What a journey this has been! First of all, I need to say THANK YOU for all the love and support given from everyone throughout my training and during my race.... if you ever want to know if you are truly loved, do an Ironman because the outpour of support is OVERWHELMING! A special thanks to my training buddies along the way for the many hours and laughs, the many veteran Ironmen that gave me lots of advice, and of course Nathan, whom I told in 2006 when I “retired” from competitive athletics, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to be a recreational athlete now....” Well, obviously that was a big, fat lie; and he has continued to support me in my athletic endeavors understanding this is part of who I am. I’ll try to make this as brief as I can, but understand that race reports are often therapeutic! I’ll try to explain triathlete lingo as I go, so you don’t get lost.
The White’s and the Crane’s (Izzie and John) drove up to CDA (Coeur D’Alene) Thursday, in one day!
Friday included the normal Ironman things of: checking in, swimming the course, doing some reconnaissance on the bike course, and buying some Ironman gear.
Friday night I attended an event called IronPrayer, organized by a group called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). It was encouraging gathering with others, put our focus on God, and pray for the event. It helped make this Ironman world of 2700 athletes a little smaller, because on race day I saw 3 out of 5 people of our small prayer group and we embraced and reminded each other why we were there. The athlete dinner is also Friday night. This is where most of the 2700 athletes attend, eat pasta and salad, get inspired by videos and speeches, and go over rules and regulations (no public nudity and defecation please). It was the first time we met up with Alexia and Ernest (FMRC teammates), and we were all very excited.
Friday night we packed T1 (transition 1: swim to bike) and T2 (transition 2: bike to run) gear bags. Saturday consisted of 1 more swim, checking in our bikes, and T1 and T2 bags… that’s when it felt like we were actually going to do this. We had a relaxing day, watched Toy Story 3, and had dinner with the FMRC and other triathletes at the awesome lake house Alexia was renting. Went to bed early, and had no problems sleeping.
We woke up at 4am, packed up our things, ate some food, and headed down to the race. We got to transition area at 5:30am. I was surprisingly VERY calm, and was very happy about that. We did the normal race day stuff: added bottles to the bikes, added air to the tires, got body marked, dropped off special needs bags (2 more bags you get about 1/2 on bike and run that can have extra goodies etc for you), hit the porto potties, put on bodyglide and wetsuits, kissed our Sherpa’s, and crossed the timing mat. HERE WE GO! I gave Alexia a hug and said good luck, and moved to the front of the pack.
Swim – 2 loops each 1.2 miles long (Goal: sub 1hr / Actual: 56:24)
I positioned myself in the front row, a little to the right. I didn’t seed myself in the center because I was still cautious about the mass start of 2700 athletes, and figured I could handle a little wider start in order to keep from getting pummeled. Izzie came with me, it was nice to have her there, as our feet got cold in the water. A big verse that I associated with Ironman training has been, Hebrews 12:11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I was very happy that at that moment I was pretty peaceful. I talked to the guy next to me, hoping to go 54 minutes, and I told him if I hit him it wasn’t on purpose. Before you know it the canon (not gun...canon) goes off and you RUN and shallow beach dive into the water. I sprinted the first 200 yards, and only got hit ONCE! After that I had CLEAR WATER! I made my way over to the buoy line and got into a rhythm. The sun was rising over the hills on our left side, so I breathed right most of the time. Got to and around the first turn buoy without any problems. Then you had to swim into the sun to find the next turn buoy. You couldn’t see much, but I knew it was about 100 meters, so I counted my strokes and stayed in line with another athlete and made it to and around the buoy no problem. The water was pretty choppy, and so swimming back in was fun! You got to ride some nice waves. What was even more awesome was I found a guy and we swam (literally) stroke for stroke the whole 900 meters back. I think we were both happy to find someone to pace with, neither one of us took advantage of drafting, and I was very happy to find a “friend” out there. You have to get out of the water before you go back in for loop 2. I looked for the time, but didn’t see a clock, so I had no idea what pace I was on. I wondered where I stood in terms of women, people cheered for me, but I assumed they cheered for everyone. And so after 10 steps on dry land, you’re back in the water. Second loop was a bit choppier on the way out. I was hoping to find my “friend” from the swim in, but I had left him behind. Second loop was pretty uneventful, I started to feel some chaffing on the right side of my neck, which is unusual so I stopped and checked my wetsuit, which was smart because part of it had folded under. I was happy in the water, and a bit anxious to start the rest of the race. At the swim finish, I get out of the water and run along the beach when I hear Mike Reiley (Ironman MC) say, “And our first woman out of the water, Lisa White from Pleasanton, CA!” Awesome, I was hoping for first in my AG (age group), but first woman overall was just a bonus. I lifted my arms, the crowd cheered, and I got cocky and did a little jump while running on the beach.... and was IMMEDIATELY humbled...because I fell flat on my face in the sand! Total embarrassing junior high moment. I laughed, picked myself up and continued on.
T1 (Time: 7:06)
I have secretly been really excited to experience the wetsuit strippers...and man, did they live up to their expectations. You sit on the ground and YANK, your wetsuit is off and they point you in direction of your T1 bag. Now, because I was the first woman out, I got to the women’s changing tent first as well. There is like 50 volunteers in there, excited about their jobs. So, I literally had like 10 women helping me! They were confused why I had sand on my face, I told them because I was a show-off, and we all laughed. I asked them about their day and told them how much we appreciate them, as they helped with socks, Garmin, sunglasses, etc. I get slathered with sunscreen and went to find my bike. Grab it, head the wrong way, turn around the right way, and get to the mount line. I’m stepping over the bike when this man, sitting on top of a shipping container says, “Lets go Lisa! Carrie Chavez says Hi!” I look up, “How do you know Carrie?” and he points to his Endurance Nation (EN) shirt (He was Coach Rich). I had just listened to a podcast by EN about race execution of the CDA course! So, I said “Awesome! I just listened to your podcast, now I’m gonna go and not eat some paste on the bike course!” (Not eat the paste: elementary school common knowledge...don’t do the stupid stuff you see other people do).
Bike – 2 loops each 56 miles (Goal: 6:20-6:30 / Actual: 6:55)
I was the 35th person (out of 2700) out of the water. I’m assuming by the time I got my butt out of T1 I was about 40th to start the bike. This is my first Ironman, and as you learn about how to race an Ironman you know you CAN NOT go to hard on the bike or your day will be over. This is called, “blowing up” on the bike. I got good advice from FMRC athlete John Hollinger the night before “Take the first loop easy. Once you think you’re going easy enough...got a bit easier.” Awesome! So, I’m taking it easy. Well, I’ll just say this now...I passed ZERO people on the bike. Being a swimmer, you are just a sitting duck the rest of the day. What was cool about being passed by about 1,000 people was that at the beginning, most of the speedy cyclists commented on my “nice swim.” I’m assuming they knew it was nice because I beat them and now I look like I’m standing still as they come by on their bikes. One guy even said, “Wow! I NEVER pass anyone on the bike...” I don’t think he meant it to sound like that, so I said, “Well, I’m glad I can help you accomplish a new achievement!” The course is DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. So, I had no problem taking it easy and enjoying the views. I also found a new goal for my bike leg, and it was to entertain ALL the volunteers and spectators on the course! I would smile and wave at EVERYONE! Most people seemed to respond with more enthusiasm, and it was nice to appreciate all these people who were sitting out there all day supporting us athletes. And, it was a plus that when you waved at people they made an extra effort to look at your name and cheer you on (which made me feel very popular that people cheered me on by NAME!). I figured it was a good idea to stay super positive as long as possible. I rocked out with music people were playing, the bag pipe band along the lake, I got lots of comments on my smile, the high school girls were happy to have someone wave at them (it seemed like they were counting), I commented on everyone’s cute dogs on the course (2 giant St. Bernards were the best), I asked the penalty tent people if they had got a lot of athletes and they said “Too many!”, etc. Totally hamming it up out there but made it fun for me (and hopefully for them). My left glute was a problem the first loop, it was very tight. I tried to stretch it at points and it just wasn’t loosening up. This is somewhat normal; I was just more annoyed it had to be an issue that day. I did great on my nutrition the first loop, which makes me proud of how far I’ve come in that realm. My first Olympic Tri straight out of college was done with consuming a total of 1 Gu and no liquids (I wasn’t comfortable reaching down on my bike and assumed I could handle 2.5 hour workouts in college without nutrition, so I’d be fine)!! HA! I had no problem with people passing me, except when I finally saw the first woman in my AG pass me at mile 33. There was about 1/2 a second of “I should chase her” and then I quickly got over my ego and let her go. I saw EN Coach Rich on the first hill, he called my name and said I was looking good; it was nice to have this outside support from someone I didn’t even know but was willing to be there. My first loop was a little under my goal time, but I felt fresh as a daisy and reminded myself that my ultimate goals for my first Ironman was to finish and have fun...I was right on track. The second loop was good. The course is pretty hilly to “race” on, and yes, the hills the second time were harder. I tried to keep as much enthusiasm with the spectators as I had on the first loop, but of course, this is now 4-5 hours into the race! It was fun to see Izzie, Alexia, and Ernest at turn arounds - Alexia and Ernest creeping up on us swimmers. Miles 80-90 was my first dark moment of the day. That’s somewhat typical, mile 80 my body usually stops liking Perpetuem and it takes a little more force to eat. So, I accepted the darkness, threw out my perpetuem and switched to water and Gatorade, and just forced myself to eat. It was awesome, because at about mile 95 a woman passed me, her calf said she was 42 years old and then under that said Phil 4:13. I yelled out, “Nice verse!” and to which she responded, “THANKS! That’s what we need all day long right?” Yes, yes it is. Ernest passed me at about mile 106! He looked great and said he’d been having fun! And soon we were reaching T2. Now, I’ve read many race reports of people happy to get off their bikes, and I always thought that they must be crazy because biking is better than running. But even though I had paced my bike well, way slower than my goal time, and felt fresh...it seemed about a nice time to get off this bike!
T2 (Time: 6:40)
T2 was noneventful. Put on my shoes, my hat, some bodyglide, switched up nutrition, got the Garmin ready, etc. The volunteers in there were once again amazing and helpful. The best part of T2 was the sunscreen slather people. This woman did my upper body while this guy did my legs...he must’ve practiced on the other 2,000 people before me because it was like a massage and I told him I could stay here all day. But alas, I had to start the run.
Run – 2 loops each 13.1 miles (Goal: 4:30-5:00 / Actual: 5:41)
I started out, smiling and excited. You start with a quick out and back along the lake. Now, the plan was to take the first 6 miles easy, low heart rate, conversation pace, what you want to hold + 30 seconds. I was feeling good! I had to force myself to slow down. My legs felt great; I was excited for the run. I thought that I was smart for being slower on the bike than I wanted. Right after the first turn around at mile 1.2 I see this guy in a FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) jersey walking, slumped shoulders, looking pretty bad already. I stopped, put my hand on his shoulder, and asked him how he was doing, “Not so good, I’m hurting pretty bad.” I think he thought I was just a concerned athlete, and then I asked, “Can I pray for you?” He perked up, and said, “YES!” So, I prayed for Mike and headed on my way super excited. I think he ended up beating me, glad my prayer helped! Now, the first sign of problems on my marathon was at rest stop 2. There were dancing disco ladies, I did little disco turn move, I grabbed 1 potato chip from some cute kid, and ate it. My stomach immediately rejected it. Uh oh! All that for 1 chip!??! I ignored it and kept going. You head out through town and there’s a ton of people and mojo to get you going. I saw EN Coach Rich, he shock my hand and told me to go get it. I was running easy and walking the aid stations (which was going to be my run/walk plan). I somehow beat Ernest out of T2, he finally passed me at about mile 4. He said he felt ok and would see how this went. I wished him luck and off he went. Miles 1-6 were fine for my body but I couldn’t stomach anything. I tried different things at the aid stations, nothing. By the time I got to mile 8 I felt like I wanted to barf, and cry. Now, I haven’t thrown up since I was 14 years old so dry heaving was not much fun for me. I lost nutrients the opposite way at the porto potties a couple of times. While this provided some short relief, I still couldn’t put anything in and now had lost those nutrients. So, I entered my DARKEST STATE...miles 10-13.5!! I was sick, I wanted to cry, I was upset that my legs felt good (enough) but my stomach did not. I was not having fun. I just wanted to finish. I couldn’t smile at spectators, I wanted to swear at those who said “Just keep going” (What does it look like I’m doing!?!), and the stupid college kids partying and playing slip’n’slide while cheering made me want to vomit in their yard.... told you people, DARK! While competing in college, when I entered a rough state I would think of how bad the apostle Paul had it on his mission. My go-to thing was always, “If Paul can handle a shipwreck you can handle....” Well, my cynical mind snapped back, “Well, I’d much rather SWIM from a shipwreck than want to barf on the marathon, Paul had it EASY!” So, I had to think deeper of a better solution.... ok, God told me to think about Paul and Silas worshiping while being locked up in prison. I surrendered that my situation pretty much did feel like a prison, and again Paul became a good example to me. When I got back into town for the second loop I saw Nathan. I went up to him, allowed myself to finally cry (actually, I don’t think I could’ve stopped it), and told him how much I was hurting. I got a big hug, a big kiss, some words of encouragement, and was sent on my way “to do whatever I had to do to finish.” The run actually got better after that. I mustered up something from somewhere I just started running. I saw Coach Rich at the top of the city street that I was walking. I got a good handshake and smile, and kept walking. I started a new tactic for the rest of the run. I figured that I couldn’t continue to even try to run without calories and salt. I was hot out, and I was sure I was behind on my electrolytes. So, my new tactic was run until the aid station, walk to the chicken broth, and force it down. After I would drink it, my stomach would cramp, I would feel like hurling, and I would walk about .25 mile before I could run again. So, then I’d run about .8 mile until the next aid station. And so went mile 14-25. And it actually felt ok, I think more because I had a plan, and it was consistent. Probably something that can be learned from having experienced an Ironman (or maybe even marathons) before. I saw Ernest, he was toast. I saw Izzie, she was hurting too. I saw Alexia, I told her to finish strong for one of us (and she did awesome)! I realized that though my time goals were out the window I could still finish in daylight and it’d be good to get under 14 hours. I buckled down and every mile after 22 I celebrated, “This is the longest I’ve ever run in my life!!” (My first marathon, and longest training run was 22) At the last aid station (mile 25) there was the CDA USA swim team. All the swimmer kids were volunteering, it made me think of my athletes and how fun if they could pass out pretzels etc to athletes like me. I wanted to make some witty comment to them.... but I had no wit left. And so I started the last 1.2 miles!
Finish (Goal: 12-13hrs / Actual: 13:47)
Wow, the finish! You make your last turn onto Sherman Ave, (downtown main street). It’s beautiful with shops and flowers hanging from streetlights. There are THOUSANDS of people cheering, and the best part is the last .25 miles is DOWNHILL! The energy is enough to get anyone running and happy! I was looking for Nathan, never did see him at the finish. I slapped all the peoples hands I could, soaked up the moment, and crossed the finish line with a big smile (and under 14 hrs)!! They have people who “catch” you after you cross the finish line, because believe it or not people are tired after an Ironman and have a hard time walking. On Friday we had met this woman (and her kids) in our hotel and ran into them every morning at breakfast. Her son was volunteering as a body catcher, and CAUGHT ME! We were both excited. I got my hat, shirt, medal, space blanket, and finisher photo. I saw Nathan outside the fence, we were both so happy. I couldn’t imagine eating anything, I hobbled through the athlete medical and food area and went straight to Nathan. I got changed and we went back to watch Izzie finish. I was so proud of her!!
Well, that was THE hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than I expected (or imagined) it to be. It will be a day I will never forget. First things first, I have A LOT to learn about Ironman racing (and training). I’m such a kinesthetic learner and have now gained some valuable experience. I coached myself, to a finish; and I have to be ok with my limitations as my own coach. I would train differently if I choose to do it again. I learned that I am truly blessed. It takes a community to get someone to the finish line of an Ironman, and I definitely had the best community supporting me! I am blessed beyond measure. Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” There may not be great “purpose” in endurance events, but I feel that God has given me the body and mind not only to endure, but also ENJOY such activities and that pleases him. So, carpe diem people and reach new goals in some area in your life!