Ironman Maryland 2016 October 17
The good signs: Eagle spotted over Crystal Lake where we do our Open Water Swims just weeks before race
Fortune Cookie – “You will pass a big upcoming test.” This was one week before race
Hired a coach this year. I’m very happy that I did that – he kept me on track with training (missed very few workouts), catered to my individual strengths and weaknesses. His first recommendation was to start Strength training (strength=free speed). I did that two days a week with Contemporary Athlete in Clifton Park, NY. I think the biggest benefit for me of strength training was that it gave me confidence. I would go into the workouts fearing that I would not be able to lift a certain weight or that I would just crumble and would come out feeling strong! Coach would punch into Training Peaks each week what was on my plan for the next seven days. This worked great for me.
Race was scheduled for October 5 and was postponed because of Hurricane Joaquin and the possible aftermath that was expected to inundate the area with water and wind. The Hurricane did not hit, but the winds did. 35 mph and rainy and cold. It was announced the following Tuesday that IMMD would take place on Saturday, October 17, 2015. My Sherpa and I had decided that we would definitely go that weekend and I would race. Checked with owners of house we were renting who said they would work to accommodate us that weekend.
The 2 week delay meant 2 weeks more of training. Psychologically that was difficult. I just went back at it – with another week of taper. (Weird).
Thursday October 15, we drove to Cambridge, Md. 6 hr drive from NY. We went straight to Athlete checkin and then stayed for the athlete briefing. The briefing was very informative and they stressed that it was going to be cold and that we should consider changing to dry clothes in T1. And be sure to pack warm clothes in Run Special Needs bags. All good ideas. The briefing also gave good info on the course, especially run which with three loops was a little confusing on paper. We then went to check in to house – very nice location about 5 miles outside of town and it was on the Choptank River – with our own beach. We decided to practice swim from there on Friday morning.
Friday woke fairly early and had friend Lisa coming to do practice swim with us. It was windy and choppy so it was a good thing to get in and experience it. For me, this really helped calm my nerves about the swim. I faced the chop no problem and rode the waves in the opposite direction. Water was about 63 degrees and wore sleeveless wetsuit. I planned to wear full sleeve on race day. I was not cold. We went and rode the run course after our swim. This was also helpful to get the run course In my head as to wind, loops, etc. Location of Special Needs and about when I would need to stop. We passed Spc. Needs run about 5 times during race, but could only stop once. Racked my bike with drinks already in place. With the colder weather it was not a concern to leave drinks already prepared on bike.
Race day – Saturday. Ate bagel, juice, coffee and took Immodium. One dose. Since that was the thing that slowed me down at IMLP it was a good idea. My Sherpa (Janet) dropped me off at transition. I loaded my bento box with goodies on the bike. I had to drop off Special Needs bike and run bags. Went to change tent to put wetsuit on – it was warm in there. Dropped off morning bag. Found my friend Lisa and we lined up for swim. She had brought trash bags to wear to keep warm while waiting, and loaned me one. Big help. We were supposed to be in the water between 6:50 and 7:00 a.m. at 6:45 there was an announcement that they were going to shorten the course to 1.2 miles and alter the position of the buoys. I think most people were disappointed, but at least we would still get to swim. There were 25 mph winds and small craft advisories. Safety personnel determined it would not be good to have us out in the water as far as the buoys were. They moved buoys closer to shore (whole course) which was a little more sheltered. A little later they announced that it would be a two loop swim and closer to 3000 meters. Yay. At about 7:30-7:35 we started swim. It was cold standing around in the wind in our wetsuits so the water actually didn’t feel bad. It was still a windy, wavy swim and I got knocked around a lot by others – partly I think people didn’t line up in the correct spots for the speeds they were swimming. Partly it was the waves knocking us all around. It was also a little tough to sight on buoys on one of the turns the red and orange were very similar. Swim done – felt pretty good. 1:20:28. Even if we had the full 2.4 swim my time would have been under what I had predicted. Yay.
One of the concerns I had with the delayed start to the swim was how it would affect the midnight cutoff. Just decided to do what I could with the rest of the day and see what happened. (I did beat the midnight cutoff and beat 17 hrs)
T1 – 12:32 - decided to change out of wet stuff. It was easy off, but even with drying off hard to change. Got tons of help in the women’s change tent. There were not bike handler volunteers so we had to run out and get our own bikes off the racks and do a Z-shaped run out. They did that so everyone ran equal distances in transition.
Felt good getting on the bike. Put the wind behind us for about the first 30 miles – so speedy. My stomach was churning and decided at second bike stop to go to the bathroom. Big help! Felt much better and had no issues rest of the day. I tried to stay on target with eating often – I had broken up Clif Bars and had peanut butter pretzels – a few gels and Gatorade Endurance that I had mixed with a little Base Salt. I drank all of my premixed stuff first. I took a banana and extra bottle of Gatorade a little before Special Needs stop. I tried to keep my speed up into the wind – it was tough. I quickly realized where I would be able to push and where I would get slowed by the head wind. I had a plan for second loop. At BSN my cousin was waiting. She came down from Bethesda. It was exciting to see her and her daughter and she was like my “mom” telling me to eat and take my sandwich with me for the next loop. I took half my sandwich with me, another bottle of Gatorade (premixed) and took off. Again wind behind me for this first part of loop, so I pushed my speeds as much as I could until I turned into the wind. It was a sunny day – which was glorious. My plan was use any and all sheltered spots on bike to gain speed. I actually started passing people in the windy spots – good training on the River Road back at home. I felt prepared for the wind. Put your head down and pedal. I saw friend Janet and Joanne (cousin) at around mile 85-90. They had driven out to see me on the bike. Janet said I was smoking the bike and doing great – the words of encouragement meant a lot. I knew how I was feeling and that I would get it done today. They drove next to me for a little bit and I just laughed. Crazy people out on the course. Head down – pedal. Worst thing about being aero so long was that by about mile 90 -95 I was having a hard time taking in any more nutrition and drinks. I would sip – sit up and then get back into aero. Felt like everything was sitting high in my gut.
7:41:49 on bike!
T2 – 11:19 – Loved getting off the bike and walking back to rack it. I threw on run shorts, and long sleeve tech tee to run in. visor and socks, sneakers. I also had a race belt with extra base salt and my eyeglasses in case my contacts really bugged me. Leaving transition there was an aid station right there. I heard the words water and Pepsi – took both. The Pepsi helped me burp – big time! LOL. Really helped my gut. I started to jog not long out of transition and felt pretty good. Still sunny and windy – but overall not too bad. I think I jogged for most of the first half. Walk breaks at water stops, but kept moving forward pretty steadily. I stopped once to pee. As it got dark things got a little tougher and cold. Run Special Needs was in a very cold and windy spot and we passed thru there 6 times. My back started to ache. I stopped at Run SN and grabbed a wind shirt and extra jacket that I tied around my waist. I could not find any of the Ibuprofen that I thought I had packed in every single bag I had. I was hoping to see my Sherpa soon because I knew she would have some. She caught me toward the end of the second loop. Got Ibuprofen which really helped. She ran with me with words of encouragement. I also took the headlamp she offered as it was really dark out on the course. As I started the third loop I was really starting to hurt – saw Janet again and she stuck with me for a bit – talked about the fact that I had plenty of time to beat 12:00 and just keep the pace I was at. I told her I wanted to run, but my back was killing me. She said stick with fast walk as my run was not helping at this point. That last turn around on the 3rd loop was a welcome sight and I knew I’d get it done!!! As I ran back into town and close to finish – there was a young woman next to me who said if we kept pace we could definitely beat midnight. I stuck on her tail. She finished just ahead of me – and when I saw the finisher chute – I shed the jacket around my waist and ran in.!!! 11:55:16 was on the clock. Overall time was 16:12:58. Susan Browne you are an Ironman – though the last part got cut off because the microphone died just as he was making the announcement. We laughed a lot about that one. The “catcher” stopped me and said they blew a fuse. Got my medal – a big hug from another of the “catchers’ and congrats all around!!! I wanted to cry but didn’t – I felt so strong! Got my pic (not the best) and went to get a bite to eat.
My Sherpa (Janet) (the best) had gotten my bike and transition bags already for me. So after the race I only needed to get a bite to eat and head back to the car. After I ate a piece of pizza we walked back to the car and drove back to our house. I took a much needed shower – ouchies from chafe, but warm shower was nice. I put on some warm clothes and fleece – definitely chilled from running in the cold after sweating. We sat up until about 2:30 a.m. discussing the race! I was so pumped on adrenaline. When I went to bed my bunion (joint behind big toe) started to throb – so I got up and put ice on it. Carried ice back to bed. Finally slept. I was up early next day – still running on adrenaline I think. I went online to check official results (still concerned about the late start) and my finisher time was there 16:12:58!! Felt better seeing results. Put coffee on and we decided to go purchase some “finisher” stuff. That was fun shopping. Got a bite to eat in town and then we went back and crashed for a few hours. My foot was OK and my back was already feeling better.
I was happy with my swim speed – I like swimming in salt water, and was very happy with my bike speed. I would work on running better this next year and maybe think about another long race in the near future. Overall IMMD was a great experience and I can now happily say that ‘I am an Ironman”.
My hands and feet were swollen after the race most likely holding fluid. Too much salt and too little water – I drank lots of water the next couple of days and swelling was gone. Something to remember for future racing.
I got together with my coach post-race and we talked about results and details of the race. He was not in Md. and he told me that was a first for him not being at a race for an athlete he had coached. He also said he did not like it. I knew he was there in spirit and all of the coaching had made a huge difference in how I felt and my results. Much thanks to John Michael Evansky and Janette Angilletta Davignon for their support in getting me to the finish line. I am an Ironman.