I spent the first week post-Ironman on the beach, gorging myself on ice cream and wine. I spent the second week post-Ironman feeling sorry for myself, and attempting a 5 mile run that, shockingly to me, hurt pretty badly. I spent the third week post-Ironman trying to decide whether I’d do the Olympic Distance tri two weeks later. I spent the fourth week post-Ironman deciding that I wasn’t recovered enough to race another race, so I volunteered instead.
I’ve ridden my bike once and swam once since Ironman. I’ve run maybe 6 times, longest distance 9 miles. Running is slow, and not all that comfortable. I get sore really quickly.
I signed up for the Richmond Marathon on November 12, so I’ve got 7 weeks to get ready for it. Hopefully I can start getting some longer distance in this weekend. This will be my first marathon without a bike and a swim before it and I’m equally dreading it and excited for it. I’m also going to go back to lifting today, so here’s hoping that goes well too.
The cooler weather is perfect for running, not so great for biking. But I haven’t been eager to get on the bike much lately anyway. Here’s to fall and spending Sundays watching football instead of on an all day bike ride!
This is the nerdy stuff, but it’s the kind of thing I would have liked to have read before I did the race. So here it goes, feel free to skip.
I tapered for 2 weeks and felt sluggish during the entire taper. My last long run was 21 miles, 5 weeks to the day before the race. My last long bike was 95 miles (hilly), 2 weeks before the race.
I was down to 151 lbs before I started the taper, and then I quit weighing myself. I haven’t been on the scale in 3 weeks now. I’m giving it another week of recovery before I care again.
I started loading up on water in the week leading up to the race. I did not carb load. I maintained a high-er protein diet throughout the taper (100+ g per day). I did eat more carbs in the two weeks leading up to the race, just because I was craving them. But it wasn’t a huge increase.
The night before the race I ate pecan crusted tilapia, mashed potatoes, a little asparagus, and a glass of red wine. I was in bed by 9:00, asleep by 9:30.
The day of the race I ate the following:
4:30 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.
- Hard Boiled Egg – 70 calories
- 1/2 of an Avocado – 140 calories
- Banana – 100 calories
- Coffee with cream and sugar (x 2) – 100 calories
- Bread + Jelly (2 bites) – 80 calories
490 calorie breakfast
- Hour 0 – 1/2 PB&J – 200 calories
- Hour 1 – Honey Stinger Chomps – 160 calories
- 1/3 bottle of perform – 80 calories
- Hour 2 – Honey Stiner Chomps – 160 calories
- Hour 3 – Honey Stinger Waffle – 160 calories
- Hour 4 – Oatmeal Cream Pie + Swallow of Coke – 200 Calories
- Hour 5 Honey Stinger Waffle – 160 Calories
- + 2 banana pieces – 60 calories
1180 calories on the bike = 196.7 calories per hour
- Hour 0 – Gel – 110 Calories
- Hour 1 – Gel – 110 Calories
- Hour 2 – Gel – 110 Calories
- Hour 3 – Gel – 110 Calories
- Miles 6 – 24, about 20 calories of coke at each aid station = 280 calories
720 calories on the run = 137 calories per hour
Total calories consumed before the end of the race: 2,290
Estimated calorie burn during the race: 6,000 – 7,000
Post – Race Food Intake
- Apple Juice
- 2 Slices of Pizza
- 1 Beer
- Cheetos from the vending machine
About 3 miles from the finish line, I realized… “holy crap, I’m about to finish my first marathon!”. That was followed up with, “holy crap, I’m about to finish my first Ironman!”. And that pretty much that sums up the last three miles.
But, there were 23 miles prior to that, so let me start back at the beginning of the run. After getting off the bike, I moseyed over to the changing tent with my run bag, and opened it up to find such gems as a photo of my husband in a fake mustache with a speech bubble saying “I moustash-k you to keep going!!”. Ah, have I mentioned how amazing my friends and husband are? Seriously.
As soon as I got off the bike all the pain of bike riding subsided. No more shoulder pain, butt pain, back pain… nothin’. I had lots of attention in the changing tent, and one lady (whose nametag said “captain”) even came over and wiped my feet off, saying “there’s nothing worse than grass in your socks. Nothing worse”. Wow.
For the run I put on a Moving Comfort tank top, a Moving Comfort running skort, some socks, and my ‘ole trusty Brooks Adrenalines. And I matched. All grape and teal. I also run with a visor (much to my husband’s chagrin), and I had stocked a race belt with the following: Race number, 1 bag of Honey Stinger Chomps, 5 Cliff Shots in Chocolate Cherry, and my Inspirational Mile list and my mantra from Arien.
I stopped for some more sunscreen, and got totally lathered up. I was worried that I had gotten a little burnt on the bike ride. I grabbed a sip of water, and then stopped for more hugs and kisses on the way out of the transition area. Mile number 1 was dedicated to Ann and Henry for being so AWESOME and coming down to the race! They were going to have to leave before I finished up so they could get to work on Monday morning, so as I was running out of transiiton, I shouted “Mile 1 is for Ann and Henry!” (original, I know.)
Oh, mile 1. Mile 1 was jus a little jaunt down the street to a bridge. The bridge was closed to traffic, and had an aid station setup in the middle of it. I didn’t know the run course at all (someone said it was flat, so I went with it – all I knew was that it was a two loop course that takes you right by the finish line as you head out for your second loop… so cruel). So as we’re heading up the bridge and I’m shuffling along on my post-112-mile-bike-ride legs, I see all these people coming back towards me, and I think “man they’re almost done. That must be awesome.”
Then, I get to the top of the bridge and hit the turnaround. And realize that all those people were only a half mile ahead of me. Woohoo!
It was quite warm at 3:15 in the afternoon when I started the run. I took ice at the first aid station and stuffed it down my sports bra. That would become my signature move at every aid station until mile 13, when I realized my feet were soaking wet. Sometimes I would put it down the back of my shirt, and I’d be running around with these little rolls of ice cubes in my shirt. I took my first gel at that first aid station, trying to get ready for the marathon ahead.
You finished mile 1 at the base of the bridge. Mile 2 started towards downtown, running around some city blocks in a little jog out to the two loop course. I felt like I started to get my legs back in the first couple of miles, and they were feeling pretty good. Miles 1-6 were uneventful. I took a second gel at the 1 hour mark on the run, and remember being super surprised that an hour had gone by already. My plan was 1 gel per hour on the run, since that was what I had practiced with at home. The gels, as I said above, were Cliff Shot Chocolate Cherry, and I can honestly now say that if I ever see one of those again I will absolutely vomit at the site of it. But more on that later.
Hour 2 of the run was pretty OK. I was really looking forward to the sun going down behind the buildings and offering up some shade on the totally unshaded course. I think we started to get that around 5:00. I started to see the pro women who were winning the race running back towards me with their bike escorts, and I have to say, they didn’t have the pep in their step I expected they would have. Guess it’s good to know that even pros get tired in Ironman.
My mental plan for the run was to break it into 10 miles, 10 miles, and a 10k. Say it with me now… but, the aid stations kind of screwed that up. The aid stations were about .6 miles from each mile marker, so I would hit a mile marker, then run to the aid station, then walk through the aid station (plus a little extra) then run about 2/10ths of a mile, and hit another mile marker. Around mile 8 or 9 I realized my left foot was hurting really badly and I was getting blisters between my toes because of my now soaking wet feet from the ice and the cold sponges. So what I had planned on being a stretch break at mile 10, became a “just make it to the special needs bags at the half marathon point please dear God where you have some dry socks”.
When I got to my special needs bag, I warned the volunteer that this was going to take a while. I walked over to a stone wall and sat down. I pulled a baggie of deoderant out of my bag, along with a pair of socks. I took of my shoes, and realized my left insole had somehow maneuvered itself halfway up the outside of my shoe, meaning I was running half on the insole and half off. I had deodorant in a baggie because I didn’t want to waste a whole tube of Body Glide, and I have to say that baggie saved me. I put antipersperant all over my feet, and then fresh socks, and I felt like a whole new woman. I took a swig of coke, handed my bag back to the very kind volunteer, and felt much better and ready to continue.
Now, the next 10 miles become pretty foggy. I know I was having to will myself to the next aid station. I walked almost a half mile at a couple of points. I never felt like I couldn’t make it, but I was pretty defeated, disappointed at feeling like I couldn’t keep running. My hips were aching and my quads hurt, and at that point the idea of stomaching any kind of food made me want to wretch. I had taken a gel around mile 10 or 11, and needed another one at 15. I think I got that one down. But I couldn’t drink water anymore without it immediately coming back up, so I started taking only coke at the aid stations. Fortunately, it was fizzy. I would drink about 3 oz of coke, and then throw it up about a minute later. But not in a hold-my-gut I’m vomiting way, just in a “hey, your stomach doesn’t want anything else, stupid” kind of way. So I went with it, and tried to avoid spitting up on people’s shoes.
I’ve been reading some additional training stuff lately and see that people train themselves to be able to take in up to 300-400 calories an hour while running. I cannot imagine what that’s like. I think with the coke and gels, I was averaging 200 an hour. I never felt like I ran out of energy… bonking was not how I would describe the sensation. It more just felt like lactic buildup that made my legs stop working efficiently. They were heavy, and achey.
Sometime during the mile 13-20 void, this nice guy from Missouri ran up next to me (while I was walking) and asked if he could walk with me. Said he just wanted to chat. Told me he was a cow farmer, grass fed calf to beef operation. His wife made the real money. This was his first Ironman. Said he wanted to run, so I tried to keep up with him… but it was apparent he was feeling fresher than me. So I said “hey, why don’t you just go on ahead” and he said nah, I’ll walk with you. Then, a few minutes later, he’d try to get us to start running again. Finally, I was like “hey, I can’t keep up. Please go on”. And then 2 minutes later we caught back up at the aid station. I’m not exactly sure when I lost him, but he finally got the picture that I was not a good motivational running partner at that point in the race.
Mile 19 was when the mantra came out. My yoga teacher, Arien, gave me a Sanskrit mantra a few days before the race. The mantra, written on hand-pressed paper, said “om gam ganapataye namaha”. She explained that it was a simple mantra about breaking down obstacles, and encouraged me to use it if I needed it during the race.
Now, I’ve been way into yoga lately, going to my Ashtanga class religiously. I believe it has helped me to be more calm, more pleasant, and more focused in life. I also think that the stretching kept me injury free throughout my training. In other words, I’m a big fan. And while I’m really interested in mediation, I don’t have a practice of my own. Mantra and chant are forms of mediation which I had not previously discovered.
But when mile 19 came up, and all I could think about and focus on were how my legs were on fire and how 7 more miles seemed impossible… I started chanting. Just barely audible, I’m sure I looked like a complete lunatic. But I am astounded at how it cleared my head and gave me focus, gave me something to focus on. In past races I’ve tried muttering things like “just another Sunday run” to get me through it, but your mind always screams out “bullshit!”. When chanting in a foreign language that has no direct, word-for-word translation to me, it was soothing. And comforting. And such a relief.
Mile 21 was dedicated to Arien. Mile 22 was dedicated to Aaron. That would be the first time I had ever run more than 21 miles, the longest that I had ever run, and I focused my energy and attention on my goofy, supportive, loving husband to get me through it. Mile 22 was devoted to my friend Jessi, because I remember back 5 years ago when she was telling me about the time when she ran a marathon, and I was just astounded that anyone in this world would chose to do such a thing. Mile 23 was for my mom (who survived having me as a kid), mile 24 for my dad (who survived cancer), and the final 1.4 miles was for myself, for doing this thing.
Somewhere around mile 20 I realized that there was a chance I could beat my 13 hour super-secret time goal. While I couldn’t futz around with my watch to figure out what my total time was (it was just giving me my splits), I knew that I started after 7:30 a.m. And, around mile 20, I realized it was only 7:00 p.m. That meant I had until at least 8:30 to get in under 13 hours. 6 miles in an hour and a half should certainly be doable under any other circumstances, so I started to see that glimmer of hope. Around that same time the thought crossed my mind that someone was actually playing a trick on me, that I secretly had 11 miles to go, not 6. I believed it for a minute.
Around mile 24, I realized that I could finish before dark. They were handing out glow necklaces to the folks on the other side of the course, heading out for their second loop, and there I was, heading towards the finish line. As I saw the mile marker that told me I had just finished 25 miles of running, I became ecstatic. In true goober fashion, I looked around me and saw these two guys in white shirts, walking. I asked them what time it was, still incredulous that I was going to be able to break 13 hours. They said it was 8:xx. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I asked them if they were on their final loop, and they said yes. And I said, “who wants to finish before dark!?” They said yeah! And we’re trying to make it in under 13 hours too.” And I said “me too!” And without another word, I took off. Light on my feet, like there was no turning back, I (in what felt like a sprint, but was really a 10 min mile jog) bolted towards the finish line.
I started tearing up as I was running, choking back sobs and trying to remember to breathe. I rounded the corner, and could hear the finish line, I rounded another corner, and could see the finish line. The spot light, the crowd, the neon of 4th street… people crowded in on the street starting putting out their hands for high fives, and damnit if I didn’t high-five everyone I could reach on the left side of the course.
As I crossed the finish line I heard Mike Reilly say “Michelle Dykstra, you are an Ironman”.
I saw my parents, I saw Aaron. I hugged them all. My catcher, this really nice volunteer who told me later he was running his first marathon in a month and his first IM in two months, grabbed my elbow and asked me how I felt. “Um, good I think!”. He asked if I needed anything… “Um, I think I’m OK!”. A volunteer cut off my timing chip, then they put a medal around my neck, asked me what size shirt I wear, handed me a hat, and told me to stand in front of the IM backdrop. My photo is a-mazing. What a nerd.
My volunteer handed me off to Aaron, and wished me the best. We all hugged, and I verified, once more, that I had actually finished in under 13 hours. That there wasn’t some time warp I wasn’t aware of. They asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to sit down. So we sat on the curb.
What an awesome feeling. I planned for 2 years, trained for a year, focused for 8 months, and finished the race. It’s hard to believe that I spent 312 minutes out on the run course. It seemed, even in the moment, like it was over in a flash. As I crossed the finish line, I had that feeling of never doing it again… but it wasn’t because of exhaustion. It was because a second, third, fourth time could never compare to that first time feeling of crossing the finish line, and where do you go from Ironman? Must be time to have a kid.
The bike started off with a trip to the changing tent. I had put my helmet, shoes, and clothes in my transition bag, and I grabbed it from the volunteer as I jogged towards the tent. Once inside, I opened up my bag to find the greatest (and most hilarious) photos and quotes from friends and family. There stickers on everything. Photos of the dogs, quotes from friends like “visualize the end: a hot bath, a nap, and a Blizzard” (I’m paraphrasing here). So good. I read them all (I think!) and it was a great addition to what was already a happy day.
The first problem came with trying to put on my sports bra. Whens the last time you tried to put on a sports bra while soaking wet? It didn’t go on easily. Then, I had to figure out which way my shorts went on. I thought I had it right, but more on that in a minute. Then I had to get my heart rate monitor strap on, but I had already pulled my bibs up. So I had to weave it under my bib straps. Then shoes and socks (there was a sandwich in my shoe – I did it, but forgot). Once I had most of my clothing relatively on and in place, I put all my swim gear back in the bag, and rushed outside for some sunscreen.
I got slathered by a volunteer, then ran to grab my bike off the rack. My bottles were filled from that morning, all ready to go. As I ran by Aaron and family, I jokingly asked if my (aer0) helmet was on on the right way. Funny enough, I’d be spending the next 68 miles wondering the same thing about my shorts.
I jumped on the bike and headed out of town. There were tons of people getting on the bike the same I was. So it was a bit crowded on the road going out. There was immediately a motorcycle referee checking spacing, making sure we were 3 bike lengths apart from each other. It seems impossible that anyone was able to follow that rule.
I ate half of a PB&J as soon as I got on the bike. I knew that after the hour long swim I’d get hungry fast, so the first order of business was to get some food. I went by the first aid station less than 10 miles out, and didn’t grab a bottle, and by the second aid station at mile 20 I had just run out of water.
I knew the general layout of the bike course in my head, but I did not pre-ride it or drive it. I had compared the elevation change to rides I’d done at home, and I felt like I was going to be OK out there, but I was a little nervous! People write about this course like it’s super hilly, and I’ve gotten home from some rides in Roanoke barely able to walk because of the hills, let alone run a marathon. So I was a little unsure what to expect. But, the course lent itself nicely to being unsure… it was an out and back course with a little 10 mile out and back thrown in at mile 30, and then a 2x loop (learn the loop the first time, know what to expect the second) before coming back on the same roads you went out on.
The 10 mile out and back was the hardest part of the course. There were some definitely hills. The descents were great, and I got out of the saddle a couple of times to climb on the way back. Then we got back on the main road and headed to the two loop section. You past the special needs bags for the first time around mile 40, and then you see them again around mile 68. The two loop section only had 2 climbs that I had to get out of the big chainring for, and even they were pretty short. The crowds on the course were great!
I ate every hour. First the PB&J, then at 1:00, 160 calories of Honey Stinger chomps. At 2:00 I hate more chomps and had half a bottle of sports drink (160 calories + 80). At 3:00 I had a honey stinger waffle and 1/3 of a banana (160 calories + 40). At 4:00 I had an oatmeal cream pie! (170 calories). Man, was that delicious. At 5:00 I had another waffle (160).
I’ll write up the entire calorie intake on the next post, but my goal was to eat close to 200 calories ever hour on the bike, and I wanted to eat real food. I was saving gels for the run, since I knew I could tolerate those, and I didn’t want to be burnt out on them before I even got there.
So, we’re riding along, about 30 miles into 112. And I realize my shorts are really uncomfortable. And I look down, and start to think that maybe I put my shorts on backwards. I reached back, felt for a tag. Couldn’t find one… I was in aero position most of the way, so feeling around for tags and whatnots makes you a little unstable. Oh, also – about 2 miles into the ride I realized my heartrate monitor strap wasn’t strapped right (it had me at 80 bpm!). So I had to fix that too.
Finally all I could think about fort miles 40-68 was getting off the bike to check to see if my shorts were on backwards. Also, at the same time, I started getting a pretty bad headache, and I made the decision to take the 3 200mg Motrin that I had in my bag in the special needs area.
When I finally got back around to the special needs bags, I handed the guy my bike and went off to the portojohns. I pulled down my shorts… and low and behold they were on the right way. There were just all bunched up since I was so wet when I put them on the first time.
I got the Motrin out of my special needs bag, took a sip of a Coke that I had stashed in there, and took my extra tube and CO2 Cartridge that I had in there and put it in my jersey pocket (waste not want not! You don’t get your special needs bags contents back at the end). I jumped back on the bike, only to realize that the volunteer had accidentally reset my bike computer. Oops. Now I was going to have to do math the entire rest of the ride.
Oh heeeeeyyy it’s you guys again!
The second loop was uneventful, and as I said I knew what to expect. I got to see everyone at the start of the second loop in LaGrange (photo above). I took a bottle of water at ever aid station (spaced about every 10 miles). Stuck to my water-only plan except for that half bottle I took in the beginning of Perform. I think it all worked out well. I always took a bottle from someone towards the end of the line so I didn’t have to worry about yahoos running into me, and then I emptied the bottles into my aero bottle, and tossed it in the trash at the very end of the line.
One thing I learned – definitely don’t rely on bottle launchers for water source. If you can handle having the weight on your bars and over your front wheel, definitely use a large aero bottle as your only source. I never had to worry about losing anything, I never had to hold onto bottles, and I always had plenty to drink right in front of my nose without having to sit up and grab something.
At the end of the loop there was a big light up road sign that said “in 4 miles, finishers to the right, 2nd loop to the left”. Seeing that sign for the second time was glorious. I was so excited to be headed home. My headache went away just a few miles after taking the motrin, but my left shoulder started aching from being in the aerobars. I’ve NEVER had left shoulder pain – it was so strange. I started stretching out my left shoulder by putting my arm behind my back, and that would help, but it would stiffen up again quickly. Finally I found that if I put my left elbow on the elbow bad, and propped up my chin (picture someone who’s bored in class) that my neck and my shoulder pain both disappeared. So I spent the last 10 miles of the ride riding like a total disinterested asshole.
I passed alot of people on the bike, going from 856th place on the swim to 758th place on the bike. That, plus the time trial start meant that I cruised around lots of folks. I only got passed by 4 women, and 2 of them were pros. I met a really nice guy at one point, and when I asked what the box taped to his arm was, he told me it was his insulin pump. Wow… 112 miles as a Type I diabetic, I can’t even imagine.
About 5 miles out from downtown we sidled up next to the Ohio River again. It was so beautiful by that time of day. Somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon, the sun was shining and the river was calm and peaceful. I rode the bike conservatively, trying to save something for the run, and I tried to cool it off even more in the last 20 miles. I coasted in, knowing that there was still a lot of running yet to be done.
As we came into transition there was a giant bump we had to ride over – I hope no one lost it going over that sidewalk. I saw Aaron, Mom, Dad, and Ann and Henry as I was coming back in. Aaron told me I was 13th in my age group on the bike! I was walking slowly, taking it all in. I’m pretty sure one of them told me to get a move on, and I replied with “seriously? you know the run is next, right?”.
So far it had been a flawless day.
I woke up to the alarm at 4:30. I immediately ate a banana, hard boiled egg, and half of an avocado. Prior to race morning, I had been eating a banana before heading out the door to swim practice, so I knew that that would sit well in my stomach. Prior to the 2 mile swim a few weeks ago, I ate two hard boiled eggs, and didn’t have any problems. But I never practiced with that exact breakfast before a race.. I was taking a chance in eating it. But I also didn’t want to only eat my normal pre-race meal, a frozen waffle and jelly, because I didn’t think it’d be enough calories. I made a strong cup of coffee, put in my contacts, and finished packing my special needs bags. Yes, they’re called special needs bags. Don’t get Aaron started on how hilarious that one is. Those are bags for halfway through the bike and the run, just in case you need them.
In my bike special needs bag:
- Oatmeal Cream Pie
- Extra jersey
- Baggie of chamois butter
In my run special needs bag:
- Deodorant in a bag (because I was out of body glide tubes)
I woke Aaron up at 5:00, then put on my swimsuit, strapped on my timing chip, put on my compression socks, an old pair of running shoes, some pants and a long sleeve shirt, and met mom, dad, Ann and Henry in the lobby. We paraded out the door, onto the street, joining in the sea of people walking down to transition.
I had originally planned on being at transition at 5:00 (it opened at 4:45). But at the pre-race meeting, the race director reminded us that we didn’t need to be there super early. So we got down there about 5:45 and I took the extra half hour to sleep. I filled the bottles on my bike, put my new heart rate monitor strap in my bike transition bag, dropped off my special needs bags, and rejoined everyone outside of transition. One thing threw me off, and that was that there weren’t jugs of water for filling bike bottles. I had a really hard time finding water, and ended up using the bottle I had with me for pre-race drinking, leaving me with no water during the hour wait.
We walked the 1/2 mile to the swim start around 6:30. There was a huge line of swimmers (only athletes were allowed in the line, no family members). The Louisville swim start is a time trial start, with timing mats on 2 different docks that beep as you jump in the water. We swam up the backside of a small channel behind an island before coming around the top of the island (counter clockwise) and swimming back down the river to the swim finish.
I had been walking with my family towards the line, but realized that it was so long that I needed to get into it asap. So I left everyone, but then freaked out that I hadn’t said goodbye. So I ran back towards them. They said they’d wait for me as the line came back around after the gun went off.
As we were waiting in line, I met some of the folks around me. We talked nervously. I finally was so thirsty that I asked if the folks I was standing with would mind holding my place in line while I looked for water. I also had to pee. I found the kayakers getting ready to put in from a shed a little ways away from the swim start, and I begged a bottle of water from them. Not wanting to risk losing the people I had been standing with, I skipped the port-o-john line, and figured I’d hold it til I jumped in the river.
We barely heard the final strains of the national anthem, we were so far away from the docks. But we heard the gun go off, first for the pros, then for the age-groupers. The line started to move, and I really had to pee. So I ran to the port-o-john. When I came back, the people had moved, but I was lucky that they started waving to me when I finally looked in their direction. I didn’t lose my place in that interminable line.
As the line wound around and towards the docks, they stopped Jillian and I and asked us to break the line. The made a gap, and we awaited instructions. Apparently they needed to get someone out of water. But it wasn’t happening very quickly, so the told us to go ahead. It wasn’t until after the race that I’d find out the guy they pulled from the water had died of an apparent heart attack, 8 minutes into the swim. He was 46 years old.
Mom and Dad and Aaron were frantically snapping photos. I had my swim cap on, and pulled my goggles down on my eyes. Gave everyone one last hug and kiss and shouted a big “Go Blue” to the lady holding the U of M flag.
We walked down the dock, then started running towards the timing mats. And then suddenly there was no dock left, and the only option was to jump in the water.
Holy crap. Ironman.
I jumped in feet first, thne righted in the water and started swimming forward. I was at the back of the 3 docks, so I had a few strokes before I met up with the swarm of people. Even though it was a time trial start, we all massed up pretty quickly, swimming on top of each other. I was swimming right in the middle (a mistake – I normally try to swim to the outside). At one point I had two girls come up on either side of me and swim directly into me, and I just sat up and screamed at them to “come the f* on”. The water was warm, the channel was crowded, and men and women were swimming over top of each other, into each other, and all around each other, with complete disregard to the humanity surrounding them.
I’d get some room to breathe, and then I’d swim up on top of someone else’s feet. The water was clearer than the lake swim, but still so murky that you couldn’t see past your hands. When I finally reached the buoy at the end tip of the island, I felt relief to round it and swim into somewhat open water.
The next buoys came up pretty quickly. I fell into a Left/Right/Breathe/Right/Breathe pattern that I ended up using for most of the swim. Breathing on the left let me see where the shore was, and I didn’t have to sight forward as much. Also, I was at that point swimming to the outside (closest to the center of the river), so it let me gauge were other swimmers were. I could see the bridge ahead that marked the next .8 mile section for me, but it seemed impossibly far away. I kept swimming, and eventually found the buoy directly under the bridge. At that point I knew it was only.8 miles back to shore.
I picked up my speed a bit when I hit the bridge, but was pretty tired. I thought about saving it for the bike and the run, but I wasn’t very winded – it was just my arms that were getting tired. So I kept it up, knowing my arms wouldn’t be much use in the next two events anyways. I finally had the balls to look at my watch with just a couple of buys left to go, and saw 1:02. I thought I had less than 400 yards, and I was pretty certain I could make that in 8 minutes, for under a 1:10 swim time. I swam hard, then hit traffic as we approached the docks. We had to tread water for a few seconds before climbing onto the submerged steps. Fortunately there was a catcher there to guide the way, because I could barely see straight when I stepped out of the water. I checked my watch, saw 1:12, and had a triumphant moment as I realized I crushed my 1:30 “realistic” goal time.
I ran up the path towards the changing tents, and saw my friends and family there cheering me on. Man, it’s so cool to come out of the water and see these familiar faces, these people you love, cheering you on. I’d be lucky enough to see the several more times during the day, but that first time, being told “welcome back” by the catcher, with the sun breaking through the clouds and the rest of the race still ahead… that was inspiring.
The bike, the run, and the aftermath still to come.
I don’t even know where to begin. I should have written this two days ago because the post big-life-milestone blues have already set in. I’ve got a whole lot of “what nows” floating around in my head. Originally we were supposed to take a trip to the beach this weekend, but now Aaron can’t go because he just missed 4 days of work, and it just doesn’t seem like I should be going to the beach without him.
The race was amazing. Seriously. The weekend was perfect, the weather was perfect, and I had a great race. I had friends and family there cheering me on, and love and support from friends across the country. It was almost like a wedding, except for that whole solo endurance event, sweat, puke, blisters, and swim/bike/run thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed by love and support.
We got to Louisville around 3:45 on Friday. I had to pick up my race packet before 5. We dropped off the dogs around 8:00 a.m, stopped and got breakfast, and then got on the road at 9:00. I was stressed already, since I had wanted to be on the road at 8:00. We stopped once to eat/pee/get gas, and got to Louisville in plenty of time. I really relished the time in the car to sit, write and think. I was able to write out my final inspirational mile list for the marathon, and figure out what nutrition would be in each race bag.
When we got to Athlete check-in at the Galt House, they wouldn’t let Aaron in with me. It was pretty calm by that point – I think we chose a good time to get there. The check-in process took less than 5 minutes and was really anti-climatic. The expo was smaller than I thought it would be, so we walked through it for 2 minutes, and were done. We walked down towards the water and saw the bike racks all setup, the swim out being setup, and I started to get excited. I had my IM bracelet on (that had to be worn the whole weekend), and I kept looking around to see who else was wearing one. We were walking around, me in my glasses, a plaid shirt, and cutoffs – and I was happy not to fit in. Triathletes are so… obsessed. Everyone was wearing their compression sleeves and athletic shirts and shorts and running shoes. 2 days before the race.
After checking out the transition area we went and checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Louisville, which was only a block or two from the finish line. We got all of our stuff up to the room, and then went looking for a grocery store. We found the sketchiest Kroger I’ve ever been in. And it smelled. I ran around, bought peanut butter, bread, jelly, oatmeal cream pies, an avocado, bananas, strawberries and coffee, and got the hell out of there. We went back to the hotel to relax for a bit.
We had the pre-race briefing from 7:30 – 8:30 that night. After listening to the course tips and rules and regulations, we snuck out and ran to a restaurant across the street. We got an outside table, ordered a glass of wine (for me) and a beer (for Aaron), and got an appetizer of fried pickles, artichokes, and jalepenos. Then I rounded it out with a turkey burger without the bun.
Ann and Henry from Chicago joined us that evening for a drink! They drove all the way in for the race, and honestly helped so much to keep my mind off of the nervousness. We had a great time catching up Friday night, and then we met up again on Saturday.
Saturday morning I woke up for the practice swim. Having not swam in a river before, I thought it would be good to get used to it the day before the race. I also wanted to make sure I was happy with my swimsuit choice. I woke up, got dressed, and walked down to the river. It was such a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, the city was quiet… I felt so lucky just to be there. I walked down to the swim exit and joined the mass of people testing out the 85 degree water. At the river they had music playing, gear check station, and pretty much anything you’d need. I checked my bag and jumped in. They had 700 meters of the course open for us to swim, which took me (backwards) up to the bridge. I had a short swim workout on the schedule for that day, so it was the perfect morning workout. I swam deliberately, feeling the pull of the water and testing my strength and speed sporadically. Most people just swam around a few of the buoys, but I swam with a few other folks all the way to the bridge and back. I got out, wrapped myself in my towel, and sat to soak it all in for a minute.
Then I returned to the room, made coffee and took a shower, and had a great breakfast with Aaron. We went in search of a CVS so that I could buy a battery for my heart rate monitor, which had crapped out just weeks before. While Aaron changed the battery, I got my transition bags in order. He had the brilliant idea of testing the watch to make sure that it wouldn’t quit on race day by setting it in a cup of water. Sure enough, once it was in water it crapped out again. So we decided to go by the expo to try to buy a new one.
Ann and Henry came up to our room around noon, and Aaron and Ann got busy planning shenanigans in my race bags. I hid out in the bathroom while they giggled like school children.
I had the following items in my race bags:
- Sports Bra
- Honey Stinger Waffles (x3)
- Honey Stinger Chomps (x3)
- Oatmeal Cream Pie
- Spare jersey and shorts
- Body Glide
- Heart Rate Monitor Strap
- Race belt with number
- Running Shoes
- Running Top
- Running Skirt
- Spare running outfit and sports bra
- Race Belt with number+ 5 gels + chomps + mantra + Inspirational Mile list
- Body Glide
Well… The time is almost here. I’m in bed, not yet asleep. Amazed that tomorrow is the day.
I’m not going to wax poetic or get philosophical, but this is really freakin’ cool. I’m happy to be here, no matter what tomorrow brings.
Complete confidence. Mental fortitude. And large dairy queen blizzard