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Kona finisher RR: Pre race swim

Posted Oct 17 2013 11:15am

Why do you sign up for races?

In my opinion, there are many reasons for why an age group athlete would voluntarily spend money to sweat, stress the heart, experience muscle pains and mentally prepare for an event all to cross a finish line.
-Because your friends, family or co-workers talked you into it.
-Because you feel pressure from others to follow the crowd.
-Because it seems like the next logical step to discover new limits with your body and mind.
-Because you are already exercising, you may as well train for a race.
-Because you want the t-shirt and the medal.

Whatever the reason may be, I believe that there is one precise reason why athletes and fitness enthusiasts decide to register for a race.

For the finish line.

(Source:  Gloria )

It’s kinda funny to think about racing for a finish line. A banner or inflatable sign signifies the start. 

(Source:  IM Texas)

This spot may also be the finish but the race director has to change the words on the sign. 
Then your body goes around in a straight line, out and back, in loops or in some other odd arrangement in order to cover a certain distance as you try to cover that distance as fast as possible. 

                                
The end result – another inflatable sign, banner or other crafted marker to signify the finish. You probably wouldn’t be able to see the finish line 1 week out from race day but with less than 24 hours before the race, you have a clear idea of where you have to take your body to call yourself a finisher. 


Now that I am a few days out from crossing my 7th Ironman finishing line, I struggle with gathering the right words to describe my 3rdIronman World Championship which resulted in a 6 minute PR from 14 weeks ago (at IM Lake Placid with Karel) and a 25 minute PR from 2011.


As an athlete, I don’t sign up for races because I want to see how quickly I can overcome injuries, how much money I can spend on gear or how I can dedicate a big part of my life for a one day event (which may last 1 hour or up to 11).

The finish line signifies success.

No matter how fast or slow it takes you to get there, the first step across the finish line immediately means that you finished what you started. No matter what obstacles you had to overcome on race day, you did it. And that is why, I feel, it is so important to enjoy the journey of training for a race and having a race day plan that allows you to execute on race day. There's nothing more gratifying than finishing a race strong and knowing that you prepared yourself and raced your race to the best of your ability on that day. 

The soreness is gone in my legs although I know better than to test myself with structured workouts and intensity for the next 2-3 weeks. I am sleep deprived, covered in funny tan lines and still have a few chaffed areas (aka battle wounds). 

But all I can remember is the last ½ mile on Alli drive, running into the finish line chute. All I want to talk and write about is how amazing it felt to cross that finish line knowing that I stuck to my plan and left everything out on the course in Kona, Hawaii.

But, let's be clear. 

I had to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. My body had to cover 140.6 miles all before crossing that finish line….so here I go to share how it all went down at the 2013 GoPro Ironman World Championship.

Pre race
My taper had been going really well in Kona. Monday involved 15 hours of traveling, 24-hours awake and rolling on foam roller + stretching for the workout of the day. Tuesday I went for a swim + 2 hour bike with my friend Jennifer (w/ a few intervals). Wednesday was a swim and Thursday was the undie run/jog followed by a 45 min spin on the town section of the run course. Friday was my official race-warm-up and I choose not to swim so that I could get my warm-up over and done without any distractions. 


I had my transition bags all laid out on Thurs so that I wouldn't feel too rushed on Friday with checking in my bike/bags, eating, resting and getting a good night of sleep. 



My race warm-up was 1:45 on the bike with 30 min warm-up and then 4 x 2 min “fast” high cadence w/ 5 min EZ. After 2 of them, I did 10 min total EZ spinning and then finished the last 2. I did this on the Queen K and followed that with a 2 mile run w/ Gloria. We did 1 mile comfortable, then walked to stretch out the legs and then did 3 x 20-30 sec “fast” pick-ups w/ 1-2 min jog (all by feel). I felt so good all week and I felt really good about my fitness. I had my normal pre training snack of coffee, water, rye WASA cracker w/ smear of PB + drizzle of honey and banana slices. I’ve trained my gut for 22 weeks for this pre training creation and it works like a charm.

After my warm-up from 7-9am, I cleaned up, put on CEP compression tights and had a delicious breakfast of toast w/ PB and honey, eggs, veggies and fruit for a very filling meal to continue my fueling regime for race day. 

I did some stuff on the computer for a bit and then around 11am I started to officially pack up my transition bags for T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run) and finalize my race day plan for Gloria (which I typically provide for my parents and Karel who spectate all day).





I had a light lunch of yogurt, fruit and granola because it felt “right” and water and sipped on 1 FIZZ throughout the day for electrolytes (Grape is my fav flavor). At 2:30pm, bib numbers 1000+ could check in bikes so that means me!

Around 2pm Gloria and I headed down to the tow via car and then walked to the pier. 



Prior to that, I had a nice Facetime with my bike mechanic (hubby) to run over everything with my bike. I let him watch the ocean as I lubed my chain. Breaks weren’t rubbing, no slits in my new tires and all was good for race day. I left my bottles for my bike at home and brought my filled flasks for the bike (1) and run (2) to sit overnight as one less thing to worry about race morning.


At 2:30pm I got in a long line that moved quickly and enjoyed the “counting” that occurs every year to see what bike parts are most popular as well as the most popular bike brands. I really enjoy this part of checking in the bike because unlike other Ironman races, spectators actually come to watch athletes check in their bike and just hang out as the finish line area is being set-up. It’s a big spectacle which is nothing abnormal during IM race week.







The volunteers are absolutely amazing in Kona. I had a local walking my bike through transition area which always feel overwhelming no matter how many times you do it. I pay attention to every little detail in the transition area (ex. port a potties, racks for bags, bike location, in and out, changing tent, etc.) because it can get a bit overwhelming when you have just swam 2.4 miles and there are drenched athletes all around you.
After racking my bike, we walked to the swim to run and bike to run bag locations (blue and red bags). I had a perfect spot on the racks – outside, a few spots from the end. AWESOME! I tied red ribbons on my bags as it is easy to spot that way and one less thing to stress about if I can’t find my bag because it looks like 2000 other bags.

We checked out the Women’s changing tent layout and then ended up under the water hoses to rinse off post swim. Since we walked backward through the transition area, I did one mental walk through from the swim exit, through the transition area. Every athlete has to run the same distance through transition area.
After racking my bike and hanging my bags – the rest of my day involved eating and resting. Gloria had an event to go to so I went back to the condo and although only 3:30pm, I prepared my simple pre race dinner of edamame, sweet potato, quinoa and bread so that it would be ready when I was ready to eat it. I snacked as I relaxed a bit and around 4:45pm I was ready for dinner. It was just enough to leave me satisfied but not stuffed for my next meal was to be consumed around 3:30am the next morning.

Gloria met with an athlete outside the patio to discuss mental training and I just chilled inside and watched TV. It may seem strange but I have no trouble sleeping well the night before an Ironman, so I went to bed around 9pm and had the best night of sleep all week. I guess I was just ready for this party to start and I worked really hard with Gloria all week to clear my mind to ensure positive thoughts for race day. My only stressor is the alarm not going off for it hasn’t happened before but I still worry. I had 5 alarms set and my sport psychologist said that’s ok JShe set two as extra backups.

Race day
3:30am I was up and feeling great. I felt calm but felt waves of nervousness. My biggest anxiety was the waiting that I have to do after the pros start and then just treading water for a good 15 minutes. I tried to get away from those thoughts but that made me a bit uneasy to think about that.

After eating around 500 calories of 4 Wasa crackers (60 calories each) + Nut butter + honey + raisins + granola + banana (all energy dense foods, not volume dense which helps with digestion) and having a cup of coffee and water (along with 2 hammer endurance aminos and electrolytes), it was time to say good bye to the condo for I wouldn’t be back until later that evening.



Gloria dropped me off and parked the car about 1.5 miles away. Her Sherpa duties were phenomenal all week and I was just so lucky to be around such positive energy all week.

After walking behind the host hotel, I stood in a line for body marking. For the first time, instead of stamps we all receive stick-on tattoos. Again, the volunteers were amazing. The process to get into transition area takes a bit of time at the World Championship for after body marking, you have to check your chip, then get weighed and then go through 3-4 “security” points to show your wrist band.

Finally, once I was in transition area, I was so happy to see my bike. I didn’t bring a bike pump but in Kona, everyone shares everything. I had been using pumps all week from others in the condo or at the expo and on race morning, there were volunteers everywhere with pumps which was so amazing to just be able to be by your bike and pump up your tires. I rechecked my bike brakes, put on my 4 x bottles, checked my Garmin 500 (reset), made sure my bike was in a good gear for exiting transition and double checked my helmet to make sure no loose ends that would risk DQ. I said hi to a few athletes and stood in line for the potty for about 15 minutes. It was around 6am and my tummy was feeling really good which was a great sign. Seeing that this is the only IM that I have ever repeated, I think knowing the course and what the day could bring was comforting for me.

I made my way to the swim bag drop off which included my sandals, sunscreen and consumed water bottle (with FIZZ in it) and grabbed my Sayonara TYR speed suit, cap and goggles after covering myself in body glide. There is sunscreen, water and everything you need near the race start which makes the vibe really good in case you forgot something.

The crowd was building by the entrance to the swim start inflatable by the edge of the pier so I waited until we were allowed to enter the water. I took in a gel and with just a few minutes until we walked into the water, a volunteer stepped over to me and asked if she could speak to me.

After just zipping up my speed suit and putting on my cap and goggles and feeling ready for this crazy swim start, the volunteer nicely told me that “I think your speed suit is illegal.”
3,2,1..mental breakdown, where is Gloria!

She told me that my speed suit is not allowed in WTC racing because it is not the right material . I did not purposely buy this speedsuit because it was illegal but instead, we bought this one because it was on sale. I knew there were regulations about speedsuits but with my suit being "old" I questioned her as I didn't think about this specific suit because I had seen many people wearing it at other WTC races. I know about wetsuit regulations with thickness but apparently with speedsuits, the Torque is allowed, not the Sayonara.

I feel that my almost very costly mistake can be a lesson to others. Note to ALL athletes, there are some rules that are very well known (ex. no disc wheels in Kona, no fins in the swim, no handing off bottles to athletes on the course/outside support) and are very visable to the eye. However, when it comes to wetsuits and speedsuits, check the regulations of WTC events. Here is a helpful link:  Ironman swimwear

I will say, however, that my "illegal" speedsuit has not given me any competitive advantage of helping me swim any faster than my own abilities without it, in non wetsuit swims.I thought about not including this in my race report as I am still a bit frustrated at the situation of me not considering this important fact of race day gear but my focus of my racing is to be able to help others and hopefully you will not have to experience a similar situation or worse, a DQ.

I was not on the verge of tears and I was not freaking out, I was just caught off guard and not what I expected to deal with before the start. I guess I was just upset that I didn't think about my speedsuit not being allowed because I don't race a lot and since I have had it for a few years (and hasn't really helped me in speed suit allowed swims), it just wasn't something that I thought about for race week. 

But, I’ve learned in life that things happen for a reason.

So, even if others were wearing illegal speed suits, I thank this volunteer so much for letting me know. She told me I could wear it but it may risk DQ if an official saw me and I told her “no way” so I took it off quickly and she put it in my swim to bike bag so it wouldn’t get lost.

A bit frustrated as I was walking into the water, tucking my tri top into my cycling shorts, I had to get my mind back to a good place as this wasn’t going to affect my whole day unless I let it. As I was walking into the water, I spotted a sea turtle right in front of me that I almost stepped on. I smiled and then thought to myself “well, one less thing I have to take off in transition area” and I swam comfortably to the middle and to the left of the pier to position myself for the swim. 

Treading water for 15 minutes allowed for a lot of time to be with my thoughts.  


There was not a lot of talking among athletes and Mike Riley was keeping us all motivated and excited. The crowds were rows deep and lined up all along the water’s edge for a good mile. It was just as remarkable to see the spectators as it was, I am sure, for them to see us in the water.

With little announcement, BOOM!

At 7am, all 2000+ of us were off!

I started my Garmin 910 on multisport and the ocean boxing match began with a big kick right into my left eye and my goggles pressed so hard into my eye I could barely see.

All of a sudden it all became real….racing for a finish line is not easy but even more difficult, is getting to the start line. Just like in life, training involves many ups and downs. As athletes, we face hardships, struggles and sucky moments. Times when life just doesn't seem fair and we have to live with our mistakes. About to embark on a race of a lifetime, it finally hit me (literally) that wow - what an honor it is to race in the 35th Anniversary of the Ironman World Championship. A race where athletes from around the world would give anything to be in my place, with or without a speedsuit…..



2.4 mile swim…To be continued.



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