Those words keep ringing through my head and I still can't believe it! This was hands down the hardest event I have ever done, both physically AND mentally. I swam 1.2 miles, biked 112 miles and finished off my day with a 26.2 mile run, and I did it in 14 hours and 38 minuets.
Swim | 1:25:48
The swim start was intense for me. This was a rolling start where you self seed yourself into a swim pace category ranging from zone 1 (under an hour!) through zone 4. I figured I would put myself in the middle of zone 3. I was so nervous but the reassurance from experienced athletes combined with high fives from other first timers helped me enjoy the moment of being there.
Running out of my shoot to the water I could feel my heart beat in my ears...this was it. On the way out to our first swim buoy the water had some swells and was a bit choppy, but after the first turn it calmed down a bit. I really focused on finding my rhythm and breathing every few strokes. I fell into my pace and found myself swimming with a pack of about 5 people. I only had one @hole on the swim who kept smacking my feet and at one point shoved both of my legs down. I shot up ready to show him my elbow but he moved off to the side and did not bother me again. The swim was a 2 lap course so I really tried to focus on my sighting to make sure I stayed on course, the last thing you want is to swim extra...which I did, but just a little bit! I chose to go wide on my turns to avoid the sea of people trying to get around the buoy, I would rather add just a few meters than get kicked and hit.
I finished the swim in 1 hour and 25 minutes and I am pleased with that time! The biggest issue I had was with my wetsuit rubbing the back of my neck. I felt it a bit during the swim but did not realize my neck was raw till I got to transition and had to put sunscreen on it (OUCH!).
The swim to bike transition took me 13 minutes and 17 seconds. Not too bad considering I had to change out of a full wetsuit into my biking gear. The volunteers were awesome in the changing tent, helping us get changed and suncreened up before we took off on our bikes.
Bike | 6:38:04
Since I have started this triathlon journey biking has been my favorite/strongest event. However, I did not feel that way for this course. Everything you read or hear about this course is that it is "flat and fast"...while yes it was flat, it did not feel very fast. The course had a lot of head wind and cross winds that just made me feel almost heavy at times. I did not let it get to me though, I just settled in and found a comfortable pace and went with it. My Coach puts a big emphasis on nutrition because that is where most people will fail. At every aid station I was grabbing a new bottle of either water or electrolytes and eating some sort of nutrition. At the half way point on the bike I grabbed my special needs bag and had THE BEST peanut butter sandwich of my life. The second lap seemed to take forever even though my average pace was a bit quicker.
I came in from the bike at 6 hours and 38 minuets, I am proud of it because 112 miles is a long way to go but I thought I would be a bit quicker than that.
My transition from bike to run was a little quicker at 11 minutes and 54 seconds, not having a wetsuit on helped!
Run | 6:09:18
26.2 miles, a full marathon, is how you end an IronMan, this course was a 4 lap course. I honestly had no idea what to expect from myself on this run. I did a marathon several years ago but that is nothing compared to doing it in an IronMan. The race strategy my Coach and I went over was to start very conservative so I could finish strong. Well, I THOUGHT I was being conservative with my pace when I started but about 4 miles in my body started letting me know that I was going too hot. My heart rate was through the roof and I was light headed. I slowed at an aid station, hydrated and put ice down my shirt and in my hat. This helped cool me off and let me keep going (at an actual conservative pace).
Lap 2 I started having SERIOUS leg cramps, like legs locking up and me nearly falling over leg cramps. I was drinking tons of water/electrolytes and keeping my nutrition up so I knew that I was super depleted in salt. I started doubling down on electrolytes and eating bananas at aid stations trying to help my legs out. I would run until my legs started cramping and then I would walk it out for a bit.
Lap 3 was the HARDEST...my legs were screaming at me... while I never once thought about quitting I did wonder why and the hell I was doing this! Then something awesome happened - a woman who I had met on the bike course passed me and asked how I was doing. I told her my legs were cramping and she tossed me a salt/water pack she had! She warned me it was going to taste like vinegar but I did not even care, I was desperate. I ripped it open and drank it like my life depended on it! It took a few miles to kick in but when it did I felt like a new woman, and just in time for my last lap!
Lap 4 was hands down my best lap. I chalk that up to a combination of knowing how close I was to being an IronMan and the fact that my legs where not cramping up anymore. I was able to hold an easy run the whole lap, with the exception of walking through aid stations to drink. Getting "last lap" high fives from people who have been cheering for you for hours is both emotional and motivating! As I was getting closer I was hearing the announcer call other people over the finish line and I knew that my time was coming, I knew I had made it. The second my foot hit that carpet down the chute I wanted to cry, I was so surreal. Everyone was screaming my name and I saw my husband standing across the finish line waiting for me, this was the best feeling ever. Hearing the announcer say "Tabitha Martin...You ARE and IRONMAN" was almost as awesome as hugging my husband as he said "YOU DID IT BABE"!
This journey has been long, hard, tiring and rewarding. While the event itself is solo it truly takes a village to get you there! I could not have done it without the help of my awesome coach Cameron ONeal. His programming and experience prepared me for the toughest event I have ever done. I also don't think I could have made it through some of my training sessions without some of the awesome training partners that I have! I am lucky to have friends who will meet me before the sun comes up to put in the miles. I have to credit my improved swim confidence to Amphibious training and coach Andy for helping me with my technique and efficiency in the water.
Most importantly I could not have done this without my husbands support. He put up with my insane training schedule. Training sessions starting at 3 a.m., lasting upwards of 7 hours on weekends, going to bed a 6 p.m., just to give you an idea. The training, combined with work and general anxiety of actually doing the race made me more than a little difficult to deal with I am sure...so he is the real MVP here.
I don't know if I will do another one... ask me after I am recovered!