After a year of hard work all for the sake of one goal, I’ve accomplished something that for a long time I never even imagined I’d have the ability to attempt. Running down the finishers chute lined with thousands of cheering supporters at Ironman CdA was unlike any other feeling I’ve ever had – a mix of excitement, exhaustion, sadness, and mostly, pride and accomplishment. That moment wasn’t just about the hours I’d spent on the course – it was the culmination of over a thousand hours of training and preparation, hundreds of early morning wake-up calls, dozens of long bike rides, gallons of sweat and even a few tears. The pain I had endured for most of the last five hours during the marathon was washed away and the heaviness in my legs disappeared as I crossed the finish line, raised my arms and jumped into the air as Mike Reilly announced, “Nicole Woyski from Encinitas, California, YOU are an Ironman!”
I already went over a lot of our pre-race activities in another blog post, but left off at Saturday. After a quick 20 minute run and stretch, we headed out for lunch with the rest of Team WODs and some of our families and then grabbed our Bike and Run bags and bikes and dropped them off at transition. I was glad that I bought hot pink duct tape and decorated my bags because it was easy to spot them in the massive collection of bags. After we put our bags down, Mike and I asked a volunteer to explain the progression through transition. It was very helpful to visualize where I’d be entering and exiting during T1 and T2 and I was glad we asked, since it was not yet labeled.
I racked Rory and made sure to check his brakes and tires. I made a mental note of where my bike was in relation to landmarks and the bike exit, said one last goodbye to Rory and left transition. We met up with my Dad and Denice, as our plan was to show them where our bikes are in transition, but they had already found them on their own. Next we headed to the Ironman merchandise store and I made my first round of purchases (I got the shirt with all the registrants names on it, a coffee mug, a glass, a sticker, an iPhone cover and a M-Dot tank) and then we sat out on a bench next to the lake and chatted for a bit before heading to dinner at a local Italian restaurant where we filled up on bread sticks and pasta. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to read and unwind before bed.
I had been nervous all day, especially about my knee. I searched the Expo and even went to a few stores in CdA looking for KT tape for my knee, although I had never used it before. I wasn’t able to find it which was probably a blessing in disguise since I”d never used it before and it probably wasn’t smart to try it for the first time on race day. However, my anxiety of my knee came too a head at about 1:30 AM when I woke up in the middle of the night and my knee was throbbing a bit. Thoughts of DNF overwhelmed my mind and I began to panic. Mike woke up and knew something was wrong and I started to cry. If my knee hurt for the hour ride we took on Friday, I could only imagine the pain I might be in for 7-8 hours on race day. I took some Advil which helped with the pain and tried to go back to sleep, but it was a fairly restless night.
When the alarm went off at 4:30 AM we hopped out of bed immediately and began preparing for the day. My knee wasn’t hurting now and I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my mind. I had a big bowl of cereal for breakfast, made my peanut butter banana Nutella sandwich, poured my coffee into a travel mug, got dressed and gathered my things. Asia, Jeremy, Mike and I walked the 0.4 miles from our B&B to the start of the Ironman together, discussing our disbelief that the day we’d been anticipating for so long was finally here. The weather was cooperating quite well – it had rained VERY hard on Friday night and it looked like it had rained overnight Saturday night as well. Rain was on the forecast for Sunday but we were greeted with clear skies. The air temperature was about 54 and the lake had warmed up to 57 degrees. We knew the weather forecast was showing a high of 75, but at least the morning was nice and cool.
Once we arrived at transition, my nerves were kicked into overdrive. It was quite possibly the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life. The nerves were affecting my stomach, but this is normal for me so I tried not to worry about it. After dropping off special needs, pumping up my tires, getting body marked, putting on sunscreen, and stretching, we met up with my parents for a few photos and I turned over my phone to them so they could use IronTrac to track me and the rest of team WODS. They wished us luck and we got in line for the bathroom while we put on our wetsuits. I got a little panicked since the line was long and they were announcing that transition would close in 5 minutes, but we made it in time. There was a big backlog to get out of transition and onto the beach since they wanted us to cross a timing mat before going to the beach, so Mike and I stood amongst hundreds of other green and pink capped nervous triathletes for at least 10 minutes as we slowly funneled out of transition and onto the beach.
I was overwhelmed with nerves – my face was probably as white as a sheet. The mass beach swim start has been one of the moments I have been most fearfully anticipating since we signed up for the race. I had heard that it was one of the most intense swim starts in all of Ironman – 2,600 athletes storming the beach at the same time and having no mercy as they made their way through the water – hitting, swimming over, and kicking fellow athletes to get ahead. Once we reached the beach, it was very crowded and Mike decided that he would just start right there instead of to the far right like we had planned. I kissed him goodbye and we wished each other luck before heading off in opposite directions. I made my way to the far right of the beach and seeded myself about 3/4 of the way back in the crowd. Within a few seconds I saw Jeremy and Asia and I immediately felt relief to have some familiar faces. Jeremy left and went back to find Mike (and he actually did find him) and Asia and I chatted very nervously as we waited for the gun to go off.
Swim 2.4 Miles
Suddenly, the cannon fired. Asia and I looked at each other, terrified and said something to the effect of “here we go!” As we started walking (yes walking, not running) down the beach toward the water, Asia said “put your goggles on!” They were still on my head! I put them on and waded into the water. No one around me was in a huge rush to get into the water, so I just walked a few feet out and then started swimming. The start was certainly chaotic, but nothing like the washing machine I had heard about. I had to strategically swim around people or avoid their arms, but overall it wasn’t that much worse than the start at TriClub aquathon or Oceanside 70.3. I got a slight kick to the face at one point but it didn’t really hurt and there were several times that I had to adjust my stroke to avoid a collision, but all in all nothing too terrifying happened.
Since I had started so far to the right, I had to swim at an angle to get closer to the buoys. I sighted fairly often but not as often as I had planned since I was just kind of following the crowd. I just kept thinking that it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be but was also on the defense for any flying arms or kicking legs. I wasn’t able to draft off of anyone for longer than 30 seconds unfortunately but I felt I was swimming at a fairly good pace on my own so I wasn’t too worried about finding some feet to follow. I didn’t end up near the buoy line until I was practically at the big red turn around buoy. I was pretty close to the buoy which meant that I was also close to a lot of other swimmers and it got a bit more rough around this point. Once I swam parallel to shore and turned around the second turn around buoy and started heading back to shore, I checked my watch and saw it had been twenty minutes. Definitely not as fast as I was hoping, but I’d take it.
Nothing too eventful happened on the swim back to shore. I was very happy to exit the water on my first loop and see a time around 36 minutes. I had estimated my swim time would be around 1:15-1:20 and if I kept this pace up, I’d beat that expectation! I was feeling good and not tired at all, so I knew I could maintain the pace for the second lap. As soon as I started the second lap, however, I knew it was going to be more difficult. The water had suddenly become very choppy and there were small waves knocking me out of balance as I swam. I had a harder time sighting and swimming in a straight line. I tried to draft off of one guy for a while but he was going just a bit too slow and I kept hitting his feet so I moved on. I was relieved when I rounded the turn around buoy for the second time and started to make my way back. At this point I was pretty sure my second loop would be slower but I was just relieved that the swim was nearly over. I wasn’t particularly tired but my feet were cold and I was just ready to get out and start the bike.
When I got closer to shore and saw the crowds on the steps and could hear Mike Reilly’s voice, I started to kick a bit harder since I read that it helps get your legs ready for the bike. As I got up on shore and saw the clock say 1:18, I was a bit disappointed but still really happy that I came in under 1:20 considering the roughness of the second lap.
Swim – 1:18:18 – 28th in age group – 909 overall
I didn’t rush too much in T1. I jogged up the beach and then had my wetsuit stripped by the volunteers. I took my time walking down the rows of bike bags and grabbing mine (easy to spot with the hot pink!). I went into the changing tent and sat down. A volunteer asked if I needed help and I said yes. She dumped out my bag and started putting my wet suit and swim items back in the bag. I took off my wet sports bra and put on my dry one and asked the volunteer if she could clip it because my hands were too shaky and cold. She tried to clip it but since she was an older woman and it was dark in the tent, she couldn’t see well enough to clip it. After what seemed like an eternity of her trying to clip it, she asked another volunteer who also tried and finally I just did it myself.
Everything else in transition went fine except for the fact that I semi had to pee and cursed myself for not doing it in the water before I got out. I decided I would just try to hold it since I didn’t have to go very bad. On my way out I made sure to get sunscreen slathered on my entire body AND that it was rubbed in. I was shaking like a leaf from the cold as I rubbed in the sunscreen.
As I was about to run to my bike I realized I was still carrying my bike bag. I asked some volunteers where I should put it and no one seemed to be paying attention so I repeated myself and finally caught the attention of a few of them but no one seemed to know what to tell me. I kept repeating “where do I put this bag!?” and finally one of them just took it from me. I then rushed down into the bike area, waved to my parents who were waiting at the fence near by bike in transition, grabbed Rory and took off!
T1 – 10:29
Part 2 of the race report is here. Part 3 – the run is here.
I will never forget that mass start! I’m so glad we got to start together! Remember the guy behind us that decided to swim without a wetsuit? I wonder what happened to him.
Change of Pace
I loved, loved, loved reading this!
I’m glad you didn’t find the swim as bad as they say. I’m thinking we build it up so much in our minds that nothing can be as bad as that!
I can’t wait to hear more!
You have the Woyski flair for writing very descriptively. Sure enjoy reading about your adventures.
WHERE DO I PUT THIS BAG?!!
Seems like you didn’t get as lucky with volunteers but everything else was smooth sailing! Can’t wait to read about the rest of your adventure!
Great report, reading it is bring back so many memories! Looks like we got out of the water at exactly the same time! That second lap was so cold and choppy!