“We’re all different, so even though someone is getting a skill before you it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough; it just means you have to wait a little bit, and the skill will come when it comes”- Laurie Hernandez
It is time for the race story.
Pre-race evening: Aimee and I made sure we had our special needs bags ready. (These are bags we can have halfway through the bike and run that contain any thing we want for the race. Mine contained Fritos for salt, Base salt, Aleve, extra hydration and fuel, Tums, blister pads, and my run bag had also a jacket in case it got chilly after dark.) We also applied a lot of race tattoos, our number, age, Ironman logo, BCRF logo, Team Sirius logo, and a special MBK tattoo from Meredith because she wanted us to remember she was cheering for us even though she was miles ahead.
Race Day: We were up and out the door by 4:45 am after having a small meal. They dropped us just outside the transition area and we went in to put air in our tires, put our hydration and fuel on the bike, and then walk about a mile to the race start. The rest, dropped our special needs bags in the appropriate locations and waited for us.
Time went by fast and before we knew it, we needed to put on our wetsuits. Excitement was building as the pro race began and the age groupers got into the queue. Finally, our race began. Since it was a rolling start, it took 15 minutes until we reached the water’s edge.
Swim 2.4 miles: Even though we had not been in the open water since last summer and I had never done a rolling start before, my entrance into the water went fairly smoothly. We had been warned many times that the water would be murky and hard to see. Both of us envisioned, Hagg Lake or Blue Lake as they are murky, but this was more than murky, it was downright black! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me let alone any feet or arms that might hit me. (We later were told the lake is also full of water moccasins, a fact I was glad to know after the race) We had seeded ourselves in the proper estimated time finish and for the first 50 yards, I actually had enough space, but as we all began sighting for the buoys, that space closed up. It took 2 or 3 buoys before I was able to find space again, then it became a regular pattern of space for awhile, then as I neared a buoy, crowded. I felt like I zigzagged quite a bit, but never felt overwhelmed. Swimming down the final half mile in the canal was very interesting. The crowds could walk along beside us and cheer. The sides of the canal were shallow and I could see a few swimmers standing or walking through the water. Finally, I saw the last buoy to turn to the finish. I rounded that and a few strokes later was hauled out of the water and up the steps by volunteers.
T1: Upon exiting the water, we were guided over to the wetsuit strippers where they helped us quickly get our our wetsuits off. Then I headed up and got my transition bag and entered the changing tent. This was a muddy mess of a a place with women everywhere trying to get on their bike gear and out to the course. I tried to do it quickly, but not so fast I would forget anything. After a few minutes, I was headed out to find my bike.
Bike 110 miles (Ironman shortened the bike course by 2 miles. I don’t know why): One of my pre race fears was not being able to get my shoes clipped in as I started the bike and causing others to crash into me because I was in the way. Happy to say, that didn’t happen. I clipped in easily and was on my way. The first 17 miles or so are within the town and working our way out to the Hardy Toll road. Because all week, I felt disoriented on direction, I hoped that the course would be well marked and it was. There were often police controlling intersections so we could safely pass with out being hit by cars. I felt good to start, my legs were good, I wasn’t too tired from the swim, I had gotten in my 100 calories and water immediately following the swim and thought things were going okay. Then, I became nauseous and I couldn’t figure out why. That lasted until mile 36 when I remembered what Meredith had said about Base salt. Maybe I was not replacing it quick enough, so I pulled out my Base salt tube and took a lick. Within a minute, I started to feel better, so I figured that was the problem. After about an hour I finally had a routine that worked, every 5 minutes I alternated between the Skratch chews and the Base salt. I am pretty sure I didn’t get enough calories on the bike, but at least I could keep going without nausea. I was particularly happy that I had made it to the toll road before the pros and done their turn around. In fact, I saw all the pro women coming around for their first lap, then again when they lapped me. Meredith was in second at the time and Michelle Vesterby third. This was one of the highlights for the day because I have been riding with them on Zwift and this time it was the real deal, they passed me and in seconds were gone just like on the screen! I saw Aimee a couple of times and she was about 6 miles ahead of me. Another highlight was being on the course with Johnny Agar and his dad. He is a young man with cerebral palsy who had a goal to finish an Ironman with his dad towing him on the swim, bike and run, but to work hard and walk that last meters to the finish line himself. I saw a photo and he did just that. Very inspiring. One of my moments of happiness was being able to help a fellow rider who had blown through his CO2 cartridges trying to change a tire. I gave him one of mine, but as I rode off a few minutes later, I heard a loud bang like a tire pop, so he might not have made it. The low points of the ride were two things, one, was the scary situation created by many elite age groupers who were violating the rules and riding in packs or drafting. The rules clearly state that there are to be 6 bike lengths between riders and there is no drafting, or passing on the right side. Several times I was swallowed up by giant packs of riders passing me on both my right and left sides. It was scary and unsafe and I hated every second that they were near me. It’s cheating and it unfair to the racers who are trying to get to Kona by following the rules. The second low point was around mile 60 my IT band/quads started to spasm or get inflamed. All I know is that pedaling became very painful and I started going slower and slower. I had a good pace going at the beginning, but by the end I was well over my estimated finish time which did not set me up very well for the run.
T2: After finishing the bike, I knew that my leg would be okay once I got off and started walking. It felt better immediately. I grabbed my transition bag and headed into the changing tent. The volunteers at this race were incredible, and sometimes almost too helpful. I had set up my bag so that I could take things out in order, that way I wouldn’t forget anything. My volunteer proceeded to start taking everything out at once, so I struggled a little to make sure I had everything. I didn’t get my Base salt tube or the pack of Tums I had put in there. I headed out on the run and had about 6:45 to finish it.
Run 26.2 miles: The start of the run after any bike leg feels very weird as the legs adjust to a different motion. I have to constantly remind myself that after a mile or so it would feel right, so I just kept moving. It wasn’t long before I came to the first aid station. I knew I needed some calories so I did the very thing I knew not to do and ate a Clif gel. It didn’t take long before my stomach was not happy about that. From then on, anything I ate didn’t seem to want to absorb. I kept a decent pace for a little while, then walked some, ran some and just generally kept moving forward. A really nice man from Costa Rica was walking. He was an elite age grouper, but was struggling with leg pain. He was 4 miles from the finish, I was just 4 miles from the start of the run. We chatted some and he said he was frustrated with the cheating drafters on the bike course as well. I would run ahead for a little, then when I got to an aid station, go through it and try to drink and get some calories. He would catch up, and say,”there you are!” We did this for his last 3 miles, then he moved on ahead and the last I saw of him was the final turn around where we gave high fives and he said, “good luck!’ and took the path that leads to the finish. About mile nine, my leg started to cramp up again and I could not bend my knee. I would walk until it went away, then run until it came back. Finally, I reached my special needs bag with some Aleve, and the Tums I had put in it as well as Base salt. This was enough to get me going, but I knew I was getting close to the 17 mile cut off. Around mile 13 I found a nice woman named Elizabeth Bennett who was on her last lap and would easily finish. I asked her if she would carry my honor list with her across the finish line just in case I didn’t make it and she happily agreed to do it. By this time, it was dark and the running crowd was thinning out. I was on my second lap and came to an aid station where Denis found me. He said Aimee was about two minutes ahead of me so I tried to run and catch up to her. He stayed with me and I finally caught her. She wasn’t doing too well and didn’t want to hold me back, Denis texted her husband and Dad and told them where she was so they could find her and I reluctantly went on ahead. It was getting close to the cut of at the 17 mile mark and I was not able to run much because of my leg. I just kept moving forward in hopes that I could make it. Mile 17 came and there was an Ironman official to tell me that I had not made the cutoff. He removed my timing chip, and my day was over just like that.
You would think that would be a deflating moment to be pulled off the course 9 miles before completion, but it wasn’t. In fact, I felt pretty okay with myself because I knew that I had not given up, the rules of the game just got me, and I knew that both mentally and physically, I could have kept going if there had not been that intermediate cutoff. I felt surprisingly accomplished even though I only completed 93% of the course. I didn’t get to hear Mike Reilly call me an Ironman, and I wish I could have, but I am not discouraged. I gave it all I had with what I had on the day and I feel like that is a win. One day, I will try again.
Thank you for following along. An endeavor like this cannot be done without the help of others so I would like to thank Aimee for being the best training partner and friend for this race, she did the work with me side by side and deserves congratulations for getting as far as she did. I am glad we did this together. Thanks to Wendi and Tami for being our bike trainer workout friends during the cold winter days and for their support as we prepared. Charles, who came along and lifted the load by doing the simple things like dishes and cooking while we were relaxing. Kevin and Diane who came out to cheer us on. My parents deserve thanks for their support and for staying at our house while we were gone to make sure things were running smoothly, and also to David and Zoe who supported me from afar. I thank the Team Sirius Tri Club members for their support in my fundraising and encouragement. My special thanks goes to Meredith who has been an extraordinary help to me in more ways than I can list. I am humbled that she took an interest in me and now so thankful for her friendship. And finally, to Adam and Denis who put up with a less than clean house at times, took up the slack in the chores and cooking, and generally were helpful in dozens of ways, showing me love and encouragement and putting up with all my triathlon talk.
This is the end of my blog, but not the end of triathlon for me. I will spend the remainder of the summer doing shorter races. I want to thank everyone who followed, and supported me, and especially everyone who donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I will leave my fundraising page open until the Ironman World Championships on October 13. Please take a moment and donate today to this effort to end breast cancer.
Thanks for your support!