Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ironman: The Run

Holding back on the bike worked; my legs felt pretty good starting the run. I wish I could say the same thing about my stomach. I ate a LOT of Shot Bloks during the race (over 2 dozen at this point) and it was taking its toll. I felt completely bloated and gassy and the worst part - to be blunt - was that I couldn't burp or pass gas to relieve the pressure. I saw my cheering section around mile 3 and I told them "Everything is fine, and I know it looks like I'm right on schedule, but I just want to warn you that you might be in for a long night." I knew that the run was going to be a problem.

Each mile became worse and worse in terms of my running/walking ratio. I knew that regardless of what my stomach felt like, I was going to need more energy later on to finish the marathon. But I couldn't eat anything. I tried sucking on a Shot Blok; made me nauseous. And let me tell you just how bad things were: they had Oreo cookies at the food stops. I took a tiny nibble out of one, and THREW OUT THE REST OF THE COOKIE! I can think of no greater sin against nature than throwing away an Oreo, yet there I was.

Somewhere around mile 7 or 8 I gave up. Not on the whole race, but on the first lap. I shifted my mindset and told myself "I am on my way to the starting line of a half marathon." These next few miles were just going to be for stretching out. I did not worry about food at all. I decided I could not win the battle of trying to get food in my stomach, so for the next 30 or 45 minutes I wouldn't even try to eat anything and just let whatever was already down there get processed and dealt with.

It pretty much worked. I wanted to start getting some calories in me before I started my half-marathon, so around mile 12 I thought I would try some food. But the sight of everything repulsed me. I didn't want fruit, or cookies, or pretzels, or God forbid another Shot Blok. But then at the end of the line somebody was handing out cups of chicken broth. I don't eat chicken broth. It sounds very healthy and it seemed odd to me to drink hot liquids in the middle of a race. Now for those of you who don't know me well, you must understand that I NEVER try new food. I am not joking when I say that ketchup is too fancy for me. I only eat very plain foods and never stray off my known menu. But Ironman does funny things for people and for some reason my body wasn't repulsed by the chicken broth so I gave it a shot.

I can't say that I liked it, but it was the first thing in 5 miles or so that I could actually swallow and I was grateful for that. And it got my stomach back into the business of processing calories. What I was NOT grateful for was seeing my friends at mile a few blocks later. I looked horrible. The sweaty long-sleeved thermal shirt I wore under my tri-jersey for the first part of the run was now draped over my shoulders. I was walking, carrying a styrofoam cup of chicken broth. I did not look speedy, and I gave them an honest report: "I've eaten God-only-knows how many Shot Bloks, I fear it's measured in the dozens and I am gong to be sick. I want to throw up, or have explosive diarrhea, I don't care which but something bad is going to happen." (You can watch me give my report in my Ironman video at about 6:40). Steve suggested that I just shove a finger down my throat to empty my stomach that way ("because going in the other way won't help") and I considered it but was more worried about what other side effects I might have from puking.

Annie offered to take the extra shirt I wasn't wearing anymore away from me but I scolded her: "NO! No outside help permitted during the race!" She told me I could just throw it on the ground and they would pick it up. "NO! No littering along the course!" Looking back on it, man was I a moron. But I don't know, for some reason I just felt like I had a plan and I needed to stick with it.

Turns out, things started getting better. By taking some time off from eating my stomach became settled and - my apologies - I started farting again around mile 13.5. Please be assured that at this point people were spread out enough that I was able to pass gas very discreetly. That made a HUGE difference and I started running a real half marathon. Oddly enough, because I was hurting so badly on the first half, each mile of the second half felt stronger and stronger. I think my split times were something like 3:20/2:40.

My original goal was to do the marathon in 6 hours, but I felt I put a lot of padding in there. If everything went right, I thought I could pull off a 5-hour marathon. After the first 2 miles I knew that would be impossible and thought I might be looking at 6:30-7:00. I don't remember the exact mileage, but as I started feeling better and better I was doing the math in my head and thought I might do about 6:20. Then a little later I was thinking 6:10. Then around mile 20 or so the 6-hour cut-off started to be a glimmer. I timed myself for one-mile and realized I was only a little under pace to hit 6 hours. So I went a little faster, timed another mile, was a little closer to 6 hours. Suffice it to say I finished the marathon in 5:59:40. Twenty seconds faster than what I had predicted a month before.

I have a very odd complaint about the run. Because I had stomach problems, my legs were spared a lot of really hard running. Which means that even though I was certainly tired at the end of the night, I didn't have any of the horror stories of pain that people love to share after an Ironman. I wanted to get the FULL Ironman experience, with all the good and the bad. Fortunately, I felt like I got a taste of Ironman leg torture leaving the tattoo shop.


Blogger Michelle said...

Oh, it sounds like you had your fair share of torture. That stomach business sounds gnarly! You are so awesome, thanks for sharing all your thoughts, that's the best part, hearing about the mental fight. Great reports!

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm... wouldn't throw away an oreo eh?

Then how, dear wedgie, would you like to explain the strange Oreo rim shaped mark on the ceiling of the ABC building?

3:07 PM  
Blogger monica said...

i had nearly the same experience on my run. and at the end i too felt like i should have suffered more, but SO GLAD i didn't!!!

7:30 AM  

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