I didn’t record much of this season’s IM training here, but do want to record what happened on April 27, 2019. I trained super hard for this race. I spent a huge amount of time focusing on riding. Last year, if I missed a workout, it was always the bike. But I was determined to have a better bike at this IM and trained much, much harder.
The week leading up to the race is always so much fun. The IM banquet, checking in at IM village, meeting athletes from around the country and the world, buying too much IM gear, the briefing: I love it all.
Race morning I woke up at 3 am. It was great to sleep in my own bed and make the short drive to the race. Started the race with my lane 5 swim buddies Clayton and Willie. The water felt great. I made a decision to take it steady and conserve my energy for the bike; I also swam far outside the bouys which I don’t usually do. I didn’t have any traffic issues until the first turn. Headed back to the canal was pretty uneventful too. The canal is never fun, but kept siting often and stayed out of trouble. Garmin says I swam 450 yards too far; I think because of swimming so far to the outside but not sure. Time was 3 minutes slower than last year but felt very strong and controlled, so I was happy with that.
Got out on the bike and felt great. Woodlands Parkway and Springwood Village segments were fine. Then I hit the Hardy. Headwind straight out of the south. I knew I just had to get through this 20 mile segment and that meant there would be a tailwind. I would still consider myself a bike rookie and not all that great at just using power on the bike. But in this case, I had too. I was way above my power and only going 10-11 mph at some point (I’m not even supposed to look at that). It was also hot and no clouds in the sky. It was demoralizing. About halfway down, I saw an ambulance and thought, I wonder if I pulled over if they would take me back. Then I got really mad at myself for even having that thought. So I started to say to myself all the cliches and motivational quotes I have been putting on Facebook over this training season. Over and over. And praying and thanking God for making me healthy enough to do this and giving me the strength to finish. Made it to the turnaround. Was happy I could go to the bathroom there (means I’m not dehydrated). The tailwind back up the Hardy was magical. I pushed hard to make up the time I had lost on the last leg. I’m not sure that was a good idea. (actually pretty sure it wasn’t) That leg went in a blink. Made it to special needs and had an amazing volunteer help me reload my nutrition and get me back on the road with my PB&J in no time. Then there was that headwind again. This time it seemed worse. Not sure if it was just because I was tired or it was worse. This time I tried to stay tucked in aero the whole time and just kept praying and chanting my day’s mantra: the task in front of you is never as great as the strength inside you. Once I made it to the turnaround, I thought I would be home free. Again, pushing to make up time back up the Hardy and then my feet started to feel like they were on fire. This has never happened to me before. So pretty worriesome. I also knew I was a bit behind on nutrition. I had done pretty well the first half, but by this time my tailwind was warm and gel blocks were tasting yucky. Can’t ever let this happen again. Couldn’t believe I saw my friend Christy Gonzalez cheering me on right near the end of the Hardy – that really lifted me up!!!!
Made it back to transition and got off. David was right there and gave him a high five. Took off my shoes immediately and walked to the T2 tent, hoping the burning in my feet would stop. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to run. I had put some recovery gel in my bag, so I rubbed that on my feet and it seemed to help. Put on my shoes and got out onto the run. First mile was OK but then it all feel apart pretty quickly. I didn’t want to walk anything but the aid stations for this IM; that was one of my goals. But I think I pushed too hard on the bike and got behind on my nutrition and there was not a lot left in my tank. I was so grateful my stomach wasn’t upset this year, but nothing sounded good to eat. So I tried drinking as much as I could at each aid station. I was walk/running most of the marathon. I had been hoping on the bike that I could still have a good run. I kept saying to myself, you do this all the time; just keep running, even if it’s not fast. But my poor little body was just struggling so hard. So it became about just finishing. Was trying to do math to figure out what pace I had to maintain to just finish; math is hard for me when I haven’t been exercising for 13 hours, so this was a struggle too 🙂 The support on the course, the support from other athletes became the driving force that kept me moving forward. Just keep moving forward. Passing the Valhalla/Valkyrie tent, seeing family and friends along the way (Ryan, Natalie, Ivonne, Karen, Carl, Mary Pat, Allison, Debbie, Susan, Ron, Marcie, Mills, Pam, Kim, Sonia and so many more). Saw my friend Michelle near the end of the second loop and we ran/walked together for a bit. By this point, I was in pain. My feet hurt, my back hurt, I had really bad sunburn from sunscreen fail on the top of my legs, neck and hands. I guess I was lucky though because I didn’t cramp, throw up or really have any GI issues. I saw a lady with medical at mile 18 and I thought to myself, she made it that far and had to stop; keep going Cheryl, keep going!!!!!! You can make it through this and then you can sit down and rest and everything will be OK. So the negotiating started; just run to the next aid station. OK, now just run to the next bathroom and you can stop for a minute. Did that, now just run to the bell. OK almost there, run in and see Mike Reilly.
I’m not sure how, but I finished this IRONMAN. The chute was as magical as it could be. High fiving friends and family, strangers, just super fun. Crossed the line and there was my friend Jen to medal me. And Vic was there to give me a hug too. David, Jacquelyne, Ryan, Natalie and Chris were there and that meant the world to me. Last year, I was able to walk around, talk to people, I ate at a restaurant. This year, it was everything I could do to just make it to the car. Got home and took a shower and a bath and tried to sleep. The adrenaline messes with that a bit though. Woke up feeling so bad. But 24 hours removed, I really think I’m in pretty good shape.
I told myself I would never do another IRONMAN somewhere on the Hardy Toll Road headed south. Woke up today thinking about how I can get better on the bike for ARIZONA in November. I’m not a naturally gifted athlete. I’m not someone you would expect could do this. For me, it’s almost entirely a mental challenge. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
I think several things played into this IRONMAN truly, 100% being the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Yes, the wind was strong and it was hot. But I need to learn more about how to ride; power and shifting and how to train harder on it. I also managed to be 5 lbs heavier for this race which I’m sure had an impact. So nutrition during training as well as race day will be a concentration over the coming months. And then strength training, which I never seem to make time for. This is going to become a priority.
If you know me, you know I had a written plan and a goal for this race. That didn’t happen. While that makes me sad, I think I learned a good lesson from it. I’m not in control of everything – haha. I need to take what comes at me and deal with it the best way I can. And I did that. I am so happy I didn’t quit and I found a way to fight til the end.
I’m not sure I really understand why I love this sport so much, but I just do. So I’m going to take what I learned here and apply it to the next race. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this sport and I’m just going to keep moving forward.
David Perry – thank you so much for all your love and support while I do all this super crazy stuff. You are the very best bike sherpa around and I love you very very much.
Jacquelyne, Ryan and Kyle – your mom is living proof that if you set a goal and work hard, you can do whatever you want. The trick is to find what you want and never, never give up. My greatest hope is for you to live your best life.
Mom and Dad – you taught me how to work hard, set goals and believe in myself. I love you both very much!!!
Vantage Point/Valkyrie teammates – no words – your support is everything and I love you all.
John T and Gemma – thank you for getting me to the finish line.
Time to unplug and evaluate what’s next…………..