Thursday, August 28, 2014


WOW! I'm absolutely over the moon with my performance at IM Lou this year. Was it my best Ironman overall time? No, but it was the race where I overcame some tough obstacles and I kept my wits about me while doing so. To me--that is A HUGE success.

Lou 2014 makes Ironman #5 for me and I was very happy to be back in KY to give the race another good go. I love Louisville! I knew the heat would be a huge factor of the day, it always is for this race. It just adds to the toughness that Ironman is. The weekend is pretty much a blur. Chasing around a toddler all day leaves little energy for anything else. We arrived on Friday just before athlete check it. Once I was signed in, I was able to relax a little. It was boiling hot, but I tried not to think about it. On Saturday, I got it a little practice swim and the water felt great. My arms during the practice swim felt great, my energy levels were up--all good. I was getting pumped.

Practice Swim in my Huub
The most of Saturday was spent packing and repacking all of my gear bags, even though I had done this prior to the race. I am really anal about it. Anyway, I decided to rack my bike and take my gear bags down last minute. And then the rain came! Right before I was ready to walk out the door, the sky opened up. I had to get down to transition by 5:00, it was 4:30 and it was absolutely crazy outside. We were staying downtown near the finish, so I had quite a walk. Abby was napping, so Rich was staying in the room with her. Oh well, suck it up and get wet. Out the door I went. I met up with a fellow competitor in the hallway and on the way down in the elevator, we met up with another athlete who offered us a ride to transition. YAY! We stuffed our bikes and gear bags in his Suburban and off we went. Thanks Adam Goss!

We got to transition and it was a muddy mess! I racked my bike, unloaded the gear bags and took a few final looks. Saturday night was stormy and it rained bucket loads all night. I was glad I decided to double bag all of my gear! My heart was thumping. This-- THIS is what I love. I am here. It's almost time. this is is the part where you DUDES who are reading may want to skip over---So, it's the night before the race and guess who comes knocking on my door.  Yep, an unwelcome visit by good old Aunt Flow and she's four days early. UGH!
This is a huge game changer. I was in tears because of how much more difficult it would make my day. My key word for race day was 'adjustment'. "You have this thing--how can you adjust- what adjustments can you make around it to have a good day?" I had to figure that out on my own and the answers would only come to me during the race. I decided to make peace with Aunt Flow as much as possible. I wouldn't let her ruin my race, so I forgave her for just dropping in on to visit the night before.

Off to bed for a restless night. I couldn't sleep even though I really wanted to! The anticipation and excitement had my head spinning. A few naps here and there and then up at 4:15 am-- ready to go!

I left the family to sleep in and off I went. The mile walk to transition was a lonely one. I checked on my bike and dropped of my special needs bags and took another long walk to get in the swim line. WOW! I think I covered about 4 miles pre-race. I got to the swim line at 5:50am and was already near the back of the line. I made my little set up and made friends with my neighbor and we had some good laughs and several trips to the bushes (if you catch my drift). All good- Rich got there in the nick of time. We stood and the line started to move around 6:50.


I entered the water around 7:20. My swims in the 8 weeks leading up to the race were all pretty much bang on consistent, so I knew where my swim time should be in the race.  My average pace while swimming E2 has been between 1:37-1:39/100 pace. That's my aerobic zone (E2) which is not pushing, and that's exactly how I wanted to do this IM swim. Comfortable and relaxed. I entered the water around 20 minutes after the actual race start. The water was gross. All of the rain the night before had caused the water warning to be placed. water-warning-before-ironman. Swimming in raw sewage is always nice, not only that but there were logs, sticks , branches etc. I grabbed many handfuls of what I hope were only sticks....ha! Slower swimmers were all around me which made it a fight to get around. This is always the case at LOU. I'm thankful for all of the open water swim practices this summer. I was able to stay relaxed swim over and around people without even being phased all the way to the first turn. Even when a guy behind me grabbed me and pushed me under--all good. I nailed my swim, even though I had to stop. Yep, stop.  Just before the first turn buoy someone grabbed my ankle and jerked. I felt my timing chip start to go, so I stopped and grabbed it before it was lost in the Ohio forever. I missed it on the first grab, caught it on the second grab. The problem was when I tried to pull my leg up to put it back on, I got a massive cramp in my hamstring. I tried it a second time and my hamstring cramped again. Ok, what to do. I have been taught by coach what to do in this exact situation however when you are in the thick of it...sometimes you don't think as clearly. I was 'supposed' to just stuff the chip down my speed suit and put it back on after the swim. I did not think quick enough to execute the right course of action, so I swam over to a canoe to put the chip back on my ankle. DOH! That cost me about 2 minutes. I'll not forget what to do next time that happens. I am still happy with my swim though.  Time- 1:08
My training swims were consistent leading up to the race
I ran in T1 feeling great.  I grabbed my bag and made my transition as quick as possible. I had to stop in the  port loo to have a quick chat with Aunt Flow, then it was time to get out of there.


I hopped on 'Haliku' and off we went. I felt great. In complete control, happy and excited about the day ahead. I made my way down River Rd excited about the hills ahead. Which is very unusual for me, I don't like hills. When we made the turn off of River Rd, there came that first big hill. This is where reality sets in. I slowed my pace and kept it all in control. E2 zone again--completely aerobic. My plan was to spin the hills and that's exactly what I did. Up the first hill and I couldn't stop smiling. I knew that the hardest part of the course was about to come, but it didn't matter. The out and back off of 1694. I absolutely love to fly down the first part of the out and back and know that the price will be paid later once you turn around. The uphill. The crowd support along the out and back was amazing. It really pumps you up. Luckily, during my time on the out and back there were no accidents. I heard later that a girl went down and it was really bad, and the same happened last year to a guy there. Yikes! When you are 40mph plus going down those hills, with so many athletes around you, you have to really be careful. I spun the big hills and back to the top and out to 1694. All good.

I was feeling really good. Nutrition was spot on. Now it was time to focus on how to adjust. To adjust around Aunt F. I kept hearing the words-adjust, adjust, how can you adjust. I was riding, plotting, planning.  I knew I would have to stop and visit the loo. I knew that this would affect my overall speed, but it had to be done. How could I adjust and not let this affect me mentally??? I waited, I was alert. My legs were pedaling hard, but my brain was working harder. I don't think at any point during the bike I actually got physically tired.  Wow. My mind was on overload and I found a way to adjust. I was having a brilliant ride, but because of my lady prob...I had to stop a total of 3 times to take care of business and once at special needs. I searched out the aid stations where I knew that I could make a quick pit stop. I knew that my speed avg would go down, but I had no choice. I adjusted, I found what I needed to do. I planned exactly where I would stop, I knew there would be someone there to hold my bike and I knew that they were locations where I could hop back on the saddle and get right back to a good speed. Overall, I was pleased with my bike time. Having to stop a total of 4 times pulled my time and avg down, but I was still able to pedal strong and fast on those hills.
Bike time: 6:33
The Run

Here's where it gets interesting. When I came off the bike, it was HOT. Really hot. I've done this race three times prior, even in 2010 when the heat index was over 104 degrees. This was by far the hottest that Lou has ever been!! I'm pretty sure that Lou decided to take it's August race out with a bang since the race in the future will be in October. One last HOT one for us all. I started the run feeling fine. The sun was directly in our face at the start of the run and it was blazing. The humidity was high and the heat was that kind of hot where you feel like you are choking. Just a 5k run in that would be tough, let alone the tail end of an Ironman with 26.2 miles! Eeek. No complaints though, I knew it would be hot. What I didn't know is how my body would respond. I saw Rich and Abby at mile 1 and it was all smiles. So nice to see them after a long day so far. Rich gave me some words of motivation, the usual..."it's not flower man--and all that other inspirational stuff he comes up with--- and I was off.

Mile two- It's time to start thinking nutrition. I wasn't looking forward to it. The heat, running and thinking about trying to eat---blah. Ok, stick to the plan, T. Mile 3- I popped open the Shot Bloks- new flavor- Black Cherry w/ caff. OMG! The taste alone was enough to make you vomit on a regular day. I had accidentally bought the wrong flavor. Had trained with strawberry over the last 8 weeks which were palatable. The black cherry tastes like Robitussin or worse. GAG! Anyway, between the heat and choking down two of those medicinal tasting gag bloks--the vomiting came. I stopped at the loo, went inside and it was 200 degrees in there, between the smell of the loo, the bloks, the heat etc---I spewed. Here we go, I thought. So it began. 

From mile 3 until mile 12, I tried really hard to take in anything, something. Every time something would hit my stomach-it would come up. Not good. My mind quickly started to turn negative. I began to think of Julie Moss crawling to the finish and I could see myself in this same predicament if I couldn't figure out what to do. I forgot for a while all about adjusting, I forgot everything, as the negatives started to take over. The demons came out. The voices who try to stop you in your tracks. The ones who say that you can't, you shouldn't. This is bad. It would be better to walk away from this course and take a nap. That's what I kept hearing. I was scrambling trying to hold it together. If I stopped moving, my body would go limp, I felt dizzy, loopy. I was getting near mile 12 and the turn around for the second loop. I approached special needs at the turn around, grabbed the things in my bag thinking they would make a difference. Nope. I had to throw it in the trash. I simply could not stomach anything. I kept going. I saw Rich and Abby and ran to them. I told Rich that I was in a bad way. A REALLY bad way and I just wanted to collapse in his arms at that point. Of course...the Flowerman comments and this is what Ironman is-blah blah talk came again. I love my husband and he sure knows how to set me straight. No whining! It's not Flowerman, baby! OK-- I tried put myself back together. One foot forward, the other foot I ran away from my family, Rich's words were ringing in my ear. It was coming back to me. I knew that I would have to adjust to finish this race. Adjust, T. You have to figure out a way to adjust. OK-- mile 13. My plan. I had to get in some calories. I marched through the aid station like a boss trying a nibble of everything, anything, something. I took a bite of pretzel and it came out. Nada. OK, let's try again. I took a bite of banana and pretzel at the same time. It went down. It stayed down. I took another bite--success. Two bites of a banana and two pretzels. I think I have it figured out now. Let's try again at mile 14. At mile 14, I did the exact same thing. Small sips of perform along the way to stay hydrated. Success. From mile 13 through mile 23. I did the same exact thing at every aid station. My energy picked up enough to keep consistent even though it was slow goings. I trotted along. My mind was back in the green. The good zone. I was feeling a little better. The sun was at my back and I knew things were going to be OK. I even shared my plan with two other athletes who were struggling and they began looking for ways to adjust. There was carnage all along the run course on Sunday. I was worried about people. Athletes were down, being loaded into ambulances. It was scary. I felt really bad for them. I knew though, that I would be ok. At mile 22, I was pumped again. At mile 23- I could taste home now instead of vomit. I could feel that finish. At mile 24-25---I could see the lights and I could hear the cheers. I ran. I ran. I ran-- I train, I work, I sacrifice for that few fleeting seconds at the line. I was almost there. Coming in, the lights were blinding, the cheers were deafening. I saw my family just before running down the chute. The tears started. I was laughing and crying at the same time. I was there. Home. My destination. ---"TONYA ALLEN--YOU ARE AN IRONMAN". It never gets old. It always feels like the first time. It's just amazing. I was smiling, happy...I hugged the volunteer at the finish and nearly collapsed in her arms. I apologized for the sweat and she looked and me and said "I'm so proud of you." It meant so much. 
Ironman Finish: 13:49 

The volunteers are truly amazing. She didn't know me, she was so proud of me, I could see and feel it. She started to tear up too. It was a really sweet moment and I wish I knew her name to thank her personally.  A big shout out to all of the volunteers for making the day so much more special!! We couldn't do it without their help and hard work. 

That run was really tough on me. I saw many people throwing up and worse, but sometimes that is just part of the is sport. Some of you guys have asked if I know why I got sick. Truth is...I think it was mostly from the heat. I had also been put on a really strong antibiotic (Clindamycin) just 9 days prior to the race for my wisdom tooth, and that could have been a contributing factor as well, but I'm not sure. It was something that I was worried about when the doctor prescribed it, but I didn't have a choice.

 All in all, I am super pleased with my performance at IMLOU. 8 weeks of training proved to be just enough and I'll never train more than 2 months for an IM in the future. My goal is to stay fit doing three sports that I love....swimming, bike and running and then intense IM focus for 8 weeks for the next one.

The aftermath-- ( Look away if you are squeamish) 

Post race, I felt amazingly good. Legs were sore the day after and by three days after...I felt good as new. The blisters on the other hand are why I'm still hobbling. I usually try to keep my feet as dry as possible during IM, but with the heat on Sunday and stuffing ice anywhere I could stuff it to try and keep cool, well, my feet got wet. As a result--BLISTERS! PAIN! OUCH! I forgot to lube my neck too, so my speed suit rubbed my neck for 2.4 miles and that left a burn as well. Other than that, the usual chaffing from garmin strap etc. 

It's day four post race and I'm starting to feel really good now. I am excited to have another race on the horizon, so no post race blues here. IM Augusta 70.3 is in 31 days, so light training will resume next week.  Coach will not have me doing any long sessions only a few key sharpen up sessions and back to a taper the week prior to the race. I am exited about Augusta.  Also, looks like another Ironman 140.6 will be happening for me again next year. It's what I love :) 

I'd like to thank all of you who have supported me along the way and this past weekend. All of the notes and messages with well wishes for the race meant so SO much to me. Thank you for each and every one of them. I really have a great group of friends and as always very thankful for my family, my husband and kids,  for always being there and for the never ending support every time I take this crazy journey to 140.6. You guys all mean the world to me! Also thanks to Skechers Performance, HUUB and Vanderkitten for being awesome sponsors. 
Until next time my friends...
xoxo ~ T

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