Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IM Loo Race Report

Now that I’m a few days removed from the Ironman Louisville race, and have talked out much of it with insightful friends and family, I am hoping to be able to write an objective race report. We’ll see how it ends up!

First, the good news is that I finished and am now an Irongirl x2 (I think I have now tied Uncle Ron [Ironman] and Mom for that distinction). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a Kona slot and didn’t finish even close to my 12-hour goal. But I do have a good tale from the race (story below) and did learn quite a bit (incorporated in the story below).

I met a few great people at the events leading up to the race. In casual conversation (and what I heard while eavesdropping), everyone mentioned that IM Loo was better and faster than IMoo. I think at that point I got my hopes up even more going into the race, because I thought I could get a better personal record (PR) than I had planned. I was still going to stick with my original time goals but aim for faster. Every leg (minus the transitions) was slower for me this year (swim: 4 minutes; bike: 20 minutes; run: 36 minutes). First lesson learned: Don’t listen to other people’s race reports!

The swim was actually very nice, with a time-trial start and everyone spread out. I wasn’t worried about getting kicked or losing my goggles or time chip, so I swam at what I thought was a good pace. After the turn, I got out in no-man’s land and couldn’t find anyone to draft off of. It took me quite a while to get back into to the pack, but other than being really hungry before I even finished, I felt great.

Getting out of the nasty Ohio River...gross! The white on my shirt was no longer white.

Second and third lessons learned: eat more for breakfast or eat later, and stay with other people on the swim! I went into a quick transition and headed out to the bike.

On the road...it was a hilly, hot course, but very pretty!

The temperature rose to between 93–99 degrees with 65% humidity, and I think just knowing that made me feel like I should go slower than I could have, even though I still tried to keep a good pace. I got passed by a few pro men on the first of two 25-mile loops and also by a few pro women. Mom’s friend Bree passed me, so I got to cheer for her as she whizzed by, and Heather (last year’s winner) also passed me while she was riding on a broken spoke. It was rather amusing listening to her ask at every aid station for tech support. I heard she ended up getting no help and finished the last 30 miles on that wheel (and still ended up in 2nd place). Besides that I dropped a chain at mile 75 and actually had to get off my bike to get it back on, the bike leg was fairly uneventful. Windy and hot through La Grange, but we pretty much had the wind at our backs for the last 25–30 miles.

T2 was slightly longer, but I knew that if I could run a 4-hour marathon I could still finish under 12 hours. However, I started to feel the heat and couldn’t take in full breaths, so I walked for a few miles. Since I wasn’t the only one walking, I found some people to talk to and plenty of others to cheer for, and the first 2.5 miles went quickly. Then the trouble began. I ran past where I had parked my car that morning (on the street in front of a meter; the meter did not have a No Parking Sunday sign, and I was also parked in front of another car). Much to my surprise, I my car was nowhere to be seen. Since police were out there directing traffic, I asked the first one I saw if they were going to be out there all night. He said yes, and I said, “Good, because my car is missing.” He didn’t quite know how to react, but I just continued on.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make my goal based on my past miles’ times. I was frustrated and worried about my car and didn’t push myself. But I continued on, talking to more walkers and cheering for more runners. At the halfway mark, we turned around near the finish line and headed back out for one more loop. At that point, we ran past my missing car again, I looked in every parking lot I could see, I couldn’t see my car, and I couldn’t forget about it. I think I just forgot that God had me sheltered under His wing and I was worried about what I was going to do. The last thing I wanted to deal with after having been out on the road for hours (at that point I’d hit about the 11:30 mark) was finding my car, which I was convinced had been towed, impounded, ticketed, and as far away as possible (although it’s evident by my license plate and stickers that I am a triathlete and I was really praying that they’d have mercy on me). For the rest of the marathon, I pretty much just delayed the inevitable, so mentally frustrated that I didn’t physically push myself at all, even though I knew that I could have.

I finally finished, in 13:46, and pretty much started crying as soon as I crossed the line. I knew only 2 people there, one who I was sure I wouldn’t see and a teammate who I thought there might have been a chance I’d see. I did not want to have to deal with my car alone, didn’t have a cell phone, ID, anything (it was all in my car—imagine that!). Well, my teammate WAS there (God’s provision, I know). I asked her to walk with me toward where I had parked and we found the nearest officer. She couldn’t believe I was so worried about my car after just finishing an Ironman, but it had been the only thing I could think of. I know I wasn’t focused on the race at all, and that frustrates me, because I could have done better. But it’s over now. So we told the officer my car was gone. When I told him what kind of car I drive, he said, “Oh, is it the blue one or the white one.” You can imagine the relief that washed over me at that point. He said it was in their police station parking lot—they had moved it off the road because we were running on it. My teammate went to check to make sure they hadn’t given me a ticket or anything, and then we headed back to the finish line where I got some food and a much-needed massage.

So in the end, all was well and I had blown everything out of proportion. So lessons learned?

4) I didn’t push myself physically when was mentally exhausted and unfocused.
Solution: Rely on God to have everything under control, and focus on the race. Take care of whatever isn’t race-related after the race. Basically, work harder even when I don’t feel like it.
5) Don’t park where the race route is. I looked again and the meter STILL wasn’t marked (although the one the other car had parked in front of was, but I wouldn’t have been able to see it when I parked).
Solution: Study the race course and park far from it.
6) Have someone with me who can drive me so I don’t have to worry about it!

So, even after all that, I still finished and got my medal. However, 26th in my age group was not good enough for a Kona slot. Maybe I should hire a psychologist to help me get my mental game ready! Or, maybe I’ll just work harder for the next one and rely on my trainer and his insight. Or maybe both would do me well. Whatever I do, focus (or lack thereof) was definitely my downfall in this race.

Seriously, though, thanks to all who offered support and encouragement and gentle (or not-so-gentle) prodding to succeed, and I hope you have more in you for another year—I signed up for IM Loo again next year so that I can conquer the course.

Other than that drama, I’ve had a fairly normal summer. Did a few races, including a marathon, road bike races (I won one and will finish in the top 10 Cat IV females in Tennessee), criteriums (I won the local weekly series and have a traveling tiara to prove it), triathlons, visited one sister in NY, got to be in the other sister’s wedding in WI, made a new friend/running partner who promptly moved away (the story of my life), did our church’s version of CBS’s Amazing Race, and generally had a fantastic last few months.

IMx2. Note the further evidence of the dirty Ohio River.

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