in all possible conditions. Ready for 140.6 miles to call on both my mental and physical strongest version of myself.
Training on course

The swim...2.4 miles, 1:05
Moments with Luke just before the start. Photo: Triathlete magazine
I swam a 1:05. In 2011 as an age grouper, I swam a 1:04. I have swum (by my somewhat accurate calculations), about 4 MILLION YARDS since then. So 4 million yards netted me negative one minute.
The funny thing is, I'm not actually disheartened by this statistic because it doesn't tell the whole story. In all honesty, I think the course was long this year (based on reports I have from 3 Garmins that showed 4, 2.6 miles, 4000 meters and 4400 yards respectively (Ironman swim is 2.4miles/3800m/4200yds) ... that's about 3 minutes long for the pace that I swim. Now, chances are that all 3 of these people did not swim a straight line, but you just don't know. I know there was current and a significant swell. I know that I swam with a group of girls who beat me out of the water by 4 minutes at IM Western Australia 8 months ago, so for me, I am happy. I swam really hard in the beginning and fell into the group I should have been swimming with. End of story. I got out of the water feeling like a million bucks and ready to ride, as you should in Ironman. Nothing sparkling. No "cracking an hour", but I got through, with about 10 minutes down on the lead.

The bike... 112 miles, 5:11 (21.6mph) 
The ride is the part of the race that I am the most satisfied with. I worked so hard all year long for that bike split. Aside from the first 20 miles, when I rode with a (legal) group of 3 women, I rode alone. All. Alone. At one point coming back in the last 30 miles of the race, I was getting a bit wonky and actually wondered if I had made a wrong turn (pro tip: you really CAN'T make a wrong turn in Kona- it's basically one road) because I literally saw no one for over 30 minutes. Finally a few age group males (most of whom I knew) blew by me in the last 20 miles ( Hi Adam! Hi Levi! Hi Clint! Hi Chris!) and restored my faith that I had not lost the plot entirely and was, in fact, on the Queen K. For me, I rode really well. I may have ridden too conservatively in the beginning with the group of women (I was so excited to be "in a group" that I neglected to think for a while that I wasn't pushing the watts I wanted) , but once I made the move ahead of the group I rode steady and strong with few exceptions. I stayed on top of my fueling, opting for 1 bottle of G Endurance & 1 bottle of water per hour plus 2 gels or 1 pack G Energy chews per hour (to hot to eat bars in Hawaii for me).
Enjoying the ride on my SRAM 1x Scott Plasma 5. I chose Enve 4.5/ 7.8 combo. perfect for the day.  Photo: Jay Prasuhn

Let's see...what else... It rained in Hawi. There was headwind the last 25 miles that nearly broke my soul. It was really hot. Insert other Kona-typical sentences here and I'm sure they'll fit. In the end, my ride was in the top 15 pro bike splits. That is a big win for me (meet 2010 me who rode a 5:48 in Kona). And I rode alone. The bigger win is that I saw the places that I can gain minutes next year, and it seems do-able. I learned a lot. I'm already excited to do it again.

In from the bike, out on the run

The run.. 26.2 miles, 3:16
Grrrrrrr... the run. I was prepared to lay. it. down. on the run. Instead, I wanted to lay down. From step #1, it was a struggle. I don't think I've ever felt so bad in an Ironman marathon for nearly the whole run. In the end, I got through it, but it really just felt like a forced jog, not what I was envisioning. It was a very hot day.
Photo: Heather Scott
I felt like I was on top of my heat management, but maybe I wasn't quite enough. I also think I was a little "low" starting out as there was no final aid station on the bike and I came into transition possibly underfueled/hydrated from the last 20 miles of the bike. Either way, it wasn't the shining moment I had hoped it would be. It wasn't a disaster, either. I kept plugging away even though I was sure I was running 10 minute miles (I stopped looking and decided to just run). I never felt great.
little moments that lift you up: The sign read, "We love Beth Gerdes" (Thank you, Danielle!) 

But I never walked. Eventually, I reached that finish line, having passed one woman in the final 3 miles to squeeze into 15th place.

Photo: John Segesta

In the end, I finished as the 15th woman overall in 9:39, a 25 minute personal best on this course. I can look at my race objectively and be proud of what I accomplished last year and that I hit my goal of placing top 15 in the world championships. The tough part is that I didn't have the "race of my life". The silver lining is that there is a lot of room to go and find that race. I think it would be almost harder if I had the race of my life and still came 15th. Improvement from there is so much more daunting. I feel a bit lucky that I have those minutes to chase and shave on the bike and run.

From here, I'm taking some down time and then will do one final race at Challenge Phuket in Thailand on November 29th. I'm still working on the race schedule for next year, but we have some exciting ideas.

Drowning post-race blues at the More than Sport bike giveaway for kids in need of bikes! #morekidsonbikes

 Thank you to all of our friends, family, supporters and sponsors who make our lives possible. The grandparents and aunties were critical in this Kona trip and all year long and we couldn't have done it without all of them. To my amazing team of sponsors, "Mahalo" and I hope I made you proud this year! Also, a HUGE thank you to #AUSSIETOM our new amazing sponsor who is not in my sponsor picture page yet.


rr said...

Present! Here, Skipper!

David said...

In before GZ comments! He plugged your blog way back in 2008 or something, and it's been so cool to follow your journey since then. I know when you live life a day at a time, it doesn't feel so miraculous. But from a distance, your adventures have been truly mind-blowing!

Sika Henry said...

I read your blog! I'm a triathlon newbie from Jersey (living near Virginia Beach). I love how honest and simple you keep it. It's amazing to read some of your posts from 2008 and see how far you've come. It gives me hope that with time, proper training, and consistency, I can improve on my amateur (somewhat embarrassing) times! Congrats on a top-15 finish :)

Eli Carlson said...

I always love these. And...I don't read many blogs. You rock. You're real. I love you.

Erin Lockwood said...

Awesome job! I love following your journey and your family!

R said...

I don't even remember how long I've been reading. I Love race reports and have been waiting for this!!

R said...

I don't even remember how long I've been reading. I Love race reports and have been waiting for this!!

GZ said...

Been here all along ... Your efforts have been truly inspiring. I really enjoyed your interview with Tawnee recently (sort of put a voice to the blog voice). I still think you can run a OTQ for the marathon, but damn - you are incredible in this tri-thing.

Remember FAT-DAD!? said...

I read every post! That is how inspiring you are!! #fangirl :)

GoBigGreen said...

Still here:) always a fan Beth glad you are happy😊

Lisa Melvin said...

Inspirational blog Beth look forward to watching your documentary and reading your future blogs!

Lisa Melvin said...

Inspirational blog Beth look forward to watching your documentary and reading your future blogs!

Lisa Melvin said...

Inspirational blog Beth look forward to watching your documentary and reading your future blogs!

Kelley H said...

I've been a blog stalker since way back! I think I found yours through Rachel Ross years ago (we used to live in Hawaii). I have loved following your journey! I have two kids of my own now and have had many injuries but your story is inspirational to follow! Congrats!

Caitlin Campbell said...

Coming out of stealth-mode-blog-following woodworks here: Beth, I started reading California Training about 2 years ago. After reading a few entries, I went back to the archives and started at the very beginning. Now, seeing a new post is like the "ping" from You've Got Mail. Thank you so much for sharing your story, It is an absolute joy and inspiration!


Tracey Locher said...

I've also been reading your blog for a few years and, living here in San Diego, I have had the pleasure of meeting you a few times. There aren't any "just another race story" posts... every single race is it's own story and even if it seems so "typical" the story goes to show the rest of us that we are all dealing with the same things. Ok, maybe not the press and interviews and 9 hour Ironman times, but the fears and mistakes and sub par races... and those amazing days that keep us getting up in the dark to get to the gym. Keep sharing the journey... I love it!

Douglas Kretzmann said...

thank you for the report, enjoyed it.
I remember the early baby days - I quit amateur racing for a year, and I had the easier Dad job ;-)

Alex Gillet said...

I am have been a follower of your blog for quite a while now.
I always enjoy your posts.
I really like watching/reading about your evolution in Triathlon.
Congratulation again an amazing race.

Frenchy from San Diego

Kat said...

Hi Beth! I've been reading since 2008 when I started triathlon, I think I found your blog through Rachel Ross. It's been so fun to follow your journey and watch you grow from a newbie to a world-class athlete. Thank you for your blog and bringing "us" with you. Admittedly, I miss the blog from the old days a little but you have definitely grown and naturally so has your little space in the interwebs. Thanks for keeping it real and sharing your story. You have also been a major source of inspiration for me in the athlete/mom category as I've got two little ones now - cheers to that!

Yasmeen Moshiri said...

Happy to be a long-time reader and amazed at your constant strides and perspective. Always killing it!

Mohd Syafei Ahmad said...

I was so excited for you Beth. Though I was hopping you could pull in the top 10. But you did exceptionally well nevertheless. Thank you for the selfie of you and luke with my friend Ryan. I asked him for it.

Sportiedoc said...

Thumbs up from me.
Have loved reading your blog since 2010. And finally meeting you in person makes it all the more real and pertinent.
You are awesome chick xx

Alexis said...

I read your blog! LOL. I'm hella impressed and inspired and cheering you on from New England! We actually went to camp together in NH in the early 90's (!) so it's fun to see where you're at these days and all the seriously amazing things you're doing! Keep on truckin', you're a star! (And um Kona would have killed me just by itself; the fact that you did what you did with all of those early factors (sick baby, no sleep, no A/C), whaaaat! Those aren't excuses, that's just real! And you pushed on!)

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