Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
All the numbers and stuff looked so official.


(Warning: Just like my race, this post is looong)

After nine months of hearing the words "get in the water" learning what the word "cadence" meant and drilling the words "swings those arms" into my head. Today was the day I was going to put all these to use and go for the 2.4 miles swim, 112 bike ride and 26.2 mile run, in all 140.6 miles. I was pretty sure I could do the 2.4 mile swim (that sounds pretty funny to say, b/k 2 years ago I couldn't really swim in water deeper than my 4 feet.) I was also kinda sure that after all of our hill training, I could do the 112 bike .The part I was kinda worried about was the 26.2 mile run. I'd never done a marathon before so I didn't know what I'd be feeling. The weeks leading up to Canada I figured that there was no use in worrying about it, I'd never know what would happen or what I'd feel until race day. After all of these months of thinking about it, the day had arrived. Today, I was doing an Ironman.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Coach Ann and Franny decorated the door of our our room the night before out race.

Pre Race Morning

woke up to take a potty. While I was up and figured I'd start hydrating. I downed a bottle of water and went back to bed. I estimated by the time I'd wake up again, it will be time to pee.

3:30am: pee time, but to my surprise. I got the best gift of all. A nice big poop. Those that race could appreciate this. I was thrilled, this never happens in the morning! From that moment, I knew that today was gonna be a good day. Afterwards, I contemplated about taking Imodium. I knew that if I had GI issues Ron G. would tell me "I told you so". Well,decided to skip the Imodium and hoped that my race day nutrition would be ok. The morning was going smooth, double checked my dry clothes bag, special needs bags, water bottles and headed over to the lobby. On our way out, we were greeting by our roomed being decorated and tee peed with pictures, photos, towelettes and toilet paper by our staff. Thank you Franny and Coach Ann! I watched you on my tippy toes, all night thru the peep hole.

4:45am: We got to lobby and were greeted by the rest of the Ironteamers. Kevin was our ride to the race, and made sure that we double checked and made sure that we had our water bottles and wetsuits.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Shelly, our bodymarker told everyone that we were "virgins".

5am: Off to the race location we went. It was a short 5 minute drive to the race locations. We got out of the car and carried our special needs and dry bags. Thanks Franny and Coach Ann (this would be a common theme for the day) for helping me carry my bags. They dropped us off until they were no longer allowed past the fences. Tony and I dropped off our bags and got in line for body marking with an energetic lady. We had the best body marker of all, Shelly. She was loud and full of positive energy. Tony and I kept taking pictures of each other while getting body marked. Shelly, asked us if it was our first Ironman. We said "yes" and she yelled to the crowd, "We got virgins here!". So kind of her. Next, we proceeded to our bikes to pump our tires, put our water bottles and check any last minute bike things. On the way there, I caught a glimpse of Coach Ann and Franny watching us along the fence. Just like parents, they made sure we were getting to where we needed to be. I got to my bike, placed my water bottles and looked around at all of the fancy bikes with their fancy disc wheels. Coach Ron came by with a pump and we gave my bike some air and off to the potty line I went.

6am: Potty line, the line was so slow and so long, it took about 30 minutes for me to get thru the line. By the time I got to the front I was plesantly surprised to be granted another lovely poo. Score! 2x in one morning and right before the race. That is unheard of for me. Clean as a whistle, today was truly going to be a good day.

I rushed to where the rest of the Ironteamers were putting on their suits, dropped off our dry clothes bags, walked under the Timex arch and onto the beach we went. Tony and I usually lose each other after the swim warm up, so just in case. We kissed each other good luck and off in separate directions we went. I saw Bea and I think this was the first time I'd ever seen her nervous. To ease her mind, I gave her a big smile, shook her shoulders and tried to make her feel relaxed. I was thinking, "Shoot Bea, don't be nervous or else that'll make me nervous too!" I see Martin and he's cool as a cucumber. Just a few more minutes and the canon will go off. Tony finds us again and says to me "you're shaking". I couldn't figure out if it was nerves of I was just cold, Oh well. One last good luck kiss, but this time we had an audience. I could see Bea watching and smiling at the corner of my eye. Thanks, Bea.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Ironman Canada Swim start:
3,000 of my closest friends.

2.4 Mile Swim
7am: I look around and beach is full of yellow and red caps *gulp*. This will be the biggest mass start I've done. Me and 3,000 of my closest buddies will be swimming together. I start to get nervous. Bea's a much faster swimmer than me, so I back further away from where she is starting. As soon as I get into a spot, they sing "Oh Canada" and the cannon goes off.....I walk towards the line, everyone is charging and splashing forward. As soon as I jumped in, I heard the announcer tell the crowd that the swim was a human "washing machine". I thought to myself "oh great". And off on the swim, I went. I wore two swim caps to keep my goggles from getting kicked off. But instead, it ended up too tight and gave me a headache 1/2 way thru the swim. Next time, I'll stick to using just one cap. It was definitely a bumpy ride, but I got thru it just fine. Some people wrapped their arms around my legs (weird). Somehow some big guy's chip scraped my arms and I was bleeding, I got kicked in the face, someone kicked or punched me in the calf and I started cramping (that was new, that has never happened before). The longer I was in the water, I noticed that the wind was picking up and the water was getting choppy. I also started to notice that I was starting to get cold. I figured, I'd better speed it up and get out of here. Overall, the swim wasn't too bad. I swim onto shore and saw the green flames. It was Coach and Franny, I check out the clock and see that my swim time was 1:34. I was expecting a time between 1:45-2hrs, so I was pleasantly surprised. Swim-done! Yay! One down, two to go.
Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
T1, my dear bike eagerly awaiting to be taken for a ride on the Canadian course.

Transition from Swim to Bike:

I run under the Timex arch and hear a volunteer chick say, "Hey, go team, over here!". I run over to her and like a rag doll, I'm flung on the ground, they strip of my wetsuit, pull me back up and off, I hear my number called, someone tosses me my t1 bag off into the nudie changing tent I go. It was so crowded, I found a seat and a volunteer rips my plastic bag and dumps all my stuff out. I change out of my wet clothes and into my biking gear. Deoderant, body glide, chamois, socks, shoes, helmet, sunglasses, hat, powerder etc. My body is so wet that I have trouble getting my jersey on. The volunteers help me pull my top down. I stuff a 1/2 bagel, 1/2 a banana and handful of sharkie gummies in my mouth and continue to get ready, pass by the sunscreen volunteers and off to get my bike. I knew I was already at the back of the pack as my bike was the only one still racked in my row. There she was...hanging there. Just eagerly waiting to be taken for a ride out on the Canadian course.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Feeling good, smiling during the first 40 miles and all the way up Richter.

112 Mile Bike Ride
After my horrible pacing at last month's Aquabike, I took the advice of the coaches and captains and didn't push too hard for the first 40 miles. As they said, I made it the "easiest 40 miles" that I've ever ridden. And I did, and I was feeling great. Before the Richter climb, I checked my bike computer and saw that during the first 40 miles I was maintaining 18mph. Sweet! And I wasn't even using much energy. I climbed up Richter pretty relaxed and I was smiling, a volunteer ran along side me and said, "You can get up this hill with just your smile". So of course I spread my cheeks even more and showed him more of my pearly whites. And just to make sure I got a good photo, I even gave the photographers a big cheeser and a standing pose.

Back to focusing, I remembered Capt Dan saying "after mile 40, that's when the real bike begins". And it was true, I knew there were a few descents and rollers, but much of everything from miles 40 until mile 98 felt like climbing, or sustained inclines or fighting headwind. I made a potty stop somewhere along the rollers, plus I was in dire need of some chamois. I saw a used Chamois wrapper on the ground and remembered Chris' story about how he was so desperate for Chamois that he used one that he found at the porta potty. I thought to myself "Thank God, I had some in my pocket" Hoo Ha Ride glide to be exact. The Hoo Ha sample package was a tiny plastic pillow like container with a little spout at the top. I tried tearing off the top, but my my hand felt so weak. So I tried to tear it with my teeth, but it just wouldn't rip. And oh heck no was I going to use that open and used chamois on the porta potty floor. So I bit it hard one more time and ripped that mother open. Voila it opened! And voila it squirted in my mouth. Disgusting. I spit as much as I could into the urinal. Even more disgusting. I spent the next mile gargling water, spitting on the road and flushing as much of the taste out as I could.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Thanks for the warning Franny: Beware of falling mountain goats.

Back to focusing. Thanks to our bike training, the bike course, wasn't super difficult, but it was certainly not easy. Individually, the climbs and rollers were doable, but collectivley, it was pretty tiring, especailly by the time I got to climbing Yellow Lake.The wind and rain sucked, but I preferred it better than heat. Overall, I was feeling pretty good on the bike, spin, spin, spin. I knew that I'd be running my first marathon afterwards this, so I wanted to make sure I was saving my legs up for the run. Legs feeling good - check, nutrition & hydration going well (no vomiting or tummy aches) - yay!, and I was making good time. One thing I couldn't get out of mind (of all things) was Franny's voice. Tony, me and Franny drove the course 2 days prior to the race and Franny narrated the entire course for us. Apparently, Coach Dan had instructed her, that her job for that day was to keep me from freaking out about the bike course. So instead, she told me to be carful of sheep or goats jumping off of cliffs and landing on me (so of course, I looked up when there were cliffs). And when I rode by the horses I could hear her voice imitating a horse's voice (but it actually sounded more like a sheep's voice) saying "Heeeeeey". I also, saw and empty package of Stinger Gummy bees on the ground and thought of Bea, why? B/k her nickname is Bumble Bee. It only took me and entire season to figure it out. Bumble Bea, duh, now I get it. I also saw a empty wrapper of Snickers and thought "Oh, that's what I'm gonna eat at special needs " at mile 75. I also wondered where Tony and the rest of the team was on the bike. I was hoping that their day was going well. On a somber note, I also thought of my former coworker's 2 year old son, Cooper, who was in the middle of battling leukemia. I thought of Penny and her husband Andrew, Tony's Mom and I also thought of my Auntie Silvie that passed away from cancer the week prior to us leaving for Canada. I thought of my parents and how I wished they were here, but I knew that they were making funeral/memorial arrangements for Auntie Silvie.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Oh boy, at the top of Yellow Lake, Coach Ann running next to me and telling me to "Push it!".

Back to focusing...spin, spin was now raining. Everything seemed to go well until the windy out and back, my pace was dropping. As Bea described the headwind, it was kinda "demoralizing" when you're in lowest gear, but not really moving. I saw Bea, coming back from "special needs"...I was so happy and yelled out "Beaaa!!!!" I hadn't seen anyone since the start of the race, so it was nice to see a familiar face. Then, I see Donna and Martin! Ate a Snickers at special needs and headed towards Yellow Lake climb. I tried to go in aero, but my neck was starting hurt and make feel nauseous. I popped in some gum to lessen the nausea. I was now moving much slower and started to get worried about my bike time. Darn wind. As I was climbing it felt like the wind was pushing me down. I knew that I needed to pick up my pace as the 5:30pm was starting to approach. I also remembered Coach Dan's email and how he mentioned "How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day". I remembered Coach Ann and Christy saying to always just "keep moving forward". So no matter what, I just kept moving forward. Finally, I got to the top of Yellow Lake, I saw Franny and she was running beside me, I heard her speak, but had no idea what she said. Next, I saw Coach Ann in some crazy outfit, she ran beside me. In the few seconds I rode by her, all I had time to get out was "Am I gonna make the bike cut off?". As I rode away (thank goodness for her loud voice) all I could hear her say " You gotta push it! Take advantage of the downhill and push it on the flats!". Oh boy, when I heard that I knew I had to push it. That also meant I was going to risk blowing out me legs. But I was determined to make the make the bike cut off. Shoot, I didn't buy a new bike for nothing! All my legs were going into these last 12 miles. And I pushed it. I pushed down the descents, I took a glimpse at my bike computer and saw that was going 45mph. I prayed to maintain control and not crash. Coming into town, Bea and I saw each other and smiled ( she was on the run) I pushed all the way thru to the end of the bike ride. I looked at the Timex clock and it said 8hrs and 11 minutes. *whew* Made the cut off. I was a little disappointed on the bike time b/k I knew that I needed a faster bike split to buy me time on my snail pace run. But in any case, I was just happy to make the bike cut off, now I get to run my first marathon, 26.2 miles!

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
T2 bags with all of the lovely things for my run.

Transition from Bike to Run:

I go under Timex arch, a volunteer takes my bike, another one gives me run bag and back into the nudie changing tent a I go.

Volunteer: I'll help you, hey didn't we meet at the Vineman aqua Bike.
Me: Yes, we were in line together at the porta potty! (I continue to change in front of her)
Me: You don't mind I strip down now do you & sorry if I stink
(Bea, told me earlier that It was no time to be "modest", so I was planning on do it anyways)
Volunteer: Not at all, go right ahead and don't worry you don't sink.
Me: *whew* Oh good (as I apply my deodorant)

I later found our that her name was Marlise and that she was on the south bay ironteam a few years ago. Cool. Quick trip to the porta potty and off to the run I go.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Boy, I sure look miserable.This pic is totally the opposite from my bike pic. Ha!

26.2 Mile Run - Yay, my first marathon!
I start off on the run, and the crowds are lining the streets. I see TNT managers Lisa and Nicole on the side of the streets. They ask me how I'm doing and I reply "Kinda tired". As expected my legs were kinda heavy, but I look at my watch and I'm keeping a decent 12min pace. I see Martin not too far ahead of me. I think may be if I catch up to him, I'll have someone to pace with. My calves feel tight, so I stretch them on a curb on street. I begin to run again but my legs just don't want to run. So I begin to walk.. must walk with a purpose... time goes by and everyone that I passed on the bike are beginning to pass me on the run. I look on the other side of the road and see people finishing their run....I think to myself. "Boy, I wish I was them". I look at my watch and realize that my pace has really dropped, I start to get a lil worried b/k I know that I needed to keep a minimum at 14.8 min pace to stay within the cut off time. Seems pretty doable right? I try to run again...but my legs just don't want to run. My 8:1 interval is not working, so I adjust to a 4:1 interval....ugh, still not I start to shuffle, walk, shuffle. Anything to keep from just walking. I see Coach Ann and tell her that my legs just don't want to go. She gives me some advice, tells me to give myself another mile to adjust and then pick it up. Volunteers and people are cheering along the sides of the street, everyone's so nice. There's a slight decline on the road so I start to pick it up, the sun is going down....then again, my legs just don't want to go. I walk thru and aid station, get some water, and try the soup..gross. I kept on goin...people on the other side of street are mostly walking. There's hardly anyone on my side of the road, just a few of us. A woman spectator begins to run along side of me. She runs along with me and says that I look like a lil kid. I didn't know what to say, so I just said "thanks?". I think she was trying to help me pick up my pace, but I was too slow so she runs off. Another participant, runs by me and tells me,

"Hey, I remember you, you passed me on the bike. I made the bike cut off by one sec. Boy that was stressful, I don't want that to happen again" then he passes me by.

I continue to shuffle and notice my time is waay slow it's dropping to a 15-16min mile. Gotta swing my arms...gotta keep going. Gotta just keep moving forward. I see Tony on the other side of the street on his way back from the 13.1 turnaround mark...we make eye contact and

I whimper, "I don't think I'm going to make the cut off!"
He looks at me and says "Don't say that, you can do this!" he gives me a quick kiss and we move on our respective ways.

I keep moving and pull my hat lower to cover my eyes a bit and start to tear. I talk to myself "Common, you can do this". Darkness is filling area. Race officials begin handing out glow sticks and necklaces. A few miles later, I see a glowing necklace from the other side of the street cross the dividing line and come up to me. It's Bea! She says "You're doing it!" I let out a smile and continue on my way. Thanks, Bea! I continue on, one step at a time...i don't know what time it was, but the volunteer yells out at me

" You can do it, you got 30 minutes to get to the turnaround at 13.1 mile and make the cut off".

I was thinking to myself "What cut off?!" Apparently, there was a cut off during the run, and didn't see it in the course description. After that, I picked up the pace, running in the darkness, all I could see were dim lights and trees. Roller after roller. I wonder how many rollers or inclines I had until the turnaround. I passed by an aid station and found out I have one more mile til the turn around. I didn't see any bright lights nearby and wondered how far I was. I just kept going...picking up the pace. I begin to downhill and suddenly see spectators along the streets yelling "GO! Go! You can make the cut off!" I don't exactly know where I'm going, but I start sprinting, sprinting towards a dim street lamp. I pass the area and the volunteer say, "it's over here" Apparently, I missed the mat. I run back and cross the mat *beep* my timing chip goes off. The volunteers tell me I made it within 3 minutes. I grab my special needs back, grab a Snickers, my headlamp and start trudging up the hill. As I'm going up a race official walks beside me

Race Official: So, you're gonna be cutting it close. I want you to run like you want this.
Me: Are you gonna pick me up off of the run course?
Race official: I don't wanna. Keep up a good pace and we won't pick you up.

I start going up the hill. There are other people sprinting to the cut off, many didn't make it. Only one other girl and myself made the run cut off. That meant we were the only two people at the end of the course. After the climb, I begin my shuffle run/walk, the other girl and myself leap frog each other. The race official van comes up to me and asks me what my race number is. For the life of me I couldn't remember what it was. I look all over my body and legs to find out my number. Then, I said, I can't remember. Then he said, “what about your bib?” Duh, I shoulda figured that out. I give him my number and hear him radio it in. The race van was driving behind us using it's headlights to light our path. There we were, just the other girl and me. Two people left on the course, in the middle of the darkness. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew the mountain was on my right, and lake on my left. It was so dark, I could no longer see the lake or the trees, but I could feel a chilly breeze and blowing of the leaves. With the race van driving behind us I could see the silhouette of my shadow and the girl behind me being projected onto the side of the mountain. The other girl's pace slows down and I slowly see another shadow come up from behind her. The man, puts his hand on her shoulder...and suddenly, my shadow is the only one projected on the mountain. The race official picked her up off the course. I was now the last runner on the course.

Last Runner on the Course:
After this, I knew that there would be no walking allowed. All season, I was all about walk/run intervals. If I wanted to stay on this course, my plan was just going to have to adjust. I was exhausted and cold, but with the van right on my heels (literally) the minute I walk, it would give them the reason to pick me off the course. So I ran, not very fast, but something that I felt that I could maintain for 13 miles. Even on the rollers and hills, I dare not walk. Just to give the illusion that I was still running faster, I would exaggerate the speed of my swinging arms and height of my jog/march. I was moving like I was in a marching band. I was seriously swinging my arms for dear life. Sometimes, I'd feel tired and my body wanted to stop. I was feeling lonely...and thought...I could stop, get picked up and be in a nice warm van for the rest of the ride back and the nice volunteers would be able to go home. I fought these thoughts. "No, no, no...keep going." I kept going. I'm not a quote person, but it was during this time, that I remembered a Lance Armstrong quote that my teammate Nicole once had on her Facebook post.

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but if I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

No matter what, I had to keep going. I knew that I would regret it, if I stopped. This was the run that counted. So i kept going. Each time I'd pass a mile marker, the van behind me would pick it up and the volunteers at the aid stations would yell "last runner coming" . They would run up to me ask me what I needed. I always said, "water and an orange slice". The orange slices tasted heavenly. Plus, this was my only window to walk for about 10 seconds to drink a sip. The volunteers were great. This routine went on for 13 miles. I would look at my watch and knew that I was dancing around the pace times to make final cut off. I thought may be, just maybe I'd have one last kick or may be a miracle would happen and suddenly I'd run a 10 minute pace. I knew the odds were against me, but I had come this far, I wasn't going to give up. I was amazed that there were spectators and volunteers out there. Just for one more runner, me. I was touched and a lil embarassed. As I got closer to town, there were race announcers spread thru the course, may be at mile 22ish I heard an announcer talking to the crowd ...with some "chariots of fire" like background music playing on the music speakers....he said,

"Everyone, we have the last runner, let's bring her home!" by then, I was picking up my pace...and may be ..may be I might just make it.

It was shortly after this, that an official came up to me and said, "You're flirting with the finish line, drive your knees up and the rest will follow".

So I tried, I drove my knees up and starting running a 10 minute pace (according to my watch). I did this for about 2 minutes, I was breathing so hard, and I was getting dizzy. I couldn't keep it up. I ended up slowing back on my breathing and pace.....with this I knew my chances were slipping away. A short while after, I saw Coach Ann and Franny. I was so happy to see them. In order to make it, I needed to run and sub 10min pace. I had never done that, let alone done a marathon. Another guy came up to us and reminded me that I was getting very close to the cut off and would need to pick up my pace to make it. With the van/truck still following behind me, Coach Ann grabbed my hand and we ran. With Franny and Coach Ann on either side of me, we all ran together. At one point,I didn't know I was running sideways and almost bumped into Franny. They stayed with me all the way to the finish. Thanks guys, it meant a lot to have you there with me during those last few miles.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Franny, me and Coach at the finish.

So Close, Yet So far
I was about 1.5 miles away from the finish. Suddenly, I felt what it meant to be "so close, yet so far". I looked at my watch and it showed 11:59pm. I could hear and see the lights of the finish and the cheers last official finisher. The guy in front of me. I knew the reality. Today wasn't going to be my day. And my heart sank. I wanted to cry, but I held it. I just kept trudging along. I turned the corner and was surprised by the number of cheering spectators lining the streets, I went down the road, continued on to finish, went thru the chute, crossed the finish and was greeted by all of my friends, teammates, Ironteamers and most of all, Tony. At every race Tony has always been there to cheer me toward the finish, but today, he was here to comfort me. I got my finisher medal and just felt like sitting. Within minutes I suddenly felt sleepy. After seventeen hours of moving, I just wanted to sit. I didn't know what to think. I had a mixture of emotions. Sad, that I came in later than I had wanted. But happy to have finished and completed the 140.6 miles.

As expected, the day was full of ups and downs. Although it didn't go according to plan, I adjusted as needed. Thru it all, I just remembered to "keep moving forward". I could look back and think of all the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas". But was there's no point in that, the day was done. I will look back on this and learn from my mistakes and most certainly work on my run. I'll remember and appreciate everyone that supported me throughout this adventure, and opened their hearts to help us raise $16,190 towards cancer research. I'll remember all of my family and friends who wondered "why?" I would do something ridiculous like this, yet supported me anyways. All those that doubted my abilities, yet ended up rooting for me in the end.

I'll fondly remember the Ironteam, Coach Dan, Coach Ann, Coach Ron, Capt Dan, Capt Fairn, Christy, Franny and the rest of the staff for their guidance and patience with answering my billions of questions. When will I get stronger? Do you think I'll make the bike cut off? I need how many calories an hour?!! That will make me fat. What are thermolytes? Really, I have to carry four water bottles on bike?! How do you handle racing while on your period? Gas X in my bento box, really? We're biking how many miles today?! Sea lions are like puppies? What does drafting feel like? Are there water stops today? What happens if I see a mountain lion while running? What does poison oak look like? How steep is Yellow Lake? Should I get a new bike? It's taper, where's my energy? Why do I get sleepy on the bike? How often should I replace my shoes? Why do my shoes stink? My questions never ended, and they answered every single one.

I'll remember how our teammates bonded over our "first times". The first time we climbed Tunitas and rode 100 miles, the first time we swam 2.4 miles in duck poop, the first time we ran 20 miles in 90 degree heat and the first time we peed in a bush making sure to avoid the poison oak leaves. I'll remember, the crazy look that Tony gave me the first time I said, "I kinda want to do an Ironman". Yet, he supported me along the way, joined the team and ended up having a wonderful race. I will look back on all of these memories, and remember how it all started—I just wanted to learn how to swim. Never did I (or anyone else) imagine that I’d get this far. Let alone do 140.6 miles in one day. I learned a lot throughout the season and from today.

I learned that my body can withstand more, than I imagined.
I learned that my mind is mentally stronger, than I previously thought.
I learned that I can survive a swim start with 3000 people, and not drown.
I learned that my legs can actaully trudge thru a 26.2 mile marathon.
I learned that my body can shockingly continuously workout for 17 hours.
I learned that I can actaully do an Ironman.

Would I do another Ironman again?  Yep, next year. But I'd better work on my run first.

(Update: Btw, one year later... my run eventually did get better and I returned to complete Ironman Arizona 2011 and Ironman Canada 2012, yay!). | Donate to the cause | Contact Us