My report might not have the same tear-jerking quality as Red5's, but I figured it was worth a share anyway. Here she goes:
First, a little note on training. I'd been fighting foot pain since January, and by mid Feb, couldn't even walk without pain. So, I checked in to the doctor, and they figured it was tendonitis. I started going to PT 2-3 times a week, hoping it would heal with enough time to get some long runs in. Well, it didn't. Every time I tried to do a long-ish run, it would start hurting within an hour. So, I resigned not to run at all, and hope my base would carry me through. I did two marathons in the fall, and figured they'd help somewhat. And anyway, Ironman is all about the will to finish, right? Maybe my original time goals would fall apart, but it'd be good just to finish.
On race morning, I went to the Landis Cyclery people to get my tires filled up, and headed back to my rack slot. I noticed that the wheels were VERY full, and felt much tighter than the 120psi I usually ride (they are clinchers, and only rated to 125 or so). Realizing that the pressure would only increase as the day got hotter, I let a little air OUT of each tire. This paid huge dividends later as other people were flatting left and right. I think I saw four or five flats in the first three miles.
Anyway, I dropped off my transitions bags, changed into my wetsuit, and realized that somewhere in the last five minutes I'd lost my swim cap. I didn't stress about it, and they had extras anyway. Ten minutes before the gun, I'm standing on the dock, about to get in, when someone says to me, "hey, do you realize your wetsuit is on inside out?" Good God, I thought. Am I really that daft? The answer was that yes, I WAS that daft. So, I ripped the thing off and got back in with just enough time to get in the water and find a nice spot.
The swim went really well; I am a very slow swimmer, and I know it. I budgeted a swim time of 1:30, and ended up with a very comfortable 1:20, breathing on 4's the entire way. Some day I will focus on improving the swim, but it's not a huge deal for me right now. The bike and run could really use help at this point.
So I get on the bike, and things are peachy. I feel like I went out at the right pace, and had a really good time going out on laps 2 and 3, going with the wind. I especially enjoyed coming through town on the way out, cause it was slightly down, and super swift. I'm not sure how fast I went on each half-loop, because I took off my cyclometer. But I ended up with an average lap time of like 17mph. Coming back into the wind is a slow, ridiculous endeavor. Going 8-10mph on a tri bike is about a useful as an airplane taxiing around the jetway.
But coming in on lap 3, I got giddy. I was SO happy to be going for a run, because after 2 months of staying OFF the run due to injury, I was excited to finally use them legs. I was being all playful with the people I'd see on the road, going "hey, you guys wanna go for a run?" or "who wants to run a marathon?" Most people looked a little puzzled as to why I was so excited about the prospect of our next phase of suffering, but I think they understood at heart. This giddiness continued through the transition tent, where I yelled out "last one to the finish line's a rotten egg!" It even continued through the first few miles, where I settled into an 8:30 pace that I figured would see me through to the finish.
But then I hit the wall at around the middle of mile 3. Things just really tanked from there. I think it was because I hadn't been running in so long. Or maybe I went too hard on the bike, or maybe Ironman is just hard. But anyway, I ended up struggling a lot by the middle of the first loop. Doubt started to seep into my mind, and I wondered whether it would be a better idea just to quit. But I just started saying aloud, "I am going to be an Ironman." I said it over and over and over, just to pound the thought into my head. Hurting this bad on mile 5 didn't bode well for the remaining 21 miles, but I resigned that however long it took me, I was going to make it. I had plenty of time to get in under the 17-hour cutoff, and if I had to walk 20 miles, I'd do it. Fortunately, I was still able to run for a few miles at a time. After the first loop, I knew where the rest stops were, so I'd pick a rest stop and decide that I'd walk through that one when I got to it. I thought if I had to down one more swig of Gatorade, I'd puke. The chicken soup and cookies saved my life.
My time goals drifted away, and had to be constantly readjusted. By the last lap, I figured I could slow down to 20min/mile and still make it in 14:30, so that became the new goal.
When I passed the 24-mi banner, I looked at my watch and realized I could do 30-minute miles and still finish under 14 hours. So I just resigned that when I finally saw the 25-mi banner, I'd walk in the last mile to the finish. The 25 banner came, and I was walkin. But as I got to the bridge, and realized it was nearly done, I started to jog again. In the seven years I've been running, this is the first time I think I've gotten the "runner's high" they always tell you about. The pain seemed much duller than it had just moments before, and I started running at a nice little pace. As the crowds came nearer, I started screaming and pumping my arms in the air, to which everyone responded loudly. It was incredible to see how many spectators were still out there at 8:24pm as I crossed the line. I felt SO tired, but was elated to finally earn the title of Ironman. 13:24, and not a moment too soon.
Next time, that marathon is gonna feel like a cakewalk. Sub-4, man. Sub-4.