Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ironman: Part Four

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people."

~ Bill Bowerman

Ironman: It's not about facing your fear, its about challenging it to a footrace... and WINNING.

I was weary, but oh, so happy as I jogged into the transition tent. In the morning, when I left the trauma of the deep, dark lake-o-doom, the tent was dark, extremely crowded, and just makes you feel crazy. You feel like there is no way you will:

a) Leave wearing the appropriate gear--that you own
b) Leave having placed your swimming gear into your bag

But somehow it happens and you run off to fetch your bike and enjoy 6 hours of pain. I mean pedaling.

As opposed to the "morning transition" the "afternoon transition" is pleasant. It's quiet, bright, warm, and I am SO 'TARD HAPPY to be off the freaking bike that I am the worlds happiest kid on Christmas. I love everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my enthusiasm (when you feel terrible nothing can make you smile) though I think they appreciate my smile.

I hope.

I found a seat in the middle of the tent that was very open, and set about my business:

-Off with helmet.
-Off with bike shoes.
-Off with bike shorts.
-Off with glasses. Wait, those have to go back on, better start making a different pile...always room for Virgo.

Now, dump out the run bag.
-Put on running shoes.
-Put on running hat.
-Put the glasses on. Yeeeeeah.
-Grab fuel belt of life saving juice.

NOW GO!! Creak, creak, creak, as I slog out of the tent. It's such a great day.

It was very easy this time to transition, and I was out in a couple of minutes. It seems after that point I always wish I would have enjoyed sitting there "transitioning" more... how weird. It is a fleeting, good, SITTING moment. The volunteers make it happen, and I kinda miss them a little.

(It took me a mile of running to remember I did not want to be wearing my arm warmers any longer, and I slipped them off and balled them up, planning on tossing them to the girls as I ran past. Which I did. And surprised the HELL out of them.)

Later, in the rain, I would dearly miss those arm warmers. Aaarrrrrrr....

The sun was behind clouds, this time, and I did not stop for any sunscreen (or leg rubs, which I received impromptu last Ironman). It was a decent temperature outside at this point, and I left the tent feeling reasonably well for how HARD I had pedaled. As I pushed into the first little out and back west of the park, about a half mile into the marathon, I was relieved. My training WAS good after all; after that hard of a bike ride, when I got finished and handed my bike off I was certain that my run would be doomed to a half marathon walk. It is one of those things where you start running and within a few steps you know.

You know if you are going to RUN the marathon or SURVIVE marathon.

Today, if I was going somewhere... I - WAS - RUN-NANG!!!!

I told myself, as I began the marathon, that I wasn't going to take anything from the aid stations until 10 miles, or if I had my own liquid left, 13 miles.

I had eaten and hydrated well enough on the bike, and I had my fuel belt with the same mix of Sustain (from Melaleuca) in 3 flavors that I had trained with. I also had clif Shot blocks with caffeine (my secret marathon weapon) and Endurolyte tabs just in case. My plan was to finish the fuel belt bottles by halfway through the marathon, and if I for some reason went dry too early before I reached the special needs bags (where I had full replacement bottles), I could supplement at the aid stations. But O wanted to avoid the weird stuff this time.

My last Ironman I overdid the cookies and coke a bit. Heh...

But then again, I had very different goals in 2007, my first Ironman. This time, I stuck to the plan because I wanted to RUN the marathon. I passed through the aid stations, with their tasty looking assortment of foods and beverages being offered, and instead sucked down half a bottle of Orange Sustain. I popped in a Shot block and sucked on it for a mile. I felt tired, as I should, but good. I felt ready to run.

The other part of my plan was simple but more difficult. 9:00 minute/mile for the first 3 miles, and then steady 8 minute miles as long as I could after that, and if I was really doing well I could throw in 7:30 here and there. Just like training. I had my heart rate monitor/watch on and was tracking my time. I had been through this so many times mentally that I had the times memorized, and even had "contingency" times memorized. And I was sort of in between at this point.

I ran along, passing so many people it was shocking. I was not running fast yet, but as I ran back by the transition area in the park, realizing Brian indeed was not right behind me, I had already probably passed 50 people in the first mile. They were walking out of transition, these same people who had ridden the fighter jets on wheels past me earlier. Interesting.

As I started into and through downtown Coeur d' Alene, I saw Jan and Shawna on the sidewalk, totally unprepared for my arrival. I lobbed the arm warmers at Shawna who screamed with surprise, and they started cheering for me instantly. I love the marathon leg--I am always running so much faster than the people around me (at least through the first 18 miles).

To LOOK better really does help you FEEL better, I think. That is, if you can see yourself. So much of this thing IS mental, after all.

Case in point:
A guy who I caught up to and was about to pass was doing the same thing I was at the big corner at the end of the main street in downtown: looking at his reflection in a big store window as he ran past. We saw each other doing it, and he beat me to the punch by saying "FORM CHECK! Yep, I look GOOOOOD!!" It was hilarious.
I told him "The most important thing in this IS looking the part, after all. Keep it up!" And I ran past him. It was a joke, but it is kinda true. You can control a lot by imagining yourself "looking like a pro" just like the Golf ads on weekend cable television say.

Bounce bounce bounce. I felt so bouncy and strong. Like, if I have enough energy to run like this, I owe it to all the people who DO NOT to run as fast as I can.

I sped out of town, imagining myself running like a pro, trying to do all of the things I tell Jan to do when she works on her running. I don't really have to think about them except for during Ironman, when I am tired and have heavy legs.

As I trotted along past the 5th mile, I watched the runners around me. I felt out of place as they plodded and walked. I realized how now my bike riding was the lagging sport of the three. It used to be my (gulp) swimming...

(Insert "shocked hero" music here.)

I saw startlingly few "runners" out there. At mile 8 I started seeing the difference between "first lappers" and "second lappers". The seconds lappers are on their way to the finish and are just flying along, in momentous amounts of discomfort, but really running hard. The first lappers, like me I suppose, are in less discomfort but just hanging on for dear life to get through the first lap.

Jan really needs to see this--I think she would really take heart to see that it is true: if you can run the end of a triathlon that is longer than a sprint, you really are doing pretty good.

I saw how many people pushed too hard on the bike because now -- I was making the fighter jet sound as I ran past them.

I will never stop the rain by complaining...

The turn-around east of town is 2/3rds of the way up this evil hill that goes around a lazy right swooping turn. Its a tough hill to ride a bike up, and during the marathon its really tough. When I got to it during the first lap, I felt ok, but wondered if I could actually run up this thing. I started at the bottom by shortening my stride a little, staring just in front of my feet, and increasing my cadence. I forced myself to lift my knees a little--just like in practice. I started increasing my cadence a little more. I pushed off a little harder. Hey, this is going pretty well, I thought to myself. I was passing people like crazy--most everyone around me had started walking. I was feeling pretty good about things, and starting to think it was going to be a relatively easy run, all things considered.

Remember what I said about feeling cocky at Ironman?

That's is PRECISELY the moment the rain really started to come down. It had been sprinkling off and on, and the wind was really whipping, but it had not yet hit that point of making me want to stop running, point at the sky with my extended middle fingers and start swearing at the top of my lungs. At least not until that moment. And believe me, the thought crossed my mind.

"BRING IT ON!" I think is what came out of my mouth, followed by a few more words. Stupid rain. It wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the 25 mph gusts coming off the lake. It was really getting chilly out there. And dark, I couldn't believe it was only 3-4 in the afternoon and it looked so dark.

I was at mile 10 and holding 8:30 per mile pretty steadily. It didn't really hurt so much, but it didn't feel good. It just... did.

People started showing up in space blankets. The steam from the chicken broth out on the course started to make me feel like it was winter time. Everyone was looking miserable, like a cat being dunked into a cold bath. I was no exception, and my legs were tired as I rolled back into town. I wanted to look good when I passed Shawna and Jan. One foot in front of the other.

I see Brian as I run down the long, slow hill. He looks good. He is jogging. He asked if this was my second lap, and I think he really must need more blood to his brain because his math is REALLY bad. And then I say "No, no way!"

I see Mark Kendall as I go into town. He is walking. I am surprised. Always being a great buddy, he cheers me on, pats me on the back and tells me I am looking terrific. I feel for him and hope he can recover soon enough. I pick up the pace a little into town, probably to 8 minute miles. I know I can't hold this long, but I am really itching to get this over with now. My hands are pretty numb and I am missing my arm warmers, which I wished I had not thrown away. But I can't stop now.

I turn the corner into downtown... I start looking at the people lining the street, hoping to spot Jan and Shawna, knowing I have to be on the lookout because I always see them before they see me. I am flying along, much much faster than the people around me, and I realize I am being cheered on by the poor rain soaked spectators. I throw my right fist into the air, A-LA Jeremy Gerking Ironman Canada at the beginning of the bike leg, and get a round of screams. I love this shit.

Still no girls.

I ran into the park and slowed-up a little. "I have to ease up or I am done." I tell myself. I settle back to probably an 8:45 pace as I go through the little turn around west of the park. I swear I should have seen Jan and Shawna. Oh well, they were probably on the other side of the street. I will catch them on the way out. And that will force me to keep running strong through town. Don't want my cheerleaders to see me mopey.

Looking back on the situation, now, I realize just how miserable I was in that rain and wind, and how much I was looking forward to seeing them out there for a boost. That is NOT to say I would be upset or angry if they weren't, because I know firsthand from all of the Ironman watching I have done just how hard it is to keep track of the times. But on a totally selfish and personal level, I really wanted to see Jan.

Ironman is a pretty selfish thing, you know.

I made the turn and started back towards the park. As I hit the first bank of Honey Buckets I felt my tummy tell me it was time for a break. I had only stopped once to pee on the run so far, but my GI was feeling less than thrilled at my pace and had started complaining about it. Of course the potties are all full, and there is a line. I have to pee pretty bad, I realize now that I am standing there, and I know I can't hold it too long out there. Crap, what to do...

I decide to press on. I stop at the special needs bag hand off and pick up my bag. My fingers are completely gone. Useless. Somehow I manage to do what I need to with the help of a volunteer. Its amazing how you do not realize how far gone your mind is until you have to SPEAK to someone, and then at that moment you hear your own voice you think "oh man, I am really out of it!"

New bottles all around, fresh Aquaphor for my under arms, and I am off. Oh, man, stopping was not so good for my legs. There was a really big alarm going off in my head now, that one that says "YOU IDIOT! What are you DOING OUT HERE?? You can't do this!!!"

There WILL be a fight for your soul before this is over.


Even though you know its going to happen, its still awful when your body starts to tell your mind that no matter how determined you are, it ain't gonna go down so easily.

I ran through the park. Raining harder. As I pass the beach of the swim start I remember to give the swim a mental "fuck you". Ha. I felt a smile on my face as I realized that, like in 2007, I had arrived at the realization that I was going to finish this thing. It was much less satisfying this time, but it was still a relief. I decided to pick up the pace through downtown, and resumed my Jan watch.

No Jan.

I hoped she and Shawna were all right. I hoped they just had retreated from the rain because I knew Jan did not have rain gear. I suddenly felt horrible for her and wished we had prepared better for the weather. Now I really wanted to finish faster, to make sure she was ok. My legs told me it wasn't going to be that way, and I held my pace. Oh well.

I stopped at the first aid station I come to and grab a chicken broth. HOLY SHIT that is tasty stuff, and WARM. It feels really good going down and I decided that will be revisited later. It is amazing how much better that made me feel. I ran a bit faster, bumping it back to 8:30 per mile.

I passed Mark Kendall. He gave me a big pat on the back and cheered me on. He was wearing a space blanket, like almost everyone else. Only us real psychos were still running without any sort of protective gear. I didn't care, I was on the Ironman survival run mission 2009.

I don't remember a lot of the rest of the marathon, to be honest, up until mile 21. I kept running, and I managed to maintain 8:30 to 8:45 per mile, somehow. I was really hurting, but this was a test. This was not just a race I wanted to finish, I wanted to GO, this time. It was a test of my will, and a test of just how much I could push it. I could not run faster, I don't think, but I could maintain. I don't remember--I had the blinders back on and was staring at the ground 15 feet in front of me.

I remember passing the cemetery right when we turn into town, and all the motivational signs people made on the lawn across the street. I never saw Jan's , but I looked for them even this time, backwards and over my shoulder, as I ran by. I am still a little sad that she put all that effort in and I didn't get to see them. I ran by and around the corner, expecting to see Brian at any moment.

I passed mile 21. I was ecstatic. I was going to make it, and I was going to run the entire marathon--my first and most important goal. I decided to walk through the aid stations as a reward, and it was OK at that point. I didn't care what it did to my time anymore. I would run and then allow myself to walk just a few steps every aid station for the last 4 miles.

I ate a handful of cookies, too.

I couldn't control the emotions after this point. I looked at my watch, it said I was at 10:55 total time... So close, I realized, so close. Does the time even matter in a race like this, really?

I was laughing and joking with people on the sides of the streets cheering. I felt wonderful and terrible all at once. Typical.

I saw Brian, two turns before my finish. He looked tired, but determined as always. He was just heading out for his second lap. I walked by him and slapped him on the shoulder and told him that no matter what, he had to finish, because it would be the greatest feeling he has ever had. He assured me he would, probably a little wierded-out by my sudden End-Of-Ironman emotion, but he appreciated it, nodded and smiled, and told me good job. "Go finish!" He yelled at me as we parted. He was having a long day, but he learned a lot, I think, and really enjoyed it.

Finishers left, First lap, right. I GO LEFT!!!

I made the magical turn to the left for FINISHERS ONLY and ran up to my favorite corner on earth.

I made the corner, and it was PACKED with people, standing in the freezing cold and rain. I was all alone, this time, there was no one around me. I didn't think it was possible after 2007 to enjoy the finish more, but now I know I am wrong.

I cruised down the hill, waving my arms like a madman, pumping my fists. I dont know what I was doing, I was so tired, and so overwhelmed and happy. I really felt like this was a world apart from Ironman 2007 in terms of how hard I pushed and how much I overcame.

The finish chute in front of me. Tears in my eyes. So crowded compared to 2007, and it feels so much more alive. Slapping as many hands as I can reach. Pumping the fist. I see Shawna on the side and slap her hand.

All pain disappears.

I got to the finish line and stopped, and then leaped across it as my photo was taken. I landed with my arms in the air and looked at the sky, rain falling into my eyes.

I did it. Again. And this time, I really feel like I deserved to hear the words:

Aaron Moss, you are an Ironman.

1 comment:

mossygirl said...

I really really really wish I would have been there to see you on your second lap--it was so important to me but you were just too fast...see, it's all your fault you darn speedy runner, you!

What a hard day--what tough weather--and you rocked it. Brings me to tears too.

Awesome job, my boy. Someday maybe I'll see what you mean about being able to run in anything longer than a sprint. They're still out there running in an Olympic, at least the people running by me, like they all did.

I'll give 'em a harder time of it this year, though!