||Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2009
My First Ironman J
The day started quite cool with rain in the forecast. I was so nervous that I did not sleep even a minute the night before, and I could not eat anything for breakfast! I tried my normal peanut butter and banana sandwich, but couldn’t eat a bite. I tried a gel, and my Hammer drink mix… But everything made me feel like I was going to throw up so I didn’t get anything down. Uh-well, what can you do?
The water temperature was a lovely 63 degrees. The mass start was as chaotic as I was expecting; there isn’t anything that can prepare you for that. And the crowd never lets up! The water was choppy – and it was choppier the further out we swam. I finished my first lap in 41 minutes, which was exactly on target. During the second lap, the choppiness got worse – but I figured what worked against me on the way out would help me on the way in… Then my stomach started hurting. I figured it was because I didn’t have anything in my fuel tank and I would eat on the bike and be fine… My second lap was 48 minute! I dwelled on this huge time difference for the entire time I was in T1. I didn’t feel like I slowed down that much! But now it was time for the bike and let the swim go. I ate a gel and started riding.
I knew something was wrong in the first 5 miles. The ride starts with a lovely out and back stretch around the lake – the kind of ride made for aero bars. My stomach wasn’t ready to eat or drink anything, which I thought was nerves. But when I leaned over to be in my aero position, my stomach hurt badly! I felt more and more nauseated as the ride went on, and it was worsened whenever I tried to drink my Perpetuem or even my water. I kept riding, taking it easy through the hills, and was happy for the flat ride back into town. I tried to not focus on the nausea, and think about how fresh my body felt… but it didn’t work so well. My lack of hydration and nutrition was started to effect my mental participation as much as my physical. I started the second lap with the out and back along the lake, and there was a short hill at mile 60 – this was when my hands started shaking and my legs felt weak. I knew that giving up was not an option, but was concerned that I would be taken off the course in a stretcher or that I would not even be able to make the bike time cut off. My coach, Cherie Gruenfeld told me there were going to be unexpected tough times, and to just push through them. I kept telling myself that, and that I worked so hard for so long that I could not come back to California not finishing the race! Mile 63 was where we got our special needs bag, and I forced myself to eat 2 Ruffles potato chips and a gel. I rode back into town and headed north into the hills. Miraculously, at mile 75 I felt normal! Not only did the nausea subside, but I felt like a haze was lifted from head and I was just starting to participate in the ride! I ate a gel and drank some water, and actually took in some of the lovely scenery J My body did not feel like it had been riding 75 miles, it was not tired or sore at all! I rode the next 37 miles taking in a gel every hour with a little bit of water. I didn’t want to push my luck with eating and risk nausea again, and I didn’t want to exert too much knowing I didn’t have enough calories to support that. It got really windy and cold, and I finally made it to T2 after 8:06 on the bike – 45 minutes before the 5:30 cutoff! I was hoping to ride closer to 7 hours, and was expecting 7:30… but with rain in the forecast, I knew 8 hours was a possibility. Although the rain held off, given that I was certain I wasn’t going to finish, I’ll take the extra 6 minutes.
I started running as it started raining. Surprisingly, my body felt like it had ridden 35 miles – not 112! So I ran smoothly and consistently for the first 13 miles. I was able to take liquids at each aid station without feeling sick – I took chicken broth, cola or water. My stomach hurt, but was not nauseated and the pain was tolerable. The second loop got much harder and I slowed down. I was cold and wet… Luckily, I had the best spectators in the world – my parents flew out from Jersey and two of my best friends from California came up. I don’t think I ran more than a mile without seeing them and that really kept me going. My friends even did the last 5 miles of the race with me!
Finally, I turned down Sherman and enjoyed every second of running through the crowd of people, high fiving spectators as the lights get brighter. Crossing the finish line was so amazing - hearing Mike Reilly say those words I’ve been waiting to hear for months… and dying to hear for the past 15:30! Kristin McNealus, from Long Beach California, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!
It was not the race I was hoping to have, but I pushed through and finished and that is all that matters in the end. The finish was a magical moment that I will never forget. The volunteers were absolutely amazing – so supportive and encouraging. There was so much support throughout the whole day, and the entire course has spectators cheering you along. It is an absolutely wonderful race for anyone considering an Ironman.