Wednesday, September 14, 2011

They say every Ironman has a story. Here is mine....

"This is what life is all, anything is possible." -- Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) at the start of IMWI 2011


We got up to Madison on Thursday evening and had a nice, quiet (well, except for the fact that the Packers were playing) dinner at The Great Dane. It was really nice to settle in and have some down time. I was still feeling a little tired and generally "off" so decided Friday would be a complete rest day (even though everyone else was going to swim). Friday morning we went to registration early, then checked out the expo for a bit. Went to the athletes dinner Friday night and was thrilled that they had gluten free pasta! Very cool! The rest of the food left a lot to be desired though. :) By Saturday I was starting to feel a little Ironman overload (already!) so I tried to lay as low as possible. Other than bike/transition bag drop off, I laid around the room and rested a lot. I also did my last swim/bike that morning and it went really well! I felt like I was finally ready....

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I had slept from about 10pm until 3am and was ready to get up before my alarm went off at 4. Got right up and drank an Ensure and had a gluten-free blueberry muffin (boy that was HARD to get down!). I couldn't believe how nervous I was. Every time I opened my mouth I felt like I was either going to cry or throw up. Luckily I didn't throw up, but I did shed a few tears. I was SO scared...very unlike me, I'm usually very steady on race morning. But this was IRONMAN!!! We left our hotel around 5am and dropped off my special needs bags. Saw my coach and gave him a hug...tried not to have a nervous breakdown. When I got to transition it was already so crowded and I felt so late! Got body marked and got my bike set up pretty darn quickly, then headed down the helix toward the swim start as there was just way too much chaos up top. When we got to the bottom of the helix, I stopped to apply more sunscreen and put on my wetsuit. When we sprayed the sunscreen my number ran right off my arm. Back up the helix and fought the crowds to get back to body marking. I'm actually glad this happened, because this body marking volunteer put a smile in my "0" (I was 620) which would remind me to have fun all day. :) Back down the helix, got suited up and headed to the start. It was already after 6:30 and they were trying to get people in the water. Said goodbye to Jonathan, had my Gatorade Prime and went to the edge of the water. Tried to stall right at the edge for a while because 25/30 minutes seemed like a long time to tread water. I finally got in at about 6:40.

Swam a little bit just to get used to the water. Then I found a few people from my Well Fit training group standing over on the rocks to the side. I was so happy to see familiar faces and have people to pass the time with! We hung out and after the pro start, they all swam up closer to the front. I didn't want to be that close, so headed to the back and just to the right of the ski jump. I saw Paul from our tri club and was ecstatic to see someone else I knew! We hung out together until the cannon fired and then we were off!

Swim: 2.4 miles, 1:31:57

Anyone who knows me knows that I was TERRIFIED of the mass start. I have had nightmares about it ever since I signed up last year. But you know what? I loved it! The swim ended up being my favorite part of the day. Since I started back and a little wide, I had clear water at the start and was able to get into a rhythm before quickly catching the masses. And once I did, I was amazed by how I just got pulled along in the current of 2500 people swimming in the same direction! It was like being in a lazy river at a water park...SO cool! I stayed pretty wide on the first leg and around the turn, and didn't feel like I was using much energy at all. On the return leg, I made sure to look at Monona Terrace and all of the spectators and couldn't help but smile under water. :) I was doing an Ironman swim and having fun! At the start of the second loop I started to get a little bored, so made my way into the buoy line and started taking more contact. Got shoved around by some guys who didn't like me in their way (rude!) and a couple of elbows to the head, but nothing terrible. I ended up right on the bouy line and it was totally fine. I did start to get a little cold at the end and my legs started wanting to cramp up (which never happens to me!). As I headed into the finish (still smiling!), the 9/11 flyover happened and we all popped up from the water at once and commented how cool it was! It was crowded getting to the finish and I probably took the most contact I had all day. But I was finishing my Ironman swim....I couldn't believe that I had made it! Saw the time and was shocked...I was full expecting a 1:40-1:45 swim time!

T1: 11:28

I was so happy I was out of the water, I cried all of the way up the helix. I started jogging but could feel my heart rate jump up, so decided to walk/trot for a bit instead. As I was entering transition, I saw my friend Kelly and was so happy to see her! We sat right next to each other in the changing room! I had a great volunteer in here, but the place was much more chaotic than I expected. Did everything as quickly as I could (just a shorts change) then ran to my bike with my shoes in hand. Put on my shoes by the bike rack and was off to leg 2!

Bike: 112 miles, 7:38:05
Started on the ride out the "stick" to Verona (the course is like a lollipop....ride out to Verona, two loops, and then back to Madison), happy to be starting my Ironman bike, but fearful of what the ride would bring. My last long training ride in Madison had been a disaster and I was barely able to finish one loop due to poor nutrition that led to a major bonk. I committed to stay on top of my calorie intake to ensure my legs had enough to get up the hills! As we started hitting some of the minor hills on the way out, I was happy that my legs felt okay. Not super, but not terrible either. My heart rate was much higher than it should have been, but I tried not to panic as some of it was probably caused by the stress from the race. I was happy to officially start the "loop" because it felt familiar to me...just two of these, how hard could that be?!

First loop was fine. Heart rate was settling a bit and I felt fairly comfortable and was getting in my nutrition like it was my job (and this day it was!). Got to the three big hills on the back half of the loop and the crowds were unbelievable! It was like the Tour de France and I was a super star! :) Saw Jonathan on Timber Lane and that was a fun pick-me-up....I knew he was probably grateful to have me pass by as well. Coming through Verona was fun too and it was a huge mental boost to know I only had one more loop to go. Stopped at special needs and my friend Christy from work helped with my bag and it was so nice to stop and chat with someone for a few minutes. She asked me how I was doing and I said, "I'm pretty sure the start of the second loop is going to be tough because we'll have a headwind."

And did it ever. I'm not a big fan of the first part of the loop anyway and it was SO tough with the headwind. It was also getting HOT. A couple of miles in I dropped my bag of salt tabs. About a half mile past, I decided I had to go back for it because there was no way I could finish 50+ more miles in the heat without it. So I turned around and back I went...put my bike to the side and waited for a break in the bike traffic so I could dart across to pick it up. Not the safest thing to do but honestly I didn't feel I had another choice.

Heading into Mt. Horeb was probably the lowest point of my day. The heat was starting to get to me and I was getting REALLY dizzy and unfocused. I decided I needed to talk with someone for a few minutes to get out of my own head, so on the long incline into Mt. Horeb I started chatting with a guy from Colorado. I went to pass him and we talked for a few minutes as I was making the pass. Apparently too long. Next thing I know the race officials are behind me giving me a yellow card for blocking. Of course this was the LAST thing I needed at that moment and as they told me "you need to stop at the next penalty tent or you will be DQ'ed" I started crying. I was suddenly afraid this would cause me to miss the cut-off. I kept thinking what a STUPID way to lose time! So I re-focused and decided I needed to ride with more purpose. I pulled up to the penalty tent in Cross Plains and the guys were SO nice to me. They told me for a yellow card they only had to log my bib number and put big marks on it to signify I had been penalized. It probably took two minutes total and I was on my way....very relieved. I knew the hills were coming up and I would be able to see Jonathan again soon...

The crowds had thinned out on Old Sauk but the group that was out there was SO incredible! There was someone with a megaphone yelling, "let's get Jennifer up this hill!" Then everyone would scream and cheer. It was one of the highlights of the day! I actually felt MUCH stronger than I did on the first loop. I got to Timber and there was Jonathan....I told him I needed to talk to him and started crying (AGAIN) when I told him I got a penalty. He said that legitimized me because pros get penalties all the time. Ha ha...that made me laugh a bit. I got to the top of the hill and told him I'd see him on the run course...I was going to make it! I also decided to stop at a porta-potty for the first time of the day. This was when it really sunk in that I probably wasn't taking in enough fluid. But I pushed on. Up Midtown hill and through Verona...not nearly as many spectators, but I was almost done with the second loop. YAY!

Started on the "stick" back to Madison and COULD NOT BELIEVE I was almost done with the Ironman bike! I was starting to get a little uncomfortable, but nothing terrible, and my legs still felt fairly good. I could not, however, stand to take in any more sweet nutrition. I switched over to just Combos (which tasted good, but were really hard to swallow) and water, and kept up with my salt tabs. We had a nice tailwind and my pace really picked up the rest of the ride. I was SO relieved to get over the last hill on Whalen! Then riding back into town on John Nolen I had a huge smile on my face!!! :) I was going to make it to the run....HOORAY!!!

T2: 10:12
I could not have been any happier to hand my bike off to that volunteer! Ran into the changing room and it was fairly quiet....that's what you get when you are slow. :) Had my own volunteer right away, but as great as she was to deal with my stinky self, she wasn't very aggressive in helping me get ready. She just dumped out my stuff on the floor and let me have at it. I was really feeling out of if at that point so was pretty confused about what I needed to do. I did wipe down with some body wipes, managed to change to my running skirt (good call....this felt great!), put on new socks and my Zoots. I had my nutrition (gels, salt) in a ziploc bag and didn't open it and put the stuff in my jersey. I just left with it. Hmmmmm. Did I say I was really out of it?

Run: 26.2 miles, 6:06:04
I made it to the run! I can't believe I made it to the run! I was, however, a bit disturbed by how out of it I felt coming out of T2 and wondered how I'd make it another 26 miles. As soon as I started the run I saw our friends Matt and Anne Baker with some of their friends screaming and cheering for me....that was SO cool! It was at that point that I decided I needed to pick it up and start running. My plan for the marathon was run 9/walk 1. HA! I knew within a mile that wasn't going to cut it. So I cut back to run 4/walk 1 and that worked like a charm! It kept my mind busy and I was somewhat easily hitting the 4 minute runs. My legs started to come back and I wasn't feeling too bad at all. I was definitely wishing the sun would go down though because I still felt really HOT. And I was still carrying that stupid bag with my nutrition and could not figure out what to do with it. For some reason I didn't have easy access to my jersey pockets and stuff kept falling out? So I just kept running with it....annoying. Turns out the race photogs got a great shot of me struggling with the bag....very funny.  The crowds on State Street were unbelievable and I really fed off them! I knew Jonathan was volunteering just past Mile 4 and focused on getting to him. Finally got there and he didn't even see me! I screamed his name and he came over...told him I was really overheated. He reminded me to stick with the salt on the run. I took 4/walk 4/walk 1. At this point I started trying to figure out potential finish times as well. I had a hard time with math but it was keeping my mind busy and helping pass the time. I was doing okay. Coming up on the half I saw my friends from work on State Street and had no idea they were going to be there so that gave me a huge boost. I got to the turnaround and got a taste of what I would experience in another few hours. I always thought that would be a mental low point but it wasn't. It got me SO excited to get to the finish....I knew I was going to make it! Back through State Street...still smiling. Had a lot of people compliment my smile and I was really having fun! I think this is around when I hooked up with my friend Wendy. I could not have been happier to see her! Was sad that she had a tough day, but very glad to have a friend to hang with for a while. We walked and walked and talked and talked. My 4/1 strategy went out the window as I really started dragging. We agreed after a while that our toes really hurt and it actually felt better to run. So we would run for about a minute and that was it. Every time I ran I would get really nauseous and dizzy. Bummer. Started alternating Pepsi (yes it was a Pepsi pour!) and chicken broth at every other aid station. That chicken broth was like gold but I was still so hot. I just could not figure out if I needed more fluids, less fluids, more salt, less salt, more calories, less calories....NOTHING seemed to make me feel better. So we walked on, keeping a pretty good pace. It was really creepy back on the path by the lake when it got dark...and seemed a little dangerous to run during an Ironman marathon! I could hardly pick up my feet on the pavement let alone a dark dirt trail! Running through Camp Randall at night was another highlight. So very unique! Around mile 20 I think I needed to stop at the bathroom, so told Wendy to go on. I never caught her again because even my walking pace started to slow. I was still running here and there but at this point did not want to risk passing out and not making it to the finish line! That's ALL that kept me going, but I will say those last six miles seemed to take FOREVER. Nobody was really talking at that point....just walking along in silence. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. And I just kept saying to myself, "have I really been out here since 7am?!!" I stopped at the porta-potty right before the Mile 25 marker because I decided I really wanted to be able to enjoy myself at the finish line. Ha. As soon as I saw the lights of State Street I realized my dream was about to come true. My friends from work were still waiting for me and started cheering and running alongside me on the sidewalk. They were so great. I had told Jonathan to go ahead to the finish, so knew he was there waiting for me and I couldn't wait to see him. I ran most of the way around the capital and couldn't wait to get to the finish chute. I rounded the corner and the lights were absolutely blinding! I stopped for a second just to take it all in and suddenly the pain was gone. I floated down that chute giving high-fives to spectators along the way. I was laughing, crying and screaming all at the same time. This was it. This was it!!! Then Mike Reilly..."Jennifer Schmit from Oak Park, Illinois!" I AM AN IRONMAN. (*See the previous post for my finish line video!)
This was absolutely the experience of a lifetime. It exceeded all expectations and was in many ways both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I had the biggest grin on my face all day...and still do as I sit here writing this report. :)

I can't finish this recap without giving a shout out to my hubby who has been an absolute rock for me throughout this crazy Ironman journey. I was an emotional wreck for the last couple of months of training and he was never anything less than supportive and understanding without asking for anything in return....there is no doubt that he is my biggest fan. I am one lucky Ironwoman.

Now back to real life....

- Her


Anonymous said...

Incredible Jen,...your recap brought tears to my eyes. I am very proud of you! ZLAM, Betsy

Evan said...

I literally just got choked up reading your post. So amazing, you are truly and IRONMAN!