My recap of the weekend. With a lot of random memories that I remembered along the way!
1.2 Mile swim. 56 Mile bike ride. 13.1 mile run.
Back in 2014 I was in Puerto Rico on vacation. The Ironman 70.3 happened to be taking place there that weekend right outside my hotel. I was in awe. From the excitement all weekend long to the race itself. I dragged the kids out to watch the swim early morning. To compete in one of these I thought you have to be a great swimmer. This is where I first saw that people were doing whatever they could to just make it through the swim…backstroke, breast stroke, anything… We went back and forth all day long and saw people doing whatever it took just to cross the finish line. This is where I decided that I wanted to do this someday. Although I didn’t realize it would be only a couple years later.
After I qualified for Boston last October I met up with my coach to talk about what I wanted to do next. Train for Boston was first. But I knew this was what I wanted to do next. But I was scared and embarrassed to even bring it up. I could barely swim and I didn’t even own a bike. I had hardly been on a bike in 30 years. What was I thinking?! Well, when I brought up triathlons I was afraid to say I wanted to do this distance. I had only ever completed 1 sprint tri! I pretty much doggie paddled through it and it was on a rented bike! And I’m terrified of fish! I was waiting to hear “Let’s start with a few smaller ones and maybe talk about it next year”. Nope. He was super supportive and we immediately put a plan together of races and everything I would need. From a wetsuit to a bike and everything in between. And he nicely answered about 1,000 stupid, crazy questions along the way also. Tri training began in May after I completed the Boston Marathon. 1 sprint in June. 1 Olympic in July. And the Half Ironman in August.
Physically, a 70.3 does not hurt as much as a marathon. But, mentally I found it way more challenging. And way more fun! In marathons I wonder if I will hit my paces or if I will have to walk. In this I wondered if I would drown or crash. Okay, maybe not that I would drown. But that I would have a panic attack in the water and cling on to the kayak for dear life. Which many people did do yesterday. The panic attacks are very real and I still worry about the one I went through back in June. Crashing is also a very real thing to me. And I have fallen more often than not on long rides. So, my worries were big and scary. On top of all this, I’ve been dealing with hip bursitis and tendinitis for the past few weeks. I had a cortisone shot on Tuesday and was just hoping for the best. So I was excited and worried about this new huge dream.
Saturday we drove out to packet pickup at Gunstock mountain. The excitement was contagious. There were so many people there…pros, newbies like myself and everything in between. The Ironman merchandise is similar to Disney world….everything you see is amazing and you NEED it…
The ironman website states the following: IRONMAN is a statement of excellence, passion, commitment. It’s a test of physical toughness and mental strength. IRONMAN is about persevering, enduring and being part of something larger than ourselves.
It sure felt like this.
Geoffrey and I each bought a hoodie, mug, car sticker and backpack. And Geoffrey bought a hat. He has a thing with hats. We nervously bought all this with hopes of being able to use it all. I knew on the run I would be thinking about the hoodie I desperately wanted to be able to wear. Sometimes , that alone gets you through.
After check-in we drove down to the park where the event was being held to check in our bikes. This is the first time I’ve ever checking in my bike the day before the event. It felt pretty official! Geoff went to complete his short bike and run and I went to check in my bike and meet my friend Beth to swim. We went over to the lake and saw the swim buoys were already set up. O.M.G…….that is way far out there…..what?! I have to swim that?! The beach was very rocky and shallow for a good ways out. We made our way out there and swam almost to the last buoy. The water was warm but very choppy with some big swells from speed boats that were nearby. Two thoughts were in my head: one -this was like battle with the chop- it was going to be a hard swim and two- I could do it. I’m terrible at sighting to my right. This was my first triathlon where the swim was clockwise. I knew I would swim way off course. But I knew I would somehow get it done.
Geoffrey checked his bike in and went out for a short swim. As we were leaving we heard a tire explode. Someone’s tires were too full in the heat. We ran back into transition and let some air out of our tires just in case.
We drove back to the house and met my sister for dinner, went home and got packed up and headed to bed.
We woke up on race morning at 3am. We got out the door and headed down to Ellacoya state park where the race was being held. About 5 miles away from the park a car ahead of us was driving very dangerously. Driving all over the road….way too fast and then way too slow. I thought that this person was either really excited for the race or was still out from partying the night before. Once we hit traffic with about 2 miles to go the car was swerving back and forth on the road. Finally the door opened and the woman got out of the car, butt in hand, and stumbled over to my window. This was not good. She was asking what was going on at the park. She was excited to go watch and wanted to know if it cost money to get in. I was worried for this women and everyone else who was out on the roads. When we got to the park the lots were full. She stopped her car and proceeded to talk to every single volunteer and police along the side of the road. They clearly said you cannot turn in. We heard this in our car multiple times. About 10 feet ahead she proceeded to turn into the cones anyways. We saw them yelling and running towards her. I don’t know what happened as we got the hell away at that point. I was hoping that there were enough police around at that moment that her driving was done for the day.
Looking back we should have just parked along the side road like everyone else. But I was panicked and not really thinking. The signs said to drive to gunstock mountain and take the shuttle buses. I didn’t realize Gunstock was 15 minutes away. As we were halfway there and stuck behind buses I started to panic. We started to panic. My panic was louder. We pulled into Gunstock at 5:45. Transition closed at 6:15. We grabbed our stuff and got to the bus. They let us on immediately and we were off. We got to transition at 6:10. Geoffrey ran to the bathroom and I ran to get marked and pump up my tires. The entire time the announcer was yelling at us to get out of transition. I threw my stuff down nowhere near as organized as I wanted and pumped up my tires. I grabbed my wetsuit, body glide, cap, timer and goggles and ran out of transition just to hear the pro men gun go off. Once we were at the beach I have 45 minutes before my wave went off. It took about 20 of those minutes to wait in line for the bathroom. I had lost Geoffrey and was looking all over to wish him luck but needed to get my wetsuit on. I saw his group already lined up on the beach so I knew I had missed him which made me sad. Hopefully I would see him on the course a few times. I got my wetsuit on and headed over to my wave. Just then Geoffrey came up behind me. I was so happy to have seen him before the start. We said our goodbyes and he headed to his wave group. A couple minutes later his wave was off and going.
My wave was 2 after his. We were standing in the water and I was towards the back trying to avoid some of the chaos. A lot of women were nervously joking at this point but it was reassuring that everyone was nervous. I washed my goggles at least 15 times in those last 60 seconds. Then, we were off! I slowly headed in at the back. But, before I knew it I was in what felt like and wrestling match with about 4 people. The first 10 minutes were like this. I’d swim and then swim into someone or get kicked or pushed. I’ve gotten used to this and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I tried very hard to keep swimmers on my left. But as it spread out I started swimming more and more to my left. So far to my left that the kayaker was waving at me to swim back on course. I swam right for a few minutes and saw swimmers again. Still yellow caps. Yay!! I went back to my thoughts and swam on. This time almost straight into the raft that was off to the left of the course. Moved right again. This continued on and on. I actually saw some blue and white caps out there from the waves in front of me. They weren’t actually swimming- they were hanging on to kayaks. I felt bad for them but at the same time happy I passed someone from other waves. When we turned the last buoy the sun was so bright it was hard to see. At this point I was wondering how much my time was suffering from swimming so far off course. I finally came out of the water. Mostly still my yellow caps around but some from waves after me and some from waves before me.
I did not time my swim but I know I started exactly at 7:16 so When my watch showed 7:59 I knew I didn’t do as badly as I thought I did. I wanted to swim under 40 minutes and knew I could but I was okay with anything under 45. At this point my next worry came up: getting my wetsuit off. This has been a struggle. I read there would be wetsuit strippers and hoped they would be there and able me get it off fairly quickly. I ran out of the water and along the transition area and there was a group of high school students ready and waiting. This teenage boy yelled at me to get on my butt. So I did and he wound up and pulled my wetsuit off so fast I thought he was going to launch it back in the lake. I jumped up happily and yelled “ You are the best!!” and ran on to transition. At this point I heard someone cheering for me and realized it was Coach Jorge! I ran into transition and put my bike shoes and bike helmet on and grabbed my bike. Coach Jorge was still yelling so I thought I was going slow and probably should hurry up. I headed out of transition and on the course with many, many others.
The next 3:18 went by very fast. I have never raced this far and have heard about not hammering the ride too much or you will suffer on the run (mostly Brett warning me not to go too fast). And I knew there were some pretty big climbs on this bike course. I knew the worst of the climbs were miles 1-12 and 44-56 on the way back in of the out and back bike course. I rode the course about 3 weeks ago. There was one hill from mile 10.5-12 where I remember thinking that if I stopped I would never start again. So I was anxious to get this out of the way. I was making my way up the climb with many, many others. Some people were walking their bikes up this hill. It was complete silence except for hearing everyone breathe hard. Then, I heard a siren and saw police cars and the lead pace cars coming through. The leaders were on their way back already! Wow!! This was pretty awesome to see and definitely took my mind off the hill.
Before I knew it, the hill was over. Woohoo! I knew there were several more bad hills but I also knew THE hill I was worried about was done. YAY!! It was nowhere near as bad as I remembered. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the ride. My friend Beth, who had completed the swim leg of a relay team, was like my own little rolling rally on the course. This was amazing for me. To hear your name and getting such awesome support so far out on the course was incredible and a huge lift!!! Right before I headed into the turnaround I happened to see the green machine coming my way. I screamed for Geoffrey but he was focused and passing someone so I knew he didn’t see me. I knew he was on and having a good race and this made me incredibly happy!
I got passed by some of the younger age groups but I also passed my share of people too. I knew didn’t go too hard and my legs were in good shape. I drank 3 bottles- 2 skratch and one Gatorade from the aid station- trying to stay hydrated. I ate like I planned. I knew if it all came together I could have a good run and make up some good time. I biked the last few miles feeling like a champion. We were coming back into the cheering sections and it was just a phenomenal atmosphere. I survived the bike without any major issues- a side from one drive into the ditch but luckily got back on the road without falling. While my bike was on the slower side for good triathletes, I was happy as this is something that is still pretty new to me. I was feeling great. My sister and my kids and niece and nephews would be there. And I was heading to my run. My old friend.
I jumped off the bike and was heading over to transition. This was the first time in the day my hip started to act up. I ignored it. Racked my bike, changed shoes, ate a gel and threw my headband on and I was off. My hip hurt but it was definitely bearable. I was so happy to be on the run. So many people were suffering. So many walkers. I felt like I passed a hundred people over the first couple miles. I was surprised at how hilly the run was. Mostly small hills but a couple big hills. Around 3 miles I saw Geoffrey. He ran over and we hugged and kissed quickly. He looked amazing- this was all I needed to see. I knew he had this!
At this point I really, really needed to go to the bathroom. I didn’t want to stop. But I had a long way to go. So I stopped and waited in line for the porta-potty. Used the potty and headed back out. I think this was about 4 miles. This was when my hip really started to hurt. The hills and stopping for a minute took a toll. Hard. I kept running and knew that I would finish my first loop soon. You go right by the finish at the end of your first loop. The crowds that were there cheering and that finish line were a beautiful sight. One more loop. 6.5 more miles. My kids and family were there! The finish of what I saw others doing a few years ago! I took my other gel. At this point it was HOT. I was grabbing 2 cups of water at every stop. One to drink and one to pour over me. I saw Geoffrey again and we high fived. It’s these little things that get you through. I continued on and this is about when my stomach went to hell. The last gel was a bad idea. I refused to walk. But I was suffering. Just keep moving. I was still passing one after the next but my times were dropping drastically- from low 8’s earlier to over 9’s now. I didn’t care at this point. My only focus was to finish and not get sick. I saw Geoffrey one last time. I know I looked bad at this point. He yelled that I’m okay. I felt bad. I wanted to look strong. I didn’t want to worry him. I thought about running back and telling him I was okay. But no, that wasn’t happening. I went around the last turn around and I knew just a few more miles. At this point I just decided that if I had to get sick I would and then just move on. But I felt like if I started to get sick I would never stop. The last 3 miles went by so slowly. Between my hip and my stomach, I was in pretty bad shape. Mentally I think I handled this all pretty well. But at 12.5 miles I could hear the finish line- I started to cry knowing that I was going to get there. Heading down the finish was awesome. Geoffrey was there and my sister, Maura, was there. I almost crashed right before the finish. I didn’t realize a group of runners was heading out on their second loop. They turned right and I turned left to head to the finish. That finish line. Was. Amazing. The volunteers took my timing band and they gave me my medal and hat. I started laughing because I knew Geoffrey would be so excited for another hat. I cried. And decided immediately that I need to sign up for another now and would it be bad to ditch my marathons for another one of these?!
I didn’t know my time but figured I just missed 6 hours with a final run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes, 8:50 pace. I KNEW Geoffrey killed it and was SO proud and excited for him!!!
I felt pretty rough for a while. My stomach was pretty upset for several hours. We were there for a couple hours while the kids swam and doing different things. We eventually packed up out gear and headed to the line to get on the shuttle bus to Gunstock. Ironman 70.3 has a very strict 8 ½ cutoff time. We were about 15 minutes from this time. As we were waiting in line we saw volunteers and families cheering as athletes came in JUST before the cutoff. It was one of my favorite sights of the day….I was all teary eyed watching them. WOW!!!! These people fought for over 8 hours to finish this thing. Seriously inspiring.
An amazing race. The volunteers, crowds, athletes…it was all SO amazing. I am ready to go after this and get good at it. I worked hard and trained hard but there is a lot I learned and a whole lot I can do better. It was hard and scary being so new at it all and I’m very proud that we did this.
The best part of the day? When I finished my 12 year old daughter decided that she is doing this someday with me. That it simply the best ❤