Scottsdale RV Ranch

The whole point of coming to Scottsdale/Tempe was to volunteer at the Ironman – otherwise why put ourselves through 3 long long days of driving to Memphis in time for turkey right? I asked Matt if there was room for me in the BASE team house but it seemed pretty full – so he said we could park the Airstream in the driveway and just hang out in the house, use the showers, etc. But after the situation in Tucson we played it safe and booked a spot at a proper RV Park. After another successful parking job by yours truly we hopped on our bikes (my triathlon bike actually) and headed out to ride the race course. The park was only a block or two off the course which worked out great, except the route didn’t have good bike lanes or even shoulders for some high traffic sections and the first 20 minutes were a little nerve wracking as jerk drivers honked at and buzzed us. Out on the Bee Line Highway we had a nice wide shoulder but we also had headwinds and a 10 mile false flat. We missed the markings for the U-turn and found ourselves out by a military base and caught in some traffic for a rodeo. After cutting across 4 lanes of divided highway we were headed back.
We missed the turn for the bridge across the river to the Ironman village and were again honked at and buzzed before pulling off onto a pedestrian walkway (maybe for bikes?). We said hi to the BASE folks then chased daylight back to the RV park – happily on a proper bike path thru a park. We were conveniently located 3 miles from the village on a good bike route.

There were a ton of athletes from Portland in town to race including several of Tom’s former teammates, the Ironheads, and Summit Coaching clients. They invited us to their hotel for dinner and we hit up a Hispanic grocery for a sad wine selection en route. I know it was nice for Tom to have some friends to hang with after we’d spent a few days with all my gal pals in Tucson. Karen and Bob RV too so lots to talk about – and if any of my Seattle friends got caught in a 4 hour interstate closure at SeaTac back in July I know why lol.

Saturday we had to swim, bike, run so we started off at a nice outdoor aquatic center nearby, bumping into Hillary, Alyssa, and a bunch of Smashfest girls.img_2870 Then we drove over to Hole in the Rock to run on pink paths around Papago park in the hot sun. img_2843We had to do another loop on the race course but with some TT efforts but first we rode to the village where I bought some new Hokas and chatted with my Base Salt peeps. I even forked over $10 to the mechanic tent staff because my headset was rattling around again and I didn’t have my multi-tool on me (hello lazy!). I thought I was feeling good and excited for a little workout on the P3 but I quickly realized that my Wahoo was paired with Tom’s power meter (my battery was apparently dead) so I had no meaningful data for my intervals and with the crazy winds I was beyond frustrated. Plus apparently Tom has been holding back on our rides and is way stronger than me when he actually tries so it was demoralizing to watch him ride off into the distance. He waited after #2 though so we could cross the highway together to head back towards town with the wind at our backs for #3. I got caught at the only stoplight though and started chatting with a 2 time IMAZ finisher who was volunteering too and out for an easy picture snapping ride.

After the ride we headed to the BASE house for team dinner and hot tubbing. Indeed the driveway would not have worked for the trailer seeing as how it was gated and had a decent pitch to it. The place was awesome however and we enjoyed hanging out until it started to get cliquey (as all triathlete gatherings eventually do) at which point we bowed out. The clique-i-ness continued the next day as we arrived, by bike, to help set up the salt party on the race course. It was still important to be there for the racers though.  Just before dark I decided we needed warmer clothes and I hadn’t gotten in my run for the day so I ran the 5k back to the trailer. Stuffed a few extra layers into my hydration pack and ran back to the aid station. Most of the racers I knew were finished and it was turning into a stream of exhausted walkers. Not long after, I got really tired myself so we packed up and rode back. We had a long day of driving ahead of us and needed to get a little rest.

Except for feeling like an outsider with the crowd that we actually came to hang out with and support, we really enjoyed Tempe/Scottsdale and hope to return soon. Of all the Ironman venues I’ve been to though, this one felt a little different, a little snottier. Maybe it was the hateful drivers, maybe it was the abundance of athletes set on punching their Kona tickets, maybe it was the wretched wind, maybe it’s just a west coast vibe, but it didn’t make me want to come race in Arizona, that’s for sure.

Iron Adventures in France Part Deux

as continued from Part Un

There was a noticeably lower level of race morning anxiety for this second go around. Kelly seemed more anxious but I was relatively calm. We did have to drive into town and park and transition opened later (5:30 for a 6:40 start) than most races which I think contributed to Kelly’s nervousness. But we were one of the first ones there so got good parking and found chairs right next to the transition entrance, also conveniently located by some of those fancy portable toilet trailers – which at least for the first visit were remarkably nicer than your standard port-o-pot. We were literally the first ones into transition when it opened and I beelined for my bike and the pumps before a queue formed only to confirm my fear that their pumps did not fit on my weird rear valve. So I went right to the mechanic tent and let a cute French fella pump my tires for me. After arranging bottles and setting up my garmin we went hunting for special needs bags drop location. Literally walking in circles around transition asking everyone to no avail. Finally we located Morning clothes bag drop so we went ahead and stripped down and I strongly regretted not having throw away flip flops for the rest of the pre-race walking around (and mainly the last port-o-pot stop – electing to block that from my memory). Apparently special needs drop site was right outside the door – we had honestly walked by it like 3 times but they must not have been set up yet. Maybe we were distracted by the naked man who decided to just change clothes right in front of God and everyone at the entrance to transition. It took a few frustrating laps to locate the entrance to the swim start where we did our good luck and goodbye hugs before Kelly jumped into the lake for the in water pro start and I weaved my way closer to the back of the self-seeded pack. I stood at the railing watching the pro packs swim their first loop as the sun rose over the rooftops of this cute little French town and all the Europeans chattered around me. I had a brief moment of overwhelming emotion and teared up and almost started freaking out but I stopped myself and said a prayer for a good calm confident swim for both of us and refocused on the day ahead. We kept inching forward to the dock and I was feeling good, ready, committed to a great race.

Then I’m diving in off the dock and all hell breaks loose. My brand new (open water and pool tested) goggles were fogging up within seconds. The time trial style start didn’t provide the thinned out field that I anticipated. The water was not clear, like couldn’t see my own arms in front of me. The sun was blindingly right in my eyes breathing left, which was the side the buoys were on. The water was reverberating off the seawall creating tons of chop. It just plain sucked. I couldn’t calm down or get into a rhythm. I actually hung onto a kayak for a bit to get my bearings. Every time I’d stop to sight or clear my goggles the guys in boats would ask if I was okay. It took me over 14 minutes to get to the 500m buoy and some quick math told me this could be a 2 hour swim. The outbound half of the first loop took FOREVER. I spent a lot of time debating with myself whether or not to quit on the dock at the end of that first loop. But by the 1000m buoy I was starting to feel better, manage the situation – it wasn’t pretty, but I was making progress. We had to exit the water and run a little ways then jump back in. Perfect opportunity to bail. Here was my chance! It had taken me 50 minutes to go 1900m. I was pissed. I am better than this! I’ve had some awesome open water swims this summer. Of course I’d never questioned whether or not it would be wetsuit legal so my 1:20 time goal was definitely under revision without it, but I just didn’t know how much it would wear me out to actually have to swim for 2 hours without one, and I had the whole rest of the day to consider. But I came all the way to France. I had prepared for this. I didn’t even have the car key so if I quit, I’d be sitting around for the next 9 hours waiting for Kelly to finish. So I jumped back in. And scraped the ever living $hit out of my right foot on the damn concrete boat ramp hiding in the murky water at the end of the dock. UGH. I couldn’t even figure out where to swim because the sun was so blinding. I was still pretty mad swimming the second loop but at least I wasn’t getting swum over constantly – now I was the one passing people. I had resigned to having a terrible swim split and I’d figured out I could go roughly 500m before the goggles got so clouded that I absolutely had to stop and clear them, so now it was just managing my attitude and getting to the next buoy, and the next, until finally I got to turn for the exit. The old man in front of me was struggling to stand up so I fell over running into him and scraped up my left knee. Perfect. Something over an hour and forty minutes, but it was over. Nothing like a terrible horrible frustrating slow swim to start what I had hoped would be a perfect day for a nice big PR.

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I never get excited for the bike leg for a triathlon. I mean it’s one step closer to running, but all the uncontrollables make me anxious for it. But today, I was sooo looking forward to getting on the bike. Anything but swimming, please God. I didn’t even sit in transition. Swim skin off, tri top on. Shoes, helmet, glasses, go. Worked on my cool wings as I hobbled to my bike and hustled the long way to the mount line. Next time I need to remember to have a nice big snot blowing session instead of doing it for the first 2 hours on the bike. The first few miles getting out of town was twisty and bumpy and I hit so many potholes that by the time I got to some decent asphalt I could tell my derailleur was all kinds of jacked up. Great. Always nice to look forward to 6 plus hours of riding with a noisy chain and sketchy shifting. It was overcast and cool (not the 97 degrees we were anticipating) but I was in a foul mood from the swim. Happy to be riding, but angry that the day had started off so badly. There are hardly any women on the course but the men keep zipping by me. This is not unusual, however, considering how bad my swim went, I was just a little confused why they were all starting the bike after me. It should have dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with that swim and that might have helped my attitude, but I was in a yuck place and feeling sorry for myself so that didn’t occur to me at all. 112 miles is a long ways to go and it wasn’t thrilling but it really wasn’t bad at all. I ate, I drank, I dumped water on my wings, I enjoyed the beautiful countryside, the British fellas were friendly, my attitude improved. My favorite part of the course is the last 15 miles of the loop – ironically, the hilly section. I didn’t mind the false flats or the cute towns, but the hills were more interesting and very pretty. Made a quick stop at special needs for nice cold Rocketfuel refills and chamois cream and started the second loop with a little more push on the pedals. Instead of getting passed nonstop now I was doing the passing, and finally seeing some ladies. It drizzled a few times which was awesome – didn’t affect the roads, but kept things cool. The pro men started passing me around half way through and I kept wondering if Kelly would catch me and if she did, would I tell her what a terrible swim I had? I didn’t want to distract her from her race but wanted her to know how things had gone so she didn’t worry when I was taking so long to finish later. But it was a non-issue, I managed to not get lapped by the ladies. I made a point to work the hills and was bummed when I realized I wouldn’t make my 6:30 split goal (range had really been 6:15-30). Lucky me, my garmin was 3 miles short and all of a sudden I was rolling into transition for a 6:23 split which really lifted my spirits.

My hips did the thing where they don’t like to stand up straight coming off the bike, so the long walk to rack my bike was a good opportunity to stretch them out, even if it cost me time. I did sit down to put on my socks and shoes over my poor bloody (swim scraped) feet and was sad that somehow after all the bag packing and repacking I hadn’t put any lube in my t2 bag so there would probably be some blister action happening. Pulled all the extra crap out of my shirt pockets from the bike and threw in my planned run nutrition, took a second to fill up my handheld bottle with water from the table and almost ran into a fence turning the wrong way out of the tent. A volunteer yelled at me to put my bib on as I was trying to buckle my belt while running out the chute and I pulled up my arm sleeves as I turned onto the run path and through the shower station. Quads were feeling the push from the bike but of course I was jetting off at a 7:30 pace blazing by everyone and trying to catch my breath. The path was half runners, half spectators – picture scooters, bikes, strollers, dog leashes, and a stream of tired stinky racers gutting it out on uneven asphalt. It cleared up as we got away from the venue though and then the first aid station appeared. Coke in mouth, water on sleeves. I’d repeat that 5 times per lap but I wouldn’t remember to walk them until #3 on that first lap. I was just too excited to run and accidentally forgot that part of my race plan and ticked off some stupidly fast splits. Goal pace was 8:45, not 8:25 so I needed to walk and chill out. Then I started seeing more reasonable numbers. And I was feeling pretty great, considering. Taking salt licks every mile, staying cool, no desire to eat though, which might come back to haunt me later. At the end of each lap you ran through the finish line, like literally across the red carpet but right next to the actual arch, then back out of the little stadium to get a bracelet and start your next lap. Red, yellow, blue, finish. Oh how I coveted that blue bracelet. Second lap was much like the first, feeling strong, sticking to my plan, thinking I would probably have to stop and pee but the port-o-jons were sparse and I kept going even when I saw one. I had dreams of running a 3:40 which should have cued me to realize I was running too fast. I could tell my garmin mileage was getting off but I crossed the finish line the second time at 1:47. Uh yeah, a little fast. Hmm… okay third lap. The need to pee was getting strong, too strong, and there were no bathrooms for miles it seemed. So I did the unthinkable – I peed myself. I know people do it on the bike, but I don’t think people do it on the run. Dear God, I am disgusting! Was close to an aid station so dumped water down my shorts and hoped no one noticed (and that I didn’t smell! well, at least any worse than I already did). Alright that happened, time to get back to business. I had some enthusiastic French gentlemen fans under the first bridge who always brought a big smile to my face. And I was still running a great pace, so people cheered everywhere “bravo! allez Emily! on y va!” or something like that. All day long, on the bike and run, the French cheered like we were Olympians – they were fantastic. But it happened again! This time I grabbed a shower head from a volunteer at an aid station and doused my lower half. My soggy socks were the least of my problems now lol. Somewhere in the midst of my hydration problems I must have missed some salt doses because by the end of my third lap my stomach was growing uncooperative as well. I finally stopped in a potty just before running through the finish line area but after getting my blue bracelet I had to take up a run walk, and boy was I pissed mad. Upped my salt intake and after a mile or so I was back on track, not moving as quickly, but running between aid stations at least. It was a mental battle of managing my expectations, forcing myself to suffer, and trying to enjoy the final few miles in spite of it all. The tummy trouble had ruined my sub 12 goal but I could still PR, I was sure of it, if I just kept moving at a steady pace. Some of the more rowdy spectating groups were disbanding and it was getting a little quieter on course but the volunteers were still going strong and it felt awesome to be in the home stretch. Again, I was just awed by the competitors walking with only 1 or 2 bracelets, they would be out there for quite some time, what guts.

My final lap around the finish line stadium was such a relief. I didn’t see Kelly even though she was there, it was so crowded and loud, and there were a few people finishing just ahead of me but I think I heard my name. The emcees were insanely awesome – they were basically running a discotheque in the park for 12 hours.

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The finishers tent was nothing more than a bottle of water, a t-shirt, and a long line for a massage. Kelly came and found me in line and we lamented the swim and I told her my stomach kinda crapped out around mile 20 – I think she thought I was really unhappy and asked me if my run was like a 4:10 and was kind of shocked when I told her it was actually a 3:50 for a 5 minute PR overall. Of course it was like pulling teeth to get her to tell me she finished 3rd – for her first pro 140.6 podium! I made friends with a first timer also named Emily waiting next in line and we all chatted til it was our turn. The emcees asked Kelly to be at the finish for the last hour (10:30-11:30) so I got my morning clothes bag, cleaned up and changed and we sat on the patio having donuts and beer (okay, only I had beer) and discussing the day. We eventually checked out my gear and took it all to the car then headed back to the finish area for some soft serve and hung out watching the party. For the last hour we actually went down to the finish line and partied with the other winners and emcees. At 11:30 they set off fireworks then showed a really great video from the day and bid us all adieu. It had been a pretty epic day, no question. Thank you Ironman Vichy!

Takeaways:

things are different in France –

  1. volunteers are great but not as knowledgable as we needed them in several instances
  2. there was zero mechanical support on the bike course
  3. there were lots of officials on motorcycles and strict rules about drafting but I never saw a single black card given
  4. ice is not a thing
  5. there are no bike catchers or finish line catchers
  6. supposedly you aren’t allowed to run shirtless, so I didn’t, but I saw plenty of shirtless women running
  7. you have to wear your bib on the bike or you get DQ’d
  8. you can’t wear a tri kit under a swim skin if it isn’t wetsuit legal – they made a special exception for this day that you could wear ONE layer under a swim skin – and they DQ’d a bunch of people for wearing a sports bra, a tri top, and a swim skin, even Pros

things that affected my performance –

  1. not being able to practice swim at the actual venue is tough – I actually haven’t at any of my half or full venues, and I think it would really help in the future
  2. building my own bike and only getting a cursory check out by a mechanic might have left it in less than ideal shape for race day, that’s a tricky thing about flying to a race
  3. I wasted 2 hours on the bike being mad about the swim – that was just stupid
  4. I honestly just didn’t visualize or run through my race plan enough – and started off my run too fast and didn’t get in any nutrition, which may have contributed to my (honestly very mild) stomach issue. last year I at least got down like 1 gel and 1 pack of chews then some bananas towards the end – this time it was only coke and a few oranges

things I’m proud of –

  1. not quitting on the swim. it was a very real possibility
  2. pushing on the bike not knowing how it would affect my run
  3. much better transitions!
  4. overcoming a huge setback on the swim and not being defeated by a setback on the run

And I’m not feeling burned out or finished or anything – I have a fire in my belly for more – because I know I am capable of much better. I am more fit than the circumstances allowed me to perform. Yes I’m registered for Roth next July but I don’t think I can wait that long to go again. So we’ll see what I come up with in the meantime 😀

Again, it wouldn’t have been possible without the wisdom and support of my coach, my friends and training partners, and all my teammates spread across the country. I really wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun like 80% of the time. Running is my first love, it is in those moments that I feel confident, strong, smart, and talented. To misquote the movie line, it is there that I feel God’s pleasure. The sermon at church tonight was about the inseparable nature of grace and truth in Christ Jesus – and how through His Spirit, we receive grace and truth, are convicted of righteousness, and are made free. We are constantly becoming more of who we are – more you-ier. Sports have a beautiful way of refining us, tearing us down, exposing our weakness, and providing unlimited opportunities to learn and grow and be made strong under wise teaching. It’s a never-ending process and I look forward to becoming more of who I’m meant to be, as an athlete, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a child of God.

Iron Adventures in France Part Un

The backstory:

Life in Seattle during tax season was stressful. Trying to learn a new job, make friends in a new city, date in a new culture, train in the dark, live within my means, it was a lot. I hardly slept, I gained a ton of weight, I drank daily, cried frequently, and doubted myself regularly. But April 18th came and went and I had the promise of a full time job, new friends and training partners, great weather, and a miracle weight loss pill. Seriously, things had really turned around – even if I was still having housing problems and night sweats.

 

I had been thinking about Ecuador 70.3 with my coach/friend Kelly the end of July but travel warnings were high and logistics tricky, so I shifted gears to Whistler 70.3, same timeframe. I headed east for almost 3 weeks of vacation with the family, training with Charlotte friends, and shipping my belongings back to Seattle. I returned to the PNW ready for summer fun and out of the blue Kelly suggested a trip to France for either a 70.3 or 140.6. I’m sure she thought I’d go for the 70.3 and we could just alternate sherpa-ing for one another. After some quick internet research we secured accommodations and were watching flights while she loaded up my training volume to see if I could realistically go for the full distance. And I searched for some race reports to scout the course. Learnings: wetsuit swim, “fast” bike, flat hot run. Bingo! This was my race.

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But hold on. This meant I had to swim. I can count on one hand how many times I swam between Ironman Chattanooga and tax day. (For the uninformed, that’s September 28, 2015, to April 18, 2016). Seriously, 5 swims. Naturally I ran right out and bought (luckily at a Timex team discount) the best wetsuit on the market – made especially for women w curves. Thank you Blue Seventy! And then there’s the whole I suck at climbing hills thing, so I swapped out my cassette and derailleur for some pansy sizes so I could actually ride places like Orcas Island and Whistler BC, even if I did still only average 13-14mph, at least I wasn’t walking up the hills. [Okay, I walked up a few, on Orcas. You just try it and see if you don’t.]

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Just in case you weren’t keeping up – I’m saying that I registered on June 27 for an Ironman on August 28. In the 8 weeks leading up to the actual registration I had been training 11-14 hours/week so I’m not a total moron – and you can be certain that my coach wouldn’t let me do anything completely idiotic. Last year I went from fat lazy Euro-tripping girl to Ironwoman in 100 days, but I was unemployed and road tripping and focused primarily on my training. This year I had to navigate an 8-5 job schedule, a ton of summer weekend travel plans, and a personal priority of building my social network in this city that I desperately wanted to call home. But it seemed to be working out alright – some solo workouts, some with friends, lots of early mornings at the hot outdoor pool in Kirkland, lots of sweaty lunch runs, a couple exasperating rides on Ironman courses in Coeur d’alene, Whistler, and Boulder, and some confidence boosting open water swims in the beautiful lakes that make Seattle such amazing training ground.

Green Lake, Whistler, BC

Then France:

Before I knew it, summer was winding down and it was time to catch my flight to Europe. A whole bunch of other stuff was going on and distracting me but I had pretty much nailed my training and was as fit as I could be given my limited lead time. Kelly and I were ready to crush this race and show all the Europeans what’s up. We had big goals and high hopes. Travels went flawlessly, bikes unpacked, jet lag averted (as best as possible), and French roads navigated. As soon as we arrived in Vichy we parked near a public swim area on the lake and tried to go for a swim. The adorable French lifeguards informed us that was not possible as the water was barely knee deep in the permissable “swim area.” So we started out to run a loop around the lake instead, stopping at the race venue to get some tickets to the local pool and scouting out the swim start/transition area. It was a nice area with tree lined paths along the water, but good Lord, it was hot. Like 97 degrees hot, not a cloud in the sky. At 5:30 in the afternoon we were dry mouthed and sweat soaked. Hmm… this was not good. It took some doing but we made it to the sweet outdoor pool and a cute French guy sweet talked a coach into letting us share a lane with his team practicing after public hours. Me and 50m pools do not really get along, but this one was pretty cool and I suffered thru about 1000m before Kelly decided to give me some pointers on my stroke which magically changed everything. Gee, great timing. A local woman chatted us up and informed us that it was highly likely the water temp would rise to non-wetsuit legal temps before the weekend. Not good news. Eventually we made it to the countryside Chateau that would be our home for 5 nights and the lovely Dutch couple that runs the B&B served us a fabulous dinner and we tucked in for the night.

 

Thursday. 3 more sleeps. All the carbs. Time to ride the bikes. 5 miles in I realize the reason I feel so shaky and anxious is because my headset is not screwed down correctly, like not even close. I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself. I managed to get back in one piece but while going in and out of the chateau in search of a tool to fix it, I fell hard down the steps in my cleats, severely bruising my left hip. So now I’m freaked out and want a mechanic to check the bike over and also in a lot of pain and wondering how that might affect my race as well. But for now, back to the pool we go. Coach does a lot of workouts during taper, so apparently now I do too. We have trouble navigating the weird European public pool locker room protocol and get smacked around a bit by aggressive men in tiny swimsuits. Then on to packet pickup where hardly anyone speaks English and we can’t figure out when athlete’s meeting is, where a mechanic is, or why there are no chips in our packets. I couldn’t even negotiate an appointment at the massage tent. It was hot as balls and we were getting cranky so we left to go drive the bike course. Beautiful French countryside and cute hay bale sculptures welcoming Ironman racers awaited us, as did hot sun, hot wind, and bumpy roads. Our favorite section was near the end of the loop on the nicely paved rolling hills thru the only tree covered area before the descent back into town. Couldn’t figure out where special needs would be located and begrudged being routed over speed bumps but overall, it looked nice and doable, just very open to the elements. We parked near the Opera house to run the only part of the course we’d missed the previous day, did a 30 minute shake out then enjoyed some quiche at an outdoor cafe in the park because we were too early for dinner which apparently starts at 7:30 lol. Then I took a unisom to make sure I got some rest.

Ironpeople swim practice

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Friday: 2 more sleeps. After official word from the race organizers that short a minor miracle, the water was indeed not going to be wetsuit legal, I decided to investigate skinsuit options from the vendors in the village. Ironically, most of them were still peddling wetsuits and were ill-prepared to make some quick cash off last minute too hot temps via skinsuit purchases. Introduce Skinfit. Not exorbitantly priced, helpful staff, and a fire engine red suit in just my size, so let’s just add that to my over-budget Ironman expenditures for the summer. Naturally, back to the pool we go. Admittedly it did feel pretty slick, and boosted my confidence a little. There were a ton of Iron-people getting in workouts and the energy was buzzing in the heat. Afterwards we stopped at the Decathlon sporting goods store to see about a bike mechanic and they swore there was a tent at the race venue but took pity on me and let me bring my bike inside for a quick check anyways. One twist on the cable adjuster and he said I was good – not super reassuring but oh well. Then we drove across the street and parked at the hippodrome (hippodrome ˈhɪpədrəʊm/noun: hippodrome; plural noun: hippodromes 1. a theatre or concert hall. “the Birmingham Hippodrome” 2. (in ancient Greece or Rome) a stadium for chariot or horse races.) and started running. Not long after, a little old French man in a golf cart chased us down and made it clear (in French) that we had to get out of the stable area – that there was no cut thru to the running path. On our way out several other gentlemen emphasized our trespassing and directed us to the exit – Message received! We ended up at the venue and were scouting out the swim buoys when a very nice English speaking race staffer appeared to show us the swim entry/first exit/re-entry/final exit situation and confirm that the water was already at not-wetsuit legal temps. Well shit. The uncontrollable. But hey, running at an 8:30 pace in 97 degrees doesn’t feel hard, so there’s that. Tried to go to the grocery but it was closed for siesta so we picked up some goodies at the bakery next door and had an only half-intelligible conversation with the baker about his bread and our race. We enjoyed yet another quiche on the lawn back at the chateau before a super short ride to make sure my bike felt okay. Showered up and headed back to town for the Pro Athlete meeting which turned out to be quite dramatic. Apparently WTC defers to French regulation rules which are different than the worldwide Ironman standards on some very key issues, namely in this non-wetsuit legal situation, what you can wear under a swimskin. I was wanting clarification on whether or not you can run shirtless but this conversation took a serious turn towards the ridiculous as people discussed getting naked in transition and what constitutes “underwear.” Final ruling as they started tearing down the Ironman banners adorning the meeting room: ONE LAYER ONLY – with the exception that women can wear sports bras. Hmpf. Heads spinning, nerves strung out, emotions running high. At least I finally found out where we can park lol. Stopped at a fancy grocery for dinner supplies and continued to stress out over a nice home cooked meal before starting on the gear bag organization. More unisom for sure.

last minute purchase

Saturday. Big day. Chill day. Because of the 70.3 taking place we couldn’t drop off our bikes til 4pm so we had all day to do our last shake out bike ride and prep our gear before heading into town again. I really loved our country ride this day and it gave me happy thoughts for the big ride ahead. Email from the race director saying miracles do happen, but not the one I was really hoping for. It still wasn’t wetsuit legal, BUT the French had acquiesced and were letting competitors were TWO layers for the swim – a trisuit under a swimskin was allowed. Big relief for Kelly, and saved me the embarrassment of getting naked in transition to put on shorts. So carry on then, phew. Eat, drink, organize bags, eat, drink, reorganize bags, eat, drink some more. Eventually we head into town to rack our bikes and drop transition bags. It’s not super clear how the run ins and outs will work but we get the general idea (I still screwed up run out from T2 on race day but there was a lovely metal fence to stop me in my tracks). The volunteers were great but it wasn’t the language barrier that hindered our comprehension – people just didn’t know where things were located – namely morning clothes drop off and specials needs bags drop off. Hopefully it would be obvious in the morning, you know, in the dark, with announcements in French, lol. I wasn’t thrilled with my rack position – far from the bike out and far from the pumps for race morning. After watching Kelly stand in line forEVER at Whistler I was really anxious about pumping my tires in the morning since my pump broke on the plane trip. Nothing to do about it though, so back to the chateau for more eating and hydrating and organizing. I braided my hair, got in the boots one last time, watched Inside Out and IM’d endlessly with Tom til the upstairs neighbors finally turned down their music enough for me to fall asleep.

the pro

I had spent remarkably little time mentally preparing for this race. I felt physically ready, aside from the bruised hip and sore arms from my very recently updated swim stroke technique. I slept decently, overcame jetlag, was sufficiently carbed and hydrated. I had goals naturally, that had been discussed with my coach, and there was concern about the heat wave, so adjustments for possible temps in the high 90s would have to be made. I have been distracted and since I have done this before I guess I wasn’t as anxious, but in retrospect I could have devoted more time to the mental run through and game plan.

shakeout fun

Sunday. Race Day. To be found in detail here 

And Poof It’s Gone

I so want to love Masters swim. I mean, I don’t think you can love it like you love little kittens or fresh from the oven pumpkin spice donuts, but you can love the benefits in spite of the suffering. The coaching, the camaraderie, the hard workouts that take 10s of seconds off your race pace. And South Charlotte has one of the best programs around. I don’t know enough about swimming to quote any interesting stats that prove it, but I know enough to know it’s true. The coach is a legend and her high school kids win important titles every year. Triathletes from her group are constantly getting on the podium and despite all their bitching about the insane workouts, the proof is in the pudding.

I was super blessed to work with Coach Patty after my ankle surgery. We had a unique bond because of our shared ankle surgery experiences (same amazing surgeon even). And everyone said once I started to swim that I would be a triathlete. 10 months later when I crossed my first triathlon finish line, I felt a little silly using the title. I had practically doggie paddled my way through the 400m OWS in wind and rain and mud, taking almost 13 minutes to exit. I had learned to swim but I hadn’t learned to swim in terrible conditions with people climbing over top of me while I choked on nasty lake water. So I decided to go to Patty’s Masters class to get some more pointers and see if maybe it was something I could add to my training schedule on a regular basis.

I made the mistake of showing up on a “fast friday” and it was someone’s birthday so there was some crazy workout for whatever age she was turning and Patty told everyone to get in a lane with people they didn’t know or at least that they didn’t normally swim with. Well, somehow I got stuck with my friend Jeremy who has swam his whole life whose average pace for a 400m swim is likely faster than my all out 50. So I put on some fins to try and get through the workout but all that accomplished was rubbing some nasty blisters and I still managed to be the last one to the wall, every – single – time. I honestly don’t really care that I’m slow, but it isn’t fair to anyone to have me circle swim workouts with anyone faster than me (which is essentially everyone). And workouts aren’t supposed to make you feel that bad about yourself, right? I’m not one of those people who are driven by sucking at something. I need to enjoy it, at least like 80% of the time. [I am entirely too old and too fat to ever be anything more than a mediocre swimmer and I rather enjoy training alone, indulging in the naive notion that I’m really not all that bad. Sometimes we need that bubble to protect our self-esteem and prevent us from quitting.]

Needless to say I didn’t go back. And the fact that my coach was fine with my decision affirmed that I just wasn’t ready for that kind of swim training.

So now here I am, 18 months later, an official Ironman. Apparently I swam enough, decently enough, consistently enough in the past few months to get through a 2.4 mile OWS and tack on 142.2 miles afterwards (and I didn’t wear a wetsuit, core shorts, or even a swimskin!) But I have to be realistic in setting goals for 2016 because there’s only so much one can focus on at a time. Where can I see the biggest short term gains? The bike. Do I want to be a better swimmer? Absolutely! I want to flip turn, learn other strokes, be able to drop in at a Masters practice and not completely humiliate myself, and maybe even one day get that liposuction to even out my dimensions so I can wear a one piece swimsuit. I must still be riding the wave of post-Ironman I-can-take-on-the-world euphoria because I was fairly easily talked into attending a practice this morning, which is pretty silly, since my schedule only called for 1500m and just some light drills – a recovery workout, if you can even call it a workout. But I wanted to see some of my friends so I gave it a whirl, warning Patty when I walked in, that I would be cutting it short, whatever “it” was. She kindly assigned me a lane with EB, a fellow IMCHOO finisher, and another guy who also did the race. EB generously shared some of her toys with me since mine are back in Seattle. [It’s nice when your friends support your attempts at not drowning.]

I don’t know what it is about that pool or that practice, but damn if I don’t get totally overwhelmed every time I go. (Okay I’ve gone 3 times ever, but still). I can share lanes at the Y with a dozen people doing workouts and be mildly annoyed but not anxious or overwhelmed. But this morning, circle swimming with my friend and the perfectly nice gentleman, I was practically panicking. The many stares from other swimmers made me uneasy from the get go. [Who is that girl? Why is she in a two piece? Where is her mesh bag of floaty toys? Will I be stuck in a lane with shamu?] The hieroglyphics that explain the workout are also fairly intimidating. I’m a numbers gal – but whatever that crazy code language is on the little plastic sheet at the end of the lane makes me want to cry, truly. Getting lapped over and over isn’t exactly a confidence booster. It’s like I walked into a job interview for the wrong position and am trying to pretend I know what I’m doing when I should really just excuse myself to the ladies room and flee the building. But even though I have the wrong background, the wrong body, speak the wrong language, wear the wrong clothes, and have obviously shown up completely ill-prepared, for some reason I still want the job so I fumble my way through it with a brave face and pray they don’t all talk crap about me the second I leave.

And in one hour, I went from cloud 9 back to what-the-hell-am-I-doing?

 

Best Race Ever

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Where to begin, where to begin?? I’ve had so much to say over the last month that I haven’t managed to put down in words so I’m afraid this post will end up being silly long. So be forewarned and hang in there, if you will. (also – this will count as a race recap for my coach so anticipate too many details about the actual race that you may not really care about).

Last time we talked I was only about a week into life in Seattle and having major bike drama. Fortunately all that got sorted out with a replacement fork from Cervelo and Kyle dialed in my fit, and eventually I got some new aerobars too. I went down to Portland for a week in the mean time, showed up at an open water swim in the Willamette, made friends with some guys also doing IMCHOO, got talked into biking with them up Mt. St. Helens (ahhhh!! amazing crazy hard confidence boosting day), then went back to Seattle for another fun week of training. But that Friday the bottom fell out. I was planning to go back to Portland to stay with one of my new friends, train, go to the beaches, maybe the wine country, that kind of stuff. Til my mother called with some very sad news and everything changed. A family tragedy meant a detour to Tennessee and Kentucky and a lot of hugs and tears and sleepness nights. Training took a back seat to navigating life after death and broken hearts. Life is precious and fleeting, never take it for granted, live for today, love deeply, and know Jesus.

Returning to Seattle was hard. I didn’t sleep for over a week. So naturally my training suffered, which spiraled down into a puddle of self-doubt and negative self-talk. I managed to eek out my last century ride with the support of a friend then headed back to Portland (finally!) for my last big training weekend with my IMCHOO buddy Tom who graciously hosted me for a week before I flew back to Charlotte for final pre-race prep. Having done the race last year as well, he was the perfect voice of reason and encouragement to calm me down – not to mention a great cook! So feeling much more prepared and relaxed, I left my car in Seattle at my Vanderkitten teammate’s house and got royally hosed by Uber SUV toting my new bike case to SEA-TAC. I was super lucky to be on the plane with one of the nicest, most encouraging guys anyone will ever meet, a former coworker and running buddy, who just really made my day with his enthusiasm and sweet note. Heading back to Charlotte was looking promising.

Race week was filled with appointments and errands and more bike stress but more importantly, some totally divine appointments with some dear friends who totally lift me up and got me in the right spirit. Melissa found me some last minute race wheels, Ryan secured me an aero helmet, Mark needled the kinks out of my hips, Amy let me take over her dining room with gear bags and nutrition planning. Before I knew it Carol Ann was picking me up to head to Chattanooga and the madness was starting. The inn I had booked was awesome and there was Ironman magic in the air. Meg and Kim had sent a surprise Vanderkitten care package. As we walked down to Athlete check-in Friday morning it started raining and pretty much didn’t stop til Sunday morning. We showed restraint in the merchandise tent, relaxed in some Normatec boots, and stood in the mud under umbrellas for the Athlete briefing. No new information, as I presumed it was “probably not wetsuit legal,” carry on. My parents arrived just in time for early dinner with my coach and her family but I was just struggling to eat all week – nerves. I laid in bed for 3 hours before I finally fell asleep.

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view from the inn

Saturday we all skipped the shake out ride because of the rain and I got a little more sleep but was just antsy to check in all my stuff and really relax. It was a force myself to eat kind of day. Had a delicious dinner with my parents, sister, brother in law, niece and nephew – got them squared away on spectating logistics, and made my morning to do list. And of all nights, I finally slept well on race eve! Who does that?? No one! Ugh.

Awoke anticipating wetsuit legal news because it rained all night long, but while I was exploding oatmeal in my sister’s room’s microwave I saw that in fact it was 77.1 (not legal, just optional). Sherpa Jeremy made me leave my Core shorts in her room so I wouldn’t be tempted to wear them once I got to the swim start. Boo! This fat girl wanted her neoprene shorts 🙁 We hustled down to transition to meet up with eager beavers Carol Ann and Kelli, took the plastic off my bike, taped some important reminders to my aero bottle (SALT and BELIEVE, duh), dropped off special needs bags, and off to the bus we went. I ran into a marathonpacing.com teammate Carla and a few Charlotte friends and said goodbye to my sherpa – totally forgetting to wish the poor guy a happy birthday! After a quick bus ride we got in the swim line for a 2 hour wait. Somehow those 2 hours went by really fast – oh maybe that’s because I stood in a potty line for 45 minutes of it!?! Shoot me. But things had to be done, and in an effort to not totally panic I put on some of my favorite worship songs and tried to ignore the annoying people around me in line who still felt the need to talk about all the woulda coulda shoulda bs that triathletes like to obsess over. I literally ran back to find the gals and throw on my cap and goggles and ditch my morning clothes bag just minutes before we ran onto the dock and jumped into the water.

And just like that my first Ironman was underway. They really rushed us into the water and after I surfaced and coughed up a little water I took a few seconds to gather myself before I started swimming. I don’t think getting people all amped up with music and screaming and rushing is the best way to start an open water swim in a river with a current when you’ve just been sitting there in the dark for 2 hours, but what do I know? It’s a scenic swim, if there is such a thing. The water felt great, the sun was just rising, the riverbanks were pretty, the lights and bridges of downtown beckoned us. So many kayaks and paddleboards and support vessels – way more than I remember last year from volunteering in a kayak. I couldn’t really tell how strong the current was, but I passed the 200m buoy in 4 minutes including my collect myself time, so it was clearly there. I pretty much wished I’d worn my Core shorts for most of the swim because every time I sighted I felt like my hips sank, but nothing I could do about it now but pace myself and make my way down river. Got to the half way change in buoy color point in 37 minutes then felt like I was fighting the current a bit going around the island but once you get under the first bridge it’s practically over. After I passed under the third bridge I could hear the announcer and music and spectators even in the water and I started to get a little emotional. But crying and swimming don’t really mix so I had to set aside the whole “oh my gosh Emily you are really doing this, you are finishing an Ironman swim, look how far you have come” thing and get to the red turn buoy, where of course some obnoxious guys tried to drown me as they rushed to the exit. I really had no idea how I’d feel getting out of the water. I normally don’t exert myself that much on the swim so I’m not crampy or wobbly getting out, but just to be sure, I took my time and walked and scanned the crowd for my family. When I got to the bottom of the ramp up to T1 I decided to start jogging (uphill, why, who knows, I’m weird) and apparently I totally missed my friend Chiraq who was off to the right wetsuit stripping! Almost at the top I heard Jeremy call out to me and as I rounded the corner I saw my dad and sister and niece which was just awesome. The crowds were so thick and they were right in front so I got some high fives and ran in to get my gear bag and was pumped to get ready for the longest part of the day. It finally occurred to me to look at my watch which read 1:13 so afterwards I was a little confused about where the timing mat was, but who cares, that’s probably 25-30 minutes faster than I could have done on a flat water course.

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I wasn’t sure what would happen in that changing tent but I just found a seat, plopped down and started dumping out my bag. A volunteer walked up and started pulling things out and laying it out for me to see. She helped me dry off and get my shirt on, stuffed my pockets with nutrition, painstakingly helped me get my coolwings on (NOT EASY), and I walked all the way to my bike putting on my helmet, glasses, getting sunscreen, wasting time. I’ve never been so slow in transition, but Jeremy had encouraged me to take my time, get my legs under me, and make sure I didn’t miss anything. But walking my bike to the mount line gave my garmin time to get satellites and calibrate my power meter and I got to see coach Meghan and Geppi right before I mounted and I spent the next 6 hours and 43 minutes trying to remember whatever it was Meg said to me lol – something about strong heart, strong mind, positive attitude, I don’t know – those Fillnows and their positive mantras… hahaha.

Having not so much as driven or video previewed the bike course I honestly had no idea what I was in for other than train tracks, “rolling hills,” sharp turns, false flats, and nice scenery. What I couldn’t believe was how many people launched bottles (aerobottles!), nutrition, and spare tubes on the train tracks VERY early on the course and hadn’t stopped for them. I lost one gu but still had 10 on my bike and more waiting in special needs, so nothing to worry about. My plan was to not even look at my pace, just watch my power, and try to keep it really low. Like pitifully low. My power is already pitifully low, but I was more than a little nervous about piling a marathon on the back end of a 116 mile bike ride. And I didn’t know what “rolling hills” meant. So when my first 5 miles lapped and my split was under 16 minutes I freaked a little and attributed it to a long slow descent. I think Kelly had warned me about that? But the splits kept coming kinda fast even though I was keeping the wattage low and I was worried that I was falling into the trap of it feeling deceptively easy. Oh and I had to pee. And it hadn’t occurred to me to figure out how peeing at an aid station on a bike would work. So I went by the first few aid stations and observed that volunteers were holding athletes bikes – well isn’t that nice!? but there were lines so I didn’t stop. I told myself I could get to Special Needs and pee there. But I couldn’t remember what mile marker Special Needs was at. Doh! The first few hours flew by. I was at mile 50 before I knew it. Then a motorcycle went by, followed by the lead male pro, then another of each. Wow, at mile 51 I was lapped by two guys. No one else seemed to think that was cool. Maybe I’m weird but I thought it was cool! And then all of a sudden there was Special Needs out of nowhere and it was kinda scary. I didn’t know where to stop and it was crowded and chaotic and I didn’t see any potties! A young gal brought me my bag and informed me there were no potties so I stuffed nutrition and a bottle in my pockets, swapped out my down tube bottle, popped a few beano, shoved some chamois cream in my shorts and left her my second spare tube and co2 and a crushed up bag of popchips that didn’t seem appealing, and took off. So now that I was not quite half way thru, I still had to pee, it was time to start caffeine, and I was honestly pretty impressed with how good I was feeling. I’d pretty much stuck to my plan of 2 gus, a dose of salt, a bottle of fluid and some sort of solid food every hour and it was working out. I had concentrated bottles of osmo on my downtube that I watered down with water from aid stations in my aero bottle which worked out really well and so far my stomach was cooperating. When we made the left turn to start the second loop however, I all of a sudden noticed that it was warm, muggy, windy, and everyone was moving a lot slower. It felt like a million years before I got to the aid station on the hill at mile 74 where I finally got to stop and pee. Good gracious. Relief at least. I caught up to Michelle and it was nice to have someone to chit chat with a bit after failing to strike up any good convo with strangers (aka losers) and for some reason it just seemed like the second loop was taking for-damn-ever. I stuck to my nutrition plan and threw in half a warm snickers bar instead of a waffle, and spent way too much time anticipating the one long climb before the super fun descent before the turn towards the finish. My garmin had auto paused when I stopped both times so when I passed the 100 mile marker and saw 5:40 on the watch I was a little shocked. Steve and Michelle had left me on the hills and when we made that final turn somehow it seemed like I was all alone out there, into the wind, on another false flat, and even my emergency 100 mile chamois cream application stop was not staving off the intense burning going on in my pants. Not to mention that my legs and shoulders were starting to talk to me – I mean honestly, it had taken them 6 hours, so I couldn’t be too mad, they’d really hung in for quite a ride. But I had a little come to Jesus moment that required some out loud self-talk and singing and more gu. I kept hearing Kyle telling me to sit up in my base bars and stretch out my hips the last few miles and since I had to cross a million train tracks it worked out well. Then of course as I was one bike length from the dismount line some jack-hole whipped over and cut me off and I almost collided with him. Luckily I was still coordinated and alert enough to avoid him and the volunteer commended me on the save. I managed to stop my garmin before I handed off my bike to a young lady then saw Kelli running out of transition as I went to grab my bag. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t TOO far back from some of my friends.

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Those Desoto arm covers kept me cool and sunburn free but dang they are tough to get on while wet!

Then presto the sun was out! What the heck? There wasn’t supposed to be sun! Game time decision to put on my dry run shorts and take off my tri tank, should have put on dry socks but didn’t. My sweet volunteer didn’t seem to mind when I sat my naked behind down on the chair (disgustingly I’m sure I wasn’t the first). I had this random “cramping towel” race freebie I’d stuck in my bag that I proceeded to wipe all over my legs and shoulders on the off chance that it would help with all the little aches and pains that had popped up the last 20 miles of the bike. I popped in a potty while I rolled up my arm coolers and buckled my race belt then got some sunscreen as I noticed my gus all flying out of the belt. I carried some stinger chews with me and ran out of transition. Somewhere I had remembered to turn on my other garmin to get satellites yay!

I love this haha
I love this haha – click to enlarge

I forced myself to slow down on the run out on the riverwalk and smile for the camera, saw some pros flying into the finish (not fair!!) then heard my sister screaming at me as I ran up that first hill and spotted dad for a high five while mom supposedly took some pictures. I ate a few chews before the first aid station and took a vial of Base salt from the tent. I made a conscious effort to calm my breathing and keep the pace easy but was also trying to figure out what to eat bc it was hot and I didn’t like being on the stretch of highway. At mile 4 we u-turned onto the Riverwalk and my mood improved dramatically. I passed Kelli who is just such a ray of sunshine and I’m sure I picked up the pace a bit from her energy. I had some grapes and maybe some gatorade and was already using sponges and ice in my bra and hat. Things were going well, I was just a little anxious about what was coming. I started Coke pretty soon and got in one gu at some point. I knew there was a nasty hill at the end of the Riverwalk before we crossed Veterans Bridge but I was feeling good and ran all the way up it garnering some high fives and cheers. My sister and brother in law and the kids were  just before the bridge and told me my parents were on the left on the bridge. There were a lot of spectators and I was excited to see them (this is mile 8) and I didn’t notice that there were cars coming from behind us and totally almost got run over crossing traffic to high five them! A nice car waited to let me cross back to safety and some volunteers yelled at me oops! The far side of the bridge was the start of the worst hill IMO. I saw Laura running back under the bridge but she didn’t hear me yell at her over the fray. I waited til the steep part to walk and tried not to be frustrated because Kelly told me to walk it, both sides. So I just cheered for people and started running again before it crested then I ran down the long backside and kept up a good pace and people were all quite surprised and impressed which just fed my energy (maybe it was also the beer that they were consuming). After the Minion aid station I caught up to a gal in a 3T jersey and figured why not say hello – I couldn’t remember who Lynne had told me would be racing, but they’re all teammates and they’re Charlotte peeps, and I was being friendly. So we actually kind of paced together for the next 3 miles which was awesome because I hadn’t been around anyone running my pace – granted she was on her second lap on her way to a 10:10 finish, AG win, and kona slot, but we encouraged each other across the pedestrian bridge then she ran it in and I turned for my second lap. The spectators on the south side of the pedestrian bridge were awesome – Jeremy almost missed me bc of course he wasn’t expecting me to come so soon – then Meg and Geppi were on the corner going bananas and I told them I’d just passed Carol Ann. I grabbed my special needs bags and quick changed into dry socks and heard my sister yelling from across the street so I ran over and gave her the sweaty ones hehe, popped two advil, and took off again while my nephew looked on stunned 🙂

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I had run exactly a 2:00 half and if I paced correctly then I would have enough juice to make my 4:00 run split goal. The sun was going behind the clouds praise Jesus but I was still kinda wondering if the wheels were just going to come off at some point. I’d been told everything from wait til mile 13, 15, 18, so I just kept plugging along, taking coke and salt and water, tried some pretzels (too hard to swallow). I synced up my pace with a guy in a Memphis Thunder kit and we chatted for a few miles but I dropped him when we turned onto the Riverwalk so I had to go back to just encouraging all the random folks I was passing and trying to not sound obnoxious as I blew by with my perkiness. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to hear the awe in those mens voices. Even with everyone cheering me on like I was winning the damn Olympics I kept hearing Kelly warning me about the dark times. Luckily the aid stations came by so close together with the raucous volunteers, bands, kids, etc. that I just never had time to go anywhere dark. I passed Laura on the boardwalk, caught up to Heather with her purple hair, even passed James my Portland friend, and then I was back at that nasty hill that I told myself I’d walk the second time – but I didn’t. The same guy was standing in the same spot, telling me I still looked awesome, offering a high five, and I just had to keep running. I grabbed a second vial of Base salt bc the first had gotten wet and clumpy inside. Before I turned onto Veterans bridge someone handed me a glow necklace and suddenly I realized it was starting to get a little dark but that thing was way too annoying to put around my neck so I stuffed it in my sports bra. My family was on the bridge and I saw Dana’s boyfriend who informed me she was behind me so somehow I must have passed her without seeing her darn it. The second time up the big hill was only slightly worse and I cruised down to the guys with the beer and actually took a nice cold swallow of one (sorry coach!) then realized I only 4 miles left of the race and was feeling so good that I really just couldn’t believe it. I ran right up the hill to the country club (best views on the whole course) and sped past the luau aid station (I think the first one I’d skipped the entire run) and braced myself for the last long climb which I ended up run walking. At the last aid station before going under the bridge a guy handed me chicken broth instead of Coke and I almost vomited because it splashed all over my arm sleeve and my stomach was pretty much a solid rock. So I grabbed a cup of water to rinse it off at the last second and as I emerged from under the bridge I was taken aback by the most amazing skyline sunset. I had really hoped to be done before sundown but that gorgeous pink and purple sky was worth being out there that long. I was just beaming that last mile across the pedestrian bridge and practically shoving people out of my way as the spectators crowded the course. As I made the final turn for the finish chute I surprised the twins sitting on the curb and checked my watch one last time to see if I was going to make my sub 4 goal. I told some guy I ran up on that I might puke at the finish line trying to get my goal so he understandably ran on ahead lol. Everyone said to soak in the finish chute but gravity had taken over and there was really no stopping. The lights were blinding and the crowds were deafening. There was no way I’d spot my family wherever they may be. I ran up on a gal who apparently took offense to it and rushed on ahead of me but kindly went off to the side so my finish line video shot was still pretty darn amazing.

I must have looked too good to my catcher Bob bc he ditched me after I got my hat and shirt and it wasn’t until I was standing there outside of the chute in the dark that I realized things weren’t laid out like last year and I didn’t know where to get food or a blankie or find my people. They also changed the way you retrieved your gear and when I went to get my morning clothes bag with my phone it turns out they’d made Jeremy take them all so I had no way to contact anyone. Thankfully my sister and I found each other somehow and I sat down on the curb as I started to get light headed. She rallied the troops and I ate a cream pie while Katy informed me I had in fact run a 3:55 marathon, thereby negative splitting for the first time ever, in an Ironman of all things, with a stop to change socks in the second half lol. And I didn’t feel like I was going to die!

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Unfortunately that garmin died right at the finish line and it doesn’t autosave data so I don’t have lots of juicy splits to analyze but the fact was, I had paced like a champ and run one of the smartest and most successful marathons of my life, getting stronger and faster as I went. I hadn’t run that fast since my first Boston, back before I broke my ankle. They had to take the kids to bed so I got a massage and then a bunch of my friends were done so we got some calories and swapped stories before heading back for showers. Jeremy and Katy managed to stay awake for one celebratory beer with me then I laid in bed for hours catching up on the 50 text messages and ridiculous facebook notifications because I probably had 5000mg of caffeine and there was no way I was going to sleep anytime soon. I’m still super mad that I never got to see Tom all weekend. We’ll have to celebrate back in Portland in a few weeks.

So how does one summarize the experience? I have no idea. I watched Kona on TV for years, with a box of Kleenex, in awe of what those crazy people were accomplishing. I never thought I would attempt such a ridiculous feat. But then there was a time I never thought I’d have a shot at Boston either. At some point apparently I decided to start believing the impossible was possible. Ironman doesn’t happen overnight. I never wanted to be a triathlete. Life happens. For me to consider the sport, I had to be cut off at the knees. Or ankles rather. I had to be humbled, broken, lost and scared. I had to start from scratch and rebuild. With new dreams, new goals, new strength, new identity. Above all I am a child of God. Not a CPA, not a girlfriend, not a runner, not anything else the world labeled me. I am a beloved child of God. And He puts dreams in your heart and places people in your life to walk with you to achieve them.

A year ago today I got talked into registering by some other first time girl friends and I anticipated spending the year training with them. Then I did the whole crazy quit your job, sell your house, travel for a year thing and that plan flew out the window. So you move on to plan B, then plan C, etc. I don’t really know that anyone has done EuroTrip to Ironman in 100 days before. But why not keep things interesting? Total life upheaval during winter base building left me totally zonked, no energy, no visible progress. I had a decent month starting into spring and a surprisingly strong marathon in Germany then I just traveled and played and ate and drank and ran and biked for fun all over the place. When I got back to the states coach gave me 2 weeks of Ironman bootcamp to see if I was physically and mentally ready for what it would take to get to the starting line and I’ll admit I had some serious doubts. Then off I went on my cross country road trip juggling logistics of multi-sport in a new town every couple days. I had some really great scenic workouts and I had some lonely painful sufferfests. I met some really wonderful people that filled my heart and encouraged my spirit. Whether they were introducing me to beautiful trails, treating me to great pools, fixing up my bike, or binging on homebrew after a tough day, my support crew formed and rallied and were all with me in spirit on the course Sunday. My family couldn’t even keep up where I was any given day but they were always checking in and staying connected. And then there is the one woman who heard all the good, bad, and ugly, and always had the right response – encouragement, tough love, change in the schedule, advice, a big picture view, a world of experience, and a heart of gold. To know me, believe in me, gain my trust and respect, admiration and friendship, it’s a special thing, more than a coach – a partner, a confidant, a source of strength, a sister in Christ – always pointing to the Father, from whom we receive our gifts, to whom we give glory, in everything we do. I am forever grateful for the lessons I have learned on this journey and the woman I have become and the huge role she has played in that.

No I don’t know what’s next so PLEASE stop asking. Let me enjoy this for a few days at least! I don’t know where I’m going, living, working, or when. I’m sure there will be another Ironman in my future, it was just too much dang fun to not do again. And I have plenty of room for improvement 🙂

Results Link

Ooh update: my garmin did save my run! At least all but the last 30 seconds lol. Not sure why it looks like I took another swim there at the beginning.

sherpa stood in line with me for an hour at finishers merchandise tent
sherpa stood in line with me for an hour at finishers merchandise tent
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gettin gsome baby Cara snuggles at morning after breakfast