ITU Pro Natasha Filliol's First IM - Ironman Florida

author : czone
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At one of my last swim sessions the week of my first Ironman, one of my training partners told me how she was envious..."your first Ironman is fun, you have no pressure and no expectations!"

By Natasha Filliol

http://www.natashafilliol.com/

At one of my last swim sessions the week of my first Ironman, one of my training partners told me how she was envious..."your first Ironman is fun, you have no pressure and no expectations!" Well in a way that was true, but since August when I decided to put my ITU racing on hold and try my hat a long course racing, I had put in the miles and ''did the work' so to speak and as my coach would say 'the hay was in the barn!' Although this distance was new to me, having never run a marathon, or even done a half Ironman thanks to hurricane Jeanne canceling my prep race in Florida, I felt ready to tackle it. While I can honestly say I didn't get caught up in doing a specific time or placing, my training gave me a good indication of what I was capable of, but of course my biggest goal was still to finish and have fun!

I flew south five days prior to the race with enough time to view the course in full, get the lay of the land and feel the heat a bit. It was toasty warm with temperatures rising up to the low 80's by mid-day. Perfect! Well that was at the start of the week… The weather was calling for a cold front and as the week progressed it was getting colder and colder and race day was supposed to be the coldest with a low of 50 and high of only 70! Geez! I was banking on this race being hot, after all it was Florida and one of the reasons I chose this race was for the heat. Well all I can say was I'm glad I packed my warm clothes!

Race morning I did my usual pre-race morning ritual, rising three hours before race start, eating my familiar breaky and checking things over twice. One thing that is different with Ironman racing is the bike check-in the day before, along with all the transition bags and special needs bags. I was sure that I would forget something or other with 5 different bags to put in five different places the day before the race! Boy did I ever feel like a 'rookie'! Once I finished the check-in process, and double checked my list twice, I was relaxed. Unlike the usual pre-race nerves that come with the intensity of short course races, I felt calm. I knew I had a big day ahead of me and it was important for me to be relaxed and patient, which is sometimes difficult for those born under the Sign of the Bull!

As I toed the line for the start I was confident with my swim leg and also excited that the race wouldn't be over after the swim, as it sometimes can be in ITU racing, and in fact only just getting started. Because the pro's had a separate start from the age-groupers I got a good clean start with no roughness what soever. It didn't take long for me to find my rhythm in the relatively flat waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The two loop swim course brought us out of the water halfway and all I can remember is how hot I was cookin' in my wetsuit! Things spread out by the second loop and I found myself at the front of a small group of swimmers. I knew i was having an ok swim but not stellar. I exited the water in 54min and heading for the change tent…

The cooler morning temperature saw me adorn myself with my winter woolies: two tops, arm and leg warmers and gloves. I had been a bit worried about the drop in temperatures all week, and what I should and shouldn't wear became a bit of a concern. I knew one thing for sure I had to take the time to dress accordingly. The trade-off was a very slow transition.

Once all dressed up and ready to go, I began my 180km TT through the Panama pine-trees. At the start of the bike, I felt a bit chilly and was glad for my extra gear. It took me awhile to get warmed up and to find my legs- no worries about going out to fast and blowing up! The course was one big loop with lots of pine groves and although Florida is known to be flat, there were some nice low rolling sections in the first half. I had seen the whole course and knew what to expect so there weren't any surprises. My goal for the bike was simply to finish the ride strong. I used my SRM powermeter to pace myself and measure my effort. At 100km's I was caught by the defending champion from last year, so I decided it was time to shift the effort up a gear and challenge myself and stay with her. It was at this point in the race where I finally found some rhythm in my legs, but also where it got more and more tricky to keep down my fuel... I worked with the girls around me and we traded off setting the pace while keeping a stagger.

By the end of the bike, I dismounted feeling strong and like I had a bit of money left in the bank! I entered T2, stripped off my winter gear, made a quasi-quick pit-stop for another slow transition, and headed out for my first ever marathon run. I always look forward to the run in any triathlon as it's my favorite part of the race and this time i was really excited to see what I was capable of, never having run a marathon before. I have to say I really enjoyed the run training for Ironman, once I built up my long run (you see my longest run for short course was only ever about an hour). So as I bounded out for the two loop run, I started my watch and settled into my pace. I had been warned by Coach Joel and other Ironman specialists not to go out to fast and while I was running a few whiskers under my goal pace, I asked myself half a dozen times if it felt too fast. My stride felt easy and relaxed and my legs seemed to be turning over by themselves, so I went with what felt right. I expected my legs to feel heavier than they were at the start of the run, but I think by riding a bit more conservative, I felt more like 'Tigger'- light and bouncy!

I began my fuelling for the run early on, just like I had practiced in training during my 'Iron' days, and although at this point I was already sick of sweet sugary gels, I forced them down as I had struggled to keep them down on the bike. By halfway things were going according to plan, except that I was running a bit too fast! I saw my split at the turnaround point and decided to slow down a touch seeing as I still had half of a marathon left to run. It was within the third 10km of the marathon that I had my 'rough patch', soon after I slowed down actually! I had been warned that I would be tested at some point or another during the day and tested I was. I had a 4-5mile stretch where my low fuelling cost me. I got very dizzy and almost began to walk. But I recognized the predicament and once I got re-fuelled again, it wasn't long before I settled back into my pace and began running strong once again. In the closing miles, as I got closer to town, people were yelling some splits and I knew there were some runners not too far up ahead. I was closing in on them...I kicked 'er into high gear- well as high as you can get in the closing miles of an Ironman! I knew the race wasn't complete until I crossed the finish line... I enjoyed those last few miles and celebrated into the homestretch, thinking about what I had just accomplished and what an awesome experience I had preparing for and racing my first Ironman! My goal was to finish the run strong and I did that, clocking my first marathon ever in 3:11. I wound up in 4th overall in a time of 9:37. But the cherry on top was that I nabbed a qualifying spot for Kona for next year! I hope its hot!

Well it's been anything but a smooth ride this 2004 season for me...but like one of my favorite sayings goes,

'Life is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get!"- Forest Gump

Hats off to all my sponsors and supporters this season.

Onwards to Kona!

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date: November 14, 2004

czone

Joel Filliol is one of Canada's most experienced professional triathlon coaches.  He has been involved in endurance sport since 1989 as an athlete and coach, balancing personal athletic experience, professional certification and education, up to date research and the latest technologies as well as extensive international coaching experiences to provide leadership that takes athletes  performances to the next level.

avatarczone

Joel Filliol is one of Canada's most experienced professional triathlon coaches.  He has been involved in endurance sport since 1989 as an athlete and coach, balancing personal athletic experience, professional certification and education, up to date research and the latest technologies as well as extensive international coaching experiences to provide leadership that takes athletes  performances to the next level.

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