I'm thrilled to report I placed 5th at the Latin American Ironman Championships in Florianopolis, Brasil last Sunday. I targeted this race last year as a qualifier for Kona, and put it on my schedule in January. I went through the process of obtaining a visa (two all day visits to the consulate in midtown Manhattan). Then, I started looking at ticket prices, it was SO expensive. I hadn't done as well as expected in my previous races and just didn't think I could justify that $1300 plane ticket, no matter how badly I wanted to qualify for Kona. Bec and I decided we'd just switch the focus to making sure I could defend my title at Challenge Atlantic City. It gave me another month to get ready and it would mean my family and supporters could see me race. The day after we decided to change focus, I got word that the Atlantic City race would not have a pro field. I was totally disappointed. I took a few days away from looking at the various schedules, points, prize money, etc and went shopping, enjoyed a weekend of no training with my mom in LA, helped pace Bec in some workouts and pretty much had no focus on an ironman race.
Then, one night a week before Ironman Brasil, in a bout of insomnia, I checked expedia and lo and behold, the fare dropped to $650! With no bag fees to Brazil and a $42/ night hotel, I booked the ticket immediately. The next morning Bec and I did a solid descending pace run on the rail trail in New Paltz. I had a great run and knew I'd be ok in Brasil if everything fell into place.
Things did go well in the end and I had a great race, but traveling solo to an Ironman in a faraway country not knowing the language was hard. My cheap hotel was actually great, BUT it was far from the race venue. The ride over there contained 30 speed bumps (yes, I counted). For a carsick person, I was suffering. I got so sick coming back from the pro meeting that I thought I might not be able to race. I ended up finding the last room in the area which turned out to be an 5 bedroom villa for the night before the race. I moved over there and then forgot my food and had to go all the way back! Oh yeah, and because of that I had no more cash and couldn't find any ATMs. I was begging for rides and getting ripped off by cab drivers. Next time, I'll know exactly how to plan for this race. The only good thing is that I really familiarized myself with the hills on the run!
After all the stress the day before, I made it to the race on time and ready to go. But, I didn't realize that the swim start was a good walk away on a rough surface. I ended up having to run there and fight through a crowd to arrive at the start. Another lesson for next time!
We started in the water and I immediately got into a decent position. Haley shot out like a cannon and I actually never even saw her! I swam behind Amanda for awhile until she pulled away, then I was side by side with Lucie for the rest of the way. I spent a good bit of time looking at the amazing sunrise over the mountains. It was so pretty! My favorite part of the entire race was that we got to get out of the water and run on the beach and then go back in. I had fun with that! I came out of the water in third place but took my time in transition changing into bike shorts. This extra time is something I'd like to cut out in my ironman. I ended up getting on my bike behind the girls I swam with and had to work to catch them.
I felt great on the bike and before I knew it, about 12 miles in, I caught Amanda and moved into 2nd place. We rode together for the next 30 miles or so and were joined by Tine Deckers at around 40. Tine left us on a descent and I stayed with Amanda until halfway. Then, she picked up the pace. She was pacing wisely, whereas I was probably going too hard. I decided to settle down a bit and at some point maybe around 70-85 I got passed by Liz, Asa, Mareen, and Astrid. As they passed me one by one, I couldn't help but thinking of the saying "bike for show, run for dough". I didn't panic and try to chase, because I had a plan and I knew I'd see some of them again on the run. I focused on keeping my heart rate low and for the last 30 miles rode solo. In hindsight, maybe I could have pushed a bit more, but now I know for next time! I finished with a 5:03 bike split, which is a huge improvement over 112 miles for me.
I had another really slow transition (Ugh, the transitions ended up costing me a place but let's not talk about that!!) and started the run with my legs feeling great. I didn't even feel like I biked 112 miles. How is that possible?? I had NO idea how far back I was and, in fact, didn't get a split the entire race. There were, however, many people cheering for me in Portugese! With in a few minutes Ariane came screaming by me in an unbelievable pace. I thought to myself, there's no way she can hold that…but I was wrong, she did! I was momentarily bummed to be in 9th place but continued on with my planned pace. I loved running through the crowds and when the hills came, I felt right at home. I passed Astrid and Mareen by 10 miles and was executing my plan perfectly. When we hit the next out and back, I was thrilled to see Amanda having a great race in first and Liz in second. Then, a few minutes later I got a stomach cramp at mile 15…my pace ballooned to 7:30. I was not making any time up on the girls ahead. I remembered that if you get a cramp, it's ok to slow for a bit and let it pass. I stopped looking at my watch for a few miles and sang Buddy Holly's "Everyday" over and over to myself, and maybe even out loud! By the time I hit the u-turn for the last lap I was flying at around 6:30 pace. My fastest mile for the whole marathon came at mile 22. I passed Haley and then Asa. I could not believe I was running faster than I have in some half ironmans this year! I kept imagining Bec and SJ and my mom and dad and sisters at home tracking me and cheering me on. I pretended I was Rinny ripping through the field in Kona. Unfortunately, this was when the course got extremely congested with runners going both ways in a narrow lane. I had to do some running on the grass and even ran smack into two men - sorry! It slowed me down substantially, but I was happy to be in 5th and didn't let myself get too upset that I couldn't go as fast as I wanted. When the roads cleared for the last 3/4 of a mile, I could see 4th place up ahead! What?? I pushed hard and did my best to reduce the gap. I ended just over a minute behind 4th and finished with a 7:02 mile and a huge smile!
My final time was 9:09. I've done four of these now, 9:49, 9:24, 9:14, 9:09. I know you can't compare course to course, and we had ideal conditions in Brazil, but I think I'm getting the hang of this! I was a bit bummed that I didn't take advantage of the perfect weather to run a faster time, but without that bad patch, I would have been right on target. I really like this distance of racing and believe I have a lot of room for improvement (we know I can swim faster, for starters!), so bring on the next one!
I have to thank my family, friends, sponsors and fans AND MY PHYSIO Carolyn for believing in me and encouraging me. Salming Running kept me feet fresh, Osmo Nutrition kept me hydrated, Thunderbird Bars kept me fueled, Roka helped me swim fast and Moo Motion helped me look good! Also, to the doubters, thank you! There is no better motivation than proving yourself. I am very fortunate that things worked out, and good luck is certainly part of that. However, it took a lot of determination and will to do this on my own and fight to end. I am more proud of that than anything. I sort of shocked myself, but as Bec said, no one who knows you is surprised.
I'm now 32nd in the Kona points ranking (alas, if I were a guy I'd be booking a ticket to Hawaii!). I'm figuring out the races that will help me to qualify, and right now that looks like Ironman Mont Tremblant. My next race will be one of my favorites, the Philly Tri. For more pictures from my trip please vist my Instagram: @athletestyle and check out the hashtag: #ASGoestoBrazil