|obligatory pre-race selfie
Of course our pre-race dinner was at a brewery, because, carbs. We all met up at Founder's Brewery and I ran into a friend of my brother's plus and old pal from my childhood. My heart was full and I was ready to take on the race. This would be my redemption. I could feel it. I would prove to myself that I was capable.
|at the swim start with Claire & Lori
Usually when I get ready for my bike portion I feel a sinking feeling of dread. Mostly because I still have not been able to embrace this particular discipline yet. Today I just accepted it and found that calm place I had during the swim. The volunteers at bike mount complimented my shoe/bike combo and I set out with a smile on my face. Soon enough though the weather took a turn and started to rain. I cried for a bit. I'm not exactly sure why I had just a visceral reaction but I guess I was worried that the race would get cancelled and I wouldn't get the redemption I so badly needed. I pedaled harder, hoping I could outrun the rain. It finally passed and breathed a sigh of relief.
The hills on this course are beyond disrespectful. I felt like there was never a time that I was just coasting flat on a straightaway. This was especially frustrating because it made fueling close to impossible for me. I am not yet skilled at eating while trying to climb hills or fly on the downhills. I was starving though so I did my best to take in as much as I could. I have to say that during the race, more than any other, I felt an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from fellow participants. Almost every person who passed me in either direction offered cheers and smiles. I so badly wished I could be them, seemingly effortless riding along the course, but there I was struggling every inch of the way. I never even looked at my garmin, just kept on pedaling until I saw the bike dismount.
Heading out for my run I was overcome with emotion. I was so close to silencing that doubt still lurking in the depths of my heart. The awesome thing about that looped course was that I got to see SOOOO many people. Almost all of them strangers, but that day they were my family. Urging me forward, giving me hope and happiness as I trotted along the course. I wasn't particularly fast and I didn't care. I didn't need a PR, I needed a finish. There were a few moments when I would get overwhelmed with emotion and start to cry, not out of sadness, but out of thankfulness that I had forced myself to keep going. I had the grit and resilience to push back the darkness.
We hung out at the finish line to watch Hannah cross, earning first place Athena for the half iron. For those of you keeping score, we are now up to 3 CRUSH Multisport awards. So many hugs and tears all around. But our day wasn't over, we had more teammates to bring in. Denise finished strong and was so happy to see all of our awards. When Meli crossed the finish line she earned 3rd place Athena for the half iron. This race was redemption for her as her first half iron finish. The excitement was palpable. We decided to get cleaned up, eat, and then wanted to come back for the midnight finish.
When we got back to the race site to watch the back of packers come in I kept feeling myself tear up. Hearing their stories and watching them come down the finish lines with their families was incredible. I wish I could bottle that emotion and keep it for rough days. We hear that there was one more competitor out on the course and they were worried he might not make the midnight cutoff. Hannah and I decided to try and find him on the course to cheer for him and bring him into the finish line. Even writing this I'm getting goosebumps all over again. People go out there and give everything they have for the chance to be called an ironman. Its incredible. I've never seen anything else like it. As he ran towards us we yelled and cheered as loud as we could. We gave him a time update and told him as long as he kept moving at that pace he would make the cut off then he took off. Being there for those last finishers was unlike anything I've ever experienced at a race and I urge all of you to do the same if you get the chance. There is something magical about the last hour of an ironman that can't be described. I'll have that glory myself some day and just the anticipation of that is enough to keep pushing me.