IMWC: The Meltdown - part II
Continued from part one... While it felt like I found my rhythm on the swim and the bike and was able to get into the zone, the run was an entirely mental struggle. The course first spits you out onto Ali'i, where you do the first ten miles out and back. The crowds are everywhere, you have an ocean view and drunk spectators are cheering you on, most often by name thanks to the personalized bibs.
Even early on, I guess I knew this was going to be hard. From aid station one, I was going through them like an all-you-can-drink-buffet: water, perform, another water, ice down the top. After each station, I made a conscious effort to get ice in the top, down the shorts, two cubes in the mouth and one in each hand. Later on in the run, I would even find myself taking an ice cube and rubbing it all over my face. This probably should have been a sign, something *should* have clicked, but everything else just kept telling me that this was something everyone was dealing with, Kona is just hot, period.
At some point along Ali'i, Alyssa passed me, and said some much-needed words of encouragement. I don’t remember what she said but it was exactly what I needed – I calmed down, focused on breathing, put my head down and got back to work. I do remember feeling warm and taking off my visor when I saw my parents somewhere along the Kuakini highway. Later my mom told me I looked "angry" - I don't remember being angry, just hot. I really need to stop racing with a visor, I always feel like they just insulate my head... am I the only one who feels that?
Running down Ali'i, I did my best to smile back when greeted with crazy cheering but deep down, as much as I wanted to ignore it, I knew I was in for a tough afternoon. As I came to the end of this stretch and was about to tackle Palani, I saw Hillary. “How are you feeling?” she yelled at me, “how’s it going?” I gave her the "so-so" wave, wanting to yell back instead, “I feel like absolute SHIT!” but not wanting to admit to either Hillary or myself that I was struggling to the degree that I was. In the back of my mind, I just kept telling myself, “Ironman is hard, you signed up for this, suck it up.” Remember, this is only ten miles in.
Palani was a nightmare--but to be expected--and I made it up and then enjoyed the nice rolling downhill section coming off of it. I let my stride turn over and speed up like Hillary had shouted at me to do and enjoyed the feel of flying, but knew that this big uphill was waiting for me about 12-miles later. I tried to push those thoughts to the back of my mind and trudged on down the Queen K. There’s not much on the Queen K, though I had the male pros and later the females coming back into town to distract me from my discomfort. The caravan driving along Rinny, bikers pedaling along and the helocopters overhead was like nothing I had ever experienced; total frenzy. Later Meredith Kessler came by, and while I didn’t have the energy to cheer, I mustered a smile and clapped. If there’s anyone to look to for the definition of perseverance, it’s her.
I got a boost and dug in.
At some point during the energy lab, I think shortly before the female pros came through, Hillary rolled up on the bike. I have no clue what she said but there is absolutely NOTHING like having the support of a coach live out on the course with you. And then I was quickly coming up to the energy lab. I didn’t know this, but spectators can only go so far on the Queen K… and there’s nothing and no one but the aid stations once you get within a certain distance of the turn left into the Energy Lab.
I kind of liked this because I got to suffer in silence but gave me lots of time to think about the infamous stretch of road coming up. Again, I enjoyed the rolling downhill but knew that every step down would be a return trip back. I passed Ken Glah, who said something encouraging as I passed and while I was leaping for excitement inside at seeing him on the course, I could only manage a thumbs-up in return. To be out on the same course as legends is pretty amazing! Coming up out of the energy lab while I was still coming in was Alyssa. Again, my on-course guardian angel, telling to me to basically hunker down for the energy lab, that everyone suffers. I seriously have to thank Alyssa, y'all - she's a speedy class act to watch in the next few years and someone I feel lucky to have gotten the chance to chase : )
Coming out of the energy lab was terrible, just terrible. The incline was never-ending and I began walking aid stations, something I haven't done in any of my half or full races at all this year. Oddly enough, however, I got a boost from the final aid station coming out of the Energy Lab and a cheer from Julie, yet another HPB'er out on the course, and started to pick it up, both a combo of feeling good and wanting to get to the finish. I started passing people. I sat on the shoulder of a MAMIL (middle-age man in lycra :) ) and we ran the next 3-4 miles together toward the finish, including up the IronWar hill, which I slowed way down for and wasn't too bad.
Earlier in the run, my watch had stopped giving me pace, so I reset it and started over, meaning I didn't have total mileage, only the mile markers and mile laps coming automatically about every 9-minutes. At one point I just gave up on splits, flipping over to the clock display and seeing that it was 4:50pm. I remember doing the math and thinking that I could still slow down to 10-minute miles and still get under 10:30, which would be a huge victory for me. I remember hitting 5:00pm and thinking that I was slowing down - I don't know if the crowds of Palani energized me but my last mile was still around a 7:30; apparently I had not eased up for what would otherwise essentially be a victory lap into town.
Things go fuzzy shortly after coming down Palani. I remember someone yelling "only 2k to go" at me and then thinking, "hallelujah, the finish line is here!" And then things went dark.
Apparently, this is what happened in the chute: