Thursday, December 18, 2014

IMAZ race report: post-race

So what happens after?

If you're me, first you lock yourself out of the condo at 1 a.m. and start calling locksmiths. But then Arvan, who somehow can still think like a real person after 140.6 miles, looks around in the front yard until he finds the hide-a-key and all is saved.

You also don't really sleep very much. Because adrenaline and being so full of sugar from gels and sports drink.

But the not sleeping is good, since you have to get up early to stand in line to buy finisher's gear, which you vow never to take off your body. And then you make sure your bike is all set to be shipped home.

And then you play tourist.

Note the outfit, never taking that shit off.

And the whole time it really hurts to go up and down stairs, curbs included.

But it hurts more when you have to drop your loved ones off at the airport and it begins to hit you that the wedding weekend is over and now you must go back to normal life. And also: Why can't we buy acreage and be together forever on a commune of awesome? (It's not as creepy as it sounds, I swear.)

Other random thoughts from IMAZ that don't fit anywhere, so I'm listing them here:

1. Apparently my parents went to church at some point during the run because they thought I needed heavenly intervention after that horrible bike. (For real. Welcome to my Catholic childhood.)

2. A story I heard from another athlete: There was a guy who had nothing on but a blue Victoria's Secret-ish thong under his wetsuit, which was quite the surprise for the wetsuit strippers.

3. When the volunteer brought me my bike at T1, he called it the "mini bike."

4. Coach Mark got his first drafting penalty ever. It is a sore spot to this day. Don't bring it up.

5. Yes, in case you are wondering, I did eat a hot dog on the bike, just like I did on every long training ride. And no, I did not have to use the Immodium in my special needs bag. In fact, my nutrition was spot on.

6. Some spectators set up a bacon aid station on the run. I didn't eat any -- strange meat can be risky. (Interpret as you will.)

7. Recovery since has been weird. My body feels OK, but my temperature is all off. For about two weeks after the race, I was constantly freezing. I'm just finally getting back to normal.

8. My first post-race adult beverage was an Old Fashioned. At a restaurant called House of Tricks. No, there was no magic show. And no, it was not a brothel.

9. I still talk to Jason, JM and Carlton, the three guys I met on the run. We are trying to pick a race to do together in 2015.

10. Would I do another Ironman? Absolutely yes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IMAZ race report: the run

Dear god, if there was a moment when I wanted to kiss the ground and hug my running shoes, it was the second the hell on earth of riding against gale-force winds ended and I got off my bike. Because right then I knew I was going to finish. I knew I was going to be an Ironman.

And let me tell you: That is a freaking amazing realization.

Suddenly, everything was beautiful: The way Tempe Town Lake looked in the sunset light, the sound of feet hitting the pavement, the incredible support from the volunteers and spectators (Kimra, I cannot tell you how good it was to see you at that first aid station), the really tall guy in the sinewy tri suit who left transition with me. (Seriously, though, he really was very pleasant to look at.)

I cruised through the first 13.1 miles of the run, chatting with people, asking them about their personal stories, cheering for them, smiling uncontrollably. I was moving along pretty steadily until about Mile 14 or 15, and then it hit me that the day would be over soon, that everything would come to an end.

And since I am a weirdo who doesn't make good decisions operate like most other people, I decided to walk. Because I wanted to savor every second and think about where I've been this year and what Ironman meant. (Also, my hamstrings were starting to bother me a little. And I didn't want to look like I was dying when I crossed the finish line, which would probably send my parents into cardiac arrest.)

Around Mile 18, I got really cold and asked a volunteer for a space blanket. She ended up making me a poncho out of a trash bag instead. I spent the next few miles laughing hysterically to myself. Because when I got this tattoo last fall to immortalize both my favorite song and my first Ironman ...

... I didn't think the more accurate description of my race would be: "And I am wearing a trash bag on the desert plains all night."

Thankfully another aid station had space blankets, so I was able to update my look. I finished the last four miles of the run with three random guys I had never met before in my life: Jason, JM and Carlton. They were also wearing space blankets. We walked in a line, four abreast, and made each other laugh. It was pretty freaking awesome. 

Superheroes in foil!

Can't think of a better group to finish the day with.

As we got closer to the finish line, we could hear Mike Reilly's voice and the roaring crowd. Layla, Thai and Carlos materialized on the sidewalk, running next to me for a few feet. (Let me remind you: Thai is very pregnant. Very, very pregnant. I was worried babies were going to be born at that moment.) And then I saw Coach Mark and his wife, Teresa, cheering for me. (Mark had done the race too and finished hours ago, but still waited for my slow ass.)

I got rid of the space blanket (because photos) and headed for the finish chute.

I went straight to my parents, who were waiting on the sidelines. My mom was crying, and she kept saying: "You did it! You did it! You are an Ironman!" 

Then I took a photo with my new best friends ...

These guys: I'll never, ever forget them.

... and put my awesome hideous green jacket back on because I was freezing. (See? Now I will really never get rid of that thing.)

Seriously so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my family and friends.

Aren't they the best in the world?

I don't know how to describe the joy of Ironman. There are no words. All I can say is that it is even better than this, if you can believe it:

(I know, right? Thank you to Ron for the amazing image!)

Run: 6:02:46 (new marathon personal worst!)
Total race time: 16:20:28

Monday, December 15, 2014

IMAZ race report: the bike

My mom and I were having a conversation the other night. "We're still talking about Ironman," she said. "It's been how long and we're still talking about it. Isn't it sad how we're still talking about Ironman for this long and we didn't talk about your wedding that way?"

And this pretty much sums up my relationship history.

Anyway, since we have now made the transition to Painful Moments in Michaela's Life, let's talk about the horror that was the bike at IMAZ.

Yes, I have a sperm helmet.

First of all, the three-loop course was supposed to be fairly easy. Arvan and I drove it as part of our pre-race prep. There were no huge climbs. The road conditions were incredible. (Arvan -- who is from Sonoma County, a.k.a. the Land of Patched Asphalt -- kept yelling: "There are no potholes! No potholes! No potholes!") And we both agreed the bike would be a dream compared to what we had experienced during training.

Unfortunately, on race day, there was wind. A whole big shit-ton of wind. (I've since heard it was the worst wind in the history of IMAZ.) And because my swim and T1 already took longer than I thought they would, this wind became a huge problem. What was supposed to be a "comfortable" ride (if you can call anything in Ironman comfortable) turned out to be absolutely disheartening. Imagine a long, steady climb -- which should've felt like a false flat if weather conditions had been better -- with at least 17 mph headwinds. For miles. And you have to repeat this torture three times. It was like riding a stationary bike in a stupid outfit with a bunch of other people who looked very upset.

About halfway through loop two, I began to wonder if I was going to make the cutoff.

The part when I started freaking out and yelling at people on the sidelines.

It got to the point where I was shouting "Are we going to be OK?" at every single person I rode past. And of course, the athletes all had Ironman brain and had no idea what time it actually was or when the cutoffs were, and the volunteers were equally confused and just tried to give me water and sports drink.

I went to a very dark place. All I could think about was how I was going to get pulled off the course and fail and it would be humiliating and would I even want to try again and Arizona sucks my ass and how was I going to explain this to everyone who believed in me. I got so down mentally and was so convinced I wasn't going to make the cutoff that I almost pulled over to wait for the SAG wagon. 

And then it hit me: That damn SAG vehicle is going to have to sweep me off this course. I will have to be forcibly extracted from the road. And until that happens, I'm going to keep riding. My mantra became "Easier than cancer" and "Easier than heartbreak," and I just said that over and over to myself and pushed on.

I finished the bike eight minutes before the cutoff. Apparently, I was so close to failing that my mom had seen the SAG vehicles start heading up the course to sweep people. And she was so worried that she cried to a security volunteer and said: "I haven't seen my daughter! What will happen to my daughter if she doesn't make it? She's worked so hard!" And she was so emotional that the volunteer started crying too. And they hugged each other.

Oh, Ironman: The way you bring the world together.

Anyway, I was so thrilled to get off the damn bike (no offense, Muppet, but that shit was rough) that I flew through T2. I cannot even tell you how relieved I was to start running.

Bike: 8:09:16
T2: 3:05 (the only fast thing I did all day)