“We arrived at Panama City beach on Wednesday afternoon. After lunch, I went to the Ironman Village to check in. Picked up all my gear bags and went back to our condo. The next day was a very BUSY day. I packed all of my gear into the respective bags – bike, run, bike special needs and run special needs. Checked and double checked EVERYTHING. I went to the athlete briefing, picked up my bike from Tribike transport and dropped it off at the bike store for race day tune up”.
People. This month on my blog, I am featuring TWO INCREDIBLE WOMEN who completed the “Ironman” in two different US cities, on the same day, November 2, 2019. The feat, their endurance? Iron(wo)men to me!! Wow, just WOW. One I know personally, another I met through a Facebook group. I read their race recap and I just thought….this is more than MAJOR!!! Their stories are INCREDIBLE.
When I launched smileFIT, www.smilefitnow.com and the smilefitnow social channels, it was aimed at sharing inspirational stories, tips and techniques about wellness and fitness, to help YOU, dear reader, live your best life – #smilefit! I am so excited to be writing this on my blog for the first time!
Do you KNOW what an Ironman ENTAILS?!! Are you a woman and thinking of your next challenge or thinking you “can’t” whatever? Or maybe you are thinking of doing an Ironman and want some real tips to conquer race day? Read on. Let’s GO.
Ironman is a triathlon race, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon (26.2 mile/42 km) run, raced in that order. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Source: Wikipedia
This is Funmi Garrick’s story. (pronounced “Foo-me”)
Ironman, Panama City beach, Florida – November 2, 2019
Friday – the day before
I went for a practice swim first thing in the morning and it was COLD. The swim was fine but as soon as I was out of the water, I started shivering. I decided I would do a full change after the swim rather than just biking with the triathlon suit under my wetsuit. Later that afternoon, I checked my bike, bike gear bag and run gear back at “transition”. My kids Eliana 8, Isabel 6 and Grayson 4 did the half mile iron kids run! It was so much fun watching them. Back to our condo, dinner and final race prep getting everything ready. I packed my special needs bags, had dinner and went to bed. My alarm was set for 3 am but I was wide awake by 1.30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Saturday – Race day!
I had breakfast, got dressed and walked over to transition. I dropped off my special needs bag, went over to my bike to check nothing was amiss. I filled up my water bottle and nutrition pouch. I check my gear bags were in the right spot. The air was buzzing with excitement. About 2,300 athletes were ready to race! I took 1 capsule of ginger anti-nausea gel to prevent sea sickness, put my wetsuit on, swim cap and googles on and headed to the swim start. I ate a couple of clif blok energy chews, dropped off my morning clothes bag and walked towards the start line.
The swim! 2.4 miles in the ocean and its drama
The swim was a self-seeded start so I positioned myself based on my estimated finish time, I went over to the 1:31 to 1:40 group. I was nervous but so ready to get this party started! A few minutes later, we crossed the timing mat and we were in the water. We had to wade through the shallow water before the water was deep enough to start swimming. The water was cold but I knew it would warm up the further out we swam. The swim was 2 loops – swim out till you hit the first turn buoy, then across to the next turn buoy then turn again to head back to shore. After the first loop, we got out of the water, ran a few yards and then back in the water for the second loop. The best way to describe the swim is to imagine swimming in a washing machine. The water was extremely choppy and I got thrown around a lot. I just focused on the next buoy ahead and stayed as relaxed as possible focusing on my stroke and making sure not to get kicked or punched by other swimmers as everyone was trying to find a clear path to swim.
About three quarters of the way into the first loop, I saw what looked like a transparent plastic bag floating right under me. My first thought was – funny place to see a plastic bag, then it hit me “JELLYFISH”! I swam way as fast as possible. A few minutes later – first jellyfish sting – on my cheek! Ouch! The sting lasted a few seconds then dissipated. I guess the jellyfish repellent I had on wasn’t working. I kept on swimming on, the water started to get colder and I knew I was getting closer to shore. I kept swimming until my hand touched the sand, I got up and waded through the shallow water.
Back in the water for loop 2, this was more comfortable – my body was now used to the choppy water and swimmers were more spread out. About half way through, a second jellyfish sting – on my nose! I never saw the jellyfish. They are almost transparent and hard to see especially with so many bodies in the water. I just kept on swimming. Before I knew it, second loop was over!
Yes! 2.4 mile swim in 1 hour 37 mins. I was right on target and it felt great! I saw my family right at the exit waving at me. I waved back and kept running towards transition.
The wetsuit strippers were right at the shore and they had my wetsuit off in 5 seconds!! I ran through the open shower at the exit to get as much salt off me as possible then into the transition area. I grabbed my bike gear bag and headed into the women’s changing area. A volunteer came to help me straight away, she took all of my stuff out of the bag and asked how she could help me. The volunteers were amazing! With the cold weather, I wasn’t planning to bike in the trisuit under my wetsuit so I got changed. Bike shoes on, helmet on, camelbak with my nutrition on, sunglasses on! I was ready to GO!
The bike ride! 112 miles of headwind and mind games
I grabbed my bike and headed out. The bike is the LONGEST of the 3 disciplines and my weakest. While the course is flat, it is notorious for being windy. Nothing quite prepared me for the conditions! The headwind was just CRAZY. It started pretty much from mile 1 to mile 65! It. was. RELENTLESS. I knew my pace was going to be much slower than I planned but there was really nothing I could do about it.
To go faster, I would need to push a harder gear and I would pay for it on the run. Instead, I focused on keeping my heart rate within a certain zone.
I stopped at mile 60 and picked up my special needs bag, refilled my nutrition and I was on my way again. I kept eating and drinking as planned – tailwind energy drink, power bar, clif blocks, salt tablets. We got some respite from the headwind from mile 65 to 85. After that, it was headwind again right till the end. For me, the bike was always going to be more of a mental challenge. I played every mind game I could think of to make those miles go faster. I kept reminding myself that as long as I don’t have any mechanical issues with my bike, I was going to be ok. On the bike course, the markers were every 10 miles and I just checked them off – right till mile 100, the last one before the bike finish.
Finally, I was done! I saw Stuart and the kids at the bike finish line and waved to them. I stopped my bike just before the dismount line and got off. I didn’t know it at the time as I had no idea how long I had been out there but I had biked 112 miles in 7 hours and 46 mins!! I hobbled over to grab my run gear bag. I could barely stand up straight. My shoulder blades were on fire. I felt better when I was on the bike! I made my way into the women’s changing area.
A volunteer grabbed my bag from me and asked how she could help me. I asked her what time it was as I had no idea. She replied “it’s just after 5pm”. We only had about 1 hour left before the sun sets. I tried to calculate how long I had been out there but my brain just couldn’t process anything so I gave up. She gave me my running jersey and socks. I told her I wasn’t going to bother changing my top or socks, I just couldn’t be bothered. She looked at me and told me I would feel so much better if I did. I couldn’t even lift my arm up properly so she helped me take my jersey off. I am so GLAD she insisted! She passed me everything I needed and a few minutes later I was ready to GO again!!!! The clock doesn’t stop in transition so the time in transition is part of your overall time so I was eager to get going. I saw my husband Stuart and the kids at the run exit, I waved to them and then I was on my way! My legs felt surprisingly good and I was already looking forward to my favorite of the 3 disciplines – the MARATHON.
The marathon! 26.2 miles/42 km to claim the glory
The run was a 2 loop course all within Panama City Beach and mostly within the residential area. The crowd support was AMAZING! As you can imagine, most runners were not in good shape at this point in the race and many were already walking. Three miles in, I checked my pace and told myself I needed to slow down. I switched my watch to heart rate mode and focused on keeping my heart rate within a certain zone to avoid going too fast. I was passed a lot on the bike so it felt good to be passing people this time round. However, I knew at some point the wheels were going to come off. All I could do was hope that it would be around mile 17/18. By mile 15, my legs were ready to be done. I reached mile 16 and wondered how my legs were going to run for another 10 miles.
I reminded myself of “the 40% rule” – the moment when you think you can no longer go on, you are only at 40% with 60% more.
I willed my legs to keep moving. I checked off mile, after mile, each mile seemed like it was longer than the last. I knew I had slowed down quite a bit but it was all I could do to just keep moving. I followed my nutrition plan the entire time – energy gels, salt tablets and tailwind energy drink.
The finish line!
As I approached mile 25, the adrenaline kicked in and I picked up my pace again. I could ‘hear’ the finish line and names being announced as athletes crossed the finish line. I made my way to the finishers chute and started looking out for my family. I really wanted to see them before I crossed the finish line. And I did! Isabel was the closest so I gave her a hug.
I crossed the finish line and heard those words I have been waiting to hear all day – “FUNMI GARRICK, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”! I completed the marathon in 5 hours and 10 minutes.
#anythingispossible #nohumanislimited #ironmanflorida #IMFL
Funmi Garrick is 46 years old, lives in Savage, Minnesota and is married with 3 kids. She is a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and is passionate about health, fitness and wellness. She has completed several half marathons (i.e. “too plenty to remember”), 3 marathons and 2 half Ironman triathlons. Ironman Florida was her first full Ironman.
I remember stumbling upon an Ironman world championship on TV, in my early adulthood. I was both in awe and aghast by this manner of sport in a faraway land, no doubt done by “aliens”. I wasn’t running at the time and couldn’t understand it….swim, bike then RUN???!! I was too fascinated to stop watching though! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – “ordinary” people can do the most “extraordinary” things!! #believeinyourself
“Your looks, size, strength, weight, muscles, age, abs, absence or presence of limbs does not determine your FITNESS level and what you CAN or can’t DO – your MIND does – Titi Osu, creator of the #smilefit lifestyle
Where there’s a first, there’s always a second! Subscribe to the blog now, you do not want to miss my next guest in part 2. Shattering ceilings and stereotypes. Stay tuned!
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Photo creds, Funmi Garrick