The first mile of any run off the bike, I try not to do anything. Don't eat don't drink don't look at the watch don't think. Just run, just get to the first mile marker and THEN start doing work and making decisions. (No idea what's going on here, probably something along the lines of fuck yeah I'm about to run a marathon!).
So I didn't think, I just ran. And my legs felt like crap, but my stomach was the bigger problem. I made it about eight minutes before I dove into a porta-potty. I spent about one ugly minute in there, hopped out, slammed the door, and kept running. One of my process goals for the day was to run the entire marathon, no matter how slowly I was moving. I knew after that stop that I still had some problems to solve, but I was determined to run while I was solving them. So I ran through the first aid station without taking anything. I still was holding my bottle of EFS, but I didn't try any sips quite yet. Mile two clicked by without another potty stop, so I took a piece of ice at the aid station. I only made it a few more minutes before I turned around and ran back to the porta potty.
Came out, slammed the door, kept running. I decided to not try anything at all, not even ice, for the next two miles. I made it past the mile three marker before my tummy struck again, and this time I sat there for a minute (yes, I put TP on the seat even during a race, it's gross). I looked down at my shoes and said out loud in that stinky little room, self, we are going to figure this out.
I got to the mile four marker without a stop, then mile five, then mile six. And I wasn't thinking about anything other than the mile that I was in. Just get to mile five, just get to mile six. I saw a lot of my friends in here, and we all waved and cheered for each other and Yasi said I love you, it's okay as she blew by me. I grabbed some sponges as I came through aid but otherwise took nothing, and I ditched my bottle of EFS at some point. I was headed back towards town, still moving slowly and cautiously, and my tummy struck again. By now, there had to be nothing in my intestines at all, but I knew if it was still reacting I couldn't put anything in.
Miles 10-15, looking back, were the worst of the day. My stomach was vibrating with anger, and all I could do was talk nice to it and stop in the porta potty to try and let it empty out. Run, stop, run, stop, run, stop, those middle miles were really rough and slow. I was starting to feel pretty low, as it had been over two hours since I had taken any calories or fluid in, but it wasn't hot out and I wasn't worried, I was just thirsty.
At some point after mile 11 or 12, I saw Hillary riding around on her bike. I was really confused about how she had finished the race and already headed out to check on her athletes (I found out after the race that she hadn't started because she was sick). She asked me how I was doing, and I said, Honestly, Hillary, I'm shitting my brains out. I had taken a few tums from my ziplock bag but they hadn't helped, and I had nothing else, so I was just waiting it out. And Hillary, the angel of my marathon, pointed out a few minutes later that there was a lonely little bag with two immodium in it, sitting on the ground, belonging to no one, perhaps that had fallen off of a bike, maybe one that looked just like hers. I picked them up and took them both with a tiny sip of water and headed back into town.
The miles coming through town were the bottom of the hole. I knew the immodium needed time to work so I didn't want to send any calories down quite yet, and at that point, I was hitting a pretty serious calorie bonk and my running was looking more like the zombie shuffle. I saw Yasi on the way back out for her second loop and she stopped and hugged me and I was so confused about what happened to her shirt. I also knew that my family was going to be worried about me based on my splits, so when I ran by them the first time, I didn't say anything but I pointed at my butt in hopes that the poet would understand what was going on. (In hindsight this is hilarious, but my brain wasn't working all that well in the moment).
I stopped at special needs for my handheld, mostly because I didn't want to lose it. I did the small out-and-back with only one stop (it's pretty awful when people are yelling your name at the moment where you stop running and step into the porta potty) and when I came back through, stopped to tell the poet what was going on. I've had bad nutrition days before, but my attitude was still pretty positive and I remember telling him over and over, I'm going to figure this out, I'm not mad, tell Sonja I'm not mad, tell her I'm fine, I'm going to figure this out, it is just going to take me longer than I planned to finish, but I really am doing fine.
I handed off my handheld, all my gels - I won't need these, here, you take them - and my heart rate strap because it was bugging me. With all my stops, it took me well over three hours to cover the first half marathon, but I jogged back out of town knowing that even if the second half took me three more, I still had plenty of time to get to the finish line. As weird as it sounds, I wasn't panicked or angry in the moment, and I was still trying to stay in the mile that I was in, that was the thought that I had with me all day. Don't think about all 26 miles, let's just think about looking for the mile 15 sign.
And mile 15 is where it started to turn around. I figured at that point I had given the medicine enough time to work, so when I came through aid, I took a few sips of water and then forced myself to walk for two minutes. No stomach problems, so I jogged to the next aid station, took another cup of water, forced myself to walk for two minutes, still good. I jogged to the next one and ate an orange slice, and until my dying day I will never taste anything that tastes as good as that single orange slice tasted in that moment. It was like someone milked a unicorn and then mixed it with chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream and whatever sunshine must taste like and how your legs feel when you take off high-heeled shoes. I forced myself to walk two minutes again, hoping that the walking was helping with digestion. At the next station, I ate 2-3 slices and a few pretzels and did one more two minute walk. I think that was roughly mile 18 or 19. When I realized my nutrition was staying down, I started looking at my watch and doing calculations again, and I started to get excited when I realized that I could still pull it together enough to PR the run - maybe only by a tiny bit, but a bit. At the next aid station I ate an entire cup of pretzels and pulled out three PreRace pills - a pretty serious dose of caffeine. I put it all down, with a big cup of water, and then I took off for the finish line.
Now, "taking off for the finish line" at mile 20 of a pretty rough marathon doesn't mean I was breaking any speed records, but my splits were finally back in the 10/11 range, including the walking I was forcing myself to do. I had a few odd burps and took a couple of 20-second walk breaks following those, just to make sure that my stomach wasn't going to erupt, but the course was full of people who were walking and just by running at my plod-along-ironman-pace, I was passing them by the dozens. And I remembered Sonja telling me if you are running 11:00 pace at the end of an ironman you are going to be passing a lot of people.
I spent a lot of time in those later miles just trying to hold my shit together and get down any calories that I could. I took cups of coke when I came through aid but didn't stop. When it started pouring around mile 21 and everyone stopped to pull on trash bags over their race kits, I didn't stop. (You've been racing for 12 hours covered in lake water, pee, sweat, dirt, and spilled nutrition and now you need a raincoat?) I tried not to walk on any hills and did a lot of okay, run to that stick. Now to that hole in the ground. Now to that crack. as I came back into town. I did a little bit of walking up the big hill, sure, but I started running again as soon as I made the turn. I saw the poet waiting and flashed him a big happy smile with two thumbs up.
I hit the turn-around and knew that I was headed into the finish. I flipped my watch over to the lap screen because I wanted to see where I was when I hit mile 26, and the guy next to me (on his first lap) gave me a lot of shit for it. You can see the finish line from here, he said, why are you looking at your watch? And I looked at him, and I laughed, and I unstrapped my watch and flung it into the air towards the poet, who was jogging along behind the spectators yelling my name in his extra-loud spectating voice. He caught it, yelled I love you and took off for the finish.
When I made the turn where FINISH was taped on the ground, I ran under a blow-up archway and saw a clock, and my extremely weary brain thought that I was done. So I stopped and looked around. Where was everyone?
The spectators waiting on the sidelines started yelling at me. Keep going it's over there! And I realized I still had to run around the oval, so I started running again. What idiot doesn't realize that she isn't at the finish? Other than an idiot exhausted from thirteen plus hours of racing.
So I ran around the oval, I let my face split open with a smile, and I finished. Marathon time: 5:30:24 for a huge negative split (oh, THAT'S how you negative split the IM marathon) and 13:19:28 for the day. A handful of minutes of a PR on the run and a 40+ minute PR on the day.
I had a moment where I realized that I wasn't going to break the run time that I had planned, and I had a second of mourning for it and then let it go into the universe. The same thing happened, just for a split-second, when I realized that my time for the day wasn't going to be even close to what I had hoped, and I paused, mourned, then set those thoughts free. Those thoughts can't hurt me if they are free, and days later, after the race, I don't feel haunted by them, by any decisions I made. I don't feel smart or stupid or happy or sad or frustrated or powerful or disappointed. I feel content. Satisfied with my choices. Peaceful, just how I have felt all year.
I don't have a lot of "final thoughts" on this race. When people ask me how it went, I don't really know what to say, so I smile and say it was great, thank you for remembering to ask about it and to some I add, I PRd every leg. I don't talk about getting punched in the head or the rain or how soggy my feet were or how chafed I still am or what turned out to be fifteen separate porta-potty stops on the run (thanks, Garmin). I don't talk about what I "thought I was going to do" or what I "think I can do next time." I just say, I got to do an ironman.