The Great Lakes {100}

Wow, what a weekend in Lake Ontario.

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Oh Hello Beauty…

This story is the story of being a Race Sherpa.  This is a side of the race that I don’t typically get to see and or tell the story of.  Lord Business, Ben, and I typically race the same events.  But anyway, back in the late spring/early summer during the shuffle of Ironman training Ben signed up for The Great Lakes 100 – Lake Ontario.  He begged me to sign up, but I resisted.  I knew that after finishing Ironman Lake Placid, taking on a 100 mile triathlon would be another big deal and I was relatively certain that it wasn’t something that I would be into because I wanted to take a break from following a difficult training plan for the remainder of the tri season.  Any how, he went ahead and signed up with a friend of ours.  So let’s get to the race story!

Pre-race:

There were four of us who would be attending this event, two racers and two race Sherpas. I had gone immediately to Air BNB and found a cute little cottage right on Lake Ontario that was less than 15 miles away from the race venue.  It was perfect for our needs.  We had decided to head to Western New York on Friday AM as it was a long five-hour drive plus we wanted to get settled in before heading to packet pick up between 5-7 pm.  It also was clear that the weather was going to be bad so the guys needed extra time to pack appropriately for the event.  Doesn’t everyone want to race when it’s a high of 54 degrees, raining and 25-30 mile per hour winds?  Sure sounds like a winner to me… said no one ever.

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Packets picked up and Race Ready!

Anyway, the race is a 1 mile swim (or 1 mile trail run), 84 mile bike and finishes with a 15 mile run.  The guys chose the duathlon option considering that Lake Ontario was 51 degrees and had some serious swells going on. When we got to packet pick up we were told that there was a total of 54 people registered for the event.  Hello lonely.  It was clear that between the weather and the low amount of athletes they would definitely have a long day.  After we picked up packets, we headed back to the cottage to make dinner as the guys packed all of their gear and nutrition for the next morning into plastic bags.  Fun.  Everything went smoothly and I think that we were all in bed by 9:30 PM with alarm clocks set and ready for 4:45 am the next day.

Race Day:

The day started cold and dark.  We packed up the cars and headed to the race venue.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t thought to bring a head lamp so bikes were stocked and tires were pumped in front of the headlights from my car.  After getting everything ready, we walked down to transition.  The whole things was relatively informal.  I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision on behalf of the race directors or if it was a reflection of the size of the field, but informal ruled the day.  As Sherpas we were able to be right in transition helping to get things ready and set.  After futzing around a bit everything managed to get set up and we headed to wait for race start inside the building.  There was a quick athlete meeting where racers were given the option to switch from the tri to the du since the water temp was about 50 and there were one foot swells.  Some people changed and some went ahead and got ready for the frigid swim.

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Dark…lots of bags… check!

Right before race start the forecast held true and it started to rain.  Great.  They lined all of the athletes up at the swim start or the trail run start and sounded a horn for go time.  After everyone was out we did take a peak at the swimmers so we could just verify that there were indeed crazy people at this race.  The guys made it through the trail run quickly and packed up to head out on their bikes.  It was so clear that it was going to be a long day, but their spirits seemed good and they were ready to face the day.  As good race Sherpas we headed out to find breakfast.  We knew we had about two hours and twenty minutes before we would need to be back at the bag drop/special needs area to see them come through on their first loop of the bike.

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After packing face quickly we headed back and waited in the car for them to make their first stop.  When Lord Business came in I ran up to hold his bike while he reorganized, got food, etc.  He said the course was lonely, cold and he wasn’t feeling right.  I immediately started to worry.  He said his heart rate was too low and he couldn’t get it to go up.  In addition he was freezing from fighting his way into the winds that were 25+ miles per hours on some parts of the course.  From what he said they were absolutely unrelenting.  I helped him pack up his fuel, told him to keep his spirits up and assured him that once he finished the bike it would get better.  So he headed back out for bike loop number two.  Forty two more miles into the wind would surely be great.  Again, said no one ever.  Shortly after he left the area, our second athlete, Jeff, made his way to the bag drop.  He was feeling good and was still in great spirits.  We quickly got him repacked and headed back out for the rest of his bike.  So one not so great and one great athlete at the bike half way check in.  Not too bad I guess.

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Jeff’s own personal Sherpa!

After the guys went back out we quick went to the cottage to pick up run clothes for us in case we decided we might have time to sneak in some time for ourselves.  It quickly became clear that we wouldn’t be doing a solo run and that was completely ok with us.  Our first may day was a call from Jeff saying that he had a flat and was having trouble changing it.  We jumped in the car and headed that way.  It was unclear as to whether the race had a sag vehicle and again the weather was terrible so we were off to help if we could.  Along the way we had hoped to spot Ben nearing completion of his bike leg, but I was pretty sure we had missed him.  Then up ahead at an aid station I saw him, sitting down with his head in his hands.  I pulled the car over so quickly it was fortunate that I didn’t cause an accident.  After talking to him it was clear that something was going on with his heart rate and his nutrition.  I encouraged him to rest a bit, eat some food and see how he felt.  The woman staffing the aid station told us that everyone was struggling to finish the bike leg and that he was not alone.  We told him that we needed to go and help Jeff with his tire but that we would be back to check in on him.

We then sped along to help Jeff out.  Bike sag did show up with a few tubes, a pump and that’s about it.  The man admitted to knowing nothing about bikes and being unable to help.  So after almost an hour of sorting through bad tubes that kept pinching, etc we managed to get Jeff up and running again.  Note to self… change more tires and ALWAYS make sure you have what you need to change your own flats in a race.  Ugh, stressful.  We headed back to the aid station where we had left Ben and he wasn’t there.  The volunteer informed us that he was feeling a bit better and had resumed biking.  Perfect.  Hearing this we went ahead to transition to check on him.

Unfortunately due to all of the cold and the wind, Ben’s spirits were pretty low.  He didn’t want to go out on the run.  His faithful Sherpas rallied his spirits and promised him that completing the race would be worth it.  When he left transition I was so concerned that he wouldn’t complete the 15 mile run.  The wind was howling and there were so few racers out on the course that it was totally uninspiring.  We immediately hatched a plan where we would switch from sherpa to pacer.  I spoke to one of the race directors and he let us know where I could find Ben out on the run course.  He also indicated that pacers are fine at this event.  So, Lonnie drove me out to somewhere around the 2.5 mile mark where we found him.  I informed him that if he would wait one minute that I would run the remaining 12.5 miles with him.  He asked me why and I simply stated because.  He agreed.  So in a flash, I was doing a run right along side him.

We were following his plan of a 5 minute run followed by a 1 minute walk.  The wind was horrible but fortunate the rain was holding off.  We worked our way from aid station to aid station.  They were every mile on the course.  Unfortunately, many of them were unstaffed.  So, I took it upon myself to look through the offerings at each one to see what Ben might want and or need to complete his race.  Being a pacer, I opted not to take anything as I wanted to leave it for the racers.  I ran with a bottle of water that I had in the car with me and that’s it.  We ran through corn fields, apple orchards, a state park trail and more.  In addition we ran in amazingly tough conditions.  Ben did great and didn’t even get angry with me for being so upbeat and positive along the course.  I was really trying to be encouraging even if it was annoying.  Around mile 11 the wind got increasingly bad and Ben started to really struggle with sore feet.  We switched our strategy to run a phone pole, walk a phone pole.  It took time and persistence but as long as we were working our way to the finish line I knew we would get there.  He has far too much pride to quit unless forced to.  At one point I did state that “we do a lot of crazy shit together.”  I think this was somewhere along the shore of Lake Ontario as I was wishing that we had a camera with us.    Anyway, I was very happy that I jumped in to run with him and I know that he was too.  He informed me several times that without my support and encouragement that he would have walked much more of the race.  I can promise you that I probably would have had I been alone out there too.  There were almost no racers and again very little course support.

Once we got him across the finish line, we quickly changed clothes to bundle up and tried to sit out of the rain to wait for Jeff to finish.  He wasn’t far behind, but unfortunately, we missed his first finish because we were inside trying to warm up.  Ugh.  He was kind enough to recreate the event so we could take a number of pictures before heading inside for the award ceremony where both of the guys got an age group award.

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Age Groupers!

This was a really tough race and I give both of these guys a lot of credit for completing it.  One hundred miles is no joke and it certainly isn’t in bad weather.  Unfortunately, the race was also a bit of a bummer.  It really was a beautiful course and had the weather been nice and there been more racers it could be a fun race.  They lacked a lot of racer support and I’m so thankful that Lonnie and I were there because we were able to provide some of that support to the guys.  I know that outside support is not allowed in many events, but in this one it would have been difficult to complete without it.  I saw a fair number of people with run support and cars pulled over helping them out, so it certainly wasn’t just us.  I’m still awaiting results to come out because I image that there were a few DNF’s.  We wrapped up the weekend with a quick side trip to Niagara Falls.  I had never been there before and I’m glad we took the extra time to fit in the side trip! It was stunning!!!

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Anyway, that’s how we spent our weekend.  And my take away is that we need to do really good research on a race before signing up next time.  Oh and that being a sherpa and a pacer is a nice hat to wear once in a while.  You forget sometimes how valuable those roles can be and it’s nice to encourage your partner on a tough day.  And I felt like I got to wear my Swim Bike Mom Ambassador hat a little in encouraging them to finish in such tough conditions.  We worked hard to #justkeepmovingforward !

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So, that’s that story! How was your weekend?

~Sarah

Posted in #justkeepmovingforward, #sbmat2015, #swimbikemom, Race Report, Sherpa | Leave a comment

{Two Things Tuesday} Juggling the Planning And The Off Season

1)  Now that the 2015 news is officially official, I am realizing that I need to start planning what exactly 2015 will entail for me as far as races go.  So, I’ve started making lists of races and I’m trying to keep it all straight in my head as I work to figure out exactly which ones I will register for.  This is challenging because I’m juggling two race schedules as Lord Business (Ben) and I typically race together, but for 2015 his father’s day gift is the ability for him to race Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 even though it’s on Father’s Day.  I’ll be there as spectator extraordinare and sherpa along with his daughter.  So this means a little futzing around as I work to figure out what I’ll be doing during the month of June in lieu of that race.  One of the races that I’m considering opens on 10/1 for 24 hours so I need to get my act together because I’m going to have to make a decision and soon….

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Family Fun!

2) And while I plan for the 2015 season, I am enjoying being in the midst of the off-season for the fall.  While I’m still running and doing a little biking, I’m not following a training plan per say.  I am able to sleep in sometimes and shockingly enough, we are actually getting a few home improvement projects done while having fun.  Sunday was filled with a morning long run, a trip to the batting cages, several trips to the home improvement store and some backyard fence repair.  All in all it was a well-rounded and productive day.  And I got to swing a bat which I don’t think I’ve done since I got out of high school.  Focusing on slowing down is really reaping some rewards for my sense of self.

So, your turn! Are you already all scheduled out for 2015?  What factors do you weigh when planning your season?  And do you make an effort to back off the training and racing in the off-season?  How do you maintain your balance?

Posted in #sbmat2015, #swimbikemom, Off-Season, Race Planning | 2 Comments

2015 & The Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team

Let me tell you a little story….

A few months ago Meredith, aka Swim Bike Mom, put out a request for applications to start a team of Swim Bike Mom Ambassadors.  I immediately thought I’d apply.  Then I changed my mind.  I didn’t full on actually change my mind, I just figured that she would have a ton of applicants and that there was no way I would be chosen so I wasn’t sure whether to apply or not.  As the deadline got closer I mentioned it to Lord Business (this is now my official new nickname for my bf, Ben, because it’s my favorite).  He is always my biggest cheerleader and assured me that I have a good story to tell and I am a great Swim Bike Mom, so I should definitely apply.    I should also add that this was post Ironman finish and I was definitely feeling a little lost … as in like, what the heck am I going to do next season to beat finishing an Ironman.  So the prospect of being on the Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team gave me a little glimmer that 2015 could be wickedly awesome too.  With my heart full of hope, I filled out the application and pressed the send button!

IMG_3359And with that, it was out of transition! Ha!

So then time goes by and you sort of forget about things and on Monday night I received a Facebook message from Swim Bike Mom herself telling me that I was in if I still wanted to be on the team.  It took me all of about two seconds to respond.  Heck yeah I want to be on the team.  And there you have it.  2015 will bring with it all sorts of fun and inspiration as I am officially a member of the Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team.  I encourage you to click the link to see who else is on the team.  Bios and lots of really great information about these ladies will be forth coming.  In the mean time I should LOUDLY state that I am so honored to be amongst these women.  We have all shared our stories internally at this point and let me tell you… I am moved.  Some of these women are hysterically funny, some are social media mavens and others have heartbreaking and courageous stories to share.  All in all they’re a great bunch of ladies and I couldn’t be luckier to have been chosen.  There were over 250 applicants and I can’t imagine how difficult it was to choose.  Regardless of choices we are all a part of the Swim Bike Mom Army and we are in this together.  So! With all of that said, here’s to a great season in 2015.

#sbmat2015 #swimbikemom #justkeepmovingforward

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Posted in #justkeepmovingforward, #sbmat2015, #swimbikemom, Team | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

{Window Wednesday} A Year Ago

It has been almost a year since I didn’t complete my journey to the finish of Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I keep getting reminders from my nifty Time Hop app and various other places.  Luckily, I can look back on that experience and quantify things that I did wrong or things that I had no control over.  It was what it was and I’ve managed to leave it in the past.  However, as I wished a friend off this morning who is heading out to do the 70.3 in Tahoe this weekend, I was bit nostalgic as it remains an incredibly beautiful place and one of the best experiences I’ve had.

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It was breathtaking.  In more ways than one!

I wouldn’t take that week back for anything because I learned so much and I had a fantastic vacation with two of my very best people.   So how about you?  Have you had an experience that regardless of the pain you wouldn’t take it back?  (And PS… Good luck out there Laurie!)

new goals

Posted in Experience of a Life Time, Ironman Tahoe, Window Wednesday | Leave a comment

{Two Things Tuesday} Being Normal & 2015 Planning…

Boo!

I bet you forgot that I was here.  I’m not going to lie, I sort of did too!  I won’t go into a long explanation, but I think after finishing Ironman Lake Placid, I felt that I didn’t have much to say as I’d met my goal and I also just needed a break from doing much of anything.  Thus my extended hiatus from blogging.

Anyway, what better way to say hello than with a Two Things Tuesday post!

1) So yep, I’ve been on a hiatus.  I didn’t go anywhere cool or do anything really spectacular.  Instead, I spent time with my family and friends.  Oh and I tended to all of the housework that had been neglected while training.  It’s amazing how much working towards finishing an Ironman can take out of you both mentally and physically.  I knew, especially during peak training, that I missed being a “normal” person, but other than that I hadn’t paid it much mind.  At that time I dreamt of being “normal” which meant getting up, eating breakfast, hanging out and not having a training agenda that needed to be completed first thing in the morning in order to salvage as much of the day with family as possible.  Doing what I kept telling my training partners was “regular people” stuff.  I’m happy to report that since crossing that beautiful, beautiful finish line in the olympic oval, I have been able to be a regular person.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still been training, but the schedule has been much more lax and I’ve been able to work it in where I want to and skip it if I’m just not feeling it.  It has been refreshing, relaxing and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take my foot off the gas a little.

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Being lead support crew & Mama!

2) With all of that said, I am now turning my eyes over to 2015.  While I have no Ironman to speak of I have a lot of goals that I’d like to conquer.  There will certainly be work involved in getting there, but if 2014 has shown me nothing else it has certainly shown me that if you set a goal and you put the work in, real, honest, this sucks kind of work, that you can achieve that goal.  I mean geez um, I managed to go and do a fun olympic distance race (which I forgot to tell you about here as I was on hiatus) post Ironman and put up a 30 minute race distance PR.  All while taking it relatively easy and having fun…. Work pays off! So, as I look to 2015 I plan to put the work in and see just what it is that I can do.

IMG_6156This was my set up for the post IM olympic distance.  Truthfully, I forgot how to manage a regular transition where you actually have to set up and not just put your stuff in bags.  Stay tuned for an interesting season! Ha! No, seriously, stayed tuned, it should be good stuff!!!

Posted in Biggest supporter, Race Calendar, Two Things Tuesday | Leave a comment

{Kids Tri} Fronhofer

My other favorite thing in the last few weeks besides Lake Placid Ironman was watching the kiddos do their triathlon.  Each year the Fronhofer Tool Triathlon hosts a mini triathlon for kids.  They run a race for kids age 5-10 and for kids ages 11-15.  It’s held at a beautiful park and the kids always have a great time.  This year was no different.  Here are a bunch of pictures from the event.

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Setting up transition!

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Good thing everyone is looking at the camera and smiling.. #familyphotofail

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Kids Queuing

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Out of the swim

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Both kiddos getting ready to bike

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And we are #Finishers

Both kids did great.  Neither one of them placed but as I explained many times, that’s not at all why we race.  Little Boy Blue actually took a little tumble on his bike.  It took him quite a bit to get back to us so I knew something was up.  I was so proud of him for getting back on his bike and continuing on.

On our way home from the race, he was sleepy and this conversation took place:

Me: I love you bug and I’m so proud of your race tonight.
C: thanks for saying that mama.
Me: saying what?
C: well for saying that I did good. I crashed, that’s not real good.
Me: oh buddy… We all crash sometimes, it’s the attitude we have when it happens that matters. You picked yourself up and kept going when you didn’t have to. Lots of people would have quit. That’s the really good thing you did.
C: oh, well, I love you too mama.

It’s not who wins the race, but rather the attitude we teach our kids to go out in the world with. I am so very proud of both of these kids and their no quit attitude that they show us every day! 

Kids events are the best!

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{IMLP} The Run

Here we go with the last leg of Ironman Lake Placid.  So! After completing my 112 mile bike ride over some “hills,” I rode my bike into transition and graciously offered her up to a lovely volunteer who re-racked her for me while I headed to T2… also known as bike to run.  I found my gear bag pretty quickly and headed into the tent to change.  I was pleasantly surprised to have the same volunteer (Rebecca) that I had in T1 to help me out on this leg as well.  I did a complete change of clothing.  For one I didn’t intend to head out on the run in my pink bike shorts, but also I was wet from the storms and sweat.  So, after a complete change, I laced up my sneakers, thew on a visor, grabbed my fuel belt and my fuel and headed out to complete the final 26.2 miles of my Ironman journey. Phew…

I headed out of the tent walking so that I could grab a drink of water and some of the (disgusting) sunscreen from the volunteers.  As soon as I was done with filling those needs I started my run.  My plan for this was to do a 5:1 run walk.  What that means is that I would run for five minutes and walk for one.  I knew going in that I would probably not be sticking to this exclusively, but if I could try to hold myself accountable to the watch, I would get it done faster than if I just ran when I wanted to and walked the rest.

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Just a little run to the oval.

My plan started out pretty solid.  I was feeling ok and while running for 5 minutes at a time was seeming to last an eternity, I was at least running in a forward direction.  Let me say that while the run of an Ironman is never “fun” per say, it was a bit fun for me as I was starting to be able to see and interact with all of my friends who were out on the course racing along side me.  I cannot begin to tell you how many “hey! you’re looking great’s” I heard from the other direction or the number of times I stopped mid run to get a big old hug from someone who was accompanied by “we’re doing this!”  In full disclosure, some of those hugs may have been preceded by me saying something along the lines of please don’t squeeze me too tight I’m not feeling great, but I gave out hugs just the same.  Through the first 11 miles I was pretty on target with my goals for myself.  I was feeling ok, keeping the run walk mostly to the schedule and holding a pace that I could live with.

At around mile 12 I started to feel that the wheels were coming off the bus a little bit.  I was in need of a bathroom and of course at the one time you need one they’re impossible to find.  I had to slow to a walk until I found one.  I got to the turn around point on Mirror Lake Drive and was really bummed to learn that there was not one there and that I would need to head back almost another mile before there would be one.  At this point I passed my training partner, old coach and good friend, Jessica heading to the same turn around point.  She indicated that she was going to catch up to me and then walk a bit with me.  She did and we found a bathroom at an aid station together.  We continued to walk a bit in hopes that my stomach would settle.  We chatted about how crazy the events of the day had been thus far.  It turned out that I had fared better than her in that she had some issues with her watch, experienced some close calls on the bike with crashes and thus far the race was pushing her to her mental limits.  After heading back out-of-town I had started to feel better and was ready to start running in intervals again so we did.

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At this point we were both feeling a little beat up.  Jess started to struggle with how she was feeling.  And while I was feeling some better I told her that I would stay with her until she bounced back.  As the miles stretched we continued some semblance of a run walk.  We eventually caught up with Ben who was walking the entire 26.2 marathon stretch due to injuries he had sustained earlier in the season.  Kudos by the way for walking that far.  It stinks for sure.  We stayed with him for about a half mile and then went back to our run walk.  Unfortunately it wasn’t long after that the wheels really came off the bus for Jess.  It’s tough to say what the cause was but any number of things can impact your day during Ironman.  She felt woozy, dizzy and just wasn’t sure she could continue so she told me to go on ahead.  In that moment, I decided that whatever it took my only important job for the remainder of Ironman was to get us both to the finish line.  I told her that I was staying and that there was no need to keep shooing me ahead.  So we walked and we ran when we could.  There wasn’t a lot to say for those last six miles but we kept on heading towards the finish line together.

I have to say that it got a bit dark out there but it was never all that lonely.  We continued to pass folks that we know and gather up hugs where we could.  I may have done some singing and I know I did some thanking of the volunteers.  I figured if we were going to be out there I might as well have what fun I could even if it was in my own head! So I smiled, I encouraged people as I could and we kept at it.  Eventually we made our way back in to town for the final couple of miles.  At this point we made the running a bit more frequent as Mike Reilly was calling at the finish line and I was anxious to get into that oval.

Geez, when you hit that turn around on Mirror Lake Drive and head back home to the oval, there’s really no words for what that feels like.  I was telling people as we passed that I was going to be and Ironman.  I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.  We made the turn into the oval and I remember thinking to myself that this is exactly what I had been waiting for and that I had been working for a long time to get to this very place.  As we ran around the oval, I was amazed with how you really couldn’t see or hear anything.  The place was a blur of lights and people at 10:00 PM.  I was just so ecstatic that I had made it.  And I will be honest… hearing Mike Reilly call me home made it all worth it.  Because indeed Sarah Fisk, You are an Ironman.

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Right after the finish I can admit that there were some tears.  It had been a wild and crazy day in Lake Placid and we were thrown so many curve balls that we were not expecting.  But at the end of the day, no matter what we were thrown we kept on going and finally after a couple of year of hard work, I can say with pride that I am an Ironman.  Outside of raising a pretty amazing kid, this accomplishment may be one of the proudest moments of my life. I worked hard for something and I committed myself to getting it done.

I struggled a bit right after the race with some GI issues and actually left before the final finishers came in.  While I was saddened to have to do so, it was what I needed at the moment.  And I just really needed a shower and to be able to sit still.  I owe a huge thank you to my dad and my step mom for not only helping to facilitate my kiddo being able to be out there spectating alongside them for part of the day and also getting him to the finish line for me, but also for helping to get me back to my condo in one piece before the nights end.  You guys are amazing and your support was more than I could have asked for.  And I also owe a HUGE amount of thanks to my boyfriend, best friend and training partner Ben. Without your encouragement, I’m not sure that I would get to the starting line of any triathlon let alone that of Ironman.  You believe in me when I need it and you push me to keep on keeping on even when I don’t want to.  You also listen to my incessant bitching, whining and crying about how I don’t want to do the swim at each and every race that we do.  I swear that at one race some day, I won’t put you through this.  But in the mean time all I can offer is my apologies for it.  (Maybe you should bring some duck tape or ear plugs to race morning!)

I’m done with the actual race report, but I feel like there’s more to say in concluding this epic race and this journey.   So I will wrap up with my IMLP final thoughts in another post.  But for the conclusion of this one my final race time (which is altered to not include the second loop of the swim or T1) was 14:29:45.  I’m pretty proud of that considering the day we were given and that my only real goal heading in was to finish in under 17 hours.  And while in the moment, I said I would never do another one…. I can now safely tell you that I will indeed be back.

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Posted in Ironman, Ironman Lake Placid, Race Report, Running | 4 Comments