Thursday, September 6, 2012


After eight months of training the day I thought would never arrive and the training that felt like it would never end was upon me.  It was time to use the long hours of training and the long hours spent away from the things I had taken for granted.  It was time to see if I had what it takes to become an Ironman.

The weeks prior I had been in taper.  The effects of taper had greatly effected me.  I had what was known as, "The Taper Blues."  My symptoms mostly consisted of being extremely "GROUCHY" with very low tolerance for anything, which may also had to do with being extremely exhausted.  Additionally, I was struggling with the mental part of accepting that in taper I wouldn't lose any of the training that I've built up over the last eight months.  I kept having to remind myself that the base I built will get me through my Ironman.

The early part of the week prior to my race I had packed to ensure that if I forgotten anything, I had time to pick it up later in the week.  Monday night I began with my TRI checklist for the swim, bike, run, T1 and T2. I placed these items in plastic zip lock baggies and labeled them as they would be used (ie: Bike jersey, Tri Jersey, Tri Shorts, Race Belt, T1, T2, Bento Box..)  I packed everything I needed for each leg in separate piles (Tri shorts, jersey, wetsuit, goggles, shorts, etc.) 

Tuesday I packed up my regular clothes and special needs bags items for the bike and run.  I left Wednesday for final food items. I printed out my nutrition checklist that I would use during my bike ride and run.  I checked my lists a second and third time and also reviewed my race plan again.  Thursday came quickly and before I knew it the car was loaded, I was on my way to pick up Matt and we were on our way to Windsor.

We arrived in Windsor at about 4pm.  I checked into the hotel, unloaded my gear and then Matt and I decided to head out to eat early.  I was told previously in an Ironteam meeting that "carbo loading" is suggested two days prior to your event, so it was pasta for dinner at Mary's Pizza Shack.  I ordered the lasagna and nibbled on some bread.  I was sure to hydrate all day (as well as all week) with water and Gatorade.  I felt good.

After dinner we headed to Trader Joe's for some last minute items (water, bananas, and nutrition bars) and then back to the hotel so that I could get some well needed rest.   Upon arrival several of my team mates were heading off to dinner and I decided to pass on joining.  I figured it would serve me better if I stayed off my feet and rested. It was a great decision on my part. After Matt dropped me off, I took a bath, put my pajama's on and laid in bed.  I again review my race plan, updated my FB page and just relaxed as I watched TV.  It felt amazing.

Later that evening my room mate (Gladys AKA "G") arrived.  We talked a little about our upcoming race and then her Mentor, Donella, stopped by to check up on her.  We chatted a bit more, and Donella gave us a little bit of advice for the day prior to Race Day; Get in and register, get out, stay off your feet and out of the sun.  Before I knew it, it was lights out and it would be one day closer to Race Day!


Friday morning Gladys and I rolled out of bed about 8:15am. I definitely got 8 hours of sleep.  After a quick rinse off in the shower, I heated up my oatmeal and banana. Afterwards, Gladys and I quickly ran off to Peet's for a morning caffeine fix. When we returned, Matt had arrived at the hotel.  The team was given an option to do either a 15 minute swim at Johnson's Beach or a 15 minute bike check at the Hotel.  I chose to do the bike check.

Prior to the ride, Gladys and I wanted to check out our head lamps to see how they would feel as we ran, so we took a quick jog to Donella's room to say "Good Morning!"  My concern in wearing my headlamp was if it would be bouncing on my head.  It fit snugly so it did not pose a problem.

We met the group outside at 9:30am and quickly took the bikes out. Once we returned it was time to get ready to get over to registration at Windsor High School. A large group of us headed out together and we were on our way.

We arrived at the perfect time to go directly into the required pre-race meeting which was an instructional video of the rules/regulations of the event.  It also gave detail of the course, instructions for special needs and course cut off times. After the video it was time to get in line for a "weigh-in."  I wish I had known because I would have waited to eat my PB&J sandwich, drink my water and Gatorade until after weigh in! YIKES!

After weigh in it was time to pick up our packet and race T-shirts. From there I entered the T-2 transition area to set up my run gear.  I tried to find an area that I could find quickly and one that I was at the end of an isle.  I did ~ Row 11 (my favorite number!)



Once my things were set up at my transition area, we did a quick run into the Vineman gear tent (bought a nice long sleeved shirt) and then it was time to get back to the hotel.  On our way back to the hotel we decided it would be a good idea to have some lunch.  We ended up at Togo's where I ate a chicken and bacon sandwich. Arriving at the hotel, we had about an hour to rest before we had to drop off our bikes so they could be loaded into the transport truck.  Shortly after that we would be heading over to a banquet room for our 5pm team Inspiration dinner.  After Gladys and I dropped off our bikes, I rested for about 30 more minutes.  I freshened up a bit and Matt and I headed down to join the rest of the team for dinner.

Arriving to the dinner the organizer told everyone to get in line and serve themselves and I didn't hesitate one bit.  Pasta, salad, bread, fruit ~ YUMMY!  It was the perfect amount and I gobbled it up quickly.  During the dinner we heard speeches from our coaches and they all had something great to say about each one of us.  Coach Karen had some really sweet things to say about me and I guess I SMILE a lot because she said I always have a smile on my face. I guess I just feed off my team and think about the one's I do this in honor of.  They make me smile ♥

After dinner, I said my goodbye's to everyone, as well as to Matt.  Gladys' and I requested a wake up call at 3:15am, and I also set my phone alarm for 3:15am and it was a little bit of girl talk and then lights out!


2:45 AM -
All I could hear was "BEEP BEEP BEEP" as I was awakened by a car that drove by as it's car alarm was going off while driving.  I looked at the clock and it said 2:45.  I was relieved it wasn't 3:15am but then again, I knew I wouldn't be able to fall back asleep.  I laid impatiently in bed for the next 30 minutes and once the wake up call came through, I hopped out of bed, showered and then proceeded to wake up Gladys. Walking out of the restroom I saw a poster on the floor....It was for ME!!!  I couldn't do anything more than just SMILE!

I have the BEST coaches, captains, team manager and mentors. Looking at this poster filled me with energy and boosted my confidence in a way they will never understand! The confidence they had in me only helped fuel me with the most positive and radiant energy.  I felt unstoppable at that moment!  Nervous, but unstoppable! After my "moment", I quickly dressed, placed my "Honoree's" wristbands on, heated up my oatmeal, and the extra coffee we had bought the day prior, grabbed my bags and it was time for Gladys and I to get moving!  It was TIME!  Our time had arrived!

The drive to Johnson's beach seemed endless, but it was only a short 20 minute drive.  Once we arrived in the Safeway parking lot next to the beach, we grabbed our bikes, dropped off our special needs bags and it was time to pick a transition area. I quickly found my age group and was surprised at how filled with bikes each area was.  I struggled to find an area I could locate easily after getting out of the water. I became nervous wondering if I would be able to find my bike. After my "mini" panic attack, I put those negative thoughts aside, told myself it was going to be fine and proceeded to change into my wetsuit.  By that time my children and mother were in sight. I gave them a quick hug and kiss.  I had only seen Matt once on my way to the restroom as he was busy body marking athletes. Before I knew it I, too was getting body marked by one of my team mates, Nicole.  The time was near; I began to feel a bit nervous, but not as bad as I had anticipated.  I took a few deep breathes and told myself to be calm, remain positive.  By this time the race had already begun and the PRO's were in the water.

The first wave began at 6:30am and my wave was at 6:42am so I knew I needed to get start heading toward the water.  I found Christy and Irene and stood with them both.  We hugged.  I quickly swallowed a GU and then realized I forgot to take my salt tabs.  I have been cramping through the season in the pool and in open water swims and just prayed that I wouldn't cramp this time around.  Again, I told myself to be calm, breath and think positively.

The horn kept going off continuously, every two minutes. We slowly crept to the entrance of the water (it was fenced off for athletes) and I slipped off my sandals.  Before I knew it I heard the announcer say, "Get in the water! 15 seconds!" We weren't even in the water when I heard the gun go off!

SWIM -01:36:07
 I entered the water about 15 seconds after the gun and didn't start swimming until about 30 seconds later.  To my surprise my body adapted to the temperature fairly well. The temperature was warmer than it had been in previous swims we had done in the last couple months.  When I finally was completely in the water I just began to swim.  I prayed to God. I asked him to clear a way for me and to not allow anyone to grab or bump into me.  He answered that prayer.  I had taken a moment to lift my head to see my surroundings and I was surrounded by this big circle of nobody!

I knew I only had two minutes before the next wave would come up on me and I just told myself that no matter what, remain calm, breathe and just swim. I told myself to take these next two minutes to just get my rhythm.  Don't worry about getting pulled or bumped.  When I bumped into someone I just moved to the left or right.  I knew I would see people standing because of how shallow some areas were and I told myself, "Don't stand up!"  My swim went very well and when I reached the end of the first turn around, I bumped into Christy, we looked at each other and smiled. She asked how I was doing, I replied, "Good."  At that point I did have to stop and adjust my goggles.  It was the only point that I semi-stood and when I did, I felt very dizzy.  I told myself not to do that again.

As I swam back to the start to complete my first loop I continued to see people standing and told myself, no more stopping, just swim.  When I got to the end of the first loop I heard the volunteers telling us to go all the way to the flags.  The flags were way above our heads so it forced us to lift our heads out of the water to sight and see how far we had to go to turn around.  When I reached the flags I saw that the buoy had drifted to the edge of the river. I didn't know if I had gone all the way I was supposed to but I figured, I went to the flags, that is far enough.

At that point I knew I was halfway done, so get moving!  I swam calmly and my mind was very peaceful. I wasn't tired, I didn't think too far ahead, I just told myself to concentrate on finishing the swim portion.  Once I reached the turn around point to head back to shore, I swam as calmly as possible.  I kept telling myself to pull with power and I tried to listen to my breathing.  I had reminded myself of everything I was taught, stroke techniques, breathing techniques and just swam.

As I neared the shore I could hear the cheers and the announcer and it gave me that little boost of adrenaline I needed to finish strong.  I kept swimming until I hit the ground with my hand then I slowly stood out of the water to allow my body to gain it's balance.  
I was 1/3 DONE!
Race Plan Projected Time -  01:25 - 01:45  - I was right in the middle!

T1 - 00:08:11
Crossing the timing mat I saw my friends and family and heard the cheers.  I saw some of my team mates waiting to wetsuit strip us.  Coach Dan quickly said, sit down as he and another volunteer pulled the bottom half of my wetsuit off.  They quickly handed it to me, he said give Matty a kiss (which I was too confused to do at that moment) and it was time to find my transition area. To my surprise, I found it relatively quickly.  As I stood at my area, Anna came up to me and said , "What do you need?"  At that second I felt so blessed to be surrounded by so many supportive people  I told her, "Rinse my feet."   Once they were rinsed, I dried them off, and I quickly dressed ~ jersey on, pulled my hair back, placed my helmet on, arm warmers on, gloves on, socks on, shoes on, glasses on and quickly drank a little Gatorade. I was ready and off I went!

As I climbed the hill to get on my bike and mount, one of my PB&J's fell out of my bento box. I backed up and picked it up.  It was important for me to stick to my nutrition plan and that PB&J was part of it. Upon picking it up, I took a 1/4 piece of it and shoved it in my mouth. Once I reached the top I mounted and I looked forward to the next 112 miles.  The entire walk up the hill to mount my bike my daughter ran along side me yelling, "Go Mom!!"
Race Plan Projected Time - 00:05 - 00:10 - Again, made my projected time!

BIKE - 07:22:35
Riding out of the transition area I was very aware of what I've drank and ate to this point.  I knew that nutrition would play a very important role during my ride and knew it would effect my run. My Garmin was set to ring every 15 minutes which meant I was drinking or eating something each time it went off.  My nutrition plan had allocated 200-250 calories per hour and I clipped it on my bike where it was displayed easily. My nutrition for the entire ride consisted of PB&J's, GU gels, GU chomps, Waffle Stingers, Salt Tabs, Cheez-It's and Clif Electrolyte Powder.

As I began to ride I wanted to get my legs moving and warm.  I remembered that Christy mentioned to not go out too hard.  I reminded myself of this several times early on the ride. In doing so, several people passed me, flying down River Road.  I told myself - let them.  I knew once I hit Sunset that I would have to start working.  By this time my alarm had rung and I began sipping on water.  I thought I would be cold to start on the bike but my body temperature was perfect with my sleeveless jersey and arm warmers.  My TRI shorts and sport bra were just about dry by this time.

Our team had been told several times by the coaches "NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY", but I broke that rule and went with a gut feeling; to "DIS" the bike shorts to avoid chaffing and use my TRI shorts.  In the end, it was the perfect choice! Perhaps it was luck, but it worked for me.

As I climbed Westside I felt good, I slowly crept up to a IronTeamer.  It was Danielle. She gave me a huge cheer as I passed her.  She couldn't see me, but she made me smile from ear to ear.  Several people on the team was doing the Aqua bike event, including Danielle.  I think she may have passed me once and then I passed her again and then didn't see her again until I was on the run. I also saw Eugene early on my ride, he passed me and I never saw him again.  My first 56 miles went relatively well.  I ate every 15 minutes as my watched instructed me to.  I made sure I drank often especially as the day progressed and the temperature began to rise.  By the time I hit the 20 mile mark I had already removed my arm warmers.  My only hiccup on that first loop was that I dropped my chain once.  It was a quick fix as I hopped off the bike, put it on and jumped back on the bike.  As I approached the infamous "Chalk Hill" and reached the top I knew I didn't have that far to go to hit my 56 mile point.  Reaching the end of Chalk Hill Road, I saw coach Ron and he gave me a cheer!  Seeing familiar faces on the course was refreshing!

As I got close to Windsor High School to make my left turn for loop 2, Several team mates were standing at the corner of Windsor Blvd and Reiman.  Matt yelled "Yeeeeaaaahhhh!" as well as my son, daughter and mom!  I smiled and peddled harder.  I told myself I was half way done and I felt great; my legs didn't ache, my feet felt good, I didn't feel overheated or fatigued. My hands weren't swelling and I had kept on track with my nutrition plan.  Finishing the first loop in 03:40 meant that meeting my projected race plan time was doable!

As I approached the special needs area I chose to pass it.  I had enough food and knew the water stop was ahead and I could fill up my water bottles.  The water stop was about 300 feet from the special needs on an uphill climb.  I stopped and handed a volunteer my water bottle asking him if he could please fill it with ice and water.  He returned my bottle without the cap. When I asked him for it, he couldn't find it anywhere.  I asked him to just give me a regular water bottle instead because a water bottle without a cap was useless.  The thought crossed my mind to go to my special needs to get the extra bottle I had placed in there but I figured it would take too much time so I chose to pass on that.  Once the rest of my bottles were filled with ice and water I was off.  I felt a slight bit of anxiety at this point because I felt I spent way too much time at this stop.  As I descended down Windsor River Road I began to clear my mind and told myself not to worry. Today is just another training day.

During the entire first loop I continued to look at my mileage on my Garmin, but this time around I kept my eyes off it most of the time and used it primarily for the alarm function, which told me when to fuel.  I was very good about taking my salt tablets each hour whether I felt if I needed them or not. They weren't making me feel sick so I kept on schedule.

As the day progressed I did get to the point where time seemed to just pass and I could not recall if I took a tab, or ate/drank and that is why I was thankful I printed out my nutritional sheet.  I could use my Garmin to see how long I've been on the bike, what hour I was in and eat/drink according to the nutrition plan.  I didn't stick to what was consumed exactly as I had written it but I knew how many calories I was consuming so that helped me stay on track.

During my second loop I played leap frog with several participants. One lady kept saying, I've seen you about 100 times today.  Initially we would comment to each other, exchanging "Hello's" but eventually it got to a point that when we passed each other, we just laughed or smiled.  It was nice to see people out there having a good time and just enjoying the journey.
The day had begun feeling long, and when I reached about mile 80 my quads began cramping each time I tried to stand on a hill.  It had gotten much warmer than it was on the first loop and as happy as I was to make the turn onto Chalk Hill Road, I knew what would lie before me.

My first round up Chalk wasn't so bad.  I was able to stand to get up the hill and thought, "What hill?"  But as I neared mile 92 I began to feel exhausted and my once positive thoughts began filling with doubt questioning, "How am I expected to run 26 miles after this?"  That was the moment I almost pulled over to the side to sit down.  I wanted OFF the bike!  And at that moment, God sent me an angel.  Well, he sent me my Mentor, John Hluboky.  I had not bonded with my mentor as several others on the team bonded with theirs during the season, but he always was very good at asking me how my training was going and was available for questions/concerns.  At the moment I was tempted to get off the bike, he became the best Mentor - EVER! He rode with me about 5 miles asking how I was doing.  Asked if I needed anything. I told him I was fine because miraculously my desire of wanting to get off the bike and sit on the side of the road disappeared the moment he showed up.  All I could think was, "THANK YOU GOD."

After our short ride together he said he would see me at the top of Chalk and he rode off.  As I neared the "CLIMB" I could hear cow bells, cheers and I knew I was almost there.  As I turned the corner I saw all the people and then I saw Coach Jerald.  He cheered along side me and ran up the hill with me.  He was yelling and cheering me on.  I said, "You're going to make me cry" as I gave it absolutely everything I could.  I felt as though I was pulling a ton of bricks and feared that my legs wouldn't have enough in them to get me up the hill.  For a split second, I thought I would have to walk up the hill.  But I did make it up, my legs didn't fail and once I reached the top Coach Ron was there cheering me on and John was up there too.  He quickly handed me an ice cold water and I tossed him my empty bottle.  I DID IT!  I made it to the top without stopping! And it was all downhill from there, literally! I said my "Thank You's" and as I began my descent, the tears just began to flow! I was overwhelmed with joy not only by the endless support but the belief the coaches have in each one of us. 

Reaching the bottom I wiped my eyes, composed myself, and quickly guzzled that ice cold water.  10 miles to go!  I had this. On that last stretch of Chalk Hill I received some encouraging shouts from motorists which made me smile and lifted my spirits. But, little did I remember that I would have one more mini climb when I turned left onto Pleasant Road.  By this time I had no legs left.  I panicked thinking I wasn't going to make it up the baby hill, but once I did I knew I was going to finish, and finish strong.

During the entire ride the traffic control was amazing.  Some of the officers cheered us on, smiled, said "Good Job" but the most memorable one was the female officer on Airport Road. She waved us on and did this crazy little dance.  Her positive energy was contagious and gave me the boost I needed for the last few miles.  Once I passed her I neared Shiloh and I peddled as quickly as I could making my way toward the high school.

Making my way into town with left and right turns, I eventually joined back to another part of Shiloh Road.  When I made that turn, which would eventually put me on Windsor Road, the cyclist who was about 100 feet behind me must have taken the turn too hard and crashed.  I did not see it, but I heard it and as slowed to look behind me I could tell she had hit the curb (her bike was on the ground there) and she must have been tossed across the sidewalk because I couldn't see where she landed.  Part of me felt poorly for not stopping, but I knew there was nothing I could do. I was certain she was in good hands because at that turn there were two police offices and several spectators.  If it had just been her and I  I would stopped and not left her side.  The idea of her crashing so close to the finish of the ride (literally 2 miles from the end) make me slow to a crawl as I made my final turn onto Windsor Road.  I said a prayer for her and hoped that no one would think less of me for not stopping.  I tried to get the image of what had happened out of my mind and focuses on continuing my ride strong. As I neared the high school I gave it all I had. The crowd grew louder as I could hear the cheering from the hundreds of spectators and then it happened; I could see my team!
I was 2/3 DONE!
 Race Plan Projected Time - 07:30:00 - Very Pleased to do better than my projected time!


T2 - 00:10:52
As I dismounted off the bike I quickly removed my shoes.  I knew the walk to my transition area was about 200 meters (half a length of a track) on concrete and trying to walk that in cycling shoes would not be easy.  My plan was to jog to my transition, but there was no way that was going to happen.  I walked the entire way. As I neared the end of the transition walkway, I saw my family cheering and taking pictures!  Matt was there too, shouting and screaming.  He asked if I needed anything I assured him I was okay.  My daughter, Taylor informed me that she was going to run the first part of the run with me.

Once at the transition area, which I found very quickly (ROW 11) on the outside rack, I struggled racking my bike.  I was exhausted and the strength in my arms seemed to be non-existent.  My bike felt like it weighed 100 pounds. Once it was racked I did a complete wardrobe change.  Shoes off, socks off, shorts off, shirt off.  I took my time changing.  I dried my feet, put baby powder filled socks on, put dry Tri shorts on, applied my TRI Slide, placed my Flame Tri Top on, grabbed my fuel/race belt, slipped my shoes on, grabbed my empty water bottle (which I would fill with ice/water), put my visor on took a GU and off I went.....straight to the port-a-potty!  I hadn't used the restroom my entire bike ride but did relieve myself twice in the river - Shhhhh!!

As I exited the restroom I pit stopped at the water station and grabbed some pretzels, an oreo cookie, filled empty water bottle pre-filled with Clif Shot Electrolyte powder and I was ready for my 26.2 mile victory lap!

Race Plan Projected Time - 00:05 - 00:10 - Close enough, I blame having to use the port-a-poty!

RUN - 06:01:46
Over the season I had asked several people who have done an Ironman how to start out the run.  Some said, "Walk," others said "Jog" but the best advice I received was, "Do what feels best to your body" and that is exactly what I did.

As I exited the transition area, my daughter was waiting for me.  She smiled and said, "I'm going to run about four miles with you."  I replied, "Okay."  I shared with her my run plan of a 4:1.  That is a 4 minute run and a 1 minute walk.  As we began running along Windsor Road, we came upon Katrina, Ray and their kids.  Ray is my honoree. They had made a HUGE sign that read "GO IRONTY! #877"  I was touched to the center of my heart. ♥

As I continued to run down Windsor Road and I neared Coach Dan's house I could see the my team lined up.  Right before I reached them, I saw Danielle riding in.  She gave me the biggest cheer and smile!!  I felt good, strong and energized.  As I passed my team they all cheered and gave me "hi-five's."  

The feeling of being almost done with this event was a relief but also sad, sad that it was almost the end of something special. Soon we turned to Reiman and my watch beeped. It was time to walk and that is when it hit me. The muscles above my knees began to twitch and cramp in the same area as they did on the bike.  As I neared the 1st water stop the North Bay IronTeam was camped out there.  They cheered loudly for me and it helped with the head but not the legs.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't.  

I was in pain and told Taylor, I had to walk a bit.  I promised myself that at each water stop I'd drink and I'd pour ice down my shirt.  By this time it had gotten very hot.  I mentioned to Taylor that at four miles we turn around, since she had mentioned she only wanted to run 4 in total.  When we reached two I told her she may want to turn around but she said she would just do the entire eight miles with me.  It made me happy to know I wouldn't be alone.  I think if she wasn't with me I would have walked a lot more than I did.  She kept saying, "Okay Mommy, when we get there (focusing on a part of the road,) let's try to run."  We tried and we did, but we walked a lot more than I had wanted to.  Having Taylor there was definitely helpful.  She pushed me in a very positive way.

I stopped twice to use the port-a-potty.  On our first loop out we saw Camilo, New Guy (Mike), Cole and Tortilla (Teresa.)  I had hoped to catch up to Tortilla but when I saw her I knew she was too far ahead to catch up. The first three miles felt long, it was extremely warm and I just wanted my legs to stop cramping.  I made sure to take my salt tabs and had my second GU at about mile six.  

As we reached mile seven I heard what sounded like a horse trotting and I knew exactly who it was.  It wasn't the Italian Stallion, but the Mexican Stallion - Camilo.  He slowed his pace and we chatted a bit; mostly about if we would do another Ironman and how difficult it was to put all three sports together.  In training we always did two of the three in a single day but never put all three together.  My pace was very slow on the run (about a 12-13 minute average) so I told him he could go ahead of us.  I said we were running a 4:1 but he assured me that he wanted to run with me for a while.  According to my daughter my pace increased when he joined us probably to an 10-11 minute mile.  When we hit Reiman, Taylor began complaining about blisters and decided to walk the rest of the way to Dan's house.  Camilo and I ran the rest of my first loop (this was his 2nd.)

We had the pleasure to see the team on the way in and then again on the way out.  As we entered the high school Camilo said you are going to love what the team did.  On the ground they had written in chalk all our names!!  It was BREATHTAKING!!

After the turn around I told him to go ahead, that I was hurting and that he was almost done. Only one loop left for him, so although I lost Camilo as my running partner, I gained my #1 supporter - My own IronMatt. 

I again felt relieved to have someone run beside me.  Not as a pacer but someone to go at my pace.  I told him I was trying to do a 4:1 but shared my cramping issues. It was still very warm but had it had cooled down quite a bit from my first loop.  On the first run out I used my water bottle but left it with Taylor for the second run. I continued to drink at each station, and now began to eat a little bit of the fruit that was offered at the aid stations. I also continued taking salt tabs each hour. The support of the LA IronTeam (they were located at the turn around) and NB IronTeam was tremendously inspiring.  By this time I saw the remaining participants on the course, Gladys, Sandy, John, Chienyo, Jessi, Elene and Kelly. I recall at one point Gladys told me, "Keep moving" as she saw me walking very slowly.  The second loop was challenging but toward the second half of it, I think I finally got my rhythm going.

When Matt and I hit the turn around I was excited.  I knew I was almost done. I was halfway done!  It began cooling down quickly as the sun began to set and I knew it would be time to visit my special needs bag for my head lamp, arm warmers and some real food.  

As we neared the 15 mile mark I saw a person in a yellow shirt waving.  I couldn't figure out who it was initially but as we got closer I could see that it was Katrina!  I was so shocked and happy.  I couldn't stop smiling. She ran the rest of the second loop with Matt and I.  I felt so blessed to have the support of so many by my side.  I THANKED God for placing such amazing people in my life.♥

As we passed Coach Dan's house, I was greeted again by cheers and hi five's.  I would see them only two more times.  Running into the chute area, making my final loop the volunteer asked, "Do you have one or two bracelets?", I replied "Two, I have one more loop to go."  She then replied, "You are almost done," handed me my bracelet and I made my way to the special needs area.  Matt and Katrina were waiting for me there.  I grabbed the things I needed out of the bag and as I bit into what I thought would be a mouth savoring PB&J sandwich. Blah! It felt like I bit into cardboard.  The sandwich had dried out and was hard.  I said, "I can't eat this" and proceeded to snack on some cheez-it's. Without water in hand, I stole what little Katrina had in hers and chugged it.  I thanked her for running by my side, handed her my bag and Matt and I jogged out for the last and final loop.

Passing my team, my kids, my mommy and Ray once more, I knew the next time I would see them meant I was finished.  As we headed out, I stuck to the 4:1 as much as possible.  The cramping in the legs seemed to subside and the thought of sucking on any more GU made me want to puke.  I stopped taking them, kept with the salt tabs and just started eating the bananas and peaches at the aide stations.  The plan I had in my mind is that when I hit the final turn around at mile 21.8 I would run the remaining 4.4 miles, stop at each aide station for one cup  of coke and one cup of water.  Early on the last loop I hit the port-a-potty one last time, and to my relief my body cooperated with me and I was able to lighten the load (if you know what I mean.)  

On the last loop, it was necessary to have the head lamp on.  It was pitch black.  I felt poorly for those who didn't come prepared.  Surprisingly, on this loop I felt much stronger and full of energy.  When I hit the final turn around at the end of Mark Station Road, I knew I only had 4.4 miles to go.  I was on the home stretch.  My goal was first to finish, second to finish strong, and third "negative split" my run as Coach Jerald always reminded us to do.

After that last turn around my alarm went off, commanding me to walk for a minute and I told myself, "NO!" Matt had even stopped running and I said, "I'm running. I'm not stopping" and I didn't.  I ran the entire way back. I ran each hill.  By this time, the only light was that coming from our headlamps.  I couldn't even see my team mates any longer when we crossed each other. The beauty of running in the dark is that you are unable to see the hill ahead.  I knew I was running up it, but it's a much different experience than when you can visually see it.  I recall saying to Matt, "Do you realize we are running up all the hills?"  I felt great, I felt strong, I didn't feel any cramps and if I did, I didn't allow them to control my run.  I controlled them!  I allowed my legs to become numb.

I know could feel the coolness of the air and it felt refreshing.  My arm warmers were on and the shuffle of feet seemed less and less now.  As I made it up the last hill and began running down it, I became excited.  I was only a turn away from the long strip that would take me to the finish line. As we reached the corner of Reiman & Starr I was overwhelmed with emotions because I knew this journey was almost over. As I neared Windsor Road I saw a figure on the side of the road.  It was one of my best IronTeam buds, Danielle! I was so happy to see her.  She asked how I was.  I replied, "Good.  How was your race?"  She made me laugh inside because she said to me, "Forget about me, this is about you."  She is beautiful and sent off such positive energy.  We continued to run together until we saw the team for the last and final time!  They told me I was almost there.  I was greeted with more hi-fives, claps, whistles and "Go Tyza!"

As I continued to run toward the high school spectators kept yelling and cheering.  As we approached the end, Matt said, "This is all you!" and left me as I entered the chute for the last time.  I saw my mom, son and daughter as I approached the final turn.  They were cheering and yelling.

I could hear "GO MOM! GO MIJA!" I recalled seeing the genuine smiles from my son and daughter each time I passed them on my run and the one's they gave me at the finish line were even more touching. Those smiles along with the "GO MOM" from Ryan each time I saw him. Having my son, daughter, and my mother's presence at this life achieving event is something I am forever grateful for.

As I continued down the chute, I heard the announcer say, "TYZA GARCIA, from San Jose" (and they said my name correct!) 
I was 3/3 DONE!


Race Plan Projected Time - 05:25 - 06:00. Run Finish was 06:01:45 - Close Enough!

All I could do is raise my hands, basking in my accomplishment as I let the ribbon hit me in the belly!  The belly that soon would be greeted with a long awaited edible medal!

Immediately crossing the finish line Dennis, (our team manager) was waiting for me with my finisher's medal in hand.  All I could do is hug him as I broke down and began to cry; we both cried.  I had did it.  My eight month journey had paid off.  The concussion, the Epic-ness of climbing 10,000 feet, the grueling boot camps, the open and ocean water swims, the Wildflower training weekend, the unholy weather that Mother Nature gave us and the Double/Triple brick workouts all served their purpose. They all played their part in what I've become.


The victory hug from Dennis was quickly greeted with a brown paper bag.  Inside that bag awaited my one and only finish line request; An Old Fashioned Maple Donut!  Thank you Dennis ♥

It was then time to make the rounds of hugs and share more tears with my Iron Matt.  The one whom stood by my side during this whole craziness.  I then turned to my mom and children who withstood the long 15 plus hour event, giving them hugs, saying thank you and telling them how much I loved them.

It was then time to recognize the REAL Ironman, the one whom I did this in honor of, Raymond Souza.  The aches in my legs, the sick feeling of eating GU or the heat of the day could never compare to the treatments he had to endure.  He along with all the others who suffer from cancer pulled me through the pain I endured during this event. They were my strength and my light. 
I continued to hug and thank you everyone else that was there to support me; Katrina,  her kids, my team mates and the volunteers.  Even after my 15 hour day, it wasn't over. Sipping on soup, I stuck around to cheer on my team mates who were also competing in the event.  All I can say is "What an amazing day."

With little to no problems, my overall race day went smooth.  Each of my projected times were on target or pretty darn close.  I honestly believe the training schedule that Iron Team puts in place for us, works.  If you listen to what the coaches instruct you to do, it WILL work.  If I can emphasize one thing, it is how important the role of nutrition plays in your training and on race day. Additionally, I didn't get lost or caught up in "race mode."  I enjoyed the day, I remembered to enjoy the journey because the coaches were right, it will be over before you know it.

So for now, my journey comes to an pause.  I completed my first 1st Half Iron Distance almost a year ago on May 22, 2011 and now have completed my first Full Distance Ironman on July 28, 2012. In between that year I've done several other endurance events.  They have become part of who I am today ♥


The following morning we had our victory brunch. It was an opportunity to share our accomplishment, as well as acknowledge why we do what we do and the ones who inspired us to stick it out. I finished my season raising $6,050.00 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; an organization dedicated to the research and services of blood cancer.  I feel honored to be a part of such an amazing organization and to have met the selfless people who are a part of this organization.  Some of them have a connection with the cause, and some do not, but we all have the same objective - TO CURE CANCER! 

During the brunch we also were reminded of a note we wrote to ourselves the first day of training.  I forgot what I written and was surprised at how it touched me.  I decided it was worth sharing with everyone.  It was hard to keep my composure, but I did for the minute or so that I stood at the podium.  It read:

The journey may seem like a blur at this very moment, 
and clarity will come on race day, 
when I cross that finish line,
giving it my personal best.
I'll see them and they'll see me. 
Then they will know that they TOO
can do ANYTHING!!

So, is our journey really ever over?  Perhaps for some, but not for IronTy.  What's next you ask? As for myself and a few of us crazy IronTeamer's, we have already signed up for the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run in April 2013.  I guess once you drink the Kool-Aid, you can't stop!

I hope you have enjoyed my BLOGS over the last eight months and maybe even have been inspired to try something new. Don't ever doubt your capabilities because you can do much more than you think. Just Believe! 

I'm certain I'll be back with more adventures of IronTy.  This was my first full Ironman and it definitely will not be my last.  Until then, enjoy the additional photos of the weekend's events.


Go Team IronTeam! Woooooo!!!!