Race week is an intense time for any athlete. I did my best to slowly take care of last minute things to avoid overwhelming myself the days right before race day. I checked the weather like a million times. Texas is hot right until about Halloween so I knew it would be hit or miss on race day. Sure enough the forecast showed rain the day before and cooler temps the day of. I had ordered a cycling jersey and arm warmers two weeks prior however, they in the wrong size (my fault). I FedEx’d them right back to the seller and re-ordered the week before my race and hoped they’d come in time. I must have refreshed my email and the weather every few hours for the entire week!
We originally planned to leave the DFW area on Friday night however, I completely forgot to confirm with the my in-law’s in the months prior to race day. Figures! My husband reached out to them a few weeks before the race and they had no idea we were still coming. Thank goodness they are kind and loving people! They were actually doing some home renovations, but invited us to come down on Saturday and stay for the race. I was a little worried about driving down the day before the race however, I knew that we could leave early and still have plenty of time for packet pick-up, athlete check-in, and bike check-in. 5 am sounded totally do-able! I started with check lists on Wednesday and as I used gear for last minute workouts I began putting them in small “Gear” bags so that I wouldn’t forget anything. I had little post-it’s attached to each one, “ Run Gear”, “Swim Gear”, “Morning Clothes”, etc.
I checked the weather again on Wednesday while at work and realized that the rain forecasted for Saturday was NOT going to go away. I started to panic and began googling bike covers for rain or travel and found a few that looked good. The only trouble was I didn’t have the time to order and ship anything at this point! I was able to find a really good deal on the Bell bike cover sold by Walmart.com. I called 5 local Walmarts before I realized it wasn’t sold in ANY store near me. On to plan B! I started calling local bike shops and asking if they sold bike covers for travel and luckily I found a store not far from my office. I don’t know what got into me, but I had this overwhelming sense of dread immediately after the call and decided I needed to go purchase the dang thing RIGHT THEN. So, I left on my lunch break and headed to the bike shop. When I got there I saw all the employees rushing around with frightened faces but I didn’t pay any mind, I just knew I needed my bike cover. It was going to RAIN Saturday. Aretha needed to be covered for the drive down to Austin! After securing the cover and going through checkout I heard sirens outside the store. Was there a fire? I clutched my bike cover and headed to the car. As I exited, I heard an employee by the front door say, “There he is! He’s here!” as she ran toward and approaching officer. What the heck was going on?! As they passed she told him of someone in the back who couldn’t breathe and was “turning blue”. Had I seriously been so focused on the cover that I didn’t notice someone in the store who needed emergency medical care? I felt ashamed! I hoped everything was ok.
By Friday night we started to pack clothes for ourselves and the kids. The nerves finally started making their way front stage. I found myself getting irritated and yelling about things like not washing my heart rate strap or still not having my cycling jersey and arm warmers that I’d ordered earlier that week or the fact that the dog ate all the cat food and now I’d have to go buy more. I couldn’t even remember what I’d put in each gear bag so I ended up dumping them and going through my check list another two times. I got myself packed, moved all my gear bags in the living room and tried to relax before bed. Wait! Were the kids packed? I jumped back up from the bed and yelled for them.
ME:“Did you guys get all packed?”
ME: "Do you have warm clothes? It’s going to be cold for most of the morning.”
KIDS:“We have jeans and shirts”
ME:“Do you have jackets or sweaters?”
ME:“ Do you have your tooth brushes?, Socks?, Shoes that cover your feet?, Do your clothes fit you? (yes I actually asked that) “try them on!”
They both rolled their eyes but did as I asked. When they finally brought their bags downstairs I got ready for bed, again. I set my alarm and surprisingly fell asleep rather quickly. I awoke to a swift elbow jab and opened my eyes to a room full of sunlight. We’re late! I’d silenced my alarm and slept right through it! I jumped out of bed and realized it was already 6:30am. Oh holy shifter, get up! We quickly gathered to kids and loaded the one million bags I seemed to pack for all my
It was so incredibly dreary that day! We did out best to make it work. The weather was cold and rainy the entire drive to Austin. I couldn't help but fear what race day would be like. I never received my cycling jersey and arm warmers in the mail. That's what I get for procrastinating! Now I was going to freeze my butt off on race day!
We made the best of our drive. It helped that we had more adults than children this time around, but after the kids passed out, we turned into children ourselves.
We arrived in North Austin just in time for the athlete briefing at noon. I remember pulling into the parking lot at the Travis County Expo Center and seeing a sea of cars with bikes strapped to the back and feeling like I'd arrived home. There were so many people! As we entered the expo center and took our seats, the briefing began and at last everything felt real. I was really here, about to race my very first half Ironman.
After the briefing we made our way to athlete check-in which reminded me of a heard of cattle being wrangled into a pin. It was a little chaotic.
I stopped by and picked up my race numbers and athlete paper work. Signed a million wavers,
received my official Ironman wrist band and I was all checked-in for the race!
But I still had this monstrous line to wait in so that I could get my timing chip. Volunteers helped pass the time by handing out coffee, redbull, and those neat red Ironman backpacks full of swag. One thing I can say about this race that we got some of the nicest swag! Free shirts, backpacks, key chains with sunscreen and chap stick. Loved it!
My family was pretty tired at this point. So we made a quick stop over at Ironman Village (outside). My husband was able to find me arm coolers but not warmers. We purchased them and I hoped that it would be enough to keep me warm exiting the water and on to the bike.
We made one last stop at T1 and T2 which were actually a mile apart at this race. I set up my run gear and headed to T1 for bike check-in.
The buzz was that there would be more rain overnight so none of the athletes were leaving their T1 gear bags in transition. I was pretty uneasy with this idea, but I took my T1 bag with me and decided to set it up in the AM. After all, the swim start was just a few yards from T1, what could happen?
We ended the day with my in-laws just relaxing and enjoying family time. They us made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs....doesn't it look AH-MAZING!
I was so grateful that we stayed with family. Having everyone together was an amazing feeling and helped keep my mind of the usual stresses the night before a race. My husband and brother in-law sat on the couch and sipped wine, the kids wrestled and played, we watched football. It was like Thanksgiving but without the Turkey! As the night went on I started to count down the hours until bed time. I took a long hot shower to calm the nerves, put my race numbers on and settled into bed.
We woke up around 5am. I still felt like I'd never fallen asleep. My husband (as usual) jumped out of bed and turned the lights on with a child-like glee and yelled, "Wake up Ironwoman!"I wanted to yell back, "HALF Ironwoman and let me sleep!", but instead I crawled out of bed and began my race day rituals. I mixed myself a Nuun to begin hydrating and cooked my standard 3 pancakes. The family started trickling downstairs just as my nerves started to get bad. I began eating my pancakes, standing, at the stove top when I noticed everyone sitting down at the table to eat......like a family. I'm so used to eating and running out the door, even on training days, that I'd forgotten we were all here together! As I sat down at the table I felt calm again and enjoyed breakfast with my family.
We planned on leaving just before 6am, I had to be at T1 no later than 6:45am to get my bike transition area set up before it closed. It was now 6am and we still had a 30 minute drive to the Travis County Expo Center where we would then be bused to the swim start and T1 area. THIS is why I wanted to set up everything the day before! I remained calm and gently corralled my family out the door and into the car. We made it the expo center with 10 minutes to spare.
We walked around to the shuttle area and saw a line from here to Mexico! I almost pooped my pants. As we passed the line I yelled out, "Does anyone know if they are letting athletes skip the line?", someone yelled back, "Yes!" and I kissed my family goodbye and told them to call when they arrived! It was a little cold hearted I know.
I felt bad once I found my seat on the bus and apologized to my husband. I was just so worried about making it to transition before it closed.
I did in fact make it to T1 in time, I set up my towel and gear so that I wouldn't forget a thing. I breathed a sigh of relief and called my husband to let him know I'd made it. I could finally enjoy the morning!
I walked to find a restroom and took a moment to look around. It was beautiful. All of it, just simply beautiful. There were athletes everywhere, the sun was rising, It was race day!
The race started at 7am while I was still standing in line for the Port-a-potty but I didn't mind missing it. My swim wave didn't start until 8:05a which left me with an entire hour to watch the race. My family stayed with me and we did our best to stay warm.We watched wave after wave walk into the water and even saw the pro men exit! It was the best way to start my day.
My family walked down to the water with me and my heart began pounding. This was it! I was about to embark on a very long and painful day!
I kissed my husband and turned to walk into the swim start. I looked back and waved and felt sense of excitement wash over me. I had never been this excited for a race! Usually by this point my mouth would go dry and a lump would settle in my throat. The thought of drowning was always in the back of my min,. but not today. Today was an adventure. The crowd was yelling and the energy soared.
The women's 30-34 age group walked into the water as we started filling our wetsuits and setting our Garmins. The announcer yelled 3-2-1 and the crowed roared! I dipped my head in the water and began my 10 stoke breathless entrance into the water just like Coach Jimenez said to do.
Total 1.2 mile swim - time 58:03
I couldn't believe it! I'd finished! I headed right into T1 where volunteer "Peelers" were waiting to help strip off our wetsuits. Thank goodness for them!
It was a little awkward and funny having someone rip your clothes off while you lay down in the mud but it was worth it. They knew how to do it quickly and I was soon on my way to the bike.....laughing.
T1 time 10:49
I was truly surprised at how warm I was when my wetsuit came off. I could tell the air outside was still very cold but didn't feel all that cold. I grabbed my nutrition and threw it in my tri top pockets, put on my helment, sunglasses, shoes and socks. I grabbed six Sports Legs capsules, swallowed two, and tossed the rest in my pockets also. Teh exit out of T1 was muddy as hell and it was rumored that many athletes in past years had flattened their tired rolling out due to spurs. My husband had given me a pair of his brand new socks (thanks honey!) to wear over my cycling shoes to prevent mud clogging up the cleats.
I threw my bike over my shoulder and made my way out of T1. Volunteers were waiting at the exit collecting socks, plastic bags, and all sorts of other tricks the athletes had made to save their cycling shoes from the mud. It was insane. I started to bend over to take my cover socks off and a volunteer yelled, "No! just set your bike down and lean on me, I'll do that for you!"
I wish I had service like that at home! I smiled at my family, told them I loved them, and began my 56 mile torture session.
Now, I had heard that this particular race course was a tough one. Austin is known for it's rolling hills however, this was not what I trained for. The average hill I trained on was probably a 4-5% grade. Some of the
As we passed through mile 25-30 there were people who came out of their homes to cheer us on. I passed a house with a tiny chihuahua who was the fastest little thing I'd ever seen! I don't know if I was going that slow or if he was going that fast, but he was right on my tires, nipping as my shoes! I actually had to pedal harder to get away from him. Miles 30-40 were brutal. There were long stretches of road with no one and nothing. I was always near another cyclist, but there was nothing surrounding us. No cheers, no sights, nothing. Just farm land, grass, cows, and those d@*& "rolling hills". I saw so many people stopped with flats. The roads were terrible. It had flooded a week earlier in Austin and loosened the gravel and created pot-holes everywhere. At one point there was a huge hill and at the bottom of the decent were some of the biggest pot holes of the race. I saw a few cyclist who had crashed from not being able to slow down fast enough. One was just sitting on the ground, I don't even know where his bike went! Miles 40-50 continued on rolling, killing my legs. I felt a sense of relief when I hit the 50 mile mark, but little did I know what awaited me.
There are two huge hills around mile 50 or so. One right after the other. I came upon a couple of women who were ridding and talking. "One asked me, are you ok? Have you taken in enough salt?" The other said, "We're almost there, just these two last hills" I asked, "How big?", The women replied, "The first one is ok, but the second one is a bit of a pain in the ass".
I'd reviewed the race course online and knew that the biggest hill would be at the end but I hadn't seen it in person. The three of us rode into the first hill together. I powered up the hill and found myself alone, but I could hear the ladies yelling, "woohoo!" Beast Mode!!!!" behind me. I let out a little bit of a yell myself as I reached the top of the hill. The happiness didn't last long as I saw the second hill in front of me. This was a mother of a mountain. Straight up it seemed like and long as hell! I felt my heart sank as I started climbing. I shifted down and down and down again until I was in the lowest possible gear. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I was moving along at a pathetic 7 mph. I could probably get off my bike and run faster than this! I was afraid to stop for fear of rolling back or falling over. There was so much burning in my legs. My lungs were stinging and I wasn't even half way up. As I neared the top snot was building in my nose but I couldn't take my hand off the bar to wipe it. A women in a yellow tri suit was next to me grunting out the pain. "You can do this!", I said, "Push! We're almost there" She glanced at me with pain in her face and said, "Die legs! It's supposed to hurt right?" and with that she sped up and over the hill.
As I rode the last 6 miles I was completely spent. My legs were mush and with every turn toward T2 I hoped it would end. It felt like it went on forever. Around mile 54 the road took an ever so slight incline all the way to mile 56, I was literally almost in tears, cursing the race directors for making the finish soooo loooong. It was over though.
Total 56 mile ride - Time 4:17
I wanted to cry. I was so tired and my legs ached so bad. I didn't know how I would ever run after that ride. I saw my family at T2 cheering me on. I tried to smile and I yelled "I'm so tired! It hurts so bad!" They just kept right on cheering as I walked passed them. In fact, I walked all the way to my run gear back and plopped myself right down on the floor. I sat there for a moment and slowly put my shoes, visor, and race belt on. I chugged the last of my bike nutrition and headed out of T2 not sure if I could finish the race.
T2 time 5:31
The run course was a three mile loop about 4 miles out and back. It was amazing because no matter where you were there was a crowd cheering for you and an aide station close by. I stopped every other aid stations and drank water and then Gatorade at the following stop. I felt ok despite a brutal bike course. I took the time to walk each time I stopped at an aide station to make sure I took in enough fluids and salt. I really enjoyed this part of the race. There were so many people everywhere. I saw a firefighter running in full gear, I saw a blind woman and her guide, I just tried to soak it all in. Lap after lap I was grateful that I had made it this far. When I felt tired I walked, when I felt good I ran. The last loop of the run was the hardest. I could feel my legs tightening and the more I stopped to walk the harder it became to start running again so, I stopped walking. I ran the whole last loop. As I neared the entrance back to the expo center (the last mile of the run) they had already began breaking down the outside stands. There were only a few of us finishers coming in. When I turned to enter the building the man behind me yelled aloud, "I'm going to need booze after this!"
ME: "Beers all around! We did it!"
HIM: "I'll have a pitcher of margaritas!"
HIM: "Filet mignon!"
ME:"With mashed potatoes!"
....and with that I threw my arms up in the air and entered the finishers chute. I couldn't help but cry after it was all said and done. I was done! I'd raced Ironman 70.3 on one of the hardest bike courses, with high winds, as a beginner to boot. I did it! I could hear my family cheering for me and as I turned to run to them I shed a few more tears and hugged them all.
I still doesn't feel real. If there is one take away I have from this race experience, it's that the Ironman community is a family. Every competitor I met out on the course was a friend. We raced together, we checked on each other, we cheered for one another. When I was there I felt like I was home even though I didn't know a single person who was racing. We all had something in common. We put our hearts out on that course and we did it together.
I still hope to complete a full Ironman someday and I think I'll probably do a few more 70.3's also but I will never forget my first. I will never forget the feeling I had crossing this finish line. I did something I never thought I could do. I put in the work and it paid 10 fold.
If you're out there wondering if you should take the next step and move toward a scary goal of your own....do it! Whether it's a full ironman, half, a 5k, a crossfit competition, whatever! If it looks big and scary, take it one step at a time but start moving toward it. You can do it!
Happy running friends!