Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 New York City Marathon Race Report

The New York City Marathon: 4 years in the making - sorry it took me 3 weeks to publish this report!

Back in 2011, before I had even run my first marathon, Barry and I entered the NYC marathon lottery. We didn't get in. We tried again in 2012, unsuccessful again.  Again in 2013, but this time I got in, but Barry did not.  Being our 3rd attempt, Barry would be guaranteed entry in 2014 as the last group of "3 strikes and you are in" policy.  Given I was racing IM Cozumel, I deferred and that brought us to the running of the 2014 NYC Marathon this past weekend.

A bit more history to those who don't know, this marathon was supposed to be Barry's first sub 4 hour marathon and I was supposed to pace him.  So I did not train to run as fast as I can but I trained to run with him.  Then 2 weeks before the NYC marathon, at the Waterfront Marathon in Toronto, Barry ran a 3:51. No, he wasn't supposed to run a full marathon 2 weeks before NYC but he did.  Which meant I didn't have to pace him.  Which meant, heck, let's try to BQ (sub 3:45) again, or heck even PR (sub 3:37).

We left Toronto on Friday and I was highly stressed leaving the kids on halloween plus my daughter had pulled a muscle in her neck and was not doing well. It was hard to shake the stress especially in a bustling crazy city like NYC.

We arrived at the Beacon Hotel late afternoon and was thrilled with with the fabulous 2 room suite with full mini kitchen!  I highly recommend the Hotel Beacon on Broadway at 75th.  Super close to the finish line and in a great area.

We went to the expo on Friday night and was surprised at how quickly we got through registration and we on our way to the shopping experience.  W picked up a few items and walked the expo then headed back to the hotel, grabbed dinner and called it a night.  Halloween in Manhattan and we were in bed by 10!

Saturday was a wet and grey day in NYC.  We had a lazy morning then walked over to the park to check out the finish line and them grabbed a late lunch with my lovely cousin.  Back to the hotel to put the feet up and relax for the day to come ....

The Finish Line on Saturday in the rain


I awoke before the alarm. The time change gave us an extra hour so the 5:20 wake up wasn't too brutal.  We went through our normal morning routines of coffee and bagels and left the hotel rig on time at 6:15. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the ferry.

As we were walking into the ferry terminal, Barry spotted a guy wearing the bright red team canada mittens.  Like he offer does, he struck up a conversation.  Turns out his coach is our good friend and fellow TTC Board member Michael.  

Hey - you are from Toronto ... do you know?

The ferry ride was uneventful.  A large boat filled with marathoners.  The snack bar was open and I grabbed another bottle of water and a soft pretzel.  The views of Manahattan and the Statue of Liberty were grand.  I am sad I didn't get any photos!  That's one of the reason I brought my phone!

Once we debarked the ferry we headed to the line up for the busses to the start villages.  It was very cold and windy out and I was thankful for my warm throw aways I was wearing.  We finally made it onto a bus and were lucky to grab a seat.  It warm and toasty and it was nice to get warm.  Would have been perfect if there had been a bathroom on the bus!  It was not a far distance to get to the start line but we were on the bus for quite awhile.  I'm not sure how long but I didn't care as I knew I wouldn't have a comfy seat and heat once we arrived.

The security was pretty intense.  Our bags had been sniffed by dogs before we got on the ferry and then we were greated by fully armed guards and were wanded before we were allowed to leave the bus area.

The next hour or so was spent nibbling on bagels and pretzels, drinking water and trying to stay warm.  Everyone seemed to have these great orange dunkin doughnut toques but Barry and I never ran into the folks giving them away.  It was finally time for us to line up in the corrals where we waited another 30 minutes or so.  
warm and cozy in out team Canada throw aways!
We could hear the boom of the cannon and the see the start of the first wave as they made their way over the Verrazano bridge.  We were then lead to the start line.  The excitement was amazing.  Here we were, 4 years in the making, about to run the NYC marathon!  It was cold and it was windy but it was dry!  Thank goodness the rain had gone away!

The cannon went off and the song New York New York was blaring - it was 10:05 and the second wave started their journey of 5 Boroughs and 42.2 kilometres.  I must say it was the most amazing start to any marathon I have run - even more dramatic than Boston.  You start right at the base of the Verrazano  Bridge so right off the bat you are running up hill but you are so pumped and the views are amazing.  With everyone singing New York New York - it was amazing.

As I climbed the bridge I felt amazing - it was great to get the blood flowing to warm me up  and even with the intense and insane winds at the top of the bridge I knew I wouldn't be cold on this run.  I kept looking back to see if Barry was with me but it wasn't long before we were separated.  I was feeling great and I was going to go for it.

Kilometre 1 - 5:51/km - perfect
Kilometre 2 -  5:10 - couldn't be better

It was so windy and crowded.  Plastic bags and light weight throw away clothing were dangerously flying around the ground.  But the sun was trying to peak out and the views from the bridge and the spectators on the other side of the bridge were amazing.

Kilometre  3 - 4:42
Kilometre 4 - 4:59

I was settling into my 5 minute per kilometre pace that I was pretty sure I could hold on to.
Kilometre 5 - 5:01
Kilometre 6 - 4:55
Kilometre 7 - 4:59

Feeling amazing - keeping hydrated and nourished perfectly.  Body feels great and loving the spectators.

Kilometre  8 - 4:49
Kilometre 9 - 4:55
Kilometre 10 - 4:58

50 minute 10 k - WOOHOO - I was still feeling awesome and enjoying every minute.  I knew that I was on my way to a personal best and to think I might even break 3:30.  I was so happy that fighting the incredible wind didn't phase me at all at this point.  The wind was a factor for sure - it would suck the life out of you if you let it.  But I was feeling great and running strong.

Kilometre  11 - 4:56
Kilometre 12 - 5:01
Kilometre 13 - 5:01

I was really doing this...

Kilometre  14 - 5:10
Kilometre 15 - 5:04
Kilometre  16 - 5:00

I was pacing myself so well and even slowing at the water stations to make sure I got enough liquid especially when I was taking gels.  I was not going to hit a wall and I knew my body was burning fuel at a rapid pace.

Kilometre 17 -5:14
Kilometre 18 - 5:09
Kilometre 19- 4:55
Kilometre 20 - 5:15

My right hamstring started feeling a little funny. Nothing serious I thought at the time.

Kilometre 21 - 5:21
Kilometre 22 - 5:26

We are now over the Pulaski Bridge in to Queens.  My hamstring is still a bit tight but I push on.

Kilometre 23 - 5:13

Why is my hamstring giving me such grief

Kilometre  24 - 5:38

I am on my way up the Queensboro Bridge.  I know when I get over the bridge I'll be greeted by thousands of screaming spectators.  I was happy thinking about that - know I would draw energy from the crowds.

And this is where it all ended.  Just like that, not a quarter of the way up the bridge - BAM - my right hamstring went into a full spasm stopping me in my tracks.  I threw my hand up and yelled stopping as to not get run over and made my way to the the right side of the bridge.  For the first time in the day my breathing became out of control as I sobbed with my right leg up on the concrete wall while my hands viciously massaging my hamstring muscle trying to relieve the cramp.  I don't know exactly how long I had to stay there, tears quietly streaming down my face.

I finally brought my leg down and gingerly started walking again.  My entire right leg from my calf to my glute were not happy (can we say posterior chain failure?).

Kilometre 25 - 11:03
Kilometre 26 - 4:30

These numbers are not right as the garmin had issues on the covered Queensboro bridge - I think it lost about 400 meters in there so really this was about 2.5 kilometres in 15:33.  I don't really know but I do know that I knew at this time the PR was no longer an option.  But the question still remained - could I come in under 3:45 for another BQ.

Kilometre 27 6:04

I came off the bridge and onto First Avenue to spectators you will not find in any other race.  It was truly amazing.  However, running up First Avenue, even with the amazing spectators proved to be no fun on this day - running directly into the wind, on a slight incline, with a bum right leg.

Kilometer 28 - 5:38

At one point a grocery bag came flying along the ground.  I saw it and thought I would avoid it but some how that gust of wind turned it just such a way that it wrapped around my ankle and tripped me up a bit.  I didn't fall but it definitely jarred my already very irritated right leg.

I kept running.

Kilometre 29 - 6:00
Kilometre 30 - 5:27
Kilometre 31 - 6:20

At this point I`m running about 800 meters and walking 200 meters ... maybe more, maybe less.  But One thing I know is I can`t just keep running.  I won`t lie, I was sad.  But then I thought about my friends who had their swim cancelled at Ironman Florida the day before.  Now that was sad.

Kilometre 32 6:27
Kilometre 33 - 6:40

I`ve crossed over the Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx.  I've accepted the fact that I am not going to get even close to 3:45 and now it`s time to hold on to a sub 4 hour marathon.  It wasn't pretty but I was determined.  Around this time, I saw a volunteer holding out `THE STICK``. I passed the first one I saw... the second was in use but when I came to the third and final volunteer I stopped.  It was the most painful and most wonderful feeling to roll my hamstring and calf.

Kilometre 34 - 6:08
Kilometre 35 - 6:18
Kilometre 36 - 6:10

I've come back over the last bridge into Manhattan and onto Fifth Avenue.  The crowds are spectacular but I can hardly feel them.  My right leg is fighting me every step.  But only 6 more kilometres to go I tell myself.  A nice run on the boardwalk, I can run 6k I tell myself.

kilometre 37 - 6:12
kilometre 38 -6:42

Manhattan is not flat and I`ve just come up what seems like a very long climb.  I take comfort in the fact there are only 5 more kilometre to go and like I always say it`s just 5K!  I know at this point I'm going to make it under 4 hours but I don`t have time to waste.  The crowds carry me.

Kilometre 39 - 6:02
Kilometre 40 - 5:50

We are in the park now and the road is very narrow.  There are runners everywhere.  I was trying to be careful but I was clipped by a guy coming up behind me.  I thought my right leg wasn't going to hold but I stayed up right.  I smiled to the crowd.  I knew I was almost done.

Kilometre 41 - 5:48

On Central Park South thinking where the heck is the finish!  Why does everything seem so much further now than the million times I've walked this stretch.  I seriously do not want to run any more.

Kilometre 42  - 5:49

Finally I made the turn north into the park.  I see the beautiful 26 mile sign - the finish is only .2 miles - that's 322 meters. And then BAM - just for the fun of it - a nice little hill to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line - I tried to jump but I'm pretty sure I didn't clear more than an inch.  I finished in the official time of 3:56:18.  I was happy to be done.  I was sad with my performance.

I immediately pulled out my phone, clicked on the app to see where Barry was.  His estimated finish time was 4:00:16 and I knew he would do anything he could to be across before 4:00.  I knew if I kept moving I would never find him so I stopped about 5 feet before the medals, only 15 feet or so past the finish line and walked in place for 3 minutes with my phone in hand.  As soon as it said he finished I turned around and looked. There were seriously 100s of runners. I was flooded with relief when I saw him.

Needless to say he was over the moon - his second sub 4 hour marathons just 2 weeks after his first!  What an amazing accomplishment - and on that tough course in those tough conditions!  Amazing.  Sadly I wasn't doing so great to enjoy it.

We got very cold very fast and my lungs were burning with every breath.  We made our way through the chute, getting our medals, Mylar blanket and food bag (seriously disappointing for me with an apple, pretzels and gatorade).

It's a long walk out of the finish and it was so cold.  As we approached the medical tent Barry needed to sit down.  Before he could get his butt on the ground a spotter was by our side suggesting we go to the medical tent which was just a few meters ahead.   The are very good not to let anyone linger any where for very long.

The medical tent was AMAZING - our bibs were scanned in and luckily we were both sent to the same tent.  I had started coughing and they just ushered me in.  I was taken to a cot and given a warm blanket and a hot, salty cup of broth.  It was heartier than the broth you get on an Ironman Marathon but it accomplished the same thing.  Here I was, sitting on a little cot, in a huge warm tent, drinking yummy salty broth.  I cannot tell you how lovely that hot liquid was.

I was seen by two doctors. They both listened to my lungs.  We had a little chat about the chest cold I had two weeks prior.  My wheezy lungs were nothing to be too worried about but if I didn't stop coughing they would give me some medicine. Luckily I got the cough under control.

Barry had a bit of massage work done on his legs and had been moved from a cot to the seats by the door.  I got my paperwork done and moved myself off the cot.  There were other's that needed it more.  I was still very cold and the lovely woman Barry had been chatting with made me go sit in the circle of chairs around the heating vent.  It was like a million degrees and it didn't take long to get fully warmed up there.

We left the medical tent and continued the very long walk out.  It was very cold outside and it didn't take long to get chilled again.  I just kept pushing forward knowing I would get my warm cape at the exit and then we only had a 3 block walk to the hotel.

We finally made it to the exit and a lovely volunteer wrapped the blue cape around my body, put the hood over my head and secured it with the velcro strap.  It was lovely, but it was still very cold.  We made our way to the hotel, with smiles and congrats from everyone.

The parade of the blue capes

It was done.  Just like that.  Check it off the bucket list.  Great race, well organized and fantastic if you enjoy running with 50,000 people.  VERY tough course and our conditions were less than ideal.  I will probably never run this race again.  I'm glad I did it and I think every marathoner should strive to run NYC once.  But for me - once it enough!

As always, I thanked every volunteered I could during the race - THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS - it was a cold and miserable day but you were all out there with smiles on your faces helping us to have the best day posible!

So what's next?  Well there won't be any stand alone marathons in my future!  Just too hard on the body.  So instead - I've got a fantastic goal for 2015 - to race not one but two Ironman's 2 1/2 months apart!  Ironman Muskoka on Aug. 30 and Ironman Arizona on November 15!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 Inaugural Barrelman Half Iron Race Report

It's now been over 3 weeks since the running of the Inaugural Niagara Falls Barrelman put on by John Salt and his crew at Multisport Canada.  This race had always been on my race schedule as a wishlist or "C" race.  Given it was 8 weeks post Ironman Lake Placid, I held off on registering until the Wednesday before the race as I wasn't sure I would be up to the challenge of a half iron.  I had ridden a couple times and had been ramping up my running in anticipation for the NYC Marathon.  I hadn't swam since IMLP except for 10 minutes in the Mayfair pool getting a feel for my stroke.  I figured I could go out and give it a go for fun (and because how many times do you get to race and inaugural event?).  Barry decided to join me in the fun and race the Bike/Run event.

This race is a point-to-point race starting in Welland and ending in Niagara Falls.  I knew most of the bike course from racing the Welland Half a couple of times   I also thought I was familiar with the swim but they threw me for a loop by switching directions of the swim.  The last 20k on the bike and the run would be new territory for me.

Given the logistics of the race we were given the option of racking our bikes the night before the race.  Since we were taking the shuttles to T1 race morning, we left Toronto around noon on the Saturday and headed to Welland.  It was quick and easy picking up the race kits and checking in.  We met up with friends, fellow club-mates and the cutest couple in triathlon, Kim and Hector.

This was our introduction to the winds that we were all hoping would settle down over the course of the next 18 hours.  It was so windy I actually saw a bike get blown off the rack in T1.  Luckily someone suggested racking my bike by the bars to make it more steady.  Luckily I have had a lot of practice leaving my bike over night but I'm sure the conditions were troubling others who were first timers.

Thanks to Kim's suggestion we decided to drive the bike course to Niagara Falls where we were staying for the night. It's always nice to get a bit of a feel for the roads.  There were lots of turn on the way to the Niagara Parkway but then we were blessed with smooth roads and awesome views for the last 8 km.  We made it to our little dive motel close to the finish line - the Niagara Parkway with just enough time to check-in and then head over to T2 for the pre-race briefing.

For only $79/night it really wasn't all that bad.  It wasn't quiet that is for sure but it was newly renovated, clean and came with a nice size fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster! Plus a bunch of our club-mates and a bunch of other triathletes were staying there so it was like a race motel.  The owners were very sweet and gave me a 5pm check out time for a few bucks extra.

We headed over to T2 in Knightsbridge park to check out the expo and attend the 5pm mandatory race briefing.  We had been warned by the folks who caught the 2pm showing that it was over an hour long!  After meeting up with some fellow Toronto Triathlon Club friends we headed to the pavilion and grabbed a seat.
Jana, Erin, Kim and Nicole

The GoPro Selfie with Hector and Barry

After the pre-race meeting we headed out for a nice pre-race meal at UrbanSpoons top pick for Italian in Niagara Falls.  There was hardly a wait for the table and the 8 of us were seated and fed in quick manner.  Afterwards we went for a bit of walk, hitting up a convenience store to pick up last minute supplies like my most coveted 5 hour energy drink for the morning and then headed back to the cozy motel for the night.

 Being a point-to-point race we were give 3 bags to assists us in transitions.  A black bag for us to have in T1 to place our wetsuit and goggles in, a red bag for our bike-run gear and a clear bag for our dry cloths.  We could leave our red bag either at the shuttle bus in Niagara or at the entrance to T1.  We were promised this bag would make it's way to out numbered bike rack in T2 and they did not disappoint.  The clear bag was left at T1 and transported along with our black bags to the finish line where we could pick them up post race.  The organization of this race was amazing and I didn't hear one complaint about the logistics and the gear transport!

Given the 9am start time we woke at a very reasonable 6am.  Went through our morning routines - coffee, bagel with PB.... and then decided to drive to the shuttle parking lot since it was raining (notice I have not focused on the weather until now?).  The weather forecast for the week leading up to race day was not great.  It was calling for rain, thunder showers and lots of wind,  As we left the motel in the rain I was second guessing my decision to do this race.

On our short drive to the parking lot/shuttle area we passed our dear friends walking in the rain.  We had the seats down in the back so they all just hopped in and we all made it to the shuttles with little worry.
Back of the party bus to the shuttle!
We arrived in Welland with more than enough time.  As we were all setting up in T1, the skys opened up and it began to pour.  I quickly finished up, grabbed my wetsuit and backpack and headed into the Community Center (so nice to have that available to us!).  We had indoor real toilets and a place to hang with out friends!

Around 8:30 we decided to venture out to the swim start and were pleasantly surprised that the rain had gone - since the forecast called for rain and thunder showers all day, I was not convinced it was gone for good.  Little did I know at the time how wrong I was.

It was great to run into so many TTC members as we made our way to the swim.  I think we had 17 members in total at the race that day.  I said my good byes to Barry and got myself into the water to get ready for the day.  And now, the race report begins.

The water was fresh but not too cold - I would say just about perfect for a long wet suit swim.  The clarity of the water was amazing.  Every other time I have swam this course it has been quite murky but on this day you could see everything perfectly.  Instead of swimming to the left and keeping the shore on your left shoulder, we swam in the opposite direction.  While there is a bit of a current in the canal it really isn't noticeable to me so this change of direction really meant nothing.

My wave started at 9:10 and I started at the front of the wave.  It was not a very big wave and I figured why not.  Well remember I haven't swam since IMLP .... the gun went off and off we went.  I settled into a nice stroke and felt pretty good.  However that didn't last long.  I think about 400 meters in my arms were really starting to feel the fatigue.  I didn't think the fatigue would come so soon but I knew that it was not going to be a fast and easy 2k swim.  I relaxed into the stroke and just focused on swimming and trying to draft.

I pulled myself out of the swim in 39:42, 14/32 in my age group - a very dismal swim indeed!  But again, what should I expect with little no training?

It's a bit of a run up to T1 and I thought I made quick time getting my wetsuit off and into the bag, shoes on, helmet on and then running to the exit.  My bike was about as far away from the bike out as possible and running in bike shoes on wet pavement is not fun.  My T1 time was 3:29.  Now it was time for some fun ....


The start of the bike was different from the past Welland halfs I've done because the city stated road work the week before and the only way to safely get us out on the course was to take us around the other way which would add and additional 2k (really 3) onto the bike.

I never thought I would have another race that I could compare to the fear I had during the first hour at IMLP.  But Barrelman definitely gave me a run for the money.  The first 25k was torture.  I felt like I was riding in a hurricane. The head winds were brutal but the cross winds were down right dangerous.  My bike was being blown across the road.  I was hanging on to the bike so tightly that my arms and shoulders were cramping.  But when I would convince myself to relax another cross wind would hit and I would tense up again.  The only think that got me through this first 25km was knowing once I made the turn, the headwinds would become tailwinds and we would have a fast race after that.

I was so happy to get to Lowbanks and make the turn onto Lakeshore Road.  The lake was beautiful and the tail wind was amazing.  I took advantage of it and flew along the waterfront and settled down and started to enjoy the ride.  We had to turn back into the headwinds a bit before we rejoined Feeder Road and headed back to the North West, through Welland and on to Niagara Falls.  Generally we had a great tail wind and the cross winds had settled down a bit.  The only photographer on the bike was right after the 60km aid station - notice the banana in my hand... it was sticking out of my mouth when I saw him!
TERRIBLE race photo
There were lots of little turns along that last 30 km stretch to Niagara Falls and the road quality was not the best.  Then you hit the Niagara Parkway - and the the pavement was nice a smooth - sadly we had a bit of a head wind through that spot which slowed it down a bit.

I pulled in T2, 92.74 km in 2:52:11.  Not the bike I know I can do on that course but a decent bike given the conditions and my lack of training.  Overall average according to Garmin was 32.2 kph. Not bad considering I averaged 27.5 kph over the first 25 kilometres.  I liked the ride and hope the next time it won't be so windy!


I came into T2 just ahead of my friend Kim but she made it out onto the run before I did.  I had to catch my bearings and get my socks on which I struggled with a bit.  I saw Kim making her way out of T2 and I got myself together thinking maybe we would run together a bit.  It was a pretty dismal T2 time of 2:49.


I knew I was in a pretty decent position in my age group coming off the bike and I was hopeful I would have my running legs with me on this day.  I came out of T2 and caught up to Kim.  We saw Hector coming in from his first loop looking strong and fast - He was definitely having a great day (he finished first in his age group, 6th overall).  Kim and I shared a few words and then I went on trying to find my turn-over and get my speed up.

Now just a few comments about this run course.  It is very beautiful but it is not flat!  In fact, there is one very steep climb (and given it's a two loop course you run it twice) but it is a very short climb that is really just the beginning to a longer, gentler climb that goes on for about 2 1/2 kilometers taking you to the top of the hill at the Fallsview Casino.  Then you have a pretty steep decent that takes you down to the Falls.  You run along the river back to Knightsbridge Park and do it all over again.

Now at this point in the day, the sun was high in the sky and there was no cloud cover (thanks meteorologist for your oh so accurate weather forecast).  It was pretty hot for a run but that didn't bother me.  In fact, nothing was really bothering me but as I had found with all my running since IMLP, I just couldn't get my legs to turn over and thus I just couldn't get to the speed I wanted.  I got passed by 3 woman in my age group so I knew that a top 3 finish was out of the picture.  I didn't give up and slow down, but I did make sure to slow down and check in with my friends and club mates on the course.

According to sportstats my pace wasn't too miserable - averaging 5:29/km finishing the run in 1:55:58.  However my Garmin is a different story - measuring the course short at 20.45 km with the dismal pace of 5:39.

So at the end of the day, with a total time of 5:33:34, I finished 6th out of 32 in my age group, 27th out of 188 woman and 107th overall (out of 488 I think).

John Salt and his crew at Multisport Canada put on a great race!  It was well organized from the beginning to the end.  I was disappointed there wasn't pizza at the finish - I do appreciated the attempt to provide a healthier alternative to post-race food - but seriously, I was thinking about pizza the entire run and then to be handed a dry ham sandwich was a bit disappointing.  Besides the post race food I have nothing to complain about.  My wetsuit bag and dry cloths bag were easily retrieved at T2 and there was a beer garden (beer is always good after a race)!

As always a HUGE thank you to all the volunteers who make these races happen.  Also a big shout out to the Toronto Triathlon Club - there were 17 of us racing plus 2 officiating for Triathlon Ontario!  So awesome to see everyone out on the course!  And a thanks to Eric D'Arcy who popped up on the run course at the right time to give me a little motivation!

Finally, will I race this race again - most definitely!  Sadly it will be 3 weeks post Ironman Muskoka next year so I can't commit for 2015 but if I've got anything left in me post Muskoka I will be there!

Next up to wrap up the 2014 season is the NYC Marathon.  It's been 4 years in the making but both Barry and I are registered, flights and hotel booked.  Now if only our bodies hold out so we can run it together in less than 3 weeks!

Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

Ironman #3 - The Longest One Yet
Swim 1:14:37
Bike 6:32:49
Run 4:39:05

We arrived in Lake Placid early evening on Wednesday. We settled into the small apartment that would be home for the next 5 days.  On Thursday Chad and I went for a re-con  ride to Keen and it was so much fun.  Very pleased to see the newly paved roads out of town and down to Keen.

After the ride we made our way to check in which was incredibly smooth and no lineups to speak of.
Weigh In

After registration we made our way to the Ironman Village to pick up this years race backpacks which are sadly much different from my IMFL backpack.   Glad I got one from the first season they handed them out because the quality level of the IM backpack has diminished greatly.  Not sure I will find a solid use for it like I have my IMFL bag.

The next couple of days rolled by.  My emotions were high and I was living with 3 boys.  I sure could have used my bestie there for support.  Finally it was Saturday night and race morning was eminent.

Race day started around 4:20am like most race days.  I enjoyed my cup of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter.  The weather forecast was still calling for some severe weather but luckily it wasn't too cold in those early morning hours.  We made our way to transition to get the bike prepped for the day and then headed back to the apartment.
so close to transition!
It was nice to stay so close to the race site that we made our way back to the apartment before heading to the swim start.  Just before 6 we donned our wetsuits and joined the walk to the swim start.  We left it pretty close and were lucky to have stranger offer to walk out run special needs bags up Mirror Drive.  I got to jump into the lake and take a few practice strokes but then had to make my way through the hordes of swimmers to get to my "wave".  I must say I liked the rolling start - Mirror lake is way to narrow for a mass start!   I had decided to line up at the back of the 1:10 swimmers since my best case swim would be 1:10 but I was more like a sub 1:15 swimmer.  This was a great decision!
2,600 eager athletes

AWA cap with some doodling!

I had the best Ironman swim ever.  The rolling start means less body contact than the mass start but don't be fooled into thinking you aren't going to get beat up a little.  I found myself on the buoy line and on the hip or feet of someone the entire swim.  No need to sight and I enjoyed the drafting.  I did take a couple hits to the head and one person grabbed my leg - full clinching of the hand on my calf.  Yes I kicked pretty hard back.  By the time I had made the first turns and was heading back I knew it was going to be a good day.  I crossed the mat of the first loop in just over 36 minutes.  I ran right back in and started my second lap.  Just before getting to the turn buoy I realized it was raining. Interestingly enough, swimming in the rain is quite nice.  I felt strong on the second loop and came out of the water just over 38 minutes for a total swim time of 1:14:37.  I don't swim with my Garmin but I heard the course actually measured 4.1km so about 300m longer than the 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim.

It was pouring as I exited the water, had my wetsuit stripped and ran to transition.  As always I was happy to be out of the swim and I was trying to stay positive about riding in the rain.  I made my way through T1 without incident and was out of T1 in 6:03 which included a 400m or so run up from the lake.  A volunteer had retrieved my bike for me so I grabbed it and was off to the mount line.

At this point in the race I was 43rd in my age group, 163rd woman and 839th over all.  I made it on to the bike and down the crazy hairpin turn and steep decent of Colden Ave.  As I started the first climb out of town, I realized just how awful the weather had turned. Torrential downpour and thunder and lightening hitting very close.  Apparently there was hail as well.  I was so happy to have my aero hemet on to keep my head a bit drier and warmer as I was getting colder by the minute.  At 12.5km into the ride you start the nearly 12km decent into Keen.  I have hit  67.9kph in training on this decent.  I hit 57 kph in the pouring rain.  I was not in aero and I was on my brakes the entire way.  However, breaking on wet zipps is not that effective. By the time I reached Keen I was shivering uncontrollably and was so very cold.  The wind-chill factor and the fact that I was soaked to the bone probably brought me close to hypothermia.  I remember thinking that if this storm didn't clear I wouldn't be able to finish the bike like this.  Little did I know that while I was suffering on the bike over 500 athletes were being pulled from Mirror Lake due to the lighting.

I don't remember when it stopped raining exactly.  At some point as I was flying on 9N I realized I had dried up and was feeling really good.  I kept on top of my nutrition and my hydration and felt like a million bucks.  This was also around the time I realized my power meter was giving me garbage data.  I was averaging well over 30kph at this point but my average power was 120w.  I know my body and my bike well enough to know that number was not right.  Not to mention I had ridden this loop 3 times before and I knew what to expect.

I reached the turn around point in Ausable Falls and continued to feel great.  I kept on my nutrition and hydration and really felt good.  I hadn't been passed by many woman and while I had no idea what sort of power I was pushing, my heart rate felt right and my body felt great.  I made the turn onto 86 and was very prepared to be patient as I start the long climb to Willmington and on into Lake Placid.  This first climb gets little attention in many recaps of this bike course but as you can see by the following photo it is the beginning of a 30km climb.  The red line marks the turn onto 86.

I kept my cool and climbed effectively spinning up the hills and enjoying it.  As you finish the climb back into the town of Lake Placid you hit the 3 bears.  Papa bear (especially on the first loop) is lined with spectators cheering you on.  It's like you are in the Tour de France - the energy was amazing and I was smiling ear to ear.  I made the turn onto Northwood, fully aware that I still had a bit of climbing to do before sailing down to Mirror Lake drive and into the Village.  All the tri clubs set up their tents along Mirror Lake drive and again the spectators were amazing.  Then you turn into the village and round hot corner with hundreds of screaming fans.  I wish I had photos or video of me coming through there because I was screaming at the crowd and having a blast.  Before I knew it I was behind the school and again coming down to Colden Ave where I knew Barry would be.  I screamed out "I'm having the race of my life! I feel great".  The thunderstorms were long gone and I was so happy clocking in a first loop of 3:06.  Little did I know it was all about to fall apart.

As I was climbing out of town, this time in beautiful sunny conditions, I was passed by several woman and I noticed quite a few of them were in my age group.  I didn't have accurate power data so I relied on perceived exertion and just kept riding my race.  The decent to Keen was dry and I hit 75kph - I was able to stay in aero the entire time and felt safe.  The second time through on the flatter sections proved to be more challenging and my speed was dropping considerably from the first loop.  I think the winds had changed and the head wind on the way back from Ausable Falls zapped some speed and energy out of me. With hindsight I probably should have upped my calorie intake.

Then I turned onto 86 for the second time and this is where I was crushed.  I was being passed by what seemed to be a steady stream of woman.  I couldn't push any harder than I was so I just had to suck it up.  I think this was when I realized I just wasn't strong enough to keep up with these ladies- man they are FAST!  The last 30km of this ride were tough, physically and mentally.  At some point as I climbed back into town the rain came again but this time it was a bit of a welcomed cool down.
finishing up the bike
I got off the second loop in 3:26 for a total bike split of 6:32:48. At this point in the race I was 26st in my age group, 100th woman and 793rd over all.

As I entered T2 and grabbed my bag I decided a bathroom break was needed.  Once I made it into the change tent I took a deep breath and took my time.  I had been going for nearly 8 hours and I knew I had a long run ahead of me.  My T2 time was 7:52.  I remember stopping at the run exit, taking a deep breath and saying to a guy standing there "well, you ready to do this?" and simultaneously we hit the timing mat and clicked our Garmins.

Just starting the run
It wasn't far down the road that I spotted Barry.  Though I'm smiling in this photo I was not happy and I was not being positive at all.  I had a bit of a cry telling Barry that I was passed my so many woman and that I never wanted to do this again.  Then off I ran.  The first few kilometers were ok.  When I was running my pace was around 5:20/km. I was walking each aid stations and then picking up the pace again.  My nutrition and hydration continued to go smoothly.  I was taking water and ice at each aid station as well as coke.  I started taking gels every 30-40 minutes.  I had no problem keeping anything down.  I did have a bit of a bathroom problem and had to stop 5 times over the course of the marathon.

smiling always helps (and look both feet off the ground)

I had an "ah-ha" moment just as I got to the first turn around at 9km.  I knew at this point I was far out of top 10 contention and while my calf that had been injured was holding out strong, my ankles and hips were already feeling the beating.  I decided at this point that I was good in the head and that I was going to enjoy the rest of this Ironman and not kill myself doing it.  I knew I had to let Barry know that I was good mentally.  About 18km into the run I got to see him again.
one of the best feelings all day

a little laugh
This run course is a beast with 333 meters of elevation gain - that's almost 1,100 feet of climbing with the largest climb from 17.5km - 19.5km on the first loop and 38.4k-40.4k on the second loop.  However, this is the most spectator friendly race I have done.  The spectators along this climb into town are amazing.  After returning to the village after the first out and back there is a smaller out and back along Mirror Lake drive that is a mile out and a mile back or just over 3km round trip.  This is through the tri club tent city and masses of spectators to make you smile.  I stopped at my special needs and grab my bag of ruffles potato chips and happily munched away on a few and shared the rest with fellow runners who were impressed with my selection of special needs nutrition.  

As I made my way back towards the start of the second loop I continued to be happy with my choice to run/walk.  I enjoyed talking to other competitors especially as I'm going out on the second loop and I'm running/walking with folks heading out for their first.  This is where you see the real spirit of the Ironman. This is where you can say Anything is Possible.  
heading back probably around 35k, thumbs up and a smile
The last half of the Ironman Marathon has always been a blur for me. Just bits and pieces of memories.  Like the first aid station to offer me chicken broth.  It was still quite early, probably around 5:30ish when I was offered the warm, salty goodness.  It was very warm on the run course and I had dumped ice in my top at every aid station.  But even with the warm temperatures, the first few sips of the chicken broth warms your soul and picks up your spirit.  It is such an extreme change from all the sugary sweet drinks and gels and candies you have consumed for the past 10 plus hours.  And to me it is a signal that the day is coming to an end.  I took chicken broth whenever offered.

I jogged along, walking the aid stations and the hills.  And through this blur of time, I was heading back into town and back up the last long climb.  I didn't have it in my ankles and hips to run up that hill but I put on my best power walking and motored up the hill.  I had my last run in with Barry, gave him a kiss and told him I would see him at the finish line.  And off I ran. And I ran the rest of the way.
taken at 6:52pm, about 20 mins until my finish
It always amazes me to see my last few splits of the Ironman Marathon. I had under 4 kilometers to go.
Split 39 - where I talked to Barry 7:11
Split 40 - 5:50
Split 41 - 6:05
Split 42 - 4:58

That's right, I ran my last full kilometer in under 5 minutes with a huge smile on my face!  I was finishing in the day light and I was finishing the run faster than my IMFL run split.  I was happy. And I was ready to stop moving!  My run split was 4:39:04 giving a total Ironman time of 12:40:23.  I finished 30th in my age group, 113th woman and 747th overall.  For a beast of a course, I'll take it.

The highlights of this race are the venue, the spectators and the volunteers.  This was the 16th running of this race and it shows.  The course is very beautiful but incredibly challenging.  It would be an awesome 70.3 course but the double loops definitely push your physical and mental limitations.  But at the end of the day, I can sum up this race as a beautiful and easy swim, a challenging and intense bike and an unforgiving, brutal run.  I made sure to thank the volunteers at every chance but I wan to give a BIG shout out to all the volunteers out there that made our day happen.  

I'm pretty sure I uttered the following statements over the course of the run on July 27th.
  • I am never doing this again
  • This is stupid, stupid, stupid
  • I'm going to finish this one and that's it. I'm done.
I saw these two photos posted today on Facebook.

So just to let you know, when I got the chance last week to pre-register for the inaugural Ironman Muskoka being held at Deerhurst on August 30, 2015 - I signed up. Ironman #4.  How quickly the thrill of accomplishment erases the moments of weakness.

A huge thank you to my biggest fan, best race photog, sponsor, and race Sherpa Barry.  You know I couldn't do this without you!  Also a big thank you to Griffin for coming along and sharing the experience with me.  It was Ironman #3 but it was the first time I made it back to the finish line for the midnight celebration and Griffin stayed there with me until the last finisher crossed the line.
20 hours and 140.6k later

Finally thanks to all my support in Toronto - my massage therapists Jenn Goddard and Tracey Elliott, my Chiro and running doc Dr. Kris Sheppard of the Runner's Academy , my training partners in crime from the Toronto Triathlon Club,  my coach friends Eric, Tara and Michael for always answering my questions, my friends Carole, KatD, and Alice - always willing to take the kids so I could train a little longer and to my in-laws for kid-sitting so I can travel to train and race.  And to everyone who reads these blogs and facebook posts - thank you for supporting me!  You might think I'm crazy - but ya still love me!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

8 Sleeps to Ironman Lake Placid

8 more wake ups to hitting the waters at Mirror Lake and starting my 3rd Ironman, the iconic Ironman Lake Placid.  Unlike going into Ironman Cozumel (read that post here), I am not making it to the start line injury free and happily trained.  So let's back up a bit to record what's been going on for the past 6 weeks.

About 6 weeks ago we packed up the truck and headed to Lake Placid for a training weekend.  It was amazing, marvellous and  beyond my wild imagination!  We were lucky enough that Carole and Jared joined us to keep Calli Anna company while Barry I got to train on the course.  We left Jensen home with the grandparents as he had a Lacrosse tournament.

On Friday I rode one loop of the bike with Barry, ran and swam, on Saturday I did 2 loops of the bike course (solo) and ran and on Sunday I ran the Lake Placid Half marathon which, I just realized, I never wrote a race report on (woops!).   At the end of our 4 days training vacation I was on top of the world - feeling strong and ready to finish my last build and be at the top of my game for Ironman Lake Placid.

Heading out for 180k of Lake Placid fun!

Beautiful day

Ready to run the Lake Placid Half Marathon with B!

Nothing like ending a training vacation in the sun with my bestie!

Then, on Friday, June 13th (Ironic eh?), I went out for an easy 30 minute run.  Not 1 km into the run my right calf started to hurt.  By 3 km in I was in tears from the pain, turned around and walked home.  I went into complete panic mode.  The first person to see me was a wonderful Massage Therapist Tracey Elliott.  She confirmed it was an injury to the soleus and sent me home with strict instructions to stay off it and to see a doctor ASAP.  A few fellow athletes recommend seeing Dr. Kris Sheppard at The Runner's Academy and lucky for me they could fit me in on Saturday morning.  I asked him "what causes this?".  His response "running".  It's a repetitive stress injury.

The most reassuring thing was the positivity from everyone.  I had 6 weeks until race day and everyone said that I would get there. And even if I don't run a step between now and then my fitness would carry me through.  I had just run the Boston Marathon and my run fitness was pretty darn good.  I had run the Lake Placid Half Marathon in 1:46 and that was a training run, walking every water station and chatting with volunteers.  I had the run training, perhaps I had over trained on the run training.  But at this point it was not time to figure out why my soleus decided to turn on me, it was time to heal the problem and get to the start line!

I have spent the past 5 weeks slowly rehabbing this mild soleus sprain - which mean basically no real running.  I've water run and I've run on the Alter-g (anti-gravity) treadmill.  But my one and only outdoor run ended in pain and walking home.  And to note, I have also increased my oral intake of Fish Oil and started to take Curcumin - an extract of turmeric which has been found to be an amazing anti-inflammatory. Luckily I could continue my bike training with no issues at all.
The Alter-G at the Runner's Academy
Today I ran an hour on the Alter-G and all feels awesome.  I even ran the last 5 minutes at 90% of my body weight.  I'm feeling confident that my strain is healed.  I won't test that theory for another 8 days.

So here I sit on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Toronto getting ready to leave for Lake Placid on Wednesday with my head full of mental race strategies. It's my third time at the rodeo.  I'm feeling super strong on the bike - it's amazing how much power you can produce when you aren't beating your legs up by running. I'm also feeling good about my swim - I did a 4km swim race two weeks ago where I swam 4.5km (not bad sighting, it was a long course) in 1:23 averaging 1:52/100m which would be amazing for an Ironman swim for me (and 3.8k should feel like a breeze after 4.5k).  Tomorrow I'm going back to the Quarry to swim again and will swim every day in Placid leading up to the race.  

But the fact remains that I have not put in the run training or the bricks.  So on race day I'll be digging deep and relying on my past marathon's to get me through.  At the end of the day, my race will depend on my ability to embrace the pounding and pain and hope my soleus stays happy, or at least not grumpy enough to force me to walk!

I've got goals for this race - I've always got goals. Most of you reading this post will know my goals.  But I have to say, my one and only goal - which is only measurable in my little head - is to race this race as hard and as smart as I can.  To trust my bike training and my power numbers, to be disciplined and patient on the bike, and then to run that marathon like I know I can.  To absorb the pain and mentally conquer all the demons that haunt my past Ironman marathons.

Can I run a sub-4 hour ironman marathon?  I think I can.  And I can tell you - on race day  - what you think, what you know, what your brain tells your body, is what you produce.  So do me a favour (or favor if you are a US friend), if you are thinking about me on July 27th, if you are following me (bib 590) on the IM site or on Facebook via Barry - send me all the mental fortitude you've got!  Because at the end of the day, when I'm putting one foot in front of the other, it's going to come down to my mental strength to stay strong and finish this Ironman like I know I can!