Nutter Butters and Defogger: Never leave home without them!
When I started out on my journey to Muncie Ironman 70.3, I had just finished out my 2015 season of a few sprints, and had witnessed my husband, Dave, complete his first 70.3 in Racine. I was in awe of Ironman. The race village, the support on the course, and of course the brilliant display of athletes. I thought to myself, “Wow, I sure wish I could do that … but the swim would kill me! The run would be miserable!” But, alas, that nagging athlete inside my head wouldn’t let it go.
Let’s back up for a minute—way back. As a kid, I avoided physical activity like the plague. Never was into sports and found any excuse possible to skip gym class. Running the mile in Junior High? My worst nightmare. I mean, I had a doctor’s note to get me out of gym all through high school. So this isn’t something that comes easily to me. On the other side of the coin though, I LOVE a challenge. Love, love, love. So several years ago when I had heard about triathlons, and was looking for something to do to get in shape, I brought it up to my friend as we were taking our daily commute into Chicago on the Metra. She looked at me with wide eyes, “Triathlons? No way, those are CRAZY! People DIE doing those races!” Hmm. A sport that gets that much of a reaction? I signed up for my first tri within days, Esprit de She, 2013. Not exactly sure what this says about me … but don’t ever play truth or dare with me. I always win.
Fast forward all the way to last fall, still in awe of Racine 70.3. I wasn’t sure where to go next, as I had over a dozen sprint tris under my belt, but really wasn’t progressing. I wasn’t getting faster, and the races certainly weren’t getting easier. I was at a point where I was considering changing sports (MMA, anyone?) or changing things up a bit. And when I say “changing things up a bit,” I mean do something crazy. Go hard or go home. So with the support of my husband Dave, we signed up for Muncie, together, on the day registration opened. Commence queasiness and race day jitters … for oh, about nine months before the race even began.
I trained. I trained all through winter, getting up and out to get to 5:15 Masters and CompuTrainer classes when it was pitch black outside, through snow and rain. I trained on weekends, sometimes missing soccer or baseball practices or family get-togethers. I sacrificed my burgers and beer—oh wait, no, I didn’t do that. A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere!
I followed a plan. Dave had purchased a book about training for a half Ironman. I followed that plan pretty closely. I was very happy with my training, plugging along, until that fateful day in May.
I had been planning just to skip the Olympic distance altogether and go from Sprint to Half Ironman. I know, some may think that’s crazy, but others have done it, so why not me? Plus, there aren’t very many early season Olympic distance races nearby that I could do with time to ramp up for Muncie.
So one day Dave came home and asked if I would go down with team Experience Triathlon to compete in the Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon. I wasn’t very excited about it, but I agreed. How hard could it be? I had been training through winter and spring for a frickin’ half Ironman, so an Olympic would be fine. Sure.
Let’s just say it wasn’t my best race. Within 50 yards of the start of the Memphis in May swim, I started to panic. No matter what I did, I was out of breath and just couldn’t get it together. My wetsuit didn’t seem to fit right, my goggles were fogged over, and all I wanted to do was get out of the water. I swam kayak to kayak for that swim and really wasn’t sure if I’d finish. I remember wondering to myself if I had purchased the insurance plan for Muncie during that swim, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to be able to do that swim! However, I did finish. I somehow willed myself around that lake, and got on (painfully slowly) with the rest of the race.
Insert Coach Suzy of Experience Triathlon Coaching Services. Maybe twenty minutes after I had finished Memphis, my first Olympic, Coach Suzy could see I wasn’t doing too well. She came over and we started to chat about my race, and the six fateful weeks I had until Muncie. I needed help. I needed someone to help me bridge the gap between my training and being “race ready.” Coach Suzy helped me do that. She organized my training, answered my questions, pushed me harder and never ever doubted that I could finish at Muncie. She had confidence in me and helped me build that confidence back up in myself. She introduced me to Defogger for my goggles, which drastically has changed my world for the better. Who knew??
Suzy also introduced me to ET’s Team Dietitian, Laurie Schubert, who taught me that you don’t have to always eat those gooey gels; you can eat REAL FOOD when you train and race and STILL get the proper nutrition! Pft. When else is it recommended that you eat Nutter Butter cookies?? I chose the right sport.
July 9th, 2016. The day of Ironman Muncie 70.3 had arrived. It was clear and cool outside, transition was all set up and I was ready. Deep breaths. Goggles, check. Swim cap, check. I had prepared for this day for what seemed to be an eternity. I knew I had trained well, but would it be enough? Would I be able to remain calm in the swim? Would I have enough energy to keep going all the way through the bike and the run to the finish? Deep breaths. Goggles, check. Swim cap, check.
8:18. Over an hour after the first athletes began their swim, my wave was about to start. Deep breaths. Goggles, check. Swim cap, check. I started swimming—slow and steady. I took my time. I moved away from the buoys so it wasn’t so congested. I kept moving forward. As my body warmed up, I gained momentum. This was going well! I got into a rhythm and pushed myself forward. I made the first turn. I remembered that this is FUN and I ENJOY doing this. I recalled the open water techniques I had practiced so many times during Masters and the ET open water swim clinics at Centennial. I rounded the second turn and was now headed back to the beach, and to the finish. I kept moving forward. I used Coach Suzy’s ‘swim mantra’ and stayed on course. People were standing around me, running out of the water. I had made it! I had finished the Ironman 70.3 swim, and had done it in 41 minutes! My smile was ear to ear. The rest of the day was icing on the cake because to me, I had conquered the day as the swim was over and I ENJOYED IT.
I won’t go into details about the rest of the race, but the bike went exactly how I had planned (what more could one ask for??), except with a nasty headwind on the return. The run wasn’t great, but hey, I’m not complaining. I had visualized that finish line for weeks before race day. My family and friends were cheering on the sidelines. My kids were running next to me, showing the way to the chute. I was there! I could see the big black and red IRONMAN finish and I was there! Hands in the air and smile on my face, I finished STRONG and HAPPY and the journey to get there was nothing short of EPIC.