Light...and day...is more than you'll say
my feelings are more
than i can let by
more than you've got
just follow the day
follow the day
and reach for the sun...
Light and Day - Polyphonic Spree
I ran out of T2 absolutely beaming with warm sunshine spilling down on my face. All of my worries about bike cutoffs had dissolved. I was an hour ahead of schedule.
And so I kept the faith and ran.
The plan for the marathon was to simply live off the land and keep moving forward. I had no idea how my body would hold up after 2.4 mile swim and 112 on the bike. There was no plan for pacing except to stay in forward motion. Each step brought me that much closer to that line in the road that was hours away. I brought along some Roctane, but other than that I was ready to raid the aid stations as they were full of chips, pretzels, chicken broth, cookies, cola, fruit, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Some of the stops were 2 marshmallows and a fire pit away from being a camp out.
The effort in the beginning felt solid. I was running...and felt great. Passing folks on their 2nd and 3rd loops. Even passing some folks, like me, on their first loop. Through the first stop I went, grabbed some water, sucked the juice from an orange slice and continued on. And then I found myself lost in the Janus charity signs on the back side of the course...I smiled as I read them, looking for the messages from my Iron Crew. Passed through a few more aid stations, and before I knew it, I was back by my family.
Mike had missed me coming into T2 and was just as shocked as I was to be on the run--and looking, and feeling so great. I stopped for a quick hug. My eyes welted with tears as I felt so insanely proud that I had gotten myself to that point, exceeding my wildest expectations. I wanted to stay and chat, but they all pushed my along to keep on running.
...soon things would start to unravel.
Somewhere around the mile 4-5 aid station, I grabbed some chicken broth when I realized that I had gone nearly 90 minutes without any sodium. Not even 50 yards past the aid station on the Rural Street bridge...it all came back up along with some other junk looming in my stomach. I allowed myself the opportunity to walk it off and did a mental checklist of how I felt...
Legs? Barely sore. Hips slightly tight, but that's normal.
Back? Sturdy and pain-free.
Head? Totally fine. In a great place mentally, and truly happy to be alive and experiencing something so infinitely incredible.
Stomach? Hahaha...my entire digestive system wanted nothing to do with this race. Did not want to be jostled. Wanted nothing more put in it. It was going to put up a valiant protest for the next 20-something miles and refused to be ignored.
It was disheartening when I'd hit a timing mat, and realized that some friends at home would quickly be able to do the math and realize I was falling apart. I love running. And my running has come a ridiculously long way since I first started back in 2005. But I couldn't keep it together despite my best efforts.
The next 16 miles or so were reduced to running--albeit slowly--when I could...and walking a ridiculous amount to settle the stomach...fighting off some severe acid reflux...testing different foods at aid stations...and making myself worried when I realized the only thing that would stay down was water and an occasional pretzel stick. Everything else burned when I swallowed to the point of tears.
I was running on fumes. And it made me angry that my body, aside from my digestive system, was amped and wanting to rock with a steady, solid run. The awesomeness I physically felt was a testament to my training. I had done everything right. Though in retrospect, given my stomach problems that I typically encounter on a daily basis, I probably should've planned out my nutrition for the run rather than opting to live off the land. Live and learn for next time, right? (and yes...there will be a next time.)
I was determined to do the best I could with what I had to work with...
At the end of my second loop, Lisa and her daughter found me and I was able to visit with them for a few moments. It was a well-needed surprise just as I was starting to hit rock bottom. I told them that I had let go of any hope of a sub-16 finish and would probably finish shortly after the 16 hour mark. Then we started to to talk less about my race and more of Lisa's next steps in her triathlon endeavors. Talking with them seemed to get my mind off things and I found the excitement once more.
I high-fived my Iron Crew as I started that third loop...and something magical happened out there. I counted down the miles. 18 were behind me. It was no longer about how far I had left to go...but how far I had come...and not just that day, or this training season...but the progress I've seen over the course of the past 5 years...not just on a physical/athletic level...but on a very personal level. I'm not the same gal I was 5 years ago...and at that moment, I wasn't even close to the same woman I was when I started the race hours earlier. My Ironman journey had changed me down to my core...there was no denying that. And I loved what I found.
My mind wandered to everyone who has been a part of this journey. All those at ground zero with me who valiantly cheered each time I saw them...I thought about the Hurley's in St. Louis...the ladies of the Lounge...Jen in California...Shannon and Tarwater following along at home...my mom and dad and how they were completely disconnected at my grandma's and how frustrated she must be...Tony reporting on BT...I imagined all my friends and family who couldn't be there sharing that day with me in person waiting with baited breathe for the next update. And for the first time ever, I was overwhelmed with faith in myself. Countless people believed in me from day one...and finally, I began to understand what they all already knew...
I tried doing the math. I knew I could pull a 25 minute mile and still finish before midnight. Trying to calculate a sub-16 finish took some work. For those final 8 miles, I think I needed to average something like a 15:10 pace. Normally, not an issue. My standard zone 1-2 run back home for 8 miles is in the low 11's...
...but with the way my stomach was feeling at that moment in time, I knew it'd be a challenge. I was going to cut that 16 hour-mark close.
With a deep breath, I closed my eyes. Brought myself back to my lake in Chicago. my running path. with my strangers and friends. with the pace booty I've grown to know and love. The place where I learned to just let loose and run like you did when you were a child...ignore the time...and flow by how you're feeling.
The walk turned into a shuffle. And for a while, that shuffle turned into a run. An honest, solid run effort. And suddenly I found myself at mile 20...the Ford Motivational Mile. With a personal message to me lighting up the night.
A smile warmed me from within.
I felt strong. A second wind kicked in...and I found myself flying for a good mile and a half before the nausea set back in. I looked at my watch.
Pending some tragic digestive throw down on the back side of the course, I had somehow willed myself back to life and knew I had a sub-16 race solidified. Passing my Iron Crew one last time, I shouted to them that my window of arrival would be between 15:50 and 16:10 and that I'd see them soon at the finish line.
I continued on and not even a half mile later, I found myself crawling once more. My stomach had completely shut down. I was reduced to swishing water in my mouth and spitting it back out. I channeled my inner mall-powerwalker and coaxed myself to press forward. In spite of all the frustration and stomach pain, the thoughts that were once "Just hang in there for 2-3 more hours and this will all be over" were strangely replaced with "How can I almost be done?! I was just in that lake swimming a few minutes ago! Can't we start the day over, I'm having too much fun?!?"
Just as I was turning onto Rural Street bridge I spotted Molly...the first time I had seen her on the run. I cheered for her to go on and finish strong...she looked at me and replied "Barb Rodriguez...you WILL be an Ironman!"
And with that, I pulled myself together and mustered up a slow, pathetic run. It may not have been much, but at least I was running. Aid stations were skipped. I pulled within myself and just kept moving forward with whatever strength I had left inside.
Mile 25 hit and I started to tear up. I saw 15:41 and change on my watch...digging deep, I brought the walk back to a shuffle and held on for dear life. Gravity pulled all of us in the back of the pack together. We found friendship in fools. Silently exchanging smiles with that look of hope and confidence in our eyes. One by one...shuffling along...our clusters thinned out and we started to form a single file line...as if to pay respects to one another's accomplishments that day and give us each our individual moment in the limelight of the finish line. It was no longer a race about finishing faster than the person next to you...it was our chance to walk across the stage and take that bow on our own...get receive our standing ovation.
Back under Mill Avenue bridge I ran, and choked up.
A volunteer directed me left...toward the finish line...
The crowds started to thicken on the sidelines...and at this point, it wasn't so much a deafening cheer as it was hearing your friends extend congratulations for an incredible feat...
"Up ahead and to your left for the most incredible place..."
"Welcome home, Ironman..."
"You've done it, now go soak it all in..."
"You're my hero..."
"This is your moment..."
I could hear Mike Rielly's voice echoing off the lake. I heard him welcome those in front of me into the elite Ironman brotherhood.
And then it was finally my turn. The last of three moments I envisioned for the day.
It was as if my feet had wings. In that moment nothing hurt. My stomach was fine. And I was on top of the world. I ran up and around the bend to the left...and I saw it.
Filled stands jumping with spectators.
The finish line.
Absolutely the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I fought back the tears and welcomed every last nanosecond of that moment with every fiber of my being.
It was a completely different kind of happiness. pride. accomplishment. and maybe even a hint of relief.
I reached out and high-fived spectators. I gave a shout out to my incredible Iron Crew, to which I owe indefinite thanks. I thought of everyone at home and on the ground with me that day...I had carried each and every one of them for 140.6 miles...and in turn they each helped pull me through my low points....
I reveled in every last inch of that finish line. I remember feeling my heartbeat in my throat and my ears. Fighting back tears. Feeling adrenaline reel me through the chute. Looking up, seeing that the clock had not struck 16...and having pride take over as my own personal life source.
I hit the mat that one final time to send a message to the world that I did it. That I was made of stern stuff. That Iron was an integral part of my DNA.
With a little hop of excitement, threw my arms in the air and heard the most incredible four words anyone can imagine...
"You Are An Ironman!!!!!"
Labels: Ironman Arizona, Race Report