Part 3 – a 5:12 Run… makes a 12:44 IM
About 3 miles from the finish line, I realized… “holy crap, I’m about to finish my first marathon!”. That was followed up with, “holy crap, I’m about to finish my first Ironman!”. And that pretty much that sums up the last three miles.
But, there were 23 miles prior to that, so let me start back at the beginning of the run. After getting off the bike, I moseyed over to the changing tent with my run bag, and opened it up to find such gems as a photo of my husband in a fake mustache with a speech bubble saying “I moustash-k you to keep going!!”. Ah, have I mentioned how amazing my friends and husband are? Seriously.
As soon as I got off the bike all the pain of bike riding subsided. No more shoulder pain, butt pain, back pain… nothin’. I had lots of attention in the changing tent, and one lady (whose nametag said “captain”) even came over and wiped my feet off, saying “there’s nothing worse than grass in your socks. Nothing worse”. Wow.
For the run I put on a Moving Comfort tank top, a Moving Comfort running skort, some socks, and my ‘ole trusty Brooks Adrenalines. And I matched. All grape and teal. I also run with a visor (much to my husband’s chagrin), and I had stocked a race belt with the following: Race number, 1 bag of Honey Stinger Chomps, 5 Cliff Shots in Chocolate Cherry, and my Inspirational Mile list and my mantra from Arien.
I stopped for some more sunscreen, and got totally lathered up. I was worried that I had gotten a little burnt on the bike ride. I grabbed a sip of water, and then stopped for more hugs and kisses on the way out of the transition area. Mile number 1 was dedicated to Ann and Henry for being so AWESOME and coming down to the race! They were going to have to leave before I finished up so they could get to work on Monday morning, so as I was running out of transiiton, I shouted “Mile 1 is for Ann and Henry!” (original, I know.)
Oh, mile 1. Mile 1 was jus a little jaunt down the street to a bridge. The bridge was closed to traffic, and had an aid station setup in the middle of it. I didn’t know the run course at all (someone said it was flat, so I went with it – all I knew was that it was a two loop course that takes you right by the finish line as you head out for your second loop… so cruel). So as we’re heading up the bridge and I’m shuffling along on my post-112-mile-bike-ride legs, I see all these people coming back towards me, and I think “man they’re almost done. That must be awesome.”
Then, I get to the top of the bridge and hit the turnaround. And realize that all those people were only a half mile ahead of me. Woohoo!
It was quite warm at 3:15 in the afternoon when I started the run. I took ice at the first aid station and stuffed it down my sports bra. That would become my signature move at every aid station until mile 13, when I realized my feet were soaking wet. Sometimes I would put it down the back of my shirt, and I’d be running around with these little rolls of ice cubes in my shirt. I took my first gel at that first aid station, trying to get ready for the marathon ahead.
You finished mile 1 at the base of the bridge. Mile 2 started towards downtown, running around some city blocks in a little jog out to the two loop course. I felt like I started to get my legs back in the first couple of miles, and they were feeling pretty good. Miles 1-6 were uneventful. I took a second gel at the 1 hour mark on the run, and remember being super surprised that an hour had gone by already. My plan was 1 gel per hour on the run, since that was what I had practiced with at home. The gels, as I said above, were Cliff Shot Chocolate Cherry, and I can honestly now say that if I ever see one of those again I will absolutely vomit at the site of it. But more on that later.
Hour 2 of the run was pretty OK. I was really looking forward to the sun going down behind the buildings and offering up some shade on the totally unshaded course. I think we started to get that around 5:00. I started to see the pro women who were winning the race running back towards me with their bike escorts, and I have to say, they didn’t have the pep in their step I expected they would have. Guess it’s good to know that even pros get tired in Ironman.
My mental plan for the run was to break it into 10 miles, 10 miles, and a 10k. Say it with me now… but, the aid stations kind of screwed that up. The aid stations were about .6 miles from each mile marker, so I would hit a mile marker, then run to the aid station, then walk through the aid station (plus a little extra) then run about 2/10ths of a mile, and hit another mile marker. Around mile 8 or 9 I realized my left foot was hurting really badly and I was getting blisters between my toes because of my now soaking wet feet from the ice and the cold sponges. So what I had planned on being a stretch break at mile 10, became a “just make it to the special needs bags at the half marathon point please dear God where you have some dry socks”.
When I got to my special needs bag, I warned the volunteer that this was going to take a while. I walked over to a stone wall and sat down. I pulled a baggie of deoderant out of my bag, along with a pair of socks. I took of my shoes, and realized my left insole had somehow maneuvered itself halfway up the outside of my shoe, meaning I was running half on the insole and half off. I had deodorant in a baggie because I didn’t want to waste a whole tube of Body Glide, and I have to say that baggie saved me. I put antipersperant all over my feet, and then fresh socks, and I felt like a whole new woman. I took a swig of coke, handed my bag back to the very kind volunteer, and felt much better and ready to continue.
Now, the next 10 miles become pretty foggy. I know I was having to will myself to the next aid station. I walked almost a half mile at a couple of points. I never felt like I couldn’t make it, but I was pretty defeated, disappointed at feeling like I couldn’t keep running. My hips were aching and my quads hurt, and at that point the idea of stomaching any kind of food made me want to wretch. I had taken a gel around mile 10 or 11, and needed another one at 15. I think I got that one down. But I couldn’t drink water anymore without it immediately coming back up, so I started taking only coke at the aid stations. Fortunately, it was fizzy. I would drink about 3 oz of coke, and then throw it up about a minute later. But not in a hold-my-gut I’m vomiting way, just in a “hey, your stomach doesn’t want anything else, stupid” kind of way. So I went with it, and tried to avoid spitting up on people’s shoes.
I’ve been reading some additional training stuff lately and see that people train themselves to be able to take in up to 300-400 calories an hour while running. I cannot imagine what that’s like. I think with the coke and gels, I was averaging 200 an hour. I never felt like I ran out of energy… bonking was not how I would describe the sensation. It more just felt like lactic buildup that made my legs stop working efficiently. They were heavy, and achey.
Sometime during the mile 13-20 void, this nice guy from Missouri ran up next to me (while I was walking) and asked if he could walk with me. Said he just wanted to chat. Told me he was a cow farmer, grass fed calf to beef operation. His wife made the real money. This was his first Ironman. Said he wanted to run, so I tried to keep up with him… but it was apparent he was feeling fresher than me. So I said “hey, why don’t you just go on ahead” and he said nah, I’ll walk with you. Then, a few minutes later, he’d try to get us to start running again. Finally, I was like “hey, I can’t keep up. Please go on”. And then 2 minutes later we caught back up at the aid station. I’m not exactly sure when I lost him, but he finally got the picture that I was not a good motivational running partner at that point in the race.
Mile 19 was when the mantra came out. My yoga teacher, Arien, gave me a Sanskrit mantra a few days before the race. The mantra, written on hand-pressed paper, said “om gam ganapataye namaha”. She explained that it was a simple mantra about breaking down obstacles, and encouraged me to use it if I needed it during the race.
Now, I’ve been way into yoga lately, going to my Ashtanga class religiously. I believe it has helped me to be more calm, more pleasant, and more focused in life. I also think that the stretching kept me injury free throughout my training. In other words, I’m a big fan. And while I’m really interested in mediation, I don’t have a practice of my own. Mantra and chant are forms of mediation which I had not previously discovered.
But when mile 19 came up, and all I could think about and focus on were how my legs were on fire and how 7 more miles seemed impossible… I started chanting. Just barely audible, I’m sure I looked like a complete lunatic. But I am astounded at how it cleared my head and gave me focus, gave me something to focus on. In past races I’ve tried muttering things like “just another Sunday run” to get me through it, but your mind always screams out “bullshit!”. When chanting in a foreign language that has no direct, word-for-word translation to me, it was soothing. And comforting. And such a relief.
Mile 21 was dedicated to Arien. Mile 22 was dedicated to Aaron. That would be the first time I had ever run more than 21 miles, the longest that I had ever run, and I focused my energy and attention on my goofy, supportive, loving husband to get me through it. Mile 22 was devoted to my friend Jessi, because I remember back 5 years ago when she was telling me about the time when she ran a marathon, and I was just astounded that anyone in this world would chose to do such a thing. Mile 23 was for my mom (who survived having me as a kid), mile 24 for my dad (who survived cancer), and the final 1.4 miles was for myself, for doing this thing.
Somewhere around mile 20 I realized that there was a chance I could beat my 13 hour super-secret time goal. While I couldn’t futz around with my watch to figure out what my total time was (it was just giving me my splits), I knew that I started after 7:30 a.m. And, around mile 20, I realized it was only 7:00 p.m. That meant I had until at least 8:30 to get in under 13 hours. 6 miles in an hour and a half should certainly be doable under any other circumstances, so I started to see that glimmer of hope. Around that same time the thought crossed my mind that someone was actually playing a trick on me, that I secretly had 11 miles to go, not 6. I believed it for a minute.
Around mile 24, I realized that I could finish before dark. They were handing out glow necklaces to the folks on the other side of the course, heading out for their second loop, and there I was, heading towards the finish line. As I saw the mile marker that told me I had just finished 25 miles of running, I became ecstatic. In true goober fashion, I looked around me and saw these two guys in white shirts, walking. I asked them what time it was, still incredulous that I was going to be able to break 13 hours. They said it was 8:xx. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I asked them if they were on their final loop, and they said yes. And I said, “who wants to finish before dark!?” They said yeah! And we’re trying to make it in under 13 hours too.” And I said “me too!” And without another word, I took off. Light on my feet, like there was no turning back, I (in what felt like a sprint, but was really a 10 min mile jog) bolted towards the finish line.
I started tearing up as I was running, choking back sobs and trying to remember to breathe. I rounded the corner, and could hear the finish line, I rounded another corner, and could see the finish line. The spot light, the crowd, the neon of 4th street… people crowded in on the street starting putting out their hands for high fives, and damnit if I didn’t high-five everyone I could reach on the left side of the course.
As I crossed the finish line I heard Mike Reilly say “Michelle Dykstra, you are an Ironman”.
I saw my parents, I saw Aaron. I hugged them all. My catcher, this really nice volunteer who told me later he was running his first marathon in a month and his first IM in two months, grabbed my elbow and asked me how I felt. “Um, good I think!”. He asked if I needed anything… “Um, I think I’m OK!”. A volunteer cut off my timing chip, then they put a medal around my neck, asked me what size shirt I wear, handed me a hat, and told me to stand in front of the IM backdrop. My photo is a-mazing. What a nerd.
My volunteer handed me off to Aaron, and wished me the best. We all hugged, and I verified, once more, that I had actually finished in under 13 hours. That there wasn’t some time warp I wasn’t aware of. They asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to sit down. So we sat on the curb.
What an awesome feeling. I planned for 2 years, trained for a year, focused for 8 months, and finished the race. It’s hard to believe that I spent 312 minutes out on the run course. It seemed, even in the moment, like it was over in a flash. As I crossed the finish line, I had that feeling of never doing it again… but it wasn’t because of exhaustion. It was because a second, third, fourth time could never compare to that first time feeling of crossing the finish line, and where do you go from Ironman? Must be time to have a kid.