As most of you know, I planned to race Ironman Lake Tahoe, and race it hard for the win. There are many reasons I decided to race Tahoe, then follow it up three weeks later at the World Championships. A- Its my home course that I train on, and I wanted to win here. B- It was the last opportunity to race this course as a professional, since there is no pro field for this event in 2015. C- This race is close to the World Champs, but the points/prize money were big, and that is in large part what keeps things going in this industry, so the opportunity was solid. I got a lot of questions on why not just go 100% for Kona, but I really thought if I raced Tahoe, got stronger, and didn’t get sick again this year before Kona, that I could perform well at both, and earn some good KPR points/money too. So as it turns out, Tahoe was cancelled due to smoke from the King fire. It was absolutely the right call by WTC, but at the time it felt as though all my hard work from the previous 8 weeks was for nothing, tough to swallow. Above my personal disappointment, I was devastated for all the folks who had travelled from all over the world to compete in this very challenging and honest course. To all that signed up, showed up and suited up on the beach ready to go, I commend you! Something good will come out of it, as everything happens for a reason……
A few of the pro women made the best of the morning, and swam the course, then I hooked up with Mackenzie Madison for a bike ride to the top of Mt Rose summit (8900′), and ended up just biking all the way back home to Reno. I immediately contacted my coach, Cliff English, the man with the plan, who I owe everything to for ramping me up with another block of training. He put together a plan which was the toughest week mentally to get through. I was planning on having a recovery week with a few massages and casual errands around town…. Instead I had some huge bike rides (indoor and outdoor 4+ hours), huge runs (two 20+ milers), and fast swims. I worked hard, but counted down the minutes to taper time.
Two weeks out from the race, my workouts got shorter but still had quite a bit of intensity. I was hitting good numbers on the swim and bike that gave me a strong sense of confidence about performing well in Kona. A week out from the race Chip, the kids, and I headed out on a 6am flight, where the primary goal was to keep everyone healthy! I wiped down our row of seats with sanitized wipes, and we all sanitized our hands every 10 minutes. I even wore a mask for a good portion of the flight.
My in-laws, Grammy & Boppo arrived to help with the kids Tuesday, and my parents arrived Thursday to provide some relief & help out too. The kids have a LOT of energy and pretty much played hard everyday from 6am-7pm. Both sets of grandparents were so nice to let the kids sleep in their rooms, so I could get plenty of sleep prior to the race. Thank you guys so much for your help! Critical and incredible!
We stayed at the Marriott Waikoloa so the kids could have a pool, beach, and activities to keep them occupied. Plus, I enjoy staying out of town away from all the action as much as possible. I ventured into town for the pro meeting and bike drop and that was about it. I stopped by the Louis Garneau tent to pick up a few items, including my styling new helmet, thank you!! I also had an issue with my Garmin bike computer, so they helped me out and hooked me up with the best customer service ever! Thank you, I love my Garmin products!
Finally, on to the fun part…
I never felt overly nervous at the start of the race. I have a saying I repeat in my head over and over on race day that helps me relax and calm down. “Do the best you can do on this day, and that is all you can ask for.” So when the gun fired off I just swam as hard as I could for as long as I could, hoping it would land me in the second pack. The entire swim I had no clue who I was swimming with, other than my teammate Jackie Arendt who had a nice bright orange and black suit that was easy to spot. I fought hard to stay on her feet and ended up swimming behind her the whole swim. Swimming at sea level is so much easier that my summer training pool at ~6.000 ft, so I am definitely able to push myself more. Upon exit, I heard them announce Heather Wurtele and Mirinda Carfrae and got an extra boost of energy knowing I had swam with the group I wanted to be with.
Heading out of T1 is a memory I will never forget. Holy cow, Heather Wurtele is 10 feet in front of me, Mirinda Carfrae is 5 feet behind. “OK, I can do this, come on Liz you can do this…..” The first 5 miles were all about staying with these girls. The pace didn’t feel that hard, but it was probably due to the increased adrenaline I had been storing up for weeks… The announcer at the hot corner called us each out as we passed, but 2x said “and there goes Linsey Corbin behind Mirinda Carfrae…” which made me a little sad, what more do I have to do to be recognized…maybe next year!!!
Onto the Queen K….. I finally looked down at my computer and realized my power meter was not registering. Everything else was, MPH, pace, cadence, time, just no power. Instead of panicking or fiddling with the computer, I told myself this is another “happens for a reason” and I would have to go off feel and work my butt off to stay with these incredible girls. The first 40 miles were very exciting for me, riding behind Heather, Mirinda, Cat Morrison, & with Julia Gajer just behind. We had tons of media: mopeds, motorcycles, a car, a helicopter. This was definitely and exciting distraction that made those first 40 go by quickly.
I had gel every 30 minutes (salted carmel & salted watermelon) and sipped my powerade, nuun water, and regular water, and slowed at every aid station to refuel and get cold supplies. From basically never having ridden in a legal pace line before, I can tell you it is WAY more relaxed and enjoyable that having age group men overtake and having to constantly drop back. On the uphills where I felt strong, the rubber band would contract and it was easy to pedal and to stay right at 12m back. On the downhills, where my bodyweight definitely doesn’t propel me down fast, I pedaled extremely hard to stay with the group.
Heading up the long climb to Hawi we caught Bree Wee, and later caught Gina Crawford. The stronger girls would go up to the the front, and it was always tough to decide to slip back staying legally behind a rider, or make a pass to try to keep up. The winds were howling and at one point I had to warn the motor officials that I might blow across the road and hit them. Reno provides some extremely windy training conditions which helped my mental game. I made up some ground in this windy section & made a few strategic passes trying to keep Mirinda and Heather in my sights. At the turnaround I slugged a red bull, and had to stash it in my top until the next aid station! I knew I had to push the decent hard and pedal constantly to keep up. Heather and Mirinda got away, and Cat Morrison had to serve a stand down penalty for dropping a very flimsy water bottle around mile 35. Totally not her fault and I thought is was pretty tough one for her as is was obvious to me that it was accidental. She then powered back to me, passed me and we continued down. I was happy with how I felt on the climb heading out of Kawihae and was able pass Cat back.
At the top of the hill I turned right back on to the Queen K and decided this was the time to lay it on the line. I had a hunch that the tailwind we were enjoying would likely turn into a headwind just passed Waikoloa, as I had been studying the winds and training in similar conditions in the days leading up to the race. There is a section in Reno where I train, where typically it’s the only place with a tailwind and its 7 miles of 30+mph which is so incredibly fun to ride. I always try to hammer this section out, okay maybe get QOM too, but I think this helped me on that 5 miles stretch into Kona. Sure enough, just past Waikoloa, the headwind returned. I was all alone and could see 2-3 girls 1-2 miles in the distance. I was playing a game in my head, refused to look at the mileage, and just tried to be smart about fueling and hydration. If I can recall correctly, I was passed by a group of 3 age group men around mile 90 and that was it the entire ride. The last 20 miles I slowly made up time and almost caught Leanda Cave and Amanda Stevens in the final half mile.
I had a great transition and was in and out ahead of Leanda and Amanda, still knowing very well they could both put together a strong run. The first 2 miles I felt awesome, flying. I had some double caffeinated gels, and was stoked about the huge bottles of ice water to look forward to. Around mile 3 of the run I slowed my pace and I started to feel terrible. I heard yells from the side of the road from Cliff, who told me just the right words I needed to hear, although at the time I wanted to kill him:)
Somewhere in the first ten miles I was caught by Yvonne Van Vlerken, who was pretty funny, she turned to me and said, “you run really loud”. I wasn’t sure what to do with the info, but good to know I guess? Then Gina came flying by and I thought, wow, this is how it’s done…. At that point the first and only negatives creeped into my head… Ok top ten is the goal, but top 15 would still be incredible in this field. These are the best girls in the world and 8 years ago I could have never dreamed I’d be right here next to them….. I kept hearing times splits from spectators that a few up front were slowing down.
By mile 8-10 my splits were coming down and my legs started to feel amazing, by Ironman standards of course. I caught up to Liz Blatchford and we ran together from maybe mile 9 to 13? That was a pretty cool moment since we got 2x the cheers, although it was probably more like 90% for her from the British and Australian fans and 10% for me, but it helped! Over the years I had followed her career and was happy to be running in the company of such an established triathlete. At this point we were in 9th & 10th I think, but I told myself I was really in 12th, who knows why, mind games I guess. So I knew I had to make up 2 spots to be top ten….my mind plays some pretty serious tricks on me. I was also thinking about other girls who could come from behind and make a crack into the top ten.
Just before the turn into the energy lab, it was exciting to see the lead women, Ryf, Joyce, Carfrae, Swallow, & Ellis, and try to see how they were feeling. Mirinda Carfrae as my husband says, looked like she was running on a cloud, floating above the ground.
Ok, back in my head and my race, I downed another red bull in the energy lab, plus cola, plus gel…. The turn is always nerve wracking because you get to see how far ahead/behind you are. Heading uphill out of the energy lab I saw Gina Crawford just ahead. I tried to be patient, fuel, hydrate, so I could be strong if I were to pass. I tucked in behind her for about a mile. Sorry Gina, if I was ‘loud’ :). I then I used my Garmin to do some interval training just like in practice. I knew at that point I had 3×2 miles, or 2×2, 2×1, or whatever I could tell my head to shut it up. I was happy with the paces I was able to hit at this stage in the race. My brain still pretended I was in 9th…why, who knows, but I had just captured the 8th spot.
I then started to here from spectators that Mary Beth Ellis was walking and was 3 minutes up. One mile later she was 1:40 up. Then I could see her. Here we go, is this about to happen?? I was able to pass her around the 24.5 mile mark, and knew we had an uphill, then downhill, and onto the finish. I was not going to give up now even though every part of my body was screaming.
I was so grossed out by gels, cola, or literally anything, but still kept on top of my nutrition. I charged down Palani, and saw Chip who gave me one last HUGE yell that was all business. I kept looking behind me for Gina, and I even asked a spectator if he saw anyone behind me. He said you are good, but I never really believed it. With a half a mile to go, the biggest cheering squad, led by good friends Klaus and Kristen, my awesome Massage Envy sponsor, gave me the last boost I needed to finish strong. I tried my best to soak up every last step of the finish, and crossed knowing I had just done something I had dreamed about for as long as I can remember. I ran over and hugged my Mom, who never missed so much as a soccer game or swim meet while growing up. Then Chip was right there and we embraced in the biggest hug and he said, “You did it!!”
I wobbled away to sit down, and felt pretty nauseous to say the least. I found Cliff and was able to rehash the day and celebrate with him and Chip with a Pina Colada…yum. Chip and I then found our parents, the Blaise’s, and Tysdal’s, who are best friends with our family, and who watched me grow alongside their daughters. It was very special to have so many special people there to share in this spectacular day.
The post race celebration was way too short, since we had to get the kids back to school. I also ended up catching a cold on the flight home, can’t complain I guess. 8 days later and my body is starting to come around. I am really excited to start training for my next and last race of 2014, Ironman Western Australia. I am looking forward to improving my bike times, as I’ll be working with an awesome new group of riders which I’ll update on my website soon.
A week post race, people are still asking if I am happy about the unfortunate cancellation of IM Lake Tahoe. All I can really come up with is that “everything happens for a reason”. It is a dream come true to finish seventh at the Ironman World Championships and to take honors as the top USA female in this event. I am humbled and honored.
Saving the best for last, a huge thank you to my sponsors who make dreams come true…
Natures Bakery– For life’s most incredible journeys!
Kees– For keeping me nourished with the BEST protein drink!
Squaw Valley USA – For the most incredible place to train and cross train!
Massage Envy– For the best recovery massages!
Specialized– Love my Shiv!
Garneau– Comfortable gear, kit, helmet, bike shoes…the best!
Roka– Keeping me fast and comfortable in the water!
ProAnox & Neolife– All around healthy living!
Velo Reno– For keeping my bike dialed in!
Reno Running Company– For my shoes and race nutrition!
Brooks AirBrush Studio– The most stylish custom painted helmets out there!
Prospecs– For keep my feet nice and comfy while recovering!