Last Sunday I had a very special ironman finish. For 9 hours and 29 minutes, I celebrated my 60th ironman birthday at a very special race: Ironman Brasil is a race that is very close to my heart. Before I raced my first Ironman Brasil in 2006, I had spent most of the previous few months training and racing in Brasil with Brett Sutton´s squad. I fell in love with Ironman Brasil just like I had with the country and its people. Not surprisingly, racing with joy and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears under the Sutto regime made for a good race that year: my third-place finish there was my was my second ironman podium ever.
Six years and 16 podiums later, I returned to my 7th Ironman Brasil for my 60th. I´d had good, bad, and ugly races here, which had yielded everything from second to sixth place. This year ended up falling into the “good race” category. Actually, it was the best race I had ever had on this course and probably one of my best ironmans, period. Ironically, this time, I finished eighth.
The field was the deepest we had seen in Floripa and the ladies brought their A games. I truly loved mixing it up with them and because they pushed me to one of my best-ever races at the ripe old age of 60; so I could not be unhappy with my lowest-ever finish position at Ironman Brasil. In fact, I left Floripa pretty darn happy.And because I just subjected you to an, “I went hard, I got tired, I ate a bunch of gels” race report a couple of weeks ago, I would rather talk about what this finish meant to me and the long road I traveled to get here.
The morning after I won Ironman Wisconsin in 2008, I received a congratulatory email from my coach Sutto telling me that it was time to retire–that this was the pinnacle of what I could accomplish in the sport and that the sport was going to run away from me. He had given me the three years he had promised and we had accomplished far more than he had envisioned, but he was done with this project.
I was 30 and had no intention of retiring. I share this anecdote not to put the blame on someone else but rather to provide some context for my experiences in the years since then. To this day I am forever grateful to Brett Sutton for the opportunities with which he provided me. If not for him, I would not still be racing because I never would have gotten good enough to make this sport a career in the first place.
But after Kona in 2008, I had to figure out how to make my own way in this sport, and it was not an easy road. Especially after three years of more triathlon success than I ever could have imagined–success that was achieved by by 150% trust and following to the letter Sutto´s guidance–it was hard to suddenly have to “reject” that in favor of believing in myself.
Very hard. In fact, apparently, it took me four and a half years to do so completely. And this was why my 60th ironman ended up being so significant for me. I was able to complete a race that I had done seven times and do it five minutes faster than I ever had before (9:29). Also I was able to break 3:30 on this tough run course for the second time ever (with a bonus 1/3 mile this year too) after what were for me a very solid swim and bike. Overall times aren´t something that I pay much attention to in triathlon but I think that in this context it does tell me that I have taken a step forward after four years of trying to get back to something that I once was.
Over the past few years I have had some decent races and some terrible ones, but even on my best days since 2008, there wasn´t a race during which I did not waste at least some time contemplating whether I should still be racing. On bad days more time was spent with my old coach´s parting words in my ear than others, but this conversation happened at some point during every race.
Until this past month. Ironman Brasil not only marked a step forward for me personally, performance-wise, but it also was the second ironman in three weeks in which I had spent the entire day completely engaged in the task at hand and fully confident in my own abilities. Even when there were 7 or 8 girls ahead of me on the run in Floripa, I was racing my Garmin, knowing that my best race on this course was within reach.
It took a lot longer than I expected to get to this place; and there were times when I thought my best-case-scenario would be just to get back to my previous-best level of performance. But I think finally stacking enough sessions and days and weeks and months of training that I knew were far better than anything I used to do–it all just added up. I have to thank my Coach Siri for facilitating this program. I know that gals who are 60-ironmans-old are a unique breed and she has truly respected my experience and been open to my specific needs and input while also continuing to challenge me by adding new and interesting twists to my training. And most importantly, Siri has helped me get my head on straight, which really has been life-changing. I appreciate this so much.
I also owe a huge thank-you to my sponsors for enabling me to do what I love for a living: PowerBar, SMASH, TYR, RecoveryPump, Zipp, ISM, Brooks Airbush Studio, Rudy Project, and Vega.
Who says you can´t still get faster at 60!?!