For those of you who have been following be from the beginning you know there has been something which has been on my heart for a long time. For over a decade I’ve been training, not training, and waiting to hear the words, “Darchelle, You Are an Ironman.” On October 2nd, 2021 I heard those exact words and I’m here today to write about that day. You’ve all been here on this journey leading up to this day.
First, I must say thank you to everyone who has been here for the entire journey. My Facebook post after the race simply said Thank You. I truly had no other words. I have to thank my husband who supported this journey and now that I’m done he has the space to pursue his next journey in life as well. Thank you for waiting and supporting. I have to thank my babies for never making me feel guilty when I left them to train and my biggest thank you is the support they gave the day of the race. I have to thank my parents who made the trip to Indiana and were there every step of the journey from beginning to end. My dad was my bike mechanic, and I have to say he did an amazing job as I had no issues on race day. My mom made sure everyone had matching shirts so I wouldn’t miss them on the race course.
I’ve also had some incredible friends who where there for me the entire time. Mimi made the trip to Indiana and supported me through out the day.
My Ironman training was an extremely long and lonely process. I didn’t just get up one day and decide I wanted to do an Ironman and a few months later do it. There were years of training and many setbacks that led me to this day. Ironman Indiana was the 4th time I was registered to do Ironman and this was the first time I was able to make it to the start. The last six weeks of training where grueling. I struggled with stomach issues that kept me up after my long bike rides and I had to do my long runs the next morning. I did all my biking alone, but I am extremely thankful for my running buddies, Larry and Kelly, who showed up for me every Saturday morning to pull me along through my long runs. Other than those runs, I trained 100% by myself.
I also have to thank everyone who I am calling my Ironman tribe who followed me all day on the app. These are the people who were thinking of me that entire day. Every time I crossed a timing pad I could feel all their energy and encouragement pushing me to the finish. My running friends kept our group chat going and I loved reading all the comments after I finished. All of you are incredible and made this day possible.
For the swim start you lined up by anticipated swim time. So after I lubed up head to toe in combat ointment (This is absolutely my new favorite anti-chaffing ointment. I get it from http://www.docspartan.com. They are a Veteran owned company who employ people straight out of rehab. This is a company I want to support and they make really incredible products), Timyra and my Dad helped stuff me into my wet suit. They acted as my sherpas on race day. I’ve never had a sherpa before and it was awesome to have two of them with me at the start. This would be my first wet suit legal race and with the water only being 65.3 degrees F, I was very happy to be able to wear it. I got in line for the swim near the 1 hour and 20 minute flag. The race officially kicked off and I waited for my turn to enter the water. Ironman had us enter three at a time every five seconds. Close to my entry I met Kilt Man for the first time. He was waiting at the start to give hugs to those who needed them. I gladly accepted.
The swim went off rather uneventfully. I don’t recall all that was going through my mind while I was out there. There certainly were times where I had moments of nausea, but I let those thoughts come and then go. I spent a lot of the swim breathing just on my right side to help stay on course and beat the choppiness causing my nausea. The swim was a two loop course and when I got out to run along the beach to get back in, I saw one of my dearest friends, Mimi. Right after I saw her I noticed my Dad. I quickly introduced the two and got back in the water for lap number two.
My exit from the water was super motivating and I was happy to see I finished in 1 hour and 22 minutes. As I ran up the slope to transition I saw TJ and my mom. The joy I felt at that moment knowing everyone was there to support me was overwhelming. This is the first time my family has been at a race to support me and to know they were going to be there with me for the entire day gave me exactly what I needed.
Due to the length of this race I decided not to wear my triathlon kit. Instead I wore my sports bra and a pair of SmartWool underwear under my wetsuit. Because of COVID precautions Ironman removed the changing tents, so we had to figure out how to modestly change at the bike racks. I removed my wetsuit and put on my bike shorts and shoes. I then promptly peed standing next to my bike. This is Ironman after all, I believe peeing everywhere is authorized. This was the only place I had an unorthodox pee that day, and I’m rather certain the volunteers at the end of the bike rack knew exactly what I was doing, but I’m also certain I was not the first or last person they saw peeing that day. A funny side note, when we got home TJ helped unpack some of my gear. He put my bike shoes outside and mentioned they were out in the rain. I said, “Oh that’s ok, I peed on them and they probably need a fresh water wash down.” He said, “No, I was squeezing them out trying to dry them out.” That is true love! I put on my bike jersey, helmet, sun screen, and left transition for my 112 mile bike.
The bike was the part of the Ironman I most feared. There are so many things that can go wrong and you are very reliant on many things going right besides just your body failing. You have to make sure your bikes doesn’t fail as well. You also have to ensure you’re eating and drinking to make sure you’re ready for a marathon after your ride. All of this takes a lot of training and some luck. During training I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and it took me many combinations until I got it right. In training I can say I never really did get it right, but somehow on race day I finally refined my nutrition to the right combination. For the entire ride I repeated and repeated and repeated Pharrell’s Happy. That song truly sums up how I felt the entire day and pure joy was what I felt the entire ride. Over the 6 hours and 45 minutes it took me to finish the 112 miles there were times where counterproductive thoughts started to creep in and I just put on my blinders, let the thoughts go and kept on being happy. For a few miles around the 60 mile mark I started to experience right side pain and cramping. This is something I battled all training. As the pain crept in I became really angry with the pain and told it not today. I forced the pain out with my breath and again went back to being happy. Also at mile 60 was my special needs bag. I did stop for a minute or 2 to eat a few tums and grabbed the water bottle I had in there. This was also when it started to rain. The rain wasn’t heavy, but it was certainly more than a sprinkle. The roads did get a little slick, but I kept my blinders on and stayed happy. The bike course was essentially a two loop course and the out and back for the turnaround (which we did twice) was on a road that was chipped, sealed, but not black topped. The road was rough and again the thought of a flat entered my mind, but I quickly let that go and remained happy.
To sum up the bike, those 6 hours and 45 minutes went by quickly. I ate when I needed to eat and I drank when I needed to drink. My food of choice was a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a few Gus, and Tailwind powder in my water. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and the ones I most feared, didn’t. I didn’t have a flat tire and I didn’t fall. A lot of people did experience some really nasty falls and I would see them bandaged on the run, if they made it to the run. TJ said he saw someone who broke their ankle, they were not even able to turn their foot to get it out their pedal. I did get rained on for about 40 miles, but I let that go and stayed happy. I had my second and third encounter with Kilt Guy on the bike. He gave me a high five and was cheering for me like he knew me. The best part was seeing my family four different times and seeing their excitement for me. I was ecstatic to finish the bike and to feel as good as I did the entire ride.
As I approached bike transition I could see runners on the run. At one point I feared I was going the wrong way and just said out loud, “Am I going the right way?” A volunteer promptly told me I was. I dismounted my bike and started the run to rack my bike. I stopped and asked a volunteer if I took off my bike shoes and gave them to my dad would that be considered outside assistance. He told me to accidentally drop my shoes over the barrier and I’d be fine, so I did just that. Yes my pee filled shoes now also full of sweat and dirt. As I was running to put my back on the rack I did have a few moments where I thought, oh my, I really do have to run a marathon. That is a long run. I quickly released that thought and gave my bike a kiss saying thank you for getting me through those 112 miles better than I ever could have anticipated. I changed out of my bike shorts into my runs shorts, took off my bike singlet, changed my socks and laced up my running shoes. To top off the outfit I put on my pink hat that has a heart and the words run. I ate a few crackers and tums. I opted to use the porta-potty this time instead of peeing myself right there in transition. By the time I went to the bath room I was ready to run. I could hear the finish line music and felt ready to do what I needed to finish this Ironman.
The run course was a two loop course where we looped up a hill to the finish and then back down for the second loop. The run course was never flat and at no point did I mind. I’m a runner and this is what I do best. There was a part of me that wanted to finish the marathon in under four hours. That didn’t happen and I knew it wasn’t going to happen about 3 miles in. It wasn’t because I didn’t feel well, I just knew that running a 9 minute mile wasn’t going to happen and I needed to be ok with a 9:30. I wanted to enjoy the run and I didn’t want to get bogged down with negative thoughts. So again I acknowledged what was happening and then let it go and continued to be happy. I’m sure you’re wondering, I did continue to sing Happy for the entire marathon. I ran the entire time and enjoyed every step. As I came up the hill on my first loop of the run I could hear other people finishing and I could hear, “so and so, You Are an Ironman.” This was the only time I tiered up on the race and it was because I knew I was going to finish. I looked at TJ and said, “Next time that is going to be my name.” My dad even has me on video saying it. I was happy to run back down that hill knowing I was only 2 hours away from something I’ve waited a decade for.
To sum up the run, like the bike, those 4 hours and 8 minutes went by so fast. I was happy the entire time, I smiled at everyone, said thank you to the volunteers, and told everyone I passed they were doing awesome. I ran for a mile or so with someone who told me he had never been happier in his life than at that moment. I can’t say that was exactly how I felt, but I know what he meant. I also saw Kilt Guy as I turned the corner with about 2 miles to go. I saw him and said, “You won’t see me again today.” Kilt Guy slapped me on the ass and said, “Go Get’m Ironman.” I will never forget the motivation I felt then. He was the first person to call me an Ironman and I believed I was one. At this point it was rather dark and those heading out on their second loop where all getting lights and the lights were blinding me. I was ready to be done.
The moment I turned to the finish line was absolutely incredible. I started pumping my arms and screaming yes. My dad has a video of me running down the shoot and you can see me pumping my arms and I gave them a thumbs up. The best part of that video is when I hear Timyra yelling, “Go Mommy.” I tear up every time I think of it. It was so important to me to have the kids there to watch and see what all my training was about. A few days after we got home I found Timyra reading a book called Becoming an Ironman. I have in our library. I wonder if this may have sparked something in her?
The best part of course was crossing the line. I heard, “Darchelle Caces You Are An Ironman.” I immediately started screaming, “I DID IT” and I didn’t stop screaming. I stared looking around at other finishers and pointed to them and screamed, “You, did it too.” I was acting absolutely crazy. TJ said I was acting like my 20 year old self at bar close. I had no voice the next day because I could not stop yelling, “I DID IT.” All throughout my training I was convinced I would cross the finish line and just start crying. I have at least a decade of emotions, blood, sweat, and tears that I left out there on October 2nd, but that is not at all what happened. The only emotion I felt was pure and utter JOY!
The night of the race I really didn’t sleep at all. My adrenaline was out of control. Even after lying in bed (next to my 2 year old, I’m pretty sure most Ironman weren’t sleeping next to a 2 year old the night of their race), my heartrate was still 87, which sleeping mine is usually in the low 50’s. I got up at two in the morning to eat because it took that long for my hunger to come back. The energy and excitement stayed with me well into Sunday evening. After we celebrated Timothy’s birthday I did end up crashing and I slept awesome!
After Ironman I thought I was going to feel a huge sense of relieve and feel as if a huge weight was lifted from me and I don’t feel that either. I am very proud of what I did and I’ll talk about it to whoever will listen. I wear my Ironman apparel essentially everywhere. I flew to VA a few weeks after the race and I wore my Ironman hat, Ironman mask, and my carryon was my Ironman backpack. Is that over kill? I’m not sure when I will take my participant bracelet off, but it won’t be anytime soon. But even with all that, I don’t feel relief. It’s as if the bar has just moved! I hate saying, “and what now”, but there will be a what now however, I’m still in the process of figuring it out. Right now I work out doing just what I want and someday I will get back on my bike, but not for awhile. On October 2nd, 2021 I retired the sweatshirt my sister bought be four years ago for my birthday, yet I’m sure I will find myself wearing it every now and again. I believe there will always be a part of me that is in Training, for what right now I’m not entirely sure.
My what now will probably be a combination of fitness and other things I’m still trying to figure out! What I do know is whatever next is, it will make be very HAPPY!!