Well...where to start? (Warning: this about to get really long, and probably go into further detail than most care about. Then again, the Ironman is long.) I've spent the past eight months of real Ironman training thinking about, dreaming about, and visualizing Sunday. When bike intervals on the trainer got tough, I'd close my eyes, and take myself to the Olympic oval with Mike Reilly calling out my name, a place I'd only to this point seen on Ironman live coverage. But, superstitious as I am, I'd never allow myself to imagine finishing as high as I did, and as race day drew closer and closer, I kept reminding myself of all the work it'd take beforehand to get there-obviously, the finish would only be one snippet of a long day of mental and physical fortitude.
|Being showed how to pose on my bike at the Friday morning interview. I'm so NOT a natural model.|
|Who doesn't love a decked out port-a-potty during their travels?|
|Friday at the expo/finish line area|
|#34 for a day!|
|Transition bags, set up and waiting|
|My Kestrel, decked out and ready for battle|
My instructions for the swim had been simple: swim hard the whole time, stay focused, and try to keep contact. If I lost contact, then get on the buoy line, and push. Ten minutes before the start, we gathered ourselves in the water, and I was able to warm up a bit. Looking at the mass of wetsuit-clad bodies around me, I had to say I was quite relieved to not have to deal with the mass start. I was getting crowded just trying to position myself toward the back left of the pro women, as the age group men were already vying for position at the front. Of course, as soon as the cannon went off, this became a total non-issue. I lost contact with everyone within the first couple hundred yards. So, I had no choice but to jump on the buoy line and plug away. Of course, "jumping on the buoy line" also ended up meaning "swim into/under all of the large marker buoys", which became a bit frustrating after a while (I kept thinking I was clear...), but I felt like I was swimming hard. That was until I exited the water, and saw 35:10 on my watch. Really? By that point, a couple of age groupers had already caught up to me, something I was mentally prepared for on the second lap, but the first? I need to learn how to swim. Given I felt like I'd been pushing the first lap, I started the second lap a bit frustrated, convinced I was going to fall short of the 1:10 swim goal. I was told that an Ironman involves a great deal of highs and lows, and that it's possible to recover from the lows and continue on. While, after one loop of the swim, I was already in a low. Was I that tired already? Did this bode poorly for the rest of the day? By that point, large, physical packs of fast age group swimmers began to literally engulf me, and I had a few moments of struggling for air while trying to continue moving forward during that trip back out to the end of the lake. Soon enough, though, I looked up, and found myself at the far turn buoy. It had come up more quickly than I had expected. By this point, I'd have a few moments of clear swimming, followed by more packs. As the second lap stretched on, though, the packs weren't moving quite as quickly when they passed me, and I began trying to make at least some sort of attempt to use their current to pull me along. With about 400m to go, I was caught by a pack that I really made a concerted effort to stick with, and I was able to, to some degree. Before I knew it, I was making my way out of the water. I checked the Garmin, and saw 1:09 (the seconds were 58, but my Garmin doesn't show that above the hour...thanks, Garmin!). Despite the fact that I was dead last amongst the professional women, I had managed to use getting passed to my advantage, negative split the swim, and hit my time goal. After my discouragement at the start of the second lap, this ended up being the little mental boost I needed as I headed towards transition. I'm well aware of the fact it's easy to look at my splits and criticize my swim, but trust me...we're working on it. It certainly frustrates me that I can't stick with anyone in the water, but I'm not a natural-born swimmer, and results aren't going to come overnight. So, while on paper my swim looked bad, for me, it was a decent enough first IM attempt.
After several of the day's multitude of awesome volunteers basically outfitted me in my biking gear, I was off on the bike. The early portion of the ride passed in a blur. I had been instructed to be careful not to push too hard on the first climb out of town; this ended up being easier than I expected, as my heart rate was sky high coming out of the water, and I was having a bit of trouble finding my cycling legs initially. I felt a bit worried that the rest of the bike would feel miserable, but managed to convince myself to take it easy, get in my initial nutrition, start hydrating, make it down the Keene descent, and then regroup at the bottom. Once I had gotten into Keene without incident (there was some braking, but I really tried to keep it to a minimum...still, I maxed it out at 38mph. Still can't convince myself to hit that 40 mark!), I tried to settle in. From there, the race became a bit tactical, as I found myself surrounded by hoards of age group men that had caught up to me. With race officials watching closely, I began having a little bit of difficulty with striking a balance between keeping my wattage steady, completing passes in time, and maintaining a safe distance behind riders in front of me. Although I did become a bit frustrated here and there, I tried to use the times I was forced to let up a bit productively, eating or refilling my aero bottle, which I can now happily say is something I can do fairly comfortably! At one point, a large, fairly blatantly drafting peloton of riders passed me. I dropped off the back as soon as they did, which ended up being a smart decision, as the race official motorcycle then pulled around me, flashed a red card at the end rider of the pack, and then warned the rest of them to break it up. I was pretty grateful towards that official at that point. Another rider who I'd been going back and forth with a bit (who was doing his best to ride honest in the circumstances) echoed my statements the next time we passed. As I approached the first out and back, I was able to catch a glimpse of some of the other pro women, and felt a little bit energized, seeing that I wasn't as far off the end as I'd feared I was.
|These guys were all over the course. I loved it.|
|Looking happy heading through town!|
|One of the few bike pictures of me where I actually sort of look aero-thanks, Michelle!|
Dave: Excuse me miss, I think your helmet's crooked (hilarious Dave, hilarious).
Jennie: My bike just broke. I'm stuck in big ring.
Jennie: (wiggles broken bar end shifter around to demonstrate)
Dave: Are you ok? Do you need bike support? I'm sure they're close.
Jennie (in her normal state of being half out of it and needlessly irritated at Dave at this point on long rides, thinking she can make it up 20 miles of climbing without small chain ring): Go away. You're going to get us penalties. I'll be fine.
Dave: I'd be the one that'd get the penalty.
Jennie: GO AWAY.
(Dave drops back. In a last ditch attempt, Jennie pushes the broken shifter down. By some miracle, the derailleur responds, and shifts into small chain ring. The bike is then stuck in small ring. Worse things have happened in Ironmans. Jennie relaxes.)
Dave: It looks like you're in little ring now.
Jennie: I'm now stuck there. I'm fine. WOULD YOU PASS ME ALREADY?
After that, the rest of the ride was uneventful. Losing my big ring would prove not to be a huge issue at all, as I only found myself spinning out briefly a couple of times. To some degree, I was able to forget about the threats from my quads and calves. I soaked up my second trip through town. Spectators were telling me I was anywhere between fifth and seventh place as I neared transition. When I reached T2, I could barely believe that the ride was over already-it had absolutely flown by, especially in comparison to some of our other rides of the distance.
|My poor broken bike. I suppose there is some irony to this, given I've been yelled at multiple times to ride more in little ring :)|
After the wonderful volunteers again helped to outfit my somewhat dazed self for the run, shoving my nutrition in my back pockets for me, I was off. The first thing I noticed upon exiting T2 was that my hands were cramping, and my quads and calves were feeling slightly funky. My pacing plan for the run had been to start off with a HR about 8bpm higher than what I ended up averaging on the bike. Well, despite being right near or even slightly below my planned wattage, my bike HR was oddly through the roof in comparison to my training rides. Maybe it was the heat; maybe the adrenaline; maybe, despite countless bottles of Perform, some dehydration. I don't know. Whatever it was, I decided starting the run out at a HR of 170 wouldn't be a smart move, and stuck to the original plan based upon what I'm normally around on the bike. The first thing I noticed as I started (after screwing around with my Garmin, it was showing some weird screen) was that my left hand was doing some fun little cramp thing. Mary and Jesse asked how I was feeling at that moment; when I responded that I was cramping a little, they yelled out "SODIUM", almost in unison. I nibbled some pretzels, took in a gel, and began to settle in.
Within a couple of miles, I passed another woman, and found myself running alongside the volunteer riding the fourth place female bike. We chatted a bit. I'm your cyclist now, she informed me. For now, I replied. It's my first Ironman. This run is still early. I just hope I can hold this. You're doing great, she replied. At that point, I recognized that I was entering some great unknown. I'd ridden faster than I'd expected. I had no idea what was to come. I kept telling myself, you've been wanting to run a marathon since you recovered from your last one. You've been waiting for this for how long? This is your podium spot. Breathe. Drink. A couple of mantras kept repeating through my head, throughout the run. Keep calm and carry on. You're stronger than you think. I started to feel pretty good as I turned onto River Road. The aide stations kept calling out splits to me, telling me how far in front of me the other women were. Seeing QT2 teammates Jessie and Jacqui leading the race as I made my way to the first turnaround provided another little energy boost.
I moved into third around mile 10, I believe, passing a very sweet and supportive Suzanne Serpico. By that point, I was being informed that I was also closing on Jacqui, as we began to head up the spectator-lined streets towards town. Two minutes back. One and a half One. I did my best to keep my wits about me, as I ventured further and further into uncharted territory. I was gradually feeling worse and worse. I didn't know if this was normal; I didn't know if I was too far over the edge to hang on; I still had a lot of running to do. As we got closer and closer to town, the crowds became thicker. My family, friends, and QT2 teammates were cheering; the Score-this! tent was chanting my name; numerous spectators were telling me that I looked good, I looked strong (looks can be deceiving, although I was doing my best to smile here and there still). Mary said to me, quite simply-this is your day. I went with that. By the turnaround in town, I had moved into second behind Jessie. The day continued to become more and more surreal. Steady, I reminded myself. You still have another loop of that run to go. And you just keep venturing further and further into the unknown. You've heard that anything can happen that last 10k.
|Entering town the first time, still smiling at this point!|
The last 10k was, as expected, an exercise in fortitude. By that point, my quads were done, my calves would throw out a small cramp every now and then, very much on the edge of seizing up completely, my left hand kept contorting into weird shapes beyond conscious control, and the toes on my left foot were curled up in my shoe. Every few steps, I felt like I was on the verge of something giving out entirely. My second place cyclist became my saving grace as I worked through those final miles-I can't say enough about how awesome he was. He'd periodically turn around and cheer for me, telling me I still looked strong (I'm sure I didn't!), he'd clear the way through some of the crowds of runners for me, and as I very slowly and painstakingly made my way up that final steep climb towards town at mile 24, refusing to walk, no matter how slow my run pace was, he threw his arms up in the air to draw further cheers for me. Even though I was in an absolute world of pain, certain moments stood out to me in those final miles- from Pat Wheeler's little kick in the butt "Don't give me that look! Run!" as I must have shot him some sort of awful glance with a couple of miles to go (it worked!), to Tim Snow's comforting, "She can't be caught, you can't be caught, just get there!" less than a mile later, to my family and numerous Rochester contacts all over the course, to the QT2 athletes that were all over the course, to the again chanting Score-this! tent, to my high school friends/teammates (and the entire Coon family, who also had their son Craig to cheer on as he qualified for Kona!) cheering wildly, taking me back a few years. Even then, I wasn't entirely sure of my lead, especially knowing what a strong, experienced, and talented competitor I had behind me in Jacqui, who's so accomplished in this sport. It took until the very last couple of minutes of the race for me to realize that I was going to make it into the finish, holding second place.
|My bike leader in action, riling up the crowd for me. LOVED this kid!|
|Willing myself uphill...looking pretty. The sponge is a nice touch.|
|Deep in the pain locker, but almost there!|
|Grimace finally became a smile again!|
|Two seconds after crossing the line...|
|My mom and I!|
|My finish line greeting from Dave|
|My PXC support crew of Michelle and Bridget and me! Love this picture!|
|Jessie and I congratulating each other|
Obviously, everything hurt, and I couldn't walk well (who are we kidding...two days later, I still can't walk well. My left Achilles is currently some nice form of red and swollen). So, I'll focus on the more positive stuff. After the longest half mile walk back to the house, the most horribly painful shower of my life (I won't go into the details), and pizza that was awesome for a piece and a half before my stomach turned on me, we headed back up to the oval to watch the last 1.5 hours of the race. I had the opportunity to hand out finisher's medals for a bit, and then Jessie, fellow female pro and podium finisher Leslie LaMacchia, men's champion Andy Potts (who was getting asked for autographs and pictures left and right, while Jessie, Leslie and I joked about people wondering who the girls were), and I were allowed out onto the final straightaway with Mike Reilly to bring in the final finishers during the last hour (men's runner up Peter Jacobs was also out there for a bit). Hands down, I think this was my favorite experience from the entire weekend. The lights, music, crowd energy, unfiltered emotion of the finishers, and Mike Reilly's enthusiasm made the atmosphere amazing. While handing out medals, I had several finishers ask if they could give one to their spouse/brother/sister/father; I loved these interactions, as well (sorry, Dave, that I didn't give you your medal. I was rather enjoying my chair). And, at the end of the day, first or last, every finisher was an Ironman, after all.
|Handing out medals|
|On the final stretch with Mike Reilly-great times!|
|Cheering for some happy Ironman finishers|
|Dave on the M25-29 podium|
|My trophy-it has a Moose on it. I like Mooses.|
|Mirror Lake in a rainstorm the next day...how can you not love this place??|