In October 2013, Fabrice & I signed up for IMTX 2014 together. Fab’s enthusiasm caught me at a moment of weakness when I just finished reading Chrissy Wellington’s book “A Life Without Limits.” She described at the end of the book how even though she had won in Kona & at many other races in the past, that last win where she embraced her significant other at the finish line was far better than any other win. It was different & so much more fulfilling than having only friends & family waiting for you at the finish. With that in mind and being newly engaged, I imagined how grand it would be to finish a race & fall into Fab’s arms at the end. So I agreed to sign up despite this nagging feeling that reminded me of the part I hated the most about Ironman training – the fatigue & lack of sleep.
Oilman (a half iron race) came around in November & I performed poorly. The water was extremely choppy making for a very tough swim. I came out of the water completely disoriented. The bike leg was hilly & windy. Unfortunately I had not maintained my strength training so my legs paid for it. I made it back close to the cutoff & had a crappy run. My mind was not into it & I had no desire to be there. I was still traumatized by the hard work of last training season & was not ready to dive back into the sport whole heartedly. In the end I finished & I was happy to put that race behind me.
I thought resting thru the holidays would get me pumped to begin IMTX training when the new year arrived. On Jan 1st, I started my IMTX training program faking the enthusiasm & going through the motions hoping it would jump start my routine. I was just starting to get into it again, but within a week I came down with an upper respiratory infection which meant no swimming. Bummer! It got worse and my workouts became limited to indoors only. Then it persisted & I had to lower the workout intensities & shorten the sessions. I was mad bc I’m too OCD to skip a chunk of the training program… it’ll always feel like I missed something, like I missed out on a BIG part of it. Within 2 weeks, the cough began to subside & I thought I was getting better. I thought I had injured the cartilage over my ribs from coughing so much (costochondritis – had it before) but that takes a long time to heal so I ignored it. I went for a 40 mile bike ride despite some shortness of breath, that dull pain in my ribs, & a dry cough. That evening, it felt like something was stabbing my chest through the front & out the back. I couldn’t stand, sit, nor lie down without feeling the excruciating pain that brought me to tears. (And I’m very tolerant of pain so this was scary). I went to the emergency room where a chest x-ray confirmed that I had pneumonia. Just like that, I was going to be out for at least another 2 weeks.
All of my energy just dissipated as I fought the illness. The fatigue was worse than a lupus flare. Fab told me that he missed me because I stopped singing, stopped smiling, I was in a bad mood all the time, I didn’t want to do anything nor go anywhere. Poor guy. But he stood by me and helped me in any way he could at home. It made me mad whenever he’d complain that he didn’t have a good workout because I on the other hand couldn’t workout AT ALL. That brought out the bitch in me & it sort of drove a wedge between us. The pneumonia eventually went away, but it ended with another upper respiratory infection. By now I had lost over a month of training. When I finally got over all the sickness, it still took a month to regain my energy & yet another month to regain only half my enthusiasm for Ironman training.
I began my IMTX training in March. We were also beginning the process of building a house, so that was extremely stressful until they finally began construction in late March. We were also planning our wedding for the day after IMTX. Building a house, wedding, Ironman. Three things that people usually do one at a time & with years in between, we were taking them on all at once! What a dumb.ass.idea! Fab & I hardly saw each other on weekdays even though we live together. Our weekends were spent training, at the construction site, or doing chores at home so we had very little to no time for relaxation. We were just going through the motions mostly to maintain our fitness level but had no energy and no intention of making improvements. I was never concerned about mileage/volume/intensity of my workouts. As long as I did something, it was the best I could do. No century rides in training this year. My longest ride was 96 miles with a mental breakdown somewhere around mile 60. I did Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston in April & was able to complete it fairly comfortably. It was comforting knowing that my muscle memory had been working in my favor & I hadn’t lost too much fitness. But then again I just hadn’t gained a lot either. The key here is I had not lost understanding of reading my body & understanding for my body’s nutritional needs. I probably understand it so well now that even without proper endurance training, I can read the physical signs, anticipate my nutritional needs, & set myself up for a solid race.
Fabrice & I continued like zombies until wedding & IMTX week finally came. We only got 4-5 hours of sleep every night leading up to the race. It was exhausting having to host out of town guests who came for the race & wedding. But they are family & we wouldn’t have done it any other way. I finally started to get excited at Athlete Check-In on Thursday. I love the energy from a crowd of strong & nervous athletes whom I’m able to relate to. The banquet dinner was delicious as usual & they even showed the final finisher’s video on the big screen… the video that included a clip of me running thru the finish chute last year. Super cool! That first time in the finish chute is still the happiest & proudest 2 minutes of my life and I will never forget it! Friday began with a late start from my house & rushing to hopefully arrive at Northshore Park in time for a short practice swim (more stress!). We got into the water just before they closed it off. It was windy & the water was rough. I panicked almost instantly & Fabrice knew he needed to stay close to me. I kept thinking… if the first 1300m out is going to be against the current like this on race day, I would be totally screwed. I felt desperate & wanted to cry so we turned around at only the 2nd buoy. If I was going to struggle this much, then I would save my energy for the struggle on race day. In the back of my head, however, I knew that freaking out at the practice swim only meant that I had gotten it out of my system. The only thing left in me was the calmness that I would need on race day along with the image of Fabrice swimming alongside me. I was ready!
I had an early carbo load dinner with Team I Am IM & Team CHUnky at Kim Son Cafe again this year. Fab had plans to entertain his family & out of towners with a later dinner so I was like you’re on your own bro. I think I started to get a couple of lupus lesions on my fingers. They were tender & swollen but I told my body to shut up. I usually sleep very well the night before a race but this was the first time I was so restless. The hotel room was dark when we went to bed, but after waking two hours later it seemed too bright to sleep. I waited for the panic to kick in but it never did. I felt a strange calmness because I knew that regardless how much or how little I slept, how much or how little I had trained, the race will happen and I will do it! I’m an endurance athlete & the enduring part had already begun. I always told the girls that once the gun goes off, you will find a way to keep moving until you reach the finish. Whatever happens in between is just fluff. I couldn’t find many reasons this year for WANTING to complete IMTX again. I think I only wanted to do it to enjoy the training with the team & so that I wouldn’t be a one-time Ironman. I didn’t want to be someone who did it only once just to cross it off my bucket list. I wanted to know that this is something I have been conditioned for & something that I can accomplish time & time again if I so desire. My mantra was: because once is not enough.
Race morning I had some Ensure, coffee & whole grain toast with Nutella. Not the usual meal, but I knew it was safe. Using the restroom twice before a race is my norm but for some reason the magic number was three times today. Good thing I got that all out of my system before we left the hotel. I must be the only person who takes fiber & magnesium supplement the night before a race, but with some training & experimentation, it really works without issues! We made it to transition early enough for me to prepare all my bags. I was pleased with my plan to keep my drinks cold this year. I froze water at the bottom of my Speedfil & Profile aero bottles the night before so that I wouldn’t have to fumble with ice. It pays to get a hotel with full kitchen & full sized refrigerator/freezer. Everything was in place, so I headed to the swim start early. Last year I waited in line for restrooms at transition forever & barely made it to the swim start running & struggling to get my wetsuit on while sweating profusely. Big mistake either way. Dammit. My mom & I stood in line at the porta potties for almost 40 minutes after we reached the swim start. Thank goodness she held our spot in line while I turned in all my special needs bags & put on my wetsuit! I missed the pre-race prayer & photos with the team. Everyone was ready to get into the water when I finally finished at the portapotties. Should’ve just waited & peed in my wetsuit instead of miss those photo ops! My friend found me just before the gun went off & said a prayer. When Q says a prayer it calms me & I’m always happy to begin a long race/training ride with a team prayer. The cannon went off shortly after I found my friends & just like that I lost them as I dove into the water. Most of the crowd was in front of me by that time so I had relatively clear water most of the way.
I had no idea how many buoys there were. All I knew is I wanted to stay near the buoys. One buoy to the next. Yellow buoys = Ranch Doritos. I literally swam straight into them lol. Chomp! Got kicked in the head pretty hard only once going out & just laughed it off. Kept thinking how freakin nice & cool the water felt. Whenever I sighted, I found that I wasn’t drifting off to the right side as I usually do. Kept singing the song “Right Where I Need To Be” by Gary Allen in my head. The water got choppy after the turnaround… probably from the boats, so before I could panic, I peed in my wetsuit. Warmness & calmness! Success! A bunch of guys kept coming to a complete stop in front of me & it was pissing me off. The glare was bad & it was hard to see the buoys, but come on!!! Just follow the 500+ swim caps in front of you! or if you’re hungry enough, go after the the Nacho Cheese Doritos! (red buoys) I found some construction cranes in the distance that marked the entrance to the canal perfectly, so sighting was piece of cake after that. I always swallow a ton of air when I do long swims & the bloating was really getting to me. I had to try to burp every single time I exhaled in the water. I imagined what it would look like if I farted in my wetsuit. I imagined the butt of my swim suit swelling into a big ghetto booty. I giggled again. Swimming through the canal was easy… my only goal was DO NOT SWIM INTO THE WALL AGAIN! I swam into the wall last year while Fabrice was standing right above me yelling WALL! WALL! LOOK UP! WALL! it made me giggle as I swam. I focused on keeping a constant distance from the side of the canal wall that I could see with every breath (I breathe to the right). I was happy that I was out of the water in less than 2 hours. Not happy, however that my Garmin distance showed 2.8 miles! Fairly certain my Garmin map would not look like an EKG, so not sure where all that extra distance came from!
I saw my family on the way into the changing tent. They’re so cute & giddy whenever they spot me! Stopped to pose for a couple pics. When I got into the changing tent, my bestest girlfriends were there to help. Caitlin, April, Vicky, & Ly volunteered & I’m so honored to have a bunch of Ironwomen help me! They completely undressed me, dried me, dressed me, put on my helmet, sunscreen, stuffed my pockets with food, & even making sure I didn’t leave behind anything that looked important while I took a shot of pickle juice. They pretty much did everything except apply the Hoo Ha cream for me! When I got to my bike, I put my garmin on my bike mount first (forgot to do this last year). And checked my brakes real quick. (Always regretted not doing this in the past. If the bikes around me are already gone, they could’ve bumped my bike & moved the brake calipers). I ran to the Bike Mount line, happy, hippity, & hoppity.
Made sure to start riding with high cadence to get my legs warmed up (I hardly kick when I swim). I didn’t want to ride with too much resistance too early on, but the head/crosswind made it a challenge. We never had wind the first half of this bike course before in training. I had to just find a good balance. Had to find that sweet spot based on comfort level & cadence. Forgot to start my Garmin for the bike leg until 7 miles into the ride. This worked to my advantage because mentally, I got so much satisfaction from looking at the distance traveled on my Garmin & being able to ADD 7 miles every time. I’m so familiar with the bike route now that I always knew where I was & what obstacles would probably come next. I enjoyed the shade in Sam Houston Forest knowing that would likely be the last of it. On the bike I drank water & Perpetuem. My bento box had Hello Panda chocolate cookies (the best way to eat chocolate on the bike without getting hands dirty bc the chocolate is in the center of the cookie!), Honey Stinger Waffles, cherry pop tarts, turkey jerky sticks, Enervitene tablets, & Endurolytes (1 capsule per hour). When I got to the special needs area at Mile 60, the volunteers were standing around hanging out & I had to shout at them to get someone to hold my bike. I was a little annoyed but grateful that they quickly ran over to help. I had trouble activating my instant cold pack so one of the girls worked on that while I drank ensure, took another pickle shot, & grabbed my coke bottle. She ended up having to stomp on the cold pack to get it working. Good thing I gave up trying to activate it while riding! (Note to self, the Target brand of instant cold packs are too difficult to activate. Stick to other brands). I used my Albuterol inhaler because the dirt & car fumes were making my airway feel tight. When I reached the chip seal roads around mile 60, I knew it would last less than 10 miles so I was prepared to be patient. We were lucky that there was little headwind on the chip seal roads so I was riding faster than I’m used to going in training. I knew that miles 60-80 are considered the “Bermuda Triangle” of this bike course where everyone just loses their fucking mind. It broke me last year, but I was determined to beat it this year. I remembered how the section of the Chevron Marathon that goes thru Tanglewood was like the Bermuda Triangle that broke me during my first marathon. And then how I conquered it the 2nd year. I did just that thru miles 60-80. Lots of patience, happy thoughts, & thank goodness a lady was giving out cold Cokes in the middle of nowhere. That Coke saved me by maintaining my energy level & focus. I saw some cows & laughed remembering how April & I would always shout at the cows. I was like that cow is April’s. That lito cow over there is my cow. And that other one must be Moo-fasa bc he looks like he’s in charge. I giggled. Around mile 90 I was still feeling really good. Last year at mile 90 I ran out of water & was so desperately hot that I took a mouthful of Perpetuem & spit it on my arm coolers. This year, I had water & wasn’t even that hot but I took a mouthful of water & spit it on my arm coolers just for kicks. I giggled. I saw my family again as I approached the Bike In just before 5pm. So happy to have exceeded my expectations.
In T2, some ladies seemed to be in pretty bad shape & the volunteers were busy helping them. I was halfway dressed by the time someone came over to help me. But it was all gravy because I had time to spare & the clock was not against me this year. I felt pretty decent starting the run this year, but I didn’t FEEL like running much. I caught up to my friend Jimmy around mile 4 and we stuck together for a good 16 miles or so. We just ran slowly for 0.3-0.4 miles at a time then walked & repeated. We wanted to make the 17 hour cutoff at 9:50pm & that seemed easily attainable. We ran more through the waterway, feeding off the energy from the spectators. Team I AM is always super rowdy & fun. I loved passing by the team tent. I am so lucky to have such an incredible & large group of supporters! I think I stopped to pee like 4 times during the first loop. But Jimmy said that probably means I’m well hydrated, so we were relaxed & we even waited for each other at all those little pit stops. We walked more than I wanted & I was antsy at times, but I didn’t want the run to end. We made the cutoff with 30 mins to spare so we were like oh we’re good! We’ve got PLENTY of time! I started drinking Coke again during the 3rd loop for that extra boost & it worked. I finally left Jimmy around mile 21 because my legs were getting stiff so I needed to stop walking & just run. Just as I emerged from the neighborhood & entered the waterway for the last 3 miles, my airway started to spasm. I stopped and clutched my chest trying but unable to cough. With every inhale & exhale, there was suddenly a bitter thick chest congestion that bubbled up in my chest & I could hardly get air nor get rid of air. It was scary & at this time I had forgotten that I had my inhaler with me. I gathered myself after a short coughing fit & decided to keep running because if I’m going to keel over, it’s going to happen where there are more people around to help… preferably in the finish chute. When I looked at my watch I realized that I didn’t have much time left to finish & I worried about Jimmy somewhere behind me. I prayed that we had not miscalculated our pace & finish time. 20% of me wishes I ran as much as I physically could handle to see if I could PR the race & see what I’m capable of despite the stressful training season. After all, I already PR’ed the swim & bike. But 80% of me is SO happy that I decided to take my sweet ass time & milk this race for everything it was worth because I’m either never going to do IMTX again or it’s going to be a LONG time. When I had only 1 mile left, a spectator group played “Turn Down For What” & it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear at that perfect moment. I smiled & kept moving.
As I entered the finish chute, Caitlin gave me a bouquet of fresh flowers. I stopped to hug some of my iron hamily (yes, hamily, not family). The volunteers were yelling at me to RUN bc if I didn’t, I would’t make it! (this confused me bc I thought I had 5 mins left… it doesn’t take 5 mins to run 0.2 miles or however long the finish chute is). I obediently sprinted down the chute & at the turnaround, I paused a second as I noticed the incline to the finish. WHY the hell does it have to be UPHILL to the finish?! But just as I began to sigh, I heard Mike Reilly say my name & he announced that I’m an Ironman! AND that I am getting married TOMORROW! SO COOOOL! (I was so excited last year that I didn’t hear him say that I’m an Ironman, so this was super exciting as if I was hearing it for the first time). The crowd had their eyes on me & they were wildly cheering. I felt so special. Then I saw Mike Reilly walk towards me with Fabrice following behind holding a medal. I’m not sure if I had already officially crossed the finish so I looked at Fab & pointed at the ground just beneath the finish clock. I had to finish just in case that’s where the official finish line was! I ran a few steps past Mike & Fab to finish first lol. Then I stopped & turned back to them. Fab put the medal around my neck as Mike announced that I am an Iron Bride! I had to give Mike a hug because all of my wildest dreams had just come true. I finished another Ironman, I finished the race & fell into the arms of my significant other, & Mike Reilly made an extremely special announcement about me! What a freakin spectacular day! Last year it was all about creating possibilities, beating the lupus, becoming an Ironman… this year the lupus seems so far behind me it never even crossed my mind. I’m happy that I have continued to create myself & make my dreams come to fruition.
From the finish, it was another T-17 hours til our wedding on 5.18.2014 (see our race numbers!)