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With all what went on in the Bay Area with the fires, I didn’t feel super compelled about telling my Ironwoman story. Who wants to know about this, I’m no elite, not that young anymore either so who would care. But then I remembered that I always like to read blog about Ironman stories good or bad, it’s always a pleasure and a nice distraction. So here it is, your distraction for today. Warning though there will be some TMI moments, so beware!
This is going to be a more personal blog. I don’t always blog about all my races but this was an Ironman so a little bit more interesting since I obviously don’t do one every month, or every 6 months or every year (but that might change). Also I think that you will find that the nutrition part is very interesting, so let’s start.
Hi! This is a long post and I apologize. If you are only interested in the nutrition you can skip my jabbering and go directly to the relevant paragraphs. That is fine with me!
When I started triathlon 10 years ago, I never wanted, never thought I would do an Ironman. Its too crazy, too much, too hard, not good for your health. So then why did I decide to do one? Just that: it’s been 10 years and I had to try one, no choice. Plus my kids were getting bigger and I had quit my job, so no more excuses. Because let’s not underestimate this Ironman, it is a lot of training!
In order to be successful I hired a coach, JD. It was so valuable I cannot say the least. He really kept me healthy during the whole process. The training was hard for sure. I had to remember to eat well (of course) and sleep a lot (more challenging).
The bicycling part was the most difficult for me as it takes the longest. So far in my life, I had done lots of 60-70 miles bike rides and also lots of bicycling tours but never above the 80 miles mark in one day. I had a lot of work to do, or so I thought. But JD had me do only four rides that were 80, 90, 100 and 90 miles. That’s it.
The running came in a little bit more easily because I’ve always been a runner first. However the longest run I did was only 19 miles with lots of hills which would prove to be much more difficult than the flattish marathon at the end of the IM.
Swimming felt fine, as I had done over the distance several times.
Even with all that, I was not feeling too confident that I would be successful because how can you run a marathon after 112 miles of cycling and 3800 yards of swimming? However I trusted my coach as he said I was ready so I tried not to worry too much.
The Ironman was up in Whistler and we decided to drive there in 2 days. I actually thought that driving was a great idea especially if you have someone driving for you. What better than doing nothing for 8 hours with feet elevated on the dashboard. I had been feeling pretty tired but after that drive up and minimal training apart for the treadmill in the hotel gym, I was starting to feel back in the groove of things.
As soon as we got there we went for a swim to Alta lake, where it was going to start. The lake was beautiful and the temperature was perfect (70F). I had brought a sleeveless wetsuit just in case but I did not think I would need it at that point because the weather forecast said it was going to rain. The swim in the lake was great and freshwater is always so nice to swim in, except for the leeches…My husband told me that the swimmer that had gotten out just before me had one stuck to his leg. Nice. And then my son tells me: Mom you have a leech on your ankle! I jumped and looked down, it was only a leaf. Gosh. What can you do if you have a leech stuck to you during the race? That’s enough to drain your blood by the end of it.. I did try not to think about it, anyway it’s always better than being bitten by a shark.
The next day I went for a short bike ride. By then my legs were really feeling fresh! What a difference as I had been training on tired legs a lot. The road were also wide and well paved. I was finally getting excited.
On the Saturday I did a quick swim and run and started preparing all my transition, special needs bags and nutrition needs. Wow, it’s like planning a wedding. I had a list of all the things to do, where to put them. Then I had to go drop my bicycle at the lake via the shuttles with all my bags except for the nutrition. I was getting a little nervous then. Fortunately I saw my friend Erika in the shuttle bus so that gave me a break from my thinking brain. I spent the rest of the afternoon prepping nutrition and relaxing. We went out for a good dinner. I did not stuff myself, had chicken veggies and potatoes, very safe. Oh and some dessert too that we shared amongst everybody. And a non-alcoholic beer, because I like the taste.
I had set my alarm at 4:00AM, was planning to get on the first bus at 5AM ish. The start was at 7AM but I preferred that since I did not know what to expect. Of course I was awake by 3:00 and could not sleep anymore. Been there, done that so I know that one night of bad sleep would not impact me that much. I got up and made a super strong Bulletproof coffee. I don’t drink coffee regularly so when I drink one, it’s party time. Just that was making my day already (see earlier post). For those of you who don’t know what a bulletproof coffee is, it is coffee with butter and MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride), it is a type of fat that gets readily absorbed and metabolized pretty quickly, and in your brain too. It is derived from coconut oil. With that on board I started to get ready, I also prepared my pre-race smoothie which I would start drinking an hour before the race start. It contained some almond milk, cliff organic food pouch: banana, mango and coconut, some peanut butter, 2 scoops of plain UCAN superstarch and a little whey protein and that is about it! Nothing to weighty.
One of the thing I felt ready for was the swim. But I forgot about the MASS START. The coach told me don’t go in the middle and of course this is where I was. I thought I was in the front, but no. I could see Erika, she was right there at the front, she is a fast swimmer and I thought I should be fine where I was. NOT. It was terrible. I could not swim freely for the whole first lap and I had to constantly find holes and ways to not get kicked. It is only after the first lap that I started feeling that I had more space. But even though just to be safe I stayed pretty far from the buoy. As a result my total distance was 4600 yard and normally it is 3800 yards. Rookie mistake number 1! I don’t know how accurate these Garmins are. My watch said that my pace was 1:34, which would have been a little fast. But overall it took me 1:12, I was a bit bummed but the swim is such a small portion that I did not let it get to me too much.
By the time I was out of the water, it was raining hard! I went to get my bag and then remembered about the wet suit strippers. Where were they? Found them got that taken care of and went in the changing tent. That is one nice thing I must say about Ironman, is the changing tent with all the volunteers that help you get dressed. I had decided to change completely and since it was raining I was hesitating on what to wear: wind breaker or no windbreaker: no windbreaker because I was feeling warm (bad decision). Fortunately I stashed it in my pocket just in case. 12 minutes transition! mmm, need to work on that one. Rookie mistake # 2
It was raining hard on the bike. I thought, it is going to be a long day of wetness, first moment of darkness but swooshed that thought away. I was hoping that the forecast was going to clear a little bit later like the weather forecast was saying. On the first 10 miles, I got cold very quickly and was shivering. I hope I don’t get hypothermia, I thought. Pedal faster to warm-up, I said to myself. And so I did, but it did not work that well. Remember that wind breaker? That is when I stopped and put it on. Even though I was all wet under, it still warmed me up. I could see the pros coming back from the first turn around on the other side and some of them were actually quitting already because of the bad weather…Well that does not look good. However I managed to warm up. The only thing is that my wind breaker is not really aerodynamic and was acting more like a parachute. Not good. Rookie mistake # 3.
When I got to the special needs I was happy to have dry socks there. I finally removed my windbreaker because the temperature was raising and it was no longer raining. Then the boring part started: dead flat for 30 miles. Ugh. That was hard for me. I don’t have a TimeTrial bike and my position is not optimal and it was not comfortable. Which made me thought that after this I need to get a real Time Trial bike or quit triathlon because this sucks. That was my dark moment number 2 but I managed to pushed it away and focused in the moment. That meant thinking that I had to go pee badly and was not going to pee on the bike. Really people? Who does that? Mind you I was already wet. The sad part is that at every aid station there was a long line at the porta-potty. Fortunately I eventually found one which was at the other side of the road and was free!
Then I saw Claire and Erika coming back on the other side and that motivated me to keep the pace. Finally we got to the hills. Yeah! You must think I’m crazy but I was so happy to get out of aero position just sit really straight and push up and up. I was feeling really good at that point, knowing that the bike was going to end soon and that after an uphill, there is a downhill. My legs were getting tired but not too bad. Seven hours and I was done, better than anticipated with those hills!
At least I got the nutrition right!
I got my first dose of UCAN approximately 1:45 hours into the race. I had in it some MCT oil (2tsp) and BCAA (3g) to complement and I would have that every 1:45 or so. I also was eating quarters of BonkBreakers every half hours if no UCAN and alternating with some peanut butter and honey. I really felt good with even energy.
I was really happy to finish the bike and get into the run. Was trying not to think that I had to run a marathon until Claire reminded me as we were finishing the bike together (thanks Claire, shut up Claire, you are still my friend though!)
Again, I got in the changing tent for a complete wardrobe turnover! Applied bunch of anti-chaffing everywhere and was ready to go. The volunteer was so encouraging and she told me she was going to be at the finish to tell everybody it was my first one. How nice!
I started running with Claire and saw my family on the side cheering me on. So nice to see them. In my head I did the calculation: 20 aid stations divided by 4 equals 5. I can still do math! OK, let’s focus on the first 5 ones, first one quarter. I would run like that pretty much the whole time: run to #1 as fast as you can, walk, have a sip, eat maybe and then repeat and start over for the next 4. That got me busy. Walking at each aid station also breaks it up and helped avoiding cramping and injury and really it does not change your time that much if you walk for 10 seconds. My pace was pretty even for the whole race but did slow down a little bit as time went on. Oh and no I did not see any bears. 4:26 marathon, pretty far from an open one but I’ll take it!
About 30 minutes in I had a dose of UCAN again, with some EAA in it that is it. I also sipped on a Peanut Butter GU gel for an hour . No too much fat not to upset my stomach and anyway I did not feel hungry at all at that point and had good energy. Of course my legs were tired but I guess it is normal. I was only drinking water to thirst at aid station and having salt pills for what it is worth, research is not clear on this one yet! At the special needs I was feeling really thirsty fortunately I had put a Perrier can in my bag and gulped half of it which totally quenched my thirst. I don’t know what it is, but the combination of bubbles and slight sodium is just wonderful. At that point I was suppose to take another dose of UCAN but instead I opted to start coking it up. I never drink Coke but this is when I do it because there is always a place for sugar and caffeine! I also started having broth as it was getting cold when it started pouring again.
Hurray, the finish line! I was getting so pumped up and started picking up the pace, I still had it in me. But the villain course designer had us do a zig and a zag in the village before heading to the finish. When is that going to end? Nevertheless, I was so happy and smiling at everyone. I saw my family at the end and high fived everybody at the finish line. This is as close as I’m going to feel like a super star, red carpet and all but definitely not looking too glamorous.
3x27g UCAN orange flavor: 330 kcal, 81g of carbs
1×1.5 scoop plain UCAN: 135 kcal, 33g of carbs
4 tsp BCAA, 2.5 g/tsp
6 tsp MCT oil: 200 kcal
4 Tsp peanut butter: 400 kcal, 28g of carbs
8 tsp honey: 160 kcal, 40 g carbs
1.75 Bonk Breakers: 473 kcal, 58g of carbs
1 GU gel: 90 kcal, 22g of carbs.
app 0.75 can, not too sure about that one: 120 kcal, 30g of carbs
also some salt pills and caffeine pills.
Total: 1908 kcal, 145 kcal/hour and 292g/carbs and 22 g/hour. This is actually pretty good for me and even on the high side as at those pace I am more of a fat burner but since it was my first IM and I did not experience any GI issues at all, why not?
According to my Training Peak files and Metabolic Efficiency data, this is what I burned during the race: 287g of carbs during the bike, 150 g of carbs during the run and let’s say 30g during the swim. 467 g total. Bout 70% comes from glycogen reserve or the equivalent of 300 g. That is pretty close to what I would have stored in my legs. Of course, this is just an approximation and it is important to remember as the duration increases your body start burning more fat, so I probably burned less than that. I still have a lot of work to do if I want to go faster. But what counts at the end is that:
I am an IronWOman!
I really want to thank everybody who supported me. My husband, my children, my coach(es) and all my friends. I was really touched and surprised by all the support I got on in the form of messages and phone calls. Thank you!