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2018 Ironman Wisconsin - quick recap

Every athlete is in pursuit for that perfect race. We'd all like to believe that if you keep racing, it’s bound to occur. But what if that perfect race never happens? Does this mean that all past races are failures? More so, what really defines the “perfect” race.....Is it a time, a place or a feeling?

After 13 Ironman races, five Kona qualifications, several podiums, an Ironman PR of 10:06 and an amateur female win at 2017 Ironman Chattanooga, I'm incredibly grateful to my body for what it's accomplished over the past 12 years of endurance triathlon racing. But even with all those accomplishments, I have yet to have that race where I felt like it was perfect. In reflecting on my performance at Ironman Wisconsin, I feel that IMWI was a perfect race.

For me, Ironman Wisconsin was the perfect race for a few reasons.

Going into the race, I was full of emotions. Two weeks out, I felt so exhausted and tired. I felt flat during all my training sessions and my efforts felt much harder than I wanted them to feel. Karel reminded me that I get this way before every Ironman but my taper-brain was giving me a ton of misleading signals. I trusted Karel and my training and just carried on with my workouts. The best part of the weekend before race week was watching the Ironman 70.3 World Championship which had me fired-up to race (even though I felt sluggish).

Come race week, the emotions got worse as word was getting around that there was a lot of flooding in the Madison area. This created a lot of talk (and rumors) about the swim being cancelled and possible modifications to the bike and run course. As a coach, I needed to keep my ears open for any changes as I needed to stay on my toes to communicate accurate information to the 13 other Trimarni athletes who were racing. Perhaps the unknowns of race day were getting to me for I had trouble putting myself into “race mode” on Monday. But once I arrived to the race venue on Tues evening, I felt more at ease with whatever we were given on race day. Once I got myself into a good place mentally, I found myself feeling really good with my sharpening workouts leading up to the race. With each workout, I felt better and better and more excited for the race. I didn’t have any pains or niggles and this was something that I constantly reminded myself of, for there’s no better feeling than feeling healthy, strong and injury-free before an Ironman. I felt like I had a good rhythm during the week because I didn’t venture too far from my normal workout routine. 

Each morning after a good night of sleep (no alarm), a substantial pre-workout snack (2 waffles + PB, syrup, Greek yogurt and fruit – similar to race day) and a bit of mobility work, I did my planned workouts. We had to move a few things around because of the weather on Wed but other than that, I kept myself swimming, biking and running on race week with something every day. On Wed I ran and swam (am run and pm swim), Thurs we biked one loop of the bike course (~40 miles) and on Fri I swam. Sat was the typical bike/run combo. 

I found that every time I was at the race venue, I was getting more excited for my 14th Ironman (and 3rd Ironman Wisconsin). I made sure to get in a few pool swims on race week (even if the swim was to be cancelled) because that’s my happy place. Riding my new Ventum felt amazing and that was getting me super pumped for race day. Even though I had only rode my new Ventum about 5 or 6 times, I was confident with my decision to race on a new bike for I felt very dialed-in with my fit (thanks to Karel) and the bike was the perfect fit for me. The run always leaves me a little concerned as it's a continued work-in-progress for me but I felt confident based on my previous run training.
Come race day morning, I was antsy to get things going. I knew from past experience that once I got into the water, I would feel so much better. I just needed the race to start.

Once the race got going, I had no idea how the day would go and I feel that thinking helped me create the “perfect” race. With no expectations and a lot of Ironman experience (especially with racing Ironman Austria just 10 weeks ag), it wasn't until I exited the water that I felt like this could be a good race for me. What that meant, I wasn't sure but I felt like my body was ready to perform. While I battled low moments (as I always due in an Ironman) and had my typical “I’m never doing this again....why am I doing this” thoughts on the bike, my body was still working well. In other words, I felt like my mind and body were working together which meant I was able to still perform, even during those low moments. Most of all, I was having fun and felt like I wanted to be in the race. Plus, receiving feedback from people on the course about my position in the race (overall and in my age group) had me feeling a bit of pressure all day – which I liked.

While every Ironman requires a bit of good luck and there are bound to be plenty of obstacles to overcome out of your control, things were going rather well for me on the swim and bike. Even on the run, I didn’t have any nutrition/gut issues, no major obstacles to overcome and my body didn’t start to get really fatigued until around mile 16/17 of the run. More than anything, I felt good on the run and it never felt "too long" to run a marathon at the end of the Ironman. I was in the zone. And for me, I stayed in front of my age-group competition throughout the entire race! It's pretty typical for me to get run-down on the run but I couldn’t help but smile throughout the entire run (even though it was an incredibly tight race between me and my competition!) because of how well I was playing my tactics throughout the race. I felt this was the smartest I raced and in looking back, I didn’t deviate from what I know and from what has worked in training. 

You may not be surprised to hear that I felt good on the swim, but it was super chaotic and messy in the water. It was incredibly choppy and felt more like an ocean swim than a lake swim. Oh the bike. It was SO windy. Thank goodness for my new Ventum for it literally felt like I was slicing through the wind. But of course, the low moment came and didn't go away for some time. I had about 30 miles of being in a very low place where I wanted to quit and really considered that this would be my last Ironman. But then,, I popped out of it and I was having fun again. But then it wasn’t that long until I got another low again. While I had a good bike time for the distance, it was very windy which took a lot of mental and physical energy. The bike actually went by quickly for me but it wasn’t without plenty of low moments to ride through. 

Come the run, I had two bathroom breaks which I initiated before I really needed to go to the bathroom and I also intentionally walked once within every mile of the entire marathon as that was part of my plan. I stayed confident with my run/walk strategy for it works so well for me and I trusted my training. Throughout the entire race, I stuck to my nutrition plan and applied what I practiced in training and deviated when I needed to listen to my body and react to what my body was telling me (this comes from experience). As I mentioned above, I didn’t have any nutrition issues (I rocked my hydration belt for the entire run - just like I do for every single outdoor run training session) but I also had no low moments on the run. For me, this is where I feel my perfect race came about. After a solid swim and bike, I was running strong for my current level of fitness. Aside from the expected mechanical fatigue that comes in an Ironman (which didn't happen to me until after 2 hours of running the marathon), I felt in control of my body throughout the entire 26.2 mile run and my mind stayed in a positive place. And you can’t help but get energy from the Madison crowds as the spectators and volunteers are amazing and will lift you up for all 140.6 miles. The race staff did an exceptional job providing us with a safe and fair course.

So while I mentally and physically went through a lot during the race and yes, my body did get tired in the last few miles of the run, my perfect race came from taking good care of my body going into the race so that I arrived healthy, fit, strong, fresh and excited to race and then being proactive, present and smart during the race. Even though my competition was running me down, I didn't let it affect my race. I never chased an outcome and although I was racing my competition, I just focused on doing things well for all 140.6 miles.

Stay tuned for my entire Ironman Wisconsin race report with all the insider details on how I put together my perfect race. In the meantime.......

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2018 Ironman Wisconsin Race Results
2.4 mile Swim: 59:38
T1: 6:10
112 mile Bike: 5:37.55
T2: 3:03
26.2 mile Run: 3:45.45
Total: 10:32.29
1st AG (35-39), 5th female amateur, 13th overall female.
2019 Kona qualified (accepted my slot).