This has been a season plagued by injuries for me… starting with plantar fasciitis (PF) in my left foot in the winter. I did my outseason training plan without running after the first week. I scratched several (at least 4) running races through the spring hoping to get myself squared away for my first OLY. By early May I was able to start running again and did my first two tris of the season (an OLY and a HIM) run/walking. After the HIM it was time to start my 12 week IM training plan. I was feeling good, running well, and looking forward to a good summer and a strong race. Then the last week in July, during my first 2:30 run on the schedule my right foot decided it was done. I had PF in my right foot now. F@#! I started back up with ART/Graston twice a week. Then I added acupuncture to the mix, also twice a week… I was throwing a lot of money at my foot with the hopes of being able to toe the line at the race. In the 7 weeks leading up to IMWI I ran perhaps 5 times, never more than 30 minutes at a stretch. The run/walk usually went well, but I’d limp for the rest of the day and the next day as a result. Late August I was worried I shouldn’t race. Worried I couldn’t finish. Worried that even attempting the marathon would set my recovery back and jeopardize my 2012 season. Ultimately the chiropractor/ART therapist I was seeing gave me the green light. A sports rehab PT also gave me the green light, telling me that if I could endure the pain I wouldn’t be setting myself back at all. So, all systems were go…
Up at 4:15… slathered on sun screen and body glide, put on the sports bra and tri shorts that I was going to swim in under my wet suit and made breakfast. Almond butter and jelly on an Ezekial sprouted grain English muffin with half a banana, coffee, and green juice. I packed my special needs bags and made sure I had what I needed (water bottle and frozen nutrition bottles) and it was time to go… We headed out to transition about 5am. Had to drop our special needs bags off at Monona Terrace, then headed inside to get our wetsuits on and get ready.
Some time around 6 or 6:15 we started heading down to the swim start area. I got separated from my EN teammates when I saw my brother, Dan, and stopped to say hi. I turned on my Garmin, waited for the satellites to locate, then got it ready for my bike workout (I don’t time my swim any more… but wanted it to be ready so all I had to do was hit start when I got on the bike). When that was set I continued the walk down the helix, which was lined with spectators. Pretty cool. During my walk down the pro start cannon went off… 10 minutes to go, better get in the water. Luckily I was close at that point and getting herded into Lake Monona with a couple thousand of my closest friends. I was actually pretty calm about the whole thing and glad I was where I was – I didn’t want to be treading water any longer than necessary before the mass swim start.
Getting in the water I swam out a bit and tried to figure out the best place to seed myself. There were a lot of people still entering the water and lurking by the ramp… so it was tough to get a sense of how things were going to even out. I tried to be in the middle, front to back and wide right of the buoy line. My plan was to stay wide through the first turn then make my way toward the buoy as things started to spread out. In the first couple hundred meters I lost my watch. I don’t know how it happened exactly – there was a lot of pushing and mangling of bodies during the start – my guess is someone hit my wrist and on the down stroke took my watch with it. I knew it happened pretty much immediately and was pretty bummed… not only was that a several hundred dollar piece of equipment, but I needed it for the run – to time my run/walk segments and to keep me on track as far as pace and time. Shitty… but, not much I could do about it. I stayed in my box and kept swimming. During the swim it occurred to me that I might see someone I know running up the helix on the way to T1 – if I did, I’d ask if I could borrow a watch or if they could find me something to use for the run. Ok, that was the best I could do… well, that and I decided that I’d either never wear the Garmin on a swim or I’d always pack a timex or something in a T2 bag to be safe (the prior being the more likely option – I only wore it in the water so I wouldn’t have to take the time before mounting the bike for the satellites to locate). Guess what I’m asking for for Christmas?
Other than losing my Garmin 310XT, my swim was pretty uneventful. I don’t think the athletes ever strung out – I was always in a mosh pit. I got hit pretty hard at one point after the second turn and my goggles came off and I swallowed a ton of water. Thank goodness I put the goggles on first under the cap or I may have lost them for good, which would have made my swim really interesting. I feared I’d also lost a contact, but didn’t… I stayed wide much, much longer than I’d planned to and still felt like I was in the eye of a storm. Second loop was pretty boring… I finally found a comfortable spot to swim in and a good pair of feet to follow (he had a unique kick so it was easy for me to distinguish “my” feet from other feet and I tried to stick behind them because it was a very comfortable pace).
I finished the swim and proceeded to get my wet suit stripped (had trouble getting it town over my tush… too much wine and ice cream during taper when I wasn't sure if I could/would race) and limped up the helix towards transition. The helix was lined with people cheering and going crazy. I was keeping an eye out for anyone I knew and didn’t see anyone. At the top of the helix, though, I spotted my brother. I jogged over to him and told him about my watched and asked if he could try to find me one to wear as I needed it for the run. I think I was pretty calm, he might have a different impression. Apparently he got it on video – can’t wait to see it.
Before getting to the changing tent I ran through a conference room with all the bags lined up in number order. I called out my number and someone handed me my swim to bike bag. Then I headed towards the women’s changing room. A volunteer took my bag and escorted me to a seat (the room was surprisingly empty – but I was near Jelena and Tammy so I wished them well) and dumped my bag, asked if I needed anything, and got me a bag of water. I knew there would be ART volunteers in the tent and I called out to one, Gina, and she came over to help me. I sat down and toweled off my R foot and gave her my tape and scissors. While I got ready, she taped my foot. Cool! T1 was relatively uneventful and smooth… that is until I opened my sunglass case and realized that I had the wrong lenses in my glasses. The last time I rode outside it was overcast so I had my orange lenses in. I had to change them as it was very bright and sunny out. So, there’s another thing for me to add to my pre-race checklist. Second lesson of the day learned the hard way, at least this lesson didn’t cost me a couple hundred bucks.
I finished up and Gina repacked my bag, which was awesome, and I got on my way, carrying my shoes with me as it was a long and slippery walk to get to our bikes. Got Jina, got to the bike mount line, a volunteer held my bike while I put on my shoes, and I was off (alongside Jen W). Riding down the helix was very strange – but I managed to do it without killing myself or anyone else – we all took it pretty slow, which was a relief. No hot dogs in my group.
I stuck to my race plan on the bike. An hour at or below gear one (125) and the remainder trying to stay between gear 2 (132) and gear 3 (138). Actually, my remainder normalized power was 130 I think… I tried to not let it rise above 200 on the big climbs, but to be honest, the spectators were out in Tour de France force and I don’t think I looked at my Joule while climbing, I soaked it all in… but I definitely didn’t pound out any of the hills… kept a steady and easy cadence (a few people even complimented me on how I was riding up Midtown). All in all, I’d say I was pretty successful as far as execution on the bike.
In addition to pacing, I also followed my nutrition plan – I waited 30 minutes to start taking in calories. I took my first S!Cap 30 minutes in, I also took my first sips of Infinit and water. Thereafter I took more Infinit ever 15 minutes, and another S!Cap ever hour on the half hour. No problems at all in that regard. My foot was definitely tight to start – from the tape, I actually was wondering if I should have skipped it, but Gina told me it would loosen up over time and eventually it did stop bothering me. The whole point was to keep my arch from collapsing and keep my moving forward as long as possible.
Loop 1 went off without a hitch. I saw lots of DC Tri folks (Sandy, Dena, Tammy, Amanda) and EN’ers out there, which was great. I saw my brother at the top of Midtown which was cool, too. I was surprised how crowded the course was for the entire ride. I expected the ride out to Whalen to be busy, but figured that once the rollers started the racers would even out. Just like the swim, it never opened up. I saw a lot of drafting out there and never saw an official (but apparently they were out and enforcing the rules). I saw a lot of riders 3 deep passing – and at times I was one of the folks passing 2 or 3 riders wide.
An EN teammate was working bike special needs, and, knowing my number, had my row of bags to distribute – which was great. I stepped out of my pedals as Cheryl held my bag and I got what I needed. It was nice to stretch and to talk to a friend before getting going again. It was also really nice to have a cold, slushy sip of Infinit… as great as the race admin was, not having cold drinks at the aid stations was really disappointing (I think it would have been disappointing even if it weren’t in the mid 80s out there).
Loop 2 of the bike went well for me. For the first time in a while I didn’t drop a chain, launch a bottle or do anything stupid… so, I had probably the most successful ride of the season that day. I spent a few long stretches riding with one of my EN teammates, Jeff. I felt horrible that his luck was so rotten (2 flats, a dropped chain, and a dropped nutrition bottle) because he’s a total rock star, but glad I got to spend so much time riding with a friend. Jeff and I stuck together, leap frogging and/or talking, for much of the last 20 miles until I launched my gear bottle with 2 or 3 miles to go – I stopped to retrieve it (because it had tubes, tire irons, etc… not something I was willing to just let go). Fortunately (amazingly, really) there was a volunteer on the course right where I dropped it and he threw it towards me so I didn’t have to run more than 2 or 3 steps to get it and get back on my way. Up the helix was even stranger than down… heck, I don’t like driving up them in my car, riding one on my bike was an experience. Happily everyone was riding smart and very, very ready to get off their bikes.
T2 was similar to T1, I ran into the room of bags, mine was handed to me, then I went to the changing tent where a volunteer escorted me to a chair and was on call to help me. What was really amazing was that she stuck with me the whole time – getting my shoes and socks laid out, putting things away as I took them off, heck, she probably would have undressed me if I asked her to – which I didn’t, in fact I felt really awkward changing shorts with her basically kneeling in front of me. But she was awesome and a huge help. I left T2 with one shoe and sock on and carrying the other in search of Gina, the ART. There were 3 or 4 ART tables set up outside of the changing rooms for folks to get assistance, which was amazing! I never knew you could get touched during a race but there they were. Gina asked about my ride, I told her what was hurting on my foot and she knew right where to start working on my calf – holy hell did it hurt, but she found the knots and helped relieve the pressure… and she rubbed my foot and sent me on my way. So both my transition times were miserable (but they always are), but stopping was so worth it! As I exited the building to cross the mat and start running I saw my brother. He walked with me for a while as I discussed my strategy since I didn’t have a watch. My plan (that I formulated on the bike) was to count to 180 while jogging, then walk for 60. He said something about 75 strides taking one minute (or at least that’s what I thought he said), so I decided I’d count to 75 3 times then walk for 60 (I know from experience of run/walking most of the season that my walking pace is 60 strides per minute). I walked under a time clock after exactly 9 hours had transpired… I had 8 hours to complete the marathon. Fingers crossed.
It was pretty flippin hard to count during the marathon. Not because my brain was mushy or it was too much to do (I actually liked it as it gave me something to think about since we can’t wear iPods) but there were so many folks cheering and yelling and wishing me well, and I knew so many other athletes out there that anytime I wished anyone well, or thanked a volunteer or the crowd I’d lose count. I suspect that some of my run segments were 2 minutes, some may have been 5 or longer… it didn’t really matter much to me, I was moving forward and going to keep at it until I couldn’t any longer.
My initial plan had been to run/walk the first loop and then reassess. After the 13.1 came I decided I’d try to go to 15 to see how I felt. I saw a lot of people walking the whole way and I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to go as long as my feet would allow me to. I know it was probably not wise and I probably walked a lot slower than I would have if I’d stopped running sooner but I just didn’t want to give up. It hurt, yes it hurt… but I know my body well enough to know what it can withstand, and I’m stubborn as hell. I wasn’t going to stop until I had to. I didn’t want to be “that guy.” I made it to 15 and decided to try for 18. Granted I’m sure I was slowing down a lot. I was walking the length of each aid station at every aid station drinking water and whatever else I needed (it was still pretty hot). At some point I came up Brian, an EN’er who was walking and we walked together a bit. When I started to run again he’d run with me… or just walk by my side – that should tell you how quickly I was going, my “run” was his walk pace. Sad! At some point he got a bit ahead of me and I tried to keep him in my sights but my quads were tightening up. In any marathon you get to a point where your legs feel like lead and mine hit that point pretty early. I would not recommend running a marathon after not running more than maybe 6-8 miles total in the 7 weeks leading up to it. I stopped to stretch at least 2 or 3 times during the second loop of the run. I lost Brian and never saw him again. I didn’t make it to 18 run/walking. Somewhere in the 17th mile I started to walk and couldn’t get going again. I wasn’t upset or anything, but I desperately wanted to know what time it was so I could figure out how much time I had and if I could finish in 17 hours. I was hopeful that I could because I ran a lot longer than I projected I could or would.
Coming up State Street and the 20 mile mark I asked a guy at a sidewalk restaurant the time. 8:45. Ok, I had 3 hours to do 6 miles. I had no idea what my pace was (well, other than damn slow), but I was confident I could do it. I walked on. My brother was at the turn around point and walked with me for a bit down the road. He asked me what my pace was and I looked at my naked wrist and told him I had no idea. He asked if I was going to keep the pace I was walking now – I told him I was going to try but there was no way for me to tell. He then informed me that this would be among my worst marathons. No shit… that made me laugh and a few of the spectators who heard that also got a chuckle out of it. At that point it was pretty close to 9… and we guessed that I’d finish around 11. He sent me on my way to finish up.
Walking the marathon is a bummer… yes, there were lots of other folks out there walking – many in groups having conversations about whatever. But I was essentially alone. Every so often someone would come by and we’d chat for a bit but then they’d dig deep and trot off. I tried to, but couldn’t do it. My feet (both of them) hurt with every step and my quads were just not interested. Every so often I’d get a weird tweak in my left hip and I worried I was going to just crumble – I’ve never felt anything like it before and it worried me a lot. Somewhere around mile 23 Jen J, an EN chica, walked by me and we talked a bit – she had also had a very rough ride, several flats – burning through her spare tubes. I’d seen her husband out there and she hadn’t – and he’d looked great when I saw him which made her happy to hear. She took off… bummer. I kept walking. At some point, though, I started debating with myself. Running hurt, a lot. But so did walking. I was getting close and I wanted to be done… I would get there faster if I ran. Could I do it? Well, I tried. I’m guessing that at about the 23.5 mile mark I was running again… well, not really running, but I was moving forward more quickly than when I was walking. I walked up the hills I came across and kept going. The crowds on the sidewalks were dwindling but everyone I saw was very, very supportive. Every runner that passed me got some sort of encouragement from me. During my walk breaks I would talk to whomever was there walking with me. More often than not these were first timers and I gave them finishing chute advice (take off the glow stick, zip up the jersey, try to go through alone)… I kept going. I could hear Mike Riley. I could hear the music. I wanted to be done… I kept going.
I saw it. The finishers’ chute… I was elated. I was going to make it. I was essentially alone. I asked for some love and ran down the chute slapping hands with everyone who put one out there. I saw my friend Emily and she was going nuts. I saw my brother and his girlfriend (who finished hours before me, 9th in her AG) and they were cheering… I heard Mike Riley announce my name “Rebecca Hirselj from Alexandria, Virginia, you are an IRONMAN!”) I pumped my fists above my head and ran through the chute – and I can tell you that this time I really was running. I didn’t feel any pain. I was elated. Absolutely elated.
For the second time after an IM, an EN teammate caught me at the finish line. Actually, I take it back, this year I had two catchers, in tutus, hugging me and congratulating me. Beth and her sister Jo were at my side immediately with hugs and smiles and, with arms around me for support, walked me to get my medal, my shirt, and my hat… took me to get my picture, and walked me to my waiting brother and friends. I couldn’t ask for anything more special than sharing my finishing moment with my team and my brother. Beth and Jo handed me off to Dan who then escorted me out, waited while I changed, helped me get my transition bags (he’d already taken my bike to be shipped home), and just hung out to make sure I was okay. Soon (like 2 minutes) after I finished Mary finished (Sue had passed me shortly before the turn around point of the marathon). We all gathered and celebrated and went home to eat, shower, and sleep! What a day. I’m pretty surprised I finished. I’m really glad I tried.
Swim: 1:18:06 (rank 1120; division 50/118)
Bike: 7:00:23 avg 15.99mph (rank 1660; div 68)
54mi – 16.08 mph
40 mi – 14.7 mph
18 mi – 19.43 mph
Run: 7:00:36 avg 16:03/mi (rank 2033; div 106)
8.9mi – 12:46
4.3 – 14:09
8.75 – 19:38
4.25 – 17:26
Suzanne K (for coming out to join me for portions of several of my long training rides); the race day volunteers (Colleen H, and all the volunteers who I don’t know); the sherpas and spectators (my little bro, Emily J, and everyone else who came out to cheer, shake cowbells, hold signs, wear silly costumes – it was such an amazing event because the crowd support was so amazing every step of the way).
Congrats to the huge DC Tri contingent that rocked it this past weekend - most of whom were first timers. Welcome to the club!
Way to persevere Becky. They don't call it an Ironman because it is easy.
Excellent work out there - looks like you even-split the loops, which is difficult to do. Did the Team EN Pink Speedo crew make an appearance this year?
Great job! Nothing is so sweet as hearing the words that you are an Ironman.
Awesome race Rebecca. What an incredible story of overcoming adversity. You are a rockstar in my book!
Great job Rebecca! I am so glad it all went as it did (despite the pain)! Now enjoy your vacation!!
Excellent. Now you can take a break... before your next IM :)
Can't wait to see your race report for your next!
Way to go, Becki! Congrats on IM #2!! Enjoy the off-season (let me know if you need tips about that)!!! Thanks for sharing!