It’s been a long, and I mean LONG, time since I’ve written a blog, or race recap that hasn’t just gone directly to my coach…but I am ALWAYS asked for details on my race…so I’m bringing it back 🙂
I have always wanted to race IM Cozumel…BUT, my life choices (and by that, I mean career choices) never allowed me to take time off work in November and December. In all honesty, 3 years ago I couldn’t even IMAGINE taking a single day off work either of these months, let alone the week before a holiday. When I finally realized that my life actually DOES allow me this flexibility now, I KNEW I wanted to race IM Cozumel in 2019…and registered on New Year’s Eve 2018 🙂
The start to my 2019 race season was slower and later than I’m used to, but I needed that after racing 4 full distance Ironmans within 14 months between July 2017 and September 2018. After racing Ironman 70.3 World Championships Nice in early September, I was ready to fully dedicate myself to Ironman training which I did, fully and completely. Looking back, I was more focused on my training and this race than I ever have been before…and this was my 10th Ironman distance race, and I’m ALWAYS very dedicated to my training and racing…I was just all in. As I continue to learn and teach…there is just no other way of going about it, in ANY space in life…especially Ironman.
Training was different for a late season Ironman in the Midwest…a lot more long indoor rides vs being outside, long runs were done in colder weather (and much colder than what it would be race day), and a LOT of time spent in the sauna once taper began…but I loved every minute of it. That was my focus…measuring success by how much fun I was having…and I had FUN training for this race.
Race Goal(s) / Mantra(s):
I took MY approach to this race and set goals focused on how I wanted to FEEL vs specific numbers. Now, I did have some time / pace / power goals in mind…but the FEELING was / is more important to me…
“Finding the freedom and strength to race HARD, with a full heart and massive amounts of joy for this sport that I love”…that’s what this race was all about for me.
Those time goals…they were…
- Sub 1:10 on the swim
- Sub 6 hours on the bike
- Sub 4 hours on the run
- Set an Ironman distance PR (for a non-shortened course) – which would be sub 11:29
…simple and clean.
I received one final piece of advice from my girl, Myia Miller, the day before my race – go inside, be with yourself, focus on you, dig deep…those were the last reminders I needed. This was for me…I was going to spend my day focusing on me…finding joy, gratitude and appreciation in the process all day…thank you for this, Myia…you know I’m insanely grateful for you.
All of a sudden I found myself waking up race morning in Cozumel, feeling well rested, calm, excited, fully supported, and SO looking forward to spending my day doing what I love. I started my day with a short journal session, as I always do…setting intentions for my day, my daily gratitude practice, and designing my day. I then listened to one of my favorite Abraham Hicks YouTube videos called “Everything Is Always Working Out For Me” (linked below) while I did some light movement outside taking everything in around me…the stars, the moon, the smells, the warm air…it was perfect…
…that was it, exactly what I needed to hear, exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was meant to be doing…I just felt good.
I ate my pre-race breakfast while we made our way to pick up one of my athletes / friends as we headed towards T1 which included coffee (obvi), one salted hard boiled egg, my fav brown rice cake “sammie” with Artisana cashew butter (THE best) + 1 banana ~15 minutes prior to race start. Setting up in T1 was super smooth, made my way to the swim start and lined up at the end of the 1:00-1:10 corral.
I was SO calm standing in line waiting to start…I focused on my breathing, closed my eyes, visualized my day, and kept on repeat…”everything is always working out for me”…I felt massive amounts of gratitude and joy as I walked onto the pier taking in the sights…blue sky, blue water, warmth in November, drones flying above us, athletes smiling, spectators giving us so much love, surrounded by different languages…I took the inside lane, jumped in, and started my day.
The swim was beautiful…warm water, surrounded by fish, divers underneath us…I was so happy. No nerves, no crazy panic, I could breathe and had space to swim…grateful…
I felt like I was moving WITH the current at some points of the swim, while others felt like I was getting pushed back and forth and working against the current – from what I’ve read, this was normal. I just settled in and focused on me. Jelly fish started to sting me about ~15 minutes into the swim which felt like a quick ZAP each time, but luckily the effects of those were worse POST race than during 😉
What I haven’t shared much with people “outside my circle” is the challenges I’ve had with my swim this year. I believe I overcorrected something with my swim stroke about a year ago, and swam some of my slowest swim times racing (and in the pool…I moved down a lane at Masters for several months) for most of 2019. I decided a few months back that I was willing to do things differently, and put more time and effort into correcting this…swimming 4-5 times a week, spending Friday and Saturday nights at the pool working on specific drills, 5:30am Masters swim practices (even on weekends), swim analysis / feedback…I did it all, and spent this entire swim FOCUSING on my technique. Simply put…it was all #worthit seeing 1:04 on my watch as I exited the swim. Full of gratitude and joy…
I was SO grateful to see all of my family and friends as I exited the water (I was COMPLETELY not expecting them to all be there so early in the morning), so happy, I ran directly under the showers to get some salt off of me, quick stop in the change tent, counted down the numbered racks to follow in a somewhat confusing T1 as I found my bike, and headed out to ride.
I knew right away it was hot, I could feel it within the first few minutes of the bike…and I handle heat well. Coming out of warm / salt water, I knew I was dehydrated and focusing on hydration would be super important early on in the ride to set up the rest of my day. My legs did not feel great for the first ~30 minutes, and settled in at the low end of my power watt range. For much of the ride, that’s where my legs stayed and wanted to be. With the heat, I didn’t want to push it and trusted that a more conservative approach would pay off later in the day.
I spent that entire ride in my own space, my own head. I was totally present, and can still smell the pretty purple flowers I would see every loop on the windy side of the island. It was hot, it was windy, the road conditions weren’t awful but weren’t amazing either…I went through more bottles than I ever have at aid stations, and took in more nutrition and hydration than normal because my body was just asking for it.
I knew I was averaging ~20mph as my watch is set to go off every 5 miles, and I was hitting those on the 15 minute marks, and was happy / grateful / finding joy in the process. I felt pretty solid through ~mile 80, and that’s when I really needed to dig in. I was feeling the heat, but wasn’t going to give up on the effort I was putting out. One of the “treats” I eat on my bike are these Rx Bar Vanilla Almond Butter packets…they taste like Lorna Doone cookies which remind me of my Grandma…she always had them at her house when I was growing up, and that was ALWAYS something she fed us. She passed away earlier this year, and every time I race I eat at least 1 of those to remind me of her…at IM Cozumel, I had 2…they take me back to a very happy time in my childhood, they make me think of her, they make me feel her with me…they helped those last hard miles pass with joy…
My power meter also decided to stop working at mile 80, so the rest of this ride was off “feel”…no worries, on I went.
I hit mile 100 at the 5 hour mark exactly – I was SO happy to continue maintaining 20mph, even though it was hurting. Choosing to find joy in the freedom of racing hard…those last 12-13 miles (yes, the bike course is a TOUCH long) were a mix of nausea, praying I would regroup in T2, and drinking everything I could. Thrilled to see 5:41 on my watch heading into T2, realizing I just hit a 19 minute IM bike PR…now get it together to run.
Bike nutrition – 3 bottles each of 4 scoops Osmo Active + ½ scoop Osmo Pre-Load, countless bottles of water, 3 x Coconut Chew Larabars, 2 x Rx Bar Vanilla Almond Butter packets, 1-2 x Artisana Almond Butter packets (I cannot remember at this point, ha!!) + 2 Salt Stick Tablets.
I kept asking myself…what will make me feel better? The only thing I could think of…gluten free pretzels…so a baggie of those were in hand and going down my mouth the minute I left T2.
Truth…I love running IM marathons, and I mean it. I feel so free, powerful, confident, happy, full of joy…and I wanted this at IM Cozumel. My “mini marathon goals / strategy”…
- Loop #1 – run the entire thing
- Loop #2 – run the entire thing + walk aid stations WITH A PURPOSE, if needed
- Loop #3 – run the entire thing, walk aid stations WITH A PURPOSE, walk 50-100 steps in between aid stations, if needed
++ keep my feet as dry as possible as LONG as possible…
Loop #1 – #nailedit – I felt great, so happy, saw all my family and friends, averaging ~8:30s, and was loading up on water, ice, gluten free pretzels…and literally, the ice was MELTING the minute it touched my skin (I shove handfuls down my sports bra at every aid station).
Loop #2 – started out great, I saw everyone at the turnaround, and was feeling strong…then I got to mile 11 and immediately felt awful. I was nauseous, not seeing straight / almost tunnel like vision, dizzy, and knew I needed to do something different, and quick, to save this race. So, between miles 12-13 I shoved 2 salted dates, another baggie full of gluten free pretzels down my mouth, quick potty break at Special Needs, then poured every cold cup of water and ice I could find over my head at the next aid station…if someone could have recorded a video of me during those 2 miles, it would have been good to watch ;)…but that was EXACTLY what I needed. By mile 15, I felt like a rockstar and was averaging 8:XXs again.
Loop #3 – I saw all my people again, and was living in gratitude…”I’m so grateful for these delicious gluten free pretzels, I love this ice in my sports bra, I love all of the people here to support me, I’m so glad it’s going to get a little cooler on this loop, I love my body, I love this street”…anything I could to stay within me and in joy. I had another SLIGHT moment of my “wheels” coming off ~mile 19…so again, shoved another date and more gluten free pretzels in my mouth…I did NOT want to swallow them, but I forced myself to.
Something I talk to two of my best friends about all the time, Myia and Brad, are our “FXXX banks” – there are only SO many FXXXs you can give. Mine were out at that point. I didn’t care how wet my feet were / ice and water everywhere, I didn’t care how much it was hurting, I didn’t care how nutty I may have looked, I was no longer allowing myself to walk at aid stations, I didn’t care what my head was telling me…no more FXXXs to give…just run and finish…with joy, passion and purpose.
Mile 21…I realized if I ran sub 10:00 miles, I could go sub 11 hours. I was running faster than that, but that was the rationale in my head…I thought it was good I could even do math by that time 😉
Mile 22…little more buffer to go sub 11…keep running, no walking, no more FXXXs to give…
Mile 23…this may actually happen, sub 11 is within reach…keep running…think of all the work you put into this race, things hurt, but it feels so good to run…it felt so flowy, so good, so free…keep running…
Mile 24…I thought of Myia and her crossing the finish line at IM Louisville, falling down / passing out from the effort and her Kona qualifying…keep running, I thought of Lynn Rogers…keep running…I thought of my Grandma…I thought of all my athletes, and the ones racing today…how am I still running like this, is this real, I’m so happy, this feels so good, is this real…keep running…
Mile 25…it’s happening, I’m going sub 11, I’m watching the sunset over the water, I’m crying, it’s gorgeous, I see Paul, he’s telling me all the things my family was texting, words from Myia and Jeff…part of me doesn’t want this to actually end…I kept reminding myself to take everything in…I can still hear everything people were saying to me…I’m so connected to this race, to me, and my goals for the race…my brain is completely shut off, just running as fast as I can, with a big smile, happy tears, being fully present…
Mile 26+…I’ve never cried so much at the end of a race. Yes, I hit all of my time goals, I had a 42 minute PR, I went sub 11 hours, actually…10:47…but the FEELING I was able to experience all day…it was exactly what I was hoping for, and wound up being so much more than I could have ever dreamed of.
I have SO many people to thank…Jen Harrison for being the most amazing coach and mentor for me as both an athlete and coach. We’ve been working together since December 2010, and that long standing relationship has been KEY for me. Paul, thank you for literally traveling the world with me as I continue to pursue my dreams…this is IM #5 with you + countless 70.3s, etc…the support and space you provide me to train and live this life means so much to me + inviting your entire family to join us for this one. Matt, thank you for flying all the way down to Cozumel to support me…this experience wouldn’t have been the same without you. My family for understanding all of the time that goes into this sport, and supporting me always. All of my athletes and clients – you inspire and motivate me every single day, I always race with you in mind. My best friends, training partners, coaches, people that keep me “sane” – Myia, Brad, Lexie, Ryan, Ruthie, and so many others…I’m sure I’m leaving someone off (sorry!!). Ed, thank you for spending Saturday afternoon the week before I raced walking around the city of Chicago with me to talk me through your race last year to prepare me for mine. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to keep racing on the Coeur Ambassador Team – all of you motivate me every single day. Grateful beyond words…
Oh, and I ate 8 tacos to celebrate post race…8 + an entire avocado…it was amazing…and, what’s next?? My offseason 🙂