Off I went, clomp clomp clomp down the path. There were oodles of people lining the course the entire first mile. It was uphill but I didn’t even feel it, I just waved, and smiled, and did more shakas to everyone. I felt just great, not bad from the bike, a little heavy like usual, but nothing out of the ordinary really. I quickly settled into the pace that I had discussed with Dirk and just cranked along, waving, thanking volunteers and making friends. Who am I?

At one point I remember thinking, I’m being fueled by joy. That really was it. The miles clicked off more seamlessly than ever. I was working, don’t get me wrong, but it was so fun it didn’t feel like work at times. I passed a few ladies and I made sure to really support every single one, telling them good job and to keep it up and run hard so that we could meet again in Kona. So many of the people around me were in the hunt for a slot and they all knew it, but I felt off the hook a bit.

I will say that having my slot was a nice feeling, and I felt that I could relax more than I typically would. I made a friend from Ft. Collins and we ran together for a long time, around 11 miles I think. Side by side for most of it, we even chatted it up. It was his first, and I’m not sure where we lost each other, but I thought we were going to stick together until the finish. I don't understand how I don't have a single picture with him in it, but I don't. Sad.

I thought I would hate the hills that were added to the course since I did this race in 2010, but they weren’t so bad. I had given them too much credit. I saw Katy and Michelle on the hills and they both looked really good, focused, like they should be, but good. Katy looked like she was going to hang on for the AG win, but Jocelyn did run her down just at the end. Those ladies were both way up the road and I was miles behind so I didn’t exactly have a huge sense of urgency, knowing that they were both phenomenal runners. But I also didn’t give up, and for the first time I didn’t even know where I was in the AG. Usually I’m counting and looking at numbers, but this time I was just running and staying strong and very in the moment.

I caught up to Michelle. She was having the race I always knew was in her. She was hurting, like all 30 minute PRs should, but she was doing it! Not a lot of chatting went on, I didn’t really know what to say, she was killing it...I told her that. She was winning...I told her that...the next lady was way back there...I told her that. What else could I say? Oh, I did tell her that I flatted which she didn’t hear, which was probably a good thing. Then she told me to “Go on now” and I didn’t stick around to bug her any longer. She had an amazing day, an AG win, and a trip back to Kona.

The fun did eventually run out for me, somewhere in the 18 mile range. I was sad to see it go, but like all good things, they come to an end. I noticed the pace starting to go south, and the pain sinking into my joints. I got quieter, limiting my engagement to shakas and thumbs up, the smile probably faded, and it took more focus to keep pushing forward. This is common in Ironman, no matter how well your day is going, a time will come when things hurt pretty darn bad.

My knees hurt, and my foot was cramping. It likes to do that sometimes. But this time, I just went internal and I really focused on my foot and the word “release.” I could feel it let up and then tighten again, then let up, then tighten, and I would really focus hard on that word. About 3 minutes later, after a lot of focus, I felt the foot let go, and it straightened out, and the foot cramp never came back. It happened in about the same spot at CDA 2 years back, so maybe my body was just remembering and I had to make a new memory.

Those last miles hurt, but there is also this anticipation that you are almost done, that you “did it” whatever “it” is, and that you are going to make it to the line. I always feel good about that and it lessens the pain those last miles. With about 1 mile to go Troy and Annie were there and I gave high 5s and Annie ran down the street holding her sign that said “Go Mommy Go.” Those really are the moments where I am fearless, all my concerns have melted away and I’m just watching my daughter run down the road cheering. What a life.

I made the final turn and I milked it. I was neck and neck with a Wattie Ink guy “Dan” and I knew I was stealing his thunder. I knew it. He was letting me steal it too, and I am thankful to him for that, a true gentleman, he was. I really lived it up the whole way down that line. I gave a good solid jump at the line, like a nice one, and then I was done!

I felt great, no need for medical, not even close. I got my pizza, chocolate milk (best finish line food ever), chips, grapes, and then headed to massage. Half way through a lady came in and said that my friend was in medical and that everyone out there wanted me to know that. So I got off the table and went to find what I knew was Michelle in medical. She was sitting next to Tony and they were all cuddled in blankets, which was funny because Michelle had two ice packs on her quads. Eventually they both came around, no IVs needed and made their way into recovery.

What a great day! Being a part of so many of my friends first Ironmans was amazing. Having Katie and Emily get through their first Ironmans was rewarding as a coach. Seeing James complete Ironman #12 of this year was awesome. It was just a really neat day. I’m not a fan of that swim, but it was well worth it for that gem of a bike course. Stunning really.

I stood on the line fearless, I gave it what I had, and returned oodles of data to Dirk for inspection. So hopefully we can build on this race and set a strong course for Kona. I am constantly humbled by the Ironman. I see such perseverance out there, such inspiration, and it always teaches me new things about myself. A week ago, I felt like success in this race was going to be hard to come by, but little did I know it was the opposite. It was an extremely joyful day.

Thank you to my sponsors Quintana Roo, Kompetitive Edge, Punk Rock Racing, TYR, and First Endurance. Thank you to Jim at Cyclemetrix for making my bike ride flawlessly, despite the sorry state it came to you in. Thank you Troy and Annie for always being there for me, for believing in me, and supporting all that I dream of. Lastly a big thanks to Dirk. He is one patient German and I am blessed to have him in my corner this year.