Ironman NC: Beach 2 Battleship 8:28:47
SWIM – 2.4 miles 57:39 BIKE – 56 miles 2:58:49 RUN – 26.2 4:17:19
Division Rank 5/73 – Gender Rank 49/349 – Overall Rank 256/1185
It doesn’t have to be pretty you just have to embrace the day and suffer well.
It helps when you know a PR is waiting for you at the finish line. I have struggled on how to even begin describing this experience.
Woke up before my alarm at 4:15. Not really overly nervous but I did have a hard time getting my entire breakfast down. I ate as much as I could, foam rolled, double checked I had everything then out the door to T1 to put fuel on my bike, pump my tires, and put last minute items in my Swim/Bike gear bag. Happy to find my clothes inside the bag were still dry even with the rain during the night. Once that work was done I started feeling pretty nervous. I was so happy to have a few other people to chat with while we waited to load the buses to the Swim Start. The volunteers in T1 were amazing, happy and energetic even in the very windy and cold pre-dawn hours. I’m always so grateful for the volunteers. I felt my most nervous riding the bus to the swim start. YIKES! Had to keep reminding myself I was prepared. It wasn’t until I got to the swim start that I realized I had made a mistake with my Run Special Needs bag. I had understood from the race information that this was to be dropped off at the swim start. Instead it was supposed to have been dropped off back at T1. My stomach dropped as I had some of the food I would need at the end of the marathon in this bag. Jeff had ridden a bike down to the start and agreed to ride the 2.5 miles back to T1 to drop mine and Nicole’s bags off. I knew he would get the bags to T1, but I was really worried he wouldn’t make it back for the race start. It was finally time to get my wetsuit on and Jeff still wasn’t back yet. To say I was relieved when I saw Jeff would be a complete understatement. First tears of the morning – gratitude, relief, comfort, release of nervous tension – not sure the complete list of emotions I felt but the outward presentation was tears. I was just finishing this last giant hug from Jeff when we were instructed to head to the water. Long, cold, sandy walk down to the beach. National Anthem then Nicole and I got in the water for a quick warm up. These two pictures crack me up….It’s all fun and games until the cannon goes off!
It seemed like 2 minutes later the cannon went off. We hopped out of the warm up area and headed for the Starting Chute. Here we GO!
2.4 Mile SWIM
This was the biggest starting group I have ever raced with. All my other races have been wave starts which means I am in the water with women my age. I have a fairly big personal bubble and I knew this would not be respected. I was as prepared as I knew how to be but was a little surprised at just how aggressive many of the men swim. I had prepared myself to just focus on the process of swimming and make sure I sighted often. I was pleasantly surprised at how little ground I was willing to give up to the chaos around me. I tried to just own the space I was in. There was an outgoing tide at the beginning of the race and I had been told by the local Slowtwitch guys to stay out of the very center of the channel until I passed the Half Iron start (about a mile into the swim). I tried to do this and was surprised at how quickly the Half Start showed up on my right. At this point I started swimming at a slight angle to get into the center of the channel and hopefully benefit from the incoming tide. I got to the turn bouy that took us into the final stretch of the swim and was still feeling very relaxed and just in my zone. It was still congested by far better than for the first half of the swim. When I had about 200 yards to go – a straight shot to the marina ladders – a guy cut me off as he was swimming at a diagonal. It was the one time I really had to stop swimming so I could stay on course. I only stopped long enough for his upper body to be clear and then swam over his legs. I wasn’t trying to be rude and I’m sure I didn’t slow him down as my body barely grazed his legs but I think it really aggravated him. He straightened out and the next thing I knew I had a hard elbow to my jaw. I’m not positive he did it deliberately, but the look on his face seemed pretty mad. We made eye contact for just a moment and I decided I would just speed up and clear the space between us. I can’t lie, it was a little satisfying to be able to pull out of his reach so quickly. If he deliberately tagged me, I hope that hurt his pride a little, okay maybe a lot.
I got to the marina ladders feeling really good. I often get leg cramps in long swims but my legs felt wonderful. I took my first two steps up the ladder and felt both legs start to Charlie horse. I had a little Uh Oh moment because it renders me unable to move. I got one foot up on the deck – luckily a volunteer had grabbed my hand. I looked at her and immediately apologized and told her I was having a full Charlie horse in both calves and I couldn’t move. I didn’t quite have the leverage to stand up right so there the two of us sat with my unworking legs and feet in what felt like a permanent squat until my Charlie horse relaxed. I’m sure glad she held on and I’m sure she was glad we didn’t both fall back into the water. THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS! After what felt like an eternity, my calves and feet relaxed and off I went. SOOOO happy for wetsuit strippers! Pretty sure I would have cramped up again if I had to remove the legs of my wetsuit by myself.
It is a long cold run from the marina to the transition area. Good thing I had so many fans to wave to 🙂 Grabbed my bag, headed to the changing tent, I was feeling very happy that my legs felt fine. The volunteers were so happy and helpful. I dumped my gear and started the process of trying to dry off and get spandex clothes on a partially wet body. One of the volunteers offered to help. I’m sure it felt like dressing a toddler who would prefer to be naked. I was not really standing still as she was trying to get my Tri Top unraveled and pulled down. Such patient volunteers. At some point Nicole ran into the changing tent. It was fun to see her but then I felt a little pressure. She is SO fast in transition. She mentioned later that I didn’t even say hi. In my head I was thinking “Be fast like Nicole, Be fast like Nicole”. I had a fast for me transition time, especially considering all the running that this transition set up required. Finally dressed and heading out on the bike, only forgot Chamios Crème – OOPS super glad I had a very good bike fit (Thanks Mike @ Podium Multi Sport) as this turned out to be no big deal. I did know I had an extra packet of crème in my bento box in case I needed it, but decided to ride as long as I could before I got uncomfortable. Happy to report I stayed comfortable the whole ride.
The bike was WINDY and CROWDED! I was thankful I had a pretty good swim as it allowed me to get out before it was crazy congested. My plan was to ride my power at the upper end of my Ironman Effort (what I would ride for the full 112 miles). I was very proud of myself for sticking to this plan. The wind was pretty unforgiving (40 miles of headwinds or heavy crosswinds) but I was able to just settle in and relax for the parts with the headwind. The crosswinds were a little more challenging as they were on the main hwy and were a little more difficult to just settle into as they feel more unpredictable. The traffic moving fast in the other lane added an element of difficulty as the gust of wind created by the cars would counter the crosswind and made it feel a bit like a mini tornado.
I had told myself I wouldn’t race the bike and would stick to MY plan. Most of the chatter pre-race was that athletes were planning on attacking the bike as it was a shortened distance. I was prepared to get passed while I just stuck to my plan. However, a fun thing for me on the bike was the one and only girl in my age group I ever saw. She would pass me and I could tell she was working very hard to make this happen. She often chose inclines to do this…I was deliberately not attacking the inclines so her perception might have been this was my weakness. She would clear my bike and immediately relax as she was pooped from the little climb. It made me chuckle as I would just carry on with the same effort at the top of the hill and would pass her. She must have done this to me 10 times. When we finally made the turn for the last 16 miles, I slowed for water at an aid station and refilled the last of my fuel into my speedfil. Right as I finished this, she came sprinting past me. She really seemed to be working hard this time. We were close enough to the end that my “green monster” (as Nicole calls it), got the better of me and I wanted her to understand that, for this ride, she was in my house. I dropped down some gears and flew past her. THAT WAS SATISFYING! I kept going at this harder effort for a little while to try and make clear my message. I think it worked!
This was the only part of the race course that I really didn’t like. We dismounted on a downhill…which I’m never a fan of, and then immediately had to run our bikes along a dirt/gravel road. IM had put down carpet but just a single strip that was maybe 4 feet wide. I thought they should have invested in at least two strips wide. I had my bike on one side trying to keep it on the carpet and still keep my feet on the other edge of that same strip. Not a game changer, just something simple I think they should have considered. The volunteers in T2 were amazing as they were everywhere else. As I was leaving T2 I stopped at the port a potty. I was in a hurry DUH and must not have latched my door. Got a surprise as another lady was also in a hurry and was very shocked to find the “open” port a potty was occupied. We both squawked and moved along. OOPS!
As I was running out of T2, I was so happy to see my family standing along the route. The first person I saw was my brother Don. He was flying standby from San Francisco and I had gone to bed before I knew if he was able to make it. I stopped and gave him a big hug. He laughed and said “you don’t need to do that”. Yes I did – Happy dance moment! I gave everyone else high fives than simultaneously cracked up and felt bad because I know I had wiped snot on my hands during the bike. I confessed latter on the run and they were less willing to high five me.
RUN – THE MARATHON!!!!
This was my moment of truth. I was confident about the swim and bike and scared of the marathon. So much unknown territory! A typical race scenario for me is to get out of the swim early, create a gap on the bike, than lose that ground on the run. I had been running great off the bike during training but just wasn’t sure if I had figured out the appropriate pace for myself. I was fearful of running too hard and crawling home. I was fearful of running too slow and regretting my effort. Leigh Ann would try to reassure me but this was one area that I had difficulty trusting her confidence. The shortened race made my pacing strategy a little simpler. I knew I would be completing another Full Ironman in the future and decided that if I felt good off the bike I would take more risks on the run. It made it so much easier to be brave and try the paces that were on the faster side. Very soon into the run, I came upon a girl who seemed to be running close to my pace. I chatted with her for a minute (out of my character on race day) and for some reason decided to ask her what her pace goals/strategy were for the marathon. She said her goal was to average 10 minute miles. She asked about my plan and I told her I was going to continue my walk/run plan but that I wanted to see how long I could maintain my 8:45-9:00 running pace. It felt good to verbally express that I was trying to be brave and that if I failed I would simply learn from it. It felt empowering to acknowledge I was okay if I failed. She decided to try the same thing. It was really great having a chatting buddy during the first 13 miles. I could feel myself getting tired and Bridget seemed so strong. It was motivating and inspiring for me to focus on just matching pace with her.
I think I might have warned Bridget at some point that my humor mirrors that of a 10 year old boy. At one aid station they had cups of ice. At Gulf Coast Tri I had dumped a cup of ice down my shorts to try and cool off only to find the ice managed to settle in my crotch. This was uncomfortable. I told Leigh Ann about this and as she always has a suggestion on a better way, she recommended dumping the ice down the back of my shirt and my bra and race belt would keep the ice on my back and cool me as it melted. I tried this…I don’t know how in the world this happens to me, but the blasted ice managed to just slide down my back and still managed to find it’s way in my crotch! So, I was removing the ice just as Jeff caught these fabulous pictures…Pooping Ice!
It didn’t seem to take too long before we were at 13 miles. I ran past the special needs area and yelled out my number so they could grab my bag after my turn around loop. I had decided to put the last bit of my running fuel in my bag so I didn’t have to carry it all from the beginning. As I came back past special needs, the volunteer asked for my number again. He yelled it out about a dozen times and so did I. No one could find my bag. I’m not sure how I felt at the moment. It wasn’t quite panic, but it was a racing kind of brain…what to do? what were the risks of not having my food? How long should I look for my bag? I think because of the mix up in the morning, my bet was on my bag not being there at all and I decided it would be a waste of time to stand around looking for it only to have to move on without it anyway. So I went on without my food. I had carried about 16-18 miles worth of food. I decided to kind of ration the food I had left. Leigh Ann had recommended taking the coke and chicken broth on the course. I haven’t done well with solids during the run. The aid stations had the coke, but no chicken broth that I could ever see. I can’t remember what mile marker my legs and feet started to really feel crampy, but it was somewhere between 16 and 26. I do know that at the turn around by the lake I was really trying to figure out my walk run thing. It was more painful to walk, but I was afraid if I skipped my walk breaks I would hit the infamous wall. The funniest thing about this, is in hind sight I realize I was smacking repeatedly up against the wall but didn’t realize this might be the wall everyone talks of. Slow Learner 🙂 I was so scared the wall was going to feel worse than that. Trust me, it hurt, I was just imagining something much worse. Think “nearly dead”.
Another point on the run that has me chuckling now…I thought I saw a GU on the ground that looked like it might not be open – maybe the equivalent of a mirage. I had the oddest conversation in my head about whether I should pick it up and eat it. The conversation took too long and I ran past the GU and it was indeed unopened. Then my conversation turned to whether I had the energy to stop, turn around and pick it up. I really wish I had gone back for it. I would have called it my Roadkill GU. Bummer – missed opportunity. The funny thing is then during the rest of the run I’m looking carefully at all the GU litter considering if they had GU in them. It creates a very funny picture in my mind.
During these really hard miles, Nicole came running toward me on her way to the last turn around. She asked if I had time for a hug. I think we both needed a hug at that moment. This brief moment did as much for me emotionally has having Bridget run with me during the first 13 miles. I thought Nicole had gained ground on me, which is typical on race day, so I started focusing on making sure when she caught me I would be able to go with her to the finish. It actually made those last few miles go by faster. Before I knew it, I was down to the last 2 miles. I couldn’t believe that I actually had run so far already. It wasn’t the prettiest of marathons but I didn’t really care.
The crowds at the end were fantastic. There is a tight U turn right before you go into the finishers shoot. I could see my mom sitting right there. I knew the rest of my family was there but I was really kind of in a strange place and couldn’t really hear them. A little like being in a bubble and everyone and everything sounds all muted. I did hear the volunteer announce to me “left for second loop straight for the finish” I felt such a huge rush of pride, relief, happiness knowing it was my turn to the finish.
I started the run in 8th place in my division and ended the run in 8th place. This alone was a huge accomplishment for me as I have always lost ground on the run. I might be on my way to becoming a respectable runner 🙂
One of my favorite pictures of the day was this one that Andrew posted to Facebook:
“I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my mom could definitely beat up your mom. She is about to finish her Ironman. Wow!!!”
He told me later that I didn’t look like I felt that good right then. He was right. This was difficult, it hurt, but I never felt like quitting. It is all worth it knowing that I am an IRONMAMA!