Ironman Maryland

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to do Ironman Maryland (yes, despite having vowed I'd never do another ironman... I know...).  I started working with Melanie McQuaid, as I wanted to switch things up a bit and really felt like she was the person to help me do that.  I spent the last 10 months working harder than ever, especially on the bike, and turns out hard work really does pay off!

We flew out to the east coast, and then drove to Cambridge MD.  It's a small community, but very pretty.  We didn't actually have much of a chance to look around as it was a whirlwind weekend, so did all the pre-race stuff then just relaxed.  My BFF from high school and her husband (Elfreda "Fred" and Mike) drove down from Toronto to spend the weekend with us and cheer us on.  

The yard at our rental house. Idyllic and peaceful.
Each race package had a sweet letter
of encouragement from a local student. So cute!

Racked and ready!

Race day dawned early as it always does, but one thing I will say about this particular race is ROCK STAR PARKING!  The parking was literally right next to transition, so Jason and I got everything set up then just chilled out in our rental van, relaxing before the race start.  We put on our wetsuits in the van, and walked about 20 metres to the swim start.

Parking area RIGHT NEXT to transition!
The little things make a race!

The swim

It was wetsuit-legal, despite being warm enough the week before to have me pack my swimskin. The race started at 6:45a.m. with a rolling seeded start, and I was in the water less than 2 minutes from the gun.  Of course it was still dark, and with my tinted goggles I couldn't really see anything for about 10 minutes.  I could really feel the current (there was an incoming tide), and I was getting tiny jellyfish stings on my hands and feet.

It was a two-loop swim, with a new cool feature: you had to swim through pontoons at the start of the second loop, and above you was a timing wire that picked up your timing chip.  The second loop was a bit of a pain making my way through slower swimmers, and I really felt like I was fighting the current.  When I made the last turn for the last few hundred metres to shore, I got a major jelly sting.  I could feel the tentacles wrap around my wrist and hand, and could feel dozens of nematocysts firing and stinging.  Painful, but academically kind of cool because I could literally feel the pattern of the tentacles on me.  I kept swimming with the hopes that it would just fall off.  

Coming out of the water. You can see the current
pushing everyone off course.
I hit the boat ramp and checked my watch: 1:07 which is not a great swim for me.  I was disappointed, but knew it was a hard swim with the current so I hoped it stacked up ok in the end.  I found out later I had the 2nd fastest swim in my AG and 15th overall!

The bike

I had two helpers with me in transition (there was only one other athlete in there at the same time as me), so they helped me pull my top up and sprayed my stings with vinegar.  The transition was set up as really long and narrow, so it was a long run-out with my bike (then run-in as you had to rack your own bike).  Once on my bike I started pedaling, and basically didn't stop pedaling for the entire time as there was no where to coast.  

Once we were out of town, I could feel the wind but I just stayed aero, did my thing, drank, ate, focused, and turned the cranks.  It seemed like a pretty course, through the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, but I didn't look around that much.  The wind kept getting stronger and stronger, and the course was very flat and exposed.  How the 2 loop course felt like 80% headwind I am not sure, but the only recourse was to stay aero and focus.  I stuck to the plan Mel and I developed.  It would have been pretty easy to be discouraged by the wind, but I stayed positive because I knew I couldn't change the conditions!

Very flat course so every now and then
I needed to stand up just to change position.

Staying aero into the wind.

At the beginning of the second lap, Fred and Mike were there to cheer me on so that was a nice boost!  The wind kept picking up, so I just doubled down.  I spent most of the bike course watching 10 feet in front of me, eating, drinking, watching my heart rate, watching my cadence, thinking about perceived exertion... but there was one moment that stood out from all that.  A turtle was crossing the road and I didn't see it until the last minute, just in time to swerve around it.  It had it's own "holy shit" moment as it did the classic tuck-head-in-shell move as I passed.  Funny!

The final turn towards town was pure torture, as the wind was straight in my face and really blowing.  I hit T2 with 5:32 (3rd in my AG!) on the clock, which is a 28-minute bike split PR for me!

The run

I didn't really know how the run would go.  I am not a good runner, and until this year have not been anything close to consistent with run training.  I have a chronic knee injury that has given me some pretty serious problems in the past.  Melanie and I have been slowly chipping away at my running this year, changing my form to a shorter, faster cadence and looking for consistency.  I really struggled in Whistler 70.3 on the run after the 15km mark, so I thought Melanie was absolutely out of her mind when she said I would be sticking to a solid run/walk plan (8/2, then 4/1 if I needed) for the whole IM marathon.  I figured I'd pull my usual run for a while then walk the rest.

I started off feeling all right, it was hot and windy but I was well fed and hydrated.  I stuck to the 8/2 and just ticked off the metres.  Jason passed me at about the 7km mark (on his second loop).  I just stuck to 8/2.  I saw Fred & Mike a bunch of times, kept 8/2, drank, ate, and time & kms passed by.  At about the 24km mark, my watch died (it's supposed to last 18 hours but this was only around 10 so I guess there is something wrong with the battery).  I was pretty dependent on my watch for my strategy, so brainstormed how I could keep a consistent run/walk thing going.  I knew how many steps I (roughly) took per minute, so decided I'd count steps for 4 minutes then 1 minute walking.  So all I did for almost 3 hours was count.  It's one way to stay focused on the task at hand!!

Actually running!
Each of the 3 laps took you past
a brewery with a huge crowd outside
cheering.  Very fun!

Most memorable moment on the run... I had just passed the brewery with less than 1km to go to the finish.  There was a guy standing on the side of the road who yelled my name and I looked over - most random thing as it was my friend Arliss.  He and I went to grad school together at UBC almost 20 years ago when we were working in the marine mammals lab on our Master's degrees.  He's now doing post-doc research in Annapolis and just happened to be in Cambridge that evening! 

I finished in an overall PR time of 13:15, and a huge placing PR of 15th in my age group (the last IM I did I think I was 60th!).  While I was hoping I'd run faster, I am STOKED that I actually stuck to the run/walk plan for the whole time (so I guess Mel knows what she's talking about...), and honestly when I think back, I wasn't even running over a half hour until June - so the fact that I actually ran the marathon is HUGE!!

Jason already finished, cheering me on at
about lap 2.5 of 3.

Jason and I decided we would do the
"Judd Nelson at the end of Breakfast Club"
move at the finish line.  Here's my version.

And oh... Jason did all right :) finishing 1st in his AG and qualifying for Kona 2018.  Aloha!

This race has left me hungry to do another Ironman.  Where and when I don't know, but working with Mel has been an incredible experience and I can't wait to see where we can go from here!

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely write up and so nice to hear of your great performance and PR's. Now you can look forward to Hawaii for a year.