This was my first Ironman and if there was a medal for happiest ironman I think I would get it. There wasn't a moment when I wasn’t grateful for the experience. And, on top of that I was surprised I was making it. Therefore there was a big grin on my face the whole way! This was in contrast to most of the other athletes I met who were taking this very seriously-- maybe nervous about the race, but still very serious.
On to the report... a long one as this was my first.
The swim-- in cold and beautiful Lake Okanogan. I have started all triathlon swims with some sort of anxiety attack which usually makes me feel like I am suffocating in my wetsuit (some of you may be able to relate) I take some time to float on my back until I calm down. At the swim start however, I ran into two LA tri club members and just talking with them eased my anxiety and for the first time I got into the water when the cannon went off and never stopped swimming. I had read a blog from a past competitor that a friend had passed along the soul of which was, "you are ready" so, I went with it. I pretended I was ready. I placed myself on the far left of the crowd at the start and only got swam over once or twice.
After a tearful rendition of “Oh Canada” the send off song was "Bitter-sweet symphony" which accompanied me throughout the day. For some reason, I was able to swim with a large degree of comfort. Still unconvinced I was going to get through the day I thought at least I can make it through the swim, slow and steady. I even drafted behind a few good feet eventually passing them and on to another pair. At the second buoy, actually a house boat and sea plane, I headed in with the rest of the pack -- or what was left of it and dragged my ice block feet to shore. I could hear the crowds well before I put my feet down and I headed towards shore in a slight fog of disbelief laced with extreme excitement. I hi fived all of those I could reach and headed towards transition.
Swim time expected 1:15 actual 1:16.
The wetsuit strippers threw me on the ground and had my suit off in under a second and I collected my transition bag and headed into the tent. There were a lot of women doing the full change and I had elected to stay in my tri suit. I put on my socks gloves, arm warmers, helmet and glasses, loaded up on food and headed for my bike. Which somehow I found easily in the sea of red, black and white Cervellos and headed out to the course. I mounted and I was off!! Up main street, where I saw my family and friend Janice and screamed with excitement, “I did it, I just swam 2.4 miles here comes sport number two!!” There was nothing else I would rather do than swim in a beautiful lake and then get on my bike for a nice long ride through the Mt's of BC. The first sign I saw as I headed out of town said, "You can and you will" This thought stayed with me for the whole race. The first part of the course is flat with only one little hill and it meanders its way along a lake and a river through vineyards and farms past fruit stands, it is gorgeous. There are a lot of rules for the bike ride and the one I just didn't understand was no talking-- this is a "race" the appropriately named "race" director said at the pre-“race” meeting -- you have 20 seconds to pass or you will get a warning and then a penalty. Well, unlike my usual pedestrian self, when on the bike I like to talk and so I talked, some listened, some talked back others told me to get lost. I did wind up getting a warning from the Marshall's on the course, so after that I had to shout to anyone nearby who might listen. When I wasn't talking I annoyed many bikers along the course with my lame and loud (especially on the down hills) rendition of "bittersweet symphony". (I don't know many of the words, so I kept repeating myself). After the long flat section the course climbs the notorious Richter Pass and then follows Richter up with a series of steep rollers. This was by far the best part of the ride for me, I love hills and the scenery was spectacular and I hi fived every fan cheering on the roadside and there were many. I also had another chance here to see my own personal fan club and the kids had made signs for me including one that said "iron mom" which made me ride even faster! While most of the ride was a big loop there was one "small" "out and back" section. And, at the turnaround of the "out and back" there was the special needs stop. All I kept thinking was the only special need I have is to know where the "back" is for the "out and back!" When I finally got there, I looked in my bag and decided to leave all but the m&m;s. Finally, onto the last climb, the one to Yellow Lake, it was gorgeous and lined with spectators willing to hi five me once again! Next, an amazing downhill into town. I hit 49 mph on the hill, fastest I've even gone. Back onto main street lined with crowds!! I don't think the smile came off my face for the entire 112 miles. Amazing, all I have to do now is run a marathon. (HA) Off the bike and into transition.
Bike expected 7:30 actual 6:17.
The volunteers at Ironman are amazing, they take your bike for you and you get your bag then they help you with whatever changing you need. I jammed my Orthotics into my running shoes, grabbed my hat and off I went. Run a marathon, OK, I'll try. As I ran I saw the sign again, "you can and you will" little thoughts started creeping into my head that I actually might make it to the finish. I had been training with an injured hip since last summer and had a plan to run 6 minutes then walk 1, but that is really hard when the streets are lined with people cheering you on and ever one is racing by you so... change of plan, run 9 walk 1 or run to the aid stations placed every mile and walk through them. Still, that was hard but I wanted to make sure I finished. The first 10 miles were great, a light rain started to fall and the run took us along beautiful Skaha lake, at mile ten, the hills come, not too bad, I ran with a tall guy in a black shirt, we talked for the last 3 miles till the turnaround at mile 13 -- again, specials needs bags and I didn't look at mine, no special needs for me, just another 13 miles. And then it hit, stomach cramps, yikes! I started walking and the man in the black shirt put his hand on my shoulder and said, move it along Melissa, I did, thank you man in the black shirt, but still continued to walk the aid stations, to save my hip. The miles started clicking off and I started to think with a little more promise with every step,”I might make it.” Into town and back down main street - soon the mantra became audible without my knowing it, “I might make it” and the someone from the crowd yelled, "You are making it!" I saw my family again, my kids, yahoo!! and then turned away from the finish for the last mile up the lake before the turn around to finally head for the finish. I grabbed my daughters Sarah and Eliza before the finish line and the three of us ran hand in hand to the finish, I made it!!! Still, with the smile upon my face! Expected run 5 hours actual 4:20
I didn't check the time during the race so didn't know how close to the hour I was, or I probably would have hammered to get under the hour, but the goal was to finish and enjoy every second, even the painful ones and I that I accomplished!
PS. My kids think I won since I received a medal at the finish, please don’t spoil it for them (or me).