My first Ironman 70.3 – the run! (7)
Guess what the world’s best triathletes have in common. You got it! Besides being extraordinarily disciplined, they can run like the friggin’ wind! They are strong and merciless runners. Mer-ci-less. It’s awe-inspiring! Chris McCormack, winner of last year’s Ironman World Championship, ran 26.2 miles in 2:43:31. Yes, after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling for 112 miles, there was only 40 minutes between him and the guy who won this year’s Boston Marathon! But Chris McCormack was not the first person out of the water, I saw the first person out of the water, Andy Potts. Andy Potts finished in 21st place. Macca (Chris McCormack) wasn’t the fastest on the bike either, that was Chris Lieto, who finished in 11th place. But Macca’s run was brutal and the 2nd fastest. Yes, there was someone faster on the run, Craig Alexander, last year’s Ironman winner. But Craig Alexander’s deficit on the bike was too much to make up and he finished in 4th place overall.
The same is even more true for the women! Mirinda Carfrae was not first out of the water, nor did she have the fastest bike ride, but she killed the run in 2:53:32! If I’m not mistaken, Julie Diebens had the fastest swim and bike but her run was 3:16:12. Julie came in 3rd place, because, once again, the 2nd place winner, Caroline Steffen, had a much stronger run in 3:05:47. Therefore, while most people fear and loathe the swim, it’s the run that will make you a believer! Barring any weird mishaps, like Craig Alexander’s “slow” bike ride, the strongest runners are going to finish at the top!
Honestly, after the bike ride, my Ironman 70.3 was in the bag! I was elated and overjoyed and maybe overconfident. I thought of all the scenarios which could stop me–a twisted ankle, cramping, bonking, etc. I decided that those things would not be enough to stop me. I was prepared to do whatever it took to finish. Only nuclear war or Armageddon stood in the way of my finishing this race. I racked my bike, tossed my helmet, switched to my sneakers, put on my visor, grabbed my timer and headed out. My legs were heavy and trotting out was difficult. I really wanted to fall down on the ground and cry about my mentally brutal bike ride but it was over. You can’t carry the swim to the bike or the bike to the run! You have to handle what’s right in front of you. And I had 13.1 hot miles to go!
I came to this race with the best running legs of my life! Hopefully, you understand what I’m saying. I’m still chasing the elusive 10 minute mile in a 5K race, so I’m no speed demon but I am very pleased with my progress and I knew this run would be less daunting than many of my previous races–even the sprint distances! Let me tell you, if you haven’t trained properly and it’s a hot day, even a 5K can take you out, not to mention the 10K of an olympic distance race. But this time I was much more prepared and would use the run/walk method as opposed to the walk/crawl method.
I want to make this an exciting read but the run was fairly uneventful. I managed to keep a decent pace. I saw a lot of Tough Cookies out there and got some much needed energy from them. John was absolutely the best. Once I saw him at the start of the three mile loop and gave him a big hug, I felt like I had crossed the finish line (or so I thought!). I think I wanted to finish the race for him the most. It meant the most to him. Poor thing. He had been so worried while I was out there on the bike. Now he could relax. I told him to go take a break and I’d see him in about another 40 minutes or so.
Within in the first 5 minutes of my run, I saw the woman who’d said to me, “Come on, girl! Come go with me, girlfriend”. I didn’t say anything when I passed her. It felt strange not to acknowledge her because that’s not how I was raised! But honey child, it’s a new world! You can’t please everybody. Yep, I passed her slowly but surely. I took some satisfaction in it for sure but stayed focus. It was sunny out but there was nice breeze as we ran through the Moody Gardens grounds. It was kind of pretty. Also, there was plenty of cold water, orange slices, Gatorade, everything. I wondered how Ironman could make a profit with all the support they provided. If I had one complaint, it would be the port-0-potties. There didn’t seem to be enough. And because I was at the back, back, back of the pack, I knew better than to go into any of them! I just held it. Yep, 70.3 miles of holding it!
Nutrition was my secret weapon for this race. I lived off of engineered food and it had served me well but by the time I got to the run, 1 vanilla Hammer gel was all I could manage, so I didn’t take anymore for the rest of the run. I ran 13.1 miles on 1 single Hammer gel which explains my lack of energy and near delirium toward the end. Fortunately, good hydration saved me, otherwise I would have truly bonked. I simply could not eat another piece of engineered food. I felt like Robocop.
What I remember most about the run is the finish, passing “Come go with me, girlfriend!” twice (???), seeing all the Tough Cookies running strong, a lot of overweight African-American spectators and volunteers, great music, cold beverages, and all the spouses/boyfriend cheering me on. I think everyone knew I was the one with the biggest challenge and I appreciated their enthusiasm. Honestly, it’s what inspired me to trot an average 13 minute mile as opposed to totally walking a 15 minute mile.
By the time I reached my final 3 mile loop, I had made a few friends! I thanked the volunteers who cheered me on and told them, “You can do this too! You can start with a smaller race and work your way up….” They looked at me like I was crazy, “Yeah, baby. Whatever! God bless you, sugar!” I smiled and felt very emotional. I vowed to keep trying hard to encourage others to get in the race. I was finally able to answer, “Yes!”, to the question, “Is this your last lap?” What an annoying question but I tried to stay positive. However, I almost lost it when a volunteer yelled out to me, “Stop being lazy and run! You’re just being lazy!!!” She was sitting in a huge fold-up chair with a cool beverage in her cup holder and I’d been racing for almost 8 hours! She was my elder. I hope I smiled at her. I know I cursed her under my breath but realize, in retrospect, that she was right. I could have run more. I was being kind of lazy.
As you might imagine, one can get a bad attitude after almost 8 hours of moving by one’s own power. I am no exception. I know this about myself. I don’t like it when someone run’s up to me at the end of the race to push me. I have to work hard to keep my horns from coming out of my forehead, however, I have also come to understand why they do it. They do it because you’ve got more in you. You can finish faster. You have to leave it all out there. Why not?! And at the last half mile of my run, of my Ironman 70.3 Galveston, two of the fastest Tough Cookies we’ve got were waiting for me. Oh, God. ”Help me, Jesus. I don’t want these women to think I’m always this evil. This is simply exhaustion evil.” These Tough Cookies don’t walk. They run, run, run. They don’t stop running. I knew it was going to suck but what would suck more is my going ballistic.
When ran together. When the beeper went off, I walked and “Shannon” walked. I could tell that “Trina” was unfamiliar with walking. We did that for a while then “Shannon” ran off saying, “I’m going to tell the others that you’re coming! They’re all waiting for you at the finish!” Huh?! I couldn’t believe it. I watched her bounce away and wondered how in the world she could be so springy all the damned time! I was also proud to have her as a friend. But she left me alone with “Trina”. ”Trina” does not mess around. She’s Boston Marathon material and there would never be another scenario where the two of us would be running together. I was ready to walk because my beeper went off. ”No, keep running”, she said. ”The beeper means walk”, I responded. I could feel the hairs on my neck raising. She said, “The finish line is close, you can do it! Just keep running. That’s what I do. I just keep running. I don’t stop.” And that, my friends, is all she wrote. I put my attitude aside. Despite my fatigue, I started to appreciate what it took for her to come out here, not race herself, and run beside me, encourage me, push me, and ignore my dirty looks. ”You’re right! I’m going to keep running. I won’t stop.”
When I made it to the chute, a couple of young, male “fans” where there to get high-fives! There was a 70 year old woman in front of me, my goal wasn’t to pass her or not, I simply kept my pace, and ended up passing her. I didn’t sprint past her! I crossed in sheer jubilation! I did a spin, grabbed my medal and was greeted by Tough Cookies on crack! It was awesome!!! John filmed the whole thing! Oh, glorious, glorious victory. The high is high! I don’t know if I’ll ever celebrate like that again. I don’t even know if a full Ironman can match the magic of this finish. Epic! Epic.
You made it. There’s my race as best I could tell it. I’ll write an aftermath and pointers to end the saga! Thank you for stopping by.