|My race number|
For those of you who are wondering what an Ironman is, well...it's a triathlon that takes all day to complete. It's a total of 140.6 miles, including 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, followed by 26.2 miles (yes, that's a marathon) of running. This particular Ironman took place in The Woodlands, Texas (just north of Houston), or....also known as the surface of the sun.
My friend and training buddy, Brian, did this race in 2011. He talked me into doing it this year as my first Ironman. It is always nice to have someone with you who has done this all before. The plan was that I was going to ride with Brian to The Woodlands on Thursday morning, then Clark would meet up with us on Friday. I got the kids off to school Thursday morning and tried to finish packing. I was a wreck. My stomach was turning and in knots. Brian texted me he was on the way, and I was just getting in the shower! He said he was stopping for gas, so I had a few more minutes. Still....eeek! Finally, he arrived, we loaded up my bike and all my stuff, and we were off.
The drive over wasn't too bad. We stopped once and followed a very SLOW road for what seemed like forever. We finally made it and decided to go straight to Athlete Check-in. The line wasn't long at all [thank goodness, because I think I may have thrown up if I had to wait any longer] and the volunteers were super nice and informative. After signing my life away on the waiver, picking up my backpack, getting my wristband and timing chip, we were ready to go. We skipped the shopping and went straight to the hotel. I have never seen so many people in compression socks all in one place! Man...we are dorks....wait until they see all the aero-helmets. [As of this writing, I do not own compression socks or an aero-helmet]
Checking into the hotel was pretty funny. Brian told me he had a bunch of Marriott points, and his wife had cashed them in. They sent them to him on $25 gift cards. Well, he had about $600 worth of gift cards....in $25 increments! While the woman entered in all his gift cards, I checked in and continued to wait. LOL! She said she'd never had anyone with that many. I raised my hands and yelled, "You win the prize, Brian!" We finally got our keys and lugged all our stuff up to our rooms. We were on the same floor, which was nice.
When we got off the elevator, there was a sign that read:
We busted out laughing because we thought it was a joke. Later, we found out it wasn't a joke. Someone had done that and set off the sprinkler system!
|Margarita is official!|
We headed out for a late lunch, then chilled out at the hotel until the banquet. My friend, Christina, would be at the banquet, so I texted her, and we all met up. The food was great, Mike Reilly was great, though I couldn't really understand anything anyone said because the acoustics in the banquet hall just weren't good. I met Matt and Laura, who were both doing their first Ironman, and we talked to some other guys from different places at our table. The banquet helped calm me down, and I was able to eat, though my stomach was still in knots.
|Lake Woodlands....pretty calm now|
|Brian, me, and Matt after the swim|
I showered the lake water off and changed out of my wet clothes. I made sure my bike gear bag and run gear bag were completely packed up, grabbed my bike, and headed out. Transition was about a 7 minute walk from our hotel. Brian and I walked down there, volunteers showed us to our spot and carried our bags for us. We saw Christina when we dropped our gear bags off. We all ended up going to lunch together, which was nice to relax. After all that, we were back at the hotel for a while to relax.
|'Twas the night before Ironman, |
the bikes are all racked....
I woke up around 4:00. The Starbucks downstairs would be open at 5:00, but I made coffee in the room and started drinking that. I got dressed in my Desoto 400-mile shorts and Desoto green tri top. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, but I couldn't finish it. I sipped on my coconut water mixed with Skratch. I double checked my special needs bags and texted Brian a few questions. At 4:45, the official water temperature was posted at 77.2, so I didn't need my wetsuit. At 5:00, I headed downstairs. Starbucks hadn't even opened the doors yet, and there was a LONG line already. I headed back upstairs, made another cup of that not so great coffee (Clark does roast our own beans, so I'm kind of spoiled) and took it with me. Brian and I headed to transition with our 3 bags to put nutrition on our bikes and pump up tires. I met Caroline next to me, and she helped me with my tires. We headed toward the swim early since it was a long walk.
|Getting in the lake to start the swim|
As we were walking toward the water, I pushed the start button on my Garmin. It just said "Garmin" on the screen and would never go to the satellite screen. [PANIC!] Brian said, "Don't worry. It will work. Sometimes it takes a while." I gave it a few more minutes while walking into the water. I turned it off and back on. Still nothing. I knew I didn't NEED that Garmin, but being Type A, it was really going to help me to have it. I did a hard reset. Then, I started it up. It took a while, but I finally got the satellite bar 1 minute before the cannon went off. I looked around. I looked at all the people on the bridge behind us. The start didn't seem as crowded as I imagined it. Then.....BOOM! We were off! I pushed the start button and started swimming.
|Boom...the cannon goes off and we're off!|
|Swimmers swimming up the waterway|
|Carter waits for me to finish with his cowbells|
|That's me coming into the finish|
Finally, I could see that last red buoy. I knew I was almost there! I made the left turn and swam to the volunteers who helped me out of the water. I didn't even look at my watch until later, but my time was 1:26:01. Goal was sub-1:30, so that was great!
|Out of the water!!|
I headed toward transition, grabbing my bike gear bag, then waited for the port-a-potty. Once I took care of that, I headed into the changing tent. There were rows of chairs and lots of volunteers. Wow. I plopped down in a chair and dumped out my bike bag. I decided to keep my tri top on because the pocket was big enough to hold the nutrition I needed to put in there. I put on sunscreen (something I will skip next time), then tried to get my Cool Wings on. It's hard to get those on when you're wet. I put on my socks, shoes, and helmet, stuffed everything else in the bag, and headed out. 12:00ish [That time sure went by fast]
|Headed out on the bike!|
|Relaxing for a moment|
|Race Mode, but smiling ;)|
I was mostly surrounded by guys because spectators would yell, "You go girl!" By mile 100, I swore if I had to drink another sip of warm lemon-lime Perform, I was going to puke! I also knew I was almost there. Most of the roads were VERY smooth. That was another complaint I heard. The chip seal didn't bother me at all because it was smoother than any chip seal I've ridden on. It didn't phase me a bit. After mile 100, we were back on the main road with very little shade and lots of cars. I was ready to be done. Near the end, we had cones, and our riding lane was petty narrow. It made it hard to pass people, but I did anyway. I made sure not to push too hard, but a lot of it was downhill, so my average speed went up near the end. Finally, I was done! 6:10:52...18.1 mph...faster than my fastest estimate of 6:15 [that made up for that ridiculously slow transition].
I knew my friend Kathleen was going to be in the T2 changing tent, and as soon as I walked in, she saw me!!! She dumped out my bag and asked if I was changing completely, and I said yes. She helped me get changed, and I made sure I had what I needed in my pockets....and she pushed me out. It took a while, but I predicted it would. 12:00ish [I gotta work on those transitions]
|Running on the Waterway|
|The Moxie Multisport Cheering Squad|
Now, for loop 2. The 2nd loop is always toughest because it's the middle. I ran the dirt path out and back, then walked up the embankment to the parking lot. There was shade in the parking lot, so I started running again. I was able to do a bit more running, but then my stomach really started hurting around mile 9. I hit the bridge across to the swim start area in the sun and just had to walk. I was thinking to myself, "This is going to be a long marathon." I said a little prayer at that moment asking God to get me through this race and just give me the strength. I knew only He could give me the strength I needed at that moment. I walked longer than I wanted to, then tried to jog a little. I approached the volunteers asking if we wanted our special needs bags and told them yes. I knew I just had to run around the park to my special needs bag. I was able to run slowly. Once I got that bag, I sat down in the grass and took off my wet socks and changed into dry ones. It felt great to sit down for a minute. I had not thought about what to do with the socks I took off....those were my good socks. I stuffed them in my tiny pockets in my running tank. I grabbed the Gus and gummi bears and ate the 2 Pepto tablets I had in the bag and grabbed my rag that I planned to get wet and put on my neck. I was stopped for a few minutes, which made that split really slow....so slow that my family and friends were a little worried. At the next aid station, I drank some chicken broth. Chicken broth has never tasted so good! I quit drinking as much perform and drank more water and ate another Gu at mile 12. My stomach was settling, but my back was killing me. It was so cramped up that it felt like my stomach. I discovered it hurt more when I walked, so I tried to run as much as my stomach would allow. As a result, my overall pace picked up. As I came around the waterway to complete loop 2, I saw my friend, Maggie! I gave her a hug, and she told me I looked great.
|Carter running with me down the waterway|
|Feeling good on the run|
As I approached the waterway the 3rd time, I knew this was the home stretch. I hit mile 24, and I just started running. I decided I was going to run and run and run. I saw my family on the other side of the waterway as I passed. I could tell they were impressed I was running. I was smiling from ear to ear, running past everyone, taking in the crowds of people watching me fly down the waterway, and getting tears in my eyes again just thinking about what I was doing. I'm about to be an Ironman!!!! I knew I had to go down and up and around then another down and back on the other side before heading to the finish line. I decided to take one last walk break before mile 25 so I could really finish strong. There was a nice breeze, and I knew the last out and back was cool because it was shaded all day. When I saw that MILE 25 marker, I was ecstatic! I saw Kathleen again on my way out for that last little out and back, and she said I looked great. I started running and running, passing everyone in my path.
|Running down the finish chute|
|Right before I hit the finish line|
There was a guy in front of me, but when he stopped to hug someone, I ran past him and finished all by myself.
I could hear Mike Reilly calling out others' names, but it was so loud at the finish line that I had to strain to hear over the crowd: "Kelli Hughes from Cedar Park, Texas, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!"
|You. are. an. Ironman!|
Run time: 5:27:25
Total time: 13:28:50
Jennifer was my volunteer at the finish line. She was awesome...took my stuff for my picture, made sure I got what I needed, I pointed out my family and told her this was my first Ironman, etc... I met back up with the family, took some pictures, picked up my morning clothes bag, ran into Julie while doing that, then headed back to the hotel.
|I spotted my family -- I did it!!|
What a day! I did not realize the temperature climbed to 96 with a heat index of 100. There were LOTS of people who did not finish probably because of the extreme heat. I honestly didn't feel the heat as much as I thought I would. My ranking was much higher than I thought it would be, especially my run, which was my best of the 3 overall. Apparently, average times were 22 minutes slower this year compared to last year.
|Ironwoman right after the race|
|My cheering posse (mom, brother, dad, son) with their signs|
|Me with Clark and Carter|
This was such an awesome experience. I'm sure I'll have more reflections later. I do want to thank God, first. Then, I'd like to thank everyone who encouraged me, trained with me, and believed in me. I could have never done this without each and every one of you.