Monday, May 7, 2012

Ironman St George: Part III: The run

You've made it this far (as I had, in the race).  You can read just one more post - I ran just one more marathon.  If you skipped Part I: The swim or Part II: The bike feel free to read them in any combination you'd like.  I think reading the swim last would be a bit of a debbie downer though.

The run:

As I was biking into T2, I saw Meredith Kessler running what seemed like out of T2.  I thought for a minute, is that possible?  Am I that close?  Then I really thought about it, and I realized she was a lap ahead of me.  Ok, now I know where I am.

As my T2s now have a history of doing, I give myself one timed minute to go to the porta potty.  Sparing you most details, my stomach was upset, and really hadn't been too great all day (no thanks to the swim).  So, as I did in Kona, I held up my watch like a track coach timing kids splits.  Except I was timing...well, a minute is a minute and when that was up I was out and into T2.  My race number had ripped off half ways (thank you, wind), so I asked the lovely volunteer to put my spare # (I always keep one in my T2 bag) onto my race belt while I put on my shoes.

Out on the run.  Just so incredibly grateful to be running.  Loving that I am more in control of my body that I have been all day.  Now I can't drown, I can't crash, I can let go of fleeting worries and just feel pavement.  I love running.  

Now at this point, I have been exercising for over an hour longer than I thought I would be.  So, I don't stress whatsoever about anticipated run splits.  I just run and see what happens.  All I can think is I'm so glad all I have to do is a marathon.  I really feel like I can do these on autopilot, and that must be how other people feel on the bike and swim.  I don't even think I would want to be able to do all 3 on autopilot because then it would be too easy.  But I won't lie, being able to come off the bike and have it 'easy' for the next 3+ hours is a treat.

I had only seen one pro woman I had passed early-ish on during the 2nd lap of my bike.  I figured I was behind everyone else, and I wasn't exactly sure how many pros there were left out there running.  I knew Meredith was ahead, but she was so far ahead I couldn't see 2nd or 3rd place for a long time (due to the nature of the course layout).  But I had Meredith Kessler to chase and that was inspiring.  I had lots of guys say "go get her, she's right ahead of you".  It was so warm hearted of them to say that, but I had to respond with a laugh, "yes, right ahead of me by 1 lap".  That was the last thing on earth that was going to get me down.  I was quite happy to be running one lap behind.  But I was starting to look for those girls that weren't quite a lap ahead of me.  I wasn't content to run behind all of them.  

In actual fact, I caught up to and passed Meredith Kessler, congratulating her and ensuring to crack a joke with the lead bike rider to reinforce that I was indeed a lap behind.  Still, for me, it was uplifting to be making progress, even if that means un-lapping myself.

The new course layout is quite interesting.  Lots of little finger sections and then a bigger out and back, which you repeat 3x.  So, you really do get to see how much you're gaining on a person.  That to me, is a huge advantage.  It is, however, confusing as multiple laps mean you don't always know if someone is a lap ahead or behind, unless they have a lead biker in front of them (1-5th have lead bikes).  So I had started to find some of my targets, and despite a couple minor blips (a mile of ab cramping lessened only by jabbing a karate chop hand into my obliques - the muscle which today I realize is fully strained), and one funny lightheaded moment where things started to go in very slow & quiet mo, which is never a good sign.  Nutrition was had and Ironman perform shoved in, and problem was solved.  Phew.  I slowed down a little, but I was able to bounce back.

I have to say one thing.  The volunteers at this race were tremendous, on so many levels, but their aid stations were glorious.  They went the extra mile.  I don't think it was a particularly hot day, but I still required as much ice as I could pack into my suit, sponges, anyone with a hose, anything to stay cool.  I missed grabbing one sponge and one young guy took off sprinting to catch me.  It warms my heart to know how much they care, and I hope they know how much they mean to me.  I am never a great conversationalist when I am running, and my face is pretty dead-pan, but that's how my body works.  So to any volunteer who may read this post, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  What we do is not possible without you.

my attempt at a wave - so meek! but it's' so hard to raise your hand...
Coming down from lap 2, I passed the first female pro I recognized.  It was very rewarding, to have come all that way and finally get past someone.  It made me feel like I belonged there.  That I wasn't just some big ego'd age grouper who was going to get demolished out there.  I may not be in first, but as my first race as a 'pro', I felt like I was in the right place.  I had people to race and people to challenge me - that is where we should all be.

Back to the run.  I don't know why, but for some reason I thought I should install a sense of discipline and not try any cola before lap 3 of the run.  I never drink it anyways, but today was requiring a bit more of a Herculean effort, and I was starting to think the extra caffeine might help.  So, somewhere on lap 3 I had a cup of the still fizzy cola.  Major result - burping - yes!  Instantaneous feel better sugar/caffeine rush burp combo.  It was helping my (again) distended stomach problems (I really don't have that stomach in real life).   I couldn't wait to get to the next station to get some more.  Talk about your addictions...I think people on narcotics can make it more than a mile without needing a 'fix'.  When I missed a cup at one station I was sad, and even more sad when I tasted the Perform again.  But all was good and there was many more cola cups to be had, so I ran on.

This is where things get a little exciting.  I now know where the 5th place female is because she gets a lead bike.  I don't know, however, if there are girls behind her, or if I am in 6th place.  Now, 6th place actually wins prize money, so already I am quite excited that I might be there, but I really don't know.  No one is giving me splits, but I can only judge by distance on the finger sections which are all about 1 mile in length, which you run down and up (key word: "up"....this was not a flat course).  In going through aid stations, like a crazed monkey for bananas in cola formation, I missed seeing the 5th girl on the 3rd finger and no long knew if I had gained or lost.  It didn't matter, because I was doing everything I could to keep a rhythm and avoid hitting the brakes.

When I got up to the last out and back, I heard Shawn or my homestay Bruce say something about the number 7.  And I thought to myself, ok, I'm in 7th, and I am going to run into 6th if it kills me (reality was they were telling me I was 7 minutes behind at one point).   Then Shawn said, "you have to push HARD".  "Oooh, boy",  I thought to myself.   I am pushing pretty hard. But unlike sometimes when people tell you that from the sidelines and it only makes you feel more weak for being annoyed that you can't get your body to push any harder, I took it seriously, did not give my body any options for the complaints department, and pushed up the hill with whatever I had left.  I was definitely exhausted, and my body would likely have preferred the 'cruise' option, but I pushed harder and found another gear.

I now had a keen eye on where this 5th place lead bike was.  I kept running further and further up the hill (it's maybe 1.5 miles up?) without seeing it.  That was exciting.  Finally I saw the bike and the girl, looked at my watch, and could see the turnaround, not too far up ahead, but not that close either.  I made turn around and I have never took off running down a hill on more battered legs that fast in my life.  I had seen the girl was running also with two purple shirted guys, so I only focused on finding purple shirts.  I found them, but didn't see her.  And then a minute (or less) later, I saw her yellow shirt. It is an amazing feeling to be reeling in your target from a distance, but to have it come up like that is a dream.
the 5th place bike!

The course was getting crowded by this point and it was a bit tricky to navigate (even tricker when you are running on about 5 brain cells) but I passed her, and she said something like "go get it girl".  So classy.  If it was earlier on in the race, I might of said a bit more, but I tried to say "good job" and then I ran as hard as I could, with the biker asking me if I was on my 3rd lap, to which I said yes, and he told me I was now in 5th place (but I came 4th you say?  yes, because amazingly, 3rd place overall was taken by an AG athlete - amazing!....I know what that feels like, to finish ahead of pros but out of the money). 

 In any case, I am running on legs downhill and just praying that when I have to make these 3 last turns, my legs make it.  There was another short out and back section and at that point, I was pretty sure that I was going to make it (I did check over my shoulder before the last turn however).  I was running in with the finish line so close after such a long day and I was elated.  I realized while running that this would be a good time to hand out some high fives (something I've never been good at) but this time it felt really good!  
sweetest finisher chute yet

So I finished 5th overall, and 4th as a pro.  And it was the most hard fought placing I had ever won.  I went back to our homestay happy as clam that I was 5th, and then when I found out I was 4th, I think that was just enough happiness to take away the sting of the desperation of the swim and gutting of the bike, and all I could feel was happy.

My splits, for anyone that is interested and doesn't already know them:

Triathlon Canada Magazine article:

Well, happy and pain.  But we'd all be lying if we said we didn't like that combo.

dear Andrea - you are a gem! She volunteered from body marking, aid stations and then massage - the volunteer Iron-Woman!

I was also notified that I had had the fastest woman's marathon time for the race (and actually would have been 7th by the men's pro standards as well, not too bad).  So that little asterisk is a nice one, because despite giving everything I had to the first two sports just to survive this race, I was able to give that much more and be fully rewarded for my effort.  Sometimes you work hard for nothing, and that is fine.  In fact, that was all I wanted when I was out there bobbing up and down in the lake.  I just wanted the opportunity to race, because at that point, I had given up any sense of anger in not being able to be competitive.  I just wanted to ride my bike and run in my running shoes.  Purely, and simply.

I just wanted to be in the sport, and that reminded me why I'm in this in the first place.  It was a bit overwhelming coming into my first race as a pro, and I intentionally did not make a big deal of it, because I think it's counter productive and I also don't really think it's all that different from being a dedicated and competitive age grouper, as I was last year.  I have always been comparing myself against the pros, and in this race it was a very interesting experience to race against them.  All that really matter is that you love what you are doing and you become a better person for doing it.

All I wanted was to be challenged.  

Ironman St George, you did a pretty good job of that.

To the many people who were involved in so many levels on this day at this course, my hawaiian trucker hat goes off to you.  Some people will be happy, and some will be sad, some people will be utterly confused, and some people will be fiercely focused on whatever it is that comes next for them.

We all have one thing in common, we know what happened on the very last Ironman St George.

Time for rest & reflection, and time to heal all wounds.


  1. You are awesome, Gillian! I totally agree - do what you love and the reward will always be there. What a day out there... I enjoyed reading your race reports. You are an inspiration.

    1. thank you!! if you didn't love triathlon man would that be a crappy day to be doing a race. i found a lot of inspiration in others around me on race day fo sure! thanks for reading along :)

  2. Congrats for a fabulous race and for having the coolest kit out there!

    1. Hey Kiki!
      Love your title of your final post "Girlie, Tough Ain't Enough"!! I became a big fan of coca-cola out there on that day too!! :)

      I love my kit!! It's from Aquadiva Swimwear in Australia at they have the BEST suits!! Maybe they'll make you a trisuit if you ask :) I have two new ones coming and they are awesome so stay tuned!

      congrats on your race!!