August 08, 2019 - Lessons from my first full Ironman: No matter how humble you thought you were when you started, you'll be even more humble when you finish.
I don't know how best to characterize my first full distance IM other than to say I knew going in that all roads would point to a second. If I did well-"Awesome! Let's do that again!" If I didn't meet my expectations, well then...I'd want to go again to improve my performance. In my case, it was scenario two, and it's taken a few weeks to come to terms with that.
I spent the last six months training, dreaming, eating, trying not to neglect my family and career. I had more support than anyone could ever deserve. So when race day came, and I didn't meet my own expectations, it felt like I was letting down everyone who cooked a dinner or sent an encouraging text, or just believed in me. But that's not true-they still beleive in me, probably more than I do. I'm a lucky girl.
So the race itself: The day started crammed in a loosely organized rolling start swim corral. I struggle (a lot) with race anxiety in the swim, but I'd been swimming well and I can't imagine a better swim venue than Mirror Lake. But...at about the first turn buoy it set in. But I was either going to finish or drown trying, so I floated on my back a bit, got my breath straight, and started again. And again. Getting back in the water for the second loop was almost unbearable, but finally, as a turned the last buoy and headed back in I started to swim like I know I can. Not fast, but not slow. Smooth and relaxed and happy. 1 hour, 46 minutes I'm already off by nearly half an hour
I had steeled myself to the wetsuit stripping and sunscreen applicators (both of which sounded terrifying to me) and T1 went well and headed out on the bike.
The bike was hard and there was a lot of climbing, but I expected that. I was distracted by the stunning course! I got a few glimpses of my family and my training partner, read a note from my daughters I found in my special needs bag, re-loaded my Infinit and rolled out for loop two. Two bottles Infinit on loop one; two bottles on loop two. It was warmer than I had expected, and nothing solid looked appealing (I'll save the ill-fated cliff bar on a climb story for another day-ew) so my custom mix and a whole lot of water saved my butt no doubt. 7 hours, 3 minutes on the bike. I'm off by an hour.
Through T2 without event, both excited to finally run, but with a growing doubt that I'd be running the way I had planned.
Deep breath, relax and RUN-it's what you do Melissa. Welllll It's what I usually do. Five miles in and I just can't. The devastating reality is that this is going to be a walk-run. There is not a chance in hell I'm running a 3:45, or a 4:00, or even a 4:30 marathon. So I picked out a telephone pole and walked to it, and started to run again. As time wore on, the walks got longer, and the run got slower, but I realized that short of a disaster I'd finish-not in the time I had hoped for, but I'd finish. So I let myself enjoy it. I met a whole lot of other walk-runners. Some were reaching for their first finish like me, others had 5,10, even 20 full IMs under their belts. I got to really thank the volunteers, including Oscar, who started the day as an athlete, was taken from the swim by abulance to the hospital, but who returned to volunteer at the furthest turnaround on the run course. If Oscar's not having a pity party today, then I sure as shit don't get to have one. My daughters caught me at the top of the hill as I came back on the second loop and cheered me on. I started to cry, and the youngest said "Mom! don't cry! It's harder to breathe when you cry!" How'd she get so smart? Head up and bring it home. 5 hours, 17 minutes on the run. I've stopped doing the math...
I crossed the finish line, running,at 14:25:28.
I spent the next week in Vermont with a pile of friends resting, and playing, and eating, and drinking. And pouting. And thinking maybe I should sign up for Maryland in September. It took a little while, but I've come to terms with the fact that I DID IT. If you had asked me 3 years ago how long it would take me to complete an Ironman I'd have said-"well forever I guess, because that's not happening." But it did! My body and mind and family and friends let me travel 140.6 miles under my own power through beautiful mountains and quaint towns. Maryland isn't going anywhere. I'm going to go ahead and celebrate my first Ironman with the knowledge that it's not my last.