The ironman is a long day.  It’s a long process of training.  However, I know we pour through stories of race day just to get to the best part:  The Finish Line.   Here’s to skipping the meal and going straight for the dessert.   I now present, the Ironman Louisville 2015 finish line race report.
I was running but everything hurt.  The vision I had when I started the race high on the glow of potential had become blurred by a fog set off by an enemy called fatigue.  My inner army of willpower and innate drive to succeed was defending the fortress I’d built up over months of training.  I would need to battle the ever intrusive monster, “Pain and Doubt.”   Ironman is a long journey that that tests human endurance and spirit to the core and those final miles of the ironman is where I really needed to conquer the fatigue that hung itself heavy over my body.  I wanted to make the months of hard work worth it and finish really strong.  After a full day and 138 miles of continuous physical and mental work I was roughly two miles out from the exciting ironman finish line culmination.
I had trained for months on end leading in.  Today I had spent 2.4 miles in the river, biked 112 and I had even run this very stretch of course on the first lap with enthusiasm.  However, at mile 138 I was flat out exhausted.
With cracks worn in my mental fortress over the duration of racing, “Pain and Doubt” herself emerged from darkest recess of my mind.  She ruthlessly lured me towards the false comforts of giving in and walking yet again.  Her hums of pain grew to comforting beautiful whispers beckoning me to slow.   I saw familiar buildings signaling I was very close to the end of this race.  I looked at my watch and saw a pace that confirmed my struggles.  I had been slowing a lot in the past few miles, walking at times yet simultaneously tossing mental demons albeit sluggishly.  My legs hesitated to indulge this new siren and her gifts of pain intensified with clarity, “Yes, it is ok to slow, honey.”   “I know you’ve worked hard all day but today is not your day, and you’re strong anyway,”   As my body followed the pace of her murmurs, many other athletes passed me.  Her poison seeped in, “See, you’re already behind so many people.  It is ok to just walk it in.”  “You know you already gave up when you walked last time.  You can finish in a respectable time with a nice walk anyway, so let’s just make the hurting stop?”  My legs became a prisoner to her whims.  They walked a few steps but the physical pain of fatigue simply worsened as she threw an inadequacy blanket around my heart, “You weren’t good enough for them, you know.”   More slow steps from my legs and that same voice betrayed, “You see, maybe they were right.  Look at you, walking slow.”  That went too far.  I had strong reserves and it was time to surge.  “Hope and Gratitude” rose up for a massive retaliation.
Another athlete was running to pass me but I found power to increase my stride to match his.  He assured me he wouldn’t ruin my finisher photo.  I laughed, “That is the least of my worries!”  I went on ahead so as not to “ruin” his pictures though.  I allowed the gratitude of the day to course through my mind and I picked up my pace.   Thinking of my family who travelled all this way to support my dreams gave me power.   Thinking of Nick at the finish line waiting for me to crush the race made me want to arrive faster.  Pain and Doubt became desperate.  Even war has rules but she was a ruthless beast after eleven hours of being held off on race day.  She brought up the worst day of training when yet another chaotic training disruption had almost caused me to throw in the towel on my dreams.  She invaded my thoughts with all the other life stressors I’d been battling, managing or tabling in the past few weeks.  She told me I’d never see S again.  She showed me images of those few who we know probably want me to fail.  She said I was wasting my time after months of work.  Tears welled in my eyes but I said out loud over and over, “Do not cry.  You are stronger than this,” as I ran faster.
Hope and Gratitude will not let me think of the rough spots without remembering the people who came out of the woodwork to lift me up when I had hit a bottom in my triathlon journey.  I was grateful to those who had made it possible to be here on this day.  As I ran, Hope and Gratitude also shone lights on every other athlete working towards the same finish line as we fought our personal battles and made our way through the course together.   Thoughts of my family, my friends, other athletes, the Coeur women I’ve become close to, people from my past, my healthcare team always ready to help when I have an injury setback, people from my city and those in my heart from Maine, people from the endurance community, many of the good coaches and even those from my professional community who care about my racing filled my mind.  So many thoughts of those who became part of this journey poured in and just fired me up.  My gratitude towards all who were there for me over this training period gave me fuel to move forward.  I could hear or see their very their words, “Never forget how strong you are.”  “This is your race.”  “You are what triathlon needs,” and more.   My mind pulled up all the experiences I’d had in training and of me gutting out the hard work in training.  I remembered all those green training peaks boxes.  I knew what I wanted and I had trained too hard to let anything block my way, even my own mind.   My confidence and my pace was restored so I could have a day where I could be proud.
Pain and Doubt knew she had lost as I was bringing the last mile home with an 8:10 pace and renewed forceful energy.  She retreated quickly as positive thoughts flooded my mind faster than I could process them.   Yes, my body felt nothing but the shine of happiness and the glow of approaching achievement.  As I was flying, I spoke out loud to myself to keep pushing.  I saw my new coach standing on the side encouraging athletes.  This coach had taken me on with a lot of integrity (and a bit of risk for both of us too) with just a few weeks to go until race day.   I did not need to ask twice for help when I had needed it.  His willingness to step up quickly and his attentive, detailed work and leadership created an opportunity for me to have a much better race day and a better experience than I would have otherwise.  Seeing Kurt there gave me another boost of energy to hammer the last piece of the race.
As the bright lights and lively cheers of the finish beckoned I felt relief that I wasn’t going back around for another lap.  I took the straight path towards the finish shoot and as I ran through the chute energetic cheering ironman fans and the bright lights of Fourth Street Live pulled me in.  I could distinctly hear my very own family screaming, “Kelly! Go Kelly Go!” as I sprinted with all of my heart to wrap up 2015 on a high note.
“Kelly Hadiaris… You are an Ironman.”
Immediately as I crossed the line, every aspect of training, sacrifice, disappointment, heart break, fatigue and every ounce of pain from training or racing leading in was all very much worth it.  That very second was a significant and a positive defining moment in my triathlon journey…. until the next line.
I am happy with the close of this season and I am really excited about what will come next.