Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Ironman Florida Race Report

Linda Kay Richards, From Toronto Canada ... You ... Are ... An Ironman!

Overall Time: 12:10:36, 25th in age group, 861 overall
Swim: 1:17:17
Bike: 5:48:32
Run: 4:50:47

If you want to read about the days leading up to the race you can check out The Days Leading up to Ironman Florida 2012.  But this post is going to start early in the morning on Saturday November 3rd.

As usual, I didn't sleep much the night before.  Added to the normal pre-race jitters was my head full of snot thanks to my sinus infection.  I got up at around 2:30 and drank about 8oz of a Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Chocolate shake and then again at 3:30.  I had only planned on getting up once to get some fuel but since I wasn't sleeping I figured it couldn't hurt to get a little more digested before the race.

I finally got out of bed just before 5 and started my normal race morning routine.  Coffee, toast with peanut butter and water with NUUN and bathroom visits.  I wasn't hungry and I felt pretty good.  Everything went smoothly as I packed up my special needs bags ( Bike Special Needs: 3 bottles of nutrition, cliff bar, bag of salt pills and 5 hour energy drink. Run Special Needs: Dry socks, Afrin, 5 hour Energy drink, KT tape, jolly ranchers candies) and my transition backpack with my wetsuit, goggles, earplugs, sunscreen and bike nutrition.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous
We left the condo around 5:30.  I remember just walking away, leaving Barry and Carole to close up the condo and Griffin following me starting his day's duty of photographing the event.  It was dark, warm and humid.  And I was nervous.

It was only about a 7 minute walk to the race site.  I was alone, surrounded by many.  It was like any other race morning only times a million!  I easily found a volunteer to body mark me (with my usual question of "do you have neat writing?"), then I was off to put my fuel on my bike, drop a few last minute things into my bike and run gear bags and then back out of transition to drop off special needs bags.  I wished I had a headlamp as it was very dark in transition!

body marking didn't last through sunscreen and sweat!
I remember hearing the announcement that transition was closed and all athletes were to report to the beach.  I was being encouraged to walk through an athletes only area so I gave my last good byes to Barry, Carole and Griffin and walked away.  Turns out I should have just walked with them as was never able to find them again once I got to the beach.  I passed a water station on my way to the beach so I downed my first GU of the day along with a ONZA and gulped some water out of a gallon jug as there were no cups.

I nervously waited on top to the dune scanning the crowds for any sign of Barry, or my folks, my kids ... anyone I might know.  I was alone but in hindsight it was probably good though at the time I really wanted to see my family before I stared the long day ahead.  The Pros went off, the anthem was sung and then it was go time.  I made my way toward the middle, out to the right (current was going right to left), and took some big breaths.  2,500+ of us started walking into the water and then before I knew it "BOOM", the cannon singled the start of my first Ironman.

I'm in there somewhere for sure
The waves were breaking quite large and I got frustrated that we were in waist deep water and we were still walking.  The waves would hit and we would come to a standstill.  I finally made my move and dove under the next wave coming my way and started swimming.  I was swimming head up front crawl because I had to look out for the breaking waves and for other athletes.

It was MENTAL - photos just don't do it justice - it's was a washing machine of bodies.  I was hit in the heat and grabbed a few times.  I obviously seeded myself too far back as I was never swam over but I swam over/around a lot of people.  The first stretch out to the turn buoy went very fast and before I knew it I was caught up in the turn.  I don't understand why people stop at the turn buoy and tread water or breast stroke.  I remember yelling out "just turn and go people, turn and go".  The back stretch was swimming with the current so the second turn buoy came quick.  I finally found some clear water and settled into a nice stroke.  I kept thinking how proud Kyle (my swim coach) would be as I reached, pulled and pushed with great efficiency.  The swim to shore seemed to take forever.  Again, I was frustrated as folks stopping and walking in waist deep water.  I swam and rode the waves in until I could no longer stroke.

Coming onto the beach was a blur.  I saw the clock read 50:00 and I thought holy cow - pros went off 15 minutes before, did I really do my first loop in 35 minutes!  That's amazing.  I spotted Barry standing on a hill and called out to him.  He seemed surprised to see me already.

I was so happy volunteers were handing out cups of fresh water - salt water does a number to your system and my mouth was parched but I was feeling good and ready to do the swim again.  I made a mistake of running back into the water too soon - it would have been better to go wide right again and use the current but the excitement got the better of me.  The surf had picked up a lot in 35 minutes and the waves seemed massive as we re-entered the water.  I dove right in - I was not going to let those waves push me down.  I think I remember diving under about 7 or 8 huge breaking waves before I got out into the clear water.  

The second loop took me quite a bit longer - probably because of the increase in the surf and the line I took.  It wasn't as crowded on the second loop but I was swimming with folks left, right and center all day.  I saw a few folks being pulled from the water which made me feel sad for them.  I never felt bad on the entire swim.  After the race I heard a lot of folks were seasick and there was a lot of vomiting in the water.  I'm pleased to say I didn't experience any of that!

I came out of the water and immediately spotted Barry.  I asked for my time and was so happy to hear him say "an hour 17".  I killed that swim!  I was so pleased!  My official swim split was 1:17:17, 34th in my age group.

useless showers
The wetsuit strippers were quite aggressive (ON THE GROUND, BUTT IN THE AIR) and got my wetsuit off in record time.  Next thing I know I'm at the showers, which were quite useless however there were a few guys really trying to get cleaned - move it people, move it!

I ran through the transition path, grabbed my bike gear bag and headed into the woman's change area.  There were a ton of volunteers ready to help.  I dumped my bag out and tried to stay focused.  Jersey on, headband on, shoes on, helmet on, Vaseline on, sunglasses on - thank the volunteer and out the door to the sunscreen volunteers who lathered me up.  7:12 in T1 but I felt like it was much shorter - but I guess the run up from the beach did take some time.

I was feeling great as I grabbed my bike and headed out.  It had been awhile since my last long ride and I was ready for it!

The mount line was a bit crazy as to be expected but I got on my bike, clipped in and off I went.  I knew my family would be outside the entrance to our condo about half a mile down the road and I was ready to give them a huge smile.  I screamed "I love you guys" as I flew by - seeing my parents with my kids was inspiring.  I felt great and I knew it was going to be a good bike ride!

The bike course is flat except for one bridge that you hit at about 12 miles and 100miles!  I've never ridden where you are just full out flat for miles and miles.  You start out heading west along the beach for about 6  miles then you head north.  It was a draft feast for sure!  We were riding 3 to 4 across and there were bikes as far as you could see.  I tried my best not to draft but for the first 20 - 30 miles it was near impossible.  I was averaging well over 30 kpm and felt great.

 The winds were light for most of the ride and it was pretty uneventful.  I saw lots of guys with flats and I just tried to push that notion out of my head.  I had promised myself that I was going to try to be a true Ironman and not stop to use the washroom.  I was actually proud of myself that I was finally able to make myself pee on the bike.  However, I was never able to completely relieve my bladder.  Due to the flatness of the course, the aero position was really cramping my bladder so I finally decided to stop around 70km and it was a good decision.  I probably added 3 minutes to my time for that potty break but it was well worth the time!

Barry and Carole had driven out to the mid point out and back section of the bike course.  I was feeling great when I turned the corner and saw Barry.  I knew I was having a great time on the bike and was really enjoying the day.

This is the first out and back section of the bike course.  And while the rest of the course is on pristine roads, this out and back section is a crotch killer!  I complained about that cruddy road at Muskoka 70.3 ... well, this was worse.  5 miles out, 5 miles back ... bumpity bump bump bump.  Cracked roads!  Dodging lost water bottles, CO2 cartridges, saddle packs.  I'm amazed I didn't lose anything and kept my speed up!

The special needs stop is out on that stretch and I had to stop  to replenish my liquid nutrition.  The volunteer dropped the ball and I ended passing my box which added some extra time as the volunteer had to run my bag over to me.  I quickly grabbed my 3 bottles and my bag of salt and got back on the bumpy road.  At this point I was feeling good.  I was pouring cold water on me at most aid stations so the heat wasn't bothering me and I was nailing my nutrition and hydration plan.

From this point we headed north again then west where you eventually join back up to the out route.  My right quad was cramping a bit which I attribute to the flat course.  Luckily it never gave me too much trouble and I increased my salt intake as a precaution.  The winds had picked up and we were riding into a pretty sizeable head wind for quite awhile.   My speeds decreased from averaging 31kph to 27-28kph.

I knew I was on track for a bike split way under 6 hours.  When we made the last turn to head East on Front Beach Road I just hammered it.  I was feeling so great and I knew I only had about 6 miles to go and I was ready to get off the bike.  I averaged 33 kph for the last 10km of the bike!
woohoo Bike Done
My official bike split was 5:48:32 averaging 19.28 mph!  I was 22nd off the bike in my age group!  I can honestly say I never felt bad on the bike and while the head wind was annoying at times, the ride was not even close to as tough as some of my long training rides were!

I handed off my bike to the volunteer and had to explain that my bike numbers had come off, to make sure to rack my bike appropriately.  I ran through the gear bags, grabbed mine and made it into the change area which was fairly empty.  I had 3 volunteers to help me.  I sat down, took a breath and said "I'm not in a rush right now".  That being said I started my change.  I decided to change into my running shorts but keep my jersey on.  I put my socks on then had to take them off again to put glide on my feet.  I sort of felt like the volunteers were rushing me and I just wanted to make sure I got everything right because I knew I had a long, long run ahead.  I again got lathered up with sunscreen as I left the change tent.  I knew the back of my neck must have been rubbed raw during my swim because the sunscreen burned like crazy.  I hit the porto-potty before heading out of transition.  I spent 6:48 in T2.
Christina and me leaving T2... not a cloud to be seen!

I ran into Christina, a training buddy, as I was leaving T2 and we chatted for a moment or two.  I saw Barry and gave him a kiss and was on my way.  I felt pretty good but the heat and the sun which are barely noticeable on the bike were already present on the run.

The course is a 2 loop, out and back course.  The aid stations were supposed to be about every mile (1.6km) and my plan was to run from aid station to aid station.  Unfortunately, the spacing of the aid stations was not as predictable as I expected.  There were some that came too quickly and then some that came too late.  After the race, I heard this complaint from many athletes so I wasn't just me!

I'm not going to lie, I do not remember everything about this marathon.  I do know I went into this run a little cocky and it got the best of me. I also knew when I started the run there was a good chance for me to break 12 hours. And sitting here 3 days later, with legs not nearly as sore as they should be - it was a mental battle for sure and I could have broke 12 hours if I had kept it together on the run.

The first 2 miles of the course are spectator friendly.  As you run along Surf drive you gather tons of energy from the tailgating spectators.  I remember they were feeling good the first time I passed them, feeling great the second time, drunk the third time and truthfully, I hardly remember them on my last pass.

After that you run a long stretch on a busy road with few spectators, then into a residential area and finally into a state park where the turn around is located.

I was initially pleased with my running, though my right leg was a little sore, I felt pretty good.  I was having trouble eating on the course.  I wasn't have GI issues,  I just wasn't hungry.  I forced down 2 Gus on the way out and 2 Gus on the way back.  At every aid stations that had ice I would dump most of the ice into the front of my sports bra and the rest down the back.  I would dump a cup of water over my head, take any sponge offered to wipe off the salt and sweat on my arms, neck and face.  There was no shade and the sun was relentless.  It was just hot.

I ran a bit with a guy named Steve.  Steve and I had passed each other a few times on the bike and started chatting sometime before the entrance of the park.  He was trying to get me to stay with him, as he was on a sub 12 hour pace.  His pace was just pushing me too much and with such a long way to go I had to let him go.  When I told him to go ahead without me he said "ok, but you come and find me when you can ok?". I never saw Steve again.

On the way back in I was melting; physically and mentally.  Some of the aid stations were waiting for their replenishment of ice supplies which left just water to keep us cool.  I took sips of perform and coke here and there but drank water every opportunity I had.  Time seemed to crawl and it took forever to get to the half way turn.  In looking back, I don't think I realized that I had just done  the first half in about 2:15.   I must have been having pains in my legs.  I know at some point on the first loop I put dragons ice muscle cream on my right leg but I don't remember when or if it helped!
this photo brings back a lot of emotions

I can't really tell you what I was physically feeling when I rounded that corner into special needs and when I saw Barry.  But emotionally, it was a disaster. I was ok until I saw Barry and then I started hyperventilating a bit and crying.   I was overcome with emotions.  At this point I knew there was no doubt that I would finish this thing but I didn't have a clear enough head to realize I was still on pace to break 12 hours.

Did I mention it was hot and the sun was beating down?  After a bit of a cry and a hug with Barry I was off again, Just to see Carole and do it all again.  I remember listening to all the positive words from Carole and responding "it's so far to go, it's so hot and they ran out of ice".

I remember slowly shuffling away, taking a breath, putting my head down and going. It was getting later in the day and the sun dropped lower in the sky.  I was dripping wet, soaked to the bone, even my shoes.  I was a little concerned that once the sun dropped it would get cold and I would freeze because I was so wet.

The second loop seemed to drag on forever.  This marathon is not like any you will even run outside of an Ironman.  So many people are walking,  people are vomiting on the side of the course, friends are holding the arm of their training partner.  The sportsmanship out there is amazing.  You start recognizing the same people over and over, and you remember seeing their name on their bib so you ask in a quiet voice "how ya feeling Hillary", "looking good Rick", "the aid station is just around that corner".  The support is amazing.

I walked a lot.  Mentally I checked out for a bit.  I walked more than I ran.  Time was slipping away and I was sure I had lost all chances to finish in under 12 hours.  I saw the splits as they came up on my watch - 7 something, 8 something a km.  I don't remember exactly what hurt, but it hurt and I was tired.  It hurt to run but it also hurt to walk.  I was also a bit sad because I wanted to run faster but I couldn't so I would just walk.

I pulled out my inspirational notes before I got to the park the second time and before the darkness set in.

Leave it to a 6 year old to write something like that!  I was laughing and crying at the same time.
my last turn around
I had a goal to be out of the state park before dark and it was a little victory in my mind when I accomplished that.

It must have been about mile 20 or 21 where I started running with Gabe or Gage.... He asked if I was on my second loop and then told me to stick with him.  He said that he had been using me to keep him going.   He told me the heat has ruined his chance to get in under 12.  I laughed and said at this point I didn't think I would make it under 13.  He assured me that I would finish well under 13 and we shuffled along together.  His wife was also running and he was hoping to see her on the other side heading out for her second loop.  We shuffled along, walking, shuffling, walking ....  as the sun disappeared and it got dark, fast.  While there was relief from the sun, darkness did not bring chill but it did bring humidity.  I remember being thankful that I was not cold!

I don't remember much about the aid stations on my way back in the second time.  I started taking the chicken broth which was just a yummy, salty reprieve from water, perform and coke.  I had given up on gagging down GUs but I'm pretty sure I ate a banana or two and some orange slices.  I even tried a chocolate chip cookie. I made sure to drink water whenever offered to me.  I never felt like I bonked or hit a wall.  I just felt tired.

Then I heard the finish line.  I was still over 5 km away but I heard "you are an Ironman".  I was ready to be done.  The next time my friend stopped to walk I just keep shuffling and I heard him say "you go girl, you look good, finish strong".  It seemed to take forever but mentally I checked back in.

I look back on the splits and laugh because I thought I was running fast.  I was running faster than anyone else around me at that time as I passed quite a few people. I pushed on, taking water at the last 2 stations and just moving forward.  Right, left, repeat.

My last 5 km splits - I fought back and won the mental battle at the end!


As I round the corner and into the long finishing shoot I was happy to be done.   There was a guy a head of me and I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was coming behind me as I wanted my moment of Ironman fame alone.  I didn't see my family and I don't remember hearing much but blurs of sound.  And then "Linda Kay Richards .... you are an Ironman".  I wasn't even sure if he said "from Toronto Canada" but apparently he did.

I attempted my signature jump over the finish line which looked quite goofy as my hat and sunglasses slid of my head. I was an Ironman with an official time of 12:10:36.  Six months ago I would have told you I would be thrilled to break 14 hours so I am proud of this time.

But I have something to settle with that run course - it got the best of me mentally this time but it better watch out - I'm not a first timer any more and I have a score to settle.  So even though 11 hours into this race I was telling people "I'm one and done", and even right at the finish I thought I probably wouldn't do another Ironman ... and there probably won't be an Ironman for me in 2013 - but you wait 2014 - you just wait!

my so supportive family
and best friend

The journey to becoming an Ironman was one of the best experiences of my life.  I have met some amazing people along the way and I have proven to myself that anything is possible.  If you have the heart and drive, you too can be an Ironman!

And for those who want to know - 4 days post race and my only complaints are a very sore big toe nail that has no chance of survival and a tight pinched/pulled muscle in my left shoulder.  My legs feel better than they did during the last 6 weeks of hard training!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats!!! I was following you on race day as much as I could and I did a happy dance when you finished. You are a rockstar!