A week has passed from Ironman Arizona and while I would like to say I've been very busy thus delaying my race report, the truth is I just haven't seemed to find the motivation to write about my experience. First off, I'm not disappointed in my race. I am so green to this distance and I learned so much, and I truly believe information is power. With that said, I am not remotely satisfied or content with my performance. I can do better and I will do better. I've been around this sport long enough to realize it takes time and patience and most of all consistency. Unfortunately I lacked all 3 of these disciplines this year. At the end of 2012 I developed severe knee pain, which ended up being a wicked case of IT Band syndrome. I began running very lightly at Team RWB camp in April, and rolled into Rev3 Knoxville concerned if I could complete a 10k. Once I was finally up and running healthy, it's been a race against the clock to get the training in necessary to be competitive at these races. By looking at my results this year, I fell a bit short sided in this regard. I guess this is why I'm not terribly disappointed with my result in Arizona, or Austin or Branson or Williamsburg for that matter. As my Dad says, "You pulled this season out of your ear." And I know better than anyone to be grateful just to be out there--even if it's a little longer than I'm used to or I would like :)
With that said I rolled into Arizona completely healthy and ready to race. In my mind I wanted to go faster than my Cedar Point time and hit the low 9s. I was quite naive in this regard. Let me explain...Cedar Point, dare I say, felt easy. I swam and rode by myself and proceeded to get off the bike and run my first marathon in a 3:08, and I felt amazing the whole day doing it. Wow, little did I know this is definitely not the norm! Also, it completely reinforces how important consistency is! While I didn't have any workouts that were just killer before Cedar Point, I had so much hay in the barn that even I didn't realize it...until that hay was gone and I spent the last 5 months trying to jam this hay back in!
Race morning went off without a hitch. I wasn't overly nervous, but more dreading the unknown. I hugged my pit crew goodbye and made my way to the start shoot, all before the sun was up. We jumped in the water and I ended up next to Amanda Stevens. I knew I'd have clean water next to me because she would drop me within 10 meters! And I thought since she is an Okie it would be good luck. The canon went off and we took off, I actually had an amazing start and could see three girls to my left swimming my speed. I merged with them and swam on their feet, and realized that the pace was actually a bit hard. I lost them for a bit but kept focused on my pace and a few minute later one came back to me. The problem was that we both had been popped off and completely spent. At the turn around I realized we were pulling a long train of girls. At this point I let off the gas and forced some others to come to the front. Of course this picked up the pace and a few more gals pushed to the front. In the end this can only help everyone--if we share the load. Sadly, I don't think the other 8+ girls share the same sentiments as me! Oh well, such is life.
I had a great transition and came out around 7th. Then something strange happen. You see, I consider myself a bike/run specialist. Usually once out of the water I don't "drop" down. Hmmm, not true here. While my Garmin somehow stopped working, I felt in control the first loop and tried to just go on perceived exertion. I passed a few girls and a few passed me. Then on the second loop on the "climb" to the turn around, I began to get passed by what felt like handfuls of pro women (including several I passed the first loop), and unfortunately stuck to the wheels of the faster age group men. I was so frustrated! I would back off and stay out of the zone, but then forced to pass them all back in a huge burst of power. Looking back, this was my pitfall. These spikes in my effort just weren't smart. They zapped my energy and zapped my legs. I finally just lost them all, probably because I wasn't glued to their wheel, and I just saw the distance grow each turn around.
I was absolutely thrilled to get off my bike. I knew I biked low 5hours. I also knew I was way down in place despite a solid ride. I started running and could see the damage from the bike was not good. I was looking at some insurmountable deficits. To top it off, while at Cedar Point I had to really hold back at 7min miles the first half of the marathon, in Arizona I struggled from mile 1 just to hold 8 minutes. I really thought there was absolutely no way I would finish. The last time I felt this terrible running was my very first half ironman when the twins were 18 months and my longest run was 75 min pushing a baby jogger!
So, this is where I was. Not competitive, dishearten, and feeling like my legs were glued to the sideway. I felt like I was disappointing my coach, my family, my friends...my kids. Then I thought what would be more disappointing...finishing in a mediocre place or not finishing at all because essentially my ego is bruised. At that point I had a little talk with myself and it went something like this, “Get over yourself. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and join with the other thousand participants in what is the spirit of Ironman.” It's not always about winning or a best time or finishing in the money. Sometimes it's the satisfaction of completing something you thought was impossible. That's how my marathon went. Get to the finish line and exalt in that. Each mile hurt. I got to the finish and some poor guy was leaning over sideways and falling over himself. The crowd was going crazy because for a few moments it looked like he would be in jeopardy of finishing. And I had the best seat in the house witnessing this feat of will. I passed him with about 10 meters to go, pausing for a second to see if he needed help. He was back on his feet, smiling realizing he was going to make it. I patted him on the back and went on through, and my immediate thoughts were not "Oh my goodness I did it!!" but rather "Oh no!! I hoped when I patted him I didn't knock him down!!" I looked back and he made it, and finally I allowed the emotions to settle that I had made-in what was the hardest physical event I ever endeavored in my 35 years.
This has been a long and difficult year. While I think I have a pretty good amount of humility and humbleness, apparently I need some more! That’s fine with me because I truly believe in the end it makes you a better athlete and most of all a better person. I know my readers and friends probably get tired of me quoting this, but it is so fitting for this year.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
And lastly it’s all about perspective…
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
I have a long list of sponsors, family, and friends to thank. In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have to warn you, this will be long… I want to especially thank my parents and my coach, Kevin Purcell. They continue to mentor me through good and bad times, giving me far more than just sports. I am beyond lucky to have the support of the Tulsa community. This year would not be possible without Paula Marshall and Bama Companies. She is an amazing woman and has kept my dream of racing professionally alive. Also PowerPlay, also here in Tulsa, for support on and off the course. Kathy Hoover at Runner’s World Tulsa, I can’t thank you enough for getting and keeping me in the right shoes. Jim Richardson, my massage guru, for keeping my legs happy. Ryan Gabriel, my mechanic and friend, has spent countless hours on my bike, which is pretty disgusting most of the time! Robert Peace, Chuck Zoellner and Bill Clark spent their precious time giving me their medical wisdom to get me up and running again. Michelle Johnson, the trainer that kicks my butt weekly and has me cursing her in pain. First Endurance, Rudy Project, Race Quest Travel and Louis Garneau have the best products out there, thank you! Charlie and Rev3 for helping me get to Rev3 races this year. You guys are like family! Team RWB—I was proud to race in their kit. I can’t believe how this organization has grown! You’ve given me something bigger than myself to race for! Thank you! My training partners are more than that, I’m lucky to call them friends, especially Suzie and Kim. George V. at Jenks Aquatics continues to crack the whip on my swim. Denise, thank you for taking the trip to Arizona and helping with sherpa duties. My friends who have absolutely nothing to do with triathlon-thank you for giving me balance and continuing to help me out with the kids when I’m off to race! And despite no longer being married, I could not do this without Lucas. We both have difficult schedules and it wouldn’t be possible to train without his help and support. My family for always making me feel loved and supported. To the kiddos, Rowan, Gwyn and Jaxon, for always keeping me grounded and keeping it real. Lastly…to Ray for giving me a new outlook on life, dealing with me when I’m a complete pain stressing about training and racing and being my confidant about ALL things—you are amazing!