Whenever you tell a non-triathlete about the Ironman distances, you typically get the wide-eyes (or a jaw drop) when it comes the mileage of the Ironman run portion. Or "You are CRAZY!!!"
As I handed off my bike to a volunteer, immediately after the dismount line, I noticed that there weren't a lot of bikes in the transition area. Not knowing my time on the bike (I didn't check it) or the time of the day, I knew that there were a handful of girls ahead of me from the bike portion. I really conserved my energy during the last 2 hours of the bike so that I could put my run-training to the test and run like I have trained myself to run.
I have been craving a long, hard run for a few years now and as I was running to the T2 gear bag room, I felt amazingly good and ready to run.
The volunteers called out my number as I ran into the gear bag room but the volunteer had trouble finding my bag. That's ok, I knew exactly where it was cause I could see my bright yellow and silver ribbons on the bag straps. I thanked the volunteers as I exited the room. I ran to the female changing room and was greeted by not one, but TWO volunteers. I felt special!
One volunteer asked if she could dump out my bag and I say yes. The other volunteer asked if I wanted water and I had to think hard about it because I needed to pee SOOOO bad. I said yes to the water as I took off my cycling shorts and put on my Louis Garneau compression running shorts (I have not worn regular running shorts in over 9 months and I think the compression has really helped my running form, as well as keeping my muscles healthy while running).
I removed all of the nutrition from my back pockets so that I could see what I needed from my run transition bag (which had the exact same nutrition that I used on the bike - hammer pills, loose gels and a gel flask). I grabbed two coin purses, one for aminos and one for anti fatigue caps and grabbed a full 5ounce flask of Hammer vanilla gel. I put on my garmin watch but completely forget to turn on the satellite while I was running. That's ok, I am not one to look at splits during an IM. Some how, it all seems to work itself out at the end of the day.
The volunteer asked if I wanted my knee strap thingy (I wore it at IMKY) and I told her "nope, I'm feeling great!". I guess that strap is security for me but I was positive that I wasn't injured and I was ready to run!
I put on my compression socks as well as my shoes. I didn't need my other race belt w/ number because I wore the same belt as I did on the bike. However, I always put another race belt (they give you two numbers with your name on it for an IM) w/ the number in my Bike to Run bag in the case of loosing my belt or number on the bike.
This was my first time running in compression socks during a race and I had only tried out my compression socks while running, on the weekend before the race. I figured the socks could only help me, and not hurt me, and I can honestly say that compression works wonders for the body.
I grabbed my visor and skipped the sunscreen station. I sipped out my water and asked the first volunteer "where's the bathroom". A guy pointed me to the port-o-potty and I must have peed for a good minute. I couldn't stop! I think I had to pee during the middle of the swim! Finally I was finished using the restroom and with my visor on my head, I headed out to the run.
I saw Karel as soon as I excited transition and he told me that there were two girls, less than 2 minutes ahead of me. I guess I was feeling really good because I passed those girls, as well as a handful of guys.
Somehow, I kept passing people. I wasn't sure of my pace but my legs were feeling good and was excited to see Madison.
Around mile 1 my mouth was super dry and I was really really hot. I started to feel a bonking feeling but knowing that my nutrition was spot-on for the bike, I had a feeling I was just getting hot.
I grabbed a water at the first aid station (mile 1ish) and instantly felt better.
Playing it smart, I took a swish of my gel flask every mile. I didn't have a goal of "calories" per hour but rather, "energy per hour". Because it was feeling hot out, I didn't want to grab a sport drink until I really felt like I needed it. I wanted to keep myself cool and quench my thirst but I didn't want to overhydrate with sport drinks or water. I decided to do a sip of gel and cup of water for the first 3 miles and I was feeling really good. My goal was to take 1 amino and 1 anti fatigue every 30 minutes but it turned out to be 1 amino at each 30 min mark and then 1 antifatigue at the hour mark.
Along with grabbing sponges at each aid station, I grabbed cups of ice and put them down my shorts and moved the ice around so that it cooled my quads and groin.
The first few miles of the run went by really quickly and before I knew it I was in the stadium running around the field. My quads welcomed the soft field/grass but I didn't enjoy the steep, yet really short, incline to exit the stadium.
By mile 3 1/2 my body was hurting SO bad. I saw Karel and all I could say was "I hurt". I think he was worried that I was experiencing previous injuries but rather, I was pushing hard and feeling my hard effort.
At mile 4 I needed to stop. I quickly walked through the aid station, grabbed a cup of Powerbar perform, sipped it quickly and began running again. I grabbed a sponge at every aid station to cool myself between the miles. The aid stations were stocked with water and sponges and plenty of perform. The volunteers were absolutely awesome and I loved that almost everyone called me by my first name!
I didn't know the run course (expect looking at it on the race course map) and I did that purposely so that I could treat this run like a "training" run. You ever have the feeling where you just want to leave your house for a run and have no plans on where you want to run? You just let your legs be your guide...and you are on for the ride?
I was treating this run like a training run and every time I had a low moment (which was at least once per mile), I imagined myself during my training runs, looking around and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. I envisioned myself running with Campy almost as if he was pulling me to each aid station.
I approached a trail by the water and it had amazing tree cover. The sun was really hot, despite being 77 outside. Not knowing the course, the trail section seemed to go by rather fast and before I knew it, I was on the infamous state street.
The crowds were AMAZING!
I spotted Kate and her bf Mark and they were telling me how awesome I looked. I also saw my mom and dad. I asked them what place I was and my mom said "either 5th or 6th".
I figured the only way I could get on the podium (at this point, a Kona slot was out of my mind, considering that the top 2, maybe 3, would qualify for Kona) was to dig deep and continue with my race plan.
After mile 8, I decided to stop at every aid station (or if I was feeling good and there were people around, I would maybe go every 2 aid stations) for a quick breather to stretch my back, grab some nutrition, and continue running.
I am all about intervals while training AND for racing and it seems to work very well for me. I have noticed that I can clear lactate very quickly so running at a faster pace for 1 mile (it took me a good few months to improve my threshold to run fast for a mile) and then taking a 10-15 sec. break, really worked in my favor.
I was catching other females on the course and when I saw Karel around mile 10, he told me that I was doing awesome and looking strong.
Not knowing my place on the way back to town, I noticed that my core/abdominal muscles were incredibly tight. I felt as if I was doing crunches over and over and over again. The course was NOT flat and I found myself shuffling up some gradual inclines around the town.
I finally made it to mile 12 and not once did I tell myself that I wanted to quit or that I couldn't finish the race. Of course, looking at all of the people walking on the course didn't make it easy to dig deep and push, push, push.
I have to say, despite being incredibly sore from my effort (imagine running as hard as you can for a 10K..that's what I felt like during the entire marathon...but without a high HR), I didn't feel as if I was slowing down.
I ran next to the special needs bags and knew the turn around was in sight. I don't use special needs so I ran on by and saw the finish.
Of course, the finish line chute was right next to the turn around and I made my way to the left (with the finish line in sight) to turn around for my last 13 miles.
I took a look at my watch to see what time of the day it was and I figured that
the last 13 miles would take me at least 2 hours and 5 minutes. I wanted to get as close to 11 hours as I could so I hoped to come in around 6:05pm.
Although I wasn't bonking and I didn't have any GI issues, I was hurting from head to toe. Every part of my body was sore and my game plan of stopping every mile or two really helped me out. I had something to look forward to during every mile...another stop at an aid station!
I continued passing people on the course and while running next to another female, I heard someone tell her that she was the 20th amateur female. I thought to myself....hummm, if I am running next to her and she is the 20th amateur female, I am really running fast!!
Back through the stadium and another welcome to the soft terrain, I saw Karel and he told me that everyone was texting and emailing Karel, letting him know how "fast" I was running.
He told me that I was moving up into 3rd or 4th place and once again, I told him that "I hurt SOOO bad". I also told him that I don't care about Kona anymore and I just want to make it on the podium.
After I ran by Karel I had a little self-talk moment and for the next few miles (on the trail) I imagined myself on my training runs.
During every training run I saw myself in Madison, running for a Kona spot. With all of that hard training behind me, I really didn't have a good enough excuse to not try for a Kona spot.
Rather than telling myself that I didn't want to be passed by another girl, I decided to give it all I had for the last 7 miles and try to get third.
As I entered State street, the crowd was giving me SO much energy...energy that I really didn't have but I really really needed.
I heard my name from people in the crowd and I really got a boost of motivation.
A few miles later I hoped to see Karel but he wasn't there. I suppose this was his time for a break (he rode the hybrid bike all over the run course while I was running and cheered for all the athletes on the course) and later I heard that he stopped for Cold Stone and a BIG spotted cow beer.
Although I only saw Karel 4 or 5 times during the run, he really lifted my spirits because he was so encouraging.
He kept telling me how awesome I was running and that I was running so fast and that he was so proud of me and I kept telling him "Babe, I can't run any faster....I just want to finish".
Still not wanting to slow down, I gave it everything I had for the last 6 miles. I kept telling myself "marni, you can do this..only 6 more miles, less than an hour!"
I thought about all of my training sessions and how bad I wanted to actually race this race. It was absolutely astonishing to me that I was racing an Ironman...140.6 miles!!
After tackling the last few gradual inclines, I was making my way to the finish. With only 3 more miles to go, the crowds were getting bigger and there was no way I was stopping.
I passed mile 24 and Karel told me that the 3rd place girl was in the lead and that she was slowing down. He told me she was only 20 sec. ahead of me and I told him "I can't run any faster!!!"
He said "that's ok Marn, just keep running strong, you are almost there and I'm so proud of you!"
When I passed mile 25, I was feeling great..sore..but great.
I felt as if I was sprinting the last mile and never once during the race did I look behind me, doubt myself or feel as if I was injured. Despite all of my stops at aid stations, I was smiling from ear to ear that I was going to be on the podium.
As I made my way to the finish line chute, I saw the turn around sign and moved as far away from it as I could....
I wanted to make sure that everyone knew I was NOT doing another loop...it was time to head to the finish.
Enjoying every foot strike, I saw the finish and could hear my name. With around 100 yrds to go, I was high-fiving all of the spectators and soaking it all in!
Looking up at the clock, I moved my arms above my head and crossed the finish line. Never once thinking that I could break 11 hours on this course, I finished 11th amateur female, 205 overall and 22nd female overall!!
I collapsed in the arms of the volunteers and slowly made my way to the photo area to smile for the camera with my medal.
Karel and my parents ran over to me and told me that I was either 4th or 5th. Either way, I was glowing with happiness because I just finished the hardest race of my life. Never once did I give up or think that it wasn't possible. Sure, I didn't get my immediate Kona spot but hey.....I become a 4x IRONMAN!
The words "you are an Ironman" sound amazing. It's like seeing an A+ on an exam (with a smiley face and sticker) after spending a whole year preparing for the test.
I told my parents and Karel that I didn't really care that I didn't get the Kona spot because I left everything out on the course and I was satisfied with my effort.
Splits for the run:
RUN SPLIT 1 6.35 mi. (51:50) 8:09/mile
RUN SPLIT 2 6.65 mi. (1:00:01) 9:01/mile
RUN SPLIT 3 6.23 mi. (55:45) 8:56/mile
RUN SPLIT 4 6.97 mi. (1:03:47) 9:09/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (3:51:23) 8:49/mile
Now, time for the post-race report (my favorite!).....