In April, I was talking to Thorsten Radde of trirating.com about my plan for Kona qualifying and told him that I would race Ironman Cairns in hopes of getting the last few points that I need. He said, "that sounds good, but statistically, you're "due" for a bad race." I thought this was a very German response! Wow, how blunt! How very Thorsten :). I quickly dismissed him and went about my business of training harder than ever for Ironman Cairns.
Turns out that (attempted) Ironman #14 for me was the race that wasn't. It all started off well...
We swam in Palm Cove in beautiful Cairns, Australia. The swim was choppy and windy. In all honesty I was terrified of the conditions based on a hectic pre-race swim where I was going nowhere except downcurrent the wrong way. Turns out, all my swim training should have given me a bit more confidence. I ended up posting by best ever Ironman swim split (58 minutes), but most importantly, was just behind girls I consider to be "better" swimmers. Statistically, I am sure they are. But statistics don't matter, do they? Anyhow, the first half of the swim, I hung on the main pack while Gina Crawford and Liz Blatchford were somewhere off the front. During the second half, the chop increased and we swam upcurrent. I lost a little bit of time as my group disbanded, but not a lot.
Onto the bike I was in a strong position. I wasn't feeling great to be honest. Actually, I was feeling low after what felt like an uphill battle in the swim, but in Ironman, all you have to do is look at your Garmin and give yourself "X" amount of minutes to re-assess, eat, and *hopefully* come good. So, I went about it. I got a split saying that I was 5 minutes from the lead. 5 minutes?!?! That's good for me at this point of the race! Excellent motivation, I pedaled harder. I was a few miles from the turn around in Port Douglas when my rear tire went flat. I stayed calm, filled it with Pitstop, and continued on. All seemed good. For about 10 miles. Then it went flat again. Time to change it. No big deal. After I changed it, the fatal error was clear: The valve stem plus valve extender combo I had included in my flat kit looked long enough, but in fact, just wasn't. In the end, I came about 1 cm short of being able to continue my race. You see, the little end stuck out of the tire rim, but not far enough to attach an inflator and get air in the tire. Eventually, a motorcycle pulled over (not tech support) and radio'd for tech. This was good news! Bad news, after 20 minutes more waiting, no tech had arrived. I was given the option to take my wheel to the standing tech support back in Port Douglas to get some help, but the outside support would mean I had to hand in my chip and resign from the race. So, off I went. The tech couldn't get air in either so they lent me a wheel to pedal home as I was about 45 miles from the finish.
My race had ended, but I had seen Luke in the lead. It was my turn to cheer him on and dammit he better do well after my fiasco (Especially since he had put together my flat kit and taped it to my bike....but now, lesson learned, I need to and should be responsible for my own equipment). Back to town I pedaled just in time to see him get off the bike and start the marathon with a TWELVE minute lead. Needless to say, the next 2 hours and 57 minutes were very exciting and in the end, HE WON! And lucky me, got to greet my fiancé at the finish line with our daughter. (Oh yeah, FIANCÉ! That's a story for a different blog post. Can't mix joy and pain!) But one quick picture:
|got engaged to my people on the beach at Green Island!|
|memories for a lifetime|
The Road to Kona as a Woman
Ok, I said I had no reason to complain. And I don't. Luke winning the race, having an incredible trip with our families, and getting engaged made it absolutely impossible to sulk after this DNF. But, I need to include a little discussion (okay, monologue) from my perspective after spending the year after giving birth racing Ironmans to get to the pinnacle of the sport, Kona, the Ironman World Championships. I have raced well. I had a "warm up" race at Ironman Malaysia 4 months after giving birth and came 5th, nothing world championship-worth calibur, but a good start. Two months later, in 9:04, I came 4th at Ironman Western Australia w/ a new run course record of 2:58. In the results, I was sandwiched between two Kona podium finishers, Liz Blatchford and Yvonne Van Vlerken. Three months after that, I finished 5th at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships in 9:05, again with the fastest run and not far off (or ahead of) World Champions and podium finishers. (During this time, I also placed 2nd and 5th at 70.3s and scored some more points).
If I were a man, this would have been enough. End of story. After Ironman Melbourne, with my 4,515 points, I could have said, Ahhhhhh....time to rest, re-assess, and plan my build to Ironman Hawaii like a true professional. But alas, I am a woman. Women have 35 slots to the Ironman World Championships and men have 50. There are more men that compete as professionals, hence the arbitrary allocation of fewer slots. However, in the past 10 years, the depth of the women's field has increased dramatically and in my opintion, the top 100 women and top 100 men are completely comparable. Because of this parity, women compete more fiercely and frequently to get to Kona.
The result? Well, if you look at me and Luke (he doesn't mind, he sees what I am going through and is my biggest supporter), you can see. Luke has laid low this year, racing less than I because he had a well-deserved top 15 in Kona last year which gave him a start on his points. He earned that ability to race less. However, after his win in Ironman Cairns, I still have 25 more points than him from my racing, but our current situations are very different.
As a man, he can rest, plan, and get ready to make a damn good show in Kona.
As a woman, I need to spend more time, more money, and more physical energy getting myself to another Ironman start line this summer (and by the way, there are no more US Ironmans for pros in July/August...so cha-ching! ) . There is no room for bad luck or a bad race if you are racing as a woman.
What will be the result? Well, I hope to get to Kona! But if I do get there? Well, I plan on doing darn well, and I wouldn't continue trying if I didn't think I could. But, can we say that Luke and I will have had equal opportunities for preparation? After racing well in three Ironmans, is it in my best interest to do a 4th Ironman if I want to do well in Kona? Would it at least be fair to women to see if an equal playing field would change the dynamics of the Kona race? Can Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman, really believe that women are making more money in the sport (As he said on Bob Babbit's podcast) when we must SPEND more money to get to all these races and in the end the sponsorship dollars still go to the men? Look at Bahrain 13. A very exciting triathlon team that financially supports 10 men and 3 women. Yes, I'm sure women must be making more money in the sport! Especially when some of must choose to take a minimum of a year off to start a family, then attempt to return to the unknown, often with fewer sponsors and definitely much less sleep ;). Yes, us chicks have it EASY!
Anyway, this is not my complaint. I CHOOSE to do this and I'm excited about continuing to chase my dream. I am not trying to rant, but I do want to build awareness about why I believe there should be 50 women at the Ironman World Championships. There are other ways that I could make some money in this sport, but my goal right now is to compete with the best in the world because I believe I can. And I hope sooner than later, we have 50 women on that start line who are just as fresh and ready to fight as those 50 men.
So what's next? Not quite sure yet, but I believe there will be another Ironman in the next 2 months. Yee Haw!
Thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters along this road. I am so very lucky.