I almost always sign up for races last minute but I think this one is a record. Kimberly reached out late Friday night just as my eyes were shutting to go to sleep. Obviously I did not read her message clearly when she asked if I wanted to race North East Triathlon in Maryland on Sunday. My initial response was no because I had a long run scheduled for that day and because it sounded too far to travel with a friend I train with locally here in Philly. Something made me read the message a few minutes later again and I’m so glad that I did. It wasn’t the Kimberly I thought I was chatting with and when I read it the second time I was wide awake and determined to make this race work.“Instead of a half marathon on Sunday you should come and do the Northeast Tri with Jim (smiley face)” She told me it would be Jim’s first triathlon since June 2013 before his transplant and that she wouldn’t tell jim…it would be a surprise. My coach, who rocks, fully supported this change for training and was excited for me. He told me we’d make up for that long scheduled run later in the week. Um, that’s now scheduled to happen tomorrow…
Jim sent me an email four month ago and introduced himself on April 10, 2015. He gave me permission to share a little of his story. “Hi Keli – I just saw your video on a Triathlete’s Facebook page. I wanted to thank you for racing Ironman Lake Placid for the MMRF. I am a MM survivor in near complete remission after a stem cell transplant last year. I will be at IMLP this year to volunteer. Perhaps we can meet up at the MMRF events scheduled that week. A little of my history – I was scheduled to do IMLP 2013 (would have been my first IM) when I was diagnosed with MM. The doctors said I could do the race as long as I felt up to it. Well, 10 days before the race, I fractured my L4 vertebrae (as a result of the disease) and had to scratch. So, my return this year will be bitter sweet. At any rate, thanks again for doing what you do. It means a great deal! Take care, Jim Mitchell” I met Jim and his wife Kimberly for the first time in person as my guests at the MMRF reception, the night before Ironman Lake Placid. I saw Jim twice on the run course twice and I remember smiling the first time I hugged him around mile 10 on the run. His support at the race was awesome but yesterday racing with him was even more awesome.
3:00am Two and half hours of sleep and up at 3am for a short road trip to North East, Maryland. Turns out it was much closer than I expected. Just an hour and 20 minutes going and 2 hours coming home.
3:45am Let’s just say I didn’t plan this race far enough in advance to be prepared, beginning with the breakfast. Coach advised me to practice my nutrition exactly as I will for Kona. Breakfast at 3:45am with race at 8:35am was not ideal. I should have packed more food. I forgot a lot of things for the race too…No excuses, it’s my fault…Just reminders and lessons learned.
4:45am Arrived, parked the car, and heard ”Heaven is a Place on Earth.” I realized tomorrow is 10 months since Kara passed away. Haven’t been on my bike one day without thinking of Kara. Told myself I would hear her voice and words from the last big hill we rode together…and I did. I registered for the race that morning and looks like I arrived with plenty of time.
I ran into Jim and Kim right after registration. Awesome to see both of them again. The morning was chilly so note to self ALWAYS to pack pants and long sleeves regardless of what time of year it is. It felt like I was using energy trying to stay warm for the hours leading up to the race. I set everything up and realized that forgot my tri top, transition towel, and ran out of Base salt the day before on my ride. How do you forget your top though? Opened the trunk hoping I would find something to wear. Looked down and Kara’s cycling jersey she gave me was right there. It was time to wear it for the first time. Happy that I did. Met an IMMD guy who recognized me from the videos and turned out Paul was a friend of Jim and Kims. Small world. Borrowed an extra Gu from him and some salt tablets from the guy next to him. I ran out of salt on my 55 mile the day before. I’m telling you, I was unprepared for this race yet none of it mattered in the end.
Sprint race started 7:30am, Olympic men 8:30am, and Olympic women 8:35am. Even though it was wetsuit legal, I decided to swim without one since I won’t be allowed to wear one for Kona. Water was warm yesterday anyways. I was glad I forgot my transition towel, good practice to just hop on the bike wet. Swallowed a Gu, Gatorade and water 15 minutes to the start. Hug from Kim and I was off. I rushed into the swim and I did not feel as calm and steady as I need to be getting stared. I am always comfortable in the water, but my breathing was not calm enough. I remember thinking there’s no way I could swim just 0.9 miles at this rate. Zero visability, could not even see my hands but water was calm. Pretty normal for most of the races I’ve done and it’s good practice. Was a little tricky for me to site the first bit and reminded myself it’s not that hard…you just follow the people. I don’t know why I’ve been training with 3750-4300 meters swims and somehow 1500 meters seemed like it might feel long. If you think it will feel long, it probably will be long. Told myself to just focus breath by breath and once I reached about half way I felt smooth and steady. It was done within 31 minutes.