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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Finally, an Ironman

Well, I made it to the finish line and am officially an Ironman. I am proud of myself, but I'm a little disappointed too. I know that doesn't make any sense. Getting to the start line was a huge accomplishment let alone the finish line, but the bike is my favorite part and it didn't go as planned at all.

But, before you get too worried about me or want to slap some sense into me, know that I do count my many blessings and it could have been much worse. Let me back up to the front though and tell it from the beginning.

Pre-race

I was surprisingly calm and collected in the days leading up to the start. I certainly wanted to be to impress my husband (who is always cool as a cucumber), but I really felt okay. I trained hard for this and it was going to happen no matter what, so why get nervous about it. It didn't hurt that the Harry Potter book came out the day before the race and my wonderful husband scored a copy for me.

With taper, my body felt the best that it had since before I started this craziness. I was resting, hydrating and keeping relaxed.

I fell asleep with no problems at 9:30 PM the night before the race and slept through till the 3:30 AM wake-up call. I got up, ate my planned nutrition, stretched and then we headed out the door at 4:50 AM to walk the mile to the race start. That would suffice as warm-up (seriously, do you need to warm-up before a 140.6 mile race?) and we could drop off our special needs bags on the way.

Matt and I pumped up our tires, made the last porta potty stop, donned our wetsuits, dropped off our dry clothes bags and headed to the swim start.

We ran into TriEric and Aimee who were wetsuit peelers and they were a welcome sight (believe me, Eric and Aimee, you both helped me numerous times that day and I thank you). We saw Paula, Chris N. and Tim M. in the water. I still was relatively calm, but would spontaneously cry occasionally. Matt was so supportive and told me it was okay as it is a totally overwhelming experience.

Matt and I kissed good-bye and I headed to a spot in the middle of the group, but on the far right as instructed by Angela. They played "Ironman" right before we started. Very cool. In no time, the cannon boomed and we were off.

Swim

I had a totally different swim experience than Matt and Paula. I barely encountered another person the entire first lap. Of course, I swam well clear of the "line", which meant I also swam farther, but unmolested was good.

I got out of the first lap in 47 minutes or so. I ran to the entrance point for the second loop and started swimming as soon as I hit the water. I can't believe how many people I saw sauntering their way into the water. We are in a race people! So, I think I should be able to swim the line the second loop, because the volume of people is ahead of me, but unfortunately it was only available occasionally. I kept running up on slower swimmers than me, and it was taking too much energy to keep passing them, so I kept them about 10 feet to my left. Oh, I so wanted to be on that line, because the draft was incredible (felt like being sucked around in a whirlpool), but I had a job to do.

I came out of the water in just under 1:37, which wasn't too far off my goal time and I felt great. The strippers were wonderful and had the suit off in seconds. Incredibly, I was able to run the entire 300 meters to the transition area. And, as you all suspected, I was incredibly relieved to be out of the swim.

T1

I had a wonderful volunteer in T1, who helped me on with my stuff and put my bags in my pockets. Before I knew it, I was out running to meet my bike which another volunteer had grabbed. Wow, I am a slow swimmer, because there were hardly any bikes left!! Oh well, I knew I could get them on the bike.

Total T1 time of 7:52 (with the run from the beach - not bad)

Bike

The wheels fell off my Ironman cart exactly 2 minutes and 35 seconds into the bike. My bike was making a funny sound, so I thought I'd stop to check it. Oh no, I had a flat. I can change flats relatively quickly normally, but I have the worst time with the tires on my Zipp wheels. It took me about 15-20 minutes to get the flat changed and I see all these bikers go by me. I blow up the tube, note that it is popping out, go to let some air out to fix it and it pops. Good lord, what am I going to do now?! I have another tube, but do I have the time to fix it and will it pop too? I am now shaking where I had been relatively calm. Luckily, these people in yellow come up to me and say "what size wheel do you need?". I say "650" and they say "we can hook you up with that" and they proceed to get me a new front wheel. Now, I know I'm not supposed to get outside assistance, but you can understand why I accepted their help, right? I was uneasy about it though.

So, I'm now almost in last place and am riding what I think is a contraband wheel with no speedometer because my magnet is on my Zipp wheel. I say to myself "focus on the positive". I stayed in my HR zone and tried to stay focused.

I got to enjoy the many mile descent all by myself completely in my aerobars (for the first time - I was too scared to ride in the aeros the prior times). On the first real climb (3 miles long), I started really passing people which helped my mood. I got to the 14-mile out and back section and swear a random girl tells me that I was DQ'd for getting outside assistance. This majorly took the wind out of my sails. It didn't help that when I came back on the out-and-back, not only did I not see a soul coming in the other direction the last few miles (solidifying my feeling of being almost in last place), but the lady pro winner passed me. D'oh!

I turned onto Rt. 86 for the 12-mile climb back to LP. Again, I was passing people left and right. I saw this great sign that Court had made for me (unfortunately, I never got to meet her). I see Eric and Aimee on the last big climb and say "I think I've been DQ'd. If I had been, would I know?" Eric said they would have yanked me from the race, so this is where I get my first glimmer of hope. I see my sister-in-law and yell "I got a flat" in explanation for my late arrival and she says "who cares, just keep going!" Part of me was hoping that if I was disqualified that they would yank me sooner than later, because I didn't want to go back out on that 56-mile loop again for no reason. But, no one stopped me and I head on out with a glimmer of hope that I can still be Iron.

Yes, I was disappointed with my 4:09 first loop, because I could have done so much better, but I knew I could still make the cut-off.

So, with renewed hope/energy, I headed out for the second loop. I still don't know what my speed is, but I'm staying in my HR zone, staying hydrated and maintaining my nutrition plan. I even peed on the bike several times throughout the day (TMI, right, but it was part of the experience). My gut never complained.

The second loop was much hotter than the first and a headwind could be found on the sections that should have been the fastest. Again, I ride the big descent like a champ, with no fear and no brakes, but I had to pedal in portions that I didn't have to before.

I made the turn for the 3-mile climb and the wind died down. Again, I was chewing up participants who were fading big time and this time on the out-and-back section, it wasn't so lonely. The last 12 miles which should have been agonizing (and were for my butt, but not my legs) went by with no issues. It was actually fun to be passing so many people while maintaining a low HR and high cadence. I finished the second loop in 4:03, which was a negative split, but of course, I didn't have the flat this time. I know I could have done better, but couldn't dwell on it. I still had a marathon to run!

T2

Again, I had a great volunteer who helped me change and slapped sunscreen on me before sending me on my way. I must have smelled awful from peeing myself so much, but she didn't complain at all. I can't say enough about the wonderful volunteers!

Run

Holy crap, I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck and now I had to run a marathon. I started off down the big hill and tried to imagine it as a massage like my coach suggested. Early on, I knew I wouldn't be running the whole thing, but I tried to run to each aid station and then walk until I had eaten/drank enough.

My legs actually didn't feel too bad all considering, but my stomach was not right. I alternated between queasy and hungry. I saw Eric and Aimee again and he told me to try to get some pretzels and other food in there to calm it down. I also took a Tums as Jodi suggested. There were moments of running, but even more moments of walking. During one of these, I saw my husband. He was way off the pace and looked like he wasn't having fun, but as usual the look of pride on his face was unmistakable. I also saw Paula a couple times on the run. She wasn't having fun at that point, but she put up an incredible 14:07 finish. You rock lady!

The hardest part of the run was turning around and heading back out while others were finishing. I saw Matt one more time and told him to bring it home. By then, I felt better. I managed to run the next 3-4 miles, but then my stomach said "no more running". I still had a spring in my step though and found I could power walk like a champ. I thought about trying to run again, but it was so dark and I didn't want to risk falling down. Eventually I got my glow necklace. It was incredible the number of people I passed on the last 6 miles. I hadn't really been talking to anyone, but found a guy walking my pace with 4-5 miles to go. We talked each other through the rest of it. In hindsight, I'm fairly sure I could have run, but at that point, I had plenty of time to finish and didn't want to jinx myself.

With .2 miles to go, I bid farewell to my companion and ran the last glorious steps to the Ironman finish line. I had the whole lane to myself, motioned to the crowd for some enthusiasm (they complied), heard Mike Reilly ("The Voice") proclaim me a first-time Ironman and finished with a huge smile on my face.

My husband was right there and he was just beaming at me. I then saw Joe and Sam J. and they were incredibly excited (so much so that they signed up for the race the next day).

Run time of 5:49 and total finish time of 15:52:33 - yes, I am finally an Ironman! Believe me people, I earned that tattoo! : )

Epilogue

I finally got to explain to Matt why I was worried about being DQ'd. I also tell him that we have to find the good samaritans to get our wheels exchanged. But, when he brought my bike out of transition, it already had the Zipp on it. It is then that I found out that the people who helped me were the official bike support for the race. They were actually allowed to help me. Wahoo, I didn't cheat!

I bid farewell to Sam and Joe and then my wonderful in-laws helped us carry our stuff the mile back to the house. I ate a bowl of Cheerios, showered and then climbed into bed.

My legs and back were sore as expected, but I've seen worse. Sitting here on Wednesday night, I barely hurt anymore. I won't be running again for a week or so, but I can swim on Friday and back on the bike on Saturday. Not too bad.

Now that I've recounted my full story, I realize that I am not disappointed and am so proud to be part of the Ironman family. However, I won't change the beginning, so you know where my head has been since the race ended (alternating between elation, relief and disappointment). Thanks for bearing with me on this terribly long report.

Congrats to all the other CTC Ironmen and women out there! Thanks for your support!

Also, big thanks to my fan support at the race (Jean, Bill, Maggie, Brad, Sam and Joe). It was great to see your smiling faces!

Angela, thank you for getting me to the start line and for being so enthusiastic and proud when I talked to you after the race. That helped my mental state tremendously!

Finally, as always, I thank my wonderful husband and am grateful to have shared the day with him!

Pictures coming soon...

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jen,

Its Dave Miceli - congrats on becoming an Ironman. I know you worked very hard and you deserved that medal. I am really amazed at your positive and forward thinking in the face of such adversity....I can't imagine a flat that quickly and then the troubles you had coupled with the mental torture of thinking about being DQ'd....you must also have an Ironmind to continue to move forward after all that - really great job and I can't wait to read about your 2nd IM experience.

8:04 PM

 
Blogger IM Able said...

Jen,

Loved every single word of your race report! Way to go! You came prepared and managed to continue even in the face of adversity out there. You did so well -- I only hope to hold it together like you in September.

Congratulations, Ironman!!

:)

8:04 PM

 
Blogger Fe-lady said...

Congratulations! There is always a bit of a let down after a race so HUGE...but continue to be proud of yourself! You accomplished something that millions can't even thing about! Wear that tatoo proudly!
(Pix? Tatoo pix too?) :-)

8:41 PM

 
Blogger Deirdre said...

per·se·ver·ance:

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.


Jen - Congratulations, Ironman!!! I think we can put your name in the dictionary next to perseverance. I am so excited for you!

9:08 PM

 
Blogger DCTriGirl said...

What a great report. You make me think that even I could do an Ironman! Congrats :-)

9:33 PM

 
Blogger KC said...

new reader here - wow, what an inspiring story. heartfelt congratulations to you.

9:48 PM

 
Blogger Charlie said...

Jen,
You continue to inspire with your drive. You never give up.
That is why you are an Ironman!.
Congratulations.

10:27 PM

 
Blogger TriSaraTops said...

You are AWESOME.

I can't even imagine what I would have done if I encountered the trouble you did on that first loop, never mind the mental struggle of wondering if you were DQ'd...wow. Actually I CAN imagine what I would have done--probably freaked out and melted down. Way to stay focused on the prize. You EARNED that finish, girl. I was so happy to watch you cross that line!

Can't wait to see the pics!

10:50 PM

 
Blogger TriShannon said...

Way to go Jen!

A flat... my big fear! You handled it great and kept your head. Nice job!

Congratulations again Ironman!

10:52 PM

 
Blogger Matt Collister said...

Jen, You really did an awesome job. I'm so proud of you. Congratulations! Matt

5:16 AM

 
Anonymous kristenb said...

Congratulations Jen! What an experience!! I enjoyed being a tiny part of your journey. You know the pain inflicted was all out of love, right? :) Seeing how hard you worked for this has been so inspirational for me. Thank you! You rock, Ironman!!!

7:36 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ironman Jen-
You did so AWESOME- you looked fierce race walking that last hill- you were walking faster than some people run.

You did it!

8:43 AM

 
Blogger DaisyDuc said...

Jen, to simply accomplish an ironman is such a feat, but to do it in the face of that much adversity is truly remarkable! I give you sooo much credit for keeping your head together and getting through it!! Very proud of you!!!!! Way to go!!!!

8:49 AM

 
Blogger Papa Louie said...

Jen, Congratulations on becoming an Ironman. Thanks for the great report. Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure on becoming an Ironman. Good for you.

10:00 AM

 
Blogger Jen H said...

Yeah, Jen!! I am so excited for you, and proud of all you worked so hard to achieve. You inspire me everyday!

I want to thank you for posting a little while back that we could go to ironmanlive.com to watch streaming video on race day. It was so exciting for me to be able to watch both you and Matt cross the line at the finish!! (I spent a lot of time at the computer that day--which made me feel a little guilty while you guys were out there working your buns off, but I'm so glad I was able to see you.)

I've been so excited waiting to hear all about race day, and I am--again--so impressed with your positive attitude and how well you kept your head in the race when faced with adversity. You are fantastic!!

I'll call you soon so we can hash out which 5K to run together ... I'm really looking forward to it!!

You are Iron!! You rock!!

10:47 AM

 
Blogger E-Speed said...

Oh Jen! You did so great! I am so glad you got official support but I am sure you would have fixed the problem on your own and finished strong regardless. I can't imagine how frustrating it must have been to sit there fixing that flat, and then to not know your speed the entire bike, you are such a trooper.

I love that despite your expectations of walking so much of the run you were passing tons of people. You are such a great athlete Jen! I'm so proud of you!

Now enjoy that recovery and Harry Potter Book (if you haven't finished it already!)

11:46 AM

 
Blogger Jodi said...

Congratulations, Jen! I am so proud of you. You showed the same determination and strength of spirit at the race as you did the whole 10 months leading up to it. I couldn't have had a better role model. Thanks for being such a huge inspiration for me the past year. Enjoy the satisfaction of completing your goal. You earned it, girl!

:-)

Jodi

5:01 AM

 
Blogger Rae said...

Way to go!! That's an awesome achievement, enjoy the feeling!!!!

7:03 AM

 
Blogger Kim said...

congratulations on being an IRONWOMAN! despite the tire/wheel difficulties, it sounds like you raced smart and well! i hope i have a similargreat experience at IMUSA next year (minus feeling like I was DQed)!

8:41 AM

 
Blogger GP said...

Totally, totally awesome. I'm so proud of you and so inspired. And it's so cool to blog-know a real Ironman... woman!

Your feelings about accepting help and worrying about DQ sound like something I would do. So, I'm glad that I have the reassurance that I'm not too goofy.

And while it's too bad that you had a flat, just remember that you finished the race of all races on top of having wheel trouble. Most people wouldn't know how to deal with either let alone both... at the same time!

Thanks for the full story — I've been so eager to hear about it after watching your results! You're truly an inspiration... and I hope to someday be just as Ironwoman cool!

Many(congrats)^1,000,000 x 10!

8:48 AM

 
Blogger Robyn & Rachel said...

Wow - your focus is incredibly inspiring. Way to keep in it!

9:37 AM

 
Blogger The Scott Family said...

Awesome! ... just awesome! ... I want to do one!!! :)

7:31 PM

 
Blogger Dying Water Buffalo said...

Yay I'm happy you saw my sign :)

That is crazy about the flat. In retrospect, do you think you hallucinated the girl saying that, or maybe misinterpreted it because you were afraid you might have been?

I'm so proud of you how you buckled down, focused yourself, and still finished!

What an amazing weekend. That's awesome how you two inspired the other couple to sign up as well! :)

5:14 PM

 

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