grit, resilience, and perseverance

“Grit is having the courage to push through, no matter what the obstacles are, because it’s worth it.”

~Chris Morris

Cliff Notes Version: I GOT to race Ironman Arizona on Sunday, November 20, 2022! 💙💛

  • I was SO ready to create an experience I had never had before
  • this is a one transition race
  • ALL gear (bike, bike bag/gear, run bag/gear) was dropped off on Saturday
  • according to IRONMAN, the water temp was 61F on race morning (wetsuit legal race…I wore my Roka Maverick Pro II Wetsuit)…according to everyone’s Garmin devices the water temp was 56-57F
  • pro men started at 6:40 am, pro women started at 6:45 am, and age group athletes started at 6:50 am
  • the swim start was a self seeded based on expected swim time finish with 5 athletes sent off every 4 seconds
  • the swim was one big loop with very choppy water due to strong winds and boats zooming around picking people up out of the water
  • the swim buoys were a little difficult to see due to swimming directly into the sunrise, but I wore the perfect goggles for this race (Roka X1 dark amber mirrored goggles)
  • I kept my effort high in the swim
  • there were wetsuit strippers
  • there were a few volunteers to help change in T1, but they were needed to help warm up many of the athletes who were hypothermic
  • the air temp was 53F coming out of the water
  • the bike course was 3 out and back loops
  • there was a strong headwind climbing out of town on the Beeline Highway to the turnaround, which meant an amazing tailwind on the descent to town
  • the road surfaces were REALLY rough
  • there were three water/aid stations on each loop of the bike course
  • there was a bad head on collision between two athletes near the 15 mile mark of the bike course that messed with my head for a bit
  • I got a flat tire between miles 25 and 30…I am confident in my tire changing skills, so the flat was not a problem
  • there were a few volunteers to help change in T2
  • the run course was 2 loops
  • there were aid stations on the run nearly every mile with water, gatorade, gels, ice, bananas, grapes, Coke, Red Bull, etc.
  • they brought chicken broth out after dark on the run
  • I felt great on the run until about mile 18 and then my legs said, “I’m done” but my mind said, “OH HELL NO! Keep running!”
  • this was my 2nd fastest IRONMAN finish
Things I’m celebrating:
⚡️not letting the cold water temperatures be a problem
⚡️swimming on the buoys
⚡️not letting the high winds be a problem
⚡️being confident in my flat changing skills (they were needed between miles 25 and 30)
⚡️not letting witnessing of a major crash in the first 18 miles of the bike put me in a negative headspace
⚡️staying connected to the pedals
⚡️my grit, resilience, and perseverance were on point
⚡️smiling all day long
⚡️giving my absolute best on the day
⚡️crossing the finish line of IRONMAN #10 and got to hear Mike Reilly call me an IRONMAN one last time

Thanks @ironmanvoice for all the memories! Wishing you the best in your retirement! 🥰

Longer Version: I GOT to race Ironman Arizona on Sunday, November 20, 2022 in Tempe, Arizona! 💙💛

The alarm went off at 3:30 am. After doing all of my morning rituals and consuming my breakfast smoothie, we made our way to the transition area (we drove to the parking garage closest to transition). When I got to the transition area, aired up Mojo’s tires, loaded Mojo with my bike bottles, lubed up her chain, I put bike and run nutrition in each of my gear bags that I would pick up in T1 and T2, emptied my bladder, and exited the transition area with our friend Steve (who was also racing). I’m grateful to Tim for taking my bike and run special needs bags to their drop off location. I got love from random puppies, ate my Skratch bar at 5:45, donned my Roka Maverick Pro II Wetsuit, took in a gel at 6:30, and made my way to the swim start. I lined up behind the sign for 1:15-1:20 swim time and was so grateful that I thought to put some throw away flips in my morning clothes bag to keep my feet off of the very cold pavement. Right before getting in the starting coral, I got a high five from Mike Reilly…ok, now I’m definitely ready for the day ahead.

Swim: (1:17:22 for 2.4 miles at 2:01/100 m average pace…21/83 F40-44, 144/530 F, 570/1994 overall)

I was SO grateful that I got into the water on Saturday to get a feel for just how cold the water would really feel. The water temp was 61F according to IRONMAN. Most athletes had temps of 56-57F recorded on their Garmin devices. I eased into the swim by remaining calm and focused on my strokes + breathing… “1, 2, breathe…1, 2, breathe…1, 2, breathe.” At the first turn buoy I kicked the effort up a few notches and found my groove. I struggled throughout this swim with my goggles leaking (only on the right side). I am still uncertain why they leaked…I had a brand new pair of goggles that had been worn in the pool on Wednesday and Friday and in the lake on Saturday to test them and there was ZERO leaking during those swims. While this was super frustrating, I just kept swimming and would occasionally flip over on my back to clear them out before suctioning them to my eye socket even harder than the last time, but it didn’t work…they still leaked. There was a lot of chop on the water due to the strong winds and the boats zooming around pulling athletes from the water, but gratitude moment: thankfully choppy water isn’t a problem for me. As we swam along the back of the course, we were swimming into direct sunlight due to the sunrise. I was anticipating not being able to see the buoys because of this. Despite swimming directly into the sunrise, I swam one of the straightest swims on the buoy line that I’ve ever swam in a race. Gratitude moment: yay for swimming a straight line and on the buoys. I expected my hands and feet to get cold by the end of the swim to the point that I wouldn’t be able feel them, but…gratitude moment: my hands and feet were not nearly as cold as I expected coming out of the water. I spent the majority of the swim staying in the moment, playing chase, having fun, and focusing on my effort. ⚡️

So grateful to not have cold water affect me like it did so many during this swim.

📸 Finisher Pix

T1: (9:59)

It was a little bit of a jog from the swim exit to T1 and with the colder air (53F) + ground temps, my feet were FROZEN by the time I got to the changing tent. I moved as quickly as I could while cold. I started to get my 4 peanut butter Oreos down the hatch while pulling on my socks + bike shoes, donned my helmet + sunnies, gave my mylar blanket (I had packed one in my T1 bag thinking I might stuff it down the inside of my kit to keep me warmer while cycling, but decided I didn’t need it) to another athlete who was hypothermic in transition, and ran to grab Mojo. New this year…we had to carry our T1 bags to our bikes and leave them there to utilize fewer volunteers and streamline things for gear checkout later in the day.

Bike: (6:31:58 for 112 miles at 17.4 mph average speed…31/83 F40-44, 160/530 F, 778/1994 overall)

The bike course is three laps that are out and back, which gave us the perfect amount of challenge + fun! We got the challenge of climbing into the headwind on the way out of town, but once we reached the turn around, we got to rocket back to town thanks to the descent and tailwind. This course can get pretty congested (especially in the 2nd lap) as more athletes are crammed into a smaller space, but I was prepared for it. Aside from the VERY, VERY ROUGH road surfaces, it was a lot of FUN!

Time to spend some quality time with Mojo!

📸 Tim Fencl

During the first lap, I settled into the ride while taking in all of the scenery, noticing landmarks I could use to get me through the 18+ mile stretch to the turnaround, and fueling + hydrating like it was my job…because let’s be honest…it was my job on this day! At about mile 15 ish, there was a really bad head-on crash between two cyclists, which was so scary as both athletes appeared to be unconscious. A few athletes stopped to help them, but I kept pedaling forward as I knew someone needed to call 911. As athletes, we are not allowed to have our cell phones with us, but the only way to get medical help would be to get that phone call made. About a 1/2 mile up the road, I saw a spectator and gave her as much information as I could so she could call 911. I made it to the turnaround on the first lap and kept my eyes peeled for the crash ahead. When I got there and saw the medical help they were receiving, I knew there was nothing more I could do, so I tried to change my mindset and pull myself mentally back into the race. It wasn’t easy and it took some time, but I was eventually forced to refocus my mental energy because I got a flat between miles 25 and 30. Gratitude moment: I have LOTS of experience changing a flat and am confident in my skills, so this wasn’t a problem. Good thing, because the officer near me asked if I needed help and when I told him I was good he responded with, “that’s good, because I know nothing about changing a bike tire.” 🤣 At the turnaround in town, I was greeted by cheers from my #1and Ellen. I let them know I had a flat and was good to go.

Here we go!!

📸 Finisher Pix

Here we go…lap two! As I made my way back through town and out to the Beeline, my mind went dark for a bit as I was REALLY annoyed and frustrated with the lady who drafted off of me for the ENTIRE way out to the turn around. I really wish I had taken in enough fluids to give her a much deserved “shower”, but I just didn’t have enough in me at this point in the day. After the turn around, I rocketed back to town and dropped her like a bad habit. 

Just keep smiling!!

📸 Finisher Pix

Here we go…last lap! This lap was all about staying gritty and getting back to transition. The headwinds at this point were dragging me down a bit, but I did my best to keep my mind focused and strong. ⚡️

This scenery is 😍!!

📸 Justin Luau

T2: (4:33)

An amazing volunteer took Mojo from me as I dismounted. I grabbed my T2 bag, quickly stopped to empty my bladder (boy did I finally have to pee 🤪), and made my way into the change tent. I changed my socks and shoes, thanked the volunteer as she took my bag while I set out for the run. As I was running out of transition, this is when I put on my race belt + visor, and got all of my nutrition situated in the various places while on the move.

Run: (5:11:34 for 26.2 miles at 11:48/mile average pace…30/83 F40-44, 163/530 F, 734/1994 overall)

I was so happy to be off the bike and ready to run. My goal was to hold back at the start of the run and keep a solid + strong effort throughout the entire run while only walking through aid stations to ensure proper fueling and hydration.

Feels good to be off the bike and running!

📸 Tim Fencl

The run course was a 2 loop route this year with multiple out and back sections, which was awesome because we got to see other athletes and spectators so many times! I set out with the intention to focus on the mile I was in. I quickly settled into my pace and started knocking off the miles. I stayed connected to my pace, took in my nutrition and hydration as planned, stayed mentally + physically strong and felt really good until about mile 18.

It would be so awesome if they served curry on Curry hill!! 🤣

📸 Finisher Pix

That’s when the wheels started to fall off. Good thing I have been training my mind to push through in instances like this because I did far less walking in those last 8 miles than I have in previous marathons when the legs and feet go deep in the hurt box. “The mind gives up before the body” and I was not going to let that happen. Yes my pace slowed, but I kept “running” to the red carpet. ⚡️

This view was amazing as the sunset and the city scape lit up the night sky during the last loop of the run.

📸 Tim Fencl

Overall: (13:15:25…32/83 F40-44, 205/530 F, 872/1994 overall)

You’re never the same after running down the red carpet and crossing the IRONMAN finish line as you were when you toed the start line…even after crossing 10 IRONMAN finish lines there is still room to learn and grow. IRONMAN teaches you tenacity, grit, patience, problem solving skills, resilience, perseverance, and fortitude. It shows you just how strong you really are mentally, physically, and emotionally. It allows you to push your boundaries. It teaches you that discomfort is temporary. It challenges you to reach new highs and weather new lows. It shows you that adversity is not a problem. It teaches you that even in those dark moments, you can still be your best and that the light is just ahead. It allows you to feel it ALL…proud, powerful, disappointed, grateful, joyful, frustrated, self-confident, ecstatic. And IMAZ was no different. ⚡️

📸 Finisher Pix

Getting to that red carpet on this day took all of the grit, resilience, and perseverance I had. As I ran down the red carpet into the spotlights with the cheers of family, friends, and random strangers surrounding me, I was full of emotions. I was so grateful for the privilege to run down another red carpet and cross the finish line to IRONMAN #10. I was disappointed to not have the race that I had prepared for. I was grateful for a strong body and an even stronger mind. I was surprised to cross the finish line with my 2nd fastest Ironman finish time. I was so thankful to hear Mike Reilly say “Kecia Place-Fenci YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” one last time (I don’t think my name has ever been properly pronounced, but I always know he is talking to me! 🤣) as he steps into retirement. I have lots of things to celebrate, lots of learnings to carry with me into future racing, and gratitude for all of the progress made in this sport. Crossing the IRONMAN finish line is always a privilege and one I NEVER take for granted! ⚡️

I’m grateful for the privilege to race, for the privilege of a healthy body and mind, for the privilege to push my boundaries, for the privilege to run down another red carpet, and for the privilege to cross the finish line at IRONMAN #10! ⚡️

📸 Finisher Pix

Gear: Coeur Sports triathlon shorts, Coeur Sports sports bra, Coeur Sports aero top, Roka X-1 Goggles, Roka Maverick Pro II Wetsuit, Specialized Transition tri bike, Specialized S-works Evade helmet, Specialized Torch 2.0 Road Shoes, Coeur Sports visor, Newton Kismet running shoes, Roka SL-1X sunnies, Orange Mud hand held water bottle

8 thoughts on “grit, resilience, and perseverance

  1. Wow what a day! Congratulations on another strong finish! Maybe the cold water had some effect on the rubber part of your goggles, made it shrink or contract just enough to change the way it made contact with your face. I hope those athletes who were hypothermic or injured ended up being okay.

    1. Thanks! Yes, I thought of that too with my goggles, but wore them the day before in the cold lake also, so who knows… 🤷🏻‍♀️ I haven’t heard any recent updates on athletes, but I also hope they are all ok.

  2. Way to go Kecia!! 10 is an amazing number and so much to be proud of! Enjoy your off season and look forward to hearing what you are up to in 2023!!

  3. I got cold just READING this…good on ya for pushing through those tough conditions while keeping a positive attitude! I hope that your recovery has been going well. Congratulations on IM #10–wow!

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