I wont' bore you with packet pick up details....
Let's go straight to 30 minutes before the swim...
Louisville is a first come first serve basis swim. The earlier you're in line, the more time you have to complete the event. For those at the back of the swim line, instead of the full 17 hours, they only get 16.5, or right around in there. I was at the mid way point in line and it wound around for FOREVER. I hadn't been nervous all week but you better believe that those 15 minutes before the start were the most terrifying of my life. All of my insides were shaking, my teeth were chattering. I was a basket case. Ready, but still a wreck.
As we started jogging down the ramp and towards the docks I just wanted in the water, finally, after 15 minutes, I crossed the timing mat and like all the little penguins in front of me, I too hopped right in, feet first. I bobbed to the surface like a cork and started my doggie paddle. That's correct, I've been training all these months to doggie paddle. Not really but it was just a sea of people and I had to figure out where in the world I was going to attempt to swim the clearest which ended up being closest to the island, grazing those kayaks you can see in the picture.
It's just that some very large men also had the same plans. I've heard about some Ironman swims having a ton of contact but I didn't think much of it, UNTIL I MYSELF got ran the F over. It was awful. How can they not feel me as they're pile driving their elbows into my back and pushing me all the way under?? At least three times I took on water like a sinking ship and finally I started fighting back. I kicked and kicked and any time I felt someone touch me, I kicked even harder. It was the only warning shot I had.
Finally, once we swam up around the island and around the turn buoy to head back down river and under those two bridges (you see in the picture) was I able to get some clear sailing out on my own. I won't lie, it took a lot out of me.
Those volunteers are angels. See them reach their arms out for us? It was the most welcome sight after the swim I had.
2.4 mile swim - 1:30
Once out of the swim I headed over to grab my bike gear bag and made my way into the nudists changing tent, where again, I met another amazing volunteer who not only completely unpacked my bag for me, but also helped me dress myself. It's so hard getting on spandex clothes when you're wet. Everything just kept rolling and I just kept apologizing. My volunteered mothered me and if she's out there somewhere.. "I love you for unrolling my bra when I was too tired to lift my arms."
It was a thumbs up kinda day.
She sprayed my sunscreen on me and sent me out the door with some encouraging words. I hit the porta potty, grabbed my bike and away I went. The first 20 miles of this ride are almost dead flat. I knew I needed to relax for awhile after the swim so I layed down in the aero position and stayed there, as still and as quiet as I could be because I knew what was coming. Hills, relentless hills on a 90 degree day. If I did anything right, it better be in the next 112 miles.
Finally when the hills started, I was ready, I climbed just like I did on my practice days, in the saddle, easy gear, heart rate low. I hammered the down hills and coasted the flats. I stopped three times to pee at aid stations and to raid the kiddie pools they had filled with ice. I stuffed my bra, my helmet and packed ice around my quads. One bottle on my bike was to pour on myself and the other two were for drinking. With 80 miles to go, I was all smiles. I was tired but I was in good shape. I coasted home, just taking it all in. I started to cry a little bit at what a day I had had up until that point. I made a plan, I stuck to it and it worked out. I couldn't have been happier.
112 miles - 7:00
My smile is an indicator of how happy I was to see my daughter. She was my lifeguard and kayak support for me all those days out on the lake. She endured my freak outs during shark week as well.
I racked my bike and back into the changing tent I went. There were some seriously sick people in there. Overheated and looking so awful. I felt horrible for them. I wasn't in great shape but I was functional and prepared to jog. Not run but jog and walk. It was 90 degrees out. Can many truly say at that point at 4 pm that they were ready to go for a run? Probably not. I headed out with heavy legs and started my plan of walk 1 minute / jog 1 minute. That gave me mostly 11 / 13 minutes miles up until mile 11.
That's when the wheels came off. My stomach started talking back. I was having trouble digesting anything and it was an acid reflux fest. I couldn't stop burping and it was disgusting. I'm normally hard to gross out but I was doing it. My stomach was blown up like a little Ethiopian baby's and I felt disgusting. I didn't have to throw up but every time I went to run, it felt like a fish bowl of water and drink sloshing around. So, without further ado...I started walking, a lot. I walked about 2-3 miles and finally got everything back under control to where I could start jogging some each mile.
The cruelest part of all is that at exactly mile 13.1, you arrive at the finish and get to watch others heading down the chute while you're picking up your run special needs bag before heading out to do another loop. Clean socks never felt so good I say. I've never had blisters before but I had about 5 working up a storm on my heels and under my toes. I sat down in a chair and another angel of a volunteer took my shoes off and put clean socks on me, all the while I sat there with a quivering chin and tears streaming down my face. She asked me what was wrong, to which I replied "I can see the finish, and that will be me....soon".
As the night wore on, I started feeling better. Maybe it was the chicken broth but my 15 min miles turned into 13's again. I had made walking and jogging buddies along the way. I'll never forget one man on the side of the road. He spoke loudly and clearly for us all to hear in the night. "You can do this" he said. "You are all champions!" with a voice that had no doubt, only clarity. He says "I know it must be difficult but move with conviction, forward, and you will finish this!" His voice was so welcomed.
Miles 13 - 23 were the darkest, as I heard they would be. Because not only are you literally in the dark but you're left with just your own thoughts and pain and finding the will to move on when "shutting it down" is all you wanna do. Bet yet forward I went...
Mile 24... almost there
Mile 25....so so close
Mile 25.5 ... I'm downtown and I can hear the finish. The distant sound of clapping, cheering and cowbells.
I made a hard right hand turn, running, into a wall of people lining the streets on both sides. Clapping, cheering. A Ironman volunteer stepped out clapping to me and she said "this is what you've been waiting for, here it is." I wanted to stop so bad and just make it last forever. I wanted to run as fast as I could but then it would be over. The light from the finish was so bright. I imagined it must be like some sort of triathlon heaven I was headed towards. Instead, I did as the man on the street told me, I moved with conviction towards the finish, tears running down my face. I did my best and my best was good enough for a finish. It had been such a long journey for me of being scared, being confident, being a mother who was barely keeping her home together. But somehow, I managed. It was one of the best feelings of my entire life.
As I crossed the finish line, the volunteer handed my medal to my daughter and she put it over my neck. I sobbed holding her in my arms. I turned around to find that now, the volunteers were crying too. I kinda laughed and apologized for turning everyone into a big, fat mess and being so emotional. What a day it had been. What a day.
The final walk after the finish to get my picture taken. Get the gist of this, once again an amazing volunteer by my side looking after me.
None of this happened on my own. I have needed so many people along the way. My husband who just puts up with all this stuff, bless him. Believe me, it's a lot. My daughter who taught me to swim and kept encouraging me, my boys who let me ride my bike in the living room just as long as I'll watch their cartoons, my mom who told me that lots of people were praying for me and that there was no doubt my day was going to go well! My friend Michael, the best of all friends who was on the receiving end of so much of my self-doubt, yet she listened and let me just be me. To my girls I run with, to my swim coach who taught me how not to drown when getting in a wrestling match in the water, I owe so many people thank you's. Andrea and her husband Steve who drug me out to my first swim in the lake and only laughed internally when I doggie paddled for at least 400 yards before I could look down because I was so scared. The list goes on....and on....
I'm just an ordinary girl who did something extraordinary.
Thanks for reading..