In all my preparations for Ironman (this is my first one), I have never thought of the last segment as "the marathon". Sure, it's 26.2 miles, the same distance as hundreds (thousands?) of marathons held across the country. But training for long-course triathlon, it's always been "the run" to me. It's so much different than a stand-alone marathon, it's not even fair to compare the two. Plus, it's much easier to wrap my head around "running for quite a ways" instead of "running a marathon". So, as I left T2 with my running shoes on, I was mentally preparing for a long run. Not a marathon. A longer-than-average run.
|Me just leaving T1. Notice my hands are full of gels. Trying not to cringe as I land on my left leg.
A side note about medication and exercise: I hate it. I hate taking medicine, I hate training on medicine. I do not like not feeling everything that is going on in my body for better or worse. I do not like the side affects that some medications can have under elevated heart rates. So I just avoid it. But on Sunday, during Ironman which I had expended so many resources (financial and otherwise) to arrive at the start line, I was willing to gamble with pills to give me a shot at finishing the race. And I paid for it after the race...keep reading.In the first half-mile after Aid Station #1, I didn't see anyone chasing me down with pills, and I was extremely disheartened. By this time the pain was starting to increase and I had serious doubts about finishing the run with any semblance of running pace. I did some sashay-strides down the road which helped a little, but as soon as I returned to a jog, I was hurting. I slogged into Aid Station #2 with the same question "ibuprofen? ibuprofen?" and they told me the same answer: "we don't have any". But this time, a volunteer shouted "but I have some in my purse!" and right then I knew I had to start popping the pills if I was going to have a shot at running 24 more miles. So I gratefully accepted her 2 advils, slammed some water, and got back to running.
My knee still hurt, but the pills gave me the confidence that I could actually run on it and be okay. That effect, placebo or otherwise, carried me to Aid Station #3 where I asked my now-redundant question of "ibuprofen? ibuprofen?". No dice. I used their porta-potty instead and afterwards saw Tony, Michelle, Sonja in short succession. They all looked tough, and I felt wimpy. I knew I would have to dig deeper to finish this thing. The volunteers at Aid Station #4 didn't have any ibuprofen either but they told me to go to the medical tent at the end of the aid station. A glimmer of hope. I saw the EMTs. I asked for ibuprofen. And they said NO. "Sorry, ma'am, we're not allowed to dispense ibuprofen and we don't even stock it in the ambulance for these races". Crushed.
|Some sweet socks, eh?
Shortly after leaving Aid Station #6, I saw my spectators, and ran toward them with a hopeful expression on my face. The older lady pointed to a bottle near her feet. It was full of Advil LIQUIGELS!! Fast acting!! Awesome!! She said "I'm not going to touch you or the bottle so you don't get DQ'd, but take as many as you want". I took a handful. A large handful. I think maybe 15. I thanked the family profusely and promised I would see them again on my second loop. I ingested 2 more pills and put the rest in the nuun tube I was using to carry salt pills. Now I had a little maraca of drugs to cheer me on to the finish. I was feeling awesome. My knee still hurt, but it was a dull pain and I was convinced I had enough anti-inflammatories to keep things under control for the next 20 miles. Somewhere in the outbound leg of misery I had been passed by another one of Sonja's athletes, James, who was going the other way. Before the race Sonja told me I might be able to finish near him if things went well for me. So I made it my mission to catch up to James (easy to spot in a neon yellow top and cowboy hat). I hauled ass on miles 6-13. One of the female pros passed me near mile 10 (she was on her second loop obviously), and she had a bike escort. I decided it would be cool to run with her, so I tagged along behind for about a mile before my head told me to save the speed for my second loop. It was fun to play "pro with a bike escort" for 9 minutes.
|Locked and loaded, photo courtesy Deb S.
I saw a lot of my friends (from St. Louis and Colorado and DC) on my second loop, and it was really fun to give high-fives and smiles and encouragement (or in the case of Sonja, the nod). I was still chasing James and said hi when he passed me going the other way. Anytime my knee started to twinge again, I would eat a Liquigel. I was also still chasing Mike, who was slightly ahead of James, but I was losing hope that I would catch either of them (however, I was still in the lead of my bet with Mike). When I made it to my Advil-supplying family of spectators, I gave every single one of them high fives as I jogged by their driveway. I also gave them high-fives on my way back, telling them that they saved my race. Which is true. By this time I had consumed all of the Honey Stinger gels I brought with me so was now using delicious vanilla LiquidShot for calories. My routine at the Aid Stations would be: walk, sip of LiquidShot, water, coke, water, jog. I didn't ever feel the "wings" that coke gives to some racers but I'm sure it helped a little. I did throw up in my mouth a little around Mile 22 but it was mostly from a mis-managed burp than any real stomach unhappiness.
|Note in my right hand is a nuun tube, that was my medical maraca filled with advil and salt tabs.
Once I made the turn onto Sherman Ave, I was really happy. The CdA finish is awesome, it's slightly downhill and you can see the finish arch from a few blocks away. The sun was beginning to set and made the street all golden-y. There were lots of spectators and it felt very similar to my hometown, Duluth, when it hosts Grandma's Marathon. I saw Troy on the side of the road but no Sonja (evidently I had ran faster than she expected and she was still in the bathroom somewhere? silly coach). I also saw Renee, the wife of another St. Louis athlete Tracy, and I threw my LiquidShot and medical maraca at her so I could give high-fives to spectators without stuff in my hands. You can catch the last few seconds of my race here, just skip to 22:50. I didn't even hear Mike Reilly say my name. It didn't really matter anyway, I've known I was an Ironman for a while now. I finished the run in 4:16:40 and my overall time was 11:55:10.
|Me and Mike at the finish line!