There’s nothing like a first full Ironman. Months of training all leading up to one event. I picked Ironman Chattanooga for my first full because it was a great excuse to visit what seemed like a beautiful city. And it didn’t disappoint. To top it off, I had the most amazing support – Christopher, my mom and my mother-in-law.

Off to the race at 4:40! Arrived at transition and I was relieved to hear it was wetsuit optional. Dropped off my special needs bags and headed for my bike. Had the bike service tech pump my tires….and the guy chipped my rear disc cover. He didn’t say anything…nor did I. Oh well. Nothing a little electrical tape wouldn’t fix.

At the swim start, the was already quite a line of athletes waiting for the start of the race! Thankfully I managed to get into the line at a decent spot. Waited just a little while before starting the race. I was eager to get this day going!!

Then we stood up and started moving torward the dock. It was a bit of an anticlimactic start. We were ushered over and told to jump feet first into the water. No time to think or ready ourselves. It was so unexpected that I forgot to start my watch until it beeped at me 2 minutes into my swim that it was going to turn off into power save mode!

The water felt great! Perfect temperature. Goggles were nice and clear. Swim cap was covering my ears so I wasn’t getting any annoying water in them. Sighting was good…I was feeling great! I was swimming past athletes pretty smoothly, though it was hard to tell how fast or slow I was moving. Had no idea until the end how strong the current was until I saw my time. I guess the swim was aided by the current. Sighting the finish was pretty easy. It was hard to miss the crowd of people at Ross’s Landing. Out of all my race swims, this was probably my favorite. I loved how the fresh water felt…and it was so liberating without a wetsuit!

Nothing like getting three volunteers to help you at transition! They dumped my bag and started going through everything as I pulled my swim skin off. They knew what to do…Did I want my nutrition in my pockets? Did I need help putting shoes on? I directed them around and did my thing. Some cream on my hooha, Castelli shirt on with the help of 2 trash bags, nutrition in my pockets, quickly tied my hair back, put my halo and helmet on, grabbed my shoes and headed out of the tent.

Short climb out of transition…and onto the bumpy ride out of Chattanooga. In a city known for railroads and trains (choo choo!), I should’ve known there would be railroad tracks and bumps everywhere. Bottles were being launched left and right.

Once I got on the loop, I really started to enjoy the ride. It was beautiful, I was feeling good and I was racing my Ironman race! I made sure to give all the spectators and volunteers some positive sign. A smile and thumbs up were my MO.

As I came into transition, there was my mom, holding up her iPad, cheering and trying to grab a photo. 🙂 I dismounted and happily handed my bike to a kind volunteer. As much as I love my bike, I was glad to turn it over. Saw Chris and his mom as I was leaving T2. I waved to them like a mad woman! I was so excited yet apprehensive about the run!

Oh, my ankle started bothering me immediately. It had been bugging me for about a week and a half at this point. I’d skipped my last long run and skipped a few other runs. I wasn’t sure if it was a stress fracture or tendinitis…Chris thinks it’s the latter. For the most part, it was a pain I could deal with. Nothing debilitating, just an annoyance.

Was on pace and felt okay (not great, nor good…just okay) the first 8 miles or so. I was running between aid stations, walking the stations and on top of my nutrition. One of the runners mentioned the second half of the loop was hilly, but I had no idea what was in store. Turns out the north side of the river is VERY hilly…and the organizers of this race decided to have everyone run up and down these crazy hills, past expensive and beautiful homes.

Once I hit the halfway point and started my second loop, I was on a good pace. 2-ish hours (2:10??) for the first half. Not too bad. But could I hold it for the second half?? Nope! The second half was painful. I walked…quite a bit. It was long…and painful.

I saw Chris one final time as I crossed the bridge to the north side. He was cheering me on and ran with me a little. I told him how much pain I was in. Dig deep, he said…everyone online was cheering me on. I was so touched. I told myself I was going to push hard until the end. I’d allow myself to walk the hills, but I was going to shuffle and push through the rest of it. I somehow even managed to shuffle up parts of the hills. The end was getting closer and closer…that was also a huge motivator.

Crossed the pedestrian bridge and ran down towards the long finishers chute. Immediately my right calf tensed up again. I did what I could to stretch it. I thought I was close, but the chute was endless. Where were the crowds…it was too sparse to be the finish. I kept running. Finally, the crowd was growing and the cheering was getting louder. I saw Chris. My right calf was starting to tense up. There was the finish. I can’t remember much, but I guess, based on the photos, I pumped my arm and came across the finish. I had enough clarity in my mind to at least stop my watch. 🙂

It was an amazing experience. Growing up, I’ve always loved sports…watching and participating…and this is as close to “going to the Olympics” as I’ll ever get. The Ironman experience is my version of the Olympics. The support, the crowds, the intensity, the emotion…

I had no doubt I could do it. I had put in the training, put in the time and effort and I knew my body and mind were up to the task. The only question was if something out of my control would prevent me from getting to the finish line. I could have an issue with my bike, I could crash, I could have stomach issues…lots of possibilities. So I never assumed becoming an Ironman was going to happen. It would still take a lot of hard work, mental fortitude and good karma. Thankfully everything fell into place.

Of course, one of things that makes the Ironman experience so memorable is the support. Through the experience, you truly feel the love and support of all those around you. I couldn’t have done this without my husband. He believed in me…and thus I believed in myself. He was my biggest cheerleader. And my two moms who were there through every minute. Also, my coach Ben, who laid down the groundwork to get me to the start line and provided the guidance to get me to the finish. And all the friends and family who were cheering me on.

OVERALL TIME – 11:43:37
Age Group – 17th
Gender – 101st

SWIM – 55:41 (1:19/100yd)
BIKE – 6:00:56 (19.3mph)
RUN – 4:35:54 (10:31/mile)

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