Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ironman Arizona 70.3 - October 16, 2016

Where do I even start?  If you asked me a year ago if I would have been interested in running an Ironman event, I probably would have laughed and said no way!  For those of you who don't know, I've always had a lot of water anxiety, and the distance and cut off times were daunting.  But I also realized that a certain person and period of my life, related to my past, have been holding me back and causing so much fear from the failure I experienced during that time.  I only recently stopped having nightmares about those things and times, but I still held on to that fear of failure.  I then realized why I had been so scared to commit to something as grand as Ironman.  I also realized the true purpose of why I started training for my first triathlon 9 years ago with Team in Training.  It wasn't just to raise money for Blood Cancer Research for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, but it was a way to gain strength and independence, and to hold on to a piece of the fearless person I used to be.  And I have been fighting for that person since.  Triathlon has been that rock I clung to in order to remember that person and to slowly get her back.  And thus, I realized the purpose for this race... to let go of that fear and to get back the Joyce that wasn't afraid of anything... to cut the last cord that has been holding me back over all these years and to go for my dreams!

I really didn't have any intention of running any half iron distance triathlons this year.  I just happened to get sucked in to all the excitement of watching my teammates train and kill their races.  It all started with signing up for Ironman St. George as a relay, on a whim 5 months ago.  Then, seeing that the swim was a wave start, and not a mass start, I felt like it was possible!  So I began my training.  I went through good training weeks and horrible training weeks.  There were weeks where I just wanted to throw in the towel, and times where I was secretly hoping that I'd get injured so I could call it off and get my money refunded (not really, but I thought it at times).  There were moments of super highs, and moments of disastrous lows that left me with anxiety and the fear of failure.  Brineman Olympic Tri was my last triathlon before Arizona, and was just the race I needed to build my confidence back up. 

I will admit that my emotions went on a roller coaster two weeks prior to the event.  It was the worst the Tuesday of the week of Arizona!  But with the help of some healing crystals (aquamarine and citrine) and reprogramming and setting an intention for them, as well as a lot of prayer, my anxiety was quelled.  The intentions I programmed my crystals with were "Calmness.  Courage.  Confidence.  Finish."

My teammate, Gerald, and I made our way down to Tempe on Thursday.  We checked in at Ironman Village on Friday afternoon.

Once I got that wristband slapped on my wrist, there was no turning back.  It was now or never.  I didn't train this hard and this long to call it quits... and when I say I'm going to do something, I do it! 

We checked into the AC Hotel afterwards, which was conveniently located right near the village.  It was so hot, and I wasn't feeling well (I had been fighting a cold off early in the week, and was still feeling the effects) and wanted to get out of the blazing heat.  Brian finally made it down not too long after.  We all had dinner together and called it a night.

On Saturday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and went down to check in our bikes.  I actually went to have mine serviced, exchanged a few things from the Ironman shop, and then checked my bike in after it was ready to go.
I totally appreciated having an end spot on the bike racks!  I'm sure Sparkle (my bike) was a little intimidated by all these fast tri bikes, but I assured her that she was cut out for the job!

My long time friend, Theresa, who lives in Phoenix, took some time out and came to have lunch with me after I got all checked in!  I was so grateful that we got to take a few hours to catch up and chat.  It really helped calm more of my nerves!  My friends are the best!

 I also got to talk to my mother-in-law after lunch, and catch up! What a great afternoon!  When I got back, I got to meet Brian's wife, Cassia, who is another one of our SLTC teammates.  It was so fun having us all together!  We ended up going out to dinner together at La Bocca, a local pizza restaurant.

Then, we headed back to the hotel, and we got our gear bags packed, and everything we needed ready for race day!  I checked all the good vibes and messages that were being sent from friends on social media, then called it a night and got some good rest!

We were up around 430am/5am on Sunday morning.  We got our bags ready, tats put on, and then headed down to transition to set up!  The energy there was INTENSE and INCREDIBLE!  It was a little overwhelming, but it got me pumped!  The last race of this capacity that I participated in was Nation's Triathlon back in DC! 

I set up my spot, and then headed out of transition.  Transition closed at 6:30am.  I still had a good hour and a half to wait before my wave went off.  I got to see Gerald and Brian start and finish their swims.  I chatted with Cassia before I headed down to Swim Start.  I started to get nervous and my pre-race ritual started up too.  As I lined up, I chatted with a few of the girls in my wave.  One girl in particular that I met was Jen, from San Diego.  We were saying how we were all slower swimmers, and that we'd kind of stick together in the back.  It wasn't long before we were getting in the water, waiting for our wave to go off.  The water was warm, and it felt really good.  We had 8 minutes to warm up and get to the 1st buoy.  Can I just say how much I love open water starts?  (I hate running in from shore and having the water all choppy.)  Once the gun went off, I waited for 10 seconds and let the faster swimmers get a head start.  I stayed towards the back.  I felt great, and I had no anxiety!  When the next wave started catching up with us, I didn't even experience the anxiety I normally do when they start crawling over me!  I owned it and drafted them instead!  While sighting, though, I still felt like I was forever away from swim finish.  I had to keep reminding myself how far I've come, and that I was more than half way around!  Calmness, courage, and confidence in full effect!

I made it out of the swim with minutes to spare.  I loved having wetsuit strippers to help with getting that thing off.  I ran down the chute to transition, got to my bike, got my gear on, and headed out to bike out.  Mounted. Headed out for my 3 loops.  There was a bit of a breeze, but my legs hadn't yet transitioned over from the swim, so it took awhile to get into a rhythm.  I also didn't realize that my Garmin wasn't un-paused from the transition until maybe 2 miles into the bike.  Around mile 10, I felt like my body was super low, and my legs weren't as elongated as they should be.  When I looked down, my seat post had fallen.  I talked myself into staying calm, got out my bike tools, adjusted my seat, and headed back out onto the course.  A short while later, I heard a voice behind me, calling my name!  I couldn't see who it was, but as that person caught up to me, it was Jenn!  I was so very glad to see her!  She was out there killin it! 

 It was getting hot very quickly.  I was grateful for the aid stations on the bike.  I took water to refill and doused myself every time.  Before the end of the first loop, I started to have a moment of doubt, and a feeling of wanting to stop, but I kept reminding myself of my purpose... and told myself that I owed it to myself to do this, and that I had to prove to myself I could finish.  "Find that Joyce you once knew," was what I kept repeating to myself.  "Everyone believes in you.  It's time to start believing in yourself."  I loved all the encouragement and support along the bike course.  I felt a little bit alone on my 3rd loop of the bike, but I took it as an opportunity to really focus on why I was racing.  I finished up, and headed back in for T2.

As I got back to my bike rack, my FitSister (from my Fit Girls Guide family on Instagram), Lindsey,
happened to be standing by my bike rack!  It was such a pleasure to finally meet her (even though I had but only a few minutes)! 
We had tried to meet up on Friday and Saturday, but time and circumstances didn't allow.  I'm just very glad I got to meet her, and that she was there to help so many of our fellow triathletes, and that I got to give her a big (I'm sure really sweaty and gross) hug before I took off for the run! 

Afterward, I got my run gear on, slathered on some sun screen, grabbed Luna, and headed out for the 13.1 mile run.  It was blazing hot!!!!  Lindsey caught this picture of me on my way out of T2.  Once again, they had aid stations all around the run course, which was a huge blessing!  The sun was scorching.  Every time I passed by one, I'd dump ice down my bra, down my back, and put some in my hat to avoid heat exhaustion.  My stomach had been queasy all day long, so it was difficult to even think about my nutrition.  I had to force water and electrolytes down.  I had to walk quite a bit because I felt like I could vomit at any point along the run... stuff just wasn't digesting like I wanted it to.

What's nice about the course is that it's a 2 loop run around Tempe Lake.  You could see Ironman Village along the route, so the goal is always in sight.  You also run into many of the athletes that are still out on the run, which makes it nice for conversation.  I chatted with a few people along the way, who reminded me that no matter what happens at the end of the day, I was out here doing it, and that we're out there doing more than a lot of other people would ever consider doing and to consider it a blessing!  Someone even asked me the story about Luna! 

Around mile 4, I thought I saw a semblance of a Bees jersey.  I ran ahead to catch up, and it was!  It was Jenn again!  I was so glad to see her!  She was on her second loop, but she hit "the suck" pretty bad.  I told her I'd walk with her since my stomach was still in knots.  We also met Linda, who also was walking, as she took a spill on the bike and was hurting.  It was fun to get to talk to her as well!  She was a complete trooper to continue on as she was!  As we reached mile 12, Jenn wanted to run, so I told her I'd run that last mile with her.  I gave her a huge hug before she headed off to the finish, and I started on my second loop.

Jenn told me I was just what she needed at the time, which made this race so much more meaningful to me.  I'm grateful that I ran into her when I did.  We've been cheering each other on this whole season, and I'm glad I got to run this race with her!

As I made my way around the second loop of the run, I started to feel really funny.  Instead of being super hot and sweaty, I was dry and getting cold.  Not good.  I knew I probably needed to hydrate more.  I started to walk more and more, but I tried to hang on to a solid power walk to keep a faster pace.  Keep moving forward, Joyce.  Just keep moving forward.  You can't stop now.  Not finishing is not an option.

As I approached the pedestrian bridge, I heard someone cheering my name.  Being so sunny and a ways off, I couldn't tell who it was... and then I saw... Theresa!  It was so nice to see a familiar face!  I told her how I was feeling, and all the mishaps going on, but she just kept throwing the positivity at me, which was just what I needed.  She walked/jogged with me for a bit, and then I headed off.  I knew I only had about 40 minutes left to finish... and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.  Around mile 10.5, I started to feel a little light headed.  I knew I had to get something in me.  When I hit the aid station, I downed just about everything they had... water, Gatorade, cola, Red Bull, pretzels, a banana, some orange slices, and washed it down with a little more water.  My stomach hated me after that, but I felt alive again.  If I hadn't, I think I might have passed out.  And I REFUSED to let anything stop me from finishing.  I reached the pedestrian bridge, and tried to will myself to run.  My lungs were on fire, and I felt my rib cage cramping.  I did a walk/run.  I reached mile 12, and had 10 minutes left.  I set off again and tried to run/walk, but my body was rebelling.  I took it two lamp posts at a time.  Time was running out.  I reached mile 13 and was just about at my time limit.  Theresa tried to push me forward... but I was running out of steam.  The finisher's chute looked long and un-ending. I sprinted the last little bit through the Finish Line and was so glad to be done!  The volunteers put the medal around my neck, and I stood there in un-belief that it was finally over!  I was so glad to be done!

Looking at my Garmin, I missed my cutoff time by 1 minute (which means I'd receive a DNF in terms of timing - cut off time is 8:30), but that didn't even matter to me at that point...  I FINISHED!!!!!   And you know what?  I proved to myself that I am Fearless!  I went out there and conquered all the fears that held me back in the past... water anxiety, failure, not being good enough.  I proved to myself that I AM GOOD ENOUGH!  And I proved it by showing up today, getting outside of my own head, and owning that course, no matter what I was feeling or what obstacles I was facing!  I know now that nothing can ever hold me back from what I set out to do, not even my past.  I am cutting the cord and saying goodbye to that part of me. 

I got to see my new friend, Jen, who I had met before my swim, finish not too long after me. 

Reflecting on it, it's still hard to fathom that it actually happened.  I was out there for so long, but it almost felt like a dream.  But don't worry, I have the soreness to remind me that it did. 

I'm grateful for all of you (family and friends) who have been following me and have been cheering me on along the way and from afar.  Your prayers, love, good vibes, and whatever else you want to call it have definitely been felt!  Thank you to Resa for being there to cheer me on during the race, and for being there at the end!  Love you!  I'm grateful for my SLTC family!  You all have been such a blessing in my life, and have made the past 2 years so much fun!  I'm so inspired by all of you, and you make a better triathlete!  I'm grateful for my OTFSLC and AGSaltLake families for helping me get stronger and achieve my goals, and for my FitGirls Family for keeping me accountable with my nutrition!  Thanks to Dr. Scott Asay and the Apollo Chiropractic team for keeping my spine healthy and for your support and encouragement!  I'm definitely grateful for my hubby, who has been so patient and supportive during my crazy training!  And I'm grateful to the Joycelyn, who I used to know, for coming back into my life. 

This journey has been an amazing one; definitely one that has been life changing.  I've gained new friends along the way, a new perspective... and I can't wait to see what opportunities I'll be chasing down next!  I love you all!  Thanks for being part of this journey... that's just beginning! 


  1. Amazing story! Can't wait to hear more of your journey!

    1. Thanks Chris! :D Who knows... I might just attempt a Full Ironman in the near-ish future! :)