Monday, October 27, 2014

The Final miles- Kona part 4- Time to find that Finish Line!

It's been over two weeks since I crossed the finish line in Kona.  It seems like a long long time ago.  And yet, it's all still quite raw and close in my heart.  You can't just "shut it off" after training and preparing for something for nearly two years. I write my blog to share but also to heal.  I relive it through the words and remind myself just how much I gave out there and it allows me to move on to whatever is next.  

With that... I will briefly tell my story from the final leg of my Ironman that day... the final 26.2 miles of the day. 


After handing my bike to the volunteer, I was off for a trip to the bathroom ( Phew!! I was hydrated fairly well... This is a BIG deal in an Ironman and a Huge deal in an Ironman in the Hawaiian heat!!) 

It's a long trek around all the bikes to the T2 tent. I had a headache, my neck and back and shoulders were stiff from gripping the bike for dear life for 6 hours but I was Thrilled to be throwing on the running shoes. Again, I think I took too long in there but I was trying to hurry. I talked to some lady about the girl who was head to toe in road rash with shredded shorts and hoped they could find her a new pair. ( They didn't. My kids saw her running later. I know it's likely not legal or possible but I had hoped for her. ) I threw on the visor, glasses, garmin, shoes, race belt, sunscreen, grabbed gels and that was it. 

The cheers coming out of the tent and onto the roads are uplifting. I felt good!!!  Then honestly, I don't remember a lot of details about the next few miles. But I remember feeling really good. My pace was spot on &  I just got myself settled. Mostly, I was staring ahead Knowing my crew would be there for me soon.I was excited! I couldn't wait to see them.  Our condo was at the end of the 5 mi we start with on Ali'i. Five miles out, turn and back to town before we head onto the Queen k ( again! ) for the hardest 16 miles of the day.  
I had tunnel vision-- show me the boys show me the boys. I NEEDED that quick contact with my family to reassure them and myself quite frankly, that all would be ok. 

YaY! There they were!!! Running around the road in just their swimsuits. :) THey were running in and out of the water ( beach right on that road with big huge waves ) to cheer. 

 I think I was saying, "IT was SO WINDY!!!! NO! I didn't have a flat I, just winds!!" :) What I love here is the view of Nick running behind me with the camera. Not sure where those photos are... 

I had my quick dose of family and then I was on my own again.  The great feeling I had during the first 3-4 miles had left me. My ankle and achilles were talking. It hurt. I was really hot and started to worry. But the biggest problem was that my right foot was Burning with pain. I battled achilles tendonitis this summer but I have had chronic foot pain for years and years. I had neuroma surgery a long time ago and it helped, but it's not gone.  Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's not. That day between miles 5-10, it was Scorching. I was completely distracted by the pain. The second my foot hit the ground it was hot stabbing pain. A couple times, I stopped and squeezed my toes because that does help. But... the girls I had passed on the earlier miles would start to pass me. I didn't like that ( ! ) so I kept going. Mind over matter. It would go away eventually. Just forget about it! 

At some point, I latched onto a woman who was running near me. I loved the way her stride looked. She just had a way of running that made me want to copy her. Our pace seemed similar so I tried to stay with her. We exchanged words of encouragement here and there.  And if one of us slowed or stopped at the aid stations, we always caught back up and were running together again. ( All of this is before heading out to the queen k.) Along that route, I saw her find her family and kiss her boys. Boys!  She was a fellow boy-mom. :)  That made me smile. 

We rounded the corner on Hualalai ( I think that's it... ) and could hear and see Pro women finishing. ( Jealous! )  One of the motorcycles escorting them nearly hit me. I had to jump off to the side. Just an age grouper here - don't worry about me! grr. 
It was time to climb the big hill on Palani Road. At least it's big at mile 10 of the Ironman! I thought I was ok. But I had visions of walking. (huh?  not really like me. ) Kortney ( at this point I had head her name from her family etc ) came up next to me and said the same thing, "I am just going to walk a minute." I was easily lured.. "me too! just thinking that... " 
But then my HR started to go nuts ( no monitor..just felt it) and I was overcome with the heat and a feeling of sickness. I stopped and put my hands on my knees. oh oh. 

Without a second of hesitation, Kortney turned around and said, "Angela! Let's GO! Run with me. Run now to the aid station!!" 

So I did. We did. Together. 

Thank you. I told her that  a few times:  Thank you.
THAT is one of the great things about this sport. And no, not all sports are like this. But there we are, competitors & we had both been racing and fighting for hours and hours. She had a huge road rash on her shoulder from getting knocked off the bike in those winds I talked about.  And yet, she took the time and Effort to help ME keep running.  A true sportsman. 

That one act alone made my whole day. 

Now, we were heading out for the hardest part. The part where many athletes falter and and lose their focus. The day has been long and it is HOT. Sure, we did have occasional cloud cover but upper 80s/ lower 90s is not cool and that was the temp in Town. Out on the lava fields and in the energy lab, ha, it's not that cool.  

The road is empty except for the athletes coming and going and the aid stations ( Bless those volunteers! ) each mile.  THe 6 miles before you turn left into the Natural Energy Lab are so long. It' lONG long long and the road is basically one steady gradual climb.  My foot had started to behave, my achilles was fine, and I was feeling alright. I was hot and I was starting to feel my quads burn, but, I had rallied from whatever little pity party I was having on that climb and was just running.  

We had our race numbers on our arms but that is it. No age on the leg this time. I was annoyed that I hadn't figured out what age - range was my age group.  I had No clue what age I was passing or getting passed by. I did a lot of back and forths with a group of people. I'd go ahead, then I'd slow to get fluids and they'd go by me. Or vice versa. A few I passed for good and a few passed me for good.  Kortney and I remained close and took turns ahead of one another. 
I definitely got to the point of not caring who was who and just running to get to the end. Dont' get me wrong, I CARED and I knew exactly what I had hoped for and was aiming for, but since there wasn't a soul  on the roads to help me know where I was, I just couldn't stress about it. I tried to catch any woman ahead of me & that was all I could really do. 
I finally turned into the energy lab. Down down down into the hole of heat.  ( They harvest the sun's energy here and make power/ do experiments with it. )  It's a strange place that seems to zap people and eat them alive. I was determined to be FINE going in and out.  However, I started to feel gross and had some belly pain. I battled with my head for several of those miles-- stop at bathroom or not?  Where WAS a bathroom? I am not sure, but I feel like they were Very few and far between. I finally saw one on the other side of the road at mi 18. I ran in. WOAH- not much worse than mile 18 porta potty IN the Natural Energy Lab  in Hawaii. I was in and out of that in a matter of seconds. 

I passed a group of 3 men and one stayed RiGHT on my heels. I wouldn't have cared except he ran SO loud slapping his feet on the ground. It was agitating me beyond words at that moment.  It was so bad, I stopped and let him go! Lame. I would have run faster instead, but, I couldn't. I was doing all I could.  Things were starting to hurt.  I was shutting down. 

I broke the run into segments and at the top of the hill exiting the NEL I knew it was about 10K left. My Final segment. OH how I wanted to run hard and feel good!!  I was doing the math and thought I was on my way to a 3:30 and change run. I was Happy!!!  {What I didn't remember, was that my watch was on Auto-pause. So all those little dumb stops added up and no, I wasn't running a 3:30. I was closer to 3:40+ when all said and done. Bummer. }   

But I guess it worked in my favor because I was watching my watch and was Determined to get in by about 3:35.  I knew that if I just Kept moving forward  at the pace I had, albeit slower than planned, I could do it. NO more stopping. I was now OFF the perform and gels and onto the coke.  My calories had been going in the whole time without an issue, I was drinking at every station + stuffing ice all through my clothes and despite the legs shutting down, I felt ok.  I did, however, notice that my skin was dry. Hmmm.. 
My shoes were soaked and making that squishing noise with Every step but my arms had no sweat on them.  I had been drinking TONS so I just don't know what that was about. But no sweat didn't seem to be quite right at the end of a crazy hot Ironman. 

I just kept my focus and kept drinking the coke. I no longer stopped to make Sure the fluids went down, I just poured in what I could as I ran.  Only 6 mi, 5 mi , 4 miles... I could get by without getting it all in at that point.  I wasn't taking any chances during the earlier miles, but now it was all in my head and heart.  
Trying to describe the way I felt at that might be something that I just tuck away and remember myself. I can tell you this.  I knew that when I did finally cross the line, I would be a stronger person forever. This was definitely the Hardest race I've done and because of that, I am stronger mentally. It changed me. 
My legs were Aching and throbbing and they each weighed a Lot more than when I started. Lifting my feet to run took conscious effort with each step.  I know I was gritting my teeth for miles. Finally, I could see the stop light at the top of the hill where we turn right to go Down the hill that nearly took me down hours earlier. A group of spectators had set up camp at the top of it. They were blasting music and formed a little gauntlet for us to run though, cheering WILDLY as if we each were their best friend. Pure awesomeness at any point but at THAT point as I made my FINAL turn of the Queen K back into.. .it actually took my breath away. 

Unfortunately, it really did. Literally. 
It was at that point that I started to wheeze. I could Not get enough air. I don't know if it was the emotion or some strange physical reaction but I don't have asthma so... there I was just trying to run those last few miles while not being able to breath. The legs became a secondary problem.  But still, I was RIGHT THERE> I could Hear the finish line. And while this was taken a bit Before I got there... 
THIS Is what I saw: 

"If we watch, eventually she will come back." I keep thinking of that quote from Field of Dreams-- If we build it, they will come. :)

MY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   
I ran down that hill ( sort of ran.. in my head I was running and Mark wont' tell me what I REALLY looked like but ..haha... I think I know :))  and SCREAMED to them again, like I did heading up that hill on my bike BANCROFTS!!!  They hadn't seen me and it worked. somehow I found the air to do that!  I ran by them and high fived and you know... it was yet another BEST moment of the day. I was truly going to actually get to that finish line.  Wheezing and hobbling and hot and exhausted and truly desperate to finish, I ran on.  That next stretch is BRUTAL!!!!!!!!!  THankfully, it is lined with people cheering but we have to run down the road about.. 3/4 mile? I am not sure. ( I know I should know ) before turning Right back onto Hualalai and then: ALI'I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
It's a very long long long way when you are really at the last few moments of being able to run. 

And then, it happens. You turn onto that famous stretch. It's a Long amazing welcome back. EVERY single person is there for you. Kids running around with hands out, music blasting, smiles and cheers and ahh... it's truly magical. And, I Desperately Desperately tried to savor every last second of it. But geez, if only I could breath. I was audibly gasping for air. It was pretty rough.   It was also extremely special.  Five minutes or less that is forever etched in my brain.  

And then, just like that, Done. 

I saw the boys and Mark off on the side screaming for me.  I blew them kisses and smiled.  We did it. 

A  relaxing day by the shore. 

three of my guys emerging after some Serious body surfing. Kona doesn't' mess around with waves! They mean business! 

Lots of fun in the water on this trip. I loved the post-race Chill time with the kids and Mark. 
Race night-- Back at the Finish line party to cheer in the final finishers.


Kim said...

I'm bummed I missed you while we were there.. it just gets so crazy with everyone's scheduled. Way to hang tough and have an AWESOME race and get to see those smiling faces waiting for you! How fun!

Unknown said...

always have, always will be an incredibly tough woman. way to go ange! way to dig deep and kick some booty :) - Kim K.

maria conley said...

Congratulations Ange! Your family is beautiful... said...

After reading this post it really feels like I have found my fire within!) inspiring story and nice photos! Thanks a lot for sharing.