….These were the words Hillary told me as I was chatting with her just prior to my travel back home from France. The underlying reminder to me here was that yes – we just accomplished a HUGE milestone for us as a coach/athlete combo. We nailed it. But, this was a gentle reminder that my season wasn’t quite over yet.
After this trip I spent a week doing one thing: Sleeping. I kid you not. I slept 10-12 hours easy every night. Took 90 minute naps in the middle of the day. And still felt exhausted! About a week after coming home though I started to feel a light at the end of the tunnel and, while I’m still having NO issue sleeping well through the night, I’ve been able to get back to some real workouts and see how the bod would respond.
I’m happy to report so far so good and it looks like all systems are go for IM Chattanooga at the end of the month! I’m super excited for this because I will also get to spend time with 3 of my athletes and share the course with them on the 27th!
I’ve had a lot of questions since the double about how it was done. I touched on one of the biggest points above: sleep! Not only for recovery, but it was SUPER important that I prioritized getting full nights of sleep during the training cycle as well. This was tough sometimes. When things get busy, I absolutely hate letting myself sleep in, which some days could mean that I was starting my training day at 9am. Just thinking about that gives me anxiety now as I LOVE the 6am-10am period for knocking out a training session and some work before the world is really awake. But, learning to shift things back a bit was absolutely necessary, and reminding myself that sleep is an important part of this job (lucky me!!) was necessary.
FOOD! Eating was also key here. I was most certainly lean and fit for these races but I definitely was not the leanest I’ve ever been for a race. In fact, going into Vichy I felt quite puffy as I fought off the post-race water retention from Copenhagen. I didn’t get on the scale much during training unless I was concerned weight was too low. When you train like a maniac you also have to eat like one too, and just one day where I didn’t get enough calories in would set me back in training for the next 2 days. I learned my lesson quick there, and made a constant effort to be fueling up. There was no counting calories, just a constant effort to eat all. The. Time.
Massage. I also stepped up my massage game for this training block. It’s important to realize that just when you go pro suddenly your body isn’t immune to feeling the effects of training! I still wake up and take my first steps like an 80 year old woman. And I still would be grimacing after sessions to do things like bend down to pick up my keys when I dropped them. The body certainly takes a beating during this build. But I am lucky to have found Anne Pike who has worked wonders for my recovery with her massage skillz. A weekly massage, whenever humanly possible, was added into the routine. All of my little tweaks and pulls that seemed to incessantly bug me last season miraculously went away, and despite all the hard work I was still able to head into each day strong and confident that my body was holding up well.
I plan to continue to focus on these 3 as I get ready for Chattanooga!
I should probably begin by going back to my other post where I touched on my (somewhat) purposeful lack of preparation for certain things about this trip. In that post, the philosophy of winging it was great. Mostly due to a local homestay (thanks again Helle!!) and the fact that pretty much everyone spoke at least some English (willingly so!), the philosophy of just figuring some things out as I went, worked out quite well.
In France, it turns out, this was much more difficult. Having spent no other time in France, I can’t speak for the entire country, but in Vichy, there is very little English spoken. And when it is used, it’s probably not in an effort to help an American traveler. That made being an American in Vichy very difficult at times!
The extent of my French includes: Hello, Goodbye, please, Do you speak English, and a few other tidbits I have picked up in life, most likely due to the fact I have the entire soundtrack of Les Miserables memorized, and, I used to act out Beauty and the Beast a lot with my sister when we were young.
So, needless to say, if someone wasn’t able – and willing – to speak English with me, we got nowhere quite quickly. Lucky for me I did have some help. Lucy had offered to take me in for the week and be my travel buddy which was much appreciated. Lucy had a much better background in French….and, had the sense to bring a pocket travel book to translate a few things! Both of these were very helpful. Still – the fact that I was able to fly into a tiny little airport, rent a car (manual!), drive to Vichy (with tolls!) successfully confirms my belief that I’d be the most money Amazing Race partner in the history of the world.
We had a great little apartment right along the river, also on the run course. The town itself is known for being a relaxing place – spas, the river activities, etc. So, it was nice to have this as the second race where I didn’t feel the urge to go out exploring a huge city. I could just hunker down and focus on eating, recovery, and watching BBC news (our only English channel!).
The other difference with this race was that I had 3 other American guys racing as well. Steve, Chris, and AJ who I met out there were familiar faces at the pro briefing and we quickly bonded to get through some of the pre-race logistics. While Steve and I both live in Charlottesville, so we knew each other, it’s always fun to me how quickly you can bond with some of the other pros. There’s just something about the shared experiences that brings you together. Everyone has their story of language mishaps. Losing a bike in luggage. A funny homestay. Immediately it seems, it’s like old friends getting together. I think beyond the spoken stories – the unspoken understanding of what you’re all going through, is what carries the bond. The understanding that this person has also traveled just about every mode of transportation possible to get to this city. They’ve figured out a way to swim and cycle in every town along the way. They’ve slept in a bed that’s not their own for weeks. They travel alone because, well, when it’s this glamorous for one, how can you possibly bring along your significant other? And the understanding that we do it all for the chance that maybe, just maybe, Sunday will be our day.
Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool. And I was super grateful to have others out there to chat with (in English, whew) and just be able to relax around.
One of my favorite elements of Vichy was the swimming pool we had access too – a 50 meter outdoor pool that was up on top of a hill overlooking the city. Seriously insane. Apparently Michael Phelps has been there, yada yada. With the aluminium bottom I was able to tan not only my back while I swam, but also I swear it tanned my front in the reflection. Two birds – one stone. Amazing. I was swimming quite a bit in the week as that was my main way to get true aerobic sets in as I tried to recover from Copenhagen.
Lucy and I did get in a couple spins to preview the course a bit which was great. AND Cadence Running Company friends, Jacqueline and Gordon, helped me out by driving me around the course. The course is very French! Technical stuff through these little villages, riding through sunflower fields (unfortunately sunflowers a bit past their prime), it was exactly what you’d want riding in France to be like. Well, unless you would prefer the French mountains, in which case you’d get none of that on this course
Race day came and water temperature was, naturally, .2 degrees below the cutoff, which, by the French rules is a bit higher than the rules in other Ironmans at 24 degrees C. Despite heating up quite a bit, I felt good in the water and was swimming with a couple other women through the first loop. We did an “Australian Exit” (Do the aussies do this often?) by exiting the water and then diving (!!!) off the dock back in for loop 2. My dive was beautiful. Just saying.
Onto the bike and it was actually quite crowded from the start with age groupers. After the first 10k I was settled in at 5th place, and was feeling pretty good. I made the pass into 4th just prior to the end of the first loop, and rode the high of that for…..about 5 miles. And then the legs started to work…..10 more miles. More Work. Little by little it became WOrk. Then WORk. And then, the last 25 miles were solid WORK. But, despite feeling like I was headed way south, I knew things were still okay (still reeling in plenty of AG men who blew up! ) so I just kept pushing on. I will say, I was pretty grateful to be on the Dimond. The roads weren’t terrible but they certainly weren’t smooth like butter and I’m always happy to be riding a beam bike in those conditions!
I knew going into this project that this run was going to be what could make or break it all. I learned a few things during these next 26.2 miles:
-The French don’t like ice. That makes running a marathon in 95 degree F heat quite a bit more difficult than it needs to be.
-The French don’t like littering. Perhaps this is my “American”ness, coming out, but typically I am under the impression that the aid station rules are that it’s not littering as long as your cup is dropped within the bounds of the station. You make a best attempt at throwing it in (or at least towards!) the trash can, but as long as you do that: golden. Well, imagine my surprise when a referee stepped out in front of me as I’m running out of the water stop, shook her finger at me and held up a pencil to a pad of paper as if to say “I’m writing down your number for a penalty you litterbug.”
So, I ran back, picked the cup up (among probably 10 others on the ground, I should mention), and threw it out. Ok? I asked? She kind of nodded. Jeez.
Jacqueline and Gordon were also out on the run course giving me a few updates. This was super helpful in keeping me motivated as I heard that things were changing ahead of me. While the women ahead had a decent gap – you just never know.
You just never know. And that thought is what I hung on to for about 16 miles of that run, some of the most painful (albeit definitely not the slowest) miles I’ve run in a marathon. That thought is what got me to the finish line with another sub-10 and a 4th place finish. I was absolutely thrilled!
It was farily surreal – I’m not sure what I expected to feel after finishing the double. The nerves and the buildup to these 2 weeks was by far more stressful than one race, and I think that the relief of not just one good race – but 2 – really did just feel THAT much better. I made myself believe for quite some time that I could do this and I could do it well. But……you just never know. Until you do know. And then, it feels. So. Good.
I can’t thank Hillary enough for her patience with me over the last, oh, 4.5 years to get me ready to do this one It’s been a LONG time in the making. It was definitely a special thing to be able to carry the torch and continue the foundation for the double that she has done so well!!