****warning Very long post***
A year ago I was in a much different place than I am today. I had just gotten a divorce, bought a house and started a new job. My life was a hodge podge and my emotional state wasn’t good at all. I was a bit lost and when I say a bit, I mean a lot. I had a lot of soul searching that I needed to do. I needed to find peace within again as well as getting reacquainted with myself. I hadn’t been single in over 10 years so this was all new territory for me.
This is when I decided that I needed to be with myself and work towards something while working towards so many things in a productive manner. The one thing I knew that would do this was training for an Ironman. As I sit on my sofa with wine in hand I start searching for the one I wanted to sign up for. I settled on Louisville for a couple of different reasons-
- It was driving distance from St Louis so I wouldn’t have to buy a plane ticket nor would I have to ship my bike.
- I wanted to compete in a race that was similar in conditions to what I would be training.
- I knew people who did this particular race and they highly recommended it. It was actually rated best swim (down river current to carry you) and best run because it was very flat in 2017.
- It was exactly a year away which was my goal for training.
- I also had been drinking and made an irrational decision due to this.
With my credit card in hand (well on the stand next to me because I was holding a glass of wine), I entered my information took a big drink and pushed submit. Let the journey begin!
As I look back over the last year, what a ride I have been on. Obviously I want to finish the race but it was the journey to get me from where I was to where I am now that I really needed and wanted. I think I need to say thank you to those who cared and stood by me through this very long journey. A big special thanks to my boss Becky for putting up with my crazy ass schedule while being super supportive. She didn’t have to be so understanding and flexible but yet she was.
Big shout out to my work team, they are amazing! I will say that of the 6 of us, 3 are within their first month but regardless the entire team came together and made me a care package. This included: LOTS of bourbon (after all I’m going to the bourbon capital of the country), a custom made rocks glass (which was used all weekend), a custom made coffee cup (again very used), a shirt that was on my body through the bike and run, and the thought of the people who have cheered me on through this journey.
I also want to give a big thanks to the two people who were there to support me but also hinder me all at the same time. JD and Richie, you knew when to keep your fucking mouth shut and just be a sidekick in my demise and bad decisions but also for rooting me on and pushing me to be better.
So without further ado lets dive into what this looks like from check in to race day.
Friday’s check in was a mad house…..so many people (there were close 2800 participants registered) and they were super fit people. I even made a comment to JD and he said “and you are one of them”. What a concept, I don’t see myself that way necessarily. With my check in stuff in hand, we head to the airbnb so that I can start planning for my transitions.
On Saturday the weather was pretty cold so I had to re-think how I was going to pack for my transitions since Sunday wasn’t going to be any better and there was a 90% change for rain in the morning. I ended up buying wool socks for both the bike and run knowing my feet would be cold. I also changed my mind from running in shorts to running in pants which I went to Target to get some thermal jogging pants. While I was there, I bought gloves and ear warmers so that I would be more comfortable. I didn’t think that I would be sad at all for my decisions. With my bags packed, I checked in my gear and watched the athlete briefing. After that it was time for food so we went for pizza at Butchertown Pizza Hall- such great pizza. In true Katie fashion, I loafed on the sofa with bourbon in hand until it was time for bed (don’t worry, I drank almost a gallon of water before I even got in the water to swim).
Sunday I woke up early and started stretching while JD made me breakfast. Since I have been doing triathlons for 7 years now, he has gotten pretty good at the morning of routine and telling me what I needed to do. I finished my breakfast, got dressed and we walked down to transition so that I could pump up my tires on my bike and drop off my new socks. It was raining and about 48 degrees so it was chilly. The nice thing about checking in your gear the day before, it makes the morning of so much easier.
Once I was done, we walked down to the water start to get lined up. They lined us up based on how long you thought it will take to do the swim so I was in the 1:30-1:40 range. Standing in line what felt like forever (from when we lined up to when we go into the water was about 2.5 hours) I made friends with the people around me.
As we stand in line, we are told that due to the dangerous water conditions they cut the swim down to a .9 mile swim and changed the course. I will say I’m not super sad about this cause the water was pretty rough but I will say it wasn’t as cold in the water as it was standing in line. I jumped in off the dock and swam my ass off. The current was strong and we had to swim against it to get around the first buoy. People were actually running into the bridge pillar and I heard that some people were getting hung up on the ropes that anchored the buoys.
Luckily I didn’t have any of those issues though I did get beat up by some of the waves but survive I did! As I exit the water they had “strippers” to help pull my wetsuit off. I run to transition to get my bike stuff.
They yell your number as you enter so someone can hand you your bag. I run to the tent (they have enclosed tents for the women and the men so you can strip completely). I had planned on changing each transition and I think due to weather conditions everyone except the pros decided to change each transition.
Side note, as JD was marking my number on my arms and legs, I had him write Thanks on my butt cheek. I mean if they have to strip me and dress me why not thank them more ways than one??
It took what seemed forever to change into my bike gear. It’s really hard to put on clothes when your body is wet. The tent was also in sand so I couldn’t get my feet clean enough so I ended up having sand between my toes. Not a huge deal because you don’t really use your toes on a bike since your feet are clipped in. With all my gear on, I head for my bike with a short pit stop at the portapotty (a pretty gross one at that). With the rain still coming down I head out of the transition area.
Even with my arm and leg sleeves, hoodie, bike jersey, wind jacket and wool socks I still got instantly soaked by the rain. I knew this was going to be a long and miserable ride. I told myself, the faster you ride the faster this will bike will be done.
The bike is where you need to consume the majority of your calories so I had to remind myself to eat and eat often. This is hard for me because I actually don’t get hungry when I do long workouts so reminding myself was gonna be difficult. Another thing is that it wasn’t hot so on top of reminding myself to eat, I had to remind myself to drink water so I didn’t dehydrate.
I made it through the first 30 miles and I had managed to eat and drink enough fluids to cause me to stop and pee at the aide station. With my fingers and toes blocks of ice, I drank a couple cups of hot chocolate in hopes to warm my hands and insides. As I head back out on my bike, grumbling at the fact that my legs are heavy and my butt was starting to hurt. At mile 56 I had so many mixed emotions. I was half way through my ride which was awesome but I also had another 56 long miles to go before I was done. I peddled on.
I will say during the 112 miles on my bike, I got yelled at by a number of the pros, I watched a lady pee herself on purpose, I was rooted on by so many awesome people telling us to keep going, and I wasn’t one of the many people who dropped out because of the conditions. I rode hard and I gave it my all, I pushed through crappy crappy conditions and a lot of pain and when I got back to the transition area I honestly didn’t want to keep going. I was so cold and could barely move that I wanted to just put on warm clothes and get some actual food.
A voluteer grabbed my bike and told me that I was doing great and pointed to my running gear. I hobbled to my stuff as fast as my frozen feet would carry me. I grab my bag and head back into the changing tent. Even more cold and even more wet, I did not have another towel to wipe down with (lesson learned).
My hands were so cold that I could not move them at all. If you take your hand and act like you are holding a beer can, that is the position my hands were stuck in from holding onto my bike. A wonderful volunteer grabbed my bag and emptied it. She started undressing me noticing how hard of a time I was having. She began to dress me and noticed my “thanks” on my bum and started laughing as did a couple of the ladies around me. This lady literally dressed me completely from socks to hat even tying my shoes for me. I head back out cold and rain to the portapotties. They were pretty gross before but were absolutely fucking disgusting now. Almost completely full, no toilet paper, literally shit everywhere including the walls (I honestly don’t understand how that even happens). I look straight ahead and do my business.
You are probably thinking, wow, even though she wanted to stop she didn’t. She kept going. Don’t let me fool you, my will to go on wasn’t the driving factor. The fact that I’m fucking cheap did. You see, you get to have a special needs bag on both the bike and the run. They give this to you at both half way points. I didn’t need one for the bike but knew it would be dark on the run so I put my headlamp in my run bag. These bags you don’t get back. The stuff is either given away, donated, or tossed. I couldn’t lose my headlamp because I needed it for my Peru trip and I only had one. Not to mention I didn’t have time to buy another so I HAD to get that one back. All I had to do was make it to 13 miles to get that. That is why I kept going. Yes, I wanted to finish but with so many people dropping out due to hypothermia, I didn’t feel all that’s bad because I felt fucking awful!
I head out for my run. My feet and hands started to warm up and I started to feel better. I always try to find a running buddy to help make the time go quicker and to keep your mind off the crappiness. I tried to make friends a couple of different times but no dice. The last guy I was chatting with was telling me all about the Ironmen that he had done and how this was the worst conditions he had been in. When I told him this was my first and last, a girl over heard me said amen. That is when I knew I found my running buddy. I wish him a good run and ran to catch up to her.
I asked her if she cared for some company which she didn’t mind so we began chatting. We talked about everything. How we got to this point, what we did for a living, things we wanted to accomplish all the while encouraging each other to keep going. When one of us needed to walk, we walked together. We finally made it to mile 14 (they lied about where my special needs bag would be), we grabbed our bags and guess what? I kept running. How could I leave my new friend to endure this hell alone. I now felt like I would be letting a friend down so I kept going.
Mile 13 was really hard for me because my body was starting to break down and I hurt everywhere AND the realization that I still had a half marathon to go almost broke me. Jackelyn (that was her name) encouraged me to keep going. From that point to mile 20 went pretty smoothly. We both hurt and were tired but our pace was good and we had a good rhythm. When we hit mile 20 I looked at her and said, a short 6 miles to the finish line. This was a tapper run, an “easy” run that both of us were very familiar with then it happened….mile 23. Probably the worst milestone of this’s race.
My feet wouldn’t bend, my ankles ached, my knees hurt, I had blisters on the bottom of my feet and I STILL had a 5k to go. I almost cried. Though I wasn’t going to stop, I told Jackelyn that if she wanted to keep going at her pace to just go. She refused, we had been through so much together already that we were gonna finish this bitch together. She slowed down so I could hobble (at a very fast pace) for a bit. We decided that walking now would be best so that’s we could run over the finish line instead of crawling it- though at this point if that was all I could muster then I was fine with it.
As we round the last corner all you could see was the lights, hearing the crowd yelling and the music playing. I have spent a year training and a miserable 14 hour day for this moment. As I run to the finish line, the crowd is pounding, yelling and cheering me on. A smile crosses my face, my feet pick up and my heart beats fast as I head into the lights and through the finish line. I FUCKING MADE IT! I was officially an Ironman.
The volunteers grabbed me and my stuff and moved me to the side. Walked with me talking to me to make sure I was ok. I hobbled to the finisher picture area where I wore my medal and my smile with pride.
Outside of the finish line, I ran into Jackelyn and we had to have a picture together. After all, we had spent the last 5 grueling hours together pushing and encouraging each other. It’s truly amazing how you can become friends with someone so quickly and can go through something so major having never met them before in your life and possibly never ever seeing them again.
While we were running she told me that when I crossed to not just stop cause it can make you sick. Her husband had this issue when he did his first one. We then heard a guy telling someone to slowly walk around or at the very least, stretch. Having been prepared with this info, when it was time to head back to the Airbnb, JD asked if I wanted to walk the mile or take an Uber. Though I didn’t want to say it, I opted for the mile walk. It was more like a hobble than a walk but I made it.
As I walk into the place, JD thought it would be a good idea to interview me. Surprisingly my spirits were high and I was in a good mood considering.
After a hot shower, I finally felt I deserved some real food and to just sit for a bit. It had been a long day though surprisingly I wasn’t tired. I even tried to drink some bourbon to help me calm down.
Around 2am I hobbled into bed and tried to get some rest. My body ached so bad that it kept me up all night so even though I was exhausted, my body wouldn’t shut down. Oh well, I knew Monday night I would be out early. It was one hell of a day!