I came out of the transition area just elated that I had made the bike cutoff, and with time to spare. The crowds of spectators were thickly lining both sides of the road, and it took me a minute to remember that my name was on my bib. So many people were cheering me on by name and it threw me off for a minute.
Starting the run, my legs actually felt really good. Way better than they had at Beach 2 Battleship in October. I started out on the run course around 4:40 pm. I knew I had until right around 11:40 pm to finish, which gave me just about 7 hours to complete the marathon. That was doable. I felt slightly relieved knowing how much time I had, but I was also feeling good, and didn’t want to cut it close – so I ran my way down the hill and out of town. Somewhere just after coming out of the transition area, I spotted my support crew. I had asked them to be nearby to make sure I made the cutoff, and sure enough, there they were, cheering away.
At this point in the day, most people were on the run course, so the roads were crowded. At this point, most of the people I met were starting out on their second loop and were a whole 13.1 miles ahead of me. It was humbling, but I was just happy to be off the bike, and not pulled from the course. I know I’m slow, I made my peace with it.
For nutrition, I started out with some strawberry Gu chomps – my personal favorite. But at this point in the day, my stomach really can’t take much sugary stuff. It just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. So after a few pieces of Gu chomps, I switched to nothing but water and pretzels from the aid stations. The salt was spectacularly delicious, and it was a nice change from all the sugar I had been downing all day.
I made my way down the big hill just outside of T2, out of town, past the ski jumps, and down the other big hill (both of which we had to come back up later – twice). Then it was time to turn left onto River Road for the nice peaceful out-and-back. The scenery was beautiful through here, and I was still feeling really good. I was doing the same run/walk system that I had done at my half iron a few weeks before – walk the uphills and aid stations, and run everything else. At this point, I was pretty surprised with how good I felt. Sure, I was tired, but I wasn’t in any pain. For the first 8 miles or so, my pace seemed to be hovering in or around the 11-12 min/mile range, which I was very happy with. One of my favorite signs at this point of the course was “You win. Andy Potts never did a 17 hour ironman.” (If you are unfamiliar with ironman, Andy Potts has won Ironman Lake Placid two years in a row now.)
I continued on with my run/walk out to the turnaround on River Road, just before mile 9. Coming back, I chatted with a guy near me who had just graduated college, and was in a similar field as me, and was considering moving out to Boulder, Colorado after the race (which I just did – hence the delay in posting this part of the race report). We had a lot in common and ran/walked along together for a few miles. He was very sweet and encouraging and pushed me to run just a little farther, and just a little faster than I would have otherwise, and I really appreciated the company.
On out-and-backs, I’m always keeping my eye out on the other side of the road to see who’s around. I spotted several friends from my tri club, kicking butt and taking names. One of them, Jeff (who raced Lake Placid with a broken collarbone last year), actually lost all his nutrition off his bike early in the day, and ended up having to spend an hour in the med tent getting fixed up. And he was still doing amazing. We exchanged a quick hug and some encouragements, and then ran off in opposite directions. Also at this point, I saw my other favorite sign of the run leg. It said “Prancercise the next 1/4 mile to loosen up.” I especially enjoyed this one because I had just been talking with people about prancercise the day before. I laughed for a long time about that one.
Eventually, my buddy and I parted ways, and then it was time to climb back up the big hill by the ski jumps, and head into town again.
At the top of the big hill, there was a woman at the end of her driveway. She was cheering through a construction cone and was completely awesome. Also, possibly drunk. But damn entertaining.
Past the ski jumps, there was another awesome cheering section that had a table filled with beer. There was another “free beer” sign, and, while I’m sure it would have tasted delicious, I figured now probably wasn’t the best time. Some people were taking them up on it though. Shortly after the free beer, I passed my hotel, where I spotted my support crew again. And they had gained a person! I saw her from waaaaaay down the road. My best friend had planned on coming up for the race, but I really didn’t expect her to make it through all the traffic. From about 500 yards away I screamed “YOU MADE IT!!!!!” and ran for a hug. I was so happy she was there.
Heading back into town, the cheering crowds were everywhere. The other big hill of the run course is just as you’re coming back to swing past the Olympic oval. On this hill, there was a guy with a bullhorn, yelling at people who were walking. I told him I would run up it on the second loop (I may have lied there…). Just at the top of the hill, I finally saw my student who I had been looking for at the top of the Keene Descent earlier in the morning. I gave her a big sweaty hug, and headed on my way.
When I got to the top of the hill, I was right in front of the Olympic oval, which functions as the transition area, and the finish line. The party was raging, and I couldn’t wait to get there. But first, it was time to turn right onto Mirror Lake Drive for the next out-and-back.
Running down Mirror Lake Drive was great. The roads were lined with barricades, and the crowds were jam packed in along them. People were cheering my name everywhere (which I still found weird, but nice). Also in here, I kept bumping into several people from my tri club, most of whom were about to finish their second leg, and the entire thing. I was a bit jealous. But they bust their butts to be that fast. One day, I will too. For now, I’ll keep slogging away at the back of the pack, and having fun doing it!
I ran my way down Mirror Lake Drive, past all the crowds, tents, parties, DJ’s, and the aid station. One mile down the road, I hit the turnaround, and started back towards the oval.
Coming back down Mirror Lake Drive was awesome but hard at the same time – for no other reason than at the end of it, you either go right or left. Right to finish, left to do the loop all over again. And I had to go left.
13.1 miles to go!
I turned left and started out on loop 2. My student was nearby, and jogged along with me for a few minutes to chat, and then headed back to her friends. By now, the amount of people running was significantly less, but I was never alone. I ran out of town, past the ski jumps, down the hill, and turned left to do my second out-and-back on River Road.
The hardest part at this point was that no matter where you were on the course – even all the way out at the end of River Road – you could hear Mike Reilly echoing through the night. It was such a tease! It was starting to get dark, and I was doing obsessive race math to constantly know what was the absolute slowest I had to maintain to finish by the cutoff. At this point, I knew I could walk the rest and be just fine, so I decided to take a little walk break for a couple miles to stretch out my legs and re-energize myself. I walked from somewhere around mile 15 to somewhere around mile 18, and then it was time to go back to my run/walk system again. It was working well for me, and I was still feeling great, which was shocking. The only slightly unpleasant thing was that I knew I had a bit of chafing going on, but it was tolerable, so I just gritted my teeth and tried not to think about getting in the shower later.
By the time I got to the turnaround at the end of River Road, and mile 18.something, it was dark. At some point, someone handed me my glow necklace, which does little to help you see, but they’re still fun. I went around the cone, and started heading back towards the village. There were still several people behind me on the course, and I really wondered if some of them would make the cutoff. I was still worried about making it myself, even though I knew the math all worked out. I was paranoid.
With paranoia as my fuel, I ran as much as I could back down River Road. At one point, I passed a guy. We exchanged our hellos, and I muttered something about running because I was just trying to make sure I would make it in in time. His response was “don’t worry, you can walk and finish at this point.” It was reassuring to hear it from someone else (I never trust mental math at this point in an ironman), but I still wanted to bank as much time as I could. So I kept running.
I got to the end of River Road, and made the right to go up the hill near the ski jumps. Lo and behold, the drunk construction cone lady was STILL THERE. I would bet she hadn’t stopped cheering all day. She was awesome. As I ran past her, I gave her a high five and told her as much.
The free beer table was quiet, but there were still a few cans out. I didn’t take one (I would be drunk off one sip at this point in the day), but there didn’t seem to be many left. Clearly, it was a popular pit stop.
I got back into town, and it was time for the last uphill of the day. I didn’t really have the gas to run it (it’s pretty steep), so I walked – quickly. As soon as I crested the top, it was back to running. The crowds were amazing. The closer it gets to midnight, the crazier the party gets. People were everywhere! I passed the oval, made a right, and headed out for the out-and-back (essentially the victory lap) down Mirror Lake Drive.
Since 6:40am, I had completed 138.4 miles. I had 2.2 miles to go.
I ran down Mirror Lake Drive, got a couple high fives from some kids along the barricade, and exchanged many “congratulations” with others around me. A few minutes later, I reached the turnaround point, and the last 1.1 miles of my day.
I told myself earlier that I HAD to run the entire thing once I hit that turnaround. It was a slow run (11:03/mi pace), but at that point in the day, I felt like I was flying. Congratulations were being cheered back and forth from one runner to another, and everyone was smiling. As I approached the oval and the finish line, I could hear Mike Reilly getting louder and louder.
I reached the end of Mirror Lake Drive, and it was finally my turn to go right and enter the Olympic oval.
The crowds were amazing. The lights were blazing (which can be a bit of a shock when you’ve been out on the dark course for the last few hours), and everyone was cheering. The moment I turned and entered the oval was such an awesome feeling. The curve of the oval was laid out in front of me, just begging me to go around the corner and see the finish.
Entering the oval, I felt awesome. I was running strong, and passed three other people who had also just entered it. We exchanged congratulations, and they told me to go ahead of them. Everyone wants their own moment at the finish line, and they appeared to be waiting until no one else was coming in around them.
On the curve, I saw my support crew. I was so happy to see them.
Then it was the moment I had been working for. I rounded the last curve of the Olympic oval, and there was the finish line. It was a huge sea of people on both sides of the finish chute. Everyone was cheering, music was blaring, and somewhere in there, Mike Reilly said “Sarah, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
(My friend took a picture of the jumbotron since they couldn’t be right at the finish.)
Run time: 5:54:35 (still slow, but significantly faster than B2B!)
Final time: 16:02:36
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was met by two catchers, who grabbed me by my elbows, wrapped me in a space blanket, put my medal around my neck, gave me a bottle of water, and steered me toward the table to get a finisher’s shirt and hat. Those ladies were efficient. After getting my medal, shirt, and hat, my one catcher stayed with me (to make sure I didn’t pass out, etc.), made sure I got some food (best watermelon EVER), and got my finishers picture taken. Once I had done all that, and she was sure I wasn’t going to fall down, she headed back to the finish line, and I headed off to find my support crew.
Just beyond the finishers area, I saw my student again. I gave her a big hug, and we chatted for a few minutes until my crew appeared. Then it was time for sweaty hugs all around.
They are the BEST!
They brought me my post-race bag, so I had a chance to change into flip flops and put on warmer clothes. When I sat down to take off my shoes, it felt so nice, I didn’t want to get back up.
They collected my bike and gear bags, and I hobbled slowly for a few blocks to get back to the car. (Come on guys, get it together! The car should be on top of the finish line!) Then it was time to head back to the hotel, shower (ow, ow, OW), and SLEEP!