I've been cold during races and I've been wet during races but I've never been so cold and so wet for so long. This year at IRONMAN Louisville was a totally different set of conditions compared to the 100 degree race in 2017. For one, I never thought it would be such a challenge to my physical endurance, so when I was at mile 14, stumbling around and leaning on the side of a building debating if I could struggle through another run loop - I was seriously confused.
This race was extremely important for me and Pewag Racing, especially since IRONMAN Austria left me with a bag of questions I'm still trying to answer. For the most part I was very confident in every aspect heading into this race. I'd spent a few weeks in North Carolina crushing some hills and relaxing a bit, finally driving the last 6 hours to Lousivlle 4 days before the event. At that point I didn't really have any worries about the weather being an issue, heck I've trained in Iceland for 25 days. Little did I know, the combination of weather + working my butt off on the bike, bit me in the butt pretty bad.
It was raining, cold and dark on race morning but everyone showed up with a good attitude. I love being around that many athletes and feeling the buzz. Some people are nervous and silent, other are nervous and can't stop talking. I try and think about it like any other swim. There will be contact and as long as I control my breathing and heart rate, I won't have any issues. Obviously the goal is to find some feet however, being prepared to go it alone helps.
Around 10 minutes before we were supposed to get into the water the race organizers decided to cut the swim to .9 miles due to the raging current. Let me tell you, it was FAST. The protected channel we were supposed to swim up-stream in was pushing pretty hard, however it would have been no problem. The issue would have been making the turn to head down stream. As it was, we had a hard time swimming to the buoys. We were racing with a 1.5 mph current and I finished in nearly 12 minutes for 46sec/100yd. It was so so fast. I was so happy to come out of the water 4th with my Pewag Teammate, Jeremy Jurkiewicz. Since neither of us had a jacket or anything warm or waterproof to wear....we ripped off onto the bike course.
- BIKE -
I've never led any IRONMAN event on the bike course so holy cow my adrenaline was RUSHING as I followed the pace car. As we tore by swim start with the crowd cheering, if nothing else, that was such an amazing moment for me as an athlete. I lead the race for nearly 45 miles until Jeremy and I were caught by 5 others around mile 30, but at that point I saw a chance to hopefully grab some more minutes before the run and broke away. Hindsight now tells me, I should have just let it happen and settle into my own power numbers but....I had to go for it. Plus I could barely see through my rain spotted visor OR read my Garmin Edge. I ended up putting around 4-6 minutes between me and the chase group before Sam Long bridged up and we both agreed we should work together. The only problem was, that's when I really started to feel the effects of the cold. I must have been burning through 3x the calories since I'd already slammed 1.5 bottles for nearly 150g of carbs but since I could barely shift my di2, grab bottles or grip...I just put my head down and tried to stay steady. I wanted to push 290-300 watts for 30 minutes and then drop steadily and normalize near 270 watts for the race....which I did. However, I ended up working quite hard for 60 minutes. Any other day, I know I could have sustained but with the added stress and cold, I really felt it. Coming into transition I could barely keep up with Jeremy, who passed me and then 1 other athlete.
Coming off the bike I couldn't feel my feet, I coudln't lift my arms or squeeze with any tensile strength. I could have really used a jacket or waterproof gloves. Regarldess, I was dead set on getting out of that transition tent. I needed help putting on shoes and putting fuel in my pockets since I couldn't use my hands any more than as a stump. The first mile was pretty slow and I hoped I could eventually get to 6:50 or 7:00 minute mile pace by mile 3. Around 35-45 minutes I hit 2 really, really big low points as far as blood sugar. I was taking in A LOT of calories, but even coke wasn't helping after 9 miles. Around 13 miles I had to walk for the first time and it was scary. I was not able to walk straight and I was starting to shiver. I rallied once more time, saw Karen and Anne but then starting the second loop I had to run over to a wall and hold myself up and eventaully lean against it with all my weight. I was partly ashamed, embarassed and maybe even attempted to let my emotions get the best of me. I tried 1 more time but I got a bit light headed and the shivering came on harder so....it was what it was. I walked back to the finish area to find the med tent and spent the next 6 hours shivering, drinking warm liquids and overall not wanting to move. Do I feel shitty knowing that others were able to keep going, you bet...it sucks. It sucks that I still get angry and I still get sad but at this point, I am still driven to overcome this race and erase it with 2 more races.
I booked IRONMAN 70.3 Buenos Aires and IRONMAN Arizona for the finale...well, then there is Patagonman, which will be more of a fun event in Patagonia, South America. I have some positives that I'm holding on to, knowing I ripped through the bike course for a bit - felt invincible and can use that feeling to drive my future races. I feel like this job and the opportuntity to race other events after one goes badly is very nice however, I never want to lean on that. Of course my goal is to finish every single race and people can say whatever they want when Pro's DNF...but we know our bodies well and given extremes I still know it was the best thing so I could take care of myself and focus on a better day NEXT time. The journey is full up these ups and downs. Watching Kona the day before was super inspiring but it maybe fired me up so much I felt I was too invincible for the first 60k of the bike leg. The bottom line is...the rain + the cold was very new and after 4.5 hours I paid the price. I'm envious of those who made it through and I'm so proud of the athletes we had racing. They were stronger than I was and I'm not ashamed to admit.
For everyone who understands and had nice things to say - thank you so much. None of us are immune from a DNF and when you race 10 times a year, shit happens.
Also, we had such a great home-stay from a Pewag Employee, Lisa Frank, that we felt so comfortable and welcome #solucky !!
The day after the race I flew to San Antonio, Texas where I was a guest speaker for the AWRF convention. I have to say, that really picked me back up. I love speaking about health and wellness, and knowing that I helped 2 Pewag Employees lose over 60 lbs in 6 months is so huge. I suppose that made the wounds heal up faster, knowing I can still make a positive impact! More to come...