Sunday, November 1, 2015

Clueless to Ironman

Sometimes I still can't believe the amount of change that has happened these last few years. I was JUST a runner for so many years. I was the person who rarely went any more than 1 day a week without running. So of course there was no time for any other sports.


The day I became a triathlete at The Big Foot Beach Triathlon, I had some mixed emotions. I was thrilled to complete an event that some people aren't able to. However, during the race I had a few wake up calls. I had made it through the swim without a panic attack, but I knew I was very slow. I panted like a dog up every hill on the bike. My legs were heavy from the bike and as a result I had one of my worst runs to date. I was running on a grass trail that aggravated an old injury. I had finished, but it wasn't pretty. But of course, I wanted more.

Let's just make a long story short and say that I was ready for a challenge. I told my boyfriend I was thinking about it. I asked the fastest girl in school if I was capable. I told my family I was going to sign up. It was settled. September 7th, 2014 – that was the day I was going to become an Ironman at Ironman Wisconsin. I had just over a year to go from a clueless triathlete to Ironman. Upgrades needed to be made and research needed to be done. And I couldn't be more excited.

I had a great group of friends who helped educate me the best they could. They guided me in the pool. They told me what was necessary to buy and what wasn't. They were my triathlon lifeline. But how was I going to train for this? Who would tell me how many miles a week I should be riding and running. How often should I be in open water versus the pool? I needed some serious help, and I knew exactly who to call.

Remember the fastest girl in school? Well, she happened to marry the fastest boy. Together, they're somewhat of locals celebrities. Since college, I had seen Jacqui periodically but we stayed in touch. I had only met her husband a few times but decided to take my chances and see if he would be willing to help me. I literally had nothing to lose. We rendezvoused for a double date one night so I could pick Ryan's brain and he agreed to help me find my way across the Ironman finish line come September.

So here was my checklist:
  1. Experienced triathlete friends to guide my clueless self.
  2. Upgrades including bike shoes, wetsuit, and proper triathlon clothing.
  3. A coach with the best resume.  He's pretty awesome (and speedy) - read about his success!
  4. All the support a girl could ask for.

Things were looking up. Let's fast forward to the season, shall we?

Lake in the Hills Triathlon. With my crew, the Strugglebus. 2nd in my age group.

First triathlon of the season: check!

Shane, Todd, Me, Pat, and Russ

Crystal Lake Olympic Triathlon. 2nd in my age group.

Only picture from the day with my biggest triathlon mentor - Todd.

Racine Half Ironman. I was halfway there.

Coming out of the water

Because no one ever says, "Let's take a picture while we're in our wetsuits."
Russ, Shane, Me, and Todd

Wauconda Olympic Triathlon. 1st in my age group.

And Mark's FIRST triathlon!

As race day got closer my nerves were becoming more on edge by the day. Of course I had gained a world of confidence in the past year, but I was still SO new to this sport and there was a lot I didn't know. Was my body strong enough? What if something mechanical happens to me on the bike? Am I knowledgeable enough to know how to handle it? What if I just couldn't finish this race? Simply put - I was second guessing everything. 

Race week arrived. My parents, brother, and boyfriend would all be there to cheer me on. My cheerleaders from Omaha made the trip to support me. A lot of my friends came. My coach and his wife were also going to be there for the event. I had a crowd of supporters which made my nerves even worse. 

Me and the family in front of the capital building and the Ironman finish line.

The day before the race I spent checking in my gear, roaming around the Ironman Village, and relaxing with my friends and family. Nothing more could prepare me for race day, so all I could do was try to keep calm. 

Race morning arrived and I couldn't have asked for better weather. Mid 50's in the morning with a gorgeous sunrise over Lake Monona. Before I knew it, the gun had went off and my day had begun.

Just me and 2500 of my friends starting Ironman Wisconsin

I'm pretty sure I blinked and the swim was over. I had survived what the veterans call the Ironman Madison swim start as a "washing machine."

Looking for my Strugglebus friends who were volunteering as wetsuit peelers!
Even though Russ insisted on saying "I was a stripper!"

The day was still young but I was about to come head on with my biggest fear of the day: the bike course that was created by the devil himself. The bike was my worst of the 3 disciplines. I was not confident and still felt like I had so much room for improvement. And of course, this bike course was nothing to shake a stick at. Hills that resemble mountains on a bike. Sharp winding S curves on a steep downhill that give you white knuckles. But guess what? I MADE IT.

...even though my helmet was crooked the entire time. Oops.

As I got off the bike my legs felt great! Really they felt like jello so of course I knew the run was going to be a challenge. My goal: one foot in front of the other. Just find the finish line. 

120+ miles into my day

And once again, I'll save you all the details. But... I FOUND THE FINISH LINE

"Megan Hode, from Crystal Lake, Illinois - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

The best picture. Photo Credit: my #1 fan, ROB!

14 hours 37 minutes and 2 seconds later, I was an Ironman. Only 14 months after my first triathlon.

Wanna know something even cooler? My boys, the Strugglebus, my triathlon lifeline. They were there to catch me at the finish line. We started this together. And we ended it together. 

"Megan, what do you want? Do you need anything?" - Russ
"Some chocolate milk." -Me
"Uhh, there's no chocolate milk." - Russ

The Omaha crew! Aunt Bev and Uncle JB

The best friends..

...From all over the country

The fastest girl in school! And her husband!
Jacqui and Ryan
Couldn't have found that finish line without these two.

The family was pretty excited..

...Dad squeezed me so hard that I squealed...

...and mom cried.

My other half. My #1 fan. The best spectator there ever was. 

My support system was more than I could ask for. The entire experience was something I'll never forget. The entire process took over a year. I had trained my body in a way I never thought possible. I had eaten enough in the last 4 months to feed a family of 3 for about 6 months. I found muscles I didn't know I had. I did the best I could to make sure training didn't interfere with life so I saw 4am more often than not in order to log all the miles necessary. Followed by periods of sleep that lasted 10+ hours at a time. I learned the joys that come with sitting on the saddle for 6+ hours at a time. I learned that peeing in your wetsuit is the most normal thing you do during a race. The hardest lesson for me to learn: coming off the bike, I was not the same runner. That was something that takes some time. Some more strength and experience. 

I told myself that when I finished I was going to spend the rest of the night eating and drinking until the sun came up because I deserved it. 

...I gave it a good effort. 

Here's what actually happened: I had 2 swigs of champagne and maybe 2 pieces of pizza. And then my stomach retaliated. 

I laid in bed that night wide awake most of the night. Some call it the runners high. Some consider it overdose of caffeine from all the gels consumed throughout the day. But me? I was to busy planning out my 2015 race schedule to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Megan, I love your blog! Maybe you should write a book too??? Wishing you the best on your journey... You are a CHAMPION! All my best, Kenny Klimes