IMTX 2013 Race Report
(photo credit: Lillian S.)
18 months ago I was wrapped up like a burrito in the med tent at Redman. I was throwing up, dizzy, confused, and shaking uncontrollably. My race ended at mile 10 on the run - not very stellar! 3 bags of IV fluids and 2 doses of Zofran later I remember my coach at the time telling me that's 2 DNF's out of 3 Ironmans. My confidence was not just shaken but pretty much destroyed. After Redman I went to my endocrinologist. He's a runner and a cyclist, and I trust his opinion. I have had 1/2 of my Thyroid removed, and sometimes struggle with excessive fatigue, maintaining body temperature, and other strange symptoms. He told me to never do Ironman again - that my body can't handle it. He suggested exercising like a"normal" person for fitness only. My adrenal glands weren't functioning properly, and this stupid dream of mine could cause permanent damage if I didn't rest. I went to my car and I cried, and then I signed up for a 70.3. 3 successful half ironman races later my strength was back, and Cindy Reeves talked me into signing up for IMTX.
My first line of business was to build my team. I surrounded myself with people who could teach me, push me, and who care about me. My top 2:#1 on the list was God! I began to get my spiritual life in order (which is still a work in progress). I've never done an Ironman with him before, and I'll never do another one without him. #2 is Jim and our family. Jim was my training partner, and my biggest fan. He sat on my wheel for hundreds of miles supporting me and encouraging me. We did more 20 minute intervals at zone 4 in the middle of a 6 hour ride than I thought possible. We rode strong, and it was fun! My kiddos continue to despise triathlon, and I'm ok with that. Our moms, Jim's sister, and niece have spent countless hours babysitting so we can train. As a bonus Jim's sister Lisa is an incredible massage therapist. She kept my legs healthy and strong. At the end of the day none of this ironman stuff really matters without the love and support of your family. I'm so grateful for mine.
The Crew: Johnny Zepeda - TriDot Coach & owner of Powerhouse racing along with his lovely wife Andrea who has been a great supportI've known Johnny for several years. He's been doing my bike fits forever, and I wouldn't trust anyone else. When he opened up the powerhouse I started strength training with him at a TRX class he offers. I chose Johnny as my coach because he is so positive, easy going, and supportive. There's no pressure or crazy expectations. He wants to help you meet your goal, and that's it. Dennis & Ramon - coaches for the South Shore Sails Masters SwimmingI selfishly hand picked these two because I knew they would be the best two coaches to train my swim for IMTX, and they did! They have also made masters a great program. Sean - Smash! Between Johnny & Sean I added a strength training component that my previous training has never included. Triathletes say they don't have time or energy to strength train, but I think it's very beneficial. Sean is very good at what he does & he is intense. The first time I went to his class I walked in like I'm an ironman this little class ain't nothing to me & when the class was over I laid in a puddle on the floor in a semi-fetal position. I was hooked after that. Dr. Chris & staff - Smart Body ChiropracticI saw Dr. Chris pretty regularly. At the first sign I'd go in, and they'd fix me up. I didn't miss any training due to injury, and was at the start line with legs that were 100%. It's a drive over there for me but I trust him, and we've had some really good laughs along the way.
Training partners, friends, my athletes, and pie makers - this is where I'm afraid to leave someone out. Each of you were incredible in your own special way! Thank you, and I hope I can return the favor.
Time to train: The Plan - was created by TriDot. It was smart, efficient, and it works. I did less. I got more. My body was pushed, and I was able to adapt. I can't wait to start my next phase. Nutrition - I switched from perpetuem to UCAN. This was a great move. You put in less calories and carbs, and you have a steady stream of energy. No spikes. The only thing is you just can't have sugar or you'll be in the toilet pooing! Believe me I tested this multiple times. If you haven't tried it you should look it up. It's good stuff.
On to the show.......
The Swim - oh the swim!I'm convinced this is what jacks everyone up. The nerves and adrenaline alone can wreck you before you even start. It's exhilarating, there's a dangerous survival instinct kicking in, and it's big. You may see some tears at the start, or excitement, but for the most part the athletes are entering the water quietly and with great seriousness being careful with each step. The energy while treading water is so thick. I'm surrounded by these super fit ironman athletes. I look around and there are thousands of pink and green swim caps. This moment to me at the swim start is just as moving and rewarding as the finish. It's the point that you realize you've done the work, and you've earned your spot (your chance) to be an Ironman. The cannon fires and it begins. I swim head up for 200 meters. I'm watching and trying not to get hit. I'm little and at the front of the swim start are big strong men and extremely aggressive women. Behind us are thousands on our feet. No stopping allowed or you will be ran over. Next to me I hear a lady choking on water and screaming for help. I pause I know I can't stop. The man on the other side of her yells at her to put her head down and swim. I do the same and continue on. Moments later it happens to me. I'm choking, can't breathe, trying to breast stroke to get a breath, and the swimmers are starting to come over me. I quickly cough up the water, there is no time for panic so I put my head down, and go. The first 25 minutes of the swim are full combat in dark murky water. I sight often not to see where I'm going but to avoid getting kicked. A few times I'd see the start of breast stroke arms and say oh crap! to myself, and then shortly after I'd feel a swift and painful blow to my rib cage from their kick. At the first turn buoy things calmed down. I had some open water to swim in. Only the occasional annoying guy that doesn't sight would swim up my back. For the most part once I was settled in I was calm and in control. My mantra for the swim was "long and strong" (thanks Ramon!). At the last turn buoy into the canal it got a little wild and definitely more crowded. I could hear and see Lillian running along shore screaming my name. That was awesome! She was so close! Shortly after that I had my first and only moment of rage for the day. There was a girl swimming right on top of me. She was relentless, and I lost it. Something came over me and I sprinted and I turned on my kick. I swam away from her and through and past several others quite aggressively to get to a spot away from her! After that I was focusing in on the last buoys and the finish. I exited the water in 1:15ish. That's a very normal time for me. I felt good and ready to bike.
In transition I see Jim, Johnny, and some Bammers. The change tent wasn't crowded. I emptied my bag and started putting on helmet, socks, and shoes and stuffing my pockets with nutrition. A volunteer came over and helped me with sunscreen and I was off. This was around 5 minutes. I run out grab my bike and I'm off to play.
The Bike - I love the bike!I was estimating 5:45-6:00 for the bike. Jim was estimating 5:30 - yea he's crazy. He suggested I bike hard. He said I'd run the same either way that I always run the same. TriDot has a race planning guide called Racex. It's very very good and it told me exactly what my wattage and hr should be for each leg of the race. For the first hour I was in a pretty easy zone. I was getting passed by everyone and their grandma. In the next two hours I had a higher hr zone I could be in and I was still getting passed by a steady stream of bikes. Lots of love for my kestrel! I've never heard so many "nice bike!" comments. I was feeling very happy and positive and enjoying the trees. I had the song drive by by train stuck in my head and I sang it the entire first half. I drank a lot and poured a lot of water on myself starting at the first aid station. It was a hot day already. I peed seven times on the bike during the first half plus two in the swim. On the second half of the bike I didn't pee at all. After the halfway point Polka Dot: Brian Reina caught me and we bonded. I tried to stay in front of him because it was to tempting to draft when he was in front. We went back and forth the whole ride. With each pass we'd exchange encouraging words. On the way back into town it's a net downhill but into the wind. I got in my aero bars and stayed there for 56 miles. I passed more bikes than I can count. I stayed on the left and just checked them off one after another. This was extremely motivating. My heart rate was 10 beats higher than it should be and my power was lower than suggested the entire ride. The bike was taking longer than planned. My nutrition was right on. I had dropped a bottle but I had extra in each flask so I was good. My legs felt absolutely great on the bike and I was having fun the whole way. Hardly any suffering at all. I was off the bike right at 6:04 or 6:05 I think, and excited about the prospect of getting to run with Brian.
T2 - I handed off my bike. Both feet were numb. I hopped and walked and jogged to the tent It felt like a long way. I put on my socks and shoes, but no Vaseline. I was kind of in a hurry. I was excited and scared of what the run would bring.
The Run - the moment of truthI saw Jim and Johnny immediately. I knew my family was waiting for me at mile 2 also. My plan was to maintain a 150 hr for the first 6 miles. Johnny immediately yelled ICE! I agreed. I ran the first two miles on pace. I stopped at each aid station and put ice in my sports bra and shorts. I drank quite a bit too. I was concerned that I hadn't peed in 3 hours so my goal after mile two was to pee. At first I only had a few trickles but after several miles I was peeing at each aid station. Now this is gross but I just walked through the aid stations drinking and peeing on myself. I'd pour water over me to wash off then I'd re-ice and be on my way. The peeing was important so I would know that I was still hydrated. A couple times I was afraid to pee because I thought I might accidentally poop myself, and that I would not have handled very well. At mile 6 I was supposed to pick up the pace but I was too scared. My hr had started coming down instead of up 148,145,140,138,133. Really who runs at a 133 hr? Sometimes the low hr to me means I'm running low on fuel or I'm running out of energy which is dangerous. I'm sipping the ucan in small increments and getting it down. My pace is around 11:00 minutes. Brian is running 9:00's with big walk breaks so we are going back and forth. He told me just to run 9:00's with him but I just couldn't. The BAM tent on the waterway was great. I saw lots of friends and I was in good spirits. Loop two I saw my family again. Jim had to find my special needs bag for me. The volunteers had thrown it in the trash after the first loop. I told him Abby was right behind me and going to pass me. He said she was a whole loop behind me. We are very close in pace so I was surprised by that. Through the trail and the neighborhood I did a lot of singing, praying, thanking God for the ability and opportunity to do this. I was in such a good place. I was racing happy and with serenity. In my past Ironmans there was a whole lot of cussing going on. F-bombs on top of F-bombs. Not this time. I passed the bam tent once more I told Todd it's getting harder but I'm ok. Started loop 3 the final one but I couldn't look at my watch. It's just really long and really far to go still. 2 miles into that loop I see my family for the last time. They were awesome! Johnny rides up next to me for a moment and says he's proud of me. Those words were huge! I tell him I don't want to eat or drink anymore he says I don't need to. I tell him my butt is frozen from ice and run along thinking of the finish. At mile 21 mid stride puke comes flying out of my mouth. No warning. No holding it back. I'm doubled over and I throw up about four times in one spot. I feel this immediate drain and weakness come over my body. The ground is pulling at me. I want to kneel and then lay down. I know that's not allowed. Brian came by and patted me on the bike. I stood up right and I walked. I review my 3 goals 1. Nail my nutrition 2. Run the run 3. Have fun. How do I get back on track? I know I need some time for my stomach to settle. I'm close too! But so far. I walk and up ahead I see Abby walking. We walk and talk. She's having a rough day. At mile 22 my watch beeps and I tell her it's time to run. We jog along together until she sees her husband. She stops and I kept going. Soon after that I came across Nicole a first timer. I paused a second with her she was struggling too and then back to running. I ran all the way to the finish. I didn't stop once to eat or drink or get ice or anything. With each mile that I got closer I got more and more excited. For the first time all day I started noticing pain in my legs. My HR was back at 150 and pace was pretty decent considering. I felt like my body was eating my leg muscles. With a little less than a mile I passed Brian for the last time. He was surprised to see me running. So was I! I yelled "I'm back!" With half a mile to go, the turn around to go to the finish is taking forever to get to. I can hear Mike Reilly but I can't see him yet. Finally I make the turn to the finish. I climb a hill and into the finishers chute. It's very long! I high 5 everyone. I'm celebrating. Finally I focus my eyes forward on the finish and start to go. Jim grabs my arm I turn and wave and then I sprint it in. "Melanie Yarzy you are an Ironman!" I land in Steve's arms a fellow Bammer. I hug and hug him. He walks me through the finish and then Lillian takes over. I lay on the ground jibber jabbering about the incredible day I had and how difficult it was. My biggest feeling from crossing the line was that of relief that it was finally over. Lillian makes sure that Jim finds me. I hang out in the med tent for a while. They give me Zofran for nausea and then I was out. I'm dizzy and weird and almost in a drunken state. We hang out with Johnny and Andrea for a while before making our journey back to the hotel. I laid on the floor most of the night aching in pain and dry heaving and putting in small amounts of water and a granola bar into my belly. I slept for about two hours and then we went to the expo for a finisher shirt. All the big egos are so humbled the next day. It's a totally different feel. Back to the pool to chill with my family. I have major chafing all over my body from the race kit. It looked cool though. My time was 12:35. An hour slower than projected. It was a tough day for many. A lot didn't finish. I PR'd my Ironman time by 1 hour and 20 minutes. I'm very happy with that!My biggest fear was throwing up and being unable to finish. I conquered that one this time. I hoped my doctor was wrong. I hoped I had enough to be an Ironman once more, and I did! There's no guarantees in sport or life. If you want to do an Ironman all I can say is know why you want to do it, build a darn good support team, train your butt off, enjoy the journey, race with serenity, give thanks, and pray! Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way and especially my love, Jim. I hope for the opportunity to do it again but not anytime soon.