My first Half Ironman

swimming

I finished my first Half Ironman and ordered my 70.3 bumper sticker..I really wasn’t sure I would make it.

When I woke up the morning of the race, the water looked a little like this:

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Well, not exactly…the race was held at this park, however I took this picture in November. In this picture, there was a strong west wind. During the race, there was a strong north wind which meant that the waves would start pounding us at the end of the pier. Then if we could make it past the pier, we had to swim against the waves to the first buoy. If we could make it to the first buoy, we could let the waves rock us back to shore.

Due to a small craft warning, upon arrival I received the news that the swim would be shortened due to treacherous conditions. The swim went from 1.2 miles to 0.25 miles. I cried tears of joy and cancelled the mental list of loved ones whom I would give all of my running medals my prized earthly possessions to. Nevertheless, even with the shortened swim, about 5% of competitors got pulled.

race 4

Here is my wave waiting in the calmer waters on the left of the pier. I tried not to watch the waves before us getting hit by huge wave surges after the pier. Lifeguards on jet skis were pulling people out of the water. I think the lady next to me was about ready to have a panic attack. She was muttering anxiously to herself. I felt like we were cattle waiting for the slaughter house truck.

The horn sounded. We swam together in a clump towards the end of the pier. People kicked and clawed their way through only to be hit by a huge wave surge at the end of the pier. There was a collective roller coaster ride scream as we were hit by a giant wave. I gulped down several mouthfuls of water and choked.

My husband’s words right before the race became my mantra…water is my friend…I love water..

I reached out to the lifeguard in the water that had a flotation device. She said calming words. I stayed until I stopped choking. The lady next to me had a full blown panic attack and had to be pulled out of the water.

I felt like I was in a wave pool except I couldn’t quite see where I was and I couldn’t touch the ground.

Thankfully I made it past the first race buoy and let the 4 foot waves push me back to shore. It was rather nauseating being raised to great heights then dropped.

SWIM!

I was so happy to make it through the swim alive.

I was still shaking as I was riding my bike 15 miles later. I could’ve drowned kept splashing through my mind. I was finally able to calm down a little but still felt shaken. I decided to make one stop halfway through the bike route to hydrate. I didn’t feel like I could keep my balance if I grabbed water while biking.

The bike route was very scenic and pleasant despite the rolling hills at the end. We went through small towns along the bay of Lake Michigan. I saw deer in fields and sailboats in marinas.

It wasn’t until the last 10 miles that things got to be grueling. The end of the route was uphill against the strong north winds. I tried to say comforting words as I saw a My Team Triumph team struggle up a big hill. I felt like quitting then.

Plus I never biked over 45 miles before. There’s that.

I passed the last water stop, regretfully not stopping. With a few miles left, I got a bad side cramp and my knee started to hurt. I felt a little lightheaded, but kept going.

How was I going to run 13.1 miles? Maybe I should stop, but I pressed on.

Near the end, I prematurely unclipped my bike shoes. I was told to keep going until I was ready to pass the race mat. I accidentally clipped my shoe back in when I was supposed to dismount and almost fell.

Thankfully, somehow, I managed to avoid drowning and a bike crash all in one day.

The first few miles of the run I focused on hydrating myself. Thankfully the cramps were gone, but I started feeling a little sick… I found myself having to run several times to the bathroom. That really motivated me to get running! I didn’t take any Gu because I felt like I was going to throw up. I spent the rest of the run doing a walk/run combo.

There was an area of the race where there were runners on both sides of the road running in opposite directions. The road wasn’t closed to traffic, so it was very busy. Most of the motorists honked, waved, or cheered out the windows to racers.

Every single volunteer was eager to please with a smile on their face. No one looked bored or like they were waiting for it to be over so they could go home. They asked if I was okay and if I needed something every single time. Did they recruit Walmart greeters??

This was the best run race I have ever been in.

As I was reaching the end, my friend Cori was waiting for me. She hugged and kissed me through her falling tears. Then she told me how proud of me she was and how much she loved me.

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I didn’t know how emotional this race could be. I found my friends, my husband, and myself in tears unexpectedly. People who rarely cried were struck with emotion. I felt like it was one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. I overcame my obstacles. I struggled and prevailed.

finish

I crossed the finish line!

Trying to sail through life’s storms

We made it back home safe about 2 hours ago. I thought I would let everyone know since I left everyone hanging yesterday with some hard decisions to make about whether to weather the storms. After we last spoke, things did get a little dicey.  The first round of thunderstorms came through after blogging. We holed up on the sailboat. After the storm went through, we headed to the pool. We didn’t want to spend our whole anniversary huddled over our iPads scouring weather reports. We decided at that point to possibly wait until the next storm went past to head home. It was going to take some schedule juggling to stay another day. 

At the pool, we received reports of the big storm that was to come. Strong thunderstorms, 50 to 60 mph winds, large hail, possible tornadoes. It was one big blob of reds and purples over the whole Midwest. We met a man at the pool with his daughter, son-in-law, and two young granddaughters. They made a point of teaching the children how to be respectful of adults in the pool which was greatly appreciated. They had a small motorboat and were determined to beat the storm because plans couldn’t be changed. 

The large cold front came in. The clouds rolled, the sky eerie, lightening flashed, and thunder boomed. The man left with his family about 5 minutes before the torrential downpours with a bit of trepidation. I ran into the boat to grab some clothes while Paul closed things up for the storm. I ran bikini clad through the strange silence of electrically charged air into the shelter of the bar. Inside, Paul saw an old college roommate. Always nice to meet a group of people for the first time in a bikini when others are fully clothed. Priceless. The lights flicker. The winds blow, it starts to hail. An elderly couple at the gambling machines momentarily express worry because windows were left open at home but head right back to the machines. The band is set up to play next to the window. They abandon equipment to play their instruments closer to the bar. The music is quiet while the thunder cracks loud.  When the storm finally ends, it is late afternoon. Now we face the prospect of sailing through small bands of storms in the dark. We decide to stay. 

When we get back to the boat we find that the wind blew our hatch open. All of the clothes, pillows, and my sleeping bag is soaking wet. We try with some success to dry everything. If we saw the storms on Saturday morning, we probably would have stayed home. We faced cooler weather conditions, strong winds, and 3 foot waves most of the way home today. But we made it home safe, which might not have been the case the day before. Another adventurous anniversary in the books. 

The goodbye rescue kind of sail

Paul may have saved a man’s life last night. 

Last night we went sailing with Tom and Lisa (my running partner and bff) to say our final goodbyes before they move from Wisconsin to Florida. We keep our boat on a relatively large body of water. I am not giving anything away as our state is practically surrounded by large bodies of water and contains large and numerous lakes and rivers. It is rumored that we have more lakes than our neighboring state of Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. But I do not want to start a debate. Let me tell you that sailing on a large body of water isn’t always a breeze. Ha ha. Last night was no exception. 

The night started off breezy even though the forecasters said that there wasn’t going to be much of a wind. We were sailing with the same friends that we went on the accidental overnight sail with that I blogged about earlier. We have had so many crazy wild adventures with them that I thought I would give them names which means future crazy wild stories. Anyway, we decided to take a sail out to a landmark for some awesome goodbye photos. Lisa and I share the love of running and photography. The sunset pictures were going to be divine. The wind took us to our destination in no time. It was so windy that there were whitecaps with two to three foot waves. We had our pants and sweaters on as it was a chilly July night. The water splashing up on us was not much warmer. Lisa and I went out on the bow and started posing for the camera when we saw a little guy in the distance out on the water struggling. We asked him if he needed help and he said he would be okay. We looped around taking more pictures. 

When we made it back to the man a second time he was clearly in trouble. He was in a small boat, about the size of a canoe with a small sail on it. He had tipped the boat over several times struggling with the waves and the wind. The water was cold, it was getting dark, he was 5 miles from shore, and we were the only boat around. It was going to take us an hour to get back to shore at dusk under motor. His situation was getting dire. I was picturing in my mind the morning news story of a man lost at sea drowning. A man in the background of our smiling pictures. My husband Paul did what any great captain would do, he threw out a line and kept us all from panicking. After the man swam to our boat, I did what any good captain’s wife would do. I wrapped him up in my warm, fuzzy purple robe and handed the guy a beer. Apparently, he headed out for a short sail about four hours before. The wind took him out and he couldn’t get back to shore. He was clothed in a swimming suit, life jacket, and inexperience. He had nothing on the boat to eat or drink and left his cell phone at home. He was in big trouble. 

Paul may have saved a man’s life last night.