Saturday, August 9, 2014


The week of the race, I trained a little more. I  was blessed enough to swim, bike and run the Iron Girl course with an amazing and diverse bunch of women.  Women who experienced the course on their own journey or have been triathletes long enough to help out the new athletes in some way physically emotionally or spiritually.

I made it to the Saturday before but not without panicking and wondering with each text message, call or facebook post if I was really cut out for this race. I made it early, met a lot of great friends I'd made along the way and talked my way out of nervousness.   Thank God for Kathy, who put my mind at ease on plenty of occasions. Somehow knowing that my friends new and old were either IN the race or cheering me on helped me get through that itch to run the opposite direction.  I waited in line for registration as I set Betty on the rack to wait. Looking at the registration table, I knew every face but 2. It had a calming affect on me. I love these ladies. I truly do!  As I stepped up for my turn, I took some Iron Girl temporary tattoos for myself and Little Bear. Honestly I took enough to last me for 6 years but I worked hard for this race and I would wear them and wear them WELL!

The name was misspelled but I forgot to have it changed. Oh well!

Next I ran over to get my registration packet which included my wrist band, a cool shirt, my cap which was cardinal red (more like a brown really) and this tracking doohickey thing that I've heard about but wondered how to use. "Doug will know how to use it!" I thought. There IS instructions. I rant to get my bike like I was ready to transition out of the park already. I ran so I could get that good spot I figured out in my head. I ran through these people who wanted to see my wrist band.  Mary Lou from the Tri Club I've seen on occasion was very kind with her help and sweet smile. She directed me and I ran to find my numbered area.  "Where is my numbered rack?" I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen.  "They must have tagged me as nuts. I'm already talking to myself for crying out loud!" I said.   Finally with several odd looks in my direction (because OBVIOUSLY I didn't learn how to count in preschool) I found my...What the?!  WHAT?  No! All I could do was laugh.

The spot that was divinely chosen for me. The red seat is my old swim cap. lol It works! Thanks Coach.

If you are familiar with bike racing at all you know that the racks used for many races are long metal racks which I gathered to be about 5ft long.  When I was looking at the numbered signs, MOST of them had around 15ft of room to figure out where precisely to place your bike for the race. I saw people placing their bikes, shaking their heads and changing it again and again and again.  I looked at my rack which was only about 5ft long with only 7 bikes allowed on it and placed it at the very end of the rack so I could run in from the swim, grab Betty and walk WITH PURPOSE again out to bike. This is how much God has a sense of humor in my opinion! People were changing their bikes to strategically place them in a good spot and mine was already chosen for me.  He knows I'm terrible with direction and about to poop my pants! The last thing I need is to have more than one place to choose from.

I woke up at 430am and left so I could get to the race on time. Anyone who knows my husband and I knows that we are night owls. Getting up at wee hours of the morning for a race is miraculous but we were even more astounded that people actually paid to get up and suffer to get to the finish line. ESPECIALLY those of you who run 70.3's, back to back Iron Mans, half and regular marathons.  What I found out during this process is that this hour really IS the land of the living! You get to open water swims early enough to see the sun come up, you make friends, you get to run and bike in freely.  It was this that reminded me how lucky we truly are to live in a free country filled with Gods beauty.  It's an amazing hour to stretch out, take in all the goodness in the world and prepare yourself for the day.  Strength comes from being grateful for these very things. Thanksgiving isn't just one day out of the year. It's every day you get to see a new day. To cherish the people you love, the scenery we get to observe and the overall health and wellness WE have the opportunity to take part in.

It was cold and foggy outside as I warmed up the car.  It took me much longer to get to the site than anticipated. I'm so glad I got there before the parking lot started to fill up.  I slowly looked around at all the women excited to start the race. I got out, grabbed my bucket and tried to remember if I forgot anything. "Let me see", I thought to myself.  For the swim I need sunscreen, goggles, swim socks and my cap. "Oh Lord, please get me through this swim!"  For the bike, "you got this Bek, you got this!" I needed Betty who is already racked and ready to go (my bike named after my gram), my helmet, "put your glasses in there Bek! You don't want the bugs smashed into your eyeballs! That would really stink if your race was cut short because you forgot your sunglasses." bike shoes and sunscreen.  For the run, "dear God I'm scared! I'd ask you to help me run like the Holy Spirit Lord, but then I'd be asking to run all over the place.  Help me jog a a steady pace Lord. Help me to remember to take my helmet off and remember my darn running shoes." SHOES! Oh gee.  I brought two pairs of running shoes. The knew ones I bought specifically for this journey in January and the shoes I bought in 2007 which I'd never run in but I certainly walked to and from places a lot in those years.  I wore them the friday before the race and felt like I was on air. I'm choosing the old dudds! I'm doing the run portion with old sneakers. This may not be a good thing, but I'm doing it! Done!  I run no "walk with purpose" as Kellie tells me, to the transition area where I put my towel down, lay everything out and put what I don't need back in the bucket.  I run to my swim, bike, mom friends to take some pictures and meet everyone. Lindsay has become one of my greatest friends. Had it not been her smiling face during swims, I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable enough to do this. Her strength is beyond anything I've seen and I really love hearing how much she loves this sport and her many stories about Meredith and swim, bike mom folks.  The first thing I ever asked in the local Tri forum, was if there was anyone "like me".  Not only did I find out there were PLENTY of men and women "like me", but there were a whole lot of people with their own journeys. What an AMAZING community of athletes to be among!  Before I ran off, Lindsay handed me a package with Meredith's autographed book and ran off to prepare for HER race.

Beautiful Sunrise At Iron Girl Syracuse 2014. Thank you Deanna <3

Swim bike Mom Army courtesy of Lindsay

 Me, Beth and Lindsay

Christy & I. Thank you for adding to the journey. Love you friend! Way to go Iron Girl!

Dana, Lois and I

My Deanna!

Waiting and waiting and waiting. 

I had one more group to find. My Tri To Train girls. The women of faith who made it a point to pray before the race with each other and wish each other well before they went on their merry way.  MaryJo started this group and has a story of her own. I wonder if she imagined when she started this group that it would be this big and filled with such a diverse crowd of women?   One of those women is my friend Deanna who started this idea in my head during the worst moments of my life when we delivered and soon after lost our son. She came just to see myself and all the other women race.  After our prayer she took me by the hand, showed me the water, smiled and cried with me again.  As I looked at her and took in every aspect of Iron Girl Syracuse 2014, I remembered everything I went through that brought me here. I recalled the bitter moments and the very sweet moments. I thought of my husband and daughter and all that they sacrificed so that I could get healthy. I remembered my coaches love and commitment to helping me persevere through adversity and I thought of my son. I was carrying Jackson Jeffrey with me on this race. I carried every mother who lost a child no matter the age, every widow, every woman fighting disease, depression, anxiety, fear, ageism and body image.  I looked at the water and to spite my fear of failing, I laid it down at Gods feet forever and turned a new corner. I did it for myself, my husband, our daughter and every life that would change because I became an open book. I allowed people in to see the transformation inside and out with each dietary, training, emotional, spiritual and medical change. I did it in Jesus name and wiped that last tear to power through to victory one....more...time!

National Anthem before the swim portion. 

 The water was cool and beautiful though there was a dead fish swimming about and algae which made several pretty sick. The beach was closed the next day. 

It's time to get ready for the swim portion and I wondered how I'd do this. Coach and Steve came up and gave me their approving smiles.  Coach told me to breathe and relax so I wouldn't fatigue out there.   Lindsay and Beth from Meredith's army made it a point to find me in the beginning. They calmed every part of my being at that point. As everyone said, I trained and I was ready as I'd ever be.  I found my friends Jennifer and Christy who were in my swim wave.  Miriam, Maryjo, Lois, Katie and Dana all from the Tri To Train group found me as Deanna was massaging my back and neck (God bless her).  Just before my wave was released, another Rebecca made it a point to share some encouragement and we were off.   I felt good. The water was cool and relaxing. I got out there and tried to stay to the middle of the back left. I was swimming. That was good. I looked up several times to try and spot my target. I knew I'd fall behind some. I'm slow and while I had one REALLY good swim training where I could put my actual head in the water and breathe nicely in freestyle position, I just couldn't seem to get the position I wanted. I heard Joslyn one of my assistant coaches telling me to "just keep swimming".  I didn't feel anything at all like Dory in the movie. I swam side stroke as I kept seeing the stronger swimmers "move to your left to give them some room" come up from behind me. I saw kayaks galore and later heard people were fearful of drowning. I tried to get around the second buoy and someone was holding on for dear life and I was getting caught up under it as more stronger swimmers with different colored caps (at least I thought they were) came swimming on by. There were some dangerous swimmers out there who didn't prepare very well. One held on to my friends leg and ripped off the timer that was on her ankle. Some of the swim was scary but all that kept going on in my head was "just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming." I was a bit disappointed with my swim portion but there was no time for that! I kept swimming as someone hit the same wrist I hurt a couple weeks prior to the open water swim. "OUCH!" I thought as I finally started to see I was getting to the end.  I saw many women walking the rest of the way as land got closer. "Screw it!" I said as I got closer and closer. I got out and started jogging. My legs were like bricks and all I could think about was getting to the next destination. I thanked everyone who was cheering me through it and made it to T1. (little did I know that later, I and some newbies would be chastised by a small few for our swim technique and walking).  My assistant coach Joslyn later says, "Don't let Anyone or Anything change how you feel about YOUR experience! Your day was your day and theirs was theirs. You are on a journey and so are they let this path diverge from theirs and keep moving forward! Onward and upward! "

Run Bek Run!

I named my bike Betty after my Gram. I miss her but she would be proud!

Next was my ride. This was the portion I felt was my strength. I love the bike! I dried off, put my bike shoes and helmet on and walked again with purpose. "It's time!"I said.  I got on the bike and rode off. Though it was my strength, I was not mentally alert. I can barely remember portions of the course as I rode it before. This time it was different. I was trying to get from point A to point B and do it fast! "on your left!" someone said. I must have heard it what felt like thousands of times.  I noticed I was being passed a few times without anyone telling me they were passing on my left. I got to the halfway points and I started hearing people pass but they were telling me "great job...keep going you've got this!" Thank you for the kind souls who did this! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I got past one of the bridges where I started to panic. I was tearing up because I knew I was falling behind. It was THEN that I heard "how are you doing?!" It was my sweet friend Miriam!!! "not good!" I tell her. "I'm way behind the rest of them." I was worrying about failing my husband, our daughter, my coach and especially myself.  "No! Don't you DARE!! Get up here" she demands with love and grace.  "You are not racing against others but against yourself! Let's pray!" she says again as she starts dishing out what I now call the love of Christ banter".  She prayed with me and kept herself behind a few short minutes to encourage and then went on her way.   It gave me the fuel I needed to get through the rest of the course and  "just keep moving forward" as Meredith would say.  I made it back and almost fell off my seat!  I heard later racers were moving so fast down the newly paved portion that there were plenty of accidents at dismounting.

Loving encouragement through prayer. My bike angel!

Coming in

This is just about where I find ...

I got to my bike rack..."wait a minute!  How did the rack move 3 feet and my stuff end up here?"  I noticed the rack was off it's legs and my portion was on the ground. It took me several minutes to lift the rack and place Betty there so the rest of the bikes wouldn't get damaged. Then I ran BACK to my stuff and tried to put my sneakers on with my legs feeling like jello.  I tried to put the braces on my knees since I have patella ulta in both of them. It would help the pain but there was NO WAY they were staying on. I threw those suckers to the wind and just started jogging.

"I hate this portion!" As I smiled for everyone who came out to cheer the racers.  "just keep jogging Bek and shut up already!" It was again at this moment I thought people must think I'm nuttier than squirrel chasing it's tail.  Ah man, not grass!  Oh no sand! Ah !@#$, not gravel!  Just then I notice this woman to my right cheering me on.  She says, you don't know me, I'm Joslyn's friend.  I saw your post and I'd like to run with you would that be okay?  "Oh look, there's Mary Ryan! Hi Mary!" Oh look again! It's Ellen". Sure, I'd like that I said to the woman who introduced herself as Maria. I was tired, I was frustrated thinking about how far behind I was getting but I refused to quit!   2 months prior I couldn't jog 1/4 of a mile without stopping to gasp for air. Friday before the race, I managed to jog 1 whole mile in my old sneakers without getting winded.  "you can do this Rebekah! You got this!" said my angel in running.   There's Lindsay again "Wooooo, Rebekah your AWESOME!" God bless her spirit! Then came Katie from one of my Tri Training Groups who had biked with me. "Way to go Rebekah!"  SHE had her own amazing journey and continues to inspire others.  "are you okay Rebekah?  Do you need to walk? " Nope! I said  "Okay, lets keep moving".  

Photo Courtesy of Steven Buttolph Photography

I heard lots of "your almost there!" from people which were flat out blatant LIES. Whoever tells you that is a lying liar that lies!  Don't believe it ONE BIT! Those dirty buggers had me begging for mercy and the loop even had snow cones, water, and other goodies not to mention the kind soul who handed out beer and margaritas. (which I seriously had hoped most people would ingest so my time would be better) I waved off the goodies and took 4 waters. Two I drank (with serious fear I was weighing myself down) and 2 I threw over my swollen hands along the way.

Just as I get to the loop who rode in behind me but Team Moxie! My coach and friend.  "Get going! If you can talk, your not working hard enough!" Darn him! Sorry folks. A temporary loss of thought there.  "Keep pushing Rebekah, you've got this!" as my running angel says. Coach keeps moving to the next few paces ahead and tells me to focus.  I'm still jogging. Slow, but I haven't stopped since the very first portion of the run. I REFUSE to quit!  "Tell me what time your swim wave was again?" coach said. WHY?! Did I not make the cutoff?  I didn't make the cutoff did I?!  "You made your bike portion before I expected!" coach said. "Your doing AWESOME in the run time. Keep going!" My angel to my right kept jogging with me and whenever someone wanted to take a picture or talk to me she insisted she get out of the way.  When coach was talking, she'd remind me what he was saying and encourage me to keep going.  "Your almost there!" coach says.   "Do me a favor and hand me your goggles!"  What?! I said, "They're hanging from your shirt!"  Ah hell! I've had those goggles hanging out from the start of the bike portion!  "turn your bib around! You've worked hard. They need to know who you are!"

My mother, husband and daughter. I love them so much!

The only picture I found of my "running angel" to my right.  I'm  jogging and she's STILL right there next to me. God bless her! 

I'm almost there. Over that blasted gravel again then the sand and now the pavement. I see my husband, my daughter and mother cheering me on. I hear cheering from everyone and the little angel on my right had disappeared.  Rebekah...YOU ARE AN IRON GIRL!  WOOOSH! There in front of me is the coach who lovingly reached out to someone very sick and in despair to greet her as the Iron Girl he conditioned from January.  Thoughts raced through my head as I heard cheering but it was all a whirlwind. My health.  My son, Oh the loss,! OHhhh the pain. The debilitating fear that wreaked havoc on my day to day life. Thousands of dollars of medications that were no longer looming over me. Friends, Family...I see a future! Finally I'm becoming...ME! The girl God created me to be.  Coach grabbed me for a hug and I fell to tears. I did it! Over 40 pounds down, I'm off the insulin pump and most all my medications. I'm no longer afraid to drive, no longer a recluse.  I miss my son terribly but I know life continues on. I can either live it or I can choose to die without purpose. Without living for those who are in my life today!

Photo courtesy of Steven Buttolph Photography

Coach grabs me and asks where my family is. I talk with friends. Hug with them and run to my husband who supported me from the beginning. Who also encouraged this with his OWN journey. I see my little girl. I know now that I'm ready to LIVE. I'm ready to be a part of HER life. To encourage a healthier lifestyle for her and watch her grow up.

My Friend Kathy who swam, biked and ran with me when I needed it most. Love her!

Talking with friends and waiting for my family.

The two men in my life who supported my health & wellness journey. Coach and the husband God-handpicked to be my own! I'm a lucky girl. Blessed beyond measure.

My mom, husband and daughter

My journey hasn't ended here. Tomorrow starts a new chapter. Coach hasn't dropped me like a fly. I'm continuing my adventure and am hopeful to lose more weight and get off more medication. I'm hopeful for another race and to meet more sweet friends. Those who will encourage me and those whom I can encourage!

If your out there and hoping to change something in your life. You don't need a tragic story or weight loss to get started. The unique part about accomplishing goals is that you write your OWN story! Don't wait, your ready NOW!

Love, hugs and congratulations to all the Iron Girls.

PS. I finished the swim in 23 minutes, the bike in 1hr and 29 minutes and the run portion in 44 minutes. Considering I couldn't breathe doing ANY of those last year and the fact that I've never done them before EVER is BEYOND phenomenal! If I can do it, you can do it. Now get out there!

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