Warning: Explicit and at Times Disgusting Content....
A lot can happen over 26.2 miles, both on the course and in your mind. But before I describe it ALL of it in excruciating detail, let me just say there is one dominant memory: The Ring of Fire. I will get there eventually but let’s begin at the start.
I held back on the first mile of the run. Unfortunately, I had no idea if my pace was too fast or too slow because my Garmin didn’t catch a signal until mile three. I realize there are many an athlete who can brag they know exactly what pace they are running without the use of technology, and actually, I am one of the people. However, I am not one of those people coming off the bike in any race—especially IM, at which I have so little experience. I tried to run those first miles very easy and prayed the signal would catch at some point. It turns out they were not too fast--all in the ballpark of 8:30-8:45, which was my goal pace. You can say it, Good Job, Mary-- you Goddess....
The first part of the run was lined with spectators and jammed with runners. The crowds were cheering, I was smiling and feeling fine, and man, I just wanted to hammer! But I was good. I didn’t hammer. I let others pass me and I just tried to relax. You will be running for a long time, I reminded myself—so just chill.
The run course for CDA is not flat. I repeat. It. Is. Not. Flat. It is also not what one would describe as an incredibly challenging course. It is mostly gradual, easy climbs and gradual, easy descents with a few short hills interspersed to keep things interesting. Because of this, I was able to hold a relatively consistent pace for the first 15 miles. I never let my pace get faster than 8:35, and I tried very hard not to have any miles slower than 8:55. This worked for quite a long time—and that surprised me. I actually felt okay! I didn’t feel awesome—I didn’t feel like I could run much faster than I was running-but I felt okay. Would the shit hit the fan, I wondered? Would I suddenly crack?
The only real problem I had was bloat—that, and the fact that I was super gassy and kinda sorta really needed to take a shit. Why did I feel this way? Too much salt? Too much fiber in the bars I ate? It occurred to me that it could be the sweetener in the Nu’un I had been drinking on the bike. Usually I handle sweetener quite well—but you know—in racing, all bets are off. Things that work great in training often don’t work at all when executing a race, and I just have so little experience with IM racing that I haven’t found what works exactly for me yet. I had had a mix of bars and gels on the bike and that had left me feeling satisfied and fueled. But something was causing the bloat and the urge to crap big time. Then I ran past a window and saw my belly…. And OH. MY.GOD. I didn’t just feel bloated, I looked six months pregnant! Check out that tire...
I began to fart with every step. They were air farts—a bit anti-social perhaps, but really quite benign in terms of smell. No doubt those around me were starting to wonder but I created a little story for myself that they thought it was my sneaker squishing and carried on. It really was with every step, so the sneaker theory was plausible, and since it continued for 12 miles straight, what else could it reasonably be?? There was some cramping too (of the boy do I need to take a shit variety) but I really felt like I could keep it under control—that a porta-potty stop was not absolutely required—YET. To be frank (which I always am for purposes of your entertainment) I will say that I knew, deep down, that visiting a porta potty was actually a very bad idea—because I knew what this was. I knew that if I caved and decided to let the gate open that the gate would not close—not for a long time. I was dealing with a Code Red, Ring of Fire situation here. It was patently clear to me: If the sphincter goes, so does the race. Be very afraid.
So, I held on. And then I hit mile 12 and had a nice little fart that I was quite sure was not really a fart anymore. OH MAMMMMMMAAAA, here we go! Luckily, my shorts were black. (Very thoughtful of Sugoi/TriBike I will add…) My tummy was not feeling so great either. I had a gel in my hand that I had grabbed at mile 11. It was orange—yucko. BUT, I needed the fuel and I knew it, so I opened it and began to suck it down until…… gag, choke. I stopped mid-step and heaved. Nothing came up save a little orange spittle, but I knew I couldn’t get the rest of the gel down. Oh special day! Mile 12—and gels were no longer possible. NOW things were getting fun! I would have to take Gatorade at every stop and hope for the best. But really, what did I expect? I was finally there… the second half of the marathon. My nemesis. My biggest fear and my biggest hurdle. The time had come. I had finally arrived at where the race begins.
At mile 16 I saw Andy. I had slowed a bit to about 8:55 pace, but I still was running—even through the water stops, and from the video he took I didn’t even look that bad. Andy was thrilled—You got this Mary! There are girls in front of you fading! You got this! I smiled weakly. Had he known what was inside my shorts I’m pretty sure he would not have been quite so enthusiastic about my prospects of running other girls down. It felt so good to see him. It was such a bummer to leave him. I tried not to think how nice it would be to finish now instead of continuing with this second loop of torture. I tried to believe he meant what he said—that others were fading and I had a chance to improve on my place. But I also knew that I wasn’t actually doing so hot myself. This would be a battle for sure.
At mile 18 I saw a friend from home, Rob, coming from the other direction. You’re headed to Kona, Mary! he shouted. Oh... how I wish that was true! But alas, I knew the number of girls ahead of me, the number of girls I had passed, and the one girl who had passed me (Stacey—who is a rockstar runner so I didn’t feel too too bad about that. She finished it in 3:36—the second fastest run split of the day next to that crazy mom McGrath) Anyway, my prospects for Kona didn’t look good. By my estimate I was in about 8th or 9th position—which was definitely not the top 4 placement I needed to secure a slot. One good thing about the torture of the second loop is that it makes Kona far far less appetizing anyway. But really I wasn’t thinking about Kona. Really I was thinking about my main goal—to keep running. And I could do it. I was still okay.
At mile 22, I really stopped being okay. With every step I ached to walk only because I just felt so damn sick. But I simply couldn’t give in. I had to just keep running. I tried to think about all the things I had hoped to call on at this point: my daughter’s amazing 100 fly, my burning desire to pass other fading women in my AG, that Miley Cyrus song about climbing mountains. Yep, there would be none of that. The only thoughts I had were-- in order: OMG I’m going to throw up. OMG I’m going to shit myself. OMG I need to stop. NO! NO! Don’t stop! Just keep running. I don’t care if you are slow! If you keep running you can go straight to the bathroom when you finish and shit then—that is your reward! If you just keep running you can get that Boston Terrier puppy you want—(random, I know, but it truthfully was what kept going through my mind), and finally, If you just keep running you can write on your blog that you DID IT--THAT YOU JUST KEPT RUNNING!
And I did it. I did not walk one fucking step outside of the three I needed at each water stop to get the Gatorade completely down. Okay—it wasn’t fast. I slowed to 9:40 pace –and when going uphill I was even slower. Still, I did not walk until I had ¾ of a mile to go. I hit mile 25 and a quarter mile later my stomach just rebelled and I started hurling violently. I went to the side of the road and gagged again and again. Nothing really came up after the initial watery surge because there wasn’t that much in me. But the reflex was there, and it wouldn’t stop. I tried to walk, and then would have to stop to heave again. After awhile (I had no real sense of time, but I’m guessing it was two minutes or so) I was able to collect myself and I began slowly walking, and then running. And then I turned the corner and there it was—the arches! Oh God! I was that close! I could do this!
Usually at the end of a race you find something in you so you can finish strong—or at least finish running. I did run—but my Garmin read 9:45 minute pace, so clearly I was struggling even though the end was in my reach. But then the crowds were cheering and I just thought, Please don’t barf, Please don’t shit, Please God, Please Please Please.… and my arms were in the air and I was crossing that line! I clicked my watch and I was DONE! I have no idea what song was playing. I don’t remember that guy saying, Mary, you are an Ironman! I actually don’t remember much at all. I felt an arm come around me and a voice say, Are you okay? And then I felt my knees just go.
I heard the voice say, I need help here! And then I was being lifted and I was trying really hard not let my head roll back. And then I thought—Oh God, can they smell me? Oh God, let me go! I smell! I was laid on a cot, and someone was taking my pulse and wrapping a bracelet around my arm and asking me my name. I wanted to say—please—no questions. Can you please just get me a bucket? I think I must have said that actually, because a bucket appeared and I was gagging again—and it just would. not. stop. They covered me with those silver blankets and asked me my name again and when I last peed. I told them I hadn’t peed on the run, but I had on the bike, and that I had been able to produce in other ways… (and couldn’t they smell the evidence?)
I finally convinced one of them to help me to the bathroom. I simply had to go… it was my reward after all. There was a special glow around the porta-potty—really. My Heaven. A porta-potty has never, ever looked so damn good.
I spent the next hour in the porta-potty/med tent throwing up and then just lying there, feeling relief that I was done, I was done, I was done! And I had done okay! Sure, the end was a little-- well, ugly…. But from the looks of the tent around me, which was packed, it wasn’t just ugly for me. That is for sure. My family was outside the tent looking in, and this was a little disconcerting. I didn’t want my kids to know how fucked up I was. I worried it would be scary to them, and I kept trying to wave and smile so they would know I was really just fine.
It turns out it really only phased Jordan, anyway. When I finally got out of the tent she was so attentive it frightened me. Do you want my arm, Mommy? Can I hold that for you Mommy? Let me help you to that bench, Mommy. Can I get you a drink or something, Mommy?
After Andy retrieved my stuff from transition we headed out to get pizza. I ordered a beer even though I knew being able to drink it was highly unlikely. My kids were so tired that Noah and Lara actually fell asleep at the table! Finally we headed back to Hayden and our little lake cottage. I was still very sick, but boy did it feel good to be with my family and to know I could spend the next week just hanging with them. Just Awesome.
There are always a million people to thank after you do a race like this. Here is my list:
Jen--my biggest supporter and an incredible coach
Ange--for being the best biz partner and ear for all my tri excitement and woe
Alina--for being Aunt Alina and always caring for me and having my back
Kurt--for being a second coach to me out of pure generosity (and also b/c I wouldn't stop bugging him even when he began to drop hints that enough was enough... :)
Tri-Bike Transport. How did I get so lucky as to be on their team? They have been such a huge support to me. I'm proud to represent them.
My readers: I get a huge amount of support from you. Thank you.
My kids. They put up with a mom who doesn't quite behave like the other moms. Special thanks to Jordan, who tells me how proud she is and serves as inspiration to me in her own swimming pursuits.
Andy. It is perhaps very clear from my writing how much he must put up with from me--a woman obsessed and passionate with all things triathlon. Thank you for talking endlessly with me about what else, triathlon. Thanks for taking care of me. Thanks for dealing with my many, many triathlon splurges. Thanks for supporting me, even when you really would like to throw me out a window. I love you. xo
Until my next IM--which will likely happen sooner than it should if I have anything to say about it. ;)