Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ironman Race Report!


I am an Ironman!  I know, you’re impressed... I’m still pretty amazed myself that its possible for someone to go that far in one day.  haha  

But I did it, and it was incredible.

I know, that’s about all the bragging you can handle.  If you’re already tired of hearing about it, you might just want to close the window.  Its just going to get worse.  Here I go though, here’s the story of my Ironman race day.


Going into the city where an Ironman occurs is like going into another planet for most people.  It wasn’t too shocking for Brian and me to see hundreds of people walking around in tri shorts for an entire 3 days before the weekend (although, I still can’t understand what’s comfortable enough about those shorts that they prefer to wear them), or people riding around with bikes as expensive as cars, or people who are so tan and built they look like they belong in a magazine.  However, for our parents, this was totally crazy.  I’m sure that during the days leading to the race they must’ve grown increasingly aware of just how much we had lost our mind by getting into this sport.

My parents walked around the expo during check in amazed at the price tag on the $300 tires only to find out that they were only rentals at that price (how cute!)  It was fun to then see them try to guess what all the accessories were for at the stores.  I was happy to have them there while I went into the Ironman store though, because they made sure that I would have something “Ironman” to wear for the next several weeks :)

I hoped to prepare them for the big day ahead by giving them all their options as to when and where they could see me on the course during race day.  Because I had watched Ben last year, I had a good idea of just how hard it is to be an Ironman spectator.  They were already preparing to make themselves seen with Team Forquer poster boards (how awesome is that?!)

As surprised as my parents may have been about the insanity of Ironman, they were able to come in Thursday night and see the rush of athletes come in the next day to take over Louisville.  Brian’s parents came to town Saturday afternoon, so they were still in awe on race day.  

Bag and Bike Drop Off

Ironmans are so well organized that you can pretty much crawl into transition and the volunteers will do anything they can to make sure you get to your next leg of the race. To facilitate that, athletes must drop their bike and gear bags off at transition the night before.  
Brian and I dropped our bike off at our respective spots and then we took some pictures in transition.  We walked over to my bike to take a picture and we bump right into my gymnastics teammate from WAY back when, Lauren.  OMG!!!  I knew she was going to be at the race, but I figured we’d never see each other around all the other athletes.  We were actually only one number apart!!  CRAZY!

Dropping our bikes off the day before IRONMAN!

Race Day

The alarm clock went off playing Ironman by Black Sabbath (yep, I’m that cheesy!) at 4:00AM.  It was scary to me that all of my training was finished and it was time to put everything together in one day.  Brian must’ve been feeling the same because he didn’t even want to get out of bed.  

We ended up leaving the hotel in good timing and got to transition area a little after 5:00.  We filled our water bottles and walked over to the swim start.  My nerves were getting the best of me so I had to stop at the porta potties once we got there. Of course, that lead to standing in a 20 minute line.  Typically, its no big deal as long as you can get to the start before they shoot the starting gun. HOWEVER, Ironman Louisville has a unique start where the athletes get in a long line and jump off the dock six at a time.  Our little stand in the potty line put us near the back of the line for the swim. 

Its a little dark, but this is the swim start--the line of people going off the dock DOES NOT STOP!


We walked probably half a mile before getting to the shoot, but as soon as we got there, it was goggles on, cap on, and go.  No stopping to adjust before you jump in.  I freaked out a little early (mostly because I thought to myself, “holy crap, I’m starting an Ironman!”), but within about 20 strokes I calmed down and swam normally.  Its no secret that I’m in the back of the pack for swimming.  I wasn’t looking to finish quickly, but my goal here was to a) not freak out, b) get from point A to B as efficiently as possible, and c) get out of the water feeling good about what I’d done.  Of course it would be nice to fly through the water, but that wasn’t going to happen.  

What I loved about this swim is that it didn’t require too much sighting.  We swam for about 1300m upstream in a straight line so I pretty much just followed all the other neon caps.  At the turn around, we swam down the river, under two bridges, and then got out before the third bridge.  From the turn around bouy, I thought the first bridge was extremely close, but it felt like forever before I got to that bridge.  Somewhere between the turn around bouy and the bridge, I started noticing that my tri shorts were kind of ballooning  up around my butt.  I felt like I had a fart caught in my tri shorts even though I didn’t have gas. HAHA!!  I think it helped me out though because even as I approached the finish I still felt like I had plenty of energy.  I climbed out of the water with plenty of energy and a huge smile on my face as I ran into transition.  I went into the changing tent and a volunteer helped me get everything ready for my ride.  As I rushed to my bike, my fan club (Brian and my parents :) )cheered me on loudly.

This is the second bridge.  You can see a few of the first swimmers if you squint!

Swim time 1:41:09
Transition time: 6:02


I had looked at the course plenty of times online.  I actually obsessed over it in the last few weeks of training because it looked pretty tough.  I even made some comparison maps to see if the bike courses that we were training on were similar enough to the race course for me to feel comfortable.  I knew that we faced some ugly hills on our training rides, but I just wasn’t sure if they were quite enough.  

The first hour was relatively flat.  We supposedly climbed about 400 ft over the course of 5 miles at some point, but I didn’t feel it--I must’ve still been on some sort of high from the swim.  We turned for a 10 mile out and back stretch around mile 20, and things started getting hilly.  Going out, there was a giant downhill followed by a massive climb.  Surprisingly, even though it looked insane, it felt like the same kind of hills we’d climbed on River Rd in Maryland.  

Almost directly after the out and back, we began the first of two laps on a  30 mile loop.  I powered through the first one, enjoying the groups of people that had found a spot to come watch us.  While the roads weren’t lined with people, there were enough people watching and cheering that I still felt like I was supported.  People in matching shirts (one said Lettuce Turnup the Beet--cute, huh?), a devil, a grim reaper, a superhero, and others just coming out to see the race made me feel like I had some support way out in the middle of nowhere.  About halfway through the lap we biked through LaGrange, where a shuttle had taken friends and family to watch the ride.  My fan club made it out there and flashed their signs as I passed.  I felt really good about the first lap so when I started on the second lap, I was still full of energy.  HOWEVER, somewhere around mile 75 or so I began to notice “more hills” and a whole lot more heat.  While the hills were nothing I hadn’t seen before, I felt like there wasn’t nearly enough downhills.  I guess I was just getting tired--my split for the last 40 miles was a whole 2 miles per hour slower than the beginning of the ride.  Oh well.  

Around mile 90, some dude says to me “man, there have been a lot of flats and injuries today.  I’m so glad I haven’t had one yet.”  Seriously dude? You still have 22 more miles to go!!  I did see him finish riding about the same time as I did, but still-- I think that’s just asking for a flat!  Anyway... Most of the last 20 miles was either downhill or flat so it gave me a little chance to recover while I finished up.  I came into the shoot, gave the volunteers my bike, got some help changing into my running clothes and flew back out on the course.  I love that tris save the best event for last! 
I'm leaving transition to head out on a LOOOOONG bike ride

Bike time: 6:36:08
Transition time: 5:37


As I left the shoot for my last event, I heard my fan club right away.  I’m so grateful for how much they followed me through the race--it gave me so much energy!  I smiled and waved as I passed and then right as I turned to look at the course I saw Brian just a few feet in front of me!  

YAY!!!  What a relief to see him!  After training the swim and ride together all year long, I was feeling a little lonely after the first 8 1/2 hours of racing.  I slowed my pace to match his and we talked for a little while.  Of course he told me to just go on, but I felt like I needed to just have a little company for a bit.  We passed the first mile marker and ran into my friend, Lauren!  How cool is that?!  We all talked for a bit about how our race had gone so far and even got one of the race photographers to take a picture of all of us together.  AWESOME.
All three of us--Brian in grey (left), Lauren in red and white (middle), and me in blue (right)

We stayed together for about 3 miles, but eventually we all found our individual paces.  The race is just too long to go either slower or faster than your body allows.    I actually felt pretty good while the miles were in the single digits, but I knew it was going to get rough soon--I was already starting to get sick of my gatorade/ Gu Chomps nutrition plan.  I started experimenting with different things at the aid stations, and finally settled on cola, water, and orange slices.  I tried some pretzels at one spot but seriously had to spit them back out before I puked.  I kept telling myself that I just had to try to keep my pace until mile 18 and then I could do any combo of walk run that I needed to do to finish.  

When I got to mile 18 though, I still felt pretty strong.  I had started walking through the aid stations at this point, but mostly because I didn’t want to risk dehydration or lack of nutrition.  I did, however, start to get a really nasty feeling in my stomach, and consequently made a pit stop in the porta potty.  Lucky for me, I was prepared for the upset stomach and had some immodium in my water bottle pouch.  I did have to stop one more time at mile 22, but my GI tract pretty much calmed down for the rest of the race.  Phew.  Once I got to mile 23 I pretty much flew to the finish.  Well, flew is relative, but I came in pretty quickly.  As I saw the finish line I turned up the speed a little more and shot my arms up as I ran in.  Brian and my parents were RIGHT up at the finish line.  They must’ve paid for that spot ;)  I crossed the finish line and heard the announcer say what I had been hoping to hear for a looooong time “Monica Forquer (butchering my last name), YOU are an IRONMAN!” YESSSSSSS!
Monica, YOU are an Ironman!

Brian, YOU are an Ironman!

Run time: 4:04:22
Finish time:12:33:18
Overall: 573/2800 (ish)
Female Overall: 105/717
Age group: 17/70

THANKS PARENTS!!!  We love support!!

What an amazing race!  I can’t say that I felt great afterwards, but I really felt like all the training we did was really worth while.  I tried to go in with no real expectations, but its tough not to think about some goal times.  I wanted to get out of the water before 1:45, get off the bike between 6 1/2 and 7 hours, and finish the run in at least 4:30.  Mostly though, I just wanted to feel “good” at the end.  I was so happy that I did exactly what I was capable of doing on race day.

Since I’ve come home, every one that asks about the race wants to know, “when’s the next one?”  I’m sure that there will come a time when I forget that I felt physically ill for a day after the race, or that my feet still feel like they’re bruised, or more importantly, that all my weekends were so packed with training for months before the race so much so that I felt like I never got a chance to relax.  However, for now, I’m just satisfied with my one race and ready to enjoy my weekends for a while.  In fact, as I write, I’m laying on the couch with my feet up.  ...and that’s ok because I’m an Ironman!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Longest Training Run!

...and 7 Eleven saves the day again!

It has been a LAZY last few days.  We had a cold front move through the area (FINALLY!!), but with that came gray skies and quite a bit of light rain.  

On Friday, Brian and I totally skipped our workout because we tried to get some work done on the house before I leave for San Diego on Tuesday.  No such luck--Home Depot was out of the wood that we needed for the porch, and the drill bit broke while we were trying to install the hood range microwave.  Oh well :-/  Also, the day was kinda gross so we felt very validated for taking the day off training.

On Saturday, I woke up to a light rain that never really ended all day, it just shifted back and forth between rain drops and mist all day.  It took a lot of effort, but I finally pushed myself out the door and drove over to Wilson for a swim.  I did 3500 meters in the pool--the longest swim yet.  (more on this in another post)  AND that was the ONLY thing I did all day.  The rain really kills me!

This morning, I woke up ready to run.  It still took plenty of time to get out the door, but I still got up with every intention of going out on a 2:45 run.  

Typically, when I train for marathons, my longest training run is approximately 22 miles long 3 weeks out from the big day.  When I'm running in normal conditions (not doing 2 other events in hot and sticky weather), I'm able to keep a 7:30/mi pace or better. Therefore, 22miles is about 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  This puts me on par for finishing the marathon around 3:15.  Of course, what I'm training for is NOT just a measly old marathon, it is a marathon after I've already gone 114.4 miles.  Lord knows that no matter how fast I go, my pace will definitely NOT be 7:30min/mile.  So while I'm usually confident that I will be able to push through the final few miles based on my longest run, I have NO IDEA how far I'll still have to run after 2 hours and 45 minutes, or how I'll be able to push through.  

ANYWAY, this run, I was just sick of my typical long run downtown and around the Mall.  I headed up east on Rhode Island instead of west, which took me to all the way out to Maryland.  Somewhere around 4 miles out, I found the Northwest Tributary Trail.  It lead me out all the way to the beautiful Lake Artemesia.  Too bad it took 8 miles to run all the way out there because I'd go out there more often!  There was a 1.35 mile loop around the lilypad covered lake--I did two laps.  It totally made my run!  
As nice as this is, the photo doesn't do it justice!

On the way back, I totally ran out of water.  I was about 5 miles from home and I knew that I wasn't going to make it back without something to drink.  Low and behold a 7 eleven appeared.  Normally, I go in and buy a water bottle.  This time though, I forgot my few "in case" dollars.  Luckily the woman at the counter showed me to the water from the fountain beverages.  I was too far gone to think of that myself.  Sevs saved the day again!  

Now I'm back on the couch (seems to be the theme for the weekend).  The sun has finally popped out, but I'm resting up for tomorrow's LOOONNNNGGGG bike ride and run.  We're doing 100 miles with 70 min run.  I hope my legs don't fall off!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mid-July Update

Ok so I've been a little distracted over the last few weeks. Ironman training has still been first priority, but who has time to blog when they're doing projects like these:

Painting stairs

Putting in a ceiling fan

Updating the kitchen

Or redoing the porch

Seriously, by the fall we may be broke, but our house will look amazing! Haha

Anyway, over the last few weeks, we have upped our swimming to get at least 3000 meters in once or twice a week (and at least one shorter swim), and we've been getting at least an hour of running or biking a few times a week on top of our long workouts.

Two weeks ago we were soooo pooped that we took a weekend to "take it easy" and do a 50 mile ride with a 20 minute run. What a relief to be done with our "long" workout by noon. HA! A few months ago, this WAS our long workout!

I think that weekend was enough to refresh us as we take to our last few LONG workouts (we did one Sunday and have two more to go) before we begin to taper off. Of course, after we took an easy weekend, my upper back decided to start hurting, and it "talked to me" every time I rotated my midsection or moved my left arm... So I took two days off.

Anyway, our last brick workout went pretty well--we did 90 miles on the bike and a 60 minute run. We headed out to our Davidsonville, MD ride-- the place where we've done 80 mile rides. The night before, I had rerouted the end of the 80 miler to add on 10 milers and navigated around some of the extreme hills that we faced at the end of the ride. SO, we headed out and got to our ride. The first few hours almost seemed easy. If it weren't for my funky shoulder/upper back issue, I'd almost call the ride relaxing. I didn't start to feel tired until the last 15 miles or so (the new addition). We went through a much busier part of the city--read lots of cars and stop lights, and then onto a nice long stretch on grooved road (again?!).

By the time we got back to the car, I was so ready to be done biking that I threw on my shoes and flew out of the parking lot on foot. I took a bottle of Gatorade and a Gu with me. Brian took off a little behind me armed with a Gu and a water bottle.

I followed a very strict plan of having a few gulps of Gatorade every 5 minutes. Once I got halfway through the run, I opened my gu and took little slurps every 2 minutes until it was gone. By no means wax it easy, but I was getting it done. About 8 minutes before I finished the run, I passed Brian. At first, I thought nothing of it-- he's usually a little slower than me--but as I passed I realized he should be farther in front of me since we were just running out and back for time.

I offered him some Gatorade, and he gulped some while telling me he might pass out. As I slowed to run with him he pushed me on saying he'll be fine ("really? A few seconds ago, you said you were getting tunnel vision and might pass out"). But on I went, knowing that if he didn't show up right behind me, I could drive back over with our stock pile of water bottles and Gus.
I finished within seconds of the hour which meant that I kept a fairly even pace despite the mostly downhill first half of the run. I waited a few minutes for Brian, and just as I started to get in the car to go looking for him, he came around the corner and ran to the car. Phew!!

We think he needs to take a second look on his nutrition on the bike and take in some more electrolytes too. Also, Brian said he put on a t-shirt that was a little too thick for the 90 something heat we were running in.

He took this run as a wake up call. Of course he thought this run meant he wasn't ready for the ironman. Ridiculous, I know, but it is hard to believe that we have to add another 3 hours of running onto the hour we did--not to mention more biking and a while swim!!

Next workout will be 100 mile ride with a 70-75 min run. I'm a little nervous about it, but once it's done, I'll be that much more confident for the ironman. I also plan on getting in a 2 hour 45 min run this weekend. After a hard 2hr 30 min run yesterday, I decided I needed to get up to around 3 hours to prepare for the longest marathon I've ever run.

I haven't put in too many pictures of our training. Mostly, we look like we just got in a fight when we're done. Next weekend, I plan on taking some before and after shots. HA! You'll love them. I know you're excited!!!