Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Ironman Florida Race Report

Here it goes, my first race report. It's gonna be a long one, I mean it was an Ironman and it took me a while:)  The actual race report is a ways down!

Race week Re-cap

Jon and I arrived to Panama City Beach on Tuesday. We split the trip into two days with an overnight in Savannah, GA that involved some tasty burgers and some sweet potato beer. We left even earlier than we had planned due to Hurricane Sandy. The drive down was overall uneventful. I was just very pleased that our new bike rack kept the bikes safe!

View from condo! Hello PCB!!
There wasn't too much activity going on Tuesday or Wednesday which was nice. Jon, Lynn, Pilot Mike, Kate and I put on our wetsuits and hopped into the very choppy and rough Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday morning. The swells/waves were probably 6-7 feet high. Not kidding. I now know what it feels like to swim down hill. And HOLY salt water. I mean I knew the swim would be in the ocean but I really wasn't prepared for how it would just dry your mouth out and make you kinda want to vomit. I kept telling myself that the water would calm down for race day.

As we had hoped, as the winds calmed down so did the chop. Every day leading up to the race we had short swims, bikes and runs. We rode our bikes around the run course which was as advertised: FLAT as can be. Part of the run took us through a state park where we found two deer that almost let us pet them!  We decided not to drive the bike course which in hindsight was likely a very good decision. More on that later.

New friends on the run course. Crazy close.

Short easy ride

Also with each day, more and more Richmond racers and support crew arrived. There is something truly magical about the days leading up to the race. I won't lie and say that it was as exciting as IMCDA last year BUT I will say that I was over-the-moon excited for Jon and his first IM. I've also never really sought out races that I knew a lot of local people were doing but this year was special. 52+ Richmond athletes were down in PCB. Some I knew and had trained with and others I had just seen pop up on Facebook threads. Regardless, it was pretty awesome to see so many familiar faces and feel his/her support.

New friend in PCB! 13 yo weim!!
Mom and Dad came in on Thursday which was oh so amazing. I know how much my mom hates does not care for flying so it was pretty WONDERFUL that they came down. This would be the first triathlon of mine they would be watching!! That night for dinner we went out to Flamingo Joe's, a local hole in the wall with amazing food. Months ago I had stumbled upon a local PCB triathletes blog and this place was recommended. What  I didn't know was that the owner would have TWO WEIMARANERS out back that she let me love on. I missed my girls so much. It was just what I needed.

Note the tattoo? It's the R-dot or the Richmond Tri Club Logo! Laure had a TON of these made so that the Richmond Folks could be identified during the race. Lilo also had awesome RVA tats made that I stuck on my calf.

A car load of Pro-K peeps arrived on Friday including photographer Bryan, coach Karen, cheerleader Jill and Steve.
Jon's dad and step brother, Sebastian, made it in on Friday and finally sister Shelly and boyfriend Jason! They both volunteered at the finish line. Little did I know that they would be my "catchers".

Race Morning, we headed over to the transition house that Lynn and Kate had rented (amazing, you could see swim start) and started the process of stuffing the sausage (wetsuits on), lubing up and convincing ourselves and each other that the water was calm (it wasn't). Before races, I usually feel pretty calm and I work on just getting into the right mind set: this is gonna be a fun but long effing day.

Pro-K making sure we've got the proper shoulder ROM!
No, he isn't strangling me.
We got some last minute advice from Karen (this involved her telling me to go for a 6-hour bike split, yikes), gave everyone hugs and wishes of luck and walked down to the swim start. I got to see Spring and gave her a big hug. She just learned how to swim and was hopping into the Gulf for 2.4 miles. bad ass.

I kissed Jon good-bye, told him I'd see him on the bike course and made my way to the front lines (because karen told me to) There, I found Sally and swim beast Laure Ray. uhhh she's too fast for me to be around...So then I made my way to the right (because Bob told us to). I looked around me and saw only dudes. Started to panic but then just said "Eff-it, it is what it is"

Swim: 1:12 something (goal: around 1:10)

As the cannon scared the sh$t out me went off, I started making my way through the waves and finally started swimming.  The current was pulling us to the left which was perfect since that's where the buoys were. I had counted 5 yellow buoys until the red turn-around one so I tried to keep track of them. This proved to be very difficult as I was being pummeled by what felt like millions of arms and feet. I got swam over, under, kicked, knocked all over the place. Holy shit panic. Quickly, I calmed down and got over it. There was a dude in front of me that was barely moving his legs but as soon as my fingertips grazed his feet, he started pounding his feet. Really? I'm usually a very nice racer and am known to give out high-fives, 'woo-hoos' and occasional butt smacks.  However, nice Meredith did not like getting her face pounded on so she grabbed the dudes ankle and gave a gentle but firm tug. Problem solved.

The first lap seemed to take FOREVER. It was rough, the water was choppy and salty. I finished the first loop, got some much needed water and headed out for the second loop. I went really wide to the right and found myself swimming alone, away from the swarm of racers. In hindsight, this was probably good since the current helped push me to the left. The second lap was marginally better than the first though I felt like the water was more choppy. I felt like it was taking me at least 2 hours to do this swim.

When I came out of the water, I heard Jill yell out "1:12 mere". I don't wear a watch so this was a surprise.

Excited to see people and to have not died during the swim and rocking the awesome goggle marks. Photo courtesy of Dealio.

 T1 6:37 (Goal: didn't care much)

Since I had already pulled my wetsuit down as I walked in with the waves, it was easy for me to plop in front of the wetsuit strippers and have them yank the legs off. It was NOT easy getting back up though. I stumbled my way to the fresh water showers, pulled my cap off and enjoyed. That is until some pesky little woman came up behind me, pushed me and said, "MOVE". Rude. Actually, that didn't stop me. I wanted that salt water and sand OFF. I grabbed my bag and ran into the changing room. There were TONs of volunteers waiting. I grabbed one and started the process. She was so nice and helpful and actually put on my helmet and socks. (if you ever do an IM, tell the volunteer exactly what you want and they do, awesome) Even after I tossed down a gel, I had a funky taste in my mouth. I had a pack of "magic gum" in my T1 bag. HUGE help to get that salt water funk out.
After thanking the volunteer, I awkwardly ran in my bike shoes to find my bike but this wonderful girl had already pulled it for me so I didn't even have to slow down to get it! Again, awesome volunteers.

After the showers, heading into transition

Bike  Race time: 6:11 something   Garmin ride time: 6:05 something Goal: ummm under 7 hours...

I feel like I could summarize the bike course in just a few words. Flat, pine trees and more pine trees.  Boring. Oh and of course, DRAFT. PACKS.

I took it very easy at the beginning of the bike. My stomach was a touch queasy and I puked 2 times early on but then felt better and could start taking in calories. I was happy to find that my legs felt GREAT. Not fatigued and sore like they were for Patriots Half. The weather was perfect as this point. I was just a little chilly. In the beginning, the draft packs weren't that bad. I got passed by tons of dudes easily and had to remind myself that I didn't need to try and keep up with them. I kept waiting for Jon to come flying past me and I was on the lookout for friends and RVA folks.  The tattoos really helped because lots of Richmond people gave me shout outs as they FLEW past me (none drafting BTW). Bethany passed me pretty early and looked really strong.

Mile 20ish was when I was passed by what I assumed was a draft pack. They went by so fast that I couldn't tell. It was as if I was NOT MOVING. I checked the Garmin which showed I was going 20mph. They must have easily been pulling 27+mph. I just shook my head and kept on. Then the groups of dudes and quite a few females kept coming. I made it a game to yell out different things as they flew by. "nice draft-pack douchebags" "Nice Peloton" were some of my favorites. Shame on them. In a race this size there are times where you can not avoid being in someone's draft zone. But this, this was just blatant cheating. Lame. Enough about that. they suck.

I can't remember what exact mile markers it was but if you do this race there is a HORRIBLE out and back section where the road quality is awful. I saw tons of flats here and even one wreck. Every two seconds your whole body and bike would bounce really hard. I want to say it was about 6 miles but I don't know. I am happy that I did NOT know about this section because then I'd just been dreading it the whole time. I'm guessing this is when my bag of salt tabs and gels popped out of my tri top pocket. (So, glad that I had put an extra bag of salt/nutrition in my T2 bag!)

When I made it to the halfway point where the special needs bags were my Garmin said 2:53! And I still felt great! There was a snickers bar calling my name. And more chamois butter. I over-shot where my bag was so there was some back tracking involved. I re-filled my Carbo-Pro bottle and water and tried to eat some of the delicious Snickers but it just wasn't happening so I gave it to the Volunteer.

This is when Lynn caught up to me. We chatted a bit and then we saw Jon heading into Special Needs! I was just happy to see he survived the swim! I knew he would but I wanted to hear all about it. I kept plugging along, enjoying the sun and checking out peoples bikes. I got a lot of comments about my road-bike-without-aerobars. Whatever, works for me. I did see a handfull of other road bikes out there.

The aid stations were not exactly 10 miles apart. Some were more and some were less so that kinda annoyed me especially when I needed to pee. It got so bad at one point that I ALMOST peed my bike using Bob's method that he told us about.

Mile 60-100 or so there was a pretty strong head-wind and I really wanted to tuck in behind the tall guy in front of me. But I didn't. My pace was slowing down but I knew at that point I would definitely come in under 7 hours. I stopped 4 times during the second half due to various reasons so I figured Jon had passed and I had missed him. I was bummed that we couldn't catch up real quick.

As I made my way back to transition, I had a huge smile on my face. I felt great. No saddle issues, no pain and a new bike split PR! What made it infinitely better was seeing sooo many special people cheering for me in the homestretch. The picture below takes me back to exactly what I was feeling at that point in the race. Thanks Bryan for the pic!  Seeing my mom, dad, sister, Jason, Karen, Jill, Kate, JR, Bryan and sooo many more people just made my day even better. I *may* have been cry/laughing at this point:)
This is when I saw family and friends. My cup runneth over.

The Whitehurst clan all in one shot!

T2 3:30 something, Goal: didn't care, just faster than last year:)

I safely dismounted my bike and handed it off to a bike catcher. I. Love. That. Bike.  Easily grabbed T2 bag and ran into the changing room. (This year I marked my bags with an orange ribbon that stood out which helped a lot) Three teenage girls were there to help me. I decided not to change  out of my bike shorts but I did wipe down my legs with a baby wipe, threw on my shoes and Garmin and was ready to go. As I was standing up, fellow RVA triathlete, Amy sat down next to me! She looked great so I wished her good luck and was on my way. Legs felt pretty good. Foot, not so much.

Run 4:47 (goal: to finish)
Typically, the run is my favorite part. Still is, but I just wasn't sure how it'd go this year. The run started off kinda rough. My stomach wasn't feeling that great so I went ahead and took some salt and water coming out of transition. Fortunately, that did the trick quickly. I have very loose plans when it comes to nutrition on the run. I try to listen to my body and again my body said ORANGES. Every aid-station I grabbed a few. Glorious.

I had not done too many T-runs this year in training and my foot wasn't too happy with me. My plan was to run to each aid station and then walk through while I got water/food/etc. This worked out for the first two miles then I  had to walk/run.

The run was a two-loop course that took us through some neighborhoods and a state park. The first section coming out of transition and the first neighborhood section was great! Lots of people, a 'girl zone' which had scantily clad men and women dancing oh, and an old guy dressed up like Elvis. They were fun. After that, the run course became really boring. Once you get into the state park there is another out and back section that lets you see other people. I caught up with Sally and we walked for a while together and I saw Lynn and Bethany. They were both having great races!  My legs still felt good and with the exception of some occasional intense sharp pains in my foot, I was good to go.

I saw Jon a little while after I came out of the State Park as he was going in. I figured that he was on his second loop. We stopped, shared a quick xo and chatted. He had swallowed too much salt water and had GI issues on the bike. Seeing him was a huge boost though and I kept moving along. Somewhere in the final section of hoods I met up with a previously-unknown-except-on-Facebook-RVA person. Ameer and I introduced ourselves and became run-course friends. We did a run-walk thing which was helpful. When we were running we kept a good pace. His original goal was to finish under 12 and mine was to finish under 13 so we decided to stay together. Of course, I had no clue what pace I was going or what time it was so I went along. As we approached the turn-around and special needs bags, I again saw my family and friends!
Love this pic! I gave sweaty hugs to Mom, Dad, Shelly and Jason!

I grabbed my special needs bag which had a long sleeve T-shirt, gummy bears and arm warmers. I took everything out but gave the long sleeve T to Bryan and kept the arm warmers. The sun was going down and I didn't want to get the chills. I shared my gummies with Ameer and some salt tabs with a guy cramping and kept chugging along. (note for future IMFL people, pack a headlamp in run special needs or T2 bag depending on when you will get on run course)

Once we got into the lovely state park again, Ameer decided to go for his sub-12 goal. His Garmin had died so I gave him mine for pacing. I was pretty sure at this point I'd go sub 13 so I kept one foot in front of the other.  I made myself hold out until mile 21 before I started taking the flat coke. That stuff is the shit!  I also gave some chicken broth a try. not my thing.

Around mile 22 in the super dark and boring neighborhood, you could HEAR the finish line. oh so close. At mile 24, I saw Erik with a K and he ran with me for a little bit and let me know that Laure was doing well. At this point, my foot was killing me but I just wanted to be done.

On the way to finish!
ProK found me around mile 25ish and jogged me into the homestretch and gave me a pep talk. She told me I'd get in under 12:30 if I kept pace. Then Bryan and JR ran me into the shoot! I was moving (at least I felt that way, it was but a mear jog for Bryan and JR!) I gave high-5's to Sebastian, Mom, Dad right were the finishing chute started. Further down I saw Holly and Patrick!

I took my time going down the chute this year and enjoyed it! As I crossed the finish line I didn't pay much attention to the time clock but I did see a '12'. Sweet!! The volunteer catcher asked if I was ok and I said yes. I looked up and it was JASON! and then in front of me was sister SHELLY!! perfect ending.

Finish Time: 12:21:19   Goal: sub 13  Secret Goal: sub 12:30

Video Clip of The day!

 After the finish, I made my way to the massage area, got some chocolate milk then headed back to find mom and dad. Shortly after, I saw Jon finish. We went back to the condo, showered, stretched then headed back down to the finish line with some new RVA Ironmen, Shelly and Jason. Awesome experience to watch the final hour of finishers come in!

Great day but I found parts of the course boring. I think this is a good first Ironman because it's pretty straightforward (read: IT IS STILL NOT EASY) It really gets my goat when people label IMFL as the easy Ironman. Nothing about it is easy. I'll likely not come down to race this one again.  The volunteer support was simply amazing but the thing that set this race apart for me was the people. This race was such a special day for me and I'm so fortunate that I got to share it with so many amazing people! Thank you to everyone for your support and cheers!