“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” -Pema Chödrön
The following story is from my dear friend Kara. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met and I am so grateful for her friendship. She has now completed 2 Ironmans, this story recounts her most recent. It inspires me to courageously dedicate myself to the events in my life, the way Kara dedicates herself to hers.
Where to begin…I've talked to some of you, but not everyone…
This race was about making it to the start line and crossing the finish line before 17 hours.
I signed up for this race last June 2012 and was ok'd to take the time off knowing I would have to figure out some work logistics.
In May I was told had to be around the weekend of Lake Tahoe for work. I flew to Tahoe on Thursday and checked in. I got my Transition 1 and Transition 2 bags ready and left them along with my bike for my friend Rachel to drop off on Saturday. She was so helpful and took my bike up to Tahoe on Tuesday. I flew back to San Diego Thursday night. I worked 10 hours on Friday and 5 hours on Saturday and caught a 2:30pm flight to Tahoe. My sandwich at the SD airport was lunch. I arrived at 4pm and Kelly decided at the last minute she wasn't going to miss my race. Her flight was scheduled to land at 5 but it was delayed and got in at 6. The salmon at the mountain house restaurant at the airport was my pre race dinner.
On the drive from the airport to Kings Beach, it was snowing at the summit. (At this point, I am thinking what did I sign up for? My original concern was that I might overheat during this race.)
I made it to the hotel at 7pm. My parents showed up with my bags with everything I needed in the morning from my wetsuit to all my hydration/nutrition that I could put on my bike and in my T1 bag and I got everything ready for the morning. I was getting hungry again and Kelly took me to the store to get bagels and peanut butter.
It was a brutal day out there…
It started off on the chilly side; 27* outside when we started the swim. I was glad a bought a pair of slippers at rite aid the night before along with chap stick. I chucked the slippers right before I got in the water. The swim was actually nice; majestic even. It was pretty to watch the sunrise from the water. My goal was a 1:20-1:30 swim since it took 1:22 at IMAZ and we were now at elevation and it was freezing. The water was warmer than the air so it hurt to breathe while swimming but I finished the swim at 1:24. The sand was frozen. I felt like I was running on snow getting out of the water. T1 transition was the most freezing I have ever been and it took forever; 23 minutes. Wet, naked, outside and in the 30s is not a great combination. When I was at Rite aid the night before, I should have bought some extra socks, but didn't think of it. Since I didn't have socks for my bike ride, I never warmed up.
I usually eat shot blocks but they were cold and my face was freezing so I couldn't chew, it literally fell out of my mouth and shortly after that I dropped my chap stick, again couldn't really feel it. There were people stopping on the side of the road taking their shoes off and holding their feet to get warm. It was such a pick me up to see Jenny Grupe and her entire family out on the bike course cheering me on. The second time around the course my sister and mom were there too and stopped to say hi. I stopped at special needs and couldn't believe I was only half way done. My ride was 2 hours longer than I anticipated. The bike ride had the longest sustained climb, 7500 ft, of any US Ironman all above 6200 ft of elevation. I ate bananas and took in all my hydration and dropped a water bottle early on since I couldn't feel it. I was finishing the bike ride when I saw my friend Rachel around mile 9 of the run and was thinking, ugh, I am not even off my bike yet.
Getting into T2 was such a reality check. I had just finished 114.4 miles and just had 26.2 to go to make it to 140.6 but it seemed impossible in my current state of mind. I wanted to be done. I did see two friends just leaving transition so I knew I wasn't far behind or alone.
It was really nice to put my socks and running shoes on but I was already exhausted. And it was cold. At this point, I put took off my cycling shorts and put my capri's on. I kept my SOAS tank top on, it has pockets in the back for nutrition, I took the arm warmers off, but kept my cycling jacket on. I saw my support crew as I began the run and I when I hugged Kelly I just starting crying; I was dreading the run. She gave me a pep talk. She said you are living a dream, your dream, and doing another Ironman. She also said, just follow the feet in front of you, which is usually what I say to myself. It was late in the day and I had a marathon to start and finish. Someone had just finished the race and I could hear the announcer…."you are an Ironman." No not me, not yet anyway. My first thought was to get to 8 miles. I had to walk up all the hills. At mile 10, which was just after the turn around, I knew I was going to finish but just had to keep moving. Our special needs bag was just around mile 13 and I was freezing. In addition to the tank top, t shirt and cycling jacket, I put on a long sleeve dri fit over the tank, then put the t shirt back on, then the cycling jacket then another nike wool jacket and I was happy I put my Bears fleece hat in there because my ears were also freezing. I don't remember the last time I wore that. My nutrition/hydration at this point in the race is a potato chip followed by coke, it helps with the Ph balance in your body followed by chicken broth. At mile 15 I saw my support crew, Jenny Grupe was the rockstar tracker and knew where I would be and Kelly ran with me until mile 18. At mile 18 I saw the finish line and heard the announcer again…"you are an Ironman." Not me, again, and I had 8 more miles to go and thought how am I going to do this. I saw my dad between mile 20/21 and he walked up a hill with me. I saw the rest of my support crew just after 21 and again Kelly started running with me and was by my side the rest of the way! Down the stupid wood chip trail and with headlights on our hats. With 5 miles left my goal was to finish by 11pm. I got excited with one mile left to go. Seeing the sign that said mile 25 gave me a burst of energy, well it seemed like it anyway. I finished at 10:29:24pm and crossed the finish line at 16:14:14.