Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.
Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
~Jacob August Riis
It’s pretty ironic that this quote sat upon the home page of my first website, some 8 years ago. Something about it struck a chord with me. Little did I know how appropriate it would still be 12 years into my racing career. This result was many years in the making.
The lead up to Ironman Texas was anything but ideal. The season started of with some hiccups, as I had to pull out of Panama 703 due to a fall on our stairs, so I headed to Oceanside end of March, with a very lackluster 11th place. I followed that up with a pretty awesome DNF in Galveston the next weekend. By this point, I was of course frustrated and a bit stressed. I knew the training had been solid but the body didn’t want to cooperate in the races. We (my husband/coach Derick and I) decided best to pull back from racing until Texas, to assure that I didn’t toe another start line without feeling 100% confident. I also realized during this break from racing that I was putting far, far too much pressure on myself. Having been through a challenging 2013, I was expecting myself to just pop back to where I was in 2012. I had to step back, focus on where I was at the moment, accept it, and build from there…I had to let go of trying to control the outcome, focus on the process, and let the end result come to me. I asked myself the tough questions; why are you doing it if you’re beating yourself up so much? Do you even want to still be racing? What is it truly about to you? It was the wakeup call I needed. A few crappy results aside, I was healthy, feeling strong and hitting great workouts. I had some mental hurdles to overcome, but I have always kind of relished in those challenges; life is a bit boring without them. I figured some of the external pressure was off as well, and I could slide into Texas under the radar, which is what I like. I tried to appreciate all of the ‘good’, push away the doubts, and focus on the task at hand: Ironman Texas.
Race week was smooth. I felt calm, relaxed, and truly excited to get out there. I kept waiting for those extreme nerves to come, but they never did. We got to the Woodlands Wednesday and I remember thinking “Hell let’s get this thing going tomorrow.” I can’t recall many times in the past that I’ve just felt so ‘ready’ for a race. Despite massive doubts that I had battled the past year, even the early months of 2014, there was a small but strong little voice in my head that told me I was capable of something great.
Race morning, we got there early and made the walk from transition to the swim in the dark. My parents were there. I held my mom’s arm most of the walk, as it was pretty dark and she wanted to watch her footing. It may sound cheesy, but it was very calming. I realized how fortunate I was to have my parents there; as they have been for 36 years; that through all the ups and downs, life was good. I did a warm up jog with some fast efforts to get my heart rate up and listened to some music (one song being AC/DC Back in Black…LOVE that song). I got into the water and warmed up for about 10 minutes. Finally we were off.
I started the swim conservatively. Truth be told I’ve had some shitty swims so far this year. I eased in and tried to build into it. By the first turn buoy, I had caught a small pack of yellow caps (women). As we made our way towards the canal, I caught a group of men. I settled in nicely, thinking “Cool, I caught some dudes. I must be swimming well,” and I was very comfortable. Then I said, “Snap to, Kelly. You’re in a race. This could be a third pack of guys! Pick it up!” Into the canal, I decided to push up to the front and I led the pack in; just feeling so smooth. One of the best parts of this swim is seeing all the people lining the canal. Swim exit and I was told I was first woman; yes! A good start to the day! Thanks Zoot for the Z Force sleeveless; PERFECT for a warm wetsuit swim; good mobility and not too thick.
Onto the new Felt DA and I got to work. I eased in and truthfully did not feel fantastic the first 20-30 miles. I was passed by a couple of women but I just stayed on my pacing, my effort, and my race. I didn’t panic at all when a few women drifted off into the distance. I continued to eat (I am an eating machine when I race, as I packed in just under 2000 calories, mostly PowerBar gels and some drink on the bike alone) and just let the miles clip away. The winds were shifty and pretty constant. I only recall one stretch, about miles 60-65 when we had a truly strong tail wind. I tried to lighten the effort, stay small and take advantage of the speed here. Come to find out, I was getting stronger as I went (which we saw via my SRM power file). I managed to re-catch a few women the final 30 miles. I came into T2 and while the legs felt awful immediately, by the time I ran in and grabbed my T2 bag, they were already coming around.
I was told 2nd woman in the transition tent to which I replied “2nd? Seriously? Holy shit!” I had expected 4th or 5th, so it was a welcome surprise! So much so that I busted out of there at 6 minute pace. For not one, but 2 miles. I told myself that would not end well, and forced a slowdown. Mile 3 was 6:15, not quite there yet. Mile 4 was in range of 6:33. Better. By this point, I tried to ignore the watch and focus on just finding a rhythm. I was feeling so strong, so relaxed, so in control. I wore the Zoot TT 7’s without socks and while my feet started to hurt later in the race (what marathon wouldn’t this happen in), I was amazed to never get a single blister. I came through the first loop and was told the 8 minute gap was now 5 minutes. Quick math told me at this rate, I would catch her right before the finish line. However, sitting in 2nd place, I simply held my effort. I never again looked at the watch and my only goal was to stay consistent and keep taking my gels; if I caught her, all the better. It was a nice boost at about mile 16/17 when I could see her only about a minute up. I finally made the pass, told Julia nice job, and just tried to remain steady. The only low, low point I approached was about mile 19/20 when I started to feel a bit sick. I quickly took a salt tab and followed it with some cola and it seemed to turn me around. By this point, the goal was just to hold on but not to assume it was in the bag, nor think about the end result until I saw Mile 25. There is not much place for emotion in Ironman racing; not until that finish line is in your sight. I find it sucks your energy, both mentally and physically.
I have to say the most amazing part of the day was when I finally saw the chute, and moreso, the clock. I had no clue that I was going to go under 9 hrs, much less an 8:54. The emotions that ran through me were intense. Relief, amazement, elation, and extreme joy are just a few ways to describe it. To see my husband Derick there right after the tape was so awesome. He has seen the struggles the past few months, and it was only fitting to share the excitement with him. Then he told me I ran a 2:54 and again, total shock…while I knew I was capable of this, I never knew if I would ever actually DO it… it was so humbling to see that I had.
No matter what level you get to in sport, a few things remain the same for all. We have highs and we have lows. Sometimes our confidence soars, and at other times we are full of doubt. For me, some of those doubts were actually fears. Was I truly ‘done’? Had I really fulfilled my potential in 2012? Did I still have the passion to be ‘great’, one of the bests? The doubts that I had the past 4 months were massive. Sometimes, in the midst of the really low lows, I just laugh… it helps ease the sting and it also brings me back to reality, that there is only so much we can control. It took so much mental strength to try to quiet the doubts and push forward, knowing no matter what happened, I had put myself out there, gone fully ‘in’, accepted vulnerability, and approached things with no regrets. These breakthroughs are the ones we dream of that get us through all of the low moments. I won’t sit here and say “Anything is Possible”… again some things will happen, some will not, and it takes a hell of a lot of physical and mental preparation to make things come to fruition. But sometimes we have to let go of trying to ‘control’ and embrace the process. What I will take away from this race is the power of continuing to believe in yourself when perhaps others may not…and the power of accepting that to achieve something great, you have got to put yourself on the line, be vulnerable, and take risk. In this case, it came down to accepting where I was, adapting to the situation, and ultimately overcoming so much. Suffice to say, the passion is still fully there, and I guess that I am not quite yet washed up!
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my sponsors, as their support has been instrumental in my success.
Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute: I can’t express how much it means to win YOUR RACE! A dream come true and 3 years in the making, having been 2nd in 2011. Thanks for helping get me here, physically, especially through the struggles.
Zoot Sports: I am honored to say this is my 7th year with Zoot. Not only incredible clothing, shoes, and wetsuits but some of the best people you’ll find in the industry. The Ultra TT 7 was the perfect Ironman race shoe! No socks!
PowerBar: Much to many peoples disbelief, I took in 18 gels during race day. Without a solid nutrition plan, you will never have a solid Ironman race…couldn’t do it without you all.
Felt Bicycles: I just started with Felt this year and suffice to say, it is working. I’m honored to work with such a reputable company who cares so much about their athletes. Hopefully I can continue to make y’all proud.
The Westin Lake Las Vegas: This is one of my prime training grounds, where I’ll return soon to do more cycling. If only 703 Worlds had not left here! Thank you for giving me a training venue and accommodations second to none.
Reynolds: I rode the 58/72 AERO set for Ironman Texas and it handled perfectly in the windy conditions…thank you for making the best wheels out there.
Rudy Project: This is another new sponsor for me, and I can’t say enough about the helmets (Wing 57 got me through Texas) as well as the awesome eyewear; fun colors, comfortable and fashionable…and Chris Lupo may be one of the nicest people ever!
ISM: Comfort is essential when spending 6+ hours on your bike. I’ve been on the ISM Adamo Breakaway now for 3+ years and I’ll never ride anything but ISM. Great product, people and company.
Recovery Pump: Absolutely essential for not only race prep but day in, day out recovery and injury prevention! I was in these both pre-race lead up and the day after. Thank you for helping keep me healthy!
Road ID: I joke that it was my MS (Multiple Sclerosis) badge good luck charm that helped me win Texas. I am never without my Road ID and appreciate that they have helped support my passion for MS awareness.
Profile Design: I can’t say enough about my profile stuff, from the Aeria bar setup (so comfortable on the front end) to the Aero HC system drink setup to the carbon cages. Profile covers it all and is top end quality.
Nulo: Life without our pup would entail far less smiles! Amico brings us so much joy and to know he is getting the best fuel out there as well makes us happy. Nulo knows that it is as important to exercise and feed your pet just as you do yourself!
Campagnolo: I started up with Campy in 2013 and the Record EPS Electronic Shifting is incredible. And if/when you need help figuring it out, they’re always there to assist! Proud to be with such a reputable company.
Jack & Adams Bicycles: Hands down…the best bike and triathlon shop in the world. You’ll never find a better guy than Jack Murray and his passion for people, triathlon and excellence shows in every employee. They make the Austin tri scene what it is!
SRM: I have trained with power since 2007; it keeps me honest and allows me to constantly gauge progress, but also fatigue. I’m lucky to say that SRM is not only the gold standard for power meters but also a company who has become some our closest friends.
Atomic: I was introduced to Andy a couple of years back, and he has always been on my side to help make the bike as fast as possible offering up cutting edge coatings, lubricants and components. He pushes the scientific boundaries to find free speed!
Endurance Shield: I have known Alicia Kaye for many years and living in Austin, sunscreen is crucial; this product is light on the skin but heavy in terms of protection. It is hands down the best product on the market, for your body and for your skin.
Durata Training: My HUSBAND DERICK… his knowledge, faith in me and at times ability to kick me in the ass and talk sense into me are unparalleled… tough to call him ‘coach’ but that he is and a damn good one. I’d never be where I am today without him.
Thank you so much for reading…after a bit of R&R, it will be time to refocus for Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 29th. And with a little luck on my side, I hope to toe the line on the big island in October!