Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ironman Louisville 2010

Unfortunately, this race report does not have the fairy tale happy ending I was hoping for.

To say I was nervous leading into race day is an understatement. I hadn't slept well in a week, my stomach was upset for days, and I just wasn't dealing well with things. The night before the race I slept horribly. My alarm went off at 3:45 and I reluctantly got up. I kept telling Dave, "I don't want to do it. I'd rather spectate." I was too sick and nervous to eat anything substantial. I had a piece of toast and a bite of a banana. Looking back, this may have been a mistake. At 4:30 we began our walk down to transition and it was already hot outside. Like, hot! I put the remaining things in my transition bags, pumped up my tires, and began the next long walk to the start of the swim. The line was already long and it was still more than 45 minutes before the start of the swim. I sat with my fellow competitors, chatted a bit, and tried to keep my mind off the race.

Soon the line was moving and things were happening quickly. Before I knew it I was running down the dock and jumping in the water. My race had started. I was quickly into my rhythm in the water. There was no "washing machine" effect and I only got bumped in the head once. The river was wide and the buoys were so far apart I couldn't see the next one after passing one. I felt very alone in the water. I kept telling myself to relax and be comfortable. Before I knew it I had passed under the bridges, I could hear the crowds, and I was upon the last buoy. The swim was over so fast.

Out onto the bike, I did what I had trained to do: stay in zone 2 or under, drink every 5 minutes, eat every 40 minutes, take salt tabs at the top of the hour. At some point I remember a guy coming past me who said, "It's HOT and it's only 9:30." It was hot. I can't even describe how hot it was. It was like, melt-your-skin-off hot. HOT!!! I found myself drinking sports drink every 5 minutes and also drinking water every 5 minutes in between those sports drinks. I was dumping water on my arms, my neck, my head, my face just trying to keep cool.

Things were slow going on the bike and very lonely, but I was doing what I was supposed to do. By mile 80 I was ready to be off my bike. The aid stations were running out of water, there were people lying on the sides of the road in the shade, and my skin was feeling really hot. I kept wondering, how in the world was I going to be able to run a marathon after this? The best thing about being pokey on the bike is that no one cares if you are breaking rules. For about three miles on the way back on River Road I had a gentleman ride beside me and talk to me. It was one of the better parts of the day. We were both looking forward to being off our bikes.

And soon we were. I had the best volunteer in the tent for T2. She did everything for me. She put on my shoes and tightened the laces. She held out my shorts so all I had to do was step in them. Really, she was awesome. Thank you volunteers for being out there!!!

Finally out on the run and I was surprisingly feeling really good. My pace was steady under a 10:00/mile. I LOVED running across the bridge at the beginning. Bet you would never hear me say that?! There was a wonderful breeze and it was peaceful and rhythmic. I just loved it. I was continuing to follow my nutrition: water, ice, and sponges at the aid stations, taking my gels every 4 miles starting at the 2 mile mark. Things were going great. I actually thought to myself, I wonder why they tell people not to do a marathon before doing an Ironman? I was really pulling on all my marathon experience and it was helping me tremendously.

Then things got bad. Around mile 9 I noticed my pace start to slip. Not really a big deal but with that slipping brought on a really bad stomach ache. At mile 10 I started walking. I would walk a cone, run a cone. It was all I could do. I saw my friend Andrea and she walked with me for a while encouraging me as we walked. I started substituting cola at the aid stations instead of gel to settle my stomach. For a while it did. At the special needs area, I picked up my headlamp. It was going to be a long night. When I came back in town and saw my family, I lost it. Dave walked with me for maybe a mile and helped me get my head back in the game. I saw Andrea again at mile 15 and she told me that Coach had called and said "I was bigger than this." I was. I started doing a little more jogging and then BAM! Things went horribly wrong. I didn't want to walk anymore. I noticed I wasn't sweating. I just wanted to lay down and take a nap. NOW! At the mile 16 aid station things spiraled quickly. I had "the runs." (Sorry for the gory detail.) I told the volunteers there that I didn't feel well. That I was feeling sick. I kept repeating it over and over again. They sat me down in a chair and my arms went numb all the way up to my biceps. They took me over to the grass, laid me down, and put cold sponges on my neck. Next thing I knew I was throwing up. Medics on bicycles came by and checked me out. And suddenly, my day was over. I was being helped onto a stretcher and loaded into the back of an ambulance along with another athlete who was also in bad shape. They put an IV in my arm, oxygen in my nose, and I sobbed all the way to the medical area.

In the medical area it looked like a scene from a war movie. There were cots FULL of people, each with IVs in their arms. People were throwing up, moaning, and crying. And I was one of them. They started my second IV and took my vital signs. My heart rate was in the low 60s, which is low for me, and my blood pressure was 90/60. Yikes!!! I spent an hour in the medical area until I was ready to go. I walked out, found Dave, and just cried. I was so sad and disappointed. I had done everything right and couldn't finish.

It took me about a day to recover from no food and being sick. I'm really tired. I've pretty much slept since I got home. I'm going through my emotions: sad, anger, acceptance, revenge. I've cried a lot: in the shower, in bed, on the phone. I'm not sure what's next. Do I want to try again? Do I want to do it soon at a non-Ironman event? Will it be the same experience? Will I feel a sense of relief and accomplishment or will it leave me wanting more? Or do I just want to move on with my life? I was so looking forward to being done and taking a break and living as all my friends live for a while. Am I ready to do that without this accomplishment? I'm still processing and it's going to take a while.

Thanks to all my friends and family who were there to support me and all those who supported me from afar.


Andree said...

You are TOUGH Meredith!! Please never, never think of yourself as failing. Ironman causes our bodies to do freaky things that we can not control, and weather especially plays such a big part. when you're ready, think back on what you accomplished all year in training...WAYYYYY more than many people will do in a lifetime.
There is no reason to decide 'what next" right now. You will know :). In the meantime, let yourself be angry, sad, furious, crazy, irritated...whatever you need to be.
I am very glad you are safe and have such great support. In the meantime, punch a few pillow if need be :)

Amy said...

The important thing is that you were able to stop when you did and get medical attention before things got even worse!!

I'm really sorry to hear about the race. Rest up and take some time. I'm sure in a few days you'll decide what's best then.

In my book (though I'm not a triathlete), the training is what makes an you ironman, and you certainly did that right.

Brandon said...

I am sure this is tough, but as Andree said, you've done more training for an event like this than most people do in a lifetime! Once you get past the emotions and if your like any other endurance athlete out there, you'll want to go back, and go back with avengance in mind! =) Stay positive and keep your chin up! You've got this!

Andrea said...

Mer, I'm so sorry that your day did not go as planned. It might not be of much comfort now, but everything happens for a reason.

Take time to let the emotions settle with you - this too is a process.

We will cheer for you no matter what you decide, no matter what your next move is.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

Meredith, you look incredible in your race photos! Heat is scary and I'm glad you are ok. I too felt lonely on my bike and another guy biked behind me for a bit, hearing another person speak at that point in the race was uplifting. Thanks for openly sharing your race experience, you're an incredible athlete and have decades of adventures to choose from ahead of you.

CoachLiz said...

I am thankful that you are on the mend and that you were not in a more serious condition than you were. You will need time to heal the wounds that cannot be seen and you may need to seek out a sports psychologist to guide you through all of the events of that day. All of the other people who were in that med tent feel the same way you do right now. None of you are any less of an athlete for not finishing that race. Take time to look at what lies ahead and what can help you find the sunshine again.

You are a winner to me.

Michelle said...

Meredith--I'm so sorry this didn't have your "happy fairy tale ending". As Andree said, you did not fail. It was wicked hot, and as much as you had trained in hot weather, and you did everything just right, your body just couldn't take it any more, like lots of the other athletes out there. I'm so glad the medical tent and your family and especially Dave were out there for you. As you know, I'm not athlete, but I think everyone is right: take your time to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally, and then you'll be ready to decide if you want to try again, try something else, or just not decide yet! Love you!

Carina said...

That reminds me of the Chicago marathon in 07. People going down everywhere from the heat, constant sound of ambulance sirens (until they actually ran out of ambulances), mass confusion when the marathon was cancelled after about 3.5-4 hours. It's nothing like all the training you did for your event, but for many marathoners, esp. first-timers, I'd guess they felt similar emotions to you, lots of hard work and no finish time at the end.

Regardless of what your next step is, it will certainly be a race you'll never forget, so thought I'd add the data for you: According to the Nat Weather Svc, Louisville's high was 96 that day, at 3:45 p.m., and the low was 73 at 6:46 a.m. The humidity was 84% at 7 a.m., and 28% at 4 p.m. Those conditions are horrid! And you did amazingly well for as long as you could and then made the right decision. I agree with your coach -- you're a winner to me! And to people like me, the fact that you could even toe the line to start the race with all your preparation means you already had tons to be proud of!

traci said...

I've only been reading your blog for a short time, but wanted to tell you that I was sorry to hear about your race. I came from a marathon background to Ironman about 10 years ago, and had a DNF at my fifth IM after being hit by a another bike on the course and breaking my collarbone. It was sooo disappointing, but many of these things are simply out of our control. It takes nothing away from the strong athlete that you are....seriously. Be sad and mad and whatever you need to be, but once you're done with all that, know that this is just one of those experiences that are going to make you an even better version of who you already were. Good luck!

Janet Edwards said...

Sorry to hear you got dealt a tough day! Keep your head up and be glad you are here to race another day...it is after all, more about the journey anyways!

Jerry said...

Meredith, I watched you preparing for Louisville, and believe me, you already got the value! It is an act of great courage to sign up for that event, and of greater courage and grit to train for it as you did. That the weather and your body ultimately conspired to do you in, says NOTHING about you, what you did, and the value I believe you got. Later on, you will decide how to respond to this event. For now, continue to heal and know what a great thing you did! (Jerry Griffin, in case the Google ID doesn't mean anything.)

glutenfreetri said...

Mer, I was tracking you and one of my athletes all day. Both of you had the same day - and it ended in the same way - medical. Give yourself a little more time before you decide what's next. Rest and recover and know that you did you best with the conditions of the day. I still think you're awesome : )

Judi said...

i saw dave waiting for you in medical. i had just found out my other friend didn't finish. did you know 28% DNF'd? IMKY is no fucking joke with that heat. it was HOT one, 105 w/ the heat index.

you will find your way.

Marit C-L said...

Hey Meredith - I think that you're incredible and amazing...not only for sharing your many accomplishments, but for allowing us the privilege of following along. There are just Totally Shitty Times in life - and I'm so sorry that it had to happen to your on your IM day. You did INCREDIBLE...it was so brave of you to pull over when you did. Your body was systematically shutting down...it would have been extremely ugly had you continued with the race. You did the RIGHT thing, (even though it was a tough call to make) - and I admire you so much for that. I know it wasn't easy-

Whatever you decide to do from this point on, I'll be cheering for you! Hugs from CA! :)

lindsay said...

i was stalking you online and worried when it wasn't showing the next 5mi progression! i am glad you are ok but man that is scary. do you know what caused it? at least that would help prevent it in the future.

i know you have an ironman in you, so i hope you do one again, but i certainly understand if you don't jump right into one. feel better, and congrats on racing your race for the swim, bike and part of the run you were able to survive! there are plenty of people (like me) who won't even attempt all that :)

Kiersten said...

I hope you find some peace and energy as you recover. Give yourself time to figure out what is next, and know that you are and AMAZING, DRIVEN, TALENTED athlete!

JP said...

Everyone has said it already, and after putting in all the training, you are already an ironman in my book. So glad you were able to get medical attention before doing any permanent damage to your body. it was a heck of a day out there. You will know what's next when you know, don't rush yourself.

Ashley said...

I'm really bummed for you Meredith. We did a 40-mile ride down in Louisville on Sunday and it was SO HOT. I'm glad to hear that you're recovering. Congrats on even making it to the starting line. As I prepare to sign up for my first ironman next year, that preparation seems daunting enough. Your work ethic and candor will continue to be an inspiration to me and many others!

Andrea said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, and this has got to count for something, you look absolutely adorable in your photos!!! Especially the pre-swim one! :)

Laura Wheatley said...

Mer- there are some great comments on here. #1 - the weather was NO JOKE. #2- the TRAINING and DEDICATION is a huge part of being an IRONMAN #3 be PISSED, cry, yell, do what you need to do. #4 evaluate. Go with your gut feeling for now. It may change later, but do what's right for you now.

Spectating, it was SOO hot. and I was sitting in the shade drinking cold drinks. every time I saw you on the bike, and when I did see you on the run, you looked fantastic. You got hit fast and hard, I'm so sorry to hear that. Your husband is such an awesome guy - he was hanging out with Dan and I for awhile - he's so proud of you- I felt just as sad for him when they called and told him you were in medical :(

But, listen stay STRONG- you already are physically, but heal up emotionally and mentally too :)

Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

Wow...just been browsing some blogs and read this post(came from your other post)...I can't imagine how difficult that was. So impressed with what you did finish! Good luck with all that you are training for!

MCA said...

Hi Meredith,

We haven't met - but I came across your blog and race report while doing a search of "the infamous IML 2010" (as it was not only my first Ironman but first tri ever)! Something was pulling me to read another person's story so I could re-live the tale again :)

I hope by now, you look back on your experience as one of true bravery, tenacity, and sheer iron will - because that's exactly what you put out there on the course, and you know no one can ever change that about you!

My race ended at mile 135.6 :) and remembering back to those conditions that year in Louisville, the miles I mustered up during that run (I recalled the ambulances and "carnage" as I read your blog, but completely forgot about the bike course running out of water!)... I have no regrets and hope you don't either.

It's true what they say when you compare endurance races (particularly marathons, ultra marathons and Ironmans) to life. Pushing beyond what's comfortable and being able to discover your true self through the experience of a race like this, is what helps you learn and become more equipped for other challenges ahead.

So congrats on a job well done at IML! If you're ever interested in reading my story, here's my race report!


All the best,