Things were different this time around. With Vineman I traveled to CA alone and raced alone. I had no one to calm my fears or to celebrate with until a few days later. At IMLP I traveled with a gaggle of friends. They were my secret weapon. In various ways the helped to calm my nerves and motivate me at exactly the right time. As you will soon find out I needed it.
Amy, Cort, Carole and I traveled up the Thur before the race. The drive was gorgeous and windy thru the back roads of VT and NY. Immediately upon entering Upper Jay I was awe struck by the beauty. Already I was excited to race here. The Navajo Lodge where we stayed was incredible. It was huge with all sorts of unique corners and knick knacks. And the kitchen was huge. Carole and I started the weekend off right with a short 45 min ride while Amy did her organizational thing. That night we drove into Lake Placid so that Carole could swim and I could run. I got butterflies driving through Athlete Village and a little teary eyed running through it. Never have I said hi to so many people on a 20 min run!!!
The next day Becky and Mona arrived. Friday was a rest day but filled with pre-race obligations. The anxiety set in when I registered. Thanx to Amy and the girls I felt better by the time I went to bed that night. I was scared of the swim start. Scared that I would get knocked in the head. Scared I would have a panic attack. Scared of the Keene descent. Scared I would bonk. Scared I would let down the 12 people who came to cheer me on. Travel 4-6 hours just for me. By the end of the night I was feeling better about the swim and confident in my training. No matter what happened I would enjoy the day. I put in the hours and was so fortunate to able to be there. Enjoy every minute.
Saturday was filled with the final pre-race obligations: gear and bike drop off, quick ride with my girls, and a swim in Mirror Lake. Hair cut, Henna application, nutrition prep for the race day all with the help of Amy. Everyone arrived and cooked an amazing dinner of grilled chicken, seitan, veggies, pasta, and salad. We had a big family dinner followed by a nice fire. It was the perfect way to end the night before Ironman. I slept reasonably well until 3:30 am.
And so the day began. Parking was easy and we took the shuttle for ~ 1 mile. Man did I feel like a goober doing that! I ran into my friend Vic at body marking. Always great to see a familiar face that morning. There were SOO SOOO many athletes and spectators. I added a few things to my bags, checked on Speedy and headed down to the water with Amy; eating my samich and coffee as we went. I was super nervous but also filled with confidence. Having Amy there helped calm my nerves tremendously. Around 6:10 I jumped in the water to acclimate and warm up; then found my place at the back of the 1:10-1:20 group over the far left. My plan was to stay left most of the way and perhaps work my way to the center. The Pros cannon went off then ours 10 minutes later. We all filed into the water. It was a smooth start. I was a bit anxious but was able to find my rhythm fairly quickly and did not get swam over. I felt pretty good in the water on the first loop. I proudly swam until my hand hit the bottom, hopped up and ran into the second loop and dove perfectly back into Mirror Lake. I took two perfect strokes and then BAM I get knocked in the head by some dude not paying attention. There was no excuse really. It was just he and I in that little section of water. I stopped and yelled and him as it rattled me a bit. But regained my composure. The second lap went well but I was getting cold by the end. Over all pleased, though slower than last 140.6. I blame the dude who clobbered me. I jumped out of the water got my little wetsuit stripped and headed into T1.
Let's talk about transitions in Ironman. As you enter transition there are a zillion volunteers telling you where to go. You grab your transition bag and head into the tent. One volunteer helps you change into appropriate gear and organize. I did not expect this and tried really hard not the laugh as my lady tried to help me with my socks and stuff my nutrition in my shirt. It was a pretty speedy transition considering the long distance between the water and transition. By the time we exited the water it had rained and was cool. Thank goodness for the rainbow arm warmers! I heard and saw all of my peeps as I exited out on the bike! Another boost!!
I took it easy on the first part of the bike. Partially to warm up and partially to pace myself. The course was crowded by not chaotic. I came to my first serious descent and then the infamous Keene descents. The road was a bit wet so I rode with caution. Within a mile I relaxed a bit and found my confidence, looked around at this AMAZING scenery, and killed it. I am still not sure how fast I was going 'cause I am having trouble uploading my data. Buuuut I am pretty sure I was close to 40 if not faster. I felt in complete control but was going fast! I was grinning from ear to ear at the bottom. The next 20 or so miles were false flats or flats. Up until the long hills I was averaging 19 mph. I have not done that all season. I was feeling fast and fantastic. At some point I dropped a Perform and ran out of water. This may have been the cause of future issues. Again, I paced myself on the hills until I hit the last one. Before rounding the corner you could hear the crowd. The hill was lined with spectators and riders. I downshifted and sped up the hill. I was in complete control and let the crowd and energy carry me up the hill and around the corner to the final climb before going into loop 2. I felt a little tight in the next ten miles but good by the time I hit the descends. Again, I rocked them. I got a boost when I saw my Amy in her aid station! I wanted to stop and kiss her, but there were hills to climb and a marathon to run! I slowed down a bit on this round of climbs, but rode solidly. Then, then I came to the final climb. Again, the crowd pushed me up the hill. I shifted and...and ...and I dropped by chain. I managed to unclip my right foot but keeled over to the left. I got a little bruised but was other wise ok. I got out of the way and got some encouragement from a spectating couple. The dude really wanted to help me, but didn't want me to be DQ'd. I took some deep breaths and got it back on the chainring! phew. I would have walked the final miles if I had to!!! He DID give me a little push up the hill. I think I lost about 5 minutes. I saw Carole and heard everyone else coming in on the bike. The crowd was amazing thru Athlete Village!
I hit the ground running and feeling fantastic! My legs felt weirdly good. I saw Mark coming down the hill heading out of town. He gave me a giant hug and exclaimed how cool it was to see me. I felt great running through town, then I took my first Clif Shot and immediately felt nauseous. I slowed a bit and switched over to water only, walking thru rest stops. Then it was time for Clif Shot #2. I could only get 1/2 down. CRAP. At this point I switched to water and pretzels, still walking only thru aid stations. Around mile 8 I started feeling really shitty. I was running out of energy and had 18 to miles to go. I thought of all my friends and family who were in Lake Placid just for me. I thought of Amy. Of Tootsie. Of every friend at home and around the US. Of every Marathon victim. Of all my patients who could not run. I pushed on. I walked. I jogged. I ran. I was strong up and over the hills back into Athlete Village. I saw Amy, Mona, and Carole right away. Everyone else was across the way. Immediately my spirits rose. I actually stopped and hugged them and pushed on. At this point I was feeling nauseous and low on energy. I could keep pretzles, Coke, and water down. Heading out of town I was feeling ok again...as good as I could at this point. I wanted to throw up badly. But I would finish. I knew this. Even if I walked I would finish. It was starting to get dark. I did the good ole Ironman shuffle and somehow I made it back into town. I have never been happier to make that right hand turn over the bridge and up into Lake Placid Village. It started to rain and I am pretty sure I was crying at this point. The finishers circle was loud! I turned down to run by Mirror Lake one more time. Shady, Laurie, and Amy stayed behind to cheer me on. Thank GOD cause I needed every little bit of umph. There was music everywhere. People were crazy cheering, especially when they recognized that they'd seen me before and that I was finishing. I saw the couple that cheered me on when I dropped my chain. I found a little extra umph somewhere deep in my soul and was able to increase my speed in that last few miles. When I entered the finisher shoot I really did start crying. It was SO CRAZY LOUD. I was the only person in there at that very moment and I slowed my pace and took it all in. My arms were out by my side the whole time. "Kristi Paradis You are an Ironman". The sweetest six words.
I cannot thank Amy,Cort, Becky, Marcus, Laurie, Shady, John, Mona, Carole, Amy Wong and my parents for traveling to watch me race and be my support system for the weekend. My experience was so different than in Vineman for that very reason. It was amazing to know that they were somewhere on the course. They were crucial to me finishing IMLP. And words can't describe how wonderful it was to be taken care of after I finished. They legitimately dressed me at one point, bought me food and tea. Walking back and seeing everyone gathered welled up an indescribable emotion in me. If I had any hydration left I would have cried. Later that night most of us at more food and drank Jack Dor and sparkling wine (forgive me I can't remember the type) on the floor of the kitchen. I landed there and it was decided that this is where we should stay. That was one of the best tasting glasses of beer and wine I've had. Post Ironman with a group people that I love.
My official time was 13:27:47. This was not a PR for me, but I suppose it was for the course. In a way I am disappointed as I very much wanted to finish near 12 hours. BUT with all that happened on course and that day and in the last year I am truely proud of myself. My year of racing was funky. I did not place, I did not average faster in any discipline, with the exception of my Oly. But both big races were harder than any races I'd ever done. Rev3 for weather reasons and IMLP was a tough course and I was nauseous. It's a hard thing to rationalize to most people, the reasons why I am disappointed. Deep down I am proud, but this will be the fuel that starts the first in 2015. I'll be back to IMLP and I'll be back to long distance racing. But for now I am going to stick to Oly for 2014. I need a summer to play. To do things like trail races, hike, and maybe lay on the beach. I need to reboot my love for long course.
It has taken me a long time to write this for some reason. I wanted to process everything I was feeling and then...well I just got busy.