Tuesday, October 25, 2011
F4 Coach/ Athlete Lynnda Best- Wiss is back from Hawaii and shares much wisdom from her experience in her very first Ironman
Kailua-Kona Hawaii. Lynnda’s Ironman World Championship Race Report
The week before the race was unbelievable. The town was packed with “hard bodies” (and a few wanna-be hard bodies like mine!!). You could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. It was really pretty cool! There were give away’s every morning at the practice swim – you just had to be in the right place at the right time (and I wasn’t always in the right place at the right time).
The welcome banquet, held the Thursday before the race, was pretty neat. Started off with some Hawaiian entertainment followed by race info - right as they got to the race info, the skies opened up and it poured rain and just didn’t stop. It was raining so hard no one could hear what was being said! Kind of a fun way to start the official race activities!!
OK…the race. WOW…what an awesome experience!!
I’ve talked to a lot of Kona veterans and they have all said the swim was rough on race day. My strategy was to start about 1/3 back in the pack and stay to the left where it would be hopefully less crowded.
On race morning, I was one of the people standing in the water at the sea wall waiting to go out for the swim start. I didn’t want to go out too early because I didn’t want to tread water for 15-20 minutes before the canon went off. Then I saw that there were a bunch of kayaks out in the crowd and people were hanging on to them. So I swam out and hung on with some on my new BFFs (who had either been there a while or were scared because several of them were shivering…great!!). When the race announcer said 5 minutes to go, I left my new friends and moved away from the kayak. The next thing I knew the canon went off and the race was on.
To say it was the roughest swim I have ever done is putting it mildly – but I guess that is to be expected when you have 1900 people all starting the swim at the same time and it’s in the ocean. Except for the last couple of hundred yards, I was never more than an arm’s length away from a person in front of me or to the side of me, my toes were constantly being touched. The swells were such that it seemed like people magically appeared underneath you.
Although my strategy was to be on the left, I somehow found myself snugged right up to the buoys that were on our right on our way out to the turnaround. I think the current must’ve been pushing us towards them (or we were all sighting on them and naturally ending up by them). I got hit once pretty hard in the face on the way out (she apologized)…outside of that it was just sort of constant contact which made it hard to swim with good form.
As I approached the turnaround boat, I tried to move to the left which was the strategy that Scott and I had discussed. I got a little ways away from the right but was shocked to see that as we turned to go around the boat, we had to swim through sort of a little channel. It was like a funnel….all these people came around the boat turning to the right and we all had to swim through a much narrower space-you couldn’t swing wide which is what I was hoping to do. The contact back there was pretty brutal. I stopped once to check things out and my left hamstring cramped hard (which was probably due to me swimming with my head up too much). I reached down to grab it and just got pummeled…it was like salmon swimming upstream. I realized I couldn’t hang out there so I put my head down, got horizontal and started swimming – hoping that the cramp would go away. It finally did.
Swimming the mile back was a little less contact but the water seemed to be getting a bit rougher – I felt like I was swallowing more water and had a harder time seeing the buoys. I could tell we were making progress because, for most of the swim, you could see the bottom and could see that you were moving over it. I got hit hard in the head (he stopped to apologize and make sure I was ok). It did result in me popping up vertical and my right hamstring cramped hard. Dang it!! (at least I was now balanced as far as muscles that had cramped!!).
Off the end of the pier, I started to feel a bit dizzy/nauseous with the swells. I felt like I was either going to toss my breakfast or burp. I stopped to tread water for a few minutes and managed to burp a couple of times. I knew I had to get to the end of the swim so I put my head back down and swam on in.
When I got to the stairs I wasn’t feeling really great and I was so happy to be out of the water!
I walked into transition, grabbed my bag and walked to the changing tent. Yes…Lynnda walked a transition – I was really not feeling great. A super sweet volunteer got me into a chair and helped me with my stuff. I cannot say enough about the volunteers in the changing tents – they were awesome. My T1 angel actually put my arm coolers on for me, had someone come put sunscreen on me, went and got me some Ironman perform to drink, helped me make sure I had done everything on the note that I stuck into my bag (things like: put chapstick in pocket, don’t forget HR monitor, eat a biscuit). She was amazing.
I did want to eat one of the biscuits that I had so I walked from the changing tent to my bike munching on the way. I felt much better by the time I got to my bike and was shocked to see a lot of bikes still in my area of transition…I was sure that my swim had been pretty awful and that my “less than fast” T1 had put me at the end of the pack.
It was awesome starting the ride. The weather was gorgeous, the course was lined with spectators and I was in Hawaii doing the Kona Ironman!! I actually felt a thrill go through my body.
The temperature at the start was 77 degrees…it topped out at 96.8. It was quite humid but I didn’t think it was overly humid (you sweat a lot in Kona…no way around it). I was quite worried about drinking enough water so I took a water bottle at almost every aid station. And there were lots of aid stations. The bottle hand-offs all went well…probably because there weren’t that many people going through at the same time that I was.
Scott knew that I was concerned about the bike – it is the weakest area for me, is the longest part of an Ironman and, in Hawaii, can be the most brutal part of the race due to heat and winds. He had given me lots of “nuggets” to think about one of which was to remember that I would be riding on the “friggin Queen K Highway doing the Hawaii Ironman”!! Every time I got a bit bogged down, I would remember what Scott told me, look out to see the ocean and somehow things just felt better. I also tried to notice something special every hour or do something special every hour (like thanking a policeman for being out there keeping us safe or coming up with something witty/cheerful to say when I passed someone or finding an especially pretty flower along the way). I did actually have some conversations with some of the men….they would pass me on the downhill and I would pass them on the uphill. After a while, we got to know each other as we talked in the few minutes that it would take to pass each other.
Chrissie Wellington went flying by in the opposite direction right after I turned off the Queen K to head up to Hawi. I knew she wasn’t first – I had seen Julie Dibens go by already. The look of determination on Chrissie’s face was inspirational.
The last 10 miles up to Hawi were incredibly windy (if it had been a training ride in Boulder, I would have gone home…no, I would have called my hubby to come get me!!). Scott and my husband had both coached me regarding riding in the winds. I was riding with a “regular” front wheel (no dish to catch the wind); I tried to stay small on my aero bars; I tried to stay relaxed; I tried to lean into the wind (which worked until it seemed like gusts were coming from all directions). I cannot tell you how happy I was to reach the turnaround point in Hawi – phew! Now I just had to get downhill in the wind. ;o)
The downhill went better than I thought it would although I wasn’t very aero for the first 10 miles of it.
Then it was back to the Queen K….oh yeah….the “friggin Queen K and I am in Hawaii doing the Ironman and there is the ocean and even the lava is beautiful”. Yeah…that Queen K, the one with head winds/cross winds all the way back to Kona. ;o) Luckily we had some cloud cover when we were going through the worst of the lava fields. I could still feel the heat coming up from the pavement – and felt very lucky that we were not experiencing a blistering hot Kona Ironman day.
At mile 80, I thought about Kaitlyn and mentally thanked her for providing me with some inspiration/determination. Mile 100, was Karen’s mile. And then the countdown started. The longest bike ride I had ever done up to that point was 100 miles…and when I finished that ride I thought “well, I know I can do 12 more miles”. So now it was time to see if I could do 12 more miles.
I got to the Energy Lab road and made it through the runners that were going in both directions (in and out of the Energy Lab). Only 6 more miles to go on the bike and then I get to do the run…but oh how I wished I was one of those runners that was already done with their bike and most of their run.
And then, there it was, the turn to go back to transition. Woo hoo…I was done with the swim, about to be done with the bike and I was finally going to get to run!!
I had 2 angels in T2…the guy who took my bike was so nice. I hadn’t taken my feet out of my shoes – to be honest with you I was a bit tired and I didn’t want to crash. I got off my bike and asked him if he would also take my helmet and he said sure and he would take my shoes if I wanted. So, off came the helmet and shoes and I ran into the changing tent. (yes…I ran this time and passed people along the way…it was a long run to the changing tents!)
In the changing tent, my second angel came along-those volunteers are just awesome! Once again I was helped out of bike specific stuff and into run specific stuff. I got thrown a little bit when I couldn’t find the vial of Right Stuff to add to my water bottles. I normally mix everything before the race but we had to turn in our transition stuff the day before. I couldn’t mix my nutrition bottles and leave them in the heat for over 24 hours so I had to mix stuff in the changing tent. Not finding everything that I had planned to find, threw me a bit.
I had a bit of race brain going on. I changed socks (my feet were pretty wet from the run into the changing tents) and then remembered that I had a hot spot on my left foot that I wanted to cover with body glide. So, had to find the body glide and had to take my shoe and sock off and then put them back on. Argh! I did eventually get out of T2 but it was a really long transition!!
Hurray….I finally got to do the run!! My husband was standing on the ramp as we ran out of T2. He was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t tell what it was…the crowds were already pretty noisy and I was pretty hyped up. So I just put my hands in the air to indicate how happy I was and kept running. He was trying to tell me that I had a shot at the podium – it’s probably good that I didn’t hear him – it was sort of nice to run without pressure.
I loved the first half of the run. I was feeling really, really good. Several times I caught myself running way faster than my target pace and had to slow myself down. I did remember that I had a vial of the Right Stuff on my fuel belt so I stopped at one aid station to add it to my bottles. A woman from my age group passed me and I was tempted to run with her but she was running a pace that was faster than my race plan. So I let her go … the important thing for me was to run my plan because I knew it would get me to the finish line.
I made 2 big errors on the run. The first was a nutritional error. My plan was to take a gel every 2-3 miles. I took one at mile 3 and it tasted awful so I blew off taking gels for the next couple of hours. I was hoping that the Carbo Pro in my bottles would do it for me. The second was my head lamp. 2 hours into the run it got really dark. They gave us glow sticks but they worked to sort of see each other coming not to light the way. My head lamp didn’t work. I was shocked and upset. I kept trying to get it to work and the darn thing just wouldn’t work. I ran with it in my hands for a couple of miles before I gave up on it and put it away. I reminded myself that you have to adjust on the fly and I needed to get over it. If need be, I would just find someone with a light and run with them. So on I went. Luckily they had some lights down in the Energy lab so that was better than I had hoped for. And, when I got back up to the Queen K the moon was out so that provided some light. But I wasted time and energy trying to make it work (probably the first indication that my nutrition was going downhill) and my pace dropped off as I was running pretty cautiously (I had heard lots of tales about people tripping and falling in the dark).
My nutritional error caught up with me coming out of the Energy lab. At first I thought I was just disoriented because of the lack of light but then I realized I was actually not too stable on my feet. Duh…what did I expect when I wasn’t taking in enough calories? I ate a gel at the next aid station and it tasted wonderful. I did another gel at the following aid station and every other aid station after that. The calories quickly turned around my feeling of instability and then I only had to deal with the darkness.
One woman that I had run a bit with when I was first trying to get my head lamp working caught up to me at an aid station. I asked her how her light was doing and she said great but that soon we wouldn’t need it. That we just need to get to those yellow lights we could see in the distance and that meant we were near town. Woo hoo!!! That meant I was really close and would soon be able to see!
Before I knew it, I was at the yellow lights and then I was in town and then people were yelling at me that it was all downhill after the turn on Palani and then I was on Palani. And then Kuakini, and then Hualalai and then….on Alii Drive! I cannot describe the feeling that I had turning onto Alii Drive. There were so many people there and you could feel the excitement in the air. Everyone cheers for you – it is the most awesome thing. I broke into the biggest smile that I have ever run with and it stayed on my face all the way to the arch. I will never forget those moments – they were magical.
And then…it was done. I had completed the Hawaii Ironman. I had completed the toughest Ironman there is. I had done the longest continuous swim of my life, the longest bike ride of my life and the longest run of my life. I was and will forever be an Ironman.
So…in hind sight, what were the mistakes I made? Here is my take on it.
Swim – I didn’t follow my plan and stay left. Had I stayed left I might have been able to keep my head down a bit more and avoid the hamstring cramps and, possibly, reduce the body contact. That might’ve resulted in swallowing a little less ocean water which would’ve been good. I also should have done some electrolyte preloading which I had practiced but didn’t do.
T1 – sure I felt bad but geez…walking the transition? It was a race…
Bike – not sure what I would’ve done different on this one. The only time I stopped was to take some Advil and I did that as quickly as I could. I did not stop to use my special needs bag. I did drink enough water; I think my nutrition and electrolytes were good. I just plain and simply need to get stronger on the bike. I hit my power targets going out to Hawi but was under the target on the ride back to Kona.
T2 – was too long. I should’ve had a better plan for how the flow would go but…I really didn’t know how the flow would go. I now know how it should’ve gone. I wasn’t really prepared for either transition – and maybe you have to do one of this to really understand how to prepare. I never sat down and really “walked” through how the transition would go…and that is no one’s fault but my own.
Run – no matter what stick to your race plan (which I did) and your nutrition plan (which I did not). I think I am darn lucky that ingesting gels fixed me up when I was coming out of the Energy lab. I also should’ve given up on the head lamp sooner than I did-I didn’t react well to that one but, as I already said – I was probably starting to suffer the results of my poor nutrition.
So how do I feel about my race? My #1 goal was to finish the race – I knew I had the fitness but that is only one of several factors on race day. I really wanted to finish the race and enjoy the experience…would I be able to “enjoy” the day? Check that goal (both parts) as completed. ;o) My next goal was to not be the last person in my age group. I know this is a silly goal but I didn’t want to be the last finisher…although being the last finisher would still mean that I had accomplished my #1 goal! That goal gets a check mark. Then I had my dream goals – to finish in the top 10 and to finish on the podium. Well…I can check off one of my dream goals and I came darn close to the other one (the podium is places 1-5 (which I did not know until the awards banquet) and I was close!!). So overall, I am one incredibly happy Ironman!!
I hope that this race report helps you with some future race of your own. We may as well all learn from the mistakes/experience of others – sure beats having to make every mistake on your own!!
Kailua-Kona Hawaii. Monday October 10, 2011. Two days after the Ironman World Championships.
I actually feel great today. My left big toe is still pretty sore and swollen-I’m pretty sure the toe nail is going to be a goner. I have several places where my skin is raw – I suppose that is pretty normal after going 140.6 miles…just new for me. I am very lucky that my hubby (the ultra endurance cyclist) is very familiar with raw skin and had calendula salve with him – my skin is healing nicely.
To tell you about the race, I feel that I need to tell you about some of my prep for the race. When my coach, Scott Fliegelman, started working with me a year ago, my goal was to go for the 70.3 World Championships. For the past 4 or 5 years, I managed to injure myself every year at the Sprint and then try to heal and race for the rest of the year. Scott’s goal for me this year was to get to the start of my desired race(s) healthy…which meant staying healthy all season…which meant being smart all season. I will tell you that I was open to any and all suggestions/directions that Scott gave me. If he said do it, I did it.
We made 2 immediate changes to how I raced. The first was to switch me over to a run/walk strategy. Throughout the winter, I trained using run/walk. I did the Moab half marathon in March using run/walk. I used run/walk for every race I did this year that was 10k or longer (yep…I even did a modified run/walk at the Peak!).
The second change was for me to learn how to race within my limits on the bike. That meant training and racing using a power meter. There were several reasons to do this: 1) the injuries I incurred in previous years seemed to happen on the bike and 2) the run is my strength…I needed to get off the bike and be able to do a strong run. So…I did some field testing and established training and racing ranges for the various races that I would be doing. We eventually modified my cycling strategy to include what we called a “watt break”…I would ride at the upper limit of power for that race and then take a 1 min “watt break” (where I would back the power off) every 9 minutes. I found a multitude of benefits to my new strategy for cycling: there was no bluffing the power meter…I was either producing or I wasn’t; I loved having something to do out there on those long bike rides…checking the power meter to make sure my perceived effort was right (i.e. I wasn’t dogging it), watching the clock to see when 9 minutes were up; having a watt break every 9 minutes ensured that I had a chance to drink/eat regularly; AND I got off the bike and could run!!
We didn’t make any big changes to my swim training. I continued to swim under the tutelage of Jane Scott. I did add an extra swim session once regular open water swim was available. I had to keep an eye on the amount of swimming I did and on my form – my left shoulder is still bothersome if I do too many miles with sloppy technique.
Almost every morning I spent about 30 minutes doing stretching/strengthening/re-alignment exercises. The exercises were a combination of Egoscue (which I have been doing for over 4 years now) and exercises that Bob Cranny recommended. Bob is a well known physical therapist in Boulder – I went to him last year in the weeks leading up to the 70.3 – I was injured and needed some help in order to do the race. He got me through that race and then had a long talk with me about why I was getting injured every year and recommended that I talk to Scott about coaching me. I had an appointment every 2 weeks with Bob. I would go in and tell him what was bothering me most. He would work on it, figure out why it was bothering me and give me exercises to stretch/strengthen that body part. I did my “Bob” exercises religiously!! I can’t recommend Bob enough – he is excellent at what he does.
On top of all that, I received regular massage with Michael Scholl (weekly during my Ironman training) and visited Mark Plaatjes for an old ankle injury that flared up a couple of time.
I was having trouble maintaining my weight so I asked my Team WILD coaching partner Jenny (a diabetes educator and dietician) to evaluate my diet and she made some key recommendations to help me keep the weight on. I also had the chance to talk to Chrissie Wellington about race nutrition before we went out to swim one day. She was, as always, her normal gracious, giving self and gave me a lot of nutrition tips for before and during a race.
Would you need to do all that just to do an Ironman? Absolutely not. Keep in mind that I am 60 years old and I have been running since I was 14…that’s a lot of wear and tear on the body! I always said I would never do an Ironman because I didn’t think my body would hold up to the training. (Yeah…never say never!) My 70.3 World Championship goal, which morphed into Ironman World Championship goal, was important to me and I wanted to do whatever I could to increase my chances of making it to and through the race. The support team I put together to keep my body healthy was key. The other key was the partnership that Scott and I had. He was the coach and, as I stated earlier, if he said do it, I did it. There were a few times in the last weeks of training when I was starting to feel the wear of all of the training and I was worried about some of my remaining workouts. I talked with Scott and we went through the pro’s and con’s of the workouts and made training plan modifications if they were necessary. He reminded me that I was the only one that my body was “talking to” - it was my job to let him know what “body feedback” I was getting. I really feel that that partnership made a huge difference in both my physical and psychological preparation. Hopefully all of you will find a coach that you can successfully partner with!