Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I do have a lot to update since Ironman, and new journeys to report on. More updates to come...
After my Ironman finish, I received a very special gift from RunBubbaRun - he captured my finish live while watching the race on ironmanlive.com.
I also ordered the official finish video from the event, but I must say - the footage from RunBubbaRun means so much more to me. Mike Reilly just finished saying my name, and announced "You are an Ironman"...unfortunately I can't post it on Blogger but I will continue to try to figure that out.
In the meantime, here is the "official" video from the event with my finish at the end.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"They were outside. Did you see them? You will pass them again on your way out."
That would be too late. I felt like a 4 year old as I explained I just wouldn't be able to hold it that long. She mercifully pointed me down the hall to the REAL bathrooms. Ahhhhh, a little bit of luxury in a "survival of the fittest" kind of day. Unfortunately with that luxury comes mirrors - and as I washed my hands (another luxury) I made the mistake of looking up into it.
I almost didn't recognize myself. My eyes were redder than I've ever seen them. My face was drawn and tired. I quickly looked away and on my way out a spectator glanced over and asked, "Tough day out there, huh?"
I guess it was tougher than I thought.
Back in the changing room, my volunteer was also the woman trying to decide whether she wanted to sign up for IMWI '09 since the volunteers got first dibs the morning after the race. As I mentioned in my preliminary race report, I fully encouraged her to do it! I also met Erin, who lifted my spirits when she said she reads my blog. It sounded like she was signing up for IMWI '09 too. I am definitely coming back next year as a volunteer to cheer these folks on. They were absolutely wonderful to me and this is a sport that from everything I have seen - always pays it forward.
As soon as I sat down I slowly got changed...emphasis on slowly. I was a bit out of it, probably due to the wind and the mental strain of the last 40 miles. I could still feel the motion of the bike as I sat in the chair, and it was making me dizzy. As we went through my shirt choices I asked my helper, "Is it cold out there?"
In retrospect, this question probably made me look crazy. After all, I had just come from outside. Where I had been for the past 12 hours. How could I not know the temperature out there? But she was a trooper, and didn't even hesitate in her answer. "No it's really not bad. I think your short-sleeve top is fine. Did you pack long sleeves in your special needs bag?"
I had, so we continued through the changing process. I took a few sips of the Coke I had packed in my bag but left the Snickers behind. I wasn't really hungry. She then pulled out a note - something I hadn't packed. "I won't read it. Here you go."
Inside it said "KEEP GOING!" and it was signed by Heather & Alesia. They had been working in the T2 area earlier in the day and they must have found my bag and slipped it in there.
It made me smile.
I then asked the volunteer if I could just sit for awhile (to try to stop the room from spinning) and she said I had plenty of time to rest. I was afraid that if I stood up, I would fall over. About 5 minutes later, I finally got up, brushed my teeth as I headed out of transition and bid my volunteer & Erin goodbye. I hope to see them both on the course next year for IMWI '09.
As I exited T2, a sea of orange t-shirts came into view and I heard my name. My support crew had been waiting for me! It was great to see them as I started out. I was running, but it was really tough. As I passed, I asked the group if I was even moving - my legs felt like tree trunks and I definitely wasn't moving very fast. I think at that point, my arms were pumping a lot more than my legs...which had to look hilarious as I shuffled by.
The crowd support at the start of the run (which is the same location as the finish) was phenomenal. People would read my name on my bib and cheer for me as I went through. I was trying to wrap my head around 2 facts at this point: 1) I had made the bike cut-off and 2) I was actually on foot. It was an awesome feeling as both started to sink in.
I saw Stu around mile 2 and we chatted for a minute. He checked his watch and told me I had lots of time to finish. His parting words were strong. "You can do this. Just keep moving." I stored them in my head and moved forward.
Johanna, Brian, and Johanna's parents were at various parts of the course, cheering and running alongside me as I went past. They were amazing.
The first half marathon went by in a blur. I ran the majority of it, although my pace was slow. I didn't want to give in to walking until the back half if I could help it. The more time I spent "running" the quicker I would get to the finish line, and my heart rate was hovering in high Z1 so I wasn't worried about the effort. Aid stations were at every mile and the volunteers were shouting out what they had to offer...Water, Gatorade, Grapes, Bananas, Oranges, Pretzels, Gels, Cola, Chicken Broth...I tried the fruit, but my stomach was not interested. Sadly, I stuck to water and gels for those first 13 and that seemed to work ok.
I think the worst part mentally was heading toward the turnaround point to start the 2nd half, which is just a few feet away from the finish line. On my way in, spectators were yelling, "Only 1 mile to go - you look great! Congratulations!" and under my breath I muttered, "Only 13.1 miles to go..." A female athlete running next to me asked if I was finishing and when I told her it was my first loop she told me to hang in there. She was on her last mile with intense stomach pain, but she still managed to find a moment to offer a few words of motivation. She told me, "I know how hard it is to hear that when you have another half to go. I was in your shoes in my last Ironman. You can do this, but remember to drink. I'm in pain because I didn't drink enough." Seeing what she was going through, I made a point of forcing fluids for the rest of the run.
After the turn, I stopped at special needs to apply more vaseline and when I looked in my bag I didn't see anything else I thought I would need. I just wanted to keep going. Parts of the support crew were around the finish cheering, and I wanted to look strong for them even though I was starting to really get tired. More than anything, I wanted to get to that finish line in one piece. It was around 8:15pm. I had 3:45 to get there.
Around mile 15, things really started to change for me. I was sore, tired, and my stomach had had enough. I wanted another gel like I wanted a root canal, but it was all I could put near my mouth without gagging. I had to slow to a walk to keep the nausea at bay. I was afraid of throwing up and losing all of the nutrients I needed to hold onto for the next few hours. It was dark and parts of the course were getting lonely. I was very fortunate to have a bike posse supporting me during this stretch: Mr. IronMin, Johanna, Brian, and Sean, my prior director at work who had encouraged me to do my first triathlon last year. They were everywhere I needed them - riding on the paths and sidewalks around the course and keeping up with both Valencia and I as they offered motivation whenever they could.
When the wheels started to come off and my shuffle turned into more of a walk, Sean looked at me and said, "You are doing good. You have a good walking pace. Just keep it up. Keep eating and drinking. Keep going." I kept repeating to myself...You have a good walking pace. Keep going. You have a good walking pace. It helped to soften the disappointment that I was walking so much of my first marathon.
The distance between miles 16 and 18 was greater than every mile that had come before. My mental state was unraveling. I was starting to feel dizzy more often and it was becoming increasingly difficult to focus on moving forward. A cold rain started and I struggled through it - wondering what the next couple of hours would be like in a chilly downpour. I had left my long sleeve top in my special needs bag and I wished now that I had grabbed it. Lucky for me, the rain stopped 10 minutes later. I would later find out from Valencia that the rain saved her race. She had struggled on the run, but the rain woke her up and revived her all the way to the finish. It didn't have that effect on me, but I absolutely could not complain about the weather that day. It was better than I could've hoped for.
In the midst of my mini-crisis, at mile 17, I turned to Mr. IronMin who was on his bike near me and said, "I need to keep my head about me. I need to keep my head straight." He was getting concerned...I was growing more & more quiet as the dark was setting in. I had this strange feeling that I was losing my ability to stay in the present moment. I felt so tired that I worried I couldn't control my mind to keep me on course. If I started to lose control, I might stop. Or quit. Or be asked to quit. I was afraid of waking up Monday morning and finding out that I had quit - with no recollection of it. I had to keep my brain on if I had a hope of getting my body through the next 9 miles.
I took off my hat and that instantly seemed to help. The fresh air cleared my mind a bit and when I looked up at the top of Observatory Hill, I could see the stars. I smiled at mile 18. I had made it that far. I had done what I could to get to mile 18. I had spent so much of the day focusing on mile 18, I honestly expected to see the finish line there. Since it wasn't, I just kept moving. Something in me changed though - I had this peace in me. I had made it to 18. After 18 I just needed to coast to the finish line.
I ran the calculations...2 1/2 hours to cover 8 miles. I will do this.
My support crew & my family was waiting at mile 19 and I tried to run for them but was reduced to a power walk. I could tell they were starting to worry. I believed I would make it because I had done the math in my head a hundred times over. I couldn't explain this to them, so I smiled instead. And waved. Then I carried their cheers with me the rest of the way to the finish.
Mr. IronMin stayed with me for the rest of the course. He was on his bike, and would ride ahead, or behind, on the sidewalks and across the bike paths. He would ask me how I was doing when I got very, very quiet. Sometimes I think I grunted instead of answered, but he persevered and kept up his positive energy. I know he wanted to help me but this would have to be a solo mission - at least on the course. I was adamant about the "no outside help" rule. I wouldn't take any assistance.
In retrospect I discovered this - even if your support system cannot hand you a gel or fix your flat tire for you, finishing an Ironman is all about outside help. It's the help during training from coaches, fellow athletes, your family and friends. It's the help you get along the way with the housework or the errands so you can go out and train. It's the help you get all day long during the race from your own support crew and the incredible volunteers and spectators. It was my body doing the work, but it took an army to get me there.
Meanwhile, back at mile 21, Mr. IronMin's cell phone was ringing off the hook with people asking about me. I was so glad he was there and had been there for me all along. We have been together for so many years that it just doesn't feel right if we are experiencing something without the other one by our side. Having him there made the entire race complete.
Johanna, Brian, and Sean followed Valencia to the finish then came back to check in on me. The bike posse was back! I relaxed knowing she had made it. I would be there soon...
Just one foot in front of the other. You have a good walking pace. You can do this. Run if you can, walk if you must. Just keep moving.
At mile 22 the aid station had potato chips. I was on cloud 9. I was singing about how good potato chips were...how much I loved them...how yummy they were. The posse was laughing at me. In 1/2 mile I stopped singing the praises of potato chips as my stomach started questioning my dinner choice. It is amazing how much of a roller coaster Ironman had become for me. One moment I was flying high, and literally the next I was in the depths of despair.
The last 3 1/2 miles were slow but steady. I was so close. I knew I would make it. I didn't want to think about it and celebrate in my head because I needed to maintain focus to get there. But I knew it was coming to an end and I was ready for it.
At mile 25 1/2, I came face to face with another sea of orange. It was almost 11:30 at night, but I had a crew still out there cheering me on. We high-fived and their enthusiasm got me running again. I ran the rest of the way in.
I made the final turn toward the finish chute and the crowd was getting animated. There was a decent break between finishers at this point, and I was alone in the final stretch. I heard Mike Reilly announce, "Here is another local girl, Mindee, from Madison, doing her first Ironman." Heading toward the arch, spectators were holding their hands out for high-fives.
As I lifted my arms and ran through the finish tape, Mike Reilly said the words I had waited 1 year, 16 hours, 38 minutes, and 3 seconds to hear:
I didn't cry. I couldn't stop smiling. It hadn't even remotely sunk in that I had done it - all I knew was I was off the course and it was before midnight.
A friend from work was volunteering in the finish area, and she slipped the medal around my neck. She handed me a foil blanket and asked me how I was doing.
"I feel great!"
She laughed and said "You look like you feel great!"
I guess I kept telling people I had to eat - but when I went to the food tent I wasn't hungry. I tried a sub and ate 2 bites of bread before tossing it. After grabbing my bike, gear bags, and the car, we made our way home. I sat in the living room until 2AM with my family, just laughing and talking about the day. I didn't want to take my medal off. I didn't want the day to end.
Finally, after a hot shower I crawled into bed. When I tried to close my eyes, all I could see was road and it felt like I was still moving. It was like I was still on my bike and I was staring at the pavement as it went by. I think that's why I was dizzy in T2 - I must have been staring at the road for so long...
In minutes, I was asleep. It was a deep sleep without dreams. My brain was tired - it had worked hard all day and couldn't muster up any more strength to create a few dreams. It was time for me to rest, completely. And it felt so good.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Honestly, the first 20 miles were a blur. I was drinking and I started my nutrition plan at the :15 minute mark with my first gel of the day. Having ridden the course so much this year I was on autopilot most of the time. I was passing people, then they would pass me back...it seemed like I saw the same people over & over on the first loop. It was nice because I started to feel like we were part of a team - each of us was racing our own race but we were somehow in it together. Occasionally someone would speak when they passed me - "Lookin' strong. Nice day." General comments like that.
I found Johanna and her Mom at the top of the first major hill as I headed into Mt Horeb. I was having a great ride and was about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I was excited about getting to the back half of the loop with the rollers because I knew I could gain more speed on the descents. The crowd support was incredible. Shouts of "51" revved me up as I made my way through Mt Horeb and onto the Garfoot rollercoaster. I was flying high - the first loop of the bike was definitely a mental high point. I felt invincible, full of energy, and right on my pacing. Garmin was telling me I was averaging 14.1 mph - totally exceeding my expectations of 13.7 for the first 30 miles. And I didn't feel like I was working hard at all.
I was passed by the lead pro men at around 25 miles. They were on their second loop of course, and it was a rush to see them move so fast. First the 2 motorcycles went by, then I could hear the distinctive "roooroooorooooroooooroooor" of the disc wheel as they came up behind me. McDonald passed me really close - I swear our handlebars were 2 inches apart. He moved in front of me, then he was gone. I can't believe how fast he rides.
When I reached the 30 mile mark, I focused on making the next 30 miles a solid Ironman pace effort. I pushed a little harder than the first 30, but left a lot in the tank for the tough 60-90 mile section. The crowds on Old Sauk Pass and Timberlane were just like everyone described - it was like I was in the Tour de France. They lined both sides of the road and were screaming - sometimes right into your face - and it was wild. A man dressed up like a devil. Another as batman. It was a lot of fun.
On my way up Old Sauk Pass, around 40 miles into the ride, a spectator yelled, "Smile! Here comes a big media camera!" I didn't know what he was talking about, but then a motorcycle passed and behind it was Hillary Biscay. She was making her way up the hill and for a second I thought - thank you for not making it look too easy! She wasn't flying up it, and even though she was climbing faster and more efficiently than I was, it was a relief to see it was a little bit of an effort for her. Behind her on another motorcycle was the media crew the spectator had warned me about. The huge TV camera was following her up the hill, aimed right at her back. I felt so lucky I didn't have a TV camera following me - how stressful would that be?
Just then another spectator got in my face and yelled, "There she is! The lead woman is right there! You can catch her...Go Go GO!"
I laughed. He did too. As much as I wished I could try to keep Hillary in sight, she was gone in a heartbeat just like McDonald. Once she crested the pass, it was like trying to watch a bullet leave a gun.
Finally I reached the 4th big hill on the loop and as I started up I saw more orange at the top. Brian and Johanna's Dad were cheering and taking pictures. There is such a vast difference between climbing these hills in training and climbing them on race day with spectator support.
Heading into Verona was awesome. I could hear the crowds a mile away, and then I spotted my husband. He was on his bike too, riding on the sidewalk. He asked how I was doing, if I felt ok. He told me my family was around the corner in Verona waiting for me. It all felt a little surreal and so exciting.
First I saw more of our amazing support crew in orange and I waved and smiled. Up the road a bit my family was cheering, screaming, taking pictures...my niece and nephew were so pumped up too! It was hard to keep pedaling. I wanted to stop and talk to them - to tell them it was going well, that I felt good. To thank them for cheering as I went by. But I had to keep moving. Even though I was doing well, I still had cut-offs looming in my horizon.
As I headed up a roller into loop 2, I realized the tire didn't have enough air. It felt way too soft. I pulled over, grabbed another CO2 and pumped it up until it was hard. I threw the CO2 in my jersey pocket in case this was going to be a repeat exercise. My mental state slowly started to unravel.
I lost 20 minutes between Special Needs & the flat, and I had to really push now to make sure I wasn't cutting it too close to the 5:30 cut-off. I knew another flat would make it very, very difficult to get there in time. I started to cry as I pedaled. I had come all this way and my day might be over when I got off the bike. I felt the disappointment, the anger, the sadness. I let my thoughts spin out of control. Then I remembered something my coach had said. "Ask yourself what you need in order to get to Mile 18 of the run. All day, ask yourself will what I'm doing right now get me there?"
No, it wouldn't.
I then asked myself, What do you need right now? And the answer was emphatic - I Need To Eat. I was completely off schedule because of the delay and I was overdue to eat. So I ate.
The wind was strong and mean on the long stretch of Highway G before I reached the farm fields leading into Mt Horeb. I hunkered down and pushed. I passed a guy, then a woman, then another guy. We were suffering against the wind and the mood was somber. It was a lonely section of the course and the wind was taking its toll.
It felt like a blink and I was back in Mt Horeb with Johanna and her Mom. I told Johanna I had a flat. I asked her if the back wheel looked ok - it did. She told me to keep going - to keep pushing. I asked about Valencia and she said she was doing really well.
About 5 miles later I stopped to check the tire and it was getting soft again. I pumped it up with the CO2 and looked at my Garmin. 42 miles to go. If I stopped every 10 miles to put air in...I wouldn't make it.
In perfect timing, I saw Mr. IronMin about 3 minutes later on Garfoot. I told him the truth - I wasn't feeling well. It was getting hard to eat. I had a flat that I had to put air in twice. I was scared. I looked at him and asked, "Do you think I'll make it?"
Just like an answer to "Do I look fat in this outfit?" or "Do you like my new haircut?", he answered quickly and with certainty.
"Yes, I think you will. Keep pedaling. You have to keep pedaling."
As I left him I started running calculations in my head - and I realized that if I made it back to Verona by 4, I could make it to the cut-off with time to spare. It was 2:30. 4:00 seemed a lifetime away but it became a mantra.
Verona by 4. Verona by 4. Verona by 4.
I looked at my bike and said, "If you can just please get me to that cut-off. If we can just make it another 40 miles with this tire...you can go flat as soon as I hand you off to a volunteer. You can be flat all night. Just keep air until we're done."
Of course someone rode past me as I was talking to my bike and I was instantly embarrassed. That little conversation was intended for my bike only. I pressed on.
The crowds were starting to thin on the big climbs, but there was still solid support. During the last 15-20 miles before Verona after seeing Mr. IronMin, I zoned out. My family surprised me after Timberlane in a place on the course I wasn't expecting to see them, and it was much needed for my mental state at that point. My Mom was ringing her cowbell, my sister and her husband were yelling and cheering. My nephew & niece were having a good time cheering and watching the race. My niece was hilarious - she was cheering so hard for everyone as they went through. Look how much she is putting into it...she is 100% committed to getting people to go faster!
See you again soon...
Climbing the last big hill, Midtown, a few minutes later, Brian and Johanna's dad were there and Johanna's dad ran alongside me. I thanked him for being out there and cheering and he told me not to worry about talking - just save my energy and keep going.
I looked at my computer. 25 minutes to make it to Verona by 4. Could I do it? I had been chanting it to myself for so long, it was almost an out of body experience to see that it was actually real. It was really happening.
And as I rode through the Verona aid station at 4:00 on the dot, my mood started to lift. I had made it. I couldn't celebrate because I still had 17 miles to go. Anything could happen in 17 miles. I did take a moment to let it sink in...I was passing more of my friends cheering and a few I was seeing for the first time during the day. My family & Mr. IronMin were there too - and I wondered how they got back to Verona so quickly. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to make it as much as I wanted to make it and that is an indescribable feeling.
I had asked Mr. IronMin to find me on the straight stretch back to Madison on Whalen Road and he did. I was now smiling and happy and within minutes of actually getting off the bike. The last 12 miles after seeing the 100 mile sign were wonderful. We had a tailwind that seemed like sweet justice after fighting the gusts on the second loop. I was cruising up the hills again and I felt so alive! I didn't even think about running a marathon next. I just thought about getting to T2.
As I rounded the last corner before I could see the Monona Terrace, a volunteer said, "You are almost there. You've got this!"
I started to cry. Relief? Fatigue? I was feeling raw with emotion. Mr. IronMin was riding on the sidewalk again and he rode all the way to the helix...telling me I was doing great. To take my time in T2, no need to rush. Do what I had to do. He would see me on the run and everything would be ok.
I wasn't sure I had enough power left to ride up the helix and Mr. IronMin told me to walk the bike if I had to - I had time. As I started up, I was surprised at how easy it felt. At the top, I stopped the bike while a volunteer held it and I slowly dismounted. I thought I would fall apart - kiss the ground, start sobbing, hug everyone within range. I didn't. I just smiled. I told the volunteer, "Just a second" and I just gripped my bike, one hand on the seat and one on the bars. We had made it and the back wheel (although getting a little soft again) did not let me down.
Someone was screaming my name and I looked up toward the roof of the Terrace - it was our VP of marketing at work, Jane. She had so much energy, I had to smile again. I wanted to bottle up some of that and use it for the run.
I laughed and it felt strangely good. I waved and hobbled toward T2.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I started the water boiling for my oatmeal and got the coffee brewing before hopping in the shower. Mr. IronMin finished making the oatmeal while I sipped coffee and choked down a bagel with peanut butter. I was not hungry AT ALL. My stomach was doing flips & turns that would make Shawn Johnson jealous, and I feared I wouldn't be able to eat breakfast or keep it down. I only got through it by using a mantra I would modify and use all day: Just keep chewing. Just keep chewing. Later it would be, Just keep moving. Just keep moving. For now, it was working on the bagel.
After getting my wetsuit on, Mr. IronMin walked me down the helix to the start until it was 'athletes only'. I kept telling him, "I can't believe this is it. I can't believe this day is here." I was clutching his hand for dear life. I kissed him for the last time for almost 17 hours...and made my way into the mass of black rubber and pink and blue swim caps.
During the National Anthem, it started to hit me. I cried for a few minutes during the song, as we continued to inch toward the entry point. I took a deep breath and regained my composure just in time to see my friend Pete off to the side of the start waving like crazy. He snapped a shot of me just before I crossed the mat.
Once into the water, I started following my plan. I positioned myself on the right side of the ski jump, toward the shore, in the middle of the pack but not in the middle of the middle. I had also written a note to myself before the race to remind me of what this day was all about. Here is what it said, and what my thoughts were as I treaded water and began to relax.
Float on your back – look at the sky. This is your day. You have trained, you have dreamed, you have sacrificed, you have hurt for this day to come. You are so lucky to be alive, so lucky to be here, so lucky to have the amazing support you have had up to this point. You are going to have your best swim, your best bike, your best run based on what you can do at the moment you are doing it. You will make the bike cut-off, so enjoy the ride. You will finish Ironman today, because you have arrived at the start with more than enough fitness to get you there. Your family & friends will be cheering for you, worrying about you, wishing they could give you the extra strength and push you need to get to the end of this day. You will channel their energy, internalize it, and find within you the courage and the singular focus you need to accomplish this goal and become an Ironman. This is your day. This is your race. Nothing else matters today except this.
A woman next to me commented that it was a beautiful day and I agreed. Then Mike Reilly told us all, "You will be an Ironman today." And I said out loud - "Yes I will." My eyes filled up with tears.
The water felt wonderful - maybe a little cooler than it had been in the past few weeks, but still warm and inviting. I couldn't wait to swim. Here's a map of the two-loop course for reference.
The cannon finally went off. From where I was it sounded more like a pop than a boom. Immediately the calm water turned choppy as everyone started jockeying for position. My coach warned me that the first 200 yards would be worst. I just needed to stick it out and it would free up. She was absolutely right. I started swimming, trying not to get kicked in the face. I popped my head out of water to avoid feet here and there, but I was able to start a stroke within the first minute or two after the start. My feet were getting slapped over and over again but it didn't hurt. Arms flopped down on mine, hands hit my calves and thighs, I was run into on both sides...but again, it didn't hurt.
Occasionally I would feel someone climbing on top of me - it happened 3 times. First they would hit my foot, then my calf, my butt, my back...and I had to pop up so they couldn't continue over my head. It wasn't scary for me though. Inconvenient, yes. Scary, no. I told myself I had just as much right to be in this space swimming as everyone else and as much as I had to swim around others, they also had to swim around me. I'm in this picture...somewhere.
The first leg of the loop out went by quickly. I tried not to hug the buoys too close, but I did get involved in too much traffic on the first turn. Lots of flailing as bodies were turning in the water and it was like being in those first 200 yards again. The trip back was choppier, but I expected it. The waves are tougher heading east on the lake but nothing I couldn't handle or hadn't seen before. When I sighted I kept realizing I was heading toward the insides of the loop buoys and I had to keep adjusting to get back on the outside before I actually passed each one. I didn't want to cut anything out of the swim - I was swimming the whole course fair & square, keeping every single buoy to the left.
It seemed like a long time before I saw the red buoy marking the turn to start loop 2. I was wearing my watch and debated with myself on whether to check my time. If I checked and it was as slow as it felt, I would be disappointed. If I checked and I was on track for my 1:30 goal, I could maintain pace on the 2nd loop and enjoy myself. Finally I gave in and looked. :42 minutes. I smiled before putting my face back in the water. If I kept this up, 1:30 was totally doable.
Starting the 2nd loop was easy and I made sure to take long looks at the Monona Terrace and all of the people as I took my breaths. So many screaming and cheering people all over the roof, helix, and on the shore...signs everywhere, loud music playing...it was incredible.
When I sighted on the outbound leg, I realized I was too far away from the buoys - I was hugging the shore more than the loop. I should've known because even though I was still surrounded by swimmers, we had lots and lots of room now. I corrected back to the buoy line but it took a bit of effort. In my final swim time, I think this is where I slipped back on my goal time.
The return trip back was when I decided to kick it into gear - and I wasn't the only one. Suddenly it felt like everyone around me was trying to kick a little harder and push a little more. I found myself sandwiched between 2 big guys and after being smacked back and forth for a minute like a ping pong ball, I decided to drop back and let them duke it out on their own. I found a fellow woman athlete swimming beside me and paced with her for a few hundred yards. While the swim always felt long, I was almost surprised that I was in the homestretch.
Rounding the last red buoy into the final straightaway, I came the closest during the swim to getting kicked in the face. I was drafting a man who started to slow down. His feet weren't kicking at all, and as I crept up on him I was debating which side to pass him on when he feverishly launched into a combination breastroke/freestyle kick. I snapped my head up out of the water just in time to avoid a right hook to the jaw. I was lucky.
The final stretch to the swim finish line went relatively quick and as I saw the weeds from the lake bottom come into view, I knew it was almost over. I found my footing and started to stand up and almost fell over. I was dizzy. Volunteers grabbed me and the other swimmers as they stood up until we got our land legs back. It only took a few seconds. I ran over to the wetsuit strippers and as everyone says - when I finally decided to stop trying to help them, they got the suit off in a millisecond. They were great - "Hold your arms straight. Ok, lay down on your back. Here's your suit! Have a great race!" Can you hire these folks for every tri?
I stumbled toward the helix and saw my Support Crew on both sides cheering me on. Pete snapped another shot of me as I got ready to climb the helix.
I totally had my "Miss America" wave out in full force on race day. I waved all over the place - you will probably see a few more of these in pics to come. I was a waving fanatic.
As I walked up the helix, I got my nerve up to check my watch again. 1:36. I didn't know what time I got out of the water, but it was only a minute or so before. I was still happy. I wanted 1:30. I dreamed about 1:20. But I was happy with 1:35 ish.
I wasn't exactly sure where the transition was, but volunteers were pointing me along the way. As I headed into the Terrace, they started shouting my number. A volunteer handed me my bag and I ran around the large room to the changing area. Immediately I was seated and a volunteer emptied out my bag onto the carpeted floor.
"What can I help you with?"
She got me out of my wet trisuit and helped me get dressed. Everything was laid out for me to grab and easily put on. I applied sunscreen to my face and arms, buckled my helmet, put on my glasses and after thanking her profusely I started for the door. One woman yelled to me "Go Kraft" - her name was Joanne and she was from the Chicago office (she had the same jersey as I did). Another volunteer shouted for me to have a good race - she was also from Kraft. She even remembered my name and cheered for me later on the bike course.
As I ran out of the Terrace, more of my support crew was on hand, wearing the orange t-shirts, and screaming my name. It was incredible. Everywhere I looked, I saw orange. All day. Since my bike was on the furthest end of transition, I got to hear the volunteers yell "51" all the way down the line. It was almost like being cheered for as I passed every row. When I got to my row, a volunteer was holding my bike for me. I started to put on my shoes when I could hear my husband yelling for me. I looked up and there he was - taking pictures and jumping and cheering. I smiled. More orange, more support crew. Amazing.
Hey bike - here I come!
Making funny faces at my husband
Laughing along with the volunteer who helped me
One last "Miss America" wave for my husband...
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
On Saturday morning I got up, grabbed some coffee, and immediately starting running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I had all kinds of race bags to pack and although I had a full year to prepare for this day, I waited until the last minute. Typical.
Depending on which weather website we checked, we got a different story. The Weather Channel was calling for all day rain and a high in the 60's. Accuweather was calling for partly sunny with a couple of thunderstorms. Intellicast corroborated Accuweather but added in a few extra hours of light rain. I didn't know what to pack, so I pretty much packed it all.
In my T1 bag, I covered all weather scenarios:
- Bike Shorts
- Bike Knickers
- Short Sleeve Jersey
- Leg Warmers
- Arm Warmers
- Rain Jacket
- Wind Jacket
- Sun Glasses
- Deodorant ( I didn't want to get too offensive)
- Chamois butter
- Run shorts
- Short sleeve run top (pink...for fun)
- Arm warmers
- Long sleeve base layer
- Running fleece jacket
- Running shoes
- Body Glide
- Snickers bar & a coke
- Note to myself on how to break up the run
I felt like I was packing for a long trip and although I had lists to reference, I still felt like I was forgetting something. Having done races away from home, and now one big one in my hometown, I'm torn on which is easier to pack for. There is something to be said for being forced to pack those bags well in advance so when you are a day away from the race you aren't thinking about every single piece of gear you own and whether you just might need it on race day. I could've packed my whole house in those bags but then I realized that transition time was also not the place to be making a lot of decisions. It was a time to go on auto-pilot and move on.
After parking the car in the ramp at the Monona Terrace, we could definitely feel the nervous energy in the air. We saw a lot of athletes with their bags & bikes in varying stages of check-in or final preparation. I figured this would be a breeze, so I grabbed my bags and as Mr. IronMin pulled my bike out of the truck he paused.
"Did you let some air out of your back tire?" His voice was forcibly calm.
My eyes exploded with disbelief. He was asking one of those questions you already know the answer to, but you ask it anyway because you are hoping there is an explanation for something you can't explain.
We looked at the back tire. It was flat. Incredibly flat. Not low. Completely flat. Where air had been 10 minutes ago, now there was none.
Panic started to set in.
"I didn't do anything with it. It was fine when I rode it before we put it in the car."
And in that moment, we realized neither one of us packed the bike pump in the truck. After all, this was to be a quick drop off operation. Last minute pumping was scheduled for tomorrow morning.
After 30 minutes of looking for people with pumps, we realized we were not the only ones who didn't pack one for drop-off. 2200 bikes & athletes and approximately 2 pumps in a 1 mile radius. Thank you to both guys who let us use them. We still had to burn a CO2 cartridge because we couldn't get a tight lock on the valve with the pump, but at least we tried!
Mr. IronMin replaced the tube in his usual 3 seconds (or so it seems) while I ran into the Terrace to drop off bags. The drop-off rooms were a sea of them. It was organized chaos.
Bike to Run Bags
First in my row
They announced we had 5 minutes to drop off the bike before transition closed, so the questions had to be answered later. I nervously placed my bike on my rack, which since I was number 51, was the final rack before the pro racks...just in front of the bike mount & exit. I spent a minute checking out the pro bikes and another minute telling my bike that tomorrow was the big day. No pressure, but if there was ever a day when I would need her to perform 100%, this was it. And oh yeah, please tell that back tire to hold air for me.
In for the night...my bike next to the one with the coverI finally had to leave the transition area...
During the flat tire crisis, I got the call that my family had arrived and they were waiting at the house. My sister was flying in the next morning, but my mother, brother-in-law Ed, nephew Ethan and niece Ellise drove in from Michigan early. We rounded them up and brought them down to the Monona Terrace to get a taste for what was in store for them Sunday.
My Mom with me, in front of the Ironman archMr. IronMin, me, Ethan, and Ellise
One side of the huge bike transition area
View from the roof...yes, I really have to swim that far. Twice.
When we got home, Mr. IronMin set up my other back wheel, just in case. Since I am married to a walking, talking bike emporium I have 2 sets of wheels. One set is decent and I used it a lot in training. One set is my race set - my preferred choice for race day. He put a fresh tire on the training back wheel and also packed more CO2 and another tube in my seatpost bag. I am so lucky that he is a bike guru.
Our friends Johanna & Brian and Johanna's parents stopped over to bring my family their Support Crew T-Shirts (I got one too!) and a very special 'good luck' present. We have a little joke that even though we live in Wisconsin, the land of cows, it's pretty tough to find a cowbell. Johanna's uncle suggested I could steal one from a bull, but that didn't sound like a good idea to me. So, not only did Johanna find a cowbell...but she had it engraved to commemorate the day.
Isn't that the coolest cowbell you've ever seen? Johanna and Brian have been such big supporters along the way. I can't ever thank them enough.
My family ordered pizza for dinner and I ate spaghetti I had already made up earlier in the day. I made it to bed at 8:30 pm but it felt like midnight. I was exhausted. My special needs bags were ready to go, but I kept thinking of other things to pack in them. I got up to get a base layer for the run bag. Then vaseline. I think I got up 5 times before finally settling in to sleep. The alarm was set for 4am...