Monday, November 26, 2007

So um, what now?

I did my Ironman. Go me! But now what am I supposed to do!? I had planned on taking 2-week minimum break, and then start running and swimming again as I felt like it. But I've pretty much been sick the entire three weeks since we got back from Florida. I finally felt like I was starting to get better, but then I woke up Saturday morning with what felt like the flu. Fantastic. So now it's more resting and no working out for me. Not that I mind, it's kind of nice to have the break. And I cant say I'm surprised I've been sick for so long, I did kind of put my body through quite an ordeal. I guess this is it's revenge.

But now I have to figure out what I want to do after I get sick. As appealing as it may sound, I cant sit on my couch and eat ice cream for 3 meals a day and get fat. So, maybe a couple of marathons next year? Few tri's thrown in for good measure? Something else? Who knows. All I know for sure is that I am putting no pressure on myself next season to do any certain races. I'm just going to go with the flow.

For right now I'm excited to be able to get back to cooking what I want and watching my tv shows on the day they air, instead of trying to catch up on a weeks worth of Days and Grays on Sunday afternoons as I lay on the couch recovering from a long ride. And as lame as it sounds, I'd kind of like to take a knitting class. Couldnt think about that while I was training!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tattoo time

Yep, go ahead and add me to the list of people who have immortalized their Ironman accomplishment with an M-Dot tattoo. This is my 4th tat, it's nice to finally get one that I earned :)

Mine is on the left (inside of my ankle), Courts is on the right (back of her ankle)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blood, Sweat, Tears, Ironman

I set my alarm for 4am on Saturday, and was actually able to sleep until it went off. But as soon as it did, I was wide awake. I get to do an Ironman today!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!! All my nervousness from the night before was gone. I was ready to get this show on the road. Court was up too, so we chatted in the kitchen while we ate breakfast. I had 2 Pop Tarts, part of a bagel, OJ, and some Gatorade. I was still mildly worried that I might throw up before the race, so I didn’t want to stuff myself too much. Soon it was time to go, so we started walking down to the race site. The street was packed with other racers, so cool! It was only a mile away, but it seemed farther than that. I wanted to be there NOW.

We went into the TA and I loaded up my bike with food and drink, then it was time to go drop off our special needs bags. It was an absolute zoo with 2000 athletes and probably twice that many spectators all milling around the same area. We propped ourselves up against the railing of the TA and tried to wriggle into our wetsuits. Not an easy task, when you have about a 2 square foot area to work in, and there are a million people walking by bumping into you. Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of trying to get on a wetsuit knows how much fun this is. Then it was time to make it down to the beach. It was about 6:30 now, and already light out. Definitely a change from Kansas! Court and I went down to the water to get our hair wet so we could get our caps and goggles on.

Before I knew it, Mike Reilly was saying that it was time for all the athletes to get into the starting corral. Ack! I gave Dan a quick kiss and then Court and I made our way over to the mass of neoprene-clad athletes all funneling into the fenced off start area. They had the music going, all the fans were cheering and yelling, it was a great atmosphere. At 6:50 the pros started, then some girl sang the national anthem. I was still standing with Courtney at this point, but I knew I needed to move to the back of the pack since I’m a slow swimmer, so I gave her a hug and moved on back. I positioned myself at the very back left corner of people, figuring that I should be able to get a pretty good spot in the water without too many people swimming over me that way. The last song I remember them playing was “Ironman” by Black Sabbath. They had a big clock set up at the back of the start area. I looked back at it, and it said 6:59 and some odd seconds. Less than a minute! Mike Reilly said “all you first timers, you WILL become an Ironman today!”, and then BOOM!! We were off!

The crowd went crazy, and we all started moving towards the water. When you’re standing there, you cant really comprehend how many other people there are. All I knew is that I was at the back, and there were a lot of people in front of me. There was no running into the water, I calmly walked in with the rest of the mass until I was about thigh deep, and then started swimming. The last thing I heard Mike say was “come on guys, they can still hear you, let ‘em know you love ‘em!”. Another huge roar from the crowd.

Question: when is swimming a contact sport? Answer: when it’s Ironman. I knew it was going to be crazy, but good lord! I was getting hit, kicked, grabbed, pushed, more than I had ever thought possible. I’ve heard the swim portion compared to a human washing machine, and that’s exactly what it felt like. There were arms and legs and bodies everywhere, but I managed to stay calm. It’s just swimming. Just find the next buoy and swim to it. Easy breezy. Except, there were so many people in front of me it was almost impossible to see the first buoy. So I kept sighting on every stroke until I found it, then just made my way in a straight line to it. I reached the first buoy pretty quickly, and then was able to see the orange turn buoy way out at the end. So I started making my way in a straight line to that one. Sounds simple enough. Except that some idiot was swimming in a zig-zag pattern RIGHT in front of me. Back and forth, back and forth. I couldn’t get away from him! I’d swim over to the left, and there he was again. I’d swim over to the right, and he was still there. He couldn’t swim in a damn straight line to save his life. I wanted to stop and yell, “there’s the buoy! Swim to it!!” I knew I was swimming straight, and I didn’t want to get too off course, so it took a while for me to finally get away from him. Aside from that guy, I really didn’t have many people get in my way. There were definitely a lot of people and I was constantly bumping into someone, but I was able to stay on my rhythm for the most part. I made it to the first turn buoy and turned left….directly into the rising sun. Aaah, my eyes! I cant see! It was nearly impossible to see the next orange turn buoy between the glare of the sun and all of the people, but I was finally able to catch sight of it’s pyramid shape and I made my way over to it.

Once I rounded that buoy, I could see the shore, and what looked like a river of people heading to it. So I just joined the flow and kept swimming. Just keep swimming. That’s all I had to do. Just keep going in a straight line. By the time I was to this point, the pack had thinned out considerably so I didn’t have too much trouble with running into people. The exit arch on the beach was black, and it seemed like all of the spectators stretched out along the beach were wearing black, so it was a little hard to tell exactly where I needed to be going, but I knew I was headed in the general right direction. Pretty soon, I could see the bottom again, and I could start to hear Mike Reilly talking, so I knew I was getting close. I kept swimming until my hand hit the bottom, then I stood up and walked to shore. I looked at my watch, :46 minutes. Not as fast as Halfmax, but not too shabby either. At this point, I knew I would make the swim cutoff, which made me VERY happy. As I was walking up on the beach to go start my second loop, some pro came blowing by me and shoved me to the side. He was done with his second loop. Sorry to get in your way, buddy. You go right ahead, I’m going to take my sweet time. I grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer and rinsed all the salt out of my mouth. As I was getting ready to wade back into the water, I heard Dan yell my name and I looked up and managed to spot him. Time for loop #2!

The second loop was more like what I’m used to at local races in terms of number of people. We were spread out, and I had plenty of room to work with. Just keep swimming. Just keep moving forward. You’ve got plenty of time. I made it out to the turn buoy, turned left, then turned left again to head back to shore. By this time, my stomach was starting to feel kind of tight. I didn’t think I had swallowed much salt water, so I figured it must have been from gulping in air for so long. The further I went, the more uncomfortable my stomach got. I was hoping that once I stood up, it would feel better, so I just wanted to make it back to that beach as fast as possible and get out of the water. Again, I kept swimming until my hand touched the bottom then I stood up and waded out of the water. I looked at my watch and it said 1:37:something. Yeah!! Time to spare.

I crossed under the exit arch and started walking up to the transition area. They had volunteers lining the walk to help you get off your wetsuit, and two of them waved me over and told me to take a seat. I just plopped down and they pulled it right off. Much easier than doing it myself! I had remembered that I forgot to tie my swim suit bottoms, so I held on to them so they wouldn’t come flying off with my wetsuit. Didn’t want to flash the world! My legs were still really rubbery at this point, so I just walked towards the TA. Before you got off the beach, they had a shower for you to go under to rinse off the salt water. I stood under it for a few seconds trying to get my bearings, then kept moving. Right before I got into the TA, I saw Dan there cheering and taking a picture.

Swim Time: 1:39:06

Once I got into the TA, all of our swim to bike bags were lined up there and there were volunteers to grab your bag for you. I told them my number, and a lady grabbed it for me. I was still feeling kind of wobbly, so it was almost hard to hold onto my bag. There were some more volunteers waving me into the women’s change tent, so I went in and sat down on an empty chair. There were quite a few other athletes in there at the time, but a volunteer came over and asked what she could do to help me, and started pulling things out of my bag. “Ok, here’s your helmet, you need that. Do you need your socks? You don’t need your armwarmers. Are you going to wear this jersey? Let me get your sunglasses out for you.” She was very helpful, it was so nice to have someone there since my brain was so water logged. She helped me get dried off and to pull on my bike shorts, then she went and got some sunscreen and started slathering it on me while I finished getting ready. I had put a Gu in my bag to eat before I got on the bike, but my stomach was still feeling really tight and uncomfortable, so I didn’t eat it. I strapped on my helmet, pulled on my gloves, and headed out.

After I got out of the tent, they had more volunteers shouting out our numbers so that other volunteers could grab your bike for you. My bike was in the first row, so I just started walking and there was someone there waiting for me with my bike. “Have a great ride!” she said. I’ll try, I’ll try. I had really been hoping that walking would help me to burp up some of the gas in my stomach, but it seemed to just be getting worse. Looking at the pictures Dan got, I can see that my stomach even LOOKED bloated. Not comfortable at all. It seemed that every 20 feet or so there were more volunteers waving me on telling me where to go. It’s a good thing, because the TA was huge! It seems like there is no way a person could get confused, but when your brain is water logged and you’ve got a 112 mile ride ahead of you, it could happen. I walked over the timing mat to the mount line, climbed on my bike, and was off.

T1 Time: 9:11

I kept praying that my stomach would start feeling better once I started riding, but as soon as I took off, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. Every pedal stroke I took, my stomach just seemed to get tighter and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t long before it went from being just uncomfortable to being downright painful. I started off in my aero bars going along at a nice, comfortable pace, but after only a couple of miles I was forced to sit up. My stomach just wouldn’t let me lay down like that. And I kept getting slower and slower. I was looking at my bike computer in dismay, hoping that maybe it was wrong and I really wasn’t going just 14 mph. But I just couldn’t go any faster. As I made the turn to head north, there were a couple of spectators standing on the corner and one of them yelled “start pedaling! Move your feet!” I wanted to throw my bike at him. I was starting to get really worried, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the bike cut off if I didn’t find a way to pick up the pace. I just kept pedaling as best as I could, and knew that the first aid station was at mile 12. If I could make it to that, I would be fine. Just keep pedaling. Keep moving. Don’t look at your computer. Don’t worry that people are passing you. Just keep moving. I started willing myself to throw up, thinking it would help. But I couldn’t. Dang! I couldn’t even make myself throw up!

There was a girl in front of me, so I made it my goal to just keep up with her. She wasn’t moving all that fast, so I figured that if I just stayed with her till the aid station, I would be ok. Oh. My. God. Puh-leazzzzeeeee!!!! Make it stop! My stomach was so tight and so painful, I was about to get off my bike on the side of the road and cry. It hurt so bad, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I knew that if I just kept going, it would get better. Just keep moving. Keep making forward progress. I tried to drink some Gatorade, but that made it worse. Crap. I couldn’t drink, and I sure as hell couldn’t eat. What if this kept up the entire 112 miles??? I couldn’t go that far with no fuel!!! Don’t think about it. Just get to the aid station. I tried to remain calm, but when you’re crawling along at about 12 mph, it’s hard to do.

I knew that the bridge was at mile 12, and that the aid station was likely just past it, so seeing that bridge gave me hope. Just get over it. Get over the bridge. This is your only hill. As I suspected, the aid station was just on the other side. I coasted to a stop and racked my bike next to the port-a-john. A couple minutes in there and I was feeling 90% better. I was thankful that I had thought to pack a couple of Pepto tablets in my bento box, so I ate those and drank some water. MUCH better. One of the volunteers asked if I was ok. “Yep, just gassy after that swim”. My stomach was still a little tight, but I felt amazing compared to how I had been a couple minutes ago, so I was ready to get back on my bike and make up some time.

NOW I was having fun. I laid the hammer down and started passing people left and right. I was clipping along at over 18 mph and feeling great. It only took me a few miles to catch up to the people who had passed me before the aid station. My stomach was feeling good now and I was back on my nutrition plan. Gu and salt tabs every 10 miles, and drink lots of Gatorade in between. I had Gatorade in my aero bottle, a bottle of water on my frame, and two bottles of Gatorade in my seat holder. My plan was to just drink out of my aero bottle, and refill at every aid station since they were only about 10-12 miles apart. The plan was working perfectly, and I came up to the second aid station, grabbed a bottle of Gatorade as I rode by, and emptied it into my aero bottle. All of the volunteers were so into it, yelling and cheering for us all as we went by. I had my “Hurley” bib number on my back, and one of the volunteers yelled “Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Hurley!” That made me smile, and I pushed ahead. It was already time to turn east! Around this time, I passed a guy and as I went by he said “hey, aren’t you the girl in the cowbell shirt??”. I slowed up to talk to him, turns out he was the guy I had sat across from at dinner on Thursday. Don’t know how he recognized me on the bike!

Once I made the turn, I clicked it up another notch. I was passing people all over the place, it was fun! I was in a great mood, my bike was working, my stomach was working, the weather was perfect, and I WAS DOING AN IRONMAN!!! I had a smile on my face for this whole stretch. Eat, drink, pedal, drink, encourage other riders, drink, eat, pedal. Well, maybe there was some more pedaling in there. We crossed Hwy 77, and this is where the “rollers” were. They weren’t even rolling enough to be able to coast down though, but it was a great opportunity to put it in a high gear and pick up some speed. I felt like I was flying! I probably averaged close to 20 mph on this portion. As we were going up one little incline, a guy I was passing said to me “where did these hills come from??” Are you kidding me!? Where do you live buddy!? These aren’t hills. See ya.

Just before we turned back south, around mile 50 or so, they had the special needs bags. I stopped here to pull out all the goodies I had packed. Two words: Jolly Ranchers. The best thing ever. The cherry and apple ones are sour, so they make my mouth water, and it’s a nice little treat to have a piece of hard candy to give you a steady stream of sugar. I also grabbed my bag of Cheez-its, even though I didn’t really feel like eating them at this point. So I just stuffed them in my bento box, and then headed off again.

The ride south was along a 4-lane highway, where they had one lane completely blocked off for us. The traffic didn’t bother me, but we were going straight into a headwind now. And I was starting to get tired. And hot. And my neck and shoulders hurt from being in my aero bars. And my feet hurt from pedaling. And I was being a baby. I sat up and just kept pedaling. I was still moving at a decent speed, and I was still passing people. But this wind could go ahead and stop any time. Seriously. It wasn’t THAT bad, but I could do without it. I saw a gal on the side of the road with her wheel off, and asked if she needed a tube or a Co2. She said that she needed a tire, but the tech guys were bringing her one. I knew that there was a little hill right before we turned back west, so I kept looking for that. Once I saw it, I got back in my aero bars and got my butt there as fast as possible. I knew once I turned west, we’d be back in some tree cover and hopefully out of the wind.

The wind did die down once I turned, but the road was ROUGH. There were huge cracks about every 10 feet, so it was a constant “Buh-bump! Buh-bump! Buh-bump!” UUUGGGGGHHHHH!!!! I was sure I was going to get a flat. Great. Just great. That’s just what I need. Also, somewhere in here the magnet for my bike computer got worked loose, and my monitor stopped reading. Crap! I don’t know how fast I’m going, and I don’t know how far I’ve gone. Shit. Oh well, just keep going. Keep moving forward. There were a couple of volunteers standing along the road shouting “there’s an aid station just ahead!” Good! I needed to pee, and I was low on Gatorade. So I picked up the pace a bit, thinking that the aid station would be just around the next curve. But it never came. Turns out, it was about 3 miles up. That’s not “just ahead”.

Before I got to it though, I saw another guy on the side of the road with his wheel off, so I slowed and asked if he needed a tube or a Co2. He said that a Co2 would be great. I had 3 in my bag and figured I could spare one, so I turned around and headed back to him. I went to pull off on the side of the road, but the shoulder was all sand so my back end skidded out from under me and I fell over. Dammit! I managed to get my foot unclipped though, and caught myself before I went completely over. I gave the guy a cartridge, asked if he had an adaptor, and started off again. I came up to the aid station pretty quickly, stopped for a quick potty break and a Gatorade refill, and then kept going.

I was at about mile 55 by now, and I was starting to get pretty tired. My longest ride before the race had only been 90 miles. I had done quite a few in the 50-60 mile range, so I was getting towards the end of what I was comfortable with. Its ok, I kept telling myself, it’s flat, you’ve got plenty of time, you can get it done. I just had to keep moving forward. Soon I was turning east for the out-and-back portion. Since my bike computer wasn’t working, I wasn’t really sure where I was at, so I was happy to see the 60-mile marker. Yes! Well over half-way done.

The out-and-back was on a 2-lane road, so they had a cone set up in the middle that we had to pull a u-turn around. I suck at those tight turns. There was a timing mat right after the turn though, so I saw that and got excited knowing that everyone tracking my progress would soon be getting an update. I was thinking about that instead of making the turn, so I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, and I didn’t swing wide enough. As soon as I started turning, I knew what was going to happen. Sonofabitch, I’m going to fall over. And I did. It seemed to happen in slow motion, I remember thinking “don’t stick your arm out, you’ll mess up your wrist” and “oh crap, my feet are still clipped in”. I fell to my left, but somehow my right knee connected with the pavement, still going in slow motion, then everything sped up again and my face smacked into the road. Hard. Dammit, dammit, dammit! My first thought was that my sunglasses were going to be broken. I hopped up as quick as I could, because I was afraid someone would come up behind me and I’d make them wreck too. There were two Sherriff officers standing there manning the turn around and they both rushed over to help me up and make sure I was ok. I just stood there for a minute assessing myself and saying “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok”. My knee was all bloody, my break lever had gotten pushed in, and it felt like someone had punched me in the face. But my sunglasses were ok! Woo hoo! They held my bike while I got back on and then gave me a little push as I took off. I heard my chip beep as I crossed the timing mat, and I chuckled to myself thinking that nobody keeping track of my progress would guess that I had just made a fool of myself seconds before.

There was an aid station right there so I grabbed a Gatorade to refill my aero bottle since it had emptied all over the road when I fell. By now, my neck was killing me, making it almost impossible to stay aero. I was changing positions about every minute, trying to get comfortable. That was making it pretty impossible for me to go very fast. My computer was working intermittently now, so from what I could tell, I was averaging somewhere around 15 mph. Not as fast as I had been hoping for, but I was still moving, and I knew I would make the bike cutoff. So I was OK. The next 20 miles or so were more of the same, stiff neck, shifting around trying to get comfortable, and telling myself it didn’t matter how fast I was going. My feet were really hurting now, and my legs were getting really tired. I tried not to think about the upcoming marathon.

The aid station around mile 80 was manned by a bunch of pirates (literally, they were dressed as pirates), and I figured this would be a good place to get off and stretch a little bit. All the aid stations had bike racks, so I hopped off and went to rack my bike. Except, there was a bit of a drop off after the shoulder before you got to the bike rack, and I let go of my bike and it fell down the hill. Gah! I had just refilled my aero bottle and now it was spilling out AGAIN. Oh well. Rack bike, stretch, get more Gatorade, get back on bike, keep riding. I was officially in a bad mood now. I was tired, sore, and I wanted to be done. Just let me be done! Since my bike computer was crapping out on me, I had no idea what my speed was or how far I had gone, which was pissing me off. Grrrrr. Stupid bike, stupid bike computer. Why does this course have to be so friggin long? Oh yeah, because it’s Ironman. Well, I hate you, Ironman.

When I got to the aid station at mile 90, there were two things that made me smile. First off, someone had their Boston there! Yay! I hadn’t seen Walter and Penny in a week, and I missed them. So it cheered me up to see another Boston. And then someone had a series of signs set up that said, “You are strong. You are fit. You trained for this. You can do it.” Ok yeah, I can do it. I guess I did train for it, so I might as well finish the dang thing. Only 22 miles. That’s nothing. I ride that far on a weeknight ride. Lets go. For the next 10 miles or so, there were several other riders that I kept trading places with. I’d pass them, they’d pass me, back and forth, back and forth. Oh man, I just wanted to get off my bike. I made the turn south, and the bridge was right there. Only 12 miles to go!!

Soon after, I passed the 100-mile marker. That re-energized me, and I got down in my bars, despite how much my neck hurt, and just pushed it as hard as I could. I. Wanted. Off. My. Bike. Now. I was passing people again, and soon I was turning left onto Front Beach Road making my way back to the TA. This stretch was only about 6 miles, but it felt SO much longer. I finally made the turn to head back down to the TA and there were tons of people along the road cheering. I was so sore, my hands were numb, my feet were on fire, I had a headache, and I wanted a nap. I felt like crying, but I was afraid that would make me fall over when I tried to get off my bike. I coasted up to the dismount line, and there was a volunteer there waiting to take my bike. Take it away! Take it away and never let me see it again!

Bike Time: 7:24:48

There was no running through the TA for me, I calmly walked past where the bike-to-run bags were, someone handed me my bag, and I walked down to the change tent. There were only a couple of other athletes in there, so I plopped myself down on a chair and just sat there. Helmet still on, sunglasses still on, gloves still on, bike shoes still on. I just sat there, not really sure what to do next. A volunteer came over and started pulling things out of my bag. “How was your ride? Looks like you had a spill. Are you ok? What do you need? What can I do to help?” I don’t know lady, I don’t know. I asked if she could just pull the stuff out of my bag and get me some water. She pulled the disposable camera out of my bag that I planned to take on the run and asked if I wanted a picture of myself. I said no, but she took one anyway. I’m sure it will turn out just dandy. I slowly started taking off my bike gear and trying to think about what I needed to take on the run. I switched into my run shorts and started stuffing my pockets with Gu, shot blocks, sport beans, and salt tabs. I tried to rinse some of the dried blood off my knee, but it was too thick and crusty, so I just left it. Ok, time to go run a marathon.

T2 Time: 10:44

As I was coming out of the TA onto the run course, I saw Dan there and he asked me how I was. All I could do was shake my head. I think I shook it “yes”, but I don’t know for sure. There were tons of spectators and other athletes here, so that gave me enough of a boost to start running. Surprisingly, my legs felt relatively fresh! Don’t ask me how that happened, I thought they were about to fall off after I got off my bike. But now that I was running, I felt good again. It didn’t take me long to really get loosened up and into my groove, and I was really enjoying the atmosphere. The first couple of miles were basically one long party, with tons of spectators and lots of music. Since I had my name on my bib, everyone was yelling “Go Julie! Looking strong, Julie!” It was great!

The run course was an out-and-back that we had to do twice, so I just broke it down into my head to four 6.5 mile segments. That’s a piece of cake, I can run 6.5 miles any day. Don’t think beyond 6.5 miles. I felt so good at this point, for the first time all day I let myself think about the finish line. I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself, just stay on this stretch of the run, but I let the thought creep in that I was actually going to finish. But for the most part, I tried to just focus on the here and now. We ran past some condo resorts, then turned into a residential neighborhood. All the people were out in their yards cheering us along. Around mile 3 or so, I passed Courtney going the other way. She was towards the end of her first loop, and a good hour and a half or so ahead of me. We gave each other a mid-run hug and kept going. I was cheering on the other runners, thanking the volunteers, and just loving the experience. There were aid stations about every mile, and at each one I grabbed a wet sponge to stuff in my top. It wasn’t too hot, but I was definitely warm.

Before I knew it, I was getting close to the entrance for St. Andrews Park, where the turn around would be. All of the signs that people had made for their athletes were up along this stretch, so it was fun to read them all. There was also a guy who had parked his SUV here and was wearing some sort of spandex outfit and cape, doing all sorts of crazy stuff to entertain us as we ran. I made it into the park, and there was an aid station right there. I needed to pee again, and there was no line at this john, so I stopped in for a quick break before continuing on. There were quite a few volunteers and spectators throughout the park, really helping to keep my spirits up. My legs were still feeling good, so I had no worries. As I got close to the turn around, I passed a guy going the opposite direction with a KC Multisport jersey on. I realized it was the guy I had talked to in the merchandise store the other day, and I remembered him saying he wanted to finish in 11:30 or something like that. I looked at my watch, figured he was on his second loop, and knew he would be able to make it.

About a mile after I turned around, I came to the Ford Motivational Mile. You crossed another mat that read your number, and it displayed a message for you on this big screen. They’d had a little kiosk set up at the expo all week where people could leave a message for you, and Courtney had typed in one for me. It said “More cowbell!! Rrun!” The 2 R’s made me laugh, I wasn’t sure if it was a typo or if she had intended it, but either way it was funny. I was starting to get kind of sore, but nothing too bad. I was mainly just tired.
Back out of the park and past the crazy spandex guy. He was still jumping around and singing. Still funny. By the time I got back to the neighborhood area, I was really starting to hit a wall. I wanted to be off my feet and done. Around mile 9 I saw Court headed back out on her second loop, I was so jealous! I wanted to be done. By now, most people headed my direction were on their second loop and almost done. So all of the volunteers and spectators were cheering “you’re almost there! Just a few more miles! You did it!” Uggggghhhh! I’m on my first loop! Shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re talking about! I made it back to the part where we ran by the condos, and there was a group of girls dressed up in Halloween costumes who were screaming their heads off for everyone and ringing cowbells. Nice effort, but it was giving me a headache.

I turned left down the main road, and could see the finish line ahead of me. There were tons of spectators, all yelling “You did it!!! You’re almost there!! It’s right ahead!!” It was all I could do to keep from crying, I still had over 13 miles to go. Taking you right next to the finish line for the turn around on the run portion of an Ironman is about the cruelest thing I can imagine. I wanted to just lay down and die right there in the middle of the road. I didn’t acknowledge anyone, I just looked straight ahead and tried to hold it together. I saw Dan and he asked how I was feeling, I just shook my head. This time, I know I shook it “no”. I knew if I opened my mouth to talk I’d start crying, and I just didn’t have the energy. I tried not to look at the finish line as I turned around. I got my special needs bag, and all I took out of it was more sport beans and my Jolly Ranchers. I had put in a long sleeve shirt, extra socks and extra shoes, but I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted to hurry up and get done. Oh man, here we go for loop 2. 13.1 miles has never sounded so long.

Back out I went. It was dark now, and there were few people running the direction I was going. Everyone else was heading into town for their finish. Back past the loud girls in Halloween costumes. One of them ran along side me saying “come on! You can do it! Only 13 miles! Your last long run was probably longer than that! We’ll see you on the way back!”. OMG, get out of my ear! I appreciated the effort, but again, the noise was giving me a headache. Back into the neighborhood. There were no street lights, and it was very dark. They had lights set up at corners where we had to turn and at the aid stations, but for the most part, it was pitch black. I managed to spot Courtney when she had about 3 miles left, and mustered up the energy to tell her good job and that she was almost an Ironman. For the most part I just tried not to think about how much farther I had to go. Now all the aid stations were serving chicken broth, so I started taking that. I had long ago decided I couldn’t stomach any more Gu, so I was glad that I had plenty of alternate fuel choices.

I made it to the park entrance. The aid station there had some big speakers set up, and the All-American Rejects song “Move Along” was playing when I got there. Very fitting, I thought. I kept those lyrics running through my head for the next few miles:

“When all you gotta keep is strong
Move along, move along like I know ya do.
And even when your hope is gone,
Move along, move along just to make it through”

Just. Keep. Moving. I can do this. I can complete a marathon. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. Move. Move. Go. Go. I tried to find something positive to focus on. Well, my hips hadn’t tightened up. My IT bands normally give me trouble on long runs, making my hips extremely tight and painful. But not today. My legs were just sore in general. And my feet hurt. My poor feet, they just wanted the weight of my body off of them. But on the bright side, they hadn’t blistered very bad. I had blisters for sure, but nothing worse than I’ve had before, and not nearly as bad as at Lincoln. Ok. I can do this. Just keep moving. You can’t finish if you stop. You didn’t give yourself a bloody knee and slam your face into the pavement for nothing. You’ve already gone over 130 miles. This is cake. I started talking out loud to myself just to keep moving forward. I didn’t care what people thought. The park was pitch black and I couldn’t see anyone anyway, so it’s not like they could see me either.

I got to the aid station about a mile before the turn around and one of the volunteers asked if I wanted a glow necklace. Yes. Do you want me to put it on for you? Yes. I don’t think I could have put it over my head if I had tried. My arms were too week to raise up that high. Keep moving. Get to the turn around. Head back home. 6.5 miles to go. I looked at my watch, trying to do the math in my head. I couldn’t figure out how long it was going to take me. I knew I had 17 hours, and I was at 14-something. So I had time. That’s all I cared about. As I headed out of the park, I passed Frank Farrar going the other direction. Come on Jules, if HE can do it, YOU can do it.

Back out of the park. Crazy spandex guy was STILL there. Back into the neighborhood. Man, it was so dark in here. All of the spectators were gone, and you could tell that the volunteers were tired. Me too. I was straining my eyes looking for every mile marker. I could see a few people up ahead of me, and I knew there were some behind me. Mile 23. I wanted to die. My feet hurt so bad, my entire body ached, I was dead tired. I just wanted to be done. I started crying, but I didn’t have the energy or enough fluid in my body to make any tears, so it came out as whimpering. I was actually whimpering. I spent the next mile and a half in that pathetic state. When was it going to end!? Seriously, I didn’t remember the trek through the neighborhood being this long. But finally, I made the turn to head back past the condos. Yes! Almost done!

I was instantly in a better mood, but I was still moving pretty slow. Just shuffling along. The girls in the Halloween costumes were still there, watching for people, and they came running out to cheer me along. This time it didn’t give me a headache. I turned left and I was back on the main road. It was a straight shot to the finish. There were spectators again. There were people everywhere. A lot of them were athletes that had already finished and were going home. But I didn’t care. I saw Dan and asked “why aren’t you at the finish line?!”, and he ran ahead so he would be there when I crossed it. Now when people were yelling at me “You did it! You’re almost there! You’re going to be an Ironman!” I smiled. I didn’t want to punch them this time. I could see the lights of the finish line, and hear Mike Reilly announcing people.

I came around a slight curve, and there was the finish chute! It was lined with people, and the bleachers were packed. I passed a lady in the chute who was walking, and I picked it up and went as fast as I could. I was going to finish!! I was going to finish a freakin’ Ironman!! People were screaming and yelling…..for ME! I remember on the Kona broadcast several years ago, Bob Costas was commentating and as they showed people crossing the finish line he said “all the miles you trained when no one was there to see, now it feels like the whole world is watching.” And it did. Everyone was watching ME, cheering for ME. I did it, I couldn’t even believe it. Everything was so loud, I didn’t even hear Mike say “Julie Hurley, you are an Ironman!!!”, but I know he did. I raised my arms and jumped through the finish tape. I was done! I did it! I WAS AN IRONMAN!

Immediately a volunteer put her arm around me and asked if I was ok. I just shook my head and said yes. Yes, I’m ok. She put a foil blanket around my shoulders. Do you need anything? No, I’m fine. Here’s your medal. What size shirt do you want? Small. We ran out of smalls. Ok, medium. Here’s your shirt. Here’s your hat. Are you sure you’re ok? Yes, I’m ok. Then Dan was there to hug me, and all I could say was “I need to sit down”. I couldn’t see very well, my vision had gone all blurry. I couldn’t hear very well, and I felt like I couldn’t speak. He guided me to a chair and I sat down. I cant even explain how good it felt to get off my feet. After all those miles. I just sat there for a few minutes and breathed. I know I talked to him, but I don’t remember about what. I got up to walk out of the finish area, and Courtney and Eric were there waiting. Eric said “Oh man, I saw you on the run and knew you must have ate shit on your bike!”. Oh yeah, I landed on my face. I had forgotten about that. I reached up and felt that my cheek was all swollen where I had hit the pavement, and they told me I had a black eye. Great!

They had the Ironman backdrop set up there to take your post-finish picture, so I grabbed Dan for that. The photographer said, “wow, looks like you have some battle wounds! You did it!”. Yes, yes I did. I did it. I was so happy, every bit of pain was gone. I was a little stiff, and my feet still weren’t happy, but I was too happy to notice. I headed over to the massage tent and got right in for my massage. It felt great. After that, I was starving, so we went over to the food tent but they had already run out of pizza. Dammit! Oh well, I can eat later. It was almost midnight by then, so we went to the finish line to watch the last few people come in. And then it was over. As quickly as it had begun, it was over. It had been the longest day of my life, but at that moment, I felt like it had flown by.

Total Time: 16:00:43

Dan dropped us off at the hotel, and then went out in search of food. I was beat, but too hyped up to sleep yet. I called my mom, and she said that they had stayed up to watch me finish. I listened to all my voice mails, looked through the texts I’d gotten during the day, ate some McD’s, and then headed to bed. Once I laid down, I realized how sore my legs were. It was downright painful to be laying down. I had Dan bring me some Aleve, I took a couple and laid there trying to get comfortable. It was after 1:00 by the time I was able to fall asleep, and I was up at 5:30 the next morning once the Aleve wore off. I had expected that I’d have a hard time sleeping, so I wasn’t too surprised. I got up and shuffled around the apartment waiting for everyone else to get up. Court went and had breakfast with her parents, and Dan and I headed down to the expo so I could buy some finishers merchandise. I was a little stiff, but had loosened up pretty well. No major pain to speak of.

There were times during the race where I was cursing myself for ever thinking this was a good idea. There were times where I swore up and down that I was never going to run another mile again. But that finish line was worth it. It was worth every bit of pain, and every sacrifice made over the last year. I’ll do another one, but it will be a few years for sure. I need a break. Now it’s back to doing normal stuff….like marathons.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

IMFL Part 1

I remember watching the Kona broadcast in years past thinking “Those people are special. Those people are amazing athletes. Those people are crazy. I’m not like that. I couldn’t do that if I wanted to. No way, no how.” There was something always fascinating about watching people complete what has been dubbed the most grueling single-day endurance event know to man. Even if I thought that it was completely out of reach for myself, I still liked watching other people do it.

People always ask me why I decided to do an Ironman. I don’t really have a good answer, but if you have ever watched the finish of one, you’ll know. I decided I wanted that finish line for myself, so I went after it.

The entire year before the race, I thought I would be a bundle of nerves on race week. But I wasn’t. I was excited and anxious, but not nervous. We left for Panama City Beach on Wednesday before the race, and both Courtney and I were full of nothing but excited energy. Waiting at the airport, we were loud and giggly, and Dan was pretty much embarrassed to be seen with us. But I didn’t care, because we were going to do a freakin Ironman! We had to connect through Memphis, and even the screaming kid in the seat behind me didn’t dampen my spirit. I was way too excited to let anything get me down.
Thankfully, when we had registered the previous November, we had gone ahead and booked our condo at that time. And boy, am I glad we did. It was right on the beach, less than a mile from the race site. Meaning that we were within walking distance so we didn’t have to mess with driving and parking every time we needed to go down there. Very convenient, and I highly recommend staying as close to the race start as possible for anyone doing a future Ironman.

Wednesday we spent the day getting going down to the expo and getting checked in. It was so exciting to get my actual race stuff! We had to weigh in, I presume so that in the event that we ended up in the medical tent, they’d be able to tell how dehydrated we were. We got all of our stuff, and then headed over to the event store to start stocking up on M-dot merchandise. I knew I wanted to wait till Sunday and get plenty of “finisher” stuff, but I did want to get a few things now. My favorite purchase was a “More Cowbell” shirt that turned out to be a huge hit when I wore it the next day. There was such a great energy at the expo being around all of the other athletes and their families, so we just hung out for a while soaking it all in.

After that we went down the road and ate lunch at Spinnakers, a bar that was right on the beach. Here it was, Halloween, and we were sitting out on the patio at the beach, wearing shorts. How perfect! Once we got some food in our bellies, it was time to make a Super Wal-Mart run to stock up on food for the rest of the week. Since we had a full kitchen in our condo, we wanted to be able to eat most of our meals there instead of having to eat out. Most of the people we saw at the store were other racers doing the same thing.

We went back to the condo to get all settled in and unpacked, then had Dan drop us off at Eric’s parents condo so that we could pick up our bikes. Their condo was about five miles down the road from ours, so we rode back to our place just to make sure that everything was in proper working order. We just hung out and relaxed for a bit, then Courtney and Eric decided to take a walk on the beach while I got dinner ready for all of us. They came back an hour or so later, and Court had a shiny new rock on her left hand. It was their 7 year dating anniversary, and he had decided to propose! She had been hoping he would, so I was very happy for them. We settled down to a gourmet meal of Stouffers lasagna then watched a marathon of the Halloween movies before turning in relatively early.

I don’t know what the deal was, but I just could not sleep past about 5:30 the entire time we were down there. Thursday morning I woke up early, had some breakfast and sat out on our balcony for a while and waited for everyone else to wake up. Court was up early too, I guess we both were too hyped up to sleep! Sitting on the balcony, we could see quite a few people in their wetsuits out swimming the ocean right in front of our condo. We took our time just hanging out, and then she and I walked down the beach to go to the Gatorade practice swim. At the race site, they had buoys set up for the length of the swim course so that you could get in the water and do some swimming on the actual course. There were a ton of other people there doing the same thing, it was kind of a weird feeling to finally be here at the race, surrounded by other racers!

The water was absolutely perfect, not a single wave. I had swam in much choppier conditions in lakes before, so I knew I had nothing to worry about. Before we got down there, the swim portion had been my biggest concern. But once we got in the water, every worry just disappeared. This was going to be fun! We swam out to the first buoy, about 500 yards or so, and just floated in the water for a few minutes talking about how exciting this was. Everyone else there was as excited and happy as we were, it was just a great atmosphere. It was so much fun to be swimming in the ocean, I decided I wanted to keep going, so we headed out to the second buoy. Court was ahead of me, obviously, and by the time I got out there, she was trying to help out some guy who was having a panic attack. I felt bad for him, I would have hated to be feeling that way just 2 days before the race. But I was feeling really confident about my swim now. No worries. I floated there for a bit and talked to a couple of other guys while I waited on Courtney. One of them was probably about 60 years old and had done IMFL each of the past 9 years. He assured me that it was a great race and that I would do just fine, and told me to remember to have fun. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I got, and one that I heard numerous times throughout the week. Have fun. This wasn’t something I HAD to do, this was something I WANTED to do. It’s supposed to be fun!

Courtney was still tied up trying to make sure the one guy didn’t drown, so I headed back to shore. The saltwater was making my lips feel kind of tingly, but I was enjoying being out there. The water was crystal clear, I could still see the bottom even out at the second buoy, which was probably close to 800 yards out. No waves, crystal clear water, what more could I ask for!? I got back to the shore and stripped out of my wetsuit, and sat on my towel people watching while I waited for Courtney to get back in from swimming/lifesaving. On our way back to the condo, we saw what we THOUGHT was a big sting ray in the water, so we waded in and walked over to it…..only to discover that it was a giant jelly fish. Ack! It was pretty neat looking, but we didn’t want to take any chances on getting stung.

After our practice swim, I got showered up and Dan and I headed out to drive the bike course. I knew that it was all flat and pretty much all rural, but I wanted to try to pick out any landmarks that might be along the course. There pretty much were none. The first few miles were on the main road in PCB that ran along the beach where all of the condos were, then you turned north to make a big rectangle. The only “hill” of the whole course was a bridge that went over one of the inland waterways, and it wasn’t really much of a hill. Driving over it, I knew that I wouldn’t even need to come out of my saddle to climb it unless I wanted to stretch my legs. There was one portion of the course that had some VERY gentle rollers, but again, nothing to even give a second thought to. Around here it’s impossible to find a long ride that’s this flat, so I was really looking forward to seeing how fast I could go!

We got back to the condo, and it was time to head over to the race site for the welcome dinner. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I wanted to take part in all the activities of the week. The dinner started at 5:30, and we had kind of figured that people would be getting up and leaving as they finished, but that wasn’t the case. It was held in the conference center of the host resort, and they had people packed in there like sardines. Literally. It was after 6 by the time we got there, and it was a struggle to find a seat. I knew there was no way all 4 of us would be able to sit together, so Dan and I just grabbed the first two seats we saw and Court and Eric headed off to find two for themselves. I was wearing my “more cowbell” shirt, and the guy we ended up sitting across from recognized me from Subway earlier in the day. I also had a drunk lady tell me how great the shirt was while we were walking over to dinner. I have to admit, it IS a pretty good shirt.

The food was crappy, and the presentation was boring. But being in the same room as all the other athletes and their respective fan clubs was awesome. So for those of you with an upcoming IM, definitely go to the welcome dinner. My favorite part was when they showed the Ironman video that I’ve been watching almost daily for the last year. Gives me goose bumps every time! They also got the oldest and youngest competitors up on stage, and the oldest male competitor was well-known 78 year old Frank Farrar. I remember watching him on the IM Wisconsin broadcast last year, and being amazed that he was able to finish it. His left leg is completely mangled from an old WWII injury, and he’s done I think 30-something Ironman races. If a 78 year old man with a mangled leg can do it, so can I! After all of that, we had the “mandatory” athletes meeting. This my friends, was a waste of time. They didn’t tell us anything that wasn’t in the athletes guide, and it’s not as if they took roll call. So, not really mandatory. I wish we had skipped out and just gone back to the condo.

Friday morning I woke up early AGAIN. At home it was a struggle to pull my butt out of bed, but now it was a struggle to stay asleep. I was waking up several times during the night, and then unable to sleep past 5:30. I guess I just had too much adrenaline. So I went ahead and got up, ate breakfast, and went down and sat on the beach for a while. It was nice to have a little bit of time alone to just think about the next day’s race and to reassure myself that I was indeed ready. We had to drop off our bikes and gear bags by 3:00 that afternoon, so Court and I set about the daunting task of making sure that we had everything ready to go. I had brought 2 suitcases, plus my normal transition bag, and they were all stuffed full. Now I had to organize all that crap into piles of what I would need and when. Fun stuff.

But before I could make much progress on that task, Courtney and I headed down to the race site for the free athletes pancake breakfast and to get massages. My hips typically are what really bother me, so I wanted to get them nice and loosened up. So we went to the massage tent, got our appointments booked, and then headed over for some pancakes. The breakfast was sponsored by one of the local churches, so we had about 3 different people telling us “Jesus loves you!” as we went through the line.

The pancakes were good, but the massage was even better. I sure do love getting a massage. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, it’s still money well spent. After I got done, my hips and legs were feeling great, ready to take on 140.6 miles the next day. Courtney had her appointment after mine, so while she was getting worked on I went over to the Janus Inspiration Station to make a sign for her that would be placed out on the course. It’s pretty neat, they have a tent set up where you can make signs for your athlete and they will put them out on the run course. You could also make a sign to hold while you watched for your athlete to come by. I had planned on going over to the merchandise tent to look around some more, but it took me longer than expected to make my sign. It was a true work of art.

After Court got done with her massage, we headed into the store to get some chain lube, and I found an “Iron Mate” t-shirt that I picked up for Dan to wear the next day. We rode back to the condo to finish packing our bags. I swear, packing those bags was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the whole week. I had to pack a swim to bike bag, a bike special needs bag, a bike to run bag, and a run special needs bag. Not to mention my saddle bag and bento box for the bike. How many GU’s will I need on the bike? How many Co2 cartridges should I put in my saddle bag? Should I try to fit my spare tire on my bike, or put it in special needs? How much food will fit in my run shorts, and how much will go in my special needs bag? Aaaaahhhh!!! Stress!!!! If I didn’t pack the right things in the right bag, it could make for a very bad race. But, there’s only so much obsessing you can do, so I made my decisions and tied up my bags. Done. Now lets just hope I didn’t put my helmet in my bike to run bag, or something stupid like that.

The boys had decided they wanted to go rent scooters for the afternoon, so we rode our bikes down to the race site and had them follow us in the car with our bags and then wait while we dropped everything off. It was pretty scary dropping off my bike knowing that I wouldn’t see it again until the next day. I’m not used to going home before a race without my bike! The TA was a massive sea of bikes, and Court and I just walked around for a while drooling over them all. Every bike we saw was cooler than the last. Lots of Cervelos, and Court was even racked next to one just like mine. Ok, drop off our bags, time to go. Yikes! This was it, the last thing we had to do before the race. I was a little jittery about doing it, but still not nervous at all. Very surprising.

The boys picked us up and we headed over to the scooter rental place to drop them off, then drove back to the condo. Since our bikes and all of our gear were gone, we didn’t really have anything to do but sit around and obsess about the race. We were both really excited and just ready to get the show on the road. Around 4, we decided that we were both hungry and didn’t want to wait any longer for the guys, so we got dinner going. Our kitchen was pretty limited in the way of pots and pans, but we made do with what we had. The last supper? Baked chicken, rice, stuffing, and veggies. Yum! Dan showed up just as we sat down to eat, the other two had decided to go out to dinner with Eric’s parents.

After dinner is when I started getting a little nervous. I knew that Eric’s and Courtney’s parents would be stopping by that evening, and I was just not in a social mood. So I went into the bedroom and laid down to watch Deal or no Deal. Dan came in soon after and was trying to be all sweet and encouraging, but I was a little crabby and was having none of it. I dozed off somewhere around 8:00 or so, then woke up at about 9 to take out my contacts and go to bed for real. I was nervous, but not nearly as nervous as I had been before Half Max. I was just ready to go!