My Ironman Canada 2010 Race Report
Sorry for the slight delay in getting this to you, but for some odd reason flashing my finisher’s medal doesn’t get me out of doing my day job or paying my bills. An Ironman employee should really look into fixing that — completing the race should earn you “I Don’t Have to Do Jack Shit” status for a month (or at least a couple of weeks).
Before the Race
Anyway, back to my report. It’s a long mofo, so read at your own risk. You may want to properly hydrate and stretch beforehand since this is an endurance read. Got your salt pills and a couple gels within arm’s reach? Okay, good. Let’s do this.
The Wednesday before the race, Jason and I waited impatiently for the stupid UPS guy to show up and deliver Jason’s paycheck (long story — his employer is flaky) so we could promptly spend it up in Penticton. We got the standard Comcast-esque delivery time frame of “Two hours before you normally wake up” to “The exact moment you decide to take a gamble and use the restroom.” The dude finally showed up at 3 pm, and we left immediately after that.
As soon as we pulled onto the interstate, it hit me that we were actually going to do an Ironman on Sunday. I got a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach and my heart began to race, but oddly enough, that was really the extent of my nerves. Since Jason is a giant with a post-bike crash bum shoulder/neck, he could only drive for short stretches before feeling uncomfortable, so I resorted to driving most of the way up. I got back at him by pulling a Costanza and insisting we not stop for a pee break because I wanted to make good time. He was less than thrilled.
We got to Penticton at about 10 pm. Our rental place was nice and clean, which was a vast improvement over last year’s descent into Teen Disney hell. The owners did put some unintentionally amusing stickers on the screen door to prevent people from running into it:
As I mentioned in my Countdown to Canada post, we got our final pre-race workouts taken care of and began carb loading. Dr. Perry had said something about how one gram of carbs equates to 3 grams of water, so carb loading for a race means you’re really putting on water weight and storing it for hydration purposes. I thought about this every time I’d shove cashews and chips down my gullet. Thank God there were no scales in the house.
I took the time to call my mom and remind her about the race I was doing on Sunday — check out her pre-Ironman words of encouragement on my other blog if you want to get a glimpse of what my mom is like.
Day Before the Race
On Saturday Jason and I did a final mechanical check on our bikes before dropping them off along with our bikes and gear bags. We prepped our special needs bags and then spent the rest of the day lounging around and relaxing. I still wasn’t feeling nervous or anxious — more restless and wanting to race. After all, I trained and prepped for 8 months, so I was eager to “take the final,” if you will, and prove that I was ready to pass with flying colors.
The one nasty exception to the “I’m not stressed” feeling is the fact that my body, probably figuring it needed to do something to convey pre-race jitters, decided to revolt by producing a ton of random pimples in a concentrated spot on my back. It was unexpected and gross. Jason coped with it thusly:
“Hey hon, do you have any extra gels I can bor–HOLY CRAP WHAT IS UP WITH YOUR BACK?!” *poke poke* “Ewwwww, can I pop these?”
I refused to allow photographic evidence of this puberty cluster to exist, but here’s an artist’s rendition to give you an idea of what I had to deal with:
After I returned from Penticton, I lied to the massage therapist during a massage appointment and told her they were bug bites. My shame runs deep.
Anyway, that night our non-racing housemates made an awesome dinner of grilled chicken, salad, and pasta with two kinds of sauce. Jas and I got spoiled rotten by them — they cooked, cleaned up, kept us smiling and laughing and relaxed, and constantly told us that we’d both do great and have so much fun out there. It was the least stressful pre-race night I’ve ever had. I honestly don’t know if I can do another Ironman without Connie, Jeff, Thomas, Bridget, and Mark’s parents. We might have to roll with an entire race entourage. I’m totally fine with that.
Before we went to bed, I got my hurr did by Connie (double French braids, hell yeah) and did some final stretching and foam rolling. Jason and I hit the hay at 10:30 pm and, surprisingly enough, were both able to sleep fairly uninterrupted (minus a couple of bathroom visits, of course) until the alarm went off at 3:30 am. (Yes, THREE THIRTY. The things you have to do in the name of Ironman.)
Morning of the Race
When I woke up early (early) Sunday morning, I still didn’t feel nervous. My lack of nerves felt odd and counter-intuitive to how I’ve felt before most races. I remember feeling so nervous before my first half marathon, my first marathon, and my first half Ironman. Hell, I puked twice before Ironman Boise 70.3, and that was after I already had two half Ironman races under my belt. Nonetheless, all of the training plus the awesome effort by my housemates to ensure I was calm and rested leading up to the race made me feel truly prepared for the task at hand.
For breakfast I ate about 400 calories that consisted of a white English muffin with peanut butter, a coconut water (the Naked brand ones I had bought tasted like ass, but Bridget had me try a different brand that was surprisingly tasty and sweet, so I guess its footiness depends on which brand you buy. Naked brand = feet), a packet of instant oatmeal, and, holy shit, a cup of coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker, but Teresa recommended I have one on race day so I’d benefit from the caffeine. I think after how my race went, I am now a race day coffee drinker. You’ve won this round, Juan Valdez!
After breakfast, I changed into my race clothes and we all piled into Jeff’s gigantic “I’m proud as hell to be an American” truck. When we pulled out of the driveway, Guns ‘n Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” came on the radio and blared through the speakers. Fuck yeah, let’s do this.
We got to the main hub of craziness and headed towards the body marking area.
I waited in line to get marked. When I got to Sharpie Lady, I had to take off my jacket and roll down my compression socks/roll up my pants to expose the spots where she’d have to put the numbers. While doing all of this, I took off my timing strap that was around my ankle. After I got my doodles, I gathered up my stuff and headed into the transition area to get everything prepared.
After dicking around for a half hour (pumped up my tires, checked my fuel, etc), I heard someone announce, “Will Rebecca Kelley, athlete #2192, please report to the Swim In entrance.” As soon as I heard my name, I instinctively looked down at my ankle and saw that it was bare. No timing strap. Derp. I immediately knew that I must have left it at body marking, and someone must have picked it up and turned it in. No big deal — I retrieved my chip and headed back to my bike, where I spotted a volunteer who had planted himself in my transition spot to ensure that I had picked up my chip. Talk about efficient volunteers!
Rebecca Pees Herself Moment #1
About a half hour before the race was to begin, I found Jason so we could lube each other up unsexily with sunscreen and body glide. We found a spot next to a tree near some sponsor tent against the fence so we could have some space and goop it up. At this point I had to pee, but the porta potty lines were epicly long and I wasn’t sure I’d get to a bathroom before we’d get kicked out of transition. Jason said, “Hold on, we’ll find a bathroom after I finish applying this stuff,” then spent 1.5 eons taking his sweet ass time slowly rubbing first chamois cream, then sunscreen, then glide, all while I hopped around him looking like Rumpelstiltsken doing a combination “I’m cold/I have to piss like a race horse” dance.
Finally, I just said, “Fuck it, I can’t wait any more,” squatted next to the tree, and peed through my tri shorts. Jason looked less than thrilled, but I had to unleash the fury in front of a bunch of spectators who were separated by nothing more than a fence and some dignity. Oh well, I was just going to pee in my wetsuit, anyway.
Speaking of wetsuits, after the Lube-a-thon and peefest, we ran into our teammate Steve and suited up.
Eventually it was time to start. I gave Jason a hug and a kiss and we wished each other good luck. Steve and I hung out together, and when the cannon fired, he gave me a hug and some words of encouragement. A year after signing up and 8 months of training later, here I was, starting the swim portion of an Ironman.
I positioned myself alongside Steve in the middle of the pack, and when the cannon went off, I slowly trudged my way up to the swim line that cut across the beach. It was about a full minute before I actually did any swimming, but eventually I dove in and got started. I have to honestly say that there’s nothing like a mass swim start at an Ironman. You think you’ve gotten used to getting pushed around and elbowed in your swim wave — well, that’s nothing compared to fighting 2,800 people swimming alongside you. It was by far the roughest swim I’ve done (in terms of people, not water conditions). I swam over people and got kicked/slapped numerous times, especially in the beginning of the race. Season 1 Rebecca would have freaked the eff out — there’s no way I would have been able to do this swim. However, I was able to survive by repeating the following mantras as I swam:
- Stay calm
- Stay focused
- Stay strong
Whenever I got elbowed or swallowed water or felt like I was getting man-handled, I just repeated those three things and kept swimming. It helped immensely. I kept swimming, and the craziness started to thin out. Somehow I ended up drifting so that I was swimming really close alongside the sighting buoys. Oh well, there goes “stay in the middle.” I felt pretty good swimming out (and even saw a diver below me at one point). When I started to see the bottom of the lake, we cut over and made our first turn. The turn got a bit hairy since tons of athletes converged to one point. I swam to Turn #2, which also got a bit congested and flaily, but I ignored it because I was excited to be heading back to shore.
When I was swimming the long stretch back to transition, my left shoulder stated to ache a bit. I thought of Jason and wondered how his shoulder and neck were holding up — after his bike accident, he hadn’t swum more than 30 minutes at a time. I figured adrenaline would get him through the swim, so I wasn’t too worried, but I still thought of him as I slowly made it closer and closer to shore.
Eventually, I hit some rocks that were to the left of where the sandy beach was. I made a mistake and swam through the rocks, then stood up when I couldn’t swim any more. The rocky part of the beach gets shallow pretty far out, so I awkwardly tried to hobble-run in from the water. I already had my wetsuit unzipped when I looked to my right and realized that I could swim further in on the sandy side, so I dove back in and swam several strokes, bypassing the rocks. Swimming with an open wetsuit is a really odd feeling, but I figured it was faster than wobbling in on two legs.
Finally I exited the water looking gorgeous as usual:
Goal swim time: 1:30 or under
Actual swim time: 1:33
I swam three minutes slower than where I wanted to be, but I was still pretty happy with my swim time. It’s no secret that swimming is my weakest of the three, plus I spend the least amount of time working on it because I hate it so much, but I still managed to swim a PR (if you cut my time in half, it even beats my previous best of 47 minutes at Boise this year). I thought I caught a draft since I didn’t feel as if I was working that hard on the swim, but after checking the results later, I think I caught the Draft Nobody But Me Swam In, because most everyone’s swim time was freaking fast. I only beat 7 girls in my age group, had the second-worst swim time on my team, and ranked 2,501st out of 2,732 total finishers. Hell, even the dude who finished last at a time of 16:59:54 (that’s right, he had four seconds to spare) swam faster than me.
Oh well, screw those fast assholes. Much how my teammate Tracy‘s goal was to catch people on the run, my plan was to pass all of the fast swimmers on the bike portion, and that’s exactly what I did.
Ironman transitions are surprisingly fluid. I ran into transition, laid down to get my wetsuit stripped, stood back up with my wetsuit in my arms, ran down a row to grab my T1 bag from a volunteer, and headed into the women’s changing tent. There were females everywhere. Most of them were sitting down, so I just stood in a corner and rifled through my things there. I saw a lot of nekkid ladies, which confused the hell out of me. What were they swimming in? Did these women really change from a swimsuit into cycling gear? Why not just swim in what you’ll race in so you don’t have to flash vadge to everyone? I didn’t really get it, but then again, Teresa has conditioned me to race in the tri kit so I’ve never been a “change your clothes” type of person, anyway.
Total time spent in T1: 3:34. Not too bad if you ask me. Plus, nobody had the misfortune of seeing my pale, soggy ass or bony chesticles, so that’s a bonus.
I mounted my bike, pedaled about four times, hit my bike computer to wake it up, exclaimed “Shit” as the bike computer flipped off my bike and flew behind me, stopped my bike, turned around, retrieved my bike computer, clipped it back on my bike, re-mounted my bike, and began pedaling again. Good way to start 112 miles, right?
As I pedaled through Main Street, I heard Jason’s dad hollering my name and I smiled at him and Jason’s family. Next I rode by a ton of TN Multisports spectators and grinned at them as well.
I passed a few of my teammates on the Main Street stretch (Laura, Karen, Barb) and shouted happily at them. My legs felt a bit stiff at first, so I was mildly worried how well they’d hold up, but I didn’t really feel like I was cranking hard so I just kept pedaling at a strong, consistent pace. They warmed up well before the climb up Richter, which made me happy.
The weather held up nicely for the first chunk of the bike. I had put on arm warmers in anticipation of colder temperatures, but since it was warmish and not windy, I peeled off the left one and resorted to using it as a handkerchief every five or ten minutes. I know, it’s pretty gross, but for some reason my body composition turns into 85% snot when I’m racing. I’m no good at shooting snot rockets, so either I sniffle and try to ingest mucus for six hours straight, or I blow it out into my arm warmer.
I was on point with my fueling and felt great. When I got to the base of Richter, I looked at my watch and saw that I was about five minutes faster than my training rides. That felt pretty good — I was definitely going faster, but it wasn’t a blowout. I caught Bill going up Richter and we chatted a bit before I passed him.
Rebecca Pees Herself Moments #2 and #3
My urge to pee had been steadily growing the more I biked, but I was holding a strong pace and didn’t really want to stop. As I climbed Richter, I saw a pit stop full of athletes lined up waiting to use porta potties. I heard the wait was upwards of 10 minutes. No way was I going to dick around that long to pee. After a while, though, the pressure started to build up, so I finally did what I have tried to do in the past and failed: I peed while biking.
It turns out that peeing while cycling gets easier the more desperate you get. I waited for a descent, looked behind me to make sure that no unfortunate soul would get splashed, popped up out of my saddle a bit, and just let it fly little by little. It made me feel better but slightly gross. I figured by the end of the race I’d smell like eight kinds of death anyway, so what’s a little stale pee added to the mix.
Later on I needed to pee again, so what the hell, I peed on the bike one more time. Same as before — coasted down a descent, stood up a bit, and released the floodgates. Hopefully this will be an Ironman-Only Rule — I don’t need to be pissing myself for sprints or anything. Also, word of warning: your shoes will STINK of pee after the race. Like tragically bad.
I honestly felt pretty great throughout the bike, and I was actually having fun. My body felt good, my spirits were high, and I really enjoyed seeing the spectators cheer like crazy for us. I’d smile and nod at people who’d shout my name and cheer me on. The support was so great. The athletes were pretty amusing too. At one point a guy in front of me snuck out a loud fart, and when he glanced back to see if anyone was behind him and heard it, I just nodded as if to say, “Yep, I totally caught you,” and he dropped his head in embarrassment. I laughed and passed him.
At several points throughout the bike portion, race officials would putter up next to you on a scooter and spy on you for a while. They were trolling for cyclists who were breaking the rules. Whenever one would pull up alongside me, I’d get super paranoid. Was I going to get a penalty? Were they going to yell at me? OH GOD WHAT DID I DOOOO?! One time a scooter pulled up next to me as I was eating a gel, and the officials hung around to see if I was going to litter the wrapper after I was done with it. “Nice try, sneaky race officials,” I thought as I shoved the empty wrapper into my back pocket. Satisfied (or possibly disappointed), the scooter puttered off to bust some other cyclists. I never did get a drafting penalty (although it was really hard not to considering 2,800 athletes were riding along the same course — there were always lines of cyclists in front of and behind you).
Bill re-passed me after we finished climbing Richter. I caught up to another teammate, Lee, and passed her going into the rollers. The rollers were a bit challenging because the wind had picked up a bit — definitely not as fast as when we rode them during our training camp weekend. When we got to the out and back I found Bill again and re-passed him. As I turned onto the out and back, I saw one of my teammates, Johnna, finishing the out and back, so I cheered for her like a banshee.
I was hoping I’d catch a glimpse of Jason during the out and back stretch — I had been thinking about him a lot on the bike portion and was getting a little worried. At one point on the course an ambulance zoomed by me and the other cyclists, and I felt a little anxious thinking about him and wondering if he was okay. Thankfully, I spotted him on the out and back and waved to him like a total dork. He looked strong and shouted words of encouragement.
Soon after that, I hit the turn around point where special needs was, so I pulled over and rummaged around for crap in my bag. I threw the snotty arm warmer in and started using the “fresh” one as my new handkerchief. I also swapped out my bottles and grabbed a couple extra gels, then trudged on. I saw the rest of my teammates behind me: Bill, Lee, Nathan, his friend Nick, Tracy, Karen, Sara, Laura, and Barb. They all looked awesome, and seeing them gave me a nice mental boost, which was much needed going into the Yellow Lake climb.
Remember when I mentioned in my Countdown to Canada post how the weather was going to be great on race day? Obviously I should have kept my stupid mouth shut — it was an insta-jinx. The wind picked up and got really nasty in the tail end of the out and back, and I battled a crosswind and rapidly declining temperatures for a while. It sucked, but at least the entire ride wasn’t like this, plus my Ironman Boise wind battle had prepared me for similar conditions, so I battled back and stayed as mentally strong as I could.
A few times throughout the bike I felt emotions start to creep up on me, like “Holy shit, I’m actually doing this,” but before they got too strong, I’d mentally reprimand myself with a “Snap out of it B-Kel, you’re not done with this thing just yet.” I didn’t want to celebrate too soon — there was still a lot of race left, and you never know what was going to happen, so I wasn’t about to blow my emotional wad and prematurely race-jaculate until I knew the end was in sight.
I got to the base of Yellow Lake and climbed that sucker like a champ. Even though it was cold, kind of windy, and rainy, it felt easier than when I had done it twice before, probably because I was more experienced and because it wasn’t nearly 100 degrees outside. The crowd support at Yellow Lake was crazy — rows of spectators on either side of the bike path, all of them screaming and cheering for us. It was like a Tour de France leg. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was completely and utterly awesome.
Speaking of awesome, I came across a bunch of my non-racing TN buddies about 3/4 of the way up the climb, and they went apeshit when they saw me. I grinned like an idiot and laughed when I saw Brent, one of my teammates, who was sporting a too-small TN Multisport speedo and chugging a beer. He ran alongside me as I pedaled, his voice hoarse from rooting on my teammates who were ahead of me.
“You look awesome!” he said. “Just a little further, then it’s all downhill back into town, and then you get to go for a little run.”
I laughed at “a little run” and kept climbing. After a while, I hit the top and picked up a lot of speed descending down the canyon highway. At one point I came across an older lady racing in a two piece sporty swimsuit. It was pretty gross being stuck behind her all bent over in aero with her buttcheeks half flopped out of her bottoms, so I passed her. She eventually caught up to me on the run and smoked me, but still, not my racing attire of choice.
The last stretch back into town felt like it took longer than expected — it’s a bit tricky because as soon as you finish climbing Yellow Lake and descend down, you think you’re pretty much done with the bike but you probably still have about 25 minutes or so left. I passed the TN Multisports tent on my way in and they cheered like crazy. It was an awesome way to end a long bike stretch, and it definitely put me in a good mindset for the run.
Goal bike time: 6:15-6:20
Actual bike time: 6:18:31
I was thrilled with my bike time. Sure, I could have squeaked out a slightly better time if I didn’t take quite as long at Special Needs and if the weather weren’t so crappy leading up to Yellow Lake, but taking all that into consideration, I think I pulled off a good bike split. I made up some ground in my age group, having biked the 24th fastest split out of 77 girls and 1,213th out of 2,732 finishers.
When I rolled into T2, I had to go to the bathroom again, only this time it was, er, more urgent. Not wanting to fail my ultimate race goal, I wobbled into the changing tent with my bag, kicked off my shoes, and ran into the porta potty barefoot (normally a 10 on the Ick Factor, but at this point I was covered in snot crust, sweat, and stale pee, so what’s a little poo residue on the soles of my feet?). The bathroom break took a bit longer than I wanted, but hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Total time spent in T2: 5:11
As soon as I stepped out of T2, I looked at my watch and saw I was exactly at the 8 hour mark. If I ran under a 5 hour marathon, I’d be able to crack 13 hours. Sub-13 was a lofty goal of mine (obviously my primary goal was to finish, with my more realistic goal to finish in low to mid-13 hours), so I got excited and thought “game on.” I ventured out on the run and felt surprisingly great. No stiff legs or aches. My first mile was under an 8:30 min/mile pace. If this were just a marathon, I’d slow down a bit so I wouldn’t burn out. However, since I wasn’t even sure I’d have anything left in the tank later, I figured I’d just use what I’ve got now and see how far it took me.
There’s a little out and back at the beginning of the marathon, and when I hit that spot, I spotted Jason heading in the opposite direction. My heart swelled and I almost started to cry, but I jammed that shit down and forced myself to save the emotions for later. I was really happy to see that he had made it off the bike and was looking strong on the run. We high fived and shouted words of encouragement to each other. After I turned around, I saw Bill heading out and gave him a high five too.
At around mile 3 I came across the team tent, and running by it was absolutely awesome. Connie asked me how I was doing and I said I felt good. My non-racing buddies lined up to scream my name and encourage me. I got a crapton of high fives, which made me feel great and super pumped to run 23 more miles.
As I ran by Jeff and Thomas, they kept shouting “11 minutes, you got 11 minutes!” I didn’t know what that meant until I ran past Teresa, who told me that I beat Jason on the bike by 11 minutes. I was surprised and somewhat pleased, but it made sense considering how he was nervous about the bike portion of the race after his accident, so he likely took the descents very cautiously, which is how I managed to out-bike him. It’s something I plan to unsportsmanly hold over his head — I haven’t beaten him on the bike since our first year of triathlons when he was racing on his dad’s ancient Klein that weighed a thousand pounds. Suck it, Jas! Your trepidation and cautiousness is my greedy area of opportunity!…also, I love you.
After the emotional high of passing the team tent, I puttered along and ended up running alongside a woman who was going about the same pace as me. We ran together for a couple miles and chatted. It was also her first Ironman, so we talked about training and about how the race was going. She said she couldn’t believe how long she had to wait to use the bathroom during the bike because the lines were so ridiculous, and I just nervously laughed and declined to tell her that I opted to pee all over myself instead. Twice.
Speaking of pee, I had to stop and use the bathroom at mile 5 so my new run buddy and I parted ways so I could loiter impatiently outside a porta potty. She said, “See you later,” and I thought “fat chance” because I ended up having to wait a while to use the bathroom and figured I wouldn’t be able to catch her. The wait was a bit annoying — probably 5 minutes total — but I kept firm on not wanting to soil myself so I just stuck it out until it was my turn to go. That was my last poo break of the race. I ended up having to stop and pee two more times before I hit the run turnaround, which was a good indication of how well I had fueled on the bike.
The multiple pit stops slowed me down, but other than that I was feeling relatively strong. I hit the turnaround and dodged the Special Needs volunteers since I didn’t pack a bag for the run. Hitting the turnaround was a pretty nice milestone. As I ran back to town, I saw my fellow racing buddies on their way to the turnaround and we exchanged high fives and well wishes one by one.
Miles 18-22 were probably the toughest part of the marathon, partly because I thought I was at mile 19 when I had hit 18, and also because my body was starting to get a bit stiff. Nothing in particular hurt more than anything else, but I was feeling a little fatigued. At one point I touched my arm lightly and could already feel how sore everything was getting. I had fueled okay through miles 1-13, but for the second half I wasn’t taking in many liquids because my stomach was starting to wonk up (I ended up not using the bathroom once the second half of the marathon — no more awesome fueling for me). I sipped flat Pepsi occasionally and walked through some aid stations, but not all of them. I only stopped when I needed something; otherwise, I ran the entire marathon. I wasn’t always fast and it wasn’t always pretty, but I still ran up every hill when several athletes would walk, and I ran through the aid stations I didn’t need to stop at.
Towards the end of the marathon my lips were starting to feel really dry and cracked and wind-chapped. It was bothering me so much that I stopped at an aid station to use some Vaseline. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of reaching into a jar that other athletes had probably double dipped into so they could lube up their chodes and nether regions and rubbing the contents all over my mouth, but I was desperate to sooth my dry lips. Between that, the barefoot porta potty venture, and the numerous pants peeing, I realized that racing an Ironman was probably the most unhygienic thing I’ve done.
When I got to mile 22, I started to get really excited and my spirits picked up because I knew I was nearing the final stretch back into town. Nonetheless, I once again told myself to tone it down because it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and I won’t be a finisher until my stomach hits that ribbon. I picked up the pace and ran strong. Whenever a stranger would cheer me on, I’d smile and nod and say “Thank you.” It felt so good to get support and encouragement from spectators.
I neared the spot where the TN Multisports tent was and got really excited, but I was confused when I ran past the area and saw that it was empty. Where’d they go? Then I realized that the crew must have packed up and moved closer to the finish, and I got excited again. I looked down and saw that my teammates had drawn the TN logo in chalk on the road, and they also wrote out the names of each team member who was racing:
When I saw our names, my heart soared and I ran even harder. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face for the last couple miles. Eventually, I came to the final portion of the marathon and ran past tons of spectators lining the streets and cheering for the athletes who were a little over a mile away from being Ironmen.
The first person I saw was Jason’s dad. Quick side note: apparently he had been spectating the majority of the race like this:
My teammates told me that he stood like that for nearly an hour, trying to see when Jason was coming in and finishing the bike leg. It is so amusing and adorable. He’s honestly one of my favorite race supporters. I ran by him as he excitedly shouted my name and waved like a maniac, and I grinned and waved like a proud little kid. I saw Jason’s sister next and waved at her as well.
The first TN spectator I saw was Thomas, who practically dove into the run path to give me a high five and scream at me. I was grinning so hard my face hurt, but I didn’t care. I approached my TN crew lined up on either side of the street. Their excitement was deafening. They all looked so thrilled and happy to see me — I couldn’t believe the support and encouragement. I looked up and saw Jason wrapped in a space blanket, looking tired but so happy and proud. As I reached out and slapped everyone’s hands, I finally let lose the flood of emotions that I had been reserving the entire race and started to sob a little. Well, it was really more of a “dry cry” since I didn’t have any moisture left in me. I couldn’t manage any tears, but of course I did manage to accidentally shoot a snot wad out of my nose. Go figure.
I will never, ever forget how I felt as I ran past my teammates. I still tear up when I think about it — their support was so incredible. It felt like my family was there watching and cheering me on. That moment was easily the best part of the entire race — better than crossing the finish line and getting my medal. I know that the flood of emotions and pride I felt when running past them and slapping their hands will remain one of my life’s fondest and happiest memories.
The high I felt was dampened a bit when I turned the corner and realized how far I had to run out in the opposite direction of the finish line. Who the hell designed this run course? What sort of douchey monster would make athletes run to within a few hundred feet of the finish line, then force them to turn left and run 0.6 miles in the opposite direction? Bastards.
Oh well. I ran fast and hard, my heart soaring and my smile never wavering. After I turned around and neared the finish line, I saw Jason’s mom and grandma and waved at them. Some of my teammates and Jason relocated after I passed them so they could see me finish, and I ran past them again and got more screams and high fives. It was the best ending to a race I’ve ever done and will probably ever do.
And then, funnily enough, I spotted my mile 3-5 running buddy just ahead of me. I sprinted to catch up to her and said, “Hey, I found you!” She laughed and said, “Great timing.” Guess I was able to catch her after all. She told me to run ahead and let me cross ahead of her, which was really nice. I gave the woman in front of me a few seconds to finish and enjoy her moment before I slowed to a walk and crossed the finish with my arms raised high above my head. I did it. I was an Ironman.
Goal run time: Zero expectations before the race, sub-5 hours when I exited T2 and realized I could break 13 hours
Actual run time: 4:37:41. I’m pretty pleased with my marathon time — it’s only two minutes slower than my first ever marathon time, and 19 minutes slower than my PR (a PR I should easily be able to smash in the near future). My run put me 32nd out of 77th in my age group and 1,197th out of 2,732. Not bad!
Total finish time: 12:38:13. I hit my sub-13 hour goal with room to spare, and I finished 1,305 out of 2,732. Yaay for top half! My finish time also qualified me for some sort of race called the Half Max World Championships, which I guess is like the Cable Ace Awards of the race circuit to Kona’s Emmys. Still, it’s pretty cool to qualify for something. Guess I’m not so mediocre after all…minus the swim.
After the Race
Post-Race Wave of Emotions
After I crossed the finish line, two volunteers immediately swooped in and started fussing over me like mother hens. I had a medal around my neck, my timing chip removed, my photo taken, and a space blanket draped over me before I even realized what had happened.
They asked how I felt and I just smiled and said that it all just felt so surreal. I know it’s hard to believe, but despite the fact that I had just done a 12 1/2 hour race, it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t believe I had finished. It was as if someone borrowed my body for a day and raced for me, then returned it when I crossed the finish line. I was in a post-finish haze — happy and awestruck.
The volunteers dumped me into the food line, but nothing sounded good so I just grabbed a bottle of water instead. I moved out onto the street and ran into Beth, who gave me a hug and, in her unique Beth way, told me that “everybody was bawling” when I ran by them and had started dry crying. I aw shucksed a little bit but was secretly happy that I was able to elicit such a reaction from my teammates. I knew those bastards like me!
Beth took me to where Jason and his family were waiting for me, and I got a big hug from everyone (and a blanket from Jason’s mom so I wouldn’t freeze to death). Jason also had a wonderful race — despite his slower bike time, he killed it on the swim and run for a finish time of 11:56:26. Dude swam a 1:12 and ran a 4:04. My big guy can race.
Jason suggested I get my dry clothes bag so I could bundle up. We ventured back into the finisher’s area, and on our way back to transition to pick up my bags, the following happened:
Out of nowhere a wave of exhaustion hit me like a watermelon to the face. I went from post-race high to super-tired in an instant. My stomach also started to act up and I felt a bit nauseous. I asked Jason if I could sit down and he said sure, so I painstakingly took a seat while he wandered off to find a bathroom.
I sat for a while, and when he returned he coaxed me to stand up and make my way to the transition area to pick up my bags. I shuffled along at a miserably slow pace and stopped to use the bathroom while Jason collected my stuff. My stomach felt better after the bathroom break, but I still felt really tired and was moving at a snail’s pace. While we were getting my things, we ran into Tracy, who had also recently finished and was in a fantastic mood. He broke 13 hours as well and had a great run despite unsuccessfully trying to chase me down. (Suck it, Tracy!…but seriously, good job.)
Jason and I eventually made our way back to where our teammates were spectating. Teresa ran up to me like Jennifer Gray towards Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, and for a split second I was terrified at the notion of mustering enough strength to launch her up into the “move” while “Time Of My Life” played. Thankfully, she refrained from hurling her 115-lb frame onto my sore, aching body and instead gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek like a proud mama.
Jason’s stomach was really bothering him, so we decided to go back to the house. I wish I could have seen my other racing teammates finish, but I was so tired and Jason was feeling kind of crummy too, so we opted to call it a night and make our way back home. Unfortunately, our ways of coping with our discomfort varied wildly. Jason’s strategy was to maneuver his way to his dad’s car as quickly as possible, while I could only shuffle along at a snail’s pace while cocooned in layers of blanket. Finally, tired of having to constantly wait for me as I struggled to keep up with him, he whipped his head around and snapped, “You need to walk faster.”
“I can’t!” I said. “This is as fast as I can go!”
He countered with, “I saw you run in looking strong at the finish — you’re capable of going faster than this!”
I replied, “That was before I finished. Now that I’m done, my body is like ‘Okay, you’re done now, right? Good, I’m so over this shit.'”
He grumbled and plopped down on the curb with his head in his hands, feeling miserable and not knowing what to do. Jason’s dad and sister retrieved the car while we waited, and Beth helped navigate us back to the house. We got home and he disappeared to probably unleash all kinds of fury in the bathroom while I settled onto a kitchen chair.
Eventually the rest of our housemates returned, and Connie made me eat some cheese and crackers. After I got a little bit of food and drink in me, I mustered up the strength to go to the bathroom and and take a shower. You know how your pee looks when you haven’t hydrated in a while? Well, my post-race pee wasn’t just dark, it was like an orangeish pink color. It was like I was urinating POG juice. The shower, on the other hand, felt surprisingly good. Washing the lady bits wasn’t very fun though — I was a numb mess down there courtesy of 112 miles on the saddle. After Jason finished, Connie had joked about how he and I were going to have the best post-race sex that night, but considering how he was spending most of his evening in the bathroom and my nether regions were going to be tougher to crack into than the entrance to Fort Knox, our “Ironman finisher intimacy” would have to wait another time.
After I got cleaned up, I choked down a hamburger and promptly “expelled” it within five minutes of finishing it. Fastest (and nastiest) digestion time ever. We celebrated a great day and a great race with some champagne, and Jeff gave a heartwarming toast about how proud and excited he was for us. It was the perfect way to end the night, and after we finished our champagne, we hit the sack for a much-needed and much-deserved night’s sleep. We both slept surprisingly well minus a couple middle-of-the-night shuffles to the bathroom.
Mark, Teresa, Jason and I spent a couple extra days in Penticton after the race. We mostly ate and did some wine tastings, but it was a relaxing couple days before returning back home.
Post-Race Injury Report
Surprisingly enough, I emerged from the Ironman relatively unscathed. I had some minor underarm chafing that went away really quickly, but aside from three inconsequential blisters on a couple toes, I was relatively injury-free. No bloody feet or nasty chafing scabs. I’ve gotten way more injuries and war wounds from shorter distance races. Weird.
The only exception was that, a few days after I got back home, I realized that two of my toenails had turned purple:
They don’t hurt at all — it’s more like someone broke into my house and painted a couple of my toenails while I slept. I’ve been told that the nails will eventually fall off. Grossness.
If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations, it still didn’t take you as long to read this as it did for me to live it. My body healed up pretty quickly after the race — by Wednesday I didn’t feel sore any more, and minus the purple nurple toenails and my fading cluster of back zits, I’m mostly good as new (other than the stupid cold Jason gave me *shakes fist*). It still feels weird that I am now an Ironman — I’m still having that out of body feeling. I spent so long training for it that once it finally came and went, it felt like an instant compared to how long I spent preparing for it. No worries though — I have tons of pictures and great memories of the race, not to mention a rather unique finisher’s hat that only a Mediocre Athlete would receive:
Yes, my finisher’s hat was printed upside down. Here’s another photo of it:
I thought about switching it out for a less idiotic version, but it’s such an appropriate and fitting souvenir given the stories and experiences I’ve filled this blog with, so what the hell, it’s a keeper.
Huge thanks to the TN team, Jason’s family, my family and friends, and my blog readers for all your encouragement and support. Special shout out to Connie and Jeff Cunningham, Thomas, Bridget, and Mark’s parents for being so helpful and selfless in the days leading up to the race. Also thanks to Kirsten for some seriously yumtastic banana bread. Thank you Dr. Perry and the Institute of New Medicine for making sure my body was healthy and prepared for race day. To Mark, thanks for keeping me and Jason focused and confident, for finding us a great place through “Webb Accommodations,” and for being an awesome friend and teammate. Thank you to the TN racers and spectators who gave me high fives and boosts and for making me smile throughout the entire race. I’m so proud to be part of such a supportive and incredible team. My racing teammates all finished strong and had fantastic races, and my spectating teammates worked their assess off cheering for us throughout the day.
A special thank you to Teresa, one of my greatest friends and the best coach any of you will ever come across. She is caring, encouraging, and will always put her athletes before herself, no matter if she’s racing or having health problems. She is one of the most selfless and kindest people I’ve ever met, and in just two years she has helped me get in the best shape of my life, constantly smash PRs, and got me to complete an Ironman. Thank you for everything, T. You are the best.
Lastly, to Jason, my best friend and favorite training buddy (when I don’t want to strangle him, that is). I’m so proud of you for finishing the race in a killer time, and I’m so thankful and grateful for all of the support and encouragement you’ve given me since we started doing this crazy sport. I love you mucho, and I can’t wait to train with you for the next one.
That’s it, folks. My first Ironman came and went, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat (no “one and done” for this girl — I’ve gotta break 12 hours now!). I’m not really sure how to end this bloatedly long recap, so I’ll just leave you with this nugget from my last phone call with my mom:
Me, picking up the phone: “Hello?”
Mom: “Oh good, you alive.”
Yes Mom, I’m alive. No, I didn’t die from an entire day’s worth of exercise. I appreciate your concern, though.