Monday, December 3, 2012

The Run

I believe I left you hanging once again in transition.  That's fitting, given the meaning of the word don't you think?  Ok, ok...

I was very happy to get off the bike- or at least some of me was.  It was a relief to be on my feet and not on my seat.  The transition from bike to run is more quick than the swim to bike, mainly because the distance you have to travel is shorter.  I found my Run Gear bag no problem, found my patch of grass, dumped it all out and again immediately had a volunteer there to help me.  I could hear some of my fans cheering for me from the bridge that overlooks the transition area, and I was so happy! Again the volunteer told me not to worry about my stuff, that he would get it all back in the bag.  Such service!  Off I went to the porta-potty before starting the run.

My brother just HAD to get a picture of me on my way to the porta-potty!
After I came out of said porta-potty I again had a roar of cheers from my fan club, so I gave them a little bow.  I was having fun.

Just passing through, ladies...
I went through the changing tent again, keeping my eyes straight ahead so I wouldn't have to see any naked ladies, straight to the sunblock applicators.  Being an hour ahead of my schedule I had to consider the additional sun exposure and didn't want it to be a factor.

To see a map of the run course, click here.

As I ran throught the Run Out arch the clock read 7:38 (as in, seven hours, thirty-eight minutes into the race).  The bike ended up taking me 6:01, not able to make it under six hours, but thrilled that I knocked an entire hour off my goal!  I wondered if I could run a 4:20 marathon and finish under 12 hours?  That is a 10-minute mile average.  My goal was to do the run in four and a half hours, or an hour and a half for each of the three loops, which is just over that pace.  I had never ridden for 112 miles and tried to run a 10-minute mile. "I'll figure it out as I go," I told myself.  The plan was to walk the aid stations, at first being the key to slow me down, then knowing eventually it would be the key to survival.

Off I go, starting my run!
I mistook the aid stations for being mile markers and thought I had already gone a mile when the first aid station came up.  Nope.  Once I got to the Mile 1 sign, I knew this was going to be a long run.  I was going too fast at 8:30 mile pace.  As we rounded a turn, I saw another "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" sign.  There were a bunch of people around so I pointed to the sign and said, "That's for me, I'm Kerry Sue!"  The guy behind me soon passed me and said something like, "So, you're the Kerry Sue with all the signs!  Some buddies and I are going out to get drinks later tonight.  I'm going to get to tell them I met you."  Well, that was a bit of an ego-booster.  It was embarrassing, but also made for a fun moment. 

The second aid station soon came up, with me wishing it meant mile 2 already, but I knew better.  I looked for my friend Matt, who was serving cups of ice towards the end of the station.  I stopped to chat with him.  He commented on my good bike time, and I told him that now I had an extra hour for the run.  Alright, I better get going, I thought, so continued on my way.

At the mile two marker I decided it was time to walk.  Oh...that felt so nice.  I knew my support crew would be right around mile three, so I set a point to start jogging again.  Right before aid station 3 was a hill, so I decided to walk the short hill and aid station.  I could see my son, Konnor standing on the other side of the aid station and he was so excited to see me.  Aw, that just made my mommy heart melt. 

Around mile 3

There was my crew:  They had the huge banner, were armed with cow bells and signs, and were just so electrifying!  I let them know this was going to be a long marathon.  Just so they knew we were all in for. I started running again as I rounded the corner.  My daughter Kaylin trotted behind me for awhile, clapping and cheering for her mom.  Again my heart melted and I just loved it!

A mile later my left foot was hurting, as though my laces were too tight.  So I stopped and loosened my laces and kept going.  Meanwhile, Ken was on the bridge above me and wondered what happened to me.  He saw me take off and knew I was ok.

At each aid station I would take at least water.  Every now and then I would take a couple grapes or an orange slice.  After the first loop I was taking cola and water at each station.  I figured the water would balance the diuretic qualities of the cola.  I needed the sugar and caffeine, and couldn't stomach solid food. 

Where was I...oh yes, still on my first loop.  At the far end of the course we crossed another bridge, where it smelled like there were sewer issues going on.  Kind of gross.  I was walking in between each aid station at this point, getting passed a lot and taking in "running my own race".  I wasn't going to let the fact that all these people (oops- there goes another one from my age group!) pass me.  Have fun, enjoy the moment.  You're doing an Ironman for crying out loud.  It just makes for a better story.

At mile five I was just not feeling good all over.  I remembered the electrolyte tablets I had in the pouch on my race belt.  I also remembered what Steve had told me about them and how he had felt before taking them.  It seemed like I fit the same description, so I took one at aid station #6.  Everyone tells you not to try something new on race day, and taking electrolyte tablets was something new for me.  It ended up being the saving factor of my run.  So, it pays off to not always listen to advice.  Just every now and then; I wouldn't recommend always doing that.

There was a hill right after the aid station, so I walked it.  There was a lady who looked like her plan was to speed walk the entire marathon.  We kept going back-and-forth with each other.  While I walked up the hill she passed me again.  Oh well.  There was another "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" sign along the path, so it took my mind off of being passed by a walker.  Run your own race, Kerry; which includes walking, too.

Soon I came to the point I knew I would pass by my crew again (the course was kind of like a figure-8, with them being in the center of it).  I saw Konnor again looking out for me, running down the hill with me while taking a picture with his ipod.  What a cutie pie.

About mile 7

Each loop was just under nine miles, and I was just over half way done with the first loop.  The course then took us back away from the crowds, then a couple sharp turns and we were back.  At the end of my first loop I was able to catch a glimpse of Steve.  He was having a great day, yay!  I wished that my crew could be there too, but the crowd of people was so thick that they were an adequate substitute.  The only spectators that were irritating were the ones who told me not to quit when I walked passed them.  Um, does it look like I'm quitting?  I'm walking.  I'm moving forward.  I'm not giving up, just walking.

The second loop was similar to the first, but I was taking electrolyte tablets every three miles.  I should have taken them every two.  Oh well.  I was soaking it all in along the way, reminding myself over and over that I was doing an Ironman.  A real one, and I was going to finish under 13 hours.  It was just a matter of by how much.

I've always been one to do math in my head while I run.  "If I run this, then I will finish with that" and using fractions to help mentally visualize the distance.  So after mile seven, I knew I was over a quarter of the way.  After the first loop, a third.

About mile 12. This became my normal form: walking.  My brother said the lady behind me was one of many who passed by their support crew headquarters and asked to have their support as well.  She was excited to meet the infamous Ironwoman Kerry Sue. :)
On the second loop I passed the halfway point.  I was just under two and a half hours.  Good grief, a five hour marathon?  Each mile kept coming, and I was going to conquer this with a smile on my face.  One thing that I feel I missed out on was getting a buddy.  I had heard stories of meeting other competitors along the way.  I saw a lot of people walking/jogging together and was bummed I was still by myself.  I had tried a couple of times to strike up a conversation, only to be ignored or passed. 

I kept wanting to pinch myself; I had dreamed of this day for over a year now, and here I was getting to live it.  I thought of my friend Amanda who said, "Just think, you get to play outside all day."  And that is how I felt.  My back was hurting, I had cramps thanks to being a girl, but I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  By the second loop my group was able to let me know that Pat had started the run too, and was going to finish.  What a relief!

The second loop was quicker than the first, as I made mental notes of where and how long I walked when I was on the first.  Now that I was popping pills on a semi-regular basis I felt fine and could always tell when they were wearing off.  I tried to walk less, jog more.  The sun had set, and it was getting dark.  Everytime I passed the Special Needs bag I was relieved not to need anything.  Even though the sun had set I wasn't cold.  On I go.

Third loop.  Two-thirds done.  The thought occurred to me that the longer I took on the run, the more of my money's worth I was getting.  Ha!  I continued my routine through the aid stations:  as soon as I approached it, I let myself walk; then bypass all the other goodies to get to the cola; if it wasn't cold, take a cup of ice and add to it; accept the water cup; drink the cola, then swish the water in my mouth; spit it out; drink another sip and swallow; pour some water on my hands; at the end of the long line at the aid station, get your booty into gear and start running.  This was the routine except for the third aid station on the course; On that one I would keep walking to enjoy the cheers of my support crew.

Mile 23! Only 3.2 more to go!
I enjoyed the last loop the most, and probably for the most obvious reason: To finish!  But it's not that I wanted the race to be over, I just wanted to be able to officially be an Ironman!  I changed my Garmin back and forth between race time and run time.  It was going to be close to five hours for the marathon, but maybe I could get under.  I was coming close to where my group was going to be, and Konnor was again waiting for me at the corner.  I was walking, and planned to walk until I passed the aid station they were near.  Konnor encouraged me to run a little.  I smiled at him and just said, "Sorry buddy, I'm walking."  So he walked with me.  It was a very precious moment.  As I passed my crew at mile 23 they all shouted that they'll see me next at the finish line.  Woo!  Sounds great, I'll meet you there!  I kept up my aid station routine, then started to jog.

I was hoping I could jog the last three miles, but I just had to walk a few more times.  When I reached the Mile 25 sign, I let myself walk just 30 seconds and somehow my body just knew.  It knew it could go a whole mile; It knew I could bypass the final aid station; It knew that it could go faster than ever before.  With a smile plastered to my face, I ran and ran and ran.  Almost there.  Almost to my family.  Almost to the voice of Mike Reilly. 

The spectators lining the last half mile were blurring by.  At the finish line turn off, I excitedly told the volunteer pointing runners to their loops that I got to go "that way"- I got to finish!  He gave me a high-five as I passed him, and I started jamming.  My legs felt like they had just been filled up with electricity, and my feet had to keep up.  I passed so many people on the short distance to the finish.  And then I saw it- I saw the finish line.  I heard Mike Reilly.  I decided to hold back going through the chute so I wouldn't finish at the same time as the man in front of me.  I looked for my family, heard Kaylin but wasn't able to high-five her, but got the next girl's hand just passed her.  I saw the clock click to 12:33:00.  That means under five hours for the run!  Here I go!

Then I heard it:  "Kerry Sue, from Clovis California, first-timer: You're an Ironman, Kerry SUE!"  Yes, yes I am. Official time: 12:33:06.

A volunteer immediately draped a foil blanket on me, "So you don't cool down too quickly."  She was a sweet older lady who had been prepped on the finish line collapse.  It's a physiological effect of the body moving for an extended period of time only to come to a screeching halt when you finish.  That's why they keep you walking after you cross the line.  Otherwise the blood rushes to the head, causing collapse.  That, and the mental line being reached of finishing, I suppose! 

No collapse was in store for me.  A young man put my medal around my neck, albeit backwards.  Oh, that's so lovely.  I felt fine, I was thrilled, and I could hear my mom cheering for me: "I did my job, I have Kleenex!" (I had told her that her one responsibility would be to have some tissues ready for me at the end.  I am a notorious blubberer at finish lines.)  The volunteer who still had a grip on my arms and navigating me nicely said, "I suppose that lovely lady over there yelling at you is with you?"  "Yes, that's my mom," she let go, and I walked over and took the tissue, gave her a hug across the barrier and just sobbed.  "I did it, Mom!" "Yes, yes you did, Honey." 

The volunteer resumed her grip on me and guided me to the water bottle hand out, which I took; then to the hat and shirt table.  I got my size, still being herded through the chute by my personal guard.  Next was finish line photos.  She offered to hold all my stuff, including my used tissue, while I had my photo taken.  I made sure I tucked the tissue into my hat so she wouldn't have to.  That would be so gross.

Ok, Kerry, smile nicely for the camera.  Don't look like a crazed-pyscho lady.  I know you're excited, but this picture is going to last forever.  "Cheese."  Back went on my foil blanket, all my goodies, and made my way to the finisher area.  I was still feeling really good, but where did my family go?  I bypassed all the perks: the massage, the food, the hanging out with other finishers.  I just wanted to see my people.

It took me awhile, and at first I went to go look for them but remembered what my mom always told me: If you get lost, stay in one place.  So I went back to where the athletes were let out and just waited.  Then I decided to sit down.  After awhile I asked a man standing nearby if I could use his phone to get in touch with my husband?  Sure.  I called, but no answer.  I tried my mom.  No answer.  He suggested I try to text.  He got his phone ready since I didn't know how to use it.  I noticed it was my mom's number.  I let her know where I was, and the man seemed to feel obligated to make sure I was "found".  Just a few minutes later I saw my mom with her "mom face" on, looking frantically for me.  Just behind her was Ken and my brother.  I called out to them, they found me and came running over, grinning ear-to-ear to see me.  Oh, the love.

My poor eyes- first the water from the swim, then the wind from the ride (I had glasses on, but they still were watery).  My face was a bit chapped from the elements as well. 
But that's enough of that- it almost sounds like I'm complaining!

"YOU'RE AN IRONMAN, KERRY SUE!!!"  So, this is what it feels like?  It must be all the training, because it didn't feel like as big a deal as I thought it was going to be.  I thought I would be near death after finishing and unable to walk.  But here I was, chatting away, and could even walk.  I was so excited to tell them about all the compliments I received on the signs Jason and Ken put out.  They had the banner with them, so I insisted we take a group picture:
L to R: My aunt Betsy, brother Jason, cousin Tammy, husband Ken, me, son Konnor, daughter Kaylin, uncle Bill, friend Celeste, my mom, friend (and future Ironman!) Matt.  Not pictured: Ashley, Mike, and Gia (she was there at the finish, but stayed to wait for Pat) 

Ken went and got my bike for me while I waited for Pat.  I really wanted to see him finish, and Gia said he should be there in about an hour.  I decided to go get my Gear bags so I could keep walking.  Tammy came with me and told me some of their adventures of spectating.  It was a really, really great day.  We decided to celebrate back in my room after I took a shower.  I was super stinky at the moment.

Slowly everyone started to disperse, and slowly my head was feeling a little woozey.  So I apologized for making the others wait that long, but I had to get going.  I was sad to have missed Pat's finish, but so glad to know he stuck it out.  We were really IRONBIRDS!

So, what's next?  That's a good question...

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bike

The bike portion has always had me feel a bit tentative.  I get easily intimidated by other people's bike and gear, and I have little confidence in my maintenance skills if something goes terribly array.   This time, however, was different.  I knew I had this.  I had trained on and was using Sumer's tri bike, which was all tuned up and ready to go.  I knew I looked the part of an Ironman cyclist, even if I didn't really feel like one.  Between Sumer's bike and her aero helmet, I fit right in.  Then I had a cool outfit and calf sleeves, thanks to my brother.  I knew how to fuel on a long ride, and I had trained to be able to do it.  Bring it.

(To see the bike course map, click here)

So, I left you all hanging in transition (literally), holding my Bike Gear bag and looking for a place to dump it out and get busy.  I was directed to the far end of the tent which was designated as the women's changing side.  I knew to avoid going in there; so I found a spot right outside it and dumped out the contents of my bag.  Immediately I had my own personal volunteer there, sorting through my stuff and asking me to tell him what I wanted to put on first.  I was still a little foggy-headed from the swim, so I said, "Ummm...I don't know?" Duh, Kerry.  Work from your head down, just like you learned, just like you've always done.

Head wrap (to catch sweat/comfort), helmet, click the helmet; sunglasses, gloves, cycle shorts over the tri shorts, calf sleeves- eeks, they're crooked! Get the grass off my feet, put on socks, shoes, wrap on my race belt, put the bib on the back.  Swallow some applesauce, put on some chapstick, take the cookies with you, and oh, yay!  I have to go to the bathroom, and I never peed in my wetsuit, perfect!  The volunteer said to leave my swim stuff there, he would take care of it.  So nice!  Into the porto I went, then got to stroll through the changing tent to get to the bike rack.  Good golly, I was so glad I followed the advice to not change in there.  It was so hot and humid in there, and women of all sorts of stages of dress were in there.  It dawned on me that there were a lot of women in there that had probably swam faster than me, but were now completely changing and taking a lot longer in transition than I was.  Sweet- catch ya later ladies, I have some cycling to do!  Right outside the tent were the sunscreen appliers, so I told them to lather me up!

There were volunteers that lined each row of bike racks.  I knew my bike was on row 5, which was way over towards the exit.  This was a great place to be, because you're a lot faster going without a bike through transition than pushing one when dodging people.  Most of the other competitors had a volunteer go and fetch their bike for them, but I didn't have one, so I got my own bike.  Off I went to the Bike Out arch, where the Bike Mount line was just a few yards away.  I decided to go just passed the mount line to get on my bike instead of stand right on it like the others that were there were trying to do.  The spectators were going crazy:  "Get on your bike!  Go!  Go!  Go!"  I just wanted to laugh at them, it seemed so ridiculous.  Keep your cool, Kerry, you can spare the few seconds it's going to take.  Never mind those crazies, they probably don't know what they're yelling about anyway.  It was fun. :)

I even remembered to push the lap button on my Garmin, letting me know I had spent just over 10 minutes in transition, and was getting started right at 8:30am, right when I was aiming to start the bike.  Perfect!  I saw Gia and Kaylin again as I rode out, and was grinning ear-to-ear.  I wanted to know if Pat had made it out of the swim and if he was ok, but I was going too fast to ask.  The swim was already done, it's already a third of the way over (Don't mess with my math on this one.  I am well aware that 2.4 is not a third of 140.6.  It works for me.)  Soak it all in, enjoy every moment.

The crowds were thick as the road led out.  I grabbed the baggie with my homemade Ironman cookies and started to eat one.  This is going just so smoothly.  There were a pleasant amount of cyclists around at any one time.  I was nervous about staying four bike lengths apart, but realized it was just unrealistic to expect us to do that at this stage.  Besides, I figured Pat was right- He always said that the officials will be far too busy with the Pros to worry about us little age-groupers. 

My plan was to take the first half of the first loop nice and easy; get a feel for the course, settle in on the bike.  The course was out-and-back three times, about 37 miles for each loop.  I had also planned to eat a PayDay on miles 30, 60, and 90, with some chomps in between that would be on the course.  I had two bottles of water and one bottle with Nuun (an electrolyte tablet that you put in water).  I was hoping to complete the bike in 7 hours, which would mean starting the run by 3:30pm. Ok...

The first loop was fantastic, the plan executed perfectly.  At the turn-around I was at 1:10 (meaning an hour and ten minutes), which was fine.  I knew I had held back and gone up a little hill.  Now it was time to turn around and go down that hill!  Weeeeee!  What was that on the side of the road?  Oh, just a huge sign that read, "Ironwoman Kerry Sue"!  A mile later, there was another one.  Another mile, another sign, and on and on for about 10 miles.  I would see it and get a huge smile on my face.  So that's what Jason and Ken were up to the afternoon before.  That brother of mine, I am so blessed! 

Zoom-zoom I went back to the start, barely pedaling and able to hold 21-22mph the entire way back.  I ate my first PayDay bar at mile 30, just as planned.  I saw Tammy and Jason first, then near the turn-around were the rest of the crew cheering and ringing their bells.  I was so happy to see them, as you can see by the picture above.  The girl next to me asked if I was the "Kerry Sue" that had the signs...why yes, yes I am.  She was the first of many people during the ride to ask me, and each time I would enthusiastically answer, "Yes!  My brother did that for me.  It was a surprise!" and they would usually say something about wishing they had the same kind of support.  I know, what can I say?  I have the bestest people! :)  At the turn-around I checked my watch: 1:58!  Whoa, super!  I just knocked that out twenty minutes faster than I had done riding out.  I began to realize my hope for doing the bike in 7 hours would be blown away, and that maybe I could even finish it under 6!

On the first loop I noticed that there were event signs put to mark every 20 miles, and I remember races in the past where I would wish I were farther than I actually was.  Not this time.  I wanted to embrace every mile, enjoy every loop, earn every marker. 

Beginning the second loop was like a dream.  I had this Mumford & Sons song stuck in my head for pretty much the whole 112 miles.  It was a good one!  I did a bit of a "self-check" once I got away from the crowds: How was my rear doing?  Good.  Was I drinking enough?  Yes.  Eating right?  Yes.  Stay aero, next aid station grab some Bonk Breaker bar and Chomps.  They didn't have any bars, so I took the Chomps.  My next plan was to get my special needs bag at about mile 63 and use the porto to take care of my girl business.  As I neared the turn-around point I noticed I had just done that stretch in under an hour, allowing me some extra minutes to take care of my girl parts.  They were on fire and sitting on the seat was beginning to be painful.  I could not get comfortable, even sitting up out of my aero bars. 

At mile 60 I was not feeling right in the stomach to eat the prescribed PayDay bar.  I decided to put it off until mile 70 and ate some Chomps instead.  More like choked down some Chomps.  I was still a little mad that I had to be on the worst day of being a female on this day.  So frustrating, but I can't change it, so deal with it.

I stopped to get my Special Needs bag, thinking that I got to take it, but the volunteer just held it out and told me to grab what I needed out of it.  Great.  Couldn't I get a girl volunteer so this guy wouldn't see me pocketing a tampon?  Oh well, so I had some fun with it instead.  I took my sunscreen spray, "So I won't get a funky tan-line."  I took my applesauce pouch, "Because it's magically delicious."  Then I grabbed the tampon and my Hoo-Ha Ride Glide (so you know I'm not joking), "And because it's so awesome to be a girl."  He laughed, help me spray on my sunscreen, and cheered for me as I rode to the nearest porto.  I swallowed my applesauce as I waited.  Why there were only three portos at the Special Needs area, I don't know.  I got back on the bike, feeling much more comfortable and ready to do this thing. 

Coming in for the end of Loop #2.  This picture captured how the road was lined with spectators.  Such a rush!

Still having fun, still smiling at every "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" sign, still bantering with other cyclists along the way who took notice.  I felt so popular.  At mile 73ish I ate half of the PayDay bar, still not feeling like I could tolerate the entire thing.  I had to eat more before mile 95 though, I told myself.  I had to have something in my system for the run.  Oh yeah, the run.

I finished the second loop in just under two hours again, giving me a total ride time of under four hours.  Sweet, I can do this!  Again I got to see my loved ones and was excited to be two-thirds of the way done with the ride.

I almost look like I know what I'm doing! :)

Final loop.  Only 37 miles to go.  Soak it all in, enjoy every moment.  This was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be!  Well, let me clarify:  my legs were fine, I felt like I could go forever except for the return of the burn.  I know, too much information probably, but it was a serious factor out there.  I didn't want to stop again to put more Hoo-Ha cream on, so I decided to just get through it.  Ouchy-wa-wa.

The way back on the third loop the wind shifted.  There wasn't a tail-wind anymore, but more like a side-shifting wind.  As in, whichever way you were headed, the wind wasn't working for or against you.  I couldn't get above 19mph the entire way back after the downhill.  I did the math in my head the whole way back, trying to figure out if I could get under six hours.  The closer I got, the clearer it became that I was going to just barely miss it.  I just couldn't go any faster because of my butt area hurting so bad.  And I knew the run was coming up.  Notice I wasn't acknowledging it as a marathon?  Yes, well, it's all part of the mind game I play with myself.

I was so happy to get near the finish and know I was that much closer to being an Ironman.  I had no mechanical issues at all, no flat tires, I had stayed hydrated and ate the rest of my PayDay bar and some Chomps at mile 95.  Thank you, Jesus!  That was a lot of prayers answered right there in that six hours!

It was an amazing feeling to ride down the chute that led to the transition area.  It was still so surreal:  I'm doing an Ironman!  Like, right now! 

I got to the dismount line and it reminded me of the mount line.  The spectators and volunteers were crazed with "Stop!" and "Dismount!" with some more "GO! GO! GO!" along the way.  Dude, chill!  They made me laugh!  Does it look like I'm trying to win a medal or something?  Oh yeah, a finisher's medal.  It must have been the cool bike I was riding and the helmet I was wearing that threw them off.  I'm just a regular person doing something spectacularly amazing.  I'll get there.  Chill.

A volunteer took my bike, which was so cool.  It's kind of like getting valet service after only knowing parking yourself.  Off I went to find my Run Gear bag.  This is just so cool, I am so glad to be here, right now, doing this exact thing.  How fortunate am I?  So very, very much.  No wonder Chrissie Wellington always smiles.  This is so much fun...the event, the experience, the people.  Just so incredibly awesome.

And now I get to run?  Does it just keep getting better and better?  I knew where my family were going to be, and heard rumors of some friends that would be there, too.  My friend Matt was going to be volunteering at Aid Station #2.  I couldn't wait to see them all!  Hopefully I would get to see Steve and Pat and find out what kind of day they were having.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting my Run Gear bag, again headed to find my little patch of grass...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Swim

"Who said Ironman isn't a contact sport?"
-Mike Reilly, famed announcer at all Ironman events

My cousin Tammy asked me the day before the race what I was most worried about.  That was easy.  The swim start!  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the initial start of the swim.  Check out this video I found on youtube.  As you can see, we're all pretty spread out:

Also interesting to me is the percentage of green (men) to pink (women) caps.  Our booklet said of the 2900 registered participants, only 27% were female.  That made me a little disappointed that there weren't more women, but also pretty excited to be a minority.

Ok, but I've gotten off-track and out of order.

The alarm went off at 3:45am.  I had set out everything for my breakfast the night before, so I could be eating by 4am at the latest.  On the menu:  (The usual for all my long bricks) Toasted plain bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam, scrambled eggs, orange juice and a bottle of Starbuck's Frappacino.  I had read and heard interviews of others who were so nervous they couldn't eat.  I didn't have any nerves all weekend, and race day was no different.  This was just one really long brick day.  I've done this a dozen times already.  Game on.

*Ok: Disclaimer here. I am going to give you some particular information along the way that you most likely will not want to know. However, if I were in a similar situation and exploring blogs to know what to do, I would. So here you go (close your eyes, skip to the next paragraph):  I was going to have the [physically] worst day a girl can have.  Yep, the first day of my period.  The only day of the month that I want to curl up in a little ball and have an iv with pain killers.  Time to suck it up, princess.  I knew four weeks before that it was going to hit on race day, and I was really bummed.  I know my body well, and it does not perform well on this day.  Trust me, I've tried numerous times.  Too bad, because I will not be given a re-do anytime soon.  Now I had to figure out timing for tampon changing, because who needs Toxic Shock Syndrome to kick in after doing an Ironman?

After eating I got dressed into my tri suit that I would wear the entire day, even under my wetsuit.  I put on my sweats, did my hair, was ready to go.  I checked in with Pat who was not feeling much better but was still going to show up to start.  His room was right next to ours, so I met him in the hallway and Ken drove us to the headquarters.  He dropped us off near a parking lot so we wouldn't have to walk far.  It was just after 5am.

This was the second attempt at taking a picture of Pat.  When this one turned out the same as the first, I figured it adequately depicted how he was feeling; which was not very good.

We went to my bike first, aired up the tires, put the water bottles in their cages and put the PayDay bars in my bento box.  We walked over to Pat's bike and got his ready too.  Pat and I then headed to the transition bag area.  We both had stuff we wanted to add to our bags.  I did a double look to be able to find my bad easily after the swim.  We also had to take our Special Needs bags to the designated drop off area which seemed very far away.  Then we were off to find Steve.  We met up with him by his bike. 

Time was ticking so fast, before we knew it it was 6am.  We got bodymarked.  I wanted to wait as long as possible to put on my wetsuit so the ink wouldn't come off on the inside of it like it did at Barb's (fyi:  It didn't matter.  736 is clearly on the inside sleeves of my wetsuit.  Oh well.  Bonus memento).

Steve and Pat needed use the portos one last time, but I didn't.  So I told them I'd meet them where we were.  I got my wetsuit on and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I was getting nervous.  Finally they came up with just enough time to get their wetsuits on.  The gun went off for the pros and we knew we had to get close to the water. 
But of course we had to get a picture taken first! :)

We filed in around everyone else.  That's when I looked up to the bridge that overlooked the start and saw it hanging:

I knew my loved ones were there, and I totally girled-out and started crying.  "Enjoy the moment" is what I was told by my ironman friends.  This was a moment that I wanted to remember forever. 

Where's Kerry Sue?  My brother made a red circle around my head.  I'm in the upper right area, near the pole.

It was a "Water Start" which meant we had to jump in the water and swim to the starting line/area and tread water until the cannon went off.  Steve, Pat and I filed in along with the others around us.  Right before we got to the stairs Steve put his hands on Pat and I and prayed for us; for safety, for thanks.  Yes, thank you God.

Splash we went, and kept track of each other as we made our way under the bridge.  I finally caught the eye of my support crew and they whooped and hollered for me.  On I went to the start.  We didn't want to get in the very front, but we kept moving forward until we found ourselves just about five people deep from the start.  The last thing I remember seeing is the dread on Pat's face; the last thing I said was "You've got this" to him.  He just had to do it.

I was expecting a countdown, but nope.  All of a sudden the cannon went off and so were we.  Having ear plugs in makes everything seem a little more dream-like.  I was surprised at the ease at finding a "lane" and that I wasn't getting kicked and clobbered.  I kept telling myself, "This is the Ironman!  You're doing the Ironman!" and continued to do a self-check: Yep, I'm having fun.  This is the most insane thing I've ever thought was fun.  Bring it!

At first I was breathing on every stroke.  When I was breathing on my right, I could see the shore.  It seemed odd to me that the spectators could walk as fast as we were swimming.  Eventually the crowd dwindled and there wasn't anyone on the shore.  The sun still wasn't up, but it was lovely.  As the music from the starting line faded, the only sound to be heard was the splashing of swimmers.  It was really cool.

Every now and then I would have space around me, then all of a sudden from nowhere someone would swim into me.  One guy kept hitting me in the head every time he stroked.  Really?  Stop stroking in that direction, please?  No?  Fine, allow me to move out of your way.

Another time I just got hammered from all directions:  both sides of my head were getting elbowed, someone was pushing down on my legs as they were stroking, then a second on the other side.  So I stopped and yelled, "AAAAAH!" and let them go by.  Then I tried to relax from nearly drowning, catch my breath and find my rhythm.  Stroke, reach, rotate; stroke, reach, rotate; BREATHE; Repeat.  Oh, I'll make coach Rich proud.  Don't reach in front of my head, reach above my shoulder.  Yes.  And again.  Again.

I had looked at my watch at one point thinking it had only been about five minutes, but it had already been 17!  I looked ahead and could see the next bridge we had to go under.  Before I knew it we were at the turn-around; I could tell because I could smell/taste the gasoline in the water from the boats that were there.  One left turn around a big, red buoy; then another left turn.  I knew from the course map that it was just under halfway at the turn-around.  I checked my watch, which said 30-something minutes.  Crap.  I was slower than I thought.

The way back was going fast, and I just wanted everyone to slow down so we could make the moment last longer!  I kept checking to make sure I was really giving it all I had; I didn't want to look back on the swim and wish I had gone faster.  Every now and then I would tuck behind someone who passed me, and I would feel their vortex and draft for awhile.  Inevitably I would lose them and be on my own.  I tried to do that about five times.  Reach, rotate, reach, rotate, breathe.  Looking ahead I could see the bridges that also held transition.  I wondered if my family could see me.  Turns out they could:

The longest part of the entire swim was from the last buoy to the shore/ladders.  Reach, rotate, reach, rotate, breathe.  Push yourself in, Kerry, you don't get a second chance.  There were six "lanes" on the ladders reaching shore.  I chose to go to the far right (outside) because they were more empty.  There were volunteers on the steps.  "Step on the bottom, we'll do the rest" is what they told us all.  Sure enough, that worked.  I wandered onto solid ground; my vision was blurry from water getting into my goggles from all the whacking I endured. 

It took me awhile to feel steady on my feet, but I had to keep moving forward.  That is, after all, what all the volunteers were shouting at me to do.  Alright, alright...I'm moving.  Where are the strippers?  Oh, there they are.  Unzip, hang onto my cap and goggles in my left hand; that way they stay in the wetsuit when it comes off.  The volunteer pulled off one sleeve, then the other, and was so nice to be careful pulling it off around my Garmin.  That reminded me to push the lap button to signify the end of the swim, and the beginning of T1.  I noticed it said 1:20-something seconds.  That will do.  "Sit down" she said, as she tugged it off my legs and feet.  Swoosh!  Off it came, she helped me stand back up, and off I went, running through the clamouring crowds.  It was electrifying!

At first I walked to the transition.  I knew it was quite a ways, and what was the hurry?  We had all day, right?  Besides, I couldn't see clearly still.  I looked in vain for the Kerry Sue banner or anyone who looked familiar.  Finally, as I rounded the corner to grab my Bike Bag I saw Gia and Kaylin and heard them screaming hoorays.  Oh, yay!

I got my bag, then rushed off to find myself a patch of grass to get my bike gear on....

Lost in the wonder of Tempe

By Thursday afternoon we were loading up (Ken, my mom, Konnor, Kaylin and I).  It was the frequent markers along the way that had me giddy:  Pulling out of the driveway, getting past the Grapevine, staying the night in San Bernardino, crossing the state line into Arizona, driving through Phoenix, driving right along the transition area while on the freeway.
 "That's it!  That's where I'll be swimming!  And look, there's the transition area where all the bikes will go!" I said as I pointed out the window.  I think I put fingerprints on the window.  Woops, Ken doesn't like that.  Oh well.

Flashbacks from cruising around last year with my brother and Pat came flooding back.  It had been a full year already.  Last year I anticipated what I would be feeling this year- Butterflies?  A year of training experience behind me?  Maybe be thinner?  I didn't have butterflies, at all the entire weekend, even on race day.  I was just really, really excited!  The past year of training had taught me a lot, tried many relationships and strengthened others along the way, and made me more confident in my abilities.  Thinner?  Nope.

Our first order of business was to check-in to our hotel so we could unpack and not have to worry about the bike.  I called while we were driving to see about an early check-in, and they said our rooms were ready for us, so no problem.  Sweet!  After unloading we drove to the Ironman Headquarters.  Steve and his family were nearby, Pat and Gia were still an hour or so away.  We had to be checked-in no later than 5pm on Friday.  I got there at about 2:30.  My mom took pictures of me picking up my packet and signing the waiver, but she lost her camera.  So here are some that I took of Pat:

Step One:  Pick up and sign waiver.  It's kind of like handing your life over.

Step Two: Get your cap, stickers (for helmet, bike, bags). 

Step Three:  The application of the wristband.  I cried when I got mine on.  It just felt so... official.  And being the sentimental person that I am, I wore it for a full 8 days after the event.  I thought it might verge on sadly living in the past to keep it on much longer.

Step Four:  Picking up the rest of the packet (bags, handbook, license plate frame, etc.).  It all came in a very cool Ironman Tri Bag with the Arizona race embroidered on the top.  Very cool!

Step Five:  Exuberant Ironman-to-be!!!
I was so excited I wanted to look through everything right away. :) 

Watch out for #736...aka "Kerry Sue"!  Having my name on my bib will become very important on the bike course.

Friday night Pat and I picked up Steve from his hotel and the three of us went to the Inspirational dinner and mandatory athlete meeting.  The food was great, and being surrounded by other athletes was enjoyable.  It makes me feel more "normal" to have others who like to do the same thing!

The scenery from our dinner- Tempe Town Lake!

Back at the hotel I put my bags in order, which was easy to do since I had already done that at home.  I just had to transfer it all to the official Ironman bags.  The plan for Saturday was to go for a swim in the morning, turn in our gear, drive the course and relax all afternoon.

(The green bag was for my Morning Clothes; I put all my swim stuff in it to take on Sunday)
There was a free IronKids race for kids age 3-16, and Konnor and Kaylin wanted in on it.  It was only a mile, and they were already talking smack about who would beat who.  I was just glad to be sharing the experience with them.  My mom, brother, Ken and I would have our cow bells ready and ringing for them!
Lined up for the start- They put the older kids in front

The stampede is underway!

Konnor finishing (Orange shirt)

Kaylin finishing- She lost to Konnor, but not by too much :)

My IronKids!!!

Pat sent me a text that he woke up throwing up at 4am.  He felt like he was sick with the flu.  This is not good news.  Fortunately, Gia is a nurse and took excellent care of him.  She was giving him all sorts of things to eat, swallow, directions to sleep.   So needless to say, he didn't come to the swim with me.  Neither did Steve.  I still really wanted to do it to see what the water was like.  I was SO glad I did! 
The water was very cold, but after a few minutes it was fine.  It was incredibly murky, as I had been told it would be.  I could barely see my hand in front of me while stroking!  Coming out of the lake was a feat and a half, since the first step is about six inches under water.  You then have to heave yourself up to the rest of the ladder.  When I stepped out I was very dizzy.  I knew from previous experience that it was primarily caused by the cold water temperature.  So I decided I would wear ear plugs race day.  That was huge!

My mom stuck with me all morning.  She was so full of encouragement, wonder and excitement.  I always love being around her, but it was especially meaningful that day.  She helped keep the excitement alive and the nerves away.  After swimming we stood in line to turn in my gear.  My mom helped me hold my bags and/or bike.  She also bought me a Jamba Juice smoothie with extra antioxidants in it so I wouldn't get sick like Pat.

The Roo is dropped off.  See you in the morning, Roo!

From there I met up with Steve and his friend Sean.  We drove the bike course and got a feel for the road.  Sean was helpful in pointing out any possible hazards along the way.  They tried to figure out the grade percentage that we were climbing on the one hill.  It wasn't too bad at all- maybe a little longer than the hill on Friant, but not as steep?  This was going to be a fast ride if the winds cooperated!

When I returned to the hotel I got to see my cousin Tammy who had flown in from Utah to see me.  I also met up with my aunt and uncle who drove up from Tucson for the big day.  It was so great to be around all these people who just loved me and were excited for me!  I went to my room to make my main meal (it was about 1pm by now): Pasta (the good kind with protein and omega-3's), pesto, rotisserie chicken and bread.  I also had just a little bit of red wine to stay relaxed.  I was drinking a lot of water all day, and even gagged down a coconut water.  I know it's really good for me, it's just a tough taste to take!

The family hung out for a bit, then they were off to dinner.  I stayed back and just relaxed.  I brought the movie "Miracle" and "Chariots of Fire" to watch for inspiration.  They were great!  Throughout the afternoon I would touch base with Pat.  He was understandably upset and discouraged.  He felt very weak and wondered about being able to survive the swim.  Gia pumped him full of good things for his body, mind and spirit.  I told him he trained to be able to finish in 13 hours; He could finish within 17 (participants have to finish under 17 hours to officially count as a Finisher), and he would always regret not even starting.  Gia and I were going to drag him to the start if we had to.  I'm sure Steve would help us, too! 

Ken and my brother finally returned from their "errand" that I would see the next day.  We hung out a little more, then I went to bed by 9pm.  The alarm was set to go off at 3:45am.


Getting Ready

The days leading up to leaving for Tempe were the whirlwind I thought they would be.  Double-checking my packing lists, making shopping lists, laundry, planning, planning, planning.  I missed swimming the Monday before; a friend I hadn't seen in a long time wanted to go out for her birthday.  The next night the same friend gave me a fabulous massage and worked out some kinks in my back.  Wednesday I went to swim group so I could see some of my swim buddies and to hang out with Jennifer afterwards.
My buddy Glenn- He has done a few Ironmen triathlons and had a lot of advice and encouragement along the way!

Hanging out with Jennifer- AND getting a manicure and pedicure too! 

Jennifer's masterpiece on my big toes
My dad generously offered to stay behind with the three younger kids and take them to his house after their last soccer games that Saturday.  This meant that as the mother, I had to pack up for them and make it as easy as possible for my dad! 
I packed all of my stuff that I would need for each bag (bike gear, run gear, bike special needs, run special needs) as well as not forgetting my swim stuff and all the extras I had so carefully remembered to add to my packing and shopping lists.  I am a notorious over-packer, which is fine by me.  I'd rather pack something and not need it, than be stuck without it.

My bags (No, the Spongebob did not come along)
The truck loaded down and ready to leave on our adventure! 
Tempe, here we come!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A preview for what's to come:

What an amazing day it was!  I have so much to say, but I keep putting it off because I know it will take awhile to really go through.  Besides, I've just been kind of "cruising" through other responsibilities while training, and it's time to catch up! 

For now, this what you need to know:  I DID IT.  The swim was pretty good; I got clobbered and whacked more than I would like.  The bike was fantastic- I ended up an hour ahead of what I was wanting to do.  The run- well, it's a good thing I had an extra hour from the bike, let's just put it that way. 

My brother made signs for me and he and my husband hung one up for every mile on the way back on the bike course.  Everyone wanted to know who "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" was on the course, and made for some fun banter along the way with other riders.  He put some up on the run course as well, and my fans were there shouting and ringing bells, holding more signs.  They were told by many other participants that they wanted them as their support crew.  I seriously had the best crew out there!

Here you go (there are a couple missing, including Pat's wife Gia.  But she cheered for Pat too, because I share):

Friday, November 9, 2012

Single Digits

This is one of those "mental measures" I had made a year ago.  The measure of time- First, that it was a year away.  Then, the number of days falling to double digits.  Finally, the day the count comes to single digit days numbering the start. 

Nine. 9.

One week, two days away.  I've been busy making plans, lists, running errands.  Sumer gave me a copy of the packing list she used, which has been such a great reminder of what I am planning on taking:

Today I had lunch with Sumer, Becki and Amanda- The three stud-muffins who became Ironwomen in June at CDA.  I wish we had more time, they had so many stories to tell, not just of the race but of the season of the Ironman.  How it affects relationships, the recovery, the goals set before and after- because it's not just about one day's race, but a season.

Their advice:  Enjoy it- you'll never have your first Ironman again; Include Gas-X, chamois cream and sunscreen in your special needs bags; set alarms if I need them to remember to hydrate and eat on the ride; don't start too fast on the run; include some walking to help not go too fast; Stay positive, include the rough with the experience; HAVE FUN. (If I forgot anything ladies, feel free to remind me!)
As a parting gift, Amanda gave me this book:

She knows I am a reader!  Is it bad that I just want to sit and ignore the world to read it?  Oh, wait.  I'm already doing that when training.  Oh well.  Just staying consistent with the season.  I told Steve and Pat about it and Steve is already on the "wait list".  I'm sure I'll have it read before next weekend, Steve!

When Sumer gave me her aero helmet to wear, she gave me this Ironman ornament for my Christmas tree. 
I'll be hanging it with a rush of memories for years to come. 

Yesterday I picked up Sumer's tri-bike from the bike shop.  Both wheels are back on (I had to put my clunky one on while the rear carbon wheel was getting replaced), new tires, tubes with special flat-prevention potion in them, and also picked up some little chamois creams to put in my special needs bags.  The miracle workers at Sunnyside Bicycles calmed my worries and eased my anxiety of not being able to shift to the small ring of the bike.  They worked it out, and now I'm ready to roll!

Travel arrangements are finalized, the hotel we're staying at on the way has a reservation for us.  I'm starting to make piles that probably annoy my husband.  I'm trying to write things down as I think of them.

All that's left is packing, a handful of trainings and some grocery shopping.  Oh, and making sure I don't forget to pack anything.  That's kind of a biggie.  Lucky me, I get to pack for six people.  I'll let my older kids pack for themselves technically; but I still have to give them the description of what to pack and make sure they did it.  Which means I'll be packing for them.  Then there are the other three kids to pack for to go home to Chico with my dad for the weekend, but also for the entire week when we join them after Arizona. 

I'm totally loving it, and trying to let each part soak in!

This was on the card that Amanda gave me today:
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" -Vincent Van Gogh

I hope I don't have to find out!