Finishing the journey, remembering why


It’s done. I am finally an Ironman.

The day totally lived up to all of my expectations. It was definitely right up there with one of the best days of my life.

I can’t tell you how great it is to work so hard for something — and to complete it. I’ve never worked that long and hard to achieve a goal. It was so fulfilling.

I really thought that I was going to be more nervous than I was leading up to the race.

I was able to meet with Pastor Currao from my church, and we had a short devotional with Chris and my parents. It set the tone for the race. Gratitude, strength from Christ, keeping my mind at peace knowing that he is the bigger picture and in control.

This mental attitude helped me to more enjoy the experience, rather than worry about things that are out of my control.

I was able to get checked into the race Friday with no hiccups. Saturday, I had a nice breakfast with my brother Todd and did the practice swim.

I was nervous at first, but we did a short 10-minute swim; and it was great! It made me feel really confident for Sunday.

On Saturday, we racked our bikes and turned in our transition bags.

Chris and my kids arrived, and we had dinner with my brother and his family, my parents, and some other family friends. It was one big happy party. It was nice to see all of them, and it definitely took my mind off of the race and any nervousness.

I went to bed around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday night and actually slept really well. I woke up before my alarm at 2:45 a.m. and lay in bed for a while. I prayed and envisioned myself going through each discipline of the race successfully.

Finally about 3:15 a.m., I got up and started my day. I ate breakfast, and Chris got up and helped me get my stuff together. I walked to transition with my brother around 5 a.m.

We quickly aired up our tires and filled our water bottles and then headed to get in line for the swim.

Chris and the kids showed up, and then all of my friends from the Seymour Multisport Club came too. It was such a humbling experience, knowing that all of these people were there supporting me.

Finally, the line started moving and the race had begun. As I made my way up toward the docks, I was overcome with emotion. I can’t really put my finger on exactly what it was — gratitude for all the people that have helped me.

Before the tears actually fell, I turned to my brother and friends, and we grabbed hands and I prayed. Again, I was overcome by peace.

We turned around and walked to get ready to jump.

There were so many people around and cheering! It was awesome.

Finally, it was my turn. I took a breath, plugged my nose (I have no idea why) and jumped. Once I was in, I adjusted my goggles and started the swim.

It was 69 degrees and felt great. I started swimming along, just remembering to swim my pace. Before I knew it, I had reached the turn and was swimming into the Ohio River.

I had plenty of room and cruised right along. Before I knew it, I was being pulled up the stairs at the end of the swim.

Piece of cake. I felt great.

I ran through transition and into the women’s changing tent. It was pure craziness in there. Once I had finished changing, I ran out of transition and was off on my bike.

I kept reminding myself to just race my race, not worry about anyone else. I needed to keep my bike at a steady pace so I wouldn’t torch my legs for the run later on.

I cruised right up and down all of the hills with no problem. I guess all of the riding hills in training really paid off.

I pulled into special needs a little over halfway through the bike, and coach Greg (Reasoner) was there to hand me my bag. It was awesome — other Seymour Multisport members were there to help, and I was so excited to see them.

Chris and my kids also showed up three different times while I was on the bike. I can’t tell you how my heart melted when I heard my kids screaming for me.

They were so excited. I really kept my mind in a good spot, and they helped me to remember what was most important in my life.

Overall, I was able to nail my nutrition on the bike, which set me up really well for the run.

I finished the bike with no complications and headed into the transition area to change.

To be honest, it was pretty daunting running out of transition and thinking that I was going to be running for four to six more hours. But I just took it a few miles at a time.

I thought, “OK, six miles is my easy run for the week. I can definitely do that.” So, I told myself that I’d run all the way to the first turnaround and walk if I needed to.

About mile four, my stomach started cramping. I continued to try to take in 2 gels an hour even though they tasted totally disgusting at that point.

I did walk through most aid stations to drink water or take a bite of a pretzel.

My stomach was in a bad spot, but I know my body well enough that I knew I could just keep running and power through. Once I hit the turnaround, I had found my groove and decided to keep running to Mile 13, where the special needs area is.

Once I ran through special needs, I saw my family and friends again and the Seymour Multisport crew. I saw coach Greg, and he told me to keep it up and keep my pace steady.

He said, “The finish line is totally worth it!”

Mentally, miles 14 through 18 were toughest for me. I’m not sure that it was a conscious decision to run the rest of the race until about Mile 20.

My stomach was still cramping a ton, and every aid station I took a few swigs of Red Bull and drank warm chicken broth. The chicken broth was amazing and tasted so great after a day of eating a ton of sweet foods.

Once I hit Mile 25, I started to realize that my dream was happening. There was a DJ booth that was playing the Nae Nae song, and I started to dance in the street like a crazy person!

I got tears in my eyes. I started replaying all of the training that I’d done, the things that I’d missed or given up to train, and how much I was blessed by all of the people in my life that were supporting me through this Ironman.

It was all totally worth it. I could see the lights of 4th Street Live and started to hear the music.

I started picking up the pace. The finish was in sight.

I tried to take it all in as I was running down the finishers chute.

There were people cheering and I gave some high-fives.

I raised my hands in the air and cheered for myself. I did it!

To have worked so hard mentally and physically and then achieve your goal is just incredible.

My friends and family surrounded me and hugged me. As I was talking with them and taking pictures, I realized that I definitely was going to need to do that again.

I want to finish another Ironman.

Not next year. Maybe 2017. We’ll see.

I know that I can do better and push myself even harder. I’m so proud of my performance and time at Louisville, but I’m looking forward to another journey armed with all of the knowledge and experience of my first Ironman to tackle another.

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