InsideOut client: Patty Kolias...True Grit coupled with a come-back kick! Ace racing at IMLP!
Caroline Kavanagh | July 30, 2021
I dubbed Patty "True Grit" while mesmerized by the live Ironman Lake Placid race app, as I impatiently awaited each of her run splits to "pop-up" on my phone screen as she raced. Early in the day, Patty almost DNF'ed (Did Not Finish) due to a nagging injury that was abounding, but she took it down-to-the-wire....... and overtook five competitors in the last five miles of the marathon to reach her goal (crack top 15th in her age group). She took 14th place :) Mission accomplished!
The essence of "True Grit" remains elusive but there are common personality characteristics that are recognized to be attributed to those who possess this extraordinary grittiness. They are courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience and passion. The Navy Seals organization comes to mind as encompassing this ethos.
An endurance race like an Ironman surely fits the grit category. Boatloads of grit factor needed to train and then race one of these grueling contests. But I said, TRUE Grit, which is the ratcheted-up version. And where did her "come-back kick" come from? According to Patty, she attributes this to her well-rehearsed race fueling strategy. Never did she doubt, nor feel a loss of energy, due to her fueling methods – as she stated – without it, her ability to overcome her setbacks would have been nil. Wow, that's some impressive kudos! I hand it to Patty for her allegiance to the numerous race fueling rehearsals. Reworking, fine-tuning and refreshing once more, All of this was incorporated into specific training sessions as she readied for racing. The expression, "it's not over until it's over"....... unquestionably fitting. Too many positives and teachings to share them all, but certainly Patty's Ironman Lake Placid story will inspire (see below). I will follow up in a separate article to cover her Metabolic Assessments and her race fueling strategy for those interested in those details.
Huge congrats are in order, on so many levels. Phenomenal performance! .............. A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Patty raced a 70.3 in the month prior to Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) and lower back pain and cramps ended up derailing her race which certainly would have been a podium finish. She still took an impressive 4th place. Outstanding!
She pressed on...
A trip to the physical therapist returned a diagnosis of sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. With only weeks away from her targeted Ironman Lake Placid race, she pivoted. Patty stayed the course and committed to physical therapy sessions in order to strengthen and reduce the lower back pain. After coming off a year of Covid and zero racing, the idea of not showing up to race was not on her radar. For those that don't know, the SI joints are located between the iliac bones and the sacrum, connecting the spine to the hips. The two joints provide support and stability, and play a major role in absorbing impact when walking and lifting. The SI joint is supported by various muscles and ligaments that let your body transfer energy from your legs to your body when you walk, run, or move around. These muscles and ligaments also absorb shock from your lower body and reduce compression on your spine. Obviously engaging in an Ironman race your SI joint(s) need to be functioning properly. Onward...
RACE DAY? How do you make the decision to toe-the-line and race an Ironman knowing full-well that your SI joint issue, will in all likelihood, rear its ugly head during the race, resulting in leg cramps and lower back pain which may inevitability require a DNF?
Unfortunately, you can’t really implement a decision-making rule to “never give up – except when it’s the best course of action.” It seems Patty considered the question, what is the optimal time limit to wait before quitting? But the answer would depend on the situation and so she rolled at Ironman Lake Placid with the unspoken goal (at least to me) of cracking top 15 in her age group. Over the course of the past year she had completed all of her training, optimized her nutrition and fine-tuned her race day fueling strategy. Come race day, Patty would toe-the-line! Here is Patty's race synopsis...
SWIM "I wasn’t too disappointed with my swim because it has been the swimming that's been wreaking havoc on my back. My practice open water swims were tanking to such a degree that I honestly wasn’t sure I could cover 2.4 miles let alone get out of T1 and get on a bike. I managed to not get hammered by the masses and I came out of the water in good shape - no pain - so I’ll take it!" Out of the water = 36th place. T1: 9:30 min BIKE "My first bike loop went exactly to plan, Kristen (Patty's triathlon coach from Breakthrough Performance) wanted me to hold back on the first loop and not look to make up ground for the lost swim time. I was happy that I had the discipline to ride at the exact power as planned and I nailed my nutrition. Unfortunately the pain hit at mile 46. I wasn’t sure what to do other than try to stretch my back as I was riding, with the goal at that point being – get to special needs! I didn’t back down on the power for the 10 miles into special needs, maybe I should have? I rolled into special needs and was about to quit and take the DNF. I decided to start the second bike loop knowing in a few minutes I would ride by family and the Breakthrough Performance (BPC) cheering squad. The BPC squad gave me so much adrenaline, I rallied, back on plan and onto loop two! Unfortunately even the gradual climb out of town was making my lower back on the right side unbearable. I should have packed some pain killers just in case, but I was advised nothing new on race day (I normally don’t take NSAIDS). I could hardly turn the pedals over, but because I stayed on track with nutrition, I was able to lower my cadence considerably and had the leg strength to get through the second loop. Thoughts of quitting on this second loop were immense....
• I was going to quit at the first aid station • I was going to quit at the second aid station • I was going to quit at the third aid station • Fourth .... " • Fifth ....." • And on and on it went........ all about quitting... which aid station? I did everything I could to not let my tanking power data bother me mentally.
Goal = Make it back to T2. Off the bike = now in 16th place! I rolled into T2 and my family was waiting for me at the "Bike-In" archway and I couldn’t get off my bike – I was in so much pain, I told them I was quitting and taking the DNF. My youngest son said, “What?! You can’t quit! You can’t! You told me you would crawl across that finish line if you had to!” (I did say that before the race, what was I thinking?!) I told them I would rack my bike and stretch out on the ground and see if there was anything I could do (hence the record long T2 time). Fortunately, I ran into a teammate and she gave me some Advil and another person gave me Tylenol and I took it all thinking an upset stomach was worth the risk if I could get rid of the pain.
T2: 18:55 min 😡 I came out of T2 and decided again that I would run to the BPC cheering section where some coaches were and see if I could make it. I asked a coach if it was possible to walk the entire run and still make the time cutoff? She said, "absolutely, I had plenty of time." I thought I would see how far I could go.... I started running.
RUN The run wasn’t going to be what I targeted which was 4:15, but even with the NSAIDS, my gait was off, I still felt mobile but was relying more on my calves and that eventually turned into calf cramps in both legs. Ugh!
Eventually...... I made it down the red carpet and through the finish shute! SUMMARY
Patty didn't mention in her recap all the competitors she surpassed during the marathon!?! I'd say a rather lackluster finish statement. Thankfully, I was watching the race live (via the app) so I knew what she had accomplished. I was doing the math, and the calculations revealed.... if she kept on pace she could overtake five competitors who were running ahead of her. This potential would result in 15th and POSSIBLY 14th place. I was exuberant when her finish split revealed she had realized the aim and she eked out that extra finish position! And the final words from Patty...
"You gave me the confidence and tools to perform at my best ability on the day. I know I’ll get through this injury and I can’t wait to train and race even harder!"
No doubt, True Grit!