Triathlete Tina Valle: Shhh…I winged my Ironman and survived to write about it
Our friend Tina Valle recently posted her race report for Ironman AZ, which was her 2nd 140.6 Ironman of the season. It also marked the 2nd Ironman of her Triathlon career. Read and enjoy!
Wow, what a race! I’ve been meaning to write it all week and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time. I thought my offseason would be more relaxing.
Where do I begin…?
Well, I have to admit that sometime after Vineman (my first full ironman) in July I fell off the wagon. I think it was mostly because I didn’t have my girls holding me accountable for my training. The weekends would roll around and sleeping in always sounded much better than going out to ride, run, ride, run, ride, and run all day long. I think I can tell you every single workout between Vineman and Arizona and that I included Superfrog 70.3! I did one brick workout with Marison, one 40 mile ride with Shoko, I did a few 5 mile runs with Tyson, maybe a couple of short runs on my own, and I tried CrossFit. I had to stop CrossFit as the race approached, but would like to go back to that someday and give it another try. No swimming was done except for the death defying battle at Coronado State Beach for Superfrog.
Based on my nonexistent training listed above I still somehow went into the race calm. Once it was a couple of weeks out I figured it would be safer to just wait it out rather than try and cram in workouts at the last minute and risk injury. Earlier in the year I had high hopes of being able to bring the pain and maybe qualify for a Kona spot at IMAZ, but I knew by August that I didn’t have the discipline to go after that. I was okay with that and just rolled with how I felt. I’m still young and will have other chances. Two full Ironmans, two half Ironmans, a century bike ride, a duathlon dressed as Wonder Woman and an obstacle course for American Ninja Warrior seemed like a good idea when I planned the season!!! I am thankful I survived injury free and with several lessons learned this season.
Race checkin and expo were exactly what I expected. Streamlined, efficient, and organized – these things make me happy. I am no veteran to the sport, but I felt calm and reassured myself that I could get through the race. I used my lessons from Vineman on nutrition and hoped that maybe I had she’d a few pounds and had increased my power to weight ratio. I have always believed that the mental aspect of the race is a bigger challenge than the physical demand required to complete an Ironman and if there was still any doubt in my body prior to IMAZ I’m pretty confident that it has been exorcised from my body! My game plan was to strategize my way through the race and not worry about the other athletes around me. I came to run my race and fought off all urges to join the swim mob or chase anyone down on the bike. My risk of failure was higher because I was not trained properly so I wanted to make sure I got through the swim and the bike before I kicked it for the run. Fortunately, the 140.6 distance allows for strategizing and allowed me to go out conservative. The last thing I wanted to do was waste a trip to Arizona and make a stupid mistake like not hydrating enough or burning myself out on the swim.
At Vineman there was a distance moment where I realized that I was in pain and that the suffering of constant leg cramps really sucked. I’m happy to report that I never hit that wall in Arizona. I contribute that success to planning my nutrition properly and most importantly LISTENING to what my body was telling me. I notice that many people approach a long distance race as if it were a sprint distance race when they should actually take the time to stop and think. When you are on the swim you must multitask and not only sight properly, but also make sure your stroke is efficient and start thinking about t2 and what you need to make sure you do before hitting the mount line. Most of us are out there for over an hour and paying attention to the little things will save us time and prevent hardship later on in the race.
IMAZ swim – I think you’ve probably read other people’s posts about the swim. Well, it is not like I expected it to be a spacious and relaxing time. I saw the race last year and fully expected to get beat up. There was just a little more unnecessary roughness than I expected. Well, it’s an ironman, so I got over it and just kicked, pulled, pushed, and elbowed my way through the thousands of other athletes out there swimming like Noah’s ark left them behind. I took my time and swam the outskirts for most of the swim. I did not merge in until it was time to hit the turnaround at halfway point and the final turn to swim exit. The temperature was normal for me, the water quality was questionable, and the crowd just sucked. I focused on relaxing, having an efficient stroke, and avoiding the masses. After the swim exit I quickly found a wetsuit stripper and let him help me out of my suit. Of course, people were walking side by side on way to t1 tent so I started yelling for them to get out of my way and ended up running on the grass and jumping the barrier stands to get around them. I hate it when people freakin walk and block others. Yeah, it’s 2.4 miles and you’re tired boo hoo hoo just get out of my way.
Eventually I make it to the changing tent and am lucky to find a chair. I start getting my bike stuff on and a volunteer is nearby to help me stuff my swim gear back in. Shout out to the sunblock volunteers! Thanks for lathering me up. I zip through transition, find my bike, and head out. T1 was successful, but had a lot of running around…hence the 6ish minute split.
The bike is a wonderful not so scenic three loop course. There was dirt, cactus, and awesome spectators. I really enjoyed all the course support out there. There was also a deceiving little incline at one end of each loop and once the wind picked up it was rather slow and painful. I think my slow point was around 15 mph and when I glanced at my Garmin on the descent I reliever seeing 28+ mph. The descent always makes the climb worth it. During the three laps I just basically kept myself entertained by monitoring my average and actual speed. I had a magic number and worked to keep it there. I just had to be careful I didn’t get any drafting penalties! On the bike there was a lot of time to think and take occasional physical status checks. Things I asked myself were, “am I hungry or are those GI issues coming on, should I be taking in more sports drink because it feels drier than expected, do I feel like there is too much liquid in my stomach, how long since I took last gel, how long until next salt/electrolyte tab, now do my legs feel, can I hammer it on the downhill and not burn out my legs, etc. I like to listen to my body and not run it to the ground because I ignored hunger pains or cramped because I was more worried about hammering it rather than taking in the appropriate amount of nutrition. This was my biggest lesson from Vineman and the main contributing factor to my successful race in Arizona. Know your body and be aware of every signal it sends. This will prevent so many issues that we face during races.
T2 was fast as I expected. It was nice to see a familiar face as I approached the dismount line and a fellow TCSD member called out, “I’ve got Tina!” I smiled really big because that made me feel special. Simple, I know, but I cherish every cheer, applause, and words of encouragement out there. They are the fuel that I feed off of and keep the negative thought out of my mind. Again, great organization in T2 and there were no issues receiving my gear and a volunteer was around to pack up my stuff and another to lather me up with more sunblock.
Onto my favorite part of the race…the HUNT, I mean run! You all know I love to run and that on the run I play little games that I like to call hunting. I already knew who was ahead of me and my dear friends who were ahead of my unfortunately had little invisible targets on their backs. I run, run, run until I see the familiar colors of their Tri kits and then close in. First, I spot them, then I mark them by counting how many seconds they are ahead of me, then I take another reference point count to determine if I am gaining and at what rate, finally I adjust to close in and take over. Ok, it sounds like I’m on a mission against enemy forces, but it is just a fun game I play. Of course I smile and give words of encouragement as I pass by friends and strangers. When I wasn’t hunting I was keeping track of my pace and seeing how a stop at an aide station changed my average pace. I like to stop set the aid stations and walk for a bit just so I can make sure I get all my nutrition. Once I was aware of how my average ace was changing I decided to not stop to walk and jogged instead. After the first lap I knew that there was just one minor climb and that the rest was pretty flat and fast. When people walk up hills I run up them, when people run on flat I just run faster. I keep my stride short and my cadence quick. I make sure I have proper foot strike and that nothing hurts. If something hurts then I adjust or correct my mechanical issue that is causing it and keep moving. Most of my time on the run is consumed by being intimately aware of my body mechanics and keeping my cadence quick. 5k down and I felt good, 10k down and I felt good. It was a three lap course and I started out at 8 min miles avg, I was slowing down by 15 seconds per lap, but instead of burning myself out trying to make up the time I just accepted it and tried to hold steady. It wasn’t until the last 6 miles which I considered my home stretch that I let go and started hauling. Passing the TCSD cheer squad on the run course was amazing. I felt like a rock star as I approached them every time. It was truly amazing and that huge smile on my face was genuine! I did not feel pain, I never felt fatigue, and I never cramped. Some might say that this was because I didn’t push myself and to them I say, “Shut up because I got a 140.6 and marathon PR without training and by strategizing my way through the race!” For a moment I wanted to kick myself because thought about what shoulda/coulda happened if I had trained…would there have been a Kona spot for me? Then I realized that it didn’t matter because if I would have forced myself to train against my will and tried to push through the training blindly I more than likely would have ended up physically injured, overstrained, and the chance of not finishing the race would have been higher. It sounds backwards, I know, but in my mind it made sense. I know my body better than anyone else out there and I ultimately make decisions that are in my best interest. In this care I believe there were numerous contributing factors that resulted in my successful finish and I am proud of my season.
My only disappointment was that I did the Gangam Style dance at the finish line and the camera didn’t catch it!
I learned more than ever this year and I look forward to my 2013 season. After a nice break I will be back out there and ready to kick some ass again.
So far the plan for next year is Vineman 70.3 and Superfrog. See you guys out there and get ready for some more all day sufferfests! Thank you to my sister who is my biggest fan and supporter, to my friends who go on road trips with me to be cheerleaders, to my workout buddies who question my sanity and humanity but who are still out by my side, and thank you to my sponsor Boca Bearing…my hidden helpers.
Finish time (PR) 11 hrs 19 min 44 secs; 9th in age group