The word “why” is such an interesting 3-letter word. It can be so simplistic, but so complex at the same time.
I remember being in high school and dreading exams where it would ask a question about a book or something like that, and then a follow-up would be “why or why not?”. It evoked fear in me that although I answered the question correctly, I would screw it up and just have “uhhhhh….because?” as my additional answer.
Lots of people have given me a sideways glance and asked “Why another Ironman?”
Just kidding. Sort of.
Although I have to admit it’s not an easy question to answer. I feel like I could give you 100 different reasons, but also I could stare at you blankly and have no idea what to say. It’s hard to explain.
Why would I want to put myself through almost 30 weeks of training again, just to endure a 11 or 12 (or 13…) hour race day? And pay for it too?
Why is that fun? Why wouldn’t I just stick to shorter races and call it a day?
Great question, to which I don’t really have one solid answer. My “why” is 3 main parts:
Showing my daughters that anything is possible
Getting to the finish line and looking back on all I did to get there
Ironman is certainly no joke when it comes to training and how to manage it all. Working full time with 2 young kids in the mix adds a whole other level of chaos and fitting it all in. I’m by no means the only one to ever to this, nor am I an expert on it by any stretch. I know what works for me and it may be crazy and may not work for others, but it’s how I roll.
It is easy? Never. Is it too much to handle some days? Absolutely. Do I question the “why” when I’m in the midst of a 3 hour trainer ride at 5am because it’s the only time I can fit it in? Definitely.
But I then shift my thinking to my #2 WHY and realize I have 2 sets of little eyes watching what I do and I don’t ever want to let them down. Knowing my girls see what I am doing every day makes me that much more motivated to get through those tough workout Matt gives me.
I will bend over backwards to make sure I can fulfill the requirements of my job (which now entails a lot more day-trips to our headquarters which throws another item onto my growing list of commitments), complete the training in front of me and not miss out on any of the girls’ activities or school commitments. I try my hardest to have a presence at both of their schools and keep up on related functions, fundraisers, days off, etc.
Sure, I have to sacrifice some of my own self – including some of my sanity at times – but it’s worth it to me. I want to set an example for the girls that what matters most to you can be fulfilled. I fill my time with things that truly matter to me, that are my priorities and my reasons for getting up every morning. Some folks look at me like I’m absolutely nuts. And I get that, but for me, it’s what works. Do some things and/or people get pushed down the list a bit? Yes, they do. And I do feel horribly guilty for that, but not nearly as much as I have in the past. I have a constant inner monologue to remain true to myself and those priorities set in front of me right now. I’m working on my boundaries, learning how to push back a bit and continuing to build my own confidence. It’s kind of refreshing!
Once I cross the finish line at Mont Tremblant (notice I say WHEN, not IF…gotta have confidence nothing goes wrong on race day!), my 3rd WHY will come into focus and I can reflect on the past 7 or 8 months and hopefully smile. After I digest it all, I’m sure my priorities will shift into another direction again and my WHYs may change.
But the WHY will always remain the same for me, no matter what my goals are, no matter what adversity I’m faced with and no matter what age I am:
To challenge my inner self to be the best I can be.
I have to be honest. February is usually my least favorite month of the year. Even though it’s the shortest, it always feels like the longest to me. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, the let-down from the holidays, the lack of days off from work or what, but I don’t like it.
However, this year was different and it actually was one of the best months I’ve had in a long time!
I started off with a bang visiting my BFF Julie in California. I had been looking forward to this trip since she moved there more than a year ago! She wrote a blog post about our visit and it puts anything I would write to shame, so go check it out HERE. I adore her for writing this – here’s my favorite drawing she did:
The rest of the month was filled with adventures, family and friends: Sesame Street Live with Emily, soccer and basketball with Julia, a visit from our friends Joanna and Ben (and Ben’s daughters), an impromptu girls-only weekend in Chicago while Rob was out of town (It was in the mid-60s – what?!), and a fun concert with an 80s cover band with my sister-in-law!
Oh and I guess I did some Ironman training too. I went through my stats today and after I finish my bike ride later, I’ll have logged the following since February 1:
Ran 65 miles
Biked 301 miles
Swam just shy of 19,000 yards (or about 11 miles, give or take)
Not too shabby. Coach Matt has given me some more challenging workouts as of late, with a lot of intervals while keeping my heart rate in check. It’s not easy, but I’m getting there and my body is adjusting a lot quicker than it did last year which it refreshing for me.
So now we’re facing March. I know my training will pick up more and I’m sure these stats will increase for the month. I’m a little nervous, but I’ve been able to weather the storm so far and somehow manage to fit it all in without disrupting life too much. I’m excited for college basketball, and we will head on spring break at the end of next month, most likely just to Florida but I may pull the trigger on a last minute cruise. We’ll see if the timing works!
Stay tuned for a new post in the next week or so, thanks to an inspiration from my Coeur teammate Kecia. She wrote in her blog (HERE) about her “why” and I found it very intriguing to come up with my own “why”.
How about if I fill you in anyway? Pull up a chair – it will be fun!
So here I sit almost 2 weeks into my training plan and I’m super proud to say I haven’t missed a workout yet! (well, unless you count an optional swim this past Sunday but I don’t!) There have been several days when I did NOT feel like doing what Coach Matt had be doing – like Sunday for example. I flipped my weekend days around and did my tough bike ride on Saturday, leaving a 75 minute “easy” run to do on Sunday.
I did not want to do it. At. All. I had a headache, my motivation was lacking and I just felt off.
It took all my energy and will power to get the girls up and out the door to the gym to face the dreadmill. I was solo with them so I couldn’t opt outside so had to make due with the cards I was dealt.
I told myself to get there and just see how I felt once I got started and if I wanted to stop early, I convinced myself that was ok. But in the deep dark places in my brain, it wasn’t ok. I knew I had to finish the 75 minutes and I would push as hard as I could do to that.
And I did.
And it was slow.
And that’s ok. I kept my heart rate at or below 150 which is a typical threshold Matt gives me for longer runs. He wants me to establish a baseline now so once I get into more speed work and longer double workouts, I can sustain a pace without taxing my cardio system or legs. It actually works well for me and forces me to not try to kill it on every run. Clearly I can’t “kill it” during the marathon at Ironman – my legs are basically cement blocks by that time so it’s all about survival mode!
I have to say I was very proud of myself for getting it done and I actually felt better afterwards – my headache subsided a bit and I was rewarded with a yummy brunch with my girls and our friend Stacy. Eggs and bacon for the win!
I’ve also been challenging myself with my swim workouts – I’ve been trying to do more yardage with some harder sets and changing things up a bit from my mundane “just swim as many laps as you can before you have to de-fog the goggles…” workouts.
So far I’ve done varying workouts up to 100 minutes on the bike, 3,000 meter swim and 75 minute run. I know it’s going to get harder from here so I have to be ready!
Luckily Sparty the bike got a bit of a make-over which I’m hoping will help – I got a different cassette with more gears to help with climbing and it’s now all tuned up and in good shape for the forseeable future.
I also treated myself to some new bike shoes – and they’re LOUD! Check out these bad boys:
I have to say, I do have more confidence in myself than I did last year which is a good thing.
Then I realize the race is in 184 days.
And I panic that I’ll never be ready.
Why does that seem so long and so short at the same time?
If you’re still reading this, why? (ha! I kid…thank you!) I leave you with a picture for Valentine’s Day of my 2 favorite girls on the entire planet – they were beside themselves today with excitement about their parties and all the candy they’ll consume.
Oh and here’s a picture of me with my awesome Coeur sweatshirt! Is this the cutest ever? We all need a little heart and courage these days so why not wear it proudly, too? You can get your very own HERE.
Did I mention I ate my weight in Rice Krispie Treats today? Yea…good times.
It’s been a while since I posted last and I’m sure you missed me. Right?
Well, ok then. Regardless, I’m back! Decided it was time to get back to work on this blog, as I really do enjoy writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it. And even if you don’t, just lie.
I’m trying to determine the direction I want to take with my blog in 2017. Do I focus on my journey to Ironman Mont Tremblant in August (which is in 198 days…yikes!)? Do I pick a timely topic every few days to give my perspective on? Do I just post pictures of kittens, unicorns and rainbows (hell, after the last 2 weeks in this country, that may be a refreshing change everyone wants! And no, this will NOT be a political blog – don’t go there)?
I guess I’ll see what happens and what my blog muse tells me is the best approach. Or you all can give me your feedback. If I respond with “Thanks for the feedback…” you’ll know I’m not a fan of what you suggested (just keeping in real!
So, for today, I’ll answer the following question:
Why the hell are you doing another Ironman? Are you crazy?
The short answer? I don’t know and yes, I am crazy.
The longer answer? I honestly wanted to tackle another Ironman almost immediately after I finished Lake Placid last July. For some reason, although I did ok and finished with a somewhat respectable time, I wanted more. I had a really difficult time with the hills on the bike at Placid and it made for an extremely difficult marathon.I felt like all of my amazing training (thanks to my awesome coach Matt, who is my coach again this year!) went a little bit to waste.
It’s hard to explain and I know I sound crazy – trust me, as I type it I think “you’re a loon.”
But hear me out.
So I know no Ironman is “easy” – they’re not supposed to be and that’s why it’s such a challenge and accomplishment to finish. I get that. However, I know I have it in me to put all 3 disciplines together and not feel like I want to die before I even take a step on the run, as I did at Placid. If it hadn’t been for the volunteer pointing out the messages the kids and Rob left me on the back of my number, I may not have gotten out of the changing tent. I doubted myself that much.
Mont Tremblant is not a cake walk (mmmmm….cake….) but from all I read and the research I’ve done, it is not as bad as Placid and the run is fairly flat (which Placid was NOT). Even knowing that going into my training, I already have a more positive attitude about it and I know I can do it.
Sure, there will be challenges along the way, and I know what’s coming with training and the hours I need to put in but I’m ready. I know what to expect, I know what my mental and physical constraints are and I’m working to overcome those.
Although Matt wanted me to wait until 2018 to do another full, I “convinced” him that this was the year for me – and it will *probably* be my last 140.6.
I told him I have no idea what life, work and the kids will bring me next year, and that I wasn’t sure I could get myself back into “full training mode” after taking a year “off” (even though I’m never really “off”, just pared way down).
And again, I know this sounds even more loony, but I’m running the Chicago Marathon in October and I HATE marathon training. HATE. IT. And yes, I’m completely aware that Ironman contains a marathon – but it’s just different to me. Training for Ironman is much less annoying to me than marathon training. I know. It makes no sense. But I told Matt that by training for Ironman, I will then be ready to take on Chicago 6 weeks after and enjoy it without having to hate the training.
I know. I’m nuts.
So anyway…here we go!
Stay tuned – I hope you do, because it should be a fun ride!
Cheers to the weekend (I’ll be in sunny Los Angeles enjoying time with my BFF Julie (go visit her blog HERE – she’s amazing!)
**Before I get to my blog post, don’t forget that applications are now open to join my amazingly wonderful team of women at Coeur Sports. They’re an incredible company I’ve had the honor of representing the past 2 years and I can’t even explain what that’s meant to me! Here’s the link to the application – and best of luck (I hope I get asked back for 2017 as well!)
Ok now back to our regularly scheduled program…
Welcome to fall, everyone! I’m so happy this time of year is finally here – although I know it’s the end of triathlon season, it’s also (hopefully) the end of the hot temperatures I just can’t tolerate. (Although, it’s in the mid-80s here today. I mean, come on. Enough already.) The heat and humidity is no good for my headaches, my hair, my mood or my desire to get out and run. I find every excuse in the book to avoid it including things I hate doing like folding and putting away laundry – you know it’s bad when that trumps a workout!
So I’m looking forward to cooler, less humid weather where I can get back to just going for a run to enjoy it and not have to worry about hitting a pace, a time or a distance. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that and I’m honestly looking forward to the break.
I realized this weekend, as I was dealing with a 2.5 year old with a stomach bug (you have no idea how many diapers I’ve changed and how many loads of laundry I’ve done in the past 4 days. It’s actually laughable…), that I’m a little burned out. After last weekend’s 70.3, I was ready to be done. I needed that last race to kind of feel like the season was “complete” and now I have no real desire to sign up for anything in the foreseeable future.
I took some time to reflect on my season and although I didn’t do that many races when all was said and done, I’m very proud of myself.
I am not one to toot my own horn – at all. In fact, I find reasons to justify or qualify what I’ve done to make it feel less “show-offy” to me. It’s hard to explain but as much as I love doing well in my races, I’m only competing with myself and to continue to improve ME. I’m not out there to prove anything to anyone, other than to show my 2 girls that anything is possible. They’re the reason I push myself when I don’t want to (except for those runs in the heat…see above…) and why I try to have “what’s next” on my mind so I can continue to show them that hard work pays off.
I am humbled when people tell me I inspire them. I don’t really know how to respond to that except with a “thank you?” in a tone that sounds like I’m a bit confused and wondering why they think that. And I find myself trying to back pedal and downplay what I’ve done to make it not so centered on me. It’s an odd thing I realize, but as I said, I’m just not good with “hey, look at me! I’m awesome!”
Because I’m not.
I’m just an almost 41 year old mom who enjoys swimming, can get through a bike ride with *usually* only a few curse words, and an ok runner who walks through every aid station because I’m too uncoordinated enough to drink and run at the same time. I just happen to be able to do those 3 things for a fairly long period of time and be called an “endurance athlete.”
I will say, though, that this past year will be tough to top for my personal goals. It occurred to me last week that I did the equivalent of “hitting for the cycle” in triathlon terms and completed every distance:
Sprint (in August)
Olympic (in June)
Half Iron (in September)
Ironman (in July)
Throw in a half marathon for good measure, too (in May)
And although I just got done saying I don’t like to toot my own horn, I will say this is pretty kick-ass to me. It’s not easy to juggle work, kids, family, friends and training and I somehow did that the past nearly 10 months.
No wonder I’m tired!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I totally acknowledge that there are lots of other men and women who do as much if not a lot more than me – so I absolutely know I’m nothing unique. It’s all about making time for what matters to you and what you love to do.
Sure I’ve had to sacrifice a lot this year. And I feel like I’ve lost some friendships, which bothers me a bit. But that could be just part of life and how we all evolve. And that’s something I’ll have to accept and deal with. I try very hard to fit everything in and I give all I can.
So I will take some time to reflect, take some time to relax (although I’m really bad at that…) and figure out “what’s next”. As of now, I have no idea. Rob has been talking about doing a 70.3 (or 2, or 3…) together next year but we need to map that out with timing and locations. I highly doubt I’ll do another full Ironman in 2017, but I won’t completely rule it out just yet! I mean, I have to live up to the tattoo right?! (just kidding)
I appreciate you following me along with my 2nd Ironman journey and my life in general. I really enjoy writing these blog posts – although they aren’t that frequent. It does give me a way to share what I’m feeling and not have to bore anyone with endless stories they don’t want to hear when we’re out at a social event (at least I hope not).
I’m guessing I’ll continue the blog and we’ll see where it takes me. As of now, I’m still not sure, which is a strange feeling for me. I’ve had a big, lofty, scary, goal every year for as long as I can remember, and as I head into the last part of 2016 with nothing on the horizon, it’s a little odd! I’m sure inspiration will strike after I’ve taken a bit of a break.
Until then, thanks again for all of your support and if you’re still reading this, kudos to you for still being awake 🙂
Funny you should ask…or is that funny I should ask? Hmmm… well, anyway, the answer to that question is: a lot and I have no idea where the time has gone!
Since I finished Ironman at the end of July, it’s been a flurry of activity for me and my family. It’s hard to believe that was almost 7 weeks ago already – I am floored by truly how quickly time goes by. I feel like I always say this, but it’s more true now than ever!
After we got back from Lake Placid, I took a few days off but was back in the gym 4 days after the race. Don’t worry, I didn’t overdo it and just did some easy swims and easy spins. I did think I could run and was quickly told by my knees ABSOLUTELY NOT. They hated me for a couple of weeks after the race and I definitely backed way down on the run. It became obvious quickly that the mountains of Lake Placid took a lot more out of me than I thought. So instead of trying to be a dumbass, I didn’t run. Duh.
Once we got back, we celebrated our Julia’s 7th birthday about 6 different times with family, friends and at her party. Her birthday lasted about 10 days – I want to have that for my birthdays! It’s still crazy to me that she’s 7. We got her a motorized scooter and within minutes she was out riding like an expert.
After those celebrations, Julia and I went to Seattle for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of our closest friends, Alicia! She was Julia’s pre-school teacher when we lived out there and has continued to be a big part of our lives since. Her new husband, Carl, is the best and we were thrilled to be part of their day! (Rob and Emily got have some daddy/daughter bonding time back home so it was a win on all fronts) We also got to see lots of great friends while we were there so it was a fantastic trip
We got back and I did a sprint tri the following Wednesday evening. No rest for the wicked, right? It was the final one in the T-Rex series and the only one I did this summer. I’m glad I was able to make this one work, as it really is one of my favorite tris to do. Rob sat this one out since he was racing the following weekend (more to come on that…)
I had no expectations going in and just tried to have fun with it and whatever happened was fine. I hadn’t been training for the sprint distance so I had no idea how my body would respond and never mind being tired overall from our jaunt cross country a few days before. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so off I went!
Here’s me with my dad pre-and post-race. No matter what is going on in life, one of my favorite things to do is race with my dad. I continue to be in awe of him and he is my inspiration and my idol with everything in life- triathlon and otherwise.
We both did well and were 2nd in our respective age groups and I was happy with my time despite not feeling “trained” for this event. Oh and we got mini coolers as our age group awards – love prizes that I will actually use!
The next weekend brought us to Columbus, Ohio for Rob’s first Ironman 70.3! He trained so hard and so well for this race and we were all very excited to get there and watch him race. His sister, Janene and our youngest niece Kirsten were able to join us and I can’t thank them enough for coming along! They were a huge help with our girls and it was great to have more support and a bigger cheering section for Rob. As his Sherpa, I did my best to make sure everything was taken care of for him and the kids were out of his hair (as much as that’s possible!).
The race had 2 different transition areas which made for interesting logistics. But we figured it out quickly once we got there. We got his packet and goodies and the kids made signs for him. Yea, that sounded like a good idea to start with…until I quickly realized that the paper was coated and the markers they gave the kids to use didn’t really stay on the paper. And of course, who wanted to color? Emily. Needless to say I won the Parent of the Year award as I watched her roll around on the paper covered in permanent marker she had just drawn. Absolutely every inch of her was covered in marker and it would not come off. The pictures do not do it justice…
I threw this outfit away once we got to the bike check-in.
After his bike was checked in and we got back to the hotel to let the kids swim, we watched as a storm front came through and got word that a TORNADO had ripped through literally within feet of the transition area where all 2,000+ bikes were racked! I have no idea how they got missed, but somehow not one bike was moved and nothing was damaged, although within the same park, big trees were knocked down and blocked the start of the bike route! It was nuts but thankfully it all moved out before morning.
I was able to go with Rob in the morning while Janene stayed with the girls to sleep a little longer (3:45am comes early even for grown ups…). We got him all set up and ready to go. He was in the 2nd wave starting at 7:04am so thankfully not a lot of time to stew about it before it was go time. He was ready and I knew he would do well!
I was able to watch the swim and positioned myself at the swim out and saw him run up to get to the bikes. He had a great swim and was ready for the bike.
After he left on the bike, I walked about a mile to my car and headed over to park at the 2nd transition/finish area. It was fairly quiet so I was able to just wander around and find a good spot to watch. Janene and the girls joined me a bit later and we were ready to watch him finish the bike and onto the run!
It started to get hot but he looked good heading out onto the run. We hung out at our Ann Arbor Triathlon Club tent until I figured it was getting close to finish time.
They finished on the football field at Ohio Wesleyan University which made for a cool backdrop and was nice for spectators to be able to sit in stands and see the finish from above.
Rob finished strong and met his goal at 5:47!
It was a fun day to watch him race and I was very proud of all the hard work he put in to get there. Lots of early mornings, lots of solo bike rides and it paid off with a strong performance!
Another successful and fun weekend in the books and back to reality…but not before I did THIS:
Yep, I got my Ironman tattoo! After waiting 4 years since my last one, I finally got up the courage and went for it! Thankfully my friend Jill came with me to distract me from the discomfort and help me decide where to put it! Rob convinced me simple was best so that’s what I did and I love it! It wasn’t a pleasant experience but luckily it was only 25 minutes or so and could have been a lot worse. Hell, I have had 2 kids and done 2 Ironmans…I really *should* be able to handle this type of pain! HA!
We had enough time at home to do laundry, re-pack and head a short vacation with my parents to Drummond Island in Northern Michigan! It was a fun time to be on Lake Huron – Rob, my dad and Julia fished a lot and Julia loved it. We all got to go biking and running and even saw a baby BLACK BEAR on one of our rides (he was so cute…but I also was a little worried that Mama Bear wasn’t far away so we biked just a bit faster as we passed by where they were!)
After the fun trip, it was time to get ready for our first Michigan State football game and tailgate of the season! We had perfect weather for our Friday night opener and enjoyed spending time with friends and family! The game was definitely NOT our team’s best performance but we had a great time anyway!
Then it was Labor Day, and then it was THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!! I was just a *bit* excited for Julia to head to 2nd grade, and Emily to get used to her new daycare so we could get back into a routine!!
After 2 months of craziness, maybe things will slow down a bit….
Oh wait. Just kidding. Rob and I are doing the Rev3 70.3 triathlon in Ohio this weekend! Stay tuned!
Ah yes…trying to figure out how I was going to get through 26.2 miles without knowing if my legs were still attached to my body. Good times!
I slowly made my way onto the run course, out of town along the same route we did for the bike (so this would be the 3rd and 4th time I would traverse this stretch of road/hills). Thankfully there was an aid station at the first mile so I could hydrate and get some food. I decided early on that I was going to need to walk through every one of them to ensure I was taking in what I needed. I grabbed water, ice, a small cup of Coke, some Gatorade (some of which was already warm which, let me tell you, is super gross to drink) and pretzels. I remembered the same regimen from Arizona, and it seemed to work well with my stomach and keep me going.
Once again, after the nice downhill out of town, there is a gradual uphill before evening out a bit near the ski jumps. The crowds were still great through the first few miles before we came upon a fairly big downhill. The downhill is steep and as I was hobbling down it, my brain immediately said:
Crap. I’ll have to go back UP that sucker on the way back.
Ok, fine. Stop fretting about it right now. Put one foot in front of the other and take it one mile at a time.
The route then took a left onto River Road for the out and back portion of the course. This is where a true test of wills comes into play. It’s mainly farmland out that way with very little crowds and shade. It was really hot. The volunteers had given us sunscreen when we went out of transition both times, but it had long worn off since I was constantly dumping water on myself and using the sponges to tuck in my tri top to try and stay cool. Aside from a triathlon club that had set up some speakers about halfway down the road, it was pretty quiet.
I would hear people talking around me and started to notice that everyone was walking at some point. Everyone. I tried to keep smiling through the rough parts and run as much as I could, but I felt like I just had nothing left in my legs. I would put together small goals for myself, like running from one telephone pole to the next, or to the next aid station. I honestly thought I was going to be out there forever.
I made the turn-around to head back towards town and again, just kept taking small portions and doing a run/walk combo. My watch had died before the bike was done so I had absolutely no concept how slow I was going, and I tried not to care. At that point, I knew all of my goals were long gone and that it was going to be a victory to finish the race in one piece.
I got back to the main road and looked to my right to see that hill looming. When Rob ran part of the course a couple of days before, he indicated there were some “hills” but again, didn’t tell me just how steep they were. I looked up and laughed – there was no way my legs would run up that thing. So I walked the entire hill, as did most people around me.
I was mad.
I was frustrated.
I was hot, tired and didn’t want to be out there.
And I still had a LONG ways to go.
Once I got back into town with more of the crowds, it helped to give me a bit of a mental boost which was a nice break from my brain yelling at me about how awful I felt.
I could see the Oval and hear the finish line, which again was uphill from where I was, and I again walked. I rounded the corner by Mirror Lake, and saw Rob and the girls standing out by the Lake Placid Brewery (I so could have used a beer at this point).
I stopped to talk with them and let him know I was having a tough time. He told me Matt’s advice was to keep eating and stay hydrated, and I assured him I was doing just that. I said I was having to walk a lot and that I would be later than I was expecting to finish. They sent me on my way to tackle the last 14-ish miles.
I passed by the special needs area (I didn’t have anything for myself there) and continued up hill (yep, more hills) to the turn-around, and finally got a bit of shade and a downhill as I made my way back towards the finish area.
It was tough to have to take a left turn back onto the course, while watching some of the super fast folks head into the Oval for the finish. But I just kept telling myself “one more loop…”
Just like with the bike, I’m not sure if it was better or worse that I knew what was coming. Everything on the 2nd loop felt like it took longer to get to than the first, but I also started counting down the miles instead of up. Once I got back onto River Road, I knew I was within striking distance and would definitely finish.
I met a lot of nice people along the way – we chatted as we walked through aid stations and tried to encourage each other. Some of them were only on their first loops with a very long afternoon/evening ahead of them. I said to one man that this was harder than childbirth – to which he laughed and said he was going to tell his wife that! ( I warned him that he should probably preface that with that was just MY opinion so he didn’t get smacked – ha!)
I remember looking around and seeing a lot of people on the side of the route, either getting sick or trying to stretch out their cramped legs and wincing in pain.
Everyone was soaked from dumping water on their heads to try and stay cool.
Everyone was walking.
Everyone looked miserable.
I remember passing the 20 mile mark on the road (which was just past mile 6 on the first loop) and hearing a woman say to the man she was with ” it’s 6:30 right now. We have 5 1/2 hours to do the last 20 miles. It’s going to be tight, but we can do it…”
At that moment, I realized how thankful I was to be almost done. I couldn’t have imagined being out there for 5 or 6 more hours. I also tried to do the math in my head of what my finish time might be – and then I quickly stopped and remembered it didn’t matter.
Back up that massive hill for the last time and I was so happy to be done with it. The crowds starting to get bigger as I got back closer to town. They had some great music playing right before I made the uphill climb to do the last out and back and they were playing “Tootsie Roll,” my jam from college!
I started to dance.
Albeit mainly with my arms but when they say “To the left, to the left…to the right, to the right…” I did that as I walked by.
I got lots of cheers and people commenting about how they had no idea how I could be dancing 23 miles into the marathon at Ironman.
I have no idea but it helped get my endorphins going and I loved it.
Rounding the corner back onto Mirror Lake Drive, I could taste it. I saw Rob and the girls one final time, told them I just had a short loop to go and that I’d see them at the finish. So many people cheering, yelling my name and I heard “Go Green!” several times as well. I waved and said thank you to everyone, and high fived the kids along the way, too.
I continued to run/walk as I made the last turn-around and onto the downhill portion. Once I knew there was just over 1/2 mile to go, I picked it up as much as I could and honestly, I couldn’t hold back my emotions. I was so excited to be heading into the finishing area, and onto the Oval.
I held my head high, as I thanked the volunteers and entered the Oval to even louder cheers of my name, high fives and screams. I started to scream myself, with my hands in the air, knowing what I had just accomplished. I looked around to try and take it all in as I rounded the corner and saw the finish line and could hear Mike Reilly.
I was by myself as I came down the final stretch and looked to my right to see Rob and the girls and it was all I could do to choke back my tears and blow kisses to them as I ran by.
I heard Mike Reilly announce my name and say the words I had been waiting to hear for 13 hours that day:
Erika Myers, You Are An Ironman!
I had such a rush of adreneline after I crossed the finish line that I didn’t even feel the pain I had felt for the 13 hours and 8 minutes I had just endured.
My wonderful volunteer congratulated me, got me a space blanket (which I did NOT need!), my medal, shirt and hat, and walked me over to get my picture taken.
They asked if I was ok as they brought me over to where the food tent was, and I assured them I felt fine. I went over to see Rob and the girls before I got a Diet Coke and some pizza before heading out of the finishing area.
I slowly made my way up the hill where they were waiting (who put stairs there? Just mean) and sat down to take it all in, and eat the pizza. It was fun to watch more people finish and see how excited their families and friends were.
I did not want to get up, but everyone was hungry and we needed to go eat.
I got my bike and bags and received lots of “Congratulations!” as I walked out of the transition area for the last time. Rob took my bike and bags and I pushed Emily in the stroller as we made our way into town. I had several people stop me and comment about how a mother’s work is never done, even after just finishing an Ironman! I was humbled by it, but truth be told…I was happy to have the stroller to lean on for support as I tried to walk!!
We got back to the car, put everything away (except for my medal which I refused to take off) and went to a BBQ place for a late dinner. We sat next to another finisher and compared notes about the race. I wasn’t able to eat or drink much, as I was still trying to get my body to calm itself down, so we headed out and back to the cabin.
I was so thrilled to get a nice, long shower and to just lay down. After about 1,500mg of ibuprofen and catching up on some text messages, I tried to sleep and thankfully got a decent amount.
Monday morning I knew I had to get up and moving to help get the lactic acid out of my legs, so we headed into town. They had a breakfast before the awards ceremony and we went to the merchandise tent one more time. I debated about a finisher’s jacket but honestly, I didn’t like it and didn’t want to spend $120 on something I wouldn’t wear. I did get some Lake Placid souvenirs which I liked better than the Ironman stuff!
We went back down to Mirror Lake beach to let the girls swim a bit after a long day for them on Sunday. It was amazing to see that everything was already taken down and you’d never know there was an Ironman swim with 2,500 people there just 24 hours prior.
I proudly wore my finisher’s shirt, along with many others walking around town. It’s almost a badge of honor and although I’m not a showy person, there was no way I wasn’t going to make it known what I had just accomplished the day before.
It started to rain so we opted to head back to the cabin to get things packed up and rest a bit. I took a short nap with Emily while Rob took Julia on a short hike. We headed out for dinner and after failing at one place, we ended up at a nice place on the water, sitting outside and had some ice cream afterwards and called it a night.
Rob did a training run on Tuesday morning before we headed out on our way back home. It was bitter sweet to leave Lake Placid. I had worked so hard for so many months to accomplish my goals, and now it was all over with. Life moves forward and it’s easy to get immediately caught back up into the daily grind.
I am still not totally “ready” to move on completely. I still love talking about my experiences and have really only told the story of the entire day twice and now on this blog. I honestly cry every time I relive the moments I had, both good and bad. It’s an extremely emotional experience, and one that’s hard to fully explain.
Part of me wants to try another one, maybe on a flatter course. Part of me wonders if my body and mind could handle the training again. Part of me sees there are some that are still open this October and thinks “hmmm…” but I’m not sure that’s wise. I have a sprint triathlon next week and I’ll see how I feel and go from there.
Oh and damn skippy I’m getting a tattoo to commemorate my 2 Ironman finishes!!!
If you’re still reading this lengthy and long-winded recap of my experience, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to everyone who supported me through this craziness, who gave me words of encouragement, who wore the “Erika Will” shirts, who cheered me on from across the country. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate it and thank you just isn’t enough to show my gratitude.
Before I go, just a few special thank yous:
To my coach, Matt, for getting me to the finish line and putting up with me for almost a year. You’re amazing and I owe you so much!
To my parents – you were there in spirit with me the whole time and have supported me since day 1, through early morning swim practices to random running races and both Ironmans. THANK YOU!
To my team and sponsor, Coeur Sports– this is an amazing company who is beyond supportive of all of us and I’m so thankful to have been chosen to represent them. These women are inspirations to me and I’m humbled to be on the same team as them! Heart and Courage always!
And of course, to Rob, Julia and Emily: your love and encouragement throughout this whole process was incredible. Dealing with long training sessions, helping me through rough patches when I didn’t think I could do it, dealing with how tired and crabby I was…I couldn’t have done it without you all. And I certainly would NOT have made it to the finish had I not had your smiling faces to see along the way. I love you all beyond words!
Now to figure out what my next goal is…but until then, I get to play Sherpa for Rob’s 70.3 in less than 2 weeks and I can’t wait to see him cross that finish line!
I’m guessing you may be sick of my posts by now! But this is where it gets interesting…or at least less boring maybe?
I was so excited getting onto my bike and out on the course, I completely missed the fact that we went right past the Olympic ski jumps! I didn’t even look up, as I was so focused on the road and making sure I didn’t do anything stupid like hit a pothole or run into something (it could happen).
Once we got out of town, the climb started. It didn’t seem too bad on the first loop, probably because I was trying to take everything in, watching the men who I swam past, pass me like I was standing still, and also meeting one of my awesome Coeur teammates, Bri! She came up behind me and yelled “Yay Team Coeur”! She introduced herself and we chatted for a few minutes and wished each other well. I would see her several times on the bike and the run – she KILLED her first Ironman and I was thrilled for her!
The road flattened out a bit and then we started the decent into Keene. Rob had warned me about this part, saying he had gotten up to about 50mph when he rode it which terrified me. As I started to go down the hill, the scenery was so beautiful I said “wow” outloud several times, and it helped to distract me a bit from the fact that I was going about 42mph! I had full control of my bike, though, and I actually felt super comfortable. Usually I’m pretty chicken when it comes to going fast downhill, but I loved this! I was so excited and just loved it.
We then went through a small town and then to the first out and back which is mainly like farm country, along a river. Again beautiful scenery and I tried to enjoy as much as I could. I was diligent about eating (I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich, brown sugar Poptart (my coach’s idea!), Powerade chews, gummy bears, Enduralyte salt tabs and some Gatorade energy chews along with my Gatorade and water) and maintaining my energy levels the best I could. I was feeling great, talked with a few people as we passed each other, saw another one of my teammates, Lisa (who ALSO killed her race was was 6th in her age group-WOW!) which was a boost when I needed it.
We made our way through, to another out and back and then started to climb again, around mile 40. I struggled at first, as it was getting hot outside and I just felt my legs getting more and more heavy. It seemed like the uphills would never end. And then we got to what was called “The Notch”, near Whiteface mountain. Holy hell. They should just call this “Up.”
At one point, I was going 7mph.
If I had stopped pedaling, I would have either fallen or gone backwards, that is how steep it is, and it felt like it would never, ever end. I just had to keep telling myself to push forward and keep moving. It took a lot of mental strength in addition to physical to get through.
Once I passed the 50 mile mark, I knew I was getting closer to town, but also knew the infamous “Three Bears” hills were to come and I didn’t really know what to expect. I came upon them finally and Mama Bear was first (not too terrible), then Baby Bear (short), and then Papa Bear, which lives up to its name. But the best part was the crowds – it was like a mini Tour de France! These people were awesome and loud, wearing costumes and drinking beer as they cheered us to the top. It was a huge boost and I smiled the entire way up. It’s just what I needed, as I rounded the corner back into town along Mirror Lake.
I knew special needs was coming up, so I stopped to grab what I had – new water bottles and more food – and just as I was about to keep going, I spotted Rob and the girls!
I was so thrilled to see them, and they were awesome with their signs and smiles. Definitely gave me some energy as I knew I had a big challenge ahead of me.
I told Rob that it was a lot harder than I was expecting and that my goals were probably out the window. I knew deep down that my lofty goal wouldn’t happen, and that my time goal was probably unlikely too, knowing that I had to do those hills again and how fatigued I would be after, while still facing a marathon. He told me not to worry about it, to just keep going. I was around 3:11 for the first loop which wasn’t bad but my 2nd loop would be much slower.
I rounded the corner through town and heard Mike Reilly announce my name as I went by and the crowds were incredible. So many cheers and I just smiled as I headed back towards the Oval and onto lap 2.
Again, heading back out of town gave me some much-needed energy and I was ready to go. The hills by the ski jump, though, felt about a million times harder than they did the first loop. It took all my energy to get to the Keene decent (which again was super fun!) but I made it.
I knew what was coming so that was a little frustrating for me on the 2nd loop but I just kept trying to stay positive. I came to find out later that Rob didn’t really want to tell me how bad the hills on the backside of the route were. He told me he wouldn’t have been able to do the 2nd loop (albeit he hasn’t been training for 112 miles! He’s going to be awesome on his race for sure, as this route will prep him so well for his fairly flat course – he’s going to fly!). I had to talk myself up every hill, grind out the best I could and just tick off the miles.
Once I reached The Notch again, I knew I was almost done, but my legs and feet were absolutely toast. I couldn’t really feel my feet, and my legs were like bricks. I started to get really worried about how I would handle the run. I still had a MARATHON to go!
But I thought about my family and all the people who encouraged me throughout this whole process and I knew I had to keep going. I wanted to show my girls that even though something seems nearly impossible, you CAN do it and CAN dig deep to keep moving forward even though I wanted to stop.
I got to the Three Bears again, and although there weren’t as many people, it was still such a relief to get there and hear all the cheering. I loved it. And I also knew I was about to get to the lake and be back to see my family again.
Rob and the girls were on the other side of the road this time and I was going to stop but he encouraged me to keep going and finish it up. I told him point blank “I don’t think I can do this. That was so much harder than I expected…” He told me I had this, that I was doing great and to keep moving.
I wanted to cry.
I wanted to chuck my bike into the garbage and never look at it again.
I wanted to lay down.
I wanted to quit.
But I kept going, got into transition and the wonderful volunteers took my bike (and I joked with them that they could keep it) and I walked to get my run bag.
Back into the transition tent, and 2 more incredible volunteers helped me get situated. They took my bike shoes off for me, got my running shoes ready, all the while I was telling them that I didn’t think I could do it. They got me water, told me how well I was doing and that I COULD do it.
Then they took my race number out and looked on the back. I had taped a picture of the girls to it and had Julia and Rob write me messages, as I knew I would need a boost. She said “that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen! Look at your girls – go out there and do it for them!”
And cue the tears. I knew right then that I could not quit. I couldn’t let Julia and Emily down. I couldn’t let Rob down. I couldn’t let Matt down. I couldn’t let my parents down.
I couldn’t let myself down.
So off I went out of transition, out the run exit to more cheers from the crowd. With my name on my number and my Spartan visor proudly displayed, I was greeted with thousands of people cheering me on as I tried to get my legs out from under me. I heard “great job, Erika! Go get it! You’re looking great! Go Spartans!” (and a few Go Trojans..which I politely said “it’s a Spartan!”)
And I was able to smile. I knew it would be a long run, but I was not going to give up.
3:15am comes awfully early, no matter how much sleep one gets the night before. That time of morning is exceptionally early when one had very little sleep!
But I was up before the alarm, got dressed, got my water bottles together, made sure I had everything I needed and was ready to go before 4am. I gave Rob a hug (again, started to cry), gave air kisses to the girls so I didn’t wake them, and off I went.
Amy and her husband were picking me up just down the street from the cabin and they were right on time, just after 4am. It was so nice to meet them and have someone to talk with as we drove into town. It was quiet, not much traffic at all and we zipped into town without issue.
Jamie dropped us off right at transition at 4:25am and we were ready to go in right when it opened at 4:30am. Amy spotted her dad, which was a welcome sight for her and was so nice to meet him.
I got body marked with my race number and then we headed into transition. It wasn’t terribly busy yet which was nice. Amy’s bike was in the same row as me (since we’re in the same age group) which was awesome. We were able to go through our pre-race check together, talk to some of the other ladies near by, get bike tires pumped up, put water bottles on the bike, etc.
I grabbed a water, my banana and my peanut butter bagel and we were off to drop off our special needs bag up near the swim start. We got the lay of the land for how we would run from the lake into the bike transition. It’s a fairly long ways (probably 1/4 mile if not more?) but they had mats down for us to run on in our bare feet which helped. I couldn’t believe the crowds this early in the morning – people lined up on both sides, already cheering, music playing and just an overall bustle of excitement.
I was so thankful to have Amy with me this whole time – we chatted about our kids, our families, our training, life in general, and it was such a great distraction!
We dropped our bags off and went back to transition to bag up our morning clothes and grab our wetsuits and swim stuff. It was definitely chilly and foggy as we got back up to the lake so we opted to put our wetsuits on to keep us warm as we waited for the pro women to start, and to go into the start chute.
The swim is a self-seeded start, so you basically stand in a group like you would for a running race according to what you think your finish time will be. I stood with Amy for a bit longer and then decided to work my way up a little closer to the front, as I was fairly confident seeding myself in the 1 hour – 1:10 group. Amy wanted to stay a little further back, so I gave her a hug, wished her well and I was on my way.
I found a decent spot towards the left and before I knew it, it was go time. We walked towards the start to the voice of Mike Reilly wishing us all well for the day. I high fived him as I got to the start and just like that, I was in the water.
Holy crap. I was off on my second Ironman! Luckily I didn’t panic or cry and I was somehow quite calm.
I started the swim way to the left, as I always do, to get away from the fracas and chaos of the start. This is by far my best race strategy and it has never failed me. I got into clear water almost right away and really had no issues with people around me. I avoided a few folks swimming diagonally and just eased up to let them go, and I went around. I kept a steady stroke, sighted each time I breathed and slowly worked my way towards the lighted cable (which I couldn’t really see) and the buoys (which were difficult to see in the fog).
Before I knew it, I was at the turn-around point and was right on the course with absolutely no issues. I heard a lot of people got kicked or punched during the swim and I thankfully never even came close to that happening. I know my swim is my strength and I definitely took advantage of that and just felt awesome.
As I got closer to the beach, I could hear Mike Reilly’s voice and the music and sped up a bit. We swam into shore, got out of the water to cross over the timing mat to go back for lap 2. I high-fived the volunteers, adjusted my goggles and dove back in. I again stayed left but not quite as far since it was not nearly as crowded on the 2nd lap. The fog was lifting, the buoys were easily seen and I felt like a million bucks.
I turned for home and knew I was right where I wanted to be, and didn’t feel tired at all. I kicked it into gear again as we got to the beach, and just like that I was done. I glanced at my watch and knew I was around 1:04 or 1:05 which was about perfect for me. And the fact that I really didn’t feel tired helped my confidence immensely.
The volunteers were awesome and helped me get my wetsuit off in about 2 seconds flat, helped me up and sent me on my way. I tried to take everything in as I ran out of the park and onto the road towards transition. I just remember looking around at the thousands of people screaming and cheering and I was smiling the entire time. What a rush and I honestly felt on top of the world!
I got into transition, grabbed by bike bag and into the changing tent I went, where I was promptly greeted by a wonderful volunteer who helped me get all of my stuff situated. She helped me dry my feet off, get my tri top on (which is no easy task when wet!), helped me with my shoes, helmet, glasses and food. I continued to just thank her for everything and before I knew it I was on my way out to get my bike.
We exited the text at the far side of transition, and ran through the grass as volunteers yelled out your bike number. Another volunteer grabs your bike and brings it to you as you run by (amazing!) and out to the mount line. I calmly got my bike, again saying thank you to everyone I could and off I went!
The first part of the bike is downhill to get out of town, and the crowds were awesome. I couldn’t stop smiling and loved every minute of it. I felt great, the bike was perfect and I was off to tackle my 112 miles in the saddle.
After a “decent” night’s sleep on Friday night, I was ready to head back into town to get my bike checked in and drop off my bike/run bags in transition.
As with most everything at Ironman, it’s a well-oiled machine and the check-in process is smooth and easy. The volunteers are amazing, which always helps when dealing with 2,500+ athletes.
I hung my bags onto the racks where my number was, tried to get a visual of where they were in the mass of racks so I knew where to go on Sunday. I found my spot on the bike racks, took a deep breath and just tried to soak it all in. I definitely got butterflies as I looked around and realized what was about to happen in less than 24 hours. All the work, all the time, all the tears to get me here started to really become real.
Rob decided to do a training run on part of the Ironman course while I watched the girls on the beach and at the playground (can you tell they LOVED the beach at Mirror Lake??). I actually enjoyed that, too, as I could people watch and listen in as people were talking about the course. They were starting to set up the swim start/finish as well so I could get an even better idea of what Sunday would look like.
Just like with the bike, Rob came back to give me a “report” on the course, but left out a few details (and again, thankful he did…).
I was ready to call it a day fairly early, as I still needed to get stuff situated for Sunday, so we decided to grab and early dinner and go back to the cabin. Nothing fancy, just my regular spaghetti with meat sauce that I always get before a big race. I was a happy camper.
Back at the cabin, Julia wanted to make signs for me and decided that “Do It Hard” was the slogan she insisted on using. Ummm…yea. So, I wasn’t thrilled with this and was trying to tell her I would like something else on the signs, but that upset her. Rob smoothed things over with her and they decided on some funny signs to create for race day.
I was very fortunate to have met a lot of nice people via Facebook groups leading up to the race – I felt like a lot of these people were my friends, especially one – Amy from North Carolina. We chatted a lot leading up to race day and she was gracious enough to offer to pick me up on race morning so Rob didn’t have to get the girls up at 3:30am to get me to the start. I’m indebted to her and her husband, Jamie, for doing this for me! I touched base with her, got our plan of action in place and we were set to go.
Then the panic set in.
I looked at the clock and realized I had about 10 hours to go before the race started, and I just burst into tears. I couldn’t calm myself down. I started to question every single thing – was I prepared, did I have enough nutrition, would I get a flat tire, would I be able to handle the hills, could I handle the warm weather, etc…I was sobbing. Rob was trying to keep the girls busy while I had my panic attack, so I sent a text to Matt asking him if he had any advice to calm me down.
He immediately called me and talked me down off the ledge. I was so thankful for his call and to hear him tell me that I WAS ready and that I handled every single workout he gave me for the past 7.5 months. He reminded me that I would be scared for every “big” training session he had and then pretty much without fail would text him after about how I hit every target/interval/pace and felt super proud of myself. He told me to keep that in the bank on Sunday and know that I had put in the work and I could handle what was coming. I was laughing by the end of the call, took a few deep breaths and just tried to relax (easier said than done).
I laid down with Emily, checked in with a few of my friends and gave my “thank yous” to those who had sent me words of encouragement via text or social media and did my best to fall asleep. Rob came in to give me a hug, said I was ready, and we talked for a bit so I knew where to look for them during the race. Julia came in as well and I, of course, started to cry again. I definitely tossed and turned, but I did get a few decent hours of sleep and woke up before my alarm went off at 3:15am.