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Sometimes The Stars Seem To Align

November 24, 2012

Sometimes the stars seem to align. They certainly did several times during my race last Sunday. It might be as close as I’ve ever come to perfect in a race. Sure, there were things I could have done a little better, things I will improve for next time (whether next time is an Olympic distance or full Ironman). But I had an amazing race on Sunday, and I’m very happy with how I did. I’ll still do a full race report soon (with more reflection on some of those things that I maybe could improve on for next time), but for now I want to mention those moments when the stars aligned. And ponder the question facing every newly minted Ironman athlete: Do I want an M-Dot tattoo? And where?

By far the most important of these moments was in the last mile of the bike course. My husband was landing in Phoenix at noon, so I spent much of the ride wondering how he was doing. As I closed in on the bike-to-run transition around 3:45 PM, I spotted the green “Team Rowfit” shirts my family was wearing. “Mom, dad” I shouted. As they looked up, I saw Jeremy back behind them, grinning back at me. And then I was gone before it even fully registered. But as I rode into transition, tears of joy started rolling down my face. Jeremy was here for me. Seeing him there made me happier than I can even describe. I was completely and unexpectedly overcome with emotion. That emotion stayed with me as I changed in T1 with the biggest grin on my face. And the tears didn’t dry up until I was a half-mile into the run. [At left, the photo my grandpa got of me as I passed them at mile 111.5 on the bike]

The morning started off right getting out of bed. Sometimes, when you wake up for a race, you just feel “on.” I felt very “on” for this race. My energy levels were way up, my stomach felt great, my muscles felt fully rested and strong. At our 4:40 AM pre-race pow wow in my coach’s hotel room, things just felt right. This was my race, today was my day. And my team managed to stick together through the chaos of getting to the course and setting up our gear in pre-race transition. We gave each other final high fives moments before we all jumped into the water to swim to the start line. IMAZ started on the right note.

The stars definitely aligned on my swim. I had goggle issues on our practice swim, so I was a little worried going into the swim. But my goggles were perfect on race day. No fogging and no filling with water. Even though someone swam right into me before the start, my goggles were fine, and I didn’t need to adjust them once. More details on the swim to come in my full race write-up, but for now I’ll just say that my confidence for the whole day went way up as I became more confident with every stroke. For me to go from needing to rest after every length of the pool in January to finishing an Ironman swim in 2:03 in November is simply incredible.

The stars aligned again in my swim-to-bike transition. As I ran towards my bike, I saw Paul standing there, waiting for me. Paul, who first got me into marathons and triathlons so many years ago. Paul, who went for open water training swims at Ohio Street Beach with me whenever he could. Paul, who did the Big Shoulders 5k swim with me. We hugged, and he told me I looked good. And I had a little more strength as I ran into the T1 changing tent. I would see Paul again in my third lap of the run (when I told him that I had just passed his boyfriend a couple miles ago, so Damon was close behind me), and I would see Paul again with 200 yards to go to the finish line as I was on my way to becoming an Ironman.

Even though the bike takes the most time, it passes the quickest in my memory. I love cycling, and this race was no exception. But a couple moments still stand out when things were just going right. A couple miles into my first lap, I saw my coach going the other direction, almost done with her first lap. She shouted out to me, and I could hear the relief in her voice to see me on the bike. Her voice reminded me what I already knew: once I was on the bike, the hardest part was over for me. It might take me all day, but I would finish. I grinned and cycled on. I would also see most of my other teammates during the ride, and every time I passed one of them I smiled, knowing I was not out there alone.

I also got in my “good karma” moment of the day on the bike. In the second lap of the bike, I stopped for the restroom. As I got off my bike, I overheard someone asking “do you have any ibuprofen?” His friend didn’t, but I did and volunteered “I have a couple if you need them.” I knew my most likely point to need them was right after I finished the swim, so by now I was comfortable giving away a couple. And it made me feel good to be able to help someone else.

The stars aligned again as my nutrition worked perfect on the run. I had trained mostly with gu, because it was most readily available at the store and because it was on course. But I slightly preferred the taste and feel of honey stinger chomps. So in the days leading up to the Ironman, I decided to use honey stingers. I ran out of time to get them before leaving Chicago, but after a lot of searching found them in Arizona. By halfway through the run, most of the stuff at the aid stations sounded kind of gross. I couldn’t even think about stomaching the gu. I was very happy to be taking just water from the aid stations and using my own honey stingers (along with my protein-carb drink mix and salt stick).

After the finish, I saw Jeremy waiting for me at the far-end of the finisher chute. I was again overcome with emotion. I was so happy to see him there. More than anyone else in the world, he was who I wanted to see. He called my parents and we talked for five minutes before they got there. I eventually made my way over to get food and find my team for a post-race team photo. I later learned that my Aunt Mary, in Los Angeles, saw me finish on the streaming live Ironman webcast. She had happened to turn the webcast on and there I was! Wow. [Photo: me immediately post-race talking to my dad.]

 

 

 

And the stars aligned one more time the day after the race. While blogging about my preparation for this race, I “met” Beth, the “Iron Turtle.” On the bike course, I saw a sign her teammate said “Go Beth! Iron Turtle!” I smiled and thought “I know who that is,” and planned to tell her about it later online. So imagine my surprise to meet her in person. Monday after the race, I returned to the race site with my family to pick up my special needs bags and stop by the Ironman merchandise store. The store line was long, so I left my grandparents in line while I went to get my special needs bags. They were talking about the race and Beth, who happened to be in line right behind them, heard them mention Chicago. She asked, “your grandson did this race and he’s from Chicago? What’s his name?” “Jeff.” Oh my god, I’ve “met” your grandson via his blog. When I came back with my special needs bags, I was introduced. And so after reading each other’s blogs this past year, we had a chance to meet each other and chat after the race. Out of 2700 athletes there, we happened to stand next to Beth in line. Congratulations Beth! Turtles CAN fly! The stars align.

More to come in my full race write up. For now, suffice to say that it was a very good race.

6 days since Ironman Arizona.

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One Comment
  1. Beth Kozura permalink

    And I am finally getting around to find your blog and our picture. Yes, that was so cool to meet in line. Did you see my blog about Tattoo or No Tattoo is the question. Congrats on a great race. We are IRONMEN!

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