These last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions brought on by training stress, injury, questionings of desire, and juggling to keep the balance and focus in my life. In summary, I've been miserable. Fast forward to Augusta 70.3 - my final race before the Ironman in November.
Leading up to this race I was crippled by a torn plantar fascia and have been completely unable to run for the past 2.5 months. It has been frustrating and depressing to say the least, and has done nothing to help my confidence going into November. My goal for Ironman is to finish, and to do so, every second counts. Having the run portion knocked down to a hobble was not helping my morale, after all I have been training a year for this race and just wanted to get to the start line healthy and trained so I would have the best chance to finish. My training was modified significantly to include some aqua jogging (which I detest) and more biking to make up for my not running...but it has been hit and miss as life and focus has derailed much of it. I've spent a lot of time questioning if all of this is worth the final push to the race, and if it was worth racing injured.
Last week I finally decided, against the advice of many, to attempt to complete the full Augusta 70.3 race. After much internal debate, I realized that mentally I had to know what it would be like to walk or "wog" (walk/jog) that distance on a bum foot, knowing that in a month I would have to double it. I decided if I did the full race, one of three things would happen: I would immediately know if I couldn't run and could pull out and then make a "research-based" decision on competing in IMFL; I would finish the half knowing that either I survived it without worsening my injury and would have four more weeks to train and build back; or I would injure it more but would have four more weeks to rest it, so I could give Florida a "go" and knowing I had the mental strength to tough it out.
SO here is what I took from Augusta:
Pre-Race: I need to do my own pre-race facilitation and mental prep work. I like quiet, calm, and low activity to get me feeling settled. I like to feel in control of my schedule and to do whatever feels right at the time. I like to be dependent on no one and make my own decisions on that day. I'm an early eater, early packer, and early to bed kind of girl. I was on my feet way more than I intended on Saturday and that just increased my anxiety level. I expect IMFL will be 500x as stressful and I plan on having my own vehicle, my own schedule, and can come and go as I please. It's the one day I can be selfish and not feel badly about it.
Swim: I was actually looking forward to this swim as it is known for being fast and fun! Well, I was fast for me and swam a 1.2 in 33:40 (my usual race speed is 45min or above). I was slow but not dead last! I struggled a bit with the wetsuit as it seemed to really work other muscles and fatigue my legs and back ~ setting me up for a horrific back spasm on the bike later. But it was a fun swim and I enjoyed going into it feeling I could do the distance without a problem, I just needed to keep calm and not panic. I like to have a good ten minutes or more to just be in the water before I start swimming. In this race there was no chance to become "one with the water". I got in immediately before my wave started and tried to calm myself as much as I could before the time ran out. The short (actually absence of) warmup was hard for me as my adrenalin sky-rocketed but I managed to plug through and tried to focus on finding my rhythm.
T1 (8:58) : The longest transition of my life, and a bit frustrating as I am prideful in my quick transition times. But as Coach reinforced to me the night before, it was worth taking the time to do what I needed to do so that I could have a good race. Exiting the swim I was barefoot, and running uphill on a hard surface did not feel great on my foot but I knew I would be taped and in a fixed position on my bike for a few hours and I hoped that would give it time to calm down. "Doing what I needed to do" meant sitting down, toweling off my foot, and taking the time to tape it up well to get me through the long bike ride and potentially longer wog. I swallowed my pride, knowing this was killing "easy time" and did what was required. It was a good choice and I am glad I listened to my Coach.
Bike (3:30:55 at 15.93mph) : I was looking forward to riding a new bike course, and enjoying the scenery of the rolling hills of GA and SC. I did not know the course, although I finally had time to review a few of the you-tube videos before bed the night before (a task I intended to do much earlier in the week). I don't like surprises during a race and was glad Layna had given me a heads up on the hills at mile 31 and 37, and the downhills that would come after. It made it much easier to mentally check them off as they came by. I felt like I started out riding too fast but there was a strong tailwind so I went with it. Looking at my splits I'm glad I did because my average didn't end up being that great. I had hoped to average a 17 but during goal setting Coach kept re-focusing me on what I had actually done in training to help me set a realistic goal. I hesitantly dumbed down my goal to 16mph and I'm glad I did. As I struggled with some of the hills (constantly reminding myself I had done way harder in Muskoka) I was able to push hard trying to reach my goal rather than beat myself up for not getting close to the 17mph I hoped for initially. It was a fun scenic ride and I loved the rolling hills. Layna caught me at mile 31 and ditched me at the worst of it. I never saw her again. Jacob passed me early on in the ride. About the halfway point I started getting a horrible right flank cramp which I have never had while riding. I couldn't figure out how to stretch it. I tried to problem solve and took some more salt tabs and gatorade and switched from gu to bananas. That seemed to help a bit. The only thing I can figure is that the wetsuit got me all jacked up. I need to practice more in it before November because it really tired out my legs kicking in it.
T2 (7:36): Again I swallowed my pride and took extra time to do things right. I sat, removed my sock, checked my taping, changed to dry socks, and secured my laces well. I walked out of transition and had them put sunblock on me as I figured there was a good chance I would be out in the sun for a long time.
Run (3:00:27) : I did a little jog right out of transition but the foot felt tight so I resorted to walking. I had decided my plan would be to walk the first mile as a warm up and then move into a wog. I stuck with that but when I started to jog my shins immediately started to cramp so I resolved to just walk fast and see if I could keep it under 15 minutes. I popped some salt and buckled down and focused on high arms, a forward lean, quick turnover and light feet. I saw a true speed walker fly by and was amazed by his speed and technique. It wasn't long before I found another walker, Chip. He was doing this race untrained as a bet by his co-workers. He was struggling with cramps and knew nothing about nutrition. I gave him most of my remaining salt tablets and coached him on how to choose from the buffet of items at the aid station (and then explained my nickname). It was kind of fun to mentor him and it helped distract me. I got him running and pushed him to keep with me as I started to run a block, walk a block. I was surprised at how conditioned I felt when I ran. I used my inhaler as needed but I really expected to be sucking wind and not being able to run any distance at all. Breaking it up with a walk allowed me to keep a decent wog pace and change the impact on my foot. After the first few miles I found I made a game of trying to not let my pace go above a certain number by adding just enough run in to keep it where I wanted it. Initially that number was a 15 min pace, towards the end I was aiming for 13:30. I dropped Chip at the halfway point as he was cramping and no longer able to keep my pace. From this point on I just kept with the plan of walk a red light, jog a red light. I kept up my nutrition and hydration and felt...great! I would have paid a pretty penny for some gas x though. The farther I got the better I felt about the potential for my run attempt in Florida. My pace kept improving and I was running further and faster each mile. The last three miles were my best pace but the most uncomfortable. By this point I could feel that my conditioning was being challenged and my feet were pretty pissed at me. I wanted to push harder to see how well I could finish, but decided the goal was already met and I needed to listen to the signs my injury was giving me and not try and sprint the end of the run. I hit that finish line to see all my birds cheering for me and I have to say that has been my most memorable finish yet. This race was a HUGE confidence instiller.
I may be one of the slower birds out there but I am genuinely proud of my performance yesterday. I did not PR like my initial hopes were, but I proved that I could face IMFL and give it my best. And that's what I plan to do.