By: Kristi Paradis
My day stared at 4:30 am with a cup o joe and a pb n banana on a cinnamon raisin bagel. I set three alarms to be sure I woke up. How much would it suck if I overslept!! I slept surprising well and was feeling ready as I shoved a bagel in a groggy me. The air temp was cool, in the low 50’s. I arrived at the race site 30 min before T1 opened and it was already hopping with athletes. Having flown here I did not have a bike pump, so thank you to the nice dude who not only let me borrow his pump, but discussed the road conditions with me and actually pumped my tires at my decided pressure.
As I stood inline with my ipod listening to all my pump-me-up music I was shaking in my shoes. I was worried that I would bonk, forget how to swim, have a panic attack, a mechanical on the bike, not be able to run, or have some crazy GI issue. After organizing in T1 and doing a quick run warm up I felt calmer. I went through my race plan in my head and thought of all of you. There was nervous chatter as we donned our wetsuits. I had time for a quick warm-up in the water before it was my time to go! One more time I grabbed my necklace and touched my earring for good luck.
The swim start an in water, two 1.2 mile loops. I decided to start mid-pack this time; my one and only mistake of the day. After doing some good strokes; I got pulled, kicked and swam over. I had a brief panic moment, but worked my way to the right and resumed my swim. The water was cool, but comfortable, murky and shallow. There were times when taller swimmers were walking. WALKING! The turn around point came faster than expected! I kept up my slow and steady pace all the way to the finish. I did not once feel tired! I excited the water more confident that I would finish. To my surprise there were wetsuit strippers! SWEET The day is off to a good start. We were instructed to place all of our T1 belonging in a bag. Knowing that I would be cold at the finish I also packed warm clothes. My T1 was the longest I have ever had, largely because I had to organize and pack a bag! And I had to put arm warmers.
Finally I leave T1, choosing to jog up the short steep hill because it is crowed with cyclist. No need to end the day ’cause of a crash. I hop on speedy, chug some water and a bit of power bar. I chopped bars into thirds for easy consumption. Down into my aero’s I go. Riders were passing me and I had to remind myself that I had 112 miles to ride and that it would be smart not to kill my legs just yet! I found a good rhythm and cruised thru the first half. The course had some good climbs and one killer hill! I also had some fantastic descents and flats. The hardest part of the day between mile 60 and 70. It was a flat section, with few cyclist and no spectators. I started checking off miles in my head and thinking about the food I would eat the next day. At this point I knew that I would almost-definitely-maybe-probably finish. I was making good time, having zero cramping, weirdly energized, and mentally strong. If need be I could walk and still finish! Finally I get back to the rollers. Change of terrain keeps me distracted and mentally alert. At my second pee stop of the ride I ate a 1/4 of a PBnJ; quite possibly the best PBnJ I have ever eaten. Refreshed I was off and finished the ride strong. My legs were screaming a bit at the end and I definitely had a slower second loop, but I finished with a decent bike time! I cruised into T2, put on more sunscreen, changed my socks; into my Newtons and I was off!
The run was an out and back loop that was done 3 times. This meant that there were runners around you at all times! There were also huge clumps of spectators and so many great volunteers. It also meant that there were aid stations at every mile! I expected my legs to scream at me for the first few miles based on how my quads were feeling the last hill of the ride, but they felt great. I helped myself back, staying around a 9 min mile. I immediately got into my normal running rhythm and I felt fantastic for the first 18 miles of the run. I had a Clif Shot/water at every other mile and gatorade/water at the alternate mile up until mile 10. Then I switched to coke/water/pretzels. I walked thru every other aid station, following my game plan. I found many people to chat with along the way making the time go by so fast. One mile into the third loop my lower legs started aching more and more with each step. I started getting intermittent twinges in my R medial calf, then my ankles. I got a cramp in my L oblique, then my R. Each time a pain came up I stood taller, breathed deeper, and thought about the finish line and all of my friends and family. At one point I listed the names of all of my friends and family. I focused on getting to the next mile marker. The weather was amazing and I was less than a 10k from becoming an iron(wo)man. There were frequent adrenaline surges.
The last 3 miles were the longest 3 miles of my life! I did not stop once to walk. My pace had slowed, but I keep pushing. I dug deep. When I made that right, less than a 1/2 mile to the end, I got shivers up and down my body and a bit teary. Everyone was walking in front of me. A spectator shouted “858 your passing everyone!”. I pumped my first and sped up. The last turn before entering the finish shoot was in view. I made that turn and the street was still lined with spectators. We were given bracelets so race folks could keep track of us, so everyone knew it was the end for me. People started cheering congratulations, you are an ironman, you look so strong, high fiving me; and I kept standing taller, smiling harder, and running faster. That final 300 yards was amazing. I was the only one in the shoot. The announcer said my name. I lifted my hands above my head and let the energy of the crowd flow into me and took mental snap shots of that moment. That medal was placed around my neck, my picture, was taken, and my finisher tee given to me. I stumbled around looking for some grass to collapse on. In a state of disbelief I chatted with finishers, ate and drank.
To all of the volunteers, spectators, and race officials: you produced a fantastic race. I could not have asked for a better venue, course, or folks on and off the course. To everyone who had great signs out there for your friends and family. To that cute girl who said she loved my hair and that I really rock it. To all the spectators who said I looked strong. To the my friend from Toronto who chatted and raced with me on the bike and the run, to my buddy from San Jose who carried me through the second lap, to the man wearing a speedo (what?!!?). I want to thank you for a frickin’ amazing day and boosting me at just the right time.
I entered this journey unsure if I would get to the start line, let alone the finish line. I stuck to my training plan like it was a bible and to my race plan. I stayed hydrated and fueled. I felt surprisingly good through 90% of the race. I experienced cramping twice. I was mentally alert. I experienced highs and lows on the ride and run, but without a doubt highs>low. Vineman 140.6 was the best athletic experience of my life, and in the top 5 for sure of general experiences. The course was tough, but fun. The day went by so very fast. I tried to take in the scenery while still riding fast. I My emotions are still swirling and its difficult to describe how I felt crossing the finish line and completing a 140.6 mile race. The best word I can come up with is: unreal. And with that I will leave you.