OK folks, sorry to keep you waiting. My initial plan was to talk about the pre-race stuff then every day give you an update on at least one component of the race. My plan has already failed. I have been getting up at 4:30 AM for my current rotation, and it's really leaving me exhausted. As I've told you before, I'm not a morning person. Also, my internet at home seems to have crapped out, so I am seriously behind on everyone's posts. Sorry everybody! I'll try to catch up soon. For now, I have put on my finisher shirt and have decided to lock myself in my local coffee shop (free wireless!) until it closes. I'll see how far I get.
So... Where was I? Oh yeah. The alarm clock went off. I hopped out of bed and brought my clothes into the bathroom to change. I wanted to let Steve, Steph, and Matt sleep a few more minutes if possible. I then heated up some water using the room's coffee pot and made my traditional apple cinnamon oatmeal, two packets. I eat it before every race, no matter how big or small. Soon the rest of the room was up too, and we were on our way. On the five block walk, I reiterated how glad I was that we weren't driving. It stressed me out just looking at all of the cars trying to figure out where to go! First, we headed to the body marking area. It wasn't too long before I was covered with the number 2126.
Next I dropped my special needs bags, and we headed into the terrace. I went back into the T1 area and put 2 extra shirts into my bag. I had no idea how much I would need those later. Then the 4 of us just hid in a corner and talked and rested. I shimmied into my wetsuit (I'm getting pretty good at it!), and after a few minutes, we left the Terrace. I kissed everybody goodbye and started walking down the helix with the masses. It was then that I noticed that it was sprinkling. Heh, I thought. Well, it will just sprinkle for the swim, and the rest of the day will be dry and overcast. After all, the recent weather predictions have said cloudy with a 30% chance of rain, and this morning, the forecast predicted no rain.
It took about a full 15 minutes to actually get into the water. I wasn't in yet when they sang the National Anthem. There were lots more people behind me, though, so I wasn't really worried. I just kept pushing on, and soon I was swimming out to the pack. My plan was to start toward the back. I knew I would be getting lapped before I was even out of the water. I remember the guy on the loudspeaker shouting over the loudspeaker, "Who's going to be an Ironman today?" We all roared. Then, the cannon. It was started. I learned from my half IM that I needed to stay really calm here and not lose it. I’ve been practicing calm, smooth strokes, and it worked. There were no moments of panic. I worked my way in toward the buoys. I had to slow up a couple of times because if mini traffic jams, but for the most part, we kept moving. I think the whole mass of us was one big draft, because when we rounded the first big buoy, I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
There was the usual washing machine, and this was one of the worst ones I’ve ever been in. I tried to keep my cool, and I mostly succeeded. I managed to avoid most major catastrophes. I did get kicked in the jaw and shoulder once and in the nose another time. Those were the worst ones. It also really hurt when someone stabbed me between the toes with a fingernail. I just kept reminding myself that I was doing it to others too and that none of it was malicious. My friend TriSara Tops, though was actually shoved. That one was not an accident. I guess the “record number of participants” and the crazy waves just got to some people out there. That brings me to the waves. Wow, am I glad I did that half IM in July. These waves were just like those. They were huge swells. I actually swallowed less water this time around, though, and the buoys were easier to sight. My goal to get out of the water was 1:50. I came out in 1:55:34. I was only worried a couple of times that I wouldn’t make it out in 2:20. Turns out I was fine.
Good thing I had watched the video at Stu’s or I would have had no idea what I was supposed to do next. I started to peel off my wetsuit, and the strippers shouted that I should head down to the end of the line. I laid on my back, held on my bikini bottom, and a very nice lady had my wetsuit off in 1 second flat. I started to jog up to the helix and heard my brother Matt shouting my name. I looked up to see Steph and Steve, too. They cheered me all the way into T1, and Steve called Maddy and Jess, who met me at the top.
When I got into the Terrace, the volunteers shouted 2126, and in no time I had my bag of warm, dry gear. Another very nice lady helped me get all of my stuff on. Since it was still raining when I got into the building, I decided to put my black cotton shirt on underneath my jersey. I put the IM Arizona shirt I’d bought the day before on as my top layer. The plan was to shed it after a few miles, famous last words. I couldn’t help but think how much technical apparel I had sitting at home in my drawer, and here I was wearing two cotton shirts with my bike jersey. Oh well. I refused to let it get to me. In 9:37, I was out of T1. RobbyB had told us that it was a long way between the changing area and the bike pickup and that it would be prudent not to put on our shoes until we actually got to our bike, so that’s what I did. My feet got a little wet, but at least I didn’t slip. 2126! Someone shouted. The bike volunteers kept shouting 2126! until I reached Louise. She looked ready. I strapped my shoes, and the two of us ran side by side to the mounting area. We were off in no time. It was still drizzling. I looked down on my bike to see a note in my Bento Box. It was from TriAl. He had written little notes of good luck to all of us bloggers. What a guy!
I watched out for the bottle launchers that Stu, Robby B, and Thomps warned us about at WIBA. Mine stayed in just fine, but the guy ahead of me was having a heck of a time trying to keep his in place. I kept with my plan and stayed in my small chain ring all the way out to Verona. I knew that I could be pushing harder, but I refused to let myself. There was plenty of room for that later. The wind was on my back, and I felt great. People kept telling me that I looked great all through the first loop, and I believed them. I felt great. Two potty breaks. I guess I was keeping myself plenty hydrated.
That Arizona shirt? I didn’t take it off until about mile 38. I knew that Jess and Maddy would be on the course at about mile 40, and I wanted to see if I would be able to go without it. It was soaked at that point anyway. Sure enough, Maddy and Jess were there at 42 to cheer me on. They are such amazing cheerers! I didn’t want to get in trouble for accepting “outside help,” so I told them that if I just happened to throw down my shirt, and they just happened to pick it up, we shouldn’t get in any trouble:) At mile 55 or so, lots of people were already heading back to finish. I had been passed by the pros long before that point, and it just made me realize how very far I had to go.
I hit my demons at mile 80. My legs were getting a little tired. The weather was miserable. I still had 32 bike miles plus a marathon to go. I got a little choked up at that point; I was feeling very, very sorry for myself. That’s when I started to pray. I mentioned on my last post that I now think Ironman has changed me. For me, it seems to have been a spiritual journey of sorts. I’ve always gone to church, but lately, I’ve been searching for more. I started to pray out loud. I prayed for God to give me strength. I asked Him to give me comfort, and asked Him to help me get to that finish line. I then started talking to my Grandma Aggie. I never told you this, but I have always thought that I would do this race for her. She died of a heart attack 5 years ago. She was only 64 years old. She was my hero in every sense of the word. My bike jersey was to honor her. It was red (the red dress campaign is to raise awareness for women’s heart disease), and it had a big white flower on the front, one of her passions. I told her that I knew she was with me and asked her to give me comfort and to stay with me. Call it what you will, but in about 2 seconds, I was filled with strength, and I knew I could do it.
Maddy and Jess were there again about mile 84, and they later told me that I didn’t look quite as good as the first time around. After the first loop, I was 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff, and I knew that I would need that time in case I had a bike malfunction. The second loop was much slower. I still made it up the nasty hills OK, but I didn’t feel nearly as good, and I knew I was losing time. Also, I knew I was in for a 20 mph headwind on the 15 miles back to Madison. Six or 7 miles from town, I saw a familiar biker. I had given this guy 1 of my 2 spare tubes about 15 miles back. He was on his 5th flat at that point. I had told him that hopefully Karma would come back to me. Now he was on his sixth flat, and he told me that he was just going to ride it in. There was one slow nasty hill left, and when I finally got to the top of it, Stu was there. What energy that guy has! I needed him then, and he really pulled through. My fingers were numb. I was having trouble shifting, and I knew that if I got a flat, there was no way I would be able to change it. Luckily, that Karma did come back to me. I stayed flat-free, and when I saw Stu again about 2 miles from the bike finish, I shouted, “Stu, I’m gonna make it!” I just hoped that Wil and TriSara Tops were going to make it too. I had passed Wil at Special needs, and I had seen a bike that kind of looked like Sara’s with a flat a couple of miles back (I later found out that it wasn’t her). I got back to the Terrace, and I immediately saw Steph’s red fleece. I waved. The guy at the top of the helix said that he was surprised that I was still smiling. I told him that the bike was finally over, 8:07:39.
T2: I was so cold and shaking, and there were half-naked people all over trying to warm up. All I could think about at the end of the bike was how I was going to be able to button up the last resort bra and where I was going to find a garbage bag. The clothes I packed in my T2 bag weren’t going to cut it. It was still raining. Again, my prayers were answered. I peeled off all of my wet clothes. Man did that feel good! My fears were confirmed. I had no dexterity left in my fingers. The LRB is great for preventing bra burn, but its 11 front hooks were impossible for my fingercicles. Can you believe that the volunteer lady did it for me?!? Now that’s what I call above and beyond the call of duty. Just as I was finishing putting on my gloriously dry clothes, another volunteer came in with garbage bags. She told us that there were lots of people being treated for hypothermia and that we needed to take one and wear it for a few miles to warm up. Miracle number 3 of the day. I took 2 glasses of warm water, chugged them, and ran out the door. I was out of T2 in 10:17.
It was a little hard to start the run right next to the finish chute seeing people running in and knowing that I had an entire marathon to run yet. The bag was working. It didn’t take me long to warm up, and I started on a Cliff Bar. It wasn’t very appetizing, but I knew that I needed more fuel. I got into a very slow steady rhythm and started talking with some of the other runners. Now, I know that some of you out there don’t appreciate the talkers, but I wasn’t out to win the thing, and I was done being lonely. I hooked up with a couple of runners for a mile here and there, but we went our separate ways when they stopped to walk. I stopped for my 3rd (7th if you count the water, sorry guys) potty break of the day at around mile 5. At mile 6, I felt great. Around mile 9, I found Lisa. She was my 4th miracle of the day. We ran the last 17 miles together. We weren’t fast, but we only walked during water stops and up 2 hills. I can’t even tell you how many people we passed. The numbers from the race report indicate that it was over 300. We had never met before, but we were running the same pace. This was here first IM too, but her husband had already done 2. We talked off and on. Sometimes it was about life; sometimes it was just small talk. Mostly, though, we just ran; silently supporting each other. I could have run this thing by myself. Mentally, I was tough enough to do it, and my early AM training runs taught me to run even though my body felt like crap. It was nice not to have to, though. Running with Lisa kept me from feeling sorry for myself and kept me from thinking about the fact that my right little toe had transformed into one gigantic blister.
The nutrition was a little hard to choke down. I consumed 3 Cliff Bars on the run, and the last one didn’t go down easy. It was only mile 16, though, and I knew that I would still need a lot of calories to get through the last 10.2 miles. I took cola here and there, and the broth was amazing. Somehow, the giant conglomeration of weird food settled my stomach, and slowly the nausea went away. At mile 22, we passed a girl that had collapsed, and they were bringing in the ambulance. I hope she was OK. I knew that even though I only had 4 more miles to go, this race was far from over. I remember writing that I wouldn’t KNOW that I would be Ironman until I was 50 feet from the finish line. This was mostly true. It was actually about 2 blocks.
I really don’t have much to say about the run. It went by really fast, and it was the first time all day that I never worried about cutoffs. I felt strong for most of it. Two blocks from the finish, a guy next to us started to pick it up. Lisa commented that she didn’t have that much left. When I told her that I did, she instructed me to go for it. I replied that I just didn’t feel right about finishing without her, but she encouraged me to go, so I did.
I picked it up and felt like a million bucks when I crossed the finish line. I remember raising my hands up when I hit the tape, but the rest was a blur. Total run time: 5:30:13. Total finish time: 15:53:18. Lisa was right behind me. I gave her a hug, thanked her one more time, and never saw her again. A catcher grabbed on to me, but I didn’t need her. I felt the strongest I had all day. I was made of iron.