Finishing the Ironman; thriving not just surviving

So hard to believe it’s been nearly three weeks since my last note and during that time I became an Ironman.

It happened last Sunday. Leading up to the race took more time then anticipated – last minute workouts, bike tweaks, yoga classes, massages, travel details etc. Check the list. Double check the list. Rent the car. Pack the car. It took nearly 30 minutes to close the trunk of the car. Practically had to sit on the trunk, just like sitting on an overstuffed suitcase.

Got to Arizona on 11/18. Officially checked in on 11/19 (Friday). Turn in the bike on Saturday. Jump in on Sunday. Time went by that fast.

The hardest part of the race was jumping in the water, especially knowing it was 61 degrees (burrrr). I remember looking down at the water & hearing the announcer say, “Just jump in. Standing there only avoids the inevitable.” So true. I did the sign of the cross and jumped in. Swam to the front of the pack & Ozzy started playing; just want I needed. Nothing better than heavy metal to get the blood pumping. U2 was next with “Beautiful Day”. With that the cannon fired, and we were off.

The one consistent advice Ironman racers told me was to relax. Have fun. With that thought (and knowing the swim would be one of my strongest legs) I relaxed by flipping over, doing the backstroke for the first 1/3 of the race. It was wonderful watching the people on the bridge, the birds under the bridge, the beautiful sunrise with its red sky, and the clouds. Then I decided to get serious. Time to flip over and swim. Finished the 2.4 miles in 1h/20m. Not bad.

Jumped out and had the wetsuit stripped off by a fabulous looking guy, then ran through a crowd of thousands in my bathing suit. That can be a bit disconcerting.

Transitions …. Admittedly changing clothes from swim to bike and bike to run took awhile. Thank God for the transition volunteers — true angels who keep athletes focus on the race. They emptied my bag, helped me change, took care of little details (don’t forget to wear your race belt) and packed it all up after I left.

On Saturday I drove the bike course. Left it feeling excited. It was much easier than many of my training rides, and I couldn’t wait to hit it, especially going down the 10 miles of Beeline Highway. I estimated doing 15 mph going up it and easily 25 going down. It was going to be a blast. But by mile 3 the ride from hell began. First, pain started hitting my right side (swallowed some bad cooties in the water that caused major GI problems). Going up Beeline I stayed on track; 15 mph, but when I turned around to go down a wall of 30 mph winds hit. Gusts were up to 40, and it took every ounce of energy to move 13 mph. Sadly only 30 of the 112 miles had tailwinds. The rest of the ride kept me working to keep from being blown over (two racers were blown off their bikes) or fighting to move ahead.

Around mile 40 – 45 God showed some humor by blowing up a sand storm. A few seconds later the cold rain pored down, then it turned into hail. Thankfully it only lasted a few moments.

By the third loop God showed kindness by letting tailwinds hit my back going down the Beeline. Enabling me to average 20+ … much, much, much better than sub-13.

By the time the ride was over I would have given anyone that bike. I was so happy to get off. Still considering all my time was much better that two 100 mile training rides; each took 9 hours. So riding 112 in 7 1/2 hours = success to me.

On to the run and the fun begins, though it didn’t feel like in the beginning; by then my GI problems were a real issue, causing me to stop at each Aid Station. Still I focused on the goal of running the first 13 miles. After that the belly couldn’t take any more jolts so from then on I walked. Yet, that’s where the fun began, because by mile 13 more people were walking then running, and we started talking. I met people from all around the world – Germany, Central American, Canada & Mexico. I connected with a 60+ year old women with one leg who was struggling to finish. Her courage is priceless. I spoke with the volunteers at the Aid Stations who were kind, gracious, encouraging and mothering (at times that was what I needed). Plus, thankfully they were distributing warm chicken broth, the only thing my stomach could take. Yummmm.

Then I saw my family and friends in the crowd. Here’s a picture that Melanie took.
Annemarie running the Ironman
By nightfall the sky was clear. The wind was calm. The moon was full and watching it reflect off the river was mesmerizing. By mile 20 I was amazed by my strength; very alert and focused. No muscle or joint pain. I was happy, so – so – so happy. It seemed like the 6h/30m run flew by so fast. Next thing I saw was the finish line shoot. People screaming, giving high-fives. Great. I’m done. I’m an Ironman.

Oh my God … Thank you for giving me the strength to focus and thrive towards my goal and for showing me I could be powerful and peaceful at the same time.
Annemarie finishes the Ironman

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