Six years ago I was flipping through the channels while staying in a hotel room on vacation, and stumbled upon the televised Ironman World Championship in Kona. I was immediately sucked in and sat on the edge of the bed, directly in front of the TV, completely in awe of the athletic talent and inspirational stories. Once it was over I looked at Justin and said, “I want to do that. That is going to be me one day crossing the finish line.” Well, on Sunday, August 21, I did it. I crossed the finish line and in doing so, I became an Ironman.
I’m not even sure how to share the experience in its entirety on paper and through my writing. The emotions I’ve gone through these past days have been some of the most authentic I have ever felt in my life. One moment I think back and feel an overwhelming sense of joy, while the next I fall into a deep sadness knowing the day came and went, just like that. It’s a little surreal that so many hours, weeks, and months of work went into one day. One single day. But at least I can walk away from that day knowing it will forever be one of the most memorable, incredible days of my life.
There were 1,300 participants who descended on Coeur d’Alene for the Ironman, each with their own story to tell. Here’s mine…
Packing for an Ironman is an event in and of itself. Thankfully, I am the Queen of Lists and made a list of everything I would need for each sport and each transition. I took the advice of my friend Nicole and used a large clear bin to store and transport all of my triathlon related gear. It was nice having everything in one place. It took me an entire day to pack my gear, suitcase, and everything required for an 11 month old. I’m still trying to figure out who requires more stuff – a triathlete or a baby.
On Wednesday, Justin, Axel, and I traveled to Walla Walla (which, coincidentally, is where we were vacationing when I first watched the Ironman on TV) to break up the 7-hour trip to Coeur d’Alene, and to visit with my grandma, grandpa, aunt, and uncle. We stayed above the tasting room at one of my favorite wineries, Va Piano, and enjoyed a quiet night in the middle of a vineyard on a full moon night in wine country.
The next day we packed up and finished the trip to Coeur d’Alene, timing the drive during Axel’s morning nap. Little man was such a trooper and pretty much went with the flow the entire week/weekend. As soon as we got to CdA we headed to the Athlete’s Village to check in and do a little shopping. I was excited to receive my Ironman swag bag and was impressed by both the size and quality of the bag, which was filled with various goodies. Justin and I agreed that I could splurge a little since it was my first Ironman, so I walked away with a few tops, visor, hat, and coffee mugs. I always have to buy a coffee mug at every Ironman event. ☺
After spending some time in the village it was time to get Axel down for his afternoon nap, so we made our way to the VRBO rental we’d be staying in during our visit and set up “home” for the weekend. The rest of our group would be arriving that evening, so we got settled and enjoyed some down time while Axel slept. Later that afternoon, we went out for an early dinner at Crafted (my favorite place to eat in CdA), did a little grocery shopping, and made it home in time for the arrival of my coach and teammates, Mike, Mickey, and Faron.
Arriving to the race destination a few days early is nice, but it also creates a lot of “hurry up and wait” time. Wait. Wait. Wait. It’s odd going to such a nice destination but not being about to do all the “fun” things one would normally do if he or she did not have a race to prep for.
On Friday morning we all got up fairly early and headed down to Lake Coeur d’Alene for a quick swim to test out the water. The winds were calm and the water was smooth. As soon as I hit the water I was comfortable and in a zone. The temperature was perfect and I could feel my nerves disappear.
Shortly after the swim, my coach and I met up with a couple other athletes from Oregon and did a little shake out ride to get the legs spinning. As always, I was excited to be on my bike and felt as though my legs were fresh enough to ride all day.
Once our workouts were over we spent the day relaxing, getting transition bags ready, doing last minute prep, and more waiting. Ironman provided athletes with meal vouchers to a handful of restaurants around town, so we went out to dinner at Cedars, a floating restaurant near the mouth of the Spokane River, before lounging the rest of the evening and watching the Olympics… and waiting. I’m so thankful that Axel slept soundly through the night on Friday, as I know how critical it is to get good sleep two nights before the race.
After waking up fairly early on Saturday and enjoying a cup of coffee, Mickey, Faron, and I drove to the course for a short ride. I checked over my bike one last time to make sure everything was ready to go (Justin had already washed and cleaned it from top to bottom the night before) and did a few high cadence spins to get the muscles firing. Every time I am on my new Felt I feel grateful to be powering such a beast of a machine, and as I would soon find out the new race wheels from Knight Composites make it even faster.
Once Axel woke up from his morning nap, we packed up the bike, bags, and baby, and headed to the transition area to drop everything off. It was at that moment, walking my bike through the village and into transition, that the race became very real. I was doing it. The next time I would see my bike we would be heading out on a 112-mile adventure around Coeur d’Alene.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful as we all kicked up our feet and made it a point to rest… and wait. We shared a lot of laughs (thanks, Hans) and kept the mood fairly light. My coach and I went over the game plan and talked numbers, particularly with specific power zones on the bike and pace on the run. If all went according to plan, I would hopefully be able to pull off a 5:30-5:40 bike split and a 3:45 run.
Justin put his master chef skills to work and cooked me my favorite pre-race meal; Dungeness crab and pasta. We ate dinner fairly early and then took Axel over to my mom and step-dad’s hotel where he would spend the night. Having a baby adds a whole other element to the Ironman scene. While doable, it was easier for both myself and Justin to navigate the evening and early morning hours without having to worry about the logistics of taking care of Axel. It made SUCH a difference to have him under the care of my mom and Billy. I didn’t have to worry about a thing other than the day ahead, and I knew I would have Justin’s full attention and support to help me weave through the emotions and motions of the morning.
After saying goodnight to everyone and getting everything together for the morning, it was lights out. Well, at least that’s what we thought. Our rental house was next door to a large log home that doubles as a special event venue, and apparently a Saturday night in mid-August is a great night to get married in Coeur d’Alene. The ensuing reception, DJ, and dancing kept us awake for a while. It’s hard enough to fall asleep the night before a race with all the emotions and adrenaline. Try doing it while also listening to the Macarena, Sweet Home Alabama, Y.M.C.A., and Don’t Stop Believing!
Somewhere along the way the music stopped, or they turned it down, or I just became too tired to hear it, and I drifted off to sleep ahead of Sunday morning’s 3:45am wake up call…