Sunday, I raced in the XTERRA Snow Valley Half Marathon and broke the course record by 20 minutes! This didn’t happen because of a well planned race schedule, taper and normal race routine. My TIP for this week leading into Ironman is their motto “Anything is Possible”. Ironman was developed in 1978 with people who believed in making the impossible task of combining three sports and the most difficult distances of each into one race. Who could race a 2.4 mile ocean swim, ride a bike for 112 miles and finish strong by running a marathon (26.2 miles) all without stopping would be called “Ironman”. They believed it was “possible”.
I only planned to do this race 48 hours before the event. Coaxed by my husband’s love of the mountains, we decided to trek the family up to 7000 feet. Planning on leaving at 11:00am on Saturday for our “weekend” get away soon became 2:00pm. I had biked 88 miles and climbed 7000 feet in the morning which took a bit longer with a few unexpected climbs in the route. After a wonderful family dinner with our good friend Jason I was quick to learn that I couldn’t sleep at altitude. From 1:00 am – 5:30 am I starred at the ceiling willing myself to sleep with no luck except for an hour just before the alarm rang.
My morning started out smoothly getting me and my two kids dressed, fed and out the door just before 7am. My husband left at 6am to get in a mountain bike ride that would end at the ski hill where my race would start. We would swap the kids giving me 45 minutes to register, pick up my race number, warm up and race. We got in my truck and I said to my son, “my instincts tell me to go left, but Siri on my IPhone say’s to go right to get to the Snow Valley Mountain Resort. I followed Siri in the wrong direction driving an hour and 20 minutes as opposed the 22 minute drive to the race start. We turned around and my husband called me saying there was a 10K starting 30 minutes after the Half Marathon which I could run instead. That relieved some of my stress, but I was really bummed and driving quickly around the switchbacks of Big Bear Mountain. My husband met me on his bike in the parking lot, I dashed out of my car hobbling from being so stiff from the drive and I had exactly 5 minutes until the start of the Half Marathon! My mind screamed back and forth, ” I think I can make it! Should I still try to race in the Half Marathon or relax and just do the 10k?” My heart and instincts said to “stick with the game plan” and race in the Half Marathon. I begged, “Can I please still register and get my chip to race in the half marathon?” The race organizer smiled and said yes as she quickly typed in my registration and said the “race chip” won’t start until you cross the timing mat. Oh what relief, because I still have to go to the bathroom and run across the highway to get to the starting line in less then 5 minutes! The police stopped us as cars were driving by so I lunged side to side for a quick 1 minute stretch. As I ran up to the starting l heard the race announcer counting down from 10 seconds until the gun went off!
We ran 1k around the park to get one final cheer from the crowd then it was 2 loops of a 10K. We went straight up hill for the first 3 miles of the loop climbing over 800 ft at 7,100 ft of elevation on a single track trail. I passed a few guys and didn’t know who was ahead because I got to the start line and began the race from the back. It was gorgeous, scary hair pin turns, loose gravel, sharp rocks and less oxygen then my lungs were used to getting. I talked to myself, “you are crazy Susanne…you could get hurt…you just rolled an ankle… don’t get injured before Kona”. The climb was hard. My Timex Run Trainer showed my pace was all over the place and I was only running 10:00 pace in some spots up the climb. This is so slow I thought. I saw my husband at the water stop. He screamed, “You’re almost to the top of the climb, go!” Single track turned into a fire road and then the down hill. My heart rate dropped 20 beats The last 2 miles of the loop were down hill with winding sharp turns in dirt which was grooved unevenly from mountain bike tires. It was an adrenaline rush of fear as I ripped the downhill, but I have lived in Tucson, Flagstaff and Colorado so my trail finesse game came back quickly. I came around lap 1 of 2 and my husband yelled, “You are on course record pace!” (How he figures this out I’ll never know) “Here comes our first woman, Susanne Davis!” yelled the race announcer. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All negative thoughts from the crazy morning left my head and I pushed harder on the second lap passing more people as I knew where the turns, rocks and hills were on lap two. I negative split the run and broke the Half Marathon course record by 20 minutes in front of my family. It was a personal victory of overcoming adversity and my son and daughter saw how to handle being dealt a different hand in life. Never give up-make the impossible, possible.
As the Ironman approaches and I’ve crossed the 20 year mark in my racing life, I’m still surprised at what I can learn. I’ve spent countless hours preparing and planning for races. Pick the right race, taper, plan nutrition, choose clothing, write a race strategy, warm up, stretch and then visualize success. I can’t ever remember just wingin’ it like this weekend. It made me stronger. And as much as this adventure did for me physically, the mental strength I gained was invaluable. I will draw on this weekend 11 weeks from now on the Kona lava fields. Really, “Anything is Possible”