Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ironman Australia 2016 - race report

My world exploded a bit when I tried to fit Ironman Port Macquarie, a trip to Vietnam, and our wedding all in a period of less than 2 weeks (12 days to be exact.) Hence, this tardy blog post. (Oh, and more on the wedding soon!). Often, my race reports are filled with drama about the lead-up and the actual race... For once, though, s$%t actually went according to plan. So please excuse me while I bore you. 

Normally, my race builds are less-than-perfect. I can’t really say that about Ironman Australia. For the first time, everything fell into place training-wise in the 10 weeks before the race. Luke completed nearly all of my tough bike and run sessions with me or as a carrot in front of me, giving me the confidence that I was doing the sessions day-in and day-out that would matter in the end.  I didn’t get sick or injured. I not only completed all of my swim, bike, and run sessions, but I fueled them all properly (thx Gatorade Endurance!), got weekly massage, focused on my functional strength training sessions each week and put getting 8+ hours of sleep high on the priority list. My 2-year old daughter goes to sleep every night by 8pm and so do I. I did all of the big things, and the little things. I'm going to do a follow-up post with the training nitty gritty that went into this race. 

Ironman Australia played out nearly exactly how I envisioned it could if I had my best day and the day I had prepared for. Here's how it went down:

Obviously, I am not going to swim with the leaders. But to come out of the water in :56-something solidly under 1 hour set me up less than 5 minutes from Gina Crawford who led the race out of the water (it is quite a fast swim due to salt water, good conditions, & wetsuits, but still a legit one length-wise).

And we're off

 Gear Note: Swim 
I'm quite certain it was no coincidence that I had my fastest-ever Ironman swim in my new ROKA Maverick X. It seriously feels like you are not even wearing a wetsuit but you know you must be as you glide along effortlessly (ok, for me wriggling around there is always some effort, but much less in this suit!) Also, I chose ROKA light amber F2 goggles- they have worked perfectly for all my races so far which start in low light and they have a great field of sight. 

Testing out my new Maverick X the day before the race

“But you were almost 13 minutes down after the bike? How is that your best day?” Look, in my world, that can be the reality. My job is to come prepared for it and run my brains out. Although Michelle Bremer rode faster than me, I had a fantastic ride that went about as well as a solo 180km can go and it replicated what I knew I could and should execute from my training sessions. 
Saying hi to Luke on Matthew Flinder's hill 
Werk (photo: Witsup) 

I nailed my target power, I nailed my target nutrition (thank you, Gatorade Endurance and Gatorade Sports Science Institute!), and in the end, I rode 2 minutes faster than my “I think I can ride a 5:15 on this course” prediction. I had the second fastest female bike split which is huge for me. I didn’t really hit a low spot and I kept my power consistent on the 2nd lap and finished strong. Most of all, I finished fresh and ready to run my ass off. (p.s. – it was rainy, blustery, and chilly but whatever). I did waste a minute or so with a Special Needs kerfuffle.. The Special Needs tent on the bike was placed at the crest of a hill. I couldn't exactly fly down the hill with my bag of Gatorade Endurance bottles, so I had to stop, unclip, regroup, etc. I typically don't stop for Special Needs, but I wanted to make sure I had my own G Endurance instead of trying something new on course. (If you're in North America, you're lucky as Gatorade Endurance is the on-course fluid). 
International symbol for, "GIMME WATER!!!!!!!" Photo: Witsup
photo: Witsup

Gear Note: Bike
The setup I went with for this race was exactly what I would choose if I did it again: SCOTT Plasma 5, Enve 7.8 carbon clincher wheel set with 25mm Continental GP 4000 tires, SRAM red eTap components, Quarq powermeter, Endura QDC aero tri suit, ISM PN. 1.1 saddle, Speedplay pedals, SCOTT aero helmet & SCOTT Tri pro shoes & Ceramic Speed Ultrafast Optimised chain. 

I would say that this is a course where having SRAM eTap electronic gearing made a significant difference. Due to the nature of the terrain (lots of short, swoopy rollercoaster-type hills), being able to shift seamlessly on the base bar as well as in the aero bars made a significant difference. ETap has been a game-changer for me. 

A HUGE Thank you to Trilogy Cycles for taking care of me in Australia. Trilogy, like Nytro back in Cali, is a SCOTT dealer and Keith and his crew are incredibly helpful. I always love it when the owner is a triathlete himself- you know he "gets it!" 

All the race recaps from IMOZ say it was “all about the run” as both Tim and I ran down significant deficits, but for me, it was all about the swim and bike. All day I stayed patient, strong, and within myself in order to set myself up for that run. I rode from 5th place into 2nd place during that ride  which is a big win for me. The swim miles and the bike miles that I put in in training are what I really feel deserve the credit for that 2:56:10 marathon, not any secret run sessions or crazy run intensity or mileage. I got off the bike, heard the time gap, and got to work. My legs felt amazing, it was ridiculous. The weather was cool, my heart rate was low and my cadence was high. I got in the zone and clicked away. 
Photo: Witsup
It was wet. My "not amused" face. Photo: Witsup

I knew I needed to take at least 3.5 minutes per lap out of Michelle in order to have a chance, but I didn’t want to rush it. I also knew that Michelle was in excellent run form, having recently posted a personal best run in IM New Zealand (3:14). I knew that with the deficit I had, only a 3:00 marathon would have a chance. Michelle had truly smashed the course, and in the end, she finished 25 minutes faster than her winning time from 2015 (running 3:11!) . So, to say she made me work for it is an understatement. She truly is a fantastic Ironman athlete who should not be underestimated. Cheers also to Dimity Lee Duke who rounded out the podium in 3rd.  I love racing with Dimity- she races hard and fair and is an awesome competitor. 

Champagne shower with Bremer, Photo: Witsup

Gear note: Run
I debated in the days before the race to wear the new HOKA Clayton or stick with my HOKA Clifton 2s. I wore the Clayton in Putrajaya 70.3 and loved them, but chose to stick with Clifton 2 for the full Ironman. Some say that Cliftons have too much cushion to run "fast". I disagree. And how fast are we going in Ironman anyway? I personally think they saved my legs and allowed me not to fade in the last 10k of that run- I nearly negative split and finished with a 2:56:10 . I also ran with the Garmin 620 w/ HRM... interestingly enough, my avg HR on that run was 5 beats lower than my avg HR on the bike. 

Clifton 2s FTW!  Photo: Witsup
For me, I just had one of those days you dream about where going hard feels good. Not to be that annoying chick, but I really never had a low spot and my legs responded with ease (for once! I feel I am too-often on team “come on, legs!”). I ran by heart rate and was mostly trying to "keep it up" so I just kept pushing as I know what heart rate I can sustain for an IM marathon. All day long I kept thinking to myself, "DAMN, I nailed this taper!" I felt like Freddy McFresherson compared to my usual lagging self. 

In the end, after 9 hours and 10 minutes, I broke the tape. 

photo: Delly Carr
Photo: Witsup
 A huge thank you to my supporters, my sponsors, and of course, my #1 and #2 fans Luke & Wynne... Couldn't do it without you.

Best cheer squad
Of course, Wynne wanted nothing to do with me at the finish line.. it was a little overwhelming for her with so many people and so much noise.I also need to teach Dad how to dress her and do her hair to be "camera ready" for these finish line opps.. Geez! 

If you've been following along, I fished my wish! I was given the honor to give burn victim turned all-around badass, Turia Pitt, her medal in her first-ever Ironman just 5 years after being trapped in a bush fire during an ultramarathon in Western Australia. Seriously, people, ANYTHING is possible. Thanks to Turia for showing that to us all.

Thank you again to everyone for your support, most particularly, my amazing sponsors.