It is done! It still hasn’t hit me yet, or even sunken in…
Thursday, May 12: Travel & Check-in Day:
I decided to skip my usual 5:15am TRX class (which was a good call) & got up to finish some last minute packing. Mike got home and we loaded up the car and were on the road by 7:00am. On the ride I read some of Joel Osteen’s book out loud to keep us calm. We arrived in The Woodlands around 1:00pm and drove straight to athlete check-in & the expo at the Waterway. We parked and walked our bikes over to get looked at by Quintana Roo. We dropped them off then made our way to the check-in tent.
We got our packets and some awesome backpacks & did a little shopping at the expo. There was going to be an athlete briefing meeting at 2:00, so we made our way over to listen. It was hot and we were dripping sweat as we stood there for the meeting. They let us know the swim course had changed, but it would still be the same distance. Instead of having to swim out, back, and then make a turn off to swim in the Waterway canal, our swim would just be a longer stretch out and back. Sounded way simpler to me, so I was fine with it! There were a few Ironman University coaches who spoke to us and let us know how important nutrition and hydration would be on this course because of the heat. They also reminded us to take it all in and have fun.
After the meeting was over we ran into the Moore family. Laura was just about to check in. We chatted with them a bit and then went to check on our bikes. They were pretty busy and said they’d be ready around 4:00. I was getting hungry and was very, very thirsty from being out in the heat, so we walked over to The Goose’s Acre to get some water and food. When we walked in we saw Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) sitting right there at the bar! We didn’t go and bug him though. As we sat down we saw some Bettys come in so we went and sat with them at a big booth. We had met Monica Goggs and her husband Tony back in February before the Austin Half Marathon, but we also got to meet Nadine Voice from New Zealand. We ate and chatted as they exchanged previous Ironman race stories.
At about 4:05 we said our goodbyes to go get our bikes. I really wanted to make it to the athlete banquet, which was at 5:30, but we were cutting it close and still hadn’t even gone to our hotel to check in. By the time we got our bikes and made our way back to the car, I realized we most likely wouldn’t have time to shower and get ready for the banquet in time, so I was a little bummed. We found our hotel and got our bikes and all our stuff up to the room.
Once we finally unpacked and relaxed it was time to start working on our transition bags. We had to prepare our bike and run gear bags because they had to be dropped off the next morning. I put on some calming music and we got to work. One of the Ironman coaches had told us to lay all our gear out on top of each bag and make sure we had everything before packing it all inside. We did that and made sure it was all there.
We each took a much-needed shower and headed out to dinner at about 8:00. Back to hotel afterwards and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow by 10:00pm.
Friday, May 13: Day Before Race & Practice Swim
Woke up about 6:30. Today we would be checking in our bikes, bike and run gear bags, and doing a practice swim in the lake. The Moore’s were staying in the same hotel as us and we had decided we would drive over to Jeremy & Cristina’s hotel and then we’d all caravan to the site from there. We parked in a parking garage and then preceded to walk our bikes and bags to T1, which was about a mile and a half away. We racked our bikes and turned in our bike gear bags.
The practice swim had already begun, so we let the guys swim first while we waited with the kids. When they were done we headed down to the ramp to get into the water. It was a beautiful day and the lake looked gorgeous.
We got into the water (the first time trying our swimskins) and started swimming. Cris and I were swimming together, but we found ourselves swimming pretty off-course and had to make our way back (my goggles were fogging up). We ended up swimming about 1100 meters. Felt good.
After we swam Michael Moore gave us a ride back to our cars s0 we could grab our run gear bags and take them to T2. This site wasn’t as far away as the other. We dropped off our bags and I took a look around. I knew the next time I saw this area it would mean I was off the bike and ready to start my marathon!
Michael Moore picked us up once more and was kind enough to drive Mike and myself to meet with Cycle Chauffer (a business service based out of Austin, who collects your bike and all of your transition bags and things when you’re done with them in the race so that you don’t have to worry about any of that when the race is done. Seriously a God-send!).
Once we finally got all of that done, we drove back to our hotel to clean up. We all met up for lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen (which was delicious!) Kris and Lacy Healey met up with us there, and soon after so did Jeremy’s parents who had driven in from Louisiana. We all enjoyed each other’s company on the patio for awhile. We said our goodbyes and Mike, myself, and the Moore’s made our way to the Lululemon to find our names on the wall.
Went back to our hotel to meet up with our moms who had just arrived. The rest of the day/evening we relaxed and rested. Had dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse early and was back in hotel, showered, and ready for bed by 9:00pm.
Saturday, May 14: RACE DAY!
Alarm went off at 3:40am. Mike had already gotten up at 3:30 and was dressed and preparing our water bottles. I took a moment to wrap my brain around the realization this was the day!
I put on my kit and began the tritat application process. (And believe me, it is a process!) I applied Mike’s numbers to his arms and he applied mine to me. We met up with our moms and Laura & Michael in the lobby at 4:30. We all caravanned to Jeremy & Cristina’s hotel and then made our way to the Waterway area to find parking. As we walked the mile to the swim start/T1 area, Cristina and I kept calm by reminding ourselves, “Today will eventually come to an end.” Jeremy had told us to really enjoy today because it would be over before we knew it.
As we approached T1, we were seeded into the masses of humanity. I grabbed Laura and started singing a hymnal song my Grandma would sing to me:
“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul. I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.”
I knew she was nervous because she has been struggling with an on-the-verge stress fracture in her foot and had been wearing a boot for the past week. I felt like we both needed a little song to keep us calm.
We all split to go to our bikes. I felt pretty calm and have come to learn that I enjoy preparing my transition area because it keeps me busy and focused and not able to get nervous. Once Mike was done with his area, he came over and pumped my tires. We all met up and headed over to where our friends and families were waiting for us. I handed my backpack to my mom and then Gracie said a beautiful prayer for all of us.
We all made our way to the port-o-potties for one last break and as we were in line we heard the cannon go off for the pros to begin. That made my stomach do a flip flop. Jeremy said goodbye to us so he could make his way down towards the front of the swim start. Before we knew it, we had our swimskins on and were making our way into the crowd of thousands of athletes. We were told to seed ourselves by our projected finish time, and us girls thought we’d be good at about the 1:40 time, so we headed to that area. We found Carolina & Jody there and all said a quick prayer together.
Our line started moving; quicker and quicker. The music was blasting & I started to feel the nerves creep up on me. Mike had made his way through the crowd where I was and walked beside me. We saw Swim, Bike, Mom just as we were getting in, and we yelled out to her; it was so cool! (Fan-girl moment) And before I knew it, my body was in the water and I was going.
“This is it!” I thought, “You’re doing this, remain calm!” I started playing my usual swim songs in my head which range from John Mayer, Jason Mraz, to Hanson, and the Pocahontas soundtrack. Whatever keeps me distracted from what I’m actually doing! I got into my swim rhythm as best as I could. Sure, there were people all around me, but I just weaved my way through, sighting the yellow buoys.
At about 700 meters in, I recognized a tattooed arm to my right. Black AWA swim cap, Texas flag goggles, yep, that was Mike! He turned to breathe on my side and said, “I love you!” Haha. We swam together for probably the next 300 meters, but people were swimming between us, and sometimes on top of us, so we parted ways. Before I knew it, I was at the turn around red buoys! Just another Half Ironman swim left to do!
As soon as I was headed in the opposite direction I noticed the fog. I guess because the water was so warm (81 degrees) a fog or steam was settling. So it made it hard to see those orange buoys. I was having to sight a lot more than I wanted to; plus, the wetsuit men were catching up to me and they were big and whacking me every now and then. I just wanted to be sure to protect my head. Luckily, I never got hit in the head. Soon, I started to hear the loud speakers. Was I actually almost done swimming?!
I felt great and looked up and saw the bridge with all of the spectators. It was amazing!
Finally my feet hit the ramp and I was running up!
A volunteer helped me unzip my swimskin, and as I ran to the change tent I saw my cheer crew! They were screaming their heads off. I grabbed my bike gear bag & volunteers came up right away to help me with anything I needed. About 3 minutes later Cristina ran into the tent! It was great to see her!
We finished transition and went to get our bikes together. Even though our bikes were racked on opposite ends of each other, we ended up running out side by side (foreshadowing). When we got to the mount line the crowd was amazing. We saw the Healeys, Bettys; so many people screaming for us. We mounted and we were off!
I decided I’d stay with Cristina for as long as I could. Not even 2 miles in we went over a big bump & I heard a clanging and something falling off ad hitting the ground. I didn’t know what it was, but about 5 minutes later when I looked down to check my speed, I realized it was my computer that had popped off. Oh well, I was still right with Cris and we were passing a lot of people. My legs felt great.
About 15 miles in, Mike came up from behind us. It was great to see him! Turns out, I was able to stick with Cris this entire ride! It was the most amazing thing. At about Mile 35, I was out of drink in my aero bottle, so I let Cris know I’d need to pull over at the next aid station to get some water (because I’m a chicken and scared to grab or reach for water bottles while riding-summer goal!) Anyway, we pulled over and heard a big crash behind us. A poor guy had crashed his bike I guess because he didn’t see us pulling over (even though we did it slowly and safely). He was okay though.
Before I knew it we were passing the Mile 40 sign! “Nu-uh!” I said, “That can’t be right!” Pretty soon we were at the Special Needs Station at about Mile 53. I really needed a potty break, so this was perfect timing. I ate 2 of my mini Payday bars and wiped my face with the grapefruit wipes in my Special Needs bag.
Hopped back on our bikes, and a little while later I heard a motorcar pulling up beside me. I knew it was a race official, so I slowed myself way back because I didn’t want to get a penalty card for drafting. The rule is you’re supposed to be 6 bike lengths behind the rider in front of you, which is hard to do in many cases! Well, this race official decided to speed up & she had her eyes on Cristina. I saw her reach for her cards and I thought, “Noooooo!” as I saw her flash the blue card at her. I stayed behind until they had sped away out of sight, then caught back up to Cris. She turned her head back to me and I said, “I know, I saw everything.”
The next water station where the penalty tent was came upon us and we pulled over. I really needed water to drink and to add to my aero bottle, so I had no problem with stopping there. After I got my water I walked my bike up to Cris and asked how long the penalty would be for. 5 minutes. That’s nothing! It never once crossed my mind to keep going and leave her there. Not after we had already gotten this far together! So we waited it out, no biggie. A nice little break.
Soon as the race official said the time was up, we took off. The next 40 miles were pretty uneventful. When we finally saw the 90 Mile marker we got excited.
T2 came upon us quickly. This was one of the main moments I had anticipated: Being able to send my bike off and out my two feet on the ground to start the last portion of the race! Cris and I were hugging as we were running to get our run gear bags. I teared up and said, “We’ve done it!”
As we ran around the corner we spotted Kris Healey and he yelled out to us; he was so excited for us. It was so great to see a familiar face.
We grabbed our bags and headed into the changing tent. Both she and I had planned to change completely for the run. We put on run shorts and she lent me another Team Betty tri top (since I had been in a one piece). We saw Jennifer Kilgore in the tent too, which was cool. The volunteers in that tent were so helpful and sweet. Soon as we were changed, we did a quick port-o-potty stop and were headed out to run 26.2 miles.
I can never tell what my body’s going to do when I start my run in a tri. More often than not, I actually get a quick start. Today was a little different. I took off a little bit ahead of Cris, but felt my heart rate rise pretty quickly. The heat of the day (which hadn’t bothered me on the bike) was getting to me and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to run like I usually do. Also, I had never run more than 16 miles at once before, so I knew I’d really need to pull back.
When I got to the first water station (there was one at every mile) I started walking and Cris caught up to me. I told her I was gonna need to pull back and she said, “I’m fine with a slow run/walk!” And so that’s what we did: run the miles in between and walk the water stations.
Once we got to about Mile 5 we started hearing music and the people. I was looking forward to Catapult Corner because my sorority sister Alison had told me she’d be there. And there she was! She ran beside me for about 300 meters and we talked. I hadn’t seen her in months and I was so happy!
The next people we saw were Team Healey and they went crazy cheering for us as we ran by.
We crossed under a bridge and heard our names being screamed from across the water on the other side. It was Gracie waving and saying, “I’ll let your family know you’re on your way!” and she sprinted away like an Olympian. Finally we saw our crew across the water. We had a big group and everyone was going crazy. It was awesome! We continued running and knew it would be about 3-4 more miles till we’d get to run right beside where they were.
The heat was pretty intense but we were keeping cool by drinking ice water, chewing ice, and shoving ice cold sponges in our top. Then we started to hear thunder. I looked up and noticed a cloud cover forming. I said, “It’d be nice if it’d rain on us.” Famous last words.
Within the next 10 minutes or so, wind picked up, raindrops began to fall, and all at once it was a full-on crazy thunder/lightning storm! We continued to run through it and then I felt something hard and sharp it my shoulder. Again, on my arms. “It’s hailing!” I yelled. We picked up our pace and kept running through it. Our socks, shoes, entire bodies were sopping wet.
We ran and ran, finally coming upon where our family was supposed to be. We figured they had to go inside somewhere; it was dangerous outside! Funny how I thought that, but never once did I think about us two stopping. I was bound and determined we were gonna do this! We passed the spot our family had been, but then came up to a bridge and there they all were! Piled underneath and screaming and cheering for us!
The storm was still going strong as we rounded into our 2nd loop, but we both decided we needed a walk break. As we walked a bit, the hail had stopped and rain had lightened up. I was very worried for Laura and praying she wasn’t out on the bike anymore.
At Mile 12 we noticed a mass of people stopped ahead of us. It was all of the athletes who had been stopped. We came upon the crowd and couldn’t see anything in front of us, but we learned they had pulled all of the athletes off the course and paused the clock to let the storm blow through. Apparently everyone had been stopped for 45 minutes, but Cris & I had been on the opposite side of everything so we were clueless and just kept running! We were only held back by about 2 minutes here, and then everyone started running again.
It actually looked pretty awesome as hundreds of us ran in a ginormous pack; reminded me of the Austin Marathon.
When we got to about Mile 13 we spotted Laura in front of us. We ran up to her and all hugged. I was so happy to see she was safe. She looked great even though I knew her foot had to be in pain. Us three got to run/walk together for the next few miles. It was great. Our family saw us across the water again and they yelled out, “Laura’s with them!” It was the first time they’d seen her since the bike.
At this point my everything ached. My knees, hips, ankles, and especially the bottoms of my soaking wet feet. But we were about ready to start our 3rd loop and I knew we were so close! When we got into the 20 milers, we knew we needed a little more motivation. Cristina started reading her motivational tags at every mile and it really helped.
At about Mile 23 we knew we’d see our family one last time from across the waterway, so we said, “Let’s walk to the bridge then pick it up and run when we pass them.” Well, I guess they had decided to move a little closer than we expected because we heard our names being shouted and we started running and yelling to them, “We were not walking!” They started laughing and we started to get really excited. “All we have is a 5k left!” I said.
When we were finally getting to the last water station I started singing, “She’s just a girl and she’s on fire….” my power song. We were both running and singing because we knew it was real, we knew we were about to accomplish one of the biggest dreams of our lives.
This girl is on FIRE! She’s walking on FIRE!
We rounded that last aid station and rang the 3rd loop bell. We were ecstatic. Our song changed to, “This is the DAY! This is the DAY that the Lord has made!” Just about 1 mile left to go! As we finally got to the turn off that said FINISH LINE, I grabbed Cristina’s hand and said, “This is it!!!”
We ran that last 500 meters and finally….there it was. The moment that I had been dreaming, anticipating, crying at the drop of a hat for. The blazing white lights, the Ironman mat, and Mike Reilly’s voice.
We grabbed hands and were laughing and crying at the same time.
“Cristina Boreaux, Jenna Gutierrez, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”
Best. Day. Ever.
The volunteers went above and beyond at the finish line taking care of us. We were exhausted, wet, and freezing, but we had done it. The dream in our hearts for the past 12 months had come true.
All of the early morning wake ups. The LONG runs and rides on consecutive weekend days when all we wanted to do was sleep in and/or drink wine! The aches, pains, black toenails, books on tape for my long runs, nerves, fears, doubts. Our dream had been realized.
Throughout this journey I will say one remarkable thing. Not only has my mental strength and patience grown, but my spiritual strength. I have learned so much about trust, faith, and positivity. It has spread throughout my life: from training, to relationships, to my job, and my daily attitude. Ironman helped me to grow in the best way.
And for that I am forever grateful.
TRI WITH JOY!