...After making my way through the crowds gathered to watch the swim and dipping into the clear cool waters of IMMT for a warm up, I lined up with the other women in my wave waiting for our 140.6 mile race to start and suddenly, I felt it....I was ready.
My original goal was to be in the top 20 in my AG at this large and competitive Northeastern Championship event and to shave an hour off my IMWI PR of 12:46. THAT is what I had been working towards and THAT is what I wanted.
All the anxiety, doubt, stress and everything else that had been jumbled in my mind was replaced by a single purposeful determination. Each wave went off methodically with a burst of energy and anticipation built with each take off. There were fireworks along with the starting horn blowing. We were the 2nd to last wave and rather than start in the very front, I started a few rows behind the leaders as I knew I wasn't likely to swim in under an hour on this day. The energy was contagious and we were all really chomping at the bit to get started, especially as we walked under the arch and dipped our toes in the lake ankle deep. As soon as the start horn blew, we were off and it was ON. Again, like MAGIC, all that pre-race nerves mind clutters was gone and I just had this drive to go out and truly see what I could do on the day. I was ready and it was here!
I latched onto a pack of swimmers and I just loved being able to see them in the crystal clear waters. I remembered to finish my stroke, turn my hips and sight often as it was a straightforward course. We swam straight with one right turn half way point to another buoy making a long rectangle as we turned around that next one and headed straight to the swim finish shore on the opposite side of a peninsula in the lake. Water temps were in the 60's and perfect for swimming in the wetsuit. The water was really choppy for some reason making for a harder day than at the half iron in June. The half iron had a calm lake like glass and I'm amazed by how different conditions can truly affect the experience. This swim was tough and being in the later waves meant I lost my draft as soon as we approached the earlier men's waves and all us "red caps" dispersed trying to navigate through all the bodies traveling at slower speeds. I'd be making great progress and then see a large men's foot nearly in my face and would hve to dodge the swimmer attached..luckily the water was clear enough that I avoided many kicks. I was weaving around all kinds of breast stroke kicking fellas and I'm thinking the "seeded" starts other ironmans have might be more appropriate despite losing the ability to race head to head with AG competitors as this thick and deep swimmer mosh pit was worse than a mass start. In the old open starts, it was chaos for a few hundred yards (like wiping out when surfing and being pummeled by waves) and you find your pace group eventually but in this case we swam through crowds the entire expanse of the swim. I just miss the mass starts. By the turn around buoy I found another draft group with women in both green (wave behind us) and red caps. I tried holding on to the green caps since clearly those ladies were cruising fast catching up to us. My Garmin was still in bike mode (from my transition panic), but my friend's Garmins are reading anywhere from 2.5-2.7 miles instead of 2.4. If this is true, I'm thrilled but even if not, I'm happy because I still had a great swim right in line with my 1:14-1:15 target for a wetsuit swim with no current and a distance PR!
1:13 and 29th AG.
Once out of the water, there was a long run to transition. I was out of my wetsuit easily forgetting about the wetsuit stripper volunteers and this time the run to T1 was less congested than in the half iron but they did not carpet the run this time which was a bit of a let down. I suspect it was because of the rain the day before but I really liked the red carpet last time. My feet were hurting and became blocks of ice by the long 800 yard jog to the changing tent. I grabbed my bike gear bag & did not change clothes but decided it was cold enough for toe covers on my bike shoes and quickly threw on everything I needed including old arm warmers and stretchy walmart gloves.
Bike: I love the northern terrain with pine trees and rocky faces overlooking the roadways. It just reminds me of home in Maine. You can even smell the pine in the wind. This course was beautiful (still) and hilly (still). Even on a tougher weather day than the half iron in June, I was much more prepared physically and mentally with more confidence climbing and descending in the mountains after all the midsummer blue ridge parkway adventures, so despite the conditions, I was ready. The day started off chilly and windy, but the rain held off as we headed around the roundabouts and onto the long open hilly highway. Most of the course is closed to traffic.
This course is full of climbs but very windy. Somehow, I still managed to have confidence and stay aero where appropriate riding in the wind with the Rolf Disc wheel. The course was really congested at first but once I approached the first climb it was easy to pass other cyclists and I did not see the kind of blatant draft pack (cheating) or unavoidable groups getting all congested and held up with nowhere for anyone to go as I have seen on flatter courses. The sportsmanship around me was great and I was able to pass the men along the course traveling slower from earlier waves with out any troubles, egos or attitudes because there was plenty of room to go around them on the left and then get back to the right with out becoming "stuck". For those other tri women out there, you know this was quite amazing and I was really lucky! At first, other athletes (especially competitive ladies around) would pass me on the climbs but I'd open a large gap bombing down some hills even passing some larger riders on the down hills. I've become a much more confident descender this year which is important on a course like this. Was I singing 90's old school rap songs and 80's pop out loud while cruising down the hills to distract myself? Maybe! Katie Elliot taught me that trick at Wintergreen Camp when I was on "Team Zebra" back in my newbie days. Did I even start singing the Punky Brewter theme song in honor of "Punky Bruiser," my amazing Felt DA? I LOVE it! Totally appropriate for the DAY!
The fun part of IMMT is that since there are so many out and back sections, what goes up, must come down...and fast! As I was climbing I started envisioning the fun descent next time I see the hill. Yes, I was racing in what I felt was z2 and having fun on the bike (Punky Bruiser)!
I turned my garmin edge and my 910xt off and on a few times hoping to get a power read but neither would sync. I had cadence but no power so I was furious but I know Chad was out there dealing with the same thing and crushing it so I had to as well. I know what zone 2 feels like so kept riding. Halfway through, the Garmin started reading the Quarq and it was showing 3K watts which was clearly a mistake, ha! The climbs I faced at the MT70.3 were...still there but this time I was feeling prepared and ready. I tactfully executed the climbs although I have to power data to back up my claims, I know I was wise and efficient. The power meter teaches us what it feels like so you "know" what zone you are in with out really needing to see the data. The little stretch out into town is an interesting pick me up. I was passed by a large amount of men on this stretch who must have been blowing themselves up a tad basking in the energy of the crowd lined quaint little Centreville town stretch but I quickly found many of them and regained position once we were back out on the highway. I like that mental reprieve this section offers and the way Mont Tremblant is showing off the adorable town by making it a highlight of the bike with the crowd lined streets.
By mile 40 or so, I wondered where all the women had gone as I found myself making my way past men from earlier waves but not catching any women or seeing many come from behind. I guess everyone settled into a pace and position by then as the results I made my way to 16th before the halfway point (looking at results) and held it the remainder of the race. The highway is by far my favorite part of the course.
By the time we got to....Chemin Duplessis...my nemesis...the section that is bit under 10 miles in the last section of both loops, I was still feeling great. I was ready to conquer it this time. The section is the hardest because the super steep punchy little climbs. They stair step up and down (mostly up) until a u-turn where you get to mostly bomb down the hills like you are on a roller coaster..again. I watched my effort, but due to physics, there were times I had to push really hard just to get to the top of the hill. I'm glad I didn't have my power meter for this part because even going as easy as possible and getting passed a lot, I am still sure I went over the targets. If I did not, I would have tipped over. Nonetheless, my legs were prepared and my gearing was better this time around so it was easier on the legs...not easy by any means but easier than last time given the specificity I had in training leading in. I did get stung by a bee in this section and that did NOT make me happy...it got me right on my quad! OUCH!! However, a pick me up was cresting a hill and at the top, who got my attention standing there? Only one of the BEST triathlon coaches on the planet, Kurt Perham who lives in my hometown in Maine! Kurt's an annual homestay athlete and has been an important mentor to me since after my 2011 bike crash when I vowed to "one day be on the local podiums and to PR in every distance," a commitment I made while waiting for jagged bones to heal. He was adamant that I be smart about my rehab. He's a wealth of knowledge, always willing to answer my occasional questions, telling me what tri-geek materials I can read and always setting me straight if I'm being ridiculous (ME?! ridiculous-haha) with short one liners that simplify everything. Seeing him on that hill was a fun surprise!
At the 56 mile turn around, I was worrying about the fact that I had not seen many women around me. I had turned my bike computer on and off so many times that I had absolutely no idea where I was and what kind of bike split I was having. Well, as I approached the halfway point, I saw my family all dressed in their matching "Team Hadiaris, Where's Waldo" outfits! I slowed down to get some quick information.
"Where am I?!" I yelled. "Half way" Nick says...which made me so mad as OBVIOUSLY I was halfway. I was trying to ask him my bike split or placing in AG to see if I was in the top 20 like I had hoped and he admonished me to keep going as I was losing time.
After I rode off, apparently he told everyone he's really glad I don't have a pointy shaped helmet because I can't keep my head straight and it would be a waste of aero benefits. He's lectured me that I am not allowed to slow down in any more races looking for information or he won't give me splits when he DOES have them anymore. Since we were in the mountains of Canada the internet on the phone wasnt working right so he had no information.
My 2nd half was slower than the first half but that is because the wind picked up significantly in the 2nd half. The heat also seemed to really come out and I was worrying about those toe covers as my feet were starting to swell and my shoes were feeling tight. I ditched my arm warmers and gloves at an aid station but the toe covers had to stay put.
I consumed 3 bottles of Osmo, but forgot my single serve packs so used what was on the course in the remainder and had an energy gel roughly every half hour. I was taking in those salted caramel gus my teammate Jax had told me about and looking forward to each "feeding" of full blown sugar. I was grateful for all the pockets in my Coeur kit as I had plenty of places to discreetly stash the food that didn't fit in my "bento box." I was drinking fluid the same way I do on my rides in the Richmond heat, so maybe I hydrated a bit too much as I wound up getting off the bike FOUR times and losing a ton of time with that nonsense. I know, I know...its so not pro finding the porta potties or hiking into the woods. I know this NOW, haha.
Although I didnt have data my HR was a perfect zone 2 and while speed dropped off in the 2nd half, I'm confident if I had power data I would have evidence a nice consistent effort as the wind was much stronger in the 2nd half. My official race time for the bike was 6:05 and I am extremely pleased with this especially considering all the darn "nature breaks" I took during the ride and the lack of power data. My body felt great the entire ride and I honestly felt I could continue to ride further which was different than IMFL or IMWI where I wanted OFF the bike at mile 80. I was very much prepared for this bike and had a great time out there.
Bike 6:05 (11th bike split in the AG) and I came off the bike in 16th position.
This is something I am REALLY proud of. I am grateful to Nick for being my sherpa in the mountains when I rode solo up there and to Chad who helped me out with mountain riding and took me under his wing. Very grateful to my mountain riding buddies for that beautiful BRB ride. I'm grateful to Michael Harlow this year for helping to transform me into a decent cyclist and excited we accomplished THIS before we part ways next month. In my last ironman I dropped down to 70th or so place in the AG on the bike. I had a few mechanicals, but even with out those, I would have had a 7 hour split. He had noticed that my Variablity index was 1.23 for that ride and it came out this year hat I was still secretly terrified of descending from my 2011 crash. I couldn't even go down the west creek office parkway hills with out WANTING to brake. I have made big gains on the bike in descending with confidence, handling (not only did I have to mtb every so often in the winter, but he also had me ride ridiculous circles and mini figure 8's in the parking lot on a regular basis), dealing with winds and my race wheels and learning more about pacing. When I was freaking out about the mountains, he built me this super fun long trainer ride to do full of big gear work with mini hill sprints. This has been my biggest goal of the year and I'm pleased with where I am now but really excited to build on it as I think we were just scratching the surface and there's a sub 6 bike split in my future for sure. I LOVE riding my bike!!!! I could not always say that. I've made mega progress here!
To my 2010 team Zebra buddies if you are reading this....always remember: "no truck, no way!"
Here is what coach said about my bike: "This means you did not overbike AND you crushed your time on a WINDY COURSE. Kelly, you are an ANIMAL on the bike....YEAHHH!! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."