DISCLAIMER: This is going to be pretty long, because if you know me you know I talk a lot. As in, one of my swim coaches once paid me to stop talking. Moving on..
When my alarm went off at 3:30am I was expecting to be exhausted and a ball of nerves but surprisingly I slept really well and was no more nervous than I normally am before any race. It was then breakfast, fill bottles, add any last minute items to special needs bags, put on temporary tats, and out the door by 4:30am to catch the bus over to Ironman village. I got everything set up on my bike and then dropped off both my bike and run special needs bags. The only thing left to do was wait for an official word from Ironman about whether the swim was a go or not. (Saturday night there was a pretty bad fire right across from the lake that damaged several shops and apartments. With all the debris there was a chance that the swim would be cancelled due to poor water quality). Once we got word that the water was safe to swim in everything started to feel a little more real. Before I knew it I had shimmied into my wetsuit and was making my way into the 60-70min swim corral.
Quick shoutout to everybody who sacrificed their sleep to send words of encouragement Sunday morning. Having people to talk to so early really helped keep me calm.
Swim- 57:59, 1:30/100m, 1st AG, 4th female, 28th overall
Although I really don't mind how aggressive mass swim starts can be, I have to say the rolling swim start made the majority of the first loop pretty relaxed. The biggest issue was trying to navigate the wall of dudes. Seriously guys, if you have such a problem being passed by a girl then GO FASTER. Despite the magical underwater cable in Mirror Lake that lets you swim without sighting, I stayed on the left and sighted off the buoys. There was no way I was wasting any more energy than necessary on the swim, which meant I did not want to fight for precious space on the cable. It also meant I just let my legs float for the majority of the swim. Finally all my hours of pulling paid off.
I didn't wear a watch for the swim so I had no idea how things were going until I got out to start the second lap. When I saw the clock said 6:59 I didn't immediately comprehend that it meant I roughly swam a 28-29 minute first loop. Once I realized this I went into the second lap hoping to finish under an hour. I stayed with my plan of keeping left and sighting off the buoys, although there were less people to fight with for the first half of this loop. I was just paddling along, enjoying the beauty that is Mirror Lake until I started to run into the people still finishing their first loop. Then everything went to hell. I swam into packs of breakstrokers who would start kicking frantically every time I touched their feet. I tried my hardest to be polite because these were the people struggling the most to swim but after awhile I said fuck it and started sinking people. This lasted for probably the final third of the second loop. Needless to say I was really happy when the swim was over.
Seeing the clock showing under an hour for the swim made me even happier. As this was my first time racing in my wetsuit I forgot that it zips upside down and was running around frantically trying to get it off. Thankfully one of the wetsuit strippers grabbed me, unzipped my wetsuit, threw me on my ground and ripped off my wetsuit. I got back up, said a quick hello to Kayla who was volunteering as a stripper, and started the long run to transition.
Although long, the run to transition is lined with screaming spectators which turned the most boring part of triathlon into quite the party. I grabbed my bike gear bag, ran into the changing tent and then couldn't remember what in the heck I needed to be doing. Thankfully a nice volunteer helped me tie back my hair, get my helmet and put on my shoes. Another nice volunteer grabbed my bike and sent me on my way.
Bike- 6:46:19, 16.65mph, 4th AG
The number one piece of advice I was given for this bike course was not to overdo it on the first loop. My plan was to cruise along, keeping it easy for the first loop and then if I felt good I would pick it up on the second loop. The first few miles are relatively flat, with the first few small hills coming just before the notorious Keene descent. This was the hardest area to keep riding easy during because of all the crazy fast guys blowing by me. I don't like getting passed so this was a practice in exercising my patience, which by the way, I am the farthest thing from patient. I just kept telling myself that if I wasn't smart now I would pay for it later on. I reached the first of the three low truck gear signs signaling the descent into Keene and put all of my descending practice to the test. I am known among the people I ride with as being a chicken descender but thankfully some patient guys have been working on my descending skills with me. While I put my safety first and didn't risk riding the torn up road next to the huge drop off into the water in aero, I also didn't hit the brakes the entire time.
Just as I was entering Keene my stomach started growling so loudly that the guy I was riding next to asked if that rumbling noise was me and then suggested I eat something. So that's what I did. Once you make the left turn onto 9N there is a long stretch that's a tiny bit rolling but pretty flat by my standards. I pre-rode this part of the course on Friday so I knew it was a perfect area to eat, drink and tuck into aero before the climb from Wilmington back to town.
To be completely honest, I don't remember all that much from the bike. I remember bits and pieces but I can't really piece together when certain things happened or in what order. For instance I remember getting trapped in a pack of dudes while climbing but I couldn't tell you what hill or what mile that was. I do know that I loved the first loop and was really excited to push it more on the second loop. From the first loop I also remember climbing the bears was my favorite part. The climbs were the only time that I was able to pass anyone. I have to say, it's a really freaking good feeling spinning up the hills past all the guys who blew by me earlier with their flashy bikes and noisy wheels.
The part from the bears to the start of the second lap was the closest thing to a party on a bike I've experienced. Papa Bear was lined on both sides three spectators deep and then turning onto Mirror Lake Drive I could not stop smiling. Unfortunately for me, none of the race photographers were on this part of the course and as such, there are zero pictures of me smiling the entire damn day. Oops.
I made a quick stop at special needs to swap out my bottles and was on my way to start the second loop. The first few miles of the second loop were an absolute blast. I felt comfortable enough with how I paced the first loop to pick it up a little and try to re-pass some of the people who zoomed by me earlier on. There were more spectators out this time around so of course I hammed it up for them. Just before hitting the Keene descent for the second time I saw a moose trespassing sign, which was quite possibly the highlight of my day. I started laughing hysterically and pointed the sign out to the guy I was riding with, except his response was uhhh, okay.
After Keene I made the left onto 9N again, except this time I noticed it was getting pretty warm out. The weather in Lake Placid changes so frequently that I thought nothing of it and kept chugging along. But then the wind really picked up and my lower back started to feel like there was a sumo wrestler sitting on it. I waffled back and forth between staying in aero and suffering through the back pain, and sitting up and battling the wind. Either way I knew it was going to make for a long climb back to town. Somewhere during the climb out of Jay a guy rode up to me, told me liked my kit, and then said that he was sorry I had red hair because I was probably getting really burned with how sunny it was. And that's when I realized that I had absolutely zero sunscreen on. I've been hospitalized for getting too sunburned so all I kept thinking was oh shit, it better get cloudy again really soon. Spoiler alert: it stayed sunny the entire rest of the day.
The climb from Wilmington back to Placid was more brutal the second time around but it really wasn't that bad. I was desperate to get off my bike because my back was in so much pain and because the weather was slowly killing me but the climbing itself was okay. Although it's hard to find the types of climbs this course has in York, I had climbed harder hills in my training, and on most days I truly love to climb. Just before the bears I realized I still had a bar left to eat that I wanted no part of. If I didn't still have to run a marathon I probably would have skipped it but I know what too little nutrition on the bike does to me and so I choked it down with the hopes of not feeling like a zombie when I got off the bike.
Just like the first loop, from the bears to transition was another party. The amount of screaming spectators was unreal. This was also that moment when you realize that all you have left is the marathon. And then you realize Ironman has made you crazy because running a marathon, especially after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, is no small feat.
Nutrition: two Bonk Breaker bars, one pack extra sodium Clif shot bloks, one caffeinated Picky Bar, one bottle Osmo active, 2.5 bottles Skratch, and 2 bottles water
I have no idea what I did for seven minutes in T2. Let it be known that quick transitions are not my specialty. I did however, spend a few of those minutes getting sunscreen put on me. My skin was already red enough to match my hair at this point but I shuffled over to a nice volunteer and told him I needed as much sunscreen as he could put on me. He asked if I wanted it on my arms, yes, my legs, yes, and when he asked about my chest I again said yes. He asked if I was sure, not realizing it meant him rubbing my chest, and I said yes. We then joked about how after the numerous questionable things I'd already done that day any amount of class I had was already long gone.
Run- 5:11:23, 11:53min/mile, 5th AG
After the sunscreen debacle was over, I started on my way completely unsure how this marathon was going to go. I've heard more horror stories than I can count so I was just trying to make it as far as possible before what seems like the inevitable marathon upset stomach. I felt pretty good for the first few miles considering I'd already been racing for 8+ hours. When I looked at my watch and saw how fast I was running I pumped the brakes really fast. I knew I had absolutely no business running that fast, especially with how hot it was out. I later found out the heat index was in the 90s. I did question more than once why the hell I was running a marathon at 2:30 in the afternoon with zero shade on the course.
I think it was somewhere around mile 4 that I started walking both the uphills and the aid stations. I figured even if I was moving slowly I could hopefully keep somewhat of an even pace. Mile 4 was also where I started my aid station routine of pouring water on my head, drinking a cup of Gatorade, and dumping a cup of ice down my shirt. I have to say, this is simultaneously the best and worst feeling. With how hot it was outside I couldn't stomach the thought of taking in any food so Gatorade it was. The first out and back on River Road was more of the same. Once we got back to town you could hear the spectators from almost a mile away, which was good because this was also the hilliest part of the course. I swear, the spectators and volunteers got me through this marathon.
I made a quick stop at special needs to drop off my bottle and pop some Bayer. A friend gave me this during my last marathon when my knee was all wonky and it was a game changer. I felt pretty good but still had ~14 miles to go still. Going back out for my second lap I felt fucking amazing knowing all I had to do was get through one more lap. By mile 16 I felt less amazing and more like my quads were about to start cramping. I didn't know what else I could do so I kept chugging along, drinking Gatorade at each aid station. Until mile 19ish when my stomach decided it was done with the Gatorade. So then I played the risky game of trying to keep both my quads and my stomach happy.
For the next couple miles I stopped drinking anything but would eat an orange slice or two at each station. Neither my stomach nor my quads got better but neither got worse and I knew if I didn't take in some form of calories soon, things would get ugly. I think around mile 20-21 I started drinking Red Bull because in my ironman-induced brain fog I thought this would help. Not long after I started to get confused about where I was and thought I saw a group of guys I know biking through the field I was running next to.
The last few miles were absolutely the hardest. I spent a lot of time trying to hold my shit together and not cramp, throw up or fall over from how dizzy I was. Running the final out and back on Mirror Lake Drive was so painful but also when it really starts to hit you that once you hit the turn around you are in the last mile. It's a little hard to comprehend only one more mile after you've been racing for almost 140 miles.
As soon as I entered the oval I finally broke down. I was pretty emotionless the entire day until this moment. Rounding the oval and seeing the finish line was the most surreal feeling. As much as my entire body wanted to be done, I wanted to soak up every second. And then before I knew it I heard Mike Reilly say those magical words and two wonderful volunteers grabbed me. They asked if I wanted anything and when I said a shower they said I was in good shape.
Nutrition: one caffeinated GU, half a bottle of Skratch, ~10 orange slices, Gatorade at almost every aid station, water at probably half of the aid stations, and 2 cups of Red Bull
Finish- 13:09, 5th AG
I really could not have asked for a better first ironman experience. Yes, it was really freaking hard but it's supposed to be. And considering the carnage I saw on the run course I did pretty darn well with the heat. (A guy I talked to after the race said he saw a guy projectile vomiting running straight towards him). What really made this race so special, though, was all of the support from my family and friends. It meant so much to me having my mom there with me and being able to share this entire experience with her.