Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Last But Not Least
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. (2017 Update: I’ll forever be grateful to them for that gift of hope. It is amazing what brings out your true self.)
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.
I am an IRONMAN.