And it was! I'm standing in the town home hot tub re warming myself after icing my legs in the pool, realizing I'm returning home to the Tribe in full Holiday mode. There won't be time for posting, so while it's still vacation, here goes.
First off, a huge, huge thanks to Tac and The Tribe, and my family and friends. You don't do Ironman alone, and I have the best group around me anyone could ask for, I love you guys and thought of each of you many times throughout the day. Thanks especially to Commodore, Suplinds, Big J, Shane and Krista, Fe Lady, my local tri buddies (Steve, Helen, KY, Tim and Karen) for hanging out and helping Tac through the day-you guys were awesome support!
On to the race. As I had mentioned last week, I've been fighting a chest cold that just didn't want to go away and settled deeper into my chest as the week progressed. I was hoping I had turned the corner by race day but it was not to be. I woke up in a heavy sweat about 2 race morning with a fit of coughing spasms-blah. Overall, I felt strong and pretty well rested, so I couldn't see any reason to not start the day, and this is Ironman. How many shots do you get at this in a lifetime?
Everything about the day just felt right, I felt light, not too anxious, not scared, just ready to take on the day. I dressed, tattoo'd my arms with Tribe tat's (courtesy of the local Tribe Multisport-how handy was that. If you are ever in Scottsdale and need something or just want to hang out and talk racing, go there, they are awesome!) Breakfast went down a little hard as it always does on a big race morning and we were off in the beautiful pre dawn of Tempe.
The race was phenomenally staffed and it was pretty quick work checking in with body marking, bag drop etc. I had picked up a small speaker system for my bike (the size of a roll of quarters) that plugged into my shuffle so I quick taped my set up in place. No headphones in ears=perfectly course legal- learned that at Florida. I had tuneage on the bike-so awesome. Off to the porta potties, the coffee was talking and I knew it was going to be a good race day! whew. Into the wetsuit, one last bear hug from Tac and it was time to go to the water.
I was surprised by how many athletes were standing on the dock just staring at the water waiting to get in. It was 6:55 and we had a 200 yd swim to the start line. Having seen a large group of athletes stranded on the shore at Madison when the canon sounded I had no intention of not being at the start when the canon sounded. C'mon people, you have to swim 2.4 in this, what's an extra 5 minutes? Of course I'm a hardy minnesotoan and I thought the water was balmy. I was really warm race morning, shedding clothes like a hard luck poker player. I arrived at the start just to hear the final notes of our countries anthem and a huge cheer go up from the crowd. AZ is a fantastic spectator venue and the bridge above us was thick with people cheering. My strategy was to swim to the left side of the very large swim lane and make my way to the right at the end of the first 2000 yds. Clockwork. I couldn't believe how fast those first 1000 ticked off, building, building, stadium, bridge. I was moving easy through the water and barely encountered other athletes. A few pulls, one dunk that ticked me off because the guy had brushed my feet 3 or 4 times and knew I was there, but nothing major. I swam a little off course here and there, but overall, once I found my line I held it to the bridge and beyond. I did notice my arm turnover was not quite as strong, and I could feel my chest tight. Just not quite enough oxygen making it's way through those lungs. Go past the bridge, turn and head back home. about halfway back my right calf began to tighten and I knew I had to keep moving quick as it was definitely going to cramp. And it did with about 200 yards to go. I couldn't flex my foot it was so frozen in place. I paused and willed it to bend and ouch it did. I just wanted to get to the ramp. A lot of people were converging on that ramp at the same time and it was a little like a polo match during that last 100 yards. Bring it on, this is Ironman. I had to swim with one foot flexed to keep it from cramping, nothing like a little drag. haha.Great volunteers hauled you out of the water and I ran-yes ran- to the wet suit stripping area where Tac and Fe Lady were ready to go. Bear hug, down! Down! they had me stripped and I was on my way. Why was I running? I have no idea. The clock said 1:26- matching my Florida time and at that point it was time to reassess my goals. One lovely note, all of the athletes departed the water with a crazy mustache/beard thing- hmm sediment is good for you. I'm good for minerals for about 6 months.
I wanted to hit a 13:15 finish time, but could just feel that I had to move that off the table, because while I felt solid, I didn't feel as though I would have the air capacity to kick in my speed work.
The AZ bike is a 3 loop deal where you weave through town and then head up into the foothills. When we biked our practice bike it had been windy which made the climb slow and the return wickedly fast. 40 up, 20 down kind of thing. I held off on my music so I could just take in the day. The morning was clean and fantastic, the mountains breathtaking(in more ways then one) My plan was to go 75 percent on loop 1, 80 on loop 2 and 85 on loop 3. My plan was working like clockwork. I felt confident and strong returning to town, fueled up at The Big J rest stop, with my goldfish I'd brought along, and headed out for loop 2. About 5 miles in mental fatigue began to hit so on with the tunes and down with the bag of mini M&M's I brought. Great brain food for a race course. MMMM, and crunch happiness for the mouth that is getting sick of just drinking. I rolled up the hill a little faster the second lap and was making good time on the return. Stop at special needs, scarf the ham sandwhich, pick up the uber expensive spare tube I didn't want to lose and shove it in my back pocket, pop in another cough drop and roll on down the hill. I was rolling at a good clip, feeling pretty strong for the mileage. About 2 miles out from the turnaround I rolled through an aid station and pulled to the right for water. I had slowed to about 12 mph and was filling my aero bottle when all of a sudden I heard a "S*%#!" and then a crunch and in slow motion I thought, "hey there's the ground- I don't think I'm supposed to be flying over my handle bars headed for the ground" Then smack on my head, my bad hip and worse on my bum knee. Crack went the knee. I'd felt that same crack about 14 months before, same searing pain and I thought, damn! my race just ended. My left foot had unclipped but the the right was was twisted around still attached. "ok, is anything broke?" Please don't say broke. The uber intense Age Group Kona wanna be who had swiped me, had landed hard and was up and swearing. Hm, excuse me, you ran into me, and there was more then enough room to go around clean. But how are you, are you ok. He didn't pause to answer, swore at the aid workers who tried to help him out and rolled off. Alrighty then, I'm fine thanks for asking. But the aid workers were fantastic. My water spilled and for some reason that seemed relevant at the time. I think my brain was still catching up. I could feel something seeping through my bike shorts on my hip but decided it would be worse to look then to not know. I stood up, my head hurt, but my legs seemed to be working. They did a quick once over of my bike, and it was good, so I mounted and rolled on. Hmm. Ok 14 months of rehab and now I may or may not be able to use this leg for running. It seemed like a pretty good time to have a good freak out cry, so I did-going about 95 mph on adrenaline alone. I rolled into the turn around and the gang was all there cheering. Tac was at the end taking pictures and I was trying to hold it together. I was shaking pretty bad though. Tac lifted my bike short up to reveal a lovely oozing raspberry. I think I need more M&M's. I told him I have no idea if I will be able to run. "Hey, we've got all night, you can walk it if you need to." Apparently my brain did not hear him when he yelled, just dial it back a little, because I was moving. Back to the hill, up the hill, and look here, the wind had shifted. We were blown up the hill, so up and back the speeds were much closer. 30 decent on the first loop, 22 on the 3rd. I was pretty much done with the bike by mile 100, so I was glad those last 12 went so fast. I have one quirk with Ironman. My odometer on my bike read 122 miles when I was finished. This odometer is always spot on when I ride at home on pre measured distances. According to my Avs, I had knocked out an 18- but of course the bike clock stops when I do, so I ended up with a 16 ish. I was a little bummed, and yet, in the back of my mind, I'm going to keep that faster pace as a trophy- just because somewhere between what was and is lies the truth. :-)
I had good energy and felt mentally ready to run. Unlike Florida, where I ran one mile at a time and added up, this race I decided to count down. I have no idea why, except that I liked the idea of the miles melting away. AZ is a crazy weird run where you go out and back and up and down and round and round. Someone said it is like a butterfly, I was thinking more drunk Irishman. Most awesome thing, they had a massage tent at the second aid station. My calves were so tight I was having trouble running, so I pulled over. 5 quick minutes later and wow, I could move my feet again. I wasn't feeling any pain from the crash, and things were holding up well, so I ran. Here though is where the stupid cold kicked in, I think all the dusty air of the bike showed up, so if my heart went over 150 I started wheezing and couldn't breathe. I generally run at at 160-5 HR, so I needed to moderate it quite a bit. I ran until I started to wheez and then I would walk. By mile 6 I had figured out a good pace and that is when things really started to move. I ran with Tac across the bridge going into the final loop and was amazed at how trained and how good I felt. One loop to go and I was a happy camper. Most awesome of awesome, I was rapidly passing all of those bikers who had out gunned me. He who laughs last boys. I chatted with a lot of runners, joked with the volunteers and kicked off the miles. I thought about Commodore who had never had the chance to run this run, and Kahuna who was down with bad feet. I thought about how awesome it was as a Minnesotoan how wonderful it was to run in late October in shorts, I thought about the Tribe. When times got anywhere near funky, I thought about all the kids and folks who never get a chance to do what I am doing, and I smiled and said a prayer for them. Last fall after my crash, I strung a "Miracles Happen" pendant around my neck. It was a souvenir from the MIracles of Mitch Kid's Triathlon. It hasn't left my neck, and on this night I was proof to that statement. I negative split the second loop and was running strong when I met up with Tac at the 20 mile bridge. I had a lot of energy and a 10 K to do. I thought a sub 14 would be a great finish, but it was going to be close. One most awesome moment on the run, it must have been after about my 15th shot of Coke, I was flying and I cruised by a couple of guys walking- "Geez" was all I heard. Can you still be running at mile 20 of an Ironman? Oh, yea baby. One more negative split and I was rounding the shoot to the finish line. About a quarter mile out I realized I wasn't going to break the 14 mark, so I slowed up and savored. This was it! The end of long year, and I wanted to soak up every sight, smell and flavor. Ok, not flavor- I was a sweaty mess.
I adjusted my hat and arm warmers for the finish photo and cruised the finish shoot. I high fived both sides of the corral and whooped! (One note for spectators, you really need to flex that arm on a high five-one guy stiff armed me and I almost went down, but I regained composure- quick bow to the crowd, more high fives and "Trimama, you are an Ironman!" Break that tape and hang that metal around my neck. How cool it's a cactus-yea!
I felt amazing! I felt light. I felt like me. No tears at this finish, no burden to unload, just triumph. Wow! I met up with Duane and he gave me the biggest bear hug! Love it. Then Tac was there and it was all good.
The rest of the story is just pizza and sprite and beer and Taco Bell and a call home to let them know I was done. Oh, and then about 10 minutes of spasmodic coughing that threatened to send my pizza into the outer stratosphere. But it was all ok, because we had reached the end..........