It's a long day. But the training for an ironman is even longer. You make a committment. You dedicate yourself. You focus. You work. Sometimes you struggle. Sometimes you thrive. You never forget. It never leaves your mind. As the months move along and summertime excites the world around you, you know that it means something else. Ironman day is drawing near.
There's excitement but at least for me, there are nerves. Those nerves are welcome now. I'm experienced with this and so, when I feel the buzz as the final weeks approach, I am able to accept that it means my brain and body are where they need to be. My head and my heart are in the game if I feel the pre-race fluster. When that disappears, if that ever disappears, I will know. I will know it's time to step back.
July was here in a flash. I continued along with our typical summer activities. Life has been busy and full of good times. However, I slowly but surely drew myself inward and began to slow down. It was time to put all the hard work out there. To get myself to that starting line in full health and full form.
And that's just what I did.
The final week before I left town was hot. The country was hot. Maine was no exception. I scooped up my 3 little guys ( I know, they're not so little now but to me they're my little buddies...) and headed to the place that calms me the most.
They played and I sat. I relaxed. Took my deep breaths. Thought through the day. And then accepted. I was ready.
The final week was easy. I moved my family of 5 into giant house with Mary's family of 5 and my brother's family of 4! Sounds potentially chaotic, but the house was so big that we were fine. I retreated to my room and organized these bags, sat around on my tush, and reviewed my plan. Over and over.
Next thing I knew.... it was 3:30 a.m. and I was wide awake and ready for a giant day.
My pre-race breakfast was white and bland. I ommitted foods I alwasy ate before, added things that are always easy, and attempted one thing that would NOT go past my tongue. No harm done there. Just good to know that I don't need to bother next time! 600 calories of food, 2 cups of my first caffeinated coffee in weeks and bottle full of EFS and pre race later, I was wired and out the door for the Ironman.
Mark dropped Mary and I off at transition where we immediately found supporter extraordinaire, Marisa. She was a saint all weekend. From making posters for us with our kids, to photographer along many roads on the course, to blister fixer-upper, med tent communicator, and beer supplier post-race, she ROCKED! But at 5 a.m. on race day, she was body marking. She wrote our respective numbers on our arms & legs, branded us with our big 41to note our age on our leg, and then with one last big giant hug, we were on our way.
The next 2 hrs are a blur. I was truly buzzed. That caffeine and pre-race combined left my flippin' out a bit. That combined with my usual pre-race energy and I am quite sure I was seriously annoying. Sorry friends. I pumped my tires, answered questions from people racked with me about where to get body marked ( seriously??), put my garmin on the bike, filled the bento box, and discovered that the soaking rain in the night had oozed into my Run bag that was hanging and my run socks were wet. Duh. Rookie mistake. I doused them with baby powder and prayed. Not much I could do.
We sqeezed our way out of the masses of the transition area ( amen to getting there early!) and walked up to the tent set up for my family for the day. Mary was admiring a great Dane along the way. I discarded all politeness and basically ignored her comments about the dog. I told her I'd check him out tomorrow. Mary understands. We laughed about my super fast paced walk and her super slow stroll at that hour. We almost Allllllways have to split up at this point for that reason. She slows down and I speed up as the race start gets closer.
At the tent, I could barely hold a full conversation with anyone. I saw Mark, the kids, Andy, their kids, my brother, Leigh, their 3 kids, my coach Kurt, my parents, Mike, Bob,Dave, Mike, Stacy, Mary Lou, Carrie, Erin....any more? It was awesome, totally awesome to have them there. However, there came a point where I had to just go. I said to them, "I need to go. I have to just go walk by myself."
There had been rumors all week about the water temp. According to WTC rules, if the water is above 76.1 degrees, wetsuits are illegal. People can overheat. On the flip side, some people would struggle big time to swim 2.4 miles without the buoyancy of a wetsuit.
It was finally made official on race morning. "WETSUITS ARE OPTIONAL"
What does that mean?
It meant that if you wore a wetsuit you took yourself out of contention for any age group awards or a possible Kona spot.
No wetsuit for me!! I was happy and yet, a little sad because this surely meant a slower swim time.
Those of us without a wetsuit entered the water under a different arch than the others. The majority of the racers wore wetsuits. I knew this would be the case.
I found my spot in the water and tried to stay calm. I was shaking. The water felt freezing to those of us without suits. I was so cold. As the clocked ticked down and only 10 min remained before the gun blasted, the masses squeezed in. I slowly but surely lost my space. we were squished closer and closer. At this point, I became afraid. I had a mini- panic attack. I was unable to tread. I can tread water for an indefinate amount of time. The water is my friend. I am comfortable. But not when people are on top of me. I lost all the room I needed to move my arms and legs in order to stay afloat. This is a deep water start... I needed to float. I begged people to move so I could stay up. But with 1000s of people around all of us, there's not much room for them to go either. I also felt the strap of my timing chip swaying in the water. That chip is normally tucked nicely under my wetsuit. What if it got kicked off? No chip, no time, no place, no Kona. I was freaked.
I watched the clock and tried to will it to go faster. JUST START!! I needed to get out of that spot. I tried not to shake. I tried not to panic.
(did you watch the video? You should. It still makes it hard to takl about the feelings but it shows you a little bit of what it's like. I'd love to see it from underwater.)
I honestly do not think one can put into words the feeling you have over the next few seconds. It's almost intense as the very end of the day.
I held my head up and searched for my spot. In my first Lake Placid race, I fought hard for 5 min or so and then I outswam the masses and found nice clean water. I could work hard and swim my swim.
Not Sunday. Because I was slower than normal without my suit, I couldn't break away from the men ( seemed like mostly men) surrounding me with their wetsuits on. I was pushed and pawded. I was so aggitated. I wanted to turn around and belt this one person that was groping me for the first 1/2 mile. But of course, that would only cause more chaos as the people were swarming everywhere. I just kept going and looking for water.
I wasn't swimming hard. I couldnt'. I just did my best to keep going forward.
THe giant turn buoy approached and while I was on top of it, hitting it as I tried to make a 45 degree angle turn, I avoided gettign shoved under it. I swam far far to the right at this point so I could swim by myself. Most people wanted to swim on the buoy line but I decided it was worth it to go a bit further so I could be by myself.
I obsessed over my ankle strap. It felt loose. I made the decision to stop at the half way mark ( we get out of the water and run back in the other side of the lake for loop 2 ) to check the strap.
Finally, I was out on the beach, touched ankle to see it was fine, lifted goggles for a break and dove back in.
My swim was lackluster. I didn't feel fast. I had trouble finding my speed. I swam for a while with a girl in just bathing suit. I imagined myself back in college fighting the girls in the lanes next to me. This pushed me to a faster speed.
My mind was less focused than I expected. I had trouble finding my heart!!!! I remembered what Michelle Simmonds commented, "You dont' have to feel good all day to have a good Ironman." I remembered that and found peace. It's OK! I didn't know Why I was so blah on the swim, but I tried to ignore it. I pulled hard. I avoided kicking. I needed to save those legs for more work ahead. The wetsuit allows you to relax your legs so I decided I needed to do this wetsuit or not wetsuit.
By the end, I was feeling fine. My goggles were pushing on my eyes and making my brain feel like it might explode. I almost ripped them off with 100-200 yards to go without even thinkign about it. I started to think about the bike. It was time to get serious. I might be able to just swim those 2.4 miles but the bike was a different story.
Time to FOCUS if I was going to make it the day I wanted it to be.
Swim Split 1:01 Ok, that's fine. 4 min slower than '09 but sans wetsuit, I'll talk it. Move on.....
I hit the sand and ran out into the screaming crowds. There is Nothing like the crowds of supporters at Ironman. My heart skipped a beat with excitment as I ran through the gauntlet to T1. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers since I only wore the thin speedsuit and began rehearsing the next few minutes in my head. As I made a corner towards the giant tents I heard the Loud holler that I know so well. Mark and my family were up on a hill screaming and waving. We made quick eye contact, I waved and smiled and I knew they were with me.
Down the rows of bags, blue bike blue bike blue bike, I grabbed the blue bag and ran to the tent.
The transition tent volunteers ROCK! I was greeted at the door and some nice woman ran with me. She dumped my bag and handed me stuff as I needed it. wipe feet with towel, sock on, shoe on, sock on, other shoe on, wipe face, glasses on, helmet on, race belt on, 2 gels in one side of bra, 2 in the other, power bar and 2 more gels in pocket in back. DONE!
down some more aisles and off to my bike.
row 9 row 9 row 9 row 9- I said to myself so I'd remember where to go.
ROW 9! got it!
around the corner, power meter on, down the hill and
yes! there they were again! Mark, Cam, tommy, Nick, Mom!I waved and tucked into aero.
See ya in a few hours!!! I thought about how psyched the kids were now. The end of the swim meant one thing to them. DONUTS! They have a tradition--- free donuts at the church after the ironman swim. I smiled. Time for me to work.
I look like I worked a bit harder than I thought I did.