Sunday, September 9, 2012

It Takes A Village to Make A 1/2 Ironwoman

Yesterday marked the completion of my first 1/2 iron distance triathlon, the Nashvegas Half in Ashland City, TN. Afterward while recovering at home, it all seemed kind of surreal. I commented to a friend, "I feel like I just came back from an epic journey." She said, "It WAS an epic journey!"- she was right!
It was an incredible experience, one that challenged every bit of me- mentally and physically. 

Here's how it went down:

4:30am. Wake up. Jon is up, and offers to drive me to the race. I say, "YES!". He drives, we talk, it's still pitch black out as we pull into the lot where I'll unload my gear.

6:00am. Check the air pressure in my tires, grab gear from car, head to transition area to set up and get body marked (my race number written on me).

7:00am. RACE START! The swim start goes in waves- men's age groups then women. This is a small race, but it's easy to see there is very small percentage of women competitors compared to men. The clouds are gray and heavily covering the sky. I swim, and swim pretty well thanks to the training I 've gotten lately at Open Water Swim clinics thanks to the guys at X3 Endurance.

I start to lose track of time at about this point and start breaking time down into the two upcoming segments: bike and run.

Bike. I hop on and take off in great spirits thanks to the sweet group of folks who are already out there cheering me on. Every time I hear them, it bumps up my energy level just a little bit more. Right off the bat, it starts raining. Slow and steady at first, then the sky opens up and it POURS. The first couple hours of the ride basically consist of getting pummeled by wind and rain. Thankfully, no one wrecked on the course and we never had lighting- two of my biggest fears for the ride were totally fine. I felt good (as good as you can after 56 miles), physically and mentally. I rode cautiously around traffic, followed my plan for taking in nutrition and hydration, and kept a steady pace. In the final 15 miles the sky began to clear. By the time I rolled into the bike/run transition the sun had come out! And my buddies were there to cheer me on again!!!

Run. I yank on my shoes and head out onto the road. The first couple miles, I take it pretty easy to get my legs adjusted. The course takes me out onto a flat, shady greenway- so nice! I feel strong so I pick up the pace a little. Four miles or so into the course, I see my buddy and training partner, Meg. Yay for an encouraging face! By mile 7, I 'm feeling it. All over. Tired legs, lagging energy, and feet that feel like concrete blocks. I start doubting my ability to finish strong.

Then, bless her sweet, sweet heart- I see Meg waiting at the start of the final mile. She rocks. I am so thankful for her choosing to come out on the course and support me like this. I kind of want to cry but don't want to be weird. Instead I just lose my breath and start wheezing which was kind of weird anyway. I know I can't talk so I ask Meg to say things, just talk to me. She quickly tells me how the morning was, and that she thinks I'm making great time. I focus on what she is telling me, and let it distract me from my horribly heavy legs. Coming into the final 1/4 mile I hear her say "there's a chick behind you", so I pick my pace back up. Ahead are Jon, Daniel, Mardie, Mike, Cristina, Seth and Emmit cheering me in! That's when Jon took the above pic. Then I follow the advice I've been given: finish with nothing left in the tank. So I did! And here's what that looks like:

                                         And here's what my medal looks like:

And here's the sticker I proudly added to my car this morning:

70.3 miles is quite a journey, and yes an "epic" one at that. For me it was about time spent training hard with people I love and respect, as well as making new friends along the way. It was about seeing more experienced people be gracious, kind, and willing to help me- a relative newcomer. It was about facing fears and choosing to move through them. It was about seeing that this seemingly solo race is not about me, but rather- community. It took a village to make this half iron woman, and I am so incredibly grateful to my "village".



The Blonde Mule said...

Sarah!!! This is so awesome! I'm so proud of you! Having just barely survived my first sprint, I can't imagine doing a half. You're an inspiration! Way to go!

Sarah Shearer said...

Kim, Thank you! It was such a great day:)