By the time I got out on to the run course, I was ecstatic to say the least.
I had hit my bike time goal getting back in to T2 by 4:30 pm, giving me plenty of time to try to finish the marathon before midnight -- 7 1/2 hours to be exact.
The very first marathon I ever did was Chicago Marathon in 2000. I had only been running for one year. I had started this whole "running" thing late (I was in my early 40s) and got sucked in to the marathon mystique after seeing an ad for the Chicago Marathon with a tag line that read something like "Join 40,000 of your close, personal friends".
I turned to Hubby and said "I can't be last of 40,000, can I"? He said "No" and I signed up.
Up until then, I had really only done some 5 and 10Ks. I was in a training class that was supposed to focus on helping improve abilities for people that ran 5Ks up to 1/2 marathons. In reality, it was a class full of experienced and speedy runners who really wanted nothing to do with chubby, old, slow me.
I didn't tell a soul in that class that I had signed up for Chicago. I did one long run of 15 miles before the race. I went in to Chicago under trained, over optimistic and fairly naive.
I finished in 6:47.
Not a great finish, but a finish and the start to my illustrious running career, which hurtled me in to my even more illustrious triathlon career.
The point behind this walk down memory lane? That with 7 1/2 hours to complete the IM WI marathon, I was pretty confident that I'd cross the finish line, as I was much more trained, prepared, thinner and ready than I was in 2000, when it took me 6:47. Even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.
My running plan was to get in to a rhythm where I'd run for 3 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. I had done all my long, slow distance runs over the summer using this model successfully. Greg, my coach, had me do most of my long runs during the week after work. His logic was that I'd be tired after work (he was right) and I'd be running at night. Tired and night running were expected for race day (night) so this was perfect.
The other prep that helped me was knowing where the mile markers were on the marathon course this year. While IM WI does not post mile markers on the actual run course, they finally posted them on the course map. (I am not great at judging distances; don't always wear my Garmin (I know. Blasphemy.).
The course map displayed miles by two, starting with 2. (So it was mile 2, 4, 6 (State Street) turn around: Then 6, 8 12 (1/2 turn around), repeat).
Mentally, I knew I could do 8 track laps (or 2 miles). I knew that, at worse, I could just talk to myself about track laps.
The 3/1 rhythm started out okay and it did "hold" to about mile 6. I did take a couple of extra long walk breaks, but I did keep a good pattern going.
My good friend from work -- Mark L, who completed IM WI in 2010 and is doing IM AZ this year, came, was waiting out near Camp Randall. The first time I saw him, things were going well.
After mile 6, I started to have my first "real" problem of the day. I got nauseous.
This was nothing new, though. Happened to me in 2010 and 2011. I had done a good job with my nutrition on the bike and was taking in coke, chicken broth, water on the run, but about mile 7, every thing looked and tasted terrible. I could not choke down any solids; the coke tasted bad; the chicken broth tasted worse.
Mark started in on me about eating. "I know, I know", I said. But ate nothing.
The rest of the Imoo Crew were staged at various parts of the course and were texting and calling each other. They all knew that I wasn't eating. They all chirped in about me taking in something to eat. It wasn't happening.
I got to the 1/2 wellllllll before the cutoff, which felt fantastic (mentally). Physically, my stomach was still a mess.
I stopped at Special Needs and grabbed a couple sips from a Coke bottle and took a salted nut roll to carry with me as I trotted -- okay, walked briskly -- out for the second loop.
I had so looked forward to that silly salted nut roll bar. I love them. They are delicious. I reserve them only for races, so they are a very special treat.
Now, the thought of this salted nut roll bar was nauseating. I was hoping that, at some point, things would turn around and I'd be able to eat it.
I kept run/walking (which was now more walk, walk, walk/run/walk walk walk) along the course. Natalie found me and was so encouraging -- I fessed up to her that I was starting to get worried about the cut offs.... She assured me that I had nothing to worry about; that there was plenty of time.
I got back to State Street for the second loop and saw Greg and his girlfriend Devon there. Greg finished in 10:14. Yes, 10:14. His swim was 53 minutes. His bike was great. He had a little 'struggle' on the run, and finished in TEN FOURTEEN. Then he showered, changed, ate and came out to see me on the course. (See why I like him so much???)
He ran with me for a block or two, providing a much needed pep talk (including "eat something"). (Yes, he ran after he finished his IM in 10:14. He is a great coach).
I got back out on to the Lakeshore Path and Gary was waiting for me. We walked along and all of a sudden, Hubby and Mark were there too. EVERYONE was telling me to eat something. I just wasn't having it.
I finally tried to eat my salted nut roll. It didn't taste good and I didn't have much saliva at the time to help chew/swallow it. I ended up spitting out most of it and throwing the bar out for the critters along the path.
Mark and Gary peeled off about mile 21 to head back to the finish. Hubby stayed with me and was chiding me to eat. I finally snapped at him a bit. "ENOUGH WITH THE EATING". I didn't mean to snap, I was just tired of hearing people to tell me to eat, when I just wanted to throw up. Or poop.
Oh! Maybe that would help! So, I told Hubby to go back to the finish and I hit the portapotty. That actually helped a bit. Got back out on to the loneliest part of the course -- the on the Lakeshore Path from Walnut Street out to Lake Mendota Drive.
This year, there were plenty of other runners around me, and most of us were walking. I started to do the math in my head again and the light bulb clicked on, in glorious bright, neon flashing colors: even if I didn't run one more step, I had plenty, plenty, plenty of time to cover 4.6 miles before midnight.
I did run, though. I ran from one light pole to the next; then walked one light pole to the next; then ran, then walked until I got back to Walnut Street.
I spotted some Cheezits on the aid table.
"CHEEZITS?" My brain said: "They look delicious!"
One of the volunteers had brought the box to the station to share with other volunteers. (Cheezits are not an official "ironman" snack...). I asked if I could have some and the volunteer cheerfully poured some in to my hand.
HEAVEN. Nutrition! Maybe better said: Calories.
The combination of knowing I was going to finish in time and having something to eat -- finally -- lifted my mood in a big way.
So did seeing Hubby again on Walnut Street. He had waited for me after I told him to go back to the finish.... he tells me that the difference between when the time I left him to when I found him again was like night and day. I was much chippier, had more bounce in my step and he knew that I would finish too.
He did have to leave me to take the short cut back to the finish. I just kept trotting along back to the Capital. I saw Mark one last time near the stadium. I got to see Marcia for a little bit on the last stretch down Dayton. I ran in to another work friend, Jeff, as I was reaching State Street. Jeff and a couple of his friends had come down to Madison to volunteer so they could sign up for the 2013 race. He is a super triathlete and has always been very supportive of my slow, plodding efforts.
I got to Capital Square and knew it was only a few turns and I'd be at the finish. I still couldn't quite muster a run, but just walked along as quickly as I could.
I saw Tiffany S -- another superstar athlete, who called me over to give me a big hug.
I saw Natalie's smiling face peering around a corner. I went to give her a great big hug.
Right before the last turn, Gary was there. Again, another huge hug.
I took that last turn and started to run. I saw the finish banner and I tried as hard as I could to just open myself up to the experience of running down the chute. There were lots of people lined up on both sides; lots of cheering; Lots of lights.
I listened for Mike Reilly to call out my name, but didn't hear a thing. (I think it was too loud or I was just in a daze).
I crossed the line jumping for joy. Literally. There are photos of me jumping up and down.
Mike and Jenny Wimmer, my bloggy and IM friends, who had started the morning as wet suit strippers, were there at the finish voluteering as catchers.
It was really wonderful to have them there for me at the end. Big hugs; big smiles.
I got my hat, my shirt, my medal. My finisher picture and then 'poof' it was back out the finish exit to find Hubby and the Imoo Crew.
I felt GREAT. Tired but great. It took three years, a lot of time, sweat and dollars, but I was -- I am -- finally an IRONMAN!