Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Race Day - June 27, 2010

I'm finally blogging about Ironman Race Day!
Here is my attempt to put into words my insane and wonderful experience...
Racing for Relief donations were able to fund a well in eastern Uganda. God can even do His work via a crazy person doing an Ironman and those supporting her.
Thank you, all doners!
Before the Race. Nerves. Cold water ahead. Racing mind. Yet no fear.

On the Bike. Smiling. And hot. It was a scorcher.

During the marathon. Friends and family always brought a smile to my face!

After I finished! With my #1 fan there and best supporter.
What a feeling that was!

Well, one would have thought that I would have blogged about that race day upon finishing but I think I needed a looooooooong recovery :) So here I am FINALLY blogging about it.

First and foremost, I finished. I crossed that finish line that I had been dreaming of throughout an entire year of training, praying and carrying out the fundraiser. It is to this day the most memorable day of my entire life, aside from my engagement and wedding days... but it is not too far behind! Looking back, I have no idea how I mustered up the courage and energy to take on Ironman, and I thank my God for carrying me through and giving me the strength.

I'm not quite sure how I can put into words my emotions and physical pains associated with the entire experience. The two days leading up to race day were full of nausea, a racing mind, constant prayer and lots of checking my many lists to make sure I had everything... ready. This includes every thing for my swim, bike and run, as well as all transitions and "emergency" tools and gear I needed to have available.

The day before the race I had a massive dinner around 5:00, spent time with Rob, my family and friends and then went to my hotel room for some alone time. I then prepped about 10 gu/ensure creations to keep in my shirt, in my bike bags, and in my transition bags. I tied up all loose ends and by the grace of God fell asleep.

I woke up at 3:30 to eat my pre-made scrambled eggs (with extra salt!) and also had a bagel with peanut butter, honey and banana and drank some chocolate Ensure. Definitely put down well over 1,000 calories to build a good base for the swim and day. I remember being nervous but mostly calm. Again, I attribute that to the Lord.

Upon approaching Lake C'oeur d'Alene, the sun was rising as my heart was racing. The beauty of the sunrise helped to ease my nerves and the lake looked calm(ish) which was great. Athletes were getting marked, people were hugging and high-fiving and many were "in the zone" mentally preparing for the day. I proceeded to get marked, check my bike and transition bags... and of course do that thing that all athletes do on race day mornings... take one too many trips to the honey bucket. Oh man, not my favorite part of race day :)

I was greeted at the start line by many of my wonderful friends and also my mom, dad and brother to cheer me on. It was great knowing people were there to support and pray for me throughout the day. As 7:00 a.m. approached, I zipped up my wetsuit and headed to the beach with Rob to get on solid ground to prep for the start. I remember the feeling. Utter excitement that the race had come but also the thought of the unknown was frightening. Would I finish? Would I get a flat tire? Would I cramp up or have a heat stroke? Will I mess up my nutrition or pacing on the bike? So many questions. But I remember God giving me peace and telling me he got me to this point and that He would take me to that finish line.

I thought of everybody in Uganda that I was racing for. Racing for clean water. For sustainable education. For malaria nets. For healthcare. For prevention of HIV and malaria. For love of other humans and children of God. It was a great feeling knowing I was racing for others.

Then a loud noise prompted all 2,000 of us to enter the water AT ONCE. Taking part in a "mass start" is a memorable experience. Combine chaos, flailing limbs, adrenaline and you can picture what I experienced. It was a MADHOUSE in the water for at least half a mile. The first loop (1.2 miles) was pretty packed, especially at the turns but the swimming became easier as time went on and I had more room. I had a successful swim that proved to be faster than I expected.

As I ran onto shore after comleting the 2.4 mile swim, I had my wetsuit stripped off, which was fun and made for a quick transition. I then changed out of my suit and into my bike clothes. My hands were shaking, I remember, and adrenaline was pumping through my veins. After I was sunblocked and ate my 1/2 pb and j I hopped on the bike. 112 miles ahead. 4,400 feet of elevation gain...

Yes, that being said, the bike portion was pretty intense. It was the heat that made it tough, along with the hills. Although it took me a total of 7 hours and 50 minutes to do the ride, it seemed to fly by. I was so busy keeping track of my nutrtion (salt tabs, gus, gatorade, protein, etc.) and stopping at honey buckets that the time seemed to fly by. BUT I must say it was grueling at times. Hot, sweaty, and sticky was the ride. My gatorade bottle was splashing everywhere, which was awesome.

Unfortunately I stayed so on top of my nutrition that my stomach couldn't handle all the fuel. My blood was busy in my leg muscles and couldn't digest the food, so I developed quite the full and bloated stomach. Bloated with gu, snickers, gatorade, water, you name it. That being said, it was pretty uncomfortable starting about mile 70. Thanks to my AWESOME friends and family, I was always re-energized when I saw them on the course!

And this must be said: Thank you Jesus for protecting me from a flat tire! I finished the bike leg in time and that made me so, so incredibly happy.

Next was the marathon. I've ran a marathon before. This was not a marathon. This was a test of character, determination and the ability to push through pain. My stomach felt like it was going to explode, which made running difficult. My leg muscles were doing ok, but man alive boy did my stomach hurt. The heat and fuel combined gave me some problems. But step by step I plugged through that marathon. Stopping constantly to pour cold water on me (it was high of 90ish that day and very dry and hot) and make stops at the port a potties. Wow it was a painful run but I just kept running. Running for the prize that awaited me.

A few dear friends of mine came to cheer me on around mile 23, as well as my fiance at the time (riding his bike on the course to cheer me on -- thanks Rob!). I think my friends and Rob can attest to the fact that around mile 23 I was about as good as dead. But oh man I could taste it. This race I had been training for all year was coming to that magical end I had been only dreaming would come true.

At around mile 25, it hit me. I was going to actually finish. FINISH. You have no idea what this means to somebody who has no idea if that would actually happen. All of my countless training sessions were running through my head. The dedication was paying off. It was getting dark and glow sticks were popping up everywhere. It was exciting. People lining the streets cheering everybody on. As I approached town, I could feel the energy.

With about 1/2 mile left, I was running through the crowds. My legs gathering speed as my excitement was increasing exponentially. The cowbells clanging and people cheering everywhere... I felt like it was a dream! I ran those last victory yards with a thankful heart pointing my fingers to my God who brought me to that finish line. Thanking God for the work He would do with the Racing for Relief funds. Thanking God that I was about to become an Ironman!

And that was that! I crossed that line and was greeted by friends, family and slices of pizza :) 13 hours and 54 minutes later, I was an Ironman! What a day. Hot, sweaty and painful. A physical and mental challenge beyond anything I had ever done. But it was over and that was a beautiful thing!That night I slept with my medal next to me on the bed. And I think I slept maybe 2 hours. I don't think I fell asleep until 3:30. It was surreal to be done.

Then followed a beautiful recovery phase. And now I am in communication with those in Uganda who are helping to disseminate the funds to the appropriate avenues. Most of the money raised (I believe is now well over $7,500) was put towards a well in a village named Kabira. How amazing is that? THANK YOU ALL DONERS! Because of you clean water is now available to an entire community. Clean water = lives saved.

I will post more updates and pictures about the well and Kabira as I receive them. Until then, thanks again to all who supported Racing for Relief and supported my dreams and what God put on my heart. My advise to anybody is that you CAN do ALL things through Christ. I am living proof.