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Ironman Arizona 140.6 – First Full Ironman by Nikki Thirasant-Meyer

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 by admin

Part One – The Journey to Arizona:

This journey really began more than a year ago.  I can remember it well when I made the decision to do the race.  It was at a TTT get together at Cedars when everyone was talking about doing IMAZ the following year.  I also remember that Denise and Allene talked me and Kara into doing the race with everyone else from TTT.  They said that all of the “cool kids” were doing the race and we should jump on the band wagon since we’ll have so many training partners for the next year.  It was also an incentive to do this race because it was going to be a team race.  That being said I kept wondering what I was getting myself into.  Once we decided to do an ironman, we made plans to volunteer at the race because that was the easiest way to sign up.  I couldn’t believe how fast the race sold out so I wasn’t taking any chances on not being able to sign up since I had made up my mind to do the darn thing.  Also, by volunteering for the race, I got to see what the atmosphere was like and how exciting it was to be there in person seeing everyone finish.  In addition to doing Arizona, I planned on doing my 2nd half ironman, New Orleans, in April, the open water swim challenge in July, hotter than hell 100 in August, rounding it up with Redman full aquabike in September.  This last year was all about training for the full with hardly any racing involved.  All of my races were geared towards going long distances.  No short races allowed.  Bummer!

Since my half ironman was slated to be in April, I decided to hire a coach for the full year.  I couldn’t see myself training properly for the half without some accountability involved.  I tend to slack off training if there is no one there to monitor my progress.  So in November, I hired Denise Whitson to be my coach, lucky her.  For the first month, training went really well.  I was excited and scared out of my mind so I was really focused on everything and anything that people were telling me.  Then BAM I got the first of a few major setbacks.  In mid December, a trip to the emergency room from a stupid fall on the bike showed that I had dislocated my elbow.  Consequently, I couldn’t train at all for 6 weeks.  OMG!  My race was in mid April.  Would I be ready?  Would I even be allowed to race?  I think by the end of the treatment, Dr. Fagelman wanted to kill me.  At first he said no training until after the cast came off.  That was 2 weeks.  What!?  No training, not going to happen.  Let’s negotiate.  Ok, you can walk/run as you feel comfortable but no riding bikes.  Me:  Will I be allowed to race in April?  When can I start swimming?  When can I start riding outside?  Dr. Fagelman:  Let’s see what your elbow looks like after the cast comes off in 2 weeks before I start giving you more freedom.  So 2 weeks later I went back to the doctor for a cast removal.  I have to admit that was the longest 2 weeks ever.  I highly don’t recommend hurting your dominate arm.  It takes putting contacts on with the less dominate arm to a whole new level.  However, I persevered and learned to do everything with my left arm.  Luckily, I only had to work 1 week with the cast.  Typing on a computer really stunk and I wasn’t very good at it.  Oh well.  After the 2 weeks were up, Dr. Fagelman put me in a brace.  He said I could run and bike on the stationary bike as long as I wore the brace.  I asked him if I could ride the trainer.  He said “trainer? What’s that?  Will it put pressure on your elbow?”  I told him don’t worry about it.  I’ll be really careful.  It’s a stationary bike, sort of.  Oh well.  Me:  When can I swim?  Dr. Fagelman:  Not right now.  Normally I tell people in your case that you can’t swim for a full 6 weeks.  Me:  Let’s negotiate.  Can I swim in another 2 weeks?  I’ll be really careful.  I won’t bang my arm or anything.  I’ll take it nice and easy.  Dr. Fagelman:  I guess so.  But you have to come back in 2 weeks so I can look at it again before you start swimming.  Me:  Ok.  As you can imagine everything was a negotiation.  I would ask for something and Dr. Fagelman would compromise.  It took 3 months before I was cleared to ride without a brace much less ride outside.  Luckily I had about a month before the race to get used to riding outside again.  As a reward for getting back so quickly (in my mind), I got a tri bike for my troubles.

April came and so did the race.  I had been practicing with my new tri bike for about a month so I was a little leery about doing the race but I wanted to be cool just like everyone else.  I definitely wasn’t that prepared but I knew I could do the race.  It couldn’t be any slower than my first half.  It had to be faster because my swim wave was almost the last wave.  If I remember correctly, I was in the wave 2nd to last or close to it.  This race taught me a lot about cutoffs and having enough energy to make each of the cutoffs.  It taught me about having enough mental capacity to not let the cutoffs totally derail my plan.  All I needed to do is just keep moving forward and fast enough so I don’t get pulled off the course before I was ready to finish.  This mental toughness will serve me well on race day.

During the rest of April and May, training was going well.  My mileage started increasing exponentially on the bike and run.  I have to say riding a tri bike sure is different than riding a road bike.  My back started hurting a lot more between getting used to the tri bike and running the longer distances.   Thus, I started visiting Dr. Maloy on a regular basis.  This is when my 2nd major setback occurred.  It was on that fateful day in June (early June) that I went to see Dr. Maloy because my right leg wasn’t functioning.  I couldn’t get into the car without lifting my leg up onto the seat.  It was very frustrating.  It was on that visit that Dr. Maloy said she couldn’t help me anymore and that I would need to go see a specialist.  What?!  Not again.  I sort of just looked at her and you could see the tears starting to come.  I was so frustrated with my body that I couldn’t do anything without hurting it.  She gave me a referral to go see Dr. Manning.  So that day I called Dr. Manning to make an appointment.  The earliest I could get in was June 6th.  On the bright side, Dr. Manning is a “known” doctor.  He already had Greg as a patient so I got the scoop from Greg on what he was like.  However, I was afraid of what he would say to me when I saw him.  My first visit wasn’t too bad.  I got x-rays because Dr. Maloy thought I might have gotten a stress fracture.  I kept my fingers crossed that nothing serious was wrong.  Dr. Manning gave me the good news that nothing was broken but also in the same breath gave me the bad news that I wasn’t supposed to run or walk for the next month.  At this point, I took a deep breath and I asked him what I was allowed to do because I was in the middle of training for an ironman.  He said I could swim and bike all I wanted.  Yay, fun, NOT!  He wanted to see me back in 5 weeks but I could start running on 4th of July.  He wanted me to run 3 times before coming back for a follow up to see how I do for the short runs.  I thought ok that’s not so bad.  He said I would still be able to do Arizona.  He asked me what my goal was and didn’t see any problems with me finishing.  I kept my fingers crossed for the entire month, hoping that I would be able to run again.  I even went to tri camp and learned how to do the swim faster and more efficiently.  That alone was a major breakthrough.  It didn’t matter that I couldn’t run.  I just biked and swam more.  4th of July rolled around and I had such high hopes for running.  By that time, my back didn’t hurt at all.  I stopped riding my tri bike altogether because the position put undue stress on my back.  I came to terms with riding my road bike for the race.  It was way more comfortable for me and I didn’t have near the pain that I had while riding the tri bike.  So on 4th of July I went outside with every intention of having a fabulous run.  Uh oh!  Not going to happened.  Running hurt like no one’s business.  I was so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight.  I went out the next day with the same results.  I tried again to no avail.  I thought uh oh.  Ironman training still stinks and I can’t even walk the marathon.  I went back to see Dr. Manning and he wasn’t surprised that my back still hurt.  He had me have an MRI and found out that I had a pinched nerve in my back.  He said that since I was in ironman training I could get a cortisone shot and that would help with the pain plus allow me to get back to running.  At this point, I hadn’t run in almost 2 months and I was getting pretty desperate.  I kept seeing all of my friends increase their mileage on the run and I felt like I was way behind.  Denise kept assuring me that it was ok and I would get through all of these setbacks.  She said it would make me stronger on race day.  At that point, I hoped she was right because I sure didn’t feel like it.  Normally Dr. Manning would have me rest and not run until my back was better but since I was in training he said the shot was my best bet.  I jumped at the chance to have the shot.  The sooner the better because I only had 3.5 months left to go before race day and the longest I had run at that point was 9 miles back in May, not counting the half I did in April.  I started back to running regularly in early August.  At that point, I was still seeing Dr. Manning and began going back to Dr. Maloy.  In addition, I started adding in a massage with Robin Ray every 2 weeks.  Dr. Manning did warn me that I would have to start getting massages every week the closer it got to Arizona.  Boy was he not kidding.  In September, Greg had a procedure done at Dr. Manning’s and at that point my back was hurting something fierce.  Dr. Manning wanted me to come back earlier than the original plan of December but I was too stubborn.  I didn’t want any more bad news so I decided to add in the weekly massages and keep up with the weekly visits to Dr. Maloy.  Between the 2, I was able to make it to race day without any further mishaps.  Yay me!  I still owe Dr. Manning a visit but now that I had the pain under control, I felt like I could wait until December, which was the original plan.  Yippee!!!  All I can say, is that race day couldn’t get here soon enough.

 

Part Two – The race:

I decided to arrive in Arizona on Thursday, November 14th.  Last year Kara found us an awesome house to rent and David allowed us to book the house a year in advance.  It was so nice to already know where we were staying and the lay of the land.  Once we arrived we decided to eat lunch and go directly to athlete check-in.  That to me was the best decision we could have made.  The check-in process was a piece of cake.  There were no lines and no stress to be had while filling out all of the various forms.  It also allowed me time to pack my gear bags and re-check them (obsess over them) several times throughout the next 2 days before turning them in on Saturday.  We also picked up our bikes from Tri Bike Transport.  I decided to bring a bike pump with me based on a recommendation from Dr. Maloy.  I also have to admit that was another great decision on my part.  It relieved the stress of having to find bike pumps for the next day and the day of the race.  After that, we went to the grocery store to stock the kitchen.  I have to admit my race plan came in handy because all I needed to do is check my race plan to see if I had all of the ingredients for my fueling throughout the weekend.  Instead of cooking that night (as originally thought), we decided to eat out.  On Friday, we took the bikes out for a spin around the neighborhood.  To me that made a difference because I noticed that my bike computer wasn’t working at all.  Uh oh.  I had come to rely on my bike computer for my cadence.  I was really trying to keep my cadence around 85 rpm and without my computer I wasn’t able to gage correctly my cadence.  Greg was able to reset the darn thing.  However, my bike computer decided to be temperamental in that one minute it would work then the next it would die.  On Saturday before dropping off the bike and gear bags, we put in a new battery.  Yay!  The computer was working again.  One less stress.  Also, on Friday I attended the 1st athlete meeting of the day.  It was so interesting to see all of the people checking in.  The line to check in was so long that I was really thankful that I had gone the day before.  The athlete’s meeting went over all of the particulars and especially the various cutoff times on both the bike and the run.  I made special note of the cutoff times because I figured those would be handy to know.  On Friday night, I attended the athlete’s dinner.  It was a really inspirational dinner and made us excited about doing the race.  At the end of the dinner, I asked Greg if he wanted to do an ironman and at the time he said he thought so.  All of the stories made us all want to race the next day so we can experience some of the excitement.  The one story I would remember the most was about a group of men called the “tin men”.  The guys all had heart transplants and were doing the ironman because they could.  To me that was really inspirational.

Saturday dawned bright and early.  Before heading back to transition, Kara and I did a last minute check of our gear bags to make sure we had everything.  We headed over to the transition area for the warm up swim and to drop off the bikes and gear bags.  I was so happy to run into Shawn Day because he would be braiding my hair for the race.  You know a girl has to look semi decent for the race.  We did a trial run on Saturday to see if the braids would work and stay out of my way.  Yippee!!  I spent a lot of time in transition getting the lay of the land.  I wanted to see where I was coming in after the swim and where I would need to pick up my bike gear.  I looked for the bike out and asked the volunteers lots of questions regarding the bike process.  I also looked for bike in to see where I would need to go to get my run gear.  I guess I spent so long in transition that Greg had Clean come find me.  Clean asked me what the heck I was doing and I proceeded to pump him for more information.  At this point, my nerves were kind of showing and Clean helped calm my nerves.  After turning everything in, we spent the day watching movies and eating healthy.  I even went to bed super early since we were getting up at the crack of dawn.  Luckily I had no problems getting to sleep.

I have to admit that I was really glad that I arrived in Arizona on Thursday because I had been getting headaches from the altitude and by Saturday I was finally back to normal.  The dryness really affected me and I was so glad that by Saturday the headaches were gone and sleep was coming more naturally.  Although I was really antsy during the pre-race festivities, I think it was important to go up early so that my body could get adjusted to the climate changes.

 

Race Morning:

Race morning started off with my normal egg sandwich.  I’ve been practicing all year with having egg sandwiches for breakfast.  In the past, I wasn’t very good at consuming enough calories before a big event.  This year I’ve come a long way and now can eat a more substantial breakfast to sustain me.  I really worked on fueling during this last year.  I also brought an apple juice box for right before the swim.  I just kept remembering nothing new on race day.  We decided to leave for transition at 4:30 to allow time for getting our special needs bag to the proper drop off, pumping up our tires, body marking, etc.  It was so exciting to see all of the athletes and feel the buzz of excitement in the air.  I talked to several people and found out some were “newbies” just like me and some were experienced racers.  To hear everyone and their stories was just so cool.  We saw Tommy and asked him for any last minute advice.  We also ran into Kathy Morris right before the swim.  It was so nice to see familiar faces and we hung out until just before hopping into the water.  Right before we got into the water, we had a group hug and said see you at the finish line.

Swim: (1:25:02)

The swim course was a big rectangular shape or so it seemed.  Kara and I decided to start towards the front but along the wall.  That was a great spot because it allowed us to get used to the water while hanging onto the wall.  We didn’t have to use up any energy treading water.  I thought we had started off further back but Kara told me were towards the front.  She looked backed and saw a sea of caps.  I didn’t look back at all because I didn’t want to get nervous by how many people were around me.  The gun went off and I was off.  There were so many people around me that I just wanted to find a clear patch of water.  I kept moving forward and trying to swim a smooth stroke.  I started off drafting off of a guy in front of me until suddenly he stopped and went vertical in the water.  Oops!  I didn’t even see him stop until I ran right into him then swam over him.  Oops again!!  I did tell him sorry and in the same breath that he probably shouldn’t have stopped.  Again I was off.  After a while another green cap tried to draft off of me but he wasn’t very good at drafting.  All I could feel was stroke then slap in the head, stroke then slap in the head, and again stroke then slap in the head.  Finally I pushed him away.  I was tired of getting hit in the head repeatedly.  Before I knew it I was at the first red turn buoy.  Yea!!  I was having trouble sighting going down the line so I just kept following green and pink caps praying they were leading me in the right direction.  I made the turn no problem at the 1st red buoy and swam to the next red buoy to make the turn to come home.  Coming back I was able to sight much better.  I felt like it got easier coming home but there seemed to be a lot more people.   I kept asking myself where did these people come from.  They sure weren’t on the course coming up the line but sure seem to be everywhere coming back down the line.  At that point, I thought I should be almost to the turn in so I kicked it into high gear and I felt like I was swimming to get away from all of the head slappers in my way.  I had no idea how long I had been in the water at this point because I messed up in turning on my Garmin.  It unfortunately was in my run mode so every 4 minutes then 2 minutes the beep would go off.  I lost track of how many intervals I went through but I felt like I was having a good swim.  I felt speedy passing all of the people who were trying to kill me in the water.  I was so happy to see the last red buoy.  I swam for all I was worth to the stairs.  The day before the volunteers taught us a trick for getting out of the water.  They told me to put my butt on the first stair and swing my legs onto the stair before trying to get up.  Getting my butt on the stair was no problem but when I swung my legs around I started cramping.  Uh oh!  This can’t be happening.  I surely didn’t want to fall going up the steps.  Once I made it up the steps I found some nice wetsuit strippers.  They said that my wetsuit was the easiest so far to get off.  Thank you body glide.  I also got to see Kristen and Shawn as I was running into transition.  That made my swim all the more special to see some familiar faces.

What would I do differently?

For me the swim was my best part.  I think I would start even closer to the front but to the side like I was previously.  That might have allowed me to have some clearer water coming around the back side towards home.  Also, I would put even more body glide on.  I didn’t realize but the back of my neck and my upper arms did receive some chafing but no worries.  Nothing that I can’t handle for the next 15.5 hours.

 

T1: (16:26)

I thought I was faster than I was in T1.  However, there were so many people in the changing tent that it was a bit overwhelming.  I also didn’t think there was enough volunteers to go around because there were so many people.  I could have saved time if I didn’t do a complete change but I wanted to be comfortable on the bike.  I decided to go with my favorite sleeveless jersey, bike shorts, and arm warmers.  Again the volunteers were great in helping me to put all of my swim stuff back in the bag.  I would later find out that I only got 1 arm sleeve back and someone else’s bootie back.  However, in my mind that’s ok because I got the wetsuit back, which is the most important piece.

What would I do differently?

I wouldn’t really change anything because for once I didn’t talk too much so I figured I was ahead of the game.  Depending on the weather, I might be better off without the arm warmers because they made me really hot during the bike.  I had to shed them pretty early.

Bike: (8:16:28)

The first loop of the bike was great.  I was flying or so I thought, except maybe I wasn’t as speedy as I thought because people were passing me left and right.  That’s ok.  I was prepared for people passing me.  I was going to be the turtle while everyone else was the hare.  I would still be trucking along as people got tired and started lagging behind while I caught up.  Yep!  That was my plan and I’m going to stick with it.  Early on Kathey Carreiro passed me and boy was she flying.  She looked really good and I didn’t see her anymore after she passed me on the first loop.  During the first loop I felt the wind at my back and I felt really speedy.  I felt like I was able to get up the hill with no issues and of course coming down the hill was awesome.  The best part about the first loop is at the top of the hill my friends were there to greet me.  I wasn’t expecting anyone at the top of the hill but there they were and it was a really nice upbeat moment.  Also, the end of the first loop was awesome because all of the TTT people were there to greet us coming in.  I remember Kristen telling me to keep eating and drinking and seeing Greg made all of the difference.  Having people yelling and cheering for you was a great incentive to keep on going.  The second loop was a different story.  My speed felt like it was plummeting but I kept moving forward.  I got up the hill and made the turn around to come back down.  My goal was to get to special needs so I could get some different fueling items, mainly pretzels and a drink of coke.   As I was approaching special needs a volunteer was in the middle of the road gesturing to me.  He held up his hand asking 1 or 2.  I was so confused and hoping I didn’t do anything wrong.  I tried to convey that I was on the second loop but I didn’t do a very good job.  At special needs another volunteer came up to me saying that a tech was on the way.  I looked at him strangely asking why a tech was on the way.  I had no idea what anyone was talking about but I probably should have listened closer or taken it as an omen.  I said I didn’t think I needed a tech and went on my way.  Boy was I wrong.  As I came down Beeline road I remember the lady from the Ironman Store telling me it was bumpy and not to take anything from the volunteers.  I even remembered it from the first loop but I sure didn’t learn anything.  Yep!  There goes my pretzels that I was coveting from the special needs bag.  At that point, I only had time to have 2 little old pretzels.  Oh well, my bad.  As I was finishing the second loop, Denise caught up to me and said I was a hard person to catch up too.  She’s so speedy and was having a good day.  She asked how I felt and I told her I was getting a little tired.  She said to keep moving forward and I could do it.  As the second loop came to an end, it was really uplifting to see Greg and all the TTT’ers out there cheering.  I even remember Kristen saying to remember to drink water.  As I started the third loop, Kara finally caught up to me.  She passed me and said try to keep up.  We would definitely make all of the cutoffs.  I really tried valiantly to keep up with Kara but no matter how hard I pedaled and how fast I felt my legs moving, I just couldn’t keep up.  That’s when I heard the “thump, thump, thumping” noise.  Oh no!  It couldn’t be a flat.  No way!  I made sure I wouldn’t get a flat.  So I rolled into the first aid station on the third loop and lucky for me there was a tech tent set up just for my very own needs.  Yay me!!!  I also was lucky enough to have a spare tubular tire in my saddle bag to replace the flat one on my Zipp wheels.  It took the tech guys at least 30 minutes or more to change the tire for me.  Plus, it took 3 people to get the tire back on my wheel.  I’m so glad for the tech people.  They really saved my butt and I was able to get back on the road.  Also, the 30 minutes allowed me to eat, drink, talk to volunteers, and rest so I could finish the rest of the ride with no issues.  Before I left the aid station, the tech guy told me to be careful on turns because if I corner them too sharply my tire could roll on my rim.  What$!  Now I need to be careful and think about how I ride…  I also asked if they had any other words of wisdom and the tech guy said to just get going and to make the cutoff.  Now I know the difference between riding on a flat and riding on a good tire.  Who knew it would make a huge difference.  My speed got back to between 15 and 16 mph and I was flying again.  As I got up to the turnaround I saw my friends again.  Boy were they a welcome sight.  I told them I had a flat, which caused me to be so slow on the last part of the second loop and the first part of the third loop.  Luckily they were able to let Greg know what happened.  As I was going downhill towards special needs, I saw a girl on the side of the road stopped and sobbing.  I thought about stopping to see how she was doing but I looked at my watch and saw what time it was.  I thought “Oh Hell No”.  I wasn’t going to miss that last cutoff for anything so I kept going hoping she was ok.  As I approach special needs for the last time, I thought about my darn pretzels and how excited I was to get them.  However, I was a day late and a dollar short.  Special needs was no more and sadly I didn’t get my coveted pretzels.  Oh well.  At least I was almost done.  The best part about the third loop was knowing I would never have to ride my bike again.  As I came into transition and dismounted, I asked if I needed to rack my bike.  I was so excited when they took the bike away and I never had to look at it again.  Yippee!!  I also saw Greg then Kristen.  I’m so glad Kristen and Greg were there.  I told Kristen what happened and she said don’t worry about it.  I was ahead of schedule.  I made the bike cutoff time by 40 minutes.  Now I’m on the run.

What would I do differently?

Don’t get a flat!!!! AND make sure I don’t lose my darn pretzels.  That’s all I could think about during the entire time.  Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing.  I was flying for me when my wheels were operating normally.

T2: (6:56)

This was the fastest transition in the history of Nikki.  My volunteer was awesome and wonderful and so on and so on.  Even though I really didn’t have time, I decided to do a complete change.  I just wanted out of my bike clothes.  My volunteer was able to help me and secure all of my various belts (even better than I normally do it) under 10 minutes.  She even had the fore thought to tell me to drop my sunglasses so I didn’t have to worry about them on the run.  She got me going and packed up with no missing pieces.  If I could have hugged her, I would.  She was that great.

What would I do differently?

Nothing!  I was under 10 minutes.  I might have talked a little more.

Run: (6:53:19)

Running would be my Achilles heel.  This was the part of the race that I was the least trained for and I felt very uncomfortable with the run going into the race.  For the run, I was set up to do a 4/2 interval…4 minutes running and 2 minutes walking.  At the beginning of my run, I got passed by Stacy McKinney and we talked for a bit before she eventually blew past me.  She was having a rough day too but she was on her second loop and I was pretty envious because I was just starting my first loop.  She looked really good and I was happy that she was feeling better.  I also saw Denise down below finishing up her first loop and she looked awesome.  I also saw Kara a few times on the run.  She looked great too.  One of the bright spots at the beginning of the run was seeing Russell (Kathey Carreiro’s husband) on his mountain bike.  He asked me a few questions and asked where Kara was and I, unfortunately, wasn’t very forthcoming with long answers.  I pretty much kept all my answers to 1 word or pointed ahead.  I was trying to conserve energy and keep the intervals going.  I was having a difficult time keeping to my scheduled intervals.  I was beginning to walk more and more.  I was also stopping at the aid stations to drink my elixir of coke and water.  Yummy!!  In addition, I was able to eat GU (yuck) every 4 miles.  I think that was my only saving grace.  I was able to maintain nutrients during the run.  However, my pace just kept getting slower and slower.  The volunteers were all really nice but I wished they wouldn’t talk about being almost done with the second loop and yada, yada, yada.  It was a bit demoralizing at that point.  It was also nice to see Kathey and Allene on the course.  They were together and walking and having a grand time.  That was really nice to see.  As I was finishing the first loop, I saw Anu.  She was on her final decent into the finisher’s area.  She asked me how I was doing and I admitted that I might not be able to finish the race.  It was pretty hard and I was so happy for her.  It was really good to see her doing so well and know it was possible to finish.  I thought she was amazing.  She told me to hang in there and to believe in myself.  I could do it.  Those were words to live by.  As I finished up the first loop, I saw Kristen.  She was a godsend to me at this very moment (there would be more later).  But at this moment, she knew exactly what I needed to hear to keep me going.  She asked me how I was doing and I told her I might not be able to finish.  She asked me how my feet and legs were doing.  At that point, I felt nothing, which was a blessing.  She asked me if I was run/walking and I told her yes.  She asked me what my intervals were and I told her 4 minute run/2 minute walk.  Lastly she asked me how my fueling was going.  I told her I was able to take GU every 4 miles and drink soda/water at the aid stations.  This was where she gave me the best piece of advice that I could have asked for.  She said to keep fueling like normal.  I was doing good but to change up my interval.  She wanted me to run one minute and walk one minute.  I said ok and changed my watch intervals to beep correctly and off I went.  Who knew that by mixing it up I would actually get faster.  Luckily my speed started picking up and it felt so much better to be running 1 minute and walking 1 minute.  The best part was I started passing people.  Me the turtle was passing people.  One of the people I passed I remembered from the athlete’s dinner.  He was one of the “tin men” who had the heart transplant.  I told him he was very inspirational and I loved hearing his story.  We talked for a few minutes and I told him that if he kept up with me, we might actually finish this thing.  The scariest part is not knowing if I could make all of the cutoffs.  The first cutoff was at 9pm.  I made it by 2 minutes.  The second cutoff was at 10:30pm at mile 20.  I made that cutoff by a mere 2 minutes.  As I was approaching the 10:30 cutoff, I ran across a spectator who said that I had approximately 100 minutes to finish the race.  He calculated what my running average should be so that I made the finish before midnight.  He was really helpful and didn’t sugar coat my chances.  He just said to keep running and I could do it.  I took it to heart and decided to run the last 6 miles even if it killed me.  As I passed the last cutoff before the midnight cutoff, an official came up to me.  He looked at my number and asked me if I was 1029.  Well duh!  Wasn’t that what my number said?  However, I was nicer than my thoughts allowed.  I looked down and said yep that’s me.  He proceeded to get on his walkie-talkie and tell the finish line that he had the last runner pegged.  He said that runner 1029 would be the last to finish.  Wow!!!  I was so close to being swept.  Little did I know that Greg was at the finish line listening to the other end of the conversation.  He said he could hear my number being called in.  Double Wow!!!  At this point, the official decided to pace me so that I would definitely make it in before the bewitching hour.  He was really nice.  I had been running for what seemed like forever to the dreaded hill.  Once I got to the dreaded hill, I decided to walk as fast as I could up it because I just couldn’t run anymore.  At this point, I passed my first (of many) runners.  The official paced me up the entire hill and then dropped back to help the guy who I had just passed.  Unfortunately, I never saw the official again.  I guess that was good news in a way.  By then I was steadily passing people.  It felt really good to actually no longer be the turtle but now I was the hare.  Around mile 24/25 (I can’t remember exactly) I saw my beacon or ray of sunshine, whatever you want to call it.  Kristen had come to pace me.  She was exactly what the doctor had ordered.  She told me that if I kept up with her, she would get me to the finish line.  She said I would have to dig deep but I could do it.  By now, all I was communicating were one syllable answers.  I said ok.  Then Greg showed up.  Yay!!  I had 2 pacers that were awesome and exactly what I needed.  After that I started digging down deep and amazingly enough we started pacing people.  Who knew that at the end of the day I would be the one that still felt pretty fresh and had some juice left in the legs.  Kristen even threw a few walking breaks in there for comfort but boy does she walk fast.  I had to run to keep up with her and Greg.  As we passed this one runner, he looked as if he was going to pass out.  He couldn’t even stand up straight.  Kristen tried to get him to follow us but luckily he had a friend come to help out.  Later I found out that it took 2 people, Mike Reilly and someone else, to drag him across the finish line.  Me, I was upright and still going.  The best part about crossing the finish line was seeing Russell because I knew I was finished and didn’t have to go any further.  It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and to hear my name called.  It’s nothing like being called an Ironman.  I’ll never forget all of the people who helped make it possible for me to get to the finish line.  But most of all I’ll never forget Kristen and Greg for helping me to run into the finish chute.  That was the single most rewarding part of the run…seeing those 2 and knowing that I could actually accomplish this goal.

What would I do differently?

I would really hope that I could train more for the run.  I would hope that my body would stop getting hurt so that I could run more.  Also, I would definitely put more walking into my training schedule.  I wasn’t a very fast walker but I needed the break from running.

Final Time: 16:58:11

Overall, this was an incredible experience.  I’m so glad that I got to experience the excitement with all of my friends.  If you’ll recall at the beginning I asked Greg if he would like to do an ironman, at the time he said yes.  After the race, I asked him again and he said maybe not.  It was way too stressful for him.  I think he was more stressed than me about finishing but I also think at the time I was too delirious to know what was going on.  I bet he’ll have a change of heart.



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