Part Two: Race Day
The next morning my alarm went off at 4:30am. I quickly got up and tip toed to the bathroom to get my kit on and start eating! (Which ended up being the key to my day…) Paul, Ash and my sister walked me down to the swim start and body marking where we met up with Mark, Coach Soria and the Team Imagine guys. It was cold and we were all bundled up trying to stay warm and conserve energy. My sister and Paul got me into my wetsuit and we all headed to the swim line together. It kept going and going … We literally were in the VERY back! No joke, there were probably 30 people behind us of 3,000! 😉 But, Mark was uber calm about it and helped me along each step of the way. Very thankful for him, Jenn, Ash and Paul to keep me chill & laughing for the hour+ wait to start! (Yes, Ash, you can pull off that scarf! 🙂 )
The wait was long, but I certainly appreciated it as I jumped off the dock and had my “own water” to begin swimming!! I started very slow and just let my wetsuit fill and and float along with me. Almost immediately, I felt my neck and shoulder tightness creep in as I turned to breathe and pull forward. “It’s a long day, just get loose” I told myself – I knew that’s exactly what Coach Soria would say to me. I focused on technique and sighting the best I could and zoned in on a few dudes out in front of me. I followed them out around the turnaround – but once we were with the current heading back, I was on my own again sighting the bridges. Still, I didn’t kick AT ALL and just let my legs follow behind me for 2.4 miles. I looked at my watch as I approached the second bridge and it said 58:24 “Wow, was I doing good?” I wondered…. (Thanks current!) Just ahead I could see the swim-out but it was very crowded and it took me awhile to get out and I clocked 1:12:28. But, since it was my first time ever to swim 2.4 miles, I was psyched!
I ran out of the swim to a wet suit stripper and up past my family cheering me to transition. It didn’t hit me that I was freezing cold and turning purple until I hit the changing tent. I couldn’t move, paralyzed for a second. Volunteers tried to help me but I couldn’t talk – my mouth was dry and my brain was foggy from the swim.
I slowly started to look through my bag for my helmet, shoes, etc to get ready. “Can I help you?” Came a sweet voice from over my shoulder. I was quite literally shaking like a leaf and I just shook my head “no!” I eventually pulled it together and ran off to the bike out with my teeth chattering and lips blue. Before I mounted for 112 miles I saw my family again for a few warm smiles…
I started off slow on the bike, Coach Soria had warned me that many athletes go out too fast on the long stretch out of town and then struggle on the two loops. So perhaps I was being too cautious, but I also wanted to finish this day! I was averaging 17mph where most people were doing 20mph +, easy. I took this time to think through the day, my strategy and to catch my breath – oh yeah, and to try and warm up! Next up was an out and back stretch on 1694 before the two big loops. It was a very narrow road with winding hills and a sharp turnaround. Coach Soria cautioned me of many wrecks on this stretch and there were! I had to manveuer around and be extremely careful coming down from some big climbs. After getting through this section I started to get on point on my nutrition again. Every 45 minutes I was taking a big bite of my Bonk Bars and downing Gatorade endurance every 10mins or so. Watching the clock kept the ride moving quickly! 😉
After the 1694 section I saw a sign for LaGrange and knew I was on the first loop. “Here we go, Jules,” I said to myself with a few deep breathes. I had a pretty good idea I may see my family out here … And I did! I was at mile 40 on a downhill and literally flew by them all! I caught a glimpse of Chad swinging his arm in a circle yelling, “That’s our Julie!” Like Happy Gilmore 😉 Everyone was a fast, loud blur! But the energy was electrifying and somehow I picked up my pace and climbed better on the second loop than the first!?
At mile 62 I arrived at bike special needs – and it was packed!! As I approached volunteers started yelling 809 in relay up to where I approached my bag and they had it pulled and ready for me. I tried to make it a quick stop but it was so crowded and it took me “what seemed forever” to re-fill my bottles and load more bars. Again, the adrenaline slowed my brain or something and I felt like I was in slo-mo. Eventually, I pulled back on the course telling myself, “Over halfway!”
It wasn’t much further and I saw my family again in LaGrange at mile 70. By now, the sun was high in the sky and it was warming up. I flew by again this time seeing Paulie flash me a smile as I tossed out my arm sleeves. His smile was just what I needed at that point and I told myself, “Just get to mile 90 and it’s all downhill from there, Jules!”
I continued to climb for the next 20 miles with “90” on the brain. The day before, Coach Soria told me I would be “home free” after 90. Guess what?! We weren’t!! I suppose he couldn’t predict the crazy headwind we had heading back into the city… So needless to say, it was one helluva bike! Those last 22 miles started to wear on me. Suddenly the neck and shoulder pain I had been fighting all weekend became very pronounced and I kept going in and out of aero trying to find a position that was comfortable. The Bonk Bars I had been eating all day began to taste like cardboard and I started to run very low on fluids. Yikes.
But, before I knew it I saw tall buildings up ahead and we were riding back into the city. “Not far now – better pull back effort and eat again.” I remembered what Coach Soria had said to me. And I did just that. I rode into transition and when I dismounted I almost fell over… My legs were so wobbly! We had a long walk to T2 with our bikes and I immediately started to wonder how I was going to run a marathon? I think I even giggled to myself? But, I played my strategy over in my head as I approached T2. (Walk for 30 seconds every two miles for the first half, walk for 30 seconds every mile the second half… ) Again, another sweet volunteer pulled my 809 bag and I waddled to the changing tent. I wasn’t delirious – actually I was pretty “with it” all things considered but I could not physically change myself! My hand eye coordination went out the window and I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes or pull up my shorts! What a sight I must of been? So, big thanks to my sweet volunteer for helping me!!
Eventually, I walked out of the changing tent a bit nervous but glad to be off the bike and feeling refreshed in a new kit! It was almost 5pm and my legs were heavy, achy and I felt those calf cramps creeping up. But I crossed out of T2 and started a slow jog chatting with another first timer. “Here goes nothing, let’s just finish this!” I said to her as we started off. And that was the last time I saw her…
Mile – 2 or 3 I saw my family again! I was so excited to see everyone. I was about to run a friggin marathon and needed some “umph”! Plus, I just wanted to “talk” to my sister a second – she hollered about my awesome swim and energy filled my veins. And Paul ran with me a minute – he looked so proud. I smiled and remembered I can run on tired legs. This is my best discipline. Yes, yes, I can do this!
Mile 3 – I continued to truck along on my own passing several others. Out of nowhere I heard what was “our song” from when Paul and I were dating in HS. I got a regained sense of focus and energy. I smiled over that one for the next several miles… Hadn’t heard that song in a long, long time! Life is so funny sometimes?
Mile 4- I found Phillip Middleton! Who is that you ask? My pacer for most of my first lap (his second!!) My “walk every two miles” went out the window when I found him (in addition to my 10:00) pace! But, he had done several other Ironman’s and was so interesting that I didn’t want to get dropped! We saw my family a few times together so I looked really strong in front of them 😉 I promised myself I would do the second loop slower… But I swear, at one point I looked down and we were running 7:55? Opps! I ran him towards his finish and I turned into the second loop slowing way down promising myself I would “re-set”
Mile 14: Run Special Needs: my bag was pulled quickly and I grabbed another GU and my PB&J sandwich. I knew I needed to start eating /drinking asap. My heart rate was too high the first loop and I needed to get down some easy calories. I turned the corner out of special needs with sandwich in hand and there were Jeff and Kori! More cheers! They were laughing out loud over the sandwich in my hand and I realized how silly I must of looked? I just giggled too 😉 Halfway through this mile I found Mark from Frisco Tri Club. I was so excited to see him!! (Although, I don’t think he was as happy to see me ..;-) ) We ran and worked together for awhile.
At mile 17 – My family was here again – loud and cheering just as excited as they were at the swim out almost 10 hours ago! If you know me, you may remember that I have a little bit of a mental block with mile 17…. At my first marathon I bonked here. BAD. So, it’s always been a “thing” with me. So great to see them HERE. Mark and I were still working together and he taught me about BASE salt – which I ended up taking a lot of throughout the backend of the marathon. (I think it saved me? Really! Calf cramps- gone.
Mile 20: I arrived at the turn around to head back to town. Mark had peeled off less than a mile ago and I was on my own for the next 10k. It was starting to get dark but I had no idea what time it was? “I yelled to a spectator, “What time is it – like time of day?” He yelled back, “7:44pm ma’am – and nice pace!” I had no idea if I was about to run a 5 hour marathon or 4 hour marathon? My watch had re-started at the run. But, I just said, “Jules, 10K until Ironman” over and over in my head. My legs were really starting to break down and each time I lifted my leg my hip flexors were screaming! I took “a little” salt every half mile or so and Gatorade every aide station. For the first time all day my stomach started to feel queasy. I could feel myself breaking down and my pace slowed to 10:00/10:30. But I was still moving forward. At that point I thought of everyone at home cheering for me – watching my splits, waiting up for me to finish. Each of their faces flashing in my head….
Mile 23: It was now pitch black outside and I could barely see my foot hitting the pavement in front of me and I was alone. I was still holding 10:00:10:30 pace and spectators were my energy at that point. (Them and coca-cola!) I couldn’t feel my legs – but they were working for me. I realized then; I was going to make it! I took those last few miles to thank God for “all this!” I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phil: 4:13
Mile 26: As we weaved back into town I could hear the finish from blocks away. I saw the sign for 3rd street and almost burst into tears! “I was here. I was really HERE” – emotion started to fill my face. We looped around and the bright lights were in sight. I turned the corner down fourth street and everything I had been working for, for six months stood out in front of me. There it was; the finish line.
Finish: Mark was right, I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. My body literally floated the next 400 yards. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t slow… I came upon the red carpet and the noise was deafening -yet I could hear strangers yell my name – all I could do was smile, look ahead and take it all in. About 10-15 feet from the finish I hear, “You got it Baby!” And to my left was Paul hanging over the rail so far he could of flipped over! He had the proudest smile I’ve ever seen on him. It was with that, I turned back forward with tears filling my eyes and crossed the finish line. My hand pumped up with excitement and the tears rolled down my face – with a giant exhale of relief and exhaustion my hands came down, eyes closed, head back “Thank you Lord!”
Finisher Shoot: Tears of joy, excitement, and exhaustion took over me for a minute. I was trying to enjoy the moment – but the moment was taking over me! My “catcher” was amazing and helped me through the rest of shoot getting me my medal, water, heat sheet and finishers shirt 😉 As we approached the photos and exit I hear my name, “Jules, Jules” – it’s Coach Soria jumping up and down. My catcher looks and asks who this is? “I’m her Coach!” He exclaims over the rails. We walk over and he explains to me that I did run a sub-4 marathon – whoa? And was 31st in my age group! I can’t even comprehend it all at that time but his excitement says it all…
Post Finish: My Catcher released me to Coach Soria and immediately I begin to feel better and we start talking through my race… Paul and my sister arrive within minutes and the emotions are back again 😉 Paul doesn’t let me cave and we take pictures with all the Team Imagine guys. Of course, they have been done for hours and look completely fresh – where I have salt stains, sweat marks and still catching my breath!;-)
After, they took me to my family and the waterworks start yet again! “Why can’t I keep it together?” But, I was just so overwhelmed by EVERYONES support, encouragement and love throughout the day – and during my entire journey to get “here!” I had raced all day for this moment and finally seeing my family and friends, well that took me to a new place. The love and joy surrounded me like a cocoon!
“Jules, what do you want to eat or drink now?” My sister asked. Everyone had fun answering that question for me – they felt they had done their own Ironman that day! “Champagne!” I replied. “You got it!” Jenn said. Her and Kori were off…
That night we met back at the hotel lobby – which luckily was only a block away from the finish! Ashley and Paul helped me get back and get showered up – they made me yet another PB&J sandwich and brought me back to the lobby. And when we arrived downstairs everyone toasted my new Ironman title as we reminisced about the day and the crazy things seen on course (believe me, there were plenty!) And, as I looked around I felt such joy and love for each person sitting beside me. I didn’t want this moment to end…
Later, the midnight finishers had come through and I had devoured my victory meal of a Gordan Biersch chicken sandwich, fries (yes fries) and washed it all down with a beer. I was out celebrating with Chad, Jenn, Dustin, Paul, Mark and Ash… It was the perfect end to the most amazing day. Then later back at the hotel I was getting tucked in by Ash and as she was helping me into bed I looked at the clock, it was now 1:14am. We had been up for almost 20 hours! (And my sweet hubby was still away taking care of my bike and not back yet!) Right then, emotional, I started to cry. I suddenly realized the sacrifice everyone, especially my amazing husband had made all for me!
I reached for my phone and texted Paul immediately: You are my rock, my inspiration, my everything. Thanks for THIS!”
He responded, “go to bed, Ironman”
Then Ash said something I’ll never forget. “The last time you were crying like this it was over not getting into Boston a second time… Now look at you, a friggin Ironman!” She was so right? Getting injured and not getting into Boston again turned me to triathlon?! And here I am!! If we trust in God’s plan and have patience He will show us our path. Where am I going next? I don’t know… But I trust God has great things ahead.
Swim: 1:12:28, Bike: 6:57:22, Run: 3:58:31 | Transitions: T1: 13:23,
T2: 13:22 (Long transitions! 😉 )
Fitbit, 90, 000 steps