It's hard to believe the day has come & gone but it's true. Today, I'm a two-time Ironman finisher. Wow!! The short version of my race report is that I got my PR and finished in 15:13:54. I didn't have the day I hoped for but I finished and I didn't have to go to the medic (not yet at least). It was an awesome day. Now for the long version for all you race report junkies.
I was nervous. I respect the Ironman distance and even though I've done this race before, there are no guarantees. Never. I tried to remain as calm as possible and was thankful to have Keith with me at the swim start. I didn't run into too many people I knew. Right before they were putting age groupers in the water, I did get to see Kerry Gordon who is one of my favorite people....so nice and has an amazing wife. :)
It was time to line up to get in the water and I ran into Lisa Jaster, a coach w/ Outrival. This woman is an amazing athlete and she was doing her first Ironman. She has no idea how much she helped me before the race started. We chatted a bit and then got in the water and waited for the cannon to sound.
At 7:10am (b/c I was in the wetsuit wave), the cannon went off and it was time to go. The swim is not my strength by any stretch of the imagination so when they announced the water temp was within the range that it was allowable to where them but you would forego a Kona slot, it was a no brainer for me. I am not a top age grouper and have no Kona hopes. If wearing a wetsuit gives me a little bit of "security", I'll take it. It still irritates me that people make negative comments about choosing to wear one. So annoying. It's a personal choice and if the water temp is in the allowable range and you aren't putting someone else in danger by wearing it, then wear it and ignore the folks who yap. I've heard people say you have no business doing an Ironman if you wear a wetsuit. Well, that's about as lame as saying you have no business doing one if you have to walk on the run. That's my rant today.
Because there was a wetsuit wave, the start was not as terrible. It was still rough but nowhere near as bad as two years ago. I felt like the stretch to the first turn buoy went relatively quickly. Swimming back to the canal felt like an eternity. When we entered the canal, I was overjoyed because I only had 900m left to swim. Only. Two years ago, the canal portion handed me my ass...it was like a washing machine in there and I felt like vomitting. Not this year. Thank goodness!
The best part of the canal was that I heard "Jenny". I turned to my left and saw Dorina & Kyleigh!! Oh my gosh, this was just the boost I needed. I was so happy to hear their cheers the entire way to the exit. Yay!
I was out of the water in 1:53 which was good for a 6 minute PR from two years ago. Yay!!!!
One again, Jill Gellatly was in the change tent and helped me get ready for the bike. Yay! She was so helpful and gave me a quick pep talk. Thanks to Jill, I was out of there in 6:45....two minutes faster than last time. Yay!!! This was shaping up to be a great day.
The first 20-30 miles of the bike were pretty tough for me. I had an impossible time getting comfortable. I tried to get in aero over and over and over and just couldn't. I was pretty stiff from the swim. I was worried for a minute because I thought that if I spent the whole bike like that, I was going to be in for one hell of a ride.
Thankfully I settled down and was able to get in aero and stay there easily enough once I hit 40 miles. I was so looking forward to mile 50 because Keith and his girls were going to be there but no such luck. They hit some traffic heading to the bike course so didn't make it there.
The temperature was ridiculously hot yesterday. I've heard 90-95 but never checked for myself. I knew I needed to take in more fluids and that's exactly what I did. At every aid station I took 2 water bottles...one to put in my open cage and the other to dump on my head and drink. I could not stay cool enough.
Passing Richards, I was headed into the hardest part of the ride for me. Surprisingly, I felt way better than I did on training rides and made it through with little trouble. When I turned on to 2819 to head back to 1486, I heard screaming behind me and turned to see Keith driving up with Caitlin & Hannah hanging out of the windows! Yay, my support crew had arrived!!!
1486 handed me my ass. Over and over and over again. Mile 80 is the point that I typically relax as I consider that the home stretch but not yesterday. Mile 80 is the point where the wheels came off the bus. I started to cramp horribly. My ankles right up through my glutes in both legs. The left leg started first so I tried to stretch but when I did that, the right leg would cramp. It was terrible. I had been taking fluids and salt tabs so I didn't know why this was happening. To make matters worse, I realized I hadn't peed at all yet. With how much I had been taking in, I should've needed to pee at about mile 50...70 at the latest. I'm not lying...I prayed to God that I would pee. I was really worried. I had already been praying every 10 miles that I would make it to the next mile marker safely. At mile 90 I finally had to pee and was so happy. Unfortunately, the cramping would continue through the rest of the ride (and the rest of the race).
I turned back into The Woodlands and about 100 miles and shortly after, saw my support crew just past my neighborhood. Before the cramping, I had been on track for a 6:50 ride but at this point, it was looking more like 7hrs. My legs were still cramped and I started to wonder how in the world I was going to run. I reminded myself to stop thinking about the run...I would worry about it when I got there.
Before I knew it, I was pulling into transition with a bike time of 7:01:33....good for a 27 minute bike PR!
I was moving slow. As soon as I got off the bike, the heat really hit me. Don't get me wrong, I felt it before but when you're on the bike and there are 10mph headwinds, you are kept a little cool. I got off the bike and was immediately greeted by Jill who was waiting to help me get on the run. Thanks to her, I was in & out in just over 8 min....two minutes faster than last year. I'm sure you all remember the wonderful volunteer last year who got me water but then drank it b/c she was so hot. Kathleen was also in transition and helped out when she was free. I was so lucky to have them in there!!
I had been looking forward to the run for weeks. I have been running so well and knew my Ironman would come down to a solid run...something I was more than capable of delivering. My plan was to run to each aid station and then walk for a minute. It became clear to me very quickly that this wasn't going to happen. The cramping was not horrible but it was coming and going. When the cramps kicked in, it was horrible. I was also really feeling the heat. I knew that no matter what, I had more than enough time to finish the race. I just needed to stay out of the med tents.
I got into Northshore Park where most of my support crew was already waiting. What an awesome feeling to see everyone!!! When I got on to Lake Woodlands, I saw the rest of my support crew stuck in traffic. Shortly after, I thought I was going to pass out. I got the ringing in my ears and started to get tunnel vision. I was close to an aid station so grabbed Perform and 3 waters. I downed the Perform, put one cup on my head, one cup down my back and drank the other. This was not looking good. I walked next because I knew if I didn't, I was going down.
I quickly realized that my plan was not going to work. I was going to need to walk a lot more. Doing this meant there was likely no way I could hit my goal of 13 and change for my finish but at this point, I had real concerns about my ability to finish.
I would love to say the run got easier but it didn't. I hoped that by taking it very easy on loop 1, I would recharge a bit and be able to pick up the pace on loop 2. Now the cramping was moving up my body and was causing my a lot of abdominal discomfort. Great. When these cramps hit, I had to walk...I had no choice as they were that bad. I was really getting concerned now. Knowing I didn't pee until 90 on the bike and I hadn't had to pee again, it was clear I was dehydrating even though I was taking in far more fluids than I normally do. I was also worried about taking in too much water and flushing out my electrolytes. Ugh. But sports drink didn't always sound good. I got myself calm and let myself know that the point of this was to finish in the best shape I could. If I needed to walk, so be it.
I ran into Tommy Behe early in the 2nd loop and had a big frown on my face. He was so sweet to talk to me for a bit and just reassure me. It was a tough, tough day but I was doing it. Just do whatever I needed to do at this point. The cramping was getting worse with every mile. I joked with many people and told them the only things not cramped were my ears...it wasn't much of an exaggeration.
When I started the 3rd loop, the race clock said 13 something. I had a moment of sadness as this was the hour I had hoped to finish. I felt a quick tear but knew to let it go. I had one loop left. I really thought with the sun going down, I would be blessed with more energy. Nope. I turned into Northshore Park one last time. My support crew had so much energy and let me know they would see me at the finish. After I got out of the park, I walked a lot. I would run as far as I could...sometimes only to the next tree or the next street light. I caught up with Kerry & Colin and walked with them a bit. They too were having a fun day and I was so grateful to spend some time with them. I decided to give running another shot but it wouldn't last long. Geez. If I couldn't get 13hrs, I really wanted at least 14! I reminded myself again that I just needed to focus on hydrating and finishing.
From mile 18 on I took cola and water at aid stations. The idea of drinking any more Perform made me ill. I tried to eat some pretzels but couldn't force myself to swallow them. I felt like I needed to pee at every aid station so would pop into a port-a-potty but nothing.
Before I knew it though, I was at mile 24 and only had 2 miles left to suffer through. It was here, the end of my race. I made the last turnaround by Landry's where John Laskowski walked with me a bit. I was so lucky to run into awesome people I knew at just the right time. I walked/ran as much as I could. I hit the spot where you either start another loop or head to the finish. All of a sudden, the biggest smile was on my face and stayed there the rest of the night I think. My support crew was lined up along the chute and cheered me on as I ran by. I made the uphill turn, saw the clock and knew I at least had a PR, even if it wasn't the time I wanted. It was ok though, my smile was huge and I sprinted for the finish. And then I heard Mike Reilly say, "Jennifer Miller, you ARE an Ironman"!!!!!
My run time was 6:03:22...a 5 minute PR from 2011. Final time for this Ironman was 15:13:54.
I improved my time across the board, something I'm very proud of. No, I didn't hit my goal time...didn't come close to it. I did do my very, very best given the conditions and that's what's important. I never wanted to quit, not once. There were countless times though I had very real concerns that I wouldn't be able to continue. Left and right, I watched people being wheeled off the course with IVs in their arms. Every med tent I passed had at least one person in it being treated. It was total carnage out there. I was lucky to have made it through!
I am proud to say I've completed two Ironman races (two tough ones no less). I proved yesterday that I am mentally tough and that I won't give up. The day was so hard but I did it. I am so, so happy!!!!!!
My support crew was AMAZING. Thank you all for showing up yesterday. I know it was hot and miserable but your support meant the world to me. I would have never made it without each of you. This goes for all my support crew who followed me online too. You guys are awesome!!!!