We got to the race site at about 6:20am and there was a flurry of activity in the transition area. The air was thick, hot and very humid as the temperature was already climbing out of the 70s. The water temperatrue was about 76 degrees and I started to doubt my decision to wear the sleeveless wetsuit. Mike and my sister, Amy, told me it was too late now for the longsleeve as it was sitting in my garage back in Colorado. Fear overwhelmed me and with about 10 minutes to the start, I started to cry. I am sure that doesn't make sense to many of you because I have already done this, twice. But I still have doubts about my ability and strength to complete such an intense and physically challenging day. I put on my goggles and tried to choke back the tears.
It was a beach start and the athletes were scattered all over the sand, standing next to their family members as the clock counted down. I was so grateful to have Mike and Amy at my side. Their uncanny ability to keep me calm and make me laugh was greatly needed. With about a minute to go, I found my place on the beach and said goodbye. I realized that I prefer the deep water start to the unstable, sandy start. I had to instantly make peace with the water as I started to run through the shallow edges of the lake, increasing my already high heart rate. About 30 seconds later, I was finally swimming. I stayed to the inside, left of the buoys as I have done previously and managed to get punched in the head within the first 200 meters. This is a small race, why was it so hard to find my own space? The rest of the first lap went by without any other major hiccups and I exited to the beach, crossed the mat and headed back out for lap 2.
It was already warm and very sunny. I just settled in mentally for a very long day. We drove a small portion of the course the day before and it was hilly. Little did I know... I kept it light and easy for the first 25 miles as we made our way towards Sugarloaf Mountain - the infamous screaming hill that thankfully we only had to ride up once today. Got to the top of that road and felt victorious. Great, I thought, now I can start to push it as the hardest part is behind me. WRONG.
This course is twice as hard as Wisconsin. The hills were relentless. Florida is a flat state except for Clermont. It is infamous for it's steep roads. Every time I made a turn, bam, there was a hill. and I am not talking baby hills. I am talking the kind so steep that your quads burn and scream and if you manage to hit 4mph you're lucky. The sunny skies and humid air didn't help. Not to mention the wind. Oh my gosh, was it windy. Like a horrible Colorado afternoon. I just told myself, keep moving forward, it's all you can do. My average speed was quickly declining. I had lost 1 bottle of infinit on the rough roads. I wanted to quit.
Feeling compltely refreshed in my dry and clean "new" running outfit and having had some cold liquids, I was ready to hammer out the final part of my day. The worst was surely behind me as I looked forward to the final 26.2 miles of my journey. As I started to run, I felt something very unfamiliar to me, fresh running legs. Since I had such a slow bike and kept my heart rate so low, I managed to avert the dreaded lactic acid build-up that makes for such a hard run. I barely felt like I had ridden 50 miles let alone 112. I knew if I could manage my splits, I was going to have an incredible run and quite possibly hit the one time goal I had for the day- a 4:20 marathon.
I saw my family, immediately out of transition and that gave me so much energy. Mike ran with me a little to check in and I told him the bike sucked but that was behind me now. I was living in the moment and I was going to have a great run.
The run consists of a 3 loop course around Lake Minneola and it was perfect for me. As I started chipping away at the miles, maintaining a sub 10 minute per mile pace, the sun started to set and it finally started to cool down. At this point, I had no idea what my final time was going to be. All I cared about was staying on pace. I was passing so many people. Mostly men as there were less than 40 women competing. They were all walking or shuffling. Some encouraged me on, others were silent as they were probably wondering where I got the strength and energy from to actually run. (Well, clearly they had stronger bikes than I did! )
As I made my way around the lake for the third and final time, in the dark of the night, silently following the green glow of necklaces bobbing along, I started to realize what my marathon time was going to be. [ENTER: HUGE SMILE] With about a mile to go, I really amped it up and pushed harder than I ever thought I could. I wanted to finish strong. All the horrible moments of the day started to melt away. It didn't matter that I was punched in the head or lost my chip on the swim. The bike ride from hell seemed as if it occured ages ago and the relentless battle with the weather was quickly forgotten. I was feeling so much joy and emotion. It was spectactular as I finally crossed the finish line and heard the announcer call out my name... It was surreal and it felt like a dream. I have never felt so much glory in my entire life. This was by far harder than my first or second Ironman. It was actually harder than anything I have ever done in my life, but it was definitely the most rewarding as all I had to rely on the entire day was the sheer will to simply finish. I was once told, you are stronger than you think and that has never been more true. "Failure is not falling down, it's staying down." Several times that I day I picked myself up, brushed myself and told myself, "you ARE tough enough!"
2009 Great Floridian Results
Run 4:16:56 (28 minute PR)
Finishing Time: 13:21:10
2nd Place Age Group winner, 8th female overall (out of 34 female finishers), 56th athlete overall (out of 223 finishers) and 16th fastest marathon time for the day
DNF Rate was 22% (I was originally told 41% but that still seems high)
2nd Place F35-39
Is this the end? HELL NO. It's only the beginning... Thank you everyone, for all of your support and encouragement. I want to especially thank Mike, Amy, Nate and Alexis, Bobby and Lorraine, and Hans and Jeannine, for sticking it out the entire day, in horrible heat and humidity, to cheer for me and encourage me to finish. (Thank God for the cooler of beer, huh??) I could not have done this without you! Love, love, love to you all!