My First Ironman: The Experience

| October 26, 2012

by Judy Weisseg (newsletter 10/31/12)

The Beginning
It is hard to believe that just about a year ago, WE decided I would do the Full ironman at Beach 2 Battleship. I say we, because it was a joint family and coach decision. The decision would affect my whole life, not just my workouts. It meant my family, my husband and kids, would be making sacrifices too. I would be gone most weekends all day and then when I was home I was spent, not much help and just wanted to sleep. Our lives would become scheduled around my workout schedule more often than not once summer came.And, I needed the vote of confidence from Joella that if I worked the plan I could do it. I trusted her to tell me the truth and not let me go down a road where success was not a possibility. Joella believed in me long before I fully believed in myself and her patience to wait for me to catch up means more to me than words can express. 36 weeks of training to get ready for an ironman, that’s what Joella told me. So in January it really started to count. It wasn’t too bad, pretty much what I experienced getting ready to do my first half, but with a few longer sessions to begin building my endurance. Then came summer and my weekend workouts began to change. Most Saturday and Sunday’s at the peak were 5-7 hours each day. The weekday workouts didn’t change too much, just more swimming and biking in the nice weather. Finally on September 29th I had my “test day”. I know now that it was Joella’s way of letting me learn firsthand that I was ready to go race (6 hours on the bike; 2:45 running and then a 2000 yard straight swim). That day was a very important day – I finally knew that I could trust myself and my training, that I would finish – no more doubts!!

Race Day – October 20th
I can’t believe it is finally here!! I wanted to jump out of my skin – no actually, just get started so I could get rid of the pit in my stomach. For me, the waiting on race morning is the worst. I received 3 pieces of very important advice from Jason before the race. And at some point during the day, I used them all.
1. Control what you can control. When others around me were swimming towards the buoys instead of just toward the finish or flying by me on the bike. I stuck to my plan. It was my race and I knew the things Joella and I talked about. What to do and what not to do.
2. Embrace the bad/hard times times they will come. It is funny how you can feel great one minute and then awful the next. Through all those long training sessions I learned that it doesn’t mean it is all downhill from there. That as quickly as things got hard they can get easy again.
3. Focus on the now, don’t worry about what is coming next.

The swim, wow, was it fast!! If the swim is your biggest obstacle to doing this distance or a half consider this race because the swim is awesome. Between the salt water and the current you fly!!

The bike course down there is described as “pancake” flat. And they are right, especially by comparison to what we are used to biking. What they don’t mention is it can get windy. As the day went on the wind kicked up pretty good. A couple of cross winds actually moved me and my bike. The wind however, did keep you cooled off as temperatures edged up into the 80s with not a cloud in the sky. It was a gorgeous day. A bike ride that long can get boring at times (I actually sang a 100 bottles of beer on the wall at one point to distract myself) however there are moments I hope I never forget – the smell of sweet onions from the fields, the cotton fields with their puffs of white that sometimes blew out onto the road, the Turkey farm (actually I hope I forget that vision before Thanksgiving – I wanted to stop and let them all out), coming up over the bridge and seeing downtown Wilmington knowing that in less than a mile and I would be off the bike – YEAH!! And the best part – my cheering section!! Funny how you can pick them out. I heard Jeremiah before I saw him and then there they all were Traci, Ron, Jillian, Stacy and Chris. Awesome, absolutely awesome.

Now the run. I really hadn’t thought much about the run until I came into transition. This would be my first marathon. I see Jillian first and she joins me for a bit then Traci on the other side. We run for awhile and there is Ron, Stacy, Chris and Jeremiah. They drop off and there around the corner is my daughter Jaclyn and sister’s friend Liz. Where’s Deb I yell (she did her first half that day) – she’s finished they yell back (little did I know that she was 3rd in her age group) YES!!! A little further up there’s Mark, my constant supporter and biggest fan. He should have felt a little weaker after we grabbed hands as I ran by because I took his strength with me out onto that run course. As I start down the cobblestone road (really, who thought that this surface was a good idea for a bunch of tired runners?!) Joella joined for a little bit, asked how I was, said I looked strong and her last words to me were “keep running for as long as you can”. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated those words that day and when I came in for the turnaround I was still running at over 14 miles. Seeing them all again and hearing their cheers was the boost I needed to get up the big hill (think the hill behind the pool but much steeper) again. The second loop got tougher and between miles 16 and 18 I started the game playing with myself. My legs felt good, but my stomach had enough bouncing around and was letting me know just how much it wanted it to stop. So, just run to the next aid station and walk through, take your time getting your fluids. By 18 that was too long to run, so it became a Run Club workout, just run 6 minutes and then walk 2. I did that until about mile 23 when I just needed a little more walk time, so I ran 6 and walked 3 until I hit mile 25 and then it was all about coming home and finishing. You come down that big hill you had to climb (great for the quads at that point) and back down the cobblestone. At last I see the finish line and all I can tell you is everything stopped hurting and I just ran. I ran faster than I had all day, ran knowing I was going to be an ironman in less than a minute!! I cross the line and hear Mark yell my name – he is stuck behind the fence but luckily he is tall and can reach over to hug me. I think all I could say was Oh My God!!! I turn to get out of the finish area and here comes Joella. She was so truly happy for me and just about tackles me (mind you it wouldn’t take much to do that at this point). We were two very happy girls!! The rest of the gang finally gets out from behind the fencing and there are hugs all around. I mean really who doesn’t want to hug a sweaty, stinky and very tired lady!!! And yes Jason, my butterflies flew in formation when the gun went off and we had a great day!! I did it, I really did it! 140.6 miles in 13:18:09! I am forever grateful to all of you who were with me on this journey. There are so many of you to thank and so to all of you — Thank you!! You are incredible individuals and always remember all those little things you do (how’s the training going, I can ride for 2 hours, I can meet you to run here, and you’ll be great…..) matter to somebody. They mattered to me!!

For the others who made this dream possible and spent countless hours training, listening or waiting for me, my gratitude I will share in person as I am sure we will have many more hours together over the years!! I simply don’t have the right words to convey how much you all mean to me. The question of the day seems to be so what is next? I will figure that out over the next couple of months, I know I need to and I will. But for now, I want to reconnect with my family and friends and CELEBRATE!!

Category: 2012, Team Blog

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