Ironman Boulder 2017
In the two days prior to the race, what I found most surprising was the overwhelming sense of calm I felt. I expected to have butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of dread or fear, but instead, I only felt a desire to dive in (literally). I was so ready to begin my race day journey. On Friday, Mom and I drove up to Boulder so I could get a wetsuit swim in the Boulder Reservoir before packet pickup. The water temperature was perfect, and honestly, that was the clearest water I had ever seen in that lake. Ever. It was nice and refreshing, and my love for open water swimming resurfaced after a long winter of pool swims. We then rolled to packet pickup and athlete briefing, where the officials warned of a weekend with record heat. Even as we sat out there in the sun, I felt relatively calm about the race. I never have done well in heat. It's definitely my biggest downfall in racing, and my training had not prepared me at all for the forecasted temperatures. In fact, winter ran very late this year and we had had snow only a couple of weekends before! Still, I breathed deeply and told myself to focus on the factors I could control, which included my effort and my nutrition/electrolyte intake. For my remaining time pre-race, I was diligent to stay calm, prepare all my gear, and visualize the race and how I would handle any potential setback.
In the last hours before I went to bed on Race Eve, I was surprised by an anonymous donation to Epic Experience. With that last donation, I had reached my fundraising goal of $5000 dollars. To whoever you are, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Those donations in the last weeks gave me so much motivation and drive! I believe that my sense of calm came from the fact that in my heart, I knew I couldn't fail. I had to finish this race, for everyone who donated, for everyone who had encouraged me. There's not an easy way for me to explain the sense of security I felt in the fact that the task at hand would be done, no matter what the race course threw at me. On top of that, right before bed my dad informed me that the weather forecast had cooled down by about 5 degrees. I was over the moon with excitement, it was game time.
The alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. for me. My sleep had been somewhat restless, as my mind was going a million mph all night. After driving to Boulder and catching the race shuttle to the Reservoir, I ensured all of my gear was in place and ready for the big day. I started to shake uncontrollably. It was probably a combination of the morning chill, nerves and excitement, but nonetheless, I smiled big. I just wanted to get into the water!! I hugged my loved ones and friends one last time before heading to the swim start.
We swam in a rolling start fashion, meaning that our individual times did not start until we entered the water. This can be an obstacle when trying to gauge where you are in comparison to your competitors, but I personally enjoyed the spread of swimmers. It was incredibly easy to navigate around others and I didn't get kicked in the face/swim over another person once. The start of the swim is always a flood of adrenaline and huge effort is required on my part to ease into a comfortable pace. Being the longest open water swim I had ever done, I kept thinking to myself that the swim had to feel easy at all times. I had a long day ahead of me, so I focused on keeping a low enough effort to breathe bilaterally and spot the buoys easily. There was a decent amount of chop in the water at the far end of the Rez, but overall, the swim felt good, like a long warm up to the bike. As I exited the water, I heard the cheers of several friends and my parents. Now it was time for the tough parts, the bike and eventual run.
Now, the run. I can honestly say that the run was both easier than I expected in some ways and harder than I expected in others. I don't really want to break it down too much, but instead I'll highlight that eating salt, putting ice in my hat, and walking the aid stations saved me. I estimate that I was running at a good pace, despite stopping to walk every mile. On top of that, I had many thoughts that kept me going through the pain and discomfort. I tried to focus on one good thought for a mile, then move on to the next thought. I'll list a few that went through my head, in chronological order.
Mile 4: See? Not so bad, your'e already almost a 6th of the way done with this run.
Mile 8: Woohoo! My old teammates are all here! This is awesome!
Mile 11: So many Epic shirts! Thank goodness my friend Nicolas is squirting me with cold water every time I pass!
Mile 13: OMG, only 13 miles to go. Is it weird that I'm saying only 13?
Mile 15: There goes Heather Jackson. Isn't this an incredible sport where a mere mortal like me gets to compete on the same course as some of the best athletes in the world?
Mile 20: 6 more miles. That's just one more hour. If I run fast. Which I'm not doing. Who am I thankful for?
Mile 22: I'm thankful for Tess, because without her I wouldn't even be running at all right now. I might be puking in the creek like that guy I just saw.
Mile 23: I'm thankful for Geneva and Matt, who have been so supportive and understanding of me even when I'm a sleepy hungry zombie.
Mile 24: I'm thankful for my dad, who got me into this crazy sport and picked me up after the 10th time falling in my clipless pedals, and who is proud of me every day.
Mile 25: I'm thankful for my mom, who has ridden by my side through the long runs, who inspires me to be my best, and who I am running in honor of.
Mile 26: Above all, this is for me, I'm achieving my dreams, and I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M ALMOST DONE!
Much love to all,