The last post had me in tears typing it, what do you want to bet this one will too? I want to warn you now, this is going to be long b/c I don't want to leave out a thing. May 21st is a day I don't think I'll soon forget and I want to relive it. I know this is going to sound strange but I almost wish I could turn back the clock and have the day back. It's not that I want to change anything I did, it's because I want the many special moments I experienced back. And so the tears begin again! Hold on while I get some Kleenex. :)
Nothing will ever prepare you for the mass start of an Ironman. After the 80 or so pros go, the remaining 2200 people get in the water and wait for the age group start. I made my way down the chute and tried not to lose my friends. We got in the water and swam out to the spot we were to tread for the next 8ish minutes. Wow. I looked back to the "beach" area and there were so many people still lined up. As Michelle & I looked around, all we saw were bright green caps (the men). Where were all the chicks? Oh wait, only 25% of the competitors that day were females. Before we knew it, the gun was off and the swim was on like donkey kong!
I've heard the mass start be compared to being in a washing machine and that's a perfect description. Water & bodies were everywhere but I stayed very calm. Having cramped up so severely in the water in Galveston, I was very nervous about what this 2.4 miles would bring. I made the decision earlier that week that I would kick as little as possible for this race as I wanted to avoid any chance of cramping. I swam this distance before and finished in about 1hr 46min so I knew I would be slower by doing that but really didn't mind. I kicked some, don't get me wrong, I just tried to limit. I took in massive amounts of water 3 different times and had to stop, tread and let it clear out. Each time I was fine though. No freaking out. Nothing. I was keeping my head in the swim. I counted strokes between buoys and visualized the turn buoy. Before I knew it, I made my first turn and was feeling good that I was making steady (even if slow) progress. Every now & then I would start thinking about the bike and reminded myself to stay in the swim. One event at a time. One stroke at a time. As I came upon the canal, I was excited b/c I felt like this was the home stretch. Well, that was the longest, most miserable home stretch. As soon as I entered the canal, I got REALLY queasy. Hmm, how do you get rid of that feeling when you're laying flat? You don't! I knew it was temporary and just needed to hang in there. At this point, I started to feel like I was swimming through Jell-O. I felt like I wasn't moving and so reminded myself to chill out and focus on my technique. The stairs to exit were ahead on my left and I couldn't be more thrilled to get out of the water! It's funny because as I headed to get my gear bag, I KNEW I was going to be an Ironman that day.
Time: 1:59:02 - There is no other way to describe this other than dismal BUT I was ok with it (a huge sign that I have really grown as an athlete). I absolutely swim better than that so was a little disappointed but know that I gave the swim may all so it's hard to be disappointed. :)
In Ironman events, many folks will change between each event so that you're wearing whatever is most comfortable for each discipline. When I made my way into the changing tent, I was greeted with "JENNY" by Jill & Shellie. I was so lucky to have them helping me get ready for the bike. Shellie was fast at work pulling my gear out and getting me organized while Jill reminded me to slow down and relax. Another volunteer came over, Jill's friend Lisa I think. She reminded me I wouldn't be winning my age group so it was ok to take my time. They calmed me so much. I was SO lucky to have these ladies help me out.
Time: 8:34 - Umm, hot damn! I wouldn't have been NEAR this fast in T1 without Jill & Shellie!!! :)
In all honesty, this is the part of the race I was most looking forward to on Saturday. Even though I've had terrible luck the past few months, I just knew in my heart that IMTX would be different. I started off on the bike and knew I'd be taking in water the first 20 minutes so my body would have a chance to settle before starting in on Perform. My plan was simple, stay in HR zones 1-2 until mile 80 and then I could push it. Coach G had told us countless times that if we followed this advice, we would be passing people at the end of the bike.
Going through The Woodlands, I was so excited to see folks outside cheering us on. How fun! This was the motivation we needed as we embarked on 112 miles. When we were at swim start, we were told there would be a tailwind the first 40-50 miles and then headwind the rest of the way. Hey, this is what we're used to so bring it! God was good to us Saturday because we had cloud coverage for a good portion of the bike which really helped keep the temps down. Don't get me wrong, it was hot AND humid but it could've been much worse! It felt like in a blink of an eye, I was coming upon the 50 mile mark. I was on Bays Chapel approaching 149 and looked to the left and saw Hannah setting up chairs....I made it before they expected me! As I turned the corner, there were Emily & Keith! I yelled "hey guys" to them and loved the look on Keith's face. He didn't think I'd be there yet. Oh yeah!
My nutrition plan was going well. Knowing the temps would be warmer, I added an extra water bottle filled with Perform to my bike set up and was so glad I did. I also made sure to take fluids from each of the aid stations just to have extra. I ate on schedule, remembered my salt sticks and popped Advil for good measure. We had to reach the 60 mile mark by 1:40pm in order to continue on the race. Having been pulled in Galveston, I didn't want this happening again. I started thinking about things that could go wrong but instead of freaking out, I just came up with a plan of how I would handle the situation. I hit 60 miles and started to cry. Usually this would've been the point in the ride where I was having mental challenges. Not Saturday. Saturday I was just SO happy to have hit that mile marker WELL before the cutoff. The tears I had were sheer happiness.
Keith, Hannah & Emily were all over that bike course! I was SO happy to see them so often...what a huge lift for me. Their cheers stayed with me long after they passed me in their well air-conditioned car. And Emily had her adorable puppy, Noelle with her. In no time at all, I saw the 105 junction sign and was so excited. I had just pedaled through the worst part of the ride for me and I was feeling incredible! I was close to 80 miles and knew I would get to pick up the pace a bit soon. As I approached the intersection, there was my cheering section which now included Stef, Avery & Doug. Yay!
With one hill left to climb, I'd be on Jackson Rd for about 8 miles and then as far as I was concerend, it was the home stretch baby! Time felt like it was flying by. I glanced at my Garmin and everything was in order. Glanced at my watch and I was making up the time I gave away in the swim. Most importantly though, I was having no back pain, no foot pain, no issues. It was true...all the bad luck was left in Galveston. And just like that, I was on 2978 and saw the 100 mile sign. O M G. I got out of aero and did a little fist pump. Tears started again because I was so dang happy that I was having a solid ride. No, I wasn't blazing fast (averaged 15mph) but for this type of race, in these conditions, I did exactly what I planned to do. Major score! As I passed my neighborhood, I was expecting to see my support crew but they weren't there. Hmmm. Where were they?
Gena was right, between miles 80 & 112, I only got passed once. I passed one fit dude after another and felt a surge of pride not because I was passing dudes but b/c I had listened to coach and it was paying off. When I finally was passed, it was at Woodlands Pkwy and almost Grogans Mill. I hit a space in the road, my wheel got lodged for the slightest of a moment and I felt my bike start to go down. I was in aero and was nervous. I managed to keep control of the bike and didn't go down. Whew. That was close! T2, here I come!
Time: 7:28:04 - Very, very pleased with my ride. I had figured I would be somewhere between 14.5 - 15.5mph on the bike so was very happy to execute.
Let me just say that my volunteer in T2 was not near as good as Shellie & Jill. Seriously. The lady went to get me ice water and then came back and set it on the chair. She dumped my bag out on the wet, nasty grass. She then told me my shorts didn't look like they would fit me (excuse me?). As I started putting Glide on and getting ready, she sat down and DRANK THE WATER SHE GOT FOR ME and then proceeded to tell me how hot it was and she needed to sit for a minute. Really? For the record, the shorts fit fine, they were just tough going up over a wet, sweaty butt! Suck it sweetie!
Time: 10:48 - just a little slower than I wanted but I feel confident I can blame that on the volunteer. :)
I've never run a marathon so I had been wondering how 26.2 miles on my feet would go after the swim & bike. As I exited transition, I immediately realized my legs felt good. Training was paying off big time. My plan was to run 4, walk 1 throughout. I started out walking a bit just to make sure I was situated and good to go. I started taking in Perform as quickly as I could and I was surprised to see my bottles stayed relatively cool (thanks to the tips shared by Kathleen). It wasn't long before the first aid station and I was happy to get hosed down by the nice volunteers. As I turned on to East Panther Creek, I felt so happy. Keith & Hannah were up ahead and I was so glad to see them. Volunteers & spectators on the run course were awesome! There was a bit of shade on Woodlands Pkwy before hitting South Shore Park and NO SHADE! Oh well, I had sponges and fluids. I was good. The first loop seemed to fly by. In no time at all, I was turning into Market Street and saw my family and tons of other folks I know! This was electrifying. I looked to my left and there was the finish line as I was starting my next loop. Oh well. I was sticking to my plan and making new friends along the way. Strive support, family, friends in the area...everyone was out & about!
I got into South Shore Park, I came upon my friend & teammate Lynn. She was a sight for sore eyes! Lynn & I stayed together the next few miles. For me, I saw her at the perfect time. I wasn't feeling completely down but I was looking forward to having this race done & done. There were some tears at this point but it was all good. I tried not to annoy Lynn too much with my chatter. Lynn & I parted ways somewhere along the Waterway. To have so many teammates on the course was AMAZING. As I approached Market Street and the end of my 2nd loop, I decided to stop off at special needs and get a couple things out of the bag. I should've changed socks but didn't (a mistake I'm paying for today). I grabbed some Girl Scout Cookies and a shirt I had brought that says "I Love Mom". My plan was to wear it at the end but I knew I wouldn't be able to access special needs again and more than that, I didn't want to carry ANYTHING for another loop. I grabbed the shirt and waved it as I passed my family and tossed it to my mom. :) Jill & Shellie were there cheering me on and checking on me. I actually saw them at the end of the 1st loop too so it was awesome to see them again. They had been out there as long as me volunteering! Geez!
The cutoff to start the final loop was 10pm and I started it at about 8:50ish. HUGE smile on my face. While I didn't have a doubt all day, I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt this really was my day.
I switched on my headlamp and was on my way to finish my final loop. At this point in the race, I was drinking more defizzed cola and Perform but that was part of my plan so I was ok. My 2nd loop was a bit slower than I planned but I was in no way in any danger of not making the midnight cut-off. My first order of business was to adjust my running plan. I was walking more but no longer able to keep up the 14:30min/mile speed walking pace I was doing earlier. I wanted to have an idea of when I would finish so I started doing math. Let me tell you, math during an event like this is impossible. I decided I would try to run 3 min, walk 2 min and just adjust as needed. Mile markers were coming and going. I was back on the Water Way and while spectator support had thinned out, there were still plenty of folks out. I saw Colin heading back towards the finish as I approached the turn around and was SO happy to see a familiar, happy face. This was Colin's first IM too and I was so happy for him. At the 24 mile mark I was finally able to do math and realized making it in under 16hrs really was achievable but I would need to at least run 3 min and try to cut my walk time to 1 min on each interval. Done! The 25 mile marker was before me and I was giddy. 1.2 miles left. I started to make final preps for my finish. I took off my headlamp, blew my nose and tried to straighten my sweaty clothes. I was getting close to the turn in to Market Street and there was Luke (my brother). He was running me in a bit and I told him I had nothing left to push. He told me it was ok, just run the pace I was. I turned the corner and the energy there was all I needed. My family was SO excited for me. I saw tons of friends...Virginia, Misty, Gena, Brandi, oh my gosh, the list goes on. I did have something left in my depleted tank! People were walking this final stretch but I was determined to finish strong. I ran as hard as I could. I turned the final curve and saw the lights and clock. I could see it was 15:54 something or other. O M G. This is it! I threw my arms in the air and screamed and cheered and ran as hard as I could. And then I heard what I had been dreaming of hearing all day...heck, what I've dreamed of hearing for 10 months....."Jennifer Miller, you ARE an Ironman"!!!!!!
Time: 6:08:17 - My first marathon was at the end of a day where I swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles. Really?????
FINAL TIME: 15:54:45
After crossing the finish, I hugged everyone I saw. I don't remember who I saw when but I know Gena & Brandi were off to my left and I got to hug them. Chris & Leslie were back there, my family. Virginia Brown was there to cheer in me & teammate Dee. Jill was there...Shellie. I was overwhelmed. I had my medal, my hat AND my shirt. I kept telling everyone I did it and did it under 16hrs which was my secret wish. My nephew Cristian kept yelling, "Jenny, Jenny! You are an Ironman".
As this day approached, I was told countless times it would be an amazing experience. I always wondered just how amazing it could feel to put your body through this but I can now tell you it is truly AMAZING. I savored every moment out there. It was so much better than I ever imagined.
It's Monday morning and I'm so sad the day has come & gone. I find myself sitting here, wishing I could have it back. I don't think it's just the day I will miss...it's my teammates on the weekends. This is the life I've lived the past 10 months, what will I do with all this spare time?
My blog isn't going away. While I may need to change the name, I'll continue to blog about my races. It's too early to know if/when I'll do another Ironman but I've clearly been bit by the bug and I very much want to sign up for another. I know my body needs a break though. I've got time to decide.
This has been an amazing journey. You know the saying, "it's not the destination, it's the journey"? Well I believe that 100% but let me tell you, on Saturday night, the destination was pretty dang magical!