Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Your body won't go where your mind doesn't push it - "Lise Munsie, you are an Ironman"

epic photo - alta lake 6am pro warm up - taken by holly
Wow. What a summer.

  I don’t even know where to begin.  Perhaps where I left off…. Broken “stress fractured” femur. Ugh. The plan was to switch from IMCDA to IMC, build up running, do a few races swim-bike and hope for the best.  I stuck to the plan, did Shawnigan lake Olympic as a swim-bike-DNF… then the Oliver half ironman I did as a relay with Chris Young, I did swim-bike and he did the run for me.. not much to say about that, I had breakthrough swims and bikes at both races, swimming at around 1:45/100m and biking averaging between 34-35kph…. Splits were beyond what I hoped. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired, I was right where I needed to be, except for running.  Building building so slowly on the run, run-walk for about 6 weeks and we were just moving up to 30-40 min runs when all my femur pain came back. I failed the hop test, couldn’t sit on the edge of a table, my bone scan came back just as bad as before
bone scan 4.5 weeks out
and when I called Dr. Mike I heard some sad words “Lise, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ll be able to do ironman Canada” (4.5 weeks from race day).

Well I would be lying if I said I didn’t take this… poorly… put my bike up for sale on pinkbike and stopped training for a few days… indulged in things I had been not indulging in and felt generally pretty crappy as one does when they pour a year of their life into this race.  I talked about maybe getting through the run somehow or just doing the swim-bike for experience but I had so wanted to place in my age group that I didn’t even feel the race was worth doing if that wasn’t a possibility. Then I got a letter from a friend. This letter was hand-written , photographed and sent to me by email, because this particular friend was suffering from a concussion and could not look at the computer screen.  This concussion came about because she was hit by a careless driver while warming up for a race, a race in preparation for Kona for which she had already qualified.  One of the most dedicated and talented athletes I know, first shot at Kona had been compromised by a situation completely beyond her control. I feel the letter is too personal to repeat here but long and short of it was it made me immediately stop feeling sorry for myself, realize people have done this race in far worse circumstances and that not trying was simply not an option.  With that I got back to training, did the last of my 6 hour bike rides and 6am open water ocean swims, replaced my runs with pool runs… again… and did anything I could in hopes of being better for the race. Stayed off my leg, didn’t take pain killers so I could monitor my discomfort, knew I would kill the swim and bike and just hoped beyond all hope I could find a way to finish the race, even if I had to walk the whole damn marathon.  I was prepared to pull out if the pain was dangerous or not manageable, but no matter what I was going to try.

OK now fast forward to race week.

I first of all have to say I often feel like one of the luckiest girls around.  The people in my life, past and present are simply incredible.  This race was in NO WAY done alone by me.  I want to start my race report off with a list of thank you’s…. to people who undoubtedly got my through this year, this race, and who will surely get me through the next leg of this adventure.

Family always – the support I have had from you has been unprecedented, encouragement and belief… and of course reed booking a flight out two days before my race so he could be with me, he came to my first short triathlon and having you at ironman was unbelievably memorable.
Day before race with Reed and Leanne at Olympic Plaza

Friends – where to start. Holly my friend, colleague and throughout training year roommate. Encouraged me, got excited for me and put up with my super insane training schedule, 5am mornings and yowling Siamese through this whole process. Was amazing to have you there on race day.

Leanne – introduced me to triathlon 3 years ago and did my first try-a-tri with me. Then flew out, took care of me before and after race day. Has been an amazing friend through everything, this week wouldn’t have been the same without you!

Noa – my friend and coach, got me to the start line and I know will get me to another, stronger and faster…. And with her all the amazing athletes in pacific triworks – so inspiring training with people as motivated and dedicated as this group… no better in the city or probably anywhere else… R.J, R.S, V.G, J.M, D.G, S.K and others.
6am angry ocean - dedicated training partners never miss a workout

Anyone who did any workout with me, especially long rides, encouraged and believed in what was going to happen – especially Winston and Andrew, indoor spins, long rides…. Sunday night whirly pool sessions at hillcrest, just spending hours talking triathlon shit before and after the race. Awesome to have you both there on race day as well. Winston running along beside me on the course, and Andrew for yelling at me during his own race about how pumped and happy to was that I was going to finish the race as strong as I did every time I saw him on the bike and run.  All the other UBC Triathlon Club members who are always encouraging and inspiring, racing with me this year at IM and others…. N.C, B.N, T.B, C.H, M.M, S.C, T.W, D.L, E.W, D.S and so many others…..

My friends outside of triathlon who kept me grounded and doing other things... J.K, L.W, M.B, J.M, J.F and the whole crew

Christopher – always encouraging and helping me with my athletic and personal goals in any way I might need, and quite frankly putting up with a whole lot of BS.

Austen and other friends at work for getting me through this year and again.. amazing encouragement

Girls at work for volunteering at IMC and being there, hugs, cheers, amazing sign and the BEST chalk drawings on course – Marna, Heather and Chelsea, you guys are hands down amazing.

Race morning with the ladies, 5:30am never looked so hot

Daphne and David for letting me and 100 of my closest friends stay at their Whistler palace for the weekend.

Dr. Mike for helping me at no personal gain with this persistent injury.

Sugoi apparel for making me a brand champion, providing me with race and training gear, inviting me to the pre-race BBQ and all the cheers and support. An amazing company, best training gear and race gear and fantastic people.

transition race morning
swim start
For a race report there isn’t much I want to say.  Ironman had turned into “just a race” in my mind… but your first ironman is in no way, “just a race”. It is truly an experience, a painful-amazing-incredible day long journey. I am not the kind of person who says stuff like this, but it really is unlike
going strong at km 175

anything I have ever experienced 226kms of unchartered territory. The swim start was one of the scariest moments of my life, I was ready for it, but it was scary. I started strong, got run, over, ran people over, took 500 or 600m before I could even swim properly or breath, so the first emotion of the day is fighting for air, fighting for space…. The rest of the swim I was ready for without question and it came easy. Getting out of the water and having my wetsuit stripped by friends volunteering was a special moment, the volunteers in the tent who help you get into your bike gear and off on the bike.  The bike I am in love with, the whistler course is so hard, 1900m of climbing and it was hot….30 degrees and yes there was wind in pemberton… not an easy day, but I hydrated like crazy, took salt, took as many gels as I could handle and had the ride I wanted, finishing in under 6 hours. 

Then the run… the white elephant in the room. Since the Victoria marathon in October I have had a grand total of 8 weeks intermittently where I was able to “land run”, and nothing more than a 40 minute run, and no runs 5 weeks prior to IMC. I had no idea what was going to happen, all I knew is I wanted to finish.

fake it till you make it
Faked it and ran out of transition for the crowds, once in the forest, I was exhausted, my cardio fell apart and my legs felt like shit. I did walk-run for the next 3 km’s and considered strongly dropping out of the race. I felt like hell. I figured I’d give myself 10km and that I would force myself to run between 2 aid stations (about 1 mile apart) to see how I felt.  This worked at first, I got a second wind, legs began to behave and running (slowly) felt OK. I followed an original plan I had where I would run (now more like jog) to each aid station and walk the station… this was working, and I was feeling stronger and stronger…. I was able to keep this tactic up (with a few other walk sections) for the first 20km.  All my friends found me, cheered for me, asked me if I was crazy and WTF I was doing running, high fived the other PT athletes, Dr. Mike and UBC tri club members on course and made it to lap 2…. No turning back now... 21km to go  This is where my body fell apart. Lungs and Cardio were ready to go but body said no. Quads seized up completely making running very very difficult (cant blame them after 6 months off).  This is again where the “dig deep” and “this is going to be uncomfortable” come in.  It truly was sheer will power and determination that allowed me to force my body to keep going. Knowing at most I was 2 hours away from accomplishing this amazing goal.  Every step hurt whether I walked or ran, so I ran as much as I could… 8km to go… foot pain kicks in, my stomach has had enough gels, I am shivering a bit even in the heat and have to force myself to take in anything at aid stations.  Sharp shooting pain in my foot, this is where I start walking more than I run…. The other athletes and volunteers and spectators never let up though, so nor would I. The cheering, the smiles, the encouragement…every step .. one foot in front of the other… 8 short… but Oh so long, km’s.  At one point when I didn’t think I could go on Winston showed up and walked beside me, he told me everyone was waiting for me around the corner with signs and if ever I was going to fake it, now was the time. Got the arms going, made the legs go, came around the corner and there was everyone together, Reed, Leanne, Holly, Heather, Marna, Chelsea, Nailey…. With signs made just for me, chanting “cello” and confusing the hell out of the crowd. Made me laugh and forget about everything that hurt…….. 2km to go, they were racing me to the finish line to watch me cross. 

finishing photo screen capture from live feed
The last 2 km, I barely remember, except for the amazing chalk art “Lise Munsie you got this” “Lise you sweet nectar” (inside joke here) and a picture of my cat in giant letters 500m from the finish (seriously I have the best friends) I turned the corner and actually saw the finish line. I just remember putting my hands to my face because I legit could not believe I was finally done, ran as best I could, highfiving every one of my friends at the sidelines waiting for me to cross, arms over my head with the announcer “from Vancouver, Lise Munsie, you are an ironman”.  The moment is honestly as epic as it sounds.  Noa and Victoria were waiting to hug me, Reed and Leanne who were videotaping the finish quickly joined and it was just a giant celebration. I have never been happier.

Celebrating over the fence

I’m hoping my second ironman experience will be very different, I want to be in the race in a different way, I want the run to be like the bike and swim, where I am prepared to fight for my placing, fight for a podium spot, give everything in a totally different way.  But I have learned along this journey that if that doesn’t happen, that’s ok. It’s not going to stop me from trying and it definitely won’t stop me from competing one way or another.

Now time to rest and recover, heal my muscle and heal my bones, have fun with friends, do normal stuff, not watch everything I eat, go out late and sleep in.  Then…. We begin again J
My splits and averages are all available on sportstats for interested parties!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the triathlon gods could have better drafted your amazing comeback story. Very inspiring stuff. :D