One of these days I am going to get this right! The marathon of the Ironman. Running is my passion. I have been a runner since I was a young girl. I have always loved it. In 2010, I couldn’t WAIT to get to the marathon of Ironman Coeur d’Alene. That’s where my magic would happen. We won’t go back and talk about how not
magical that day was was.
Canada…my time to redeem what had happened in 2010.
My run training was kicking butt! Aside from the fact that… I trained only 9 weeks for Canada. I almost didn’t race, and literally at the 11th hour, called a friend and coach of mine, to see if we could salvage this Ironman in any way. We had 9 weeks, start to finish. 7 training weeks, and 2 weeks of taper. **Now (disclaimer) I do not, and would not suggest this training plan to anyone. AND, I am not coming from a seat on my couch into this training. I had an incredibly strong base to start with. So, I went into this race thinking “just finish” and “what can I push my body to do?”
So back to the story~ Off of the bike into T2, I was feeling great! My bike had been awesome, and I had tons of gas in the tank, my body feeling awesome! In T2, I talked to myself…..talked through the fact that even though my training had not been as it should, I was feeling GREAT! I felt strong, had hit my long runs, but was a little concerned that my longest run had been 17-miles. HOW. WAS. I. GOING. TO. PULL. OUT. ANOTHER. NINE. MILES? But I trusted my training.
This time in transition, I did have a “personal attendant” She was sweet, and we talked about Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3. She was wearing the visor from this years race. I commented and let her know that I would be racing there next year. (My first 70.3) Yes, I do things backward! As I changed, she told me her story about her race….that’s all I remember. Not the story…but that she told me about it….and wanted to keep telling me about it, as I was trying to leave transition. HAHA! Three things were going through my mind at this point; 1. I felt GREAT! 2. Don’t forget to hit the water station on the way out to fill my Napalm flask, and 3. Ummm….the friend I caught on the bike was probably out of transition (BOYS! They are so much faster) and there needed to be a little chase down!
Right out of T2, I saw my friend who was volunteering. I ran towards her, screaming and fist pumping until I got to her embrace. We hugged and jumped up and down, screaming! What a great moment! It’s moments like that during these races that are unforgettable. It’s something you carry with you. Something, you dig out of your heart pocket later on when you need a pep-talk, and a reason to keep moving forward.
I rounded the corner back down the Lake Drive. This part of the course at the beginning of the run is so fantastic. Lined with spectators, cow bells, horns, kids running all over, people waving their signs, and one of the best places to see family and friends. It’s lined with restaurants full of cheering “fans.” This part is also one of the hardest parts (for me) because when you are finishing, you run RIGHT past the finishers chute, and have this one-mile loop heading away from the finish, back out, then turn around to head back to the finish. It’s bittersweet.
Along the first part as I was heading into this little loop, I saw so many friends. People who had made the drive up to Canada, JUST to cheer us on. Again, seeing people you know, means the World. I came up to the turn around, and the first timing mat, and saw my family. Screaming, and jumping up and down! I stopped for photo ops, sweaty hugs, and to chit chat for a brief second. I told them, I was feeling SO great. Running on dead legs (that is to be expected and I know that goes away) but over-all I was feeling like a million bucks! They then let me know….that our friend, was right ahead of me. They told me, “you have to go catch him!” **I love living in this town. There are a lot of triathletes. All of them our friends (even if you don’t know one another, there is that bond). It is so nice to have healthy competition! So….with a little wave, I was off. I caught up to my friend, and chatted for a minute. We laughed because I think he knew, I was coming to chase him down. Then, I was off!
I knew that people had said this run course was “challenging” I had driven in a few weeks prior when my friends and I came up to ride the bike course. It was challenging. Some really good hills! But I like that type of run course. It was also beautiful, with sections along the lake, that I knew would take my mind off of any issues that would plague me.
My first 3-4 miles, I felt so good!! I was keeping a great pace. Smiling, waving and talking to spectators and people on the course. That is another wonderful thing about racing. The people you meet along the way. I cannot say this enough! I was, at this point thinking to myself, that this race was going to be amazing, with the way I felt. I tried to keep on my target pace, per my coaching and training, but a few times was having a hard time keeping my pace under control. I felt THAT good! Then, out of nowhere…pain! Pain, in my ribs, pain in my lower abdomen. Not sickness, but stabbing. I blew it off for a few minutes, until it hit again, so hard that it stopped me in my tracks, and doubled me over.
I stood back up, and walked a few steps. I felt alright, so I started to run again. WHAM! Hit again. Doubled over. I really could not figure out what was going on. I stood up again, and walked. Feeling better, I started a slow jog, and again, one after another after another, these stabbing pains in my ribs and lower belly. I could tell that they weren’t necessarily from GI distress. I have been down THAT road before. This was different.
I decided I just needed to walk a while. I had a young girl (maybe early 20’s) walk up to me…we talked. This was her first triathlon. The 2nd woman I had met on this course, that this was their first, ever triathlon. WOW! She was struggling a bit also with some leg pain. It’s nice to have someone to commiserate with. We decided we would try running a bit, but it ended for both of us quickly. We tried to stay positive and encourage one another. Again, we ran, and stopped. This continued for probably another mile. A very long, excruciating mile! Then…like magic, her leg cramps disappeared. She was sweet, and said, she felt bad to leave me. “Are you kidding me? GO!!” “Rock the rest of this race!” My words to her. I hope, she had a fantastic finish. I never saw her again. I dropped her story, pain and gratitude into my heart pocket.
I started to become really down, somewhere around 10 miles. This was a disaster, and I just could not figure out what was going on. I kept stopping at aide stations, port-potties (thinking maybe….that was the problem) but noting was helping. Just before mile 11ish, I just couldn’t take it. I sat down. I had literally just passed a man, laying in the dirt, curled up into a tiny ball, writhing around. I stopped and asked if he was alright, and did I need to flag down medical. He moaned, and said no. This is the thing about Ironman, these althletes are some of the toughest people I have met. That utter will to finish at all cost. That determination, fortitude, courageousness, bravery, and resolve is like none other. I could tell this man, in pain and in the dirt, was going to pull it together and finish! As I sat on the road, everyone that passed me asked about my well-being. Kind, good-natured, merciful people..all concerned about their fellow racers. My heart was sinking at this point. I really was uncertain that I would be able to finish. Tears pricked my eyes. I had COMPLETELY blew my time! I was sad, angry and unforgiving to myself. Medical came up to me, and asked how I was and if I was done with my race. “Paula, are you done with your race?” Am I? I shook my head, no, and he asked if I could please stand up and walk with him a few steps. I did, and when we reached his bike, I didn’t stop. He yelled to me, to have a great rest of my race. I just kept walking with my head down.
Another aide station…I stopped and went into the Porta-potty, and just sat there. It was steaming hot in there, and I just sat. Then….all of a sudden, I hear it…my husbands Scooter!! NO WAY! He’s out on the course, driving and looking for me. I came bursting out of the potty to see him disappearing around the corner. I was about to lose it from sadness. I just needed to see him. My heart broke! I walked through the rest of the aide station in a fog. I heard a few people ask if I was ok…I ignored them. I was in misery. Still in pain, still unable to run, and now…my biggest fan just missed me. I took a tiny sip of water at this aide station. The 1st one in a while.
It seemed like forever before I saw my husband. He had driven out to the turn around, Run Special Needs, and was a little concerned he said, when he didn’t see me. Thank goodness he had to come back. This run is a out and back. He stopped and I told him, I just wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue on. I walked and he rode in the road next to me. I wanted to just hop on the back of his scooter, and be done with this whole thing. He told me, our friend who I had passed at the start of our run was not doing well either. Same issue as me, and was not far behind me, but was struggling as well, and was considering stopping. I continued walking. Hubs said he was going to ride up to special needs and wait for me. He left. I wasn’t sure, truthfully, if I would make it to special needs.
I plodded along, meeting another woman walking who told me this was her 2nd Ironman. After the first one she said she would never do it again. Then….her best friend developed cancer, and it was her goal to overcome cancer, and complete an Ironman. She told me with tears in her eyes of the journey of her friend. Her surgery, radiation and chemo. About her incredible braveness to be undergoing chemo, but making the decision to sign up, train and race IM Canada. More and more of their friends jumped on board, and there were a whole group of them racing, honoring their friend’s fight to make it to the start, and ultimately to her first Ironman finish. As we walked, she told me how sore she was, and that every part of her wanted to give up, but she just couldn’t. “Look what my friend has gone through…if she is still out here, we are still out here!”
Again…another story I tucked into my heart pocket, and continued forward.
As I came down the hill towards special needs, I had that familiar pang of wanting to stop, but then thinking, there are only 13.1 more miles to go. I had come 127.5 miles….was I really going to stop, or was I going to will myself on, remembering the stories, not beat myself up for blowing my run time, for allowing myself to show some grace to my body and soul for being a “runner” who was not running on this day?
I got into special needs, and almost to the timing mat and turn around, when from out of nowhere my friends BOUNDED in front of me over the mat, and said, “I’m gonna beat you!” And over that timing mat he went! It made me laugh so hard! And I felt happy, that he must be feeling better. I saw my hubs and sat down with him with my SN bag. I took my shoes off and noticed the huge blisters covering the entire bottom of my right foot, a blister along the right edge of my foot, and wrapped up around my pinky toe. My last two toes on the right foot were also red and bleeding at the cuticle. No wonder my feet had started to hurt. I changed my socks, and put some BioFreeze on my feet. That stung, but cooled them down, and it felt incredible. I got up, took a sip of water and told my hubs that I was going to try to make it one more mile to the next aid station. I handed him my 2nd gel flask, because I knew I wasn’t going to use it. I wasn’t taking in any nutrition at the time, and just couldn’t. I had managed in the first 13 miles to down my Napalm, but barely. He said, “are you sure you want me to take it?” Knowing he could not give it back to me if I needed it on the course. On course help during an Ironman (besides the aid they provide) will get you DQ’ed. I had him take it, and off he went to meet me at mile 14. BIG Mistake!
As I watched him ride back up the hill out of special needs, I wanted to bawl!! People cheering me on were not helping. I was so miserable! I hated ever step I took. I hated everything about Ironman. I was mad at myself, mad at my body, mad at my mind, mad that I hadn’t trained harder, mad that I had decided to race at the last minute, and just irritated about the whole RIDICULOUSNESS of an Ironman race! And I was sad, for all of the above reasons. Such an overwhelming stream of emotions.
And then something dawned on me….I had barely had any water! ~To be Con’t