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!!

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