My long and winding road to toe the line at Ironman ended up in Texas on May 21st. Overall a beautiful day...not as fast or pretty as I had hoped but just as sweet!
It was a great few days leading up to the race...really relaxing. Kristina was an amazing athletic supporter (as I love to say).
Leading up to the swim everything was so peaceful - that was soon to change. With the water temperature at ~79 degrees the race was not wetsuit legal...not really something that concerns me from a qualifying standpoint, but from an overheating/cramping standpoint I made the conscious decision to forgo my neoprene safety blanket.
For 2.4 miles and 93 minutes I pretty much got my ass handed to me...It was the roughest swim I've ever had...<15 slower than my average time. What little I gained in comfortability I surely lost in efficiency. Once we turned the corner from Lake Woodland into the "canal" it was a bit like rush hour traffic in a third world country...a few minutes into the canal my left quad locked up...a bit of panic set in as I tried to work my way to the wall to work things out...Spectators and volunteers were yelling at me that I could "do it" & to "watch out for the re-bar???"... I might have asked them (not so politely) to shut the hell up. Once I collected myself, I hopped back into the traffic jam and finished the swim. The brawl was finally over.
T1 was all about the self-elbow massage to the quad to try and shake it loose. For the most part it worked.
The bike portion of IMTX was about 80% incredible, 20% suck. The Sam Houston National Forest and adjoining countrysides were breathtaking; lush, serene. We were forewarned that the headwinds on the way back were no joke...those claims were 100% accurate. The next day in a local paper it made mention of Kona-like winds...well, I've not been but I can only guess that means sticky, hot & strong. Aside from the winds on the return, the last 15 or so miles were way too trafficy...bumper to bumper as we wove our way back to T2...All those cars made the heat coming off the road and the the air pretty uncomfortable...at that point me feet were swollen and pounding...all I wanted to do was get the hell off the bike and out of my bike shoes. Hopefully something the race organizers will think about next time around.
I saw K and Joel for a fleeting second as I got back to transition...It felt like a long time away, but could have been so much worse had the sun, who was finally making an appearance, been out all day. T2 was a sauna - stinky & hot...but man did it feel nice to sit on something other than a bike seat. By this time it was like 93 degrees out...Time to get it done.
The run was a 3 loop course - which was great because I'd see K a bunch and the streets of Woodlands were lined with thousands of spectators...a welcomed distraction and constant source of motivation. Loop 1 was mostly good, until the end...I came out of T2 a little fast (9:20s) but soon figure out that I'd die if I kept that up and settled into a more reasonable pace for me - shuffling @ high tens. I missed K out of transition and didn't end up seeing her until about mile 8ish. By this point in the race I was hurting, pissed, gassy, bloated, chaffed, dehydrated and about every muscle in my legs was cramping...She tried to encourage me by letting me know that I wasn't suffering alone; that everyone was suffering...I, of course bit her head off and let her know that this was not about everyone...it was about me! Boy did I need to get that out. Thankfully, she knew where I was - in a dark hole and that no matter what I was the only one that could work my way out of it. She said she loved me, that she was proud of me....and that's all I needed to keep moving forward.
Lap 2 was a death march...snail's pace, lucky to be walk/running @ 14 minute miles, until mile 17 when a volunteer gave me a jar of pickle juice (seeds, peppercorns and all). It's hard to say if the salty brine was the highest high point of my day or not, but it was certainly a turning point. Shortly after, my legs came back a bit and I was running again, slowly but solidly. Kristina gave me a kiss and saw me off for my last lap. By now the sun had started going down, I was pretty sure that the world wasn't going to end and my legs were starting to work again.
By the third lap I was familiar with the good parts and bad parts of the run...the shade, the hills, I knew were the girls with the "free hugs & happy endings" signs and the drunk guys in grass skirts were and was happy to see them again. Finally, I had a smile on my face again, knowing that my day was close to being done. Off in the distance I could hear Mike Reilly and knew that soon he'd be calling my name again. My eyes welled up with tears a little In those last few minutes the peacefulness from earlier in the day had returned and with it, it brought a deep sense of thankfulness, bringing my long day full circle.
That finishing stretch of an Iron-distance race is joyous but the journey to get there, triumphant. A bit of redemption...the comback was complete.