Timberman Half Ironman Race Report
Ok folks, here it is, the spoiler alert – I had BLAST at Ironman Timberman 70.3. So much so that I am still riding the wave even a week later! The day was not without it’s challenges, but for the most part I had an unreal day.
My alarm wet off at 4am, just as planned. I joke with Rob and a lot of my friend’s that as a swimmer we have a ridiculous internal body clock. Well, race mornings seem to only magnify this special quality. I found myself staring at the clock at 3:59am – BOOM! Not only did I think, “Oh, I have a moment to myself to relax before this alarm goes off.” I thought “OOF, Jules and D are ALREADY at the parking lot.”
Foxy was a rockstar husband/sherpa and ran everything out to the car while I ate breakfast, packed up my essentials and made sure that I was achieving everything on my to do list. I put on the TV and watched a really heart warming Make A Wish story about a terminally ill boy who got to meet the entire Seattle Seahawks team and play with them during training camp. I thought it was particularly approprate considering how much Ironman Timberman raises for the Make A Wish Foundation. Always good to start off your day feeling thankful for what you have!
Once we piled in the car, I felt confident, some nervous energy but most of all, I felt excited. I knew I put in all of the work that I could, so it was time to test my training.
We made the short trip to Ellacoya State Park. I updated my facebook status with an amazing quote from Andy Potts “Every Race is a balance of hope and doubt” (then I improvised) “today, the hope will be louder than the doubt!” I felt great and just wanted to stay positive and most of all, HAVE FUN.
In addition to motivational quotes from my swimming/triathlon idol, we were treated to an amazing sunrise over the lake at that hour:
(Photo credit: Beth from Unleash the Beath)
When we arrived I was very pleasantly surprised to see that we were able to get a parking spot at the state park. Usually, the parking lot fills up so quickly that people are diverted to the nearby ski mountain for parking and shuttle service. I was really happy that I was able to park with Foxy (aka, Zen Fox) and walk with him to the transition area :)
I stopped and got inked by the body markers and then made my way to my transition spot. Since I was so close to the end Foxy was able to stand so close that we could chat. Then, I started bumping into people left and right, first Alett’s husband Hugh – who spotted my amongst the craziness and looked as cool as a cucumber. Then I saw Julia and Dutch. Then I saw Alett herself. I met a Ashley in the rack position next to me who I recently friended on Instagram. I finally met up with my high school best friend, Kaitlin in line for the porto-potties. I then bumped into Will, another friend from high school at the Porto-potties, along with his entire crew (who I had met briefly previously.)
LOTS of excitement in the TA
When I arrived at the park I thought I had eons of time, then all of a sudden I found myself sprinting to the transition area before it closed in order to retrieve my wet suit, cap and goggles before it officially closed. Luckily, I still had another 45 minutes before my wave went off, so I spent that time joking around with Rob, Kaitlin and my other friends I had picked up along the way.
Before too long I saw that my wave of women was corralled and we were quickly pushed to the edge of the lake, so I kissed Foxy goodbye, hugged Kaitlin (who unfortunately her wave wasn’t set to go off for another 30 minutes) and made my way to the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee.
So excited to SWIM!
I watched the two waves in front of me go off, and when they called my wave to the water, I did my standard nervous shake out, jump and arm movements and confidently walked the distance to the swim start (side note: I absolutely LOVE beach starts, nothing gets my adrenaline going more! I realize that the lake where Timberman is located is insanely shallow, but this was a huge let down for me) and tried like hell to let my body relax enough to pee.
I stood at the start and made my way to the front row. I looked around and found Jules and wished her good luck! I talked to MJ and Mary (newly acquired triathlon friends) and tried to just take in the amazing scenery. Before too long they were giving us the count down, and then WE WERE OFF!
In every triathlon race my strategy is to take out the first 50 yards relatively hard so I can do my best to break away from the pack. I did that and quickly noticed that there were 2 other women hanging with me and I thought “sweet – PACERS!”, so I just tried to settle in and find my pace. Unfortunately, the field was so dense with slow people in the waves in front of us and the chop from the water was so tough that I struggled to settle in. In the beginning I tried to count the amount of different colored swim caps I passed in Ragnar/Reach The Beach fashion, counting my “kills” (though, they would then definitely not only kill but murder me on the bike in a few short moments), but after awhile I started to lose track and gave up. The last cap I remember seeing was five waves in front of me. Hooray for swimming!
Somewhere along the way I felt my left calf seize up in a slight charlie horse and I tried to remain calm. Calf cramps when you’re roughly 20 minutes into a 6+ hour day doesn’t exactly bode well. I quickly modified my stroke and did everything in my power to stretch out my leg while still pulling like crazy. It seemed to work, but I struggled with the current pushing me into shore on the parrallel section and then it then again, pushed me away from the finish on our way into shore. I kept on thinking to myself “why do I feel so crappy?!” (In hindsight, this is because I didn’t warm up. I always enjoy stretching out and getting loose, but no one I was with wanted to join. Next time I will most certainly warm up!)
Finally I closed in on that beautiful white arch and hammered down for the last 200 yards. I knew that expending lower body energy at this point wasn’t worth it, so I tried to turn off my legs and let my upper body do the work. Quickly I was on shore and Foxy was standing nearby screaming my name.
I made my way into the transition area and reminded myself to relax and take my time. I knew I had over three hours on the bike ahead of me, so taking an extra minute wasn’t going to kill me!
Swim time: 30:25
The bike: “Go Knausser”
Oh hello the bike, my triathlon nemesis.
I’ve been dreading this section of the race ever since I signed up. There were a million questions swirling in my head…
What if I got a flat tire? What if I bonked on the bike? What if my ass hurt so much I wanted to cry? What am I going to do if I need to pee?
I tried to quell my nerves and just focus. A friend of mine from college told me that a former triathlon coach of her’s told her to treat the bike portion as “an all you can eat buffett.” So I went to town and did just that, trying to get as much down before infamous Marsh Hill.
There was a gentle hill straight out of the transition area and I looked down at my bike computer to and noticed it said I was going 25 UP the hill. I knew something was definitely wrong and realized that when resetting it the night before I accidentally set it to kilometers and not miles, sonofa! I joked to myself that I was channeling my friend’s Hannah & Nick in more ways than my transition towel :)
There were a couple hills and turns into little neighborhoods and I knew that Marsh was coming soon. My left hip flexor was CRAZY tight and I was very uncomfortable. To make matters worse, I was getting passed like crazy by all sorts of fancy bikes. I told myself “this isn’t your strength, just ride your own race!”
Prior to Timberman I met Paul from the Boston Triathlon Team, who told me that people climbing up Marsh Hill will be “tire to tire”, which didn’t seem possible to me at the time. As I approached Marsh I all of a sudden felt like I was in the middle of the peloton in the Pyrenees mountains at the Tour De France. USAT has a rule against drafting, but apparently that doesn’t apply to Marsh Hill! Everyone was literally tire to tire, huffing and puffing away. It was a pretty surreal moment having so many cyclists working so hard to conquer a single hill.
I was hurting big time and would have loved to hop off my bike and walk it up the hill. I started thinking about a lot of friends and people I know that are sick, or had lost their battle with cancer. I thought of my friend Tanya and her husband Eric who passed away from brain cancer in March. My heart ached and I dug DEEP. A few days before we left for Timberman I found some photos from their wedding in fall of 2004. When I found the photos, my heart sank, but instead I decided to use this as my motivation to literally carry me up this hill. I thought about his suffering and how people rallied by his side in his final days. People from different parts of Eric’s life changed their facebook photos to “Go Knausser”, and I must have repeated that to myself hundreds of times. Eric’s fight and strength were exactly what I needed to dig deep. From now on I’m going to call that beat of a hill Knausser’s Hill instead of Marsh hill!
Just when I thought the hill would absolutely never end I heard my friend Julia talking to someone behind me and I heard her say “that was it, we’re done with Marsh!” I said hello and then she was off. We had some amazing descents which I took at full speed before we headed out towards the main highway.
The next 30 miles went like this:
“I need to pee…should I go in the woods?”
“THIS IS SO BORING”
“MY ASS HURTS”
“I think the entire race field passed me”
I saw a few of my friends heading out on the other side of the road which gave me a nice boost, but my GOD that bike course was boring! Where are the mountains, lake, neighborhoods, ANYTHING to look at?! This would probably be my biggest beef with this race, the bike course wasn’t exactly what I would call visually interesting.
Somewhere around miles 30-40 I finally gave in and used a porto-potty, where an eager volunteer was ready to hold my bike and get me anything I might need. So amazing! It took me awhile to find a break in the pack so I could head back out, but eventually I did! Before too long we hit the same hills on the way back and then I was within 3 miles of the transition area. I passed by the section of the run course that shares the road with the bike and thought, “man, that looks hard” and I instantly went into my lowest gear and tried my best to spin out my legs.
SO HAPPY TO BE DONE (with the bike!)
T2: I dropped my bike, drank some water and slipped on my sneakers and then I was off – 13.1 miles!
Bike: 3:22:16/16.61 average MPH
The Run: “No White Flags”
I had been slightly nervous about the fact that the run course is a double loop, but as soon as I made my way out on the run absolutely loved it. It was so motivating seeing my fellow competitors working so hard, and I was able to see a lot of friends, which gave me a huge boost. I set a goal for myself: No walking (except for the hill around mile 4) and no bathroom stops until the second loop. I also made the decision not to run with a garmin or to worry about my pace, but rather to just enjoy the experience and focus on feeling good and finishing with a SMILE!
As I ran I was surprised at how good I felt coming off the bike, I guess that is what happens when you actually put work in! I kept on seeing more and more friends, which was a huge blast. I heard a LOT of people choking and gagging, which I tried my best to block out. The last thing I needed was to barf, ick. The first lap was suddenly done and I made my way towards the turn around – I knew this would get in my head so I just decided to look at the finish line and take it all in…I would be there SOON! I looked around for Rob but sadly never saw him. Apparently my splits were saying I was walking so he was expecting me much, much later. Definitely a bummer, but it’s always better to be faster than slower :)
Lap two: I somehow found myself running with a woman that worked in fitness at my rival high school. She was running as a part of a relay and tried to motivate people as she ran by. Most people were scowling and getting pretty annoyed, but I personally LOVED her drill sergeant attitude and insesent comments for me to push up hard sections of the course. I don’t know who you are, but Fitness instructor/coach from Lincoln-Sudbury High School – you literally carried me through the 2nd lap.
As I approached the finish line I dug deep and all of a sudden Rob was running up to me, I was shocked he wasn’t at the finish line, but again my splits were all messed up so he had no idea where I was on the course.
As I ran through the finish chute I kept on thinking, I’M DOING IT!!!!!!! I put my hands up and then enjoyed the fact that I could finally walk after over six hours of racing.
The run: 2:14:19
Volunteers were putting medals around finisher’s necks and all of a sudden a man was telling me congrats and I looked up and it was ANDY POTTS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had a huge moment of disbelief and then like a small child asked “CAN I HUG YOU?!” he laughed and said yes.
Final Time: 6:13:06/Division Rank: 55/Overall Rank: 1292
Happiness level: through the freaking roof.
Post race thoughts:
- I loved every moment of this race. Yes, even when I was really bored on the bike, it was still better than my best running race.
- I have finally found my sport. I will definitely run another marathon, but not for quite some time.
- I have a LOT of work to do on the bike, but I’ve also made a lot of progress considering how I was nervous about even biking around the block, let alone 56 miles.
- I can’t wait to do it again!
- A full ironman would be a ridiculous amount of work, but I think I can do it…someday!
I definitely never could have done with without the amazing support of my husband Rob, who is my rock and “Zen Fox” (His new nickname I bestowed upon him during Timberman craziness.)
I also had some amazing friends near and far that were unbelievably supportive, THANK YOU!
And to everyone in blogland/twitter/instagram – you ROCK! Your advice kept my nervousness in check, laughs on point and enthusiasm was through the roof.
Now the big question is – WHAT’S NEXT?!
What races should I do next year??