So I posted a shorter recap of my race on Facebook yesterday, but here is a much longer and much more detailed post for those who are interested!
Race day started out very cold and rainy. Naturally I got there like 2 hours early because I like being early and not having to rush! I put my water bottles and nutrition on my bike in transition (we checked our bikes and gear bags in on Saturday) and I turned in my special needs bags. Then, I walked back to my car which was honestly parked in the MOST ideal location. We were like right near the transition area, PLUS the parking lot HAD A LITTLE BATHROOM! Which was perfect because I had to pee about 30 times from the nerves and then I didn’t have to wait 4 hours for a nasty porta potty! I put my wetsuit on over my bathing suit and Jordan and I walked over to the swim start.
The swim start is lined up by how fast you think you’re going to be. I ended up being the first group of people which was the fastest group. The pros were supposed to start at 7:25 and the rest of us started at 7:35. At like 7:15, a guy came over the announcements saying that the current was too strong and they would be shortening the swim and delaying the start 30 minutes so they could set up the buoys (mind you, it was about 42 a raining and we were all almost naked in swim gear- oh and barefoot).
We were starting up near the island then swimming against the current for a short distance, then around the island, then with the current on the way back. On Saturday morning, they had a practice swim for the athletes (I could not attend) and people told me that they were swimming as hard as they could against the current but not moving at all!!! And these were the people in my swim wave! AKA the strong swimmers! Also I heard that the current had gotten even faster overnight. So they cut out the island part and just had us jump in and swim a mile down the river the swim exit.
I was disappointed but I didn’t like cry or anything. I was pretty proud of myself! Honestly when he came over the announcements I thought they were going to straight up cancel the swim so I ended up being happy that I was even lucky enough to still be able to swim at all! At Chattanooga a few weeks ago, they totally cancelled the swim!
Anyway, the swim was FAST. I was flying down the river. I didn’t even realize how fast the current was until I saw my time at the finish. 13 minutes for a mile!? Haha that must be a world record! Also the current was so strong that people were actually like missing the swim exit!! The current would completely push them past the stopping point! Luckily that didn’t happen to me because I was paying good enough attention. Also, the river really wasn’t as nasty as everyone thinks. It’s a large, moving body of water so honestly it’s probably cleaner than 90% of the nasty ass lakes I have swam in before! However, near the end, it did smell very strongly of sewage. I don’t know if it actually was sewage. Someone said it could have been the smell of the sediment getting churned up. I don’t know. I tried not to think about it or swallow any water.
I then got out of the river and ran up into transition. Basically, we ran out then through a field which had all our bike and run gear bags lined up by number. A woman with a megaphone would yell out our number then a volunteer would grab it and hand it to us as we ran past. It was so efficient and fast! Then we ran around a corner and straight into a changing tent. A changing tent is literally just a huge tent with folding chairs lined up all around the sides. There is a separate women and men tent obviously. I stripped down completely naked and a woman helped my organize put on all of my bike gear, which was hard because I was still wet from the swim!!
For the bike I wore cycling shorts, a jersey, a vest, arm warmers, gloves and had toe covers on my shoes. I guess this all kind of helped but in the driving rain, I was soaked through by mile 5! My core did stay warm though. I’m so happy I bought that vest literally two days before the race. The bike was crazy!! There was over 5,000 feet of elevation change according to my watch. I saw people dropping out of the race left and right. At mile 23, I saw some guy get off his bike, hobble over and fall into the grass where he was shivering violently. Luckily there was an aid station within a half mile so we were able to yell to them and tell them someone needed a medic. I later heard on Facebook some guy went to the hospital with a body temp of like 80 degrees or something, I would assume it was probably him! He was also only wearing shorts and a jersey with nothing else!
The bike course was definitely tough! I was prepared for much worse though, because people were acting like this would be the hilliest place on earth. It really wasn’t THAT bad. There were a lot of rollers, then like two extremely short but REALLY steep hills (these were the hardest by far). I was in my very easiest gear and still barely made it up one of those hills! I feel like maybe the coldness was distracting me from how bad the hills were. I was mainly focused on how cold my hands and feet were.
At mile 60 on the bike is the “special needs” area. Special needs is a bag where you can put anything you want into it (such as extra food or dry socks) then stop during the race and replenish your stock. It was in a school parking lot, so you could either ride through slowly and they would hand you your bag, or you could totally stop and get off your bike. I stopped and got off. A nice volunteer brought me my bag and helped me open stuff since my hands were so cold. I refilled my waters, put some more gels in my jersey for later, took some Ibuprofen and Tums that I had packed (I get bad acid reflux- the Tums were a God send), and I grabbed my special treat that I had packed. It was a Reese’s pumpkin and MY GOD was it good!!! It was exactly what my body and mind needed to continue pushing through.
Towards the end of the bike, I really had to pee. I usually don’t ever have to pee during races but I was drinking so much and not sweating! I considered pulling over and peeing in some grass but I was at like mile 105 and figured I could probably just hold it. The last 12 miles of 112 miles went VERY slowly. Well, actually I was going pretty fast because this was the only flat stretch of road. But I just wanted to get off that fucking bike so bad!
FINALLY I pulled into the bike dismount area. For a full Ironman, they have volunteers who grab your bike and rack it for you which is so nice! I wanted that bike out of my sight. Me and the bike are going to need a break for a few weeks and maybe see other people.
I ran into the changing tent and trying to take off my wet clothes but my hands were so cold I couldn’t do it! I got my gloves off and my fingers were SO swollen. I still don’t really know why. A lady had to change me like a child! I got on my one piece tri kit, a long sleeve technical shirt that I planned on throwing away before the finish, a visor, DRY SOCKS (major key), and my running shoes and race number belt. THIS is when I realized I still hadn’t peed! So I ran out of the changing tent and into a porta potty and had to TAKE EVERYTHING BACK OFF just so I could pee. My transition time was like 15 minutes. To give you some context, for a shorter triathlon it takes me under like 2 minutes. I didn’t care though, comfort was more important than anything.
I finally started the run and felt okay. Naturally, my legs were a little wobbly. At mile 3, my feet started to wake back up from being so number for almost 7 hours. That was not a pleasant feeling! But after that, I really started to actually feel ok! The run was an out and back and we did that twice. I got to the turnaround around mile 7 and was still feeling good! I thought to myself that I could probably run at least the first 13.1 miles which I didn’t think I would be able to! I did walk the aid stations which are every mile and they’re about 100 feet long.
At the halfway point, you would either turn right to start the second loop of the run, or you would continue straight into the finisher chute. Seeing that finisher shoot got me hype as hell!!! I turned right for the second loop with an adrenaline rush. I didn’t put pressure on myself to run the entire 26.2 miles. I was just trying to finish, not win or anything. But I continued running because I felt good but knew it would be okay if I wanted to walk. Well, mile after mile kept passing by and shit, I was still running!! I don’t even know how!! I just biked 112 miles! I’m shocked I could even run 10 miles.
At mile 18, I suddenly was hit with a wave of nausea and really thought I was going to shit myself! So I did walk for about .25 miles but the feeling passed and I continued trucking along. At mile 20, I started to eat a couple pretzels at each aid stations because I had been eating gels and sugary shit all day and salt sounded SO GOOD. Those were the best pretzels I have ever had.
At mile 23 I was walking through an aid station and got super dizzy and almost fell over. I felt fine and I wasn’t dehydrated. I think my glycogen levels were just super low (naturally) and my body was like what the fuck bitch? I was afraid if I fell and someone saw they wouldn’t let me finish!! So I started running again which made me less dizzy! Then I think I ran until the mile 25 aid station where I threw out the long sleeve shirt (I didn’t want to wear it in my finisher photos!). I was already starting to cry tears of joy at the end of mile 25 and I had a huge smile on my face. I felt bad because I knew most of the people running around me were just about to start their second loop and there I was, only .5 miles from becoming an Ironman.
I reached the point where you either turn right for the second loop, or continue straight to finish. I started down the finisher’s chute. The sidelines were lined with thousands of cheering people. People were banging on the Ironman logo boards that lined the finisher chute. I ran onto the red Ironman carpet and could not stop smiling. I was so hype. So hype in fact, that I didn’t see any of my family or Jordan, nor did I hear them say “Carolyn Carter you are an Ironman!” (luckily Jordan caught it on video!)
I crossed the finish line and immediately started crying. A volunteer kept asking if I needed a medic! Like naw guy, I’m just hype. I got my medal, finisher hat, and shirt then met my family at the end. They were so excited for me!!! I’m so lucky that anyone loves me enough to come down and fuck around for 12 hours and 18 minutes while I race! Luckily, I was able to see them all during the transitions, once on the bike, and twice on the run!!
Sunday was one of the best days of my life. I don’t even care that the weather sucked, it doesn’t even matter. I finished and I am an Ironman! I just hope the weather is better for my next one! I probably won’t do one again until 2020 mainly because of how expensive they are. I am looking forward to trying to PR my half Ironman next summer though!
Thank you to everyone who reached out to me before and after the race! I felt so loved. And I was so surprised at how many of friends ended up tracking me the whole day and watching my finisher video! That felt so incredibly awesome. I’m still on cloud 9 three days later! But at the same time, what the hell am I supposed to do now with all this free time!?