Blast from the past: IMNOLA 69.1

There’s no t-shirt for this one–69.1 recap

April 25, 2011 at 5:42pm

Since the week after Thanksgiving I have been training for the Half Ironman in New Orleans.  This triathlon is made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  For the last four months, I have been working my life around a training schedule which would range from 8 to 14 hours per week.  Last year I relayed the race with Megan–I did the run and the bike (see note titled “70.3 NOLA Relay-Race Report: 57.2 sticker for me please?” for race report) so this year I just had to add the run.  Most of you know that I struggle with the run, so just having to add the run is not an easy task for me.  Training for this race was filled with many victories and adventures.  From fitness challenges to Rouge Orleans Ultra Marathon Relay to 5 hours of riding in St. Francisville (the closest place to find hills around here!), training for the race alone was an accomplishment, but there is something about crossing the finish line after all that training that makes it all worth it!

Went down Friday with Lizzard to get race packets and to make Saturday a little less stressful–that is after I spent a part of the morning at the IRS, but that’s another story!  We had a great time just hanging out and taking our time.  We went to look at the lake (and maybe swim) but we decided that we were ready and didn’t need to.  Instead we tried out a local eatery: Nola Bean = Yumm!!  Headed down to packet pick up and ended up walking in with Ellen and her daughter.  We knew the Trophy Wives were also attending the optional race briefing, so we would be in good company.  From there we went through the maze of packet pick up then into the Ironman store where I did a little shopping while Lizzard got an inflatable leg massage (where is the picture of that?!)rack

Fast forward to bike check in Saturday…my Captain America bike got a great spot on a split row of racks just under the lighthouse.  I went down to the swim entrance and counted racks in order to mentally prepare for the next morning.  The water was a bit choppy but the weather had been predicted to change overnight so I didn’t think much of it: Sunday was supposed to be a low of 64 and a high of 76 with 13 mph winds from the East–a great day for racing!  Then it was off to the FitBird pre-race meal–we sure do like to eat!

Race morning, I arrived with coach around 5:45am but even before we get out of the car we get a call from a fellow FitBird that the swim had been canceled.  A little disappointed but okay with it–just a little nervous for the bike ride knowing that the wind would be brutal if it was bad enough for them to cancel the swim.  At this point I was just hoping that I would be able to hit my time from last year let alone better it. Because of the change to a bike-run there was a lot of downtime.  I was talking to another person in my wave when we both realized if we were swimming we would have been in the water by now.  I kept drinking my Gatorade and even choked down a gu (really not a fan) as the waiting was messing with my nutrition schedule.  We waited while they started the time trial for the pros, then the other couple of waves in front of mine.

And then finally we were off…somewhere close to 8am–about 40 minutes later than our swim wave would have started.  I gotta tell you I lost track of time on the bike…it was much different than last year when I was counting the minutes and the miles.  Before you know it I saw the 5 mile sign and then the 10 mile sign…I do think the fact that I really needed a port-o-potty helped distract me from the race itself for the first 15 miles.  When I got to the first aid station and no one was in the blue box, it was a hallelujah moment for me!!!  After my pit stop it was full speed ahead…up the overpass, down towards Six Flags, then out to the far point of the course which was straight into the wind that had caused the race director to cancel the swim–brutal!!!  But at the same time, I just kept going.  Turned around the first turn around and I finally got to push up the speed for a few miles–tried to spin the best I could to make up a little time before turning north for a few miles.  The time trial start made for a lot of packs on the bike course.  I could always tell when a new wave was coming by because the leaders were jockeying for position within the pack.  I finally looked at my watch a little after 3 hours into the race and began to figure out time and pace and knew I would be getting back to transition a little later than I hoped, but still better than last year.  I got back to transition and saw Ellen as I entered the chute.  We talked as we walked back to our racks–something I could not have done last year, either…I remember having major race brain after the bike and feeling quite happy I didn’t have to go out and run because I would never have made it to the finish line.

Racked my bike and put on my running shoes and visor and I was off for the run–13 one mile intervals with a walk break thru the aid stations!  Saw the FitBird cheering squad and my personal cheerleaders as I began that first mile which added a little bounce to my step! That first mile was a good one.  I fell in step with a guy and we ran that first mile together, but when I stopped to walk thru the aid station he kept running.  I had some great moments on the run, and some not so great moments, too!  Got to chat with Mike from the red team from Rouge Orleans!  Had to convince myself to keep going between mile 8 and 9 as it was a long hot stretch and I just hurt all over.  But I told myself that they closed the streets down just for me to run that day–okay maybe not just for me…but when do you get to run on closed streets in downtown New Orleans?!  And then I turned a corner and saw my personal cheering squad again!!!  I had no idea I would see them again and it was a huge boost for me!!!  Fast forward to mile 12 where it was a big mix of walking and running…there was someone in front of me who I had been trying to catch up to for a while.  So I turned on the run and just kept going!  Passed her even before turning the corner to the straightaway to the finish line.  As I got up to the finish line I heard the cheers of the FitBirds and my crew and looked to my right and saw that Janie had caught up to me.  It was such an honor to cross the finish line with her!

That was kind of a surreal moment as even during the event there were times that I doubted I would get there on my own strength…and then it was only 69.1 miles.  I fully acknowledge that 69.1 miles is a heck of a long way–but it’s not the 70.3 that I trained for.  It is however something I am very proud of and something that few people can say that they have done!!!  I crossed the finish line in 7 hours and 5 minutes…had I swam it would have taken me around 45 minutes giving me about a 5 minute cushion under the 8 hour time limit.

Lessons learned:

1) keep a couple of things in my transition bag that could be worn in case it’s cold, windy or other. i am always trying to cut down on what I bring into transition, but a long sleeve shirt or calf sleeves would have done wonders to keep me warm while we waited.   I did make due pretty well with my transition towel and I looked very klassy!

ice2) when in doubt say yes to the ice bath. you might think of having to sit in ice as a form of torture, but when your whole body seems to be on fire after finishing a long race, and ice bath is the way to go! you don’t have to sit in it too long before you begin to feel your muscles calm down.  i think that may have been the biggest smile of the day!

3) the journey to the finish line starts long before race day! When I sat down to write my race report I kept wanting to recount the milestones that I achieved during training as opposed to what actually happened on race day.  From hitting my first sub 30 minutes mile swim to setting a 10K personal best at the Mardi Gras Mambo to the No Such Thing As Impossible Bike Ride to Rouge Orleans Ultra Marathon Relay (just to name a few), every week I proved to myself that I could push harder and go farther than I had the week before.  I think having this perspective made the change from a triathlon to a duathlon easier to handle for me because while I was excited to get my first 70.3 under my belt, I had already done so much more than I ever thought possible..and I got to do them with some of the most amazing people! From Coach Canada to the FitBird Crew (especially those that did the 70.3) I couldn’t have asked for a better team with which to do this.