Saturday, November 22, 2014

Emily Sutton...You Are An IRONMAN!

I can't believe it's over! After 9 months of hard training, big time fundraising and anxiously awaiting race day - the Ironman journey is complete.  If you asked me a month ago, during peak training, whether or not it's worth it to do an Ironman, I would have told you no. I would say the Ironman is best described my my fiance as an affair. The Ironman was the affair, the other full-time job. If you ask me now whether or not an Ironman is worth it...I SAY YES. Yes to the journey. Yes to the finish line. YES to the glory.

Let's recap.  Here's a picture summary of the days leading up to the race. This is going to be a long entry. I don't blame you for just looking at the pictures.
Friday's Practice Ride with the OK & TX GMG Crews!
I organized, I packed and I packed again.
The practice swim Saturday morning eased my nerves. Had to
wetsuit-up with my homegirl /training buddy JoLynn!
A few mental breakdowns...but we were READY! My partner in crime.

Ironman Eve

I tried googling something for sushi before
a race and these sushi cat pics kept showing up.
I felt so blessed to have my family and fiance come out to support me. Unfortunately, I was too anxious and nervous to truly enjoy their company leading up to the race.  Go Mitch Go provided us with a nutritionist for this journey and she had a list of restaurants and suggested menu items ready to go. I followed that list religiously the night before the race. I LOVE sushi and would eat it the night before a big training ride so I knew it would settle well.  We went to "Ra" at 5pm because she told me I had to be done eating by 6pm.
I ate salmon and tuna sashimi, white rice, cucumber roll and tempura sweet potato (and I took the tempura off). It ended up being a lot of food so I didn't quite finish it all...but I suppose I was about to burn a bajillion calories so I needed to eat a bunch. The good thing about sushi is that you can fill up but not feel bad.  In the end, it's all about fueling yourself and ensuring a PRP - pre race poop. Yup. I said it. You want to feel good going into the race!

Race Morning

I actually slept 7.5 hours. I think working crazy @$$ hours helps me sleep at random times.  I woke up at 4am, did my morning routine and ate what I've eaten before every long ride - a bagel with pb&j and a banana. I drank some water and drank a cup of coffee.  This big thing about races is that you don't want to do anything new. I've made that mistake in the past. Stick to what you know!
5AM - Leaving the hotel to transition!

My dad was kind enough to pick me, Scott and Michael (my beyonce) up from the hotel at 5:15am.  You could feel the nervous energy as a river of triathletes funneled into transition.  I said goodbye to Michael and Scott and I went to drop off my special needs bags. Special needs bags are for the middle of the bike ride and the middle of the run.  For the bike special needs, I packed extra tubes, CO2 cartridges, gatorade, pb&j, chamois butt'r, tums, more bonk bars, energy gummies, salt tabs, etc. For the run special needs, I packed gatorade, a long sleeved shirt, glow sticks, gum, salt tabs, gus, kleenex, candy gummies...basically random stuff. I didn't know what I would want at that point in the run. Turns out I ended up being better off than I thought!

I saw my old training buddy at the special needs drop off where she was volunteering for the morning. It was reassuring to see an old friend before the race! She had very encouraging words. I needed anything to sooth my nerves at that point.  Next, I looked over my bike for a final time and aired up the tires.

Me & Janna the day before the race!
I got body marked with my bib number #1184. They also put your age on your when you get passed by a 50-something year old, you feel lame.

Next, I got in the HUGE line for the port a potty. This is standard at races. Everyone is nervous and wants to go before the race.  I gave my phone to Michael so I couldn't sync up with everyone. I nervously chatted with the people in line.  I found out more than half of the participants were newbies like me!  Thankfully, JoLynn, Brian and Mark met up with me in line. JoLynn has been my training partner through this whole journey so I wanted to "walk the plank" to the swim with her!  She braided my hair for me.
Nervous energy filled the chaotic transition area!

We turned in our morning bags (whatever we were wearing or what we wanted at the end of the race) and put on our wetsuits.  We heard the gun go off for the pro start and started inching our way up the line. I've heard veterans of the IMAZ regretting not getting in the water immediately or missing the start I wanted to make sure we were in the water and ready to go when the gun went off. We ran into Brett and he was happy as always and ready to go! We all said a little prayer and put on our goggles and started to "walk the plank."

The Swim

The swim was a deep water start...meaning you started in the water. We went down the steps were would eventually use to end the swim and had to swim about 400m or so to the start line.  The water was chilly but felt refreshing. I decided not to use my neoprene cap.  I immediately started swimming to the start line to make sure I had the right spot. There is A LOT of strategy with positioning for a swim start. Usually I make the wrong choice. We were told the middle was a safe bet.  I went closer to the front than I first anticipated. From what I've been told, it's better to be in the front and have people run over you than to be in the back and have to try to maneuver around people to pass them.
"I'm remembering this."

I took my high school dance teacher's advice and said to myself "I'm remembering this," to soak in the moment. It was a magical moment...surrounded by more than 2000 athletes in the water...headed just bobbing and nervous energy swirling around.  I looked up at the bridge, packed with spectators. Music was blaring. I just felt so blessed to make it to this moment. We probably waited in the water for at least 5 minutes before the gun went off. Wetsuits are very buoyant so treading wasn't really necessary.


And we're off! I start swimming, not knowing what to expect except to expect craziness and people hitting me.  I kept myself surprisingly calm and made sure to stay aware of my surroundings.  You know when someone is close because you start to see bubbles underwater. If you chase the bubbles for awhile, you save energy by riding in their wake. This is called "drafting."  I started playing a gospel song in my head.

Mercifully, God used a cloud to block the sun for most of the swim out (we were swimming east). I had a few lulls where I could swim by myself and truly glide. Then I would suddenly find myself in a pack.  The swimmers created a current in Tempe Lake and I could feel myself being pulled. This was a huge advantage!

After what seemed like forever, I made it to the turnaround.  The current took me closer to the buoys this time instead of in the less-crowded middle. I've found that most men are not graceful swimmers. They would thrash next to me and I had to watch out. Usually I was pretty cognizant, but I did have one dude elbow my eye out of nowhere. Thankfully, it was more like a brush than a hit.  On the way back I had to pee. I didn't want to waste time in the port a potty when I could go right there. However, I've never been able to pee when swimming before because I'm not relaxed when I'm moving! I concentrated though, stopped kicking and eventually I peed while moving my arms. It was one of my proudest moments while swimming! BOOM.

I kept playing gospel songs in my head and thanking God for this experience. Whenever I started thinking the swim was long, I immediately turned around my attitude and thought, "I am doing my Ironman swim RIGHT NOW! Enjoy it!"

By the time I approached the finish, I could hear all of the spectators from the bridge cheering. I couldn't help but smile while swimming! The final push to the exit steps was challenging. 2 dude swimmers sandwiched me and I had to sprint to get ahead of those buttheads.  I got to the steps and made sure not to hit my toe like a lot of people do. The volunteers helped me up and I felt a bit wobbly - like the Little Mermaid walking for the first time with human legs.

I found out later that I kicked butt and took names with a swim time of 1:15! Boom. The posted time includes transition.

I had a stripper (as in strip the wetsuit! What were you thinking, perv?) take off my wetsuit. He did not do a very good job and I hung out on the ground of awhile. He even dragged me across the pavement and scraped my back! My fiance was yelling at him from the sidelines.

Volunteers ROCK!

After the wetsuit, I had a personal transition assistant that got me squared away with changing into my sports bra, tri top and bike shorts. She rocked! I ran out of the tent, fetched my bike and headed to the bike course! Before I hopped on, I got to see my coach which gave me a boost of energy!

The Bike

As anyone about the course conditions they will say the same word...."WINDY." A front went through early that morning resulting in strong northerly winds.  Other athletes were freaking out about sustained winds 10-20 and gusts to 30 mph. Thankfully, us Okies trained in wind almost every ride so we were prepared! It still took away a little more energy than without the wind. 

Of course we rode into the wind if you tracked me, my time went around 10 mph one way and 25-30 mph the other way! At least we all had a great time one way!


So the day before my Aunt Liz, owner of Blue Sage Meditation, led a few of us on a meditative session.  Coach then aided us in visualization. He said to visualize the worst - like having three flats.  I thought, "surely, there's no way that could happen." I bought a few extra CO2 cartridges and an extra tube just in case.

WELL, the visualization came true. I had not one, but TWO flats on the course! 
My Aunt Liz, Mom & Dad

Just after passing the Go Mitch Go tent towards the end of the first loop, I stopped at a port o potty because I refuse to pee myself on the bike! I noticed that my rear tire was very low.  I stayed calm and pushed through the denial that I had the worst kind of flat - the REAR TIRE. BOOOOOOOOO.  Thankfully, a volunteer offered to walk me through it. I know how to change a flat but the rear tire is complex because you have to mess with the derailer.  Pete happened to be a former bike shop owner and calmly led me through the process. He said if he touched the bike I may be disqualified. He did secretly help me with the derailer though. We finished about 10 minutes later and he told me to stop at another rest stop to use a pump and double check the tire.
Thanks to John Whitaker's dad, Bob (aka BOBARAZZI) for these amazing high res pics!

I headed back out, cool-headed with a surprisingly positive attitude. I focused on reaching my special needs bag to get the other tube and CO2 cartridge.  But after seeing several other cyclists stranded on the side of the road with flats, I got nervous being naked without any flat repair kits.  I decided to stop at a rest stop on the uphill of the second loop. I asked for a pump and the volunteers said I should just head to the Tri tent next door.  I rode Superman over to the tent and explained my situation. He used CO2 to pump up the tire a little bit more and....POP! My tire exploded. MY TIRE EXPLODED.

The Tri shop dude inspected my tire and told me that the rim liner had come loose and my spokes were sticking through. In other words, my tire was going to explode, it just was a matter of when. Thank God it was on the side of the road with a professional and not when I was going downhill at 30 mph. I could have wiped out and had a crash!!! I saw a girl on the first loop on the side of the road with a bloody face. How terrible!
So yes, it sucked having 2 flats but they happened in the best way possible...and for that, I'm thankful and blessed.  It gets Tri shop dude didn't have any rim liners but magically, a SAG motorcycle appears and says he happens to have one and hands it over. Before I know it, I'm patched up and good to go.
The wind keeps picking up and I try to keep my gears down so I won't burn myself out before the run.  By the third and final loop, I start hurting. As expected, my shoulders feel like they have knives in them. I stop to use a port a potty and a kind volunteer agrees to rubbing my shoulders for awhile. THANK YOU RANDOM LADY! Side note: she is originally from Del City, Oklahoma. Small world!  That shoulder rub is all I needed to get me to the turnaround and come downhill to the bike finish.
Grabbing my run bag in transition 2!

I happily hopped off the bike, happy to give my hoo-haa and shoulders a break! I grab my bag in transition and immediately take off my cycle shoes because my feet are numb due to wearing too fluffy of socks.  The wonderful volunteers help me rub biofreeze on my shoulders, put on my tri shorts, visor, race bib and shoes.  After about 10 minutes, I'm out.

Just An Easy 26.2 Run

Well, time for my first marathon! I had someone once tell me I need to do a marathon before doing an Ironman. I think that's BS. A full aquabike (the swim and bike portion of an Ironman) happened to be a great prep to mentally make me grasp the idea of a full Ironman. A full marathon would do the opposite for my psyche. I'm glad I did not do one.

Heading out onto the run course, I didn't know what to expect. I stuck with my plan of keeping a 10-11 minute mile and then walking through the aid stations. I planned on having 2 salt tabs per hour, drinking 2 small cups of water at the aid stations and eating 1 Gu every 40 minutes.  I didn't have a fancy schmancy pace watch...I just used this crappy old TIMEX I got at Kohls in high school to keep my time for nutrition.  What's crazy is that I remember my mom buying the watch for me and me asking what the little symbol stands was an Ironman. The colors of this watch happen to be Go Mitch Go colors as well. Who knew it would be in the cards decades later? My fiance thinks I'm being too "hippy" when I see symbols and foreshadowing from my past. Who knows.

So I headed out to the run course and the first 10 minutes are amazing. I saw my fiance, mom, aunt, brother and dad all cheering for me. We had a HUGE crowd of people cheering us on for the first mile. I had to remind myself to slow down so I wouldn't burn out later.

A few minutes in, my right knee started bothering me a bit. It started bugging me on the bike (maybe a fit fix is needed?) so I knew this may happen.  I improvised and used my compression calf sleeve as a knee brace by sliding it up my leg. This worked surprisingly well and I kept it that way for the entire run!

It was only 6pm but the sun had already set. I didn't mind running in the dark. Working out in the dark seems to make it go faster for me.  At about 4 or 5 miles in, I saw the Go Mitch Go tent. That was a lot of fun and gave me a needed boost of energy. Coach found me while riding his bike and I told him about the flats fiasco. He said I was prepared and it's all good. He also said I looked strong.  Words of affirmation really helped me.

I used a strategy that I developed during track workout to get me through the run. I counted the miles backwards. I don't know how that helps me...but mentally, it doesn't seem like as much if you are dropping the numbers down as you go.
One of my fave pics. My brother took
a selfie with me on the run course.
At mile 6 or 7, the course went right by my hotel...what a tease! My fiance, Michael, and my brother surprised me at mile 8 or so on the course and ran along with me for a little bit.  I kept chugging along, feeling quite strong, and waiting for the hurt to settle in.

Neat story: I  had the honor of running alongside this duo for a good chuck of the run. After talking to them, I found out that Michael, pictured on the left, is blind. He had a guide for the journey. I saw them on the bike course on a tandem bike. How inspiring is that?!
By the end of loop 1, I still felt strong! I went to my special needs bag and put on my long sleeve tech shirt. I had to re-pin my race number onto my race belt so that it could still be seen.  I donned my sweet blue glow necklaces as well! Good thing, because some of the trails were pitch dark!
I managed to stay positive on the run and I think that's because I recognized this is my only Ironman and I also encouraged others along the way.  If I passed someone, I would tell them "great job!" or "keep it up!" Sometimes the runner would reciprocate but sometimes he/she wouldn't say anything at all, and that's when I knew they were in a dark place.  I've definitely been in that place before in races and kept waiting for it to happen to me.

I kept chugging along. I could feel my muscles tightening up. My butt hurt.  I ignored it and focused on counting down to the next mile. Around mile 11 or so, I ran into Scott Hines and Steve Schlegel! It's always great to see teammates.  They were having a few injuries and slowed it down a bit. I kept up my pace, holding out until I couldn't any longer.

By the time I got to the single digits, I not only counted down, but thought of it as chasing the next mile. So I would be on mile 8 and said to myself, "keep chasing the 7!" Once I reached mile 7, I said "that's great, now I can't wait for 6!" I still walked through the mile markers. It was getting harder and harder to stop and start again. I kept on trucking.  On mile 5 or so, I let myself eat a potato chip. It didn't do much for me, so I decided to just stick to my nutritional plan. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

By the last 4 miles, my feet were hurting, my legs were heavy and my digestive tract was starting to get messed up.  I had to stop at all 3 port a potty stops.

Finally, I was running the last 2 miles of my Ironman. I couldn't believe it.  Steve Blackmon rode by me on his bike and I handed him my long sleeved shirt so I could look good for the picture. He sent a text out to my family to warn them my finish was coming up.
In the last mile, my old training buddy, Janna Pratt, found me.  She told me I looked strong and gave encouraging words. I was smiling ear to ear.  She ran with me to the finishers shoot. It was all becoming real. I fought back the tears.

As I turned the corner to finish, I could see the bright white lights.  Like every other race, I started sprinting. I have no idea where the energy came from, but my legs flew underneath me.  I threw my hands up in the air and crossed the finish line, vaguely hearing "Emily, you are an Ironman!" As soon as I stopped, the tears flowed and a volunteer crowned me with a medal.

I look to my right and see my fiance, family and JoLynn smiling from ear to ear and giving me high fives. I am an Ironman. Oh my goodness. I am an Ironman.

In a fog, I went through the finishers tent and sat down where volunteers helped me every which way. The hurt finally sunk in. I hurt everywhere. All of a sudden I got very cold. They wrapped me in Mylar blankets. It didn't matter though, because I was riding high.
Here are my times! I shaved 25 mins off of my swim time!

Thanks to everyone for the support throughout this journey. A BIG congrats to my teammates.  It is something I will never forget. The only thing that could top crossing the finish line would be finding the cure to cancer in our lifetime. I pray it happens.
This happened to be the verse of the day
on my Bible app. Very fitting.

The moral of the story is - don't sell yourself short. You are amazing and can do more than you think. Try something new, push yourself and dream big.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The End is Near

Please donate HERE to help fight leukemia and lymphoma!

OMG. After what seems like 1237189273918276094128 days of training and zero's finally here. THE IRONMAN IS HERE! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhHHHhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHH
And in the past few days, all of the donations have been coming in for The Go Mitch Go Foundation! HOW EXCITING!
Actually, I didn't make it rain at all...but a HUGE shout out to all of those who have donated any amount to the cause, including -
1. SONIC - $5,000
2. Organic Squeeze - $2,600

4. Reynolds Ford - $1,000
6. And Viewers Like You

The Final Hours

Let's recap the last adventures of our Go Mitch Go TEAM OKLAHOMA. I can't believe we are almost done! I call this my "Ironman baby." We've trained for 9 months and now we are about to have our baby on Sunday at 7:30am Arizona time...and it's going to be a long labor!

I've slacked on blogging to we will recap with pics. That's a lot more fun than just reading. 

*We did 100 miles! And a few 90 mile rides. We started with gloves and ear warmers and slowly shed the layers throughout the ride. We were truly blessed with beautiful October weather, including above normal temps.

El Reno Ride - The Cowboy mailbox.

What did you do this weekend? I rode my bike. All. Day. That's it.
Even when my butt hurt and my shoulders felt like knives were stabbing, you couldn't ignore the beauty around you!

* I talk to cows when I ride my bike. I say, "HI COWS!" Here is a cute, little baby cow. They stare at me. Some of them give me a look. I think they know I eat steak and burgers. Sorry :(
*We also ran a lot. This was a new milestone for me! For the first time, I could actually see myself doing a full marathon.  That's a good thing...because there is one in a full Ironman. Nutrition makes a world of a difference. I have a GU every 40 mins (I actually found a flavor I like - Jet Blackberry) and take 2 salt tabs per hour. BOOM. My knees hurt a bit but I DID IT!
Not bad given I don't consider myself a runner!
* Our early Saturday morning bike rides led to team bonding and cool surprises from nature.
We rode through THE FOG!

We loved our SAG support vehicle!
Our last ride longish ride to El RENO! Which means, "The Reno."

* We snot rocketed, peed in farm fields and looked like dorks - but we became close friends!
We swam in a very cold Lake Arcadia in November.

And looked like seals in our new neoprene caps!
* We improvised.
Sweet gas station sunglasses, Brett!
* We appreciated the journey.
Our last team bike ride!


My parents don't get this but they love
& support me nonetheless!
And now it's here. You know, when I signed up for this journey, I knew it would be hard but I also knew it would change me.  It's been a long, tough rode. I've been sore in places no one should talk about and I've had several weeks where all I did was work, workout, eat and sleep. Between the training and the fundraising, it was like I had 2 full time jobs. During our peak training, I was not a peach to be around. I would be exhausted all the time and when I came home I would be a butt.  I didn't socialize on the weekend because even if I could drink, I didn't want to drink. My body pretty much rejected it. All I wanted to do on my small amount of free time was sleep. My friendships, my sanity and my relationship with my Beyonce (what I call my fiance, Michael) all severely suffered. I cannot thank my family, friends, teammates and Beyonce for all of the support. And thank you to my employer, KFOR-TV, for the amazing support and coverage of this journey!
My sweet, handsome beyonce.
That being said, I don't think I've realized the true impact of this journey yet. I haven't even crossed the finish line yet and I know this experience has changed me for the better. I know God had all of us go through this journey for a reason. I'm not quite sure, but I feel like He is preparing me for something greater. I sure know it's strengthened my relationship with my future husband, Michael.

The Finish Line

There's this gospel song I've been listening to during my training called, "Strong Finish." And the lyrics say, "I'm going to have a strong finish because I have strong faith."  This will be my anthem to cross the finish line.  People have been asking me, "are you ready?" And I can't say yes with certainty because I have never worked out for 16 hours straight! But I trust my training. At peak training, I ran 18 miles on a Friday afternoon and then turned around the next morning and rode 70 miles.  I can do this, with God's help!

I'm the most anxious about the very start. Although I am a strong swimmer, you start in the water with 2100 people! It will seriously be like the Titanic. I better be Rose instead of Jack.

The bike should be rather flat. I will have time to think and relax on the bike. Although the first few hours may be a bit chilly. I know my shoulders are going to kill by mile 80 but I've dealt with that before. I will be ready to give my butt a break by mile 112.

The run should be interesting. I think I will feel fine for the first 3-5 miles and then I will think, oh crap. How am I going to do this? The answer is one step at a time. My plan is to run a mile and then walk through the aid station. LORD HELP ME.

I just need to remain present and not think too far ahead. I am going to try my best to remember the moment. Other people have told me this is the REWARD for all of the hard work. My coach said the race won't be as hard as our training. WE WILL SEE.

I am racing for my aunt Liz and for anyone and everyone impacted by leukemia and lymphoma. My mom, dad, brother, aunt, cousin and fiance will all be there.
Little me & my Aunt Liz

Prayers will be greatly appreciated! Please pray all day on Sunday for all of the athletes. Thank you so much for all of your support and donations! It's not too late to donate!

Please donate HERE to help fight leukemia and lymphoma!