Tuesday, October 5, 2021

IRONMAN RACE RECAP!

A huge thanks to my family for supporting me through this long journey! Kyle you are an incredible husband and father! Thank you for letting me chase my dream and being my rock! I couldn't have done this with out you! And of course my Coach Holli! You helped me get to the starting line strong, injury free and fully prepared, which I know I couldn't have done on my own! You're the best and thank you for all of your guidance!

Pre-Race:
The day started early at 2:30, I felt the magnitude of the day before me and I knew I needed to get my mind in the right headspace. I said a prayer, read scriptures then started fueling, hydrating and getting as many electrolytes in as I could before the race. 

As I was getting the last of my things in order and everyone still slept, I couldn't help but feel so incredibly blessed for my little family, for the roller coaster of emotions and sacrifices they had all made to help me prepare and get to this day! As well as the outpouring of love from my friends near and far! I told myself I needed to keep it together until the finish line-I had a long day ahead (anything could happen at any point of the day that could end my dream of becoming an Ironman in a second). I needed to stay focused if I had any hope of finishing. 

But still, I kept reminding myself that I wouldn't truly be out on the course alone. I had friends, family and my Heavenly Father watching over me. If it be His will, then I would cross that finish line, but even if It didn't happen today, I was still so grateful for the experience and the opportunity for self-discovery, amazing friendships, as well as a strengthened testimony that we are loved beyond measure and that we were meant to do hard things in this life (some are unavoidable and others are done by choice but all can make us stronger🙏 )!

We arrived at the event at 5:30 AM and all I had to do was put my nutrition on my bike, suit up (put my wetsuit on) and get my personal needs bags in the right place. I was WAY early😆, but that's just  how I roll! 

The weather was a chilly 60 degrees but forecasted to be partly cloudy most of the day and in the 70's with rain in the evening hours. So, I was thrilled for the promise of a beautiful day outdoors!
I was delighted to have a chance to talk with my friend Melanie and Jen before the start of the race and get to see Stuart as I lined up to start the swim! There's nothing like reminding your friends how amazing they are for you to completely forget about your own task ahead!

On that note-Ironman does a great job of distracting you by blasting fun energetic music as you are readying yourself for the swim! It made me feel like I was at a party and really hyped me up! 

I felt so good and ready as I was two people away from diving into the water, but then I looked back and see my good friend Alyssa smile and hear her cheer me on.
 Boy, did she make me lose it for a hot second! She is the first person that suggested I do an Ironman with her (way back in 2017) and It made me feel all the emotions in that one second, then I had to fight them down and regain my composure because I was up next!
The SWIM 

I dove in, fully knowing it was cold water (65 degrees) but not fully prepared physically for the feel of it since they didn't let us warm up or acclimate to the water. But I didn't feel any panic, I just told myself "yup it's cold, keep moving it will warm up soon"! Always does, right?! 

Right away I could feel I had a ton of adrenaline and I needed to find a comfortable pace or I would burn myself out. 

I was almost at the first red buoy where we start to turn and marks the midway point in the first loop and I felt off. I was struggling to find my rhythm, my arms felt numb and I didn't have my regular power. It was like I had been out there way longer than I actually had and it unnerved me for a second. But I reminded myself that I could swim way farther than the distance I'm doing today, my wetsuit was making me extra buoyant, all I had to do was stay calm, stay the course and relax into this. There was NO STOPPING OR GOING BACK! This was ONLY the beginning!

Once I turned the second red buoy Something inside me went alive and made me feel refreshed! I was so pleasantly surprised by how calm the water was, how respectful the athletes were, no one had swam over me or tried to hurt me on purpose(which I had heard nightmare stories about). It was awesome!

As I neared the beach I remembered what Holli (my coach) had told me to do before exiting so I started to focus on her guidance as I came out of the water. It was painful standing up and  rocks but I didn't even care because I was excited for a break from the swim and to get a drink of water! I ran out of the water, grabbed my drink then went back into the water.  
I felt amazing going into the second loop knowing that the hardest part was already done (starting the swim with not knowing what to expect). The second lap went by so quickly, even with the choppier water(guessing because of rescue boats coming by us)! The back of my wetsuit kept chaffing my neck and it was annoying but not anything to stop for. 
Once I got to the last red buoy and could see the start of transition, I sped up and tried to prepare my mind to run up the super long transition!
Transition 1

As I started running out of the water on the sand I was so disoriented and my vision was blurry (I didn't want to pass out)! I had the thought that I needed more oxygen, so I started peeling off my wetsuit as I ran but my vision was still not great (it was like everything was swaying) and I told myself to focus on one thing and to breathe because it would all fix itself in time. I heard Kyle cheering for me as I came out of the water and it made me so happy to have seen him!
As I focused on the floor ahead, my vision was starting to improve, right as I was coming up towards the end of the ramp I heard someone yell my name and it was Alyssa again! She made me feel all better just in that moment! So grateful for her encouragement!!

I saw my bike area and finished taking off my wetsuit just as my friend Ellen was right behind me in the 70.3 area gearing up for her race! It was awesome to see her! I tried to dry my body quickly, buckle my helmet on, then change into my dry clothes. I was trying to think about what else I needed during the time but I was all set! It was time to ride my bike! I started running out of transition. I was on the complete opposite side, so it was a long jog to get out. But, It felt amazing to finally be on my way to the 2nd leg of the race- just a few short 112 miles to go😂! 
The Bike

Just as I mounted my bike I heard the Minsons rooting me forward! They seriously boosted my spirits every time I saw/heard them!

The bike leg was what I was looking forward to the most this day. I had never really cycled more than 3x outdoors before this January but cycling has quickly become my favorite of the three disciplines! There is just nothing like being out in nature, being active and going fast! As I got about half way through the first mile and onto the rollers, I was starting to get nervous because the swim took it out of me way more than I expected it to. My quads felt trashed, lacking oxygen and heavy! Instead of staying in my heavy gears, I shifted down, tried to listen to my body as I warmed up and shook out the stress from the swim. It took a few minutes but I caught my breath and was able to start to keep the pace I needed to get through this event. I saw my friend Matt around the first mile and it was so exciting to see a familiar friend on the course! 
A few weeks prior I had done part of the bike course(I say part because the main highway was not a safe option to ride and we used back roads to get my century mileage in), but the part in the loop that I was currently, was one I had done 7 times and knew intimately. I knew where the pot holes were in the road, I knew where the hills were and I knew when it would get easier. That was very comforting and helped me to relax into my pace and prepare for the hard miles ahead. Just as I was turning around at the 10th mile, I saw Kyle!  I was so delighted to see him, because I knew I wouldn't get to see him until the start of the marathon!

The bike course we were doing was a 2 loop course, with most of it on a closed highway(35) and an uphill resurfaced highway(1). As I got going on highway 35, I felt the headwind pick up and it made me nervous, because it slowed my pace significantly. I tried to focus on keeping a steady effort, I just needed to get through the rollers and down this highway and the wind would go away (so only about 25 miles to go)! Once I got to hwy 1 I was so relieved, even though it would be the hardest/longest constant climb of the course (3.5 miles) I was just grateful for a reprieve from the headwind!

As I made my way up Highway 1, I was shocked at how much easier this road was now that it was "re-surfaced", the texture was still rough, but when I had ridden on it last-it was compacted gravel which made it feel like I was going through mud! It still slowed me down, but it felt SO much easier to get up it with the new surface!

Going back on highway 35 was incredibly fast! Just as I had hoped the wind stayed at my back and it propelled me forward and made the rollers a breeze to get over! I was so excited to see my friends Kris and Beth out there cheering! I felt so blessed to see a familiar face and see their darling signs! 
I don't know if it's because I train with people on my long rides, but I was so desperate for social interaction! Even though I tried my best to thank the volunteers, police, and spectators I was starved for conversation! I tried cheering on fellow athletes, and that also helped a little bit but I still missed chatting with my girls! Seeing them really boosted my spirits! 
I saw some inspiring things out on the bike course! There was a man cycling with only one arm just as the crazy head wind turned into a crosswind, it was such incredibly dangerous conditions, and that man had strength I couldn't even dream of having! I prayed for him and wished him well, because he deserved to reach his goal!! I also saw a father pulling his adult son on the bike(I later went up to them and congratulated them on their herculean efforts💪) they were amazingly fierce! It was a humbling day, and some people's challenges and trials are truly more than I could ever imagine. Made me realize, I had it easy out there!

The second loop of the bike course went by really fast. I don't know if the headwind died down more because of the onset of the rain or maybe my concentration was just more focused on the road because the conditions had become more dangerous. But I was grateful! I knew I was more than halfway done and It invigorated me! I had drank through my three water bottles and all of my nutrition on hand by the time I reached the turn around point. I tried calling out for my personal needs bag to get my extra gels but they couldn't get it fast enough and there were a ton of cyclists coming around the corner behind me, so I kept going. 

In retrospect I should have pulled off to the side and waited. I couldn't keep riding much farther without food or water, I decided I would stop at the next aid station(5 miles down) to refuel my water bottles and pour in my powder nutrition. When I arrived, a volunteer helped me fill one of my water bottles, as I did the other two, it was a huge help (especially since I still needed to tinkle😆😅). I lost 4-5 minutes but they were worth it to feel comfortable and restocked! At this point, I had some salt left and some liquid nutrition, so I was hopeful that it would be enough to keep me from getting hungry or cramping. 

The next 25 miles went by quickly, as the rain came down harder. I didn't mind it, it cooled off every part of my overheating body. The only downside, was the sloshing feeling in my shoes as the water tried to escape. 

As I came up on mile 100, my body was starting to feel worn from the day's effort. My shorts had been wet from the beginning of the day- I was ready to get off of the bike and get some dry clothes on! 

10 of the last 12 miles were on a paved trail. It was nice to be on the last stretch of the bike, but the trail felt much slower to ride through than the road. And it had some uneven parts and rumple-strip like parts that made me nervous about getting a flat tire! I did not want to have to stop so close to the end. 
It was such a relief to get out of the trail and make my way towards the finishing hill! Plus, I got to see Jeanne, Stuart, Alyssa, Kathy, Andy and right by transition my girls, Kyle and my mom! It was the best feeling to see them and I knew I just had a short little marathon before I could hangout with them!
Transition 2
My transition time was long (6:55) but I didn't really mind! I wanted to make sure I was comfortable for the next leg! Since I had drank 3 bottles of fuel the last 3 hours on the bike, my bladder felt like it was about to explode😂! I took off my helmet, snapped on my bib belt then switched out my top, grabbed my toe-socks(to prevent blisters) and shoes then ran to the potty! Right away as I started to run I felt something I hadn't felt all day. A pre-cramp feeling in my calves and quads felt pretty spent. It made me nervous about my day ahead!

The Run 
This is where the train wreck began😆! I felt great up until this leg. The course was a 2 loop course. So, you went out 6.5 miles and came back up to the finishing hill twice. I started the marathon right around 8 hours into the day.
 Mile 1:
The "rolling hills" turned into mountains. As I neared the 1st mile aid station I ate a gel.  It didn't settle very well, made me feel nauseated, but it was just a mild annoyance. 
My calves still felt questionable at this point so I took some broth.

I found a runner, Elise, who looked like she was running the same pace as me and started chatting with her, We became quick friends as we ran the next 15 miles together! I was grateful for her company and it helped find my comfortable pace while tuning out the pain.
Unfortunately, I knew at mile 8, when I took some gatorade that my stomach was not going to let me keep going at the same pace with her for much longer.

 It was like a bomb went off in my stomach, my day went from managing my leg situation to trying to problem solve the pain in my gut (felt like cramps, nausea, and gas?). I kept running in spite of the pain, but mentally I just didn't know how much longer I could stay vertical. My body wanted me to curl up in the fetal position, and maybe die🤔😆😱?! 

But I wasn't having it! If I stopped running the pain in my stomach was STILL going to be there. So, mile after mile, hill after hill, I kept running. It was starting to dawn on me that the pain was NEVER going to go away.  

Mile 10
The nausea and cramps were so overwhelming I stopped for 10 seconds, bent down hoping to upchuck something🤮and feel better but no such luck. I felt stupid for trying and went back to running.

At mile 11-12 I got to see lots of friends and it made me forget the constant pain I'd been feeling. I was grateful for the reprieve! I just had to make it up a few more hills and then I would be half way done! 
I lost all my composure, as I saw my girls and husband, heard them shouting for me and I was so so happy to see them. But I could feel the tightness in my chest and throat as I wheezed for more air. I was hyper-ventilating and it felt like the onset of an asthma attack( realized then, that I had forgotten to grab my inhaler out of my bike bag). I knew It wasn't my exercise induced asthma, it was just me being too emotional, I just had to calm down. I wasn't finished with this race and more importantly I was praying my kids wouldn't have to see me on the side of the road gasping for air (I knew they'd be so scared)! 

As I willed my body to have an ounce of control, I was relieved as it started to relax, and the wheezing started to lessen with every foot step. I was so blessed to be able to recover so quickly and keep running (that's never happened before🙏)!! I was so thankful and excited that I was half way done- Just 13 miles left!
Mile 15

Turned out that the course only had broth at 1 aid station and it was the only nourishment my stomach could process. So, I ran and grabbed two cups of broth, went to tinkle and kept running. 

As I took inventory of my body's overall feeling, I realized I hadn't eaten anything for the last 1.5 hrs but my stomach was still upset with me. My feet had started to revolt. Blisters had sprouted in 6 of my toes and the top of my feet felt strained (from the ankle to toes) and my arch felt like it was on the verge of cramping. It was not an awesome situation but I knew I had to keep running. It was painful, but my lungs felt great and I hadn't cramped up. That in itself is a victory! 

Mile 20
This constant re-accessing of pain went on for the next 5 miles before I just needed 30 seconds to stop and stretch out before going back to running! Surprisingly it wasn't as painful to restart as I expected  but I had slowed down significantly. 2.5 hours of little to no nutrition had taken its toll on me, but my gut was still felt awful. By the time I got to mile 23 I was pretty mad at my body for shutting down for so long, that I took a cup of chips and 2 grapes and kept running. The grapes felt bad, but the chips tasted and felt great and gave me some much needed fuel to keep working towards the finish line! 
I saw my friends and fellow athletes (Matt,Corey, Melanie, Jen) as I was headed back towards the home stretch and they looked so strong out there! Just seeing them reminded me that we needed to keep making relentless forward progress. Every step, however painful is getting me closer to the end of this race!

 I was just on the other side of the reservoir, I could hear the announcer shouting at athletes that they were "an IRONMAN"! It was the biggest tease! I wanted to be done so bad! I kept trying to bargain with Heavenly Father about fast forwarding me through to the end😂 . I'm sure He had a nice giggle about that! Of course He didn't do it, but He did help me endure the pain! Just had to keep repeating in my mind "With God All Things Are Possible" until that belief was more real than the pain coursing through my stomach, feet and legs. 

Mile 24
I was shocked to see Stuart was still out on the course cheering people on (he had been there all day selflessly helping to boost the athlete's morale!). I was humbled by his act of service to all of us and all of the volunteers helping to sustain us! 

The realization of everyone's volunteered hard efforts throughout the day was enough to get my mind in the right place (gratitude) and remind me that I wanted this experience, I had chosen this, and I was healthy enough for this! I had so many people rooting me on through their prayers, messages, showing up in person and supporting me on this race. I was so blessed and my spirit was refueled by the reminder I wasn't truly alone on the course!


Mile 25
As I rounded the last turn up the hill towards the finish line I was so ready to be done! I didn't care about my finishing time, just that I would get to be able to stop moving and be with my family! It felt like an eternity as I made my way towards the cheering crowds in the darkness. I kept hoping I wouldn't trip on anything, since I hadn't planned to be out in the dark for so long and my head lamp was still in my personal needs bag (silly me! Neither of my PN bags were any help to me). 
But with the grace of God, I made it to the finisher's chute, I felt an energy I hadn't had in the last two hours. I sprinted across the finish line. So relieved to have made it. To have reached my goal🙏!





Even though the marathon turned out to be the absolute hardest part of my day, it was also the most exciting and rewarding because I got to see everyone on the course (My whole family and friends) multiple times and that is where I had to fight every part of my body that was willing me to stop running. That is where I realized that our mind and beliefs are the most important things we can control! That is where I prayed the most for a reprieve from my pain. That is where I was at my absolute lowest point in the day and had the most unbearable pain in my life. That is where I became an IRONMAN!

If this experience has taught me anything at all about life, it is that you do need to prepare and train for the challenges ahead and set your resolve as to what you will do when certain situations arise, but you also have to remember to let others help you! Whether that is God, your family, friends, neighbors, because you can't do it (life) alone! At some point you are going to hit rock bottom and you are going to feel something you've never felt before and you are going to need rescuing(whether that is emotional help, physical, spiritual or mental)! We are not any less of a person for accepting help, in fact when we see people's selflessness and the magnitude/impact their aid provide us, it changes us- urges us to be better, more selfless(like them)!

If you had asked me at the end of October 2nd If the Ironman distance was a good idea, I would have said-NOPE! Don't waste your time- you will feel the most excruciating pain you've ever felt in your life. Save your money, time and energy😂! 

But after a couple days of processing all the highs and lows of the day and realizing all the blessings along the journey it's hard not to be humbled by it and appreciate the lessons learned during the struggle! 

As I was in pain miles 17-19 I would periodically giggle at a comment my second youngest said the day before: "Mom, if you don't finish this, we will have done all of this for nothing". She was talking about driving out to Muncie, going to the expo to check-in , going to the reservoir for a run through of the swim course. It had been a long day for them! But I understood the sentiment of what she was saying very well! The sacrifices for this sport are long and start many months prior. There are countless times that you miss out on social gatherings or family outings in order to prioritize your training and dream of becoming strong enough (physically and mentally) to endure this challenge. But when all is said and done: it is WORTH IT!

I know for a lot of people this sport seems extreme. It definitely isn't for everyone, but EVERYONE can finish it! You just have to believe in yourself and be willing to put the work in!
Thank you again to everyone that supported me and rooted for me to meet my goal! We may cross the finish line on our own, but it's our friends, family and God that help to
get us there! I am so lucky to have you all in my life💖!