To refresh on Dye McConnell’s Ironman journey misadventures, read Part 1 here.
The last few days have been a blur. Mostly due to lack of sleep and my body wondering WTF just happened. But I will never forget the moment I listened to my voicemail when I woke up. “Dye, happy Monday. It’s Mike Reilly…” My heart just stopped. In my groggy state, I wasn’t sure I heard that right, so I started it over as I read the transcript along with it. “I heard you did it all indoors…to do something like that it’s mind over matter…So from me to you, as I love to do, DYE..YOU ARE AN IRONMAN…” As I listen to it again, I’m in tears. It feels like a dream. The last few weeks have been full of ups and downs but what a tremendous lesson I’ve learned.
How much I really wanted this. Not the title or being able to say I did an Ironman distance. But to know I could do it. All of the training and preparation wasn’t for nothing. And the fantastic support I have in my life. I am in a state of gratefulness.
(PS That phone call from Mike Reilly was facilitated by my friend, Billy. You may remember him as one of the guys who swam with me in the pool at IM Choo!)
So…solo, indoor 140.6 triathlon. Why, where, and WHY?
If you just happened to come across my blog for the first time, I had to drop out of IM Choo to a broke derailleur before I hit my 40 mile mark. A year of planning and those months of training and sacrificing family time down the toilet. That night, I decided I had to do my own. Just for my personal satisfaction. I started mapping out my courses. I had to delay the first weekend (back from IM) since my bike was in the shop. I postponed it the 2nd weekend due to weather (Wisconsin weather isn’t so kind). And as I continued to stalk the weather for the following weekend, I realized it was either going to be an indoor triathlon or putting this off until next year. It was going to be the former. I needed this chapter closed and wanted to move on. I struggled with the logistics of an indoor tri. I work at the YMCA as a personal trainer, so I had access to a pool and treadmill, but the bike portion was my primary concern. Outdoor cycling was out. Maybe I could set up my bike and trainer with permission? But I didn’t want to ask for any favors.
Then my supervisor joked about doing it all indoors and double-dared me.
It was on. I got my plan together -I’ll do a pool swim, ride my bike on my trainer in the cycling room and run on the treadmill (unless it’s still light out when I’m done on the bike). The facility closed at 5 pm on Saturday so then I would continue upstairs in the 24/7 access gym. I was more excited about this plan that I didn’t realize how crazy it may be. (To be honest, I still don’t think it’s all that crazy. It was a great plan.)
I stopped by Friday night to set up my bike on my trainer, organize my fuel and hydration on a nearby table and set up my bike and run “transition” bags. At least I was staying in the same facility and had my locker nearby!
On Saturday, I arrived at 6:30 am and did last minute set-up: turned my laptop on and had my go-to entertainment tabs for training rides ~ thank you Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. I suited up and waited for the pool to open. My aquatics supervisor (I’m a lifeguard too) was there to join me for the swim. I started around 7:15 am and 20 min into it, I realized I forgot to double-check the actual distance I needed. I knew it was around 4,200 yds, but during my training, I always went over “just to be sure.” I completed 4450 yds.
I got out of the pool and waved to my supervisor. I wanted to thank her for being there for me, and she gave me a high-five.
I headed downstairs to the locker room, did a quick change and ran to the cycling room. As I clipped in, I realized I forgot about having a fan. I raced over to the group fitness room and snagged a large fan- cost me some “transition” time. I started on the bike at 9:06 am, according to my watch and prepared myself for a long day in the cycling room.The day dragged on. My ride was slower than usual. I had a sinus headache from hell and had all the signs of a sinus cold coming on. Being in the aero position hurt my head and so I was forced to be upright for most of the ride. I went to grab an extra towel and wet it, and place the cool the towel on my forehead. I had a co-worker stop in front of the window, cheering me on. I had a director on duty, checking to see if I needed anything and offered help if I do come up with items I needed. Shortly after that, I had a couple from my TRX class show up to cheer me on. She said they were so proud of me for attempting this that they wanted to come and show support (yes, I was fighting tears). They shared stories from their own adventures, and soon, they were off. Those connections meant so much. I was on the struggle bus (or bike, literally) but the support was amazing, and I couldn’t complain.
Another co-worker came in a few times and chatted with me as I was in the beginning stages of falling apart. But her company was a great distraction from the pain. Shortly after that, my family showed up with pizzas. By this time, I was nauseous and hadn’t been able to stomach solids. But pizza? I’d risk it.
I was alone for the remainder of my time on the bike, and soon, it was close to closing time. It took over 7 hours just to get 91.02 miles. I had to continue the bike upstairs on the stationary bike. So I grabbed all my running gear (two bags of clothes in case I would get an outdoor run in), fuel & hydration and anything else I would need during the rest of my night (and the next morning) since I wouldn’t have access until the whole facility opened the next day again. I cleaned up a lot of my mess, left my bike there and headed to the gym upstairs. Again, more transition time than I’d have liked.
I grabbed another coffee drink, Perpetuem, Kindle, and got on a stationary bike around 5:10 pm. I’m not sure which was worse – the seats on the stationary bike or having to be upright on my own saddle.
I made another quick change and choked down half of a cold hamburger and headed to the treadmill. I set up my kindle, Perpetuem, Heed and started on the last portion of my race. I was hoping to be done within 6 hours. My start time on the treadmill was around 6:50 pm. I started with a “fast” walk, but because of the way I was riding the bikes, it hurt to walk. My butt felt like I’d taken a lashing the last 8+ hours. I decided to test out my legs for a slow run and omg that felt so much better. Sweet!! If I have to run to avoid pain from walking, I should be done within my (run) goal time. But my sinus and chest had worsened, and it hurt to run for too long. Even a fast walk would get me winded quickly. And I wasn’t anywhere near my usual pace either.
I had to settle for my fast walk pace as my average run pace. My legs felt fine, considering, but the rest of my body continued to rebel. I knew I had to keep fueling myself, but eating seemed like so much work. My hydration, on the other hand, was on point. It helped that I could only handle Perpetuem (liquid carbs).
The thing with our gym treadmills is, there are time limits. Sometimes, it’ll let you go up to 60min. I found out I could go up to 90min for the first 3 hours. So once, my time was up, I would either switch to the next treadmill ( I was alone in the gym) or eat, go to the bathroom and start again. Those were the small goals I focused on. I also kept a slip of paper to keep track of the miles each time.
I had a few friends that I messaged with during this time. It’s a bit of a blur. I was beyond exhausted. My eyes would cross and glaze over as I tried to focus on the screen. Was quitting ever on my mind? Absolutely not. I had a lot of “Don’t quit!” comments and messages, and I laughed. Why would I quit? I’m not done yet. My legs are still moving – painstakingly slow, but I was upright and able to move.
Anytime I needed an extra boost, I put on my anthem. High Hopes by Panic! At the Disco. I listen to it daily as a reminder. As a survivor, it spoke to me. No more living the life of a victim, burn the past, rebuild and LIVE your life. As an athlete whose dreams were dashed at Ironman Chatt, I rewrote my story and made this crazy dream happen. It was the boost I needed. All.Day.Long.
“Burn your biographies
Rewrite your history
Light up your wildest dreams
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes”
With the last 2 miles left, I put the music video on a loop. I wanted to hit the 26.2 before my 60min timer went off and I needed that energy. I gutted out the last .5 with all the strength I had. I recorded the last .01, and as you could see (on my FB page), even when I said I was done, I didn’t immediately stop. It didn’t seem real. I was done. Finally done. Not just this “race” but this chapter of my life is finally closed. I looked around the empty gym and then hinged forward on the treadmill and let the tears out.
I walked over to the window ledge where I kept my bags and did the same. I finished. I could go now. I let my friend, Chris, know and somewhere in the time when I was changing, he had called and left me a message “You… are an Ironman!” This was close to 2 am – how blessed am I to have someone stay up, check up on me and call at this time?? (You may also remember Chris from most of my adventures! And also my unofficial coach and therapist). I also messaged Billy, who had been supporting me via messenger with videos of finish line cheers from IMLOU and Chatt.
I, on the other hand, had towel-washed in the bathroom, changed, walked myself out with three full bags in tow, drove my manual-transmission car to a nearby gas station and aired up my tires. At this point, I was more worried about being alone near an alley as I aired up my tires than being sore and tired. (Chris also messaged me, “You drove home?!?!”)As I headed out, I realized I hadn’t been outside in about 20 hours. And that I didn’t think my parking situation through – why did I park near the gymnastics building?? Upon reaching my car, I realized I also needed to air up my tires. Awesome. I shook my head and laughed at my situation. At an official Ironman race, there are finish-line catchers. And volunteers who remove your chip for you (which I have done) because bending over is a significant task at that point. At these races, you have people guiding and helping you throughout the race and afterward.
As I reached our house, my husband texted to check up on me. This man turned on all the outdoor lights (we live out in the country) and greeted me outside. Selfishly, I was glad he was up so I could be a little noisy while I heated up some warm food for myself. He listened to me ramble – I don’t even remember what – and let me have the TV on to fall asleep. And I was out.
I could’ve slept for days. But I was up in about 4 hours and headed to lead boot camp!
It’ll hit me, I’m sure. But for now, it’s back to usual. I know I covered 140.6, but it really hasn’t sunk in yet. I didn’t have the high from an official finish line – just relief. My muscles have recovered but my body is exhausted. The sinus cold from that day has been lingering and just when I think I’m feeling better, my body reminds me to slow down. It didn’t stop me from teaching and swimming this past week – until today when fever and dizziness were enough to keep me from my evening classes. I wouldn’t trade any of this for anything though. I did this! I have closure and I’m ready to move forward.
Until the next adventure ~