Friday, June 23, 2017

The Ironman Journey

I was on the trainer last Tuesday, and popped in a video that I got at the Ironman store when I went to watch and cheer my friend and teammate Becky when she raced in Florida. It was the 2010 Ironman. I don’t know what it was about that video but all of a sudden I got sentimental...and started thinking.

Just after Becky finished IM Florida 2012!

Twenty-five years ago I did my first Ironman distance triathlon. I went to Canada with no expectations, and just hoped to finish. A month or so before the race I adjusted my goal to not wanting to be out there for 16 hours. There were no Garmins, no fancy wheels, no elaborate nutrition plans. Early that year I raced the Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon in Austin, and Paula Newby Fraser gave a little talk about training for the different distances. I took a bunch of notes and came away with her “Key Workout Training Program”. I used this to train for Canada. I had been working as an Operations Manager for the Gap, and going to school studying Massage Therapy and hadn’t been doing much training. Races were really mostly winging it and having fun with friends. I had 10 weeks before the race and wrote out my training plan based on Paula’s key workout program. Her theory was that if you were training year in year out doing the 3 key workouts a week, one for each discipline, then you could get ready for an Ironman in 6 weeks. My longest bike up to that point was 40 miles, and my longest run was about six.

Paula's Key Workout Program

As I started the run at Ironman Canada, a Texas TriFed official that I knew (this was before it was changed to USA Triathlon) was heading out onto the run at the same time. He said, “you know Ginger, if we move right along we can break 12 hours.” I remember looking at my watch thinking, “WHAT?” I had 4:23 minutes to run the marathon. As I ran along, not really paying attention to the times that the volunteers were calling out, I saw a girl with a long ponytail running up ahead of me. I kept my eye on her, and watched as I narrowed the gap. At the halfway point I came up next to her, and went by. She picked it up and passed me. I thought I do not want to play leapfrog for another 13 miles, so I struck up a conversation with her. She was Tricia Cadden from San Diego and worked for Scott Tinley (he had a clothing company back then). We ran along together and talked about breaking 12 hours. We were clocking out 10 minute miles on the nose, and got to mile 20 and saw that we had one hour left to make it under 12:00. Well, at a 10 minute mile pace that would get us to the finish line at 12:02; I said we needed to pick it up a little. Two miles later we hadn’t made up any time and now had 40 minutes for the last 4.2 miles, which now I know mean a 9:30 mile pace. Tricia had to make a port-a-potty stop and I stopped for a minute debating on waiting for her. I told her I was going on, and she said “GO!” I remember as I got close hearing the announcer’s voice saying, “Athletes, if you can hear my voice you can break 12 hours!” It felt like I went into a full blown sprint, trying to run fast as my calves were both cramping, hitting the finish line with 4 seconds to spare! I had never expected anything like that.

It would be 10 years before I would sign up for another Ironman. Laura, and Kara, some friends of mine that I trained with in Dallas were doing IM New Zealand, and I was doing a lot of their long rides with them. Another friend, Darcy had signed up for IM Florida, and I decided to give it another try. This race ended in fiasco. Three weeks before the race I went out for my last long run, and as I started felt some pretty serious pain in my knee. I had noticed some pain during some of the rides but nothing like this. I finished the run, and I knew there was trouble. My Mom begged me not to do the race, she told me she would give me the money from the entry fee and hotel. I did the race anyway, like any typical hard headed triathlete. I remember walking and running the marathon. I would walk because I was worried about doing more damage to my knee, and then it would catch and I’d almost fall down. Then I would run a little. Repeat. And a month later had my first knee surgery, micro-fracture…this is where they cut off the flapping articular cartilage on the end of my femur and punch holes in the end of the bone hoping that the holes will ooze and bleed and fill the space with scar cartilage.

I recovered from that surgery to race again, but stuck to short distances. Five years went by and a bunch of my friends were doing the 2007 Ironman Louisville. It was the inaugural race, sure why not! The easiest way to train for Ironman (in my opinion) is when there are several people that you know doing the same race. Those long bike rides are awfully lonely if you have to do them alone. I don’t mind the solo long runs, but cycling is a different story. It was 15 years since my first Ironman. I was really happy with the outcome of this one, 15 years older and only 50 minutes slower than my first IM. My friend Mary saw me on the first loop of the run, and I remember her saying to me it didn’t even look like I was doing an Ironman (on the second loop she said I fit right in.) I finished in 12:50:55, 7th in my age group, best finish ever. But this race took its toll on my other knee. So in 2008 I was back having another micro-fracture surgery on the “good” knee.

Jump forward another 10 years to 2017. It’s been 25 years since that first Ironman. I swore I’d never do another one, my rational and reasoning being that the run training would probably take me out of the sport for good.

But who is rational? I gave it some thought and talked to my husband. What better way to exit this sport that I love? I’m not saying that I will stop racing. I will only know after seeing what my poor little knees feel like after this race. It may be time to stop, and I can't think of a better way. One of the things that prompted me on which race to choose is that my Tri-Mentee Margaret is racing at Florida. This will be her first Ironman, and my last. Fitting. Passing it on to the new guard. I can't wait to see her on the run course and cheer each other on!

My Tri-Mentee Margaret Lloyd!

So I’m in for Ironman Florida in November. I could call it a redemption race, but I don’t think I will. I have no idea what I will be capable of at 56 years old, but I know I will enjoy this journey.

I hope you will come along for the ride!

See you at the races…

IM Florida 2002 with Darcy!

IM Lou 2007 with Mary Tubb!

IM Lou with the best husband ever!