Monday, June 30, 2014

Mingsanity, The Final Chapter: IM Luxembourg 70.3 - The Run

I wrote most of this post in my head in the days following the race it's just taken me some time to get it down on virtual paper. Vacationing and blogging don't really mix well. Unless of course you're sitting on a beach in the French Riviera.....
I figured that once I got out onto the run,I was home free. This was going to be the easy part because I can run off the bike no problem. Boy oh boy was I ever wrong. Towards the end of the bike my stomach was feeling a little funny. Nothing major, just a little off. As soon as I got my shoes on, I bolted out of T2 like a bat out of hell. You had to run around the back of transition and then down a road that took you to the main road / bike path where you'd run three loops and then up a small side street into a courtyard where the finish line was. As soon as I came around the back of transition, I saw G standing at the top of that side street. I was so happy to see him. I smiled and waved. I didn't feel like I was running that fast but when I glanced down at my watch I saw 4:15's. I knew that wasn't going to be sustainable. My heart rate was also through the roof. I tried to slow down a bit to bring it down. No go. I hit that first km in 4:19. Oh boy.
I had hoped that by starting the race at 1:00pm that by the time I got out on the run,it wouldn't be so hot. Totally not the case. It was scorching. It was almost 5:00 pm and it felt like it was noon. There wasn't much shade on the run course either. There were some trees towards the back end but I figured I'd probably be running in the sun for the entire first loop as well as most of the second loop. I hoped they had a sponge station.
I cooked along for the first couple of km but by km three my stomach started to really bother me. It was cramping a bit and it just felt gross. I had grabbed 3 gels and brought then with me and I knew I should probably take one but it was the last thing I wanted. I hit the first aid station and took 2 cups of water, one to drink and one to dump down my chest. Then I saw the kids with the sponges and the hose. Oh yeah!!! I ran through the spray of the hose and grabbed two sponges. One I squeezed over my head and the other I shoved down the back of my tri top. That felt so much better. I felt like my energy was flagging a bit but I pushed on, despite the unsettled feeling in my stomach. I was passing a lot of guys and the occasional woman which kept me motivated to keep pushing. Running back towards transition was nicer as you actually had some shade but it was ever so slightly up hill, which was a bit of an energy suck. Once you closer to transition to what the race organizers called "The Iron Mile" the crowds got bigger and the noise level increased substantially. This part of the course was basically outdoor bars so pretty much all the spectators were drinking and cheering people on. At some points they were lining the road like in the Tour de France, it was crazy. It gave me the energy boost I needed to go and collect my first wristband. Because the run course was three loops, they gave you a different colour bracelet at the end of each loop so it was easy for race officials to see where you were at.
I got my first wristband and headed out onto the second loop. I was really starting to feel rough. The thought of having to get through this loop and one more was incredibly unappealing. I just wanted to walk. I thought about walking almost constantly for the next couple of km. I told myself I would walk through the aid station when I got there and that's exactly what I did. As soon as I rolled into the aid station I grabbed a water. I was dying. I felt totally gassed. I needed something but I really couldn't face a gel. Then I saw it. It was like a beacon calling to me. Rows and rows of it. Cups of flat Coke. I grabbed one and gulped it down. OMG. It was like food from the Gods. It was exactly what I needed. A few minutes later I was flying along the run course. I picked off a girl with the same coloured wristband as me. Yes!! Before I knew it I was at the turnaround. My game plan was now going to revolve around fueling with Coke. It didn't upset my stomach and it gave me the energy I clearly needed. Nothing like caffeine and sugar to give you the kick in your pants that you need!!
I got to the next aid station and had another cup of water and a Coke. I ran through the spray and grabbed another two sponges. I was soaking wet but at least I felt cool. The sun was still pretty strong on some parts of the run course. I shouldn't have been surprised given that it didn't really get dark until about 10:30 pm! I went through waves of feeling great and then feeling crappy. The sugar high would wear off and I'd start to suffer. I wished the aid stations were a little closer together. I went through the second loop in a bit of a haze. All I could think about was how much I wanted to stop. I was tired and I was starting to feel sore. Mentally I was checking out. I had to get my head back in the game or else I was going to start walking. I started to focus on people in front of me, trying to figure out who I could catch. I'd pick a person and will myself forward. I told myself the only time I'd allow myself to stop was at the aid station. There were only two on the course so that meant I could stop twice. That was going to have to be enough. Much like my Ironman marathons, my mantra became just make it to the next aid station. I got to the second aid station and came to a full stop. I grabbed a cup of water and two cups of coke. I walked over to the table with the oranges and had a slice. I walked over to the kids with the hose and had them spray me. I grabbed another sponge and tossed my old one. Then I went to the curb to stretch my hamstrings an ship which were both starting to hurt. I could have parked myself on the curb and taken a nice little break. I think I was probably here for at least a minute if not longer. Then a girl that I had passed earlier ran by as I was stretching and that was motivation for me to get my ass in gear and go.
As I ran towards the wristband check to get my third and final wristband, I started to pick up speed. I don't know if it was the crowd, or the thought that I only had another 7km to go. Less than 35 minutes at my current pace. I could suffer through 35 minutes. I had caught the girl that passed me and I was reeling in another that also had the same amount of wristbands that I had. I didn't feel like I was moving quickly but I guess I was. I was actually passing some guys. Which wasn't difficult given that 85% of the participants were men! It still made me feel good to actually pass people, especially on my last loop. I was coming up on the first aid station and stopped and walked through it, grabbing a coke, water and a sponge on my way through. I glanced at my Garmin. I had no idea what the time of day was, I could only guess. I had estimated that I'd finish around 6:15-6:30 depending on how my day went. I tried to scroll through my Garmin to see if it would give me an overall time but in my current state, anything more than scrolling through the screens was going to require more effort than I was capable of physically and mentally so I put it back to the original screen and kept going.
The timing on the run course seemed to be off as did the distance. I didn't realize that until the second loop. It could have been because I was running loops but the closer I got to finishing, the more obvious it became. My Garmin hit 19km and I was telling myself that I only had 2km left. Less than 10 minutes at my current pace. The next thing I knew, I was running through the IronMile and I could see the turn off to the finishing chute. I ran past the wristband crew and flashed my wrists and they pointed me to the finishing chute. I almost started crying right then and there. I was hurting so much. I made the turn down the side street and then took the turn into the finishing chute like a woman possessed. I was crying and laughing all at the same time. The closer I got to the finish line, the bigger my grin got. I saw G within meters of finishing and he caught my absolute favourite race picture ever. Even the official race pics aren't this good!
I didn't even have the where-with-all to look at the clock as I passed under the finish line. I didn't really care, I was just happy to be done. I hobbled over to a volunteer and he congratulated me and handed me my medal and I got a bottle of water and went off in search of G. I found him quickly and he was grinning from ear to ear. I ran over to him and hugged him, breaking into tears in the process. That was so hard.... Then G asked me if I saw my finishing time. I said no and then he told me: You finished in 5:09:57. You were 10th in your age group.
Holy crap. And he told me I ran a 1:35 half. I can remember when running a regular 1:35 half was a dream for me, never mind running it after a 90km bike ride and a 2km swim!
My goal at the beginning of all this was to break 5:30. Then when I started doing the math, I figured 5:15 would be possible. If I had a REALLY good day then maybe I might even break 5:00 hours. But if I came in between 5:00-5:15 I'd be a happy camper. And a happy camper I was. When I started this journey, I was excited by the possibilities. I wanted to be able to race a half well. I can honestly say I gave it my all. In the days that followed the race, I thought about what I'd do differently, if anything, and you know what? I wouldn't change a thing.
There is a small army of people to thank and I have several post race thoughts that have been running through my head so there will be another post later on this week. Perhaps from the French Alps....
I hope everyone back home is enjoying their Canada Day long weekend!
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