As of last Sunday night at 9:36pm I am a 2x Ironman finisher. A forever reminder that I am capable of anything. A constant memory that I am able to push through pain, adversity and fatigue in order dig deeper into the core of who I am. I started the day with mediation on the rooftop of our hotel overlooking the lake. Meditator Bob and I have been working on some wild stuff in preparation for this race. In these quiet moments I felt all my tools sharp and ready for what lie ahead.
The vibe on race morning cannot be denied or duplicated without the actual experience. It is bustling, concentrated, patient and united. The energy is dense and supportive. Even though BJ and I were sharing the streets of Lake Placid with thousands of people I had every bit of space I needed to remain centered and peaceful. The reality that this 140.6 mile feat was in the very immediate future was soaking into my cells. Last minute preparation was methodical and complete. We headed to the lake.
As I filed through the athlete only area down to the beach I looked around at all the faces watching us. The spectators, the volunteers, the families, the loved ones; every person that was there solely for us, the competitors. Final jacking up of my wetsuit and sweet embrace with BJ, photo and into the water I went. No hesitation, never. I love to swim, I love the swim. I had the plan of starting up front and wide. Mirror lake offers only a narrow starting line for this race. Everything I had heard about this swim was no matter where you start you will not be able to avoid the crowd or the battle. I floated on my back and took in the scene. Pink and green caps for as far as I could see; in the water, on the beach, on the sides of the lake, up against the dock – 2800 people about to head out on a group swim all at once. ’Holy crap’ I yelled, ‘there’s alot of people here! Let’s get this party started!’ I managed to break a few of the serious expressions into smiles but for the most part people are quite stone faced at the swim start.
‘I’ll see you at the finish line, I promise’ says Mike Reilly – the voice of Ironman. The gun goes off, Rolling Stones start to play and the deafening sound of a mass start gets me horizontal and into battle. Mantra for this leg of the race was ‘I am balanced, calm and serene’. I timed it in with my strokes, kept my breath steady and remembered to look at the skyline I had been visualizing 3 times a week for 35 weeks as I trained for this swim. I remember spotting the red turn buoy in what seemed like a glimpse of time and soon after the first loop was complete. I saw BJ immediately and focused my efforts on getting his attention. The relief and joy on his face when we connected widened my smile and gave me a beautiful boost of energy for the second loop. This time I took it inside and got on that coveted line. I was having so much fun out there, smiling and laughing. The turn buoys were absolute mayhem. Got into a great bilateral breathing groove on the return and finished up with a 1:14:45.
The transition run from the lake is about a quarter mile, I remained in the moment and looked at the faces of the fans – screaming, yelling, cheering. The energy was now high and would remain at this level through midnight. Onto the bike and time to slow it down. I had strict heart rate guidelines from my coach and as I was in pursuit of a great run I followed them. For 8 hrs I held back when I could have gone faster. I slowed down my heart and speed despite the physical agony I was in and endured an extremely humbling 112 mile bike ride. I was being passed by hundreds of people, hundreds and hundreds of people but I stuck to my plan.
The first loop was by far the most challenging part of the day. It was difficult to assimilate the reality that I was going to be on the bike for 8 hours. At least 60 minutes longer than what my coach had estimated which is already a very long ride. That was a big nasty gulp of reality followed by a gnarly nose bleed at about mile 40 where it was confirmed that things can always get worse. I briefly thought about taking this opportunity to stop, get a tissue, maybe ask someone for it and get disqualified. I quickly realized that stopping was not a good idea at this point, I just needed to keep going. The bleeding eventually stopped, I decided to end the mental struggle and snap back into the girl I am. At just about 4 hours I got back into town and saw BJ as I picked up my special needs bag. I had told him how hard the first loop was and could feel emotion rising. He gave me some love and told me to get back on my bike and get out of town. The 2nd loop was although one of the most phyiscially painful 56 miles of my life I remained clear and optimistic for my marathon. I finished up the bike in 8:07:13.
I handed off my bike and was feeling quite disoriented, I grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the change tent. I drank some water, got myself reacquainted with being vertical and headed out on the run. As with all of my transition runs of late and my experience at Mooseman 70.3 my legs felt incredible. I felt incredible. My plan was to run the 1st two miles at 11:30 pace and monitor my heartrate (hr). After these first few miles which felt painfully slow, I targeted a hr of 151, sped things up and held those paces for the remainder of the marathon. I never stopped, I never had any issues with cramping or my GI tract, I drank every mile and stayed cool with ice and sponges. I used the mantra ‘I can do miraculous things with very little effort’ and practiced my meditative skills as Bob and I had planned for every step of the 26.2. This was one of the easiest marathons I have ever run. I passed so many people that I remember passed me on the first climb of the bike. They were walking, I was running, I never saw them again. At mile 20 I rewarded myself with coke at each aid station and stayed true to my nutrition plan to the end.
The final climb back into town was intense but there was no way I was going to stop running. I saw BJ at the hot corner just before mile 25 – he was so excited to see me, so proud of me. I headed out to the final turn around on Mirror Lake Drive then back into the thick of the crowd. I slapped the hands that were offered to me, I looked into the eyes of the people cheering me on and could feel that my smile was as big as they were saying it was.
I turned right at the bottom of the hill and left into the Olympic oval for my finish. I could feel the overflow of emotion, I looked up at the Legends of the Oval and soaked up the elite history of my surroundings. I made the final turn and was blinded by the screams, lights and cheers of the people in the stands, I was in the finish chute. I cruised under the arch and to my 2nd Ironman finish in a very patient 14 hours 36 minutes and 52 seconds.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give some shout outs at this point. To my husband BJ, there are no words to capture my gratitude for you. I love the life we’ve created together, thank you for doing it all with me. Mom, dad, family, friends – I thought about each of you out there, thank you for keeping me accountable and supported. Harry and Lhasa for the pre/post race big dog snuggle time, Meditator Bob for the profound mental prep, QT2 for the physical training, my team of massage therapists who kept my body healthy – thank you. Coach Patrick from Endurance Nation – thank you for the race day support, you took me in like I was one of your own. Vinu and the Fuel Belt race team – I love being a part of this community and look forward to more racing, more finishes and more life changing experiences in the future.