Ironman Los Cabos 2014 Race Report

Ironman Los Cabos Finish Chute

YOU…are an Ironman.  Chills still run through my body hearing those words in my mind and thinking back to that day and final moment.  Life changing words….really, they are. Swim 2.4 miles. Bike 112 miles and run a marathon 26.2 miles. It’s much more than the world’s most challenging endurance race.  If there’s one thing triathlon reminds me it’s to never give up. But it teaches me so much more.  It’s about finding your limits and pushing beyond to overcome enormous odds. Believing in myself and committing to goals and dreams. Being open to the unknown and making things happen. Knowing that things big things don’t happen over night and that it’s not always going to be easy… but it is going to be worth it. IRONMAN. Anything’s possible.

I’ve opened this blank screen countless time over the past 18 days and it’s time I finally try to put this experience into words.  Not all of what I write will make sense and part of it might even be weird to read.  I think that most Ironman triathletes will be able to relate, however, and I hope that those considering an Ironman are in some way inspired to take the leap and sign up.  And most important, I hope anyone reading this realizes that we all have limitless potential to achieve our goals. We just have to be brave enough to take the steps to get there. Forgive me in advance for the occasional TMI like my peeing and stuff like that. And please excuse the shitload of swearing. Sorry…I find swearing necessary (and kinda fun) when it comes to an Ironman triathlon.

I am an Ironman. I remember it all so clearly, minus the blurry finish chute, although the first week or so after none of it seemed real. I was full of happiness but also felt relief, confusion, and even slight disappointment. I think I’m able to tell my story much better out loud and I know this is going to be the most challenging and messy blog I’ve ever written. I know l’ll want to look back and read this years down the road though so I will do the best I can.  But how do you seriously blog Ironman?  It would take 16 hour, 9 minutes and 58 seconds to tell my story plus the training but I’ll try to pick out the things that matter most to me. And what made me want to do an Ironman?  Ask me that in person.

Ironman Los Cabos

My Background and training  I started running 13 months ago and purchased my first bike as an adult 7 months ago. In the past 12 months I’ve run two half marathons and my first triathlon (Olympic distance) 6 months ago. I never ran a marathon and thought it was exciting that my first marathon would be in an Ironman.  I was laughed at more than I was encouraged.   I was told I need to do more shorter distance triathlons before Ironman and that I needed more than 5 months to train… even by one coach. I was told that training in 20 degree weather and racing in 90 degree weather made it harder. I was told not to do a hilly course and that Los Cabos was one of the more challenging courses.  People told me I should be doing at least one Half Ironman first but since when do I like to half anything? Joking, kind of. I didn’t want to know what a Half Ironman was like and imagined a 7-8 hour race would be challenging enough. I didn’t want to know what it feels like to cross that finish line and then tell myself I would have to do that twice in an Ironman. I preferred to go into this not knowing too much, to train and prepare my body, maintain a strong mind, and use every ounce of my heart and efforts to push through Ironman. It’s not only about having the skill to do triathlons. It’s about having the will, desire and determination to cross the finish line.  If you really want to achieve something you will do it.

I loved and looked forward to 80% of training. If I had trained in the spring/summer and chosen to tune out the massive amount of criticism I probably would have enjoyed 90%.  I wanted to do an early season race even though everyone (by everyone I mean 100% of people I talked to including a coach) advised against it due to training in the winter season. I knew it wouldn’t work for me to have this on my mind and to train an entire year. I like to push myself really hard and do things in shorter periods of time when possible. I figured the very worst that could happen is I DNF (do not finish) and if I did maybe I’d cry, laugh, learn from it and I could always try again. The two massive training challenges that I encountered was snow and the outside negativity. It snowed the entire winter up to the day I departed for Ironman.  I refused to sit on an indoor trainer for hours on end so I never bought one. I can count the number of long outdoor rides I got in on one hand.  Less than 50% of what I “should” have.  I expected to hit my first century ride (100 miles) early into training but due to weather the furthest I ever rode before IM was 42 miles.  I didn’t even know the bike course was rolling hills until 41 days to the race. I never ran more than 15.5 miles either.  I’m not suggesting someone relies on finishing an Ironman under these circumstances and don’t get me wrong…I trained very hard, put in a lot of hours and took my training time very serious. Maybe it’s more about what you put into the training hours than the actual hours. I had a few weeks where I trained as little as 7 hours and maxed at just 18 hours per week.  I traveled twice for work going four day periods without training.  I self coached myself and followed a training plan for two months then made up the remaining 3 months myself.  Many asked why I picked Los Cabos as my first course because it’s known to be one of the harder courses.  I was even told 48 hours to the race this isn’t a “first timers” course.  These conversations seemed unnecessary and a simple “good luck” would have been ideal. It did not matter  to me what challenges I encounter on the course. It’s  140.6 miles which would be challenging regardless and I picked this course because becoming an Ironman in Mexico is far more exciting than racing in in potato or cheese land. (sorry Idaho and Wisconsin)  I was told a handful of times that everyone cramps at some point on the bike or run (still no idea what a cramp feels like), I’d probably throw up, maybe cry, MUST stick to a strict nutrition plan, and that I’d likely want to quit at some point but to just keep going.  I really wish I never heard any of this because NONE of this ever happened and I did not go as hard as I could have in the marathon because I kept asking myself when or if these things would happen. Hearing all these things while training alone alone was the hardest part of training. Really hard.  At times it affected me deep inside.  Hearing “you can’t” and “you won’t” is challenging to overcome and with less than 2 months to go there was even a short time where I questioned myself.  I have never questioned myself like this and wondered if I was just really clueless about what I was doing.  I wasn’t.  I even visualized myself DNF-ing, what I would look like and how I would respond. I had two DNF dreams and one disqualification dream.  But there were far more days and dreams where I envisioned success which outweighed everything else.  I did not want to go into this with an ego and wanted to acknowledge and prepare myself for the possibility of failure.  I told friends that my chances of finishing were low (they kinda were) but the truth? From the day I signed up I did not doubt myself and knew that I would finish. I had said that I expected Ironman to be extremely challenging and like nothing I’ve done before but that at the end of it it’s just one day of my life and it can’t possibly be that hard.  My prediction was spot on.  So then why am I sharing the negative parts of training?  Well, the positive was very positive but I just want anyone who experiences the challenges I encountered to realize that the only one who can tell you “You can’t”  is YOU.  And you don’t have to listen.  Taking risks when there’s opportunity, pushing hard, and understanding the power of the mind is an amazing thing.  If I could redo one thing in training I wish I had done a better job not allowing the negative comments to be absorbed when I already believed in myself.  I am especially sorry to the friend who saw how this affected me at times and how I behaved at times with you.  I am so lucky you are my friend and grateful that you understood.  You always seem understand or take the time to understand. Thank you to those who offered me the great advice too and more than anything those who offered support and believed in me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some people say the logistics of equipment in triathlons in general are a hassle and that racing an Ironman in another country can add another level of hassle. You can chose to look at the stress or the opportunity.  I just thought of it as an exciting adventure and it worked out far better than I had expected. Actually, the entire race did.  I had no preconceived notions of what an Ironman feels like. Once I arrived Los Cabos I met a ton of really awesome and driven athletes. The energy leading up to race day was amazing.  It’s not just crossing the finish line makes you a winner in Ironman. It’s what you learn and do after that also counts. This was not just a race.  Having the chance to finish an Ironman triathlon is an incredible experience that I intend to apply to my life. Not even so much from the physical side but the psychology of your first Ironman finish is an experience and feeling I can’t fully put into words. I’m sure I will have loads of corrections to make by the time I finish this.  I applaud you if you make it through the entire blog.

Ironman Los Cabos

Race Morning  3:30am wakeup after almost four hours of rest. Today you are going to become an Ironman, Keli.  I write “next stop 140.6″ on a hotel note pad and stick it in my grey morning race gear bag. I know I am going to do this. I just wonder what it’s all going to be like.

4:00am  1.5 bagels, hard boiled egg, spark, half cup of coffee and lots of water.  I feel like there was something else too but surprisingly I can’t remember.

4:45am Official Ironman Athlete bus to race.  #414 sat down next to me. He is trying to qualify for Kona today. He did it. Big congratulations, Andrew.

5:15am  I turn in my bike and run special needs bags and head into transition at Palmilla Beach. It’s pitch dark when I reach my bike and that’s kind of exciting. Music is blasting and there’s so much excitement. The guy on the mic is talking pro-athlete stuff and reminders for the rest of us.

6:00am or something like that. The sun is rising over the Sea of Cortez and I’m less than one hour to my first Ironman. Chills. I gear up, pull my wetsuit half way up and run into Mark and Sabrina. We exchange quick hugs and best wishes. The mechanic fills up my tires and I hear pssssssssssss.  Is it possible that I have a flat 30 minutes to race start?  As he tries again he tells me in Spanish that his pump is broken, points me over to a line of people to wait for the next pump.  It’s my turn again and um…psssssssss. Uh, turns out I do have a flat tire. There’s a tear in my tube and I wonder why I am still so calm with the start time approaching. The same sweet mechanic who helped me with minor adjustments when my bike arrived a few days ago thankfully spares me a tube so I don’t have to use mine incase I need it during the race. I hug him and tell him gracias over and over. He wishes me buenas suerte. Changing a flat tire in Spanish is more fun and everything in Spanish adds to my race experience.

6:45am  Pro athletes take off as we’re lining up for the swim start.  Oh…my….gosh.  EXCITED!!!  I am not nervous because what was there to be nervous about?  No butterflies, my mind was calm, and I am pumped up.  I’m here to do the very best I can and anything beyond that is out of my control.  Go out there and give it your all.  Minutes before the race I’m so happy to run into Umberto, one of the swim directors, who answered my swim course questions after practice yesterday.  He tells me to line up right where I am in the back and middle.  Umberto hugs me, kisses my cheek, wishes me good luck and most important yells “GET OUT THERE AND REMEMBER TO ENJOY YOUR DAY, KELI!  I WILL BE LOOKING FOR YOU AT THE FINISH LINE!”  I stood in the soft white sand, took a deep breath then seconds later the horn blew. Holy shit.

Ironman Los Cabos swim start


7:00am  The horn blew over and over and over… Hundreds of us dash into the mass swim start all with the same agenda and I am officially racing in an Ironman. Holy shit, Keli. You are in an Ironman!  The Ironman swim start is known as the human washing machine which is apparently what makes  Ironman a contact sport.  We’re 5 minutes into the swim with some guy swimming right over me. Kicks, goggles pushed into my face, shoulders grabbed, but to be honest this is pretty exciting and interesting.  I’ve never swam distance in open water and definitely not in these conditions.  The only thing that really frustrates me is the people behind me constantly grabbing my ankles. A strong constant kick quickly separates their hands from my legs so I’m not pulled down.  Gulp, gulp, salt water.  Cough…cough, no biggie. I am comfortable in the water and jokingly ask myself if the salt water counts as electrolytes. I was advised against my decision to swim without a watch but I’m glad I chose not to wear one. I did not want to constantly see the time with each stroke. I can only swim so hard so knowing my time would only hurt me.  I am soon shocked, however, when I reach the first buoy to find they were not marked with the distance we swam!  Oh…my….gosh… what the —-!  I can hear my breath completely out of control. I am not at all in any panic but my breath….I need to get it under control.  I tell myself there’s no way I can swim this distance breathing like this. Keli, get it under control and calm the breath. You do yoga!  But fuck the yoga… this is an Ironman!  I can not control the breath without knowing how far I’ve swam and whether I am moving forward quick enough. So much is going on that I have zero concept of time. I can not even guess if I’ve swam 30 minutes or an hour and 30 minutes and I can still hear my breath. I keep thinking if only I knew the distance I could calm my breathing down. This took up most of the swim but it’s kind of a funny lesson in life.  Does the current distance really matter and was breathing like this helping me?  No and no. All of the other obstacles and chaos in the swim do not affect me.  Some guy lifts his head up and looks at his watch.  ”HOW FAR HAVE WE SWAM?”  I yell over to him and he says 1.2 miles!  Ohhhh shit!  That’s just half way. Exactly half way. I decide not to ask him what time it is because at this point I do not want to know if I will make the cut off.  I just want to keep going and focus on being proud for having completed half the swim. The cluster of people eventually spreads out a little although we are still close enough that I feel confident that I will likely make the 2 hour and 20 minute cut off.  A lifeguard kayak is finally close enough so I yell as I swim by “HOW MUCH LONGER??”  I can see the land and tiny spectators who look so far away.  He tells me 500 meters.  Yes!!  ”DO I HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE IT?”  He smiled “Yes, you’re going to make it.  Plenty of people are behind you.”  I picked up my speed and began to plow through those last 500 meters noticing that finally my breath was under control.  I really enjoyed those last 500 meters.  Oh yes!!!! My feet finally touch the bottom of the ocean and I run out and see 1:20:40. Yessssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Fucking awesome.

Swim Time:  1:20:40

Ironman Los Cabos 2014

Ironman Los Cabos

Ironman Los Cabos 2014 Ironman Los Cabos 2014

T1 (Transition 1)  I’m out of breath totally pumped as I run run up the beach through some sprinkler showers overhead.  I strip my wetsuit and run into the changing tents. It’s sandy and I do not want to get on my bike full of sand.  I ask a volunteer for agua, wash it off as best I can and still have sand on me. I change into my cycling gear and Belize jersey then dash out of the tent to my bike rack #656.  Rewind for a second.  This was my first open water ocean swim and I’m damn proud of what I did out there.  I’m pretty sure I told myself this as I ran my bike up the slope and out of T1.  Looking back at the images I’m pretty excited these two guys were running behind me.

T1 time: 10:26 Great work, Keli. Now go out there and conquer your biggest challenge of the day. The bike course.

Ironman Los Cabos race report

Ironman Los Cabos Bike Course

Ironman Los Cabos bike course


8:32am running out of T1 in the first image heading right out climb. It’s going to be the longest bike ride in my life and will take up the entire day.  I hope to be off my bike a few hours before sunset.  It’s exciting and I have no idea what to expect as I’ve never gone more than 42 miles in one day.  The bike course is supposed to be one of the tougher courses with constant rolling hills (6500 ft) but something about that makes it more interesting. I’m ready for whatever comes my way. I’ve never ridden in the heat but it doesn’t matter to me.  It’s so cool I’m cycling my first Ironman in Mexico.  Thrilling.  I will have to complete 3 laps along the Transpeninsular Highway that goes from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas.  Here I go climbing up the Palmilla Bridge. Still climbing onto the Trans Peninsular Highway. Yup, I’m climbing…  Uh oh… do you hear that, Keli?  Your breath. It sounds just like it did in the water.  I wonder if it ever really settled.  There’s no way you’ll make it if you don’t control your breath and get yourself situated on the bike.  After making the first hill I catch my breath, consume a Mocha Clif gel shot and notice it’s all over my right thigh. Better wipe that off incase I pass a camera.  Oops, not quick enough as you can see in the image above.  I’m cycling down the Trans peninsular highway the first 15 miles to Cabo San Lucas where I will eventually hit the turn around to go to San Jose del Cabo until the Fonatar sculpture where the first lap will be completed. Then, I’ll do that two more times.

0-30 miles 20 minutes on the bike and it’s hard believe this is happening. I remind myself I have to drink every 15 minutes and get calories in every 30 minutes.  One salt tablet per hour too. And no, I have never experimented with salt tablets before but they worked out great!  I’ll go with a mocha clif gel, 3 dried apricots and plenty of water to wash it down.  I have my nutrition plan but go more with what feels right staying within the amount of calories I planned for per hour.  I did not expect to have nutrition/GI problems and didn’t. My friend Mark rolls up next to me and asks how my swim went.  So much fun to see him on the course for a whole 5 seconds.  Mark keeps on rollin’.  Sweeeeeet!  Aid station, already? The first aid station to exchange water bottles is one of the best!  Lots of children with parents here cheering us on. Can’t describe how this feels inside hearing kids yell VAMOSSSSSSS!!!! VAMOSSSS!!!!!  SE PUEDE, SE PUEDE!  (go, go, go…you can do it!)  It’s like all warm in my heart and I am filled gratitude as I they clap and scream while we zoom by. Keli, this is real. Can you believe you are doing this?  Loads of spectators, tons of energy, I’m feeling awesome and having a blast.  Something like 40 minutes into the ride I zip under a bridge with spectators on each side cheering VAMOS BELICE, VAMOS BELICE!!!!!! SE PUEDE BELICE!!!! ANIMO, ANIMO, ANIMOOOOOOOO!!!  Did they just say GO BELIZE…you can do it, Belize?  No fucking way, awesome. I am PUMPED!  Too exciting. I’m on my bike trying to process that I am in an Ironman triathlon in Mexico while people are yelling at me Go Belize!   Adrenaline rushing through my body.  Maybe it sounds totally stupid but I can’t explain how I feel in this moment.  Hearing this reaches me deep inside and reminds what I have done in Belize and how much Belize has had an impact on my life.  And then this reminds me that I CAN do this.  I wore my Belize jersey because the cycling part of my race I raced for Belize (I won’t get into what that means) but this is all just very exciting. Every so often more people scream VAMOS BELICE, VAMOS CHICA, ANIMO, ANIMO, ANNNNNNIMO…SEIS-CINCO-SEIS, SEIS-CINCO-SEIS, SEIS-CINCO-SEIS!  Every time I hear this I feel my facial expressions shift from focused to big, huge, happy smiles.  I am pumped.

I’m cycling behind a female pro athlete for a whopping 30 seconds and there’s a video motorcycler riding along side of her.  Thing is..she must be on lap 2 or 3 and I’m on my first. Ha! A motorcycle race official is headed towards me now and I wonder if I am following the rules. Are they gonna wave one of those penalty things at me?  There’s a yellow penalty box to my right and every so often along the course. How could you actually get a penalty out here?  Each time these guys pass me I ask myself if I’m doing everything right and wonder if I’ll end up on the side of the road in a penalty box.  After the first hour that fell off my list of concerns. But uh oh. They’re headed my way again and this time carrying a cycler and bike on the back of their motorcycle.  I see a few people taken off the course. What happened? Did they crash?  Exactly 4 hours into the race people are DNF-ing, getting injured, or something like that.  You’re doing well, Keli.  Keep on going.

The bike course distance is not marked but that sounds familiar.  Remember the swim?  I won’t check my bike computer for my distance until I reach 2 hours.  I don’t want to become attached to how far I’ve gone. So long as I maintain an average of 15 MPH I should be 30 miles in at 2 hours.  Climbing hills now wondering why people say hilly courses are harder. Sure, I’ll end up with a slower time but it sure makes things interesting going up and down hills. It gives you something to focus on. I imagine it could get pretty boring to ride flat for 112 miles. With each hill I push through there’s a reward on the other end.  Downhill.  Ahhhhhh, so fun!!  Up…down….up….down…ooooh now it’s flat!  No wait, there’s another hill.  This goes on for 2 hours.  Wait no, actually this goes on for 8 hours and 8 minutes to be exact.  6500 ft .

30 miles  Time to check my odometer.  30 miles.  Good.  So just do that almost 4 more times.  For the next 6 hours I continuously break things into math problems over and over. Sometimes I do math then 2 minutes later look at my watch and do it over again.  And that continues over and over. A lot.  Maybe I’m just checking myself or maybe I’m just doing it to occupy time.  It’s all good. I’ve always liked math.  I’m gonna avoid checking milage until I hit another two hours because looking at an odometer that reads 30, 35, 38 and so on miles could get discouraging so why not focus on something else.  I’m more interested in my average pace than how far I’ve gone. For the most part I stick to this plan but occasionally peak to make sure I am on track for cut off.

32-34 miles or something like that (guessing) Uuuuff. Pushhhh. Upppp. That. Hillllll, Keli. You know what’s on the other side. There’s a fun reward downhill. You see, it’s tricky pushing up the hills but often times the disadvantage has it’s advantage.  Yes!!!!  Look at that…HUGEST downhill on the course.  I am alone right now flying down my favorite hill.  I hit the bottom and there it is…VAMOS BELICE, VAMOS, ANIMO, ANIMO, ANIMO!  I wonder why they always say animo three times. Come on, is this shit real?  I have to remind myself I am in Ironman. I’m laughing and loving this.  I’m calculating again and must be within miles of the first turn around.  I’ve done such a great job hydrating it’s already time to quickly use the port-o-potty. There’s toilet paper in it too, yay!  Can someone tell me why loads of triathletes told me I  have to have a fancy watch that beeps every 15 minutes to remind me to hydrate and eat?  They said my mind will eventually forget to hydrate.  How does one FORGET to hydrate when cycling 112 miles in mid-90 degree weather? That’s bizarre to me.  Mind-body awareness.  Triathletes:  another reason you need to train with yoga.  The fancy watch is not necessary.  I drink pretty much every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes up to my 7th hour. My final hour I drink/eat around every half hour. So back to peeing. Hydration is essential in an Ironman and I read something that said if I didn’t pee within the first three hours I should be concerned.  Funny thing though…I am sure I am more hydrated today than I’ve ever been. I went to the bathroom 6 times during Ironman (whoa!) and every time I’m thinking “Good job, Keli!” I think that’s more than in a regular day. Getting on/off my bike and potty breaking probably took up 21 minutes of race time but at least I felt great!

I spend an extra couple minutes here when some guy says “I need a new wife.”  He is actually saying needs a new life but it sure sounds like wife to me and a volunteer. He tells me the hills are so tough and he thinks the heat is brutal. I’m still having fun.  Turns out he’s from my hometown and after our quick laugh we wish each other good luck and head back on the bike. I tell him I’ll look him up after the race. 5 seconds later I can’t even remember his race number. Over the course of 140.6 miles there are people who come in and out of my life in a matter of minutes and even seconds.  Each of them added to my experience.  I complete my first loop and now I just have to do this two more times.  Long way to go but let’s focus on the fact that I’ve made it through 33% of the ride.  Don’t worry about it.  I’m doing well and still feeling great.

34 miles and then many more.  Take your bike out for a 112 mile ride. There’s plenty of time to think about anything you can imagine.  Right now, wherever I am at this point, I don’t want to think about anything though.  I don’t even want to read the support three letters from friends that I stuffed in my bento box.  I don’t want to have conversations with anyone including myself.  I just want peace and quiet, a focused mind, and to keep going.

54 miles   Wow!  I’m half way through the second loop exactly half way through the ride! This is the longest I’ve ever been on my bike and I am still so happy. Feeling such progress.  So if this were a Half Ironman I’d just now be finishing the bike. Already?  THANK GOODNESS I didn’t take people’s advice to do a Half Ironman first because I can totally keep going.  I feel great. Yessssssss.

58 miles  Was that just 4 miles ago that I said I’d already be getting off the bike if this were a Half Ironman?  Huh, something happened over the past 4 miles. Shut up, Keli, and keep peddling. But wait…I still have nearly half way to go and then have to run a maraaaaa-be quiet and don’t say the word. Focus on the present and current goal. You are not allowed to say the word mara- STOP!  DON’T SAY IT. You’re goal right now is to finish 112 miles and make the bike course cut off. That’s all that matters now. What come next doesn’t matter until I complete the bike goal. I catch myself thinking about next leg of the race three or four times but never allow myself say the full words “marathon” until it’s marathon time.  Yay, another aid station. Time for another banana and to exchange water bottles at the next aid station. The volunteers at most of my quick stops/roll throughs open the lids for me and hold the bottle while I add my Rehydrate powder.  Hearing them ask me what I’d like in Spanish pumps me up. I make sure to tell them gracias every time. I keep on going and hear it again…this time in English: GO KELI, GO #656, YES KELI!!! it made my stomach sink. Kindness and support from total strangers.  I smiled and nodded my head in appreciation as I cruised by. Thank you, spectators. It made such a difference and made things even more exciting.

58-74 miles The hills? Yeahhhhhh, maybe I take back what I said on the first loop and I maybe they’re not as fun as I thought. You see the next one coming?  Looks tough.  Don’t you dare start bitching!  No one asked you to do this. You signed up for this yourself so don’t you bitch one minute of this race.  You’re making one of your huge dreams happen right now. This is an amazing opportunity.  I’m not in the mood to hear my mind chatter so just stop talking to yourself. And don’t forget what’s on the other side of the hill, Keli. It’s how you handle the uphill battle that determines your outcome.  That of course applies off the course in life too. I’m passing some people with fancy bikes. I giggle and feel reassured that my bike is doing the job.  Would you like to do some more math problems, Keli?  Yea, why not.  I’m calculating my pace, time, and estimating how much longer I have to go.  Something like 3 1/2 hours? How about focusing on 15 minute increments since that’s water and rehydrate time. Breaking the long term goal into short term goals will pass the time and confirm that I’m moving along.  I’m recalculating and maybe 5 minutes later I do it again. That’s enough math for a little bit.  I’m not sure if I’m doing this to pass time or if I’m unsure of my ability to accurately calculate after 4 hours of biking hills in the heat.  I better quadruple check one one more time to make sure I’ll make the cut off. What else is there to do right now anyways?  My left small baby toe feels pinched in my shoe. Is it going hurt with so many miles to go?  Focus on your toe and it will surely start hurting more. I focus my thoughts on something else and within minutes my toe is fine.  Sometimes it’s less about what happens to you and more about how you deal with what happens to you. Controlling your thoughts is one of the most important skills for endurance racing.  What you think about while racing and how you deal with what comes your way is critical to your success.

I’m excited to approach each aid station to stop or roll through for bananas, water bottle exchanges and quick words of encouragement in Spanish (one of my favorite parts).  Sometimes as I approach they shouted what they were holding “AGUA!  HIELO!  GEL!”  As I approach I shout back PLATANO? and they’d yell further down the way to other volunteers PLATANO! PLATANO! PLATANO! as I roll by.  Volunteers stuff half bananas in the back of my jersey pockets.  My jersey is way overstuffed the entire ride and run (notice the image) but it kept me feeling safe and secure. I’d carry far less in the future.

Somewhere in the middle I keep hearing this noise and I wonder if I have a flat.  As I get to the second turn around I hop off, look down and ask the race officials if it looks like I have a flat. They laugh and tell me my wheels look fine.  Sweet!  Hop back on and feeling happy.

74 miles  Uh, it’s a cross between being numb and being on fire down there.  Did I leave my va-jay back at mile 70?  This feels weird but at least it doesn’t hurt.  And why doesn’t my back, shoulders or legs hurt like everyone told me they would and how come I haven’t cramped yet?  This is all good…so let’s focus on the good stuff and what is in good condition. Yay, time for my second port-o-potty break and I’m again thrilled to pee again. I’m back on my bike and everything is back to normal again. Sweet.  I approach the end of the second lap and there’s two options. Turn around and go one more time or go straight a few miles towards transition. Somehow I go just a tiny bit too far and yelled THIS WAY OR THAT WAY??  Spectators and race officials yell “Keep going straight if you finished your third lap!”  Ah shit, who do they think I am?  I turn around and head back for my third and final lap.

76 miles  Loads of people are past me although I’m pushing past some people now on the hills. I have to give the hills my all because the more I push the sooner I get through them.  I ask the guy in front of me if I am getting weak or if the winds and heat really picked up out here.  I could hardly hear my voice through the wind.  It was windy throughout the course but he assures me the winds have really picked up and we’re really gonna have to push hard on this final last lap. He also warns me that things start to get really hard for the body around 80 miles. Ohhhh shit.  Even though I had a feeling we would make it, I task him if we’ll make the cut off.  He assures me so long as we keep up this pace we’ll make it. I ask the next three guys along the way the same question. Did I mention I calculated a lot on the bike course?  I probably calculate some more around here.

90 miles  Whoa, it’s hot. There’s no shade on the course but I don’t really mind the heat. Should I be concerned though looking down at my blotchy red arms?  I have the hugest headache now!  Do I get off my bike and take the ibuprofen under my seat or keep going?  I feel like I need to keep going. My body still feels totally fine and I wonder if I get off my bike will I notice any aches or pains that would make it difficult to get back on?  Ride a few miles and see how you feel.  I’d really like to make it through this course without stopping unless I have to go to the bathroom.  Few miles later…damn it. It’s a really, really big headache. Keli, if you want to focus on the headache you’ll just make it worse and make it more challenging to push these last 22 miles. Focus on the positive. What do you tell your doula clients?  You know there is an end and you can do this. Wait no, I AM doing this.  If so many of your doula clients have babies without medication can you ride a bike for another 22 miles without headache medication?  Of course I can. I am glad to know it’s there if I really need it but will only get off my bike to take it if it becomes unbearable. Right now I can deal with it. I am 6 hours into my ride with hopefully less than 2 hours to go. That’s positive. Oh look who!  Surprise surprise!  The mechanic that changed my tire this morning just rolled up next to me on a motorcycle and asks in Spanish how I’m doing.  So happy to see him. “Tengo dolor de cabeza grannnnnde!!” (I have a huge headache) and asked him if I’ll make the cut off.  He laughs and says as long as I keep this up of course I will.  Then he zooms by.

Somewhere between 90-100 miles  All is going well fighting these winds except I might feel kinda throwup-ish.  Yup, yup… I could possibly throw up. I don’t think it’s nutrition related. When I look at my arms I wonder if maybe I’m getting some reaction to the heat.  It’s weird though that the heat doesn’t actually bother me.  It doesn’t make much sense but I decide not to focus on it. I focus on having just over an hour to go. That’s amazing. I’ve been on my bike nearly 7 hours!  You can throw up all you want, Keli, when you get off the bike.  OMG, soon I’ll have just under an hour to go. How cool is that?  That’ s my new focus. Calculating again breaking things down into half hours chunks, 15 minute chunks and even 5 minute chunks. Mentally breaking the course down into smaller, digestable pieces and continuing to focus on where I am right now rather than visualizing the enormity of the race made a huge difference.  There is no reason to dwell on the finish line any time soon.  Omg, I just hit 100 miles.  Seeing this number makes me sooo happy and I have less than one hour to go on the bike!!  Whooo hoooo.  Will I make it?   Another happy distraction.  Look who! It’s my favorite sweet mechanic rolling on by again.  This time he’s waving three boxes of pain medication at me asking if I want to pull over and take something. I thanked him and told him it was sweet but that I didn’t want to stop and take anything at this point because now I feel a little pukey too and who knows how I’d react to taking something. This whole headache/I might puke stuff didn’t last more than an hour and a half. The course is thinning out.  Most spectators have moved onto T2 and the marathon.  I’m now seeing people heading the other way on the other side of the highway. I know where they are on the course and how far they have to go before they even turn around.  I look at my watch and realize none of them will make the cut off. My heart sinks and I think about the hard work we’ve all done today. One after the next they pass by and I remind myself I have to focus on getting myself to transition.  I wonder what it will feel like to get off my bike and if I’ll really make it.  I realize my headache’s gone shortly before I approach transition.

111 miles.  I hear them!!! I hear them all screaming and cheering!  Yes!! I’m just one mile from transition 2 and I AM making the bike cut off.  I see T2 and a spectator yells GREAT JOB, #656 YOU MADE IT!!!  I couldn’t expect that moment to get any better but it did.

112 miles.   I put on the breaks to slow down over speed bump after speed bump as I pull into transition.  The moment has arrived and it is even more thrilling than I could imagine. I am HERE and about to dismount my bike. The next thing I hear?  KELI ENGLESONNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!  I FUCKING LOVE YOU!!!!!  FUCK YEAH KELI ENGLESONNNNNNNN FUCK YEAHHHHHHH SHE’S OFF THE BIKE!  I turn to my left and and my elementary school friend that I haven’t seen in half my life surprises me there on the sidelines. She flew in race morning and we agreed previously to meet at the finish line or at another spot if I DNFed the race. But there she is right when I complete the biggest challenge of my Ironman. As I write this, I replay this and how I felt at that moment.  Theresa is beat red, face about to explode, knees bent screaming, cheering me on. It was one of the highlights of my race. I will always clearly remember arriving T2.  I yell to her twice as I’m running off the bike “I’m gonna puke” and with the same enthusiasm she yells GET THAT SHIT OUT, YEAH, GET IT OUT, KELI!  GO PUKE AND KEEP GOING as I run into the changing tents to prepare for my first marathon.

Bike Time:  08:08:44

T2 (Transition 2)  Running into T2 three volunteers are there to do anything they can for me.  I’m stripping my clothes as fast I can and while I’m throwing my run gear on I make sure to ask someone to hold my Belize cycling jersey. I’ve decided wear it for my run, too, because it made a difference and I want to cross the finish line in it.  I place my bike gear to the left and run gear to the right to make sure I have everything I need for the marathon. A volunteer moves my sunglasses over with my bike stuff and I’m like noooooo, I need sunglasses for the run.  I stay calm and thank her anyways.  New sports bra, change of shorts and I’m like where is my underwear?  One volunteer assures me I don’t need any.  What??  I am running in run shorts not tri shorts so I’m like yeah I do! I don’t exactly follow all the “triathlon rules” especially when it comes to training in gear.  I only trained twice in my cycling shorts, ran once in my shorts and both worked out great.  I’m open to bending the rules so long as it only affects me. I just ordered my running shoes three weeks prior the race too so they’d match my outfit. I put my shorts back on and they hand me the biggest jar of vaseline ever.  I grease up around my shorts.  I keep telling them to please not touch me as they’d touch me.  I did not want to be touched and they said that’s normal yet it seems like they keep touching me or are too close to me. I thank them and tell them I appreciate and understand that they’re trying to help me. But damn it… they keep wanting to touch me and I can’t explain the way my body feels but I can’t have anyone so close to me.  I totally have to go to the bathroom again and while I rather not to add to my transition time I know heading out for the marathon will be more comfortable. The last thing I do before heading out is ask for sunblock. A volunteer takes her hand right to my chest and throws tons of thick white sunblock on my chest. WTF!!!! I’m frustrated, try to stay calm because she’s only trying to help, and respond POR FAVOR!! asking the ladies to please hand me a towel to wipe it off. There are no towels and they throw me a toilet paper roll. F this ridiculousness.I use the entire roll to wipe it all off, kindly thank them, then head out of the tent and on my way. T2 was annoying minus the third awesome pee.

T2 time:  10:05

Ironman Los Cabos

My first Marathon.  That’s just one mile.  TWENTY-SIX (point 2) times. Theresa is standing on the right side as I exit the tent.  DID YOU GET IT OUT?  DID YOU GET THAT SHIT OUT?  She’s still screaming and so excited. Such support and encouragement.  I no longer feel like I need to puke. I think it’s the excitement from Theresa and the relief of making the bike cut off.  I’m getting myself going and surprised I don’t have issues transitioning from the bike to run because I confess my brick workouts were limited in training. I am slow but no issues.  I’m not hurting and my back, shoulders, legs and everything is fine.   I swear… triathletes who expect and anticipate discomfort transitioning bike to run will create more of it.  I didn’t know what to expect and am so excited to be doing the marathon.  It must be the mindset, adrenaline, endorphins and I definitely credit yoga. It’s just so odd nothing hurt. Was it hard to get myself running 9 hours and 39 minutes into the race?  Yes. But my body was completely fine and pain free. I’m getting tired of blogging but remember the marathon as one of the highlights of the race so I guess I’ll keep going. Actually, maybe part of the marathon was like an athletic party in my mind.

0.01 miles Theresa is yelling that I have plenty of time. YOU GOT THIS! YOU’VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME AND YOU’RE GONNA MAKE THIS.  KELI, YOU CAN WALK HALF THE MARATHON!  I tell her I know I can not get anything else in my stomach. Theresa was keeping in her “oh shit” thoughts to herself (she told me later). She knew that I understood the importance of consuming calories.  I CAN’T, I CAN’T EAT ANYTHING ELSE. I’M DONE EATING I’m screaming irritated with myself.  Yeah, I remember your “oh shit” look clearly, Theresa.

1 mile.  I think I’m speed walking already?  How am I going to get any calories in over 26.2 miles?  Okay good. I’m running again and Theresa and the camera are following me on the sidelines and randomly showing up on and off until I reach 3 miles.

3 miles.  I’m running through the center of San Jose Del Cabo past an aid station with pepsi, prezels, drums, and a 10 foot lady on stilts.  I’m thinking who the f— eats pretzels running a marathon and then I hear “Pretzels? Pepsi?” Volunteers are reaching their arms out to us at the aid station.  I’m feeling great now with a surge of energy.  Yea, sure… I’ll try some pretzels and pepsi!  Running past the stilt lady with a plastic cup of pretzels in one hand, pepsi in the other, and Theresa announcing something about her excitement about me eating pretzels.  Check out mile 3 eating pretzels and pepsi running my first marathon in an Ironman. It’s a three loop course so I see the 3 mile marker, the 12 mile marker and 21 mile marker at the same location. I can barely imagine that I’ll be back at this same point for the third time at 21 miles. I wonder what it feels like at that point. Just 23.2 miles to go now! Something about that is daunting yet exciting.  I’ll focus on the excitement.

3.8 miles.  Beeeeeeeeeeeeep.  I cross an athlete tracker.  Yes!  I’m still going and someone…I don’t know who….but someone  back home knows I’m still going and still in this race. I feel so proud I made it to the marathon. I love each and every beeeeeeeeeeep (I remember that sound so clearly). Each beep reminds me how far I’ve come and each one brings me closer to the finish line.

6 miles.  I’ve just run 10K.  I know that as long as I keep up the pace I will make the final cut off. Except I keep calculating and asking myself what I need to do in order to make it. It’s somewhere around here that I reach a small uphill slope. That little uphill seems steep each time and I still had two more times that I’d find myself back at this point. It seemed like that would be so far away.  The sun is setting and at the end of the very long bridge I see Special Needs! Yes!!  Do I need anything?  As I approach a man on a megaphone announces my  number SEIS-CINCO-SEIS!! SEIS-CINCO-SEIS!! SEIS-CINCO-SEIS!! and as I get to the end of the bridge a woman hands me my special needs bag. I triple confirmed with her whether I would have access to my special needs bag again if I took anything from it right now. She assured me on each loop when I reached this point that I would. I didn’t know that we could stop for our special needs bag more than once and had I known this on the bike maybe I wouldn’t have waited until the last loop to get it.  Would have been useful for them to address this at the athlete meeting two days before the race.  I take two ibuprofen, grab two gels and a few motivation notes from friends to stuff in the back of my jersey.  I still wasn’t ready to read anything yet though.  I didn’t use any of the special needs foods I packed either. As I hit the bottom of the slope at the end of the bridge I ask two guys if the run is two or three loops. He says three and I feel that can’t be possible that we do this route three times.  I told him it has to be two.  Sure enough, it was three.

Ironman Lose Cabos marathon

8 miles.  It’s dark now and I’m running around the marina on an unpaved road at this point meeting tons of people along the way.  Socializing and hearing people’s stories is making the marathon an even more amazing experience.  I’m now back on that bridge (above) headed the other direction speed walking. The guy next to me looks at my bibb and says something like “Hey Keli, how’s your race going?” I tell him it’s awesome but I’m not sure if I’m going fast enough.  I know I should be running right now.  ”Let’s make a deal, Keli, we’ll run together for 2 minutes then walk again.”  Good plan, Bill.  After awhile Bill was on his way and I met the next group of people who came along to walk, then run, then walk, then run some more with me.  I caught up with Bill on and off throughout the run to chat and we were pretty close up to the finish. I can’t even remember his real name though so I’m just calling him Bill. People’s numbers and names were forgotten in seconds.  Except maybe Nick and Misty.  I wish I could find them along with the people who’s names I do not remember. So many cool things happened along the way I can’t possibly blog it all. I hope I always remember these things though.  I heard them announce Misty’s finish shortly before mine.

10 miles.  Speed walking, running, speed walking, running.  Now speed walking for a good length of time asking myself whether or not I was able to run. Yes, I feel capable of running but how fast will I really run?  I still have 16.2 miles to go so if I run too hard now will I set myself back?  Will all the things i am warned about happen?  Throw up?  When am I going to cramp?  It hasn’t happened yet and I’m feeling great so maybe I should play it safe and just speed walk some more.  Everyone said at some point I’m going to want to quit. I wish I hadn’t digested half the bull shit people told me. Right now I’m feeling strong and the thought of quitting has not entered my mind. Maybe I should keep doing what I am doing and if I push too hard too early, even if capable, that doesn’t necessarily mean I reach the finish line sooner if something comes up along the way. Keep doing what you’re doing, Keli.

Somewhere along the way  I hear music. Yes!! Only two times during the race did I pass music. Lady on stilts in the center of town and then some random location where there were no people, no spectators, just a random speaker blasting techno music.  “How much longerrrrrr is this gonna take, how much longerrrrrr is this gonna take…” the lyrics kept repeating and made me laugh inside.  Seriously? So funny. I am loving all of this.

13 miles. Somewhere between 6-10 miles I told myself I had to be at the half marathon mark by 8:30pm. I kept calculating. Miles and miles I’m still calculations, socializing, running, speed walking, more pretzels and pepsi, repeat. Eating more pretzels and pepsi while running a marathon rocked and made me laugh.  Beeeeeeeeeeeeep.  Yes!  I love that sound!  I cross another athlete tracker and made it half way through the marathon at 7:55pm!!  This is the furthest I’ve ever run in a race and now I have to do this one more time.  I look at it two ways. It’s a little unbelievable that I’ll actually do this one more time and on the other hand look how far I’ve come today!!  127.6 miles down. I can surely push through 13.1 more miles! Every time I hear beeeeeeeeeeeep I feel progress, proud, and a surge of energy. I want to keep going. Someone back home knows you’ve reached this point and that you’re still going. Thank you to the people who tracked me, posted on my Facebook, and sent private messages to tell me where I was in the race. I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive your support and encouragement after I finished.

16 miles.  I remember exactly where I was when I saw the mile 16 marker. I wish I could do a better job putting this race into words and what the experience was like.  I’m typing, typing and typing right now realizing this only sounds like words and rambling. I wish so much that I could do a better job of documenting my first Ironman. I am struggling as I blog right now.  So mile 16…  I don’t know how to describe my feeling at mile 16. I want to keep going although I just want to talk to someone I know. I pull out two notes I’m carry in my jersey.

First note:  Keli, way to kick ass girl!  You’re doing an amaing job!  I know it isn’t nearly as fun as driving that old vintage car around Hollywood but you totally got this!  Just think of yourself running to get your “Guest of Adam Levine” ticket to watch him tape the voice.  I am proud of you. Love, A.

I’ve have chills and am laughing. Maybe I’m even a little emotional inside for 5 seconds as I remember that awesome experience.  I realize in that moment that it was exactly one year ago today on March 30, 2013 that I won Adam Levine’s trip.  Ah, March 30 is kind of an important date to me now and I better become an Ironman today.

Second note:  Keli, Congratulations for all that you have accommplished.  You are an inspiration to others and I am so impressed by you.  No matter what happens today- you have already won.  Keep going girl!  I can’t wait to hear about all of it.  Love Always, B.

Even though I slow down to read these they make a difference and I wish I had read some earlier. This is exactly what I need right now to remind me what I am doing. I continue speed walking with a couple who told me they could see my emotions as I read those letters.  I feel great again. Time to run some more, Keli.

Ironman Los Cabos Race report

13 hours into the race so cut me some slack on the appearance. I remember this gravel road circling around the Marina and the volunteers writing down our numbers at certain turn arounds.  Once it was dark I yelled seis-cinco-seis every time I passed a volunteer keeping track of who’s passed by.  Why do they do that when we have a tracker around our ankle?  To make sure we do three full loops or what’s the reason?  I’m still not sure.

Mile 18.  It’s pitch dark and I’m running solo at this point until I hear a man on the sidelines behind me whistle and say to his wife “Baby, I promise I won’t ask you for sex tonight!”  I turn around laughing and tell him that wife’s a champion and so he should still ask for for it. They laugh and catch up to chat with me.  He’s able to get on the course road with us here. It’s just the three of us and this lady’s husband is telling us how great we’re doing and that we’re both going to make it if we keep this up. He’s our cheerleader for just a few minutes until the motorcycle officials are headed in our direction so he quickly gets off the road and tells us he’ll try to catch up with us later. The woman and I make a deal to speed walk together. She’s done a few Half Ironmans and we chat about how important this race is to each of us. I ask her my favorite question…whether she thinks we’ll really make the cut off and she tells me we have to because this is her first and LAST Ironman.  I tell her MEEEEEEEEEEE TOOOOOO, MEEEEEEE TOOO. WE HAVE GOT TO MAKE IT.  THIS IS MY FIRST AND LAST IRONMAN TOO.  We reach that dreadful hill just before the bridge and there’s her husband again who somehow managed to get ahead of us.  COME ON LADIES, LOOKING GREAT!  LET’S GO LADIES!!  I ask her if she’s ready to run again and she says she’s speed walking to the finish line.  She’s afraid if she runs she won’t make it.  With 8 miles to go I knew I had energy and it was time to pick things up. I wish her well and take off over the bridge.  Looking down to my left I see people down at the 21-24 mile markers. I’m motivated to run a bit because I want to get down there faster.  Somewhere along the way my ankle feels funny. It doesn’t hurt but feels funny.  If I run will I sprain it?  Better speed walk.  It only lasts a few minutes then it’s totally gone so I run again.  I get through Special needs again, grab my flags, lip gloss (people were shocked I remembered my lip gloss for the finish line!), head around the marina one last time (thank goodness) and pass my friend again who I passed early. He’s not feeling well and tells me he’s had to walk the entire marathon. How did I pass him again then? Didn’t I pass him earlier?  Did I take a nap on the side of the road and not realize it?  Maybe it’s my potty breaks?  Weird.

Mile who knows what mile I’m at now.  As I type and visualize the race I realize some of my miles are off because I remember the exact location I was at and what mile markers were there.  This blog is a mess and right now I can’t wait to get through it.  I do remember hitting 20 miles. Beeeeeeeeeeeeep! Yes!!! I love that beep. Soon enough I’ll hear that beep for the very last time today. Somewhere in here I passed a guy who was struggling and I slowed down to chat with him. He wasn’t sure he’d make it so this was another good time to walk for a few minutes.  ”No negative thought. Focus on the goal” I told him.  I can’t hear negative comments because then I’ll ask myself if I’m struggling and so far I still don’t feel like I am struggling. I tell him something like “You’re a champion! You have come so far and today you will be an Ironman!” then took off running.  I remembered his number and looked him up after the race. He made it.

inspiration letters

2o miles.  The point where everyone says it starts to hurt mentally and physically. I’m totally fine and while 6 miles seems like a long way to go I’m just so excited to reach the 20s!  If I was running full speed I could crank out these last 6 miles but I knew it’d still take me a bit. Somewhere around here I read the inspiration note above. Perfect timing as this shit was getting more and more real.

21 miles. Final port-o-potty break. I realize yoga has paid off because squatting is no problem at all, even after 14 hours of racing, except holy shit the port-o-potty is moving!  Yeah, pretty sure it’s moving and it feels like turbulence on an airplane!   I walk out, turn back, and sure enough it was NOT moving.  Ooooookay then. Keep running, Keli. This was a long straight road and I remember it well. I see people on the other side of the road divider ahead of me going in the opposite direction. People said this point may be discouraging and that things get really hard at mile 20.  Uh, all of it kept me motivated.  I was slow but I was still pretty excited.  I’ll be there soon enough too and in just 6 miles I am going to become and IRONMAN!  This is where things begin to get really real.  It’s amazing.  It’s indescribable.  I have come 135 miles.  My goodness.  Has this all happened in one day?  Did the swim really happen just this morning?  Wow. Incredible experience.  I’m walking with a large group now. Maybe 15 people and we’re…uh…maybe calculating?  And socializing.  Oh, and Nick and his friend are here too.  I spent a lot of the second half of my race with these guys. Looking back at a video it looks like they were with me at 3 mile too so we probably did the entire marathon together. I just hadn’t met them until later on.  I keep asking these guys if we were gonna make it every time I pass them. Nick’s an engineer and keeps telling me that so long as I stay with them I will make it.  Eventually I decide to run again and pass them.

24 miles..  I’ve been running and then speed walking with this big group for awhile. With just 2.2 miles to go I’m focused on that finish line and it crosses my mind that if I kept going with them I’ll have 15 people in my finish line picture. Better use every last bit you have to get yourself moving, Keli.  I asked them if anyone wanted to run but none of them did.  On I go. Running.  Running.  Running.  Or what at least felt like running.  I hit 25 miles and am pumped!!!  I can’t see the finish but I hear you are an Ironman…..tú ya eres un Ironman(alternating English/Spanish)….you are an Ironman…. one by one as people are crossing the line.  Soon enough I’ll be there.  I throw my hydration belt, toss out all of my hydration and gels (I carried like an entire box and far too many), and even throw my sunglasses as I pass the aid station. I should have dropped my hydration belt three miles into the race because I never needed it. I carried an extra 5 lbs throughout the entire marathon. It probably added 26 minutes race time but I guess I felt like it was my “safety” belt.  I kept thinking maybe something would happen to me and maybe I’d need it but the course was well covered with hydration and food along the way.  Now I know for the future that it’s not needed nor is the loads of crap I carried in the back of my jersey. Being lighter would have made running easier but it’s okay and I learned from it.

25 miles.  I’m still running. Or jogging.  It’s dark and I keep looking behind me and there’s no one in site.  There’s no one in front of me either.  It’s cool because I started this race alone and I know I am going to finish this race alone!  With a half mile to go I hear “We’ve got another headed in…”  I look behind me again and look in front of me. No one in site.  Yes, yes! That’s me who’s headed on in!!  I can hear you!  I reach in the back of my jersey for my flags and run that last half mile with the Belize and American flag over my head.  I turn that last final corner and people are screaming, cheering, whistling, and ringing bells. I hear things like YOU DID IT!!!  INCREDIBLE!!  CONGRATULATIONS!  That feeling…inside…and what I just did today…how do I explain it?   I hear some Beyonce song and keep on running.  And then… I see it.  I see the chute. I fucking see it and hear BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! The last and final beep of the day and I feel it throughout my body.

Ironman finish chute

Ironman finish line

26.2 miles  11:09:58pm.  Just after that beep I hear KELI ENGLESONNNNNN and I enter the chute. Everything else gets blurry from here. I barely remember seeing the people. I look behind me again and it’s still just me. I’ve spent all day doing this so what’s the hurry now?  I start dancing around the chute (can’t remember what song), turning in circles, and hear IRONMAN!  It’s blurry and I’m not even sure if I heard “Keli…you are an Ironman” I think I just heard Ironman. I still have the entire chute to myself and it’s awesome!  I run up the platform and I stand there at the finish line for a few minutes full of happiness, so shocked and so amazed. I am here.  I made it.  I have become one. This moment… incredible, overwhelming, and exhilarating. It almost doesn’t feel real so I say to myself inside “I am…an Ironman.”  Then I hear “Miss, I think you have the most finish pictures of anyone in the race today so you can cross the finish line now. I hadn’t even crossed the actual line yet!

Iroman official time:  16:09:58.  You did it. You are an Ironman.

Ironman Los Cabos 2014

Post-race.  Someone puts a medal around my neck and I see Umberto (from the swim) first! He hugs me, gives me a kiss on the cheek, congratulates me and tells me “You are an Ironman, Keli.” I shake my head. Someone asks if I want to go inside the tent and since I am thinking it’s the medical tent I decline.   I wish someone told me that’s where the free massages are and where you take your Ironman finisher picture!  Bummer I miss both.  Someone escorts me out of the race and before I exit they’re offering me pizza.  Blechhhh. The smell alone makes me speed walk outta there.  Theresa is right there and hugs me as I walk out.  It’s something like 11:30pm and we still have to head back to my hotel, pickup my luggage and check into the new hotel where I’ll teach yoga at 8:30am.  We walk back to transition 2 to pickup my gear bags and my bike was already gone and loaded on the Tribike Transport truck.  We didn’t walk far from there but it felt like we were walking in circles forever trying to find a cab. I asked a police office where the closest place to get a cab was and when he informed me to walk up some street for a mile I simply was not having it!  I went in circles, in Spanish, expressing how badly I needed a cab NOW and could NOT walk one mile to get a cab.  I probably looked a little scary.  I won’t tell you how we ended up getting back to the hotel but we were very lucky.

Ironman Los Cabos 2014

Recovery.  It was after 1:00am when we checked into the hotel and I slowly pulled one leg and then the other into the jacuzzi. I soaked in a hot bath with epsom salt and a room service menu. I yelled out to Theresa to call room service and order me spaghetti even though it wasn’t on the menu.  I ate my spaghetti and bread covered up in bed while Theresa and I replayed moments from the race.

I slept from just 3:00-5:30am that first night. It was just too hard to rest my body physically.  My mind was too tired to think but the race kept flashing through my head.  I was up far earlier than I expected and walked a little funny but far better than I anticipated. I taught yoga at 8:30am and while I was sore it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I figured it would really hit me later that day and I’d eventually crash.  Oddly, it never really did and I never crashed.  I relaxed, iced my legs and even though I was sore it was nothing like I expected .  From the moment I finished I was never unable to walk and never in any pain.  Less than 72 hours from the finish line or  2 1/2 days post race I had recovered.  I never got those flu like symptoms some people experience post-race and never even got a massage.  I know it takes 3-4 weeks to fully recover inside from an Ironman but my physical body felt completely normal in less than 3 days.  I was dancing a little at the pool on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday night we went out dancing.  I felt happy, full of energy and my mind was in a constant extreme high. This lasted 19 days. Spending an extra week in Los Cabos teaching 9 yoga classes was an amazing recovery and celebration. It also prevented me from getting right back into working out.  I thought I wouldn’t even want to working out but I felt ready to as soon I got home.  I am almost certain yoga played a huge roll in my race and recovery. I was able to resume regular exercise quickly but knew not to push. The first three weeks I biked and did stuff I had missed while training for Ironman like TRX , Barre and tons power and vinyasa yoga.  I’ve enjoyed hearing from athletes I met in Los Cabos over the past few weeks. I have nothing to compare this course to but it’s been interesting that most of them felt it was one of their harder Ironmans.

Well done Keli! Way to persevere some rough conditions yesterday. The TRI gods did not make it easy on us yesterday but we battled, AND WON!!! It was my pleasure meeting you and congratulations on your 1st Ironman. Cheers!  N.

Hi Keli, Congratulations!!! You made it. I followed you in my room the last few miles. I was glad to see you finishing in about the time you predicted. Wow within 3 minutes of the time you saw it in your dream. Hope, you were able to conduct your Yoga class this morning. I will stay in touch. Congrats! I looked at all your finishing pictures. You look great.  It was a pleasure to meet you.  A.

Keli, Congratulations!  I hope you’re really proud of your accomplishment. It was not an easy day by any means. This was my fourth and hardest Ironman. Harder than Placid.  I’m impressed with your determination. I hope you’re celebrating.  M.

Disappointments.  I would be lying to say I only experienced great highs the week following Ironman. I know it’s normal to go through loads of emotions after finishing your first Ironman and I beat myself up over a few things.  I still do not understand why I left the race immediately after finishing.  I did not see one person cross the finish line, wish I had stayed to congratulate my friend who finished 20 minutes after me and why didn’t I stay to watch the final midnight finisher celebration?  I don’t get why I just walked out and left. Theresa says people weren’t of “right mind” and I just needed to leave the race.  Second disappointment?  It’s ridiculous but it frustrates me a little to think about. I asked myself where I could have gone 10 minutes faster to finish in the 15th hour. I know it makes no difference because I accomplished my goal to meet the hurdles of three cut offs and become an Ironman. I was even disappointed that I experience zero pain or discomfort during and after the race.  That’s weird, right?  If I experienced no physical pain then does that mean I could have gone harder? I know exactly where I could have ran harder in the marathon. I gave the marathon 90% physically and 110% mentally and maybe I should just be proud that I was able to manage my mind and body so well.  I took precautions throughout the run wondering when all things I was told would happen would actually happen. But maybe…just maybe…if I ran harder that doesn’t mean I would have finished sooner or finished at all. Maybe I would have cramped, thrown up, bonked/hit the wall, hurt myself, set myself back, or felt like quitting. Or maybe I shouldn’t have spent an extra 5 minutes in the finish chute celebrating except I enjoyed that so much!  In an Ironman it’s most important to get it right than to get it too fast.  Maybe my performance management was key to my success in arriving the finish line. I have to believe this otherwise I get a little sad knowing I had tiny bit more umphhhhh in me that could have lead me to finish in the 15th hour. But at the end what difference does it make coming in at 15:30 or 16:09? But there is something even more important than potentially finishing faster.  The people I met along the way.  We all encouraged one another, inspired one another, and the people I shared my day with with were a significant part of my overall race experience. If I had only pushed myself the entire time without experiencing these moments my entire race experience would not exist the way it does. I am thankful I had such a efficient, safe, calm, pain-free, happy, positive, and successful race and that things happened the way they did.

Final reflections.  Phewwwww… After 22 days I’m finally complete this blog until I reread this find the loads of errors I need to correct.  I’m relieved though that I’ve finally gotten my thoughts down. So would I do Ironman all over again?  I would and I am! The day after Ironman I looked up races because I am eager to go into another Ironman soon knowing what it’s like and to apply what I learned from this race to the next race.  The level of difficulty was similar to what I expected.  There was not an easy moment, it was challenging physically and mentally, but at the end of the day it wasn’t really that hard.  Maybe that doesn’t make sense. I’ll try that again.  Ironman was hard but so much of it is in your mind that it’s really not that hard.

Have you heard that phrase “Good things may come to those who wait?” Maybe that’s true sometimes but GREAT things come to those who go after their dreams.  Dig deep, dream big, and make your moments count.  Ironman is more than just swimming, biking, and running. It represents life. Some of the greatest highs and lows we can experience in life and teaches us so much in the process. When you finish an Ironman it becomes part of you for the rest of your life. It reminds you that you can achieve so much more than you ever thought you could.

I did it. I am an Ironman. Anything’s possible.

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  • Jessi

    My first race was IMLP 2013. I had almost all of the same feelings about starting with such a challenging course, not getting enough saddle time, my first big open water swim. I relived it all through your stories. So proud of you for taking on the challenge. Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to race with you in MD!

    • yogapeach

      Thank you so much for reading! It is awesome to know that it made sense and someone can relate. Best wishes in training and I look forward to meeting you at Ironman Maryland!

  • Theresa Rose Adams

    You are such an awesome person, human, athlete,mathematician & so much more. I hope I can be there to cheer you on for every Ironman you do! And one day do one with you! You wrote it out beautifully! Your words made me laugh & cry.
    Keep on Keepin’ on Keli! Yesssssss! You are an Ironman! Say it in spanish…….

    • yogapeach

      LMAO mathematician! It was awesome to have you at IMLC and your showing up at T2 was the best surprise of the day. Thanks for the support. This is for you… YO SOY UN I-RON-MANNNNNNNN!

  • Lori

    Wow, that’s an amazing story! And your blog about it is powerful, what great memories, and what an accomplishment, very inspiring! I don’t even know you except that we are both doulas, but I teared up multiple times reading through your moments. Your words pulled me right in from the beginning, I had to read your whole journey. Your descriptions made it very easy to imagine how you must’ve been feeling and experience your anticipation and joy, as much as a reader can. Congratulations on reaching your goal!

    • yogapeach

      Wow, thank you Lori! It’s always great to connect with the doula community. I really appreciate your comments.

  • Yanet

    you are truly awesome…

  • GT

    Wow, I just finished reading your Ironman experience. We do not know one another but I enjoyed following you through your training. Congratulations! Amazing how you stayed so strong physically and mentally. I am sure you are right….it has a lot to do with yoga. You are an inspiration. Wished we lived close by each other. Your energy is contagious and it’s good to surround yourself with such positive people. So, if you don’t mind sharing what was the reason that you decided to do an Ironman?

    I think you have inspired me to get back into my running….reading your experience made me miss a part of my life that I enjoyed. I discovered yoga two years ago and about 9 months ago stopped running because I love yoga so much. I think tomorrow I am going to go for a run.

  • kathy

    what is it about ironman (and not halves) that makes us do constant math? i’ve done IMCOZ 3 years in a row and was planning to sit it out this year. I was looking for IMCabo reports to see if I wanted to do that instead and found your blog and now I’m getting the desire to do IMCOZ again this year! :) thanks so much for this!

    I started just like you – signed up for IMCOZ before I’d ever done a triathlon. oh, and I was 50 or 51 for my first one (who can remember? :) ) I want to have a run like yours (again, like you i have only ever done a marathon in a triathlon) and now I’m itching to have one like you did. :)

    again, great report and thanks for this!

  • joe h

    fantastic race! you look like you are having so much fun on the run

    • yogapeach

      Joe! Thank you. The run was an athletic party! I enjoyed the run at my next IM too, IMMD, although completely different experience. How did you find my blog?

  • Arturo

    Hello excellent account of your IM, I really enjoyed it. I will do IM Los Cabos in Octuber and you have inspired me a lot.


    • yogapeach

      This means a lot, I really appreciate your feedback Arturo and wishing you the best with IMLC!

  • Mauricio M

    I had read this post completely and thank you very much for giving me the last push to sign up to the IM 140.6 Los Cabos.

    My preparation will be 6.5 months and I believe anything is possible, same as you.

    Congratulations for your excellent experience during the race and thank you very much for the motivation that you had transferred to me with this letters.

    PS. wish me luck jajaja

    Mauricio from Costa Rica

    • yogapeach


      FELICIDADES!!! I am thrilled to hear it gave you the final push. That’s awesome. I hope training is going well I wish you all the best. Enjoy ever mile. And give thanks for being able to go the distance. Ironman…anything is possible.

      P.S. You don’t need luck. Mind tells the body what to do. Trust the process and believe in yourself. And reach out after your race.

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