As I write this race recap, my heart is full of gratitude, love, and joy. One year ago, after reading about the experience from someone else, I decided to do the 70.3 Ironman in St. George. But I had no coach, 22 lbs heavier and 12% more body fat than I have today, and I had just had a hysterectomy. Little did I know then, when I signed up, the journey and amazing people I would meet from this one decision.
The Day Before
I was excited and nervous when I got up at 3:30am Friday morning. Had I packed everything I needed? Yikes!! My friend, Jodi, picked me up and we were on our way.
My biggest fears going into this race were:
- The unknowns of the swim. Two weeks prior, I had gotten nauseous and sick during our practice swim. This was my first big open water swim.
- Bike issues, like tire flats, etc. things like that.
- How would my feet do on the run course? I’d been fighting blisters and trying to find a good pair of shoes for 4 months. I still haven’t found the right shoe yet.
Driving with Jodi was just the “relaxing” I needed to clear my head and focus on the race. We talked and laughed. For the first time in weeks, I was calm and collected about the race. We ate McDonalds. I hadn’t had McDonalds in 8+ months. It hit the spot and I didn’t feel guilty!
We pulled into St. George and got to registration. I was in awe! It seemed too good to be true. Was I really here? Seeing all of the Ironman signage choked me up. I was here! It was time.
We got registered and I’ll admit, I was giddy getting my Ironman gear. Jodi, Mark and I were wandering around the vendor tents, and I was taken back by everything. Jodi and I started talking about the water bottles you put on the front of your bike. Neither of us had them. Profile Design was selling them and we thought what the heck, let’s get one for our bikes. This goes against EVERYTHING they tell you- DON’T change anything up on race day. We both knew having water upfront would be easier than juggling it in our cages, so we bought them. We went back to Jodi’s in-laws to install them. It was comedy at it’s best as we were trying to understand the bad directions. We even resorted to watching instructional YouTube videos. Haha! Luckily, Mark joined us and helped us finish them up.
The three of us set off for lunch to the Pizza Factory. Pasta baby!! The rest of our team was with their families and we had time to kill before the T1 set up. My family was joining us later that night.
We got to T1 to set up our bikes about 2 pm. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. We got the bikes together and found our spots in transition. They were already premarked. Yay! It was nice to not have to “fight” for a spot. I had a great location not too far from the bike-out. A sweet lady from Canada recommended we let the air out of our tires because they could pop in the hot sun. Jodi, Mark and I debated whether or not to do this. We did, but we knew we were going to have to pump them up in the morning.
We headed back to Town Square for the Athlete Meeting at 4pm. It was good information and we picked up more last-minute Ironman swag and headed back to relax at Jodi’s in-laws until my family arrived. I needed that. Sitting there talking and laughing with Mark and Jodi really kept me calm and relaxed. We joined up with my family for dinner and had some fun laughs and fun, as we knew morning would be here soon.
Before we went to bed, I packed my transition bags. I was so nervous putting them together. I checked and rechecked each bag half a dozen times. I hardly slept. When the alarm went off, I was amped with excitement. Oh my gosh, it’s here!
The Big Morning
Shane and I picked up Jodi, then ran into Mark in the parking lot and headed to T2 to drop off our bags. We didn’t see the rest of our team, so we loaded onto the bus. Shane met us at Sand Hollow.
I got body marked and headed to my bike. My tires were flat and I was nervous about my front tire. My brakes had been rubbing and I was just nervous all together. Only athletes and race volunteers were allowed into T1. I really wanted some help! Shane ran into Bart, my teammate, and asked him to come over and help me. I am SO grateful for Bart’s assistance. He pumped up my tires and got my bike squared away. It was a huge relief for me to have someone I trusted help me out. Pumps were in HIGH demand. Holy smokes!! If you had a pump in your hand, people went crazy, and we had a pump. We were trying to be nice and share with people, but Shane had to leave Sand Hollow in order to pick up the kids and get settled on Red Hills Parkway. They were closing roads and he didn’t want to get trapped. We felt bad turning people away. While trying to be a heavy and tell people they couldn’t use the pump because my husband had to leave, I ran right into my good friend, Andy. It was awesome to see him! It was an extra motivational boost that morning to see a good friend!! AND he needed our pump!
I kissed my hubby goodbye, got the wetsuit on and met up with the team. We all took one last potty break and we headed out of T1 to the swim. In our group, I was first to swim. I took my place among my age groupers. I messed with my swim cap and ear plugs most of the time I stood there. I was nervously pulling and tugging on my ear plugs and swim cap. Then I saw we had to swim out to the start line and tread water. I had NO idea that’s what you did. That panicked me a little thinking, how long do I need to tread water? Oh crap.
I got in the water and it wasn’t as cold as it had been 2 weeks before. I walked until I couldn’t anymore than started to swim out to the start. I was shaky and started to breathe heavy. I got out to the start line and a huge calm came over me. I was grateful for the minutes treading water before the start. It allowed me to collect myself, take a deep breath, adjust to the water and calm down. The women made me laugh a bit because nobody wanted to be in the front. I was like I am here, I am not going to have to stroke more, swim over me if you have to!
The gun went off and I was gone! I really seemed to get into a groove. I stayed on the inside near the buoys so I could sight better. Of course gals were swimming around me, kicking and hitting me. I would have moments where I would be swimming “alone” then have a flood of people kicking and hitting me. This back and forth continued the whole time. As I sighted and saw the ramp was in sight, a wave of people came up on me, and some guy kicked me in the head and then in the arm. He kicked my 310 Garmin right off my arm. I was PISSED! My coach had told me that could happen. I had tucked my watch in my wetsuit, but it broke. I felt it when he kicked it. Bye bye very expensive Garmin. I hope the fishies enjoy you. Then I realized, I won’t know how long things are taking. I won’t know when to eat. I had set a 45 minute alarm, what am I going to do? YIKES!! As I continued to swim, I told myself – WHO CARES?- you are going to keep going, you don’t need the watch. You know the landmarks where you should eat, you can ask people for the time along the route and they’ll have times posted at the transition areas. It doesn’t matter what “time” it is, just GO!!
I got out of the water and made it through T1. I felt fast enough in transition- like I was getting my stuff together but not stupidly rushing. I got on my bike and started off.
I had no idea when I got out of the water I had done it in my goal time. I saw the transition clock and it said 1:20 and I thought, I am already sucking. It was the start clock, not my time. I knew that, but didn’t realize it until I was out on the bike. Then I thought, hey, I think I rocked the swim in about 45 minutes, yay me!!
The moment I got on my bike I felt so STRONG! I started up Sand Hollow road and decided to try out my new aero bars. I FELL IN LOVE!! I had these new bars put on the Saturday before and I really hadn’t trained on them. I had no intention of using them to race. I instantly felt strong in that position and realized I could get more power. (Well DUH Meg, that’s why the pros do it.) Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Nichole, my trainer, only told me a million times to get down. Why did I fight it? It was awesome!!! I started to climb the first hill and my friend, Andy, came up behind me. It was so good to see a friendly face! We cheered each other on and he passed me of course, but I kept pedaling. Coming through Hurricane I was laughing, smiling, giggling and so excited to be there. I LOVED THE BIKE!!! I was down in aero, speeding my way through the course and LOVING every minute of it.
I came up to the Chevron outside of Hurricane, and saw and heard Brad from our team. Again, feeling that support and cheering just adds to the motivation juice!
I just kept climbing, riding and loving every minute of the ride. The new water bottle I just installed was awesome! Again, I should have done that sooner. It was so nice to have my water in front of my face. I tried to remember to eat at the landmarks, but my tummy was feeling full and I didn’t want to eat. I tried to force myself to eat. It was really hard. (I should have listened to Mark and drank more of my calories.)
While trying to get my Stingers out of the bag along Red Hills Parkway, they flew right out of my hands. Oops!! I got 2 in my mouth. There goes more nutrition. Along the Red Hills Parkway, the pros were running, and I saw Meredith and she was amazing. I was racing in a race with these elite athletes. VERY COOL! I got lost in the scenery for a bit. I knew my family would be at the bottom. I couldn’t wait to see them!
Flying down the street I screamed with excitement when I saw them! Next up, the Snow Canyon climb. I had no fear about Snow Canyon. I’d done it 3 times and knew I just had to dig in and do it. During the climb, so many people were complaining about the hill and the heat. I kept positive and told people what to expect. I got to the top and cheered!! HOME FREE! It’s all down hill from here. I got down in aero again, started to laugh because my arm was stinging. I had been on my aero bars so much, I had rubbed the skin off my forearms. My back was starting to ache from being down like that, but it felt better than the typical neck pain. I’ve never been in aero that much EVER in my bike training. I didn’t care. I was having so much fun!!
At the bottom of the hill, I saw and heard my family again!! Having support during a race is so needed. Feeling their love, hearing them cheer for you just fuels your fire in such a way you want to go faster and harder!! There was a little bike path thing at the end, and as we came back up the hill, I heard Gordon. We rode for a few seconds together- he passed me of course. I saw my hubby at the top of the hill again and started to cry a little. I am doing it sweetheart, I thought!! I rode passed him and started to mentally prepare for the run.
It didn’t feel like 3 hours and 29 minutes on that bike at ALL!!
I got into T2 and knew I had to take care of my feet. I sat down, put lube and baby powder on my feet as I changed my socks. I quickly used the rest room and headed out. My legs felt heavy, but I ran. Again, I saw my amazing family as I turned on to the Red Hills Parkway. Shane and the kids were screaming and cheering. I was totally pumped!! My youngest daughter ran up the hill screaming and yelling with excitement. My oldest daughter started to cry with joy. It was just the boost I needed.
I could feel my legs getting heavier up the first big hill and decided to walk to conserve my energy. In training, I knew I could get into a groove at the top. I got to the top and took off running again, feeling okay. Then it started……. upset tummy, heavy legs, blisters already hurting… really?!!. That’s okay, I can push through this I thought, almost done. Run, walk, run, walk, you can get through this I kept telling myself. I was getting discouraged.
Again, I saw my friend, Andy, on the run course and he said, “You can do this Meg.” I started to run again. I felt like I was getting into a groove. Okay, I thought, I got this. I am fine, I just had to find my mojo. Then as I am running along, like a car I felt myself running out of gas. My body was shutting down. My leg were heavy, the heat was getting to me, nothing tasted good not even the water, and my tummy was not good. I stopped in a porta potty and did some nasty business. I thought that would help. It didn’t.
What the heck!! A few months ago, I ran this course with Jodi in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I remembered what Nichole had told me about hitting the wall, etc. I was so pumped about my swim and the bike was so awesome, I took the run for granted. I tried to eat and couldn’t. My mouth was dry. My legs and body were fighting me. So I walked. I walked and ran, walked and ran. It was now all mental. My body was done. I saw people I was well ahead of pass me. I was bummed, but it was reality. I figured if I could walk the up hill and let gravity pull me down, I’d be good. Even running down hill hurt. Blisters were in full-force and it really took everything just to keep moving. My fingers were swelling up and I couldn’t make a fist. I was NOT going to stop. I saw Julie, Jodi and Karen along the route and seeing them re-motivated me. They are out here with me, I am not alone. Your family is at the finish line. FINISH THIS RACE MEG I kept thinking!!
I made a random friend on the way down the hill to Bluff. His company kept my mind off the fact that my body was toast. Then I heard my friend, Jodi, behind me, “Come run with me!!” She looked awesome. I didn’t want to hold her back. “I can’t,” I said. She needed to keep going. I did not want to hold her back and I knew I couldn’t keep her pace. My new random friend and I ran and walked together to the round-a-bout before the finish line. I asked him what time it was. Remember, I didn’t have a watch! He told me the time. I did the math in my head and knew I wanted to cross the finish line under 8 hours and realized I was within my goal and just then I saw the finish line. I told him I was ready to spend everything I had left on a sprint to the finish and I took off.
Crossing that finish line is something I will never forget – EVER!! I did it!!! My goal was to finish and to finish under 8 hours was achieved! It was an amazing feeling. It was nothing like I’ve felt before. All the training, and hard work and I DID IT!!! I started to cry. The emotions of this journey were incredible. I couldn’t wait to hug and kiss my family. It felt like I finished for all of us! Seeing my wonderful husband, I hugged him. I couldn’t have done this without his love and support. The mornings he kicked me out of bed, listened to me cry, my frustrations, my stress, my excitement and endless stories. The money it has cost us to get new gear, travel and train and he’s supported me through all of it. He’s my official sponsor! I love him so much!! My wonderful kids! Their cheering, crying, hugs and watching their faces light up as I went by. I was touched by Rylee’s beautiful comments on Facebook about how proud she was of me. I hope I am setting a good example for my kids. My best friend, Heather, was at the finish line along with my other friends. Seeing the support from them moved me as well. I am so grateful for the love and support I have had along this journey.
My best friend Heather and I
Jodi and I
The CRITICISM OF MYSELF (or Lessons Learned as I should call them)
Even though I achieved my goal, knowing that my run was 45 minutes longer that it should have been is messing with my head: frustrated, humbled, irritated, etc. I KNOW I can do better! No excuses. I take accountability for my issues on that run. Granted that run was hot and hard. My fellow athlete, Gordon, had heat exhaustion. But that’s no excuse for my run. Everyone ran through the heat. After thinking about my race, I think I blew it in a few areas leading up to the run:
- I didn’t eat enough on the bike. I was having so much fun and feeling so great on the bike, I didn’t eat enough and take in enough salt. I lost some of my nutrition on the bike and when I looked at my bento box after the race, I realized I didn’t eat 2 of my items along the bike. That was like 700-800 calories I missed. Not good! I think I need to drink more of my calories next time to ensure I am getting what I need.
- I should have tried to eat more on the run. I had items with me, but my tummy was so upset, I didn’t dare eat. Even the cold water tasted nasty- It felt better on my body. I rotated between water, Gatorade and Coke at each aid station. It wasn’t enough. I did grab a handful of chips thinking that would help but I spit them out with horrible cotton mouth.
- Transitions – Right is better than fast. I did take my time in transitions to ensure I didn’t miss anything. I can shave some time there next time.
- Continue to build to get faster! I’ve tasted it and want more!!! I know I can do better.
- Figure out these blisters. I got to get these Hobbit feet figured out.
Well, that’s a great question. Looking at the rest of the season and deciding the last of the line up for the races- there WILL be another 70.3 in my future!!!
***Thanks to my wonderful husband for editing this blog post for me! He made my excitement readable for the rest of you!! 🙂 ***
The Race & The Pros
I was so impressed with the St. George Ironman volunteers and staff. From registration, the store, set up, stations, aid, transition areas, signage and road support, the whole thing was organized fantastically.
My hubby got up close and personal with the Pro’s. Check out these pictures. AWESOME!!
1. Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:51:10
2. Kevin Collington (USA) 3:53:38
3. Andy Potts (USA) 3:54:21
4. Ivan Vasiliev (RUS) 3:55:08
5. Denis Vasiliev (RUS) 3:55:59
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:17:11
2. Svenja Bazlen (GER) 4:18:46
3. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:20:26
4. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:23:09
5. Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:23:13