It was in that moment, the one where I was holding the finish tape that I finally took a breath and realized I won. For just over 9.5 hours it felt like an uncomfortable hunt, I was the hunted. If for even a moment I let up, gave up, or caved into the pain, I'd of lost the moment to win my first Ironman. A moment most girls who get their pro cards dream of...mine has now happened to me.
Coming into the Ironman it felt as if I had nothing to lose. Most of my sponsors have dropped me, for almost the last 3 months I've been coaching myself, and it just felt as if something I love so much (triathlon) was slipping through my hands. When I look around at my life though, the things that matter most (family and friends), are as strong as ever. The love that has been lavished upon me within my community, the people in my life, and those that have reached out from afar has given me an inner strength that perhaps had more to do with this win than the miles spent training. And to Hawaii, this win is ours, the very first Ironman title by a man or woman from our state.
Photo thanks to Ali Elgin
The swim was the usual, get in and go for 2.4 miles trying to stay on feet. It was on the bike that the moment of taking a chance came into play. About a mile into the bike I caught up to Nina. (The race favorite), we had a few trade-offs for the lead. After about 15 miles I noticed I was making gains on her on the climbs and the descents, it was the flats we were more evenly matched. With that I decided to make a move down a hill then fly up a hill and no longer trade off these up and down hill lead battles, but go out on my own.
In my head I would hear Patrick Evo (Men's race winner). He left me with 2 prerace thoughts. 1. Eat a lot on the first and last 10 miles of the ride. 2. Don't be a first loop superhero. (the bike is 2 loops). With Chris McDonald's (2nd place man) plan in place (eat till you throw up), I was good to go. I ate so much it was disgusting. Anything and everything, just stuffing myself silly. When my stomach felt so full that I would barf I stopped taking calories, when it felt light I'd shove more in. It was pretty awesome and worked really well. As for the first loop, I stayed as calm as I could and the second loop I just smiled (cried a little too), full of emotion to be out leading the race. The plan was to put time into Nina (she can run), little did I know she actually dropped out of the race at some point...but that time would be very important for the run, as eventual 2nd place woman can RUN.
On the run it was all about heart. Coming into this Ironman was last minute, like 14 days ago kind of thing. That meant one long run of 17 miles all season, that run was also broken (13 in the morning, 4 in the evening). For a girl like me, miles do matter and I was short, but it was all that would happen in 14 days unless I wanted to fry myself for the start line (good self coaching plan, right?). The run was the most amazing part of the day for me. Never have I been so forced to dig deep than I was out there in Louisville and never has the combination of physical and mental pain landed in so much pleasure.
Somewhere around mile 19 I heard a crew of Jackie's supporters saying, "You got this Jackie (2nd place woman), this is yours, stay smooth, you are going to take it". She was on my heals. I knew she was closing in but literally a 3 minute lead went to 2, to 29 seconds in a matter of a mile! I could hear her, hear them, and I began to cry. My quads were aching like nothing I ever felt, my brain hurt from trying so hard to stay strong out there all day, blisters were taking over, my heart started to get sad. Honestly, she wanted it, she was runner up last year and was ready to be 1st this year, but I wanted it more. I saw my friend Michelle (Ironman Oz winner) on her first loop and she saw the entire "almost pass" unfolding. She said, "Bree it will all be worth it, you are still in front". I was in front, I was going to stay there, determined like never before. I told myself, "Bree, you can fall at the finish line, you can pass out, collapse, even black out, but you will not give up no matter how bad it hurts.". I was in so much pain tears were blurring my vision but Michelle was right, to lose would hurt worse, this pain is worth the win, especially being this close, hold on for another 40 minutes Bree...
I put my head down, thinking of all the help I do have, telling myself, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", and then I saw Kainoa's little face. 6 miles to go. 5 miles to go. 4 miles to go. I looked back, I had too, she was there, but I wasn't sure how close anymore. The day I win an Ironman my vision would be to enjoy it, to high five the crowds, smile, soak it in, and collect memories of the finish line awaiting me, I did not want a sprint finish with Jackie (who I know can run very well). And off I went like a mom on a mission...
My entire body paid the price for sure, I threw up (And more) all over myself after making it through the medical tent (sorry for the disgusting details). My body literally gave all it had and my heart was thankful it did. I am an Ironman Champ and that is something that I once thought other girls, not ones from small Big Islands, get to be. It was a beautiful day in my life. Above and beyond words thankful for the support out there, cheers from strangers and friends. From volunteers and family, it was a moment that I get to own forever...
The men's winner, a few of the other pro men, and I landed at the finish line to pass out finish medals to the final finishers of Ironman Louisville. It's pretty special being part of someones finish line. The emotions, the tears, the thrill of it all, I just loved it. And let me tell you, this race has one of the best finish lines ever! At 11:15 this morning is the big awards ceremony, 11:15 this morning is also the start of Kainoa and my
15 hour journey back to Hawaii...sadly, I won't be there to give my first ever speech! Kind of bummed about not being part of the celebration & showing appreciation and thanks, but the best part, that finish line was more than enough.
Lots of Aloha,