"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

-Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ironman St. George: The Race

Let's start at the beginning.
4 am: Can't sleep and I hear someone in the kitchen. It must be Dad. I decide to join him. He said "I want to show you something." We went to the front porch and looked at the lake. We could see all the lights and cars. It was pretty awesome. We talked weather and our plans for the race over a Pero. Then we started getting ready. Darin came and Scott and Bop dropped us off.

Pre-race: As we walked in, we all got body marked. I knew the girl who marked me and then I saw an old friend from college who was racing.At this point, my nerves were going pretty crazy. I was completely excited for the race and very eager to see how it all went. I headed to where my bike was racked and Zach was there waiting with my Capslytes and some good luck wishes coupled with a hug. I noticed that all of the bikes around me were pret-ty nice. Most races I have done have a wide variety, but this looked a lot more serious. I was ready to go before everyone else, so I headed over to the start, just to get my excitement level even higher. We all met up as a group again, chatted, well-wished (Dad, Burt, and Darin all gave me a good luck hug...Seriously, they all made me feel extra special!), then headed over to watch the pros start. I was going to watch, but got too anxious since my wave was second, so I headed over to take my spot.

The Swim: We had to wait until the horn sounded for the previous wave to even get into the water. It was a water start, which meant we had to swim out to the starting line. I wasn't thinking this my ideal way to begin, but it turns out that I loved it! Once I got in the water, I knew that three minutes would pass fairly quickly so I just started stroking. A minute or two in I realized I wouldn't be at the starting line by the time the horn sounded, but surprisingly, I wasn't worried about it. All of my preparation and planning was kicking in and I was calm. I was pleasantly surprised since all morning I was a bundle of nerves, but I felt confident in my cool manner. I loved the water start because I was already used to the water when I passed the starting line, my group was thinned out so it wasn't crowded, and I had already found my rhythm. I stuck to the inside the whole way and just sighted to the buoys. As I made the first turn, the sun was up and on the water and I thought about the beauty and how awesome it was that I was doing this race! My swim was the smoothest swim I have ever had, with no problems with my goggles, and not much throwing off my mo-jo. I definitely didn't like seeing other age groups passing me, but that was inevitable so I was able to let it go. The swim started getting a little long before the second turn, but I focused on staying relaxed and moving forward. My least favorite part was the last couple hundred yards. The exit area was somewhat funneled into a small area and it was right about that time the fastest guys from the 30-40 ish (my guess) age group were finishing. I figured they were the leaders because I hadn't seen that color cap yet and they were completely ruthless. I was getting grabbed and pushed and I accidentally kicked something that hurt really bad so I assumed it was a watch. At that point, I was ready to get out of there! I had the volunteers rip off my wetsuit, which was great because they bossed me around and saved me a lot of time I am sure, then headed to the bike.

The Bike: Right from the start I kept telling myself to take it easy. My biggest goal on the bike was not to push too hard in the first half, or at all. I forced myself to take in the scenery and not think about how many people were going to pass me. There were a lot of people passing me, I just had to remind myself that they were either just faster or I would beat them on the run. It was pretty solitary for the first 25-30 miles, although I did have a friend pass and say hi, and as I was passing the fairgrounds entrance I heard someone cheer for me. I am pretty sure it was Coach Esplin from high school. I tried to figure out how he knew it was me, but then I just thought it was pretty cool to hear my name unexpectedly. I felt really good about how I was handling the hills, but my legs were just a bit tired, which confused me since I thought I was taking it really easy. I mentally threw myself off after the first aid station because I thought Red Hills Parkway was a lot closer than it really was, but it wasn't too big of a deal. When I finally got to Red Hills Parkway, I chatted with a pleasant guy from California for a few miles. That took my mind off of how it was feeling long, but I think it also made me go a little faster. Shortly after that, I saw the college friend and we also chatted for a few miles. It was about this time that I noticed I was a bit ahead of schedule, if you will. Since my main goal was to beat 6:20, I thought "Cool, I will just continue on, keep holding back a bit, and hope for a good run." Once that friend left me, I kept him in my sights just for something to keep me going. Snow Canyon is reputedly horrendous, but I actually quite like it and take pleasure in the fact that it doesn't kill me. After that, it was homeward bound except for the terrible little loop they threw in at the end that was just annoying more than anything! As I was coming down Main Street, I heard Bop and Scott call out my name and just caught a glimpse of them as I turned the corner. Then I heard Uncle Dave's horn and saw him and Cheryl right at the T2 entrance. I'm pretty sure the smile on my face was pretty big at this point! I quickly got ready for the run, fueled up, took a bathroom break, and hit the road.

The Run: Another cheer and horn from Dave and Cheryl got me going. I knew just where to see Bop, Scott, Mom, and my little Terran, so I found them and got a cheer to get me up the hill. I was looking for Zach by the fire station and got to see him before I was on my own. My GPS wasn't working yet, but I finally got the pace pulled up, which is what mattered to me. My legs were pretty shot but thankfully my mental strength was pretty good because I knew I had quite a way to go and it wasn't going to be easy. The first hill came and I could barely even run up it! I debated with myself but quickly decided I might as well walk it. I was ahead of schedule anyway, so no need to die right at the start, right? As I walked up that hill, I decided there wasn't much problem in walking the hills if I could run fast on the downhill. I had to dig deep several times and had to tell myself to keep running on the small hills, but once I hit the halfway point, I was feeling pretty good. I love that my run fitness has me feeling good when a lot of other people are starting to feel pretty crummy. I saw Darin at this point and I saw Brock again. Cheering other people on gave me a little boost. There was a lady that I was back and forth with, so we kept chatting as we passed each other too. According to my calculations, I was still doing pretty good, and I realized I was closer to 6:00 than 6:20. That realization helped me push through the last hard hill and hit it hard to get to that finish line. I was looking for Dad with about five miles left and saw him at about his two and a half mile. I stopped for just a second for a quick chat then headed down Diagonal. I hate Diagonal. It sucked in the marathon and in the Ironman. It just keeps going! I knew I was really close to 6:00 so I was feeling awesome. I asked a big group of people to cheer for me and they didn't disappoint! They all gave me big, loud cheers and that got me to the roundabout. I was looking for Zach but didn't see him. I knew Mom, Bop, Scott, and Terran were just ahead though. I was sprinting now and could see the finish! I passed that lady for the last time, along with four or five guys and ran down the last hundred yards. My hands were in the air and people were cheering. I was racing the clock at this point because it just so happened to be at 58 seconds, 59....I ran through that finish line with a huge smile and sense of accomplishment. I heard my name being announced, which is the first time in a race I have actually heard it! That next little bit was where I experienced so much good emotion that there were a few tears rising! I wandered through the people looking for those green shirts and a spot to stop. I had just finished the Ironman 70.3 nineteen minutes faster than planned. That high was worth the hard moments when I thought that was the only time I ever cared to do that race.

Post-race: We waited and rested for a bit. Terran was sleeping and Scott, Mom, and Bop were all there for me to celebrate with. We had Uncle Dave keeping us updated on Burt and Dad, so we had an idea when we would see them. I headed to the food tent and replenished myself. I took a moment alone to relax in the grass and eat my pizza and be extremely happy with the great day. I then headed back to the fam to wait for the others. We were alerted when Burt was coming and I was able to see him and catch a high five and he ran to the finish. A little bit later we spotted Dad and cheered him on. Tears welled up again because I knew what he had just been through and was so proud!

The aftermath: At this point, I was getting pretty sunburned and was feeling the effects of only two hours of sleep. We got our things, loaded up in the car, grabbed some Swig which they gave us for free!, then headed home. I know there was more good food and family time. The goodbyes started coming too quick for me so I tried not to think about it. The next morning we saw everyone again for breakfast and the real goodbye. It was so neat to have Burt do the race and the others come out to support. It made the whole event that much more special. 
I couldn't believe it, but I didn't even get sore from the race. I experienced a little fatigue, but it was nothing compared to the can't-walk-for-days feeling after the marathon. This fact brought me to the realization that I wanted to do another 70.3 even faster. How awesome that I could prepare my body for that kind of exercise and still be able to go on a bike ride with Scott the next day? 

Who knows right now what next year brings, but I can say that I would definitely be interested in racing again!

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