Friday, November 30, 2012


November 3rd, 2012
Panama City, Florida

Where do I begin ... biggest day of my life! Surprisingly I was fairly calm on the days leading up to the race. Pretty sure it was because even though none of my family could come, I knew loads of people down there & my best friend's family has kinda adopted me. The triathlon community really is like a family!

Yes, that is Mirinda Carfrae =)

The Monday before the race I got off work around 7:30pm and then my friend Nicole (who was also racing) & I drove through the night down there so we could have some vacation time too. Tuesday night we went for a quick 5mi run on the race course. It felt incredible & was probably the fastest 5mi I've ever run (supposed to be an easy run - it did feel easy, promise!) ... must be the race magic in the air already! I checked in at the race site on Wednesday & of course spent some good time in the expo! Also went for a nice bike ride of the run course on Wednesday w/ Forrest, Regina, Susan & Parker - where I tried to glean as much Ironman advice as I could from those seasoned veterans. Thursday I practiced swimming in the ocean with the gang and then prepped all the gear bags for race day & cleaned my bike. The ocean was pretty choppy that Thursday & I just tried to not panic & put faith in what Forrest & Regina kept saying, "if it's choppy now it will be nice and calm on Saturday." Friday came & we all just tried to lay low. Katie Malone came over to go over race strategy. As we were all talking Katie goes "what are your bags still doing here ... wait ... where are your bikes?!" Turns out bike check in was at 3pm and it was now 3:06. There was a whirlwind of chaos as we grabbed the bikes, Katie and her husband Brad grabbed our bags & we all took off sprinting to Transition Area (TA) in our flip flops - looking like complete retards! We made it there by 3:11. They did not want to let us it, but Nicole begged & somehow got them to changed their mind ... so yes we got to put our bikes in TA. Not till we left TA did it hit me how serious that was ... If you don't make bike check-in you DON'T RACE!! EEK!!
Most of the SC gang


Woke at 4am. Went down to the race site, dropped off the bags, pumped up the bike tires, realized I didn't have my water bottles, went back to the room, got the bags, went back to the race site, dug through a box with 100 bags in it, found my special needs bike bag & put my extra bottles in it, went & put my drink bottles on my bike, went to the boardwalk to put my wetsuit on, headed down onto the sand to find friends ... now I can relax, right? Oh, crap what am I doing? ... and this is when my freaking out mode kicked in. I can do this. I can do this. I really can do this. God, I hope I can do this!

We all filed in through the timing arch, waited on the beach until the pro's went off and then I creeped into the ocean until I was about knee deep. I guess it was so choppy that some lifeguards were falling out of their kayaks. I was focused, or maybe more like trying not to run away so I really didn't notice the waves! 3000 people waiting for the gun to go off ... BANG! ... & we are off, moving farther and farther out into the ocean until I was about thigh/waist deep then I put my "I got this" face on & dove into the next wave & was off. Pretty sure I got a blood nose at one point, but I just kept pushing. People were everywhere! I can see how easily it would be for people to freak out. Stay strong, just breath, stroke, stroke, oh crap I just hit somebody oh well! stroke stroke, ouch! that hurt. Why does this person continue to hit me. breath, stroke, I got this! At the end of the swim I ran out on to the sand, through the chute that was lined by volunteers ready to strip my wetsuit off, then up to TA to get my Bike Bag. After that they ushered me off into girls changing "tent", I threw my helmet & bike shoes on & ran to go find my bike. A volunteer was standing w/ my bike ready to hand it to me, so I grabbed it & kept running out to the mounting line.
Me, Jeff & Nicole - day after the race

As I started out on the bike I couldn't stop smiling. I'm doing a freak'n Ironman today. This is so cool! Katie's words kept running through my head, "focus on effort level and cadence. Keep those under control!" I was going a good clip, but swarms of cyclist would pass me. If they are passing you it means you passed them on the swim! Cool. Just keep your mind straight and keep your cadence and effort level controlled. Don't let those bikers get in your head. Do not start going their pace. Race smart Sarah. Race smart. The bike really felt great. Around mi 30 Jeff came up behind me and whacked me! I sware he almost got cursed out! It was really nice seeing him but I could have done without being practically pushed off the road! We talked for a bit & then he took off. By the half way mark (56mi) both of my elbow/arm rest pads had flown off & my arms were resting directly on my metal ... well this feels great! NOT! Block it out of your mind. Don't think about it again. It is what it is. Lets go! The special needs were at my 56 and I couldn't wait for my potato sticks that were waiting for me. When I rode off I realized I accidently threw the potato sticks bag off w/ my empty water bottles. Crap! Nicole passed me shortly thereafter and we talked for a bit. It was so cool catching up with her & hearing how she was and getting the low down on where the others probably were. Honestly I wasn't sure if I was ahead or behind her until that point. She was holding a faster pace than me & although I could keep up with her I knew I needed to race smart & if I kept her pace my run would probably majorly hurt ... so I said my goodbye & told her I'd see her at the finish line. Around mi 75 my lower back was killing me. I was starting to flounder a little. I was really hurting. You are doing an IRONMAN, you got this girl! Somehow I got my mojo back and tried to finish as strong as I could. Coming back into TA people were lining the roads & cheering. It was amazing. As I ran into TA a volunteer took my bike and I was ushered through another chute, given my TA2/ run bag and then off to the women's changed tent again. Great volunteers helped me, I brushed my teeth, threw my running shoes on, visor on, got slathered with sunscreen & then I ran through TA and out onto the running course.

Heading out on the 2nd loop of the marathon
On the run I settled into a nice pace. Felt like I was cruising. The bad/good thing about knowing so many people racing and their friends & family down to support them was that I knew if I started walking people would harass me! I walked the aid stations b/c by this point I couldn't eat solids or gel ... so that means I was drinking the flat coke at each aid station to keep me going. The first 13 mi loop went well. I kept my pace & was really cruising! The craziness of the day kept me going. At the turn around, back at TA, I got my special needs bag ... potato sticks!! And I'm off running again. People all over were walking, but I just wouldn't let them get me down. I can do this. Just keep going. Katie or Nicole might be right around the corner, you had better keep your butt running! Around mi 15, I came up on this guy & we started running together. He told me that if I kept my pace there's a possibility I could break 13 hours. 13 HOURS?? I had no clue what pace I was really going. I was just trying to race a pace that I could keep & just tried to stay steady & controlled. Guess it was paying off! He had to start walking & I was left on my own. Shortly after that I came across Chad & punched him in the shoulder since he was walking & I kept running. At the turn around near mi 21 I started to walk ... EVERYONE seemed to be walking by this point. We were back in a park away from everything. It was secluded and pitch black. Guess Chad had kept up w/ me since I punched him because after about 5 steps he came up behind me and said "Don't you dare start walking now!" ... so I started running again & he ran with me the rest of the way. I had told him that I was trying to break 13hrs & bless his heart he stayed & ran w/ me the rest of the way, looking at his watch & trying to keep me on track. With 3 miles left I was really struggling and had to walk a few times between aid stations.

I didn't break 13 hours, but I did get 13:05 which is AWESOME!!! When it got difficult and I was hurting I would tell myself "You are doing an Ironman girl, you got this!" - I would start smiling and think its supposed to hurt! That's why only a select few can say they are an Ironman. Thanks to a lot of people, specifically my best friend Nicole, I am an IRONMAN!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for giving us the details Sarah. I am so proud (and in awe) of you! You go girl!!
    Aunt Peggy