Let me start by saying that the last 6 months have been an incredible journey, with many highs and lows, with break-through days and major setbacks. I have many good memories of all the training, many awful training days that I try not to think about, and many moments that have changed who I am for the better. Surviving this journey with my husband, which ended with a kiss and Justin hanging my finisher medal around my neck, will be a time in my life that I will always remember, for better or worse.
So here is the race report. It's long - I apologize! But I hope my story is worth reading. Sunday started out early, getting up at 3:15am, and out the door by 4am. Our amazing IronFriends Markell and Adam came in for the weekend all the way from Texas to support us on race day - we are SO blessed to have such awesome friends! They dropped us off right near where the buses were departing, and we were on the bus by 4:20am. Markell and Adam were going to park and wait to hear from us that our bikes were ok in transition (we had packed our training wheels in the car in case we needed them to bring them on the buses to us in an emergency).
We got to the Res and made the 5-7min walk to transition and checked everything over on our bikes - all set! We called Markell and Adam to tell them we were good to go, and they headed over on the buses. From there, it was a pretty typical race morning in transition. We checked and re-checked our bikes, made sure our nutrition was all set, and I did a short run to warm up. Justin and I said our goodbyes, which was a pretty emotional moment - I was nervous and excited for both of us! I knew I wouldn't see him until the run, and I said a little prayer that he would have an amazing race. My husband would be an Ironman today! The thought gave me chills - I was so proud of him!
The bathroom lines seemed especially long, and I just barely made it out of there in time before transition closed! I quickly handed everything off to Markell and got my wetsuit on just in time to squeeze in line for the rolling start. I lined up somewhere behind the sign that said 1:15-1:30 (signs depicted total estimated race time). There were only 3-4 different time groups that I could see for the rolling start. By the time I got to the start, I had no idea if I was in the front, middle or back of my group, but I just started my watch and started swimming!
Getting out the water, I noticed that there were wetsuit strippers - something I was not expecting - cool! They never have wetsuit strippers here in Boulder, so that was awesome. I ran and got my T1 bag, quickly got into the women's changing tent and went through the motions just as I had visualized 100's of times before. I felt like I had a quick transition and thought I was pretty much on track for my goal - to be done with the swim and T1 by 1:30. I was not able to do my bike mount - there was somewhat of a hill and it was way too crowded!
I somehow made it up the climb but I felt like I slowed to a crawling pace those last 12mi. It was not pretty. I had no idea how I would run a marathon off the bike - I tried not to think about it. Luckily, the last couple miles were downhill, and I was just thrilled that I did not quit on the bike! Lol. I prepped for my bike dismount - took my shoes off (I didn't wear socks on the bike - to keep my feet cool) and got off no problem. Everyone was walking! I did not want to walk - surprisingly, my legs felt pretty darn good when I got off the bike - yay! I remembered something I heard earlier in the week - not sure from who, but I thought "I have the opportunity to run a marathon!" - this motivated me a little and even though I was very disappointed with my bike, I thought I could "redeem" myself on the run since my legs felt strong.
The run - well, let's just say it was miserable. Every step I took sent shooting pains up my foot into my legs. I had never felt pain like this before. I hadn't looked at my feet before I put on my socks/shoes - I was too afraid of what I might see. I had packed some Fritos in my T2 bag that I carried and tried to eat. I probably ate about 20 Fritos those 1st 10mi. And Cola at the aid stations. I couldn't make myself eat anything else - my stomach just refused! But I felt that if I could drink a few sips of Cola at each aid stations - the calories would add up to something at least! I carried one of my FuelBelt bottles with me the whole race - that ended up being a life saver at times! By mile 10, I also threw out all my gels that I had packed in my race belt (10 of them!) - I didn't want to carry them if I had no chance of being able to get them down. I tried to smile at Markell and Adam when I saw them - smiling helped a little and I didn't want them to know how much pain I was in. I saw Justin a couple times and also tried to keep a smile on myself. He looked great every time I saw him - I was so proud and so happy for him! That did make me feel better.
By mile 11, at the very west end of the course, I began to hyperventilate from the pain and I had a hard time breathing. I stopped at the aid station and a medic came over to check me out. He said he couldn't advise me to continue, but he couldn't force me to stop either. So I decided I would continue, even if it was at a super slow pace. I made it through the 1st loop and was excited to think I just had one more loop. The run course is actually pretty awesome. I loved all my training runs on that trail, and despite all the complaints that it would be crowded - it wasn't at all!
I continued to have a hard time breathing. The pain only seemed to get worse with every step, and I walked a lot more than I care to admit. Walking eased the pain a little, but I was frustrated with my race - thinking about the horrible bike, and how slow my run would be. I was disheartened and disappointed that I would not have the run I wanted. After all the training, after all those good runs I had. But I was determined to continue and somehow finish this miserable race. By mile 15, I was really feeling out of it. The pain was unbearable and I couldn't think of anything to take my mind off the pain. How could burns on your feet be this painful? The next thing I knew, I fell onto the side of the run course - apparently, I passed out.
When I came back around, a spectator was holding my legs up and soon a racer, who said he was a doctor, stopped to help. The spectator called medics somehow and the Dr. was doing all he could to help. I was starting to panic - I did NOT want to DNF. It seemed like a long wait for the medics to come. But they wouldn't let me get up until I was seen by the medics. I remember that I kept saying "I'm fine! I'm fantastic! I can finish!" - they said I passed out 2 more times while they were holding me down. I just wanted to get up! Even if I had to walk the last 11.2mi, I wanted to finish! The Dr. told me his name was John, from Oregon - I made a mental note to remember his bib #.
The medics finally came - the Dr. noted that he couldn't believe it took them 45min to get there! I thanked him over and over before he went on to continue his race. The spectator (all I remember is her name was Stephanie) continued to hold my legs and try to calm me down. I was terrified when they tried to take off my timing chip - I had a safety pin on there, so I think that stopped them. They gave me oxygen, something for the pain (I have no idea what) and checked all my vitals. They finally let me stand up. I felt really out of it, but I kept saying "Just let me walk, I can do it!" - after standing for a few minutes, they let me continue the race. I was so relieved! I was dreading the next 11mi, but I thought surviving those miles would be better than a DNF.
I was so grateful for the spectator and for Dr. John - to me, they showed the true spirit of the Ironman. I couldn't believe John had selflessly sacrificed his own race to help me for 45min. He was so kind, so caring - I can only hope that one day I will be able to pay this moment forward.
When I crossed the finish line, Justin was there with a kiss and put my medal around my neck. I was so glad to see him and so glad he was ok! I just knew he had a great race and couldn't wait to hear about it. My Ironman husband! My happiness for him outweighed my own heartache. I couldn't breathe though, and the pain was throbbing all over. They took me directly to medical, and I was there for about 20min I think before I was ready to head home. I was sad that I felt so miserable - I didn't feel any real joy in finishing. I felt crushed. I just wanted to go home and go to bed. Markell and Adam brought up the car right near the finish line, and we were home very soon.
We were so so so grateful to Markell and Adam - they dropped us off at home so we could shower and get ready for bed. For the 1st time, I pulled off my shoes and socks to look at my feet. Holy Sh!t. I had blisters the size of credit cards on the bottom of both feet, and Markell pulled out a huge splinter from my right foot - I had no idea that was there. 2nd degree burns. Ouch.
They went back to get our bikes and all our gear bags, and they picked us up dinner on their way home. They had to leave super early in the morning to catch their flight and then Justin had to leave a little later to catch his flight out to Pittsburgh for a conference. I could hardly shower and was able to eat some mac n cheese. Justin went to bed and I stayed up to chat with Markell and Adam while they ate - I felt so nauseous, so I wanted to wait a while before I went to bed.
After a short sleep, Justin took them to the airport (thank you honey for letting me sleep a little longer!), then came back to bed for a short while before we had to leave to catch his flight. I dropped him off - I was pretty sad to see him go. It had been such a tough race for us both, and I knew it would a hard week without him here. I was also worried about him being on his feet all week at the conference - those events are always so exhausting!
After I dropped him off, I went to the Ironman Village to meet Triny to get my wetsuit that she had borrowed, and to get some finisher gear for Justin's birthday that was coming up. I could hardly walk around and I still didn't feel like eating anything yet. When I got home, I forced myself to eat some cereal and had some coffee. I had my microbiology final exam that afternoon that I had to study for!!!!! AH! Luckily, I had done a lot of studying the week before and I nailed it!
Some final thoughts on the race. First, my Ironman husband is awesome. Just awesome. This was his 1st Ironman and the look on his face in his finisher photos is just priceless. I am beyond proud of him - he put in so much work to get to the start line, and he pushed through his own tough race to finish Ironman Boulder. He is tough, determined and so unselfish. His support for my training and race was just incredible. I am not sure I could have made this journey without him!
I also have to thank my coach Aaron Palaian for all his work as my coach these last 3 years. He brought me to a level I never thought I could reach. He pushed me harder than I have ever been pushed these last 6 months. I truly believe I am a stronger athlete because of him. And I truly believe my training set up to run a great marathon, had I not gotten 2nd degree burns on my feet. I would have been lost without him! Thank you Aaron for putting up with me and believing in me.
At 1st, I wasn't angry with the event staff for the hot black mats that burned my feet - I thought it was my own fault for not wearing socks or shoes to protect my feet. And I really did think the race was awesome, considering it was an inaugural Ironman. But, the more I think about it, the more I am angry at the event staff for not considering the heat the black mat would generate - this has happened at other IM races from what I've read, so it's not a new problem. During my run, I thought of about 10 solutions under $100 that could have fixed the problem! WTF? I can only hope this is fixed for racers for next year! :(
I am looking forward to what's next in our lives! We only have a few days left here in Boulder and then we'll be back in Texas. I am not sure yet what the future holds for us, but it will depend a lot on when and where I get into nursing school - that will be a whole new kind of journey! These last couple weeks have been tough - it is more complicated than I ever imagined to get my summer class credits transferred so I can register for A&P II - which is why we need to be back soon - fall classes start Aug 25! And to complete my application for nursing school in Wharton - I just barely missed the deadline! So many people to call and papers to get turned in. Whew. We'll see - I won't find anything out until mid-October, but I know I have done the best I can. I did what I needed to do here in Boulder for my A&P I and microbiology classes - I got A's! Now I just have to take A&P II this fall, and complete my CNA training, which will begin as soon as we get back to TX. Then I hope to find work in a local hospice to get some experience. I am excited!
I plan to keep blogging - I have some things I'd like to share about the journey to Boulder, and I think sharing my journey to becoming a hospice nurse will be a whole new kind of story to share! Time to recover, enjoy life here in Boulder these last few days and enjoy the road trip home to Texas. We can't wait to see our family, friends, teammates and new babies that arrived this summer! I will always love Boulder and the magical aura of happiness that surrounds us when we are here. Will we be back next summer? Will I do another Ironman? Who knows! But I know we will be back in Boulder one day.
Thank you to all who followed my journey - everyone who supported me on the hard weeks and everyone who cheered me on during the good weeks. It was fun to share my journey!