IM California 142.6ish (10/23/22)

Final full Ironman race, last race of the year. I am so grateful I got to the starting line, what a ride the past 11 months had been since my ankle sprain. Got out of a boot in June after a PRP procedure, chances weren’t great I’d get to do it at all. See the RAMROD report {LINK} for more on ankle rehab! At 55, even before the boot I knew this would be my last full distance Ironman – to save my body from the training but stay fit with cycling events, half Ironmans and shorter triathlons. Growing up in the Sacramento area, IM CA would be a “home” race for me – a flat, fast, final Ironman where I hoped to get my best full IM finish time. At age 29, I had run my first marathon in Sacramento, finishing on the steps of the Capitol, just as the marathon for IM CA would end so it seemed perfect in that way too. With race day course conditions, I had my slowest IM finish time, but my best age group result of the three full Ironmans I have done. A great way to end my full Ironman career 😊

Course Preview, Family & Friends

In late September, with Katie off to college, I decided to head to Sacramento to do some course preview training and visit with family and friends. I did a big weekend of training – the full 2.4 mile river swim, rode the 112 mile course and ran 17 miles on the run course. I was thrilled to have my local friend Sue, who in 1996 talked me into riding my bike to work and running my first marathon (I was not a runner or a cyclist at the time) stay with me at my AirBnb, cart me around, and provide training support. Visiting my mom and local friends the following week was a great distraction from the fact that my baby had left the nest.

I was lucky enough to have Diana, Ann and Jenn also doing the race – it might have been my idea 😊 I am so glad they were there! We spent a lot of hours doing training runs, rides and some swims together – stronger together and much more fun! Traveling and rooming with these ladies and Jenn’s awesome hubby Rob (and sweet dog Sugar) was such a blessing. A PNW Team Zoot racer house, all the good vibes. I am so thankful that Ken B. and my parents could be out there supporting me on such a long race day. And of course Sue, my athletic inspiration, who I saw every leg of the race. Seeing my AP Racing friends Katie and Brittany on key spots when I needed some cheer was just what I needed.

Check in, Meet Ups & Not Fun Stuff

Arriving on Wednesday, Diana, Ann and I had time to prep, eat out and sight see! I put Sassy together in record time from her bike bag, zero tears or issues (big feat for me) and I was ready to ride her Thursday. We met our Airbnb neighbors in the backyard who also had a racer, and immediately clicked. Thursday I had a great check out ride and short run, all systems go, weather was perfect. A big highlight of the day was saying hello to Mike Reilly and getting a signed copy of his book. I was lucky enough to have Mike Reilly say “Lisa Blauvelt, you are an Ironman!” at my first full Ironman in Mt. Tremblant, and I was thrilled to have him call me in for my last full Ironman before he retired. Jenn, Rob and Sugar arrived Thursday night and we were a full house. 

Unfortunately, Friday started out for me on a bad note. I rolled my just healed ankle on a giant pinecone during a shakeout run with Jenn. The partial tear area seemed ok, but there was definitely some aching on the ankle bone. With that, lots of Ibuprofen and icing when I had a chance to sit still was the name of the game. I worked hard to not panic. Silently, I repeated a mantra to myself over and over that I have used so many times over the years “strong, healthy, whole”. I did my best to focus on pre-race fun. In the afternoon, we met up with our other PNW region Zoot racers to check in so we could all rack together, take a photo and attend the athlete briefing. So great to have so many first timers – Boyce, Downi and Kasha ready to do this Ironman thing! We saw Joy Barsotti, but only briefly as she headed out for a swim. As a group of 7 in our bright Team Zoot outfits, we caught the attention of the local news reporter and ended up on the news – 15 seconds of fame! In the afternoon there was an organized river swim for the first mile of the course. Everyone wanted to take advantage of that except me since I had swam the course a couple weeks earlier. I was happy to get them to and from the swim, with mom in tow for company and stay off my ankle.

Saturday was bike check in day. Diana, Jenn and I planned to do another brief ride before racking our bikes. Unbelievably, Diana’s bike was stolen out of the Tri Bike Transport “secured” area with 3 other bikes – all bikes on the same rack. After the initial shock, Diana took it in stride and handled it amazingly well. We spent the afternoon trying to get her set up with a rental and did a brief check out ride before racking our bikes in the stadium. The bike was not a perfect fit, and they were unable to get her a computer mount, and pedals to name a few things. After another delicious dinner out with the whole household, we hit the sack early and were tucked in by 8pm.

Race Day – Up Early & Swim Start Fiasco

We were up at 3:15 or so, organized and ready to go. We were so lucky to have Rob drop the 4 of us off at the stadium! We arrived on schedule and met our other PNW Zooters at the rack in transition after dropping our special needs bags. By 6:00 AM, Kasha, Jenn and I were in line for the shuttle to the swim start. The start was at 7:00, and it was 2 miles away. What should have been a quick ride arriving no later than 6:30, turned into an hour and 40 minutes of stress. As the clock ticked and we made it nowhere close to where the buses were picking up, panic started to set in. We made it to the front of the line right before 7:00, only to see spectators being unloaded from the bus!

Ironman decided to allow spectators to also take the shuttle to the start. On top of that, they loaded them back on the buses after their athletes had started before returning to the stadium where athletes had been waiting for over an hour to get to the swim start. There were by our count, 4 buses.  We later learned that two buses got lost and asked athletes on the bus for directions. We arrived at the swim start around 7:40 am. I have never been to a swim start AFTER the race had started. I knew I missed my swim pace group and would be out on the course later than planned. Kasha and I quickly dropped our morning bags and hopped in near the front of the line to head to the river. Jenn said she had to run to the porta potty. I only mention this because the porta potties in transition were zip tied! There were stadium bathrooms available, but they were up on the concourse and not in the transition area.

River Swim, 2.4 mi, 55:47 (16/92 AG)

Once we hopped in the line to the river my breathing went back to normal. Mike Reilly was there giving out high fives as we headed down the trail. Seeing him made me happy and I thought ok, this is going to be just fine! I was starting much later than planned but confident I could get in and have a good swim. If this had been a lake or ocean swim, I am not sure I would have been as calm. Since we were so late, they were no longer having 4 people get in every 5 seconds,. As we got to the river they told us to just run down, jump in and start swimming! The water temp was great, and I was happy to finally be out there heading downstream. I swam and definitely enjoyed the river. It was fast, water was clear and I was able to think about form and keep my HR low – winning! Some course markers got moved so at one point I was wide to the left and had a kayaker blow a horn at me and yell at me to go right. It caught me off guard, but I quickly sighted and headed to the right. After that no issues with sighting at all, and I loved hearing my 500 yd intervals go off on my watch so quickly as the current assisted. Without turns around buoys, I had not even one swimmer bump into me. I passed several with my later start, but it was easy to get around and not run into anyone or get ran into – so sweet! I breathe bilaterally, so it was easy for me to spot the bridges and the Delta King steamboat coming up right across from the dock we exited onto to get out of the river. Over so soon, I was ready to get out and get moving on the long run to transition. The people in front of me weren’t in quite as big of a hurry, so I tried to be patient and scoot around. Using what Vince Partridge taught me many years ago, I took off my cap and goggles pulled my arm through and left them in the sleeve as I ran up the long zig zag ramps to one of my favorite parts of an Ironman swim – the wetsuit strippers! Shortly after my friend Sue and her daughter Natalie appeared jogging beside me and yelling at me like crazy. That was the best, I teared up.

T1, 17:45, 1.12 mi, a.k.a. the extra mileish

Once at the top of the ramps we ran on pavement all the way to the stadium, through the upper level concourse – with a brief stop to grab our bike bags – and down another ramp into the changing tent. I wasn’t cold or having any issues but I was happy to be sitting in the chair after the long run in. In and out, I made sure to take my gel, salt pill, get my socks and bike shoes on and I was on my way to my bike – Sassy was waiting for me. Running in bike shoes on the plastic surface was not great, and I was careful not to slip because that is my MO. I am sure I looked like the old lady that I am! I thought about running in my socks, but I was afraid they would get wet or get someone’s dropped gel or something on them and I needed them to be solid for the rest of the day. I quickly dropped my bike gear bag with wetsuit at the rack, grabbed Sassy and as quickly as I could manage without slipping jogged out to the mount line outside of the stadium. Longest transition, ever!

Biking in a Wind Storm, 112 mi, 6:17:05 (3/92 AG)

I knew the winds were predicted to be 20 mph as I had been checking it for days, but the prediction also said it would be a tailwind on the way out and headwind on the way back. Not today. Winds were 20+ mph with gusts up to 36 mph I am told, and I believe it. Moving forward and staying upright was the goal. So much for my fast, flat bike split!

The first 6 miles of the ride after crossing the freeway were on a pristine road that was closed – as was the entire course – and that was amazing. I enjoyed riding along the river having no worries about traffic. I thought this is going to be my fastest IM bike split ever, even though I already felt some headwind/crosswind. I was eyeing my race day tattoos – “You can. You will.” ,”Grateful Heart” and “Have fun – smile!” – I felt really positive. 

I knew from riding the course previously Babel Slough was a bumpier chip seal section of about 4 miles, 16 miles of the course total. As I turned into that section I thought ok, let’s do this in aero like the last time and just stay relaxed. Even though there were trees here the winds were already making it tough. Turning out down Jefferson at the end of this section, it was clear the winds were going to be the battle of the day. I always use a best Bike Split race plan on my computer, that gives me target power and speed to keep me in my box and make sure I have legs for the run. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my new plan was to just watch my normalized power and IF (Intensity Factor) and ride more conservatively than the plan to keep it real in the crazy winds, which were now becoming stressful. The cross winds really swayed me from side to side, I was getting way too close to the pavement. I had a hard time deciding if aero was better or if I should grab the bars and stay low – which is what I ended up doing A LOT. Whatever my position, I had a death grip on those bars. I was really worried as I passed people or they passed me that any one of us was going down sideways and we were going to have a pile up. Alternatively swearing and praying, I kept moving forward. As I do on all race days, I talked to Sassy thanking her for no mechanicals, and keeping me upright and safe.

As I rode forward, I was so thankful my nutrition (double strength custom Infinit) was all in bottles and I didn’t need to try to open any bars or gels. Grabbing water at aid stations was quite a task. Trying to stay upright and keep only one hand on the bars while drinking felt like a high wire circus act. I managed, and when winds calmed to maybe something like 15 mph I took my salt pills, refilled my aero bottle and managed a couple of Honey Stinger Mango blocks (just to cheer me up since they taste like candy). 

After a short bridge crossing we rode on the river levee to the turnaround. Winds here were not any kinder and some dust storms added in a little bit more fun. The song Dust in the Wind went through my mind. The turnaround was pretty narrow, such that several people hit the ground in front of me trying to make the turn. I clipped one foot out, almost came to a stop and tapped my way around it. I was not going down and I’d look like a dork if I had to in order to keep upright. 28 miles down, felt like we had already done 56. Back we go, into the winds. I couldn’t figure out where that tailwind was. So it was more of the same, push and stay upright, keep moving forward, watch the intensity factor, save the legs. Getting water at the aid stations was another challenge. With a death grip on the bars to stay upright, grabbing a bottle while riding was a huge challenge. Better yet, when a bottles wasn’t opened by a volunteer I had to ditch that bottle and try to grab another. I credit riding with Ken B. for making me tough in adverse conditions – he always pushes me beyond what I want to do (and it can make me very unhappy during a ride) but then again here I was passing people and staying upright!

Getting to the end of lap 1 and special needs was a big relief. Seeing the crowds cheering was great too. I knew I wasn’t stopping since I had no mechanical issues, but boy was I tempted to take a break. Back out for loop 2 – 28 more miles of wind! The headwinds seemed stronger and the cross winds a little less strong. I got in all my nutrition and avoided giant tree limbs in the road. Loop 2 was also mechanical issue free. I was happy to see Ken B. for the last 6 miles or so before the ride was done. NEVER have I been so happy to get off my bike. I missed my goal bike time by about 40 minutes. I was disappointed but I was grateful to have made it through the bike without any crashes or mechanicals. The fact that the roads were closed for the entire course and mostly smooth was really wonderful in any conditions, but especially in those winds.

Nutrition: 3 bottles of my custom Infinit, double strength, 600 calories per bottle with a little added collagen protein. If ride time had gone as planned would have been 2 bottles. 3-4 bottles of water at aid stations. I was very hydrated, really had to pee on the bike but just couldn’t and didn’t want to stop for fear of not wanting to start again! Took 3-4 salt stick tabs, one or two Honey Stinger mango bloks.

T2, 10:41

Looking at the transition route before race day I estimated 10 minutes for T2. While not as long as T1, it was another loop through the bottom of the stadium, up the ramps past the changing tent, through the concourse to get out. Because I had drank all 3 bottles of my liquid nutrition on the bike plus the water I could grab while holding on to the bars, my number one priority was to hit the porta potty as soon as I got into T2. They were not zip tied anymore – whew! A few feet after dismount there they were. I propped my bike up and went in and then headed to the rack. I quickly changed into running shoes at my bike, had gel and salt pills, grabbed my race belt and headed out from the bottom of the stadium back to the top. Somewhere between the rack and the changing tent I met Meg, a Zooter from DC and we ran side by side up and out. As we made our way out we laughed about where did the run actually start? Once we exited the concourse I saw my parents and heard them cheering for me, which was just what I needed after that ride.

Peaceful Run, Slow but Steady, 5:08, 26.2 mi, (4/72 AG)

Meg and I headed out on the course and ran the first 3 or so miles together. This was my pace I planned, and I was happy. My goal was a 4:30 marathon. The peace of not being on the bike and worrying about crashing was so calming. There were some gusts and dust storms, hats flying off heads, but my Team Zoot visor was firmly planted. My legs are always ready to run off the bike and this was no exception. My ankle felt good. I wanted to be eagle eye about my HR this race, my hope was negative splits. I laugh about that now!

About 5 miles in, I still felt great, but my body just went into jog mode. The mental and phsycial stress of the bike ride had taken a toll. I was thrilled that my ankle was doing great, I had no GI issues and I was on track with my run nutrition and hydration. I glanced several times at my arm tattoos and thought, yes, I am running with a grateful heart. I reflected on being in a boot in May and wondering if I was going to be able to ride RAMROD in July or run at all. Even swimming was a challenge because of pushing off the wall. And here I was, running a marathon in my last full Ironman, feeling good.

My HR was in great shape at this pace, even lower actually than planned. I picked it up when I felt I could, got water at aid stations and stopped twice for the porta potty. And then, Ken B. appeared on his bike! He was happy I was smiling and it was fun to see him off and on. As I headed into Discovery park he peeled away. I remembered running here a couple of weeks ago with my friend Sue who was on her bike. I remembered riding my bike to work here back in the early 90’s when I worked in West Sacramento with Sue. This was the beginning of my athletic ‘career’ at the age of 29, right here. Dusk was settling in, and at a trail crossing, there was Ken B. rousing the police support for some cheers.

Special needs was either at 11 miles or 18 miles, and I knew dark was coming before 18 miles. At 11 miles I grabbed my headlamp and ate some of my GF pretzels. Shortly after, I saw my teammate from Zoot PNW, Joseph Lee. He excitedly told me I did amazing on the bike and I got 3rd in my age group! I remember saying “What? That is crazy!” I had merely been trying to stay upright and I knew I was way off my time. All of a sudden I thought hey, if I can pick up the pace I can turn this around. Needless to say, that made me smile for several miles. 

Once it was dark, I started to slow a bit more even with the headlamp. There weren’t any lights on the trail in Discovery Park except at some of the aid stations and the last thing I wanted was to go down and roll my ankle again. The race director had said they would have lights out there but there were none. I felt like I was running in a group but no one was on my sides. All of a sudden I hear is a guy behind me say “I am stalking you sorry, you have a headlamp”. Fair enough, I was happy to have company in the dark! Met some more Zooters out there, all of us saying “Go Zoot!” Even in the dark, those kits are seen!

Shortly after leaving the park about mile 20, I met up with Boyce from our PNW Zoot team and that was awesome. We ran together for a couple miles into downtown and it was really a highlight of the run for me. Boyce was struggling a bit but he was doing great. It was really fun to chat with him. I still felt good after mile 20, just cruising along, and for whatever reason, I just didn’t try to push the pace. I knew this was my slowest marathon in an Ironman or any marathon ever, and not the time I wanted but I was feeling great and having a good run. My ankle was just fine, and I was happy.

My first marathon was California International Marathon in Sacramento in 1996. Six months of training, and not being a runner before that, I did it right here. The marathon finished at the Capitol steps. My friend Sue ran with me. As I made my way through downtown and those final finish loops, the memories of my start in running and first marathon were top of mind. Sue really changed the trajectory of my life convincing me I could do a marathon and ride my bike to work. 26 years later, here I was finishing my last full Ironman in the same place. I was happy.

When I finished the first loop and heard I had 2 more, I felt a little deflated – I think I said out loud to the volunteer “They said there were 2 loops” but I tried to follow directions and luckily didn’t get in the finish chute early like I know several people did. Hearing Mike Reilly calling people across the finish I started to get excited on the second loop. I remembered at my first full Ironman in Tremblant hearing him from 2-3 miles out and saying out loud “I am coming Mike Reilly!” and I so I said it again. Somewhere in the second loop Ken B. appeared again and walked with me through an aid station. He said I will see you at the finish line and that sounded great to me. As I made it to the end of the shorter loop 3 and into that last finish chute line, my heart was so full. My quads were a little sore, but I gave it all I had to run to that finish line and here Mike Reilly call my name, for the last time.

Sometime in the next few minutes I saw Diana who told me I got 4th in my age group – I honestly could not believe it. Podium at a full Ironman? Beyond my top ten goal, I was over the moon. I missed all the time goals I had set for myself but somehow, I had made it to the podium on a day with tough conditions.  

Nutrition: Hand carry with ZYM tablet, Maurten gels every 4 miles. Salt stick tablets before dark. GF pretzels, coke, broth and water at aid stations.

12:50, Finish – Podium, (4/72 AG)

Getting 4th in my age group really didn’t sink in even the next day at the awards ceremony. Honestly, it almost still hasn’t. What an amazing way to end my full Ironman career! At the ceremony I got to meet Jeanette Mucha from Zoot Nor Cal as she got her 4th AG award and ticket to Kona. We had tried to connect to train together in September but never could. Meg who ran out with me on the marathon was also there, really cool to see her again. Jenn and Rob were with me and took the photos, it was a great morning. Kona spot? I had several people ask me leading up to the ceremony and roll down about taking a spot. While it would have been fantastic to have the option, I knew I wouldn’t take it even if it was available. Crazy? Maybe. It was never my goal, and having ran and biked on the course when on vacation, I knew my heat exhaustion issues would make it next to impossible for me to have a good experience. Luckily, I didn’t have to think twice. There were only 2 spots in my age group and number 1 and 2 took them. I will say I am very interested in going to spectate some day and support my friends! And, a 70.3 Worlds race is on my goal list.

Special thanks:

Family and friends, as always their support means the most. My kiddo could not be there this time, but her handwritten note of encouragement and support leading up to the race meant the world to me.

Once again, a huge thank you to Alissa Anderson for writing me a plan, continuously editing the plan as my ankle healed and telling me to just train one day a time and enjoy the journey.

What’s next? 2023 plans are shaping up, and so far I have one more Boston on the calendar thanks to my New York marathon time in 2021, and Salem 70.3 in July. Working on other plans around the timing of getting my kiddo to and from college and hopefully a fun vacation or two. Here is to 56 in 2023, and hopefully a healthy, happy training year.

Other 2022 race reports:
2022 Summary
70.3 Oceanside

Published by Lisa B

A girl working every day to be a better human. Grateful for small moments, trying to go high when life goes low. Believer in good, triathlete, Mom and wife.

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