After a PR swim and one of my best executed 112 mile rides on a very challenging course, all I had in front of me was 26.2 miles of running. However, with my quads screaming at me for 25 of those miles, I had over 3.5 hours to remind myself how much I love what my body allows me to do. Not always does my body corporate and I have to accept that. Racing the Ironman distance is a gift and I never take that for granted. I love to push my body but it doesn't always respond the way I imagine and that's just part of the journey. I believe that the Ironman is a special event in that only the athlete can figure out how to get to the finishing line. Fatigue is going to be your #1 enemy on race day but without good mental strength, nutrition and pacing, there can be a lot more problems than your muscles getting tired.
In my opinion, the marathon run in an ironman is not to be "raced" for most athletes. It is to be paced in a way that your body resists fatigue as much as possible. I always say that IM racing is not about the fastest athlete but who slows down the least. In my case, I knew what my current level of fitness was going in and that I had endurance. What I didn't have was a few 16 milers that I would have liked to have complete in my training (Even with a healthy body, I do not recommend more than 2.5 hours of running in prep for an IM). But the past was gone and all I could do was to pace myself the best possible and rely on experience and what I know about the Ironman.
What I know is that when you race an Ironman, you are often handicapped by physical limitations. Not so much by lactic acid being produced as very little of the IM is anaerobic (maybe parts of the swim) but instead, your aerobic capacity is limited by your ability (or lack thereof) to fuel and pace yourself in order to maintain good form and focus throughout 140.6 miles. With 5 Ironmans behind me, I know what it feels like to dig.....really really deep. When the body is hurting so bad and the mind says enough is enough. It's a constant arguement in your mind, over and over for the mind to shut-up about the pain, aches and fatigue and to just let the body do its thing. Amazingly, I have learned that I am only limited by my mind on race day and that is why I never push myself with training through an injury. I LOVE having my mind as my only limiter on race day for I know if I can overcome those thoughts, my body can continue to move forward and that's what the IM is all about. Move yourself mile by mile until you cover 140.6 miles and cross a finishing line.
13th age group (35-39)
Run: 3:26:19 (first marathon!)
With a few miles to go, my body was tired. It was empty despite a perfect fueling strategy and no nutrition issues. I had some coke here and there, I only drank water at the aid stations and I received electrolytes and carbs from my sport drinks and gels.
I managed to break down each mile just like I do in training and I gave myself my opportunities to walk to shake out my legs and take in nutrition. I then looked forward to running again as I was quickly moving closer to completing this Ironman. No mile was easy but some miles came faster than others. The volunteers were great and with more people on the course for the 2nd loop, I was thankful to be around so many other inspiring athletes reaching the same finishing line.
Every time I walked, I looked behind me. Luckily, no one in sight. I remembered getting passed by a few girls but their bib numbers assured me that they were not in my age group. I was looking for the 600-700 bib numbers as those were my competition for the day.
Passing mile 15 was an exciting time as that was my longest run in training. I welcomed mile 20 because that seems to be the point when you can mentally grasp that you only have a 10K to go. Yes, with 120 miles behind you, only running 6 miles is possible yet still a distant thought with what's to come on the course.
I wanted to see mile 22 so badly as I knew I was on the home stretch. Finally off the painful rollers of river road which was often lonely yet peaceful. Nearing town, my body was talking to me yet I felt like I was still running strong or at least, moving forward (same thing, right? I thought to myself).
I shuffled my way up the hill which supposedly had a 16% grade and then made a left turn to shuffle up another hill to see the chute to the finish, only to make an annoying left turn for 2 more miles which in my mind was just evil with less than 2 miles to go. Uggggg....here I go!!!
With 1 mile to go, I stopped to walk as my legs had nothing. I stopped right in front of the mile 25 sign and just begged my body to hang in there. After running back up a series of climbs for the second time to get to mile 25, I felt like I had given everything to hold my 4th place position after the bike (being passed twice on the run). Still not knowing the times of others for when they started in the rolling start, I knew that my 4th place position was likely in jeopardy. Three Kona slots for my age group and Katie already receiving her slot at Eagleman. That means 4th place is the "worst" place I can be in with 1 mile to go. Absolutely NO room for error and certainly my decision to walk at mile 25 was on my mind but I had no other choice.
They were running fast, almost effortless and I knew it was time. As much as I wanted to cruise the last mile and enjoy my 6th Ironman finishing line...I sprinted as hard as I could, with everything I didn't have.
My legs exploded with energy as if I was starting mile 1 of a 5K. Could this really be true? Am I really going to have an almost 10 minute PR?
Bike: 5:46:11 (strong ride on a tough course)
Run: 3:48:36 (PR)
5th age group (30-35)
A few more pics from friends...thank you!
Oh, and my competition chasing me down.....
4th place (Jessica): 10:43.08
5th place (me): 10:43.14
6th place (Lesley): 10:43:26
Never think about the reasons why it can't work. There will be a reason why it will...you just have to believe in it...or spend 140.6 miles figuring it out.
Kona bound for the 3rd time. Thank you body.
Run splits for me:
8:43 pace, 3:48:36 finish time
Best 3 hours (including walks): 8:37 min/mile pace (20.88 miles)
Best 2 hours (including walks): 8:28 min/mile pace (14 miles)
Best 90 minutes (including walks): 8:29 min/mile pace
Average HR 147
Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:43
Mile 4: 8:10
Mile 5: 8:00 (started walking here for 20-30 seconds at a time)
Mile 6: 8:18
Mile 7: 8:38
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9: 8:56
Mile 10: 9:12
Mile 11: 8:58
Mile 12: 9:13
Mile 13: 8:22
Mile 14: 8:15
Mile 15: 8:40
Mile 16: 8:21
Mile 17: 8:54
Mile 18: 8:45
Mile 19: 9:20
Mile 20: 9:17
Mile 21: 8:53
Mile 22: 9:27
Mile 23: 9:36
Mile 24: 9:21
Mile 25: 9:45
Mile 26: 8:28
(all splits include walk breaks - I reviewed my Training Peaks file to look at my walk breaks and although I started walking around mile 3 or 4, I ended up walking 25 times and from my math guessing, it was around 11 minutes of total intentional/planned walking. Not to shabby to still end up with my best run off the bike!)
Love it when a plan works. The hard part is trusting yourself that you have the mental strength to execute.
Never stop working hard for your goals and believing in yourself that you can get to where you want to be in life.