Author – C. Melton
12:53:25. I AM AN IRONMAN!!!
I was lucky to get into the water about 10 minutes before my race, so I swam around a little bit and then floated on my back and took deep breaths. The morning was absolutely beautiful – clear, calm, and WET-SUIT LEGAL!
Before I knew it, the cannon went off and I started swimming. There was a LOT of contact during the swim. I found a rhythm pretty quickly and tried to find some open water. I couldn’t even see my hands, so I found myself on top of people without realizing it.
The second half in the open lake FLEW by and I was shocked when we turned into the canal, knowing the swim was already more than ⅔ complete. It was really fun to be able to see spectators on both sides. All of the sudden I realized people were stopped and we were at the stairs out of the water. I climbed up as the announcer said the age groupers were at 1:13. I couldn’t believe I’d gotten through the swim that fast.
I ran up to the wet-suit strippers (best feature EVER!), grabbed my bike bag, and headed into the transition tent. I sun screened up, changed my clothes, and did what I thought was a great job of applying body glide every possible place (uh, not quite). I ran out to my bike and hopped on. I saw my family as I got on the bike and headed out. (T1: 5:50)
The weather was still nice and cool, and I decided to take everyone’s advice and go SUPER easy at first. People were FLYING past me but I knew I had to stick to my plan. I ate a picky bar right away (I was already feeling hungry) and started in on one of my two bottles of Fizz. My plan for the bike was to eat 4 Picky Bars, drink 2 bottles (~500 calories each) of Perpetuem and drink Fizz at first, switching to water with salt tabs later.
Mile 1 – 35 was awesome, even though I was getting passed by EVERYONE. I was working on my Perpetuem, drinking lots of water and Fizz, and having a fantastic time. The next 10 miles it started to get a little warmer but I stuck to my plan drinking lots of water (by then I was done with the fizz and onto salt tabs about every 12-15 miles).
Mile 50 the roads got really crappy and I started noticing the wind. It was heating up, and I started to feel like it was going to be a long day (I mean, obviously 112 miles on the bike IS a long way…). I stopped to pick up my second bottle of Perpetuem and another picky bar from my special needs bag.
The next 25+ miles I was in a dark place. The wind was strong, the hills (yes, there really WERE hills) were getting to me, and it was getting hot. I poured ice water all over myself at every aid station, but the shaking from the crappy pavement was just making me tired. FINALLY we turned onto 1488 and the road improved tremendously. The wind was no longer straight on, and I picked it up and passed a few people. A cop said “only 15 to go!” and I realized that the bike portion was eventually going to end!
The last 15 had lots of turns through neighborhoods and it was still pretty hot. I was thinking to myself “they expect me to RUN A MARATHON after this?! How the hell is that going to happen!?” My legs were tired, my neck was sore from being in aero, and my butt NEEDED to get off the saddle. I finally made it back to transition, handed off my bike, and jogged into the tent. (7:02:05 on the bike)
My volunteer was AMAZING. She poured water over my head, saying “I know it’s cold, but you need it!” and put Vaseline on the underside of my arms. She sent me out of the tent to the sunscreen people and somehow, life re-entered my legs. The race clock was somewhere around 8:40 and thouI ght I had a chance at being somewhere around 13 hours, but I quickly shoved that idea out of my head knowing there was still tons of work to do. (T2: 5 minutes)
I saw my family as I ran out of transition and entered the waterway. It was like a huge party and I was immediately energized. People were so enthusiastic, the music was so loud, and I felt pretty fresh. I decided to see if I could run the whole first lap.
I started out by alternating Perform and Coke at each aid station because I didn’t feel like my stomach could handle solid food. My legs felt great and I settled into a manageable pace. It didn’t feel as hot as it had on the bike, and I happily watched the miles tick by. There were some great signs on the course (“If this were easy, it would be called crossfit” and “if your relationship is still functional, you didn’t train hard enough” were two of my favorites) and my aid station plan of drinking some calories and dumping water over my head seemed to be working. I skipped my special needs bag and kept running through the neighborhoods and back towards the waterway. I remember hitting mile 6 thinking “this is the marathon and I feel great! I can do this!” I saw my family again and they yelled that I looked really strong (which is how I felt!) and kept on my merry way.
Lap 2: I had the same feeling that I had at Wildflower; like someone was squeezing my chest. I knew I needed some more calories, but I also felt really sick to my stomach. I stopped to use the bathroom at mile 10 which helped a little bit, but I knew I was going to need some food. I tried some chomps at one aid station and then potato chips (I love them during trail runs but it was an AWFUL idea here!) at another, but I still felt really nauseated. At the aid station just before mile 13, someone offered grapes and I took them. AMAZING! They were exactly what I needed, so I took a small handful of them at each of the next few aid stations (as well as ice down the bra and a cold sponge on my back).
Lap 3: I was feeling a lot better. I started thinking about actually finishing the race, and was so happy that I’d managed to run everything except for my aid station walk breaks. My legs were starting to feel a dull pain, but I focused on each mile as it came. I skipped my special needs bag again because I was feeling good, and was sad that the lulu lemon cheer station was already gone (they were so great the first two laps!). I was passing a lot of people who were walking, watching the miles tick by, and trying not to get ahead of myself knowing I still had about an hour out on the course. As I hit the waterway for the last time, my IT band was feeling a little sore but I kept moving. My family wasn’t in the same spot they had been, but they had moved down closer to the finish line. I yelled “I’m going to do this! See you at the finish!” and almost burst into tears on the spot.I still had about 3 miles left to go, and I could feel myself slowing down.
I kept a steady jog around the last few turns and out and backs, and FINALLY hit the branch-off point to the finish line. I could hear Mike Reilly announcing names and got a surge of energy as the finish line came into view. The music was loud; people were cheering, and I high-fived a bunch of people lining the finish chute. I was so overwhelmed to see a time in the 12s, and trying so hard not to cry that I didn’t hear my name, but it didn’t matter.
I tried to soak up every precious second as I ran towards the finish line, so relieved and exhausted and elated and surprised. The day had been such an amazing mix of emotions, filled with such fabulous volunteers, high fives from my daughter, encouragement from my family, cheers from thousands of strangers, and most of all, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that my body was able to carry me through this race and the grueling weeks of training.