2.4 mile swim in Keystone Lake 112 mile bike through Osage mountains 26.2 mile run along Arkansas River one happy triathlete!
doing this race with my 2 best friends, Mark and Scott, as well as several other friends from Rockwall Triathlon Club made my first Ironman even more special! I still wondered how all the training and race rehearsals were going to come together on race day. We all used TriDot to prepare.
RACE MORNING: we boarded shuttles from OSU Tulsa campus that drove us to T1 at Keystone Lake, where we brought bike gear bags and were reunited with our bikes. It was already raining. We lined up by swim times and walked over a mile to the swim start. I made 2 new friends, also first-timers, Taylor and Kelley. A man sang the National Anthem and it was time to start. The sight of 2000 athletes in wetsuits and swim caps was exhilarating and I got choked up.
THE SWIM: overcoming wetsuitophobia was my biggest challenge in preparing for this event. I finally found the perfect wetsuit, thanks to my friend, Meiling, letting me borrow her Roka Maverick long sleeve. I Chamois Butt'r my neck, got the wetsuit zipped by a guy in line with me (John) and proceeded down a huge boat ramp. After a fist bump from Mike Reilly, I put my goggles on, entered the water, opened the neck of the wetsuit to let a rush of 67 degree water in and swam for the first yellow buoy. I never really thought about the uncomfortable neck I just swam and stayed calm. It was still raining. I never really got punched or kicked, but a guy swam completely under me! like diagonally and out the other side! It seemed like an whole lot of left turns but finally saw the huge boat ramp. A man took my hand to help me steady myself and walk up the ramp.
T1: still raining.. everything was wet despite being double bagged. off with the wetsuit and put on my cycle jersey with a trash bag underneath to stay warm. I was thankful I brought my super light Brooks running rain jacket to put on over my jersey. I was off on the bike!
THE BIKE: yep! still raining. I had my good luck unicorn, Fe-ona, on my aero bar. I'd heard about this bike course but never wanted to ride it prior to race day or drive it. It immediately lived up to its reputation with a sharp turn and steep decline. The roads were littered with bike parts, bottles, cages, nutrition, visors, etc. and cyclists all along the roadsides changing flats. This scenery continued for the duration of the bike course. I ride in Rockwall Texas and just south, on country roads with descent elevation and I've never seen hills like the ones on this course.. steep, long hills, 6mph and still calling out 'on your left'.. at 6! mph! if I could see the bottom of the descent, I let her rip, if not, I rode the brakes. Parts were smooth and parts were awful with potholes and bumps and seams. Overall a beautiful course. The hills were fun and terrifying at the same time. I spent time anticipating a flat or mechanical issue, neither of which ever happened thankfully. I spent time thinking of all the people I love. I pulled over to refill my torpedo at miles 22, 44, 66, 88, using a total of 5 bottles, each with 3 scoops of Infinit custom blend. That and 2 handfuls of cashews at the special needs stop were all I consumed during the ride and it was just right. Just after mile 100 there were 3 steep hills in a row that about half the athletes were walking their bikes up. I said 'not today' and powered up those hills. We got to ride on 2 major freeways that were completely closed for us! I saw 2 friends, Brent and Diana at mile 110, cheering wildly! ah the sight of the glorious dismount line! so ready to get my wet socks off!
T2: the rain was letting up! I used my changing robe to put on my favorite run shorts and added my favorite running tank, changed socks, threw on my new Ironman running hat and could not believe how good I felt! This is where I was dealing with nausea during my 2 race rehearsals.. not today!
THE RUN: It felt so good to start running! Out through downtown Tulsa, the bulk of the run course was 2 out and backs on a really neat paved trail along the Arkansas River. This is where I finally got to see my friends and we all knew each other was okay. Lots of smiles, cheers, hugs! I decided to run until I got to an incline then walk up it. I passed the Rockwall Triathlon Club tent and saw Jodi, Jean, and Keith cheering for me. By mile 5, blisters from having wet feet all day were emerging - ouch! Mile 17 and boom! there was the nausea.. and the feeling like I could pass out. What did I need?... salt! I walked to the next aid station and ate 2 cups of potato chips and washed them down with Pepsi. Those are things I would never normally consume but I knew I needed salt and sure enough, I was running again by mile 19! The sun set. One more cup of potato chips just in case. I caught my best friend, Mark, which we'd joked about, knowing it would happen, just a matter of when. Back off the trail and into downtown and some big hills. A man yelled out 'half a mile to go!' I got choked up again. I picked up the pace, turned a corner, and the street was lined with hundreds of people cheering so loudly. The street had a pretty canopy of lights hanging over it. I turned another corner and saw it and heard it... the final stretch with the red Ironman carpet and lights brighter than the sun. I remembered watching a video that said to slow down and fully enjoy this part so I did. It was surreal. I heard Jodi and Jean yelling my name. Then I ran into the blinding light and heard Mike Reilly say the words. "Jill Knight.. Rockwall Texas.. you're an Ironman Jill!" Surreal! A volunteer, my friend, Heidi, 'caught' me and helped me walk down the row to get my medal, hat, and morning bag. The only thing that sounded good was an ice cold Pepsi so that's what I had. I waited for my friends to finish and join me and we enjoyed the moment together.
POST-RACE: 2 things impressed me - 1) how all the preparations come together on race day to make completing an Ironman possible and 2) I was only moderately sore in the legs for 2 days, then all the soreness was gone and I felt great!
I feel like the things that made this Ironman so challenging, specifically the relentless rain and technical bike course, were also what made it remarkable that I accomplished this, and I'm extra proud of myself. Riding in rain terrifies me, but I knew it was the only way to the finish line. Although I'm thrilled to have accomplished the Ironman and 'get my life back', I'm also sad the journey is over. Now let's go get that tattoo!