One word, wow. Buckle up for a story b/c it is 140.6 miles! The days leading up to this race were not smooth by any means. My son was along for the ride w/me and my friend Sarah and he has been the victim of some kind of possession lately. I swear! He’s not my lovely child he used to be, he’s been possessed by some alien being that has tantrums and is grumpy which can stress me out a little. I also forgot a few things being preoccupied w/little man. Like racking my bike in a timely fashion……lets just say I thought 4pm was the cutoff and and I was literally doing my nails when coach Katie noticed my bags and bike still at the condo at 3:06pm (cutoff 3pm). Thanks to Katie and Brad we managed to weasel our way into transition to rack our bikes, I literally thought Ironman (IM) wasn’t going to allow us to race. IM is stickler for rules. I did find out later that I wasn’t the only one who was told 4pm was cutoff, but ultimately it’s my responsibility to look at the paperwork. The quick racking will come back to haunt me later though.
Race morning had the normal prerace forgetfulness, Sarah forgetting to put her bottles in Special Needs, me forgetting to bring my bottles at all. Good thing we were close to race site! Once everything was taken care of, we made our way back to the beach to meet the Fowler Clan. A quick history on the Fowler clan….I wouldn’t be an Ironman if it weren’t for them. I’ve never done an IM without them, I consider them family and am grateful for the coaching, support, and good times they have always offered over the years. When we are all together I’m comfortable.
The swim of IM is my favorite part. Weird, huh? Considering it’s my least favorite thing to do while training, most people would find this bizarre. IM swim is surreal. The energy, the mass start, the bond you have w/these people you don’t even know is amazing. I was thrilled to be doing this for my 5th time. The swim wasn’t all roses and butterflies though. I had probably about 10 seconds of pure panic, labored breathing, and doubts. Then it clicked. I have this incredible ability to focus when I want to, and I reminded myself what Sarah wrote on my calf. This is FUN, SMILE. Suddenly I turned the negativity around and appreciated the fact that I had the ability to do this and simply enjoyed myself. Rough water is my godsend, it gives me a focus, every wave and swell is my mini goal. My Barracuda goggles (www.skylinenw.com) worked perfectly, they didn’t fog and the lense color I chose couldn’t have been better w/the sun. The first loop was done in 36 mins, but most people were walking at the turnaround and I got caught in the masses. I was frustrated b/c I don’t typically waste time, but made my way onto the 2nd loop w/a smile on my face knowing the swim was half way done. The 2ndloop was uneventful, I just followed the masses and tried to keep my stroke in check. The best part is that I didn’t get stung by jellyfish this year!! I’ve been stung EVERY year I’ve done Florida. Once I hit land and looked down at my watch (over 1 hr 20 mins. for 2.4 miles) my first inclination is normally to be frustrated but instead I was happy. I was happy I was out, and knew IM is a long day w/lots of ways to make up time. I left the swim 47th in my Age Group (AG), 1493rd overall, 298th female.
The plan for the bike was simple, cadence around 90, keep effort in check, make sure to nutrition, always be reevaluating things, and have fun. What wasn’t part of the plan was me forgetting to change out my climbing cassette and my chain rubbing my crank the ENTIRE RIDE due to me spinning out! People would literally comment about the noise as I’d pass them. Some people would just glare. I asked one guy if he was jealous. Parker said I needed to fix it b/c if he was going to ride behind me and have to listen to it the entire race he was going to go nuts. I tuned it out though and just grinned. If anything it’d throw other people off, I have a toddler I can tune ANYTHING out! I was wondering where the rest of the crew was, in front of or behind me. Jeff passed me at around mile 25, stuffing his face as usual and still able to bike 20 mph. What an art! My nutrition was going smoothly, but I ran out o f my 2 drinks sooner than normal due to the hot weather. Luckily Powerbar Perform (www.powerbar.com)was on the course so I used that until I got to Special Needs. This was about the time that I saw a red homemade elbow pad on the side of the road…..this could only mean one thing, Sarah was in front of me. Wohoo! I’d yet to pass her and I was at mile 55!! I did see her a few moments later which was a relief. She was having a great first IM, even with no elbow pads! A few minutes later I passed Karma Edwards who was on the side of the road w/a flat. I made sure she was ok and kept going. She caught up w/me about 5-10 miles later, and was a welcome surprise. I now know what pros mean when they work off eachother w/o drafting. Karma would pass me and hold a steady pace, then I’d pass her and hold a steady pace. It was helpful just having that person as a little carrot. I’d let her go earlier in the race b/c I wanted to ride my own race, but now the pace was feeling good. I did start to get a little uncomfortable around mile 70 and remembered I had my ibuprofen. It was like the angels descended from the sky about 10 miles later. I went from uncomfortable to feeling my strongest at mile 90 all the way to the finish. I was passing people all while staying where I should be effort wise. One guy I passed told me fast chics were hot. I had to laugh at that one! Katie had told me to take advantage of my slipstream when passing people; this was extremely helpful with the wind. I’ve never really done that before, wanting to stay as far away from anything that could be seen as drafting but she reminded me as long as you’re passing w/in your 10 seconds or so you are golden. I arrived back at transition w/a bike split of 5 hours 51 minutes (112 miles), averaging 19.2 mph. I had now climbed my way to 26th in my AG, 1,089 overall, and 168th female. Yay me! Now a marathon!
Once I got into the womens changing area I switched socks, body glided, brushed my teeth (I know, call me strange!), hit the bathroom, and headed out. I have to say the volunteers in there were OUTSTANDING! Such a relief to have people who are willing to help. I hit the run feeling great and hoping to see my family soon. Heath’s plan was to be at mile 4, 10, and 16. The plan failed (not his fault). I was feeling pretty good, in fact at mile 2 I slowed my pace down b/c I thought I was getting a little too fast too early. I was feeling okay until around mile 6 and that’s when my left knee started to bother me. I’d ran into a door 2 weeks prior and the door had gone under my knee cap so it was still a little swollen and bruised. I told myself to be tough, I’d made it to the park and now I just needed to make it back to the turnaround (13.1). Just make it to mile 10, Heath will be there and it’ll give you want you need to make it. Mile 10 came and went w/no Heath. Mile 11 no Heath. I had a mini meltdown. I took my other ibuprofen and some coke while wallowing in my self pity. This lasted a short time before someone I’d talked to on the bike told me to basically HTFU. Karma people, what goes around comes around. I love this sport and this distance, b/c people all help eachother. I drafted off this 53 yr old from Arkansas, I believe it was his 1st IM and he was holding a slower pace than what I was originally doing but it was steady so I followed. He was a nice guy. I followed him until the turnaround where he stopped for Special Needs. I had no bag for the run so kept going. I saw my mom which was awesome, but again no Heath. I knew he had AJ and had his hands full so I focused on having fun and making it to the park again. At this point I was no longer able to gel, I was taking coke and water at every aid station. I would try to jog through the aid stations but I’m just not good at that. I will have to work on it! So, I had to walk every time I took nutrition. Seeing my friends on the course was awesome. Sarah was all smiles, Susan was pukey, Forrest cheered me on, Jeff was all focus, and Regina was having a great race. They all helped me trudge along. Once I made it to the park turnaround, I knew I could possibly have a personal record (PR) if I kept it up. I decided to not look at my watch again. Focus. Every second counts (thx Katie). I told a couple people pacing off me that I was happy to have them, but don’t let me stop. One girl was up for the challenge. Her goal was to make it under 12 hours, and it was her first IM. I told her we had it made, just one foot in front of the other. I knew the neighborhoods would be the hardest part to get through, but I also knew I had it in me. I saw Katie and Brad around mile 23, she told me this was the race I was meant to have. I deserved it. I started crying. I pulled myself together and dug deep to keep my pace. Mile 24-25 was the longest wait for an aid station, I still don’t know how I made it there w/o walking. Around mile 25 I told the girl I was with to go her own pace, enjoy the ride, and the crowd will carry you home. I found a surge of energy that last mile, she may have been right behind me but I never saw her again. Finally, I saw my hubby and the finish line! Relief, joy, and all kinds of emotions engulfed me. I crossed the finish line crying like a little baby. I finished with a total time of 11 hrs 44 mins. I had a PR by barely 3 minutes. My marathon split was 4 hours 20 mins. (26.2 mile), not too bad for an old lady w/ a toddler! I finished 16th in my AG, 646th overall, and 111th female.
This road back to the sport after baby has been extremely difficult. I lost something along the way w/the stress of new responsibilities, guilt, and work. Things got too chaotic, something had to give, I was constantly doubting myself, getting sick, and having nagging injuries. I hired a new coach, Katie Malone, I needed major help. I didn’t want to continue to dump all my issues on Forrest, I was becoming what I saw as high maintenance being a coach myself. Rather than talk to him, I ran. I think I was scared to disappoint him now that I couldn’t handle that workload anymore which is probably farthest from the truth. Katie took me, addressed my swim stroke issues, saw my mental blocks holding me back, and reminded me to have fun. Something so simple yet so powerful. I’d told my dad the night before IM that if I was going to be away from Addison for this it had to be worth it. It had to be fun. I was done chasing times. I recently made a change w/my job b/c I wanted my time away from Addison to mean something, well it needed to apply to my hobby as well.
I value my friends, family, and supporters that have helped along this amazing journey. Anything is possible. Special thanks to my hubby, I don’t think he was quite ready for this journey but supported me anyway. We make a good team, and I love him dearly. My grandparents and cousin have been so helpful taking turns watching AJ during my long rides, which is priceless. Sarah and Jeff, you never let me down. My family and I are lucky to have you as rocks to lean on. My sponsors are AWESOME! I simply could not do this sport without them, please check them out:
www.Trisports.com –One stop shop for swim, bike, and run needs
Barracude Goggles (www.skylinenw.com) –Awesome goggles, perfect fit for everyone, an no fog!
Atlanta Bread (http://www.atlantabread.com/storehome.php?store_id=90) –Best sandwhich company around!
RSLED Group (http://www.rsledgroup.com/) –Have an event? They have a jumbo screen for you!!!
Quality Control Painting (http://www.qualitycontrolpainting.com/about.html) –Commercial or residential painting, they are your company to go to!
Powerbar (www.powerbar.com ) –Simply the best nutrition out there!
Kent Gault Mobile Homes-Mobile home needs? Know someone looking to rent? Mitch is your guy! (864) 288-5623
Zeal Optics (www.zealoptics.com) –You won’t even realize you have sunglasses on! So comfortable and stylish!! Fowlers Pharmacy on Laurens Road now carries them!!!
Side Notes: Greenville, SC had an amazing turnout of peeps doing IMFL! You all know who you are!! Sarah, congrats on a GREAT first IM. She had a faster pace in this IM then she’s had doing her Half IM’s. Incredible! Jeff, we weren’t doping on the runJ and you had a great race. Susan, I hate that you had a tough day but you are awesome and HAPPY IRONMAN BIRTHDAY! Regina and Forrest, wow! I don’t know how you guys continue to do 2 IM/year….quite the machines you two are!