Alternative title #2: Two out of three ain't bad, well..., maybe it is.
Alternative title #3: Does 67% of an Ironman make me an alloy like ChromeMan? (Obligatory nerdy science title)
Let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first off, shall we?
Overall Time - DNF
For the record, I did not quit, the race quit me (someone very smart and very Iron told me that this weekend and I liked it) it sounds so much better than "I was too fat and slow to make the time cut offs, but too stubborn to leave the course until they made me", which is exactly the tale of my first Ironman attempt.
I will tell you that I cannot begin to thank all of you for your encouragement and support. The tracking comments and posts made me laugh and feel so special. And then, when it all went to shit, the outpouring of concern and kind words helped me see the positive side of a pretty fucking emotionally tough day.
Here is the story of Project Ironman, Take 1...
Pre-race: The Epic Road trip.
Hubby and I decided to take Ms. Lucy with us to Coeur d'Alene so we drove the 1200 miles to get there. Now, it is actually only 990+ miles, but we had to go visit the in-laws first in Washington. I will leave it at, we went, we saw them, and that family obligation is done until next year. 'Nuff said.
Some shots from the road:
Lucy was not impressed. Personally, I don't see the big draw either.
Pre-Race: IM Check in
When we got to Coeur d'Alene it was time to get checked in. Packet pick up on Friday went pretty smooth and I was amazed at how calm I was. I chatted with a a beautiful, leggy Canadian girl in line. It was her first IM and she was excited that she did not have to feel the pressure of speed like when she is at Olympic races and she is trying to win her age group.
Yeah, me too. So nice to not have THAT pressure.
On Friday I was going to skip the pre-race dinner and just go to the meeting, but some of the gals that train with my coach talked me in to going and I am glad I did. During the dinner and meeting Izaac (Formulaic) and I were texting and we met up after dinner. It was so nice to get to see him and Kelly and meet their beautiful baby Kian before the race. I am so grateful to this internet/blog world for introducing me to great friends like them. From the time we met it was like we had been friends for years. We just 'get' each other.
Small aside: My friendship with Kelly is a testament to my HUGE growth as a woman. In a past life I would never be able to be friends with a woman that was so gorgeous, smart, funny and looks so freaking good a mere 3 weeks after giving birth that she could wear a bikini out to dinner. I am just saying...
On Saturday I met up with IronJane. She was there to volunteer in T1 and the Med tent. I do not think I could have had a better day-before-race than I did. We went to lunch, talked about Ironman, training, dogs, life, etc. I really think that it put me in a perfect pre-race mental space.
RBR and IronJane in front of a nice calm Lake Coeur d'Alene. Stupid fucking lake.
Race Day: The Ominous Morning
My dad and I got up early race morning and I sat on the deck of our rental house, drinking my coffee, and watching the white caps on the lake. I was currently facing my worst case scenario.
I had already decided that I would not leave the course until they made me. It was time to do this. About 10 minutes before the start I got in to get wet before the swim. I always do this so I don't have the shock of the cold water right in the beginning of the swim. It helps control my breathing so my asthma does not cause issues. The water temperature was about 65 which is very comfortable in a wetsuit and MUCH warmer than the ocean water I have been swimming in.
The Swim: 2:16:48/T1 9:55
The canon went off with no warning and no pre-race pep talk. I waited while the fasties got in and started swimming and then meandered into the water staying to the far right. It must have worked because I did not get hit. Not once. I did not get kicked or swum over. It was actually one of the tamer swim starts I have had in a triathlon. I was waiting for the Ironman washing machine, but one never came. I just got in and started swimming.
The swell and current was disheartening, but I had taken Bonine (motion sickness medication) and held my own for the first loop. 58:20, a normal pace for me and pretty good considering I swam extremely wide for the first loop and was fighting swell and current.
I got back in for the second loop and the conditions got significantly worse. I fought like hell just to get to the first turn buoy. The swell would pull me up and then drop me back on the water, smacking my face on the water like the bottom of a boat. Over and over A-fucking-GAIN. It was maddening. I had to swim at a diagonal to keep heading toward the buoys because the current was pulling me to the far right and every time I looked up to sight, I swallowed another gallon of lake water. I have never hydrated so well in my life as I did on that swim.
The far turn buoys were just terrifying for me. The swell loomed over you and then tossed you around like a rag doll. By time I reached the last turn buoy to head in I was so seasick. After another 50 yards I was retching and the first of several kayaks and surfboard guys came over to me and asked how I was. I told him I was sick. It was 8:43 am. He said, "don't worry you have plenty of time." I had about 900 yards to go and it would turn out to be the hardest 900 yards of my life. I would swim a few strokes and then have to look up and breathe. A surfboard guy named Jesse (yeah, at this point I am on a first name basis with the rescue crew) came up and starts cheering me on.
Here is where I hit the wall. I was clinging to his surfboard retching and crying (I know, so cool) I was shaking and wanted so badly to quit. I MUST get out of this fucking water.
Jesse: "Stacey, you can do this!"
Me thinks: Why don't you have a fucking jet ski? A surfboard would take FOREVER to get me out of here.
Jesse: "Come on, only four buoys to go."
Me thinks: If I flip Jesse off that thing, I can get in faster. Fuck him. He can swim.
Jesse: "You can't be seasick on land!"
Me thinks: How much lake water HAVE I drank?!
Jesse: " You are doing great. Only two buoys to go."
Me thinks: Your entire family and your best friends took their vacation time and spent A LOT of money to come up here and cheer you on, suck it up and JUST FUCKING SWIM!
Staggering out of the swim. You know you look MARVELOUS when not one, but two volunteers walk you up to transition.
I assumed that I had missed the cut off. I kept waiting for them to pull my chip. I hit the wetsuit strippers and they told me to sit down. I immediately fell over and I heard people gasp.
"I am fine. Just sick. Very sick." I kept repeating.
IronJane: "You did it! You did so great!!"
Me: I made the cut off?
IronJane: "Yes! You are so awesome!" (Jane seriously missed her calling. If this doctor thing doesn't work out she should consider professional cheerleading)
I am not sure what is worse in this picture, the green, I-am-gonna-puke expression on my face or my GINORMOUS, wet spandex wrapped ass.
Me thinks: Holy shit, I am still in this thing
The Bike: 8:14:32 (unofficial)
I knew that with that bad of a swim time that my odds of making the bike cut offs were bad. Like im-fucking-possible bad, but my motto had become "you are not leaving this course until they make you," so I soldiered on.
It took a couple of miles before the seasickness wore off. I started sipping water and by mile 10 I was able to eat. When I passed my family at mile 15-ish I screamed I am feeling better! I pushed as hard as I could. My new goal was to make to 1:30 pm cut off at mile 56.
I was passed by the first pro about 4 miles in (yeah, he was over 50 MILES ahead of me. Whatever. This is his job) A girl on the side of the road yelled to me, "Come on! You can catch him!" That cracked me up. This set the tone for my ride. I was the happy, smiling girl that was last. I remained that girl for the entire ride (well, there was a brief bitchy snit fit, but I will get to that). I must have said 'thank you' 10,000 times to spectators, volunteers, and race officials. Everyone was SUPER nice. I may have been last, but I was damn happy and damn proud to be there.
There was a group of drunk bikers that were tailgating, spectating and cheering for riders with a megaphone. They were very amused by me. They went ape shit every time I went by. It was kind of cool.
The downside of remaining the last rider is that I became the Ironman Grim Reaper of the bike course. If I passed you, you were done. It may not be immediately, but eventually everyone I passed dropped and SAG'd in. So let the record reflect that I did actually pass some people!
As I headed out to Hayden Lake and the hills I was on a mission. The hills were steep but short and I rode up every one of them without stopping or walking. Both loops. Now, I am in no way sitting "high atop my seat of judgment" for those that had to stop or walk up them. I just have to take my "Boo yah's" and "Go me's" where I can get them. I trained hard for these goddamn hills and I am proud that I rode up every mother fucking one of them. And there were plenty of them. Believe me.
Pros were passing me left and right at this point and several of them cheered me on by name. For the record, Justin Henkel, Annette Kamenz, and Jeff Kimball are extremely nice people.
The really shitty part of this bike course is that you do not get much of a reward after climbing the hills. The downhills are short and most of them end in a hairpin turn that you have to brake on before climbing up yet another fucking hill. Therefore, you do not get to use your momentum to help get up the next hill, nor do you get a long down hill to help raise your average speed. I call it the "lose/lose" of the CdA bike course.
I started to get passed by the WAY hardcore age group riders and several of them were so nice cheering me on. One guy even said, "Good stretch Stacey, Find your rhythm. You are looking great!" I wish I could remember his name.
I hit the first timing mat at 35 miles (I don't remember the time) and I knew it was going to be a stretch to get to 56 miles by 1:30 pm. Push, push, push. Finally back I got back in town. My Garmin was off by about 2 miles (trouble finding a satellite in bum fuck Idaho) and my bike computer was about 3 miles ahead since I forgot to clear it from my 'check to see if the bike is ok' ride. I wasn't sure exactly when 56 was. I assumed there would be a timing mat.
Where is the fucking 56 mile mat?
No mat. Nice.
I kept going and assumed I made the cut off. I later found out that I made the cut off by less than 2 minutes.
I got to special needs and knew I could not stop. I had no wiggle room. I yelled out that I wanted my coke, sandwich, and chips and the gracious volunteers humored me as I am sure they were thinking "Really, we are going all 'Tour du France' style and you are dead fucking last?"
I immediately dropped the sandwich, but I somehow got the coke open and ate some chips while riding. The coke was a LIFE SAVER. It lit a fire under my ass and I was ready to tackle Hayden Lake again. I passed a girl about this time and she asked,
Dead Girl Riding: Did you see a 56 mile mat?
Grim Reaper (Me): No, but they didn't stop me, so I assumed I made the cut off and I was behind you so I think we are fine.
Dead Girl Riding: I am not going back out to Hayden Lake If I am not getting credit. I am going to flag down an official.
That was the last time I saw her. I did not have time for all of that. I am not leaving until they make me, so it does not matter.
A little while later, a motorcycle pulls up next to me and asks me how I am doing. I tell him I am great. He says, "Well, we are going to keep an eye on you because you are the last rider." I would hear that about 47,000 times over the next 47 miles.
I hit the Hayden Lake hills again and I swear they were easier this time around. I was feeling really good. I was joking with the volunteers and spectators and even with my grumpy motorcycle escort. I passed several people that were waiting on the side of the road for SAG or walking up a hill. Other riders heading back into town looked shocked that someone was still heading out. But I smiled and cheered them on and they cheered me on.
As I descended to the mile 90 turn around I saw them flip the orange timing mat into the truck.
When I got there they stopped me.
Me: Do I turn around here?
Timing Mat Flipper: Yes, but I have to take your chip. You are not going to make it.
Timing Mat Flipper: You are at the farthest point of the course. You won't make the cut off. I have to take your chip. Sorry.
Me thinks: They should have sent a bigger dude to take my chip. You could get hurt this way, sport.
Me says: I have an hour and half to the cut off.
Timing Mat Flipper: You won't make it. You can wait here for SAG to bring you in.
Me: Can I finish the course?
Timing Mat Flipper, as he removes my chip: Yes
And with that my Ironman was officially over.
As I rode away, I was so angry. Why the fuck would they not tell us there was another cut off at 4 pm at mile 90? (I got there at 4:03pm by the way) I caught up with another gal Susan that had just had her chip removed as well. She said, "Bummer, huh? Maybe I should just SAG in. It is getting really cold and now it is raining."
She was so much calmer than me, but not after I got done with her. By time we reached the next hill, she was as pissed as me. I am pretty sure she never swears as much as we did. But what she lacked in vulgar vocabulary she made up for in enthusiasm. I like to think she will blossom under my tutelage.
They were picking up the cones and pulling the directional arrows on the course so it made a little slower going getting back as we tried to figure out which way we were supposed to go. It was cold, windy and raining, and all of the spectators had moved on, but I was meeting my goal, I was not leaving the course until they made me.
When we got back closer to town my drunk bikers were still out there and as I approached they started screaming and cheering saying "There's our girl! You are first place in our book!" and then they held out beers like an aide station.
As we approached Coeur d'Alene, I got a new motorcycle escort, but this one was a total sweetheart. For 10 miles he stopped traffic for me and made sure that I was safe through the busy streets. We laughed and joked and he kept me pushing until the very end. I did not casually cruise back into town, or ride in dejected and beaten. I came in smiling and pushing hard.
I didn't even cry until I saw my dad. Then I sobbed. I knew I could run. I was pretty damn sure I could run a marathon, but it wasn't to be. It was not my day to be an Ironman, but don't count me out.
This story isn't done yet.