Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ironman USA recap

One year ago on July 24, 2007 registration opened for Ironman USA in Lake Placid, NY. I had told my friends, who all did their first Ironman the year before in Brazil, that whichever race they were all doing I would join them. They said Ironman USA was the one. I read about the race, looked good to me! I love New York and the scenery is supposed to be beautiful. Should I sign up? Should I commit to training for an Ironman? My husband said, “You’re nuts, but go for it!” So that morning at 6am the phone rang at my house from one of my friends calling to see if I was going to go through with it and sign up. Peer pressure always works with me. He had already signed up so I got right on it, went to the computer and signed myself up. Within ten minutes of signing up, the race was sold out completely. I can’t believe there are 2000 other people who want to do this that bad- crazy!

So, there I was, knowing what race I would be doing in one year. I have never planned anything in my life that far in advance, not even my wedding. How would I prepare myself? What would I do? What training program would I follow? I started reading every Ironman training book I could get my hands on and figure this out. I was excited to write a year long program for myself, follow it and get my body to the point where I could complete an Ironman. And I had an entire year to do it.

I wrote out my plan starting with a corrective exercise phase, then two Half Ironman’s and a Century Ride. I had my volume build for 3 weeks and then a recovery week. My plan was to taper for 3 weeks so my biggest longest workout was Saturday, 3 weeks out from the race and I followed it very closely. I kept track of everything, my miles, my hours, my weight, calories eaten.

My final week of tapering was here. We flew out on Wednesday and I would be an Ironman on Sunday. I couldn’t believe I had been consumed by this for a full year and now here it was. I was about to be an Ironman. I had done everything right, followed my training program and followed all of the advice in the books and from all of my friends. I had to be ready.

We got to Lake Placid on Wednesday night and I tried to get to bed as early as I could with the time difference to try to get on the time zone. Woke up on Thursday and went for a 40 minute run around the lake. I felt good, legs felt pretty fresh. I was ready to do this. Following my run I joined my husband in the hotel gym while he worked out I stretched and did some range of motion work.

Time to go register! I went and registered Thursday afternoon and it started to rain and get really windy. All day Thursday ended up being torrential rain and wind- Oh No! What if this is what we have on race day? I got my bike and registered and went back to the hotel. My number was 2121- good number! The forecast was for clear skies over the weekend so we’ll see. I know this race has been in this kind of weather in the past and with the way it was coming down it was hard to believe it would clear up by Sunday. I started to think I needed to prepare myself for a windy, rainy day.

Friday I woke up and there was a patch of no rain so I took my bike out for a spin to see how it was working. I was having trouble getting air in one of my tires so stopped by the bike shop where they were very helpful and helped me open the valve on my tire which seemed to be stuck. My bike was riding great, I did about 6 miles. Then I went back to the hotel, put my wetsuit on and headed out for a 20 minute swim in the lake. That was it for workouts, if you even call those workouts. Compared to what I had been doing these didn’t feel like I had worked out. More just mentally getting ready and getting some blood flowing in my muscles. I didn’t do anything that should cause any muscular damage that I will have to recover from. I felt good and was ready to go.

I was amazed at all of the competitors that were training all week and not just an easy run. I’d see people way out from town like they must have ran there up and down the hills 10-15 miles two days before the race. At any moment you could look out at the lake and see at least 50-100 people swimming and most of them seemed to be at least swimming one whole loop of the course. We also saw people cycling way out of town which again is not a flat ride back in to town. Crazy! These poor people didn’t know that they can only do damage at this point, there bodies would not recover from these last minute workouts by Sunday. What were they thinking? I felt bad for them that they thought it would be beneficial to get one last 10 mile run in before the race- it’s too late, go rest! Your poor body has to travel 140.6 miles on Sunday! Give it a break! While everyone else was getting one last swim or bike ride in I went and had a 90 minute massage which felt great and I was done with workouts until Sunday when I would be an IRONMAN. The rain continued to poor all day Friday with no end in sight except that the forecast still said clear over the weekend. I went back to the hotel and put my numbers on everything and taped 12 GU’s onto my bike. I put together my transition bags and special needs bags and everything was ready to go!

Saturday I woke up to blue skies! Yay! I had to drop off my bike and transition bags at transition. This was an exciting moment. Putting my bike on the rack and seeing where everything would be. Everything was ready to go. I relaxed most of the day except for a few hours when my husband and I went to the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex where we watched skiers in a competition fly off of the ski jumps- amazing! This definitely helped take my mind off of what I would be doing tomorrow. These guys were nuts! What a crazy sport! Watching it on TV doesn’t do justice to seeing it in person. Then we watched guys do jumps into a pool of water where they would flip and twist in the air 3-4 times. Amazing! I drank water and Gatorade all day long making sure I was fully hydrated and tried to sit and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Saturday night I ate pasta with grilled chicken around 6pm. I stretched, foam rolled and used the stick on my muscles and climbed in to bed at about 9pm after drinking a Surge to top off my glycogen stores before going to sleep.

My alarm went off at 4am and I was up and ready to go. Today was the Day! I felt so ready for this day that I don’t think I got really nervous. I felt pretty calm and excited to do this. I had planned my race and it was time to race my plan. I ate some oatmeal and a banana and had some coffee. At about 5:15am I headed to transition and my husband came with me. I went in and put my Clif bars in my bento box on my bike, and my drinks in the drink holders after they had been in the fridge all night, nice and cold. I pumped up my tires one more time and I was ready to go. Of course, I went back and double checked it once or twice before heading to the start line. It was time to say goodbye to my bike, I’d see it in a few hours. I was on my way over to the lake where the swim start was but first stop was to get body marked and second stop was to drop off my special needs bags. And third stop was one last bathroom stop before the race started where I waited in a long line and cut it a little too close to the race start for comfort. Everyone was getting in the water so I had my husband get my wetsuit ready and when I came out of the porta potty I put my wetsuit on and ran to the race start.

As I was walking in to the water the National Anthem started. Soon after, I was floating among 2500 people trying to find the best spot. I asked the guy next to me if I was in the middle or if I was up to close with all of the fast people. He said that he thinks all of the animals were up in front of us and that I was in a good spot just behind the animals.

Helicopters were flying over head, thousands of spectators surrounded the lake, the sun was shining, it was very exciting! The gun went off and we started swimming. The day had begun. The swim was definitely crowded and you had to watch out for yourself. Swimming is usually a relaxing sport but this was a contact sport, a very different swim experience. I would be swimming in a nice open space getting into my stroke- “one, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, look up, one, two, three…” and then all the sudden chaos- there would be people on all sides of me kicking, arms flying and so I would look up find another open space close by and move to it and continue moving forward. I got hit once or twice but no biggie. I was nervous about getting kicked hard so whenever I’d see feet in front or on the side of me I steered clear of them. The key was staying calm and keep moving forward. The sun was blinding me when I would breathe on that side I’d see stars for the next couple of breathes so I had to change my talk in my head to- “one, two, three, close eyes, one, two, three, look up.” I only brought clear goggles and wished I had tinted ones. I thought it would be overcast in the morning. After swimming about 900 meters we had to turn left around a buoy, swim 100 meters and make another left at a buoy making a rectangle heading back to the beach. These turns were what you would call a clusterf***. And I don’t usually cuss(I leave that to my husband, he does it better then I do) but this is the best word to describe these turns. Everyone cut in close to the buoys and were on top of each other. This was the worst of the contact sport and I just wanted out of it. I made it out OK and took the next buoy a little wider. Then I was headed back to the beach. First loop in 39 minutes- right on track for my 1:20 swim time I wanted. The second loop I was able to swim out on the rope that held the buoys together using it as a lane line so I didn’t have to sight as often. Sighting is when you look up to see where you are. Before I knew it I was at the buoys to turn again and this time I took them both wide but ended up off course a bit as I was coming back in. It was great because I had nice open water all by myself but I was swimming way outside of the buoys and needed to make my way back in closer which I did. I never did see any scuba divers which they said we would see. They had scuba divers in the water watching us swim over I guess incase anyone gets pulled under or drowns they would see them.

When I got back to the beach, stood up and looked at the clock it said 1:20- yay! I was very happy with that time! And the people cheering- thousands of people were there cheering- it was overwhelming as you came out of the swim. I couldn’t believe all of the people, there was no way I would see my husband. I started feeling emotional with all of these thousands of people cheering for ME as I came out of the water. I couldn’t get emotional all ready, I had a long day ahead of me but it was pretty overwhelming having thousands of people cheering for you. Do you think they were there for someone else? I thought they were all there for me! Volunteers were standing there to help us pull our wetsuits off which was great and then I ran ¼ mile to transition which was actually a lot of fun because of the crowds cheering for me and I did see my husband just before I entered transition. In transition, the volunteers were great helping with everything. In no time I had my helmet and bike shoes on and was heading out to get my bike.

I had a great time on the bike. My legs felt great. I passed 780 people on the bike! I didn’t count, a friend of mine pointed it out to me after the race was over when she looked at the results online. I knew I passed a lot of people but I didn’t realize that many. I did the first loop in 2:56 and was feeling great except that I would need to make a pit stop at a restroom probably on this second loop. I really wanted to wait until I was back at transition but couldn’t wait and had to stop at mile 80 where these kids were volunteering and held my bike for me filling up all of my drinks. It was better than Valet parking- what service! I felt much better and was off for another 32 miles until my marathon! Oh my god I was going to run my first marathon today! Was I insane?

I finished strong on the bike, passing all of the people I had already passed earlier before my pit stop. I came in strong right to the finish, felt great. My nutrition on the bike was a GU every 10 miles, 3 Clif Bars which I ate between mile 20 and mile 80 and 20 ounces of fluid every hour. I also took 2 salt tablets every hour. This seemed to work pretty good. I had no problems with cramping.

I came into transition after 6:09 on my bike. As we came around the final corner the volunteers were all yelling at us to “Slow Down!!!” and “Yellow Line!!!” You felt like you were in trouble the way they were yelling but they just wanted to make sure you dismounted at the yellow line and didn’t crash into transition. A volunteer took my bike from me and I ran into transition to get ready to run my marathon! I made another stop at the porta potties on my way in, then went to the tent, changed my socks and shoes, put my hat on and grabbed my GU’s and salt tabets for the run. I was off to run a marathon!

I couldn’t believe how fresh my legs felt running out of transition. I felt great! I just hoped it would last! I had 10 Gu’s packed into my pockets and 10 salt tablets. It was a lot of stuff in my pockets while running so I started to spread it out and put some Gu’s in my shorts pockets. As I ran out of transition, I heard the announcer say my name- “Here comes Rachel Cosgrove out on the run course!” I saw my husband right when I ran out which made me smile and I was off to run the first 13 mile loop. I had planned to get 4-6 ounces of fluid at very aid station, take a Gu every 30 minutes and 2 salt tablets every hour. That was the plan. So, I ran until I came to the first aid station where I quickly walked through while grabbing a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade chugged them down and picked up my pace again. I was keeping a 10min/mile pace perfectly because when I hit mile 6 it had been exactly an hour so I was right on track. I felt great all the way to the turnaround and then headed back toward town where on your way in you have to run up a steep climb and then down a hill and then another steep climb, two more small climbs and then one last little hill that really hurts. The crowds were great on these hills though cheering for you. I ran up them all and felt pretty strong. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I did my first loop in 2:15 putting me on track for a 4:30 marathon if I could keep that pace. Second loop I still felt good running, I think my aid station walks were probably getting a little slower then they were on the first loop and I am sure my pace had slowed down a little even though it felt like I was holding a pretty good pace. I also had to stop 3-4 times at the porta potties, sometimes false alarms but I didn’t want to risk it. So my overall pace on the second loop I was noticing I was about 15 minutes behind at about mile 18 to hit 4:30. 18 miles was the longest I had every run but I felt fine going into mile 19. I started to grab the chicken broth which seemed to keep me feeling good and I was still eating my Gu’s and taking my salt. So from mile 18 to the end it was water, Gatorade, chicken broth, Gu and salt tabs. I knew those hills were coming up again ahead and my goal with this race had always been to finish strong so as I got to the hills I just kept saying to myself, “Finish Strong” And I ran up all of the hills while the crowds cheered for me, one hill, two hills and then the couple of smaller hills running strong out to the turnaround where I would be heading into the finish line soon.

As I was running into the Olympic Oval where the finish line was I lifted my sunglasses off my eyes but with all of the thousands of people cheering at me and I was about to finish something that I had worked very hard for, I got emotional again and started to get tears welling up. I put my sunglasses back down on my eyes because I didn’t want to start bawling and have my picture crossing the finish line of me bawling.

I ran across the finish line. I think I put my arms up and heard the announcer say, “Rachel Cosgrove, YOU are an Ironman!”

After I crossed the volunteers were there to hold me up, one on each side. I felt fine, really. They asked me how I was. And when I said I was fine they kept saying- “Are you sure? What do you need?” I started to second guess myself, was I really Ok? But yes, I felt good. I just wanted to see my husband and I had no idea how I would find him in the thousands of people. Another volunteer came up to check me out and she said, “Wow, you look like you just got out of the salon! You look great!” With that comment, I went and posed for a professional picture. Soon after I found my husband wearing his Ironmate shirt.