Erica’s Ironman

4 09 2009

The 2009 F4 Ironman Team sent 14 athletes to IM Louisville and 5 to IM Canada on August 30th, while 3 more will visit Madison, WI for IM MOO next week.  Enjoy a selection of their race reports below:

IM LOU Race Report by Erica Shifflett

It all started over a year ago when Scott sent out an email announcing that Fast Forward was going to do IMKY.  I had just completed my first half Ironman, during which I remember thinking there’s NO WAY I could ever do a full.  The body and mind have ways of playing tricks on us though, and I found myself anxiously trying to get signed up the very second they opened online registration.  I had a lot of questions after I registered: Will I be able to do this?  What if I don’t make it through the training and I’m out all this money?  What is training going to feel like?  Will I be tired all the time?  Can I manage to work full-time, train, and have a social life?  I think that first week or two was the most anxious I felt through the whole year of training.  I settled down, put the worries out of my mind, and impatiently waited for training to start in March.

The six months that we spent training went so fast.  I enjoyed the workouts and getting to know the team.  My training group became my social life.  The concern about being too tired was alleviated—I only had a few days here and there when I was tired or sore.  Work was insane but I found time to get the training done anyway.  I trusted that we were doing just the right amount of training to be fully prepared for the race.  I couldn’t have and didn’t want to do more.  I missed a few workouts but overall was very diligent about sticking to the plan.

I arrived in Louisville Thursday evening.  I found the hotel lobby to be pretty overwhelming with the fancy bikes, nervous energy, and super-fit bodies, so I ate dinner in the room.  The next morning we swam in the river and the level of excitement was much better.  Ironman events are so well-managed—they had music playing, bag check, and Gatorade in the swim finish area.  I had a great swim in the Ohio River, which helped alleviate my concerns about river swimming.  The current wasn’t noticeable, except that my time was so much faster swimming downstream.  Friday and Saturday were mostly relaxed, doing things like checking in, turning my bike in, and attending the athlete dinner on Friday.  I slept well every night and didn’t feel nervous at all in the whole week or two preceding the race.  I attribute that to trusting the fantastic training and the mental preparation.  Sunday morning came and it was time to race!

I woke up at 4am on Sunday.  As I got ready, I felt calm and peaceful.  All my bags and bike were down at transition and ready to go.  I had my swim stuff and dry clothes bag that I would drop off at the start.  My friend Sharon walked with me to the swim start.  I hit the porta-john (twice) and found my teammates.  Seemed like no time passed at all and we were moving.  In the rush to take off my dry clothes and turn them in, I forgot to take out my swim cap and goggles.  I didn’t even realize this until I was down much further toward the docks.  I ran up and found the volunteers who were loading the dry clothes bags into the trucks.  Thankfully, they have a great system of organizing these bags, so it took about 5 minutes to get my stuff and I was running back to where my team was.  We waited a few minutes and then started moving.  The start was so fast—volunteers were yelling, “go, go, go” and we jumped or dove into the water like lemmings.

I had a great swim.  The water temp was perfect.  It was a little congested at the start and around a few of the buoys but for the most part I had my own space.  I did get kicked and clobbered a few times, but kept my goggles and my cool.  Swimming is a good time to let your inner autistic child take over, and get into a good repetitive rhythm.  I have a few mantras that I repeat while I swim, the one I used this time was “long smooth strokes.”  I maintained a speed that was comfortable and that allowed me to breathe every third stroke without getting short of breath.  I lost my focus a couple times, but did well overall.  I was so happy to see the red buoys at the swim finish, but I started getting nervous about transition and how the bike was going to be.  I jogged up to transition, taking in all the excitement and getting my land legs back.

Transition went well.  I shouted out my number and ran to where my bags were.  The volunteers all day were so helpful and nice.  The poor girl who was trying to help me kept trying to hand me the run bag and I kept saying that it was the wrong bag.  She kept insisting that it was the right number so I had to ignore her and find my own bike bag.  Lida was waiting outside the changing tent and she helped me get changed and ready to bike.  I got a quick swipe of sunscreen and I was on my way.

I started out smooth and steady on the bike.  The weather couldn’t have been better.  Cool breeze, plenty of shade, and low humidity.  All of a sudden, I was at mile 5, then mile 10, 15, and I started wondering how many miles would go by before I started feeling like it was work.  I think it was about 20.  I saw my parents at mile 34, which gave me a big boost.  It was cool to think that I’d be back at the same spot and see them in another 30 miles.  The hills were rolling, some bigger and some smaller.  I stayed in my zone.  My heart rate monitor was reading as a percentage, which I didn’t figure out how to change until about mile 60.  It was showing the same number the whole time, and I felt like I was in zone 2, so I didn’t worry.  Once I switched it over, I stayed at 140-145 bpm the rest of the ride.  I stuck with my nutrition plan—200 cal/hour as solid food (Shot Bloks and Powerbars), and as much water and Gatorade as I felt like drinking.  I saw Lida, Jen and Scott at aid station #4, and then stopped to use the bathroom and mix a drink bottle.  It was nice to get off the bike but it cost me some time.  The only other stop I took on the bike was at mile 60, the special foods bag stop.  I got the rest of my nutrition out, used the bathroom, and then continued.  I repeated the loop, saw Sharon, my parents, Jen, Lida, and Scott.  Everything was harder the second time.  I even looked down at my tires on some of the hills to make sure they weren’t flat.  There were 2 sections on the bike that kind of sucked—from mile 50-65 and 80-95.  I’m not sure if this was due to the road, my energy, or what.  But both times, I was able to rally and start feeling better.  That second section was the only time all day that I felt like stopping.  I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world I’d be able to run a marathon after getting off the bike.  The last part of the bike was mostly downhill, and except for the seams in the road, went smoothly.

Coming in to T2 was such a relief.  Thank God I was off that stupid bike J  I took my time changing.  I had some face wipes that I used on my face, arms and legs.  I changed into my running clothes, got more sunscreen, and was off.  I saw my parents and Sharon again, smiled and waved, and took off for the marathon.

We did an out-and-back halfway across the bridge to Indiana, and then did 2 out and backs, each about 12.5 miles.  My stomach started bothering me at mile 2 or 3.  I made myself eat a Gu because I hadn’t eaten anything in the last hour or more.  I drank a lot of plain water, trying to get rid of the nausea.  I walked almost the entire 4th mile.  I heard Tim coming up behind me so we stuck together from mile 4 till mile 17.  We ran some and walked some, and kept each other company.  The course was cool in that we passed our teammates several times as we were all running back and forth.  I started drinking Coke at the aid stations because everyone said it helped with stomach issues and it was the only source of calories that my body could handle.  At first, I had to make myself drink it, but then I started looking forward to each aid station.  We ran and walked, averaging about 12:30/mile.  My heart rate was less than 125 that whole time.  I was a little frustrated, knowing that my legs, heart and lungs could handle running faster, but that my stomach was holding me back.  It was comforting to know that I could keep that intensity up all day though.  There was no question of not finishing.  I was definitely hydrated, and not worried about fluids.  I finally felt better at mile 17, and thought, ok, I can easily run the last 9 miles.  Tim and I separated, and I ran at about a 10 to 10:30 pace for the rest of the race.  Even at that pace my heart rate was never more than 135.  For some reason, I wanted to stay that conservative.  Each mile flew by and soon enough I was really close to the finish.  I could see and hear it!  Saw Lida and Jen again, and got more and more excited.  The finishing chute was so exciting.  Everyone was cheering, it didn’t matter that they didn’t know me.  I heard them announce my name and where I was from.  My parents were standing just to the right of the finish line and I saw them and waved.  Then I put my hands up and crossed the finish line.  I was an Ironman!!!

Scott was waiting at the finish line and he put my medal on.  He also helped me walk through, making sure I didn’t fall over, and making sure I got my t-shirt and whatever drinks I wanted.  I was a chatterbox!  With the adrenaline, the coke, and the thrill of being done, I probably was talking a mile a minute.  I really felt good—my legs didn’t hurt at all and I could walk normally.  He handed me over to my parents and we went to get pizza and my dry clothes bag.  I was pretty dazed, and very indecisive.  I signed up for a massage but didn’t feel like waiting so we left.  I think it took me an hour to eat one piece of pizza.  I showered, had some food with my parents and Sharon, and then went back out to cheer for the people who were still finishing.  I saw Dianna and Donna cross the finish line.  Our whole team finished!

Since I’m a tri-geek, here are my splits from the race:

Swim:1:17:13; T1: 7:22; Bike: 6:56:53; T2: 9:46; Run: 4:51:18.  Total time: 13:22:32

I am writing this report on Friday.  Here’s how the past 5 days have gone:

Monday: got up, turned in my gear bag, had breakfast.  Ate a ton—the hotel had a breakfast buffet and I bet they lost a lot of money that day!  My legs were sore but it felt like marathon soreness.  My parents and I drove to St Louis that day.  I slept a little in the car and ate a lot.  We got back and I was fine but then totally crashed about 5 or 6.  I even felt like I had a mild fever.  I went to bed at 7, didn’t even have dinner.

Tuesday: had a massage, which made a world of difference.  Walked back and forth in the pool for half an hour.  Still sore, still having difficulty on stairs.  Still eating like a pig!

Wednesday: legs felt much better.  Pool walked for 30 min.

Thursday.  I think I came off my high.  Still eating a ton, very little soreness in my legs, but overall fatigue was pretty high.  Swam 30 min in the morning, pool walked 30 min in the afternoon.  Took a nap.

Friday: no soreness in my legs, but I get tired going up the stairs.  Appetite is normalizing (bummer!).  Swam 30 min, biked 30 min, pool walked 30 min.  Energy is coming back up.

Just a few final thoughts.  I’ve touched on this a little in the report already but I want to say more.  I could not have done this without Scott and Fast Forward.  We had the best training, the most thorough mental preparation, and the most awesome camaraderie.  It was so helpful to learn from others’ experience, and in particular Michael and Susan helped so much!  We had a few long, detailed discussions along the way and I so appreciate their time.  We had 2 awesome sherpas along with us in LOU—Jen Szabo and Lida Letowt.  They were so energetic, helpful, and made the race and the few days before go so smoothly.  I know none of the race volunteers will read this report, but they were so awesome and deserve major kudos.  They went out of their way to meet our needs and make the race as enjoyable as possible.  I highly recommend Ironman events for this reason.  And, finally, a HUGE thank you to my parents and my personal sherpa Sharon.  They cheered for me, took care of my stuff, helped me walk, and got food in my belly.

Will I do it again?  HECK YEAH!

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One response

4 09 2009
Jennifer

Erica you rock!
I am so glad you had the time of your life.
Enjoyed your report.

See you at the party and maybe Canada!(Did I really say that)

Congrats
Jennifer a.k.a The Carousel Horse

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