I finally got a chance to write it up! Enjoy.....
2007 Ironman Florida Race Report – Saturday 3 November 2007
Ozzy Osbourne is playing on the loud speakers as we wait on the beach of Panama City, Fl for the 2007 Florida Ironman to begin. I’m waiting with 2400 of my closest friends to embark on a day-long journey that will hopefully end with the words “You are an Ironman.”
The gun goes off and we all start heading into the water to begin our first 1.2 mile lap (of 2) in the Gulf water. This is the part I was most scared about in preparing for my first IM. I am not a big girl and there are lots of big men at the starting line with me. As expected, I am pushed, shoved, grabbed, run over, and swam over in the first several hundred yards of the swim. I try to remain calm, keep telling myself to breathe deeply and soon I can get into a rhythm in my swim stroke. No such luck at first, as I begin to panic and start hyperventilating thinking to myself that I could just turn around and stop now. But that’s not the reason I’m here – I’m here to begin and finish the biggest race of my life with my mom and husband waiting on the beach to see me accomplish my goal. So I decide to move off to the side and try to get away from people, and this tactic works. I am able to swim alone for most of the lap, although this counts against me in that I’m not drafting people for most of the swim, and it shows in my final swim time of 1:30:42 with a rank of 63/68 in my age group. But I am happy that I didn’t battle people for most of the swim, although occasionally my legs were grabbed and pulled and I was swum over a few times throughout the two laps. As I exited the water, I heard someone yell out “you’re 1/3 of the way there!” Not quite, I tell myself, as it might be 1 out of 3 sports for the day, but it’s the shortest segment of the day by far!
Into T1 and I’m given my transition bag to prepare for the bike leg of the race. Volunteers are scrambling around asking if we need help. I am able to quickly get in and out, making sure my helmet and bike shoes are on and fastened correctly. I run out of transition and a volunteer hands me my bike. It is obviously one of the last ones on the rack, but I know I’m a much stronger cyclist than swimmer, so I’m looking forward to this part of the race. T1 time: 6:10.
The bike route is fun and I knew my special needs bag would be waiting at mile 49 where I could grab some chocolate chip cookies and pb&j sandwiches. The ride up to that point is wind-free and I’m enjoying passing lots of people on the route. After the special needs, we turn onto a larger road and there the wind begins to pick up. Not too bad, but definitely some headwind. Another turn and more headwind and this time a headwind that is relentless. I keep seeing my mph going down and down as I’m struggling to keep a steady rhythm. This is the worst part of the bike course, but because I’m still on the bike, I’m still having a lot of fun. The last 7 miles on Front Beach Rd and into transition is all tailwind which really helps to recover before my most dreaded part of the race – the run. Bike time: 6:08:31 for an 18.2 mph average and good for 28/68 in my age group.
Going into T2, I hand my bike over to a volunteer (which is one of the greatest things of IM!) and another volunteer hands me my transition bag. At this point, I know I need all the rest I can get before the run. I take my time in transition, go to the bathroom, and head out for the run. T2 time: 8:20!
The run is a 2 loop out and back course, so approximately 6.5 miles each way – very manageable, or so I keep telling myself. The first few miles is so energetic with the crowd support and music. My plan is to run between aid stations, walk through the station to grab a drink, then begin running again when the aid station ends. The aid stations are located about every mile on the run course. My plan actually works really well and I’m feeling good and confident through mile 8. Between miles 8-12 I start to hurt some, but keep pushing knowing I have much more to go. At mile 12, I see the crowds again, the music is there again and I regain a lot of energy. I keep up this energy through to at least mile 16, when the pain settles in again. I start looking for Bill who is riding roads parallel to the run course and sees me and cheers me on at different turns of the course. It really helps to keep me going and his support becomes really valuable. As it’s getting darker out, the struggle becomes harder and harder. Thoughts of quitting go through my mind b/c the pain is almost unbearable. But then I think – why am I here? Not to quit, not to give up and I keep reminding myself that 2400 other people are feeling this same pain and are pushing through, so I can’t give up now. At mile 22, I have to stop and walk some b/c I’m just in pain and pain and more pain. It’s at that moment that I tell myself to remember this moment and how much excruciating pain I’m in so that I won’t go and sign up for another one of these races again, ever. I know myself and I forget the pain after a race, but this pain I wanted to remember so I don’t go and be stupid again and sign up for another one of these suffer-fests. After all this is going through my head, it actually is beginning to be more painful to walk than to run b/c I’m on my feet that much more. So I begin running again. About 1.5 miles to the finish, I meet a German guy who comes up behind me and we start talking. He’s had a rough day and was originally on track for an under 9 hour, 30 min race, but at the half marathon point, his stomach said no and he started having diarrhea and throwing up. So to get through it, he started drinking beer provided by the spectators and put on a speed skating suit, again provided by a spectator. His goal was to finish the second part of the marathon having fun. Talking to him made me forget all the pain I was in. He told me to enjoy this last portion, keep a steady but good pace, and remember this moment b/c it will be amazing when I cross that finish line. He also said he’d let me go in first ahead of him since it was my first IM (his 9th) and he really wanted me to enjoy the moment. Marathon time: 5:17:32. 45/68 in my age group.
Coming up to the finish line was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The energy and emotions from the spectators was overwhelming. I was so happy to be finished but also so happy to have come this far, pushed through this much pain, and to be almost skipping through the finish line. My final time: 13:11:14 and 42/68 in my age group.
It’s Tuesday and I’m still on a high from the race. I could only sleep about 5 hours the night after the race and was up early the next morning, perky and happy. Surprisingly, I’m not that sore. My knee hurts some, but muscle soreness is barely there. This was the best race of my life – a grand adventure that I will always rememer. And of course I’ll be signing up for another IM or ironman distance race again for next year!