Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Ironman Calgary 70.3 race report

So I finished.  And that was my only goal.

I'll start the day before, when my sister, mum and I went out to Cochrane to drop off my bike.  Nothing too noteworthy happened except I met a very nice volunteer who was very informative and helped me put my number stickers on my bike.  She told me how and where I would exit the water, grab my T1 bag, get dressed, and run out to the mounting line.  Nothing too crazy.  I walked down to the water and tested it out.  It was cold.  I wish I had gone for a swim, but I didn't.

Race morning I woke up at 3:30, made coffee and oatmeal, made sure I had all my stuff, and we (sister, Matt and I) left to go pick up my mum.  It was raining, and there were thundershowers in the day's forecast.  We arrived in Cochrane, and the line for the portapotties was already very long.  I don't exactly remember what all happened and it what order, but I dropped off my water bottle, pumped my tires, lent my pump to someone else, went to the bathroom, got body marked, applied sunscreen, re-marked my numbers since they came off with the sunscreen, got on my wetsuit, and dropped off my dry clothes bag.  Also, I got about 500 mosquito bites.  Then I waited.  The pros started and finished, the women started, the men started, and then I went into the water to "warm up".

As soon as I put my face under the water, I started gasping, breathing in (which you aren't supposed to do under water), and panicking.  I have never had any water "issues", I've never panicked, I've never freaked out, and I don't mind open water or cold water.  I'm not sure if this was nerves, temperature, or both, but I could NOT find my breath.  Of course, the fact that I was having these issues is making me panic even more, and all of a sudden, the horn went off.  I still couldn't put my face under without gasping in and out, so I just tried to swim some kind of front crawl without my face under.  It wasn't too effective, and before I knew it I was one of the last people.  I think I did the first quater or third of the swim like that.  In my head, I was thinking "ok, well this is it, I'm done the race, I can't do it, I'll just stop", but then I just sucked it up, tried to calm down, and eventually found my stroke.  I made up quite a bit of time, passed quite a few people, and finished the swim strong in 46:24.

I ran up the boat launch, tried to get my wetsuit half off, then ripped off my cap and goggles, got stripped by the strippers, couldn't find my T1 bag, a volunteer found it for me, changed, took a Gu, and ran into the bike place and grabbed my bike.  I took some swigs of water and walk/jogged to the bike mount.  My mum, sister, and Matt were there, taking pictures and cheering me on.  I think I said "that was very hard" and then hopped on my bike.  I knew this was going to be hard.  And it was.

I passed a girl not two minutes into the bike who had already gotten a flat tire.  I said to her "terrible luck!!" and she replied "I know, right?!?" as if she couldn't even believe it.  I remember thinking "I hope I don't get a flat!" and kept on going.  I biked along, getting passed left right and centre, one guy saying "those beers are going to taste amazing tonight!" as he went by.  It rained a bit, making my feet wet and cold.  I tried to remember to drink, eat (I managed to eat my Gus without falling, which was great) and just kept cycling.  The course was devastating.  I felt awful.  The hills were tough.  I managed to speed down the hills, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to, only breaking when the officials told us there was a sharp turn coming up, and I tried to keep strong, but it was hard.  I couldn't get into aero position much during the first half of the race, since there were so many up and down hills, requiring me to change gears, and my aero bars don't have gear changers on them.  When the course was a bit flatter in the last third, being in aero hurt my crotch so much that I couldn't stay in for long.  My dad drove out to Cochrane and cheered me on with major gusto at two spots.  When he drove by me on a hill, he stuck his hand out the sunroof and cheered like crazy.  He really helped keep my morale up.  Coming up to the second aid station, I had finished my aero bottle of sports drink, so I decided to take my spare water, pour it into the aero bottle, chuck it at the aid station, and get a new spare water.  I have never really ridden with one hand for that long, so I was really going out on a limb thinking I could do it.  Slowly but surely, I managed all those steps, and when I was finished, I felt so proud!  How silly!  I even looked around hoping someone had witnessed it!  I got up to the aid station, called out for water, and my favourite volunteer from Saturday's bike drop off ran beside me and handed me a bottle!  She encouraged me, congratulated me, and told me to keep riding hard!  I found out later that she went to the finish line and even recognized my family and told them that she had seen me out on the course.  How nice!!  For almost the whole course, I was alone, only passing about 6 people total, and being passed here and there.  Anytime I saw the official vehicle drive by, I was scared there were going to pull me over and tell me I was too slow and I had to stop.  I saw a few people on the side with flat tires, and again hoped I wouldn't have to be in their shoes.  When I finally got onto Glenmore Trail, I tried to remind myself that I was supposed to be happy, since this meant the bike was almost over.  Instead I was mad.  I was mad because I thought I had been too slow and wouldn't get to run.  Then I was happy because the day would be over.  I didn't care that I couldn't run.  I just wanted to be done.  Then I was sad because I wouldn't be able to finish and would have to tell everyone I didn't finish.  I finally turned onto 37th street, (what a bumpy road!!! my crotch was KILLING ME!) powered down the road, and saw a group of people at the end screaming and cheering.  I heard my dad yell "YOU MADE IT!!!" and saw my mum, sister, matt, my friend katie, and her sister yelling and cheering.  I unclipped, got off my bike only to find that one foot was still clipped, almost fell, and walked over the timing mat.  I was sort of crying out of happiness, exhaustion, disappointment (that I had to keep going), and as I walked to my transition area, I heard my mum say "well, she doesn't look very happy!" and then I got changed.  My final bike time was 4:05:21.  Ouch.

I was thankful to have spare socks since mine were SOAKED (hehe just in case Leana!!), got on my runners, my hydration belt, went to the bathroom and peed for what felt like an hour, and set out on the run.  As I passed my family again, I said to my sister "don't ever let me do one of these again!!" and started running.  I think I took a Gu.  My quads were completely cramped.  When I stopped to stretch them, my calves would seize.  It felt terrible.  I ran, walked, walked, ran, and at about 4 km, I met my new friend Perry.  He had gotten four flat tires on the bike and cruised into transition one minute after me, being I think the last one to make the cutoff.  He said "we are pretty much at the same pace, if you try to walk as fast as you can when you're walking, we can still make a good time, so lets just run together".  So we did.  The course looped in such a way that we passed the finish line a couple of times throughout the run, so we got to see my family a lot.  When we passed them around the 4 km mark, the group had grown to include Kirsten and her three kids.  Kristen ran with us for a few kms, talking to us, telling us we were great, cheering for us, and being awesome.  She then left us and found someone to run up the weaselhead hill with who was on their last 5 kms of the race.  We ran, walked, talked, drank water, and before I knew it we were at the turn around, meaning we were halfway done.  I definitely wasn't running my fastest half marathon, but I didn't care.  My quads were sore, and I was mentally done.  Perry and I took turns being the strong one, making the other run a little longer.  He has done 35 triathlons, 6 of which were 70.3 and one ironman.  He had done this race last year and finished in just over 6 hours.  He was nursing a rib injury, making his race a tough one, not to mention all the flat tires.  About 9 kms to go, my mum's good friend Leah rode up on her bike and cheered us on.  She rode behind us for quite a while, chatting, telling us how great we were doing, offering us and anyone who came by some sharkies, granola bars, and water.  She was such a great moral booster, and we were happy to have her as company.  During the whole run, we passed probably 30 people, so that felt nice.  When we got to the bottom of the weaselhead hill, Kristen, Katie and her sister met us at the bottom and encouraged us to run up it.  My quads didn't like that idea, so we walked up.  At the top of the hill, we were met with cheers by an even bigger group, including Matt's cousin Kaitlin and her husband Jordan, and my friend Vanessa, who had worked all night and woke up to come to the end.  Also, my step dad Kevin was there.  It was amazing.  We ran some more, still with 4 km left of the race, walked, ran, walked, and I was really loosing steam.  It was so hard to keep running.  Finally, FINALLY, we had one km to go.  We had originally said we would run the last km, but I just couldn't.  I ran, then walked, then ran it in.  People were lined up, cheering, and it just felt amazing.  Perry and I crossed the finish line together, hugged, and then I just cried.  We finished the run in 2:24:32.

I got my finisher's medal, a belt buckle, a large finisher's shirt that comes down to my knees, a superhero cape (those metal blanket things) that I've always wanted, pepsi, water, and went over to find my family.  I just couldn't stop crying.  I was so glad it was over.  I cried and cried and hugged people and I was just so relieved.  My final time was 7:28:30.

My final thoughts?  I have an amazing group of family and friends.  I couldn't believe how the group just kept growing and growing.  My sister would have run the whole half marathon with me if she needed to.  Matt decided I needed to have a jacket (since I didn't buy anything at the race expo) so he, Kristen and my mum got one for me so I would have something to wear.  They cheered and cheered and just were amazing.  Also, the race was really really hard.  I feel amazing, but it was hard.


k said...

Yay for you! From persevering in the water to continuing on after the epic/devastating bike- job well done. I'm glad I was able to come cheer you on- I would have been sad if I hadn't been there.

Although you may have gotten one thing wrong- I think what mum said was "well she doesn't look very good." It was kind of funny. I thought you looked not bad for 94K of bike and tears streaming down your face ;-)

Oh, and I would have cheered for you for getting all that bottle stuff sorted out if I had been around :)

Runner Leana said...

I'm glad you didn't listen to me on the socks! Oops...

Congratulations on your race. The 70.3 course is a tough one...the bike is pretty brutal! You pushed through it, so well done! The run is also really hard too. You did it, you race the 70.3...well done!! :)

Kelownagurl said...

Wow, great report Heather - I read every word and commiserated along with you. Our times were pretty close although my struggle was the run and yours was the bike. Well done for sticking it out - and yes, I agree - a HIM is very, very hard!!!

Kabekona Tri Girl said...

Heather, great report! I had tears in my eyes commiserating with you. What a great accomplishment, good job!!!

sandbocks said...

that almost made me cry in starbucks over here!! you are so great :)

Heather said...

Thanks so much everyone!! It feels good to have completed it, and it feels even better to know that I have such great supporters!