Wow I am so embarrassed that I stopped blogging. I have no idea what happened but I suspect it all comes down to this little statement, that I heard 14 hours and 24 minutes after I started swimming in Cambridge, Maryland, “Espe Kelly you are an Ironman”. I have to tell you that it was an incredible feeling. Much more than I ever expected. So here is what I remember from the lead up to it.
I got all packed up just like I had for CDA. I had my checklists and got everything ready. Then I took off to Maryland. I arrived in to Washington DC, got my rental car and then drove to Cambridge (well actually Easton) where I had rented a gorgeous house. On the way I stopped at the first grocery store I saw and stocked up on water, bananas, bacon (yes-I eat it on my ride) and food for breakfast so when my family showed up there would be food for them.
As soon as I got to the house I figured out where everyone was sleeping then unpacked and got my stuff organized. Then my friend Cathy McIntyre came for a visit. I met her my freshman year in college and I have not seen her since then. It was a 31year overdue visit. We hung out at the house until the agent came by to give me keys. Then we went to dinner, caught up and tried to piece together our freshman year. Just so you know we never pieced it together.
Cathy and I at dinner
The most interesting thing I found out is that Cathy somehow developed a fear of going over the bay bridge. She actually has a service that meets her and drives her over the bridge. Yes it was a scary looking bridge but I had no idea people freak out. So I am very happy that Cathy was able to meet me for dinner. I later found out that my cousin John Michael doesn’t like it either. He told me the night of the ironman that he would never drive that bridge for me again. I love you John Michael for doing that to come watch my race.
Next day it was time to register and meet up with Ritchie, one of my Alien teammates. We got our gear and made plans to meet the next morning for a pre-race brick then check in our bikes.
That night I went out to dinner with my high school English teacher who also happened to be my track coach. It was great to catch up and hear the stories about how she went crazy trying to get me to run a mile in high school. She had told me before that she did not understand how I became so disciplined. Ceres Bainbridge, I had other priorities in high school. After dinner I went back to the house to wait for Steve to show up. He drove 8 hours to come watch me race.
Steve made it and was hungry so I got his dinner ready. I had ordered food from the restaurant and he was happy to have dinner ready for him. We then put my bike back together. Sometimes I wonder why I just don’t do these things on my own. Steve just does things without instruction (you know the engineer in him). Well of course it was not right and I flipped out. Luckily I have a great bike mechanic and he took my call late at night and he walked Steve through the putting the bike back together and everything turned out all right.
Next day we picked up Ritchie and headed to swim start. Ritchie and I went for a swim and followed it up a with a short bike ride. Then we dropped our bikes off. Once that is done then it becomes real.
The big hill
Swim Start Practice
Wetsuits on ready for pre-race brick
We then went to lunch, dropped Ritchie off then headed back to the house where we found my Mom and John Michael. We had a couple glasses of wine and the boys cooked up some steaks and baked potatoes.
John Michael and Steve prepare dinner
After dinner I checked all my bags and then proceeded to try to get some sleep.
Then it was race day. My Mom had told me the night before she was only going to the end (she had already done everything at CDA and it was too much for her). But she surprised me by being up and ready to go watch me swim. It was great. We took off to the start which included getting on a yellow school bus and then some walking. Her and Steve were so helpful and I was feeling good.
As I was waiting to start I noticed very tall skinny young guys surrounded me. I should have known I was in the wrong place. But I was too excited to realize what I was about to experience. My strategy was to take off 10 minutes earlier than in CDA so that I had more time on the bike. I had done pretty good in CDA so I figured it would be ok. Oh boy was I wrong. During the first part of the swim I was getting run over by faster swimmers. This is everyone’s worst nightmare in the water. I kept trying to move over to the outside but I could not so finally I just said ok at some point they will stop coming since they will have all passed me. My main focus for about 500m was to not get kicked in the face. Then it all stopped and I was able to get in a groove and before I knew it was time for the second lap. By this point I was feeling good and finished just over 1:30:00, which was just a bit slower than CDA.
When I got out of the water I saw Steve and my Mom. That was such a great feeling. I made it through transition quicker than CDA (I had learned a few things and well it wasn’t as cold so a few less things to put on). As I was leaving transition I saw my Mom, Steve and Ceres (my high school teacher). That just made me so happy and before I knew it I was on the bike.
The bike was great. It was flat and windy but less windy than I expected. So I was super excited. I had decided to wear one of my Australian jerseys and that turned out to be a great thing. So many people yelled out to me so that kept me distracted and feeling great.
It was a 2-loop ride and when I finished the first loop I was thrilled because I was on a good pace and feeling good. We then passed the special needs bags I decided I did not need to stop. There was nothing I needed and thought I would take advantage of that fact. There were a few people who I was riding with and we kept passing each other back and forth and we would yell at each other as motivation.
After the special needs I lost them, I guess they stopped. It all of a sudden became strange because no one was in front of me or behind me. After many miles I started wondering if I had taken a wrong turn. I had to remind myself that I could not make a wrong turn but never the less I thought I had. I kept riding and looking at the wonderful scenery and then I came across the flooded road.
We were warned about it but really I did not think it was possible but they were right. The road floods at high tide.
I knew at this point I was close to the next aid station and I wanted it so bad because I wanted a rest. My thoughts were playing games in my head and I wanted to see other riders. I wanted to make sure I was not the last one. When I finally made it to the aid station it was good to know I was not alone. I stopped stretched, ate some bacon and took off. Before I knew it I was at mile 92. The dreaded 92 are what went through my mind. I looked down at my computer and saw I had only been riding 6 hours. I screamed out of enjoyment. In CDA it took me 9 hours. I was so happy I wanted to throw my legs up but couldn’t since I was clipped in.
The last 10 miles ended up being the windiest and I was not happy. I wanted to ride out of aero but when the wind is in your face in aero you must go. So aero it was. Then at 7 hours and 14 minutes I was done with the bike. I remember seeing Steve and I started yelling like a crazy person. I did it I did it.
I handed my bike off and somehow got through transition in no time. I was so excited that I could not figure how to get out of the tent. As I ran out I saw Steve and he was alone. I was like where is everyone he yelled out they are slackers I shook my head and took off.
I always knew if I made it to the run I could make it even if I had to walk. Andy thought the same thing and apparently told Steve if I made it to mile 18 to go ahead and buy my finisher gear (which he did). I also found out later that all of Andy’s congratulation messages were sent after I got to mile 18.
John Michael took this picture. My favorite as it shows how I felt throughout the run.
The run course turned out to be a great course although I had originally thought it would suck doing 3 loops. What ended up happening is that because of the 3 loops you saw the same people which after awhile started cheering you on, then you got to see people from Miami and the best part was hearing the announcer pretty much the entire time. The one surprising thing was how the volunteers started looking for you as you went by the aid stations. They really got to know you. That proved to be useful on the last lap since they knew it was your last lap they pushed you.
When I started the run I was running so fast and got through mile 1 in about 10 minutes. I was freaking because Andy had said to me if I was running faster than 10:30 it was going to be a bad race. I tried to slow down but my legs were just running so fast. After about 4 miles I stopped to go to the bathroom. That was a good move because it helped me get back to a realistic pace. I ran at a pretty good pace for most of the route with a few miles where it seemed I was running slower but really it was the bathroom stops that slowed me down. When I got to mile 18 my knee started hurting. I didn’t worry too much I knew I had Tylenol in my special needs bag. I do not normally mask the pain but I was tonight if I needed to. I did grab my bag got the Tylenol and kept going. I could not get the package open so I decided I would give it to Steve when I saw him. He was nervous about doing that since it is against the rules. I insisted and well he did get it open for me and on the way back for my last loop I took the Tylenol (and I even had to have a volunteer help me open it. Those packages are brutal).
After about 1 mile I felt better and I decided it was time to get it done. Beside by this time they were handing out the chicken broth, which really does fuel you so I was picking up my pace. All of a sudden I was moving faster and faster and people started noticing and were cheering me on (the advantage of the 3 loops) I Just kept going and every time someone cheered for me especially the runners I just got faster and faster. Then before I knew it I was at the last turn around. It was at the brewery with lot s of people and they always went crazy if you turned left (that meant it was the last loop and you were almost done (I mean these people went crazy. It was just like adding speed to your blood stream so I took off.) I went past what was to be the last water stop and the volunteer who I had just cheered me on to go faster was going crazy about how fast I was going. Just at that moment my watch announced I had done a 9:30 minute mile and I screamed that out he flipped and yelled go you are so close to the end. He didn’t even let me get water. At that point everyone was yelling at me to go faster. I was like where is the finish and they said straight ahead. I saw one person in front and I had to make a choice to either slow down or pass her. I wanted to make sure I was alone in the chute. I chose to go faster and passed her and then all I saw was lights. I heard my sister Elena and then there was the finish line. It was so sudden I didn’t even do my happy dance as I had planned.
The process after I finished seemed to have gone so fast that I do not even remember anything except getting my chocolate milk. That was the best chocolate milk I have ever had. Then all of a sudden there was Steve, my mom (crying), my cousin John Michael and my sister Elena.
Best part of the night. I talked to them for a while but I needed food so I headed to the athlete tent had some food and then met them outside. They had a bottle of wine for me and then one for them. At this point I asked about Ritchie and all of a sudden he showed up.
We hung out for a while and then everyone wanted to eat so we went back to the house. As usual I took a to go cup well to go bottle and we headed to the car. Oh boy that was hard. I made a stupid mistake and changed shoes. Not a good idea because once I took the running shoes off my feet went crazy. Steve took off to get the car and I finally made it to the parking lot. Just writing this is making my feet throb.
We went back to the house, I took a shower and then wanted to hang out and chit chat but I was the only one that wanted to stay up. Really I was the only one not tired. Well I was tired I just didn’t know it. The next day they were supposed to cook breakfast but again I was up and they were sleeping so I started. I put the bacon on, beat the eggs and made the pancake mix. After awhile Steve took over and finished up and we had a great breakfast.
After breakfast we headed to Washington DC to see my Dad’s exhibit at the Newseum at the Smithsonian Museum. That was a great way to finish up my Ironman experience.
After I got home I went back through Facebook and noticed all of the messages everyone one had sent me. That brought me to tears. There were so many people cheering me on, updating my status through out the day and posting my progress. There are no words to describe the support that I got from not only my family but friends and friends of friends. I was amazed at how people who did not even know me were cheering me on just because I was a friend of one of their friends. That really is the magic of Facebook. ( I can not even begin to try to show those messages here).
I know I should conclude my ironman experience here but I find it very difficult because even today I find it hard to accept that I actually did it.
So what happened after week thirty-eight pretty much goes as follows:
And that pretty much sums up my year.
What I learned these past 14 weeks is:
- Time sure does go by fast
- Jumping out of an airplane is the most incredible thing ever but will not get rid of the fear of going down a hill fast
- Feels great to not turn on an alarm clock
- It is easy to over book events since you are not paying attention to alarms or schedules
- I miss Ironman training
- I can do ok even without training after an ironman (it hurt but I did ok).
- It still hurts to eat wheat and it is easy to say who cares (and that is a bad thing)
- I love where I live (not so much in Miami but the location of my house).
- It is ok not to have followed all of your resolutions
- Declaring 52 week to Greatness actually got me to Greatness (I am an Ironman and I reached my target for my business)
- 2014 was a great year
- I am sure there are other lessons that I can not recall right now
Quote for the year:
Dream, Believe, Achieve
I do not know who said this but it is what I chose to do this year. I dreamt, I believed and I achieved. I had failures but because I believed, I achieved. I loved 2014.