Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Adventures continue in the new blog

Here's the new blog:

This one will remain dormant as an archive.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ironman Arizona 2008: The Revenge Report

Pace yourself and hydrate well for this race report. 8,383 word count. Yeah, that's why it took so long!

Pre-Race Routine

Bring it on.

Those were the final words in the post that I made on (BT) the week of the race, and never were 3 words more of an omen of what would happen on race day. IMAZ brought it alright, and I had no choice but to answer back and block each punch it threw.

The worst part on race morning was waiting for the race to begin. Once the gun went off I knew what to do and could begin my attack, but waiting for the start was agony. Thankfully I found the Tri Girls (Tammy, Julie, and Susie) and was able to chat with them while getting ready. Finally it was time to make my way towards the water. I gave my husband Zac one last hug and headed towards the swim arch with a billion other wetsuit people. Amazingly, through the crowd I saw a hat bouncing and a face come through the crowd. It was Shari! We threw our arms around each other and I gave her the biggest hug. Shari had been giving me advice through all of my training, as she finished IMAZ last year. We took some quick pictures with Tri Girls Kathy and Leslie, and it was time for me to get in the water. Shari pumped me up with some last minute encouragement. "You can do this. You are 3 times stronger than you were last year." I just about cried when I heard that, but was able to breathe and settle myself. The tears were coming because I knew it was true. 4 months of training were behind me. This was it. I got in the water and swam to my starting position.

Event Warmup
I swam under the Mill Ave bridge and lined up on the buoy line. I couldn't hear anything the announcer was saying. The only thing I could do was focus on the Rural bridge. I managed to catch "you will be an Ironman today!" over the loud speaker and everyone cheering. I didn't cheer. I didn't want to celebrate until the very end. Finally the gun went off and I started my watch and started swimming.

The Swim - 2.4 miles
The problem with being faster than last year is that it put me in a heck of a lot more people. "Don't panic. Keep going." I was constantly getting knocked all over the place, and kicked in the stomach a few times. I made sure to turn further to breathe, and I counted six strokes before sighting. Each sighting stroke led to a flash of an image due to the sun being in our eyes. Elbows, arms, hands, heads, spray. I stayed in a group and inadvertently ended up drafting a few times. My first goal was to get to the Rural bridge. I knew there were 2 large yellow buoys before the red turn buoy after the bridge. Just before the bridge I ended up in my own water, and enjoyed that. Then I made it to the turn and it turned into chaos and the beatings continued. I came up on a guy that was swimming like a gorilla (do gorillas swim?) and wanted to get around him. I swam left, he swam left. I swam right, he swam right. Are you kidding me? Finally, I saw him go one direction and I made sure to go the other to get away from him. But it put me in more people. They were probably trying to get away from him too. I was in blue caps the whole time. Men were in blue and women in pink. There were only a few pink caps around me. After this, I am through swimming with guys. The women's waves are much easier to deal with.

After the second red turn buoy I could finally see, as the sun was behind me. I could see a line of orange buoys leading us back to the Mill bridge. This leg seemed to take forever. All I wanted was to get out of the water so that I could attack the bike. I also started to get leg cramps for some reason. I bent my feet to stretch them out, which seemed to help. Finally I was at the Mill Ave bridge and the final red turn buoy. I don't know what my swim time was at this point, but all I knew was that it was faster than last year because I was in with way more people. I swam strong all the way up to the swim step and got pulled to my feet. Finally! I was done with the swim! Now get me on my bike!

Transition 1 (T1): swim to bike
Everyone seemed to be going to the strippers at the front, but I ran past all of them and went to a guy at the back. This worked out awesome. Got my suit, waved to my friends and family cheering, and ran towards transition. Minutes count. (I want those 6 minutes back!) I ran down the carpet and passed a ton of people. They were yelling out our numbers to try to get our bags, but I knew not to rely on this. I ran directly to my bag, and picked it up at a run. I had spent the day before covering all of my bags with magenta polka dots with a Sharpie, so it was easy to find my bag.

I stopped in front of the changing tent. I knew it would be a mess in there. No need for me to change, so I did everything outside where there was more room. Got my bag open and grabbed my face towel and toweled off my face. That went on the ground and I stood on it while I got my stuff out of the bag. Wiped my feet as best I could from all the dead grass sticking to it (I've never seen green grass at Tempe Beach Park) got my socks and shoes on, glasses on, helmet on, and stuffed my wetsuit and goggles in the bag. I ran with my gloves into the tent. What a mess. People everwhere trying to put clothing on over wet skin. And boy was it funky in there. All the water and sweat made it steamy, but in a nasty way. Thank goodness I was just passing through.

Ran out to the bike corral and ran directly to my row and my bike. Grabbed my bike and ran out of transition, carefully got on my bike, and I was on my way.

The Bike - 112 miles
It was all about the bike. I got out of the swim 20 minutes faster this year, which put me on the bike sooner. More time banked against the cutoff.

I rolled over the wooden ramp onto Rio Salado with a group of guys, and as soon as we turned we were faced with a headwind. Bring it on. This wasn't my first time at this rodeo. The guys around me said, "Ugh. I guess it's gonna be like this all day." Oh you have NO idea! As I spun I could gague the wind and it was much less than last year. That's all I needed. The first loop went really well. I was a bit too focused on drinking and went through my first round of Infinit 2x faster than I should have. I went with straight water right after that to calm the stomach down. I rolled past the first aid station and there was a huge line at the porta potties. No way was I waiting in a line. I made a turn through an intersection, and there was a lone potty on the side of the road, probably for the officers and volunteers. I pulled up right as an officer was coming out. Score! In and out in 1 minute. Back on the bike.

I turned one more time and there it was...The Beeline. But this time there was a headwind. Awesome! This meant I would have wind pushing me back into town, when I would need it the most. Yes, climbing in the wind sucks, but going downhill and peadaling as hard as you can and seeing 8 mph sucks much worse (that was last year). I climbed slowly but saw people flying down the opposite side much faster so that meant they were getting a good push. I concentrated on getting my nutrition and water in. I was slamming water down like crazy. Finally I made it to the turn on the Beeline and started my descent. With a good pedal stroke I was averaging 23-25 mph down. I was doing good at staying in my aerobars and staying tucked. I was back onto the town roads in no time. I wound my way through the streets, picking up water from the aid stations when needed. On one of the roads just before you pass under the freeway, the road got really rough and crappy. I saw a pro bunnyhop over a bump. That was interesting.

Back into town, over the Mill Ave bridge, and I caught the Tri Girls and Zac as I headed out onto my second loop. I had averaged 15.3 mph, which was right in my goal range. But this loop IMAZ threw another punch, and the heat cranked up. Drink, drink, drink. Salt pills were going down every 30 min with plain water, and my Infinit had been cranked up on the electrolyte levels. The water at the aid stations was getting warmer. The wind was also blowing harder. Back to the Beeline, and I cranked along. IMAZ was starting to take it's victims. One woman crashed just a few places in front of me, and spun out on the pavement. Looks like she had hit a Gatorade bottle. Aid station volunteers ran to help her. Another guy lay in the median puking next to his bike. I knew it was getting warm, but it was going to get worse. Drink, drink, drink. Water went on my head and mixed with the salt on my face, dripping into my eyes. I had to use the bottle as an emergency eye wash to make the stinging quit.

I made it to the turnaround and started my second descent. This time the pedal strokes weren't as strong. The wind was at my back, so I was getting no cooling effect. More water went on my head. The sun beat down, and I started to get sleepy. REAL sleepy. I had to fight to keep my eyes open and focused on the yellow line. A few times I ran over the studder bumps on the side of the road. STAY AWAKE! My eyelids get heavy with each blink, and I think "maybe I can sort of sleep in between each blink." NO! STAY AWAKE! I remembered reading a blog entry from Chad, a solo 24 hour mountain bike racer. One of the medics on the course told him to hit his right knee with his left hand on each pedal stroke during those 2 AM laps when you're getting sleepy. It was supposed to engage both sides of the brain to wake you up. So I started doing that. I don't know if it helped, but it gave me something to concentrate on.

Finally I was off the Beeline and back on the city roads. I took water from the last aid station before the start of the 3rd loop, and stuffed it in my rear rack. Remember that bump before the freeway? This time I hit it and my water bottle launched and rolled away, off into the desert somewhere never to be seen again. Uh oh. Should I go back for it? If I go back, I'm not going forward, which is the goal. It's the plan. Don't go against the plan! So I decide to roll on. I sip from my Infinit, and start to get air bubbles. Uh oh again. I am now out of water and I haven't made it to the Mill Ave turn yet. Start sipping SLOWLY.

I make it to Mill Ave, but all I can think about is my missing water. I hit the timing mat and make the first cutoff 1 hr and 20 minutes ahead. The second loop was slower due to the heat and wind. Now it's down to the 3rd loop. This was the key loop. The others really didn't matter in my mind. It all came down to what I could execute on this 3rd loop. I roll over the Mill Ave bridge, and people are already on the run course. I pass by Zac again, wondering if he can see I'm down a water bottle. Back to Rio Salado. I need to drink, but there's nothing left. I miss taking my salt pill at the 30 minute water to take it with. I roll up to a volunteer at an intersection and asked if he had any water. "No, all I have is G2" he said. "Ok, I'll try to make it to the aid station 5 miles up" I said. It was a gamble, but I wasn't in the red just yet. I could still get water at that station, maybe even grab a second bottle so that I could catch up on hydration a bit. I rolled on, and could see the freeway overpass in the distance. The aid station was just on the other side. Pedal, pedal, pedal. I rolled up to the aid station, thinking "I made it!" I arrived to a sea of empty water botles in the road. I pulled up to a volunteer. "Gatorade?" he asked. "No, I need water" I replied. "We're out of water" he replied.

IMAZ delivered a punch to my jaw and the world was spinning. How could they be out of water??? Dammit this is Tempe! Ok, get in the shade, try to figure something out. I looked on the ground, but all the bottles were empty. There was nothing I could do but take the orange Gatorade. I hadn't drank anything for 30 minutes, so I downed a few sips. The warm, sugary Gatorade coated my mouth like children's cough syrup. I almost gagged. Since I was stopped, I made a quick porta potty stop. I didn't really need to go, but figured I would anyways since I was stopped. The brief rest in the shade did me some good. I got back on the bike and rolled on, scanning the ground for bottles with something, ANYTHING in them. I passed a bottle that had a twist-cap and was almost full of water. It was resting by a cone. I made a huge U-turn and went back for it, quickly dumping it in my aerobottle. I figured the twist-cap meant someone probably hadn't been sucking on it, and it was practically full. I sipped the hot water of questionable history. It was water, and that's all that mattered.

I made it to the next aid station, which was on the opposite side of the road, meant to service those going back into town. Word had gotten back that the Mile 5 aid station had run out of water. The volunteers walked out to the center of the road and started handing up water. I pulled up to one guy, SO thankfull that now I was able to get a full bottle. "Don't stop! Don't stop! We're not supposed to be out here!" they yelled at us. Your emotions go a little crazy when you've been biking in the heat for 70 miles, and I got mad. I didn't care. I needed water, I was getting water. This was becoming a survival situation. Screw it. I removed the Gatorade from my bottle cage, threw it to the other side of the road, and loaded up on water.

I pulled away from the aid station, and squirted more Infinit into my aerobottle. I had taken extra water, so more was able to go on my head, but not as much as before. I was now paranoid that the other aid stations might run out. All that mattered was I was back on track. I started the climb up the Beeline for the 3rd and final time. The wind had started to settle down, allowing the heat to take over. I thought to myself, "You know, they warn us about situations such as this in Arizona all the time." Yep, what I was doing that day was pretty stupid. I made it to the Oasis aid station, and needed to wash salt from my eyes, but didn't trust my coordination enough to do it while moving. I pulled up to the bike mechanic tent, which had shade. "What do you need?" They asked. "Nothing, I just wanted to stand in the shade." They told me to stay as long as I needed. I washed the salt from my face and eyes, hoping that would be enough to keep more sweat from getting in my eyes for the ride down. Loaded up on more water and continued on.

I made it to the Beeline turnaround 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff (as opposed to 15 minutes last year). I turned around, and got more water at the aid station. This time the descent was less easy. I didn't have the wind pushing me as much, so I would have to push myself to get back in time. I motored past special needs for the second time, and didn't stop. I didn't need anything out of my bags, and just needed to keep moving. I started looking at the time and where people were on the course. 30 minutes left...20 minutes left...they were still climbing the Beeline and didn't have much time before the cutoff at the turn. I passed the aid station that was on the opposite (the climbing) side of the road and the bike racks were full and people were resting in the shade. I knew they weren't going to make it. I continued down the hill. More people climbing slowly up the hill, the fire in them gone. Didn't they know they weren't going to make it? Maybe they did and had thrown in the towel. All I knew was, there were way more people out there that weren't going to make it this year than last year.

As I continued down the hill, I saw a guy slowly climbing up the hill, and suddenly he just fell off his bike and rolled into the desert. He didn't appear injured or anything as it was a slow fall, but he just sort of laid there like, "I'm lying in the desert now."

I made the final turn off the Beeline and started back into town. I took water from the last aid station and made sure my aerobottle was full this time. I started to crank hard, excited that I was headed back and I had plenty of time before the cutoff. I was going to make it! I rolled through an intersection and the volunteers in yellow there were yelling "Go PirateGirl!" How did they know it was me? It must've been the ESCKTC crew! They all cheered and I waved as I went by. I made it onto Rio Salado for the last time. In the last stretch I was pedaling hard, happy I was going to make it. I passed a ton of people in this stretch. I rolled over the Mill ave bridge, and heard the beep of the mat. 45 min ahead of cutoff. Back over the bridge, and THIS TIME I was able to follow the sign for Bike Finish. I rolled over the wooden ramp and past the crowds cheering off of the bike course. I saw the Tri Girls standing with my family, and I waved and high fived as I went by.

I rolled up to the dismount line, smiling. "Welcome back to transition!" they said. They took my bike, and this time they were welcoming me forward rather than keeping me back and removing my chip. I ran forward and hit the timing mat. It beeped. I took my 6 minutes back. I was officially done with the bike and allowed to continue on to T2. I stopped just after the mat and took my bike shoes off, and continued to run down the chute to my T2 bag. Grabbed my bag and headed into the change tent. New territory for me. And with that I kicked IMAZ in the shins.

Transition 2 (T2): bike to run
I got to a chair with my bag and sat down. My hands and feet were buzzing, and my hands didn't work quite well. It took me a long time to get my bike stuff off and my running stuff on. I decided to switch from tri shorts to running shorts for the run, and I'm so glad I did. When I pulled my bike socks off, my right toenail on my big toe was torn. I was hoping it would hang on for the run. I sipped water and ate 2 Shot Blocks while getting everything ready. I decided to apply sunscreen to my face and let the sunscreen people do the rest of me. They had been applying sunscreen on people all day, people that had peed on themselves on the bike, so I wasn't letting them near my face. But arms and legs were ok (they were trashed anyways). I also switched race belts. For the bike I had my number with my last name, and for the run I switched to the number with my first name (it also had my salt tab pouch on it). I crossed the timing mat out of T2 and saw the Tri Girls and my family waiting. Tammy (Zilla) and Julie had donned pirate eye patches and were cheering "Go PirateGirl!" It was hilarious! I finished my water and headed out. It was time to start the run course.

The Run - 26.2 miles
Usually the run starts out great and you fade at the end when you feel horrible. This race was the exact opposite.

I started out on the run course at a jog, and the course was full of people. Some were on their 3rd loop, and I was just starting my first. I got to the first aid station a mile in and checked my watch...11:22. Whoa! A bit too fast. I grabbed some water and walked through the aid station as I made my way to Priest Ave. Everything started catching up with me. I jogged for a bit, but would have to stop and walk. Ok, then let's try to speed walk. That worked, but I wanted to run. Everytime I tried the legs just wouldn't go. The heat was setting in and I was frying. Ice went in my hat and water on my head, face, and on my shoulders at each aid station. I tried eating a Shot Block, but had a hard time choking it down. I made it over Mill Ave and back down to the beach park. I think I saw Zac at this point and said "I'm having to walk because it's so hot out." "Well, the sun will be going down and you'll be able to go faster" he said. My goal was to keep moving forward and try to make it to sunset.

As I walked over the Rural Ave bridge I ran into Shanks from BT (I had a BT tattoo on my left ankle). We talked for a bit, and I told him I was disappointed I was walking. He told me to just keep moving forward, and that everyone had to walk at some point. Which was true. As I looked around, a lot of fit people were walking with me. Shanks took off and I continued on. As I passed under the overpass by the marina, I decided I should take a salt pill. I walked and started to feel bad...REAL bad. My stomach was twisting in knots. I barely made it at a walk to the next aid station at the park on Curry (which was done up 80's style) and took some Coke, water, and a banana. I felt so bad I decided to sit down in the grass just past the last aid station booth. I didn't realize it, but I sat down in a field where the medical people were attending to downed racers. A medic came over and asked, "Are you cramping, is everything ok?" I told him I was fine, I just needed to sit. I sipped the Coke and took small bites of banana. As I sat I took in the scene around me. There were about 5 guys lying around in the grass. The one directly across from me had oxygen and a bunch of strange patches stuck to his skin. Another one lay on his side puking. One guy had just come in and the medics were assessing him. "This guy's fuming" the medic said. I wasn't sure what that meant. All I knew was, I had to get out of there. I was still feeling horrible, but I had to get away from the zombie scene around me before I became one of them. Maybe walking would help now that I had some Coke and food in me.

I made the turn onto Curry and started climbing the hill. Things got worse, much worse. The waves of nausea started, and my stomach decided to have a Going out of Business sale where everything must go. I grabbed onto the side of the metal fence and gave the plants all of my hydration and nutrition that I had taken in for the past few hours. This worried me for a few reasons. 1) I’m not a puker. You know that Seinfeld episode where Jerry eats the black & white cookie and ruins his streak? Yeah, I had a streak of about 15 years. I don’t puke. I’ve re-wired my brain not to puke. But not this time. 2) There goes my hydration. How could I get it back? And it’s still over 90 degrees out! IMAZ took another punch. People passed by asking if I was ok and if I needed help. I replied that I didn’t, still leaned over. One guy patted my back as he went by and said, “You’ll feel better now.” Well at least my stomach wasn’t rolling any more.

I wasn’t even to Mile 6 yet. I thought about how far I had to go. I didn’t think of it in terms of miles (20 more to go) but in terms of 2.5 more loops to go. This was the first time the whole race the thought entered into my head “I don’t know if I can do this.” I started walking to calm my nerves, and went into damage control mode. I knew the TriSports aid station wasn’t far. My new focus was to get to that aid station. Shari and Jen and the other Tri Girls were there, so I had to get there.

I walked along and made it to the downhill that led to the TriSports aid station. All of the Tri Girls were happy to see me, but I was in trouble. I always thought I would come running through this aid station all happy and ready to hug everyone. Instead I was in need of help. This was an important lesson I learned: Know when to ask for help. I got to the aid and Shari was right there and I think she could tell I was in trouble. I told her I had to sit down on the curb. Jen came over too, and Shari started asking me questions…how I felt, what I needed, etc. I sipped on water and ate little bites of food while I told them what happened. “It’s ok, I puked at Kona” Jen said. For some reason that made me feel a little better because I knew she had finished Kona. The wheels were falling off the wagon at this point. “Shari, I don’t know if I can do this.” “Yes you can…you can do this! Just keep moving forward. Try to eat little bites of food and keep drinking but keep moving forward. Just try to make it to sunset. When the sun goes down it will be better” Shari told me. I was starting to feel a little better. Having people there who had been through IM and know what your feeling was invaluable. The wheels were falling off and Shari helped me put them back on. It was time to get going. As I was leaving the aid station I came up to the signs that Jen and her kids had made with “Pirate’s Revenge”. This made me smile. A quick photo by the signs and I was on my way with my damage control plan.

I tried to jog for a little and ended up walking. I came up on a guy that had a rashed shoulder and dirty jersey. I said something like “Looks like it was an interesting bike leg for you.” We walked and he told me about his crash and how he just wanted to finish. We chatted for quite awhile, and I found out his name was Matt and he was also on BT and heard of my race report. We kept walking and talking. I was afraid I was talking too much, but Matt admitted it was helping him too. We made it all the way to Mile 8 and Matt went ahead to try to run for a bit. I told him good luck and he was on his way. At this point I ran into KSH in her cheerleading outfit, and she cheered for me as I went by. Some guy that passed by me at this point remarked about having a personal cheerleader.

Not too much further I came up to Zac who was under the Mill Ave bridge. I told him what happened, but he had already gotten the phone call from Shari. I still wasn’t feeling great, but kept going. Slowly moving forward, jogging when I could, but mostly walking. At all of the aid stations I was trying different things to see what would make me feel better. This was experimental chemistry at its finest. I made it to the Priest aid station by Mile 10 for the second time and took some water and a banana and kept walking. I decided I should try to take another salt pill since I hadn’t had any since puking. My first clue should have been when I gagged on the pill, trying to swallow it. I forced it down, and my stomach revolted. No, stomach does not want a salt pill! Back into the bushes for my second puke-fest of the race. Apparently this spot in the bushes was a popular one for such activities as there were spots on the ground everywhere. At least I still had water with me. I sipped on my water to get the taste out of my mouth and continued on. No more salt pills.

At one of the aid stations someone had called out “Try the Cola! It will settle your stomach!” I figured, what do I have to loose, I’ve already puked twice. So I started taking Coke and water. Small sips of Coke, followed by water. Water was still going on my head at each aid station. I crossed over Mill Ave and the sun was finally starting to go down. I saw Zac again and told him what happened at Mile 10. “Ok, but you’re going to have to start running at some point.” Ugh. I marched on. Coke, water, coke, water. Get to that TriSports aid station! I finally made it there and updated Shari, but she had already gotten the call from Zac. Apparently they had a network setup and were calling back and forth on my status each time they saw me. They were on opposite sides of the course, so it worked out well. I told Shari the Coke was making me start to feel better. “Ok, but try to run. You’re going to have to go faster.” Crap. Shari told me this was the last time I’d see them here at TriSpots, as they were going to move to the other side of the lake and meet up with Zac. I continued on. The sun was just about down at this point. But Phoenix is such a heated mass with all the concrete and asphalt, it doesn’t cool down at night like Tucson does. I was still dumping water on myself at each aid station to try to keep cool. At some point I realized I didn’t need my hat at night, and took that off for additional cooling.

I made it back to the other side of the lake, and a guy kissed the Mile 25 sign. Lucky. I did the math…if I could get to this point at 16:40 race time, I could finish. That was my goal. Get off the Rural bridge by 16:40. I made it up to where Zac and my family were and I told them I was going to try running, now that this was the 3rd loop. The Coke was starting to work. I had done the math and if I had kept moving at the same rate, I would finish in 17:05. There’s no way I was going to cut it that close! All I had to do was run a little bit and I would be able to make the midnight cutoff. I started the 3rd loop 45 minutes before the 10:15PM cutoff. I knew that cutoff didn’t mean much, as I knew I couldn’t run 9 miles in 1:45. So the more time I banked before that cutoff the better.

I hit the 3rd loop with a jog. It was slow, but it wasn’t walking. Before I knew it I was at the Priest aid station. That first mile flew by! I grabbed Coke, ice, and water. I poured the Coke into the ice cup and dumped the water on my face and arms. I walked as I sipped the Coke, and talked to a gal from Gilbert. We talked briefly about the heat and even though we were locals, the heat was still killing us. It always takes me 3 workouts in the heat to acclimate, and those first 3 always suck. This was workout #1 in the heat for the year. She had mentioned this was her 3rd IM and probably her last. Almost everyone I talked to said “this is my last IM.” Yeah, it was that bad.

I dropped my Coke and started running again. Just see how far you can run. All of a sudden I was at the next aid station. Coke, ice, water. This was working. Coke in the ice, water on the head. I walked up the hill leading under the 202. Once I got past that, I started running again. I’m RUNNING! The stomach had settled and my legs felt good. I crossed over the Mill Ave bridge and started encouraging everyone I passed. “C’mon guys! We can do this! Keep it up!” Suddenly I heard a familiar voice. It was Dan (dhyte) from BT that I had met at lunch on Thursday! He was still out there too. “Keep it up Dan!” I yelled as I went by. I made the turn down to the beach park and ran along the runner’s chute. Everyone was at the end of the chute, my mom & dad, Zac, Shari, Leslie…they were all there! As soon as they saw I was running they started cheering. “That’s the way to do it!” Zac yelled. “I’ve run between all the aid stations!” I yelled to them. “Good! Keep doing it!” Shari yelled. It’s funny because afterwards my mom said she was glad Shari was there to translate. “What is she talking about?” my mom asked. “That means she’s running between all the aid stations, and when she gets to a station she walks through, gets her drinks and walks for a bit while drinking. Then she starts running after she’s done drinking” Shari explained. My mom said that the difference in how I looked between this lap and last lap was huge. They were worried about me those first 2 laps (so was I) but when they saw me running on the 3rd lap they knew I’d make it. At this point Shari and Zac said “We should head over to the finish” which made my Mom feel much better. My mom said time flew by while they were watching the run portion of the race, and before they knew it it was time to head to the finish.

After I passed my family, I saw jchyte (dhyte’s brother) and yelled to him “Your brother is on his way! He’s not far behind me!” I got to the next aid station and they asked what I needed. Coke, ice, water. I told the aid station guy that was walking with me that as long as they didn’t run out of Coke, I’d be fine. “Oh trust me, I’ve mainlined this stuff at races before too” he said. Funny, but true. I walked the uphills on this leg, but as soon as the trail flattened out I started running again. I couldn’t believe how much I was running! Over the Rural bridge and back down past the stinky stables. I made it back to the 80’s aid station at Curry, and a volunteer sitting on the corner guiding the racers was yelling for us all. “This is the last time I’ll see you tonight!” I told him. Up the hill on Curry and down to the TriSports aid station. Debbie was there with candy bars. Now, I’m a chocolate freak, but all I wanted was the Coke! I actually turned down chocolate for Coke! John was there, running the aid station and got me my Coke and ice. It’s funny the people you run into in this sport. John had roadraced motorcycles several years ago when Zac and I were getting into it. Now he’s getting into tris too.

I continued on and ran along the lake. I had passed the TriSports aid station at the 16 hr mark, so I knew I could do those last few miles in an hour. But I didn’t want to push it. I was running as much as possible! I hit the last timing mat on the course at this point and heard it beep. I was hoping my time had just popped up online and that BT and everyone watching online knew I’d make it. I ran towards the Rural bridge and could see people walking on the out portion of the course. They still had several miles to go and some were walking really slow. Didn’t they know if they didn’t start running soon they weren’t going to make it? Why didn’t they fight?!? But I could see in their faces some were just too beat down. They were the walking dead.

I caught up to a group of girls on the Rural bridge and passed an older guy, who started running and caught up with us. “Didn’t want the girls to get by?” I jokingly asked him. “No, I just want to make the cutoff!” he said. “Don’t worry, unless it takes 45 minutes to go 1.2 miles, I think you’re going to make it” I told him.

I got my final Coke, ice, water combo at the last aid station and Mile 25. Finally, that sign was for me! My feet were killing me and all I wanted to do was take my shoes off. Just 1.2 more miles to go. It honestly didn’t feel like I had covered over 20 miles at this point. It was really strange. I got to the Mill Ave bridge, and didn’t realize it’s quite aways to the finish from this point. I saw Chile from BT there, and he was cheering and taking pics. I asked him how he did, figuring he had finished several hours ago. He told me he didn’t make it and had spent 45 minutes in medical getting IVs. But I could see he was upright and feeling better, so that was good.

I made the turn that said “To FINISH.” I tried to see how to space myself off of people because I wanted a good photo (yeah, the things that enter your head late in a race). I ditched my glow sticks, put my hat back on, and decided to pass a group that was moving slower than me. I passed a guy that said “We’re finally finishing!” “Yep! Enjoy the finish chute!” I told him. I got onto Rio Salado, and there were small groups of people sitting on the curb. “Elaine! This is it! You’re an Ironman! How about that!” one of the people yelled out. I smiled. A few yards later I realized that had been April! Yeah, my reaction time was a bit slow.

The closer I got the more the crowd grew and everyone was cheering. I couldn’t believe it! This was the finisher’s chute! The following happened so quickly. I passed through the first inflatable arch and into the lights and raised my arms up. The crowd was going crazy, and I reached out and slapped the hands of people in the crowd. I heard Mile Riley yell “Elaine Seasly from Tucson Arizona, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” And in my head I thought, “but I haven’t crossed the finish yet.” ;) I saw purple pom poms on the side and it was Julie and Tammy and I saw Zac with the camera and my parents standing in the stands yelling. I got to the second inflatable and crossed the finish line. The first thing I saw were the cameras and I waved to everyone online that was watching. 16:31:09…it was over. I had finished IMAZ. I had gotten my revenge.

The medal was put around my neck, and a volunteer grabbed me and asked if I wanted to sit down. Of course! The only thing available was a wheelchair. I didn’t care…I just wanted OFF my feet! I sat down and they asked if I wanted anything. I wanted something to drink but all they had was water and Coke. Ugh. I had just survived on Coke for the past several hours. The last thing I wanted was Coke. Or cold pizza. I decided to get up and find everyone. I got a space blanket and my finisher’s shirt and hat and got to the corral where everyone was waiting. I hugged everyone and kept saying “Ironman sucks! I’m going back to Xterras!” Got the group photos taken and visited with everyone. I had assembled a backpack for Zac to bring to the finish line, which was the smartest thing I had done all day. In it were my flip flops and my Spiz recovery drink. My feet were buzzing and it felt so good to take those running shoes and socks off and put flip flops on right away. And my Spiz shake tasted so good! It was time to go, so I said goodbye to everyone and we walked back to the hotel. I didn’t mind the walk because I wasn’t wearing those running shoes. That’s all that mattered. My parents visited with us for awhile, then headed to Denny’s and home. I got a shower, sipped on more Spiz and went to bed.

I only slept 5 hours that night and woke up at 6:30AM feeling like I had been run over by a truck. I swam in the hotel pool for a bit to loosen everything up, then Zac and I packed the mess of IM stuff and hit the expo one more time where I bought more IMAZ stuff, knowing now I didn’t have to worry about if I would get to wear it or not.

The strange thing is, at the finish and now that it’s over, I wasn’t emotional. I was just relieved that it was over. I didn’t cry or anything, like I figured I would. It was just relief that it was done and over with. No, I wasn’t in line the next day for a slot for IMAZ 2009. This journey and this race were over. I had put so much on hold for what turned out to be a 2 year journey to IM that I just wanted balance back in my life. I didn’t want to worry about finishing this race. I didn’t want to worry about getting the flu and taking me out of a key race. Or a crash on a training ride that would take me out of this race.

After the race, others were more happy than I was. I think I suffered an emotional crash where I just went numb. For me, the IM race didn’t turn out to be the be-all-end-all of triathlon. I had had much more satisfying races. Trust me, it was satisfying to finish this race, but it was a different feeling. And I wasn’t expecting IM to be this earth-shattering event for me. More like, it “met expectations.” I knew it would be hard and I knew it would be tough. Probably because of last year. In the end, I learned more from the training than from the race itself. The race was just execution of the lessons that I learned in training. But I had had other races that had beat me down too, so I guess it was nothing new. I knew I would get beat down again and would have to fight my way through, and it was expected.

No, I will not be getting the M-dot tattoo. Yes, IM was hard and training was hard and the race itself was hard, but I just don’t feel like it was on the level to deserve a tattoo for me. I learned that just because a race was longer doesn’t make it more significant to me. I mean no disrespect to those that have M-dot tattoos and that cried at IM or felt it was the pinnacle of their triathlon career. That’s great. But for me it wasn’t. More like I met that goal and I’m ready to move on to higher goals. And those goals right now don’t include more IMs.

I learned that I can motivate myself and train hard when I need to. I learned that when things go bad in races, they go 10X worse in IM. Weather affects you 10X worse, nutrition and hydration affect you 10X worse, etc. I learned sometimes, when it gets bad, you have to ask for help. I learned had I not done all of my training, I probably wouldn't have finished this hard race that took down 18% of 2037 racers that day.

I’m definitely not one of those that now that the first IM finish is over, will continue to do several IMs. Right now I want to get back to more fun races. The rest of my season is mostly Xterras, and I’m glad to get back to those races because they are challenging, but I have fun. I may do another IM in the future someday. I don’t know. I know to never say never, because when I started triathlon I never thought I could do an IM.

It’s not all doom and gloom (I hope my learning lessons from this race don’t sound that way). The best thing is, now that this race is over, I have some new goals, and some that are really high and way up there. Yeah, finish and IM and suddenly feel like you can rule the world. ;-) It feels like I punched through a barrier (coming back from a DNF) and now it’s time to try another level.

One thing is for certain. I learned way more coming back from a DNF than any other race or event. I feel like I’m stronger in so many ways coming back from that than if I had finished IMAZ 2007 in the first place. Kind of a strange journey, but it was worth it.

Closing credits:
Zac – my husband, for understanding and helping me through what turned into a 2 year endeavor. And for supporting my crazy goals now that this IM is over. :) I love you!
Mom & Dad – for support and being there at the finish and taking care of our poochies
Mom & Dad in law – for being there 2 years in a row and cheering on the course
Shari – for helping me put the wheels back on and encouraging me through training
Johnny – for those long training rides
Jenn – for the wonderful posters and e-mails throughout the training
Tammy (Zilla) & Julie – for making me smile each time I saw you and for being out there ALL day cheering
All my friends that followed the blog – Thanks!
The Tucson Tri Girls – Everyone that e-mailed throughout the training, followed my blog, and offered words of encouragement. Thank you all!
Beginner (the BTers) – Thanks to everyone that responded on my original melt-down thread in 2007, that followed my blog and “inspired me” each week, and for all those wonderful PMs before and after the race. Thanks to those that came out and volunteered and cheered us on all day, and for those that tracked us all online. You are the best!
Course volunteers – You are all wonderful! Thank you for being out there on that tough day with us and fighting the elements with us. Special thanks to those at the run aid stations late in the race. They were all still cheering for us and handing us fuel.

This chapter is over. Time to start working on the next one. :)

And what of this blog? Most likely it will remain here on blogger as an archive. It contains 2 years of IM training. But the IM story is over for now, and I won't be adding to it. I may start another blog for my crazy Xterra adventures. We'll see.

Race day photos

Transition area at 5 AM.

Transition bags.
Checking my bag one last time.
The sun's not even up and I'm putting sunscreen on. Nothing else to do.
Sunrise! Finally!

Nacho Libre made an appearance. He did the entire swim with a wrestling mask on.

I'm bored. Let's get this show on the road!
Julie, me, & Tammy.
Time to get the wetsuit on.
My favorite TTG picture. Tammy (pointing to her snazzy laminated cue sheet), me, Susie, Julie.

Bobbing alien heads. This is just what fit in the shot. Multiply by 10.

That's me! Pink cap, bare arms, green stripes. I can't believe Zac found me in 2000 people.
I'm in the middle (you can barely see the green stripes).
More swimming.
Me again. Zac was taking these photos from up on top of the Mill Ave bridge.

Swimming past the Ford inflatable.
I'm in the middle with the bent bare arm.
Find Elaine!

Craig & Deb waiting for me to return from my 2.4 mile battlefest.

I made it! So glad the swim is over!
Dang! Slower than I had hoped but 20 min faster than last year.
Yeah you try finding people you know in a crowd while dizzy from 2.4 miles of swimming and blind because your glasses are in your bag 400 yards away.
On my way to T1.

In the middle again. I like this picture because of all the bikes. I beat all of those people out of the water! The bridge in the background is where Zac was taking the swim photos from.

Finally on my bike! See you in about 8 hours!

Coming in after the first loop (~40 miles into the bike).

I stick my knee out in corners. A habit leftover from motorcycle racing.
I could actually see my group in the crowd.
Julie as Elvis? I seem to find interesting photos on my camera after the race.
Coming in after the second bike loop (~mile 75 on the bike).
Note the empty bottle cage on the right! That was the fateful missing water bottle.

Still trying to smile. Starting the 3rd loop. At least others were out there with me this time.
Out of water!

Heh. Tammy and Julie getting their pirate eye patches on while Craig hangs out.
Best cheerleaders in AZ!

Coming in off the bike.

Oh boy, now I get to do a marathon!

Sun is going down.
My parents made it up for the run and the finish. (And Zac left the sunshade on the camera, hence the dark spot in these night pics).
The end of the 2nd loop of the run. Yeah, it's pretty bad at this point.
Somewhere on the 3rd loop just trying to finish.
I made it! The finisher's chute! You get broadcast onto the jumbo screen in the back.
After the finish line.
The finisher's medal.
High on Coke. That's the only thing I had to drink for the past 3 hours straight.
Me with my mom & dad.
Zac, me, dad, mom.