Last week I did something stupid: I registered for Ironman CdA. The
race is on June 27, 2009, which means I have appx 10 months to get my sorry ass back into shape.
I cannot believe I did this. I mean, marriage has been going pretty well so far – why add the stress of IM training into it? But, The Boss registered with me (it will be his second time on this course; he did it in 2006), and it should be interesting to see the disarray that our life descends into when you have two people training for the same IM.
In honor of this, I wanted to post my race report that I wrote last November, after IM AZ. This is my little motivational reminder of how “worth it” it all is.
Swim (2.4 Miles):
I hopped in the water holding hands with Jess, who got me into this stupid hobby in the first place. I watched Jess do this race in 2007 and 2008, and this year she asked me if I wasn’t done sitting on the sidelines. I still haven’t quite forgiven her for that Anyway, jumping in with her was totally my favorite moment of the morning! We both screamed as we entered the water and then laughed as we adjusted to the cold temps.
We made our way over to …somewhere. I really have no idea where we seeded ourselves. We high fived with a bunch of people and everyone was friendly and talkative and laughing and “WOOO IRONMAN!” until the gun went off and everyone turned into a total asshole. Seriously, I’ve never been so close to getting into a fist fight in my LIFE as I was at this swim start! I now understand how and why people panic in the water — I’ve never really had a panic impulse myself, but I get it now! I felt like it was impossible to swim for the first five minutes, but I was getting carried along by the draft eventually just decided to stop waiting for clear water and to make my own.
I felt like I was pretty far in the back this whole swim, as I felt like I was battling slow swimmers and struggling to keep a pace. Overall though, I liked this swim — the water temp was perfect and I was very comfortable. I did notice my stroke getting sloppy a certain points and redoubled my efforts to maintain good form.
Saw Jeff at the wetsuit stripping. YAY! We had a little struggle as my suit got caught in my wrist band, so I lost a few minutes there, but I was thrilled to see my friend.
Shocked to learn my swim was sub 1:20. I was shooting for 1:30!
Apparently, I took a nap here. Ok, not really, but this was a looooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnng. I decide to change complete – dry bike shorts, bike jersey. I didn’t want to be cold on the bike
Next time: eff that. I’m just gonna go!
Bike (112 miles):
I felt like I had NO power on this ride. I really felt like I struggled! The first loop had some wind that was fairly demoralizing, and while it was much better on subsequent loops, the damage had been done. My legs were tired.
I felt like I probably ate too much too quickly, and spent the rest of the bike trying to correct that problem. I don’t know..I really just had a hard time getting into a groove and feeling good. I stopped at least once each lap to go to the bathroom, and lost time there as well.
The best advice I got was from Mike Ricci — “if you get cranky on the bike — EAT!”. I did get VERY cranky on the bike, VERY often, and whenever that would happen I would eat and then I felt better.
I paced this bike ALL wrong. I wish I could get a do over, but oh well. Now I know.
Dude, they had massage therapists in the tent. WHY did I leave T2? I have no idea.
Run (26.2 Miles)
Goal: Run to every aid station, the walk the station. I accomplished this goal through mile 16.
My brother jumped in an ran with me the first 13 miles!! I can’t believe he did that, but he did. That was my favorite part of the day, for sure… we were just running along and chatting. He moved from DC to LA earlier this year, and we’re not neighbors anymore, and I miss him. It was GREAT to catch up and hang out, and I barely realized I was in an Ironman during this time. We had a blast. My favorite moment was when someone shouted “Go Elizabeth!” and he was like “my GOD, how many people do you know? You’re like a rockstar!” and I finally clued him into the fact that my name was on my race number. Heh. I should have let him keep thinking I was just that famous
Anyway, I was pretty happy that I was keeping on my run/walk schedule, taking an eGel every three miles and felt pretty good. I was almost always surprised to see aid stations come up — it felt like they were ticking off pretty quickly. That was cool. Mike left at mile 13 and I kept trudging along. Right around mile 16 the wheels started to come off, and then by mile 17 it happened: Leg cramp. Holy HELL that really hurts!!! My hip flexors, quads and calves were completely seizing up when I would life my knee to start running. Grrrrr. I could still walk though, and that’s what I did — tried to speed walk my way in.
Weird things starting happening to my body at this point. My whole mid section hurt to the touch, and I realized it was just profound ab muscles soreness. (Note to self: stop ignoring core work) My legs felt like they were on FIRE and all I wanted to do was drop them in Tempe Town Lake to cool them off. I was starting to bloat a bit, as I could tell from my race belt feeling tighter. Mostly I just really hurt. I’ve done long races before, but I don’t ever think I’ve ever just straight up HURT like I did here. I think it’s interesting to note, however, I never once had IT band pain. That is normally what knocks me out of running races, and I didn’t hear a peep from them all day. I’m calling that a win
I REALLY didn’t want to start that third lap. I was NOT looking forward to crossing the river again and going to the dark cold parts of Tempe, and I knew it was going to take FOREVER to finish that lap while walking. MikeNotMyBrother (Fiance Mike) joined me for a few miles and it was great to have company again, to be cheered on even though I was only walking, and to share part of the race with him. We did the math and realized I had the chance to beat his IM time, but only if I could run, which…no. So I let that dream go. It’s ok — as long as I don’t give the bike back to him I can still try to beat his CdA time!
Around mile 19 I was getting sleepy, so I hit the coke. I didn’t really enjoy the cola, but I was scared of coming off a coke crash, so I took it at every aid station from there on out.
Around mile 23, I’m going under this overpass, it’s dark, cold, there’s not a lot of people around, and a guy that was shuffling along with me collapsed to the ground in full leg spasm. I stopped to help rub out his calf and tried to lift him to his feet, but I couldn’t lift enough and he couldn’t push himself up. Eventually a volunteer showed and radioed for a medic, and it occurred to me that this guy was going to get pulled off the course. At mile 23.
I left him — there were people with him, and not moving was making me cramp again — but I started to get scared. I had thought that if I started the run, there was no way I wouldn’t finish, and until that moment, I still believed it, but suddenly I realized that my legs were on the verge of doing the same thing, and I might get pulled from the course too, with only three miles to go. I didn’t want that to happen. At the next aid station I took a Gatorade.
Ok, I NEVER drink Gatorade when I run. Most sports drinks give me the WORST side stitches and leave me immobilized. But I realized I needed to get electrolytes to stop the cramping, and I also realized that I wasn’t running . I’m pretty sure the drink helped my legs a ton, and I was able to pick up the pace a bit.
And then… then the finish. I saw my friend Dave right before the turn into the finish, and he walked with me for a bit. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run the finish shoot — I was really worried about re-cramping– but the minute I turned the corner and saw the shoot, I wanted to try. It felt great to just freaking RUN my way in, not worrying about sustaining a pace, cramping legs, anything — just let loose and fly.
And that’s what it felt like — finishing basically felt like flying. It was awesome, every bit as awesome as I wondered it might be.
I hadn’t wanted to do a 15:30 Ironman, partly because of ego, but also because I didn’t really want to be on my feet for that long. To say that it hurt at the end doesn’t really encompass it. That was, by far, one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had.
I think back on the race and I can pin point specific moments where I could have shaved literally hours off my time. And maybe someday I’ll go back and do just that.
I think I do myself a disservice by being friends with so many accomplished athletes. I’ve watched these “mere mortals” train for and race Ironmans for the past three years, and I think the extent of how … I don’t know, hard, amazing, challenging, awesome, it all is has…lessened, to an extent. When I first heard of Ironman, and learned what the distances were, I was overwhelmed. Over time, that feeling went away. I came to believe — and I still kind of believe this — that anyone can finish an Ironman, provided they want to train for it. But, it’s more than that, I don’t think I realized that until I was out there doing it.
I’m grateful I was able to finish, and I know my finish time reflects what I was able to do that day. But the overwhelming feeling of Ironman has hit me again. I almost can’t believe what I did. But more so, I know that I can do better. I feel like I really get what they mean when they say Ironman. It’s not just going through the motions in training, though that will most likely get you to the finish line. I haven’t even begun to learn what I don’t know about Ironman training.
All of that being said: I’m still an effing Ironman. And it feels awesome.