I made it. Thanks to everybody in the club who has been supporting and encouraging me to get to the start line. Les Jones above all, without him I would have never done this. And Audra Farrell. Claudia Cummings and Dan Gallagher for inspiring me. Allow me also to publicly express my gratitude to Alex, my boyfriend, not only for being there the whole day watching me race, but for supporting me for the past few months, cooking, washing dishes, shopping, while I used all my spare time to train. Too bad he doesn't run, because he was great support also during the training, coming to swim and bike with me whenever he could.
I went to Florida already happy just with having trained for this thing. Losing 10 pounds and a few inches around my waist, was already a good enough reason to celebrate :) Finishing would have been good of course. Finishing in less than 13 hours, would have been excellent. But I had no specific goal.
It was a tough, tough day. Temperatures in the 90's, real high humidity. I spent the whole day friday cursing at the Weather Channel on the television in my hotel room. I just decided that I was going to be extra careful and try to enjoy the day as much as I could.
Got up at 5AM. Actually the alarm was set up for 5:30 but my next door neighbors left at 5 and woke me up. Breakfast, then loaded the car with the various bags (transition, special needs), drag Alex out of bed and off we go. Got some last minor details fixed on my bike, loaded the bento box with clif bars bits (I cut them up beforehand so that I can eat them in a single byte), and then I had the first can of my secret weapon: V8 juice. That thing is so loaded with sodium and potassium that it's really what you want in a day like yesterday. I had one can in each of my bags, and I really believe that's what saved me.
I had a great time on the swim. I kept a very good line and finished the first lap in 38 minutes, right on target. Then on the second lap I got in the water at a different angle than at the start so I had a little bit of a hard time finding the line again, but once I got to the first buoy I was back on track. Half-way in the second lap I surprised myself thinking "Wow I am actually doing this, and it's going as planned!". Came out of the water in 1:19:20. Exactly where I wanted to be.
Got stripped of my wetsuit, ran to the transition tent, changed into my bike clothes and ran out to get my bike. Less than 5 minutes overall. Very happy. I grab my bike and as I approach the exit of transition I noticed the championchip mats and it occurs to me that I didn't see the chip on my ankle as I was changing. I look down: my chip is indeed gone!! I drop my bike by the exit of transition and I run back to the tent. Another guy is having the same problem. We sift through a pile of gear bags looking for ours. I think that maybe the chip is folded inside the wetsuit. A volunteer helps me: we find the bag but no chip. I assume it got lost in the water (I don't remember seeing it at all when I came out). I am in disbelief. I start screaming "what am i going to do, what I am going to do". The volunteer looks at me and says "go bike!". It suddenly occurs to me that I am doing this for myself, not to have my name on a stupid website, and that chip or no chip, *I* will know that I can do this. I run back to the end of transition and get on my bike. Total T1 time, about 12 minutes :(
It was HOT. The bike course is challening. Rolling hills, and one steep climb (Sugarloaf Mtn, 1/2 mile, 8% grade) at mile 40. My goal was for a 7 hours bike at 16 mph average. I see pretty soon that it's not going to happen. The course is too tough, and the weather is too hot. I decide to play safe and do what I can. I finish the first lap in 3:45. Alex is not there, he overslept his nap in the hotel room :) I have my peanut butter/nutella sandwich, my V8 can and off I go. I take a whole bottle of Gatorade Endurance at each water exchange. I must have drunk about 2 gallons of that stuff, and never felt the need to pee. Just to give you an idea of how much I was sweating. On the second lap, I see few people collapsed on the side of the road. It's scary, but I keep going. On the second climb up Sugarloaf I see a sign "A day of pain, a lifetime of pride". It will stay with me for the rest of the race. I finish my bike in 7:48. It's OK. I don't mind the extra 48 mins. I wanted to finish the bike before 5pm so that I know that even if I walk the whole marathon I can still finish in time. It's 4:45 at this point I feel like I can do it! Alex is there to cheer me on. I change into my running clothes, with my beloved FRNY singlet and I start the marathon. T2 about 5 mins.
It's still very hot. I grab ice at each water stop and rub it against my body. I alternate between gatorade and coke (the drink, not the drug) at each water stop. One banana at each stop, makes for about 20 bananas by the end of the marathon :) First few miles at 9 min/mile. I am ecstatic. Then at mile 5 I slowly go down to 12 min/mile and then to 15 min/mile. Ouch. My legs hurt like crazy. I can barely move them. It's hardly running, more like hobbling. It will go on for about 10 miles. The lowest point of my race.
I finish the first lap (of 3) and I tell Alex to run along with me. I want to tell him that I am going way slow and that I will probably finish by 10:30pm or 11pm, so to go get dinner and not wait for me. A referee sees us and come yell at us. He thought Alex was pacing me! Later Alex tells me that other couples had not been yelled at when the husband or the wife ran along their partner for a few yards at the end of the lap. I assume it was not necessarily homophobic, but that the thought that Alex was my bf never crossed the ref's mind. Indeed from the outside one could have easily thought that Alex was my coach.
Anyway, the run hurts. And I am going really really slow. I feel like I have the energy to run faster but the pain is too strong. At mile 15 I have the brilliant idea of taking some advil at the water stop. Also a woman passes me and I see that I can keep her pace, so I ask her if it's OK to run with her for a while. She keeps me on a 12 min/mile pace so I am happy. Diane (her name) is on her first lap (I am on my 2nd) and she enjoys the company (apart from the fact that she kept calling me Ricardo, I enjoyed her company as well). She really saved my day. I finish the 2nd lap in much better spirits. Alex shouts "I'll see you at the finish line!". I can't believe it.
It is now dark. They give us glow-sticks and we can see spotlights on the sky where the finish line is. At mile 20 the advil kicks in and my legs start working again. I say goodbye to Diane, I feel like I can run much faster. The last 10K are the fastest of my whole marathon. I am running about 9 min/mile. I am ecstatic again. I pass so many people. I wave goodbye to all the volunteers at the water stops ("My last lap! thanks for all your help") including these crazy fratboys from U.Florida who had a medieval theme water stop. About a mile from the finish line, I start screaming. I can't believe I am actually finishing. I approach the finish line, I hear my name called and after I cross, I start jumping up and down "I made it! I made it!" sort of like Cuba Gooding Jr at the Oscars. Marathon time about 5:10, total time about 14:35. At the finish line they tell me not to worry about my chip, that they had a manual check for back up, and my results will be official.
I was worried about Bryce, since I expected him to pass me. Every time I went by I asked Alex who told me he had not seen him, which worried me even more. So I checked at the finish line and then at the medical tent. When they told me he had checked in with the medics but he was OK, I felt a lot of relief. I then got a 30 minute massage, and went back to my hotel.
I am an Ironman. A day of pain, a lifetime of pride.