Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ironman Race Recap!!

We woke up pretty early and slowly started doing our own thing. He showered and made oatmeal while I triple checked my bags and burned pancakes. :)

Once we were both ready, we loaded all of our bags into the truck and headed down to Tempe Town Lake. We surprisingly were able to get into the parking lot and park fairly quick.Which was great because it gave us more time to haul our 20 pound bags to the bag drop off. (Seriously, we had to stop and take breaks!!)
We got our bags dropped off, added stuff to our transition bags, and then each went our separate ways to our bikes. I loaded my bike up with my fuel and water bottles and went to the bike tent and pumped up my tires- that probably didn't need it, but I did it just to be sure. ;)
Once I had everything done, I took my wet suit and stood in the longest line ever for the port-o-potties. I luckily ran into 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' and we were able to wait together. We didn't really talk much and once we finally made our way through the line, we quickly put on our wet suits and made our way to the water. We ran into our friend Jason- which is always nice right before a race start. :)

'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' gave me a kiss and said 'alright, see you at the finish!' and I nervously said 'okay'. Next thing I know, we were jumping into the water with 3,000 other athletes and heading towards the start line.
I was sure I wasn't going to make it up to the start line before the gun went off, but surprisingly, I got up there and had a couple minutes to spare. (I later found out that they started 5 minutes late). I listened to Mike Reilly give us our last pep talk and heard the roar of the spectators explode as the canon went off.
There I was, starting the swim of my second Ironman in a sea of athletes. I had got myself into a pretty good position and felt good. Once we got a few hundred meters in, things changed. It seemed like no one around me could swim straight and they were constantly swimming back and fourth in front of me. And the pace was rapidly changing- a swimmer would go flying past me- literally swimming all out, and then a minute later I would pass them only to be passed by another swimmer going all out.

When we finally reached the half-way point, I was really excited knowing that the swim was almost over. Not long after that I felt some pretty big waves and started to feel seasick- I kept looking around for a boat or jetski's going fast (creating the waves) but didn't see anything other than kayaks and paddle boards. (Later I would find out it was the crazy wind....)
Finally saw the swim exit and picked up the pace. Got to the stairs, quickly got out and found an available stripper who got my suit off in less than 3 seconds! Then headed towards transition. I loudly called out my number and grabbed my bag as I ran by making my way to the tent.
Thanks to The Dooley's for these photos!! 
Once I was inside the tent, one of the friendly volunteers came over and began helping me get my arm warmers on and getting what I needed out of my bag. (She also put my wet suit and goggles back into my bag!) She was seriously so sweet and SO helpful.

I quickly exited the tent, grabbed my bike and took off for the 112 mile journey. (For those of you who know me, or have read last years race recap, you know that the bike portion of the race is what I fear the most. Nothing has changed- it still terrifies me.) Leaving the bike chute I could feel the wind, it wasn't bad but definitely noticeable. I smiled when I saw my family and headed towards the beeline. The moment we turned heading north the "light breeze" instantly changed to 'in-your-face-brutal' winds. I dropped my gears, kept my head down, and moved forward.
It seemed as if the further we got on the beeline, the more the wind picked up. It was extremely disheartening to be out of breath, working at my absolute max, climbing the hills to Shea Blvd., and then to look down and realize I was going 6 miles per hour. SIX MILES PER HOUR!! 
Once we reached the turn around point at Shea, I knew it was all down hill and we would be working with the wind-- and boy did we fly back! At one point I wasn't even pedaling, holding on for dear life and going over 30 miles per hour!! It was nice to have the time to recover from the climbing but the cross winds would come and I was terrified I was going to tip my bike over. (It didn't help seeing a few bike wrecks out there with medics and ambulances.)

Coming back into town went way to fast and before I knew it, I was done with the first loop heading back out to face the brutal winds. This loop absolutely sucked for me. Facing the wind, knowing that I still had to complete another loop after this one-- was a really tough mental battle the entire loop.

I finished the second loop drained- both physically and mentally. Started the third loop and was ready to be done. I felt like I was going WAY slower than I had been the previous two loops and felt like I was working WAY harder, I chalked it up to being tired and didn't think nothing of it. I stopped to use a port-o-potty and felt my tires out of habit and noticed my back tire was extremely low. I rode my bike to the next aid station and used a pump they had there-- my tire pressure was 60 when it should have been 120!! I got back on the rode and felt a lot better- but was still battling the wind. I kept telling myself that I just needed to get up to Shea- knowing that the way back would fly by.

When I finally, finally reached Shea for the last time I felt like I just crossed a finish line- and in my mental battle I did. I quickly stopped to check my back tire and noticed again that it was low (not as low as before, but I definitely had a slow leak). At the same time, I heard someone mention we were getting close to the bike cut off (my biggest fear!) and it was then I made the decision to ride it out, knowing I could hit that aid station on the way back and use their pump again, instead of spending 10 minutes changing my tire. I knew it was risky, but I also knew the leak was slow and had held up this long. I pushed it going back into town, knowing I would need to stop again to use a pump.

I reached the last aid station and quickly called out for a pump- everyone seemed dumbfounded and said they didn't have one. How could it not be there?! I just used it!! Figuring I could make it back I jumped back on my bike and took off. Not a minute after I left, I heard people whistling and screaming "We have a pump!!" I pulled over and turned around and made my way back. Used the oldest pump I've ever seen- seriously, it was rusty, covered in dust, and felt like it was made of solid steel! But it did the job and got me back to transition.
As we were approaching transition, a guy came up beside me and made a comment about the brutal wind. I agreed and asked him if he thought we were going to make the bike cut off, he said yes and that we definitely had plenty of time.
 I saw my family right as I finished the bike and it was SO nice to see them and even nicer to be off the bike! :)
I handed my bike to another awesome volunteer, grabbed my bike bag, and headed back into the tent. I was immediately greeted by another super friendly and helpful lady who emptied my bad and asked what I needed. She even took off my bike shoes as I changed my shirt! I thanked her countless times and was headed out of the tent when she called out to me and told me I still had my bike shorts on! I looked down and remembered I put on a pair of riding shorts over my tri shorts before the bike. I awkwardly took them off over my shoes and she grabbed them and told me to get going and she would put them back into my bag. Seriously, the volunteers are incredible!!

After that, I was running.  The run is by far my favorite part of an Ironman. The crowd is intense, the music is loud, and you know you're almost done by this point. ;)

I ran into one of our friends, Toby and walked/ran with him for a little bit while I ate a pb and j sandwich and talked how we were both doing. It's always good to see familiar faces out there and be distracted- even if it is only for a couple minutes.

About a mile into the run I heard 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' from behind! My heart about jumped out of my chest! I literally could have cried I was so happy to see him. We ran together for about a half second (he is wayyy to fast;)) but he asked how I was doing and he told me he  was on his second loop (I was totally jealous) and then he was gone. I saw him again about 2 miles later at a turn around point and it was just as amazing.

I felt good on the run- I could tell that the bike had used up too much of my energy and I was ready to be done. I was extremely worried about the time and not finishing before midnight. But I kept moving and slowly the miles ticked by. I saw The Dooley's around mile 5 and asked Caroline about time, and she was sure I would make it. She showed me the time and told me I had plenty of time to finish.
So glad The Dooley's were there!! 
When I hit the 10 mile turn around point I was really shocked that I was already 10 miles in. I headed back around the lake knowing that my family would be there.

Once I saw my family around mile 16, I asked if 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' had finished and they all laughed and said 'he's right there!!' and pointed behind me. I turned and saw him and he started running with me. ((Who does this?! Seriously, who finishes an Ironman and then comes back and finds their girlfriend and runs with her?!)) I asked him how he felt and told him I was worried about the time and not finishing before midnight. He assured me that I was going to make it- he told me all I had to do was 30 minute miles for the remainder of the run. To any rational person, that seems extremely do-able.... to me doing an Ironman, that was still terrifying. He ran with me for probably a quarter mile and then said he would see me at the finish line.

Before I knew it, I was back at the 10 mile turn around-- which now meant I was at mile 21. I was so excited to finally be there! I had a handful of miles left and I was done. I walked up Curry hill for the second time and thought I may actually make it. It was so dark and quite on that road I could hear the music from the finish line and hear Mike Reilly's voice making peoples dreams come true.
I thought back to last year's race and how my much had completely changed since then. My dad was completely blown away by Ironman and everything that went along with it and he said he "walked around like a peacock" he was so proud. He was so excited to volunteer at Ironman this year and loved to talk about it-- he even wrote the paper after I finished last year and it made the front page!! He thought the athletes who did an Ironman were incredible and even had a 140.6 sticker on his car!

Right as I turned off of Curry Hill I saw a sign that my family had put out there the day before. My dad helped with the signs last year and he made his signs say "Whattler- Ironman Champ!" haha!! So seeing this sign made me smile.
I was finally back into civilization again and had about 4 miles to the finish. As I left one of the aid stations I saw our friend Brady sitting on the curb. I asked if he could run with me for a second and he jumped right up. I thanked him and asked him for the time- still stressing I wouldn't make it. He told me the time and reassured me I could (and would) finish. I thanked him and told him he didn't have to keep running with me but he did. He talked and told me about his Ironman Wisconsin, definitely a great distraction!
Once we had ran about a mile we ran into 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter'!!! My heart again, about exploded!! He started running with us and told me the tracker wasn't updating them on me, so they got worried and he came to find me. Brady was just as shocked as I was that he was even able to run, and asked if 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' wanted to finish it with me, as much as me wanted to, I don't think he could have. haha!! He told Brady to finish it with me and to not let me walk-- he knows me too well. ;)
Brady was definitely pushing the pace and I could feel it. I was ready to be done so I just held on. About a mile from the finish, my sister and bonus-dad, Dale we're waiting for me (again, saying the tracker wasn't updating and they were worried. I really do have the best family EVER!!) They both ran with me for about half mile and then said they would see me at the finish line.
Brady continued to push the pace and told me that if I pushed it I could beat 16 hours. I tried to keep up and said 'okay'. We tuned the last corner and I could see the finisher chute. He told me that it was as far as he could go with me and told me I needed to really push all the way to the finish line. I thanked him again and took off.
The music was blaring, the crowd was going crazy, and I was running as fast as I could to get there. I could barely see where the finish line was with all the blinding bright lights, but I knew I was getting close. I heard Mike Reilly shout "Kim Whattler YOU- ARE- AN- IRONMAN!!!!!" And I knew I had made it. I had the biggest smile on my face and thew my arms in the air. I was SO happy/excited/proud. I freaking did it.
The volunteer who caught me was my friends boyfriend- again, it was great to see familiar faces, and he lead me to get my medal and my shirt and then showed me where 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' and Maria were waiting. We all were now Ironmen, it was awesome. We took some pictures together and got some food, then started the ridiculously tiring process of gathering your bags and bike. We had to say goodbye to my bonus-mom and sister, who had to get home and put her kids to bed, but we still had my mom and bonus dad who helped us. (which I am extremely grateful for!)

Once we had gotten all of our bags and bikes, we headed back to the finish line to watch the midnight finishers. Like always, it is completely inspiring and awesome to watch. It gives me chills every year.

After the last finisher, we slowly made our way to the car and drove around to the only place still open (at 1 o'clock in the morning!) for food: Jack in the Box. :)
We got home, unloaded the car, hardly ate anything and then tried to lay down for a couple hours before we had to wake up at 5 to go back down to Tempe Town Lake to get in line for finisher gear.

**Congratulations to everyone else who raced this weekend!!!** 

What are the worst conditions you've ever raced in? 

What's your favorite part of racing? 

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