The last race of the season, I was just looking forward to finishing this one. Probably not the best attitude to be approaching a race with an important goal - one of the first slots for the 2009 World Championships in Hawaii, and a win to round off a season of not settling for second in any of he races I’ve entered…. But I guess this year of increased training volume and Ironman focus has taken it’s toll, despite being in good shape, I was weary and not highly motivated in the run up to race day.
However, at 6.30 am we were treated to a beautiful peach coloured sunrise which promised a fine day for racing, as we assembled at the lakes edge before nervously entering the warm waters. Friendly chat and nervous jokes amongst the bobbing competitors, the American national anthem ( very serious) and cheers as the pro field set off 10 min before the main mass start. And I do mean mass start – one of the largest racing fields on the circuit, 2000+ competitors lined up. Gun goes and the battles commences, hitting the shits out of each other in futile attempts to find a bit of water to swim through. This was probably the most chaotic swim experience I’ve had to endure – and it did not seem to ease off until the return leg of the first lap. It made the time pass quicker though! I felt that I ws swimming well, moving water with long strokes and despite a little mind wandering mid way, reasonable ‘on it’. I exited the water in 64 minutes, having targeted 65 or better, this gave me a lift.
‘Peeled’ of my wetsuit ( an NA Ironman tradition) the route to transition was around 3 flights of the spiral ramp of the multi-storey car park, where I passed a number of people, quick flight through T1,change tent and into the long bike zone.
Buzzed up, and cold, I hit the first section of the ride, which was a flat route out of town, fast. Kept working hard for about 20 minutes, to get warm and pick off as many of the faster swimmers ahead of me on the course as early as possible. Once on the 40 mile loop the terrain becomes tough with constant undulations, the sort of route that could easily blow up on if taken too aggressively. My plan was to take it conservatively for the first lap, riding all of the climbs seated, which I did. Really lovely scenery, and some friendly exchange and encouragement on a strong ride from the guys riding my pace. The Union Jack flag that I pin to my butt draws a lot of comments, mock English accents and I got one call of ‘Jolly Good Show’ ! The crowd support was awesome all the way round the loop despite the majority being very rural and apparently isolated.
At the half way point I noted that I was a couple of minutes down on my target time, and just under 1mph below target average pace, so decided to try to pick it up. There were a few other women a little way ahead, who I was able to pace of once I’d caught up and had them in my sights. I’d got through most of my solid race food already by this point and the plan was to switch to energy drinks bars and bananas from the aid stations. Unfortunately, either due to lack of concentration, or just riding too fast through, I missed several catches here and by around the 80th mile, I started to feel pretty drained. I’d been desperate to pee for hours. I made the difficult descision and stopped at the side of he road -I’d realized that I wasn’t likely to pull back the lost time and achieve my target 5.40 split, and thought I’d at least I could save time in transition and possibly save my kidneys too. Things were a bit better after this and the delay had brought a couple of female riders into my territory too, giving me a focus to get me through the tough final miles. 90 miles round and hunger knock hit – cold sweats, disorientation and sudden loss of power. Luckily I’d not yet passed the final aid station wheree I slowed to make sure I got a gel and some Gatorade, which was sufficient to pick me up and keep pace with the women who’d passed me on the flat return stretch towards the Capitol Dome marking the centre of Madison’s skyline.
Up the helix car park ramp, buzzed up on sugar, a fast transition to see what could be done on the run. This year, the run has been my strength and usually my chance to make up for losses on the bike, and I felt good I head out through the lively crowds in the centre of town. As usual first mile ( mile markers not km – quick calculations required!) was fast – and knowing that I had at least one woman ahead and one very close behind, having been through T2 together, I just try to hold that pace for as long as possible. Probably not the most sensible stratergy – heading out too fast – but it seems to work for me. I feel that I should make the most of it whilst I’m fresh, and with luck settle into a faster pace that I would have with a conservative start. This time the pace lasted only 3 miles or so – and was gutted when the woman in my age group who’d been just behind me caught up. We had a chat, about positions and pace – she was sticking to 8 min miles, and asked if we could run together. I was hoping to run faster, and competitive instinct forced me to pull away again on the hill through the WI campus. Not long after I hit my first bad patch – she passed me again and pulled away. I ate a gel, which picked me up sufficiently to reel her back in over the next 2 miles. I was splitting over 8 min/mile though and I was running on empty. The only way to get through it was to take on as much energy drinks and gels as my stomache could handle – a tricky balancing act. Luckily I discovered that fresh grapes worked well for me too, so took those in between gel feeds, which saw me out of several bad patches.
Again the crowd support was absolutely awesome – really welcome and I found that the morei smiled and responded to the cheers and comments, the more support I got. People really like to see ladies at the front so I got a lot of ‘girl power’ ‘go iron woman’ shouts form the ladies out around the course. We had our names printed on our numbers, which enabled me to hear how close my nearest competitor was behind me – she seemed to be dropping back. I knew that there was one woman ahead of us, who I’d not been able to make progress on, but she was not out age group. Things got a bit confused once we were on our second lap and I must have passed her, because ultimately I finished first age group woman. All I knew at the time was that I was narrowly holding onto first place in my age group, but quite a way of my target marathon time of 3.25. By mile 20 (oh, how I love to pass that sign !!) I was running a comfortable steady pace and thinking that I might manage 3:30, for a 10:30 finish. By mile 24 it was clear that was not to be. But compared to the elation of running up State Street and around Capitol Square for the final time, and knowing that I’d even managed to pull off the age group win after a seriously testing race experience, it seemed trivial. I might not have gone as fast as I‘d expected to – but no one else in my category had gone faster ;o) - and a few valuable lessons were learned along the way.
- ► 2014 (11)
- ► 2013 (14)
- ► 2012 (22)
- ► 2011 (22)
- ► 2010 (52)
- ► 2009 (51)