Missed part 1 and part 2?  Check them out!

By now, I had completed two of the three legs of this race.  Aside from the literal pain in my ass from the bike, as well as my back and neck, and the fact that any thought of food made my stomach flip, I was feeling generally awesome as I rolled into the convention center and T2.

T2

T2 was located inside the Wilmington convention center.  I rolled up to the dismount line, told the volunteer how much I loved him, and crossed the timing mat while walking up the ramp into the transition area.

Just inside the doors to the convention center, volunteers were waiting to take our bikes from us.  We were told in the athlete meeting that we could give them our helmets as well, but the woman who took my bike insisted that I carry my helmet with me and put it in my T2 bag.  Whatever.  It really didn’t matter.

After handing off my bike, I took off my shoes and started to walk down the blue carpet that wound around the outside of the room to the T2 bags.

HOLY HELL MY FEET HURT.  I didn’t notice that while I was on the bike!

I made my way down the racks of bags, to the spot where I had hung my T2 bag the day before.  I grabbed it and went into the changing area.  One nice thing about having T2 in the convention center was that we had full bathrooms available in the changing areas.  I didn’t feel the need to use them, but many people were taking the chance to wash their faces, etc.  It was definitely a perk.

Just like in T1, I did a full change of clothes.  I swapped out the bike shorts for my regular compression shorts, and put on my compression socks and No Meat Athlete shirt (represent!).  Hat, sunglasses, race and fuel belts, and running shoes went on.  Everything that came off went into my T2 bag.  I knotted the bag and handed it off to a volunteer on my way out of T2.

T2 time: 11:08 (Slow again, but I’d rather be comfortable!)

The run (bringing it home!)

When I came out of T2, it was 4:36pm.  I had until 12:30am to finish the run.  That’s ever so slightly under 8 hours.  The cutoff for the turnaround to go back out for the second loop of the run was at 8:30pm.  So I had just under 4 hours to travel 14 miles.  I knew that I could easily make those cutoff times, so the stress of making a cutoff was gone.  Now I could just go at my own pace and enjoy the moment.  I didn’t want to do anything stupid and end up crapping out somewhere on the run, so I decided not to push it.

I fell into a group with two other guys coming out of T2, and we walked together for a little over a mile.  They were planning on walking three miles and then running one for their run/walk schedule.  I didn’t want to walk for that long at a time, so we said our goodbyes (we knew we would cross paths many times since this was an out-and-back course and you had to do it twice on top of that).  I started running as we came off the boardwalk, right next to the finish line that we were all so eagerly waiting to cross.  Just beyond the finish line, there was an aid station.  I decided to hit them up for some vaseline (oh the sweet relief!), and continued on my way.

I ran for a few miles after that – not sure exactly how many, it’s all kind of a blur at this point – I think about three?  But the course took us down some cobblestone streets right next to the river (pretty, but a little tough on the tired ankles), and then through a pretty victorian section of town.  Eventually, we crossed some railroad tracks, hung a left and passed another aid station which was sitting right next to a bar.

Passing the bar was always fun.  There was a huge crowd outside, and they had clearly been partaking in the “festivities” all day.  Every time you passed them, you got a HUGE cheer.  Then we hung a right and headed out to the Greenfield Lake area.

The lake area was really pretty.  We ran mostly on paved trails that wound through trees and over bridges.  There were houses along the route still, and there was one house in particular that was getting really into spectating.  I imagine their neighbors loved them that day.  They were blaring music for hours and standing down at the road with horns and all kinds of noisemakers.  Screaming their heads off for every single person who passed by them.  They were fantastic.  I did feel kind of bad for their neighbors though.  But not that bad.  🙂

By now, I had settled into a very loose run/walk system.  I ran when I could and walked when I needed to.  There was no plan.  I was just going by feel.  My legs were tired, but okay.  The main thing was just that my feet were so stinking tender.  Both on the bottom and the top.  I felt like my shoelaces were cutting into my feet.  At one point I stopped to loosen my right shoe, which helped a bit, but the tenderness was pretty intense.  I know I could have run a lot more than I did, but I was being a pansy.  🙂  I really didn’t want to do too much and not be able to finish, or finish, but feel like complete shit.  I just wanted to enjoy the moment and have a good time.  So run/walk I did.  And by “run,” I mean “shuffle really slowly but ever so slightly faster than walking.”

Eventually we got to the part of the run course that was giving people some confusion.  It was an out-and-back course, but there was a little triangle-shaped loop that went off to the side that we had to run as well.  In the athlete meeting we were told we had to run this when we went out and when we came back.  I still don’t understand how that was so confusing, but people were really bothered by it for some reason.  I did my first loop of the triangle, and made a left to continue out to the turnaround for the first time.

It felt like it took forever to get to the stupid turnaround!  Eventually, I started seeing people coming back in the other direction that I knew weren’t too far ahead of me, so that was a relief.  And I was so happy when that aid station and turnaround came into view.  Finally!

I hit the timing mats at the turnaround, which was mile 7.7 with a split of 1:45:10.  Ouch that’s slow.  That’s a 13:39/mile pace.  And that was the first part of the run.  Whatever.  I was going to be a freaking ironman as long as I kept moving, and that’s what mattered to me this time.  I’ll worry about my times at the next one.

Coming back the first time was pretty uneventful.  There were many encouraging words exchanged with everyone you crossed paths with.  People were high-fiving each other when they saw a friend or a buddy from the bike course, and cheering each other on.  It was very sweet.

I hit the triangle on the way back and saw the Spartan Man (a guy doing the run in a big red cape with a spartan helmet) who was in rough shape.  He was crouched down on the side of the road, and his cape was blocking my view.  I was a little concerned that when I looked around it, I would see him throwing up, and then I would throw up too.  But he was okay.  He said he had been checked by medical and was just dehydrated and needed an IV.

Then he got up and smoked me.  I didn’t see him again on the run.  Go Sparta.

At this point, it was starting to get dark.  I definitely didn’t need the sunglasses anymore, and people were breaking out the glow necklaces that you get of you’re on the course after dark.  I picked mine up at an aid station somewhere on the way back to town.

Before getting back into downtown and starting my second lap, I had this sudden realization that I had been going from sunup to sundown.  That was crazy.  And I still had about 14 miles to go.

Perhaps the worst part of the whole thing was that the turnaround point was literally feet from the finish line.  You could see it and hear it!  It was torture!  We had been warned about this in our athlete meeting as well.  It was so hard to see the finish line, and make your feet turn around and go the other way for another 12 miles (the turnaround was just after mile 14).

My sister took a video of me as I was running in to the turnaround where I’m yelling “oh that’s so mean!!!  It’s right there!!!

At the turnaround, our run special needs bags were waiting.  I had packed a long sleeve NMA shirt in it just in case, but I didn’t need it.  Instead, I just grabbed my letters and went on my way.

I had three letters in my special needs bag that I was saving for the second half of the run.  One was a serious one from myself.  The others were stupid ones from my sister and my best friend.  I told them I could use a laugh at that point, so they should amuse me.  Problem was, it had gotten so dark it was hard to read them!

I carried the unread letters with me for a while, and a mile or so down the road, decided to read the one from myself…

You’re 91% done! (Yes, I did out the math, but I assumed the bags would be at mile 13.1, not after 14, whatever.)

I am so proud of you/me for all that you have done – both physically and mentally – to be where you are right now.  This has been a really tough year, but you never gave up.  And  now look where  you are!

13.1 miles away from being an IRONMAN.

All the planning and hard work has gotten you this far.  Your heart will take you the rest of the way.

You can do this.  You WILL do this.  You’ll finish strong, and with a smile on your face.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep your head up.  It’s going to be so amazing when that finish line comes into view, and everyone is cheering you home.

I’m so proud of you.  Just keep going!

Alis volat propriis.  (Latin for “She flies with her own wings.”)

I did get a little choked up when I was reading that.  But I didn’t really lose it like I did at mile 22 of my first marathon.  I was pretty calm through the whole “run,” actually.

I put the letter into the zipper pocket on my handheld water bottle and kept heading out towards the turnaround for the last time.  As I passed volunteers, I would tell them “the next time I see you, I’ll be coming in to the finish line!”  They were all awesome.  They had been out there all day, and were still yelling and cheering with huge smiles.  Major kudos to all of them.

As I passed the bar, I told the crowd (now very drunk), “the next time I pass you, I’m coming in to the finish line so you better scream your heads off.”  They promised they would.

Not long after passing the bar, I fell into step with a girl about my age who was going at a similar pace as me.  We started chatting, and were both doing a similar run/walk system, so we ended up sticking together for the rest of the run.  Her name was Rachel, and this was her redemption race.  She had participated in last year’s ill-fated Beach2Battleship with the horrendous weather (40 degrees on the bike, 30+ mph winds, and rain all day).  People had been dropping like flies.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have warm enough clothing and was basically hypothermic by mile 27 of the bike, and had to DNF.  She had come back this year to make B2B her bitch.  So far, so good.

We slogged on.  Mostly walking, but adding in a short little jog every couple minutes.  We would pick a landmark like a streetlight and run to it and then continue walking.  We were bumping into a lot of familiar faces along the way, and congratulations and high-fives were plentiful.

Eventually, we made it out to the turnaround point at mile 20.  I shouted “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!” to everyone at the aid station.  Then I hit the timing mat and went around the cone to turn around and come back for the home stretch.  After officially turning around, I shouted to the volunteers again.  “NOW I LOVE YOU EVEN MORE!!!”

My 20 mile split was 4:51:28.  Or a 14:34/mile average pace.  Bah.  Oh well.  I was going to be an ironman in 6.2 miles.  Who cares?  I’ll be faster at the next one.  At this point, it was 9:28 pm.  We had three hours to do a 10k to make the cutoff.  It was in the bag, and I was so relieved.

At mile 21, my family was waiting and cheering.  I gave my mom a big (sweaty) hug and told them all I’d see them in five miles at the finish line, and we kept on moving.  At this point, if you stopped moving, you stiffened right up and it was hell getting going again.

We kept run/walking our way back towards the finish line.  Once we got out of the Greenfield Lake area, I felt like the end was getting close.  We made good use of the little downhill going past the bar, and as we ran past I yelled “WE’RE ALMOST DONE!  YOU CAN CHEER LOUDER THAN THAT!”  And they did.  🙂

After running down the bar hill, we made a right onto the main road that would take us most of the way back into downtown.  A couple hundred yards away were the train tracks and as we were getting close to them (as in, a few yards away), I heard a train blowing it’s whistle not too far away.  I hauled ass across the tracks and told Rachel to do the same.  Just after we crossed, the lights started flashing and the bars came down.  The people behind us were stuck and had to wait for the train to pass.  That sucks.  I am so glad we ran down that hill.  Otherwise, we would have been stuck for several minutes waiting, and stiffening up.

I was getting excited, but still not really overwhelmed.  As with most of the day, it felt like a dream, or like I was just doing any old normal race.  I knew in my head what it really was, but it didn’t seem to register with my emotions.  Or I was simply too tired at this point to think straight.  That’s also highly likely.

Once we hit the victorian section of town, I knew the finish line was close.  I saw the flashing lights of the cop car marking the turn to the finish line, and was SO HAPPY.  THIS WAS THE FINISH!

I told Rachel I was running it in from there, and I took off.  I flew down the last nice downhill, made the hard right at the bottom, and ran it in along the cobblestone street along the river.  NOW the (happy) tears started to appear.  Some of the volunteers gave me high-fives, and I definitely yelled “I’M DONE!!!” a couple times.

This time, instead of making that evil, evil turn just before the finish, I stayed to the left, and went on to the finish line.  The big arch was hanging over the road, and the announcer was calling my name.  I crossed under the arch and jumped onto the timing mat, signing myself in as an ironman.  My final time was 15:33:26.

Officially an ironman!

After crossing the finish line, I got wrapped in a space blanket, and a volunteer put my bling on me.  And boy, are those finisher medals some bling!

I look SO TIRED.

That’s one snazzy medal!

Post-race

My family met me just beyond the finish chute with hugs, and my warm clothes I had left out in my hotel room for them to bring to the finish line.  (They were such good ironsherpas!)  We walked – okay, they walked, I waddled – to my hotel, which was all of 1000 yards away (hooray for staying at the race hotel).  I got to my room and proceeded to lay down on the floor, while my mom sat there saying “okay, so are you good because I need to get back to my hotel…”  (She wasn’t being nasty.  I had asked her just to keep an eye on me for a little bit after the race to make sure I didn’t pass out or get stuck or anything.)  I dragged myself up off the floor (quite possibly the most difficult task of the day), and got in the shower.  Getting out was also quite a challenge.  Who made bathtub sides so high???

By 11:45pm, I was ready to get some sleep.  I attempted to go to bed, but wasn’t able to fall asleep for hours.  My whole body was so sore, tired, and stiff that it was absolutely impossible to get comfortable.  Around 1:30 am, after tossing and turning for hours, I remembered that I had brought my prescription-strength anti-inflammatories with me that my orthopedist had given me for my toe.

Voila!  Asleep!

Once the super-advil kicked in, I was out cold.  Somehow, I ended up wide awake at 6:30 am (oh the irony).  The wonderful meds were still in my system (those puppies are good for 24 hours), so while getting out of bed did totally suck, it didn’t totally suck as much as it could have.  I took one more (you can take up to two a day), and was feeling much better, very quickly.  I have actually never felt as good after a race as I did this time.  It was magical.

I ate a little bit of breakfast (my stomach still didn’t like the sound of many of the foods I had with me), and loaded up the car.  My family had grabbed all my gear while I was racing, so it was all waiting for me back in my hotel room.  The only thing that was missing was my T2 bag.  It was still at the convention center, with many important things in it (bike shoes, helmet, license…).  So after loading the car, I wandered the two blocks (walking very well, I might add!) to the convention center to pick it up.  Also, I wanted to buy one of the sweet finisher jackets.

After getting my T2 bag and ordering a jacket (can’t wait until it gets here!!!), I met up with my family and we headed out of town.  Peace out, Wilmington.  It’s been fun.

PS – I am an ironman.

Advertisements