Blog by Emily Harvey, intro by Sasha Underwood, accomplished athlete and 303 Ambassador
When Emily Harvey first asked me to be her handler for her first Ironman, without hesitation I said yes. What an honor to be a part of her team and Ironman debut. I first met Emily at the Achilles Monday night run group at Washington Park about five years ago where I was guiding visually-impaired athletes. Achilles is an inclusive group that welcomes all abilities and I have had the opportunity to meet the most wonderful people being a part of that group. What I first noticed about Emily was her awesome connection in helping a teenager my son’s same age, who has some cognitive challenges, to focus and have fun running. Of course I noticed her super fancy cool running leg. Little did know that one day I would be spending so much time with those legs of hers.
Then, it was around 2014, when I was training for Boulder IM that she started training for her first triathlon. We both swam at the same pool and I used to tell her all the time that she was training for a full Ironman with the training schedule she had. Most of the time we had very similar swim workouts in terms of distance. 2015 I had to give up Ironman racing and running because of hip surgery. Any chance I can get to still be a part of the action I jump on and in 2016 Emily asked me to be her handler at the Boulder 70.3 which was her second half Ironman.
Here are a few quick bullet points from my perspective on how the day went and below is Emily’s race review. I have retold her story several times and I still get chills thinking about how deep she dug to make the cutoff time!
What whirlwind of a weekend handling Emily Harvey’s legs during Ironman Boulder as she experienced the following:
1. Mechanical failure on the bike; when her DI2 shifters stopped working and she was stuck in her big ring from mile 24 through 112…
2. Forgot her running shoe for her walking leg so I gave her my running shoes (slightly too big for her) and I wore my water shoes for a few miles until she switched into her running leg.
However, it was on the run that I came up with my new handler name as I was running with Emily carrying two of her legs in a backpack: Leggy Blonde 😂. When I guide visually-impaired athletes I’m The Blonde Leading the Blind but that doesn’t work for being a handler. Glad we figured that out so I can sleep at night lol..
3. Her watch died and didn’t know her pace – and all of us supporting her thought she had until midnight to finish – it wasn’t until 10 minutes before her official cutoff time that Jeannete Sorensen Hickok (thank god for Jeannete) said she only had 10 minutes to get there… her predicted time was 11minutes …. frantically I texted her coach and he saw her with 1:15 (one minute fifteen seconds) before her cut off and he yelled at her to sprint !!
And holy cow did she sprint…..
I think I almost passed out from holding my breath for over a minute as she sprinted down the finishing chute with 48 seconds to spare..
So many emotions – Of all the Ironman races I’ve done – this one, being Emily’s handler, tops them all… everyone participating has a story from last weeks, but Emily wins Best Story for First Time Ironman in my opinion 🙂
Congrats again Emily! You’ve got more grit than anyone I know!! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!
Emily Harvey IRONMAN Boulder post race blog
I FINISHED THE BOULDER IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am still telling this to myself over and over today because I still don’t believe it, and I still look at an Ironman as an insurmountable feat even though I just did one yesterday. I think it’s going to take a while for the gravity of what I just accomplished to sink in, and for me to believe it actually happened… It was just a crazy and amazing day, and I hope you enjoyed the updates Sasha was posting on my Facebook page all day, but I also wanted to share my written perspective of the experience because I think there are many lessons about life woven into my day yesterday.
I was up at 3:00 AM to eat because it always take me a while to choke down my breakfast and we needed to leave between 3:45 – 4:00 AM to catch the shuttle to the reservoir. Per my usual on race morning, I ate my breakfast and promptly threw half of it back up. This is standard procedure for me on race morning and I always feel a million times better once it happens, so I rolled with it and took it as a good sign that my body was pumped for the day.
Zach, Sasha, and I headed out of the hotel, dropped off our special needs bags at the High School (thank you Jeannene Gonzales for grabbing those for us!), and jumped on a shuttle to the reservoir. The moon was a bright orange sliver, and Sasha thought it looked like a toenail. I always appreciate Sasha’s humor (even at 4:00 AM) because somehow it helps calm my nerves. Sasha also offered entertainment because she was wearing the backpack with my legs sticking out of it and inadvertently tapped the guy in the seat in front of us with one of my legs. He was a little befuddled…
We got to the reservoir and made our final preparations for transitions and walked through which leg would be where at what point in the race and how Sasha would assist me in changing legs for each phase. Once we had that all worked out, we headed over to the swim start so I could get into my wetsuit in time for the 6:10 AM start. I drank a quick nutrition mix to make up for throwing my breakfast and then just relaxed by the swim start for a bit to calm the nerves. I was not as nervous as I expected, but was more excited than anything else. The day I’ve been looking forward to since I signed up for Ironman last September had finally arrived. I truly did feel like a kid on Christmas morning.
The PC (physically challenged) athletes get to start at the back of the wave with the female pros, so that is pretty dang cool. We all got in the water and next thing I know it’s 1 minute to go, 30 seconds to go, and BANG!, the cannon goes off and we’re all off into the water. I always get excited at the beginning of the swim because it’s my favorite part of the whole day, and it’s hard for me to hold back. However, my Coach and I had talked about being smart and not pushing myself in the water because it was going to be a long day and it wasn’t worth shaving 5 seconds per 100 meter off my time. I got into a great rhythm and just kept going from buoy to buoy at a steady pace I knew I could maintain without gassing myself. It took until the first turn about 1/3 of the way through the swim before I started getting passed by the fastest age groupers, so I had a lot of time to just swim in the open water basically by myself. I only freaked out and thought I was being attacked by sea monsters a few times when some water plant latched onto my arm, but I kept my cool and shook it off and kept swimming. I came out of the water around an hour and 23 minutes, which was right on pace for my day’s goals. Sasha helped me get to my towel, strip my wetsuit, and throw on my running leg so I could go through the changing tent to get ready for the bike. I was in heaven because my day was, to this point, going just as planned.
In the first transition, Sasha and a volunteer helped me get out of my swim gear and changed into my bike gear. I had gone back on forth as to whether to wear tri bottoms or my bike skirt from Skirt Sports and ultimately decided on the skirt, throwing any judgement of others regarding my choice out the window because that skirt is ridiculously comfortable and 112 miles is a long time on the bike. I saw one other lady in a skirt out on the bike, so we were basically beauty queens out there, haha. After changing, I ran to my bike where my bike leg was waiting, switched legs, and ran out of transition to start the bike.
My plan on the bike was to stay steady, maintain a 14-15 mph average, and finish in 8 hours or less – a major part of this was making sure I didn’t push too hard and completely destroy my legs before the run. All was going well until mile 24 of 112 when my Di2 electronic shifters decided that despite fully charging them on Thursday, they were going to attempt to sabotage my day by refusing to work… at all. For those of you not familiar with bikes, this means I could not shift into a different gear in the front or back and was stuck in the gear I was in when they quit for the day. What gear was I in, you ask? Well, the big ring in the front and the 3rd ring down in the back – this is a great gear for flats and slight downhills. It is not good for going uphill, especially not big hills like some of those on the course yesterday. As soon as I realized what was happening, I had a flash of an idea to quit, but kept riding (I was going downhill) and thought about a story Nicole DeBoom told about being in a race when her saddle broke and she freakin’ made it work to finish the race.
It took A LOT of self-talk to get myself through the next 32 miles when I reached the halfway point, and I’m sure some of the people passing me thought I was crazy for not shifting and because I was talking to myself out loud to get through it (C’mon Emily, you can’t quit now; Woman up, Emily, you can freakin’ do this; stupid bike, you aren’t going to sabotage me today, I am going to do this race whether you like it or not… and so on). At the halfway point, I saw Sash and Coach Mark and had a brief meltdown about my situation, but they encouraged me to keep going AND SO I KEPT GOING.
Complete blog here