Monday, November 19, 2012

So what is the hardest part of Ironman?

Standing in the elevator at work, a person in my building noticed my IM Florida Finishers jacket. He asked me, "So, what was the hardest part?" while pointing to my jacket.

I turned to him, smiled, and replied "Signing up."

I never would have been wearing that jacket if I did not start.  And believe me when I say that it takes the most courage to sign that piece of paper and hand over your $625-$700+ non-refundable entry fee.

Do you know why there are so few Ironman finishers in the world?  At IM Florida, they celebrated the 500,000th individual finisher of the Ironman races.  That is a lot of people in general, but that is over multiple races world-wide in all 30 years of the branded event as it is held today.  The reason why it has taken 30 years to hit half a million Ironman finishers is simple.  The fear of the unknown.

This will be my last post on the Journey to IMFL for now.  When I register for another IMFL, which I will and tentatively aiming for 2015,  I will re-open this blog and catalog my journey that year much better than I did this one.

I am taking away from this experience the knowledge that I can take on anything.   And more importantly, I am taking with me a lesson in how to start.

Long before my dreams of Ironman would come to fruition, I had a dream to be able to look into a mirror and love myself.

I realized that dream on this journey.   I found happiness in my flaws.  I stopped seeing myself as a body and started seeing myself as a person. A whole person.

The next year is going to be a tight and tough one for us, but one we will survive and thrive in I am sure.  I am taking a year off from Ironman training to focus on performance and the next phase of my body transformation.

I am returning to Ironman in 2014 with Ironman Wisconsin.  I am going to be training much differently the next few years, and with that comes additional excitement.

So I leave you with this, the final post of this particular leg of my journey. The message is simple.

Never give up, but more importantly have the courage to START.

Who knows where you will end up... but isn't that the fun of it?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Moving at the pace of success.

All day long I was waiting for the inevitable.  I was told by many people that during the course of an Ironman there will be high points and low points. That is only natural when you are moving forward from 10-17 hours.  It is how you deal with the low points that will determine how your day goes.

While I never had a low point mentally, the first 4 miles of the marathon was a physical low.  100% humidity, 80* heat, total sunshine beating down on us.

Not Michigan.

As I took off, I realized that my HR was off the charts high.  Where was Bonnie?  I need to know what to do! What do I do?!?!  I have a marathon and all ready I am entering my 10K HR zones.  I would never last if this kept up.

I went from my race plan of run to the aid station then walk 1.5 - 2 minutes for recovery, to run walking 3 minutes on, 1 minute off  for the first half of the first loop.  I had implemented my survival run/walk plan at mile 0.4.  This was not good.

Looking around though I realized that this was great.  People were passing out, fainting, puking, sitting on chairs awaiting for ambulances.  Whoa.  People were not going to finish this race, and it hit me that I was going to.  While it would be slow, it would be on plan. 

Do I want to burn out my body and risk heat stroke and kidney issues ( there were a lot of both that day), of did I want to take what Bonnie had taught me in training and make the plan work?  Here is the test.  It was now up to me to fly or fall out of the nest.  So Jenn, what do you do? You throw ego out the door and you execute that plan.

You walk and recover and wait out the sun, running when the HR is low enough to allow some foot time. And so I did.  By the time I hit the turn around point in the park at about mile 6.5, I realized that my HR was dropping and that I could sustain a run period more than walking.  At this time I was really close to two other women who were also run/walking. so I asked if I could run with them.  They said yes and it was the best thing ever.

Darcie and Victoria were so awesome to run with.  Floridians from further south, they were great company and made the miles FLY BY! 

Before we knew it we were back at the special needs bags at mile 13 and I was just a half marathon away from completing this journey.  I am a half marathoner so 13.1 miles was nothing.  Just keep on running!

At this point, I saw Mike again and darn near knocked him over as I ran to him and jumped on him.  I needed to see him right then.  It was the perfect pick me up.  Also my sister in law Lorraine and her boyfriend Tony had flown up that morning, so they surprised me by being there to cheer me on.  Lorraine ran with us a for bit and I told her all about the run so far. About the carnage that was out there but how I was not a part of it.

Today was not about ego.  Today was about celebrating the woman I had become.  I had enough time off of the bike that I could have walked the entire marathon and still had time to spare on the clock.  I wasn't going to push myself for a time on the clock.  I was going to be an Ironman no matter how long it took, so I chose to be smart, keep cool, keep the HR in check and let the race plan dictate the pace.

Darcie had never ran past 14 miles before, so after that mile marker we would yell "Mile xx IN yo face!  We only have xx more to go!"  Darcie really saved the run for me, because of her company and her absolutely awesome personality we became quick friends and made the marathon just a little 26.2 mile jog in the city.  

I took a special moment at mile 23 and made sure to slap that mile marker extra hard.  Me and mile 23 have a thing.  Never quitting again.

We met up with Steve, who was a friend of my tri captain whom he met years prior at IMFL.  By this time my foot was hurting and I decided that I was just going to walk the rest of the way.  We were only 2 miles away from the finish line and I was soaking in the last little bit of my very first Ironman adventure.

Every time someone would ask  us "What is your pace?"  I would respond "Success".  

I did not want it to end, but I was ready for the finish line.   I was ready for the season to be over.  I was ready to be a wife.  I was ready to have some time to reflect and relax.  I was ready for the diploma.

We made the last turn and found ourselves at the start of the finish chute.  From here on out it is all a blurr... bight lights, all the cheering, the high 5's from every single person... and the smile that I just could not wipe off of my face if I had to.

This moment was ours.  All the years leading up to this one moment... all the lessons learned, the friendships and bonds made... it was all here.  It was time.  Time to graduate into Iron.

*beep beep* went the timing mat as we crossed under the finish line arch at 11:06:25 PM.

"Jennifer Kryvicky... YOU... ARE... AN IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!"

Yes.  Yes I am.

Myself and Darcie finishing strong and happy

I nailed the execution.  I soaked in every minute.  I even made a new friend who made the day extra special for me with her laughter and non-stop smiling as well. 

I had estimated a 6:30-7 hour marathon based on expected HR, and I finished the marathon in just over 7 hours. 

Final marathon time: 7:03:50. 

Total Ironman time: 16:06:25

The Fraser Women Ironman Virgins
Mike and I after the race
Enjoying my walk across the graduation stage

Riding along on my SpeedConcept... I don't even care that I am hot and wet...

My bike race plan was easy enough on paper. 

Miles 1-40 HR Zone 1.  Just ride along.  Spin spin spin.
Miles 41-80 HR Zone 2.  Ride the bike but keep in endurance zone.
Miles 81-110... more of the same.
Miles 110-112 back to Zone 1

Florida is flat, however with flatness often comes wind.  Saturday's winds were not nearly as bad as earlier in the week, but they were present.

I had no idea on pacing this race, I just wanted to execute the plan.  I made sure to keep in Z1 the first 40 miles and Z2 the rest of the ride.  With headwinds and the occasional overpass or slight slight slight roller, this meant a slow ride for me. I have no idea why but my HR on the bike is really high.

Honestly I didn't even care. This is my first Ironman, and I was not going to let ego ruin the day for me.  I only had one job all day and that was to stay in the box.  Of course my ego was a little bummed that I had to hang back and peddle along, but I knew that at the end of the ride I still had a little marathon to run so why not be conservative and just enjoy the day?

So I did.

It was a STUNNING day in north Florida.  Breezy, hot, sunny... heaven.  I saw some amazing plants and of course all the palm trees.  I got complimented on my calves a few times, I even got to pass some people who where having a rough go of the heat or the sun or the wind or all three.

All I knew was that I was in the right HR zone and I was not going to go over one beat if I could help it.  Stay in the box, Jenn.  Don't eat the paste.  Let them burn out and have a rough marathon.  Today is not the day for ego, today is the day to soak it all in.

I executed the nutrition just as I had in training.  I kept the HR conservatively low, even lower than my plan just to make sure that had plenty of stores left.  All in all there was not one issue on the bike and I was able to make the 112 mile journey out and back again with that silly grin on my face.

Every time I rode through an aid station, they would yell "Look at her smile!" 

I thanked every volunteer and police/fire/first responder than I saw.

I enjoyed every moment of the bike.  Tom Demerly's words stayed with me all ride... This was my graduation day, I earned it and I wanted to remember every single mile.  

Soak it up Jennifer... you earned this.

By the time I hit mile 90 I could not believe it.  I was having a great little ride, singing to myself both inside my head and aloud (this was especially funny to me as I would do it particularly when passing people) and realized that my ride was almost over.

Trish was so right... it was a long day that would go by fast.  I was almost unprepared for how quickly the day was passing, but I knew that the final leg of this journey was just in front of me.   Make it back to T2 and it would all be just a little jog then the finish line.

Holy cow... where did the time go? 

*beep beep* goes the mat as I cross the dismount line and hand off Lady to the volunteers. 

Official bike time:  7:05:58 

Based on lab tests and training rides, I had estimated that if I maintained a solid 145 BPM for the bulk of the ride, that I would average about 16 MPH on the bike.  I averaged just shy of that at ~ 15.78MPH, at ~ 140BPM for the ride.  I would say that I was pretty in tune with my body! 

Coach Bonnie said that we should finish and feel like we could have gone 15-20 minutes faster.  I felt like I could have done that easily, if not even more, so I was right on plan if not a little conservative.

As they say - if you execute a good bike leg, you have 26.2 miles to gain speed.  If you execute a bad bike leg you have 26.2 miles to feel the pain.

Heading in to T2, I took a moment to myself.  I just sat on the chair while the volunteers emptied out my run gear bag.   All I have left in the day is a marathon.  Heh.  ALL that I have left is a marathon.  It is amazing who you become when you train for a race of this distance.  You know that you have crossed a milestone when you think that a marathon is a short go of things. 

I took off the bike shorts, tore off my shoes and helmet and threw on my socks and running shoes/visor/sunglasses.   I thanked my volunteers and headed right out the door.

*beep beep* went the timing mat as I exit T2 and start on the run. 

In 6.5-7 hours I would be running through the chute... but for now I just need to focus on executing the plan.

Follow the plan and the rest will come! 


Just Keep Swimming

The massiveness of an Ironman swim is impressive.  I remember last year watching as the canon went off, seeing the glass-like Gulf of Mexico turn into a washing machine of flailing arms and legs.

An Ironman Swim - Wisconsin 2008

Crikey.  Do you see that? 

Fast forward 365 days later where I stood now as the athlete, I was getting ready to kill this one last fear. All I had to do was get into the water and swim. The rest of the day would take care of itself.

We corralled ourselves after the pro start, and then awaited the canon boom.  Due to the current in the water, and the fact that I had no desire to be caught up in all of that flailing business, I seeded myself far to the right.

The Ironman Florida swim course is a 2-loop show-box that takes you out into the ocean, then directly into the sun, then back to shore where you get to walk along the beach for a bit and hop back in to do it all over again.

The canon goes off, and we slowly enter the water.  The waves were a little rougher than the day prior, but not nearly as bad as what we swam in on Wednesday.  I was ready.

I get in, hug Annelise no less than 5 times, then get ready to start swimming.  Once we crossed the break, I dove in and went to business.  The current pushed me over towards the buoys as I swam further out.  I swan in a straight line into the ocean, and magically hit the turn buoy right when I needed to.  I was far enough to the right when I started that I was pretty much alone the entire swim.

I kept swimming too far to the right of the finish line on the way back into shore due to the current, but all in all I nailed a 46 minute first lap which is right on par to what I expected based on the 5' waves, the current, and a 2-3 minute delay on my part after the canon went off.

Once cleared of lap 1, I walked along the beach, taking in fresh water to get the salt out of my mouth.  I took my time getting back into the water and then once it was time, dove back in.  I was fearless for teh first time in the water.  I felt happy and was just swimming along!  Lap 2 was just as uneventful as the first, and considering the beach walk time and current swimming, I managed a very similar pace the second time around.

After reaching the shore a 2nd time, I got out of the water, was stripped of my wetsuit by the peelers, and made sure to hang out in the fresh water shower for a bit before making my way to T1.

I made it.  I swam in the ocean for not 1.2 miles, but for 2.4 miles and did not even think about it.  I swear that I was smiling the entire way, which in hindsight explains how I managed to drink so much ocean during the swim ;-).   I not only beat down my last fear, but I finished right in my estimated time frame of 1:30-1:40.

Final swim time (including the delay at the start to let people go ahead of me and the walk on the beach to start lap 2):  1:36:04

I saw tons of Fraser people on my way up to the transition area, then after getting my Bike Gear Bag, I saw Mike!  I gave him a hug and kiss and made my way into the changing area.  I wiped off, pulled on my bike shorts, put on my race number belt, my shoes, my helmet, and made sure to get sprayed down with sun screen before making my way to my bike. 

They called my number and I was greeted with Lady, all ready and waiting for me.   I can hardly believe it.  I was already done with the swim and now off for a little 112 mile bike ride.

*beep beep* went the mat as I crossed it and got on my bike.  I do not think that I could have had a larger smile on my face.   Time to sit back and enjoy the ride ahead of me!

T1 time (including walk to T1, shower, change, porta-potty break and getting to the mount line): 12:40

What The Heck Did I Sign Up For?

Standing in full wetsuit, goggles in hand, I looked out into a very angry Gulf of Mexico.  The breaking waves were rough and the sea beyond was not much better.

All that went through my head on this, the Wednesday afternoon before Ironman Florida 2012, was that I had made a horrible mistake.  A horrible horrible mistake.

I had signed up for an Ironman that I was too afraid to start. Not afraid due to doubt of myself.  No, this was different.  I am afraid of the ocean, so yes it is quite remarkable that I signed up for an ocean based Ironman.

The Gulf was choppy and I just knew that some creature lay in wait ready to strike out at me when I got in.  I kept saying to myself that if this was Wisconsin or Lake Placid that I would not even be worried, because I would not be, but something about the ocean scares me.  I new this before I signed up. The very last hurdle that I would have to pass was I had to conquer my fear of the ocean.  After all that I have done in preparation for this day, I refuse to let the ocean win. 

It was quite literally now or never. 

*takes a deep breath*

I get in with the rest of the Fraser crowd, and with total FAKE confidence I started walking out with them through the break.  One crashing wave after another, each one making me get tougher mentally and to prepare for the days ahead of me.  

Well Jenn, you signed up fully knowing that you had to swim in the ocean.  If you get eaten, stung or bitten you asked for it, but do not let this fear rule you.   Look around you.  No one has been eaten in IMFL, and you are not special enough to be the first. 

I started swimming with the group and was surprised by how murky the ocean was.  Typically in the Gulf the water is crystal clear.  The winds and chop really stirred up the sea bed and made it impossible to see below us.  That was both good and bad.

Good because I cannot scream about what I cannot see, but bad because I can imagine what is under the murk awaiting to eat me.  *insert Jaws theme*

I made it all of two strokes before a blue blob appeared directly in my face.  JELLY!  I screamed and tried to jump over it.  Yes, while swimming.   As soon as I was sure that I had passed over it without angering it too much, I looked up out of the water to make sure than no one saw the ridiculousness of my reaction to the jellyfish, and no one did.  Or at the very least no one admitted to me that they did. 

We swam out a bit however we only really swam maybe 5 minutes in total.  The rest was more of an up and down ondulating motion which made me feel a little sea sick.   This was going to be an epic race swim for sure.  If not a rollercoaster of waves ala Muncie Endurathon 2009, it would be one of me being on red alert for Sea life.  No matter which way it would go, come Saturday I was diving in with 2500 of my closest friends and I was going to be an Ironman.

I have become determined

We turned around and I swam over yet another jellyfish, this time I refrained from screaming and just kept on swimming like the song says to.

Jenn, this is totally just like Lake Erie.  Nothing is going to eat you here.  It is just a more briney Great Lake, with a random plastic bag that will not hurt you
Just a briney Lake Erie.  

After the swim, Annelise and I went out for a short hour bike plus a ~20 minute or so brick run.  The bike showed me that the winds would be in play in my ride on Saturday (assuming that I did in fact survive the swim without being eaten) and the run made me smile. 

Holy crap, am I really going to do an Ironman?  Yes!  Yes I am!  The day is coming near!  I am so ready and so excited for the day!!!  Nothing is going to stop me now. 

I have become limitless. 

The following morning before I left Florida for 'Bama to pick up my husband from the airport,  we went back out and swam again this time in better waters. Still murky, but not nearly as violent.  I remembered to bring my wetsuit right off the bat this time as well as remembered my sea bands to aid in sea sickness prevention, and after the uneventful swim (I only saw 1 jellyfish this time) I hung in the water for a good bit with Yvette and got over some of the fears that I had of sea creatures.   It was a huge moment for me to just chill in the ocean with my feet dangling like tempting carrots to passing sea creatures.  I did not freak out.  I did not even think of it.  I just let my body become comfortable with the motion of the water and the thought of being vulnerable actually made me relax a bit.

By Friday I was swimming with Trish in amazingly calm waters for a good 15 minutes doing a portion of the course so that we could get a feel for sighting in the sun-soaked water and was all but convinced that I looked like a baby seal in distress while swimming compared to he very fluid and efficient movements.  The major gain for me was that I was now certain that I would not be eaten.   Well, fairly certain.


As I sat on the dock of Pineapple Willy's later that afternoon, after having packed all of my special needs and gear bags and checking in Lady for race day fun times, I smiled as I spoke with Mike about my race day plans all while internally asking myself the question of "What the heck did I sign up for?"   I did not ask it in a doubtful way, I asked it in a more confident light.  I was no longer fearing what was ahead of me.  I was now looking forward to the day that I was blessed to be able to start.  I earned this day.  It was my victory lap. 

What was in store for me?  How was the day going to unfold?  I am so totally ready for this both mentally and physically, and I am going to beat down all of my fears tomorrow.  So yes, what did I sign up for?  

31 hours later that question would be answered.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hitting the Road...

Here we are, just 5 days out from Ironman Florida 2012.

If only you could see the smile on my face right now.....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More Than, Greater Than

Earlier this week I posted about how I have struggled most of my adult life with the fear of failure.  The ultimate point of the long-winded post was that I started out the journey always thinking how I was LESS THAN I wanted myself to be.   I am here today to say that I am ending this particular journey, the journey to Ironman Florida 2012, with the knowledge that I am MORE THAN that I am GREATER THAN those fears.

I used to say that running was my church but triathlon saved my life.  Now I need to amend that and say that while running is my church and triathlon saved my life, Ironman gave me back myself to enjoy it all.

This race-specific blog was started 2 years ago with the purpose of tracking my progress in training for Ironman Florida.  At the end, I decided that it was more important to capture the journey of re-discovering myself through the act of total dedication. 

The proof here is that I now realize that all that I have gained through the past year more than makes up for all that I have given up on over the past 10.  I quit believing in myself way back in college when a relationship went bad and I was left with a deeply broken ego.  I ended up a deeply broken person.  It has taken years of attempting to rebuild, only to get sidetracked and have to start all over again. 

Every time I got broken, I got back in the saddle and tried again.

At the end of it all I never quit rebuilding myself. I would dig deeper each time and try to heal my broken ego, with plenty of stumbling block along the way. 

I quit my first marathon at mile 23.  MILE 23.  I pulled out of races or switched to shorter distances because I just knew I would not make it.  Throw in the middle of all of that a diagnosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy in the form of petite mal and psychic seizures, and it pushed me over the edge.  I wasn't worthy of success or a good life. I wasn't good enough.  I was a dysfunctional wanna be.  I was so deeply broken physically and emotionally.

The feelings that started 10 years ago just never went away no matter what I did.  What more would I have to do to show myself that I was worthy of success?     

That is when I realized what I was doing and where the journey to Ironman FL 2012 was taking me.   It is so much MORE THAN 140.6 miles. It is about faith and dedication and healing my broken self. It is about knowing that failure is not an option anymore, and that I have earned the victory lap.  I am worthy. I am back! 

Anyone can do an Ironman.  Not everyone is willing to work for it.  I meant it when I said that I am the laziest person I know.  I really am. However I am also a very dedicated person when I find a cause that I believe in.   I finally believe in myself.  I am one of the few willing to and who is fortunate enough to be able to put aside and sacrifice for a year to make this goal, this dream,  a reality.

Ironman has already given back to me in so many ways, however the biggest gift is a healed ego. A healed sense of self. 

Every time that I increased some power on the bike, every mile that I ran a faster mile, every time that I dropped a clothing size, and every time that I swam longer and longer in open water culminating in a 5k (3.1 mile) open water swim through lakes and rivers I was putting energy into the universe and the universe was giving me 10-fold power to find myself again. I just needed to be open to receive it.

Thanks to my amazing friend Vickie and my coach Bonnie, I was able to see myself through their eyes and together they helped restore me.  And thanks to my friend Amy, who has always inspired me however now even more.  

Every mile and hour that I deposited in to the bank account of Ironman was a bandage on my broken self.  Every time that I would hop in the pool or lake, that I would go for a run or ride I would log my workouts and marvel that I was really doing this.  I did not half ass it.  I was DOING IT.  And yes sometimes it took Vickie and Bonnie to tell me that I was doing it before I believed it for myself, but I am forever grateful that they never gave up even when I was doubting myself. 

So, here I am just a few weeks away from the victory lap and I can firmly say that this race has been MORE THAN a test a physical endurance and strength, it was also about showing myself my true colors. It showed to me that I am MORE THAN I thought that I was.

Now that I have faced the fears behind me I am ready to look forward with a new sense of self.   I have accomplished all of my goals this year.  I have not quit one thing and I have not allowed myself to back out of anything that I have put my mind to do.

I am sitting here with a smile on my face because I know that November 3rd will be as my friend Tom Demerly has said, a long walk across the graduation stage.  I finally get it.

It is not the end of a journey,  but the beginning of my life without the shackles of doubt and fear. 

In the coming weeks I am going to start blogging more about what my plans for the day are.  I have decided to enjoy every mile of the day, no matter how tough it gets.  That means that I am going to put a focus on each segment of the race, breaking it up into 40 or so parts, taking it 1 mile at a time.  I am going to be taking some very special people with me in my heart during Ironman. 

I am an Ironman.  I can do this.  I have given my all for this moment, and I am ready to toe that line with 2,000+ of my crazy like-minded friends.

It is really here!  I am ready to walk across the graduation stage!  I am ready for my victory lap!