"One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves."
Karen Casey, from Achievement of a Life Goal
Saturday, October 3rd, 2009-The day I met my husband 28 years ago ended up being the day I had been waiting and hoping for. Today was my breakthrough day.
I awoke from a great night's sleep. I stretched and took inventory of the aches and pains that training for an Ironman can leave. I felt very few. A smile crossed my lips. See, that is already a good sign.
My hubby slumbered as I prepared my oatmeal, 1/2 of banana and coffee. I retrieved the body glide out of my cosmetic bag (and it was at this moment I realized that I am truly a triathlon junkie if I carry body glide in my cosmetic case), and started hitting the important body parts. With those important tasks completed, I was up, dressed and on my way out the door with Rick in tow. It was 525am
We grabbed the car and headed to the venue. I was concerned that parking would be a problem but i dropped Rick off with the tri bags as close as I could then found a spot just 2 blocks away. I walked back to transition and my brain was in overdrive. Over and over in my head I was saying "Today is your day...you're strong, you're trained, you're ready, it's YOUR race". Over and over.
I set my transition area, talked to my "bike rack neighbor" who's last name was the same as mine and then jumped into the short port a potty line. Had a wonderful conversation with the nicest triathletes as we discussed the great conditions.
The water was warm AND wetsuit legal but as before, I wore my Blue Seventy Swim Skin. I am the most comfortable in this suit and don't feel as constricted.
I was a little nervous as my wave was the LAST to leave the beach at 727am. I kept telling myself not to feel guilty that you may be the last out on the bike course. I paid for the priviledge to be here so if I need every hour the course is open, so be it.
The gun went off...and I hit the water. It felt like home. I felt like I was in the Living Seas at Epcot about to go for a scuba dive. It was warm, welcoming and from what I could see-jelly fish free. After last year's fun with jelly fish stings, I was absolutely THRILLED to see their departure.
My stroke was steady and strong but I didn't think it was too fast. Part of my race plan was to swim slightly right of the course as I knew from last year that the current would push to the left. As we made our way towards the first buoy, I knew I had made the right decision. By the time I made the turn, I was dead on course.
I also switched to photochromatic lenses in my swim goggles. This was a great choice.They were perfect into the sun as I swam the long side of the course . As I made the final turn buoy and headed towards the beach, I looked at my watch. Two minutes ahead of my best ocean time...hmmmm...this is proceeding well!!
I exited the water with my best ocean swim time taking 3 minutes off my previous ocean swim. I headed up the beach and to the chip mat, around the corner to find my NEIGHBOR was the photographer at the swim exit!! What a nice surprise!!
I made it into transition but was fumbling with my swim skin. Somehow I got my lease tangled and had to ask an official for help. After untangling the mess, I made a fast 2:30 T1..and off I went on the bike.
The course was flat and fast..except for one LARGE causeway and one small bridge. I realized that I was the last out of the water but remember, Im not racing against others, Im racing against that watch on my wrist. Before I could think twice, I heard the sound of the sheriff's motorcycle behind me. My goal was to pass SOMEONE...so i didn't have him behind me.
After about 7 miles, the Causeway that connects Amelia Island stood ahead of me like a school kid on the playground egging me on. "Come on Melissa...ya got the guts??" Well..today..I had the guts. I dropped a couple of gears and made my way up the bridge. I was AMAZED at how easy it felt compared to a year ago. At the top, I overtook another cyclist and hit 32 mph on the other side. After my burst of mass plus inertia heading downhill, she caught me and past me again.
It wasn't until about mile 20 that I made a pass that would stick and dropped the escorting police motorcycle. I could feel my speed increasing as I made my way on towards mile 40..then 45...then 50. I checked my watch. I was going to beat my best bike time by 5 minutes if I could just keep consistent. The final miles were into the wind but I dismounted and crossed the chip mate with that new bike P.R.
Back into transition, I checked to make sure Rick's bike was in and his running gear was gone. Everything looked good as I put on my running shoes and headed out for an afternoon stroll. My goal during this race was to see if I could be fast enough to walk the half marathon and still beat my time. This experiment was very valuable because I learned that I will still need to run a bit to keep the timing consistent.
The first 3.5 miles of this half marathon were in the direct sun and it was HOT! You gotta love the volunteers at the aid stations however, as they had cold wet towels for our necks and cold water. They stayed out on the course even until I came by.
By mile 8, I was feeling fantastic. A little tired but no pains I couldn't handle. The course was a twisty curvy route through a beautifully shaded state park (after mile 3.5) but we left the park before mile 9 and were given the lovely gift of a bridge to cross. For some reason, mentally this was hard because you could not SEE the 9 mile sign until after you crossed the bridge and headed into a turnaround. It was one of the low moments of my race.
At this point I had two runners behind me and I knew that I would not finish last. As I approached the exit of the park with less than one mile to go, my beloved husband stood and screamed "Cutie....you're doing awesome...almost there cutie...almost there!!" The tears welled up in my eyes as I looked down one more time at my watch. A P.R. by 11 minutes. Could this really be possible ? I know Im one of the final finishers but I don't care. Today my race was against myself and the clock...and today...I won.
I crossed a finish line that was almost deserted to a bit of fanfare and the loving arms of my husband. I was so thrilled that i was overwhelmed with joy. The race that had haunted me for a year was now in the "win" column and will always be remembered as a PR.
I returned back to the hotel with my husband's help. My training partner, Rick, had also set a P.R. on this course. His girlfriend, Lisa, took great care of us giving us a rub down and helping with ice baths.
I sat on the balcony that night and stared out at the ocean that I had faced with a bit of fear a few hours early. I thanked God for his grace and the ability he gave me during those 8 hours on the course. You did it girl...I told myself. You finished this. You CAN DO THIS....Ironman is within reach.