Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ironman: The Run

The run was by far the worst leg of the race, which means it has the best stories. Trust me, there are some good ones in here and I promise I'll only discuss body functions for a little bit.

I wasn't feeling terrible at the start of the run, but I wasn't feeling great either. My legs had a little bit of residual cramping, my foot was hurting from the blister I got from the bike pedal, and my stomach was a little bit off. In Coeur d'Alene, I had problems because I was bloated and gassy and couldn't... "expel" anything. In Wisconsin, I was bloated but I had gasses flying out of just about every opening they could find so that was an improvement.

I ran the first two miles pretty well, but my stomach started feeling worse so I started walking. I remembered the advice that Steve gave me in Idaho, which I didn't follow back then. He told me to stick my finger down my throat and I'd feel better. This time, I thought I'd give it a try. At the next support area I went into a Port-A-Potty and put the finger in. I did a little coughing, so then I tried sticking it down farther, and farther. And I gagged. And gagged. And gagged. I felt bad for anyone listening outside because I was making all sorts of horrible noises. I never actually vomited, but I did get some slimey stuff into my mouth to spit out. And you know what? It felt great. My stomach felt better, my legs didn't hurt as much and I was able to run right away. I'm telling you, these bulimics are really on to something.

The course did a loop through the University of Madison football stadium where we ran on ultra-soft astro-turf. After the race, everyone seemed to be complaining about how much we sank in the turf and how tough it was to run on, but I thought it was pretty cool. Frankly, it was a welcome change from the hard concrete sidewalks we had in some sections to run on something soft.

The first loop was fairly uneventful. I ran a little, I walked a little. I didn't care for the course much at all. It twists and turns all over the place, and takes you through back alleys around the campus. It's just not a very scenic course.

The Special Needs stop was right after the start of loop two. I packed some extra body glide in there which I took with me. I also had a big bag of Animal Crackers. I gave the bag to the volunteer and said "these are for you guys if you want to take a snack break. Thanks for being here!" They LOVED me. The one girl said that I was the best runner in the entire race. I am not above bribing people, but I think they were genuinely grateful that I thought to give them something.

My foot, somehow still injured from the bike, started hurting more and more. By mile 14 I wasn't even walking, it was more of a limping shuffle. And that's when I had a revelation: there is an unwritten philosophy among "ordinary" Ironmen that "as long as I can make the bike cut-off, I can always walk the marathon and finish the race." Well I realized that it is very easy to do a 6:30+ marathon. At the pace I was limping, I don't think I would have made the midnight cut-off. I stopped at one of the support areas, sat down and took off my shoes and socks. The funny thing is that I couldn't find the blister that was causing so much pain. It was something else, some kind of pressure point on a bone or something. I slathered my feet with body glide and put a band-aid on the tender spot. That seemed to do the trick. Although my foot was still sensitive, I wasn't getting any sharp pain any more and I was able to run again.


Around mile 16 I came across a bunch of college students who were partying on their front porch. They had speakers blasting outside and were dancing the Macarena. It looked like fun, and it wasn't like I had anything better to do, so I went over to their house and did a few rounds of the Macarena with them. They thought I was awesome, and they were right. One of the guys came up to me and asked "hey, you want a beer?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I looked at him and asked "are you serious? YES!" I looked around to make sure there were no race officials around (technically, having a beer along the course counts as "outside assistance", I think) and took a few gulps. Cheap college beer never tasted so good. University of Wisconsin House 132; you guys ROCK!

Shortly after that I saw Ben coming back on his return loop. That made me kind of sad because Ben probably should have been about 2 hours ahead of me and he was only about 1 hour ahead. This meant he wasn't having a great race. Ben Bonked Bad. Boo. Another mile down the road I was saddened again (yet delighted as well) because I caught up with Greg. Greg should have been an hour ahead of me but he was hurting a bit and walking. I asked him if he would run with me for a bit, and he did.

We were just getting to the one really cool part of the run. "State Street" is the main drag through town where all the college restaurants and bars are, so it is packed with people. And let me tell you: people love cheering for Disney. When people see the Disney logo on my jersey, I always get shouts of "Go Disney!" or "We love Disney!" or "Do you know the Jonas Brothers?!" But when you have TWO people in matching Disney jerseys running side-by-side, that's an extra special thing. And frankly, Greg and I were pretty shameless hyping up the crowd for extra applause. It was a lot of fun.

Greg and I spent the next 7 miles constantly negotiating with eachother: "let's run to the next water stop then we'll walk." "we'll walk to the turnaround, then run for the way back." I'm sure I would have walked more if I hadn't run into Greg, and hopefully he felt the same. The big motivator for me (and by extension, for Greg) was that there was still a chance I could beat my Coeur d'Alene time (14:45).

Your brain does funny things to you during Ironman. Our support team was all wearing red Disney Ironman shirts (designed by Old British Stuart, very cool). We saw Ben's girlfriend in the red shirt cheering us on at mile 20, and then - unbelievably - I saw her in the red shirt again at mile 21. I didn't think this was one of those twisty-turny sections of the course where she could have taken a short cut, so I yelled out "you're fast! YOU should be doing this race!"

Well of course, like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, it turns out it was Greg's sister in the matching shirt. It was dark, I had never met Greg's sister and by this point I had been racing for over 12 hours so I think I deserve a break.


The funniest/saddest moment of the entire race happened around mile 23. We had just finished a run segment and started walking again. About 50 feet in front if us, we saw an older gentleman - not a racer - walking down the street carrying a bag of groceries. Basically he was a 60-70 year old local walking back from the store. Greg and I started discussing - nay, fantasizing about what he had in the bag. Maybe he had Advil? Cookies?Mountain Dew? Whatever he had, we wanted it.

But here's the funny thing: as we were watching him, we realized he was pulling away from us. 50 feet... 60 feet... 70 feet... Here was this senior citizen doing some errands and we two Ironman Triathletes couldn't even catch him. That's just sad.

With about one mile to go, I saw Steve again. He took this amazing photo of us. The smiles mask a lot of pain but admit it, we look good.

We had a lot of time (8 miles) to discuss how to handle the finish line. Did we want to have our own individual finish photos, or should we cross together? Since we were wearing matching Disney Uniforms, we kind of knew that a dual finish photo would look pretty cool and would be the kind of photo that would be used in slide shows for years to come.

Being a little obsessive/compulsive, I also wanted to plan the whole finishing-chute protocol (like I said, we had a LOT of time to kill.) Basically we were going to run on opposite sides of the chute giving out high-fives to our throngs of fans, and then we would meet up in the middle and raise our hands in victory for the finisher photo. But the pre-chute chute only had people on one side so I just wound up running behind Greg for the high-fives and then pulled up next to him for the very end. The first person I saw was New British Stuart (who finished about 5 hours earlier, 2nd in age group, qualified for Kona) and then I saw the rest of our gang.

Finishing an Ironman is mostly just a relief, but I was happy to beat my Coeur D'Alene time by 15 minutes. I think Greg was happier than I was to be finished, because he wound up going to medical and getting the IV. Apparently you need to lose 5 pounds during the race to be eligible to get stuck with a needle; Greg lost 10. He was fine.

So that was pretty much it. We swam, we biked, we ran and Ironman Wisconsin is now history. I think we all kind of made a pact that we were finished doing Ironmans (Steve suggested taking up guitar lessons). But we'll see how that holds up.


Blogger Not Quite Lightning McQueen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Lightning McQueen said...

Whats with all the smiles? Someone once said to me that if you are smiling on the run you aren't going hard enough...

Congrats! Great strong finish!

4:45 PM  

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