How do you even begin to put into words your first Ironman? Here's my best shot.
One thing that I noticed as I did this Ironman is how much prep it takes. Signing in. The athlete dinner and info meeting. Those five bags. Run gear, bike gear, morning clothes, bike special needs, run special needs. I kept joking that I was wondering when I would get to swim, bike, and run. Now I went through the thing once, it seems more manageable.
Race day. I woke up around 3a and had a Muscle Milk. I planned to have two more before the race started. I've found liquids make me feel less "heavy" and are a safer bet. Had to be ready by 5a and decided an hour was enough. That's one good point of having to do all those bags and bike check-in. All you have to do race morning is mix your liquid nutrition, get dressed and go. Went back to bed and up by 4a.
Mixed my Perpetuem and was waiting for the fizz from the four electrolyte tablets. They had fizzed liquid out during my first half and now I was waiting for it. Double the concentration and double the tablets... that thing would not stop fizzing out. Ate a bunch of my time I wasn't expecting. And a bunch of electrolytes and Perpetuem fizzed right out. There goes my nutrition. Got the bars split in two and into the Bento box with two emergency gels. Fizz. That stupid fizz took a lot of that hour and I was running off the door.
Got dressed and the Morning Clothes bag in the car and off we went. Another Muscle Milk at 5a. I planned to have the last one right before the race.
Got there and put the Nutrition Bento Box with my 8 bar halves and my 2 emergency gels on the bike, put two more scoops of Perpetuem in the now fizz-free nutrition bottle, mixed, topped off with water, and put it and the twist water bottle on the bike. BodyGlide, sunscreen, portapotty, wetsuit, earplugs, swim cap, skull cap, race cap on, Goggles in half, decided to have a gel instead of a third Muscle Milk, clothes and shoes into Morning Clothes bag, dropped that off, and off I went to the beach. Next time I may take throwaway sandals with me, that seemed like a long walk barefoot. Found my pace group (1:45-2:00, next to the last) and spent the rest of the time chatting. I got out of transition right when it closed, we actually got there earlier than we expected and I took the whole time I had, so far the timing was going on perfectly. Chatted up the two girls holding up the pacing sign and other competitors. First-timers, second-timers. Encouragement going on back and forth. Pros went off and we started to move towards the start. Kept chatting along. Then it's two more groups and then me and it hits me, there's the start line. Wait, I say out loud, I'm not ready! That's one thing I like about triathlon, it's like going on a waterslide and making the line to get to the top. You're at the top of the slide and there's no option to go back or wait. When you get to the top, you slide down. There's a point where you switch your brain off and GO. This girl starts to just bawl her eyes out and I console her telling her she's going to do just fine and finish and to just take the first stroke because then her body takes over and to trust her body because her body knows because her body trained. Took my mind off a bit off my own apprehension. Goggles on, adjusted. And there it was. The start line. Took a look at the timer. 6:44:XX. Ok, let's call it 6:44a, I have until 16 minutes before midnight to finish. Garmin on, step on the timing mat, get into the water, throw myself into it and start swimming. I decided not to use the warmup area because I didn't want to be wet while waiting.
And I was swimming. Good, Goggles not leaking. I had two swim sessions that week that had really helped when it came to the cold. I had read and found to be true that being cold in the lake is mostly mental. I thought it was physical because it was freaking cold. I mean, after all, you can't control the temperature of the water. I was wrong. It helps SO much to use your mind in cold water. I just keep telling myself, yeah, it's cold, and it hurts, but your body will get used to it within a few minutes and then it will be fine. Just kept repeating that. It's anxiety that causes your mind to tell your body to thrash around those first few minutes, so by calming yourself down, you can start swimming immediately. And after a few minutes the pain in the mouth and teeth goes down, and you get comfortable (or as comfortable as you're gonna get, anyway). The staggered start was kind of nice, I had plenty of open water and followed the yellow buoys out. I started just breathing on my left because people had looked at my swimming and swimming on my right seems to slow me down but swimming just on my left makes my upper back/neck on the left side hurt so pretty quickly I switched to bilateral breathing on every third stroke, which is what I normally do, with sighting every sixth, when I breathed on the left, trying to barely raise my head up. Kick, stroke, kick, stroke. The first 900m were pretty uneventful. Then I get to the turnaround red buoy, and left I go, and there's a buoy to mark the halfway mark between the turn buoys. Nice, I didn't know that was there.
For watches I decided to use the Garmin 910XT on the water and the run and the Edge 810 on the bike, so I had the 810 on and on the bike and the 910XT with the light on on the wrist and I kept looking at it and I was holding 2:30 minutes per 100m. I had three fields. Time, distance, and pace. I didn't have it on multisport mode, just swim.
Whenever I saw it crept up above 2:30, I swam harder, and brought it back down. I've been told and it's probably true that I slow down after 2k meters or so because my mind says I'm tired as opposed to my body being exhausted so I have to mentally move my arms and legs faster than I think I can.
On the way back. Hey this doesn't seem to bad. Out, back, out back. Start swimming towards the yellow buoy. Ooops. Yellow buoys out, orange buoys in. Start swimming towards the orange buoys. This is when I got the most contact. This is because my first lap was around 53 minutes and that's about how long it took for the really fast people and pros and such to do two laps and I had A LOT of contact, thankfully none of it nudged the goggles. I don't care getting hit. I care the goggles moving an inch. Someone hit me and I instinctively said ow and the guy said sorry which I thought was kind of cute. We have pink caps for women and green for men so you can easily tell what gender the person is. Stroke, stroke, kick, get hit. I finally got sick of it and if someone was hitting me to get through I held my ground and got more aggressive. And one bad thing is that people were pushing me to the right away from the buoys and I didn't want that so I became more aggressive into not letting people move me away.
I had to stop and go around people behind them several times and whenever I stopped abruptly, either to get around someone or because someone cut across me, I felt my legs start to cramp up, and so I was very careful to be less abrupt in stopping. Didn't want to go around the people in front because I didn't want to surge and use up all that energy.
Lap done, out of the water, through timing mat, back in. That's it? That's the big deal out of the water through the beach that people talked about? Five steps? I have NO problem getting back into water, no thought of I want this over now, I can do this once more. It was funny because you hear of people cutting the course and going from the first lap to the bike and when I got out I looked at a volunteer and said "back in, back in" and got pointed to how to get back in. All I wanted was back in!!
Just out once more and back. Yellow buoys. What are my feet doing? What are my arms doing? What are my hands doing? Kick kick stroke stroke breathe breath. Check everything. Are my fingers together? Arm higher than wrist higher than fingers? Fingers closed? No, my fingers on my right hand were not closed. Tried to close them. Huh? They won't close. I can't put my fingers together. My hands are too numb from the cold to manipulate my fingers to stick together. No matter how hard I tried, I could not do it. Awesome. Freaking awesome. I personally get a kick about things like this, that is not sarcasm. I thought it was the coolest (no pun intended) thing that I couldn't close my fingers because they were so numb from the cold. That slowed me down quite a bit the second lap and I was tired. I remember thinking I want more 4k open-water swims before the next one.
Turn buoy, back in, not a lot of contact. I was a lot slower this time around and couldn't keep it at 2:30. My hands were just blocks of wood and I was just dragging them through the water. Making fists and opening them back up wasn't helping to regain finger mobility, so I did what I could. Orange back in. And there was the shore. Swim, done! Swam until I was almost down, and then feet down. Up, and fell back down into the water. This is normal for me, I get really disoriented in the water. Up, back down, up, back down a few times then finally up and out of the water and running in the sand.
Running along. Then I just tipped over and fell to my left. Just like that. Thunk right into the sand. And my training part was wondering why my swim cap had sand all over. I didn't hit my head, I landed on the left side of my body and then put my head down. A few volunteers and competitors were coming over with horrified looks on their faces and I was laughing histerically because I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I told them I just needed to get my bearings, stood back up, managed to remain standing, and continued running along the beach. Garmin watch turned off and off the arm.
Then I reached the wetsuit strippers. Not the "wetsuit peelers" like they called them during the athlete dinner. The wetsuit strippers. I stood in front of them and told them this was the only reason I was doing this race and to go for it and they laughed and took the top off, then I laid on the ground with a huge smile on my face and they took the bottom half off. Best. Moment. Of. My. Life. You really have to have had to take off a wetsuit many times to understand this part. Wetsuit off, off to transition. Garmin watch (still turned off) onto the arm again.
This is different than a regular tri transition, you get your bike gear bag and go into a changing tent to change. I saw down right among the bags since I didn't need to change per se and by the time I realized I was the only one doing that it was too late into the process. The volunteers were so nice and placed everything in my bag, all I had to do was put stuff on. Dry off, made sure to completely get sand off my feet, some extra time now, 112+26.2 miles of thanks later. Feet spotless, socks and shoes on, Sunscreen, DeSoto sun shirt, glasses, ooppss, almost forgot the helmet. Off I went, bag behind. Off into where the bikes were. I thought they would hand you your bike but you had to go get it yourself. This area had the bikes only, nothing else around. Grabbed my bike and I went to the mount line. Bike Garmin on. Clipped in one foot, tried to go, nope, not happening, grabbed on to the side fence to keep from falling, foot off, few seconds to gather my bearing, second time around was able to start pedaling and off I went.
I thought the course was going to be easier than my training course (not easy, easier, because I train in a lot of hills, for those familiar with Vegas, the course had about 55XX feet elevation gain over 112 miles whereas 159 to 160 from Albertsons there-and-back twice plus the loop plus some other miles had 55XX over 100 miles). It was a hard course. I was worried about cutoff times. The scenery and crowd were great. The first part was around town and fun. No problem at all with crowding. Passed and was passed many times.
I had aerobars on the road bike with a bottle holder and we took it off the night before to remove the weight since I'm still not comfortable in aero (and had gone 100 miles twice without touching aero, so I could go the distance without it since it's how I train). That took off a water bottle holder, though. I had 8 scoops concentrated Perpetuem in one bottle and then the water bottle I had bought the day before at a gas station in the other, with the flip up top. All those little things you don't think about until race time. I didn't want to throw away one of my bike water bottles so I bought the one with the flip top. The Perpetuem had whatever electrolytes were left over.
In training, I put the electrolyte tablets with the water so I have about one tablet per hour but there was no way to do that here with the flip top water bottles without wasting time stopping. So I thought the electrolytes in the Perpetuem would hold me over.
One half bar at the top of the hour, one eight Perpetuem at the half hour mark (I had eight markings), based on eight hours on the bike (ended up 8:10 or so). And water. I had not practiced hand offs while moving like I should have done because they just scared me. So for 20 miles, including 2 aid stations, I didn't drink ANY water. Then I said to myself, this is stupid, you can't keep this up, you HAVE to drink water. Maybe it was 10 miles. Memory gets fuzzy. 1-2 hours without water. I knew I wouldn't make it like that so I made myself drink water. I think it was the third aid station where I attempted my first handoff.
I don't have the best bike handling skills, although I have improved tremendously since I started training a year and a half ago. I have a very hard time keeping the bike upright if I'm just steering with my left hand (I'm right-handed) and all the aid tables were on the right side. I got the idea on the fly to ask them if they could hand me the bottle on my left hand, and they did! Across my body. And it worked perfectly, I didn't have to stop, just slow down. Whew, I was so relieved. I told them, Sorry, I have bad bike handling skills! Before getting the bottle I had to throw the other one away and they put out their hand but I got freaked out and just threw it in-between two of them on the floor and said, yep, you guessed it, Sorry, bad bike handling skills!
I was so relieved. I started drinking water and then I realized that I would need more electrolytes. It was just a physical feeling. I trained by heart rate but really didn't look at it throughout the whole race, just went by feel. All calculations out the window and I went the whole day just listening to my body and coming up with things on the fly. Decided to switch to Perform, a caloric drink with electrolytes. The electrolyte-deficiency, if you can call it that, wasn't really because of the one less bottle but more of I can't stop and get a tablet in like I can in training and I really didn't think about it until I was already in Idaho. You have to actually race a few to go through all these scenarios. Started drinking Perform and it was working out GREAT. Couple more hours, though, and I started feeling bloated, I attributed it to too many calories, so I stopped the Perpetuem and looked at the Perform bottle and a bottle had about the same calories as one of my Perpetuem servings. Last half bar I couldn't get one of mine back in so I took one from the aid station and almost crashed trying to open the stupid wrapper with my teeth. They should have those opened for people like me.
For the next Ironman I will just load up one Flip cap Perform at the beginning and then use Perform, no Perpetuem. Takes care of the calories and the electrolytes. And a half bar at the top of the hour, of course. Maybe have two different bar brand names to spice it up. This combination, once I came upon it, worked fantastically.
Peeing. I peed on the bike, about 5-6 times. While moving. Which is very hard, mind you. I had 7 minutes and 4 seconds to spare when I crossed the finish line. If I had taken them, I would not have been an Ironman. Going through the bathroom while on the bike is a few minutes because you have to stop, unclip, hand bike over, go, get the bike back, clip back on, and go. At LEAST 2-5 minutes each time. Peeing on the bike made me an Ironman. Pretty much all the decisions I took throughout the day, many of them on the fly, and all the changes and new things worked out just perfectly.
The bike was hard. After 20 miles I was already spent. Much harder than I thought. And it was all these 3-5% hills that just went on forever. I missed the turn to our cabin the first time around (we passed it four times, twice on the bike and twice on the run, about 3 minutes away from the front door... I saw it on the second loop on the bike and I almost turned) but saw it the second time. I think the second loop is harder than the first in a course you haven't done before because you know what's coming. This was the second done I had raced on a course that I hadn't trained on before. I did not know how I was going to go on, the swim wiped me out a bit and the bike wasn't doing me any favors. This was harder than I thought it was gonna be. Looking back I don't know what kept me going. I thought about my dad just once, and thinking, I'm sure he'd LOVE to be in the pain I am in right now because it'd mean he'd be alive. That's it. So much for it being the end of this part of the journey.
At the athlete dinner one of the songs they played during one of the videos was Anything Can Happen by Ellie Goulding. That was Friday night. Went to the cabin, downloaded it, and listened to it a bunch of times on the iPod while going to sleep. Of all the hundreds, maybe even thousands of songs, I trained with during the year and a half before during hundreds of hours, that's the only one I used, both times on the bike, and both times briefly. That intro of deet deet deet dee dee deet just pumps me up.
Didn't really think about people or events or places, just pedaled. It was much much harder than I thought and honestly it was much much harder than I thought it would be. 20 miles. 40 miles. I did not know if I would do another Ironman again so I wanted to get the medal in case it turned out into a check off a bucket list. Then throughout the day it became, to get to this point again, I would have to redo that swim, or the swim and 20 miles, or the swim and 40 miles, or the swim and 80 miles, or the swim, 112 miles, and 5 miles. It became, I would have to redo all that just to get to this point. By the end I have no idea what kept me upright and going. There was no conscious, you can do this, or any conscious thought at all. It was all ... I don't even know what it was. Autopilot. You go because it's not over and you're not unconscious.
That is one of the things that really draws me personally to triathlons. You can stop at any time. After a minute. After an hour. After two hours. You don't have to keep going. You can just step off the course. And you don't. And I don't know why. What keeps us going? I don't know what keeps ME going. I just go. I heard something at the athlete dinner that really struck a chord with me. Act like quitting was not an option. Maybe that got buried into my subconscious.
There's also something magical about how easy and how hard it is all at the same time. What's the difference between the first and the last stroke/pedal/step? NOTHING. If that's not magical, I don't know what is. In its essence it is so easy. One stroke. One pedal. One step. Many, many, many times. So simple yet so tough.
56 miles. Halfway. Off I went for another round. I really liked all the signs people had and what was written on the road. Some of them were for specific athletes and some for the general public. Encouragement, wisdom. I loved the Bee signs. Bee Positive. Bee This. Bee That. I can just picture a Girl Scout group making those signs. I don't even remember what all of them said, but they do help.
80 miles. By now I have no idea what keeps me pedaling. This is much harder than I thought it was going to be. But I may never do another one so at least let get this medal. Get to mile 82 and that was a magical mile because it was 30 miles left. 159 to 160 and back once. That's it. I can do that. But I had never attempted it with 2.4 miles + 82 already in me ha. Just one Red Rock loop left. Talking afterwards with my training partner I asked her if she thought Red Rock at mile 82 and she said yep, she sure did.
Couple more things from the bike ride. On the second loop I came upon a table and I asked them if they were an aid station and they said yes. I threw by Perform bottle away and asked for another bottle. They said they only had cups. Crap crap crap crap they were a RUN aid station. By now the run had started and the run stations were up. I said CRAP out loud and kept going. I mean the volunteer didn't know what her answer caused me. Volunteers are for the most part "regular" people. They don't know the sport. They are selflessly giving up their time to allow us to race and I love each and every one of them. But it still had a profound effect on me. I had to go six more miles up hills, over half an hour, without liquid because of her response, and I very much physically suffered because of it. I did not stop the whole day, whether it be biking or running, no matter what happened. Sure, I could have stopped and gotten my bottle back, but remember, seven minutes and 4 seconds. Something in me just kept moving forward. I finally made it to the next bike station and got my next Perform bottle.
There were 3 no passing zones each loop. One of them was this long of cones. Remember, bad handling skills? I saw that line of cones and I flashed back to high school driver's ed. Hit a cone and you ARE going down. I was so freaked out. The cones were about a bike wheel apart. And what happens? This a****le decides to pass me. I yell at him, "SERIOUSLY??" You are seriously going pass me in a no-passing zone in the cone zone from hell? I yelled at the three people that passed me in no-passing zones. 1. I'm not expecting someone to pass me and 2. I'm not keeping to my right BECAUSE IT'S NARROW AND A NO PASSING ZONE. The last guy then got stuck behind the person a few bike lengths ahead and kept looking back and I kept yelling at him, "Yeah, looking out for marshalls, aren't you??" Marshalls are the law enforcers who would either give him time penalties or disqualify him for passing in no passing zones. Seriously, dude, they're not that long, don't pass.
One of my training partners got bumped from first in his age group to second during a recent race because he didn't keep to the right of the road. This is called blocking because then there's less space for people to pass you on your left. I had NO IDEA about this rule until that happened. If I'm to the left of the road that's not because I'm blocking, that's because, say it with me, bad handling skills. So I was very conscious of staying on the right side of the road. At one point this bike marshall passes me and tells me I need to get on my left. Huh? Apparently somewhere along the line the road split and I was in the lane used for vehicles and I needed to get on the other lane where another rider was. I was SO focused on STAY TO THE RIGHT I had gone on another lane completely, to a lane to the right of the one I was supposed to be on. I stayed to my right the whole time alright. So I went over to the left. No penalty. Marshalls have discretion and he probably realized that by now my mind was a little loopy, I was, after all, staying to the right, and I was gaining no competitive advantage (and I was a back of packer). A SAG (suppot and gear) vehicle passed me and gave me the thumbs up when I asked if I was now on the right lane (well, left lane, but you get the point).
At one point of the ride I pointed to my bike and told her (Bertha) that was being a very bad bike ha.
If I had gotten a flat tire. If I had stopped to pee. I was SO glad no flat tires. That could have been my Ironman right there. Everything, the whole day, worked out perfectly.
Many flats along the way. And I saw one person crash into another one and the other one go down. The person that caused the crash was I think passing and stayed upright but stopped to make sure the other guy was alright and the other guy got right back up. Saw a person laying on the ground with a bunch of people around her, asked if they wanted me to stop, I said no, I told them I would make sure next person with a cell phone knew, told a person with a cell phone, rider down half a mile back and when she confirmed she understood I sped up again.
One guy really got to me. Fit, looked in shape, aero helmet, tri bike. Had a flat. Had a smile on his face while holding his wheel and said, Good job! Here's a guy who's obviously fast, obviously having a bad day, and the only thing he does is tell a slow person on a road bike good job. Good human being, I thought, good Karma to you. Most of the other people with flats just stood around looking pissed. Many many many of them.
The screw of the Garmin mount had fell and we had zip tied it but it kept swinging down and I spent much of that ride swinging it back up, which was very annoying. I noticed I left the light on and it was not going to last so changed it to off and it then barely used battery.
During the first quarter of the bike my left knee started to hurt and this was weird as it was not giving me issues in training, it was the left leg from the accident (car cut in front of me and I hit the front), but I was in an Ironman, it was just going to have to hurt. What was I gonna do? Keep going and don't stop and go upright and forward (or hunched over and forward, but you get the point).
Bike, done. Off the bike. Unclipped. Stopped. Told the volunteer I thought I was stuck to the seat. Tried to get leg over. Nope. Few more seconds. There we go. They took my bike away. Started, not so much walking, more of a thrashing around upright in a foward direction. I look at my legs, work! Work, darn it, work! Walk!! Said forget it, asked to lean on a volunteer, which she happily agreed to, took my bike shoes off. Aaaahhh, much better to run along in the grass. Got to my run gear bag and this time I did go into the changing tent. CHAIR!! I said out loud. In a kind of excited and aaawwww manner. They had chairs. I was so happy. I plopped myself down. Helmet off, shoes off, pee-socks off, new socks on, run cap on, shoes on, flip around number belt. I was babbling like an idiot and even mentioned something to that effect to the volunteer, that if she wants some intelligible babbling she should have caught me about 8 hours ago. When I flipped the number belt, the number ripped. I had put my extra number on the run gear bag. See, I told the volunteer, when I'm in a right state of mind I have brilliant ideas like these. I don't know who gave me the idea to do that, but thank you!! The volunteer changed my number for me while the belt was me. I was beyond doing anything but staying upright and moving forward by this point. She put everything back for me. My coach had told me to remember to get my Garmin off the bike before they took it and it was one of my proudest moments remembering to do just that. It's the little things that make you happy. The volunteer stuck everything, including the Garmin which was now off, into the bag. Turned on the wrist Garmin.
I had Muscle Milk in the Bike and Run Gear Bags but ended up not drinking any of it (or the ones in the bike and run special needs bags). I kept joking around, just a 5K to go, right? People laughed. I tried to joke around all day and only fell flat once. Towards the end of the ride I told a SAG motorcycle, wanna switch, and the woman didn't laugh or smile. Really? I bike over 90 miles and you can't laugh at my joke? Come on!
On to the run. A marathon away from being an Ironman. Sh*t. A marathon. The enormity of it hit me. I have to do a marathon now. This is harder than I thought. I started running and I felt AWESOME. I was running 11:XX minutes per mile. WHOA. WAY TOO FAST. But it didn't FEEL fast, or hard. It felt comfortable. But I had to find a way to slow myself. I had time of day, average pace, lap pace (current mile), and distance on the Garmin, and didn't want to flip back and forth. So I decided to walk first .05 miles, run 0.45, walk 0.05 miles, run 0.45, so that I would run .90 and walk .10 of every mile, and also walk through all aid stations, and this worked wonderfully, and I still had a great pace at the half marathon mark. By now the dizziness started, and I felt I would pass out at any moment. I even inched close to the grass in case I fainted I would land soft. I had my RoadID ID bracelet on and people behind me. I did think back to my coach. I told her something took over me in races, a do-or-die instinct. She said there were worse things than dying. Like what?? Brain damage. Oh. Yeah, that WOULD be worse than dying. I honestly thought of stopping to be safe but then said, well, let's play it by ear and see what happens. I asked a few volunteers at the aid station what to do if I felt lightheaded and dizzy and like I was gonna pass out and they pointed to the medical tent. Like I mentioned in the bike portion, they don't know. So I started asking other runners. I was doing Perform and Coke, and the runners told me to do Coke and Chicken Broth. I had not taken any chicken broth so far, and it was available every two miles, every other aid station. Took some chicken broth and perform and felt much better almost immediately, and did both every chance I got (Coke and Perform, Coke and Broth, and so on and so forth).
At one station towards the end I passed and asked for chicken broth and the girl I passed said here and I asked for her to run up to me and please give it to me, I can't stop and go back, and she didn't. Really? I'm 20 miles into this thing, about to keel over to the side of the road, and you can't run up to me? Remember, 7 minutes, 4 seconds. I never stopped. I kept going. That really took a toll because it was every two miles so that missed one made it four before the next one. I really felt it as the dizziness and fainty feeling came back and I suffered a bit more. But once chicken broth was back in, I felt a lot better.
Bananas. Saw them a couple of times. Then I noticed my quads were hurting. And then it hit me. POTASSIUM. Took bananas about five times during the race and they REALLY helped the quads.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many calories I took on the bike and run, just what I took.
On the run I had Perform, ONE cup of water to wash down a bar, or was it a gel, tons of Coke and chicken broth, took Gu Chomps (energy chews) twice because I didn't want food but I needed calories and those things are like candy, I think I had a gel but I can't be sure, I stuck some potato chips in at a station, and I put salt in a cup of Perform once (quite tasty, actually, but being able to ingest pretty much anything is one of my fortes and while I train I do Coffee Perpetuem with Grapefruit electrolytes tabs, so your mileage may vary). I had a couple of little bars (one opened for me, the other one I had to open myself... move forward for 15 hours and then try to open that stupid wrapper yourself).
At the beginning of the run my feet hurt but that was normal, the padding of my feet hurt sometimes when I run but they don't stop me from running and the pain is minimal and mostly goes away for most of the run, and that's what happened, so I got over the initial pain and then it didn't bother me.
I didn't even stop for special needs for the bike and I did stop at special needs for the run and grabbed the blister bandages just in case and told them they could drink the muscle milk inside. Next time I'll just stick them in the tri suit pocket in run transition (they are like two bandaids, that light) and see if I can skip both special needs bags altogether. Honestly all you need is out there in the course.
At mile 16.2 I had exactly 3 hours left and I decided to stop running and powerwalk and I had 18 minutes per mile. In my first marathon I saw a man cramp up HALF A MILE away from finishing his 100 miles. I will never forget that. He didn't get his medal. When the body seizes, the body seizes. And I wasn't sure if my body was going to hold up. Doesn't matter how much mind or heart or will or determination you have if your body doesn't hold up. During my marathon and during the Ironman at times it felt it was a race to see what would happen first, my body giving up or reaching the finish line. Maybe I should start giving my body more credit. But for the last ten miles I wanted to go as easy as I could while still finishing. I was also afraid of blisters. And there was that little deal with the dizziness and faintiness going on. I pretended I had hiking poles in my hand and it helped. I responded to volunteers and spectators during the day but towards the end I stopped responding. I even refused to give a high five because as the day went on 1. they pushed my body bakwards and 2. took way too much freaking energy. The woman and girls were understanding and I as passed the woman commented, Aww, it takes so much energy to go forward. The last few miles felt like I was going through a narrow tunnel and I have no idea what kept me upright and moving forward. This was harder than I thought. I was conscious of nothing but the few feet ahead of me (as in distance, not other people's).
During the first loop I saw a sign that said, Thank you for running for those who can't. Dammit. Why did someone had to do that sign? Now I had to finish. Stupid stupid sign. After reading that sign, how can you NOT finish? (other than for health reasons of course).
Two signs with a couple of cute girls on it making fists and fighty faces. One said Remember Rule # XX Daddy! DARN IT. WHAT'S THE RULE!!! YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME HANGING LIKE THAT!! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE RULE IS!! And the other said Hugs at the finish line Daddy!! How could that guy NOT finish??
One lady had a sign that said "Don't you wish you had your bike back now?" I said HELL NO, I WANT A BEER!! and they all laughed. Passed some girls drinking and I asked if the drinks had alcohol and they said yes and I asked for some and they laughed. One guy was naked and had a sign over the guy area that said, "IF YOU DON'T GO FASTER I WILL DROP THIS SIGN" so I got within feet of him and I.... stopped. He dropped the sign. He was wearing Speedos with a sign that said GO FASTER. I called him a cheater, laughed, and resumed running.
There was one sign that annoyed me. Couple of women sitting down in lounge chairs in their yards with a sign that said "Run faster, I'm bored." That particular one didn't inspire me much so I just ran past both times without making eye contact. I saw a sign that said Stupid is as stupid does. I got the attention of the lady, pointed at the sign, pointed at my head, and nodded. So many great signs and people and volunteers and scenery.
Couple of great run moments:
During the latter part of the run it got really really dark and I kid you not there were no streetlights along that trail, just a light or two at some aid stations. I kept jokingly complaining to people I could see s***. Around 9p I realized I still had my sunglasses on. Took them off and much better!! After 14 hours of working out do you really expect me to realize I had sunglasses on? I was barely standing. And I had been complaining for an hour that I couldn't see and NO ONE told me I had sunglasses on. (my hair had gotten into a knot with my sunglasses and hat (they are tied to the back by one of those sport holder thingies) and a volunteer walked behind me as he undid the mess... never stopped, always upright, always moving forward).
I was talking to a volunteer and I said something and she said something and I said something as I was running along and she said "I can't I have to wash the Panda suit" and I turned around and gosh darn it she DID have on a Panda suit complete with head covering and ears, I had completely missed it when I passed her, and I told the person next to me "She DOES have a Panda suit on!! Crap, I must be more gone than I thought!!"
I used the portapotty before the run and at mile 16. I tried peeing on the run but it gets into your socks and gives you blisters. On the bike it's different because your legs are not directly below. Rule #1 for me: KEEPS SOCKS DRY.
I got offered some beads at some point and I said hell NO I'm not adding any more to me! and they laughed. When it got dark I got offered a glow necklace and I said no and then my subconscious remembered the athlete info dinner, if you get offered a glow necklace in the dark, put it on, so I let the next volunteer feet away put it on.
Towards the last few miles I ran into a problem. I knew at what time I started per the official clock. But I didn't know how that official clock coordinated with my Garmin and I was getting time of days from other people as far apart as three minutes and when 1 second makes or breaks a 17-hour-day.... So I didn't have an exact handle to the minute of how much time I had left so I walked as fast as I could. I was pretty sure I would make it. But not certain. Next time, look at the official time, AND THE GARMIN TIME. Lesson learned. Or just finish under sixteen and a half hours ha. When it got dark I had to turn the light on for the Garmin and I also had it on during the swim to see. It lasted JUST enough for the swim and run. Perfect. If I hadn't had the bike Garmin, I probably wouldn't be an Ironman. I was constantly looking at that watch, recalculating.
Proud to say I met all the bike and run cutoffs time on my own, at least 16 minutes before the time of day cutoff time.
At mile 26 I started crying for a couple of minutes, just bawling with whatever energy I had left. Then it was over. The final stretch. I ran and ran and ran and hoped I wouldn't ruin anyone's finish picture but I wasn't stopping for nobody, the seconds were ticking by. I didn't want to high five anybody because I was gunning it for the finish line, and I was lucky to cross it by myself. I was an Ironman. 16:52:56, seven minutes and four seconds to spare.
Saw my coach, hugged. Had my picture taken with the medal.
If I can be an Ironman, anyone can.
When I crossed the finish line two volunteer grabbed me. I told them I was fine, they could let go. One of them did, the other one didn't. I'm fine, you can let go of me... really. Like now ha. He finally did. I wasn't wobbly at all. Went home. When I got out of the car, I started shivering, feeling cold and nauseated. I didn't feel so good then. Finally felt like eating something.
My legs were sore and that was it. I wasn't able to get into a pool until Wednesday. The lake was too cold. Next time I will toughen it up and make a pool or lake happen the day before, I suffered two days unneccesarily, after I spent 50 minutes stretching in that pool and got out, I was much better. Same thing happened with the marathon.
On Wednesday I was going to be late to the movies and instinctively started running and I noticed my legs were sore. What a difference good training makes. In 2010 after I did the marathon with no training I couldn't jog for days and I didn't run right for months. Now I'm running, albeit a bit sore still, about 60 hours later.
I love training the week after a race. My body bounces back pretty well from soreness but workouts exhaust me. On Thursday morning had a 38-minute 1000m workout that just about wiped me out. That whole week I'll go through sluggish workouts and I'm back to my regular self by Monday or so. Kinda cool to see and go through, though With this last race, though, I experienced something new. I've been sleeping like crazy!!
Jan 2 2012 (Monday) until 6/22/2013 (Saturday), not including the actual Ironman. From zero to athlete thanks to great training, blind faith, stubbornness, and a belief that if I just showed up and did my best, it would work itself out in the end.
Swim 490012.39 meters in 253 hours 33 minutes 16 seconds
Bike 5389.08 miles in 418 hours 27 minutes 57 seconds
Run 1026.38 miles in 200 hours 31 minutes 09 seconds
Strength 134 hours 44 mins
Total hours training, not including strength, just swimming, biking, and running: 872 hours, 32 minutes, 22 seconds.
Couple of things. I used to talk to my dad on the phone and I would tell him I had a full moon and ask him what kind of moon he had in Venezuela. After he died I feel a special closeness to him during the full moon and always tell him I have a full moon and ask him whether he has a full moon also where he's at. The night of the Ironman was going to have the brightest full moon of the year so I would in effect spend the whole day running towards that full moon. Kind of prophetic. I mean I believe in coincidences as much as the next person, but still. It turned out that big bright beautiful full moon was hidden behind a cloud so it wasn't even visible. And I only thought about my dad once. I've always felt I was in a journey from his death that would culminate in the Ironman. Maybe it did. Maybe I'm finally moving on from the grief. Maybe this was my closure.
I keep thinking, I did an Ironman. I'm going to have a hard time backing out of things from now on. If I could pinpoint the biggest change this did for me, is that it hardened me. Made me tougher.
I went the whole day listening to my body, on instinct and perceived rate of exertion, with the goal in mind, and everything worked out perfectly. If I had done ANYTHING differently, I would not be an Ironman.
I did think back to something a friend wrote on my wall on Facebook which was the last thing I read before shutting off the phone before getting into the car that morning.
"Such a journey to get to this day. My goodness, my brain has been flowing with so many memories of the last few years and I've been thinking about you a lot. Especially when I go out to run. (Running is not my favorite.) It's amazing to think how much exercise you're going to pack into one day. I was thinking about the day we worked out in the morning, then went back and did three more classes in the evening. Also, the day of your marathon...two years ago, I think? How about the day I first met you? Standing right in front of the class every day, determined to get the weight off....WOW! All of that takes you right here to an Ironman. Just amazing!! While you knock yourself out all day, I'll be tracking you and cheering you on. Good luck, my friend."
I DO remember thinking back to that a few times. Just everything that led up to it. Dad dying. Losing half my body weight. All the adventures. Training.
Sitting here, almost four days later, I still have no idea why I didn't stop, what kept me going.
Maybe I'll figure it out during Ironman Arizona 2014.