“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” (Steve Jobs)
If you would have told me months ago that I would race Ironman Cozumel, I would said you’re crazy. I believed that no matter what happened in Hawaii, I would call it a season. The thought of doing a fourth Ironman in a season just sounded nuts. But then, I found myself in a mindset where it “felt right”. Of course that is understandable a few days after a race, when you’re hungry for what you know you were capable of… when your body feels fairly good because there has not yet been time for real fatigue to settle in. That is why I gave myself a few weeks. And I weighed in that while I’d done three Ironmans, I had done very little other racing. Ultimately, the decision felt right to me; there was a strong inner voice that just told me “Kelly, that was an off-day for you; your body wasn’t firing like it can… you know you can do better, and you trained hard for this; don’t let the fear of not having ‘the perfect race’ in Cozumel scare you away from just going out and giving it one more hit out. Embrace the chance to race again, utilize all of the fitness you have, enjoy the process, and let your body do it’s thing.” And that’s exactly what I did.
The time between the two races, Derick and I both acknowledged that my body essentially had the ‘training’ it needed and the endurance required to race. The trick was how to rest adequately, stay sharp, put in “some” training yet still toe the line ready to fire on all cylinders. I took a huge rest the week after Hawaii, a very light 2nd week, and dug into moderate training for weeks 3, 4 and 5. This entailed regular swims, hitting the track for a speed workout each week (I let myself draw upon ‘what sounded like fun’, as it had been a long year and I knew mentally I could crack if not careful), and some intensity on the bike with a moderately longer ride each week. All in all, it was enough to keep the engine going but never so much I felt overly tired. Once we rolled around to race week, I had to quiet those questions of “have I done enough”; but I reminded myself that it was not just the past 5 weeks of training for this that was going to count, but the body was also going to draw upon many months of consistency come race day.
We arrived in Cancun Thursday, hopped a bus to the ferry, and hopped the ferry ride over to the island; yes, travel via air, land, and water!. I didn’t leave much time to sit around and worry about race day; Friday came and there was lots to get done. I have to say, I kind of prefer this. We’re all Type A enough as is; to arrive with just enough time to do the essentials and not worry over every little detail was pretty refreshing. I loved the vibe of the island. Hot, windy, beautiful, and friendly people. Logistically things seemed a bit hectic pre race, but on race day, it all flowed perfectly.
My approach for this one was essentially Let go. No expectations. Race hard and enjoy this process because it’s what you do. Swim smooth and confidently, bike fast when pushed and strong into the winds, and run like hell. Savor opportunity. Embrace it. Leave nothing in the tank. No regrets.
Sure, I can say ‘no expectations’, but I’m a fierce competitor. I always toe the line looking to be in the mix. But I also knew I came here looking to fulfill something I had not; to race to my potential, to cap off the season on a performance that I would be proud of. We aren’t always granted this chance due to unforseen things; but I knew I would do all in my capacity to give it race to my abilities.
The swim was as beautiful; clear water, point-to-point, mildly current-assisted. Given the times, I don’t think it was ‘quite’ as assisted as it was in the past. Temps were warm enough for non-wetsuit, which meant I used my Zoot speedsuit. I felt decent, but I know the swim needs work (which I’ve already attended to). I had a few little jelly stings along the way, but all in all it was smooth and consistent; I exited in about 49:xx, putting me in the mix of the 2nd pack of girls; FAR better than the sh#tshow swim I had executed in Kona!
Onto the Felt IA, and off for three loops around the island. It was an awesome bike course. Wide open roads, and wide open land around you. The first stretch lined with trees on either side, then we turned up the east side of the island and were met with nasty headwinds and a view off to your right shoulder that was pretty breath-taking; just raw, untouched beachline. The first loop, I felt mediocre. I did my usual and sucked it up, staying positive it would get better. Into the 2nd loop and the legs suddenly joined the game. By the time I hit the winds in the 2nd and 3rd loops, I was actually loving it. The Felt IA handles incredibly well in stiff winds, and I found myself passing some of the men who had gone by me earlier; definitely didn’t hurt the confidence. Despite the fact that I’d thrown down 1900 calories of Powergels by the 5 hour mark, I started to feel empty the final stretch; I grabbed a gatorade and dialed back a bit to be sure I didn’t go into Bonkville.
Exiting the bike, the immediate sensation was STIFF. The body felt achy, but I knew this was likely due to the bracing in the winds. I tossed on the Zoot TTs, orange Rudy Noyz’s, visor, stuffed my pockets with gels and off I went…The Hunter! I have to admit, rarely am I discouraged here (even with a fairly hefty deficit) because this is when I know the race can really get exciting. I eased into the run and moved from 7th to 5th within a couple of miles, but tried to hold steady and strong. The run legs felt AMAZING, which was encouraging but I also know things can turn quick. While I kept an eye on my pace, I was really trying to pull back more than anything as I knew I was running pretty fast. Each loop, I managed to gain time but I knew Top 2 would be pretty tough. I slid into 3rd place going into the final loop. and ultimately this was where I would stay. I finished in 3rd, 9:24, and much to my surprise, a 2:57.02 run. The feeling? Mission accomplished. I came, knowing I was capable of better; and on this day, I delivered what I knew was in me. It felt satisfying.
To make this race far more special, we stayed with an athlete I coach who has Multiple Sclerosis. He was diagnosed in 2010, and he’s raced Cozumel three times since his diagnosis. His finishes? 15:18 (2011), 13:51 (2012), and 12:49 this year. It was awesome to see him out there competing and overcoming his MS, rather than let it get the best of him; his achievements have been amazing and very inspiring to watch. We connected through an organization called Active MSers, designed to ‘help, motivate, and inspire those with multiple sclerosis to stay as active as possible; physically, intellectually, socially; regardless of physical limitations.” Seeing that doing an Ironman will challenge every aspect of your being in some capacity, I would say he epitomizes the definition of an ActiveMSer!
Thanks for all the support this season. It’s been a good year. I’m thankful for you all, from sponsors, to friends & family, to those near and far who support with tweets, messages and notes. While this sport is individually executed, it is far from a solo endeavor. Time to enjoy some a little less structure, a little more time with friends, a few more IPA’s, and a break for the body and mind. See y’all in 2015!