The swim was two loops in a fresh water lake. The high wind made for choppy water - I took a few more gulps of water during this race than I did when we swam across Alcatraz! I liked the rougher water because it is significantly less of a disadvantage for a Tridiot than it is for tame pool swimmers. I swam a total of 11 times in the 6 months prior to the race, but it was my strongest of the three disciplines (according to my rank). Not sure how that happened, but I enjoyed the swim, took it easy, and tried to draft as much as possible.
The winds continued throughout the bike. The headwind was the #1 thing that everyone complained about. It was really, really tough. I thought I had prepared well for the bike: I did the San Diego century ride with steeper hills, more total elevation, and on a much hotter day. I had emphasized cycling in my training plan, made noticeable improvements in pace and distance on my long rides each weekend, as well as seeing my power and pace improve in spin classes. I made 3-4 stops at aid stations to fill up on water. They were quick but worthwhile stops that provided me with much needed rejuvenation. I fueled really well and felt really good in terms of nutrition - I was able to take in solids (PB&J sandwiches) way easier than ever. Even with the miserable headwind, I still don't know how I averaged 14 mph when I had been consistently hitting 17 mph during long rides in training. I treated the bike as "a really long warm up for a good marathon" - but even so, I feel like my race time did not reflect how hard I trained for it.
I was more than ready to start running and finally get off that bike. Except it turns out that the marathon did not feel like any of my brick runs or long runs. I felt unusually strong off the bike. I kept reminding to hold back, to stay within myself; I still had a long way to go. I employed the "walk through aid stations and walk up the hills" strategy for miles 6-16 of the run. I thought I had been super conservative, but still my energy was dissipating quickly. I changed strategies at mile 17 because I reached my threshold of pain. Walking hurt just as bad as running. There was no relief. I just had to push it, just get to the finish line as fast as possible. I ran up the hills, I ran down the hills, I ran through the aid stations, I just needed to see that finish line as soon as possible. Making that final turn, seeing the lights at the finish line, hearing the cheers and Mike Reilly's voice in the distance - I had made it. I tried to take it all in, to notice the crowds on both sides of the street, clapping and cheering and celebrating... Mike Reilly announced "You are an Ironman!" and I crossed the finish line. A volunteer took one look at me and walked me straight to the med tent. I tried really hard to focus on my breathing and slowing it down so that I did not have a repeat of Wildflower. My face and fingers got tingly again (which I guess is normal once your body stops after so much physical exertion). 30 mins and 2 space blankets later, I was out of the med tent and ready for a shower and some rest!
As great as it felt to have finally finished, it was awesome to come back to a flood of messages from the Tridiots and my other friends that were tracking me throughout the day and sending so much support and encouragement. It was so special to see how many people rallied behind me and cheered me on - from school friends who knew for years that I've always wanted to do this, to friends that I made this year: people from all different parts of my life. It was a memorable day and an incredible journey to get there, but I am glad for some time to rest now :)