I FREAKING DID IT!!
Now, I feel like it is the day after Christmas when I was 10 years old. The presents are opened, everyone is tired and kind of grumpy, the tree is dropping needles and regular life resumes without as much magic as was there the day before. November 2nd was hands down one of the top 5 days of my life (#1 being born, #2 getting married, #3 child 1, #4 child 2). Today I keep saying, “I DID THAT!” And, I feel amazing for it.
I’m going to break this report into three sections (swim, bike, run – how I came up with that, I’ll never know). It will be long – DUH – because the race was long.
4:30 a.m. on Saturday and I am on my way to do my first Ironman. I did manage a few hours of sleep last night. I put in ear plugs before bed because I knew if I heard the pounding and rough surf all night long, I would panic throughout the night about the swim.
Although I’ve got 14 of my closest friends and family members with me, this morning it is just Ken and I rolling into Panama City Beach. My friends know me and they know I would need the space to get into the zone. They would all be on the beach to see me start.
I am quiet, scared to death and unable to choke down anymore of my cinnamon bagel and banana. I manage few sips of Powerbar Perform.
I believe if you pay attention, there are little gifts and signs everywhere. Just as I felt the panic rising again in my throat, I looked to the left and saw a church with a sign that said:
Be Strong. Have Good Courage.
At that moment, I knew I had my mantra for the day. Thank you, anonymous church on the side of highway 98 in Florida.
There is an electricity in the air at the bike transition. I borrow a pump from the woman who had her bike racked next to me. I have no ability to think straight. She keeps telling me to breathe, it will be okay.
I feel nauseous when I go into the hotel to take a last pee. I wait in line behind a girl who makes me want to toss my cookies because she is eating a large Ziploc bag full of hard boiled eggs. I wonder what her farts will smell like later. Oh, the deep thoughts you have while waiting to start an Ironman.
Time for some body marking. I am proud to be age 46 and doing this. And, I am proud to be a girl and doing this. Out of 2,900 people, there were only about 750 of us with vaginas. Girl power.
Don’t be jealous of my jowls:
I manage to get down a GU 30 minutes prior to the start. Ken and I walk to the beach. On goes the wetsuit. I pretend to look like it’s just another day at the beach.
I think, holy shit look at the water and I have to get out in there? The surf is still a bit rough. I double cap my head because I am afraid I am going to lose my goggles in the jostling surf and bodies.
I get into the waves to warm up. I put in some wax earplugs because I heard it might help with vertigo on the swim. The plugs give me just the perfect buffer between myself and the craziness of the other 2,900 athletes. I hear my breath, my heart beating. I am going to be fine.
The National Anthem plays and it is peaceful. I close my eyes. I am doing this, I tell myself. You GET to do this. You are ready. You are blessed. You are lucky.
Then all hell breaks loose and I’m not kidding. The cannon goes off, Van Halen’s “Panama” is pumping and I run into the waves with thousands of others.
This swim is the single most crazy thing I have ever done in my life. It is so congested, you literally could not swim a stroke. I get felt up left and right (bonus!). People were kicking me, cussing, grabbing my feet. I try my best to stay in the moment, but at one point I just start laughing like a crazy person because it is so ridiculous. I try desperately to not get kicked in the mouth because I don’t want to do the rest of the race looking like a hill billy with no front teeth.
The first 1.2 mile loop feels slow – it took about 38 minutes. I run along the beach to start the second loop. I’m dancing and jumping up and down because I am doing this. The second loop is much more relaxed. I remember thinking how good the water and the gentle roll of the waves felt. I’ve never swam in the ocean before (I’ve been in the ocean, just never done a real swim) and I can’t tell you how much I love it. I feel like I could do this all day.
Swim 2.4 miles: 1:24
I get out from loop #2, lay down and get stripped by the wetsuit strippers doing their thing. Into the changing tent, bike shoes and helmet on. I put some tic-tacs in my mouth to get rid of the saltwater taste (a tip from Stacia!). I am OFF for my next 112 miles.
Meanwhile my fan club was starting what would be a LONG day of spectating (below: my father in law, my dad, my mom, daughter Emma, son Sam, BFF Erika, BFF Clair, my mother in law, my sister in law, my nephew and his wife).
Can you find the typo on the shirt? I never said I was perfect.
Stay tuned for part #2 – where I became one with my bike…and also where I get in trouble from the race police.