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Swim4Purpose: Doug Saar

Race Result

Racer: Missie Vess
Race: Ironman Lake Placid
Date: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Female 30 - 34
Time: 11:16:42
Overall Place: 327 / 2536
Age Group Place: 11 / 102
Comment: An Amazing Adventure



Race Report:

Warning: This report is more like a novel than a race report, but then training for and racing an Ironman is a rather long endeavor.

Prologue:

When I did my first sprint triathlon back in 2005, I never really dreamed I would someday do an Ironman. I had watched Kona on TV, and thought how amazing it was, but I didn’t dream I could do such an event myself. Then, when I was pregnant with Kaylie, I started swimming with a group that sort-of specializes in open water swimming and has quite a few triathletes in it as well (the Arundel Breakfast Club, or ABCs). After Kaylie was born, I started running with a group of women who were also part of the ABCs and I would listen to their stories of Ironman races, marathons, and ultra runs, and think, well, maybe I could do such a thing. My one friend, Crissy, urged me to wait and be patient. She didn’t even do her first triathlon until her kids were grown and she has done Kona at least twice and, I believe, holds the course record at Lake Placid for the 50-54 year old women. She said I have plenty of time to do an Ironman, but if I try too soon, I will either get injured, burned out with the training, or wouldn’t do as well as I might want with the race. I took her advice and focused on getting more triathlon experience and building my endurance base. Over the next five years, I did the Bay Swim twice, a century ride, two marathons, and had another baby. The plan was to shoot for Beach 2 Battleship in the fall of 2014. I’m originally from North Carolina, so kind of liked the idea of doing my first ironman in my home state. My son would be in Kindergarten by then, so it seemed like a good time. And the mission I am currently working on (I’m an engineer for NASA for those who don’t know) was slated to launch in December 2013.

Of course, plans change. First, my mission’s launch slipped to February 2014, which would not leave much time to train for a fall 2014 ironman (launch and early operations are round the clock, making training time difficult). Then, last July, I was watching the live finish line coverage of Lake Placid (and chatting online with Sharon) and I was so moved by what I was seeing. I realized I *really* wanted to do an Ironman. I started thinking that Lake Placid 2013 might be perfect timing. Thermal Vacuum testing was slated for Fall 2012, so would be finished before I would need to ramp up training for an Ironman. Post ship testing (in Japan) wouldn't be until Fall/Winter 2013, so the race would be over by then. Doing Lake Placid would mean racing somewhere where lots of MMTC people would be either racing or volunteering. It was still within driving distance. It seemed like a great idea. But, first I would have to be able to get in. Lake Placid typically fills up just with pre registration, and since I hadn't gone up to volunteer, I would be waiting for online registration to open at noon the next day. Oh, and I had to convince Dave it would be a good idea.

The next day at work, I logged into the website right around noon and, on a lark, filled out the registration. Surprisingly, it was still open. It seemed like it was a sign. Then I got a message from Sharon that she had signed up (and wanted me to as well). It really didn't take that much to convince me, so after my afternoon meeting I called Dave to try and convince him it would be a good idea. Committing to an Ironman would have to be a family decision. We talked through the pros and cons of doing the Ironman next year (we are engineers, after all) and finally he said to go for it. So, I filled out the registration and pushed the button (thankfully it was still open), and the journey began. Immediately, Sharon and I started planning for the Lake Placid trip. Within a week, we had a town house booked for the two families (4 adults and 5 children) to share. With logistics out of the way, we could then focus on the actual training.

I knew going into Ironman training would require a good training plan. There was no way I could do that kind of race without one. The swim would not be a problem – I would take care of that training myself. It was the run and bike that I would need help with. I’ve turned into a strong runner over the years, but running an Ironman marathon is different. As it turns out, Tim Delss told me that he wanted to start to get into coaching – he had given me some great run speed workouts in my lead up to AG Nationals last year, so I was already getting some coaching advice from him. We had talked training in the past and seemed to have similar approaches to it. Plus, he was fully aware of my time limitations (I do have two young kids and didn’t want to sacrifice all my time with them in order to do the Ironman training). Based on all of that, I decided to go with him as my coach I knew my Ironman plan would be the first Tim would put together, but that didn't bother me. Every coach has to start with someone, so why not me.

The Ironman training plan itself would not start until January, so I spent most of the fall and early winter trying to build a good solid base of the expected exhaustion Ironman training would bring by working thermal vacuum testing (six+ weeks of round the clock spacecraft testing). Oh, and training for the Goofy (Disney marathon and half marathon).

Training:

The training plan ended up being broken up into several different phases, based on some intermediate goals I had expressed to Tim. The first goal was to go 1:10 at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, so the first part of the plan involved building a solid bike base and improving run speed. It seemed to work well because I went just a few seconds over 1:10 for Cherry Blossom.

The second goal was to do the Monticello Man half at the beginning of May. After we signed up for Lake Placid, I convinced Sharon to sign up for that race with me as a stepping stone towards Lake Placid. So, phase two of the plan consisted of extending the bike rides and building up bricks for that race. I ended up going 5:11 and change at Monticello Man, and learned a valuable lesson in what I needed for nutrition. I ended up sugar crashing hard during the race (glucose level was 42 according to the Lake Monticello EMTs), so had to revamp my nutrition completely. I needed a lot more carbohydrates than I was doing before. I switched from peanut butter and craisins on the bike to rice bars and fig newtons. I also added maltodextrin to my cytomax for drinking.

The next part of the training was the real ramp-up to Lake Placid. After Monticello Man, Sharon and I got to go up to Lake Placid for a couple days to check out the bike and run courses. We did most of one loop each of the bike and the run, which was great for understanding what we were getting into.

Then came lots of long rides and runs and swims, weekday bricks, etc.. It became a real time management juggle. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband, an understanding boss (he runs marathons himself), and quite a bit of comp time from all the thermal vacuum testing. I never did add up how much time I spent training in a given week. It was easier not to know and to just take one day at a time.

The nature of my schedule was such that I did most of my long bikes and runs alone, though I tried to hook up with Sharon when I could. After all, we had gotten into this crazy journey together. Most of the time I biked from home (Severn) or over in Howard County, but I also did an 85 mile version of Happy Happy Pain Pain in the Catoctins with Sharon and Mark and 112 miles in the Shenandoahs with Lizzy and Kate. Those two rides really built my confidence in being able to manage the Lake Placid hills. I usually did my long runs from home as well, and VERY early in the morning, so that I could join my swim group at 8am on Saturdays for my long swim. Swimming 4000-5000 yards after running 16-20 miles was something new to me. I definitely had to take it easier on the swim than normal.

Finally, it all came down to tapering and preparing for the trip up to Lake Placid. The training hadn't been as overwhelming as I had feared it would, but I was ready to be done with all the long stuff and the time it took away from my family.

Pre Race:

The trip up to Lake Placid was relatively uneventful. We left the Wednesday before the race and made the trip in about 10 hours, including stops. We met up with Sharon and Mark at a rest stop somewhere in PA and rearranged kids a little bit. I think we lucked out having Hayden and Isaac in our car. Apparently Kaylie and Leila got a little loud in Sharon’s car :)

The townhouse was great. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, kitchen, etc. Kids were all down on the ground floor (except for Hayden, who still has separation anxiety in strange places and slept on an inflatable mattress in our room). Adults (and Hayden) were in the 2 bedrooms on the top floor. We were located right off of 73, about a mile from the Oval. The bike course would pass by there twice and the run four times. It was a perfect spectating location for the kids, so they wouldn't have to spend all day in town or walk too much. And we had neighbors two doors down on either side from Maryland as well (Bram and his family were on one side and a friend of mine from my swim group on the other – small world!)

Sharon and I did a short run and swim Thursday morning, then went over to packet pickup after the guys got back from a grocery store run (LOVED having a kitchen, so we could make our own meals). Packet pick up took some time, but wasn’t terrible. We saw a whole bunch of MMTC folks after leaving packet pick up (Chip, Keely, Mary – it was almost like being at a CTA race). Friday we did a short bike from the house down to the bottom of the Keene descent. Dave picked us up at the bottom and drove us back to the house. I liked doing that descent again, since I’d only done it once before.

After biking, I spent some time trying to pack my transition bags. Never having done an Ironman before, I had made the decision to pack for comfort. I planned to swim in a suit under the wetsuit if it was wetsuit legal or my speed suit if it wasn't. I would change into a sports bra, tri shorts and a bike jersey in T1 and then switch into my tri singlet (and change socks) in T2. I also packed light wool socks, arm warmers, and a vest for the bike, since it had been so cool in the mornings that week and they were predicting at least some rain Sunday morning. I wasn't sure if I would use them or not, but figured it was better to have them. I would also bike in gloves, to keep my hands warm. I opted against full finger gloves, since my regular bike gloves cover most of my hands and I would then be able to manipulate my food better. Per Mark Yost’s suggestion, everything went into large Ziploc bags inside the transition bags in case it rained.

We had the kid’s run in the afternoon on Saturday (kids had a blast, but it was pretty crowded and a little disorganized), followed by the tri club social and the Welcome Dinner. I enjoyed the Welcome dinner. The food wasn't great, but it was fun to see some of the other club members and listen to the speakers. I was pretty overwhelmed with all the people by then, so was definitely ready to get back to the house and have some quiet time.

Saturday morning we racked bikes and dropped off transition bags. Since the guys were off biking, Sharon and I took turns biking our stuff down and walking back. I also took the time to walk around the transition area and figure out where I would be running to/from for each transition. I was not used to such a large transition area. When I got back, I welcomed Wendy Newton and my sister-in-law, who had driven up to help with the kids on race day, so that Dave and Mark could track us better. I tried to just chill for the rest of the day and keep my anxiety at bay. I mixed up all my drinks for the bike and run (cytomax and maltodexterin), organized what would go in my special needs bags (food/drink refills for the bike, drink refills for the run, ibuprofen and tums for both). We ate an early dinner, and I was in bed about the same time as my 4 year old (which is to say, slightly before 7pm).

Race Day:

I woke up before my alarm, which was set to go off at 3:30. I changed into my suit, went to the bathroom, drank an instant breakfast (my normal, pre-race meal), packed all my drinks and food into their respective bags, went to the bathroom, checked the weather (still a chance of rain throughout the day, but warmer than it had been earlier in the week), grabbed my wetsuit, and Sharon and I headed out the door (after I went to the bathroom one more time). During the walk over, I was jittery, but was ready to get the race going. I had been preparing for this race for a year, and it was finally here. We reached transition before it was open, so got body marked and went to the bathroom again.

Once transition opened, I put my running bottles into my T2 bag along with a bottle of Ginger ale. I went over to my bike to pump up the tires and put my nutrition on the bike. My plan was to have three bottles of fluids (aerobottle, down tube, and one behind the seat). I also filled my bento box with my fig newtons and rice bars, which I planned to eat about every 20 minutes. I would grab more food and fluids from special needs. I would grab water from the aid stations if needed.

After that, there was nothing more to do but head over to drop off special needs bags and hang in the club tent. As we were walking over to bike special needs, who do we see but Heather B. What a great omen, MMTC volunteers are the best. After dropping off bike special needs, we headed over to run special needs and there was Mike Peterson taking our run bags. I was so happy to see him and got a big hug. One more potty stop and then over to the club tent. Dave was already there and I gave him my sweatshirt and shoes. All my other clothes I had left in my morning clothes bag in transition, but I wanted to keep my sweatshirt until I got my wetsuit on. I ate a banana and drank another instant breakfast and some diet Dr. Pepper (I don’t like coffee, so that’s my little bit of caffeine). It really wasn't too long to wait before it was time for me to get my wetsuit on and head over to the beach for a quick warm up swim.

The Swim – 58:50 (1:33/100m, 5th AG, 18th Female, 77th overall)

With the new corral start, people were supposed to seed themselves according to their expected swim time (the corrals were done fastest to slowest). The first corral was for people who expected to go 60 minutes or faster. I had been debating between that corral and the second one (61-70 minutes). I knew I would be right around an hour, and since it was a wetsuit legal swim, opted for the first corral, but hung towards the back. I was surprised by how many people put themselves in that first corral. The announcer kept emphasizing that it would NOT be an advantage to be in that first corral if you were not a fast swimmer. Everyone still would only get 2 hours and 20 minutes to do the swim, no matter what corral you started in. The idea was for swimmers of like ability to be together to cut down on the contact. I was really hoping people would adhere to that, but, of course, many did not. When the cannon went off, there was a rush as people pushed into the water. I probably entered the water only 30 seconds after the cannon went off, and it was already apparent that the first part of the swim was going to be brutal. There were people that obviously were not going to be under an hour. I was knocked, blocked, kicked, and pushed in the first 200 yards or so. I had to swim over several people (I should be sorry, but I’m not, since they should not have been in that first corral). I had my goggles knocked askew (which actually doesn't phase me, since I was a competitive swimmer and trained to suck it up and keep swimming even if you lose your goggles). I moved from feet to feet, trying to find a good draft and finally settled behind a women near the first turn buoy. I followed on her feet for most of the rest of that first loop. Things got a little more open after the 2nd turn buoy and I had a relatively easy second half of that loop. I swam all the way up to the beach, hopped up, ran back to the entrance (fixing my goggles in the process), and jumped back into the water. On the second loop, I latched onto a guy in a Blue Seventy wetsuit (the orange and blue around the ankle was easy for me to keep an eye on). That second loop was great! Despite the fact that it was super crowded with the people from the later corrals on their first loop, I just kept right on that guy’s fee pretty much the entire swim. He steered us through all the masses and I barely even had to sight. It was awesome! I swam a little slower than I might have otherwise, but the energy I saved by not having to site more than made up for a minute’s worth of lost time. I was all ready to thank the guy for the great draft when we exited the water, but I lost him right at the end. As we were swimming towards the shore, we got separated because of all the people finishing their first loops who were standing up 10 yards or so from the exit. They were blocking the way, so that I could not easily swim to the exit. Remember, folks, it is ALWAYS faster to swim than to walk. Swim until it’s so shallow you cannot swim anymore. I had to kick someone off of me at one point, which caused my calf to cramp up really badly. I finally made it to the shore, hoped up (the water was about 6 inches deep at that point), took the two steps to get out of the water, and it was done. First leg accomplished, and I felt really great about the swim. I had no idea of my time (I don’t wear a watch when I swim), but found out later than it was 58:50 and I had beaten 12 pros.

Loop 1: 28:48
Loop 2: 30:02

T1: 6:15

Once out of the water, I ran over to the wetsuit strippers, and they had my suit off in a few seconds flat. The best advice I had been given was to ball up the wetsuit and carry it like a football. I did, and it worked great. I heard a bunch of people call my name, so that put a big smile on my face. I ran up the carpet and into transition. The swim was so good, I didn’t feel winded at all getting out of the water, so the ~400m jog felt great. I grabbed my transition bag and ran towards the women’s changing tent. Lisa Farias saw me, and she, Sadj, and Keely took over. Lisa dumped my stuff out and the ladies helped me change into my bike clothes. I just let Lisa direct me and it worked great for me. I opted not to wear the arm warmers or vest – it was plenty warm to go without. I did put the wool socks and gloves on. I lubed up with Shammy Butter, got my Garmin on, put my shoes on, and was out the door drinking another instant breakfast. Lisa had called out my number, but the bike volunteers must not have heard her because when I got to my rack, my bike was still there and the volunteers were just standing there. I ran down the aisle, and grabbed my own bike and made for the exit.

Bike – 6:16:10 (17.86 mph, 11th AG. 65th Female, 514 overall)

At the mount line, I moved as far to the side as I could as I struggled to clip in with my wet cleats (it was raining by then). Apparently my inability to clip in immediately pissed off the guys (and it was only the men) behind me and they were yelling at me to get out of the way. Hey, I thought, it’s not my fault you’re a slower swimmer. For crying out loud, it’s a 112 mile ride, the conditions are wet, and I’m not going to hurt myself trying to start moving before I’m clipped in, especially since that first part is a steep downhill with a hairpin turn at the bottom. I finally got clipped in and made my way slowly down those first two hills. Once I turned onto 73, one of the first things I saw was the Vess/Mammel crew in their florescent green shirts! It put a big smile on my face to start the bike. I then settled in for what I knew would be the longest part of the day. My goal was to stay in a comfortable pace throughout the first loop – not too slow and not too fast. From more experienced Lake Placid racers, I knew to make sure I was in my small chain ring on that first long hill out of town. While I *could* push that hill in the big ring, I knew that would be a mistake. There’s a lot of miles to cover, so don’t want to blow up my legs right at the beginning. As soon as I started up that hill, I switched down to the small ring and spun my way up the hill. It looked like everyone in front of me was doing the same thing, so there was this little line of bikers spinning up the hill. I knew, since I was a fast swimmer, that there would be a lot of people passing me on the bike. My goal was to just let them – keep to my own race. I’m a strong runner and as long as I didn't push too hard on the bike, I would catch some of those people who passed me on the bike. And, that is exactly what happened. There were a lot of really aggressive people (mostly men – a few women), who started passing me right away. Hardly anyone spoke, and a few people cut right in front of me after they passed me. If I hadn't been already falling back, they would have clipped my front wheel. There was no need for that. The roads are closed and there was plenty of space to pass. The Keene descent on the first loop was pretty stressful. It was still raining, making the already bad roads worse. I just focused on the road in front of me and did NOT try to push that downhill. Once I reached the bottom, I felt relief. I only had to do it one more time. The section out to Upper Jay along Route 9 is great. It’s fast rollers, which is the type of terrain I excel at. I settled into a comfortable pace and just sat in aero as much as I could. I was eating and drinking on schedule. Since I was near the front, I did see quite a few peletons. And one girl in my age group passed me and was obviously drafting with another guy. It pissed me off, but what can you do. I heard the officials broke up a few of the peletons and sent people to the penalty tent. As I rode along, I wondered who from MMTC would be the first to pass me. Turns out it was Greg, somewhere along the 6 mile out and back. He was looking really strong. I turned onto 86 and prepared myself for the hills that would come. Since riding HHPP and Shenandoah, pretty much all other hills have felt easy. I’m still not super fast, but I’m steady. Somewhere along that section, I successfully peed on the bike. Score! One less stop to make. Mark Yost passed me around mile 50. Then, I reached the bears, and zipped up them fairly strong. Almost done with the first loop. Along Mirror Lake Drive was fun, I saw the MMTC tent and heard folks calling my name. I pulled into bike special needs and the volunteers helped me refill my bottles and I grabbed me extra food. Then Beth Olvey gave me a big hug and sent me on my way. Love my MMTC peeps.

The second loop was, of course, more of the same. The roads were pretty dry by then, which was nice. I saw my crew along 73 again (along with Ayumi Smith), giving me another lift. Back up the hill and out of town (small chain ring again). You get really upbeat while in town with all the people yelling and cheering. As soon as you get out of town, it gets really quiet. You really have to focus your energy inward. I chatted with a few people as they passed me, but mostly it was just me and my bike. My girly parts were getting pretty sore by then despite all the vasoline and shammy butter I had used. My stomach was also starting to rebel a little. I persisted in eating and drinking on schedule for the next ~20 miles. Finally, somewhere around the 6 mile out and back I decided I had to stop eating. I continued to sip at my drink mix. I did well with the rolling section of the 2nd loop and had a 3rd bike split very similar to the 1st, but the nausea really hit me on the last hilly section and my pace dropped a lot. I was so relieved when I finally hit the bears again. When I got to Papa Bear, I saw Mike Peterson, who ran with me to the top, where I saw Jim and Kim Mitchell. Seeing them gave me the boost I needed to get back into town and finish that bike. I was so relieved to finally make it back to transition and GET OFF THAT BIKE.

Spit 1 – 1:26:25, 20.83 mph
Split 2 – 1:35:54, 16.27 mph
Split 3 – 1:28:57, 20.24 mph
Split 4 – 1:44:54, 14.87 mph

T2 – 3:56

I had a hard time unclipping, but finally did so, and there was Bruce to take my bike for me (I didn’t even know he was there). I ran in my bike shoes over to the racks with the transition bags. I took them off there, grabbed them and my bike, stopped in the porta potty, then ran to the women’s changing tent. Lisa was there again, along with Gwen Musk, and Elysia R. Again, I just put myself into Lisa’s hands. The ladies helped me change shirts and socks, get my shoes and water belt on, grab my ginger ale, and get out the door.

Run – 3:51:31 (8:50/mi, 11th AG, 45th Female, 327 overall)

I started the run still pretty sick to my stomach. I had tums in my transition bag, but the thought of trying to eat them made my stomach feel worse, so I skipped them. I just tried to ignore it and start running. I like the fact that the beginning of the run is downhill. Even though I knew we had to come back up that hill at the end of each loop, the downhill at the beginning gives me a chance to shake out my legs a little after the bike. I sipped at my ginger ale, hoping it would help settle my stomach. The guy running next to me commented that he would love some ginger ale, so I shared with him. Why not? I passed my crew again and tried to smile as I saw them. I tried to settle into a comfortable pace. I ignored my watch and just went by feel. There was nothing to do but run and tick off the miles. The nausea came and went in waves. I wanted to walk, but knew that if I walked, it would take that much longer to finish the race. My legs, though sore, were feeling pretty good. Had it not been for my stomach, I would have kept up my pace pretty well. I sipped at my drink mix I carried on my running belt and really wished I was not wearing it. Having it press on my stomach made the nausea worse. I like that the run course is mostly an out and back because it means you get to see everyone. I saw Greg, Doug, Danny, Mike Lombardo and Brian Richards along River Road. I saw Lizzy when I turned back onto 73 after my first out and back on River Rd. I remember her asking how I was doing and me telling her I felt like I was going to throw up. I saw Ayumi as I approached the corner of Station Rd. and 73 and took off my running belt and handed it to her. I couldn't take it on my stomach anymore. I saw Tim next and he asked how I felt. I told him how sick I felt. He ran with me up THE HILL and told me to start walking through the water stops and take coke, mixed with water. He also assured me that I was kicking *ss. I knew I was holding pretty strong, but I just wanted the nausea to go away. I made it to Mirror Lake Drive and went right past my special needs bag. The thought of anything that was in there just turned my stomach more and I really didn't want to have to stop. It was around there that I saw Sharon coming in on the bike. She looked pretty happy, so that made me feel good. At the aid station, I saw (and heard) Susie. If I hadn't felt so sick, she would have made me laugh. I did as Tim advised and took a cup of coke and a cup of water and mixed them together and sipped at them. Once I finished that, I started running again and hit the turn around after what seemed like forever. When I hit the water stop on the way back, I actually was feeling even worse. I wanted to cry, but Susie was yelling and taking my picture, so I didn't. I didn't take any more coke at that water stop, but opted for some ice to suck on.

When I got to the split that marked the beginning of the second loop, it gave me a little boost because I knew I could do that second loop. I ran down the hill and saw my crew sitting along the curb. I told Mark that Sharon was off the bike and would be coming soon. I gave Wendy my cup of ice so I didn't have to hold it until the next water stop. Then, it was time to face River Rd. and finish this thing. I just kept plugging away. Eventually, my stomach did settle a little more, but it was a hairpin trigger for the rest of the run. I alternated taking water with coke and ice at every other aid station. I would walk through the ones where I took water and coke and would run through the ones where I grabbed just ice. I saw more MMTC folks along the way – Jake, Bryan, Aleah, Laura, Deb, Moe, Sharon – everyone was doing it. I waved to everyone, but couldn't do much more than that. It took almost all my focus to keep my stomach settled. I finally reached the end of River Rd. again and turned back onto 73. I had given myself permission to walk up the hill on 73. Before I got there, I saw Sue and Sergio (along with Suzy). Everyone urged me to keep going – that I was doing great. I hit the hill and power walked up it. My crew and Ayumi were gone and I knew they were over at the Oval waiting for Doug and I to finish. Once I turned onto Main Street, I started running again and told myself not to stop again. There were MMTC folks everywhere and they kept me going towards the finish. The section along Mirror Lake Drive seemed to go on forever (much like this race report). I passed special needs a second time, passed the water stop where Susie was still going strong and I saw Ben Mertes this time. I kept looking and looking for the turn around. I finally got there and knew it was almost over. I ran through the water stop again, passed the MMTC tent, and saw the split. This time, I turned right toward the Oval. Entering the Oval, there really are no words. People are lined up on both sides of the track, yelling and screaming and cheering. I saw Beth and Lara. I rounded the curve and could see the arch. I sort of heard my name, “Melissa Vess from Severn, MD”. I lifted my arms (it really hurt to do so, but I wanted that stereotypical finish picture with my arms above my head) and ran over the finish mat. It was done. I was an Ironman. My time as I crossed was just over 11:17. I had beaten my 12:00 goal by almost 45 minutes!

I saw Keely and made straight for her. I collapsed against her and she led me first to get my shirt and hat and then over to Dave and the kids. I was really in a daze. It was all so surreal. Dave showed me a car emblem he had bought for me that said Ironman Finisher. Keely took me over to the tables, where I saw Sadj and Bob and got a huge hug from Sadj. They all asked if I wanted anything, but my stomach was still too sick to want anything. I sat next to Greg while he ate and talked to him for a while. I also saw Jake and Mark. They had all done really well. I saw more people, talked to more people. Tim gave me his shirt at one point because I was cold and Dave hadn't made it back with my warm clothes. Everything was such a blur. It started raining as I was finally able to eat, so I grabbed my food and hobbled back to the house with Dave. I wanted to come back to see Sharon finish, but didn't think I would be able to, so Dave hooked up our laptop to the TV at the townhouse so I could watch her finish, which she did, looking strong.

It was an amazing adventure. An amazing journey. I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of. Tim’s training plan worked perfectly for me. I am thrilled with my results.

There was no Kona slot for me. Even with my official time of 11:16:42, I was 11th in my age group and there were only 3 slots available. That’s okay. I hadn't been planning on Kona anyway. I did learn that the woman who one my age group was eligible to go pro, but decided not to. I understand that, but shouldn't there be an “age group elite” category for people like that? How are “real” age groupers supposed to have a chance at qualifying for Kona if we are up against people who are fast enough to go pro? It seems a bit unfair.

I’ll do another Ironman, but not in the near future. I had a great time with the training and the race (minus the stomach issues), but the training just takes too much time away from my family. I’ll stick to Olympics and Halfs for the time being.

I want to say a HUGE thank you to all the MMTC folks who came out to volunteer, cheer, support, and Sherpa. Having all y’all (I am from NC originally) out there made a huge difference. Thanks again to Tim for coaching me. Thanks to Sharon for going on this journey with me. Thanks to Wendy and Jenn (my sister in law) for kid wrangling on race day. And thank you especially to Dave, Kaylie, and Hayden for being my biggest supporters and sacrificing to make sure I got the training time I needed.