Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Final Chapter in my Ironman Journey

Saturday - 4:15 p.m.

Gil, Theresa and I walked to St. Patrick's Church to say a few prayers. On our way I saw Iron Wil. I was thinking about her and was happy to see her, hug her and wish her luck. At church I prayed.
Dear Lord - Please keep Scott, Doug, Gil, Dennis, Tom, Mike, Herb, Brian and me safe during our journey tomorrow. Please keep all the athletes safe. Give us the strength to deal with whatever mental and physical challenges come our way. Amen.
I said this over and over and was snapped out of it by the sound of my phone vibrating on the church pew. It was my brother calling to tell me he won, yes won, his golf tournament. How cool is that :)

Sunday Race Day

I was awakened at 3 by Zak. He was coughing and it was becoming more frequent so I gave him a breathing treatment. Scott told me he would finish it to go lay down. Once the hmmming of the breathing machine stopped I realized I wasn't falling back to sleep. Scott wasn't either. The next hour was filled with something we haven't done for a long time. We talked, uninterrupted. We laughed and joked. Around 4 he headed down stairs and got us some breakfast. I did some yoga. We ended up eating in the bathroom. It's funny how that doesn't bother you when you're limited to 350 square feet and 2 sleeping children . The bagel and tea tasted really good. The egg tasted bitter so I washed it down with gatorade. Scott was doing his best to help me keep my nerves at bay. 5 o'clock arrived pretty quick. I was dressed and out the door to drop off my special needs stuff. On my way down to the drop boxes I called Caroline and left her a message. She was doing the Chicago half today and I wanted to wish her luck. On my way back I called Keri. I teared up a little when I was talking to her. She told me she hoped to see me before the swim but if not - that I would do great and she would see me in transition. I then talked with my mom and Patty and was wished well by both of them. I got back to the room and grabbed by swim stuff. I kissed the kids while they slept and hugged and kissed Scott for the last time. I had to get to my run bag before getting marked and to my bike. I had plenty of time. It was about 5:30. Found my run bag and dropped off my Moo Crew hat that my trimates signed. Got in line to be marked. 2364 I said as the big fat sharpie formed the numbers on my arms and legs. I started to walk away and I heard someone calling my name. Several times. It was still dark and the glare of the lights was making it difficult to see. "Pam" I heard her again. It was Dennis's wife and little girl. Uh, I was so happy to see them. She asked how I was feeling. She told me how they got ready for the day and how well the little one was handling the early wake up call. Then I saw Dennis. He looked a little nervous. I hugged him twice and knew I wouldn't see him again until the end. Took the long, long walk to my bike. I was 3 racks from the out / bike mount. Lines were forming to pump tires. I put my cup on my bike and filled it, then filled one bottle with gatorade and the other with water. Put my ham sandwich in the bento box and my phone in the little box under my seat, that Keri lent me. Turned to check and make sure I didn't forget anything. Hey, where is my wetsuit? There's my cap, my goggles, my dry clothes bag. UGH! It was on the bed in the room. I forgot it! Don't panic I kept telling myself. But I did. I looked at the tire pump line and now it looked twice as long. Then I spotted a woman with a Joe Blow pump. I explained to her that I had forgotten my wet suit and needed to pump my tires quickly and she said no problem and handed me the pump. I was so grateful to her. My heart was racing at this point. I ended up taking off my sweatshirt and pants and just had my tri suit on. I was running towards the hotel. Thank goodness it was right there. It was only 6 o'clock but minutes seemed to be passing quickly. While running I saw Sheila, Doug's wife. She has this calming aura. She softly yelled good morning to me. I yelled back that I forgot my suit and she smiled. I know she saw my panic and didn't want to fuel it. Made it to the room by 6:05. Scott met me at the door and handed me my suit. Since I was there I used the nice clean bathroom - I knew that was my last time doing that for the next 14 or 15 hours. Zak was up now so I gave him a big hug and kiss goodbye. I kissed Gracie. As I was hugging Scott Zak told me to be careful and have fun and remember mom, he said, don't call anyone names!

The Swim

I got to the water by 6:20 and didn't recognize anyone. Stepped to a grassy area just off the water and started to stretch. Big mistake. Leaned over and was bit by a mosquito on the left cheek, unfortunately it wasn't the cheek on my face. Great I thought, I'm gonna have this rubber suit on how will I get to that irritating itch? Don't think about, just don't think about. Get out of the grass. I walked to the sidewalk and was bit again. This time on my lip. I was scratching it with my teeth and it began to swell. Ugh! It's ok I told myself. Just stay on the sidewalk and put on the wetsuit. I did and then ate 1/2 a banana power bar and the rest of my water. Another woman in a wetsuit was nervously teasing me to choke that bar down! I saw that she had her goggles outside her cap and suggested to put them inside. She told me she couldn't swim like that. I told her that there was a possibility of getting them kicked off and that if there was a chance she could stand it to just try. She just shook her head no. While I was putting my goggles on under my cap the woman I gave the goggle advice too had her sister come and ask me again why to do that. I explained it and while we were talking the woman was putting her goggles on under her cap. She thanked me. I got in the water. The pro's just took off. The water felt good. Cool. I could not believe how calm I was. Swam the backstroke. On my side. The breaststroke. Just got comfortable. Stayed to the back as swimmers began to form lines towards the front of the buoys. There was nervous chatter in the area. Then the cannon sounded. I was off. "I'm swimming off Oak Street, it's Saturday morning, I'm with the group, stay relaxed" I was telling myself. Then I realized I was in a pack of swimmers. The 1st 200 yrds or so was a warm up by myself but now I was in a pack. Ok, just keep moving. "Excuse me", I kept thinking "excuse me coming thru." "There's an open spot." I would swim into it. And then another and another. Hey, this wasn't so bad. I was expecting a lot worse. I was kicked a little and nudged but nothing like I heard about. I kept jockeying forward. It was going to smoothly. I reached the turn around and the atmosphere changed dramatically. I felt like I entered the heavy duty cycle on the wash machine. I was kicked in the head, my arms and then my legs were being continuously pulled on. I would find an open spot to swim in and then it would happen again. Just before the turn back I was swum over. This was something I feared. But it wasn't so bad. The scariest part is having your head under the heaviest part of the other swimmers body. And then my head bounced up, hmmm, that was really weird I thought, ok just keep swimming. Another kick to the head, then pull to my arm,and then to my leg. Now, don't get me wrong here, I wasn't being beat'n and not giving back. I was. This beating I was taking and giving wasn't intentional, we were all just trying to swim. At that point I slowed down and looked, there was a mass of swimmers everywhere. Nothing but white caps and splashing water. Kicking, pulling and just trying to move forward was what this moment had become. I had to make a choice at this point, I could stop and let this madness swim by me or I could try to stay in it and use my energy to swim and fight. I decided to let it go. It was hard watching. It was a wave of whiteness moving very quickly. I actually thought wow, I was in that. I was moving that fast. Then Mike's advice popped in my head, the Ironman isn't won on the swim, you can hold back, you'll be fine. I found an opening and began to swim again. I prayed, and sang and received the occasional kick to the head but it was all good. I arrived at the beach beaming. I felt like I floated out of the water. I found myself skipping I was so happy. I reached the strippers. I actually hesitated going to my 2. They were very young, handsome college boys. What's the matter with you I thought, get up there. They tugged my body off, ok they yelled on your butt, "sure, um ok," I thought, bam the suit was pulled off. That quick, that easy. They were smiling with a sense of accomplishment as they helped me to my feet, "GO, GO, GO" They yelled. I was so happy. I was skipping and running. Laughing. It was the weirdest feeling. I was watching people walking and then others were running. I was taking it all in. I was half way up the helix and heared Michelle, Laura and Sheila cheering, "Go Pam". While passing them I was screaming, "I just finished the swim, I'm so happy!!!", they kept cheering! Just after that I heard Craig, "Go PAM!" WOW I thought, this is great. Changed out of my wet clothes in T1. Ate some powerbar, drank some water, put on the sun screen. Made sure I had my inhaler and everything else I would need on the bike. Started to run out and was stopped by a girl who needed help putting on her bra. Guys are so lucky they don't have to deal with this. When your skin is wet the the nylon and lycra bra just rolls up your back and you have to reach around to pull it down. I helped her and then was off. Now I was running, no more skipping, didn't put my shoes on because I had such a long run. Saw Theresa and Val screaming and cheering. I was so happy to see them. Then I saw Patty, Keri and my mom. I was closer to my bike now. "Go Pam" they were screaming. Got to the bike, put on the shoes and helmet got the bike to the bike mount and who do I hear. "Hey Paaammm" It was Gil! What were the odds? We high fived each other. We were both laughing with excitement. "Come on, let's ride down the helix together!" he said. "We can't" I said, "You go, I'm right behind you." We both laughed our entire ride down. I was so glad I saw him. And then once we were down I watch him pedal away, he got smaller and smaller and then he was gone. The bike portion started. Mile 1 just passed. Only 111 miles to go.

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