I went to Coeure d’Alene (CDA) to become an Ironman and I had all the confidence in the world that I would have done that but it was not meant to be. I have avoided blogging about my experience because I wanted to get to the point where my post would be a positive one. It has taken 3 weeks to get there and the reason for my delayed post. But I am there now so here it goes…………
I did the training and the hard work. I showed up, got my package and was ready to go. We did a quick run that first day and it felt great. The weather was perfect for a fast run. That was also the day I met Bear. He is an old friend of Andy’s and let me tell you what a great addition to the team. His attitude and humor was refreshing. Seriously do not now how I did not pee in my pants from laughing so hard on that run.
The next morning we got up for a swim. I knew the water was going to be cold so we had additional gear (neoprene cap and socks) that we needed to try out. Here we are looking all goofy with all that extra stuff.
Really in Miami we do not need that sort of stuff. We all got ready and it was time to go in. I screamed that water was so cold but after a few minutes it felt great. Coach Andy had us swim in the direction of the race so we could get a feel of the current. We did that a few times and then we just hung out in the water just to get used to it. After we got out we went for a run. On the way back I remember seeing people just floating around with rafts and floaties and I thought, OMG these people are just swimming for enjoyment. We came to the conclusion they must be from CDA. But regardless it was funny to see.
That night we had a team meeting. Andy gave us the low down on what we should expect and what we needed to do. Then he asked Stephanie and I to stand up. I was like ok but wasn’t sure why. He proceeded to tell us that as a group of 18 we had lost the weight of two people (Steph and I) in our journey to CDA. That was quite astonishing really. I knew people were loosing weight but to loose 258 pounds as a group was remarkable. Leo lost the most with a whopping 40 pounds then Alan, Andy’s twin lost 35. He went down the line then asked whom we all thought lost the most for the girls. Yeah it was me with a loss of 27 pounds.
The next morning it was time for our pre-race brick. Back to the water we went. Some people were trying to figure out weather or not to wear the neoprene caps and socks. I was already decided but everyone was trying out different things. The only thing I tried was one sock over the wetsuit and one under. In the end everyone concluded that they were definitely wearing the cap and socks and I decided on under the wetsuit so that when the wetsuit strippers pulled my wetsuit off I could still run in my socks. It was going to be cold and I needed that protection.
So on to the bike we went. We were doing the first loop of the ride. As usual I got left behind while maneuvering through the city streets but Elizabeth slowed down and waited for me so I wouldn’t get lost. Once we got through the city the climbing started. I was freaking out. I knew I was going to have to come back down. The group stopped and waited for me and when I pulled up Derek yells “what you were doing 10 mph on the downhill.” I was like no 16. It was a pretty funny moment. Andy then told us where the special needs bags were going to be and we headed back for a short run. After the ride Bear tells me “you know you should just not use the breaks, it really just slows you down”. That humor just never stopped.
Later we went drove the rest of the bike course and it really did not seem all that bad so I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. After the ride it was time to drop off the bikes and gear bags. I later met my family for dinner and went back to the hotel so that I could try and get some sleep.
When we got back to the room Steve showed me cards his nieces and nephews had made for me. It was so awesome to see that. Here is a picture of some of them.
Race day started early. Alarm was set for 3:30am so I could eat breakfast, try to go to the bathroom and get to transition to check my bike and drop off my special needs bags. Steve put on the weather channel and they said it was going to be a great day with no wind. A soon as we got outside I was like why are the trees moving so much. So much for no wind. Steve dropped me off as close as he could to transition. I dropped of my bags, filled my tires with air and headed out to look for my teammates. At this point I was pretty calm since there was nothing else I could do. The work was done, the bike was ready and all my gear was waiting for me. It was time to just go for it. Most of our team ended up meeting up and we were just what I thought hanging out but really we all individually were freaking out. But I was glad to be surrounded by my training buddies.
The swim start was 6:45 and as time approached we all started getting ready. It was time to put the wetsuits on and drop off the morning clothes bag. I wanted to go to the bathroom and the lines were crazy so I went into transition thinking that would be better. It was not. So I just put on my wetsuit and headed out. I called Steve to find out where he was. He was nowhere near me and that is when I totally flipped out. I didn’t think he was going to find me and I had my phone that I needed to give to him. It all worked out in the end and we ran into each other on a very crowded sidewalk.
We said our good byes, he wished me luck and I headed to the swim start where I ran into some of my teammates. Andy had told us that when we got to this part of our journey we would look out and feel a calm. I never believed him but he was right. I was calm. It was seriously weird to feel that way after just freaking out but in reality there was nothing left to do but swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. I was ready.
We then got in the water for a warm up and to get used to the cold water and well to pee like a crazy person. So we hung out for a bit and then they started calling out for us to get in line. It was a self-seed start and I was going out at the back of the 1:15 group since I thought I would finish at 1:30. The time had come to start my race. Two minutes into the swim my goggles were filling up with water so I headed for the first kayak to get that sorted. I did not panic I just fixed the problem and I took off. The lake was clear but it was wavy. It was hard to sight but I just decided it wasn’t going to bother me. I finished the first loop and the cheering from the crowd was amazing. I took it all in and went in for the second loop. I did great on the swim. 1:34 just 4 minutes more than my goal. As I headed to my gear bag I saw my brother Robert so I went and got a hug and then headed to transition to change.
As I got into the tent I saw Liz and it was so nice to see a teammate. The time went by so fast and before I knew it I was running out on the bike. That is when I saw my sister Elena, Steve and my Mom. Seeing them made all the training worthwhile.
I took off on the bike and managed that first loop without too much problem. Then I got to the big climbing portion and that is when I realized holy crap it is windy. I powered through it when all of a sudden I hear Elizabeth say great job on the swim. I was shocked that she was behind me but we pedaled along until we got to the top. I told her have fun on the way down and I’ll see you on the run. You see she loves the down hills and I hate them. But to my complete surprise the down hills were almost as tough as the climbs. The wind was so strong that I had to use my easiest gear to go down. I kept pedaling then my stomach started cramping. I was like let me stop and just finally go to the bathroom. I stopped 3 times and nothing. At this point I was like well let me make sure I just make the cut off times.
I got to mile 56 and was so happy I did not get stopped. Then the volunteers said you have 1 hour to get back so I went like a crazy woman and did manage to get back before the cut off. Then came the big climbs. I was tired and somewhere along the route I stopped just to get some bacon and take my salt tabs. The bike tech support guy stopped to see if I was ok. I said yep just needed some food. He then told me I had 30 minutes to get to the turn around. I had no idea how far that was so I asked him. He thought it was about 20 miles and told me just to keep moving. By this point the wind was stronger and then I started to do the math. There was no way I would make it but I decided that just maybe they would change the cutoff since on the way back it would be faster with the wind on our backs. I started passing people and I thought ok I could do this. I’m not sure at what point but Andy was on his way back and he yelled “Espe you got this just keep pedaling”. I already knew I wasn’t going to make it but I kept going and sure enough when I approached mile 92 (yes mile 92-20 miles short), the turn around, they stopped me and asked me for my timing chip. My smart ass self said “if you want it you need to get it. I am not giving it to you” so they did come take it from my leg. As we headed back to transition there were still plenty of people behind me and as I looked out of the truck I thought well at least I did not walk like they are.
When I got back I dropped my bike off and wondered how the hell am I going to find Steve? Well he and Robert found me thank god. I was so disappointed but they were great. They acted like I had actually finished. I cried but they told me don’t worry you are an ironman in our eyes. All I remember is saying, “ I am not doing the same thing I did with my Landscape architecture test. ” They laughed and said yeah you will”. Here is what Robert posted–Check out that water. Still as can be which means the wind finally let up a little too late:
We then went to look for my mom, Elena, Miriam and Skip. We found them and they were all like its ok just sign up for another one. Seriously my family is crazier than me. Elena, as usual, had a bottle of champagne, which we proceeded to drink.
At this point everyone was texting my family to find out where I was so I had to post that I had not finished. It was a hard post but the support I received was overwhelming. I was no way near ready to hear it but they just kept coming. I actually stopped going on Facebook because it was just way too hard. Here are the messages and I just want all of you to know that even though I could not handle it at the time these messages helped me get to the point to sign up for another ironman. Your support was amazing and I hope you know that.
While we where on the streets we saw Andy run by and he came by to give me a hug. He had already heard I did not make the cutoff. After we saw him I was like I need to eat so we headed to a restaurant that was by the finish line ate and proceeded to drink myself silly. I stayed there until all my teammates passed by and then told Steve I need to get out of here. I cannot listen to Mike Reilly say “so and so you are an ironman” anymore. So we left.
Looking back at it now I cannot believe I actually was able to stay there that long but I am glad I did. Not only did I see all my teammates finish I was also able to see Leo propose to his wife. He had told us early on in the training that he wanted to do something special for his wife. They never really got engaged and they had just gone to the courthouse to get married and since she was so supportive of his training he wanted to do this. I loved the idea but didn’t think I would be there to see it. It was the high light of my DNF.
The next day proved to be much tougher. Everyone was posting on Facebook and it was hard to take. In addition, Leo, Joe Kristin and I have an ongoing text feed and they were texting like crazy. Since I was in no condition to deal with that I asked them to exclude me until I was ready to face the world. They did that for me. Now that is a true sign of great friends.
I had to take Steve to the airport and I pretty much cried the entire way especially when Katcat called me. She thinks I am a hero but at that moment I was still a failure. Kat, I thank you for that call I just wasn’t ready for it.
I was headed to Seattle and I really didn’t want to go anymore but it was too late to change the plans. So after awhile I headed off with Liz. Before we left I saw Joe and Kristin and they were all dressed with their medals and I just couldn’t deal. I was pretty rude really but that is how I was feeling. Sorry guys.
On the way to Seattle Steve called and said ‘hey Maryland is not sold out and its flat you should go for it. I laughed. My family the night before had told me why not sign up for another one. You are already in shape. My Mom’s only request was that it was closer to home. I never said anything but I wanted to yell “ really do you think its that easy” but I didn’t. Anyway I started texting Andy and as I was approaching Seattle I registered for Maryland.
That night there were a few teammates in town and they had decided to stay in the same hotel as me which was great because it had a nice roof top and you could see the sunset and for the first time since I got taken off the course I felt ok, not great but ok. I posted some pictures and then I got the best text ever from Joe. He basically said: Espe is celebrating on the rooftop which means she is feeling better and ready to face the world and with that I was included in the text feed once again. I loved the fact that they gave me the space to cry over my DNF.
I ended up having a great time in Seattle and very happy that I did not go home. I even got to see an old high school friend who I haven’t seen in 30 years. I think I needed that time to reflect on the race and move on. I am still freaking out about my next ironman but I am not one to quit. Hell it took me 20 years to pass my Landscape Architecture license exam but I finally did it.
There is so much more that I felt and experienced but I have left it out because like I said before I wanted this to be a positive blog not only for you but also for me. Along with the negative things I experienced I also experienced a lot of positive things and that is what I want to focus on. Here are some of the few since I started my training:
- I became a way better cyclist (at least 5 mph faster)
- I rode 97 miles for the first time
- I made it to mile 92 on a very grueling bike ride on race day
- I had a great time-check out theses pictures
- I made it down Sugarloaf in Clermont on many occasions and way faster than 3 mph ok like 5.
- I now only hate downhill not despise them
- I have actually ridden 35 MPH (not exactly sure for how long but I hit it and that is huge for me)
- I took 1.5-2 minutes off of my run pace
- I transformed my body
- I gained some terrific friends (you know who you are)
- I inspired one of my cousins to get in shape
- I inspired my brother in law to attempt a triathlon
- I am going to jump out of an airplane to help me conquer my fears about going downhill fast
- I had the guts to sign up for another Ironman thanks to all of my family and friends who sent me the most amazing words of encouragement.
- I confirmed that I am insane, nuts, crazy, mad and every other word that describe who I am.
So I am not going to post my training stats but I will end it with a quote as usual. This quote was posted on Facebook today by a dear friend who I met while at NC State, Thank you Wendy for posting this today. It is the perfect quote for my blog today and I love it because it comes from our coach when we where in college. A man who was a terricfic coach but also a fun guy and a real motivator. Thank you Jimmy Valvano. And hell its perfect for my journey.