By Rebecca McKee
The water was so stupid cold, and with the wind it was beyond miserable. The fact that they had to rescue 89 people created conditions with the boats/emergency support flying around the water that also made it terrifying.
Side Rant: It is amazing to me how many people do not respect COLD WATER! The Ironman MOB Mentality that "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" is the reason under/unprepared people sign up for a race where the water temps are barely in the high 50's, the air temps are in the mid 50's and someone thinks after swimming for over an hour plus, they are going to "be ok"?!? By the way, look at the Ironman Race Site for IMAZ, they list this swim at 61 degrees… IT IS NOT WARM nor has it ever been warm!
I hate swimming in the cold, but I know how to do it, and it sucks, and I can do it, but it doesn’t mean I like it… and I know it's going to be slow. I got in the water, and for the first time in over 22 years of racing, I stopped dead in my tracks and considered turning around to get right back out. LMAO… if it had not been a total shit show to swim upstream against everyone, I might have just said “NOPE!” I found myself having to swim buoy to buoy, for some reason this is the very worst course regarding being able to sight the buoys. No one swims on course here; it is strange to me each year why people want to spend more time in that water. Of course, stopping at every single buoy to sight the next one = being in those conditions way longer, but I swam ON COURSE. I was cold and confused, and swam up to a large group in the water to find they were trying to rescue someone and it shakes you, especially when you can’t feel your face, hands, feet and you wonder how am I even moving forward? Getting out of the water I saw my time and laughed a little thinking of Jana and her declaration in Kona that as long as she was out in under 1:20, she would be fine… 1:17… good enough, I thought to myself, fuck that swim, I’m going to go crush this bike!
The changing tent was a war zone and also kind of freaked me out, first surprise – MEN in the changing tent! MEDIC’s! Lots of them. All over the place. Women in wheelchairs, women laying on the ground covered in Mylar sheets, just a total and complete shit show. The volunteers were inundated with helping hypothermic racers, I too was cold, but functioning! Lucky for me, the medics were also helping racers as I could not feel my hands and could not do any simple tasks like put on socks!
I was out of the water in 13th, out of T1 in 8th and ready to ride! I was perfectly dressed and took the extra time to put on gloves, the FIRST TIME IN 20 years I have worn gloves on the bike... #worthit! It was colder at the end of the Beeline and I was thankful to have all the warm things. The wind kicked up and we had some pretty strong crosswinds/headwind... Kona level legit. I have experienced wind before on this course, but this year was above and beyond. A small group of Pro men passed me on the bike, one Pro woman (she had a flat and came back to crush the day), and 3 age group men... that was it. I felt strong and steady on the bike and stuck to my plan without falter. I was excited to learn that I set the Bike Course Record for my age group.
When I got off the bike, I was in the lead by about 5 minutes, I was able to increase this lead to almost 8 minutes by mile 4 and from there my entire run plan shifted. For the first time ever, I was able to run conservatively in an Ironman. It came with a lot of anxiety! LOL The ladies I race against are all competitors, they take this sport as seriously as I do and they don't give up, I have a lot of respect for them and simply for this reason I could not make myself "go any slower". I know that is an odd thing to say, and maybe you won't understand, but I just know I would never stop fighting and no matter what was going on with their day, they wouldn’t either. I was able to enjoy many aspects of the run, I was able to actually talk to some people running around me and take in the amazing views that I never seem to see.
As I started down the finish line, I could hear Mike’s voice and all the people cheering. I was so excited to enjoy this moment. The crowd was deafening, and I could hear Mike calling me home, ugh, it chokes me up. I wanted to live in this moment forever, I wanted to take in every single second of it, I wanted to etch his voice in my memories to forever be able to hear him say “You are an Ironman” one last time… and as I approached, they set off the fireworks and my heart exploded. I COULD NOT COMPREHEND HOW AMAZING THIS WAS… HOW AMAZING IS THIS? Mike calling me home to my 4th Age Group Win, to Qualifying for Kona, with all the emotions of a finish line, with Brendan screaming “Beaker, Beaker, Beaker”…. To have this spectacular display, to have the PERFECT FINISH LINE EXPERIENCE, at one of the most amazing venues, with amazing people and volunteers… MY HEART!!!!
I have said it before, I will say it again, this sport is amazing, this community is amazing and IRONMAN Arizona is one of my favorite venues. The IRONMAN Staff and Volunteers really go above and beyond here. Thank You! A special Thank you to the gang at BCC Live for the Fireworks!
THANK YOU to all of you that support me too! and now... time for CAKE!
Rebecca McKee is a Seven-Time IRONMAN Kona Finisher and Owner/Coach at Peak Center Alaska.