Things I know to be true after IM Coeur d’Alene

5 Questions With Meredith Kessler!
June 25, 2012
Pictures for Mom
June 30, 2012

Things I know to be true after IM Coeur d’Alene

I have been staring at the screen wondering how to write this race report. With this race being my fourth event in 8 weeks, there are only so many ways I can spin the story of “I swam, biked, then ran…” So, I am not going to. If you are interested in details of the course or logistics of the race or anything, feel free to e-mail me with any direct questions that I don’t touch on here. But, my hunch is that if you’re into that sort of thing, you don’t come to my blog looking for it anyway. Instead of a traditional race report, I came up with a few things that I am sure of after this weekend. Here they are, in no particular order:

Beginners luck is a real thing. I learned to play Yahtzee and promptly beat all the boys in my first game. It was awesome. It also never happened again.

Learning to spell Coeur d’Alene gave me the same level of satisfaction that winning Yahtzee that first game did. Definitely worth it!

A beach start in an Ironman is much more intense than a mass in-water start. I have now made it through 2 time trial starts (easy peasy), 2 mass starts, and this beach start. While I always felt crowded and rushed in the mass starts, I never ever questioned my ability to make it through. I thought I’m tough, I can handle anything!

This was another story! The gun went off and it was like the freaking running of the bulls in Spain. I had always started right in the thick of things for the mass starts, and I figured this would be no different. Boy was I wrong! As I was being pulled along by the masses I had two thoughts. One, was that this is what it must have felt like when the Titanic was going down and everyone was jumping into the ocean. And two, I noticed a distinct smell of poop and could only think “oh my god this is so scary someone literally shit themselves.” Not exactly the most deep and thought provoking thoughts!

-I swam a PR for the distance. Not by a lot, but my slowing on the second loop was on par with everyone’s due to the deteriorating conditions out on the lake. I swam strong, and came out feeling like I had only been out there a few minutes. Definitely looking forward to more minutes coming off that time!

-Trying to shove numb toes into bike shoes is pretty funny. I didn’t regain feeling in them until mile 10 of the run.

-There was a headwind for a large portion of the bike. That, in addition to the cold and light rain for a while, meant staying mentally tough was the name of the game. When I checked my watch around mile 40 I realized I was in for a long day in the saddle.

-All of that said, this bike course was a fun one. I could have done without the tractor trailers zooming down the interstate towards me in the next lane over as I was climbing, but the views at the top were breathtaking. Good thing we drove the course the day before so I actually had a chance to look at them 🙂

-I received my first ever penalty in a race, for drafting on the bike. Heading out into the wind I was overtaken by a handful of men riding by. A low point for me, I decided to use their momentum to get me going again and put my head down to hammer and keep pace with them. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough room behind the last dude and the ref pulled up only a few moments later. I found it funny that he was apologizing to me as I was stopped in the penalty tent (4 minutes)! But, I assured him that it was his job, and I would just take a few minutes to eat, drink and get in a bathroom break. No use beating myself up over it, but let’s just say I hope I can avoid future penalties! Seeing the competition whiz by is never fun.

-Sometimes I do weird things to channel some inspiration. But they work. All day Saturday I stayed busy by watching the updates over at the Western States 100 mile. It became clear that the picture perfect conditions favorable running conditions they encountered after the cold/rain/hail of the first 40 miles, were making it a record-breaking sort of day. The men’s, women’s, and men’s masters course records were all broken this past weekend. What many of you may not realize is just how huge this was, especially (in my opinion) on the women’s side. Anne Trason held the course record for many years, and most people thought it would never be touched. I could go on forever about the caliber of athlete that Anne is, and it is truly worth the time to do some research and learn about her. As a pioneer of ultrarunning, she worked hard and set the bar very, very high. Ellie Greenwood shattered the record this weekend, running easily under 17 hours. Words can’t even describe what that means for the sport, and how exciting it is to be watching such great competition be surfacing. I have witnessed first hand the harsh environment of the WS course, first as a competitor, then also as a pacer. I was getting goosebumps as I was able to follow along with Ellie’s progress as she inched closer and closer to breaking that record. I was unable to stay up to find out on Saturday night if she broke the record, but I made a decision that if she did, I would wear my visor backwards during the run as a tribute to what she accomplished (throughout the day the pictures that were being broadcasted of her showed her running with a backwards hat, which I think is awesome.) I woke up Sunday morning and got the news that she did, in fact, crush the record. So, while maybe only a handful of people out there on Sunday knew what it meant, I rocked a backwards visor during the run. And you know what? It worked. In an Ironman you have to find your inspiration where ever you can. And during the times on the run where my legs were getting heavy and I just wanted to let up, I thought back to my own race at WS in 2009. I thought back to the canyons, to Devil’s Thumb, and the climb up to Green Gate. Having that visor on backwards was a constant reminder to me of how hard Ellie had to have been working to push strong all day and get that record. Suddenly 26 miles on the rolling roads of Idaho didn’t seem as tough 🙂

-Flying in this plane was really cool.

Who would have known so many celebs have summer homes on the lake?! The pilot was able to point them all out from the sky, from John Elway to Wayne Gretsky. Totally worth it!

-I’m a very lucky girl. If you had asked me 2 years ago, as I sat on the side of State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, head between my legs, during my second Ironman, if I would ever be able to learn to compete at a high level in this sport, I wouldn’t have said yes. Two years ago I would have never dreamed of producing the fastest run split in my age group at an Ironman….twice. But now here I am, having landed in a Kona-qualifying position in the past 2 Ironmans that I have done.  And no, I don’t think that’s the lucky part – the long hours of training, the sacrifices, and the hard work certainly doesn’t get past me. The lucky part is that I have a coach who took me onto her roster and is 100% committed to my goals as much as I am. I have a boyfriend, friends and family who accept my way of life, as hectic, training-focused, and “lame” as it may be sometimes. I am lucky that there are people out there like Laura’s (another athlete Hillary coaches) brother who ran to catch me on the run and was giving me data on the race and the encouragement I needed to step it up and go for it. Oh, and he did this while also helping support Laura who was out on the course rocking her first Ironman! Her mother was also one of the first faces I saw after the finish with a congratulations and asking me if I need anything. There was also Scott, who didn’t even question it when he had the duties of Ironman Sherpa thrown upon him for 3 people instead of just his one friend he came out to support.

To go far in this sport I am going to have to work harder than I ever imagined. Days like this past Sunday make it all worth it though, and I know that for now I’ll keep racing hard and dreaming big.