9/17/14

IMWI Race Report - Awards and Kona slot distribution


My dad had this incredible way of making the best of every situation. I really looked up to my dad because he lived a very positive life despite the many obstacles that he had overcome in all years of his life. He was always happy and smiling. He taught me that no matter how hard something may be in life, nothing feels better than finishing something that you start.

I commend my dad for never giving up on his 10 month fight with cancer. My dad was incredibly fit and healthy but he had an amazing new amount of strength since his first day of being diagnosed with an incurable type of cancer. I wish so badly that my dad could have crossed his finish line to be a cancer survivor and more so, to live life with me today.
But I know he really gave a strong effort despite all the obstacles that he faced from June 2013 until May 28th, 2014.

It’s very bitter sweet that our 2014 triathlon season ended on a high note because our past year was not without adversity. The soreness, aches and pains of racing in an Ironman eventually subside but there are moments in life that are extremely difficult to overcome and stay with you forever.

It never crossed my mind to stop training for triathlons in the past year, even after my dad passed away just three days before my 32nd birthday. I was never raised to give up when the going gets tough and I was also taught that life is not easy so I never have expected an easy way. 

However, as a human being, there are many emotions to be experienced when you lose a loved one which makes it incredibly difficult to give 100%, 100% of the time. So even if you are not a quitter, it’s sometimes very difficult to find the “why” to continue.

On Sept 7th, Karel and I gave it our 100% for 140.6 miles. We both did not have an easy day and the fight was a difficult one. But in honor of my dad, the effort was worth it. There were so many times during the race when we could have given up but we worked way too hard to surrender during our own temporary hardship.

Karel passed 500 athletes from the time he exited the water, until he crossed the finish line. Karel was 89th in his age group after he swam 2.4 miles and finished 3rd age group. Although he did not know this while he was racing, Karel’s ability to never settle and to believe there is a chance, paid off greatly at IMWI. Karel did not feel fresh on the run but his two choices were to dig deep and not give up or give up and settle. 
I found myself as 2nd amateur from around mile 35-45 of the bike until around mile 10 of the run. 87 miles to question if I was doing enough, if I was pushing too much and if this was all worth it. I found myself in survival mode only to realize that  if there is a will, there is a way. 

After a restless night of sleep on Sunday (and a 4am snack of 7-up, Chobani strawberry yogurt, granola and banana for me), Karel and I had a small meal around 8am and chatted with our homestay Ed at the kitchen table.

The congrats messages were still coming in via Facebook, texting and email and Karel and I were still in disbelief as to what we did yesterday with our bodies. I had dreamed about what it would feel like for both of us to qualify for Kona at the same race but due to waves of complete exhaustion and satisfaction, it really didn’t feel like we were in the present moment. With quads that barely worked in a body that was completely exhausted and depleted, it was hard enough to think about how I would get my body to the award ceremony, let alone think about racing in Kona next October. 

It was an extremely challenging race that was not textbook perfect in terms of execution. As Karel, Ed and I made our way to the Terrace for the awards on Monday morning around 9:30am, I thought about the similarities of Ironman racing and life.

Never does an Ironman race need to be perfect to be termed successful. The real results are told by the athlete and not by times on a piece of paper. There are many moments when you want to give up but somehow you find the inner strength to continue on. Life is not perfect, it’s easy to give up and the best moments in life are when you find yourself doing what you once thought was not possible. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.


The awards were preceded by a free breakfast (for athletes) and the food selection included muffins, fruit, yogurt and egg and cheese sandwiches (meat options as well) on English muffins. We were not super hungry and a few hours later we were going to enjoy a real meal at the Great Dane brewery and pub. 

As we waited for the awards to start, I spotted the Kona slot allocation sheet.


I first looked at Male 35-39. 4 slots. Awesome for Karel who placed 3rd!

Then my eyes scrolled down the page to Women 30-34. 
I thought 2 slots for sure but in the past, three slots have also been awarded for the 30-34 age group. 
What? Only 2 slots!!!


Oh no…what if Suzie changes her mind and takes her 2nd place slot which leaves me as the first athlete to not receive a Kona slot in our age group.

I’m typically a patient person when it comes to triathlon training and racing but I was filled with nerves and anticipation. Although I had 100% made up my mind that I would not chase a Kona slot in 2015 and that I would be taking a break from Ironman racing for at least 1 ½ years if I didn’t Kona qualify, it was incredible painful to wait until 11am for the Kona slot distribution (and roll down) to see if fate was on our side.

I went back to Karel and told him that he was 100% in for Kona but there were only two slots in my age group. I could tell that Karel was a bit bummed for it was our goal to race Kona together.

After Mike Reilly showed two inspirational videos (volunteer and athlete), I started to get back to reality in that it was not life or death if I didn’t qualify. I gave my absolute best and there was really nothing more I could have done on race day. I almost gave up during the race so just finishing was a huge accomplishment! I was confident that I prepared the best that I could and I would not have done anything different leading up to the race or during the race.

After the pros received their awards, we listened to the Female and Male overall winners give speeches. This was super inspiring. They both gave amazing speeches, especially the male winner, Daniel Bretscher who also set a new course record.

Then Mike Reilly called up  all athletes under 40 years of age who placed top 5 in their age groups..
While holding hands, Karel and I walked up to the left of the stage to join our fellow age group competitors. 




I thanked Suzie again (this time in nice clothes and not all sweaty) for helping me out on the run and she said “Did your husband get a Kona slot?” I told her yes. 

She was so happy for him and she replied back “I’m so happy you both will be racing together in Kona!”

Together? Did I just get my 100% confirmation that Suzie was not taking her Kona slot because she wants to race IMWI next year (it’s her favorite race and local for her)? 

I gave her a big hug, just like I have done in the past for my fellow age group competitors, for the last 2 times of Kona qualifying (IMWI 2010, IM Lake Placid 2013) I have received roll down slots 3 out of 4 times of qualifying for Kona (I won my age group 18-24 when I raced my first IM, IMFL). 

I introduced Suzie to Karel and I also met the other girls in my age group. 
Stacey (who was 1st amateur and won our age group) not only had an exception race by placing 5th overall female but she mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she was going to take her Kona slot because she was in a similar position as Karel and me…..she said if her husband qualified for Kona (he was in the 35-39 age group) she would take her slot but since her husband didn’t qualify, she wasn’t sure if she would take her slot (Stacey and I raced Kona together in 2013 so I knew of her and how awesome she is as an athlete). 

Of course, the 4th and 5th place girls were anxiously awaiting if 1st and 2nd place would take their slots and then it all came to me if I would take the roll down slot. But in the end, as we stood on top of the podium, I think we all were so proud of each other for it was close competition that allowed us all to give our best effort on race day.
I'm sure there were a handful of girls not on the podium that gave their absolute best effort as well. 


Karel was just so excited for his first podium, even though you wouldn’t guess it from someone who is always so focused. I was just so proud of him, not only as his wife but as his best friend.
After awards, we had about 30 minutes to wait until Kona slot distribution and roll down. Although I was pretty certain I was going to get a slot from Suzie, I still didn’t want to celebrate and share my Aloha’s too early. 

30-34 age group podium

Me and Suzie


35-39 age group podium




11am came around and it was time. You’d think that all of the stress was on race day but I think that Karel and I were still so nervous about making sure that we were both 100% in. Even though it was almost guaranteed that we both were about to get a slot, we needed proof with our Kona qualifying certificates.

    

Mike Reilly started with the 18-24 age groups and let me tell you how awesome it is to be in the room when athletes are receiving their Kona slots. It isn’t only exciting when an athlete earns his/her allocated slot but it is even more exciting when the slot rolls down to an athlete that likely, 30 minutes ago, didn’t think he/she would be going to Kona. I have qualified for Kona 4 times and each time, it is the most amazing experience to hear your name be called by Mike Reilly that “You are going to Kona!”

When it came to the female 30-34 age group, there was silence in the room when 1st and 2nd place declined their slots.

“Marni Sumbal…do you want to go to Kona?”

“YES!!!!”


I walked up to the front of the room, received a lei and stood in line to register and pay for Kona (although we planned for this, paying for two World Championships at the same time…I hope our banking account has been tapering for this shock!). 

I gave the 4th place girl a big hug as it was her first time qualifying for Kona and she didn’t even expect it to happen at awards. 

As I waited to the side (Karel had the credit card), Mike Reilly called Karel’s name and followed it by “I love it! Husband and wife going to Kona. Karel, are you going to finish together?”
He was joking as he laughed and smiled at Karel, who then gave him a big high five.


I gave Karel a BIG huge and we both finally could relax...well, our bodies still hurt but at least the work was over. 


We did it. We just cannot believe it and words cannot even begin to describe what that moment felt like when our master plan actually (and finally) paid off. It’s still sinking in. I am so thankful to everyone who followed us (friends, family and Trimarni fans) as well as the companies who we have been able to be proud ambassadors for because we absolutely LOVE their quality gear/products!
Oakley women

We did not make any big sacrifices in life to make our dream a reality. 
I do not believe that we did anything extra-ordinary to execute well at our three key races this year (St. Croix 70.3, IM Austria, IMWI). 
We believe in our approach to training and we maintain a healthy relationship with food by eating for fuel and for health.
We also do not make excuses. It's just not our style. 
We love life so we believe in a balanced approach to training. We simply enjoyed every training journey this year. Above all, we stayed patient and focused on ourselves and not on what our competition was doing.


We waited and waited and when it was time for us to give our best effort this season, that was the time when the dream came true.

What a year, filled with highs and lows. My dad would have been so proud of us.

I stil can't believe it! 
Karel and I will be racing together in the 2015 Ironman World Championship.
Aloha.



2011 Ironman World Championship with my favorite guys. 



















9/16/14

IMWI Race Report: 26.2 mile run



My first Ironman journey was special. Everything was a first for my body while training for IMFL in 2006.

 My first 100 mile ride (which was celebrated with pancakes with my boyfriend Karel and my mom and dad). My first long brick. My first day off after my first solid weekend of peak IM training. I just loved that every long run became my longest run of Ironman training. On race day, it was the most incredible day knowing that my entire race was a day of firsts for my body. My first 2.4 mile open water swim. My first 112 mile bike ride and my first time running a marathon finish my first 140.6 mile event.

Although the distance hasn’t changed since I crossed my first Ironman finish line, each time the journey is different. There are obstacles, highs and lows but I have learned to accept nothing will be like my first Ironman journey.

Looking ahead, I will be training for my 10th Ironman and 4th Ironman World Championship. Just like IMWI and the ones the preceded it, I have had 9 incredible different opportunities (on 6 different courses) to race for 140.6 miles

Over the years, I have developed a great understanding of how to train for and race in an Ironman. But certainly, mistakes have been made, noteworthy workouts and races have been remembered and the learning/experiences continue with my amazing body and mind. I have used my education in exercise physiology and sport nutrition and with the help of learning from consistent, successful coaches/athletes, I continue to discover the best approach to have a successful Ironman journey and race.

Here are a few of my tips to keep in mind for your Ironman race day. 

1)      Train with the least amount of training stress to foster the most performance gains
2)      Arrive to race day healthy, not injured and not burnt out
3)      Do not race for a time, race your closest competition
4)      Know how to overcome obstacles that arise on race day
5)      Postpone fatigue for as long as possible

I have been very vocal in our approach to training as we focus more on intensity, strength training and recovery as oppose to high volume training to prepare the body for endurance racing. This approach provides us with a smooth and effective transition to taper and ultimately, makes for a body and mind that has adapted well to training and is hungry to race. 
Seeing that it is not easy to train for an Ironman, by focusing on #1, this improves the odds of #2. Because many endurance athletes do not believe (or trust) that #1 can properly prepare them for Ironman racing, the athlete who trains smart (less is more) may not need to be as fit as the other athletes. Consider that if you arrive to your race healthy, not burnt out and injury free, your odds of being able to race to your full potential are increased, regardless of if you felt you could have done more training. You are already putting yourself at an advantage by arriving with a healthy body. Because every day and course is different, feel free to keep an eye on your times to keep you honest with your potential and past training but 140.6 miles is too long of an adventure to chase a time. Keep in mind that no how competitive you are, your biggest goal on race day is to function optimally for as long as possible in order to cross the finish line.

This season has been incredible for Karel and me but IMWI really pushed our limits. It’s incredible to think that on the day when our biggest dream came true, there was a chance that neither one of us would make it to the Ironman Wisconsin finish line. 



After exiting the port-o-potty, I grabbed a sip of water from the first aid station before starting the official “26.2” mile run course. When I crossed the timing mat, I hit the lap button on my Garmin 910 (multisport function) and off I went.

The Ironman Wisconsin run course is challenging (elevation map for 1 loop above from Karel's Garmin) but the spectators are incredible. With many turns and ongoing terrain changes, there is really no way to get bored on this course.

As I was running away from the finish line (which we nearly pass to start the run and start the 2nd loop), I did not feel good in my legs. Certainly I was not expecting fresh legs but unlike IM Austria where I had a PR run of 3:39, I quickly realized that this was going to be a looooonggg 26.2 mile run…..unless I could figure out a way to overcome my tired, heavy legs.



While carrying my two NAPALM flasks, each with 150 calories to last me the first loop (sipping every mile and as needed), I made sure to stop at the first aid station. Even though the first 2 miles or so are slightly down hill (which means uphill coming back in to town), I was not going to make the mistake of not stopping. The way I was feeling, I either stop now or expect many unintentional stops on the 2nd loop. 

I was feeling really warm in my face so my first focus was to cool myself with sponges and cold water. If I let my body temperature rise, not only would my heart rate increase which would affect breathing and my ability to conserve glycogen but digestion would be severely compromised and I needed to make sure I consumed all of my calories/electrolytes in my flasks to postpone fatigue as long as possible.

Many memories of racing IMWI in 2010 came back on this run course so there were a few parts of the course that I was looking forward to…but first I had to make sure my body would get there. 


Although I had planned to walk every aid station, by mile 2 I started to feel a little better but I gave myself a little mental pep talk that it probably would take a few more miles of run/walk to find my rhythm. I was not concerned about my pace and rarely looked at my watch. The IMWI changes every mile so a pacing strategy is not practical on this type of a course for most age group athletes. 
My focus was only on who was behind me especially since I thought that I was 2nd female amateur at this time and 2nd age group.

Although this run course is entertaining with all the different parts of Madison that we run through, I really, really, really needed to see Karel. My instant pick-me-up. By mile 3, I started to feel a little better but still not the feeling I had wanted (I also didn’t expect to feel amazing). IMWI is one tough 140.6 mile course!

After a little steep incline toward the stadium, I ran down a steep decline and my legs did a little happy dance as we made a loop around the stadium. This was not only a great relief for my legs but it was also a good opportunity to scope out my competition. I had passed one or two pro girls but I was looking out for bib numbers in my age group (or 30-34 ages on calves). After running a loop in the stadium with only male competitors around me, I exited the stadium and I was getting more and more excited, just a few more miles until the crowds at State Street. 


I wasn’t feeling my best on this run but I knew I needed to keep on moving forward. This has been my go to motto for the past few Ironmans “keep moving forward and you will finish, keep moving forward.” It seems like a logical saying but after racing for over 7 hours, my body certainly thinks otherwise. Let’s just say that this Ironman Wisconsin marathon was a struggle as my mind and body were in constant battle since the very first foot strike on the run course. 
I guess if it was easy, everyone would do it!


In 2010, we stayed on the gravel trail toward State Street as Observatory Hill had construction. Well this year it was ready for us to climb. Although my legs were tired and every college student I saw sitting on the grass made me think twice if this was even worth it (sitting on the grass looked inviting), I had to focus on what I do best in the Ironman (or at least what I feel my strength is) and that is troubleshooting situations as I race. 

I had already overcome my heat issue by walking and making sure I cooled myself before it got too late. I had stayed up with my INFINIT Napalm, even if I was too exhausted to drink. I made sure to use the first few miles to find my rhythm rather than trying to go too hard or give up. I told myself that I may be tired but there is no way I am going to give up on a course that I can race smart on and especially run up a climb which my quads and short stature (typically) love to do.

When I got to the Observatory Hill which is a steep long climb, followed by a short descend and then another climb with a switch-back like descend just a few blocks from State Street, I put my head down, relaxed my arms while holding my flasks, shortened my stride and shuffled my way up the two hills. I made sure to stop at the aid station before State Street because there was absolutely no way I was walking on State Street. The screaming spectators have a tremendous amount of energy to give the athletes and I needed to soak up everything I could. 


Karel told me to keep my face relaxed. He says I smile too much. Even though I was suffering, I was happy and the spectators made me smile. 

After leaving State street I was feeling a bit better and couldn’t wait to get to my favorite part…the gravel trail! Oh relief to my legs!


I made sure to only focus on one mile at a time and since I wasn’t looking at my Garmin, I was just focused on each part of the run. Since I had remembered most of the run course from 2010, I simply broke it into sections and checked off each section.
I was nearing mile 8 and I really had to go to the bathroom. No sense trying to hold it (#2) so I stopped to go and felt SO much better.

What a different scenario than IM Austria when I felt amazing, so light on the feet, for the first 13 miles (which was also my longest run for IM Austria). But in IMWI (longest training run was 16 miles which is the longest I will run while training for an IM), it was like my legs were finally coming along….it only took 8 miles! 

I had not been passed yet but with each out and back section, I saw more and more females chasing me down. I was not feeling awesome, only better, but I was not going to settle for anything less than my absolute best effort on this day.

As I made the turn around on the paved section of the trail, I noticed Suzie Fox (had never met her before but knew of her and that she is a super strong runner and top age group triathlete) running really strong and it was only a matter of time before she passed me. I could just tell that my body was not going to be able to keep up with anyone faster than me and my only option was to continue to run as strong as I possibly could (which meant running strong on the uphills which are my strength) to at least get 3rd place...if I could stay ahead of the girls behind me
(And this was all wishful thinking, in the case that there were 3 Kona slots). 


So here is where the race gets interesting. 

I always believe that faster athletes can help me reach my full potential. As long as the ego is not part of the picture, I believe that every athlete should embrace faster competition and not see it as discouraging.

I continued to stop at every aid station for it was not just my initial strategy but now it was my only strategy to help me keep moving forward. I would grab water, sponges and the occasional sip of coke but really it was just my “interval” for quick recovery for 10-30 seconds.

After stopping at aid station #10, I am passed for the first time by a female since around mile 35-40 of the bike. Suzie had passed me running super strong and that previous thought of “there’s no way I can run with her” now became “just try.” 

And so I did.

And there I was, running behind Suzie for a full mile. It was probably the easiest mile I had ran and it was not on a flat part of the course! Thank you Suzie!

 Nearing mile 11, I felt as if I needed to introduce myself to Suzie. She was helping me run when I thought I was not able to run any faster. 
 It was just awkward to run behind her. I think if Karel found out I did this during the race, he would have said “you did what??!"

I’m pretty sure Karel was not introducing himself and making BFF's to the other athletes that he was chasing down.

I introduced myself to Suzie and told her I read her blog and then told her I have a doggy, since I know she likes dogs. She was super sweet and although it was not the place to get to know each other, my competition now became the person who was literally, keeping me going. I still tried to stop at the aid stations, they were short but I still managed to stay with Suzie.

I mentioned to Suzie if she could keep me going, that we were 2nd and 3rd and I thought there would be 3 Kona slots so we would all get slots. I also told her my husband was racing and trying to get a Kona slot. 

Before I knew it, my race was about to change.

“Oh, I’m not taking my slot so it is all yours! I hope you and your husband can race together!”

WHAT???? Oh this changes everything!!!

Should I believe her, do I keep going, should I hold back? Where in the heck is Karel? I still want to sit in the grass right now. 

Although there was a brief moment of relief and concern, I still needed to race. Kona slots are not easy to come by and even though Suzie may end up finishing ahead of me, I am still being chased by a handful of girls that want to go to Kona and be on the podium.

One thing I have learned, there is no easy race if you want a ticket to the big island for the World Championship.

After running side-by-side for a good two miles (and 1 mile to start behind Suzie), I told Suzie I would be stopping at special needs for my flasks and to keep running strong. I knew that I would lose her as she was not stopping even at the aid stations and she told me to keep trying to run with her. 


It was only a matter of time when Suzie was too far ahead of me and there was no way to catch her but I am incredibly grateful that she caught up to me because I really thought there was absolutely no way I was going to get my body to go up the steady climbs back into town.

As I made my way to start loop two, I had many thoughts going through my head. Now that 1st and 2nd place were ahead of me, I was in third. I had no idea where Karel was on the course and since most of my focus was on the women behind me now, the next few miles were extremely important because I knew that this is when the going gets tough, both physically and mentally. Whereas 13 miles ago I didn’t even know how I would finish the race, I found myself now with only 13 miles to go. 
It’s still far but it meant I made progress.

As I entered the stadium again on my 2nd loop, I could see girls behind me and they all looked so strong. I was happy they were having good days and I tried to channel some of their energy. I really dug deep to not walk except aid stations. I was starting to get really tight in my left shoulder and neck and I think the day of racing was just catching up to me.

Every time I had a low moment, I thought about the finish line. I thought about my dad and instead of thinking about his fight with cancer, I thought about how much he loved seeing me race in the Ironman. I always made sure to give him a smile for the camera. 

Oh and how great it will feel to cross in 3rd place age group and amateur!  
Come on body, you can do this! 
This may not be the way I envisioned my run legs feeling off the bike but I knew I carried experience and if anything, I had arrived to this race healthy, injury free and hungry to race!


And before I knew it, around mile 23 on the other side of the road...

Oh my gosh, can it be!!!?! It’s Karel!

We crossed paths under an overpass so as I was running down the street, he was running up a little incline. Although I was incredibly exhausted, I cheered as loud as I could “GO BABE GO!!! DIG DEEP!!!”


Karel didn’t even make eye contact with me. I thought he was just focused but it turns out that Karel completely blacked out the last 10 miles. I guess he was digging so deep, he couldn’t even think clearly!


Karel was pacing with an Austrian guy on the run, who had passed him on the bike. I'm pretty sure they were not talking about doggies or becoming besties. 

After seeing Karel, I got my second wind. It didn’t make me run any faster but I sure did feel inspired to keep on pushing. When I got to Observatory Hill, there were athletes on their first loop walking. This looked like the best idea ever! Oh walking, what a beautiful thing right now with less than 10 miles to go. But no…if I walked that would mean that my competition would gain seconds on me, if not minutes. I had very little wiggle room at this point and it was only a matter of miles when there was a good chance that the girls behind me would be in front of me.

I noticed that some of the girls that were once close to me where now out of the picture so I kept on believing that I could do this. But then again, I had new competition too. I really don’t remember thinking much of my Kona dream when I got to mile 20 because the going got really tough. I mean really, really tough.

I know that the Ironman is all about pacing and postponing fatigue. It is only a matter of time when the body slows down from glycogen depletion and dehydration. As endurance athletes we have to do our best to minimize these for as long as possible but because of the nature of our sport, we can’t expect to feel amazing for 140.6 miles.

When I got to mile 21, my walks were longer. I didn’t look behind me because now I was in survival mode. I never once thought that I overbiked or pushed too hard at any one point in the race. I accepted that this was the day I was given.

As I continued to find myself counting down the mile markers, I really appreciated the cheers from friends I knew on the course and volunteers telling me that they liked my Trimarni kit (it helps to have your name on your kit for the professional photos).

An absolute (mental) highlight of the day was approaching mile marker 23. I thought I was nearing mile 22 and when I saw 23, I nearly jumped and did a happy dance. Oh how mentally relieving it is to know you are 1 mile ahead of where you think you are! I kept on running. Almost home! OK body, you can do this!

 
Oh wait, maybe you can’t.

Obstacles. 
Yep, they happen at every Ironman. I was faced with a new one. I was not able to breath. I was breathing very shallow as I was running back into town and could barely catch my breath. This was not a good situation to be in for I knew that if I was not getting oxygen into my lungs and I was breathing shallow, I was building up CO2 and this would not be healthy for my body. It was only a few minutes of trying to figure this out that I did the only thing that I knew would work.

Stop.

With less than 2 miles to go, you’d think that it’s only two miles, suck it up. Well, I can assure you that I stopped and did not move and 2 miles to the finish felt like another marathon that I needed to conquer. I am not sure how long it was, probably no more than 45 seconds (which felt like forever as I was being passed by three more girls between miles 23-25) but I stopped and tried to get in a deep inhale. I did this a few times and I felt better but the tightness in my chest did not go away.

One mile to go.
 I was in full survival mode. Hang in there body, we can do this!

Still climbing and nearing the final turn to the finish chute, I put my empty flasks in my Trimarni jersey pockets, zipped up my jersey and feeling as if I was sprinting (at the end of this exhausting marathon, 9-10 min/miles felt like sprinting for me), I had finally gotten my body to another 140.6 mile finish line.

The IM Wisconsin finish line is one of my favorites (aside from Kona) because it is long. There are spectators on both sides and I was high fiving everyone! It was a true effort to get my hands up at this point but the high fives were totally worth it. I figured I was 6th amateur but still not positive on my age group placing if the girls who passed me were in my age group. 




And just like every other Ironman, despite having huge goals for race day to Kona qualify, everything is forgotten when I am finishing an Ironman. It is the most unbelievable feeling to finish what you start, not just at 7am but the journey that started months and months ago (and for us, a year ago when the dream started).

video





As I was running on the right side of the finish chute, I immediately spot Karel and our homestay Ed and Judy! I ran to the other side and high fived Karel. This was the total highlight of my day!
I was smiling ear to ear, arms were up and I did it.
9x Ironman finisher.
And then my body said, you are done.

I collapsed in the arms of the volunteers and finally I could catch my breath. The volunteers walked me to some chairs to sit down and finally, after 10 hours and 44 minutes of racing, I could sit and didn’t have to move my body any more. Off season has officially begun!





I was in no hurry to talk to Karel but after I started to come back to life a bit, I realized that I had no idea how Karel did.
I hobbled my way over to Karel after a few minutes of sitting and I asked Karel how he did.

“3rd place. I did it. I’m going to Kona!”


This is Karel's happy face, now that the suffering is over. Karel suffering?


He's good at that. 

(Karel's longest run in training was also 16 miles)

I gave Karel the biggest hug and even though I didn’t know my place, I had no Ironman scheduled for 2015 (even though Karel signed up for Lake Placid as a back-up race to try to Kona qualify) and I had the most difficult 26.2 miles to cover, I was so thrilled for Karel. He had worked so hard and was so patient in his IM journey. It was just 2 years ago when Karel learned how to swim for the first time.


I was anxious to find out how I did because now the pressure was all on me if I would be joining Karel on the big island in 2015.
I had Ed pull up his phone to see the results and we couldn’t believe it.
I was 3rd too!

I anticipated 2-3 Kona slots in my age group but if it was true that Suzie wasn’t taking her slot, that meant I would receive the roll down slot which meant, Karel and I would both race in Kona together!
 
Let’s just say that it was a long 15 hours of waiting to find out if our dream was really coming true.

After we took our finisher pictures, I grabbed a space blanket because I started to get really cold. I spotted some grass behind the barricades in the finish line and Karel and I just laid in the grass for a good 10 minutes. I wasn’t able to lay on my back because I was still having trouble breathing and I would cough a lot so I laid tummy down on the grass and before I knew it, it all hit me. Ouch…this Ironman racing is hard!





Karel was so fast, they didn't have time to switch over the clock to show the age group time (it's still on the pro time)

Karel is now making friends.


Finally feeling able to move my depleted body, Karel and I hobbled our way to the Terrace to get our morning clothes bag and to change into dry clothes. Ed was amazing and grabbed our bikes for us and the IM volunteers had put seat covers on all of our bikes! (Probably a good call considering what goes on during the IM bike portion). I turned on my phone and was greeted by so many texts, emails and FB messages! Thank you a million everyone for tracking our day!

After returning home, I laid in bed (tummy down) for about 20 minutes and finally made my way to the most needed, yet painful (ouch – chaffing!) shower. I put on comfy warm clothes and Judy had warmed up some leftover pizza and soup for us. 

The best homestay ever!!
Although I couldn’t eat a lot, it really hit the spot. Fat, carbs and salt makes my tummy happy post IM. I continued to stay hydrated, had 1 FIZZ (hammer) in a water bottle and after resting until 10:30pm, we (Ed, Karel and I) made our way back downtown to watch the most exciting part of the Ironman, the last hour!

Post-Ironman exhaustion + Kona slot distribution anticipation. Let’s just say it was a very restless night with only a few hours of sleep.



Karel gave up beer for a little over a week! Cheers to a great finish and WI beer!


Karel: 9:44:02
3rd AG, 9th amateur

Marni: 10:44:47
3rd AG, 6th amateur

Karel stats:

Marni Stats




Marni Run stats (Garmin): 
(including all walks/stops which was every mile + my extra stop to breath)
  1. 7:32
  2. 7:58
  3. 8:40
  4. 8:06
  5. 8:25
  6. 8:50
  7. 8:29
  8. 9:04
  9. 8:36
  10. 8:31
  11. 8:28
  12. 8:13
  13. 8:30
  14. 8:33
  15. 8:37
  16. 8:48
  17. 8:41
  18. 8:45
  19. 9:22
  20. 8:42
  21. 8:58
  22. 9:03
  23. 9:08
  24. 9:14
  25. 9:34
  26. 10:04


Karel’s run stats (Garmin)
  1. 6:42
  2. 6:57
  3. 7:20
  4. 7:03
  5. 7:00
  6. 7:24
  7. 7:05
  8. 7:08
  9. 7:13
  10. 7:10
  11. 7:24
  12. 7:14
  13. 7:32
  14. 7:11
  15. 7:19
  16. 7:34
  17. 7:39
  18. 7:35
  19. 8:14
  20. 7:57
  21. 7:53
  22. 7:56
  23. 7:48
  24. 7:48
  25. 7:38
  26. 7:21
    .2 miles @ 6:42 pace(first ½ marathon @ 7:10 min/mile, 1:33)








9/14/14

IMWI Race Report: 112 mile bike


It’s no easy task to train for and race in a 140.6 mile event as it is huge undertaking for the body and requires a big commitment in life.

I can’t believe that in the past 14 months, I have crossed 4 Ironman finish lines. For three of those races, I had 3 consecutive PR finishing times (10:43, 10:37, 10:17). Incredibly, in 2013 I raced two Ironman races within 14 weeks from one another and in 2014, I raced two Ironman races within 11 weeks of one another. My body has not only let me  finish every Ironman I have started but I also recently qualified for the Ironman World Championships twice, within the past 14 months.

In the past 14 months, Karel (who just learned how to swim 2 years and 2 months ago) has progressed extremely quickly with his triathlon fitness and is now racing at the top of his age group.
As Karel and I continue learn more about the sport of endurance triathlons, we continue to train and race smarter. And the biggest contributor to us getting faster and stronger over the past few years is training the least amount possible with the most performance gains. We train hard but recover harder. 

In the past two years, I have experienced huge gains in my bike fitness. I contribute a lot of this to being married to a great cyclist and bike tech who knows everything and anything about bikes, bike racing and bike training. Although there have been some tweaks to my new Speed Concept Trek bike thanks to Karel over the past two years (shorter crank length, saddle, wheels/tires, Hawk ceramic bearings, Di2 shifting, RETUL fit) the biggest change has been training less hours on the bike than when I started training for Ironmans.

It is very rare for us to ride more than 5 hours, even for our peak Ironman training. Typically we do one ride around 100-110 miles and maybe one more ride around 5 hours but most of our long rides are around 4-4.5 hours and almost always include a 30-60 min run off the bike. 

The reason why I mention this is because it is possible for you to be a faster cyclist without long hours on the bike. We are firm believers that to get faster, you must ride faster. But you must train faster before you go longer.

Additionally, I can speak first-hand about how my cycling skills have improved while living in Greenville for the past 3 months (and learning from/training with Karel) and this has helped me take my cycling to the next level.

Far too often I hear Ironman athletes talk about wanting to be better runners off the bike and also being faster cyclists. And thus, they train more. And more, and harder and harder and more. 

Sometimes it works but I ask you this, if you could work less hours and get paid more, would you?

 More time to spend with friends/family, more time to get restful sleep, more time to make time for healthy/balanced eating and more time to enjoy life….would you work less....even if you LOVE your job?

Since Ironman athletes can spend up to 40-50% of total race time on the bike, it is extremely important that if you want to have a good race day Ironman performance, you must get faster and stronger on the bike. And to get stronger and faster on the bike, you have to train smart. And when you train smart, it’s NOT just about the miles but instead, knowing how to ride smart.

There are a few tips that I have for you (that we believe in for us and our athletes) to help you improve your cycling time in a triathlon and concurrently your overall finish time.

-Strength train in the off season and think beyond long, slow base miles to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness. 

-If you train indoors, have a coach who reviews your training files, perform intervals in training and want to use your time wisely when you train, invest in a power meter and bike computer (ex. Garmin Edge) and learn how to use them properly.
-Take good-care of your bike and get regular tune-ups. It’s not just about the parts that you see but also consider how the inside parts are working to help you have a safer, more efficient ride.
-Invest in electronic shifting (Di2). This may be the best investment you will ever make on your bike because you will not only be able to shift more often but you will keep a steadier cadence. You will also ride safer as you will minimize the time your hands are off the bars.
-Be sure your fueling plan not only meets your needs and is easy to digest and absorb (ex. liquid nutrition and not 3 different methods of obtaining calories, fluids and electrolytes) but is also practical for your race day course. Hydration systems should be easy to reach, bottles should be secure and you can actually fuel/hydrate yourself consistently (ex. every 10-15 min) throughout your entire bike ride.
-Get a professional RETUL bike fit from an experienced fitter that understands your fitness, flexibility, race goals/distances and riding style.
-Incorporate longer bricks into your training plan instead of just focusing on long solo bikes and runs. We do not believe in runs longer than 2.5 hours OR bricks/long bikes longer than 6.5 hours.
-Understand your race course so that you can pace and fuel effectively and be mentally prepared for your race day.
-Your bike leg prepares you for the run. Overbiking and underfueling does not make for a strong run off the bike.
-Improve your cadence and use your gears when you ride. Learn the best way to ride hills for your weight/height and improve your skills on turns, descends, rollers, windy sections and climbs.
-Be smart with your race day gear. Wheels, helmet, tires….it’s not about the “fastest” gear in the wind tunnel but instead, what helps you ride your best on your race day course. 




                                 

After a 6 minute and 12 second transition (over ½ mile transition!) I was down the helix and ready to wake up my land legs. I immediately took a MAP (BCAA amino pill) and a sip of my custom INFINIT sport drink. I sipped my sport drink at least every 10 minutes (2-3 gulps at a time, typically while sitting up). 

The first 10 miles of the IMWI require you to stay alert. There’s a short no-passing section on a paved trail (can we talk about how much this frustrated Karel- haha) and then there is a section throughout a parking lot. During these first few miles, your bike is quickly introduced to the theme of this course: Hills, bumps and turns.


There’s a good 17 miles or so to get out to the 40 mile loop that we repeat twice. We encounter hill after hill, bump and bump and turn after turn. Yep, that pretty much sums up the ride. But despite this extremely taxing course that provides very little opportunity to recover after each hill, the sights are beautiful. Farm land everywhere and the scenery extends for miles and miles.

I wasted no time to settle into my rhythm on the bike. As I mentioned before, Karel and I both took a lot of risks in this race. Rather than using our power meters to pace ourselves, we simply used it as a tool to give us feedback. We were out racing our competition and because of that, we both knew we could not hold back BUT we still had to ride smart.

It was very important to me to stay up on my calories from my liquid nutrition as there really is no easy way to conserve energy on the IMWI course. As you may guess, Karel and I were not looking for a conservative ride and we know how much energy it takes to ride hilly courses (as we train on hilly courses all the time). It was extremely important that I get in a bit more nutrition throughout the 112 mile bike ride (however not too much that I could not empty it from my gut and absorb it) so for the first time, I used special needs. I carried 3 bottles with me of my custom INFINIT drink that I created and have used in all my past training, each bottle containing around 300 calories. I had the same in my special needs bag. There was a lot of bottle dropping on the course so I made sure that my bottles were secure in my cages by doing my last bit of IMWI training prep on bumpy, hilly roads here in Greenville. I also had some Clif blocks (1 package already open for easy consumption) and a sport bar (already opened) for additional energy.


Miles 1-17:
I felt really good during these miles. There are a few rollers but nothing too difficult or technical. My main focus was keeping a nice high cadence which has been years in the making (I have gone from 78 average cadence in an IM just a few years ago to 91 at IMWI!! This is HUGE! All those cadence-specific intervals in the early season have paid off!) so that my legs would not be too toasted throughout the bike and on the run. Since Karel and I rode most of this section (and 1 loop) of the bike course on Thursday, I was aware that I needed to keep up with my nutrition as it could be very easy to not keep up with it due to all the bumps. Also, early frequent, consumption of liquid nutrition has been shown to postpone fatigue so never neglect your nutrition in the first 1 hour of your IM race. 
I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me and since I anticipated a handful of fast swimmers in my age group, I thought that I was around 5-6th in my age group. I passed a few girls within these first few miles and eventually, I was just riding with the boys. 




Loop 1:
Karel and I had several discussions as to how we would each pace this course. We both decided that we would not have a pacing strategy so much (ex. hold back or to focus on specific watts). It is important to understand that Karel and I both race Ironmans differently because of our strengths. 

As a life-long swimmer, I am near the front of my age group when I race so this puts me at a prime spot to see where I am at in my age group. As for Karel, I think his theme is “on your left” when he races for he has a lot of catching up to do after the swim. 

Because of this, I am not forced to play catch up, like Karel. So for both of us racing for a Kona slot at IMWI, Karel is the one who is really digging extra deep, especially in the first hour of the IM.

 (this is not something that I would recommend to other athletes as Karel is an experienced Cat 1 cyclist who has taught his body how to suffer for almost all of his life. He has learned how to think differently as a triathlete but because of bike racing, he has an extremely high pain and anaerobic threshold and often still races like a cyclist). 

So, I primarily went by feel in this race with a close eye on whoever was around me but also to not dig a hole I could not get out of. I do not wear a HR monitor when I race so when I did look at my Garmin Edge, I focused only on cadence and normalized power. I would also look at speed but really this was just to keep me honest with my efforts, along with power. I have all my mini screens set to lap so every 10 miles (markers on the roadside) I hit lap (see very bottom of page) so that I was only focusing on one-10 mile (or around 29-31 minute) segment at a time. This was the best way to pace myself and it is just like how we train….lots and lots of intervals to focus on only one segment at a time. 

I did a really good job with my nutrition on this course and I found myself to be really comfortable on the climbs. I was also handling my bike really well with every turn and descend on the course (I’ve heard there are 91 total turns on the IMWI course). 

There is no one “big” climb on this course but instead, several. Each climb comes with its own description but what makes this challenging course so incredible is the crowds. They are everywhere! There are 3 climbs that are packed with spectators. Tour de France-like feeling. The cheers can be heard before you even get to the climb and even if you are having a low moment, the crowds know how to give you energy that you do not have.


It was close to around 2.5 hours in the race (so around 75 minutes or so of riding, if I remember correctly) when I hear Karel’s voice next to me (and his disc wheel). We talked about our usual topic when we see each other “how was your swim?” and we both told each other our times and wished each other a great race. Hearing Karel tell me that I looked great on the bike gave me a huge boost of confidence. 

I can’t recall the miles but on the first “big” climb (of three), I heard someone in the crowd yell “Go Girls!” Girls, I thought? For so long I had been cheered on by the fans as “you Go Girl!” so suddenly I was being passed. 

It was Stacey and I knew she would be strong on the course due to her past race results. Because I knew of her, I didn’t try to pace off her. Although I reach my higher limits as an athlete because of girls who are faster than me, I was honest with myself as to what I could handle on this course and riding with Stacey was not practical. Rather than getting upset, I stayed focused as I was having a really strong ride. There was no need for me to overlook my success on race day by comparing myself with others. I had a feeling that Stacey would win our age group (unless something happened which I would never wish I any athlete – I need those faster girls to help me be a better athlete!) and I figured 2-3 Kona slots so I was still in the running depending on where I was in our age group off the bike.





Special Needs: 
How long was my spot? 10 second stop according to my Garmin. 

Since we rode by special needs when we started our first loop, I made sure to check where my bag was placed on the ground according to the many rows of bib number ranges. I actually ended up spotting my bag on the beginning of the first loop thanks to my purple ribbons so when I yelled out my bib number and pulled over to the side right next to my bag, the volunteer had my bag ready, I asked her to put the bottles in my rear cages as I quickly stretched out and took one last sip of my last bottle before I tossed it (I had tossed the other two on the course at the feed zones where I also grabbed water to sip and cool my body and then toss) and then put the 3rd bottle in my frame cage and off I went. 
What a great decision to use special needs!



Miles 56-112
One thing that I have learned in Ironman racing and has been repeated to me many times by Gloria (my mental coach) is that there are highs and lows in Ironman racing. You just have to keep yourself going. I certainly am no stranger to lows in racing and I wish I could say there has been an Ironman when I felt good for the entire 112 miles of the bike...or even the entire 140.6 miles. 
Nope, it hasn’t happened. 

From miles 50-80, I was just feeling a low. Performance wise, I was ok but it was just one of those times when I had to keep on trucking along. Since most of my pacing was with guys, as I had only been passed once on the bike by a female, I gave myself a little pep talk that I was riding really strong. Probably stronger than I have ever ridden before!

Strong is very relative as I was not anticipating a "fast" time close to 5:30 on the bike like I did in Kona or 5:29 in IM Austria. A strong, fast 112 mile IMWI ride by a female would be between 5:40-5:45 and that was a goal of mine, that I felt was also achievable with my current fitness and the current weather conditions.



We were blessed with great weather with most of the bike being around 77 degrees but my Garmin told me it did get up to 86 degrees in the sun for about an hour (around 4 hours on the bike so this would be around noonish). 

The clouds went away at times and I found myself a bit warm at times but I made good use of water at the aid stations to keep my body as cool as possible. By the time I got to the last 3 climbs (and saw my homestay Ed and his wife Judy along the course – cheering super loud for me which was awesome and also my new Trimarni friend Kayla) I got some mojo back and it was time to get my mind focused for the marathon.  I continued to take 1 MAP every 30 min or so throughout the bike. 

Riding back into town, on the path again (no pass zone) and up the helix, I was impressed with myself. It’s moments like that when I remove myself from competition for a Kona spot and I thank my body. I thank my body for not only being healthy that I can race in an Ironman but for not failing me and for being so strong when I ask it to be strong. It may not be my fastest 112 mile bike ride in a race but on the hardest Ironman course I have raced, I feel this was my strongest performance and I gave it my absolute best effort, stayed up on my nutrition and paced myself to the best of my ability.
It was certainly NOT an easy ride!




As for Karel…he was on a mission..... Don’t let anyone pass me, move on up.
And wow, did he ever move on up! 
Karel felt good on the bike, stayed up on his nutrition (he had 3 bottles of his custom INFINIT mix that I created + perform on the course, his own nutrition that he brought) and made sure he gave his absolute best effort. That was our only goal. 
No excuses, race the competition and not the finishing time. 


When I gave my bike to the volunteer after I dismounted my bike, I removed my cycling shoes from my feet and carried them inside the Terrace. I grabbed my T2 (bike to run) red gear bag quickly and was greeted by a dozen awesome female volunteers. 
I couldn't stop smiling but quickly did I realize that I am the only female in this changing tent!! 
They gave me the most awesome welcome!

The volunteer lady told me that I was probably the 10th or 11th female but I immediately thought age groupers. I wanted/needed to know AGE GROUP 30-34..where is my competition? Ahead of me, behind me…where am I?

I quickly put on my Brooks Pure Flow Run shoes and grabbed my race belt, my dad’s favorite Corvette hat  and two Infinit Napalm run flasks  and I was out of there with volunteers all around me, cheering me on. But first, I need a potty stop! 

I went pee twice on the bike but because I was working really hard, I was not able to fully empty my bladder in the last 40 miles. Oh how I needed to pee! While in the port-o-potty, I put on my race belt and hat (multi-tasking, Ironman style) and oh did it feel good to just sit. Oh wait, I have a marathon to run! As I was enjoying my brief “rest” in the potty, it just dawned on me…I was only passed by 1 female and she was the female that I thought would win overall amateur for the race and if I am 10th female per the volunteer and there are pro women ahead of me...... Could it be that I am not only 2nd age group but also 2nd amateur female? Holy cow! I got to get out of her. Potty stop is over!

It’s time to run for a Kona spot and find Karel out on the course.










112 mile bike stats:
 
Marni
112 mile bike – 5:42:58, 19.59mph
2nd age group after the swim, 2nd age group after the bike
21st female after the swim, 10th female after the bike
2nd female amateur after the bike


Karel 
5:11:30, 21.57 mph average
89th age group after the swim, 5th age group after the bike
521st overall after the swim, 43rd overall after the bike!!
41st male after the bike



Marni bike splits per Garmin Edge 510 (every 10 mile marker)
Elevation (somewhere around 5,000-5,300)
Normalized power: 160
91 cadence average
Variable Index (VI): 1.07

10 miles: 19.93mph, 96 cadence, 172 NP (normalized power)
20.43mph, 94 cadence, 165 NP
19.13mph, 93 cadence, 175NP
20.89mph, 94 cadence, 166NP
19.68mph, 91 cadence, 177NP
20.13mph, 91 cadence, 145NP
18.64mph, 90 cadence, 165NP
19.77mph, 88 cadence, 155NP
18.66mph, 88 cadence, 151NP
19.21mph, 88 cadence, 148NP
19.02mph, 88 cadence, 128NP

First 56 miles: ~2:47, NP 168, 20.07mph, 93 cadence
Last 56 miles: ~2:53, NP 150, 19.04mph, 88 cadence


A big thank you to Gloria and all of the Team Sumbal followers on race day!!
I can’t believe that I was 2nd overall amateur for all of the bike and I didn’t even know it! 



Thanks Adam B for the pics!