Delayed- but detailed…
Apart from losing my brand new goggles and having to find my spare pair, the morning went by fine.
Having slipped away from my friends and team mates to cross the timing mat on the beach and start on my own, I was ready. I was a little concerned about the old back up goggles, but I tried not to think about that. The music was loud and exciting, contrasting with the aura of nervous anticipation enveloping the thick crowd. I observed the excitement, concentration, anxiety on the faces of other wetsuit clad athletes staring out at the ocean. I watched the calm looking waters, gazing out towards the buoys placed far out into the horizon and I thought about everything I’d been through to get to this point: the hours of training, the time commitments, the sacrifices, the injuries & the toughest training days. Of course I was nervous, but I was prepared and I knew it. When the grandness of the situation got to me a little, I chatted with a nice women next to me. “Who’s going to be an ironman today?” came out on the loudspeaker and we all cheered. At this point I was jumping up and down, so incredibly happy to have even made it to the starting line. Of course I was nervous, but I was working to channel that energy towards a strong start. I used a lot of “self talk” and continued to reflect upon everything I’d gone through and all the people in my life that helped me to make it to this point and I just wanted to hear that starting gun.
I loved the swim. I have zero sense of direction and you know I’ve gone a little off course in other races. However, these IM buoys had to have been at least 5 feet tall. I could easily see them which really helped speed up my swim time. The water was fairly clear until the turnaround buoy, which made it easier to avoid getting kicked in the face. I did see a few jellyfish floating below us, but none were touching my hands. They didn’t intimidate me at all after the C-Man experience. There was some chop and swells at times and the sun made it tougher to see but it was nothing I hadn’t experienced in the past. The toughest part was maneuvering through the other racers. This was the most physical of any swim I’ve had. At times it was stressful – being pushed under the water, kicked in the sides, sandwiched and squished between racers, but I forged on. In some ways, all the physical contact was reassuring- it meant I wasn’t straying too far off course. I only sighted every 12-15 strokes instead of every 6. Just before the end of the first lap, my goggles did get kicked and luckily I wore them under my cap so they only slid to the side of my face. They fogged up immediately. Then, I felt a hand grab at my ankle and nearly tore off my chip strap. I was able, by some miracle to catch it in the water as it slipped off and had to stop and tread water to get it back on. During the entire 2nd lap, my goggles were leaking and fogging up. The goggle issues slowed me down a bit, but I still managed a swim split faster than at c-man in about 1:22. I was glowing as I came off the beach and had my wetsuit stripped off.
I spent too much time here. I really didn’t want to get on that bike. I had a great volunteer stay with me the whole time. She even helped me put on my arm warmers and socks. I had packed my things in 2 large ziplock bags- one “must have” for my dry shorts, tri top, socks, sun block, cycling shoes and one “might want.” This way, I was able to have the mental security of all the extra junk (spare socks, spare tube, leg warmers) with out slowing myself down by digging through all the unnecessary gear. The volunteer was fantastic. I was also happy I’d rehearsed my T1 in the hotel before so I didn’t try to put on my glasses before my sun block, or my watch before my arm warmers. Dressing went smooth. It was the sitting and chatting with the volunteer I could have eliminated to make it faster. I was out of there in around 10 minutes. I saw my fans- the parents, in laws and Nick cheering me on as I headed toward the bike.
There’s some myth about IMFL being flat. I know it’s no mountain and there are way more technical and hilly courses out there, but was drilled into me all year long to ride aero constantly because the course is so flat. I was thinking it would be pancake like conditions similar to the ride in Mathews VA or C-Man- but this course was hillier than anticipated. Yes, there was just the overpass as far as a “steep climb” but apart from that, there did seem to be many gradual uphill slopes and nothing down hill. All the aero riding did pay off, but mentally I was unprepared for the 40 mile uphill slope into a headwind in the middle of the course. There were a lot of false flats. However, it wasn’t nearly as bad as that awful Kiptopeke ride or C-Man, race so I just reminded myself of those races and held it together out there.
There was a lot of crowding on the road. Generally, we all tried to do the right thing and not draft, but sometimes I wondered if we were all too close to each other, in clusters- at least for the first 50 miles. Even if I dropped back, I’d just fall into a different group of riders. However, there was a lot of camaraderie out there and the volunteers were extremely nice. I ran into a few other Tri Girls through the day, which was always a good pick me up, even when they zoomed past me!
I did suddenly hate my carbo pro and couldn’t stand it around mile 30 or so. My stomach felt pretty bad and I just couldn’t seem to stomach the taste of it. I stopped eating and made myself at least take in water. I forced myself to stay on the bike. Around mile 45 I had to dump out all my carbo pro and use Gatorade to get some calories in my body. It took the entire ride for my stomach to settle. My nutrition wasn’t going as I’d meticulously calculated- but luckily I’d packed lots of extra food. I drank Gatorade and water until finally around mile 60 I could manage to chew my shot blocks and gels.
Once I got to mile 80, the ride became exciting and the miles seemed to fly by. Around mile 106, I was ready to get off though. I began singing out loud, the last 2 miles and continued singing, just to keep my mental focus and spirits up until finally, it was time to get off the bike. Patty, was volunteering here and she took my bike for me. She’s got this wonderful exuberant personality, so seeing her was very uplifting. I looked at my watch and realized I had 8 hours to complete the marathon. I was definitely going to be an ironman!
T2 Fairly easy transition, yet it took me 8 minutes. I was being too cautious.
This was by far my favorite part of the entire day. I love to run. I was surprised by how gross my stomach still felt from the carbo pro and how slow my pace was, but I forged on. I chatted with a lot of people. I found some of my friends along the course. My foot started hurting almost immediately (top left, near the toe). I bargained internally that I couldn’t have advil until mile 10. No, I gave in and had advil at mile 5. I did my best to block out the pain. The adrenaline from the day, the other racers and the crowd helped a lot.
The crowd was wild. During the first lap, we encountered some strange drunk people all dressed up. I remember one drunk guy shouting “ You’re an animal!” which made me laugh and run a little taller. Whenever I felt a little sluggish, or my foot bothered me, I repeated the phrase in my head and it turned around the bad mood. It became dark very fast. I grabbed a glow stick coming out of the park. It was so uplifting to run with this thing since it reminded me of those adorable days back at Rollerworld as a child. Nothing like a little nostalgia during the marathon leg of an IM. Any distraction from the pain is helpful!
I was also glad I’d kept a headlamp clipped to my race # belt. The head strap was in my special needs bag which I picked up at the turnaround. As you may recall, I learned a big lesson about running in the dark back in May (and have a permanent dent in my thigh as a reminder). Seeing my cheering squad at the turnaround was exciting. Alternating between hot chicken broth and cold caffeinated coke at the aid stations on the 2nd loop was delicious. I ran most of the time at a nice, steady pace with walk breaks through the aid stations. About 2 miles from the finish, most people were walking. I caught up with a guy running a nice 10 min mile clip and chatted a bit. “Its so nice to find someone else still running.” He said he hated to disappoint, but he was about to walk. “I said, well you could walk now, or just walk when you finish in two miles. We are too close to walk” It worked, I had an instant running buddy to get me to the finish. We both walked the last aid station, then picked up the pace again. Having that company to pull through to the finish was great. It was dark and lonely for a long stretch. Then suddenly, we hit that last aid station and people started to cheer. I saw a group of veteran IMFL Tri girls tailgating along the way and they were shouting, “You’re an ironman!” I was just beaming. I was so close! Then, we turned the corner and the music was loud, the lights were bright and the crowd was thick on both sides. My “buddy” picked up his pace and dashed ahead, which was fine because who wants company in their finisher photo? Not me! I saw my family along the shoot, flashed a smile and kept on running. I’d been racing to this point not just all day, but all year long!
Then I heard it, my name followed by “You’re an Ironman!” I did it! I finished the ironman the happiest I can ever remember feeling. I crossed the line a stronger, tougher, more confident and resourceful woman.