Getting out to the run was a relief. At this point, I wasn’t going to get hit, kicked, punched, scratched, drown, or die of dysentery from swallowing canal poop. I wasn’t going to wreck on my bike, get a flat, have my wheel fall off, fall over unclipping, or have to bike around the world to end up on the other side of a freeway. You run or you walk (or crawl, but I was hoping I wouldn’t get to that point), and I had almost a full workday to do a combination of those around the 26.2 mile three loop course.
Assessing the situation after running about a mile and then walking through the first aid station I realized that a) my knee wasn’t thrilled with everything but it was holding up and b) the transition from walking to running was the worst part, so I resolved myself to try to run as long as I could and then take decently long walk breaks (about a mile running then 1/3 mile or so walking fast). My average pace was staying around 12s, so I was fine with how things were progressing.
Let me just say that the run was my favorite part of this race – the course was a PARTY. There was the sexy nurse helping us up the steep dirt hill. There was hippie hollow (and there was no walking in hippie hollow, rules are rules). There was slingshot corner that made you feel like you were in Tour De France with everyone cheering in your face. There were two girls just standing at a random corner (under a floodlight in the dark) in the middle of a hidden trail encouraging everyone. The Moxie crew was out having a dance party and slapping asses. I gave at least a few hundred high fives to random people. I kind of really want to come back next year, not to race (not yet), but to cheer people on because everyone was having SO MUCH FUN.
On the second lap, I made run friends with a gal from Delaware and a guy from Austin who were running together. We were right about the same pace, so I hung with them a while and we chatted, for the life of me, I don’t remember about what, but it made the time pass a little faster. However, we got to a point where handling conversation was hard for me and taking energy instead of helping. Also, while we were the same pace, I realized I needed to run longer and faster than they were shuffling, and then walk longer, I told them to go ahead and I’d catch up.
I went past special needs again around mile 11. I did some math, and figured that leaving my stuff there until mile 19 would be good motivation for me to hurry back and not take too many walk breaks. I ran and walked and ran and walked and kept hearing “Hey Bicycle Sport Shop, your husband’s just a few minutes up ahead” (apparently he stopped a few times and asked spectators to look me up on their trackers and told them to look for me). I hit the 13 mile marker at 2:43 garmin time, which meant I was on track for about 5:30 if I stayed consistent – the top of my expectations! Yay!
If we made our own sign are we our own spectators? 🙂
On the third lap, I got to special needs with about 30 minutes to spare (yay), and I straight plunked down on the ground and had a picnic. I chugged my chicken broth and coconut water, ate some chips, I used my pvc pipe to roll out my back and legs and hips (and then gave it to the volunteers to do the same!), I tied my shirt around my waist, grabbed my headlamp, and got going… like 10-15 minutes later. Oops. Apparently Zliten was just leaving special needs when I got there. We missed each other by just a minute. I might have had a little less tea time if I knew I could have left more quickly and potentially have caught up with him but I also kinda really needed the break.
I was hoping to be able to run most of the rest of the lap after my little picnic, and I got one good mile in after the stop, but about mile 21-22, my knee just kind of let me know it was DONE. So, instead of run/walk, I changed to a 13-15 min/mile powerwalk. I really think that walking a marathon is more painful than run/walking. Not being able to alternate hurt the rest of my body SO MUCH MORE, all I wanted to do was run a little, but every time I tried, my knee was like HAHAHA NOPE! Then, the other knee joined in to the NOPE NOPE NOPE party. Super fun times, but I knew I just needed to press on.
So, I resigned myself to being one of those people you see on the Ironman videos walking in the dark with my glowstick necklace and bracelet (which HAD to be purple, no idea why, but it was VERY important at the time), and just tried to keep it as speedy and with a mission as possible. The last thing I wanted to do was push it too hard and lose the ability to even walk and miss my chance to finish. “I’m not in a hurry” didn’t ring QUITE as true in my ears, because damn, I was ready to be done, but I made myself repeat it while I powerwalked and tried to keep the grumbling to a minimum.
I was popular with my headlamp and had some walk buddies for a while, but due to different paces or bathroom stops, I didn’t stick with anyone for long. I did realize at mile 22, I was sitting in a stinky porta potty longer than necessary just to rest my legs (get up get up GET UP). The bottoms of my feet were on fire and I couldn’t figure out why – I figured out later that I had a giant blister on the pad of each foot, OW, I’m actually thankful that those didn’t come into focus until after the race. Other than that, besides just wanting to be DONE and frustrated that my legs wouldn’t cooperate to make with the running motions instead of walking, I was just doing just fine, taking care of business, enjoying the crowds, and soaking the last bit of my first IM in.
Let’s talk about my stomach and nutrition. I had untold amounts of gatorade and water (but a lot, like *having to pee 3 times* a lot), one coconut water, a cup of coke about every other aid station, salty snacks occasionally when they were available, some fruit, and I had my own chicken broth and two other cups along the way. I had two gels and a full pack of blocks. I took two sets of 303 muscle relaxers (one at the start, one at special needs), one tums because it sounded good, and two salt pills at spec needs. My stomach felt rock solid the entire run. My only fail was a little bit of self-flagellation on the last 5 miles (if you can’t run you totally don’t need nutrition, right?) but other than that, I couldn’t be happier with how everything but my cranky knees held up.
I wish I had 27.5 miles of 8:30 min/mile pace. That’s a 5k for me on a really good day…
Let’s also talk about my garmin being EXTREMELY rude. For the first two loops, it was significantly behind. For example, I’m hitting the 14 mile marker and my garmin is saying 13.5. The last lap, at some point it completely flipped the other way and at mile 23, it said 23.5. I tried to stop looking at my garmin because I knew the course signs were probably right, but by the end, it had me pegged at 27.5 miles…. ><.
I hit the waterway, the crowd support starting to thin out a *little* nearing 10pm, but there was still a lot going on, which helped keep me going. I did the down, over, saw Zliten heading to the finish and got a hug, then around, rang the last lap bell with fervor, and finally when I made the turn with a quarter mile to go, I started running. Eff it. My knees could deal, I wasn’t walking across the finish line.
The finish line is pretty magical and TOTALLY worth it. You feel like a rockstar. Hundreds of people are cheering for you, you get the cool red carpet, the lights are bright, the music is loud, and as Mike Reilly calls you an Ironman, you look and feel a lot like this.
Run time: 6:28:04
Total time: 15:56:12
The run was almost 30 mins slower than expected, just like everything else was a little slower than expected. I really had pegged my finish time to be between 14-15 hours on a good day. I can nitpick how crappy my swim form was in the washing machine and how I can maybe stay in aero more and have the wind suck less on the bike and try and HTFU a little more on the run, and for eff’s sake, maybe take less of a nap in transitions (and porta potties and special needs…) next time. None of that matters. This time, I got my money’s worth and got to savor almost 16 hours of playing triathlon in The Woodlands and then I got to join the exclusive Ironman club at about 10:45pm on Saturday, April 22nd, 2017.
Joining the club means a shit-eating grin on my face and being deliriously happy at my volunteer catcher. She got me my finisher shirt and hat and some water, and then I went to look for Zliten who sent me back in the picture line and we got pictures together where I just look crazy eyed and sunburnt and bloated and probably won’t buy for 30 bucks each but it was VERY important we did that, apparently. Then, my salvation… the crappy post race slice of cheese pizza. I ate three. It was everything.
The rapid recovery boot people had chairs open, so we ducked in and now THIS was the best thing ever in life. Then we got our morning clothes bags and I bundled back up in my fleece and pjs, and we made the trek back to T1 to get all our bagsbagsbagsbagsbags. We had originally planned on walking it all back together but it was a LOT OF CRAP and bikes so I stayed with our mound of stuff and Zliten got the car (thankfully, he got someone to give him a ride back to the garage). Next time, we’ll stick a key somewhere else we’ll have at the finish so we don’t have to do that.
Late night post race noms. Notice the bottle opener. Ironman wanted to prepare us for the next week of beer drinking…
I was prepared for some ugly stomach stuff, either RAVENOUS hunger or extreme distress, and I had neither. I had an easy mac, watermelon, chips and a beer when I got back to the hotel room at 1:30am, but my fueling and hydration was on point enough that I drifted off to sleep and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night starving. I ate two big meals and snacks the next day, and some more beer. Monday was probably the worst of it, where I ate a meal and then immediately wanted another one, but by Tuesday, I got a burger and had to split it into lunch and dinner (with a salad) because it was too much food.
I was prepared to undertake some extremely low points, to have it feel like a long and terrible day. I was just amazed at how much my training, which I thought was on the minimal side of things, prepared me. The swim was rough, but at least I wasn’t swimming into the chop at Pflugerville for 2 hours. Biking into the wind was mentally draining, but it wasn’t like rolling the 6 hour Pace Bend loop 14 times in the wind and the rain and the cold or climbing hills into similar gusts on 360 and Bee Caves halfway into my first century ride. That TERRIBLE marathon I walked a lot of last year taught me that if your body starts to give out, just keep going towards the finish as fast as you can however you can. I didn’t ever think about never wanting to swim again, throwing my bike away, or only running 5ks in the future. In fact, I think I figured out why people really love Ironman races and I’m pretty sure even at the finish line I was plotting my return.
I was also prepared to have some sort of mental revelation or religious experience or feel different or whatever, but I honestly don’t. Yes, it was a damn big deal to finish this race. I had convinced myself otherwise the day before “well, if *I’m* doing it, it’s not a big thing” and I realized at the end that it was indeed a huge accomplishment. But it wasn’t just Saturday that changed me.
It was that after this last 4 months, training for a half ironman will never feel quite as long ever again. It was becoming a cyclist vs a scaredy triathlete that bikes outside very very occasionally. It was conquering my first century ride, after a few failed attempts. It was running 20 miles and getting up to ride bikes the next day. It was those long days where I triathloned from sun up to after sun down and pushed my limits beyond comprehension. This was really just a celebration, and a validation, of all that work, that it was enough, that I was enough, to travel 140.6 miles on my own volition in under 17 hours.