Thursday, May 23, 2013

I AM an IRONMAN! :-)

As I bask in the glow of this that they call Ironman, I finally understand a lot of the lessons I learned along they way.  When I crossed the finish line and heard those words I had been waiting to here for almost 6 months now, I didn't feel like I had reached the finish; I felt like I was passing through the golden gates and entering into a very prestigious club and it was just a mere milestone along my Ironman journey.

Race weekend started on Thursday when Kris, Robert, & I headed to the Woodlands for packet pick up and the athlete's dinner.  In similar fashion with any other ride, run, or event during the season, we were matchy matchy all the way.  Linda & Jenny met us at the hotel & together the four of us went together to make it official... #314 in da houzzz!!!  Walking around the expo we were called out for our matching outfits and asked to be interviewed for YouTube Ironman AG  That night we attended the athletes dinner and met up with a HUGE San Antonio crowd!  This just got even better!!!

Friday we went to Lake Woodlands for a practice swim.  The temperature was perfect and at that point it think it was still wetsuit legal.  It was until race morning that it was officially announced that the swim was wetsuit optional with a 10min penalty.  I practiced a little sighting and also drafting off of Jenny's feet.  Being that visibility was close to zero, I instinctively turned to tactile drafting, I was feeling with my hands the bubbles from her feet.  Cool.  After our swim, we went back to the hotel and gathered our belongings for bike & gear check-in.  After check-in we headed to Lululemon for a little retail therapy to calm our nerves, and also because we had heard that all of the athletes names participating in IMTX were on the window.

Race morning came early, alarm went off at 3:45am, but I had already been up multiples times looking at the clock.  It's game day!!!  Robert dropped Kris & I in front of transition and we went in to drop off our nutrition, air up our tires, and make sure everything was in its proper place.  Then we started the mile walk to the swim start.  Here we met up with Orissa & Brian, Shelly & Patrick, Herb, Heather; Hooray, all of the Iron-Whiners were here!  Next thing I knew we were being herded into the water to start treading water.  Kris & I let Linda go on ahead, she was vying for a front row spot!  Kris & I finally got in and tried to find an open area.  We gave each other one last hug and said have a wonderful race day!  BOOM!  GO TIME!

SWIM- 2.4 miles
I tried to stay in the open area that Kris & I had wiggled into before the start.  I tried to settled into my stroke as fast as I could.  I tried sighting the buoys a few times and realized that was going to be impossible.  From then on I sighted on the flow of traffic.  I'm pretty sure I was swimming all over the course because of this, but I'll never know because my Garmin got kicked into T2 20min into the swim.  Luckily, I had a great swim in the sense that I did not get beat up, have my googles knocked off, or get swam over.  I took the turn into the canal, the final 900m stretch, and it occurred to me that I was almost done with the first leg of my first Ironman, it was actually unfolding before me.  As I approached the finish I had no idea where it was, left or right?; 100m or 200m?  Finally, I was about 15m from the swim exit and I saw that arch on my left.  I exited the swim with a HUGE smile, DONE!

T1- 6:18
I quickly grabbed my bike gear bag and ran for the changing tent.  I was ready for some intense pampering from all that I had heard, they will put your shoes on, have them help you with your cool wings, I even heard horror of volunteers offering to put on chamois cream.  "I need help!", I yelled as I ran into transition, just as I had been instructed to by Coachie!  Great, a volunteer came over to me and stood in front of my chair and... dumped out my bag in front of me!  I started to grab my things and put them on myself and finally asked, "could you help me with my cool wings?" I stood up and she held them out as if slipping on a silk robe!  Are you serious?  I forced my still wet arm into the sleeves and left them all wrinkled.  "My shoes! I need my shoes!" Hoping she would put them on me, all she did was move them closer to me.  OK, thanks for your help... I got it from here!  I ran to my bike still fixing my cool wings and shaking my head... not the royal treatment I had imagined.

BIKE- 112 miles
I ran to the bike mount line and hopped on my bike.  As I started pedaling, I saw Allen with Ailani on his shoulders & Aleina at his side.  I gave Allen a quick high five and yelled a quick "I LOVE you guys!"  It was time to settle in and get comfortable.  I had already been warned by Coachie that I needed to go out "crazy, stupid, slow."  The first 20miles flew by, I remember looking at my Garmin and thinking it's already been an hour!  I stopped at mile 30 to get some water and mix my Infinit bottles.  I headed back out very impressed with the ride so far.  There had been a nice tailwind, the roads were smooth like butter, and the heat was fairly tolerable... at that point!  The next time I checked my Garmin was at 56miles, 2:58!  I was a little nervous that I had gone out too fast, but I felt fine and just thanked the tailwind.  The second half was a combination of crosswind & head wind, but I had ridden Castroville plenty of times and every time there was some sort of wind, I got this!  I remember approaching a righthand turn and seeing a little boy on the corner holding a flag, it was standing sharp at attention!  Headwind... here we go!  I buckled down and broke it down into 10mile sections.  I stopped at mile 90 for a quick pee break & hopped back on to finish the ride.  The last 2miles dragged on, as they always do when you are praying for T2.  I hit the dismount line and jumped off my bike with a HUGE smile, DONE!

As I headed for my run gear bag, a volunteer called out for my helmet & shoes.  I clipped off my helmet and handed it to them, but kept my shoes on.  I was too tired to take them off standing, I would later find out that was a wise choice.  My friend Jeff & about 300 others who did take their shoes off ended up with 2nd degree burns to the bottoms of their feet from the heated pavement!  I ran into the changing tent expecting to do everything myself again.  Luckily, my volunteer was a lot more helpful this time.  I quickly geared up for the marathon that faced me.  I looked up for a split second and saw Linda exiting the tent.  I yelled, "Linda!" and my volunteer asked, "Do you want me to go get her?", "YES!"  I ran out of T2 and couldn't believe it, I was about to start the run with my training partner for the past 6mo!  This is AWESOME!

RUN- 26.2 miles
We started the run & quickly exchanged stories of how our day had been going.  Neither of us had seen Kris at that point in the race yet and just wanted to know if she was onto the run... that meant she was off the bike!  We ran the first mile or so together and then Linda went on ahead.  I was trying to take it all in as I ran/ walked the first lap.  It was actually happening, I was becoming an Ironman!  I completed the first lap at a decent pace being that I still had my cycling legs, but by then second lap, I was a runner.  I started to feel really good and was in a good  rhythm.  I caught up to Linda and ran/ walked for a bit.  She looked like she was hurting at this point, a look I would soon see in myself!  But since I was feeling good I ran on ahead.  Again, I thought, I am on my second lap, one more lap until I am an Ironman.  I got this!  Lap three... THIS is what becoming an Ironman is all about!!!  Nausea, dizziness, lack of sweat... Uh, Oh... I know exactly what is happening here and it's too late to fix it!  Heat exhaustion was setting in!  The last few people I remember seeing before "the bridge" were Marco & a little further down was Patrick, Linda's husband.  I knew my race was taking a turn, when I heard them cheering and I could barely usher a smile.  I tried running because it had felt so great a little while ago... not anymore!  I made it to the bridge just in time to stand on the edge and lean over!  Vomiting!  I was hoping to get it all out, feel better, and keep running!  I had seen a sign earlier that had made me laugh, which had just become me: PUKE & RALLY!  I tried to rally, but it only made me more dizzy & nauseous.  I looked at my watch and I knew that if I walked I would still make it home by midnight.  That's when the switch got flipped into survival mode and I just needed to keep moving forward.  A couple of people tried to pick me up and get me to run with them when they heard it was my last lap, but I gracefully declined.  Mostly because I didn't want to puke all over my new found friend who was only trying to help.  With about 5 miles to go, I saw Roland!  I knew he HAD to have been struggling because he had started the race having had food poisoning a few days before.  Yikes!  We walked together and tried to keep each others minds occupied by talking as we kept making forward progress.  We also picked up Jeff along the way and walked a bit with him.  Jeff had the misfortune of burning his feet on the hot asphalt when he transitioned from bike to run.  I remember at one point I told Roland my husband's info was on my Road ID band in case anything happened, like passing out, I've been known to do that.  He reassured me I would be fine and he would see me cross the finish.  We had just finished the last 0.5mile out & back when we saw Kris!  The first time ALL day that I had seen Kris!  I told her I was hurting, she said she was too, but she looked great and strong!  Roland & I kept walking and as I approached the finishers shoot I saw a bench!  I need to sit on that bench!  Roland disapproved immediately, but I PROMISED him I would get up!  I took what seemed 30sec. to breathe and stretch a bit.  Then I got up, "Let's DO THIS!"  As we started to run into the finishers shoot, Kris came running up behind us... "Let's FINISH THIS!"  "YES!", I screamed, "Let's FINISH THIS!"  6 months of training and working together towards the same goal, our first Ironman finish!!!  And we were going to get to finish TOGETHER!!!  We gave high fives and hugs in the finishers shoot to family & friends.  Kris had to slow me down and tell me to take it all in!  Then what we heard next was never what we had imagined in a million years... Aixa Alvarez AND Kristina Cordova... YOU'RE IRONMEN!!!

T3- medical tent
I had already decided when I started vomiting that I would be going straight to the medical tent for an IV after I finished.  But what happened next was a whirlwind!  Kris & I crossed the finish line, gave a HUGE hug, smiled for a picture, and then... more vomiting!  I tried to make it to a corner and not puke on anyone, Kris thanked me later!  Next thing I knew I was sitting in a wheelchair and being escorted by Heather & Omar to the medical tent.  Along the way I saw Coachie!  I gave her a quick thumbs up & told her I'll be right back.  Then I saw Allen & the girls!  I tried to smile my best, so that he would know I was ok!  He gave me a look that said I am so proud of you, then a quick sneer that said why are you hurting the woman I love!  As I entered the medical tent, I immediately thought, Wow, this IS all it was talked up to be!  The first room was filled with people in chairs icing knees, taping blisters, etc.  The second room was twice the size and filled with stretchers and IV poles and it was FULL!  They quickly drew labs and asked a few questions, including if I had urinated on the run... yikes, NO!  My creatinine was 2.1, yikes! Acute renal failure!  The rest of my labs were surprisingly good, my sodium was 140, normal.  That told me I did good with the salt tabs, but not enough water!  Lesson learned.  I sat back and chatted with the girl next to me about her race while my IV finished.  I exited the medical tent and there was my family waiting for me with open arms!  NOW my IRONMAN was complete!  WE did it!!!

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