Ironman Louisville Part I: Stay Calm and Trust Him

When I awoke at 3:50am, Sunday, August 25, I had no idea what God had in store for the day.  Little did I know my faith, patience, courage, perseverance, and mental state would be tested.  I was already prepared to test my strength and endurance and I felt ready to conquer.  

Two days prior I was just in my hometown taking a 3-mile jog testing out my GPS tracker for my mom and husband to watch.   I was feeling pretty relaxed and ready to face 140.6 miles.  It took a lot of effort to contain my excitement in order to save it for Sunday.  I checked in on Friday afternoon and attended the Ironman welcome dinner where I heard my alumni give a great motivational speech, Coach Scott Davenport, coach of the Div II National Champions in Mens Basketball.  We heard stories, watched videos that got our hearts pumping and escalated our emotions. Ironman-Eve, my family and some friends came in for “Team Tiffany’s” pre-race pasta kick-off dinner.  That night, before I hit the sack early, my PeePaw gathered us in prayer. 

Then, I didn’t see my crew until I was in race mode…

The Swim (2.4 miles)
The swim started at 7am.  I got up in time to space out my breakfasts that consisted of a gluten-free bagel, banana with almond butter, and a ½ of power bar (650 calories) to supply my energy for the first part of the day.  And time to read God’s Word and pray for us all that day.  My mom, best friend, and husband got up with me and left at 5:15am to drive me to the start that morning.  Beforehand I had some loose ends to tie up.  I put my water bottles on my bike and add last minute things to my bags at transition.  I was glad they drove because once I got to the race start…the swim line was a good 1.5-2 miles long!  I left my hearing aids in the hands of my best friend who was on the medical team and would make it “legal” for me to grab them halfway on the run course (athletes are disqualified if they get outside assistance for ANYTHING).  My girlfriends who trained with me all summer, also showed up to keep me calm as I was waiting for the start of the day.
I heard and felt the canon shot at 6:50am for the pros and knew it was time, the line will be moving.  It was cool enough to wear a long sleeve t-shirt while waiting in line so I wanted to keep my muscles warm and from tensing up.  I wasn’t too nervous except like any other athlete prior to race…ya have to pee! Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to take the time to extend my start time and wait in the port-a-pot line nor was I risking to get disqualified and squat in the bushes.  Knowing I was soon going to be in the water…I did what I said I’d NEVER do (I shouldn’t have to explain).  To help minimize the nerves, I kept telling myself, treat it like a training day and be consistent.  My main philosophy was to not push it too hard too fast but I knew I was a strong swimmer and really wanted to do well on the swim.  Plus, I’ve heard too many stories of athletes “bonking” out from pushing too much too soon, especially on the bike.  

By 7:28am, it was my turn to leap off the dock and started stroking upstream in the 81 degrees water.  Even though I hate swimming in congestion, I fought through that swim with NO fear.  I got kicked in the chest twice, elbowed, and swam over, but I kept swimming and tried to keep my rhythm and focus.  My heart rate didn’t feel too crazy.  My rhythm was smooth sailing until I approached the first turn to head downstream.  A girl was being pulled out of the water and the first turn was getting really congested.  Once I got started again a foot cramp was coming on.  “No, no, no, no, no…God, please this can’t happen.” I stopped looked around for the closest kayak, but unfortunately there wasn’t one close by for me to hang onto while I stretch my foot.  So I attempted to stretch it while treading and going under.  All I could do was keep swimming and stretch my leg in a certain position as I was kicking.  I did a lot of pulling with my arms in the swim. Gradually, the beast went away and I was back into rhythm and the pool of swimmers were more spaced out.   As I was getting closer to the end of 2.4 miles…the beast returned, my foot was cramping again!  I begged God to keep me calm for this is just the beginning of 140.6.  I’m very thankful it wasn’t my toes because that would have stopped me from swimming for a long time and I would have had to wave my hand for a kayak to get me.  I’ve never gotten a cramp around the arch of my foot.  It usually attacks my toes and extends into the anterior muscle of my tibia (shins).   Regardless, the landscape God created that morning was beautiful, the sunrise was glorious, and once I saw the crowd on the riverfront…I was beaming as I exited the water.  I knew it was going to be a good day…so I thought.

The Bike (112 miles)
I didn’t spend too much time in my first transition.  All I needed to do was change my top, eat, and lather up on sunscreen.  So I expected a good 10 minutes in transition.  The Louisville bike course is BEAUTIFUL!  Despite parts of it traveling through the town that despises the Ironman event (last year someone threw tacks on this part of the course), it was quite relaxing.  The horses were hanging out by the fences watching us cruise by.  The landscape expanded across horse farms on rolling hills.  The crowd support was AMAZING!  We’d bike through downtown LaGrange/Oldham County twice and crowds were lined up on both sides!  What really got me through the loops was seeing my family hanging out under their tent with pom poms, cowbells, and signs!  I knew I would see them in 30 miles again once I passed them the first time.  My cousin, her husband, and Uncle/Aunt were on another section with signs.  In addition, our family-friends surprised me on the first turn around (the worse part of the course --- holy hills!).   My cousin set up signs along the course with my name…pretty cool!  I was overwhelmed…with love and support. 

The weather was good…not humid but 90-something degrees HOT.   The sun was beating down on the homestretch back to the transition.   There was not a lot of shade on this stretch.  I could see my hands getting red and realized I missed that spot on reapplying sunscreen.  I felt pretty good as long as I stayed hydrated and took in nutrition and poured cold water all over at each water station.  I knew to stop eating or drinking nutrition the last hour or so on the bike.  

As I was feeling good with my performance with 20 miles left to go, my rear wheel was feeling funny going up a hill, then I hear a loud POP (it was loud enough to hear without my hearing aids)!  I looked down and exclaimed in panic, “Oh my gosh, seriously?!!”  My rear tire blew out.  This was my FIRST flat tire on my new bike, what are the chances of it happening on the BIG day?!  Luckily I was directly in front of a lady’s driveway and as I was removing the tire off my frame I noticed she was trying to come out of her driveway so I threw my tire in the grass and she asks, “are you okay.”  Then the meltdown exploded.  I was so emotionally distraught I couldn’t fix my tire.  She jumped out to provide some aid.  A couple of my friends (newlyweds racing together) from the club were riding by and let’s just say they were my angels.  No telling how long I would have had to wait if I wait for the tech support.   Plus, cell phones are not allowed on the course.  With little air in my rear tire I made it to the next stop at the last 10 miles to pump more air.  The last part of my ride was spent in tears praying, talking to God.  I know He was testing me…my faith because I was certainly scared I would have another blow out on the last bumpy portion.  I was scared I would lose time and not make the cutoff.   Then I thought, I’m so glad I didn’t stop to use the port-a-pot every time I had to go!  Regardless, I had to overcome my fear of possibly not making the cutoff…

Transition/Bike calorie intake: ~1,500 (bananas, PowerBar, Hammer bar, Honey Stinger Chews, Infinit liquid nutrition).

Bible verse of the day: "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life - whom shall I be afraid?" – Psalm 27:1


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