Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ironman Texas - #3 Biker

Every time I would think about it, my heart rate would climb about 3 beats (which I knew Coach Jesse would have a fit about when he saw the file).  We were only at mile 2 of the run and he was EXPLICIT about those first five miles of the marathon about what I “was” and “was not” to be doing.  Getting overly excited and letting that heart rate jump even slightly, definitely did not reside on the “was” list!

I couldn't help it!  I was feeling relatively ok, even as the heat index climbed to numbers my body had yet to encounter this year.  Soon, I would see Kyle, and all I would need to do would be point straight ahead and he’d know exactly what I was talking about.

After a few of my pro races this year, Kyle and I would joke about different things.  We would mention the things that went well and chuckle over the things that I totally screwed up and that were so “not pro” that I was still doing.  I remember telling him distinctly, on more than one occasion, that someday “I was going to have my own personal biker escort on the run, and when I did, he better be ready because I that meant I was up there and we were going to have a day”.  Of course, there wasn’t really anything special about having a biker, but in my mind, it meant something.  It meant “you’re up there with the best” and it also meant more people would cheer for you because they knew you were in contention for a good placing.  Finally, it meant that I’d be able to go on autopilot and just FOLLOW THAT BIKE.

At the pro meeting on Thursday, my heart sank a little when I heard there would only be bikers for the top three professionals on each the men and women’s side.  “Only three?! I thought they would have at least five,” my mind chimed in.  "It's cool" I thought immediately after, we’ll see where we are at mile 13 of the marathon.  On a day like we were slated to have condition-wise, after mile 13 is what really mattered.

The theme for the day was “FOCUS” and I felt confident going in that no matter what happened (and happen they did, as always in Ironman), I would bring them back around and get them back on track. 

The Swim – 1:04 (10th)

Photo Credit: Jon Walk

At dawn of Ironman morning, we stepped out into a thick haze of humidity even at 5:30am.  One of my main goals for this race was to try and bridge that first gap that always seems to form between me and the other pro women at the beginning of the swim.  With a one gun start (aka both men and women pros starting together), this was going to be even more challenging since some of the faster women in the 52-54 min range would undoubtedly latch on to the men and draft the majority of 2.4 miles.  It was people like me (1:00-1:04) who were left to sort it out.  As always, I lined up in the thick of it prepared to go to deep dark places in order to get with some swimmers of my own ability or better yet, slightly faster than me.  When the gun sounded, I took off like fire was about to swallow us up from behind. 

While my heart rate climbed to inconceivable numbers, I tried to keep the pressure on and look ahead to see where packs of women were going.  Alas, after five or so minutes of swimming I looked up only to find myself alone, again.  I could see packs pulling away about 20 feet ahead of me, but here I was in no-man’s land yet again.  GRRR!  Someday!

I spent the rest of the swim doing three things:

1.       Pulling a male pro
2.       Arguing with myself about if I was on the best line for making the turn buoys (which most of the time I felt I was way too far away)
3.       Yelling at my arms and body to “PUSH HARDER!!!!”

I’m not going to lie, that swim seemed to go on for a LONG time!  By the time I made a right into the canal, I was hoping I was close to the finish (no such luck)!  When I finally exited, I was VERY happy to be out of the water and had NO idea what my time was (which in retrospect is maybe a good thing!).

The Bike – 5:03 (4th)

The first hour of the bike only had one focus - get hydrated.  I had instructions to drink fluids like it was my job (oh wait, it was!).  My practice in training had been 2.5 bottles per hour minimum leading up to the race during the early portions of the bike, so I was elated when the first 24oz bottle was gone in 15 minutes.  However, while the nutrition piece went well, my legs struggled to find their groove.  I spent time wondering why they were intent on feeling like they were burning every time I tried to push them to make my desired watts.   Maddening!!

In fact, at one point, I even shouted to Kyle (as he came by filming hanging from a car window) “Does my bike seat look low to you??”  Without hesitation, he said “NOPE” because I’m sure he would not want it messing with my head.  That’s how much something felt off for that first hour to hour and a half period!  

Photo Credit: Jon Walk

It did, however, give me a great chance to gulp fluids down at a high rate of speed in order to search for that ever elusive “first pee” of the day!  This one loop bike course wouldn’t provide any opportunities for me to see where I was in relation to others, so I had my own goals to meet and that was my only focus.  At two hours, everything started to come around and my heart started getting happy!  The legs seemed to be able to handle what my mind wanted them to do AND I had to go!  This was a new Ironman record!  The PowerbarPerform was going down easily and the “Green Machine” was running like a dream.  I chose my training Rudy Project helmet due to the heat and better airflow vs. my regular aero helmet which I think was a smart move.

As the miles ticked on, I was able to relieve myself on my bike (a huge win for those who have been following this blog for awhile) and the heat index continued to climb.  It was fun to look for Kyle and Coach Jesse and let them know things were going just fine! 

We hit some lovely headwind (just slight, nothing crazy) and tar and chip right around miles 65-80. At one point in that stretch, Coach let me know that my patience was paying off and there were girls not that far ahead.  Seeing other riders perked me up and gave me a mental boost.   The air wasn’t even cooling for that last half of the bike and the sun started searing down as sweat ran down my arms and legs.  It was confirmed.  It was going to be a scorcher for the marathon.

The last ten miles of the bike are critical and I used them to cool myself with as much water as I could find before I hit T2.  All told, I downed 9.5 bottles on the bike (8 Powerbar Perform and 1.5 water) and took in 5 Powerbar gels (3 without caffeine and 2 with caffeine). 

The Run – 3:19 (3rd)

Running out of T2, I only had one goal for the first few miles, get COOL and CONTROL that heart rate.  Jesse was out in the first mile letting me know that 3rd was only 3 minutes up, but “DON’T RUSH IT!” he yelled with a stern tone.  I knew exactly what he meant.  This was not the time to go out guns blazing in mile 1 of a 26 mile jaunt.  The heat radiated from the ground immediately and I began the Ironman aid station buffet of GIVE ME EVERYTHING IN SIGHT (i.e. water, sponges, ice, Perform, more ice!!).  Surprisingly, I felt decent for those first few miles but then I saw her ahead with the bike and there was only ONE thing I wanted…there he was… MY FIRST IRONMAN BIKER. 

Photo Credit: Jon Walk

Finally, around mile 3.5 I made the pass and told Christine she looked good (which she did!).  Just like that I was running behind my first biker!!  I would have to wait until I got back to the canal to finish up my first 9 mile loop before seeing Kyle and getting to show him my exciting news!

It wasn’t long after that though that my body started feeling REALLY miserable.  My legs were painful with every step.  Just keep my pace up and heart rate up seemed to be taking more and more effort.  This was VERY scary as we were only at mile five or so of the run and there was MUCH more racing to be done.  The heat was around 105 in the sun and as much as I had done to acclimate in the weeks prior, it didn't seem to be helping AT ALL.  I tried to cool myself with water and ice, nope, nothing seemed to be reliving the issues.  I decided I would just focus on other things OTHER than how I felt and make it back to that canal. 

When I finally did, it was exciting to look for Kyle and the crowd support during the section was just awesome.  It really carried you!  I also could see just how close Jennie, my QT2 teammate, was getting at that point.  She REALLY looked good so I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me if I were to hold her off (which didn't happen because she had a stellar run and me, not so much, but I am so happy to see all her hard work pay off!). 

Just then my biker (David) pulled over and yelled something about a brake locking up!  UGH!   As we left town, my spirits were dropping quickly and the reality of TWO MORE LOOPS was setting in.  I saw Sonja right before I headed back out and she told me keep my nose to the grindstone because they were coming.  She was SO awesome throughout the day.  Thank you girl.  You knew JUST what to say!

Photo Credit: Jon Walk

Honestly, there’s not much to say about the next two loops except I’ve never had to dig so deep mentally for every single mile.  When Jennie passed me, I had absolutely no reaction to go with her at all.  I was literally running as hard as I could muster.  Everything hurt.  There were so many times I had to talk myself into staying in that race vs. just laying down along the side of the road it wasn’t even funny.  I sung songs, I prayed, I thought about my family and friends (Steph) and somehow, someway, I gutted it out for the next 18 miles on nothing but sheer will and determination (because my body wanted NO part of that run that day).  There was no more time checking or pace checking.  “JUST KEEP MOVING!” I told myself over and over.  

Somewhere around 24 miles, the thought finally entered my mind that I might actually make it to that finish line in third and David had come back around mile 22 so I was in the canal where the age group athletes and spectators were really cheering their heads off.  There was one tunnel where when I went through people were cheering so loud I literally couldn’t feel the pain for a few seconds and THAT was a real blessing.  I started feeling like I was being carried by some unknown force.  It still hurt, but it was like I was outside my own body looking down on myself! Somehow, someway, I think I was going to make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I chose “FINISH CHUTE” over lap 2 or 3, I finally saw my coach.  I cracked a slight smile, slapped him a high five and allowed myself to revel in it for just a minute.  This was it, I was going to finish in THIRD for the last podium spot at Ironman Texas.  That finish line couldn’t come soon enough and the moments that followed were something of a blurr as I heard the echo of Mike Reilly announcing I would be coming over the line.  It was completely surreal and even more than I hoped it would be!!  My body was so incredibly spent and I had just pushed it beyond what I even knew it was capable of doing!

Photo Credit: 

As you’ll see in the video, I lasted for about 30 seconds of celebrating before the signals to “shut down the engines” finally took over and I collapsed into the arms of the amazing volunteers. 
It was an experience that will live for me forever and that no amount of time can take away.  I didn’t win (Rachel did, handily I might add – AWESOME, awesome race to her), but it sure felt good to have it all come together like that. Hats off to everyone who competed in that heat.  It was truly one of my toughest days yet and I loved hearing the stories of each person's day afterward.  If you made it to that finish line, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN and you should be so proud.  Exceptional job to my female professional competitors as well.  You each inspire me to be better, push harder and never ever give in!  

The POST RACE ARTICLE on is pretty cool if you want to check it out.  I also had my first ever post race interview (below) with the media which was really neat.

I can’t thank all of you who reached out enough.  It was really overwhelming to feel your caring and happiness for me!!  It really made the whole experience that much more special.

Our homestay in Texas was one of the other experiences I really enjoyed.  Getting to know Brian and Julie and their kids Maddox (8 yrs) and Dorian (2 yrs) was such a joy.  They asked me what time I thought I might do on Saturday if I had a good day and I told them.  I get home after a few chores on Friday only to find they made me this AWESOME sign with my name and possible time on it!! It was SO very special.  I really did think about it out there!  Thanks to them for hosting Kyle and I and being so thoughtful!  I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To Kyle, you knew exactly what to say during that run and I needed you so badly.  Thank you for being there for me every day and there is no one else I could share this experience with but you.  You’re everything to me!!

To my Coach Jesse, you have brought me every step of where I am today.  I’m forever grateful for your time, attention, caring, motivation and support. 

Thank you to my sponsors who help make this possible by providing me with great products and services – Rudy Project, QT2 Systems, Powerbar, FuelBelt, Top Gear Bicycle, NormaTec and my agent Andres with BeyondAero.

WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Thank you for believing in me!!  On to the next one!!


Jennifer Harrison said...

REALLY impressive race, KIM! HUGE CONGRATS to you!

And, 9.5 bottles - YES! In that heat, I beat most of the racers were WAY dehydrated! I drank 12 in Kona one year!

ENJOY your accomplishment!

Beth said...

Loved hearing all about your day (again)! :) Most of all, I just love to see hard work pay off. Congrats on a job well done over and over again!

Katie said...

Reading this gave me chills. You had such an amazing day out there, and your appreciation and humbleness has really shown through with both your media interview and your race report. Congrats again, you are SO deserving of this & very inspiring!

Alison said...

Congrats! What a great day and a well deserved race!

Kamden Hoffmann said...

Amazing, just amazing. Your dreams are only an action away as I say - you are certainly taking action :) so happy to see you excel in something you love - and inspire others to do so as well!

Anonymous said...

Proud of your HEART and your HARD WORK. Great job...and so wonderful to share your joy!

Damie said...

Congrats, Kim! Awesome job, and glad you were rewarded for your hard work :)

Verona said...

This is cool!