Once I was off the bike, changing shoes and stretching, I started to feel relieved. My back pain was eased and so was my knee pain. After 19 minutes in the transition tent that included a failed potty break (TMI moment), I ran out of the changing tent and onto the start of the marathon route. For a moment, everything felt surreal, I was a little disoriented, and I couldn’t believe I was finally in the last portion of the Ironman. I just hoped I was on the right running path.
The marathon route consisted of three loops, approximately 9 miles except for the last one which veered off into the grand finale finish. I felt better and better in those early miles, even hitting an 8.5 mile pace. For almost 10 miles, I thought maybe my coach was wrong about athletes negative splitting the Ironman marathon. But at around mile 9, I started to feel the ball of my right foot burning. I later realized thy feet were blistering. I stopped to stretch them and that helped tremendously. I also modified my foot strike. I usually roll off of ball of my foot. I tried landing on the outside of my foot and that was good. I was back in action, but not as fast anymore. The dream of negative splits or an 8.5-9 minute per mile pace was out the window.
Again, I said to myself, “Just run to finish this Ironman. I won’t be setting any records anyway.” So, I plugged along, however, I did notice I was passing a whole lot of people I'd seen on the bike course flying by me. I don’t know if they were on their first, second or third lap, but it still made me feel strong.
At mile 8 or 17 (I can’t remember) I saw my hubby and a San Antonio cheer squad on the side and I slowed down to say hello and give my hubby a kiss for being a great supporter. Its on video and I posted it !
At about mile 11, my Garmin watch died!! Ugh!! How could it let me down!! I felt like someone might has well have taken my eyesight from me. Lol! How do we become so dependent on technology? It left me with no choice but to run by “feel.” I had no idea how fast I was running it could have been 12 minute miles. And it was, at times. But I varied from a 9 minute mile, to 10:23 at the half, 12:40 minute/mile at mile 21, back up to a 10:50 minute/mile for about the last 3 miles of the marathon. I finished in 4:43:41 which was bad. I estimated I’d finish anywhere from 4:45 to 5:00, but of course I prayed for a 4:15-4:30. Next time.
By this time, night started to set in and mosquitos were coming out. I never usually get bitten, but they were coming after me, especially in the dark, tree lined stretches of the route. I wish I’d brought a night light for my hat so instead I just had to be extra cautious with my footing.
Also at this point, I would occasionally stop and walk at some of the water stations where I rehydrated, but would start running again after a minute or two. Getting to mile 18 from here was the hardest part of the race. It felt like forever.
But after I made the turn for the 3rd lap, I ran into my friend, April Ancira’s San Antonio cheer squad and I stopped for a little break and to get some bug spray. As soon as I stopped I felt myself start to sway and see a few stars so I knew I was in trouble. I gulped down most of a cold 16 ounce water bottle and had a few hits of Base Electrolyte Salts that I was carrying in a small cylinder. It seemed to wake me up immediately. I had a new pep in my step going into mile 20! It was great. I just made it a point to keep drinking water and getting another dose of salt every mile until mile 22.
At mile 23, I no longer felt pain, but I could feel the euphoria of reaching the finish. It was so close I could touch it. So I picked up my pace enough where I knew I could get across the finish line without passing out. And for the few miles, since we are not allowed to run with music & headphones, I had been imagining in my head the dance I would break into as soon as I hit the finish line. I knew there would be pictures and video from the Ironman and the videographer I’d hired to shoot my race, Tati Biermas.
Yes, it seems like much, but at the time, I figured I wanted to document the only Ironman I was ever going to attempt. Now, I’m sure I will be doing it again. Next goal? Knock off two hours. Maybe hit a 10-11 hour Ironman. I don’t have years and years of good knees left in me, so I’m gonna work toward the long shot finish next time around.
As I look back I am so thankful for my supportive husband. Although he doesn’t always understand why I put my body through what I do, he encourages me to be my best and enjoy myself. I also want to thank my coach, Dawn Monroe Eastwood, www.coachdawnelder.com, who’s done over a dozen Ironman with 3 Kona’s under her belt,plus Cozumel at least once before. She knew exactly how to prepare me for this course and even when I had major doubts I would finish, she pushed me and believed in me. I could never have been this prepared had I only followed a training plan without an actual coach. I am also thankful to my friend and chiropractor, Nick Milner, also an Ironman triathlete, who help me initially with my knee pain, with some physical therapy exercises, and major encouragement to keep going because he knows what it takes to finish the task. I am thankful for orthopedic surgeon Dr Philip Jacobs, who my hubby insisted I see. He diagnosed me with arthritis in my knee and ultimately gave me a steroid shot that would help diminish the pain a ton. And also, Justin Martindale, at Promotion Physical Therapy for giving me extra strengthening exercises and Ktape that would support my knee. Plus, Tim, at Bike World in San Antonio, who worked patiently with me to adjust my bike fit 3 different times to accommodate my knee and back pain. Finally, A HUGE thanks to my sweet mother for helping me watch my kiddos and pick them up from school when I was stuck finishing my long rides out in the boonies and couldn’t get back in time.
Ironman training takes much more time than I had imagined. I am not sure I would have tackled it if I had known this beforehand. So for next time, another goal, is to figure a way to be more efficient with my training so maybe I train when the family is sleeping. Ha! For now, time to get back to lifting and rebuilding the strength I lost especially in the last few months.
The journey to Ironman has definitely been memorable and one that, again, teaches me so many lessons on how to live my life. There are no short cuts to success. Only hard, consistent work pays off in the end. Have faith in the process. If you waver off course a bit, get right back in the saddle. Don’t give up. Blood, sweat and tears will get you there. Surround yourself with positive energy. Whatever you do, put your heart and soul into it.
There were 3 loops to the bike course, about 37 miles each, along the southern half of the island. I’d already read about and was told by my coach, Dawn Monroe Eastwood, (www.coachdawnelder.com) where to expect the hard winds on the course. I figured for the first loop, I’d familiarize myself with the course. I started out slow trying to get a feel for my arthritic knee and if it was going to act up. It was not bad, but I didn’t want to risk a flare up, so I rode very conservatively and focused on enjoying the gorgeous scenery. Riding along the ocean on the east side was breathtaking.
By loop two, at 38 miles, I was feeling strong and I started to push it, moving my speed up to about 16-18 miles per hour. Mind you, that is considered pretty slow for a race like this. I could tell people were passing me left and right, well, mostly on the left. I had to remind myself constantly that I was racing my own race, just to finish. I couldn’t let anyone dictate how fast I would go. In my mind, maybe I’d to catch a lot of these people on the run. HA !
The “windy” side of the island went from about mile 53 to 65 on the second loop. About halfway into that windy section, the arthritis in my knee started to flare up. I’m sure I popped another Advil plus a Hammer Enduralytes pill. By this time, I’d had 2 Lara bars, but I couldn’t stomach having any more. Solid foods no longer felt like they were being processed by my body, and my digestive system was stopped up. Sorry, TMI there, but it’s a real issue with me. I would not eat anything else for the rest of the day and that’s unheard of. So I kept drinking. I didn’t feel a need for food which kinda scared me.
Heading into the last 5 or 6 miles of loop two through downtown were bumpy, lots of turns and a bit slow, but at least this time, I maneuvered refilling, emptying and unloading my water bottles much better.
Starting the last loop at about mile 74 near Chatakanaab Park I felt strong, but not as strong as the last time around and I was starting to feel uncomfortable in my seat. So I did a lot of shifting around, some standing and just changing up my position to try to find a less compromised spot on my tush. Somehow I muscled through that last windy stretch and took the left turn, heading west to the city center. I was in the home stretch!!! Although it felt like forever until I started to see the familiar traffic intersections, cheering sections of local folks and traffic police stopping cars to let us through. In case you’re wondering, I only stopped once on the bike when another cyclist blocked me at a water station. I had to stop to keep from crashing into her. So I did, just for a second, refilled gatorade and kept going. But I never stopped for a restroom break which seemed unreal for me since I’d been taking regular bathroom breaks during my training. And usually, no bathroom breaks (some triathletes just “go” on the bike and don’t stop) means you’re dehydrated. I just hoped I wouldn’t pass out although it didn’t feel like dizzy in any way.
I just kept going and going until it seemed like all of a sudden, volunteers were waving me into the finishing lane and I was about to dismount. That’s when I heard my name, I wasn’t sure from where, but all of sudden I saw my hubby sitting on the curb, taking photos with his iphone. Oh my gosh, that was hilarious and so sweet because he hates taking pictures, being in pictures and anything to do with social media. So I smiled, waved and called out to him, too, as I rode into the second transition area.
As I was getting off the bike, I thought to myself,”Okay, this could be a great day. I don’t need to do anything else to feel like I’ve had a great day of exercise…….But…. there was still a marathon left to run. Ugh! Whaaat??! This is insane. Can I do it?”
LEADING UP TO THE DAY:
It never fails, the night before a big event I don’t sleep because of nerves, anxiety or butterflies in my stomach. So, needless to say, I slept maybe two hours the night before Ironman Cozumel. And all night, the question in my mind was how could I possibly handle 15 hours of continuous, endurance exercise the next day on no sleep?
But at 4:30 am the alarm went off and I was up. I had put all my gear together the night before and, of course, my bike and run bags were deposited at the transition areas the day before, too.
At 4:45, in my hotel lobby, I made it a point to have a good breakfast, nothing too filing. I had oatmeal, peanut butter on toast, a banana and a small cup of coffee the Westin Hotel had set out for Ironman athletes that morning.
We rode a bus to the bike transition to leave any last minute items, then bussed over to the swim start.
From 7:00 to 8:00AM I waited, and waited, and left my bag with dry clothes for later with a friend I made during that time. Dawn was “sherpa-ing” for her friend, Shae. They were from Georgia. They were sweet enough to let me hang with them. The swim start pictures I posted were taken by Dawn. Note to self. Bring a sherpa next time, or insist my hubby act as the full time sherpa (not part time like he did this trip)! Haha!!
Finally, after standing in line with our 1:20-1:30 wave, Shae and I were finally in the water at around 8:00AM. A lot of folks jumped off the pier into the ocean. I did not. I’d heard the stories of people gashing their feet on the rocks in the water and then having to race with bleeding feet for the next 12-15 hours. No, thank you. I sat on my butt, and scooted into the water. Even so, I still had that “Oh, crap, this is about to happen,” thought in my head. When my head went under the water, my next thought was, “I’m going to drown.” I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the ocean. I could NOT see the end or IMAGINE it anywhere. There were bodies scraping up behind me, feet feverishly kicking in front of me, and arms flailing at my sides. The waves were swelling on my right and the sun was painfully bright on my left. I couldn’t catch a good breath and I felt on the verge of panic. I also didn’t see anyone on a canoe to help a swimmer in danger anywhere near me. “Crap!” Again. “What kind of support was this???” I told myself to get it together, calm down, just get away from the start area find a little space for my swim and to find my rhythm. I just kept swimming and finally after about 800 yards (according to my Garmin Fenix watch) I was finally into a rhythm. I started focusing on the buoys, just swimming from one buoy to the next. I couldn’t see nor remember what the landmarks were supposed to be, so I figured I’d get to the finish after some number of buoys. I must have swum past 8 to 10 buoys. I lost count, before I saw the thatched roofs at the piers that marked the exit. It took me another 20 minutes to reach them, but by then, I knew I had made it. I scrambled with the other swimmers to the edge of the beach stairs and crawled out of the water. Wow! That felt like a looooooong swim. My shoulders were exhausted. I was glad I would not have to depend on them the same way for part two of the Ironman.
Transition one, it seems, took me forever. I was in there for 15 minutes. Re-applying anti chafing lotion, sunscreen, gulping down water and a sugar cookie, adding a helmet and shoes, filling my pockets with Lara bars and extra electrolyte drink powder packets for my water bottles. Finally, I ran to grab my bike and I was off for 112 miles!