The chief enemy of creativity... is "good" sense. ~Pablo Picasso


I haven't thrown up since 2nd grade. But... after downing 1500 calories worth of strawberry Ensure and imagining the day I had ahead of me... that smell of 2000 flushes blue came flooding over me... thankfully my fathers upbringing overcame me as well... A four pack of Ensures runs you about $8 - way too expensive to throw up.

The janitor from the high school must have sensed some anxiety... He offered to pray over me before the race - I was hoping it wasn't a one time deal... Lord knows I was going to need a few more hours than that... Grand Columbian iron distance Tri... here i come.

I thought about my buddy Lew Hollander that morning. He was 79 years old when I found him trying to finish the Ironman 2 years ago. Struggling at 11pm with just one more hour to finish... to be considered an "ironman"

I joked and jogged with him... balling my eyes out when he crossed just 6 minutes before midnight. The next year we met up again for our "date" - this time an hour sooner (he had improved that much!) He was the reason I even considered doing this. I wanted to finish this race so that when I see him in Kona in a few weeks I can make good on our deal that I'd complete an ironman distance race too.

I told this story to the high school kids at a pep assembly in Grand Coulee the day before. Some 50 kids out of the 200 were volunteering and I wanted them to know how much we appreciated them handing out water and spending their day helping us finish this crazy race.

Headed into the water with my wave. Two loops of 1.2 miles. I love the swim. My favorite part.
200 yards in... I'm all wet and warm - and not by my own doing, if you know what I mean...

I started taking on water! wetsuit had come unzipped and I was soaking wet within seconds. Luckily we had to exit at the beach, run across a timing mat and then do the loop again. Someone would help me get zipped back up on the beach... right?

Running out of the water I said "can someone help me?" Shockingly - no one moved. Two of my girlfriends from Iowa came up for the race from Seattle and heard me yell and ran down the hill to me. They put me back together and I ran back into the water. Now I was frantic. I put my head down and tried to make up time. Eagerly awaiting the moment where I would finally see feet in front of me I just kept at it. I sensed something nearby but it wasn't feet. It was a canoe, with a man who looked at me and said, "excuse me ma'am you're going the wrong way".

My right hand is stronger than my left and it's hard enough to swim in a straight line. Damnit. In my mind it was a better strategy to angle towards the buoy I was supposed to swim around rather than make a sharp right turn and then head north again. Canoe Man was probably getting quite a kick out of this... "you're still going the wrong way"... a few minutes later "nope - you gotta go more that way" he pointed.

I finally made it back on track and to the beach where my poor camera man was probably wondering why exactly he got assigned to the rookie...

Sopping wet I conveniently forgot to put a towel into my transition bag. I told you I'd forget something...

All our bikes were lined up together. I strolled past all the nice tribikes (supposed to help your average about 2 miles faster and hour)... I just had my regular old road bike with aero bars. The guys who did the first ever Ironmans did it on old school bikes so i figured if they could do it, I could do it on the bike I already sunk a grand into... bikes aren't cheap....

The first 56 miles were pretty hilly... thankfully it was at the beginning when you still think you're invincible... But the views were absolutely incredible. Remember the song... when we walked in fields of gold? I thought i'd seen it before... but it paled in comparison to the rolling golden fields that flanked that first half. Every 20 minutes I was supposed to be eating half of a GU packet. The thought behind it being, if you get behind on intaking calories, you're screwed. It's rather important that you not ever get to a point of being hungry or thirsty because at that point it's too late. Minor detail. I don't eat until I'm hungry and I don't drink until I'm thirsty...

Peter rode the bike course with me, reminding me to eat and drink. One time I got kind of mouthy and he said "Ann, you're being mean to me because you're blood sugar's low. You take a big swallow of that GU and talk to me in a couple of minutes" I hate when he's right :)

If you've ever had a GU packet you're probably very thankful for a product that can supply you with all the nutrients you need in one swallow... But 7 hours of GU (12 packets) is another story. Unfortunately, nothing else sounded good.

The side of the road looked good for my bowels on one occasion... but not for the other.

Had to detour into a small town on the route. Hartline, Wa. Population 134.  Popped into a cafe that said it was "open".  It wasn't going to be pretty and I'm not one of those hard core triathletes that was willing to sit in my own poo for the next 40 miles.They looked a little surprised when I walked in... I kind of forgot I was in day glo yellow...

I have all these nice shots because that poor camera man who got suckered into this was right alongside me riding backseat on a Harley... the whole ride. The town of Grand Coulee must have been pretty concerned with my abilities because the high school janitor who prayed over me earlier in the day also tagged along for the entire ride on his motorcycle too. God Bless 'em.

I finally turned the corner for the last 27 miles and almost lost my marbles. It was one of the most stunning views I'd ever seen. Sheer rock faces and a roaring river ran along side me and the Grand Coulee damn spanned as far as I could see. It helped that at some points I was hitting 27 miles an hour. Certainly a nice change up from the 9 mph I was averaging with a headwind a few miles back. Any sort of angst just melted away as the scenery took my breath away. I never knew this part of the country was so darn pretty.

Then it was time for the fun part, or so that's what everyone told me. My friends Mary and Margeaux came in from Seattle and planned to split the marathon with me. Well as Margeaux and I headed down by the Grand Coulee Dam (It is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States[3] and one of the largest concrete structures in the world)  They denied her access because she didn't have a wristband.

Luckily there was a nice woman from Montana who was a fast talker like me and the next thing we knew, 13.1 miles were down and we were back at transition. She needed some ibuprofen and I needed cake.

 To celebrate Margeaux's birthday the next weekend I brought a cake and had it waiting in transition. We sang happy birthday to her and I tore a piece off... ready for a change up from all the GU. It was chocolate. They had talked someone into giving them wristbands and so loop 2 I enjoyed with some fellow Iowa Hawkeyes who filled me in on the big win earlier in the day... It was about time. It only takes one loss in college football...let's not get into that right now.

In the bottom of the canyon one aid station was making s'mores, another one had music pumping from their car. By nightfall everyone had been given flashlights or glow sticks and we looked like a bunch of ravers in the bottom of a canyon!

they always have these funny heat blankets that look like tinfoil.

For once... I actually got to be on the other side of the microphone at a finish line.

One of the tallest high school boys I'd ever seen handed me a cup full of warm chicken noodle soup and I headed over to strap up to my Pre-purchased IV. Probably the single greatest purchase of my life. $35 and 20 minutes later I was popping up off the cot and loading up my bike to go to bed. Well maybe "popping" isn't the right word, but I was moving.

Got home to the SunBanks Resort and Peter and the girls had made the post race meal I picked out the day before...

Red Baron pizza, ShockTop and Ibuprofen :) This was only because there wasn't a McDonalds in town... the next day I got the real reason I did a 140.6

A McDouble. Two patties, one slice of cheese... .99 cents.

The race director knocked on my door the next morning and said
"Ann you'd be proud, we had even more high school kids out volunteering than we originally thought."

I figured they wanted to witness the delirious blonde girl who "claimed" she could do this race.

"We thought they were getting tired around 11pm. The finish line was kind of thinning out. We saw some of them leaving with their flashlights... but then about 20 minutes later we saw all these flashlights bounding towards us... The kids had run out and started "adopting athletes, just like you told them"

I'm crying just writing this...

 That day at the pep assembly I just hoped I wouldn't be so boring that they didn't listen, didn't care. I just wanted them to know that as insignificant as it may seem to hand a person water... that may be exactly what they need, but may not be able to show their appreciation. I had no idea they would hear every single word and take it to heart... I've met some pretty incredible people in my life. But now alongside Dean Kamen and Lew Hollander are the kids from Lake Roosevelt High School.

But who was I kidding... An entire pizza, a McDouble, 140.6 miles later, and the emotional roller coaster those kids sent me on... this is what I was really doing :)

I said I just wanted to do one. Just wanted to be able to relate to all the triathletes I interview... but what if my wetsuit stayed zipped? what if I had a tri-bike and could average 2 more miles an hour... what if... I could rehab all my injuries and make up time on the run?? They warned me... Can someone get this itch...right here in the back...ha ha


  1. Soo proud of you Annie : ) You're my hero!

  2. Great story Ann! You deserve a title bigger than ironman. To do a full 140.6 without all the crowds cheering you on and on a course that difficult is a huge accomplishment. I only did the half and I can't even comprehend doing it twice. Way to go!!!! R. Wagner

  3. Thanks for the kind words about our great kids and beautiful area. Come back anytime.

  4. Congrats Ann on a HUGE accomplishment! Looking forward to your reports from Kona.