Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report - Joleen White

Just two days back at work after summer vacation, I packed up my bike and headed for Washington. Although Washington is typically a quick trip from Alaska (exactly why I love this race), our travel time turned into a 9-hour trip. Apparently a thunderstorm closed the airport, which delayed arrival, bags, rental car, etc. After a nice gas station dinner of cup o’noodles, I finally got to bed and attempted to sleep in before bib pick up and bike drop off later that morning.

Bib pick up was painless, but I decided to have the bike mechanic look over my bike to ensure it was all set to go. The mechanic noticed some shifting issues so he worked on that and then we were set to drop off my bike. The remainder of the day was restful, and I had a dinner of big noodles and sauce before an early bedtime. I had a restless sleep, and got up at 4:30 for breakfast and departure to the race for body marking and final bike set up.

The first wave of swimmers took off at 6:15 and the fog was still sitting on the water. I cannot recall racing Lake Stevens with fog on the water… definitely made for an eerie swim! The water was 70 degrees- just cool enough to allow for wetsuits. I was hoping it would be non-wetsuit legal as that would have been an advantage for me.

My wave was lucky #13, second to the last, and the latest start wave I have ever had in an Ironman race. The horn went off and I sprinted to the lead. There was another female in my age group who seemed to insist on leading. I decided I would let her, but unfortunately she was not quite swimming straight, so I had to back off a few times to allow her to swim across my line and back- a little irritating. We got to the turn around buoy and the fog became a bit of an issue. I am glad I wore my Crimson Roka goggles instead of my mirrored!! I seemed to be swimming pretty straight but it took a lot more work to see each buoy. My swim mate was still all over the place and finally got hung up in a group of swimmers with 400 yards to go- then I made my move and picked up the pace. I dropped her and was out of the water first. My overall swim time was 30’08, not my fastest, but close. I’ll take it considering how many people I had to work to pass in the water.

Only a half mile into the bike I got stuck behind the support vehicle and wound up finally yelling at them to clear the way so we could get by. The bike course at Lake Stevens is beautiful! My first race on dry pavement at Lake Stevens. Lots of hills and turns, and 3000+ feet of climbing. My overall average bike speed was 18 mph and max speed was 42 mph. My final time on the bike was a disappointing 2’58. That bike tune up I had turned out to be a bad move- whatever changes the mechanic made to my shifter resulted in losing the gear I use most. My bike kept slipping every time I tried to shift into it, and I was often stuck in an easier gear spinning my legs or a slower gear grinding it out… I am still stumped regarding my bike time; hill climbs are my strength. There were numerous times that I had to slow down due to vehicle traffic… there were more cars on the course then I have ever seen. With 5 miles left on the bike at one intersection, an officer allowed a dooley truck pulling a 20’ trailer of hay to go ahead of us. I was racing with another female in my age group back and forth on the course, and we were both stuck. She yelled, “What should we do?” I said “F*#% it! Let’s go!” so hugging the yellow line we passed him up a steep twisting turn. At this point I was already disappointed with my bike time, trying to stay positive and hoping I could stay in the top 5. I came into T2 in 3rd place, frustrated, and worried about falling apart after thrashing my legs on all the climbs.
T2 moved quickly although the lady next to me had a frickin garage sale scattered all over and buried my running gear. I had my lucky Hammer flask filled with Fizz (thanks Jackie!) just like Boise. Threw my XX2i sunglasses on, and my Under Armour visor- the fog was gone and we were looking at 70+ degrees- time to run in the sun!

I decided my running strategy would be a little different this race. Why not let myself go and not hold back? I am super glad for this decision. I was able to get into a rhythm and kept it rolling. Unfortunately user error on my Garmin led to absolutely no clue to overall race time. I had a good idea of where I was at, and decided to just do the math on each mile. This worked out great, kept my mind preoccupied, and mile-by-mile I set a new goal. I knew I was pacing somewhere in the 8 minute mile range and kept it up throughout the hill climbs and descents. I finished lap one and thought I was in 7th place, feeling a little depressed until I saw my husband and he said something about “no you are still in 3rd!” Another reason I love this course is because it is very spectator friendly. I saw my husband a few times on the run and he kept cheering me all along.

Around mile 10 I started thinking about how much work I have done this summer, how much time I missed away from family and friends while training and racing. I began to question why I do this sport, and why in the world would I ever want to do a full Ironman?! Asking myself questions like “what would make me feel successful as a triathlete?”, “am I successful or just a weekend warrior?”, and “is this all really worth it?” I tried to shut this emotional melt down off and figured I could do anything for 3 miles so just get it done! At mile 12 I had major stomach issues… I panicked and stopped abruptly. Luckily I had been running with someone who was behind me at the time, he said “one mile that’s it- don’t quit now!” I decided I could keep it together for that final mile and headed for the finish. With a half-mile or so left I actually picked up the pace and sprinted to the finish. My final run time was 1’52, my fastest at the end of a Half Ironman! I was thrilled I kept it together the entire run.

When I crossed the finish line and saw my final time I started bawling. I know I have a 5’15 in me- and I really wanted that today! All the “should haves” came to the surface. Jason was puzzled- I told him all of the thoughts I was having, doubting myself, etc. Then a couple approached me, the woman finished ahead of me and placed 4th by 15 seconds. They told me that everyone had the same comments regarding the bike, even the top finishers. She had done the race a couple years back in worse conditions (same as me) and biked even slower today on dry pavement. I felt a little better knowing I was not the only person frustrated with the bike. Jason pulled up my final time and told me I actually placed 5th in my age group, and I also had a 10 second overall PR time.

After calming down and reflecting, I realized there were some small accomplishments I should be proud of. My wave was second to last, and after doing the math I think I passed around 800 athletes- that’s a lot of work! I was first in the swim in both half-ironman races this summer despite a shoulder injury earlier this year. I also spent more time running this season than ever before and am finally knocking minutes off my run- Sunday was a PR for my half Ironman run. I am thankful for Sunday’s 5th place age group finish, and 15th for women overall. I've placed higher this year than in years past.

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