Wanting to document the week leading up to my first IRONMAN and the race itself. The week before was filled with team meetings, a meet up with fellow IM athletes at Fleet Feet, team breakfast, IM banquet; all kinds of discussions about preparations but mostly just a chance to burn off nervous energy with fellow athletes.
At the IM banquet, Mike Reilly slipped in and took a chair directly behind me before he popped up from the crowd to emcee the event. Thanks to my friend Michelle alerting me he was there, I was able to get a selfie with him – super fun.
Friday morning, I did the practice swim. The water felt amazing; calm and perfect temperature. Made me so excited for the next day. We checked into the Westin on the waterway and to my surprise, I got a solid 7 hours of sleep before the 3:30 am alarm went off. Got ready: ate my oatmeal and banana with coffee. Headed off to transition, but we walked by the finish line on the way there. It was hard to believe I’d be back there the same day an IRONMAN.
Transition was so cool because the majority of my teammates were all in the same bike rack area. We hugged as we pumped our tires and loaded up our bikes with all the nutrition we would need to get us through the bike. Then headed over to coach JT’s truck for a ride over to the swim start.
More hugs and photos at swim start. Then it was time to slip into my wetsuit (legal this year) and get ready for the task ahead.
Found Jen Lanier and we headed to the 1:20 – 1:30 start position. She grabbed my hand and said a beautiful prayer for us. Calmed me down and lifted me up. As we walked toward the water, I saw Nicole with IRONMAN, who I had met in Arizona and I told her today was the day and she hugged me. TODAY became the day’s mantra.
Started swimming and immediately found space around me. I quickly got into a rhythm. For some reason, I count when I’m swimming. Tried to remember my form; catch and pull all the way through. Everything was fine until the first turn buoy. I got too close to it and so did 10 of my IM peeps. The short swim to the next turn buoy we all didn’t want that to happen again, so we spread out. Then I swam into a large group of green caps and I got hit in the head three or four times. I slowed it way down to try to drop away from them and find some space again. Found myself very close to the shore right before the turn into the canal. Got very crowded very fast in the canal. I could see all the people standing on the shore watching us. Then, some guy flipped over and started back stroking. I hit him with my stroke, which made me pull up. Then he started breaststroking and kicking me. Hard to get away from him, so I slowed up again. Saw the last red buoy and boom it was time to get out. Swim time was 1:33, 15 minutes faster than Arizona!!! The first face I saw when they pulled me off the stairs was my friend Andi. Coach Gemma was there to give me the worlds biggest hug; which gave me a huge boost of energy. Thanks to Dana for snapping a pic of that hug.
T1; no volunteer around to help me so I helped myself. Wasn’t changing, so not much to do anyway. Got out to the bike and out on the road pretty quick. The first part of the course had several turns so I stayed out of aero until Woodlands Parkway. Right before I got to the Hardy Toll Road, two amazing things happened. I came up on my friend Jen and I saw my friend Nancy Charbonneau and her daughter cheering at mile 13 and they had a sign for me! Again – refueled my heart. Stayed behind Jen – just made me feel good to have someone I knew close by me. Loop 1 was so much fun and exciting!!!! There were still pros on the course – so much fun to see them whiz by. I stopped at mile 30 to refill my speedfill. Saw my friend Pam Poehling here and was feeling great. Just after mile 40, we were at 610 and turning to head north. The wind was just great and it wasn’t hot yet. My power was around 80 and speed was a solid 16 mph which I knew had me right on pace. The ride back north was good, minus the huge pelotons of riders. I had a swarm come by me and one passed me on the right while another cut right in front of my wheel. Not only is this completely illegal, it is super dangerous and just wrong. Losers and cheaters who don’t exemplify the spirit of IM. Turned at mile 60 and knew special needs was just ahead. Stopped and had a great teenage volunteer help me refill everything. Grabbed my PB&J and was outta there pretty quick. Didn’t stop again until the aid station at mile 80. The wind had shifted a bit and there was a bit of a headwind on this stretch. But nothing compared to what i had trained in, so I just watched my power. The overpasses were harder than loop 1. It was getting hot now too. Grabbed a bottle of water and dumped it on me. I knew I only had 20 more miles and then I would be getting off the Hardy and headed back in. There was still a fair amount of traffic around me, but I could tell the traffic on the other side of the road (behind me) was thinning. I knew some of those people were worrying about the cutoff and after Arizona I said a prayer for them. I spent every day since Arizona trying to make my weakness my strength and wanted to be as far away from that cutoff as possible. The bike cutoff at mile 84 was 3:30. I was at mile 84 at 1:49!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So happy to get to the last turn on the Hardy. Just about a mile until we exited the Hardy and headed back to the Woodlands. My friend Pam passed me here and I saw my friends Ivonne and Jen were right there too. Right before I got in, saw Coach JT cheering me in. He yelled at me for not being in aero, but I was nearly the entire Toll Road, which I am so proud of!!!!!!
Felt good dismounting the bike. T2 went fast; I just changed out of my cycling shorts and into my kit bottoms and laced up my shoes and I was out. Right when I got on the run course, I saw Kyle, Ryan, Taylor and Michelle – made me sooooo happy!!!!!! Oh, and I saw my giant head poster – haha. I had brought my bottle of Endorux with me and it was very cold – was happy to have it to hold because I realized how hot it was. First mile I was running about 10 minute pace and I knew I needed to slow down. I also realized that my stomach felt terrible. I wasn’t cramping yet, but I knew I needed to do something. Aid station 1, I dumped water over my head and took a salt pill and some pepto I had stuffed in my pocket. Every aid station, I walked and dumped the water on me. Ate oranges at most aid stations. Thank you to the station that had watermelon – nothing has ever tasted that good. Saw my friend Christy pretty quickly on the course; she had a crash on her bike and had road rash on her face, shoulder and elbow; and there she was still going. What a bada//. Made it to East Shore and I saw Patty and Gerald Jolly right near the entrance – they had made a poster for me and their crew was rooting me on. Further down, I found coach JT and he was grinning ear to ear about my bike performance. Still running at this point. Got to the waterway and man oh man, how fun is that. The spectators on this course were AMAZING!!!!!! I high fived everyone and soaked it all in. Started loop 2; seemed even hotter. I walked over the bridge to north shore park. My stomach had calmed down but mentally I was struggling. Found Sheri Bell in east shore and we ran together for a while. She was on her third loop and I was jealous. REALLY helped to have a friend at this point. We got to the waterway and once again the crowd fueled me up. Coach Gemma popped out and ran with me for a minute; that was a boast I needed. Finally saw my mom and dad across the waterway and waved my arms until David saw me so they knew I was going to be coming by them soon. Loved running by them and seeing the pride on their faces. Start of loop 3, the sun was starting to set. I was so grateful; couldn’t take any more sun and heat. I knew I was well in front of the run cutoff by now and I would be seeing Mike Reilly soon. But there was still 8 more miles to go. Did some math to figure out if I could walk a bit and stay on plan. Somehow my brain didn’t seem capable and my body was arguing with me. Again, the spectators encouragement and the messages in chalk on the sidewalk kept me moving ahead. By the time I turned onto the sidewalk near Woodlands Parkway, it was very dark. They had a few lights on the course, but it was kind of creepy. So I walked this stretch. Wasn’t going to trip and break my ankle at mile 21. Made it to East Shore and Patty and Gerald Jolly were still there cheering for me!!!!! Gave me a shot of energy. At this point, I wanted this over so I pretty much kept running. Got to the waterway and it seemed even more crowded now. A lot of people were walking now and I was running, so I heard so many people saying “nice pace” which made me feel so good. I came across Ivonne’s support crew and they exploded with a cheer for me – wow – gave me energy. I finally got to the turn where you “ring the bell” for your third loop – I knew it was less than a mile to go now. So happy to take the veer toward the finish line this time instead of toward starting another loop. I saw Ivonne was right there with me at this point.
As I got to close to the finish line, I looked around and saw only one other person near me. I told him to go so I could run in by myself as so many people had told me to do. When I came into the chute, I saw coach JT, then my Jacquelyne screaming “You Did It” with sheer joy on her face, Kyle and Ryan. I approached the finish and looked up completely amazed that the time was under 15 hours. I heard Mike Reilly say my name and there was David holding my medal. I said “hi” and he put it around my neck. I had asked him to do the VIP medal pass because he had been such a part of this journey I wanted him to be there with me. Ivonne’s friend Susan was my catcher (she had also stripped my wetsuit that morning – bless her for working all day at this event.) I got my t-shirt and photo and then it was time to find the family. So many hugs and kisses. Seeing my family here at the finish line was truly one of the sweetest moments of my life.
Everyone on my Vantage Point team finished and most had PRs. One qualified to go to KONA and one was just 2 spots away from that finishing 4th in her AG. Me; I finished before the last run cutoff at mile 17. I finished with 2 hours and 14 minutes to spare. Thank you to John Tortorici and Gemma Hollis for helping me find the strength and courage to become an endurance athlete. That doesn’t just take technical skill; these people helped prepare me mentally as well as physically and they truly cared about my journey and goals.
Two years ago when I didn’t know how to ride at all, I went to a beginner bike class. I met beautiful girl named Ivonne. We talked briefly, but oddly enough, we figured out that both of us had decided to do IM 2018. We eventually started training together. I want you to know we finished within minutes of each other at IM2018. I truly don’t think I could have kept training without Ivonne’s encouragement. Ivonne is one of those people who is always happy, always encouraging and loving. What a gift to have her help.
Also along the way I met Christy. Christy was already an IM and very proficient on the bike. But Christy didn’t have to always ride fast and leave everyone in her dust. She would ride with me and if she did get ahead of me, would wait for me at turns to make sure I was OK. And she encouraged me. Another gift.
And then Nikki started training with us. Strong and fast, she was another gift because it pushed me to go faster and that was just what I needed at that point.
Jennifer; I haven’t known you very long but somehow I feel like we’ve been friends forever. There were 3000 people in this race and we found each other on the bike ride to encourage each other – no coincidence.
Bob and Sara’s bike group – I only rode with you a few times but each time I did, I learned a lot and got better. Thank you.
Gloria, Kim, Pam, Sheri, Scott, Sandy, Allison, Tony, Arthur, Michelle: thank you for being such awesome teammates! I love you guys.
And then there is David Perry. This guy didn’t sign up for any of this. But he did it all with me. He made sure I stayed safe, whether that was following me around for hours the back roads of Montgomery when I was too slow to ride with anyone else to make sure I was OK; surprising me with cold water in my car after I finished a long hot ride in July in Woodlane; being my bike sherpa deluxe; putting up with me being gone on long rides and runs all weekend. etc. etc. etc. Thank you for supporting me through this sweetheart.
If you know me well, you know i write everything down. Coach JT wanted me to have a race plan. Look at this; the plan and the actual. Wow. Powerful.
In a small way, I hope my story helps someone else realize that whatever they want in life, they can have. Have a plan, work hard, follow the rules, pray. I spent a lot of time Saturday praying because let’s be honest, a 7 hour bike ride alone is boring. I told God that I knew there were bad days and good days, and I thanked him that TODAY was going to be one of the good ones. Grateful beyond measure.
And yes, i got the tattoo.