The Big Day!

I didn’t win, but it sure feels like a victory!

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This photo says it all. Except my real time 🙂 14:51:58

It’s the morning of the race and I look around to see my friends at the start line. My thought: We are really here. Excitement washed over me. Elation. All of my work – all of their work – today was finally our day.

Let’s do this.

I waited for anxiety to set in as I waited for the gun to go off, but strangely, it never did, not in the way I anticipated. We were in the water splashing around before 7am and I focused on sighting buoys through the fog and not swimming into anyone. I spent this first hour re-hashing my race plan – transition zones, nutrition, how to deal with the heat (the expected humidex was slated for 40C!) – and trying to swim straight 🙂 My garmin read 4200M when I came out of the water, but it didn’t matter, I was under 1:30 and now I could focus on the next task, the bike.

I knew the bike would be the toughest part of the race for me, and I was right. I started off with a 27km/h pace, and given the hilliness of the course, I knew I couldn’t sustain that speed. Tim and a few others started to miss me on the live tracker at some spots. You can see my speed variance here:

7 km 7 km 15:29 1:52:06 27.13 km/h      
73.5 km 66.5 km 2:40:43 4:32:49 24.83 km/h      
81.5 km 8 km 26:55 4:59:44 17.83 km/h      
89.5 km 8 km 19:11 5:18:55 25.02 km/h      
163.5 km 74 km 3:14:26 8:33:21 22.84 km/h      
171.5 km 8 km 29:29 9:02:50 16.28 km/h      
180 km 8.5 km 21:23 9:24:13 23.85 km/h      
Total 180 km 7:47:36 9:24:13 23.10 km/h

Lesson learned: I didn’t turn into a hero on race day. I had anticipated my time on the bike to be around 7h:30m, I wasn’t far off, and given the heat I’ll say it was a success. I didn’t have any mechanical issues which was a small miracle in itself. Betty’s 7 years old and has done me well. I managed to grab a big hug from my mom before I did a complete wardrobe change because it was SO. HOT. and I knew I was going to be donning some compression socks (thanks to my Fredericton Marathon experience!). I came out of the tent to find Ron chatting up my mom. I couldn’t help myself, I ran past Ron, give him a (friendly) smack and said “LET’S GO!” I was off!

The true test comes now. After spending close to 8 hours on the bike, how was a marathon going to feel? I’ve had lots of experienced Ironmen assure me I wouldn’t be running the entire 42.2K, but I was aiming to run half of that distance regardless! I saw many of my friends on the course and chatted with fellow racers throughout. There were mostly happy racers and one woman who grunted, to no one in particular,  “Why do I keep doing these races?! This is the last one, and I mean it!”. This made me smile. I think we’ve all had a race where we’ve thought that way, and I loved that she needed to verbalize it. However, I didn’t agree, at ALL. I felt strong. I kept pushing.

Our run course was a two loop trek – thankfully every marathon I’ve ever done has been the same! It can be pretty tough to come thisclose to the finish line, only to race another 21K. I’m happy to report my mindset was positive and I was truly enjoying this entire experience. The volunteers and spectators made the 5h:20m fly by. I’m serious! The rails-to-trails graced us with shade (and flatness!), and shortly after a sunset brought the much-needed cooling temperatures. High-fives and smiles from my friends from home was invaluable and I loved that so many Halifax Triathlon Club athletes made the trip and were sharing the experience.

With about 5K to go I was hoping that I could pick it up for that strong finish, but my legs had a different plan. I ended up walking/running with Pat Kennedy, someone I had only met once before and we chatted. It was his first Ironman too and he was still smiling, just like me. How exciting that we were experiencing this together! He offered to run me in, but I could tell he had a bit more gitty-up-and-go than I, so I told him to enjoy that finish line and I would see him soon. I felt confident I would finish in under 15h, and I was happy no matter.

I could hear the crowd. The announcer saying “YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.” I started to tear up as I shuffled to the village. Trying to run up that final hill…I smiled and high-fived all the way to the bright lights of the finish line. I heard my mom, Karen, Sarah and everyone else that remained to bring us all across the finish line.

Becky Davison, you are an IRONMAN.

It was amazing. Outstanding. Out of this world. Dare I say, magical?  I knew I would love this experience, but I had no idea the scope. The pre-race dinner with over 2500 attendees and their collective energy. The expo where I did spend all of my allowance. The blind woman who went for it. The 75 year old man that beat me. My friends that surpassed their goals. Our families that knew what we had been through to get here and believed in us every step of the way. All of it. I want it again!

Do people actually do just one ironman!?!? Not this girl.

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Unbelievably lucky to have my mom with me. And for Sarah to have thought to take this shot!

Challenge Accepted.

I did it.

We did it.

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Crossing the 70.3 finish line for the first time

This weekend was a memorable one. Not only was it race weekend, something I have been counting down to for close to a year, but with Hurricane Arthur landing on Saturday, there was a threat to take our race away!

HTC ST andrews

What a team! Friday night pre-race gathering.

I kept surprisingly cool leading up to the race. I thought the anxiety would set in as we arrived in St. Andrews….or the night before….surely as I got dressed that morning…or treading water before the horn sounded.

But I didn’t. I knew I trained to the best of my ability, and I was going to give it my all. Funnily enough, I experienced more anxiety with my first sprint race in June, than Challenge St. Andrew’s.

My family and friends made all the difference in the world. They reassured me, they were there to have lunch with me, and play bingo the night before. We didn’t start dissecting the race or freaking each other out. Not even once. I had the best support there and I hope I was helpful to the people around me.

race eve

Race eve.

On race day, the alarm went off at 4AM and Karen and I rolled over to eat our “race cake” from Ironman/Hero Sam Gyde. We thought we may be able to grab an extra 20 minutes of sleep (fat chance!) and we were up and getting ready to move out shortly thereafter.

We racked our bikes and set up transition at 5:30. Karen and I were setting up next to each other, when we heard that dread “POP” of a tire. It was so close to us my eardrums hurt. I was ready…if it was me, I could do this. (Thank you Shane for your lessons.) But it wasn’t me, or Karen or Shannon (huge sigh of relief!), and I did a final check before leaving the transition area for the last time before the race.

dressing

This looks like some kind of bizarre sleepover. Oh, wait….

I didn’t expect to enjoy the pre-race/pre-swim time, but my fellow HTC’ers united and we had fun. A few photos, well wishes, and smiles. Andrea Hachey, you have no idea how much your smile calmed me as I entered the water and swam to the start line, you are an inspiration.

As we treaded water and started at each other, I broke the tension with “What’s everyone drinking tonight!?” Val, Laura, Shannon and Devon, you made it fun.

swim girl

Girls (and Tony) just want to have fun

And when the horn sounded, I took a deep breath, went wide (no head kicking, please) and swam. The water was chilly (from 27C on Thursday, to 18C on race day) but calm and the staggered start time made it the best open water start l’ve ever experienced.

womens start

The women’s age group start. I’m in there!

Leg 1 would take me ~40 minutes and I focused on my breathing, sighting, reaching, sighting, and brining my body over my arm. And sighting.

About half way through the swim I took just a few seconds to take it all in. I’d caught up with a few men (!!!!) and a few aqua bikers had caught up with me. I looked at the beach and smiled knowing my support team was there, waiting for me to climb out of the water.

This is actually happening. This isn’t practice on Lake Banook, this isn’t the Navy Sprint warm up race. This is THE race, I thought. Now swim, finish it strong!

I came out of the water at 39:10, knowing that I kept it at my one of two speeds, “Steady as she goes”. The other being “Leave me laying for dead after 500M”.

exit water

Outta the way fellas, coming through.

I had mild fear of race brain. Fear of not being able to locate my sneakers, fear of forgetting the plan to take off the wetsuit and then run up the hill. Fear of forgetting fuel, sunscreen or not putting my helmet on before touching my bike.  T1 went seamlessly – if you saw my time (7:34) you may think differently, but the 400M+ climb up from Katy’s Cove to the Algonquin would clear up that confusion.

I could hear mom as soon as I got out of the water. Mike B. walked/ran up the hill with me, encouraging words all the way. I saw Tim taking photos and coaching me on. And I heard my friends cheer. Jenn & Mark had the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. And they were calling my name. I had no choice to be a grinning goof as I ran with my bike to the mount line. I’ve got this.

Amazing support. Amazing people.

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The mom’s cheering the athletes on!

And the bike. I had ridden the bike course just three weeks earlier, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was familiar. Fuel, fuel, fuel. I dug out my sandwich in the first 5K and had a picnic, loosened my legs, and get focused on the next 3.5-4 hours on my bike.

bike start

Amazing cheers from friends kept me smiling

My first thought as I neared the 10K point was: Ok, it’s time to get serious.  Do I want to finish this racing wondering if I could have done better, or knowing that I gave it my all? Let’s go.

mind

One of the highlights of the race course, was the partially closed course and Highway 1. Flawless pavement, lots of support and no traffic make for a cyclists dream. The fact that there were 2 loops made it so I always had someone near me on the course. I’ve done plenty lonely races, let me tell you. It’s true that some of those people whizzed by me in seconds, making me question if I was moving at all, but hey, they were there. I didn’t let their race interfere with mine.

I was feeling strong until kilometer forty, when I felt my first pain. My IT band was shooting pain from my hip, through my glute, and past my knee.

I couldn’t believe that my injury was coming back to haunt me so soon into my race. My IT band has never bothered me on the bike before. I was expecting some soreness in the run (which I got) but not on the bike. F*#@. I attempted to stretch on the bike and found that getting out of my saddle to pedal helped. At 60K I had to get off and stretch. Someone from a nearby aid station came to my rescue and offered salt tablets. I was skeptical that they would solve my problem (Do you have any dry needles?), but with no other choice I downed the four tablets he gave me (thank you, kind stranger) gave my legs one last stretch and hopped back on.

The final 30K were decent. I had no more pain, and despite the (up) hilly return, I stayed positive. Leave nothing on the road. The cyclists were fewer and further between, but I kept focus. I was averaging 25KM/hr and needed to remember that this is where I wanted to be – where I planned to be.  For a brief second I thought about some of the athletes that were likely minutes from the finish line. I commended them, and then crushed those thoughts. This is my race.

Seeing Coach Jeff and his wife Ashley at the turn off was like icing on the cake, for training with them in the cold winter months is where it started.

I reminded myself to eat more as I returned. Listening to more seasoned athletes, I knew that I may have trouble taking on calories for the final trek, so now was the time. Fuel, fuel, fuel. Gels, banana, Hammer.

I saw my mom first as I retuned from the bike leg. I heard Tim, his family and my friends. I saw Gus and Dawson dogs. I made it in and out of T2 much quicker. Again, I heard Jenn & Mark cheering me through…when I went beyond the regular T2 activities (having a drink, stretching my legs, perhaps thinking of grabbing a little nap) I could have bet my allowance that I would hear Mark say “Get outta there Becky!”. I heard it before I actually heard it. It made me smile and most definitely got my ass in gear. Thank you.

I couldn’t believe I’d already made it through the swim and the bike portion. I knew I’d been out for over fours hours already, but in an inexplicable way time was flying. I was feeling high as I headed out to the run course and received a high-five from Shane.

A saving grace of getting off the bike at the Algonquin was the gentle decline for the first three kilometers. True, I would have to climb back up (twice!) but to loosen my legs and to feel strong at the start was ideal.

I have yet to talk about the volunteers and race crew of this race. It could be a separate blog post. They are amazing, they were up all night to clear the streets after the hurricane. The roads were spotless, all the aid stations were present, they cheered us on. The people of St. Andrews went above and beyond throughout the run. The water, the sponges and the hoses were my saving grace under that blazing sun. And when I ran through town with Kenny Loggin’s “Footloose” blaring through the speakers, I knew I’d died and gone to triathlon heaven.

The run was challenging, but I managed to keep my pace between 6:10 – 6:40 min/KM. I walked only when at the aid stations drinking. I knew if I stopped for a walk break, I’d be done for. High fives from some ironmen kept me positive as I rounded for my second loop. Even up that final slope to the finish line where I thought about letting myself take a little walk break, I powered through and kept on running.

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Blurry, but captures the moment of friends cheering me to the finish

And then I heard it.

My team. 🙂

“GO Becky”

“You MADE it”

“100 meters left!”

“Amazing, Girl”

“Becky!”

Then, and now when I write this, I tear up.

The support I’ve had every step of the way – from people that may not even realize it – has made this experience more than I could have ever hoped for.

Crossing the finish line was surreal. I wish I could slow it down, or possibly relive it. I kept running an extra 20M to ensure that I was actually over the mat.

A medal. A Finisher T-shirt. A huge hug from my mom.

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In September I set up a goal time of 6:35:00, not knowing many factors (T1, surprise vacation/eating binge, and a 2 month long injury that prevented me from running, etc.). I’m not making excuses; I’m saying that my completion time of 6:45:20 sat really, really well with me, all things considered. Two years ago I ran the Bluenose half marathon for a time of 2:18:10, which was only 20 seconds faster then this half marathon and I had a few other activities beforehand!

htc finish line

And the fun post-race events that I loved every minute of:

  • The soak in Katy’s Cove with mom’s company.
  • Eating that Mars bar I had tucked away (in transition) for the occasion.
  • That shower. Oh, that shower.
  • The lie in the sun, with Tim, Karen and Gus with an ice-cold cider. Tim you’re the man for me.
  • The awards banquette.
  • The post Halifax Triathlon Club photo shoot/hang out/ice cream. You guys are amazing.

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Loved. Every. Minute.

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I love the people that were there to share this experience and their support I felt from home. To all the people that trained with me, early in the morning, mid-day, early evening; thank you, I know some workouts were better than others (Scott, I’m especially sorry about that bike ride in mid-May). To the people that lent me advice, on everything; thank you. And finally, to the people that have been so patient with me over the past six months (or more) as I put parts of my life on hold to train; thank you and I’ll be reaching out to you for a proper catch up (likely over wine).

Thank you Mom for your continued support and joining me to St. Andrew’s. It was amazing to have you there!

And thank you Tim, for knowing that I could do it. For pushing me out of bed at 5:30am, for walking the dog. Every morning. For making me dinner when I was too exhausted and cleaning up. For picking up spare tire tubes, gels, and other tri gear. For giving up your time to cheer me on always. You’re the best.

In the two hours I returned home from Challenge St. Andrews I had ventured to the hardware store, removed my broken screen door, primed the trim, scrubbed the bathroom and all my triathlon gear. Those chores that could wait until “after the race.” I’m looking forward to some down time…..but of course my head and heart can’t help thinking:

Now, when’s the next one?

Let’s have some FUN!

The final days (hours!) of training and preparing are upon me now. The race day is 8 days away. If I opt in for Bridgetown, that leaves 37 days.

In all honesty, I thought by this time I would be filled with panic, worry and stress.

But what is there to stress about? I have done the training and will do what I need to do leading up to the race. Could I have trained longer, harder, and with more discipline? Always. Could I have improved my diet? Certainly. (More spinach and less chocolate for starters). But I’ve done what I can for this 70.3 and have learned a lot for future races. Let there be many future races!

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It’s true. I requested 36 Gluteny Cake pops to consume all on my own for my birthday. No shame.

I’ve pushed myself further than I ever have before. I’ve had some amazing moments training when I’ve done more than last year’s me could ever thought possible. I have this photo of Tim and I getting ready to race the bluenose two years ago. I was completing my second half marathon and you can tell in the photo – I was terrified! It’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come. I certainly need that when I hit a wall training or get left in the dust by a fellow athlete (this happens a lot).

I also have moments when I’m running (ahem, slogging) up a monster hill and think “why haven’t I been hill training more!?” or biking into the wind using every curse word I can come up with wishing that my legs were strong to push faster, faster, faster. Damn you, wind!

I won’t become an endurance athlete over night.

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A fun 60K in May with amazing support

I wasn’t sporty in high school, dabbling here and there in a multitude of soccer, basketball and track. I never took anything serious and just had fun. I’ve been swimming since I was 5, but not competitively. I never considered myself an athlete…and while I find it hard to consider myself one today, I know I’m moving in the right direction. At 35, I am getting there. It’s a slow journey, but I’m in it for the long run. Literally.  The difference between the past and this year is I’m pushing myself further, following a plan and focusing on an end goal. I know an end goal is key in my progression.

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Team “Cherries Were on Sale” pushed me through a tough 8K in 45 minutes. Without them there, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’ve had some amazing support over the past 6 months. Words on encouragement: (that I thought may be “turn off that alarm clock!” at 5am were actually “I’m really proud you’re sticking with this”.) to advice from experienced triathletes (“you got this!” and “gradually add more time in your aero position to get use to it”) to training swims, bikes and runs with amazing people. A not so great bike ride can turn into a good experience with a good friend to commiserate with and then remind ourselves how far we’ve come! I am lucky and have truly enjoyed this journey, I would have given up a hundred times without the help of my training partners.

I’ve completed my first 90K bike this week, which felt surprisingly good. My bike is fitting and the seat feels good (huge relief on both fronts (and backsides!)). Of course, I should have done more hills.

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My first 90K!

My run is almost back to 100% of where it was, I’d say. I’m even back to enjoying the activity and not constantly focused on “Is my knee ok? ….how about now?….now?” and last week I ran a 61 minute 10K under the scorching sun. I was hoping to break the hour mark but when a friend of mine confessed that she had been chasing me the entire time and couldn’t catch up it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one suffering out there!

And the swim; I’m in the open water and it’s an adjustment. My heart rate skyrockets and I feel like I’m floundering for the first 500M. Practise makes…better and I’m taking advantage of Banook Lake being open for public swims this week.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people through the Halifax Triathlon Club. Here are a few inspirations.

My dear friend commented on one of my triathlon photos from back in the early days…[In the photo I’m trying to get my bike shorts on after the swim at one of my first triathlons. I wasn’t concerned for time or what the other athletes were thinking of me and I was just having a blast. I didn’t know any better]…and her comment was “I hope we have this much fun in St. Andrews”.

Amen. Let’s go have some f*cking fun.

 

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Sprint Triathlon 2010

(Wo)Man Down

I debated checking in tonight. I’m curled up with my heating blanket with dinner (consisting of wine and chocolate) feeling quite sorry for myself.

But the way I’m feeling is part of the journey, and I’m hoping that tonight, wait – this week, is considered the valley of this journey. I’m hoping that I will come out of this funk, and the next two months will be a positive experience, and I will get back on track.

Let me explain.

Two weeks ago I tweaked my knee on my long run, when I was running post swim with a group of quite accomplished athletes. It was ego, I know. Even as we headed into the final 3K, I told myself I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. My pace should have been at least a minute slower than theirs. But the sun was shining, I just killed 2000M in the pool, the day before I ran a PB and was still flying high, and we had sun. Sweet, glorious, magnificent sun. I COULD do it. A big difference between if I SHOULD, I realize now.

Long & slow, Zone 2. I know better.

I decided that rest was the best bet and to take a little breather from running. I had some mild pain training for a marathon last year, and taking it easy for a week or two fixed me right up. I was hoping this would have the same effect.

The first few days of deciding not to run were torture. It seemed that the sun came out, and every single person that could run, was outside Maple Street, doing hill repeats past my window. I was proud of those strangers, I knew they were likely training for the Blue Nose Marathon, but more so, I was envious. I’ve never been injured before, so this is a new experience for me. I’ll admit it, I hate hill repeats, but I would give almost anything to be able to do them (injury free) right now.

As you can tell, I’m down. There has been frequent napping, tears, and questioning why I’m evening doing this. I’ve put in 180 hours of training since late fall. I’ve read books, purchased gear, put the rest of my life on hold, essentially. I’ve started comparing myself to where I thought I would be, other athletes and well, you can imagine what that does to the psyche. Tonight I was close to tears during an FTP test that I bombed.

I can’t decide if this negativity, weakness and a continuous desire for spicy Doritos are all a result from a minor injury or if I’m burning out. I’m hoping to figure it out soon. I have ten weeks left in my training plan.

So, I think it’s safe to say I need some professional help. Once I make it through my 14 hour workday tomorrow, it will be Thursday’s priority #1. My foam roller and avoiding running all together is not a plan that will get me to the 70.3 race feeling confident. (Goal #1) This is how people fall off the fitness wagon (Fear #1) I’m not sure how to approach the rest of this week…. I’m hoping to set up an appointment with a reputable sports physiotherapist, someone who understands the importance of training. And perhaps?,can just solve this problem for me!

I’ve essentially kept up with my biking, swimming and strength training program but completely ceased running. I can feel small amounts of pain at certain times I’m biking and doing squats, so I’m not getting better. I’m not sure if I need a few days off to reset and refocus, or if I should jump in the pool bright and early tomorrow. The next glass of wine shall help me make that decision.

Thank you for indulging me. I have so many things to be thankful for in my life, it’s a shame to get caught up in self-pity.

“Self pity is the sworn enemy of your ambition. It is the number one killer of your aspirations and goals. Give it a foothold in your life and you’ll chase away every dream, dreamt and every friend, befriended.” 
― Jason VerseyA Walk with Prudence

Here are some things, over the past month, that have made me happy and I am incredibly grateful for:

(I call this hitting the reset button!)

swimming 30 years

Thankful for having my mother insist that I know how to swim. 30 years of swimming at Centennial Pool! Great companions too.

gym

Having access to an empty gym. Small win, but a perfect break in the middle of my workday

family

Visits with family over beautiful meals, wine and great conversation.

backyard and men

A sunny backyard with space to garden, and the love of these two

lamb

Meeting this guy. Dad took his girls out to see the farm after Easter dinner and I fell in love.

first bike ride

The first outdoor bike ride of the season with some excellent company and sunshine.

hfx skyline

This view and the amazing city I am blessed to call home

friends

These amazing girl friends that make me laugh and teach me about raclette. Everyone should know about raclette and have friends that make you laugh so hard you cry.

sheets

Crawling into bed with fresh sheets that have been hung to dry. Nothing feels and smells quite like it.