Tuesday, September 19, 2006

IM WI Race Day - T2 and Run


Back in the bag room in the Terrace, I was again able to easily spot my bag and trotted through that first room. Once in the get naked room I could tell that folks were struggling in there, but I stayed focused on my own game. I found a clear spot and plopped my bag on the ground. I opted against changing into dry clothes. All I had in my transition bag was loose clothing and I would rather have tight wet clothing than loose wet clothing. I don't bike with socks, so I struggled to dry my numb feet on the carpet. I slipped on a pair of warm, dry socks. AAaaaaahhhhhh. Note for next time: throw a towel into both transition bags. Slipped the running shoes on, threw the helmet and glasses into the bag, popped a gel with some water, shoved some gels into my shorts and jersey pocket, then deposited my bag, and out the door I went.

I went into a port-o-potty and took a really long break in there. Once back in the open air, I was mentally ready to run. The thought of a 3:30 marathon crept into my head.

T2 - 05:28

My energy levels felt pretty high. But I had planned to run the first three miles at an easy effort, ignoring my time, and was going to stick to it. I had also planned to pop a gel every 30 minutes or so, and pass through the aid stations very leisurely, and probably walk them all.

Well, I started moving and my positive attitude was turning negative once again. My legs just were not cooperating as I thought they would. The muscles of my legs were incredibly tight and something that I never expected, my right ankle was throbbing. I reached the Pedestrian Path and was hoping somehow that my legs would cooperate at some point in the day; I knew that if something did not change, I would have a cold, long death march. I watched the lead runners coming back in the other direction and it felt like I was crawling compared to them.

I trudged up into the stadium. As I hit the turf, it felt like a graveyard as there were no fans, no music, and barely any signs of life, just us wannabe Ironmen marching on. I walked through the next aid station. A young volunteer offered a sponge. I grabbed it and asked if this was the first sponge she had given out. I wiped some crap off my body with the sponge then grabbed a drink and pushed on.

I'm not sure why I did not just take splits every mile, but my first three miles were just under 30 minutes. I guess I was ready to pop another gel now. Since I had already tossed my overall time goal out several hours ago, it was much easier for me to drop any run time goal I may have had. I was reduced to jogging, and walking, and walking some more. Somewhere along the Lakeshore Path I saw Chris and Rob heading the other way. I did not want to disappoint them so I tried to pick it up a bit. They offered me encouragement, but I wondered if I would see them again.

Most of the first loop of the "run" was pretty blurry. I was cold, hungry, and tired. I heard cheers of encouragement from the sidelines all along the route, "Good job!!!", "Go Alan!!!", "Keep it up!!!" But my mind was probably trying to conserve its own energy as all the faces and voices faded out like background noise. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Back on the Lakeshore Path, I wanted to stay on the crushed dirt trail to save the pounding on the legs, but it was way too muddy. I hit the tail portion of the course; it was lined with homemade signs offering encouragement. The Ford Inspiration point was there also, and if anyone entered any messages for me, well, sorry I did not look up at the display. Ironically at the "Inspiration Point" my day was quickly deteriorating.

By mile 10, I was now walking a lot. My brain seemed to be shutting itself down and the body with it. I had popped a gel a few minutes earlier, but it seemed to do nothing for me. I was getting light headed and doubts were clouding over. At the next aid station I grabbed a GU (I use Carb-Boom gel), a cup of Coke, and broth - three things I had never tried all season - and washed it down. I kept jogging and walking forward.

As I hit the Pedestrian Path again, I was sinking. The doubts were flooding in from all sides as I questioned myself. Why didn't I eat another Clif bar on the bike? When was the sun going to come out? Had I seen any medical tents along the course? What would happen if I stopped at an aid station? What if I did not finish? Or worse yet, what if I could not finish? My eyelids felt as if I had pulled three straight all-nighters as I struggled to stay awake, mentally and physically. I came off the Pedestrian Path and I walked into the tunnel.

Than at that moment, I no longer wanted to move forward. The desire and will to finish was no longer in me. I wanted it all to disappear: the rain, the cold, the hunger, the aching muscles and bones. I was defeated. The eyes closed shut.

And then...

I stopped...




I don't know how long I was in that tunnel, but the wind howled at me once again. It struck the cross I was carrying on my back and I was urged to take my next step. Standing there was colder than moving forward.

I emerged from the dank tunnel as if I was busting out of my cocoon.

One step, another step...

shuffle, shuffle...

jog, jog, jog...


I rationalized that even if I walked the next 13 miles, I probably built up enough of a time buffer to finish before midnight. But for whatever reason, I was ready to run - after a 126 mile warmup. And in an instant, gone were all the fears and doubts. I was keeping the celebration under control, but I knew I would be an Ironman that day.

On that last stretch back to downtown, I made a promise to myself that regardless of what happened over the next several hours, I would have the time of my life. No longer was I concerned about pace or how many gels I had in my pocket. No longer was I saddled with racing towards a goal time. No longer was I chasing after things beyond my control. I was in a powerful moment and I would live in it. I certainly did not know when or if I would ever be back at a time or place like this again and so I was going to savor the next 13 plus miles.

I hit the special needs bag on a high. I reloaded my pocket with gels and even threw my dry socks into my pocket. I grabbed a plastic bag and tried to slip it over my torso. A kind volunteer helped me with it. I told him I was feeling awesome and that I probably would strip the bag off later. He said no problem and wished me well. I thanked him in turn. As I turned around I saw John coming out for his first loop. I jogged along with him and we chatted a bit. After a few moments I suggested he take the broth at the aid stations, since that provided both nutrition and warmth. I offered some parting words of encouragement and pressed forward. I shed the baggie moments later and remarked to the spectator next to me that Ironmen don't wear plastic, just lycra.

I crossed through the tunnel and remembered what had happened there moments before. I was unfazed this time. As I popped onto the Pedestrian Path, I heard Pharmie yell out at me as she went the other direction. I was hoping to meet up with her again later on the run. Moments later, Mark, a fellow tri club member, caught sight of me and said hello. I ran with him for a little while and hoped to get his spirits up. He mentioned his legs were cramping quite a bit. I tried to encourage him the best I could and wished him well as I went off to try to catch Pharmie.

I knew I was blazing away now. But Pharmie must have been cruising too since it took me awhile before I caught up to her. We chatted a bit about how the day had been going for us. She was moving strong and steadily and I knew that she would be an Ironman by the end of the day. I wished her the best and ran on ahead.

Even though I was feeling awesome, I made it a point to walk through the aid stations. I tried to thank the volunteers as best I could and they deserved more appreciation than I could offer them on the course. Oh and I wasn't about to stop refueling, so I would grab a sip of Coke, some munchies, than a cup of broth at each stop. I also tried to acknowledge the spectators as best I could. I'm pretty sure I saw Zeke out there bundled up on State Street. And how could I not give out high fives to the kids cheering on the side of the street. I heard "Go Allah" several times which made me feel strangely like a god, but made me smile nonetheless. Actually the second time I heard that, I looked at my race number and noticed a few letters were truncated from my name.

Just past another aid station, I spied Dennis cheering from the streets. He mentioned that Trina was just up ahead. He encouraged me to catch her and keep her company on the run. I spotted a free port-o-potty and couldn't pass up that opportunity. I emptied the bowels and came out feeling ten pounds lighter. Aaahhh. I immediately bolted up the hill on Observatory Drive and was running even faster and easier than ever before. I flew down the other side, onto Park Street, and then onto State Street. I saw Trina coming the other way so I picked up my pace, hit the turnaround, and caught her moments later. We ran together for a bit and I knew we were both going to make it to the finish line strong. She pushes me a lot in training and racing and I am better because of her. I am proud of her race day. She had struggled to get past a lot of obstacles this whole season and it was a joy to see her have such an incredible race. Heck she was ahead of me for over 130 miles on this day, having averaged 18.0 mph on the bike.

Once onto Park Street again, I was off and running. Just over a 10k to go. I was really getting excited. I was flying down the Lakeshore Path and wished I could run like this forever. I got back to the point with all the signs and this time I looked for as many names and numbers as I could. I saw a few for my friends and a few for Iron Wil. I had hoped to see Wil on race day and was envious of those who did. She took many of us on an amazing ride this summer and for as much inspiration she has given, I wanted to return the favor. I can't wait to be inspired by her again next year.

I past the Inspiration Point once again and the thoughts I had 13 miles ago were no where to be found. I was flying back towards downtown and near the Stadium I ran into TriSaraTops. We had a pretty goofy conversation, but after 12 hours of racing in the cold and rain, how could you not be a little slap happy? We knew we were both going to be Ironmen today, but she had to point out the fact that I was going to be one just a little sooner. It was a blast for me to be a part of her IM adventure throughout the summer, but to catch her smile on race day was even an bigger thrill.

All along the way I saw many of my friends, racing and battling through the day. I could not wait to hear the stories from them. We were about to enter into a fraternity, each member with a different view, but all forged from that same cold, rainy, September Sunday.

Now I began preparing for the unexpected that waited for me ahead. I adjusted my race number and tried to straighten out my hair. In all honesty, I was on an all time high and did not want what I was feeling for the last two hours to end. But the end of my journey was near. One last turn past the Capitol...a push down toward the finish line...


Run splits: 2:18:42/2:05:49
Run total: 4:24:31


Jodi said...

What an amazing experience. Great job pulling yourself out of your funk. I hope that there are more details of the finish to come!


rob reddy said...

that is the IM experience - the lowest lows and super highs - but inthe end it is the feeling of accomplishment that lasts such a long time.

digging your self out of that pit was HUGE Alan - moving forward when you really did not want to and finding peace and happieness in swimming, biking and running regardless of goals, places or times is what makes you an Ironman

congratulations - welcome to the club

Cliff said...


Woah..what a turn around..i have been thinking about the last 13 miles too..how will i fare..

You did a great job executing your plan. Congrats..

Pharmie said...

It was so great to meet you out there, and I was glad to be a part of your experience. I maybe would have tried to keep up longer if I wasn't on my 1st loop:) You sure fooled me on the run. By the time I saw you, you definitely looked great. Can't wait to read about the finish and after!

triteacher said...

Hey TriAl, I was glad to hear from you on my blog - I was beginning to worry that you were drowning your post-race depression in some serious pints of your own! Welcome back.

triteacher said...

AND inspiring run story! Isn't it just TNT when you finally turn on - just takes that 126 mile warm-up. :)

RunBubbaRun said...

Great race report IRONMAN. I won't rib you to much about your initial time goal, because you totally smoked my ass on a plate. I saw you smoking the run while everybody seemed to be standing still, including me.

Great job all around at the race.I know you will be back for another round of Ironman someday.

TriSaraTops said...

Coulda fooled me! You were kickin' ass when I saw ya. Of course, that finish line a few miles away made me kick it into high gear, too...relatively speaking of course. :)

What an amazing day, eh? Congrats again, IronmanAl.

Pixie said...

WOW, that was a great post. Just wonderful! Congratulations again!

Mike said...

Glad there are those like you who throw out a proper race report! Congrats again on your race...way to push through all the adversity you faced out there. Isn't in strange how your bike can work perfectly for all of the training miles yet start acting up during your race?!

xt4 said...

That was awesome.