Monday, July 13, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene RR, part 3

TRANSITION TWO (3:28)

I ran under the BIKE IN banner and yelled, “Which way?”

I had little time to think about my legs or stomach as the awesome volunteers pointed me in the correct direction – past the cheering spectators on the left, around the bike transition zone on the right, and then onto the basketball court that had become the ‘holding place’ for our T2 bike-to-run gear bags. Coming upon rows and rows and rows of gear bags, I made the mental note to attach a GIANT balloon to mine in the future.

Dorky as it would have looked to see The Roadrunner billowing in the wind, I would have known exactly where my bag was.

I yelled, “2059!” and again, someone escorted me and helped to find my bag. I hoped over a few rows and sorted through five or six bags before I found the right one. And before I could stop to gather my thoughts, I found my feet and “sprinted” towards the tent.

“In here!” two women cried as I made a bee-line towards the Men’s Changing Tent. Yeah – I’ve realized that after spending 7+ hours of racing, my uptake isn’t quite as quick as it normally is. Nice.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rob book it into his tent. Good, I noted to myself, he’s off the bike, safe and sound…

In spite of the outside gloom, it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark tent. I quickly chose a seat on the far left towards the entrance and dumped out my bag. The volunteer that seated herself next to me was extremely patient and helpful as I began changing.

You can’t lose an Ironman in transition, You can’t lose an Ironman in transition – I reminded myself as I began changing from my bike gear to run gear.

In order to mentally tackle the marathon hurdle, I had decided that a complete wardrobe change was in order. Glancing across the folding chairs, I noticed the gal decked in pick bike attire was doing the same. Funny, I though, I’m going from blue shorts and a blue top on the bike to blue shorts and a white top for the run.

I noticed a few other girls in transition as well, but tried to keep the focus on ME.

For a millisecond I contemplated not taking off my bike short due to modesty – but scratched the idea. I apologized to the volunteer and quickly said, “I’m so sorry, but I’m doing a complete change – could you please hand me my running shorts?”

I don’t think my bike shorts ever came off so quick – but hey, you do what you gotta do. Very quickly I replaced my bike top with my run top and then changed from wet socks to dry socks. And then I remembered my heart rate monitor strap. While my hr had been instrumental on the bike, Jen and I had decided that I should not use it for the run. I knew it would be high at times – but I had done so many long runs and my pace had been basically the same…I figured my body would just know what to do. So OFF with the hr strap, to be seen only after the race was completed.

Next up – the volunteer asked if I wanted to use any of, “These things…?”

She held up one (of many) plastic bags with my Biore Facial Clensing Cloths (yes! And they also work for removing the remnants of dried throw up from your arms and shoulders! Double yea!), and then another tampon-filled baggie, and yet another baggie filled with Midol and ibuprofen.

My cramps didn’t feel too bad – and I didn’t want to take any more time than absolutely necessary. I knew that I hadn’t packed anything for my Run Special Needs, but still it didn’t seem absolutely necessary. Besides, I had already had enough of “new things” via the dried cranberries – who knows what weird side effect the Midol could have prompted? Knowing my luck, I would probably throw up more.

“Just the gels, please! And hat – thanks!” I commented while double knotting my shoes. Again – in the days leading up to the race I had opted to tie my own shoes instead of using lace locks (even though I had purchased the lace locks and had used them on my race flats). I figured that because I didn’t run with them during my long runs, I wouldn’t bother with them in the race. Besides….

No one loses an Ironman in transition…take your time…you have plenty of time…just relax.

After tying my shoes, I stood up, adjusted my race belt towards the front, made sure I had ALL of the gels and salt for the run (a grand total of 8 gels and Nuun canister filled with salt tablets. I wanted to have plenty of gels on hand – figuring that as the miles ticked off, some would be more palatable than others. NO more chocolate, please! A first time in my life saying that!), favorite hat and sunglasses, thanked my volunteer profusely, and ran out of the tent.

The salt made a funny noise in the canister, and it reminded me of a Moroccan band as I headed towards the RUN OUT banner.

The time read a little over 7:11, and I KNEW that if I ran a sub 3:49 marathon, I could break 11 hours…Sub 3:39 and I would be under 10:50. But I pushed the thought out of my head. I didn’t want to be greedy, didn’t know how my body/stomach/legs/mind would respond…and instead, set out to run my second marathon ever. I made a mental note of the time and started my watch right as my timing chip beeped.

THE RUN (3:38:16)

Relax! Relax, relax, relax, relax, relax! I told myself as my legs turned over.

Heading out of transition my legs felt pretty…darned…okay…? But my stomach – ugh. That was another story. I tried to ignore the bloat and how jiggley it felt, and instead focused on what was GOOD. Legs are great! Hooray for those legs! Posture and back – aokay! Thank you core work and core sessions! Arms are swining and well, for being down in my aerobars for 112 miles, give or take quite a few up hills, my neck feels downright perky.

Then I had a conversation with my stomach. I don’t think I spoke aloud – but you never can be sure. Here’s the deal. I know that you’re cramped and upset. And in hindsight, I will NEVER force you to digest dried cranberries and undercooked oatmeal again. In fact, we’ll probably do something different for Kona. Hooray. But listen up – we’re here, right now and I’m going to run, whether you like it or not. You can work with me here, or just do your own thing. But I’m going to run; I’m going to make this happen. Mind over matter…if I don’t mind…then it doesn’t matter…

I knew from past experience that it could take up to 20 or 30 minutes for my stomach to settle. I had done plenty of runs before Arizona and then in my lead up to CDA, where it felt a bit “off” for the first few miles. Just be patient, I told myself, and it will work out.

Energy-wise, I felt great. I knew that most, if not all of the 1400 kcal of Carbopro 1200 I consumed had gone down, and the gels were more absorbed as the bike leg continued. I just needed to get through the first few miles of the run…

Easy… I cautioned myself. I passed the first aid station, filled with screaming volunteer and more food and drink than I could imagine. “Just water!” I yelled while being handed a cup. It went down well and I continued running.

The Ironman Shuffle – I called it. Not super fast, not really pretty – just what you would expect a “run” to look like after spending 2.4 mile of swimming and 112 miles on the bike.

Suddenly I heard, “GO MARIT!”

I glanced to my left and saw Deirdre and…Angelina! I slowed in my tracks, nearly stopped and yelled to Angelina “Are you okay? Oh my gosh!”

“KEEP GOING!” yelled Deirdre. “She’s fine! GO – RUN – KEEP GOING!”

“Not enough calories on the bike…” yelled Angelina.

I waved, but heeded Deirdre’s advice. She sounded serious – like she was about to kick my butt if I stopped for too long. Thanks Deirdre!

Very shortly, I heard light foot steps behind me and was passed by Rob. “Hey Rob! GREAT job!” I shouted as he strode by. His gait looked easy, his run light. I wanted to emulate his form, to match him stride-for-stride – but he was just too strong.

“Hey Cutie Petutie!” he called as he passed. If he said anything else, it was lost in the cheering of the crowds. Simply put – he looked awesome. And I kept my eyes pinned on his back, taking note of the white compression calf socks, and yellow shoes.

As we got further away from transition, the crowds thinned out, and the trees overhead provided shelter from the grey clouds overhead. The lake looked choppy, but beautiful to my left, and I was just so happy, so inspired to be running my first Ironman. Stomach ailments be damned – I was going to make this work. Easy – I reminded myself. If you run a 10-minute mile for the first few miles, it’s fine. Remember Jen’s words – 3:45 marathon is GREAT. Be smart…and make it happen.

Before I realized it, I was rounding a quick corner and coming up to the timing mat at mile run. I thanked the volunteers, heard my chip BEEP as I went over the mat, though about all my family and friends who could see my split update on Ironman Live, and promptly choked up. Again.

But seeing my first mile split – right around 8:10, brought me back to reality. It FELT easy, it felt light. And in spite of some stomach discomfort, all was well.

Heading back towards the transition zone and crowds in town, I first passed the Special Needs bag and then the cheering…increased. I figured, though – it was for the first place woman. I had seen Tyler Stewart running strongly towards the turn-around shortly after I had passed the mat, and knew the pass would be inevitable.

The crowd noise became deafening and just after I passed the 15-mile sign, the bike escort and THEN Tyler Stewart passed. I saw Heather Fuhr a mere 100 meters beyond and wondered how well all the pro woman knew each other… Very quickly though, I forced my mind back to my own race. I had missed my second mile split, but it didn’t bother me. I figured I was running smart, easy, and doing what worked for me.

The crowds in downtown Coeur d’Alene were wonderful, and I couldn’t stop grinning. And then I heard my name again. “GO MARIT!!! LOOK CUPCAKES!”

It was Molly and Dave’s Meredith. Molly was holding a giant pink box of cupcakes and I was very tempted to make a bee-line her direction. Had they been holding a beer sampler, I’m sure the urge would have been just too much. Instead I waved and heard something about, “Kate says HI” – but I wasn’t too sure.

Two blocks down, I heard my Mom before I saw her. Her cheers brought a smile to my face – but before I could pick her out of the crowd, I locked eyes with Nathaniel. I had thought about this moment during my training runs – what would I do when I saw Nathaniel? Would I stop before the finish and give him a hug? And the answer was always a resounding YES!

“Hi sweetheart!” I called as I ran towards him. Without thinking, I gave him a giant smooch.

“You were tenth out of the water,” he said just after I pulled away.

“Oh. Okay. That doesn’t matter now – because it’s 6 and a half hours later. But thanks! I LOVE YOU!” I yelled. And then took off running again.

It was only after the fact that I thought about how gross that probably was. There I was – sweaty, salty, having GI issues on the bike – laying a Big One on my super clean, but adorably supportive and handsome hubby. Hopefully he didn’t have to wipe his lips off too much…

After leaving the cheering of town, I turned towards the residential streets and figured that it was time to deal with the stomach cramps. I wondered if they weren’t bathroom-related, and figured I would make a port-o-potty call just in case. The racer-within lamented peeing on a toilet – just pee on yourself while running…you do it all the time.

Yes, the practical side of me responded. But… First thing, you don’t know IF you need to just pee or do anything else and Second…you’re wearing running shorts that will stick to your leg if they get super wet. Do you really want to run another 23 miles with wet, pee-filled shorts? It won’t kill you to stop…just do it when the pink girl and that other girl ahead stop.

There must have been something in the air because as soon as I thought it, Pink Girl and another gal who had left the transition a little ahead of me ducked into the two nearest port-o-potties.

Good, I thought, then they won’t see me pass!

Half a block down and on the other side of the road, I finally got relief. It took me 2:00 of constant peeing – but it felt great. I safely passed the gas that had been causing me so many cramps and breathed a sigh of relief that it was JUST gas and not anything else. At least I could rest easy that I didn’t have to hold in diarrhea or anything super icky (but that I’ve heard horror stories about…).

As gross as it was, it felt pretty sweet sitting on the pot. I recalled one of the Lake Henshaw bike rides that I had done with Charisa – and remembered one such similar feeling while sitting on The John in one of the convenience stores at the base of Palomar Mountain. I suppose one never realizes how great a toilet seat feels until one has either been deprived of said seat for so long OR has been riding one’s bike for an inordinate amount of miles.

Quick as I could, I pulled up my shorts and exited the port-o-potty. I grimaced and tried not to think about the one hundred and twenty seconds lost to Mother Nature, but there was nothing I could do about it now. Then again, I thought resolutely to myself, I would probably lose more time down the road if I didn’t stop. At some point, everyone pees. And then some.

About half a block later, I noticed not two, but three girls running ahead. Pinky, and the same Gal from transition, but another had joined. She was wearing an Atlanta Sports Factory kit – I recognized it as the same one Amy Kloner races in. Okay – I thought. Can’t tell the age of Newby, but it doesn’t really matter. All I can do is run my own race….

So I just kept going. Just kept going…

Step after step, stride after stride…mile after mile.

Passing the “motivational mile” was the last time I let myself think about friends and family until the end. The previous day in the Athlete’s Village, my Mom and I had made inspirational signs – and while I never noticed my own, I instantly saw the bright colors of Moms. It made me cry all over again.

Enough! I thought. There is NO WAY you can get through the marathon by weeping every damn mile! Thank everyone and think of them at the end…

At the aid station just before turning onto Coeur d’Alene Drive, I saw Terra Castro. I remembered cheering for her during Oceanside, and then having her turn around and encouraging me right back. After the race I had the pleasure of chatting with her for a bit – and she was just as friendly as she appears on her blog. It was neat to finally meet her back in April. I could tell today, though, that she wasn’t having the easiest day out there – but she bravely yelled to me while passing the other direction, “Let’s do this thing girl!”

Her words gave me courage. Yeah, it will probably hurt – but we all have to deal with it. Let’s do this thing!

So I kept running – out finally onto Coeur d’Alene drive, a few more miles before hitting the turn-around half way up the hill.

I made sure to take my gels – every 40 to 45 minutes, while constantly reassessing myself, my stomach, and my outlook. So far the legs were moving well – I stopped watching my mile splits, figuring that I was going to run what I was going to run. And while I didn’t feel fast – the pace felt steady, strong, solid, and consistent (just like training). I took plenty of time, though, to enjoy the scenery.

The lake was beautiful, framed perfectly by sloping green mountains. The wind had calmed since the morning. Well, either that, or this particular part of the lake was just more sheltered. Although, I could still feel quite a bit of headwind…excellent! A tailwind towards the end, just when I need it, I thought.

The closer I got to the turn around, the more I noticed age group women running back towards me. In past races, I’ve always counted and tried to figure out where I was. But this race was different. Part of me didn’t really care, just because I still had 18 miles to go (THAT puts things in perspective!), but also because this was unlike any other race I had ever done. It was so much within myself – no one else really mattered. If they passed me – okay. Either I would pass them back or not. But if I ran too fast or too much beyond my means, I would most definitely pay for it during the second loop.

I recalled Jen’s words, “Easy on the first half. The race really starts on the second loop. IF you feel good – the go. But just be smart. Be smart.”

And that’s when I noticed how many people I was…passing? It didn’t hit me at first during my run, just because I was so focused on my gut and getting my legs under me. But now that I was moving, I began to notice a lot of people jogging along or – in some cases – walking. I wondered how many of these people were the same ones who blew by me in the first few hours of the bike, and were just now paying for their blazing bike split.

Maybe there was something to this pacing thing….

I knew I could pretty much hold a heart rate of 140-160 all day. It was just a matter of execution (and my body holding up – let’s not get too carried away. I was, after all, somewhere between miles 6 and 10. A LONG way to go).

Gradually I saw a few more women trickle past, and soon came upon the final aid station at the bottom of the hill (before the turn). Then I heard someone loud from behind, rapidly approaching. I knew it was a gal – based on the foot strikes. But she was breathing pretty heavily, and I knew that whoever it was, they were working awful hard.

And then the pass. I thought it was Kerrie, but I didn’t want to call her name on the off chance that I was wrong. I recognized the Erin Baker’s Breakfast Cookie kit, but didn’t realize she was so…petite (well – duh! The girl is a FAST runner!). I guess everyone always seems so tall to me (being a spry 5’4 myself) – but Kerrie seemed about my height, which was a welcomed surprise.

“Kerrie…?” I asked, timidly – not wanting to insult the girl if it wasn’t.

She turned back and nodded her head at me, and tried to say something. But I didn’t catch the words, because 1) her pace was super fast and 2) her voice came out in a whisper.

I called after her, “GREAT JOB!” and watched her fight on. I was so happy to see her out there running hard on the course that I didn’t even mind that she had passed me. I figured I would try to keep her in my sights as long as possible, but if not – oh well.

As I ran up the hill, I noticed some very excited spectators at the top, all sporting Viking Helmets. They cheered for me as I rounded the timing mat and I cheered them back. I was happy – one more mat crossed and I had set my sights on another girl just a few meters ahead. I had already left Pinky and the other Gal from transition behind, but the girl ahead was new.

At the bottom of the hill, I noticed Kate Major, one of the local Southern California professionals, running up. She was in the second pro overall position and while I cheered her on, I thought it would be pretty neat if I could stay ahead of her for the rest of the run. Then again, she was already on mile 20, while I was somewhere past 8. Still, I felt great about the run that I was having and focused on the next girl just up the road.

She had passed me late into the bike, and seemed to be working pretty hard as she trucked along. I had made a mental note of her brown and orange kit and just kept riding. Right before I made the re-pass somewhere between miles 8 and 9, I read her name on the back of her race number. I wondered if she was the same girl who had raced at Oceanside…? She was in my age group, so it was a possibility…

I thought briefly about opening my mouth and chatting – but she seemed intently focused on running. And then I had to do it, I just had to do it. Whether curiosity had gotten the better of me, or I just needed a little interaction, I opened my big fat mouth.

“Are you so-and-so from Oceanside? You look familiar?”

“No!” came the curt response. “I’m so-and-so!”

“Oh –“ I faltered. “Sorry, I guess I got you mixed up.” I tried to say something positive, because I could tell she was having a rough moment, but didn’t really know what to do. I tried to reassure her, but got a pretty negative vibe – or at least what I interpreted as a negative force-field emanating from her person. I figured, if I was having a tough go-at-it, I would do the same thing… So I just kept running, speeding up slightly lest she noticed that we were in the same age group.

On the one hand it felt GOOD passing someone in my division and I drew a little satisfaction from the fact that she was having a tough time. But she looked so strong – both on the bike and while running – and I did my best to stay ahead of her for as long as possible. I thought about her behind me for the next few miles, but when she didn’t pass, my thoughts moved elsewhere. I refused to turn around and look, figuring I would be able to time the gap after passing the turn-around at mile 14.

Just keep running, just keep running. This is easy…this is like practice…just keep running. Smile. Make yourself look happy – because your body will believe it. Smile…just keep running.

A few more twists and turns along Coeur d’Alene drive and I suddenly noticed a solitary figure up ahead. Rob – who I had gone back and forth with on the bike and then who had looked so strong – was walking on the path next to the paved trail. “Are you okay?” I called as I passed.

“Stomach…” he managed to mumble. He was clutching his side, not looking great, but still not defeated.

“Do you need anything? Salts? Gels??” I asked, showing him my stash.

He just shook his head and continued walking.

Later, he would bravely begin running and pass me, only to be forced to walk again. It was hard for me to see – just because I read Rob’s blog and know how much training and hard work he had devoted to this race. Each time I saw him though, he would always tell me ‘good job’ and ‘keep going’. The last time I would pass him was somewhere around mile 16, but I had a chance to glimpse him running towards the final turn-around shortly after I had gone over it. When he was running, he looked great. And I was so happy after the race when I heard that he had finished under the 11-hour mark.

Past the motivational digital marker (mile 22 or 23 for those second loop folks. Lucky Bastards!), and I told myself that NEXT time around, I would let myself read the messages flashing across the screen. For now, I needed to keep my head down, focus on my form, and run up the slight hill (still) on Coeur d’Alene Drive. At least I had a tailwind!

Somewhere towards the top I saw Ludi – she looked like she was in pain, but toughing it out. “Go Girl!” she yelled as I ran the other way. I was so relieved to see her – wanted to hug her, to sit her down and tell her all about my day – but I knew that there was still much work to be done. I was 10 or 11 miles into my marathon and still had a ways to go.

While running through the residential area, my new focus turned towards hitting the town itself. I knew the crowd support would be incredible, and I pressed on, making sure to stick to my nutrition. Each mile I ran through the aid stations – grabbing water at the very first opportunity and the a second cup if it was available. My gut was responding well, and the gels were staying down without too much effort. I had continued to take two salt tablets every 75 minutes or so, assuming that I would continue to sweat.

But instead of warming up, the temperature continued to drop. I wasn’t cold – not really – just aware that it wasn’t getting any warmer. So perhaps I don’t need any more salt…we’ll see, I thought to myself. We’ll see. Just keep assessing….keep feeling….keep running.

Right before turning into town, I passed another girl who had biked past me somewhere around mile 40. She was looking really great – strong form, good cadence – everything that I wanted to emulate. And I told her so. “You are looking so strong! Your form is beautiful and your cadence is awesome! I wish I could do that! My coach would be really happy!” And I meant every word.

I think she was as starved for conversation as I was. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I was on my way, surging ahead as I turned down the long blocks into town.

The crowd support was awesome and I knew it would be even better at the finish. I blocked out all emotions as I ran down towards the transition area, past the blocks and blocks of spectators. So…there’s the CDA brew pub… I noted. But I still kept running.

And leave it to me – the girl who followed her heart rate and then perceived exertion all day – to miss the one run split that I cared about. I had wanted to get my half marathon time, as I was curious about what sort of pace I was holding. Thus far, it had felt attainable for the entire marathon – but a lot could change in 13.1 miles.

Then – as if in slow motion – I saw my parents and Nathaniel, their faces standing out sharply against that of the crowd.

“One more loop!” I yelled, exuberant. “Just one more and I’ll see you then!”

They cheered and I kept going.

A second glance at the race clock positioned near the exit of T2 confirmed that I was on pace to break 11 hours. IF I ran the sub 3:39, I could go under 10:50…but there was still a lot of running left to go. I was too out of it to really do the math – I suppose I could have quickly calculated my pace and distance at that point. Then again – I SHOULD have just looked at my watch the minute that I ran past that clock – that would have given me the half marathon split that I wanted.

Oh well – At 9+ hours into my Ironman, my mental capacity was (ahem) diminished. Hindsight is 20-20.

The next few miles were a blur – passing the 14 mile turn around point, noting where the girls who I had already passed where, cheering for Kerrie as she looked tough and determined, passing the Run Special Needs and wishing for arm warmers but deciding that NO, even if they were there, I would NOT stop – and then seeing the 15 mile marker and deciding that 11 more miles of running seemed doable.

For the briefest of moments, I flashed back to one of my long runs – I recalled that from our front door, out to the Coastal Highway, and then down to one of the Steak Houses in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, it was exactly 11.1 miles. Hhhhmmmmm…..I wondered. Steak sounded nice. Better yet – knowing that I had covered that distance and the return trip without a problem…. It was very surreal. There I was, surrounded by thousands of cheering spectators, having just passed mile 15 of my first Ironman, and I was thinking of my long run and steak.

Weird.

Out of town one more time and I forced myself to NOT think about the finish – not yet. I knew that my imagination wouldn’t do it justice. I still had a long way to go, and I wanted to experience every bit of this race.

I’m supposed to be exactly here…right now…right in this moment. This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. What would the point be of fast forwarding to the finish, when its always been about The Journey?

My smile became forced as I ran through the streets. My quads had decided that they had had enough. And sure enough, between miles 16-18, the stabbing sensation grew. It was a familiar pain; one that I had experienced during the Carlsbad Half Marathon back in January. At that time, break down in my quadriceps muscle was due to super light race flats – that my body just wasn’t ready to race a half marathon in.

Today I had made no such error – and was wearing my (newer), but trusty long run training shoes. They had gotten me through my longest run of 22 miles pretty much unscathed, and I was confident they could get me through a marathon. Adding the swim and bike and the built-up fatigue, well, that was another story.

Even though I continued to pass people left and right, I noticed that I was talking less and less. My focus turned inward. Mind over matter mind over matter. This doesn’t matter. I’m going to run, I’m going to keep running. Mind over matter. I can do this! I will do this! I’m doing GREAT, I’m doing awesome! I am kicking my first Ironman in the butt. And painful legs be damned – THIS IS IRONMAN. This is what They talk about when they talk about Ironman Pain. Dude – what do you expect?? You are at mile 18 of your first Ironman! Okay – you’re at 2:30 right now – just ONE MORE HOUR. You are doing awesome. All this is, is a run down the coast and back! And how many times have you done that? How many times? Lots. This is no problem. Just keep running. Your pace is great. Your body is great. Your legs hurt, but welcome to Ironman.

I just kept repeating the mantra to myself, over and over again. I know I passed Ludi the other way at some point – but don’t recall exactly when. My focus was now solely on myself.

Right after turning onto Lake Coeur d’Alene drive (for the FINAL time of the day), I noticed my friends in the Viking-clad helmets. But I also noticed something in addition: one of them was wearing the same brown and orange jersey of the gal whom I had passed on the last lap. As I passed them, I overheard one of them say, “Start the clock – she’s in the same age group!”

But I kept going, kept running, determined to NOT let anyone who had their own entourage giving them splits, pass ME on the course. So for the rest of the race, whenever I saw someone with that same brown and orange team kit, I made an effort to quicken my stride and pass my quarry.

One aid station to another – I ran not only for the water, but more importantly, for the cheers, the support, and the knowledge that I was one mile closer to The End. And away from Viking girl, stalking me from behind.

I tried to focus on the beauty of it all, on the fact that I was out there, DOING my Ironman. I noted the chicken broth that had been brought out to the aid stations. That, along with coke was starting to sound better and better. But I knew that once I started on flat coke, I wouldn’t be able to stop. And as good as chicken broth sounded, running and drinking said (HOT) broth seemed (nearly) impossible.

Heading back towards me was Kerrie, and I knew the final turnaround was close. I could see the base of the hill and I wished her luck as she trucked along in the other direction. As I ran up the hill, I shortened my stride and pumped my arms – just like Bob Mitera had yelled at me to do during Oceanside – and fixated on the timing mat at the top.

As much as it hurt going up, I knew it would hurt tenfold going down. The quads would feel as though they were being repeatedly stabbed, but I gamely ran on. I glanced at my watch as I rounded the mat, making a mental note of the time and determined to out run Viking Girl if it came down to it. Each step down the steep hill was pain, and I shortened my stride and focused on finding happy thoughts.

Like seeing how far ahead of Viking Girl I was. Thirty seconds passed, and then a minute. I perked up – maybe she wasn’t as close as I thought. Two minutes went by and the pain in my quads – while never leaving, eased a little as the slope turned slightly upwards along the lake. A full three minutes and thirty seconds later, I caught a glimpse of her heading the other way. She looked about as bad as I felt – but I put on a brave face, waving at her and calling “good job!” as I went by.

So pointed to me and kept moving – perhaps the pain etched on my face had lifted her mood. Or maybe the fact that we were between 5 and 6 miles from the finish. Who knows?

On the way back I saw a lot MORE people – many of them walking or jogging slowly. It was nearly impossible to tell who was on lap 1 or lap 2, so I stopped counting. I saw a guy wearing an Erin Baker’s kit just ahead, and I decided to try and stay with him. He seemed to be holding a solid pace and I found myself staring at the back of his jersey as we weaved our way through the crowded path.

One aid station to another…one mile after another. And then he stopped. I tried to say something as I passed, but it came out more like a grunt.

Suddenly the Ford Motivational Mile Screen at mile 23 (or was it 22?) passed, and I ran over the mat that would read my chip and trigger the digital message. As corny as it sounds, I had written “MAKE PEACE” to myself the day before the race. To my dismay, I didn’t see the message flash across the board. Well, either that or I was just too out of it to comprehend.

But it didn’t matter: I had made peace with the pain, made peace with my race, made peace that my quads were going to feel like they were being sliced open with every step I took. It just didn’t matter – I had three (or four) more miles to go. If I needed, to, I would will my way to the finish.

Just 5k. Just a measly 5k.

Up the last small slope and I made my final turn towards the residential streets and off Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive (hallelujah!). Each step I took was bringing me closer to the end – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I passed one family out grilling on their lawn, and suddenly my mouth started watering. Screw the steak, I could have used the entire cow at that point. With just under 3 miles to go, I realized I was getting hungry for real food and was grateful that I had 25 minutes or so to run. I tried to make a joke about beer samplers and burgers, and was extremely tempted when they offered me one (hamburger).

I knew I couldn’t out run the spunky kids in the front yard and figured all the protein, amass of veggies, thick bun, all washed down with a cold, frothy beer would make me sick. So I politely declined, and just kept going.

But I did note the fading light, and at this time, removed my sunglasses from my eyes and propped them over the top of my hat. Just keep going, just keep going.

I was literally running from one block to another, one aid station to another. With two miles to go, someone running the other way yelled my name and I think I yelled back – but I couldn’t be sure. I also saw Ludi, walking determinedly along. “GO GIRL – You’re ALMOST THERE! Keep going!”

Her shouts echoed around the silent foot strikes of Ironman athletes running their own race. I was haunted by her face – hollow but resolute. And I realized that mine probably looked something similar. Except my quads felt like they were about to explode.

Mind over matter, mind over matter. Just keep going – just keep going. To the next aide station. To the port-o-potties that you stopped in…and then up a small hill and then you’re almost done. Just keep going.

I’m not really sure how I survived the next mile and a half. Pure will, I suppose. I had come so far and wasn’t about to stop with less than 12 minutes of running. One step after another – I watched people running in the opposite direction and was grateful that I had such a short distance left. I knew they were all running their own race, though.

The weather was taking a turn for the worse, though – and in the last mile I thought I felt a few rain drops fall. But I couldn’t be sure. The temperature had most definitely dropped and I would have LOVED arm warmers. More and more often, I would see athletes bundled up in space blankets or warm running gear. But I don’t need that, I’m almost there – I reminded myself.

One more quick turn to my right and I saw what I had been waiting for, for the entire second loop. I headed to the LEFT, towards the RUN FINISH chute, and prepared to make the final left turn onto Sherman Avenue.

I thought I would prepare myself for the emotions and feelings when I saw the finish line, but looking back – nothing could get me ready for the emotions I felt.

The crowd support was awesome, and the cheering from people lining both sides of the street for nearly half a mile was incredible. And at the very end, off in the distance and draped with a cloudy grey sky, was the finish chute and arena.

“Oh my God-“ I exclaimed, “There it is.”

This time I know for a fact that I spoke aloud.

I let the emotion of the day finally wash over me. I could feel the warm tears splash my cheeks as I ran down that hill. Though my legs were on fire with pain, nothing could dampen my spirit. Even though it lasted only the briefest of moments, I will remember it forever. The past year seemed to fast forward and I remembered the tough times…which made the GREAT times (like now) seem all the better. All the more real – and I was grateful. And at peace. And happy (but in pain!)

I thought about Nathaniel and couldn’t wait to put the finisher’s medal around his neck. And I remembered my parents who, as I had lost my entry fee to Ironman Arizona, had not only paid for my CDA entry, but had supported me along the way. And Jen…I could not have been running this last block – could not have raced the past 140.5 miles without her excellent guidance, friendship, support, and coaching. And to the many many many others – you all know who you are. Thank you.

The cheering increased the closer I got to the finish line, and before I knew it I could see the final clock.

It read 10:48 and I knew I would be in under 10:50. I could feel my quads – on pain with the effort – but no longer cared. I slowed to enjoy the moment, to soak it all in. The few guys that sprinted by me towards the end – didn’t even matter.

I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

At the finish line of my first Ironman.

I didn’t hear Mike Reiley announce my name or say that I was an Ironman. Instead, I wiped away the tears, lifted my arms for a quick wave, and grinned as much as I could. The grey Ironman carpet seemed welcoming under my feet and lead me those final few meters to the race finish.

And the rest, as they say – is history.

At 10:49:25, I crossed the line and became an Ironman.

Stay tuned to concluding thoughts and my wrap up (yes, there is more). And as always – thanks.

32 comments:

ADC said...

Ha ha, I knew there would be more. Can't wait. :)))

Ryan said...

Last year at mile 16 I transplanted my mind from the IM course back to the chip trail on NAS of my 10 mile training route; "its only 10 miles...you do this all the time."

Umm, Marit. Didn't you just tell me something about needing to speed up my transition times after my incredibly slow transition cost me? It is OK this time...just don't do it in Kona!

I'm curious to know how nasty you really were when you kissed Nate?

TriGirl Kate O said...

It's funny where your mind takes you on the run during Ironman, isn't it?! I'll be rereading your rr alot this coming week, wondering how mine will go.

Anonymous said...

And how proud we are!
Whenever you biked or ran toward us, Dad and Nathaniel acted as my telescopes, and I, the photographer, had the camera ready to record history - your history! I waited for the signal - their yell "Go Marit & I love you" - focused and took a picture - or tried to. Tears in one's eyes do not make for good photography. I remembered the past year, your struggles and your pain, your strength and your will power. Our love and admiration go to you.
MARITKA, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.

cherelli said...

Yaaaaay, that was so uber-cool to read your race report - you should get it published somewhere - congratulations again, absolutely awesome steady day for you!!

Kim said...

Shoot I just got chills and almost teared up! I loved the recount..so true to what we all go through and such good practice for Kona! You're just awesome...really..thank you for such a detailed recount. I felt like I was there with you! Love you Marit..so proud of you.

Chad Holderbaum said...

Wow what a great race recap Marit.

Kim said...

wow, i got goosebumps from your run report marit! fantastic race, fantastic race report- definitely gets my emotions reeling thinking of crossing the finish line myself. congratulations. just plain amazing.

kerrie said...

this is such a fantastic race report! and i just can't get over how smart and strong you raced. you are going to crush it in kona :)
now, where is part #4? lol....

Jennifer Harrison said...

MARIT! While you and I chatted about all of this, I really REALLY enjoyed reading this RR. I felt like I was there and how your mind worked on race day and you REALLY did an amazing job for your 1st IM. Just a great day and it shows in your time/placing how well you managed the day! Congrats again! :)

GoBigGreen said...

Like i said already, not only are you a smart and talented athlete, but you are a talented writer! Cant wait to read about the aftermath:) haha.

Alili said...

Wooohooo! You are one of a kind. Absolutely awesome race.

Shan said...

I had tears in my eyes reading this! You worked so so hard for this, and it paid back big time! Can't wait to see you tear it up at Kona :).

BriGaal said...

It took you long enough to put up the 3rd installment! ;) I enjoyed reading it all. Congrats again (and again and again)

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Great Job Marit. Now I need to go buy some more Kleenex.

Stacy said...

Part 3 finally. The suspense was killing me!

I am amazed at the detail you remember from the race. It makes for an awesome read!

I'm so inspired by how strong you are mentally! That's going to take you so far!

Mama Simmons said...

Nice job! I'm just seriuosly shocked that you remember it all in such details. Ironman runs are always just a blur to me. ;)

Beth said...

Marit!! What can I say...I loved your RR...the 3rd part being my favorite. Isn't it funny what we think of during races?? But you did it - you got yourself there despite all the pain (mental and physical) and I couldn't be more happy for you! Part 4 please!! :)

Angela and David Kidd said...

You are amazing. It was great to read everything you were thinking and feeling. I don't get as emotional as you but I have so many of the same thoughts about going forward and embracing the pain. I could relate to so much of what you wrote. I love that you told yourself if you smiled your body would be fooled into feeling better.

You are a rock star!

Bob Mitera said...

Hi Marit - dying to read your blog and the story. Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing you finish in Kona!

Trigirlpink said...

Awsome race report Chicka!
Hope you are recovered and back in the swing! Look out Kona!

Charisa said...

congrats!!

Wes said...

MARIT!! You are AWESOME, TALENTED, GUTSY, WORDY even :-) and we love it all!! You have come so far. Congratulations on a fantastic first Ironman, and thanks for taking the time to share all the details. Great and small!!

Amy Beth Kloner said...

Well I can't say that I've ever seen a 4-part race report yet, but the experience was obviously a memorable one! I was really excited to see you and Angela at the top of the age group. You both have worked very hard, and I'm thrilled that you'll both be racing Hawaii. Congrats again.

and ps... your husband is a SAINT for kissing you!! After one of my IM, my family promised they'd hug me only AFTER I washed the funk off. (Sister's actual words: "We waited this long for you, what's another hour or two?")

Ironbolus said...

Awesome race report! It's amazing how on a race of that distance, each footstep feels like a journey and battle in and of itself. And the realization that you're not alone in that last 1/4 of a mile with all the people who helped you get there is just such a phenominal feeling - CONGRATULATIONS!

Heidi Austin said...

Marit you are an IRONMAN! congrats girl. Like I've said before... sooo proud of you and as always you continue to be such an inspiration to me in my recovery. Captivating race report and can't wait to hear more :)

Philip said...

Thanks so much for sharing your race experience with us all. I'm up for Louisville in 6 weeks and reading about your run has got me excited and nervous and feeling grateful that I get another chance at this crazy sport.

Thanks Again,
Kia Kaha
Philip

Ordinarylife said...

What an awesome race report and race.

Well done!!!!

Ange said...

thank you thank you for sharing your story. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I feel even more ready to attack my first one next week. you rock Marit. congrats.

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