Final Post on Ironman Maryland – What It Truly Meant

I allowed myself a week to enjoy the post-glow Ironman. It’s done now. As my friends race MCM today and I sit like a sick dog in my bed with the sniffles, time to move on and support everyone else! Even if I have to do it in a robe with a box of Kleenex next to me.

IMMD was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the following is my final report. Then this turns into just one of the many run-of-the-mill everyday-living triathlon blogs about balance, training, gear, and perhaps my quest to the Trek Speed Concept.

The feels:

Leading up to the race I wasn’t as excited as I had been 2 weeks previously. I had an eerie calm about myself. Packing up my stuff, etc. I didn’t feel rushed. I felt ready and just very, very calm. I picked up Beezey from the airport and we gathered my mom. Off to Cambridge! Even still, it wasn’t really hitting me. Sure I was excited….of course once we got to Cambridge and started seeing athletes and gear and whatnot, I got pretty jazzed. Mostly just a “come on already, let’s get this done.” Still, I calmly went through athlete check-in, took some goofy pics and got some gear. Beez got me a sweet shirt, water bottle, and the traditional IM car sticker.

Racking the bike and setting up my transition bags that afternoon, I had some much needed time alone with my thoughts. I was reflecting, focusing, playing out the race in my head. No goofy pics, no social media, just me and my thoughts in the beautiful sunlight – making sure everything was where it needed to be. All went well and we left for the hotel.

Getting to the hotel, we got our $300 “luxury” suite. Basically, it was a dump. Mom attempted to kill a stink bug that later stalked Beez on the bed and sent her flying halfway across the room with a shriek. Entertaining. We had a good laugh. Dinner was Olive Garden. Yes, I had a pre-race beer. Don’t tell coach? Nah….I ALWAYS have a pre-race beer. At Olive Garden, it hit me and the tears welled up. Beezey and my mom gave a beautiful toast and I couldn’t help but let the tears out a little bit. Thinking of all I had been through and why I had entered the race just hit me at that moment. It was the relief of knowing that everything was so much clearer. So much brighter. So much better. Sleep actually came easy that night (unusual) after a failed bath attempt in a crappy bathtub and the traditional pre-race painting of the toenails.

Race Day

That morning, we got up with the alarms and got on the road. I was up at 3 AM anyway – an hour before the alarm. Ate my peanut butter, banana – all of the usual. Followed my routine, etc. The policy was – no talking allowed in the car on the way to the race. I wanted quiet. I drove. That’s my style. Silence, the road, my thoughts, my zone.

Shuttle. Transition. Potty. Everything was going smooth. Then for one final potty stop…waiting in line forever. Worried about getting my wetsuit on in time for the start, etc. Finished that business and went to find my coach. Took some pics with the coach and team. Got some pics with Beez. Then they announced due to high winds and a small craft advisory that the swim would be shortened to 1.2. miles and the start time pushed back a half hour. After about 1 minute of disappointment, I got over it and went for a little jog in my wetsuit and crocs to stay warm. THEN they announced…well we are going to lengthen the swim to 3,000m now and push back the start just a little bit more. So what is the course? One loop? Two loops? What is even happening? At this point, the entire Ironman had become…you-know, I am just going to roll with the punches. Hurricanes, bike accidents, swim adjustments. Ok cool. Whatever, I was ready and getting that pre-race nervous energy.

The Start/Swim

Ok. I was just beaming by the time we lined up. I felt so ready and just wanted to get this show on the road. My coach, Beezey, my mom, the Rogue group, my training partners who were also racing. Wow. I felt marvelous!! ALL SMILES. The Star Spangled Banner…a little emotional..but no tears. The music started pumping and we all danced as we headed toward the water. Fantastic energy. I made the usual goofy faces as I danced onward.

As soon as my toes touched that water it was go time. A completely different mindset. Instant focus on the task at hand. I didn’t hesitate for a second. Goggles on, I dove right into that water and started swimming as soon as I could. I got kicked, my calf cramped at one point, the usual triathlon jumbles. Nothing surprising. But the focus of this blog post is the beauty. Sure, I couldn’t see anything on the way out, my goggles were so foggy and I was zig zagging all over. But that water was beautiful. Every stroke I thought, wow, I am doing this and it is amazing. I listened to the water as it rushed by my ears. Every time I sighted, I took in that sun as it rose above the river. The loop was fine. I briefly got annoyed at people who were standing at one of the buoys because I was having trouble swimming around them, but then refocused on listening to that water and just enjoying the feel of it. There would only be ONE first Ironman swim. No time to be annoyed. I swam until I couldn’t swim anymore. Fingertips to sand. Ran up and let the wetsuit strippers do their thing. Heard Beez and my mom cheering for me! Wow. What a wonderful feeling to have just swam that far. Granted it was 800m shy of true IM distance…it would have taken maybe 16 more minutes. I could have swam another hour in that beautiful river.

Transition 1

I took my time in transition. It was windy and very cold outside. They had heaters in there. 🙂 Trying to get out of sticky wet clothing and into a sports bra sure is a treat when you are freezing. It’s a treat when you are not freezing…but add the cold…. Luckily the WONDERFUL volunteers snapped my bra right into place with finesse. I wish I had a little personal helper every time I need to wrench my body around to squeeze into a sports bra. Lovely. Changed into bike gear. Uneventful. Stayed warm. Grabbed my bike and headed out for 112.

Bike

Mmmmmmm. My absolute favorite. It was soooooooo windy. I didn’t let it bother me. The BIKE…..WHEEEEEEEEE tailwinds on the first part of the course!!! Smiles. Saw the Rogue balloons at mile 30 and smiled, waved, and shouted as I passed them. Kept cycling. Beez and my mom surprised me at the halfway mark! I could hear Beezey cheering from like a mile away. Seeing her run and follow me while cheering was one of the most awesome feelings in the world. Bike special needs, there was my coach right there for me. Asking if I needed anything. I was so happy. I grabbed my special needs (beef jerky and pickles) and just got on my merry way! No time to stop for very long! I had already went to the bathroom once and had to wait in line for the Port-O-Potty! Back for another 56 miles. The second half of the bike was just as fun. Although I had to improvise a bit. Dropped my Ibuprofen. Dropped my Base Salt. I never practiced working nutrition with gloves on…. Luckily I had beef jerky. Nice and salty. Round a corner near mile 80 and saw the Rogue balloons again. It was fun never knowing where those would pop up!! There were my teammates rooting me on again! So many smiles. Then I am biking at mile 90 and they are driving up to me, playing music, shouting out the windows, taking pictures, mooning me at the aid station. Sure it was windy, but man, I was out there enjoying and taking in every single second of that race.The last 12 miles were SO difficult! STRONG headwind. I heard bikers bitching about it. I chose to just carry on. Told a few people we were almost there. Fight it, bring it home, this is your race and you’ve biked over 100 miles in strong winds. Look at what you are doing right now…..how can you not smile???

Transition 2

Changing for running. I took my time again. I felt pretty tight and was worried about cramping. I took a little time to stretch. I used the potty again. More wonderful volunteers. Here we go. It’s just a marathon.

Run

I had never run further than 14 miles in one stretch…ever. Oh boy. Beez and ma cheered me on my way and then I rounded the corner to find Rogue! They ran up to me and started me on my way. Wow. Fantastic. Ok. My goal was to just go slowish and aim for an hour of running. Then an hour and a half, then the 13 mile marker. WIND OMG WIND. But I ran (jogged). Managed to waste more Base Salt when I didn’t get the cap back on and spilled it all over myself…ugh. Saw the coach around mile 7…still running. Saw Rogue…still running. Laughing, joking. Saw Beezey and mom…still running. Eric arrived! Still running. Made it to the 14 mile marker and chuckled to myself think…well…this is as far as I have ever run. Just keep going. From there on, I ran from aid station to aid station and walked the aid stations, this slowed my pace down a bit, but I wanted to make sure I was staying hydrated. When it got dark, there was chicken broth. Fabulous. I walked through aid stations, thanking volunteers. Smiling. They started looking for me on the loops commenting on how I was still smiling.

Final loop – that wind. At mile 22, that wind, it almost beat me. It was relentless and I was running straight into it yet again. I had slowed way down that last time out into the wind. I was running out of leg strength and just wanted to make it to the turnaround so it would be at my back. Made it!! Coming back into Cambridge there was energy everywhere. One last little jaunt up into town where all the people were cheering outside the bars. I got a little teary eyed knowing…wow I did it…but wow…is this the end already? A moment I never want to forget. I was more emotional here than when I crossed the finish line. I knew I had done it. Here are these complete strangers giving me high fives…I hear them say things like…wow she is still smiling. She is looking strong. She’s still running well. I was. I felt strong. There wasn’t a miserable bone in my body.

Coming home. I took in that finish line. I let a few people pass me in a clump so I could have the moment to myself. I sprinted. High fived a little boy. I lost my Brewers hat in the wind coming down the final stretch and smiled at that little boy. I let the hat go and just kept running. Jacqueline Brellenthin you are an IRONMAN! Beezey was yelling, my mom was taking pics, Eric was cheering and videoing, Rouge was right there at the finish line. My coach was so proud. He had a screenshot of my time. And there was that little boy. He had picked up my hat and ran to the finish line with me so he could give it back. I felt a huge blanket of caring and kindness from everywhere. My family followed me online and watched me cross the finish line. Overwhelmed. It takes an army. It is not a journey that one does alone. Sure, I put in the training. But this army. This army was all around me: physically and virtually. Stay tuned to the end of this post – if you can make it that far to hear more about the thoughts in my head and how remembering why I started became so different from this is who you are at the finish.

Post-Race

Great! Positive! Normatec boots arrived thanks to Danno. Beez and The Man took care of me all day long. This included a failed trip to go watch the Packer game, some force fed Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, chicken, asparagus, potatoes. I was so nauseous the entire day. And mostly just slept. The Man brought beautiful flowers and dug his fingers and elbows into the sore spots of my legs with his usual finesse. The good pain. I wore the finisher’s jacket that my mom got me for at least three days. Worked from home on Monday mostly because movement was difficult. Spent some much needed time with Beezey. Then I had to bring her back to the airport. Such a blur, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend this special weekend with anyone else. I hope to someday be a fabulous Iron Sherpa for her!

Post Race Depression

This didn’t hit until about Thursday. I rode the high for a few days. My coach warned me about it but said he wasn’t too worried with me (being a generally positive person). But it did hit. In the form of homesickness for Milwaukee. All of a sudden, I missed Milwaukee. Beezey was gone. Kelly’s Bleachers, Brewski’s, Miller Park, Ale House, Five Card Studs, my friends, my family, fish fry, etc. I realize that while I have wonderful new friends here, there isn’t that same – let’s go out in a T-Shirt and jeans and dance to a cheesy cover band with a local beer in hand. And that’s how it hit. Now I have time on my hands again, and I MISS Milwaukee. I miss the 414. I couldn’t wait to move away. And this race and this new place…I mean I even didn’t want to go back for a while because of the feelings and memories I had. The first time I went back to Milwaukee, I felt horrible. But now, I miss it so much. I watched this AMAZING video a few times to cheer myself up….if you haven’t seen it, you MUST!!!! Click this link for amazingness!!!! I mean, there is a keytar featured 🙂 Five Card Studs: Hello Milwaukee Do you think I could get Five Card Studs to tour DC? This region doesn’t know what they are missing. I mean, come on, these guys are for the ladies. 😉

The post-race depression is still lingering, but I am excited to get back into training, running, WEIGHT LIFTING YAS, and fitness type things.

The Mental Thoughts

Remembering why I started. The initial registration was sort of a “Screw you! IM is not a stupid goal. Watch what I can do.” Then rediscovering myself. Remember who I was. Beating down old demons. All that jazz…see this post for more details. But the race. I was sure there would be points when I felt shitty, or angry, and need to channel those negative fighting emotions of the past. But my realization…not ONE time during the race did I think “Screw you, look what I am doing.” Past thoughts didn’t even enter my head. Nothing did. Nothing about why I started. And that. I didn’t think about that until after the fact. I embraced every part of that race in a positive way. The wind. The swim. The bike. The chafing. I laughed when I dropped my Base Salt. I kept the entire thing light. I smiled. I smiled at volunteers, I smiled at my support, I smiled at strangers. I joked, I laughed, I swam, I biked, I ran (for a long time). But no. And then a few days later, I realized it. After the race glory wore off. And then I cried. I cried privately. I cried quietly. I shared the tears with no one but myself. No coaches, no support crew, no boyfriend, no family. These were my tears.

Now I share the feelings and what these tears meant. A good cry. The cry of realization that I have accomplished something solely for me. I cried that wow…not once during that race did I think of past mistakes or think “Screw this.” Not once. And I cried and cried for everything that I left behind. For the new person I am. The strength. That is the success. It is not a sub-5 marathon, surviving a questionable swim, battling winds on a bike, it is not my time as I crossed the finish line. Sure I was happy to meet my goal and go above and beyond. And that’s always what everyone wants to hear. How fast were you? What place? What was your bike speed? Not important. At least not to me. Coaches, friends, family – everyone can remark at how well this split was or that other thing…or how well such and such was executed. Good, I am glad I can make people proud in that way, but I didn’t share the important thing with people. That isn’t what they asked me about. I am happy to share times and stories. But the fact that I went through that race without once thinking about a demon from the past and not even realizing it. The fact that I finished and all anyone could say was they couldn’t believe I was always smiling.

THAT is MY win. And THAT is what I will remember about this race. And THAT is exactly what I set out to do. I didn’t even realize it was happening at the time. THAT is my Ironman. Repairing an Iron soul. A happy soul that I hope to share with everyone who has touched my life. So it is a thank you to everything. The light and the dark. Without the dark, I never would have made this journey. This post has no pics. The pics are for those a bit closer to me. A less public space. The pics and videos will always be reminders of the day and the journey. They capture the smiles and the fun. It is the best feeling to know that there is nothing behind those smiles but happiness. Sometimes smiles will hide sadness or anger. Those smiles are smiles and smiles alone. Light, sunshine, me. A win.

Now I will cheer for those fighting similar battles. This Ironman is over. Time to switch to stalking my friends as they finish up their marathons today!!! Priorities!!

Run YOUR race. Let others think what they want. But smile. It is YOUR race. It is always YOUR race.

EnjoyLife-Series-007-run-your-race

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