I’ve been a member of the club for the past 3 years but this is my first race report. I’m pretty middle of the pack so I generally assume there’s nothing interesting to convey, but I had a good day on Sunday, so I’ll share! I saw my first Iron Girl in 2008 when I volunteered and Scott Kallmeyer gave me a rundown of the event. Like so many others, I was inspired and decided to sign up for 2009. At the time I was clomping around in a walking boot in one of many attempts to heal a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that I struggled with for 3 years. I still had a lot of pain when I finished my first Iron Girl in 2009, and was hooked on the sport.
On to Iron Girl 2012. I didn’t go into the race with a specific time goal. In 2011 I had a rough swim, and a slowly flattening tire for more than half of the bike that made for a rough day, although still a PR. For 2012 I just wanted to have a solid swim, and I had grand aspirations of finishing the bike course in an hour or less. Running is still a weak area because of my plantar fasciitis and subsequent issues with my IT band and my hip, but Dr. Josh Bross has gotten me to the point that I feel good running, but I had no goal aside from not walking for the run.
On race morning I got up at 4:15, had some juice and a banana and took a fabulous blueberry scone from Great Harvest with me to nibble on pre-race. Left the house around 4:45 and got to the park, into transition and body marked, and had my transition area set up pretty quickly. Hit the portajohn and headed over to the MMTC tent to wait for my 7:10 start time. I wasn’t too nervous since the course was familiar, and what nerves I did have were calmed by spending the time before the race with all of my MMTC friends. I joined the rest of Team Inspiration for the team picture and then settled in to wait.
When the time came, I got one last good luck from Tim, and entered the water with Sharon and the rest of the blue caps. I positioned myself further to the outside than I usually do. Since I put myself in front in 2011 and went out too fast, I got behind one other woman. The buzzer sounded and I settled into a comfortable pace. I experienced a lot more contact than I’m used to for Iron Girl, but nothing unreasonable. By the time I reached the first turn buoy I was passing some dark red swim caps. By the second buoy I was passing some green caps. I was heading down the back stretch and near the first yellow buoy after the second turn when I realized there was an extra orange buoy far out to the right that wasn’t there in previous years. What the heck?? What’re you gonna do, I headed that way, rounded the buoy and headed toward the finish. At this point I wasn’t seeing any blue caps to either side, so I looked ahead and saw two blues and decided to see if I could catch them. By the time we were coming into the exit, we were all together. I couldn’t catch one girl but I made it across the mat before the second. I’m not generally one to chase people down, but I have to admit, that was fun.
I ran up to transition and didn’t see a familiar face until I passed my friend Eliott in transition where she was volunteering. Apparently Tim was there at the swim exit, as was Cathy Tucker who apparently yelled right in my face, but I didn’t hear anyone. Apparently, as Cathy put it, I was “in the zone”! I could pick up a little more time in transition, but I walked the last little bit to my rack to catch my breath. Shoes on, helmet on, glasses on, and I was off.
My legs always seem to take a while to get used to pedaling on the bike, but I settled into a good cadence pretty quickly and felt good. Maybe that speed work with Tm was paying off! Coming down the first hill on Homewood I was passed by an official who then settled in next to a pack of women and stayed there. I ended up having to pass between the official and a line of women, but hey, I wasn’t drafting! At Mt. Albert I was laughing at the guy dressed up as the devil – very Savageman! I kept on up to the school and turned around, and was passing women in the two age groups ahead of me. Coming out of the school, I dropped onto my aerobars and went as fast as I could. I had been passing back and forth with a woman who I would pass on the downhills and who would then pass me again on the uphills. I complimented her on it and she said she can’t go fast on the downhills so she has to do what she can on the hills. I told her she needed to eat more cookies! In the end we got back to 108 around the same time and finished the course almost together.
Running into T2 my legs were feeling pretty tired, but I was happy with my ride, and glancing at my watch I thought I was pretty close to my goal, but I wasn’t sure what I had left to run. While I was in T2 Tim ran over to cheer which gave me a boost to get me going. Socks on, shoes on, MMTC visor, race number, and I was off.
I saw Heather Beutel on the way out of transition and gave her a wave, and rounded the first turn. My legs felt dead, but I kept moving, chatting with some other women around me. Coming up the first hill after the bridge I was cheered on by Dave McConnell who gave me another much needed boost. After the first mile or so I felt a little better although still tired and thought I might just be able to make it through without walking. Before heading up Gatorade Hill I got a high five from Alan Wiederhold and charged on up. Okay, there was no charging, but there was no walking either and I was still passing people from the two age groups before me. And one of those age groups was the teenagers, so that felt good! At the top of the hill I saw Geoff, camera in hand and hopefully put on a convincing smile as I ran through. I rounded the back park, grumbled a little at some women who were cutting the corner a bit by not following the cones that marked the run course out in the parking lot and headed back up the hill. This time through I also got a big smile from Mike Petersen and happily headed down the hill where I saw Sharon again and cheered, back by Alan and into the home stretch. I was running near another woman from the 50-55 age group who seemed intent on not running straight and knocking me off the side of the path but finally got past her. I was starting to drag a bit but looked at my Team Inspiration bracelets to remind myself of the three people whose names I carried who fought cancer, some who won and one that did not, and I kept running. Rounding the last turn towards finisher’s hill I saw my friend Anna who gave me one last kick to get up the hill and down the chute. I was ready to be done at this point but was able to pick it up just a little in the chute. On my way in I was passed by one woman with 40 on her leg – wow, the first person from that age group I’d seen! I saw Tim coming through the chute and finished with a big smile on my face, got my medal and a hug and a kiss, and headed back to take pictures of my friends as they finished.
My overall time was over 14 minutes faster than last year, though I wonder what my time could have been without that flat last year, how much did my time really improve? The weather was perfect, the race was, as always, fun and supportive – where else do other racers cheer you on as you pass? And I was surrounded by so many amazing people that I loved sharing the experience with, first timers and veterans alike.
As for my final results, I find myself wishing I’d picked it up a bit somewhere along the way to save 4 seconds and finish in less than two hours! And I was so close to the hour mark for the bike course, though I’m thrilled to have finished the course faster than I ever have before. Of course, next year I age up to the 40-44 group, so I may not get that early start time to limit the number of racers ahead of me! My plan was to retire from Iron Girl after this year to free up an entry and make sure new triathletes get a chance to race, but now… Well, we’ll see!