Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Run (cue foreboding music!)

I've had it drilled into my head over and over that Ironman is all about the run. You can set a world record on the bike or the swim but if you tire yourself and blow up on the run after it's all for naught.

I spent the ride trying to keep my HR within reasonable limits and to stay fueled and hydrated. I'd run after every long ride all year so I was hoping I was prepared. I'd watched the runners exiting T2 last year and had tried to ready myself for the pain I’d be feeling as I started out on the run. I knew it would be hard and painful but I would tough it out!

I exited T2 and waited for the pain to hit. My legs were stiff and a tired but I could run. Yet again the crowd's cheering gave me such a boost that I felt like I had a tailwind pushing me along.

As I turned down Westminster to do the out and back on Lakeshore Drive, Clayton saw me and ran beside me, heaping on the encouragement and praise. Going down Lakeshore I was passed by several of the pro men heading in for the finish – wow they were running fast!

Andrew Louie was on Lakeshore and got a bunch of shots of me.

I finished the loop, went back past Clayton on Westminster and turned up Main to the cheering of Colleen and Carol, I could hear the Carol for about a block!

As the crowd thinned I spotted a couple of volunteers and slowed to ask them if the top woman had come in yet. That obviously wasn't the question they were expecting, I guess it was unusual for athletes to be interested in what was up with the top racers. They told me no, there hadn't been a woman finisher yet. This was very cool as I’d get to see the top women in their final push! Shortly after I saw Lisa Bentley bombing down Main Street, I’m a big fan so I yelled and cheered (she won, if you're interested).

I kept seeing people I knew on the run course, which was fun. Again, as I headed towards Lee Ave I kept watch for my Mum and sister and yelled and waved when I saw them.

The run was very cool as it's one big out and back and I got to see almost all the competitors. 15 people from my club were racing plus I a few friends from out of the club and various people I'd met through training so there were a lot of people to keep my eye out for. I knew Jean-Yves wanted to hit 10:30 so I was nervously eying my watch and looking for him. When I saw him it was 9.5 hours into the race and I was 1 hour into my run so I did the math and figured he'd hit his goal no problem. Yay!

After that I lost my ability to do math and estimate finish times but as I saw each of my friends running towards me I cheered and waved and asked them if they were having fun. When I spotted Joanne I bellowed out her name and waved like crazy. Jae Wan ran to the middle of the road so we could high five. Everyone from my club seemed to be running well and looked like they were having a good day. Although some of them might have been smiling because I was acting like such a nut!

The locals who live along Lakeside/Eastside Road are essentially blocked in for the day of the race so many of them make the best of it and pull out couches and chairs to watch the race and have mini block parties. As on the bike, if I smiled I got bigger cheers so, as I'm a sucker for attention and I was having a great day, I grinned ear to ear most of the way.

At Skaha Estates I stuck to the plan and walked up the hill. A few people passed me on the way up but I gained it back on the flat/downhill, however at this point it wasn't about passing people anymore, it was about keeping my pace going and my heart rate down. Terri, who'd trained with LETC in 2005, and I played leap frog for a while, to the point that she turned it into a game of tag. I'm pretty competitive so it was hard not to chase her down when started this!

We ran down into OK Falls to the turn around and special needs pick up. I grabbed my bag, fished out my long-sleeved shirt (the weather was cooling off plus I didn't want to lose the shirt) but left the peanut butter sandwich and gum drops. I high-fived Teresa's husband and her friend Neal then headed back up the hill I'd just descended to start my return leg.

On the run in we'd had a tailwind and now I had to face it head on. While I find headwinds on the bike soul-sucking, on the run they don't bug me so much but I was still concerned. Up the backside of Skaha Estates hill I walked and took the opportunity to chat with people. One guy was dying from sore knees and was absolutely thrilled when I offered him Ibuprofen.
I saw Teresa and Bronwyn and a few other friends and cheered and waved and asked about their races, everyone was still having a good time.

Now it was just a matter of going from aid station to aid station (a friend described the marathon as“26 picnics") and sucking back chicken broth, flat Pepsi, Gatorade and the occasional gel. I walked the aid stations, partly for a rest and partly so I wouldn't be wearing the soup. At the aid station at mile 20 I caught up with Joanne's uncle and walked with him and chatted for a bit.
As I came to the end of the lake it really started to feel like the home stretch. At the next aid station I spotted Andrew, one of the club coaches, and he gave me a hug and ran with me for a bit. My Mum and sister were just down the block so my Mum got a great photo of Andrew and I running together. I yelled something incomprehensible but happy to my family and coach and kept going.

The next stretch was a gentle but long rise so it was a matter of watching my HR and adjusting my pace accordingly. Once the road flattened out I upped the pace a bit. At the 23 mile mark I checked my watch and saw it was 7:37pm. I thought about trying to break 13 hours but knew there was no way I could do 5km (3 miles is approx 5km) in 23 minutes. I totally forgot that I set all my watches five minutes fast because I'm late for everything so I actually had 28 minutes. I decided not to go for it as I didn’t want to bonk right at the end then changed my mind and figured what the heck, might as well go for the glory!

The crowds kept getting thicker and I thought they were just cheering because I was running strong, but it was because the 13 hour mark was approaching. When I turned onto Lakeshore Drive for the final out and back Mike Reily was whipping the crowd into a frenzy to cheer on people to break 13. I came around the corner onto Lakeshore going fast and smiling so got a great cheer. The energy was unbelievable. I saw my sister on the other side of the road and waved and told her to stay there – she was going to cross the finish line with me. (Not really suere where she was going to go but I was almost 13 hours into IM so I can be forgiven for not making sense!)

I skipped the last aid station, made the 180 turn and headed back to the finish. At this point I figured I was going to go for it for sure. I saw my sister and bellowed “We're going to break thirteen!!!” She took off like a rocket and I had to tell her to slow down!

I was bombing down the finishers' chute and apparently Mike Reily was yelling my name and getting the crowd to cheer me on to the finish, I didn't hear him as all I was aware of was the finish line and my sister. I grabbed her hand and lifted it in the air as we crossed the line. I didn't break 13, I missed it by three seconds and my final time was 13:00:02, but I could care less as the finish was the most spectacular moment I've ever experienced.

I figured I’d do the run somewhere around 5 hours, anything under that would make me happy.

My run split was 4:31:18. That surprised me a lot.

I also had a negative split on the run, I was about 8 minutes faster on the return.

To sum up, the day was fantastic, I had almost everything go right – perfect weather (cool and overcast), a clear swim, no mechanical issues on the bike, good nutrition and hydration and no major physical issues. Having my family there was so very cool and talking to my Dad after the race was great as he'd been watching it all online and was telling me all my stats.

Everything I'd heard about the volunteers, locals and crowds being fantastic turned out to be an understatement. I'd love to do the race again but I don't know if I'll be able to match this – either in terms of my performance or in terms of how incredible the day was.

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