Monday, September 24, 2012

I Did It! (Again!)

Hello, friends!  By the grace of God I finished my second half Ironman Saturday (do 2 make one FULL Ironman?)!  Thank you for following me on the journey along the way.  I couldn't have done this without the support of friends, family and friendly Oklahomans.

Redman Eve

The original plan was to wake up early and do a test swim in Lake Hefner but the original plan went out the window because my bed is awesome.  I figured I would have trouble going to sleep that night so a few more hours of sleep may be more advantageous than swimming in the lake.  I also didn't want to get all full of red mud from the shoreline.  Lazy, I know, but I don't regret the few extra hours of sleep!

Once my bum got out of bed I ate some breakfast and headed to Schlegel's for one last tune-up to make sure Clark Kent aka Superman was ready to kick some @$$.  Thankfully the Mesa brothers hooked me (and Clark) up.  We were good to go and ready to fly!

Allergy ATTACK!

I have horrible allergies (so bad I give myself shots each week) and was having an allergy attack.  Allergy sufferers know what I'm talking about but if you are blessed and have never had an allergy's like your eyebrow bones are throbbing, you can't swallow and in this case, you are seeing spots in your right eye.  Weighing pro's and con's I decided to take allergy meds even though they dehydrate and I was supposed to be hydrating.  To compensate, I drank water and Gatorade all day long and had the peeing pattern of a pregnant lady/old man.  TMI, I know.  But that's reality, folks!  

Redman Expo

At about 3pm I headed to Lake Hefner for a quick bike ride and to set up my sweet "Team Em" banner.  No, that was not painted by a professional artist...I did it myself!  Since this is my second year doing the Redman Half Ironman I know what to expect.  I expect the swim and the bike portions to be long but fun and the run to be very challenging.  This year I concocted a strategy to help improve my run time...have my friends yell at me!  I set up my cheer crew just south of Louie's so if they had to go to the bathroom they could go inside!  I also provided them with a huge bag of goodies including noisemakers, sweet tiaras, wands, tambourines, poster boards to make signs, food and drinks.  You will find out shortly if my strategy worked!  In Oklahoma my friends are my family since my family couldn't make it. They did send me these beautiful flowers and an encouraging note!  It kind of made everything real that I was about to do my second half Ironman!

Race meeting. It was hot!
I rode my bike around the run course and had mental flashbacks of the struggle to do 2 loops in the hot sun.  My triathlon friend Janna said I just had to come up with motivating sayings to play in my head.  I generally turn to upbeat songs to keep me running.

At 4pm I attended the first of two race meetings.  Since I kicked myself for not attending the race meeting for the Chicago Tri, I thought I would attend this one.  I stayed for the first 10 minutes but then got too hot and realized it was essentially the same info as the year before.  I picked up my packets, check in my bike at transition and headed home.

I prepped my things for the next morning and tried to wind down and get ready for an early bedtime.  Being a night owl by nature, it's difficult to go to bed early even without the pressure of singing the National Anthem and racing the next day!  I ate a few sushi rolls from Saii as my pre-race dinner.  My TRI friend Janna told me not to eat leafy greens so I substituted the seaweed with soy paper.  It was just as delicious! I watched a movie and with the help of a small cocktail and nighttime allergy pill, went to bed around 9pm.

Race Day

Surprisingly I slept a good 7.5 hours!  I woke up, had a big glass of water, a small cup of coffee and ate a bowl of Greek yogurt with granola.  
On the menu for the race.  Apparently red food coloring makes you faster? Jk.

I tatted my arms and legs with my race number, packed up my stuff and headed for Lake Hefner around 5:45 am.  This year the Redman provided a shuttle from the parking lot to the transition area...that was helpful!  I did the usual routine of setting up my transition area.

 So as a result, you get the usual pictures of me attempting to take pictures in the dark with a cell phone camera! I followed Coach Ryan's advice again by using another swim cap to help me locate my bike in transition although compared to my last TRI, 300 bikes seemed like nothing!  This year I made sure to place a small towel in the transition to wipe the red clay off of my feet before putting my socks on.

Oh Say Can You Hear?

My friend Lindsey, bless her heart, got up super early on her Saturday to watch me sing the National Anthem and see me off swimming.  Even better, my friend Lacey surprised me by coming out as well! I am always blown away by how great my friends are! I am blessed!

It's alway awkward trying to get this thing on!
The way the speakers were situated I could not hear the announcers very well.  I just had to trust the athletes could hear the speakers loud and clear.  I sang the National Anthem and had to just trust it sounded great.  Based off of a few comments from other athletes they could hear and apparently it went well! Woo hoo!  For some odd reason I get nervous after I sing, not before.  So once I finished I had the jitters and had to quickly put on the wet suit and get ready for the swim.
Lindsey & Lacey said, "make an Ironwoman pose!" I guess this is it?

I ran to the port a potty and then took my spot on the beach waiting for my wave with all of the other half Ironman female triathletes.
It's a glorious rainbow of swim caps!

The Swim

We waded in the water and spent about 2 minutes before the gun went off.  The last 30 seconds were rather frantic for me as I just couldn't find a way to de-fog my goggles.  The gun went off and I decided to swim even though I couldn't see.  About a minute into the swim I had to stand upright for a few seconds in a desperate attempt to clear my goggles.  Shortly thereafter I started choking on water.  It was not a good start to the race.  I had to mentally shake it off and keep going.  After a short prayer and a short self pep talk, I got back into the groove and by the grace of God, my goggles de-fogged.

That's my wave starting!
Ahhh! Thick and slick red mud!
The swim seemed especially long.  I missed my brother yelling at me like he did at the Chicago Triathlon.  I tried to remind myself that this wasn't practice, this was the real deal.  I reminded myself to kick strong and to glide.  There were a few times that people bashed me in the face and I may have bashed them back (hehe).  I swam hard to the beach and climbed through the muck up to the strippers. Yes, you read right, strippers.  The strippers were young this year!  NO- not that kind of stripper! You lay down and they strip off your wetsuit.  It's quite helpful!  I ran back to my transition, wiped my feet, put on my socks and shoes, my TRI top, helmet and sunglasses and ran with my bike out of transition.

The Bike

The bike felt good at first but I felt a little discouraged from the bad swim start.  Thankfully wind was not an issue at the time and I still felt strong from swimming.  I made sure to drink some Gatorade and eat a few power gummies right off the bat.  The only problem is...I had to pee.  I guess that's the downfall of hydrating so much.  So I played the game "How Long Can Emily Wait Until She Pees Her Pants."  Don't play that game.  It did motivate me.  Snacking also motivated me.  A sorority sister of mine, Lauren Rinck Barnett is now a hardcore triathlete and will likely soon be pro.  I asked her for last minute advice for doing my second half Ironman.  Her reply:
*This pic was taken after the race and
includes my run in the
it's a bit off from the official result!
Lauren Rinck Barnett Awesome! You go girl! Trust your training & race your own race. Eat every 20-30 minutes, if you feel hungry- its too late! Have fun, smile as much as you can and enjoy the journey. Savor those last few meters across the finish line :)
I took her advice to heart and planned on eating every 20 minutes on the bike.  Coach Ryan told me I should be eating 300 calories per hour.  So I figured as long as I drank gatorade and had a handful of gummies an hour, I would be set.  So every 20 minutes I would mentally say, "Snack TIME!" and eat 2-3 gummies.  This sounds lame but it helped the time pass.  Around mile 40 I ended my game of waiting to pee and stopped at a port-a-potty.  The volunteers were great and held my bike while I went. It may have taken a few minutes off of my time but I felt so much better afterwards!  I jumped back on the bike and prepared for the last leg of the bike.

Let's not have a repeat.
By mile 50 it started feeling hot.  I made sure to drink plenty of Gatorade in preparation for a very hot run.  Running in the heat can be dangerous and training last summer taught me how to prepare for it.  You have to have a lot of salt and replace electrolytes.  By the last 10 miles I realized that I was on target to make or even beat my goal time.  So instead of conserving energy for the run, I said screw it and biked like a bat out of hell to the transition!

I racked my bike, changed shoes, put on my race belt and used my neighbor's sunscreen spray as I did not want a repeat of last year's race number sunburn.  I swear those numbers were on my arm through December!  I am in a wedding in 2 weekends and that would not be good!  I grabbed my Headsweats visor and started throwing my hair into a pony tail while running out of transition.

The Run

"Team Em" in action!

My legs surprisingly still felt strong starting the run course.  At around the first mile marker I ran by my cheer crew!  Team Em didn't even see me coming! They were having too much fun! My friend Lacey bought a tent for the crew!  They finally spotted me and starting cheering.  This gave me fuel for at least the next mile.  Shortly after, I met a new pace buddy named Patrick and he asked if I wanted to run with him.  I agreed and we ran together for the first 2 miles or so before he backed off.
The poster said, "Push Harder
(That's what she said)"

Cold Front, More Like Liar Front

By mile 3 I could tell heat was going to be a problem.  Thank goodness my good TRI friend Janna passed along her coach's advice to take ice from a water stop and rub it on your face, hold it in your palms and dump it in your sports bra fro a quick cool down.  I think this advice saved me.  At mile 5 I had a moment where I felt dizzy and this scared me.  Heat exhaustion is a real thing and I did not want that to mess things up...not when I've gotten this far!  I said a quick prayer asking God to give me strength and told Him that only He can get me through this race.  At this point, no joke, a cooling breeze (likely the cool front's wind shift) picked up and a butterfly flew past me.  Call me crazy, but I know that was God talking and I knew I was going to get to the finish line.

Look, ma! No T-Rex arms!
Like last year my thoughts were up and down during the run.  I do not think they were quite as drastic as last year.  Overall, I had a lifted spirit and felt stronger on the run than last year.  Joleen ran with me for a little bit on my second pass by Team Em.  They wrote a few clever poster signs and that lifted my spirits.  Next I looped around for the final loop.  This is the tough part...doing that same dang loop all over again with the temperatures climbing into the upper 80s/lower 90s.  I passed by "Team Em" starting my second loop and they made me smile and gave me another power boost.  I mentally divided up the course to Stars and Stripes, the winding/asphalt/pine tree pass, Landrunners Fun Water Stop, Team Em, and then the home stretch.  Left and right I watched people "give up" and start walking.  Not me.  I was DETERMINED to keep running, even through the water stops.  Whenever I stop, I feel the pain.  I tried to encourage people that were struggling.  Ice was crucial at this point.  I had a constant swish of ice water in my sports bra to cool me down.  I ate a gummy every 45 minutes or so.  At one of my down moments I literally said out loud, "God only you can get me through this!"
The final mile!

Before I knew it I saw the 11 mile marker.   I had about 2 miles to go.  I thought, you can do this! Keep pushing! My knees felt like they had vices on them but they did not hurt like last year.  My hip flexers started hurting a lot and that's a new pain for me.  By the time I got to "Team Em" I was not smiling very much anymore.  They did a great job of encouraging me.  About a half a mile to the finish I ran into Lacey and Joleen.  They ran alongside me for a minute and gave me encouraging words.  I grimaced as I bumped up the pace.  As I neared the finisher's chute I said "Oh hellz yeah!" and started sprinting as hard as I could across the finish line!  I couldn't believe I did it!  God helped me finish my second half Ironman.  My cheering squad worked.  It felt great and rather surreal.

overall place:296 out of 681
division place:6 out of 25 -----> Not too shabby!
gender place:76 out of 203
time:6:06:02 ---->About 19 minutes faster than last year & I beat my goal time by 10 minutes!
swim:41:54 ---> Goal not met (dang goggles!)
t1:3:07 ----> Faster than last year
bike:3:04:28 ----->11 minutes faster than last year & I beat my goal time by 6 minutes! I had a pace of about 18.2 mph!
t2:1:20 ------> Faster than last year
run:2:15:15 -----> Nearly 10 minutes faster than last year & I beat my goal time by 3 minutes! I had a pace of 10:30.  I'm happy with this one!

Small World

In a finisher's haze I see someone familiar.  He asks, "are you Emily Sutton?"  I told him yes and he told me his name, Tim Glinski, and we realized we graduated high school together.  WHAT?!  That's right, high school in  the suburbs of Chicago.  What a small world!  I said, "what are you doing in Oklahoma?!"  He said he was competing in the National Championship.  Apparently he got 4th and qualified for the next round in France.  WHAT?!!  Congrats TIMMY!  Represent RMHS! Boom.

Dizzy Tent

Resting with Maggie after the dizzy tent
I'd like to pretend that I felt fine and dandy after the race but out of the blue I felt nauseous and dizzy.  I made a bee line for the medical tent.  They put my legs up and iced my knees.  I had a very friendly doctor, Doc Brown, help me out.  He explained that my final sprint made my vessels constrict and when I stopped my blood rushed away from my head to my legs and I got dizzy.  Thanks for the science, doc!  After a bit of water and a few minutes of laying down I felt much better.  I sat down with my "niece" Maggie and relaxed.

"Team Em" reunited for a quick pic before a few of the ladies left for the OU game.  I headed for the massage tent and eventually packed up all of my stuff to ride back to the car.

I looked like a bag lady!

Time to Unwind

I came home to a surprise repeat of a cookie cake from my best friend Shauna! She knows me so well!  I had my sights set on a different kind of pie...a pizza pie!  I went out with some friends for delicious Upper Crust pizza.  I don't want to get a server in trouble but I forgot my ID for a beer so I used my leg tattoo of my age to prove I was older than 21.

Since I did not remember to put sunscreen on my calves...I may have this "28" tattoo-sunburn for a week or so.  Thankfully it's not as bad as last year.  This year I think I felt even more sore than last year and had to deal with sunburn, a blister on my big toe and saddle sores.  Needless to say, I showered, watched some TV and went to bed.  I slept 14 hours! Boom!

Final Thoughts

Congratulations to all of my fellow Triathletes, thank you to my friends and great job Redman staff and volunteers for putting on another great race.  I said to myself during the run that I am never doing this again but what usually happens is you forget about the pain and remember the sense of accomplishment.  I really think that's what brings crazy people back to Ironmans again and again.  It's likely the same high marathoners go through.

Although I only spoke to her briefly before having to go to the dizzy tent, I ran into my friend Janna. She finished in 5:25 and got 20th place out of all of the females!   I'd like to give Janna a special shout out for being such an encouragement throughout training! Isn't her family adorable?  I tell her I'd like to be like her when I grow up.

Thanks for reading this beast of a post.  Whether you can walk a block or run a marathon, I encourage you to get out and try a new challenge.  Before 2011 I had only done one race, a 10k and now I have done 2 half Ironmans!  You will meet new friends, learn a lot about yourself and get a new sense of strength and empowerment.  Yeah, I just went Oprah on you.  Seriously though! If you don't know where to start, Team in Training is a great way to go.  That's how Joleen and I got started.  You sign up for an endurance event (there are tons to choose from!), coaches train you up and you raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society along the way.  For more information click here.  Have a great week everyone and remember, you are blessed!


  1. Congratulations! Considering you accomplished something about 98% of the rest of us couldn't is pretty amazing. But to be honest, each time I read your marathon/triathlon posts it convinces me the obstacle course I undertake between my sofa and fridge may be the most taxing I ever attempt. To quote one of the greatest movies of all time (Back to the Future III), "Run...for fun?! What kind of FUN is that?!"

    But seriously, congratulations!

  2. Hey Emily! Congrats on your second IronMan and thank you for the shout out to support Team In Training. Saturday was my first, and I'm so glad I finished! Yeah! It was fun seeing you out there, you looked strong on the run (which was the toughest for me) And, WOW, didn't know you also had an amazing voice! Loved reading about it thru your eyes, I felt many of the same things! I was thinking about the Taylor Swift song, I will Never, Never, Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, do a full ironman!! LOL A half was plenty tough, and I was so glad when I finished running that I was done! The fullers were starting to flow in off their bikes and still had the full marathon to run.....and I was thanking God for not letting me think I could do a full! But, you're right, you remember the lasting, rewarding feeling of accomplishment, and goal met, more than the temporary pain! Well, I'm off to your home state for the Chicago Marathon next....but going with girlfriends for a fun trip and probably won't win it this year ;-) Congrats on a job well done!

  3. Awesome!!! Congrads on all that you accomplished in this half ironman! Loved reading your "beast of a post"..glad im not alone in writing "beasts of posts" only mine are on tumblr.

    So glad you also had amazing cheer team!! c-:


  4. Oh and no youre not crazy nor would I call you such.

    Youtube search Third Day s "I Need a Miracle". Sounds like you were praying for one all through the race...and you got one. c-: