Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ironman Maryland... well, sort of

An Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile swim. The night before, we knew that the bike ride would be shortened due to flooding on the bike course. The swim ended up being canceled and the bike ride was shortened more than we were told. I will sign up for another Ironman triathlon, so I can complete the entire distance. Well, truth be told, I would have likely signed up for another Ironman anyway. While I did not complete the entire ironman distance at Ironman Maryland, it was so mentally exhausting with the swim delay then cancellation, the 2 hour wait to start the bike, running through water and mud multiple times, I believe that if we had swam the 2.4 miles and cycled the entire 112 miles, it would have been far easier than what we went through. However, since it was such a tough day and because I accomplished my goal of crossing an Ironman finish line and heard the words, "REBECCA WILLIAMS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN", I still consider myself to be an Ironman Finisher.  I raced the race that was laid out for me, although it is bittersweet and feels like an incomplete goal.

Pre Race - Thursday:

The person that was supposed to travel to Cambridge to help and support me, disappointed me and went AWOL, so I arrived in Cambridge all alone. I knew that some BTA members would be there, Tania and Lisa were volunteering and that I would make friends. After seeing so many trump signs on my drive there and not seeing anyone of color when I arrived at the athlete reception, I was having BTA withdrawal in the worst way. I put out a BTA bat signal on Facebook and BTA started to come out of the woodworks. I saw Erica and soon met Alex Torres. I ended up having dinner with Alex and that ended up being one of the blessings of my weekend. Alex shared the poem "Thinking" by Walter Wintle and other tips to help me get through the mental aspect of the run.

Pre Race - Friday:

I headed out to rack my bike and for a practice swim and met the women of the All Women Tri Team (AWTT). They welcomed me in quickly and I instantly felt as though I had support. Note to self: Only race with friends, as the pre race stuff is much more fun and a lot less lonely. I felt the anxiety creep in while looking at the rough water that we were swimming in the next day. Erica and the ladies of the AWTT were done with the swim by the time I was ready to hop in, so I decided to just find a place to relax. I pulled into the Hyatt, booked a couple of treatments at the spa, had lunch overlooking the water and before long, I was nice and zen. I had dinner with AWTT, found my missing wallet (I left it at the Hyatt) and before long, I was laid up and resting for the big day.

Race day!

I did my usual pre-race meal and met the AWTT ladies in the lobby at 4:30 am. When we arrived at transition, it was flooded. That should have been a sign of the day to come. I didn't feel nervous or scared. I was just ready to get the day started and make my way to the finish line. It was really odd to not have my crew with me pre race, but I was just trying to focus on the day ahead and stay calm. They announced a 30 minute swim delay. I met Kimberlie and Tom Sheer shared some tips with us newbies. I noticed that the time had passed for the 30 minute delay, but they didn't make another announcement. I happened to look to my right and saw Tania! I screamed and hugged her so TIGHT and started to cry. The tears were of happiness that she was there. Tania is ALWAYS there for every important moment in my life since we've met, especially for triathlon stuff. I really needed to see a familiar face at that time. My BTA peeps are cool and all, but seeing a familiar face is what I needed. I fought hard to not think about all of the support that I had last year and compare it to this year. I was fighting all morning to be positive and focused, but when I saw Tania, I completely LOST it. As I hugged her and cried, they announced that the swim was canceled and I started to cry harder. Those tears were of disappointment, as I felt like my day was being chipped away and that I wouldn't have the full ironman experience. I saw Lenora, Tania left to do her volunteer duties and I was off to prep for and wait for the bike ride to start.


They were starting at bib numbers 1-100 and sending athletes off every 3 seconds. My race number was 2,610, which meant that I would be waiting around for at least another TWO HOURS to start the bike. I spoke to everyone that was up to chat, met other BTA members, huddled in the tent to stay warm, drank a bottle of my bike hydration, because at this point, it had been hours since my 3:30am breakfast. After many hours of waiting, at 9:35am, I was finally able to start the bike. It was windy as expected. I was advised to go fast when I could, because the wind would surely slow me down at several points. I promised myself that I would never allow my speed to drop below 16mph. Whenever it did, I gave myself permission to take a little break, reposition, drink, eat and get focused again. I had to keep stopping to blow my nose, as I haven't mastered the snot rocket thing yet. I stayed on top of my hydration/nutrition, enjoyed the rain showers and stood up on every turn to stretch my legs a bit. I didn't spend too much time at special needs this time. I just changed my socks, reapplied chamois cream, changed out my bottles, blew my nose again and I was off. Before long, I was at mile 90. I got a hug from Lisa, drank a strangers coca cola, blew my nose again and I was off.  I don't know what was up with my dang nose!!! Lisa told me that I had fewer miles to go than they previously told us. When I made it to transition, I was impressed that I had rode the 100 miles in a little over 6 hours, so my goal of averaging 16+mph was accomplished! My quads were burning, so I knew that I probably went a little too hard.  I was completely shocked by the amount of water that I had to walk through to get into transition and even more shocked to see people on the run course walking/running through the water. I knew that I had 8 hours to run the marathon and was not excited about getting started and having to run through that water. I lubed up extra good, because I knew it was supposed to rain again and I headed out.

About to lube it up

This was a part of the run course

I promised myself that I would only walk the aid stations. I ended up walking through water and mud about 6 times each loop (it was 2.5 loops). At the end of loop one, I saw Tania, Lisa and AWTT. My spirits were shot, because at that point, I had been through the water and mud a couple of times and I was NOT happy about it. Tania waded through the water with me on loop 1 and Lisa waded through the waters with me on the second loop. It was just a casual walk though calf deep water as they tried to talk to me to keep my mind off of the shitty run conditions. The water receded on the 3rd loop, but the mud got deeper and slicker. As it got dark and late, it started to rain, my darn feet were hurting, the course had thinned out, and my thoughts started to go dark. It started to rain harder around mile 21. I just stopped on the side of the road and started to analyze the decisions of my life. A little lady in yellow came up and told me, "Oh no, no NO! YOU KEEP MOVING!!". I noticed that the age on her calf was 72. 72!! So, I dried my tears and started moving again. At mile 22 this girl gave me some Aleeve that made my throat burn like they had been soaking in hot sauce. I took the soup. I saw Erica and tried to chat her up and she was rude AF. I let her be and took off. I recalled the words to the poem that Alex told me to commit to memory, and made a cadence of it: "Success begins with a fellow's will, it's all in the state of mind"I repeated that for the next few miles and before long I was back to where Tania was, she pumped me up and then ran off to the finish line to meet me. I passed the spot where Lisa had been sitting as I made my way to the finish line. I remembered Lisa telling me last year that my Ironman dream was delayed but not denied. I heard the cheers at the finish line and I thought and said out loud, I will NOT be denied! I WILL NOT be denied! I WILL NOT BE DENIED.... The song by Meghan Trainor, "No", started blaring out of the speakers. I heard someone say BTA!!, My hand went up, I heard my name called and then called again and the words, "REBECCA WILLIAMS OF WASHINGTON, DC.... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!". Tania was right there in the finish chute with my medal. She put it around my neck and then we hugged and jumped around like 10 year olds! No tears. No pain. Just happiness. I DID IT!!


Thanks to my Coach for helping me to get more comfortable on my bike again and for getting me to the start line healthy and positive.

Thanks to Tania for always being there for me. Always. Seeing you at the swim, on the bike course, walking through the water with me and being at the finish line with my medal. You are ALWAYS there. THANK YOU!

Thanks to Lisa for the back cracking hug at mile 90 on the bike, for wading through the waters with me, for always supporting and believing in me, and for telling me that my goals were delayed but not denied. Words matter and you always know the right thing to say. THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who texted, sent FB messages, positive thoughts and vibes. Your energy carried me through those dark moments on the run. Thanks to Alex Torres for sharing tips with me over dinner. Thanks to everyone that came out to ride with me during training. That meant more to me than you would ever know. My anxiety on the bike was bad and you riding with me helped to increase my confidence. THANK YOU all.

Those AWTT women are the TRUTH. Since I didn't have anyone with me to help, they got my bike and bags after the race and put them in their hotel room. Not only did they bring me to the race site, they gave me a ride back to the hotel, invited me to their room for a post race massage with an amazing masseuse, invited me to get into their hot tub post race, invited me to pre race dinner and post race lunch. I was just a part of their crew. The TRUTH, I tell you. These women embody true sisterhood. THANK YOU ALL!

AWTT support crew!

I am not quite ready to change my name from Tri Becca to IRON BECCA just yet. I have to complete the full distance of an Ironman triathlon before I do that and get the tattoo. But, I did finish an Ironman competition, so I am proudly a FINISHER!!

Tri Becca