This was my fifteenth Ironman. I’ve never been one to get obsessed with numbers. I never track my total hours/miles/yards per week/year, and I couldn’t even give you an estimate of the number of calories I eat in a day. I have no idea how many triathlons I’ve done in my life or my maximum miles run in a week. But I have acknowledged this because…well, that is a lot of Ironman races. They’ve all been memorable in their own ways, and I’m quite proud of the fact that they’ve all been under 10 hours (another random fact I realized). I guess that means I’ve never really blown up or given up. While I aim to remain as relaxed as possible going into events, I have also found over the years there are times that we need to really know why we’re doing this. We need to stay engaged; not just go through the motions. If we are really investing our heart and soul into an endeavor, it helps to know your why; know what is driving you. I’ve found this can change from day to day, race to race, year to year. When I think back on Ironman Texas, I realize what is driving me after 15 years of racing is the simple concept of possibility; defined as “something that can be done or achieved; something that might or might not happen or exist.” Now please don’t confuse this with the somewhat hackneyed phrase ‘Anything is Possible’. There are decidedly many things that will never be possible. However, I firmly believe this. When we prepare our bodies and our minds; when we dedicate ourselves to a mission that is important to us, and when we are willing to take risk and put ourselves on the line to accomplish great things; therein lies magnificent possibility.
This race will always hold a special meaning to me, and as I’ve told many since the race, I’ll rarely be elated with 7th, where I ultimately finished. However, I’ve grown to find more satisfaction in things over simply the end result. Controlling your attitude, being proud of how you execute, and being surrounded by those you love are just a few. I went into this feeling strong, relaxed, excited and optimistic. My parents came down from Indiana to watch and it is always special to have them at my races. We had a nice few days prior to catch up, relax and visit. I was confident in my abilities and excited for another opportunity to see what I was capable of.
The morning kicked off early. We took to Lake Woodlands at 6:30 am in dark conditions yet just before sunrise, it was a calm and surprisingly beautiful morning. The swim was uneventful; I should have come out a little faster, but I didn’t, exiting in 55 minutes; not my best swim, but not my worst. Moving on, as you always must do in Ironman racing (not dwelling on the past) I hit the bike and felt good; for all of about 10 miles. Once we got to Hardy Toll Road, my legs seemed to ache and I struggled to hold the power I knew I was capable of. I tried to stay positive, but honestly, those first 50 miles the desire to give up was strong. Nonetheless I’ve done enough of this stuff to know things can and often do change. As I entered my second loop (about 60 miles in), bam…my power came up 10-15 watts and I my legs felt great; strong and responsive. I told myself, despite many (most?) women having already passed me, you never know what’s going on up ahead; take it and GO WITH IT. And I did; I used that momentum of just ‘feeling good’ to roll myself into transition and onto the run.
When I took off, I knew there was a lot of work to be done. The first time I saw Derick, he just encouraged but didn’t tell me what place I was in; I knew this was not a good sign. I felt strong and looked at my watch at Miles 1 and 2 but never again. I knew this was all about going with how I felt and trusting my body; if I wanted to get my ass back into this race, I had to push myself. Moxie Multisport always has an insanely crazy aid station; many almost naked people, loud music, loud people and beer. It’s pretty awesome. Well, in Galveston, Kellen Hood (of Moxie) told me “I never get a smile out of you!” One of my goals was to smile and enjoy the energy they threw out. I did. At least the first 2 loops. I was relaxed, and my body felt smooth, controlled and strong. It was pretty nice; we don’t always get that feeling but when you do, savor it. I heard from Derick that I was in 9th somewhere in the middle of the run; after passing about 4 women, he then told me “You’re in 7th…I think…I’m not really sure…keep on it!” That wasn’t my happiest moment. But, it’s not an unfamiliar place for me, so I just kept digging, not taking a single place for granted. Despite a moderately rough moment starting the third loop, I maintained feeling strong and I managed to hold off a hard charging Malindi Elmore (whom I had passed earlier; big props to her on her perseverance, never count out an Olympian!).
When I finished, I had no idea what place I was or what I had run. Come to find out, my efforts landed me 7th and much to my surprise, a 2:56 run; the best on the day among the women, and personally second only to my win in Texas in 2014. That made me smile very widely deep inside.
I wrote some mantras on my arms on race morning, which I’ve never done. One forearm said P13 – I have derived daily motivation and inspiration from what these athletes accomplished in April and I carried this with me. The other arm said N.F.L. – nothing to fucking lose. I put my heart into everything I do. The possibility of huge success gets me excited; but at the same time, it can be tough to go through struggles that make you doubt yourself. I’ve had these the past few years. I wanted to do this race for myself; because deep down, doing your best, being vulnerable, and fearlessly taking risk to see what is on the other side is what makes me tick. And because when you have nothing to lose, you’ve got everything to gain. The possibilities are endless. And possibility is a wonderful thing.
Ma and Pa Handel…always my biggest supporters & thankful they’ve put up with me 🙂
Andrew heroically came back from a terrible crash; how could you not encourage this?
Always…always celebrate 🙂
Life lessons learned? Every race, & every finish line, is a gift.