Friday, May 31, 2013

A true test!

It's been two weeks already since we crossed the finish line to what would be our 1st Ironman (note the reference to 1st...). It has been a long road to get to that finish line, but let me tell you... Those 15:00 hours battling the elements out there seemed an eternity :). Needless to say... we were able to do all this after putting in:
  • 1869 miles on the bike for a total of 112 hours of saddle time (actually rode further than the distance between our house and New Jersey)
  • 340 miles of runs for a total of 61 hours of running time (or the equivalent of almost 13 marathons)
  • 96180 yards of swimming time (pool and a few open water swims) for a total of 36 hours in the water (or the equivalent 1923 laps in a 25yd pool)
 Anyways, here is a recap to what went down starting from our road trip, check-ins, pre-race preps and hopefully if you are not bored by then you get to read our race reports. We will try to keep them short, however there is a lot that happens in 15 hours.
Drive down:
Before we start with the drive down, it is important to mention that Puli had the risk of not making to our drive down. He was on his way from Oregon on Wednesday and after a cancelled morning flight and being diverted to Lubbock due to bad weather and ended up on a 15 hour trip back home, making it home at 2 am on Thursday. Now, getting to that morning, he finished packing and changing bags and then packing the car. So it was a pretty unadventurous drive down, we picked up a friend of his from work that was doing it too so after getting him we headed south. We weren't that far behind from the team's caravan, so we met with some of the other ladies from the team doing it and headed to the expo. Something really cook happened while we were driving, Puli got the news that his guest blog on Swim Bike Mom's blog was posted, so he was really excited about it.
The expo and day 1.
We got to the expo at around 1 or so, heat was intense, it was in the 90s, humidity was brutal but we were filled with excitement, nerves were piling up, it is a weird sensation. We have been to other athlete check-ins but this one was different. The energy is intense, looking at everyone who have been probably training as hard as us (if not harder) over the previous 6 months and just trying to take it all in. We know we are all competitors, but for the majority of us, getting to this day was not an easy journey, but yet we were ready and we were going to make the best out of it. After picking up the packages and walking around (more like melting) in the heat we decided we've had enough of it and went to the hotels before going to the Athlete's Dinner. Dinner was actually pretty nice, inspiring, and got us all pumped for the days ahead, funny how being with 2800 of your closest tri friends can get you going.
Day 2.... practice swim and more
Day 2 (Friday) started with a short practice swim. It was Puli's first time in the water in 2 weeks so he was pretty anxious to get in. It was a good swim for Res as she wanted to test how she would feel with the water temp and swimming without her wetsuit. The practice swim confirmed to Puli that he was going without his wetsuit and to Res that she was going with a wetsuit. So back to the hotel for some necessary breakfast, the team was going to IHOP, however we kind of just wanted to stay calm and do our own thing. Nothing against them, it was just something we wanted to do. We then went to do bike check-in and bag check-in, boy that can be complicated... too many things to think about and learned a few things in the process, like do not put your gels or other energy food (call it blasts, blocks, etc.) in your bags when the heat can warm them up to a cozy 100-deg temperature.... THEY MELT!!!!! other than that no other lessons, just wanted to turn the bike in and go back to the shade :). Puli actually had decided he wanted to get a haircut, he had been traveling over the month and didn't get a chance to get one while away, so he was feeling like he needed one, mainly to keep his head cool in the heat (he says it helps). So that was the main thing about day two, just trying to stay calm, hydrated, not too nervous and think about not making any stupid mistakes the next day.

Pre-Practice Swim shot...

Day 3.... According to Res
I can't believe that it's been two weeks from the awesome day in which Puli and I became Ironman!!! Sitting here looking back at the first day that we decided to embark on this journey together. I remember having been all excited and yet nervous to meet the team and get our first workout in with them. Boy, was I out of shape then. I could barely run a half mile before thinking I was about to pass out because I was so out of breath. Fast forward to a year and a half later and we are embracing our Ironman weekend sharing so many emotions together including happiness, nervousness, excitement, tension, and overall sense of pride to have made it this far.
The day arrived quickly and alarms went off at 4am. I knew it was going to be a long day and that we would not make it back to our hotel at least until after midnight!! We went through our morning rituals and got our bags ready. We headed out to T1 to get bikes ready and keep the adrenaline going. No major issues so far and walked almost a mile to swim start. What a way to warm up before swim start!! We saw our support crew and cheering squad which gave us a boost of energy and kept walking to the lake. Puli braved it and started in 7am wave as he chose not to wear his wetsuit. I am not the strongest nor fastest swimmer and decided to use wetsuit for my swim as extra cushion and comfort level. Glad I did although mass swim with or without wetsuits is insane. Arms and legs flying everywhere, people grabbing your feet, toes, gliding over you, crossing in front of you...pure chaos. I was able to find a rhythm about 20 minutes into my swim, before it was interrupted by other athletes with poor sighting skills. Stayed focused on the buoys, on not drowning, and getting to the finish. I made it out of the water in 1:32 and ran up to T1. The volunteers were amazing as they offered help, dumped my bike bag out making it easier for me to see what I needed to get dressed. I had a snack as I was starving and headed out to start 112 miles of my bike ride. I tried not to think about the distance as it seemed surreal that I was about to embark on a century + ride on my own and then return to running a marathon!!

Game face ON!!!!
Warm up walk.... it was hot and humid already

Non-Wetsuit Start - Chaos, thanks I wasn't there
Breathe got this and off I went.

Smiles still... rough day out there but glad to be back in 1 piece
The first 5 miles felt great as there were lots of spectators cheering us on. Gradually started to get into areas were there were no spectators, just traffic. And here is where my bike ride became not only a mental, but physical challenge. With no one out there to distract me from the heat, humidity, and my thoughts, I started to hear a rubbing sound on what I thought was my front wheel. It became annoying going into about mile 8. I pulled over to check it out and moved the front brake around and off I went again...well not for long because the rubbing noise was still there. I was happy to see the first aid station! I got some water to drink, pour on me to cool off, and took another stab at checking out my front brake. I moved it some hoping this would do it. For some reason I thought I was riding a unicycle that day because it never dawned on me to check out my rear tire. I figured I don't hear the noise back there I won't mess around with it. Well, as a good friend would say...FAIL!!! My back brake rubbed throughout my entire ride, but I didn't let that get to my head. It made for a tough bike ride as I had to push extra hard and continuously pedal through some rolling hills.  I remember having been close to hitting a mental shut down at mile 70 when I got into an aid station and saw so many cyclists resting under trees looking for shade. The mere thought of me doing the same for couple of minutes crossed my mind, but then said to myself, who am I kidding, if I sit down I will not get back on this bike! Poured water on me and back on the bike I went. The Texas heat and the Woodlands humidity were not my best friends that day and made for a mentally challenging day! The last 12 miles of the bike ride felt like an eternity to finish as one of the aid stations had run out of water and all I had left was warm Infinit. Yuck, but had no other choice. I made it back from the bike ride all in one piece, which had been one of my goals, and I was so happy to see some of our fellow team members cheering us on at the bike finish. I was ecstatic to have gotten off my bike and headed to transition area to get ready for my marathon!  
1st lopp of 3, only 26.2 miles left

I had never done a marathon before, but here I was about to get one done after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on the bike.  I was not surprised to feel my legs numb and dragging for the start of my run. I did not pick up my pace until about mile 7 and then alternated between slow jog and fast walk. I wondered and thought about where Puli was during most of my run as I had not seen him since wishing each other luck at the swim start.  It was a three loop run with lots of spectator friendly areas to give us the extra push some of us needed to get to the finish line. I met some awesome people on my run, first timers like me, others who this was not their first rodeo, and others who just inspired me even more to make it the finish. I was able to maintain a fast walking pace on my last loop and I kept thinking, I don't think I've ever walked this fast for so long! It was dark out, glad I had a headlamp, and stopped at the aid stations to fill up with chips, soda, and chicken broth! I was nearing the finish and all I kept telling myself was "Finish strong, You got this!" I saw my teammates and it was a great feeling. I asked them about Puli and they said he had finished and was near the finish line. I honestly don't know where I got legs from at the end, but I felt as if I sprinted to the finish line. I saw Puli about 200 feet from the finish line and my heart was racing! I was ecstatic, relieved, and began to get tears in my eyes as I got closer to the finish. The energy was amazing and I enjoyed the moment as I heard the long awaited words, "You are an IRONMAN!"

 I WAS 200 yds from becoming an IRONMAN
This has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences I've had and could not have asked to share the journey with anyone else than Puli! He encouraged me, pushed me in getting stronger, and motivated me to not give up on myself especially on training days when I felt extremely slow. You are one of a kind Puli, my partner in crime, and glad we became IRONMAN together. This journey couldn't have also been possible with the support from our family, friends, and followers! As we look back on the many emotions we had on May 18, 2013, the next question is which will be our next Ironman race!!! Stay tuned! :)

 Day 3... According to Puli
 As Res said it.. our morning was pretty uneventful, it was our typical morning rituals, something really funny is that we've learned to deal with each other very well on race day. By dealing I mean stay out of each other's way. It makes it easy on both of us, and also it just makes it for a less hectic start of the day. We just make sure we are doing our thing but we don't really talk to each other. It's a silent communication if that makes sense.

So, after the pros went on their way, we said our good-byes and I headed to the water with some of the girls doing the swim without a wetsuit. I looked for the guys but couldn't find them, not that I could keep up with them but at least wanted to have a good group around me, didn't happen. When 7:00 hit, we were off on our way to a very long day. I started about 10 seconds or what I thought was 10 seconds after the gun went off, and had a good uninterrupted swim for like 5 yds, tried to open my way through the masses took a few elbows on the face, slaps on the head, kicks but didn't let that stop me, I'm sure I did some damage on some people too, can't avoid it and if you try to play too nice you simple get railroad out there. I got to the first turn, and negotiated the turn pretty well, I was on a 1:58/100yd pace which is what I wanted for my swim, then got to the second turn and on my way back the wetsuit guys started to pass us and chaos started again. I tried to go on the outside which I knew was going to be the shortest distance to the finish line and that turn into the canal took forever to come by, finally it came and there was only about 1000 mts left, looked at the watch and I was reading 1.8miles or so, and was at about 1:00 hour, I was happy because I was still on pace, however my garmin decided to either play tricks on me or the distance was a bit longer, but final garmin reading was 2.7 miles and 1:40 minutes later. Coming out of the water and going up the stairs i started to feel what I thought were cramps, but I didn't paid attention to them, got my bag and went into the tent. It was more chaos there, tried to look for a chair didn't find one and I just sat on the ground to change. Eat my bar, and got something to drink, off I went to get my bike.

On the bike the exit was easy, was good to see people on the way out, however I just kept an easy speed leaving, the concrete pavement and the concrete joints just brought nightmares and saw a couple crashes due to that and flats on the way out. Kept thinking about Res and praying she was OK. When we started to get into the open I got a good speed, it was averaging 20 mph on the first half, I got on a group which we just kept each other's rear wheel at the distance but pushing each other and pulling each other, it was fun. At the 56 mile mark I looked and I had 2:45 or so, that was my fastest bike 56 mile split, I knew I had to slow down because I couldn't keep that up and then get off the bike and attempt to run. Got to special needs, tossed my old Infinit bottle and changed bottles, kept pouring water on me because the heat was starting to get on us, and couldn't keep cool. Around that time I caught up with one of the girls that I started the swim with chatted with her a bit and then kept on going. I was alone for a while until a couple of guys decided to keep up with me but on my tire, which pissed me off a bit because that's just not fair. At least keep a distance!. So I pushed the pace and they couldn't keep up so I dropped them fairly quick. Then I caught up with one of the guys from the team, was surprised to see him because he is one of the strongest on the bike but he was having a rough day. Then I caught another one that passed me on the swim with his wetsuit light speed and caught him on the bike, chatted with him and he said he pushed to hard on the swim and was paying for it on the bike. Left him behind. At mile 80 or so, I was starting to feel the ride, but a lady came by and chatted with me for a bit, we had the same bike and she was a repeated IMTX customer :) so she told me that it was not that hard, that we should keep pacing each other, we did for about 20 miles, but at mile 100 she said she couldn't do it anymore and told me to finish strong. I pulled into town and was feeling great. My bike split was lower than I had originally planned, I had an official time of 6:12 when I had planned 6:30. Thought it was AWESOME!!!!. I came in and slipped my feet off the shoes to dismount, to my surprise the pavement was so !#$%^ing hot that it burned my feet to the point that by the time I got to the tent I had already blisters. It was great to see one of our teammates who was volunteering at T2 and he got my bike. At the tent i changed, forced myself to eat more, and hydrate. Poured a lot of water on me, to cool myself and went off on the run.
Got out of transition and into the run. Saw the cheering squad took a few pictures (note to self, I need to rub the sunscreen next time)
Damn feed burns and I still have my bike gloves :) oopsss
I talked with one our guys and he gave me his words of wisdom, I was on my way to 26.2 miles of run. I made it to about mile 6 on a slow 12:00'/mi run, and the blisters got really bad, felt one popped inside my shoe and I knew it was time to stop to check them out. Got to an aid station that had medical and had them check out, they were bad. Feet were red and blistered. They cleaned them up, put some vaseline and wrapped them up. I was good for another 4 miles, then repeat, by then I had already done the math and I knew if I kept a speed walk/walk pace every mile I would make it in about 6 hours, which was plenty of time. So repeated my blister cleanup routine for about 4 more times, had chips, chicken broth, water, fruit, and actually my belly was doing great!, legs weren't too bad either, just a bit tired because my walking form was all screwed up from the blisters, I was trying not to put too much pressure on them. Met a lot of people on the way, walked with them, heard their stories, their
journeys and it was probably the most mental stage of the day. From mile 13 to mile 26 was hard, I was tired of simply walking, didn't see the miles piling up fast enough and I was getting just anxious to finish. Then at mile 17 it started to get better, I was on the countdown in the single digits and was on my last loop around. By then I hadn't seen Res all day but luckily our cheering squad had given us updates on each other, so we knew we were kicking some ass out there... mile 23 came and I met one guy who really helped me a lot, he walked with me for about 2 miles, he was telling me his IM story and his journey and I thought it was amazing, you can see his story here to Mathew THANK YOU!!!! simply talking to you made those miles go so fast.. probably the fastest of the second half. I then saw some of the cheering squad picking up signs, they were pushing me and I was so close. I then made the turn to the finish line and saw Coach M. He said to me... "go for it.. last 200 meters" that's all i needed, I gave them my bottle, got my flag out and got in the chute, that is the one of most amazing experiences I've had in my life. Having total strangers cheer you, the energy simply makes all pain go away and carries you in. I then heard those words that we waited for 6 months "Juan Felipe Pulido you are an IRONMAN" the adrenaline rush took the pain from the blisters away, I wanted to jump but was afraid I'd just fall, but I simply finished with my arms up holding my flag.

Like Res put it on her race report, this Journey that we started last year when we could barely could run 3 miles, has been an awesome Journey. It is for sure not over, the tri itch is still alive and kicking and trying to figure out what is next, of course after getting some ink, but that is for another post. This Journey is just beginning. I wouldn't have done it with anyone else, Res has been hell of a trooper. I would see her frustration after almost every group practice because she wasn't feeling fast enough or she was having doubts of finishing by the cutoff times. But after perseverance, tears, and lots of hard work she made it possible, I'm very proud of her. Also, I wanted to thank everyone that was with us through this journey. Teammates, who were there during our training days, sometimes was sad to see their workouts actually over and done with when ours were only half way, and sometimes they even stayed there to hang out and cheer us on long rides or long days. Family, our families who were glued to their computers, phones and were aware of every update possible, and probably letting everyone and their mother know where we were at any given time. Friends and co-workers who were glued to the live feed to watch us finish and actually took snapshots of our finishing moments. Sorry we kept you up so late.... but thanks!!! you know who you are. To those that we got tired of talking about Ironman... sorry... hope you understand... the days leading to it I know probably were annoying to you... it was my way to cope with anxiety. :).

Anyways... hope you didn't get too bored ready this long post... I'm sure we will be talking more and more about it.. for now we are taking it easy.. little training and aiming to get back to our shorter distance races.

Stay tuned for updates about the ink moments, and also what we decide to do for our next IM... remember I said our 1st at the beginning? well... for more to come!. And remember...Anything is Possible!