August 26th, 2012...my first Ironman as Kristina Jensen. The after-effects of the divorce were devastating... and this day was truly the first time that I felt like "myself" again...but new and so much more improved. And then 10 months later, after my heart-breaking DNF in Coeur d'Alene, I was determined more than ever to return to Louisville to take care of unfinished business...and that I did.
August 25th, 2013...after 62 days of mending both my physical and emotional state, I woke up after about 3 hours of sleep, feeling sluggish and somewhat less enthusiastic as I typically would be on the morning of Ironman. There was something different about this day...perhaps it was the DNF lurking in the back of my mind, taunting me every chance it had. My nerves were setting in...actually more like settling in and it wouldn't be until mile 114.4 that they would dissipate for good.
My lil' Pip dropped me off in the wee hours of the dark morning so I could check on my bike, drop off my special needs bags and somberly make my way to the swim start. IMKY is a time trial start and so we have to line up, single file, and wait. and wait. and wait. and I was cold. teeth chattering cold. Panic set in as the sun rose. regardless of my amazing support crew and their encouragement and kind words, I was getting sick to my stomach... DREADING getting into the Ohio River even though it was 83 degrees. warm, downright hot by most triathlete's standards. but not mine...I wished it was 93 degrees. My body wasn't "right" after IMCdA.
I finally jumped into the Ohio River about 7:30am (30 minutes after the swim start) and off I went...I was struggling to get into a rhythm and got so far right that I was fighting the current from an angle. I stopped a few times and eventually, I was swimming alone. literally. I had gotten so far behind the masses that I could no longer see the age groupers. and all I could think about was what happened 62 days earlier. I had 2 hours and 20 minutes to finish this swim. never in my triathlon career did I think that would matter, usually finishing long before that cut-off. but not today. today, every second counted. and after what seemed like forever... a forever of fighting off negative self-talk and trying to stay warm (shivering in 83 degree waters)... I could see the end of the swim - the stairs and the volunteers waiting for the last of us to exit... I was getting so choked up at this point and not giving a shit about what my swim time would be. All I cared about was getting on my bike. My pretty, pristine, pink bike that was sitting all alone on the rack. I was helped up the stairs and the biggest relief fell over me. Holy fuck, I made it. and after 1 hour, 55 minutes and 21 seconds *my slowest IM swim EVER* I knew that I would get to ride Veruca!
It took me 20 miles to catch up to the rest of the field...20 f'n miles of isolated riding... it was the strangest feeling. and I was so depleted mentally and nutritionally from that swim, that I never really gained strength and power. The weather was perfect, the crowd support was amazing yet I rode slower and slower. I had no energy. I was literally falling asleep in aero. I would close my eyes for just a second and find myself crossed over the yellow line, on the other side of the road. This went on for about 50 miles. I have never experienced anything like this. I drank all of my Infinit, ate all of my energy bars and took in additional nutrition at the aid stations and nada. nothing. the tank was empty. Around mile 80, TEAM KJ was waiting for me...my heart beat out of my chest, as I was so relieved and excited to see them. and I did something I've never done before during Ironman... I stopped and dismounted my bike and hugged them all. each and every one of them. I told them that I left my PR at home today and that I was just going to have fun. after saying my goodbyes, I took off. and around mile 90 had a complete breakdown. sobbing, talking out loud to myself, then screaming "FUCK" as loud as I could, not caring who heard me. why was I so tired? what had I done wrong? and after about 15 minutes, I collected myself, put my head down and fought off the demons. homestretch... just get into those running shoes and it would all be better. 7 hours, 9 minutes and 16 seconds later I was back in transition. over an hour after my goal...but in the blink of an eye, all of my energy, pep and positive attitude was back. and so were my legs. I felt AMAZING.
|The Amazing "TEAM KJ"|
|Let's do this!|
|82 miles into my day, exhausted|
I can't really put into words what that run was like...I haven't felt that much joy and pure love for this sport since my first Ironman in Wisconsin 5 years earlier...I didn't look at my watch, not once during the entire run. I had no concept of time of day, apart from where the sun hung in the sky and had no idea what my pace was. All I cared about was having fun. and shit, did I have FUN. I walked through every single aid station, chatting it up and thanking all of the volunteers...I talked to the crowds and smiled. a lot. for an entire 26.2 miles. I ran. while everyone seemed to start walking. I wasn't tired or sore. I was happy. I WAS SO HAPPY! I stopped and hugged and kissed my support crew every chance I had... I was continually asked by guys on the course, how can you still be smiling AND running? Are you fucking kidding me? I AM DOING AN IRONMAN TODAY! thank you body. thank you mind. And as the sun set, I started to pick up my pace. I had mantras for those final miles... "steady and light feet" ... "strong heart, strong mind, strong legs" ... and around mile 138, I had a guy come up from behind me and ask if it would be ok if he could "hang on and run with me for awhile" - um, sure I answered not really knowing until afterwards what "hanging on" was referring to (I was running and holding a 7:30 pace) ... and with that final .6 miles to go, I started to cry. huge crocodile tears... the kind that you can't hold back, that give you a huge lump in your throat and make your entire body go numb and shiver...I did it. after 62 days of busting my ass and sacrificing so much of my free time and regaining my confidence... I was going to finish my 6th Ironman...and with a final few dance steps, I threw my hands in the air and celebrated my love and passion for this sport...I am an Ironman once again...
|Exiting T2, never happier|
|still feeling good|
|thumbs up at mile 131|
|so close...mile 135|
|triumph after 4 hours, 21 minutes and 35 seconds (2nd fastest IM marathon)|
|6x Ironman, having passed over 1100 people from the swim exit!!!|
|bling and beer...time to celebrate!|