Friday – the day before
Have you ever swam in the Ocean? I hadn’t. Not until November 5th, the day before my 4th Ironman. There were 6 foot swells. It was incredibly windy. The air was chilly. The water, as far I’m concerned, was perfect. It didn’t matter that I was carried out in a current, hundreds of meters from where I started, or where I wanted to go to. It didn’t matter that I was tasting salt with every breath. I loved the freedom of the Ocean… the Gulf of Mexico. I became so calm as I could see everything below me. The sand. Some fish. I could see other swimmers next to me. It was amazing. I felt like a kid again, on a new adventure and I knew the moment I put my face in and felt the warm, salty water that the swim was going to be my favorite part of the race.
Saturday – Race Day
It was a tough morning. I woke up, after a good night of sleep and started to prepare for the day ahead of me. I was calm, I took my time getting ready. I listened to inspiring music to get myself pumped up. Then, I walked out of the bedroom and saw Mike, on his computer, in regular, every day clothes. It hit me like a wave. He would not be racing with me, going through the day with me. Instead, he would be side-lined. Choking back emotions that he had been stuffing down, I’m sure for 3 weeks, since the crash. It made me sad. Really sad. He walked Tim and I over to the swim start, gave us Good Luck hugs, encouraging words and one last kiss for me. I started bawling. I clung to him. I didn’t want him to leave. He was supposed to be beside me. Holding my hand while we waited for the cannon to boom at the swim start, sand between our toes. Waving at me on the bike. Kissing me on the run. It brings tears to my eyes still...
2.4 Mile Swim
I started on the inside, back in the sand. I am not a fan of beach starts and this time was no different. I took my time getting into the water before I actually started swimming. Despite the previous days swells, the water was like glass. Warm. Peaceful. For awhile anyways. It definitely roughened up as everyone found their groove. The first turn buoy was a nightmare but I was prepared for that mentally. I saw no marine life but it was pretty surreal to turn my head left, then right and see swimmers surrounding me. With the ocean floor slowly coming into sight, I was relieved to be half-way finished. I had a wonderful surprise waiting for me as I exited the water, up the beach for the first lap. There was Mike, crouched low, with a fabulous Janus Funds VIP pass, waiting for me. My face lit up, I kissed him and hurried my way back down to the water for lap 2. This was by far, the most physical contact swim I’ve had in all 4 iron distance races. I was kicked in the head, punched in the head twice and then kicked in the chest once. All you can do is take it in stride and know that it’s not personal. Not my fastest swim, not my slowest, but definitely my favorite!
It was FREEZING outside. I think it was upper 30’s/low 40’s when we started the swim and it wasn’t much warmer as I ran (quite a distance) to T1 to change into my bike clothes. The wind was fierce and a cloud cover rolled in, making it seem colder than it really was. Didn’t know what to wear so I grabbed gloves and a little wind breaker. Mistake #1.
112 Mile Bike
Holy shit. I was cold. My nose was runny. My hands and feet were like little popsicles. I wish I would have worn my long sleeved bike jersey under my windbreaker. My neck was burning from the chaffing of my wetsuit velcro. I didn’t want to leave aero. I was hugging my arms, shoulders and neck as tight as possible to generate and keep HEAT. I was supposed to be drinking Infinit every 10 minutes but was too cold to do so. I should have gone through 6 bottles on the bike. I only drank 4. Mistake #2. I stopped twice to pee and eventually cry. I melted down around mile 80 as I watched my average Power Wattage slip away from the goal of 121-122. With the declining power came a slower average speed. It doesn’t matter how hard you train, the wind can strip you of anything and everything and that day it took away my spirit, temporarily anyways. I was crushed mentally. The last 17 miles or so provided a shield from that nasty wind as it was finally at my back. I pushed as hard as I could and made up for a teense of lost time. I flew past the lollygaggers as I had never been so excited to get into my new running dress and shoes!
Hooray for a new dress. I quickly got into my gorgeous Purple Haze Wondergirl Dress from SkirtSports, Hot Pink knee high CEP compression socks and my Brooks and made my way out to the run course. I was amped up and oh so happy to be doing what I do best. Run!
26.2 Mile Run
As I headed out of transition, I looked down at my Garmin… 7:15 pace. Hm. Perhaps I went out a little too fast. Mistake #3. But at this point I didn’t. give. a. shit. I was happy. My legs felt incredible and I saw my little brother and Mike. I welled up with joy. Somewhere within the first 6 miles, my left foot started tingling and then went numb. Aw crap. There’s no stopping that feeling with out stopping altogether. I had to suck it up and push through it. My first 6 miles were at about an 8:47 pace. The sun was setting. It was getting cooler. And my stomach started getting upset. For 2 reasons I think. 1 – because I didn’t finish all of my bike nutrition. And 2 – I tried Ironman’s own version of Gatorade and it was disgusting. I managed to toss back 1 Chocolate Power Gel but that was it. My stomach would have no more after that. For the remaining 20 miles, I relied on Flat Coke and Chicken Broth. I eventually started slowing down, with little calories and a numb left foot, it was hard not to. But I pushed through incredibly tough mental battles. At times, I was able to speed up, only to have to slow down but I never walked. Ever. I stopped at the port-o-potty and tried to rid myself of that nasty tummy issue but no luck. Damn. I ran through that too. I wanted to finish. Bad. My original goal was to run a 4 hour marathon. That then changed to 4:10, then 4:20. As I saw my friend Tim, who was a few miles ahead of me, at mile 20 – he shouted out to me with such vigor and passion, “Chase your dreams K.” That is exactly what I needed. I ran as hard as I could for the final 10k. I wasn't just running for me, I was running for Mike. He would have given anything to race this day...I had to push through the mental anguish, because he would have given anything to have go through that because that would have meant he was racing... As I made my way down Thomas Drive towards the finish, the bad parts of the day seemed to melt away. I began to shed my "skin of sadness and disappointment" and started to let the positive energy and excitement of the crowd take over me. I smiled. I waved. I danced. All the way to the finish line. Only to be caught and then gently handed over to my husband. Mike, my best friend. Who was waiting in the finish chute, with my medal in hand and a look of pride that made my heart melt. I cupped my hand over my mouth, choking back tears. joyful and sad. The moment was bittersweet. He placed the medal around my neck and I grabbed on to him. I hugged him so tight. It turns out, he was with me all along, all day, in my heart.
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but let those nasty feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem set in. I wanted a 5 minute faster swim. A 20 minute faster bike. A 24 minute faster run. Why was I doing this to myself? Why couldn't I give myself permission to relish in my incredible accomplishment!? Almost 2 weeks had to pass before I would realize that my day was the perfect day for *me* (mistakes and all). I gave 100% that day. and in the end, isn't that all that really matters?
140.6 Miles ~ 12:45:18
23 minute PR!