I'm not sure why I don't like running in the dark. Maybe because I'd never done it before. I love the quiet night. I got out of work early tonight, and came home to a beautifully silent house except for the Celtic Spa music which I choose to keep at a low level constantly playing. The sounds weep and flow through my home, a grounding. As my Dad said, like well worn, comfortable furniture. I am very thankful to have had my family here for the holiday. I fear I was not as nice, or nearly as giving as I'd like to become. My husband surely knows this. I hope he knows how much I want to be "that" person, and not the one who lashes out. I am not sure if my selfishness is borne of fear. Likely so. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Just plain fear. What a waste. It is said that the opposite of fear is love. Selflessly giving of one's time, touch, care, even to myself. To care, to nurture. I wonder, is it something I can practice? Something I can move toward? I suppose if I follow the path. I am not the first to want this, nor the first to move toward it. I do not expect perfection, but a steady advance in the direction of a giving heart is something I crave.
There are so many things I will do differently for my second Ironman. Tonight, I added another. I didn't feel well, and bid a fond farewell to my family after the holiday, so I took a nap. I woke up with not enough time to get the whole 7 miles in (not the fastest turtle in the bunch!) before dark, so I had another good excuse to postpone the run until tomorrow. But, I read the posts of my friends on Facebook, and had some extra motivation, so I grabbed my RoadID Firefly light, and went off to do my run. I ran the last half hour in real darkness. In the past, that would have been frightening, but after Ironman Florida, it is a necessity. My entire marathon will likely be run in the dark. It was in Florida, that's for sure. However, I'd done very little dark running, and it took a lot of mental energy to be cognizant of the road while trying not to keel over.
So today, I overcame my desire to be lazy, overcame my excuse that I have a sore throat and runny nose (no, I'm not sick enough not to run, but again, would have been an acceptable excuse in the "real world"), overcame my desire to grab a novel and sit on the couch, and I ran. In the dark. And it was good.
A year ago when I started this blog to chronicle my Ironman journey, I thought I had the dedication to finish a full distance triathlon. This past weekend, I pushed myself to my limit and did just that.
The plan started out with Ironman Cozumel, which was closed by the time we could pay for it. Then we wanted Arizona, but the EM boards conflicted with it. So, Florida it was.
Ironman Florida was the most emotionally, mentally and physically taxing event I have ever completed. Usually when I set out to do something, it's more of a sure thing. More like "yeah, it'll be hard" but deep down I know I can do it. This beast was different. I had no idea if I could do it.
Actually, my biggest fear before the race was that I couldn't make the bike cutoff of 5:15pm. I ended up making it by about 20 minutes, so that was good. Very emotional, because now I knew I had a chance to finish this thing.
However, about 8 miles into the run, I started to do triathlon impaired mathematics. My Garmin had died, so I had no idea of my pace, and had to figure it out per mile. Well, when it takes you over 15 minutes to get to the next marker, sometimes you forget. So, by my calculations, I was worried. So I told myself, "ok, just make it to the turnaround and then you can worry." However, in the back of my head, the doubts were festering.
With 8 miles to go, I gave up. I was walking because my legs hurt so badly. From my feet, a bone-deep ache spread all the way up into my hips. That part was worse when I walked, but when I ran, my back muscles just seized. Not cramped really, but were so overtaxed that they were just painful. Very, very painful. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have an unofficial finish (over 17 hours).
Then, I started to get lightheaded. I'm guessing in retrospect that this is because I had fueling issues from a nasty stomach virus the week before the race. But twice, I said, "forget the unofficial finish, I can't go on any more, I feel like I'm going to pass out!" As we walked through the park in the pitch blackness, Jenny (the girl I was walking with) says "do you think if I get bit by a deer I can stop?" as we pass a beautiful deer standing on the side of the path. Jenny finished well before me in the end - congrats to her!
So, here I am, in the dark, thinking there is NO way I can pull 16 minute miles out of my body. That's what I figured it'd take to do the last 7 miles and finish in time. I was going to sign up for next year and do things differently this time...
As my dad called them, the "angels in the dark" arrived. My wonderful husband, Greg, and my teammates Kirsten and Lynn, pull up in the car and give me the one thing that could get me through - hope.
After all the mental training I had done, I lost hope! Me, of all people. I lost it. I had nothing. Maybe if I'd had less pain, my brain and heart could have handled it on their own, but at that point, it was gone. Until Kirsten got out of the car, and said, "ok, now I know you can do this but we have to pick up the pace. If you run most of it and walk a bit, you'll make it in time. You did NOT come this far for an unofficial finish."
And so I believed her, because I wanted to believe her. I wanted to believe I didn't come this far, both literally and figuratively, for an unofficial anything! I'd been going for over 15 hours at this point and I was going to miss the cutoff by MINUTES.
And so I ran.
And I turned the corner to the finishing chute with less than a minute to spare. I kept looking up, thinking "I don't know if I can make it." I had about 6 people running with me, screaming at me, and to me, this felt like an all-out sprint. It was all I could do. And I still wasn't sure I could make the mere feet to get there in time. Now, there was a chance I could miss it by SECONDS.
So I pushed. Harder. And I heard screaming, from the hundreds of friends I never knew I had, from Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman.
And I finished - in 16:59.43 the last official finisher of Iroman Florida 2009
Even as the last person to cross, I didn't feel slow, I didn't feel inadequate, I made it.
There are no numbers in that calendar. There are mere days between, not "3 more weeks" or "in only 2 months". I am not sure what to make of it. I was feeling confident after my century brick. Then I got a bit nervous. Then I got sick. Really sick. I think it was likely viral, since it went through my body like a raging freight train. I have started to eat again, which is good. This is not an excuse to not finish IMFL, mark my words. I. Will. Finish. Just to review, lol, I have two goals. 1. finish in 17 hours or less, and 2. have fun.
My physical condition isn't at its peak, but how many of us know what our peak really is? I do know that this isn't it for me. At least I hope not, and I believe that our reality IS what we believe.
So, come with me as I head over to Panama City to be in the amazing environment of fitness, health, ambition, sacrifice and festivity that is Ironman Florida.