Just in case anyone is wondering, after a long swim followed by a long bike ride pretty much the last thing one generally feels like doing is running a marathon. My first thought in fact when I stepped out onto the run course was “Holy $hit, I have to do what now?” I decided to just walk for a little bit to get my legs warmed up. My stomach wasn’t feeling great, so I just decided to ease into the whole marathon thing.
The course is initially a little confusing to those of us in a slightly befuddled state, as you go out of the transition area and then towards the finish line with the folks that are about to finish and then it does a 90 degree turn away from the finish line, you do this out and back for approx 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile and then the folks who are about to finish continue across the line and the rest of us poor bastards head out for the rest of the run. (Believe me, it’s pretty obvious who’s who! ;-D)
A lady from Houston came up next to me during the out and back and told me she was running one minute/walking one minute if I’d like to join her. I figured that would be as good a motivation to get moving as anything so I did. My stomach was very side-stitchy and crampy, but I could tough out the one-minute intervals and it felt less lame than just walking. Eventually, though she was running a bit faster than was comfortable for me and I was finding her chatter a bit annoying, so I let her get ahead of me.
I continued my run/walk intervals on my own timing and just tried not to think about the length of the run left ahead of me. I stupidly tried the cola they had on the course, which was not a good idea and my fuel belt kept bumping on my stomach and making me very unhappy. Finally, I took the fuel belt off and held it in my hand as I ran/walked. I knew that T, M & J were going to be on the course around the four mile mark and I was looking forward to seeing them and getting rid of my fuel belt.
Before I knew it, I saw them up ahead. I was not feeling great and was trying to put a brave face on, but they all know me well enough to see through that. I dropped my fuel belt on the ground in front of T (you aren’t supposed to hand things to people, so we were going with the “hey, if they’re scavengers and pick up my garbage, then I can’t do anything about that… ” They clearly wanted me to start running and were the perfect amount of annoying to get me to do so – threatening terrible music up ahead to get through and ringing cowbells at me. M made some remark that made me give her the finger (sorry Mom!) but I did start running – which made them cheer wildly.
And just like that, I was off…
As you can see from the picture above, the air was hazy with smoke from area wildfires. It was also fairly humid. But I wasn’t bothered by the smoke (growing up in Southern California has it’s benefits) and the run course goes next to a lake for much of it, so even the humidity wasn’t too bad. I was finding a nice pace with run 4 minutes/walk 1 intervals and the mile markers were starting to tick by. I saw Andrea coming back as I was going out and she looked great. I also saw my friend Jess outside the campground where we’d stayed last year. Seeing their smiling faces kept me going, (not to mention the course official who told me I needed to be at the run turnaround by 9:00.)
Then a little ways up the road, I heard a very familiar, very loud cowbell and came upon Erin’s boyfriend David and her friend Tiffany in their jeep parked along the lake. They looked like this, only at dusk and along a lake:
David rang the crazy loud cowbell for me most enthusiastically and I could hear it for quite some time after I passed him. It was growing steadily darker as I got closer to the turnaround point and I was looking forward to picking up my headlamp and keeping an eye out for Erin. Race personnel were handing out glowsticks and I saw Erin as she was getting hers. I called her name and she came over to give me a hug. We were both feeling pretty rough, but hanging in there.
As darkness fell, I made it to the run turnaround. I saw my cheering squad, told them I’d be right back (ha ha!) and picked up my special needs bag. I’d grabbed the bag and stopped in a porta-potty, so I missed the place where I was supposed to drop it off. I figured I’d just give it to T, so I kept going. Here’s me emerging out of the darkness:
This is what I was smiling at:
With the addition of M, who walked along side me for a little while being encouraging. I was not feeling good at all, so it was nice to have some friendly faces around. But I had to finish this race, so I had to start running again and leave them behind. I tried to find run/walk intervals that I could sustain, and did pretty well for a little while. The headlamp was a godsend, as I’d run with it all winter, following the little spot of light ahead of me on the ground was comforting and it allowed me to keep running.
Somewhere around the 18 mile mark, my stomach started really not feeling well. I stopped by the side of the road and threw up in the darkness. I’d taken a chance and tried the pepsi at the aid station, so I figured it hadn’t set well. I was hoping that my stomach would start to feel better, since I’d heard that sometimes happened. Since it was my stomach that had been holding me back more than my legs, I’d be able to run much more comfortably if it eased up.
Alas, that was not to be and my running intervals got shorter and the walking intervals got longer. By now, I was back in town and it was nice to be amongst the street lights and civilization again. I was wishing I could run more, but my body was just not having it. I’d try to run short intervals and my stomach would shut that idea right down. I still had five or so miles to go and I was feeling pretty miserable. And to make matters worse, I looked ahead to see these shady customers on a street corner (you’ll have to imagine M with them snapping pictures for the full visual):
It’s really hard to see your friends when you are feeling like crap and know that you still have what still feels like a long way to go (even if it’s only four miles) You want to see your friends when you’re running and feeling awesome so you can give them a thumbs up or a jaunty wave as you sprint by. Not stagger past like some sort of zombie and hope you don’t barf on them. I tried to put on a good face, but they weren’t fooled at all. (I can’t imagine anyone would have been, even if they had just met me.) I handed off my headlamp to T, since I didn’t need it any more.
I know it was hard on them to see me like that and I could see the worry in their expressions. Not making matters any better was the state of the folks around me. There was a woman that I’d passed who was walking bent sideways at a nearly 90-degree angle, holding her side in obvious pain. She apparently collapsed onto the curb as she passed T, M & J and they signaled the ambulance that had been following behind her. All of this happened behind me, so I didn’t actually see it but it added to the general sense of how intense and crazy this event is at the back of the pack.
I tried to run/walk between the light posts – run to one light post, walk to the next. There were sporadic groups of spectators sitting on the street and cheering. As I passed two guys, I suddenly realized I was about to throw up again. I tried to make it as far from the two guys as possible because I didn’t think they deserved that. This time my body was clearly trying to get rid of every bit of liquid, which needless to say is a little scary when you still have three miles left to walk. (Oh, and to the spectator who told me I was “almost done.” and “Good job” WHILE I was barfing – F-you!) Plus, now when I’d try to run I’d get a sharp pain in my side that felt like my rib was stabbing me in the kidney. So, I tried to walk as fast as I could and get this thing over with.
After what felt like an eternity (and getting way too close to midnight for my comfort) I rounded the final corner toward the finish line. My cheering squad was there and were so great. T came alongside me and encouraged my poor miserable self as I staggered along:
By now, I just wanted to be done and stop moving. But as I got to the end of the street and made the left turn away from the finish line that I’d made at the start of this adventure, it looked like forever. That jaunty half mile out and back looked like five miles, at least. Plus, you could hear the announcer talking about how we only had 20 minutes until midnight and they wanted to cheer as many folks in as they could. It seemed impossible that I’d make it all that way, even though intellectually I knew it wasn’t that far.
I could see a pair of racers ahead of me and as I trudged along, I willed them to get to the turnaround. Finally, misery and the desire to be finished drove me to try running again. I’d make it about five steps before the rib stabbing and general stomach distress would force me to return to walking. But repeating that a few times helped me get to the turnaround quicker and pass the people ahead of me.
Before I knew it, I was at the big arch that entered the finishing chute. I was hoping it wasn’t too far to the line, but beyond that I didn’t give too much thought about it. But as I crossed through that arch, the world completely changed – from dark to light, quiet to noisy and solitary to overwhelmingly crowded. There were floodlights and grandstands that were overflowing with people who were cheering as loud as they could. People were reaching out to high-five me and I listed to the left side of the chute to oblige them. (Unfortunately, all of my friends and well-wishers were on the right hand side. Boo!) M got a photo of me in the chute that gives some idea of the vibe:
Finally, I crossed the line and finished the race. They apparently had a big screen so people in the stands could see and M got a few pictures of me on the big screen:
After I crossed the line, someone put a medal around my neck (which proceeded to bang against my stomach) and a volunteer rushed out to help me. She helped me get my t-shirt and some water:
I couldn’t believe I was finally done:
And then I got to give T a big hug:
And regaled them with some story or another:
(I can’t believe I had enough energy for that.) I went over to where you got your picture taken and then joined my cheering squad for a little sit-down on the grass. My gang had my after race bag and were eagerly trying to anticipate what I’d need/want. The first order of business was to change out of my running shoes for the ugly but comfortable Crocs:
I was overwhelmed with the enormity of what I’d been through and how much tougher it was than I’d been expecting:
And then a little friend came over to congratulate me:
After a little rest, I felt like I could walk the few blocks to the car. Unfortunately, I made it about ten steps before I needed to sit down again (all right, maybe lay down.) So T stayed with me while M&J went to bring the car in closer. I felt like I was on the downward slide of a really bad night of drinking – my stomach was a mess, my head was spinning and everything was sort of incomprehensible. But I made it home without any unpleasant incidents in M’s car.
Erin was still up and recovering on the couch when we got home, so she and I compared race notes while I sipped some ginger ale and had a few boiled potatoes. Everyone was exhausted, so one by one they went off to bed. T sat with me while I took an Epsom Salt bath and had some more ginger ale and then it was off to bed for us. Ironman day was over at last.