I did it. I had help, vital help, from all directions, but I got it done.
Iron-distance triathlon. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run.
But first things first: The Apology. I know this is the first most of you are hearing of this race, because I haven’t been blogging about it. There’s a reason for this. If you recall the Taupo experience, my excitement and anticipation, including all the blogging and friend support, led to my having an anxiety event at the beginning of the swim. In an effort to prevent this from happening again, I tried several things, including keeping this race on the DL. I’ll tell you about the success in the water, but I will say that it was a real loss (for me) not including everyone in the process. So that’s the explanation of this sneak-attack race. I believe this is the only time I’ll have to do that.
Now to the race. It was the Great Floridian Triathlon (trivia tidbit: Ironman is a franchise word, a brand name; there are many Iron-distance races that are prohibited from using the Ironman label – this was one – in this case they called it an Ultra Triathlon). It was held in Clermont, Florida at Lake Minneola. Word to any future racers: do not assume that because the race is located in Florida it is flat. More on that in the bike paragraph. Jesse, Sam, and I drove down here on Thursday to get settled in and registered.
So, back to the swim issue. This paragraph is probably more info than you’ll want to read if you’re just trying to get a rundown from the race, but it’s incredibly important to the success I had. Being an emotionally open and adventurous person has served me well my entire life. I will occasionally do a “sensory check” in the middle of a random moment: What am I seeing? hearing? tasting? smelling? I am so greedy about sucking every moment out of life, and I try to stay open to every experience, particularly new ones. This life attitude very seldom feels like it has a downside, but I have come to accept that it was exactly this desire for wide-openness that created the anxiety event in the water at Lake Taupo. So I used a different approach for this race, which, as I explained above, included not broadcasting my attempt, to cut down on the pressure. My informal triathlon coaches, Ali and Liz from the UK (and very dear friends), also suggested limiting my exposure to all the pre-race hype and activity, which I normally would have embraced and participated in. Between that, and a little chemical intervention suggested by another fellow athlete/physician, I approached race day in a completely different manner than I usually do.
So race day started with our 5:30am wakeup call. Race gun was at 7:30, and as I cautiously began my swim, I was as calm as I could be. It feels counterintuitive to the whole “Eye of the Tiger” approach to athletic competitions, but it certainly worked in my case. My swim was a good deal slower than I usually swim, but that was intentional on my part, and I exited the water no worse for the wear after 2.4 miles.
Into transition and onto the bicycle. Jesse and Sam and I had driven the course the day before, for which I was grateful, because it prepared me for the hills to come. It was as hilly a course as I’ve ever ridden. I was glad to have spent the 10 days before cycling the Natchez Trace, particularly the hilly northern section. This ride was a 3-loop ride, and I was pretty toasted by the second lap, but off I go on the 3rd, with the knowledge that there is a 6:30pm cutoff for the bike course. No need to magnify the drama, but I rolled across the chip mat into transition at 6:28, with Sam yelling at me about the time (Jesse was in a bar watching the Auburn/LSU game at the time). One more set of clothes, and off to the marathon.
Sam, because he spent all last year in New Zealand and that is the custom, never wears shoes. The run course was a 3-loop out and back, and because this race is a little more laid back than Ironman events, allowed support people on the run course. So, yes, Sam ran/walked 8 miles with me BAREFOOT. When we got back off the first lap, Sam took a little 4-mile break and Jesse joined me (the game was over by then), and when Sam rejoined us, he had on his Chacos. So these two guys ran/walked/limped with me the duration of the race. We crossed the finish line at 1:00 Sunday morning in a huge victory for me!!
We gathered my gear/bike/clothes, threw them in the back of the minivan and cruised back to the hotel, where I showered and collapsed, Jesse showered and collapsed, and Sam collapsed in his clothes and dirty feet while waiting for the shower. In the light of this morning we surveyed the damage. I am sore all over – even my hair feels like it hurts. My top pains: the bicycle booty, my quads, my blistered feet, my sunburned back, my clavicles from resting 8 hours on the aerobars, and gluteus minimus – the underlying glutes deep in the hips. Jesse, who only had his worn out sneakers on, has blisters the size of a credit card on the balls of both feet. Sam’s feet, which are gnarly anyway, are beaten and raw. Neither of them had been training to run or walk anywhere near this distance, so they are pretty sore in the marathon areas – butt and quads.
Now we’re headed back home, where I’ll take a few days off, then jump right back into training for the next race: Lake Taupo Revisit in March. I’ll look for some shorter races in the interim, but racing season is really March – October in the Northern hemisphere.
Thanks for reading, and in advance for understanding my need to handle this race this way. I think I’ll be able to share at least the dates of future races, if not every little detail!
Huge thanks to Jesse and Sam for all the support, both pre-, during, and post-race. I’ve got to get Sam in the pool for some swim practice….no ulterior motive.
Since Amy has my camera, and I haven’t yet replaced it, I’ve got to extract the pictures from Big Jesse’s. I want to go ahead and post the story, and I’ll come back and add pictures (the one of Jesse’s feet is spectacular, as is the one of the roach in the hotel room, so check back).
Thanks for reading and for cheering me on!
October 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm
So proud of you sister- what a victory!!
YOU. ARE. IRON!!!!!!!
October 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Thank you sister! Come to my Victory Celebration/Birthday Party on November 20! You are one of my inspirations, do you know that??
October 24, 2010 at 7:14 pm
I’m so proud of you Mrs. Gayle! I know this race meant a ton to you considering what happened in New Zealand. I can’t even imagine running a half-marathon (er…even a mile. I can’t run at all, really…). So good on your for being a great inspiration! 🙂
October 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Thank you Briana – you do understand the significance if you remember New Zealand’s race!
Hope to see you at the victory party!!
October 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm
Glad to hear you made it through your first, dear. Don’t forget to be back in the US in May for the Warrior Dash! If you feel like doing a nice, close little 5K between now and March, let me know.
October 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm
Totally! Let’s not rule out any races – I’ll check in Mboro and you check Lebanon – we can come up with something that works, and you’ve completely got me convinced to do the warrior dash!
Hope to see you in November!
October 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm
AMAZING!!! So happy for you. You did what you had to do and got it done!!! Congratulations.
October 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm
And had I known I was gonna get it done, I would have called you and Mari – I was just down the road in Clermont! 17 and a half hours is a long loooonnnggg time to cheer – just ask Jesse and Sam! I’m considering doing the same race next year – there is a sprint race going on at the same time – 400 yd swim, 16m bike, 4m run……????????????????? (Oh yes, you know what those questions marks are for!!)
October 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm
Wow. That is the best word to describe how I feel. It is truly amazing that you were able to complete this. The fact that you have tried and failed only goes to show how hard and trying this type of event is. I can’t believe you already want to do another one. I will have to be there for that, maybe even competing with you. You are such a amazingly strong person. This is just one day, one event, one moment of recognition of this strength. You are stronger now because of this experience, and you will use this addition of power as you have every other piece you have obtained. SO FREAKIN PROUD OF YOU MOM! WAY TO GO!
October 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm
Typing through tears…if I could rank my motivations for doing what I do, inspiring my children would be numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Thank you for those beautiful words my precious son!
Ben, I am so proud of you for doing what you’re doing – going back to school, working, balancing all that with adventuring and playing and loving life – I’ll keep training, you keep studying, and we’ll find a time to get it all in!
October 26, 2010 at 5:38 am
I am so proud of you! That is amazing and I am happy for you that you accomplished this and had a good experience. You are an inspiration!
October 26, 2010 at 9:57 am
Thank you sister! I know you know about the commitment to sport! Let me know about your victories too!!
October 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm
Quite awesome to complete something for which you have committed, worked, and trained for so long! I had that kind of commitment in my basketball playing days (though no comparison physically to a triathalon) and know the pure joy not only of the win, but also of the work to get there. Unfortunately, these days I don’t have that kind of physical energy and committment, so it’s good to hear of a friend’s victories.
October 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm
Thanks, Linda. I love hearing from fellow athletes, because you come close to understanding. Last February Sam competed in a race across the South Island of New Zealand. It was a 2-day, 280k race that was kayaking, roadbiking, and trail-running. It was an overwhelming effort and he did great! As we were trying to get the last 8 miles done of the marathon in my race, his words of encouragement were so real and on point, it gave me that much more little “boost” to get through it!
Thanks for the kind words, and for reading the blog!