I have no idea how to write a race report for such a life changing experience, but I will do my best. This was my first full distance (140.6 mile) Ironman so I was not sure what to expect other than for it to be hard, challenging, long, and for myself to finish. Ken and I feel like this journey was 2 years in the making because we had to pull out of IM Louisville the year before last due to life and job changes. However, I am a firm believer in timing, the right timing at that, and this was the right time for us to do this.
Ken and I arrived a few days early to acclimate to the weather and spend some time with good friends, Maritza and Ulysses whom took good care of us during our stay with them in Texas. The pace was chill and we made our way around The Woodlands smoothly. Everything from check-in to pre-race prep went without a hitch.
Pre-race morning: Woke up around at 3:30 (that’s 1:30 California time!), ate oatmeal, had 1 cup of coffee, and drank a water bottle with a Hammer Fizz on way to the transition. Got to the transition with plenty of time and got to settle into the excitement. Found some fellow Wattie Ink Teammates and Moxie Sport peeps. Good energy going on. Took 1 ½ Powerbar Gel Tangerine 2x caffeine 20 minutes from start.
2.4 mile Swim: 1:17/ 25th AG
Insanely fun and probably my most favorite part of the race, except for the finish of course. The exhilaration of the mass start is like no other. All the bodies, energy, and then BOOM!!! Cannon goes off and so are we! I have to be honest the mass start is something I was not prepared for, but how could you? How could you prepare for 2500+ people swimming in the same direction at the same time?! So for the first 400 meters (or 4 buoys) it was hard to make space and get a smooth path and stoke going without having to look up every second. I got kicked once in the nose, stopped to check and recover then kept going. Then I got kicked one other time that knocked the side of my goggles. I stopped to fix them and kept swimming. Honestly, I thought to myself “Well this is what I signed up for. It’s a part of the process. Just keep going.” It was after then that the mantra “God will make a way” came to my mind and it was smooth swimming from that point on. I was approximately 50 yards from the center and was able to take several strokes before sighting to the next buoy. When I tried moving closer to the center the body contact increased so I backed off and stayed further out. I kept repeating my mantra and before I knew it I was on my way home. I was mindful to stay present and focus on staying efficient with my stroke. Speed was not the call of the day. By the time I exited the water I felt great and ready to roll.
T-1: Volunteers were amazing. They practically do everything but ride the bike for you. The woman that helped me was amazing and got me on my way. It did not feel like I was in for 4+ minutes, but so it was.
112 mile Bike: 5:46 (19.37 mph average)/ 17th AG
Felt great (or as great as you can feel in 98 degrees and 100% humidity) for the most part, except for the last 30 miles or so when head winds were strongest and people were cheating drafting off of me. That was probably the most frustrating part of the race. I did my best to not waste mental energy on worrying about them and all I could do was shake’em off, but really?! Of all people to draft off of?! Me?! Okay done venting. The most beautiful part of the bike course was rolling through Sam Houston National Park. I did my best to take it in. However, I was more mindful to keep nutrition going in. I had one Powerbar Performance Energy Bar each hour and constant water with added electrolyte powder/tabs. I tried taking in gels but my stomach was not having it. At every aid station I topped off my Speedfil with water then dumped the rest on me to cool off, and if possible grabbed another water bottle on the way out. This worked well and I did not feel overheated, dehydrated, or under nourished at any point. However, this was a different plan than what I had been training with. I had been training with taking in more PowerGel so I am glad I came prepared with extra PowerBar. By the end of the bike I was happy to be off because despite my efforts my shoulders and upper back were really tight.
T-2: HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT PAVEMENT! That’s about it. Got everything on as soon as I could and then peace out.
26.2 mi Run: 4:44 (10:42 average)/ 14th AG
I started off fairly well hittin’ the pavement in my K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light Neutrals on the first of the 3 loops of the run course. The energy was high and I felt pretty good. That is until I cramped up starting the 2nd loop (approx. at mile 9) and realized I had lost my baggie of SaltStick. My pace really dropped and it was difficult to pick it back up again. I had some SaltStick in my Special Needs Run bag between miles 10-12 but had to make it there first. I tried taking a gel but that made my stomach feel crampy. I did my best by using what was available at the aid stations and got a boost off of some Bonk Breaker, Perform and cola. I also made sure to dump water, ice down my top, and take sponges, if they had them, to cool off. That helped a lot. When I got to my special needs run bag I realized I only had one pack (4 capsules) of SaltSticks so from this point to the finish it was a trial error. From what I could remember I ate one Bonk Breakers about 5-6 miles apart (that gave me the best boost of energy) and in between I had Perform, cola, and on the last loop chicken broth (if the station had it). I walked the aid stations, used the restroom a couple of times, and walked some more, which also made my pace drop. However, the volunteers and spectators all over the course were so energizing that every step I took I knew I was giving what I had the moment. Shout out to Moxie Sport for the best cheering party on the course! At mile 21 or so I made the commitment to pick up the pace and get home as soon as I could. I passed several people but really my focus was keeping the pace and moving forward to best I could. I told myself, “Tomorrow this time you will be chillin’. In less than an hour you’ll be done! Get going because this moment is past.” When I came to the fork in the course where to the left it says “2 & 3” loops or right that said “finish” emotions started to flood in as I made my way to the right. People started to cheer so loudly and I was on the verge of tears. I said my Thanks to God and could not believe that this point had come. At that moment the day seemed like a blink of an eye. When I made the final stretch down the blue finishing chute heard Mike Reilly say, “Gloria Petruzzelli, You Are an Ironman!” I was overjoyed and could not wait to share it with Ken. He was there waiting. My teammate, my best-friend, my soul-mate, my husband, my biggest supporter, and fellow Ironman, Ken Petruzzelli. I love you my sweet husband and Thank You!
Finishing time: 11 hours and 58 minutes/ 14th AG 30-34
I could not have completed Ironman Texas without all the volunteers on race day. Hands down I would do this race again because of the amazing volunteers. They were all over the course all day helping, healing, and nurturing us. I honor their sacrifice and time that they gave that day. I was out there just under 12 hours but some of them were out there for 19+ hrs. Thank You IM Texas volunteers! I honor you. I also want to thank our amazing team sponsors and Wattie Ink for being apart of this amazing journey!
This distance of the race totally humbled me. I went into this racing knowing I would finish. But the real question in my mind was how well would I finish? John Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” I believed I owned up to it that day. In hindsight, I feel like I could have had a better run but in reality I had the run that I had. I gave what I had when I had it and the time shows just that. Sure there were times while running through the park when I thought “it would be nice to stop and sit on the bench in the shade for a while” but it was just a thought, not an action, not a reality, not an option. I was mindful of those thoughts but not let them hang around any longer to become actions.
Ironman allowed me to experience another level of mental toughness that I had not experienced before. As your body becomes more physically vulnerable so does your mind, so being on guard to each and every thought becomes so much more imperative. For example, I remember at one point I thought to myself, “Sh*t I can walk faster than I can run so why not just walk?!” at that point I caught myself reacting and I knew that calling it “walking” meant something psychologically different than “running.” So if I told myself I was “running” then I felt more empowered even if it was at a 10-11 minute pace. Labeling my forward movement as “walking” had a certain emotion of disempowerment to it. However, I gave my self “permission” to “walk” the aid stations because it had an effective purpose. “Walking” between aid stations if I was not hurt or in pain, had a disempowering effect so during that 2nd loop and into the 3rd I had to be very mindful of this. I know it may sound like semantics, but for me during the run portion my self-talk was really trying to get the better of me. When you are under so much physical duress your emotional mind will do anything to protect your body, so it is natural to expect your mind to amp up the negative self talk to get your body to stop so the stress will stop, BUT this contradicts the goal for the day, so not allowing your emotional mind take control is imperative. I felt like I was able to do this, by, thankfully busting out my “ninja mental skills” (thanks Kelsey!).
But…at the end of the day we all get the same hardware and we all get to be called an Ironman and for that I am humbled. I am humbled to be apart of such an inspiring group of human beings and athletes. To humbled to have the provision, body, and mind that allows me the opportunity to choose to do this.
I know Ironman is not for everyone and for me it took a while to make the decision. When I did decide I also made the lifestyle and mentality changes that were necessary, which included giving up alcohol, committing to my spiritually and relying on it more, and staying more consistent with training and nutrition than I had previously ever been. It wasn’t just for Ironman (the catalyst was Ironman) but really it was Life. Living more fully. More authentically. More true to myself. I want to challenge you to think about your life right now, is there something that you have wanted to do but are reluctant to “make the decision” and go for it? Is there something you have already committed to but have not fully given yourself to this commitment? It could be a goal race, job, relationship, project, career, etc. The hardest part is really giving your self the chance to fully shine beyond your fears and perceived limitations. My journey is a testimony that you can chose not to let the excuses of life keep you from seeking more levels of your greatness. It is already in you. Life is challenging you to step to the experiences that will bring it out in you, to prove to yourself that you really are amazing, great, and limitless.