Monday, September 16, 2013

IRONMAN LOU

Finally. It has taken 3 weeks to write this. Abby is on the move and my free time is non existent at the moment. As she sleeps, I write quickly, so pardon typos.
Oops...see what happens when I open my computer to blog!!
Going into this race, I was tired as I said in my last post. My plan was since doing another IM in a couple of months, that this race would be practice and for fun. I knew I couldn't push on any level. I have nothing in my tank. However, when coach told me to cruise it, little did I know at the time just how much I would cruise and how much that cruising would cost me in time.

We set off from NC on Thursday evening at around 8pm in hopes that Abby would sleep en route. The  plan was to make it half way then stop off for the night for some rest. We made it to Knoxville and at around 1am, we checked into a hotel in Knoxville for the night. Luckily Abby stayed asleep and we were able to get a good 6 hours sleep in. We set off for Louisville the next morning and the trip seemed to take FOREVER!  While traveling with a baby, you have to stop off, loads and we did just that. We finally made it into Louisville with no time to spare before packet pick up ended. So straight to the Galt House we went and got my packet etc at 4:45 and OMG it was HOT out. HOT! Anyway, we decided to do early dinner at our fave...Blue Grass Brewing Co. They have the most amazing food and we absolutely love it! Dinner, then back to the room for some rest. Abby went to sleep around 9:30, thankfully, and I got settled and into bed around 11.

Up and at 'em early on Saturday to get to the practice swim.

We made it down with 30 minutes until time for athletes to get out of the water. We move extra slow apparently with baby ;) Anyway, I hopped into the murky Ohio River. The water was so brown and YUCK, but it is the Ohio River and it's no secret that it's dirty. For all you UK peeps, I have to say it's dirtier than the Thames if you can imagine that. Seriously!! So off I went in the murky water up river. The current was tough to swim against and it seemed it took forever to get to the first buoy. I made the turn and flew back. The current was strong and I was hoping that would make for a nice swim on race morn.

After swimming, we went back to the hotel so that I could pack up for the race. As usual, it took me nearly all afternoon. We headed down to transition, racked my bike and got set up. We had another early night and actually went back to BBC for dinner. Like I said....it's our fave.

Back to the room and I got Abby to sleep around 9:30 and prayed for a good night's sleep. It wasn't in the cards for me though. Nope, not before my 140.6 miles. I nursed Abby at 11 (yep, that's what a real Ironmom does the night before a race) and she went straight back to sleep. I finally settled in at 11:15 or so and then at 1:45...Abby was up. There was NO going back to sleep for any of us. I think she must be teething again and that makes for a restless babe.

I was so tired and just wanted to sleep. It was not to be. Time to get moving at 4am. A few splashes of cold water to the face and I was alert. It was the big day and tired or not, I was excited.

We made it to transition to check the bike etc around 4:45 and then took the very long walk to the swim start. Once there, we realized that I was going to be near the back of the line. We walked by what seemed at least 2000 athletes before getting to the end of the line. I wish that Louisville would change the way they do the swim start, it sure is a pain. Maybe having waves would be better? Oh well, I took my place in line and sat there with Abby for around an hour. Just sitting, just waiting.

Just sitting, waiting.
Finally, there was movement. The pro's had started. Our line started to move...slowly. I was excited and  ready to get the day going. I think I entered the water at 7:35. 35 minutes after the actual race start.

As soon as I was in...it was the usual blender of arms and legs. Nothing too bad until about 15 minutes into the swim. That's when the beating occurred. There were people backstroking, breast stroking, swimming in ways that I've never seen and causing pile ups. Just the usual Louisville swim if you don't start in the front. Been there, done that before and this time was no different. In fact, it was the worse yet. I took a swift blow to the face which stopped me. A guy was doing some sort of double arm backstroke and I got a good punch and small cut right to the eye. Didn't realize it at the time, but this would leave me a shiner for the next 2 weeks. Ugh.
Thanks Mr. Double Arm Back Stroker for the shiner

The swim was choppy and the current that was so nice the day before certainly wasn't the same on race day. I felt like I was fighting, fighting, fighting the entire swim. Slowest swim time yet.

I was glad to get out of that water!! OK, bad swim...all OK. Keep your head on and have a good bike T. That's what I was telling myself. Off on the bike, I felt great. For the first hour anyway.

I was relaxed, pedaling strong and felt good. That is until the heat cranked up. The hotter it got, the slower I went. I just sucked the life right out of me. I decided that I would stop at every aid station (which I something I have never done) to put ice down my top to try and cool off. These stops would cost me so much time and at special needs, I actually spent 15 minutes off the bike just trying to get my head back on right. I had made a decision to really cruise it out for the rest of the day. I had no other choice. To put this in perspective, my actual rolling time was 6:47, so I didn't realize until after the race I actually had stopped for a total of 23 minutes over the course of 112 miles. Unreal, but we do what we have to do.

At mile 80 ish, I wanted to throw in the towel as I got slower and slower and more tired. I could not take in one more ounce of my drink, it made me gag. I was able to choke down a gel and a little water. My head was spinning from the heat and humidity, but I cracked on. Time was ticking. At mile 100, I just wanted to end the day. I started thinking of reasons why I should stop and tried to remember the reasons I should keep going. As I headed back into town, I felt relieved. Oh, how glorious it was going to be to get off the bike. Oh wait, there is still a 26.2  mile run left. I rolled into t2 and have never been so glad to get out of the saddle. That is until my feet hit the ground.

After not racing for 2 years, there are some things I just simply forgot. One was to wear socks in my cycle shoes and baby powder to help soak up sweat. I didn't do either of these and when my feet hit the ground, I knew I was in trouble. I hobbled into the changing tent and sat down. The bottoms of my feet were completely blistered/wilted already and the skin was painful to touch. How the hell could I put on running shoes now? My feet were on fire. I sat there, contemplating, hesitating, wanting to call it a day. Ok, I can do this. I went to put on my socks....ouch! Next up, shoes. Double Ouch. It's going to be a looooong 26 miles. I stood up, changed into a different shirt as my tri top was dripping and uncomfortable (again something I have never done) put on my fuel belt, hat and glasses and after 15 minutes of contemplating (yep 15) I was off.

I started the run trying to switch to all things positive. Ignoring my feet. This year, the Louisville run course changed eliminating the bridge and to be honest I was happy about that. I starting running and around mile 1, I saw Rich and Abby. Abby was asleep and I had wanted so bad to just sit down and hold her. I moaned to Rich for a minute about my troubles and my tummy not cooperating anymore and he told me to try and drink cola and broth to get me through.

I felt okay for the first couple of miles and was actually smiling. It's so exciting and such a rush when there's a huge crowd!!

There were so many people out in the beginning of the run course. It was really nice. After mile 4, I began to fall apart again and I knew it was going to be a long evening. I was able to get in a little Cola, actually it was Sams Cola which is not like Coke, it's gross, but I managed to suck down the sugary yuckiness to keep me going to the next aid station. After a while, I began sipping on chicken broth. The salt in it actually made me feel better for a while. Mile after mile, walking, trotting, surviving, trying to eat, trying to drink, I was managing. At the turnaround for the second lap, I saw Rich and Abby again. This time Abby was awake and I grabbed her. I started to sob. I missed her and I didn't want to put her down. She gave me kisses and I handed her back off to Rich and carried on. That was tough. I saw Colleen with her baby Abby a minute or so later and was sobbing and saying I just wanted to stop and how I missed my Abby. She cheered me on and it gave me some strength again to march forward. Thanks Coleen :)  Back out on the course, after mile 14 ish, I got to the point where I couldn't take in anymore Cola, anymore water, and barely anymore broth. Water hit my gut like a bomb and it made me so nauseous. Same with the Cola. I tried to eat a grape, not happening. So just like that, and like in past races....I had to manage on empty. Completely empty. Nothing in the tank for the remainder of the race.  I began to feel dizzy around mile 20 and had to shake it out several times. I knew I would finish, that was never a question. Did I have the day that I had wanted? Absolutely not. But this is Ironman and not flowerman like coach always says. It's not easy, or everyone would do it...right?

I set out in this race to use it as a race to get my feet wet again after having a baby 11 months ago. To learn, to remember. And I certainly learned from it. I definitely learned not to fanny about. Between transitions and aid station stops, those all in total cost me over an hour in time. Oh well, it had to be done. When all goes wrong and when you are having a rough day, I cannot begin to even explain the conversations that you have with yourself out there. It becomes you versus the mind and the body. The body says quit now, the mind argues back, it's like having a little devil voice on one shoulder and the angel voice on the other. The negative voices are strong and try and pull you down and tell you to quit, but the positive voice, even though small at the time, gets louder and louder as the miles tick by. It begins screaming at you..."YOU CAN DO IT"and then eventually, you flick that little voice of negativity off your shoulder and you put your head down and say "I CAN and I WILL" and that my friends is what Ironman is about. Being strong, having courage and getting it done. No matter what. The voice that wins when everything hurts and you just want to lay down and go to sleep. That's the voice that keeps most of us endurance athletes going. It's the voice of mental strength. I didn't realize how strong mine was until this race.

Even though this IM would be my slowest, even slower than my very first, I knew it would be ok. After all, no matter how long it takes or how much it hurts, when you cross the finish line of 140.6 miles....you feel like you're on top of the world. I was high fiving everyone down that finishing chute and couldn't have been happier in the moment. I felt like I was floating, knowing I had pushed through so many times when I had wanted to quit that day. I was so happy to cross the line and happy to become and Ironman once again. Not only that, the word has taken on a whole new meaning. Want to test your grit? Try never sleeping, try to get by on exhaustion while trying to train and raising an infant, and then do 140.6 miles. I tested my grit and I earned that title. I own it and am proud of it. Yep. I know there are lots of others out there with small kids who get it done, people who face adversity, people who work all day or all night, and still get it done. To me, these are the real honey badgers!


It's easy to get through a race on a good day. It's much harder to get through a race when you are having a bad day. The one thing I've learned over the years is that we all have good days, and we all have bad days, but at the end of those days, when we have finished something that we have set out to do, that we train for, that we work hard for, that we love, no matter how tough, no matter how exhausting... the finish is the most glorious reward.


And that my friends is why I always go back for more. Onwards and upwards. IM Florida = 8 weeks away and you can bet your sweet asses, I will have a much better day and am looking forward to it...as long as I can get Abby to sleep ;)

And I leave you with this, one of my faves that I think about when the going gets rough out there.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt 


Cheers!

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