By this point, I have ran 2.4 miles, rode 112 miles, and now I've changed clothes, lubed up, and am heading out for a marathon. I saw my Mom and Debbie and got hugs. This is so fun! I am surprised at how awesome I feel. I can totally do this! This feeling lasted exactly 1/2 mile. I was badly overheated and was starting to feel a little...funny. I ran by the very first mile marker on the ground. 1 mile. I can't write down what I wanted to do to that stupid sign. The guy next to me actually said out loud what he wanted to do with it. Okay, at least I'm not alone here.
I ran into the first aid station and went straight for the cold water. Ahhh. Then a cup of gatorade. It came right back up. Okie doke, no gatorade. I tried an orange slice. Nope, uh uh. A gel? Right back up. Oh crap. I grabbed more water. Poured some over my head and some down my throat. Ice went down the sports bra and into both fists. For the next 8 miles, nothing would stay down. I took in approximately 100 calories over the first 2 hours of the marathon. You don't have do be knowledgeable in endurance sports to know that this was NOT GOOD. If something didn't change fast, I was going to be in big trouble.
I ran across the support crew around mile 4.5. I was in the middle of my lowest point of the entire day. The edges of my mouth were lined with regurgitated gel. My calves and hamstrings were cramping up every 10 steps. I was crying. I wanted to jump into the lake and drown myself. Instead I gave Ken a hug (and a kiss...ewwwww, I bet that was gross for him) and kept moving forward. I remembered something I had heard during training "no matter how you feel during the day, good or bad, you can be sure it won't last." I had to believe that this wouldn't last either.
Somewhere towards the end of the 1st loop, the sun started to go down. Relief! I started to feel better, but wasn't quite ready to start eating yet. I saw my crew again and let them know things were about to get better. And it did! By the 2nd aid station on the 2nd loop, I was able to drink cola. Nectar of the gods, that stuff. Hmm, let's try a gel. Okay, no, that still won't work. Cola it is! And potato chips! And pretzels! My routine at each station became: wet sponge to wipe the sweat off my face, water, cola, chips, pretzels, cola, water. Run 1 mile and repeat. The only problem...the bottom of my right foot was becoming badly covered in blisters. Each step felt like a hundred sharp pebbles grinding through the skin. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. So I walked fast. Faster than some of the people running. I ran when I could, which wasn't often. But I was moving forward. The marathon was going to take me longer than I had hoped, but I was going to FINISH! I was going to become an IRONMAN!
On the 2nd half of the 2nd loop, I was able to access my special needs bag. I reapplied body glide. I took the poptart. I couldn't eat it, but I held onto it for like 2 miles. You do weird things at this point in the race. I took out the photo of Matthew McConaughey and laughed out loud. Thanks Jenn! A little bit later I saw my friend Angie's mother-in-law Barbara and brother-in-law Matt under a random bridge. I didn't even know she was in town! We hugged, they cheered, and it picked me up enough to finish the 2nd loop. By this time I was feeling AWESOME. Yes, I wanted to cut my foot off. But my legs weren't cramping, I had found a way to get calories without turning my stomach inside out, and I was over half way there! I power walked my way to the 3rd loop. I saw my crew again and we all screamed and laughed. 9 miles left! SINGLE DIGITS!!!
On the 3rd loop I started taking the chicken broth. It rivaled the cola in it's awesomeness. My new routine was: water, broth, cola, broth, cola, water. I ran/power walked from aid station to aid station, looking forward to the cola and the broth and the chips. I blocked out the pain in my body by dancing to the music at aid stations, talking to other athletes, high fiving the spectators. I was having so much fun again! I finished the first half of the 3rd loop and only had 5 miles left. Only 5 miles, but these were going to be the toughest 5 miles I had ever done. I saw Brian and Nadine here and they wanted to run with me a bit. I couldn't run, so they walked with me up a little hill. I got another mental boost from them, and started to run. Only 4 miles left! I got to my least favorite part of the course. It winds through a dark, empty park. Up and down some hills. Around a bridge. Out to the other side of the lake, but directly in line with the finish line. You can hear Mike Reilly and the music. Okay, only 3 miles and I get to be there too. Only a 5k left. I crossed back over the river to the Tempe Town park walkway. Onto the soft dirt path. Getting closer now. I started ripping the reflective tape off my shirt, fixed my hair as best I could, wiped the crud from my mouth. Gotta look good for the photos!
I passed the 25 mile marker and was running. 1 mile left now. I cheered silently. I wanted to celebrate, but there were people around me still on their second loop. I came to the split in the course and I got to turn left. Then I cheered! All of the pain was gone from my body. I saw Tom and Jon and their families. Hugs all around. I kept running. I found myself next to another athlete. He stopped and nodded for me to go ahead and have the chute all to myself. Thank you! I turned left and was blinded by the lights. Music boomed towards me. The crowd screamed. Somehow in all of this, I found my friends and family. I floated towards them (I was running on air now, not pavement). High fives and smiles and cheers. More high fives as I ran towards the finish. I made sure to listen for Mike Reilly saying my name. There it is! I crossed under the archway, threw my arms up in the air, and finally...I got to stop moving.
Matt, and his wife Heidi, caught me at the finish line. So cool. They held onto me tight. My legs weren't working so well anymore. They wrapped me in a space blanket. Someone else put the medal around my neck. I got a shirt. A hat. And then was put in front of the finisher's backdrop for another photo. Then they walked me to the family meet-up area and got me water and fries. Mmmmm, salty fries. My Mom, Debbie, and Ken came in and hugged me. Julie, Jeff, Brian, Nadine, Kristin, and Lorin were on the other side of the fence to congratulate me. The only thing better than crossing the finish line and becoming an Ironman, was getting to see my family and favorite people at the end. I wish I could bottle up how I felt at that moment. There really is nothing like it.
I sat there babbling gibberish for about 20 minutes. Then I started to shiver and it was time to go home. I wanted to stay to watch the midnight finishers, but my body needed to leave. Next time I'll stay and watch.
It's worth mentioning a HUGE thank you to the volunteers. This event wouldn't happen without them. It takes over 3000 volunteers to help 2500 of us to the finish line. Amazing! And another thank you to my friends and family. The support I received this year is unreal. I cry every time I think about you guys and how awesome this year was. Thank you!!!!