Well… I. DID. IT.
17 hours + 35 minutes.
That is some race. I have a new respect for anyone who attempts it. And you crazies that do it more than once….
… oh who am I kidding… I’ll probably be joining you.
The day was long, hot and unforgiving. While my goal was to cross that finish line, a very close secondary goal was to complete the course in 17 hours — the official course time limit set to be an Ironman. After a flat tire early on the bike, followed by a day of wild blood sugars, I saw my expected bike time increase and the available time for me to complete the marathon run, decrease. As can happen with a 17-hour race, goals change throughout the day and I focused on moving my feet forward, not getting dehydrated or sick or pulled due to blood sugars or another medical issue that caused so many other athletes to cut their day short.
When I finished the race at 12:01am on Monday June 11, it was 6 min past the 11:55pm cut-off. I crossed the finish line under the lights, to cheers from my family, friends and the amazing people who stayed along the finishers chute to cheer on the final finishers. There was no video screen, no music and no “Abbey Brau, you are an Ironman!” by the ‘voice of Ironman,’ Mike Reilly. They were packing up the finisher medals and shirts. I was the second-to-last athlete to finish WITH a timing chip. I received the finishers medal and t-shirt and a finishing time. Anyone behind me was not so lucky. While I have a finishing time, I also have a DNF (did not finish) for not finishing the course in Ironman standard time. Cool.
Some of you will be able to understand the mixed emotions this type of finish creates. Some of you won’t. All of you will tell me I’m an Ironman… er, no, Ironwoman 😉
Before this race, I had done 1 triathlon. A sprint. I hated it. When I decided to sign up for Boulder, I said one-and-done for the Ironman. Immediately after the IM, I said that race was the worst and asked why anyone let me sign up for that. The next day, I was looking up the rest of the Ironman races for the 2018 and 2019 and casually mentioned I thought now that I had a done a full, a half “would be fun.”
So… where is my head at now that I’ve had a week to process the emotions and the blisters have healed??
I’m very proud of myself for finishing the race and crossing the finish line (with a timing chip!). Making all the time cut-offs despite the heat and high blood sugars and other challenges I met on race day is an accomplishment. But, I’m not going to say that I don’t care about the time, because I do. Not because I’m racing anyone or myself, but because the Ironman challenge is not JUST to do the distance, its to do the distance in 17 hours. Under 17… I don’t care. 16:59 and I’d shout it from the rooftops.
There’s also the finish. THE Ironman finish. The one that you spend 9 months visualizing. The one that everyone tells you is WORTH THE PAIN when you hear them say “Abbey Brau, You Are an Ironman!”. The one that everyone plans how they are going to run through the gate and how they are going to pose for that finish line photo. THAT is a big part of the Ironman experience I didn’t get. And a big part of what I want. So… yes, I know, as you all say, I am an Ironman. I did the distance. It was f–king hard and I crossed that line and I am very proud of that. But there is also a little piece that is unsatisfying. And that little piece will probably mean Boulder won’t be my one-and-only Ironman.
The whole week leading up to the Ironman was AH-mazing. We started our week staying with our new besties, Roy and Debi. Roy and Debi also hosted the Bike Beyond team when we rode through last summer, so at this point I’ve spent just as much time at their house as my own 😉 We spent the week prepping for Sunday – short runs, a couple rides, swimming in the Boulder Reservoir and small lake behind Roy and Debi’s house. We found live music, amazing food and local beer.
While on a training ride, I found out I had a broken spoke. Made at least 3 new cycling friends + friends with the entire crew at Boulder Bicycle Works thanks to that broken spoke… First I met Sasha on the road. Sasha was doing his 14th Ironman. Out of 1500 athletes, I would run into him again at mile 50 on the bike! We also made friends with Rob. Rob, a Boulder cycling veteran, taped up my spoke and told us to
go find Randy at BBW to get that fixed. We did. Rob had already called ahead to say we were coming. Of course we find out that Randy is some amazing cycling legend and has ties to MN where he used to race. When we go to pick my bike up a couple days later, we chat with all the guys in the shop about Ironman, riding cross country and the bike they are working on that day. It’s a beautiful race bike that belonged to Joe Gambles — a Boulder resident who would go on to take 2nd overall. We all stood and admired that bike like it was capable of winning the race itself.
I was able to meet up with a new friend from the T1 community — Jon. Jon runs the Type One Run Podcast. I met him and his wife for dinner and I spent half the time convincing him that the Omnipod is the best option for insulin delivery during endurance events and he spent half the time convincing me to switch back to MDI (Multiple Daily Injections) for insulin. Agree to disagree ;). The next time I would see Jon again would be during mile 26 of the marathon. While I was hating everything and everyone trying to finish the longest mile of my life, he bounded into view with the most energy I’ve ever seen, joining in with the encouragement of the other people running beside me. Oh and a GoPro in my face. That’s going to be a flattering video 😉 And while I probably didn’t look it, it was awesome
to hear that someone I had just met had been tracking me all day and came out at midnight to see me finish the race. I never cease to be impressed by the support of the Type 1 community.
Attending the packet pick-up and walking the vendor village and going in the swag shop. Walking around with the coveted Ironman backpack and Ironman wristband they put on you to identify you and your bib # all weekend, made you feel like you were part of this exciting club. A club of psycho athletes, but a club nonetheless. I got plenty of ‘GOOD LUCK!’s from strangers because of that wristband. We attended the Opening Ceremony on Friday, which was cheesy and stupidly inspirational. Not kidding. We saw videos of local volunteers surviving a hit and run on a bike, a woman who would be walking the marathon in FULL firefighter gear to raise awareness for PTSD and a guy who was attempting his 6th Ironman — never yet having completed the IM in less than 17 hours. I would end up running by and walking with the firefighter woman (sorry, can’t remember her name!) during the run. She remember me from my flat tire and was glad to see that I was still out there! haha 🙂 She would end up finishing in 19+ hours after the entire finish line and red carpet was taken down.
Kelly’s family arrived on Thursday and we spent some time at the Boulder Farmers Market, a short hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and showed them some of our new fave Boulder spots.
My humans were arriving on Saturday and staying with my aunt and uncle in Golden, so I wouldn’t see any of them before the race. Luckily, we would run into all of our humans right before the swim on race day morning! Props goes out to my crew for hitting the road at 4:20am to make the drive to Boulder from Golden. OH AND THEN seeing me finish at midnight and leaving Boulder at 1:00AM to drive back. Their day was longer than mine!
All in all — the week was incredible. Fun, anxiety-producing and relaxing all at the same time. We met so many inspiring, friendly and awesome people before, during and after the race. When you look at the Ironman from this angle, its easy to see why you would do it again 😉
IF you’re still reading and interested in details of the ACTUAL RACE. I also put together a Race Recap — find that here. Happy Reading 🙂