Anything is possible.
That is the Ironman motto. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, jump for joy, or what. But it’s over. On May 19th, I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, ran 26.2 miles – and I am an Ironman.
And it was a doozy. The question everyone keeps asking me is if it was as hard as I thought it was going to be. It seems like a silly question, but the answer is that it was SO MUCH HARDER. It doesn’t feel like double a half iron, it feels like 4x. On Friday, Jess and I drove up to The Woodlands to drop off our bikes and gear bags. First we went to the practice swim. It was pretty gross. The lake had a lot of debris in it that was getting in my face, and I couldn’t calm my breathing down because hello…on Saturday I knew I’d be swimming so much further and with so many more people.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing and once my family got in town we all ordered Ruggles Green and I was in bed by 10pm (after popping a Benadryl!). 4am came early. I got ready in my TNT tri kit (I had packed other outfits in case I wanted to change for the bike or run, but ended up wearing this all day like I thought I would), made coffee, and ate breakfast. Steph drove me the 30 minutes north and dropped me off in transition so I could pump my bike and get my bottles and nutrition situated. Erin, Jess, Jordann, and I met up in transition and our friend Brian drove us the 0.8 miles to the swim start so we didn’t have to walk (hey, it’s 140.6, not 141.4!). We got body marked, stood in line for the port-o-cans, took our energy gels, and got ready. Erin and I had plans to start together since we for sure were not wearing wetsuits (the water temp was 82 degrees so anyone opting to wear a wetsuit had to take a 10 minute penalty and start late). In the end, Jess and Jordann ended up not wearing them either so we all got to start together! They herded us into the water like cattle, but really we looked like a school of fish, all treading water and waiting for the cannon to go off.
Swim – 1:32:15
There’s only one word to describe the swim: bloodbath. Lots and lots of contact. If you’re not a confident swimmer, I do NOT recommend a triathlon with a mass swim start – 2500 athletes starting all at the same time. I would occasionally poke my head out of the water and all I saw was arms. And some legs. It was totally animal. Women are usually pretty nice and try to steer clear of each other, but the men are absolutely ruthless. I’m like dude, don’t worry about those 5 seconds you’re gonna shave off by grabbing my shoulder and dunking me underwater. I got clocked in the head pretty good only once, but I did some clocking of my own. Whoever was hanging onto my feet got a swift kick, and a few elbows were thrown too. It wasn’t really bothersome – the swim ended up being the easiest part of the day. I was worried it would get super crowded once we turned into the canal for the final stretch, but it was awesome with all the spectators yelling and clapping. Once I went around the final turn buoy to the stairs, I remember thinking, “Aw, man. My Ironman swim is over.” But the show must go on, right? The swim took me almost exactly as long as I thought – let’s add a couple of minutes for all the people.
T1 – 6:09
I noticed in the canal that I was right next to Jordann (wearing her same TNT kit) and we met up with Erin in transition! I tried to hurry since they were going pretty fast and after putting on my bike shoes and grabbing my sunglasses, I ran after them, forgetting my DeSoto wings. It ended up being ok, I think it would have been way too hot for em anyway. LOTS of sunscreen.
Bike – 8:05:04
8 hours on a bike is a long time. Looking back, I forget about how it all went down. The first half absolutely flew by. Erin and I stopped for our first mini-break at mile 30 and we were all, “WE’RE ALREADY AT MILE 30!!” – yeah, that didn’t last long. It got hot out – hot. The projected high was 88 degrees and it hit 95. I melt like a snowman in heat, so this wreaked havoc on me internally. Also, I hate riding a bike. BUT my family is awesome and saw us a ton on the bike course. I honestly don’t know how they did it. I think they put something like 150 miles on the car trying to see us. The first time was at mile 20 and I was so shocked! But I was smiling. I knew this part of the course very well. Here I am leading the pace line!
We had decided that halfway through the bike we would stop for our special needs – 10 or 20 minutes, whatever we needed (turned out to be more like 20). Luckily my parents were close by and got to stop with us. Steph slathered me up with more sunscreen – gotta keep my legs pale.
The family and I took a sec for a photo opp:
And then Erin and I did too – yes, our IM experience is very different from that of the pros.
Whatever, at least my hair looks good.
I don’t know what we would have done without my family there. After Special Needs at mile 60, they also caught up with us at 82 – only 30 miles left. You can tell I’m excited. Steph is too.
Never been so excited to dismount in my life. IN MY LIFE. At mile 100, some poor competitor thought it was only 110 miles – no honey, 2 more. I said – “12 more miles, let’s do this shit.” And he was all…”wut?!” Oops.
Took me longer than I thought but we did stop for awhile and I did not time us.
We got off the bike with 45 minutes to spare before the cutoff, and that’s good enough for me. I pulled ahead of Erin at the end but then SO GLAD I heard her voice while I was sitting in transition. So I waited til she got ready – I knew I’d need her for the “run” (there was little to no running involved). So glad we got to do the whole race together.
Coming out of transition, my buddy and mentee Joanna got me all sunscreened up. Thanks, girl!
Run – 6:35:12
Yeah, like I said – no running. Our “run” pace was equivalent to our walk pace – we could have walked the whole thing in this time, I’m pretty sure. But we made friends with the youngest competitor on the course! Here we are with 18-year-old Dillon from southern California. He was hilarious (although everything’s funny by mile 5, no offense to you Dillon) and we had a great time.
Big ups also to Cole! He stuck with us for 1.5 laps! We had the perfect magical intervals going on for some people, plus we are super charming. Those laps were torture. I was so confident, so sure that I knew what a marathon felt like – I thought no problem, I could push out a 5-hour, maybe 5:30 marathon. Easy, right? No. No, it was not easy. Prepare all you want – there is no beast like Ironman. And Ironman Texas? Forget it. We pushed through those laps though. I kept saying things like, “yknow, on the next lap we’ll be at mile 22!” And then finally we were.
We walked in the last mile, savoring our minutes during our proclaimed “first and last” Ironman (we might have some big plans for Cozumel 2014).
We high-fived, we waved, we sauntered in. We grabbed hands for the finish.
And then…Mike Reilly said the magic words – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.
Overall Time – 16:35:05
This is where the real drama happened. We had grandiose plans of getting IVs so as not to feel hungover the next day. Well, as soon as I got to medical and laid down a cot, I informed them that I was going to pass out – I can always tell when it’s gonna happen. Not only did I pass out, I had 2 seizures and my blood pressure was 60/0. That means that as soon as my heart beat, my blood was going nowhere. That’s very scary to think about. It was jelly in my veins – electrolyte imbalance. So yeah, I ended up a mile away in Memorial Hermann pediatric (the hospital was overcrowded, there’s a reason they’re the sponsor). They determined I was fine after all and discharged me at 3:30am – I’ll never know how I made it upstairs in our house, but I guess I did. Then I fell asleep in the bathtub. Eh, whatdya gonna do? Well, next time I’ll drink more Gatorade, that’s for sure.
Life After Ironman:
Will I do another Ironman? Yes.
Immediately after I told everyone that I’d never do this again. Shane wanted to get it in writing. The training is brutal. For 5 months, I had hardly any free time, hardly any life. More sweat, more food, more money, more tears, more blood, more bruising…more of everything I am was required. I can’t even put in words what the race was like – as I read over this, I’m like….it doesn’t sound so bad. But IT WAS that bad. Proceed with caution.
But guys – there’s something about the words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN that makes you want to exceed – makes you want to break barriers you thought impossible. Makes you want to be the best version of yourself. Makes you want to forget everything else and just fucking focus. On one thing. For now. This.
It won’t be this year. It might not be next. But I’ll be back. I’m an Ironman – nobody can ever take that away.
HUGE THANKS TO:
My family – my rock. Mom, Dad, Steph, Shane – you keep me going every day – and you don’t ever have to do a race for me to know you’re made of iron. Richard, Carlene, Aimee, Michael – your undying support humbles me and I’ll never take it for granted. Kristen – I can’t tell you what it means to me and how much our joy for running brought us closer together. Shea & Kyle – I’ll never forget seeing you out there on the course; you keep me moving. Jess, Jordann, Erin – I’m sad that IM training is over, if only because we don’t see each other at insanely early hours on the weekends now.
The members of TNT & JSC – how do I say thank you now for memories we continue to make together? You brought me back to life.