Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ironman Race Report: The Run

We had crunched the numbers before race day. If you took all of the 10 hours and 30 minutes to finish the swim and the bike, you would have to average a 16 minute mile for the marathon. I had 7 hours to cover 26.2 miles. My plan was to run to mile 13.1, the turn around point. We had to be there by 9 pm – 14 hours into the day. I figured that if I got there as fast as I could, I wouldn’t have to worry about making the cutoff and that would save some anxiety.

I felt good. My legs weren’t bothering me, my stomach felt good. I got to see Doug’s family again and was SO happy they were there. They took my pictures and cheered.

I was wearing my arm warmers still and had grabbed my rain coat. I figured I might want it once it got dark. I tied it around my waist and it was driving my nuts. At mile 3, I saw a chain link fence and tied my coat to it. I figured I could get it on the way back in.

Aid stations were every mile. Usually, I like to run from station to station and walk from one end of the aid station to the other. I didn’t want to stop every mile, so I planned to stop every three stations or when I needed to refill.

I was moving at a 12 – 13 min mile pace, which is my normal running speed. I didn’t think of the full marathon distance, that would have been overwhelming. Instead, I focused on mile to mile. Everyone around me was walking. Everyone was hurting. I felt good.

As I made my way towards the turnaround, it was a battle to not start walking. It just sounded good. I was tired of running, tired of the effort. My heartrate stayed low – right around 150, so I wasn’t burned out. I was just mentally tired. I had spent three weeks talking myself into the idea that my arm would be good enough to race today, I had spent the last two day talking myself into actually getting in the water this morning. I had about 4 hours of total sleep in the last 48 because I was so stressed out about the swim. I was tired of talking myself into doing things I didn’t want to do.

I knew I would run until the halfway point. I knew that any time I made up there would give me time to do anything I wanted on the way back. This was a low point. I didn’t want to be out here anymore and there was still a long way to go. But I kept going.

Eventually, I saw Doug coming the other way. I was walking up a hill after an aid station. He was having leg pain and actually had been walking the entire way. We hugged, checked in and went on our way. A few minutes later I saw Trevor. He was walking too. We hugged, checked in and went on our way.

I made it to the turn around. It took me about 2 hours and 50 minutes to get there. Not so bad. My last mile was 12 minute pace. As I picked up my special need bag, I thought about continuing to run. I was just about 13 hours and I figured I could finish around 15:30 – 16 if I kept running. I had beat the cutoff and now just had to make it back to the finish line by 17 hours. That gave me 4 hours to cover 13.1 miles.

The turn around was at the bottom of a hill. I believe it had been at the top of a hill or level, I would have kept running. Instead, we started steep uphill and that killed my momenteum. My arm was swelling now and my hand looked like a sausage. I had put an ice pack in my special needs bag, so I popped that and put it on my arm for about 10 minutes as I walked.

What followed was the lowest point of my day and it lasted for hours. There were glimmers during those hours, but it was mostly low point. Physically, I was okay and probably could have ran from aid station to aid station. But mentally, I just didn’t care anymore. Everyone was walking. So I walked too.

Doug had give me and Trevor an M dot (Ironman Logo) temporary tattoo to put on our hand so everytime we looked at our watch, we’d remember what we were doing. Under that I had written these words “whatever it takes”. My friend Diane had texted that to me in the days before Ironman. I looked at that a lot.

I had gotten advice from others too. These things ran through my mind. The advice was: Keep moving forward, don’t ever sit down, when they offer your warm chicken soup broth at the aid stations – take it. As I made my way back, I remembered these things. I started to get cold and worried that I could get too cold. I didn’t want to get disoriented, dizzy or sick. I slowed or sped up my pace as necessary to keep from feeling too badly.

It was still pretty windy and the sun was setting. I wished I still had my coat with me! I started to take soup at aid stations, pretty sure I wouldn’t be running anymore. My pace was 16-17 minute miles. I was offered space blanket at an aid station, the volunteer tied it around me. At the next aid station, I got a second one. I didn’t want to get cold, I didn’t care how I looked. Another racer told me that Lady Gaga would be jealous of my outfit!

I knew that around mile 22 we would be back into town. Until then, it would dark, lonely road. There were still people coming the other way towards the turnaround. Volunteers kept telling them to hurry so they would make the 9 pm cutoff. I was so glad I was where I was and not where they were.

They came by with glow necklaces. All I could see ahead of me was a string of glowing circles moving through the night on our final march. There is a lot of self talk that goes on here and it wasn’t pretty. I thought of things to keep me going. My friend Krista had told me to think of her at the lowest points. I thought of her now. I thought of her walking next to me and it made it better for a while. Then I thought of my friend Diane, the one who said “whatever it takes” and wished she was there to walk with me so we could laugh about how ridiculous this was.

I thought about how I couldn’t wait to be finished. The idea of 3 more hours, two more hours, one more hour to go…was not comforting. 3 hours of walking is a long damn time. Especially after 14 hours of moving. I focused on getting to each mile marker, to each aid station. One step in front of the other.

We finally made it to mile 22, back into town. Houses started to appear. People were in their yards, in lawn chairs, cheering us on. They would strain to see our names on our bibs in the dark. They had been there all day too. At this point, I thought of my friend Sarah. She did Ironman a few months ago and didn’t make the cut off at mile 22. I was going to go the last 4 miles for her.

I wanted to stop, I wanted to quit. It wasn’t really a possibility, but I wanted to. I couldn’t figure out how to quit and still finish. So I kept going. I had written this on a piece of paper and carried it all day: commit. Own it. Finish it.

There was another super low point. At that point I recited the names of all the people who had supported me, who was thinking of me today. I said their names out loud, over and over. I felt their strength and it kept me moving forward.

We hit mile 23 and I started to think I was actually going to make it. For the first time, I believed I would finish. We had been in the merchandise tent on Saturday and I saw all the Ironman Canada gear and I was sad because I worried I wouldn’t finish. I worried I wouldn’t get to buy a jacket that said Ironman. I don’t know that I ever really believed I would do it….until now.

At this point, I thought of all the things I would buy. I thought of the Ironman tattoo I would get. I thought about how I would wear something Ironman everyday for as long into the future as I could imagine.

I made it to mile 25 and saw the finish line. You actually pass the finish line, head out a ways and then back. The out portion went on forever. I heard the announcer say there was 40 minutes left until 17 hours…I was at 16 hours and 20 minutes. I actually worried that I wouldn’t make the cutoff. I could hear the crowd and see the lights.

I made the final turn, it wasn’t long now. At one point, a volunteer said “you have 9 minutes to make it in under 16 hours and 30 minutes, if you run.” Then, some other random guy said to me “want me to run you in”. I said, “not yet”. So he walked with me until we got closer and then we ran. He said “they won’t let me cross the line with you” and I thought “I don’t know you, why would I want you to cross the line with me?” He peeled off and I kept going.

I had thought about how tough this day would be, thought I understood what it was about, thought I knew what people were talking about in their notes, advice and race reports. I can tell you, unless you’ve done this, traveled this journey, you can’t understand. In the next few moments…I understood.

I entered the chute. The spotlight was on me. Thousands of people were cheering, stamping their feet, banging their hands on the barriers that lined the chute. It was exhilarating. I got the chills and the hair on my arms stood on end. They were all there for me. I ran, I smiled, I raised my arms in the air as they put the finishers banner across the line and I ran through it. Done. 16 hours and 30 minutes after I started.

I got my medal, they took my timing chip. I saw Doug and Trevor. Our theme as a team is “We live for Crazy”. I said to them “This is the craziest F*cking thing we’ve ever done”. And it was.

Run Time: 6:31:18

OVERALL TIME: 16:26:48


Sarah said...

I am so incredibly, amazingly proud of you and we've never even met in person. This post made me cry like a baby. Because I know you GET it. You get what it's like to hit those low points and keep going. I just couldn't, and so I am so incredibly proud of you for getting past that wall.

Runner Leana said...

Yeah Tracy, congratulations! You are an Ironman!!!! I agree with you, no one can really understand what it is like until you do one. The feeling of going down the finisher's chute was unlike any other experience. You only get one first Ironman finish....I'm glad you enjoyed your final few steps. You made it!

ncmama said...

Thanks so much for sharing your journey with the rest of us, Tracy! What an incredible experience! Love the banner than waited for you at home. You are an IRONMAN!!!

ibounce said...

Thank you for sharing your day with us. What an incredible experience. I'm glad to have been a sideline supporter and hope that our far off cheering was some help to you. I know it was tough and I am glad you had the time to soak in what was happening and that you could cross the finish line in style! Again congratulations.