After Wildflower this year, I was wisely cut off from any other racing this spring in order to focus on ironman training. As I posted previously, this training block was full of..uh....lots of training and little of anything else besides my day job. Thankfully, I arrived at the start line healthy and ready to race, both mentally and physically.
During race week we stayed a bit outside the M-dot mayhem at a condo with the most popular man in Lafayette – John Fell – and his awesome girlfriend and family, along with a guest appearance by Jacqui Gordon. Rather than expose myself to the testosterone nerve fest of the expo, I hibernated in the condo along with Jacqui and endured Pataky and Fell arguing incessantly over whether (insert popular American cyclist) dopes. Fell made a brilliant argument and I think perhaps Pataky (FOR ONCE IN HIS LIFE) was persuaded to agree with Fell.
Race morning was typical. I attempted to choke down some food and was quite unsuccessful. Perhaps I’ll try an IV next time. (Note: anyone have any suggestions on how to force down food?) After setting up and applying a gallon of sunscreen, Matt helped me with my wetsuit (by ripping the knee) and I attempted to get in a quick warmup swim.
The swim start was crazy rough, but perhaps this was my fault as I aligned myself with a group of men. I don’t particularly like starting with the pro men for a variety of reasons. Everyone took off…but me…again, although this time I did manage to stay in a small group with Haley Cooper, Jacqui, and a couple male pros. Seeing that my first swim loop was glacially slow, we were joined in the second loop by the fastest age groupers, who I think perhaps thought that they had entered a wrestling match, rather than a triathlon. I mean, is it really necessary to PUNCH me? Repeatedly? REALLY??
Working on not thinking about the swim....
I got out of the water and wisely decided not to look at my swim split. I had hours ahead of me and one goal of mine for this race was to leave the swim at T1.On the bike I tried to keep myself in a specific power range. I knew I’d be alone most of the course and just tried to focus on the watts and eating a gel every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the first gel I ate ended up all over my shifters, so I spent 111 miles being annoyed at the sticky mess. That aside, I successfully ate and drank my way through 112 miles, but only passed about 2 girls in the process. I knew there were hundreds of girls ahead of me, but once again, I reminded myself that the race was not over.
I jumped off my bike at transition and realized quickly that I could not stand up straight…worst nightmare scenario. After hobbling over to the change tent like a 90 year old with a walker, I managed to stretch it out and jumped onto the run course. (special thanks to my pilates instructor who showed me a move that suspiciously resembles a pelvic thrust to deal with such a back issue).
Now…onto the run… I knew going into this race that I was capable of running faster or more consistently than I’ve ever run before. I was ready to prove this and set out on the run course reminding myself that all I needed to do was keep it together. Pataky was very helpful with his Yoda t-shirt and loud cheering voice. I’d see him every now and then pop up on random parts of the course yelling at me and telling me my pace via ironmanlive stats.
Towards the end of the first loop I started slogging along a bit, but the push through town after the first loop helped to get the momentum going again. I also read a scrolling message somewhere along the first loop that said “perfect run Lauren,” which became my mantra and reminded me that I would feel MUCH better after this race if I did have a relatively good run, then if I faded into oblivion. (thank you anonymous person who posted that message)
I felt stronger on the second loop and just tried to stay in the moment. I wasn’t sure where I was in the standings so I just tried to focus on the fact that I was 1) not crying like a baby and 2) not blowing up. Around mile 25 I rolled past Pataky and he threw down the “you better hurry up” line which I knew meant that I was dangerously close to the 10 hour time…..that, or I was about to get passed with like a mile to go, which conjured up nightmare images of IMC 2009. Rather than telling him to STFU, I tried to channel my energy into moving faster.
My goal was to break 10 hours. Unfortunately, somebody put a slight hill in the course somewhere around miles 24-25 and I had nothing left. I turned onto the main drag…which seemed to stretch forever….and the only thing I really remember was Pataky screaming that I had 90 seconds to break 10 hours. I also remember my friend Christophe telling me that the finish line at this race is all downhill. Lies…I tell you…LIES! I sprinted as fast as my Gatorade and powergel –laden body would let me. Unfortunately, I saw the clock strike ten about 16.0001 seconds before I arrived at the finish line and collapsed onto some poor man.
While I didn’t make my time goal for the day, I was happy with my 7th place performance, new iron distance PR, and the fact that I’d shed close to 25 minutes off my previous irondistance run split. I have much more work to do, but am happy to see progress and excited by the challenge to keep shaving time. Most importantly, I am learning not to quit until the finish line…something that I first experienced in New Orleans. As I’ve mentioned before, the mental game in triathlon is huge. I might as well stay home if I have any doubts about myself or my fitness. I’ve learned this lesson in many painful ways, and am sure I’ll be reminded of it in the future! Thanks to my coach who made me run, Pataky - my better half, and Darrell at Front of the Pack, who endured multiple encounters with me and my powermeter. Now…back to the pool, as I have a new race schedule on the horizon.
Post race dinner at Outback Steakhouse with the Fells and Jacqui....
Late night finish line....