|The Dream Team: (left to right) Causebrook, me, Story, Johnson|
When we got back I met my mom for a little lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon off my feet. The rest of the Charlotte spectators arrived filling out our crew of over 20 people and we gathered for an informal pizza party on the shores of the "largest pool in Cozumel" at the Cozumel Hotel and Resort. Delivered Pizza Hut pizza was a far cry from the traditional pre-race Mellow Mushroom pizza dinner but not bad for Mexcio. We closed it up quickly "to get to bed early" but the truth of the matter is no one got a full nights sleep. I woke up often with a building amount of anxiety and eventually quit trying to go back to sleep around 3 AM. At 4 I got up and started my race morning tradition of coffee and oatmeal before we left to catch the shuttles.
Setting up my transition was rather uneventful until I realized I had dilly-dallied for too long and all the athletes were a getting into the water and completely clogging the pier. Afraid I would be at the back at the swim start I unsuccessfully bullied my way through the crowd. Luckily Story took over and we were at the edge of the pier in no time. I quickly zipped my Blueseventy PZ3TX and jumped into significantly calmer waters so I could make my way towards the frontline. It got really interesting waiting for the start. There was no real start line so the crowd keep pushing forward. Every so often some dude (specifically some dude in white goggles) would start swimming all out. Thinking the gun went off a crowd of people would start swimming forward, officials would yell, jet skis hauled ass over bringing the chaos to a stop but then the same dude would do it again. And again. And again. 4 times, 4 TIMES! Freakin' dudes . . .
|Predicable photo by a swimming sign.|
Getting on the bike I felt good and my legs felt ready. We made a right turn from the park and the tailwind was nice and strong going out towards the tip of the island. 2 right turns later and we were in the headwind. It still wasn't too bad and I hit the center of the city spot on at 9:45 as predicted. Coming into the city and heading back towards the swim start, I again enjoyed the tailwind. Passing Chankanaab Park I felt great and was surprised to find the Charlotte spectators camped out waiting for us. So far my watts were right on target and I was already starting to pass back some people. Somewhere between the swim start and the first right turn my front wheel started making a dreadful noise; it sounded like it was made of tin foil. The pavement was a bit rougher here so I assumed it was just the rough pavement but I kept racking my brain, "Did it make this much noise thie first go around? Did I have trouble holding on to my aerobars when I first passed through here? Why is everyone riding away from me? Why are my watts so high? How much longer is this pavement going to last?" My hands were vibrating fiercely as I tried to hold on the aerobars. I looked down and everything about the wheels seemed fine so I continued to think it was just the pavement. Hoping smooth pavement would put me at ease I continued to ride. People began pulling away and passing me like I was standing still despite the fact I was putting out watts well above my target range. Finally, 20 minutes later, I pulled to the side just to check and sure enough the front tire was flat. Of course I kicked myself for not stopping sooner but I didn't dwell on it and broke out the flat kit James Haycraft made for me. I am not sure what I would have done if he had not handed me an extra tire with a valve extender wrapped in plasitc just before my departure. I am not used to riding with 808s and the concept of a valve extender was quite forgiegn to me. Equipped with the right tools I was ready to change my first race day flat tire but unfortunately I struggled with the tire itself. It was so tight on the wheel that every time I would get my tool in the there and move it the tire would just pop back in. I went back and forth with this until I was almost in tears. I am fairly certain I would not have been able to get the tire off on my own but luckily just when I thought my race was over a mechanics crew came over to help me. *I just have to add the mechanical crews here were great. This is probably the best supported race I have done.* So fortunate! It took two dudes another 10 minutes to take off the tire, replace the tube, and put back on the same ridiculously tight tire. I got back on my bike relieved my legs did not feel tight and I fought the urge to "make up the lost time." Unfortunately I was going to have to stop at special needs to pick up my spare. I thought about foregoing it but then I thought if I flat again no one will have a tube with an extender. How much total time I lost is unknown; riding on the flat wheel, changing the tire and then stopping at special needs all took time out of my 2nd loop but I was still upright and still moving forward so the mishap did not ruin my race.
Coming into T2 my legs felt good and the energy coming into the city was electric. Taking off on the run I felt great and ready to make 26.2 happen. Unfortunately that enthusiasm did not last. I made it one lap before I started walking the aid stations. During the second lap alone I stopped to pee (first time peeing in an ironman mind you) and I stopped to walk 3 or 4 times to allieveate a side stitch. I started skipping every other aid station as they were every km instead of every mile and I was consuming pepsi on the course which seemed to help with my stitch, morale, and dwindling energy levels. For a good portion of this lap I contemplated taking a DNF. I wasn't having fun and I could barely bring myself to smile. I would have sat down on the curb but I did not want the humility of doing so and more importantly I did not want to endure the walk of shame back to the Charlotte specators eagerly waiting to cheer us on. The third lap was more of a mental struggle and I told myself if I was not half way in 2 hours or less I would call it quits. I saw Story, Johnson, Causebrook, Jamie, Josh, Sarah, and Tanya all out on the course determined to finish and I decided to HTFU. So what if I wasn't going to be running my goal time, or qualifying for kona, or moving faster than a shuffle, I could still put one foot in front of the other. I was still running and running is the fastest way to the finishline. Realizing most of the athletes on the course would be absolutely ecstatic to run an 11+ hour ironman I stopped feeling sorry for myself. By the last loop a deep soreness was settling in my legs but finally at mile 25 I started chanting "let's finish this" and gave the last mile all leg speed I could muster. It felt like my old stride and I missed it. I have never appreciated crossing the finish line more than I did Sunday. I have never appreciated more the mental strength it takes to endure an event like this. Sunday's race was one that I fought for and I finished feeling like Galadriel when she passes the test in that scene from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings.
Keith caught a glimpse of me in the following video at 1:33. I am not sure I could have picked me out so I am super impressed with the spot.