I entered into race week well prepared and relaxed. Which was the first time for me. Even the day before the race I was mostly calm, organized and I stuck to my meal schedule. Also, for the first time my dinner was eaten at the right time for me and digested well, at least for me. So I now proclaim my final meal before the race to begin at 7:30 pm and composed of quinoa with yellow peppers and broccoli with just a little salad. Not a lot. I reserve my heaviest meal for lunch (potatoes and eggs are involved) which I make sure to finish a little before noon. I can’t say this will work for everyone but it worked well for me. Up at 3:15 AM. My mood was good and just focused on the immediate tasks at hand. Had a half cup of coffee, got dressed, grabbed my bag, packed the night before and carried my breakfast with me. I had a 40 min walk so I wanted to eat slowly and walk. I’m not good at eating on command at 3:30 in the morning.
Entered the bike park as soon as it opened at 5 am, set up the nutrition on the bike and got into my wetsuit. And even made it to the start with enough time to do a warm up swim but in the end I chose not to because we had to be out of the water by 6:15, the start was for 6:30 but as a rolling start I probably wouldn’t be in the water until 6:40 and I knew I would be cold waiting that long after a “warm-up” swim.
This was my first rolling start. Last year in Nice my time was 1 hour 24 which is a little long but I went wildly off course and theoretically I’ve gotten stronger so I estimated it would take me an hour 20 mins. My problem with the swim is not being swum past/moved out of the way, my problem is being stuck behind a group of slow swimmers. It is the absolute worst and it’s so much effort to get past people just a little slower than you. So I put myself in the back of the pen for 1 hours 18 mins.
During the swim, I was passed by what seemed to be everyone. And what I don’t get is I got in the pen only two mins faster than my true time. And I did indeed get out in exactly 1hr 20 mins. So the question is what were all these people doing behind me? It doesn’t make sense but fine. I’m out and it is absolutely freezing. Huge dark rain clouds covered the sky. So it took me awhile to just warm up get dressed and get on the bike.
Anyway I’m out on the bike with bike sleeves on and a rain jacket, it really looked like it was going to storm. For the first half of the course it was dry, with a few peeks of sun so before the biggest climb of the race I took off my jacket but still it was cold enough to keep on my sleeves. Once all of the major difficulties were completed and all that was left were the descents it began to rain, hard with heavy wind and thick fog. Throughout my short career as a cyclist, this situation was probably my worst nightmare, steep descents with heavy rain and little to no visibility. And if there were some good out of my disappointing performance, that was it. I finished the bike leg in the conditions I feared most without falling and close to no drama; I said close to no drama however there was some drama.
At one point, I had to slow down hard approaching an aid station to avoid two cyclists and a random car, so I un-clipped one shoe finally stoping suddenly- almost fell- as the roads were wet and slick my foot slid quite a bit and turned. By the way, why do bike shoes have such a hard slippery surface in the first place? I didn’t notice at the time but obviously I twisted my ankle. I didn’t think anything else about it until I got off my bike at T2 and immediately felt pain in my ankle. I could walk but it really didn’t feel right. I told the referee, sat and changed into my running shoes and tried to run but there was sharp pain. Not normal for me. I decided with tears and surrounded by a couple of volunteers that I shouldn’t continue.
Here’s the thing with Ironman racing, after a certain point, your brain is continually trying to present reasons to stop. I would even say, as a general rule, don’t even believe your brain when it presents reasons to stop or anything negative. It’s just a trick. Once it’s race day, it’s completely a mental game. The ironman marathon is all about turning off that noise and remember why you’re doing this. So in this case I was seriously balling because I wasn’t sure if I could trust my brain. Weird, I know. I worried that if I stopped, in the moment, sure, I’d feel it was the right decision but regret it hard and forever starting Monday- and possibly that pain didn’t even exist or wasn’t even as bad as my brain made it out to be at the time. But it really was a sharp, unfamiliar pain. So I abandoned. The volunteers were so nice and so patient with me.
In the end, however, I made the right decision as my ankle inflated once I got home and showered and the doctor confirmed that it was a mild strain. Strain meaning that area was already worn and twisting it only aggravated it more. So there’s that. I can still swim and soon will be able to bike again but must stop running for awhile and ice it. As such I still have every intention of doing IM Zurich. I’ve got 7 weeks, I’m trained for the distance I just have to make sure I don’t un-train myself in that time. All plans have set backs; I just wasn’t expecting a setback on the first race. And so it continues…..