Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ironman 2 for 1 Special! - Katie Foster

If you've considered multiple Ironmans in a season, you may wanna talk with Katie Foster (Nebraska). She didn't have the day she was hoping for at IM Boulder, but applied lessons learned to have a stellar day just over a month later at IM Wisconsin. Here she reports on the highs and lows of the entire experience. 

IM Blessed. Truly. I completed Ironman Boulder and Ironman Wisconsin this summer, two different courses, with two very different results.

My IM for 2015 was Boulder. I planned for it, trained for it and set my sights on modifying my nutrition so I could run the marathon. I was also hoping to improve each of my discipline times from my first IM in CDA. I knew Boulder would be tough, it's an Ironman, but the course pummeled me. The swim was a self seed rolling start which means you start in line w
ith people finishing at the same time you expect to finish. It's supposed to be a slow rolling start to space people out. They didn't really do that though, we all started at once and it was an aggressive, rough swim for the entire 2.4 miles. About a quarter way into the swim I was totally overcome by wetsuit swimmers. They were on every side and swimming over me. I got hit in the head several times and people grabbed my legs the whole time. Fortunately I did not panic and I was able to keep my breathing somewhat under control. My garmin showed 4394 yards, which is about 400 more than 2.4 miles, and I thought I was following the buoys. We also couldn't wear our wetsuits due to high water temps, which I knew would add time. I normally enjoy the swim but I was glad to have that one over. I learned later that race officials failed to hold the athletes who elected to wear their wetsuits back to allow space between the non-wetsuits athletes. Swim finish was 1:27.

The bike started great, I had a plan for my nutrition and felt like I was following it. The course was along Foothill Parkway which sits at the bottom of the flat irons. It is beautiful. We had two 40 mile loops, then a separate 30 mile loop. The 40 mile loops felt very fast to me, the wind was favorable, and mechanically, my bike was very smooth. I thought things were going well until I hit mile 90, which was a terrible climb and the sun, heat and incline forced me to stop to get ice. I had plenty of nutrition on my bike but evidently I wasn't taking in what I thought, because I finished the bike with a really great time (for me) 5:49 and then I hit a wall in transition. I couldn't put on my shoes and medical took me to their tent for nutrition. I knew I had 10 hours to finish the marathon and I wanted to be safe, so I obliged and just laid on a chair, taking in water, coke and gels. While I was in there two men sitting next to me were taken to the hospital for heart conditions. They asked me if I wanted to DNF. I said: no way. My blood pressure and pulse were fine. 

After 50 minutes my coloring, focus and strength came back. I thanked the nice med folks and took off on my walk. The marathon was along the Boulder path. If it wasn't after 114.4 miles of other activities, the course would be nice. It was abundant with spectators. The weather was overcast, which is exactly what you hope for. I just couldn't get my body working to do much running, which is frustrating to me since I run all the time, but I know the end game so I just ran a little, walked a lot. Mentally this was a very challenging marathon. My body was dehydrated and I felt like I could go black if I let my mind wonder. I had to talk to myself and stay focused. Fortunately, my team captain was at the race cheering for his wife, so he was able to offer support to keep me motivated. I stopped at every aid station to force more fluids. At mile 24.5 my body started working for me, and I ran the last 1.5 miles to the finish. It felt great to run at that point. The finish line is electric. People screaming and cheering for blocks. Strangers wanting to high five, and you can hear the music and announcer calling out names. It made all the pain go away, almost. My walkathon time was 6:08. It wasn’t until I finished in 14h25 that I learned I had a 27 minute PR from my first IM. I had accomplished my goal of improving each of my discipline times, but my heart knew my body could have done better.

I was unsettled after Boulder. I analyzed my nutrition over and over, knowing that I had not taken in enough fluids, especially given the altitude. I beat myself up for my miscalculations. I thought I had prepared properly, I had taken my vitamins, plenty of pre-race liquids, and even planned for the altitude. It should have been a perfect race. But it wasn’t.

After several weeks of discussion with my husband, and analysis of my race, I signed up for Wisconsin. This was a bonus race for me. It was also an expensive gamble. I had to pay for a Foundation slot, and I would pay a premium for my hotel room and travel. My goal was simple: figure out my nutrition and do it right so when it’s time to run the marathon, I can run. I hired a coach out of Boulder to review several weeks of my training plan given I had just come off an IM, then I had him review my nutrition plan and make suggestions. I use Hammer Nutrition and find it is very agreeable with my stomach, but I wasn’t doing a good job of consuming the right product at the right time. I thought I was taking in too much Hammer Perpetuem, which provides higher calories, and not enough Hammer Heed, which is the electrolyte. My aero bottle also has an open end straw, and after 6 hours of drinking from the straw, I thought my stomach was holding too much air so at run time my stomach would ache above my belly button. I ended up making four changes to my race day plan that proved critical on race day.

1) I switched my Heed and Perpetuem consumption on my bike, and made my Heed more accessible for more frequent consumption.

2) I added a camel back bite-valve to my aero-bottle straw. No more air.

3) I set my Garmin 920xt alarms to ring and remind me to either eat or drink.

4) Adding Hammer Energy tabs to my run.

I had continued training after Boulder, and as it turns out Boulder was a great training day for the Wisconsin course! Madison is a beautiful city any day, but race day was a particularly perfect day. The weather started at 50 degrees and warmed to 70 with light winds. I was surprisingly calm race morning. This was a bonus race for me and I felt like I had eliminated the uncertainty of my nutrition plan that I had in Boulder. The race was a mass start with everyone starting in Lake Monona. I entered the water at 6:53am, made my way to open space and spent a few minutes looking at the packed crowd at Monona Terrace. It was breathtaking! The swim was perfect, 70 degrees, cool and not choppy. My goggles fogged, I got thumped in the head, pushed, cut off, etc by men twice my size, all the things you expect in an IM, I did the obligatory "moo" at the first turn, and did my best to enjoy the swim. Sighting was tough going into the sun, but I just tried to follow the crowd. I had no idea on time, my stroke and breathing were pretty relaxed so I 'just kept swimming.' Yes, I do sing that to myself... Upon exiting I saw I was at 1:18, much better than my previous swims, so I was happy, I found my sister and friend for a high five and took off up the helix to transition. 

I drove the bike course the day before, so I knew what to expect. It is hilly, and technical, but none of that bothered me. I actually enjoyed it. It was the road conditions that were terrible. People were losing nutrition, bottles, tire tubes, cages, popping tires, etc. all over the place. Plenty of people were pulled over on the side of the road with mechanical issues. I repeat prayers all day during an IM and I was praying hard that my bike would stay in one piece. The weather conditions were perfect, the crowd support is unparalleled. These people come out and make it a party!!! They are dressed up, drinking beer, playing music, dancing, cheering, chasing us up the hills, etc. this was a total delight! I can see why WI has a great reputation for being such a fun day. They have so many spectators throughout the course that the race puts portapotties on the course for the crowd.

I tried to bike conservative, knowing my goal was to save enough for the run. I stopped several times for the restroom and to fill up hydration. I followed my new nutrition plan closely to stay hydrated and felt great throughout the bike. Bike finish was 6:17.

I was ecstatic to get back to T2 and feel well enough to take off on the run. No med tent and no walking. Mission accomplished!!! Woohoo!!

The run course is throughout Madison and the campus of UW. It was totally enjoyable. State street is packed full of people cheering, high fiving, yelling and jumping up and down. There is no lack of enthusiasm. My cheerleaders were everywhere I needed them to be. They took my gear and gave me encouragement to keep running. They ran all day, showing up all over the course. I was just hoping for one mile at a time, always expecting my stomach to blow up on me and I have to walk the rest of the way. Each mile I ran was a victory I was celebrating mentally. Mile 5 and 18 are two tough hills back to back, but I knew that ahead of time and ran what I could, then walked the rest.

The sun was out so I knew I had a PR day but I didn't ask anyone for the time, I just wanted to go as much as I could, and enjoy the course. If I walked I tried to make it short, then keep running. I didn’t want to look at my watch, I just wanted to get to the finish line. At mile 25.5 my sister told me I had a nearly 2 hour PR. I was overwhelmed and overcome with emotion. As I got closer to the finish line, a group of people ahead of me all turned around to start their second lap of the marathon, this hasn't happened to me before, I'm usually the one turning around and finishing in the dark. Not this time though, and this time I had the chute to myself. The rush is like nothing else. The finish line is in front of the capitol building and it is packed with screaming spectators. I finished the run exactly the way I wanted, running. I didn’t see my time at the finish line but the catcher told me I finished in 12 hours 29 minutes. Mission accomplished!!

Many sincere thanks to my husband, Kasey Hesse and Melanie Nielsen for making that day happen, it will always be such a special day for me!

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