If you haven't read my swim and bike race report, click here. Read that before starting this post :)
I would have had the run section up Tuesday, but it was a long day of travel and no computer time. We left Summerland just after 7 a.m. and arrived in Seattle mid-afternoon, where we spent a few hours exploring and eating before our flight. Space Needle, Salumi's, Fish Market, the original Starbucks. Fun to check out the scene, but it wasn't so fun getting home to Laguna Beach at midnight.
Anyway... back to the race...
My goal was 4:00. After I sort of regrouped in T2, I was "ready" but unsure. The mental battle was beginning. As I ran out, I heard Jordan Rapp's name being announced as the winner, and then I saw him run by me in transition, heading toward the lake to cool off. It was hot as can be out there, and he'd just run a 2:53 marathon. Holy crap. After that quick distraction, I came back to reality and the fact that I had 4, maybe more, hours ahead of me.
Within the first 1/2 mile, I was getting very emotional. Then I saw my family and John. I stopped briefly by them and started crying pretty hard, telling them my situation and that I was not sure if I was going to be able to do the full run. They all started tearing up seeing me so emotional. Seeing them emotional made me more emotional, and I knew it was time to make a decision: run away and go for it or give up right then and there. You know me... I can't quit. So I ran.
It wasn't just my family and John that inspired me at that point, it was everyone in my life -- my athletes I coach, friends, co-workers, family, everyone who's sent message on FB and Twitter, my grandma, etc. This Ironman was bigger than just me, lots of other people were involved and I wanted to show them that it's possible to carry on and FINISH even when it seems impossible. Erica, my athlete who was also racing, was especially on my mind. This was her third attempt at IMC, with the first two resulting in DNFs (issues out of her control, but nevertheless she had unfinished business). I was more than confident that she WOULD make it to the finish line on Sunday, and that alone was enough to get me there as well. (I'm crying just thinking about this now haha.) I wasn't dying and my legs were working, so I'd find a way to get through the run no matter what. Done deal.
I got going. It was HOT. I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running on pace (in the 9’s) so that helped boost my mood. However, I knew my nutrition had been severely disrupted, and that the lack of carbs/sugar on the last part of the bike was probably going to affect my ability to reach any level of high intensity on the run, just not physiologically possible. I'd have to stay in a low-intensity zone while trying to refuel if I wanted to survive and not completely bonk to death. That said, I settled on a goal of maintaining a running pace of 9:00-10:00 miles, and I'd walk the aid stations while trying to choke down any calories. That was realistic and the best idea at the time. In truth, that wasn't far off from my original plan of a 9:09 overall average.
The run course itself wasn't so bad, but the heat was. And when I hit Skaha Lake it seemed to go up another 10-15 degrees. It had to be 90-100 F out there, with little to no shade. I had the EXACT same thoughts as Jordan Rapp, according to what he wrote on his blog, "And on a day when Skaha Lake serves as nothing more than a continual tease, ceaselessly inviting you stop running and take a dip..."
People who lived along the marathon route were outside with hoses to spray down the runners -- what a relief that was! Thankfully that section was fairly flat, and because it was an out and back, it was a good distraction to watch runners going in the opposite direction. I had seen the top pros while still in town, which is always a treat, but watching AGers is something special in itself. I had so much respect for everyone who was so far in front of me and running strong. Like when I saw Rachel Ross whizz by looking like she was as fresh as being on the first mile. Amazing! Can I be like that one day????
I also saw my friend Christian who did the Epic5 this year, Kiet, Matt Q, and many others. I even had a runner, Mary, come up to me and say she reads my blog! That was super special for me :) Another special moment was running into PunkRockRacing Ron. It was our first time meeting in person -- fitting :) I told him my whole story of the issues on the bike. While talking with him, I think I had willed my way to feeling better on the run and was optimistic that I could stick to my plan.
But after I passed Ron, the reality was, I was still feeling nauseous and queezy. Nutrition-wise I wasn't doing well with calories, and I the exercise physiologist in me knew it was only a matter of time before that'd start really taking its toll. I was able to eat some pretzels, sip of cola every now and then, drink water and endurolytes. I tried my hardest to muster down a gel, but it wasn't happening, same thing with banana and sports drink -- wouldn't stay down. So pretty much pretzels and a little cola were the only calories I had on the entire marathon. Even at a low intensity, that was not enough AT ALL.
In attempt to not to get too wrapped up in how crappy I felt, I started thinking of everyone in my life again. And as I watched runners going in the other direction, heading home, the one person I was thinking of and waiting to see was Mike, my training partner. But no sign even as I got closer to the turnaround. Meanwhile, it was starting to get more hilly. I had to walk some of the hilly sections.
I was nearing the turnaround, and still hadn't seen Mike. Weird. I was praying he was OK. Mike had to get an emergency root canal on Friday before the race, and the procedure went fine, but it was still a "trauma" to the body, so who knew if it'd play into his performance on Sunday. I would later find out, it did take a toll. Then I saw him. He was maaaaybe a mile ahead of me, and walking :( There was a good chance I'd catch him.
At the turnaround I got a BIG surprise. My dad and John were there waiting for me. John ran with me a bit and said some things that not only brought (happy) tears to my eyes, but gave me a big burst of energy. I had reached the halfway point and was ready to head home, happy that I'd seen my boys!
Then ahead in the distance I saw Mike. I caught up to him; he was walking. I made him start running again with me, and I told him my whole story of the swim and bike, hoping that help distract him fro the pain he was in (root canal aftermath was wreaking havoc). He was in shock to hear my story, and he felt so bad because he knows more than anyone how badly I wanted that 6-hour or faster bike split. While we ran together, it felt like "home" and was comfortable... I imagined it being just one of our regular training runs, and I was at peace.
Unfortunately it wouldn't last for the rest of the race. Mike had to stop and walk again, and I tried to keep running. But at around 18 miles, I was having to walk more than just aid stations and hills. It was during that time that I started walking/running next to random people, and we'd feed off each other's "energy." It's pretty intense to share moments like that with complete strangers. Some tough folks out there. Makes me tear up just reminiscing.
Toward the end, I was starting to fade and felt delirious. I had hit a wall with the pretzels, too, and I was pretty much running on empty. At times, I felt like I do when I have the flu. The walking segments were increasing, but I refused to only walk. I had to keeping running. I knew my goal of 4:00 was out the door, but I could still make it in before 8 p.m. and definitely keep the marathon sub-5, so that was the new goal.
As I finally reached downtown Penticton, as expected, the energy of the crowd allowed me to find a way to run the last 2 miles at a 9-something pace. John later said I even looked OK at the point, but I don't believe him ;) The final stretch of the marathon was a blur, yet I remember it so well... every sight, sound, smell. I will hold that moment dear to me forever. You can never repeat your first Ironman, and, damn, is the finish a special moment. Despite having no energy to spare, I found a way to smile big down the finishing chute (I think).
I saw 12:45 on the clock, and thought, "Heck, after all I've been through today, and all that time spent on the side of the road during the bike, that ain't so bad. Mission accomplished."
But right after finishing, my body knew I was done, so it was done. I crashed. Headed to medical to chill out. Barely choked down a cup of chicken broth, and then all I wanted to do was leave there to be with my crew at our home. I could barely stand up, but I wanted medical to release me, so I pretended I was feeling "great" again :) I peaced out, and my family took me home. I was still nauseous, but an hour or so later I was able to eat the better part of a couple pizzas, and I shared my story with loved ones, while I listened to the stories they had from the day.
I'll repeat what I said in my last post: In the end, my Ironman wasn't an ideal day "on paper," but to me it was a perfectly un-perfect day and one that I'll cherish forever. I wouldn't change a thing. I think it's the adverse moments that made it even more special for me. It was a challenge like none other, and I came out a stronger person.
I'm ready to do another one....