Ironman Boulder Race Report Pt. 4 of 5 (the run)   1 comment


Oh. The run. The magnificent, amazing, horrible, painful, super-fucking-long, run. The run that makes you think that it will be impossible for you to ever quit running. And I don’t mean in your lifetime, I mean on this day. You will never. finish. running. You will be running non-stop for the rest of your life. Running in your sleep. Running in the shower. Running when you eat. Never. Ending. Running. Yeah. That run. That was exactly the kind of run I had on race day.

Quick back-story. I have a tricky fucker of a calf. (See? I told you that the calf would come back into the story later. You just had to be patient.) I experience chronic inflammation in my calves, which means that when they get triggered, the muscle swells more than the fascia (think muscle sheath) can accommodate. Then, my calf seizes up, and I get a cramp that lasts for weeks. This inflammation was the root cause last year when I tore my calf muscle during a race and was out for the rest of the season. I run in constant fear that, when I start to feel that inflammation grow, I’m going to rupture my muscle again and will be out forever. Yes, I am the queen of catastrophizing. Anyway, I usually can keep the inflammation under control and keep the muscles all loosey goosey and shit with ibuprofen, using trigger point techniques, using suction cups (I did it before Phelps made it cool), and seeing myofascial release therapists regularly during a flare up. Leading up to race day, I was having a lot of problems with my left calf. About 4-5 weeks out, it started to seize up on the last mile of every long run. I was able to keep it at bay for the most part by throwing every technique I have in my arsenal at it. But still, every long run, that last mile was torture. I know that – when I’m in a flare up – run/walking exacerbates the issue, as does dehydration, descents, and concrete. I was already dehydrated and the marathon was entirely on concrete (the least forgiving of surfaces. NO shock absorption) with some short downhills. Since the longest run I did in training was 17 miles, I figured there was no way that I would be able to finish the marathon without having some kind of event that would force to (at best) walk the end miles. So I threw my race plan of running 4 minutes and walking 1 out the window and decided that I was on a race against my calf muscle. There was going to be a point where I wouldn’t be able to run anymore, and I wanted to get through as much distance as possible before I hit that mark. I decided that my new race plan was to run most of the marathon, walk the water stops and downhills. Was this the smartest decision I’ve ever made? Um, I’m going to go with no. OK, back to the story.

I started out feeling fucking magnificent. I’ve never been so happy to be off the bike before in my life. That first mile went really fast, and all of a sudden, I realize I’ve done my first mile at 11:16 pace. Now, for some people, that is a slow mile. Hell, for me, that’s a slow mile. For me during this ironman? That’s fucking LIGHTSPEED. But it felt GREAT! So why not keep that up? (Spoiler alert: Because I couldn’t. That’s why.) I come to the first water stop, and it’s a sight to behold. You hear people talk about Ironman being an all-day, fully catered buffet. That’s no joke. The water stop is longer than any water stop I’ve ever seen (100 yards or more), and has water, Gatorade, gels, oranges, grapes, pretzels, chips, oh god… what else? Um, I think there were some gummy bears and candy, and all kinds of other shit. As a master eater, I was like, “I HAVE DIED AND GONE TO MARATHON HEAVEN!!!!” The problem was that I didn’t want to eat anything. I had my gels, which is all that I ever trained with, so I think to myself, “stick with the gels… Don’t do anything stupid like make yourself sick on race day by trying to eat new food.” So I kept running. Miles 2-4 were pretty steady, averaging around 11:30, but I start to feel like I need to slow down. My calf is okay to my shock and almost horror… I mean, if my calf doesn’t explode, then I’ll be running the whole time, and I’m not prepared for that. The crowd is carrying me along, though. I’m in my BAWG uniform, and that always get a lot of attention, because it is fucking BADASS! (Side note: I almost went batshit on the thousands of people who said, “GO SUPERWOMAN!” Sheesh, people… I’m not even that into superheroes, and even I know what Wonder Woman looks like…)


I see the photographer and smile. Then, I figure he’s not taking anymore pictures, and my true feelings come out. Pretty damned funny.

Then, it starts getting warm – 85-90 ish… Not bad, but warm. And there’s a section of the race around this point where there is no shade, and you’re still on concrete, and the sun was just bearing down. I’m sure it was about 124 degrees right there. I’m SURE of it. I saw my Team USA cohort again at mile I-don’t-fucking-know. YAY TEAM USA! High five and sweaty hugs! At mile 8 ish, I started getting a strange pain in my back. There are horror stories about people who end up with such lovely medical issues as rhabdomyolysis (look it up) during Ironman races, so the fact that my back was hurting was enough for me to give pause. Were my kidneys shutting down? I was dying, wasn’t I? I was pretty sure this pain was above the kidneys, but my brain was pure and total mush and I wasn’t positive. So at the next water stop, I asked for medical. The lady couldn’t find medical, but she asked what was wrong. I asked her to point to my kidneys. When she poked about 3 inches below where my pain was, I said, “GREAT! This isn’t my kidneys. I’m good!” And kept going. Brilliant, I tell you.

Just after this, I heard someone yell my name and saw my friend Jenny, who was also racing. My first thought was FUCK SHE WAS FAST, because she was on the sidelines and had obviously showered and changed. This was at about 11:30 of my race, so I was floored. That’s when she told me that she had been pulled off the bike course by medical, forcing her to DNF (did not finish, for the uninitiated.) That broke my heart to hear, but made a hell of a lot more sense. We hugged (I love sweaty midrace hugs!) and I continue on my long journey. Made me really sad that she didn’t finish her race. We worked so fucking hard to get there, but when your body rebels against you, you gotta stop (see above about things like rhabdo).

The course is set up like a “Y,” with each of the leg ends being a slight incline and the lowest part being in the middle. So, you run up one leg, then run back down. Then run up the next leg, then run down. Then, run up the part that would be the bottom stick of the “Y”, and run down. The bottom part is has the most incline of the course, and I swear, it feels like a fucking mountain. In all actuality, the gain is something like 500 feet over 5-6 miles, but damn. That seemed HUUUUUGE at the time. But I digress (and in a blog of – at this point, 6570 words – digression is a bad idea.) With the set up of this run course, I was able to see my brother and his girlfriend a few times. I think I saw them twice on the first loop, but I’m not sure. That first loop is a bit of a blur. Heading to the end of the third stick of the Y, and trying to not die going up the “hill” (everything is relative… I was fucking tired, okay?), and someone jumps out and starts cheering at me. It takes me a few minutes to realize that this was Nicole De Boom (of Ironman and SkirtSports fame) whom I had met a couple of days before. She snaps a photo, and I slap her a high five, then I keep going, bolstered by the burst of energy. Up the hill, to the turn around, then *wheeeeee* a nice little downhill stretch to the beginning of the loop again. OH! Before finishing the first loop, I decide to stop and pick up my special needs bag. When I run up, all the volunteers are looking at their phones. I yell my number (like we’re supposed to) and this girl of about 15 is smacking her gum and looks up from the screen like, “huuuuh? Oh, you want your bag or something?” This is the second time the volunteers failed at their job that day. It took me about 2.5 minutes to get my special needs bag – which was about 20 feet away – from this girl. I finally get it, tear into it, grab the little light that clips to my visor, throw away my stupid fucking fig newtons that weren’t in my stupid fucking bike special needs bag (can you tell that I’m still pissed about this?), grab a couple of gels, and go.

I’m about 13 miles in, and still feel pretty damned good. I let myself think, “well, shit! This isn’t THAT bad!” Oh dear… I had no idea. The wheels were about to fall OFF.

I start up the first part of the course again, and I start to hurt. I don’t mean like my-legs-are-tired-and-I-am-going-to-be-really-sore-tomorrow kind of hurt. This was weird. This was everything-hurts-and-death-couldn’t-come-soon-enough kind of hurt. I was really tired and I couldn’t keep my abs engaged anymore. My arm position was failing miserably. Every single ounce of fat was jiggling and felt like it was tearing my muscles off the bone. Not being able to engage my abs meant that my insides were jiggling and bouncing around in a most uncomfortable way. I started to feel like my organs were banging around up against each other and were probably starting to resemble bruised, overripe peaches. Coming into the next water stop, Tasha (my brother’s girlfriend) walked with me for a couple of minutes. I had just met her the day before, and I gotta say… my brother has done well; I like this woman. I have no idea what we talked about, but it was great to have someone to blather with for a spell. After a few minutes, I started running again. I had already started to slow down significantly, struggling to keep my miles under a 14-minute pace. The pain was starting to build. EVERYWHERE. Except for my calf, shockingly enough. Nope, the calf was still good. So I kept to my race plan of walking the water stops and downhills. I added “uphills” to this list, too. And “whenever I fucking feel like I’m dying.” SO I was walking more than I wanted to. But whatever, I was WELL over half way through the marathon part of my GODDAMN IRONMAN.

Up to the turn around, back down.

Not only is it convenient to see the spectators a thousand times on this course, you pass the same people over and over again, so we have little snippets of encouraging conversations. “GOOD JOB!” “Turn around is just ahead!” “Girl, you look great! Keep it up!” “Rock on, dude! You’re fucking badass!” “WE’RE DOING THIS!!!” It was awesome. It also is probably the only thing that kept me going through this part. It was getting dark, and the wind was picking up. The sunset (what little I caught of it, I was running the opposite direction) was spectacular.

But all I could think about was how much my insides hurt. I tried to take in a gel. FAIL. I got about a teaspoon in my mouth and almost vomited. Around this time, the chicken broth comes out at the aid stations. I’d heard about the life renewing powers of the chicken broth that Ironman serves after the sun goes down. I had no idea that chicken broth could be so magical. The first time I got to a water stop and they offered chicken broth, I slugged some back and was like, “HOLY SHIT! HOW CAN CHICKEN BROTH BE THIS AMAZING!????” Seriously. The chicken broth was pretty much the highlight of my day. Yeah, it’s that good. This was probably enhanced by the fact that my stomach was starting to rebel. The only thing I could get into my mouth without wanting to projectile vomit everywhere was that chicken broth. I tried gels a couple more times, and every time I gagged and my stomach cramped up again. I’ve NEVER had issues with my stomach like this. I have been using the same race day nutrition plan for years. I had it down to a fine art. Regular race day and Ironman race day are two VERY different things. Anyway, the chicken broth was my Jesus. It was my Personal Savior of that race. My guts are now no longer bruised, overripe peaches, but have become pureed. Liquefied. My organs were sloshing around worse than a martini in the hands of a drunk 80 year old with Parkinson’s. Every step felt like everything in my body was going to start leaking out of my pores. My lungs started to feel like they would never be able to take in oxygen again. The muscles IN BETWEEN my RIBS started to cramp. I felt like someone had put a vice on the lower part of my lungs and was slowly tightening it.

I saw my brother one last time and this time, he walked with me for a few minutes. “How are you feeling, sis?” “I fucking want to die.” “You look way better than most of the people out here.” “Jesus. If I look good, they must look like death.”

At least, I THINK that’s how the conversation went. I have no idea. Honestly.

I keep going, down that last stick of the Y, and it gets dark. Pitch black dark. Most everyone has little glow sticks around their necks so that they can be seen. That’s great and all, but sweet lord have mercy, this was the pitchest blackest darkest run course I’ve ever seen. A little glow stick around your neck isn’t going to help for shit in figuring out where to put your feet. I had that little headlamp on my visor, which was my saving grace. I was pretty shocked at how few people had headlamps on, but then again, not everyone has a couple of fabulous friends who had recently done their own Ironman to give you tips on what to do during your race. Of all the advice and tips and help that I got from friends who had just done their first IMs, this was probably the most useful and probably saved me from falling down and breaking my leg in a thousand pieces. As it was, I had to drop my pace significantly for safety. (Who am I kidding? I was struggling to stay at 14 min/miles… “Safety…” Right. We’ll stick with “safety.”)

As I come up on a bridge (the only place on the course that has lights at this point,) I see my Sherpa, Wanda. She tells me that the whole BAWG group is waiting to hear that she has seen me. This warms my tired and downtrodden heart. I give her a sweaty, nasty hug (YES! HUGS ARE THE BEST!) and continue off into the darkness. Going up that “mountain” again was completely surreal. This was the darkest of the dark areas on the trail. There were a few glow sticks on the ground (so you at least could see where the edges of the sidewalk were) and there were floating rings of glow stick interspersed everywhere around me. I turned off my headlamp for a few seconds just to see how totally fucking trippy this shit was. I was beyond exhausted, my brain was playing tricks on me, I’m pretty sure this whole scene was putting me into drug-like hallucinations. Honestly, it was beautiful. But way too dark for my liking, so back on went the headlamp. In the distance, you could kind of see a light through the trees, but just small flashes. The closer I got, the light started to take form and I realize that this is the turnaround.

The last turn around.

The most beautiful and amazing of sights, because it’s all downhill from here and it’s only about two and a half miles to the finish line. This is the elusive thing I have been chasing for 14 and a half hours, and here is the turn that will lead me home. I round that corner, and start back through the pitch-black park, but this time I don’t care. I start finding my legs again, and pick up the pace. At least it FEELS like I’m picking up the pace (looking at my mile splits on Garmin Connect right now tells another story. HAHAHA Perception was really fucked up at this point.) Going down that hill felt like flying. Within a matter of minutes (okay, 20), I reach the split off to head to the finish line. I seriously feel like I am fucking invincible at this point. A woman is in running right in my area, and I say something like, “HOLY SHIT I NEVER THOUGHT I’D ACTUALLY MAKE IT!!!!” She asks if this is my first, to which I almost burst into tears with a resounding “YES!!!!” She then says, “Enjoy the chute! I’ll hang back. Get your shot, girl!” (Meaning get the good finisher’s shot, unimpeded by someone else)

Posted August 21, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

One response to “Ironman Boulder Race Report Pt. 4 of 5 (the run)

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  1. Oh my GOD! That is INTENSE! I was hanging on every word, almost fearful what you were going to say next. WHAT AN ORDEAL! I can only imagine what you went through. I am so fucking PROUD of you for working your ass off and meeting this goal. You are the strongest woman I know!

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