Why a race report? Because for one, I LOVE reading them. Years ago, a blog written by an old high school acquaintance inspired me to run a marathon. That’s where my journey began. Second, my memory is failing. I want to remember the details and read them to my grandchildren when I’m old and crusty. Third, maybe some of you might be interested. Lastly- just maybe this will inspire someone else.
Our flight landed in Las Vegas at 10 AM. Emily (my sister) and her husband, Dan, got up early in LA (where they now live) to make the drive and be there to pick us up. After some shifting and repacking, we fit all our luggage (and the enormous bike box) and their car and we took off for Boulder City, where we would be staying the night in a motel, in between Henderson (the T2 and race finish site) and Lake Mead (the race start and T1 site). Then drove back to Henderson where we grabbed lunch at a Whole Foods, along with what seemed to be every other triathlete in town for the race (read: lots of buff people in compression gear).
After a perfect pre-race lunch, we headed to the race expo and athlete check-in. Expo wasn’t all that fantastic- very few booths. Got a nice swag bag and loved the race shirt though. We had a couple of hours to kill before the last Athlete Briefing at 3 pm so we headed to a park in search of some hard-to-find shade in order to assemble my bike. Spent the next 2 hours unpacking and repacking all of my bags in order to get all of my gear organized and situated. We had to check in our T1 gear at Lake Mead (bike + bike gear) by 6 pm in a special blue bag and we had to check our T2 (run) gear by 5 pm near the expo and race finish site in Henderson in a special red bag. I was incredibly nervous having to shed my running shoes so early and leave them for the night in a bag. Lots of disorganization and nervous energy during the whole day Saturday.
The Athlete Briefing was pretty standard but I was glad we went, because I wasn’t sure about the T1 and T2 bag situation— and specifically, knowing that my swim gear and morning bag would be transported to the finish in Henderson and that we wouldn’t have to go all the way back down to Lake Mead to collect anything after the race. After the briefing we checked our T1 bags, met up with the boys -who were killing time at the Henderson Library next door- and drove down to Lake Mead (another 30 minute drive) and checked our bikes and T2 bags.
After accomplishing all of this, we checked into our motel back in Boulder City (which we hadn’t been able to do earlier) and headed to dinner. By this time, there was much impatience with the group so we settled on one of the few grim choices of restaurants in BC, a pub named the Dillinger. Had a not-so-perfect (but delicious) meal of a veggie burger and sweet potato fries and then headed back to the motel for more organization of morning race gear and an early bedtime (8:30). The boys went into Vegas and got the party started without us. Slept like a baby— in large part because I actually went to bed at 10:30 CST (late for me).
Race Day – 10/05/14
Woke before my alarm around 4 AM (again, 6 for me— love that West Coast time change!) and quickly realized that our in-room coffee maker didn’t work. Hell hath no fury as two women without coffee on race morning. We also realized that we forgot to pick up some plastic spoons to eat our oatmeal (thankfully, Seestor had packed breakfast for the both of us). I managed to create some makeshift spoons with a ripped up paper coffee cup (that we obviously weren’t using for coffee) and I managed to get all of my oatmeal and banana down (ugh) despite any hunger at that hour. Braided my hair, filled our water bottles, grabbed our bags and we were out the door. The (tired) boys got up early to take us down to the Lake, after we made a quick stop at the gas station next door for some coffee!
Got down to the Lake in the darkness and was very glad I had purchased a headlamp. Transition opened at 5 AM and we got there around 5:30. Had plenty of time to tape our gels on the bikes, organize morning bags, and hit the porta-potties before the lines got ridiculous (and they did). To my surprise, they announced that it was a wetsuit legal swim (didn’t bring mine) and strangely, that you had to keep all gear in your bag (vs. laying it all out in your spot, like usual). Also, shoes couldn’t be clipped in pedals. I noticed plenty of people who weren’t listening to this though. Husband snapped a couple of pics of Em and I getting body marked and then the boys took off. They were planning to visit Hoover Dam (after maybe some more sleep) and they said they would see us at the finish line. He likes to remind me, triathlon isn’t a spectator-friendly sport!
Em and I were really wanting a quick warm-up swim but strangely, they weren’t allowing anyone in the water. I couldn’t even get near the water in order to do my pre-swim ritual washing of the goggles with baby shampoo (but got it done at a hand wash station). They closed transition and we slowly made our way down the start corral to get near our wave. I got super panicky after I said goodbye and good luck to Em. She was in wave 16 (second to last) and I was in wave 5. The narrow corral was so congested that I couldn’t get through and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to my start wave in time! Calm down, Kato. Made it there with plenty of time to spare after all.
Cannons fired and the pros were off in the first two waves (men first, then women). Two more waves of age groupers (men 30/40ish) and then it was our turn. I’ve learned in the past that I need to be more aggressive in my swim start and put myself out there. This IS my strength after all. In Innsbrook this summer, I did this and took off like a rocket, thus allowing me to get away from all the other women and throng of thrashing bodies. So I took the same strategy and placed myself up front in a pack of about 70 women in my age group (35-39). We all waded into hip-high water and waited. And waited. I think it was three minutes but it felt like forever.
Cannon fired and we were off! Yikes. I quickly realized that Innsbrook is the same as Ironman. Thrashing bodies all around, trying to make out my “space” and hold it. Nothing terrible but it took me probably 500 meters to relax a bit and find some space. Everyone started to spread out and I felt like I was doing a pretty good job sighting. The water was very warm and I was glad I didn’t have on a wetsuit. The majority of athletes did wear them and Em said she heard several say later that they got way too hot in the water. Regardless, I was feeling a bit cheated on the buoyancy factor.
Approaching the first turn buoy, I had caught up with the slower swimmers of the 4th wave, but at the same time, the fast swimmers of the 6th wave had caught up to me. All were men -some very large- and it got a bit harry at times. Rounded the turn and before I knew it, I was at the 2nd turn buoy. It was here that waves with pretty big swells started up out of nowhere. It only lasted for about 5 minutes but several times I felt pushed forward by a wave, only to be sucked back. For awhile, I felt like I was making no forward progress.
Getting close to shore I was feeling excited and could see moss on the bottom of Lake Mead. It was beautiful and clear (at least more clear than the Randarosa pond, my usual OWS hole). I thought I was close enough but when I went to stand, I realized that my depth perception was all off and I had to do a little dolphin dive to move myself forward. Wonderful volunteers grabbed my hands and helped pull me out and make sure I had my balance. Then I was jogging as best I could up a chute lined with lots of cheering spectators (v. exciting!) 🙂
Made my transition pretty flawlessly but took an extra minute to make sure my bag was all packed up before grabbing Roo and heading out. Immediately at the Bike Out, we were greeted with a very long, and pretty steep hill. My breathing was going crazy, as it always is after T1 so I did my best to spin up, but had a stand up a couple of times to get cranking. Super intimidating hill to start off with and it probably took me at least 5 minutes to climb it.
Felt okay and spent the first 10 miles of the bike trying to get my heart rate under control and start my fueling. Took some gel and was drinking a lot. The dry desert air + wind on the bike were making my mouth feel really dry so I was constantly taking little sips out of my aero bottle. Hit the first aid station at 18 miles and picked up a cold bottle of water, dumped it in my aero bottle and took off without a hitch.
My legs were burning. The course was very hilly and I had spent a great deal of time studying the elevation map so that I was prepared for the big hills (namely, the ones at 20, 40 and 50 miles, including one steep one over 5 miles long!). But those first 20 miles felt REALLY hilly and had me a bit worried about the rest of the course. Every once in awhile we would get a beautiful long downhill and Roo would start flying and I would run out of gears— fabulous! The speed (which I topped out at around 40?) would get me halfway up the next giant hill and then I would run out of gears on the other end and have to start spinning up again. Long ups and downs, constantly. My legs were burning so much that I started to overthink my setup and I got super anxious about my seat height and was SURE that during assembly the day before, we hadn’t tightened it enough and that it was slipping. Yes, it was definitely too low. I was sure. At the 2nd aid station (mile 30ish), I stopped and asked if anyone had a torx key to adjust my seat. They did and after hopping off Roo and inspecting her, I realized that my seat hadn’t fallen. Regardless, it still felt low and was bothering the heck out of me so I adjusted it a half-inch up and that seemed to help. In all, I think I waisted three minutes stopping. Frustrating.
Since I needed something else to worry about, I started to feel like I was burning up in the desert heat. I had applied lots of sunblock that morning but I was worried that after 3-4 hours + water, it had started to wear off. I stopped at the 3rd aid station and shouted out a request for sunblock. Was immediately happy when they had some but quickly kinda sad that they just handed me a tube (no spray, and no helpful volunteer to rub me down, as I’ve seen them do). So I waisted another 2 minutes applying sunblock to my face, shoulders, arms and neck and tried to tell myself that I’d be happy later when I wasn’t red and crispy.
Between miles 20-40, I was also having my side pain issues that hit me in my right side, bottom of ribcage. It got painful enough that I had to sit up and get off of my bars for awhile. Normally when this happens I will get off the bike and stretch a bit, but there was no doing that now. I did delay my fueling a bit because it always seems that eating/geling/drinking does it to me, so I was very careful about taking in too much. In all during the bike leg, I took in 4 gels and one Honey Stinger Lemon Waffle (as a treat to break up that GU), plus several bottles of water (4-5?) as well as one bottle of extra strength grape Nuun and one half bottle of Ironman Perform.
After the 3rd aid station around mile 40, I started feeling much better and getting in my groove. I was climbing hills much faster and passing more people (several who had passed me early in the ride). I felt very strong for the rest of the ride but I was super ready and looking forward to getting off and starting the last leg of the race.
It wasn’t until I hopped off the bike in T2 that I realized how very hot it was. I made a quick transition and did a very thorough spray of more sunscreen, plus put a hat on to prevent my scalp from getting burned, as it loves to do. It was a long run out of T2 until we hit the timing mats. Once I did, I immediately started to monitor my heart rate. My plan was to run as hard as I could, but to stay in low Z3. In reality, I spent most of the run in upper Z3/lower Z4. The run was 3 laps. Or I should say, 3 long gradual hills.
The first lap was painful, looking around at other runners on the turnarounds and wondering what lap they were on. At the end of lap 1 and 2, it was also hard to run past the finish line and see people finish as I was trudging up a hill to begin another lap. The intense hills are evident by my patterned splits. It was a roller coaster.
Five minutes into my run, my Garmin Fenix 2 froze up. It took me a very long time to realize that my heart rate wasn’t changing. I ended up doing a hard reset on it and was able to get it going again, but it was frustrating that my distance and time weren’t correct. I was, however, glad that I had heart rate and pace data.
The temps were in the mid-90’s and it was feeling insanely HOT. To manage the heat, I walked through every aid station (they were roughly a mile apart), filled my sports bra and my hat with ice, drank several cups of water and Perform, and then at the very end, I would grab handfuls of ice to hold and let melt in my hands. After another mile, it would all be gone and I’d do it all over again.
I saw Em on turnarounds during my 2nd lap (her 1st) and my 3rd lap (her 2nd). And I saw the guys and high-fived them at the end of my 2nd lap. The 3rd lap was hard but felt great, knowing that this was the last time I had to do these hills! The finish line was at the end of a long downhill so it felt great to finish fast, even though I was less than thrilled with my overall time.
The guys saw me finish and I felt great afterwards. Within 10 minutes, I was ready for food and I was super excited that the food tent had the best offerings I’ve seen thus far in an IM event— lots of fresh fruit (including watermelon), tortilla chips, black beans, mexican rice, and chicken (fajita style). Super veg friendly! The rice and beans were great. I think I downed at least 3 large bottles of water and one bottle of Perform within an hour. Dan was needing to get something in the car so while we waited for Em, we walked probably a 1/2 mile to the car and a 1/2 mile back. I think this really helped my legs to keep moving because I had very minimal soreness the next day.
Cheered on Em at the finish line— I might have gotten a bit teary-eyed! Was so excited for her 🙂 She had a great day too with no issues. Like me, she was less than thrilled with her time but I think we both underestimated how tough the course (and heat) would be. I was really hoping to end the year with a PR but wow, I wasn’t even close. It bothers me that I haven’t gotten better time wise, but I’m also tackling more challenging courses and hadn’t realized how much easier Muncie really was at the time. What surprises me most is how my time is only 2 minutes under my Innsbook HalfMax time (the hardest race that I would NEVER do again!!!). The bike leg at Silverman took me longer! And I hadn’t thought I could get any slower than I did in hilly Innsbrook, geeps. Here’s how my splits compare:
Muncie 70.3 (2013)
New Orleans 70.3 (April 2014)
Innsbrook 70.3 (June 2014)
After the race, we all enjoyed a few days in Las Vegas— eating, drinking, gambling, and spending some much-needed Seestor time in the hotel’s steam room and whirlpool baths! Great way to celebrate.
Definitely feeling more confident (and excited!) going into 140.6 next summer. I’m all signed up for the full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene. I have seven weeks until my 30-week training plan begins (Dec. 1!). Very very much looking forward to sharing this journey with Seestor and Rob. Muncie was a great race, but I’ve found out since then that it’s way more fun to do these events with friends…and to soak up the celebration with them afterwards!
A big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to my friend Rob… For sharing the training journey with words of encouragement, for picking up/dropping off the tri club’s bike box, for showing us how to disassemble and carefully pack Roo, and for letting us borrow tools for the trip! I am in debt to you, my friend.