|That's my family-on the right in the pink & white stripes!|
I have been told and read about how the "marathon" portion of the Ironman is not a marathon at all, but rather, the last leg of a very long day. This was absolutely the case for me.
As I headed out of T2 and onto the Boulder Creek Bike trail, entering a wall of sound coming from the massive crowd of spectators, I felt like I had just completed the part of "pin the tail on the donkey" where you are blindfolded and spun around and around, trying to find your target. Even though I knew this trail like the back of my hand, I could not get my bearings. I had decided since this was not really a marathon, I wouldn't totally treat it like a marathon, but instead take things as they came. I knew that walking would be inevitable and I know my body well enough to know that I reach a point where if I walk too much, my body stiffens and I cannot run anymore.
|And my fam again on the left with the pink & white!|
So I took off on a run. I knew I was faster than I should be, but I couldn't slow down. Between the crowds, the downhill and the adrenaline, my legs just would not listen to my mind. Then I saw Coach Marco, screaming like he'd won the lottery telling me that I looked amazing, that he was so proud of me, that I was going to be an Ironman. Then he said "Kiki, you cannot keep this pace up! You need to slow down!". To which I yelled over my shoulder "I know!". That's all I could get out so I hoped he didn't worry about me. If there's one thing I knew for sure, it's that I would finish this bitch. Even if I had to crawl. I had come way too far to not finish!
I think I must have only been about 3 miles into my run when I started hating life. I was pissed, I was tired, I wanted real food and I was just plain over this whole thing. I have hit plenty of walls in my marathons but this was different. Every wall I had hit before I could quickly re-group and play tricks with my mind to get over it. This was horrible. It took everything I had in me to keep going. About this time, I saw my friend Jill who popped out of her chair and started running alongside me. She was talking and talking and then asked me what mile she was at. I remember looking blankly at her and saying very rudely something along the lines of "I can't answer these questions right now". I don't remember what else was said-only that I couldn't believe she expected me to know where I was. The gall!
Pretty soon up the road I saw my Where's Waldo cheering group who were screaming at the top of their lungs, flashing pictures, smiling and telling me everything they should have told me, i.e. you look great, you're amazing, stay strong. I remember yelling to one of them "the next time I even talk about doing this shit again, talk me out of it!". It was at this point my stomach started revolting in a big way. I hit every porta potty for the next several miles and I couldn't get any food in me. The only thing that tasted even kind of good was Coke. I wasn't thrilled about this but I prayed that this would pass and was thankful that the Coke would at the very least give me some calories, sugar and caffeine.
Then the carnage stared in earnest. I couldn't go very far without seeing someone laying in the grass, delirious, hugging their loved ones, crying hysterically because their day was over. I saw one girl who couldn't even stand up or focus who was being taken off the course literally kicking and screaming trying to convince the poor volunteer that she could make it. The first person I saw broke my heart. The second person I saw on the ground I was envious of. I thought "they are so lucky. They can go home and go to bed." Yep, that's how messed up I was! The third person I saw lit a fire in my belly and I decided I would finish this for them. I realized that they would give ANYTHING to just be in a bad head-spot. I owed it to them to finish this. So with my mind made up, I carried on.
Nearing my first turn-around spot, I saw my friends Frank and Ashely. Frank was on Ironman #4 (I think) and this was Ashley's first. Frank was laying in the grass and Ashley was hovering over him. I had to keep moving, but I yelled "is everything ok?" Frank smiled and said "I'm fine." Pretty soon, Ashley left his side and started running with me. She told me Frank was not doing well, and that most of our group had gotten pretty sick on the bike and were really struggling. Ashley and I ran a bit together but started to leap-frog each other. We did this for several miles before we got smart and actually asked each other what our goals were. We discovered that we had the exact same goal: run when we can, walk when we need to and get to the finish line with time to spare. So we decided then and there that we were in this together. And thank God for her! I'm convinced I'd be belly up in the Boulder Creek without her!
Ashley and I used to run in the same pace group on Saturdays but she had gotten much faster than I so had moved up pace groups. So, being able to have 6 hours with her to catch up was great! We continued to see so many members of our fan club along the course: our Runners Edge of the Rockies family with so many people I didn't even see them all, Coach David cheering us on and taking photos, Melissa and Jeannene (who had walked the trail the night before to write chalk messages for us), Clair and Sue, my family, our fellow teammates who continued to gut out this bitch of a race. We came upon one aid station and saw our friend Donna, whom I grabbed and hugged yelling "I need a hug!" and without objection, she hugged me like her life depended on it.
At one part of the run, I decided instead of being miserable, I was going to try and make people laugh. So I decided that the next person who asked me how I was feeling, I would respond with "well, I wouldn't trust a fart right about now" (because truth being told, I wouldn't!). Well, lucky for her, that person was Sue. When I responded to her, she looked mortified and quickly changed the subject. So, then I had to think of a new game.
I was getting a bit worried because I hadn't seen Freddy all day. I knew he was strong and would make it, but it would have really eased my mind to see him and know he was ok. Right about then, I saw Ashely hugging someone and chatting away and it was Freddy! He gave me a kiss and said "We are going to be Ironmen!" to which I teared up. I couldn't think of it. I needed to focus on getting my weary body to the end. Then I would celebrate!
The course had a great design that had several out-and-backs. Which on a typical marathon, I hate. But for this, I absolutely loved! It meant we were never alone and had many opportunities to cheer on our teammates. It also provided easy access for our fan club, so we got to see them at different times and places.
We walked every aid station and started experimenting with food as Ashely was also finding it hard to eat as much as we should. For months, all we heard about was this magical chicken broth that is offered after dark. So we were thrilled when we approached our first aid station that was offering the brew. We took a sip and spit it out. It tasted awful! I thought everyone had lost their marbles. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever tried! So much for that theory of trying replace our electrolytes!
One aid station sponsored by Newton, had Craig Alexander, 3 time Ironman Kona champion, and all-around bad ass, cheering us on with his kids. By the time Ashley and I got there, that poor family had been out forever, so they started throwing a football. Still pretty cool to see this legend out there supporting us!
As the night wore on, Ashley and I continued to carefully monitor our pace to make sure we could still walk when we needed while giving us a cushion for the finish. We met a lot of people along the way-especially once the sun set. That's when you see the true grit of this sport, in my humble opinion. The thing with Ironman is, everyone is hurting. Everyone is miserable. But it is the friendliest and most encouraging group of people you'll ever meet. Everyone you pass or who passes you gives you some sort of encouragement. A "you've got this" or "great job" or "let's get this done" goes a long way when coming from someone struggling alongside you.
We had about 3 miles left when I couldn't feel my legs anymore. I honestly couldn't feel them-they were like rubber and I knew they would give out. I told Ashley I wasn't sure I could run anymore as I felt I was going to fall. Then we saw Frank, Ian, and Lehiwa who had come back to cheer us on. Frank started yelling to run and I convinced myself to just run until we couldn't see him anymore. As we approached our final aid station, a volunteer with a mega-phone was yelling "welcome to your last aid station, your last hill, your last turn around before you become an Ironman!". Our friend Michelle was working this one and kept asking me what color I was wearing. Much like I did with Jill, I just looked at her and thought she was nuts. I couldn't remember my name, much less what I was wearing! But apparently, my fan club tracking me out of state needed to know so they could watch me come in on their computers.
Ashley and I were joined by another friend Ashely who was all showered, cute, clean and full of energy and gave us a play by play of the next miles into the chute. She was awesome. And somehow I managed to run again. She stayed with us until the last 1/4 of a mile. She said we were to get all the glory.
Ashley and I had these grand plans of what we would do at the finish line. I said my goal was to have no-one else coming in with us so we could get all the attention. She wanted to dance, so we agreed that twerking would be awesome.
Pretty soon we were on the street. We had two more turns to make before heading home. We could see the lights, we could hear the deafening crowd and we couldn't believe this was finally happening.
|The second I realized it was Mike Reilley announcing our new title|
|Best moment of my life. EVER.|
My catcher continued to keep a strong but at the same time gentle grip on me as we winding our way through the finish area. He kept me talking and didn't make me work for a thing. He had my t-shirt and hat given to me by another volunteer, he walked me over to the photo booth and when we approached the end of the gate, he said "you look great. It doesn't appear you need any medical attention-are you feeling ok?" I was feeling great. I thanked him and went on my way to get my family.
I saw my peeps at the fence-anxiously awaiting me. I hobbled over, grabbed my friend Kathy and lost it. I was sobbing but there were no tears coming out (I'm pretty sure I was dehydrated). I grabbed everyone I could and wouldn't let go. Freddy was waiting for me by the med tents and grabbed me-we held on for an eternity. He kept saying "we did it! We are Ironmen!"