WARNING. It's a long one.
Spent the week leading up to game day playing “guess the heat, humidity, and water temperature” bingo, getting a hands on tube changing tutorial in the garage of my office building, and generally stressing about nutrition, hydration, and my perceived sense of under-training (why, oh why, didn’t I get in a couple more 40 milers?).
Arrived at transition and started to push the bike in…scrape, scraape, scraaape…wtf…was I going to have to put my newly acquired tire changing skills to the test already?!? Thankfully, it was just bit of steaming asphalt stuck to the tire and scraaaaping along the rear wheel cut out. Heart attack avoided and I complete racking uneventfully.
Game day arrived and I was feeling OK. The beer at dinner the night before let me get a pretty good night’s sleep (6 hrs) despite the fireworks (literally) at 10 pm and the air felt decent after the evening thunderstorm. We hit the road a little before 5 and found minimal traffic on the 16 mile drive from Oxford (stayed at the Combsberry Inn). The sun was starting to peek through as we crossed the bridge into Cambridge and I spotted the orange turn buoys which seemed a million miles away from Great Marsh Park....here come the butterflies.
After an un-eventful set up, I went looking for the rockstars and was rewarded with a sighting of Mirinda Carfrae racking her bike looking teeny, cut, and every ounce the IM champion that she is. I headed out to the DC Tri tent (thanks Hugh!) to start the interminably long wait for my wave and saw my second rockstar, Carrie Campbell, camped happily in a lawn chair in the pre-dawn light. Yay, I wouldn’t have to wait alone. Then John arrived and we went to check out the swim.
I’m no swimmer. My office mates dubbed me “The Otter” because I had to flip over on my back in all three of the Tris I did in my inaugural season last year. The Otter returned in a big way at the SSPT OWS swim clinic in May where I tried to swim with the big kids (fast swimmers Sheila, Gary, and others) and essentially went out too fast, and had to flip over on my back within 25 meters, heaving like I was going to have a heart attack. I beat back the Otter at Columbia this year, but I was wearing a wetsuit. No wetsuit in the 82 degree Choptank, so would the Otter return?
[Sappy aside alert!] Right before my wave headed from the boat ramp into the water I spotted John Blais’s parents next to me on the pier (they were in town raising awareness about ALS). [If you’ve watched the IM Kona coverage over the years you’ll recall that John became an Ironman before succumbing to ALS. He is famous for saying that he would finish the IM (which he did) even if they had to roll him across the finish (which he did under his own steam) and many folks honor John’s memory by rolling across the line at IM events.] In that moment of panic before I had to head into the water, I walked over to Mr. Blais and told him how many times I had cried with his family watching the IM coverage of John (and I do cry every time). He held my hand, thanked me and told me to “take John with me” during the race; I started to cry again. This became one of my mantras during the run. It was a really nice moment for me and yes I am a total sap.
Thankfully, there was a sandbar just past the boat ramp and we were able to stand at the start instead of having to tread water sans wetsuit. I positioned myself at the very back of the swimmers on the inside buoy and when the gun went off, just started swimming. Although I knew this was a clockwise swim and I practice bi-lateral breathing every time I swim, my body immediately went to survival mode – breathing to the left – not good. I literally couldn’t get the rhythm down for breathing to the right. Meanwhile, I will note that there is a big difference between the athletes in the OLYs and Sprints that I’ve done in the past and those in the HIM. The ladies in the HIM are not messing around. They swim HARD. Within seconds, my goggles were almost knocked off and I felt like there were arms, legs, elbows, and feet coming at me from all directions. Clear water was impossible. By the first turn buoys I could see that the boys from the wave behind me had caught up. Uh oh, now I’m in for trouble. Caught one in the lip and could taste the metallic taste of blood. What to do? Stop? No way. No sharks in the choptank, swim on sister. And swim on I did, in a zig zag fashion all along the course. Toe cramp which led to a slight calf cramp caused me to swim with my foot in a flexed position for awhile, but I think my true downfall was not being comfortable sighting while breathing to the right and spending too much energy swimming around people in an effort not to get mauled. The good news, no sign of the Otter, the bad news, a miserable swim time of 54:43.
T1: no wetsuit, no issues, off to the races. (2:17)
I had been sufficiently warned by my unofficial coaches (my IM idols Lynn and Lloyd) not to leave it all out on the bike course with nothing left for the run. So my strategy was to keep my cadence at 90+ the whole time and downshift if I felt like I was pushing it. Strategy in place, so now what do I do? Within 3 miles I am bored out of my skull. With my fourth to last wave and back of the pack swim time it's LONELY out there. How am I going to pass the time? Nothing much to see and in aero, I don’t want to lift my head too high anyway. Sooo, I start imagining a pace line along the lines of the folks who rode 6 Pillars with me in April – each “person” pacing me for a mile. (delusional, you ask?) So let me say, Elaine, Dave, Jay, Scot, Jim, “thanks for pulling me along.” Nutrition plan: 1 Roctane GU and 1 electrolyte capsule every hour, quick sip ½ Gatorade- ½ water mix every two miles. (note to self: bring extra GU in case you drop one during the ride…). Used the water bottle exchange once to get an extra bottle of Gatorade to refill my aerodrink at mile 20, but didn’t need it in retrospect b/c I never had to tap into my extra bottle of water/Gatorade on the downtube. It was sunny, but not oppressively hot and humid and I came off the bike feeling tired, but sufficiently fed and watered. 3:17 on the bike meeting my goal pace of 17 mph.
T2: tried running in the bike shoes and felt the left calf start to cramp up again. Walked in the bike, put on the running shoes and off to the races. (3:31)
The race organizers are cruel, evil people, because as you head out on the run, you run right past the folks coming thru the finishing chute, all happy to be done and getting their medals. It smells like dog poo baking on the side of the road and you are hot, tired, and have to run a half mary. But I digress. My run is a slow slog. Have to wait for the port-o-John in mile one, then hit the first aid station. Ice in the bra, ice down the back, ice in the hat, wet the bandana, drink and away I go. Rinse and repeat 12 more times. Thankfully, was buoyed by my BF who cheered me on at miles 2.5, 10.5, and 12.5 and was duly impressed by Andy who blazed by me around mile 12, having started in the wave behind me.
Some lessons learned. Even on a hot day there is such a thing as too much ice. Too much ice can lead to freezer burn in unexpected places. Too much ice can cause you to rattle like a maraca as you run down the road. Too much ice can distract you from taking enough liquids at the aid station. (Noticed at one point that I wasn’t sweating and realized that I had iced at the last two stops, but hadn’t taken enough to drink). On the upside, too much ice means that you’ve got ice chips whenever you want them on the road. (I was a living ice chest, literally).
It was a tough run – 2:30 – 11:28 pace with a surprising negative split. Walked the aid stations, “ran” the rest of the way. 6:48 total time.
All I know is that I was thrilled to finish and just ordered the 70.3 sticker for my car. The Otter is dead, long live the Otter!
Congrats to all the other newly minted 70.3 finishers out there on Sunday -- you guys ROCK!
Congrats Joyce. What Ironman are you signing up for next year?
Great race report! Great finish! Now you have a new time to beat in your next!
awesome job, Joyce!! Great to see you Sunday!
Big Congrats Joyce. You Rock! Let's celebrate at the next HH!
Joyce, great job out there. You were all smiles as you ran down the final chute. Thanks for sharing!
Great work Joyce - You are an inspiration for my HIM in October. You may not remember me but we met at the DCTri last year (which was my first). Way to go! I'm looking forward to reading your IM report. Love the ice chip story!
Otter or not I'm envious of those that can swim! Great job!