It’s been one week since my first Ironman and I’ve taken some time to let my body and mind come to conclusions on this entire experience. My thoughts and emotions tied to this race have definitely evolved over the last 7 days for sure.
I was high as a kite after the race, ecstatic that I did and felt like a champ truly enjoying the moment. But before I skip to the conclusion, I have to back up to where this all began.
In 2006, on a summer evening, I sat with 4 of my best friends and a guy I’d recently met, as we chowed down on pasta before the San Francisco Half-Marathon. This guy, now my boyfriend, mentioned that he was going to do a triathlon that fall and that his ultimate goal was to do an Ironman. I was not a swimmer and thought his Ironman ambitions to be over the top. But later that year he taught me how to swim and signed up for the Wildflower Olympic with a friend. In 2007, I watched and supported my boyfriend through 2 half Ironmans and was inspired enough to sign up for the Vineman 70.3. After a great day at Wildflower, we tackled the training for Vineman and it was another fantastic day. I was jazzed to be considered a triathlete, albeit not a fast one, but a triathlete none the less.
Last summer we signed up for Coeur D’Alene for 2009. So 364 days prior to the race, I frantically registered us online as the website timed out. But we got in and were committed! Our training began with some base training in the form of a fall marathon. We trudged through the miles and took a well deserved recovery for the rest of December. It wasn’t long though, before we were back on the bike logging miles. By January our training for the big event had commenced and we found ourselves explaining to friends and family that our Saturdays and Sundays were booked by lengthy bike rides and runs.
In April we raced California 70.3 and I had a fantastic day. After a crappy swim, I had a good bike and an even better run. What was even more impressive to me was how I felt AFTER the race. I could walk pain free and felt ready to work out again the next day. I was pretty sure I could have gone much faster and farther.
In May we raced the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, which is always a favorite. I had my best swim ever and felt strong on the bike. I was even close to having a PR, which was crazy considering the difficulty of the course. It was yet another great confidence builder of my ability to harder and longer at the end of the day.
The month of May brought lots of tough mileage and training days. I was fried, tired, stressed. By the time June rolled around we finally started to taper and I was glad for it. Prior the race I tried to remain calm despite the nerves building up. I practiced visualizing the race, motivational talk and getting lots of rest.
Arriving in Coeur D’Alene I was pumped, stoked to be there and wanting to get my race on. I was also very very nervous. I tried to relax and just tell myself I was ready, but the nerves ensued and got worse as race day approached.
Race morning I woke at 4am. I had practiced my pre-race and race nutrition so many days and got my oatmeal and 1/2 whole wheat bagel with almond butter ready. I put on my race outfit, covered my body in 50 spf suncreen and sat down to eat. Except I couldn’t eat. My stomach was a ball of knots and sent very clear signals to my brain that this food wasn’t to be consumed. I forced down what I could, but did not feel great about it.
I arrived at the expo and had my ipod shuffle playing my pump up songs. I think I peed four times. I went through the regular motions and put on my wetsuit and body glide for those rough spots. I just kept telling myself it was like any other day. The swim start had me worried, but as I stood on the beach, it wasn’t all that bad to be in a giant swarm of 2,000 athletes. I picked a spot to the far left near the back. I kissed Preston as he lined up near the front and said “I’ll see you at the finish”.
The gun went off and I jumped into the rough waters. The waves were choppy and it made sighting tough. I was luckily not getting clobbered too much, but finding it hard to get into a clear space and rhythm. I made it to the first turn and cut left across the tumultuous waves. It’s not easy to swim against waves sideways! I made it to the second turn and was hopeful that the waves would be easier in this direction. Oddly, I didn’t find it much easier! I came out of the water of the first loop in 48 minutes and change. I was feeling confident that I could repeat that same performance. But as I jumped back in and swam the diagonal to the first buoy, it was not the same as the last lap. I struggled more to get a clear line and site through the chop, which at this point had really picked up. About 5 minutes into the second loop I knew I was in trouble as my stomach started to hurt. This happened in the Lake Berryessa swim toward the end, but not quite to this degree. I kept swimming ahead, but the pain got worse and sharp and I had to stop to breath. The pain would subside and I would charge forward as fast as I could, but then the pain came back. The entire rest of my swim went like this. I came out at 1:48, quite a bummer since I felt like I was doing so well for myself in the first loop. But as I came out the stomach pains ensued and I ran behind the port o potties. That breakfast that didn’t want to happen came back up. That coupled with far too many servings of lake water and I found myself stuck in T1 for 29 minutes. Not in my race plan, at all!
I refused to let this ruin my race day, I came to finish and I made it out on my bike. After 10 miles, the stomach finally settled and I was able to focus on my nutrition, since a lot had now been compromised. I wanted to remain conservative the first loop, but it appeared that by the start of the second lap, I had gone out far too conservative. I was off my time by about 30 minutes. Oops! I charged through the second lap, hoping to make up time. But then the wind picked up and I swear every direction I turned I was direct into a headwind and the clouds were black, threatening a chilly downpour. The best part of my bike ride was when Pro Triathlete Amanda Lovato lapped me and said “I like your bike”. She has good taste in bikes! I came back into town and passed a bank with a temperature display that read 48 degrees. No wonder my toes had gone numb!
As I hopped off the bike I was already well over one hour off my most conservative goal time. But oddly enough my legs felt as if that bike ride had never happened. I was confused and kept running, expecting things to change and feel different, but they didn’t. I rolled through the run, pacing myself conservatively. I got to see Preston at my 8 for me, his 18. I kept charging along, slow and steady. I didn’t want to walk so I just kept running along at a comfortable pace. By the second lap I’d started running along with another woman at my pace and we chatted and kept company for the next 10 miles. The last 3 miles she held back a little and I moved onward. I missed the mile 25 sign somehow and didn’t know to kick it in for that last 1.2. Instead I rounded the corner of the residential area and realized how close I was to the finish! I tore my running jacket off, gotta look good for the picture, and booked it ahead.
Coming onto Sherman as you hear Mike Riley’s voice congratulating finishers and seeing the crowds screaming was amazing. I felt invincible. I was so happy I was doing this and I had not stopped running. Despite the ups and downs of the day, missing my most conservative time goal by well over an hour, I was doing it and it felt great!
Oddly enough I didn’t cry. I thought I would. I thought a lot of things would have been different, I thought I’d have to really dig deep to push my physical barriers and I’m not sure I did. I thought for sure I’d be physically wrecked for a week. I was sore, don’t get me wrong, moving out of bed Tuesday morning was torture. But by Wedne
sday I felt fine. I even went to the gym and sat on a spin bike feeling like I wanted a real workout. So now that I have let it all sink in here is what I conclude. It was an amazing experience, it was a tough day, there were some conditions that made it tougher. I am so glad I did this and so glad I finished, it was well worth the adventure and experience. But as I charged through the second lap of the bike I knew that it hadn’t been quite what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what my body could do and how it would respond and for that I went conservative. I didn’t have to dig deep because I don’t think I truly pushed myself. I stayed in a very comfortable zone thinking that was my limit for the distance. Now that it’s been a week and I am ready to swim, bike and run again, I want to do more and faster! I am already deciding what my 2010 race plan will include and an Ironman is top of my priorities.