Tuesday, July 17, 2012

RACE REPORT: Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Part 4 - The Run

I'm sure this is probably the most drawn-out race report in the history of time, but hey, it's summer. You know, that time of peaceful relaxation, long afternoons on the hammock with a novel and a glass of iced tea.... ha ha ha...not in my family!  In reality, I was at the National Open Water Swim Championships this week, swimming my first ever competitive 10k, but I'll have to write that up some other time.

I guess I should finish up my Ironman Race Report, but to be honest, I don't have much desire to write up my running experience. Let's just say it wasn't pretty. It didn't start out too bad though.  I had a good transition: just over 3 minutes, and that included making sure the sunscreeners really coated me up good. I decided to wear my Zoot IceFil arm coolers, which was a great idea given that the day was heating up. Yes, I wore arm warmers in the morning and arm coolers in the afternoon - such is the mercurial temperatures at IMCdA. I also decided to wear my Nike Free shoes, putting my Vibram Five Fingers in my special needs bag in case running in the shoes was bugging my feet too much.

Out of transition, I ran up through town with all the cheering people. Even though it was uphill, it went by fast. I got to see my family and get some encouragement there, and then headed down through the part of the course that winds through the pretty neighborhoods along the lake. This is nice and shady, and people have lawn sprinklers and hoses out so it's easy to stay cool.

Originally I'd aimed to hold a 10:30 pace on the run course, but given the way I'd been feeling so far, I bumped that up to 11:00 per mile. For the first six miles, the plan was to add another :30 per mile and just take it easy. That worked out fine, and left me able to walk through all of the aid stations and make sure I dumped cold water on my arm coolers, got some nutrition in, and then grabbed a cup of ice on the way out and held the biggest pieces in the palms of my hands to help with cooling. This worked really well and my temperature stayed cool even as the day got hotter. The run course is really, really, really beautiful and it's easy to distract yourself with the lovely views of the lake. I can't recommend this course enough!

After six miles you encounter the big hill on the run course. On the bike it doesn't seem like much but it looks a whole lot bigger when you're running! This is a new addition to the IMCdA course from '11 on, and it makes the run course more challenging. Coming back down the hill, my bum knee was giving me some fits, but thankfully it didn't feel bad on the flats. Now it was time to dial the pace back to 11:00 per mile, and it seemed to go okay for a few miles but then my stomach started feeling worse and worse and worse. The mild nausea that I had been experiencing all day was worsened by the running, the fatigue, and probably the warmer temperatures and somewhere around mile 12 it bubbled over and I started throwing up.

Shit! This is not how I wanted to spend my IM marathon! I also remembered my time in the med tent after IMFL and had no desire to see a repeat performance of that extreme dehydration. So here I was leaning over a porta-potty toilet, somewhere right before heading back through downtown and I'll have to say this was my "dark night of the soul" moment. I didn't even want to see my family, I felt so bad. I skipped the next aid station, knowing whatever I put down was going to come back up and I didn't want to throw up in front of all of the people downtown or especially in front of my kids and hubby.

I did decide to stop for my special needs bag and get out my IceFil t-shirt. I changed my singlet out for the t-shirt, knowing it would help keep my core temperature even lower and that might help with the nausea. I didn't need to switch out my socks or shoes, everything else was fine. I took the chewable ginger out of the bag as well and started eating that to help my stomach out. I was also having some chafing down in the...erm...neither regions, due I think to pouring water over my head at the aid stations and having it drip down my back. I did have some Glide in my special needs bag, but I hadn't counted on the Special Needs station being right in front of the crowds! How the heck do you put Glide down your butt crack in front of hundreds of people? Ah, such are the questions you are forced to answer at an Ironman. At least I didn't throw up on anyone.

To make matters even better, as I was debating the Glide/posterior problem, hubby runs up and starts snapping pics with the camera. Now that's a moment I did not need memorialized for posterity! He asked how I was doing and I told him my stomach and my knee were for shit. I'm sure he probably guessed from the look on my face as I tried to put on a brave smile that I was pretty much in trouble. But what's there to do at that point? Keep on running. I saw my kids, and then my step-sons and daughters-in-law cheering wildly. It's amazing how important that becomes when you're facing the dark moments. They brought a smile to my face, and I kept on picking up the feet and putting them down. Coming that close to the finish line and then turning around and running back out of town was so very hard to do. But what's the alternative? Quit in front of your family and friends? Or dig deeper? I dug.

Just out of town I hit up the next aid station and decided I better get some fluids since I skipped the last one. I was hopeful since it had now been almost 3 miles since I threw up. Maybe things would be okay. I poured water on my IceFil shirt and arm coolers, got my ice in hand, and started running. So far so good..... but nope. Half a mile later I'm barfing again. The next couple of miles were basically trying to run, throwing up, walking, trying to run, throwing up, walking. This sucked!

Eventually I figured out that I only threw up once my heart rate started picking up, so I developed a strategy of starting to walk a minute before I got to the aid stations to lower my heart rate. Then drinking some Perform or some chicken broth, and then walking for another minute out of the aid station to keep everything down. At that point I could run to the next aid station and everything stayed down. It slowed my pace down to about 12:45, but I could keep going and at least I wasn't walking the whole thing. At that pace, I figured I could come in just under 13:30. Not what I hoped for, but in my mind it was in the realm of not too awful either.

So that was the whip I used to keep myself going for the last 10 or so miles - I knew if I stayed under 13:00 miles, I could beat 13:30. I know that's pretty arbitrary, but at that point you have to go with whatever works to keep you going. I'm not going to kid you, those miles were hell. I was just teetering on the brink of barfing the whole time and I absolutely stinking hate throwing up. I was just not a happy camper. I hated watching people pass me. I hated knowing that even though I ran my last IM marathon with a dislocated toe for pete's sake, this one was going to be slower. Waaayyyyy slower.

I will admit here I got pretty down on myself. I forgot my personal mantra: that it's a gift to be out there doing this. Not many people can even do this, so why was I busy comparing myself with my own arbitrary goals and with what other people were doing? I let myself get in a bad head space, and couldn't seem to pull it out. This is pretty unusual for me, but there it was.

The final insult was that I had spent all this time calculating out my paces so that I could beat 13:30, but as I passed the 26 mile marker, a volunteer told me "The finish line is only 10 blocks that way!" Ten blocks? I only had a few minutes to make it, and no way is 10 blocks equal to .2 miles. So I didn't even make my own stupid completely arbitrary goal of 13:30. I finished in 13:30:59 instead. I don't know why I let this create a black cloud over my head, but I did. I should've been busy enjoying my accomplishment, but I didn't give it the appreciation that it deserved. Only as I neared the finish line, came through downtown with all of the cheering crowds and all of the excitement, and as I saw my family again that it dawned on me - I was going to actually finish my second Ironman. Suddenly the black clouds were gone and I was just so happy to be done.

Unfortunately, it was a second Medical Tent experience for me. I wish I'd waited to get my photo taken until I emerged from the Med Tent because honestly, I won't even post my photo here - I look positively green, and my expression can best be described as "take the damn picture already before I throw up!" I was in the tent for about an hour and a half until I could get my stomach back under control. Wayne took the kids back to the hotel room so they didn't have to wait around for me.

So my biggest goals for my next Ironman are: 
1) Arrive at start line healthy
2) Stay healthy through the race
3) Don't end up in the Med Tent!

I haven't had good luck with the Ironman. IM #1 (Canada) was a DNS due hospitalization for ulcers and severe anemia, IM #2 (Florida) was an in-race injury with my toe dislocated in the swim, IM #3 (Coeur d'Alene) was food poisoning the week of the race. Surely the fourth time will be a charm? I feel like I have unfinished business with the Ironman.I have raced well at other distances, but never at IM. I want a race where I feel like I live up to my own potential, whatever that may be.

BUT... but, but, but, but.... I am a finisher. I didn't give up. I didn't give in. And really, my time isn't even that bad, even though much slower than my last. More than anything, I will remind myself that I Am An Ironman. I have earned it, and I will enjoy it.


Ironmom (Julie) said...

Great race report! That's why I don't think I'll ever do another one: There's nothing that's ever going to top just being a first-time finisher.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing and what an ordeal to overcome! You are an inspiration to me as I prep for IM Arizona! Congrats!!

Robin said...

I am hoping to come and volunteer at Arizona this year, so maybe I'll get to see you there Erika! Good luck!

George said...

Great race report. I enjoyed it all. Food poisoning the week of Ironman--that's my nightmare. I hope that things come together for you next time!

George said...

And congratulations! Way to tough it out.