Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 Ironman World Championships

The short story:

I finished my second Ironman!  I think the look on my face in this picture tells it all.  Pure joy.  In my experience there is no greater feeling in sport than running down Ali'i Drive, running up that carpeted chute and hearing Mike Reily say that "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN"!  I was 11th in my AG, 20th amateur, 40th female overall and my time was 10:11:16. 

The nitty gritty:

Race morning I was surprisingly calm.  The hardest part of any race day is leaving Oscar (and in this case my mom) to get in the water.  I almost get teary eyed!  Especially for Ironman, I know I have a long, hard day ahead of me and although I get to see my family out on the course, much of that day would be spent alone, inside my own head.  (scary!)

Still though, I was glad to get in the water with Chad and several other triathlon friends and then spend the next 20-25 minutes trying not to drown before the race even started.  This is definitely my least favorite part of the race - everyone jockeying for position, the paddleboarders pushing you BACK behind the start line, trying desperately to find some space and meanwhile the time is ticking by SOOOOO slowly.  ARGH - can't we go already?!?!  :)

And then finally BOOM!  The cannon goes off and the REAL melee begins!

Last year I think I totally lucked out and stayed out of major traffic and got hit maybe once during the swim.  I knew that wasn't likely going to happen again and sure enough, this year I got totally pummelled.  I started in roughly the same place as last year (far left) although this year I think I (unknowingly) cut over to the right WAY sooner and got in the mass of swimmers much earlier.  Before I knew it, I looked up and I was pretty much right on the buoy line which was just chaos.  AHHHHH!

All I have to say is, I hate age group men.

HA!  Just kidding.  :)  But seriously, as aggressive as I tried to be, I just really struggled to out muscle and win water space when I was up against men twice my size.  And I swear there were NO women around me!  It was just a sea of blue caps (AG men) with a pink cap (AG women) every once in a blue moon.

At the turn around I started to fear I was going to have a swim time of 1:20.  Although I felt great swimming truth was, most of the time I felt stuck in a big mass of people swimming too slow.  Occasionally I'd get some open water and go for it but then I'd catch the back of another group and be in the same situation all over again.  And it was like that the entire way.  Not even on my last swim stroke did I feel like I had some space.  Welcome to the Ironman swim right?!  :)

Getting out of the water, I was so relieved, mostly to be out alive!  But also because I saw the clock just turning to 1:02 which calmed my fears of having swam a 1:20.  :)  My final swim time was 1:02:07 a HUGE 13 second PR!  HA!  :)  Certainly not the type of improvement I'd hope to see with how much more swimming I put in this year, but still, 5th in my AG and somewhat respectable.  I know I have a sub hour IM swim in me.  As always, the work continues...

Onto my bike I was loving life.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is 112 miles!  EASY does it.  I'm used to getting on my bike and GOING for it.  I reminded myself over and over again, keep the HR in the 150s on the way out to Hawi.  Let's not get crazy here.

As I remembered from last year, on the way out to Hawi, it was crowded.  I focused on my HR and nutrition.  And overall, I just felt good.  I felt comfortable.  I felt happy that all was going well.  I was also keeping an eye on who was around me.  I had been passed by two women, one in my AG and one not, neither of whom I felt comfortable going with at that point.  The effort would have been too high and I was determined to stick to the "conservative to Hawi" plan that Dirk gave me.

Before I knew it, we were climbing to Hawi.  This was going by fast!  We had a pretty persistent head/crosswind up to Hawi but I still felt strong and was still getting the nutrition in.  We made the turnaround and then finally I was able to up the effort a little.  I pedaled hard down the other side to stay upright in the crosswind and then again, before I knew it, we were back on the Queen K!  Yes, this was going by REALLY fast!

Turning onto the Queen K towards home was my crumbling point last year.  From that point on (which is about 30 miles!) I struggled.  Many people passed me.  I cursed my bike.  I felt hot.  I wanted to get to T2 NOW!  THIS year though, whole different story.  Holy cow.  The headwind was definitely present but I just felt sooooo much stronger.  Instead of getting passed by everyone, I was actually doing some passing!  The heat was there but I felt like I was managing it well.  And time was moving so quickly.  Before I knew it, I was at 85 miles and then 90 and then 95...

I did have one low point on the bike where my stomach was incredibly unhappy.  It had sort of been building throughout the bike but I kept eating because I knew I had to to be able to finish the bike and run.  Finally it all came to a head and I had an episode of retching/throwing up.  That's a new one - I usually wait until the run to do that!  :)  I felt SOOO much better though after it was done and instantly my stomach was happy again and much more accepting of my gels.  The unfortunate part about it though was that this was right when Sarah passed me.  Had I been feeling a bit better it would have been the perfect opportunity to chase hard but at that point I was feeling rotten.  Bad timing on my part but what can you do?

After I got through that little low though (mile 90ish), I started to fly.  I FELT SO GOOD.  The field gets very strung out during that last 30 miles but I just kept on focusing on the person in front of me and pulling them in.  My stomach was happy, my legs were happy and I was picking up some serious speed.

If Dirk were standing on the side of the road, I think I would have gotten off my bike and hugged him.  THANK YOU DIRK!  Thank you for making me ride all those miles all year.  For those 5 hour rides on Saturday followed by a 6:30 ride on Sunday.  I wasn't loving you at the time but I was truly thankful at mile 100 on Saturday!  And when I really started to calculate just what my bike time might be, I got REALLY excited!  At first it was..."I just might break 5:30!" and then "wait, maybe I can break 5:25!" and then "holy cats, I think I might break 5:20!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Happy day!

I got off my bike in 5:19:10 - over 20 minutes faster than last year and in a much better place mentally and physically.  Yes indeed, thank you Dirk.  :)

I got through T2 well and started the marathon feeling good.  I was just so excited to see Oscar and my mom and my friends after not seeing them for the last 5 hours while I was on the bike.  When I passed Oscar around 2 miles in he told me he thought I was in 4th or 5th place in my AG.  HOLY CATS! 

Starting the run, still with a smile!  :)
Keep it together Shutt!  I wanted to try to run 8 minute pace throughout the marathon because I believe I have a 3:30 marathon off the bike in me.  And for the first 10 miles I was doing pretty good!  Too bad there are still 16 miles to go...  HA!  :)  While my legs were cooperating pretty well I was having two issues: (1) sour stomach/throwing up and (2) painful feet that felt like they were melting with each step of the Queen K.  I was doing my best to manage both issues but as the miles wore on, the lack of nutrition (due to throwing up and switching to coke only) started to slow my pace quite a bit.  I was still in good spirits and got through the Energy Lab much better than last year (no walking this year!) but coming back out onto the Queen K when you still have 7+ miles to go...ouch. 

One foot in front of the other.

I finally made my way up closer to town and was SO happy to see Oscar.  At that point I had been passed by 5-6 others in my AG putting me in 11th place.  I was sad to have fallen out of the top 10 which was one of my big goals but I knew I was still going to have a big PR and that kept me pushing, pushing.  Oscar knows how my brain works so when I saw him before making the turn onto Palani he told me "HUGE PR - you are having a GREAT race!"  No mention of my place.  He knew that I knew.  But I was still having a big day and darn it, let's finish this thing!  Oscar told me with less than 2 miles left that we were 9:55 into the race.  COME ON SHUTT, let's break 10:10!

I was on such a mission then.  I was seriously moving soooo slow but I was trying to will my legs to move as fast as possible.  And then I made the turn back into town and the fans were cheering so loud.  I was in such a world of hurt but so determined to see 10:0x on that clock!

Coming down Palani for the last time.  Thanks to the Cathy and Kerry for the awesome photos out on the course and at the finish!
What can I say about coming down Ali'i?  It's just magical.  And when I did finally see the clock and that I wasn't going to quite break 10:10, I didn't even care.  I was so overcome with happiness and joy and thankfulness.  It was an amazing day and although I wanted it to end, I also wanted to savor the feeling forever.

In the end I had a 33:14 PR and a PR in all three sports.  Never did I imagine that my day would have a 10:11 in store!  And furthermore, never did I imagine that if I did go 10:11, I'd finish 11th in my AG!  HA!  (my competitors are awesome and the 30-34 AG is the bomb!  :) 

Am I disappointed that I didn't run faster?  Well of course.  It was hard to taste the podium ever so slightly and then get passed by 5-6 people!  My final marathon time was 3:44:33, a 10 minute improvement over last year but still not what I think I'm capable of.  I believed I was ready to run 3:30 off the bike and to truly be competitive I know I need to run more in the range of 3:20.  But it's all about the baby steps.  It took me a long time to learn to run well off the bike at the half distance so I know running a great marathon isn't going to come overnight either.  The fact is, I'm just not strong enough yet to put it all together.  But I'm really, really excited to keep working to get strong enough.  I finished so, so happy to have gone 10:11.  But even more so, happy in knowing that there is much room for improvement and some of the times that I dare not even dream about, may be a reality for me after all.

Kona was a dream come true yet again.  It was such a hard day.  But the reward was more than adequate!  And I'm already thinking about the next one.  YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  :)

HUGE thanks for all your cheers, encouragement and prayers.  I again get teary eyed thinking of all the support I've received for this race and all season long.  I'm truly thankful and humbled.  This year and this race were great journeys with even finer destinations.

Now for some more photos with more to come in the next few days!

It was so great to have Ty and Ryan Ballou out on the course - true inspiration!  And of course to see so many of my teammates out there crushing it.  I'm one lucky gal.

Getting free stuff and swimming with some AWESOME ladies is one of my favorite parts of Kona!

Underpants run with the Pittsburgh Crew.  AWESOMENESS!
Going back to the finish line for the final 2 hours of the race with my friends is one of my favorite parts.  So inspirational.  So amazing what the human spirit is capable of.

See!  I told you my feet hurt on the run!  The aftermath of Ironman isn't pretty!
Getting to swim out here the day after the race made everything better though!  LOVE!


  1. So happy for you, Beth. Your perspective is great and I can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve for next year.

  2. Beth,
    I know you don't me from a random woman in the market (or random triathlete in your AG)... but I've been following your blog all year. I am SO impressed by your dedication, honesty, and training. Your weekends were truly unbelievable to me. Partly because I'm a mother of a toddler and just do not have that kind of time to train, but also because I cannot IMAGINE doing those back to back long rides and long brick runs after. You are AMAZING! A 10:11!! And I'm so glad to see your hard work pay off- your Kona report brought tears to my eyes (especially the run) because I was racing in 2008 and my husband was out at mile 20-21 and he knows my head just like Oscar knows yours. Keep dreaming big dreams. I would be honored to meet you and hopefully race against you some day!
    Robyn from MN

  3. I wish I had your email to reply to you personally Robyn! But I wanted to thank you for your comment. That just means so much to me and I really appreciate it! It helps me too to be thankful that I have been given the opportunity to train hard and have the hours to do it. I hope you see this! :)

  4. Hey I have that same cute pink Cervelo shirt. ;) Congrats on your huge PR! Well earned.

  5. Amazing job and way to stay positive..HUGE PRs are always a good thing!
    Oh,and you may want to change the blog title- I think it is still 2011 :)

  6. HI Beth! I really enjoyed this post. What an incredible season for you! All your posts about your training and the whole journey this year have been inspiring. Get some rest and I'm sure you're already thinking about next year!! Can't wait to follow! :) Jennifer

  7. Well, you know how awesome I think you are! And, back in 2007 (or 2006?) when you came to Chicago for the camp with myself & SS and Spencer leaned over to me and said, "that girl has 'it'"....he was so right and we knew then!
    CONGRATS on your race - Kona is a toughie for sure - I am hot just thinking of it - way to a massive way! The hard work pays off!
    Now enjoy some R&R!!!!

  8. Great job, Beth! I always love reading your race reports; I think I said this once before, but when things get tough for me in a race, I try to channel your spirit. Which is funny, since I've never met you! But really, what an amazing accomplishment, and I have to think it's not only your killer training that let it happen but your amazing attitude. Getting passed on the run must have been hard, but you kept at it like a real champion. Also, those are some serious bike short tan lines :).

  9. Great write-up Beth, even greater race and you are the greatest person! I can't believe the pain threshold you have running with those blisters, you need to go buy some trislide and spray your feet and shoes, that stuff is magic!

  10. Awesome race, Beth! Hope that foot heals quick!

  11. Great race Beth and Congrats on your PR! I'm sure you'll continue to figure out each part of the race and chip away at the PR. 30-34 really is a tough group! Whenever I'm in a large swim I think the same thing about the age group men. It sounds like a tough swim!

  12. Great job Beth! Loved your race report and way to tough it out! You looked so smooth on the run. Can't remember if I cheered for you on Queen K but I think I did (or at least in my head I did) :)
    It was great meeting you..good luck with everything and congrats again on 3 PR's!!!

  13. f*cking A girlfriend - you PRed every single sport and the whole damn thing. im so incredibly happy for you. ouch your poor feet! rest up, have a cookie and enjoy your amazingness!

  14. Beth!! oh my gawd on that paw pad, OUCH! I sure hope you dont put pressure on that for a few weeks my friend. As for the swim, i agree with you that was how it was at Madison i saw no beatings from the pink caps and it made me really question the 75% men 25% women ratio in that race. Not sure the ratio at Kona but that is not right.
    Rest up and congrats:)

  15. You are such an inspiration. Way to go!

  16. BETH!! Congratulations!! (and your poor tootsie!!) Amazing race. Amazing journey. Big things await!!

  17. this race report fills me with SO much joy. you improved so much and I love that you can see how far you can go with some more work. I can't wait to see that stellar marathon off the bike, just some more work away. with all the obstacles you faced with your stomach, you put up a HUGE day!!! so so proud of you and I had so much fun training and hanging out with you in kona! big things in store for you beth, big things..... and I can't wait to read about dirk's plan for the run improvements (yikes!! good kind of scared!) take care of that foot girl!
    I was laughing as it sounds like we had the same swim experience and almost the same bike experience too! (minus the puking of course!)

  18. Wow, impressive race! I wish I could ride my bike that fast:)
    Every race report I am reminded how tough you are! Way to race hard!

  19. Congrats to one of the fiercest yet sweetest girls I've met. I really enjoyed getting to know you better this week. You are right about progress taking time. I'm right there with ya...and we do have a great AG!

  20. What a race Beth! You toughed it out and you never gave up! VERY great day and so happy for you!! Another IM in the books!

  21. Congrats on a great race! The hard work you've done over the years is showing. That swim split is better than it looks because of the current they were talking about. Everyone was going minutes slower than usual, so a swim PR on a slow day is super awesome! Also, I agree you have a faster marathon in you. :)

  22. Congrats Beth!!! What am amazing race and great race report! You've shown so much dedication to this sport and it is so, so inspiring :) 11th AG/20th Amateur at WORLDS - WOW! You have so much to be proud of, and I know there's even bigger things in store for you.

    Owww... That foot looks painful - hope it's on the mend!

  23. Awesome job Beth!!! I'm truly impressed. What a performance. Can't wait to get a race breakdown in person.

  24. Congrats on a hugehugehuge PR! I hope you're recovering well (Including those feet, wow!). Yay for you!