The transition area was once again a total blur. I put my bike back on the rack and went to grab my T2 bag. Once again, I was greeted by a wonderful volunteer as I entered the changing tent to change shoes and throw on my Gilberts Gazelles visor. Thankfully, Thon’s Garmin was in this bag and I turned it on while I did everything else. Another volunteer from Austin came over and started rubbing more sunscreen on me.
“You feel really hydrated,” she said. I thought she was asking me a question.
“I had like 10 bottles of fluids out there, so I feel pretty good.”
“No, I’m telling you,” she said, “You feel really hydrated. And that’s good.”
Awesome…She was right. I was really hydrated, but I never did pee on the bike course! Can you believe I held it for over 6 1/2 hours!?! Up to this point, I’d gone about 9 hours total without a restroom break and I had to go. Rather than wait in line in transition, I headed out on the run course and stopped at the Mile 1 porta-potty. Mucho relief on the bladder!!
Like the bike course, the run course is also three loops making it incredibly spectator friendly. However, even the spectators didn’t want to brave the barren trails of Miles 1-3 that offered no shade and no comfort as we ran on pavement and around the dry side of Tempe Town Lake that is only filled with rocks and NO water. The magnitude of the heat totally hit me on these early miles and there was no tailwind to help. The sun was overhead and it was in the mid-90s. Like I said, I had no idea what time of day it was, but doing the math now, I started on the marathon at about 3pm…ugh. I started aggressively and thought maybe I could hold a 9:00min pace, but as soon as I did so, my HR would spike and I would immediately get really thirsty. Therefore, I slowed it down and tried to hover around the 9:30 per mile pace. This would be my goal pace for the day.
Needless to say, it was nothing short of a death march out there. People were walking in droves and while I felt slow doing 9:30’s, I may as well have been in a sprint compared to most people. As with the rest of the day, bits and pieces of advice I had received along the way popped into my mind. Coach Maurice advised us to not walk the water stops, knowing full well that it would waste a lot of time and it would be that much more difficult to start running again. It sounds brutal, but I really tried to heed that advice as much as possible. I certainly slowed down to ingest cups of water and sips of Gatorade here and there, but I didn’t loiter. I also followed the advice of my Gazelle friend Frank who advised me to dump water on my head and jersey as much as possible to stay cool. Not a water stop didn’t pass where I wasn’t squeezing sponges on my head and body. Amazingly though, I would be dry by the next mile. You know you don’t care when you actually see volunteers picking up dirty sponges off the ground, dumping them in dirty ice water, handing them to you and you STILL use it to cool yourself. I don’t even want to think about the amount of germs and dirt I ingested with those sponges.
So once again, the run course was never 26.2 miles to me. I never felt like I was running a marathon. I just knew I had to get around that lake three times. I had looked at the map prior to the race, but didn’t really understand just how much we twisted and turned around Tempe Town Lake on a mixture of roads, parking lots and gravel trails. If I have one complaint, it would have to be running by the horse stables three different times. ewwwwww…95 degrees does nothing to squelch the stench of horse manure. That little stretch required extra physical fortitude to not toss my cookies! Other than that, I kinda liked the course…a couple of short climbs that wouldn’t normally be a huge deal if most weren’t so damn tired already. Otherwise, it was flat and hung around a lot of spectators. The crowds were so cool, especially when we were at or near the transition area where each new loop began. My crew was near that area and I saw them no less than 6 times (twice on each loop). I absolutely received a boost every time I saw the familiar “Carrie-Zona” shirts in the distance. Amy and Thon would run alongside me for a few feet to make sure I was feeling o.k. I was… I hi-fived my parents, I kissed Shawn. If it weren’t for the oppressive heat, I’d be feeling great.
My nutrition for the run was pretty simple. I brought along 4 Tangerine Power Gels. These are my self-professed mojo ever since trying them in Boston in 2006 and receiving an amazing boost the last three miles. They have double the caffeine and 4x the sodium. Fortunately, the caffeine doesn’t bother my tummy. I took in a gel (whether I wanted it or not) about every 40 minutes or so. This continued to keep my levels steady. In between, I would alternate between gatorade, cola and chicken broth. Water was mandatory at every stop. If I needed a sugar boost, I’d drink a small cup of cola. If I needed salt, I’d drink the broth. This strategy seemed to be working. It just depended on what I was craving at the moment. The funniest thing happened at the beginning of the third loop. A volunteer was yelling out “salt, salt, salt” and I assumed she had some salt tablets so I held out my hand to take a couple. Turns out, she had a canister of Morton’s salt and dumped a heap into my palm. I looked at her, shrugged, gave an “ok” and licked the hell out of my hand. (Of course, I’m used to chasing it with a lime and tequila, but water had to suffice at the moment!)
By the last five miles, the sun was going down and I started to emerge from my myself a little bit. All day, I had been focused on maintaining a certain energy level. I kept my emotions in tact. My pace started to quicken ever so slightly. I was clocking a few sub 9:00s in the last few miles of the race. I saw Amy and Thon on the North side of the lake and they talked me through it.
“What do you need?” they asked.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll need a porta-potty when this is over. I’m afraid of what my stomach will do when I stop running!” at least I still had my humor in tact.
They let me know that everyone else had headed over to the Finish Line where they would meet me at the end.
Those last two miles included so much inner dialogue of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude. I was and remain in awe of how well my body and mind remained strong throughout the entire 12+ hours. And still, I was numb to exactly what I was accomplishing. That is–until the last 1/4 mile. I was running and I passed a volunteer before making the final turn down the finisher’s chute and she very nonchalantly said, “One more turn to Ironman.” I couldn’t believe I was finishing!
I remember being passed by two guys as they sprinted through the finisher’s chute, but I just maintained my normal pace to enjoy this moment as much as possible. A few weeks prior, I met a great guy named Adam while I was riding on South Mopac. Not only did we share the same bike taste (Guru Crono), but we were both tapering for AZ at the time. We struck up conversation and ended up riding over 20 miles together. In those miles, I was asking advice as this wasn’t his first IM. Of course, he gave me the obligatory, “have fun” advice, but he also said something that stuck with me as I was running my last few yards. He told me to savor that moment and not be in such a rush. Listen to the cheers and soak it up. I totally heeded his advice as I was passed in the last few yards by some anxious tri-dude. I could’ve given him a sprint to remember, but I let him have his moment so that I could have mine. I let him break the finisher’s tape and slowed ever so briefly so that I could also break the tape of my most amazing race ever.
In the span of one year, I married the coolest guy ever and achieved a personal goal of completing an Ironman. I truly don’t know how to top it, but our trip to Italy next month is a damn good place to start!