The author experiences the thrill of victory — over herself — at the Santa Cruz Ironman 70.3 Triathlon. (Moehlis family photo)

I woke up giddy and giggly on the morning of the Santa Cruz Ironman 70.3 Triathlon (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) with the relief of having humiliation behind me.

You see, the day before the event it is required to rack your bike in the transition area, and when I rolled my bike in, the average cost of bikes immediately dropped $1,000. I stood out like Elle Woods at Harvard Law School in the movie Legally Blonde. I was overcome with doubt and embarrassment.

I strolled past bikes that were worth triple the value of my car. Not only that, the “other athletes” (it still sounds weird to refer to myself as an athlete) were ultra-buff and had gear and products I didn’t even know existed.

Thankfully, my dear friend and steadfast cheerleader, Catherine, called me at that point. I took her advice and repeated to myself, “I can do this,” until I felt silly, then I repeated it another 200 times.

Amazingly, I slept solidly and didn’t even need the three alarms I set. The shock of feeling completely out of place was behind me and I was ready to celebrate all of my hard work.

Getting to the starting line went smoothly. I chatted with friends and met other athletes. The water temperature was 58 degrees, sea lions were barking, the sun was just barely peeking over the horizon, and I felt absolutely prepared.

Before going on, it is important to note that Ironman™ is a brand … Some might consider it a cult. Either way, there are definitively high standards associated with Ironman™.

You know the course will be safe and well-marked. You know the athlete registration and orientation will be efficient and thorough. And you know being titled an “Ironman™”, or in this case an “Ironman 70.3™”, you met the time cut-offs, which are 70 minutes to swim 1.2 miles from your wave start, 5½ hours from your wave start to finish the 56-mile bike, and 8½ hours from your wave start to finish the 13.1-mile run.

For safety, triathlons generally have a bunch of start times called “waves.” Waves are allocated by age, gender and/or speed. For example, I was in the fifth wave, which was women ages 40-44 (age is determined by the athlete’s age on Dec. 31).

If you’ve read any of my previous columns you will know making the cut-off times was my biggest concern.

I finished the swim with 10 minutes to spare, and was flooded with relief. It was a quarter-mile run from the beach to the transition area where the bikes were.

The author finished the 1.2-mile swim with 10 minutes to spare.

The author finished the 1.2-mile swim with 10 minutes to spare. (Moehlis family photo)

I was careful to start the bike leg comfortable and determined. Each time someone graciously passed me I rang my bell; this induced a variety of responses that I found entertaining, my favorite being loud comments of utter disbelief. I felt like I was flying on the bike and made it with plenty of time to finish the run.

My adrenalin was flowing and I was strong and happy. The course was out and back, which gave me the opportunity to cheer my friends when we passed. The turnaround point was on a long gravel loop to the big kahuna totem pole. I was consistent with my nutrition and hydration, and was very cautious not to push myself to the point of injury … perhaps too cautious …

As you can see in the nearby video and photos, I crossed the finished line elated! My name was called, they gave me a medal and my friend, Tammy (who also did the race that day, earning a personal best), was at the finish line to give me a big hug.

Tammy had the unfortunate opportunity to tell me that I missed the “Ironman 70.3™” title by one minute and 20 seconds. Needless to say, I was bummed, mainly because if I had worn my watch and monitored my time closer I would have earned the title without a problem. Clearly from the video I wasn’t in any pain, I was just having too much fun and didn’t want it to end.

I am so grateful for how the Santa Cruz Ironman 70.3 Triathlon played out and wouldn’t change a thing. For starters, I set a goal beyond what I thought my potential was and achieved it. This has secured the trajectory of my life in a positive direction. I inspired my daughters to be athletes, too. When I first called my family after the event, my husband and youngest daughter were on the bike leg of their impromptu triathlon, and both of my daughters and I trained for the Santa Barbara Turkey Trot with the hopes of doing a triathlon together next summer.

The bike may not have been “state of the art” by Ironman standards, but it got the job done — as the author’s enthusiasm shows.

The bike may not have been “state of the art” by Ironman standards, but it got the job done — as the author’s enthusiasm shows. (Moehlis family photo)

I take ownership of the timing mistake I made and learned from it. I learned that I can do a half Ironman without going into debt for an expensive bike, but I must use the athletic watch that Catherine (the friend I mentioned earlier) gave me if I want the title. Which I absolutely do.

Honestly, when I found out I missed the title by one minute and 20 seconds, it was like I had swallowed a burning coal. I didn’t talk to anyone for hours. The next day I had lunch with my birthday twin, Rob, and was laughing and joking about it. He sweetly pointed out that I was the only person he knew who would be able to laugh and joke about missing the title by a minute and 20 seconds … the very next day.

Now I feel pride and joy for my entire journey to the finish line, and I look forward to training even smarter for my next Ironman 70.3 Triathlon.

I woke up giddy and giggly this morning, a few days before my 40th birthday, with the relief of being giddy and giggly. I accomplished my ultimate goal, which was to usher my next decade in stable mental health.

Noozhawk contributing writer Allison Moehlis is proud to have earned many participation medals for completing half-marathons, metric century bike rides and triathlons. When she is not basking in the glow of her medal collection, she is a working mom of two bright and talented daughters and a happy wife of 17 years. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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(Jeff Moehlis / Noozhawk video)