Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ironman Arizona Race Report: The Run

ICYMI, here are the Swim and Bike reports.

The run…the discipline I probably have the most experience in, have always had mental hang-ups with and the sport that landed me in a boot and on crutches a mere 6 months ago. 

I honestly hadn’t thought much about the marathon during training or on race day or the days leading up to race day.  I’m not really sure why.  Maybe I wasn’t sure I’d get to the marathon on race day (since I was so wrapped up in the bike cutoff).  Maybe it’s because I knew it would be painful.  Maybe it’s because I was scared to think that most people’s IM marathon is an HOUR or more slower than their standalone marathon time, which would have put me running a nearly 7 hour marathon.  Regardless of reasoning, I hadn’t thought much about it until I started running.

As I started out, my right eye totally blurred which also made the song “blurred lines” go through my head multiple times, I looked down to the time of day watch and realized that even if I had to walk the whole marathon I would make the cutoffs.  This felt awesome.  Spectators were out in full force on the run course too.  As I scanned the crowds through my one good eye and one blurry eye, I kept looking for my family but didn’t see them.  I figured I’d catch them on the way back.

The course was a two loop course with several out and backs so there were people everywhere which was neat, it also made the course seem less boring.  The first few miles were interesting.  I was happy to be running and not biking.  I may have been slowly jogging but I was passing people---this is NOT something I’m used to during running races, especially passing guys.

As I got to the first aid station I started to think about nutrition.  I hadn’t done a great job on the bike but I certainly had eaten enough that I wasn’t hungry.  I took a water and a cup of ice.  Frayed Laces, a teammate of mine, had put ice down her sports bra during the Rev3 Cedar Point race (which she WON) and ate the ice to keep her mouth from going dry.  I figured if it worked for her it would work for me too.  So yes, I was eating dirty ice out of my dirty ass sports bra (the one item of clothing I didn’t change after the bike).

By the time I got to aid station #2 and the first turnaround I decided I needed a strategy for more than just water.  You see, the way I eat and the way I trained, I didn’t need much fuel (if any) for running.  Even my 20 miler I took in very few calories.  As I approached mile 2 thinking about how anything non liquid sounded terrible I opted for coke and water and ice.  This would be my strategy for several miles.

At mile 4ish, near the Mill Ave bridge I saw the fam.  And, just like Jen did during her race, I stopped and gave every single person a big sweaty hug.  They had been standing around for hours and still had hours to go, they deserved way more than a sweaty hug but it was all I could give at that point.  I told Mr. Pi about my eye and he told me to try to flush it out with water so at the next aid station I tried and it did seem to help but my right eye remained blurry for the entirety of the marathon.

The look of determination or blindness or a little of both

One of my favorites of the day!

At some point during the next few miles I found my running legs.  I’m not sure what it was…it could have been seeing my teammate Nina or realizing that even if I ran a 6 hour marathon I would STILL finish under my pie in the sky goal of 15 hours.  Whatever it was I ran and I felt like I was flying but in reality according to the tracking I was averaging 12’s which is totally fine.  I was walking aid stations—taking my water, ice and coke.   I stopped to use the porto’s once during the first half marathon too.

Happily running my way through the marathon


The fam was able to cross a couple of bridges and see me at various points along the course which was totally great.  Every time I saw them it gave me a much needed boost.

Around mile 18 I started to not feel so good.  I was really nauseous and had to do a lot of walking.  Coach Laura had prepared me for this moment.  She told me that at some point I would feel “not great” and that I would need to walk but that if I could muster even a really SLOW jog that it would be faster than walking.  I tried, really I did, but there was a lot of walking during miles 17-20ish. 

Feet not moving quite as quickly

About that time in the race I decided I needed to try something else in the nutrition department.  So I went for what some call the holy grail in these races…the chicken broth.  Oh man did it taste good.  A few sips of broth and I felt back in action.  As I hit mile 21 or so there was a sign that I had seen during lap 1 that said, “believe in YOU.”  I may have teared up a bit as I read it.  It reminded me of the card that Jen had made me and of the words written on my Road ID which are “persevere, endure, believe.”  Perseverance and belief are two things I absolutely learned from/make me think of my Dad and endurance/endure is something that reminds me of Mr. Pi and his amazing achievements as an endurance athlete.  

Just after I saw that sign, I saw Mr. Pi walking toward me.  Since I was on a hill (really the only hill) I was walking BUT walking with purpose.  We walked together and I told him that I was only walking to the top and then I was going back to running and only walking the aid stations.  He told me how great I looked and about how awesome I was doing.  I told him that I had gone through a rough patch but that I was feeling better and was totally going to finish. We even joked about how I was going to let the family off easy since I was finishing way before midnight! I said to him how awesome I was feeling and kept thinking to myself that never during this race, not even during my rough patch, did I think "why am I doing this?" or "I'm never doing this again"  I honestly felt pretty freakin' awesome the WHOLE. Mr. Pi kept running with me for a little while and then headed across the bridge toward the finish and said he would see me there!

The full moon in the sky was gorgeous

Around mile 23 it really started to hit me that not only was I going to finish, I was blowing my time goals completely out of the water.  I truly thought my best case scenario day would be finishing in 15:30. It was about then that I also started to remember that not only was I going to finish under 15 hours but that I was also running myself to a marathon PR-ha!  Granted my marathon PR is from 2009 and my training this time around was much stronger than for any of my 4 standalone marathons, I was still shocked that after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of biking I was going to set a marathon PR---who does that?!?

Miles 24-26 were spectacular.  Just like that note that my friend C sent me before my race (which I posted here), everything, all the painful spots, my blisters, my sore hips, my tired legs, my blurry eye, all of it melted away and for those last few miles I felt awesome. I saw Nina at the mile 25 aid station and she took extra special care of me which was great.  

As I neared the finish I could hear that famous voice calling names and I knew I was close.  

A couple of turns later I saw Mr. Pi, I didn’t see the rest of the family but I knew they were there.  As I entered the finish chute, I soaked it all up.  The lights, the crowd, all of it.  There is truly NOTHING like it.

Eye on the prize

I swear I'm running more here than I have at the end of some marathons

With my arms in the air I heard my name, crossed the line and showed myself just what an athlete I have become.



Post race I hugged all my family members and put my name in for the post-race massage…well worth it!  As much as I wanted to watch the rest of the finishers, I felt pretty dirty and gross and my family had been out there a long day so we headed home.  

Volunteers walking with me


Proud Dad!

Best sherpa and spectator king ever

My crew!

Back at home I showered and felt the fresh stings of chafing, eek!  I put my feet and legs in the nice cold pool out back of our rental house.  We toasted with celebratory champagne and called it a night shortly thereafter. 

Of course for me there really was no sleeping, I was riding the race high!  In some ways, I still am and probably will be for quite awhile.  This training cycle and this race really changed me.  Sounds completely clichĂ© but it did.  I’m sure there will be times I doubt myself in the future but this training cycle and this race taught me that I AM a swimmer, cyclist and runner--I AM a triathlete!  I think I came into my own this year, battling ups and downs, culminating in one of those days that is now forever on my list of amazing life experiences.  

Total Run: 5:41:38 (an 8 minute marathon PR)

Total Time: 14:21:03

Recovery done right...margarita and the pool!