He wrote back acknowledging a few things; 1) Agreement that Long-Course was a good distance for me, 2) I need a race where I can lock in and find a rhythm, 3) I do not have great bike handling skills - he tempered this by saying many triathletes don't, and 4) the following excerpt:
After some back and forth, we decided that the goal race was Ironman Maryland 2015. I never acknowledged Kona in my email back to him, simply that I wanted a sub-6 bike ride and a sub-4 marathon. At IMMD 2015 I did just that, I fared well in the shortened swim (8th in AG), 5:56:52 on the bike (10th in AG) and 3:55:41 (9th in AG). Ending 9th in AG was enough for me to believe that Kona could be a real goal. But how could I get there? The AG winner rode a 5:10 (UNREAL!) and ran a 3:39 marathon (IMPOSSIBLE!).
Shortly after the race in November of 2015 I wrote the following to Jack on that original email thread (yeah, yeah, I save all of the emails that mean something to me):
Here, in too much detail, is how it all played out...
"But what about the flooding on the back of the course?"
"Tide will take it out."
"I'm actually setting my Bike and Run bags down in this giant puddle!?"
"Yeah, tide will take that all out, don't worry."
"The bags too?"
All hail the almighty tide.
It rained on and off Friday, and by Friday night we get word that the bike course would be altered (8 miles short) due to flooding and the run may also be altered as Water Street is, well, underwater.
|Photo from IMMD FB Page: Credit Mindy Randall|
Then at Mile 57 this girl flies by me like I'm a pylon. The pass happens directly in front of her husband and two children who are cheering wildly in front of the high school, "GO LAURA!" Laura, I've raced against her, she's on my list of girls to watch for, we go to the same chiropractor and are affiliated with Philly Pro Tri, but we don't actually know each other. We're halfway through the bike and she's just blown my doors off. I stay calm, stick to my power. In fact, I do what Jack instructed and bring the power up for the second half, despite the wind costing me some speed. My mantra on the second half is "believe in the power." My last big bike workout of the build was 6.5 hours, with 4 x 90 minute intervals holding this power, done on the trainer, alone, in my basement. It took more mental strength than I believed I had, and it was paying dividends now, I had to just keep believing.
When I finally got back into town, I was flying. My lower back was a little locked up from being in aero so it was nice to be sitting up around the corners. I looked down and realized we'd not yet gone 100 miles. Unsure if I was going right to T2 or back out on the course, I was very cautious. As I saw them directing us down the chute (which hilariously had dried out - hey thanks, tide) I got my feet out of my shoes, nailed my dismount, took off for my rack. Off the bike in 4:44, 21 mph average for 100 miles.
As a result of the flooding in Great Marsh Park, the transition area had to be moved from the grass to the cement and not all of the bikes fit. About 600 of us were on racks outside of transition. It was great because I was easily able to dump my bike on totally empty racks and keep going. Running on jagged cement was less than fun though. I was in and out of the change tent in seconds (thanks, volunteers!) and out on the run.
Run: While I claim no likeness to her, the goal of this race was to "Rinny the run." Meaning, find those girls ahead of me off the bike and start catching them. My "math" had me in 5th in AG coming off the bike. This was based on being number 624, how many girls I passed, how many passed me. Turns out I was right. As a result of having a time trial start, I had no way to know what was happening in the race from here, especially with regard to overall placing.
I started the run a little fast and made a conscious effort over the first ten miles to bring the pace up to right around 8:00. I held around 8:05 for the next six. I passed a lot of girls, but only one appeared to be in my AG. The lead bike was with a girl who was not in my AG based on her bib number and by the time I started to pay attention to where people were, it was impossible. Emily was stationed at the far end of the run so I saw her twice on both trips out there, despite not acknowledging her the second trip, I'm so happy to know I had support in a lonely stretch of the course.
The fun of this race really started around Mile 18 though. I was running at 8:10 pace at this point, I make the sharp left to go around transition and notice that it has started to flood - same as it was in the morning. Turns out the tide can also bring back all that it took out. At this point it's a few (2-4) inches of water and though I slow down for 50-60 feet, I am able to jog through it. I get to the back side of transition to where Emily (a different Emily) and Coach Matt have been stationed all day. Matt yells at me, "Stay positive, stay focused." And that's my mantra for the rest of the run. I make it out onto Water Street which has also now begun to flood. It too is around 2-4 inches deep and I run through it, only slowing to 10 minute pace for less than a tenth of a mile. A mile later when I come back down Water Street it's 4-6 inches. I slow to 15:00 pace for the now expanding puddle. Back to transition again, it's 4-6 inches deep and rising, the second time through I decide to walk/stomp as my quads are on fire and I'm afraid of falling.
The final trip down Water Street and water is up over my shins! I lost the most time there, but thankful I walked it as my mental lights were starting to flicker and it was Mile 25. My lower back was on aching and I could feel my posture getting worse and worse. I just needed to get to the finish line. My feet had slid around so badly in my shoes that each step on the uneven bricks was excruciating. I'm typically so excited for the finish that I smile, wave, pick up the pace a bit, zip the kit up - none of these things happened. I crossed the line, apparently high-fived some kids (video evidence) and then started screaming at the nice volunteer trying to help me that my husband was supposed to be my catcher, not her (yes, I apologized). Mark was right there, got me all of my finishers gear, water, and medal. I ran a 3:33, a BQ at the end of an Ironman, in flooded streets, and faster than last year's winner.
A short time later someone came up and mentioned I was the 5th female. I assumed they meant AG and went with it, just hoping that enough time was passing that none of the girls who started behind me would knock me off the AG podium.
At some point Emily tells me I'm second overall, I laugh at her and promptly forget the conversation. A short time after that, my friend Jeff texts me and says I'm second in AG but there's a girl named McKenzie who had a late bib number who is still out on course. By the time I leave the finish area it looks like I have 2nd place AG locked up. Gaby, Emily, and I have a beer and wander over to T1 to collect our stuff. Jack sends me a text saying I'm 2nd Overall. WHAT!? Jack must have had too many High Lifes. A few minutes later I meet Lisa, the overall winner. She says something about 1, 2 AG and 1, 2 Overall; we high five. I'm confused...could it actually be? We go back to the house, results seem to be holding. I don't care though, I'm having drinks and hanging with my friends.
The next morning I wake up and the results are still the same. I go through each AG to count number of participants to see if F34-39 will get 1 or 2 Kona spots. I have to laugh...it would be my luck to come in 2nd Overall and not grab a ticket to Kona. Looks like we should have 2, but you never know. At the awards ceremony I'm walking off the stage and Lisa says to me, "I'm not taking my spot so you're good no matter what." I assume that Laura (who has finished 3rd) has heard her. She saw me pass on the run but I totally missed it. Turns out our AG gets two spots and rolls to 3!
To say I'm over the moon barely does it justice. I've had a hard time grasping it all. I cannot find the words to express how meaningful it is to have someone believe in my abilities the way my friends and family have. To have a coach who knows just what to say and do, and who took a girl who was a consistent back of the packer that couldn't run a single sub-8:00 mile and mold her into a Kona Qualifier. To walk up there, here my name and "You're going to Kona!" hardly seems real. It was even better that I had my closest friends there with me to celebrate. I'm still wearing my race wristband, I can't seem to cut it off.
Now that both of my 2016 goals are achieved - what happens in 2017? How do I get faster? What's the next step? On some level, that's not up to me, I just have to keep trusting in my coach, committing to the process and believing.