The course was now pitch black and I could barely see my feet hitting the pavement – only the dim lights from a few Mexican shops lit the way. My body was starting to shut down and the pain in my legs was radiating with each foot strike. My stomach continued it’s somersaults but I swallowed hard and focused straight ahead. My mind took me back to all those cheering for me and I reminded myself to ‘stay strong’ over and over. I was covered in salt, sweat, Gatorade and now a few tears as I approached the final 6-mile loop. This lap took all I had to keep moving, to not walk, to not mentally give up. I battled hard for several dark miles and eventually found myself at mile 25.
“One mile till finish, one mile till Paul, one mile till IRONMAN,” I replayed in my head. I was in some of the worst pain I’d felt in my life, yet felt myself smile because I knew I was going to make it now.
Soon the streets filled with barricades and cheering people hanging over the sides waving and trying to high five. “Yeah Chica,” they exclaimed! I knew I had arrived and immediately energy and emotions ran through me like lightning. I turned the corner and there it was – everything I had been working towards for 8 months right in front of me. I felt my body relax and my heart flip flop — tears filled my eyes and all the pain evaporated as I took my first steps down the finisher chute.
The bright lights were blinding as I continued down the red carpet blurry eyed and floating to finish line … I crossed thanking God for this moment, this experience, this journey. Immediately my hands came over my face and tears fell down my face…. I was empty, vulnerable, raw and for the third time, an IRONMAN.
The day before I read the first sentence in my race plan from Coach Soria, “There is no perfect race – it’s about execution, effort, and fight. Your best day is determined by how well you handle the adversity throughout the race…”
While I know this to be true, I had no idea I would almost not make it to the start line, and that my race day would be such a fight. Despite plantar fasciitis and IT band syndrome throughout my final build … I caught an awful bug the week before and to top if off… I couldn’t keep down food the night before my big day 🙁 I thought it was over for me – I really did. I spoke to my coach that evening and he said get down pepto tabs immediately, again in the morning – and NO MATTER what, get to the start!!
The next morning I was feeling surprisingly better but very depleted. Paul took care of everything and put pepto tabs & tums in all my bags and got me to the swim start with Roberto & Jeannine. I tried to drink but was very cautious not knowing what was going to sit well? I sipped what I could and as the morning went on I was doing better and better. We watched the pros and 70.3 athletes leave the beach and the sunrise came up revealing the new day. I just prayed and found a calmness and peace I hadn’t felt until this moment….
Paul spayed a full bottle of sunblock on me, I gathered my final swim gear and we walked to the corrals. I self-seeded in 1:15-1:20. Cabo is not a big IRONMAN, but at this moment it felt crowded and full as hundreds of athletes waited anxiously to enter the water and start their day. Music was blaring and spectators were videoing and snapping pictures like it was the Grammys. Eventually, the gates opened and athletes ran towards the breaking waves and swam off into the distance. I tried to walk out as far as I could but the undertow took me and I was off swimming pretty quick 🙂
It was salty and gross as I tried to breathe, but we were in the most beautiful and clear waters I’ve ever raced in. I passed several people that first 1,000 and eventually got into a rhythm. It was a little choppy and I had to ‘let go’ and ‘ride the waves’ a bit. But it was much calmer than the practice swim day! Earlier this year I learned to breathe bi-laterally and to my left which came in handy as 1,700+ of the swim had the waves crashing to my right. At the final turn I peaked at my watch and knew I had a decent pace going (for me) and continued to try and draft off a couple guys all the way in.
As I exited the water I felt refreshed and energized for the first time in weeks. I grabbed my bike gear and headed to the changing tent moving VERY quickly getting into my bike gear. I bolted out but lost time as I couldn’t locate my bike. Yep… went down the wrong aisle, then almost grabbed someone else’s bike. Paul was screaming directions over the rail and shaking his head. I literally lost a place in T1!
Eventually, I made it to the ‘Bike Out’ and found myself on my 6.5 hour journey of 6,400 ft of climbing… I knew not to override the bike, but the hills were already doing a number on my legs and my heart rate was way to high early on (150bpm) and I was pushing more power than I’ve ever done. I got worried! But this course demanded this effort – I had to see what I could do? Still, as usual, I got passed like crazy and while I try not to let it get to me, my confidence began to dive as I continued… Quickly it dawns on me that I need to eat and push the electrolytes. Up until this point I had only been doing water. I didn’t trust my body to much else – but I needed to try and do it NOW or I didn’t have a chance. My Base Salt had fallen off my bike so I had to fully rely on Gatorade and Bonk Breakers. I knew this was dicey….
The course continued through tough climbs, challenging terrain and 100 degree temps as I fought through the second lap. Now, every time I tried to eat or drink my stomach would rumble, cramp and the bars would just sit at the bottom of my throat. Nothing was digesting. I knew I needed to get to the pepto tabs and fast…. but first I needed to get through one of the toughest climbs to T2 – 4.5 miles uphill, then down. I never went more than 8-10 mph this entire climb fighting for every pedal stroke. Athletes were pulled over all over the road walking their bikes or passed out under an overpass (shade) the carnage was starting…
I finally arrived at T2 after riding through the rinky dink make-shift road they built the day before to get there! A small little Mexican boy was waiting to take my bike. I was just praying he was with the IRONMAN organization? Without another thought I hit the changing tent. Because I had to drop my run & bike bags off the night before I didn’t have pepto tabs – dammit! “Now I needed to get to special needs – hope I can make it” I thought. But God sent me an angel, bib #1432 asked how I was feeling and offered me her tabs from her fuel belt!
Immediately I started feeling better – my stomach settled, the cramps subsided and I was renewed with energy to take on the run. I started to bolt and take advantage of this ‘feel good feeling’ not knowing how long it would last? I took water and ice at every aide station and picked up more tabs and tums at special needs. I ended up fueling the entire run on those three things plus half a banana…. that was it! There were highs like seeing Paul, Jeannie and Fabiola scream out my name sending energy through my veins – and lows like almost crapping my tri shorts. That’s the thing about IRONMAN- one moment you’re on top of the world, the next you can’t keep your sh*t together (literally).
I was mentally knocking off each lap off in my head and as I approached the final and fourth lap, my body began to rebel. My arch, my IT band, and every leg muscle cried out in pain. I told myself, “just an easy run with Bridget and Erin to go…” and I pressed on but my pace slowed with each mile. At this point the athletes around me were yacking and stumbling to stay upright – I knew that would be me soon if I didn’t hurry up and finish. Taking down one last tums I pressed on to that finish line …
This may have been my third IRONMAN, but each finish line experience feels like the first. The crowds, the excitement, the culmination of hard work coming to one moment in time – it’s paralyzing, overwhelming, emotional – it’s what keeps me coming back. And I WILL be back 😉
This building year proved to be a big step forward towards my goals – thanks to everyone who believed in me and joined me on this journey. I couldn’t have done it on my own and have so many people to thank!
Paul – you are my rock! Thanks for supporting me in this crazy sport! I couldn’t do it without you… I love you baby. #teamsimon
Coach Soria – you continue to unlock potential I didn’t know existed. Thanks for believing in me and pushing to the next level. I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes us…
Jenn – there’s no one I am more excited to share the ups and downs of triathlon with than you! Your support and encouragement along the way means more than you know. “You just get me!”
Bridget & Erin – I can’t thank ya’ll enough for the run support this season – especially when I really needed to slow it down… which was more often than I like to admit 😉
FTC Crew – you are more like family than a team and understand the demands of this sport more than anyone. Thanks for being my sounding board and helping me train through another season. Especially those who have been so patient with me…Beckley, Spears, Alan, Jeremy, Chris, etc. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Triple Threat Tough – thanks for taking me in and making me feel so welcome at TTT camp and summer workouts. I learned so much from Coach Kristen, Coach Tommy, Coach Lawrence and team members Jonathan and Bob encouraged me every step of the way!
Texas Ford Aquatics — My first day at TFA I wanted to quit. But seeing my swim time in Cabo made it all worth it … thanks to Richard and my lane-mates for an amazing season. I still won’t be happy about kick sets, but I’ll see y’all in 2018 🙂
Sweaty Society — thanks to the Beemers and SS team for welcoming this weak triathlete to the fam… On my first day Jasen asked what my goals were and I said, “Get stronger on the bike” I think we did it.
Dr. Lezlie Maloy @ SVSS – The path to IRONMAN is never linear, and you kept my body ‘in working order’ even though I kept falling apart. Your positive attitude helped me keep it together when things looked so bleak…
Mike Rouse @ Run Texas – Thanks for always going ‘the extra mile’ with each of my shoe fittings to ensure I could continue to run despite my issues and for all the support throughout the season!
My work family — where do I begin? lol. Thanks for putting up with me over the last several months and for your ongoing support. It means the world!
Jeannine & Roberto – I can’t thank you enough for showing us around, sharing your IMCABO race expertise, and for your Spanish-speaking help during the trip – muchas gracias!
What’s next? Well, I’m not sure — and that feels pretty good. Off-season is short but I’m going to continue to soak it ALL up with my main squeeze. 🙂
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11