The goal was to finish. Last years race was devastating.Pulled off the course in 2012 46 miles into the bike sick as a dog was enough to break your spirit right then and there. Obviously, since I signed up as soon as registration opened for 2013, I wasn’t built to break.
Time for redemption.
Yet, in Jan 2013, my body started to fail me. the foot injury, despite 2 x-rays, 2 podiatrists, 1 chiropractor, ended up having to resolve on its own. It took damn near into June before I could run pain free. I also got sick with the flu, then bronchitis. I has some other physical challenges…old lady ‘ish…that also set me on my heels. By then my training, especially the run, but pretty much everything else, SUFFERED. I pushed through. I endured. I had signed up for several races so I had to keep moving forward, no matter how slow. I probably should have sat out a few and fully recovered. Hind sight is 20/20. I paid the price.
When I reviewed my early season races thru June, it was a comedy of errors and pain. It took the Maryland Olympic Duathlon with the dramatical finish for me to confront reality that if I didn’t get some help, then going back to Cozumel was going to be a total waste.
I enlisted the help and coaching of Danny & Suzy Serpico and the goal was set. Bottom line, they could help me, but let’s be real….with starting up in July on the Serpico plan, the goal for Cozumel was to FINISH. PERIOD.
I could live with that. As training progressed and smaller goals were achieved, my confidence built. I WAS going to get it done. I WAS going to finish. I was going to need every second up to the cut off to do it. There was going to be no room for error. I was going to have to give it my all on the swim and bike to buy me enough time on the run. Jesus be some bio freeze and a pain free foot. Grant me Your mercy on that run course to give all I had and bring me in. This was my prayer.
God had bigger plans for me. Little did I know as I toed the line last Sunday morning that everything I am; everything I knew to be true would be tested. Little did I know that what would happen and what I did; how I reacted would be a testimony.
I needed all 8 hours. Matter of fact I needed all the time till the cutoff – 8:30 till the clock stops. EVERY SINGLE SECOND. It could be done.
The night before the race, I was laying out my clothes. I was wearing my West Point Triathlon Team gear. I kept hearing in my head…DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY…you WILL do it. So, I wrote down this part down on my transition card (which I had already memorized so many years ago):
Duty, Honor Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith, when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn
~ GEN Douglas MacArthur
Again, little did I know that I would have to fall back on this numerous times during the race. So here goes:
SWIM 45:53 (Beat last years time by 13 min)
The morning was glorious. There was a short rain storm during transition set up but by the time the elite athletes took to the water the sky was clear, the air cool and the water beautiful and calm. I was in the 1st wave of age groupers at 7:06 am. I got in the water and swam what I believed was a steady, even pace. I got to the turn around, looked at my watch – 18 min!! and told myself to SWIM LIKE A SHARK IS BEHIND ME AND YOU LOOK LIKE A SEAL (I resemble that remark) I thought for sure I could co 35-40 min – not speedy gonzalez, but shiiiiiittt!!! GO LISA! SWIM, GIRL, SWIM!
When I got to the final turn buoy to the finish gate, it was if I had entered an underwater boxing ring. People were grabbing, pulling, punching. Someone grabbed my leg/ankle and pulled my timing chip loose. I had to tread water to keep it from sliding further down my foot and to the bottom about 30 ft. down to tighten it back. I had to do it twice. Finally secured, I got my fight on and swam that last 100 m like a prize fighter. No more open, relaxed hands, I now had fists! I threw my elbows into it and kicked anything that touched me on my way to that ramp like my life depended on it. I was OUT! I think I could have done 38-40 if it wasn’t for the timing chip incident but I hit my swim goal. Nuff said.
It is a long run from swim exit to the transition area. Even longer if you were in the last row. I had my transition card with exactly what to do ready. Followed it. Still took more time that I thought.
I had already done the math. To finish in under 4 hours (less would be better), I needed to average 14-15mph. I was feeling good, elated even despite the fact that everyone ( and I mean EVERY. SINGLE. ONE) was blowing by me yelling “vamanos”. Uggaaaahhh! I knew I had to pick up the pace, I felt I had the gas in the tank to make a go for it. My toes started to have severe cramps, but instead of stopping, I loosened my shoe, pulled my foot out, pressed my heel into the back of the shoe and moved out like I stole something.I was pulling it off.
TIP: Training on the hills of Howard County DOES NOT prepare you for a flat course. AT ALL. Note to self…next time, put in some significant hours on the trainer. Some good ole Sufferfest will maximum suffering will get you ready. You get to rest on hills. Flat courses require you to pedal ALL THE DAMN TIME. No rest – EVER!
N.E.WAY…The clouds started to roll in. I thought nothing of it except, “Sweet! No more sun on my back.” I was thinking pushing this last 20 miles might hurt me on the run, but I had bio freeze waiting for me in T2 I would just have to suck it up. If I had maintained what I was doing I would have 3:30 for the half before they shut it down. I thought…Imma do this!
…and that is when, as my husband described it to me, FORCE MAJEURE – an unexpected or uncontrollable event; an extraordinary event beyond the control of parties (ME) – happened.
The skies opened up and dumped its entire contents on the island of Cozumel. I went from being able to see almost a mile out, to not being able to see 50 ft. in front of me. From bone dry road to streams so deep in the road (and moving) that when my pedal hit the lowest point, my foot was under water. I was fording streams on my bike – unsure if there were hazards in the road; unsure of how to handle a bike in that much rain; wondering if I should keep riding since where there is thunder, there must be lightening, right? The aid station was abandoned. No police. I never saw another race official until I was on the run. I had no idea where to go as I got closer to the Bike In. I couldn’t see the cones until I got up on them. If it wasn’t for people in doorways pointing the way I’m not sure how I would have made it in. Ron and Erin told me later that one of the Elite athletes stopped and asked if they knew who that lady was who just came in. He said, “Impressive. I wouldn’t have continued in this rain. It is not safe.”
Duty, Honor, Country…to build courage when courage seems to fail. It was failing me. I was skerred FO SHO but I kept moving. I slowed down, stayed in the center of the road – moved forward. It cost me 30+ min. 30 min I couldn’t make up anywhere else. 30 mins I absolutely needed. I entered T2 with a heavy heart, knowing I didn’t have an under 3 hour half marathon in me…but I damn well was going to try.
Why?!!! When I got in there, I racked my bike and looked around for my run bag. NOT THERE!!! I freaked out. The bag, as was told to us at the mandatory meeting would be at the bike rack. I’m screaming at the transition volunteers WHERE IS MY BAG?!!!…and nobody spoke English. I sobbed. Then I yelled at myself to pull your sh$t together. GET A GRIP, LISA! and in my best Spanglish…”Donde esta mi bag roja!!!!” They asked for my number, I guess, since all I understood was “numero” 5-9-1. Blank stare. 5-9-1!! Blank stare. Blink. CINCO-NUEVE-UNO!!!! Despair. My best laid plans…poof. I threw on my socks, shoes, belt and ran out of transition.
Total race time was now 5:24 min. I need to do the half in 3:06 to beat the cut off/shut down.
Duty, Honor, Country…to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith…to create hope when hope becomes forlorn
RUN: Approx. 3:26
Chanting, calling cadence in my head…I was going to give it a good ole run for my money. It was still pouring on and off. There were huge puddles/streams in the street that we all had to run or at times wade through. The experience was surreal. I kept moving forward.
As I approached the turn around at 6:05 miles – right in front of the the finish chute – I looked at my time and KNEW that I wouldn’t make it in time on the second loop. I actually thought – entertained the notion – as I made the turn and had to choose a lane…finish line or second lap, that I could just go to the finish line. Nobody would know. It would be over. I would know and I sobbed as I chose the second loop. Cheaters never win. That’s not who I am. The despair and anguish HAD to be all over. I knew I wouldn’t make the cut off…but I would give it my best shot. I would still cross that finish line.
…and then my husband and Princess Cara ran that second loop with me following on the sidewalk the entire 6:05 long azz miles.
I finally ran across the finish line 20 min after the cutoff. The clock was off. I was alone. No finish line picture except for the one my mother took. No announcer. No officials. No anything. Just me and the finish line. I crossed.
I felt like a failure. I cried as I stood there and The FireMarshall walked up beside me and said, “Remember your rally points. You came to finish and you did. That was the most courageous performance I’ve ever seen. You are an Ironwoman in my book. Head up.”
Si se puede – YES YOU CAN. YES IT CAN BE DONE.