LOVED THIS RACE!!! With the exception of a flat tire, it was a great day. I knew half way through the swim I wanted to do another one. I felt so well prepared for this race and this course. Last year was the inaugural race for Ironman St. George and it immediately took the title of hardest Ironman course. It has a hilly, tough bike course with over 6800’ of climbing followed by the most difficult run course in all of Ironman. There are no flat areas on this marathon, you’re either running up or down the whole time and some of the hills are quite steep. Everyone asked me why would I want to do the hardest Ironman as my first one? I figured what does it really matter? I’ve never done an Ironman so any Ironman is going to be hard and if I do the hardest one first the others will all be easier.
My swim wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I’m completely happy with it because it felt good other than some leg cramps. I was SO stressed about the swim. About the lake conditions, the mass start and of course the length of the swim. Fortunately the lake was flat and the water temp fine. Got off to a good start, didn’t have too much struggling with the other 1500 athletes and quickly settled into a good rhythm. I felt calm and strong until my leg started to cramp which freaked me out a bit. My left calf & hamstring started cramping and I had to stop. I panicked a bit and called out for help to one of the swim support. As the guy was coming out to help me all I could think was that there was no way I was going to let my race end in the swim. I just needed to keep going and hopefully it would go away. I managed to keep the cramps at bay for the most part and did OK with the rest of the swim up until the very end when a guy whacked me in the eye and my goggles filled with water making it difficult to see the swim out. I didn’t know until the race was over that I had a broken blood vessel in my eye. It doesn’t hurt it just looks painful.
Had a quick swim to bike transition and headed out on the bike feeling really good until about mile 20 when I felt my tire go flat. As soon as I flatted I knew my dream of qualifying for Kona was over. Everything had to go right to finish in the top 2 in my age group, there was no room for error in my race. I got off my bike, took of f the tire and tube (back tire of course), felt around the inside of the tire but couldn’t find what caused the flat, so I put in a new tube, blew it up after the 2nd try with the CO2 cartridge and put it back on the bike. I was so proud of myself for changing my own flat and then the new tube immediately blew a hole. And that’s when everything could have gone incredibly downhill. I didn’t have another tube and for a few minutes I mentally started to shut down because all I could think was “there goes the dream”. A very sweet guy threw me another tube and cartridge from his bike but I couldn’t get the CO2 pump to work so I was stuck waiting for bike support to come. The bike support guy found a tiny shard of glass on the outside of my tire that was the cause of my flat. In the 20 plus minutes that I was on the side of the road with my flat a lot of things went through my head, most importantly what my friend Bryan Ogle told me. He said you can’t control everything that happens but you can control how you react. At that point I switched from Goal A to Goal B. I decided that even if I couldn’t qualify for Kona I was going to have the best race I could have and I was going to set myself up for a great run. Pressure off to qualify for Kona, just go out and do my best. And most of all I was going to really enjoy the day, it was after all my first Ironman.
I knew that it wouldn’t be smart to go out and try to make up for lost time by pushing too hard on the bike, so I did as I was trained to do, followed my Heart Rate for the next 9 hours and raced my race. The bike was great and the run indescribable. We had a high of 92 in a very dry, windy climate. There were hydration/nutrition stops at every mile of the run as well as cold sponges and ice to help keep you cool, but it was almost impossible to stay hydrated and keep up with electrolyte losses. To see the amount of suffering among the athletes on the run course was unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it. There were far more people walking than running, even some of the pros were walking at times. People were throwing up and cramping and many had to be pulled off the run course due to heat exhaustion/dehydration. It was one giant suffer fest up on the big hill that you had to do 2 loops on. Fortunately my problems were minimal. My adductors were really tight from the bike and at about mile 13 my left foot and calf started cramping on and off. I was really worried that pretty soon my leg was going to seize with cramps and I would have to start walking. I took a couple of salt tablets and a lot of water and just hoped that they would take effect in time. I kept going and eventually the cramping subsided. As I have never run more than 18 miles I wasn’t sure how the last 8 miles of the marathon would play out. Everyone told me that it would start to get ugly at about miles 18-20 and then you just have to make it through as best you can. So when mile 18 came I was braced for the pain to come, and at mile 20 I thought for sure this is it, but incredibly it never came and I had the best run I could have hoped for. I ran a 3:54 marathon in the most difficult conditions on the toughest course. I was elated! Only one other woman in my age group was faster at 3:49:51 and she won.
I finished 8th in my age group at a time of 12:09, without my flat I could have finished 3rd, but there were only 2 qualifying spots for Kona so that gives me some relief. I am incredibly happy with my race on many levels. I didn’t know going into this if Ironman would end up being a race that I would want to do again, I thought maybe the half Ironman distance would be more my race. I am completely hooked! I loved this race and I can’t wait to do another one!
It’s hard to believe how fast 12 hours can go by. I made such a point to really enjoy the day and the entire experience. The volunteers and spectators were absolutely amazing and the scenery is breathtaking. It was such a fantastic day! Thank you all for your emails, texts, facebook posts and calls. I so appreciate every bit of support and encouragement! Thank you for sharing in the most incredible day of my life.
*Mary’s performance was amazing! I hope that when I finally do my first full Ironman I will be as well prepared as Mary was and have such an amazing mind set during the race!