Ironman Austin 70.3 Part VI – Final Chapter

Run Goal: 1:45, Actual: 2:00

Last night my husband and I had dinner with one of my Austin teammates, Valerie, and her husband who was major support crew for us. It just so happens that we’re all in Orlando this week. The topic of Austin came up, of course. It’s amazing that two weeks post-race Valerie and I are still analyzing everything from the disastrous swim start to the bumps on the bike and the heat during the run. Mike is also still analyzing, but in his case it’s subjects such as Valerie and I eating yogurt and Odwalla that didn’t actually belong to us (sorry, Mackey), the Superman costume that Leanne found in her room and which Mike (since he was the only one drinking the night before the race) kindly modeled, and the fabulous deep-fried food he ate in front of us from one of the airstream trailers.

But it’s also time to put this thing to rest before someone beats me over the head and tells me to shut up and move on. So, without further ado, here it is.

When I left off at the end of Part V I was running a 7:45 pace. That lasted exactly to the first porta-potty. The stomach cramps really ratcheted up once I started running, and I thought maybe another bathroom visit could resolve the problem. If only it were that easy. I resolved to forgo gels (actually forgot to grab my GUs from T2 and couldn’t be bothered to run back to get them) and just drink Gatorade Endurance at the aid stations…conveniently located every half mile. When we read about the location of the aid stations on the run it seemed ridiculous that they were so close together, but with temps somewhere in the 80s when I started the run around 12:30pm, and no shade whatsoever on the course, I was glad they were that close.

Heading out at 7:45 pace...

The run was 3 loops. Lap 1 was definitely my lowest point on the entire race. It was very difficult to reconcile the fact that I’d have to do this three times. The hills appeared to be huge. Almost everyone was walking. And the course was very crowded, making it difficult to run around people. It was like a death march. Everyone was miserable. There was mostly dead silence except for the few people talking about how awful they felt. I allowed all this and more to get to me, and I started walking the hills and walking through the aid stations, although this was probably a good idea because I made sure I got enough Gatorade and also managed to grab a couple of sponges.

My pace was all over the place. I would pick it up and run in the high 7s or low 8s for a short while, but then the stomach cramps would get really bad and I’d have to slow down or walk. When I was running, the person running in front of me would often suddenly stop and walk, forcing me to veer around them, which wasn’t easy given the crowds. I started resenting the fact that my swim wave was late because the run course was now crowded with slower athletes from previous waves as well as those from my wave. What I should have been doing was counting how many people I passed,or  noting how many I passed who were in my age group, anything rather than the negativity I allowed to seep in. Mike, who was watching and cheering, said afterwards that I was passing runners left and right, but I didn’t even notice.

Running past Mike...and other people...

I had planned to dig deep but now I was just digging my own grave. When a girl passed me and I looked at her leg and saw “37” on it, I didn’t even try to give chase. I actually said to myself, “I don’t care.” I had a choice to give up or dig in, and at that point I felt myself giving up.

Things got better on lap 2. Lap 1 was such a struggle mentally because all I could think was “I have to do this 3 times,” but on lap 2 I was able to say, “I just have to do this one more time.” I was still walking the hills and aid stations, but I was running more and actually hung with a group running a decent pace for a while. As I ran past the turnoff for the finish for the second and last time, I said to myself, “you’ll be taking that turn next time” and noted that there was a bit of a dogleg before the turn into the stadium.

Lap 3 was a vast improvement. My stomach actually started feeling slightly better, although my legs were now shot so the pace didn’t improve. I told myself, “you don’t have to run this again” and forced myself to keep running up the hills. I was doing calculations as fast as my tired brain would allow, trying to work out what pace I needed to run in order to stay under 6 hours.

I made the turn for the finish and noticed that the dog leg was longer than I’d expected. Still, I pushed to a 7:40 pace and passed a couple more people. Then we turned and ran into the stadium. A woman I had passed earlier did sprint past me in the final stretch, but I let her go. I finished in 5:55:10, and was so glad to have managed to stay under 6 hours.

Feels Great to be Done!

I felt dizzy after finishing and was staggering around when my teammate Jack found me and suggested I go to the medical tent. That seemed like a great idea and I ended up getting an IV because my blood pressure was pretty low and, with my stomach still feeling terrible, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink.

I ran my slowest half-marathon ever. Processing what happened on the run and how and why I felt so bad has taken some time. I finally worked out that pulling a stomach muscle in the first few minutes of the swim pretty much sealed my fate. I’m looking forward to redemption at my next Half Ironman. 🙂

Comments

  1. Lisa McClellan says:

    Your writing reads like a story. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. When you share, we all learn about ourselves. We have all had bad races or bad days in life and it is comforting to know that we are not alone and that it is not permanent and that we should be there for each other because we are just trying to achieve our personal best. Glad to hear that you had friends waiting for you at the finish line and supporting you through this “bump” of a race. The next ironman you will achieve redemption and because you struggled the first time it will be even more sweet. This is what I have learned about myself from you post…
    1. we all have bad days
    2. They are not permanent
    3. One race does not define who you are
    4. achieving your goals is NEVER easy and is often met with roadblocks…. you need to hurdle over them and keep trying.
    5. That you find your way in life and in races by looking in the direction you want to go… not where you don’t.
    6. That you are even more tough than I thought… 🙂

  2. Leanne McAllister says:

    Shut up and move on 🙂

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