The “Calm” Before the Storm

Yes, I know…. this post is long overdue…. Shocker! I have soooo much to write that the thought of sitting down to write this update has taken some time. Rather than completely overwhelming you with one post, I thought I would break it up a bit. I left off last with an early am Wednesday post after a sleepless night, so lets pick up from there up until Saturday evening. Race day seems worthy of its own post!

Wednesday

So Wednesday was just a normal day of working from home just trying to cram in a ton of last minute tasks before leaving for vacation. Sometimes it amazes me how much you can get done in a short period of time when you know you absolutely have to. After a kind of stressful day of that, I headed out to Harveys Lake with my friend Matt to get my training in. I had a 30 minute open water swim. It was a perfect day for it. Its amazing how much I have grown to enjoy swimming there. I would take that any day over laps in the pool. I stopped for ice cream on the way home with Matt to thank him for coming out to swim with me. Just chatting and relaxing helped to keep me calm before a full night of packing that I knew was ahead of me.

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Swim Done!

I posted in my last post how crazy all of my lists looked for packing. Well, putting it all together was even more crazy! It is amazing how much “stuff” you need to complete 140.6 and how much thought goes into it. A lot of stuff is “what if” or “just in case” but better to be prepared then wishing you had something. I made good progress though and felt confident that I was well prepared for race day stuff that I would need. However, when it came to packing other clothes for the weekend, I way overpacked. I just started throwing stuff in the bag knowing that the temperatures vary greatly up in the mountains. I guess better to have more than enough then not enough. I was pretty much done packing by the time Jason got home from golf. We had a huge fight which was exactly what I didn’t need. Clearly we were both pretty stressed out and emotional, which didn’t help matters, at all. But we made it through and finally apologized, like we always do. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before so I was out solid that night!

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A view at all the race day gear!

Thursday

Thursday morning I woke up early to get my hour bike ride in. I wanted to get it done before heading to Lake Placid so that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting it in once I got there. I took one of my usual routes from the house which has some challenging hills. I took it easy and enjoyed the early morning crisp air. When I got back we loaded up the car. Talk about the car being FULL! There was barely any open space left in my little Fiesta (we took my car to try and save on some gas). Then we were off!

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Fully Loaded!

The car ride was about 5.5 hours but went surprisingly fast (perhaps the excitement). We stopped for lunch in Saratoga Springs which resulted in us getting wrapped up in some of the traffic from the horse races. It was pretty cool and I actually would like to go see them one of these days. We found this cute little pub to eat at called Merry Monks. They had tons of beer and I was so tempted to give in. I had been trying to reduce/eliminate my alcohol intake the week leading up to race day. At this point though, one beer wasn’t going to hurt, and in fact it would probably help take the edge off a bit. So, Cheers! It was the right decision. So, back on the road!

Shortly we found ourselves driving into Lake Placid the reverse way of the bike course. The views were just absolutely gorgeous! We saw so many runners and cyclists out that it all started to become real. We ended up driving past our hotel on the way to downtown Lake Placid. I wanted to go straight to athlete check in as it was about 3:30 and it only went until 5:00. As we turned on to Main Street I got my first glimpse of transition and where all of the action was already set up. The sight instantly brought me to tears. Of course Jason thought I was crazy crying over a few tents, but it was so much more than that. This is the place I had worked so hard to get to. I had countless 4 am (even 3 am) wake ups to make the dream of becoming an Ironman a hopeful reality.

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Welcome to Lake Placid!

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We parked the car and headed to packet pickup where I then signed away my life. I love the pages of information/waivers they give you and tell you to read and sign. Umm, really? As if I really care what this paper says right now. God only knows what I signed my name to. I couldn’t get them completed fast enough so that I could pick up my stuff.

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Signing my life away…. Literally….

I then went over and got my packet followed by my swim cap. I’ve done this a million times at other races, but I knew this was extra special. The volunteers there were also amazing and they were just as happy to be there as we were. Side note: I can’t say enough amazing things about the volunteers from the race. They truly were top notch. Not a single one of us would be an Ironman on Sunday without them. Truly. Incredible.

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Getting my wristband for the weekend!

We then headed over to the Olympic Oval where the Ironman merchandise tent was set up and all of the other expo vendors. We didn’t have much time and really never made it past the Ironman merchandise tent. Since this was my first Ironman, and I swore my only one I would ever do, I wanted to grab some stuff to remember the event. Fortunately I got an award at work this week (also great news, and timing) so I splurged a little bit! I really wanted a tri kit and cycle jersey which I got. Mind you, each piece was about a hundred a pop. Lets just say there is an INSANE amount of $$$$$$ in Ironman. Period.

It was then 5:00 and everything related to the race shut down for the evening. We went and checked into the hotel. I was fortunate to have been able to use points for a free stay when hotel prices are astronomical, if you can even find one. So, 100k points got me 5 free nights at the Courtyard (which was super cute by the way). We unloaded the mass amount of crap from the car onto a cart and headed up to the room. At this point I still had the second part of my workout to do, a 30 minute run. Jason was kind enough to join me. We used the run as a bit of an excuse to explore the area. I also later learned that part of the run we did was also part of the run course for the race…. umm including a monster hill! But I powered up it and felt good.

We got back and got ready then went to meet my friend Brett for dinner (he got in on Wed night). We had dinner at this cute restaurant called Liquids and Solids. I got an excellent vegetarian dish that was top notch. I know that I could never be 100% vegetarian, although I am inspired by those that are, but the conversation did come up at dinner. I was oddly surprised to hear Jason say that he would try and do a few days each week vegetarian and give it a shot. I was ecstatic to hear this as it makes it a lot easier to both be on the same page. So, hopefully more to come on that in the upcoming weeks! I also had a glass of wine at dinner. So good and so soothing. I was in a good place when we left dinner and headed back to the hotel. I slept solid that night too!

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Great view across from the restaurant!

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Friday

Friday morning we got up and luckily it was my rest day! I also woke up to awesome news that my story had been published in my local newspaper at home – the Tonawanda News! So cool! Ck it out at: Stevenson Ironman

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So Friday I tried to limit how much time I spent on my feet during the day. We headed to the expo and walked around to the places we didn’t make it the day before and I wanted to sit through some of the sessions.

I sat through a session regarding the swim which helped to ease my nerves a bit (which were doing surprisingly well). I will say though one of my takeaways from this session was with regards to a comment the swim director made. We really just don’t see things the same way. He kept saying that if your strategy was to break up the swim into pieces, you were setting yourself up to fail and that you needed to look at the entire 2.4 miles. I couldn’t disagree more. Who does any endurance event that way? He was clear that setting your goal on the next buoy was setting yourself up for failure. At this point I just laughed to myself and stayed focused on my strategy. Of course my goal was to finish the swim, and I would get there, one piece at a time.

After this session we ended up staying to listen to the pro panel. They kept us waiting for them but it was worth it. In the process of waiting I got to meet Mike Reilly – the voice of Ironman. WOW! What a nice guy! We chatted and then got a picture together. I even had him sign my Ironman backpack that I got as part of the race. Jason told him that every time I mention his name I tear up (holy embarrassing – but so true!). He told me that most women are more excited to see him at the finish line then their significant others – I could not confirm or deny if this was the case 😉

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Mike Reilly and I!

Finally the pros came on! Andy Potts was there (and his competition) and talking about his wishes to defend the title this year. It was just neat to hear their perspectives and know that their approaches to these races is so different than the rest of us that have full time jobs. Inspiring nonetheless though.

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Pro Panel

After the pro panel I was starving and we went to grab lunch with Brett. This ended up being a project. I must say that restaurant service in Lake Placid could definitely use some improvement. It was nice though to sit down and relax. While sitting there on my rest day, I continued to observe all of the insane triathletes flying up and down on the road by bike and foot. I started to question my rest day and started to feel intimidated by all of the other athletes. Its amazing how you train so hard just to second guess your plan in the final moments. I reminded myself to have faith in my training and to relax. Nothing I did at this point would matter or change anything.

We ended up hitting one last session about tips for spectating for Jason so that he would better be able to help my support crew on Sunday. It also helped to better understand the flow around transition. I had now been in Lake Placid for about 24 hours and I still hadn’t seen the swim venue. It was time.

We headed down to Mirror Lake and it was a zoo. It was a mix of families on the beach and in the water with their kids and crazy triathletes looking to get in that last minute swim. They had just starting putting up the giant tetrahedrons in the water but the smaller buoys that always line the course were up. The swim did not look that far to me, in fact the same distance at Syracuse 70.3 looked way further. The water was also just so calm and peaceful. I was not even remotely nervous about the swim, in fact I was looking forward to it.

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Tetrahedrons Pre Water!

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I was then headed back to the hotel to meet my family who was just arriving. I was so excited to have my parents there to witness this weekend that I had worked so hard for. I knew that the drive was long and that race day would be a long day for them, but it meant the world to me that they made it. When I arrived in the room I had also received flowers from my sister and her boyfriend Dan. They were gorgeous! I knew she was proud of me too and wished she could have been there. But I will say she was there in spirit all weekend and I knew come race day she would be watching!

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Friday evening was the athlete dinner in the Herb Books Arena (think Dream Team Hockey win). When we walked into the arena, the scoreboard was set to the winning USA score. So cool! Other highlights from the evening included Andy Potts lighting the Olympic torch which was pretty neat! The motivational video was also amazing as well as the people that got up and shared their stories. One of which I kind of informally knew through Facebook mutual friends and Team in Training. That night I got to finally meet Derek in person and was so touched. Derek was doing his first Ironman but had such a special journey to share. Derek is not only a cancer survivor but the recipient of a heart transplant. When he finished on Sunday (because there was no if), he would be the 2nd person to ever cross the finish line with someone else’s heart and the first ever in the US. Pretty freaking amazing. His story brought tears my eyes. He truly is a role model for the fact that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. He saw his story as an opportunity rather than a limitation. Something too many of us don’t do enough. The reception really was a great evening full of inspiration and I was so happy to be a part of something so amazing. Wow.

 

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Andy Potts lighting the Olympic torch

Derek and Mike Reilly - Amazing!

Derek and Mike Reilly – Amazing!

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Jason and I

As if that wasn’t great enough, I then headed over to the Lake Placid Brewery to meet up with my amazing Ironman friends. These are the awesome women that did IMLP last year and were giving me daily tips (I had mentioned this in a prior post). It was soooo great to see them!! I could genuinely see how happy they were for me and the journey that Sunday would entail. I also finally got the chance to meet one of their friends Erica that I pseudo knew of through Team in Training but never got the chance to really meet. We all had a great time just chatting but before I knew it, it was getting late. I should also note here that I fell in love with Andrea’s M-Dot necklace that she was wearing. She said that she had gotten it at the expo last year from her Mom. This will become more relevant later…..

My Iron Advice Crew!

My Iron Advice Crew!

Gorgeous night view of Mirror Lake

Gorgeous night view of Mirror Lake

SaturdaySaturday morning we were up early in hopes that we would be asleep earlier in the evening given the ridiculous wake up call that Sunday entailed. My workout for Saturday was a shake out of all three segments – short. I hopped on my bike from the hotel for a quick 20 minute ride on the course. Again, the course was filled with tons of crazy triathletes. Insert overwhelming/nervous/second-guessing feelings AGAIN. I got my ride in then my Dad and Jason met me to take my bike while I transitioned for a quick 10 minute run on the course. I wanted to take it easy but when I hit the one mile point and my Garmin went off stating that I ran it in 8:37, I was shocked. I knew I was running easy and not pushing at all. This is when I knew the taper was paying off and I was ready for race day. I went back up to the hotel to grab my stuff to head down to the lake to meet my friends for a quick 10 minute swim.

The swim was absolutely gorgeous. Yes, I used the word swim and gorgeous in the same sentence. I also got to see for myself what this “cable” was that everyone talks about. It truly does the line entire course and if you can stay on it, you really don’t need to sight….pretty cool! I had been told by a coach that on Saturday I was not to spend more than 2 hours on my feet all day. Well, I had just spent about 40 minutes of that time. I knew it would be tough, but important.

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We then went and grabbed an early lunch as we missed breakfast. Again, this was not a simple process and took much longer than it should have. After lunch we took my parents down to the expo so they could walk around and grab anything that they wanted. I also stopped to eye up the necklace that I had loved of Andrea’s. The woman at the counter was hilarious. I loved it but there was no way I was buying it before I finished the race. That had bad ju ju written all over it! So the woman grabbed a pamphlet and circled it about 100 times and even wrote Jason’s name on it. She called him over and gave it to him and was very clear on what I wanted. Stay tuned.

My parents and I headed back to the hotel then so I could grab my bike and finalize my run and bike gear bags for check in. I said good bye to Jason as he stayed down there with my friend Matt. I’m not sure why but I broke out into tears saying good bye to him. He told me it was okay and I managed to pull myself together. My dad even then proceeded to ask me what was wrong. And really, i had no good answer. So back to the hotel. I wanted to go through all of my bags one last time just to be safe. This took me about an hour or so and then I loaded my bike on the car and headed back downtown to check all of my stuff in.

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Wow, this became even more real. Jason and Matt me and helped me carry all of my stuff to the Olympic Oval. I got my bike photographed before being allowed in transition, my guess is for liability reasons (there is A TON of $$$$ in that transition area!) I racked my bike and then dropped off my bags. My bag rack was a slightly different style than the majority of them, but I think it helped in the long run since it was easier to find when coming into transition. And that was it, I wouldn’t see my bike or bags again until Sunday morning!

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Bike Photo Opp

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I headed back to the hotel to get back off my feet again (really tried my best to stick to that 2 hour cap). Shortly after Jason’s family arrived and we went down to the lobby to see them. It was so nice of them to want to be there to support me and I greatly appreciated the gesture. Jason wanted to take them before dinner to show them transition and the swim location. I knew as much as I wanted to go that I shouldn’t, so I sent them off and then went back to the room with my parents to relax.

Before I knew it, it was time to head to dinner, the day was just flying. We had a great dinner at Milano North with some carb loading action. I stuck to water for the evening even though a glass of wine did sound great. It was nice to just sit there with my support crew and take it all in. Jason did a toast for me and the Ironman. It was perfect. While I was at dinner my phone rang. When I saw who it was, I was absolutely glowing. Steve Heller was my first tri coach. When I tell you that he is the reason I was able to even toe the start line on Sunday, I mean it. This man has had an enormous positive impact on me with all of his motivation and patience. When I struggled (and I struggled hard) with learning how to swim, even up to days before my first tri, he was so patient and kept me from just quitting when I wanted to. He truly has been with me for every step of my triathlon journey since day one. To hear his voice on the phone and the confidence that he had in me for my race on Sunday just meant the world to me. More tears. Wow. Thank you Steve – you will never know how much everything you have done for me truly means. I can’t wait to finally give back and support YOU next year at that start line!

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Fueling the Support Crew!

Before I knew it dinner was over and it was almost 8:00. Time to head back to the hotel, finalize a few last minute things and head to bed. Surprisingly I was exhausted and was able to fall asleep before 10:00. It hurt to set the alarm to 3:45. Wow. And, before I knew it, that alarm was going off….. RACE DAY! Stay Tuned 🙂

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