Monday, November 18, 2013

Ironman Race Recap!!

I woke up this morning feeling calm and ready for the day. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I just needed to go with it.

I woke up and ate a bagel with peanut butter and drank a Gatorade while 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' took a shower. We got dressed and grabbed the rest of my bags and headed out. 

We got down to Tempe Town Lake and I had to quickly drop off my bags (as well as add something to one of the bags that I dropped off yesterday). Then I hurried into transition and pumped up my bike tires and started getting into my wet suit. 

I made my way over to the lines for the port-a-potties and found 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' on the other side of the gate. I waited for FOR-EV-ER in line and then hurried over to him. It was really nice to be able to have him help me finish getting into my wet suit and talk to him before it started- definitely helped calm my nerves I think. 
 Time went by WAY to fast and before I knew it, I was in a sea of 3,000 other athletes making our way to the water. Everyone in line was so quite it was almost eerie, but the volunteers and the spectators were ringing their cowbells and screaming cheering us on.  

I got to the water and looked down- there was no way in heck I was gonna make that jump (looking back it's like 5 feet into the water) but at the time- it felt like 20! So I went further down to a little dock that was right on the water- I knew it would be further to swim to the start line but I just couldn't make that 20 foot jump. 

I got to the dock and jumped into the water. I took a second to take it all it. The water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be and my wet suit felt fine. Mike Reilly said we had 3 minutes to go, so I started swimming toward the start line. Once I reached the back of the line I saw a group of athletes all together and they were shouting something I couldn't understand. I thought they were looking for someone and shouting a name, but it turns out they were shouting "MEDIC!!" Something happened with female athlete and she was holding on for dear life to other athletes (who were trying to desperately tread water). the medic quickly made his way to her and got her out of there. Not quite what you like to see when you're about to start such a long race...
I never heard the National Anthem or the loud countdown- I just heard the BOOM! of the cannon. So I did what everyone else was doing and started swimming. I tried to stay as close to the buoy line as I could and it worked perfectly. I had to sight a LOT more than normal (which I realized later on, caused major chaffing on my neck!) and I had to slow down (or stop) for some people who weren't swimming very straight. But the swim went well, I felt good the whole time. I thought with the extra sighting and the stopping for other swimmers my goal of 1:45 would be closer to 2 hours, but I was surprised when I found out my swim was 1:29!! I'm still not sure how that happened...

I quickly exited the water and made my way to the wet suit strippers- I feel like I'm getting more comfortable with them. Since I was in a full sleeve the girl stripper helped me get it off my second arm- then I laid down and she quickly ripped it off, helped me back up, and handed me my wet suit. I made sure my shorts were still on and started the long run into transition. I rounded the corner and started shouting my number "701!" as loud as I could. A volunteer handed me my bag and pointed me to the changing tent.

Boy, those changing tents are something else! The volunteers in there are amazing- anything (and everything) you need help with- they will do! They were completely stripping women naked and dressing them from head-to-toe again! (And to think I complained about a little Vaseline last year!! :)) I didn't need much help, but they did help me pull my arm warmers up a little higher and took my bag (that now had my wet suit in it) from me and wished me good luck.

I ran out of the changing tent and immediately started shouting my number again to get my bike from a volunteer. Whatdayaknow, 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' is right there with my bike ready to go! I almost starting crying. I quickly grabbed it from him, thanked him, kissed him and took off.

As I was about to head off for the unknown 112 miles (on the new seat), I thought I heard my dad- so I turned and saw him and my whole family right there. It was exactly what I needed! I am SO glad I was able to see 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' and my family so many times throughout the day- it really, really does help!

The bike was three 37 mile loops. The first loop on the bike was great. The aid stations were awesome- loud music, lots of options, and tons of supporters cheering. It was also crazy to see the pros already on their way back- they all were going so fast- everyone else looked like they weren't even moving!

I reached the turn around point and felt amazing. I couldn't believe I was already halfway through my first loop! Bonus: the seat still felt like a cloud of marshmallows too! I knew the way back had a slight down hill the whole way and once I turned around I really felt like I was moving fast.

I made it back "into town", where the roads are lined with spectators cheering, ringing bells, and holding some pretty funny signs! Talk about a MAJOR energy booster! Right as I reached the turn around point I heard our friend David yell "GO KIM!"- I was so glad he was there and then I heard 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' telling me to throw away the water bottles I had and get new ones. (You know how I am with dropping water bottles. :))

I started off on my second loop feeling great! Everyone says the day will fly by and to really take everything in- and I honestly couldn't believe how fast everything was going. I forgot my watch so I wasn't sure what my time was or how fast I was going- but I felt like a was flying!!

I reached one of the aid stations and grabbed a water bottle. I thought I was going to throw out one of the bottles I had- but the bottles they were giving out  were really difficult for me to use (with one hand) so I just filled my water bottle with it and tossed it. I also tried to eat a Luna bar on my second loop- in addition to the gummy bears and Honey Stinger chomps I was eating. It got a little windy on the second loop, which made me glad I had bought/wore arm warmers. 

I think this one was my favorite sign!
Before I knew it, I climbed a hill at Shea and reached the turn around point again. I still felt amazing and the seat was still my little marshmallow cloud. About half way back on the second loop we had the option to grab out special needs bags. I didn't think I was going to stop for it, but at the last second I decided to stop and get my Gatorade. I had an empty water bottle so I just filled that up. (The volunteers were amazeballs once again! they quickly had my bag and opened it up asking me what I needed before I even stopped my bike. Then when I said just the Gatorade she had it opened and was pouring it into my water bottle before I even knew what was going on! Seriously, amazeballs!)

Once I had my Gatorade, I was hauling butt back "into town". I absolutely LOVED that turn around and am so glad we got to hit it 3 times- the amount of energy and support from all the spectators is overwhelming! Every time I got there, I felt like I was about to cry. Last year I was them- waiting on the sidelines for hours, screaming my head off, ringing my cowbell. Now here I was- actually doing it! Over half way through on the bike too. It was surreal.

This time 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' was in the median and was shouting for me to pull my arm warmers off and toss them. I was shaking my head and thinking 'no way am I taking these off.'. The weather was nice over here, but out on the Beeline, towards Shea the wind was picking up. He also shouted that I was killing my time and I was flying! I was shocked- I immediately wished I had my watch or knew what time it was so I could know how I was doing. (Making that bike cut off was my biggest fear and had given me nightmares.)

My dad giving me a thumbs up! ;)
I left the turn around point and saw my family again. They all looked so happy to see me and were screaming and waving at me (my niece was shaking pom-poms). I was so grateful they were here for this- I needed them there- even if it was just for these brief moments. I smiled and waved at them and took off for my third and final bike loop. (woohoo!)

Cutest sign holder out there!
I still surprisingly felt great! My lower back was getting a little tight- I think from riding in aero for so long without stopping? But it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. I stopped at one of the port-a-potties, so I could stretch my back and apply more Body Glide. Stretching my back really helped! I felt brand new again and took off.

The wind was there, stronger than before, that entire third loop. It wasn't anything unmanageable but you could definitely feel it working against you. I had almost reached the hill at Shea and decided to pull over and stretch my back again. Every-single-athlete that passed me shouted encouraging words at me: keep going, get back out here with us, you got this girl! I didn't stop for any other reason to stretch my back but it was so nice to know that even though we were all doing our own race- we were all kind of in this together and supported each other along the way.

I did my thang and quickly got back on the road. Climbing Shea for the last time was bittersweet- it sucked: it was hard and windy but it was also my third loop. I knew when I reached the top of it I was headed 'home' and didn't have to come back here again. I reached the top and asked a bunch of spectators/volunteers what time it was. It took a couple tries before I got someone who had the time readily available and they said it was just after 2. Holy crap, I'm going to make the bike cut off!! I shouted a very loud THANK YOU! and made my way 'home'. That last part of the bike seemed like it took forever. I'm not sure if I slowed down or if it was just because I was getting excited to get off my bike? Right before I got back "into town", I saw RunningFrida and our friend Veronica cheering with signs saying 'Go Team Sprinkles and Glitter!". Seriously- it was awesome!

I finally got back "into town" and made my way to the transition chute- where a volunteer grabs your bike from you, you grab your next bag and head back into the lovely changing tent. This time I wasn't changing much so I stayed close to the door and switched shirts. A volunteer came over and asked if I needed anything else out of my bag- I told her I needed to fill my water bottle (I had grabbed my bottle off the bike, forgetting I had packed one in my bag! Ooops!) But she filled it with ice water while another volunteer shoved all my bike gear back into the bag. I had more gummy bears in my bag but I didn't have anything to carry them in- so I figured I would just use what they had at the aid stations. I thanked them both and headed out to run a marathon. A marathon. 

I took off on the run and it took me about a mile to adjust, but after that I felt great. I couldn't believe I was actually doing this! I knew 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' was working one of the aid stations (with a superhero theme) and I was hoping I would hit it sooner rather than later. Whatdoyaknow, the first aid station is a bunch of superheros! Thank gosh!! I grabbed some more ice from a volunteer and finally saw 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter'!! To say I was excited would be an understatement. He jogged beside me and asked me how I was doing and how I felt- I told him I felt great! He asked if I needed anything, I said no and he said he would find me later. I shouted I love you!  and left.

This year was the first year that they changed the run course from 3 loops to 2 big  U-shaped loops. Just like with the bike course, it was definitely hard to see the 'Mile 17' markers when I was only on mile 2. I couldn't wait for those signs to be true! As I came up to the first u-turn I saw RunningFrida and Veronica again! I know I've said this a lot- but seeing my friends/family was SUCH a huge help. Just being able to see them and chat with them for a couple seconds was just long enough to distract me from focusing on how many more miles I had to go.

Apparently, my leg always looks jiggle-y!
I reached the first u-turn at McClintock and headed back towards Priest. Nothing too eventful except seeing more signs and chalk that my family did all around the course! (They did it on the bike course too! They are amazing!! :) Their signs were everywhere and it was nice to see them when I was out in the middle of nowhere on the Beeline or on the run course where there wasn't much support. The entire time I could not stop smiling. I was so happy to be there and still couldn't believe I was doing it (and I was still on cloud 9 that I finished the bike!!)

When I hit that second u-turn I just kept telling myself I only had to do all of that 1 more time.... it didn't help. It still seemed like a really, REALLY long ways to go. Heading back towards Priest I allowed myself to walk up Curry Hill and kept taking soda, chicken broth, and pretzels at the aid stations. I reached Priest and there was 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter'!!!! My heart about exploded! He ran with me and asked me how I was doing and told me I was doing great time wise. He told me I was almost to the half way point and then I only had a half marathon to go. (only a half marathon to go- No biggie!!) He told me I was almost to my family and to put my happy face on- I was still smiling so I was good there. He also told me I better slow down or I might beat his time- yeah right!

Just like he said, right at the half way point there was my family and a few friends- smiling, screaming, and my niece was still waving the crap out of her pom poms!! I waved at them and kept moving. A little bit further down I heard my dad yell "KIM!" and I turned and he was so close I could grab his hand- I held it for a second and he squeezed it and  told me 'Good job!' I'll never forget that.

The second loop was definitely 'harder' than the first. I don't mean it was physically harder- it was the same 13 miles as the first loop but mentally it was a lot tougher. It had gotten dark outside and I had already ran the loop once so it was no longer new and exciting. I was still super happy and every mile marker I passed made me smile just a little bit bigger knowing that I was getting that much closer to the end, the finish line, and 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter'. I could not wait for that! I ran into RunningFrida and was able to run with her for a little bit to the turn around point.

Made the 3rd (of of 4) u-turns and I stopped twice to use to the port-a-potty. I saw several friends along the course (who were also racing) and it was nice to be able to see them and cheer them on. I got a pretty cool glow stick somewhere along the way too! Coming back through I saw 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' with 2 of our friends- totally caught me off guard (since I didn't think I would see him again until the finish). One of them is a crazy fast marathon runner and the other one has done a few Ironmans before. (Random fact: I got my bike from her and she used it for her first Ironman too! :))

The further I got the more adrenaline I had. I knew I was getting closer and I kept doing the math and thought that even if I had to walk the remaining 6 miles I would still (most likely) make it before midnight. That was definitely reassuring because I think my stomach had as much pretzels/coke/ chicken broth as it could handle and I felt like Santa Clause with a belly full of jelly. Ugh! I stopped grabbing stuff at aid stations except for water. I only had 6 miles left. 6 long miles. 

They say it's run portion of Ironman where you really find yourself. You start to question what you're even doing out here and you want to quit.  For me, this happened my second time walking Curry Hill. It was dark and there was NO ONE else around. I walking this hill that I have run on or biked hundreds of times this past year training, thinking I still had 5 miles. There is no one there to scream my name or give me a high five, it was too dark so I couldn't read any of the chalk or signs, and that was it. I was alone.

So much went through my head. I still didn't think I think I was going to finish because I was 5 miles away I thought I might finish because 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' told me I could. I doubted everything about myself. What if he was wrong? What if my stomach got worse? What if I trip and break my leg? I thought about it all.

I reached the top of Curry Hill and knew I was in the final 4-mile stretch heading 'home'. The spectators at this point were amazing! I knew a majority of them had probably been out there all day, but there they were- still clapping, still cheering us on. One lady was even saying "Congratulations Ironman!!" as we would pass her and her son told her not to say it yet and she said that she didn't care and she knew we were going to make it. That made me smile just a little bigger- a complete stranger had more confidence in me than I had in myself.

I hit Priest again and knew I had less than 2 miles to go. Right as I made the turn onto Rio Salado there were 3 volunteers and a motorcycle police officer who were blaring 'We Are The Champions' through his radio on the motorcycle and singing it at the top of their lungs giving everyone high fives! Awesome!

There was one last aid station that had a Christmas theme and were handing out Christmas Cookies...? (Who am I to judge- I use gummy bears as fuel!) They were also playing the slowest, dullest song I have ever heard. Another athlete told them they were going to put him to sleep- haha!

Step-by-step, inch-by-inch, I knew I was getting closer. I could see the glow of the lights, I could hear Mike Reilly, I knew I was getting close. I saw Ashley Bota (who I had seen SEVERAL times throughout the day all over the place!) and she screamed at me "I knew you could do it!" (probably because every time I saw her I kept asking her what time it was and she assured me I was fine every single time. :) Then I saw the guy who works at Triple Sports, who rented me my wet suite and he shouted "I told you you would finished!"

I turned that final corner and knew I had made it. I had dreamed about this moment, trained countless hours, and today had gone 140 freaking miles to get to this point right here. Everything I had put myself through, everything I had sacrificed was worth it for this moment.

'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' told me to go slow through the finishers chute and just take everything in. I did- I slowed down to a jog and just looked at everything- the bight lights, the spectators going crazy on both sides, and the Mike Reilly who was about to say my name. Right before I crossed the finish line I heard my sister scream my name and turned and saw my entire family right there. I quickly waved and kept moving.

I crossed the finish line and the first thing I saw RunningFrida. She gave me the biggest hug and told me I did it. I almost started crying and told her I was SO glad to be done! haha! The second she let go of me I saw 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' and lost it. I gave him a huge hug and about knocked him over! Our friend David was right there too- it was like a party!  'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' gave me my medal, David wrapped the aluminium blanket around me, and we got my finisher shirt/hat. They were all done with their volunteering shift so they walked me out and we found a place to sit and wait for my family.

My family and some friends came and found us, there were hugs, pictures, and cupcakes! Yup- CUPCAKES! My mom brought cupcakes!! :) It was great to finally be able to see everyone for longer than 2 seconds! They all eventually left and David, RunningFrida, 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' and I made our way to wait in the Volunteer Line to register for next year. (That's a whole 'nother post! Just you wait!)

My official time was 14 hours and 45 minutes. I cannot even begin to express the emotions- there are no words to describe it. I am so happy! I did it! 

There are so many people who without them I could not have made it through this past year- everyone from the family that came in from out of town, to the friends, to the training partners. THANK YOU ALL!

Most of the 'Team'
SO glad she made it! And you can't really tell- but her entire sign was glitter!! LOVED it!!

A special thank you to 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' for helping me get through the long training days, the mental battles, and rollercoaster of it all. You were by my side every step of the way and I am forever grateful.

Congratulations to everyone else who raced this weekend!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

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