What a weekend!
I have so much to say I don't even know where to start? It really was just a whole heck of a lot of fun for everyone this weekend. I have an awesome family and awesome friends who made the whole thing just GREAT!
See? I told you my friends had fun. :)
Saturday morning came dark and early. I woke up at about 3:00, not on purpose, but just because my body and mind were apparently ready to GO even though the race wasn't to start for four more hours. I got up, quietly made some coffee and went out to drink it on the lanai. Staying at the Kona Seaside was awesome, because we could just sit there and look at Palani Rd, which is the in/out of the transition area and the hub of the whole race. I saw all the volunteers walking to their posts, and eventually some early athletes as well. I ate my cereal, watched pre-race interviews with some of the top pros on You Tube on my iphone, listened to some jammin' music on my ipod, and got excited for the day.
Eventually I put my race gear on, kissed Scott and Moana, and walked down to the start. Ironman races are cool when they actually stamp your number on your arm rather than just writing it with a marker. Somehow that makes it feel so much more official... Most of the athletes had a blank stare on their faces as they went about dropping off special needs bags and pumping up their tires. I may have looked the same, but I felt pretty coherent as I went about my business. I ran into Marit standing in line for the port-a-potty, and then we ran into my friend Jennifer Chalmers. The three of us hung out together until it was time to get in the water. That was so good, because Jen and I were just chatting it up and there was really no time to even think about what we were about to do. We heard the National Anthem and then BOOM! Pros went off.
Jen and Marit and I zipped each other up into our speedsuits and hopped in the water. Jen and I stuck together and headed off to the far left of the start line. Like far left. Like outside the buoys left. Might have made the distance a tad bit further, but the open water was worth it. I'd been prepping myself for the beating they call an Ironman Swim Start so I was ready for the physical part of it... people climbing on top of me and all that... but it really wasn't so bad. I saw Jen off to my right for most of the first half of the swim, was in a pack most of the time, had open water at times. Pretty uneventful really. I was a bit annoyed that my swim cap was coming off (why do they make those things SO BIG?) and my goggles were too tight (I'd tightened them prior to starting because I figured someone would surely rip them of if they weren't tight enough). I stopped 3 times to yank my cap back down over my head because I didn't want to lose it. Anyway, eventually the swim ended and I was happy to be out of the water. The swim, though it was fine (59:05), was definitely not the highlight of my day.
I moved steadily through transition and then headed out on the bike. I was psyched. I felt good. There were thousands of people lining the road. I heard the announcer say my name. I heard friends yelling my name. It was all surreal and sweet and just like I'd been envisioning.
I knew I was moving well on the bike, even though I was getting passed by a ton of men. I came through the 40K sign in 1:11 which I thought might have been a little too fast, but I didn't feel like I was working at all. Maybe we had a tailwind? My breathing was fine. My legs were fine. I was just riding. Not pushing. So I just kept doing what I was doing.
I was very careful on the bike... constantly assessing how I was doing... how my body was responding. Every aid station I took time to grab a bottle of cold water and dump it on my arms and legs and chest and back and head. I followed my nutrition plan exactly. Throughout the bike, I drank 2 bottles of Perpetuem, 2 bottles of Amino Vital, 3 bottle of Gatorade, and 2 waters. (I stopped at the special needs bags after the turnaround at Hawi to make sure I got my bottles of Perpetuem and Amino Vital because I'm really not such a huge fan of gatorade.) I took a GU at 20 minutes, and then every hour on the :20... 1:20, 2:20, 3:20, 4:20, 5:20. Nailed it.
I thought the conditions on the bike were pretty good. It was hot and got hotter with each passing mile, but not crazy hot. There was some wind as we were climbing to Hawi, but not crazy wind. I've ridden in much worse. From mile 85-100 there was a good bit more wind- cross/headwind and that section is a lot uphill. But false flat uphill so you don't really know you're climbing, you just know you're going S.L.O.W... It occurred to me that if you didn't know this section of the course pretty well, you'd start feeling really bad. But I knew that it was uphill and I knew the wind would change when I got to the airport so I did not panic. Just kept riding my steady pace. I started passing a lot of those overzealous men who had passed me earlier, though packs of 4-5 men at a time would go by me and that was irritating. Drafting during this section of the course would really give you a big advantage because the wind was strong, and there were a lot of people drafting. Ugh. At one point I was leapfrogging with a gal in my age group... I passed her back after she passed me and she jumped right on my wheel as I went by. Not just in the draft zone, on my wheel. I looked back and was like, seriously??? I looked back again and asked if she was going to draft off me the whole way back??? She dropped off and I didn't see her again for the rest of the ride. I can proudly say that my bike split was my bike split. There was never a time when I could have been called for drafting. Not once. I'm proud of that. :)
Toward the end of the bike I was feeling awesome. My legs were still very fresh and strong. At one point right toward the end, we passed by an aid station on the other side of the road that was blasting some awesome music (Rihanna!) and I started singing along, outloud. I was literally bopping on my bike- I passed a guy and smiled at him while I sang. I had the picture perfect bike ride. I had not pushed too hard. I did not have even a twinge of a cramp (I always cramp at the end of IM bike, but not this time!!) I said out loud to myself, "You're going to be able to run". And I knew that I was good, even after riding my fastest IM bike split at 5:43.
Coming into transition, photo by my friend Roz!
Ironman transitions are awesome because somebody takes your bike and racks it for you. In the change tent, two ladies help you get your shoes and socks on. They stuff your pockets with your nutrition and they dump ice water over your head and they rub sunscreen on your shoulders. You just sit there for a minute and then get up and head out on the run.
Running out was awesome. I heard a bunch of my friends cheering for me. My legs felt strong. There were people everywhere. The thought crossed my mind that I might just have a race I could retire on. Like, does it get any better than this???
I came through the first mile in 8:07. Whoops! Overzealous. I do not need to run that fast. 9 minute miles was all I needed to nail this race. I backed it off, and then about a minute later got a wicked sharp pain right in my abdomen. OUCH!!! Argh!!! OUCH!!!! ARGH!!!!
I was forced to walk. ARGH!!! So frustrated!! After a minute or so I tried running again but the pain was too sharp. Walking. UGH.
Ok, regroup, Michelle. You're doing fine. Regroup. What do you need to do? Regroup. You're fine. Keep moving forward. You will get through this. OUCH. Be smart. What do you need to do? Regroup...
Those were the thoughts going through my mind. I knew that I needed carbohydrates, but felt pretty sure that I couldn't take anything in right away. GRRRR. I wanted carbs. I needed carbs. If I let my tank get empty I wasn't going to be able to do this. Fill the tank. But with what? Nothing sounded good. At mile 3 I drank some Coke. I don't normally drink Coke. But that Coke was awesome. And it made me burp. That helped. I started running again. And so it went. The run became a mission of survival. Get to the next aid station and drink some Coke and dump ice water on my head. That's what I did for the next 4+ hours. I finally got a GU down at mile 8 and started to feel better.
Back through town. Motivated by seeing my friends. I might not be having the run I was expecting, but I was in The Ironman. I changed my attitude from one of frustration to one of happiness. This is my day.
And then I saw Nalani. My awesome incredible super training partner extraordinaire. She and Kurt made this sign for me.
How incredible is she? She remembered the epiphany I had one morning at the track when we were killing ourselves trying to reach goal times and I decided that I had the gears inside me to push it. So for the rest of the marathon, while I was struggling like crazy to get to the next aid station to drink another Coke and dump ice water on my head, I thought to myself, It's In Me. And it was.
So I found out that it is indeed possible to do an Ironman marathon on a crazy hot day (yes, the crazy heat hit on the run) with only Coke and a couple of GU's. It might take a long time (4:27), but it's possible. :) I was reduced to the Ironman Shuffle between aid stations, and I walked (a long way) through each one. I struggled with feeling disappointed at times- it was not a pipe dream for me to think I could run under 4 hours out there. My long training runs and brick runs all indicated that 4 hours was not only possible, it was realistic. But wasn't happening. I think the major issue for me was my stomach rather than my legs, though I will say that I am proud of the way I held it together and regrouped through the whole stomach pain ordeal. Given that I still have a super sore spot right in my ab, I am wondering if maybe I tore a little bit in there? I don't know, but it still hurts.
Right toward the end I found myself running with this younger guy who clearly was not in a good place. We were less than a mile from the finish and I was back to feeling happy. I told him, as were running down Kuakini Rd toward Ali'i Drive, "This is awesome! The energy down here at the finish is the best!" His reply? "There's nothing awesome about this." I kind of felt sorry for that guy. Seriously? You're about to finish the Ironman World Championships... you're about to run down Ali'i Dr... this is the dream! It was sad to me that he wasn't soaking it all up. He didn't have the race he was hoping for. So what? Not many of us did. Ironman marathons are hard and there are only a handful of people who would say, "Yeah, I felt great running in that heat and had a super stellar marathon."
Anyway, I left that guy and ran ahead. As I turned onto Ali'i Dr, I raised both my arms up in the air and told the crowd to WHOOP IT UP!!!! Apparently after hours of cheering on finishers, the spectathletes need a little encouragement of their own. But you know what? When you ask people to cheer for you at the end of an Ironman, THEY GO NUTS! So I was once again on top of the world and floating toward that awesome finish line. Unfortunately, my head wanted to do what my body could not, and the inside of my right quad just completely seized up! It was actually quite a funny scene- there I was, doubled over, 400 meters from the finish line, unable to move, after instructing the crowd to WHOOP IT UP for me. HA! People were like, "Keep going! You're right there!!" And I was like, um, cannot move right now, thanks.
I dug my thumb into the seizing muscle and stretched for maybe a minute (laughing the whole time at how crazy it was!) and then once the cramp released, I continued running toward the line, a little less zealous this time.
I crossed the line without even looking at the clock, because right there I saw Scott and Moana, and the finishing time all of a sudden mattered not. I had finished the Ironman. For the most part, it was a great day. I was not going to have to go to the med tent. I was completely alert and mentally fresh and happy. And I was with my family.
So how did Moana survive the day? That's the topic of the next post. Stay tuned.