Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boston Strong!!



I remember sitting on the school bus in front of the Lunt School in Cape Elizabeth. I was 11. I do not remember if I was listening to the radio on the bus or if people were just talking about it. Ronald Reagan, our President, had been shot. I felt scared. What was going to happen to us? I had heard stories from my parents about JFK being shot and killed. Was it happening again? 

Fiver years later, I was downstairs in the hall by the library when I walked by and noticed a small TV on out in the hallway.  They were allowing people to view the Space Shuttle take off since the local teacher was on board this time. Moments later.... it blew up. I watched it live. 

At age 31 while I was  6 months pregnant and the mother of a 2 year old, I was standing in our kitchen watching the Today Show. I was getting ready to go to my friend Linda's house to sit and chat & drink water ( pregnant, no coffee :(, I make up for it now)  with some ladies while the kids played around us.  Right before I turned the tv off to leave, a plane hit the World Trade Center. Huh...that's strange. It's sunny and clear. My husband is a pilot. I know what the risks are and what day makes a bad flying day.  That wasn't an example of one. I scurried around the kitchen and got little Cameron ready to go.  As everyone reading this knows, it wasn't an accident. The chaos and attacks continued. All day. 
It was 9/11. 

Every generation has events that they remember exactly where they were.  Those aforementioned historical tragedies were big ones for me. But the most recent and possibly one that struck the closest to my life, was on April 15, 2013. 

Our plane circled above Logan airport a few times before landing. It didn't seem like a big deal.  It happens. Pilot has to wait for clearance.  I was alone, on my way home from a training camp in Texas. I was getting ready for IMTX a month later. The plane landed, we all got off without issue and I turned on my cell as I walked to baggage. I had been trying to track a few friends and athletes of mine who were running the marathon while I was on layover. I didn't have wifi so my buddy, Mike, had been keeping me posted as much as he could. But when 20-30 texts popped up, many from Mike, I couldn't imagine. His words, "Explosion at finish line!!!!"
I thought he was being dramatic and just using figurative language to tell me about something cool that happened. Somebody went really fast?? Though, it did seem like an odd way to say it.
But then... one by one... people around me starting hearing.  Other texts were more clear. 
What the.......?????
Standing at the baggage carousel, I became a little afraid. I was in Boston. Was there an attack happening on the city? Was I in danger? Security officers and bomb sniffing dogs were coming in. I was confused. I was frantically trying to reach friends who were there. Cell service in the city was getting shut down... Dad texted me, "Get on a bus and get OUT of the city." 

The bus ride back to Portland was long. I was sad. I was angry.  Mary and I reached each other and talked about our horror. Our fear. What do we do now. This is what we do. A 9 year old was killed. Nick had just turned 10. My kids and my husband and my parents were Always at my finish lines. What do we do now??  Stop racing? What was happening?? Why at a race?? It didn't make sense... 
All our friends and athletes were accounted for. Thank God. Though a few of them were much much too close and saw more than anyone should ever seen in a life. 

In October of 2014, I raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  Several months later, an email popped in my inbox that read, "Congratulations on Qualifying for the Boston Marathon!" 

How? I hadn't run a marathon since 2011? Then I realized my Kona run got me a BQ. Cool! I ran Boston back in 1995. It wasn't really on  my radar to run again any time soon. In fact, after 4/15/13, I wondered if I ever would.  

I sat at my desk, stared at the email, and said inside my head and maybe even out loud, "#@$*!!@! the terrorist brothers!" ( won't use their names.. )  The people who were injured were going back to Boston. People who were AT the race at that moment, were going back. No way in hell was I going to let those jerks shut me down from doing what I love to do.  

I wrote down my confirmation # and put the Registration date on my calendar. There. I'm going back to Boston. 

Ok, so now I can Finally tell about my race day! Took me long enough to set that up huh?? 

I worked really hard all winter.   I swam some and biked some but my focus was certainly on logging many miles on the feet and training to hit my goal time.  Race week came and I felt good... except... I had this KNOT in the middle of my back. Ugh. No clue why. it hurt A LOT!!!   I went to see someone for a massage and it helped, that day. But it came back. I was totally distracted and worried as it hurt just to be as Mark and I often ask each other regarding injuries or illness. "Does it hurt just to be?"  You know, vs. when you Move. I swear I spent 90% of the drive time to Boston with my arm torqued around my body trying to self- massage. Not very effective. At some point, my son Tommy ( age 14 ) asked me if I remembered what I suggested he do this past winter when his hand was killing him before his State meet nordic race. ( We actually thought it was broken...  )  Ahem... yes, I remember hun. Something along the lines of, "put it out of your mind? You'll be fine while you're racing? Are you sure you want to do it? If so, suck it up and worry about it when it's over? adrenaline will fix it? " hmmmm... Touche Tommy, Touche! It was time for me to SUCK IT UP ! :)    





We went to the expo and I got my Bib and Tshirt and a few other little things we all thought we needed that day.' I bought my cool Marathon jacket. I stood in front of the 'picture wall' and got my photo taken. I'm glad I did it, but it looks a little like, "Hey wait.. I should take my picture here."  haha
Someone asked me if I still had my jacket from 1995 when I last ran. I laughed. I was a 25 year old Graduate student!! I didn't have any money for a fancy marathon jacket!! I did, however, get this cool T shirt and somehow I still have it! ( who am I kidding, I keep all that kind of stuff.) Big enough? These over
sized cotton T shirts are what we used to race in!!  Too funny. 

We went out to eat in the North end at a great little place. It was tiny and packed and 100% Italian.  It was fun.  I stuffed my face with pasta and loved every second of it.  

Sunday was chill day for me and explore day for the guys. They even did a Duck Boat tour, which cracked me up.  After, Cameron studied and the others went to the pool. At dinner later on ( @Quincy Market... everything full that night! ) , I was super psyched to bump into my friend and former TriMoxie athlete, Aubrey!! She was there with her 1 year old adorable daughter and her husband, Jon.  What are the chances!!  Made my day... 

I got  up super early, ate a dry untoasted  bagel, drank beet juice and sports drink  in my hotel bathroom. Ahh.. those race day routines and the non glamorous part of these sports! I tried to be quiet but.. you know.. By 6:00 I was hugging Mark goodbye and headed down to catch shuttle #1. I was wearing about 4 layers.  I was cracking up at myself but you know, it was chilly, I had 5 hrs to wait and I'd rather be warm and have stuff to sit on than be cold before the start!!  We were dropped at Boston Common where I waited another hour or so. I chatted with some lady from the mid-west.  Finally, I went through the security check to board the school bus to Hopkinton. I was feeling fine... my back was OK!! But I refused to even think about it.  listen to Tommy.....suck it up Mom!! 

After an hour ride ( I got a seat to myself) we were there. The exits from the highway to Hopkinton were blocked with police. Nobody was entering the athlete zone except athletes and authorized personnel. Fine by me. I felt 100% safe, the whole time. But security measures were... noticeable. They were solid. They were there to protect and to allow us our day. I am very grateful and impressed. That city comes together in 100% force. There is no doubt they are Boston Strong. 

Athlete village was like a giant summertime concert scene. That's what I thought when I walked in and people were EVERYWHERE. People and portapotties and tables with bananas. I just found a small grassy square and sat. I talked some. I stretched a little. I watched the bathroom line grow and surround me. I waited.  I wondered if I should eat more.  It's an atypical race morning.... point to point marathon with uber security.  It was an experience. 

Eventually, it was time to go through step 1 to get to the start. I waited until guards said "WAVE 3 foward". Up on the buildings surrounding that area, were police. Armed. Watching. Protecting. It was comforting. And sad. And Sobering. I saw others notice and comment.  Whatever it takes, the Boston marathon goes on. 

We moved into corrals at that point. I was in wave 3, corral 7. It was verrrrrrrrrry hard for me as I am verrrrrrrry anxious ( I know I know... ) pre-race and want to just BE at the start-  ready. But I kept getting put 'on hold.'  My # was 22,067. About 30,000 run this. I was not near the front. :) We waited in our corrals for a bit and then we were allowed to walk ( almost a mile? ) to the start area where we got back into More corrals. Phew. It was Very organized. I was impressed. I was antsy. 

My run time in Kona in '14 was fine but it was quite a bit off my 'flat' marathon time.  As a result, I had a challenge with all the crowded roads to get so I could run at the pace I trained for and was capable of. (Hopefully.. :)) I wasn't too worried about it.  I'd just do what I could do. 

It was hot. The forecast had been hot, and then cooler, and then back to warm. Typical New england. In the end, it settled on hot.  ok.. no big deal. I loaded on the sunscreen. And, planned to drink. A lot. 

Finally, we were OFF!!! Sort of. For as far as the eye could see... bobbing heads. It certainly prevented me from going out too fast! But I was frustrated. I had a pace plan and well... starting from mile 1 and then 2, I was off.  A lot.  Every time the road opened or a sidewalk presented itself, I surged. Surging isn't really a good idea. But... 

Mile 3 and 4 were net down hill ( most of the first 6 ish are... ) and I made up some time and got on track.  But my ave was still off.  It's alright... I just kept telling myself I'd have time. 

Miles 5-10... were not great. My legs were not really feeling that "I'm just floating" feeling that you should have for the first ~13 miles of a marathon. Hmm.. My pace was high 7:20s to 7:30. It was ok. But about 15 sec off my 'plan.'  Hey, it's still going to put me in my 'goal range' that I was ok with. Keep on- Ange. Just 'keep on' was my plan. I checked my HR a couple times and while my legs felt dopey and tired, my effort felt 'easy' but my Heart rate read super high. 170s? I didn't believe the garmin, so I stopped looking. If I could have, I would have ripped the strap off and tossed it. But then, I'd have to buy a new one. Like the nice arm warmers I accidentally brought to the start and had to ditch. :( 

Backing up to the start-- the thing people talk about but it's hard to truly convey, is the INSANE amount of support on the sidelines at this race. I have raced in big races, but Nothing compares.  The cheering just does NOT let up.  It grows at times, but it's never gone.  One critique however. It seemed that everyone, for  a few miles, thought that all of us, should slap All their hands.  Um... no. I had to run a marathon. Not high 5 everyone. I was running on the very edge of the road and I can not believe how many times I got Whacked in the chest and gut. Seriously. If the runner isn't putting their hand up, put yours down please. :)  It hurts and you know, it gets old to be hit like that.  Otherwise, all the screams were incredible. more on that... 

There were hills mixed in with flats and descents. I can't begin to tell you what was where even though I studied it pre-race.  I know that around mile 11 I felt better. My legs woke up, my energy was great, and my pace improved. A bit. 7:15s weren't happening. I had accepted that. I was watching the average and trying to get it back to 7:23 where it had landed for a while. I was make some progress. And then I'd lose it. Back and forth. 
But you know........kind of the story of my day, and what I remember the most, is what I saw on the roads and all around me.  
I saw a women with an escort group. She had a prosthetic leg. A young blond woman. A survivor of the bombing. I had a lump in my throat. I could barely run.  Mile after mile I was staring at the crowds screaming. I was watching all the police along the sides. Totally focused. Keeping us safe. So we could run.  So we could continue to race.  I felt such a huge sense of pride in being part of the thousands that refused to give in to evil.  HUGE huge huge enthusiastic crowds and volunteers. I was overwhelmed for 26.2 miles. I was focused on running THE Boston Marathon. Three years later. I was not focus on Running. I realized this later. My game face took a bit of a break. And, I am more ok with that than ever before. 
The day was hot and somewhere around mile 13, not sure, it got windy. ugh. A headwind. oh well.... keep running. Ignore that force trying to push us the wrong way!! After all, the best miles were coming up!! 

Wellesley College is famous for their screaming at this event and wow, it did NOT disappoint.  I could hear their roars for about 1/4 mile before I got there. I KNOW my pace was faster during that mile! 
Mile 14 is where the Maine Track Club was to be stationed. I was looking for a few people there. I saw Jill and she yelled to me! I missed Kate, but I looked!  I saw a guy running with a Beach2Beacon shirt and we exchanged, "Yay Cape E" sentiments...  
I got gel on my leg and it dripped to my knee. It drove me Nuts. my legs were sticking to each other. how does that happen?? I hate 'sticky'. A lady on the side had papertowels! yay! I took one but, ugh, it was dry. ? I tried to wipe the gel but ended up with a stip of towel on my leg. Cute. 

Mile 16 was the spot my family planned to be!! I PRAYED I could see them. Who knew with the crowds. I scanned and scanned and then, ahead a bit, I saw my Tall Mark. :) Yay! I ran over to them and found NIck and Cam and kissed them both and hugged Mark. Just then I heard, "DAD!!!!" I knew the voice. I turned to the opposite side of the road ( a wide stretch I'll tell ya ) and Tommy was running full stride. He had been on "Mom lookout" on the other side. :)  I dodged runners and made my way across to kiss him. :) Happy!!!!

Now... I can't remember which mile.......but Shortly thereafter I heard, "ANGE!!!"  I believe I was on one of the Newton Hills. I turned and saw Marisa and Sean!! Friends up all the way from PA!!  I ran back a tiny bit for a quick hug there too.  And at mile 18, I saw Jeff and Samantha and had quick hugs there!! Jeff offered me Coke and I declined, but about 50 steps later, I would have paid $ for a few sips!! lol  All of these sightings happened during the famous Newton Hills. I felt amazing. I was having so much fun! I truly think I smiled during most of this race.  I was completely distracted by everything around me. The run itself.. an afterthought much of the time!  Unreal.  The hills were fun because I was seeing everyone!! 

Then, I was coming upon mile 20 and I knew that where Mom and Dad were planning to be. I think that was Heartbreak Hill but I was so focused on seeing my parents, I didn't even really think about it. AFter all, I do live in the hills and it didn't feel all that bad. Lots were walking at that point so I felt faster than I really was since I was able to run. 

Mom said Dad would wear a red shirt. ok! I was scanning for red. It was Crowded!!  I was really worried I wouldn't see them. They came for the weekend for a 15 second wave and Hi!!  Imagine if we missed one another! 

And, boom, right on cue at mile 20 were my parents! I saw them first. I ran over and hugged my Dad even though he was determined to keep the video rolling. :) Yay! 


video



So now.. I had to keep my legs moving for that lovely final 10K. I was certainly spent. My legs were trashed. And yet, I was having a blast. I was emotional. I was grateful. I was so dang happy I'd seen all 'my people.'  LIfe was good.  That last 10K of a marathon is really never the best part... but I was in a really happy place despite my time being a bit off. 

I finally looked at my watch. I had a few miles left-- I'd be around 3:20ish.. not bad. It wasn't too far off my goal "range."  I ran down the city roads. I thought a buddy might be in the Fenway area, but I didn't see anyone.  The miles were going by pretty fast. I was pushing but knew my pace was only ok.  I was on that tiny road ( Hereford? ) right before the final turn and my chest felt tight. I had to concentrate. The memory of what had happened was a bit overbearing. I turned onto Boylston and looked down at that beautiful blue and yellow sign. The roads were FULL of people. They were there. Everyone was back.  The  roads are barricaded and full of police. I found myself move to the middle of the street. It was an awesome moment to stand up for what we do and to go back to the Boston roads after 21 years.  


My final time was 3:22.  I was 35th in my age group out of 1901.  I feel good bout that! And, 852nd / 12,167. Big numbers at this thing!!  I'm very happy even though I was a bit off. I was >20 minutes faster than my 25 year old self had been. That feels pretty darn good. However, the experience and memories and meaning of this was much bigger than any time in a log book. 




We left the city the next a.m. and headed off for some perfect R and R in the  Caribbean. A perfect April vacation. 



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Acceptance

It's been 17 months since I last wrote in my blog. Just recently, a few people have asked about it so I decided to give it a try.  I write in my head all the time. I always have.  It's what I do when I run.  Not all days. Some days I am thinking about my family's schedule and if I can finish the planned run and still fit in a shower & get food ( I've even been known to eat handfuls of food while IN the shower.. it's true. Gross? Maybe-- but that's how many minutes I have some days and I get really hungry out there! ), some days I spend time just trying to nail intervals, and other days I'm just cruising along 'writing' in my head.  The problem is, the time to sit and put it on 'paper' is scarce and to be honest, I also like to keep my thoughts to myself a lot.  

A lot has happened over the year. I left off with this blog talking about my race Kona, Hawaii and at that time, declared "retirement" from Ironman. I didn't do that publicly. After all, nobody cares really except my close family.  The thing is, I told Mark that and he just smirked at me.  He simply said, "uh huh.." and nodded a knowing smile. What?? I mean it.... lol 
Sure, Kona '14 was a tough one.  Excuse me, to rephrase, it was a "rough one" for me. Kona is always tough. Racing 140.6 miles is tough period.  But the fact that 10/11/14 wasn't my best day (it also wasn't my worst. It was just .. fine.)  on race course wasn't why I thought I'd be hanging it up.  

See the photo below? These guys. My 3 'little' boys.  They are why I thought it would be best to stop.  This was taken last summer. They're sitting so it's hard to tell. ( I just love the picture because it's at my favorite spot on the ocean. ) But they are small here compared to now.  They have grown SO so much.  Cameron and Tommy are quite a bit taller than I am now. And, they are Big. Just big strong boys.  ( I'm 5'5"-- not tall by any means. But also not Too short! )  NIck is close to my height too. His feet are size 10 1/2 mens. MENS! He's 11.  Yup.  I have 3 Big boys now. (16, 14 and 12 next week )  And wow...... 


 

I thought life with little boys was busy. Ha. I had no idea.  No idea!! And you know what else? Things are real. Issues are serious. It's not about who took the other kid's lego and broke it. It's about girlfriends and driving and what rumors may or may not be spreading about your child, for example. And,  I didn't want to compromise my time or my energy with them and for them.  I have three great boys. I will say that.  I am proud of each of them and they are absolutely good boys. Sure, I'm Mom so my opinion is what it is. But they are straight shooting good children who are on a great track right now. That just doesn't mean it's easy.  

With all that in mind, I took 2015 as my mellow year. I stepped back and did less. I raced the White Mountain Tri ( Half ironman distance ) in June and had a fun day there. I also raced a Very cool Adventure race called Sea2Summit. It was amazing. It was an endurance race without all the "tri" pressure. ( However, the girl I was head to head with actually raced in Kona in 2014 too... so mid-race the Tri - pressure reared it's head. Oh well.. ) 
We swam about 1/2mile in a river in southern Maine, rode 92 miles Up to Wildcat ski area in New Hampshire and then 'ran/ hiked/ crawled' our way UP Mount Washington  to the summit!!!  The thing about it? I don't even know what my time was!!  I worked my tail off but it wasn't about time or any of the normal race day things. That day should and may be a blog post I go back to. We'll see. 
Otherwise, I ran Beach2Beacon 10K with 2 of the boys. And 2 of the boys beat me. ha!! Not again! ( jk...lol...) see....teenager speak there. ;) 
I also raced the Lobsterman Oly in September and am excited to say, I won!! It's a hometown race in some ways that I've been close to winning in the past so this totally reinvigorated me. And then, I raced a half marathon in October and had a PR. I was, once again, thrilled and reinvigorated. 

Meanwhile.... during that time I watched a bunch of friends race Ironmans. And, I also received an email saying I qualified for the Boston Marathon with my run time in Kona. I didn't even know that was an option!! 

My wheels were turning. My heart was aching with envy. I wanted to get back in the game. I still have unfinished business. Sure, I'm 46 now. But I'm not all washed up. I just raced a 10 miler in my hometown and had a PR.  I have more in me. I love to race. I have to accept, it is who I am. It is what I do.  I have realized, I am a better person, a better Mom even, when I am doing what I love while also raising and caring for them.  My head is clear. My body is strong. I feel good about myself when I am working hard to achieve goals I set.  
Over the past year or so, I have had to accept that sometimes you can't control loss.   Even if you try to hold on and keep it with you, sometimes things go away on their own without explanation.  But, this is something over which I do have control. I am in charge of my own success. I am the only person who really cares how fast I can swim 1000 yards or run 10 miles. I am also the only one who can control how hard I work. My kids and my husband support me, they enjoy the races & travel we are able to experience for them and I am still Mom whether or not I PR and win or not.  My personal rule is that I don't ever miss any event of theirs or have them sacrifice for my training.  I fit it all in around their lives and it all works just fine for us. Some days are harder than others!! But, hey that's what keeps life interesting. Challenges!! 
And that's my story for 2016!! I have Accepted who I am and what I do and am going after it all once again.
First up- The Boston Marathon ( last time was 1995!! )

And summer's big goal is Ironman Mont Tremblant. 
On that note--- time to hop on the bike!! 



Monday, October 27, 2014

The Final miles- Kona part 4- Time to find that Finish Line!


It's been over two weeks since I crossed the finish line in Kona.  It seems like a long long time ago.  And yet, it's all still quite raw and close in my heart.  You can't just "shut it off" after training and preparing for something for nearly two years. I write my blog to share but also to heal.  I relive it through the words and remind myself just how much I gave out there and it allows me to move on to whatever is next.  

With that... I will briefly tell my story from the final leg of my Ironman that day... the final 26.2 miles of the day. 

___________________

After handing my bike to the volunteer, I was off for a trip to the bathroom ( Phew!! I was hydrated fairly well... This is a BIG deal in an Ironman and a Huge deal in an Ironman in the Hawaiian heat!!) 

It's a long trek around all the bikes to the T2 tent. I had a headache, my neck and back and shoulders were stiff from gripping the bike for dear life for 6 hours but I was Thrilled to be throwing on the running shoes. Again, I think I took too long in there but I was trying to hurry. I talked to some lady about the girl who was head to toe in road rash with shredded shorts and hoped they could find her a new pair. ( They didn't. My kids saw her running later. I know it's likely not legal or possible but I had hoped for her. ) I threw on the visor, glasses, garmin, shoes, race belt, sunscreen, grabbed gels and that was it. 

The cheers coming out of the tent and onto the roads are uplifting. I felt good!!!  Then honestly, I don't remember a lot of details about the next few miles. But I remember feeling really good. My pace was spot on &  I just got myself settled. Mostly, I was staring ahead Knowing my crew would be there for me soon.I was excited! I couldn't wait to see them.  Our condo was at the end of the 5 mi we start with on Ali'i. Five miles out, turn and back to town before we head onto the Queen k ( again! ) for the hardest 16 miles of the day.  
I had tunnel vision-- show me the boys show me the boys. I NEEDED that quick contact with my family to reassure them and myself quite frankly, that all would be ok. 

YaY! There they were!!! Running around the road in just their swimsuits. :) THey were running in and out of the water ( beach right on that road with big huge waves ) to cheer. 



 I think I was saying, "IT was SO WINDY!!!! NO! I didn't have a flat I, just winds!!" :) What I love here is the view of Nick running behind me with the camera. Not sure where those photos are... 


I had my quick dose of family and then I was on my own again.  The great feeling I had during the first 3-4 miles had left me. My ankle and achilles were talking. It hurt. I was really hot and started to worry. But the biggest problem was that my right foot was Burning with pain. I battled achilles tendonitis this summer but I have had chronic foot pain for years and years. I had neuroma surgery a long time ago and it helped, but it's not gone.  Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's not. That day between miles 5-10, it was Scorching. I was completely distracted by the pain. The second my foot hit the ground it was hot stabbing pain. A couple times, I stopped and squeezed my toes because that does help. But... the girls I had passed on the earlier miles would start to pass me. I didn't like that ( ! ) so I kept going. Mind over matter. It would go away eventually. Just forget about it! 

At some point, I latched onto a woman who was running near me. I loved the way her stride looked. She just had a way of running that made me want to copy her. Our pace seemed similar so I tried to stay with her. We exchanged words of encouragement here and there.  And if one of us slowed or stopped at the aid stations, we always caught back up and were running together again. ( All of this is before heading out to the queen k.) Along that route, I saw her find her family and kiss her boys. Boys!  She was a fellow boy-mom. :)  That made me smile. 

We rounded the corner on Hualalai ( I think that's it... ) and could hear and see Pro women finishing. ( Jealous! )  One of the motorcycles escorting them nearly hit me. I had to jump off to the side. Just an age grouper here - don't worry about me! grr. 
It was time to climb the big hill on Palani Road. At least it's big at mile 10 of the Ironman! I thought I was ok. But I had visions of walking. (huh?  not really like me. ) Kortney ( at this point I had head her name from her family etc ) came up next to me and said the same thing, "I am just going to walk a minute." I was easily lured.. "me too! just thinking that... " 
But then my HR started to go nuts ( no monitor..just felt it) and I was overcome with the heat and a feeling of sickness. I stopped and put my hands on my knees. oh oh. 

Without a second of hesitation, Kortney turned around and said, "Angela! Let's GO! Run with me. Run now to the aid station!!" 

So I did. We did. Together. 

Thank you. I told her that  a few times:  Thank you.
THAT is one of the great things about this sport. And no, not all sports are like this. But there we are, competitors & we had both been racing and fighting for hours and hours. She had a huge road rash on her shoulder from getting knocked off the bike in those winds I talked about.  And yet, she took the time and Effort to help ME keep running.  A true sportsman. 

That one act alone made my whole day. 

Now, we were heading out for the hardest part. The part where many athletes falter and and lose their focus. The day has been long and it is HOT. Sure, we did have occasional cloud cover but upper 80s/ lower 90s is not cool and that was the temp in Town. Out on the lava fields and in the energy lab, ha, it's not that cool.  

The road is empty except for the athletes coming and going and the aid stations ( Bless those volunteers! ) each mile.  THe 6 miles before you turn left into the Natural Energy Lab are so long. It' lONG long long and the road is basically one steady gradual climb.  My foot had started to behave, my achilles was fine, and I was feeling alright. I was hot and I was starting to feel my quads burn, but, I had rallied from whatever little pity party I was having on that climb and was just running.  

We had our race numbers on our arms but that is it. No age on the leg this time. I was annoyed that I hadn't figured out what age - range was my age group.  I had No clue what age I was passing or getting passed by. I did a lot of back and forths with a group of people. I'd go ahead, then I'd slow to get fluids and they'd go by me. Or vice versa. A few I passed for good and a few passed me for good.  Kortney and I remained close and took turns ahead of one another. 
I definitely got to the point of not caring who was who and just running to get to the end. Dont' get me wrong, I CARED and I knew exactly what I had hoped for and was aiming for, but since there wasn't a soul  on the roads to help me know where I was, I just couldn't stress about it. I tried to catch any woman ahead of me & that was all I could really do. 
I finally turned into the energy lab. Down down down into the hole of heat.  ( They harvest the sun's energy here and make power/ do experiments with it. )  It's a strange place that seems to zap people and eat them alive. I was determined to be FINE going in and out.  However, I started to feel gross and had some belly pain. I battled with my head for several of those miles-- stop at bathroom or not?  Where WAS a bathroom? I am not sure, but I feel like they were Very few and far between. I finally saw one on the other side of the road at mi 18. I ran in. WOAH- not much worse than mile 18 porta potty IN the Natural Energy Lab  in Hawaii. I was in and out of that in a matter of seconds. 

I passed a group of 3 men and one stayed RiGHT on my heels. I wouldn't have cared except he ran SO loud slapping his feet on the ground. It was agitating me beyond words at that moment.  It was so bad, I stopped and let him go! Lame. I would have run faster instead, but, I couldn't. I was doing all I could.  Things were starting to hurt.  I was shutting down. 

I broke the run into segments and at the top of the hill exiting the NEL I knew it was about 10K left. My Final segment. OH how I wanted to run hard and feel good!!  I was doing the math and thought I was on my way to a 3:30 and change run. I was Happy!!!  {What I didn't remember, was that my watch was on Auto-pause. So all those little dumb stops added up and no, I wasn't running a 3:30. I was closer to 3:40+ when all said and done. Bummer. }   

But I guess it worked in my favor because I was watching my watch and was Determined to get in by about 3:35.  I knew that if I just Kept moving forward  at the pace I had, albeit slower than planned, I could do it. NO more stopping. I was now OFF the perform and gels and onto the coke.  My calories had been going in the whole time without an issue, I was drinking at every station + stuffing ice all through my clothes and despite the legs shutting down, I felt ok.  I did, however, notice that my skin was dry. Hmmm.. 
My shoes were soaked and making that squishing noise with Every step but my arms had no sweat on them.  I had been drinking TONS so I just don't know what that was about. But no sweat didn't seem to be quite right at the end of a crazy hot Ironman. 

I just kept my focus and kept drinking the coke. I no longer stopped to make Sure the fluids went down, I just poured in what I could as I ran.  Only 6 mi, 5 mi , 4 miles... I could get by without getting it all in at that point.  I wasn't taking any chances during the earlier miles, but now it was all in my head and heart.  
Trying to describe the way I felt at that point...it might be something that I just tuck away and remember myself. I can tell you this.  I knew that when I did finally cross the line, I would be a stronger person forever. This was definitely the Hardest race I've done and because of that, I am stronger mentally. It changed me. 
My legs were Aching and throbbing and they each weighed a Lot more than when I started. Lifting my feet to run took conscious effort with each step.  I know I was gritting my teeth for miles. Finally, I could see the stop light at the top of the hill where we turn right to go Down the hill that nearly took me down hours earlier. A group of spectators had set up camp at the top of it. They were blasting music and formed a little gauntlet for us to run though, cheering WILDLY as if we each were their best friend. Pure awesomeness at any point but at THAT point as I made my FINAL turn of the Queen K back into.. .it actually took my breath away. 

Unfortunately, it really did. Literally. 
It was at that point that I started to wheeze. I could Not get enough air. I don't know if it was the emotion or some strange physical reaction but I don't have asthma so... there I was just trying to run those last few miles while not being able to breath. The legs became a secondary problem.  But still, I was RIGHT THERE> I could Hear the finish line. And while this was taken a bit Before I got there... 
THIS Is what I saw: 

"If we watch, eventually she will come back." I keep thinking of that quote from Field of Dreams-- If we build it, they will come. :)



MY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   
I ran down that hill ( sort of ran.. in my head I was running and Mark wont' tell me what I REALLY looked like but ..haha... I think I know :))  and SCREAMED to them again, like I did heading up that hill on my bike BANCROFTS!!!  They hadn't seen me and it worked. somehow I found the air to do that!  I ran by them and high fived and you know... it was yet another BEST moment of the day. I was truly going to actually get to that finish line.  Wheezing and hobbling and hot and exhausted and truly desperate to finish, I ran on.  That next stretch is BRUTAL!!!!!!!!!  THankfully, it is lined with people cheering but we have to run down the road about.. 3/4 mile? I am not sure. ( I know I should know ) before turning Right back onto Hualalai and then: ALI'I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
It's a very long long long way when you are really at the last few moments of being able to run. 

And then, it happens. You turn onto that famous stretch. It's a Long amazing welcome back. EVERY single person is there for you. Kids running around with hands out, music blasting, smiles and cheers and ahh... it's truly magical. And, I Desperately Desperately tried to savor every last second of it. But geez, if only I could breath. I was audibly gasping for air. It was pretty rough.   It was also extremely special.  Five minutes or less that is forever etched in my brain.  







And then, just like that, Done. 

I saw the boys and Mark off on the side screaming for me.  I blew them kisses and smiled.  We did it. 



A  relaxing day by the shore. 


three of my guys emerging after some Serious body surfing. Kona doesn't' mess around with waves! They mean business! 


Lots of fun in the water on this trip. I loved the post-race Chill time with the kids and Mark. 
Race night-- Back at the Finish line party to cheer in the final finishers.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kona- Part 3- When the game changed...

Ironman is unpredictable. Ironman is long. Ironman is never straightforward.  

I always advise the athletes I coach to make "time" goals with caution.  Triathlon is not like swimming, for example. I grew up swimming competitively and a 200Fly was a 200Fly. Sure, some pools were too warm or too shallow but you could always measure your race in pool A with the race in pool B on any day of the year.  

Racing the Ironman in Hawaii is about the the furthest thing from predictable as you can get. I was well aware of this and prepared for it. However, I didn't realize until October 11th just how "lucky" I had been on the previous two years I had raced there.  

The bike leg of last week's race is when I had to come to grips with the fact that all my goals for a PR time, would have to be put aside.  It was a tough pill to swallow since I was in the best shape of my life and had been biking better than ever before.  I was ready to go fast and end this streak of Ironman races with the best ( at that point I meant  fastest) race ever.  But, I am an experienced athlete and while I was out there fighting on the Queen K highway,  I was able to accept it and continue to fight to do the best job I could do on that day.  It was my only choice!! Well,  it was  either that or have a pity party and give up & quit.  Quit? That is not one of my options, ever. 

If you are a triathlete or a cyclist and you know what it feels like to ride in winds, you can appreciate this. If you aren't, it's a little harder to explain why it was so rough.  To say, "It was very windy and so hot" doesn't begin to touch upon the true conditions in Hawaii that day.  

The first :40 seconds or so of this video talk about it a little bit:

Mumuku Winds



Let me back up--
I ran into T1 and took a deep breath. I haven't looked at the results to know but I think my transitions were a little too slow that day. I can't even remember this one but I consciously took my time ( it's all relative... I was rushing but taking care not to forget anything) to get covered in sunscreen, pull the arm coolers onto my wrists, grab glasses, shoes on ( mistake ) and.... I guess that's all. I clunked my way around the LONG transition path to my bike. ( reminder: keep shoes in Hands until you get there Or keep them on the bike, oops.) 


Ready!  

small part of transition on the day of bike racking 

view from Transition to town 

gear bag-- (the volunteers loved my ribbon to help find my #. Works every time! )
Everything was moving along just fine. I ran out and headed up the road smiling and excited to see my family. It was my only chance before mile 5 of the run ( many hours away ) so I was eager to make eye contact with them. The first ~10 miles are fast and frantic zig zagging through town. It's almost like they wiggle us back and forth on the streets so the spectators have a chance to see everyone. Of course that's not it, but I laughed a little during that time as it feels like we are in a parade. There is no  regard whatsoever for ANY of the biking rules during that time. Everyone is all over the roads, passing on either side, drafting, everything. It's actually a little dangerous and scary because your chance of getting hit by someone is high. 

I rounded hot corner and headed up Palani on the last quick road before THE LEFT hand turn onto the never ending Queen K highway. (Kaʻahumanu is what the K stands for ). 



Yes! Just as planned, they were there. I Screamed "BANCROFTS!!!!!!" at them ( hard for them to pick me out amongst everyone else)  and they saw me. It was quick but it was happy and fun. With that brief 'home contact', I was off. I said a little something to myself but out loud as I made the corner( along the lines of a little prayer since this is the Longest part of the day ) , dropped into aero and started the journey to Hawi.

________________________________

I'm going to do something different here and just throw together a few bullet point comments and thoughts to summarize what took the next 5.5 hours. Otherwise, I'd lose you all to sheer boredom. 


  • The next 10-12 miles were Great!! I felt strong, fast, power was good, I was drinking like a champ, the roads weren't too crowded, legs were totally responding the way I hoped. My average speed hovered around 21-22mph. All good. It was only 88 degrees.
  • Suddenly ... Boom. They hit. The famous Mumuku winds of Hawaii were making their presence known a LOT earlier on the course than usual.  Madame Pele was talking and she had a lot to say.  To explain a little ( maybe the video I attached earlier too?) but the island is known for it's two conflicting winds-- the mumuku winds from the uplands and the  Naulu wind from the sea. What does that mean to athletes on bike trying to go fast? It means shift to Plan B because CRAZY hard winds are blowing from the Sides and straight at you with a headwind and you have No chance of going too fast. I remember looking at my garmin around  mile 26 and just shaking my head and mumbling out loud, "it's going to be a long long day out here."  But I tried like hell to stay positive.  Everyone was in the same wind. It was a level playing field. 
  • 90 minutes into the ride the temperature was 97. 
  • My speed had decreased from 21-22 mph average to around 17mph.  grrrrrrr  And yet, my average power was basically the same.  
  • I had a decision to make. How was I going to ride? It actually seemed like an easy call for me. I quickly planned to just stay the course & keep my power as close to the original plan as I could.  If I didn't do that, I feared I would blow up on the run. After all, it all comes down to the run and how you run depends on how you ride.  Easy.  No brainer. But since that day, I have second guessed myself a lot. Should I have taken a risk? Should I have gone "with" girl A,B or C who flew by me? I am not sure. I played it safe.  I might always wonder but it's what I chose and what felt smart that day.  I wasn't taking the 'easy' route, I was taking what felt like the Smart route.  With that, I pedaled on and just kept hoping things would ease up and I'd see my pace improve over the next 80 miles. 
  • Two hours in it was 99 degrees.  




this is pretty much what that road looks like with lava rock on both sides--- so 99 + degrees has a special feel to it :) 

  • I was alone on the roads a lot. It was a very clean ride with very few bikes near me for much of the day. Lonely and a little concerning, but clean. The staggered swims broke the groups up a lot and I didn't see nearly as much drafting as I have in the past. I did see a Few groups, but not as many. I also saw a lot of draft marshals that appeared to be taking #s and handing out penalties. Good. 
  • I Finally made a turn to head towards the 18 mi climb to Hawi. For a little while, the winds had let up. I was back in aero ( a position that was Very very hard/ scary to maintain that day ) and feeling good again. I had consumed at least 4-5  bottles of fluids and felt 100% on top of the nutrition. I felt really good despite the frustration of the winds and still maintained hope that I could make it all up.  
  • My coach, Jeff Capobianco of Breakthrough Performance Coaching passed me during that time.  He asked how I was and we had a quick back & forth about the winds and that things were better. With that,he was off.  
  • The climb to Hawi---  a long long slow grind.  Headwinds, heat and hills.  Not much more to say. The winds were back. 
  • The turn around on the corner in Hawi ( mi 60) was both happy and depressing. My 56 mile split ( half way ) was really really slow for me. And yet, I was making the turn and still kept hope that the decent would be fast and the way back better than the way out.  
  • I stopped for :30 sec at Special needs. Two need cold bottles of Osmo (frozen that a.m.) were FABULOUS to grab and refresh with. 
  • Time to go DOWN hill for a change. 
  • Be careful what you wish for Ange. 
  • I flew for a little ways and had some fun. I maxed out at 39 mph. I'm SURE I was braking with that.  ( cautious mom that I am ... ) and my average for a bulk of that descent was 29 mph. Yay! The average speed climbed a bit ( still not where it was supposed to be ) and I was excited.  
  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Without warning, They were back and they were no longer just slow they were SCARY!!!!  Of course, I am speaking of, the winds. 
  • This time-- the Crosswinds off the mountain were CHUCKING us ( at least me ) All over the road. Aero was Not possible. I held the bars with ALL my strength.  
  • At least 10 times I thought, " I am GOING DOWN!"  Yup. I was fully prepared to be thrown off that bike. Over and over sudden massive crosswinds nailed me and I have no idea how I kept that rubber on the road.  But, I did. 
  • I made it to the bottom and we had another hill to climb before turning back onto the Queen K. 
  • My face felt like it was going to explode. It was pulsing. I was so so hot. 
  • The temperature was 104. 
  • Just keep riding, Ange, just keep riding. 
  • My mojo was admittedly slipping a little. The ride was proving to be really rough. 
  • Soon thereafter, we had a brief ( 5+ miles? I am not sure... ) gift of some tailwinds. Alleluia! I was finally "riding my bike." It felt amazing. 
  • And then...... yup. Headwinds! And Crosswinds! Shocking huh?  :) It was a tough day. 
  • Numerous people asked me while we sloowwwwwwwwwwly went by each other ( legally of course ) "Have you been here before?? Is it always like this???"  me: " YES! Twice and NO! This is the worst I've seen." 
  • We were Yelling this because the winds were so loud we couldn't hear & that howling in our ears for 112 miles was making us deaf and a little crazy. 
  • At aid stations, I tried to squeeze water onto my arm coolers to keep my core temp down a bit, but the winds were blowing it off to the sides so hard that I had a difficult time getting any to actually hit my arms. 
  • This is where I started seeing the carnage-- One girl I will never forget. As I rode up beside her for the pass I see her face first. Blood. And then I look more and see her entire left side is road rash. Her face, her shoulder, & her legs. Her shorts are Completely torn such that her entire quad was exposed and the giant road rash very clear. She was semi-crying but still riding Hard. I told her she wins Badass of the day. Hands down. 

Sadly, it became clear that she was not the only one. Many many people were thrown off their bikes and chucked onto the road.  I wasn't having a fast ride but I was in one piece and for that I felt grateful.  

I guess that's about enough of that!!  I wanted to get to the run about as much as you want me to stop writing about this wind possessed ride!!  They talk about the Hawaii Ironman being tough because of the elements. This was one of those years that makes them say that. The other years I was there, while there was some wind and heat, were just a way for me to ease into the real deal. This year was the real deal. 

I came into town feeling optimistic despite being ticked off that my smart ride I did, by that i mean I kept  my power where it was supposed to be, yielded such a slow time for me. I planned to ride ( and have ridden in Kona and a few other Ironman races) about 30-35  minutes faster.  But, I was optimistic that I could now RUN well and still have a really good day. I had NO clue where I stood in the field of 40-44 women. We didn't have ages on our legs, only numbers on our arms, and I wasn't close enough to people to have any clue where I was. 

It was down to 90 degrees in town at the end of my 112, so it felt rather cool.  ;) 

 One of the best parts of an Ironman is handing your bike to the volunteer as you dismount it at the T2 line. ahhhhhhh. 

And that is all I have to say about that.  


Time to run! 


 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kona-- Part 2- The Swim!


It might be possible for me to write a short book about what it took to get to Kona.  There is no easy way to describe everything that goes into qualifying for and then preparing to race in this Ironman.  To just say, 'it was hard' or 'it took a lot of personal sacrifice' doesn't begin to touch on it.  I'm staring at my keyboard right now thinking, " Should I try?"  Not today.   I'd like to talk about my time in Hawaii for now.  All I will say about my preparation is this:  I committed myself 100%. I never missed a workout. (well.. not more than 2 or 3 all year, that is for sure. )  I never made excuses for myself and I never gave up. I was nearly run into the ground a few times but I fought my way back and climbed on that airplane on October 5th in the best shape of my life. I was healthy, the injury was absolutely under control, I was fit as a fiddle and I was confident in my ability to nail the race.  


Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
October 5-11th: 

We landed in Kona on the Sunday before the race. We had nearly an entire week to settle in and 'acclimate' a bit to the heat and humidity before my big day. It was perfect. I absolutely loved being there that early.  We stayed in the same condo complex as 2011. There was a beach across the street ( Kahaluu Beach Park ) that has Amazing snorkeling.  The boys could go over alone to play soccer on the sand, or just walk back and forth with us for a short swim to see the stunning tropical fish. We were all feeling happy and very lucky to be back to this place we fell in love with several years before. 

I swam each morning at Digme beach ( the swim course) & took the boys for a swim with me there one day, enjoyed a brief stop at the coffee boat out on the course,  I swam one morning with a rockstar Pro from NH, Amber Ferriera, and enjoyed staying fairly close to her for that, I did some easy workouts down Ali'i drive and the Queen K to keep the body ready and sharp, we cruised the expo and had fun collecting 'free stuff',  ate at Lava Java, munched on fresh mangos and pineapples,  I had a heart to heart chat with 4x World Champion Chrissie Wellington, ran in the Underpants Run, the boys drove over the Saddle road to get a clear view of Maui and explore volcano vents and lava tubes, snorkeled with tropical fish, sat on a stunning beach and read,  You know, everyday normal things. :) Seriously... we did pinch ourselves a few times!!!  The race was one thing, but just the time in Hawaii was priceless.  A real dream for the family. 


A little photo tour before I get to the swim; 

a local market -- 

We enjoyed several yummy Lava Java breakfasts of course!!  

mark and the boys snorkeling-- the picture didn't come out but who cares

Delicious & fun meal at the Sheraton --  We sat at a fun fireplace table overlooking the Pacific & as the evening wore on, we could watch the Manta rays feeding next to the rocks. 

No words needed...

I was  a Lucky Mom to have my guys with me for this. 

The giant Banyan tree on ali'i...can't rotate it! ahh

So much fun in the waves for the boys... 



Soccer even in Hawaii-- gotta stay sharp for tournaments upon return! Though I'm not sure what this move was. :)  


We all participated in the UPR-- Underpants Run. :) I know, they have bathing suits & shorts on. They are kids after all. And I'm a Mom WITH her kids, so I simply wore running shorts and a jogbra. Nothing crazy for the Bancrofts. But we were there! 

There's my name! A few spots above Tommy's finger...
This little kid had the Biggest fishing pole. cracked me up. 

Gear Bags packed and ready



I managed to stay relative calm all week. (I think so at least. Maybe Mark would tell you otherwise. :)) I do allow myself to get revved up a bit, that's how it works for me. It's my way of getting into that pre-race state.  But, as Mark loves to tell me when I get stressed about being stressed and nervous, "I have never seen you do well in a race you weren't nervous for." He's right! It means I care. It's not just a regular day of grocery shopping, laundry, driving kids to and from everything and a training run. It's Race Day! It's THE race day of the year. And so, a bit of nerves and anxiousness is good for me!  I hate it, the day before makes me somewhat insane, but It IS part of the process.  



Bike is ready to rock--(or as it turned out, ready to sail away but that's for another post  :)




Everything was going very well. I did next to nothing on Friday besides a quick (literally 5 minutes  ) swim across the street to test my new TYR speedsuit ( yes, a little last minute to test it but I knew it would be fine), stuff myself with pancakes, drink bottle after bottle of nuun or perform, read and lay on my butt.OH! I also had a Surprise Face Time call from a few of my best friends from College!! Gina, Wendy and Brendan! I haven't seen Brendan in over 20years and the next thing I know I'm staring at their faces as they are  laughing and smiling at me from Burlington -> Kona! What a riot! Our connection dropped after about 20 seconds but it was still a huge huge smile for me that day.  I racked the bike in the afternoon but that was quick and easy.  I was in bed by 8:00 and miraculously, slept great!  

The 3:30 alarm was actually no big deal. I was up and ready to go. I ate my pre-race meal, took a quick hot shower and by 4:15, all five of us were heading to the jeep to drop me off  at body marking and for them to get their spot "on the wall."  They sat there from 4:30-8!!! It's like getting a good seat at a concert with no assigned seats.  They had to get there early and hold their spot if they wanted to watch the swim. 





blurry one of the boys but at 4 am, I am guessing they were feeling a bit blurry anyway. :) Flying the TriMoxie Colors!  Thanks guys!!! 


I stood in line behind the King K waiting for them to open the Transition / Body mark tent. At precisely 4:45, all the volunteers in the tent gathered together and clapped for us as we walked in. It was very cool.  Thankfully, I was on Small-time ( aka: early - to also explain, my maiden name is Small) and was one of the first to get marked.  WTC used stick on tattoos for our numbers ( mine was 4 digits long ) and mine didn't work. It wouldn't stick.( see, good thing I was early! )  I had to go to a 2nd line "Corrections" and wait there for my turn again. As a result, my 1375 was a bit of a sloppy mess with #s that didn't match. I chose not to care. I would never notice the # again that day, I was certain of that. On to get weighed ( don't look-- # is Not the same as when I left home ) and into T1 to pump the tires, fill the bento and then head to the swim..... 
I was calm and methodical. I got it all done and then I crowded over by a fence to hear, but not see, the Pro Men and Women start. I was sad the pier was set up in a way that prevented most of us from seeing the water while we waited.  But I did find Karen PM, a friend I made while at a Texas training camp that I saw again for IMTX and in Cozumel. We chatted and kept our minds off the craziness that was about to begin.  Everything was good.....  




Age group Women waiting for the cannon



The swim start was different this year.  Pro men at 6:30, pro women at 6:40, Age Group men 6:50 and Age Group Women last at 7:00.  I was Ok with this since the women were all together. The mass start is dramatic and amazing and yet, very scary.  I have had a few rough starts so I had hopes that this would allow me to truly SWIM and not feel trapped and scared for 1/2 the distance.  

I swam out and wiggled my way to the front.  Why not.  I was feeling brave. However, in the final 2-3 minutes, a few women pushed their way in front of me. One even put herself flat out so she was laying on the water, totally ready to start in prone swim position.  Good for her. But her feet were in my gut and I was a little ticked. I couldn't get to any other spot etiher. I shouldn't be surprised really, I was amongst some of the toughest women in sport at that moment, but things were a little bit rough right before that cannon blasted. 

Warning: Do NOT mess with these women! Some of them were ROUGH! 


The swim started off well!!!  I did get punched and kicked and hit and clobbered for a bit, but, I also escaped to relatively clear water pretty quickly.  I had a nice pocket and I was swimming hard.  There was one woman right off my right whose hand kept whacking me and that was bugging me but I found a way to move and avoid it after a while. She did haunt me for that entire swim however. 
I felt really strong and positive as I swam.  I knew that if I could just stay steady and push through without getting blocked, a decent swim time would happen.  I was feeling excited about the broken up start and really hopeful that I could make my way around that course without much trouble. It did feel like a long ways to the Body Glove turn around boat and during that first half, I noticed huge swells taking us for a ride. It wasn't bothering me. It was actually fun to ride them up and down and up and down.  I smiled a lot ( in my head ) and  I was still pushing hard and feeling strong. 
Step by step. My mission all day was to take it all step by step and focus on the moment I was in at that time. I thought about my stroke, pulling hard with Both arms, engaging my lats and not getting lazy.  Over and over-- I just repeated my cues and kept working. 

I finally got closer to the boat and felt the waters getting congested.  I knew it would happen, but hoped it wouldn't be too crowded. I was catching up with the men and knew that would make the way back a lot harder.  After all, you are only as fast as the person in front of you if you can't find a way around them.  I checked my watch and was at 28:xx as I was making the turn.  I was happy with that and Hoped I could keep the 2nd half strong for a good swim time. One I knew I was capable of doing. 

The swells grew bigger and I began gulping water down. I tried so hard to avoid that as I feared it could cause some stomach distress later. Some things are unavoidable when you're swimming in a crowd & the water is churning! Clearly, the swim  back to the pier wouldn't be quite as smooth as the way out. 
And That is Ironman!  A day full of challenges you need to deal with. 
I blocked out the intense eye socket pain I was feeling from my goggles. ohhh if I could just stop and take them off my eyes for 15 seconds! I couldn't. I promised myself not to waste precious time with something like that!!  I just continued to swim hard and weave my way through swimmers ahead of me. I think I swam a good line and only went in a little too far to the right one time.  
Boy that last leg was lonnnnnnnnng though!!! I got really sick of swimming. It seemed to take ForEVER to see the pier and hear Mike Reilly's voice! 
At last, I did. I was next to the pier, trying so hard to push to the end. I hoped the boys and Mark were all close enough to see me. ( I know... I'm the one in the pink cap and the black skin suit! ha. oh well... )   But as I wobbled my way up the stairs onto the pier, Mike R DID say my name! Angela Bancroft from Paris, Maine! And I smiled..  I was there. Racing in the World Championships. For real.  Even the 3rd time it feels Just as special.  

Then I saw the clock, or my watch, not sure which I looked at.  1:04. What?? I wasn't happy  and started doing math to try to figure out how that was wrong. It wasn't.  It was just a long swim back from the boat. As I suspected.  

Ok! It's a LONG day and the swim is OVER!  Time to hit the tent and get off on that bike for a few hours....   or 6.