She sat me down and helped me go through my bag. "Here's your socks...do you want me to help you put them on? Here's your Clif Bloks--I love these! Do you want me to open them for you? Do you want me to put them in your back pocket for you?"
Yes, yes, yes. You rock.
"Here's a note: TriSaraTops..." She read me a note from Siren, who had put it in my bag before the start.
I got a little choked up as I tried to keep my emotions in check.
I asked if there were a bag of ClifBars anywhere or an M&M mini case with my e-caps.
"No, I don't see them here..."
My face fell again.
"You'll be fine! You've got lots of food here. There is special needs in just a little bit."
Okay...you're right...I'll be fine...
I got up to head out. I wanted to thank her but I didn't know what to say, so I said breathlessly--
"You're awesome." (LAME!)
She smiled, and I took off.
I had to run back and forth across Monona Terrace for what felt like an eternity--put on my arm warmers and vest "just for the first few miles" (HA!), and found my bike. As I was walking quickly to the Helix, I looked up and saw my Mom, Dad, and Matt.
"I love you guys!" I screamed!
And then, I dropped my bike.
And all the water spilled out of my JetStream.
A volunteer ran over to help me, but I had no more water..."Help! Is there water?" I pleaded.
And then, a volunteer came running over and poured her personal Dasani bottle in my Jetstream.
"Thank you..." I said, out of breath...
I ran to the Helix and tried to get my bearings....
BEEEEEEEEEEEEP T1. 12 minutes. MAN. That was long, but Coach Angela said it would be, so I tried not to worry about that--she said allow at least 10 minutes for transitions...
I hopped on my bike and headed down the helix, when I heard,
"GOOOOOOOO ARCAROOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!" It was my girls! They had signs and looked so cold, but there they were!
"I LOVE MY NUTTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I screamed! (FYI: Nutters = Nuthouse, the name of our house we lived in senior year of college, named after our sorority's mascot, Earl the Squirrel...for Alpha Gamma Delta....in case you were wondering.) And Luscious snapped this picture:
So I was off.
I tried to keep my HR down, which was hard. You know what else is hard? (But I'm used to it by now) Being a decent swimmer and a weaker cyclist...you get PASSED like MAD CRAZY on the bike for the first 25 miles or so.
I tried to block it out, and remember what Coach Angela said,
"Ironman really begins around mile 80. If they blow by you on the bike, you will see them on the run. Just ignore it."
So, I did. I focused only on heart rate, and it took me about 10 miles, but I finally got it settled in at zone 2. By this point, it was raining--not hard, but consistently, and the temperature was dropping. I got to special needs, grabbed some clif bars and more e-caps (whew!), and decided to keep my vest on. I even saw Bubba! Good to see a familiar face--he was smiling, as usual.
Little did I know, that without my new vest, I never would have finished Ironman.
I was about to learn that over the course of the next few hours.
I made it to the hills without too much problem, but I was aware that I really had to slow down to keep my HR in check. "Don't worry," I thought. "No numbers...I can pick it up a bit on the second loop..." The wind picked up. The hills became my favorite part of the entire ride.
Wait--did I just say that?
Yes, it's true. Because, people, the hills were the ONLY part of the entire day where I felt WARM. That, and, um, when I did something else that would make me feel warm. Or maybe I should say it made my left leg feel warm....
Anyway, the hills were amazing--the people there were ringing cowbells and screaming, "Go Sara! You can do it, Sara! Looking good! Great spin! Go! Go! Go!" I saw a guy dressed in drag and Scooby Doo. It was hilarious. And just like that, they were over. Loop two was ready to begin, but not without me going through Verona and seeing Matt, my Mom and Dad, my girls, and Jeff and Tracy.
"I love you guys!" I screamed again to Matt and my parents.
And this is the strange thing--I started to just really really think about how much I loved my husband. As I began the second loop, it was all I could think about. I couldn't wait to get back so I could hug him. It was so bizarre....I guess I didn't think I'd just fixate on that for miles and miles, but that's what I thought about as I was riding.
It helped me block out the cold. And the things I was seeing around me. People flatting everywhere. A few people crying as someone else told them, "You can't quit now..." I saw Jim, a guy in my tri club, and he had gotten hit at Mile 1, fell, and dislocated his shoulder. "I'm trying to decide what to do," he told me. "I can't move my left arm."
"Jim, no matter what you do, you're Iron," I said. I didn't know what else to say.
He went on to finish in 16:56, by the way. With a scraped up, dislocated shoulder, the ENTIRE DAY.
Now THAT'S an Ironman.
I was a little worried about my, um, bladder activity. I NEVER pee more than 2 times on my long rides. At the start of the second loop, I had already peed (I think?) ten times. TEN. I was beginning to worry that I had a bladder infection or something. I tried to keep taking ecaps so I didn't flush out all my electrolytes, and slowed down a bit on my drinking. It seemed to help, but I was still worried.
Turns out, according to some medical-type friends, I was experiencing, "cold-induced diureses." Which is one of the first stages of hypothermia.
Whew. Good thing I didn't know that at the time. I just kept smiling as I remembered what I told my girls at dinner last night and we recited our favorite Billy Madison movie quote: "If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis."
I was hurting on the second loop. Again, I looked forward to the hills to warm me up. (Sicko!) The people were still there, although not as many. I thanked them. I saw many people walking up the hills, and I thought to myself, "Just keep spinning, just keep spinning...."
I made it to Verona again and saw Matt. I was homesick for him. My parents were there, too, and so were Jeff and Tracy. I knew I just needed to make it back to T2, and I'd be OK.
Therein lies the problem. Headwind, and cold, and I was running out of steam.
I knew my original goal of 7:15 was shot to hell. There was no way. I didn't know how long I'd been out there, but I knew it was a long time. And I knew if I got a flat, or anything went wrong at this point, I might not make the cutoff. So I played it very conservative. I beared down into aero, and tried to ignore the headwind that was bringing me down to 8 miles an hour at times. "Just keep spinning...just keep spinning.." I did a lot of praying--I thanked God for my family and Matt, for my friends, for my health that I have the privledge of being able to be on this course today...I prayed for no flats. I prayed that I could make it to T2 for all those that I had helped raise money for for blood borne cancers, and so my Aunt Betsy could watch me from heaven and see me finish. It was probably the longest and best conversation I've ever had with God. And before I knew it...I saw the Capitol.
"There's a sight for sore eyes," a guy next to me said.
"You bet!" I smiled. It was at this point, I knew I'd make it. As long as I made that cutoff, I'd make it today, and I'd become an Ironman.
I rode up the helix and crossed the mat:
9:57 total time. Made the cutoff by 33 minutes.
Total ride time 8:17. Absolutely, positively, nowhere NEAR my goal time of what I knew I could do.
And you know what? Who cares. I was going to do it. I was going to be an Ironman.
I ran into T2 with a ridiculous smile on my face. Matt and my parents were waiting--I gave Matt a huge kiss and the crowd laughed. "See you later!" I yelled, and took off. It turns out that Matt was so worried about me. He said that he saw many, MANY people who could barely walk, who were shaking with blue lips. He saw one guy run into the wall because he could barely say his name. So he knew then that I was going to be OK.
I saw some awful looking people in T2. Girls and women under mylar blankets, blue lips, teeth chattering, rocking back and forth. I wondered how IronJohnny, Wil, and Pharmie were...Stu said Wil wasn't far behind me, so I said a little prayer for her all all of my friends who were biking and running. I felt pretty bad, but the high of getting to do this marathon made my spirits soar. I just simply couldn't wait to put on my running shoes.
I love to run.
I made it. I was going to make it. I had 7 hours to do a marathon. It was just a matter of how long it would take me to make it.
I grabbed a mylar blanket to run with for the first mile or so, just to stop the shivering. I grabbed my gel flask of Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gel, and put on my hat from my coach.
I ran away, and nine minutes later, I was on the run course.
And I pretty much smiled for the next 5 hours and 24 minutes.