Jennifer is Iron(wo)man

16 09 2009

Thoughts and Observations of the Louisville IM from the Carousel Pony

My 3rd Ironman, how did I get talked into It again? It had been 3 years since I said “never again.” Barb Kauffman, that’s how. She introduced me to the F4 team and I was on my way to a great 9 months. This race turned out to be very different for me than previous races. It wasn’t about would I finish, or how fast I would go on the swim/ bike or run. It was about the journey, rather than the destination, and all the wonderful people I met on my journey.

When I met Scott and my teammates, and I was hooked again. I managed to stay healthy and uninjured, on my way to the start line, a very important thing. For me the group rides and runs were the highlights. My most memorable rides were Carter Lake, where Doug ordered a Cheeseburger and my ride with   Barb to Cheyenne on the 100 miler. I developed good friendships with all the pink ladies. The trip to Lubbock with Jenny and her bike was a hoot (Jason’s humor was hilarious too). Donna’s mantra of “I don’t fail” stayed with me for the whole season. Michael’s minutes were informative, and entertaining, and Susan’s smile was infectious.

I arrived in KY on Thursday; Dan, Barb and I were on the same flight. I was impressed with the terrific hotel. My bed was very bouncy; I always like to test the bed on arrival. Barb and I were roomies and had a blast. I hadn’t slept well up to coming to KY, and hoped to relax and sleep. But it wasn’t to be as I continued to sleep poorly and felt very tired, even short of breath walking the stairs. I know people say it’s normal to feel sluggish prior to the race, but in my previous races, I have always felt very energetic. I would have to see what race day would bring.

Friday evening was the welcome dinner and athlete meeting. The highlight was Steven going up on stage to be recognized for being the youngest competitor in the race. He handled himself with grace and wisdom beyond his years.

The weather, I must talk about it. We were expecting hot and humid and had raced in Texas to prepare for it. The weather gods were kind. Both Texas and Kentucky were comfortable days.  On Thursday, Scott, Jen Szabo, Barb and I drove the bike course in the pouring rain. The hills are always easier in the car.

Saturday was a day of preparation, and of dropping off bike and enough gear bags to cloth a small army. A short swim in the river, followed by a short bike ride to make sure all was working, and finally, a short jog to stretch my legs. All working good. Saturday was the team dinner with everyone’s loved ones. It was also Young Steven’s 18th Birthday. We sang and shared in the giant cookie he received for his birthday. Scott then stood up and said a few words to the group, and then the fun really began. Sticking to a Kentucky Derby theme, he and Jen Szabo had come up with the idea of giving each team member a small horse as a souvenir. But first he had to assign a different type of horse to each team member based on their personality, and temperament. This was very fun.  A few examples, Cary was the thoroughbred; fast and athletic, Margie was a Welsh pony, Tim the Quarter horse, and Barb the Belgium pony BIG and blonde to name a few. I was the carousel horse, bright, colorful and entertaining, but still only a make-believe horse. WHAT’s UP WITH THAT?  Then it was off to bed to try to sleep again. NO LUCK. Even Barb had some trouble.  So she wrote a song when she couldn’t sleep “The 12 Weeks of Ironman Training“. She will sing it at the party it’s hilarious.

My family was in position, and ready to cheer me at every opportunity. My 13 yr old daughter Fiona volunteered and gave out gear bags for bike to run to racers and loved being in the mix. My Dad came from Chicago to cheer me on, he is my biggest fan. Last, but not least, Corinna, a friend of Barb and I, flew all the way from Denver just to cheer us on! She has also done the Ironman on 3 occasions, each time with either Barb or I. So that won her the title of Head Cheerleader.

Morning of race was the usual; up early, eat, pee and go. I meet Scott in the transition area where he pumped up my tires. I was a little worried about breaking a stem off or something bad.  Dropped off special food bags and walked the mile or so to the swim start. Donna and Jenny had gotten up early to get a good spot in the line for the swim. Bless you both. Most of us with no integrity pushed in beside them, while a few good men went to the back of the line. The swim start was crazy with the time trial start. Once the gun went off we all filed down very quickly and dived in the water and swam like a Kentucky Catfish.  Swim was good, except getting someone’s hand up my butt! The water temp was great; no wetsuit was fine, current not noticeable. I did have a slight problem; my swim cap would not stay on. I swam with it hanging off the back of my goggles most of the way. Also I rounded a buoy and stopped for a sec to sight and came across a chip which I stuffed down my swim suit and continued. At the end of the swim I was surprised to see Scott right at the exit with all the volunteers. It was a nice surprise and he shouted “Good Swim Jennifer “and off I went in search of my kids in the mass of people. I did not see them. I went to the changing tent hoping to have our teammate Lida assist me with my every need, LOL. But Erica was already there so I had to settle for another wonderful volunteer. I got my bike and started up the long chute to get out to the road. I still hadn’t seen my family, so I shouted “Where’s my family?” and the crowd answered “We’re your family “it was priceless. I then tried to mount my bike but was a little wobbly; I almost took another biker out (Yikes), but that was when I saw my kids. So I thought I had better stop to hug and kiss everybody before I embarrassed myself anymore. After all I still had many more hours to go.

Bike felt too easy in the beginning and I kept saying to myself don’t eat the paste. But my legs did not listen. At about mile 30 those lovely F4 men started to pass me, first Cary passed me on a hill, but did slow down enough to talk which was kind of him. Then came Tim and Steve who also had a little chat. On the second lap of the bike I started to wonder,”How many matches have I burned?” My legs were feeling it. I saw Lida, or let me say that again, I heard Lida before I saw her, cheering at the top of her lungs and taking photos. Then Scott and Jen around the corner with calming words of advice.

Two small problems on the bike, my Powertap stopped working at 1: 51 mins and chain came off on second lap going up hill. Powertap starting working again after about 20 minutes when I just pushed the buttons and hoped for the best. Chain got stuck in between small cog on front and bike frame.  Tried to get it back on with no success.  Just oily hands and Gatorade all over my bike.  I asked a few guys coming up the hill if they could talk me through it, but they just ignored me (bad karma for them). At this point, I had a mini melt down and swore even more than normal.  Decided to go to the shifter since muscling the chain back on wasn’t working and it shifted back on. Wasted about 10 minutes or so, but in a 15 hour day, what is 10 minutes between friends?  Unfortunately, I let this “take the wind out of my sails” for a while. But then decided to count my blessings and not dwell on it. It could have been a lot worse.  Round the corner were Lida, Scott and Jen again. I got off the bike then and went to the port-a-john to ‘get a grip”. After that all was well, except for the occasional, “When can I get off this damn bike?”  During the last 3 miles, Doug passed me and I thought “Oh good, I can talk his ear off on the run”!  My daughter was in transition to give me my transition bag and shout a few words of encouragement.  I came out of the tent ready to do the “Death March”, aka the marathon. We ran up a bridge over the Ohio River.  I was on my way back on the bridge when I saw Doug, he must have had a cheeseburger in the transition tent he took so long!!!!

During the bike I had eaten and drank very well. But I know from past experience that continuing to eat and drink on the run was one of the keys to a good run.  I went with my plan to run from aid station to aid station, and then walk through the station eating and drinking. My stomach was not “too slooshy”, but I was getting slower with each mile. I really enjoyed seeing all the other F4 athletes out on the course. This helped pass the time.  I talked with everyone and anyone who was near me. I ran with the girl with the pink wig and boa. I danced with the guy at the inspirational mile booth. My message at the inspirational mile said “GO BRUNO”.  I told my husband to come up with something to make me laugh, not the usual, ”Go Mom, we love you!”  But “GO BRUNO”?  What the hell did that mean? I later found out that was not what he wrote, someone must have overwritten his message. Second lap of the run I started to feel blisters on my feet, and started to have some stomach issues. Something I have never experienced before, diarrhea. I stopped eating then and switched to coke and water. I knew now it was going to be mind over body at this point. So I dug deep and kept moving forward. The finish chute is a unique experience; I don’t think you can describe it unless you experience it yourself. I heard the words “Jennifer Dretzka from Northglenn, CO you are an Ironman!!!”  And all the pain was gone, at least for a minute or two. Then a familiar face was there again, Scott! He acted as my personal volunteer, put my medal around my neck, got me my t-shirt/hat and a drink of water. That was truly a nice ending to a great day.  I reunited with my family and Barb and we went and had pizza and came back to see all 3 Mitchells, and Dianna cross the finish line.  100% finish, not bad for the F4 group.

The week following the Ironman is always strange to me.  The best part to me is waking up and not thinking “what day is today, what is my workout for today”?  I hope to see many of you in Canada. For now, I have decided to do a ½ marathon in October. Thank you Scott, Michael, my teammates and family I couldn’t have done it without you all. See you all at the IM party on the 20th.

Iron(wo)man  Jennifer Dretzka




3 responses

16 09 2009

I love your race report! Can’t wait to see you this weekend.

17 09 2009
Steve van Schouwen

Way to go Jennifer!

22 09 2009
Donna MItchell

Loved your report and you!! It was so much fun training with you this year. Looking forward to next year. Missed being at the party! We will have to do another Bike to Breakfast ride when you can attend.

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