Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ironman Texas...the final hours

Ironman Texas 2013





Swim start 
I think that's me right in the middle...looking up in the pink cap




I find it remarkable how the brain works.... It's only Tuesday. It's a mere three days since my Ironman and yet some of the 'feelings' of my pain and suffering that day are already melting into the background of my mind. Proof of that is that despite the fact that I still feel nauseous, my quads and calves are aching with pain, I feel like I have someone else's skin on because my feet and legs are so swollen, and to make it all even more fun, I have been in tears on and off for 24 hours because of crippling back pain, I have been searching for some other  race to get myself into this summer.
Swimming through the canal on the final leg of the swim portion. That's me , closest to bottom

I have moments of thinking, "what happened? It wasn't that bad. Why didn't I keep my pace up??" But then, I look at some of the photos. And, that mechanism in my brain that has allowed me to 'forget' releases, shuts off, and I can literally FEEL those brutal hours again. I can truly feel it in my veins. And,it was, that bad. 
Cameron, Nick & Tommy-cheering me through the canal
Done! 1st age-- off to the bike

I'm not too sure I can put it into words.  Sometimes you just have to have been there and in the same body and mind but, I will try.

Finally, the garmin read 112 and I slid easily off the bike at the dismount line. Honestly, that line is almost as delicious as the Finish line.  I withheld the incredible urge I had to Throw the bike off to the side into a fence and instead, graciously smiled at the volunteer who took my bars and so kindly put it back into the bike rack for me.  For better or worse, I was OFF that bike.  I had seen Mark and the boys as I came to the line so I knew he was also happy I had made it.

Those first few minutes after riding 112 miles are... awkward. Your body feels contorted and unable to right itself. I even laughed out loud because a handful of us were hobbling our way to the bags.  I made a pit stop in a portapotty... finally.  It is a bit too much info, but when you know Ironman, you know that Needing a bathroom during the ride is KEY! IF you don't, you have a problem.  I did need one..... I just had "stagefright" out there so I had to stop in T2. I figured I had been hydrating well for the past 5+ hrs because I  had needed that bathroom for about 85 miles!

Into the tent and again, I was blessed with 4 or 5 Great women to help me. Seriously, THANK YOU  volunteers!!!! I did say it to them at the time.... There we are: tired, cranky, sweaty, & stinky while we snap "commands" at them. I TRY so hard not to do that but... it's what we're doing!  "Can I have my visor, my glasses, the socks, no wait, the gels! " One thing after another ..... They all helped me get myself put together, one lady told me I was top 12 amateur.... ... ok... game on. I stood there for 5 seconds and just thought, "woah... what's about to happen." Then, I headed out.

Here's where it gets blurry and well, just long.

I felt ok as I started..... I had a goal for this run and I know it was reasonable. That is, before the mercury rose and the humidity rose and the farmers in Mexico started burning crops and blowing smoke into Texas.
Plan adjusted--- My goal changed and I decided to "run 8s all day long." Very doable... I thought.

This is a 3 loop course. And, it's Not hilly. At All.  The 3 loops seemed like they'd be a good way to 'break it up." Instead, it was pure torture.  For me anyway. The signs read things like this: Mile2 and next to it Mile 11 or 18.  But when you're on loop 1 and mile 18 is SO far away, well, it was torture. I tried not to look.

The first few miles felt Easy. My effort was totally easy.  My pace... low low 7s and it even dipped into upper 6s... so I backed off. No matter how easy that felt, it was too fast to start a HOT Ironman run. That would be foolish.

I hit the aid stations... and stopped. Half on Purpose, half involuntarily. My body just Stopped. I dumped ice in my shirt, drank perform and a sip of water, poured water and then, put ice In my shorts. AH! I didn't mean to! I had changed in T2 to be dry to avoid the chafing... mistake. And then, my shoes got wet. So, from about mile 2 I was soaked. Head to toe. Alright... put it out of your mind and just run Ange, just run.

It gets a little blurry here.....but it was only a few miles later when I started feeling reallly reallllllllllly bad. It's hard to describe it... I was sinking into a dark place. And I had too far to go to let that happen.  My calves were cramping... so I took a salt. I started doing that .... every several miles or so. I carried my EFS flask and started in with that.... it went down and eventually, I had taken it all. I was making my way around the first loop when I hit the Waterway section. I think we entered that part around mile 5 and then wiggled our way to mile 8 until we started back out on the big loop again. THe point is, it was a chance to see the family twice. I ran down one side of the canal and kept my eyes out for them. After a bit, I saw them. Tommy's Bright yellow shirt. ahh.. yay... support!  My heart smiled but my face did not.



yes, this is at the Beginning of the run... ouch


And.. I must note... I have ice, gels, salt tabs and who knows what else stuffed all through  my clothes here.... hence all the odd bumpiness  :) 
They were way across the "river" but they were yelling and waving and all that great stuff. I thought I gestured, but, Mark said he knew at that moment. I wasn't quite right. I held on so hard until I finally got TO them. Instead of running along and giving my smiles and high fives like I do with the kids, I stopped and grabbed them, one by one and gave them each a Kiss. I told them: " thank you guys. I need you. Give me a kiss."  Then, I stopped at Mark and whispered, "I"m struggling." He knew already.  He said something that made me feel a bit better, and off I went. It's not like I had a choice. I had to go on.  Of course.

My boys.... a moment of strength...





 I ran a bit further and saw someone who looked familiar from pictures, Sonja!? I yelled her name and it was, Sonja Weick! She grabbed me for a hug and said, "Ange! Keep your head up and you Drink and you Eat!!"
Yes... I can do this!

The air was heavy. And thick. And it felt So hard to breath!! I had already stopped looking at my watch. Damn. I did Not want it to be this way! My fitness was there, I was ready, but the air, it was suffocating me.





I stopped at all the aid stations for at least the first 8-9 miles. I did the same routine: ice, water on head, more ice, perform, water, maybe a salt, maybe some gel.

The good news... I was running. After every aid station, I ran. I didn't run fast, but I ran. My pace was slowing and I knew it but there wasn't anything I could do. I kept repeating to myself, "just keep going just keep going...."

Everything was slow. People all around me were walking. Shuffling.  Because of that, I got these comment, " NICE pace!!!! You go girl! Woah! Looking STrong!" And sometimes, I looked around to see if they were talking to me because believe me.... I did not  feel strong or in control of my run whatsoever.

There was even ONE fast brief moment of, do I need to stop? ha... no. I would never stop. I couldn't!

And then... around mile 9  or so? I'm honestly not sure, I decided I would FEEL BETTER! I was sick of feeling sick. Sick of being slow!! I wanted to get this race done. I ran faster.... I think. I felt faster. I rallied and damnit! I was going to make it and finish this thing off with a good hard run!!

Things were looking up. I made it onto the Waterway again and say the gang and this time my Aunt and Uncle too!! I waved and smiled and was excited to show them how much better I was!!!!  Yay!!!

Meanwhile, I had NO idea where I stood in the race. I knew I had passed 2 or 3 girls out of the tent so I thought I was top 10 amateur. Good.... but what about my age group? I knew the competition was fierce down there so I kind of figured I was out of it that day. But I kept checking calves... hey WTC... time to get some permanent markers or some type of body marking that Lasts through the swim and the salt of our sweat.  No clue who was what age out there.... no clue at all....

I was doing better, but I still had to make some stops. It was insanely hot and the air was thick with moisture. I had to be careful. I had to check my ego at the door and finish this things as well as I could, while being safe. I am, after all, a Mother.  My run split didn't matter as much as finishing without causing dangerous heat illness or worse. I kept dousing myself with water and ice and taking salts and drinking. Over and over and over. A few times, at those aid stations, I wobbled. I bumped into things. I was asked, "are you ok??"

Hell yes! I'm fine.  ( so I lied....I was brainwashing myself too... it must be done sometimes! )

Only 8 miles to go. Or was it 6. IT felt like forever... I had to do that whole loop.... again....

With 5 miles or so to go, I found this guy, Jeff. We  had met on Thursday while out riding.  We had chatted and I discovered his goal was around 9:20!!!   But on Saturday, I passed him on the run.  It was a tough day for so many of us.

All I  know at that point, is that I kept running. Barely. I started feeling like I might throw up. My hands were starting to tingle.And my legs, they were cramping.I write those words and they're just words. The feelings that went with those words are so much more intense. I can't put that onto this page. Only I can feel them. However,I  kept running. I wanted to see that finish line. I knew my huge PR day was gone.... I had blown it.  Well, I had blow that part. . But,  I had also accepted that. I signed up for Texas because I wanted a challenge. I have raced Lake Placid twice. Maine's "local" Ironman with a climate that matches our climate. I have nailed that one. So, time to see if I could take on something else.  Not only is it hotter and more humid in Texas, it's in May. I hadn't even had our Maine summer yet to acclimate even a bit.  Because of this, I had to suck it up out there and completely avoid feeling sad or sorry for myself. I was hanging on and I was doing my very best, on that day.  I was fit and strong and because of that, I didn't completely crumble. I had trained hard and trained smart and Doug had prepared me well.  I was weakened by the humid heat and smokey air,  and I faltered, but I also held on and dug deeper than I knew I could. For that, I will be stronger forevermore. For the rest of my lif, I am a stronger person.  I know in my heart more than before, that if you throw something tough at me, I will fight my way through it.
And ultimately, I decided that I would feel even happier and prouder of myself that day because it was so brutal and tough. It probably would have been easier for me to stop and quit. Or to walk at the very least. But, I didn't. The PR and fast time I had dreamed of was ticking away, I was watching it go by every mile, but I held my head up for myself and for my kids because, after all, I was still running.

My"see you at the Finish" wave! 
The last few miles were both glorious and torturous. I was not feeling well. I made a plan in my head:  I would finish, say hi to my family, tell Mark I was ok but that I needed some cooling and TLC  so I would go to the Med tent. I kind of knew it, before I was even at mile 23. I knew something wasn't quite right.   I passed into the Waterway and was greeted with HUGE cheers!!!  I was running... and the crowd praised me for it.  I waved a big wave across the canal to the boys and said, "See ya there!!! " ( the finish... I was almost at THE FINISH!!!)  I felt like I was crawling but I kept moving. Up, around the small hill to the aid station at 24 ish miles...I stopped and grabbed the table and stood under a hose. Then, I kept going. Up and around and to another aid station.. mile 25.xx now... I stumbled.  They almost grabbed me. Nope... I had to go... time to finish.
I made it!
still holding my "cooling towel" that I wore for 10 miles on my back
More happy kisses! 



A girl sprinted by me with only a few 100 yards to go... I didn't even care.And yet, I did strain to see her calf. All set... I saw a 2.. she was in her 20s.  Go ahead young one... I'll be there in a minute....

I think I ran a little harder down the road, around the corner, and up the little hill to the arch. hallelujah!!!!!!!!
I MADE it!!!
10:47, 3rd age group, in the  top 10 amateur women

I smiled, Raised my arms as much as I could and hit that line. Ahhhhhhhh.....


Under 11.... good..  10:47.  I'll take it.




love a good swim start photo


The boys enjoyed a water slide at a nearby pool while I biked for a few hours. So glad they found some relief!!  

after the race: 

The awesome volunteers grabbed me and I held on. I was ok... I thought. I caught my breath, told them to hang with me a minute, and we walked. I started to feel worse... so I accepted the wheel chair. I thought I could just sit a minute and I'd be just fine. I saw Mark above the crowd ( so helpful to have a tall husband in these situations :)) and told the people helping me that I wanted to talk to them but asked if they could please stay with me.  At that point... I knew I had to put that plan into action. As I stood up and hugged my family and thanked them all, things started spinning. My face was tingling. It just felt wrong.... 

I whispered to Mark that I had to go get checked out and told him to hang close by....

She wheeled me down the street and I started to get a little nervous. I really didn't feel well. 

I guess I want to make this brief--- I went into the "triage" part of the tent and joined the many others looking  horrible and sick.  I sat in a chair and tried to stay calm. But, I wasn't. My hands were numb and tingling but then they started contracting and contorting. I couldn't control them. My face felt funny. The worst part for me, was that my speech was slurring.  This scared me.  The guy helping me was very calm and consoling. My BP was very low but my temp wasn't too high.... that part was good.

They moved me inside to a cot, covered me with ice bags and towels, took off my wet shirt and put my dry finisher's shirt on and covered me with a blanket. I started to shake.  I was given lots of things to drink including about 4 cups of chicken broth. ( ick) But, it did help. An IV was hooked up. Before too long, I was OK! phew.  I could see straight. . My hands relaxed.  My speech was fine again.  They drew blood and determined my calcium and potassium were low. My BP was low. My body temp had dropped a bit.  I am not sure, but the suspicion was that I overdid it with the salt tabs. I had an electrolyte imbalance for sure. I guess I spent a few hours in there but by the time I left, I felt a Lot better and was so grateful for the very very kind people helping me. I had several doctors, a nurse, and a PT. All people there on a volunteer basis. One man, a cardiologist, said he was watching the race from his house along the course. He was watching and feeling the heat and decided he needed to come in to help.  Good souls.  We needed them. I was on a cot next to a guy from Chicago. Once we were both feeling ok, we sort of laughed at us northerners for signing ourselves up for this !!!  And yet, while I was in there, I saw three of the people  got to know at the Training camp last month. All three live there... and they needed the help too.  That speaks to how very hot it really was. 

I was released and back with the boys and that's when I finally asked, "Hey Mark? What place was I anyway??" 
Third. He looked at me cautiously.... he knew....

Third???!!!!  I was stunned. shocked. Amazed!  Thrilled. Sure, only two Kona spots. There have been some twinges of disappointment for sure. My plan for the summer is a bit lost now... 

BUT....  I got 3rd! I can not be sad about that!!! I kept moving and made it through despite brutal conditions so I am now home & in pain but very much satisfied with the way it all turned out.  

Now it's time to figure out What's next!!!   Time will tell.....




14 comments:

Jennifer Harrison said...

Ange;
I loved reading this, NOT because you had a tough day, but because you stepped out of your comfort zone and raced IM TEXAS while living in MAINE! IN MAY. It is aggressive, but also a great challenge. It would be pointless for you to go back to LP, ya know?

I totally understand this IM. THIS was my first IM and my first Hawaii. I seriously thought I was melting, it was so hot for me. I was in a hot messy fog on that run and it was nothing more than guts (like you) that got me to the finish line. It is a lonely race when you are struggling,but way to STAY TOUGH and get it done.

AND 3rd AG ---> IMPRESSIVE!

Enjoy your time off now and summer w/ the boys!

GoBigGreen said...

You did great Ange and as a fellow COLD STATE 10mos out of the year Resident I applaud this! I had too much NA+ at IM two years ago and i was sick as a dog, but you soldiered on. But ya I understand the " I sorta forget" bc you have to!
Rest up and enjoy spring now that you had 10 hours of summer!

Priscille Sibley said...

Glad you're okay, Ange. You rock!

JB said...

Congrats, Ange. I was tracking you all day, impressed that you persevered after all the bike drama. Way to keep your head and top 10 amateur is fantastic! I hope you find another Ironman to crush so I can see you on the Kona start line. Recover well.

ltlindian said...

Such a great job! So awesome. Because you are from Maine, I feel like I know you and automatically want to cheer you on like you are my sister. I love when Mainers kick butt! :)

Jen Andrews said...

Nice job, Ange!!! Racing in the heat is no joke. We think of you northerners all the time when we are out training in April and marvel at how you do it because we're dying! Now you are totally ready to come to STX! :) congrats - you have much to be proud of!

Angela Campos said...

Congratulations on finishing such a difficult race! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are such an inspiration!!

Michele G. said...

Whenever I need inspiration... I read your Blog. THANK YOU for taking the time to share your experiences with everyone... from the everyday to the intensely focused competitions. What an incredible coach you must be! Congratulations on tapping into your "Fire from Within" in Texas!

Pam Moore said...

Wow. Sounds like a tough day. Third place AG is sooo impressive, especially with you feeling as rough as you did. Way to go!!!

Karen said...

Congratulations Ange! Way to hang tough in some tough conditions. 3rd AG is outstanding!!!

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Melissa said...

Congrats! Glad you are OK. Incredible journey.

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