I would like to start with this: I have never seen so much determination, grit, and heart in one place. Pre-Race – I woke up at 2:50am. I slept about 3-4 hours. I was expecting that. I had to force myself to eat 1000 (or close to) calories starting at 3:00am. It was awful. Shoving that much food in you that early with nerves is gross. I ate peanut butter and jelly rice cakes, almond milk and espresso (to help me poop!), some of a sweet potato, hot water, and sipped on my electrolyte drink. So fun… NOT! My crew was great! They rallied at the same time to drive in to Tempe with me. Once we left.. we hit some freeway closures. UGH.. go figure. Then I had to pee really bad. So we pulled off to a Denny’s. Finally.. we were on the road again and made it to Tempe. My athlete wristband got us sweet parking. Stoked! Race – 2.5 mile swim. I thought.. I got this. Slow and steady and just get out of the water. I stood in line with 2500 of my closest friends Sunday morning. Had socks on my feet to keep me warm, talked to a few people in line. We convinced each other we could do this. I was ready. I just wanted to be out of the water so I could crush this race. I was ready. I felt good. Then my wave moved up and we hopped in. IT WAS COLD! I ducked my head and went for it. It was awful. Someone described it as a washing machine. Perfect analogy. It was choppy, cold, people were all over the place swimming, crowded. I don’t think I had free space more than 100 yards. I got the first mile over with. It was bad. I couldn’t warm up, I couldn’t sight well, but I was half way ish so I went for it. Then my right calf cramped. I had NEVER cramped before. So weird and so painful. I kept going. Then my left calf cramped. Holy shit I thought.. I am not gonna make this. I grabbed on to a kayak and said I was cramping. The volunteer told me how to stretch it, so I did. I kept going. a few minutes later it happened again. I grabbed on to another kayak. I screamed as loud as I could I was so frustrated. They told me to keep going. So I did. I was trying to count the markers and thought I was at 7, so I put my head down again and pushed. I then realized I was only at 4. I had to get to 10. OMG.. It was dreadful. I stopped one more time… this time the volunteer told me I can do it. Use my arms and don’t kick. I was almost there. So.. I swam with mostly upper body to the finish. I got to the stairs (I wanted to cry) and the volunteers told took my hands and told me to step up.. but I couldn’t. My legs wouldn’t move and all the sudden I started shaking and shivering uncontrollably. They brought me to the medical tent immediately. I was wrappe din blankets and connected to a tube that had a heater attached. I was pre-hypothermic shock. I was with at least 5 others in the tent.. all in there for being too cold. I looked the best. So sad.. I remember a woman coming in shivering worse than I was. She was debating to quit already. I looked at her and said, “we can do this, right?” She looked back, “this is my 5th ironman, and this is the worse swim ever”. She ended up tapping out. I was in shock. I had a glazed look back at her and the others who lay helpless and cold. I was a little scared at what I saw. I saw my husband out the tent. No way in hell was I done. I was happy to be out of the water! I refused a real doctor and went on my way. Now it was time for a 112 mile bike. I seriously was pumped to not be in the water. I went to grab my bag and made it to the women’s change tent. WOW.. didn’t know I would walk in to naked people EVERYWHERE. LOL.. I guess thats what you do! I had a volunteer help get me dressed. Packed my food, helmet on, and arm warmers. Grabbed my gloves too so I wouldn’t be too cold in the beginning since I was wet. I grabbed my bike, waved to my support crew, and I was off. The plan with coach Max was to take the first loop chill, then hard on the second, and maintain on the third. I got this. First loop was great. I felt good. I was cruising and still doing well without exerting too much. Which made me really happy going in to the second loop….. adn then it started raining. Like real rain, not a drizzle. The weather was freezing, I was wet, water was in my face from people’s tires. Wow.. but I kep cruising. I felt good. I peed on my bike once. Just a little. I told Erin I was going to try. I figured what the heck, its Ironman! But after that I stopped to pee. It was too weird. LOL The rain kept up, and with the wind from riding, I was back to be miserable. If you ask anyone what the one thing is I hate, they will tell you it’s being cold. So, I was hating life. My fingers were so numb I couldn’t get my food, or break. You could go slow and choose to have a little less wind, but be in the cold longer, or go faster and get pelted by rain (and some hail at one point). Lap two at the half way point I saw a man crash. His helmet flew off and his bike went to the side. He was out cold. He must have hit his head the right way… I dunno. Ambulance passed me. I knew it was bad. I was scared. It was scary to see. I kept going. Heading in to loop 3 I was not in a good mental state. I was frozen and pissed at the weather. I wasn’t tired from biking, my butt didn’t hurt, legs felt great, but I was cold. I ended up stopping 2 times at an aid station to have the volunteers help get my food out of my pocket and feed it to me. That’s how cold it was. At mile 90 I was ready to quit. I stopped to pee, and take shelter in the port o potty, and a volunteer saw how OBVIOUSLY cold I was. She grabbed her jacket and yelled for 4 more. Within seconds, and no hesitation, I had volunteers wrapping jackets around me head to toe and hugging me. I was there at least 10 minutes. They told me not to quit. They checked my toes.. they were ok. ( I was convinced they would be black and ready to fall off… extreme I know, but that’s where my head was). After that, a very nice man named James saw what was going down. He was getting food at the same station. He convinced me to bike the last 25 miles with him. I did just that. We spun it out and kept our legs moving and talked the WHOLE time. He was my savior on that ride. I might have quit. I have never had to dig so deep. And again.. physically.. great, but the weather was my enemy at this point. We biked in and I wanted to bear hug him. He was on his 4th IM at Tempe. He told me what to expect on the run, and to take my time in T2 to prepare for the one sport I liked. I did just that. 26.2 Miles to go. I got in the tent… they had put in a TON of heaters. It was amazing. I had a volunteer do everything for me. I mean it. Took my bike top off. Grabbed my arm, put it thru the arm hole of my tank, grabbed the other arm, put it thru the other side, then put it over my head. Put my socks and shoes on. Tied them for me. Put my clothes away and handed me what I learned to be LIQUID GOLD. This was the warm chicken broth. I drank 1.5 cups of it. Sat in the tent. It was a little drizzly out still. I was taking my time, talking to people, trying to soak it all in. The women in the tent.. positive, solid, great people all encouraging one another. It was amazing to sit and take in. The volunteers were giving us their shirts so we had our shoulders covered. I took one. I needed all I could get. We were not to see our special needs bag until mile 13. I said good luck and thanked all the volunteers. I headed out. One more sport to go.. the one I loved. I wanted to soak it in. Talk to people, hear their stories, see my friends and family. I took it slow. I felt ok, but wanted to warm up and not kill my calves. They were still ruined from the cramping in the swim. To my surprise, we got our special needs bags at mile 1. THANK YOU JESUS! I had a long sleeve shirt in there. I took off the volunteer one and put it on. I was so happy! My family and friends.. they amazed me. They followed, tracked, split up, and froze, all to cheer me on. I got a medal.. what did they get? Nothing. They did it out of love, and support. I want to cry thinking about them. They kept me going. I met some fun people. I realized I had gone REALLY slow, so going in to the back 13 I was running. Well it was slow cuz it started raining again… but I ran the whole time except at aid stations. I knew I would finish at this point. That wasn’t an issue. It was just when. Did I want to take my time? Push myself? Finish in 15 so Caroline could catch me? I thought about all this. I had a miserable first 2 events, so I wanted to have a good experience the run. I was trying to at least. I ended up feeling a little sick, so I started taking Base salt every mile or so. That totally helped. I mixed Gatorade and water and I was good. I started to feel my foot swell and my butt/piriformis issue come in to effect. I was like this is great… NOT… but I was running and almost done, so I was happy. The volunteers were bagging us again. I ran with a trash bag for prolly 11 miles of the run. It kept me warm and dry. I could have gone faster, but didn’t want to risk how I would feel. I know its an Ironman and you should just go all out… I guess.. but I wanted to enjoy it and the finish. Random, but I peed a LOT on the run. Like abnormal. I wasn’t taking in THAT much.. it was so weird. Anyways.. at mile 22, I think, I saw my crew.. most of them. I was stoked. I knew I was almost done. I picked up the pace… I saw my parents at mile 23 (I think) got a selfie with them, took some food, and said see you at the finish. To see my parents there, smiling and cheering, is something I never thought I would see. It has been a battle to have them understand this journey. But that fueled me. I was off… It was the longest 3 miles of my life. I rounded the corner and could hear Mile Reilly.. I was slow, but I kept moving. I wanted to cry but didn’t. How would it be. How will I feel. I was cold, tired, over the weather…. keep going.. I am going to be an Ironman. This is crazy. I saw the lights. Bright.. could barely see anyone. Hands came out from people I didn’t know. I gave them high fives. I took a moment, put my head in my hands, let out a little scream, then crossed the finish. I saw a girl come at me with a foil blanket. Then I looked up and Saw Caroline come from behind her. Full circle moment. I am tearing up now. I hugged her and she told me how proud she was. I just lost it. I was happy, sad, excited. I didn’t know why I was crying but I was. Post Race Not sure why, but it hasn’t hit me. Or I am in denial. It is now Tuesday and I have so many people more excited than I am. I trained for 10 months. A 12 month journey mentally, and 10 months for me to get ready. And I should be stoked. I AM AN IRONMAN!!! But I have so many other thoughts in my head. I am sad I didn’t hear my name from Mike Reilly. I almost feel like I want a “do-over” cuz it was such a crappy day (weather wise). I felt so good, but the rain and cold ruined me. I could have gotten a better time if I had pushed myself. Is my coach disappointed that I did it in 15 and not 13? How are the people that I saw quit? Do I deserve a tattoo? All of this is running in my head. I had a chance to check out social media. I was SHOCKED at how many people followed me that day and my journey. People from no where cheering for me. I hope, if anything, I inspire people to do what they want: a 5K, marathon, become a writer, cook something new, etc.. YOU CAN DO IT. If there is anything that comes out of this, it’s a quote my bestie Becca found, and made an Insta post.. it said “you must want it more than you fear it”. I told myself that almost every hour on race day. You truly need to dig deep, want it, and overcome it. Life is not easy. Lessons learned – I learned a lot about myself and others this journey. I never thought I would be as dedicated, disciplined, and as determined as I was in training. some mornings I was up at 3:30am to fit in 2 workouts.. sometimes I had to hop in the pool after dinner. No matter what I committed. I don’t actually think I missed more than a few workouts in 10 months. I stuck with it. I learned that I CAN do what I want if I really want it. I learned that marriage is compromised during training. It was not always sunshine and flowers. Josh took a lot of the house hold chores, and such so I could train. I learned balance is important. Life, work, social. More than ever I realized you need alone time, husband time, friend time, a time to let loose, and a time to meditate. Its not selfish, its healthy. I learned that I can inspire many people to do new things. I learned that even friendships can grow. I thought I would for sure lose some, but they listened to me talk about training every day, week after week. I learned to trust my coach. I didn’t have the best gear, I am no pro athlete, but he kept me fit, in shape, ready. I am not as sore as I thought I would be. Thanks to his coaching, I was ready. I am strong. I never thought I would like to swim (in the pool, in my own lane) but I will continue to swim. Do Another? I might, cuz I feel like I want the re-do, but it aint any time soon. Back to the fun stuff. Teaching spin, getting more in to yoga, running more. Maybe one day… we will see. Thank You’s Becca & Erin- you have been with me from the beginning. You believed in me more times than I did. You encouraged, motivated me, supported me, and helped me. You taught me how to be a good friend. Your fun gifts, random cards, and inspiration always came at the right time. You kept me smiling. Thank you for being the best friend’s anyone could have. I don’t know how I can return all you have done. To my husband- wow.. what a ride. It wasn’t easy, but what in life is. I hope we can grow and learn from this. You took care of the family when I was out training. You cared for Waxer when I really wanted to, but was determined to get it all in. Thank you for seeing that this could be a good thing. I hope I inspire you to try new things and help to show you we can get thru anything…. people call their spouses IRONWIDOWS… I totally get it. Its a lot to handle. My family- your support and excitement for me and my race was awesome. The continuous check ins, prayers, texts, emails… it was amazing. I didn’t know you truly cared. Sounds awful… but I mean.. really. It meant the world. To those who were able to support in person, in the cold, wet, roads of Tempe… thank you. You kept me going. I didn’t want to let you down. Coach Max- When you said I could text or email whenever… I bet you shortly regretted that. You tried to tell me to take it week by week. You would worry about the end result. You worked with me, talked to me, coached me. I doubted at times, but still trusted your plan. I feel strong, and healthy. I had no injuries. Thank you for believing I could do this. Caroline, you have been my endurance mentor from college. THAT IS 10 YEARS! I look up to you so much… as a mom, athlete, professional, and friend. You truly understand and care for me and my journey. You helped calm my nerves when I needed it. You sent text messages when you knew I was frustrated. You knew I could at time I didn’t think I would do it. To have you at the finish was full circle for me. To have the one woman “responsible” for this, LOL, was AMAZING for me. Thank you for being by my side ALWAYS! Overall I accomplished something most people don’t. I am proud I stuck with it. I am happy I pushed myself to the outer limits of comfort to find things I didn’t know I had. The champagne showers and smiles in the picture above sum it up. Happy it was over, and still smiling because I didn’t do it alone. I had all of my friends and family.