If You Never Tri, You'll Never Know!

Ironman Brazil

It’s going to rain. It’s not going to rain. It’s going to rain. It’s NOT going to rain. I was sending all the right vibes into the universe for NO rain. It rained. ALL day and most of the night. The universe really likes to challenge me. But hey, you take the bad with the good, right?

You’ve read enough of my race reports to know how this all goes down, yes? I swim 2.4 miles, I bike 112 miles, and I run 26.2 miles. All consecutively, in one day, and somehow I’ve accomplished this monster endeavor 9 times. I used to think I kept getting lucky. Then around #7 I felt like, hey, maybe I kinda got this and then crushed #8 at 12 hours 44 minutes. I left for Ironman Brazil pretty confident that I could break that. But let’s just hit a few pre-points before diving in (literally)…

1 - Normally with my mom in tow, I came to Brazil solo. I was ridiculously nervous (terrified even) and so unsure of how all that was going to unravel. I did sign up with Endurance Sports Travel (EST) though. They arrange transportation, hotel, food, and get ya back and forth for Ironman prep. Arriving early in the week with a few others, we clicked and became our circle of friends. I even talked Susan into going on a little mountain bike tour of the southern part of the island with me. The group was awesome! We shared meals and stories and good laughs. They really eased my nervousness for the “alone” part. I certainly was never alone. Great group and Ironman friends for life!

2 – (random) I was charged 0 dollars to fly with my bike (normally this is a $150 one way expense). To Brazil, we are allowed two bags one of which can be a bike box up to 70 pounds. What a huge financial relief this was! I was not upgraded to first class though (someday! Sigh…). Besides being awake for nearly 2 days straight, the flight and arrival went without story.

3 - Brazilians don’t eat Peanut Butter. Therefore, the grocery stores do not carry peanut butter. Normally I bring my own Jif cups. I did not bring my own Jif cups to Brazil. I also could not find bagels ß this is my standard Ironman breakfast. Ruh Roh! Canadians do eat Peanut Butter and Debbie brought it and gave me a scoop. BTW, Canadian Peanut Butter does NOT taste like American Peanut Butter. Canadian Peanut Butter on a Brazilian biscuit. Different. But that’s what I went with.

4 - Brazilians don’t speak English. I mean, of course they don’t, they speak Portuguese. But everywhere I’ve traveled people have known enough English or me enough of their language to communicate. It was very difficult here.

5 - Not expected until June 6th, I started my period Saturday.
I know, TMI, but these facts are important!

6 - Finally, mom mentioned on FB, secret tracking. It wasn’t actually a secret, but I had a special GPS tracker from NBC. They interviewed me for a show they’re putting together about Ironman. It will be aired internationally and they’ll send me fun links when it’s all ready. Many of you already know Ironman is a big part of my life due to the effect it’s had on my PTSD. It’s an outlet for me, keeps me sane (believe it or not), and offers me a sense of challenge and accomplishment that I lost leaving the military. So yeah, this GPS tracker, I became a little arrow that mom and Amber got to watch. It was pretty accurate and kept them on my tail better than the Ironman tracker. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life? Can I send out a big thank you right now? It chokes me up. The support is incredible. And believe me, I feel it out there! And I fight hard because I don’t want to let you down!

Okay, so race day… despite the previous days calm water and mostly clear skies, today was raining. Not cold, but definitely raining. Not pouring (yet), but a constant, moderate mist. We were afraid of this; but I felt prepared (gear wise).

I stood before the sea, scared. I was shaking, eyes watering, wondering how on earth I was going to pull this off. The SWIM course was an M shape. The farthest into the ocean we swim is 1,000 yards. I can do that!! Just swim out, in, out, and in. Big deep breath, DIVE IN! Wave starts, all women entered at 0730. Off I went. The water was mid to high 60’s (I wore a sleeveless wetsuit with my TYR sleeves) and definitely moving ~ current and swells.

I always swim buoy to buoy, trying to stay in the moment and not thinking about the days distances ahead of me. The buoys were quite difficult to se despite their size. The sea wasn’t crazy choppy like I’ve swam before, but it wasn’t calm either. Combined with rain and fog, it was frightening out there. I felt like I was swimming and swimming but never making it very far. Just keep swimming. I hear so many friends voices singing to me… I always had one eye on the nearest boat. I always had my own water, no swim battles and no one swimming over top of me. I make it to the farthest point out (which was the biggest buoy I’ve ever seen in my life!) and head back in. Again, the buoys are hard to see and so confusing. Just keep swimming. I arrive back on shore. I love the land. And feeling pumped to get the shorter part of the M done, skipped back out. I skipped! Ha!! I think I even WooHoo’d. Ha ha!!

A few hundred yards back in though and the anxiety returned. Shit it was hard to sight. And I believe it’s raining much harder now. I wonder if they’d call the swim in the middle and pull everyone out. I felt so behind. I don’t even want to look at my watch. Just keep swimming. Finally I see the finish arch on the beach. So close but so far away. The buoys end so I’m frantically swimming boat to boat. Goodness, I’m so tired. My arms were so heavy. I was scared. A bit panicked. I was REALLY unsure if I could make it. Just keep swimming Lisa. I wanted to cry. Shit, get me out of this water! And just as I’m arriving and find my feet, I’m pummeled by a wave that scoops me back in spinning me upside down and inside out. Luckily it’s not a strong undertow so I stand up out of it just to be hit by another. That second one didn’t take me under though and damn I found some energy to get the heck out of that ocean. I felt like turning around and flipping it off. I look at my watch, 4,574 yards at 1 hour and 41 minutes. Uhm, wait a minute, 2.4 miles is only 4,224 yards. SHIT, I swam extra.

I actually take my time through transition. That swim took a lot out of me. Physically and emotionally. How/why was that so hard!? Put it behind you Lisa, shake it off!

I throw my shrug on for the bike, shoes, helmet, and butter up my butt. It was still raining; maybe a bit harder now than before the swim. I still grabbed my sunglasses. I was most worried about getting cold, I had a rain jacket as well but skipped it.
T1: 6 minutes 59 seconds.

I’m headed out to BIKE. The bike course is two loops with a few out and backs. I was so back-ass-wards on the bike, I never knew where I was. But I do know that there were 3 monster hills and 1 baby in a 6 mile stretch and we had to do them 4 times. I looked down once and was doing 4mph. FOUR!! And the steep descent was a screaming 44mph FORTY FOUR! Have I mentioned it was raining? Very scary.

Okay, so I’m usually very comfortable on my bike and even happy (don't let that smile deceive you!). I enjoy the scenery and I love to ride my bicycle! I mean I hashtag that all the time! Not today friends. I was uncomfortable on the bike, so uncomfortable. My shoulders and neck were aching almost immediately and I never seemed to “get used to it”. And my head, my head was so uncomfortable. As I mentioned I had started my period so I had this awful dull headache all day. I felt it pre-swim, didn’t notice during, and it definitely returned for the bike.
But it wasn’t just a physical pain; I went DOWN during the bike. I was in a very dark place by mile 66. I came out of it here and there but mostly, and I don’t even like admitting this, I was miserable. My nutrition was okay, my hydration was good, and my saddle wasn’t hurting. I think the swim just took so much out of me and the rain was frustrating. I definitely wasn’t lacking training; I had hit several 100 milers leading up to the day. The endurance is in me even though I didn’t gain the speed I wanted, but I still figured I’d maintain a 17 average. Get me OFF of this bike!

I did not want to be on that bike anymore. I was falling apart!! I heard Amber’s voice, get your backpack out, get your shit together, pack it in the backpack, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. I talked out loud, I yelled at myself, I laughed, I cried a little… I just kept putting all the shit that was falling apart around me back in my backpack. Keep pedaling, keep moving forward, get to the run. It finally stopped raining for a while but the roads were still wet; the winds picked up quite a bit too. You can do this Lisa. I had some serious conversations with myself. I dug deep. I mean, I didn’t know I would ever have to dig that deep!

Finally the miles were closing together. 80, 90, 100, oh thank goodness, 12 more miles. DISMOUNT LINE!! I didn’t even look at my watch, I quickly hit lap, I wanted to put it behind me as fast as I could and go run. The volunteers took my bike and I shot in to transition.
Bike time: 6 hours 51 minutes

*Nutrition: besides not having my normal breakfast nor my half way snack (also normally a mini bagel with peanut butter), my nutrition was on point. I ate every 25 minutes, half a honey stinger waffle or half an eGel. Around mile 90 I took a caffeinated Gu. I also had PLENTY to drink… I peed once on the bike and 3 more times off the bike. THREE stops to pee. I’m not exaggerating people! And they were all full pee’s. I was actually very diligent about drinking water because it wasn’t hot plus it was raining so I didn’t notice how much or little I was sweating/losing liquid. I did NOT want bladder spasms today ~ stay hydrated!! I did. I was concerned I’d get hungry on the run though since I didn’t have my bike “lunch”.

I actually don’t really remember T2, I just know I felt very behind and very last. I kept my shrug on and stuck a poncho in my back pocket (remember, I was worried about being cold and I remember South Africa getting so cold that mom gave me her jacket. Also remember my rain jacket was in my bike bag? They wouldn’t let me get it even though my bag was right there).
T2: 3 minutes and 48 seconds later, I was on the run.

The RUN is always my favorite part. Today won’t be any different right? I start running and I feel okay. I’m tired, so worn out honestly, but my spirit came back. There were a ton of people on the front half of the course and I could hear the finish line. I want that finish line. 26.2 miles to go. This WILL be number 9. You are strong. You are confident. You are a bad ass. I say the same things to my self that I preach to my athletes. And I thought about Team TOA; fight for what you want. If you preach it, you better be living it! Run Lisa!

(^^ These run pics crack me up because it looks like I was putting so much effort in to getting over that little puddle and then over it, my tongue is hanging out and I'm all like "nailed it".)

The run course was a 13.1 mile loop and then two 6.5 mile loops. This looked good on paper. Very doable. It was much harder on the ground. The 13.1 was out and back but then looped around and met the small loop. So we actually did most of the small loop 3 times. I think. I don’t know! Ha, it was so confusing out there!! There were also GIANT hills on the big loop. I’m not playing… serious elevation. I walked up. And on the steepest, also down. I would have broken my knees inside out if I tried to run down that beast! They were tough. That was a tough tough loop, but completely doable. And I felt okay. Truly. It was the two smaller loops that made my mind crazy.

I was doing okay though, running steady and walking through water stations. That all sort of fell apart on the small loops. I don’t even remember when or where but I got very heavy. And hungry. When the broth came out, I think I squealed out loud. And they had crackers! But I walked a lot. Way a lot. Normally I’m at 5 hours on my Ironman marathon and I saw that turning into 6 quickly. So I was just doing what I could. And my spirit was still up. I never went dark on the run, I was just tired. I would get really sleepy and sluggish and then pick up and feel fine. I ate a few crackers here and there to keep my stomach settled. I used the toilet twice (the first to…ahem… change. Yuck). And the second was a full pee. But I still saved a little in there to increase my chance of not getting the bladder spasms. I felt them mildly after the race, but nothing like previous Ironman. Phew!

There weren’t a whole lot of people on the course the last two loops. But I wasn’t last. And I was still at an okay Ironman time. Not at my worst anyway. I felt a bit disappointed but not really. I wanted it to be over. Wow did I want it to be over. I’ve never wanted a race to be over so bad.  
My run ended up being 5 hours and 41 minutes.

The finish line was quiet. Probably cause everyone was done and gone already. (p.s. Ironman Brazil is the South American Championship so the field is full of seriously fast athletes!!). But it was going to start raining again too so that washed folks away. Which, BIG THANKS to the volunteers that suffered through the day/night with us.

At 14 hours and 25 minutes, I heard it, Lisa (Leeza), you are an Ironman ß in my best Brazilian accent ;) I cried with joy (mostly I was so relieved that it was over) and I didn’t quit. I did it again. How the HECK do I keep managing to do this!? It was weird crossing over and just being there. I high fived myself – WOOHOO! I heard mom screaming and all my friends cheering from home. I heard, “fuck yeah”, and “way to go”, and felt the excitement, so thank you. Really thank you for following along and sending that energy.

I gathered my things out of transition and headed for “home”. I ended up sitting in the shower for probably 40 minutes just letting hot water wash over me. Plus I was kind of stuck. Ha ha! (I’m not kidding). I thought, well, this is where I live now.
I also found several chafed areas that holy shit I thought my skin was on fire when the water touched it.

Total recap: Ironman is really hard. I want all of Team TOA (and triathlete friends!!) that are Ironman in training to read that again, IRONMAN IS REALLY HARD.
You have to train, you have to like yourself, and you might have to dig really deep.
You’re going to experience incredible highs and incredible lows. There are SO many factors. Most you can plan for, prepare for, train for, but some, like weather conditions or course layout, you have to go with it; roll with the punches, take those “bad” with the good.
And you know what, you can do this! Ironman is not impossible or out of reach. It takes discipline to train, determination to want it, and plenty of hours, sweat, blood, and tears. 

Seriously, anyone can do this!! I am living proof… 9 times over! I wasn't an athlete before I started triathlon, you don't have to be either! It takes so much more than physical strength. You are more powerful than you can even imagine, if you want it, you can have it.
You are strong.
And if you stay dedicated, disciplined, and believe that you can, that finish line is YOURS! And I promise you, there’s nothing like it. Every race has it’s own special story and journey, so each time is like the first, you ARE an Ironman.

Ironman Brazil is a chapter of my ‘Journey to Kona’ book I am okay to close. It’s not a hard hard course, but it was a hard hard day. I’m really proud of myself for finishing this one. And I’m already anticipating the next… Ironman Vineman!!

Race facts:
1,845 Athletes
393 DNS, DQ, or DNF
165 females
Slowest: 16:49:52

Fastest: 07:46:10