02 July 2012

IMCdA Race Report: The Run

We join our hero (ME! ::raises hand:: ME!) just seconds after she's exited T2 with a fresh coat of sunscreen and a hurty knee, ready to begin the run. Read the rest of my Ironman Coeur d'Alene experience by clicking here.

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.
And right away I knew it had the potential to be an extremely painful longer-than-average run. My left knee, the one that had been complaining since about mile 50 on the bike, was extremely tender. I was wincing every time I took a step, but there were so many enthusiastic spectators lining the sidewalk that I didn't dare walk or even limp. I just ran...er, jogged...as evenly and as slowly as I could through town. My mind was frantically considering my options. Could I run through this? How far will my legs take me before the pain starts to influence my stride? Mile 1 slowly clicked on by and I checked my split: 9:20. Hm. Not that bad, considering. My HR was perfect. Maybe I could keep this up? I knew the first aid station was coming up soon and I decided to stop there and ask for ibuprofen. As I hobbled towards Aid Station #1, a girl with a teal tank top cruised past me (after the race I discovered it was @FeWmnLiz). She was F25-29, and she looked awesome. I was crushed, and envisioned myself getting passed by all the fast F25-29ers for the next 6 or 7 hours. Bad way to start a long run.
Me just leaving T1. Notice my hands are full of gels. Trying not to cringe as I land on my left leg.
I was seriously doubtful that the aid stations would be providing ibuprofen, but my family was also officially volunteering at the aid station and my mom might have some in her purse. However, I wasn't sure if that would be cheating. At that moment I could remember Ironman rules stating that athletes could receive assistance from other athletes and from official aid stations; no other outside help was allowed. But what if an official volunteer provided aid not officially on the race program? I was not sure where that landed. I rolled into Aid Station #1 asking "ibuprofen? ibuprofen?" and no one had any. I found my mom, who told me she had some in her purse, but I still wasn't sure if that was legal. I told her to ask the volunteer captain, and I would keep running, and if it was legal she should send someone down the road with the drugs (because I was going pretty slow).
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?
I kept moseying along until Aid Station #5, the Mardi Gras station, and guess what, they did not have any ibuprofen either. At this point my knee was feeling okay from the first 2 pills but I didn't think it would last for 3 more hours. I had to get a re-up on my drugs! Seriously, I felt like an addict out there, asking everyone for medication. My saving graces (yes, two of them) came close to the turnaround point near the 10k/6mi mark. As I neared the top of the big hill on course, I saw a family of about 10 people spectating in a gravel driveway. There were a few women and they had purses and I slowed down to ask them if anyone had ibuprofen. They poked around in their purses a little bit and said "we think so, but we're not sure, come back and see us after the turnaround." So with a glimmer of hope, I trudged to Aid Station #6, asking my same question, and this time the volunteer captain said he could find me some in a few seconds. So I ran through to the turnaround (seriously like 100m past Aid Station #6), did my 180-degree turn, and as I looked for the volunteer captain I saw a heavenly sight: he was standing on the side of the path, with a cupped hand and a glass of water. He was smiling. I started smiling. He said "here are two advil and a glass of water to wash them down." I asked if I could hug and kiss him and he said that would not be necessary. So I took the drugs, blew him an air kiss, and got down to the business of running.

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 found my parents again at Aid Station #1 and this time my mom had 2 pills for me! I had taken a few of the Advil Liquigels since Aid Station #6 but I figured soon enough I would be needing more, so I ate those on the spot. I ran through town and bypassed special needs; I didn't have anything in there for knee pain. I made the turnaround at 2:09:xx which was slightly more than half-way. I was pretty sure that a sub-4 hour marathon would be difficult at this point but now that my knee pain was controlled, my legs and heart felt awesome. Every once in a while I'd take a bad step and it would hurt like crazy, but for the most part it was just a dull ache. My second outbound leg was basically a repeat of the first, except a tad bit faster. Except, I was walking the Aid Stations. Looking back, I'm not really sure why I did that. Maybe it's because so many people use "walk the aid stations" as their default run plan. Maybe I was trying to give my knee a short respite. But anyway, I was taking walking breaks, even though I was running faster between them. Looking back, that seems like a dumb thing for me to have been doing since I didn't really need the rest and could have gutted it out.

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.
My last 10k of the run were actually sort of fun. I had managed my knee pain. I had recovered from my fuel-induced low spot on the bike (miles 70-90) and was now feeling peppy. I only had 6 miles left to run. I switched my watch over to show Time of Day and focused only on getting to the finish line before 7pm. I knew I could make it, but there wasn't much time for dilly-dallying. I saw teal tank top girl from earlier in the run and was shocked. I had been so discouraged when she passed me in Mile 1 looking awesome, but here I was on her heels and about to run on by. I also passed a F25-29er in a pink tank top very late, like in the last 5k. She could have only been on her first loop, but I told myself she was about to finish as well and that made me run scared. I had used the porta-potty twice in the run and had to pee again, this time I just ran and peed so that no F25-29er would pass me. But, I didn't want my finish photos to look like I peed myself, so I ran through a sprinkler at my final visit to Aid Station #1 to just get wet all over. The cold water was shocking and spurred me onto the last mile.

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.
I was caught by a lady volunteer and she got my stuff (water bottle, medal, hat, shirt) all given to me and then stood with me in the photo tent line for a bit. It was clear that I was fine and the line was taking forever so I told her thank-you and went to find my family who were right on the fence. My brother gave me my post-race PBR and it was delicious. We chatted for a little bit and then Mike found us and congratulated me on winning the bet. I think his performance was more impressive though, who else goes 11:32 after moving his family to Colorado and taking 3 weeks off? A BAMF, that's who.
Me and Mike at the finish line!
I have another story about what happened to me after the finish, but since this post is already a mile (or rather, 26.2 miles) long I'll save that for another day. I also have some thoughts on what my next steps from here will be but you'll have to check back later! Pin It


  1. Way to push through - and seriously, awesome performance overall! I loved reading the three-part recap. I've recently started to give into the advil during races (my feet wouldn't have gotten through Untamed without it). I figure as long as I'm hydrating properly, it's not going to kill me - and it may get me to the finish line in far better shape that I would have been in otherwise.

  2. You are such a freakin rock star! I'm so proud of you and your day. Can't wait to see you take 2 hours off this time like NBD. :)