What can I say, where do I start? I am still right in the middle of a dream that I am sure I will wake up from soon, right? After all these years of training and racing, trying to do well in the age groups I have been in, (3 to be exact), I finally completed the impossible. I won my friggin' age group!! Anyone who knows about, or races in Ironman Triathlons dreams at the start that they will win their AG and/or qualify for Kona, the Ironman World Championships, held yearly in Hawaii. Anyone who says I really don't care to go to Hawaii anyway (which I have said many times) is lying! The only way to get in is to win the "lottery system" (you have to pay bucks to get your name in) or win your age group in an IM qualifying race. Some of the younger age groups get more of these slots but for us older folks, since our age groups tend to thin out, there is usually only one slot to go to Kona per race. So winning is the only way. "Kona" was my dream of course, as it is everyone's Ironman dream but it always seemed way too far fetched to actually do it. Just to place in the top three would have thrilled me!
This was a lucky time of year for me. I am still 59, but in triathlon, you race in your age group according to your age on Dec 31st of that year(my BD is in Sept). So I was probably the youngest in my AG. To be honest when I saw the competitor list a couple of weeks ago and saw five women, I was so disappointed. When we got to Melbourne back in January, Coach Michael asked me what my goal for IM Melbourne was. I said I wanted to place in my AG, in Australia that means the top three. I was like crap! I will have to beat 2 women to do that! I was so disappointed that I would have to now really race and not just sit back and have a sure thing. All the IM races I have done, I have been in the middle or lower third of the pack in my previous age groups. So a podium finish would have been fine for me! Honestly Kona was not on my radar. Whenever H would bring up the possibility, I got mad and told him to hush that is way too much pressure for me to be under! In the days leading up to the race, we had met with Michael to discuss our "race plan". My takeaway from that:
- Don't go full out on the swim
- When you are stressed, smile. It works.
- Nutrition is key
- The first loop on the bike will feel kind of easy, 2nd loop not so much! Oh, and the wind will get stronger on the 2nd loop (headwind).
- Don't race with my Garmin on the bike, makes me too obsessed (who, me?)-ha! So go by feel on the bike, just above comfort level. Plus one less piece of electronics to keep track of in an already equipment intensive sport..
- Don't run any faster on the marathon than you have done in your long training runs.
This advice and probably more that I don't recall kept me in the game Sunday. My other Coach Xavier told me 2 things:
- Race your plan
- Stick to Nutrition plan
Now all of these thoughts were with me the whole day Sunday. I have had other coaches who have taught me well (Mark Mico, Eric Lujan, Adam from Trisport Coaching, Mark Allen online, Beginner Triathlete online-have had many mentors). My friend from Santa Fe Carol, who told me many years ago than I could do an Ironman if I put the training in then proceeded to show me how qualifying for Ironman Hawaii is done (she has been twice). I pulled from every bit of experience and knowledge I had learned for the last 5 Ironman races and it all came together for me on Sunday.
I had a great Melbourne massage therapist Toby Glennon, who helped in the weeks leading up to the race. He managed to keep my body in working order, I never felt really sore training and stayed healthy for the most part. Getting to the start line at my age, or any age for that matter is a feat. It takes a village...
My nutrition guy Darryl, the inventor of Shotz Nutrition, consulted with me in the weeks and days leading up to the race. I had a nutrition plan, had been training with "The Plan" and his products during the previous weeks and had it dialed in come race day. I did have a few hiccups along the way (no pun intended) such as forgetting all my electrolyte tabs for the run-woops!! I must've been ok without because my stomach was perfect the whole day. More about that later.
My swim coach here, Craig from Aqua Shop was amazing. The couple of lessons I took from him were invaluable. The wetsuit I bought from his shop when my other one broke , was perfect. He sent me messages of support before the race. An amazing athlete and person, Craig is one of the nicest mates I have met in Melbourne. He is the King when it comes to swimming!
Also, I received so many messages, texts, emails, phone calls from family, dear friends old and new, wishing me luck, praying for me, sending me positive vibes. I thought of each and every person who was pulling for me, especially on the run. It kept my feet light, made my will strong and the incentive to win even stronger. I reread Ironwoman Krista's race report from IMAZ last November over again. She is truly an example of dreaming big and setting that dream into motion as she took hours off her IM time to place in her AG this past November. Thank you Krista!
My kids left me video messages of support. The grandkids know what Ironman is, they were there at IMAZ 2012. I am thrilled by the fact that they see what Grandma and Grandpa are doing and achieving. Just knowing that we may be inspiring them to do/be great things in their lives, that is the biggest payoff I can imagine!!
The things I thought were against me;
- being sick the week before, still having the annoying hacky cough to prove it.
- potential weather disasters be it wind, rough seas, rain, cold or heat. We had trained in it all but it is SO much easier to swim in calm, non jelly fish infested waters. And way more fun!
- Potentially having my stomach go south ie; having to stop at every porta potty along the run, which can turn an IM race day marathon into pure hell for me.
Turns out, none of this happened. Race morning in Franskton was absolutely beautiful. A little on the cold side (started out in the 50s which is a tad cold in the AM but no torturous heat later in the day), I'll take it over heat any day. The sea was as calm as I had ever seen Port Phillip Bay. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized yes, I would most likely not be swimming in rough waters...Yessss!
The night before the race we tried to go to bed early, like 8:00 PM. Then I woke up at 11:15 PM and never went back to sleep. I laid very quiet forever, hoping just laying there would suffice. I got online and started messaging my daughter Becca, who helped me immensely take it all in stride. I knew even if I had no sleep, I could do the race, I had slept well the night before. So when the alarm went off at 4:30 AM, I was already in the shower. I know, why a shower before I jump into salt water? I started doing this a few years ago when a fellow triathlete said she did it to warm her muscles up and it helped her be race ready fresh. So after showering, we ate, got caffeined up and headed for the start line. H had scored a lovely hotel room just a 10 minute walk from the race start in Franskton. As the sea of people started collecting in transition, I met one of the ladies in my age group. She told me it was her first Ironman (note to self, she will probably go too hard out on the bike-I only know cause I have done it). The other women were not there but one of the bikes was the most expensive Specialized triathlon bike there is I think, with the fancy water container inside the frame..all very state of the art. Oh great this is my competition I thought. Oh well, maybe I can come in right behind her...ok, the final prerace competitive thoughts were washed from my brain at that moment as I commenced to donning my wetsuit. I felt awake, positive and calm. I was aware of some nervousness, the anticipation kind of energy which is not always a bad thing, got me psyched up for the day. We met our TEAM group and coaches before the swim, got a little warmup instruction and into the water I went. It felt a bit cold, mostly from the air temp but otherwise I felt fine. I adjusted my mask for the new swim cap (the ugly race cap you have to wear) and popped in my ear plugs. From that point on, I just nodded to folks who said anything to me. Grandma Debi was completely deaf with earplugs, however it did prevent me from getting water in my ears or dizzy. I went to the area of the mass start where Michael had told us to place ourselves and there was my husband! We hugged, said our good lucks, kisses and then bang! We were off on the swim!