Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Never Give Up - I am an Ironman 70.3!!

First, I apologize for not letting you all know my race number (which was 1391).  Everyone in my group had technical difficulties with their iPhone (the person forgot the charger), blackberry (the person's will not continue to hold a charge), or had a technically challenged phone (like me).  And for the evil guy at the race weigh in (I raced Athena 39 & Under) who told me to "stop eating McDonalds" when I commented that the scale said it was more than I thought ... I'd been at the doctor the day before and it was 5 pounds lighter.  I know I didn't gain 5 lbs in a day. You're lucky I only responded "I don't eat McDonalds" and not what I was thinking... my race result was in a small part for you...and besides I look pretty good!

I AM AN IRONMAN 70.3!  I am so stinkin' proud of myself and my group.  One person who raced with us and who is working on becoming an elite got a PR.  Those of us who were doing our 1st 70.3 all finished, and were proud of our times too. 

Here's my race report! (I woke up race morning with my song "Shiny Medal" in my head...)

Overall time: 7:39:27* (Reported time: 8:11:27. More on this later.)

1.2 mile Swim: 31:44

Before the swim start, I was so nervous I wanted to throw up and possibly run away.  But I kept trying to keep myself calm and to keep my flight response from kicking in.  I looked for Woman in Motion and found her when a friend of hers called her name... it was great to meet her in person!  Sherry is super nice and it was great to meet her. 

Then it was time to get in the water.  The water was COLD! And God love me, I didnt' think about where I got in the water and ended up in the middle with the fast girls.  I knew they were fast because I had met one the day before because she is a friend of one of the others in our group.  She's almost an elite.  But I couldnt' get out at this point and I couldn't move either because we were about to start.  It made me even more nervous to be quite honest.

Then we were off.  At first I was doing great.  Swimming along but then no one was breaking away from me so the bubbles and feet kept coming and there was no where else for me to go.  Then I hit a bunch of seaweed that wrapped around my neck and got caught in the wetsuit. So what happened?  I panicked.  God love me.  Coach and I have discussed that this next year I just need to get used to races with lots of people because I can swim fast when I'm not panicking.

And thank you to the swimmer who stopped and asked me if I was ok when I was just bobbing along.  It helped me realize I was okay and that I could do this.  After 2 big breaths, off I went.  I caught up with a lot of people who had passed me during my panic and ended up with 31:44.  I'm pretty sure I was at least bobbing and panicking for about 3-5 minutes, but who knows.

I was frustrated with myself as I left the water because I could have swum faster, but tried to shake it off and pull myself together because I was not going to give up.

T1: 6:22

Obviously there is huge room for improvement here.  Of course, the main reason my T1 was so long was... I couldn't find my bike.  I was on the right row running up and down and I couldn't find it.  Finally, I walked and found it.  My guess is I was still a little discombobulated from the swim.  I think I can safely knock of at least 3 minutes on this just by finding my bike (next time I'll put something brightly colored on the bar or something).  But it is what it is.

56 mile Bike: 3:44:00 (Avg. 15 mph)  Reported Time: 4:26:00

The bike.  When you drive this course (as we did the day before), it appears less hilly than it is.  The course really wasn't bad.  I enjoyed it a lot, but what was not discernable in the car was that the "flats" really aren't flat.  It's more like constant but minor uphills or constant but minor downhills are the "flats" and the hills are what they are... which turned out to be nothing more than 2% grades although some were short making it more difficult than others.  I rather enjoyed it.  There could have been better road surfaces - lots of cracks in the road with holes that you couldn't see until you were right upon them.  Luckily we had ridden the course (via car) the day before so I already knew about the cracks and was doing my best to avoid them - not to mention pulling on bike shorts over my tri shorts after the swim so I could prevent tender parts therefore letting me ride my best race.  (I slow down considerably when I am having pain in the saddle.)

The problem though was going up the hill right before the aid station at mile 18, my chain popped.  I heard all sorts of crazy noise and realized my back tire wasn't really moving.  I thought maybe the chain had jumped so I tried to shift (bad idea).  More awful noise and the realization that if I didn't unclip, I was crashing.  I unclipped safely and got to the side the best I could and walked up the rest of the hill.  It killed me to be walking my bike.  It killed me even more when all the well meaning people who passed me said "You're doing great! You can do this!"  I wanted to scream back at them "it's not me, it's my F'N bike."  But I didn't.  I'd probably be one of those encouraging people if I saw someone like that too.  I know this because later when I was passing people on the bike course who were having a hard time, I shouted words of encouragement to them.

Anyway.  I made it to the aid station (thank goodness this is where I popped my chain, right?).  Even with walking that last bit of the hill, I had done the first 18 miles in 1:06:04.  I looked at my watch when I hit the aid station.  I then talked to someone who radioed trying to find the bike mechanic.  I then waited and waited.  More than 32 minutes later, the mechanic had arrived, fixed my bike chain and the derailleur and told me that if I hadn't gotten off the bike when I did, I probably would have messed up my bike to the point that he wouldn't have been able to fix it on the course.

Thankful but a little frustrated in the lost time and all the people who had passed me, I was back in business.  I tackled the hills and didn't even use the brakes on the downhills.  Even the big downhills where I got up to 30.7 mph.  So that in and of itself is a major accomplishment for me.  I love the feather the brakes when I get scared and I didn't do it once.  Now, I didn't say I wasn't tempted, but I didn't do it.

Facing an awful headwind on the last few miles into T2 was something.  But I still passed a couple of people. : )

T2: 3:52

This of course should be faster, but based on T1 was quite the improvement.  I'm not really sure why it took as long as it did other than I think I may have walked part of the way out of the transition area without thinking about it, and then started running.  At least I found my spot easily this time. : )

13.1 mile run: 3:03:43  (1st 7 miles average of 14:33/mi.; last 6.1 miles average 13:24/mi.)

The run.  My legs weren't hurting that badly at first. On the 2nd half my hips would start to hurt and my back would act up during the last 4 miles, but as you can see, I ignored it the best I could.  It sounds sad, but I was running the best I could on the 1st half.  I had forgotten my electrolytes back on the bike.  Not to mention that at mile 3, I realized I forgot to pull off the bike shorts I had put on over my tri shorts to prevent an ouchy ride.  But I wasn't uncomfortable in them, so it didn't really matter.  I had my gels and was eating them every 2 miles or so as planned.

The water stops were not 1.2 miles apart as they said they were... and if they were, it certainly didn't feel like they were.  And they had given out all of the sponges to the early runners - 3 to a person.  No wonder there weren't any left for the back of the packers like me.

But I was not giving up.  I started the run around 1:30ish and I knew I had until 5:06 pm until I ran out of time.  I was determined not to DNF because of time.  I had made it through a 32 minute bike nightmare, this I could do.  So, despite having to pee I passed up all of the port-a-potties and had even decided that if I needed to, I would pee on myself if that meant finishing in time.  Luckily, it didn't come to that.

Coming up on the 7 mile marker, a wonderful, wonderful man offered me a coke.  Coach had told me that a coke part way through a long run was one of the best things ever, so I said yes.  I think God sent that man and that coke to me because after I drank half of the mini bottle he gave me, it was like I had a new lease on life.

The other person that God sent me was a lovely woman named Amy who was doing the race with Team in Training in honor of her father who 18 months before had been diagnosed with Leukemia and just that week had found out he was in remission.  I walked a moment or two with her, introduced myself and told her I did an event for TNT this year and planned to do one next year as well.  We came up on an army sargeant volunteering with his new recruits at the water stations who poured cold water down our backs.  It was awesome!

I told Amy I needed to keep doing my 4:1's so I could make sure I finished the race and invited her to run with me.  It was such a blessing that she took me up on it.  She was running faster than I had been but not at a pace I couldn't keep up with... and I tended to walk faster than she did.  The longer into the miles we got, the more we pulled each other along.  We did a couple of 3:2's in there too when the going got tough but we both were determined to finish and finish strong.  Amy made the comment at one point that it was hard to keep going but then she thought of cancer patients and how they always had to keep going even when it seemed so hard.  The rest of the race didn't seem so bad after that comment.

People we didn't know were out there cheering for us.  They saw us running our 4:1's and racers who had finished yelled things like "that's the spirit! Keep running!"  and bystanders who didn't know us at all would ring cow bells.  One woman looked at me and I guess I looked like I needed encouragement and she shouted out "You can do this!  You are an Ironwoman, I just know it!"  I yelled out "Thanks!"  As I passed her husband asked if she knew me, and I heard her say "No, but she looked like she needed a friend."  All of these people out there helped me finish without knowing it. 

Amy and I ended up finishing together and we hugged each other and told each other we couldn't have done it without each other.  We finished with more than 1/2 an hour to spare.  So, thank you Amy from Virginia!  Running with you let me negative split my run and have a great time doing it!

I can't wait to see the finish photo of me at the end.  I was crying but trying not to cry, so my face is probably distorted into a terrible look, but believe me when I say it was the look of victory and the emotion of the entire journey I have taken.   It was (and is) the best feeling in the entire world.

I'm exhausted and aching at the moment, but I am thrilled and happy.  I am an IRONMAN 70.3!

I already know what I want to do next.  This next year, I plan to work on getting faster.  I'm going to focus on sprint and olympic distance triathlons, I may do a couple of road races (running).  I'd like to work in some weight training (at least in the off season) too.  Once I get faster, perhaps in 2011, I'll do another Ironman 70.3.  I liked the race and enjoyed the distance, but I want to be faster and more ready.  I think the Ironman 70.3 was harder than giving birth, and it was an amazing experience.  My only regret was that Mr. Darcy and the girls were not there to see me cross the finish line, but at the same time I know it was easier on them all to be at home.  Maybe for my next Ironman 70.3, they'll be there.

They did leave me a wonderful message on my cellphone (they'd been checking the race tracker off and on all day) that made me cry.  As did Angela's sister, Anna.  I thought a good bit about Angela on the race course, especially the run, so the call from Anna was wonderful in 2 ways - Anna herself is great but it also was as though Angela called me too.

I am so proud of myself at this moment.  A year ago running 2 minutes straight was super hard, and now I am an Ironman 70.3.  Coach told me that 1% of 1% of the world's population does an Ironman 70.3 or farther.  And I am now one of them.... and I have a sticker for my car, a t-shirt, a finisher's medal, and a necklace (a gift from Coach and Missy) to prove it.  I will wear them all with pride!

One last thing that I cannot forget to say is Thank You to Mr. Darcy and to Angelfish and Ladybug.  They have sacrificed their time, energy and money into letting me have the time in my life to train and to buy those things I needed for training.   Without Mr. Darcy's undying dedication on Sunday mornings and mornings that he got the girls ready while I trained, this wouldn't have been possible.  That's why this is not only my accomplishment, but theirs too.


  1. Awesome race report!! Congratulations!!!

  2. Congrats babe, I'm so proud of you!!!

  3. I am SOOO proud of you... AND it was SOOO nice to meet you! We hit it off very well didn't we! I think if we lived closer to each other, we would be great training pals!!! :o)

    I am SO freakin' sorry to hear about what happened to you on your bike (or rather, what happened to your bike). I saw lots of mechanical issues out there and the sadness in the athlete's faces while they were waiting for the 'van'. I hate knowing that you had to deal with that too. Oh, yuck! What a positive attitude you had, though. Good for you!

    Hey... after mile 5 of the run, I put myself on the 4:1 walk plan too! Just in the nick of time. I thought my legs were going to fall off. I'm also super appreciative to hear another FL athlete mention that the bike course had more 'secret' elevation than it let on initially. I agree that nothing was super steep, but dang... I felt like I was either going up or down the entire time to some degree. I still want to know where those 'flats' were? LOL! Flat was what the run was... there was no 'flat' on the bike course. :o)

    I'm going to get my RR up sometime in the next month! LOL! But I am like you... on top of the world and super stoled to have finished successfully! Woo-hoo! Go us!!!

    Rest up well!!!!

  4. That is REALLY REALLY Cool!! Congratulations Big Time!!

  5. really enjoyed reading your race report. i've got my first 70.3 next year, eeeeeek. excellent work; congrats on your first HIM!

  6. Glad I found your race report! Hope you are still feeling the sense of accomplishment when you think about this race.

    I am currently training for my first HIM...Augusta 70.3 in about 8 weeks. My husband is training as well so that presents it's own issues with balancing our family life but we are enjoying the challenge.

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I can't wait to get out there and give it my all.