The weather had changed slightly, it was still overcast, but the humidity had gone up. As I headed out on the first mile I saw the leading men and women headed back to the finish line, there were about 12 miles ahead of me. Somehow knowing that I had at least started the run before they finished made me feel good.
Right at the end of the first mile was the first hill, and it was a winner. To make it better there was no aid station! It would be another ½ mile before I would find the aid station. Right about mile 2 was where the loop started, I would see the next 4.5 miles twice. There is a fire station at the beginning of the loop and they had been nice enough to setup a sprinkler system that extended out over the road. I wonder if they have any idea how nice that felt.
We ran through some nice little neighborhoods, there was a group of people sitting out by the road offering salt, it came with a shot of tequila which they had clearly been partaking in! Overall the plan was working pretty well, I was feeling ok. I hit a few more aid stations and then made a left hand turn to face a very large hill in the distance. I looked at the hill, then looked at the #8 and smiled.
As the hill grew closer I realized that I would have some time before I had to deal with it, I had to go through the Maytag complex first. As I ran around the driveway I could hear music and see people dancing. This was the largest and most energetic of the aid stations, they had cookies, ices sponges, fruit, water, Gatorade, cola, everything! I grabbed a little bit of each and headed out around the complex.
The complex was a variety of terrain, some was through parking lots, some was along a walking path by a mosquito infested lake, and there was even some cross country. The only think that was missing, was an aid station! It was about 2.5 miles from the mega aid station around the complex and back to the mega aid station. Somewhere around mile 5 I started to feel super stupid. I stopped sweating, I had the chills, a headache and got dizzy. I was secretly hoping I’d find one of my people and somehow be able to get word to KB and ask her what I needed to do, or better yet, I’d find KB along the run, but I knew the chances were pretty slim. So I tried to remember every conversation I’d ever had with my coach about this kind of situation, the tank was empty, and I needed fluids and calories. I was out of luck for the fluids, but I had a couple GUs and a granola bar with me. I chewed on that and managed to get back to the mega aid station where I grabbed 2 of everything they offered and spent the next mile consuming all of it! In that mile I dealt with the monster hill I had seen earlier, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.
A ½ mile later I hit yet another aid station and grabbed even more stuff. Within another ½ mile I was back at the church with the sprinklers. Now that I knew what was coming I was better able to deal with it. The big difference from lap one was how alone I was. There were a lot of people around me on the first lap as they were finishing their second lap. But I found some comfort in being by myself, I continued to smile, especially as I passed the tequila house, the spectators were having a blast!!
I saw a couple other friends along my second loop and I handled the second trip through the Maytag center much better! I saw a gentleman in full firefighter’s gear out there getting it done! He was heading into the Maytag center as I was headed out. There were words of engorgement and high fives, it was amazing. Everyone is tired, everyone has covered the same ground yet everyone is still pulling for everyone else. I chatted with several people, including a 70+ year old gentleman who took the time to talk to everyone he was passing going up the big hill! (Yes, you read that right, he was passing everyone!!!)
The reality of what was happening hit me when I made the turn at the end of my second loop and headed back toward that park. I hit the last aid station, the one that was 1.5 miles from the park and to be honest, I didn’t want anything they had, but I forced myself to drink some water and Gatorade. I was still doing a really good job of sticking to the plan, I was still jogging some, which shocked the hell out of me. I was tired, but actually felt really good. I took the time to stop and dance with some volunteers at the bottom of the monster hill that was only a mile from the end. And right about there was when the leg cramps started.
When the first cramp hit me I literally laughed and said out loud “seriously?! I have ONE mile to go!!!” I stopped and stretched and tied to jog, but my legs weren’t having it. As I continued to jog and stop to stretch I looked ahead and on the other side of an underpass I saw a little girl standing on the sidewalk…and I knew that little girl! My niece was waiting for me with my BFF. The odd thing was she was in her skivvies, I would find out later that she took a header in Lake Michigan and had gotten soaked. As I came up to them she asked if she could come run with me on the road, it broke my heart a little to tell her that was against the rules, but she could run on the sidewalk next to me! At four years old and barefoot, she was kicking my butt! She stopped, looked back and informed me that I was a “slow poke”…she wasn’t wrong! I also found out that MK’s day had been cut short by an asthma attack during the swim.
The three of us walked and jogged back to the finisher’s area. Then they left me and climbed a sand dune so they could see me cross the finish line. As I headed in, I found “the mom”, KB, my sister and my nephew (who I stopped to kiss), they were all so excited, it was amazing! I ignored my protesting legs and crossed the finish line. They gave me my hat and my medal and a bottle of water. I had my picture taken and found MK who was waiting just past the finish line. I think she was more excited than I was.
The next several minutes were blur, I found my people, there were hugs, some tears, a few pictures and more hugs. It all happened so fast and yet it was all in slow motion. A year ago I had set out to do a 70.3 ironman and here I was, a finisher, surrounded by my friends and family. I was tired, but actually felt pretty good. I had set out with a goal to finish, but as the day went on, I had a goal to finish under 8 hours, I came in at 8:01:41, we joked that I would have been sub 8 hours had I not stopped to kiss my nephew, but I don’t regret that choice at all!!