Ironman Florida – The marathon

Despite the calamitous swim and pelvic floor mishaps on the bike, my race was going according to plan. Entering transition-2, I felt awesome and began to understand the power of sticking to said plan. Everything wasn’t perfect, of course, I was still having incontinence issues. While entering T2, the urge to pee was strong, and I thought that I’d be able to rack my bike and change into running gear before going to the “honey bucket”. Instead, as I walked to the rack, I began peeing on myself. I’d completely lost the ability to hold my bladder. Oh well, this was not the time to fret, so I kept moving forward.  After rinsing my legs with fresh water, and changing my socks, I left to begin the marathon. On the way out, I saw Robin and Kai as well as several of my Triathlon club members which lifted my already high spirits.

The intent was to run the entire marathon and walk only at the aid stations. I remembered the pain of attempting this last year and I knew it would be difficult. Except, last year, I chose to try for a 10 min/ mile pace 🀣🀣🀣!  I was completely unprepared for the pain that I experienced after 2 hours into the run. As a result, I didn’t achieve anything close to 10 min/mile. So, with no particular pace in mind, I needed just to move faster than walking.

Actually running

Running off the bike initially feels easy which can result in early fatigue and hours of suffering. To prevent that from happening, I focused on maintaining a slow pace while maintaining a low heart rate which was easy because it was fucking cold. Actually, since I was inadequately dressed, I needed to keep moving just to generate some body heat πŸ₯Ά. The first half of the first loop (it’s a two-loop course) went very well, I felt strong, kept a good cadence, and held my form. I saw several people that I knew, most of whom were at least 6 miles ahead of me. While completing the first lap the sun began to set so I accepted that it was going to be a long cold night. Fortunately, my body still felt strong so I remained focused on hydrating and taking in calories – refilling both at each aid station. Twelve miles in and I was on target to run the whole damn thing!

Somewhere on the 1st lap, I ended up β€œrunning” alongside a guy named Bert and we pushed each other for the next Eight-ish miles. The conversation and companionship through the dark parts of the course helped pass the time, miles and was a big benefit mentally. Without the conversation, my mind becomes very active and begins to introduce negative ideas. So, I was exceptionally grateful he was there. The less time I need to spend fighting negative thoughts, the better.  As the night drew on, fewer and fewer spectators were on the course. About mile 16, Bert’s knee was in bad shape and he decided to walk for a while. I chose to continue fighting and kept running. However, without the conversation, running the cold, dark increasingly desolate course was taking its toll – I began losing my will to continue running between aid stations. I experienced one last bladder “malfunction” as I approached the aid station around mile 19, the urge to pee was strong. I was squeezing and holding as tight as possible, but as I put my hand on the door to the “honey-pot” my bladder, once again, emptied down my leg. I stood there and just watched it. Actually, the warm liquid felt good. I shook my head and thought, I don’t need to go in there now, so grabbed two cups of water and poured them on my legs to rinse off, and kept moving. My mind was too fatigued to do anything but think “eh, that sucks”. And by the way, Fuck Cancer!

Although I had plenty of energy, at mile 20 I began to shuffle-walk. Actually, I’d done a perfect job of managing nutrition throughout the day. I hadn’t experienced any dips in energy, bouts of dehydration, or cramping of any sort. Instead, I had found my mental breaking point. No longer could I override the sinister messages coming from my mind… β€œwhy are you still running? Why are you even doing this? This is stupid! Just sit down, you’ve done enough, it will feel good. Trust me” blah, blah, blah. ☹️

One final push

By the final 6 mile stretch, I had completely succumbed to the pain and began walking much more than running. Feeling very disappointed I was now fighting against a negative mental spiral. To add insult, my watch battery was dead, so I had no concept of the time. Initially, I worried about making the 17-hour cutoff.  But, after some reflection, I realized that I’d executed my race as planned and would still get a finisher’s medal by crossing the finish line. I stopped giving a shit if I made the cutoff or not. I had accomplished what I came to do!

Then, out of the blue, Bert and a few of his friends showed up and got me moving again πŸ₯³. He tapped my shoulder and said, you kept me going in the middle of the run, I’m not going to let you falter now. Stay with us, we’re going to finish strong!  The final 5 miles were done as a cluster of struggling almost-zombies holding each other accountable and it felt fantastic. Shared suffering can be a powerfully positive force.

16 hours and 24 minutes after entering the water I crossed the finish line and heard Mike Riley call me an Ironman for the 2nd time πŸ’ͺ🏾πŸ’ͺ🏾. This was my very 1st spectator-filled finish line….DAAYYYUUUM!!!! The energy was so intense that for a minute or two I forgot that about all the pain βš‘οΈπŸŽ‰. As I walked along the red carpet I felt like the most important person on the planet. All the cheering, banging, lights, and music were almost too much to take. I was relieved that it was over.