Race report: Vineman

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Before I write one of my trademark ridiculously long race reports, I must give a heart-felt thank you to my friends and family. Both online and in person, your support during this race was both awesome and overwhelming. And in this case, I don’t think I’d have crossed the finish line without you. This phrase is over-used, but no less true: I’m blessed to have all of you in my life. </mushystuff>

PRE-RACE:
I did my usual tossing and turning  before giving up and getting out of bed fifteen minutes before my 4:30 alarm clock. I felt bad for Heidi because while I wasn’t sleeping I could hear the girls asking her questions, so I know she wasn’t getting much sleep either. I made my new pre-race breakfast of frozen waffles and nutella with a banana. I was originally planning to just bike to the race start, but T was actually awake, so I talked him into walking with me. It was nice to have company as we walked down the dark highway. There were already a bunch of triathletes on the road, so it was only quiet for a short while. Soon it was time to part ways as I headed into the athlete’s only area to set up my transition area.

pre-raceThey had body markers roaming around the transition area, which was so much nicer than having to line up to do it. The girl who did mine told me “I hope you win!” which made me laugh out loud. (Something really bad would have to happen to the rest of the field for that to happen!)

T went to get coffee while I did all of my pre-race stuff. My favorite sight was some guy wandering around in what looked like a hotel bathrobe. He cracked the entire porta potty line up. It was like racing at the Playboy Mansion. I met up with T again and did my usual pre-race cry. (The enormity of these races catches me off guard sometimes.) Then it was time to get into the wetsuit and do a quick warm-up. T got this awesome shot of me as I came out of the water:

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THE SWIM
I had to hustle to join my wave, which was a little stressful, but it didn’t give me much time to get nervous. Then the usual mess of starting to swim, having people do all manner of craziness in front of me (breast stroke from the very beginning? Really?!) My goggles filled with water, but luckily I got them fixed quickly with only one adjustment. (Knowing that the river would eventually be shallow enough to do this again if I needed to was nice. There was some kind of river plants that had very fine tendrils that got chopped up by all of the swimmers before us and was exactly like swimming through a bunch of dog hair. (GROSS!) But luckily, it was only a little section (that we’d get to swim through three more times, lucky us!)

The weirdest thing about the swim was looking up to see people walking at various intervals. I downloaded a couple of images off the internet to show what the swim looks like:

VinemanSwim2This is looking towards the turn-around, where a lot of the walking happens. It was super odd, but made the potential of being swum over much less scary, since you could just stand up.

VinemanSwimI swam as much as I could, because it was a lot easier than stumbling around a rocky river bed, but there were a few sections where it was so shallow that I thought I was going to fall on my face. It was also a fairly crowded swim, which was stressful for me, but I just did the best I could. I can’t say I ever really found a rhythm and I was very surprised when I came out of the water at 1:31. I think this picture sums it up nicely:

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T1:
I was actually pretty proud of this transition. I felt calm and in control. I went down the wrong aisle briefly, but was able to correct it without too much problem. I was able to give my stuff to T, which was way more awesome than letting it marinate in the sun all day. (There were a few volunteers that were so sweet, offering to take the bag and then handing it off to T for me when I explained. They were the first of many awesome volunteers that I met over the course of the day.)

BIKE:
Leading into the race, I heard over and over how much easier this course was than Canada. I think they’re just differently hard. Canada has two major climbs with a bunch of rollers in the middle, where this course was more like a roller coaster, twists and turns, ups and downs. It had a climb that you did twice, once at mile 30-something and again at mile 100. I loved it. It was never boring and there was tons of pretty stuff to look at. In looking at my race photos, there are a ton where I have a huge smile on my face, which matches my memory of how I felt about the course:

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Bike2I planned to only stop at the special needs aid station at the half-way mark and I kept to that plan. The only bummer was that they had two porta-potties at that aid station, so there was a line. Then the special needs bags were at the other end, so you either had to walk your bike or ride while dodging other triathletes who were trying to get things from the aid station in the middle of these two points. So, my stop there was much longer than I wanted it to be. Oh well…

I hadn’t really expected to see my cheering section out on the bike course, since we’d been told not to have folks driving on the course with us. But suddenly, I turned the corner and there they were! I was so surprised and happy that I actually teared up after seeing them. You’re out there for such a long time by yourself that you get easily emotional at the sight of some familiar faces. The miles ticked by and I tried not to be nervous about climbing Chalk Hill for the second time. It turned out fine, but definitely tougher the second time. I was again surprised by M, J & Baby Rowan around mile 105. J has this bright orange baseball cap that I could see for quite a distance, so I spotted him before I even knew what I was looking at.

The last few miles are always a bit of a struggle. I was looking forward to getting off that damn bike, that’s for sure.

T2:
I was moving a little slower on this transition. I took my time taping up a couple of my toes that are prone to blisters and struggled into my Injinji compression socks. (Those things are awesome, but man are they a PITA to get into!) I had a bandana to wrap ice in and put around my neck which felt like heaven, both because it was cooling and because my neck was stiff from being on the bike for so long. I also grabbed some sunscreen and chaffing creme and stuffed them in my pocket.

RUN:
Run special needs was right outside T2 and T was standing across from it. He checked in with me and I was pleased to report that I was feeling great. Unlike IMC, I was able to run (sort of) right from the start. The rest of the crew was right around the corner and Nerissa took this rad picture of me heading out:

OffToRunThe course is basically three out-and-back sections of a little over 8.5 miles. This is exactly as tough as you might imagine, but I tried to just focus on each piece at a time. The first section was about finding a run/walk interval that worked for me. I had my watch set for 2 min run/1 min walk, but I also was walking aid stations and uphills, so it was a little bit of a mess. Finally, I just started running all of the downhills and as many of the two minute intervals as I could, longer when I felt like it.

There were a ton of other folks on the course and it was nice to see that even the faster folks were struggling. (Misery loves company and all that… ) I was able to run a bit more as I came in to start the second loop. It definitely helped knowing I’d get to see everyone. I high-fived them and headed back out onto the course. Initially, loop two went awesome. I was able to run and felt pretty smooth. Then I started feeling some… um… intestinal issues. I stopped at an aid station and dropped some weight, but when I tried running I still felt like I might poop myself. So, there was a lot more walking than I wanted. Then the pity party started. Then I started worrying about making the cutoff to start lap 3 or worse yet, making that cutoff but not making the finish cut off. This picture perfectly sums up my feelings on lap 2:

RunStaggerBy the time I got back to the cheering section, I was a weepy mess. I really wasn’t sure I was going to make the finish line cutoff and I was scared to go through that drama again. But here’s where I have the best friends ever – they kindly but firmly gave my hoody, reminded me to grab my headlamp from special needs and took the bag from me. T made me grab a gel and M told me “You don’t have anything else you have to do tonight. Put one foot in front of the other and get it done.” It was so effective that I actually started to run again. They ran alongside me for a little bit and I headed back out into the night.

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The volunteers were truly fantastic. They encouraged us, fetched things at the aid station and generally kept spirits up. I was determined to run as much as possible and bank as much time against the deadline as I could. By this point, my feet hurt just as much running as they did walking, so I just kept a steady shuffle going lest I wake up the GI monster again. I was very glad I’d brought my headlamp because it was pitch black out there. I was pleasantly surprised by how many folks were still out on the course and everyone was super encouraging and supportive. It helped as much to cheer others on as it was to be cheered by them.

There was an asian dude dressed as Mr. Incredible (complete with foam muscles) and I thanked him for being out there. He was cheering on his friend, who I ran with for a little bit and chatted with. He was doing his second iron distance as well and we bonded over the differences in preparation from race #1 and race #2. As I was about halfway through the last section, a volunteer asked if I’d like some company. I said sure and she ran/walked with me. Her name was Anna and once she told me about how her family had made signs that said “Bananas!” when she did Vineman, I started thinking of her as Anna Bananas. She was great, she told me funny stories about things she’d seen over the course of the day and kept my spirits up. (Now that I was pretty certain I was going to finish, I was in a much better headspace.)

We started the last section and I heard voices. Then Erik’s voice said “Is that Michelle?” When I answered, there was a flurry of excitement and suddenly I was surrounded by Erik, Nerissa and Martha all telling me at once that the timing mat at the final turnaround hadn’t shown up on the tracking and they’d been worried about me. Erik went to call T and I introduced everyone to Anna Banana. She left me in their capable hands and went to help another race. (THANKS ANNA!!!) T met up with us and Nerissa fired up “Eye of the Tiger” on her phone. I was run/walking at this point because my stomach was getting a little queasy when I ran. Since I didn’t have to push it, I decided doing an Ironman without barfing would be nice.

Finally, we were in the homestretch and I ran for the finishing chute. I could hear the announcer and see the lights and I was soooooo happy. Once again, this race picture sums it up quite well, even if it’s not the most flattering:

AllDoneThe volunteers had formed a little “tunnel” that the finishers would go through, while they chanted “Gauntlet… Gauntlet!” It was fantastic and so funny. Then I got my medal and finisher shirt. The volunteers handing out the shirts were so nice. She apologized for them only having women’s mediums that were a little small, so the other volunteer gave me a mens small, just in case. Nerissa took a triumphant finisher shot:

FinishLineDon’t worry, I eventually figured out that I had the headlamp still on. 😉

There was still plenty of food left and I was actually in a state to eat something. They had some chicken noodle soup that tasted like the best thing ever. I had that and some watermelon and was pretty happy. M & T kept me company while Erik & Nerissa went to get the car. I was astonished by how much better I felt than last time. I was actually able to walk (albeit so very slowly) to the car, including negotiating getting around some race fencing down a grassy embankment.

I didn’t find out my real finishing time until the next day, but I finished in 16:16 – a 31 minute PR over Canada. (I’d hoped to knock another hour off of that time, but considering I’d been worried about finishing at all, I am still pretty happy about it.) I learned a lot and have a feeling that there might be a third Ironman in my future.

 

 

 

 

 

Takin’ care of business

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Erik & Nerissa had spotted some blackberries down by the dock, so we’d asked T to make some pancakes with them. He happily obliged, so Erik & I headed down to the dock, while Nerissa went to get some from a bush she’d seen in front of the house:

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Erik’s height comes in very handy when picking blackberries, by the way:
ErikBlackberriesBreakfast was super delicious. Bacon, pancakes with a blackberry sauce and eggs. Too good.

After a little digestion time, we headed down to the river for a practice swim for me and some kayaking/inner tubing for everyone else. The river was delightful and very shallow in spots. The only bummer was that while I was holding a kayak for T, I kicked some piece of metal on the dock support and the arch of my foot hurt like a son of a bitch. It had a tiny cut and a bruise pretty much immediately. I tried really hard to not freak out and hoped that it would stop hurting soon.

After the swim, T and I headed over to the pre-race meeting/expo at Windsor High School. Unfortunately, the race meetings were every hour and we missed one by seven minutes. But it gave us plenty of time to wander around the expo and look at stuff. I wanted to get T this t-shirt:

SpectatorTFinally it was time for the meeting, which was well run. It was informative and short (a rare combination for pre-race meetings!) Then we got to pick up our packets and set up our bike-to-run transition areas. Someone had drawn a huge chalk drawing next to my rack, which was an excellent landmark:

RackMarkingIt was funny setting up my spot, knowing I wouldn’t see it again until tomorrow after so much biking and swimming:

T2Then we hit up Whole Foods for some dinner and post-race groceries and RiteAid for some first aid supplies for my poor foot, which was still really hurting. Since this is exactly the kind of “injury” I always get paranoid about before a big race, it was getting tougher to keep the freak-out at bay.

We finally made it back to the house to find that Heidi and her girls, plus M, J & baby Rowan had all arrived. Heidi took the girls for a swim from the dock, so M & I went down to keep her company. The boys handled the dinner so that we could just relax. I iced my foot and watched the girls jump off the dock.

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Kamryn had a couple of jumps where she basically landed on Heidi’s head. Nothing I do tomorrow will be as impressive as Heidi surviving that hit!

HeidiGirlsSwim2Dinner was out on our lovely deck and was delicious. There were burgers, salmon and chicken. Along with salads and a baked potato for yours truly. It was such a nice, relaxing way to spend the night before a big race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to normal

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After any big event that you spend months planning/preparing for and thinking about, it’s always a little strange to return to a normal life where that event isn’t out on the horizon any more. Everyone at work was really great – asked me all about the race and listened to my overly long answers. My friends were also really fabulous, indulging me in lengthy conversations about various details of race day. But eventually, it was time to get back to life as normal.

I sort of played it by ear in terms of exercise. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before I felt like going for a run with M or a bike ride. M still has the Trek Triathlon coming up, so she welcomed a training partner. Besides, I have my cute present from Canada to wear:

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Sure, I have to endure teasing from M & T when I wear it about my “obnoxious bragging” and how I like to rub it in their faces that I’m an Ironman. But the teasing is good-natured (and pretty funny) and it livens up the bike rides, so it’s all good.

Au revoir, Canada!

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We got up early so we could hit the road and be home at a reasonable hour. I decided it was finally time to bid farewell to my purple/silver “Hello Kitty style” athlete’s bracelet:

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It was a little bittersweet cutting it off my wrist, reminding me that all of this was finally over and it was time to return to “normal life.” We loaded up the cars and did a final check of the house. But before we hit the road, we decided to go out for a nice big breakfast. Erin even busted out her tripod to capture the last moments:

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Our breakfast was huge and yummy:

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And even the ketchup seemed to be saying good-bye:

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Then it was time to bid farewell to Erin & David and hit the road. But first, we needed one last Starbucks stop for the trip. I bought some wacky Canadian candy bars at the adjacent drug store and we saw this awesome giant chess board across from the Mr. Souvlaki:

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Our race packet had contained a buy one/get one free smoothie coupon, which I wanted to cash in. (My stomach wouldn’t necessarily feel hungry, but my body would definitely want calories, so I wanted something for the road.) This meant we had many beverages for the drive home:

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The drive home was uneventful. It was weird to not have our caravan, but after the hectic race week it was nice to have quiet time with T. At some point in the drive we passed this hill that locals had carved/painted these signs into:

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Pretty cool, eh? It wasn’t until talking to T about the race that it finally sunk in that I’d done it and I started to feel proud of the accomplishment. Holy crap, I’m actually an Ironman! I can’t say enough thanks to all of the friends, co-workers and various well-wishers that have encouraged me on this journey. And of course to my stellar cheering section, you guys rock. True story.

The morning after

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The next morning I woke up at 7 after five hours of sleep so deep it felt like unconsciousness. My legs felt like someone had beaten them with a pipe and my stomach still didn’t feel great, but a lot better than yesterday. I had an Ensure, because I wasn’t sure how the stomach would do with real food. Erin was also up and we were the only ones who were, which was funny. We lazed around on the couch, comparing which random muscles hurt and waited for the rest of the house to wake up.

Eventually, the rest of the house woke up and the day’s activities were discussed. I still had to pick up my bike and transition bags, as it was too late to do last night. I also had a hankering for eggs, which meant a trip to the store. So, T & I headed into town. It was absolutely hilarious to see all of the racers shuffling around in their finisher shirts. There was a honking huge line to sign up for next year (suckers!) which was pretty amazing to see. After we finished all of our errands, we headed back to our home base.

M & J were heading home that day, so they were busy packing up while T made breakfast. But first, M had presents for Erin & I. For me, she’d had this t-shirt custom-made:

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It just suits me, don’t you think? And for Erin, she had prints of these awesome pictures she’d taken of Erin’s house and cats during our visit to Prosser. (You can see the images on M’s blog here and here.) After a nice breakfast and saying farewell to M & J, I went back to bed for a little nap. Erin & David were originally thinking of leaving today also, but they ended up staying another day. When I got up from my nap, we celebrated with a little sparkling wine:

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Erin was hankering for a cheeseburger, so we made plans to meet up with D at a brewpub not too far from the house, later that evening. D had invited a few other Slowtwitch friends along, so there ended up being a nice group of us:

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The food was meh, but it was a fun evening and nice to get to chat with some tri peeps. Afterward, we went through the A&W drive-thru for the rootbeer float I was hankering for. On the way there, I saw this hilarious sign:

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Thanks for the laugh, Taco Time – you’re awesoem! 😉

IMC RR – part four: on the run

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Just in case anyone is wondering, after a long swim followed by a long bike ride pretty much the last thing one generally feels like doing is running a marathon. My first thought in fact when I stepped out onto the run course was “Holy $hit, I have to do what now?” I decided to just walk for a little bit to get my legs warmed up. My stomach wasn’t feeling great, so I just decided to ease into the whole marathon thing.

The course is initially a little confusing to those of us in a slightly befuddled state, as you go out of the transition area and then towards the finish line with the folks that are about to finish and then it does a 90 degree turn away from the finish line, you do this out and back for approx 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile and then the folks who are about to finish continue across the line and the rest of us poor bastards head out for the rest of the run. (Believe me, it’s pretty obvious who’s who! ;-D)

A lady from Houston came up next to me during the out and back and told me she was running one minute/walking one minute if I’d like to join her. I figured that would be as good a motivation to get moving as anything so I did. My stomach was very side-stitchy and crampy, but I could tough out the one-minute intervals and it felt less lame than just walking. Eventually, though she was running a bit faster than was comfortable for me and I was finding her chatter a bit annoying, so I let her get ahead of me.

I continued my run/walk intervals on my own timing and just tried not to think about the length of the run left ahead of me. I stupidly tried the cola they had on the course, which was not a good idea and my fuel belt kept bumping on my stomach and making me very unhappy. Finally, I took the fuel belt off and held it in my hand as I ran/walked. I knew that T, M & J were going to be on the course around the four mile mark and I was looking forward to seeing them and getting rid of my fuel belt.

Before I knew it, I saw them up ahead. I was not feeling great and was trying to put a brave face on, but they all know me well enough to see through that. I dropped my fuel belt on the ground in front of T (you aren’t supposed to hand things to people, so we were going with the “hey, if they’re scavengers and pick up my garbage, then I can’t do anything about that… ” They clearly wanted me to start running and were the perfect amount of annoying to get me to do so – threatening terrible music up ahead to get through and ringing cowbells at me. M made some remark that made me give her the finger (sorry Mom!) but I did start running – which made them cheer wildly.

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And just like that, I was off…

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As you can see from the picture above, the air was hazy with smoke from area wildfires. It was also fairly humid. But I wasn’t bothered by the smoke (growing up in Southern California has it’s benefits) and the run course goes next to a lake for much of it, so even the humidity wasn’t too bad. I was finding a nice pace with run 4 minutes/walk 1 intervals and the mile markers were starting to tick by. I saw Andrea coming back as I was going out and she looked great. I also saw my friend Jess outside the campground where we’d stayed last year. Seeing their smiling faces kept me going, (not to mention the  course official who told me I needed to be at the run turnaround by 9:00.)

Then a little ways up the road, I heard a very familiar, very loud cowbell and came upon Erin’s boyfriend David and her friend Tiffany in their jeep parked along the lake. They looked like this, only at dusk and along a lake:

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David rang the crazy loud cowbell for me most enthusiastically and I could hear it for quite some time after I passed him. It was growing steadily darker as I got closer to the turnaround point and I was looking forward to picking up my headlamp and keeping an eye out for Erin. Race personnel were handing out glowsticks and I saw Erin as she was getting hers. I called her name and she came over to give me a hug. We were both feeling pretty rough, but hanging in there.

As darkness fell, I made it to the run turnaround. I saw my cheering squad, told them I’d be right back (ha ha!) and picked up my special needs bag. I’d grabbed the bag and stopped in a porta-potty, so I missed the place where I was supposed to drop it off. I figured I’d just give it to T, so I kept going. Here’s me emerging out of the darkness:

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This is what I was smiling at:

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With the addition of M, who walked along side me for a little while being encouraging. I was not feeling good at all, so it was nice to have some friendly faces around. But I had to finish this race, so I had to start running again and leave them behind. I tried to find run/walk intervals that I could sustain, and did pretty well for a little while. The headlamp was a godsend, as I’d run with it all winter, following the little spot of light ahead of me on the ground was comforting and it allowed me to keep running.

Somewhere around the 18 mile mark, my stomach started really not feeling well. I stopped by the side of the road and threw up in the darkness. I’d taken a chance and tried the pepsi at the aid station, so I figured it hadn’t set well. I was hoping that my stomach would start to feel better, since I’d heard that sometimes happened. Since it was my stomach that had been holding me back more than my legs, I’d be able to run much more comfortably if it eased up.

Alas, that was not to be and my running intervals got shorter and the walking intervals got longer. By now, I was back in town and it was nice to be amongst the street lights and civilization again. I was wishing I could run more, but my body was just not having it. I’d try to run short intervals and my stomach would shut that idea right down. I still had five or so miles to go and I was feeling pretty miserable. And to make matters worse, I looked ahead to see these shady customers on a street corner (you’ll have to imagine M with them snapping pictures for the full visual):

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It’s really hard to see your friends when you are feeling like crap and know that you still have what still feels like a long way to go (even if it’s only four miles) You want to see your friends when you’re running and feeling awesome so you can give them a thumbs up or a jaunty wave as you sprint by. Not stagger past like some sort of zombie and hope you don’t barf on them. I tried to put on a good face, but they weren’t fooled at all. (I can’t imagine anyone would have been, even if they had just met me.) I handed off my headlamp to T, since I didn’t need it any more.

I know it was hard on them to see me like that and I could see the worry in their expressions. Not making matters any better was the state of the folks around me. There was a woman that I’d passed who was walking bent sideways at a nearly 90-degree angle, holding her side in obvious pain. She apparently collapsed onto the curb as she passed T, M & J and they signaled the ambulance that had been following behind her. All of this happened behind me, so I didn’t actually see it but it added to the general sense of how intense and crazy this event is at the back of the pack.

I tried to run/walk between the light posts – run to one light post, walk to the next. There were sporadic groups of spectators sitting on the street and cheering. As I passed two guys, I suddenly realized I was about to throw up again. I tried to make it as far from the two guys as possible because I didn’t think they deserved that. This time my body was clearly trying to get rid of every bit of liquid, which needless to say is a little scary when you still have three miles left to walk. (Oh, and to the spectator who told me I was “almost done.” and “Good job” WHILE I was barfing – F-you!) Plus, now when I’d try to run I’d get a sharp pain in my side that felt like my rib was stabbing me in the kidney. So, I tried to walk as fast as I could and get this thing over with.

After what felt like an eternity (and getting way too close to midnight for my comfort) I rounded the final corner toward the finish line. My cheering squad was there and were so great. T came alongside me and encouraged my poor miserable self as I staggered along:

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By now, I just wanted to be done and stop moving. But as I got to the end of the street and made the left turn away from the finish line that I’d made at the start of this adventure, it looked like forever. That jaunty half mile out and back looked like five miles, at least. Plus, you could hear the announcer talking about how we only had 20 minutes until midnight and they wanted to cheer as many folks in as they could. It seemed impossible that I’d make it all that way, even though intellectually I knew it wasn’t that far.

I could see a pair of racers ahead of me and as I trudged along, I willed them to get to the turnaround. Finally, misery and the desire to be finished drove me to try running again. I’d make it about five steps before the rib stabbing and general stomach distress would force me to return to walking. But repeating that a few times helped me get to the turnaround quicker and pass the people ahead of me.

Before I knew it, I was at the big arch that entered the finishing chute. I was hoping it wasn’t too far to the line, but beyond that I didn’t give too much thought about it. But as I crossed through that arch, the world completely changed – from dark to light, quiet to noisy and solitary to overwhelmingly crowded. There were floodlights and grandstands that were overflowing with people who were cheering as loud as they could. People were reaching out to high-five me and I listed to the left side of the chute to oblige them. (Unfortunately, all of my friends and well-wishers were on the right hand side. Boo!) M got a photo of me in the chute that gives some idea of the vibe:

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Finally, I crossed the line and finished the race. They apparently had a big screen so people in the stands could see and M got a few pictures of me on the big screen:

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After I crossed the line, someone put a medal around my neck (which proceeded to bang against my stomach) and a volunteer rushed out to help me. She helped me get my t-shirt and some water:

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I couldn’t believe I was finally done:

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And then I got to give T a big hug:

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And regaled them with some story or another:

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(I can’t believe I had enough energy for that.) I went over to where you got your picture taken and then joined my cheering squad for a little sit-down on the grass. My gang had my after race bag and were eagerly trying to anticipate what I’d need/want. The first order of business was to change out of my running shoes for the ugly but comfortable Crocs:

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I was overwhelmed with the enormity of what I’d been through and how much tougher it was than I’d been expecting:

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And then a little friend came over to congratulate me:

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After a little rest, I felt like I could walk the few blocks to the car. Unfortunately, I made it about ten steps before I needed to sit down again (all right, maybe lay down.) So T stayed with me while M&J went to bring the car in closer. I felt like I was on the downward slide of a really bad night of drinking – my stomach was a mess, my head was spinning and everything was sort of incomprehensible. But I made it home without any unpleasant incidents in M’s car.

Erin was still up and recovering on the couch when we got home, so she and I compared race notes while I sipped some ginger ale and had a few boiled potatoes. Everyone was exhausted, so one by one they went off to bed. T sat with me while I took an Epsom Salt bath and had some more ginger ale and then it was off to bed for us. Ironman day was over at last.

IMC RR – Part 3: the bike leg

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After my fabulous swim, I was feeling awesome about my race. They have volunteers to help you get your wetsuit off, which I have never had at a race before, so I was a bit unclear of how to do it. Luckily, they were way better at it and directed me to lay down (which is hard when you’ve just gotten up from swimming) and had my wetsuit off before I knew it. I grabbed my bag and headed into the tent. A bored-looking teenager wandered by, dumped out my bag and wandered off. Another volunteer asked me if I wanted help, but I felt like I was doing okay so I said no. Then a third, more proactive volunteer started helping me (this is how I was last year, so I just let her.) She got me into my jersey, my shoes & socks and had everything all organized. I drank my ensure and ate a banana, then hit the sunblock and the porta-potties before I grabbed my bike and headed out.

Riding down Main street was incredible. There were tons of people cheering and I felt great. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this race, it felt surreal. The first 40 miles of the bike are mostly downhill and have a tailwind. I was told over and over that you need to take it easy on this section and not go too hard, so I tried to do just that and not mind the folks passing me. I figured I’d either pass them back later or they were faster than me. Over and over, all that ran through my head was “Holy crap, you’re doing an f-ing Ironman!” I think that was because it felt so much like just another training ride.

Before I knew it, I could see the Husky gas station with it’s giant Canadian flag that signals the turn onto the first big climb: Richter Pass. Richter is a 6-mile climb, that’s not really steep, but it is long and you still have a fair amount of bike course left to go, so you need to take it easy. There were a ton of people up spectating and cheering up there, so it was pretty cool. I was trying find an easy pace, but in order to keep the cadence that felt good, I had to pass some of the slower folks (Since not that long ago, I would have been one of the folks walking her bike up Richter – this was a major milestone in my training) I actually passed a fair number of people, which was awesome. The crowds loved my Curious George bike jersey and were generally such a hoot. Before I knew it, I’d reached the top of the climb and was able to enjoy the awesome descent.

The next section had what the course description calls rollers, but those of us who actually have to ride it call hills. (Do the people that write course descriptions even know what a roller is? If there isn’t enough momentum from the downhill to go most of the way up the next hill, it’s not a roller. Get it?) It was ridiculously beautiful with bucolic farmland, orchards, etc. I tried to look at the scenery as I chugged up the hills and did my usual math-impaired projections of finishing time based on current pace. When you really suck at math, it can take a surprisingly long time to do this and it keeps me occupied: (Okay, if I’m going 15 miles an hour and I have to ride 112 miles, I’ll be done in 4 hours, no wait… okay 112 divided by 7, carry the one… ) and you get the idea of how long stretches of time would go by.

The section of the course that I’d heard was one of the hardest was the out-and-back section and boy were they not kidding. It’s very mentally tough to go the “wrong way” when you’ve been riding toward town, not to mention seeing all of the people who are ahead of you, headed in the “right direction.” But this was the section where the bike special needs bags were and I was very much looking forward to getting my cold bottle of sports drink. It was a more convoluted section than the usual out-and-back that I’ve encountered before – you sort of went in a big square, but I got to see Erin, who was looking strong and the special needs was closer than I was expecting, which was awesome.

Cheered by my ice-cold drink and pita chips, I finished out the out-and-back and was on my way. I was starting to see some really rough folks out there, so no matter how bad I was feeling, I was doing great compared to them! There was one last big climb at Yellow Lake and I wasn’t sure where it started. I’d heard there was a long false flat leading up to it, but with the headwind we had, everything felt like a false-flat. Finally, we started climbing and I figured this had to be it. There was a rest area that we’d seen on our reconnaissance drive that T had told me they were going to be at, so I was very excited to see them. But when I got to the rest area they weren’t there which was really hard. I tried to tell myself that it was okay and that they might have gotten stuck in traffic or had some other issue and that I was going to be fine, etc.

I put my head down and kept climbing. As advertised, the climb wasn’t bad except for the fact that it was coming after 90 miles of riding. I was tired of being on my bike and ready to hit the downhill part when I heard some familiar voices. I came around the corner and there they were, my own personal cheering section:

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They’d made all of these funny signs for me which definitely made me laugh:

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M was taking tons of photos of me, so here’s a basic sampling – my approach:

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Getting closer:

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And I’m outta there…

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Now, I had about 20-25 miles left to ride. There was a nice long section of downhill, but there was also a pretty considerable headwind, so it wasn’t as fast as it would have been otherwise. I was definitely tired of being on the bike and ready to be done. I tried to go as fast as possible on the descents and keep relaxed. The last three miles heading into town was the hardest part. The headwind was bad, seeing all of the people already on the run course made me feel like I was further behind than I was and it was just generally tough.

I made it into the transition area and a volunteer grabbed my bike, I grabbed my second bag and headed into the change tent. I’d planned to totally change my clothes and I’d packed a wet washcloth in a baggie, which after sitting in the sun all day was warm and awesome. A nice volunteer helped me and chatted with me as I changed. Finally, it was time to hit the road for the final part of the day – the marathon.