Ironman Race Report
I started my morning before my alarm even went off. I hopped out of bed to put in my contacts, left then right. Out of my right eye I couldn’t see clearly. It’s happened to me before so I knew not to freak out. I had two contacts… it was going to be a good day.
Brent drove me to the start and kept me calm the entire morning. As we’re driving I see ahead of me where they have closed the bike course. Slowly tears drip down my eyes and I can feel all of the work from the past year ready for the challenge. Brent later tells me he could feel my tears as we sat there.
We, along with Emily got to the start a half hour before transition opened. I didn’t anticipate being this early, but it gave me time to relax. 5am hit and I get into transition. Jade is there to receive my special needs bag. She gives me a good luck squeeze and I head to get my body marked. I load my bike with my nutrition and bottles. Then, the panic settles in. I’m attempting to pump my rented 404 race wheels and all that’s happening is air being released… I run out to Brent and tell him it wasn’t working. A casing around the stem was preventing me from pumping air into the tube. I have time to stop by the bike tech to have them properly filled. Phew! They are ready to go.
I take the next 45 mins to cool down, watch the people come and go. Over 3,000 competitors intricately dance around each other as they prep their gear. Brent must see some angst in my face because he says to me almost word for word, without even knowing, one of my favorite quotes from Chrissie Wellington. “The key is to trust in your preparation. You have done all you can, so focus on that fact. You will remain the same person before, during and after the race, so the result, however important, will not define you. The journey is what matters.”
A pro comes up to me and asks to use my bike pump, the same dilemma that happened to me happens to him so he rushes into transition. I work on getting my wetsuit on which is sometimes the hardest part of a triathlon and another pro asks for help zipping up. These must be good omens if two pros are asking for my help on race day. I get zipped up and I realize that I didn’t close my tubes on my bike. I rush back into transition and get it settled.
As a few friends arrive, last hugs go out and I head into transition one last time before the cannons go off. I have no idea where Anthony is, but I had really hoped to see him. As I am making my way in a sea of black rubber and pink and green swim caps I head towards the 1:20 swim time though I anticipate coming out of the water between 1:30/1:40. I see Anthony and Kolby chatting up a storm. Two cannons go off to start the pros. It’s our time and I thank Anthony one last time for all of the coaching he’s done for me.
I’m walking towards the water and a gentleman comments on the sky. I turn to look and he says it’s even better without the blue, referring to my goggles. It’s a moment of solice as take in the beautiful sky, and outlined in front of it is my favorite bridge in town, lined with spectators waiting for their favorite ironman-to-be to get into the water. (I wish I had a photo!)
Here we are two by two through a small opening to the final steps. Jump. Don’t hesitate. Swim. The first few strokes and my goggles are starting to fill my right eye. I only slightly panicked. Adjust. And keep swimming. They kept filling, though. I am thinking to myself, if I have to I guess I can swim with just one eye open. I keep emptying and adjusting. I can’t do this the entire race!! Then I remember I tightened the right side and attempt to loosen the strap. It works! I’m so relieved and I can finally get my groove swimming.
I come up on people weaving in and out. I’m still not a straight swimmer. I only get kicked once on my way out. I’m still in awe how far I have to swim just to get to the east end. I see landmarks that I’ll be running next to later. I make two turns and the rest of the swim goes by like nothing. I’m coming up on the straight away and I know as soon as I get out I won’t be alone any longer.
A volunteer helps me out of the water. I step onto the cement and I hear Brent. A little disoriented I’m not able to see him, but I know he’s there to my right. I get to the wet suit stripping area and I’ll tell you, I feel a little bit like an awkward whale beached trying to figure out how to get to water. My original plan was to walk to transition, but I turn the corner and my family and friends are cheering for me. So I kick it into gear. I’m not entirely sure where to go, but move through where the volunteers shuffle me. I get into transition and an awesome volunteer comes up to me and says “what do you need, what can I do?” I don’t know. So I haphazardly attempt to put on clothes. I’m all set and thank the awesome volunteer. I wait to put in my shoes till I get to my bike. I get to the mount line and I’m ready for the bike!
We’re sent through a shoot where family and friends lined up to cheer. As soon as I hit the road it was head down and focus on maintaining a lower HR and a consistent pace. I know this course so well and I’m excited to be hitting speeds I anticipated. I settle in and start to eat some nutrition. I’m most worried about the right amount of nutrition. The first two loops go by quickly! I leap frog through several different groups of riders, being mindful of the drafting rule. This rule can be nerve wrecking and frustrating on such a small course when it seems like there isn’t enough room to not draft. The first lap I’m surprised to see Kayla on the corner!
Everyone cheering along the route makes it go by quickly. I see Brent hold his sign in its entirety and it makes my heart smile. “Who has two thumbs and love his Ironwoman? This guy” with two arrows pointing to himself. As I’m riding by friends and family, I’m smiling even more each time I see them. Chris, Kaitlin and Kaylan are about 12 miles from the start of the bike. Several people racing make it a point to say you have quite the support out here. They were all over the place and each moment helped! As I come back from my first loop, I see Ryan and Katy, then my parents and my siblings, uncle Steve, auntie Muffy, auntie Julie, Janelle and Phil, the boys, Austin and Kelly with their girls, Nick and Erica. Their excitement when they see me gives me energy after my first loop. Sarena and her daughter surprise me with an awesome t-Rex sign!
I get about five miles from the turn around after playing leap frog with a group of riders and my legs and butt are ready to be off the bike. I’m churning slower on this lap than the last one, I’m a little discouraged, but I remember I need to save some of my legs for the run. So I ride it out. I know after the turn around I’ll see Kelly, Liesl and Amy and it’s all downhill. I need to stop for the bathroom and I mistakenly tell Kelly I need to poop… little did I know there was a massive group text message going around and she shared that with everyone. -_- Unfortunately I couldn’t get it out. As I finish the last 11 miles I’m passed by two girls in my age group. The competitive side jumps and I try to keep up, but my legs just won’t move as fast. I start thinking, “Will I be able to run?!”
I’m in transition changing out my gear. Again I feel all disoriented. I’m lacking an order of operations with this type of transition. I make sure I put everything on that I need and most importantly that I grab the cards my girlfriends put together for me for each mile.
I truly believe there are outside factors that help us dig deep when we need it. I fly out of transition and I come up on my dad. I make sure to stop and give him a hug. I look forward to the first mile marker where I get to see the Landis tri club aid station. They have helped me so much throughout the year. I remember volunteering here last year and now seeing the faces of the future ironman in training on race day made me nostalgic and excited for their journey. Each mile I look forward to the cards, it keeps me at a decent pace for my marathon and I’m not worried if later I need to stop to walk. On my way back along the south shore of the lake I see my mom. I give her a hug and it’s the first time during the race I get choked up and I can tell she’s going to cry when I let go. A little ways down I see my bright orange Brent and I stop for a moment with him not wanting to let go. But eventually we release and he gets me on my way.
I’m pushing a good pace and somehow pull out an 8:30 for mile five, I’m convinced it’s because my card was blank that mile and I just wanted to get to mile 6! Tanya and Tom, Sarah and Drew, my cousin Alex, Wayne and Kacie join the group at various points along the route. I set on my way, each mile feels good. I think how each person along my route today has influenced, encouraged, supported or joined me on my journey.
Just then I turn the corner and I see a couple of old friends from college, Jessica and Jessica. Chuck is volunteering and checks in to make sure I’m following my race plan. I pull up to the McClintock bridge and I hear cheers from overhead. It’s my boss and co-workers on my team cheering and holding a wolf sign! Coming up on mile 9 I know I have a hill, but what motivates me is knowing that my family and friends are at the bottom of that hill. I stop and hug my brother and sister. The rest of the miles are spent looking and wondering when I’ll see someone next and looking forward to each mile card written for me, they are hilarious and inspiring. In their volunteer shirts, Dave and Ted do a little running and check in with my progress. I’m keeping a good pace the entire time and I look forward to mile 13 when I get my special needs bag… bacon!
Amy G. tells me, “You’re going to catch Anthony!” As I come up behind my coach and I can see how proud he is. All of the hours we put in together, I’m so grateful for his belief in me! I never thought I could finish in the 12 o’clock hour, but he got me there without me even knowing. In the final few miles, my watch dies. I’m working solely on my feet and my heart.
I come up to the bridge before the final turn to the finish. I’m choking up. I turn the corner and people are cheering and have their hands out. I’m looking for family and friends as I run down the shoot. I’m getting excited to be wrapped in Brent’s arms again, for him to hold me up after I exit.
Volunteers are wrapping me in a heat blanket and giving me my shirt, hat and medal. I see Sean McManus and he tells me I have some fans. I give Tanya and Kali a hug and as the rest of my friends come walking up, I let all emotion out with tears running down my face. Katy is the first person I see to cry.
After several moments with my friends I turn and see Brent in his bright orange jacket, I go in for a long hug and a kiss. I’m so happy to see him and my emotions are still churning tears. They are all happy tears! He’s only been on this journey with me for about 5 months but I can feel his support and love for me in that moment and it feels like a lifetimes worth. Family is next and they all are there to support my goal. I see a light in my brother’s eyes that I haven’t seen in a while. He hasn’t seen me compete in years and I can see he’s proud and inspired. Amie has a look that is similar to mine when I get to see her dance on stage! My parents had no idea the venture I took on until they saw what I accomplished that day.
As I greeted my family and friends (after pizza of course) the first question I posed was who’s sign up for their first 70.3?! At least 3 hands went up… 😊
The feelings I felt that day and night were love and support from people whom may have not received from me the same love and support over the last year that they gave me on that day. These truly are the people worth sticking around for. They helped me see my goal to the end and I hope I can be there for them for their “Ironman” – whatever challenge they choose.
“For the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf.”