Thursday, September 21, 2006
We got to Panama City beach several days early. The Ironman Village was already set up, as were some buoys for the swim course. I was amazed at all the athletes milling around. We went to the village to register and of course do some shopping. I would not allow myself to purchase or wear anything “Ironman” until this race.
According to plan, I swam part of the course and went on a short ride and did an easy run. All systems were a go. The next day I was to take completely off. That night was the athlete meeting. I spent most of the time trying to settle myself while be amazed at all the people. They showed movies of Ironman, had incredible guest speakers and great stories. Over and over I had to choke back tears for looking like an emotional basket case. Then they talked about the logistics of the race and the rules. That is when I got nervous.
The next day I was to do another short swim, bike and run. I got up early and went down to swim. There were others there and again I realized how nervous I was. Then on to my bike. I had put on my race wheels and somehow had disrupted my computer and now it was not working. I went to one of the bike tents and had some adjustments done. All seemed to be working. We went to dinner at the condo of a friend that was also competing as well as Nemo's Dh who was volunteering for the race. That did wonders to settle my nerves, having lost them several times that day. Thanks – Allison for joining me into my oblivion!
Race morning, I woke up calm, made pancakes, got the family up, ate and headed for the start. Again, the amount of people was overwhelming and exciting. Nemo’s DH was body marking and I was thrilled to find him and have him do the honors (he even added some extra art of crossbones that now turned us all into pirates). Then a final check and make my way to the beach. I had been instructed to seed myself close to the front as my swims had gotten better and my coaches didn’t want me to get stuck if I could swim faster. The downside was if I miss judged I would be swum over. After seeing all the people, I decided it was all a gamble and I would be swam over anyway. The one-minute warning came and a calm settled over me. “ I know this stuff and I have done it before”. The cannon went off and we all waded for sometime to be able to start swimming. It was scary and crowded, I was swum over and I swam over (although I tried no to). Once I was hit in the bicep and that hurt really bad. I was kicked in the face, but because of martial arts training that was not a new experience. The swim was a 2 loop rectangular course. Rounding the second buoy, I got a nose and mouth full of water that made me really gag. We all had to swim with our heads up and I got words of encouragement from those around me that settled me a little. Then back towards the beach. I could finally shoot through holes find new groups to swim with. I felt like I had been in a washing machine so I started to tell myself to “embrace the washing machine”. Ahhh my sense of humor is back! At the beach I paused long enough to pee because I have yet to master the fine art of relieving oneself while swimming. Second loop was better but with still many people around me. Back in to the beach in 1:10!!! Way faster than expected!!! Transition was incredible with people helping everywhere! Off to the bike with a pit stop at the porta potty, thus a long transition time.
The bike was great. Computer was still acting up and I was grateful for my Garmin 301. Between the two I could still get heart rate, cadence and speed. I was having a blast and my speed, cadence and heart rate were right on. With so many people on the course, there are lots of opportunities to make friends while passing or being passed. At a feed station at mile 30 there was a bad crash right in front of me where on person ran into another – wow that was freaky. At mile 50 I was a little choked up thinking I had trained so long for this and it was going well. About this time I started to try eat my first peanut butter sandwich (my fuel choice all during training and had always worked even in my 1/2 IM’s) Houston we have a problem- I cant swallow it. I had to take a bite, put water in my mouth and try to swallow. Somehow I managed to get one sandwich down for the whole ride – way too few calories. At mile 85, we had to cross a highway and turn left. I was ready to pass the guy in front of me right after the turn. Unfortunately, we had to go very close to some road construction and he lost control and ran into a construction barrel. His front (or one of them) wheel came off his bike completely and flew up to hit my handlebars, push my brake handle sideways, flip up and hit me in the face and then drop down under my back wheel. I kept rolling and all seemed to still work. I pushed my brake handle forward and a group of us started yelling for medics to go back for him. I still feel really bad for him and hope he is ok. At that time we hit a really bad headwind. My speed dropped significantly and I started to just talk myself through the next part of the ride. By the time we got into town I realized that I was off of my goal time, but still with in my secondary goal. Into Transition 2, I felt really beat up from the wind and glad to able to run. Another potty stop and out on to the road. Note to self: pee on the course and not waste time in the john. The crowds were already big and cheering loudly.
The run is a double out and back. On the way out, I felt amazing. I was running slightly off pace, but still felt good and was determined to stay calm and in my heart rate zones. At mile 6 we ran through a state park. Being a coastal town, the roads are slanted more than normal and we had to run at an angle. While it is slight, it was just enough to irritate my ankles that had been giving my problems in training. (Ok coach- I know that I need to do more stability work I promise I wont complain about it anymore) Out of the park and on to flatter roads I felt a little better. The half turnaround is at the finish line with huge crowds. That was awesome. I got my special needs bag with a Red Bull in it – yahoo for caffeine) Ok here we go again. My speed was dropping and my heart rate was stable. I just couldn’t make the legs go any faster. I decided to walk only the last half of the aid stations. It was so cool to meet people along the way. Seeing the pros fly by was inspiring. I was really hurting by the last leg back, but I knew the pain was temporary so I just kept running even if it was slow. I knew coming off the bike that I was off of my 10:30 goal due to the headwind, but I was sure that I could meet my second goal of finishing under 12 hours. The last mile was exhilarating as the crowds were huge. I was laughing and crying and running as hard as I could. Coming around the finish line with my kids right behind me was amazing. As I crossed to hear “Dawn Elder from San Antonio, you are an Ironman”, I was amazed. There was Nemo’s DH to give me my medal and all my family. What a treat!
I am at a loss of words to describe the feeling. I worked so hard for this and it went almost exactly as planned. I have the greatest friends that supported me in ways I never imagined. I am so grateful for the experience, my wonderful husband that totally gets it, my kids that accept it, and my friends that encourage me all the way. I am so blessed and am determined to live this life to the fullest as a result. I can’t wait for the next one!!! Coeur D’Alene here I come!