Friday, July 29, 2011

The Race of my Life

It was easy for me to write the first two parts of this race report. The words flowed from my heart.  They flowed easily and smoothly.
I have been sitting here looking at the screen for 25 minutes now. 
The Run.
It's not so easy for me to get this out in words to you.
These final 26.2 miles are where it all comes together. You've either set yourself up for success or you risk crumbling into a pile of blubbering mush out on River road somewhere.  Ok, maybe not that bad.  But you do feel like that at times!! 

I burst out of T2 feeling like a million bucks.  Alright fine, maybe only 1000 but I felt good! I was excited to be running, my stomach was happy, I was waving to my family, and I was also in a bit of shock and disbelief over what I had just learned in the tent.

Where was I in this race anyway? It's true, I hadn't really seen any women other than those two I passed on the bike along the way. I saw a whole lot coming at me when we did the 'out and back' before the climb to Wilmington.  I had seen Mary then too. She was looking good. I heard my friend Mike. I saw my friend Bob.  Hmmm......things were beginning to click in my head. I hadn't been caught. I was feeling strong. People were yelling strange comments to me like,"Angela! First woman! Looking good!" 
My head snapped around each time.

At this point, I had a very very serious little talk with myself.  Very serious.  "Ange, this is your race. This is your race to lose or your race to win. Remember those times you allowed your head to go to this place? This unimaginable goal? This thought that maybe, just maybe, if the stars aligned, you Could win this thing? DO NOT let yourself get freaked out with the lead and blow it. Be Smart. Stay steady. Do what you're doing. You are a runner. You're a runner. You're a runner. Steady. Steady." 

I had to bully myself around a bit.  I found myself in a position that as much as I had possible fantasized about, I would never ever reallllllllly imagine could come true.  I'm just me after all.  Just 41 year old Mommy trying to fit in workouts around the kid's lives and family stuff we all have. 

I turned the first corner to run down that giant hill that makes your quads holler at you.  They had a well placed announcer there to help get people UP that hill on the way back through town.  But this time, he yelled my name and number and as I passed two men on the way down he said, "HIT 'EM ON THE ASS ON THE WAY BY!!!"  Ha! I almost did!!!  Too funny. 

Time to run. I felt Fine.  I had way too much 'stuff' in my hands and stuffed in places. My gel flask, a few left over in my back pockets from the bike, two gels in each side of my bra, and a tube of salt tabs along with another stash of salt in my pocket. Typical me to have too much stuff with me!!! I got to station 1 and chucked a few things. 

I made a decision early on to stock up on fluids and calories as much as I could early in the run if I could. My belly was totally clear and happy so I went with that plan. The sun was shining brightly now and it was hot! The big heat wave had broken but mid 80s in full sun on an Ironman run is still hot for a Maine girl.  TIme to be smart.

Each and every aid station:   drink perform, drink water, sip of gel flask, ice stuff anywhere I could, sponges rung out on neck.... Go. I walked as fast as I could be I did stop running each time.

This would later be something that came back to haunt me. Or, did it?

I glanced at the garmin as I ran.  Nearly all sub 7:00 pace.  6:45, 6:50, 7:00, 6:30, 6:45....the thing wobbled back and forth but mainly stayed sub 7.  This was fast for me to start....or was it? I felt easy, in control, and like it was the pace I was meant to do. There are a number of down hill areas on the first segment so that contributed to the fast pace.

I passed Kurt around mile....3? Honestly, I don't know what mile he was at. Right in the middle of that segment anyway.  It was so comforting.  He told me to watch out, it was getting hot, get fluids,salts, calories......  I was on it. I nodded and pushed on.

Next up- moment of truth. 
The 1st turn around.  I allowed myself to stop thinking about the race and just find my legs for the first 5.5 miles.  But when you turn... you are Forced to remember what's happening.

It's when you get to see who is coming to get you!!! And, more importantly, how close they are.

I ran a bit.... and then I saw them. First, a woman in the Ballou Skies kit that I'm familar with from friend and superstar athlete Beth Shutt.  She looked awesome. She honestly looked like she was running a 10K.   oh oh...
and shortly after her was a tiny woman who looked like she was running a 5K!
oh oh again....
I thought I felt good but they looked better.

"Ok, Ange. This is a long long race. Anything can happen to them. Or you. SO BE SMART!!!! Just keep running. Steady and strong. DO not think too much. Do what you're doing. There's a long long way to go." 

So, I continued with my plan. I got in loads of fluids and calories, cooled my body off, and took my salts.

You know what? I felt good. And I was running pretty fast compared to ever before in an Ironman. I was thrilled with my pace. But, you know what??
My legs were KILLING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was honestly, in a lot of pain. 
I think it started with my right quad. How do you describe pain? I thought about that while running. I'm not sure you really can unless you're talking to someone who has done this stuff too? Trust me, it just hurts. It really really hurts.

And yet, my head was clear. I had zero GI issues. No foggy- brain-what am I doing out here moments. So, I powered on. I just had to deal with the pain.

I came upon Kurt again. He moved into the road and counseled me on running the shortest line. "Stay in the middle. Keep it short. You're not even racing yet. You're just jogging. Nice and easy. " 
Umm... not racing? Just jogging?

I yelled, "I'M SURVIVING!!!!" 
heehee... I was hurting! I was surviving. But in Kurt's wisdom he wanted me to know that, "well girl that may be true but you have a loooooong way to go and you need to be ready for that!!!" He didn't say that but I know that's what he meant. 

He also told me this, "you're crushing them. You've got this."
I asked, "what do you mean?? Age group? I'm winning my age group?"
"No no..that's not even a race. You're crushing them all. The whole field."
"But there's a chick running me down....."
I allowed myself to think for a minute that she was a Pro? Maybe? Maybe she didn't realy count?

insert inappropriate swear words here.... 

I think people had to tell me this 5-6x before I truly believed it.  Even after hearing it in the T2 tent and as I ran my first miles, I didn't fully accept it in my brain. It was too big for me to wrap my head around.

Somehow I got up the giant hill.  The announcer guy yelled something like, "Use those arms!!" So, I did. It helped a bit. I flashed back to my High School XC coach yelling the same thing as I tried to crest the Spurwink Hills in my hometown. 

I've talked to people who are indifferent about the cheers and supports of family and friends on the course. I could not be more opposite. I LIVED for hitting the screaming crowds in town.  I felt more energy and life come into my soul as I ran ( was I still running? ) near the olympic oval where the finish line was waiting and down the long long road to the next turn around. The streets were lined with millions of serious Iron spectators that pulled me with their energy. I was able to hear and pick out the yells of personal friends and family. I Loved it so much.  thankyouthankyouthankyou if you were one of them and you're reading this. I'll always remember your cheery faces out there during that sufferfest!

Special Needs bags along run course

Ange and Mary before the start (ok, this is out of order but I had to get it in here somehow. Couldnt' have done this without my BFF.)

I made the turn at the 12mile mark and it was time for a reality check again. Where were those fast women running at me?? I ran over the timing mat and was sad that it didn't beep......  I looked down to confirm the chip was still there.

And then, I saw her. That really fast looking run coming at me in the little blue Ballou Skies tri top. Hmm...she still looks pretty damn strong. And then, I saw the other fast woman behind her.

"Ok, Ok. It's ok. Keep running.... You still feel strong. Ignore the pain. Everyone has pain. I'm sure they're tired too. We're all tired and there's 14 miles to go. Anything can happen."

Heading out of town, there was a young woman who jumped out into the road in front of me. She had done this on the first loop too but I didn't think as much of it (except for what she had said- that I was in 1st) until I saw her again.  Why was she taking such interest in me? It was so cool!! She got right in front of me and said, " You still have this! It's YOUR race!!! You have 5 minutes on girl #2!!!"

I smiled and thanked her and you know what, I was in shock about this the whole day. I never really got used to that.
More self talk:  stay in control, get in your fluids, nice stride, keep going, don't freak out, she can get tired too.....,

who am I kidding. I was talking like that the whole time.

And then, just like that,
The pass was made.

Kudos to Kim S. ( need to look up the spelling on that name again Kim!! )  She was running like a jackrabbit. 

I kept my chin up and knew that if I continued on, I was still in the midst of the race of my life.

She was gone in a flash. There was no running side by side for a while playing, "oh yeah? you want to pass me? work for it." Nope. None of that. I'm sad to say. She just flew. by. me.

I came upon Kurt and he didn't mention that. He just told me to follow the tangents, stay smart and this is the best, "You're going to start to feel really bad soon Ange! take care of yourself!"

WHAT  did he just say???  I laughed out loud at that one I think. For a few reasons. First, I already felt really really bad. Well, my legs hurt really bad at least. And second, who says that??? Ha! Kurt! He's such a realist. Cracks me up. Because it's TRUE! If you thought the first 15 miles hurt, wait for the last 11!!! 

I kept running. I passed people all day long and it was a blast. A guy at the next turn around said,"Hey! you must have been a swimmer! look at those shoulders." That made me laugh too. You got it! But now I need to run the last 10K of this Ironman and I wish my X-butterflier shoulders could help me!!! 

Iron-supporter extraordinaire Marisa Rowlson was on the River Road cheering me like wild and snapping photos!! She had taken my kids and Mary's kids the day before and made awesome posters for us and propped them along the barren road for us!

Nick had his in his had at the finish and it read: "Your gunnu win this thing mommy!!! GO GO"   GO" 

Mark and the boys had put a message on the electronic sign on the course. It said, "KickbutAngeMommyluvyour4boys!"

I love my family!!!! 

Somehow, and I don't think it was pretty, I got myself up that hill by the ski jump. It hurt. Big time. I came upon the Marriott and saw my parents!!! They were psyched and told  me I was crushing it. 

I got back to Kurt and he was clearly happy with what was happening. I think I might have had a semi-cry face going on. It hurt really really bad. But my pace, was just fine. Somehow, I was still running and only a bit off the pace I started.

This time, "how many times have you run a 5K Ange? Time to dig deep!!! It's at 9:50 . Let's get in by 10:20 or better!!! "

Time to finish this thing. I looked at my watch. 9:57! not 9:50.

I dug deep.
I got down to the turn around. I thought about the pain. How can I describe the pain? Only 1 mile to go. The glory mile. Ok, maybe I need to go another 1/2 mile and then the glory starts.
I was pushing harder than ever before. 

The emotions were rising inside.

I ran so hard. I entered the Olympic oval and decided that I can't put into words, the feeling you get in the final minute of the Ironman.  You just have to take my word for it.
Everything. Everything I had done over the last year since I signed up for this race. It all came together. I had nailed it. I was the perfect race.

Had I been beat? Yes. She ran me down. But you know what? I still won. I nailed an Ironman. I won my age group by 30 minutes. I beat my 2009 time by nearly 30 minutes. I almost broke 3:30 for my marathon! My family and friends were there to share my happiness and it all felt amazing. 

Total time:   10:19:21  (1:01 swim, 5:37 bike, 3:30 run)
2nd amateur woman
1st age group 40-44
7th overall woman with pro field
83rd finisher with men
and hey, I beat 5 of the male pros!! :) 
Now.....Off to KONA!!!!

Ok, I'm done. That's all I've got.
My favorite people in the world! Love you guys!! thankyou!!!!!!!

now it's time for a little of this stuff with my guys at the lake!

and one more thing!!! Just like it's hard for me to express the finish line feeling, it's hard for me to explain just how much I appreciate the support that was given to me along the way and on that day. GIANT HEARTFELT THANKYOU to all of you.
Mark, Cam, Tommy, Nick for the constant support, love and understanding and never ending cheers along the way, Mom and Dad for 41 years of support and love that is absolutely unmatched and more appreciated than they'll ever know, Jeff,Leigh, Jack Griffin and Audrey- my other family that is there for me at the drop of a hat-love you guys!, Mary- couldn't do it without you girlfiend!!!, Kurt for his excellent coaching ,Bob and Mike for being two of the best friends in the world and who understand what all this takes,  the Hamm family for reminding me to keep having fun!, Jen for two + years of awesome coaching that was capped off by turning me into a runner!,  Norway Savings Bank for the generous sponsorship, and then oodles and oodles of friends and family that were out there on the course and cheering from home. I felt it all and love you all for it.  THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!   This list could go on for miles. I'm a very very lucky girl.  (yes, at age 41, I still call myself a girl. :) )


Caratunk Girl said...


You are so freaking awesome, this was the best RR ever. Seriously, tears. You are amazing!!!

Carlee said...

awesome report! I got goosebumps!

runningyankee said...

love love this. you worked hard and got what you deserve. so proud of you! what an amazing day. look out kona!!!

Jason said...

Not one to curse....but holy f'n sh*t that was awesome to read. I felt like I was there running next to you the whole way.

Congratulations on your achievement because it goes beyond the word impressive.

I second Mandy's comments on the tears too because I just find it so amazing for somebody to push themselves to the brink and still keep going.

Just awesome.

Christi said...

That was an awesome report. The pictures are great and you are an inspiration!

I love the last photo of your son. That is fun right there!

Meaghan said...

<--chills... Love love love this RR.. You ARE A ROCKSTAR!! And I can't wait to watch you destroy Kona!!

Kim said...

absolutely incredible ange. i love the series of finishing photos. you are so amazing ange, you had the race of your life - and i cant wait to see what you throw down at kona.

Beth said...

I have just LOVED reading your race report Ange. Those last few photos of you coming up on the finish line with absolute pure joy inspire me so much! You sure made Kim run for it!! :)

Congratulations many, many times over. Looking forward to meeting face to face in Hawaii!

Hope Epton said...

Awe Inspiring. It was like a good book, I could not stop reading it! I am hoping to do my first Sprint Tri (gotta start somewhere) this year at 35, my daughter will be almost 10months old by then... I hope to have half the drive you do!

Good luck in Kona - I'll be looking forward to that RR!

cheryl said...

WOW - just so inspiring! congrats on such a great race. Enjoy Kona!

Pam said...

LOVED reading this!!!! Thanks for sharing. So excited for you!!! And thanks for revealing the contents of the formerly cryptic most adorable heartbreaking sign in the whole wide world! Your kids are lucky to have a strong positive woman like you for a role model.

Christy said...

Very Inspiring and so awesome!!!!!

Jennifer Harrison said...

CONGRATS - this is just so awesome. I love when people work hard to meet their goals!!! And, if people only knew how hard you work and how disciplined you are- they'd could learn alot from you! Just so proud of you and happy to be part of the process of your growth!!! And, now Kurt with your continued growth! AWESOME.
I still cannot get that pic of you out of my head!!!! Love it.

Michelle Simmons said...

I am so inspired that a swimmer can run 3:30 in an Ironman! I've always given myself that excuse (my shoulders are too big to run! ha!) but BS. You just proved me wrong. Super job, Ange. And seriously, I pictured that look on your face all day yesterday while I was riding... (I even blogged about it! :) So proud of you and for you!

Now rest up b/c you have 0 weeks til you do it again!

Swimming for ME said...

Way to stick with it Ange!!! Awesome race :)

liz said...

This is so beautiful! Congrats!!! LOVE that a 41-year-old mom of three beat five male pros. Wondering how they're explaining that to themselves. . . . :)

GoBigGreen said...

Congrats Ange, you have inspired alot of us, i hope you know that ...there's alot of the Harry Met Sally talk going around blog land " I want what she is having." haha! Rest up!

JV said...

You are amazing.

John said...

Great report on a great race! I love the fact you beat some of the male pros. They'd probably make some excuse about having a bad day, but we know you just totally kicked their ass. :)

Mary IronMatron said...

YAY!!!! xoxoxoxo

kT said...

Thanks so much for sharing the awesomeness with all of us! You are really phenomenal.

Marcille Sibley said...

Angela, YOU ROCK!

Kelly said...

Congrats! What a wonderful day and thanks so much for sharing it with us!! On to KonA!!!

Marisa said...

So so so so happy for you!