Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Lovely Day for a Ride

So I made it to the changing room. The volunteer there was amazing. I wish I could hug her right now.

She sat me down and helped me go through my bag. "Here's your 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."'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.

No water.

Oh no.

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 case you were wondering.) And Luscious snapped this picture:
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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 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.

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"I love you guys!" I screamed again to Matt and my parents.

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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.


21st Century Mom said...

AMAZINZG! Smiling after 114.4 and all that cold and those waves and that wind. You're indomitable spirit are such a HUGE inspiration to me. You have no idea.

Legs and Wings said...

Really, amazing is the only word that fits the day. Congrats again on a huge gritty effort. You are AMAZING! Excellent photos!

Cliff said...

Who crazy ppl smile in the marathon in IM?? :)

THat's a great pic of u in the profile. U better have that develop.

The trick about gel flask on hat, priceless.

For me, I pray a lot on the field too.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Wow. And with early-stage hypothermia, too! You are one tough cookie! And that goes double for your friend with the separated shoulder!

I can't wait to read how the run went. I hope they had the chicken broth, and that it was HOT!

Battman said...

I've got goose bumps thinking about you out there. Awesome...

Jodi said...

Hills the best part? Just think how far you came since the first outing at the GCT course.

Your spirit out there was amazing. I bet you helped a lot of people forge ahead with your smile.



Chad said...

"He went on to finish in 16:56, by the way. With a scraped up, dislocated shoulder, the ENTIRE DAY."

Come on, it wasn't the ENTIRE DAY - just 137.2 of the miles. :-)

Yeah the new profile pic is awesome. I wasn't sure if that was part of the race or not because of the guy behind you who's checking his tire.

Anonymous said...

You rock! I can't wait to read more about the run.

Donald said...

Wow, what an epic ride! I can't imagine that you would ever forget that one. How great to have family and friends there to share it.

Tracy said...

My Sister Sara is a Super Hero!!! Way to go woman, I'm glad you did so well! I knew you would. I just knew. :)

Eric said...

Your report keeps getting better and better. Those volunteers were the awesome. The pictures are amazing. I can't wait to see and read more.

Dave and Ruth at the pool say congrats and can't wait to see you again.

:) said...

i got chills, they're multiplyin'...

thanks for the billy madison quote. hilarious. one of my favorite movies of all time and so apropos of ironman biking! :)

can't wait for the run!

Michele said...


You are such an inspiration!!

Afternoon Tea With Oranges said...

I am in awe.

Jeremy said...

Awesome! So awesome!

greyhound said...

I love this part of the story. I hope I pray (instead of cursing) when my going gets tough.

xt4 said...

Whew. Glad you made it in there! Not that I didn't know you did, but still glad to know it.

"Cold-induced diureses" - cripes, that explains A LOT about my are-you-kidding-me bathroom stops all day. Soooo glad I didn't know that.

You're a rockstar -


Triteacher said...

I know what you mean about those hills... I felt it out there that day too. What could we ever do that would show those people our gratitude? They were truly IRON.

Nancy Toby said...

What a fabulous smile, Ironman! I love that bike photo!!!! Hypothermia's got nuthin' on you!!

a.maria said...


so far, yours is just the best iron-story ever. i don't know why, but its given me chills, thank you thank you for sharing with us, its definitely inspiring my ass to get out there and train!

you = amazing. no other word for it.

and with a marathon after all of this, that's one slower than MY FASTEST TIME?!?!

holy balls. thats all i have to say!

IronWaddler said...

Way to go-very inspirational. You are amazing to make it through the weather!

Chris said...

Loved, loved, LOVED that story. It's all about the bike. :)

That's an awesome picture of you flying out of T1. I'm glad you used that for your new avatar.

Isn't seeing Monona Terrace *TOTALLY* the best feeling in the world after riding 111 miles?? The thought of seeing that lake and the approaching Monona Terrace gives me chills just thinking about it! :)

Wes said...

Sometimes the lamest things we say mean the most to people, and we go away worrying about it :-) That's the hat I saw you cross the finish line on the internet. When they called your name, I was a little upset because I thought they called your name when you crossed the line, and I had missed you. LOL. But then Dee Dee and I saw that smiling face under the hat, and we laughed and it was way cool.

JeffM said...

Amazing- amazing- amazing! Thanks for the great posts and look forward to the run story.

qcmier said...

What a moment that must have been when you dropped your bike.

I'm glad you got the vest too.

That pic of you coming down the helix is AWESOME!!!

Laurie said...

Fantastic story and very well written! Tears came to my eyes when reading about how you fixated on your love for your husband. And again when you prayed yourself into T2. And definitely when your friend finished with a dislocated shoulder in the nick of time! Awesome job Sara!

Brooke said...

I love reading about this--you did such an awesome job.

RunBubbaRun said...

Great post, Okay I'm glad I'm not the only one who made himself warm on the bike. Really great pictures and the your tri shorts rocked. can't wait to hear more of it. Signs of "diureses" I think that would have totally freaked me out if I knew that.

Oh, nice new blog pic, way cool.

E-Speed said...

Great recap girl, I'm all teary eyed

Lloyd said...

Whoot! What a feeling...nirvana, that moment in a race where you know you'll make it to the finish intact.

Wow Sara, your story makes it hard not want this challenge.

I'm looking forward to the run.

christine said...

woohoo are quite a the midst of all the were still so attentive and thankful to folks around you...that gotta be worth some good trikarma....bring on the run...this so exciting!!!!!

jbmmommy said...

Great recap, you did amazingly well! Can't wait to hear about the run, your pictures are awesome.

Paul said...

What an amazing race recap. It is truly inspirational.

Zoo said...

great job sarah!!!!

jeanne said...

sorry to be repetitive, but that's the most amazing report i've ever read--about anything! and, you made me cry!
you're invincible!

ShesAlwaysWrite said...

Lovin' the report... can I just tell you how simultaneously relieved I was to see your bag gone from T2 but bummed that I didn't see you come through?!

And even your "slow" times are tons faster than my best days : )