Looking back to last year after Ironman Chattanooga I was excited to race my next Ironman(I wanted to redeem myself as I know I can run faster than a 3:26 marathon at the end!). After figuring out though that my aching foot pain that I had leading up to, during and after the IM was a calcaneus stress fracture - I knew it would be a later season Ironman for 2015. When looking at the Pro IM calendar, Ironman Vichy stood out to me. Chelsea and I were hoping to make a trip to Europe this year as well, why not make it an Ironman experience and a vacation to follow?
Leading up to Vichy in France, it took a good amount of planning both logistically and training wise. After looking at my training for the first IM, I gained some valuable experience as I approached my second one. I had hoped the change in training was going to pay off. And in order to get to the race site it took a good amount of planning as Vichy, France is not a major city. It is located about 3.5 hours south of Paris and 90 mins northwest of Lyon. Being in central France the terrain consisted of rolling hills, farmland and some beautiful views of volcanoes off to the southwest.
We ended up flying into Milan, Italy and driving west through the Italian Alps and down into France. It was a beautiful drive which consisted of a few tunnels- one that took us from Italy to France called the Routier du Frejus that was 8.1 miles long. Before heading into France we stopped at a little ski town called Bardonecchia. It was a quaint town where we enjoyed a delicious stromboli and took in the amazing mountain views all around us.
Once in France we still had a few more hours to drive - mind you stopping a few times because we were all turned around! Driving in Europe is definitely different than driving in the states! After a long flight and pretty long drive from Milan we finally made it to Vichy where we met our amazing home-stay Cathia, her daughter Clemence and her sister Stephanie. They were amazing and we truly appreciated their hospitality - we evened learned some French in the process!
After getting a great night sleep we woke up to an amazing breakfast of French Pastries, fruits and french coffee. Once breakfast was finished we started getting acquainted to the area, getting the bike ready and going over the course we settled in for the pro meeting. At the pro meeting it was nice to meet some familiar faces in fellow Americans AJ Baucco, Chris Sweet and especially hometown Charlottesville native Alyssa Godesky. Alyssa was coming off a great performance a few days before at Ironman Copenhagen and hoping to double back with Vichy! Yes she is crazy!
Over the next couple days the temperatures were heating up well into the 90's -race day was supposed to be the hottest yet in getting up to 97. I was trying to stay out of the heat, take in plenty of water as well as electrolytes and do my best to stay relaxed.
As race morning came, things were calm, I was feeling good and was excited to complete my second Ironman. I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the heat. Usually in shorter race distances I am done before it gets too warm out however in an IM the run takes place in the hottest time of the day usually starting around 12:30-1:00 pm. I was just going to do my best to stay hydrated, follow my plan and take in the necessary nutrition.
Race morning came and the swim was to be wet-suit legal. In France, the water temperatures for wet suits are a little higher than normal- normally it is 71.5 degrees or lower for a wet-suit but for this race it is 75.2 degrees. This would help me with the buoyancy aspect but might also be a little too warm to swim in for an hour.
As the sun rose, the starting gun went off and the race was on. It was a 2 loop swim with an Australian exit- meaning we come out of the water, run for a few meters on land then hop back in the water for a second loop. In the race, I found my arms were a little tight on the first loop but while getting out after the first loop I managed to stretch my arms a little and loosen them up. After a dive off the dock, I started the second loop and noticed the main pack was not too far ahead of me. When getting out of the water I heard Chelsea and she let me know the time gap to the next racer. Overall a solid swim for me at 59:59 coming out in 13th place out of 19. I felt relaxed and ready to get some time back on the bike.
After a quick T1, I was was out onto the bike. During my transition I made sure to take a couple of Imodiums to help with combating GI distress later on. This is the first time I was trying this in a race- I had been using it in practice over the last month or so and it seemed to be working well. While out on the bike I was trying to stay on point with my nutrition and hydration. I was actually taking ~2.5 - 3 full 24 ounce water bottles an hour trying to stay hydrated, a Salt tab every 45 mins in addition to the 350-400 calories an hour from the Powerbar Gels. I was feeling good but did notice my right upper IT/hip flexor was tightening up starting around mile 45 or so. I just kept going according to plan and ended the first loop in 2:21 with a avg HR of 143, power of 273 and NP of 275. I was hoping to hold 275 for the entire ride so I was right on. When reaching halfway at mile 56 I was able to see Chelsea cheering for me - she always puts a smile on my face and really appreciate her support! Once hitting 65 miles or so the hip flexor was getting tighter and tighter and I noticed my power dropping. I was doing what I could do maintain the power but my body was not allowing me too. It was gradually getting worse and worse. Looking at the data the second loop my heart rate was 140 but my power was an NP of only 246 for a lap time of 2:29 - clearly not what I wanted! It seemed as if the heat, along with my hip flexor were limiting my performance and my mental state was going downhill fast. At the end of the bike my NP was 260 watts with an Avg of 255 - well below my goal giving me a time a 4:50:21.
Once at T2, I switched over to my running gear and got onto the course. Immediately I could feel my hip flexor clenching but I continued to push on. I was holding right at 7:10 pace or so for the first 2 miles but then found it too much for me. I stopped at an aid station, stretched my hip and took in some nutrition. I tired to continue on but once I got to 5k I knew my day was done- my thoughts immediately switched to frustration and disappointment especially with the great crowd cheering me on. Aerobically I was fine, physically I was done. The race was 4 x 10.5k loops so I knew I had to get back to the race venue before I could end my day. You never want your day to end like this but at this point I believe I was doing the right thing.
Once I got back close to the end of loop one, I saw Chelsea, stopped and told her my day was done.
After gathering my things, we went back to the home-stay 2 miles away, I took a shower and tired to think of how it could have gone differently. At that point I couldn't. It just wasn't my day - we all have those days but we must move past them and look to the future.
From that point on I had to switch my brain to try and enjoy a vacation. Over the next week we traveled to Switzerland, and all over Italy. After talking with Coach Doug though we decided that I needed to get back into the swing of things and focus ahead. We decided that racing IM Chattanooga should be my next option. I ended up over the last 5 days of our trip getting back into things training wise to prepare for IM Chatt 2015!
However, once back in the US, I was in rough shape both mentally and physically. I was tired and just not sure I wanted to race again this season. We all have those days- especially when you put so much time, effort and money into it all. It was a tough few days but after talking to friends, family and my coach I started to turn things around! After getting a string of a great nights sleep, my hip flexor feeling better and beginning to enjoy training again, I started to get excited for my next Ironman adventure just 4 weeks post Vichy.
I am going back to the site of my first IM- Ironman Chattanooga!
Some pictures below of our trip to Switzerland and Italy after France!