I dismounted my bike and hobbled to the change tent. Normally to do a fast transition, I would have ran or at least walked fast, but my legs felt like blocks. The volunteers helped me change and I struggled to put on my compression socks. I let someone bandage my elbow, though it didn't make much difference at this point. It was really hard to get moving. A slow 9:28 transition.
I started the run walking, grabbed some food and finally got my legs running. The sun was an orange glow on the horizon. I had fantasized before the race about the run being where I shine, but the reality was that it was a survivor slog. I could have done a run-walk combination, but I didn't think it would be fast enough. I walked a lot of the aid stations just because it was easier to eat that way. There was still a lot of runners out on the course just trying to get through the marathon. Most of them didn't seem like they doing much more than a jog.
I didn't really think much about how long I had to run. I wanted to make sure I hit the 10:15 p.m. cut-off and the midnight cut-off. If you hit the 10:15 cut-off, they let you finish the last loop even if you don't make the midnight cut-off. The run course is three loops. Each loop goes over the Priest bridge, the Mill Avenue bridge and the Rural Road bridge(twice). There are some difficult areas mentally to be running alone in the dark. Priest and the lake sidewalk from Priest to Mill is desolate and boring. There are signs put out there for some lucky people to encourage them, but I didn't have any. The river bed is dry is this area and there is nothing to look at, except maybe some rabbits running around in the dark. The cement sidewalk is hard on the feet. You see the Mill Avenue bridge in the distance and it is always a relief to reach it. You climb a small hill to get to the bridge.
At least on the bridge, you can see the lights reflected on the water. The train bridge has a nice display of pink and blue lights when the train goes over it. You can hear the announcer in the distance saying "you are an ironman" for the lucky people finishing up. I still have another five hours or so. I go over the bridge and run back to the lake path. There are people to cheer us on. I try to thank people who do. An ironman is a long time for a spectator to sit and watch. They do provide a distraction from the pain. I keep wondering which is more painful-this or the c-section I had. I think the c-section is, but not by much.
I run over the Rural Road bridge and run along the lake path again. The sections under the bridge smell slightly of sewage. I then go up the road to Papago Park. It's strange at night. The generator light shines on a strange rock formation. Then I have to climb Curry hill. This is tough. I usually run up it, but it slows me down. Other people are wimping out and walking. Then it's down to the lake path again and through the Marina. The aid stations pick me up. The one under the bridge has a pirate boat and music. The one by the marina by my tri club also has music and a western theme. It helps me to get through the dark sections further on. I go back over the Rural Road bridge to the lake path and start the second loop.
So far, I am doing O.K. I have no nutritional issues and my pace is slow, but steady enough to get through the course. I think I must have been operating on mental power. It's hard even now to imagine how I got through this run. I kept thinking about going fast enough to get in by midnight or sooner. I had about a 20 minutes cushion.
I finished the second loop. When you start a loop, there is a left turn-off for the finishing chute. It's tough mentally to go by this, especially later at night. You know most of the people are done and you are still out there alone in the dark. At least I had made the 10:15 cut-off by 25 minutes. Another small victory. I was pretty sure by this time that I was going to make it. I finally ran into my iron sherpa, and he had made me a sign. It picked me up a little and made me smile.
Going down the lake path from the Mill Avenue bridge, I saw my coaches(pictured below). They kept tabs on all their athletes for the entire seventeen hour race. I had about five miles to go at this point and an hour and a half to do it. They told me to run as much as possible. I picked up the pace a little. The goal is being an ironman was within my reach. I went around the dark path again and I finally had about a mile to go. I couldn't really sprint at this point because I had nothing left. Someone shouted to be "go be an ironman".
Finally I reached the turn-off for the finishing chute. In contrast to the dark run course, this is brightly lit. I had finally made it. Two years of training, heartbreak, and hope finally realized. I thought I would be weepy, but I was too overjoyed. The crowd in the stands gets rowdy this time of night and I had a blast high-fiving them. The announcer gets out of his box and riles them up. I heard my name and "you are an ironman". Now I know why I wanted this so much.
This is a high like no other. It's a place where you tested your limitations, overcame them and accomplished something that you thought you never could. Where you withstood you doubts and ventured into the terrifying unknown. Where you have endured boredom, pain, frustration and exhaustion to transform yourself into a different person. Where your mind drives you forward when your body is failing. It's an incredible power to find in yourself. It makes you feel invincible. It's a special race.
My coaches that some how got
me trained for this race despite
my limited athletic ability.
I look like crap, but who doesn't
after seventeen hour.