So the Universe is Against You: 2015 IM Wales Race Report

Finally a race report! I’ve been very delinquent on my blog lately, but how fitting to publish my first and last races of 2015. I will do a proper summary of my entire summer in a future post, I just wanted to get my Wales race report out before people forgot I even went. I don’t usually like to get into the nitty gritty about a race, but I feel like the details played such a huge part in how my race went and the lessons I learned, that I feel the need to spend a little extra time explaining.

I’m not one to complain about much leading up to races (I definitely complain at other times) because I want to ignore anything that may be feeling off or not right and protect my overall mental state. This typically works well for me and I can get to a race feeling prepared and positive. But things got completely out of hand leading up to Wales.

First, and most significantly, I got in a bike accident two weeks before the race. I hit a child on a razor scooter. It happened so fast I didn’t swerve or hit my breaks, I just went full speed into the girl and her scooter. I vividly remember my body slamming into her right before I did some fancy Cirque du Soleil move landing hard on my shoulder and hip (she was ok besides a bloody lip). Luckily I didn’t hit my head or land on an outstretched arm, but right when I hit I could tell I did something to my shoulder. I made sure to move my arm and check the bones to see that everything was in place, but there was weirdness and tingling, which I knew wasn’t good. On my pathetic ride home, I pretty quickly lost range of motion in my arm and was more or less hysterical getting into my house. I went straight to the hospital for x-rays and once those all came back negative, I knew that moving it ASAP was critical or it was going to be impossible to swim. Thankfully, over the last year, I have built a great relationship with my chiropractor, Dr. Grove at Grove Sport and Spine, she was able to work me in almost every day for the week before I left for Wales. She got range of motion back in the first day and then taped me up so I could at least bike and run. I was back swimming a week later albeit painfully and slow, but I knew at a minimum I could make it through the race.

So this was major, but I chose to completely suppress the issue, embrace the extra rest and otherwise not talk about it. Then the Friday before we left, we were informed by the sponsoring travel agency that despite booking in advance and paying in full two months ago, we actually didn’t have accommodations the Thursday before the race, which was right in the middle of our stay. Considering I’m incredibly anal about sleeping arrangements and travel plans, this news launched me into orbit. I’m talking epic meltdown, luckily (or not so luckily) my mom and dad were also displaced so my mom took care of everything and adequately expressed her (our) extreme displeasure.

At this point, I should have taken a hint and stayed home until we left on Monday, but we had a wedding in NJ, so we packed up our bikes and went north for our final training weekend. Right before we left, I got the brilliant idea to change cleats on my shoes, and during this process I discovered the screw holes in the shoes were completely corroded, which meant I couldn’t attach the cleat tight enough so they wouldn’t move. Lovely. Just because they say never try anything new on race day, I picked up a brand new pair of bike shoes (Thanks Parvilla!!) 24 hours before we flew out to Wales.

At this point I was seriously considering not going and I told my mom to just cancel the whole trip. I think if we hadn’t paid in full for everything already this would have been a serious consideration, but we sucked it up and to Wales we went!

I mean seriously, things didn’t end there but Wales was so beautiful it was hard to care at that point. I loved everything about this place and I knew that even if the race went poorly I wouldn’t regret the trip one bit. All I can say is I am so thankful my parents showed up and were able to take care of all our issues because I’m not sure I could have handled any more stress at that point.

Swim course – start/finish by the rock just off to the left

By the time the race rolled around I was more or less relaxed, just insanely nervous. We were able to preview most of the course and without exception, it was going to be hard. Even the swim had been super rough. I was pulling out all the tricks trying to tell myself how fun (!) this would be and how much I LOVE riding my bike, etc. but mentally I was having serious issues.

Per usual, the race didn’t care that I wasn’t ready and before I knew it the gun went off and we were sprinting into the ocean. About half way to the first turn buoy, it was clear this was going to be a rough swim. I was rocking and rolling, the current was strong, and I couldn’t see a single person. This is the first time I’ve ever been completely solo on the swim, although eventually I did catch site of a girl swimming close to me, drafting was out of the question. I was actually surprised the age group race went off, but I guess these are typical conditions for Ironman Wales. I kept chugging along through the swim and joined up with the other girl coming out of the water for our 1k run to transition. No joke, they hung bags with shoes for your run to T1. I quickly changed and headed to the bikes, and noticed very few bikes left on the rack. I knew my swim was slow, so I instantly thought I was last. In reality, I was 3rd and a lot of the Pro Women were “no shows” , but I didn’t think of that at the time.

About two minutes into the bike, screaming downhill out of town, I realized I had forgot my sunglasses. In a way, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, you would have thought I’d lost a shoe. I was trying every mental trick in the book, but nothing worked, I convinced myself I was going to end up blind either from getting hit by a rock or my eyeballs drying out or something. I was out of control. So needless to say the first 40 miles were really bad, and even though I thought I was last out of the swim, I managed to put myself in actual last after 40 miles on the bike (actually second to last), way to go Les.

Can someone please pick me up!

After that, things started to improve. I forgot about the glasses and the miles started to tick away. By the third loop I passed one girl back, this was enough to re-inspire me and I just started crushing the hills. With 5 miles to go, I was passed by Emma Pooley, quite an impressive pro cyclist who has transitioned to Ironman, so I thought, I couldn’t be doing THAT bad.

Then the 4-loop run course. This was hard, but I was determined to run people down and make up for my shitty start. After the first lap my quads were shredded, but I knew I could hang on. Unfortunately, I never passed anyone, but no one passed me either, so I call that a win. I will say the crowd support in Wales is better than anything I’ve ever experienced and I think that’s part of the reason I was able to go so deep right to the end of the race.

Post-race I was a zombie, literally I rushed back to the hotel and laid in the bathtub with a liter of coke. FYI this coke/tub trick has brought my back to life more than once after Ironman. I was able to rally for a nice dinner that evening.

Overall, I was happy with the race finishing 6th and I still made some money. This race definitely highlighted some areas I need to improve, mainly on the bike and I’m looking forward to focusing my time there this winter. I also learned that while I felt like the universe was against me and God didn’t want me to race, I should have spent my time focusing on the all the things that were actually going right. My shoulder heeled enough to race, I was able to purchase a sweet pair of bike shoes that fit, my flight to Wales was empty and I got to lie down across four seats, we didn’t die driving on the left side of the road, we had very nice places to stay in Wales, I could go on and on. I think my race would have been much better if I hadn’t let so many things get to me. But, lesson learned.

After Wales, Nate and I spent a couple days relaxing and touring in Dublin. It was a perfect way to complete the 2015 season.

This is how much I love touring and this is how much Nate loves touring

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Stay tuned for my season overview and my plans for next year!

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