Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ironman Chattanooga 2017

Ironman Chattanooga 2017

This adventure started like all others, or at least, in my eyes. I was bullied into registering for the race.  You may wonder who the bully was, but it’s not just one bully, it’s many, they go by the moniker of “The Crewe”.  They make you believe that if you don’t do an event, you will miss out on so much fun, it will fill you with regret for the rest of your life.  They make Ironman sound so appealing and fun, I think they may all be marketing experts secretly working for the Ironman organization.    
I sometimes equate Ironman to having a baby, it’s so painful and the lead up to it, is at least 9 months. The cost is outrageous and it doesn’t stop, first there is the entry fee, USAT membership, hotel bill, travel cost, bike maintenance, running shoes, tri kits, nutrition and then all the finisher gear you can’t live without.  The event is an awesome accomplishment and something you never want to forget, but the pain makes you say, I will never do it again.  The memory of the pain fades over time and before you know it, you are thinking well maybe it wasn’t so bad. Then you get the constant questions, when will you do it again and how many do you plan to do.  See, exactly like having a baby. The difference is, you can’t adopt an Ironman finish, at least with a baby, you can skip the initial pain by adopting, you can’t do that in Ironman. I guess Ironman is actually worse than having a baby.

The memory of the pain fades - 3 kids later
After I completed Ironman Lake Placid in 2016 with my worst IM finish time ever, I proclaimed my retirement, but somehow, here I was training for my 5th Ironman event. This is how it all went down, I was sitting at the bar at the 54th Street Grill, with my belly full of food, sipping on a half alcohol Margarita, (BTW, one half alcohol margarita and I’m dancing on the bar) when Sketchy (A Crewe member) says I’m going to sign up for IM Chattanooga right now.  I said “no way you will do it and if you do, well I will too”.  Of course I did not believe he would really do it, but then he did…and then I did.
That brings us to today, two days after the finish of my 5th Ironman Race.
So there I was, signed up for a race that I had not done any research on.  I quickly went into research mode and found out that the bike course was rather hilly, not as bad as Lake Placid, but not an easy course by any means.  I also found out that the bike course was 116 miles, rather than 112 miles. All I could do at this point was to go into panic mode.  What was I thinking, how did I let myself do this… I just kept kicking myself.  Of course I did not purchase the insurance, so I couldn’t even fake an injury to get out of it.  I would not waste $850, even if it killed me, I was in.
We were already behind on the 42 week training plan, so we had to jump right in, but since Jeff Germer and the Godfather were training for IM Florida, it gave us people to train with.  We would soon find out that Jeff would transfer to Chatt due to a scheduling issue with a family wedding.  That was a good thing for me and Sketchy, but a bad thing for the Godfather.  Now Jeff would be on our schedule and keep us honest to our training plan.  Godfather was kind of on his own now, but heck, he has done 33 IM’s if anyone can do it without oversight, it’s him.
As for the training, it went surprisingly well, except for the swim, I just felt like I wasn’t swimming enough, although we had more lake swims than ever, at least 4 months of only swimming in the lake. I’m not even sure what the pool looks like anymore. We were lucky, not only did we have the race crew to workout with, but Ray always showed up to swim with us, no matter how early we started the workout, we were like the Mod Squad.
I was finishing all my training runs faster than I had planned and still felt pretty good at the end of the run.  My long runs consisted of loops at SIUE, just as they had in the past, but we kind of switched the loops up, we were running the upper side of campus.  We still started at the church, but ran uphill 2 miles to the east side of campus and just stayed on top for most of the run.  Having the Crewe helped a lot, Ray, Russ, Carolan, Carl, Rhonda and Kyle frequently joined us for runs, misery always loves company.
The training Crewe
My bike training was also going well, we were riding SIUE loops again, most of the time starting at 4am, so there wasn’t much traffic for the first couple hours of the ride.  The loops took us through multiple hill sections that we dreaded, but in the end I really think that all of the hills during training really helped me in the race.  The rolling hills in the race didn’t seem near as bad as I had expected and I have to attribute that to all the hills we trained on.  Again, I have to thank Ray, Mike, and Brandon for joining Jeff, Sketchy and me on those early morning rides.
Training Ride with the Crewe
For anyone reading this post, if you plan on doing IM Chatt, my tip is to train on as many hills as you can, even if you have to do hill repeats.  If you live in the area, two places other than SIUE that would be the perfect course are Jerusalem Rd from the end of the Hamel trail to the Hazel trail and Pocahontas Rd from the end of the Marine trail to the highway.  These are both very similar to the Chatt course.
Overall I put the training in and should have been absolutely confident at the start of the race.  If you know me though, you know I was not confident, in fact I couldn’t stop worrying.  The week before the race was nerve racking, I sometimes thought I might break into tears just thinking about it.
Thursday came and we were off to the race.  John, Jeff and I drove to Chatt together and discussed the course the entire way there, not that it made me feel any better, because it didn’t.  I have to give kudos to Jeff and John, they did their best to reassure me that I was ready. Of course I figured they were just being nice and they were really thinking, “I guess we will have to drag her dead body home after the race”.  I guess they were right (don’t ever tell them I said that), I must have been ready because I’m still alive.
We arrived in Chatt just in time to pick up our packets and get a pic at Ironman village.

Arriving in Chatt
On Friday we went to the pre-race meeting, looked at the swim course, and drove the bike course.  We also spent some time sitting in compression legs, oh and let me tell you, it felt so good.
Oh how good it feels

A lot of Vitality at Ironman
We did a short ride from the hotel, we wanted to do a flat ride, but we were in Chatt, there was no flat, so not only was it boiling hot, but we had to ride hills in traffic, it was not our best idea.
The Ironfans showed up on Friday, Pam coming in early and China and Brandon showing up later that night.  Now we had our support crew intact and ready to work on strategy that would give us the biggest boost while out on the course.  Pam had maps printed and an itinerary with times and places to cheer from. I have never met an Ironfan so prepared.  
We hit Ironman village Saturday morning to do our bike and bag drop and get some more time in the compression legs. Of course we had to hit the Ironman store and spend way more money than we make in a week.  We all needed to be Ironman branded before we headed home.
Bike Drop
Oh and we raced the big Hoka, get this, he stomped all of us.  It was a bit embarrassing, but we got a free towel for doing it.  I wish I had a video of it, but I don't.
Saturday night brought an early dinner at the Waffle House then early to bed. I slept surprisingly well, of course waking up each hour to check the clock, always afraid I would over sleep.
I was up early and headed out with the rest of the Crewe to the bike transition, it was 4am, but felt even earlier. We put air in our bike tires, dropped our special needs bags and hopped on a bus to the race start.  It was a 10 minute bus ride to the start of the race, and a two hour wait in line before the first person would even enter the water.  The good thing was, lots of porta potties, the bad thing was, a long walk to get to them.  We all laid on the ground and waited. About 30 minutes before the race started China and Brandon showed up, Pam had been with us all morning.  

Getting ready to start

It was a very long line

I'm smiling on the outside only
China had a big picture of my granddaughter Emersyn on a pole that said “Goooo Gram!”

Emersyn Cheering me on
The water temp was 77.1 so it was wetsuit optional.  Jeff swam without a wetsuit, but then again, he is a fish, so he went in the water pretty early.  John and I wore a wetsuit, so we were one of the last people in the water.  I’m glad that I did though, it gave me piece of mind at a time when I was internally freaking out.  It looked like 400-500 people chose to wear the wetsuit.  In case you don’t know, if it is wetsuit optional, you can wear the wetsuit, but are not eligible for an age group award or a Kona slot.  Since I am not and never will be fast enough to get either of those, it wasn’t really a decision for me, I was wearing a wetsuit.

Jumping in
So we were all in the water and heading to the bike transition.  I felt pretty good in the water, I did stop twice and try to fix my leaking goggles. After the second try, I just decided to swim with one eye full of water rather than to stop again and try to fix them.  It didn’t really bother me much, and I felt like I was moving along pretty fast.  I never really got kicked much, the rolling start helps, I jumped in with about 6 other people, not 100 other people.  A couple times I was squeezed between two swimmers, but was able to work myself out pretty quickly.  Before I knew it, I was passing the island, then swimming under the first of three bridges, it was actually pretty cool. 
A view of the swim from the bridge
When I saw the red buoys at the finish, I was happy, they came pretty quickly and getting out of the water was the first of my goals for the day. Then when I looked at my watch and saw 1:02, I thought either I’m not seeing it correctly or my watch must have stopped.  I ran to the wetsuit strippers, grabbed my wetsuit and ran for my bike bag.  My IronFans were there waiting and yelled, you did a 1:02, I couldn’t believe it, the time I saw was right, it was my fastest swim ever, and I felt good.

Running for Transition to the bike
I was a little slow through transition, but I wanted to make sure I had everything and was ready for the ride, coming out of the tent to the bike, I heard that John was only about 3 minutes in front of me.  I jumped on my bike and headed out, but I did have a fear of having a mechanical on the course.  I had to have my bottom bracket changed out just a week before the race.  A big Thanks goes to Matt and Justin at the Cyclery for getting my bike race ready without incident on the course. 

Heading out on the bike
Jeff heading out on the bike

John (Sketchy) heading out on the bike

The bike course was actually fun, it was like riding a roller coaster, I was pushing the heavy gears down the hills and spinning the low gears up.  The course was all hills, but if you rode it correctly, it wasn’t that hard.  I’m not saying it was easy, there were a few hills that really hurt, but they weren’t tearing me up.  And the fact that the course went in and out of the shade really helped, I would have never made it through in such good shape had I been in the sun the entire ride.
Coming through Chickamaunga on the first lap, I heard Pam yell go Robin, but I didn’t see her.  Knowing that she was out there gave me a boost. Our IronFans were the best support crew ever.
I spent the entire 7 hours regulating how much I ate and drank and how much salt I took in.  It kept my mind busy and away from falling into the “I’m so tired pity party in my head”. I felt pretty darn good and when I saw John in front of me at about mile 92, I had to smile, I needed someone to talk to for a while.  It took me a few miles to catch him, but when I did, we finished the 116 mile course bunny hopping each other.  We ended up riding into the chute together.  The IronFans were there cheering us on, and I stopped to get a much needed hug from China.

Getting a hug from China and a hand from Pam
While I was out on the bike, China and Brandon did some fun stuff, like rock climbing and visiting the aquarium.  Ironfan’s lives matter!

A little IronFan Fun

They continued to track all of us on the Iron Tracker app.  They were also tracking Charles McFarlin, another Metro Tri Club teammate, he was easy to spot because he was wearing the new MTC kit.

Charles Finishing
Into the tent I went and again, I was a little slow on the transition.  I headed out on the run to IronFan cheers and China ran up with her phone and my daughter Jade was on face time.  Jade told me I was doing great and to keep it up.  That was a needed surprise. I started up the hill and decided it was better to walk it.  I caught up to John again and we started running together at the top of the hill.  We were both suffering in the heat, and he pulled away.  The next 4 miles were brutal, it was open sun in the heat of the day.  This is when the demons came.  My mind was saying run and my legs were saying NO, I kept getting cramps in my left quad and would have to stop and walk.  I did the best I could until mile 6, then I started feeling sick.  After a stop at the porta potty and quick stop to puke, I knew for sure the rest of the race was going to be a death march.
The Crazy Hot Run
I went directly to Plan B, which was to power walk, do whatever it took to cross that finish line before the cutoff.  That’s what I did, I ran all the down hills and power walked everything else. What I didn’t know was starting at mile 8, I would encounter hills, that could have been called mountains, or at least in my mind that’s how they looked and felt.  All I could think was that whoever created the run course was evil. When I looked up the hill as far as I could see there were people walking. I didn’t see even one person running the up-hills in that section.  Coming out of the hills the sun was starting to set and the demons were taking over my thoughts.  I didn’t know how I was going to finish the second lap.
I came around the corner to start the second lap and there was China with my mom on Facetime, she told me I was doing great and to not give up.  That’s my mom, she raised me to never quit and never give up.  She used to say “when you think it can’t get worse it will, but you just pick yourself up and keep going”. She never sugar coated life for us kids, she told it like it was and taught us how to survive and be happy.  I live by that advice, and yes I knew it was going to get worse before it ended, but I was not going to stop.  China walked with me for a while then headed back and told me she would meet me around mile 20.  I was moving forward and thinking about my ultra-running friend Jim, he used to walk up hills next to me while I was running and would pass me. He gave me advice on power walking and told me to walk the uphill and I would get up it faster than running, I never thought it could be done, but I just kept passing runners as I walked. I made it to mile 20 and both Brandon and China walked with me for a while, they said I was killing the walk and China showed me a Facetime of my granddaughter Emmy, it was past her bedtime and she wasn’t much interested, but it was a pick me up, to see her. 
We got across the bridge back into the hills and the IronFans headed to the finish line, while I endured the next 4 miles of hills.  Plus the IronFans had made friends with another racer and they were busy passing text messages from him to his girlfriend. They were trying to get over to tell him she was there at the finish line waiting for him. It just amazes me how often China makes friends with random people.
I finally made it to the wooden bridge, the 25 mile mark, I headed across thinking that this was going to be my worst finish time ever, but that at least I would finish.  Then I started thinking how much I hate Ironman races and how I was going to retire as soon as I finished this race.
Coming into the finish line!
So I kept going, came around the corner on the other side of the bridge and headed downhill to the finish.  I ran through the finish chute, high fiving everyone along the fence.  I saw my IronFans and ran straight over and hugged them, then headed to the finish.

I made it
I did it… I’m a 5 time Ironman!  Get this, it was my fastest finish ever, it was 13 minutes slower than what I had predicted I would finish in, but I am still happy with the time.  I told everyone I was now retired from IM and they all said the same thing…. “yeah right”, I said “no, I mean it this time” and they just shook their heads and laughed.
The race was awesome, not the run, but the swim and bike were.  Had it been a little cooler I think the run would have gone much better.  I still ended up with my fastest Ironman time ever.
I think the Ironfans had a great time also.  I can’t say enough about the support we got from Pam, China, and Brandon. I’m not sure I would have finished without them there cheering me on.  I think they had a pretty good time also.  China and Brandon even got to play Mall Cop while at Ironman.  And Photo Credit goes to both China and Brandon.

Mall Cops

IronFans less Pam

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ironman Lake Placid 2016

Leading up to race
In July of 2015, with some urging from friends I decided to enter Ironman Lake Placid.  I know what you are thinking, didn’t I say “I would never do another Ironman race” after I finished the last one.  I may have said that, but then when all my other friends were signing up without me I got caught up in the “missing out on fun” delusion.
Lucky for me, in November I changed jobs and was able to quit traveling every week, so I had time to start my training.  For the first time in my Ironman history, I was not injured, so I had big plans for this race.  With coaching from my good friend Bill “the Godfather” Peterson, I began my training journey to race day.
All my training was done with friends, some old and some new, most of us were on the same journey to Lake Placid, some were just out there having fun.  We had good training days and bad training days, and none of us were in sync.  Do you know what the good thing about not being in sync was? There was always someone ready to talk me off the ledge when I was having a bad day and I in return would do the same for them, when they had a bad day.  It’s interesting how close you become to friends when you spend hours and hours suffering together.  Everything that happens becomes a big joke and free game for hours and hours of ridicule.  Just remember, what happens during the workout becomes common knowledge and you will never live it down.  Everyone ends up with multiple nicknames, too many to list and many of the stories of how they came to be would be a blog post in itself.
The Crewe
So my training moved along, I stayed on plan with help of a “crewe” of training partners who talked me off the ledge too many times.  Overall though, this was the best Ironman training I have ever done and I was looking forward to a good race.
Just another training day
Oh, but then nothing ever goes as planned.  My daughter informed me that she was pregnant, and guess what day she was due on? Yep, that’s right, she was due on race day!  I began freaking out, devising plans for everyday of the week up through race day.  There would be a 3 day window that would make me miss the race, I hoped that she would have the baby early, but it was doubtful since this was her first baby.
Race day was approaching fast, with just 10 days until I would be standing on the starting line.  Finally a little good luck, I found out that Jade would be induced the day before I had planned to head to Lake Placid.  I quickly went into mom mode, making arrangements to leave a day later and stay with Jade and the baby an extra day and make sure she would have help while I was gone.  Everything went as planned with the birth of my first granddaughter, Emersyn Ray, she showed up pink and healthy with a full head of hair.  Both momma and baby were doing great. 
Seeing the Guys off on Tuesday morning
Jade and Emersyn
My daughter China drove me to the airport early Wednesday morning and just before I got out of the car, she showed me multiple videos from my family telling me good luck, one in particular, from my niece Shayna,  brought me to tears. Those videos made my day, I can’t thank everyone enough for sending them.

I caught a flight to Buffalo and was picked up by my friend John at the airport and finished the drive to Lake Placid with him.  When I got to Lake Placid another video came in, and you won’t believe who it was from, wait for it… Swiftwick.  The company that makes my favorite socks, sent me a video of them saying good luck, it was such a great surprise.  China had contacted them and asked them to wish me luck and they did, that just goes to show what a great company it is, I can’t believe they took time to make the video and send it.

Race Week
In Lake Placid I was staying at Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn, it’s a great little motel, right on the run course, I would be passing it 4 times during the race.  I had many friends staying there as well. We would spend the 4 days leading up to the race, training, eating and sitting outside our rooms, which encompassed the entire wing of the motel, talking every night.  It was like an ongoing party.
The ongoing party at Devlins
There was one thing that plagued me though, since Emersyn arrived both Jade and China were not with me, China stayed home to help Jade with the baby.  So in turn, I had no family there to help with all the support tasks, and also to lean on when the nerves hit.  I was lucky though to have such great friends with me.  I have to give a big shout out to the Germer family for stepping up and taking care of all the support tasks for me. They grabbed my clothes at the start of the race, and picked up my bike and bags during the race.
My Ironman Support Family

The 4 days leading up to the race, we swam, we ran, we biked, we ate and we had ice cream every night.  Those days we spent swimming in Mirror Lake were refreshing and calming, just being in the lake, gave me piece of mind. 
Our first practice swim in Mirror Lake
Well, except for the first swim, I finished the swim, and was standing on the dock, when Mike “Wildman” Hovatter came swimming up.  As he was bobbing in the water he yelled, I need some help.  We all thought he was joking with us, then his head slid under the water and bobbed back to the top, all of a sudden we all yelled “are you joking?”, and he said, “NO!” and slipped under the water again.  Jeff jumped into the water, grabbed him and dragged him to shore.  He had gotten a cramp as soon as he stopped swimming and couldn’t kick.  The experience was scary and funny at the same time.  We were all just standing there thinking he was joking and the poor guy was drowning.
Mike giving us a tip before our swim
Don't worry Mike, we will save you
We took pictures at the famous rock one morning before the swim, we walked around the town watching all the people and all the dogs, it is a very dog friendly event.

All the Zilla's at the Rock
The Three Amigo's back again
One of the furry friends
We checked in for the race, picked up our swag, shopped at the ironman store, checked out the expo, got active release therapy at the expo, oh, and I can’t forget getting cornered by the guy selling electrical therapy units.  He was quite a salesman.  I was sitting there trying it out, and Russ was right next to me, he thought we were married and was going to give us a good deal, but then he found out we were just friends, the deal wasn’t as good then.  Then John comes over and sits down in the chair on the other side of me and he hooks him up too.  After a few minutes he decides since we are all friends he can give us a really good deal.  I felt like I was in an infomercial, if I bought right now, I could get two for the low price of only 500 dollars and he would throw in some “bonus accessories” too. I finally said that sounds great, I don’t have my credit card with me so I would have to come back, yep, you got it, I never went back.
Checking in
When it came to eating, we had lots of excitement during the week.  We ate at the Pickled Pig, the food took 90 minutes to get and then it was awful.  Three of us ordered shrimp tacos, and when they came out there were 5 shrimp split between 9 tacos.  The fries were hard as rocks and potato skins awful.  Good thing we had Sketchy with us, he told the manager we didn’t want to pay for it and guess what?... we got it for free!  The next meal of the day was also eventful, we got to the restaurant and while standing waiting for our table they gave it away, right in front of us, so we went across the street to eat. They sat us outside right on Mirror Lake, it was beautiful.  We all had our 25 dollar vouchers for our Ironman dinner so we decided to order steaks. We got our food and noticed Sketchy wasn’t eating, he said his steak was tough, everyone else’s was good.  When the waitress came, Wildman told her Sketchy’s steak was not good, she was very apologetic, but Sketchy said it was fine, he would eat it.  At the end of the meal the waitress gave Sketchy his for free.  Of course, now the joke is, Sketchy never pays for a meal, he gets them all for free.
The shrimpless  shrimp tacos
Dinner on Lake

I have to stop right here and make the statement that Carolan was on what we call Scottish time all week, that means, if we say 7:00 am, she shows up at 7:03. The funny part is, Jeff would say 7:00, Carolan would roll up at 7:00, but we would have left at 6:55.  She would call us names that I probably shouldn’t type.  You have to understand Jeff was on a mission, no fun and games.  Someone said, “Jeff can do anything”, then someone else said “except relax”. I am leaving out the names to protect the innocent.  On the flip side of this, we also had people not taking this race serious at all, in fact, they had not taken anything serious for the last 7 months, I’m not going to say any names, but you know who you are Sketchy.
There was also a little excitement on Friday while sitting outside the ice rink.  Some little kids started throwing ice balls at Sketchy and Wildman, don’t worry, they defended themselves using only words and the little boys started looking through the cracks in the sign at them. I thought I was going to have to save Sketchy and Wildman, I think those little boys could have taken them.
The snow/ice that was being thrown at Wildman and Sketchy
Friday night brought the welcome meeting and it was also Jenna Germer’s, (my number one fan), birthday.  So we did a little celebrating at dinner and gave Jenna gifts that only the Crewe would pick out.  Jenna got a good laugh out of the gifts, one of which was slang term flash cards.  They brought many laughs for the rest of the week and they even prompted a few new terms to be created.  Such as, Gufurting: Farting after eating GU.
Jenna opening her Slang Flashcards
The night was fun filled while sitting in the grass waiting for the welcome meeting to start, the rain started, Sketchy and I ran for cover, finding a picnic table to climb under, while Wildman ran into the Johnny on the spot, of course, Jeff rolled up in the blanket we were sitting on. You know what’s coming, yes Godfather walked up as the rain was ending and saw us on the ground under the table, and we will never live that down. Wildman however told us how the Johnny was the best smelling port a john he had ever been in, yes we did, we all went in it to check out the smell and it smelled just like Tricks cereal. 

Waiting for meeting to start before the rain came
Out of the rain
Once again we were waiting for the meeting to start and Russ saw Mike Reilly walk up behind us, I jumped at the chance to get a picture with him.  He was very gracious and even chatted with me about other Ironman races I have done.
Me and Mike Reilly
Saturday quickly came and it was time to fill our transition and special needs bags, and check our bikes in.  Filling my bags, I checked, double checked and triple checked the bags, then I took photos of the contents, so that when I started freaking out later I could look at the pictures to make sure everything was there.

Bike Bag

Run Bag
Before checking our bikes in, we went to the pre-race meeting which was on the oval next to the finish line.  It was pretty hot and sitting there in the sun on those metal bleachers I started to get over heated and feeling sick. Of course we were in the top row, so I had to walk through the crowd down the bleachers and then down the oval to get to some open air, while everyone stared at me. I bet they would have clapped if I had puked right there.   After standing in the shade for the rest of the meeting, I started to feel a little better, but then the mental freak-out started to hit.  I doubted I could do it, I mean, I was just sitting in the heat and I was getting sick, how the heck was I going to finish this race. 

Racking Bike

Ready to Race

Bike Transition and finish line
I was having a panic attack in my head, but trying to be calm in front of everyone, I didn’t want anyone to know how freaked out I was getting.  Everyone was invited to a brunch that afternoon at a house some of the team was renting, and all I could think was “don’t get there and start crying because you are freaked out!”  In my head I felt like a poser,  I was at the race with 19 friends who are all incredibly talented and it always seems that no matter how hard I work, I am always running in the their shadows.  I kept telling myself, that I have my own goals and not to worry about anyone but myself.  Once you start freaking out, it’s really hard to reason with yourself.  My brain is my worst enemy, I needed to quit thinking about it and just do it.  I mean where could I go to race that was more beautiful than this. 

White Face Mountain

Mirror Lake
I made it through brunch without a tear, the food was great, I have to give a big shout out to Andrea and Chrissy for putting the work in to make it a great afternoon with food and friends.
Brunch at the team house
It also helped that I was getting photos from home of Emersyn, Ella and Bruno, so I knew all was well at home. China and Jade texted me and assured me I would be fine, that they believed in me. My Crewe of friends were also great, reassuring me that I had done all the right training and this was just the cherry on the top.
Emmy and Bruno

Ella protecting Emmy

Emmy Sleeping

The Crewe hanging out
It was Saturday night and was time to put on our race numbers. This year many of us had rub on tattoos, called tri tats rather than a black Sharpe.  You had to apply them by taking off the clear plastic cover, putting them on your arm and wetting it with a wash cloth. So you couldn’t really do your own, you had to have a tattoo artist.  Well, I’m not sure what to say about my tattoo artist other than I had to fire her. Let’s just say that she will never live her mad tattoo skills down.
Fired Tattoo Artist
My Tattoo
We had so many good luck notes on social media, we could hardly keep up with them, everyone was glued to their phones reading them.  Well except me, I was glued to my phone looking at baby pictures.
Well wishes before the race

Peace Out Gram!
The Race
Sunday came with an early wake up and a walk to transition to check on our bikes.  We put air in our tires, filled our bike bags with food, dropped our special needs bags and headed back to our rooms. Of course we spent a lot of time in the bathroom for the next hour then headed to the starting line.
Walking to the Swim Start
At the lake we pulled on our wetsuits and headed into the water, the water was warmer than the air and covered with a dense fog.  We could not see the buoys from the beach.
Ready to hit the water
The Pro’s took off and we watched as they came across the beach for the second lap.  That’s when Jeff, Carolan and a few of the other fast people took off. The rest of us filtered into the crowd at our estimated swim times.  Ray, Kyle, Mike and I were all together. I don’t think you can call any of us fast swimmers. We inched our way down to the water and headed out into the fog. I thought I was swimming to the outside, but I must have been way outside, because after about 10 minutes of swimming I see a paddle from a kayak motioning me in another direction, I was way off course in the fog. I got myself back on track, but there were so many people in the water that it was like a feeding frenzy.  It looked like someone threw food in the water and a million fish were fighting for it, and it felt like we were swimming in the spin cycle of a washing machine.  I have never in my life swam in those conditions.  I can’t tell you how many times I was hit, kicked and pushed.  

The good news was I didn’t really get swam over, so I started in the correct wave for my speed.  I made it through the first lap, but near the end was being passed by the swimmers that started in front of me and were already finishing their second lap.  My time was about where I wanted it, and I had thoughts of actually being on track.  Of course the second lap didn’t go as planned, I seemed to get pushed even more and ended up swimming four minutes slower than my first lap.  My overall time though was still much faster than any other Ironman race I had done, so I came out feeling pretty good. Although, the next day I looked at my Garmin and I had swam 2.67 miles.  You would think that 2.4 would be far enough, but no, I had to swim more.
An now it starts
One fact I need to mention, Jeff Germer killed the swim and won the award for First Out Of The Water. It was an awesome swim.
The weather forecast for the day was a high of 80 with low winds.  So I was ready for a good bike day. I headed into the transition, where there were so many people in the tent that I was having problems getting help.  Finally a girl ran over and got me water and she grabbed my stuff so I could head out. Just outside the tent I stopped for sunscreen and pulled up my shirt for her to get my lower back. I’m noting this because you will find out later how important that is. I ran to the bike racks and a volunteer was waiting with my bike ready to go, I grabbed it and ran to the bike mount line and took off down the steep hill while hearing voices cheering for me.  It was my Ironman family, the Germers, their cheers put a smile on my face.
Coming out on the bike
Soon I was climbing and climbing, it still felt cool, but there was definitely a strong wind, the weather forecast was not on point. I was still feeling good and riding a good pace. I hit the down hill and was going over 40 mph.  My bike started shaking because a cross wind was grabbing at my wheel, I got a little concerned and decided to ride my brakes the rest of the way down. Next was the 14 mile out and back section, which is nice because I saw a lot of friends in that section.  Greeting everyone was great, the smiles I got from Godfather, and the rest of the crewe all helped my mental state.  There is something about suffering with friends that makes it a little easier.  I got through the first 38 miles and made the turn out of Keene to start 18 miles of climbing. I know this is gross to those of you who are not triathletes, but I pee’d on my bike and was happy about it, because it meant that I was still somewhat hydrated.  
It really warmed up after that though and I was starting to feel the effects.  I kept taking enduralytes and salt, eating and drinking, but I could feel a fatigue coming on in my legs.  I knew the feeling, I always get it when I get dehydrated, I was doing everything I could to drink and eat. I was pulling bbq Fritos out of my bike bag, because they always help when I need salt, but I dropped them, I almost cried, but I bucked and kept telling myself it was not the end of the world and to keep riding.
The lack of salt was wearing on me and no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to pee again for the rest of the ride. I made it through the Cherries and up the Bears to the cheers of Zilla families, I could pick everyone out because we had made green shirts for everyone supporting, so it gave me something to look for in the crowd.  I made the corner where Jenna and Kirsten were taking photos and headed to the oval to start my second lap.  The second lap was slower, not by a lot, but I was working hard, too hard most likely. At 90 miles my quads started cramping up and I could not stand, so I just geared down and kept spinning. By the time I hit the 18 mile climb on that second loop, I was starting to doubt my ability to finish the race. I was starting to plan my pity party.
I once again made it to the top of Papa Bear and there were still Zillas there cheering me on, I really needed it too, the families and just random people out there cheering for me gave me such a boost, I don’t know if I could do this without them.
Top of Pappa Bear
I rolled into transition and stepped off the bike, but when I did, my entire left leg cramped up, I just caught myself from falling and some volunteers ran over.  I told them to leave me alone, it was just a cramp.  I worked it out and then gave them my bike and headed to transition.
Transition was not as crowded as the previous transition and I got my own volunteer, she helped me with everything and got me out the door pretty quickly, I stopped once again to get sun screen and as I was standing there John came running out of the men’s tent. I headed out to the run, just a minute in front of him, but he quickly caught me.  I was thinking we could run together for a while, but it was getting ugly for me and I couldn’t keep up with him.
Sketchy caught me in front of Devlins
By the time we hit 6 miles, John was a mile in front of me.  I saw so many friends on the course, too many to list, but Godfather was who I was looking for, I have a connection with him on this course and I needed those sweaty hugs from him. I needed all the sweaty hugs I got along the way, but  No hugs for Carolan, Jeff and Carl, they were on a mission and I was not going to slow them down, it was a quick high five and we were gone.  Tyler was always a welcome sight, I could see him from a distance because of his size and he was killing it out there.  Carolan was smiling so much, I’m not sure she was even sweating, she was having such a good day.  I was so happy to see everyone out there, even Doug in all his scales. 

Zilla Scales
By mile 11, I was passing Devlin’s with all the Zilla families cheering me on, even Mike and Kathy Wever were there, they didn’t have a horse in the game, they just traveled up to support the club members racing.  I made it through lap one, passed Devlin’s again and was headed out for the last time. By mile 14, I knew it was going to get really ugly. I quickly started calculating in my head how fast I could walk the last 12 miles.  Once again I began with the pity party, “poor pitiful me, I trained so hard and everything went right, and I wasn’t injured, but here I was walking”.  I had to snap out of it, so I just kept looking for friends and tried to be as upbeat as I could, I talked to everyone as I passed them or they passed me, hoping that the conversation would keep me going.  I was feeling some really painful chaffing on my under carriage, I’m sure it had to be from me constantly pouring ice water down my shirt and it running down my shorts.  I needed Vaseline badly. I stopped at the medical tent at mile 17 and took a handful of Vaseline and stuck it right down my shorts.  I warned the lady that “it was not going to be pretty” and that she might want to turn around, but she said “honey, you have no idea what I have seen today”, what I did was nothing new to her.  Every water stop has Port-a-Johns and boy they made me want to run, they smelled so bad, I could hardly get past them without gagging.
On the run
I could hear some guys talking behind me, I knew one of them, Mark.  I quickly caught on to a conversation that I learned more about the day after the race.  The piece I picked up on was that the guy behind me had 6 months to live and he was going to live it to the fullest.
This is a truly great story.  An older man named Jim was racing at Lake Placid.  Well, this guy was a former US Navy pilot who had flown A-6 attack jets, a real Top Gun. He was married, but had no kids. He had finished 5 Ironman races before this one.  He also has brain cancer with only 6 months to live. He said he was going to prove the doctors wrong and beat the brain cancer.  He had Chemo on the Monday before the race and had to take 10 pills during the race.  He had a great attitude and was talking to everyone. He made a deal with my friend Mark, he would make sure Mark made it to the end of the race under the cutoff time, and in return Mark would make sure he took his meds on time.  Well they both made it to the finish. Once again, I had no reason for a pity party.
I was now at mile 18 and I was getting closer to both John and Godfather, I didn’t think there was any way I would catch them, but I was trying not to lose any ground.  It looked like a Zombie death march out there, most everyone was walking, plus some of the temporary lighting had gone out and it was pitch black on the road, so you could just barely make out the shadows of people.  Oh, and the bugs, I ate plenty of them along the way, also.
By mile 21, I was back into a more lighted area and I saw Ray coming toward me, his son was walking/running with him.  We yelled hellos and Ray said he was going to make it and I assured him he would.  There is a whole other story that goes with Ray, let me see if I can quickly tell it.
Ray signed up for the race with the rest of us and started training with the “Crewe”. During a Thanksgiving morning run, Ray had some chest pains, but of course, being as crazy as the rest of us, he wouldn’t go to the hospital.  Weeks later he had a heart test and was shipped directly to the hospital for 5 bypass heart surgery.  We thought his Ironman race was over.  He proved us wrong and by the end of February he was back to training, and training fast. He had 5 months till Ironman day and he was determined to make it.
On the second lap of the run, Ray’s son jumped in to help his dad make it to the finish line, but he didn’t have on running shoes, so Kathy Wever took her shoes off and gave them to him to wear, everyone wanted to see Ray finish this race.  It’s hard to express in words how incredible Ray’s journey was.
So here I was looking over at Ray, who was so determined and once again telling myself to buck up and quit my whining. No one but me cares if I make my goal time; this is about the journey, not the finish time.

I made it to mile 24, which is right next to our hotel and Kirsten came running up next to me and walked with me on the hill, she caught me up on who had finished and who was still out on the course. She was so excited, Amy, her mom, had already finished with her fastest time ever.
At mile 25, Kyle came running past me, he had been chasing me since the bike and I had a feeling he would pass me.  He was the dark horse of the race, no one was sure how he would do, but we knew from training that he could kill the run and that is exactly what he was doing.
Mile 25.5, I was almost there, Jenna came out on the road and stayed with me until the oval, she was excited and smiling and I was so glad she was there.  I missed my family being there and knew they were having a watch party at home, but I needed some love.  That is exactly what I got from Jenna, I will be forever grateful to here for that.
Watch Party

More watch party
I hit the oval and did the best imitation of running that I could, I was high fiving all the hands hanging over the sides of the railings, I came across the line with my head held high. A volunteer caught me, covered me with a space blanket, gave me water, my finisher shirt and hat and asked me how I was.  I must have looked awful because he was really intent on getting me sat down, he even bypassed the photo booth and headed me over to the food. John and Jeff were waiting for me at the food, then Russ walked up, again I must have looked bad because Russ started taking off his jacket to give to me, but just as he did my bag with my jacket arrived and I put on a thick hoodie. My catcher brought me French fries and pizza and kept asking if I was ok.  I was really fine, just tired, I just wonder how bad I looked.
As I was eating my fries and chatting with everyone, I heard Mark cross the line, followed by Mike. Mark came over sat down, started to talk to us, then said, “I need medical help” and passed out with his eyes open.  It was really scary, I thought he was dead, I kept talking to him, trying to get him to say something.  Medical came over, put him in a wheel chair and took him to the medical tent. We moved out of the way so they could move Mark and while I was up, I got my photo and got another with Wildman. 

We made it!

Then went back to the table and saw all Marks stuff, I said we should go to medical and stay with him, and find his dad.  Now this is either funny or sad, but the guys said, “oh, we can just take his stuff to medical and leave it, they can figure out the rest from his bib number. We need to go get massages.”  So Russ took Marks stuff and dropped it off and Wildman, John and I went to get massages. I wanted to yell, “this is wrong!”, but I was too tired to.
We all had our massages, but when I was finished I was so cold that I laid down on a table and they covered me up, they  kept trying to take me to medical, but I wouldn’t go, I just needed to warm up.
While I lay there, I heard the lights shut off and the announcement of 12 am. I kept hoping Ray made it in.
I finally got off the table and walked back to my room wrapped in three space blankets, all the while thinking, “I never want to do this again, my Ironman career ends here”. 
I sent a quick text to my kids telling them I made it and that I would talk to them the next day. I had a hot shower and screamed while taking it because when the water hit my chaffed areas, it hurt so bad I could hardly stand up. My head hit the pillow and I was dead to the world until my alarm went off 4 hours later.  I had to get my butt down to the Ironman store so I could purchase a finishers jacket before they were all gone.
I looked at all the Facebook posts, and watched a video of my kids watching me finish while my 4 day old granddaughter had her foot kicked up on the laptop, watching too. I call it the social media “aftershock”, it brought tears to my eyes reading all the posts from friends and family.

I went to breakfast to find out that Ray had finished, they turned out the lights as he was nearing the oval, but he ran around and through the finish line.  The medical guy that caught him, saw his scar because his jersey was unzipped and asked him about it. Ray told him he had a 5 bypass heart surgery 6 months ago and the guy said, “you deserve this!” and got him his finisher medal.  Ray was sure he would not be an official finisher, but that morning we opened the paper and he was listed as the FINAL finisher. Ray’s story is the Cinderella story of IMLP 2016.
Ray at the finish line
I saw Mark at breakfast also and found out that he was just fine, that was funny, because I was sure he had died, but at least now I didn’t feel so bad about leaving him in medical all alone. 
We discussed our races, the weather conditions, and all of our injuries, and the award for the worst injury goes to Sketchy for his sun burned tramp stamp, I’m pretty sure it’s a 2nd degree burn.
The latest in  Ironman tramp stamps
A few final notes, my mouth was so sore I could hardly eat for a couple days, it was weird, but Wildman had the same issue.  I looked it up and found that it is very common in endurance races for that to happen, there are many different theories on why it happens though.  I have to Thank everyone who cheered me on, especially my Super fan, Jenna, and all my virtual fans at home.  Thanks to my family for supporting me through the training and the race. Thanks to Emersyn Ray, for making her entrance before the race. Thanks to the Crewe and the Zilla’s for all the long training days and talking me off the ledge on so many of them. Last, but not least, thanks to Dr A+, aka Arthur Langston, for getting me through the hamstring issue that plagued me the last 6 weeks of training.
So I am now an Ironman to the 4th power, I never saw that coming…
Will I do another Ironman???

Photo credit:  Kirsten and Jenna