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.|
|I tried googling something for sushi before|
a race and these sushi cat pics kept showing up.
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!
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!|
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 completely....so 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 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.
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!
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 uphill...so 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!
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 for...it 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.
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.
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!|
|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.