I AM IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yay! I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and then ran freakin' 26.2 miles! And I wanna do it again! How sick is that???
Honestly, it was awesome. Truly awesome. We got into Madison Thursday night and we stayed at the hotel where a lot of my training buddies were, so it was easy to hang out with friends. I think that played a major factor in my not being nervous. I almost felt like I was on vacation - except this vacation ended with some self-induced torture. I didn't get nervous until yesterday morning when I had to leave my husband and get into the water with 2,000 other people. The swim wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I started pretty far back in the pack and I stayed to the far right (which probably added some distance to my swim, but I preferred going further to getting pummeled in the water). I didn't really get clobbered until about 3/4 of the way when this guy tried to rip my left ear off. In the process he smashed my goggles into my eye sockets. Not comfortable at all. Then as we made our last turn in the water and started heading for the shore, this other guy somehow wrapped his arm around my neck and pulled me underwater. That's not comfortable either. But I survived, and I got out of the water 7 minutes faster than the time that I was really hoping for but didn't feel like I could pull off. So that was really exciting. The bike course was hellacious. I read somewhere that the loop I had to ride twice had 30-40 hills in it, so that meant I climbed 60-80 hills over the course of 112 miles. 2 of the hills were very Tour de France-ish in that people lined the streets and cheered you on like crazy. That was super fun. The run was really nice and probably would've been more enjoyable had I not just ridden 112 miles and swam 2.4 miles. The spectators were incredible. They lined the streets and encouraged all of us. Our race numbers had our names on them, so I had all these strangers yelling, "You're doing so great, Stephanie!" or "Way to go, Stephanie!" That kept me running when I really didn't want to. And when I finally got to the finish line after 14 hours and 42 minutes, all the pain and the tiredness that I had been experiencing for hours vanished, and I ran through that tape with fresh legs and the most humongous smile on my face. I was tired and sore, but I was sooooo happy and proud of myself that I actually did it. It was so amazing.
One thing that would've made the race better was the weather. We had the absolute worst weather you could have - it was over 90 degrees and VERY windy. I've never ridden my bike in such horrible wind. Wind just sucks the life out of you on the bike. I was riding downhill, pedaling, and going only 13 miles per hour. (For you non-cyclists, I should be able to go downhill without pedaling over 20mph.) The weather forced tons of people to drop out of the race (something no triathlete doing an Ironman wants to do - no matter how much you are hurting or how many times you've puked, you do everything in your power to stay in the race - you didn't put in all the crazy training hours over the summer and pay the over $400 race fee for nothing!). During the ride, I saw tons of men laying in the grass or in the bushes. There were ambulances everywhere - you either were seeing one or hearing one just about the whole time you were out there. It was quite scary. Because of the heat and the extra work we were having to do on our bikes due to the wind, people were getting dehydrated. It was like a war zone. I was so grateful to make it out okay and get off my bike to start that run. The run was harder than it should've been b/c it was still hot when I started and I had to work extra hard on the bike due to the wind. I walked a lot, but I had fun talking to other people, so I was okay with the walking. A girl I trained with started out on the run at the same time I did and I would've really liked to have finished before her, but she was on a rampage and ran every step of the marathon, so she finished almost 20 minutes ahead of me. I wasn't mad, though - I guarantee I had more fun than she did. I met some new people and got to walk a lot with another one of my friends who wasn't really having that great of a day. We had a blast together. And that's what it's all about - achieving such a huge accomplishment and having fun in the process.
So now I'm home and have to figure out a way to get back to normal life. I am very tired (there's not much sleep going on the night before an Ironman, and when I tried to go to bed after the race my legs and lower back were so sore that I had trouble getting comfortable enough to fall asleep) and extremely sore, but very happy. And I want to say thank you to everyone who cheered me on: Kel, Michelle, Stacie and Beth. It was really fun to check my blog on Saturday while in Madison and see the well wishes you guys left for me!
One more thing: I did, of course, go to a yarn shop while in Madison: The Knitting Tree. I met the shop owner, Melissa Mathay, bought one of her books, and had her autograph it. She was a lot of fun. I'd totally hang out in that store if I lived there. I bought some wonderfully yummy kettle dyed merino wool in purple (of course!) and green to make a shrug. She designed the pattern for the shrug and they had a model in the store, so I got to try it on and see how cute it was on me. And the yarn is TO DIE FOR. It's one of those yarns that you want to spread out on the floor and roll around naked in. Of course I have 3 projects on the needles right now and a fourth one that is just about to jump on some more needles, so it'll have to wait. It's not cool here yet anyway, so it's okay.