Okay, here it is. I know you have all been waiting for this… (insert sarcasm here.)
Gun went off at 6:45 for the pros. I wasn’t even near the water at this point, but I didn’t really care. For someone who is typically a stress ball, I was surprisingly calm and collected. Karen and I casually walked down to the water’s edge and lined up at the very back of the pack. Gun went off at 7:00. She and I waited about a minute or so for the washing machine to hit the spin cycle before getting in. I was hopeful that this would keep me out of the chaos. By the time I had settled into my stroke, about 50 yards in, there were people surrounding me. It really is like being thrown into a washing machine with a bunch of panicky people. Arms are flying, legs are kicking, and the water is white from all the splashing. It was quite the experience. We made it to the first turn. Everyone comes to a complete stand-still because of the traffic jam. Eventually, it lightened up and I kept going. I remember the sun being in my eyes and kind of blinding me. I decided to follow some dude’s feet until I realized I was actually faster than him and started swimming over him. Sorry buddy. So, we round the next buoy and I’m feeling really strong. At this point, the huge waves are pushing me closer to the shore and I feel like I’m hauling. About 100 meters from land, some dude kicks me in the eye ball. Hurt like a “you know what.” I thought my goggle had been smooshed into my eye-socket. I get out of the water and sprint around the beach to start my second lap. Still feeling great that this point. Finish up the second lap with only a couple of more bruises and such. Got smacked in the back of the head by some chick. It scared me to death. I thought my brain was going to ‘spload. Waking up the next morning with a black eye was special.
I make it out of the water. I’m completely fired up from having a good swim at this point. T1 was a breeze. The volunteers were incredible. I get all bundled up and grab my precious Cervelo for a short little ride.
Holy crap. That ride was not easy. Those are not hills. Those are MOUNTAINS. My legs felt like bricks. I made the first loop and swung around near transition. I saw the T3ers cheering and then my parents. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard my mom yell that loud. I really didn’t want to head out for a second loop. At this point, it was getting very cold. I was freezing, tired and just wanted to get out of the saddle. Too bad quitting wasn’t an option, because I really would have. Second loop was more painful than the first. Seriously, those hills were like pedaling through sand. I believe at one point, I looked down at the speedometer and it was registering 4mph. Are you kidding me!? That’s infuriating. On the final few miles, it started raining. Now, I’m soaking wet. Finally, I make it back to transition and I’ve never been more excited to hand off my bike to some wonderful volunteer. “Take it and burn it," I told him. I scramble into T2 absolutely freezing. That tent was so warm and cozy. Again, I didn’t want to leave. Some poor soul helped me put on dry clothes and sent me on my way.
Out of the cozy tent and onto the rainy, windy, and cold run course. Oh Ironman is so fun. I made it through the first couple of miles moving at a decent pace and ran into one of my favorite people. KAREN! I couldn’t help but get all giddy. I run to catch up with her and we decide to do the next 24 miles together. She is amazing. A life-saver. A true Ironman. We decide at about mile 5 that we are ditching our nutrition. We make a deal to throw away our gel flasks and sample the buffet at the aid stations. Best decision ever. We also decided to do a LOT of walking. We laughed, we yelled, we grunted and cried. It was such a blast. The emotional roller coaster was exhausting but it helped having someone else there to pick you up when it starts to really hurt. Halfway through the run, we see Joe Blakistone. He starts yelling, “You’re doing this! YOURE DOING AN IRONMAN!!!!” He’s yelling, shaking his fist, smiling so big. The spectators had to be a little weirded out but it absolutely made my day. That was the first point at which it really dawned on me that I could do this. I would become an Ironman that day. We get out to the dark, cold neighborhoods and I begin to realize there are gigantic blisters on my feet. We’re talking half dollar size. It felt like I had razor blades in my shoes. The only thing I could really focus on was the desire to take a warm shower and crawl in bed. Coming out of the neighborhoods, we could see the lights and hear the music. The Promised Land. We were finally there. I couldn’t believe we were almost home. It was the most incredible feeling ever. We rounded the corner to the finish chute. Karen and I decided that she would go on first and have her moment. I told her I would see her at the finish line once she was an Ironman. At this point, I’m crying tears of joy. One of the best pieces of advice I received during training was to slow down in the finish chute, make eye contact with the spectators, high five people and take a mental image of the finish line. I believe I stopped at one point and just stared, trying to remember every detail, the sounds, the smells, the lights, the people… EVERYTHING. Finally, I jog through the finish line and hear Mike Reilly say, “Lindsey Clements, you are an Ironman.” Oh those sweet sweet words. I can’t describe the feeling. I did it. I actually did an Ironman. Next thing I know, some sweet volunteer has his arm around my waist and was telling me congratulations. He asked how I was feeling. “I feel incredible. I don’t need medical. I’m on Cloud 9.” My mom and dad come running up to the fence for hugs and congratulations. My mom hugged me so hard I had to tell her to let go. My skin hurt to the touch.
This was the most incredible experience of my life. The pain was indescribable, but the feeling of accomplishment made every single tear, pedal, step, and stroke over the last 3 years worth it. I am an Ironman and that can never be taken away.
So, I close this post with one last thought…
I can’t believe I just signed for Ironman Florida 2010. Bring it, Ironman.