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This day will not be gentle

Wow!! Thank you so much for all the support! I definitely felt the energy when I took on this race and loved knowing so many people were tracking me and keeping me accountable. Prior to the women’s Kona Ironman world championships a few weeks ago, one of the athletes was giving an interview. I think it was Daniela Ryf, whose primary language is not English. I really love hearing these interviews because sometimes the words used are so clarifying compared to what a native English speaker would say. She was asked what she expected going into a race and she said, “I know this day will not be gentle, it is not supposed to be.” That really stuck with me. The word “gentle” stood out. Have I been expecting races to be gentle, just because I’ve trained for them? Maybe so. My motto going into this race: This day will not be gentle, and neither will I.

I placed 6th in my age group, which means I missed the podium by 1 spot. I didn’t realize Ironman gives medals to the top 5 not just the top 3, so it’s probably for the best I got 6th as I wouldn’t have known to show up at the award ceremony! I was the 35th female overall, this was really exciting for me as there were over 700 women competing. That puts me in the top 5% of women overall. I’m very proud of that and excited for future races.

The race started out super cold. I was pretty miserable standing around the start line. It was dark, windy, and about 50 degrees. Everybody put their wetsuits on just to stay warm while we waited 1.5 hours for the start. The race had a separate start, different place for T1, different T2, and a different finish location. There were a lot of logistics to get all of us competitors plus our stuff where we needed to go. I had to pack a run bag and leave it in T2 overnight, then drop my bike off at T1 and leave that there. The morning of the race we rode shuttles to the start line. I learned an important lesson, to strategically hang your bags up so that rain can’t pour into them and soak your shoes. Though really, you’re either soaking wet from the swim or soaking wet from sweat so I’m not sure it matters much.

I took a very early shuttle to the start line and paid for it by freezing. But, it made the water feel like a bath when I finally got in! The swim was rough for me. Salt water is a different experience, and I kept gagging on how potent it was. There was a lot of wind, which made for big waves and chop. Somebody smacked me in the face which ripped my goggles off completely, I ended up with a black eye. Fortunately I found them and kept going. When I got out and saw 38 minutes I rolled my eyes and thought there goes my chance at the podium. But in a way that freed me up to focus on doing my best efforts for the next two legs, regardless of outcome. I later learned I was swimming against the current, due to the tidal schedule. Typically this race is with the current, but because it was held a weekend later than normal and the start time was slightly different, the first 2-3 groups went out against the tide while the later groups were with the tide. Regardless, plenty of people swam faster than I did so it remains an area on which I need to work.

The bike was awesome. I felt very strong and confident knowing exactly how much power to generate, keeping an eye on my MPH and heart rate to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard. I was able to pass a lot of people and came in under my goal of 2:45! It’s always fun to pass a man on the bike, because he hears me coming and assumes another guy is passing him. Then he looks over and sees it’s a woman and he always surges to keep up. Sometimes he’ll even pass me back, only to blow up in a few minutes and I whip by him again. I had to go to the bathroom so bad the entire bike, I was really suffering but couldn’t bring myself to stop knowing I’d eventually be in the next transition and could go then.

When I finally made it to T2 and got my run stuff on I headed straight for the portapotty, there was a row of 5. I opened the first door that was marked green and there was a man peeing!

“I am SO sorry!”

I opened the next green door and another man!

4 out of 5 had a man in them who hadn’t bothered to lock the door. Traumatizing.

Starting the run with an empty bladder was the best feeling ever, I’m pretty sure that’s why I was able to push so hard. Anything feels easy if your bladder’s not exploding! I forced myself to start easy and target an 8:45 pace. 2 miles in I realized I was chatting too much to people around me or as I went through aid stations and decided to turn it up. Overall I averaged 8:18 minute miles which barely went over my target of 1:45. But I was really pleased with the result. At mile 10 a man came running up next to me and started talking.

“How ya feeling, talk to me, what’s going on in your mind right now?”

For a second I thought he was a member of the triathlon team I’m on and I just didn’t recognize him. But I realized his kit was different than mine so that couldn’t be it. I thought I had met him at some point in the past few days, there were a lot of athletes staying in the same hotel and I had met so many new faces I couldn’t keep track of them.

“I don’t know you. I’m so sorry if I’m supposed to know you. Do I know you?”

“NOPE.”

“Okay then. I can’t talk much right now, this is really hard for me.”

“I’m just a friendly stranger checking in on how you’re feeling.”

So I told him.

“In that case. My quads hurt worse than they ever have, there’s so much dried salt on my kit I can’t bend at the waist anymore and I’m sure every single toe is hemorrhaging blood.”

“That sounds about right.”

He said he was trying to hold a 7:45 pace for the last 3 miles and that’s apparently what I was running at that moment so he wanted to run with me. We kept together for a mile or so and it was kind of fun. Then I started to fatigue and knew I couldn’t sustain that for another mile so told him to go ahead. We ended up bumping into each other at the finish line and he reported he missed his goal time by 3 minutes! Brutal.

The last mile was twisty, along a river on a boardwalk. I thought it would never end. How many turns can you cram into 1 mile on slippery wood? Too many. I passed a woman who shouted, “2 more times around the track and you’re there.” That was very helpful. I can visualize running around the track, since I do a track workout every week. My body knows how far 2 laps is without even thinking about it and that gave me the bump I needed to get there. I had to sprint the finish line as there was a woman a hundred yards ahead of me and I knew passing even one more would put me that much higher overall. Glad I did! At one point on the run I was hurting pretty bad and found myself saying, “well at least I’m not passed out on an airplane right now.” Perspective.

Beak and the kids were there at the finish line. It was super great to see them and hear them cheering. I collapsed in the grass while they asked a million questions and wanted to know what food I would get from the tent and could they have some? I asked Beak to help me up since I was having a hard time standing. I was in a kneeling position while he held my arm, we stayed like that for a few minutes until I said, “well, can you please help me up?”

“I was waiting for you to start standing up,” he said.

“I AM trying to stand up!” I yelled. His eyes got kind of big.

He had to grab me under the armpits and lift me up like a child. My legs have not hurt like that ever before.

Beak jetted off the next morning with the Boy for a super secret adventure surprise! I’ll get an update about that out next week but as I told the girls: they’re going to St. Louis to get a surprise for the family.

The girls and I drove home, it was a pretty peaceful trip aside from me not being able to stand or walk. Every gas station break involved me staggering around the car to shake out my legs. I think J even held my hand to get me up and down the stairs. They did a great job helping me load up the car, except I feel I should have gotten to ride the luggage cart….

Wilmington was really awesome and we had a great vacation as a family. Beak is on point when he’s managing the kids and I really appreciated being able to drop in and out of activities to tend to the pre-race meetings. He did a great job giving them a fun beach time. We went to some really good restaurants and I wanted to link them below in case anyone else ends up going there for a trip!

Coffee: DRIFT was really good, they have a beach location and a town center one. We patronized both! They had gluten free brownies the kids loved and their coffee was the best we tried. SUNdays was a super cute coffee shop on Wrightsville beach. This wins for ambiance and experience, it’s the upstairs of a surf shop, lots of beach decorations and big windows that give you an ocean view. Their coffee was not as good, but the experience was fun. We got treats and then walked along the beach for a while.

Food: Vicious Biscuit. Holy moly. I have recently developed a deep love of biscuits. I don’t know how I’ve gone so long in life without realizing how amazing biscuits are. But now I get them anytime I can. Sheetz makes a mean biscuit, and that is my number one treat spot with the kids. Bojangles is by far the best option near us. But then I lived Vicious Biscuit and no other biscuit will do. They were huge, delicious, warm, buttery, I could live inside one of those biscuits. They also had huge GF ones that were equally amazing. They’re a breakfast place plain and simple.

Hieronymus Seafood. Amazing. Exactly what you want from a seafood place at the beach. Also very reasonably priced but delicious AND they served cheddar biscuits. Which I ate. All of them.

I haven’t decided yet which races I’ll go after next season, I’m hoping for at least two 70.3 Ironmans and a few shorter distances sprinkled throughout.

I really appreciate everyone’s encouragement and cheers! I loved seeing the emails and texts at the finish line. Thank you so much!

1 thought on “This day will not be gentle”

  1. Thank you for this story, very motivating!
    “ , “I know this day will not be gentle, it is not supposed to be.”
    The toilet portion is hilarious (if you are not in that position-and haven’t we all been there at some time?)
    Congratulations!

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