This note has taken a while to write, as there is so much related to the event that I have had to distill, process, and let soak in.¬†Having had some time to think process, I realized that the Ironman experience simplifies down to one thing:
I am grateful to my friends and family who supported me all along the way. From emails, calls, texts and live-update trackers, to those who were able to share cheers and celebration along the race course, I felt lucky to know that I was not alone out there on race day.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to commit the time and energy to a year of training and to have a body and a mind that are healthy and capable of enduring an endeavor as trying as an Ironman.
I am grateful for the volunteers and organizers at the event. It was incredibly well-run, efficient, professional, safe, and positive.
I am grateful for all of those who were able to support the MMRF and contribute not only to my fundraiser, but to know that as fundraising team we raised over $900,000!
Finally, I am grateful for the race day itself, as it was truly special:
My day started at 4:15, with a breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and a cup of coffee. As we drove to town, I fought back the butterflies that swirled in my stomach. Then, after finishing last minute bike preparations, we made our way to the water’s edge, and, just after 6, with fog rolling over Placid’s pine covered hills, an American flag gently fluttering, 2500 wetsuit-wearing athletes, along with several thousand spectators and supporters, listened to a goosebump-inducing-version of the National Anthem. A deep focus took hold of me as my goal was singular and with the blast of a cannon, the event started.
The swim felt like a strange dream.¬†With bodies churning, sputtering, and clawing forward,¬†I worked to hold close to the line of the¬†underwater cable that runs the length of the course. Save a few kicks to the face and grasping paws at my fluttering feet, I felt like I had enough room and, at times, was able to find a rhythm and regular breathing pattern.
Before I knew it, I was exiting the water and was greeted by a crew of volunteers known as “strippers”, who are there to help peel racers’ wetsuits from their bodies before they trot down the hill to the transition tent. With hearts racing from the swim, we hopped on our bikes and screamed downhill and out of downtown Placid. The bike course looped up and down mountains, through fields, along rivers and lakes, and passed through numerous Adirondack towns. It was beautiful. It was long. It was a chance to work, reflect, and focus. Every 10 miles or so there were aid stations, which were staffed by eager volunteers who handed out water, Gatorade, bananas, and food. Along with that, I drank four bottles of liquid calories (a quick dissolving carbohydrate formula that helped deliver over 500 calories per bottle), several liters of coconut water, a couple Clifbars, and hourly electrolyte tablets.
The belly of the whale for me was the last 25 miles of the bike. With a stomach in knots from being hunched on a bike for over 6 hours, I lost momentum and had to work extra hard to get up and through the final elevation gains and to return to town. Fortunately, once there, all I had left was the run, which was a welcomed change of pace and posture.
The run course was lined with countless supporters and had an incredibly festive atmosphere. Local businesses blasted music, some spectators chose to dress in ridiculous costumes, while others sprayed runners with squirt guns (a welcomed shower in the 80 degree heat). Every time I ran by the Middlebury cheering squad, I my day was brightened and I surged with energy.
Finally, with the sun setting over Mirror Lake, I looped back into town, into the Oval and down a pathway that was completely lined with cheering supporters. For the final time, I saw the pack of friends and family who spent the day encouraging us in Placid and, after 13 hours and 39 minutes, I crossed the finish line, my name was announced, and I had completed the Ironman.
The training had paid off and, thanks to a solid nutrition plan, I finished the race without a single cramp, blister, or muscle strain. It was an absolutely incredible experience, something I’ll remember forever, and, hopefully, have the chance to do again.