In the course of 7 months, I have....
swam over 110,000 yards
biked over 1600 miles
and run over 400 miles
in the pursuit of a thing called Ironman. Well...Ironman take 1 anyway. There are miles yet to be swam/biked/ridden in the pursuit of the ultimate Ironman...Kona.
The day began early, about 1:30 am, when I woke up and had a tough time getting back to sleep. Eventually I drifted back off and woke up just before the alarm went off at 4:15. Sleepily ate my breakfast and then got ready to roll. Made it into T1 with plenty of time to spare. Everything was quickly set up and it was time to hit the line.....for the port-o. That line took a bit longer than I expected, especially since the volunteers allowed the M 35 and under to cut to the front of the line as their wave was shortly taking off. Hustled back to my T1 spot, squeezed into my wetsuit and headed down to the water. It felt (and still does feel) surreal. So hard to believe that this was actually happening.
The horn sounded and we were off. Somewhere around 150 women heading out on an incredible adventure. Reach, pull, reach, pull. At one point on the first loop, the lead swimmer passes me. Faster than fast. I keep thinking to myself, I really should be pushing harder. Coach said this should be my warm up, but am I warming up too slowly? It's going to be a long day, just take it easy. Reach, pull, reach, pull. Down....back.....down....back. Around the buoys. Swim, swim, look. Before I knew it, the swim exit was there in front of me. Up the ramp, by pass the wet suit strippers and to my spot. Pull down the suit, step out, step out. Shoes, helmet, sunglasses....ready to roll.
Up the short hill from transition and heading out. Feeling good. Hit mile 5 where the sharp right, downhill turn that I hate awaits. I get through safely and start heading along the rollers. I feel good, but my HR is too high. I'm supposed to be Zone 1-2.....for the entire ride. I'm already spiking Zone 3. I ease up. It does no good. I keep easing up, getting frustrated and passed like I'm standing still. Which I feel like I might be. Ok, take it easy. Just work on getting the nutrition in and take it easy, easy. I just feel like I have no idea how much I can push, how much I need to conserve for the long day ahead. I'm mentally lost and getting discouraged. I by pass the first aid station, as planned. I'm carrying enough to get me to the second aid station. Time passes. It always does. I get to the second aid station and stop to use the port-o. Grab a bottle of water and fill my aero bottle. Hop back on the bike and pedal out of town. This section should be where I can push some. Flatter. Get aero and push.
I realize I'm a bit behind in my eating. Maybe I put too much in too quickly. Maybe my concentrated bottle of Infinit didn't get mixed properly when I refilled that section of my aero bottle. Maybe I was too anxious about my HR. I will probably never know the cause. The effect tho is misery. A feeling of nauseousness that eventually, around mile 50 will turn into a pain in my right lower side that leaves me gasping if I try to breathe too deeply. I try pinching it, like you would a cramp. No good. I stop at my 'special needs' bag and dig around for the gas-x I had thrown in to my mix of emergency meds that I thought I might need. Down two of them and throw two into my shirt pocket. Somehow, amazingly, stopping has made it worse. Or at least it feels worse when I start moving again. I start to talk to the stitch..please, please, please, just go away. I sip at my water and skip the Infinit. I try some cheez-it crackers. I try a gummy. Everything makes it worse. There is a time that I think to myself...maybe I have appendicitis. Maybe it will burst and I'll be hauled away. Wishful thinking. I cry a bit, which of course makes breathing harder. And makes my side hurt more. Time passes. It always does.
I bypass the first aid station on the second loop, which is probably a mistake. Halfway to the second aid station, my mouth starts to water at the thought of Gatorade. Which is ironic since it wasn't a fabulous training tool for me. I stop at the aid station and use the port-o again, even tho I don't really need to. Perhaps I just wanted...needed...a break. I come out and decide to try a piece of banana. See how that sits. As I roll out I grab a bottle of Gatorade, take a sip, and tuck it into the back of my shorts. I don't want to drink too much in case it makes the situation worse. I pedal on. The Gatorade and the banana seem to sit quietly.
By the next (last) aid station on the course I've put down the entire bottle of Gatorade and I grab another as a I roll by. I slow to a stop and quickly grab another piece of banana. Down it as I roll onto Chalk Hill Road. I'm less than 20 miles from ending this part of the misery. And maybe, just maybe I'm feeling slightly better. I don't want to get my hopes up too high. I make it up Chalk Hill for the second time today. One guy spectating yells out "There go my favorite tires! Go girl!"
Oh, did I mention I have pink tires on my rented Zipps for the race? I get quite a few comments on those tires, which could be part of what has kept me moving. One girl, as she rolls by, says "I love those tires. They make me happy." I refrain from saying, "Well, I'm glad *someone* is happy." No need to spread the misery. Instead I smile and say thanks. That's the order of the day...smile and say thanks. Thank all the volunteers. Thank all the police officers directing traffic.
Anyway, up and over Chalk Hill to the screaming downhill. I am so close. Time passes. It always does. And then I'm rolling into transition...finally....I lament with another Ironman-to-be about not signing up for the aqua bike. What *was* I thinking. I am mostly just glad to be off my bike. No flats. No mechanical issues. Just body malfunction. *Just.* I am feeling okay now tho. That is I was feeling okay.
Once I start running my stomach starts to churn. Damnit. For the first several miles, I stick to ice chips and salt tablets. I am so thirsty. But scared to put much in. I start to add things slowly at the aid stations. Sometimes Gatorade. Sometimes Cola. Sometimes bananas. Whatever I think might sit still in my stomach. The first loop is long. I feel flat. What a surprise. I keep myself from thinking of the run as 26.2 miles. It's simply get through each 4+ mile stretch. Get to the turn around. Then get to the next turn around. Sip this, sip that. Chew some ice. So thirsty. At the end of the first loop I see Jeff and Bam. I stop to pat her and make sure they know I'm still plugging away. I've calculated what I need to do to ensure I get onto the third loop by 9:00. If I don't make it by then, my chip gets pulled and my long day is not only done, but in vain.
Duck into transition at the end of loop one and I dump all my gels onto the ground. No sense in carrying what I'm not going to get down. Start loop two. A slightly slower repeat of loop one. Sip, sip. Eat some banana. Crunch, crunch, chew some ice. I make the second loop well before the 9:00 cutoff. Dart into transition again. Pull on a long sleeve shirt. Put on my head lamp. I have no idea how long I've been out here. Too long. All I keep watching is the time. I have to finish before 11:00.
As I head out on my third loop, I am handed a glow stick. I put it on my neck, but can't stand the bouncing around. I loop it around my race number belt instead. As it gets darker, I turn on my head lamp. The third loop is a shared suffer-fest. I've been seeing the same folks now for at least two loops. We're all in the same boat. "Looking good", "Keep it up", "Hang in there" said and heard repeatedly. At some point we're just glow sticks passing in the night. I stop checking the time. I know I'll make the cutoff. It's just a matter of how long it will take. At some point I'm walking up a hill as quickly as I can and I pass an older man who is shuffle running. "There's someone walking with purpose," he says. "I just want to be done with this thing," I say. We hit the top of the hill and I start my own shuffle. "She just hit the after burners, " he says. I just laugh. Wow, I can still laugh. Eventually I hit the last aid station and just grab a bit of water. I've had enough Gatorade, Cola, banana. I just want to be finished. I have covered 139.6 miles and damned if I'm going to walk my last mile. I pass one person...."Good pace" I hear. I come up on one of the guys I've seen all night long as he's walking. "Almost there," I say. And he falls into his own shuffle step behind me. Finally. Finally, the turn into the finish chute. Across the line. Medal on my neck. Shirt and water bottle handed to me.
And then all the frustration and exhaustion and dehydration and lack of food of the day spills over. I spend several minutes crying on Jeff's shoulder. Sobbing. Disappointed. Yes, I did it. No, I am not happy with my effort. It really only hits me when I go to work on Monday. I'm describing my day to a co-worker. When I finish she looks at me and says, "Wow. You're so hard on yourself." Hm. Tell me something I *don't* know. But ok, point taken. I've accomplished something I set out to do. Did I have an ideal day? No. Did I meet my super-secret goals? No. Then again, did I miss any of the cutoffs? No again. I am certainly iron.
In any case, it's time to move on. I have another big day ahead, just 9 short weeks from now. Take the lessons learned and keep looking forward.
"If you succeed in doing this, tell me how."
Baz Luhrmann, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)