After my breakthrough at the Mt Tremblant 70.3, I resumed training with a newfound motivation. Maybe I could be a real pro after all!
I just needed to crank up the mileage. Real pros rode their bikes 300+ miles/week. I had never maintained a mileage higher than 220-230, but now I increased that dramatically.
Almost immediately, I started feeling improvements in my endurance. My times weren't changing very much, but what was changing was my recovery time. Even in their fatigued state, I could feel my legs building a durability they'd never had before. What could they do if they were fresh??
A few weeks later, I got the answer to this question. I was hoping for a podium finish at the Boston Triathlon. I had placed fourth on two occasions, but never top three. I really, really wanted a podium finish - but a win was too much to even dream about. I got out of the water first. I got off the bike first. I still wouldn't let myself dream about winning. About a mile from the finish, I started to finally believe it. Running down the finish chute and breaking the tape was a dream come true - though I was very aware that neither of the two most recent champions was racing. In my mind, the win comes with an asterisk, because I'm not sure I would have been able to pull it off if all the usual contenders had been there. Still, I will always have that victory - and it was a 6-minute PR, very much a performance I'm proud of!
After finishing and doing my first ever finish-line interview, I did the run course again - alongside my mom, who was racing her first olympic distance triathlon! After having some food and beer and going to the awards ceremony, I rode my bike to Gloucester (~50 mi), while my parents drove in the van. I had taken the previous week easy, and it was time to get back to high volume training!
Increasing my mileage was working wonders. I cranked the volume up even higher. In my phase of feeling invincible, I had signed up not only for Ironman Mt Tremblant in August, but for Ironman Wisconsin three weeks later, and the Cozumel 70.3 three weeks after that.
Around that time, I started feeling a twinge in my left heel in the mornings. The dreaded plantar fasciatis. Maybe the dramatic increase in run mileage hadn't been such a good idea. But I was going to keep biking 300 miles/week no matter what.
Two weeks before Mt Tremblant, my legs decided they'd had enough. I didn't have any speed, no matter what I did. At least it was taper time. I did a much more through taper than I had planned, and drove to Canada.
The swim went fairly well. I was thrilled to get out of the water in under an hour, right behind Jodie Robertson! I asked the volunteers in the changing tent how many other women had come through before us. They looked at each other with uncertainty, and said "I don't know... three?" I took their word for it. That meant I was in fifth place! Wow - I was having an awesome day! I got on the bike, and started hammering.
A couple of women passed me, but I stayed with them for as long as I could. I had never really raced this early in a full Ironman before. But here I was in the top 30% of the pro field - or so I thought. At the turnarounds, I gradually discovered that the volunteers in the changing tent had been wrong. I had definitely not been fifth out of the water. I didn't know what place I was in, but I wasn't doing as well as I thought. At the halfway mark, my bike split was 2:37 - the exact same bike split I had posted in the 70.3 two months ago. But now I had to do it again.
Crap. I had gone out much too fast. You have to burn some matches in pro racing, but not that many matches. I realized my mentality also played a part. When I solidly believed I was in 5th place, I was riding really well. When I realized I had no idea what place I was in, I lost motivation and slowed down significantly. I now convinced myself that I was in 8th place. I didn't know if that was actually true, but believing in it helped me retrieve some of the energy I'd had earlier.
After all the water and fluids I'd gone through, I needed to pee, and debated whether to stop at a porta potty or attempt to do it on the bike. Peeing on the bike is actually a difficult skill, because you're working against all those reflexes you've developed since childhood. It does save time, though. I eventually got my body to pee while riding - but ooowww! I realized I had forgotten to put on anti-chafe cream that morning, and 5+ hours in the saddle had caused significant chafing at the tops of my thighs. The rest of the bike was really painful - thank goodness I'd procrastinated and not peed earlier!
I made it to the end of the bike, with a split of 5:29. My legs didn't have the magic speed they'd had in the 70.3, but I was relieved that running didn't hurt my chafing nearly as much as cycling did, and that my left heel wasn't bothering me as much as I'd feared.
The first half of the marathon, I held 8-minute mile pace. If I broke 3:30, I could get a PR! As I approached mile 20, I was starting to hit the wall. Shortly before the last turn around, Katy Cargiulo passed me. I dug deep and somehow managed to match her pace. We ran alongside each other - sometimes one of us surging ahead, sometime the other. This went on for maybe ten minutes, and then I wasn't able to maintain the pace anymore, and she pulled ahead permanently.
I crossed the line in 10:06:53 - less than a minute off my PR - and it was by far my fastest time on a hilly Ironman course!
It was a breakthrough performance, just as the 70.3 had been, but for completely different reasons. The Mt Tremblant 70.3 was a breakthrough because it was supposed to feel hard and it didn't. The Mt Tremblant full Ironman was a breakthrough because it felt very, very hard but I kept pushing anyway.
Following Mt Tremblant, I went through some rough spots. A continued battle with plantar fasciatis. Two flat tires. Ironman Wisconsin, where I quit, and Cozumel, where I didn't quit, even though I had a tough day. To be continued!