Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Wildest Ride III

Morning of - This is it! The emotions are at an all time high and yet in a strange way I have a calm. It is another race and I know how to do this thing.  Love my new race kit.  A few weeks ago, I got the news that I was receiving this kit that is the same as my coach's without her sponsors. What an honor and so thrilled to represent her and her new endeavor with Michele Landry at Smashfest Queens.

Body Marking
How many times have I watched this on TV.  So surreal to be standing here.  The volunteers are incredible and yep - shed a few tears here.

While waiting to line up, I got to get a hug from the great Julie Moss and Heather Fuhr.  What an honor and certainly must be good mojo.  While in transition, I saw so many friend racing and was reminded of that while we are competitors, we all know that this only happens because we are all here, so there is an amazing camaraderie as well.  I have met so many great people in this sport and am proud to call them my friends.  I got to line up with my friend, Rachelle Jorgensen. This woman is a bad ass athlete and broke the record for our age group in Arizona when we competed together. 

Race Report - 
We all got in the water and had to tread water for what felt like eternity.  My friend Michele Simmons had told me to take a moment and listen to the drums beating, look around and take it all in.. I did but had to be careful to keep tears out of my goggles.  The energy was like none other.  The swells were big and I was concerned as to how the swim would go but this is Kona!  I'd like to say the gun went off, but seems there was a problem so we were sent off by the Voice of Ironman yelling "go, go, go".  We were off.  The mass start doesn't bother me, but this one is special.  It was a "washing machine" but everyone was on their best behavior.  The water was clear at times and the view under was awesome.  The water was rough and while I normally swim very straight, there were times that I was on one side of the buoys and then the next I would be on the other side.  When you swim with 2000 other people at the same time at roughly the same effort, you get sucked along. We were all - all over the place.  We made the turn around and I was tempted to look at my watch, but for fear of holding up the line I didn't.  I was pretty sure it had taken us a long time. Heading back in was great as a few times I got clear water and was able to stretch out.  Soon I was on the feet of "guy in green race kit". He provided awesome bubbles to chase and if I tried to get around him, he sped up so I just sat on the ride.  Before I knew it, I was hearing Mike Reilly's voice and knew we were almost back. My first World Championship swim all most done - Focus Dawn.  The view underwater as I swam up to the steps was just like on TV. How cool!!
Swim time 1:07 - not my slowest, but close.
Before the race started I noticed the flags. We had calm winds leading up to the race, but this morning I noticed the flags were quite busy.  We have a short loop in town before heading out to the Queen K highway.  Once out on the highway, we were all flying.  Yep, that means a head wind coming back.  Still I had no idea how hard the wind was pushing us as my heart rate had yet to settle down.  Let me say this: on the NBC coverage the course looks flat. It is NOT!  Not even a little bit.  I had been warned so it wasn't a big surprise - yet!  Once we get closer to Waikoloa, thinks get a bit more serious.  Earlier someone had reminded me that we want the hardest day and that this was shaping up to be that - ok I'm all in now.   I recall watching one year on TV where all the bikes were at a lean.  This is what we were getting.  I see coach on the side of the road and giver her the look of "Oh my!". Coach has an amazing way to get the message across - "winds are narly and you are doing great...". Sometimes I wonder what she sees.  
We make the turn to head up towards Hawi and then, well... like nothing I have experienced. If I loosened my grip on the handle bars - I was in the middle of the lane.  We were up hill (8 mile-ish climb) in to a headwind with cross gusts.  There were times where some cycling machines would blast right past me and I just thought how cool is that to be able to ride your bike like that.  I aspire to that one day.  My mantra at this point was to relax and avoid fighting the bike.  I admit that I failed on this more than a few times.  I was not positive happy thinker the whole time.  I did not appreciate the view the whole time.  I did cuss at the sky a few times (and some of you know I can do that with the best of them).  I did look around some of the time and marvel at the beauty.  I did remind myself that I was now in the lava fields just like I had seen so many times.  I did appreciate the fact that I was able to just be here and that so many still hold the dream.  Back on to the Queen K  - last 40 miles. This hurt.  There were times when I would push and my right knee was letting me know that now is a good time to be done.  At this point, I was using all my mental resources and figured all I could do was stay focused and get done as soon as possible.  That seemed to be a long time.  I did take the time to realize that more than half of my day was nearly finished and that what I have dreamed about and worked for for such a long time was on the back end.  Back into transition, and once again wonderful volunteers take care of me and help me get my run gear on and out the "door".  
Bike time: 6:00
It should be noted that my foot has been a bit of a problem for the past 4 weeks.  Once again I have been training using alternative measures for the run.  I wasn't sure how things would feel but I was certain that my mind would take over.  Right away, I felt the effects of the effort on the bike.  Get nutrition in and keep moving.  Our "home" here is at the 2 mile mark on the run and I was beyond thrilled to see my family there.  Something about being reminded that there is more to you than the current place you are experiencing makes it better.  Down to the turnaround at mile 5.  This is where I got to see so many of my friends competing.  That is just the best feeling and the shared energy is moving.  The foot was hurting but manageable.  This is my dream after all.  Back to the house and see the kids and Jesse again. Here is where things got special.  Two of my kids ran with me for a few miles.  Their words of encouragement are some that will stay with me forever.  I am a blessed woman.  Up Palani Hill - this hurt.  Out on the Queen K - hot.  Like crazy hot. Like not San Antonio hot, but like cooking from the inside hot.  I had heard about it, but experiencing it was something else.  And - this was my dream.  I wanted to see what I could do.  I wanted to be put to the test. I had made some mistakes on my race day preparation and so was low on my nutrition.  That was on me - next time read where the special needs bags are going to be.  The usual 13 - 14 mile mark is not the same at all races.  While I was prepared to get my extra nutrition at mile 13, it was actually at mile 18.  Again, this was on me and I dug a hole that I couldn't get out of.  The energy lab is all that it is cracked up to be and still it is another great time to make connections with those going through this with me. I made a point to do just that.  This is really such an amazing experience.  The bottom of the lab is mile 18 and there I got my supplies.  A bit too late, but we are in single digits now so I know I can gut it out.  I saw Coach and Cat at mile 22 and again that visual connection does wonders and gave me a bit of energy to keep the legs moving.  Once I hit Palani at mile 25 I knew it was done.  Snot bawling was almost happening.  By the way - it is really hard to snot bawl and run at the same time so I resorted to the "ugly cry". Where you try not to cry but can't help it so your face twists up. So I just smiled and snot bawled.  When I turned on to Ali'i, the crowds were amazing.  Then out of the crowds I saw my friend Michelle going crazy. Like not a little crazy but straight jacket crazy (having just read her blog I understand why) - more ugly cry.  Down the shoot - I took it all it.  I remember most of it. I saw my family. Then the ramp to the finish line - beyond words.  Take it all in.  Look up at the big screen.  Know that all your loved ones are watching and try to convey with a single look the gratitude and love that you have for them because you know that they ALL helped make this a reality.  
Run: 4:11 - not my slowest but close
Total 11:27 (same time as my first Ironman!)

It has just begun....

The Wildest Trip - Part II

I am officially a Kona Athlete!  Being here is surreal and wonderful.  There is a never ending list of things to do.

The Underpants Run: This is one tradition that I have looked forward to since - well since it started. I loved the idea of poking fun at one's self so much that I even helped start one in San Antonio.  Now I am doing it here!

Bike and gear Check in.
A sure sign that there is no turning back!
Lights, Camera, ...almost action time
So many amazing friends that I am blessed to have in this sport.  These are some of the coolest people around...

Go time....

The Wildest Trip - part 1

When I was a senior in high school, I discovered the Ironman.  I remember sitting in front of the TV and seeing these people run through lava fields and thinking wow that looks hard and kinda cool.  Keep in mind - at that time in my life I really wasn't up for anything that was "hard" but this touched me.  From that time on I rarely missed it and have many memories.  Here are a few - I remember watching when Lori Boden and her Mom race, I remember the "Ironwar" (although I am not sure if I remember it from live or from seeing it so many times since). I remember all of Peter Reid's hair colors (I dare say I have had some of the same).  I remember the orange Saucony shirts worn by Heather and Paula, I remember missing a Sunday that I was supposed to work at church because I was watching the Ironman when I had a 2 month old, I remember seeing lots of Lava fields and trying to understand what it was like to run in that kind of heat.  I remember Tim DeBoom winning the Ironman Title the year of 9/11.  The list really goes on.

In 2002, I married my soul mate. In that time where you stay up all night talking and telling those things you never tell anyone else, I told him "I want to do an Ironman before I am 40".  ( I didn't know that there were many Ironman races, that the Ironman in Hawaii was the World Championships and that to get here required qualifying).  I also told him that I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon - something that had eluded me at the time ( I have since done that twice).  Shortly there after I also set forth on my journey towards learning more about spinal disease and scoliosis that I thought I would ever know.  At the beginning of that "trip", I had a therapist tell me to stop running and get a bike that I rode outside to develop my core and balance.  I did and then told my husband that this was a sign that I was to embark on the whole Ironman thing ( I was 37 and no I didn't heed the stop running advice).  I went to the gym and hired this guy that I knew was about to go to the Hawaii Ironman to teach me how to ride a bike so I could go too! Yep he "schooled me" on all things Ironman as well as how to ride a bike - he was one of the top ranked cyclists in San Antonio.  Rather than being discouraged the fire got stronger and the goal was set.
During this adventure, I had to address the fact that my spine still needed attention and the more I pressed the more it required it.  One of the greatest things about this sport is how transparent the top professionals are to the amateurs.  I came across an article written by the great Simon Lessing and was soon introduced to the best Neurosurgeon in the country who happens to be an Ironman as well and the best Physical Therapist who also happens to be an Ironman.  After his handy work - I was back at it and in search of getting to Kona.

I have made myself a student of this sport.  I studied everything and everyone.  Shortly after my first Ironman (Florida in 2005), I came across Hillary Biscay and started to follow her career.  She was a lot like me - an English major, loved teaching, loved a challenge and started this thing with a "whatever it takes mentality".  After getting close to qualifying on more than one occasion, I decided to ask her to coach me. After 3 long days, the email came through that she would.  Two months later, I raced Ironman Arizona, had a fantastic day and reached the podium and got a slot to race in Kona the following year.

So here we are - 2012 and I sit here listening to the wave crash and I am in Kona.  While this is the condensed version ( my unbelievably supportive family will tell you the VERY condensed version), it is my journey.  So much has been learned and some of it is here on this blog.  The one thing I know now, is that it is far from the end.  The list of amazing people that have helped me get here is endless.  I am certain I would have to have an entire new post just to scratch the surface.  I have to say that without my family and their undying support, this would not have happened.
Jesse- I love you with all my heart.  You never doubted, never said no, never said wait, always said what ever we need to do.  Thank you.
Devin - You always said go for it Mom and were amazing at making the connection of what I hoped you kids would get from this.  You and your brother put up with me riding my trainer at your games.
Jonah - You reminded me "no plan B" and said go for it. You put up with me missing some of your games for training.
Paige - You just always looked at me with those "starry eyes" and said I want to be like you Mom.  You held me to the highest standard.
Mom and Dad - Even when you didn't get it - you got me. I love you for that
Keane and Ashley - You even met me along the way - discovering your "inner athlete" and let me be the big sister to feel like I showed you a way.
Diane and the Elders - I couldn't have a better family to have married in to.  Thank you for being there and supporting me. Di - you just have always made me feel so important. Thank you
The "sisters" - Thank you for keeping me grounded and reminding me that a girls night out is important.
Here we go....