Friday, November 23, 2012

Ironman Arizona: The Race Report

UnderDog: a participant in a fight, conflict, or game who is not expected to win (LOVE THE VIDEO - Watch it!)

At one point or another, we have all felt like the underdog.  It's hard to not feel like one as a rookie pro coming into a race with Ironman champions on the start list who are bound and determined to claim those points for next years Kona qualification.

I felt well-trained, extremely well-prepared by my coach and QT2 systems, but I couldn't help but notice in the Ironman previews I read just about every name was there, but mine seemed to be missing, from everything.  I haven't really done anything in the sport thus far, so it really wasn't a surprise, but for some reason 2-3 days before I had a small panic attack when I read the start lists within the articles and had to reach out to coach Jesse.

His words were more than reassuring.  In fact, I kept his text in my phone and re-read it about 10 times before I hit that start line.  It said "Nothing changes.  This race is just about Kim dropping her own hammer all day.  The start list only comes into play in the last 10k of the run."

I knew he was right.  I decided to embrace my inner underdog and stop focusing on others and just focus on me and my own race.  The articles, the start list, the 25+ girls at the pro meeting, none of it mattered.  I wouldn't always be an underdog and you know what, maybe it was a total positive.  I had a job to do and I was going give it my best possible effort!

On Thursday I left town and arrived late Thursday evening after a long solo travel day that had my hip-flexors killing me from getting that bike box in and out of shuttles and rental cars!

I was so happy to have a wonderful home stay with Rich & Karleen!  Karleen is an amazing athlete and has been to Kona etc. so she and Rich made it so so easy to get around and find everything!  It was a huge blessing and made my trip so much easier and enjoyable.  Beth came to lunch too which made it more fun!

Kyle finally arrived on Saturday and I was so happy to see him.  By the time he arrived I felt ready to go.

We arrived to a full transition area and a nice cool morning at IM AZ. 

 It was so dark when we first lined up and I could barely see the buoys.  When Linsey and Meredith and some of the other heavy hitters lined up right before we jumped in the water it was a bit surreal.  I knew the water would be cold, but I just tried not to think about it.  Finally, we were able to get in the water and Mike Reilly began announcing the pro women were in and for everyone to cheer for us!  It was such a cool feeling!  I lined up to the right and decided if I was next to Beth and Charisa I would have a shot at getting on some feet as they are both good swimmers.  Finally, the horn sounded and we were off!  I swam literally as hard as I could and girls were right there around me.  I felt good and I was hoping I was off to a good swim start! Finally, we started to settle and little and I jumped on some feet hoping they were the right ones.

We seemed to be moving along at a pretty good clip but the other group in front seemed to be moving away.  I stuck to my guns with my group and just hoped we were at a good pace.  The buoys out seemed to be coming quickly back to us and I felt good, but maybe a little too good? Were we slowing down?  As we rounded the corner for the turn around I tried to go harder and move away from the group, but I didn't seem to be going anywhere on my own.  I settled back in and on some feet.  That's when I started to realize we were swimming slow and it was going to be a long time until we got back :(

When I hit T1 I saw Karleen (she was a volunteer) and asked her the time and was sad to hear it was already 1:09.  I calculated that put me around 1:06 for my swim which was about 5 minutes slower than coach and I predicted we could do based on my swim tests / times in the pool (1:01).  UGH!  Ok!

Swim time: 1:06:57

Moving On!

 I headed out on the bike with the goal of being patient for the first 28 miles and being able to easily  hold the wattage goal coach Jesse gave me.  Within ten minutes I was seriously wondering what was going on!  My legs felt like they had run a 5k as hard as I could.  "Come on legs!!" I would say to them, but nope, they just HURT.  They had no PUSH.   Meanwhile, my heart rate was in the half ironman range.  Mentally, I was trying not to have a total "Lake Placid" panic attack and relive the whole experience.

In those cases, you just have to stay calm and realize it is a LONG DAY and anything can happen. I decided at some point at the very least, I would do the best I could and collect all the data so that coach Jesse and I could look at it later and figure out what went wrong.  There was no thought of dropping out as this is the last race of the season, what did I have to lose!

Ironman AZ is a three loop course (each 37 miles in length).  The wind on this highway could be in any direction so I tried to not predict what would happen out there.  It was obvious it was a headwind on the false flat going out and that combined with my legs was a real treat!  I could see the other girls when I got near the turn around and they seemed quite a ways away.... Just kept bringing my mind back - control what you can control.  Ride YOUR ride and your race.  We hit the 180 degree turn and whoosh.. I was flying back down.  That made the legs a bit more tolerable!

Finally, somewhere after 28 miles (and a total fail on my first power goal), my legs started to feel normal and my heart rate came down one beat.  Ok.. good enough, leg's roll on the plan! I was drinking like a mad fool as it was supposed to reach a high of 77 later in the day.

At 1 hr 30 mins it happened, I had to pee!  It was a miracle.  That is the fastest I have EVER had to go in an Ironman.  I started thanking the pee gods profusely!  Now, to the issue, the ever present issue.  After trying three times, I couldn't go.  Jocelyn had taught me tricks, I used every one I had, no dice.  I reallllyyy had to go so finally I made a decision and pulled the bike over, stood there, and did my business next to some guy walking on the sidewalk.  That was a bit demoralizing.. moving on!  A pro girl passed me during my little "break" and I caught her soon after.  She turned and started yelling something at me when I went by but I have no idea what it was! All I could say was -

"Sorry!!  I had to pee!"

Great Kim.. real classy.  O well!  I started having fun!  We saw everyone in town on each of the loops and I started hitting numbers much closer to my plan.  I couldn't tell if I was making any headway on the other girls, but they weren't THAT far away so that made me feel a bit better.

Sonja was giving me updates in town and it lifted my spirits and I heard Kyle's voice each time which helped.

Three to four officials rode behind me and there was a lot to process since by the third loop we were all in together, pro's and age group athletes.  Staying aware of the distances, I felt good about my decisions.  Each time they passed I got a thumbs up and my heart was happy.  At mile 85 I had the urge to go again but this time, I was NOT stopping.  I'd just have to hold it!  Not so fun, but I hated to lose more time.  I have GOT to work on this next season!  Looks like I'll be peeing myself in training, so get ready if you ride with me.  I didn't know my final time, but I felt pretty good about it when it was all said and done:

Final bike time: 5:00:57 (now, looking back, I am really mad, I could have totally broken 5 hours if I wouldn't have stopped - GRR!!).  O well, something to shoot for next year!

Photo Credit: Jon Geair

I noticed Beth was in the change tent at the same time and I sat on the ground to try and go but those awesome volunteers were on my like white on rice.  That idea of doing my business right there went out the window very quickly.  It was hard, but at mile 0.5 I ducked in the port-o-john.  Being able to see Beth just up the road, it was tough to make that call but I had 26 more miles and there was no way I was going to make it that long.  Shortly after I passed Beth and we encouraged each other, then just a bit up I saw Jess, my other rookie pro friend and we exchanged words as well.  It was good to see friends and it helped me stay positive!  The three loop run course meant we came around this infinite loop and saw the crowd three times.
 Kyle and Oscar (Beth's husband) were everywhere!  They knew just what to say. I could see Charisa, but didn't seem to be making up any ground.  There were quite a few full 180 degree turns and some areas with rocks and one nice big hill for each loop.  The first loop I was all smiles, the second loop started to get tougher and by the third loop I was straight up gutting it out.
Somewhere around mile 18 it started to get tough and it never really let up, but hey, that's Ironman.  My heart rate was staying steady and I knew with every mile I was closer to being able to sit down at that finish line and chill with Kyle!  He knew JUST what to say and I started getting reports I was only 3-4 mins down from a group of girls, but honestly, I was going as hard as I could so it was just do what you can do and keep those miles at 7:30ish and not over 8:00! 

Finally, I took the turn to head off the main course toward the finish and man I thought it was closer than it was!  I still had about half a mile to go and I must have had a look on my face like "Where the heck is this THING?!"  because someone along the edge said "not much further, just around that corner!" haha! 
 Thanks to Kerry Yndestad for the amazing pictures!  I saw the finish clock and it said 9:20 and even though I knew that was the age group clock, I still was super happy for a 10 min PR and a not  perfect, but pretty darn decent day!

Final Run Time: 3:18
 After all the ups and down, all the low times and the rough start with the swim and bike, I was an Ironman once again and just so incredibly thankful to the Lord above for this gift and opportunity to be out there doing what I love all day.  It was such a blessing and it's not one I take lightly.  Anything can happen out there, good or bad, so even at my 7th time, I never take a finish line for granted (especially after Lake Placid).

Final time: 9:30, 10th place female pro in a very competitive field and rookie season complete! In the end I was only five minutes from 5th place.  I'm simply in awe of how close this race was, but all the more reason to stop making dumb little mistakes!

I could never do this without Kyle and his undying support and love.  He believes in me so much and he calms me down, give me strength and is just there no matter what, DNF or new PR or no racing at all.  I'm so very thankful for him.

I'm also so so so happy with my coaching choice this year, Jesse Kropelnicki, of QT2 Systems.  He's given me so much confidence and it's amazing to have someone you can trust and just rely on in thick and thin.  He's always there when I need him and I am glad we are continuing our journey together next year!

Thanks to my family, Mom, Dad and all my extended family (Aunt Dena!) and everyone else who follows this crazy journey.  You are with me all the way and I feel your presence out there!!

Thank you Deb & Robert (Kyle's Mom & boyfriend) for your support and love.  Thanks to Tom & Angie Kyle's family for there support as well.

Thanks to my fellow rookie pro's who have been through this journey with me this year and we all have been encouraging to each other in hard times and good times.  I feel honored to be part of this special group of girls!!  No more rookie year girls, we're moving on upppp!

Thanks friends, QT2 teammates and facebook and blog friends.  I'm very luck to have you in my life and I don't take it lightly.  You're there through the up and downs.  I meet people who have said "I've been reading your blog for years" and it always takes me by surprise.

It was great to see Molly & Pat, fellow QT2 teammates
Thanks Rich and Karleen for hosting us and for just offering up your home to us!  You were such amazing people and we loved spending time with you!

Thank you Sponsors:
Ballou Skies for allowing me to be part of this great team that does so much good for boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Power bar for fueling me with delicious products that never fail me on race day.  Newtons  for helping me run with good form and hopefully, get speedier with time. Top Gear for outfitting me with a bike that works and helping me learn how to fix it along the way. Jesse my coach at QT2 Systems who I cannot say enough good things about!  You are providing the tools to make this dream possible.  Blueseventy for supporting our Ballou Skies team with super fast wetsuits and speedsuits!!  You all keep me in the game, faster, longer and stronger – I can’t thank you enough!  

Thanks for reading!!  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Jennifer Harrison said...

Way to knock this race out of the PARK!!! You really had a great day and I am so happy for you! What a great way to end your rookie PRO season!!! :) Enjoy your off season now!

Steve said...

Congrats on a great race, and good rookie season.

BriGaal said...

Congrats, Kim! Enjoy some downtime now!

Alison said...

Saw you out there - congrats! And enjoy the off season!

Christi said...

You are fantastic!

Damie said...

Kim, congrats! It was great to read this race reports. I am so happy you ended the season on such a strong note. I know that has really motivated you for next year. Awesome, awesome job.