Ironman. It's not 1 day. It's a way of life for a long long time before that day. This year, I did it twice. Two Ironman races in two + months. Needless to say, I'm tired. Despite that deep fatigue, I remain wired with satisfaction and happiness.
Here's my story from Hawaii.
Ironman World Championships 2011
Leading up to the big day........
I worked and worked for weeks before we left to dot the i's and cross the t's at home. I completed all my workouts with 100% effort. I discussed things and planned for weeks and weeks ahead of time with my athletes. I organized the kid's schedules with school and of course, packed. That list sounds short but believe me, I was busier than a bee and eventually, it took it's toll. A regular old cold came and went. But then, 3 days before we flew away, the cough. And then, the fever. The day before we left, I was flat on my back for the day with a 101+ fever. Great. Determined to fight it off, I convinced my head I would be fine. Travel day was long. I started off feeling decent. The boys were awesome. However, by the time we took off from CA to HI, I was hot again. My temp was rising and I felt horrible. I coughed embarrassingly loud and hard on the tiny airplane. I was sweaty and scared. How could all my hard work be derailed by a flu bug? Ignore it ignore it ignore it. I tried to sleep while the kids and Mark laughed at Cars2 on the plane. Finally, 7 p.m. Hawaii time and 1:00 a.m. Maine time, we landed. By 3 a.m. Maine time, I went to bed. Praying....praying I'd recover.
Fast forward...... Thanks to my personal nurse who supplied a race saving prescription of antibiotics, I only suffered through one more sick day. The fear of having to DNS a race we travelled around the world for, faded. I rallied by grabbing my bike from Bike Works, completing a a short brick and listening to the kids exclaim in disbelief about the giant sea turtles they swam with out our front door. Things were looking up.
Time to get my head back on the race. Focus Ange, focus.
Friday- The day before. True to form, I was careful and serious about my pre-race routine. I got up early, completed a short little run, and then ate pancakes until I was sick. I was overlooking the Pacific while sitting on our Lanai with my whole family around me. I was feeling lucky. And, nervous. Very nervous.
I had a breakthrough race in Lake Placid in July. I crushed my old Ironman PR and I nearly won the amateur race. Me? From Paris Maine? I just ride around this remote town by myself doing the best I can day after day? How did I do that? It was almost surreal. And yet, it was me. I did do that. And you know what? I wanted to do it again. I was not extra nervous because I was racing in the World Championships. I was not super anxious because I was competing in a race that is the most desired event for all triathletes or because I was going up against some of the best athletes in the world. No, I was ready for that. I didn't spend the week feeling intimidated by all the hot shots walking around. Their shiny bikes and svelte bodies didn't scare me. I felt confident about myself. I knew how I got there. I knew I earned my spot.
I was super nervous because I wanted to do it again. I wanted to show myself that July 24th wasn't just a day that came together. It was a day that I earned. A day that I made happen. It wasn't luck or good fortune. It was hard work and determination. I needed to solidify my performance by doing it again.
That was my mission for Hawaii. Repeat. Make it mine. One more time. Two for two.
3:50 a.m. - wake up- choke down food, savor caffeinated coffee finally, don the tri kit, say thanks to my 4 boys for the support as they wake up at 4:15 too, and off we went.
4:45- go through the motions. Body mark, watch Chris Leito walk by, wonder if Julie Dibens is as nervous as I am, get weighed and growl because it's 5lbs more than just a few days ago, bottles on bike, pump tires, choke down some EFS, hug Mary, recheck tires, fill bento box, go to the bathroom, sit and stretch, go to the bathroom, walk around aimlessly, and then, it's time.
Cap on, goggles tight, Torque suit pulled up, stand for National anthem.
It's time. It's time.
Just like that.... it's show time.
And the fun begins---
I walked down the small stairway from the pier to the water. The waves are crashing in to the wall and the force of the water going out almost knocked me over. I found and chatted with my friend Marni, both of us focused and a bit distant. It was time to swim out. The start is about 50 yards off shore. I swam off to the left in an attempt to avoid the insane mele of the mass start at this intense race. At the World Championships, we all want to be out front. We all know how to be out front. The result is a swim start full of adrenaline, huge ego and anxiety. I am a swimmer at heart and yet, I grew up racing in my own lane. Just me vs the person in the lanes next to me. Separated by lane lines. The aggressive madness of the Kona swim is overwhelming to me. So! I went far left.
I floated and tried to save energy while treading water for 20 minutes. I found a few familiar friends ( Michelle and Nalani ) and talked about our swim plan. I held on a boat for a few seconds. With only minutes to go, the crowded slowly crept forward. The spaces closed in around me. Mike Reilly yelled to get back. You could feel the energy and anxiousness of everyone.
Close your eyes. Try to hear this. Try to feel it. If you were there or if you've been there, I know it'll bring it back in a second. If you don't understand why or what we do, please try to feel this. It's a big moment.
The helicopters were right over our heads....the loud whir of them drowning out my own thoughts. The famed announcer was sending words out to the crowd. I have heard them before but not that day. All I heard was the sound of the water churning. I heard my own heart beating. And, the drums. Behind us on the sea wall that was lined with family and friends, the Hawaiian drummers were adding to the emotions. They beat their drums over and over and over and over. It mixed with the whir of the helicopter, the announcer's voice, the screams from excited spectators, my heart beat.
Suddenly, without warning- BLAST- the cannon was shot and smoke blew into the air.
There's no more time to think. It's time to DO it! Just swim!!!!!
I started the swim feeling smug and strong. I was OK! Unlike 2009 when I thought I truly might drown in the frantic crowds, this time the start was manageable. I was touched but I was not shoved under. I was swimming my own pace. I wasn't trapped at a pace that felt slow and useless. Things were good and my Ironman start was positive. I tried not to stray towards the buoy line too soon. I wanted to swim straight and then get a bit closer after making the turn at the boat. There was one person that continuously grabbed my feet for the entire first 1.2 miles. I was entirely agitated. let GO of me! I tried to ignore and just keep swimming.............
I could see the orange buoys off to my right. I was in a good spot. Keep going. Eventually, the turn boat. As I made the corner, things grew tight. I could feel other swimmers closing in on me. And then, a HUGE dark mass moved below the water! I was startled and a bit stressed. It was only a few moments before I realized it was a scuba diver Not a great white shark. :) Good thing.just keep swimming....
The 2nd half of the swim was as bad as the first half was good. I found the other 1800 swimmers that I avoided at the beginning. Somehow, I wound up too close to the buoy line and in a mix of 100s of others. The grabbing, pushing, shoving, and kicking began. The sea was alive and well all week and on race day, while the swells were smaller, they were there. I was up and down and up and down. I drank gulp after gulp of very salty ocean. I tried not to think about the upset stomach that could haunt me from that. I talked relentlessly to myself about staying calm. And staying positive. However, it didn't work. I grew more and more annoyed. And discouraged. And tired. I felt sick. I had no energy. STOP GRABBING MY FEET! I was bugged. I stopped and did a few breaststrokes. What? what are you DOING Ange? I got mad. All those 4:30 a.m. trips to the pool. All those repeat 500s and 200s and 700s... for what? to get stuck in the middle of all these men with lousy strokes?? Seriously, why were they all men? And why can't they swim?? I'm kidding about that part but honestly, I saw some pathetic strokes and I was trapped. I could not get out of the way. Then, WHACK!!!!! My brain rattled. I stopped and ripped off my goggles. I was kicked SO hard in the eye that I nearly cried. I Did swear. And I Did stop. I was convinced I would either DNF or complete the remaining 138miles with a swollen black eye. I had a headache and was really in pain.
just keep swimming.....
ok, fine. I'll keep swimming.
My psyche was in the hole. I gave up a few times. where is the pier??? I have been in the SAME spot forEVER!!!!!!!!!!
I convinced myself I was still sick or that my illness did in fact zap my energy. I was done.
great way to start huh???
Alright, enough of that nonsense. I didn't travel to Hawaii to give up. To quit. To let one little set back get in my way. I remembered feeling pretty bad at the end of my LP swim too. I convinced myself it was ok and tried to rally. I pushed harder. I tried to surge and escape from my man trap. I broke free with only a bit to go. A woman! I found a pink cap! Ahh... don't get me wrong. I love men! :) Nothing wrong with men. But I am not a fan of the men I seem to get stuck swimming with in these things. Where are their manners? Haha..just kidding.
I could hear the announcer. The sound of the crowd filled my insides. I swam all the way in to avoid the dreaded sea urchins. YES! The Stairs!!!!
I was done. Thankgod. Time to move on.
I couldn't find the strap to my suit. I was sure it got pulled off. I stopped for a brief second under the fresh water hoses as I ran to T1. I hollered for Help getting the suit off.... I took 3 yells but finally a volunteer helped me unzip.
Swim time: 1:04
1:04??? Ugh. That's way way slower than my norm. Way slower. I guess it was rough? Crowded? Off course? who knows. But, I heard that many people had slow swims. I will let it go. But next time ? I plan to be faster. Period.
Before I knew it I was out of that looooong transition area and heading up Palani Rd with many many other bikes. It was crowded and within minutes I realized I was the slowest one out there.
stay in your own race Ange, just stay in your own race...
So so many men whizzed by me like I was standing still. It can be easy to get discouraged. I had to fight it. I had been instructed to push things a bit for the first 10 miles until we left town on the Queen K. I did just that. I rode strong and tried to ignore the fact that I didn't feel great. push it now, then get out on the long road and settle down....
I knew it might take a bit to warm up, to find my groove. We circled up and down a few roads close to the starting area. The streets are lined with spectators that we will soon miss. The Queen K is a long long lonely road and makes up 90% of the bike course. I heard Mark yell as I descended Palani the first time and when I climbed back up that road I saw him and the boys and we all yelled to each other. Comfort...such comfort in seeing family.
Now, it was time to dig deep and focus.
The ride out on the Queen K was fine. I drank and drank and drank more to erase the salty taste and thirst I acquired during the swim. Eventually, I realized I was overdrinking because my stomach and throat began to hurt. I felt full and nauseus. I had pain in my neck. Damn. Get on top of it Ange! I did a quick assessment of things and decided I could afford to hold back and let my stomach settle. If I messed up the nutrition, the day would not go the way I wanted it to go. Swim, bike, run, nutrition. All 4 are key.
And, let's not forget the psychology piece. It's a 5-part sport.
I rode and rode. I growled at a few large packs that went by. One included the winner of our age group last year. She went on to win this year too. How can she do that with a straight face? Ride clean folks... we're all in this together. There were many refs on the motorcycles out and I witnessed many yellow cards being handed out, and yet, the report is that there was a lot of drafting going on. It's a shame at an event of this caliber.
My stomach settled and I was back on track with nutrition.
The sun was out in full force. I was hot. Very hot. I grabbed water every 7 miles and covered my body and head with it. I sipped it a few times then grabbed a bottle of Perform to carry on the bike. Just like Lake Placid...don't mess with the plan that worked.
The climb to Hawi was upon me before I knew it. And the winds of the Big Island did not disappoint. Eventually, I just had to laugh. I was slowed to a crawl and had to hold the bike for dear life. I attempted to ride in aero a few times just to be thrown around the road with the threat of landing in a bush. I decided not to fight nature and just sat up and pedaled with purpose to the 60 mile mark-the turnaround.
I rode over the blue timing mats, heard it beep, and smiled thinking of my friends back home and their awesome support as they watched.
Thanks guys!!!!!! I felt your love way out there!!
Back out of the wind tunnel... I was distracted by the beautiful ocean. The water was so blue and sparkly that day! focus ange focus.
The bike is the longest part of the day and yet I'm Happy to say, it went by the fastest that day!!! I had a great bike I think. I was steady and felt strong. After calming down on my crazy fluid consumption, my stomach settled and I felt good. I was hot and sweaty and the sun was beating down on me, and yet I kept my head calm about the heat and it never attacked me mentally. I cooled myself and took in the calories. I relaxed through the winds and didn't panic or fight it.
And that's that!!!
I hit the airport, rode by the Natural Energy Lab and had a moment of concern as I remembered ( ok, I never really forgot but things were getting close) that I still had to run 10 miles through town, and then another 8 out to the hot and hellish energy lab and then another 8 after that....
focus ange...just ride now...run soon.....
3+ more hours of work and then you rest. it's vacation. the beach awaits....
focus. Keep your head on.
It was my mission that day. I was on a mission to stay in control of myself and finish what I set out to do.
I took my feet out of my shoes as I approached Palani. I did Not want to run that Long transition run in my bike shoes this time. I decided to be a big girl and act like the experienced triathlete that I am and get the feet out of the shoes! ( aren't you proud Kurt!? :) ) I handed my bike to a volunteer at the dismount line and without looking back, I was off for my run bag. (bike split 5:37. Exactly the Same as Lake Placid!!?? interesting. I hit my watt range Exactly too. VI 1.04. I guess I was where I needed to be. Let's see what's next.)
I was crouched over and in pain. My feet killed. I've been fighting a bad case of plantar fasciitis since Lake Placid and it reared it's ugly head on that transition run. Why do they make it SO long?? It was brutal. I felt horrible. Hot, tired, in pain, and ....thats' about it!
Into the run change tent. I had a great volunteer who was super helpful. Someone else came over and started gobbing sunscreen on my back and arms. I changed my shorts, dried my waterlogged feet and grabbed my run socks and shoes, I stuffed gels in my bra, put on my hat and....made a quick bathroom trip. It was conveniently right in front of my seat so that was handy.
I took an excederin to mask my headache ( that always happens) and grabbed a cup of water as I ran out.
This is it. This is where it either all comes together...
It's Make or break now Ange. What are you going to do? Are you going to give in to the pain? the fatigue? the desire to just slow down or...stop? Are you going to say, "It's ok, it's been a long season. You can't have your best race Every time...."
or are you going to choose to win. Are you going to choose to fight all the demons that are creeping into your brain now? Are you going to fight harder than you've had to fight ever before. Sure.... you're worn out. You've worked so intensely for 12 months now without a break. You've won what you needed to win to get here. That's good enough. Isn't it?
I came to do it again! I ran down Ali'i Drive determined to finish the job. To get to the finish line with the success I wanted. Let's go...
Around mile 5 I finally saw my family again. I had been waiting and waiting to see them.
Mark yelled and came close? "How are you???"
I was good. I was right on pace. My legs felt strong. My foot didn't hurt. My stomach was cooperating. But, my head was faltering. I was looking for strength. All I said was, "I'm trying to keep my head in the game. I'm trying..."
I turned around down the road and ran by them one more time. The next time I'd see them would be at the finish. I smiled ( I think?) and waved goodbye. I couldn't wait to play in the water with the kids. I couldn't wait for that post-Ironman hug that Mark is so good at.
Time to dig deep. It was about to get tough.
Off I went. Back down Ali'i. I had 5 more miles in town before heading back into the Lava fields. I heard Mike Reilly annoucing the Pro men as the finished. I felt jealous. I yelled to spectators, "who won??" Craig Alexander. Yes! I smiled and headed out on Hualalai road ( is that right? it starts with an H, I know that much) and to the short stretch of Kuakini hwy before the climb up Palani to the queen K. I took short easy steps up the hill. Just like the lake placid hill....save your quads just like Kurt said... easy up the hilll...
I was hot. And I was struggling. It was time to rally.
I headed up the long gradual hill that led us towards the Natural energy lab on the Queen K. I watched Chrissie Wellington FLY by me towards her 4th win. Amazing. The last time I had seen her was on the bike and she was way way behind. Minutes later, I watched Mirinda Carfrae run by me with a look of total grit and fight. She was pushing so incredibly hard. Rockstars.
I ran and ran. The more I ran, the better I felt. I felt strong and solid. I took in plenty of gels and perform at every aid station. I filled my clothes with ice, dumped water on my neck, and rubbed sponges on my face. I was increasingly excited. I was making it happen. I was right on pace. I wasn't faltering and I became more and more sure of myself.
Women around me started talking with their supporters on the road and a few with each other. They were discussing their places. One talked about being 2nd in her age, another was trying to fight her way into 5th. Wait a minute.
If they are that far up in their age groups, what about me? Where was I? Did I have a shot? Could I make the podium here?? In 2009 I think I placed in the 30s for my age group. I was Not in contention. But wait....maybe this year was different?
I started noticing numbers on other people's arms. I saw some that were close to mine. I ran them down. Knock them off... I want it.. I'm getting that spot... I ran harder and harder. ( or so I thought...)
Next thing I knew, I was climbing out of the energy lab.
It's hot. It's very very hot. I was taking shallow deliberate breaths. It was hard to get enough air. Where did the air go? Just keep moving.... keep moving... .do not walk do not walk. Keep breathing. A few more steps and you can get water.
Thankfully, I did reach that aid station at the top of that road. I grabbed the table and held on. I tried not to stop long. I dumped water and filled my shirt with ice.
7 miles Ange and then you rest.
The work is not done. A little more work and then it's time to celebrate.
It's all you now. It's all about your head.
Did I have it? Did I have what it would take?
The wheels were falling off. All of a sudden I was in a hole. I could feel myself glaze over. I had that look that people talk about. I was not on the same road as the others next to me. I was in my own space. I was still running and I was heading towards town but I was far far away in my head.
I had flashes of the season. Some from races, some from training. And some of my thoughts were just the kids or Mark or others that have given me strength along the way.
Why do I do this? If there's so much suffering and pain?
Because of what happens next....
I ran mile to mile. I was more focused than ever before. I was reaching inward to a place I didn't know I had. I wanted it. I wanted it so much. Not just the finish line-- I wanted it all. I wanted all that I had set out to do. It was mine to win or mine to loose.
Did I have it?
Damn straight. I didn't get this far to let it slip away.
I took a right onto Palani drive. This was it. I hollered out loud as my quads screamed with each downhill step.
I didn't expect it, but right at the bottom of the hill I heard Mark. And then I saw him and my kids. He snapped 20 photos in 2 minutes and they are nearly all blurry. But it's ok, because we were both blurry. Without any warning, I started to cry. He hollered louder and louder and I threw my hands in the air in total joy. Only a mile or so to go... I was doing it. I was smashing those demons that tried to stop me that tried to slow me down.
This is the bottom of the hill on Palani...I'm not even at the finish yet and already felt total happiness.
I ran down towards Ali'i Drive. I can't describe that finish line in a way that will do it justice. It's nearly 3/4 of a mile ( or more? maybe less) down a road that is a tunnel. The crowds fill the roads so there's only a small narrow aisle for the athletes to finish on. Everyone is screaming your name and slapping your hands. Your 140.6 mile race is almost complete. You made it and the emotions are totally and utterly overwhelming. At least, they are for me. I broke into a faster run and passed a few more people, including a girl in my age group. Still racing!
I crossed the line with pride and a smile. Two for two. I conquered both my Ironmans and validated that Lake Placid race and made it happen again. I'm so excited and can't wait for more.
Final time -- 10:25
7th age group-- Almost a podium spot! Yes! and one more thing.... I was 2nd amateur at Lake Placid. The woman who beat me Crushed that course and is an incredible athlete. However, I was pretty psyched to learn that I beat her in Kona. That, felt cool.
HUGE Mahalos ( thank yous!) to Mark, Cameron, Tommy, and Nick (my super awesome supportive family), to my parents who are my biggest fans and have supported me my WHOLE life, Kurt- my amazing coach who successfully guided me through these two great Ironmans, my sponsor Norway Savings bank for the much needed financial support, my best friend Mary - what can I say? we are in this together girlfriend!, and all my incredible friends who have been such special cheerleaders and support all the time!
And that's that!!!! thanks for reading!
A few more photos of the day...
( I can't seem to move them to put them in order! )
( this is early on... I couldn't move this photo to save my life..)
the boat I grabbed a few times before the start...