Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ironman New Zealand Race Recap

'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter's' dad, step-mom, stepbrother and his girlfriend, got in the night before the race. They came by the hotel after we had dinner to say hi and then left so we could get some sleep.

His dad and step-mom came back at 4:30am to pick us up and drive us to the race, even though it wasn't that far (10 minutes away) we weren't sure what the parking situation would be and didn't know how long it would take to find a spot. 
We got to race and we all went out separate ways to do any last pre-race checks and prepare for the day ahead. 
Having 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' double check my tires.
**SIDE NOTE: Everyone in town had been talking about what the weather would be like and everyone told us to be prepared for rain and that it was definitely going to rain at some point during the day. We went into this race planning for the worst- but hoping for the best. Now that we had a chance to experience the course and knew the weather conditions, I think we all threw any goals out the window and set our sights on making it across that finish line. 

Time flew by, and before I knew it we were in our wet suits walking in a sea of athletes towards the lake. We all wished each other good luck, told everyone to 'Harden Up', and got into the water. 

The few minutes we had in the water felt like seconds and BOOM! the cannon fired and we were off. Just before starting, I overheard someone say not to use the buoys and to sight off the large mountain directly in front of us and then to turn at the red buoys, and use the boats to sight on the way back. I wish I could have thanked him because it worked like a charm! I never felt like I was off course and only looked up to sight every 10-15 breaths. 
The swim was really great- I felt completely relaxed and comfortable- I did not push it at all, knowing the day was only going to get tougher. There were a few times I had to stop to let a swimmer cross me- I think it was the same swimmer the whole just swimming left to right in front of me. 

I got out of the water and couldn't help but smile at the huge crowd cheering so enthusiastically. I began to jog the loooooooong way to transition (seriously- it was about a half mile!) and the entire way was lined with cheering fans complimenting my smile or pace. 

Once I climbed 4 flights of stairs, I was finally in transition and called out my number and made my way to the changing tent. The volunteers helped me get my bike gear on and took care of putting my wet suit away. 

I grabbed my bike and took off through town. The sun was barely up and it was cloudy- but it wasn't raining. I was still soaking wet from the water, but the air wasn't too bad. I thought it would feel good if it warmed up. :)
Riding all through town was amazing- the amount of support from the town is unreal- seriously, like nothing I've seen before. It feels like every person/business fully supports every athlete in the race! It was incredible!!
We hit the largest hill by our hotel and I smiled, thinking how nice it would be once we were back in our room. :)
Not too long in, we were out in the country- complete farm land. I kept reminding myself I was riding my bike, in an Ironman, in NEW ZEALAND! It was surreal. I was shocked by how much support was out there- I literally felt like we were in the middle of no where (which was GORGEOUS!!) but there were a ton of people out there cheering us on.

About half way through the first loop, I started getting really cold with the wind, so I stopped at one of the aid stations and used the bathroom and put my rain coat on (AKA, the rain coat I borrowed from 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter'), and kept going. I felt great and literally could not stop smiling.

I finally reached the turn around point and headed back into town. ((Side note: Ironman New Zealand had about 1,200 athletes, whereas Ironman Arizona usually has about 3,200. So there were a lot fewer athletes than I'm used to.) I felt like I was dead last all by myself, other athletes were few and far between. Until the pros came back on their second loop and lapped me. ;)

The sun made it's way through the clouds and it was definitely warming up. I stopped again and took off my rain coat. Only to stop again later to put it back on.... the weather was definitely playing games with us....

I got back into town and was pretty concerned because I still hadn't got my first bracelet. (They track the laps by handing out 2 bracelets, 1 on the first loop and then another on the second loop.) At one point we merged with athletes starting their second loop and they all had bracelets- I freaked out! I started asking them where they got it and they responded with "back there". What?! I missed it?! I slowed down and came to a stop thinking I was going to turn around, when I saw another rider without a bracelet. I asked him where we get the bracelets and he said he thought by the 'Special Needs' bags up ahead, but he was concerned too. THANK GOSH!! I quickly took off again, made my way through town, and received my first bracelet. Yay!

Once again, I was back out in the middle of no where, with a lot less supports this time around and even fewer athletes. This time around there was an extremely strong head wind (that would occasionally switch to a cross wind. I saw 2 people get blown over on there bikes.) It was brutal and I was desperately searching for the turn around point.
When I finally reached the turn around point, which now consisted of 3 people cleaning up and handing out bracelets- I have never been so happy. I figured it would be a slight downhill the way back and I would have the wind at my back- PERFECT! Or so I thought...

Once I turned around, I was ready to throw a few gears on my bike and use the wind to my advantage and make up some time.... yet, I still had major head wind?! How is this possible?! An older athlete who I passed right before the turn around caught up to me and said "I thought we'd be on the right side of the wind this time, but welcome to New Zealand weather!!" What?! Seriously?! Seriously...

It was definitely mentally tough knowing I had to make by way back into town facing a head wind with the unpredictable cross winds. I tried to continue to remind myself I was in New Zealand and this was awesome, but I was getting frustrated and tired and it wasn't working like it had before.
This was the bike course by our hotel-- on a different day with WAY better weather. 
I started watching every mile slowly tick by on my watch and continuously calculating how much further I had. (It's hard doing math when you're 100+ miles in ;))
I was SO incredibly happy when I only had single digit miles left. The wind was not letting up like I desperately hoped it would.
I knew I just needed to make my way back through town and I would be off the bike and unto the run, I just had 6 miles to go. I could this, it's just a 10K left....
About a mile after realizing I was going to make it, I saw a truck pulled off to the side of the road and a guy waiting for me. (I thought it was an aid station- because ever since the turn around ALL the aid stations were GONE!) But he was saying something and motioning that I was cut. With the wind, I couldn't make out what he was saying, so I slowed down as I approached him and he again motioned that I was cut.
Thinking this was impossible, I looked down at my watch and realized I had 5 miles to go and just over 30 minutes before the bike cut off. I told him I only had 5 miles to go and I knew I could do it in less than 30 minutes. He again, motioned that I was cut and said that Medical was pulling everyone from the bike because of the wind and rain in town. (It was not raining where we were.) I again pleaded, that I only had 5 miles to go! He said Medical couldn't let us continue without poncho's and they cannot issue ponchos on the bike (because they could get caught in the chain, etc.). At this point, as upset as I was, I knew there was nothing more I could do to change the situation, and I handed him my timing chip.
I waited on the side of the road with another lady who got cut and a guy who came after me. We waited over 45 minutes for the SAG vehicle to come get us (the whole I was thinking, I could have biked myself into town by this point....) Everything about waiting sucked. I began replaying the whole day and thinking of everything I could have done differently to not have ended up in this situation. The guy who also got cut asked me if this was my first one, I told him it was my third. To which he replied, 'oh, then it's okay.' I tried to smile, but I really wanted to say 'No, it's absolutely NOT okay, I trained hard for this and flew half way across the world for this, and this was definitely NOT okay.' I think he could see I was extremely upset/disappointed and talked to me the entire way back into town about how he has DNF'd at 4 Ironman's, but it was OK because sometimes he was just having bad days.
Looking back, I really appreciated this- if he hadn't talked to me the whole way back, I probably would have been crying and feeling extremely sorry for myself.

When we finally got back to the transition area, I thanked him for keeping me company and we went our separate ways. At this point it was raining pretty hard and I desperately needed dry clothes (I was still in my wet tri-kit from the swim. So I changed into my morning after clothes and put my rain coat back on, and began the impossible task of trying to find 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter's' family in the massive crowds.... no luck.
Since I didn't have my phone, I waited by the run turn around hoping to see the guys and be able to cheer them on. Luckily, there was a public restroom that had coverage, I could stand under as I watched (and I could run in every few minutes and use the hand dryer to warm up! ;))

After a few hours, I saw 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' making his way to the finish line. I ran to the gate and screamed so loud cheering him on. He seemed so confused to see me and asked what I was doing. I told him I would explain later and to hurry up and go finish! I took a short cut to the finish line and saw him cross-- he looked completely toast.

I waited for him to finish in the tent- getting his medal, food, etc. and when he came out I gave him a huge hug! He didn't look happy though- I asked what was wrong and he started to tear up saying this was the hardest race he'd ever done and there were SO many times he wanted to quit and give up, it was SO hard. He said it was so hard that if this had been his first race he probably would never do another. It broke my heart, but I told him that made the finish that much better because he didn't give up and he finished!!

He changed into some dry clothes and we found he stepbrother and his girl friend, who informed us 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter's' dad went to the hospital! (More on that later...) and we went to watch for the other guys.
'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter's' medal and finisher shirt. Both were SUPER cute!! 
We saw them all coming and cheered our butts off for them (all looking so confused to see me- haha!!) and 'Mr. Sprinkles and Glitter' actually ran the last couple of miles  with our friend David to the finish.
Once everyone was finished, we waited in the tent- hoping the rain would let up (it was just a downpour at this point) and trying to stay warm. Once we watched the midnight finishers, we decided to face the wind and head home. (Ironman New Zealand let's you leave your bike and everything and then pick it up the next day- which was so nice for us, since it would have required multiple trips in the rain.)

We made our way to the van and headed to the only place that was open that late- McDonald's!! It was so, so good! They used all organic, grass fed, never-frozen, beef and you could definitely taste the difference!!

Once we finally made it back to our hotel room, we all quickly ate and went to bed.
This is our whole group the morning after Ironman. :)
*What's the craziest weather you've raced in? 

*Have you ever not finished a race? 

No comments:

Post a Comment