Training Week 7: Maura Donovan
The last week of training before the 70.3 and Monday started with a rest day. I took full advantage of this day and enjoyed my day off since I had struggled so much on the bike on Sunday and the temperature was starting to rise. Tuesday was supposed to be a swim day but on Tuesday I was not feeling well. I had a fever, an awful headache, stomach cramps and the start of some sort of stomach bug. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me…five days to go!!!
During this time I was also taking Magnesium Malate pills, due to the fact that I had been having trouble with muscle cramps during the swim and at night. After telling a few friends about my symptoms and what I was taking they advised me to stop taking the magnesium and deal with the leg cramps a more natural way (bananas). I was hoping that the stomach cramps would go away once I stopped taking the magnesium pills but much to my dismay the stomach issues lingered. God help me!
By Wednesday the headache and fever had gone away but I had no desire to eat. The temperature outside had risen above 90 and my stomach was a mess. I did manage to get a short open water swim which made me feel a bit better but I wasn’t 100 percent. By Thursday morning I had managed to lose about 3 pounds and I was getting nervous that this stomach bug would not go away.
Friday I had rose early to join some friends for a morning swim in Oneida Lake. As I arrived at the lake before 6 AM the sun was starting to rise…it was beautiful site! The swim went really well and I was excited for the weekend to begin!!
Friday afternoon I left work early and headed down to the Crowne Plaza to pick up my race packet!! Number 291 was ready to go. I met my friend Kim at the hotel and the two of us went to the Athlete Race meeting. As I sat in that meeting I became very nervous … had I done enough; was I ready; would my stomach cooperate with me?
After the athlete meeting I went and met a few of my friends out to dinner for a bit of carbo loading!! We went to Angotti’s … A great dinner with a lot of laughs. Being with friends helped settle the nerves but just to let you know my stomach still wasn’t right. I went to bed early and was excited that I didn’t have to get up early for anything. I slept for over 9 hours and I felt great. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep on Saturday night so having a great night sleep on Friday was AWESOME!
After making a fabulous breakfast, I started to put together my things for the 70.3. I put my number on my race belt and thanks to my roommate Pat, I was able to put my number on my helmet and bike. The helmet and bike numbers were stickers so I knew I had no patience for that. After that was done I started to put things in my bag for the transition. At that point I said a little prayer and I put it all in God’s hands. I had done all I could at that moment and if it was meant to it would happen. It was now out of my control and in God’s hands!!
At noon I put my bike on my car and went and picked up my friend Kim so we could drop our bikes off in the transition area. When we arrived at Jamesville Beach Park you could feel all the excitement in the air. The area was setup for the 70.3 and there was no turning back now! Due to the fact that we were members of the CNY triathlon club we were able to set our bikes up in a special area. It made it really nice to be able to spread your transition area out a bit and the best part of the CNY Triathlon club area … our very own porta potties! Oh the little things that make us excited!!
When Kim and I left the transition area we had made plans to meet at 5:00 AM for the 70.3 and we were off to get ready for the day … I headed home where I continued to pack my bag filled with towels, food, drinks, bike shoes, glide and sun tan lotion. I had so much nervous energy I couldn’t really sit still. I found myself cleaning … it started off small just want to remove some dust I saw on a table but then I ended up dusting the entire living room. This was followed by cleaning the bathroom and picking up dog hair throughout the house. After that was over I headed off to bed to try and sleep, my alarm was set for 3:45 AM.
I decided to get up a bit early because of my stomach issues, which I was still having. I found that when I ate something I was getting sick about two hours after I ate. So I figured if I ate at 4 it would be all out of my system by 6. The plan somewhat worked!!
The time was now 4:45 AM and I was in my car heading to pick up Kim and then off to Jamesville Beach Park. As we approached the Park the sun was starting to come up and my emotions were all over the place. I was nervous, not knowing what the day would bring and excited that the day was finally here. We headed to the transition area but first we had to stop to get our bodies marked. My friend Beth was volunteering along with a number of other friends. It helped put my nerves at ease to be able to see so many people I knew.
I was now all marked up and ready to set up my transition area. The minutes were counting down until the start. I made my way to our private porta potties and then started my workout of putting on my wetsuit! As the minutes continued to tick away my family showed up at the park for the event. My father, sister, brother and sister-in-law all made the trip to Syracuse to support me. I was grateful that they were there!
Finally the announcements were made for the athletes to make our way to the beach! I was in the 5th wave of the swim and this event was my strength so I was actually looking forward to this. We stood on the beach trying to control our nerves and watched the professionals take off! Finally it was the 5th waves turn to wait in the water. My friend Kim and I gave each other one last hug wished each other luck and then we were off!! In the water there was a lot of pushing and splashing but I finally got into my grove! I swam the 1.2 miles in 41 minutes and I was off to a great start.
I had about a 6 minute transition and I was off on the bike. I was feeling confident about what was ahead of me. The first hill you face on the course is Penn Hill, by the county jail. During training I had several different experiences with this hill. On some days I made it up and on others I had to get off and walk. Today was a good day … I made it up Penn Hill!! I personally think it is one of the worst of the hills on the course!! Next we had to face Sweet Road. Sweet Road is about a 10 mile climb that you feel will never end but on Sunday I made it! The best part about making it to the top of Sweet Road is the huge hill down on the other side.
Throughout the morning I watched mile after mile go by me. Based on my training I was happy with how things were going. I was taking in fluids and food but with less than 10 miles to go my legs started to cramp … the Charlie horses were back! I couldn’t believe it. While peddling I tried to stretch them out and they finally went away but I knew they would be back. Even though I was taking in fluids and food I know I wasn’t eating enough because of my stomach. So I had a feeling the next few hours could be tough. I made it back to the transition area and after 4 minutes I was off on the run course.
It was hot and I was getting tired. I didn’t have much energy and the thought of taking in any more gels or GUs just didn’t appeal to me. At the first water stop I did take in a banana and I forced myself to drink at every water stop. I started the run by doing a run walk and taking advantage of all down hills I approached. I decided to walk all the up hills on the course (which was a lot) and this kept me moving forward. At the three mile turnaround there was the best water stop on the course. Many of my friends from the running group Team Believe were there cheering me on and lifting me up. It was unbelievable. I hope they know how much they helped me and so many others. I finally made it back to the park and then had to turn around and do it again. At this point I was mentally and physically struggling. I didn’t want to eat anything…my stomach wasn’t doing well and every time I started running my legs cramped. I continued to take in fluids but didn’t want to eat anything. I wanted to QUIT! At the park turn around I saw my friend Jeff who was working the event. He knew I was struggling and he got on his bike and road with me for a little while to make sure I was ok. I then saw my roommate Pat on the course, I told him I couldn’t do this anymore and he yelled at me and told me to keep moving. At the second water stop two of my friends Christine and Laura started walking with me and wouldn’t leave me. Still I wanted to QUIT! However I continued to put one foot in front of the other and moved forward.
As I approached the water stop at the 9 mile turn around (the Team Believe water stop) Brendan Jackson pulled up behind me in his car. He got out, walked toward me and gave me a huge hug. I began to cry and told him I couldn’t do this. He looked at me and said, “what I can’t here you?... What?” He encouraged me to keep going and not to worry about the cut off time. All my friends at the water stop also wouldn’t let me stop. Keep going they continued to yell to me. You can do this Maura!! I continued to move forward with Christine and Laura at my side.
Slowly the miles went by me … mile 10 … mile 11 and finally at the top of the hill on Apulia Road Mile 12 … less than 1 mile to go. By this point all the volunteers could have gone home but there at the final water stop a group of volunteers were there waiting for me and cheering me on. I was about to enter the park again and head towards the finish line. At this point I saw Kenny Hammond the Race Director and I had to thank him for letting me finish this race that I had been training for 7 months. Kenny then got on his bike and followed me into the finish line he asked how the day had gone. I told him that my swim went really well and I was happy with my swim but hit the wall on the run. He said at least the beginning of the day went well.
At this point I saw the finish line and I began to run. The blisters on my feet hurt but I continued to run. My calves began to cramp but I continued to run. I ran until I finally crossed the finish line. I began to cry, the Ironman staff handed me my medal I turned and saw my best friend Kim gave her a hug and wept like a baby. I looked up and saw my family and friends all crying. I did it!! I finished it! It wasn’t pretty but I completed it!!
A special thank you to my dad, sister, brother and sister in law who made the trip to Syracuse to watch the event and who spent a very long day waiting for me. Thank you to my best friend Kim who has been my rock during the training and was there for me when I finished. To Brendan Jackson who was there for me throughout my training and once again on the course to help me out. To Patrick Costello, my roommate, who knew what I needed on the course was a swift kick in the ass to keep going. To all my friends at the Team Believe water stop I don’t think words could explain how much you lifted me up during this event. To my friends on the course and those waiting for me at the finish thank you for believing in me!! To my friends and family who could not be with me on race day but who had supported me throughout my training … I felt your presents on game day!! And finally to Kenny Hammond and the entire Ironman Staff … awesome job!!!