I arrived in Spokane the Wednesday before the race. It was a bit of a homecoming, since I grew up in Spokane. Unfortunately, though, my little sister had undergone knee surgery earlier in the week and it had become infected, so she was stuck in the hospital for the first week of her summer break. I went to Coeur d’Alene on Thursday morning to register and catch a glimpse of Ironman village for the first time. Amazing! I was surprisingly calm and very excited. Friday my honey/tri-sherpa extraordinaire and I met up with some of the super awesome BT people for pre-athlete dinner drinks. So much fun! Then it was on to the Athlete Dinner. Bonnie brought a fantastic honey badger sign along and people took pictures with it. My friend “the other Ashley” was there, too. We’re currently maid and matron of honor at our mutual best friend’s wedding. The banquet was fun.
Race morning I was up at 1:30, though I tried to sleep until 3:00. Then I ate some mini powdered sugar donuts. Great for energy! Tried not to freak out on our way to CDA. Pumped bike tires, hung out near the water.
Realized I didn’t have the ankle strap for my timing chip. Freak out! Volunteers told me just to head to the beach and they would have a table with them. It was super hard to make my way through the crowd of spectators and took over 30 minutes to make it to the beach. I was in a big crowd of other athletes, all of whom were freaking out about missing the swim start. Made it with 3 minutes to spare! Got my ankle strap and didn’t have time to worry as the swim began.
Check out this awesome video Luke took of the swim start. Men are in green caps and women are in hot pink. This is what happens when 2430 people start swimming all at once.
Ugh! F! I am not a great swimmer. This distance takes me 1:20 in the pool and I suffered for 2 hours in the lake. It was f-ing freezing(54 degrees) and crazy wild. Arms, legs, bodies everywhere. I was kicked in the mouth, scratched across the face by what I hope was a hand and not a foot (ewwww…toenails scratching across my face!) and eventually dunked intentionally by an evil BEE-otch. Drank about a gallon of lake water that I chucked a bit later. Lake water + donuts = barf. After the first lap, I got lost since I was wearing ear plugs and couldn’t hear where the volunteers were telling me to go. I ran all the way to the wetsuit strippers before figuring out that I needed to turn around and go back the other way. Duh! Jumped in for my second lap. A few minutes later I received the intentional dunk from the BEE-otch. I silently prayed that she would soil herself during the run, preferably in front of a photographer. I’m evil like that. I started worrying about the cut-off time, since the first lap took me just under one hour. My sighting is terrible. I zig-zagged all over the place. Finally got a grip at the end and powered through it. Hit the beach and woo hoo!!! I was out of the water in 2 hours and 58 seconds. So happy to be done!
I was so cold I couldn’t take off my swim cap or get my wetsuit off my arms or shoulders. Awesome wetsuit strippers took care of me, though they had some trouble getting my wetsuit off my ba donk a donk. Another nice volunteer grabbed my bag and my arm and led me to the tent. Put on my bike gear, including my arm warmers, grabbed a bag of gummy bears and off I went. Saw my honey on the way out. Nice!
Gorgeous day for a bike ride! I was slightly stupid—I blame the cold water anesthesia for this and couldn’t figure out why it seemed so hard to pedal. I checked my tires. No flats. Checked the front brakes. Fine. Pedaled 30 miles, up into the hills and really struggled. Felt pretty gross and did a bit of chucking. Lake water + gummy bears = barf. Made sure I got back on track with my nutrition plan. Finally my brain began working again and I checked the back brake. Totally rubbing on the tire. Tried to fix it but it was messed up. Wound up disengaging the brake all together and just hoped I wouldn’t regret that. Fun, fun bike ride. Around mile 40 my shifter starts to get loose and I can’t shift out of my small ring. Very thankful I was in my small ring. I try to get mechanical support, but they’re busy and I’m worried about making the cut off now after my stupidity for the first 30 miles. Keep trucking along. The shifter has now almost completely fallen apart and I’m pulling on the tape on the handlebars to try to hold it in place. Some dark thoughts started to seep in but then I reminded myself that I made it out of that f-ing water and I would f-ing finish! Around mile 85 I see a mechanic. Yippeeeee!!! I pull over and he’s quite shocked that I’ve been riding like this for 45 miles. He manages to take everything apart and fix it and I’m back on the road. Feeling much better now, I start cranking to make sure I can make the cut-off. This was the one section of the race I never thought I’d have trouble with. Just shows you never know what can happen on race day. Just got to keep going. Vroom! I finish the bike with time to spare. My dad and my honey were there waiting for me and I get high fives. I felt pretty fantastic at this point.
Put my fabulous tutu on, donned my bejeweled nerdjock visor, stuffed gels in my jersey and set out to become an Ironman.
There were tons of fans cheering as I started the run. The announcer called out my name and said I was the best dressed athlete of the day. That made me chuckle. I felt good, but my legs were pretty fried from all of the bike excitement earlier. I did a run/walk. Figured out what I needed to do before midnight and vowed to do so and not kill myself in the process. I had plenty of time and wanted to enjoy the journey. I thanked every volunteer I saw, gave high fives to everybody, interacted with the crowd and had a fantastic time. Wearing a tutu was pretty fun and I was able to get a lot of energy from the crowd. Around mile 3 I met up with a man named Bob, who was 61 and doing his 6th Ironman. He was impressed by my speed walking (thank you, Mom, for always making me walk fast) and asked if I would pace him. No problem.
By the end of the run, I was pacing an entire group of people and that made everything much more fun. The last 6 miles were pretty tough. My feet hurt, I was tired, and I had a wicked case of monkey butt. I never doubted I would finish, though. Finally came up to the home stretch on Sherman Avenue and ran it in. Amazing feeling! Fans line the street, cheering, and giving high fives. I tried hard to soak it all in. YMCA was playing and Mike Reilly said those unforgettable words: “From San Diego, CA, Ashley Horton, you are an Ironman!!!”
Two nice men caught me, gave me my swag, helped me to the picture area and, after assuring them I was fine, I was on my way. Super tired but so proud and so happy. I think having the bike mechanical issues and a tough day made this even more rewarding.
My honey met up with me afterward and took my tired butt back to my mom’s. My stepdad, Ed, made me a super awesome sign that said, "Ashley, you are an IRONMAN!" that was posted on the gate in front of the house. Thanks, Ed! We stayed up all night replaying the race and caught a 6 am flight home. I couldn’t have done this without the awesome support system I had on BT. Great group. And my honey Luke made this all possible. He was on the course all day, taking pictures, cheering and offering support. Tri-sherpa extraordinaire. In the best news ever, Luke caught the IM bug and we’re planning a 2013 return to IM CDA.
I'm totally hooked. Can't wait for the next one! One of the coolest things about Ironman is how supportive and excited people are. Along the course volunteers and other athletes are constantly encouraging each other. I don't think any other sport is that way. What an amazing experience!