The first major Ironman on the US circuit would be my first Ironman of the season, just 6 months to the day post surgery to remove my gallbladder and infection that had been lurking within me for the entire 2011 season. My first 2 months under Brett’s guidance had gone well, it had been a big learning curve and I could feel my body responding to the new training program. I had some disruption from travel and plans made before joining the team, but all in all it had been a solid 8 weeks of training with no illness.
Despite this I still didn’t feel anywhere near ready for an Ironman, and have to be honest in saying that I was a little concerned about my race nutrition plan. If your not aware the gallbladder plays an important role in the bodies digestion, and since my surgery my races had either been short, or as was the case in Abu Dhabi, I wasn’t convinced that my nutrition plan had worked as well as I would have liked. In hindsight I neglected to address this crucial part of my race, took a chance, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best. Well let’s just say the best is not what I got on Saturday.
I was fortunate to have a lovely homestay host me in The Woodlands and Race morning came around fast. I slept very well the night before the race, and woke feeling calm but excited about the day ahead. My plan was to focus on the swim, where I tend to lose a lot of valuable time, to reflect the work I’ve been doing in the pool of late. A quick start set this up and I found myself in a great position off Mary Beth’s feet in the first 200m, before settling into the 2nd pack over the next 400m. A moment of distraction saw me lose the feet of the chase pack and I soon had to settle in front of the 3rd pack, leading them on a zig-zag course towards the canal and swim exit – I prefer to follow feet and not lead, but they can thank me for the extra swim training!
Out onto the bike Bry informed me I was 3.5 minutes down on Caitlin Snow, the group I had originally been swimming with. I had no concerns about making up this time, but I did have some doubt about being able to catch up to the front of the race, which MB and Amy Marsh were controlling. My body felt good, my riding controlled, and I caught and passed both Caitlin and the 2 other girls ahead of me very quickly, leaving only MB and Amy out in front. The first 90km passed quickly and my gap to the leaders only extended about a minute, it didn’t feel real hot and I felt in control. The second half saw the wind pick up and despite still feeling strong most of the way my deficit to MB & Amy grew and I entered T2 in 3rd place with a sub 5 hour ride in 4:58.
I was looking forward to the run and trying to close the gap to the leaders, and also hold off the fast running Caitlin from behind. Lap 1 went by quickly and I felt confident I could hold my pace, despite it being down around 3 hour marathon pace. Around mile 9 I noticed some nausea which grew over the next mile. Then the brick wall rose in front of me, quite literally out of nowhere like a slap in the face. From here everything is a little blurred, my legs felt fine, but my body and mind were in a boxing match. I dropped from 3rd to 4th, to 5th, and then to 6th, walking aid stations, shuffling in between. Finally with 4 miles to go I dropped to 7th. My placing no longer mattered, but finishing did. I would crawl to the finish line if that’s what it took. Luckily it didn’t.
So I finished my 5th Ironman in my slowest time yet, and my first time ever to walk in a race. I also hurt the most I’ve ever hurt after an Ironman, incapable of doing much more than lie on my back and wonder what had happened.
So the big question, what happened? I arrived at the race in good form, health and fitness. My body felt good, and mentally I was strong and ready to race. The one thing I hadn’t dialed was my race nutrition. Since the removal of my gallbladder I’ve had some troubles with digestion, especially in some of my early season races. This not only left me confused about what works for my body now, but also lacking confidence in this area. Each race I try something, and each race is different. In short, I haven’t found the right combination that works for me yet. So going into the race although I felt a bit confused as to what I would do, this wasn’t anything new. Unfortunately my plan didn’t work.
What I experienced on Saturday was a complete bonk, plain and simple. I learnt a lot in Texas, especially that if your not sure about something, ask. What may seem a silly question now, will only be sillier if you don’t ask about it in the first place.
I am recovering well and will take this brutal lesson from Texas with me, along with the great strength that I will have gained from this race. I’m looking forward to the next one, and hope to be in a state to celebrate over the finish line, not fall across it.