Give me a minute…I need to breathe. This past week was a whirlwind from start to end. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through. Not only was it Ironman Weekend but Monday the kids and I shot two videos for Drury Hotel, Wednesday E had his school picnic and Thursday I had a HUGE presentation for work. Luckily all of that went well. So Friday Scott and I took off for Chattanooga. 6 and half hours from St. Louis it was the only 70.3 that worked for the crazy summer schedule we have planned.
All week I had been obsessing over the weather that showed 80% or better chance of storms all day Sunday. Talk about discouraging. I was so afraid we would get all the way down there and they would cancel it. NOT COOL. But off we went. We got in late Friday night. Slept in, and around 9:00 walked over to the Athlete Village. Oh did I mention we were right across the street? PERFECT! I got my bike checked, got my registration number and stopped in the merchandise tent for a few goodies. Normally I don’t buy a lot of race stuff but this is a once in a lifetime event for me so I stocked up.
Chattanooga has an awesome river front…thriving with restaurants and attractions. Really cool town. We ate right across from the village and met up with St. Louis Triclub members. Funny, I’m a member of the club but rarely make it to meeting so this was a first meeting for me. But I welcomed the support and comrade and they were all super awesome, eager to share advice and just experience this together!
We relaxed a little before heading to the athlete briefing and bike check in. With rain on the horizon, I scurried to find plastic bags to cover the seat and aero bars. I haven’t ever left it out in the rain so I was a little nervous but spoiler alert, it survived. 😊
We ate dinner around 4:30, if you can call what I ate dinner. My stomach was a ball of nerves. When the waiter brought me what I ordered, a bowl of whole wheat pasta with marinara and meatballs, I knew I couldn’t eat it. So he was nice enough to exchange it for this (by my request). It was the only thing I could eat before college volleyball tourneys so I knew it would go down. Good choice.
We went back to the hotel room and prepped for what felt like forever. Stuff in bags all over the place, all prepared for the inevitable rain forecasted for Sunday. Finally at 7, I gave up, I couldn’t stare at this stuff anymore. It was as good as it was gonna get.
Sunday started at 4:30. I woke up and looked out the window and what do you think I saw…NO RAIN. In fact, it was kind of clear as well as I could see at 4:30. Excited, I kissed scott and headed to transition to setup. I laid my stuff out and took my swim stuff to meet the St. Louis Crew. Chattanooga is a point to point swim so we shuttled to the start a mile upstream. We sat for a couple hours, talked to all the athletes around us and just enjoyed the calm before the storm (pun intended). The swim here is self seeding so we had to kind of find our way into the right spot. 40 minutes ish…Sure that’s what I had intended. 😉
At 6:50, the pros took off. They stayed on route as it was laid out in the book but watching them I could tell they were struggling. It freaked me out a little. Then after a few minutes of silence, the race announcer announced that they were pulling the swim course in to eliminate the upstream part. HALLELUJAH!
So at 7:35, I jumped in and took off. The first 5 minutes I spent just trying NOT to throw up. I’ve been working towards this goal for 6 months and here it was….all happening right now. Vomit worthy moment for sure. Then another 5 minutes trying to find my groove. I felt like a slug. Figuring out my sighting points and sticking to them was tough. I found myself passing people which I didn’t expect. Doing so is SUPER hard in murky water. But I found a rhythm and forgot about the time. When I finally got out of the river, I looked down…22:02. HOLY SHIT! I was going for 2:05 every 100 yards. This was an entire 30 sec faster per 100. Couldn’t believe it. Thanks XTERRA wetsuit and current!
I climbed out of the river and immediately started stripping the wetsuit. Found a wetsuit stripper for the rest and before I knew it the suit was in hand and I was off.
Still no rain! WHAT?! My stomach still wasn’t right so I hit the bathroom hoping to vomit and nothing. Couldn’t even pee. REALLY uncomfortable feeling. I unracked my bike, put on my helmet and didn’t let myself think about the 56 miles. This was the part I feared the most. The book said over 2500 feet of climbing and rolling hills. I know Tennessee and know that was probably an understatement of what I was about to encounter.
The first 10 were just getting out of town. I didn’t really think about anything but where we were going. I didn’t preview the course. It would’ve just added to the nerves. So it was all new. The hills started right away but were REALLY manageable or so I thought. What I didn’t realize at the time was I wasn’t staying in aero position enough but I didn’t care, I was climbing hills! Coming down the hills FAST…sometimes up to 35 mph.
20 miles…holy crap this isn’t so bad. Then the internal doubter voiced up…
“You still have 36 miles. Don’t get too cocky. Yep that’s right you heard me 3…6…chew on that a while”
Oh boy! I had heard about this hill at 25 too. It was the worst. Rumor had it, people walked their bikes. YIKES! So I started mentally prepping. My plan was to drop the big ring and spin like hell. The hill was tough. Really tough but luckily on the other side was the immediate and fast downhill. I didn’t even bother trying to pick up speed, just coasted down. The rest of the bike was pretty good, except I could never get my rhythm in aero. I popped up way too much (remember that). Why does it matter? Staying in aero using different muscles in your legs keeping them fresh for the run. (see where this is going?) By mile 45, I was in a bad place mentally. I knew I only had 11 miles left but every one of them hurt. It was all in my hips I had drank and ate pretty well, (I ate so I knew it wasn’t cramping. Probably just lack of experience on the bike. But I trudged on, telling myself I had come too far now to quit.
“Just get to the run. I’m comfortable there.”
Then we rounded the corner and I could see the transition area. HOLY SHIT! I did it. I couldn’t believe it. I racked my bike and ran the LONG way out of transition. It was a pain in the ass.
Starting the run, I told myself I would ease into it. Take the first couple miles easy. I saw Scott right at the beginning and cherished his smile and encouraging words. After I left him, the wheels fell off. WAY too early. Hips cramped up and quads weren’t happy about my lack of discipline on the bike. I was walking. But two things were true at this point.
- I had made it past the bike WELL within the cut-off. If you didn’t finish both events in 5:30, they wouldn’t let you run. So I was comforted by that.
- I had plenty of time for the run.
So I decided to let go of the stress and just take it stride for stride. This race course is two loops of the same route. Which I wasn’t a big fan of but it also meant you stayed in pretty populated areas. There were almost always people along the route cheering you on. There were rest stops about every mile and they had everything you could want. Sponges, water, Gatorade, food, gels, Vaseline and really energetic supports. I stopped at every one. I could feel my muscles begging for fuel.
You know what’s great about triathlon? Everyone is so encouraging. Sure there are some a**holes out there but at the back of the pack where I was, everyone is supportive and encouraging. I like the back of the pack. It’s my home. 😊
The run was pretty much run/walk the entire distance. There were some pretty rough hills that I didn’t even attempt to run up. Stride by stride, I just thought about Scott waiting for me. Around mile 7 I finally started letting myself think about what it would feel like to cross the finish line. I finally started to believe it would happen. I’m not over exaggerating. Guys, this was one goal I wasn’t sure I could reach. I didn’t believe in myself. (Big mistake). I consider myself a very average athlete and this felt like a very “above average” goal. One you just can’t go out and “try”. Training is a MUST.
When I saw the sign for mile 10 I started to cry. This WAS happening. I WAS going to finish even if it meant crawling across the finishline (which is legal). Mile 11 and 12 were more hills but I just told my inner voice to shut the f up and lets do this. Around mile 12.5 you can hear the announcer calling all the finishers. Damn! I’m crying again at the thought of him announcing my name.
Ironman knows how to do a finishline. The last quarter mile is on a red carpet, surrounded by people cheering your name. I tried so hard to speed up but my right calf started cramping and I stumbled. At this point I’m crying, limp running and hearing my name. I look up again and there’s scott, his timing is impeccable. He told me he was proud of me and that’s all I needed to hear to push myself across the finishline. I think when I told you I had visions of doing this WAYY back, I talked about the ugly cry. The one that’s uncontrollable. The one that only shows itself when you’re so broken down that it’s all that’s left. Well, that’s exactly what came out. A volunteer hugged me, and I was just so fortunate to be done. It was almost an out of body experience. I could hear myself saying
“I did it. Holy cow I did it!”
I proudly accepted the medal I’ve been dreaming about for months and started walking back to find scott. Still crying, Scott gave me a huge hug.
We met up outside the transition area and I went in to get my gear. Surprisingly, I could still walk. I wanted to scour the merchandise tent for the backpack. My reward for myself if I finished and would you know it was half off!? SWEET! You know where I’ll be taking that thing? EVERYWHERE.
We schlepped it all back to the room and I instantly got in the shower. Do you know how good a shower feels after 7 hours of swimming, biking and running? It feels like heaven. I brought Epson salts and soaked for a little while. I could feel my muscles finally releasing. It was about that time that I looked down and saw the tan line on my legs that will probably take all summer to get rid off. Ok by me!
I took sometime to stretch, finally checked my phone and just enjoyed having my legs up. So after packing up, we started for home. Because mom duties don’t take a break just because I did something like that. I get to take E’s class on a field trip the next day. Oh joy!
UPDATE ON 5/25/17: One of the questions I’ve gotten a lot since the race What was my first meal of choice after the race? My answer…FRIED PICKLES and Chocolate Milk! So good, I craved salt for obvious reasons and I know I needed the protein so they just hit the spot!
I’m writing this in the car on the way home. Reliving every painful moment and still in shock. That just happened. I spent almost an entire workday swimming, biking and running. The thought is crazy. I’m looking forward to taking a week off. To not being on a training plan but this isn’t the end of my triathlon season. I’m planning a few more, much shorter and local. So stay tuned.
Thank you all for coming along on this journey with me. Your constant support and encouragement helped more than you know! So for now, I’m out…I need some rest. Don’t ever underestimate your support system. You have all been here for me and I’m there for you!