Monday, September 1, 2008

It Was a Very Tough Day

Unfortunately, I don't have good news. You're all familiar with the initials DNF? Well, for me, yesterday, they meant the Dreaded Nutrition Factor. Going into this race, in fact, when I was thinking of signing up, my husband's main concern was nutrition/hydration. He knew I could do the training, and mentally and physically, I am a strong person. But he was really concerned about the heat factor for me. I have a really hard time with nutrition particularly in the heat.

I really thought I had it figured out. But there were so many things that happened the last few days before the race. First, I was really nervous. My knee was killing me. I was really concerned about the bike course, and the heat was going to be an issue. I was so nervous, I couldn't eat the way I should have Saturday. Hardly any dinner. The morning was worse. I had a hard time choking down my breakfast. Before the race was crazy. It was a time trial start, and by the time I got in line, I was in the last group of 50 to start the race. I ran out of water, and just couldn't eat. So when I started the swim, I was already in trouble--hungry and thirsty.

I actually had a good swim. I love the time trial start, and while the water was very warm (I think 83 degrees), it was relatively calm and not very crowded. I got into a good rhythm early, and kept an even pace and good sighting. I swam close to the buoys, and I was sure the day was off to a good start.

Ironman transitions are amazing. The volunteers are great. It's like you have your own personal valet (as my husband puts it) to help you change, or whatever you need. I changed, went to the bathroom, got sunscreen, and was on my way. I should have eaten before I got on the bike, but I forgot. Very typical! I also attached my shoes to my pedals, and I didn't practice with these shoes getting them on. I had to stop and take the second shoe off and start over. Not a great start!

I planned to start slow on the bike, which I did. All in all, it was a great course. There were some challenging parts, but if I had been at my best, I think I could have ridden it in 7 hours or less. But when I started, I had a stitch in my side. I can honestly say I don't ever remember having this on my bike. I think it finally went away about mile 35 or so, but I couldn't eat or drink much, which was the beginning of the end. It took me just over 8 hours! TERRIBLE!

The course had a 30 mile loop that we did twice--there were some really tough parts. By the second time, I was really struggling--it was really hot, I was dizzy, and just couldn't eat. When I saw my husband and kids the second time, the course was pretty empty. I stopped and told him I was in trouble and not feeling great. But I knew the last 30 or so miles would be easier. But then I realized that I was actually going to have to hustle to make the bike cutoff! Never in my wildest dreams did I EVAR think that would happen. But, I was determined to do it and at least try the run. I didn't come this far to not even try!

The last part of the bike was a little tough because the 2nd to last aid station ran out of drinking water. One of the volunteers decided to just pour freezing cold water on my head, neck and shoulders--before she asked me. OMG--I almost went into shock. Had to stop a couple minutes and regulate my breathing. YIKES!

By the time I got to the last rest stop (10 miles to go) I was really in trouble. I knew the run was going to be tough, but I knew I had to at least try. The last part of the bike was easier. The riders around me were happy we were going to make the cutoff!

Again, personal valet in the transition, grabbed all my stuff (food), hat, sunscreen, peed (very little--another hint of dehydration) and started. When I started the run, my clock said 10:04 for my race time. That meant I had about 7 hours to finish. If I was able to run/walk at a 15 min. pace, I would make it. Remember, they don't close the course officially until 17 hours from the time the last swimmer starts, but that was only about 3-4 minutes after I started. Plus, I really wanted to be an "official Ironman finisher".

The run started out OK. I ran the first mile, then the stitch came back. Couldn't eat, only drink. Decided to walk a while. Got worse. My friend Gary was on his second loop and walked with me a while. Many people I saw had tough days. Lots of walking on the marathon course. Both first and second loops.

I saw Gary again when he was almost done. He encouraged me and said he's come back and watch me cross the finish line. I felt soooo bad when I had to call him later and tell him not to come--I wouldn't be there!

At about 9 miles, I realized it was pretty much over. I had developed a huge blister on my right foot (NEVER had that before!). Now I couldn't even swallow the water, and I started to get cold. It was still about 87 degrees. Not good. Plus, I knew I could never walk the last 13 miles and be done by midnight. So I made the decision to walk to the turn around, and call it a day. It was a very fact-based, unemotional decision. I knew it would be tough, but it was the right thing to do.

One of the volunteers at the aid station at 12 miles had a phone. I called my husband, who was at mile 14, and we walked until we saw each other. It was dark, we were 1 mile from the finish line, and I could hear all the celebrating. It was hard, but again, I was so sick, I knew I really didn't have a choice.

My good friend Jo Ann had called my cell phone twice. She had been tracking me and knew I was in trouble. I was able to call her when I was finishing up and she was great. She agreed that I made the right decision. Thanks so much, Jo. I love you!

And really, I was OK. I talked with one participant and he told me I was doing the right thing. Get yourself together, figure out what you want to do, and if you want to do another race in the future, you will.

Last night, I told my husband and mom, maybe my body is not meant for Ironman distance. I'm definitely not planning for one next year. I'm going to stick with half distances.

Driving home, I had the "meltdown". I saw a couple other cars with bikes from the race, and I kind of lost it. I'm tired, my foot is killing me, I did everything I could. I did all the training, the sacrifice of time, family, money, and the wear and tear on my 53 year old arthritic body. And with all that, this is the first triathlon I started and didn't finish. No finishers medal (which my husband had to tell me were really cute). No t-shirt, no mylar blanket. Just swim, bike and run splits, and a big DNF after my name. That really STINKS!

There were 24 women signed up for my age group. 16 started, 11 finished. One didn't make the swim cutoff, two didn't make the bike cutoff and one didn't finish the bike. One other lady finished the bike and not the run. It was a tough day all around. The average bike time was much slower than I expected, even from the younger and more experienced racers. Of course the pros, elites, all those crazy fast people, it didn't bother them.

There were several bad accidents. Plus I saw about six ambulances carrying bikers off the course with problems--mostly heat related. Then there was the occasional athlete laying on the side of the road, under a tree, with their bike on the ground. There were times that really looked like a good idea.

To those of you experienced IMers, this is probably not out of the ordinary. Not everyone who starts a race finishes. People have bad days. The weather can affect people in different ways. Injuries happen. Which reminds me--I didn't not finish because of my knee. It was a little sore on the bike, probably from the hills, but it really felt good on the run (or for me, walk). It's tired and a little sore today, but all in all, I think it's going to be OK! PTL!

My quads were cramping on the bike when I tried to get out of the saddle the second half of the course. Again, a first for me. So, I stayed in my saddle pretty much the whole rest of the way. I stopped at almost every rest stop, except the first. According to my cyclometer, I spent about 40 minutes stopped. In the end, though, I think it was worth it, or I may not have finished the bike.

So, the bottom line is that I am not officially an Ironman. My husband still believes in me, and still thinks that I will want to go back and conquer the Louisville course. I don't know--maybe in two, three years. Now I know what's involved, and I'm glad I had the experience. It was a good learning experience, but I REALLY WANTED TO FINISH! Believe me, if there was any way I thought I could physically do it in 17 hours, I would have. But at my age, comes wisdom. There will be other days and other races. Better to stop then continue and really have long term problems.

So to everyone out there who is an Ironman, I applaud you. I have always had great respect for what you do, but even more so now. You are all amazing! And to all of you who conquered the course yesterday for the first and second times, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE AMAZING IRONMEN AND IRONWOMEN!

There's still more to share, but enough for now. Can't wait to read everyone's stories.

To those who are racing in Madison next weekend--good luck and God bless! May you have great weather, great attitudes, and great races!

Until next time--God bless!


Fe-lady said...

There will be more training and more races...and you said it all. Your hubby and family still love you and will probably support you when the next one comes around!
Best of luck!

WADDLER26.2 said...

WOW-- I was following you on the tracker when I saw your time out of the water cheered. THen following your times on the bike -I know how strong you are and was praying for a mechanical issue not personal problems. THen you made the cutoff and knew with your pace that things were very tough. My heart hurt for you when I knew the finish was closed. THe heartbreak of all the time and effort for the past year was amazing. There will be other days and someday the iron will be yours.

Take care..

kevim said...

I'm so sorry that the day didn't turn out the way you had hoped and planned. It was a very tough day with very tough conditions. You showed great strength in fighting as long as you did. Be proud of that. That is what makes an Ironman. You will make it back to a IM starting line again someday and from this experience be even more ready!! I'm glad you are alright, as I tracked you during the day I knew something was wrong. You made the right choice to fight another day.

See you at the pool!!


Mary Sunshine said...

The GOOD news is that you are alive. Believe me, there are people who have found themselves on death's door from various internal organ failures from races much less demanding that this one. You did a great job. You trained hard and fought hard and I'm completely sure that all who know and love you are so proud of what you have accomplished. Don't let the marketing ploys of World Triathlon Corporation pull you into thinking anything bad about yourself. You are an awesome lady! Hold you head up and be proud!


Vickie said...

A learning experience for sure! No matter the outcome, you did the best you could under the extreme circumstances and made the right decision for you. And you're still braver than me! Congrats on sticking it out as long as you did!

IronSnoopy said...

Go to the mall or your son's high school or just walk down the street -- and look for one, just one, woman with your work ethic or dedication to triathlon. You won't find one. Sometimes what defines us (does this sound familiar?)...sometimes what defines us lies within. Not in a medal or those 4 elusive words.

Sometimes it's harder to quit.

I feel horrible that you didn't finish. Do what you need to do for you and the rest will fall into place. :)

Rock on, Karen!

E.L.F. said...

Sorry to hear about your day!

Michelle said...

"Believe me, if there was any way I thought I could physically do it in 17 hours, I would have." I have no doubt of this whatsoever. Mind over matter will only take you so far. Eventually matter is reality. You showed incredible dedication, and the journey counts for a lot. It's not all about the medal, it's so much more than that. I'm sorry it wasn't your day but it sounds like you've learned a lot and if you ever do decide to tackle this again you'll be stronger for this experience. And if not, you are still stronger for this experience.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

I'm sorry the race didn't work out. I didn't finish my first IM race either. It was at IMWI in 2003 and it was blasting hot. I also wasn't ready and didn't believe in myself.

I did finish at IMFL two years later. So many memories from these years of training. So many cool experiences.

I hope you'll continue thinking and analyzing what was good/great/bad about this entire experience. There is a lot of valuable moments there!
Best to you in your training,

Kim said...

well I am way behind in my blogs and reading.. First I'm sorry your IM day didn't turn out like planned...but you will live to fight another proud of what you did and even prouder for making a sound smart decision to not push your body to a point of no return(possibly) - and remember, we have how many 53 yr old women in the world... and how many even attempt a sprint tri, let alone an IM distance. You rock in my book sister!