Monday, September 1, 2008

The Aftermath

Well yesterday was a tough one, and the memory is still fresh enough that this race report is going to be a bit raw. So if you are looking for an inspiring, positive and tear jerking story- you may want to skip this read :-) The truth is that Ironman is like life, and it isn't always pretty. But if the cliches are true, and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, then we had one hell of a strength workout yesterday :-)

The swim was fine, although we are both sure it was long. I was about 8mins slower than I expected to be and heard a lot of other athletes remark that it was long as well. The temp was warm, and the water was brown, but there was minimal contact and I was fine without a wetsuit. I was a bit bummed exiting in 1hr18, but I swam strong and couldn't have done much differently.
The bike was a 2 loop, with an out and back on the first loop. 90% of the course was up and down. The first loop was pretty good, the calories were going in and I was feeling alright, holding a steady pace without red lining. Not long after starting the second lap I started to feel really nauseous, probably because the heat was beginning to get to me. I was unable to eat and barely forced in enough water to keep my mouth from drying up. I tried taking more salt, but could not shake the nausea, and could not force anything down. The second loop was a challenge- the heat was intense, the humidity and the relentless hills. And then the wind picked up for good measure. One a positive note, the scenery was beautiful. It would be a fantastic ride...at about 6am. 2pm...not so much.
I was happy to get off my bike and change out of my salty bike shorts. I felt pretty good the first mile of the run, although the first out and back is on a bridge and the heat was pretty intense. I stopped for a pee break and nearly passed out in the porto john. I had visions of passing out and dying in a plastic shitter....not nice. I also noticed that I was having a difficult time peeing. I knew I was already dehydrated and I really needed to get some fluids in.
I stopped at the aide station, filled my bottle with ice water, and drank some water and a bit of nuun. When I started running again I was ok for about 5 mins, and then I started to feel nauseous again. I tried to ignore it, but every time I tried to pick up the pace I was sure I was going to barf. I was dousing with water, sponges and ice at the aide stations but nothing was making me feel better. I began dry heaving and was unable to run any faster than a slow jog. It was a long day. I fantasized about dropping out, about walking the marathon, about throwing myself in front of a car so I could end it.... seriously. And as I saw my time goals fall away hour by hour I realized that the only thing I needed to do was finish the best I could. I knew I could walk, but unless I absolutely had to, I would not. I shuffled along at about 8km/hr, walked through the aide stations and only stopped when the dry heaves made me. I wanted to run faster, it hurt to go that slow, but as soon as my heart rate came up, the dry heaves started, and I had to back off.
It was an unbelievably long, hot and difficult day. I couldn't let myself feel any emotion out there, I just could not afford the energy. So I just locked them up in a box and stuffed them to the back of my mind. Coming down the finish chute, knowing I had made, it the box threatened to break the levy and I started to hyperventilate. I crossed the line, in a combination of hyperventilation and dry heaving. No wonder the volunteers walked me straight into medical. An hour and a couple liters of fluid later I felt much better. I still had not seen D and was beginning to worry about him. I made my way back to the hotel and found him looking as bad as I had felt. He should have visited the med tent too, as he was really hurting. We were happy to see each other and found comfort in knowing what the other had just been through.
It was not the day we trained to have, wanted to have or planned to have, but we both did the best we could and know that we did our absolute best.
I saw many many many people out there suffering. I also saw groups of guys walking, chatting and laughing. I recognized many of them from the bike course where they had blown by me. I did not want to be one of them- the people that realize their time goal is shot, so they give up and take the easy road. Walking is the easy road and I really, really really wanted to walk- it felt so good when I did walk. But I knew if I just walked it would be giving up on myself. Even if my 'run' was only a couple of km/hr faster than a walk, it was pushing as much as I could and I knew I would only be satisfied if I gave all I had until the finish.
I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed with a 13:08 Ironman time, considering my goal was to be under 12. But racing in 34 degree heat and humidity is something I was not physically trained to do. There was nothing more I could have done, and I know in my heart I did my personal best and gave 100% start to finish.

The race itself is a fantastic one. There were more volunteers than competitors and they were absolutely amazing. They took great care of us all day. The spectators were great as well. Having an IM in a large city is completely different than in a place where it is the only thing going on. Many people came out in the residential areas and cheered along the course. The finish line was awesome, running down 4th street live with people everywhere. Louisville is a city worth visiting, the area is beautiful and the people are so friendly and welcoming. Just come prepared for the heat :-) We did not expect it to be as oppressive as it is, and in hindsight we were kind of naive about how much of an impact it would have.

Most importantly, D and I had a great time here, we are both happy we did it, and have no regrets. We will live to see another day, another race and maybe some day another Ironman....but not for a long while.

We will be at Kona this year, just as spectators rather than racers. Instead of pre race prep and nerves we can enjoy our time on the beach, work on our tans and stalk our favorite pros :-) And then we get to get married :-D

Thanks for reading, and supporting, and cheering. Love and Hugs :-)

5 comments:

JR said...

Congrats to you both on such a hard day - very impressed to read that you both finished despite having to fall back to the "finish" goal. It will make you stronger and I love reading the part about doing all that you could on the day - that is a success in itself! Nice job you guys - enjoy the down time and look forward to seeing you back at 'er!

Nadeen Halls said...

Hey AD - You gave it your best and that's all anyone can ask ... it can be a long day ... I know first hand :) But you didn't give up and that's more courageous. Especially with your goals always on your mind. Enjoy your time in Hawaii and have some fun now.

Kelly B. said...

Hi Amber...have been following your blog for several months...imo you did amazing! Your dissappointment would be my world record...I think you rocked it!!
All the best to you!
Kelly

cinc said...

Amber - I have been following your blog for a while (stumbled on it when I googled the Tri-It store here in Calgary!) - anyway, I'm sorry that you didn't have the result you were hoping for in Louisville - I was tracking you during the day and saw that things were going tough for you. Way to work it though - you are an amazing athlete.

Enjoy Hawaii! We were there just after Christmas for a tri camp and Kona is my favorite place by far!

Lisa G said...

Congrats again for pushing through right to the end and not giving in to your body telling you to walk, despite the challenges that the day brought. I can definitely understand how super-crazy-tough it is to do an IM on such a brutally hot day (same thing happened to me during my one and only IM so far in 2006). Way to go!! Are you planning on another IM for next year?