It took me a little while to be able to sit down and write without completely breaking down but here goes nothing.
The days leading up to race day were pretty stressful. I booked my ticket to Wisconsin for the wrong day and had to rebook it for Thursday (thanks Sunjum for pointing that out!). I ran my rental car into a cone on a construction site on the highway, causing some damage and had to deal with reporting it and exchanging the car. Between packing all my bags, making sure I rested and ate, trying to hang out with my friends and mom, it was pretty hectic.
Race day was upon us pretty quickly and I was nervous and had gotten pretty much no sleep the night before. After putting my wetsuit on, I saw my teammates who have been so supportive throughout the entire year and broke down a little bit but I had to keep it together so I wiped my tears and kept going. Val walked down the helix with me and lent me her Shuffle for a few minutes. We both love dance music to keep us going during workouts, so that was pretty perfect.
Getting into the water took a little while. I think I had maybe 3 minutes in the water before the gun went off. I waited about 10 seconds and went. I kept to the side and just kept my strokes consistent. Yeah there were the few pushes and kicks but overall, not such a bad experience. The second loop was a lot easier for me because there were fewer people to deal with and I was able to sight without too many issues. The water was absolutely beautiful. I got out and knew I needed to be on the bike by 9 AM to have ANY chance of finishing the bike.
The volunteers are amazing. That is pretty much all I have to say about that.
I was at 4 hours and 5 minutes for the first 56 miles. It went pretty smoothly but slowly and was uneventful. Those three hills that are the hardest on the loop were lined with people, Tour de France style. It was pretty awesome and even though I was going slowly, I felt like a rockstar. The only two people I remember for some reason on the entire ride are Donna (passing me on the bike at the very beginning) and Mike Stevenson passing me on his way to the bike finish...DURING MY FIRST LOOP. I just kept thinking "how in the world do people get that fast...and how can I get there??".
My second loop had to be perfect in order for me to get through the bike on time. At this point, I had convinced myself that I most likely was not going to make it back to Monona by 5:30 but I had accepted the possibility of not making the finish months ago. After speaking to Ed one day on the phone, I knew that the time cutoff is not something I can worry about. It's about doing my best and I did do my best that day. Most of all, I was having fun...on the bike....wait what?? That second 56 miles was difficult but I knew each turn from having done the loops 3 times before during training.
That second loop tested my patience a couple of times. At around mile 70, I stopped quickly to ask a volunteer how I was doing in comparison to the sweep vehicle. There were two guys waiting there and I figured that it couldn't be that far behind. That was dumb on my part because this woman (unlike every other volunteer out there) was not very positive. She told me I was pretty much last out there and that the sweep would catch up to me soon and I should probably just wait. I asked if I could borrow her phone quickly because at this point, I thought the sweep vehicle would make me get off the road. I tried calling my mom to tell her I might not make it to the Team Z tent. I waited a couple minutes and just decided I would keep going until the sweep stopped me. So off I went.
Mile 75. A SAG vehicle pulls in front of me and the driver gets out of the car and says "Okay you ready to pack it in...". I told him I guess I had been waiting for him to catch up with me but after a little discussion he told me I didn't have to get off the road...I gave him a confused look and said "Well I have somewhere to be! Until that Sweep vehicle makes me get off the road, I'm gonna keep going".
I broke down when I saw the Team Z tent at mile 82. I wasn't crying out of sadness, I was crying because I actually didn't feel like crap. Because my mom and two of my closest friends were watching me do something athletic for the first time in my life. Because she was proud of me. Because I couldn't stop thinking about how amazing all my teammates and Ed are. Because for the first time in a long time..I was proud of me too! Everyone thinks I was crying because I probably wasn't going to make it but that really wasn't the case. I had two hours and 20 minutes or so and 30 miles but I knew that last 30 miles was the toughest on the course. Jill, Mary, and Cat ran with me and told me to ride like I've never ridden before. And I did. Until I got to the hills. The ones that had been covered with people were completely empty. Not a soul was out there except for a racer in front of me. I had to get off and walk my bike a couple of times because my leg was cramping so badly I couldn't get it to unbend enough to complete a stroke. At the top of the third hill, the sweep vehicle caught me. He was going the other way and stopped me to ask if I'm ready to pack it in. I still had an hour and had 20 miles left. I thought maybe miracles can happen so I told him when he turns around and comes back, I'll get off the bike. I booked it. The whole time I kept looking behind me because I felt like a fugitive. The Wicked Witch's theme music kept playing over and over in my head. I think I maintained around 17 miles an hour, even uphill but it wasn't enough because finally at mile 107, he stopped me and told me it was 5:30. I accepted the fact but told him I wanted to finish the ride. I wasn't going to get a ride back in the truck...I actually felt physically okay and felt like I could keep going. I signed the waiver, he gave me directions for riding on the road because the course had been taken down, and off I went.
By now, almost everyone knows my (first) Ironman journey did not end with "Rohini Kashyap....You Are An Ironman!!". Instead it ended with me walking barefoot up up the Monona Terrace helix, with my shoes in my left hand and my bike in my right. I came to the top of the 3 level parking garage only to find that a gate had been put down preventing me from getting to the bike transition area. A few guys were tearing down a stage and helped me get my bike over the gate while I climbed under. I walked to the right and my mother and friend Sunjum were waiting for me with the Race Director. My mom ran to me...and my mom does not run...screaming 'Henna I'm so proud of you!" and hugged me for what seemed like hours until I stopped crying. But I kept telling her that I wasn't crying out of sadness. I was happy that I tried. That I didn't give up. That I gave it my best and above everything, that she was there to see it.
The week after was hard. The sadness of not finishing settled in and I cried at least 3 times a day for almost a week. I am trying to keep the feeling of pride with me but there's always that uneasy feeling that something was not completed. However, I know I'll try again. I'm going to spend the next year getting faster. I'm going to continue training and do shorter races so I can push myself with speed work. I can't gain the ability I need to get faster if I continue training at such long distances. 2012 will be my year to get that medal.
As for this year...I would not be the person I am today without the journey. Ironman is about a medal at the end BUT that medal it not rewarding only the race...it rewards countless hours of training and emotional exhaustion and physical pain. Not just one day.
Congratulations to every single one of my teammates. Whether you made it or not, you all are an amazing group of people. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey and supportive. I didn't know if I would finish when I signed up last year but in the wise words of our fearless leader Ed....
"You Never Know Unless You Tri". :-)