Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ironman Texas 2016: North American Championship

I'm going to give you a list of things that may or may not have happened during my trip to The Woodlands for Ironman Texas. You tell me which one is a fib, kapeesh?

1. One of my roommates this weekend was a 140lb Great Dane.
2. I watched Jacqui flip over her handlebars while her bike landed on top of her the day before the race.
3. I pulled off one of the best birthday surprises ever for Jacqui.
4. I overslept the morning of the race. 
5. A hail storm blew through during the run portion of the race. 

PSYCH - all of the above happened.

Let's back up. Leading into Ironman Texas, Jacqui was battling one of the worst cases of plantar fascitis I've ever see. It started back in September 2015, making itself known after we both finished the Oakbrook Half Marathon. It caused her one of the gutsiest and painful race experiences at the Ironman World Championships in Kona the following month. And then, she didn't run for over 6 months. This girl fought tooth and nail to heal her body and was taking every precaution necessary to make sure that she was going to be Race Ready for Ironman Texas on May 14th. If you're interested to read her story, check out her blog here. Long story short, SHE DID IT. Her body was ready to tackle Ironman Texas, even if she didn't have the run training under her belt that she wanted. 

With her 30th birthday being the day before the race, I knew her emotions were high and all she wanted to do was perform well. Part of the reason she signed up for the race in the first place was to celebrate her birthday, so I knew she wanted to come out on top of this trip. Running is SUCH a big part of who she is, that I knew she was timid going into this weekend thinking things like what if my foot isn't completely healed? So what did I do to calm the nerves? I put a bug in Jess' ear (one of our very close mutual friends/swimming buddy) and suggested she buy a super cheap last minute plane ticket to come down and surprise Jacqui for her 30th birthday and be able to be there for the race. Part of me thought she'd never actually book a flight. But less than 24 hours later, Jess was officially Texas bound on May 13th, and happened to be on my father's flight. At one point I wasn't sure if I was more excited for the race or the big birthday surprise! 

Wednesday, May 11th. My father was nice enough to give Jacqui and I a ride to the airport where we met up with my beloved boyfriend and Ironman Spectathlete, Rob. After one of the longest security lines I've ever been in, a mile walk around the airport to find Garrett's Popcorn for Aimee, our Texas host, and a coffee and bagel stop, we were officially boarded and Houston bound! Ryan (coach Speedy) was awaiting our arrival in Houston after taking 2 days to drive down with all of our bikes and gear. (Seriously, I owe that man SO much for that huge favor.) We arrived at Aimee's house around 11pm where we were greeted by a freshly made meal (Did I mention how AWESOME Aimee is!?!) and her Great Dane dog-child, Dunkin. Dunkin is not quite 2 years old yet, but he weighs 140lbs. He could also be mistaken for a skinny cow? Nonetheless, we all immediately fell in love with him and miss him terribly. Now just so we're all on the same page, Aimee is the sister of a friend of mine from high school. She caught wind of the fact that we were signed up for this race and immediately contacted us and asked us all to stay that week of the race. So we pretty much had one big Crystal Lake Reunion that weekend. 

Houston here we come!

Meet Dunkin. The 140lb lap dog.

Last season, my performance in the Ironman world qualified me for the All World Athlete Silver status. (I was just as shocked as you.) So on Thursday morning, Jacqui, Ryan and myself woke up and headed to the All World Athlete Ironman breakfast that was being hosted at a local restaurant in town. Rob had to hang back at the house because it was an athlete-only breakfast, but he wasn't TO heartbroken that he was able to sleep the morning away. I walked into this breakfast and was immediately intimidated. Everyone in this room had a minimal body fat percentage with most wore tight compression clothing. Yeah, the Ironman crowd is a "special" kind of group. While we ate we were given a half sheet of paper and asked to interview 1 other person in the room about their finish goals for the upcoming race. Jacqui interviewed the man sitting next to us, who we learned has done IMTX multiple times and was hoping to use this race as his last Ironman to qualify him for the Ironman Legacy program. I love hearing other people's stories. I love finding out how they started in this sport. It keeps me grounded knowing that some of these people are even younger in the sport than I am. And that I'm not alone when I occasionally hear a triathlon term that I'm not familiar with. 

While at the breakfast, pros Matt Hanson and Kelly Williamson were there and gave a small speech about their entrance into the sport and even gave some advice for us age group athletes. One piece of advice that Matt Hanson gave really resonated with me. He said, "When you're on the run, you have the control. There's no current to slow you down. You can't get a flat tire. You control your fate on the run. Be smart and use the run to your advantage." I've never thought about that before. But it really made me think about how important it is to race smart before the run so I can have the control. I shoved that into the back of my mind and made a mental note to bring it back on race day. 

Afterwards we headed to the Ironman Village and went through the check-in process and met up with a few people from home that were also racing. One thing was for sure: it was hot and humid and everything was wet. I immediately broke a sweat started to take in as much water as I could. The 3 of us were in for a hot day on race day. While we were roaming around the Ironman Village, we received an email stating that the swim course had to be modified due to the canal portion not passing the water safety test. We would now be swimming an out and back loop, meaning there were going to be 2 separate transition locations on race day. Not the end of the world, but definitely added to the excitement of the weekend. 

Fancy Mdot!

Expo time!

Because we forgot to invite Ryan in the picture.

Friday morning Jacqui woke up on her 30th birthday to a slew of cards and gifts that Ryan had gathered for her in secret from friends and family all over the country. She cried some happy tears, drank her birthday latte from Aimee, and even snuck in a chocolate or 2 from Ryan for breakfast. Conveniently, I was able to tell her that my "gift" was still in Crystal Lake and that Jack (my father) was flying down with it today. None of that was a lie ;) 


Celebrations didn't last to long because we had business to take care of! First off, it was time to test out the bikes and make sure everything was in working order. The 3 of us took off for a short 30 minute spin around Aimee's neighborhood to make sure the bikes were race ready. We did a couple loops around a neighborhood and even found a nice long stretch of road that took us down a long out and back. Of course Ryan pulled out his phone to take pictures of Jacqui and I as we passed him, making me extremely nervous. However, turns out my nerves should have been placed elsewhere. Like when we were on the way back home and I see Jacqui ride over a tiny twig that pulled up a huge branch into her spokes and flipped her over her handlebars. Her feet went over her head and she landed flat on her stomach and her bike landed right on top of her. I immediately panicked and swerved around her, yanked my brakes, and threw my bike to run back to her. She was motionless and scared both Ryan and I to death. Thankfully she was OK and only suffered some cuts on her arms and legs, but had a nice little raspberry on her hip that was definitely going to take some time to heal up. Not the best way to start off your 30th year, but thankfully she wasn't injured and still able to race the next day.

After a little shake out run post bike ride, the 4 of us packed up the van and headed to check in our bikes and gear bags! Once again, the heat had made it's appearance and was not about to let up anytime soon. As I left Matilda in transition I was dripping in sweat, yet again. But, I knew this race was going to be anything chilly when I signed up.

Post bike crash, Pre bike check-in

Matilda and I were both RACE READY!

It was finally time for the pre-race meal and birthday surprise! The plan was simple: My dad and Jess were going to be at the restaurant waiting for us to get there. In the midst of all the Ironman excitement, Jacqui had left her renewed drivers license at home. So Jack was able to bring it with him so she could get home without TSA troubles. Except, when we arrived at the restaurant, Jess was going to be sitting at the bar with her ID. We walked in and my dad was walking towards the front door. Jack, being the super suave man that he his, snagged Jacqui and said, "Come grab your ID before I forget!" and he lead her around the opposite side of the bar, where Jess was sitting. The rest of us stayed up front to watch and we instantly saw Jacqui's hands cover her face and the water works were in full stream. SUCCESS! I ran over to them so I could join in on the group hug. This might have been my favorite moment of the whole weekend. The 3 musketeers were together and ready to conquer IMTX!

Jess and Dad sharing a beer, pre-surprise!

After some tears, we gave her our gift. 30 gifts that symbolize what it means to be 30!

Pre-Race meal!


I woke up on race day to a knock on my bedroom door. Who would wake me up before my alarm goes off on race day? "Come in!" I yelled. No one entered. NOW I HAVE TO GET OUT OF BED TOO!? I see Ryan standing at my door dressed and ready for the day. "What are you doing, it's 4:50!" 


I had overslept. Not just overslept a little, but it was TIME TO LEAVE already. If you know me, you know how much my anxiety kicked in. I can't handle the pressure of THINKING about being late, let alone actually living the nightmare of maybe missing the race! After a few not so nice words, I frantically grabbed a cup of coffee and a banana, changed my clothes super fast, put my hair up and we were out the door in 15 minutes. We had 2 stops to make before making our way to the starting line. We had to drop off the van near transition 2 and add nutrition to our run bags in transition 2, then we had to make our way to the start. I was so worried about ruining everyone else's day on top of mine. After it was all said and done, I realized that I had set my alarm for 3:30am WEEKDAYS, not weekends. Guess who's OCD about checking their alarm clock now? 

Aimee and her husband Rob (that was nice and confusing all weekend) were so kind and drove us around that morning so we never had to worry about where to park. Within a half mile of the house, I realized I had left all of my swim stuff back at the house. Immediately the water works started, but Ryan pulled a massive U-Turn and told me I needed to calm down. If only he knew how hard that was for someone like me. Easier said than done.

While we were dropping off the van and gathering all of our things to transfer cars, I hear Aimee and Rob's SUV start to play magical Disney music. Rob's face was priceless all while "Hakuna Matata" filled the parking garage. It wasn't until that moment that I FINALLY was able to relax. I was going to make the race start. I just had to cool my jets a little. The only issue that left me a little uneasy was the fact that my "morning routine" wasn't complete and I was about to embark on a full Ironman without completing the digestion process that mother nature bestows upon us. I'll save you all details, just know that I made it to the finish line before that process was complete. That is something I've never done on a random Tuesday, let alone on a huge race day.

Aimee and Rob dropped off the 4 of us at bike transition/race start. Ryan, Jacqui, and I headed to body marking and to prep our bikes while Rob went to find my father and Jess. A mere 15 minutes before the race start, we finally met up with them and were able to get our swim skins on and snag one fast group picture. As soon as we said goodbye, we heard the National Anthem start and we realized we were no where near the rest of the athletes. We found a way to hop the fence and sneak our way into the starting area, extremely close to the front of the line. Jacqui and I said our final goodbyes to Ryan as he headed to the very front. And the next thing I knew, I was racing. 

Ready to have some F-U-N


The swim course had been changed only 2 days before the race and I had not seen an updated map. I only knew that it was a pretty straight shot all the way to the end of Lake Woodlands and back. It didn't take long at all for me to get comfortable. I had been working on my swim a lot over the winter with Jess and was excited to see what I was capable of. Aside from the fact that the water was extremely murky with minimal visibility, I was feeling pretty good! I was never crowded for space. Generally in the swim, I get passed more often than not. And the same went for today, I was definitely being passed by some speedy men. But, I was also doing some of the passing. This was new to me! Either I was passing someone that should have started farther back, or I was stronger in the water than I thought. Once I hit the the 6th turn buoy on the way back, I was definitely starting to get tired. You have to remember, the last time I swim 2.4 miles was for my first Ironman almost 2 years ago in Madison. The swim in Maryland was cut short at the last minute due to some nasty winds on the water. I willed myself to keep pace. I have no idea if I was slowing down or not, but I was determined to make it out of the water in a respectable time. I wanted to know that all of my hard work over the winter had paid off. Just before we made the final turn to the swim exit, my goggles got extremely tight and I felt as though my eyeballs were going to pop out of their sockets. Don't stop to adjust them now, you're practically on your bike already. I swam as long as possible and stood up with only a few steps to take in the water. I ripped my goggles off to find my watch hit 1:19:00 even as I crossed the timing pad. 6 minutes faster than my Madison swim. To bad the race wasn't wetsuit legal

Swim Skins are much easier to remove than wetsuits!

Not my best look


I bypassed all the peelers but could feel people pulling at my swim skin zipper as I made my way to my bike bag. I had the skin past my hips when I reached my bike bag, and bolted into the women's change tent and immediately dumped my bag. As I was taking off my skin I heard a familiar voice and look up to see Aimee! She was a volunteer captian and was placed in the women's change tent at the last minute. She took my food and bike tools and put them in my jersey, handed me my sunglasses and helmet and I was on my way after only 3 minutes and 51 seconds


{Background on the bike: the bike course had to be changed due to major construction projects that affected the bike course. A few weeks before the race, we heard that the bike distance was being adjusted from 112 miles to 95 miles due to some massive flooding the city encountered a month before the race.}

Going into the bike, my goal was simple: be smart on the new twisty course, take in all my nutrition, and have fun. I exited transition with my bike and immediately saw my dad, Rob, and Jess on the corner. I flashed my smile, mounted the bike, and I was off. The first 20 miles or so of the course offer ALOT of turns, which meant alot of slowing down and speeding back up. I did my best to control the turns at a speed that wouldn't hurt me to much, but it wasn't always easy when there were 3 bikes taking the turns at the same time. At mile 10 I heard a voice behind me, "HEY!!" and immediately I knew who it was. Jacqui. I couldn't believe it. I had exited the water before Jacqui? How was this possible? She passed me like I was standing still, smiling the whole time. I tried to keep her in my sights as long as possible but it was a lost cause. She was a BULLET on the bike. I lost her within about 2 minutes. Once my watch hit 1 hour, I was shocked to see that I was averaging over 19.5 mph! How long would this last? I know this course is flat and fast, but wow. 

Lots of crowded turns the entire ride

I found my groove after the first hour. I made sure to treat the aid stations like gold. Grab the water bottle, refill my front aero bottle, pour the rest on my face, grab a banana, and discard any trash that I had. I didn't miss a beat at any aid station. I was almost through the 3rd aid station when I see a familiar face out of the corner of my eye. The next thing I knew I heard, "HODE!" Lindsey and Ian had flown into Houston at 11pm the night before and made their way to the race ready to help, and that they did. They volunteered at an aid station and I was SO EXCITED to see them as I flew by. I remember being instantly filled with a rush of adrenaline and screaming at them. I was on cloud 9 and there wasn't much that could bring me down. 

The sun showed little mercy while on the bike!

About halfway through the bike I could feel my face getting hot. I was cruising at 20-22mph creating a nice breeze for myself and all I could feel were my extremely flush cheeks. Drink drink drink. Eat eat eat. Do not let the heat break you. Coming off of a Chicago winter, I was nervous for how my body would react to the 90 degree temps and humidity. So far, so good. As long as I kept my nutrition in, I was in good shape. About mile 40 I was pleasantly surprised to see my support crew on the side of the road! I was positive they wouldn't make it to the bike course considering we rode on a lot of highways and main roads that had ALOT of traffic. But Dad, Rob, and Jess fought the Houston traffic like champs for me and made me smile even more. My day was going WELL better than planned and I was thrilled.

The support crew documenting the entire day

Jack Hode - the official Rybread Racing tracking driver!

I saw my first official SAG bike around the halfway mark. I was pretty far from another cyclist but immediately pulled back. I wasn't going to take any chances. Throughout the rest of the bike, I saw 4 athletes get called for drafting. The SAG crew was showing no mercy on this extremely tight and twisty bike course. The penalty tents were overcrowded each time I passed them. Be smart. Be smart. 

I look fast, don't I?

Right around mile 80 we rode over a small bridge and there was a bit of an unexpected bump. My front aero bottle went flying in the air but never hit ground. Half of my cage that holds it in place snapped in half and the bottle was hanging upside down outside of my aero bars. I was pretty startled and confused at the same time, but I flipped the bottle over and had to hold it in place for the last 15 miles, only leaving the aero position when absolutely necessary. Before I knew it the crowds were growing thick on the side of the road. I was closer to the end than I thought. 4 hours and 53 minutes later, I had averaged 19.4mph and was pretty proud of my consistency throughout the 95 mile course. 

I got off my bike and was immediately confronted by a VERY TALL volunteer who took my bike from me and told me to run! So I did! We had a short little run to get to our run bags and into the transition tent. People were walking through the bags and I started hoping over bags just to get around people. While I was dodging people and gear bags, I heard Rob and my dad yelling at me just outside the fence. They were amazing. My little posse was following me all over! Once inside the tent, I took less than a minute to get my shoes on, dump my helmet, grab my run belt and hand held bottle, and splash some water on my face before I was on my way. With a total transition time of 3minutes and 43seconds, only a marathon stood between me and the finish line. 


I took off on the run and the first thing I noticed was my left quad was extremely tight. I used the first quarter mile to try and find my groove, and even stopped to use the porta potty for the first time that day. Before I hit mile 1 both of my quads were cramping like crazy. I stopped and looked down and both of my quads were pulsating from knee to mid thigh. I had to take about a minute to do the famous "quad stretch" on a nearby tree and rub them out. For a short while I was worried that this marathon wasn't going to happen if I couldn't get my cramping under control. I had someone lookin' out for me because it seemed to do the trick. I took a decent gulp from my hand held bottle that consisted of more salt than most people consume in a week to try and replace some sodium and I was on my way. 

The first lap I had one thing on my mind: stay cool. Every aid station I made sure to load up on ice that I dumped down my shirt. I dumped plenty of water on my head and took orange slices like it was candy. About mile 5.5 of the first lap, you enter the canal and waterway portion of the course that is loaded with spectators. Just after mile 6 I spotted my support crew on the side of the road. Rob behind the lense of the camera, Dad screaming at the top of his lungs, and Jess frolicking like a cheerleader. As I ran by I gave Jess a sweaty hug and half drug her next to me for a few steps. It was just what I needed to pick up my hot and sweaty spirits. Nearing the end of the first lap, I checked my overall time and did some quick math. If Ryan was having a good day, I should be seeing him on the turn around very soon and he should be headed into the finish. And sure enough, there he was. He was moving at a blazing fast pace and gave me a quick wave and that was the only time I saw him. Just after that I saw the support crew again and told them to be on the lookout for Ryan to finish shortly. Rob hushed me with a kiss and I was on my way. Little did I know, that would be the last time I saw them before the finish.

The heat makes Megan an angry runner sometimes

The second lap. Oh.. that second lap.  About mile 9.5 I spotted an old co-worker from Health Bridge! Her husband works in The Woodlands so she made the trip down for the race. She was all smiles. Of course I told her that I was not used to the heat and she told me that it was only 40 degrees at home. WHAT. Just my luck. 

Only a few steps away from her and on the other side of the road I heard my name again. IAN AND LINDSEY STRIKE AGAIN! I was so happy to see them. I said my brief hello and told them to meet me near the waterfront because they would have more chances to run into me. Little did I know, that would be the last time I saw them before the finish line too. 

Hey! A cloud!

About mile 12, the sky started to turn black. I looked up and clouds were moving pretty quickly. The relief from the sun was much appreciated. But then, the thunder started and ALL of the athletes start to cheer. "Let it RAIN!!!" they yelled. And shortly after that I saw some lightning. Welp, this can't be good. By mile 13, it started to drizzle. A wonderful drizzle that cooled us and left us feeling refreshed. By mile 14 (back onto the waterway) it was far from a drizzle and was definitely considered a heavy rain. By mile 15 the rain was coming down in buckets and sheets. The winds were out of control. I was having some serious flashbacks to the the California International Marathon 2012 when it didn't stop monsooning for 72 hours (but the sun came out at mile 25 of the marathon).

At some point I spotted Jacqui on the other side of the canal and she was walking and limping pretty badly. My heart sunk. I stopped running and yelled her name as loud as I could. With the wind and the rain I didn't expect her to hear me, but she did. She yelled back and all I could make out was, "I pulled something in my hip, I'm quitting!" Damn, that bike accident hurt her worse than we thought. My heart broke for her, but I knew she was making the right decision. She had just spent the last 9 months healing her foot. I don't blame her for pulling the plug to avoid another injury. 

And once I hit mile 16, the storm hit an all time high. The winds were worse than anything I've ever experienced (including my most recent "marathon" in Clearwater). And then, hail. Yep. I can now add hail to the list of weather conditions I've raced in. It was coming down just as heavy as the rain. With my freshly burned skin I felt like I was being cut all over my body. I reached the turn around and the wind was now in my face and the hail was hitting me head on. I had to shield my face with my hands and even had to back peddle for a short stretch to avoid getting pelted in the face with the quarter sized hail that was coming from the sky. Of course the spectators fled during this point, which is why I never saw the support crew until the end of my 3rd lap. By mile 17 the hail stopped and by mile 18 the rain was a light drizzle again. 

Drowned rat. Wet Dog. Whatever you wanna call it, I was soaked all day long.

I later heard that race officials actually STOPPED the race during the storm. I never saw a race official stop anyone. I just kept running. I saw plenty of athletes hiding for cover under pedestrian bridges, but no one ever stopped me and said, "Mam, you can not continue." Of course the weather caused some issues with the online tracking and live broadcast meaning that my mom and brother were at home worried sick. My mom tried to call my dad and Rob but neither answered their phones because they were trying to keep everything dry. Remember that panic attack I had when I slept in? Yea, my mom had a similar one right about this time of the race. 

Starting my 3rd and final lap with 8 miles to go I was saying my prayers and hoping that the sun wasn't going to come blazing down on us. Thankfully it didn't and the clouds hung around. The last miles were rough. I was a drowned rat. My shoes sloshed with every step I took. I was beyond tired. All I wanted to do was reunite with my entire group and be done with this race. When I hit mile 22 I found my 2nd wind. My pace picked up drastically and I was determined to find the finish line as soon as possible. Right as I reached mile 25, it started to lightly drizzle again. Awesome, this should be fun. I took the left hand turn down the waterway and heard my name, "HODE!" Rob! Rob has spotted me! I turned around and knew he would want to know where I was mile-wise. "1 mile honey, I'm 1 mile away!" I yelled. I had more adrenaline in my system at that point then maybe the entire race. The last mile seemed to take forever, when really it was one of my faster miles. The closer I got to the finish line, the more the rain picked up. I reached one of the final turns into the finish shoot and I was greeted with massive crowds and cheers from every direction. I had done it. I saw (and heard) my dad and Rob on one side of the street and Jess was on the opposite side. I hugged the turn close to her and gave her the biggest high five as I made my way to the chute. One the very last turn, I saw Ian and Lindsey, screaming at the top of their lungs. As I made the turn I saw 2 men in front of me. My options were: 1. Slow down and let them finish ahead of you. 2. Blow past these guys make this finish one for the books. Any guesses as to what I chose? 

Amazing action shot as I high-fived Jess.

RyBread Racing

So incredibly happy.

I sprinted across that finish line and was greeted by a wonderful volunteer who was ready and willing to do anything for me. "Water? Gatorade? Do you need to sit? Let me get you your medal and your finish shirt. Wow, you're walking pretty good!" Bless that man's heart. Those volunteers do so much and I kept telling myself make sure you thank him! I think I told him thank you as he left me, but I can't remember for sure. If by some miracle he finds his way to this blog, THANK YOU KIND SIR! 

I finished that marathon in 4 hours and 42 minutes with a final finish time of 11hours and 2minutes placing 21st in my age group. Considering the HUGE competition and crazy weather conditions in this race, I was thrilled with my results. I did some quick math and if the bike course would have been the normal 112 miles, I would have easily finished sub 12 hours, a HUGE success on such a challenging day. 


I reunited with everyone. Rob, Dad, Jess, Jacqui, Ryan, Ian, and Lindsey. They were all waiting for me. How'd I get so lucky? I was 1000 miles away from home and I had a slew of support for this race. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little teary eyed. My heart was so full and you couldn't have wiped that smile off my face. Once I began to collect myself, I learned that my speedy coach took home the overall amateur win. I wanted to cry I was so happy for him. This man works his ass off and deserves every ounce of this success. Jacqui was hobbling pretty badly and I wanted to cry for her too. What she did that day was SO admirable. I can't imagine having to make a decision like she did. She's a stronger person than I am, and give her all the credit in the world for making the smartest decision. 

After we trudged through the rain to get our bikes and gear, we headed out to celebrate a great race day with Mexican food after a quick shower. I sat at dinner and took in the moment. This race seemed to fall into my lap and now it was over already. I was surrounded by nothing but love. I felt like I had joy oozing out of my pores. I was so sad to end the weekend. Post race pictures had to take place at dinner because the weather at the finish line was definitely less than ideal to have a camera or phone visible. 


Margaritas for everyone!

And we're the 3 best friends that anyone could have!

Our lovely hosts for the weekend. Maybe we shouldn't have made them sit in the back of the van?

Looking back, we were extremely lucky to even have this race in the first place. The bike course fiasco started back in January and wasn't resolved until 3 weeks before the race. There were a few times when I found myself wondering, There might not be an Ironman Texas this year. But once again, Ironman pulled it off. And well. Thank you to The Woodlands for allowing us to uproot your lives for such an amazing event. This community had every chance to put the kibosh on this race. Instead, they hosted one of the best races with some of the most amazing volunteers, and I couldn't be happier about it. Thank you to Ironman for fighting to find us a bike course at the last minute. Thank you to Aimee and Rob for allowing the 4 of us to invade your home for Ironman week. Thank you to my other half, Rob, for never questioning what makes me happy, and ALWAYS being right by my side when I compete. Thank you to Ryan for his patience and continued support for me. Thank you to Jacqui for teaching me what it means to be a smart athlete and listen to your body. Thank you to my parents for raising to me to always pursue my will to succeed deep within my soul. Thank you to ALL of my family and friends for the continued outpouring of love. 

I might have crossed an Ironman finish line only 5 days ago, but the season has just begun. Fasten your seat belts, kids.