My first “Ironman” (just a mere 12 years ago…)

I wrote about it last week, then I started thinking more about it.  Especially since I found myself back in Utah (St. George) last weekend.  This particular inaugural race (turns out first and last) was the Provo, Utah Ironman. I signed up for it in 2002.  Funny I thought I “had” to do it before I spitted out my babies (since once you have kids your life is “over”).  NOT TRUE!!!!  12 years later I am stronger, wiser, and faster then in my 20s.  (late twenties for those doing the math)…… And so much happier having my kiddos and hubby at my side.

My mom found my race report from “back in the day” and I thought it might be fun to share.   First of all, to just say how freaking amazing my parents are at preserving memories (this was before blogs and the “cloud” ha ha).  Second, it’s nuts that I have been doing this crazy sport for so long.  And, finally, we all have upsets in life.  But it is an important reminder that you need to keep moving forward, and keep dreaming.  Life is full of surprises, changes, goals and disappointments…..

Spoiler alert:  the race was shortened, ending my first goal to become an “Ironman”.

So, here it is.  12 years later as an official blog (unedited and photos of the younger version of who you know today :)).

My story of Ironman.

Walking to swim start! (and sooo naive!)
Walking to swim start! (and sooo naive!)

Not really sure where to start here.. but wanted to share with you Saturday’s unfolding of events. This probably won’t even do it justice, but at least it might help you understand (that is, if you can make it through the whole thing without falling asleep!). Also wanted to thank you for your support, encouragement, and wisdom along the way. Getting here was one thing & without the support of friends and family, it would have been very very difficult.

I went through that day in my mind more times than I could’ve ever wanted. I was ready nutritionally, mentally, and physically. 10 months preparation, yet nothing I could have done would have changed anything that day.

Saturday, June 8th.

3:45am: Alarm went off. Didn’t sleep to well but didn’t care about sleep, wanted to get up and go. I was ready to get this race underway!! Very excited!!

4:00am: Breakfast. Eat a lot, it’ll be a long day out there….

4:30am: Went to transition 2 and double-checked bags (even though I had already done this 18 thousand times the night before). We triathletes are a weird breed. Walked across street to board shuttles to lake.

5:00am: Arrive at lake / transition 1. Check bike, pump up tires, stretch, eat, drink, eat, etc.

Happiest I was all day!
Happiest I was all day!

6:00am: Say hi and chat with Simon, mom & dad, sister/husband, brother/wife, and friend Robin. They were my “pit crew”, main support, & motivation all day long. All of them made the trip to watch me cross that finish line. I am so fortunate.

Ahh we look so young!
Ahh we look so young!

6:30am: Apply sunscreen, put on wetsuit, walk to starting point. Weather that day called for 78 high, 56 low. Beautiful apart from the 30 mph++ wind gusts. Didn’t think it would effect the swim and was pretty darn sure I would just have to deal with it on my bike. Nothing I haven’t experienced in Dallas. No problem. I’m ready, let’s get this thing going!

6:40am: Trying to get in lake. It looked awful out there. Announcer was yelling to get in the water, “only 20 minutes until the start”. 2,000 competitors and a very very small boat ramp. Wiggled my way around and jumped in the 10 ft. deep water. Shallow, dirty, and couldn’t see farther than one inch in front of me. No problem. I’ve swim in all kinds of places, this will be fine.

This is a great shot (although clearly not high res) of swimmers unsure about jumping in before the gun went off...
This is a great shot (although clearly not high res) of swimmers unsure about jumping in before the gun went off…

6:50am: Game plan: Get to front and fast. Wanted to be near the front so I could stay near others my pace; didn’t really enjoy being kicked, hit, and pummeled upon. Trying to find the front. Where is the bouy?

6:54am: Pretty tired from battling the waves and still getting nowhere trying to reach this moving target of a buoy. People started swimming. Has it started? Is this the beginning of my 12 hour day?

No joke, people started swimming (I think they had to so they could stay afloat) before the cannon even fired!
No joke, people started swimming (I think they had to so they could stay afloat) before the cannon even fired!

6:55am: Race Organizers shot off the cannon knowing there was nothing they could do to stop the crowds of athletes swimming forward trying to complete the swim portion of the race.

6:55-8:00am: At this point I was ducking under these waves as to not get to thrashed. Every time a wave hit me my world went black. The water was so bad you couldn’t see an inch in front of you. I’ve done many a rough water swims in the ocean [ and nothing compared to this. What was everyone else thinking? How were the other swimmers managing getting through it?

WOW!  Remember this is a LAKE.
WOW! Remember this is a LAKE.

I can do this. All I needed was to keep with the others:yellow (pros), blue (women), and green (men) caps were everywhere. Just follow them. Kept swimming, kept thrashing. I then realized I hadn’t seen a buoy in over 30 minutes. Had we even moved? Just then, I spotted one and made a 90 degree turn to get to it. Need to swim to buoy. Can’t quit. Can’t get disqualified. I was so close to the buoy yet it still seemed so far away. Was it moving? Kept swimming, kept thrashing. Couldn’t see anything. Then it happened. A canoe (yes, there was a canoe upside down with a person floating on the top of it) came over to us (now it was about a group of 20) and said “they are calling everyone back in, swim is cancelled”. What? How can they cancel the swim? This is an Ironman! My mind was going crazy at this point. Who was this guy to tell me to NOT swim to the bouy and head back to the shoreline? Was it really cancelled? Conditions were tough. The swim was a challenge in itself, much less needing to race another 10+ hours. Started swimming in. …..Or at least what I thought was in….. about 20 minutes later I realized there were no caps around me. No blue, green, or yellow. No boats. I had a hard time seeing the shoreline. Am I going to make it back for the 2 1/2 cutoff time? Simon expected me in at about an hour. I thought for sure it had been about 2 out there already (it had only been about 45 minutes at that point). How can I tell him I am ok? Which way do I go now? I can remember my coach telling me to “enjoy the swim, it’s the best part of the day”.  Not today it wasn’t. I was so ready to get on my bike at this point I couldn’t even stand it. I felt lost. Out in the middle of a large body of water with noone around me. I kept swimming, trying to get closer to shore. The waves were pushing me farther away. I finally saw a green cap, we yelled a few obsceneties and decided to stick together. We needed each other. Everytime a wave hit though we lost each other. Green Cap. No green cap. Green Cap. Scared. Eventually (again, seemed like hours when you are all alone) a boat pointed us in the opposite direction towards shore/race. Still not sure which way to go, I again found the “green cap” and we struggled back to a shore. My arms reached the bottom of the lake. Yes, my arms. It was about knee high and I was still about 400 yards away from the shore. Only problem it was the wrong shore. Finally crawled through the rocks and made it to land. Yes, I made it. Looked at my watch.  One hour, five minutes.  The site was unimaginable. People were walking from all directions. Athletes were getting slammed into rocks. Our group had been pushed so far south we had to jump on board trucks to take us back to the transition. Others had boarded boats to take them to safety. Utter confusion. What’s going on here?

7:20am: Race had been officially cancelled. Some athletes didn’t event start. I later found out one athlete did not make it out of the water that day. Complete change of events, all within less than 20 minutes. I relearned something we all know intuitively but so easily forget as we get tied down to the minutiae of day-to-day living: life is too short not to live each day to its fullest and chase your dreams. Suddenly I felt very very fortunate.

8:00am: Saw my loved ones and big hugs all-around. Happy to be on-shore. Happy they were there.  Not knowing what the heck was going on, I set off for my transition bag. BY THE WAY, this is not the way it is supposed to happen. NORMALLY: the swim goes as planned, you get out of the water, volunteers help you strip off your wetsuit, they give you your transition bag, grab your bike, and send you off. TODAY: chaos. I went back into the changing tent to put on some warm clothes. By now winds were well over 30 mph and it was very cold out there, especially wet. I knew the bike course was hilly, and with the wind like it was going through Provo Canyon was going to be very challenging. I was still thinking I was going to finish this damn thing.

8:15am: They made an announcement to “check in” so they could account for all swimmers and then they would regroup and make a decision. Hanging out with Simon, my dad & my brother in law, trying to keep spirits high…. we waited. I was now in major denial. This is not happening. I was ready to do an Ironman. I have trained for this, I have committed time, money, and energy for the past 10 months. Let me do an Ironman!

9:15am: Announcement: Duathlon only. Course shortened; 60-65 mile bike ride (turned out to be over 70 miles), followed by a half marathon. What? A standard training day? Wait here a minute, I have invested 10+ months for this. All I knew was I wanted to wake up Sunday morning with the feeling that I completed an Ironman and now that dream would be impossible. I didn’t know what to think. I was still in denial. Remember – the swim is the best part! I didn’t even know what I wanted. Part of me wanted to pack up the bike and head back to the hotel for a snooze, big hamburger, ice cream, beer, etc. More than 100 people did just that – made the decision to leave the race. Decided that wasn’t an option for me. Heck, I had 10 people out there who were going to see me finish; short, long, swim, no swim. Hang out until 10am. Relax. Get excited again. Smile.

10:00am: Pros start. They were numbered 1-50. I, on the other hand was 1733. What happened to ladies first? ………another 1 1/2 hours until I set off.

11:17am: FINALLY! Start! Didn’t quite feel like a race but trying to get back into it. Winds high, 30-40 mph. Get on my bike and go for it.

…….After about 71 miles (according to the official Jen Softride odometer) on a most challenging bike course I turned in my bike, switched to my running shoes, and set off for the 1/2 marathon. I was still in a complete daze, phased of what was happening. Sadness for the family who lost a loved one. Why was I out here? Continued to experience the fun (??) hills of Utah, as well as the effects of being at high altitude. After a total of 5 hours & 47 minutes biking and running, and about 10 hours from when we started the swim, I ran into the stadium and across the finish line.

WHAT am I doing? and WHAT am I wearing?  Ohhhh am I grateful for Betty Designs and their awesome gear!!!!
WHAT am I doing? and WHAT am I wearing? Ohhhh am I grateful for Betty Designs and their awesome gear!!!!

I looked forward to crossing that line with tears in my eyes and a smile as I saw Simon, my friends & family waiting for me to finish my first Ironman. Instead I left Utah Sunday with tears in my eyes after both the tragedy of an athlete losing his life and the Ironman that never was. I am ashamed of my sadness…..

photo 1
My entire family came out to this one & my bestie! And, funny enough, my clever brother photo-shopped the shirt on Simon. What a crew… and my sweet sweet father… xox

When I finished someone said “Way to go Ironwoman!” and I thought to myself one day, yes, one day, I will be an Ironwoman.

(And I did a few months later!)


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