This past sunday, Aug. 30, I competed in the 2009 Ford Ironman Louisville, which was my first full distance Ironman since Kona in 2007. Looking back two years ago, I’ll always remember listening to Ironman World Champion, Chris McCormack, talk about putting the time in and paying your dues in this sport during his victory speech in Kona. And, since 2007, that is what I have been doing – putting my time in training and in racing. All the hard work, sacrifice and mental preparation that I have put into this sport for the past two years really paid off this weekend because I was able to drop four hours off of my Ironman time by going 10:55.
I felt a little nervous going into this race because I was determined to go hard and really do the best I could. In my first Ironman, the goal was to finish, but the goal for this race was to test my abilities and I was very pleased with the results.
There was a lot of energy in the air on race day morning, especially with the way the swim course was set up with the time trial start. The adrenaline rush that I felt as I was getting ready to jump in the water was out of this world. For the first quarter of the race I found that my heart rate was a little to high so I started to take it down a notch and finally reached my regular race rhythm. After 2.4 miles in the Ohio river, I hurried to get my land legs back, hopped on the bike and began focusing on the race day strategy that I had planned for the past year.
I guess I became a little too aggressive towards the first third of the bike portion because I ended up getting my first red card penalty ever in a race for unintentionally taking a little to long to pass due to the congestion of traffic and cyclists on the road – I was devastated. I knew that this was going to hurt my bike time quite a bit and as I continued pedaling and wondering how I could make up time, I was given a yellow card penalty less than five minutes later for riding to close to the middle of the road instead of staying to the right – one more penalty and I would be disqualified from the entire race so I made sure I did everything as cautiously as possible after I was released from the penalty tent that lasted six minutes. The next 80 miles I was extremely alert with the road traffic, the terrain and the other cyclists on the course. Luckily, it was a smooth ride without any further trouble.
After 5 hours and 28 minutes, I came into the transition area feeling much fresher than how I felt in Kona two years ago (when I stepped off the bike back then, I had to hobble to the transition area and struggle to sit down for a few minutes before I could even think about attempting a marathon). I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and for the first mile it was tough, as it usually is in any triathlon after the bike segment. I held on, consumed a few powergels and salt pills, and started to find my pace and stride. Before I knew it, I was hitting mile 6…and then 12…and then 16… and the excitement and cheering from the crowd was just filling me with this much-needed motivation so I kept moving and most importantly, kept smiling and thanking the crowd and volunteers for all their incredible support. In the marathon I competed in back in march, I hit the wall at mile 20 so I was really worried about what it was going to be like to get to mile 20 in the marathon segment of this race after swimming for 2.4 miles and biking 112. But surprisingly, at mile 20, instead of feeling fatigued and in pain, I felt an overwhelming sense of rejuvenation and emotion as my eyes filled with tears of joy that lasted all the way to the finish line.
In my opinion, the Ironman triathlon is the greatest sport in the world. I’ve come to learn that once you cross that finish line you are welcomed into a wonderful group of world-class athletes of all ages and backgrounds. And, ultimately, when you cross that finish line, no matter what time or place, you are a winner.
I crossed the finish line in 10:55 and felt very strong, grateful and motivated, but this certainly was not an individual effort. I have received so much wonderful support from my parents/family/friends and people all over the world. I met so many amazing and inspiring Ironman athletes this weekend and it was a privilege to compete alongside them for 140 miles.
Thank You to everyone who has supported me along my Ironman journey since 2007 and Congratulations to everyone who competed in this race this past weekend, especially those who were competing for the first time.