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.