Continued from last week, Michelle’s amazing journey…
September 2014, I completed the Portage lakes triathlon in 2 hours and 2 minutes. I would like to say that the whole day was flawless, no panic attacks, no bike mishaps, no walking. But I would be lying to you, I panicked on the swim, backstroked and breast stroked by way through the event, swearing up and down I would never do this again. By the time I made it out of the water and up the hill I had told myself that I would try again. I biked the hilly course, smiling the entire way, I just kept thinking oh my gosh you are doing this, you are doing a triathlon. We will skip over the ending of the bike where I forgot my feet were in pedal cages and I almost went down at the dismount line! The run course was wooded trail run, and at the end I popped out of the woods and headed toward the finish line, my husband ran the last 50 yards screaming his head off about how proud he was. Best.Moment.Ever. Not that I had made my husband proud, oh yes that gave me the warm fuzzies, but I had done something for me and on my own. I was so proud I finished, I cried.
And then it happened, I had gained so much confidence because I learned how to swim and I learned how to road bike that emotionally I began to tri to beat depression. Right then and there, leaving my first triathlon I knew I was destined to finish an Ironman! October 2014 I registered for Ironman Syracuse 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run), which was taking place in June 2015. I trained diligently for 6 months, I became a better swimmer, I became a better biker and well I was still the same old runner. After all my training, all of my open water swims, all of my tip overs on my bike, all of the days I spent running in the heat, all of the times I had to say to myself to try again tomorrow, my moment was here. I remember standing on the beach the day before I looked out at the line of swim buoys and said well heck that is a long way to swim. I reeled myself back in, telling myself to be present in the moment and just tri. I had learned through training that I couldn’t worry about getting up the next hill before I finished the one I was on, I needed to be present, I needed to be in the mile I am in. The day of the race we got to transition early, I was so nervous, I was so excited, I was so scared. I lined up with my age group and at 8:04:00 we were off, and I panicked. Oh boy did I panic. I backstroked the first five bouys and had to count every stroke after I put my head back in the water. 1, 2, 3, 4, breathe, 1,2, 3, 4, breathe. I was a mess, again I said why the heck am I doing this, but half way through I calmed down, and just relaxed, I stopped worrying about what was next and just swam. The swim ended, I got out of the water, and started running to the bike.
I transitioned and got on my bike, it was a hilly course but I was ready. I finished faster than I expected. Again, I will remind you I am consistent not speedy. My heart was exploding with pride. I hit the run course and realized things were not going to be easy (not that 13.1 miles is easy in any way shape or form) the course was a two loop run with 900 feet of elevation gain. I walked the up hills, ran the downs and met some wonderful people. I was on course to finish in around 7 hours and 30 minutes. Three miles in the weather had turned bad, it was windy and the rain started coming down. At the first turn around the thunder started, I passed the turn around and started back toward the six mile turn around, then I started hearing the other participants talking about how they were shutting the run course down due to bad weather. My mind blocked all of that out and I kept moving forward, focused on the mile I was in. Then I saw Jim and I knew the reality of the situation. It was my first 70.3 and I was not going to finish all 70.3 miles. Ironman shut the course down, I was close enough to the finish line to have them divert me to the finish instead of the 6 mile turn around. I crossed the finish line, they gave me a medal and a finishers hat, I had completed 64.4 miles and 6 hours and 24 minutes.
I was devastated, I had worked so hard, I felt like a failure. The voice came back, you are not good enough, you should have even tried, and you are just not meant to do these things. I know, I know, things were beyond my control and the race director did what they thought was best for safety, but boy did it suck. I cried, I allowed myself a week to mourn the loss of the big finish, and then I got up and tried again.
To be continued next Monday….