My First 140.6 Ironman
After 10 months of hard training, the time was finally here! I was physically ready and mentally prepared for what awaited me at Ironman Louisville. Heading down to the swim start, I kept thinking about having a great day. I knew I had nothing to worry about because all my experience doing short distance races and my months of training with Coach Joe would take over when needed.
The starting gun went off and even though we were quite a distance from the water, when the line started to move, it went quickly. Suddenly I was at the water’s edge. Right before I jumped in the river, I realized that I forgot to put on my fancy Garmin watch that beeps to remind me when I need to drink and take nutrition. It also tells me my distance and speed for all 3 events. I kind of froze in my mind for a second, thinking, “How can I drink on time? I won’t know what my cadence is!” I jumped in the water, quickly calmed myself down and thought, “I can do this in my sleep. I know that my wife has my spare watch at about mile 40 waiting for me.” It took me only 10 seconds to calm down, start getting into my rhythm and really feel the water. I kept repeating in my head “focus.” I knew I could deal with anything that came up, one thing at a time. Coming out of the water I felt as if I didn’t even swim, I was *that* focused on the task at hand… the next 138.2 miles.
I was thinking about having a good bike ride. Coach Joe and I had discussed strategy the night before and I knew I needed to take it slow on the bike. It was going to take self control to keep myself in check without my watch. After seeing my wife and finding out my first split time from her, my goal for the remainder of the ride was to dial back my speed a little.
Nearing mile 100, a new challenge awaited me. Painful stomach cramps had started (note to self: the Perform energy drink on the course does not always taste exactly the same as what you trained with for 10 months!). I was taken aback after that first big drink, the taste was terrible and now my sensitive stomach was rebelling!
I finished my bike ride and was really pretty worried that I wasn’t going to be able to run the entire marathon as I had planned. 17 minutes passed in T2 while I was changing and drinking my Infinit in hopes that I would get back on track. I left transition jogging slowly, trying to run this cramp off. After about 2 miles into the run it went away! I couldn’t believe that the Infinit worked and I was now in full spirits once again.
I promised myself that I would drink Infinit for as far as I could into the marathon, hoping to keep the GI issues at bay. At mile 6 on the run my stomach told me that it was not happy. The miles on the marathon were marked by the distance between port-a-potties!
Then at mile 21, the race *really* got challenging for me. I had to walk for 20 feet as I tried to hold down those fluids. All of a sudden something came over me and I just started running hard and smiling big. The phrase I repeated over and over was “Get Tough.” I don’t know why I started saying that but it really worked well for me. Everyone will have to find something at some point that will help push you out of a bad situation and into a mental happy state. “Get Tough” was now my happy place.
The last 5 miles of the marathon, I was dancing around and enjoying every minute that I could because I knew that the finish was around the corner. I saw the finish and almost started crying. Thinking of all the training, preparation, and sacrifice that my family and I made in order for me to complete this goal made the tears hard to hold back. I’m a guy and “there’s no crying in Ironman,” so I sucked it up and threw my arms up and crossed that line. What a day! What a ride! It felt so great to hear the words, “Dale Rice, you are an Ironman!”
This was such an amazing experience for me. It’s really hard for most people to understand why anyone would want to complete such a difficult race. It was purely a way for me to know that when things get tough, the power to push to the next level is possible for me. We are all stronger than we realize!
If you’re wondering, no, I’m not getting a tattoo! My car got one though when we got back home! I’d like to thank my wife Hilary and Coach Joe and ET Team Dietitian, Laurie, for helping me out during every step of this journey. I couldn’t have done this without all the great support. Thanks everyone!