Thursday, February 04, 2016

Run! Houston Virtual 5K Results

So, I missed the Run! Houston 5K at Sam Houston Race Park on new years day.  Fortunately, the race director decided to offer a virtual race for those of us who were slackers on January 1.  I'm using this race as sort of a baseline paces have gotten pretty slow since the foot break and then training for IMTX last year. It's time to work on that!  So here it is - not pretty, but hopefully it will get better with some hard work!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Houston ½ Marathon Race Report

Wow, what an amazing race weekend!

FRIDAY – The Expo

On Friday, I headed to the Expo for packet pick-up (and shopping, of course!).  The Expo is my happy place – I love perusing the booths for upcoming races, cute running gear, new gadgets, etc.  And of course I love it, because I always run into friends from the local running community.

I picked up my packet and found a few choice items.  For example, I scored a new pair of tri shorts and a swimsuit for $9.99 each!  I also replaced my cheapie sunglasses that fell into the porta-potty during IMTX and picked up a cute shirt from BaySix USA.  I also took advantage of Luke’s Locker buy 3 get 1 free socks sale…who couldn’t use a few more pairs of running socks?  I met up with my Ironfriend, Li, and we had a great time shopping!  An exciting part of the expo was meeting up with Jolene, a PR Director from Skechers.  She asked me to try out a pair of Skecher’s GoRun Forza (not during the race, of course).  And she gave me a cute Aramco ½ Marathon tech shirt!  I will be sharing a review of the shoes, so stay tuned for that.

Me and fellow badass Ironman and training partner, Li, at the Expo...we had a great time shopping!

The wall of's a list of everyone running any of the races this weekend!

The m-dot!
My awesome new shirt and shoes, courtesy of Skechers Performance!

SATURDAY – The 5K and The Dinner

I will never get tired of this view!
On Saturday, the Hubs and I woke up early and headed to the ABB 5K.  The 5K is part of the Houston Marathon’s “Houston Double”.  Runners who finish both the ABB 5K and the Houston Marathon or Aramco Half Marathon receive a third medal.  Doing the 5K seemed like a great idea when we registered, but getting up early two mornings in a row didn’t sound so fun when our alarm clock went off on Saturday morning.  But, we managed to get out of bed and head downtown.  And we’re glad we did!  We met up with our fellow Woodlands Fit and Team Beef peeps and had a great time.  The goal here for us was to take this race really easy.  No point in racing the 5K when our main priority was to do well in the Half Marathon the following morning.  We danced at the start (my IMTX finisher’s song, Uptown Funk, was on as we crossed the start), chatted it up with other runners as we waited, then we just enjoyed the sights and sounds of the race.  The thing I enjoyed most was seeing kids running the 5k…and some of them seemed to actually enjoy it.  My kids would more than likely complain the entire time and insist that it was not fun AT ALL.

Team Beef before the ABB 5k

After a day full of family stuff and the weekly grocery shopping, the Hubs and I dumped the kids off with their grandparents and headed out to an event hosted by Skechers and the Houston Marathon Committee.  Glorious grown up time!!! 

Checking out the finish line...

The hubs tolerating me and my picture-taking...

Ready to run!

It was a fun night of great food and mingling with fellow runners, as well as some of the amazing folks who make the Houston Marathon happen every year.  We have a whole new respect for what it takes to organize an event of this size.  Incredible.  We also received cool goody bags that included Nuun, a water bottle, some Elliptigo and Sketchers info, as well as a FREE PAIR OF SKETCHERS PERFORMANCE SHOES! SCORE!

SUNDAY – The Half
Finally, it was race day!  We woke up early and headed downtown.  The great thing about the Houston Marathon is that you have the wonderful shelter of the George R. Brown Convention Center before and after the race.  It was a cold morning, so the warm environment was welcome!
We found some of our running group friends and had time to hang out and mentally prep for the race.  My stomach was feeling a little ick, so I headed off to medical to see if they had any antacids.  On the way, I stopped at the church service that was just starting.  I’m so glad I did, it was exactly what I needed to get my mind right.  And, I just happened to find a Pepto tablet in my race belt…a little souvenir from IMTX.  Score!  I headed to the porta potty 2x before I was finally ready to head out into the frozen tundra cold.

The whole gang...minus me.  I was in the porta can line, doh!

I guess we had stayed in our warm cocoon long enough.  Sigh.  As we walked out the doors of the GRB, we immediately felt the cold breeze and air.  It was cold for this Texas girl!  We walked to our corral and promptly found our place in the pace groups.  It was go-time!  The anthem was sung, the gun was fired and off we went…a slow shuffle toward the start.  I was excited to run into my friend, June, as I shuffled along.  We wished each other good luck and I hit the porta-cans one last time before crossing the start (yes, I had to go AGAIN).  Once again my Ironman Texas finish line song was playing…it was a sign of a great race to come (or something like that).  

Just me and 25,000 of my closest friends!

During the first mile I was in awe of how much room we had to run.  In the past, the route seemed so crowded.  My first 2 -3 miles were always much, much slower than my goal pace, because there was just nowhere to go.  I always stressed out around mile 4 or 5 about how much time I would need to make up thanks to those first few crowded miles.  And, I noticed that I wasn’t weaving around all the people stopping to walk.  Could people have actually placed themselves in the right pace groups? Wow, it was really awesome.  Before I even hit the 1 mile marker, I had shed the sweatshirt I was wearing.  Around mile 2, I had shed my gloves and arm warmers.  I’d regret that later.

By mile 4, I was sweating and wishing I had worn shorts instead of my capris.  Fortunately, the miles ticked by pretty quickly.  Honesty, I had no expectations for this race.  It seems like since breaking my foot and then training for IMTX using HR training, my paces have really suffered.  Most of my long runs were in the 10:40 – 11 minute pace range during my training, and I didn’t feel like I could go much faster if I tried.  Some of my shorter runs had been faster, but rarely faster than a 10 minute pace! (Sad) But during the race, my splits were actually looking pretty decent.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold the pace the entire 13.1 miles, but decided that I’d try.   By mile 6, my average pace was 10:22 and getting better.  Unfortunately, I lost time by mixing a bottle of Tailwind and making a porta-potty stop (stupid bladder!).  My average pace dropped to 10:31.  It took me awhile to get back into a good zone again, but I eventually started running around a 9:50 – 10 minute pace again.  I tried to take in the sights, read some of the signs, high five a kid or two.

My favorite sign?

The one at mile 5 that said, “LeBron would be cramping by now!”. I also really liked the ”If you walk,  Donald Trump will be President.”  I wore my Team Beef shirt for the race and really appreciated the Team Beef love that was on the course.  I’m new to this Team Beef stuff, so that was a pleasant surprise!

At some point, we made our way through a beautiful area with a lot of shade from the trees overhead.  That’s when I really wished that I had my gloves!  My hands were freezing!  But, I felt happy to be wearing my capris afterall.  I was happy to be back on Montrose again.  I was even happier when we approached Shepherd…I knew we were getting close to Allen Parkway (a/k/a the home stretch).  I ran into one of my fellow Team Beef / Woodlands Fit friends, Mark.  We chatted for a few minutes and then went back to our own races.  On Allen Parkway, I usually look for my friends from my days in Houston Fit, but this time I just really wanted to be done.  I didn’t really look at any of the tents along the way and just focused on getting  downtown.

Finally!  I was in Downtown and could see the GRB in the distance.  The street was getting a bit more crowded, which made it difficult to maintain my pace.  This is definitely one of the most exciting parts of the race – as you get closer to the finish, you can start to hear the announcer and the crowds get thicker and thicker.  There’s a steady roar of cheers as you round that final curve – I love that part.  It’s exhilarating!  And then it was done.  I crossed the finish line – 1:15:23.  Not my best, but far from my worst.

Once I made it into the GRB, I checked my phone and saw a text from the hubby.  He met his goal of a sub-2 hour race with an awesome 1:55:57!  I’m so proud of him!

We claimed our finishers shirts and headed to the breakfast area.  On the way, volunteers were handing out ice cream sandwiches.


Okay, so I almost never indulge, but what the hell...I grabbed one.  Yes, I had that in addition to my eggs and sausage.  This might be why my jeans don't like me right now.  I digress...

Afterwards, we met up with some others from Team Beef and Woodlands Fit and headed outside for more post-race festivities.  It was a perfect end to the morning!

On the lawn of Discovery Green

The Hubs requests better beer next year...

The final results...not great, not terrible

Friday, January 15, 2016

Random Facts Friday

I'm baaaaaaack.  Finally.

1)  I am alive and well.  Yes, I know…I’ve been quite absent from this blog for awhile now.  I do plan to resuscitate it this year and post at least once a week.

Earlier this week at the Madonna Concert...see, alive and well!

2)  Work.  A lot has happened since my last post.  As you know, I was laid off the week before Ironman Texas.  Well, I got a job!  The position is part-time, but the hours are wonderful, the company is awesome and I actually have time to see my kids and be a part of their activities.  The part-time budget has taken some getting used to, but after being unemployed you sort of get used to adjusting your budget. Dramatically.  It may mean fewer race entries, less frequent vacations and not so many Starbucks runs, but I am finding that it’s totally worth it!

3)  The Kiddo. So this past year, my Kiddo completed her first season of gymnastics competitions.  Unfortunately, about a month before her next competition, she managed to break her collarbone.  It happened at gymnastics, but she wasn’t actually doing gymnastics (go figure).  She was playing a game, running, tripped over her feet and fell.  To make matters worse, this happened on Christmas Eve!  So, no orthopedic offices were open and it kind of made for a crappy Christmas.  On the other hand, having the distraction of Christmas, presents and family may have helps!
The Kiddo on Christmas Eve with her sling...sad face.

4)  The Munchkin.  My Munchkin is playing Soccer.  While the Kiddo has discovered her love of gymnastics, the Munchkin is still figuring out which sport he really likes the most.  Right now, we’re giving soccer a try.  The fall soccer season was kind of a washout, literally.  It rained almost every single Saturday, so we maybe had 4 practices and a bunch of make-up games.   He wants to play again, so hopefully the winter season will a little drier!

5)  Memphis.  Last November, I found out that I was going to Memphis for a work training. The Hubs and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and went to Memphis for the weekend before the training started.  We went to Graceland, Sun Studios, The National Civil Rights Museum and thoroughly enjoyed the visit!  We even managed to get in a run on the Shelby Farms Greenline! 

Thank you, thankyouverymuch....loving Graceland and these Elvis sunglasses!

6) Disney.  Before the job fiasco in May, we had been planning a trip to Disney World.  We had paid for a majority of the park tickets, dining plan, etc., so we decided to keep our plans and go.  We had an amazing time! Disney at Christmas time is even more magical. And we loved visiting the new Star Wars attractions and Disney Hollywood Studios!  We also visited Universal Studios.  We had a great time there, too.  And the kid's loved the Harry Potter attractions there...the Kiddo was even picked for a special wand selection, which totally made her day!  We also discovered that the Munchkin is a dare devil (like his Mom) and wanted to ride every single roller coaster!

Enjoying that Disney Magic!

The family at Universal!

7) Christmas.  We survived the holidays, even with the collarbone break.  My family takes turns hosting, so this year it was my turn.  We had 32 family members join us for our Christmas celebration.  It was a blast!

The food, OMG the much and so delicious! 

Just one of the Ironman-themed gifts from the Hubs.

8) New Year.  We had a really low-key New Year's Eve celebration at home.  Pajamas, movies, board games and wine.  It was nice to just hang out, especially after all the excitement and work of prepping for the Christmas Day gathering.

Pajamas + a warm fire + fuzzy socks = a perfect NYE!

9) New Year of Running – Aramco Houston 1/2 Marathon.  I am still running.  I've been plagued with issues on my right side - tight quads and hip flexors and hip pain (again). This has really taken it's toll on my training.  I haven't managed to get in as much mileage or intensity as I would have liked in training for the 1/2 marathon. It's a bit depressing.  But, I can run and that makes me happy....even if this might be my slowest Houston 1/2 in 5 or 6 years. I love the Houston race, so being able to do it all is fine by me.  On a happier note, the Hubs has been getting faster and faster!  He's working toward a big PR at the 1/2! 

10) New Year - Triathlon. I do intend to train for some triathlons this year!  However, I am planning to stick with the shorter distances.  Lots of sprints!  I know, it seems a little pansy-ish after finishing an Ironman distance!  But, I want to spend time with my family again.  And, I need to get this hip issue figured out!

The first Tri I've signed up for in 2016

So that's kind of gets you caught up in what's going on in my world.  Be on the lookout for more posts this year!  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Life after Ironman

I guess I could also title this post, "What I did on my summer vacation." 

Life after Ironman has been interesting.  Many people say they go into kind of a post-ironman depression.  After months of training and the anticipation of the big day, there tends to be sort of a letdown, or a “now what? “ feeling.  Naturally, there is a void!  I mean, you’re no longer spending 2 – 3 hours per day training during the week, no 6-hour Saturday bike rides or 3-hour Sunday runs, and you’re not seeing your tri-training peeps all week long…what do you do with all that extra time now that the race is over?

I definitely think I had a bit of that, but to be honest, I didn’t have time to dwell on it very much.  You see, I was laid off from my job the week before Ironman Texas.  The downside? You’re about to go into the biggest physical challenge of your life and you’re told you’re no longer needed.  Sure, it can take a toll on your confidence.  If you let it.  I decided to focus on the upside.

I know what you’re thinking - the upside? 

I now had time to prep for and focus on the race. I packed my special needs and transition bags (this was more time consuming than I expected!), I went to  my local bike shop and running store for last minute gear (more than once), I attended a couple of pre-race events, I checked in my bike, etc.  Of course, having too much time to think about what lies ahead can be bad, too.  So, I tried to balance things out – I had coffee with friends, I visited a friend and her new baby, I had lunch with my kiddos at their school and attended some school functions.

Enjoying the kid's honor roll celebration

Time to present projects....

Once the race was done, I stayed busy attending the kid’s end of school year events (there were quite a few), including the Kiddo’s 4th grade graduation.  I also tried to meet up with friends who had been neglected during IMTX training. 

Walking the stage at 4th grade graduation...on to Intermediate School!!!

Two weeks later, the kids were out of school and summer had begun!  To be honest, being laid off was a bit of a blessing in disguise, because I had the most amazing summer.  The only summer where I’ve been able to stay home with the kids.  We planned some fun activities (with some job searching squeezed in) and never looked back.

We spent a lot of time at the neighborhood pool….

We took advantage of all the summer programs at the library…

We found cool events at our local nature center…

We checked out our first Houston Dynamo game…

We went to the beach…

We went for walks…

And bike rides...

We checked out a few movies (including the $1 Summer Movie Club..hey, it’s cheap)…

We even took our goofy dog on walks…

We made a bird feeder and mug cupcakes…

We built a living room fort during a (weak) tropical storm…

We played in the rain...

We played board games...

We had lots of snow cones…

And some ice cream, too…

And (I saved one of the best for last), we went to the Texans Training Camp (thanks to my friend, Vic, for the tickets!)...

Riley getting an autograph from Alfred Blue!

Me and the Munchkin enjoying the sights and sounds of training camp

And yes, we did see J.J. Watt up close...

Overall, it was the best summer ever!  My kids are growing up way too fast, so spending this time with them (when they actually still want to hang out with me) was a gift! 

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  I have been running, but it has been difficult to get in bike rides and swims with the kids at home.  And that’s okay.  At first, I was determined to keep training for a couple of races in August and September…I was trying to get in a swim with the kids at the pool and bike after the Hubs made it home from work.  Then I decided that I didn’t really HAVE to train for anything right now. I had the opportunity to just enjoy the summer WITH the kids. 

So, that’s what I did.

Sure, I ran early in the morning, before the Hubs left for work and did a little biking on the weekend…but that’s it.  I figured I’d have more time for biking and swimming when the kids started school, along with more time to focus on my job search.  I’m so glad that I did this, because the races will always be there!  My kids, on the other hand, will continue to grow up and will be off to college before I know it.  Carpe diem, dammit!  No regrets here! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

IMTX Race Report

* disclaimer:  This race report is long.  Like novel-length long.  I totally understand if you just want to scan it.  The length is more for my benefit, because I don't want to forget anything!  Plus if I decide to do this again, I want to know what went well and what didn't.  So, grab some popcorn and a beverage...this may take awhile!

On Wednesday, I met up with my teammates from Finish Strong Racing for packet pick-up.  We claimed our awesome backpacks, signed our lives away and were tagged with our cool new blue plastic bracelets.  Now I had all my gear and special needs bags, so I finished packing everything I would need on race day.  I decided that having one more tube for my bike might not be a bad idea, along with having a few more electrolyte tablets…I added both to my list to buy the following day.  Honestly, this stuff stressed me out.  I was afraid I’d forget to pack something vital.  Although with all my checklists, I don’t know how forgetting anything would be possible! (Can we say type A, OCD?)

Various pictures from packet pick-up!

The following day, I went to a seminar sponsored by Endurance Nation.  It was full of tips for a successful race day.  Very good info and last minute tips!  That afternoon, I went to a social where I met several awesome people from the Ironman Texas 20XX Facebook page.  It was fun to meet all the people I’d been talking to online in person.  I had also planned on going to a pre-race prayer gathering later that afternoon, but the there was a huge thunderstorm that came through and I think it must have been cancelled, because I walked over and didn’t see anyone.   Later that afternoon, I met up again with my Finish Strong peeps for the official Welcome Banquet.  I met quite of few people from other countries and states!  While it was exciting to be among all the athletes, the banquet felt a bit like an Ironman Infomercial.  The new Ironman University was unveiled, we heard from The Woodlands Township and from each of the major sponsors – Waste Management and Memorial Hermann.  The highlight of the night was getting to meet Sister Madonna Buder.  She is amazing!

Some pictures from the Welcome Banquet - FSC teammates and Sister Madonna

On Friday, we all met up for bike check in. We had rain every single day for weeks and the main pathway in transition was a muddy, stinky mess.  It would be another obstacle to overcome on race day…little did we know it would be a mud run / cyclocross / triathlon.  Once we checked in our gear bags and bikes, we went home to rest and relax.  The hubby and I picked the kids up from school, then took the Kiddo to gymnastics.  My parents met us there, so the Hubs and I could go check into the hotel where we’d be staying for the next two days.  We had an early dinner at Grimaldi’s and went to CyclesTx to by one more tube for my bike.  You know, just in case (can we say paranoid?)  It felt surreal to be at the hotel for my race, my Ironman.

Bike drop off...(clockwise from top left) me with Black Mamba, the mud in transition, the gear bags for the swim/bike transition and  the bike all racked and ready!

Race Morning
On race morning, I woke up a little after 4 am.  I said a little prayer of thanks that there was no rain.  Thankfully, the forecast looked pretty good all day...whew, that was a huge relief!  It was warm and humid, but that’s to be expected this time of year in our part of Texas. I got dressed, ate peanut butter on Ezekiel bread and a banana.  I prepped a bottle of Nuun to drink on the walk over to transition.  I was a bit stressed out about my tires, because I heard a number of bikes had flatted due to the rise in temperature during the day during check in.   

The Hubs and I started the trek.  When we arrived, we found that the transition area was even muddier than it was the day before.  I tiptoed through the mud and was happy to see that my bike tires were fine!  I put the Speedfill and Aerobottle on my bike and filled each.  I stuffed my bento box full of Honey Stinger Waffles, Electrosalt tablets and even a few Pepto tablets (just in case). I also put the extra tube into my bike special needs bag and was done.

Finish Strong arranged for shuttles to take us from the HEB near transition to the swim start, so the Hubs and I walked over and met up with the group.  It was awesome to have this service…thank you Finish Strong!

Once we were dropped off at the start, I went to body marking. I had put on sunscreen at the hotel, so my numbers were smearing pretty easily…I wished I had ordered the race number tattoos.  Oh well!  I took two Electrosalt tablets and realized I left my bottle of pickle juice in the hotel fridge.  I had been having crazy leg cramps in the water and wanted to do whatever I could to prevent it.  I decided not to worry about it and just try to relax in the swim.  I drank all of my Nuun and had another bottle of water.  About 30 minutes before the wetsuit start, I had a pop-tart...breakfast of champions!  I met up with my teammates again and I was joined by my good friend and best supporter, Kelly, plus two other awesome gals – Jennifer and Ami.  Coach John gathered the group together for an awesome and emotional pep talk and prayer.  The Anthem was sung and the pros started.  It was getting real, I was going to do this!

Me and the Hubs before the race, the masses at the swim start, getting hugs from friends (Kelly, Jen and Ami), the swim starting!

Prayer and pep-talk with Coach John

Swim - 1:33:14
Even though the water had reached 81 degrees, I decided that I was wearing my wetsuit.  Wetsuit optional (not legal) meant that I’d would be starting after all the non-wetsuit people.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly all the athletes were in the water with the new rolling start and the wetsuit wave was actually starting a few minutes earlier than expected.   I found my Finish Strong peeps and had fun dancing to the music as we waited and just had fun while we waited. I don't think any of us could contain our excitement.  A few minutes later, it was time for us to start.  Even though Coach told us to start at the front of the way, I hung back a bit…I have a history of having anxiety in the water and wanted to do what I could to prevent that from happening.

I slowly made my way into the water and started to swim.  And then the anxiety set in.  The stupid, annoying anxiety that I have not experienced in over a year.  Ugh.  I tried to swim a few strokes and would get out of breath due to the anxiety.  I stopped, tried to collect myself and then started again.  More anxiety.  I heard someone in a Kayak say something about needing to pull out another swimmer.  I finally told myself, “This is NOT how your day in going to end.  Not here, not like this!” I started my silly swim mantras and tried again.  At one point, I saw the blue sky when I took a breath…I was breathing better and my mantras turned into prayers of thanks – “Thank you God for the beautiful sky”, “Thank you God for helping me get my head together”, and even “Thank you God for Nuun”and “Thank you God for Gu”.  Finally, I got a rhythm and really got going!  Before I knew it, I could stop my mantras and just swim.  I actually began to enjoy the swim.  It seemed to take forever to get to the first turn, but then things went more quickly.  I bumped into a few people and a few people bumped into me, but for the most part the swim wasn’t bad.  And then I turned into the channel.  There were so many people squished into a small space! 

The channel when it wasn't quite as crowded

I know several 1:45-ish swim finishers and they didn’t seem to have issues with crowding in the channel.  When I saw all the people, I thought that either I was faster than I thought, or there were just more slower swimmers than previous years, lol.  I had trouble really getting into a rhythm, because it was just crowded.  Eventually either the crowd of swimmers spread out, or the channel widened, because I could see open areas when I was spotting and knew I could swim several strokes without running into anyone.  I only had one issue with a swimmer…he seemed to run into my legs and then decided to wrestle with them… I simply stopped for a second and let him move on.  The channel was really exciting – I could see the crowds each time I took a breath, I could hear cheers and cowbells. When we first entered the channel, I remember seeing pretty yellow flowers on one side. I tried to take all of this in and just enjoy the experience.  As I passed under the bridge, I looked for my friends and didn't see them.  I found out later that I was faster than expected and they missed me.   When I looked ahead, I saw the crowds and realized that I was almost done.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was almost done with the swim…it seemed so fast!  I actually felt myself smile.  While I was swimming.  And then I almost cried.  I was so happy!  But, I pulled my happy self together and finished my swim. 

The only pic of me coming out of the water and my eyes are closed!  At least I look happy.  Notice the mud?  It look a lot like the transition area.

As  I exited the water, I heard Mike Reilly say my name and lifted my arms and squealed!  I realized I had forgotten to start my watch (doh!), so I had no idea of my time.  A woman getting out of the water next to me slipped in the mud, so I made a point to walk slowly and carefully through the area.  Someone came up and unzipped my wetsuit, which was great because I completely forgot to do that.  The strippers stripped off the wetsuit in a flash and I moved on.  I waved to my hubby, my parents and kiddos and happily grabbed my transition bag and went into the transition tent.

Me picking up my gear bag

T1 - 13:34
I saw my teammate, Nancy, in the tent which was a surprise because she is faster than me.  When I told her that I forgot to start my watch, she commented that I must have finished in 1:30-something.  I was in shock.  I expected to finish around 1:45 or 1:50, but I never in a million years thought I would finish in 1:30-something!  At this point, the tent was fairly crowded and the volunteers were pretty busy, so grabbed some ice water, changed into a bike jersey, put glide on my feet, stuffed my pockets,  and was about to put on socks when someone reminded me about all the mud.  Instead, I put my socks in my shoes and carried them out.  Started to go to my bike, then realized that I needed to pee (I actually needed to pee when I was swimming, but I am not coordinated enough to swim and pee at the same time!)  So, I went back to porta can.  As I was about to exit the porta potty, I heard a thunk and then a splash…it was my sunglasses!  They immediately started to sink into that icky blue water.  I was not going to reach in and grab them!  Oh well, at least it wasn’t the Tailwind packets that had been in my pockets!

I went into the mud pit transition, and grabbed my bike.  I ended up carrying my bike over the mud (can we say cyclocross?).  Small plastic swimming pools had been placed near the transition exit, so I washed off my feet, put on my socks and shoes, and was finally off.  Thank you to all the volunteers who were holding our bikes while we did this!  I as approached the mount line, I saw my awesome nephews and then saw rest of family and friend, Jill, and was off!

Feet cleaned, shoes on and ready to roll! 

Bike - 7:31:16
Just as Coach instructed, I started the bike slow.  Just as he warned, my heart rate was crazy high (in the 150s).  It took about 7 miles to get my HR under 150…my goal was to not get higher than the low 130s (hills were the exception).  People were passing me, but I just kept it slow.  Coach had said that if people are passing you, you’re doing it right. As I headed out of The Woodlands, I saw a friend from my small group at church, Tommy.  It was great to see another familiar face!  

I really needed to go to the bathroom again, so my first stop was at the mile 20 aid station.  I saw my “Team Beef” friends from Woodlands Fit, used the porta potty, grabbed a water to top off my aerobottle, then put the water bottle in my pocket for later (exactly why I opted to wear the jersey..although it made for ugly race photos later, LOL!).   My plan was to finish a bottle of Tailwind every hour (drinking every 15 minutes), sip on my water, eat a Honey Stinger Waffle and take two Electrosalt tablets per hour. 

Getting ready to leave The Woodlands

There were segments on the bike with lots of sun, some with clouds (which made it feel so much cooler), lots of headwind , lots of cross winds, a tiny sprinkle of rain and a few patches of tailwind throughout the course.  I saw quite a few people on the side of the road with flats or other issues and each time I said a silent prayer of thanks for making it as far as I had with no issues.  Maybe I was drinking too much, because I seemed to have to stop at every other aid station for the porta can!  (Yes, I should probably learn to pee on the bike, but I just couldn't make myself do it!)  

I had been having back issues on the bike for the past 6 weeks, so that had been a major concern for me as the race approached.  Fortunately, I had no real issues with my back.  The only exception was on the largest hill on 1486 (affectionately named Bertha by a teammate).  I felt a slight twinge, so I shifted into small chain ring in order to not have to mash the pedals so much.  It seemed to help.  Having the extra bottle of water in my Jersey was nice, because I could occasionally spray my head, back and chest with it to keep cool.

It really helped that I had done training rides out on the course.  I was familiar with the route, the hills and even when to expect the wind.   Along one stretch, someone was burning a tree.  I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but the smoke was blowing right into the road and the cyclists.  I figured if nothing else, it would cover the smell of my sweat for a little while!  I did stop at special needs for chips and a few sips of a coke (I had frozen it the night before)….both were heavenly.  A woman who was eating a PB&J commented on how delicious and cold it looked.  I offered her a drink and she agreed it was great!  I gave the rest to the young woman who was volunteering.  Apparently, they hadn’t had much to drink and it was pretty hot out there.  Another woman had dropped her salt pills on the course, so some of us offered our extras...heaven knows I had packed plenty!

My favorite bike pic..well except for that water bottle sticking out of my back pocket!

I have to give a huge kudos to the volunteers…they helped with anything and everything.  There was a great young guy who helped me mix up a couple of bottles of Tailwind and grabbed water for my aerobottle without me even asking for his help.  All while I pretty much just stood there at my bike  Amazing!

My final stop was at mile 90.  We were off the rough roads and chip seal!  It felt great to know we were so close.  There was a lot of traffic, but for the most part the drivers didn’t look too annoyed.  Some of the people even rolled down their windows and cheered for us.  There were a few small hills in The Woodlands, but it was so good to be so close to the end of the ride, I didn’t care at all.  There were people cheering here and there, which was awesome.  Overall it turned out to be a great ride!  My stomach felt a little iffy here and there, but probably just too much water/liquids.  I had Pepto tablets which really helped.

T2 - 14:30
When I dismounted my bike, I saw my family.  When I entered the changing tent, I saw Nancy again and took the chair next to her.  The volunteer who helped us both was AMAZING!  She dumped my bag out on the ground and went through each item to see what I needed and what I didn’t.  She poured cold water on our heads and sprayed us with sunscreen.  She was a rockstar!!!  I wish I knew her name so I could find her and thank her.  I only know that she completed IMTX in 2013.

Off the bike, hooray!  I was showing Jill that I had my good luck charm with me. :-)

Just one of the many good luck charms I had with me...this one given to me by my friend, Jill

Run - 6:05:23
Once I was ready, I headed out to the run.  I saw my family and friends and walked to get my heart rate down.  I loved that the aid stations were so frequent.  I didn’t always need something, but there was music and happy, smiling faces, which really helped keep me pumped and excited.  Another nice thing about doing a race in your hometown is that I seemed to know at least one volunteer at every aid station!

Happy to see my "Team Christy"cheer crew...the Kiddo gave me the "Ick" look and opted for a double high-five

In addition to the aid stations, there were several tri groups out on the course with loud music.  There was a fun group on Lake Woodlands, South Coast Endurance had “Hippie Hollow” which was AMAZING, CyTri had a team of cheerleaders, and  Moxie Multisport had men in Speedos and women in Bikini’s dancing (yes I danced a little at each loop).  I saw several friends on the course who took time to jog alongside me for a bit, always with smiles and encouraging words.  It was awesome. And, it helped to see signs that the Hubby made for me along the course.

Just a few of the signs the Hubs put out on the course for me to see!

The aid stations had fun themes like the United Nations or Pirates.  The most encouraging volunteer award goes to the Pirate woman welcoming everyone to the OutRival Racing aid station.  She yelled out comments (with her pirate-speak) about how strong we looked, how we were almost Ironmen (and women), etc.  She was awesome!  There was also someone along Woodlands Parkway who was having a backyard party.  He and his friends were yelling and cheering over their fence with a megaphone.  That was hilarious!

Another highlight of the run was seeing Coach Dana and Coach John riding by on bicycles in East Shore giving lots of encouragement.  East shore had lonely, quiet areas, so that gave me a little extra energy when I really needed it.  My first loop was fun…I just took in all the sights and sounds.  Several friends had told me to try to enjoy every minute of this race and I was doing my best to do just that. I could see my cheer crew in front of the Marriott from the other side of the Waterway and hearing their cheers was amazing.  The entire Waterway was filled with spectators and I was constantly hearing spectators call my name.  There were a couple of annoying out and back sections, but I didn’t mind the first time around.  There was another great aid station before the final out and back, the “Some like it Hot” station.  I saw volunteers from my run club and other people that I knew.  When I made it to the stairs (Yes, there were stairs!  We went down, not up!), I saw my longtime friend, Kristi.  She ran with me until we reached my cheer section at the Marriott.  I high-fived friends and family, hugged the Hubs, gave the Munchkin a kiss and high-fived the Kiddo (she wanted no hugs from her sweaty Mom). 

Cute signs from the cheer squad!

My Mom and cousin, Debbie, giving me some cowbell!

Happy to see my "Team Christy"cheer crew...the Kiddo gave me the "Ick" look and opted for a double high-five.

The Hubs coming along for a little stroll

The second loop was more of the same.  One thing I noticed was that I had to stop at a porta can way more often than I wanted to….again, maybe too much liquid on the bike?  The sun was starting to get lower and the temps started getting cooler.  This helped immensely with both HR and pace.  Before North Shore Park, I saw my friend Jerry who jogged and walked with me for a bit and then met me again at the park exit.  I stopped at special needs, changed my socks, added more glide and ate a few potato chips.  I ate a Hammer Gel every hour and picked up potato chips, oranges and cold water at the aid stations.  The aid station on Panther Creek had watermelon and it was insanely good! I had intended to use Nuun in my handheld water bottle, but it just didn’t taste good to me.  So I had an Electrosalt tablet each hour, my Gu and a little chicken broth here and there.

Grabbing a quick kiss from the Hubby on the 2nd loop

On the third loop, it felt great to know I was almost done.  It was a much quieter loop – the crowds were thinning and the music was gone in some areas.  It gave me some time to just let it all sink in...I was almost there!  Moxie was still dancing and there was an elderly lady on the patio of the retirement home on the waterway who was clapping (I saw her on my first and second loop, too).  I saw Michele LeBlanc from Outrival who gave me some words of encouragement.   I meet up with a friend, Richard, on path the dark path along Woodlands Parkway.  We chatted a bit and managed to leapfrog with each other the rest of the way.  Seeing friends along the course also helped make the miles go faster.

Just a couple of friends who cheered, rand and walked with me on race day - Kristi (top) and Tammie.

After passing my favorite pirate lady, I knew I only had a 5k left.  For some reason, it seemed so much longer than a 5K.  Probably because this was the longest stretch between aid stations and it included the out and back sections, which by now just seemed really annoying to me.  I walked a lot in those final miles, and pretty much waked all of those final two miles.  Had a tiny cramp in my right calf, which is why I decided to not worry about my pace.  I also decided that I had been running so slow that I was probably only going to shave 5 minutes off my time by running more.  Funny how you reason with yourself when you’re getting tired.  However, even though I felt the fatigue setting in, my body still felt great.  No weird aches or pains, no weird GI issues, just a teeny calf cramp.

I finally made it to the last aid station.  At the turnaround, there is a bell you get to ring on your final lap.  I rang the bell twice and started to get more excited.  I saw my coach from my first year in Woodlands Fit, Debbie.  She walked with me for a long stretch along the Waterway, which helped make that final little stretch more bearable.  Once she left me, I noticed that I could hear the crowds.  I was getting closer and closer to the finishers chute and Mike Reilly’s voice!  I finally ran again.  The people standing there were cheering and clapping.  The next thing I knew, I was entering the chute.  I wanted to take it all in, but it went so quickly, dammit!  I tried to high-five as many people as possible along the way.  At some point I yelled something like, “Holy f*ck”, I’m almost done!”  I’m apologize if there were children around, but the words were out before I knew what was happening.

Coming down the finisher's chute...this part was a total blur!

I saw friends, but it was just such a blur!  I almost went back and hugged them, but I opted to just keep on going.  Finally, I rounded the u-turn and headed up the hill toward the finish!  I continued the high fives with anyone who had their hand out and spotted my family…I stopped for hugs, high fives and a kiss from DH.  So amazing!  And then I raised my arms and galloped and danced as I head Mike Reilly say, “CHRISTY GONZALES, YOU – ARE – AN – IRONMAN!” I let out a scream (or three). 

To say I was a little excited would be an understatement...This is a sample of my happy dance.  If I knew how to post the video, I would!

I stopped my happy dance too soon, because the official finish photo is well, kinda boring, LOL.

It was all so surreal.  My friend, Cheryl, was there to greet me and gave me a huge hug.  I was given my medal and was walked to the next person who would give me my hat and finisher’s shirt.  Coach Dana walked up and gave me a hug, congratulated me and made sure I felt okay (which I did!).  He walked me to the finisher’s pic area and just like that, it was done.

I was an Ironman.

It was perfect.

Time - 15:37:57

Afterwards, I saw my Dad on the other side of the barrier and gave him a hug.  I had to keep walking in order to exit the finisher’s area.  When I did, I saw my friends, Tammie and Kelly.  Before long, more and more friends and family started to make their way through the crowd.  We hugged, laughed at my finish line performance and took copious amounts of pictures.  It still hadn’t hit me that I was done, but felt great all the same.  

"Team Christy"minus a few who had to leave a little early.
Awesome coach giving congrats and checking in!

Lots of post race selfies!
 I have the most amazing friends and family...I love these guys!!!

My heart and soul...I could not have done this without these guys!!!

I was hoping to take a quick shower and come back to the finish line for the final hour, but the hubby went to get my bike and the kids had had a long day.  Instead, I watched the big video screen from our hotel room and listened to the crowds while chowing down on two slices of Grimaldi’s pepperoni pizza.  For once, the Kiddo was desperately wanting a shower and the Munchkin quickly fell asleep with his stinky, sweaty clothes on.  I still couldn’t believe it...I had done it!  

Later that night, I sat in bed and read the text messages and Facebook posts from the entire day. Everyone was asleep and all I could think about was how freaking lucky I am. I have an amazing support system – my Hubby, kids, parents, inlaws, friends, teammates, coaches.   I felt thankful that I had such a great day.  Everything fell into place perfectly.  It was awesome.

I am blessed beyond words.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face.