Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rutgers Cycling Does IRONMAN!

As the Rutgers Cycling token triathlete, I feel like it's my job to do at least one post about my races this summer...

As a lot of you know, my past year has revolved around training for Ironman Louisville. I raced repping Rutgers, rocking my sleevless jersey on the bike and a running t-shirt with Rutgers Cyclocross written on the back. It' s been a good summer with a lot of good triathlon race results, including being the 28th female overall in the Nautica NYC triathlon (out of +1400 women or so), 5th overall female at the Skylands sprint triathlon, and being 2nd in my age group in the Rev3 Quassy 70.3. Ironman KY, I was 7th in my age group, which was an OK finish despite some serious medical setbacks.

In all, I'm glad to be done with IM and starting CX season!

Anyway, here's a race report from Ironman:

Pre Race
Transition opened at 5:30, so at 4:30 I was awake, trying to eat a bagel and drink a ton of fluids, and out the door. Because we had stashed everything in transition the night before, it was a pretty simple morning. Got to transition, got everything set up, and was generally feeling pretty calm. Then, a .75 mile walk down to the start of the swim. We got there and were wondering why everyone was sitting in front of the portapotties.

I got bodymarked, and dad realized that they were all people in line. Honestly, people must have been there since the night before- I kid you not, I saw an air mattress. We walked and walked and walked and about a mile later got to the end of the line. I looked at the guys in front of me and asked if this was the line for Springsteen tickets. They laughed, but I guess that joke makes the most sense if you’re from NJ. Anyway, I chatted and ate, and was still feeling good. The guy behind me kept asking if I was nervous though, which did little to relax me.

The Swim
Once the line started moving, it moved quick. Before I really knew what was happening, I had a surge of volunteers pushing me into the swim chute yelling “keep running!” We went off the 2 docks 2 at a time 2 seconds apart, so before I really realized just what was happening, I was in the water and swimming. It was crazy. Because I started far back, it was pretty rough going. Got elbowed, kicked, and generally manhandled as I crawled my way up. The problem was that I kept getting slowed down because of all of the random people in front of me breast-stroking and popping out to sight. Seriously, there was a traffic jam at the turn buoy! I just kept telling myself to stay calm and just keep going. No crazy antics, just stay calm and KEEP SWIMMING! We swam under a couple of bridges, which was pretty neat, and then before I really realized it, the end was in sight! I got out of the water in about 1:18, which was kind of slow for me, but with the washing machine effect of having to get around so many people, I was ok with it. My only issue with the race setup was that they had so few buoys, it was almost impossible to sight sometimes. You had to assume that everyone knew where they were going and follow blindly until a buoy finally came into sight.

But… out of the swim and into bike transition! I ran into the changing tent and was shocked at how many people were totally changing! I was wearing my bike stuff so I crammed my shoes and helmet on, pulled my Rutgers jersey on over my head and booked it out of the tent, pausing to get copious amounts of lotion everywhere. Ran out, mounted, and took a deep breath… 112 miles to go.

The Bike
The bike started FAST. I was passing people, and feeling really good. (My results are a tribute to this, my average for the first part was 19.5). I was expecting a flat course, but it was more accurately described as rolling. A lot of the time, it was kind of tough avoiding drafting, and I felt like I got slowed down a lot because of it in some segments. I had a nutrition plan in place and I was sticking to it, feeling good, despite the fact that it was getting HOT out. I was refilling my bottles at every station, drinking as much as possible between them, and generally trying to stay calm, but stay going at a steady clip. I didn’t want to be beat for the marathon (though in retrospect I might as well have been) and I was trying to conserve energy. It’s amazing how fast 112 miles goes by, and how exciting it was when we passed through LaGrange and just could hear the crowd going crazy for us. I made a few “friends” on the bike, men and women, because we had a group of about 25 of us that kept constantly passing and re-passing each other. It made it fun, knowing who had just passed you so you could head for them on the next hill. I'm glad I have this picture of me smiling, because honestly, this part was fun:

By the last 20 miles or so, I started having some “respiratory issues,” which made me aware that I was probably getting dehydrated. As I said, I had been drinking as much as I could without making myself sick or cramping. As the miles ticked off, I knew the marathon was going to be tough, but I tried to stay focused. I definitely slowed down a bit towards the end, but still ended the bike with an average of 18.5 mph. Not too shabby, though I wish I hadn’t started losing it at the end.

I'll never be nervous about making it through a full century ride with the team again...

The Run
… to call it the run is kind of an insult to running. I got into transition, actually changed shorts and threw on a running top with Rutgers Cyclocross written in marker on the back. I charged out of transition, planning to eek as much actual running as I could. I made it to the first aid station, got through that walking, and started running again. For the first couple stations, I wasn’t feeling great but I was surviving. But then… my lungs started really hurting.

And this was around mile 5 or so. I kept going, running when I could, walking the aid stations, drinking as much as possible. The ice cold sponges definitely helped, and made me feel a lot less gross. The problem was, I couldn’t eat.

Around mile 10, I started dry heaving. Which is the worst. All I wanted was to actually throw up, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Still, I kept run-walking.

When we hit loop 2, I felt a little better. It is amazing how short 13 miles seems when you have 127 finished! I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to finish, and that kept me going. People were great- I talked to a lot of other racers about IM and about cyclocross, but by mile 15, my lungs were not thrilled with me and talking hurt. By mile 20, I couldn’t really drink, and I was walking way more than I was running. The problem with dehydration, I learned, is that once it starts, no amount of drinking is really going to help when you’re still racing. It was depressing, my legs felt fine but I couldn’t breathe or drink. I wanted to run but every time I did, I thought I was going to fall over. Everything hurt except my legs and I just wanted to keep running. I was watching the clock tick away past my goal times that I could have made, had I been able to take in more fluids. And that hurt. Still, kept going.

Anyway, finally hit those last couple miles and started trying to run from cone to cone- run one cone, walk the next, run one, walk one… And after what seemed like forever, the finish line started to come into sight. Rather, you could hear it before you saw it. A dull roar that you could hear 4 blocks away. And knowing that I wanted to run across the line, and knowing that medical help was just blocks away, I gave it everything I had, ran through the cheering crowd, and finally got to hear that I was an Ironman. Final time: 13:37. Way more than I had planned, but faster than I thought I would do once I started hurting.

It was incredible. There's just something amazing about hearing "Molly Hurford, you are an Ironman."

Right after this picture was taken I went to the medical building and got pumped full of IV fluids thanks to a whole lot of amazing volunteers.

And that is Ironman in a nutshell. It was an experience. I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I pushed through to finish. Thank you to all my lovely teammates who helped me on crazy long rides all last year, and thanks to all of you for messaging me to say good luck the day before- I was thinking of you all the whole bike leg!

“Swim 2.4 miles. Ride 112 miles. Run 26.2 miles. Then brag for the rest of your life.” -Commander John Collins, Ironman Triathlon creator

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