Monday, August 3, 2015

God's Blessings from Above

Ironman Lake Placid 2015 could not have gone like it did without God's help from above.  I cannot imagine not giving Him credit when He is due so much of it.  I look back and "everything happens for a reason" comes to mind.  I could not have asked for a better experience for an Ironman, especially my first one!

First, my schedule is awful as it is.  Definitely not conducive to a training life with rotating days every month and work 5pm to 3am 4 days per week.  I was always worried about getting mandatoried to work and possibly missing a workout.  I knew every workout was key in order to ensure my meeting my goal of a 15 hour finish (which was nearly met with a 15:21:15 finish!) But I managed to make it to Ironman without missing too many workouts

Then I was upset that my schedule rotated back my last week of work before Ironman.  This meant only 2 days off before going back to work for my last week before Ironman.  Then it clicked, this meant that I had an extra day off before Ironman.  Shoving my schedule back one day meant that freed another day up on the end of that week!  (Amazing how that worked!)

While training for Ironman I was in a wedding on June 12th.  I was unable to make the wedding shower and the bachelorette party because work would not let me take the time off.  Then there's the rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself.  I was supposed to have some longer workouts that weekend, but in order to balance life and Ironman training, I switched my schedule around, moved a few things and made it all work.  In the end, I still crossed the finish line.  I would not trade being in my best friend's wedding for the world!  I'm just saying that it was something that I had to schedule my trainings around.

During this time I also was planning a wedding of my own!  We looking at October 2015, but then realized it was just too much so we decided on April 2016.  But that still means we need to get things rolling.  A little over 8 months out now and things are falling into place, but not without some requisite scheduling/planning/adjusting life and training.

And there's also a potential move in the future with job transfers.  So trying to apply for jobs (which in and of itself is a huge task) while in a wedding attempting to be a good friend and bridesmaid, planning my own wedding, training for Ironman, job hunting.  Full plate much?  Oh, and add building a direct sales nutrition company, AdvoCare (which fueled all my training and my entire race).

I made it to the start line, which in and of itself, is a huge feat.  Many athletes were posting their inability to continue due to injury.  I had purchased the insurance with no intention of using it.  And I am so blessed that I did not need to.  I made it to the start of Ironman Lake Placid with no injuries barring me from completing the race.  (Of course I had had a few spills on the bike and some near misses with cars on the road both biking and running, but nothing that kept me from getting to that arch!)  I was blessed to experience no catastrophic injuries preventing me from making it to the event and then finishing and hearing Mike Riley tell me, "Melissa Cole....YOU ARE AN IRONMAN."

While attending the Athlete Blessing at the Adirondack Community Church, I met one of the guys I went to college with.  Talk about small world!  While attending the service, multiple fire engines went through town, the pastor (also an Ironman Athlete) announced a fire has broke out in the middle of town.  Athletes woke up the next morning unsure if they would be completing the swim.  The Department of Health wanted to test the water to make sure no ash or chemicals could put athletes (or those ensuring athletes safety by providing life saving services) in harms way.

I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.  I asked God to give the "go ahead" and clear the water for the swim.  We all worked too hard to not do the full 140.6  And He heard mine, and I'm sure many others', prayers.  As I was exiting from transition and dropping off my water bottles and pumping up my tires, I heard on a handheld radio that the water was "good to go."  I did a little happy dance, thanked God and began to spread the good news!

I had to wait for FOREVER at the portajohns to go before throwing my wetsuit on.  But while standing there, I saw my training partner, we gave a quick hug and I was relieved to see that familiar face before heading out.  I, for one, am thankful for the rolling start.  I was scared of getting knocked out, loosing my googles, getting swum over.  I was scared I wasn't going to be able to breathe or keep my heart rate from skyrocketing.  That was totally not the case.  There were a lot of bodies in the water and some contact was made, but nowhere near what I had mentally prepared for.  I even ended up following that sacred/sought after cable and was able to keep my head down and not have to sight all that much!  I just kept praying for my safety the entire time.  I felt safe and secure and like I was in my own little world.

Before I knew it, it was time to get on the bike.  I was nervous because this would be the first time I had gone 112 miles.  But God had blessed me with a friendship of a prior Ironman, who reminded me to "take it easy" and to "spin that first loop."  He said you're going to want to go fast, you're going to want to not be passed, but remember this is your race, this is you vs you.  Don't let others derail your own plan.

I was scared of mechanical issues.  I can change a flat tire, but not without struggle.  I was scared I wouldn't make the cut off if one thing went wrong.  But it didn't.  I kept praying that God would get me through, that He would prevent chain snaps and flat tires.  And He did!

Then on the second loop, it started getting HOT!  I had prayed for no rain (because it makes the tires slick and I didn't want to have to slow down too much and cost me too much time).  I had prayed for no wind, but there was a little breeze and going through "the notch" those last 10-12 miles with any headwind makes it feel like a lot more work.  But overall, I was pleased with the weather.  Hot yes, but, to me, it was doable.  I just had to drink more than normal.

I made it to the run with no issues.  My knee felt a little twinged on the bike (probably just from sitting so long), so I attempted to keep focused on form.  When I got to the run, I had no issues and felt nothing any longer.  I usually fear "runner's trots," especially considering I had not gone all day.  But that never happened.  I thank God for making it possible for me to make it through the entire marathon without having to find a bathroom ASAP.  Not that there weren't enough along the route, but it's always a struggle and anxiety that I have.

Then it was over...I came around that last corner and couldn't contain myself.  I was crying, dancing, smiling, so happy and overjoyed.  I held back and kept looking behind me to make sure I was the only one at that part of the oval.  And I was!  I had done it!  I had completed the grace of God.  God gave me the strength, the time, the energy, the opportunity, the finances.  Everything worked out like I had hoped for.  The bar is now set high for any Ironman I may do in the future.

I ended up finishing near my goal time of 15 hours, 15:21:15 was the official time.  Not too bad for a first timer.  God kept me out of my head most of the time.  There were times of weakness when I wanted a mechanical error so that I could quit, so that I would have a reason to not go on.  But God pushed me through and past that and got me to the finish.  Sometimes the toughest battles are in our own heads.  I had many long conversations with God that day, thanking Him, praising him.  He is incredible.

Thank you God for all of the blessings that you bestowed upon me to make this happen, especially my support crew (which is another posting in and of itself).  They made that day one incredible experience.  I had an amazing training system too, from the pool and open water lake, to the bike shop and training partner, and then the shoe store who outfitted my cool kicks.  Then to top it all off from my schedule to the weather to the lake being approved despite the fire.  I didn't drown, I had no bike mechanical issues, and my stomach didn't rebel during the marathon.  You kept me focused and out of my own head.  You gave me the energy to complete the training and the race.  Thank you!