St. George Ironman 70.3
Tuesday before the longest race of my life I sat down with CK to discuss the upcoming event. As I listed the challenges I faced going into this race she scribbled down some notes on a piece of paper. When I was done going thru it all CK turned the paper around and asked me, "If I showed you this persons list of issues, would you recommend they do this race?"...
Severe ankle sprain
IT Band pain
Sick for past 3 weeks
"No, I would suggest they get a wheel chair and see a doctor.", was my response. But... since when have I ever listened to sound advice?!
Jared and I had decided to do this race for our 10th anniversary and we had planned to do it together. I couldn't let him down, I couldn't not try after all the time, money and work I put into this race. More than anything I couldn't DNF my first IRONMAN event. I was pretty scared to begin with and I didn't want to set myself back in the one aspect of triathlon that I'm pretty good at, mental strength.
So I committed to do my best to get well enough by race day to toe the line.
3:45am comes quickly no matter what time you get to bed. Surprisingly I had slept pretty good despite a midnight wake up call by our youngest and having a chest cold with the regular coughing fits. We got our gear together, headed down to breakfast and caught the shuttle over to T2 to drop our run gear off and catch the next shuttle to Sand Hollow.
From the moment you get off the bus you could sense the anticipation and scale of the massive crew of people it takes to make an event of this size run smoothly. It was pretty awesome. Having checked our bikes in the day before, things felt pretty relaxed. I got my wetsuit on, took some pictures, chatted up some friends and team mates and headed for the swim start.
The Swim (41:53):
With temps at the Sand Hollow res being pretty chilly, I was looking forward to my ice bath before the bike and run. I knew it would help all my aches and pains and give me some confidence I badly needed. When the swim started I got kicked in the chest right of the bat. This sent me into a coughing fit in the water. But I don't stop to cough, I just cough into the water and then breath out the side and cough some more. Unfortunately, the bubbles lifted one side of my goggles just enough to let in some water. Good thing Sand Hollow has awesomely clear/fresh water, I just kept swimming as it wasn't much of a bother.
For the most part I had a pretty good swim. I felt the chest cold, felt the fatigue of missing weeks of training but I enjoyed it and came out of the water feeling fairly well, didn't push myself very hard and still came out of the water in a descent time. The swim is always the easiest on me though...
Jared was waiting for me as planned and I hustled to get my bike gear on and join him.
The Bike (a torturous 4:17:01):
I knew going in the bike was going to be the hardest part of this race for me. My bike fit was off, my injuries were exploited and my illness was getting the better of me. Every breath was labored, my heart rate was soaring and my nose was running at full drip! I was expecting all this for the most part and had planned to just do my best. What I wasn't expecting was the hamstring pain that showed up to play on the bike. From the first hill I could tell I was going to have a problem I hadn't counted on. I managed to make it 26 miles before the stabbing pain was too much and I had to stop and stretch it out. Jared had been leap frogging me on the course and was there to help me get a good enough stretch to calm the pain. That stop got me thru to the base of Snow Canyon before I had to get off and repeat the process. Again Jared was there and stretched it out and again it bought me a few miles. It's too bad those miles were heading up into Snow Canyon! Being that I'm not currently a strong biker, and I'm a weak climber, I was already struggling to keep up with my pacer (Jared) and the climbing was starting to cause my IT Band to become extremely painful. I had to stop two more times up Snow Canyon to stretch and ended up walking my bike long enough to let my lungs and legs recovered. My one strength was starting to waiver, I was very near an emotional break down. I was getting passed by EVERYONE. It was emotionally very difficult for me to keep my confidence and belief that I could not only finish the bike, but add a half marathon on top of it. Self doubt was creeping in and I was struggling to tell myself that this was "fun". It wasn't fun at that point, I was hoping at that point that something would give so I wouldn't have to quit. I could tell Jared was getting discouraged by my progress and I could see the worry in his eyes that we wouldn't finish with enough time to do our planned run/walk.
When I finally did make it to the top of Snow Canyon I started to get some hope back, I started telling myself that I could do it, that hard things can't stop me. I was flying on the down hills and hardly feeling the ups and then... I dropped my chain! I think I may have dropped a few choice words as well? :) Not a problem, I popped it back on and went to catch a rather annoyed looking Jared. The downhill was what I needed to recover my legs enough to power up the last uphill with some respectable speed.
I have never been so grateful to be off my bike in all my life. I was hurting and I wasn't having any fun and I was SO done.
I sat myself down and changed shoes, wrapped both knees with my IT Band straps and the usual visor, grabbed my water bottle and slowly got to me feet. "You CAN do this.", I was telling myself. After a quick stop for sunscreen we headed out for our last leg.
The Run (3:07:46):
By the time I got my legs under me and through the first aid station I felt my old self coming back around. I had some cramping in my back and neck but my legs were surprising me with very little pain. We had planned to walk the uphill's and run the downhill's to preserve Jared's back (after all he did just have two back surgeries!). Our goal for the run was to maintain a 14:00 pace to come in under the 8 hour and 30 minute mark. That plan went swimmingly and although the run was difficult, I was starting to find the joy again. I made a focused effort to drink some PowerAde Perform (NASTY), Coke and water at every aid station to rid myself of the cramps. Nothing seemed to do the trick until I came across the Lay's Potato Chips! Oh my gosh, that was WONDERFUL! Better still, after I ran out of chips my hands were still nice and greasy/salty and provided me a nice 'salt lick' for a while.
When we made the turn around and headed back I was on top of the world again, I knew it was going to be an ugly finish time, I knew it wasn't going to be anything other than crossing the finish line and getting that finishers medal but I just didn't care, I WAS going to finish!
Just about that time, Jared and I passed a lady we had been trailing for a while. She didn't look so good and was stumbling down the trail in Pioneer Park holding her neck. I knew all too well what was headed her way if she didn't get some salt in her STAT. I asked her if she was okay and when she didn't make a clear response I started searching the horizon for the aid station and let Jared know I was going to help her. As I turned up the trail I saw a Roctaine someone had dropped along the way and ran over and grabbed it, I also remembered a packet of Chomps I had stuffed in my shorts pocket on the bike. I handed them to her with my water bottle and she just held them in her hand with a vacant expression on her face, that's pretty much when I told Jared I was going to run to the next aid station and find some help.
I felt light as a feather for once in the race and ran until I found a volunteer to call for help. When Jared had walked her up to were I was waiting she looked pretty bad and readily accepted the offer of an ambulance. We wished her luck and took off to catch back up to our virtual pacer. As we ran we watched the ambulance and police cars head back the way we had come and at that point I hoped karma would send us a cloud or a breeze or a piece of cheesecake. :)
The last half of the run was much better for me, other than getting my socks wet and rubbing blisters between my toes, I felt pretty good and ready to run. However, it was about this point (11.5 miles)that Jared's running limits were being met and with his back getting sore we kept our pace slow but on target. My lungs felt like iron and breathing was a chore but the exhilaration I felt to be finishing moved me along.
We came down the shoot and Jared took my hand to run the last 100 yards, it was amazing. I felt so relieved and happy and in love with my sweetie. He carried me thru this race, he didn't leave me when I told him to go and he put my needs above his own. He encouraged me, pushed me, helped me and believed in me. When he could have easily finished his race in under 7 hours, he waited for me and finished just under the 8:30 mark. This was a one of a kind experience in racing and very, very worth it. I finished 108 out of 115 in my age group, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one there that got to do this race with their best friend and fall in love again reflecting back over 10 years and 70.3 miles into to hell and back.