Monthly Archives: January 2015

What I Wish Everyone Knew About the “D” word

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I’ve seriously tried to write this post a handful of times over the past couple weeks.  Every time I start, I get stuck.  The words won’t come but the tears do, so I have to set it aside for a while.  Hopefully this will be the time that I will finally say what I need to so I can move on. And hopefully I can say it eloquently, so it doesn’t sound like I’m whining or judging.

My frustration is not for nothing.  The topic here is one that no one particularly likes to talk about.  It usually involves hushed tones, guilt, shame.  It’s taboo.  It feels like the unforgivable sin.  It’s the “d word”.

Here’s what I wish everyone knew about divorce.  Very simply, please stop referring to it as “the easy way out”.  Please.  I implore you.

I assure you there is absolutely nothing easy about divorce.  There is nothing easy about coming to the decision of ending your marriage.  There is nothing easy about going through with it.  There is nothing easy about spending thousands of dollars on someone to help you split your assets, and more importantly the time with your children.  There is nothing easy about coming home to an empty house when you used to be a full time family.  There is nothing easy about being both mother and father in a household.  There is nothing “easy” about any of it.  And until you’ve been through it, which I don’t wish on anyone, you really have no idea what this road of uncertainty looks like, or how to navigate it.

I’ve heard it said that the stress caused by divorce is equivalent to losing a loved one.  I think every situation is different, but I’ve lost enough people I love to know that major life changes are hard.  Death is a natural part of life and there is a grieving process involved.  Typically during that process, people reach out in love, offering to help relieve the pain, even if just for a little while.  Death is extremely painful to deal with, and there usually isn’t a choice involved.

I guess that with divorce, because there is a choice, at least usually by one of the parties involved, people don’t feel as much of a need to reach out in that same empathetic, caring way.  It’s viewed as, you’re choosing this, you’re…giving up.  You failed.

In a divorce, no one wins. If the marriage was the first or the fifth, if it lasted a year or a decade or more, if it produced children or not, if you filed or you were served, I can tell you that regardless of all of those things, it sucks.  It sucks for everyone involved.  I’ve only been through it once, but I know without a doubt that I don’t want to go through it again.  I don’t want my kids to have to go through it again.

I know that anyone who told me to “try harder” or “be loyal” probably wasn’t aware that I’d had those same conversations over and over with myself in my own head for years before I ever finally voiced the “d word” out loud as a possibility.  I mean, for crying out loud, I completed a 15 hour race.  I am not a quitter by any means.  I am someone who knows how to push through and persevere.  But sometimes, we have to look at the options and see that while we don’t particularly like either of the outcomes, we have to choose the one that makes the most sense for us.  By “us” I mean each of us, as individuals.

The more I tried to retreat to a place of safety to process what my needs were, the more I was bombarded with the pleas to stay.  Pleas that came from every direction.  Everyone wanted to be the one to fix it, to fix me. When what I really needed was space, quiet, and sometimes someone to just hold my hand and let me grieve that the life I had planned for myself had gone way off track.

But the pleas were so loud it was hard to hear the muffled sound of myself trying to find my own voice.  A voice that had been buried for so long that the only way to find it again was to go down a road that some people, not everyone, deem “the easy route”.  Somehow I found my voice and it said, “This.  This is what’s best for me.  Go this direction.”

We are human.  We are not perfect.  But we are also not meant to do life alone.  Last week in church, Pastor Greg went back to the familiar story in Genesis.  He talked about how God created Adam and it was not good for him to be alone.  So from Adam’s very own rib, He created Eve.  And He presented her to Adam as a gift.  God gave them the gift of each other.  And it is for that reason that a man should leave his father and mother to be one with his wife.  Our creator wants us to be united to another.

But what happens when that unity doesn’t last forever?  Well, then you run out into the rainy parking lot after the service is over to retrieve the kids’ backpacks so you can pass them off to the other parent who will have them for the next couple days.  And then you wonder, as you are standing there in the lobby of Kids Crossing holding all the gear, if it is as painfully obvious to everyone else that you are in the midst of “the swap”.

But what else really happens after the papers are signed?  You continue to do the best you can with the situation you’re in.  You keep seeking to find an identity that doesn’t include a marital status.  You go on about your life knowing that the daily struggles are many, which is true regardless of whether you are married or not.  Sure it would be easier if we could all claim a loving, caring, supportive spouse, but even of those marriages in existence that isn’t always the case.

I have so many friends that have come to me in the past few months with questions about where they want their marriage to go.  Somehow going through the “d word” has made me an expert on a topic that I never wanted to know about.  I wish some of these friends would stay together, I think others are better off apart, but I hope they all do due diligence to make sure they’ve done everything they can.  I know none of them just woke up one day and decided “That’s it.  Peace out.”  It takes time to get to the point of brokenness that results in the d word.  But the fact remains, I am not in any of their marriages, so I really don’t know what it looks like to the two of them.  I need to keep my own baggage in check and not drag it out into their story.

I’ve dealt with my baggage.  And I’m continuing to deal with it.  But the truth is, it’s still hard.  Even after almost 3 years, I still have daily challenges because of it.  Some are obvious, some less so.  And for a large portion of that time I’ve been in a relationship with a pretty fantastic fella.  I’d like to think I don’t project any of my junk onto him, but chances are, sometimes it gets in the way, whether I’m aware of it or not.

I think I’ve been pretty successful at the single mom thing.  I have a job.  I’ve kept a roof over our heads.  I get the kids to their activities on time (mostly).  I feed them (sometimes with fast food).  I’m proud of the people they are becoming.  I’m proud of the person I am becoming.

But I still get lonely.  I still miss my kids.  I still get sad when they go on vacations without me.  I still don’t like being the one to pay the bills each month and have to deal with the financial stuff.  I still wish I had a spouse I could pass some of the responsibility off to every once in a while, especially when something breaks.  I still sometimes think about being a traditional family unit, and I miss it.

I don’t regret the choice I made, but this certainly isn’t where I thought I would end up when my dad walked me down the aisle almost 15 years ago.  Every time we are presented with a choice, we are at a fork in the road, but the options are not labeled “hard” and “easy”.  Either direction we choose will present its own set of challenges.  And unless you’re on a specific path, you really have no idea what those challenges will be.  So, here I am, on this path, I’m sure its easier than some.  And I’m figuring it out as I go.  Just like everybody else.  Some days are smooth, some days aren’t. I’ll take the obstacles as they come.  And I’ll just keep going.

What’s the saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? I guess if you want to come take a spin in my shoes to see how easy it is, you’re more than welcome to.  I mean, I work at a running store.  I do have a few extra pairs.

 

*One additional note, tomorrow would be my parents 43rd wedding anniversary.  I know that in the almost 30 years that they had together, they had their share of challenges.  But I am thankful for their example of what a healthy marriage looks like.  I don’t know if I will ever have a marriage like theirs, but I know that if I do, it will transcend time and space and even death.  Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your example of love.

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Welcome 2015!

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Well, here we are a week into 2015 and what do you have to show for it?

Me? Not much. But I did bake some muffins and pick up a new charger for my phone.

After Ironman Arizona in November, I allowed myself to go into full on recovery mode.  I set training aside, ate anything I wanted and slept more than I thought was humanly possible.  I enjoyed the holidays to the fullest and made it very clear that I wasn’t even going to think about forcing myself to work out until the new year.

Well, the new year showed up, but my motivation didn’t.  Granted the temps have been dropping this week, today as I drove the kids to school the car registered a whopping 8 degrees.  Factor in the wind chill, and you can rest assured I stayed inside today.  I did manage to get over to the gym for a spell, so at least there’s that.

At any rate, I think it’s safe to say that while I am allowing recovery mode to linger, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the physical health aspect of life worked out.  In the past I have always required something to train for in order to give me a “plan” for motivation.  But as I sat back and thought of everything I have put my body through in the past 6 years, it became clear that I am in the midst of a much needed break.  Since Silas was about a year old (He’s 7 now), I have run 9 marathons, a 50k, a 30k, Pere Marquette x2, and countless half marathons, 10 miles, 10ks and 5ks.  Oh, and 20+ miles during 3 different overnight relays longer than 200 miles.  I have also taken up cycling and learned how to swim.  I did my very first Olympic distance triathlon only 2 and a half years ago, followed by a couple half Iron distance and most recently 140.6.

No freaking wonder my body is begging for a break!

So, this year, 2015, I have vowed to settle down and do what I love, because I love it.  Recently when people ask me what’s next, I have enjoyed being able to answer, “Nothing. I have nothing on the agenda.  I just run when I want to.”  I have no plans to sign up for any major races this year.  I’m allowing the bank account to recover along with my body.  I know that when the right opportunity presents itself I will think, “That sounds fun.  I would like to do that with my friends.”  And then I will sign up for it.  Chances are it won’t be long until that happens.  But until the time comes, I’ll be enjoying a Favre style “retirement”.

I’ve never really been one for resolutions.  I’ve always been the type who thinks if you don’t like something about yourself or your life, change it.  Even if it’s just a random Tuesday in August.  Why wait?  We all lose sight sometimes.  We all get off track.  So it’s important to get back on the horse when we can.  But this year is a little different.  This year, I turn 40.  (Gasp!)  This is cause for a little more reflection, or perhaps introspection, than most years.

So, while on my infrequent trips to the gym this week, where I’ve had to share the equipment with not only the regulars, but also the “resolutioners”, I’ve been contemplating how easy it is to fall into the rut of New Year’s goals = fitness goals.  But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.  Especially when you’ve completed an Ironman and you’re not really even sure where you want to go from there.

So what do I want to come from my 40th year on this planet?  Well, I want to focus on ALL aspects of my health, not just physical. So, I’ve started things like reading through the Bible in a year and I’m looking up new recipes that I want to try (my hope is one new meal a week, but don’t hold me to that).  Drink more water, eat more greens, blah, blah, blah. And don’t we all have that continually growing list of projects we want to tackle that have no real deadline so we keep pushing them off?  I work much better with deadlines, but I’m hoping to attack one of those projects each month. (I think cleaning out the garage is going to wait until the temperature is above zero)  I also really want to find a charity to volunteer for, or a group traveling to another country to do a mission…something.  But I want to be very thoughtful about this process.

Anyway, what it really all comes back to is that I want to be the best me I can be, so that I am living that example for my kids.

If there is anything that I am sure my kids have learned from me, it’s that they know how to dream big.  Set big goals and go after them.  Hard work and determination will go a long way.  And nothing is impossible.

I also know that they have learned to have big hearts, full of generosity.  They are kind and they help people when they can.  They are very quick with hugs.  I see that reflection of myself in them, and it makes me happy.

Because of me, my children are learning to be good communicators and how to express their emotions in a healthy way.  This hasn’t always been the case, but I have learned and I am teaching them.  They see me cry on a regular basis.  Sometimes out of joy, sometimes pain, but they know this is healthy and acceptable.  They also know I love to laugh!

But there are always things we can improve upon, and I am no exception.  Where there are strengths, there are also weaknesses.  So as we dive into 2015, I plan to exercise the muscles that have fallen somewhat dormant in the monotony of daily routine.

I want to teach my kids to dance upon that fine line between being responsible and being a martyr.

I want to teach them how to balance between doing something well, to the best of one’s ability, without the unrealistic expectation of perfection 100% of the time.

I want to teach them to stretch their brains, as well as their bodies.

I want to teach them to seek the good in each day, especially the tough ones.

Here are a few of the things we are implementing at my house…

Yesterday we started “3 tasks a day”.  Having daily or weekly chores is difficult in a single parent household.  Sometimes they are only with me a couple days during a week, so what if I let the dishes pile up?  That doesn’t work.  And since my kids were young when we split households, I have tended to carry on as the martyr who does everything for everyone.  Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to just get it done yourself than to enforce follow through given the attention span of a 7 year old boy.  Oy!  But with “3 tasks a day”, I can come up 3 different chores that need to be done around the house (like gathering up the garbage, vacuuming, wiping down the bathroom or the kitchen, dusting a room, what have you) and delegate those chores.  Each of those things should only take each kid not more than 5 minutes or so.  Those 5-15 minute tasks add up for one person but 5 minutes X 3 kids = less stress for me!  Each day we rotate who picks first to keep it “fair”.  They are so excited about this concept that this morning on the way to school they were asking what the 3 tasks would be today.  Holy smokes!  Who knew this would be such a hit?!

The part that will be hard for me in this is relaxing my standard.  A 7 year old sweeping the floor or a 9 year’s version of ‘’clean” may not be perfect, but at least it’s done.  Sometimes “good enough” is just that.  Especially when that allows us more quality time together in the long run.  There are some things that require a higher standard.  Cleaning is not one of them.

Another thing I am going to be more accountable on is everyone reads for 15 minutes a day.  I love to read, but sometimes this is gets lost in the shuffle.  We watch TV or we rush around to activities.  If I make a point to model this, then I’m not asking my kids to do something I wouldn’t do myself.  And the boys in particular could use the practice.

Finally, thanks to a post by my friend Katrina, we have implemented the “Happiness Jar”.  As I explained to the checkout guy at World Market the other day, my new apothecary jar is going to display strips of colored paper that we write on to commemorate the moments of happiness that occur each day.  He was so excited about this that his enthusiasm spilled over to the customer behind me.  Joy is contagious. 🙂

Ultimately, my resolution for 2015 is the opposite of the person who has taken up occupancy on my favorite treadmill at Gold’s.  I resolve to work out less!  But I also resolve to take that newly found time, and use it very, very well.

So, whether your resolution for 2015 is fitness related or not, here’s to health and happiness in the year ahead!  Cheers!

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Ironman Arizona

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This race report is long overdue.  6 weeks overdue to be exact.  And with the midnight hour looming before me, I feel that this is the last piece of 2014 that needs to fall into place.

I’m not really sure how to put into words one of the best experiences of my entire life, but bear with me while I try.

On a Wednesday morning in November, after dropping my boys at school, Ally, Brian, Dan and I loaded into the Santa Fe and set out for warmer weather.  However, it was a solid 24 hours before we actually saw any sign of that.  When we stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel just outside of Amarillo, it was snowing.  When we stopped near Albuquerque, I was wrapped in a blanket to fill up the gas tank since the temperature hovered in single digits.  I took the drive in the wee hours and then Dan took over, putting the pedal to the medal, and we rolled into the Grand Canyon just in time to see the sunrise.   We watched elk sparing and took in the glorious expanse of God’s creation, while Ally and I huddled together for warmth.  Watching that with my little girl was enough to make the trip worth it, but there was more to come.

We headed back to the car for the last few hours south toward Tempe.  Finally the temperature started to rise.  As we rolled into town we ditched our hoodies and exchanged shoes for flip flops.  We unloaded bikes and gear and bags into the townhouse we shared with several other members of my crew.  Adrienne arrived shortly after we did and because we are triathletes, we set our priorities straight and made our first stop a trip to the grocery store.  Then we made our way to Ironman Village in the heart of downtown Tempe for our athlete meeting and check in.  It started getting real.

But with the race a couple days away, and with so many things to do before the big day, the nerves were held at bay.  The next couple days were filled with eating lunch outside, practice workouts, putting gear bags together and dropping things off.  I got to meet the newest member of my family, Quincy Allen Jacobs, my brother and sister in law’s little boy who was born earlier this year.  I had lunch with my friend Casey from high school.  The anticipation and excitement mounted.  I went to bed Saturday night, and somehow, I slept.

At 4-something it was time to get moving.  The house was quiet.  Until Dan, in an attempt to tiptoe in the dark, fell down the stairs on his way to his volunteer shift, making sure everyone was up and breaking 4 toes in the process.

Adrienne and I were fairly untalkative that morning as we ate our breakfast and gathered our water bottles.  Brian dropped us off near the transition area, with our special needs bags, and we stuck together.  We delivered our gear and stood in line for the port-a-potties.  Ron came by and said hello.  He was nervous.  I said I was avoiding the word “nervous”, focusing more on “anxious”.  I knew I would be ok once things got underway.  Just enjoy the day.  While we waited, I turned to my friend and co-rookie, Adrienne and said, “I’m glad we’re doing this together”.  I couldn’t imagine being in all that chaos by myself.  Finally we began the process of putting on wetsuits.  It was still dark out. It was low 60’s, but pure adrenaline kept us from noticing the cool air as we removed sweatpants and hoodies.  During wetsuit robing I caught sight of Brian up on the hill and blew him a kiss.  Then I waved as Adrienne and I left our bikes and made our way to line up for getting in the water.  It felt surreal.

We found Melissa and Tracy near the Swim Bike Run crowd and they filtered into the line with us.  We put on swim caps and goggles.  The thoughts of “I don’t want to do this” and “I don’t want to get in that water” started to run on repeat in my head.  And then I looked up and saw a large neon sign with my name on it.  I’m pretty sure I started tearing up at the sight of it.  Slowly the line edged forward and then I waved catching my brother’s eye.  I don’t know how he recognized me among all of those other athletes in wetsuits and pink or green swim caps, but he did.  When we got close enough, I stole a quick hug from my mom and AJ, and then it was go time.  I was on the platform, I was carefully making my way down the stairs to the water, there were people everywhere, no time to think, can’t stop now, just jump.  The cold water was a shock but given the number of people who were about to jump on top of me, I got out of the way as quick as I could.

Adrienne and I kept sight of each other as we swam the quarter mile up to the start line.  We didn’t want to tread water for too long, but we also didn’t want to be sprinting for the start wasting any of our 2 hours and 20 minutes that was allowed for the 2.4 mile swim.

As we bobbed in the water with the sun starting to come up, Adrienne said a quick prayer for us.  About a minute later we heard the cannon go off and we were on our way.  It wasn’t swimming so much as it was water boxing.  There were bodies everywhere, all fighting their way toward one buoy after another.  I knew almost immediately it was going to be a challenging swim, not because of all the people so much as my goggles.  They were fine the previous day at the practice swim, but now they were leaking fast and furious.  I kept stopping to readjust.  Not what you want to do in the midst of a bunch of people seemingly trying to drown you.  About 100 meters in, I suddenly felt a sharp pain right to my face.  I don’t know if it was an elbow or a foot, but I got knocked hard.  I popped my face up out of the water, disoriented.  My nose was bleeding and my lip was huge.  I wondered for a second what I should do.  I looked around for a volunteer in a kayak, there were none anywhere close to me.  I decided there wasn’t much I could do but just keep swimming.  So I did.  I was lamenting the fact that I would have a huge, swollen lip in all of my pictures of the day.  But as I swam, I realized that the cold water was just as useful as icing my lip.  The swelling was going down.  I kept swimming.  And kept emptying leaky goggles.  And throwing elbows to get other swimmers off me.

At one point when it seemed like someone was trying to pull my wetsuit off me, I wanted to scream, “Get off me!”  But I couldn’t scream with my face in the water and I didn’t want to waste time.  So, I kept swimming.

The sun was getting higher. Now I was dealing with leaky goggles and the glare of the sun.  I wanted to get this part over with.  As I reached the turn around point and started back toward the stairs, I stole a quick peak at my watch.  I had swam 1.2 miles in about 46 minutes.  For me, that was a record.  And I was convinced that I would get through the swim before the cut off.

Just as my confidence started to rise, so did the wind.  And the waves.  I wasn’t sure what was going on but it seemed like boats were racing past us creating a giant wake.  Nope, it was just the head wind that we had to contend with.  But I kept swimming.  I started wondering if I was making any progress at all.  Just get to the next buoy.  And the next one.  And the next one.

Finally we went back under the bridge and then I made the turn for the stairs.  My body did not want to swim anymore.  One last final push and then I carefully eased my wobbly body up onto the steps and out of the water.  My legs were shaky, I was dizzy, but again I looked at my watch.  1:40something…42? 46? 48?  I don’t remember.  But I know it took me almost an hour to do the second half of the swim.  Whatever, it didn’t matter, because I did it!  I was through the first part, my hardest part, of an Ironman.  And I made it with time to spare.  I could do this.

I sat down and a wetsuit stripper struggled to help me remove my buoyancy device.  As he handed it to me and sent me on my way, someone else wrapped a mylar blanket around my shoulders.  The low 60’s felt even colder now that I was wet.  I saw Brian, but I can’t for the life of me remember what I said in that exchange.  I think I smiled…?  But my brain was frozen, or I was in overdrive, or both.  I could barely feel my feet as I made the long trek into the transition area, grabbed my bag and headed into the women’s change tent.  I tried to remove my swimsuit and get geared up for the bike.  The volunteers were amazing.  Someone helped put my sports bra and cycling shorts  on me, someone else poured water on my feet to get the grass off before I put on my socks and cycling shoes.  Someone sprayed me with sunscreen as I shoved Huma gels into the pockets of my bike jersey; the one Sally gave me so I could represent Fleet Feet and Swim Bike Run.  I fastened my helmet, put on my new rimless Tifosi sunglasses and exited the tent into a sea of bikes.  I was surprised at how many bikes were still on the racks, I fully expected mine to be the last one there.  I yelled out my number and someone brought my bike to me as I clomped along toward the inflatable arch marked “Bike Out”.

I mounted my bike and began a long day of covering 112 miles in the desert.  I remembered Chip’s words of advice that no matter what anyone told me, the Arizona course is not flat.  He was correct.  And with 30 mile per hour headwinds that day, the hills felt even worse.  The course was 3 times out to the turn around and back.

I tried to remember where Ken said he would be at one of the bike aid stations.  I scanned the face of every volunteer I saw, I never saw him.  But it helped to keep looking for him.  The first time out to the turn around was tough.  I kept thinking that I had to be close, nope.  And this wind will surely settle down, nope.  And this has to be the toughest part of the hill, nope.  At one point I felt like I was going to fall over on the bike because I was going so slow into the wind up that hill.  This cannot really be happening.  And I don’t really have to do this again.  Twice!

I was so happy to make it to the turn around and head back down.  I stopped for a couple minutes to hit the port-a-potties and give my body a short break from the bike.  I was only about 17 miles in and it was brutal so far.  I got back on the bike and glided down the hill with the wind at my back.  But I thought about what Chip said, the course isn’t flat, keep using your legs on the way back down.  So I did.

It was helpful to know where Renee, Allison, Brian, Greg and the other SBR folk would be.  It was good to see my little cheering section before heading back out for round 2 on the bike.  My motto on that loop became “Embrace the suck”.  That second loop was rough, knowing that I had to go conquer it again and I still wasn’t done.  The wind got worse, the hill felt steeper, the pain increased.  “Just keep going, just keep going, just keep going” over and over and over in my head.  I knew I wouldn’t quit.  I never doubted that I would get through it.  But wow, when it’s that hard and you just wish the hard would stop.  I kept scanning faces.  No Ken.  I scanned for other cyclists.  Adrienne was easy to spot with the bright pink tape on her knees.  Passing, getting passed, pedaling for dear life, only going 10 miles per hour, ugh.  Finally, the turn around, again.  Again I made a quick pit stop. I ate a handful of pretzels.  I sprayed on more sunscreen. I shoved some Vaseline down my pants.  Yes, in that order.  I apologized to anyone who had to witness that.  And then I got back on the bike.  Away I went down the hill.  Remember what Chip said, keep pedaling.  I stopped to get my Chapstick out of my special needs bag.  It was the best thing ever in my life.  The sun and wind and sand had done a number on my face.  I got back on the bike and continued flying down the hill. I watched a girl hit a mile marker sign and take a massive wipeout.  I had to swerve wide to avoid the debris that flew off her bike.  I knew there was a policeman who was there to help her, so I kept going.  But I immediately said a prayer for all my friends on the course.  Lord, keep them safe…

Again back by the SBR gang and back up the hill one more time.  Let’s get this done.  On the third loop, while my motto was still “Embrace the suck”, I found it helped me to encourage others.  I yelled “Good job, Girl” or “Keep it up” or whatever I could think of to anyone I passed.  At one point I needed to hear music so bad that I actually started singing to myself.  I reminded myself that once I got to that turn around, the hard part was done.  It seemed so close, but so far away.  I stopped to get something out of the little zipper part of my bento box.  As a volunteer helped steady me and my bike, I heard a familiar voice.  I looked over to the port-a-potty line and saw Judy.  “Judy!!!” I yelled.  “Who is that?” she asked squinting in my direction.  “It’s Lindsey!” “Oh my gosh, Lindsey!”  The cool part about this is that Judy and I met in 2011 at the Dallas Whiterock Marathon.  We started talking on the shuttle back from the expo and we were instant friends.  She said to me that day, “Someday you’ll do an Ironman.”  And my response was “No Way!”  How appropriate to run into her in the middle of 140.6.

I jumped back on my bike and fought the last of that hill and wind.  I was so happy when it came into view.  Again, confirmation that I was going to do this.

And on the way back down, the timing question came back into play.  The cyclists were fewer and farther between.  And then I saw it.  The dreaded course sweeper was going up the hill.  The truck that closes down the course.  What?!  Was I really going that slow?  Was it that close to me?  Probably not, but at that point I was too tired to do the math.  I pedaled my heart out down that hill.  Just get to the transition and start the run and you’ll be fine.  I said a prayer that Judy would make it.  She was at Ironman Arizona two years ago and had a DNF.  I didn’t want that to happen for her this time.  It couldn’t.  Could it?

I hit the 100 mile mark.  12 miles to go.  And then a marathon.  Keep pedaling.  I ticked off the miles one at a time.  I thought of Teri.  I wouldn’t even be here doing this if not for her inspiration and encouragement.  Almost there.  And then I came into the corral.  I heard a loud, “HEY!” and saw my brother standing taller than the rest of the crowd.  “HEY!” I yelled back.  It was a typical sibling greeting.  He didn’t need to say anything else.  And I didn’t have the ability to come up with any other words.

As I dismounted my bike and handed it off to a volunteer, Ken was waiting for me.  He hugged me and I nervously asked how I was doing on time.  I was somewhat delusional thinking they would tell me I was too late to start the run.  He said I was fine and told me I was doing awesome.  I asked a volunteer if I could take my cycling shoes off, she said yes.  I couldn’t have been happier.  I wanted to throw them in the lake.  I said, “If I never put these on again, I’ll be ok with that.”  (I still haven’t put them on again.)

I grabbed my run gear bag and went back into the tent.  I changed into running clothes, shoved Gu into my pockets and laced up my shoes.  I have never been so happy to put on a pair of Mizuno Riders.  I went through the “Run Out” arch and I was on the run course.  I went past the special needs bags, I didn’t need anything yet.  But then I worried if I would still have access to it on the next loop.  I was running, a nice easy pace, but I was running.  And I was amazed at how many people I passed.  There were so many people walking.  They were also the ones saying they would rather swim twice than run at all.  Ummm, no, thanks.  I felt pretty happy about getting to finish with my favorite.  The sun was going down and the temperature was perfect.  I had been going for 10 hours.  The bike had taken slightly longer than I planned, and had taken more out of me than I expected, but I was still doing fine.  I had almost 7 hours to get this done.

I stopped at aid stations and made my selections carefully based on Ray’s advice that real food in a washing machine is never a good idea.  Ray did Ironman Wisconsin just a couple months before and his advice was invaluable.  I ate my Gu Chomps and chased them with water.  And I ran.

Near the transition area the crowd was huge.  I heard yelling and looked up on the bridge to see my family with all their signs and loudness.  Yes, I come by it honestly.  I saw Allison and said, “I am so happy to be running!!!”  I thought I was hilarious since she hates running. With my name on my race bib, random strangers kept yelling “Go Lindsey” and I smiled.  I beamed.  I was having the time of my life.  It hurt, but it was awesome.

As I approached the bridge to the other side of the lake, I scratched my face and I felt gritty.  I needed salt and I needed it now.  I knew that was the thing I hadn’t done as well as I should have on the bike, but I kept going.  A guy gave me a tube of Baseline electrolyte salt.  And I kept running.

I passed the aid station where I had volunteered last year.  And I kept going.  Ken found me and started running with me.  We aren’t allowed to have “pacers”, but since Ken was a course volunteer he was allowed to “encourage the athletes”.  He kept telling me how great I was doing, I felt good.  And then I saw 2 braids flapping up ahead of me.  And pink compression socks.  “Oh no, I hope that’s not who I think it is,” I said as I saw Ryan’s face taking a picture of Lindsey.  Linds was on her second loop of the run, to my first, but I was hoping she would be done already.  She was struggling.  I hugged her.  She said she didn’t feel good.  We walked together for a bit.  She asked how I was doing.  I said I was feeling good and I was so happy.  Linds looked at me and told me how proud she was of me.  And that moment right there, was my best moment in 2014.  Lindsey saw me the day I filed for divorce in 2011, she knew how terrified I was of divorce, of being a single parent, of swimming and she has watched me kick all of those fears in the face.  Lindsey was the one who planted the seed for me to be there.  Having a moment with Lindsey during that race was exactly what I needed to be reminded of how far I’ve come.  We started running, just the 2 Lindseys out for a run, doing what we do.  After a mile or so, I stopped to take a gel and I told her to keep going.  And that was the last I saw of her.  I slowed down, she sped up, or whatever, but we’d had our moment.

I found Ken again, he helped me through the dark part of the course.  Literally and figuratively.  And then I went back around to the other side.  I could hear the finish line.  I could hear Mike Reilly announcing that whoever had just crossed was an Ironman, but I made the turn and went back out for another loop.  I saw my mom, who tried to tell me that I already was, but I told her not yet, don’t jinx it!  I ran through the crowd of strangers, I saw some of my people.  I stopped at my special needs bag to get my arm warmers and some pain meds.  I yelled my number so the volunteers could locate my bag.  And then Jess yelled my name.  She tackled me in a hug.  A needed hug.  I was still happy, but I was tired.  I kept saying I felt good, which was true.  Sort of.

And then I kept running.  I was annoyed with the people who had posted that a head lamp wasn’t a necessary item.  Maybe if I had finished before dark.  Ugh.

I ran back through the crowd, one last time until I got to the finish.  Brian jumped in and ran with me for a minute.  I noticed he had bought a sweatshirt.  The cool evening air had gotten to him.  He told me my bike and gear were already back at the townhouse.  That was the best thing he could have told me.  It was total relief that when this was over, I didn’t have to worry about any of it.  He asked how I was feeling.  I said, “I’m telling myself I feel ok.  I’ll tell you later how I really feel.”  He sent me on my way with just a half marathon to go.  I could do this.  Back out to the bridge, and over it, and past my volunteer station from last year.

I scanned faces of runners for people I knew.  I saw Melissa.  Barb. Julie.  I walked with some random guys for a bit.  I was tired.  I put my hands on my waist…Ouch!  I hurt.  Everything hurt.  There wasn’t a single part of me that wasn’t feeling  the pain of every step.

I got to the very dark part of the course.  Ken was waiting.  He used his iphone to light the way for me.  We had to get up the only real hill on the course.  We walked.  And then we ran.  He sent me into the aid station and said he would see me at the finish.  Only a 5k to go…

That was the slowest, most difficult 5k of my entire existence.  Every step was painful.  My brain hurt from convincing my body to keep going.  But if I walked my heart hurt because I was so close that I just wanted to be there.

With just over a mile to go, there were so many people walking on the course, wrapped in mylar blankets, shivering, just trying to make it to the end.  I made a decision then, no more walking.  It didn’t matter how slow I ran, jogged, slogged (Teri’s word for slow jog), I was not going to be the person who walked until they saw the finish.  So I ran that last mile.  And I got closer, my smile got bigger.  Everyone who saw me said, “Wow, look at that smile!”  Which just made me smile more.  Even in the pain, I smiled.  And I ran.

And finally, I made the turn, I could see the chute.  Elaine called out to me, and gave me a high five.  I couldn’t have smiled bigger if I wanted to.  I entered the chute.  I saw that very same sign with my name on it that I had seen 15 hours earlier.  I saw my family.  I high-fived them and smacked my sign.  I was steps from the finish line.  And then I was there.  I passed under it.  As I heard those famous words, “Lindsey Jacobs, you are an Ironman”, I blew a kiss to my dad.  15 hours and 1 minute. I did it.  We did it.

Oh, you might be wondering what happened to Judy.  She suffered from extreme back spasms during the run, so she was sideways when she crossed the finish line but she did finish Ironman Arizona 2014.  She was the last official finisher of the day with a time of 16:59 and change.  She was helped across the finish line by winner Meredith Kessler and announcer Mike Reilly.  I am so proud of my friend.

I am so proud of all my friends that were there on the course with me.  Adrienne, Kelly, Ron, Barb, Karen, Tracy, Melissa, Holly, Marc, all finished their first Ironman.  (I hope I didn’t forget anyone) Swim Bike Run of St. Louis Tri Club had a great showing of veteran triathletes too…Sharon, Julie, Brigitte, Doug, Tara.  Ken is signed up to do his first Ironman in Tempe next November.   Lindsey didn’t meet her goal of qualifying for Kona, but she did have a PR and then she was taken to the hospital for dehydration.  There is no doubt in my mind that she’ll get to Kona.

Since I have been home from Arizona, I have been basking in the glow of being an Ironman.  I haven’t been working out much.  My body and my brain both need a break.  Immediately upon finishing, I went hands to knees, and Allison, who was volunteering as a “catcher” at the finish through her arms around me in a hug.  In shock, I said, “I did it.”  It’s still a little surreal.

A week after the race, as I was driving to work, I remembered the feeling of coming down the finisher’s chute and I started to cry.  It was amazing.  It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  It hurt, but it was so awesome.  And the best part…My daughter was there at the finish line.  If I do nothing else in my life, I have taught my little girl to believe that anything is possible.

For the first time in my life, I’m not waiting for the “what’s next?”  I’m just living each day.  Some days I run, some days I don’t.  I don’t feel a need to sign up for anything.  I don’t feel a need to prove anything to anyone.  I feel like I have finally arrived.

I learned the most important lessons of my life on November 16, 2014…No matter what happens, just keep going. Learn to embrace the suck.  And whatever you do, keep smiling all the way to the finish.

 

(This post is dedicated to John Hibbard, a beloved and quirky member of the Hot Mess, who was taken from us much too soon on December 15.  Wolfpack, you learned all of those lessons and you lived them well.  You were one in a million.  Thanks for the memories.)

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