I was told it would be life changing. That it would be one of the best days of my life. With each day that passes post race, I can honestly say they may have been right.
This race holds so many memories, thoughts, emotions, and lessons for me. Warning: this is a long one.
About 10 years ago a sat on the couch with my husband watching the IRONMAN Kona championship on TV. I knew of traithlons, but was unfamiliar with an IRONMAN. I will never forget him explaining it to me, “They swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles then run 26.2”
We then had a ligit argument, me telling him he had it wrong. There’s no way possible a human can do all of that continuously. At the time I was working as a banker, getting into hiking and just starting to get into 5ks. (My goal at the time was a 5k under 24 minutes) I was a collegiate athlete, but after college got a little lost in life, struggling to find my place when my whole life (basketball) was done.
Fast forward a few years. I find myself in Lake Placid watching my first IRONMAN. As I said in my last blog entry, I was overwhelmed with emotion and awe of the event. I cried most of the day, as I watched THOUSANDS of athletes complete 140.6 miles. They seemed no different than me, some even 70+ years old.
This was when we had just started mission FITNESS and I was starting to get my fire back as an athlete. I had left the banking world, luckily snapping out of it & realizing this was not me, this was not my destiny. I would not be a 9-5 corporate zombie I was becoming, comfortable with being comfortable…I was meant to be more than that.
So, I sat at that finish line 7 years ago and vowed to myself I would do this event.
However, as the years passed I realized my extreme love for the woods and the mountains and I ended up doing a few ultra marathons (50k/50 mile trail runs) all while never missing but one year of IRONMAN Lake Placid.
While in Placid I would bike the course (one loop) but get into the Adirondacks as much as possible. While the excitement of the triathlon buzzed around town, I found my true bliss deep in the mountains away from the craziness.
Then race day came. An energy no one can hide from. At 630am you are all-in, fully vested in every athlete in that race. Mike Reilly begins to get the crowd into it from the jump, and from that point forward the day is forever a part of you. Whether you are 8 or 80 years old, a triathlete or out of shape, this event makes it hard to walk away from without part of you wanting to one day be on that course.
So, 10 years after I passionately argued that 140.6 miles was not humanly possible, I began my journey to prove myself wrong. To up the anti even more, at our MF goal setting party I wrote down a lofty “stretch goal”…to complete it under 12 hours.
As the reality of life, 2 jobs, and training for this race set in, I slowly started to shift my goal. I opted to not buy a new TRI bike, and use my old road bike instead. I refused to put THOUSANDS of dollars into this sport, just to be faster.
This was hard for me, being so competitive, but it was truly against everything Erik and I are trying to do in our lives. Buy less, live more. Minimize, minimize. This proved to be very difficult in the triathlon world. I will say one of the hardest things for me in this process was all of the “stuff”. I hate it. I hate that the person next to me can buy a more expensive bike & $2000 wheels and beat me by an hour because of it. I missed running in the trails when the ONLY way to beat someone was to outwork them. End of rant. Sorry.
So, as my training ramped up and my decision was made to not buy speed, I decided the 12 hour goal was going to be very tough and developed a plan B:
1.) Enjoy the race and LOOK like you’re enjoying it.
2.) Finish happy and healthy & able to watch the midnight finish.
As the race approached my level of stress and anxiety dissipated a little. I think I kind of let go of the uncontrollables & knew what would happen, would happen.
However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. The thought of the swim would immediately break me down, to the point just a few days prior I had a ligit emotional breakdown thinking of the swim….Full blown sobbing, my brother and Erik reassuring me I would be fine.
*I had to add this because I think for some odd reason people think I’m unlike them. I have the same fears, nerves, etc. This was truly a race I was 100% uncomfortable with. (I should add here that I went into this race with only 4 total triathlons under my belt in 7 years. All sprint tris. Nothing more. This was truly unchartered territory for me. I felt lost, confused, nervous, and truly scared.)
I was very fortunate I had 4 amazing peeps doing this race with me. As I made my way to the water I not only had Erik and Matt with me, but I was joined by my childhood friend, Kyle, and her friend Jolene. We then met up with Drew and Mike, Kyle’s boyfriend and friend. The four of us were able to spend the next 15 minutes together, before the race start. This was huge. I cannot thank these 4 enough for their support during the race.
As I started to file into the water I looked to the side and saw Amy (an amazing friend who happens to be a Tri coach) She looked at me with so much confidence and said, “you’ve got this.” I believed her. Then I saw Patti, so excited for me all week and all day. Lastly, my husband Erik was right there on the other side of the fence as I marched forward into that water. I will NEVER forget seeing him with tears in his eyes, as he could only nod at me. He was literally there every step of the way as I approached the scariest race I’ve ever done. As always he knew what it took to get there more than anyone. As always, he was my biggest fan.
I won’t go into too much detail, but I managed to complete the swim without having a full blown anxiety attack (my biggest fear) If you saw an aerial I’m pretty sure I zig zagged the whole race.
“Why is no one around me?” – OMG, I’m almost on shore.
“Why am I being attacked by 5 men?” OMG, I’m almost at the boueys.
And so on…
Finally, 1:18 later, I was on my feet and running down the chute. SO. HAPPY!!!!!
I cannot say enough how amazing the volunteers were. As I transitioned to bike they basically did everything for me. Unreal.
I have to say the first 10 miles or so on the bike my hamstrings hurt SO BAD. I began to think, “how the hell will I do this for 112 miles?” Luckily, that went away at some point 🙂
Soon we would hit the downhill. I was super nervous about this, and I held on for dear life for 8 miles while I got passed by huge men literally doing 50 mph. By the time I got the bottom my arms were so tired from the stress and hanging on so tight. I passed a couple people on the side of the road who crashed on this downhill. Urgh.
The next stretch was flats where I was told several times prior to the race to hydrate and EAT like crazy. I did, in fact I followed my nutrition plan almost to a T.
Amy told me to make sure my first loop on the bike I go easy. Super easy. Take in the scenery, and if you aren’t then slow down. I did this and the few times I did catch myself trying to attack I slowed.
I read the day earlier that the elevation gain in those 112 miles was 13,800 ft. which scared the shit out of me, but I have to say the bike was fine. East Haddam and Glastonbury Hills were amazing training.
The two things I wish I changed on the bike was:
1.) Slowing at each aid station to get water/Gatorade. It was chilly and I wasn’t sweating which leads to…
2.) I had to stop 4 times on bike to pee. This added a bunch of time to my bike.
If I only stopped at every other aid I would have saved a ton of time plus less peeing. Oh well.
Final bike time: 6:36
This was the moment I envisioned so many times leading up to the race. Being done with the with the disciplines that I was really worried about (bike fears= flat tire/crash) and on my own 2 feet!!
As I started the run route I saw all of my family and friends, hugged them, and I couldn’t have been more happy to be feeling good. I thought I consciously SLOWED DOWN because I knew I could go too hard here, but apparently that didn’t work; my first 3 miles were a 7:20 pace. Whoops.
I have to say, at this point I knew I had to do a 3:50 marathon (based on my fuzzy calculating) to do sub 12 hr race. This was a constant battle in my head to go for it and to forget about it to ensure a healthy finish.
I felt good, but Bill told me time and time again, “go slow on that first 13 miles. You can easily blow up in the 2nd 13 if you don’t”
I was passing people like crazy, literally hundreds of people on the run. People were cheering for me like I was a rockstar (your bib says your name so everyone calls you by name=awesome) While I occasionally doubted being able to sustain this pace as I saw others puking, cramping, etc. I truly was confident in myself.
Why??? Because I trained hard. Very hard. I knew I was different than most of them. When my plan said 90 mile ride, I did 90. Not 89. When I saw my car on a run and I still had 15 minutes, I circled my car for 15 minutes. Thirsty, hurting and just wanting to get in that car….I kept running. Why? BECAUSE OF THIS MOMENT. If I stopped I would be the one puking and cramping. To be elite you have to go the extra mile. You have to do what others won’t. I learned that as a child playing basketball and I NEVER want to lose that quality.
So, I kept running. I ran the hills that I was told to walk. I ran, and I continued to feel good. Spectators told me I looked amazing, and I felt amazing….until about mile 16. Things started to shift a little then. I kept running, but my stomach started to turn a little and I could only stomach water.
At this point I was trying to calculate and I knew I could hold a 10 minute mile and still do sub 12. However, I kept pushing and I was soon out of River Rd and climbing back into town. 3 miles of climbing, an easy 2 mile out and bike and I was in that oval.
(At this point I saw Kyle who ran to me with open arms saying, “YOU did it. I’m so proud of you, you’re amazing.” I can’t say enough about this girl. She is just absolutely amazing and to do this race with her was such an unforgettable experience. Her, Drew, Jolene, and Mike are just amazing people and I can’t wait for many more adventures with them!)
I had just passed one of the many amazing signs Matt had made for me, this one saying “you haven’t come this far to only come this far. Finish it.” It had one of my fav pics of me high fiving my Dad as I approached my first overall race win.
So, that’s what I did. I finished it. I entered that oval the way I spent so much time envisioning. Feeling strong, with my family and friends on the sideline, with enough time to hug them all and still finish sub 12 hours!
And to hear those famous words by my dude Mike Reilly, “Darcy Lucas you are an IRONMAN”
Run time: 3:40
Final Time: 11:50