Leading into my last race of the season I allowed time to fully recover from my previous races and get in a nice training block ~ 9 weeks. Training was going well, I was putting up my highest watts on the bike and my fastest run intervals consistently. As race week approached I tapered down my volume with a healthy body. Unfortunately on Wednesday of race week I hurt my foot on the track. I wore race flats (typical) for a few 800’s. Afterwards I had sharp pain in my previously injured foot. It looked and felt like a stressy, but I saw my PT, Bob Cranny, and after examination we determined it was worth giving it a go. The pain was in the joint which is rare to get a stress fracture, so we were optimistic.
I traveled to Wisconsin the following day. I walked Wednesday through Saturday in a boot in an effort to save my foot for the race. To be honest I felt pain while I swam and biked, especially while climbing. This was very concerning. I had no idea how I would run a marathon on this busted foot. Come race morning the pampering paid off, the swelling was down and it felt the best it had all week.
Per usual I started by pumping in transition to begin as empty as possible. Yes, my son is 14 months and I’m still nursing, get over it :)
We started the swim as the sun began to rise. I lined up next to Amanda Stevens and quickly grabbed her feet, unfortunately she was swimming too fast and after a few hundred meters she dropped me. I had Katie Thomas on my feet. After a few more buoys she came up on my side. I thought she’d want to make the pass, but instead she swam up to the halfway point by my side. At first we weren’t touching at all, but towards the middle she was pushing into me constantly. It seemed like she wanted to swim directly into each buoy, rather than next to them. We had Leslie Miller on our feet throughout this front half. At the halfway point I got fed up trying to pull away and simply stopped, letting Katie lead. At first she struggled sighting buoys without me, but she got the hang of it quickly. I enjoyed the back half of the swim drafting on her feet. Somehow through this we dropped Leslie and came out of the water together. I felt great about the swim, I almost always end up swimming alone or pulling a group, so this was a nice change of pace getting a draft to save some energy. I’m glad I didn’t see the clock as we exited the water because I would have been very disappointed coming at 59:34 even with no wetsuit. I ALWAYS swim a 55 in IM swims, so my guess is the swim was long based on everyone’s times. Regardless, I ran up the helix through tons of cheering fans and was pleased my foot held up through the barefoot run which was nearly a mile. I later found out I had the fastest split of the day for T1.
I hopped on my bike and rode down the helix. The air was crisp and swimming nearly an hour in 72° water didn’t help warming up my body. I was cold the first hour on the bike, luckily this numbed my feet up a bit and I felt no foot pain, even on the climbs. I started out that first hour a little higher than my typical average watts, but I was feeling good and we had some nice climbs so I went with it. Katie passed me, she was pushing way too hard for me to hold her. That would risk ruining my race, so I let her go. The new hill added to the course this year was tough, it was a long climb I would compare to the back side of Old Stage in Boulder, maybe even a little longer.
Somewhere within the first two hours I felt my saddle move slightly. I played around with re-distributing my weight. Nothing seemed to move, I assumed it was just a bump in the road. The roads were super rough, which is typical in the midwest from the harsh weather.
I enjoyed open roads on my first loop. I was only passed by a handful of amateur men and Liz Lyles at the beginning of loop two. My legs were working well, holding my all time high watt average especially for such a hilly course. Climbing is not my strength because I’m heavy. I typically choose hot, flat courses, but figured I don’t want to only race courses that suit me. Have to give it a go on a cold hilly course once in a while to test myself.
I started lapping some amateurs during loop two. We merged loops at mile 70 which is when the course became over crowded. I was forced to brake descending several times as I’m not going to risk an accident just to get around another rider. I even ran into three instances where cars cut me off and I had to brake or completely stop to avoid collision. The new course was interesting, but I think the race director has some kinks to work out to avoid these bottlenecks.
I stayed on top of my nutrition plan throughout the ride. Everything was going well, until I felt my saddle tilt again about 20 miles from T2. All the bumpy roads took a toll on my bike. At 10 miles from T2 a bolt fell out and my saddle would hardly stay beneath me. As I focused on this issue I missed a turn, somehow I ended up in a hotel parking lot. An amateur guy followed me, after back tracking a bit we figured out how to get back on course. I was now clenching the saddle between my legs. I looked down and my SRM had also rattled loose. To avoid having it fly off, I unclipped it, placing it in my bento box, only to have it fly out on the next bump, FAIL. I made a mental note of where we were and rode on. After going under the highway I could now see Monona Terrace where T2 was. I just rode slowly trying to keep upright on a tilting saddle. I finally made it there, handing off my bike. I’m sure the bike catcher thought I was crazy because he placed all pieces in my bento box and saddle in my gear bag.
Now the tough part, how would my foot hold up? I took my time in T2, usually I rush through, but I put on socks and got situated before heading out for the marathon. Although my foot didn’t feel that bad, I just didn’t have any spring in my step. I was hoping to run under 3:15 here based on my training which means I need to start off running 6:30 min/miles. Right off the bat I was only holding 7:10’s. I knew this was a bad sign, you’re only going to slow down during an Ironman run. My foot felt similar to the year after my 1st surgery while the hardware was still in. I had no choice to heel strike, I just couldn’t get on the ball of my foot.
A few miles in I was passed by Leslie, she was running well and there’s no way I could have held onto her. I kept trying to pick up the pace unsuccessfully. I was happy to be running, but disappointed an injury prevented me from running to my fitness level. Especially a non-overtraining related injury!
Towards the end of loop one I got Ironman cranky. Everything people around me did annoyed me. A new rule requires lead bikes to ride behind runners. This was frustrating as it was difficult to navigate through so many cone lines on an empty course. I found myself asking multiple times which direction to turn.
I was next passed by Alyssa who was also running well, but on a decent day shouldn’t have caught me. A few miles into the second loop I decided to just enjoy the rest of my race. I eased up on my effort level, and ran at a comfortable pace. There was nobody close behind and nobody close in front now, so I just ran it in.
Some friends said they’d never seen me smiling like that beyond 20 miles of an Ironman run. Usually these last few miles are severely painful, but in easing up 20-30 seconds/mile it was much more enjoyable. I later found out I was actually making time up on Amanda, perhaps I could have caught her had I known this but…shoulda, woulda, coulda always follows an Ironman. I still took 6th place on an off day which I can’t complain of.
(I did go back the following day and found my SRM on the side of road. Score!)
My foot injury definitely restricted my run performance, but I also think this being the 2nd Ironman of the year I may not have had the run speed in the end anyhow. Who knows? I am glad I was able to complete my 12th Ironman back where I raced my very first one in 2009.
The positive side of Ironman Wisconsin is I got to visit with my family before and after the race in St. Charles. We stayed with Jackie Hering in Wisconsin. Anders and Hunter met for the first time, we hope they’ll be lifelong friends. I also got to see many familiar faces from Chicago cheering out on course.
I finally got an X-ray on my foot (3.5 weeks post race) and my fourth metatarsal is in fact broken and has been for some time. I most likely broke it on the track that Wednesday leading up to the race. Luckily I haven’t done any further damage by racing on it or running casually since. I guess that foot has been through so much I don’t feel the pain anymore.
I was planning for this to be the last pro race of my career, in hopes of expanding our family in 2017. However, since it didn’t go as I’d hoped I’m re-assessing. There’s no such thing as a perfect Ironman, but I may still have a few more in me. Maybe I’ll be racing amateur, maybe pro. I don’t know if I’ll have time with 2 or 3 kids to train but time will tell. For now I’m enjoying some down time spent with my family.
(Leaf Peeping in Boulder)