Ironman morning was a breeze my third time around. I dropped my bags off, got body marked, got my bike ready, and I was at the bottom of the Helix by 6:20am. Once we were let into the water I got a few minutes of zen, taking it all in. Thousands of spectators shoulder to shoulder on the shore and throughout the Monona Terrace. Thousands of athletes entering the water. Music blaring. Sunshine. Laughter all around me.
And then, BANG, the cannon goes off and all hell breaks loose for the day.
The swim was a contact sport that morning. I’m not sure I swam next to anyone who could swim in a straight line. I’d see someone swimming diagonal, I’d position myself to go around, and then they changed their diagonal right back into my line of fire. I’m always mentally prepared for contact and punching, but this year exceeded my expectations. Perhaps we need a blue line painted at the bottom of Lake Monona. (I kid, you wouldn’t be able to see the bottom of Lake Monona!) Other than the annoyances of so many crooked swimmers, I enjoyed it knowing that it would actually be the most relaxing part of the day.
Out of the swim I stubbed my toe on the way to the wetsuit stripper. I cringed and kept moving. Up the Helix, into T1, onto the bike. John was waiting for me at the mount line.
My bike felt heavy with how much fuel I had packed (bag of gummi worms, 3 small potatoes, Bonk Breaker, 4 Huma gels). I ended up dumping out half of a water bottle because I could feel the weight of the extra fluids & food I had on me. It took about 15 miles for my legs to get spinning quickly.
The bike course is always a party, it never disappoints. It’s amazing how many dedicated Iron-fans there are out there, waiting in the hot sun for hours to cheer on their family and friends for a minute as they ride by. The costumes are always hilarious. The clown in the cornfield cracks me up every year.
On Barlow road I told myself to trust the training, my legs were fresh, I CAN DO THIS. As I approached the wall that is Barlow I decided it was too dangerous that I wanted to preserve how good my legs felt. I hopped off and walked it. I’m glad I did!
My ride was going fine, John was consistently a few bikes ahead of me. We kept each other in sight. Unfortunately I got too close to him and got a drafting penalty. I’ll own it, I deserved it! When I arrived at the penalty tent I hopped off my bike and said “I’m here for the party!” They weren’t impressed. I took the time to stretch, fuel, and ditch my trash. John waited for me at Bike Special Needs which was only a couple miles ahead.
After the penalty tent things got a little rough for me. First, seeing my lost mph during my penalty messed with my head a little. I tried to speed things up, but my stubbed toe was throbbing since the start of the ride and was progressively getting worse. In the last twenty miles I started to feel like I had to throw up, so I stopped eating. Just keep moving forward, handle it.
Off the bike, and onto the run. I started the run on an empty stomach and a throbbing toe. Recipe for disaster, but I kept moving forward and would soon resolve it. At the first aid station I took a handful of chips and cola. I repeated this for three aid stations and I felt like I was coming back to life. The return of energy was great. At the half way point turn around we did airplane arms and gleefully shouted “One more time!”
One more time was not as exciting as we made it out to be at that turn around. With my throbbing toe I was landing on my feet differently, messing up my regular form. I started to feel that around mile 16. Things really, really hurt. I mean, I know it’s Ironman and it’s supposed to hurt, but I didn’t remember it hurting as much as it did on Sunday. At mile 19 the song by Pitbull and Christina Aguilera Feel This Moment was blasting and I said “Not today Christina, not today.” She’s my favorite voice in the world, so I know I was hurting bad if I wanted her to shut up.
Though it hurt, we had so much fun on the run course. Banter with fellow runners in pain, shameless face stuffing at aid stations, meeting Twitter connections on course, and the cheers from spectators were extraordinary.
In the last quarter mile I was assessing people behind us for space in the finish chute. There were quite a few, so I pulled ahead to see if they’d come along. They didn’t. So John and I ran quickly down the chute, into the bright lights and loud noises, arms in the air as high as we could, giant smiles, and sweet, sweet relief to be finished.
What a day. This is why I don’t set number goals, because anything can happen. For me, it’s about handling what happens, and being resilient to what’s thrown at me. At first, part of me was a little disappointed that this was my slowest Ironman finish yet, including slowest marathon time too. Then I saw my black and blue swollen toe. To have finished an Ironman on that toe, which caused all kinds of other pain confirmed my Iron-will. Tempt me with an Ironman finish line, I’ll find a way to get there.
This was John’s first Ironman. He loved it. He hates swimming, and got through all that kicking and punching. He’s pretty good at biking, he could probably qualify for Boston Marathon. He’s already dropped a few “next times” on a possible future Ironman. I’m so proud of him!