WOW! So IM Florida has come and gone and what an experience it was. It was exactly one year ago this week that I had my knee surgery and that Marjan and I signed up for Florida. I had so many moments of doubts over the past year that I wouldn’t be strong enough to do this race. Even after we did Santa Cruz 70.3 I was nervous my knee would be able to withstand a full. It turns out I didn’t need to worry. The day was AMAZING!
The swim was hard. It wasn’t bad the first 100-200 yards, but after that the swells were pretty big. If there was one thing I could change about race day is I would have arrived earlier. I didn’t feel like we really had a chance to take it all in and enjoy the environment and anticipation. Maybe in hindsight it was a good thing, but it felt a little rushed. We each had a bracelet made from Hawaiian leaves that one of our favorite Hawaiians braided for us at our pre-race party. We took the bracelets to the ocean and each said a few words and then threw them into the ocean. They were to protect us from the sea and provide positive energy on race day. It brought tears to my eyes when I threw it. Ok, back to the swim. Once you were out a ways it was pretty rough. The swells felt like they were colliding and even though they were not rolling into white caps, they were powerful. The swim was two loops and you had to run out of the water, through an aid station and then back into the water Turns out running in knee deep water is harder than I expected! I ended up swimming a 1:18. Not my best time but I will take it considering the conditions. I also counted jelly fish and there were a LOT. I lost count when I couldn’t focus on stroke count, jelly fish AND the beating of the waves.
I have to admit I was nervous about the bike course. Although I have been riding more than running and swimming, everyone kept saying a completely flat course can be harder than a hilly course because you never get a break from pedaling, you will encounter lots of head and cross winds, and being in aero for 112 miles can be painful. I am happy to report that I felt like I was well prepare for the bike AND I followed my coaches directions in regards to pacing myself. We did 3 100+ mile rides and a few 90 milers for training. One of our century rides was completely flat, we went alone, and we did 90% of it in aero. I really think that ride mentally prepared us for race day. We were definitely ready physically. It was such an awesome summer of learning on the bike. We rode with quit a few different groups throughout the summer and we had a couple of friends that spent hours and hours riding with us. I won’t name them all, but there are some great cyclists on our team that really took us under their wing and made both Marjan and me significantly stronger. So THANK YOU! We also had some super supportive friends that did our long rides even though they are not training for anything right now. Much appreciated:) I ended up finishing the bike in 5:46:42 which put me in the top 10. Oh…and by the way. Florida course is flat and maybe a little boring. However it’s a great course for spectators and it was so awesome to see my parents and Ricardo a number of times along the way. The only part I really look back on that I would pass on doing again is the last 8-10 miles. It was a STRONG head wind. Strong like it almost blew me over when I made the turn to do the home stretch!
Now on to the run. Even the day before the race I was thinking…am I really going to run a marathon after swimming and biking!? Am I ready? Will my knee hold up? Will my mind? Will my stomach? Well it did! I decided to do the run walk strategy and stayed pretty consistent with .9 miles run and .1 walk. Sometimes I extended the walk but for the most part I was consistent. Around mile 3 or 4 I was feeling a little off. My lower back started hurting really bad. It was more in my kidney area and I was getting a little nervous. I took a lot of Advil on the bike and I normally don’t take it during training. I’m not sure if the two were connected but my body definitely didn’t feel right. I stopped a little longer at an aid station around mile 4 to use the restroom and regroup myself. I also drank Gatorade which I normally don’t drink much of and I am pretty sure it saved my race. I felt like a new person. It also saved me around mile 10 when I tried to take a GU and it didn’t stay down. After that I pretty much stuck to pretzels, ice, and Gatorade. The run course was along the ocean but also through neighborhoods. I loved having aid stations every mile and the 6.5 mile turn around was on the white sandy beach and was gorgeous. The run course was two loops so when I was around miles 20, the sun was setting and it was one of the most peaceful and serene moments of the day. At mile 20 I was at 3:31 and I thought I would be able to finish in 4:30. I ended up at 4:43:43. Looking back I finished the run with gas left in the tank. I probably could have pushed a little harder at the end, but I do not regret what I did at all. I had no idea how my knee would hold up and I raced smart. I sprinted the last 200 yards or so and I cross the finish line with my fist pumping and the best feeling in the world. I saw my parents and Ricardo in the race shoot and they were all there to hug me as soon as I finished.
Honestly it’s been a little difficult to write this report. At first it was too emotional, then it was too long, then it was too confusing because I kept going back and forth between the race and the experience of doing an Ironman. Finally I decide to split it up. So this is the race. The numbers, the experience, results. Final time was 12:04:11. The next blog will be the rawness and reality of what you go through and what you learn about yourself when training for something like Ironman. It will also be about what it means to have a friendship like Marjan, Dom, and I have and what you learn about each other when you spend so much time and energy on something. I must add that Marjan was inspiration throughout this entire process. When I was struggling because I thought my knee wouldn’t hold up, or when I wanted to skip a workout, or when I just wanted to cry because I was tired and the last thing I wanted to do was leave home for the week for work, Marjan ALWAYS kept me going. Tuesday through Thursday I work away from home so I always have to leave Monday nights. Sometimes it was hard. I had to pack swimming, biking, running, and yoga clothes. My bike, my electronics, my swim gear, etc. I had to leave my dog every week. I had to leave my friends and Ricardo too. Marjan made training fun, she made traveling easier, and she made it so I never had to worry about Marty (my dog). She was by far the best partner in crime on this journey!. I also didn’t know if my Dad would be at my race up until a few days before. More on that later but having my Mom and Dad there meant the world to me. They are and always have been my number one supporter and being able to share this experience with them made it that much more special. Ricardo also deserves finishers medal for his live, on course videos of the day. He was able to keep everyone on Facebook up to date on where we were on the course, how we were feeling, AND keep us motivated! It was awesome! He also is one of the reasons I stay calm before a big race and Florida was a BIG race:) So look for another blog soon that will get a little more intimate about IM FLORIDA 2016! xoxo KM
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