Sunday, April 20, 2008
I hand my bike off to the volunteer and make the wobbly dash over to the bike to run rows of bags. I know that my transition bag is at the back of the row and it doesn't take me too long to find it. Into the transition tent I go and find a seat to start switching from bike gear to run gear. With shaky hands, I get my helmet, gloves and cycling shoes off and into the bag while I pull out my running shoes and hat. The only other thing to add is my fuel belt and I am off on the run. As I go to exit transition I am stopped by a volunteer who says I need more sunscreen and she begins to just plaster me with the stuff. Finally after 5:34 in transition I'm on my way. We exit out onto the pathway along the lake and I can already feel the heat radiating up through the pavement to my feet. However, I am surprised at how strong my legs feel. They have come right back to me and I start trying to settle into some sort of a run rhythm. My pace is erratic to say the least as in the first 800 metres I have been everywhere from below 6 minute miles to 9 minute miles. This would be my struggle over the first part of the race. I just can't seem to find a comfortable pace.
On the run there are aid stations every mile. I had consumed every bit of nourishment I had on the bike so I need to start getting some calories back into me. At the first station I grab water, Gatorade, and some cookies. My plan is to shuffle through the aid stations and get the stuff into me. I find no problem getting going again and I continue on. I am still struggling with pacing as I find I am way too slow or way too fast. This continues for the next 3 aid stations and then by mile 5 I finally start to find a bit of a groove. Unfortunately it is way slower than I expected and I am starting to feel some incredible tightness in my quads. So this is the way it is going to be.
The course loops around the lake, goes through the transition area, and back out across the lake and through a number of paths on the other side. Each loop was roughly eight miles or so and before long I have one under my belt. By this time I have accepted that I am not going to have any great time on the run, but I'm fine with it. I do know that I am going to finish and that I will still have a good time. So the march from aid station to aid station continues. Loading up with food, drinks and sponges to try and keep myself cool. By now there are groups of athletes walking together just trying to get through this. On the second lap I am starting to not be able to run from station to station but I continue to pick points to run to and I am at least staying disciplined enough to do that. The heat is really getting to me and on a few occasions I feel a little light headed. At the next aid station I spend a little more time dousing myself with water to cool the exterior and also loading up with some Gatorade. I continue to take my thermolyte capsules but they are melting in the pocket of my Fuel Belt and are all stuck together.
On the second lap I have gotten even slower. The whole run is going downhill faster than an episode of Jerry Springer, but I am going to hang in there. There are a lot of people thinking about quitting now. Angela told me about one guy who was walking back towards transition as he was obviously set to call it a day. She said a volunteer hopped out onto the course and put his arm around the runner."You can do this buddy", he is telling the guy. "Even if you walk the whole thing you will still make the cut-off". As he is telling him this, he is gently turning him the other way and the athlete is soon headed the right way again and starts back off. These volunteers are incredible.
At the twelve mile mark I finally see Angela. This is the first time that I see her even though I have been getting cheering all day from the thousands of spectators on the course. At the Ironman races they put your name on your bib and the people are very good about calling out to you by name. It is a nice touch and really personalizes the cheering. When I see her she is somewhat surprised that I am only part way through lap 2 as she had saw me get off the bike.
Now I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know the last loop will be a battle but I am prepared for it. Each mile is getting me closer and other than a blister on my right heel and the crazy heat I am feeling okay. At mile 16 I see a fellow athlete being scraped up off the pavement and put into an ambulance. I can't imagine coming all this way and not being able to get the last little bit done. But on a day like this, it is out of your control in some instances.
As the sun starts to set there is a sense that it is cooling off a bit. Not a lot, but a bit! Temperatures today have exceeded 95 degrees farenheit! It has been a scorcher for sure. When I get to mile 20 I can't believe I still have 10 kilometers to go. I am really digging deep to play some mind games to get through this last part. I am now running by my watch, run 5 minutes, walk 1, and walk through every aid station. Mile 22 passes through the transition area and has the largest concentrated area of spectators so I manage to run through this area and keep a smile on my face. The last 4 miles are better than the first half of the lap. My legs are really tight now but at least I am able to keep up a shuffle for longer periods of time. As I come back over the bridge for the last time I can see the long path down the side of the lake that will take us through to the finish. There is a good downhill, and then it is flat right on through to the end. The last mile meanders through the cheering crowds and there are lots of them. The little kids are up against the fence as you make your way to the Ironman "inflatable" and they hold out their little hands for you to high five them. This is what it is all about! I hear Mike Riley announcing each name as they pass through, "Joseph Power, from Hinton, Alberta, Canada. You are an Ironman!"
Wow! It is over. I did it again! The feeling is overwhelming. The volunteers bundle you up, give you your medal, hat, and the coveted T-Shirt!
Angela is there to greet me when I get out of the finish area. It has been a long, tough, but rewarding day. I am pleased with my time of 13:10:34. It is slower than Couer d'Alene, but I still feel happy with how I executed my plan under these conditions. As we pack up my stuff and head back to the hotel I am already thinking about doing another one. What is wrong with me!
Have a great day!