|Spotted on pre-race ride. I knew it'd be a good day.|
Headed out of transition, I found training buddy Kristy, which was good, as we had planned to swim together. The line to get to the water was huge and I just wanted in, so I pushed and elbowed my way up to the front of the line with Kristy following closely behind and apologizing to everyone for my rudeness. We jumped into the dark and murky water, swam the 300 meters right to the front line, towards the right but not all the way. And wouldn't you know, with 3,000 starters, I ran into a familiar face treading right in that space-- Jerome Harrison, Jennifer's husband, who made me feel a little better about not having swum a single stroke in my wetsuit in 2 months when he confessed that he hadn't been in his for three years. The three of us chatted and joked and observed that the race was starting way late. The nerves never came.
Without much warning, the cannon fired, I put the head down and churned out a good 60 hard strokes, then took the effort down, lifted my head to look around, and practically cheered out loud upon realizing that somehow, I'd managed to find myself almost entirely in open water.
|It was about this dark when we got in|
|Love the mass swim starts. Really|
Coming back in, I continued to blindly trust the advice of bunch of strangers on Slowtwitch and stayed far right, way out in no man's land, swimming alone. I felt good and strong but I was so isolated out there that I feared I was way off course. Yet eventually, the course curved out to meet me, I celebrated the smart line I'd taken, and enjoyed the easy effort all the way in and out of the water.
Swim: 59:02/ 5th in Age Group
I didn't see a clock getting out of the water and hadn't started my watch, so I had no idea how the swim had gone. A very helpful spectator shouted "you're under an hour!" which widened my smile as that is always the goal. T1 has been a weakness of mine this year, I've gotten lost so many times, so when I arrived to the bags and a volunteer already had found my bag amongst the piles and was holding it out for me, I was perhaps overly thankful ("thank you, thank you, so much for not making me find this on my own!"). I got through the transition pretty quickly and then was happy to see All-Access Karin as I exited the tent to find my bike. "I found my bag!!!" I yelled to her. Small victories. She jogged behind me as I turned down the correct row for once and ran straight to the volunteer who was holding my bike. "And I found my bike!!!," I continued to narrate. Has there ever been anyone so damn happy about getting through transition? I am not so sure.
|Mutual Friendly Feeling Friend Livetweeting My Success|
If there's one word to describe my plan for the bike it was: conservative. I had power targets, but after the Kona meltdown, my primary goal was to ride as easily and in-control as possible so as to give myself the best chance to digest my nutrition properly and to set myself up to have a good run, which I have never been able to do at the Ironman distance. This was not, in any way, a day to take anything even remotely resembling a risk.
Once I started rolling, it became immediately apparent that this was going to be a much tougher day than anticipated. The wind was already gusting strongly, and I knew it would only get worse. So I hunkered down, prepared myself mentally, and set out at a sustainable pace, repeating over and over "easy, easy, easy." I settled in, tried to take it all in, had a little Fan Girl moment when I saw World Champ Mirinda Carfrae out doing a training run along the Beeline, laughed at how pretty much every guy that passed me was wearing the same damn race kit, and just had a grand ole' time.
|Who wants to help me get aerodynamic before next season???!! Yikes.|
Making the turn-around to start Lap 2, I was still in an awesome mood, smiling and waving when I saw first my parents, then Katy, Carolyn & Bill, then Jennifer Harrison, then Karin & Dusty, then my parents again, with my dad now yelling out "P-2, P-2" which has become a joke between us ever since Mont-Tremblant.
|Grand ole time. For now|
Lap Three was even worse, with the headwind making the gradual 18-ish mile climb feel like one of the mountains I tackled while riding in Spain in 2012 and sucking all of my will to live. My power dropped, my whole body ached from trying to steady my bike in the winds, and that climb to the top seemed like it would never, ever end. I started watching the pro race coming back down, just really, really wanting to see people I knew descending back into town because it would mean I was at least getting closer to the top. I knew Maggie was ahead, racing in her first pro race and wearing a bright pink helmet and at moments, all I wanted to see in the whole world was that damn pink helmet because it'd offer tangible proof that this stretch would, in fact, end at some point and I wouldn't be climbing into that wind for the rest of my life.
|I did buy the pictures and will replace this|
We turned around finally and as we got a tailwind combined with a downhill, it's like the whole world shifted. My will to live immediately returned, but that last climb had taken so much out of me that I decided that I needed to take the last 18 miles nice and easy. I settled in, taking in nutrition and trying to relax. Cathy flew by, at which point I reminded myself not to relax too much. I hung a legal distance back from her for a few minutes and then passed again, half expecting that leap frog game to go on for the rest of the ride (it didn't). By the time we reached town, I thought I'd dropped Cathy, but as I getting off my bike slowly and like a total rookie, she rolled right past with an expert flying dismount, got to the line first, and bolted off to transition. Game on.
Time: 5:19:07, 1st in Age Group, 2nd off the bike, and about a million (or 10-15) minutes slower than anticipated due to the wind
Entering transition with Cathy and knowing that we were both 1-2 in the Amateur race and 1-2 in our age group certainly lit a fire under my ass. We both transitioned in under 90 seconds, no messing around. I'm pretty proud of that one, especially because that included actual tying of shoe laces for me (no speed laces in this race, the first time I've ever done that).
As Cathy and I headed out for the run right with each other, part of me was excited (this is real racing and it's what I live for), but a bigger part was absolutely terrified.
|Photo by Kerry Yndestad. Right out of T2|
|We ran this close for a loooong time|
|Still lovin' life at mile 4|
Once I got going, I saw my parents (they were everywhere), and again, they knew exactly the right thing to say: hang in there. Keep moving forward. Just get to the next aid station. And so I did, moving slowly, my head filled with cranky thoughts, but moving forward, nonetheless.
|Somewhat less happy (Photo by Kerry Yndestad)|
Shortly thereafter, I passed my friend AJ, who was starting his first loop. He asked how I was feeling, I either said "bad" or "horrible" or "this totally sucks," I can't remember, but he offered me a container of BASE Performance Salts, assuring me that he had plenty. I know, I know, I know, nothing new on race day, but I was pretty desperate at that time, had dropped my own stash of salt at some point, and had heard good things about this product, so I took the chance and started using it.
Maybe it was the BASE, maybe it was the Coke that I'd just started taking at every aid stations, maybe it was the short walk breaks I'd started to take as I was drinking that Coke, maybe it was just seeing AJ, but starting at mile 19, everything turned around. It was like some miracle from the Ironman gods. For the first time ever for me, I managed to pull myself out of an Ironman run funk. My pace picked back up, my mood improved, the smile came back, when I saw my parents again they said, "oh, you look so much better."
|Drama on the Ironman Blog (which is so cool!)|
|Head down, grinding it out (Photo by Kerry Yndestad)|
I had a moment of shock but then I took off like a bat out of hell, recalling my days as an 800 meter runner and countless quarter and half mile repeats I'd done on the track this year. I took that last corner hard, I got up on my toes and pumped my arms, seeing 9:59 on the clock and sprinting, sprinting, sprinting as fast as I could, eyes glued to the clock, watching the seconds tick by, sprinting more, not even pausing long enough to remember to fist bump or raise my arms or jump or do any sort of celebration whatsoever, but just trying to cross that line before it clicked over to 10....
And, nine hours, fifty-nine minutes, and thirty-four seconds after I'd started, I crossed that line, grinning ear to ear, thrilled about the time, thrilled about the win, but so much more than anything, thrilled that I'd defeated my own demons, that I'd hung tough when the fears threatened to defeat me, and that I found the strength to fight and to bounce back from the lowest of lows, not just today, but in all the days before.
|Bonus points for both feet off the ground (Photo by Kerry Yndestad)|
Total: 9:59:34, 1st in Age Group, 1st Overall Amateur
|Too happy to remember to pose|
And that, finally, is a wrap on 2014. As for 2015, I have new ideas almost every day but am leaving a lot of question marks on my calendar for a while. I'm too busy eating pizza and drinking wine. With the extent to which I've been gorging on pizza, you'd think it was a food I'd deprived myself of in some way during the season-- not so much. Pizza was my night-before long ride dinner all season long. What can I say, I just really like pizza. Kristy said it best when she wrote that she'd be taking a "fat and happy offseason." Indeed.