Let me just start off with letting you know that I was in full force yesterday, I was completely immersed in my yogitriathlete world. Triathlon and yoga have taught me that the key to success on the course is to relax into your body. Whatever you feel calmly lean into it, stay in the now, KNOW your body like a freaking champ and LET GO of your expectation. There is so much more to the adventure and it’s just waiting there for everyone to discover it.
The alarms were set to go off at 3:50am. I went to bed at 8pm, read a bit about samadhi in the yoga sutras and fell off to sleep reciting the sacred Ho’oponopono healing chant in my head. This is very calming and peaceful way to begin rest. Despite the army of alarms we had set, I woke up energized at 3:40am. First words out of my mouth, ‘it’s half ironman day, it’s half ironman day!’. Brushed my teeth and sat quietly back down on the bed for a quick meditation. Then for the next 40 minutes Beej was a machine packing the car and I was a machine getting my pre-race breakfast in; a huge task in and of itself. I was not hungry but I knew getting my applesauce, vega and banana in 3-hours prior to my start was of huge importance. To say I felt full after breakfast is a vast understatement but I knew my body would digest it well over the next 3 hours. We got to the race site and final preparations were underway: another meditation, nutrition on bike, gear ready to go, BJ getting his coffee fix. By the time I was in my wetsuit and standing with my same color caps, my stomach felt amazing and I was charged for the swim.
After busting out some dance moves with my fellow beauties we advanced into the water for the start. I found myself in the second row on the far outside. I was totally calm then the voice came in. ’What the hell are you doing over here? Last time you seeded yourself wrong it evolved into an abnormally brutal, ego smashing 1:05 swim? Did you want to go kayak to kayak again?’
‘Yeah what the hell am I doing over here?’, I thought.
I immediately walked over to the other side and put myself in my spot. Front row, all the way inside. The gun went off and so did I. I started breathing to the right and every time I took a breath I saw the morning sun. It felt so gentle as it sat softly behind the clouds giving me a heightened sense of calm. With each breath I saw the sun and thought the word joy in my head. I started alternate breathing and throwing in a few bilaterals here and there.
‘Already? There’s the 1st turn buoy. I don’t want this to be over yet.’ I got on the feet of the white cap in front of me and stayed there for the almost the entire traverse to the next turn buoy. And to her I say, ‘Sorry about being such a leach but really, when I surged ahead and got in front of you, you should latched onto my bubbles girl. I would have carried you.’ I never saw her again.
I started to intersect with the group in front of us and then other caps; greens, purple, some pinks. I had a quick reflection on the swim challenge I had at my last half in June then I remembered something that BJ had said to me the day before. He said, ‘If you have contact on the swim just think of it as sharing your energy with that person’. So as I continued to swim effortlessly around the course every time I would pass someone who looked as though they were simply getting through the swim I would breath to their side and say ‘I want to share my energy with you, I am opening my heart to you’. Something about this act felt unconditional.
Three buoys to go and I start to feel a change in my wetsuit. It was filling with water and my back felt more exposed to the air. I knew what was happening, I was coming unzipped. I smiled, ‘ok universe, I’ve been here before, let’s do this’. Boulder Stroke n’ Stride 2009, last race of the season, wetsuit comes unzipped a quarter of the way through the swim. I managed to barely keep it on and finish the swim.
In other words, I knew what was coming from here, I was only going to feel more drag. ’This is the last time you need your arms today’, I thought, ‘dig girl, dig!’ Long and strong I was determined to end this swim as fast as possible. I came out of the water and was half way ready for the strippers. I felt SO energized, I was having a blast. I didn’t know my time but I kept hearing people yell, ‘Nice swim white cap’ so I figured it was not too shabby. Turns out, I was 13th in my age group, 35:32 swim, my 2nd fastest to Deuceman which my 1st half iron in 2007.
Overshot my row in transition and circled on over to my bike. I didn’t care I was feeling so good, I was smiling and in fact told myself I had to tone it down. My cheeks were already starting to hurt. I got to my bike, ‘Hey girl, let’s go for a ride’. I had an awesome rack spot right next to the bike out. I hopped on, avoided the chaos at the mount line. Aside here, people seriously, just relax. Breath, be methodical. No need to crash at the mount line.
I headed down the carpet and fancied my feet into my shoes. Saw BJ and the kids on my way out. Yelled to him something about how awesome I was feeling. I geared down (or up, I don’t know the right term), anyway I got in the easy gear because I knew there was a hill as soon as you leave the park. I kept the cadence high, got my legs about me and admired all the beautiful bodies as they sped past me. Some legit and others just going too hard already.
That bike course served me up just as I remembered, challenging climbs, fast descents and plenty of cruise time. Starting at the first bike aid station I began cooling myself down with water and continued that for the entire race. Although it was mostly overcast, it was hot and I could feel the potential to get overheated. Start cooling yourself off before you get hot.
I kept steady and was passed by many hundreds of people. At one point I came upon an accident, there was a male athlete lying on the road with help by his side. As soon as I saw it I thought, ‘protect yourself from the energy of fear that is present in that situation’. I recited Ho’ooponopono from this moment until I passed the scene and felt completely at peace. I came to the turnaround and I was feeling good. My nutrition plan was right on, my stomach was feeling good, legs were quick and effort was very comfortable. I took it up a notch and continued to feel comfortable. I found myself a few times thinking ‘ok you feel good now, but are you sacrificing your run?’ Then I went right back to what I’ve learned from my practice, just be in the now. I have no problems in the now. Plus I knew I had a great run in me. I will forever draw upon coming out of T2 at Lake Placid last year, hitting the streets for the marathon and feeling like I hadn’t done anything yet. I knew if I kept my cadence high I could continue to push a little harder without consequence on the run. I just continued to feel so good.
Back up the fast downhills I had descended an hour ago followed by a smoking fast descent on the Marsh Hill Monstah, I was cooking. The road was smooth, a few great groups of spectators on the side, lots o hootin’ and hollerin’ coming from bike. I looked down I was going 45mph in the aeros and feeling complete bliss.
I finished the bike in 3:18:09 slipping to 61 in my age group which I could care less about because the fact is, in order for me to run strong, which I always plan to do, I must pace my bike correctly. I’ve done the 8 hr Ironman bike, I’ve down the 4 hour half Ironman bike – I have no ego when it comes to the bike. But I am starting to get stronger and this was an excellent ride for me, my 2nd fastest in fact. I missed BJ on the bike in, or should I say BJ missed me? Seems like someone was riding a little too fast than we expected which is always a good reason to be missed!
Onto the run. Namaste bitches! 13.1 miles of meditation, fast feet and the determination to not be on that course for any longer than need be. I took my time transitioning, spotting a towel of the sweet girl next to me who I knew wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it – she was already on the run. I dried my feet, sneaks on, hat, shades – GO. Saw BJ on the way onto the run course I yelled to him something about how awesome I felt. I followed my current favorite four 5k breakdown that I read about in an article by Gordo Byrn last year.
First 5k, just get my legs under me, fall into breath awareness and relax into a groove. So far so, good. I decided to stop drinking Perform on the run I felt like I had plenty in me having finished almost 3.5 bottles on the bike. I stayed with water and cool sponges to keep my body temperature down. I was feeling good. First mile, was a little over 9 minutes. I wasn’t exactly sure but I knew it was under 10. ‘I can keep this pace all day long I thought, I feel so good.’
Second 5k, picking it up. That felt good too. ’Ok hold it here’. I started in with my run mantra ‘I can do miraculous things with very little effort’. Over and over and over again in my head. I know it seems long but somehow it falls right in with my step. I was passing a good bit of people and in a total zone. I was all business at the aid stations, never missing an opportunity to stay energized while remembering to interact with the volunteers who are nothing less than angels handing out life force and motivation.
Back to the turn around, gigantic smile, I didn’t care how much my cheeks were hurting. Slapping hands, rousing up the crowd, I came down the shoot and out for my 2nd lap. Saw BJ on the way out, he was telling me that I was running strong and I was yelling something out to the crowd about ‘Jessica is feeling good!’.
Third 5k, picking it up more. Three miles to the turn around; focus, mantra, breath. The yoga sutras talk about the postures or asanas in practice. They say that they should be so comfortable that you are able to forget the body. That is where I was going, that was my goal. It wasn’t that I had to get to mile 9 by a certain time, it wasn’t I had to break 2 hours on the run. It was about staying present, staying in the now, getting so comfortable that I could forget my body and through that, push harder and go faster than I ever had at this distance.
Final 5k+, pretty much all out. I knew I could hold it, I was feeling so strong and continued to relax more into the pace. I stayed with my breath and never looked at my watch. Within these miles, I had a few special interactions with a couple of female competitors as we ran side by side. Eventually, I would find another gear and pull ahead as they cheered me on, thanking me for the push. Through the crowds of people I could see a clear path ahead and I just kept pushing, it was a great moment of clarity. I could see the beach where the swim started, then the split and going left this time to the finish. I was feeling so strong, I was feeling extreme joy, I was once again riling up the crowd. They abided with huge cheers, yelling out my name and pushing me to my fastest half ironman run by 9 minutes. 1:59:10. Overall yesterday was my fastest half ironman time by 36 minutes and a 40 minute PR on this same course over my 2007 finish time. I ended up 45th in my age group of hot 40-44 year old bad asses.
After the race, I took a dip in the lake with my girl and quickly realized where some skin was missing. The price of a massive PR, I welcomed all sensation. Later when I was packing up my transition area these two gentleman came over to my rack. Their job was to remove all the athlete numbers with razor blades. Um, thank you!
We got to talking and one of the men asked me if I had a good day. I replied with my perma-smile and spasming masseters, ‘I had a great day. Thank you’. He then asked me if I reached my time goals and it was in that moment that I realized I never had any. The only thing I came into this race knowing was what I was capable of; which in my book, is anything.
I had an experience yesterday that encompassed everything beautiful that I believe life is about on this earth. I am grateful for my safe passage along the course and the unfailing support of my family, especially you know who, my hot yogi triathlete husband, beej.
As to how I feel today, well… Put it this way, Ironman Lake Placid is 49 weeks away and I am all smiles.