The alarm went off at 4:45 am, had breakfast and talked to mom, Raquel and Sami at the apartment. My mom was asking about my times and how long I thought each leg would take me. I made a prediction and told her what I thought I could do and where I should be instead (being conservative keeping in mind a- this was my first IM and b- I had not had a good run since my last long weekend and wanted to make sure that even not feeling 100% healthy I could still have an ok run). After breakfast I met some of the girls and headed down to transition, set up my nutrition and headed to the beach start. I can still feel the rush of the morning, before I knew it I was standing on shore waiting for the gun to go off.
At the Swim Start
I had so many friends out there (racing and cheering) that I couldn’t feel by myself but even with all that support and the 2800 athletes lining up next to me for a sec I tried to savor the moment and find some ‘peace’. I knew my first IM experience would only happen once and I wanted to make sure I could take in as much as I could.
Getting ready to line up at the start line (Thank you Haley for the wetsuit!!)
The gun went off and it was CRAZY!! I am a swimmer and I never thought for a second that I would struggle out there, and I didn’t, but I honestly didn’t expect so many people swimming on top of each other, kicking you and basically trying to stop you, on top of that it was pretty choppy so I got thrown from one side to the other. I finally found my comfortable pace at some point after the first turn around. I got on an easy rhythm and made it out of my first loop, got back in and went for a second one. By the time I was heading to the swim finish I was ready to be out of that water.
Predicted swim time: 1:00hr
Actual time: 1:00:05
Transition went a lot faster than I expected, if you are a friend of mine on FB you know what some of my dilemma was between using a tri kit vs bike short on the bike. I end up wearing my tri kit and had no issues at all! I also wore my compression socks since I had ran all my long runs with them, that is probably the one thing I thought it would take me a bit longer but thanks to Jill Poon and her ‘how to’ video I got those on in no time. It was pretty warm so I end up deciding against the arm warmers, and as soon as I headed out on the bike I was glad I did that.
T1 time: 4:38
The bike was ... well long. I knew I wanted to keep my HR in Z2, I had never ridden anymore than 4.5 hours in training so I was a bit ‘scared’ of how I’d feel once I’d be done. I knew that by being a mass start there would be a lot of passing on the bike (as of me being the one passed). The one thing I also expected was to see drafting out there, but OMG I didn’t expect to see groups of 20+ riders passing me on a ‘peloton’, I am so NOT kidding! Honestly it was pretty sad. I tried to stay in my zone and not look at anything else other than my HR, I kept it low and steady the whole ride. Around mile 80 I started to break the rest of the ride on smaller portions (10 miles at a time), not because I was tired but because I was ready to start running. My neck was getting stiff and I just wanted out! I kept my head ‘on the price’ and tried to stay on the moment.
The last 10 miles went by pretty fast, heading back into town just brings so many emotions. I had gone for a training ride the day before with Sami and I recognized the scenery. As I was heading to T2 I saw Sami, Joe, Melissa and Don cheering.. I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy to see them.
Coming back to T2.. ALL smiles!
Predicted bike time: 5:45-6:00hr
Actual time: 5:44:37
Handed my bike out to one of the volunteers (who by the way were AWESOME!!) and headed to T2, grab my run bag and went to the ‘changing tent’. It literally took me seconds to change, I think I have taken longer on some of my sprint and Olympic distance transitions, again big part of it was the amazing volunteers out there. As I was putting on the shoes they would put stuff in my pockets and before I knew it I was running out the ‘run out’.
I felt pretty awesome coming off T2, especially considering I had just biked 112 miles. I knew I needed to get into an easy pace and not start faster than 8:30 pace. As soon as I passed the area where the Alpha Ironman tent was with Raquel, mom, the kids and all the awesome families I checked my Garmin and realized I was running 7:30 pace, so I slowed down. It took me a bit to get into a consistent pace, and as soon as I did my asthma started acting up.
At that point my mind started playing games ‘you are never going to finish, just give up’, or ‘it is not worth it, so much easier to sit on the side of the road’. I would have never thought my mind could be SO NEGATIVE!, around mile 6.5-7 I had to walk to keep my breathing controlled as well as my asthma, I needed my inhaler and I knew it wouldn’t be until mile 13 or so before I would see Sami and could ask him for it… it was tough. I wanted to cry, I wanted to walk, I wanted to give up. Somehow that first time I only walked for a couple of minutes max and started back up. Around mile 12 it was getting hard to breath without the inhaler, I didn’t want to walk again and knew I was close to where my family was.
Beginning of the second loop
As soon as I saw Sami I asked him to get the inhaler, from that point on (approx. mile 12.5) til he brought the inhaler I was honestly taking it one step at a time. This was probably the second lowest point of the day, as I ran by the PT Solutions tent Dale ran with me for a little bit, I so appreciated his words of encouragement, this are the little things that make you realize how big of a support group you have out there and although it feels like it, you are not alone.
Not the greatest picture of me but love that someone got this moment on a pic (Thank you Corey!!)
Sami caught up around mile 15-16, once I got the inhaler I took a couple of puffs and started walking again with the hopes the inhaler would make its way through my body and I could start ‘running’ soon.
It took a bit longer than expected but I was finally able to get at it again, I couldn’t go very fast because anytime I got to a good pace my asthma would come back, but at least I got to ‘run’ for most of the second loop. I only walked once again at mile 20 for approx 1 min. and after that I just had one thing in mind… ‘Carmen Brahim you are an ironman’, when I took the last turn around and saw the Balmes family, the Homekes and everybody else out there I forgot about all the pain, I knew I was SO close!!
Out of the thousand times I had pictured the race on my head I never imagine I would straggle the most on the first loop on the run, I always thought the second one would be the tough one, but somehow my second one felt so much more doable than the first.
The final shoot is something you have to live to appreciate. I remember last year when we all came down to volunteer and went for a run while everybody was out on the bike course, talking to Brian he mentioned how I needed to make sure I could soak in the whole finish shoot, he couldn’t remember his from his first IM and that is something he was looking forward this time around. And that I did… I was not having the day I knew I could have, but I was having a darn good day and I was about to enjoy the best part of it. I high five every single person I saw on the shoot and took the time to enjoy the last minutes. I made sure I heard the famous words and as soon as I crossed I embraced my friend Sina who was one of the catchers. Apparently some of my friends back home who saw me cross the finish line didn’t know I knew her and thought it was a bit weird how I just cried my eyes out on this stranger’s arms.. well, she was no stranger. After I calmed down she took me to where they were taking the finisher picture and then handed me out to my family. As soon as I saw them I started baling again, having Sami, the kids, mom and Raquel is something I will always be thankful for, as I hugged Raquel my first words to her were ‘It was AWFUL! Don’t you ever do it!’.
Predicted time: I honestly didn’t have one, I wanted to think I could do it in 3:45-4:00hrs, but I also knew that this was going to be the true test of the day and I could even end up walking the whole marathon.
Carmen Brahim you are an IRONMAN
All worth it
Run time: 4:30:01
Total Time: 11:21:43
A heck of a time for a first IM and the experience I got out of it and what I learned is just priceless. Do I think I can do better?? Heck YES!, but I also know that in triathlon we’ve heard so many times how there are lots of variables that you can control and some that you can’t, unfortunately for me there were some thrown at me that took me a bit to react to but for my second IM (IMKY 2013... more on that later), I got some things I can improve on EVEN if I am not having the best day out there.