Lessons from (Ironman) Louisville

During a race, my goal is to have fun. I’d rather finish in last place smiling than finish first with a sourpuss attitude. My goal wasn’t different for Ironman Louisville. I learned a lot this weekend in good ol’ Kentucky and crossed the finish line thanks to a group effort from some very special people. Below are lessons learned/things that got me through the race:

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*Photograph taken by Caught Outside.

5. The ROI of Training

There is one thing I learned out there that is more about my training and less about my mental state.

During the race I felt powerful and great on the bike course. I was so hopped up on adrenaline that I didn’t even notice that my back wheel was bent, like real bent. Mile 46 came and I had to get it fixed. I couldn’t even roll my bike properly; the break pad was rubbing against the wheel so much. 30 minutes in line for the bike repair guy, the decision to give me a ’66 mile fix’ and I was on my way. I am far from being a cyclist to emulate, but thanks to training from Tyler at Velo I was able to encounter a bent wheel and still finish strong. Lesson learned: If you can’t buy a sexy fast bike AND invest in training – invest in training.

4.  Check yo strategy against reality

I feel like I learn this lesson a lot actually. Louisville reminded me of the importance of being self-aware. Throughout the day I would constantly take inventory of my physical, emotional, mental state. When one would waver I’d create a plan to correct it. The race was like life, the unexpected happens. It’s not like I PLANNED on getting a bent tire. I didn’t PLAN on seeing a guy on a stretcher with his bike in a ditch on the first 12 miles of the ride, and I sure didn’t PLAN on almost vomiting during the run. But it all happened. What did I do? I roared like the Lola Bear that I am. I went back to my rolodex of mantras, I checked my strategy against reality.

3. Dennis

My friend’s wonder why I haven’t Facebook friended this man yet. I met Dennis during the marathon. By that time I knew I was going to finish the race before cutoff (as Kim said to me ‘You could do 24 minute miles and still make it! Then she saw the look in my eye and said, ‘but don’t take that long’).

I was doing a walk/run mix and enjoying it. I didn’t want to go all out because it was after all, a marathon. I also didn’t want to injure myself or pass out. It was still warm out, and (shocker) this was my first Ironman. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I definitely didn’t want any surprises.

Then I met Dennis. He is a doctor from Chicago and as the athlete guide later told me, he is somewhere between 60-65 years old. Since 2007 he has completed 10 Ironmen and this was his 2nd slowest race. Despite his niece’s opinion, he doesn’t recommend I read The Bee. After he explained the plot to me, I’m totally agree with Dennis, the book seems to not really have a point. Why did that woman keep making the same mistake? What was the author thinking? Neither Dennis nor I will ever know.

My time with Dennis reminded me that this is why I do races – to have an experience, to be challenged, to learn, to have fun. Somewhere between mile 15 and delirium I was not having the time of my life and I weighed my option to pick up the pace but risk bonking. My speed walking session with Dennis reminded me that I would much rather hear about his favorite restaurant in San Francisco than to try to improve my run time by 30 minutes. I ended up finishing the race happy, injury free, and with a new friend. Oh, and with an action item to go to the Burmese restaurant that serves green tea salad.

Thanks Dennis.

2. I may be alone, but I sure ain’t lonely

Like my man Neil DeGrasse Tyson said:

“When I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big – but I feel big.”

Out there on the course I was very much alone, but I also felt very connected. Not just to my fellow triathletes, but with the supporters, my family, my friends, heck I even felt connected to nature.  A few things kept this lil’ engine going ‘til the end, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone that helped me through this journey. A few things really kept number 205 doing nothing less than trucking along…

  • My swim outfit! Adorning Australia’s finest Budgy Smuggler swim wear definitely made my swim fast and fashionable (thanks Damien)
  • Justin’s aerobars and Pedro’s fitting made my bike. Without them I’d be still out there…
  • Being supplied endless love from Grump’s heart kept me going strong
  • Hearing Tyler’s (loving) barks of ‘you are in control’ and ‘when your legs get tired, so what? They are tired. Deal with it.’
  • Thanks to Todd I recognized the beautiful moments and acknowledged the difficult ones and accepted that both would come and go. I was literally like ‘This is a beautiful moment.’  A few miles passed. ‘This isn’t a beautiful moment.’ A few miles went by. ‘This one is though.’
  • Sadie’s wise words of ‘When the going gets tough just say ‘Fuck these bitches, Imma pull this one out.’
  • Many thanks to the Noodle – I ‘roared’ many times during the marathon.
  • Kim and my family made the experience more than I could have ever ever have imagined.
  • Team Cancer Sucks was with me all the way to the finish. I got 25 compliments on the run alone.
  • David & Izzy were on my mind – kept me going in a real way.
  • With every bite of a Pringle I thought of Tom Tom.
  • With every sip of Coke I thought of Doug.
  • Then I finished and thanked my ride or die bitch Dave for being the main instigating force to even sign up for this crazy race.

So basically, I couldn’t have done this alone. The love kept coming even long after I finished the race. The texts/emails/phone calls/videos of people watching me cross the finish were overwhelming! My friends and family are amazing. Thank you.

1. Mantras. Holy hell they work.

There are a few ‘mantras’ that I keep in my back pocket for tough times. This weekend I used every single one of them several times. Thanks to the mantra makers out there.

During my last Swim from Alcatraz my friend Justin looked at me and with his best Macaulay Culkin inflection, ‘This is it. Don’t get scared now.’ I said this to myself at the beginning of the race, but I also said it a few times on the run. Woof, it helped.

In the midst of an incredibly difficult set, my spin instructor Tyler (lovingly) barked at us, ‘You have two minutes to get your shit together!’ And now I tell myself that all the time. Not only on the race course, but also in everyday life like when I’m late to a dinner. Some may say it isn’t exactly a mantra, but it is highly effective.

Coach Doug  told our team before this year’s Wildflower race ‘You get to do this’. Our team fundraises money for cancer research, and we all know too many people that have health issues that don’t allow them to even consider training for a triathlon. This mantra is a humbling reminder that health should never be taken for granted.

Coach Tom Tom is probably one of the most perfect people you’ll ever meet. The only thing bigger than his muscles is his heart. He always says ‘Faster than a cheetah, stronger than a buck!’ it’s always a good one to get the momentum going.

At the ripe young age of 18 I got my first and only tattoo. On the day of, I had a moment of realization that I might be pushed to endure pain that was previously unknown to me. My older brother just looked at me and said, ’You’ll be fine, it’s not like you’re going to die.’ It put things into perspective then, and it still does so today.

When I was even younger, my dad taught me how to deal with pain. I would be crying about something reasonably legitimate and he would kneel down to be at my eye level and he’d say, ‘Okay clench your fists. And look at me. Take a deep breath in. Let it out. Now yell ‘IMA FIGHTA!!’ so I would. And I became one.

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