And it feels awesome.
For the most part, I felt good throughout this race. I never hit a wall and knew with almost certainty I would finish the full 70.3. I had the kind of race I had dreamed of - my stomach cooperated, my body did what I told it and my equipment behaved appropriately.
This whole process actually started Friday with a massage to prime my muscles. It wasn't all that relaxing, but it worked. I also packed the car, went through all my lists and visualized all the steps of the race to ensure I had everything.
Saturday morning, I made the painfully long drive to Racine and then picked up all my stuff, signed over my life and went to the athlete's briefing. I managed to not buy anything, which isn't really my style, but I was on a mission to drop off my bike. I ran into Lauren on site, then joined Amanda for the festivities. We bunked up at a "quaint" local establishment that made me grateful we were together. We walked around Racine, had a few beverages and met up for dinner with Lauren's tri team at another non-memorable place. Upside: my dinner was free because they forgot to put the order in. Lame.
I slept well in our strange little room, and we roused at 4:45 a.m. to eat and change. We were parked by 5:20 and moving into transition. This was the first moment I wanted to cry - I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume of it all. I laid out all my stuff, said a little pep talk and took my swim gear over to wait in the port-0-potty line.
Then, I made my way the mile to the beach and found Lauren again, who helped me into my swim cap and fastened my wetsuit. I waded into the water just to get my suit adjusted, then had another moment. I was really glad to see my dad at the start just because the whole thing started to feel crazy.
By the time my wave moved to the beach, I was feeling OK ... until we hit the water. The trip out to the first turn buoy made me consider a DNF. The waves were insane. The swells were at least as tall as me, and it felt like I was swimming up and down instead of forward. This was the only point in the day that I wondered if I'd make it.
Beyond being terrified, I was also bored. When I got out of the water, I felt like the day was already half over. The wet suit strippers were awesomely efficient and I was jogging to my bike in no time. I saw all my family this time, which was great. I threw all my stuff down, put on my socks, bike shoes, glasses and helmet, then started shuffling to the bike out. My spot was just inside the swim in arch, so it was quite a jog to the next stage.
The bike, much like the swim, was bumpy. I felt like I should have been going faster, but I just kept grinding it out. I took a mini Luna bar every 10 miles and switched out water bottles at every aid station. Again, I was mostly struck by the boredom of this whole process. The only exciting part of the process was seeing my family and reading the spectator signs. My favorite: "PR or ER."
When I got back to transition, I was so excited to get on to the running. I saw my family again, and because my bike was racked so close to the edge of transition, I had a bit of a chat with them while I changed my socks and got ready for the next phase. This time, I took my handheld, my race belt, a hat and new shoes. In retrospect, I should have skipped the handheld but sprayed on a coat of sunscreen. I put on sport sunscreen at the beginning of the day, but it wasn't enough.
On to the run I went. My goal was to shuffle through the miles at a slow jog and not walk, but I did end up walking through a few of the aid stations. I dumped water on myself and ran through the sprinklers, and took snacks and drinks at some of the aid stations. I enjoyed the chips and pretzels, along with the flat coke. My tummy started to rumble a bit, so I quit at nine-ish miles.
Quite honestly, I felt fantastic at this point. I knew I could have pushed harder, but I didn't want to hate it. I wanted to finish it.
This run is a two-loop course, so it did really suck to come within yards of the finish only to loop back out on the same course. It was boring, but the end was in sight at this point.
The sun really started to beat down on me at this point, but I kept shuffling. As I started to barrel down the finish shoot, I was feeling great. Hearing my name get announced just felt surreal. It was the culmination of months of training, fretting and worrying. I tried to remember throughout the day that the race is the reward, and I had the song "I love it" by Icona Pop stuck in my head. I think that's what helped me persevere.
Immediately at the finish, I got my medal, chugged a small bottle of water and then got my finisher's hat. I waited there so my sister, parents and Tim could find me, then grabbed food at the athlete's tent. They were already out of cookies, and I heard later on they ran out of all food. I got a small veggie sub, a small bagel with peanut butter, a handful of chips, a diet soda and more orange slices. It was lovely.
After that, I had Tim buy me a sticker from my car and then my parents helped me cart all my gear back to my car. My mom brought me a beer, along with a finisher's gift - a Christmas ornament of Tinkerbell with a note that was quite thoughtful.
It took me forever to get home, mostly because I had to stop so frequently to use the bathroom. At least my stomach stayed settled throughout the race.
Right now, I feel great. I really accomplished something, and I'm very proud. I was very happy to have my family there to support me, even though it was an early and long day for them. I actually feel a bit guilty that I feel so good right now, because it means I could have pushed myself harder. But that's OK, I finished with a smile.
And I can't wait to do this again.
Cost: $280 (gulp)
Time: 6:14:42 (48th in my age group, 1,163 overall) Swim: 41:06, T1: 4:37, Bike: 3:17:30, T2: 2:43, Run: 2:08:56
Pros: It's an Ironman-branded race, which means there's a ton of support and volunteers and the whole town comes out for the race. There are plentiful, fully stocked aid stations, a great expo and tons of branded gear available for purchase. Everyone gets a shirt, a bag, a finisher's hat, a finisher's medal and a commemorative bib.
Cons: It's expensive. It's also a big race, which means parking sucks. There weren't enough port-o-potties or post-race food, and it's intimidating with all those pros.
Would I race this again? Maybe, if my schedule permits.