Monday, December 7, 2009

I raced for 140.6 miles. Yes, I said MILES!

My Official IRONMAN Florida Race Report!!!
(WARNING: this will be looong!)
So, before I get into my Ironman race report, I guess I probably should back up a little bit & explain why & how I got it in my brain that I wanted to even attempt an Ironman distance triathlon.
And, for those that don't already know, there are a few different distances of triathlons out there...starting out at a short, sprint distance (usually, 500 to 800 meter swim, 12 to 15 mile bike, and 2 or 3 mile run) then going to a bit longer, or an Olympic distance race (consisting of about a 1 mile swim, 26 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run) and next to a Half-Iron distance race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, & 13.1 mile run) and then, of course, to the ultimate distance challenge....the FULL IRONMAN...2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike & 26.2 mile run...for a total of 140.6 miles! Well, there is actually one triathlon longer than this -- the Ultraman, I believe -- but, those are for people that are not even human! ;o)
Ok, so anyway - back to why I even wanted to attempt an Ironman distance race to start with.
Way, way, way back when I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9 years old), my parents would watch the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii every year on the TV on NBC. I very distinctly remember being in awe of the competitors and their strength. And, I also clearly remember telling my parents that I would one day do an Ironman!
So flash forward to about 4 years ago, when I began to workout everyday with a purpose (mainly to get rid of the rest of my post-baby weight!).
I found myself getting stronger & stronger & really appreciating the body God gave me. I was amazed how my diligence with workouts effected how I felt about myself emotionally & physically -- as a person, wife & mother.
Long story short, I got into triathlons around that time & have been enjoying the challenge ever since. I've been racing for 4 seasons now -- made possible by my wonderful husband, Matt, who watches the kids while I am working out, buys my training & race equipment, and supports me!
And yes, I did start out with the shorter distance races & moved up slowly every season. In fact, it was only in September of 2008, that I completed my last Olympic-distance race & told my friends/coaches, Rebekah & Chris Trevelise, that I wanted to train the next season for a half & full Ironman.
I wanted to try to register for Ironman Florida that November (2008), but knew that the registration was tough & the chances for getting in were not super-high. I did try, though, and both me & my coach, Chris, got registered online that day.
Training commensed immediately! My immediate goals were to complete several half-marathons & 1 marathon through that fall/winter. I also wanted to build a lot of base aerobic fitness. I sure did of lot running around this time last year & I did build that base I was hoping for.
By the spring of '09 I completed my first 1/2 Iron-distance race in Galveston, TX & did decently well. And more importantly, not feeling completely dead & spent after racing for 5 hours & 50 minutes. I left that race really feeling like the full Ironman was possible for me!
Still, I knew there was much more training to do. So, I pressed on through the spring & the summer -- hours of open water & pool swims, 4 & 5 hour bike rides, 12 & 13 miles runs, AND 9 & 10 mile runs AFTER 4 hour bike rides! PHEW!!!!!!!!
UNTIL...August - only about 16 weeks ago....while standing on the shore of Lake Travis, getting ready to race the Sweet & Twisted Triathlon, I had a bad pain in my left foot. I raced on it anyhow - feeling the pain while I ran - took 4th place that day & was diagnosed with 2 stress fractures in that foot within 2 days of the race.
Knowing that my Ironman in Florida was only a mere 11 weeks out, I was super-worried! Now what do I do?!?! Will my bones heal in time, will I be able to race?
I obeyed my doc, stayed off my foot, & wore an aircast (or, boot, as I called it) for 9 full weeks!
So for 9 weeks before Ironman, there was no run training AT ALL. Nada.
I missed a couple of smaller races here in the area during that time, that were going to help prepare me to do Ironman at race pace, but those got skipped, of course. Thankfully, though, I was still able to swim & ride my bike indoors (& a little outside, too) during this time to help keep my fitness up for Ironman.
However, by the time I was out of the boot, only 3 weeks away from Ironman, I was skeptical that I would be able to finish the race without having the full preparation on the run. Both of my friends/coaches said that I would be fine & that I should still go out to Florida & give it a shot.
And so, I decided to go! I got in a few short, slow runs in those 3 weeks before leaving for the race & just prayed to God that He would get me through & carry me on the run.
Fast forward again to this past November 4, only 3 days before race day, when I arrive in Panama City Beach, Florida. The town was buzzing - with triathletes all over the place...riding, running, & swimming. I, along with Chris, Rebekah & their family, stayed in a cool little RV resort at the far end of town right next to the entrance to the state park that we would be running through (twice!) on race day.
Trev & I got in a short run that Wednesday night & then Thursday, we did a practice swim there in the gulf. The ocean swim was AWESOME! Way better than I thought it would be! I was not afraid of it at all - in fact, I was psyched to get back into the water on race day!
We got a short, slow bike ride in, too, after the swim & scoped out the marathon course.
Friday was all about rest, since the race was the next day, but everyone had to get their bikes racked and hand-in their transition & special needs bags. These bags carry your needed items for the different legs of the race & are assigned a certain spot in transition based on your race number. So, after the bike & bag check-in, all that was left to do was eat lasagne (thanks to Trev's mom for that!!) and rest some more!
I got up 4am, ate some random bread products, had my giant cup of coffee & got dressed.
Went down to Chris & Rebekah's travel trailer & made myself some oatmeal. We got some warm clothes on over our race gear (since it was about 50-some degrees) to get down to the beach for the race start. We got there, got the rest of our stuff set up on our bikes & in the transition bags and then got our wetsuits on. We struggled finding Rebekah at the race start on the beach since there were so many people down there. But, we did finally find her about 10-15 minutes before the start & we got a couple pics & video.
Phew! Just enough time to get down the beach & get this party started!
We gave everyone hugs & off we went toward the water.
I was surprisingly calm at this point. Yes, there was a touch of nerves, but not because I was worried, but because I was PSYCHED! The crowd on the beach was overwhelming -- there were about 2400 athletes racing that day & at least that many more spectators all gathered on this small area of the beach. It was CRAZY! The excitment was in the air & everywhere. People clapping, dancing on the beach, and hugging loved ones. And then, of course, the national anthem. My gosh - I wanted to cry! I said another quick prayer, chatted with a few people around and calmly waited for the cannon to go off.

And....WE'RE OFF!
I started my watch & walked with a massive group of people into the water. We ended up walking for probably 2 minutes or more before we could even begin to swim! And then, when we did start IS what they say...a literal washing machine! A sea of flailing arms & legs & other various body parts. I was kicked multiple times (naturally), got my goggles knocked several times, & got swam over more times than I can count! But, BOY! Was it fun!

I finally found a nice little rhythm & thought to myself so many cool is this?! I am doing an IRONMAN! Here I am, swimming in the ocean with 2400 other people, doing an IRONMAN! Getting to the first bouy was moderately challenging, but I appreciated the draft & pull I got from the other swimmers. And one of the best moments of my day happened at the first turn bouy. As anyone that has ever swam in a race knows, the turn bouys are always a crowded CLUSTER. Mostly, it makes me MAD on race days....when I'm all like: "grrrrrr.....move outta my way....why are you stopping right in the middle of the course....grrrrrr" etc, etc. But, this turn bouy was different. Well, it was a cluster of people, but it just so happened that the entire cluster of people I was with at this bouy all stopped swimming (what seemed to be simultaneously) and looked around happily at each other. In fact, everyone was smiling...I was smiling. Then all of a sudden one of the swimmers yells out to the group...."HEY EVERYBODY - WE'RE DOING THIS! WE'RE DOING AN IRONMAN!!". And then, the group of us broke out into a chorus of cheers! It was AMAZING! Then the same guy said: "ok now, everybody, BACK TO WORK!" So off we went again! So hilarious!!!!
So, I made the 1st loop of the 2 loop swim course in decent time. Got back into the water again for my second loop, still feeling amazing.
When I came back in for the 2nd time, though, my loop was slower...but, I was still cool with it & happy to done with the water & getting ready for my favorite part of every triathlon -- the bike!
2.4 Mile Swim Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes, 32 seconds
Transition 1 (or, T1) was pretty uneventful. Got my wetsuit stripped off in a jiffy & I flew up to the fresh water showers very quickly. Made my way through the hotel tunnel and into the T1 bag area. Some sweet volunteer handed me my bag & pointed me in the direction of the change building. Although, I was not changing, I still had to enter & get all my bike gear on, before I could exit & get my bike. Did that & then flew out to my bike rack when another lovely volunteer was standing at the end of my rack waiting to hand my bike over to me. Now, that was cool!
T1 Time: 9 minutes, 12 seconds
Getting onto my bike was thrilling! I always get so excited in a race when I get to get on my bike. It really is my favorite! I had a plan of going out nice & easy & not pushing at all for the first 12 miles. I stuck to my plan. The 1 loop course then took us more inland & then shortly dead into the wind. Where I had been averaging about 21-22 miles/hour without even trying for those first 15 or so miles, suddenly, I watched my computer read out about 16-17 miles/hour. This direction of the course & going straight into the wind (although, the wind was really not that strong that day, but it was definitely noticable) was for the next 50-some miles (I believe).
I passed up every rest station, still feeling really great - lots of energy & no need to use the port-o-pottys.
I stayed on top of my nutrition that I had brought on my bike & only took hand-ups of water as I rode through those aid stations. So thankful that I never really felt fatiqued on the bike & that I never had to get off at all. My goal had been to do a 6 hour or less ride for the 112 mile course. And, as luck would have it...I met my goal! I came in right on time & still felt amazing! It was really unbelieveable, actually. As I came through the chute to the dismount line, I mentally prepared myself for the long, slow run ahead, but I was optimistic about it since I was not in any pain at this point.
112 Mile Bike Time: 6 hours, 0 minutes, 37 seconds
Getting off the bike was actually surprisingly easier than I had thought. I had anticipated lower back tightness & other general muscle distress -- but, thank God, I was feeling great! T2 was way quicker, the bags were just right there waiting for us beyond the dismount line. I quickly ran into the change building this time - only to throw on my visors & shoes & run right back out the door.
T2 Time: 5 minutes, 9 seconds
Right outta the gate I did get a side cramp. Luckily, it worked itself out quickly & I began to settle in for my long journey. My run plan had always been to to just keep foot in front of another. I had guessed (based on those 3 or 4 runs I had gotten in right in the weeks leading up to the race) that I'd be able to maintain an 11 or 12 minute/mile pase for this marathon. Slow & easy. And I did this for about the first 13 or 14 miles or so. I began to slow then, though, simply because I could now really feel the fatique setting into my leg muscles. But, I pressed on, slowly shuffling & walking through aid stations. Really loving every moment of my journey. I thought about so much on this much I loved my God, my life, my family & friends & how thankful I was to be able to physically, emotionally, & mentally endure a race like this.
Around mile 15 or 16, though, deep pain set into my right leg & knee. It made it very difficult to keep slow jogging, so I switched to a very, very slow shuffle walk. I could still feel the pain doing this, but it just wasn't as intense.
I saw Trev a few times on the run course -- he was looking great at every point & he would ask how I was feeling & how my foot was feeling. Everytime, I would say..."I'm doing great, my foot doesn't hurt at all!" And while I really was beginning to feel the fatique set in all over -- it was really true, I was still feeling good - I still had adrenaline & I knew that I was definitely going to be able to finish & I KNEW was gonna be an Ironman that night!
Around mile 22 -23, I tried to guestimate my finish time -- thinking that I only had just about 4 miles to go & normally, I can do 4 miles in under 40 minutes. But, with my walking now, I figured it would probably take me almost double that time. So, with that in my mind, I guess my finish time to be 13 hours & 30 minutes. From there, every spectator I saw along the road, I would yell "13:30". Some would cheer for me, others would ask me what that meant & I would tell them that that was "gonna be my finish time" or that's "when I'm gonna be an Ironman"!
It kept me moving. Those numbers 13:30 kept me moving to the finish line!
I made the final turn off the main road, down the final back street towards the finish line. Probably, the last mile of the race, I prayed & thanked God again for the gift He had given me that day & thanked Him that my foot did not get re-injured. I came closer now to the finish line & heard the music blaring, Mike Reilly announcing the finishers & knew my time was near. I took off in a dead sprint to the finish line!
I rounded the last corner & then u-turned towards the finish line. I got my race number out & ran through the chute, holding it over my head! I was SO EXCITED!
CHRISTINA BARKLEY from Cedar Park, TX.....YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I heard my name & those words & couldn't believe it!
Run Time: 5 hours, 47 minute, 44 seconds
Total Ironman Time: 13 hours, 35 minutes, 14 seconds
My journey was finished! And, as you can see by the clock in the picture, I didn't make it in 13:30. I did make it close enough, though!!! And no, I wasn't disappointed that I didn't hit 13:30. It wasn't my goal time before the race. My goal was to finish! The 13:30 did keep me going there at the end, though...and that is all that matters!
And so......I am now an Ironman!
If you really bothered to read all this, I am thoroughly impressed! I know it was long, but it is hard to make short something that was really big & monumental for me. It was my big journey - a journey I will never forget!
Thanks especially to Matt for loving me & helping me follow my goals & big dreams & thanks to all my friends who listened to me drone on & on about this race for a full year straight! You are good people!

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