Of course, I forgot to un-velcro my shoes to slip them out for a "flying dismount"as I pedaled away from conquering the punchy climbs of Chemin Duplessis and back into the village area for transition. I know hassling about seconds in an ironman might be a tad silly, but it is also such an annoyance (and tripping risk) running in clunky bike cleats. I did not know what my bike split was because I had turned my Garmin on and off so frequently but nonetheless, I was confident it had gone well. I knew I had paced it very well and spun up the hills rather than mashing gears like I did in the half iron. I was fueled, hydrated and feeling fantastic and looking forward to my favorite and typically the easiest part for me...the ironman run.
I clunked with my awkward bike shoes still on, careful not to slip and get hurt over to my T2 gear bag and bolted to the changing tent opening, where some SWIFT acting volunteers quickly moved and... blocked my way? Ooooooh, I had been headed straight to the MEN's changing tent and they were sparing me from becoming the SCANDAL of IMMT, haha! Seriously, I need to FOCUS on where I am going when transitioning between sports as this is the second time I've rushed to the wrong place. I swear that I was just in a hurry and wasn't trying to be a peeping Tom-ette! WHOOPS! Sorry guys...
Men's T2 Tent
Ok, back to reality... I had packed too much extra stuff "just in case." I brought my fleet fox Coeur run shorts and tank, but since my body felt great and I had zero chafing or clothing related issues after 112 miles of bike racing (yeaaaah seam free shorts!!), I was able to save time and stay in the same clothes. I popped off my bike shoes, decided to opt for socks, slipped on my run shoes, my visor, and grabbed my race number belt. I also grabbed a bunch of yummy packs of gels and a plastic flask that contained my Osmo Nutrition preload mix and stuffed it all..down my top so I could buckle my belt and get settled on the run. Many had volunteers helping them in T2, but I didn't get one who could help me organize myself, although someone did spray me down with sunblock just as I was putting my items back in my bag...nice detail! : ) Despite all the disorder in my bags, I was out pretty quickly and ready for the run.The RUN:
First order of business, reset the watch to run mode, settle into a nice steady pace and drink my Osmo Preload which is a hyper-hydrater full of salt. I definitely prefer this salty mixture to taking salt pills. You can't taste the salt in the pills, and that is not fun. Its better for me than eating pringles in the ironman, which is what I used to do to appease my taste bud's ironman crazed salt cravings. I get so hungry during ironman racing! : ) I had memorized the run paces my coach had told me to hit, which would have landed me a sub 4 marathon time and I was feeling primed to execute on it.
The ironman was simply two loops of the 70.3 course with a few rollers to start, a slight decline for 3 miles down a skinny run trail and then 3 miles back up the false flat, across a packed dirt trail, back into the shop lined streets and up and down to a quiet road with brutal rollers whose intimidating hilly terrain was alleviated slightly with stunning views of the mountain range. Then back into the village, through the cobblestone crowd lined street and back out for round 2. I was ready.
I held back intentionally in the first stretch where excitement and confidence in my legs often gets the best of me.
I had memorized a list of 26 people who were a part of my journey with the finish being for ME. With some people, I had told them, "I'll run a mile in your honor," others I had let them pick a mile number and they knew I'd be running for them as a fun "game." My work team especially had a lot of fun with this, with one woman saying, "I hope you'll think of me mocking you at mile 25!" (I did) and the other demanding a "fast" mile (His was 8:37 pace). Others, I haven't told they were on my list, but nonetheless, I did not run "alone" as I felt accountable to a new person in my life every mile. I felt the power of the support of a community of people behind me...not just other athletes...but everyone.
I was very focused and felt the energy of the other athletes around me as we were all working hard towards the same goal all with different backgrounds and reasons..."suffering" together while competing. I do love that collective feeling in crowded run races. The path was skinny and around 3 miles in, the balls of my feet started to feel...warm...then really HOT. I felt like I was running on hot coals. I pushed forward and fueled well staying hydrated. Soon, I was feeling sharpness with each step. My pace dropped a tad and I just kept running through. MY HR was a bit low...high zone 1/low zone 2 but not due to fatigue...my feet were hurting. I was frustrated because by mile 7...the pain was stabbing. I was running on hot balls of broken glass and I wanted to "pull over" to inspect my toes/foot pads but there was really zero shoulder on the skinny path. Eventually I did stop in some awkward long weeds off the path and removed my shoes. I did have the thick callouses that I thought were "toughening up" my toes for barefoot running, but I didn't see any cuts or blisters. My toes were cramped so I stretched them and continued to run. The stretching allowed me to run, although I had to employ the maternity style breathing my friend who had taken pregnancy class had learned. I tried to breath the pain out of my body. I tried to run outside myself and not think of my feet.
I tried to be logical. My legs were not fatigued. My cadence was still 90. My HR was fine. My nutrition was OK. My plantar fascia/heel arch felt OK. It was landing on hot balls of broken glass. I thought perhaps my feet were swollen from the toe covers on the bike. I began to stop every mile, take off my shoes, stretch my toes as more and got discouraged as more runners passed me. At one point my good friend Mark Bare appeared in the crowd. At this point I was running with pain tears in my eyes. He asked what was going on and was like, "I'm having toe cramps. I can't believe my feet are doing this! My body feels great otherwise. My HR is fine and I'm running 8:40
I reached that DISCOVERY moment....that moment in ironman where I need to dig deep inside myself. That moment where the truth comes out. The inevitable point where circumstance, dreams and mental/physical fatigue collide to a precise discovery of personal truth. The ironman does this. I had planned for it. I thought I'd be upset about a number of scenarios but never expected the run to bring this out. In the damp grass with cramped toes and goals on the line...it was an emotional deluge and I was fighting a desire to quit. The fatigue wasn't there...but the pain in my feet and weight of disappointment was STRONG. It is in these long course moments, I discover what matters. I must know WHY I am doing this and what is important when it falls apart.
Was it the comeback from injury or the GOAL to hit a time of 11:25 to 11:35? No. When I was stretching my toes and ready to just walk to the finish and give it all up because the pain in my feet was excruciating, I knew...my racing is actually bigger than me, at least this one. I certainly get a lot out of the sport personally and I love it and want to accomplish my goals and I think that is why I race...but its not just about me. In that moment with my toes in agony and racers slipping past and over a half marathon left to go...things became emotional..yet clarity was also reached. I thought of a vague someone out there... a woman who I believe needs to see me succeed and that every stroke, pedal and step is not only about what I have overcome, but also about being the example for her...for them...so that she will know that she is going to be OK. When everything is unclear and painful, she can maybe see a clear example of someone else who was strong and has been there and she can be inspired to trust herself. It may not be fully clear here as I am being vague... but in that moment, I had clarity of thought. I cannot directly help her, but by doing what I love, and pushing through, I am one tiny piece of a force that might one day connect for her. If I am stable and confident and push hard through all the obstacles before me. It is like an allegory for her journey too. That is my WHY...at least on this day, that is what I thought of. It was pure and deep and I stood up and recommitted to a revised plan.
I was ready...again. I ran next to pro Amber (on her 2nd loop) for a little stretch and let her know how inspiring and tough she is. I tried to focus on my surroundings and distract myself from the pain. At the half way point, I went to special needs bags we had pre-packed. I thought perhaps if my toes had more room in the toe box, they would calm down so I removed my orthodics placing them in the bags with hope that running with no insoles would help. This was a long shot, but it sadly made it worse. However, things picked up for me after special needs when I continued down the path. So many people had run past and I found myself alone with no other athlete in sight before a few turns. I thought I had taken a "wrong" turn again and was headed for the finish chute on accident. I actually stopped and asked the crowd for guidance as I thoguht I missed a turn off and didn't realize we get to run down the cobblestone streets stacked on either side with crazed ironman fans TWICE. A English speaking person pointed to keep going and veer right with the finish being left. I kept going, swallowing pain and experienced something amazing...I saw my family ahead in their Team Hadiaris attire and I heard my name being called...THIS moment was plenty of emotional fuel for the remaining half of the race. How awesome was THIS?!
If you are reading on a phone and cannot see the video, my family convinced the crowd around them to cheer for eachother's athletes by NAME..so as I came through, the entire crowd knew my name and was cheering me on!
The remainder of the run was not about "racing" others like it was supposed to be. It was about running for at least one mile or until the pain was too deblilitating, stretching for no more than 60 seconds and repeating this pattern until the very end. The skinny path was more congested with many walkers in the 2nd half. I didn't think...I just focused hard on the finish and took in a lot of fuel. I was sad they ran out of coke, but I kept going. Finally, I reached the familiar crowd lined cobblestone path again and had enough in me to run happy through the finish, getting teary eyed only after I crossed.
I did it! I was ready! I was stable. I overcame a lot leading into and ON the day and I was proud. Nothing compares to that FEELING of persevering and crossing that line!
My final time was eleven hours and thirty two minutes! 11:32! HUGE
My run was 4:03, a marathon PR for me despite all the stops with the 2nd half one minute faster than the first half.
I was 13th in my AGE group.
I shaved one hour and fourteen, yes 1:14 off my old ironman PR!
This was the RACE of my LIFE and I am GRATEFUL to everyone...everyone who helped me along the way. Especially my husband and family who believe we are doing this together. I am so happy!
One year ago today, I had been misdiagnosed with a Jones Fracture after being on crutches and in a walking boot from a slip and fall...I had written a message to my coach, full of stress but also of hope. I was saying I hoped to look back in a year and have completed IMMT as there was uncertainty given all my injuries if that would be realisitic. I didn't just complete it. I crushed it... WE crushed it. We, being everyone involved in my journey...my family, my friends, my healthcare providers, the Woodlake gym team, everyone who tracked me online as I felt your pull, my tri pals, my starbucks baristas (4:30AM workouts!), my work peers, my coaches...other people's coaches who helped me along the way, my teammates, & Couer Sports team for believing in me. If you are reading this, you are part of my journey too, so THANK YOU!
The remainder in MT was basking in the glow of accomplishment and of course, spending time with my RVA friends, my family and of course, catching up with my Coeur Sports teammates for a post race get together to share our "heart and courage" race story adventures!
PS: I found out my foot pain was from the callouses that created a temporary compression nueropathy in the balls of my feet and I'm dealing with "metatarsalgia" which involves inflammation. It is expected to resolve...hopefully before worlds. I've had to water run for my recovery and transition to my next race... 70.3 Worlds!
I've also hired a new coach for 2015! We won't start until later this fall...but I am already SUPER Excited for my NEXT ironman race.