06 Oct

The Big Day: The Run

Well, it takes a day to run the Ironman, but apparently it takes three weeks to tell people what happened.

To tell the truth, I don’t even remember it that well. I do recall being out of the saddle as I rode up the parking ramp. I was trying to keep the weight off my rear wheel, and I kept lookind down at it to gauge whether it was flat. Of course, at that point, I don’t think I would have stopped to change the tire, so I don’t know why I cared.

In any case, I looked up just as I was rounding the final turn and I saw bright orange shirts on every level of the terrace. I rode to the transition, careful not to go too fast, which I have a brief history of doing. I was under the impression that I’d have to park my bike before going to the transition area, so it took a few seconds for me to register what the man holding my bike was saying to me. I looked at him, confused, when he wouldn’t let go of my bike. Then he repeated himself, and, following his directions, I ran into the transition zone.

I assume I changed clothes, but I don’t have a really vivid memory of doing so. I remember seeing people near the finish line on MLK cheering me on. And I remember getting to mile 2 and thinking about how far away from the start it seemed.

I checked my watch occasionally and calculated that I was running 8:40 miles, which I was happy about, but I knew I’d be slowing down in the later miles. I tried to stay disciplined — avoid running too fast, walk through the aid stations, don’t race other people. It was much easier to reign myself in on the run than the bike.

I drank mostly water at aid stations. Tried Gatorade and Coke once, but both gave me a very brief gut-ache. For the last few miles of the first lap, I kept hearing some guy behind me belch loudly every time he went through an aid station. Finally, on University Avenue, I looked back at him and saw a blond woman in a bright green windbreaker. She caught up with me just as an unfortunate woman with a large chest was running by us in the outgoing lane. The belcher said, “Ouch!” I laughed.

“At least it’s not cold and rainy,” she said.

“At least we’re not swimming.” I replied.

We laughed at each other and then ran side by side for the next three or four miles. It was the best part of the race. Just to run in silence next to someone else who was going through exactly what you were going through — it was comforting.

My original plan was not to eat on the run, since I typically don’t deal well with food while running. But around mile 15 or so, my body was telling me to abort plan A. I ate a bite of banana at the next aid station and waited for stomach pains.

None came.

So I ate another piece of banana at the next aid station. And another one 2 miles later. And on and on. “Bananas = good” was the moral of the story.

With three miles to go, I splurged on a GU. And let me tell you, most notable post-GU effects ever! I definitely got a kick of energy in the last ten minutes or so. I was really picking up the pace in the last half mile; some other woman was coming with me, right on my heels. We entered the fenced section by the capital, where you can really only fit two across, and there was a guy up ahead on the right. I figured I should sprint ahead of the woman to my left to pass the guy; otherwise, I’d be slowing and allowing her to get up on me.

When I ran ahead, I heard the woman whisper, “shit,” which I took as my cue to leave her behind. Eleven and a half hours and the two of us were racing in the last 150 meters.

I couldn’t hear anyone at the finish line — not that I remember anyhow. I remember finishing, getting my finisher medal, and a backpack, and then standing in line to get my picture taken. Then I remember talking to everyone at the fence. There’s a video of that scene, taken by my father-in-law. I’m all smiles. I shake hands, get some hugs. And then I exhale, and my face shows my true exhaustion. It’s almost funny, actually.

At that point I said I’d never do it again. But now, three weeks later, it doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, two days afterwards, it didn’t seem so bad. I’m not making any promises about the future. I’m just saying, I’m glad I did it.

Beyond the finish line

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