You know that dream you have for many, many years...that scenerio you play over and over again in your head while you're out running trails, staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool or biking on an endless country road for hours on end? Well, mine came true on Saturday, 6 Nov 2010 in Panama City Beach, FL...the title, "Ironman Champion" is now mine!
For years I had that nagging goal rip away at my core - Ironman Florida was my 17th Ironman distance race (10th as a pro). I have spent years clawing my way up this ladder and when you look at the time commitment it takes to train, the career I traded for this one and the chess match I play daily managing a 5 yr old daughter and support a military husband's career...you begin to look at your goals in a completely different light...this is why this victory is so incredibly sweet!
Before I go into the race recap, I have to take a moment to thank my husband and daughter for their enormous support and understanding. I know I am not the easiest person to love everyday, but they do and show it everyday! I want to thank my coach for believing in me when I called in February. I was on the verge of walking away from the sport last December, but, I decided to give it "one more year"...thank God I picked Derick! He accepted the job and is not only my coach, but an amazing friend and confidant! Lastly, there are those who supported me mentally, financially and physically - allow me to explain! Mentally...that one goes to my sister Jayne, brother's Tony and Mark, sister-in-law Ida and nieces Aly, Rachel, Taylor and Sarah...and of course my mom. You are all my big fans, I love you and will always stay grounded because of you! Financially, I have to thank my sponsors: Sport Beans/NTTC, QR, Hawk Racing, Newton, SLS3, Rudy Project, Blue Seventy, and Schwalbe. Thank you for believing in me and allowing me to endorse your wonderful products! Finally, the crew that keeps me physically moving in the right direction...Eskeridge and White Physiotherapy and Bike Link. The amount of love you've given this journey is beyond words of appreciation. I will have a hell of a time finding replacements in El Paso that will take care of me the way you guys did...thank you, thank you, thank you!
Ok...now for the report! I had an erie calm going into IMFL...I knew I felt ready, but I wasn't nervous. I've felt prepared in the past before, but not like this - this was a "I'm going to work to do the job I know I can do and will do" kind of confidence. My coach and I organized my training in a way that capatilized on this confidence, but, with only being together for 8.5 months, he, as a coach, was probably still trying to figure me out! Hell --- I'm still trying to figure me out! Ha!!
At any rate, the swim was ironically a welcoming retreat due to the cool air and cold beach sand that embodied Panama City Beach that morning...outside of choppy waves going out to the bouys on the 2-loop swim course, I really had a somewhat uneventful swim...one little kick to the goggle that forced me to quickly stop, readjust, but, no major damage was done! Once out of the water, I hustled into the changing tent to the arms of one of my good friends that was volunteering...Tanya Beck, along with 2 other ladies made quick work in giving me my helmet, sunglasses and putting my race belt around me...oh, and how can I forget the precious (and much needed) arm warmers...those damn things are so hard to get on when you're cold, shaking and wet...but...damnit...on they went! Boom! Out of the transition tent and out for a little run thru the bike parking lot...(Here is a snippet of what went thru my head during the trek to my bike) "Oww! Oww! Cold feet! Cold toes! Ouch, Mother of God! When will I see my bike...ahhh!!! There you are!!!"
Off onto the bike it was "go" time!!! I love this course, I love to ride and run...anyone that knows me, follows me, knows this about me! Today was no exception, but, it was cold and I did not change my kit, so I was wet, wet, wet! I did have on those lovely arm warmers and toe covers, but unlike some other racers, I did not add tights, leggings, gloves (I wish I could've found a pair at Walgreens the night before, but...no luck!!!), a vest or jacket. So, for the first 30 miles I was a popscicle...I felt my body literally creak like the "Tin Man" from the "Wizard of Oz" as I got out of my saddle to climb the first (and close to only) hill on the bike course around mile 10...but I started heating up and thought...this isn't so bad...it's hurtin' them more than it is you!!! By mile 10 I started passing some female pros, so, maybe that ignited my fire and made the crisp morning not seem so bad! I kept holding the pace I knew was powerful, yet steady...I wanted to actually go harder than what I went, but, once I made the pass into first at mile 75 I knew I still had a marathon to tackle and wanted to be smart...my coach and I had a plan and I was already surpassing his (and my) expectations on the bike...I could've gone much harder on the bike...but to what cost would that have affected my marathon? The bike came with 3 mishaps I need to tell you about! First one: completely missed my bike special needs bag - the woman tried to give it to me, but her reach wasn't fully extended and nor was mine, ohhhh, so close, but it was like 2 ships passing in the night....In my head it went like this, "Oh no...crap, there went my Coke, hmmm, that's ok, I still have almost a full bottle...oh, but I also had donuts in there...damn, powdered donuts sound good right now...ok, what else was in there...an extra GU? Hell, I have plenty of that on the course, an extra bar...no worries, still got a granola bar here...see, you're cool Jess, you got it all!" Then, just when I had my head readjusted from the special needs fall-out, I hit a minor bump in the road...literally...SNAP! Off went my right aeropad....not JUST the pad...didn't you hear the SNAP!!! The ENTIRE piece completely gone...so, for the next 52 miles, my arm rested on the bar...it hurt, but not as bad as quitting would've! And, finally, there is that pesky "stop-n-go" penalty I incurred. I rec'd the yellow card for the following reason...for about 20 miles I pulled 3, let's call them "gentlemen" for Christian purposes...then, they heard the rumble of the Race Officials Harley coming...one guy passes me right away to reflect attention off his questionable riding behavior. I immediately sat up and stop pedaling to fully allow the 10 meter rule to take effect. Well, just as I'm doing this, a 2nd knuckle-head passes me and instead of passing me and the first guy, he squeezes in b/t me and the first one...oh no! I knew waht he was doing was illegal...he needed to pass the both of us due to official distance rules. As upset as I was, I SHOULD HAVE let it go...waited a good minute, and then hammer pass this drama...but, I didn't...I reacted and passed both men right away...bottom line...I got a yellow card because I didn't allow a full 25 sec to go by before passing the first man. I made a mistake and fully accept the punishment and consequences...but, for any AG male out there that is doing this...shame on you!!! Please remember we are pro's trying to make a living...if you want to draft off me for the full 112...I don't care! But, please, please, please don't suddenly kill my tempo and potential race by passing me, then slowing down and not maintaining a strong cadence when you hear a Harley coming...it's so uncool and you're are literally taking food out of my daughter's mouth! (How's that for a guilt-trip people!?!?!?!)
On to the run!!! Yes, the marathon! I wanted 2 things out of the marathon upon entering T2...First, I wanted to leave T2 before the next female Pro got into transition and next, I wanted to come as close to 3:03 as I could (this is my Ironman distance PR for the marathon). First goal, accomplished! Got out of T2 3:30 something before the next chica, then, slapped down a 3:04 marathon split...BAM! Part II, done! At the end of the day, I hit the fast female bike and run splits, became the first American woman to win IMFL and I believe had the second fastest time...not bad for a girl originally from Green Bay, WI!!!
When I spoke to my family the next day I felt as though I really made my family proud of me...not because of the win, but because I try to ALWAYS cross the finish line with the American flag during an Ironman distance race. They saw that on the live feed and where touched by my words of graditude of the men and women of our Armed Forces. They are the true heroes...not me. I carry the flay as a symbolic effort to show how absolutely proud I am to be an American, thank those who are or have served and to tell the world...this is the BEST country to represent...look how many come here for work? To play? To experience freedom?
So, on behalf of a proud veteran herself...thank you to all who serve and allowed me to follow my dream, this accomplishment could never have come to fruition if it wasn't for your sacrifice...I do the easy work...you do the tough stuff! Thank you and I love you!
Thanks for reading!!! More to come soon from El Paso!!!