Thursday, November 7, 2013

A pair of 7's and 9:07!

Phew, what a week!  I first got the idea for the dirty double (Miami 70.3 followed 6 days later by Ironman Florida) after the boss sent out an e-mail entitled: Use It Up! Meaning, use up the fitness you spent all season gaining on some end of the season RACING. The wheels starting turning and soon after the Miami 70.3/Florida IM double was set in stone.

I have been wanting to go back to Miami 70.3 since about 5 minutes after my race there in 2012. I had a tough day last year complete with groin cramping and stomach issues and I wanted to redeem myself. The goal for Miami was to better my 2012 time and prove to myself that I can compete with the best (the international field this year was STACKED).

The adventures started early as the swim was non-wetsuit and full of weeds! I laugh now but at one point I was completely immersed in swamp like willow weeds.  I exited the water thinking this was the toughest swim of my career. Never did I imagine I would eat my words in 6 days at Florida Ironman.

Out of the water and onto the speed machine I put my head down and got to work. The flat course is ironically difficult because of strong winds and the thus need to constantly produce power. Aggressive biking was the goal for the race however it became clear half way through that I was totally over biking. I decided to play the odds (it was the end of the season after all) and continued to push hard on the pedals and pound down the GU Roctane. I was feeling quite good.  However, the wind and heat were turning up their A-games and finally I allowed myself to look at my average power for the ride.  After seeing the number I usually hold for 10 minute intervals I bolted straight up and laughed out loud. Somebody (me) might be doing a death march on the run.

Not thinking, just biking.
As happy as I was with my ride entering T2 was very scary because it would be the first time I would really see how much damage I had done to the run legs. And yes, the quads had taken a beating.  Two strides into the run and I was already having to chase off the demons. The bike had sapped the legs and I was absolutely suffering the first 2 miles.  I reminded myself to think positive and put one foot in front of the other and before I knew it things started to come around.  Danny was cheering his head off and informed me that Leanda had 4 minutes on me but he thought I'd catch her.  This gave me a jolt of adrenaline and soon I was hearing splits that I had closed the gap to 3 minutes and then 90 seconds and then with 2 miles to go I was within 45 seconds of her. GO legs GO!  Finishing the race stronger than I started was a huge confidence booster considering the craziness that went down on the bike.  I just missed catching the one and only Leanda Cave by 25 seconds but I cross the line with a smile.  70.3 PR done and dusted! 6 days till Ironman Florida.
Two of the tricks in pulling off a double like this is to enter well prepared and then to take full advantage of all the recovery protocols.  Usually post race I indulge in an obnoxiously large burger and fries. This time it would be different. I crossed the line of Miami 70.3 extremely happy with my race but so much of me wanted an even stronger performance at Ironman Florida. So I hydrated and took a cold bath, squeezed into the Zoot compression and then it was off to Java and Juice for some wheat grass, lemon and beet juice smoothies and huge organic salads. (Oh just slightly less exciting than a burger and fries). I also spent a solid amount of time with purple teeth (and poop!) from all the beet juice I was ingesting. Sorry, I know, TMI.

All for the love of the sport.
Next stop - Panama Beach City for Ironman Florida!

We had some driving to do but we also had a week. In that time we made it to Java and Juice again (and again), got 2 massages, surprised my doctor cousin at work, took advantage of a water park, explored a self-tour Alligator park (yikes), snorkeled, road the speed machine a little, splashed around in the gulf of mexico, ate oysters, rode some waves, tickled the sand with our toes, spotted a bald eagle, discovered 2 great coffee shops (I chose decaf), got my hair cut, indulged in fresh seafood, and attended the HUGE pro meeting for Ironman Florida. Phew!

White Sand....Ahhhhh

Dinner on the Bay at the Shrimp Boat

Coffee! It excites me even when its Decaf
FINNS: local, fresh, organic, fish tacos!

Pre race Oyster. Yeah, that's right.

Evening Sunset from our room.

Before I knew it race morning was here and I was getting my butt handed to me in the swim:

IM Florida: Flat Bike Course, NOT flat swim.
I took one look at the swim course on Ironman morning and was pretty much jumping with the excitement of a coma patient.  Normally I love challenging things but this was a little scary.  But how could I complain when everyone had to deal with it? Gun goes off and I'm attempting to tackle race #2 as the angry Gulf of Mexico rears its ugly head. After multiple run ins with giant waves and nauseating swells it looked like I had been practicing a new swim stroke which unfortunately resembled something more like an out of control somersault.   I exited the water sick to my stomach and so beat up my first thought was: I am in for a looooonnnggg day.

Endurance racing has taught me a lot including the power of positive thinking.  The mental component is crucial to master in order to have success in long races.  It is absolutely true that the mind can either win or lose a race.  So I kept repeating a 6 word mantra my friend Andrew e-mailed me a few days before the race: 

Steady, Primal, Consistent.

Focus, Hammer On, Be great. 

Over, and over and over I repeated those 6 words. After 10 miles of biking I was totally feeling the mojo and I was just hammering on!

If racing Miami 70.3 6 days prior did anything positive for me it gave me a great deal of confidence in my current bike fitness. I broke through a barrier in that race and was determined to continue with the aggressive riding. At times I laughed to myself because I knew I was taking crazy chances on the bike but it was the last race of the season, go big or go home right? I was chasing girls down, guzzling the Roctane, dumping water over the head, staying cool and going after it.  I had a bit of a low point at mile 90 but other than that the energy was steady and I knew I was in for a great bike split.

Not thinking, just riding.

I stopped the Garmin after 4:48 of riding. Yeah!  I sprinted into transition, zipped into the Kiawis and started moving. Danny reported to me that I was currently in 10th. I smiled and tried to relax. I slowed at the aid stations and focused on fueling, cooling and steady breathing. I was clicking off 6:45 miles and if felt like a jog. So much of me just wanted to GO! And this may have been due to the fact that I was still in half ironman race mode or possibly due to the awesome crowd and Danny support.

After a few miles I moved into 9th and then caught 8th. I went through a bit of a rough patch around mile 16 but regrouped, cooled off with ice down the shirt and tried to remind myself that I only had 2 x 5 miles left. Easy!  At around mile 18 I moved into 6th place and I was about 20 seconds down from 5th when the wheels started to come off. The mind was willing and wanting but the legs were not responding.  In the last 4 miles it was if slowly but surely each of my little mitochondria crossed their arms and called it quits.  The Ironman demons were out in full force.

Ironman Demon
But Danny reminded me that I only had 4 more miles. Run, Amber Run!

Double Ouch

 In the end I crossed the line in 7th and really could not have been happier. I went 9:07 and was absolutely jumping for joy. This was a huge breakthrough race for me that stoked the fire.  I feel so lucky to be racing these super girls and it just goes to show how the sport is growing. In 2010 9:07 would have been 1st, 2011 it would have been 2nd and 2012 it would have secured 3rd.

Of course I really don't deserve the credit because I have a HUGE team of support: Kurt Perham (PBM Coaching), Danny Ferreira, Zoot!, GU, Garmin, McCyles (Myles Chase), super friend and training partner Ryan Kelly!