Ironman Alaska Race Report 2022

I haven’t been blogging lately. However, this started as a tri blog, and before my last triathlon race I read two race reports I had posted and it was super helpful! My Ironman Cozumel race report is also the most read blog I have ever posted…so here you go. Making it public and putting in a place I can find the next time I’m getting ready to race!

Training:

Worked with a coach for the first time. Did only 2 of each sport per week – meaning 6 workouts per week so not doubling up with 2-a-days. I didn’t know how I would fit 2 workouts in with my current schedule/life and I’m glad to see this was doable. My longest bike was 6 hours 50 minutes and 90 miles. My longest run (the following day) was 3 hours 45 minutes and 17.7 miles. And that week was about 15.5 hours of training total. I did most of my riding outside (and all of my long rides), and I think this meant I worked harder than I previously have in IM training. I go for time not distance, and in the past during my long rides I was moving my pedals but not necessarily very fast or hard. I definitely think training outside is better for me. (And yes, I know there are other ways to train better indoors both by pushing myself harder and if I had a fancy trainer…).

In hindsight…the training was good. I was never injured and rarely particularly tired. There were times I didn’t want to workout…but that’s expected). (There was one SUPER fatigued week – I kind of wonder if I got Covid that week even though my one test was negative. Or I was just tired from something). The swim was shortened…so I was definitely ready for that 😊 Though I think longer would have been fine too. The bike was okay – I think the training was good, it’s just that I’m very slow to the point of potentially not making the cutoff on that course. And the run was good – I didn’t 100% do my planned run/walk intervals, and walked more the first lap with some stomach upset, but I was still keeping up some jogging by the end of the marathon which I’m happy with.

Pre-Race:

I didn’t do a whole lot special. I tried to avoid covid. Hydrated in the couple days pre-race. The day before I didn’t eat many fruits or vegetables. But I did go out for tacos with my race money to use at one of the participating restaurants. Dinner was a salmon steak, quinoa, couple broccoli pieces, and part of a cookie bar I made that day.

Race day I woke up at 3am. Ate ¾ cup oatmeal, cinnamon, one date, and coffee. I had my food written out from wake up to the race and this is shockingly awesome. I was tempted to do this or that and veer race morning and it was great to just tell myself, ‘no, stick to the plan.’ They say ‘nothing new on race day’ but I have a tendency to think that doesn’t apply to me, then this gets me into trouble, then I forget about it and do it all over again. (Race reports help. I wrote one for my last two races and read them the night before and was able to recall those silly mistakes before and this helped keep me on track this year. For example, twice I decided it would be a good idea to run in compression sleeves – they go around the calves – and both times it was a horrible horrible idea because of the chaffing).

We left the house about 4am. My husband was volunteering and supposed to be there at 4:30am, which was kind of nice because it left out any questions as to when I would get to transition. It also meant that we got a sweet parking spot near transition! I decided to wear my wetsuit to transition so I could put it on in the warm and dry house. As expected I did have to go to the bathroom before the race, but I still think it was a good decision overall.

I checked my bike. It was wet but nothing else seemed to be wrong. I didn’t check the tire pressure again…I figured it would be okay overnight. I filled them to about 90psi the day prior. I had my fender on my bike and this proved brilliant on the course that was wet all day long.

Per my plan, I ate two muffins at 5am. These are simple mills gluten free pumpkin muffins. And I drank 1 bottle of hydro/ucann mix (about ¾ scoop of each) throughout the morning.

About 5:40am I decided to head down to the swim start. Checked out the course a bit more as I walked down. Not long after I arrived at the swim start, Mike Reilly announced that the AM water temp was 56 degrees and they were going to shorten the course to 1.2 miles instead of 2.4 miles. BUT they were also delaying the start to 6:30am. I am pretty sure they do this because everyone on course is expecting people to start coming through at a certain time, and this keeps things basically on schedule. [I did one IM where the entire swim was cancelled, and I think they made us wait over an hour. That was worse than this 30 minute delay!] I spent time mostly alone and away from the crowds as I waited that extra time. Also ran into some friends which was delightful. Then I went to line up at about 6:20am.

Swim:

The swim start is on a ramp, and they were letting 2 people go every 3 seconds (I think). This meant no warming up at all. It also meant that I couldn’t spit in my goggles and rinse them in the lake. I had not thought this through, which meant I didn’t have water to clean them. Fortunately, right at the arch a few minutes before my start, there was a discarded water bottle that I could rinse with! [In the future I want to try Foggies that we have from an Aukeman sponsor and see if that will work for race day goggle de-fogging]. I also forgot to start my watch until a couple minutes into the swim!

The swim was good. It just is what it is, though the way they spread people out was really nice. I think one person hit me once and I hit a foot once – pretty darn good. I was getting chilly by the end of the 1.2 miles – most swimmers were definitely saying that shortening the swim was a very good idea when they were done with their swim. Some had to spend considerable time warming up before getting on the bike.

After the swim I was totally ramped and ran a lot on my way up the hill to the transition tent. Probably not the best move to get my heart rate up like that…but that’s one of the funnest parts of the race with the energy I had and the energy of people cheering.

They had wetsuit peelers which I used. Unfortunately I also took my booties off…and there was still a LONG trek to transition, and while most of it was carpeted, a lot of it was on pavement which hurt on my feet and was very cold. Next time – booties stay on and wetsuit comes off!

**Gear – full wetsuit with neoprene cap and booties. I wore xmas tree ear plugs (which I hadn’t trained in but I am so glad I had them! Much better than water in my ears forever). My goggles I had been training with most of my training for this race – and they are great. In the past goggles always hurt after a long swim – but these do not. However…in training I usually have to adjust after I swim. I start, get water in them, put them back on, and then I’m usually good to go. I didn’t think this would be a problem because I thought we would be able to warm up in the water before starting. We could not and I ended up having to stop and adjust my goggles at the beginning. Wondering what I could have done to avoid this. I also forgot to start my watch until shortly into the water…I took time to do it once I realized.

T1:

Tent was crowded. Few people around to help – normally it feels like I have a personal helper in transition, which is really awesome! This time I was solo. Went according to plan though. I wore my tri suit and bra in the swim, so I did not do a full change as many did. I also did not add any layers – instead I put embrocation on my bare arms and legs. I did put a warm cap on under my helmet, and I put toe warmers under my neoprene toe caps (this turned out to be a brilliant idea and I’m positive that it saved me from having numb toes the whole ride. I ate most of a PB&J sandwich in transition. Eventually I was off.

Bike:

I started out pretty well for my pace, but then I settled into the pace I had been training at. Most of my training was on the pavement portion and I rode between 14 to 14.5 miles per hour. DOT added chipseal at the end of the road in June. I didn’t realize they were done because there was a sign up warning for loose gravel – and so I thought they were still working on it. By the time I realized it was as good as it was going to get for race day, I only got two training rides in on the chipseal. And both times I dropped my ride average to about 13mph. This was distressing because I knew I couldn’t make the cutoff time at that pace. I was hoping that the energy and effort on race day would propel me more quickly, but it didn’t quite happen that way.

Not sure what else to say about the bike. I find it painful. I get passed the whole time, especially on the uphill. I’m generally uncomfortable. It’s basically survival. When I realized I was worried about my time to finish in the 15:50 cutoff, it was what I thought about most of the ride. It didn’t make me go faster because I couldn’t (at least I didn’t feel I could), but I figured I would just keep moving forward until someone pulled me from the course. I also discovered that I was tired enough that even if I did get pulled for being too slow, it would have been okay with me. I mean at least I had gotten a good workout in for the day.

I had to pee much of the ride. Because of my time worry I even attempted to pee while riding…but I couldn’t do it! I finally stopped with about 30 miles to go.

Food: My plan was to eat every 30 minutes alternating between a frooze ball and ½ of a base bar. I also put a PB & J sandwich in my special needs bag along with a chocolate chip cookie. I had two bottles with ~ 2 scoops of hydro and 2 scoops of Ucann each. One of them was in my special needs bag. I did pretty well at consistently eating every 30 minutes. I think I missed one or two windows…but overall pretty good. I never ate the cookie and only forced about 2/3 of the sandwich down at special needs. The frooze balls and base bars were better in training, racing I found them to be pretty dry…but I got them down and would probably stick with them next year.  

My training plan was to use the Gatorade on course instead of my own mix. But I never trained with it and I was very very glad that I stuck with my own mix. And I think in past races I have always veered from my plan and ate some of the on-course food. I didn’t even consider it this time, which I think is a good sign.

I found out in the race briefing that the water bottles on course were just pop top plastic bottles instead of the usual bike bottles. I made a last minute decision to use a tri bottle I had that goes in the bike cage and then has a tube that comes up and can attach to a handle. I only tried it out in my pre-ride just before race day…but I am really really glad I had it and used it. With a road bike, the straw wasn’t that convenient in the way it is in drop bars with a tri bike…but it did work well to fill it up at the aid stations with the bottles available there. I was slightly short on water between stations – the bottle I had just isn’t that big. If it were a warmer day it would have not been nearly enough. On my tri bike I have two extra cages behind my seat – I would need something like that in the future.

Gear:

My very first training ride on my tri bike (I had been riding my Peloton inside), I started to get pain in my left foot. This has happened for years but it doesn’t happen if I’m training inside and since my past races have been in the winter, I would train inside and only experience the pain on race day. (One time I actually took my foot out of my shoe to pedal). This all sounds very ridiculous that I have not figured this out! But this time instead of figuring it out I just switched to my road bike.

I like my road bike…but it was having some shifting issues. I ordered a new shifting system but they didn’t come in in time (I think the shop just never called me and I wasn’t proactive enough). I had dropped my chain in training rides, but I got it tuned up just before the race which had helped in the past. But I think the rain all night destroyed any tune up and I dropped my chain while shifting at least a dozen times during the race. I lost count somewhere along the way. Once it dried up in the last 30 miles or so it didn’t happen…but it was annoying. On the other hand…luckily no flats or other mechanical issues. That is the biggest worry on the bike – there is so much that can derail your ride that is outside of your control. And I had little to no time to spare!

Clothing wise – you would think I would have known what to do since I train here. Yet, it is really hard to figure out what to wear in different conditions. Is it going to rain hard on race day or only rain for a little bit? Is it going to be 53 degrees or 61 degrees most of the ride? These are HUGE differences that can have an impact on what kind of clothing works the best for me. And once you decide, you’re pretty committed!

I decided to go with: just my tri suit. One piece with sleeves, and my bra. Wore both for the swim so there was no changing. In transition I put on a cycling hat under my helmet, synthetic socks, and I made toe warmers for my cycling shoes out of an old wetsuit. (No one in town was carrying them and I didn’t think in the weeks before the race that I had time to order them). Then I put toe warmers (I do not know what to call all these things, first I was referring to the neoprene toe covers people buy – and I handmade. Here I am referring to the disposable ones that get warm for a few hours) on top of my shoe between it and the neoprene covers. This was incredible and definitely, 100%, what saved my toes from being numb the whole race and thus extra misery. At special needs I swapped out for new toe warmers. Then, on my skin, I put embrocation. This is this warming cream that I am absolutely in love with. It did rain on and off throughout the entire day, and I really hate wet layers on me. But this stuff kept my skin warm enough – I didn’t get cold at all. I had put a spare pair of socks and layers in my special needs bag, but I didn’t use them. I wore glasses that are clear, but then get a tint to them if the sun comes out. Perfect for the day, and Juneau in general!! I chose well gear-wise and stayed warm.

T2:

After riding 112 miles I was spent. How could I go further? But I got my gear bag. I was covered in mud, and I was so so happy with myself for putting two athlete body wipes in my bag to clean off my legs and to apply more embrocation. I also cleaned my feet and attempted to dry them before putting my running shoes on. Put a hat on my head and my race belt on. I decided to keep my glasses on because it looked like the sun came out. (It didn’t. In fact it turned more to rain and I really coulda/shoulda just left the glasses – but they fit on top of my hat just fine without bothering me.) Then it was time to limp my way onto the run course.

Run:

There is usually a cutoff to finish the bike at 10 hours 20 minutes. This would be reduced to 9 hours 10 minutes because of the shortened swim. I calculated that I was at about 9 hours 20 minutes. But…still no one was stopping me so I kept on moving. (And I think they said that the cutoff would be based on the last person to enter the water, in which case I would have been fine). BUT…I still faced the 15 hour 50 minute cutoff for the whole race. It took me awhile of fuzzy math with my fuzzy brain…but I decided this meant that I had approximately 6 hours and 20 minutes to do the marathon. I thought this was doable…but not a given for me at all. It definitely meant that I couldn’t walk the whole thing (like I had done in Cozumel).

My plan was to jog 2 minutes and then walk 30 seconds, except that I planned to walk the uphills and run the downhills regardless of time. I kept this up for approximately the first 4 or 5 miles, and then the rest of the first loop I was really struggling. I walked a lot more than I ran.

As I passed the transition area to start my second loop, I took some ibuprofen I had been carrying around all day. I think it helped a lot! I also finished the first lap in under 3 hours 10 minutes, which meant that I was on pace to finish in time…but I had to go as fast or faster on the second lap. And I did…for much of the time I was able to keep my 2 minute job and 30 second walk. The jog might have gotten slower and slower…but I was moving and motivated to finish within the 15:50.

I also realized on the second lap that there were people quite a ways behind me. It seemed like they must not have been cutting people off at the end of the bike and the end of the first running lap. Were they just going to turn them all away at the finish line? That seemed pretty unlikely…but I didn’t want to push it. So onward…

My plan was to eat a cliff shot block every 20 minutes. Oh boy did I not stick with that. I ate 10 during my entire run. I cannot tell you why. At the aid stations I drank a lot of coke (probably not a ton in volume, but it was what I wanted). Usually I alternated – coke one aid station/water and cliff shot at the next. My stomach was pretty upset on the run and I was really gassy. The coke seemed to settle it somewhat.

Even though I didn’t consume many calories, I do not think in hindsight that I was dehydrated or lacking in nutrients. Maybe because I was so ‘done’ that it didn’t matter, maybe the colder weather, or maybe I just did get enough.

The best part:

I have a little sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters who lives on the run course. I hadn’t seen her in a long time before the race. Her family was out cheering on my first lap, but I didn’t see her. I asked the fam to tell her I ran by and said hello. On my second lap, she was cheering a little ways before her house, and she ran with me to where her house was. It was awesome!! So good to see her out there, excited, and I just think she’s awesome. Then, as I neared the finish line and right before the last big hill, there she was!! She ran with me to the finish chute. It was the best part of the day to see her and run with her. I think she thought the event was pretty cool. She is 14 years old – and I heard that she went for a ride and a run the next day!

Racing at home:

I have raced in Western Australia; Cozumel, Mexico; and New Zealand. (Plus 70.3’s in Sydney, Australia and Victoria, B.C.). This was not only my first race in the United States… it was at home! In the past, being away from work was built in. I took weeks of leave and just happened to do a long race in the midst. But this time that wasn’t the case, and it didn’t occur to me to clear my calendar. Even if it had, I am not sure what I would have wanted to do. I work for myself and have a tendency to think that I can and should do ‘all the things’ – ‘sure, I’ll be fine taking just race day off and jumping right back in to work…’

Next time I would want to: block weekends for the 2 months before race day (I actually think I will just not schedule client meetings on weekends in the summer from say April or May to late August); take off at least the two days prior to the race; and then keep my calendar open for two full days post-race (meaning no scheduled meetings to allow me to ease back in and catch up on emails etc).

Other things were really exciting about being home. I loved seeing so many people out on the road for training days. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces volunteering. Such a community atmosphere, and I cannot wait to see how many decide to do the race next year! It was awesome to see familiar faces out cheering people on!! And of course, to see people I knew on course was awesome!

2 thoughts on “Ironman Alaska Race Report 2022

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I love reading race reports- allows me to pretend it was me doing the Ironman. Ha! Just kidding…. but really, so many good nuggets to learn from here. Congrats on this huge accomplishment…. again! An inspiration for sure!

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  2. Thank you for your story and for being a courageous and dedicated athlete. We are so proud of our Juneau folks who trained for this! Your little sister joining you at the end is so heartwarming and so worth repeating many times. A Hallmark moment (and a wipe of the eye.) You are so full of positive energy. I look forward to the 2023 and 2024 Juneau Ironman races!

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