Fiona's IM Brazil Race Report

Ironman Brazil May 28th, 2006

My fourth Ironman and yet again in Brazil; back in 2004 Brandon had made it clear that we were ¡§not coming back to Brazil¡¨; not because we didn¡¦t enjoy Brazil, not because we didn¡¦t have good races (we did) but just because there are other places to see and other races to do. Fast forward to the fall of 2005 when we signed up for IM Brazil again!! The reasons; we enjoy an early season IM, we know and like the course, we have both had good races on the course, we know the ins and outs of getting there and the fact that Endurance Sports Travel takes care of the details makes things easier; and of course Brazil is beautiful!

Brandon, myself and our friend Gord arrived in Brazil (after 19hours of traveling), to weather just like home¡Krainy and cold!! Not completely unexpected as it is winter for Brazilian¡¦s; although not quite a Canadian winter but it can be chilly none-the-less.

Race week went very well; plenty of sleep, good food, good short workouts and gaining a little local knowledge. I felt ready to race; a little anxious about it as I hadn¡¦t actually raced an Ironman since the last time I was in Brazil in 2004. Not to worry; I felt ready. Back to the local knowledge, we found out during our swim workouts that there was a strong current that moves swimmers from right to left or perpendicular to the course, this knowledge would prove to be useful on race day.

Race Day:
4:30am - Fairly calm, 150C, cloudy (or just dark because it¡¦s early!)
7am ¡V Still fairly calm, 170C, the sun was rising
Mid day ¡V Windy, 210C, sunny with some cloud coverage

The Swim:
Gord is a pro so he started about 50m ahead of us at the far side of the beach while Brandon and I lined up at the front of the age group start line also at the far side so that we would swim to the right of the first buoy and minimize the distance the current pushed us. At 6:57 the announcer said there was 3min to go¡Kthen 30sec later the gun went off¡Kthe race had started, it took a few seconds for this to register at which point we started to run down the beach. The start was mayhem, arms and legs everywhere, plus the added waves from everyone around, and don¡¦t forget about the current. I kept telling myself, ¡§stay relaxed and keep moving forward this is a long day so don¡¦t get wound up now¡¨. Eventually I got into a rhythm, felt in control, relaxed and the swim became enjoyable. Never judge a race by the first few minutes, or I¡¦m sure there would be many more DNF¡¦s.

The course was ¡§M¡¨ shaped, we had to walk down the beach to the start area; where we swam ¡¥straight¡¦ out to a buoy, then parallel to the shore for 200m to another buoy then back to the beach where we got out and then straight out again to round 2 more buoys before heading back in to transition. The local knowledge of the current was key; when I got out of the water to round the mark on shore I knew I had to sight to the right of the next buoy to avoid having to swim back up to it due to the push of the current. I swam on my own but I had a direct route, the shortest line possible. Why swim longer then you have to? Not many others noticed this as they got pushed far left of the buoy and had to swim back into the current to get to it. This is where sighting well and knowing the water/current activity is important. I finished the swim in 1:01, a personal best (PB).

The Bike:
When I first got on the bike I noticed that my stomach was having trouble. It felt somewhat bloated and unsettled. I knew that I had to get it settled before I started to run; fortunately I had a few hours to sort it out.

The course starts with a short, flat out and back section into Daniela then it makes its way to the main highway which heads into Florianopolis. The beginning of the ride is fairly flat, providing a great opportunity to get relaxed and settle my heart rate. Running my power tap (PT) on average watts allowed me to stick to my race plan and not go too hard. As we make our way into Florianopolis there are a number of climbs. My account of the Brazil course has always been that it is ¡§fair¡¨, meaning there is a great combination of climbs, descents and flat sections. The climbs are significant enough to provide great descending other wise known as ¡¥free speed¡¦. I took advantage of that, staying low and fast. I had a few opportunities to see Brandon and Gord flying along on the course, they both looked like they were moving well and having good days. Seeing them riding well was very inspiring for my race.

The Second Loop:
Where did the wind come from? The wind seemed to have come up out of nowhere; now there was a head wind as we traveled along the coast to the second loop turnaround. I knew I had to stay low, not push too hard, keep up the cadence and soon enough I would be heading back with the wind if I was lucky and going faster than 24km/hr!! Sure enough there was a tailwind, now I was going 42km/hr, crazy!! The tailwind made the head wind almost worth it! Again ¡¥free speed¡¦ entered my mind, so I made the most of the tailwind. I felt like a rocket, I passed a number of people as if they were standing still. In fact I had to yell at a couple of people to get out of the way and one guy said ¡§Holy s**t, she¡¦s flying¡¨, that was motivating!! On the other side of the island we were ¡¥side swiped¡¦ by a cross wind, but considering there was only 15km to go, I didn¡¦t worry about it, I stayed low and pedaled on. I knew I was having a good day when I started to ride through a number of women including the pros. I really had no idea how many women in my age group were a head of me, I tried to see their numbers when they were heading opposite me after the turnarounds to get an idea, I figured on possibly 2-3. My bike split was 5:26 ¡V what a great ride, I was totally pumped.

The Run:
Onto the run feeling good, my stomach was almost settled so I stopped at a port-o-potty in transition just to be sure! Off and running! What a day I was having already; a 1:01 swim and a 5:26 ride (excluding transition times), both PB¡¦s, I have definitely set myself up for a great day! Now all I had to do was run a marathon!! I was feeling good but had to keep a check on my pace so that I didn¡¦t push too hard too early. The beginning of the marathon is inevitably quite different from the end, as anything can happen in between.

So who was in front of me in my age group? After trying to look at all of the numbers of the women in front of me; I suspected there was now maybe one or two at most and hopefully I would be able to figure it out through the run. At 6km I saw a girl with a ¡¥non-pro¡¦ number (#677) she was at 7km, as we passed each other (opposite directions) we both looked back to see what ¡¥letter¡¦ we were. She had a ¡§C¡¨; well so did I!! She was definitely in my age group. So what now; ¡§Race Your Own Race¡¨ came into my head, if I am running well and she isn¡¦t I will catch her; if I am running well and she is running well I may not; if she is running well and I¡¦m not, well good for her. So I kept my pace the same and moved on. There was a lot of race still left, anything was possible.

The run course is 3 loops; one long loop of 21km with a 19% climb and descent and a couple other hills and two loops of 10.5km which are fairly flat. I never really felt alone out there as the lay out of the course gave the opportunity to see Gord and Brandon a couple of times. I believe I saw Gord the most just because of the timing of our races; in fact Gord finished the race just before I finished my second loop.

I was holding 5min/km¡¦s for the first 10km or so, a nice comfortable pace, but in hind sight I should have eased up slightly as I came into stomach trouble again at 19km at which time I had to take a 20sec walk break to ¡§settle¡¨ it, taking in salt pills and water¡KGame on¡KI picked my legs up and started to run; after all I was almost half way!! However, I still had a half marathon to do so I needed to help my stomach stay settled; so I decided to add Coke to my aid station ¡¥cocktails¡¦. What a great idea, my body responded well to the ¡¥jolt¡¦; Coke was now a staple. Next addition was bananas, soft, easy to chew and digest; again my stomach reacted positively so I had a couple more pieces throughout the second half. At this point, my 3:30 marathon pace was a little off but that was okay if I could keep things together and finish strong I would be under 3:40 (which in fact was my goal).

Back to #677, on the second loop we were now half a km apart, this run looked to be in my favour. Fast forward to 28km, as my foot landed beside her, she said ¡§good run¡¨, she was expecting me; I said ¡§great race¡¨ and off I went! Now I was 99% sure I was leading my age group, but I didn¡¦t know for sure. None-the-less I was having a great day no matter what my place was, I was happy ƒº

At this point I did the math on my possible finish time and I figured it would be around 10:20 not until the 4km mark did I realize that I would be finishing closer to 10:15, and then came the smile ƒº, wow I was going to finish in day light and close to 10hours, I felt like ¡¥one of those people¡¦. The sun sets in Brazil at 6pm; I had 45min to spare! What a finish I was SO excited and sore; my official time was 10:15:22 with a 3:37 marathon time; beating my previous PB and IM Brazil time of 11:25 by 1 hour and 10 minutes.

I knew that since I had such a good race so did Brandon and Gord, but how good were their days? Off to get a massage where I found Brandon and Gord, ¡¥relaxing¡¦, eating, keeping warm after their massages and waiting for me! So how did they do? Brandon went 9:52 a 40min PB and Gord 9:10. Wow! What an awesome day for the 3 of us; PB¡¦s all-round!!

Later On:
Once we got back to the hotel we found out that Gord was 13th overall, Brandon was 14th in his age group and I was 9th overall and 1st in my age group! Wow! This guaranteed me a spot for Hawaii; all I had to do was show up at 9am on Monday with US cash and the spot was mine! Yes, I showed up and am now Hawaii bound!! Unfortunately Brandon didn¡¦t get a spot, he missed it by one; but he¡¦s up for another challenge at the Buffalo Springs Half Ironman in Texas where he will try again. Gord will continue his Hawaii pursuit racing Ironman Canada in August.

So how does one have a 1hr and 10min PB? Well, having a great coach helps (thanks Nigel), consistent training helps, training in Florida helps, training in Italy helps, riding a Cervelo P3C with a Power Tap helps, having an aerodynamic bike position helps, conscious healthy nutrition choices helps, being recovered helps, having an open mind to possibilities helps and having good family genes helps too. There wasn¡¦t one thing that made the difference there were many!!

By Fiona Whitby (racing as Fiona Gray)
Associate Coach NRG Performance Training