Ironman No. 10 at the 2012 Ironman US Championship

My day in video is captured, what a great memory!

Don’t quite know where to start writing about my latest Ironman experience.  Seems like just yesterday I was with my Aussie friends Jason, Montie, Allie and Erin when I signed up for the race.  I decided that if I got in I’d do it, but not stress if I didn’t.  Well, we all know what happened — I got in.  The year passed with lots of changes, all good!  I coached myself for this Ironman, a frightening prospect at times, and I felt that I had a huge burden over my head throughout . . . . . I knew that I had the eyes of all of our club members on me, and a big number of them would waiting for me at the finish line.  I knew it would be a huge incentive to keep going when it got tough but it was also a big responsibility not to let any of them down.

My training progressed, I was fortunate to have people like my good friend Grace as one of my training partner.  We spent a lot of time checking out the venue and planning out our race . . . . it was wonderful to know the course and have a chance to spend time familiarizing ourselves with as much of it as possible. We ran and biked what we could several times, and drove the rest of it.  We booked several hotels, covering all bases until the actual race logistics were announced.  We even had a dinner reservation!

So many of my friends and members of the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport club were also always there, whether it was to keep me company on a bike ride or to keep me going at masters swim — thanks Julie Lehr!

Another big change this last year was my eating habits.  Huge thanks to Leslie Why Reap — it seems the answer to my weight issue was the need to be on a paleo / gluten free regimen.  I hit the starting line twenty pounds lighter, but  I have never felt leaner, stronger and mentally sharper in my life!  I’ve never felt for a moment like I was on a diet or restricted in any way.  Leslie’s help and guidance the last few days before the race were huge — I followed her guidelines on hydration and diet and it worked!  Your suggestions and my Infinit Nutrition custom bike and run blend led to absolutely no stomach or gi distress.  My race day nutrition consisted of a bottle an hour of Infinit and some additional water, nothing else during this race.  I did feel the expected “I can’t do this anymore” between mile 98 and 100 of the bike, pretty much a two mile uphill but I ate, drank and spun my way through it.  Although I felt like I was standing still no one passed me either during those two miles!

Anyway, race morning — 3:45 AM and out the door and onto the ferry.  As promised, we pulled out of the dock pretty close to 4AM.  I finished my race day prep, my nutrition and special needs bags were dropped off.  The smartest thing I did was go and check out the swim exit.  A very kind volunteer told me that I should not put my feet down until I was going to land on the swim exit ramp — more on this later!  I expected most people to wait to try to board a later boat for the more favorable current, when I walked to the ferry line I was surprised to find I was not going to be on the first boat out.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find my friend Grace!  Turns out we were on the third ferry.  When we boarded the boat I also saw my friend Gary Smith, and several people that I knew from various Fireman Ironman training camps over the years.  It was an interesting start, pretty cool actually!  Great to watch the pros start, and then the two boats ahead of us pull in and to see the age groupers starting their day.  All in all there was only a twelve minute offset in my start.  I walked to the edge of the start barge and saw the race director, John Korff,  I had several opportunities to work with John before race day and felt good to have a chance to see him and chat a bit at the start.  Off the barge I went and down the river.  I can’t say that I noticed the current, I swam my swim and actually realized that a time trial start for an Ironman with over 2,500 athletes was definitely an advantage.  I never tangled with another athlete till the end and I passed people my entire swim.

I’ve been running swim clinics for years now, I always tell other triathletes that they should stand up when their hand hits the bottom twice.  Well, my hand hit the bottom twice and I remembered what that wonderful volunteer told me in the morning so I picked my head up and saw the actual swim ramp quite a ways off.  So I kept swimming.  My hands swept right thru a mushy bottom and I realized that if I stood up I’d just sink.  So I kept swimming.  The exit ramp is still a ways off.  Slight panic as each time someone else got up the water turned a pitch black.  Keep swimming . . . . till I looked at a volunteer on the bottom step of the ramp and reached out my hand and he pulled me up.  My feet never touched the bottom!  A delay as I worked my way up the ramp — we were stopped for a medical emergency.  I chose not to look, I’ve learned I don’t want to see something that I know I don’t want to carry with me for the day.  Good decision, what I assumed was a panicked swimmer was most likely the swimmer who died.  Looking at my Garmin it was just over a minute that we were held on the dock but it did feel like an eternity.

Transition, and out on the bike.  Spun my way up what I knew to be a tough hill out of Ross Dock, made a right heading towards the Palisades Parkway entrance and there was my friend Ren!  A huge boost and a great video to look back on, thanks so much.    Some thoughts on the Ironman US bike course — while it was a very challenging ride it was also not very interesting, missing the scenery of Lake Placid, the stark beauty of the lava fields in Kona.  It was also scary — a lot of pot holes in the road and some spots that it would have been very easy to get caught in a crack.  I rode pretty aggressively, I refused to get caught in a draft pack, although someone did get a penalty for drafting off of me.  Looking back on the pictures was interesting, there always seemed to be a train on my wheel.  I saw some very poor cycling, and some extremely unsafe riding — I was passed twice on the right for absolutely no reason.  I spent a good part of the day saying “on your left”  but heard that very few times myself.

A big thanks to the supporters that I saw on the bike course — Jen and Dave, Megan and Michelle, Betsy, Lois, Kerry and Gary, and Pam, Jamie and Ken.  It was a tough bike course to support and it was great to hear my name.

Back to transition to get ready for the run.  Funny story — I had my Features right and left foot specific socks carefully powdered and rolled and placed in the appropriate running shoe.  When I got to the changing tent there was hardly anyone there.  I had two volunteers helping me, I looked up and saw one of them handing me an unrolled pair of socks and realized she had kindly taken my socks out of the shoes and unrolled them.  Although I wanted to scream I just softly said that she may not want to do that again.  Socks and shoes on the right feet and off I went.

What can I say about the run course?  It was hard.  Very hard.  In New Jersey, the entire run was always either up or down hill.  Great aid stations and support but hard!  Donna Rubin and the Central Jersey Running Club — thank you!  Chris Walsh — you worked very hard to keep me updated on where I stood in the age group and I can’t thank you enough.   Betsy and company — thank you!  Dave Deschennes, thanks for the support and cheers, and yes — I knew it was a race but I chose to take the opportunity at the special needs station to restock and regroup for a minute.  I knew what was next and it was that final uphill out of Ross Dock — what a surprise, there was another friend — thanks Bernadette Taylor, I took your cheers with me over the GW Bridge.

Besides asking a volunteer to walk in front of me on the steps down I made it over the bridge uneventfully.  Into Manhattan and along the river past the little red lighthouse I went.  I knew the Front Runners Club aide station was coming up and expected a huge boost there, I was not disappointed!  Matt, Mike, Tom, Lourdes and all the rest of my FRNY friends . . . . . . the biggest thank you possible!  You made me feel so special.  Next aide station was Tri Latinos.  Although I didn’t personally know any of you the energy at your water stop was contagious.  At this point I actually started looking at my watch and doing some calculations and was a bit scared about what I was coming up with.  Seemed I had a good shot at breaking twelve hours, not something I expected at all!

Next up, my good friend and long time supporter and sometimes training partner Ran Korolik.  He filled me in on some of my younger friends who were already done, and also filled me in on my standings.  He was also ready to take down the random cyclist on the run course who almost knocked me over!  I knew where I was thanks to my runs with Grace, and relative to an Ironman still felt good.  Just keep it going, finish is just a flat shot down the path.  Did I say flat?  Umm, that couple of miles of ups and backs were an unpleasant surprise — we climbed up to Riverside Drive and it included another set of stairs!  At this point every Ironman is just heart and will to keep it going.  Oh wait, I forgot that I saw my friend Monica walking before this.  I came up on her and said keep it going, Monica.  Her response — “this is hard”.  My answer, “of course it’s hard”  Enough to get her running again, all the way to the finish.

So, who do I remember seeing first — Kathy Carty and Marcie Jannetti.  Followed by what seemed to be my Jersey Girls all the way!  And Noel, who provided another awesome video for me to look back at.

The finish line, and Mike Reilly’s voice — thanks for telling me I am beautiful!  Yes, I did it again . . . . . my husband Bryan — my biggest supporter, more Jersey Girls than I could count, my friends Larry Parker and Ted Tierney from FiremanIronman camp

The best surprise of the day was my daughter Mary!

Thank you Mike, for the memory again . . . . I am an Ironman.  Ten times over.

Showered, changed and back to the finish.  Thank you Arianna Castellucci for the use of your apartment.  I would not miss the midnight finish for anything.  Although NYC, you lose — the music and sound turned off was definitely anti-climactic.  Ridiculously long ferry back to our hotel, I passed on my Kona spot but got what I wanted — 1st in my age group by a huge margin!

PS:  The surprise party on Tuesday night was amazing, the support I have from my club is more than I ever expected.  Almost makes me want to do another.