Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 6 - Finish Line & Beyond

If you missed the epic tale leading up to the finish line, check out
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 4 - T2 and Run
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 5 - Guest post by volunteer Sharon

Finish Line 

I rounded a corner and it felt awesome to step to the right and choose the lane with
"FINISH LINE -->" marked on it in green tape.  People were whooping, cheering and clapping!  I could hear the finish line.  I know there was a look of incredulity on my face.  I pulled my sunglasses off my head and tucked them in the back crisscross of my sports bra.  I poured water on my head and face to freshen up and rinse the caked salt, sweat and sunscreen off.  There was Helen.  My Mom took a photo (the only one of me on the run) but sadly I didn't see my parents at the corner because of all of the commotion, noise and waving in the pitch black.  It was surreal.

As I entered the finish chute full of wonder, barely believing it was almost over, crowds lined both sides of the fence lined with sponsor banners holding their hands out and cameras and phones up.  I was suddenly reinvigorated, absorbing their energy and feeling the boom boom of the music in my chest.  I started running again, high-fiving people on both sides with a huge grin on my face, running toward the huge bright light up high.

I broke into a spontaneous happy dance to the tunes and heard what I had been dreaming of:  the voice of Ironman.... Mike Reilly calling me to the finish with,

"Michelle C..., you are an IRONMAN!"

I jumped for joy over the last timing mat.  The clock read 10:24 p.m.

Video coming soon...  I had hoped to have video for you here but I'm still working on a short compilation of highlights of this day (when I'm not at work).  It's 6 minutes long so far and represents 5 a.m. to midnight.  

Next, I took a few wobbly steps forward where a volunteer hung a medal on my neck and another handed me a silver foil space blanket and a bottle of water, then I saw my Dad and gave him a hug.  Everything was a blur.  My mind was a little foggy as I came down from the adrenalin rush and bathed in happy post-race endorphins.  I asked the volunteer where I could reunite with family after at the exit and she explained, then escorted me by the elbow off for my official finisher photo.

Then I breezed through the food tent (where the only thing I trusted was gluten-free was a bag of Lay's plain chips so I ate a few before discarding the bag).  Gord had just come in a few minutes before me and was sitting and eating near the exit.  Bruce was there with him too.  We chatted briefly and made tentative plans to get together and celebrate, then I headed off holding on to my Dad's elbow to go claim my gear bags and head to the car.  My bike was already loaded into the car because I was able to give a claim ticket to my parents for that purpose.

I LOVED spending the week with my parents and LOVED that they were at my race as I became an Ironman.

Mom had made homemade chicken and gluten-free noodle soup and Keith had told them how awesome that would be if I could have some right after my race so a magical go-mug of soup was produced as soon as I sat in the car.  I took a tiny slurp off the spoon.  Mom apologized that it might have cooled off.  It was wonderful as a potage.  We didn't get far in the car before I announced that I had finished it off.

Once home, and past the congratulatory note on the door, I plunked my clothes in a bucket of Borax to soak overnight, got in the shower, then had warm soup in bed with my legs elevated on a pillow with fresh compression sleeves on while I texted some close friends and family back home.  My colleague Tracy had been tracking me all day.  She recorded the live video of me dancing down the finish line and shared it on Facebook so it was already there for me to share.  Awesome!  As soon as my head hit the pillow, I slept like a rock.

After it was all over, I felt a little sad that it was over, but content, satisfied and happy to have lived the dream.  My dream.  Three years ago I didn't know how to swim and I hoped to "some day" become an Ironman.  That day was THIS day.  I wanted to do Ironman more than anything in the world.  I needed to do Ironman.  Why?

"You're crazy!" 
Yes, that's what they keep telling me.  Friends.  Colleagues.  Family.  Acquaintances.  I take that as a compliment because it means I attempted something they can't quite comprehend.  I get that it doesn't resonate with everyone.  My IronCritter friends understand.

Why did I do it?  

Was it to hear my name called across the finish line and feel invincible?  Sort of but not quite.  Some times I really struggle.  Winter doldrums.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Winter Blues.  It's chest causing, soul sucking and it feels like drowning in thick black oil.  Winter blahs.  Feeling weak, tired, run down, inadequate, unworthy, incapable and exhausted.  Euphemisms.  There's a T-shirt that says, "Everything hurts and I'm dying" that is popular with athletes.  Maybe I should get it.  Going to warm sunny Maui or Arizona in the winter provide temporary relief but I can't afford it every year. I will be an Ironman forever - every single day of my life going forward.  Maybe that's why so many Ironman finishers get a tattoo.  I picked up some healthy habits and regular routines during training that I intend to keep like getting good sleep, eating well, being active and being organized.  If you have attempted an endurance challenge, why did YOU do it?

I did this to remind me that I am strong, capable, resilient and determined. 

Even when I don't feel like it physically or mentally.  The mind is a powerful thing.  Be careful what you believe because thoughts and dreams can become reality.  A lot of getting through an ultra-endurance event like a marathon, 50K running race or longer, half-Iron, Ironman staying focussed and not allowing your mind to convince you to listen to it when it whispers "you're tired, you can't go on."  The mind plays tricks.  Sometimes your brain tells you that you are tired and weak but if you keep moving, you can prove it wrong and pleasantly surprise yourself.  I did.  I never want to forget the lessons I learned.

I will come back and read this when I am worn down, exhausted and full of self-doubt to remind me that I am stronger than I think some days.  

This multi-part blog is written freely in my own voice.  I'm writing for myself and for a small audience.  It's very different from the blog I used to write about running.  I was emulating and trying to do more than I was comfortable with and cover all the bases.  This is just the real me, writing about what is important to me as if I were telling close family and friends who were interested.  Hear me roar!  Or not.  Maybe this is boring and you will never read it.  Maybe you only skimmed through the pictures and bolded text.  That's O.K.  I will come back and read this some day when I am feeling schmoopy and it will lift my spirits.

If you are reading, I hope I have shed some light on what went through my mind.  I hope maybe I have inspired you to do something you have always wanted to, something that scares you, something active and healthy.
Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman.  

How does it feel?  I felt grateful to finish.  Tracy asked what was the % of DNFs.  There were 3269 athletes registered in this race.  There are 164 pages of athletes listed but pages 112-164 are DNS, DQ or DNF (did not start, disqualified, or did not finish).  There are about 20 athletes per page.  52 pages x 20 per page = 1040 who didn't finish.  1040 of 3269 or 32% did not complete this race.  I may not be fast but I finished.  Nobody tattoos their times on themselves (I think).  Here are mine:


Tracy asked how many calories I burned that day.  In my post on Nutrition, the fourth discipline in triathlon, I estimated I would burn 9000 calories in the race based on my weight, fitness level and projected pace.  I would normally eat 1500-1700 calories a day but 2200-2500 calories a day during marathon, half-Iron or Ironman training.  So I burned 5 days worth of calories in this race.  That's why we train hard, build muscle and store energy in the year before the race, then rest and taper down our activity levels and carbo-load in the weeks before the race.

The day after, we chilled and took it easy, sleeping in and having an omelette for breakfast.  I presented my parents with Ironman Support Crew T-shirts.  They were the best parental sherpas, chefs, chauffeurs, cheering section, paparazzi, and hosts for sure.  Later in the day we hobbled to Costco.

I may have walked like I was 100 years old but I sure felt 100% rock star!

I used some Voltaren cream on my joints:  hips, knees, ankles, toes and shoulders.  It helped almost immediately.  Normally ibuprofen is the only thing that works for me for pain, headaches and inflammation but I try to limit it because it is hard on your liver and "leaky gut syndrome" for Celiacs.  Aspirin has no effect.  Tylenol has a little effect and I did take one on the beginning of the run.  After that, I just used the topical cream for two days.

Two days after the race, I felt recovered already and was surprised I felt that good so quickly.  We took a neighbourhood walk, then Mom and I shopped at Target and Stein Mart.  Anyone who knows us won't be surprised.

It was really cool that so many family, friends and colleagues tracked my progress and really "got" this whole Ironman thing.

We went out for dinner and my Dad proudly told anyone who would listen that his daughter was a real IronWOMAN.  My Mom emailed their friends with the finish line video of their daughter, the IronMAN.  Keith welcomed me to the world of IronCRITTERS.  (Note the feminine, masculine and gender-neutral forms of the word chosen by those closest to me).  Hubby told me he was proud of me.  He's glad to have his wife the person back now instead of tolerating his absentee wife the athlete.  Antje told me she had always believed in me and that I was amazing.  I was surprised so many friends "liked" my photos and videos on Facebook.  My colleagues posted Ironman Arizona photos and congratulations all over my cubicle at work with beautiful flowers (I loved the lime green ones) and a floaty balloon.

Another colleague made me an awesome Ironman "tattoo" in pyrography (wood burning) because I said I don't intend to get a tattoo.

Sooo... about the tattoo.....

I wonder what it would look like on my wrinkled, saggy, vein-ridden skin when I'm in my 90's and if it would still be important to me then or if I would regret it.  I love black cats but have never gotten a cat tattoo.  They fade and bleed over time with washing and sun exposure so it might just turn into an illegible blob.

But... I am starting to reconsider (waffling back and forth).  I think I might want one to help me remember that I am strong.  Tracy and Jamie sure are encouraging me and let me ask them all kinds of questions about how it is done.  If I got one, I wouldn't get a big logo on my "passing leg" (back of the right calf so others can see it when you pass them on the bike).  I would only want a micro tattoo with thin lines, negative space and a watercolour effect that might not be legible later.  I might get it just for me to see on my wrist, ankle or foot to remind me that I am strong even when I feel weak.  Mind over matter. Anything is possible. I will mull some more to be sure.

Looking forward to helping friends and racing shorter

One of the things I would LOVE to do post-Ironman is help a few friends try a very short triathlon like a Tri It distance or Sprint distance (or even just get in the pool or on the bike or go for a jog).

Tri-it or Sprint races are perfect for newbies.  (By the way, walking instead of running is totally OK.  Dog paddling the swim is totally OK.  Using a mountain bike, cruiser bike, old 10 speed, hybrid, tricycle or training wheels is totally OK.  These are often in a pool, not in open water so it’s not as scary or as cold).

I'm done now with longer duration high impact activities like running longer distances like Iron marathons and half-Iron half-maras.  I look forward to never running more than 5-10K or an 30-60 minutes at a time going forward.  I still love the 90K ride from Calgary to Bragg Creek.  I felt great after my 4K swim and may swim 5K some time but next I want to focus on getting faster with Keith's help.  More swimming, less running.  I want to focus on shorter races that will fit better into my lifestyle as part of a healthy lifestyle.  I'm considering these races in 2018 (A, B, and D below: Chinook Oly, Wildrose Sprint Tri, MEC Sprint Tri).

I'd love to to help you train with me and have you join me (or one of the shorter races the same day).

  • Chinook is a bit longer than the others but I love the Olympic distance best (shorter than a 70.3 and shorter than Ironman).  
  • You can absolutely do the Wildrose Tri It distance.  It's intended for people who have never done a triathlon before and it is for women only!   
  • If you don't want to swim at all, MEC has a duathlon. 

Check out the details below:

Saturday June 16, 2018:

-A- Chinook Olympic Triathlon:  1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run more info $130

Saturday June 24, 2018:

-B- Wildrose Sprint Triathlon:  750m pool swim, 18K bike (4 laps), 4.5K run more info $130
-C- Wildrose Tri It Triathlon:  400m pool swim, 9K bike (2 laps), 2.5K run more info $110

Saturday August 18, 2018:

-D- MEC Sprint Triathlon: 750m pool swim, 20K bike, 5K run more info $35
-E- MEC Sprint Duathon: 5K run, 20K bike, 2.5K run more info $35

Let me know if you have questions about triathlon, or how to get started swimming, biking or running. I would be happy to answer questions or chat and could even include them (anonymously) in a blog post to help others.  I’m not shy at all about answering anything.  The most asked question is "how do you go to the bathroom?"  LOL.  Send me a list of questions and I'll answer them all.

I'm not a pro or a coach but I'm pretty happy to have just completed an Ironman in a second-hand wetsuit, on a second-hand bike and a Canadian Tire helmet with lots of DIY time and money saving tips and tricks. Second-hand just means pre-infused with love, experience and karma from friends.

Have a happy, healthy, adventurous year friends!

Ironman Arizona Series:
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 4 - T2 and Run
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 5 - Guest post by volunteer Sharon
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 6 - Finish Line & Beyond
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 7 - Guest post by coach Keith 
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 8 - IMAZ2017 epic trailer (1 min video)
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 9 - Ironman Arizona 2017 - Michelle's Day (6 min video)


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