Becoming an Ironman: the Run

After handing off my bike to an amazing volunteer (there were other volunteers asking if you were alright and if you needed anything!), I walked, along with others, to grab my run bag. I felt no need to rush, as I was about to embark on a 26.2 mile run.

By this time, it was warming up, and I thought it would  be a nice time for a shower of some sort to pass by. But, Mother Nature had the rain happen at last years event, not this years. I sat down in the changing tent and a volunteer brought me a cup of water. The volunteer was SO helpful and patient with me! I changed into running shorts and put on a new pair of bright compression calf sleeves (so that I would “stand out” and family could find me more easily). I grabbed my race belt, visor, sunglasses, and a Honey Stinger, and walked outside and asked the Sunscreen volunteers if I could have some sunscreen (i forgot to put it on my legs for the ride–oops). I’ve never had three people apply sunscreen to various parts of my body before! They were dancing and singing– under different circumstances one might see this as some sort of rite of passage in a cult. But in an Ironman, it is totally acceptable to have people smear suntan lotion all over you! I thanked them, and was out of transition.

Bike-to-run transition time: 7:23

The Run

Just like arriving back into town on the bike, leaving the town of Lake Placid was amazing. There were people everywhere cheering for you as you ran. I heard a lot of “Go Molly!!!!! You can do it!” and then I heard a lot of “Go Holly, Go!” which made me chuckle to myself. Heck, I’ll take anyone cheering a name that rhymes with my real one! Since I had not eaten as much on the second loop of the bike I worked on eating the honey stinger. The last time I had run a marathon was two years ago on my 27th birthday. I had no idea how this run would go; the longest training run I had during my training was 14 miles (oops) so I just decided to jog to each aid station, walk through the aid station, then jog again. I had no idea what time of day it was. I just knew that I finished the ride in 7 1/2 hrs, and the swim in under 1 1/2 hours, so that meant I had 7 hours left to complete the marathon.

Completely doable.

The first three miles out of town to the ski jumps was mostly downhill, which was quite nice. I kept my pace easy– I didn’t want to get tired out too quickly– and just kind of ran along. I knew I had a friend, Bev, volunteering down at the ski jumps, which gave me something to look forward to.

My nutrition plan for the run was to have something ever 4-5miles, and have a sip of water or gatorade when I felt like it. The aid stations had cookies, gels, pretzels, gu chomps, oranges, gatorade, coke, water, ice…you name it. Mentally, I broke the marathon into 4- 6 mile chunks (because, when you do the math, 26.2/4= 6, right???? Well, to someone who just finished 9 hours of continued exercise, it made perfect sense.) I saw Bev, and was overjoyed. Seeing her helped me get through the out-and-back portion of the run. At mile 4, I decided to have some gu chomps. As I walked, my intestines decided they were done with the race. Apparently, I am not the only athlete who had GI issues on the run. In fact, it is completely normal to see people vomiting along the course, or hear people’s major flatulence issues. I made it a point to bring some tums along with me, as I had read people advise bringing some along.

I felt a bit worried that, by mile 5, my intestines were in major turmoil. Instead of having the goal to get to each aid station in order to get ice or water, my goal was to get to the aid stations because they had port-a-johns there. Let me tell you, there is nothing more rancid smelling than those things along an Ironman run course. I must have a weak gag reflex, even for being a nurse, after having to go in them. But, I kind of had no choice.

Volunteers were, again, amazing, and despite the intestinal discomfort, I kept truckin’ along. Once I hit mile 6, I was excited that I was about to head back into town, where I would get to pass Bev, and see Kevin, Jen, and my parents.

Looking forward to seeing these two!

Looking forward to seeing these two!

Once you hit the Ski Jumps, you have to go up the hill you ran down to get into town. At this point, most people walk. I ended up chatting a bit with someone who had a neat water bottle carrier, and figured my walking pace was faster than my running pace. All I wanted to do was get to the turn around point in town and see my family. I felt hot, and took the opportunity to stuff ice cold sponges in my top, which helped cool me down. (A spectator later told me what good use of sponges I had! Hahah– the spectators were the best).

I jogged up the hill in Lake Placid to Mirror Lake Drive (where the run special needs bags were), along the way I glanced through the crowds to find those familiar faces. Finally, I saw everyone which made me extremely happy.

First loop almost done!

First loop almost done!

Okay Molly, just get to the turn around, and you can give everyone a hug!

I finally reached the turn around after walking most of mile 12 because my intestines were relentless. I had no idea how I was going to do another 13.1 miles feeling this way. But I kept thinking, I am so close to finishing! I am so close!

When I got back to my family, I gave everyone a hug, and went back out for the last 13.1miles of my 140.6 mile adventure.

They say the last half-marathon of the marathon run is more mental than physical. And, I think that is true. I was prepared to be in more physical pain than I was, which was good, I guess. But my body was tired. I was no longer jogging from aid station to aid station. I would pick out a tree or landmark, jog upto it, then walk. I told myself I would jog the downhills and flats, and walk up the hills, which helped pass the miles.

Then,at mile 18, when I thought, “yes! only 6 more miles!” it dawned on me that, no, it wasn’t 6 more miles until the finish– i had EIGHT miles to go. Oops. I guess we know now that it is a good thing I didn’t become a math teacher.

At this point, more and more people were walking than running. I was able to give some tums away to some other people who were like me and had some “issues” going on. I imagined the eight mile run I did back in Rhinebeck. You can totally do this. It’s only eight more miles.

At the same time, I was so tired. My lungs hurt. It was hard to even muster energy to thank the volunteers.

By this time, the sun was setting. On my way back to the ski jumps, I really wish I was able to carry a camera, because it was gorgeous. If I saw people running past me and start to feel disheartened when my body wouldn’t let me run, I kept thinking, this is a race against you, not them. I thought about things in my past that had discouraged me, and those things and those people who had left their marks on me gave me the energy to keep going. To prove them wrong.

When I got into town, it was dark. I was tired. The crowds were still there, and still amazing. I saw my family, Kevin, and Jen, and waved as tears started to flow. I was so close to the finish, and yet had another mile/mile and a half to go.

I think it was the longest mile I have ever had to run.

I could hear Mike Reilly at the finish chute. I could hear the cheering. I wanted my body to run, but it wanted to walk.

I walked most of that mile, and chatted with yet another person, this time, about how long this last mile seemed to be.

We were all in the same boat. It wasn’t just a long mile for me, it was a long mile for a lot of other athletes.

When I got closer to the finish, I started to run. As I started to run, there was no holding back the tears. I saw my dad, gave him a huge hug, and started bawling.

“Okay Molly, you are almost there! Keep it together! You got this!”

I’m going to be an Ironman. Holy crap, I’m going to finish! I kept thinking. 

As I ran, I passed all the spectators cheering for me, and for others running with me. They make you feel like you are a winner.

I ran up to the finish, and stopped.

I heard Mike Reilly say, “You are an Ironman!”

I did it.

I made my dream come true.

Most awkward finish photo?

Thanking God that I finished! Gotta love the guy in front of me, too 😛

I’m an Ironman!

Months of preparing for this, and just like that, I was done. It took me 14 hrs and 27 minutes, which was a surprise, because it was two hours faster than I anticipated.

A volunteer took me in is arms and another gave me a bottle of water. Then, someone placed the finishers medal around my head. Everyone congratulated me, and the volunteers were amazing. They stayed with me, to make sure everything was okay. After I took the finishers photo, another volunteer gave me a thermal blanket and asked me if I wanted anything to eat.

“There is pizza, coke, sprite, water, gatorade, hot chocolate, chicken broth.. french fries..” He went on.

“Wait, french fries???” If you know me (hint hint, Jen) then you know I LOVE french fries!

This was the most perfect post-race food, ever….If only I was hungry.

I sat down for a second and then realized I wanted to find my family; I didn’t feel like sitting and eating by myself. I heard my name and saw Jen, Kevin, and my parents. Floods of tears came back.

“I did it! I did it!” I was still in shock that I finished. At this point, everyone was crying. Hugs were given, and photos were taken.

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My man.

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My soul sister

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It is a day I will always cherish and never forget.

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My family.

There were a few times in my training I didn’t think I would be able to finish the race– from surgery a couple months ago, to time taken away from training for my new job, and school– life seemed to happen. But ten months ago I was determined to finish this adventure that I had started, and finish I did.

A HUGE thank you to Kevin, Jen, my parents: for a long day of waiting, and driving hours to see me. There is nothing more important than family, and I love you all.

For Jen D.,  a fellow RN, and Lisa and Bev, fellow triathletes, for cheering for me!

And for those of you who sent me letters– THANK YOU! They meant SO much to me 🙂

To my coach, and Jane, thanks for helping me out!!

IMLP: The Bike

Transition 1 time (swim -to-bike): 9:14

The Bike

As athletes were  running though the Olympic Oval, there were volunteers on walkie-talkies relaying athlete’s numbers, so that once you got closer to your bike, a volunteer was there with your bike waiting. I ran the bike to the mount line, pulled to the side (so I would not be murdered by other athletes on their bikes), and hopped on the seat that would be the place I’d sit put for the next 7+ hours. Right after I mounted, I heard someone call my name which made me smile (anytime someone shouts your name you get a little burst of energy). Heading out onto the bike course has a couple sharp turns, and is downhill, so I took my time. I ate a luna bar and the bike portion of IMLP began.

The course heads down through Lake Placid, past the famous ski jumps, and then has a gradual 7 mile incline before you head down the famous Keene Descent. Having read as many Lake Placid race course information guides/blogs as I possible could in the past couple of months, I came to LP fearing this descent. People said it was dangerous, curvy, fast, and terrifying. To me, going down from Tannersville to Palenville on a tribike is terrifying, and I assumed this descent would be the same. But I was mistaken. The descent itself is not scary– it is all the crazy triathletes around you that is the scary part. I stayed to the left because I love going fast, but I soon realized that “slower cautious” triathletes had the tendency not to stick to the right side of the road and veer right in front of me, I had to slow down a bit (note: I think it is presumed that if you plan on being slow, you stay to the right side of the road, so that speed demons can be on the left). People can reach 50+mph on that road. I, however, was not one of them.

Looking back at part of the Keene descent (not on race day!)

Looking back at part of the Keene descent (not on race day!)

Anyway, I heard in the Endurance Nation talk that you should be conservative on the first loop of the ride, and let everyone pass you; you should focus on nutrition and hydration during the first 30 miles (after the descent that is). So, that is what I tried to do. From mile 7 to 30, it is basically descent and flats: perfect for eating/drinking. My goal was to take in one cliff bar per hour (~230-240cals) and take in water ever 20-25 minutes. Then, depending on how much I sweat, take 1-2 salt tabs/hour. I went as fast as my legs felt comfortable: I knew the course was long, so I didn’t feel the need to go super fast.

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At about mile 35 you start going uphill from Jay to Wilmington. I was prepared for this (thanks to the EN talk!) and at this point I was starting to feel a bit hot. (Mistake to wear arm warmers!) From this point until you head back into Lake Placid, it is basically 21 miles of gradual uphill. But, gorgeous uphill, with rivers and amazing views. Within the last 10 miles of the course are what are called “the Three bears”: Mama bear, baby bear, and pappa bear. These are three hills. Truth be told, they actually aren’t the worst hills in the world (right after pappa bear, which is the steepest of the three, there is another little hill that you need to go up–I think they should call that one grandpa bear) and all the climbing I’ve done in the Catskills and Gunks really prepared me well for the bike course. On each side of Pappa Bear there are people cheering you on, which is pretty cool.

Back in town, you stop at the bike special needs to grab anything you might need. I took off my arm warmers and made another mistake by putting on sun sleeves which were NOT at all “cooling” like they advertised. In fact, they were BOILING. Right when I was heading back to on the second loop of the bike, I saw my friend Lisa which was pretty cool, as I seem to have missed Kevin and Jen.

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The second loop I did the same thing: focus on nutrition and to just keep pedaling. I stopped at an aid station to get sun tan lotion applied, since the sun sleeves had to go. The aid stations were great. People are ready to help with whatever you need, even if that is spraying on sunscreen.

After that stop, I started to feel waves of nausea ripple through my stomach. I wasn’t sure if it was because I wasn’t hydrating enough, or over hydrating, or not eating enough. I just kept pedaling and tried not to think of the nausea. Then, a friend Don pulled up beside me (yay!!! a familiar face!) and asked how I was doing. “Honestly, I’m feeling kinda sick right now and don’t know what to do.”

He suggested maybe taking it easy on the nutrition and sticking to water for a bit. (The food in my stomach was probably sloshing around unable to be digested as fast as I was eating.) I welcomed any advice at this point, and, eventually, the nausea subsided.

Similarly to the swim, I tend to count miles on the ride– only 30 miles left. Only 15miles left. I know rides around my house that are those distances, and it makes it easier to “determine” how much longer I would be on the bike.

When we hit mile 100, I was ready to be off. I was done with riding. My feet started to scream at me with sharp pain and each pedal stroke was miserable. I tried imagining I was pedaling on water to help ease the pain. It didn’t work. I tried to take a bike of a cliff bar, because I had not been keeping to my nutrition plan (due to the stomach issues) and one bite made me want to vomit. Cliff bars had become repulsive. So I sipped gatorade and tried some cliff gummies. I kept waiting for the three bears to come along and it seemed like forever until I saw the little markings for the bears on the road. Once I passed Pappa Bear and headed towards town I started getting a little emotional. (Being emotional is a common theme for me in this race). I could feel tears filling my eyes thinking, “I’m almost done with the bike! I’m almost 2/3 done!” Coming back into town is amazing, because there are lots of people along the course encouraging you to keep going. I saw Jen and Kevin and was so excited– I was scared that I would miss them in town because I had not been very precise with my timing.

My favorite picture: this is my friend Jen cheering me on!

My favorite picture: this is my friend Jen cheering me on! She was literally a foot in the air!

Then before heading back into the Olympic Oval, I was surprised to see my parents which was exciting. I never give up the opportunity to wave while on the bike, as you can see.

Hiiiii

Hiiiii

I dismounted the bike, and was beyond joyful that I was off the bike and had only one more thing to complete: the run!  Volunteers grabbed your bike from you, and I ran to grab my run bag and head back into the women’s changing tent.

Elevation profile of the ride

Elevation profile of the ride

Bike time: 7:29 (pretty stoked since it was my first ride longer than 102 miles!) In retrospect, the bike course is not as bad as I thought it would be. It was difficult, but very doable, and not nearly as tough as Quassy’s bike course.

…To be continued….

Lake Placid Swim Recap: “I’m Crying Because I Have to Poop!”

My alarm went off at 4am and I woke up feeling pretty ready for the day I’ve been waiting months for. I prepared PB&J sandwiches for breakfast for Kevin and I and had a cup of coffee, whilst getting dressed and filling water bottles.We were out the door headed to Lake Placid forty minutes later. Like most other athletes, I had been watching the weather closely and low and behold, the weatherman was incorrect in that it was not thunderstorming (is that a word?) but only drizzling out.

pre-race B-fast

pre-race B-fast

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We parked, took a shuttle into the town, and I went over to get my body marked with my race numbers. The town was bustling with athletes and spectators, and the once-empty race bag racks were now filled. I dropped off my dry run/bike clothes, prepared my bike, got into my wetsuit, and went back out to find Kevin and drop off the bike and run special needs bags.

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Mike Reilly!

Mike Reilly!

The bike transition is a bit of a walk from the swim start, and so were the bag drop-offs. By this time, it was about 0600, and people were beginning to line up at the swim start. Ofcourse, after dropping of my special needs bags, nature called and I needed to get into a port-a-john line that was insanely long. But, what can you do when nature calls? So I stood in the extremely slow moving line with Kevin while my anxiety rose. I was worried I would not be at the swim start in time. Instead of focusing on the swim, my focus and stress was on getting to the port-a-john. Seriously. They should put out more of those things; Lord knows a lot of people will be using them! As time ticked away and it got closer to 0630 I started to panic. My friend, Jen, found us, and by this point I was fighting back tears. “I am not going to have time to go! This line is SO SLOW!!!!”

“Just line up and go in your wetsuit.” Jen suggested

“No no, I have to do number two!”

“Ohh.Yeah, can’t do that in a wetsuit.”

I looked around and then the tears came. I wasn’t going to make it in time to go to the bathroom and get to the swim start. The people in front of me were looking at me like I was crazy. And, they are right I probably was crazy at that point.

“I can’t believe I am crying because I have to poop.”

Never in my life have I had such stress over this matter.

“You will have time! Don’t stress!”

A few tears too late. I kept wiping my eyes, slightly embarrassed I was crying over such a matter.

About a million minutes later, I was able to get business done and zip up in my wetsuit. I hugged my race support team and after a few moments was off headed to the crowd of 2400 athletes about to head into Mirror Lake to start their race.In retrospect, such anxiety over having to go to the bathroom totally diverted all my emotions away from the swim, so by the time I ran over to the swim start, I felt very little anxiety in regards to the swim start. The IM race has a rolling start to the swim, according to the time you think you will finish in. It was so packed that I was in the 1:44-2hr swim time. But I didn’t really care. I was aiming to finish the swim in 1:30-1:40 (based on the one other 2.4 mile OWS I did in training) and figured I could always go faster in the water once I was in.

Sea of green and pink

Sea of green and pink

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Right before we entered the water, volunteers were at the start high-fiving you as you entered the water. Mirror Lake is pretty awesome, in that it has a yellow underwater cable that runs the swim course. You really don’t need to sight if you are over the cable. However, every swimmer wants to be over that cable, and I veered as far away from it as I could. (Away from the cable= away from mass of swimmers). I was able to get into a comfortable swimming rhythm pretty much right away, which is far from what I felt during the swim at Quassy Half (during that swim I think I did breaststroke more than freestyle). There were some people that kept swimming into me, but for the most part until I hit the turn buoy, I was able to keep my distance from people. I kept the pace comfortable and then started to count. 1…2…3….25….73…..100 I am not really sure why I count when I swim outside– maybe it is an automatic mental response to help pass the time? Or help with nerves? Anyway, once I reached 100 I started to count from 1 again. When I reached the turn buoy, I was faced with lots of swimmers swimming into each other as they turned. I tried to swim to the outside of everyone, and had to stop and figure out what was happening. I actually heard a swimmer shout “C’mon people! Take it easy!” Basically, a giant cluster f-ck.

When I turned to head back to the start, I was able to get back into an easy pace and try to focus on my form. As the speaker at Endurance Nation said, only swim as fast as you can keep your form. So, that is what I did. And I then began to count.

I reached the beach, where you have to get out of the water and run to enter it again for your second 1.2 mile loop. I was excited that I finished the first loop–it wasn’t as hard as I imagined it to be–and I purposefully did not look at my watch. I did not want whatever time it was to cause me to get anxious over being too slow. I entered the water again, and the counting began. Between the counting, I kept thinking, “holy crap, I am swimming in an ironman right now!”

I finally reached the swim finish and looked at my watch: 1:21. Holy crap! I wasn’t expecting to finish that fast, and to think i was even taking it easy so not to wear myself out.

Trying to get my wetsuit over my watch. Face of determination?

Trying to get my wetsuit over my watch. Face of determination?

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i was thrilled to finish my second 2.4mile OWS ever. 1/3 of the race was done! I ran over to a wetsuit stripper and they peeled my wetsuit off (hallelujah!) and I started the jog back to transition. On my way, I saw Kevin and Jen in the crowd.”I finished the swim!!!” I exclaimed.

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Happy face!

The transition, as I mentioned before, is quite a little jog from the swim finish. Once I reached the Oval, I grabbed my bike bag and headed to Women’s changing tent. I had read about this part in blogs before, and people’s description of the tent was spot on. There were chairs to sit in, and it was warm and filled with partially naked wet women changing frantically into their bike gear. Volunteers were great, and helped you grab what you needed from your bag. Since I had no plans on winning this race (hahaha) I decided I wanted to be comfortable on the 112 mile bike ride so I changed into bike shorts and put on my Fats in the Cats Bike jersey. I can now say that I am butt buddies with another random woman after bumping into her when I was changing. I made sure I had everything, put on my helmet, and ran around the oval (more running?!?) to get my bike.

…To be Continued

When was the last crazy post written?

July 2015
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