July of 2015 I registered for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP), the race date was July 24th, 2016, and I was going be ready. I trained for 9 months for IMLP, and the journey was so much more than I bargained for. I did countless long rides on the trainer because of the weather, I did countless outdoor long solo rides, I got chased by dogs, I fell off my bike, I cried, I hurt, I ran, I walked, I swam until all I could smell everyday was the pool. I learned about nutrition, I learned about self-reliance, I learned to suck it up, I learned to not worry about the next minute, I learned to be strong, I learned to be present, I learned that I love who I am . I grew confident in myself again, I still had a hole in me from Syracuse, but I was starting to learn that the race is the finish line of one of the most beautiful journeys for the soul, and sometimes the journey was more important than the finish line. My husband and I did a self supported 70.3 during training (well a 72.4 actually), we named it the Pioman 70.3, we spent the entire day swimming, biking, and running together. It was a long journey, it was a great day, and I finally felt like I could do ANYTHING. I had never felt so strong, both emotionally and physically.
Two weeks after the Pioman I became injured, a groin strain that was preventing me from running. I spent two weeks doing nothing but strength, no swimming, no biking, no running. I was an emotional wreck. I went from the strongest I had ever felt to the worse I have felt in years in a matter of days. Day after day I got up, stretched and worked on strength. After two weeks of feeling like giving up (I even printed up the Ironman refund forms), I sent the following to a dear friend, “going to keep training as long as my knee stops hurting on the bike, I’m going out swinging”. I had pulled myself back from the deep abyss, I had to get up and try again, I had to motivate myself and become dedicated to my journey. I learned that things are not going to be pretty all the time, things are going to be harder than I ever thought they could be, and I had to keep on going. All of my years of training had payed off, not with physical strength but with the knowledge that I can overcome anything as long as I get up and try again.
I stretch for two weeks, every day, I didn’t run, I stretched. I did bike and swim, and those were good, but running was out of the question. My doctor told me if I wanted to do Ironman Lake Placid I had to walk the entire run at my practice race, the Syracuse 70.3 (yes I was going back for more). Approaching race day I was ready for whatever was in store, I knew I could swim and bike, and that the run was going to be what it was. The weather forecast was not predicting any thunderstorms for the race, they were predicting 90 degree weather. I spent three days hydrating for the race, literally I couldn’t stop peeing. Race day was upon us, I was so excited for the swim, I had done so much mental training and so much open water work I knew KNEW I would not panic. The gun went off for my wave at 7:54:00 AM, I dove in and started my un-panicked swim, and my goggles filled with water. I stopped, emptied them out and tried again. The filled again. I adjusted them dove in, they filled again. I stopped, grabbed a kayak and tightened them, again they filled. At this point I had gone 100 yards in four minutes, and I knew I needed to get moving. I dove back in, again they filled, again I fixed them. Another 100 yards, another 4 minutes. A participant only gets 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete the swim at an Ironman 70.3, at this rate I was going to DNF (did not finish, my biggest fear) out on the swim course. I fixed my goggles three more times, I was maybe 400 yards from the start before they stopped leaking. I swam my heart out to make it in time. I finished the swim in 54 minutes. There is a greater story here than just the fact that I finished the swim, I remained calm and collected. I knew what I needed to do and I did it. I kept telling myself to try again and see if it worked and if it didn’t I would figure something out (backstroke started to look appealing at one point), but I just kept trying, I didn’t quit, and I didn’t panic because I knew that would not help me. This was my race, this was my moment and I needed to rely on me, and I came through in the end.
They had changed the bike course for Syracuse, making it harder (than the previously hard course). There were many downhills followed by immediate sharp lefts, followed by an uphill. I struggled, I will not say I had a great day out there, I didn’t but in the end I finished the bike. I gave it my all, because I knew the run was going to take me a long time. Off the bike and onto the run I walked with a purpose, I didn’t dawdle, I had 3 hours and 12 minutes to walk 13.1 miles. I won’t go into how hilly the course is but I will say that a mountain goat would be winded by the end. I saw Jim on the course several times, at one point when I saw him I had 7 miles left to go and 1.5 hours left before I would receive a DNF. I was on the verge of tears and yelled to him that I didn’t know if I could make it. He told me to go, just go, and gave me a high five (which I may or may not have missed). At that point I stopped with the self pity, the bemoaning about how hard this was and how all I wanted to do was run, this was my race. MINE. In that moment I realized what mattered, finishing, not when I finished. This was my race and as long as I finished it trying my hardest with the cards that were dealt to me then I could hold my head high. All of the try again tomorrows, came down to I will try now, I will try in this moment, I will do what I need to in order to finish this race, because that is the only thing that matters.
8 hours and 28 minutes after my day began I crossed the finish line. I eeked in a finish 2 minutes before I would have received an official DNF for the race. I had beaten the beast within, and I was proud. And I moved forward, onward to IMLP, I had five weeks to race day and I was determined that I would conquer that course. I spent the remaining 5 weeks training and tapering, dreaming of my big day. I was never super nervous, I was excited and stressed. I had spent so long training for this day, I just wanted to finish, to hear “Michelle Jeitler you are an IRONMAN”. I dreamed about it, I thought about it, I willed it to be, I worked for it. So race week arrived EEEEK!
We were scheduled to drive half way to Lake Placid the Wednesday before the race, I opened my eyes at 6:30 that morning and knew there was a problem. I ran RAN to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, both of my eyes were red, watery and puffy. My heart sank. I ran back into the bedroom and told Jim I had to go to urgent care, I had pink eye. My eyes hurt to blink, hurt to close, hurt to keep open, and don’t even get me started with the pain sunlight caused. At 8:20 that morning I was informed by a really nice doctor that I had allergy conjunctivitis, I received a steroid shot in the hip and a histamine for my eyes. She suggested I go to my eye doctor immediately, I scheduled a 10 AM appointment at the eye doctor and had Urgent Care call my prescription in. I went to the eye doctor and she confirmed a case of allergy conjunctivitis, gave me a steroid/antibiotic prescription and sent me on my way. We knew we were not leaving Wednesday, I couldn’t be in the car with my eyes that way so we decided to leave the next morning. Thursday morning I woke up, looked at my eyes which looked 100 time better, but I had some really thick mucus crusty stuff all around them, we were leaving before the eye doctor opened so I decided I would go and call her from the road. We made it one hour outside of Marietta and I called, I was not expecting the response I got, to go immediately to a doctor. So I cried, we pulled over and found an urgent care facility near us and off I went to my third doctor. I ended up getting a prescription for a stronger antibiotic. We picked up the prescription and off I went, all three eye droppers in tow.
We arrived in Lake Placid late Thursday, and I was ready. I had spent over 221 hours since January of 2016 training for this moment. That works out to a little over 31 hours a month training. I logged over 1500 miles, with over 203 activities in order to train for this race. I had ridden every hill I could find. I had overcome so much, and this was going to be my day, the day when the finish approaches and all of my work, my mental training days, all the time I spent away from my friends and family would pay off. I was ready, I was strong, I was going to be an Ironman.