I motored along, down the first big down hill out of town. When I did Ironman they dubbed that hill the Degree of Difficulty hill, as Degree deodorant was one of the race sponsors and well, that hill is a BITCH to get climb on the way back. I chugged along past the DJ who was cranking out some tunes, past the first aid station and up a small climb. past the horse stables and down the big hill that I had ridden down earlier. Instead of turning right, you turn left onto River Road. It's absolutely lovely along here. There are some horse farms and some nice homes as well as a beautiful river. Thus the name River Road. That first bit is really the only flat part of the course. The rest of it is false flats or hills.
I ran along at a comfortable pace. My heart rate didn't feel that high. I was really trying to measure my effort because I knew coming back was going to be the tough part. I was averaging 4:40/km comfortably. I knew I'd lose some time on the two big hills on the way back but figured if I could manage to average 4:50's for the entire race, that would be good. My legs started to feel a bit better around the 5km mark. Shortly there after I took a gel. I wanted to get some fuel in earlier rather than later.
I could hear foot steps behind me and a dude with long flowing hair came blowing by me. I said "nice pace" as he went by and he said "thanks, I'm on a relay team". I said "aha, that explains why you look so fresh". He laughed as he pulled away from me. Shortly there after we got into the first bit of rollers. I spotted a race photographer so I made some lame hand gesture and smiled. I have this exact same picture from the last time I raced on this course in 2006, ha ha. I posted that on Instagram the other day.
These first few rollers didn't feel horrible but they didn't feel easy either. I took my first gel just past the 6km mark. I had skipped the first aid station but made a point of grabbing something at the next few. I was really looking for flat coke but figured I probably wouldn't get that until the later aid stations so I was taking water and Gatorade Endurance.
I saw the first place woman on her way back and she looked STRONG. I yelled out GO GIRL as she went by. She had a solid lead on the group. Once I saw her, I started counting the number of women. I didn't see another one for a while. After I saw the second place woman, I started to see more and more ladies. I got to 10 and then I started seeing people that I knew so I completely forgot to keep counting, ha ha. But, I knew I wasn't that far away from the turnaround. I saw my friend Zin who said that G wasn't that far ahead of me, maybe 300m or so. I wanted to try and catch him but my legs didn't seem to want to go much faster. I ran through another aid station that was filled with volunteers in costume. They were AWESOME. Such high energy.
I knew I was getting close to the turnaround point. I was still managing to hold on to 4:40-4:45/kms but I was definitely starting to feel rough. My hamstrings and glutes in particular. I wasn't experiencing that same pain I had in Tremblant but I felt like my hamstrings were super tight and I just didn't have that normal range of motion I would normally have. My left foot was also starting to hurt. I'm chalking that up to my left big toe. I've had issues with it since mid-August on my longer runs. The joint has started to get stiffer and stiffer so it's causing all sorts of issues on longer runs. Toe yoga is in my off season list of things to do!
I was starting to hurt. I saw G about 5 minutes before I got to the turnaround. He was farther than 300m ahead of me. We high fived each other and both commented on how shitty we felt on the bike. I pushed it a little to the turnaround and had thoughts that maybe, just maybe I might be able to catch him. I hit the turnaround and started making my way back. I noticed the increase in gradient right away. I knew the run back was going to be tough. Tougher than I had thought. I kept bargaining with myself. Ok, just try to hang on to 4:50/km. Ok, just try to hang on to 4:55/km. Ok, just try to hang on to 5:00/km. By the time I hit the 12km mark, I was no longer averaging sub 5:00/km. To be fair, the course had really started climbing. I thought if I could manage 5:00/5:05/km through the rollers on the way back, I'd still be ok. I knew we had two massive climbs on the way back that were probably going to slow me down a lot. My goal was to NOT WALK on either of them.
By the time I hit the 14km mark, which was the start of the first big climb, I was fully entrenched in the hurt locker. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Yes I was hurting, but I was still moving fairly well. I was actually passing people on this climb. I got to the top and thought well that wasn't too bad. I hit the aid station by the horse jumping grounds and grabbed some flat coke. I had been drinking that along with water just past the turnaround. It gave me just the boost I needed. I was just past the 16km mark and I started playing the "you can do anything for x amount of time" game. I was foolishly hoping I could average 5:00/kms from that point until the finish line. I had moments where I felt good and then they were quickly followed by a whole lotta hurt. I was in a world of hurt when I looked up to see my friend Irina wearing this awesome cat shirt. She was just heading out on the run and her excited cheering and that fantastic shirt put a huge smile on my face. Thank you lady, you always brighten up my day!
Earlier on, at about the 13km mark, I was passed by a female in the 35-39 AG. She blew by me like I was standing still. Other than that, I wasn't passed by another woman. I hadn't passed any either but I was closing in on someone who had 4-something on her calf. As I got closer I saw that it was a 44. It took all my focus to reel her in. I passed her just as we were heading towards the last big climb. There was a DJ at the start of the climb and he was spinning some great tunes. I can't remember the song as I ran through but it was definitely a good one and as I ran by we made eye contact and I pointed at him and he pointed back at me and there was a whole pointing finger exchange to the beat of the music.
There was a bit of a moment and it was just what I needed to get me started up the Degree of Difficulty hill. I started that climb grinning from ear to ear and I started thinking back to the last time I ran up it, which got me suddenly very emotional. I choked back some unexpected tears as I ran up the hill. It's been quite the journey since I last raced in Lake Placid and that first race was incredibly special.
I plodded up that hill and caught another woman about half way up. We exchanged some words of encouragement and I focused on the the road in front of me. Put one foot in front of the other. Get to the top. I got to the top of the first part. The hill is two stages. There is a super steep part at the beginning that takes you up to Main Street, then you hang a left onto Main Street and start a long, somewhat less steep climb to Mirror Lake Drive, where you turn right and continue climbing for a bit and then the road flattens out. I shuffled up that hill. I remember huffing and puffing as I passed a guy and I said "I fucking hate that hill" as I went by and I heard him laugh. I was almost at the 18km mark. Only 3km left. 17 minutes or so at the rate I was going. I could see G ahead of me getting ready to turn onto Mirror Lake Drive. I still hadn't made up much ground on him. At least it didn't seem like it.
I made the turn onto Mirror Lake Drive and could feel my legs starting to cramp up. I had complete tunnel vision going through here. When I start to hurt, I don't notice much going on a around me. It's like my brain shuts down and I go on auto pilot. I remember running through an aid station and grabbing a flat coke that a little guy was holding out for me. I said thanks buddy as I went by. No matter how much I was suffering, I made sure I thanked the volunteers. They were all so amazing. They MADE that race.
I could see another woman running with a guy just ahead of me. I couldn't see what was on her calf but I was spurred on to dig a little deeper to try and pass her. I caught the two of them just past the aid station. She had a 36 on her calf. At this point the course was flat but it didn't matter, I was still really struggling. I had slowed down a lot. My entire body hurt. I was starting to run really sloppy. My form had gone to complete shit. I could barely hold myself upright I was so tired. The out and back along Mirror Lake Drive is only about 2km but it seems to take FOREVER. I could see the signs for the turn around coming up and was thinking I'd see G any minute. I rounded the bend and saw the turnaround but no G. I remember saying out loud, "Where the heck did he go?" I ran around the cone and about 20 seconds later I see G coming towards me on his way to the turnaround. I asked him what happened and all he said was porta potty.
I had passed him and now I just had to keep him behind me. I didn't really much in the way of an extra gear and I was seriously hurting by this point. Everything was falling apart. The expression on my face says it all. Nice background though!
I could hear the finish line announcer and people cheering. Every step I took hurt. I just wanted to be finished. I willed my legs to turn over faster. Thankfully the road back to the finish line is downhill so I had momentum to carry me towards the Olympic Oval. I made the turn back onto Main Street and then into the chute that funnelled you onto the Olympic Oval. It was lined with people cheering. I remember hearing my friend Liz yell GO PK as I went running along the top of the oval. I could see the finishing chute.
As I turned the corner, I started smiling and I raised my arms in the air. What a bloody hard day. I was tested much more than I thought I'd be. So much so that I had thrown my original goal of getting on the podium right out the window.
As I came in towards the line, I heard the announcer call my name. I glanced up at the clock and saw 5:40 something. Which didn't really mean anything to me because I didn't know when I started.
|So happy to be finished!|
My final time: 5:30:14 G's final time: 5:30:44 There was exactly 30 seconds between us. My run was 1:45 on the nose. G's multiple porta potty stops on the bike and run slowed him down. See, peeing in the grass in T2 worked out in my favour!
We saw my friend Liz on our way out of the finishing chute and we hugged and congratulated each other on our races. She came in at 5:28 and change. She went off to cheer on some more TTC people and G and I were both feeling a bit hungry so went went off to get some food. We spent a long time chit chatting with a bunch of other guys that had raced, all of whom rode with Morning Glory, as well as Tara and Liz who joined us shortly after we had sat down. Finally we were able to go into transition to go and get our things so G and I hobbled over to the entrance.
On our way over, I saw my athlete Keith, who was grinning from ear to ear. I gave him a big hug and asked him how it went. We had seen each other on the run course and he was looking really strong when I saw him. I thought for sure he'd catch me. He said that was the hardest thing he'd ever done. He raced fairly conservatively for his ability but now that he's gotten one under his belt and he knows what to expect, I suspect he'll push himself harder on the next one. He was waiting for his girlfriend Grace to finish so he went off to the finish line and G and I went into transition.
I started collecting everything and tossing things into my bag. I was curious to see where I ended up in my AG so I pulled my phone out and saw 4 texts from my friend Sue, one of which was a pic. It was a screen grab of my finish time and preliminary ranking. I saw 3rd out of 174. Say what?? I couldn't believe it. I got all choked up and almost started crying. My goal after Tremblant was to get on the podium in Lake Placid. With the way my race went, I didn't think that was going to happen but it looks like everyone suffered in the weather. I may have been slower than I had anticipated, but so was everyone else. I ended up 3rd place female in my AG and 17th female overall. First fastest bike split in my AG and the 4th fastest run. My how things have changed!
I couldn't have asked for a better end to my season, especially after last year. I am beyond grateful that I GET to do this crazy sport and that I get to do it with G. I am truly lucky.
Now it's time to unwind, sleep in a bit more and just move for the enjoyment of moving.
A massive thanks to everyone that has been reading along this year. I know my writing has been sporadic and I am going to work on improving that over the next few months.
~ Coach PK xo