From Russ K.
Run Like the Wind – Then Run Into the Wind
One of the things that Coach Katie has us do before each race is to write a race plan and e-mail it to her. This is true for pretty much any race we do, whether it is a 5k, a marathon, or an iron-distance race. The reason seems obvious – it forces us to thoughtfully consider how we plan to approach everything, rather than how I used to do races. What and when will I eat and drink? How will I approach known-challenges on the course (big climbs for example)? How do I plan to meter out my effort? Does my coach think my plan makes any sense at all based on what she knows of me (am I being over-aggressive or am I sand bagging)? So with that in mind, I had a plan for my Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
New Orleans, however, had different plans for me. The forecast for that day was grey and 30 MPH winds, and the weather did not disappoint. As I stood on the dock waiting for my turn, I saw athlete-after-athlete turn around and refuse to jump in to Lake Ponchartrain. I saw athletes jump in and then immediately swim for shore/help. As I generally consider myself to be a weaker swimmer, this did not fill me with confidence. I found myself wondering whether my friends/teammates who went ahead of me (and after me) were doing ok. How was I going to get through this? No more time to worry. It was my turn on the mat with 4 other strangers, the whistle blew, and we jumped in to start.
And so started a race into the worst conditions I have ever raced in. Choppy and turbulent water on the swim. Stiff head and cross-winds on the bike (next to flooded streets), and the second half of the half marathon, which was literally into a wall of wind for 6.55 miles.
How did my plan go? While I consider the swim to be my weakest “sport,” I worked with it. I adjusted. I swam slowly, deliberately, with my head up for the first 5 minutes just to get comfortable in the water, settle my breathing, and try to figure out a pattern of the water turbulence/waves. After 5 minutes, I was able to swim with my head down (mostly) normally. Sure, at times it felt like I was swimming in place. The bike required more adjustment. Again, surprisingly, going out into the headwinds was the easier half for me. I kept to my power goals, kept to my eating/drinking plan (as best I could). Coming back, the cross-winds played havoc with me. The same thing with the run – I mostly stuck to my script going out. Coming back into the wind, I think subconsciously it started to mentally wear me down, and I started walking a bit more.
I think what I most learned from this race is that I am tougher than I or my brain give myself credit for. Before this year, there is a good chance I would not have stepped into that swim, and a good chance if I did that I would never have made it. I would have ridden that bike at a reduced effort the whole way, blaming and cursing the wind for making my day so bad (instead of troubleshooting and going as hard as I could in the conditions). I would have walked the entire run, cursing the wind wondering why I was out there. Instead, even when I walked on the run, people would yell “Go Team Amazing Day!” and I would smile and thank them and start running again.
From Jason B.