If you read my previous blog, you now know what motivated me to try an Ironman. What a day! Ironman definitely lived up to the hype. Before I go into details I have to say that I am incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from people cheering and volunteering along the route, from my fellow competitors, and from those who sent messages of congratulations afterwards. Thank you!
The race started with a 4:15AM ferry to Ross Dock - the park under the GW Bridge in NJ. Bec joined me on the ferry and some people even thought she was racing! The funny thing it was the same NY Waterway ferry I took to commute to work when I lived in Hoboken. Despite going to attempt an Ironman for the first time, I was totally in my element. We got to the tranisition area which re-triggered my frustration/confusion with the transition bags. The system was a complete departure from Olympic races so I was a bit flustered. Thankfully fellow pro Trevor Wurtele was kind enough to explain things to me as I stared at the rows of bags perplexed.
The next step was to board ANOTHER ferry to take us 2.4 miles upriver to a barge. This was a full hour before we were to start. I no longer had Bec to sit beside me as it was just pros going to the swim start. I found a seat on the deck next to Dede Griesbauer and Hillary Biscay. You never know how people prepare for races or what kind of zone they are in, but I have to say both of these girls showed true class and had the most encouraging words for me. Advice coming from two of the most experienced athletes in the sport was not only calming but inspiring. I got off the boat ready to go.
We lined up on the barge, the gun went off and into the Hudson we went. The swim went by very quickly. I was in the lead for awhile until Dede pulled ahead and then I settled on to Amy Marsh's feet with Mary Beth behind. It was a much slower pace than I'm used to, but I was afraid to really go any faster. I thought I'd pick it up halfway and then try to get out first. That didn't really happen because before I knew it the current picked up and we were at the end! The swim took us only 40 minutes.
I got on my bike as quickly as possible and pedaled up the steep hill faster than the others. I was actually in the lead for about 5 miles. Perhaps I started out a bit to fast, but it didn't feel fast at all. I stayed with Amy and MB for about 11 miles until we came to a long descent. They gapped me there and I never saw them again. Turns out they were only 2:30 ahead of me after the first turn around and then 7 at halfway. That's when things started to go awry. I thought I'd just hold my place and I'd still be able to make up the time on the run. But at about 70 miles I slowed down and then just got slower and slower. EVERYONE passed me. It was ugly. I was uncomfortable for a few different reasons, not to mention disheartened I was in last place.
When I finally got off my bike, I had a 4min 40 sec transition- which included getting lost on the way there, sitting down, tieing regurlar running shoes, losing my visor and a bathroom break! These are all firsts. Apparently some people didn't think I was ever going to emerge from the tent. Once I was all set I climbed the big hill and got on to the run course. I quickly saw MB in the lead and realized just how far behind I was. I wanted to stop, I didn't see Bec and I just wanted to go home. I told myself I'd jog for a bit as a workout. Then I finally saw Bec and told her I was done. She just said, "Keep going, try to catch SJ". I jogged in a bad mood for about 5 miles - not how I planned to go after my first marathon. I started to see all the other people out there suffering - really hurting and still trying hard. And, there I was not hurting, just bummed that I was out of the race. I decided then and there to go for it. I got into the pace that I had practiced so hard and didn't look back. I passed SJ, then I proceeded to pass and pass and pass. I had the fastest 2 miles from 14-16 than anyone in the entire race! I was on a mission to try to salvage my run and get the fastest split. Things got a bit difficult around 20 miles but I just kept going. I moved into 10th place when we got into Riverside Park and then found out that 9th wasn't too far away. I read an article recently about Shalane Flanagan in the US Olympic Marathon Trials and her coach yelled to her "track race" with 2 miles to go. That's exactly what I thought about. I ran as hard as I could and flew through the last couple miles. Somehow my legs were feeling great. I looked for my dad's hand and gave him the best high five ever. Then I crossed the finish line in 9:49. 10th place. I soon found out that despite my pedestrian start, I still had close to the fastest run time- 3:16. (Doesn't seem that fast but remember the stairs and the hills and the 8 miles into a headwind?)
It was hard to be disappointed with not finishing higher or earning a paycheck when I was so happy to just have finished fast and feeling so good. I know not all of my Ironman races will feel like that! I left myself considerable room for improvement, so yes I will be back for more!
The next day at the awards ceremony I was pleasantly surprised to win the fastest New Yorker award. And after all that...Bec's husband, the sometime triathlete, finished immediately in front of me just 25 seconds faster! Unfortunately there will be no rematch as he says he is retired.
Thank you all for following and cheering and supporting the race. Congratulations to all of you who raced. For those not in NY, the course was VERY difficult. It was HOT and HILLY.
Also, I was very saddened to hear of the death of Andy Naylor, a very fit 43 year old from Hong Kong. He didn't make it out of the swim and no one knows why. It was a such a joyous day for so many but I can't imagine what it turned into for his friends and family.
Hope everyone is recovering well and thanks again for the support!