Monday, October 29, 2018

Ironman Louisville 2018

I call this “the Ironman that should not have been”. I planned not to write a race report for this one, for so many reasons, but then I thought, well I need something to remind me of things I should not do.  Maybe if it’s on paper, I won’t make the same mistake again for the 7th time.  Just maybe, 6 times will teach me a lesson. 

After my last IM, I proclaimed my retirement.  So when the Crewe said that they were doing IM Louisville and IM Arizona, I said “no way, you’re not bullying me into doing another IM”. I held my ground for months.  I trained with them, but did not enter, I was just there to support their effort.  The subtle bullying continued and I finally made a proclamation that I believed, would not come true.  I said if general entry was still open on August 1st, I would enter. I was sure that would not happen, it never happens in IM.  Of course this year of all years, the race did not fill up and I was caught in my own web. Well you know how the story ends, I enter the race. 

I continued to train, even threw in 4 sprint triathlons for fun. Things seemed to be going well and then in the last month before race day, life kept getting in the way and my training started to plummet.  My runs were slowing down, my bikes were staying flat and my swim was more of a float than a swim.  It was like I peaked a month too soon.  I was really regretting my decision. I dreaded the swim, worried that I would drown, thought my bike would be ok, but that the run could go south fast. Then 3 weeks out my knee started hurting and swelling and just not cooperating at all.  Too late, I spent the money, a lot of money and I was going even if I didn’t think I would come out alive. 

Before I knew it, race weekend was here. I guess when you don’t enter until 10 weeks out, time really does fly. All the Crewe was pumped and ready to go, everyone was signed up as a Zilla to help with the team competition. Lots of newbies were going and most of them were young fast movers.  More women than usual were entered, Liz, Tanya, Donna and I, with a host of 10 boys. We had a good team, and we all needed to work hard to win the team competition. 

We had tons of support, lots of family and friends showed up to cheer us on. So many people supporting us at home, sending good luck messages and planning to track us on race day using the Ironman app.  All I could think about was letting everyone down with a crappy finish time and even doubting that I could finish under the time cutoff. It was only 16.5 hours instead of the usual 17 hours. 

We rolled into Louisville on Friday, checked in at race headquarters and had some dinner.  Saturday we were up early and out checking our bikes into transition and dropping our transition and special needs bags. The weather was near perfect on Saturday, even a little cool, but the forecast for Sunday was showing rain, but a little warmer.  We were all stressing about what clothes we packed, were they the right clothes to cover the forecast.  The river was rolling the current was moving fast, but we were assured that the flood gates would be closed in the morning and we would not have much current at all. Dinner came early then off to bed, hopefully I could get some sleep.  I laid in bed and looked out the window at the river and the swim buoys, wondering just how it would go in the morning and thinking “just get through tomorrow and you can go back into retirement”. My first goal was to finish under the cutoff time, alive. My stretch goal was to finish faster than I did the first time I competed at Louisville, which was in 2010. My dream goal was to break 14 hours, and that was a true dream.  

Funny thing with goals, Mother Nature can throw every goal out the window.  Even worse is when your own body throws your goals into the trash. 

I woke up Sunday to a heavy rain, I got dressed in my tri kit and wetsuit, put on a hoodie, hat and gloves then put a trash bag over the top of everything to try and stay dry.  I headed out to transition with Sketchy in tow, we checked our bike tires and found Jeff and Phil.  We stood under the highway bridge with Jeff and Phil and their wives, hoping to stay dry just a little longer. I have to give credit to these Ironwives, I’m not sure I would have stood in the cold rain for 3 hours if I didn’t have to race myself. 

We had to get in the lines based on our swim times, Jeff was up with the Pro’s in the under an hour line, while Sketchy, Phil and I were in the 1:20 – 1:30 line.  Sketchy and Phil are faster, but we decided to hang together in a middle ground.  The good thing was that they could hold my place in the line when I ran back and forth to the Johnny about a hundred times. This is no exaggeration, just ask them.  

Speaking of the Johnny, I met a really nice guy while I stood in line, he grew up in St Louis and now lives in Louisville, he was volunteering with his son.  I said I worked at Boeing and he said, he flew a 737 for UPS.  He even let me cut in line in front of him, I guess the dancing around while I talked to him clued him in that I may not make it to the Johnny in time.  While walking back to the line I heard a guy say that the swim was being changed and shortened due to the extremely fast current. I stopped in mid step and asked if that was true and he said yes.  I took this info back to my group and we all did a little happy dance.  Soon the news was moving through the crowd, most people were happy, except for Jeff, he was crying.  Of course he was crying, he has been petitioning for a much longer swim, he calls it the equilateral, you divide 140.6 by 3 and all the elements are the same distance. In fact, if we would have done the original swim course Jeff would have been the only person in the Crewe that would have finished the swim.  Just so you know how fast Jeff is, he was 1st out of the water in his age group of 114 men and 27th out of the water overall, he beat some of the pro’s out of the water.  The new distance was just 9/10th of a mile, in very strong current.

The problem with the change in the swim course is that it made the race start over an hour late. We stood waiting in the freezing cold rain for over 3 hours, and even though we had trash bags over us, we were still shivering the entire time. When we finally made it to the dock and were told to jump in, it was almost a relief to hit the water. The water was so much warmer than the air, my feet and hands felt so good under the water I didn’t want to start swimming, but I did. I really didn’t have a choice, the current sucked me into the middle of the river, in what felt like only seconds. I had problems staying on course, the current was washing me further out with every stroke.  The lifeguards in kayaks and on boats were yelling for me to cut in, I was trying, but the current kept pushing me the other direction.  I swam as hard as I could towards the stairs where volunteers were pulling people out. I finally was in reach of the shore, a volunteer standing waist deep in water on the stairs reached out and grabbed my arm, then yanked me right out of the water, pulled my wetsuit zipper and propelled me forward.  I actually wanted to the kiss the guy, but there was not time for that. I was just saved from washing down the river, and the only thought rattling around inside my head was to run to transition so I could ride my bike in the pouring down rain while shivering from the cold wind. Life doesn’t get better than that. I have to wonder what normal people do for fun. 

It was my longest transition ever, well at the time, because my second transition was even worse.  As I ran toward the tent a volunteer handed me my bag, and I headed to the door of the tent, shivering all the way.  Once in the tent there were no chairs available so I was standing trying to get wet clothes off and dry ones on without getting the sand I was standing in, in my bike shorts. I was so cold my hands wouldn’t work, I had to ask a volunteer to help me get my shirt over my head.  I wanted to eat the peach cup I had in my bag, but I couldn’t get it open because my hands were so cold.  I finally pulled it open with my teeth and ate it.  I got my helmet on and ran out to my bike while pulling on my gloves. Let me tell you, it’s not easy pulling bike gloves on with wet hands.  I pulled my bike off the rack and headed to the mount line. On the way out, I heard Pam yelling to me, she told me Sketchy was right in front on me. As I neared the mount line I saw Godfather cheering me on. I really appreciated all the support from friends, I was in need of kind words at that point.  I was on the verge of tears, not because I was tired, I was just so cold I didn’t want to do it anymore, I just wanted to get dry and warm.  I had to tell myself that I had never quit and this wasn’t going to be the first time that I did.  I didn’t want to be called a quitter and did not want to go home and have to tell all my family and friends that I gave up.  It was the angle and devil on my shoulders, one saying don’t give up, you are tough, the other saying just quit, go get warm, it will feel so good. So I just smiled to keep from crying and kept going.  

I took off on the bike, wishing I would have put tights on, my legs were so cold and had turned fire engine red. I had put on a vest and arm warmers, so my core was ok, mostly it was just my legs.  I also put a stocking cap on under my helmet, I think that helped a lot too. It was only a matter of minutes before I was soaking wet again, maybe there was no real reason to put dry clothes on. It did feel good for those few minutes though.
I rode along through rolling hills, keeping a moderate pace because there was a lot of standing water on the roads and I was trying to maneuver around the puddles where I could.  After 20 miles I was on the loop, the loop had some pretty challenging hills.  They would not have been so bad if I could push the down hills, but because of the rain it was just too dangerous in my mind to do that.  Ambulances screamed by me three times during the bike and I saw multiple crashes and people off the road with mechanicals.  At about mile 54 I passed Liz, I didn’t realize it was her until I heard her yell my name. We passed back and forth a couple times and at the special needs bags, Liz stopped and I kept going.  At mile 60 I was coming into LaGrange for the second time and could see Sketchy up ahead.  As I rode through town I heard people yelling my name, and saw Jennifer Miller, then Erica and Jay Hunt cheering me on, I heard someone else, but didn’t see them, later I found out it was Pam and Jenna.  I finally caught up to Sketchy on the other side of town.  We started riding together, well sort of.  We tried to keep just out of drafting distance, but sometimes we just rode side by side, not really worrying about getting caught.  I mean as slow as we were going, no one really cares, we aren’t going to win anything. 
Soon we were nearing the end of the second lap and the rain was down to a light drizzle. Of course it was still cold and at one point I turned into the wind and it felt like I was getting hit by sleet. I kept thinking it can’t be sleeting, it’s October.  After what seemed like forever we hit the 90 mile mark and were heading back to transition.  It was mostly flat with a slight elevation drop all the way in, I felt like my life was changing for the better. Oh, but then tragedy struck, my right knee started hurting.  I was behind Sketchy and he was holding around a 19 mph pace, I didn’t know how long I could keep that up, I knew I couldn’t do it for those last 18 miles. I yelled up to him and told him to go on, not to wait, but he slowed a little and I stayed with him.  We finally rolled in to transition where we saw Godfather cheering for us.  I gave the volunteer my bike, and hobbled towards the tent, where a volunteer handed me my bag.  In the tent, a heater was blowing warm air, what a blessing that was. Again there were no open chairs. I finally saw one that had cups turned over and water sitting on it, I moved the cups and sat down, heck I was already wet. I just hoped it was actually water and someone hadn’t pee’d on the chair. At least it was right next to the heater vent, and it felt so good.  Once again my hands were so cold I was having problems getting my clothes off.  A volunteer came over and helped me, thank goodness for the awesome volunteers.  It took forever to get changed and then I realized I didn’t have my running gloves in my bag, I quickly asked myself out loud, “is it better to go with no gloves than wet bike gloves”, the girl next to me said no gloves, so that’s what I did.  I also grabbed a trash bag and stuck it in my pocket just in case I got really cold later in the run.  I was wearing my tri kit with a long sleeve shirt over it and my stocking cap with a ball cap over it. I hoped that would be enough to keep me warm, but not too warm.  

As I ran out, Godfather told me that Sketchy was right in front of me. I caught up with him in the first half mile, his knee was hurting and he said to go on, he was going to walk most of the run.  As I ran on, my knee was hurting, but I kept telling myself it was just from the cold rain during the bike and as soon as it warmed up, it would stop hurting.  I saw Doug Havlin, he came out and started running next to me, telling me to stay on pace, that I could do it, I really needed the encouragement.  After mile 4 my stomach started to hurt, which took my mind off my knee hurting, but by the next water stop, my only option was to stop in the Johnny, I was in there so long, 3 different people knocked on the door.  I know I lost over 10 minutes in there.  When I came out I felt a little better.  As I moved forward, I could see Sketchy up ahead of me, he had passed me while I was busy “baking a cake”. I caught up to him at the next water stop, we walked through it together then I took off again.  I made it to mile 11, then my knee said enough.  I started doing a speed walk, trying to run every once in a while, but really it was a death march.  I saw Josh, Andrew, Sean, and Jeff passing me heading the other direction, how I wished I was in their position and not mine, they were all many miles in front of me.  

I heard people talking about the finish line and how long it would be open.  Since the race started late, we all hoped that they would keep the finish line open later, I mean we were given 16.5 hours, no matter what…Right?  I heard all kinds of ideas on what they would do, but nothing other than speculation.  At mile 14 I asked a volunteer and he told me it would be open until 12:45 am.  I did a quick calculation in my head, based on my official start time which was 9:30, I only had 15 hours and 15 minutes to finish before the cutoff.  I finished Chattanooga in 2017 in 15 hours and 5 minutes, my mind was screaming, “how am I going to finish this before the cutoff”, I really didn’t think I would make it. The thought was really mentally bringing me down, but I just kept telling myself that I wasn’t a quitter.  I got a few more miles under my belt and Phil caught up to me, on his second lap, he walked with me for about a minute and gave me a pep talk then he took off, he only had 3 miles to go. I soon saw Jeff, he stopped and tried to give me his vest, I guess I looked really cold.  I said no, I didn’t need it, but Jeff took it off and forced me to take it. He put it on me and zipped it up, my hands just weren’t working. That vest was a life saver, I will never be able to repay Jeff for his act of kindness.  So Jeff headed in for his last 2 miles, while I headed out for my last 12 miles. 

I kept telling myself to just move forward and I did, then I saw “The Bus” the one that picks up everyone who doesn’t make the cutoff and drives them back to the finish.  I almost had a mental breakdown.  I knew I was in jeopardy of being sucked up by the bus, so I just kept moving as fast as I could.  Then the slight drizzle turned to a downpour and all I could do was thank Jeff for giving me his vest. As I kept moving I worried that my friends on the course behind me would not make it either, we were all cutting it way too close.
All of the sudden a little black kitten ran into the road and I stopped to pet it, I didn’t have time, but I thought this cat needs some love as much as I do right now, so I gave him 30 seconds and kept moving. Then I kept thinking what if he gets hit by a car, I hope he is ok, worrying about him took my mind off my own troubles. 
I was finally on my way back to the finish line, I only had 3 miles left, but I wasn’t moving fast, I was keeping about a 16 minute pace. All of a sudden I hear a motor and I see “The Bus” drive by filled with people.  I was talking to a guy I caught up with and we both breathed a sigh of relief, we knew the bus wasn’t coming for us.  I soon heard the cheering of the finish line, and I knew it was right around the corner.  As I came around the corner I could see all the lights and I stepped onto the red carpet knowing that I had made it.  Jeff and Pam were at the fence cheering, I stopped and gave him his vest and straightened out my clothes hoping that I would as least get a good finish photo.  I ran through the finish line and threw up my arms, glad to be finished, and I then realized the rain had stopped. The rain stopped in the last mile of the race, I’m not sure what that means, but I think someone in the sky was getting a good laugh.  

At the end of most Ironman races I have been a little emotional, really on the verge of tears at the finish line, the funny thing was, this time I wasn’t.  I was just done, not proud of the accomplishment, not happy about it, just done.  I don’t know if Mother Nature beat me, or if I just mentally checked out. After getting my finisher swag and having my photo taken, I sat down in a chair at the end of the finish line and waited for Sketchy and Donna to finish, I knew they were behind me and I hoped that neither of them were on the dreaded “BUS”.  Jeff and Pam were standing behind me and Jeff gave me a chocolate milk, it tasted like gold, well what I think gold must taste like.  We waited for what seemed like hours, but it was really only about 8 minutes, and Sketchy and Donna came in within a minute of each other.  I was happier for them than I was about my own finish.  

We all went to the food tent and ate French fries and drank chocolate milk.  We saw most of the Crewe and we all talked about the great finishes everyone had.  We all rejoiced that our entire crew finished before the cutoff. 

Much more went on that night, but I won’t bore you with the mundane.  I finally made it to bed about 2 am, thinking I would sleep late, but we all know that never actually happens. The race was over, 6 Ironman races under my belt.  If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would do 6 Ironman races in 8 years, I would have said you are crazy, but here I am, I’m not sure how it happened, heck, I’m not even sure if I’m glad about it.  What really makes me happy is all the good friends I have made throughout this Ironman journey. All the people who believed in me, who cheered me on, who bullied me into races, who picked me up when I was down, who I’m sure would come and bail me out of jail in the middle of the night if I needed them to, all these people who have my back, they are my brothers and sisters from another mother and I have no words that are large enough to say Thank You.  So I’m just going to say this once and if it ever gets out I will deny it, but I love all of you insane people and that includes Russ!

Friday, May 25, 2018

IRONMAN Chattanooga 70.3 - LESS IS MORE

Oh where to begin on this race report.  I guess I need to start with how I ended up at Chattanooga 70.3 just months after finishing the Full IM there. 

So the Tri Club I belong to, Metro Tri Club, also known as Team Godzilla, chose the 70.3 IM at Chattanooga as the team event for the 2018 season.  After finishing the full IM just months before, I was not sure I would race because I knew how miserable the hills were on the run.  So what changed my mind, you ask, well 2 things, first, my daughter China said she planned to do it as her first Half Ironman race.  I know what you are thinking, at least if you know China, she hadn’t run a Tri longer than a sprint and she is going to do a half…hahaha, I laughed too.  Now that she was committed to racing, I couldn’t let her do it alone, your first half can be scary.  I still didn’t really want to race, but after reviewing the course maps, I realized that in the Half you didn’t have to run those awful hills that almost killed me in the full IM. So I was in, and China swore she was going to train for it.  I even gave her a training plan for a first timer. 

Fast forward to 20 weeks before the race and the start of the training plan. The training plan assumes you have a base already down.  Of course China did not have a base, oh she had run a few times, swam once maybe and rode her bike on a few short easy rides.  So when the plan started, China did not, there was always a reason, she was tired, the weather was crappy, well that was true, but that doesn’t stop a real triathlete. Then she kept getting sick, she teaches in a pre-k class and caught everything the kids drug in to the class room. Still not a good enough reason not to be training. 

Fast forward again to 6 weeks before race day. China starts swimming once a week, of course her time is faster than mine on the very first swim. She runs once a week, sometimes twice, most runs between 2 and 6 miles, yes faster times than mine.  She rides once a week with the Cyclery Women’s ride, between 10 and 25 miles at a 15 mph or less, mostly less, average. 

Keep that remote in your hand, we have to fast forward again.  2 weeks out from the race, China rides 50 miles with a little over a 15 mph avg, without any problem.  Swims in lake in wetsuit one time and runs 3 miles on a hot day. That was about it.
Now it’s race week and China doesn’t seem to be nervous, she says, “well I can do the swim and the bike, and walk the run if I have to”.  Her only goal was to finish under the cutoff. 

The Crewe, that’s all the people I work out with, loads up the SUV’s with bikes, gear and food and heads out to Chattanooga.  The weather forecast shows severe thunderstorms the night before the race and all day on race day. We all hope for no rain on the bike, it would make the roads slick and dangerous, especially for a first timer. 
Friday night we pick up packets and sit in compression legs to relax a bit. We get dinner with the Crewe, running into teammates along the way.  Team Godzilla had 27 members at the race. It’s always so much more fun when there are lots of people you know at the race.

A Little Relaxation before the Big Race

Saturday, we drive the bike course, eat breakfast at an awesome diner, and then head to transition to drop off our bikes, hoping the thunderstorms don’t roll in.  China still seems pretty calm, it must have been youth because I would have been a mental wreck had I trained the small amount like she had.  We continuously joked about her “less is more” training plan.  She kept telling everyone that they were going to be jealous when she finished the race using “less is more”.  It gave us old people hope that we could still beat the kids because they took nothing seriously. 

China hasn't realize how hard this will be yet
Enjoying Ironman villiage

So we drove out to Ironman village and checked the bikes in. 

Zilla's racking bikes (photo credit: Jeanna Clark)

Oh and China asked me if I would come back out of the run course after I finished and help her finish the run, so there was some fear there, even if she wasn’t showing it. Then we all met at the team tent and got a group picture before dinner. 

Team Tent, ready for action (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

Team Godzilla, Locked and Loaded

Dinner was at the Big River Grill and it was fantastic, 14 of us were there and my niece Kayla and her husband Caleb came with us.  I have to give a big shout out here to Caleb, he was gracious enough to take our team photos and he is awesome at it. 
This was Kayla and Caleb’s first Ironman race and they were new at Ironfanning.  They did Awesome during the race, they were cheering us on at every transition and taking photos and video.

So I was feeling pretty good, but while sitting at dinner on Friday my back started hurting it just hit out of nowhere.  Saturday, I got a massage at Ironman village and it felt better, but by Sunday morning it was really hurting again, so much so that I couldn’t hold my arm over my head.  I had no idea how I was going to swim, or even put my arms in the aero bars during the bike. Pre-race always seems to have some malfunction for me. 

On Sunday,we were up early, China, John, Jeff and I headed to the transition to get our gear laid out and get on the bus, that would take us to the start of the race.  Traffic was awful and it took longer than expected to get there.  We were in a rush and I was worried about China’s gear, I wasn’t really paying enough attention to my gear setup, which would slow me down later when I realized what I had forgotten to do.  Of course I was on the verge of exploding and had to run to the Johnny, which caused us to loose each other in the crowd of 3000 athletes plus spectators. It took a while for us to find each other and head to the bus.  I was beginning to panic, I didn’t want China jumping into the river without me there watching her.  Once we were back together, China, John, Jeff, Kyle and I were all the bus and ready to get to the start. 

Zilla's ready to rock (photo credit: Jeanna Clark)

At the start we ran into more Zilla’s all in different places in the starting line. We had to line up based on our predicted swim time, so Jeff went right to the very front, but China, John, Bill, Kelly, Jeanna and I were all in the same group, so it was fun chatting before the gun went off.  I got my hug from Bill, I have raced Ironman with Bill so many times, If I don’t get hug from him, I’m not sure how I can finish the race.
The swim course takes you up river for about 200 meters then you cross the river and head down stream to the finish.  On Saturday we saw a guy trying to swim upstream and he wasn’t even moving, so of course we were all really worried about the upstream swim section. 

Swim Course

It wasn’t long and the pro’s were in the water and we could see them swimming by. 30 minutes later we were on the dock ready to jump in.  

I saw that China was nervous for the first time, she had tears in her eyes and I hugged her, told her to jump in, pull the neck of her wetsuit open to get some water in it and just take it slow and get into a good stroke pattern.  I said “stop and breast stroke for a while if you need to calm yourself down”.  She was working on being brave, but I could tell she was scared.  I had planned on trying to catch her on the bike and staying with her for the rest of the race, but I had not told her that.  I looked over at John and mouthed that I was going to stay with her during the race.  He gave me that “you are a good mom” nod. 
China and I jumped off the dock at the same time, but when I came back up to the surface, some guy jumps right on top of me.  He hit me hard in the arm, the good arm, I’m not sure if his knee hit me or his foot, but I really thought my arm may have been broken.  It knocked me deep under the water and I was fighting to get my head out of the water and away from the dock.  At that point, I was freaking out hoping China got off ok, as my head surfaced, I saw China already swimming quickly away from me. I just started swimming, thinking the whole time “how the heck am I going to finish this with my arm hurting so bad”.
What my arm looked like after the race

I took off and once I made it to the downstream section, I figured I could just float down if my arm kept hurting.  Funny, I didn’t even think about the bad arm, because the good arm hurt so much.  I swam under all three bridges all the while keeping an eye on all the kayaks in case China was hanging on to one of them, but I never saw her.  She was out of the water 6 minutes in front of me. 

Feeling relieved to be out of the water (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

I made it to the ladder, got swam over by a couple guys, I guess they really needed to get out of the water before me, but finally was out of the water.  Shout out to the volunteers on the ladders, they pulled me out unzipped my wetsuit and pulled it off my shoulders, in just a split second.  As I got out of the water I heard people cheering for me, I saw Jeff’s girls and then Kayla and Caleb.  I felt relieved that I had made it out of the water.  I ran straight to the wetsuit strippers and they had my suit off in seconds and I was running up the hill to transition.  That’s when I realized I forgot to hit my watch.  So when I looked at my watch I knew my swim time was wrong, but even so, it was still a good time for me.

Out of the Water (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
I ran into transition following Jeanna Clark, Tim Holland was just behind us and Mike Gonski was at his bike already.  China’s bike was gone so I knew she made it out of the water and was already out on the bike.

Running into T1 (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

My plan to be out of transition quickly faded, I was in such a frenzy when I was setting up in the morning, worrying about China having all her stuff and then making a mad dash to the Johnny, that I forgot to load the beano bag on my bike with all my food, so I had to do it in transition, it went pretty quickly though.  I headed for the bike mount line stopping to get sprayed down with sunscreen, btw, the volunteers double teamed me and I was coated with spray, the volunteers were great. I quickly got on my bike and took off. 
Bike Course Map, check out the elevation

I knew that there were two sets of railroad tracks that could take me out of the game in the first 8 or so miles, so I was watching for them.  I made it across both sections without a blowout or a lost water bottle. There were others, not so lucky at both sets of tracks. There must have been 50 lost water bottles on the ground.
I was riding at a very comfortable pace, not taxing myself much, staying around 17.5 mph.  It’s a beautiful bike course and there were so many people on it, that I was able to chat with other racers most of the time.  I kept riding wondering if I would catch up with China.  I am a faster rider than her for long distances, but she can smoke me in the short stuff.  I was really hoping she took my advice, when I told her not to go out too fast, because she would regret it later.  

I thought I saw her in the distance around mile 18, but there were several hills, so I didn’t catch up until mile 20.  When I pulled up next to her she was eating some shot blocks, I was glad to see she remember the advice we had all given her, about feasting on the bike.   She was in a good mood, even after multiple hills. I rode next to her for about 5 minutes and she said, “Mom, go on, I know you can ride a lot faster”, I told her that I had planned to try and catch her and finish the race with her. I got a smile out of that.  

So we rode more hills and finally came to the steepest of the hills. You turn a corner and BAM… you are hit with about a 12% climb, it’s not terribly long, but long enough to be really hard.  We saw a few people walking up the hill, but we planned to ride it.  China took off like a bullet, I was the tortoise, slow and steady.  China got to the top and slowed down and waited for me.  I rolled over the top and said “what the heck got into you”. She replied “I just wanted to get over it as fast as I could” and she did.  

Next up another water stop, it was starting to get hot so I told China to throw off any half bottles and grab cold full bottles at the water station.  I took the water I had left before the water station and squirted it all down China’s neck and back to cool her down.  We rolled through the stop without incident, China also grabbed a banana, but couldn’t get the peeling off, so she handed it to me, I peeled it and it handed back to her. She kind of had a Sherpa for the whole race. 

It wasn’t long and we hit mile 40 heading into Chickamauga, as soon as you get through town there is a 2ish mile climb, it doesn’t look big, but it is a grind, the good part is, there is a screaming downhill for a couple miles after it.  I did my best to pull China up the hill, to my surprise she did extremely well on the hill, I didn’t hear one complaint.  We rode past a guy who asked if we were friends, because we had the same kit on, China said “no that’s my mom”, the guy says “that is awesome”. We felt pretty Awesome.  

Heading into T2, happy to be finished with the bike (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
We killed the downhill, rolled through the last water station and made the turn for the last 11 miles back to transition.  China started to pick up the pace there and we rolled into transition in good time.  Just as we rolled up, we saw Kayla and Caleb and Caleb was getting some good shots of us.  Keith Timmins rolled up, just as we were dismounting our bikes and the three of us ran into transition together.  

We both have our tongues sticking out, total concentration (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
We were pretty quick through transition, I even stopped at the Johnny while China was stretching her calf that had started to hurt.  We both got sprayed down with sunscreen again, and were out on the run in about 6 minutes.  

Run Course
Heading out of T2 to the Run course (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

Run Out (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We came across our family and all our teammate’s families, all cheering for us and taking pictures.  It didn’t seem long before we hit the big uphill into the sun.  It was hot, way hotter than we had anticipated.  So I told China we would walk the hill, we walked, but for only about 30 seconds then started running again.  We were already in need of a water stop, the first stop seemed like it would never come.  We got to the stop, I grabbed ice and poured it down China’s sport bra and in her hat, then did the same for myself, we grabbed water and some food and headed back out. 

I have to stop here and tell you, I really thought that China’s run would be a death march, but she was running a slow, steady pace, and she never complained.  If you have ever run with China, when something is hard she complains and gets angry, she is mad at the world and doesn’t want you to speak to her or even look at her.  I was surprised to see how happy she seemed and never once did she get angry.  She may have cried a couple times during the run, but she just kept pushing.  I stayed about 2 or 3 feet in front of her and she just hung on.  There were some really proud moments for me during this race. 
We were clicking off the miles and of course posing every time we saw a photographer on the course, one guy asked us after we passed the course photographer, if we had posed for him.  China said “you bet we did”. We must have had 10 people ask if we were friends or on the same team, with China always answering “that’s my mom” and me always commenting “It’s China’s first Half IM”.  Everyone out there was so supportive, it was the most fun I have ever had racing. 

When we hit the bridge, China says, “let’s run for the next 3 light poles then walk” when we hit the third light pole, she said, “oh heck, let’s just run all the way over the bridge", so we did.  We walked right before the switch back and then ran to the next water stop.
So China had a system at the water stops and it wasn’t a fast system.  We would walk at the start, then get water, oranges, and potato chips. Sometimes she would just have the volunteer put the chips in her mouth, so she didn’t have to touch them with her sweaty hands.  She would stop and eat them in the middle of the stop, chatting with the volunteers, then she would get to the ice and have me or the volunteer poor it down the back and front of her sports bra and in her hat.  Then if she had to pee, she would stand on the side of the Johnny and pee, then pour water down her shorts.  

If you are reading this and you are not a triathlete, I know you are thinking how disgusting, but we do it all the time in races, we pee in the water, on our bikes and during the run.  There are bathrooms, but they are hot and stinky and too slow to get your shorts down and up. Funny China always thought it was gross hearing about it, but when she was out there, she just didn’t care.  

We spent on average 3 minutes in each water stop, if she could cut that down to one minute, with 15 water stops, she would have cut 30 minutes off her run without much effort.  She sees that now, but she was having way too much fun to drag her out of them faster than she wanted.  I just thought, let’s make this as fun as possible. 

So we ran across the pedestrian bridge, made the turn and started the second loop.  Funny, China started picking up the pace at least from mile 7 to 10, I guess she got a second wind.  As we ran we saw Zillas everywhere, so we started cheering.  We saw Ty, then Mike, then Donna, Zillas were all around us and it was fun cheering them on.  At the Kona water stop China was soaking up the excitement of just a 5k to go to the finish, by then she knew she was going to make it and get across the finish line far before the cutoff time.  

China was pretty happy, so we talked about the finish line, I told her to enjoy it, high five everyone on her way through the finish chute and I told her to run across the line in front of me, so she could have a good pic of her first finish.  It seems like in a just a blink we were running down the hill and onto the red carpet. 

Hitting the RED CARPET (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
Heading to the finish line (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We took our time, giving high fives along the way, we waved at our IRONFAM, and strolled through the finish line.  I hugged China, so very proud of her, and got our finisher hats and medals. We stopped to talk to the IRONFAM and Caleb got some shots of use together. 
We Did It (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We then went through the finish line wickets, pictures in front of the Ironman wall, then over to the food tent. None of us could really eat though, China tried, but only got about 2 bites down. China was starting to feel the after affects setting in and she had some blisters on her feet so she had John pull her shoes and socks off and I found a chair for her to sit in.

(photo credit: Finisher Pix)
Leading up to the race the Crewe gave China tons of tips on how to have a good race, but we may have forgotten one, don’t wear crappy socks. China told me a few times in the last few miles of the race that she was getting blisters, and she did, and no wonder, when John pulled her shoes off, he saw she was wearing crappy socks, he shook his head and said “these socks will peel the skin off your feet, you need some good socks” China said “they already peeled the skin off my feet”…. Hahaha. I know those two probably thought the crappy socks were somehow my fault, but I swear she owns swiftwick socks. 
China ran into her friend Cheyenne from McKendree and they chatted about the race, it was her first half also, but she had actually trained well for it and rocked the race course. 

Cheyenne & China
John and I went and got all China’s gear together for her and brought it out of transition. Then headed back to the hotel for a shower.  Chatting all the way about the race and everything that happened.  China was tired, but happy.  China had to go home after the race, due to work on Monday, so she rode home with Caleb and Kayla, I’m sure laying in the backseat the entire way. 

I have to give a big Thank You’s to so many people.  First to Team Godzilla for making this such a fun event, it was kind of like a family reunion wrapped around a workout.  To Rhonda Grammer for pushing me during our morning runs.  To the Crewe for always being there for me, no matter how early in the morning it is.  To all the Crewe families that were cheering us on all day long. To Bill Peterson for telling me how awesome it will be to race with my daughter, he said it will be a memory that would last forever and I’m sure it will. To all the family and friends that followed us online the entire race and texted, emailed and FB messaged us after.  Most of all to our IRONFAM, Kayla and Caleb, for cheering us on, taking awesome photos and dragging China’s butt back to Illinois after the race. 

The IronFam with their Athlete
One last note, I have looked at the pictures that finisher pix took, they are good, but none as good as the ones Caleb took of us. 

As for CHINA, will she do it again… I think that is a question she will have to answer. 

Will She Do It Again #LESSISMORE