If you ask a triathlete before a race what their goal is, they usually start with, “I just want to finish.” Of course they have some goals times in mind but anyone with experience knows that all bets are off on race day – anything can happen. This was one of those “I just want to finish” days for me. I had hoped to finish somewhere between thirteen and fourteen hours. In the end it took me 15:37:04.
The day started off great. The water temperature was perfect and my swim went well. I moved through the first transition and then headed out on the bike. The first few miles on the bike were fast and a bit chilly. I was sticking to my plan, keeping hydrated and eating all the food I’d packed. But the temperature started climbing quickly (the temperature eventually peaked over 100) and by mile 56 I was starting to worry.
To be cautious, I stopped at all the aid stations on the second half of the ride to take short breaks and cool down but by the time I got to the run I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t run my planned pace for more than a quarter mile at a time and it took a surprising amount of time to recover. So I lowered my expectations, slowed down and took breaks at the aid stations. By the end of the first lap I felt a bit better and was able to run a little faster. Then things really got tough!
A few miles into the second lap, my ears became plugged and they were bugging me. So I tried to pop them by swallowing and yawning real big but that didn’t work. Then I tried holding my nose and blowing and that made me super light headed. I had to sit down on a guardrail and I threw up. A volunteer called a medic and I thought they were going to pull me out of the race. In the two minutes it took the medic to arrive I felt better and started running again. I explained what happened and she let me continue. Then, a few miles later, as I stopped at the aid station at mile 12, my shins cramped up. So there I sat on the side of the road while a volunteer massaged my legs. As my shins started to feel better and I thought I’d be able to get going, my calves cramped up. I think I spent about 20 minutes there in some of the worse pain I’ve ever experienced. All I wanted was for it to be over.
Finally my legs calmed down and I was able to continue. In fact, my legs were in a constant state of almost cramping for the rest of the race and the only thing I could do was keep them moving. Seeing Rebecca and the girls at the end of the second loop was a huge boost. Those last 8 miles were done mostly alone, in the pitch dark (I didn’t expect to need a head lamp). I just though of my family, my teammates, all the training I’d put in to get here and all the people I raised money for. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish. When I finally crossed the finish line I felt relieved and proud for sure. And more than that, I had truly surprised myself. That’s rare and something I cherish.
I also feel a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who helped me do this: my family, my coaches, teammates, donors and supporters. Thank you.
Now I just want to get a little Ironman tattoo and go back to racing shorter triathlons.