Not feeling so great within the first 1/2 mile of the run, my first thought was that this is going to be one tough marathon for my body to get through.
To be honest, after 10 Ironman starts and finishes, this wasn't the first time that I have thought this or experienced this feeling, so I just reminded myself that the only way I would get to the finish was to keep moving forward.
While I felt physically fit and prepared for IM Austria, I did a lot of mental training to help me prepare for the uncontrollable moments and the uncomfortable moments of racing a 140.6 mile event. I was prepared mentally for anything that came my way on race day.
And oh boy, was I given a lot to struggle with during the marathon!
Going into Ironman Austria, I reminded myself that I was in great health and that any suffering that I felt on race day was normal and expected. I welcomed the opportunity to suffer for 10+ hours and I wanted to embrace the good hurt that I would feel when racing to the best of my athletic ability.
I've learned that having a goal pace or goal time in the Ironman run can cause a great amount of stress and pressure for me so my only goal for the run was to find and establish and then hold good run form with rhythm and fluency. This is something that I have learned from Karel as he always tells me that he runs with a metronome-style of running and no matter how fast or slow his time shows on his watch, he doesn't care about the time but instead, finding that rhythm and then holding it until he becomes numb with this feeling and he can then just go with it by digging deep and staying mentally tough.
While Karel and I don't do the typical "long run" training (in Jan/Feb we do some longer slow runs around 2 hours but in my peak training, my longest run was 13.1 miles - at Rev3 Knoxville and Karel's longest run was 15 miles, with most of his runs around 13-14 miles), we race with our resilient bodies that are strong, healthy and durable. It takes a lot of courage to trust that you are "ready" to run an Ironman without the fear-based long-run training to see if you are "ready" for the marathon but we both felt ready for the marathon.
But of course, feeling ready and then dealing with the obstacles that you face on or before race day is just part of endurance racing.
For the first 3 miles, my stomach was not feeling good. But somehow, I was able to find a semi-good rhythm despite feeling uncomfortable in my gut. The crowds were cheering loud as I ran through Europapark which is always an instant energy booster.
Thankfully, the rain had stopped and the sky stayed dark so the weather was absolutely perfect for running.
There is one section in the run that we pass through 5 times, with the 5th time being the last time as we veer to the left to the long chute to the finish line.
While I was really looking forward to this "hot spot" as a mental check-off point that I was making forward progress in the run, the Ironman Austria run course is my absolute favorite Ironman run courses as it has everything I love in a marathon run:
Cobblestones, sand, paved trail, loops, grass, a downtown, a neighborhood, water and mountain views and lots of crowd support.
While there are no significant hills, it's relatively flat with a few bumps to wake-up the quads...not to mention the curbs you have to run on and off of as you are entering and exiting downtown Klagenfurt.
I need a lot of mental stimulation when I run and not to mention the kilometer signs (instead of mile markers) to make me think (I love doing math when I run - it helps me tune-out the pain in my legs), I was really excited for this run course.
But first, I needed to figure out my stomach situation.
While my legs felt heavy at first, they started to feel better once the terrain changed from pavement to sand.
As I was running near the town/neighborhood of Krumpendorf, I spotted Karel running toward me as he was a few miles ahead of me since he finished a little over 20 minutes ahead of me on the bike.
I wasn't sure what condition Karel would be in off the bike based on his back pain going into the race and anything he had to overcome on the bike but even when he was in intense pain before the race on the bike, he felt ok on the run. I know he was just thinking that if he could get through the bike, he would be ok for the run and would just take it mile by mile, willing to drop out of the race if he had to (but we knew this would be hard as he really didn't want to DNF this race).
When I saw him, I gave him a big smile and a wave and he yelled back "Go Marni". This was certainly a surprise as Karel rarely talks when he is in race mode so I really appreciated this gesture. I wasn't sure what to think of his running form but I was just happy to see that he was running.
I felt like I really needed to use the bathroom so I planned to stop when I approached the first potty on the course. Well, my digestive tract was impatient so found the nearest bushes. It was a bit of a struggle to get off my one-piece short sleeve tri suit. No need to feel sorry for me or feel grossed out by this as I respect the human body and all that it has to handle on race day and well, sometimes things just don't work out like we would like.
I embraced this obstacle and my primary goal was to get through this stomach situation so I could get running again.
I was feeling a bit frustrated after this stop because I still didn't feel good for the next few miles.
I really wanted to stay up on my sport nutrition from my hydration belt but ever time I took a sip, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom again.
With the aid stations occuring about every 2.5K (or about every 1.5 miles), I skipped two aid stations and withheld from taking in any calories for over 15 minutes.
I was anxious to get back to taking in calories and fluids as I needed the energy but by mile 4 of still not feeling good, I needed this situation to go away as soon as possible.
A few more miles ticked by and I was able to still run with semi good form but my mind was not in the right place as I wasn't thinking about the metronome style of running that I wanted to achieve but instead, my mind was thinking about my tummy and how to best get through this situation.
As I made my way through the park again and on to the path toward downtown Klagenfurt, I was so relieved to make it this far. I knew I'd be seeing my mom in a few miles which made me happy to see a familiar face.
Although I was going through a lot in the first 7 miles of the run, I still hadn't seen another female amateur close by me - but there was a good chance that with 3 potty stops so far on the run (plus one in T2), I may have been passed by girls and not even know it.
Before I approached downtown Klagenfurt, a girl passed me. We ran close to each other for a while which gave me a glimmer of hope that even though I had all these struggles, I was still making progress - I couldn't have asked for any more at this point in the race!
I laughed because at my 4th potty stop, the girl I was running with also stopped. We entered at the same time and left at the same time and we went back to running close to each other.
As I was getting close to downtown Klagenfurt, the crowds were getting thick and I was so excited to get some energy from the crowds. I could smell all the good food from the outdoor seating at the restaurants which made me smile - at least others were yumming while we were suffering.
I was hoping to see Karel again but I suppose we missed each other.
The downtown section was exciting and I finally came to terms with my tummy that I would sit in the potty until I was ready to exit and no more short stops.
What felt like forever, I finally felt better.
I also decided that I needed to ditch my hydration belt at an aid station (by a fence) as I was still dealing with some distention and my hydration belt was extremely uncomfortable. While I love my hydration belt and tried to keep it on for 12 miles, it was time to use the nutrition from the course.
On to coke and water for the next 14 miles.
This is me entering downtown Klagenfurt - my mom snapped the pic.
As I was leaving downtown, I spotted my mom and told her that my stomach was not feeling good. She told me to hang in there and that I was doing great.
Regardless of what she said and what I heard, I needed to hear this.
Something inside of me switched from suffering with my belly to needing and wanting to suffer with my body to get on the podium. Regardless if it was true or not, I convinced myself that I was going to get on that podium and I needed to believe that to get me through the rest of the marathon.
Suddenly, my legs started working and my stomach felt better. I was making a lot of forward progress and I actually felt strong. I embraced the hurt I was feeling and I was also happy to have passed the longest distance I had run in training.
When I went through the "hot spot" once again, I received another wrist band (think hair band) for my 2nd loop of the run. To get this band, a volunteer opens up the band and you stick your hand through. I received a yellow one when I started my first loop and a green one when I started the 2nd loop.
I didn't pick up my special needs flasks since I no longer had my hydration belt.
Now that I got through all those tummy issues, it was time to start playing the mind games. First, I thought how great it would be to finish now since I was running by the finishing chute but that was just wishful thinking. Still 11+ more miles to go! I told myself that all I needed to do was to get through the Krumpendorf section and then through Europapark (around 5-6 miles or so) and then it would be smooth sailing for the rest of the run. Sure, I knew this wouldn't be the case but I have learned that not only do you have to cut deals with yourself but you have to make yourself to think about anything you can to make a given situation better.
I had incorporated several walks into my running now that I was able to run more steady, whereas before, I wasn't walking the aid stations as I was doing enough stopping at each potty stop.
I felt like I was running really "fast" (relatively speaking) through Krumpendorf but when I got back on the trail to head back to the "hot spot", I felt a low. I just told myself to keep on moving forward, which I did.
I was surprised that my legs were running as well as they were considering all that had happened in the first 2 hours of the marathon run but nonetheless, my legs were fatigued. Every foot strike was painful but I tried to keep my mind in a good place that this was exactly what I had trained for.
As I was leaving the hot spot, I spotted Karel. My first thought was "I am SO jealous that he is finishing now!!!" but then I cheered for him. Later he told me that it took him a few minutes to process that he heard me as he was in a world of hurt from racing hard (not from an injury, thank goodness) and was just laser focused on the finish line.
I figured I had a good 45+ minutes until I reached the finish line so I was on a mission to get there as soon as I could so that I could reunite with Karel and my mom.
Every time I crossed a timing mat I felt like I was connecting with all my friends and Trimarni followers so it kept me focused that I knew people were tracking us online.
While I told myself that the rest of the race would be "easy" as I was running near Krumpendorf, I started to feel a painful cramping in my belly. Seriously?
Ok, I can get through this. I knew that the best thing in this situation was to stop as I couldn't risk to run with bad form this late in the race so I stopped at the next aid station, stretched out my core, took in some water and coke and walked until I felt better. While it didn't feel better right away, it slowly loosened up and what a relief, in less than a mile I was back to running again.
As I went through downtown once more, I noticed that there were some girls close behind me.
I gave myself permission to walk at one more aid station with 2.5-3 miles to go and then I was going to suffer like I have never suffered before.
I passed the girl who had passed me on the run earlier in the race and I also ended up passing the girl who passed me on the run.
I still had no idea what place I was in but I told myself that I had to be near the top of the age grouper females and I just had to stay focused to the finish line.
Every foot strike was scary as it hurt in my quads but I reminded myself that the pain I was feeling was nothing new as I had felt this pain 10 times before.
Plus, with no more tummy issues, I welcomed the hurt from pushing hard.
Throughout the marathon, I was doing a little math - not knowing my swim time but guessing it was 59 minutes and then knowing that my bike time was something over 5:16 (as that was the last time I looked at my Garmin on the bike, before the transition area), I was thinking that I was going to finish around 10:20-10:25 based on all that I had to go through on the run. I was thinking that I was not even going to run a sub 4 hour marathon and that maybe I would be top 5 in my age group.
It wasn't until I was nearing mile 25 that I looked at my watch for the time of the day and it was getting close to 4:50pm.
Are you freaking kidding me?
While I am sure it didn't look like it, I felt like I was sprinting to the finish line.
It seemed to take forever through the park but I finally reached the hot spot once more, turned to the left, rotated my bib number to the front, zipped up my jersey and started to smile.
What a relief.
I finally made it to the finish line.
I was overwhelmed with emotion that I high-fived the announcer and with my hands raised up as high as they would go (oh boy, that took some energy), I crossed the 2016 Ironman Austria finish line. I looked up at the clock and saw 10:06 and couldn't believe it.
Thank you Joey for the pictures from the computer!
I didn't have much time to process it as I hobbled my way to the side of the finish line and nearly collapsed on the rail.
Me far right, looking at the clock in disbelief.
As I hobbled away from the finish line, I could hear Karel yelling at me from the other side of the fence. Of course, he was all dressed with a plate of food in his hands and I walked over to him.
We chatted between the fence and I told him I went 10:06. He was so happy for me.
It took me a minute to remember that he raced too so I asked him how his race went.
He was nearly speechless when he said "9:13".
I responded, are you serious?
He also told me that he ran a 3:06 marathon.
I was thrilled for him and I couldn't believe our day.
While the outcome may have been perfect, we both had our obstacles to overcome before and during the race.
After sitting down (with a group of guys) for a few minutes, I was finally ready to walk to see Karel and my mom.
My mom was so happy for me and she told me that I had the fastest overall swim of the day.
She told me that I swam 57.0 and I couldn't believe it. I thought there was no way that I swam that fast - I believe my dad, from above, was helping me out on race day.
Karel said the same thing about his marathon - my dad was helping him dig deeper than ever before.
It took a bit for me to find out how I finished overall in my age group but thanks to a bunch of text messages and posts on Facebook, I finally got confirmation that I was 2nd in my age group and Karel was 9th in his age group (out of 500+!).
I've always loved the Ironman distance as it doesn't always award the fastest or fittest athlete.
Thank you for your support and for sharing our special day with us.
(I apologize for any grammar errors or typos!)