Thursday, April 10, 2014

We're goin' back to Kona! Ironman Los Cabos 2014

Ironman Los Cabos Race Recap

I should probably warn you. This is a pretty long recap. Here's a cliff notes version for those just lookin' for the pictures;)

Swim—1:10:22 (1:48/100m)
T1—3:26 (0.25mile beach run to transition)
Bike—5:41:40 (19.67mph)
T2—2:37 (bathroom break included)
Run—3:10:27 (7:17 pace)
Overall—10:08:45. 65th finisher overall, 2nd overall amateur female, 2nd female 25-29
11+ minutes cut off of my debut Ironman time in Kona
Both Ryan and I qualified for Kona!

Cliff notes version:
-Went out on Thursday, March 27 to have a few open water swims and outdoor rides out of the way to be confident come race day.
-Went to three of our favorite restaurants from our honeymoon in 2013 (Pancho’s, Mi Casa and The Office)
-Finished 2nd place overall female amateur
-Ran the 2nd fastest female run split (3:02 run by  the 2nd place pro) and overall amateur run split (male ran a 3:06)
-Finished in 10:08:45 for an 11+ minute improvement from Kona (10:20:04)
-Ryan was the 5th overall amateur, automatically securing his Kona slot and placing 2nd in his 30-34 age group as a 29-year-old
-Ryan had the fastest bike split out of all males (beating some of the pros as well!)

Why Ironman Los Cabos?
Ironman Los Cabos was a truly memorable race, for many reasons. March 2013 is when Ryan and I took our honeymoon (so that I wouldn’t have to take days off of school), and it happened to be in Cabo San Lucas. Since we were training for Kona at the time, we had our runs to do still (swims and bikes were modified). We were staying at my uncle’s timeshare in Dreams Los Cabos, which is right off of Highway 1. Since it was so nice out, we naturally did our runs outside. While running on our second day of our honeymoon, I noticed a gel wrapper on the ground and mentioned it to Ryan. He told me that the Ironman was the weekend before we arrived for our honeymoon, which prompted me to semi-jokingly tell him we should take honeymoon parte dos and come back and do the Ironman in 2014. Well, after having such a great time in Kona, my joke turned serious and on December 26, 2013, Ryan and I signed up for Ironman Los Cabos.

Training in Chicago winter??
We didn’t think too much of the training we’d endure going into IM Cabo since we had just come off of some pretty intense training for Kona. It wasn’t until our first 3+ hour ride that we realized we were in for a LONG training block with the winter Chicago was having. Ryan was able to ride his bike outside through activities such as cyclocross, but since that sport scares me too much, the only outdoor ride I had prior to racing Ironman Cabo was my 112 miles in Kona.

Three weeks prior to race day, I swam my fastest 50 and 100 splits during a swim workout. My swim is my weak link, which works out well for me since it starts off the race, but to see the times I was swimming that day boosted my confidence that this swim would be better than what I did in Kona. Plus, we would be able to use wetsuits, which automatically helps my swim!

We also did a bike time trial three weeks out and my power was through the roof. 

Finally, two weeks out, I ran the March Madness ½ marathon. Going into the race, I was only planning on working as hard as I needed to. This race is one of the most meaningful road races I run as my dad’s running group (Hillstriders) puts on the race, so it has a special place in my heart. Not running it was not a question. I planned to run with my friend Jonathan and just see where that would take us, as last year it had helped me to earn an overall female win. Honestly, when I’d look at my splits, the times were not even registering until halfway through the race when Jonathan said, “We’re on pace to run faster than last year”…and the conditions compared to last year were WAY worse, as in 20 degrees and 20mph winds. Yikes! Everything felt smooth and easy, so I was not too concerned. I ran a 1:22 on arguably the toughest ½ marathon course in Illinois, and was not even sore the next day. I knew that Monday that I was ready for Cabo.

Race week—Thursday, March 27 (3 days out)...pre-race results preview?:
We arrived on the Thursday prior to the Sunday race. This race fell almost perfectly in line with my Spring Break, so I did not miss school that Thursday or Friday. Unfortunately, that meant we would only have one real day in Cabo to fully enjoy post-race. As tempting as it was to schedule our flights to allow us to stay longer, it is very hard to be away from my students…both hard on me and hard on them I’d like to think.

When we arrived on Thursday, March 27, we checked to make sure our bikes made it safely. We use these bike travel cases created by Professional triathlete TJ Tollakson. Ryan takes apart our bikes expertly and we fill our bike bags with our clothes (inside other bags as well so they don’t rub against the bikes). The great thing about these bags is that we have yet to be charged. We pay the bag fee of $50 if we are flying domestically, and actually did not even get charged flying to Cabo since it was international and bags fly free. Best investment we’ve made, and we both highly recommend these bags to any triathletes out there.

After inspecting our bags, we walked out to what they call the “shark tank.” My uncle warned us about this place when we came for our honeymoon, so we knew what to expect. We politely turned away and ignored all of the people coming up to us to offer taxis and fun events and the likes. As we were coming outside with our bike bags, a guy said, “Ohhh, heyyy, there are the winners of the Ironman.” He had no idea how motivating that comment would be to me come race day.

Next, we grabbed the shuttle to take us to our rental car place. While waiting for our rental van to be brought to us, the owner of the place told Ryan, “If you win, the car is free” and agreed that the same would go for me as well. Little did he know that, if all the stars aligned, Ryan was capable of doing just that. After throwing our bikes into the van, we took Highway 1 all the way down to our Penthouse suite in Mykonos (rental property). It was AMAZING. Full kitchen, 2 bedrooms with full baths, 1 pull-out couch (Jerry) and couch (Jason) with another full bath and half bath, a Jacuzzi, laundry, Internet and, best of all, an incredible view.

 Our bedroom...nice to wake up to every day!
 Jerry's pull-out bed and bathroom.
 Jacuzzi in the penthouse.
 Kitchen area...useful during pre-race dinner!
 Living room area
Picture from the balcony!

After unloading our bags, we went back to the airport to pick up Jerry and Jason. This time, we took the toll road, which was part of last year’s Ironman course. Thank goodness they changed the course…that toll road is very challenging with long, steep inclines. We dropped off bags and then headed to the expo. It was a pretty small expo, but it still created that excited feeling and I began feeling confident about my race. Even though we saw SO many people with Kona shoes, Kona clothes, etc., I felt confident in my training and in my race plan and was ready to put it to the test.
 Signs like this were everywhere in the expo.
Our backpacks!

We all came back to our place to change into lighter clothes and headed downtown to search for one of our favorite restaurants, Pancho’s, that we ate at on our honeymoon. 30 minutes later, we gave up on trying to find the place and ate at Mi Casa, another one of our favorites, instead. Even though it was only 8:00pm Cabo time when we arrived back at our place (a 15-mile drive from downtown Cabo), we were wiped and went to bed.

Enjoying some Mi Casa

Race week—Friday, March 28 (2 days out):
On Friday morning, Ryan, Coach Bill (who was staying with us), Jerry, Jason and I drove down to the Palmilla Resort, where the swim would be starting. We wanted to test out our wetsuits (Ryan and I did wear them in the pool at Life Time, but obviously that’s not the same as open water swimming, especially in salt water). We met Bill’s friend, Meagan and her training partner Rob, as well. As I was getting zipped into my wetsuit, Ryan panicked. My zipper had gone off track and I was pretty much stuck in a non-working wetsuit. I really did not want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a wetsuit, but that seemed like it might be our only option. Luckily, after a good ten minutes of throwing my body all over the place, Ryan and Jerry got me out of the wetsuit and fixed the zipper.

Not so lucky: the water conditions for our swim. The buoys marking the designated swim practice area were about half the distance of the 2.4-mile swim we’d be doing on Sunday. Bill had us swim to each buoy, meet up, and then go off to the next. This was a nice strategy since none of us had been in open water for quite some time. Ryan and Bill both commented on how my form looked much better, which was encouraging since I had been working my butt off in the pool since Kona. At one point, as we were swimming into the current, I was pretty sure the waves were strong enough to rip the earrings out of my ears. It was miserable, and we all talked about how bad race day would be if the waves were how they were.

After getting out of the water, we overheard a girl (with incredible abs, like even better than those girls in the underpants run pictures I posted from Kona) talking to another couple. They asked her how she was hoping to do, and she told them she wanted to win it. Spoiler alert: this girl finished the race in less than 10 hours...and just happened to be in my age group. We'll get back to this.

We left the swim to go grab breakfast quickly and we were in for quite the treat. We ate at the Tropicana Inn, right by where the finish line of the race would be, and it was just phenomenal. It was nice to relax and just hang out with the group. After breakfast, we went back to Mykonos so that we could get a quick run in prior to going to the 1:30pm athlete meeting. Ryan, Jason, Jerry and I ran 5 miles on parts of the run course to see how “flat” it really was. There were a few solid inclines that we all knew would be challenging come lap three of the run on race day. The athlete meeting was packed, but we were glad to attend (even though it was “mandatory”) since there were a lot of good reminders given.

Our AWESOME EGO p/b Sammy's Castelli kits

Ryan and I went back to Mykonos so he could build our bikes. We went for a good 30-minute ride just to test out our bikes and make sure shifting was working well. Mykonos is right on Highway 1 (where the bike portion of the race is), but it’s a very busy street. Bill and Steve told us how they were fearing for their lives during their hour long ride on Thursday, and Ryan and I definitely felt those same feelings during our ride. Despite having a speed limit of 75 km/hr, cars were speeding well over 100 km/hr (60+mph), so when the shoulder of the road would disappear as it did a few times, I found myself crossing my fingers and cursing in my head. Luckily, we made it back just fine, and showered and got ready to head to dinner. This time, we were determined to find Pancho’s, and we did just that.
Finally found it!

Race week—Saturday, March 29 (1 day out):
Saturday morning, I woke up early to get a quick run in. As any of my former coaches can attest to, I do not do well with a big taper, so getting a good 4-5 mile run in the day before an Ironman just feels “right” to me. Ryan and I rode another 30 minutes with Bill as well, just to get that feeling of outdoor riding back into our legs. We all went out to breakfast at Habenero’s, a delicious, Yelp highly-rated, restaurant right on the run course. $10 USD for breakfast (including coffee) is pretty hard to beat! 

Another amazing breakfast!

We went back to Mykonos to pack up our transition bags (and do some grad school, real school [teaching], and Life Time work for me!). It was kind of a hassle to drop off our bikes since cars were not allowed down where the swim was. We walked our bikes a good ½ mile down the long, hilly road that led to the swim. All of us realized the same thing at about the same time: this lovely long downhill would be greeting us as we went from swim to bike. We dropped off our bikes and headed back to grab some groceries at the Mega (like a Walmart).

All bags ready for drop-off!

Check out all those bikes!
Twinsies! Thanks Sammy's for the AWESOME P5's!
I filled up my bike bottles with what I hoped would be my winning combination. For Kona, we had things down to a science that had been tested on multiple 100+ mile rides outside. Unfortunately, we did not have that luxury this time around, so I did the math and decided to use 14 raspberry Power Gels plus 1.5 tbsp salt plus 2 scoops of Power Bar Perform (sports drink). I would also use 2.5 packages of gel blasts and thrown in a Power Bar Peanut Butter and Jelly bar in case.

Bread is a must for this carb-lovin' girl!

Ryan and I decided that we wanted to cook our own dinner the night before the race since sometimes the stress and hassle of going out to eat just isn’t worth it. We grabbed some nice steaks, vegetables, bread and spinach to make a delicious dinner. Steve made a killer salad, Ryan’s dad grilled our vegetables and filets, and I grabbed a Sol out of the frig. My pre-race tradition of lean red meat and a beer was complete. We went to bed around 9pm, ready and excited for the next 24 hours.


RACE DAY: Sunday, March 30:
When my alarm went off at 4:30am, I had no problem waking up (probably because that’s actually 6:30am Chicago time, which is basically sleeping in). I ate a banana and Berry Power Bar, grabbed my transition bags, and Ryan, Bill and I headed out with Jerry. The plan was to drop us off in front of Palmilla since we would not be allowed to drive down. The rental van we had been driving up to this point was not very reliable and had died (but restarted fine) a few times. Unfortunately for Jerry, the car died for good right as we coasted into the Palmilla. Unable to do much about it, Ryan, Bill and I left and made our way to the swim. We dropped off our run and bike special needs bags and went to get body marked.

The numbering of this Ironman was kind of crappy. At Eagleman and Kona, we were numbered based on our age groups, so it was pretty clear who was competing against who. Ironman Los Cabos assigned numbers in the order that registration was done: I was 720 and Ryan was 721. I would only know who was in my age group if I could see a letter “P” on their leg (which often times fade away during the swim, as was the case with many people at this race).

After making sure our tires were pumped, our bottles (and Garmin, which is used to show our watts) were on our bikes, and sunscreen was lathered on, we all got in line to head to the swim start. Ryan and Bill went up near the front, and Steve and I hung near the middle-back. That poor choice could have cost us both a lot more time.

I should probably note right away that it was really stinking hot. Jerry said the temperature was 86 degrees, with a “feels like” of 94. While it was windy on the bike, there was absolutely no shade on the run. Of the 1,100 participants registered, only 675 actually finished the race. Over 30% did not finish, many due to heat.

Ryan had told me prior to leaving for Cabo that I needed to place myself in the middle of the pack for the beach swim start. Not being confident in my swim, I chose to start in the middle-back of the pack with Steve. Unfortunately, there were a lot of slower swimmers than me (pretty hard to imagine, but true!) and I spent a good portion of the first strip out fighting my way around these slower swimmers.

The swim felt incredibly long. Most of that feeling was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t swam in open water or in a wetsuit since Kona, but wow did I feel out of shape. I program my Garmin wristwatch to beep/vibrate at every ½ mile of the swim. When the first beep hit, I was shocked to see that I was only a ½ mile into the swim, as I felt as though I had been swimming for at least 30 minutes. When I swim in a triathlon, I am very good at sticking to the inside so that I swim the least amount possible (and am more alone this way too). I did have one encounter with a person who just grabbed my ankle, and I had to pause to double check that my chip hadn’t fallen off. When I finally saw our final turn and could see the chute, I could not have been more excited. This was by far the hardest swim I have experienced, primarily because I know I was not fully prepared for it having only swam in my wetsuit (a new, nice Profile Design one) twice prior to the race.

 I could come up with a lot of captions for this...
 Mass beach start.
 Definitely not in the front
 But look how pretty!
 Somewhere out there!
 Coach Bill: first amateur out of the water!
I'm in the green cap next to the guy with both hands in the air!

Swim stats
Overall time -- 1:10:08
Place -- 376th overall, 69th female, 6th in age group
Splits—13:45, 14:11, 14:24, 15:14, 12:45 (0.45mile).

TRANSITION 1: (3:26)
The swim to bike transition included running out of the water, onto carpet-covered sand, which was about ¼ mile in total. Naturally, I enjoyed this as it not only gave me time to take off my wetsuit, but I also would bet I was running faster than most people during that time. In transition, I had the girls lather me up with sunscreen, which would prove to be very beneficial come later in the race.

 Headin' out of transition
 Beautiful, right?
Fun? not so much.

After running through the sand in transition, I realized (too late) that I should have had a towel at my bike to wipe off my feet. As soon as I started the climb out of Palmilla, I could feel the rocks from the sand digging into my arches. Luckily, I could only really feel it when I was out of the saddle, climbing, but it was annoying nonetheless.

The course itself consisted of going 16 miles from Palmilla to the entrance to Cabo San Lucas, turning around and taking those same 16 miles back, going down another 5-10 miles, turning around, making a loop up to the airport, and then doing it all over again. This was a three-loop course, which sounds manageable on paper, but is actually miserable when competing! There was never really a “flat” section; you were either going up or down an incline.

Three loops of these inclines!

My goal with all of my splits was to be as close to 15 minutes as possible as that would give me a 20mph average on the bike.  This bike course was said to be as hard or harder than Kona, so my goal seemed reasonable. My power was all over the place and my average ended up being below what I averaged in Kona, which was frustrating since my riding has come a long way since October. Steve had told us the night before that we would experience a total vertical change of 8,800 feet (4,400 in climbing; 4,400 in descending), so I knew my splits would vary quite a bit depending on which portion of the course they were on.

The first five miles were some of the harder portions of the bike course. I expected my first five-mile split to be slow and it was. The closer we got to the actual town of Cabo San Lucas, the easier the riding was. I personally felt that going out was easier than coming back. During my first of three loops going out, I saw a guy literally flip over his bike when grabbing a bottle from an aide station, so made sure to remind myself to slow down a bit when aide stations were coming up.

Every aide station, I grabbed a bottle of water and poured it into my bottle in between my aero bars. I was a little nervous since that bottle was never actually empty as it was in Kona. The nutrition plan in Kona was to go through the entire aero bottle full of water in between each aide station to stay properly hydrated. While I was drinking quite a bit in the race, I never once finished my aero bottle prior to arriving at an aide station in Cabo.

In terms of nutrition, I have one main bottle that I have on my bike frame that contains all of the carbs/sodium/calories I need. I mix my gels with my salt and Power Bar Perform, shake it up and enjoy. I did a spot-on job with my nutrition, making sure to take a swig from my gel-mix bottle every time my 5-mile split on my Garmin beeped. On the times where I didn’t feel as though I could stomach the mixture, I ate a gel blast or two and even had three times where I ate the PowerBar, which also felt fine on my stomach. I was pretty pleased with my nutrition on the bike.

Around mile 40, I came up to my friend Steve (also coached by Bill) and we talked quickly about our swim before I saw a girl I had been trying to catch all race. Steve told me to go for it, and I sure did. Around mile 100, I finally caught up to Meagan (another athlete coached by Bill) and she yelled to me, “Go get it girl!” and I blame her for my faster last ten milesJ

The bike course measured a touch short based on my wrist and bike Garmins, but I was just happy to be off of the bike. The road to transition consisted of a few speed bumps, which I just flew (like off the air) over. I got my feet out of my shoes and dismounted….only to almost fall completely over my bike. I was pretty worried about the run after having that experience.

Bike Stats:
Time -- 5:41:40 (19.67mph average)
Place -- 174th overall / 28th female / 4th in age group
Splits—16:45 (17.9), 14:43 (20.4), 15:03 (19.9), 16:31 (18.2), 14:08 (21.2), 15:39 (19.2), 15:07 (18.6), 16:58 (17.7), 14:47 (20.3), 16:02 (18.7), 14:07 (21.2), 15:48 (19.0), 14:29 (20.7), 15:48 (19.0), 15:46 (19.0), 17:08 (17.5), 15:27 (19.4), 16:00 (18.7), 15:40 (19.1), 13:59 (21.4), 14:51 (20.2), 14:55 (20.1), :52 (14.8 for last 0.22)

TRANSITION 2: (2:37)
I cannot believe how fast this transition was. I found my bag quickly, gave it to the volunteer, telling her I had to go to the bathroom, was in the porta-potty for what seemed like at least 2 minutes, had the girls lather me in sunscreen, and even had to tie my shoelaces. In Kona, I used the speed lace contraptions they were putting on shoes for athletes, but decided to just waste the maybe 30 seconds and tie my shoelaces since that’s what I’m used to.

I was shocked to see that my overall time on my watch was 6 hours 58 minutes after the swim and bike since it was 7hours flat at Kona. Ryan and I had been told by a lot of people that Cabo is a more challenging Ironman than Kona, so my only time goal was to hit 10:20 again. I was pretty excited knowing that I just had to run a 3:22 marathon and I’d tie my Kona time.

RUN: 3:10:27 (7:17 pace), fastest female amateur!, 2nd fastest amateur overall (guys included, the one who beat my time ran a 3:06), 2nd fastest female split (a pro ran a 3:02)

Typing my time does not seem real considering the fact that I almost fell off my bike coming into transition 2. My only goal on the run was to not stop. I was really frustrated with my run in Kona since I had to stop six times because of my blisters. It was a mind game I was playing with myself: my blisters were so bad that I told myself if I could make it two miles, I could walk through the aide station and then start running again. It worked very well for me, but I was not about to repeat that in Cabo. I wanted to run the entire time, regardless of how bad blisters got. I even went and had a pedicure the Tuesday before race day to get off all of the callouses on my feet in hopes of avoiding any and all potential blisters.
 Run course photos:

I had no idea what pace I started off the run at, besides feeling that my breathing was easy but my legs were not moving. The crowd support was awesome, with people telling me I was “flying” and “hauling,” but again I had no sense of true pace until my watch beeped. When I saw the 6:50, I knew that I had to keep pushing hard for the first part of the race, since the second part is where the blisters would occur. Steve had told us that, with this being his first Ironman ever, he was using the mentality that this marathon was simply 26 x 1-mile repeats. I used this as well and think it was a huge help.

In terms of nutrition, when I grabbed my items from the girl who gave me my transition bag, I noticed she only gave me one of my two Kona Punch PowerGels (yes, the “Kona” flavor was purposely planned….a mental boost during the run). She did, however, give me my Peanut Butter and Jelly Power Bar that was also in the bag. I tried not to think too much of it since Ryan and I had just talked the other day about how some Ironman athletes only use the Gatorade and water on course since they’ve already put so much carbs/sodium/calories into their bodies during the bike. I decided that I would be testing out that theory by default during my Ironman.

The on-course gels were “Fuel 2 Go”….I actually grabbed some, but could never get the package open. It was at mile 8 that I even completely stopped in an attempt to open the gel and just could not do so. At this same mile (during the same time), I had to stop at the porta-potty. As much as I did not want to stop, I knew that there could be extreme ramifications if I continued on without stopping!

The run course was also three loops.

Mile 1 (6:50)/10 (7:21)/19 (7:37): headed out of transition (by Habenero’s), up the incline to the milemark, right by the center of downtown

Mile 2 (6:42)/11 (7:10)/20 (7:16): downtown all the way to the little roundabout, up again another steady incline. We took a little out and back to the Mega, then down another street, just to come back up the street and hit the mile mark

Mile 3 (6:46)/12 (7:08)/21 (7:17): we came back up that incline, past where the first mile mark was, and down past where the host hotel was to hit the mile mark. It was in the first loop of my run, second loop of her run, that I passed eventual female pro winner Linsey Corbin (a fellow Saucony athlete). To be able to do this was HUGE for me and she was as shocked as I was. It was also at this point on lap two that I realized, if I could just run 7:30 pace for the last 14 miles, I’d break my 10:20 best Ironman time.

Mile 4 (6:59)/13 (7:22)/22 (7:29): we passed transition, turned right and headed up and over a bridge before splitting this mile. I always grabbed Gatorade here, but it was at the top of the bridge when I was totally out of breath. Not nice.

Mile 5 (7:00)/14 (7:21) /23 (7:17): After crossing the bridge, we went around a roundabout where our special needs bags were. I passed this up the first time, but grabbed my socks, two Power Bars and my blister blocks the second time around thinking I might change my socks. Unfortunately, I bent down to see if my shoes were soaked… and they were… so I knew changing my socks (even if I did put on the blister block) would not actually help me out.

Mile 6 (7:02)/15 (7:36)/24 (7:22): we headed into a dirt path area where we had a lovely uphill with poor footing. My one and only gel fell out of my jersey pocket at mile 6, but I told myself I’d just pick it up next loop (which I absolutely did).

Mile 7 (7:12)/16 (7:45)/25 (7:24): finally out of the dirt path area, we had another little out and back to complete.

Mile 8 (8:00)/17 (7:42)/26 (6:56, last 0.2 at 6:45 pace): We headed back over the bridge and off to another little out and back. This out and back felt much longer than any of the others, despite only being ½ a mile long. This is where I took my one and only break (bathroom) on the first loop.

Mile 9 (7:10)/18 (7:34): Passing the transition was fun since each lap meant another one down, and that much closer to the finish.

 Feelin' GOOD
 ...not lookin so good...

My nutrition, despite losing my gel in transition and dropping another, felt perfect. At every single aide station (approximately every 0.62 miles), I grabbed two cups of water and a cup of Gatorade. The first cup of water and the cup of Gatorade ended with a sip or two making it into my mouth and the next cup of water I’d grab would be used to cool off my body. I’d either throw the water on my back, on my arms/hands (if I spilled Gatorade on myself) or on my head when I’d tip it back. I tried avoiding splashing water on the front of my body as that’s what caused the blisters in Kona, but water did end up in my shoes regardless.

Around mile 3, my timing chip bracelet began digging into the skin on my right ankle. It was probably a combination of water/Gatorade/sand just causing discomfort, but I was expecting to look down and see my formerly white shoes covered in blood. Luckily that wasn’t the case, but I also wasn’t totally off the hook quite yet.

At mile 10, my left big toe began really causing me a lot of pain. I knew I was getting a blister, but was not about to do stop and try to change my socks if my shoes were wet as that would clearly defeat the purpose. After literally stopping to bend down to see if my shoes were wet (maybe costing me 10 seconds), I had to just be tough mentally for the remainder of the race. Even though I took a picture of the aftermath, I will spare you the disgusting image of my giant blister. The blister truly looked like a growth on my big toe. Right in between my big toe and second toe was a blister the size of my second toe. How it did not pop during the marathon is still beyond me, but the pain was definitely validated when I saw how big that thing was.

 Can you believe I'm smiling during this?!

The best part of this marathon was the crowd support. People were going crazy when I was running by (as I’m sure was the case with all runners), just saying how fast I was flying. Many, “Vamos chica, Vamos, muy rapido, muy bien” comments were made, just fueling my fire.

It wasn’t until Mile 20 that I passed two girls who I kept seeing in the race, thinking they were in my “P” age group (female 25-29). Sure enough, my intuition was correct and it felt amazing to go past these girls that I had been chasing the entire race.

Unfortunately, at Mile 22, I started feeling a little out of it. While my times somehow do not reflect that, I was definitely freaking out. I opened the PowerBar I had grabbed at special needs during lap two and started eating it. I told myself I would take a bite each mile to get through these last few miles, fearful that all of my hard work to pass these girls would unravel in the last half hour of the race.

 SO close to finishing strong!

Luckily, this mentality worked and I made it through each mile. At 25.5, I saw fellow Crystal Lake Ironman Greg Cherne and he just lost it. He asked if it was my last lap, I told him it was, and he went ballistic. He was cheering like crazy and I couldn’t help but show my excitement in my speed to the finish.

"Jacqui Giuliano, YOU are an IRONMAN!!!"

The finish is actually uphill, which was definitely horrible, but WOW did it feel good to go past the “More laps/Finish line” sign and into the “Finish line” group. I made sure to sprint this last part so that I could avoid the poor finish photo I took in Kona. I even raised BOTH arms over my head this time, so hope this picture turns out better than my Kona finish picture.

Time -- 3:10:27 (7:16 mile pace)
Place -- 65th overall / 11th female including pros / 2nd amateur female / 2nd female in age group
Run splits —6:50, 6:42, 6:46, 6:59, 7:00, 7:02, 7:12, 8:00, 7:10, 7:21, 7:10, 7:08, 7:22, 7:21, 7:36, 7:45, 7:42, 7:34, 7:37, 7:16, 7:17, 7:29, 7:17, 7:22, 7:24, 6:56, :57 (6:34 pace).

Post-Race Recap:
Post-race, I saw Ryan, Jerry and Jason almost immediately. They were absolutely stunned with my run split and overall time. I went through the food line, grabbed my t-shirt and medal, and headed into the massage tent. On my way out, a guy stopped me to tell me that I ran his wife down in the last mile (she was the 1st place female in the 30-34 age group) and he was wondering what my run split was. He looked it up and I was ecstatic to see a 3:10:27!! He told me the girl who won my age group was also the first place amateur female, making me the second place amateur female. Remember that girl with the great abs that said she planned to win the whole race when we saw her during our swim practice on Friday? Yeah, that’s the girl that won the whole freaking thing. She also podiumed in Kona 2012…so I don’t feel bad that she beat me at all!

We knew as soon as he finished that Ryan qualified for Kona. He was 2nd in his age group, which is one of the largest age groups, so we knew he'd have a slot. For me, the chances were slim since I had a small age group and placed 2nd in it. We had to wait until the Slot Allocation on Monday at 4pm to find out if I qualified. Luckily, we had plenty of things to do in the meantime...

 Walking around the Marina
 Another March Arc tour with my love

 Hangin' with the captain 
The group!

I think the pictures speak for themselves...

We're goin' back to Kona!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 M Dot awards! 2nd place age groupers!

Overall, reflecting on this race, I am much happier with my performance here than in Kona. Being my first Ironman ever, I didn’t know what to expect in Kona so am still happy with that race, but had things I wanted to change for Cabo. My swim is still an area in which I need major help, so I am hoping I can cut a big chunk of time off from that come Kona round two. My bike went as expected. Ryan noted that most people were about 10 minutes slower than their bike in Kona, and I was only 7 minutes slower, so I was happy with that. My run can be improved if I can figure out how to stop getting these darn blisters.

As always, thank you everyone for your support. Coming back to Mykonos and seeing all of the texts and Facebook posts/messages just made me tear up and smile so big. Huge shout out to EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes for our awesome bikes, wheels, and uniforms that powered us throughout the race.


amy said...

love this! i am very impressed how you can remember all the details from the race and also very impressed with your race result. keep it up, you'll be on top the podium in no time :)

walt calder said...

Great performance, Great write up.
Have you tried Injinji toe socks? They would take longer to put on with damp feet, but it may be worth it.
I used to get blisters between my toes on most runs over 5 miles. I have not had one with these socks.

jacqui said...

Thanks Amy!! I don't know how I remember the details! Thanks Walt! I'm definitely going to try them...where do you buy them? Worth trying for sure!:)

Meagan Bradley said...

Jacqui, Not sure why you crossed my mind today, but you did. And I read about your knee ... I'm sorry. There's not much more you can say about that! Believe in the powers that be. I 100% "get" what you said about going to Church, prayer, etc. When the time is right, it will be right. There's no doubt, you're gonna get it! And then I read this post about Cabo. It actually made my giggle. Go get it girl - was about ALL I could muster up at that point!!! Great to read it motivated you. The pictures look like paradise and make the pain and heat seemingly something I may have made up in my mind?!! All the best my dear. Keep your eyes on the prize. You're one heck of an athlete.