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.