I have never written a race report before – I’ve done many races, but never an Ironman. This is mostly for me – so I remember as much as I can.
So here it goes.
I got a decent amount of sleep. I’m not sure how I was so calm, but I was. I think I fell asleep around 1030pm and slept until 2:45am. My alarm was set for 3:15am. Around 3:10, I finally got up and ate my already made PB&J, starting drinking water and gatorade. Got dressed, pooped, took my social media photo. Put in my headphones and dialed into my church, Soul City’s, Sunday Worship Spotify station. I started praying, I prayed over every aspect of the day; from the water to transition 1, the bike, transition 2, and the run. I prayed for safety, I prayed for peace, I prayed for focus, and I prayed for endurance. As the clock turned to 3:30am, I woke Sean up and then I started to freak out. There was something about that hour before everyone else got up – it was just me and my head. I needed it.
Sean got up, smiled at me and said, “today’s the day!”. I freaked out.
We woke the girls, got our things together and headed downstairs. We met up with Sean’s parents (bless them for starting their morning at 2am) and took the bus that shuttled us to the race start. It was surreal. We were on the bus with the rest of the Team World Vision group – I still couldn’t wrap my head around the day ahead.
Thank goodness for this group – I was able to stay calm through dropping off my special needs bags, last minute additions to my transition bags and checked on my bike (thank you, Matt for lending me your bike pump and then pumping up my bike because I wasn’t functioning!).
Something meaningful to me – the rally and prayer we had as a Team World Vision group. It really helped continue the tone of prayer and worship for me. I parted ways with Sean, the girls, and my in-laws and headed out towards the lake.
Somehow I ended up with a couple of TWV people at the beginning of the swim start waiting area. They started letting people into Lake Monona at 630am! That would mean treading water for 30 mins before the start of the race. I had a minor freak out. I can’t float on my back (or swim on my back) as it makes me extremely dizzy – this has been a new issue this year. So I stood at the shallow end (out of the way) for about 5 mins and decided I’m too excited to stay out of the water and headed into the lake. I ended up towards the ski/boat (?) ramp and stayed towards the front of the pack (I wasn’t really thinking). Those 20 something minutes before the cannon went by fairly quickly, it was amazing to see the swimmers, green caps and pink caps begin to fill in every single inch of the start area.
The cannon went off and there we went. It was ridiculous. That’s almost an understatement. I was expecting to get hit a bit here and there, but I’m talking, clawed at, elbowed, pulled… I swam towards the inside of the buoys. I was able to get comfortable and focus on my strokes, pulls, and sighting. Occasionally, someone would get a little close and I’d get kicked or knocked (OMG, I did get kicked in the mouth and dear Lord thought I was going to lose my new fake teeth! And thought I’d have a toothless grin throughout the race!). At one point, I got really annoyed of one guy who literally swam back and forth in front of me – perpendicular to me! I ended up stopping and yelling at him that he was swimming diagonally and he needed to sight better. He got mad and kicked me in the boob. Seriously? So. Lame.
As we swam back towards shore, I got super excited because I was pretty sure I was doing well (I forgot to mention someone knocked into my garmin watch and it was on triathlon mode so while swimming, I had to click through each set (bike, T2, run), save, and restart triathlon mode to record the rest of my swim). I can’t add or do any sort of math while swimming, biking, and running… so you know, I wasn’t exactly sure how well I was doing. OH! And I mastered how to pee WHILE swimming – best new skill ever. I peed so much that I didn’t have to stop to go after the swim. SCORE!
I ran up the helix after the wet suit strippers (best volunteers EVER), got through T1 by myself because all the volunteers were helping others. Nothing too memorable here, except I saw lots of butts. Made me feel better about my shorts change for T2.
Photo Credit: Mike Poulos
I ran out and immediately heard my name called, the Poulos family! I didn’t think anyone would be there cheering for me as I told Sean and fam to head to Verona so I could see them around mile 15 on the bike. It was the BEST ever to finally hear MY name called over all the shouts and cheers.
From the very start of the bike, I kind of felt off. Like my butt was uncomfortable already and seriously, I had 112 miles to go. Saw a bunch of TWV folks, got passed by lots of people (and kept telling myself that means I passed them in the swim! SCORE!), tried to keep my head down and keep pedaling.
I saw Sean, the girls, in-laws, and Bob & Emily (they are some of the best cheerers out there – they’ve come to a bunch of Chicago Triathlons and now the Ironman to cheer for me) at the beginning of loop 1, the end of loop 1, and the end of loop 2. I saw TWV and Trimonster folks, and the Poulos family (they were volunteering at the Mt. Horeb aid station) randomly throughout the course and it was such a boost.
Photo Credit: Chris Navin
8 HOURS, yo. That’s an entire freaking work day. I was out there on that bike fighting every bit of the head wind, self doubt, and self pity. It was a pretty terrible ride. I cried, I sobbed, I tried to do math (and got really confused) to figure out if I would make the half way bike cut off and then again for the final bike cut off. The second time I saw my family I just looked at them and cried because I had to do the damn loop one more time. My lower back was killing me, my right quad was spazzing out, but I fought. I rode every dang hill except for the Barlow wall (because the first time I tried climbing that in August, I fell over so thought it was smarter and faster to walk). Ain’t no shame in my walking game.
I tend to talk a lot when I’m biking to pass the time. I asked Jesus to literally be my back, my legs, my feet, my arms. I went through hours of loneliness as people passed me by. I thought terrible thoughts of how and when I could just stop – like getting hit by a car so I had an actual excuse to stop (I seriously thought this. Did I mention I am a little crazy?) I thought about what I would say if I didn’t make the time cut offs. Then I started seeing these fuzzy caterpillars. A LOT of them. They all seemed to be crossing the road during the last couple hours of my ride. I swear, Jesus put those nasty thing on the road for me – we had just gone camping with the girls and saw a ton of them and each time we would stop to talk about them, try to pet them (NOT me), and talk about butterflies. If you know my girl, Olivia, she has been fighting this FEAR of bugs and has finally gotten through it, for the most part, this summer. So the caterpillars made me think about the girls and Sean. And they are my anchor, my confidence.
Photo Credit: Emily Wightman
I saw them at the end of loop 2 – the start of the 14/15 mile stick back to Madison and looked at my watch and knew I was golden. I laughed hysterically those 14/15 miles – because, what do you know? I was going to make the bike cut off.
Looking back, things went pretty smoothly on the bike. My chain did fall off once. It happened to fall exactly when a Trek bike support car was passing by and they jumped out and put it back on within 30 seconds. I literally didn’t even have time to freak out. The only other time I got off my bike was at the top of one hill because my right quad was spazzing out so I stretched it out for a minute and then at special needs for a couple minutes to pour extra gatorade in one of my bottles, take a swig of warm coke, and switch out my nutrition. I told the volunteers there were lots of goodies in my stupid bag and they should eat it all (What in the world was I thinking? Like I was going to have time for a picnic of beef jerky, twix, coke, and funyons?).
I dismounted off my bike while a sweet volunteer held onto it for me. He made sure I could walk upright. The minute I got off I started sobbing. Like uncontrollable. I don’t exactly remember why, I think between the pain, the joy, the relief… I immediately saw Bob, Emily, and my sweet training bud Lydia (who was supposed to do this race with me but was sidelined by injuries this year). I literally wept in Lydia’s arms.
I felt like I needed to rush (because, math, and I can’t do it), so I ran into T2, had a volunteer grab my bag and headed into the changing area. I apologized to her and changed my shorts and seriously, if I had time, I would have lit a match and watched those shorts go up in flames. My butt hurt SO bad. I quickly got my things together and ran out of there. And that sweet volunteer reminded me to take off my bike gloves (I had forgotten during the Chicago Triathlon and had to hang onto them the entire run). I stopped to get sunscreen sprayed on my shoulders and arms and the port-o-pot. I peed for like 2 minutes straight. I had tried to pee several times out on the bike but just couldn’t relax enough. And I thought I was chasing the clock so didn’t want to stop to pee. How in the world do people do that? That’s a skill I’ll need to learn: pee while cycling.
Now, this run time is hard for me to write. I went into this race thinking I would run most of the marathon, but it just didn’t work out that way. My plan was to jog every mile and walk through every aid station. That worked out for the first half of the run.
Immediately coming out for the run I saw my family. I started sobbing. In fact, I have a photo.
Photo Credit: Thanks Sean
I think it was just an overwhelming sense of relief, again – PAIN, and the realization I still had to do a marathon. I don’t quite remember. What can I say, I am a very emotional person and emotion = crying for me. I was pretty much an emotional mess. I hope I never forget how hard it was though. That’s why this photo is ginormous and posted here. This whole thing was HARD. I never want to forget.
Sean looked at me and said, “you’re doing it!” or something like that and I gave it a go. Once I started to run, I felt GOOD. I realized that getting off that stupid bike was AMAZING and running was AMAZING!!! I was on a HIGH! I had about 7.5 hours to get through the marathon and I KNEW I could do that even if I walked the whole dang thing.
Photo Credit: Emily Wightman
So I jogged every mile except for the aid stations for the first 14 or so miles. I had nailed my hydration while cycling so I had to pee every 2-3 miles on the run. Typically, I’d just pee. But seeing as I needed my shoes and socks to not be sloshy for 26.2 miles, I decided port-o-pots were the way to go. I caught up with a TWV pal, Jess (who I am now in love with and too bad she lives in Michigan). We jogged for a while together telling and then re-telling stories of how awful the bike was. We tried doing some math, but you know, just couldn’t get it right – we were even counting on our fingers. 🙂 Along came Sean and he told us, we could do 19:30 min/miles and still make the finish. Phew! So then we decided to start walking for a little break, because you know, our back and knees hurt – Jess even pointed out while bending over to put Biofreeze on her knees, it hurt her abs. Basically, every single inch of our bodies hurt. That was probably the wrong thing to do – start pointing out what hurt because all of a sudden, the high was gone, and I just hurt. Though, I did point out to Jess that every inch of my body was rock hard (my muscles will probably never be like that again). By this point I could feel blisters forming on the balls of my feet, and how do you avoid making that hurt?
During the run, I saw so many people – my family like 5 or 6 times – Olivia even ran with me for a bit, I saw Trimonster folks, TWV folks, the Pouloses – who are MASTER spectators (and volunteers). It was a LOVE fest.
Let me take a second to just say, as a mom, most of the time, I play a very good supporting role to our family. Our kids, they come first. As a wife to a resident surgeon, I cheer on my husband and we typically work our schedules around his busy schedule. I don’t always thank Sean for cheering me on even though he does this so well. The entire course was spread out – I mean, we covered 140.6 miles in one day. But Sean figured it all out without me being too involved. He made sure I got to see our girls as often as possible throughout the day. This one day, if nothing else, was a perfect example of his never-ending support.
Anyhow, I stopped taking in water around mile 15ish because I went into a disgusting full port-o-pot (think: splash back) and worried the rest would be the same. Really bad decision – as that for sure sped up my fatigue and soreness. I drank some chicken broth and when it was warm, it was like the best thing in the entire world. At this point, Jess and I were just walking – speed walking, mind you, but walking. Sheila and Michelle, also TWV folks, caught up to us and the four of us were like the dream team, speed walking our way through the darkness that is the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Towards the end, with just a couple miles to go, we were all wincing as we were stomping on our giant blisters that had formed. I ended up spotting Lydia in the darkness and she and I broke away from the actual TWV dream team of 3. We rounded a corner and could hear the madness of the finishers chute. Some random guy started encouraging me and pulling me to start running. So, I started to jog and Lydia joined the spectators.
Photo Credit: Chris Navin
Then I saw and heard Sean. We hugged and he told me how proud he was of me and he told me to go! I started sobbing and jogged towards the lights. I didn’t hear anything distinguishable. Not Mike Reily announcing me as an Ironman (I had to re-watch the finish video like 10 times), not any of my family or friends calling out my name. It was just me, some screaming, and some lights. And I thanked the Lord for getting me through the journey.