Thursday, August 30, 2012

Race Report - Ironman Canada 2012 - Bronchitis, Flat Tires and Medical Tents...Oh My!

Executive Summary:
Swim - 2.4 miles - 1:23:35
T1 - 4:11
Bike - 112 miles - 6:28:54
T2 - 43:48 (yes, you read that right)
Run - 26.2 miles - 4:59:17
Total - 13:39:42

Long Version:

Training for an Ironman is hard.  It’s especially hard when there are two little girls in the house and both mommy and daddy are training.  But, it’s doable.  And, I was really proud of the training that Brian and I got in this year.  I felt like we were both ready for a PR!  Usually my race reports are pretty boring.  For shorter races, I often don’t even write race reports because they would usually read, “Had a decent swim, really good bike, OK run.  Nothing else of note happened.”  Not this time.  As the day unfolded, I found more and more to write about.  Stick around for the surprise ending...a surprise only if you’re not friends with me on Facebook!

We got to Penticton on Thursday before the race.  What a beautiful area.  It’s like a more laid back Napa Valley.  Wineries and orchards everywhere.  I had the best peaches I have ever had in my life!   I really do love that part of Canada.

Thursday night I had a really bad sore throat that kept me up most of the night.  I chalked it up to allergies.  I should have known better!

I skipped the practice swim on Friday.  It was REALLY choppy and as someone who gets really seasick, I couldn’t see ruining my whole day just for a 30 minute swim.  It was a pretty nasty morning, but the clouds and wind blew out of there by afternoon.

Friday night we went to the athlete dinner.  They put together an amazing video piece to celebrate the 30th anniversary race and because this would be the very last Ironman Canada in Penticton.  Turns out that the three years I’ve been in Penticton for the race all had some historical significance.  2003 was the year of the terrible forest fires.  After seeing the video, we were able to see that the decision to hold the race really took place at THE last minute.  When I raced in 2004, it was the first year that a Penticton resident won the race - Tom Evans.  And, 2012 marked the very last Ironman Canada as we have known it!  Bagpipers...check.  Adorable little boy playing guitar and singing O Canada...check.  Excited for the race...check!

Saturday, I started feeling a little congestion in my chest.  I continued using my usual inhalers and even used my rescue inhaler as a preventative measure.  Hmmm.....

Once we got the bikes checked in, we just relaxed a bit.  We went to the little casino inside the host hotel and I won $400!  That should just about cover our finishers gear on Monday!  Sweet!

Sunday morning was perfect.  The weather was perfect.  There was no wind.  The water was calm.  The water temps were ideal.  Only one thing was not lungs.  They were tight, and I started with the coughing.   I decided to use my albuterol inhaler right before the swim and then carry it with me on the bike and the run.  As soon as the gun went off and I started swimming, I knew it would be tough.  My chest was just so tight.  So, I backed off the pace a LOT.  I decided if I just swam slow, I could keep my heart rate down a bit, which might help.  Over the years, I have also mastered the cough-under-water type of exhale, so that seemed to work.  Inhale.  Cough under water.  Repeat.

Once I was out of the water, I figured I would just try the bike.  The first many miles are fairly flat, so I knew I could just go easy and keep my heart rate low.   I passed Gretchen and she looked great!  Orrick looked strong as well.  And, Heather, too!  It was so great to see so many friends.  I really started to think that the race was salvageable.  I loved the climb at Richter Pass.  I had to back off a bit on it, but it is so beautiful and the spectators were great!!   I even said hi to some random girl named “Tracy” - some of you know what I mean!  Then, the descent is a blast.  Stopped at the porta potty at the bottom of Richter - only had to wait a few minutes for one to open up, so that was good.  I was first in line!

The rollers after Richter were great!  Lots of leap frogging with the same cyclists.  One girl even had a very similar Guru with similar paint job, so we had fun seeing each other out there.

Then comes the out and back at Cawston.  Ugh!  I remember hating this part last time.  And, yep...hated it again!  Passed Orrick who was on the side of the road fixing a dropped chain.  About 3 minutes later he would pass me fixing the same darn thing!  Yikes!  By the time I got into the out and back part, my lungs were really, really tight.  Here is the TOO MUCH INFORMATION part of this race report that is really only suitable for other triathletes because with triathletes, there is no TMI.   I started coughing up chunks of green stuff.  That’s normal, right?!  Another porta potty break at special needs...this time I was about 4th in line.  Oh well.  

Finally got out of the Cawston area and headed toward Yellow Lake. This is usually my favorite part of the ride.  A relatively hard climb because it starts so late, but it’s beautiful and once you’re done, it’s a downhill finish into Penticton.  Dropped my chain again at some point.  Seriously, I promise that I know how to ride a bike!  Saw Charley and Patty at the top of the climb - so great to see them!!    As I climbed, though, I really started to wheeze and had a tough time getting anything to break up in my chest.  I was really suffering.  I made the decision on the way up that I would stop at medical once I got off the bike at T2.   I was using my albuterol inhaler throughout the bike, but it just didn’t seem to do the trick.  For those of you with asthma, you know that using an inhaler without the chamber attachment really just doesn’t work as well.  But, it was all I had.

Started down the descent when suddenly my bike had that “uh-oh, this is not right” feeling.  Yep.  Flat tire.  I was about 12 miles from the finish at this point.   As bad as I was feeling and given how close I was to the end, I decided to try the Vittoria fix a flat stuff.  It seemed to work for a while.  Then, a little further down...same bad feeling.  Yep.  Flat.  Pulled over and changed the tube this time.  Brian passed me as I was doing this and was a bit surprised to see me.   I had nothing left to fix a flat after that, so I was just hoping I could get to the finish safely and without any more flats.

I finished the ride, and as soon as I got off the bike, I really struggled to breathe.  There was an officials’ tent right as you got off the bike.  I went in to ask if I could just chat with a medical person.  I really just wanted to know if there is any harm in using THIS much albuterol throughout the day.  With my coughing and wheezing, they insisted that I sit and have the paramedics come over.  They did and were so nice.  They were worried about my wheezing and wanted me to check in with the doctors.  I was crying at this point.  I didn’t want to DNF (Did Not Finish) this race.  They assured me that if I didn’t cross the timing mats, I could still possibly continue based on the doc’s opinion.  So, off I went to the medical tent with the paramedics and my own personal race official.  I was the only one in the tent.  I kept thinking, “Who ends up in the med tent in T2?!”   They had me lay down and took all my vitals, etc.  The doc said I was really tight.   They decided to do a dose and a half of albuterol using the chamber this time.  

If you’ve ever used albuterol, you know that it raises your heart rate a lot.  It also made my legs, arms and hands tingle and buzz as well as my lips.  My heart was racing!  My resting heart rate is about 43-45 or so.  As I was lying there, my heart rate was 99.  It’s a terrible feeling.  They wanted me to lay down until those side effects wore off a bit. I was shaking and felt like crap, but I could slowly feel stuff breaking up a bit in my chest.   

The whole time I was in there, I came up with a long list of reasons I could not DNF.  
  1. It’s the 30th anniversary and I know the medal will be cool.
  2. It’s the very last Ironman Canada to be held in Penticton.  And, I’m a little emotionally attached to this race.  
  3. I bought a t-shirt on Friday that says 30th anniversary.
  4. Tomorrow, everyone will be telling their race stories and mine will be a DNF.
  5. I have $400 free dollars to spend at the finishers tent.
  6. Amanda crashed her bike at mile 5 of a half Ironman and still raced with bruised ribs, etc.  I can be tough like that, right?!
  7. No one I have coached has ever DNF’d at a full Ironman.  And, now I’m going to be the first?! 
  8. Brian will worry if he doesn’t see me at some point on the run course.
  9. I have plenty of time to walk the marathon, worst case scenario.

I head the doc say to a volunteer, “Go ahead and get her bag.”  Oh, wow.  They are going to go get my T2 bag with my run stuff in it?  That’s nice.  Um.  No.  The volunteer  brought my dry clothes bag - the bag that has all your stuff for the end of the race.  The doc came over and said, “I’m sorry.  But, I think you’re done.”  Now I’m sobbing.  I can’t DNF.  Please let me try the run!  I asked the doc, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  He looked at me with THAT look.  OK.  Seriously, I’m not going to die...what else could happen?  The doc explained that with the amount of albuterol I had in me, my heart rate would be really high, I would probably get dehydrated much faster and the bottom line is that I would feel like crap throughout the whole run.  We made a deal.  I agreed to run/walk (he wanted run 1 minute/walk 1 minute) and carry my inhaler.  I also agreed to stop at an aid station for help or to drop out if things got too bad.  And, I’d let someone call 911 if I was really in trouble.  With that, my own personal official walked me back to transition.  He also gave me a Canada sticker for my bike and a little Penticton pin.  So nice, these people!!!

I stopped crying, kept wheezing, changed clothes and headed out.  A mere 43 minutes and change after I’d gotten there.

As I headed out on the run, I decided to bag one part of my agreement with the docs.  I was not going to walk until I had to.  I was going to run really slow, walk aid stations, walk hills and walk when I absolutely had to.  My legs felt like they each weighed 100 pounds.  But, I shuffled through town.  I saw some RMTC people out there, which was great!  I got to see Matt coming back into town on his way to qualify for Kona - and Molly cheering with her beautiful smile!  Got a high five from Michelle in an aid station - she was just killing it!  Ran with Mare for a few minutes, which was cool!  I think I saw almost everyone I knew throughout that run.   It was so nice to see them all!!

I felt sorry for all the people who had to hear me on the run.  I was hacking with my seal cough and wheezing like a two-pack-a-day smoker.  Seriously, it was embarrassing.  But, I just had to suck it up and ignore the looks I was getting.  Several people asked if I was alright.  I plugged away until I finally saw Brian.  He looked awesome.  I told him that I would either finish late or if I got in trouble, I’d get a ride back to town.  He headed back to town and I headed out to the turn around.  

I saw Dave on the side of the road with leg cramps.  I stopped a bit with him.  When I stopped running, I would go into coughing fits that sounded just like a seal barking.  We were quite a sight on the side of the road.  Him doubled over with a cramp and me doubled over hacking.  Nice!  Finally I continued on.  

Throughout the run, several ambulances came through bringing runners back into town.  I just knew Brian would be worried that I was in one of those.  I just put my head down and kept moving.  I walked the hills, the aid stations and when my coughing got to be too much.  I saw Khem, Amanda, Gretchen, Danielle, Orrick all on the run course at one point or another.  Finally saw Millie who always looks so beautiful and peaceful at Ironman.   She’s so graceful out there!  Saw Becky at some point who just banged her hand on her head - some of you know what we’re talking about!  It was funny, but I had nothing in me to respond.  Then, I finally saw Tori.  So proud to see her out there running strong.    As I came over to her side of the road, she yelled, “GET ON YOUR SIDE!”  An inside joke.  I had nothing.  All my funny comments had disappeared, and I just told her she looked good and that I was going to get that stupid medal!

Keep running.  Keep wheezing.  Gotta get there so I can be done and so Brian won’t worry.  As I got into town, I looked up at mile 25 and thought, “Wait.  Is that Brian?!”  Brian and I have never finished a race together.  With wave starts in most triathlons, we just never end up at the same place at the same time.  And with Ironman, we are usually just not together at the finish.  I ran with every little ounce I had left to catch him.  He was so relieved to see me!  We hugged and walked the last aid station together. Then, we jogged it in.  Brian had a rough second half of the race.  We were both really happy to be done.  We saw Kelly and Elizabeth cheering and screaming before we hit the finish line.  And, we saw Brook and Damon after we got through the chute.  It was so nice to see friendly faces.  We were ushered through the finishers stuff and found some chairs near the med tent.   We sat there and regrouped with friends throughout the night.  Once I felt well enough, I found the nurse who had helped me in the medical tent.  I thanked her and let her know that I made it.  She gave me the biggest bear hug and I cried...again.  Which made me go into a coughing fit...again.  She was just so sweet!

I am proud of this effort.  It was my slowest Ironman. But, I could have easily given up at any point.  It was painful.  The bronchitis was painful.  Letting go of the idea of having the race I wanted was painful.  But in the end, I raced with great friends, RMTC teammates and sweet Brian.  And, we finished together safely.   All my clients finished beautifully and I could not be more proud of each of them.  Lots of first time Ironman athletes.  A couple great PRs and impressive race performances all around.

I won’t race another Ironman for a while.  Too hard with the girls being so little.  It saddens me that my Ironman racing will end on this note for a while.  But, I am blessed to have family and friends who support me and make this possible.  And, in the end, it’s Ironman.  It’s a crapshoot.  It’s not always fun or pretty.  But, it’s rewarding, and I really do love it.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing it all! I've always thought the toughest thing about IM is investing so much into one day. You can do everything right and it still might not go your way. Big tip of the hat for how you handled the adversity. Congrats to you both, hopefully, in a few years all you'll remember is finishing together. Rest up, get healthy, and enjoy the off season. I don't think IM has seen the last of the Carey family.