As soon as I headed out on the run I saw JMR and started to tell him how horrible I felt on the bike, and realized it was just taking up too much energy, so I stopped babbling and waved good bye. It was hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade for the first few miles, and there were also a decent hill coming out of transition. Most people around me were walking, but a few were running. I tried to stick with the runners, but I had a few waves of feeling like I was overheating, and had to walk for a bit. I also decided to walk through the aid stations, making sure I took in plenty of water, ice and coke. At this point my stomach still felt crappy and taking gels sounded like a horrible idea, so I stuck with coke as my main source of calories.
It was nice having previously run some of the course during the 70.3, so I knew what to expect the first 8 or so miles. I tried to not look at my watch because I knew that my time goals were out the window, and finishing was the main goal. However I was still trying to do some math wondering what an 10:30 min/mile marathon would be, and so on (the pace slowly kept creeping up close to ‘what would an 11:30 min/mile marathon time be?). However, I kept going back to ‘finishing is your main goal, do the best that you can do, RIGHT NOW. No regrets, but no passing out’.
After I had run/walked up the ‘small’ hill at mile 8 (this was the ‘big’ hill on the 70.3 course) and was making the turn to start crossing the first bridge, I saw JMR, and boy was I happy to see him. I mumbled something about it being hot and gave him a less than enthusiastic wave to let him know I was ok.
On I went mentally preparing for the real hill on the course that was on Barton Ave around mile 12. When I finally got to the hill it was as big as I had imagined (St. George had prepared me for what hills really could be on a triathlon course!), I started trying to run some of it (all of those treadmill hill repeats had to get some use!) but when I had some waves of nausea I started power walking the rest with the other people power walking. What people had said about the crowds being amazing on Barton were not kidding! There were tons of people providing so much crowd support. In fact there was a mini party going on with music, people BBQ’ing and of course tons of people cheering. It was an amazing boost while struggling up that darn hill.
The next few miles (the back loop of the course) were pretty boring since it was along a golf course and then fancy neighborhoods with hardly any spectators, well except for an enthusiastic aid station at mile 10 which also gave me a little boost of energy. After what felt like forever I was finally finishing the loop, and turned to head back over the bridge and begin my second lap. As I ran across the bridge, a spectator said ‘Nice job! Is this your last loop?’ (it was like 9.5 hours into the race? Did I really look that fast?) so sadly I said ‘No’ in a defeated tone… I think he felt bad and then said ‘Well it’s only going to get cooler from here on out with the sun coming down!’. Which was true! I was hoping maybe with the cooler temps I could negative split my very slow run, as my first loop was around 2:30.
On I went, feeling like I was picking up the pace, not spending much time walking through the aid stations this time, grabbing water, coke and keeping running. However finally around mile 17 my body was like ‘WALK!’, so I started walking for a bit, then after I saw two people in my age group run by, I pushed myself to get back to ‘running’ which was really more of a walk run/combo as things were really starting to hurt. At the mile 20 aid station I hopped into a porta-potty as I had to pee, but I think I just wanted a break. It was a quick pit stop, but a good little mental break, and from then on I decided I needed to move, no more people in my age group were going to pass me! (and I re-passed one at mile 20). I picked up the pace, which was more of a slow run/jog, and just taking short walk breaks at aid stations. This time I ran up the little ‘big’ hill before crossing the bridge, and once again saw JMR and gave him another weary wave and prepared for Barton Ave.
This time I RAN up that hill almost the whole way. There was a little walking, but my legs felt ok and with the heat a little less fierce, the slow jog was bearable. I also reminded myself I freaking trained for these hills, I needed to run them! The back loop after Barton was even more boring the second time, and on top of that, it was dark! There were a few points where I was worried I was going to randomly trip because I couldn’t see where I was running. It was weird doing the this loop in the dark, with no spectators, it was just the sound of people’s feet shuffling, heavy breathing and not much else. Eerily quiet like everyone was just trying to keep moving one foot in front of the other.
After what felt like forever again on this loop, it was finally time to make the turn to head back over the bridge TOWARDS the finish. I hit one more aid station before the bridge and my stomach decided it was going to let me know it was DONE. Uh oh. I immediately started walking, knowing crapping myself down the finisher’s chute was NOT an option. I was less than 1.5 miles from the finish and I was WALKING. Ugggh, so frustrating. At that point I was just done. I was tired, it was dark, I hate racing in the dark…it’s so lonely, and now my stomach was done too. I had a mini meltdown (with the reassurance that no one can see you crying when it’s dark), then had a mini pep talk, and finally was able to slowly pick up the pace and keep moving.
Finally my feet hit the bridge. I kept shuffling, moving closer and closer to the other side, and when I made it across and got to the part of the route where you go straight to do another loop or TURN LEFT TO FINISH. I said ‘F yeah!!’ pretty loud, multiple times as I was turning (I hope no children were nearby or if so, I hope they didn’t hear me). Then it was on. I could see the finish and hear Mike Reilly. Oh my god. I’m going to finish. This was such a tough day but I was going to finish! I started ugly crying (it’s dark, right?) and then I heard some spectators cheering me on, so that brought on more ugly crying. Then as I got closer to the finisher chute, the tears went away and all I could feel was pure joy. My body didn’t feel like it had been moving for 12+ hours, instead I felt like I had wings and was filled with new found energy as I ran down the chute. I threw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish (so cheesy, but I couldn’t help it) and had that amazing feeling you get when crossing an Ironman finish line. The cheering, the bright lights, the red carpet, the annoucer, it’ unreal.
Run Time 5:03:05
Once I crossed, I saw JMR on the sidelines and waved to him to let him know I was ok, got my photo taken and met him outside the finish area. Phew! What. A. Day. Once I caught up with him I started rambling about how the heat made it so tough, and that I was so happy I finished but was bummed about my run/walk/shuffle (drinking caffeine for 12+ hours makes me incredibly chatty after races). JMR reassured me that it was HOT and said he ran earlier that day and about passed out. Then he said ‘You were 10th in your age group, you did great.’ I was like ‘what?!?!’ I had time goals, which other than the Bike PR, I didn’t meet, but I also had a goal to try to make top 10. It didn’t occur to me that given the conditions I could still make top 10 and not hit my time goals. I was ecstatic! That gave me a new surge of energy as I babbled a bit more about the race, and then gave JMR all of my finisher stuff while I went to get my bike and gear bags. That was rough, but slowly I got everything and headed back to meet JMR and walk back to the hotel.
Once we got to the hotel I wanted to take a shower and then go get real food – liquid nutrition for 12+ hours is just.. it’s great for racing, but after my stomach is ready for something new after the race 🙂 Plus, JMR had only snacked on granola bars and Little Debbie snacks all day so he needed real food as well. Being a spectator is tough too!
As I was bragging about how wonderful my new tri top worked out, not having any burns or chaffing, JMR stopped me mid-sentence and said ‘you might want to stop yourself and look at your back first’. I was like ‘what?’ and sure enough when I looked in the mirror, I had a HUGE burn on my lower back from where my top rolled up on the bike. Oh boy, I figured it happened when I made the porta potty stop around mile 60 or so…. three hours of exposed skin with no suncreen was gonna hurt (it did and it’s still there three weeks later!).
Bummer. Well other than I fared pretty darn well (I also think that’s due to not having worn a HR strap, I know the optical isn’t as exact, but man, it sure beats the inevitable chaffing from the strap, no matter how much body glide you use!). After I showered (ouch, my sunburn) we headed to get dinner at a restaurant nearby, and by 11p I was in bed eating my Little Debbie snacks JMR hadn’t eaten and finally asleep by 11:15p. What a day. I was happy to have finished, a little bummed about my times, but thrilled that I had made top ten. Even though it was only out of 78! (and then later 58 as 20 people DNF’d in my age group).
Total Race Time: 12:56:26, 10th AG
I texted my coach a few days after the race repeating what I said above, about being happy to just have finished and not having ended up in the Medical tent, but feeling like I still had unfinished business. He replied saying that’s the thing about Ironman, it usually leaves you still wanting more out of yourself. I know right now I need to give my body some rest after what it went through, but now I have new goals for the next race, Ironman St. George next May! A little backstory as to why I’m already signed up for another full so quickly… after doing the St. George 70.3 in 2018, I added the full IM to my bucket list if Ironman ever brought it back (it was retired in 2012). So when it was announced it was back for 2020, I wanted to sign up right away in fear it would sell out (signing up for an IM before you finish the one you’re currently training for is a bit much for me, and won’t probably do that again!). However I kept it pretty tight lipped that I had signed up until after I finished (phew!) Chattanooga. So here’s to building back some fitness and then starting training for IM St. George!