Ironman Arizona 2015

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The morning of Ironman Arizona my hotel room filled with Sammy, Josh and I were awake at 4am. I had been awake before that and tossed and turned most of the night. But as soon as the alarm goes off…Adrenaline starts pumping. I started immediately with my hydration of coffee, green juice, coconut water and vitamins. I choked down a 1/2 bonk breaker bar and a banana. About an hour before the race I drank my electrolyte drink and was set to go!

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I had severe panic after a disastrous practice swim the day before. I jumped in the water and immediately my breath was taken away…I started to feel that panic of I can’t breath and I don’t remember how to swim. I headed out for about 15 minutes and at the 10 minute mark I did start to find my rhythm. But I was freaked out. People kept asking how was the water while I was checking my bike and I couldn’t respond happy. I just said it is very freaking cold and secretly I felt like punching them because I didn’t want to think about getting back in the next day.

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In the middle of the night I received inspiration during my meditation to listen to my favorite podcast again…Rob Bell’s “It comes in Waves”. It was just what I needed to remind myself to breath and relax in the water. I mentally prepared myself that I would be able to breath again…When I get caught in the “spin cycle” to relax and remember I would get oxygen again. And if I got trampled…It was only a wave and all waves pass…and if it happened repeatedly it was only a “set of waves” and there is always a calm…So relax. Feel confident. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who, like me, has trouble with open water swimming or panics at the swim at times.

In the car I listened to a few of my favorite songs…

  • Eminen: Till I collapse
  • The Script: Hall of Fame
  • American Authors: Best Day of my Life
  • Avivii: The Nights
  • and duh…
  • Rachel Platten: Fight Song

I was pumped up and ready to go!!!!

I got into transition and got my bike set up quickly. As I got body marked I visualized the flow of the race…swim out…bike out…bike in…run in…run out. I saw my friend Steve from home, who absolutely destroyed the course, and he gave me a big hug and smile. Then it was off to check in special needs and find my sissy and Josh again.

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As I was getting my wetsuit on one of my Team Betty sisters, Erin, ran up to me and gave me a massive hug. She was so bright and sparkly and happy that I couldn’t help but feed off of her energy!!!  I can’t wait to see her again in Oceanside next spring! On the bike course a guy said to me…You’re Team Betty? I was like Hellz Yah I am! And he smiled and said he was Erin’s husband! I was so excited because for those few moments it brought me back to her smiling face that morning.

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I saw Bob just before I headed to line up for the swim and was able to give him a great big hug!!!  It lift my spirits and he gave me his usual wisdom. Have fun and stay smiling. He’s always reminded me to not take myself or the sport too seriously. Being mentored and introduced to this sport by an 85 year old sure gives you a different perspective about triathlon and running. It is more of a “life approach” versus a “I gotta PR this shit right now or die approach”. I am in the lifer club thanks to Bob and I measure success by the happiness in my heart and the people it brings into my life. I’m eternally grateful for his love and wisdom.

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My Joshies sent me off after a long hug from him and my Sammy. One of my bestest friends in the whole wide universe. He was there when I got into this Ironman fiasco and was there when I ended it. Our Tribe Leader this day. He helped my family and friends know where to go to see me all day and truly just made the day run smooth…Was a calming warming hug in dark moments…and was ALWAYS where I needed him on race day. If you have one fiercely loyal and true to the end friend like Josh in your life you have more than you could dream. Thank you Joshies for the hugs and all the love and support to reach this dream over the past year. You were a strong force to get me to that finish line and I’ll never be able to relay in words exactly what you mean to me. Thank you for being family.

As I was walking to the swim and lining up it was a few minutes before the cannon went off and I heard my name and felt a big hug. It was Meredith Kessler. She hugged me and told me that she was very excited for me. She had watched me work SO hard for this over the past year. To go celebrate, have fun and enjoy my big day. I was so grateful for her words and her reminder of this amazing journey. I watched her walk off as she put on her goggles and get ready to roar…she won Ironman Arizona this day.

As she left I saw Kim and Taylor walk by. I promptly ran to them and joined them. I decided I would rather seed up a bit and have someone to be with pre-race than to wait alone. We joked. We hugged. And then it was time.

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The calm before the storm

 

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I had a peaceful and calm feeling before jumping in the water. As soon as I jumped off the stairs I felt the cold but knew what to expect so didn’t freak out. I felt peace. I stayed a bit to the right to find my own space and settle in but close enough to the groups to catch a bit of draft. Within a couple minutes I connected to my breath and was ready to go. 

The next step was figuring out what the heck to think about for the next hour or two…So I started singing in my head and the first thing I thought of was to sing Christmas songs because I knew all the words.  So off I swam singing “Joy to the World…Frosty the Snowman…and Silent Night”.  I mixed in a few songs from my childhood primary days like “Popcorn popping and Give said the little stream”. Before I knew it I was at the turnaround and feeling amazing! 

The way back I got kicked in the face and it moved my goggles. I stopped briefly to readjust and actually my thought process was “Hell yah!!!!! THIS is Ironman!! I just got kicked in the face”.  Of course I got my feet grabbed and hit some…I did it to others too. People don’t phase me in a swim…it’s not being connected to my breath. 

The last little bit I imagined my 4 Grandparents swimming by me…Creating a little draft and encircling me in their love. They were with me. I felt their tender love and presence. I would give anything to have them here still but I’m thankful to have them “with me” every moment of every day in my heart and spirit.

I got to the end and wanted to scream so I did!!!! 1:36!!!! I legit planned on 2 hours! I was so happy and highfiving everyone and screaming I DID IT!!!!!!!!!! I was so excited and seriously LOVED the swim! I am a swimmer. I love to dance and sing to the rhythm of my breath in the water. I was so scared for the swim cut off times. But the swim I have to say was my favorite part of the day.

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It’s no secret I love biking so I was so excited to to hop on my bike and ride off into the desert. I saw my people right before I mounted so ran over and hugged and kissed them all before heading out…I never miss opportunities for hugs.

 Bike Loop 1…LOVED!!! I got settled in and started my nutrition plan which I stuck to perfectly the entire race. There was slight wind but wind doesn’t phase me as I was prepared for it and I trained in high winds in the Midwest cornfields every.single.ride. I hit the turnaround and was FLYING back hitting speeds in the 30s. Spirits were high and were even more energized hearing my people scream for me at the turnaround back in Tempe.

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Bike Loop 2…I was feeling good the entire way out! Loads of energy and having fun talking with people as we passed each other. I started to feel a sprinkle of rain and then the monsoon started…And it didn’t stop the rest of the ride. I thought in my head…THIS is Ironman…I did 2 100 mile bike rides in the pouring rain…I got this! No problem! What I didn’t expect was the cold that followed…I got as tight as I could and kept moving. I didn’t stop at special needs because I didn’t want to stop moving. It was about mile 45 I finally learned how to pee on the bike. Don’t judge…It’s normal right? You pee on your bike too…If so tell me I’m not alone…So here’s my truth…I was SO cold that I LOVED peeing because it made my legs and feet warm. So I kept drinking and peeing a bit to warm up like every 15 mins. Bonus…it was raining so nobody could tell I was peeing on myself…I think I lost all dignity that day but still laugh thinking I had to pee to keep myself from becoming hypothermic on my 112 mile Ironman bike ride. But shit…It’s a good story and I don’t think there is anywhere to go but up from here. Just keeping it 110% real here…the good…the bad…the disgusting BUT reality…I saw my people screaming into the megaphone with their big banner at the 2nd turnaround which lift my spirits and headed out for my last cold 38 miles….
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Loop 3…Cold. Brain Freeze. I was ok and stayed mentally and emotionally strong but my physical body was cold. Just keep pedaling. Don’t stop moving. Focus on the road so you don’t slip or crash in the puddles. Rain dripping off my helmet. Don’t care about my watch anymore because it was wet and blurry. And then as I made the turn to the beeline there was my miracle. A rainbow that lit up and took over the ENTIRE sky. I was literally riding into the center of the rainbow. Peace. Stillness. Serenity. I teared up. I’ll never forget that moment. Those miles. My rainbow. My sign that it really WILL be ok. My grandmas sent me a rainbow that said “all will be well…just keep moving”…At the turnaround I was stiff from being cold but forced myself to keep moving and not stop once. I would get to see my family in a few miles. Keep moving. A few miles away I knew I had it in the bag. I was cold, wet and it was still raining. But I did it. I really freaking did it! I was on a very frozen cloud 9.

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I got to T2 and my friend Anna ran over. She was volunteering and I’ll never forget her smile and face when she saw me. It lit a fire in my soul. It was the friendly face I needed in THAT moment. I couldn’t get my leg over the bike and my hands and fingers couldn’t unclip my helmet so she helped. She brought me to my dad and family and I cried. 

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This moment. I was FROZEN. I immediately melted into my Dad’s arms. He grabbed me and looked me in the eyes before I started crying again and said “You did amazing out there on the bike. You’ve trained in worse conditions than this. You are stronger than this rain and cold. Now go run to your Finish Line. I believe you in. You got this!”. And so I went I got it done….When your Dad BELIEVES in you…ANYthing really is possible.

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My Best Friends

Anna helped me get to T2 area where I saw my sissy, Josh and my bestest friend Stacy. My 3 angels. Who all hugged me for minutes to warm me up…Ill never forget the heat and warmth of those embraces and their soft voices of encouragement….and then they sent me to the changing tent. It looked like a medical tent. Shaking. Trauma faces. Women down. A woman came over and asked if I was ok. Yes. I just need a little help. She took my shoes off…put my running socks and shoes on and tugged and pulled a long sleeve shirt on over my wet soggy body while I sat there. She got me some water and walked me to the exit…she looked in my eyes and told me to go move and run right NOW…so I did…

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The Run…I was cold but I could move…slowly…I knew my good friend Seth would be at Aid station 2. That was my only focus. Start my run nutrition and get to Aid Station 2. 

I realized quickly a problem I thought I had corrected and solved earlier in the year was back. Massive dry eyes on the bike which leads me to blurred vision. I believe it’s from Lasik because it didn’t happen the previous year. Nonetheless, I knew with the dry climate there was potential so I started eye drops I had packed. But my vision was strained…

I made it to Aid station 2 and screamed at Seth that I was coming for a big hug. He wrapped his arms around me and his beautiful wife took a turn. I just fed off their energy and it got me moving. Those familiar faces mean the world in races! 

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At this point I saw Kim and I knew in my heart we were going to run this together. Kim is a 7 time Ironman and my one of my best friends…We knew we were going to see our people around Mile 4 so we made that our goal. We soaked in the love of our families and off we set. 

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Side by side. Best friends who don’t quit. We ran the entire time and walked at the aid stations to properly fuel. There were moments we kept everyone around us entertained with our dirty minds and talk…moments of solace and reflection…moments of laughter and dancing…moments of silence. 

I saw my family around Mile 14 and my kids ran beside me for a stretch which boost my heart into overdrive. There is nothing like seeing the faces of your children light up with excitement and pride for their mama. 

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At Mile 17ish we saw our families again. This was when my Sissy’s hug gave me the strength I needed. She grabbed me and pulled me close and squeezed me hard…She told me she was proud of me and KNEW I could do this…It was just a 9 mile cake walk from here…There was more said but those are the words I remember most…The FEELING I remember after that was how STRONG her embrace was…As if she was giving me all her strength to run to the finish line…I felt calm and peace…Sometimes having someone believe in you is what it takes to restore your energy and believe in yourself….I love you my Sissy…My Sammy…My always…

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Seeing Stacy and my mom at this point just warmed my cold heart. My women. That is what I remember about this point the most. My fiercely loyal tribe of women there…in the cold…to cheer for me and make this day as special as they could. Stacy had driven back and forth with her kids even all day in the rain. She drove them home and then headed straight back. I don’t remember a time I didn’t see her from the bike onward. One of my rocks and has been since we met when our first babies were 8 weeks old. She’s never wavered in her undying love and friendship and I’ll never forget her hugs, words and support this day. She saw me through the worst of times and has seen me come full circle. I love you Stacy.

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My mom was the most amazing face I had ever seen at this point. Her touch. Her smile. Her pride. My mom is my person. The one person in this life I can always count on and she went above and beyond the weekend of the race. She is the most amazing “Meme” to my boys. They love her. Everyone loves her. Her tenderness. Her energy. Her love. It carries me. It brightens my days and darkness. Thank you mommy. For being mine. The depths of my love will never convey what you mean to me. I know your heart. I heard it beating for 9 months while you carried me. And I know of your eternal unconditional love for me. Thank you for your heart.

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Just keep running. We knew if we stopped to walk our heart rate would drop and we would get cold.

We were pushing along and getting the miles done. One mile at a time…Side by side…I told her to leave me many times and all Kim would say is we are together…I have to say the last bit were one of the moments in life that you decide to break out of the cocoon and emerge triumphant…Rebirth…But as we all well know…that doesn’t happen until you fight through intense dark…and that’s precisely what miles 20-26 were for me….

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Bring me your suffering.

The rattle roar of broken bones.

Bring me the riot in your heart.

Angry, wild and raw.

Bring it all.

I am not afraid of the dark.

Mia Hollow

Miles 20-26…Dark. Literally and Figuratively. If you’ve LIVED you know the dark. If you’ve raced you understand the dark. If you’ve embraced the dark you know there is no longer anything to fear. 

My eyesight was shot by the time the sun went down. I could see but not make out faces and the lights had rainbow halos. I kept on the eye drops. Mile 20 is when the girl of many words stopped talking. I could no longer speak or open my mouth while running. So I embraced the dark. Kim by my side.

Leave me and go ahead I would say…

But she said repeatedly we are in this together. Symbolically for a girl who has trained completely alone…Endured through the good and bad alone…The good and bad beyond training but went through the depths of hell in the trial of my life alone…

My Kim…My angel…In that moment not leaving me was the beginning of a new life…

Never again did I have to face the dark alone.

Something changed in me in those miles. My heart would pound at moments and relax at moments. My breath would try so hard to run wild but my mind kept it still. I couldn’t thank the volunteers or people shouting my name. I would smile and give a thumbs up. I gave them my love and energy as they would spark my soul and I had nothing to offer but my simple acknowledgement. Kim talked. And talked. And talked. Where she thought maybe she was driving me insane I couldn’t articulate that her words were angelic.  Every.single.one.

I learned a lot about Kim that day. I learned her spirit. She pulled more people than I can count out of the dark that run. I was in awe of her spirit. Constant pep talks to her teammates, friends and many strangers. There is nobody in the world I have met with a spirit like hers. And I’m simply the lucky girl that is able to call her my best friend. Kim made sure I was ok asking what I needed. I said I couldn’t talk but I was ok and to keep talking. We laughed that she said I’d punch her by the end and that would make an amazing finisher picture.

But her voice and constant love and just silently watching her be the fascinating and phenomenal woman she is kept my spirit going. I started to shed everything off of me these miles. Maybe symbolic of releasing all old attachments. I grabbed my two Reiki stones that I kept in my bra the entire day (yes even for swim) given to me by my Reiki teacher and my Chicago Mama and held them. That was all I held on to. I left everything else behind me in those miles. The dark. The fight. Coming back solely to the beat of your heart. The feel of your breath. Moving forward. Cutting cords. Weightless. Never alone because Kim didn’t leave me. And then with her promptings the last mile and choking up every time she spoke I made the last turn…And in one second was out of dark…And heard the roar…And was running to the light…

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Triumph. Maybe the only word I can use to describe this moment. Overwhelming LIGHT and triumph. This finish line was more symbolic of life to me than simply a race. Three years ago…the same tears…the same hands holding my face…but it was a different girl…that girl was lying on the bathroom floor. Her truth was this…Unloved…Uninteresting…Undesirable…Untalented…Un-strong…Unworthy.

Unless you have LIVED those truths to the point where it isn’t a fleeting thought it is your belief of yourself you can’t understand the depths that it takes to undo those beliefs. I don’t see any of those qualities anymore in THIS girl. But it was a battle to the darkness of hell and back to reach my new truths…Loved…Interesting…Desirable…Talented…Strong…Worthy. This race was for THAT girl. I dedicate it to THAT girl who three short years ago was shedding the same tears on her bathroom floor and never in a bazillion light years could envision this moment happening. Never. But it did. And it was a battle of highs and lows on the Ironman Arizona course just as it was a battle in life. The biggest take away from this race is a new truth.  A profound and simple truth…

The Finish Line is actually the Start Line

Here is to Life…Love…Adventure…Miracles…Magic…And all the wonders this Universe, God and Angels have in store…Life is for Living. So get out there and live.

Because if I can do this…Anyone can. And that means YOU.

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After the finish my boys ran up to me and Tyler started crying which promptly made me cry…I could barely lift Braden but I had special “mama strength” to hold him…Tyler and Braden snuggled right up into me and didn’t move…These absolute superstars stayed out from 7am-10pm in the monsoon rain and cold to cheer me on the entire race…They ran with me for a bit on the run and seeing their shining faces and chanting their names those last miles gave me extra strength to finish…They have been my constant…My only daily constant through this journey…I’ve let them see me scared, happy, excited, crying, and every emotion…I wanted them to know that some dreams are hard work but SO very worth the journey to reach them…They say to each other and me often “We don’t quit in our family…Keep trying…And the ONLY bad word in my house is “Can’t”…”  Our children really do hear and watch what we do. My little IronBoys…Know that there are NO limits to how BIG you can dream…Life is for LIVING and smiling and feeling and LOVING…You CAN do anything you want in life if you simply take a chance on yourself and let fear take a backseat…Perfection doesn’t exist…Love fiercely…Live and dream BIG…And be brave my dear boys…Another reason I love this picture is it shows my mom’s tender and genuine love…She was holding my hand and we all were soaking in the love after an amazing and crazy adventure of a day. #DreamReallyFreakingBig 

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12 comments

  1. Congrats on a great achievement. I know the feeling about kids at the finish line – it is amazing to get a mom hug – mine were there for me after my first marathon. You look so happy on the bike and the run pictures exemplify teamwork and camaraderie – what the sport is all about. Congrats again – impressive accomplishment.

  2. Melissa says:

    There should be a warning about wearing makeup while reading this!

    What a beautiful journey! I am so proud of you! What an inspiration! Congratulations!!!

  3. Pat W. says:

    I am on my own journey, myself. This week is my last taper week for my first full marathon at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa this Sunday. I’m scared, worried, frightened, but I believe in my training and I know I will cross the finish line. Many of the emotions you have written and your story is parallel to mine. As a 43 year old man, I am not ashamed to cry BIG ALLIGATOR tears of joy for you and your accomplishments from last year. I’ll be forever grateful for your sharing and caring of your first Ironman experience. #pathetic…I…Think…NOT! #P

    • Thank you for this comment and I wish you ALL the luck and FUN this weekend. Treasure every single second. Take your time that last 100 yards and enjoy that home stretch. You only get to become a marathoner once so enjoy it rather than sprint through it. 🙂

  4. Elizabeth rehmer says:

    Incredible!!!!! This was so amazing and inspirational… and I love that you shared the pee part! I always wondered what people did in that situation!!;)

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