Monday, May 25, 2015

The Iron Journey

by Kandis Gibson

When I first got the idea to do a triathlon, my bucket list item was a half
Ironman.  The thought of doing a Full Ironman seemed ridiculous.  Well,
just the marathon part.  But after a few weeks of tri training, I started
thinking I might be selling myself short if I didn’t do a Full.  Then, in a
moment of weakness, I let a friend of mine talk me into registering for
Ironman Texas. Ugh.
In December 2014, I started working with Robert Clarence on some techniques to become stronger and more efficient on the bike. In January 2015, I met with Lloyd to work on some run techniques to address some form issues I was having. With my form corrected, I started my formal Ironman Training Program with Lloyd at the end of January. Lloyd warned me that training in the winter was going to be rough, but thankfully I had good bike support and Robert was always up for a ridiculous session on the trainer, even if he just turned on Sufferfest and talked to you while you suffered! Before I knew it, race week had arrived. I arrived in Houston on Wednesday night -Thursday was the last day for packet pick up and I didn’t want to take any chances with flight delays on Thursday morning. I also needed to change my bike tires. I was worried about racing in my old tires because they were really hard to get off (def do a tire changing clinic before your race). The bike shop didn’t get the new tires in time to change them before the race, so I had to have tri bike transport do it. I spent a lot of time weighing riding on new, untested tires. I knew I couldn’t change the old ones so I had to take my chances. I picked up my packet, swapped out the tires and headed to the Opening Banquet.
Lloyd called me Thursday night to talk me through the Ironman Gear Bag process. This allowed me time to pick up anything I might have forgotten (I’m looking at your aero bottle rubber bands) and to pick up anything I needed more of before gear check. I got my gear in my bags and got my last good night of sleep! Friday morning I got up and headed to the practice swim. Time flies the days before a race, but if you can do the practice swim, you should. I got all my nerves out that morning. I remembered that sometimes I start to fast and forget to exhale. I remembered just how many people are in the water with you on race day. And I remembered to focus on my form. I left the swim and headed to get my bike. The tires had held up through the night, so that was great. I had about a mile ride to the bike check, so I could test them out some more if necessary.
It had rained all the rain all week in Houston and the bike in was filled with mud. The forecast was calling for more rain on Friday, so I knew things would only get worse. The volunteers assured us they would have kiddie pools filled with water on race day so that we could rinse our feet after getting our bikes. We had to tape up our gear bags to keep them from getting wet before the race as well. After bike check, I grabbed some food and tried to kill some time until dinner. Lloyd, Kyle and I met up for an early dinner and went over the race plan again. At this point it occurred to me that I had nothing else to do. After spending 16 weeks training and pushing myself, the night before a race was super calm. I was in bed by 8, even though I didn’t really sleep. The morning of the race, I was up at 4:30. I dropped off my water bottles at my bike, then we walk down to the swim start and drop off the special needs bags. At this point there is nothing to do but take a bunch of selfies and wait for the swim to start. It’s emotional. I teared up during the singing of the National Anthem. I was sniffling as we lined up according to swim times. Kyle and I went over my race mantra – I’m a winner, I’m a champion, I’m the best of the best, I love myself! The race had a rolling start – basically, a steady stream of people entering the water for 25 minutes. It went a lot faster than I thought it would. Before I knew it, I was barefoot and entering the water. I heard Lloyd and the cowbell and we were off!!
*The Swim*
The swim was GREAT! I had gotten all my nerves out. I had a steady pace and I had some space. The course was a weird point to point – out and almost back to the starting point, then a sharp right into a canal for the last 800 meters. The out and back were great. The canal portion is cool because it’s only about 15 ft wide so sighting is easy. It’s not cool because several hundred swimmers enter it at once and you have to fight a bit to pass people. Kyle told me later that there were people swimming who looked like they were fighting the water and losing. I think I may have unintentionally interrupted a few of these fights the canal, but was able to get around them without serious injury. At this point Lloyd and Kyle were running alongside the canal cheering and ringing the cowbell, so I knew I had made it to the swim out.
The T1 tent was a bit of ways away from the water exit. I grabbed my gear, and ran to get my bike. Because of the mud, I was barefoot, holding my shoes and socks in my hands and carrying my bike. A nice volunteer held my bike as I rinsed my feet and put my shoes on, then started the ride. *The Bike* The first 60 miles of the bike were awesome. It was hot in Houston and the temperature was expected to hit 90 with about 100% humidity. I knew hydration would be key. I tried to drink every 10 minutes, eat a gel every 15 and take some endurolytes every 90 minutes. I also grabbed plain water every third aid station. At mile 65 though, things were getting rough. After passing Lloyd and Kyle, I hit a bump and lost the straw to my aero bottle. I had a Gatorade in my water bottle holder, though, so I wasn’t too worried. By now it was also 90degrees and the wind has picked up. Then it started to rain. The pavement has also gone from smooth highway surface to gravelly cobblestones. There was no more coasting. Robert and I had been on some brutal rides over the winter (and me and Lloyd) so I knew I just had to stay the course and things would smooth out.
Despite the slow going, I knew, barring a mechanical issue, I was going to finish the bike. The completion rate at the race dropped 5% this year, with many blaming the bike leg, so I was more than happy to coast into T2 and hand my bike off. *The Run*
I’ve spent a good portion of my training getting ready for the run. I’m not a runner and I don’t like running. I always forget to put on my compression tights (I did Luray with 1 on) and today was no different. Thankfully, my Chi Running clinic helped me get rid of the shin splints so I was good with some KT tape and sunscreen. I felt great the first mile of the 3 loop course. The run course was unbelievably spectator friendly (the app not so much). The local tri clubs set up tents, there were a few DJs, and spectators overflowed the outdoor seating areas. Lots of people calling your name and little kids putting their hands out for high fives.
About half of each loop was like that. The other half was running through residential neighborhoods and trails. Even though some residents came out, this section was brutal. I was ahead of the run cutoff by about 2hours, so I tried to pace myself as best as I could. The first two loops went by but coming up on mile 19, it hit me just how much EVERYTHING hurt. I saw people sitting down going through their special needs bags. I knew that Lloyd would kill me if I did that and I knew that I wouldn’t get back up if I sat down. I could feel my mood changing and I knew I was getting grumpy. I made a point to say hello to every athlete and volunteer I encountered, say an encouraging word and thank them for their encouragement. The course is super friendly to begin with, but forcing myself to do this helped me get in a better mood. Then, right before mile 24, I ran into Kyle and Lloyd. They had been bouncing around the course so I never knew where I’d see them, but I was so happy they were there to encourage me. They walked with me for a little bit, then turned around so they could make it to the finish line by the time I got there. Lloyd told me it was okay to walk, as long as I saved enough energy to run across the finish. The last mile was tough but I could feel the energy picking up closer I got to the end. I rang the “3rd Loop bell” at the last aid station and almost shed a tear when I got to the “Next Loop or Finish” sign and headed towards the finish line. Somehow, I mustered up enough energy to start running. The fences were holding the crowds back and people started shouting and cheering me on. I ran up the super long shoot and turned the corner to see…..another long shoot??? What in the entire hell?? I was so confused, I looked behind me. Did I run past the finish and miss it? Where are the damn catchers??? Shouldn’t someone be shouting my name? Apparently I still had to run the .2 in 26.2. Whatever. I had already started running, so I couldn’t stop now. I ran down the long shoot, rounded the corner to come up the other side and saw the red carpet. I think I slapped every hand out there. Then I heard Lloyd’s cowbell ringing up the way and knew this was it. Kandis Gibson…YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.
P.S. Lloyd makes you run the morning after an Ironman. The level of guilt and fear that he uses to do this is cross between a Jewish mother and a doomsday prepper- if you run, you will be able to walk normal during the week. If you don’t, you will never be able to walk again and your legs will fall off. I don’t know if your legs will fall off if you don’t run, but I can confirm that you will be walking normally if you do run. For what it’s worth!
Diaa, Leanda Cave (Ironman & Ironman 70.3 Champion, Lloyd, Me and Kyle

No comments: