We arrived at the Olympic Center just before 5am and it was already mobbed. It was such an amazing sight to look out over the transition area at the thousands of bikes and gear bags all ready and waiting.
Our first stop was body-marking, then to the transition area to pump my tires. I met Deanne there and then we headed over to the Special Needs area on Mirror Lake Dr. to drop the rest of our bags. We were finished with everything by around 5:30 and had an over an hour to kill before we had to head over to the swim start.
Now that we were there, and all of my stuff was where it needed to be, I was totally calm: I only had three things left to do that day and they were all going to be fun as far as I was concerned. Also, Mother Nature had apparently grown bored with us because the weather was perfect, there was only a slight chance of rain for later in the day.
|My wonderful friend Rachel!|
At 6:30 we got on our wetsuits and headed over to the swim start, where we met up with Deanne’s family and got lots of hugs and good-lucks. From there, Deanne and I set off to the water. We got in just as the pro’s were starting at 6:50. The water felt so warm and as we floated there in our wetsuits waiting for our cannon to go off, I felt so happy and lucky to be there. All of my nervousness was gone and I was so excited to start!
|Heading into the water|
Once the cannon went off and the mass chaos started, I got disoriented in the sea of pink and green swim-caps and lost track of where I was heading. Everyone was on top of one another and we literally had to doggie-paddle
quite a bit just to keep from getting hit and kicked. I had to laugh when one guy picked his head up and screamed, “THIS IS CRAZY!!!” Once I could finally put my head in the water and swim a few strokes, I looked down and saw that cable right underneath me. OH SHIT. And from there I proceeded to get my ass kicked for the entire first lap of the swim. I was in such a sea of bodies that there was no way I could get away from it, and that meant by the time I got to the turn-around buoy, I was so close to it I could touch it. This was not what I had planned! But by the time I got out of the water and saw the clock for my first lap it said 41 minutes! Wow – that was way faster than I thought I could do it. So, hey! Let’s do that again! I ran up on the beach, over the timing mat and jumped back in for my second lap and got right back on the cable. It was much more spread out this time and I swam pretty much all the way to the turnaround completely unimpeded right on the cable. I never had to look up. However, once I got to the buoy there was another big pile-up and I got a big, sharp kick right in the face. I decided it was time to give up the cable and just get myself back to the beach in one piece.
I got out of the water at 1:23, which was way faster than I thought I would do, and went right over to the wet-suit strippers, the saintly volunteers who tear your wetsuit off of you. I laid down on the mat and a nice lady came over and grabbed my suit by the ankles and whoosh! It was off and I was up and running to the transition area. I saw Dan, Rachel, Robert, Bonnie, Patty, Deb, Cindy and Deanne’s whole family cheering me on – thanks guys!!
I ran into the women’s changing tent, a volunteer grabbed my bike gear bag, I ate a Bonk-Breaker bar, drank some water and I got ready to go. Once out of the tent, another volunteer ran and got my bike for me and I ran with it to the mount-line and headed out! I think it took about 2 minutes before I lost one of my water bottles. Ah well, if that’s the worst thing that happens to me today I will be one lucky girl.
The bike course was crowded on the way out, and it was slow going up the hill out of town, but that was a good thing. I wanted to take it very easy on this first lap. But once we got to the dreaded Keene hill, I realized I wasn’t as afraid of it anymore. The weather was beautiful, there was no car traffic, so I decided I was going to man-up and not use my brakes so much this time. It was actually fun! There were stretches where I didn’t brake at all, and yet my top speed was still only 36.4 mph. Apparently I am not built for speed.
|My support crew|
The first lap was awesome. I only stopped once to refill my water bottle and hit the port-a-potty. I felt great, and even in the most difficult parts, where I felt like I was climbing forever and my legs were burning, I would look off to the side and see a waterfall and the mountains in the background and think, “I am SO lucky to be here doing this!” Papa Bear was the last big hill before heading back into town to start the second lap, and it was filled with spectators and people dressed in crazy costumes, music blaring….it was really fun to see and took my mind off the misery of that hill. People had staked big signs by the side of the road for the riders, some inspirational, some just very funny (my personal favorite: If An Ironman Was Easy, It Would Be Called Your Mom”).
Coming through town back to the Olympic Oval, I saw Deb, Cindy, Patty and Bonnie again cheering and I headed back by transition to start my second loop. The second loop started out great, the Keene hill went smoothly again, I only made one stop again to refill and use the bathroom. I was so happy to see Deanne when she caught up to me at about mile 70 and I managed to ride behind her for a few miles.
My nutrition plan for the bike ride was to have 2-3 bars of solid food early on, and then nothing but Gu’s, sports-drink and water for the last half of the ride. I always have problems with stomach-aches after eating on the bike, and so far this plan had worked pretty well for me. Maybe I had one bar too many, or maybe I swallowed too much of Mirror Lake on the swim, but after about the 90-mile mark I started getting a stomach-ache. By the time I hit those last brutal 10 miles of the bike, it was getting really hot out, my stomach was KILLING me, and suddenly those water-falls weren’t looking so spectacular anymore. I just needed to get off the bike. I slogged back up Papa Bear, past the guys dressed up like cheer-leaders, headed back into town where people were all lined up at the course screaming (which was SO nice!), and got to the dismount line. A volunteer took my bike, I went and got my run gear bag and headed to the changing tent.
I felt awful. I was dizzy, hot, and I felt like I was going to throw up. One of the volunteers grabbed me and sat me down, she took off my shoes, got me water, and helped me get my running shoes on (seriously, these volunteers were the greatest people on earth). By now it was after 4pm. I had no idea how I was going to run a marathon feeling like this. I staggered out of the tent and managed a slow jog out of the transition area. Every step was causing my stomach to cramp up. I made it to the first aid station and had a few sips of water and a few sips of Ironman Perform, grabbed a couple of Gu’s just to hold in my hands in case I needed them, and kept going.
I was so miserable, but I didn’t want to walk yet. I had just started! So I kept running and thought about what my good Ironman friend Patty had told me before the race: the first three miles of an Ironman marathon SUCK. Get through those, and you’ll be fine. OK. Three miles. I can handle anything for three miles. I kept going. It was SO hot and there was no shade yet. But I hit the first mile marker, then the second, then the third, and once I hit the turn on to River Rd., which is a beautiful (and shady!) out and back for 6 miles, I started to feel better! There was an aid station at every mile and I stopped at almost every one so I could take small sips of water and sports drink (my stomach could still not handle anymore Gu’s) and kept running. I still had a stomach-ache for the entire marathon, but after a while I just got used to it. I would see people throwing up by the side of the road, I saw one guy lying down
and screaming in pain because his legs were cramping so badly, and I would think of how worse off I could be. A stomach-ache wasn’t going to kill me. I kept running.
Once I hit the turn-around on River Rd. and started my return towards town, I got excited thinking of seeing my family and friends who I knew would be somewhere on Mirror Lake Dr. That thought propelled me all the way up those 2 giant hills back into town, and on the second big hill, I caught up to Deanne! We talked about how excited we were to see everyone, and then I kept going. It was so exciting getting into town and hearing the screaming people and the music coming from the Olympic Oval. I made my way down Mirror Lake Dr. and saw Deb, Patty, Bonnie and Cindy screaming for me. I came to the run Special Needs stop and a volunteer got my bag and I quickly re-applied some Body Glide, grabbed my long-sleeved shirt and tied it around my waist in case it got cold later. Then I finally saw Dan, the kids, my in-laws, and Deanne’s family and they were all going crazy! I was able to give them all hugs before heading on my way. Thankfully, it was only about a stretch of a mile before the next turnaround and I got to come back and see them all again before heading back out to River Road. It was such a huge mental boost to see them all.
By this time, the sun was going down and it was so much cooler – perfect running weather! My stomach was still hurting, but now I had discovered the warm chicken broth at all of the aid stations. OMG, it was the best thing I had ever tasted, and I was literally just running to get to the next chicken broth table. I think it helped my stomach, and I didn’t get a single muscle cramp for the entire marathon, and I’m attributing to the broth. Best. Stuff. Ever.
The run was pretty uneventful during these miles. I knew miles 13-20 would be the most mentally challenging. Other than the aid stations, I only had to walk once for a few minutes when I really thought I was going to throw up. But I didn’t, so yay! What really helped my psyche was when I hit the 20 mile mark. Only a 10k left! It was getting dark out by this time and there was a guy handing out glow necklaces to everyone.
At this point I still hadn’t REALLY let myself think about finishing. I was trying to stay in the moment and not get ahead of myself. Especially after those first few miles of the marathon, you just don’t know what’s going to happen out there and I wasn’t going to take anything for granted. But, once I was off River Road, and was running back towards town around mile 23, everything was really dark and quiet and I saw a man standing by the side of the road by himself. As I ran by, he clapped and said, “Congratulations, you’re going to be an Ironman tonight.” And then it hit me. I choked out a “Thank you…” and that’s when the tears started. He was right. I have 3 miles left and no matter what, I was going to finish. It was a very emotional last 3 miles. I was exhausted, and both relieved it was almost over, and a little sad that my Ironman experience was coming to an end.
I had to speed-walk up those last 2 big hills, but I didn’t care at that point. So was everyone else. As I got closer to town and heard the cheers, I started running a little faster. Coming back in was NUTS. People were in the middle of the road screaming for us, screaming our numbers, screaming my name (which was also on my bib). The tears kept coming. I turned on to Mirror Lake Dr. hoping to see my family, but when I didn’t see them, I realized they were probably already waiting for me at the finish line. Wow.
Those last two miles were so surreal. I could see the lights of the Olympic Oval from across the lake, could hear the music blaring and people screaming, and I just needed to GET THERE. I finally made the turn and it was such a flood of emotion stepping on to that Oval. I will never be able to describe that feeling. It was so loud, and bright, and everyone was screaming (I never did get to hear them call my name! Oh well!). As I ran to the finish line I saw all of my friends and family screaming and waving. I was absolutely ecstatic. I ran across the line and immediately a volunteer grabbed me, asked if I was ok, if I needed anything. She got me a foil wrap, some water, put my medal around my neck, got me my Ironman hat, and led me over to take my finish photo.
I was on such an adrenaline high that I felt like I could run all the way back to the condo if I had to. I found Dan and Jack, and Jack was SO excited, and I was so happy he got to see me finish (Tenley was sound asleep in the stroller by this point).
|We are Ironmen!!!|
Thank you SO much to Dan, Jack, Tenley, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, Rachel, Robert, Cindy, Patty, Deb, Bonnie and the whole Hobba clan for trekking out to cheer us on. I'm sure I can speak for both of us by saying what a huge help it was to us seeing all of your smiling faces out there! You are the best!
The person I need to thank the most is my husband. I know he may not understand my need to do these things, but he always respects it and supports me and without that I never would have crossed that finish line. So THANK YOU DAN!!!!
Also, I wish I could thank all of those volunteers personally. They, the spectators, and all of my fellow athletes, were so encouraging and positive. Also, thanks to Rachel, Dan and Tracie for the great pics!
So that ends my journey to 140.6. Will I do another one? I’m thinking maybe, but not anytime soon. Maybe once the trauma to my family and our bank account wears off! I certainly couldn’t put my family through anything like that again for a long time, but maybe when the kids are older? It was just such an incredible experience that I don’t want to say never.