Saturday, June 16, 2018

EA Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin Race Report: When It's No Longer A Race, It's a Performance

Early June now marks 70.3 Wisconsin, and I was pumped to be able to race again this year. Coming into the race this year, I was looking forward to being able to toe the line with the plan to execute all three legs of the race. Instead of only the swim and the bike like last year due to some refurbishing (hip surgery). This year I was tuned up and ready  to race! Friday before the race we loaded up the truck with everything we would need for racing and training purposes - including pre-made food a'la Chef Joe, because you never do anything new before race day.

Friday marked the usual road trip antics - coffee, snacks, snacks, and more snacks.

We rolled into Ironman Village immediately upon arrival in Madison. Priorities people!

I checked in, found my best friend's hubby to drag him through all the pre-race rituals because it was his first half Ironman, found my spot in transition, and thanked every volunteer that crossed my path. Let's be real, these races don't happen with out the amazing organization of some stellar volunteers. Whether it's the full Ironman or the half Ironman - you can bet your bottom dollar that Madison, Wisconsin is going to deliver.

And an outing with the Adriaens' wouldn't be complete until I thoroughly embarrassed Joe with all my antics.

It's not as squishy as it looks.

Then we were off for some dinner and early to bed!

Saturday morning Joe and I took Mama Getty out for some breakfast before we all went for our workouts. Marigold's Kitchen has a little something delicious for everyone *cough* even vegans *cough*, and bottomless coffee. What more does a girl need? A quick tune up bike and run you say? Yes please!

So I took off on my bike. Shifting through all the gears on my Zipp disc, making sure everything was kosher - and then with 2 minutes until my turn around time the chain flew off the front derailer and quite accurately wedged itself between my crank (pedal) and frame. Now this is a pickle. So I called my mom. Luckily I was close to Ironman Village and she was scoping out the swim out - brilliant! We walked towards each other, decided to head on over to Trek for a little R&R - Rescuing and Refurbishing.

All the people working at the Trek tent were so knowledgeable and so helpful, they definitely got me out of that jam! Huge thank you to Bryce for walking me through everything that most likely happened with my bike and helping me get race ready.

I was praying that this was exactly like a terrible warm up before one of my old gymnastics meets - terrible warm up = fabulous meet.

Everything seemed to be in order, so it was time to check 'er in!

Racked and ready!

She is a beaut!

During all these pre-race rituals I'm always grateful that I have Joe and Mama Getty by my side! I say it all the time - but nothing is more important in this sport than having a solid support crew.

Oh look! It's me!

On the way out of Ironman Village we took some time to reflect on what was about to go down here the following day. Many dreams and goals from people of all different backgrounds and walks of life, all leading to one spot. Pretty spectacular.

Reminding you that...

Once check in is complete, the day before the race is all finalizing nutrition, laying out clothes, and doing some last minute recovery. Then early to bed to stare at the ceiling until the alarm goes off. Or if you are like me, you really need some sleep and don't mind utilizing Lush Sleepy Lotion to help you on your way.

RACE DAY! The most exciting days of the summer! We were bright eye'd and bushy tailed at 4am, and thanks to Joe - we all had some breakfast ready to rock. Mine included a vegan green smoothie from Freshii with chopped strawberries and bananas. Delish!

We rolled out to Olin Park to go set up transition and make final race preparations.

And it was pouring!

Look who snuck in during the middle of the night! Papa Getty! He had a gig the night before the race, and drove through the night in order to be able to wake up at 4 am to come stand in the rain to watch me race. Seriously - my husband and parents are THE BEST support crew. The best. They waited in the rain while I set up transition for myself, and gave an impromptu transition clinic for some ladies that were new to the sport and looking for some guidance. They held me steady while I got into my Roka Maverick X wet suit, worth the investment. The most comfortable wet suit to swim in. They waited on the hill next to the lake in the driving rain huddled around me to keep me warm as we waited out the storm and the race delay. Creme de la creme of support crews.

Eventually the storm subsided a bit and the blast of the gun signified that It. Was. On. Recognizing what I bring to the table at 5' 2" with tiny hands - jostling for the front of the swim start is not in my repertoire. But slinking under elbows to get to the side of the swim corral definitely is. I slipped and slid my way over the swim entrance, swim buddy Charlene in tow, because the entire hill and hundreds of athletes had turned the hill above the beach into a mud slide. And we were all sliding down it whether or not you had any control over the situation. A short tramp through a mud pit and we were smooth into the lake, where the waves were whipping back up as another wave of the storm moved in. As I dove into the water I was looking forward to putting my recently learned techniques into action. Swimming through 2-4 foot swells meant my technique was more important than ever. The swim course was a triangle pattern lined with buoys, kayaks, paddle boarders, boats, and rafts. The conditions were the roughest I've ever experienced - I saw athletes clinging to every kayak and raft available, and had to ride the apex of the swells to attempt to gain a glance at a nearing buoy. My goal went from swimming my fastest race swim to not panicking or drowning. I bet you thought taking the second leg parallel to the shore would be less choppy. Well you would be wrong. The waves somehow got worse! Luckily, in times of desperation Dory pops into my head: just keep swimming, swimming swimming. What do we do? We swim... It wasn't until I turned onto the third leg of the swim that those waves became a blessing, pushing me ever closer to shore. As soon as my palms were dragging on the boat launch I scrambled up through swim out and made a bee line towards the strippers! Wet suit strippers that is...

Places to be people! The strippers whipped my wet suit off in such a fluid motion that by the time my butt hit the ground I was being pulled right back on to my feet. Right into the mud pit that served as transition. If you were looking for a mud mask - this was the place to be. High stepping through transition I made picked my way through and over to my bike.

Getting out of transition required quick footwork through the mud and portaging the bike over the waterlogged ditch. Yes, I was in my bike shoes whilst in the waterlogged ditch. Once I was on the road I was off to the races! The first few miles of the bike course is on a path that takes you out to the rolling hills of Dane County. It seemed as though the weather was the only drama that needed navigating - or so I thought. At mile 2, still on the path, while shifting into my big ring my chain shot off the front derailer (again) and got wedged quite snuggly between my crank and my frame (again). A rather sub-optimal situation, as Miss Chrissy Wellington would say. I whipped my feet out of the clipless pedals, hopped off my bike, and started running with my bike looking for an opening in the path that lined up with the street. I managed to find that opening, and thank goodness there was a spectator cheering bikers on. I must have looked awfully pitiful in my soaking spandex and mud caked legs because she not only let me borrow her cell phone, but she gave me a poncho. I didn't happen to get her name, but these random acts of kindness are what makes the triathlon community (athletes and spectators alike) so amazing. I called Joe to ask him to send the Sag Wagon my way. After working on trying to pry the chain loose for what felt like eternity as bike after bike whizzed by, I cut my losses, took a shot of BASE salt (any emergency calls for BASE) and started click-clacking down the road. If I couldn't ride my bike, I could at least run it and gain some progress while waiting for Sag to find me. Forward is forward, no matter how slow. Sag ended up finding me - with one bike mechanic pulling on either end of the bike they were able to free my back wheel and pry my chain out. After some chatting on how to move forward with the situation, a heartfelt thank you, and a joke that they would keep an eye out for me, I was back in the race. Being well aware that any dreams of getting in the vicinity of the podium were out, I shifted my mindset from racing to performing. 

A little something I learned growing up as a gymnast: when it is no longer a competition, it's a performance.

All the time, energy, money, blood, sweat, and tears are not spent in vain as long as you don't quit. Plus I was going to be damned if I was going to have my support crew or anyone see me voluntarily leave the race course. Not only did I not want to let down my crew or my coach, but I didn't want to be the reason sitting in the back of the Sag Wagon that any little girl watching was lead to believe that quitting is an option. So on I ride! The rolling hills of the Madison race course are my absolute most favorite hills to ride. Hard punchy climbs, screaming downhills where you are on the razors edge of insanity - it's a level of living you won't find on the couch. I stuck to my plan - riding 155-165 W throughout the course, drinking all my liquid nutrition, skipping the first and last aid station, only grabbing water at the second aid station, and being comfortable being uncomfortable. Those county roads provided a fun little addition to my race that I had not even thought was possible: they were so bumpy that they knocked loose one of my screws holding my XLab Torpedo nutrition bottle. Down to one screw my Torpedo was flopping in and out of my aerobars. Brilliant. Then at mile 50, it happened again. The chain missed shifting into the big ring and fell between my chain and crank. Again. I hopped off the bike, and managed to coax the chain out from it's current jam. Then again at mile 51. Needless to say I went a little overboard with the adventures. Getting back into transition the volunteers were advising racers to not even bother with putting on their run shoes until after they had left transition. Yes, it was that muddy. I've been working hard to drop that transition time so I did not heed those warnings. I tromped through transition and didn't waste anymore time getting onto that run coarse.

Always one to enjoy the camera I made sure to pose for everyone in my support crew.

Heading out for the run I executed my plan just about perfectly. The cold, drizzly, cloudy weather that was less than ideal was now perfection. With no heat or humidity to contend with I managed to stay just under the predetermined race pace, and was able to run faster and stronger as the course progressed. Providing encouragement to racers and appreciation to volunteers the whole way through. At 6.5 miles into the race was time to put the pedal to the metal and let 'er rip! It's also when you hit the massive hills. Letting 'er rip meant 10 seconds below race pace - but hey! I'll take it. Like every Ironman finish line - you can hear it before you can see it. And boy, was I ready to see it. Crossing the bridge into the boat launch parking lot that leads to the uphill that takes you into the finish line I felt it; the finish line feeling. That feeling when all the hard work, sacrifice, and a$$ busting workouts finally pays. All the pain just melts away, and you can sprint right to the end.

I rode that feeling all the way up that hill, and across that finish line. All the drama that I experienced during the bike made that finish line feeling even sweeter. I am incredibly pleased that I was able to keep my cool through those sub-optimal situations, and execute the best race I was capable of. It's safe to say that I played the crap out of the hand I was dealt that day, and I am so proud of the way it turned out. Racing is always where I feel the most confident, strong, and empowered that I'll do everything in my power to get to that finish line. 

That's a wrap!