Okay….so I left off at the end of the bike leg in my last post. One thing I didn’t mention was that at the end of the bike I had noticed a nagging stomach cramp. In the aero bars it just hurt, but if I sat up to stretch it out it wasn’t going away either. It was really uncomfortable and when I handed my bike off to a volunteer in T2, I literally had to walk to get my bag for the run. When I heard Claire and Mike yelling for me I managed a jog, but I was not sure how things were going to go from here. The volunteers in the changing tent were great and got me suited up for the run. I opted to do a full change here into my Oiselle stride shorts and singlet….comfort on the run was a big factor to me as I was trying to do everything I could to change even the smallest things that bothered me in Louisville. As I headed out to the run I could still feel the stomach cramp, but I could tell that step by step it wasn’t necessarily getting much better, but it was bearable. And that’s all I was asking for.
Now I’ll insert a bit of background here. Since February I have had numbers written on my bathroom mirror. These were 1:10/5:40/3:50….all told with transitions those would give me around a 10:45 race. I had done my share of research and I knew that going into either of my Ironmans this year, a 10:45 would offer me a fair shot at a Kona spot. I also felt that these time goals were achievable, and at the same time if I was capable of racing a 10:45 by the end of the year and that didn’t yield a Kona spot, I would still be proud of getting to that point.
Back to the race. As I headed out for the run, I had no clue where I stood. Between getting the flat and not being able to pay attention to who was flying by, as well as getting confused with the loop course as to who was passing who, I could have been first or last and been none the wiser. But I did know that in Louisville I had similar splits and was 3rd coming off the bike, so I held onto that for dear life and hoped it was close. I also knew that if I wanted to get that 10:45 I still had a chance – I just had to find a way to do it on the run.
It turns out, I was in 6th at this point. As the first mile mark passed I took a split and had to do a double take – 7:53! Whoa. Keep it easy, relax, breathe. Mile 2 – 9:20. Ha! After these first couple splits I realized I had to stop taking them or I’d drive myself crazy. My legs felt good and the bottom line was that I was RUNNING! Around the 5k mark I ran into the amazing support team we had out there – Claire, Mike and Ryan’s parents – who looked as relieved as I felt that I was moving. As I made my way to the other end of the run course I found Hillary – another person happy to see me running 🙂 She gave me my first update on the field in front of me and assured me that I needed to do nothing other than keep going at the pace I was running.
As anyone knows, a marathon is full of ups and downs. For the first time though I felt in control. Each time something came up and my confidence began to waiver and my legs began to slow, I kept my head. What was the problem? How could this be fixed? The first couple times I had issues the solution was simple: a trip to the porta potty! I have a strict no pooping-your-pants-before-mile-23 rule so I was okay with a brief stop at mile 6 and again at mile 17ish. The first half marathon felt surprisingly good but when I hit mile 13 my body let me know that I was going to have to work for this. Right after I started to slow I ran into Hillary again who’s advice hit the spot – keep pushing the calories, everyone is going through the highs and lows, just push through it. Again reassured, I kept my eye on the prize and just kept moving.
The run course is very contained and was getting fairly crowded so I kept my sights on everyone ahead and kept picking people off. It felt good to finally have a race where I was doing the passing. In fact, for the first time ever in a marathon – open or triathlon – I was running through the water stops and running up the hills. Finally I was entering the third and final loop. My mental state must have been a little loopy though because I remember that when Claire and Mike yelled to me “Third! You’re in third!” I thought they were implying I was supposed to be finishing my third lap or something and tried to yell back at them that no I still had another loop to run! As I kept going and thought about it more though, what they had said finally registered. I was in third place. That’s not a garunteed Kona spot. That’s just *almost* a Kona spot. I didn’t feel comfortable enough at this point with how I was feeling to ignite any sort of back burner so I had no choice but to keep plugging along and try to hold pace. At the 10k-to-go-mark Claire and Mike were waiting again. I had actually lost 30 seconds on the girl in second (probably due to my bathroom break).
It was here that I figured I may as well give it a shot and begin to pick it up. Let’s see what I have in me. So I just ran. Around 22 miles in I saw Hillary and she just looked at me and yelled “GO. GO NOW. LEAVE IT ALL ON THE COURSE.” Those words struck a chord yet again. She was right – I needed to leave it all out there or I would always wonder if I held back and it cost me a trip to Hawaii. So I found another gear. The funny thing about the Ironman is that you can be running 8’s and feel like you are absolutely flying because the general pace of the crowd slows considerably after the 10 hour mark. Mile 23. A downhill. Mike and Claire were there again. I see Mike look at me, look at his watch, and look at the paper he was using to keep track of splits for the girls ahead of me. He couldn’t even contain his own surprise that the gap to 2nd place was now down to 3:30. I was gaining ground pretty rapidly, but did I have enough miles ahead to get it?
I threw my gel flask away as I passed the next water stop, grabbed one more cup, and then began one of the most nerveracking 3 miles I would ever race. I felt like a crazy woman as I made each turn, making my way down to the final stretch along the lake. By now the sun was set and through the darkness, around mile 25. 5 I heard familiar yelling. Claire and Mike were there, yet again, and they were no longer making much sense. Just a lot of words, plus my name, plus “30 seconds.” Finally what they were saying came clear – I had made up 3 minutes. The look of panic and excitement that the gap was now under a minute was clear. I only remember one thought from this point: Oh Shit.
Over a million thoughts began racing through my head at this point. What do I do? Which girl is it? Can I see her? Do I sit and wait to make the pass? Do I have the energy to go any faster? What do I do???? Somehow, I managed to compose myself and push everything else out. I found the ability to just run. As fast as I possibly could. Within a quarter mile I made the pass and I felt like I was running for my life as I made that final turn into the finishing chute, practically throwing myself at the finishing mat.
10:45:51. Second place. A 50 minute PR. A Kona spot. A dream come true.
The volunteers helped me over to where Hillary was waiting and I could barely believe it myself as I told her how the final mile unfolded. They moved me over to the med tent to make sure I was okay – more than anything I think I just wanted out of the craziness of the finish area and the med tent was quieter.
After having a couple days to reflect I am still reliving the highs and lows of the race. Most surprising to me is still my 3:47 run split – the fastest of the age group! After having run splits of 4:06/4:18/5:12 from my last Ironmans, a 3:47 is still unbelievable to me. There are so many people that I have to thank and who deserve recognition for helping me make this race happen, so please look out for that post as well as my other post-race reflections in the next few days!