I haven't even been able to get near my computer let alone write my race report because my family arrived in town the day I got back to San Diego from Ironman! We had a fabulous time with them--but that is another post and picture adventure for later this week!! Right now it's "race report time."
THIS IS LONG. You have been warned.
Friday: I didn't get in my swim on Thursday, so I got up Friday and drove to the gorgeous McDowell Ranch pool in Scottsdale. Only to realize I had no cash and they don't take plastic for entry...ugh. Thankfully the girl let me in for free. A 20 minute swim was all I could stomach before I wanted to jump out!
I had lunch with some of the girls from San Diego in downtown Tempe and it was really great to do a pre-race chat and chill with them...I was staying out in Scottsdale so I didn't really see them the rest of the weekend, which I was bummed about--but, I was staying out in Scottsdale so, it was fun to visit with my family and I knew I would catch up with the girls at some point! I then went and checked myself in---I remember thinking as I got on the scale for the weigh in "great, I am post-lunch and it's mid afternoon"...and I weighed about a half a pound heavier than Florida....I know, all of you eye rollers out there are thinking "whatever, she has *nothing* to worry about," but whatever......my friend Jena and I have this theory--no matter WHAT size you are---very few of us are ever completely 100% happy with the way we look! For what it's worth, I felt a LOT fitter and slimmer than last year and I know I raced harder! After check in, I swung by Trader Joe's picked up some food for race day and then picked up my sister Trinette from the airport. It was....so.....good....to see her! I felt much better picking her up and knowing she was with me for the weekend! We had coordinated to have dinner with Amanda and met up with her in Tempe at a pizza/wine bar place.....I thought they would have healthy-ish pizza's and they did, except I picked one that was WAY too spicy. So, Trinette did what any good Sherpa would do-she switched pizzas with me!! So awesome, so she kind of picked at the spicy one and I chowed down on procuitto/pepperoni. YUM! It was really fun sitting and chatting with Amanda and Trinette about everything from triathlon to life, it was a fun night!
Saturday: I set my alarm for 7:00, as I was meeting Amanda at 8:30 to warm up in Tempe.....one thing led to another, I couldn't find my keys, left......then, realized I forgot my wallet..had to drive back. I felt nervous this morning, I had had a bad dream about not being able to find transition and not being able to find my bags, I was just really anxious by the time I saw Amanda.
I was late meeting Amanda and finally, I met up with her and I was waiting in line at a mechanic to have my disc wheel changed out because we realized it would be too windy for a disc. Amanda came and found me and yanked me out of line and took me over to a friend of hers who swapped out my wheel in no time. Next was the fun part--rearranging my "flat kit" for my new wheel set up. Amanda wouldn't have me having any sloppy set up, so we sat and, well...wait, actually she sat *me* down and showed me how to wrap up everything and put it in a water bottle (which I didn't have, so she had to cut her own water bottle and stuff everything in!)...and of course her water bottle had a touch of pink on it =0, and I proudly carried it on my bike on race day! We got all arranged and then hung out a bit and Michael, Amanda's husband came over and offered to ride with us!
This was super cool, cycling the run course for the race with Amanda and Michael was super awesome...Michael was pointing out the bouey's and how they were lined up not exactly in a straight line and just pointing out a good route for the swim portion. The cute part was--he realized I couldn't really hear him very well while we were riding, so he would stop every so often so that I could read his lips and so that I was actually able to hear him explain the run course, or what to expect during the race! It's probably the *only* time I could ever keep up on a bike with Michael and Amanda! We got back to transition and Amanda had me do a ten minute run with her...and I was feeling *awesome* on the run. I did some quick surges on the warm up and I was hitting a sub 7:00 pace for a few surges and I was THRILLED to have my legs feel so great. I was hoping this would bring good things on race day!
I wrapped up with Team Lovato and drove back to the house....Trinette, Dave's dad and I went and grabbed lunch and then Trinette and I got pedicures!! I had to find something that would force me to stay off my feet, otherwise I'd be walking around etc, so the pedicure was a good way to relax even though the lady looked at me like I was nuts when I told her "no scraper, leave the callouses."
Dave got "fogged" in in San Diego, so instead of arriving at 10:45 a.m., he landed about 3:00 ....it was ok though, Trinette Sherpa kept me calm and ready to go! I don't like much down time before races, because it gives my stomach time to churn =0
We relaxed for the rest of the day and then dinner time came and we had my two awesome friends from my book club come for dinner--Erin and Jackie! Jackie is doing Ironman New Zealand and Erin just signed up for Arizona next year. It's kind of funny because we didn't meet through triathlon, we met through book club, so it's just fun to have common interests! Amanda and Michael came over for dinner as well and we got all caught up on everything from books to Michael and I having the same GI issues and Trinette taking everyone on a trip down memory lane with all things regarding of how wonderful I was while I was growing up =0. We chowed on some chicken, couscous and bread and everyone ate salad, but I don't eat vegetables the night before, so I just had some good ole carbs and protein! It was so funny because it was a slightly random mix of people, but everyone had thoughts to contribute, stories to tell and it was such a cool group and Dave's parents are always super generous in hosting and having everything be awesome for guests and it was a really fun night!
Everyone left around 9:00 and we were all headed to bed when Brieanna, Bella and Austin arrived from California, so we said a quick hello to them, gave them the game plan for race day and headed to bed about 10:00.
Sunday -I kind of had a hard time falling asleep, but I think I fell asleep around 11:00 and woke up at 4:00. I didn't mind the lack of sleep the night before because all week I had been sleeping solidly. Kind of like when you have to get up to catch an early flight, you just do it. The hardest part of pre-race....is eating. Taking in 700 calories of yogurt, banana and oatmeal is *not* easy at 4:00 a.m. Dave woke me up and I sat there in bed and ate my breakfast. Got dressed, got Trinette and Dave and we were out the door.
I get to transition and I realized I forgot to grab the pump out of the car, mistake #1, but I borrowed someone else's to pump up my tires. I have to say, as disappointed as I was that I couldn't use the cool disc, mentally, I was feeling confident to have my race own wheels all set and ready to go. Then, I go to body marking.
Me to the body marker: #2137
Him: #2317......writes it on my arm. Realizes he makes a mistake. Crosses it out, smudges it in my skin with a SHARPIE. "sorry," he says.
Me: THREE ZERO
Him: looking at me incredulously as if to say "I KNOW what 30 looks like"
Me: thinking to myself "dude, you're 0-1 already."
I run over to special needs, drop off my bike special needs bag and run bag. By the way---Dave's mom and Trinette have decided "special needs," needs a new name....they think it implies that we all have "special needs," we decided on "crap bag" =0. It gave them a good laugh. Trinette "Special WHAT?"......why do they call it "special needs," why not "Feed bag," or something?? It was funny.
I realized I forgot to put my Garmin and my sunglasses in my swim-bike bag....Ugh..run back over there and I CAN'T FIND MY swim-bike bag in transition. (this is the bag the volunteers hand you as you run out of the swim and into the tent to get on the bike). I panicked, my dream was coming true, I couldn't find the bag. A volunteer goes "Oh, you know, odds on the left, evens on the right," Phewph. Bag Found.
Now it was bathroom (success!) and wetsuit time....Trinette was shivering, Dave was shivering..I was sweating. I was supposed to run for five minutes to shake off nerves and warm up, Amanda said it would help with the shock of the water....and ya know, as sweat lined my forehead at 6:45 a.m....I realized I had warmed up running around. I handed my stuff off to Trinette and I headed over to the swim start coral.
Swim: 1:02-We all jumped in the water and had to swim over to the start line. We had to get in the water at 6:50, and tread water for 10 minutes. Luckily, I saw people were sitting on the edge of the wall, so I swam over to sit because I didnt' want to waste energy treading. So, I sat. You make awkward conversation with people.
I slithered back into the water and THEN the National Anthem started. Ya know, i'm as patriotic as the next person, but I tell you when the water temperature hovers around 59-63 degrees and you're about to swim 2.4 miles, the National Anthem is about the *last* thing I want sit around for. Had it been before I got in the water......but, not when i've been shivering and about to throw up from nervousness.
Treaded some more, positioned myself close to the wall and about a few heads back, but for the most part, right up front. My goal was to go hard and fight to stay up front, I didn't want to get sucked into the back of the pack.
Cannon goes off and it's like a washing machine, people kicking to move forward, me realizing that the person behind me could very well swim right over my head, the person next to me swimming with arms like a windmill, me just trying my hardest to swim forward, choking a little on water and I gasped a little and told myself "JUST PUSH."
And push, I did.....I would say about 1000 meters into the swim things fan out a little, you find your own space for the most part. For the most part: until you are surrounded by a sea of men who swim the wrong line so you can't draft, or a guy who keeps swimming sideways, so even if you try to swim straight he keeps hitting you because he's swimming crooked. And.....I'm sure I swam a bit crooked as well! I say "men," because I didn't see any...pink caps around me at all and all the men were in blue caps, women in pink.
I tried at one point to break away from a guy who was repeatedly swimming next to me (I know, sounds crazy right, of course he was swimming next to me, but I just wanted him GONE) so I kicked really hard and my left leg shot into a cramp. Crap.....so, I stopped for a split second to straighten my leg to get rid of the cramp. I didn't know if it was cold or dehydration, but I knew I had to rely upon my pulling skills for a while and let my leg calm down.
I rounded the corner of the last bouey and I got excited...I felt like I had had a fast swim and I was absolutely thrilled when I saw 1:02 on the clock. I finished faster than I did in Florida and I actually don't think I was as tired when I got out of the water.
Transition time: 6:00 min. You know, I think I spent two minutes running to get my bag and I didn't spend much time in the tent, but then when I grabbed my bike, there was grass all over my sunglasses so I had to stop and use a volunteers t-shirt to wipe them off since I was still soaking wet.
Bike: 5:30-I started on the bike and my legs felt dead. I knew this may have been from the cold so I chugged two salt tablets to see if I could losen them up. Amanda said anytime she had a twinge salt usually helped and I figured this was one of those times. I spent the first 20 miles of the bike pushing hard and trying to get my legs moving. The bike course is NOT flat! Florida was flat, Arizona is mostly flat, but there is a 10 mile slow incline..it isn't a "climb," but it'll slow you down enough from 20 to 15 mph.
Lap 1--worked on feeling a groove
Lap 2--felt awesome until Mile 70--a muscle that I had slightly tweaked in one of my last rides started to bother me. It's more or less a butt muscle near my hip, so everytime I pushed down, it absolutely killed. I tried to push with my left leg and pull up with my right.
Lap 3-I was very worried that I wouldn't be able to maintain my pace and be able to do that last "climb" on Bee Line Highway. My legs felt *awesome*, but I wanted to push harder, but my muscle was excruciatingly painful.
I actually had to come out of my aero position for quite a few miles because it hurt so badly to climb in aero, but when I stood up a little, it didn't hurt. I wanted to push harder because I had a LOT of energy but the pain was a little much. I actually started to fear that my day was over, what *if* I couldn't run? I tried to put it out of my mind and focus on finishing the bike.
I wrapped up the bike and felt great--my stomach was feeling full, but I figured it needed to settle in the run. I loved the bike course, I had a great ride (minus the pain) and I was thrilled with my time!
As soon as I hopped off my bike, my hip twinged a little, and I ran a bit and realized it didn't bother me while I ran, PHEWPH. I thought maybe I would be ok for the run!!!!
Transition-3:30min. It's funny, I ran into transition and the volunteer was like the Spanish Inquisition, "have you peed," "are you feeling ok?" And i'm thinking "what on earth? I feel awesome, why is she asking me these questions." I was wondering if I was doing really well because there weren't too many people in the tent. Anyway, I dawdled long enough and ran out.
Run-4:09 Immediately after leaving transition, within my first few steps, I felt it, my stomach was full. I went into "FIX IT NOW" mode.
I knew I had taken in enough water, but was still thirsty. My friend Shannon had warned me to watch my liquid intake because people tend to do that in Arizona, take in too much water due to dryness. Well, I needed to fix it. So, i'm running and immediately I see my family while i'm trying to already figure out what is going on with my stomach. I decided not to waste time yelling to Amanda that I was already having issues, I would try to figure it out and fix it and I would yell later if I needed help!
I saw my family immediately and Amanda and they were going NUTS. Dave yelled out "you're doing awesome, be patient," Patient? What does he mean? So, i'm running along and I realize from the volunteer's attitude and Dave's comment and my family that I must be doing pretty well.
I thought to myself "I wish I felt "well," and I wish I felt fast." My first mile was an 8:17....and immediately upon finishing the first mile I stopped at the porto potty thinking that would help. It didn't. I knew I had to stop drinking and just try to get my stomach to stop feeling full.
I was actually thankful at this point because my legs felt AWESOME and I had no UPSET stomach....just a full stomach. Oh no, I had NOT done endless track workouts, ice baths, hot runs, long runs, flat runs, hilly runs to have my fitness take a backseat to some stupid full stomach issue. I felt nauseous...should I make myself throw up? If I throw up, I'll lose all my nutrition, so I decided against that. I should have made myself sick....I think it would have helped (hindsight is 20/20 right?). My heart was sinking and I was already getting upset about a shitty run, but it's Ironman and my job as an athlete was to fix what was going wrong.
I threw away my water bottle (little did I know Amanda was hoping I would throw it out!).......she was on the phone with Michael trying to get some thoughts on how I could fix my issue......
I turned the corner at mile 7 or 8 and I saw, out of the blue....Dave and Amanda. I almost cried right there, I was SO excited they had run over the bridge (people, they must have sprinted because it's NOT close where they were to when I had seen them last)........I shouted to Amanda my issue, she said get back to basics, stick to salt and/or sugar. The next mile, I took in half a cookie and water. YUM. It tasted way better than the one shot blok I tried to force myself to eat.
I threw my entire bag of shot bloks out, I was sticking to race course food.
The next time I saw Dave and Amanda, he shouted something about avoiding food, but I didn't realize that A: it was SPECIFICALLY to avoid food for two miles and the advice was from Michael and so it kind of got garbled in my head.
So, what was I thinking during all of this? First of all, I was so moved by my sister and Erin and Jackie who had been running all over the place with their little signs and cheering me on. I swore I had seen Trinette tear up when I told her I wasn't feeling great (she told me later she teared up every time she saw me, she just didn't want me to hurt!).......secondly I was so incredibly thankful for Dave and Amanda running all over, coordinating with advice and just cheering me on. Their support made me push harder.
I felt this way in Florida, I actually don't remember specific miles if you can believe that...I remember "loops" so, I had three loops. The first one I tried to figure out what was up.....the second I put the plan into action and tried my hardest to push with my stomach. My stomach got a bit better, the nausea went away but at that point, I just couldn't push with that feeling in my stomach which was incredibly disappointing because my legs actually felt pretty good.
What else I remember?
Mile 13 I think? There was a group of supporters who had seen my Splish "Deaf Athlete" top and so when I came through-----they announced me and the crowd all raised their arms and did the Deaf "clap" you know when they all raise their hands to show their support and "clap!??" .....wow....that was truly amazing, it's like I can't even find those people and thank them (so if you were one of them THANK YOU!!)......truly amazing.
Somewhere in loop two, I finally asked Dave.."do you know where I am in my age group?" he said "you really want to know??" I said "yes," he said "you were in third off the bike, you have a girl who is two minutes ahead of you." I had a lump in my throat. Wow......i'm going to try really hard to push and find my legs. I wanted it...bad.
Mile 24 I think? I saw Trinette and Erin and I told them thank you so much and Trinette said "GO, you can push Meri, DO IT." I told her I wanted to break 11:00 but I wasn't sure. She told me it was close and she pushed her fingers together to show me it was close..........
I remember girls in my age group passing me and thinking "god, I just wish my stomach would go away so I can use my legs," but I was going my best with what I had at that moment. I literally would get pissed when someone would pass me, but I couldn't catch them, and I knew I had lost quite a few positions in placing, but I was still having by all means a great race!!!
I pictured her fingers closing to indicate it was going to be close for me to break 11:00......I knew I couldn't sprint two miles, but I asked myself if I could sprint the last mile and I knew I could...my heart felt heavy, I knew I wasn't having the run I trained for. I knew I wasn't going to break four hours for the marathon and that made me......really really mad. I was angry and I was annoyed, but it's still my Ironman, I still owe it to myself to see how hard I could push. So, I that silly little quote about the little girl inside me who fell in love with the sport--I thought of that quote and my eyes teared up, "do it for her," and I just went for it.
I was flying past people, people were cheering and in the last section of the race, a girl who was 22 and I were neck and neck and I looked back later at my Garmin and I averaged an 8:27 pace for the last mile, but the funniest part was, I clocked a 6:00 something pace at one point and I was doing a mini track workout with the 22-year-old girl next to me for about 100 yards. I couldn't maintain that pace, but I managed to sprint around the corner. I STILL COULDN'T see my time. GRRRRR. I pushed harder, I rounded the corner and I saw Brieanna and Jackie and I flew.
The finishing chute was crazy. I saw some hands, but I saw the crowd up ahead and the finishing area was crowded, but I didn't want to slow down....at all......I looked up and saw 10:51 and I felt my eyes welling....then my brain: now is NOT the time for emotions...go harder! I ran across and I saw Dave and Amanda and Michael immediately (they had gotten Dave a special VIP pass so he could put my medal around my neck!).....and they were saying "do you need medical?" And asking questions and I just needed a second to ....catch my breath! We took pictures, we recapped, we got excited, we looked at stats and you know........I was really really happy.
Happy to have Dave put my medal on, happy to be able to give my big sister a hug and share that moment with her and hearing her say how proud of me she is---my big sister proud of ME! I was happy to be able to give my coach a hug and share that moment with her----all our hard work with talks, schedules, plans, thoughts, drive, ambition......it all came together. I loved taking pictures afterwards with my friends and family and just sharing that moment.
There was a moment I had this time, that I didn't have in Florida. Sadness. Just before we walked out of the finishers area, I stopped Dave and I told him about the quote that pushed me in the end, cheesy at it was----it pushed me and tears just flowed. I didn't cry last year, but this year I did. Probably because I not only worked so hard, but I know it's my last Ironman for a while and I absolutely LOVED the moment of finishing, it is SO much fun and you do want to re-live it because it's kind of magical and cool!
What an adventure!! I was able to meet my goal of going sub-11:00.......and I know that Ironman is on the shelf for a while now, but as I was explaining to Trinette and Amanda, even in the most perfect of races-----there is always room for improvement and Ironman is just that---you always work to see how you can improve and you think "ok, now that I know XXX, I can use that next time." I love that Ironman is hard and that it takes a long time to fix and improve something. I definitely will do another, just not next year =0.
I know I had a great, absolutely fantastic race and i'm truly truly satisfied with how I did...but, I also know with some tweaking I can improve even more..and that is the magic of Ironman and sports in general!
Some other thoughts, I did go to the Ironman Hawaii roll down the next day--but all four slots in my age group had been taken. I finished 10th so I knew it probably wouldn't roll down that far, but I just had to go, just to make sure.
I did some analysis obviously after the race and what was really cool for me was to see that my hopes of someday doing Hawaii weren't/aren't all that unrealistic. My times for the swim and bike were close to everyone who had qualified and if I had run the way I had hoped---8:30/8:45 pace.....I could have qualified. It's almost a sense of peace in knowing that yeah-----a little more hard work in a few years, maybe I can get there! I like that it is an attainable goal and it isn't an unrealistic expectation.
For now.....i'm power walking =0, i'll start up swimming again tomorrow and i'm going to get my muscle looked at, as it is still bothering me.
Ironman is amazing.....I always say the training sucks.....but the finish is absolutely worth it!!!