Just as is racing for 16 hours straight, this recap is complex. It comes with love and hate and every emotion on the spectrum, but I’m coming to accept that that’s what an endurance event like this is about: reaching the highest of highs and the lowest of lows all in one day. Nervousness, excitement, sweat, tears, feeling on top of the world and feeling like I flat out failed all come into play. Sounds like fun, right?
Before anything else I want to take a stand and say I am choosing to be proud of myself. Sure, my time was slower than many and I definitely admit to giving up during the run, but I will not apologize. I will not apologize for where I am; I will only take pride in how far I have come. It doesn’t matter if I was slower or faster than the next person. It doesn’t matter if the distance was longer than the next or how well anyone thinks I did. The challenge is my own. I trained for this challenge, I faced it stronger than ever and I gave everything I had. And I crossed that finish line. I am proud.
I am still amazed at how calm I remained before the Great Floridian. At my last 140.6 and in the past several months I was full of anxiety, mainly about the swim. I’ve gotten in the water with sheer panic and tears in my eyes, but this year I was all smiles. I was cool and collected.. phew.
I woke up at 4:45am and drank a smoothie with whey protein, a banana, a handful of berries, two cups of spinach, a splash of chlorophyll, splash of almond milk and coconut water. I wrote out a time guide for Richard and wrote abbreviated versions on my race bib wristband.
Ironman cutoff, Great Floridian cutoff, 2010 Great Floridian, <15 hours, mph, ~16 hours.
I also wrote ONE CHANCE on the inside of my arm with a Sharpie because that phrase has stood out to me the most lately. I have one chance to do this.. whatever this may be.
We arrived to Waterfront Park in Clermont, Fl. where I began the morning with a faux mini-crisis. As I started to pump my tires, all the air deflated. I have heard stories of them popping and thought that’s what happened to me. Long story short, a valve on my pump was off and the tires were just fine. Silly.
At the last minute the swim was deemed wet suit legal so I wiped on some lube and got into the suit with some help from Mr. Race Support himself, Richard. My friend Ryan came to take photos and see me off for the swim, just as she had in 2010. Great friends rock.
The race began at 7:30am. I don’t remember if there was a race gun or what my final thought was before diving in the water. I think I was just telling myself breathe in, breathe out because that’s all I did. The water was really choppy and I kept drifting away from the course so I wasted a lot of energy correcting my direction.
Still, the swim was lovely and I focused on breathing and pacing myself. I finished my first lap, kissed Richard and jumped in for another lap! Swimming has always been my weakest leg, but my training for it this year was especially poor. I was very happy with my 20 minute PR! Thanks, CrossFit!
I think I look so silly in this pic but love how genuine it is as I was saying, “I did it! Did you see my PR?” to Ryan and Richard. I was happy.
I planned on really speeding up my transitions this year but I forgot just how shaky I am after completing a leg. My whole body was adjusting to being on land and my stomach hurt. I kept on the bra and shorts I wore under my wetsuit and added a jersey pre-stuffed with all my fuel.
The bike started out windy but I felt strong. The bike course is three loops with the first loop taking a slight detour to travel up Sugarloaf Mountain. I averaged 16mph the first lap, including ascending the dreaded Sugarloaf Mountain. After my cycling accident, I feared the downhills more than the uphills. I’m pretty sure I mastered how to brake going downhill!
Cycling 112 hilly miles is hard. Cycling 112 hilly miles without music is incredibly hard. It was hot, windy and full of hills. Without music, I started to get tired and antsy. Even though I maintained a 14.9mph average for the overall ride, stopping several times to stretch my muscles and wake up added a lot of time. I’m happy I did several training rides on the course, but next time I would do more out there and practice stopping less.
Skipping the special needs bags and just using the aid stations for fluids did save a bit of time (and hassle dealing with the bags). I took in ~1,400 calories on the bike in the form of gels, two Vega bars, a Clif bar, a Honey Stinger, Gatorade, water and probably others I’ve forgotten.
And the bike did eventually end!!! I was so happy!
Bike 8:06:10 (13.8 pace)
There’s nothing like finishing your swim, coming in from a grueling 112 miles and getting ready to run a marathon. It feels almost as crazy as it sounds. I changed my shorts for the run and switched the bike jersey for a tank. I kept the bra and socks. And added lots of lube.
From my bricks I learned that straight off the bike I’m best running slow and steady. So I ran. And it was great! I managed the first seven miles (almost the first full lap of three total) averaging about 10:30 min/mile. It didn’t feel like work. I was feeling so good and really optimistic about the rest of the race and making my goals.
And then my stomach turned. My stomach has always given me problems and throughout the day it had been finicky but somewhat stable. I drank only a little water on the run, took in a little coke to try to settle my belly and ate two small pretzel rods. Nothing helped. Going to the bathroom didn’t help. Neither did stretching. And then the sun set and the course was dark. I was tired, shaky, cold, hot and every time I ran, I was certain I was going to throw up.
I faked it through another few miles holding a fast walk and jogging here and there. And then, in my head, I gave up. It was so hard and I was so discouraged with how terrible my stomach felt. Despite desperately not wanting to take another step, I walked, as fast as I could, for the rest of the course. I tried running here and there but all was futile.
Looking back, this fills me with regret. I was so close to getting a time I could really be proud of. My running training went so well. My first seven miles went so well! Looking back I think, ‘why didn’t I just power through? Suck it up and jog the remainder?’ It seems so easy looking back, but in the moment it was hell. And it’s not like I was operating with a clear head.
At the very end I came up to my friends holding signs and giving me hugs and words of encouragement. It meant so so much.. but still not enough to make me run the rest!
Finally, I neared the finish line. I managed a slow jog and have never been so happy to stop moving! I finished in 16:02:21 and it was over.
Run 5:53:21 (13:30 pace)
I PRed from the 2010 Great Floridian by 80 minutes. I am proud of that, even though I know I could have done better. On the last lap of the run course I told my friends that I would never ever do another Ironman again and maybe a few other choice words, too.
By the next morning I had already changed my mind. At the end there are so many things I could have done better or differently. I want to do it again and put to use all I learned in this race. I know I have a sub-15 in me. I just need to give it a little longer to totally forget the dark parts of the experience
I didn’t know what time it was (my Garmin told me pace,etc. but I hadn’t bothered with a clock), something I’ll never do again. I wish I would have known to push a little harder and cut off those three minutes. I was so close to a sub-16 hour finish!
Special thanks goes out to Richard who dedicated his whole day to taking care of me and cheering before sunrise and after sunset. Also, my friends Ryan, Brandon, Nicole, Jason, Janna and Gabe for making the trek to Clermont, taking photos (most of the photos in this post are Ryan’s!), holding signs and bringing me the best gifts ever (bouquet of flowers, Napoleon from my favorite bakery, coconut water and my regular dish from Chipotle). Awesome! Readers, blog friends and online superstars, thank you for your support on every social media channel possible!
Soon I’ll post what I learned from the race and what I’ll do differently next time.