Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fun + Hard Core: Iron Girl 2010 Race Report

What can I say about this race?

So much fun! With some hard core elements.

I decided to do Iron Girl after being sherpa for my friend Leslie last year. And then renewed that decision when Izaac peer pressured me and Kelly to sign up. Honestly, I'd never been drawn to woman only races. And until Iron Girl arrived there were none here locally.

I heard somewhere that 70% of the women doing this race were first time triathletes. Haven't been able to find that stat so I'm not sure if that is an overall Iron Girl stat, particular to this race, accurate or inaccurate. From my own scientific observations, there were a TON of first timers at this race.

The announcers were very first timer friendly, and very motivational. As I was setting up in transition I heard them say something along the lines of Iron Girl promotes health and wellness for women and shows women they can do anything they set their mind to. At that point my gratitude meter for the day went over the top and I teared up a little.

I was under trained going into this race.

So much has been going on lately in my business and life that what I really wanted, more than anything, was to have fun with this race.

Truly that is all I wanted.

Under trained or not, I am a 3+ year triathlete, this is a sprint race, and I knew that I could handle this course and do pretty well if I kept myself in a good place mentally.

Mission: Accomplished!! Hot DAMN!

Leslie picked me up at 5am and we arrived in transition a little after 5:30. I was feeling very low key, not nervous at all (which is highly unusual for me). It was a relief to simply not allow any stress in, and feel very happy and grateful to be there. These were very strong feelings that I've not felt this intensely since Silverman in 2008.

There were nearly 900 women signed up and the swim was a time trial start. Leslie and I positioned ourselves in the middle of the line and I was impressed by how quickly the line moved. This was my first time trial start.

Here is a photo (taken by Tony Taylor) of the swim start. In a time trial start, the athletes line up and every 5 seconds or so, two or three girls get in and start swimming. This repeats until everyone has gotten in.

Tony snapped this picture of Leslie and me moments before we jumped in (I'm on the right):

Then he snapped this one as I jumped in and started to swim!

Glenn and his father (who just happened to be visiting during this weekend) were part of the swim support team. Glenn drove one of the larger boats. These are a couple of photos from the boat:

The weather and water temperature could not have been more perfect. Though I had no specific time goal for the 800 meter swim I knew that somewhere around 20 minutes is what I've been doing. My last swim before this was about 10 days ago in the pool.

After swimming out from the beach and under the bridge, the course was a clearly marked triangle, which we swum around counter clockwise. Never have I seen so much swim support at a race. The water was filled with surfboards, kayaks and the larger boats, all there to support us.

There was even a lane line placed under the bridge to keep incoming and outgoing swimmers separate.

I got out of the water feeling good! As it happens Leslie got out at the same time! She looked at her watch and said "22 minutes." Sweeeet!

It was a long hike from the beach to transition. Tony was there with his camera and snapped a couple of photos!

Ready to strip the wetsuit off and get my cycling gear ON.

This is a genuine smile. At this point I was thinking YAY I get to go for a little bike ride now. I am SO HAPPY to be here doing this and so grateful that I CAN do this. Sappy? Maybe. But it's how I felt and it was exactly the energy I wanted to be in for this race.

Tony snapped these shots of me leaving transition with my bike:

I knew this was going to be a good ride when there was no hesitation, mental or physical. Just got on the bike, clipped in and zoomed around and past the couple of girls who were either hesitant or struggling to get clipped in. I felt smooth as silk and ready to GO.

This was an 18 mile ride, the first couple of which were the hills up and out of the Lake Las Vegas Resort (anyone who has been there knows what I'm talking about). The first hill, near the back end of the Loews parking lot, royally sucked. I got passed by quite a few girls and for a second my mind went there, to that dark place . . .crap I'm under trained . . . oh God remember the Utah Half Iron bike leg that was the worst . . . can I really do this without being totally spent . . .

Then just as quickly the feeling passed, mostly because I said to myself "fuck that noise! I don't HAVE to go there!" So I pulled out a Shot Blok, drank some water, and cranked away up that hill. By the time I got to the second hill I was back in that energy of gratitude, I can DO this, I am awesome, look at all these awesome women out here doing this I GET to do this with them! Woot!

By the time I got up and out of the resort I was on fire! From the point on the course was fast and fun! I got into a rhythm and just enjoyed it. Rode aero for most of the time and started picking people off. On the bike normally my mind will tell me to hold back . . . either to conserve energy for later or because I get nervous to go "too fast." Not this time! This time my mind kept telling me to go for it! As a result I had my best feeling ride ever! Time seemed to warp as the miles flew by and it felt like I was out there for less than an hour. In reality my time was somewhere between 1:20 and 1:28.

[Caveat: My bike time is my best guess since I had not reset my bike computer before leaving transition and there are no "official" times for me on this race. Don't get me started on that -- it is the one negative point and I don't want to dwell on it. I do find it a bit "ironic" that for the one race I was truly not racing for time there are no times for me. Perhaps this is not a coincidence. In hindsight I would love to have known my official time for the bike leg especially since I did so well and felt so good but it's not to be]

Coming into transition off the bike I felt tons of energy. I was absolutely pumped UP that I had done so well and felt so good!

Running up the steep hill out of transition I knew that this 5k would be the toughest part of the race for me. Little did I know just how tough. . .


What happened next still kind of floors me. Nothing like this has happened before and I hope to not experience this again.

Just after leaving transition, making my way up the hill to get to the desert and the rest of the run course, my right ankle turned, buckled, and completely gave out. I went down. HARD. So hard that my right shoulder hit the ground and my nose touched the asphalt.

There were a few seconds of pure action, no thought. Pushed myself up, sat on the curb, and waved away the girls behind and around me asking if I was okay. I felt immobilized. Picture in the cartoons where someone crashes and those little birds are chirping in a circle over their head. That's what it felt like.

My left knee was gashed and scraped and blood was running down my leg. My left hand was scraped and bleeding. And my ankle . . . holy crap! Fortunately Leslie's husband Kym was right there and saw it happen. I think he was as shocked as I was.

I got up, said "Kym I don't know what to do" took a couple of shaky steps and sat down in the soft cool grass. Everything hurt. As I started to get my wits back my first thought was "my ankle is okay I make this run no problem." But I needed to sit a bit longer. I grabbed handfuls of grass and tried to mop the blood from my knee. The bleeding had stopped. Kym and I had a few more words -- don't remember exactly what they were, I stood up, had my bearings back, thanked him for being there, and got back on the course.

From the first step I knew things were okay. This would be a slow 5k but it would be fine. Felt a wave of gratitude wash over me and continued on at a slow jog. Ankle had stabilized and it felt a little stiff but capable.

The first person I saw cheering on the athletes as we entered the desert was none other than Frank Lowery, Silverman Race Director!


Gave him a big hug. Told him I fell. He asked if I needed water for my scrapes and I said no I'll take care of it later. Got a hug from his wife Meg too. Awesome doesn't begin to cover what I was feeling here.

The first mile of the run course has a huge, steep downhill in it. Jogging down bothered my ankle so I walked down. No problem! The ankle felt a little stiff but still stable. Throughout the run I visualized the blood circulating to it, helping it be strong and flexible. I knew as long as I watched my footing it would come through for me.

Time seemed to warp here too and it felt like I made it to the 1.5 mile turnaround in about 10 minutes. Saw Kelly near the turnaround!!! On the 1.5 miles back I alternated between jogging and walking. A girl came up next to me and said "Wow you are hard core." Yeah!

If she only knew how hard core I truly am! Honestly after the initial shock and the initial pain wore off this felt like no big deal. I've had to deal with so much more, mentally, weather wise, and mechanically on various courses that this felt like nothing more than a minor glitch.

So it felt like I was out on the run course for maybe half an hour. In reality I'm not sure. 40 minutes? 45? I wasn't wearing a watch and Glenn estimates 40 minutes so somewhere around there. Slow, yes! The feeling I had while out there: Priceless!

After getting another hug from Frank and Meg on the way back it was all downhill to the finish!

Tony was waiting to snap another photo:

Finish felt GREAT!!! Felt like I came through for myself yet AGAIN as I've developed the habit of doing ever since I started training for Silverman all those years ago. Well it's only been 3.5 years but in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.

Here are a couple of post race shots:

Telling Glenn about what happened on the run course!

Getting my knee fixed up in the medical tent.

Me, Kelly and Leslie at the post race breakfast. We are Iron Girls!

POST RACE (the next day):

The ankle is swollen, stiff and painful so I'm resting it and treating it with ice, a topical ointment that Leslie gave me, and care. It actually feels much better than yesterday afternoon but I'm staying off of it for as long as it takes for a full recovery.

Other than that I have no residual soreness other than I can feel it a bit in my shoulders from riding aero on the bike. YAY!!

I received everything I wanted and more from this race and am very glad and grateful that things went down the way they did.


Carolina John said...

wow, that is pretty hard core steph! finishing with a bloody knee is certainly less than ideal. But you mentally pushed through a physical challenge, and that is something to be proud of. Well done!

Lisa said...

You know,I fell running from the swim to bike transition in my very first triathlon (wet feet on pavement...taking a turn too fast) and split my chin open. So I have some idea how it must have been to go down and end up with a sore ankle and bloody knee. Not a lot of fun. But one more obstacle to overcome and know just what you are made of.


p.s. I think I would actually enjoy an untimed race. Certainly takes the pressure off!

Wes said...

THAT'S MY STEPH!! Woo hoo!! You go, gurrrl! What's up with these timing companies these days? Losing time all over the country. Glad you rocked it though! Well done :-)

Formulaic said...

You are awesome! You looked great out there and really rocked it.

Can't believe how you overcame the run and it is just another testament to how tenacious you are.

Aero? Now you ARE badass!

paulag said...

Congratulations Stef! This is SUCH a great story...and this energy is you in motion, you in your business, you in your life. Excellent to note that moment of regrouping "Am I truly injured? Or is this an obstacle?" As someone who has made stupid, stupid decisions to continue and create serious injury - that moment of checking inside - tremendous for you & resulting in a great outcome.

My only advice -- arnica for the ankle -- topically and homeopathic (oral). It works miracles.

Julie said...

What a great race report! You are hard Core! I love your attitude. This is the first year for Iron Girl Tri in Boulder and I'm excited to be doing it this year.

ShirleyPerly said...

Way to go, Stef!!!

Man, do I know what you went through rolling your ankle on the run. It's never fun to fall and get hurt but picking yourself up and finishing nevertheless is one of the greatest feelings ever, I think.

And funny that you too did not have your race results recorded for some reason. That also happened to me recently at a marathon. We must be traveling in parallel universes.

Hope your ankle is feeling better soon. Congrats on your race and on having fun!!

John Shields' Blog said...

This blog is good.

John Shields' Blog said...

Really cool blog overall.

Sherry said...

Ouch! Wow! Tough chica you are!!! You have my respect. I've gone down in a race before... right at the bike dismount in front of a gazillion people. I think it shows a lot of courage to get back up and keep on going even when the pain is kickin' and the blood if flowing. Bravo to you!

Congrats on your race! I love races that cater to new athletes like Danskin & IronGirl. I just love the excitement in the air. Everyone is just so chill and happy to be there (unlike those very 'intense' veteran-esque races). Anyway, I love reliving that feeling of "my first tri" via the newcomers. It's such a life-changing experience!

Formulaic said...

Thanks for supporting me out there!

I thought of all you guys while I was out there.