Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ironman Lake Placid...The Body Achieves What The Mind Believes (Race Recap)

It felt like a million different things that were telling me that I COULD NOT complete Ironman Lake Placid on July 27.  It all started with my “shake out” race at the beginning of May that left me with sharp gulte pains, a numb leg, and lots of doubt.  After a month of just swimming and a few really easy and short bike rides, I was really unsure as to whether I was going to be able to complete a full Ironman at the end of July.  On May 21, my doc looked at my MRI and I was given the go ahead to continue training for Lake Placid while spending 2-3 days a week at PT….piriformis syndrome.  It was a really great day when the doc told me I could compete at Placid, but that did not wipe out all of my doubt.  I had taken a month off of any hard training, and I was still going to need to take it easy for a while as my glute continued to heal as best it could for Placid.

On June 1, I was spectating and cheering as my hubby completed Raleigh 70.3, which I was supposed to be racing.  That day was so exciting, but that morning was so disappointing.  Dropping off Anthony to go race a race that I had been SO excited for – I was filled with some serious emotion.  I LOVED being and Iron-spectator, but I really wished it wasn’t at a race I was supposed to be racing.  Watching that finish line brought out so much excitement and focus in me. 

And so the focus began.  I went to PT, I listened to my body, and I trusted the plan as best as I could.  It was a LONG journey full of so many ups and downs.  There were lots of days that I went to my PT with a big smile on my face, full of confidence that we were on the right track.  And there were lots of days that I went to my PT frustrated and confused.  New pains and twinges that all seemed related to my glute/back/hip.  What was going on? Why was I losing so much range of motion in my hip?  Why was my back so sore after some runs and feeling fabulous after others?  Why was my glute not letting me ride in aero for long?  Why was I limping with intense groin pain after just a quarter of a mile of easy running… 9 days before race day?! 

I had some really low points as my body and I got to know each other a little better.  This season was all about having a good point of view, staying mentally strong, listening to/learning my body, and trusting that if I treated my body right that it would let me race on July27.  I thought I knew my body well from years of training, but Ironman training really let me get to know my body on a whole new level.

Thankfully I had (have) a great team behind me.  My fabulous husband continually reminded me to trust the process and listen to my body while having fun and staying excited for Placid.  Our amazing dynamic duo of coaches never let me forget that I was going to make it to Placid and I was going to finish strong.  My PT reminded me not to get frustrated and continually reminded me how strong I was.  And lastly our massage therapist worked wonders while making me laugh and teaching me even more about my wonderful body.

And after months of training hard, training easy, resting, fighting injuries, having a blast, fighting doubts, and overcoming negativity, July 27th arrived and I was feeling good.  We had a great 1.5 hour ride on the course on Thursday, a fabulous loop of the swim on Friday, and a nice easy hour warm-up brick along part of the course on Sunday.  I was feeling good… a little paranoid, a lot nervous, extremely hopeful, surprisingly ready, and damn proud.  I was going to do this.

Family and friends arrived on Friday and Saturday and helped to keep us distracted when we weren’t training and prepping for Sunday.  Before we knew it, Saturday evening arrived.  Easy on the belly dinner at 5:30, bed at 8:30 after a few funny llama and puppy videos, and a 3:40am wake-up.   It was go time and the nerves and excitement were full force.  I got here….I couldn’t believe that I got here.  There was so much against me, and I DID IT.  I got to the start line feeling good enough to go after this dream.  I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but I was damn sure I was going to give it everything I had that day and have a blast while doing it!

THE SWIM…… I am ALWAYS so terrified about the swim, and the swim always ends up being one of my favorite moments of the day.  I was able to find my own space, find a rhythm, and find a few moments of peace as I prepared to take on the rest of the day ahead of me.  I was in no huge rush to finish the swim, I just wanted to feel strong and ready coming out of the water…mission accomplished! First loop was a warm up that got me ready to push it a bit more on the second loop.  First loop felt so good.  I stopped and stretched my upper body after the first loop and was SO surprised how well my body felt going into that second loop!  Unfortunately at ~2.1-2.2 miles I was told to swim to shore due to the thunder storm.

After swimming to shore, cutting my foot on my way out, and jogging ~.5 miles (maybe more?) to the transition, I was ready to get on the bike and ride for 112 miles.  I got stripped out of my wetsuit, grabbed my T1 bag, put on my CEP compression socks, cycling shoes, arm warmers, and helmet and took off thinking “yep, this is happeneing.” 

THE BIKE…….It was cold.  It was wet.  It was really uncomfortable.

As I exited transition and made it around the corner I heard our Iron-spectators yell my name and I gave them a wave and a big ‘ol grin!  Seeing them is one of the only  good moments I had in the first 30 miles or so.

I made it out of town and I was FREEZING.  I was unsure whether I was going to make it to the end of this race if this weather held up.  I tried to focus on nutrtion and keeping my legs moving and my body as warm as possible.  I made it to an aid station and used the porta-potty and got a trash bag to warm my body….at this point my jaw was sore from shivering, my hands were turning purple, and anything that was going to warm me up a  bit was more than welcome.  I didn’t mind that it wasn’t an aero option, I just needed warmth to give me a little confidence that I could finish. 

At about mile 30 or so the sun came out and I was able to take off my fashionable aero trash bag!  I was SO happy to see that sun and I told myself that I would NOT be upset if it got too hot later on because I would much rather pour some water on my hot body than deal with that fear of hypothermia. (Yes, Nicole Frie I definitely sang our good ‘ol ALHS Track “hypothermia” song in my head a few times..!)  The rest of the ride was SO MUCH FUN.

At mile 80 or so I saw more family TWICE!  It was SO nice to see everyone there cheering!! I couldn’t have been happier!  For first time spectators, our family and friends rocked the house!! The second time up papa bear was harder than the first, but just knowing that it was almost time to run made it that much easier…112 miles on the bike done and I LOVED the majority of it.  I had a blast.  I held back a lot out of fear (newbie ironman fear), but I had so much fun.   I nailed my nutrition (~1 bottle of custom Infinit/hour with some sips of H20 from aid stations a few times.  That’s it…so easy and it worked like a charm!!)  The Lake Placid bike course makes me happy.  I can’t wait to go back in the next few years.

I was feeling well fueled and well hydrated with lots of confidence and smiles going into the run!! 

THE RUN…. The second I ran out of transition I saw family and friends cheering for me and at that moment I knew this was going to be an amazing run!  26.2 miles…no problemo!! I was feeling strong, happy, and ready to run!!  I eased myself in to the run, I knew I would take off too fast, so I had to focus on finding a comfortable pace that wouldn’t fatigue me too much.  For about 8 miles or so I thought that a 9:30/9:40 average pace was really doable, but my hips had different plans. 

I kept a nice solid pace when I was running, but my hips needed a lot more walk breaks than I would have preferred.  The good news is that I was having so much fun that I didn’t even mind.  The scenery was gorgeous and when I was running, I was holding a solid pace.  I ran as much as I could while holding a solid pace and when my hips screamed to stop I walked for a bit and that’s just how the run went.  I walked the big hills (there were quite a few…) and I smiled, a lot.   

Hugs from family and friend and a fist bump from my nephew along the way really made kept me from falling into any bad places. Did I mention that I got THREE sweaty hugs from my hubby on the course... talk about lifting me up and making the run even better!  I’ve been in dark lonely places while training, but I never had those moments on race day… I was shocked.  I focused on putting calories in my belly, staying hydrated, and staying happy and that’s just how the run went.  Run, walk, run, drink, nibble a pretzel or two, run, walk, run, walk, water, coke, run…. And I never forgot to smile! J

Getting to the top of the hill into town was a BIG highlight..so close!! And then….the out and back that never ends… It just goes and goes and goes.   I got to the turn around and then I felt like I was REALLY close.  I ran/walked until about .75 miles from the finish and then I just couldn’t help but to give it everything I had left and “sprint” to the finish. I was surprised how much I had left in the tank!  And then I heard the words I had worked so hard to hear “Margaret Nelson, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  And that was that…the perfect first Ironman.  Family and friends at the finish for hugs and Mama Nelson’s pasta and beer at the house waiting for us!  We stayed up until 1am chatting, eating, and enjoying a few beers with our Iron-fans to end a PERFECT DAY!! 

THANK YOU MARNI AND KAREL SUMBAL and all of our supporters!! What a journey!  Can’t wait to do it again..and again..and again… ;)

The day in pictures: 

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