Guys. Moment of clarity for a second. I just did my 4th Ironman. That's big right? At least my mom and dad think so... Thanks mom and dad.
But I finished. Healthy. Whole. And with a smile.
So, I was
Step 1, complete.
Travel was uneventful other than Mark got us into some high class area for seasoned travelers where I got a free bloody mary and lunch. My anger from the morning's commute lifted when the nice bartender recognized my earlier distress and graced me with an extra olive.
We arrived in Santa Rosa - the world's most adorable and smallest airport - accidentally stealing someone else's rental car in the process, and arrived at our digs for the weekend. Cute airbnb less than a mile from the high school (finish line), great location in the somewhat sleepy town of Windsor. Mark and I put our bikes together, loaded them in the car and the three of us headed over to the high school to get checked in and collect our stuff. Took in the expo - pretty low key and quiet - and met Mark's awesome friend "Ironman Caroline" who I quickly developed a lady crush on because she's really cool. We explored, hit up the BASE tent, Normatech, and chowed on samples of Cliff bars. Again. and again. and again. Lunch. Thanks Ironman. Found a friend, Amy, to ride with us. Goal of the afternoon was to ride the run course and do some recon.
The run course was a triple out-and-back with a single sizeable hill that you hit near the end of the out-and-back. The rest of the course was rolling hills, definitely not flat. But it was pretty and the weather was fabulous.
Dinner involved sharing pizza at an adorable little restaurant in Windsor accompanied by local wine. We went home and headed to bed - huge bed all to myself with a private bathroom. Thanks friends!
Earlier wake up call on Thursday to get to swim start and T1 (17 miles away) to get in a bike, run, and swim. hour easy on bike (with a few short intervals to get HR up), 30 min easy run (which ended up being multiple short loops in town), and a 20-30 min swim. the water was a perfect temp - no wetsuit needed except for speed; it was definitely going to be a comfortable swim. I shed the wetsuit and hung out for a few just enjoying the water. it would be a slightly different situation come Saturday morning...!
Amy, Mark, and I found a cute café for lunch that served amazing sandwiches and then headed back home to get Mark's bike fixed. Cruised the expo again (more snacks) and wandered over to downtown Windsor. We found the candy shop of my dreams and I spent a paycheck on unnecessary shit including an energy drink called "Kung Fu Street Fighter" and chocolate covered bugs.
Friday involved another trek to T1 to drop off bikes and gear bags and take a tour of the bike course. Mark, Nicole, and I drove the course accompanied by the vocal stylilngs of "Phantom of the Opera" - we sang all the songs. Despite the fun road trip, I was getting legitimately nervous seeing the course, given the recent crash and the fact that i wasn't totally comfortable on a bike still. Nothing I could do about it though except get up the next morning and put big girl tri shorts on.
Family chicken-parm-and-pasta-night (thanks for cooking mark) at the house with a couple Stellas. talked to my family and friends via text and phone for a few and then it was time for sleep... no problem falling asleep in the comfortable bed.
3:45 am arrived quickly. drank coffee. ate a bagel with peanut butter---
--- wait, can I just say that no where in the county of Sonoma are there Thomas blueberry bagels to be found? I went to three places and NONE of them had blueberry. I even got into an argument with the bagel shelf stocker who "works for Thomas" and he claimed that it was a seasonal flavor. oh please, guy. I am a blueberry bagel connoisseur (yea, its a thing) and I guarantee you that I buy them year round. then i kicked him. the end ---
---ate a whole wheat (sigh) bagel with peanut butter... (thank you mark for pointing out that I eat the same thing before every race and I have yet to qualify for the big dance so might as well switch it up) and a banana. had another half bagel and banana ready to eat once we arrived at the swim and were waiting at swim start. Deb drove and dropped us off near T1 to figure out our lives. Thank goodness for her this weekend. Port-a-potty break and donning wetsuit. Started to eat my food and realized if I wanted to start at the front id have to wade through the 2000 people already lined up on the other side of the half fence.
met a girl with the same swim goal and same affinity for being late for life so we basically held hands and zipped through the crowd like a couple of crazy passengers late for a plane. stranger bonding at its finest.
all of a sudden the pros were off. i got that excited feeling in my gut and got teary-eyed (as per usual) thinking about what the day would hold and how ridiculously lucky we are to get to live this life.
(follow up thought to above internal monologue - prochnow, you're a sap - for the love of god, pull your shit together.)
my friend and I followed suit behind the pros and before I knew it, I was already under the bridge. Swimming felt great - I had only been in a pool a handful of times since the crash and only had one or two good workouts under my belt in the past few weeks. I felt comfortable though and I would laugh anytime I'd see someone just stand up and start to walk in the very shallow water. many times my hands would scrape the bottom and I began pulling pebbles and rocks along with every stroke and pulling with a very bent elbow. but time passed uneventfully. there weren't really a lot of people swimming around me so I had open water (despite the awkward depth). before i knew it, i could see the arch and found myself standing up and running out of the water to T1. looked at watch - big smiles.
swim time: 58:55
MUD! ran in the mud to T1 where volunteers were waiting with paper towels to clean my feet (THANK YOU!). wetsuit was stripped off, grabbed a bonkbreaker for my pocket, Rudy project helmet/sunglasses and shoes in tow and headed out to reunite with Rosie. easy, quickish T1 (for once!). no naps!
T1 time: 5:01
took the first 5 miles to get my heart rate at a sustainable level, drank some osmo and settled in. mile 5 is where the treacherous turn takes place and a handful of volunteers were on hand to remind us. i slowed way down for the sharp/steep downward turn - i'm really glad we rode that part previously because its not a safe spot if you are going too fast. the course is a constant up/down/side/side, difficult to ride in aero a lot of the time unless you are very confident on the bike. unfortunately for me, my confidence level was at a sad low and i had significant difficulty getting comfortable on that course. not a lot of places to just go out and cruise; its a constant shift-fest. by mile 80 or so, i felt my eyes getting heavy and i hit a mental exhaustion wall. my legs still felt strong, but i was mentally spent from being so focused on the roads and avoiding another potential bike crash (not the way you want to ride 100+ miles). at one point i actually shut my eyes for a few seconds on a straight away and jolted awake after a bit. scary. i was wide awake after that... kept at the heart rate that i son and i had talked about and executed the race as desired for the most part, but my heart just wasnt in it anymore. it wasn't fun.
bike time: 6:02:15
off the bike and into the tent - grabbed my stuff and was ever so thankful to be off the bike. took a look at my bike split - 6 hours... UGH, not what i was hoping for - slowest to date on what i would call an easier or comparable course to previous IMs. socks and shoes on. swig of mountain dew with an EL Fudge cookie. grabbed my race belt, pink visor, purple handheld bottle with Osmo and GUs stashed in the pocket and i was off, putting on my stuff as i ran out of T2.
T2 time: 3:37
jogged out of transition and my watch yelled at me - "low battery". what. the. eff. GARMIN. i charged it all night long. seriously garmin universe - WTF. i saw deb and adrian right away and was feeling all right for the first mile or so. then i developed an awesome gas bubble in stomach and began to run slightly doubled over.
super. freaking. awesome.
i had an idea i was around 5th or 6th off the bike. not ideal, but not the end of the world. i ran - but i really didn't want to. i was exhausted. i wanted a nap. i felt like if i stopped, theres no way i could get the momentum going to propel the body in a forward direction. so i ran. and ran. and ran. i thought about nothing. then thought about everything. i watched the athletes around me, took mental notes of what they were wearing, watched the spectators. saw Shan at the BASE tent dancing in bike shoes - that did make me internally smile, but I was too tired to actually smile so I maintained the "ill kill everyone" death stare. around mile 8, the watch died and i muttered a "fuck you" out loud to the watch. then i laughed because otherwise i would've cried. my gut felt like junk, my legs were tired, and my heart was somewhere back at the airbnb. i continued to amble along the course, taking pleasure at the start of the 3rd loop knowing it was the last time id be heading out on course. i had a few words with some random people, as you usually do during races, but my vision was focused on the mile markers and counting them down since i was running blind. my pace was somewhere between 9 minutes and 30 minutes per mile. in my head, i was rocking something like 12 minute miles and was a little scared to see what my final time would be. please let me be under 11:30. please let me finish before dark. thats all i was hoping for during those dark miles.
finally - the hill... only a mile and a half to go! i mustered a smidge of pep to my step and passed some people in other age groups. tons of people were hanging out in the park outside of the high school but as i veered left to head back to the school and finish line, the crowd really dwindled and i was essentially alone when running the perimeter of the high school. as i turned the corner and saw the finish line 50m or so away, i forced a smile. another race completed. it was not the day i had imagined in my head - i could see the finish time as 11:28 - a full 20+ minutes slower than the races last year on a comparable course. as i ran down the chute, the forced smile because an actual smile. i stopped at the finish arch and actually stayed upright this time! i threw up my hands and grinned -there would be plenty of time in the future to dissect what went wrong and what went right but for that moment, i just wanted water, pizza, and comfy spot to sit down with my friends.
(i found out i was first out of the water in the swim for AG, 11th out of the women. thats a cool 100 dollar gift card from ROKA so i was pretty pumped about getting the new bikini id been eyeing all weekend at the expo.)
we hung out for awhile and watched more friends finish. eventually, we headed home to shower and change only to return to the finish later in the evening. when I think back to watching the final finishers and seeing their faces full of happiness and triumph while running down the chute - I felt grateful. not everyone has the opportunity to do this sport, to travel, to enjoy time away from work. not everyone that trains for these races gets to cross the finish line for one reason for another. despite the ups and downs of the day - i still crossed the finish line and for that, i feel all right.
At the end of the day - I worked my ass off this season. Yes, I could have tried harder some days. I could have slept more. Ate better. Actually ridden up the hill at training camp instead of hitching a ride at the end of that exhausting day... But I did work hard this year. Just because that didn't translate into the results I wanted doesn't mean I wasn't successful. I learned so much this year. About me, my body, my response to stress, creating limits when I have to but not accepting them as permanent. Being accepting of myself and my needs. I'll push harder next year - be stronger and braver. When the 5th, 6th, 7th IMs come around, I'll still be learning - but that makes us better and stronger, both physically and mentally.
looking forward to training and racing in 2017 my friends...