Once out on the course I saw JMR and my in-laws and gave them high fives as I ran by. I was still getting all of my gels/skratch pouches stuffed in my kit, as well as trying to get settled, so it wasn’t until the first mile that I really felt ready to roll. The first few miles are at a slight incline, so I tried to not worry too much about hitting my planned 9min pace and just get into a groove. By mile 4 I was feeling pretty crummy, really nauseous, weak and no pep in my step at all. I know I am not going to feel fresh at this point, but I felt off. I kept holding on until mile 5, hoping I’d turn a corner but instead felt worse. Maybe I was behind on hydration from not drinking enough on the bike? I had tried to take water the first few miles but due to the nausea I spit it back up, so I just had small sips from my handheld which was filled with skratch. Then. I started walking. Not even a strong planned power walk that some were doing around me, it was a slow-I-don’t-know-what’s-wrong kind of walk. I felt slight panic also knowing that every step I walked, would push me further down the list of finishers in my age group and I was really trying to fight for top 10. But given how I was feeling, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to finish the race. I could walk the remaining 20.5 miles, but… that sounded awful.
I kept walking and finally moved to a slow jog / walk combination by mile 6ish. I hit the short but steep hill around mile 8 and walked and and walked through the aid station. I jogged the downhill and saw JMR and his dad right before I crossed the bridge and said “I am feeling terrible’. Which I guess they could tell by my paces on the tracker. I vowed to not walk on the bridge because it was sunny and hot and I needed to get back to shade, but once I crossed and started back up the big hill on Barton, I walked. I walked the whole thing. The downhill I slow-jogged but then once we turned left for the little loop, I had to walk again because my entire back was cramping up and it hurt to breath. So, at this point I started to cry. I was frustrated and my body seemed to be pulling the plug on any effort more than a slow walk. I kept walking and decided to take some BASE salt and sipped my handheld and slowly my back improved. At the next aid station I took more water and coke (I started drinking coke at mile 5, I was already that desperate that early in) and on a whim grabbed some potato chips. I have never taken any food from an aid station, but anything goes at this point.
While I was munching on my chips, I started walking alongside another Team Zoot member and we started chatting. He had said he usually finishes around 12 hours but the run is not his strong suit so he was hoping for 4:40. That was a good time in my head (4 hours was out the window) and though maybe I could stick with him. Just chatting in general lifted my mood and when we started to jog again I felt a little more spring in my step that wasn’t there earlier, so I ran with with it (literally) and went ahead at a pace closer to 10ish. I wasn’t even going to try and push my body for 9’s given how horrible I had felt and was scared it would rebound and go back to feeling worse.
On I went and soon I was crossing the bridge to start my second loop. I was in MUCH better shape, I was going to finish this and hopefully run the rest of the way! The incline on the second loop was tough, but I was able to keep running until about mile 16 when my stomach decided it was time to hit the porta potty. Not an angry stomach, but I hadn’t gone that morning and well, now it was time, lol. I hit the porta potty as quickly as I could and was back out and back on track. My stomach was getting a little angry as I had been drinking way more coke that it is used to since I started so early, so I backed off the coke and stuck with water and skratch.
This time at mile 20ish I ran up that darn steep hill and saw JMR! He was like ‘you’re the first person I’ve seen run up this hill!’ and I replied ‘That’s because I ran so much of the first loop, I gotta get moving!’ On I went, knowing I had 5 miles to go. I could do five miles. I ran up Barton and up the next hill, it was starting to get dark, but I knew I was so close. I kept pushing until about 2 miles to go when a guy and girl were running by at a good pace and I decided to try and keep up. I hung on until I hit the bridge… just about a mile to go!! I pushed the pace and moved. I was so focused I didn’t even realize I still had my sunglasses on (I probably should have taken them off several miles ago), and when I made the turn to go left, I thought it was awfully dark in the last .2 miles. But I could see the lights and hear the cheering, so I knew I hadn’t made a wrong turn (I was really concerned for a minute) as usual I got teary eyed and emotional, reflecting on all of the hard work that had gotten me to these final seconds before I crossed the finish. And there it was, the lights the cheering, holy shit, number 7. I did it.
Once I crossed the finish, a volunteer congratulated me and said ‘Hey! You finished 12:00:59!’ Oh man, I had NO idea I was so close to sub 12, I was fearful checking the total time would just frustrate me and bring down my spirits (they were pretty low for a while and didn’t want to go back there again). Who knows if it would have helped or not, I was just happy to have finished and still managed a small 5 minute PR 🙂 and so close to top 10, as I was 14th pace in my AG.
Quick backstory. Ironman has a program called ‘Women for Tri’ to try to promote more women in the sport. As part of this initiative it added 100 extra Kona spots just for women at 3 races in North America, and Chattanooga was one of them. After the race while at dinner with JMR and his parents, I saw there were 18 spots for my age group out of the additional 100 Women for Tri slots. I about fell out of my seat, I guess the math I had done earlier was wrong and I assumed that it would maybe top 10 in my Age Group would get slots but I didn’t realize how large my age group was so we got a lot of slots (it’s based on # of starters). Which meant…. I WAS GOING TO KONA! OMG! I was still a little skeptical and wouldn’t believe it until it actually happened at the awards ceremony the next day, but I was not sleeping that night for sure!
The next morning we went to the awards ceremony and sure enough, my name was called for the 8th Women for Tri Kona slot in the women’s 40-44 age group and I jumped up and claimed the slot. It was unreal. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream for joy or cry, instead I was shaky like a leaf and could not stop shaking. JMR took a photo of me and then we headed back to the hotel to check out and hit the road. He drove because I will in shock and not in good shape to drive, lol.
It’s been over a week since the race and I still feel like I’m in a dream! When I signed up for Chattanooga the additional slots hadn’t even been announced and all summer I trained hard to just try for my planned goals of: super A goal of trying to podium, B goal of AG top 10, and the final goal of finishing. I wasn’t sure where/if Kona would even fit it, so I didn’t even try to think much about it as I had really gotten my hopes up at CDA last year when it was announced there were a total of 150 slots (men and women), and I got smoked by my age group on top of just having a bad race.
I still have some races planned before Ironman World Champs in Kona 10/12/2023, but that one is on my calendar circled in RED!