Monday, September 21, 2020

You Are The One You've Been Waiting For: Ironman Mystic Lakes 2020 Race Report


That's really all you need to know, right? I honestly don't even know how to begin this race report, because I still think I'm kind of processing the whole, I DID it. Not only did I finish an Ironman, I finished an Ironman by myself. I had pictured this finish in such a specific way for so long that I worried that doing it alone wouldn't feel as important or as special, but in so many ways I actually think it made it even MORE special. I had more support from friends than I ever could have dreamed out on the course, got to swim and ride and run in one of my favorite places to do those things, and I got to do it knowing that every bit of this race was my own. I've thought a lot during this COVID era without real races about a line from Center Stage (yes, classic cinema I know): "I'm not dancing for them anymore, I'm dancing for me". I think over the past several months any athlete has had to come to terms with WHY we do this. Is it for medals, for competition, for the race atmosphere? I certainly love those things, but I've come to realize what I already knew: that I run, and do triathlons, because they give me a chance to do things that I never dreamed I could do, to set a goal and work to accomplish it, and to show myself what I'm made of. The bells and whistles, the competition, that's great too, but at the end of the day I do this for me. And doing a solo Ironman, man, what a great way to show myself what I'm made of. And so, settle in for what I'm sure will be an epic race report to go with an epic race (this race report took me over a week to up lol)!


The day before the race I was working from home and had to deal with not 1, not 2, but 3 MEETINGS which was...a struggle to say the least. My brain was uninterested in processing random updates from the state waiver program or doing scheduling or anything else for that matter. I was really excited to race, but I was also REALLY nervous. The 3 biggest things I was worried about:

1. Fueling - eating enough, not overeating, whether my stomach would cooperate, getting enough salt, hydrating well enough, if I'd need to use the bathroom...on and on

2. Mechanical - yes I know how to change a tire now, but I wouldn't exactly call myself an expert, and anything other than that or a dropped chain is pretty much out of my wheelhouse

3. How the HECK running a marathon was going to feel after 112 miles on the bike

I prepped the majority of my gear and food on Thursday night and must have rearranged and checked things 16 times. What stuff needs to go in what bag, what am I carrying vs. leaving at transition vs. leaving at my "aid station", how are we going to carry all this shit to the starting line...etc. Picking out what I was going to wear was easy, it was the rest of it that was tough! But thankfully that was one less thing to worry about on Friday, when my nerves were 100% ahead of my brain. Work finally finished, I went for my traditional 20 minute shakeout run and then headed to the grocery store for bananas and a post race beer. I wandered the beer aisle for awhile before setting eyes on the absolute perfect beer for the occasion: a beer depicting a runner on a trail running into the sunset called "Chasing Darkness". I didn't even know what type of beer it was (a very high ABV imperial stout, excellent) or the price ($29.99 for a 4 pack, oh my), it was just so perfect that I couldn't NOT buy it. Andrew and I headed home and proceeded to make my traditional 5 ingredient butter tomato sauce with pasta and breaded chicken for dinner - it was pretty wild, I actually can't remember the last time I was home the night before a big race. Boston 2019, maybe? So that was pretty nice. I enjoyed my traditional prerace beer (Lawson's Hopzilla), filled up my bottles and then relaxed while watching Frozen 2...despite it's many plot holes (thanks to Andrew for pointing all of them out lol) the music is great and Show Yourself quickly rose to the top of my list of inspirational songs for training this summer so it just felt right. With a 4:15 am wakeup call, I headed to bed by 10. I'm not going to say it was the most restful night of sleep ever - many of my classic "wake up and think the alarm is going to go off in 5 minutes but really you have like 4 more hours to sleep" moves, but what can you do? One thing I did NOT do was obsess about the weather, because the weather gods decided to finally hear my pleas: it was 55 at the start of the race and only got up to about 70 during the day, no humidity, no rain, and not much wind: honestly, about as good as you could possibly ask for for September 12 in Boston!

I spent an hour or so designing my logo and creating a bib, etc for this "race" because I am extremely cool (but TBH, I'm pretty proud of my sunrise-to-sunset logo!)

As with any race, you must have packet pickup. Volunteer was not impressed.

The "snack cooler" - spoiler alert, I only actually used 2 THINGS out of this ridiculous cooler

Race Day

Just like every other race day for the past 5+ years, race day began with Thunderstruck blasting from my phone. I was immediately awake and moving. Holy shit. It's Iron Day. When I grabbed my phone I saw a text from the night before from my sister, who for some reason had sent me the all time track honor role list from my high school. Turns out I'm still the 5th fastest 300 meter hurdler who ever ran at Wauwatosa West, LOL. It really got the day off to a nice start. I had purposely set the alarm early to give myself plenty of time to get myself together and so I puttered around braiding my hair, checking my bags again, and stretching out for a bit. I ate a banana and a can of cold brew coffee along with some water, and then ate my usual oatmeal with PB and brown sugar later at around 5:00. And I even had a real spoon to eat it with this time! Andrew wins the husband of the year award for waking up in the 4:00 hour and biking the 2 miles to the lake with me carrying an EXTREMELY heavy backpack full of all of my extraneous food. I hate waking up early on non-race days but there's something so completely magical about being awake and out in the world in the darkness when everyone is still asleep, knowing that today holds something different for you. Calm and quiet, with dawn just starting to break, we pedaled slowly to the start. I noticed as I rode that my bike was incredibly quiet - definitely a good sign. Also, yes, I had to ride my bike to the start of my 140.6 mile race, which is completely normal. 

We arrived at the lake and I of course immediately needed to go and nature pee because #racedayproblems. I set up my "aid" area with all of the food and drink that I wasn't going to carry, which was a LOT. Spoiler alert, I used almost none of it, but I tried to have just about everything that I thought I could POSSIBLY want if things went south, particularly during the marathon. I think even having the option/knowing the calories were there eased my mind! I drew a cute little chalk finish line and then went back to setup my "transition" area which you may remember from my half iron race earlier this know, the extremely professional setup of my bike locked to a fence and my gear bag hidden behind some weeds? That's the one lol. 

Finish line! Extremely profesh. 

We return once again to the majestic parking lot fence transition area

My amazing Reach the Beach teammate, John, who has done several Ironmans in the past, volunteered to support me during this race (who even does that? So amazing!) and was going to be swimming with me and then driving out to do a bottle exchange around the 30 mile mark. He arrived around 6 and was laughing at my transition area, having not realized that we don't own a car. Andrew was very helpfully saying things like "13 minutes" as he knew my planned sunrise start time, and so I finally got my wetsuit on and ate my 15 minutes before the start Gu and drank some water. Then Elise arrived! Again, freaking amazing friends, she got up at the crack of dawn to see me off for the swim and then was going to run around the lake before cheering at T1. Seriously, my friends are incredible.

Soon enough Andrew was into his 3 minute countdown and we got into the water, which felt balmy compared to the 50ish degree air temp! Water temp was around 72 degrees which is truly lovely swimming temperature, and wetsuit legal may I add. Now, if you read my half iron race report you'll remember that I got kind of emotional and sang the national anthem to myself to start that race because I love that tradition and moment at the start of races. With more people around, I felt like that would have been kind of weird and so figured I'd be starting this race with less fanfare - less emotion also didn't necessarily seem like a BAD thing when I needed to make sure to keep a cool head to get through this race. But then the most perfect thing happened: Elise said "should we play Shots?" (Shots (yes, by LMFAO/Lil Jon) is the theme song of our Reach the Beach team). And so instead of tearing up during the national anthem, I danced around in the water like an idiot to Shots to start my Ironman day, and it was absolutely perfect. In that moment I had no anxiety, no fear, no nerves, I just felt so lucky and joyful to be here and finally doing this thing, surrounded by these people. 

When I walk in the club, all eyes on me


Then Andrew shouted "It's 6:21, BYE!" and I refused to be seen off with such little fanfare, so thankfully Elise jumped in with a countdown of "3...2....1....GOOOO!" And I dove into the water, started my watch, and I was doing a damn Ironman!

The Swim: 2.4 miles, 1:16:52 (1:49/100yd)

First I just need to say: this was a REALLY fast swim for me, especially given my extremely middling level of swim training this summer. I think training without a wetsuit lends a huge advantage when you get to wear one again in races - swimming just feels SO much easier. The swim was an area where I felt like solo racing was actually a huge advantage: no washing machine, no getting kicked in the face, no worrying about where the course actually WAS. Just me and the lake and reach and pull and count to 20 and sight, over and over again. My first 500 yd was, as always, the most challenging - there was mist rising off the lake and I couldn't see my turn buoy, and my goggles fogged up almost immediately.  I also realized that I had forgotten my nose clip, which I've been using because I've been getting HORRIBLE nasal congestion in the evenings after I open water swim, probably from god knows what's in the lake. Apparently it's not an uncommon thing but I'm not used to it enough yet for it to be a habit to wear it. Thankfully I didn't have an issue for the remainder of the day!

Once I found the buoy I paused for a second to sort out my goggles, which really never gave me a problem after that thankfully. The second "leg" of the swim loop is by far the easiest to sight because there's a huge house on the far shore that's much easier to target compared to little sailing buoys! So during that stretch, I finally started to get into a rhythm. I kept trying to tell myself to stop gawking at my watch but I couldn't help but sneak peeks every time it buzzed another 500 yd split. When my second split was under 9 minutes, I knew I had a good thing going. The sun was rising over the trees in the east and every time I breathed I wanted to smile; it was absolutely beautiful. I just felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this day, this place, and being able to undertake this ridiculous thing. I really love swimming and being in the water, and I find it incredibly peaceful especially without all the chaos that the swim is during an actual race. 

I continued around the loop, swimming directly into the sun for awhile during the final stretch back towards the boathouse which was not the most enjoyable thing ever but I managed. I noticed that I was slightly short on distance for the first loop so decided to take the second loop wider so that I didn't have to do all kinds of silly out and backs at the end. Continuing on: stroke, stroke, count. Stroke, stroke, count. Once in awhile I would sight and notice I was swimming way off course but overall I felt like I had a better sense of where I was on the second loop and I pretty much decided that I didn't need to care about where the buoys were except for the one near the big house. Fuck sighting! This is my race, I don't have to sight or swim in a straight line! LOL. I definitely made a wider loop on the second lap which I discovered when I ran into some lilypads and was VERY seriously felt like myI hand hit a solid object like someone's boat or dock or something...nope, just lilypads. At another point I sighted and was like 5 ft away from someone's water trampoline...that sounds like fun, but not now! I never really got tired during the swim - I felt really strong and in control the entire time, which I think is the perfect way to feel when you're on the first and shortest leg of a very long race. My left ankle started to bother me a little bit from all the kicking as it tends to do because I swear I have no ligaments left there, but I was able to modify my kick a bit and it eased up. I got up close and personal with my cormorant friend who hangs out on the buoys again and kept an eye out for bald eagles...yes...just birdwatching during an ironman swim, AS ONE DOES. 

The second loop seemed to pass really quickly, although as far as I can tell I pretty much perfectly swam even splits for the two loops. I realized when I was getting back near the boathouse that I needed a little extra distance so I made some awkward circles and then swam back to shore - stopped my watch with a PERFECT 4225 yards, you can't get any better than that! John was so nice and motivational and was like "you were FLYING! and I mean, for my current swim abilities, I kind of was! The swim complete, it was time to head to T1 and prepare for the longest leg of the race: the bike!

Struggling out of the lake lol

T1 - about 10 minutes

I took my sweet time getting out of the water and leisurely headed over to my transition area - rushing through transitions was NOT going to be a thing today. Got out of my wetsuit and talked to Andrew while also throwing random things for him to carry home. Thankfully John had brought sunscreen (OOPS I did not) so I slathered that on, got all of my food on board while eating a Honey Stinger waffle, and just really tried to make sure I had everything I needed for the next 6-7 hours of my life to be spent on a bicycle. I bid John farewell and confirmed our handoff spot, kissed Andrew goodbye, and mounted up on Bahamut for 112 miles of fun!

The Bike: 112 miles, 6:35:59 riding time (6:46:57 total time with stoplights,bathroom and aid station stops), 17.0 mph

My bike course was a multiloop course, starting with the small 5 mile loop around the lake and then heading out to do 2 larger loops in Concord before returning to the lake to ride loops on loops on loops for the final 65 miles. My goal for the beginning of the ride was to stay relaxed, not stress about pace, and EAT - literally the one thing that was drilled into my head by my more experienced Ironman brethren was "do NOT underfuel on the bike". With that in my mind, I took off on my first "warmup" loop around the lakes and almost immediately ran into Elise! I whooped and waved my arms and continued on. A couple miles in I noticed a woman in a SRR jersey and with a virtual Boston bib - turns out their whole club was doing their virtual marathon around the lake! And so I got to do my other favorite thing: I got to cheer on these runners as I rode. Again, this was something that just perfectly set the tone for the entire day. Instead of anxiously wondering how the next 100 miles of riding was going to go, I was giddy with excitement both for myself and for these other 10 people who were also doing something completely insane, and people were clearly so genuinely grateful to have some encouragement as they ran a marathon alone. The energy was completely contagious. It didn't hurt that it was also an absolutely BEAUTIFUL morning...high 50s, sunny, no humidity, amazing. 

I completed my loop and saw Elise again which gave me a boost as I headed out into the beginning of my first real loop. Heading out I got stuck behind a bulldozer going very slowly which was awkward, and I sort of yelled at it for existing, but thankfully soon enough I was able to get off the main road and away from the traffic. The only significant hills on my course were within the first 15 miles which was perfect - I was feeling really fresh, my bike felt smooth, and I was ready to just relax and cruise up the hills. The first long hill, Johnson Road, I took in my lowest gear and tried to just keep my heart rate down. I could tell I was in a good mood because when I'm in a good mood on my bike, do you know what I do? I talk to myself, out loud, like CRAZY. When I'm grumpy or tired or just not feeling it I just put my head down and get it done, but when I'm happy on my bike I feel like the whole world needs to know it and I just find myself shouting random things into the breeze. It's weird, for sure, but who's there to hear it? So I crested the double hump of Johnson Rd and said to myself "only one more big hill, and that's it!". I am actually not a terrible climber and don't really MIND rolling hills, even if they're large, but it was still nice to know that was in the rearview mirror. I got stuck at a couple of stoplights in this section, which I knew was a possibility, but I just used them as an opportunity to get some fuel in. My fueling plan was pretty simple: big drinks at the 5's, gu chomps and a smaller drink at the 10's, and "big food" (Clif bar, waffle, Combos, etc) at approximately 45, 65, and 85. I did end up modifying this strategy slightly as we'll discuss later but overall I am actually REALLY proud of my fueling - I was nervous about it the entire time but I think I did a really excellent job based on how strong I felt overall throughout the race.

Happily heading out to the bike course, screenshot c/o Elise!

Back to the bike course, something fairly silly happened: I rode past a construction site of some sort that had a very large crane, and I felt the need to say out loud "that's a big ass crane". Well, my brain decided to take "big ass crane" and convert it to the song it had heard most recently involving the word "ass"...and that song is WAP. I am not joking, I wish I was, I spent the next 6 hours of riding with a nearly constant refrain of "from the top, make it drop..." etc running through my head.  It WOULD NOT LEAVE. Of all the absurd songs to have stuck in your head, I think this might be tied with the time I somehow got The Wheels on the Bus stuck in my head during a marathon as the most ridiculous.  I also saw a huge pack of turkeys during this stretch and screamed "HI GOOD MORNING TURKEYS ENJOY YOUR DAY" because I just get really excited about seeing animals when I 

I made my way onto Grove Street, which despite one fairly large hill is actually one of my favorite roads to ride - nice smooth roads, minimal traffic, and it's rather pretty to boot. I once again kept my effort on the lower side climbing the one major hill in this section; I just figured it was so early that it didn't make sense to burn myself out on one climb. And soon enough I was headed into the first of my big loops, one of my favorite loops, between Bedford, Carlisle, and Concord. I continued to focus on eating and drinking - John had told me that I should try to finish my 2 bottles by the time I met him for our exchange around mile 32 - but it just seemed like SO much liquid to take in. I tried not to worry about it too much - it was cool, and I wasn't sweating much - and focused on finding a nice groove and effort level for the first loop. 

At this point, things were really clicking, and this loop is a section where riding fast is definitely possible. Looking back I probably could have gone faster on the first loop, but I think in a race of this distance discretion is definitely the better part of valor. There was so much race left to go, and I knew that feeling good at this moment meant absolutely nothing for how I might feel in an hour, or 4 hours, or 6 hours! So I kept my effort at a pretty moderate level and just had an absolutely WONDERFUL time on that first loop. I said hi to the two little miniature horses who I always see on this loop. I SCREAMED when I saw some goats which are not usually there (literally: "OMG, GOATS! HI GOATS! GOOD MORNING!" I swear one of them looked at me with I tried to think of some other songs to sing to get WAP out of my head but my brain just kept on circling back to "get a bucket and a mop...." etc. Good lord, why. I remembered that there was a Porta Potty on the second leg of the triangle of this loop, which I was very happy about because I was already kind of feeling like I needed to pee. I decided I'd hold off until the second loop, after the bottle exchange, and kept cruising down Lowell Rd. There were tons of cyclists out and I waved at every one, feeling like I had this secret: psst, did you know? I'm doing an IRONMAN right now! 

I came through the Concord rotary and headed onto the third leg of the triangle; only 5 miles until John and the bottle exchange! I still was maybe only 1/4 of the way into my second bottle and I tried to take the opportunity to take as much of it in as I could. It was made more difficult by the fact that I was now REALLY looking forward to that porta potty (things to learn for next year: learn to pee on the bike) and I was simultaneously trying to get myself to chill out because I had just posted a couple of 5 mile splits on the order of 18.5-19 mph which I told myself I was NOT allowed to do. I know my current cycling abilities and I knew that the better end of my abilities for 100+ miles was in the low 17 mph range. Going any faster than that would be setting myself up for absolute disaster on the run. I think again this is where being in a solo race was actually SUPER helpful. In a race where I would have had people blowing by me on the bike, it would have been soooo easy to go too hard on the bike because I was trying too hard to compete. Not that competing was ever my goal, but when you're in that situation shit just happens and you let the adrenaline of competition run away with you. Because I was quite literally riding my own ride, I could calibrate with myself and keep my effort levels in check totally based on how I was feeling, not on what the heck was going on around me, and I think for my first shot at this distance that was actually a blessing for executing the thing well. 

Soon enough I was hitting the 30 mile mark, nearly 2 hours in already and almost time to meet John! When I got to our handoff spot I initially couldn't find him but spotted him over on the other side of the road. At this point I was still feeling GREAT and giddy, and I told him so. I downed some more of my second bottle and then grabbed my next two, to the amusement of a random bystander in his driveway who joked "I'm pretty sure I saw him slip something in those, watch out". Hey, my first random spectator! I probably stopped for under a minute and cruised out of Bedford and on to the second loop.

By this point, my thoughts were almost completely consumed by how badly I needed to use the bathroom. I literally could not think about anything else besides reaching the damn porta potty, which was like 8 miles, or nearly half an hour, away! So I just put my head down and proceeded to ride way too hard, nearly 20 mph, for the next few miles in an effort to not pee my pants - retrospectively, I don't know why I didn't just pee my damn pants? Had I been in a real race I almost certainly would have. So, pros and cons of solo racing: you probably will pace better, but you'll also waste time actually stopping at a porta potty instead of just peeing on the bike by yourself on the road lol.

Finally, like a mirage, the magical porta potty emerged. I practically threw my bike on the ground as I staggered over the gravel - what a waste of energy and a total loss of momentum! Again: need to learn to pee on the bike. Despite my relief, I feel like the whole situation, and possibly overdrinking had really thrown my whole body askew, and the next 10 or so miles were actually some of my least favorite of the entire race. They were also actually the ONLY time all day when I was at all concerned about not being able to finish. I noticed I was feeling kind of hungry, so as soon as I got back on my bike I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and then, for good measure, decided to take a salt tab. But I still didn't feel great - I still was kind of hungry, and I also just felt TIRED - not physically, like my legs were still fine and pedaling away, but like I could just close my eyes and fall asleep on my bike. To be fair, I HAD been up since 4 am, but it seemed odd and more of a sign that something was amiss. Later, when I reached Concord and had to stop briefly, I felt super shaky and unpleasant when I put my leg down, almost lightheaded. I started trying to go through the mental checklist of what the problem might be. I was almost positive it was NOT dehydration and if anything I was wondering if I maybe wasn't a little hyponaetremic because of how much I'd been drinking and how LITTLE I'd been sweating compared to basically all of my training rides. I definitely wasn't thirsty, and so I decided to take a break from the drinking plan for 5-10 miles and see how I felt. 

Now, just because I didn't want to drink at that moment didn't mean I didn't want my bottles, and so you can imagine my displeasure when, around mile 42, my front water bottle cage decided to try to make a break for freedom as the top screw holding in in place straight up popped off my bike. I had LITERALLY tightened that screw on Friday; I'm guessing it's probably stripped, but regardless I just heard a clank and then a clunk and was horrified thinking something had gone terribly wrong with my bike. Nope, just the water bottle cage, but still a pretty significant problem - I can't really drink out of the back cage while riding, and I still had at least 4 more hours of riding to go. With a litany of cursing, I got off my bike and tried to find the rogue screw, but it had rolled off into the abyss somewhere, never to be seen again. Shit. I stood there for a second taking stock of what I had that I could possibly use to try to fix this problem. Maybe I could use the duct tape that was currently holding my flat kit to my bike? (Related: I need to just invest in a storage bag for my bike so that I don't have to duct tape my flat kit to my bike like a loser lol). But I wasn't convinced that the duct tape would hold. What else...what else...did I have a rubber band? I searched my pockets -no, why would I have a rubber band in there? And then I remembered: I HAD ONE ON MY WRIST! I had put it on as sort of a play on the fact that at a real Ironman race you have a wristband that denotes you as an athlete. And my stupid fake rubber band wristband was my salvation! I wrapped and twisted it around the top of the cage and miracle of miracles, it held. It held through 70 more miles of riding and as far as I know is still holding now...which reminds me that at some point I'm going to have to replace that screw haha.

Well, crisis averted, and as far as I could tell I had only lost a minute or two, though it felt like a lifetime. But I still didn't feel awesome. I definitely felt better, and a little more awake thanks to needing to problem solve on the spot, but still just off. There was so much race left to go that I needed to solve this problem and I needed to do it now. So I decided to bring out my ace in the hole, salt and calories all in one delicious package: Pizzaria Pretzel Combos. I would like to give a huge shoutout to my stomach, which seemed perfectly content to accept without question whatever crap I decided to throw at it during this race. And while the combos were extremely logistically challenging to eat (think: attempting to open a baggie, and pull out one combo at a time so as not to choke, while also keeping one hand on the handlebars to steer and brake...), I tell ya what, they did an INCREDIBLE job of fixing whatever my issue was. By this point I had turned for a short stretch on the Minuteman bike path, which was exactly as terrible of an idea to include in the course as I knew it would be. I literally had to come to a complete stop at one point behind a pack of children, not ideal. But on the flip side, I did get to cheer for some more virtual Boston people, and I tried to just accept it as a forced chill out break before heading into the second half of the bike. By the time I made the turn off the path I could feel my energy returning; my urge to shout random statements into the wind was back. I had solved it! Combos had solved it! Let me tell you, every single Ironman in my future will absolutely include both Combos and rubber bands carried with me on the bike, because those two things together just might have saved my race.

I hit mile 55 with it's delightfully large down hill and said to myself "halfway! Halfway is...good. Better than not halfway." Extremely wise and useful words, I tell ya. And then I turned onto the lake loop and finally got a few minutes of reprieve from WAP, because all I could think of as I made the turn was Everybody Wants To Rule The World..."welcome to your life...." Because this loop was literally going to be my life for the next 7ish hours? That is too many hours to think about all at once, so I just tried to get my head on straight and think about the only think I could think about: one lap at a time. Don't think about the run, the run is 3 or more hours away, and the only thing you can do about the run right now is not be an idiot on the bike. So stay on the bike! Stay in the moment! Don't screw up your fueling, don't hammer, just ride. 

There were still 2-3 people finishing their Boston races when I arrived back at the lake and so I tried to hype myself up by cheering even MORE aggressively for them. And they all kind of looked at me like I was insane? One woman seemed very grateful but the rest looked at me like I had grown an extra head, which is sort of fair because I have felt that way about spectators at mile 20 of a tough marathon as well. I kept my eye out for John, who apparently was on the exact opposite side of the lake from me for essentially the entire ride and was riding faster than me but not fast enough to catch up 😂. I tried to plot out when mentally and physically I should stop for fuel - I still had almost a full bottle left at mile ~56 when I entered the lake loop, and I decided I would try to hold off until 75 or so to stop and refill my bottles, keeping that carrot on a string for myself. In the meantime, I forced myself to eat a Clif Bar, which I sang a little song about, something like "this tastes like dirt but I'll eat it anywayyyy" because it  ABSOLUTELY tasted like dirt in the moment but I knew I had to eat it, so I did. Oh well. I think eating things when you absolutely are not interested in eating things is kind of an essential feature of long course triathlon. 

The next 3 loops were uneventful. WAP reappeared in my head, which was unfortunate, but I couldn't seem to do anything about it. "Hey brain, how about we sing a different song?" "OK's the lyrical version of WAP that's going around on TikTok!" Sigh.  I wasn't riding particularly fast or slow, but holding steady with splits in the mid to high 17s which is right around 17 mph, and that seemed fine. It was definitely getting harder and I was starting to get a little sick of being on my bike, but overall nothing too dire. I stopped and refilled my bottle with Gatorade and grabbed my other two sleeves of chews, got rid of some of my wrappers and trash, grabbed some Cheez Its which I didn't end up eating, and took another salt tab before heading back onto the loop. 

People keep asking me what the hardest part of the race was, and I think about miles 80-100 of the bike were it. I feel like I've heard that before, that mile 85 of the bike is just a bad place, and I definitely believe it now. The first lap after my refuel was OK, but for the next 20 or so miles I felt like I was having to pull out every mental trick I knew to try to talk myself into another loop. I kept trying to do math and figure out how many hours I had left, but that was making things WORSE because the math said I still had over 2 hours to ride, and that sounded awful. I'd liken the experience to something like mile 16 of a marathon: you're pretty damn far in, but you are also pretty damn far away. It also probably didn't help that the math I was doing was a) incorrect and b) pointless. The conversion from pace to time just was not working for me, and on several instances I talked myself into thinking I was going to ride a 7:30 bike leg before realizing that my math was completely incorrect. At a certain point I literally just had to say to myself "stop trying to do math when you're tired because it IS NOT HELPING".  Other things that weren't helping: when I pulled out my margarita Gu chomps, which I was excited for, I bit into one and it was stale feeling and just tasted like plastic. I assume since I got them from Amazon that they were just sitting in some warehouse for God knows how long and took on the taste of their own wrappers, but I swear it felt like I was chewing on a Barbie foot. Cool, cool. As I needed these stupid chomps to stick to the fueling plan, we got to file that under "things I ate during the Ironman that I did not want to eat". During one of these unpleasant laps I also got to deal with a driver pulling out of a parking spot and then proceeding to just sit in the bike lane...for reasons. I shouted some not very nice things at them in front of several people getting ready to go hang out by the was a dark place, OK?? My butt hurt and my back was bothering me and my legs were sick of just doing the same motion over and over, and the tops of my feet were hurting from pushing against the tops of my bike shoes, and just, blah. I tried not to think too hard about the fact that I still had hours more of this to go and just tried to get out of my seat now and then, change gears, change cadence, change it up as much as I could while still moving forward. 

Through all of this my pace had definitely slowed but was holding relatively steady in the high 16s/low 17s for each 5 mile loop. I tried to do some semi-productive math by thinking of how many miles I had to go and then breaking it down 14 different ways to see which version sounded the most appealing. "OK, so if I have 35 miles to go, that's really like riding 25 miles and then just 10 miles! And then 2 miles but that basically doesn't count, right?" Or, "I'm going faster than 20 minutes a lap, but even if I did slow down that far, I only have an hour and 20 minutes after this lap".  Slowly, slowly, slowly the number of laps I needed to ride dwindled. I had promised myself a stop at the porta potty at mile 100 because I figured I'd want to deal with any bathroom related issues before starting the run. Getting off my bike, I practically fell over as I staggered across the gravel, and all I could think for the remainder of the ride was how in the everloving heck am I going to run a marathon???

But finally, there I was, with 7 miles left of the ride. I feel like the last lap should have felt more triumphant than it did, but by this point I was so in my head about the fact that I had to run a damn marathon that I hardly even noticed what was going on. However, I did take a few moments to have a little gratitude moment for NO MECHANICALS (aside from the stupid water bottle cage, which, look, if something was going to go wrong with my bike I'll accept that)! I finally encountered John as I headed for the little out and back to make it a full 112 miles - he was now running, because of course he was! As I pedaled back to the boathouse he was coming towards me yelling "you're done!? Holy shit! You're so fast!" Which is adorable because he can ride significantly faster than I can, but it still gave me such a boost. I turned into the boathouse drive and cruised back up to my transition area, and the bike leg (and my longest ride ever) was complete!

Fueling for posterity: Had a total of 5 large bottles (probably only drank 3 entirely but drank most of the others): 3 were normal strength Skratch, 1 was slightly watered down Skratch, and 1 was Gatorade. 5 packs of Gu chomps. 1 Honey Stinger waffle. 1 banana peanut butter Clif Bar. 2 servings of Combos, 2 salt tabs. I feel like I read a lot of race reports where people do all their fueling with liquid (John was surprised at how much solid food I was planning when I shared my race plan with him), but honestly my stomach was solid throughout the ride and I felt like I absolutely needed the change in flavor/texture to actually keep from feeling ill. But no nausea, no digestive issues - aside from the struggle midway, I think this plan worked well! I believe I probably could have benefited from a few more calories (and some caffeine would not have been a terrible idea) during that 85-100 slump, something to consider for the future.

T2 - ~ 10 minutes (it absolutely did not feel that long but I guess I must have taken my sweet time lol)

I got back into transition and took a few moments to steady myself before slowly trying to sort out my fuel and clothing while mentally wrapping my brain around the fact that I was about to run a marathon. Helmet was replaced with hat, bike shoes replaced with Kinvaras, bib number was donned because I'm cool like that, race belt was packed with Gus. John came running in around then and tried to tell me that I had been riding 18 mph (I was not but I appreciate it anyway!) and I reassured him that I was happy with my ride regardless of what the actual pace was. This whole marathon thing, however, aggggghh, I was terrified! How was this going to feel? I just think I've run so many awful marathons in my life that I'm a little bit scarred by the idea of running under anything less than perfect conditions haha. But when I voiced these thoughts, John, ever the wise man, looked at me sort of incredulously and was like "'re a runner. A strong runner. This is what you do! You'll be fine." I sure hoped he was right. Enough dawdling; I looked at my watch. 2:15. That left me 4 hours and 13 minutes to run a marathon to achieve my goal of finishing before sunset. "I don't know if I can do that, but I'll try!" I said to John. "Guess I better get going..." And with that, I headed out of the parking lot, off into the great mystery that is an Ironman marathon.

The Run: 26.2 miles, 3:51 and change, 8:50 pace

Not gonna lie, I am SUPER proud of this run. I am also 100% convinced that I can run an Ironman marathon faster...maybe even much faster. Dangerous thoughts. But we're getting ahead of ourselves...back to the race at hand. 

I took off out of transition feeling great, and honestly just very happy to be off my bike and doing the thing that I know how to do. As unfamiliar as the specific situation was, when it came to the sport this was finally familiar territory. I knew how efforts should feel, how they should not feel, and how to manage a wide variety of extenuating circumstances on the run, and that knowledge did buoy me a bit as I set off. About 3/4 mile down the road, I ran into Andrew and our dog, and I decided to stop for a second to say hi to them both and also to sort out my playlist, which I wasn't sure was shuffling as it should (another solo race perk: an absolutely banging run playlist. Farewell, WAP, see ya never). Then I started laughing because John was literally behind me YELLING at me that I couldn't stop already! Hah! I said to Andrew "John's giving me shit, gotta go!" and headed off onto the loop. I honestly had no clue what pace I was running and was pretty amused when I saw my first mile was an 8:15...inclusive of dilly dallying with my dog for probably at least 30-45 seconds, whoops? And all I could think was that I felt ASTONISHINGLY good. The turnaround from getting off my bike like "am I going to walk this marathon" to running 8 minute pace and feeling like I was jogging was bizarre, but amazing. I think it was a combination of successful fueling on the bike, my body's innate knowledge of how to run, and just utter happiness to be finally doing the thing that I actually know how to do!

The run course was easy to break up into chunks: 5 loops, a mile at the end. That's it. And the first loop FLEW by. I clicked off 8:00 miles and couldn't believe how good I was feeling. I felt smooth, easy, relaxed, and like I could do this all day, pretty much the polar opposite of how I expected to feel coming off the bike. I swear, though, there's something about running off the bike that just works. As insane as it seems, I think maybe everything is just well warmed up and firing in a way that somehow makes running feel easier? I knew that feeling this good couldn't possibly last, and in fact actually worried to myself that I was somehow going out TOO hard, but everything else was telling me that I was running at an appropriate effort, and if I could bank some time in the first half of this marathon, why the heck not?  In a perfect shuffle serendipity, one of the first songs that came on during this loop was "Into the Unknown" (yes...from Frozen 2...). It was so fitting - I really felt like I WAS entering unknown territory. Did I sing out loud a little bit? I'll leave that to the random person doing yardwork who may or may not have heard me to say...😂 Somewhere around mile 3 a car honked and someone screamed at me and I saw sunglasses out of a window - it was one of my friends! I had sort of withheld the fact that I was doing this from most of my friends until the day before when I finally decided to inform our running friend group text that " I'm doing an Ironman tomorrow..." I absolutely did not expect anyone to spend their Saturday showing up for my imaginary "race" let alone cheering for me for an ENTIRE marathon, but I tell ya, I have some amazing friends. As I came around by the beach parking lot there was Aly and her husband, cheering like crazy! I really couldn't figure out what to do with myself when people cheered so my reaction just tended to be waving my arms awkwardly in the air and yelling WOO! haha. Then I saw Brenda in her mini, screaming out the window! I felt just an enormous wave of gratitude for my friends. I think one of the most amazing things about the friendships you make through sports is having this avenue to loudly and emphatically support each other. Over the years some of my absolute favorite memories have been of races that I spectated or cheered for, and my friend group is such that if we're able to spectate another one of us at a race, we will BE there. It just was so special to have that part of the experience even this unofficial "race" and was really a big part of what made it feel real and special and important. 

So maybe that's why starting my second loop after seeing my friends was one of the few times all day that I really got a little emotional - something I expected to happen way more! I think for the most part during the day I ended up being so focused on the task at hand that I didn't have time or energy to get emotional about it, but heading off on the second lap after this great first loop, feeling strong and supported and for the first time sort of understanding that I was going to finish this thing, I almost started crying....only to immediately force myself to stop because I quickly realized that it was extremely difficult to breathe when becoming emotional...hahaha. OK then, back to business, and on to loop 2. There's one small but fairly steep hill around mile 1.5 of the loop, and I could tell that my heart rate was spiking WAY too high when I ran up it on loop 2 - easy decision, I'd walk up it on subsequent loops. This was definitely one of those choices that was informed more by my mindset of making sure I could finish than even how I actually felt physically in the moment, and I think is a great example about how not being in a race was maybe a detriment to my strategy on the run. In reverse of the bike, I think with competitors around I would have been more likely to skip some walk breaks, not dilly dally when I saw my friends, etc. That being said, it's impossible to know whether doing those things was what allowed me to feel so strong all the way through the marathon! I'm curious how my strategy will change next year with the difference in environment. Either way, in this case I was happy to take a more conservative approach to ensure that I would be able to finish what I started. I was still vaguely worried about fueling - I took a Gu at the 5 mile mark and was carrying a bottle of Skratch, but wasn't sure how I'd feel in another 10 miles. That was really the theme of the marathon: "OK, you feel great right now, but what about the next lap?"

I could tell I was sweating more and getting "warmer" (again - high of 70 degrees and dry basically felt INCREDIBLE, but you know how it goes) so decided I'd stop to refill my bottle at my aid station at 10. I was also starting to crave something other than salty/sweet foods and figured I would open my lemon/lime soda as well...bubbles sounded appealing. I had slowed a little bit in the second half of the lap, to closer to 8:15 pace, but still very much ahead of where I'd expected to be at this point. I rolled up to my snack cooler and got to work refilling my bottle and cracking the soda, which did indeed taste DELICIOUS. I also took another Gu because I felt like I should though I was not interested at all. As I was doing my aid station thing, who did I see coming up the path but Jade and her husband! Jade is a college teammate who recently moved to Boston and I was pumped to see her! We chatted for a little bit and she asked me how I was feeling. I thought for a second and offered " I REALLY don't want to start running again". And it was true! The stop had really killed my momentum and I was suddenly aware of how fatigued my legs actually were. Ugh, well that could only mean one thing...time to go! I'm sort of amazed actually seeing that my split for this mile was only a 10:12 (compared to 8:20 moving time ) - I was stopped for under 2 minutes, but it felt like forever!

I had decided that I would stop to use the bathroom on this lap, basically at the halfway point, so that was a nice target for the next 3 miles. I'd suspected that laps 3 and 4 were going to be the most difficult due to that classic "you're a ways in but you have a ways to go" marathon problem, but the 3rd lap was actually not awful once I got into it. Down at the bottom of the lake, I saw Aly and did some more arm waving, and she asked me if I needed anything because they were going to the store. I racked my brain....I had so much in my snack cooler, what did I need? So I decided to shout my first gut reaction: COKE! With the prospect of ice cold caffeine awaiting me on the other side of the lap, I set off for lap 3. I was definitely starting to slow a bit but kept chugging along at a generally reasonable pace, still in the mid to high 8's. About 2 miles into the loop, I passed a woman who I had seen multiple times on the previous loops, running the opposite direction as me. Since we were now on the order of running 12-13 miles around this lake I became curious if she, like me, was currently running a marathon. So...when I crossed paths with her again I decided to shout "Are you running a marathon right now?!" She replied "....yes..." and I completely lit up and SCREAMED "FUCK YEAH!! ME TOO!!" And it was so awesome, because the entire rest of the time we were out there, every time we saw each other we gave a thumbs up or a wave or a "you got this".  It was almost like having someone in the race with me! The discovery of my marathon brethren was definitely a pick me up, and I happily headed towards the halfway mark with Springsteen blasting in my ears, singing along..."for the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive..." (Love the entire Born to Run album, but I think Badlands is actually my favorite Springsteen song). God, I was so glad to be alive. So glad to be here and having this day that just felt like such a celebration, regardless of the insanity that the rest of the year has been. I could have this thing. I could refuse to let anything stand in my way or take away this chance and this choice that I'd made for myself over a year ago. You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come...don't waste your time waiting...

The porta potty stop at mile 13 was quick, in and out, and I was back on the road towards my friends and my Coke that awaited. Up at the top of the loop I ran into Jade again and did some more awkward fist pumping and "woo"ing - I'd love to know what the people walking their dogs or having dinner in their homes thought about this random idiot running multiple laps as day turned into evening. I took a walk break to take a salt tab down and get some more fluids in as I was definitely thirsty. This was also the section of the race where my brain was tired and starting to latch on to random shit in the environment, such as a house in this section that had put out a very aggressive wine barrel wine rack with a "FREE!" sign at the end of their this point I had passed it at least 8 times between the bike and the run and was in a goofy enough mental state to think about how actually, if I had a car, maybe I'd come back for this completely impractical wine rack? I rounded the turn into the nice downhill, had to veer into the road a bit to avoid some electrical work going on and kind of laughed to crazy was this cop directing traffic going to think I was when he saw me two more times this evening?

I reached the beach parking lot and my friends, now with their dog and toddler in tow, and COKE! I know they typically have it flat at races but let me tell you, ice cold, fizzy, sugary, cola-y goodness has never tasted so sweet. I walked a little bit while drinking and thanking my friends. They asked how I was feeling and I was sort of non-committal - I think I said "not terrible" lol. My friend Aly made the excellent point that "you have literally hour and a half, and then you're an Ironman!" 90 minutes seemed both an eternity and an instant, but either way it seemed doable.  I trotted off with my water bottle in one hand and my coke in the other.I got sick of that setup pretty quickly, so I dropped it behind a guardrail by my aid station and promised I'd come back to get it later or grab another drink if needed. I got a bit of a side stitch probably from swigging it too quickly, but that passed thankfully - my only minor  "GI" issue of the day, and caused by my own insistence on drinking more of a carbonated beverage than was probably wise. I guess they serve it flat at Ironman races for a reason...  

So now I was at 15 miles, on the loop that would bring me to 20. This was the lap that I had expected to be the hardest, and it certainly was, but it never felt impossible. I saw Jade and Tim again in the middle of the "backstretch" of the loop and did some more arm waving and "wooing" although it was now accompanied by a self-deprecating "ugh, I'm DYING!" Rumors of my death were highly exaggerated, but my legs were definitely starting to be less enthused about the prospect of more miles on top of the 130 that they'd already covered today. There were definitely a few extra walk breaks on this lap but I kept them short and sweet. I realized that I had skipped taking a gel at 15 because of the Coke, so I hunted down one with caffeine and took that. Caffeine just sounded like a GREAT idea - anything to give me just a little bit more energy. I tried not to think too much, and to just keep moving - one foot in front of the other, don't you dare try to do weird math to figure out what time you're going to finish in just keep going. Keep going. I saw my marathon friend again, both of us definitely moving a little slower than before, but we gave a thumbs up and kept on moving. The impractical wine rack was still there. The electrical work was still happening. The sun was getting lower in the sky, golden streaks across the lake. I got another amazing round of cheers from my friends, who had now been joined by yet another member of the crew! And soon enough my watch indicated that I'd reached the 20 mile mark. 1 lap to go.

I for some reason had found myself craving water and MORE soda and so I decided to stop at my snack cooler to do one last refill. Well, turns out I didn't actually zip up the cooler, and turns out if you open a soda in an unzipped cooler there will be ANTS. So there were ants everywhere. It was delightful. But I dumped some Sprite into the cap of my water bottle and took it like a shot because I really wanted it, and then refilled my water bottle and prepared to head out. I totally zoned out for a second and was up the area, dumping out the Sprite, and I got about 20 seconds into that task and then was like, holy shit, nope you can do that LATER, right now you've gotta GO. And as golden hour emerged, I headed off into my last loop. 6 miles to go, 70 minutes before sunset, and I knew: I had it. I was going to do it.

I had told Andrew that I'd text him when I had 5 miles to go and I decided I'd pull out my phone walking up the little steep hill and then try to run it the rest of the way in. But before that, I tried to savor it as I headed out into the last loop. This was it. I had completed so many laps around this loop, not only on this day but in training, tempo rides, easy runs, swimming at 6 am. I know this loop better than practically any route I've ever run. The golden light was beautiful; there's no better time of day to be out there than that golden hour before sunset. And as I approached the bottom of the loop, thinking of all of this, it was at that moment that Show Yourself came on my playlist. And out of the whole day, this was the moment when I finally let myself get a little emotional. For every training cycle since I've started listening to music while running, there have always been a few songs for each cycle that just come to be the anthems for that race. They aren't necessarily always pump up type songs and often times I can't really explain WHY they're the anthems for a race, they just are. They're the songs I end up listening to time and time again when I'm finishing a tough run, the songs that when they come on during an already-great effort make me turn up the speed and just fly, and songs that will forever be tied to a specific race and moment in time - the work that went into it, and the race itself, good or bad. For this Ironman, 3 songs really stood out, and one was Show Yourself. First off, the song is amazing and Idina Menzel is amazing, but also, from the very first time I listened to it I connected the lyrics so strongly to the idea of finishing an Ironman this year. And my favorite line: show yourself, step into your power. Grow yourself into something are the one you've been waiting for all of your life, oh, show yourself, let me see who you are... As I listened to those words at mile 21 of a marathon in an Ironman, an Ironman that I was doing by myself without the lights and the crowds and the brand and the competition but simply because I wanted to see what I was made of, it really just brought everything home. Here I am, I've come so far... It was really just a moment and I felt every bit of the song - so strong and powerful and proud. At the top of the hill I texted Andrew. It was 5:54 pm. "4.5 miles to go. I think I'm gonna make it." And with that, one more deep breath, and I set out to complete the task before me, so many miles in the making. I would run it in. 

There's really not too much to say about the rest of the lap. The light was golden and magical, and I was running. It wasn't fast running; it was a run that many other versions of me would probably scoff at, but for mile 135+ of an Ironman it felt like flying. Each landmark passed one more time: the house with the unicorn balloon. The country club hill. The porta potty. The turn into the neighborhood. I wish I could say something more profound but I felt like my mind and my body had detached from each other. My body knew it did not want to continue but my mind kept saying just to that hill. Just to that house. Just a little longer, just a little more, don't listen to the lies that you're telling yourself that you can't, because they're wrong. That has always been the allure of Ironman for me; that it seems so entirely ridiculous and beyond the realm of what any normal human would attempt that you somehow know that what's going to see you through to the finish isn't just being physically strong enough to do it, it's also overcoming your mind and that rational part of your brain that says this is insane, this is not reasonable, we cannot continue to do this right now and find the part deeper down that says I don't give a shit what you think we can do right now, we're doing it. 

I came to the turn into the downhill; THE WINE RACK WAS GONE! I had a little moment of joy for whoever had decided that that wine rack fit perfectly into their decor. Downhill felt good, but still, hard. Everything was hard now, and I didn't care. 2 miles to go, and I would be an Ironman. When I think about these moments, the thing I remember the most is the light, just the most perfect golden light hitting the edges of the trees, the water, my face. I have always found golden hour to be the most magical part of the day (Andrew claims there's no such term and honestly I can't remember the first time I heard the phrase 'golden hour' but it's easy to picture: right before sunset, when the sun is slanting through the trees and just for a while, everything is bathed in gold). I kept running and kept thinking about the light, how beautiful the light was, and how completely lucky I was to be here in this moment and running in this glorious light. 

My dreamlike state was rudely interrupted by my watch, which abruptly bleeped a low battery warning and then, shortly thereafter, DIED. Is this a joke? I started to try to pull up Strava GPS on my phone and then was like, no. I know where the turnaround for the mile is, and I know that I'll do it. It was almost fitting that in this DIY race, even the timing was based only on the time on the clock when I started and finished. As I approached the boathouse lot, I heard what to my ears sounded like the biggest crowd I'd ever heard: all of my friends, plus Andrew, had gathered and were screaming, cowbelling, all there to bring me home. It was absolutely amazing. "ONE MORE MILE!" I shouted, waving my arms, and headed out into my final out and back, 139.6 miles down, one to go.

The screams of my friends faded away, and it was just me and the road and the golden light, one more step and then one more, then one more. My legs were just exhausted and yet at the same time I still felt strong. Still it seemed like the distance between me and the tree that was my turnaround point had expanded from half a mile to the circumference of the planet. The run out to the turnaround felt like it took FOREVER, as it always does when you're forced to run past your finish line before actually running towards it. But finally, here it was. I turned for home.

For whatever reason, I had always pictured finishing an Ironman to be this epic, bombastic thing - and who knows, maybe in the actual race setting, it is. I always pictured some massive surge of emotion and crying my way to the finish line. But there were no fireworks, no music, no crowds to hype, just me and the lake and the trees, looking to any passerby like I was just another runner enjoying a beautiful evening on the lake. It was such a quiet, personal joy that almost took me by surprise by how wonderful it felt. I had taken out my headphones now and was just running in silence, legs aching to be finished but mind almost wondering how it was possible that this could be over so soon. My watch was dead and I was running free, just allowing myself to savor the last few moments of this day and this gift that I had given myself. They say you never forget your first of any type of race, but especially the big ones, and no matter what I wanted to remember this feeling. I had earned an Ironman finish line, whether it was on red carpet in Madison or at the end of a driveway in Medford. No matter what, today was mine.

I made the final turn, 100 meters to go, and my cheer squad of 7 might as well have been 200 for the roar that went up. Cowbells and screams, a group of dog walkers staring and wondering what on earth was going on as I ran with everything I had left towards that chalk line on the ground. Arms waving, beaming smile on my face, and filled with love and gratitude for this sport and my friends and my life, I crossed that line, real or imaginary, and 12 minutes and 14 seconds later, I was an Ironman!

The best feeling. (Also thankful for friends who captured this moment via Instagram stories!) My favorite thing about these actual videos is one of my friends in the background yelling "HOLY SHIT YOU DID IT!!!"

After explaining to the dog walkers and another random passerby what ridiculousness I was up to, I proceeded to sit down on a rock while my friends milled around me being the amazing people that they are. I was eternally grateful to Aly and her husband, who offered to give me a ride home (poor Andrew had to drag the rest of my transition crap on his bike, I LOVE YOU HUN!) We all hung out and I just sort of basked in the glow of being finished as the sun began to set over the lake. Yes indeed, I had finished before sunset.

Top of the podium, smiles for days, and it's still light!

The best human

The BEST cheer squat (socially distanced obviously!)

My post race situation involved beer, a shower, eventually eating pizza (my stomach said no to anything except beer for ~3 hours post race) and basically pinching myself that I wasn't dreaming that I had just finished my first Ironman. I couldn't believe it. Not in the sense of I didn't believe I could physically accomplish this goal, because I always said I wouldn't start this race if I didn't think I could finish it. But all the other stuff: I couldn't believe that I had decided in 2008 that I'd do an Ironman in 2020, and then I actually was at a point in my life to sign up for my first Ironman in 2020, and it was going to be everything I ever dreamed, but then there was a global pandemic and the race was cancelled and despite that, I decided to put in the work and put in the planning and make this happen for myself. THAT is what I couldn't believe. That, and the fact that in my first shot at the distance I had managed to achieve every single one of my time based goals and had no major failures - it was like somehow I just knew that despite all the rest of the bullshit that 2020 has brought, that this day was meant to be amazing. 

I have a little postcard in the room where I ride my trainer that I got with some running shirt I ordered a bunch of years ago. It reads:
Not because you have to.
Not because you should.
Not because someone asked you to.
Only because you could.

When I was reading those words on my trainer back in January, I had absolutely no clue how true they would ring this year - I mean, come on, if you'd told any of us back in January that races wouldn't be happening from March onwards, we would have laughed! And some people ran amazing 5K PR time trials and some decided to explore new trails and some tackled crazy ultra challenges and others just ran for fun. And me? In 2020 I became an Ironman. Because I wanted to, and because I could. And it may not have been that red carpet capitol finish line I always pictured in my dreams, but I'll be damned if a boathouse parking lot with a faded chalk line on the ground wasn't even better. That being said? I cannot WAIT for IMWI 2021 :D

Ironman Mystic Lakes
12:14:xx (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)
1st overall, 1st female, 1st AG (that definitely qualifies me for Kona, right? ;) )

Monday, September 07, 2020

Some taper musings....because it's IRONMAN WEEK!

 I've imagined what the finish of my first Ironman would be like for so long.

I imagined it in 2006, when I stood in the pouring rain out on the run course, cheering for these people who as far as I could tell were completely insane, but with a tiny spark inside asking if maybe someday I could be one of them.

I imagined it a few years later, during my first sprint triathlon, when I spent the entire race in complete disbelief of how much FUN I was having, and how I couldn't wait to do it again.

I imagined it when I started following triathlon blogs, and reading people's IMWI race reports over and over again, alternately wondering how they could DO such a thing and at the same time wondering if I could do it to. (I actually went back and found one of these race reports recently and it made me cry! I think that's part of the reason I continue to keep this little blog going, because maybe someday someone will read a race report of mine and be inspired to do something someday.)

I imagined it when, almost 10 years later, I sporadically decided to do a sprint triathlon and I remembered that feeling.

And I've imagined it throughout this entire, insane, stupid year that 2020 has been. On the trainer in the winter, when COVID hit but it still seemed like there was plenty of time, during winter long runs and getting up early to swim. I could close my eyes and picture this: the start, at Monona Terrace, a day full of possibility. And the finish: the capitol, the red carpet, the roar.  I've pictured that scene in my mind so many times, even as March became May and May became July and it became clearer and clearer that that finish line was not going to exist this year, that there would be no red carpet and cheering college students and the lights of State Street, I still dreamed. 

Did I ever, in all those years since I became aware of what Ironman was and spent a day wandering the city in the rain trying to get as close to it, to be as much a part of it as I could, dream that my first Ironman would be undertaken alone? That my finish line would be a random line in a parking lot? That I would in all likelihood need to ride my bike to and from my event venue? Certainly, I did not. Then again, I don't think anyone among us could have possibly predicted a world pandemic and the subsequent insane ride 2020 has taken us on. 

When IMWI was officially cancelled back in July, I wasn't exactly sure what I should do. A part of me wanted to just pack it in and relax for the reminder of the summer, but in the end I realized that I had already put in way too much work NOT to have some kind of culmination to it all. And so I kept training, albeit at a more relaxed and far less rigid capacity. I did rides I never would have imagined (an 80 mile tri-state ride from Newburyport, MA to York, ME on a 95 degree day and riding the full Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains are two highlights). I did scenic long runs with friends and never once worried about pace or doing a workout. I (finally) learned to fix a flat tire! I survived one of the more miserable Boston summers I can recall in recent memory. I pretty much just didn't do workouts in any discipline - I focused solely on volume which I think is allowed when your race is 140.6 miles! And over time, a plan came together for me to attempt to complete an Ironman on my own. And it's happening this coming Saturday.

I remarked to my mom a couple of weeks ago that "I feel like I'd be freaking out if this were a real race, but since it's just a thing, I'm not!" Those words would come back to haunt my when I did, in fact, become immersed in the glories of a taper freakout over this past weekend. It's a different type of feeling in this case, because unlike most races the question is not "how fast can I do this?" but "CAN I do this?" But deep down, I don't think I'd be attempting it if I didn't think that I could. 

With how my training has gone, I think I have a pretty good idea of how the swim and the bike will go. I am a very middle of the pack swimmer but in training I've been ridiculously consistent to the point where I think I can honestly say that my swim will be somewhere between 1:18 and 1:25 whether it's good, bad, or mediocre. Similarly on the bike, my pace is almost always between 16.5 and 17 mph on the course that I'm riding (6:30-6:45 for an Ironman bike)...and no, I don't plan on blasting the bike like I did in my half "race". Oddly enough, the real wildcard here is the run! Because I have literally no idea what it's going to feel like to run a marathon after 112 miles of biking. None. I can pretty much guarantee that it's going to be harder than I can imagine, and that it's going to take longer than I expect (my goal is ~4 hours). But who knows? The other wildcard is fueling - I still have NO idea how to fuel for a day of this length. The second half of the bike and the entire run are loops around the lakes (~5 mile loop), so I'm going to have a special needs area with literally EVERYTHING I think I could possibly want...soda, cheezits, sour patch kids, peanut butter pretzels, the whole shebang. I don't want not eating enough to be the thing that screws up my day but that's definitely the thing I have the least experience with, so it's going to be a delicate dance.

I start at 6:20 am on Saturday. Finishing in a boathouse parking lot with no spectators besides my husband definitely was not how I pictured my first Ironman finish, but I suspect it will be just as meaningful, if not more so. (TBH I am prepared to cry throughout the entire last loop of the marathon lol). 

Ironman Mystic Lakes. LFG!