Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Incredible Journey-The Run/Finish

Taking off on the run, while running inside the barriers, the crowd was cheering. I felt a surge of energy. Then I saw two of my Aussie friends/spectators on the sidelines! They were yelling for me, I went up and threw my sweaty arms around them...it was incredible to see someone I knew after so many hours. The run down Ali'i Drive started basically where the Finish Line is, where I could here Mike Reilly Announcing "You Are an Ironman" to literally one person after the other. I heard him say Apollo Ohno was on his way in. I had to turn a deaf ear to all of that, knowing I had a marathon in front of me. Then I saw my husband!!! Relief, happiness and energy flowed through. I think I said something about the f%#*ng bike, how windy it was. I knew my family had been worried about me, since my bike leg took so long. H told me I looked great. I saw the rest of part of the family and little ones. Avery said Grandma, you are the best runner ever! as she ran a few yards with me. Oh, how I wish I had her little strong eight year old legs about then! The run down Ali'i Drive is 5 miles out and then back. It is flat but hot. My only saving grace was that the sun was starting to reach sunset. I ran my routine of run 4 min/ walk 1 min. as I had done in training. I did this the whole run, except when I stopped to go potty, which ended up to be often. I saw the woman I had passed on the bike on the side of the road throwing up (She passed me later). Hmmm...maybe I won't be last afterall. At that point I had no idea where I was in my AG, only that I was 9th out of the swim. New goal: don't be last in my age group. I knew from past experiences when something unexpected happens in Ironman, adjust my goals. It certainly has helped me many races and in life really..

There were people all along Ali'i Drive cheering. I smiled almost all of the first 10 miles.
Near the turnaround, I saw the rest of my family. Yee-haw!! It wa sooo good to see them! I stopped for a picture
Becca asked me how the bike was. A few more expletives but that I was feeling great now..
I had worn the white long sleeved cooling shirt on the run to pour water on it and stay cool. The back has some little pockets to put ice in only I forgot about them completely. At each aid station it was: pour water on my sleeves, put ice down my shirt, under my hat, wherever ice would go. Then I squirted my Shotz electrolyte concentrate into a cup of water and downed it. This went on every mile at the Aid Stations. I guess it was hot at first since I remember all the ice. If only I had remembered why I got the cooling shirt with pockets-ha! I had never practiced with it and the ice so like they say never try anything new on raceday that you haven't done in training.. I knew this? Oh well, small error.

I finally got through with the 10 mile run through the support of the crowd. I passed H and fam again near the start again and got more encouragement. H kept telling me I was doing great, telling me I looked good ( thanks honey, didn't feel like I looked so good.ha!). I was still smiling. The sun was setting over the ocean, it was really beautiful and reminded me of my run in Melbourne...I felt overwhelmed. How lucky was I to do two triathlon races in the last 7 months, both with stunning sunsets over the ocean while I was on the run in an Ironman Triathlon?! I met a woman who was super friendly in my age group and we ran/walked together for a few miles. She was an Aussie and very sweet. It was her 2nd Kona race and only her 3rd Ironman. She started running in her 50s and did her first IM 2 years ago (she qualified in a half this year). She was also two years older than me. Wow, I could've gotten really discouraged when she eventually ran away from me but I actually felt happy for her that she found the Sport late in life and was already a rockstar! Plus she was an Aussie...so how could I be envious and resentful..

When I got to the Queen K it was starting to get dark..the next 13 miles were the most emotionally and mentally challenging for me. Fatigue was really setting in, the time where my mind could play tricks on me. However, somewhere along the line on the run I made the decision to just enjoy myself, soak up the experience. It was the first time in the seven Ironman races that I took the pressure off myself to pull off a PR or place in my AG or qualify for Kona-I am at KONA! I felt a huge weight being lifted. I knew I would finish the race and have a smile on my face..screw my time. I guess the only thing I really prayed for, asked my mom and sister for (they are in heaven) is please I don't want to be last in my age group! Then putting that in the back of my mind I trudged on, in the dark to complete my goal.

My stomach by now was working overtime in the potty department. I probably stopped 6 times to go, sometimes at the porta potty, sometimes in the bushes. There are advantages to running in pitch black I suppose! It was so dark at times I could not even see the road in front of me. I was not so happy during this part of the run. I couldn't even see the Orange cones supposedly showing where to run. The road was closed but I at some point they opened parts of it because I started being blinded by headlights, which confused me even more! Mumbling under my breath for gods sakes, the is the World Championships and they can't even provide light on the highway for safety? The runners in front of me and behind me were unable to be seen unless they had a glow stick or headlamp on their heads. My biggest fear was tripping and falling. I tend to trip and fall when I run sometimes. It is usually over rocks and trails but darkness was a whole nother ball game. Still doing my walk/run, I think I started to slow down for fear of getting hurt. Just get to your Special Needs bag I told myself because in it I had a headlamp. I was regretting not putting it in the bike to run transition. Finally, I got to the turn for the "Energy Lab", a road with a bunch of large mysterious looking buildings with huge solar panels. The road is about 3 miles long, an out and back which can provide insufferable heat for all the athletes that run through there in the daytime. For me however, it was nice and cool, the goal being get to my special needs at the end of this road and my headlamp. As I turned onto the road I yelled to someone is this the right way? It should have been a no brainer with the huge spotlights on the corner but I was totally disoriented by the darkness and fatigue from being out there what seemed like forever. I felt grumpy, I started hating gels and wishing it was over. This was my lowest point. I chatted with a couple of women along the way but honestly most of the people on the Energy Lab road looked like Zombies to me..

I got to my Special Needs bag, pulled out my headlamp and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this would keep me from falling over my own feet the last 7 miles of the marathon! The light went on-yes! Then about 10 minutes later, the battery died. Are you effing kidding me?! I threw the headlamp in the trash at the next Aid station. I was pissed at myself for not changing the battery. It had sat in the closet a long time. Oh well, time to get over it and carry on..the good news is that once I turned back on the Queen K to run back to Kona, the moon came up! Now I could see the distant lights of Kailua-Kona. I felt uplifted immediately. I was only a few miles from the finish line!!
I switched to chicken broth and coke somewhere in here. My stomach could not take another gel. I knew I wasn't dehydrated at this point so I just tossed my water belt away and felt free! I started getting excited and picking up my running. I think I even stopped the walking interval and just ran. OMG, I am going to finish the Ironman World Championships! All my negativity vanished. As I passed volunteers they encouraged me, saying I was "almost there". When there is 3 miles to go I am not "almost there" but their intention was good. One guy said "you have 2 hours to finish, no problem!" My heart sank briefly. Now I knew what time it really was. I had my timer on but didn't look at the actual time on most of the bike and the run. Now I knew I was officially out on an IM course longer than I ever had before. I still smiled, knowing I was headed for the finish line.

Rounding the corners in town, I got disoriented and kept asking Is this the right way? Am I going towards the Finish? I could hear Mike Reilly's voice getting closer. Finally I turned the last corner and knew where I was, I was running down Ali'i Drive to the Finish Line. Then I saw H and family!! He told me I was almost there and enjoy the moment! Funny, about 3 miles to the finish I wondered if everyone had gone home at the FL. I was so late, maybe the crowd was small. As I ran down the finishers chute OMG there were hundreds of people screaming, pounding the sides and I was so overcome with emotion I started crying. I ran as fast as I could the last 200 yards. I am not sure why..I think I just wanted to finish strong..the thrill of the finish line is indescribable!
There was it-the Finish Line!!
Run Time: 6:06
Overall Time: 15:52:04
Age Group: 22nd out of 32 (not last-yay..Mission accomplished!)
female rank: 540th
Overall Rank: 1912th

I'd like to say I ran into my family's arms right away but actually the catchers caught me at the Finish Line and my feet buckled out from under me. Kinda freaked me out but volunteers said it would pass and after walking around for a bit, I was good. I found Sean, my massage therapist I'd seen twice before the race at the massage tent...what a sight for sore eyes, and muscles. He worked on my neck and arms. It probably saved me from permanent neck damage from the bike!

I got the picture taken with the big ass Medal, something I thought about more than once during the race..it's a well earned crown of victory.

After a very cold piece of pizza I found H and the girls!! I was so thrilled and overjoyed that all the kids were there. I hope I inspired my Grandkids in a way that my mom inspired me. Never give up, you can do anything you set your mind to. Perservence, hard work and patience is the key!

From seeing the Finish Line for the first time in Kona in 1997, when I thought it was an impossible dream, this Ironman World Championships Triathlon to trying for 10 years to qualify...here I was 17 years later. I heard Mike Reilly say "Debra Wess-60 years old mother, grandmother-YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Friday, October 17, 2014

And Then Came the Bike...Part 3 of The Incredible Journey

(I am sitting blogging at an Oceanside coffee shop, watching the people who obviously have no sense surfing the big waves during the "Tropical Storm" conditions we are suppose to be having. This is the only sign of a hurricane 220 miles south of the Island. It was raining now the sun looks like it's about to come out..geez all that worry for this?)

The Bike:

Wow the bike portion..it took me on an unexpected ride that challenged me physically and mentally. Not in a way I actually ever thought of quitting, but man it was difficult! I will admit near the end I wondered if I would make the cutoff, something I have never been worried about before. I am embarrassed to say I didn't even remember what the bike cutoff was, but knew the hours were passing..too many hours passing for my comfort level. In the end, I made it in time but not without fighting the wind for much of the ride..

It started out coming out of the chute and straight up Palani Dr., probably a 2 block 8% grade hill. That'll wake your legs up! There is a 4-5 mile section around Kona in the beginning which is nice, I got to see spectators and part of the family!!

They took a couple of pics of me as I rode up. At this point I was feeling pretty strong..I was so happy to see my "Team Wess" crew, kids and all:

I was riding Arero, down in the bars for much of the first 20 miles or so. The Queen K is a great road surface, the whole road was closed for the race so smooth sailing from a long bike ride perspective. The only bummer, and this was a big bummer 7 hours later, was that they did not allow spectators on the bike course. Let me tell you, riding almost 8 hours in mostly solitude is very challenging! I did however, have one ray of sunshine ..they allowed folks that were staying in the resorts on the Northwest Coast to go out to the Queen K to cheer folks on. My wonderful sister in law (H's sister) and brother in law (her husband), two of my favorite supporters were staying outside such a resort. I looked for them by the first Aid Station and didn't see them. They had the awesome Team Wess T-shirts on. My SIL told me she was screaming and could have reached out and touched me she was so close! I must've had my eye on the water station because I never saw her going out. The water stations came up frequently, thank goodness. I would grab one water and pour it over my cooling sleeves, then one water to pour into my bottle. I would have to stop to add the electrolyte tabs because they wouldn't go through aero bottle top. I did manage to do it a couple of times on the bike but once the wind came, forget it. That wasn't such a good plan..

The bike to Hawi to the turnaround

The bike to Hawi to the turnaround
The bike up to Hawi to turnaround..

The wind, ah the wind..at about mile 25 (aproximately) there started to be wind. I had biked out of Kona with a tailwind/side wind of sorts-it wasn't an issue. So It was windy already but this was a crazy, swirling headwind. Ok, I am in Kona doing the World Ironman Championships and this is why it is considered one of the hardest courses in the world! I carried on, drinking, eating and fighting the wind. I looked at bikes in front of me and they looked like they were struggling also so this somehow made me feel better. I got hit with some side winds that took me and pushed me across the lane of the road. I started riding on the far right shoulder so if I got pushed sideways again into the other lane, I wouldn't hit anyone. It was crazy..that's all I can say. I was soooooo grateful I had done the Acoma Century ride. We had crosswinds on that ride and headwinds, granted not as harsh as this but I remembered that feeling of having your wheels pushed out under you and staying upright. When the wind decided to be against me, I was barely moving on an already sort of rolling course. Nothing I coudn't have rocked had the wind been down. The first real gust of side/headwind, I yelled Bring it!!! Don't know why it was kind of like you can't break me, no matter what you do Madame Pele, i can handle it! So I used that kind of Bring It attitude the rest of the ride up to Hawi. There is about a 6 mile climb up to the turnaround that is a bit steeper and longer than the other hills. Before I got there the Pros started coming back. They were flying, which gave me hope that I would have a tailwind on the way back. I said a little prayer to that affect. I had to stay out of my aerobars much of those 40 or so miles up to Hawi. I saw a woman flat on the ground, race officials around her. I deduced she had been blown off her bike (total of 8 athletes got blown off their bikes in the race)...I tried to remember all my tricks to riding in wind. Keep knees together, use core to center, just plain hang on! I wasn't particularly tired, which is a good thing. This meant I had trained right. It was super hot but the wind was a good distraction from that! Someone told me the gusts were 50 MPH. I don't know, all I remembered was my coach saying it will be windy but nothing as bad a Geelong (70.3-race from hell wind). Uh, Coach you are awesome but this wind is worse. Alot worse it seemed at the time. I tried to look around and enjoy the view. We were climbing and the sight of the ocean and lava rocks was stunning! I couldn't look for long because I never knew when a gust might hit in the headwind so I held on tight, literally to my bike. At one point I realized my arms were so tight they were getting sore..My neck was killing me. I tried to stretch but very hard to move around when you are trying to "stay center". I honestly thought my neck would be a mess the next day..I think I didn't go over 11 MPH for 25 miles...wicked conditions.

Finally, finally I got to the turnaround. The time it took me to get there was LONG and I anticipated flying back with a tailwind, where I would make up for the slow-ass time it took me to get there. The volunteers and spectators in Hawi were so great. Mostly local people, these folks are donating their time and their community for me! I thanked as many volunteers as I could when i remembered to do so. The only annoying moments at Aid Stations was when they didn't open the water bottle. Pretty difficult to do on a bike..Mostly I was smiling because I knew about the downhill coming. Turned around-wheeeee!!! Maximum speed 35 MPH.. The wind was now mostly at our backs, sometimes a sidewind but I didn't care. I tried to fly down the hils as much as I could.

Then, a couple things happened. I couldn't find my last 2 electrolyte pills, thought I left them at Special Need at the turnaround (actually found them later in my bike jersey-geez). I thought well, I can either switch to water, knowing I had a couple hours to go? Or: drink the nasty ass Perform which is like Gator Aid only worse and tastes like crap.. I chose the latter. The temp was in the 90s probably more out on the lava rocks and I knew people get in trouble in Kona because of heat/sweat/electrolyte loss. I was super paranoid about this. Had continued to consume Shotz Gels and 2bars, one with protein. The only thing missing was the electrolyte tabs for the last 1.5 hours.

I still wasn't tired physically, just mentally tired of being on the course. In the wind. I checked my tires a couple of times (they weren't low or flat). I finally had to give in that these were the conditions so suck it up or you better work b#*%ch! (Daughter Allison showed me this-made me laugh soooo hard!). I thought of these random things on my odessey bike ride.

Oh, you've got to be kidding me, then the wind decided to switch and we had a direct headwind for the last 30 miles. I just went with it. This was the race of my life, I wasn't breaking any speed records, NBC wasn't chasing me for the IM Kona TV special-may as well enjoy! I kept leap frogging with two other women in my AG on the way back. They were super serious. I tried to say a few words in passing just being light. One woman said how much this sucked and I said But we are at KONA! She said oh yea, I guess there's that. Then my goal got really small. Beat this grumpy woman on the bike. Every time I would pass her, she would pass me. Well, I guess it is a race, even at 10 MPH..lol

My feet all of a sudden felt like they were on fire! Not just one but both. I loosened my new larger sized Tri shoes. Nope..not working. So I stopped and took my socks off. Ahhh, that's better! It bothered me one more time. I needed to stop and take my shoes off to move my feet around. My stomach started to get a little funky at the end of the bike. I pee'ed twice on the bike so knew I was hydrated.

Then I saw my sister and brother in law!!! In the shirts and everything. I yelled Hi guys! but it was brief. Just knowing there was someone in a 25 mile radius around me that knew me was a relief. I worried a little about making the cutoff, I thought it was 5:00. I learned later was 5:30. I picked up a little speed passing the Energy Lab because there were all the runners running in and out. They were 17-23 miles into the marathon. My heart kinda sank for one second. I was about an hour past the time I thought I could do the bike. Oh well, I am in Kona! Finally, was headed toward the turn into town and I passed those two women in my AG and never looked back! I knew they would probably kick my ass on the run. Who cares? I had met my brief yet shining goal on the bike. The wind died down in town then it was just HOT!

This was the bike course and my data:

According to my Garmin I rode thise 112 miles in 7:41.
Official bike time: 7:56. I stopped a total of 15 minutes..
It's all good. I was done with the bike!!! In plenty of time..relief flowed over me. I handed my bike and helmet to the volunteer and said bye-bye Cervelo, probably won't see you again for a long while! I started jogging in transition, I think I took my bike shoes, if not I should have. The transition run felt like a good5k to me but I'm sure it wasn't that far. One good thing about being in the back of the pack is I had the changing tent all to myself pretty much along with 2 people helping me. The volunteer said that people were saying the wind on the bike was the worst they've had in 15 years...I could've kissed her I was so relieved it just wasn't about me being a wimp! There were even Porta potties in the changing tent. How cool is that! Part of me wanted to ignore the urge to go, time wise but what the hell why be uncomfortable? The bathrooms were clean. In fact all the p.p.s I stopped at were pretty clean. I guess the World Championships provide royal treatment porta potties too!
After what seemed like forever like this blog entry probably is, I was out on the run!!!
Transition time: a very leisurely 10:03.





Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Swim-Part 2 of The Incredible Journey

The swim:

I placed myself to the left of the crowd out by the TYR Buoy. The course bouys looked very far to the right but as they went further out to the ocean they veered left, potentially giving me a straighter shot.The cannon went off and I started swimming. The first thing I noticed was that everyone could...well...swim! It seemed I was placed pretty well in the group I was attached to as I got pulled along with 400 other women around the first part of the course. I actually for the first time that I remember, was able to draft off faster swimmers in front of me for much of the first half of the swim. It was amazing! I had my Speedsuit on, (Hawaii waters wetsuits not allowed-water is too warm per rules). I felt really fast though and settled into a good pace for me. My swim watch battery was dying right before the swim so I gave it to H and had to trust my gut on swim speed. As I turned my arms over and over, I thought ok, this isn't bad and I am in IM KONA! I felt so grateful for all the swims I had done in Melbourne earlier in the year because the swells I was feeling as we headed out to the turnaround seemed to get larger. I couldn't tell if I was swimming with the current or against. It didn't matter because I was pretty comfortable. It really seemed like the swim to the turnaround was forever..then I remembered..oh yea this is what an Ironman swim feels like! I got kicked a couple of times, once in the face but the lack of all the male swimmer made the whole thing so much more enjoyable (sorry boys didn't miss getting run over, kicked and elbows that were much larger than mine in my face), I thought of H and the fam and wondered what they were doing. I was grateful for all the swimming lap after lap I had done over these past 11 months. My mask was good this time. I had the USA logo on my mask and it was cool. The only real issue I had was hunger. Before the swim, I realized I was getting super hungry. I had forgotten to bring a gel down to the water. After asking a couple of official people if they had any gels to no avail, I started looking on the ground for gel packets that may have been dropped-nothing. So the whole swim I had this gnawing hungry pain..just suck it up and don't think about! That's what I told myself. It was hard to ingore at times. Stoopid rooky mistake!

Finally I saw the big boat and knew we were close to the turnaround. I swam around the boat, which was rather large and hard to miss! Also the course was lined with kayaks and paddle boards so it was very difficult to get off course at any time during the long swim. This was nice, since I guess at some places it would have been easy to be pulled off course by the tide. I started swimming back and couldn't figure out if I had the current with me or against as I bobbed up and down with the swell of the current. It was trying to pull me to the right I think. Afterwards, folks said definitely we were swimming against the current on the way back. The land still looked VERY far away, geez am I ever going to finish? However, it was still fun, I was still swimming in Kona IM. I wasn't tired, however was ready to get out as I finally saw the cell tower I was trying to sight. I started running into some of the men who were slower swimmers. They had started 10 minutes before us. Only these guys were not so great swimmers. Swimming backstroke, breaststroke, sometimes four abreast. This got a little frustrating as I tried to swim around them. I know this slowed me down, I could feel it. Finally I was looking up and seeing the dock at Kona and said YES, I am here!! I was a little unsteady getting up the stairs, someone helped me eventually get upright. I pulled my speedsuit off and on to Transition 1 I went!

Was bound and determined to smile out of the swim. My swim pics always look so awful!

Swim Time: 1:31:15- Slow for me in an Ironman swim....really slow but my friend Ted reminded me that a wetsuit can increase your speed in the swim by 10 minutes..but all those other ladies didn't have wetsuits either! My swim time was the only thing I was really disappointed time wise in the race..:/ especially since I thought I was going so fast!

T-1: As I passed through the showers to rinse myself off, I asked someone what time it was, I think they said 9:24. Whaaa? I knew I had not swam 2 hrs and 24 min. So was confused but oh well, I was out and getting on the bike! T-1 went smoothly. They handed me my bag, I had my own personal assistant who helped spread my things out nicely and I was able to don all my bike gear on without issues. Yay!! I decided to run to my bike in my socks, someone said people were slipping with their bike shoes. It actually was a tip that was given to me by my bike check in guy the day before, good tip-thanks! Got to my bike and many of bikes were gone around me. Dang! It meant I didn't swim as fast as I thought.l.oh well..I was still in Kona Ironman..

T-1 time: 7:38

I will stop here for now. There is a Hurricane/Tropical Storm heading towards the Big Island for tomorrow and Saturday. I have an upper respiratory infection brewing. Not exactly how I envisioned the rest of the vacation going but going with the flow. Some of the fam are leaving early because of storm. We did however get a boat dolphin tour today with the the whole clan. Everyone got to snorkel and on the way back we followed about a dozen dolphins for awhile. The kids (big and little) were thrilled.

And to add, on the Dolphin Tour, we were on the boat for about 15 minutes. We were all the way out from land following the Coast. The Captain says this is the turnaround for the IM Swim. I was amazed and turned to my son-in-law and said how the heck did I swim that? Ha!



Monday, October 13, 2014

The Incredible Journey..Part One

I don't even know where to start. What do you say about a day where everything was super challenging but exhilarating and joyful at the same time? What do you say about a trip that took me into complete loneliness on the Island of Madam Pele, who chose to rise up with her firey side on Saturday to challenge me on the bike?
The week before the race was excitement building. Friends from Australia, my coach, my whole family all 15 of them arrived, only to bring my energy up for the big day. I spent the night in a hotel room near the race start for 3 nights, to get myself centered and calm before race day. The "dated" facilities were less than desirable, toilet overflowing with sewage several times, ants in the bathroom, and I was a little afraid to sleep on the bed to be honest. But it served its purpose having me near the transition area for bike checkin and race morning so the ants could be overlooked for a couple of nights.
H and I went to the Pre Race Banquet and heard what sounded a little too corporate for me. It also was LONG! The entertainment (Hawaiin Dancers and Drummers)were amazing! We enjoyed the company of friends but I was antsy, hasn't seen the kids much, so we left early,
I checked my bike into transition on Friday. I was met with a personal escort, who took me to help me rack my bike and walk through transition getting my T-1 and T-2 bags ready for RaceDay. I felt a little like royalty! It was organized and seamless:
I was impressed. It was lovely to unload some of my stuff, the weight on my shoulders felt somewhat lighter! I tried to relax the rest of Friday. It was difficult. My hubby and daughters helped me get settled, my nerves were running a bit high. I had met with Coach Michael one last time prerace to talk about my "race plan". Then after my youngest Allison told me Mom, breathe God in, breathe Debi out (good advice for crazed pre-race Iron Mom-thanks honey!) they said goodbye and I was on my own for a bit. Since I had time to myself I went to a local eatery and ordered a sandwich and n/a beer, people watched and ocean gazed for a while. I went the Expo and wandered a bit. It felt good to do my own thing for a few hours. I tried to drink all the Electrolyte drinks I could shovel in, preload planning for the hot sweaty day ahead.

Eventually I made my way back down to the "Sugar Shack", where the whole family is staying in our big home away from home. My son-in-law, an excellent cook made me a huge pasta and chicken Italian dinner. It was delicious and so good to see my kids and Grandkids the eve of the race. The little ones knew they were going to see "Grandma race" the next day but not sure they knew exactly the long day of excitement they were in for on Saturday. But get'n love from grandkids is the best medicine for a case of prerace jitters! My sister in law and her husband flew all the way from New Jersey to see me race. I was humbled and honored and it was so great to see them!! They joined us for the prerace dinner also. Every single person had a blue "Team Wess" T-Shirt on during race day. It made it easy to see my crew. Special cowbells were made with "SWTrigal" on them. Thanks Allison!!

Becca, an older daughter offered to come stay with me to help prepare for the short night, early morning ahead. Hubby stayed in another room, he wanted to sleep later than my 3:00 wake up call. I had a good night sleep there on Thursday night, after the pre race Banquet. Friday night, not so much sleep. We went to bed about 9:30, I was wide awake at 1:00 AM. All fear of "oversleeping" was banished! Wandering down to the hotel lobby, I managed to make some instant coffee and start trying to preload much needed calories for the day ahead. It is really hard to get in the several hundred calories prerace but I managed a bagel and a half, along with a banana, hoping it would be stored up in me like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter..
This is me eating bagel while Becca playing "Eye of the Tiger" and others inspirational prerace music..
Becca was an awesome Sherpa!! So was my dear hubby. I felt all the love he sent off with me that day..
At 4:15 we started to head down to transistion. I got body marked as I was ushered into to the "athlete only" tent, then went out to meet the family again. All these kids and grandkids had showed up by then. I wasn't sure with the early hour whether that was possible but was soooo happy to see them!
This is part of my Crew. They all had matching TShirts on that said "Team Wess" I felt so loved and supported...
I also had my T.E.A.M from Australia, the one I have been a part of since last year before IMs Melbourne. I felt better just seeing Michael and he giving me encouragement. He is an awesome athlete himself so I wished him luck too.

These are my coaches (My main man is Michael on right end)
These are all some of my favorite people in the World! So glad to be a part of their journey. The support I have gotten from my Melbourne folks since January is incredible!

I got kisses and hugs from everybody and off we went to get in line for the swim. The men went first but not before a beautiful Hawaiin prayer was said to send special energy. This is Lauren, Jody and I waiting for the swim to start. Lauren WON the women's swim. No, I mean she really was FIRST PLACE out of the water. Quite a future ahead of that little gal!
The drums were beating, the cannon went off for the men. I guess I didn't feel nervous at all. All the swimming I did in Australia truly prepared me for the ocean waters of Hawaii..I had no butterflies, nothing, just joy! We lined up in the water about 50 yards into the deep and treaded water. I took a moment and looked at all the spectators, heard the cheers, just took it all in. I got tears in my eyes. I thought I wanna remembered this moment forever! The cannon went off without a countdown and we were off! I was beginning the Kona Ironman Worlds Championships-wow I never thought I would be saying that, in my wildest dreams!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

TWO More Days!

I simply lost my last start to a blog post. Oh well, wasn't meant to be? It is Thursday and I will just highlight the journey in the present.

All checked in for the race. It was a quick easy process and soooo exciting! My friend Ted and I were one of the first ones in. I felt chills! Afterwards, they shuffle you into the "Ironman Souvenir Store". A good marketing strategy for sure suckers (like me). Yes, I bought stuff-of course! A new Kona WC bike kit amount other things walked out the door with me. I was overwhelmed! We will go back for "Finishers" stuff after the race. I did get my awesome Ironman Kona coffee cup. It is already my favorite.

Have ridden on the "Queen K" 3 times now and once in a car. I only went a few miles out on my bike. We rode the whole route in the car. There is a 6 mile climb up into Hawi, which is the turnaround. Didn't seem too bad in the car! Ha! Yesterday, I met up with my Coach and the other two coaches that are here to race Kona as part of the Aussie T.E.A.M. Michael, my coach rode with me the 32 miles, giving me pointers, feedback and info about the course. He told me I would be a strong contender on the bike in my AG. My heart swelled a little more and confidence grew..uh, you talkin' about me?? What? Little self doubt voices got smaller. I have gotten stronger on the bike this year so logically I know this could be true..all I have to do is believe!

Went to the Expo yesterday, had my Cervelo checked out (yes it finally got here Sunday-that's another story!). All is well. We found a bike store that had my Bike Garmin TT holder. I forgot mine at home and this one is nicer.. Bike-check!

I ran around a little too much yesterday in the heat. Ahhh, the heat..more about that later..the Expo is outside. I saw Chrissie Wellington speaking briefly. I have seen a couple of Pros. No Apolo Ohno yet, there is still time! I felt a bit lost, overwhelmed and hot at the venue. H and I finally met up and I called it a day, knowing all the sun I had gotten yesterday could not be good..

We did however have a wonderful lunch with my Aussie teammate/Coach Jody, who couldn't be nicer. Jody, her husband, H and I enjoyed a beautiful time chatting over brunch overlooking Ali'i Drive. Jody was so kind to us in Australia, I consider her a good friend and sister in crime! She is also a KICK Ass athlete, look for her on the podium..

We also have sincerely enjoyed the company of Ted and Lori, old friends from way back in Triathlon. Ted was one of the first Triathlon teachers I met in Santa Fe back in 2001. He and I have both been trying to get to Kona for years. This year we made it!! He is as exited as I am-we are both like little kids in a candy store...dinners, meals with Ted and Lori have been priceless, not to mention to have home people here is simply amazing and supportive..go Ted!! He and I marched in the "Parade of Nations" on Tuesday. The contingent from the U.S. was slim, so many countries represented well so although I didn't get to "see" the Parade, H said it was awesome. I waved and yelled to the crowd. Again, overwhelming, chills-all of it!

H and I went to the "IronGents" dinner Monday night. Athletes "over 60" were invited with their spouses. The speakers were the over 80 y.o. competitors. There are FIVE over 80 competitors this year in Kona. That is simply amazing!! The original two of the only seven "Gents" from the 1980's are here. When we saw the 100 or so people in the room, I was simply amazed. It was mentioned that it has gone from 7 "over 60's" in the 1980's to probably 200 athletes over 60 this year. I am stunned by this info and proud of all us old Geezers!! Training for Ironman keeps us young, it really does! The human body can be pushed more than we think physically and in this pushing, there lies longevity IMHO. We went around the room and gave our "tips" for racing Ironman. It was light, informative, funny...I really felt like I do belong in this elite "older crowd" and am proud of it!

Our kids and Grandkids start arriving today. I am so excited for this as we open our little suite in the house to the big rest of the house to accomodate the expanding crowd. I have my only little cheering section of 16 here to support me. H's sister, my dear sister in law and her husband-some of my favorite family members, flew all the way from New Jersey to watch me race. It was an oddesey for them to get here, with missed flights, divergence to Hilo airport but we had dinner with them last night and they are such troupers, I am so glad they are here..I am humbled by all the support coming with me on this dream journey to the IM World Championships!

The ocean is amazing to swim in. I can see the bottom, fish, coral and all. I keep smiling underwater as I swim. No wetsuits allows so I wear my Skinsuit, which covers my Tri Gear and all is well swimming in the vast ocean. I can't wait for the swim. I feel strong and swimming is my best leg of the race, the most comfortable anyway for me...the swim start Saturday should be amazing. Apparently hundreds of spectators are there along with Hawaiin drums and a huge cannon to start the race. The Pros go off first, then men, then women. My wave starts at 7:00. So GLAD I won't be run over by a bunch of male athletes on the swim!! It's an efficient change from the "Mass start" in my opinion..

The bike will be hilly a bit, nothing I can't handle. I take it a bit slower up the hills, try to push over the tops, scream on the downhill hopefully. The climb up to Hawi is not particularly steep, just long and arduous. The wind can be super bad on the bike..crosswinds, headwinds, tailwinds-you get what you get. There is ZERO shade on the bike or run...Zero except maybe a couple of the first 10 miles of the run where there are a couple of trees on the side of the road, but no breeze there.

The run has a few rollers, there is Lava Rock everywhere on the Queen K, where the middle 10 miles of the run is. The infamous "Energy Lab", known for its incredible heat because of Lava, heat solar reflectors in the Energy Plant makes the heat feel like even more of oven than it already is. For the Pros and fast age groupers this may be quite challenging but I am thinking by the time I get to the Energy Lab the sun will be setting or it will be dark so maybe not so hot then? Who knows?..

Ok, the HEAT. Now I have no worries about the hills, the distance and the wind. But the HEAT and humidity scare me a little. I can go outside and think "oh it's not that hot". Then about 15 minutes later I come back inside and I am drenched in sweat. This is without feeling particularly hot, add the sun and the heat of an already hot day (it's been in the 80's) and it can be brutal. My Coach assures me that I will probably not feel so hot on the bike (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and pour cold water on me each aid station). The inevitable wind will help. The run though, that's what separates the men from the boys. For myself, I will continue my run 4min/walk 1 minute method on the run and do my best to keep from overheating. I think I know my body well enough not to kill myself on the bike (lesson learned in Western Australia 5 years ago). Then the run will be what it is and I will stick to my plan..

How do I feel right now? Overwhelmed with all the well wishes on FB, the texts, the phone calls, I am so GRATEFUL for the support! People who don't even know me that well are wishing me good luck. I must close my eyes and try and absorb all the energy flowing my way right now. I will do my best to picture each and everyone of these folks in my head on the long lonely bits of the bike and run. I am full of gratitude. I can't even put it into words..This race is not even so much a race as a culmination of a 12 year Journey in Triathlon. I will no doubt learn something on Saturday about myself, I will learn many things! My goal is to enjoy the day, the experience and keep reminding myself I am in Kona in the Ironman World Championships! I will smile, stick to my plan and hydrate. The rest is up to the day and me keeping my head in the game. All in all it really is a long training day and my goal is to not take myself so seriously this IM. I am in the best shape ever for IM so the rest will take care of itself..I worked hard to get here and deserve it by golly!!

I am jittery nervous (normal Taper nervousness) this AM. I am suppose to be relaxing and have a massage later-yes!! My sweet husband, who I couldn't have done any of this without his support has gone to the bank, store, going to the Expo to pick up last minute items for me so I can sit here and "relax" while trying to put my thoughts down here and to pack up for the race. The ultimate Sherpa!!

So sorry if this is all a bit jumbled, that is how my brain is working right now. I stare at the ocean from our porch and think Wow in 2 days, I will be swimming biking and running out there..oh and crossing the Finish Line with a smile,on my face!!

Don't think I will have time to blog before the race..family, race prep, last minute stuff..see you on the other side!!