Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sub 13

WARNING: This post is freakishly long. I mainly wrote all this out for myself. I wanted to document the whole experience lest I forget. Don't read it unless you are trying to get to sleep...in that case, knock yourself out.  :D

I can't really say why it is that I haven't written all summer long. I was incredibly busy, but I'm always busy. I did have a lot to write about but I just didn't make time for it. So, here I am with so much to say but rather than trying to get you caught up with all that happened over the summer, I'll pick up with two weeks ago last Sunday. Ironman Chattanooga!!!

I signed up last year after volunteering for the race and set the goal in my mind of having a sub 13 hour finish. I knew the swim would be fast because it's down stream, the bike course doesn't have any major climbs (it's rolling) ...but the run course is pretty hilly. At the time, I figured if I could do the swim in about an hour, ride at about 17mph and hold about an 11:00 pace on the run, and keep transitions fast I could do it.

I made the big decision to not hire a coach. The coach who got me through Tahoe had moved out of coaching and I really just didn't want to "break in" a new coach, especially when I do KNOW what I need to do. For the record, I do not think it's the best idea to "self coach", especially if you are looking for a PR. So I did some other things instead. I asked an almost-CAT2 cyclist, who really knows training with power, to help me on that on that end. I started (sort of) training with a couple of serious swimmers, and I actually worked very loosely off a plan from Endurance Works. I didn't want to spend much time thinking through my own training. It was a nice balance.

If you remember, my IMLT time was right at 16:30, so I was looking to take over 3.5 hours off that time. I actually had someone ask me in May "do you really think you can meet that sub-13 goal??" I didn't know, but I was fairly certain it wasn't going to be 28* at the start, it wasn't going to be at altitude, I was going to be able to take in nutrition, I wasn't going to be climbing such a ridiculous amount on the bike and I wasn't going to have a torn bicep tendon. So I said I could do it.

Not long after that conversation I began to have doubts. It only got worse as training went on.

My shoulder really started acting up again so my swim workouts changed from actual swimming to PT exercises. Every time I would try to put quality time in at the pool I would end up pretty much back at square one. I missed some key bike workouts because I could barely turn my neck, and then my stupid stinking watch decided I didn't need any data for my longest two rides (meaning I couldn't put together an accurate power profile for the race). I did almost every long run with my sweet husband. That was GLORIOUS to say the least, but I did have my doubts I would be able to run as strong without having him by my side. Needless to say I went into race day not being sure what I was going to be capable of.


We got to Chattanooga about the time one of the athlete briefings started. It was raining and the whole village was a soggy mess. Thankfully they had put some tents up so we didn't just have stand in the rain. This wasn't my first race and I had read the whole Athlete Guide, but knowledge is power so I listed to (almost) every word. I knew as soon as the talk was over the check in tent would be overrun so I ducked out early to get my waiver signed, my lovely blue bracelet affixed, and pick up my backpack full of race bags. We took a little bit of time wandering around the Village, buying some magic pain relieving lotion and some race tats. (These tattoos are really unnecessary since you get marked with Sharpie before the start but I think they look really clean and they don't come off during the day.)

I then forced my husband to try the NormaTech space recovery boots. He didn't want to, but as soon as those boots started their massage he was in heaven. He loves his recovery tights so much, and would probably be willing to cut off his left arm if he could get a massage every day. So, as soon as the guy said they had ONE more demo he could sell I swallowed the hook and bought it up. Now I'm certain they had more than just one, but I didn't care, the price was really good and I had wanted these boots since IMLT.

After that we went to the apartment I found on AirBnB.com, and then to the store for groceries. ...Now, I know you are thinking "why groceries" when you were in a city with like a million amazing eateries?!" Well, I still have all the same food issues I've always had and I wasn't about to let the temptation of good food wreck my race day.

My daughter and my daughter-by-other-parents came in later that night. They went out to enjoy Nooga night life while Dwayne and I retired early.

Saturday Dwayne and I ran out about 3/4 of a mile on the last part of the course and then ran the "finish". I can't even begin to express how beautiful it was (unfortunately we didn't get any pictures). After meeting friends for breakfast (they ate yummy food and I had yummy bacon), we went back to the apartment so I could pack all my race bags.


If you are familiar with IM racing you can skip this part. If you aren't familiar, you may or may not find this interesting.

In a "normal" triathlon you put all your gear at your bike in the transition area. When you get done with the swim you go to your bike and put your helmet and bike shoes one, grab your bike off the rack and go. When you get done with the bike part of the race you come back to that spot, leave your helmet and bike shoes there with your racked bike, put on your running shoes and finish the race.

In an Ironman you put everything in bags. All of your bike gear goes in one bag and running gear in another bag. There is a bag for "special" things you might "need" halfway through the bike part of the race and another one for "special needs" halfway through the run. You don't have to pack anything in the "Special Needs" bags, but they are available to you if you need/want them.  You do not get the Special Needs bags back after the race so you wouldn't put anything valuable in there, but some things you might want would be extra nutrition, something special to help get you to the finish line, a warm shirt if the temps will get cold on the run...things like that.) The other bag you get is called "Morning Clothes". That is a bag you can use to put anything you take with you to the start line but aren't going to take with you in the water. Anyone who has family at the start will usually con ask that "sherpa" to schlep the stuff around rather than use the Morning Clothes bag. Often times racers don't have family at the start so they will stow car keys, shoes, warm clothes or shoes they wore to the start in that bag (which is returned to you after the race).

I had already planned out exactly what would go in each bag so it was easy to get them all packed up. There was a chance of rain so I put everything in a garbage bag then put the package in the race bag. I then marked the outside of the bag with a green duct tape D to make it a little more noticeable to me the next day.


In a normal triathlon you show up on race morning with all your stuff, but at IM you check your bike and your bike and run bags in the night before. My plan was to check them in and then drive the bike course. That didn't end up happening because my best friend from Arkansas drove like nine hours to come watch me race. I didn't want to put her in a car for another couple of hours just so I could drive a course I was going to be spending about 6 hours on the next day! Instead we sat around and talked. I ate rice and turkey deli meat for dinner, spent about 30 or 45 minutes in my new space boots, and went to bed early.


I woke up bright and early race morning and took a shower. This is a race ritual I dearly love. It wakes me up and gets me feeling ready to take on the task at hand. I had my daughter-by-other-parents French braid my hair while I ate some oatmeal and a banana. I put on my Race Tats and got dressed.

I had already read on Face Book the water was 77* (wetsuit optional--more on this in a minute) so I went with wordrobe plan A. I wore my TriZoo "butterfly" one piece kit with a black sport bra and carried my ROKA swim skin with me. It was overcast and looked like the sun wasn't going to come out at until later in the afternoon so I used my clear goggles (AquaSphere).

I really didn't have any fear of not making cutoffs in time so I chose to sleep in just a little later and took my time getting to the start. All I had to do was pump my tires, put my bottles on my bike and say hi to, and get a big ole good-luck hug from, a dear friend from Huntsville who was body marking that morning.

That hug was one of the many little blessings of the day. She asked me "what are you going to do today?" (meaning what would my timeline be). I told her if it was a "perfect day" I would break 13 hours. She said, "what needs to happen". I told her I did the IMLT swim in 1:30 so I figured with current I would maybe do 1:15. She said, "you'll beat that" (*SPOILER ALERT!* she was right). I said I didn't have data from my two longest rides so I wasn't actually sure what I could do the bike in, but I was hoping to maintain about a 17mph average (6:49 bike split). Then the kicker--the run. I would need to hold about a 10:50 pace for a 4:45 marathon time. With fast transitions that would bring me home in just under 13 hours. She said without blinking, "you've got this." I took a deep breath, squeezed the breath out of her then Dwayne and I caught the shuttle to the start line as the volunteers were yelling transition was about to close.


As we got to the start I knew I better try to use the port of potties one more time before getting in the water. So I got in that LONG line and Dwayne went to hold a spot in the WAY LONGER start line for me. I talked to a few first timers and one guy who was there for his second. I finally had my turn in the facilities and made it a worthwhile visit for all the time it had killed. I then started the trek to the back of the start line to find Dwayne. It felt like I walked for an hour. I walked past a guy who was yelling we'd all be in the water in 20 minutes. Ha...I don't think he had any idea how long that line really was! As I was on my way to the outer banks looking for my husband, AKA spot-in-line-holder they had already started asking the athletes to separate into wetsuit users and non-wetsuit users.

((Side bar about the wetsuit issue. In IM there are rules for when you can and can't use a wetsuit. If the water is 76.1* or colder wetsuits are allowed for age groupers to use. Over 83.8 no one is allow to wear a wetsuit. Between 76.2 and 83.7 wetsuits are optional for anyone who is "non-competitive". Even though I knew I wasn't going to be in the running for a Kona slot, and I know wetsuits make you faster, I didn't want to wear one in "warmer" water since I knew I would get pretty hot. That was a good call.))

When I finally found Dwayne I asked him to help me get my swim skin on. As I shimmied into it, he told me the zipper was broken. There is a whole other long story about why I thought this was just him being funny, but this post is long enough already and I haven't even gotten into the water! Long story short, it really was broken but blessing two of many was that he was able to get it fixed just in time for me to hit the start! No time to even think about what was happening. I almost forgot to turn on my watch and had to step to the side of the dock to get in turned on, in the right mode, and started. I jumped in and started the 2.4 mile splish splash warm up.


Leading up to the race I had been having so much trouble with my shoulder I really didn't get much swimming in. In fact, now that it's over, I can look at my log. I only put in a total of about 22K yards from the middle of June until race day. In 15 weeks that's less than 1500 yards a WEEK...in other words, woefully inadequate. But, thanks to blessing number 3, a massage from Tony Alexander the Thursday before race day, (and a nice current in the TN river) when I started swimming it felt easy. Everything worked just like it was supposed to. Goggles held out water, the skin zipper stayed closed, and my arms pulled me along.

Facts: The river course makes a bit of a backwards S shape. We were told to keep the buoys on the our left. The current is strongest in the middle of the river. There were kayakers on the right side creating a "barrier" for our safety. Now, if you look at the Garmin GPS map of my swim you can see that I certainly didn't swim a straight line (cutting the course short), but I did have to be told three times to move to the left because I was "way too far over to the right". One time the kayaker couldn't get my attention so he ran his vessel into my head! That was a little disconcerting but I appreciate he was trying to keep me safe.

Thoughts during the swim: Wow, this doesn't hurt! Where are the darn power lines?? (I thought that was half way). THERE they are!! Halfway already! I'm FLYING! Oh, look the buoys changed from yellow to orange...they said something about that in the athlete briefing...what was that? Did they say that marked half way? If that's the case then I'm really not flying and I still have 1.2 miles to go. I'm not hurting but boy not swimming wasn't the best idea...maybe they said that change would mark like 1/2 mile to go? That can't really be right because the first bridge is so far away. This water smells fishy. Look, feet, I hope this guy knows where he's going. He seems to be siting, I'll just hang out here for a while. Nope, he's slowing down. There's the first of three bridges. Someone told me you could see spectators. I don't see how that's possible unless I stop swimming...THAT is not going to happen! How about that?! I'm still swimming. ...Hey there Mr Grumpy Gills, you know what you do when life gets you down?... (reference to Finding Nemo in case you missed that). HEY, there's the second bridge. What did they say would mark when we were close and needed to start moving left to the exit? I'm not there yet. Reach, pull, finish that stroke.

As I got closer to the swim finish it got a little more congested as all the swimmers moved over to the exit. Then I saw it--the RED buoy!! THAT was the "finish line". They said something about there not being a bottom step and to move up to the floating dock but I didn't get what that meant until I got there. I was so appreciative there were volunteers who gave up their morning to pull me (and 2400ish of my friends) from the river. I hit the "lap" button and saw 1:09 on my watch. I started running for the bike bags...up a ramp that I thought would be harder to go up than it was.

Swim time 1:10:07 (1:48/100 pace; Division rank 58, gender rank 398, overall rank 1442)

About 1/2 way up I saw my cheering section and got a kick in the pants (metaphorically speaking) with their smiles and whoops and hollers! They had gotten together before the race and had shirts made with "Dana's Train" on them (my business is called "Dana Trains"...get it?!). I LOVED it!!


I had worked out before hand exactly where my bag was and the flow pattern I needed to take to have the best transition so I was able to run straight to my bag. A volunteer had grabbed up my bag before I got there so I didn't even have to reach down for it. As I ran into the tent I asked for help from another volunteer who was standing there (THANK YOU). I asked her to please get my chamois butter, shoes, sunglasses and helmet out as I stripped off my swim skin. She asked where my socks were ("I don't wear them"). I was still soaked so I didn't even try to put on the spray sunscreen I had in the bag. I shamelessly smeared the chamois butter all over my parts, put on my helmet, shoved my glasses in my top, and ran out with my shoes in hand. I stopped at the sunscreen station to have volunteers coat me in Bull Frog. ((They did a fantastic job...they didn't spend too much time rubbing it in and yet got it under the lines of my kit knowing that would move around on the ride.))  I ran straight to my bike (having found the path to it the day before during check in). Yet another volunteer was there with my bike off the rack waiting for me. When I got there I had a little trouble getting my shoes on my wet feet (they weren't open the way they are in a "normal transition" because I was running with them in my hand). The sweet lady who helped me said, "don't worry honey, you have plenty of time and a long ride ahead of you......honey, where are your socks???".  Clearly she wasn't privy to my goal and didn't realize the minute she was implying I take to ensure "comfort" might be the making or breaking of said goal! I told her I don't wear socks. ("Oh honey, you have a long ride ahead of you to not have socks on!"). I ran out of transition wondering why everyone was so concerned about my feet! I ran past the mount line, hopped on and exhaled to settle in for the 116 miles before me.  ((For the record, I ride sockless all the time, and run sockless for anything less than about an hour. (I'm too chicken to run longer like that.)))  T1 time: 7:05  (longer than I wanted but overall okay.)


When I got on the bike it struck me that I didn't see Dwayne or my daughter. I almost started to worry but stopped myself because there was nothing I could do if something was wrong. I settled in for the long ride.

I can't express how much I love this course. I had been able to ride one loop of it in a training camp I went to so I knew what to expect. Since my stinking watch didn't capture data for my two longest rides I wasn't exactly sure what kind of power I needed to or could hold the whole time so I picked a number that I was confident of. The fact that I didn't have any trouble holding that number the whole time might mean I undershot. I can not negate the power of the confidence I had in that number but I did expect it to be more of a challenge than it was.

My fueling plan: I had a very concentrated, marked, bottle of Tailwind behind me, a ready to drink bottle between my arms and an empty space to put water. The plan was to drink one bottle about every hour (250 calories). I would grab a bottle of water at the first aid station (without stopping) to put in the empty space. The ready-to-drink bottle would last an hour, so by the 2nd aid station I would have squirted a "serving" of the concentrate in my empty bullet with the bottle of water from the 1st aid station and be ready to exchange the empty bottle for a new bottle of water. I only had two miscalculations all day...I drank the first bottle in 30 minutes so I needed to get 2 bottles from the first aid station (one to empty in my bullet and one to put in my holder). The second was that there wasn't an aide station at Special Needs. I thought there would be water there. If it was there it wasn't being held up by volunteers, it was just there for anyone who stopped.

My plan was to not stop on the bike at all.  I had decided before hand to pee on the bike (yes, people really do that). However, deciding to do it and making it happen are two very different things. I can say I never felt the urge to pee the whole time (probably because I was thinking about it all day and actually TRYING to make urine happen!) After just one missed bottle (at the first aid station) I got very proficient at grabbing the bottles from volunteers as I zoomed by having to slow only just a little bit (mainly for other riders who were stopping).

I don't know how far into the ride I was when I saw Dwayne, Ashley and Jaws (nickname for my daughter by other parents) on the side of the road. I had good speed when I saw them, but had even better speed after I heard them cheering! Not long after I saw them I came upon Special Needs. The excitement and energy in the town of Chickamauga was very different from Truckee (IMLT '13). First of all, Speical Needs was apart from the "spectator party" in that race so there was no "competition" between the cheering of friends/family and the racers getting their bags. I was feeling exceptional at this point in the race and had decided already to pass my bag by. I would lose a bike tube and CO2 cartridge and a bottle of 1000 calories of Tailwind, but that was all. That section of the course was fast so I didn't want to brake. About the time I was day dreaming a little bit, thinking this must be what the TdF riders feel like most of the time (people encroaching the route cheering their heads off) when I saw the Dana's Train shirts lined up on the side of the road. I whooped at them and they whooped at me as I whizzed by.

Seeing them almost made me cry happy tears. Being a spectator is HARD work. They are out in the sun, standing, trying to track my location and calculate when I might come by them, all to only see me for a few very brief seconds. For them it's a lot of waiting around and moving from place to place. For me however it was like a giant boost of giddy up slapping me in the booty!! I felt like a ROCK STAR as I went by!!

As I said before, earlier in the summer, at IM camp, I had been able to ride one loop. I knew the whole course was rolling hills. It's a big odd shaped lollypop (think rock candy not sucker). You go out on the "stick" and start the loop. The first part of the "candy" basically goes up culminating in a more significant "climb", the second part does down, again culminating in a "climb". Then you do loop again, and ride back on the stick. Leaving the town of Chickamauga is the longest/slowest part of the course, being a bit of a false flat. When you hit the town (and all the people) you have been going "down hill" for a while. You leave all this energy of the town and start going up to start your second loop.

In Tahoe, it was the start of the second loop that really spanked me. I didn't want to do it. I contemplated quitting. It was a brief contemplation, but there nonetheless. When I did the IMChoo loop at camp I LOVED the course. I kept telling myself that it was only half of the course and the second time around might not be as fun as the first time. But when I hit that section after Special Needs I was EXCITED to start that second loop. I enjoyed this course WAY more than I probably should have given the fact I had a time goal in mind to beat, but I knew I was ahead of my target and feeling good (even knowing the worst was yet to come with the hilly marathon).

As I got close to the turn around point I decided my efforts to relieve myself on the bike was not to be so I stopped to use the portopotty. There was no line since most people had stopped at Special Needs, and there was a very nice volunteer there to hold my bike so I didn't have to rack it. That stop was VERY BENEFICIAL as I couldn't have done what I needed to do on the bike if you know what I'm saying!! I made very good use of my stop time indeed and I hopped back on the bike ready to tackle loop two.

All day I had been seeing many of the same riders around me. There was one guy in all black and white who had his bib on (not required for the bike portion of the race) named Noel (names are on the bibs), a guy with a black/white and blue kit with stuff in all of his pockets, another guy in white and black, and NUMEROUS women with purple kits (at first I thought I was going crazy because I passed one of them and then thought I was passing her again a few minutes later without ever having seen her pass me). As I hit the turn around point I saw pocket guy and said "I've been seeing you all day long!" as I rode by. The guy in black and white pulled off to the side of the road (no need for the guys to wait for a portopotty). As I rode by I said, "see you agin in a minute!" I passed the main hill ending the "uphill"/out section, smiling the whole time knowing I was headed back now!

Pretty soon I heard a familiar voice behind me saying "THERE'S DANA!!".  It was my friends, HERevolution team members, Sara and Amy. As they passed me and we talked a bit I realized I was entirely too chatty for someone with a goal so I kicked it up a notch and started working harder. I passed some guys in a nice downhill section and I heard one of them say I was smoking fast! (Only on the down hills unfortunately...) I saw Dwayne, Ashley and Jaws again, this time crying actual tears of joy as I passed. Having them out there meant more than I even realized it would.

I played leap frog with my friends and my new "friends" and before I knew it I was back in Chickamauga. I hadn't seen the "Train" in a while and figured they were probably having a nice lunch. At some point I heard "It sure took me longer than a minute to catch you!" I didn't know who it was but I shouted "good" about the time I saw the guy who stopped to pee a while back shot by me. Uh oh...that must mean I was slowing down. I did my best to catch him and keep him and the girls in sight but they all were eventually gone. About the time I was feeling sorry for myself I heard screams from the side of the road--the TRAIN was there to ChooChoo my booty back in the game!!

As I was rolling back into town a guy came beside me and said "I just hit 112 miles back there and now I'm just pissed!" I'm sure he knew this course was 116 miles, but thinking he didn't, I had to laugh. I told him it just makes us "ultra Ironmen"!! As I was getting off the bike at the dismount line I grabbed out my tube of Base salt and little thing of Body Glide from the Bento box and I smiled knowing "all" I had left was a little run and I was ahead of my goal! I really only had to keep about an 11 minute pace and  I would be well under my "perfect day" time!!

Bike time: 6:30:03 (17.84mph average; Division rank 37, Gender rank 270, Overall rank 1198)


I ran into T2 feeling better than I thought I should but telling myself I had hills to go so it was fine if there was more in the tank than there needed to be. A volunteer had my bag in hand as I came running by. When I ran into the tent there was a line of volunteers waiting by the door asking "do you want help" to which I gratefully said yes! I asked her to take my shoes, socks and race bib out. I asked her what the weather was doing. (Looking back this was funny as I had just gotten off the bike...didn't I know what it was like out there?!) She told me it was overcast a bit so I told her I didn't want my hat. She questioned this a little saying "it's awfully bright out there". In a moment of what I thought was weakness I told her to give me the hat and the bib and went out the door. As I was running out of the tent I put on the bib and the hat, immediately grateful for that angel from Heaven because it was blazing hot! I wanted to get the tube of salt and little Body Glide into my little back pocket so I stopped and asked a volunteer. I'm glad I did because I got to see my daughter cheering for me! :D

T2 time 4:32  (Total Transition time: 11:37)


I knew the course was two loops. Eight miles of the loop was fairly flat, 5 was going to be very hilly. It went 4 out on a highway, 4 back on the riverfront path and then a 5 mile hill fest on the North Shore. I had broken down the hilly part in my mind saying only 1/2 of that was uphill and the other half was glorious down hill so I started telling myself there was only about 5 miles of total hills to climb...nothing compared to what I had been running in training.

I have been doing triathlon long enough to know my pace is always too fast coming out of T2 so when I saw 8:30 I knew I needed to back off a bit and settle in. About the time I got to the second aid station I saw a good friend of mine (who is much faster than me). I worried for a second because I knew I would not be able to keep up with her and I knew I would want to try. I was surprised when I passed her after we hugged hello. She was running with someone so I figured she would pass me soon enough but I didn't see her again. Not long after that I saw the HER girls again. I think they were shocked to see me in front of them because they had passed me on the bike. I knew I had caught them in transition because they changed to running clothes and I had not changed at all. I also knew them to be MUCH stronger runners than me so I knew I wouldn't see them again.

Even though I had a solid fueling plan for the bike, I didn't think it through well enough for the run. I knew I would use Rocktaine and Gatorade Endurance (since I knew that would be on the course and having trained with both a good bit of the time), but I hadn't worked out how much I would take and when. I intentionally left it fuzzy because I didn't know how I would be feeling. I just told myself I knew I needed to take in calories. Without a plan, I had taken a Rocktaine at mile 1 and another at mile 2 and ANOTHER at mile 3!! I realized after Gu number three I needed to slow down on the feed bag or I'd be sick!

When I hit the 4 mile point (the River Walk) I had to smile. Just a few (long) hours earlier I was on that walk with my husband trying to repair my swim skin zipper!! Again I was playing leap frog with several people. Namely a man and woman I dubbed "Iron Couple". It was obvious he was there for her, carrying her water and broth and Gu...they were talking and sharing this race like a leisurely dinner. I became instantly jealous. I thought back to all the runs I had with Dwayne and I thought how wonderful it would be to be sharing this experience with him beside me.  :::SIGH:::

At about mile five I went to move my watch on my arm and accidentally hit the "stop" button! It said "Triathlon Complete"...WAIT! NO! That's not right. Thankfully it popped up with a familiar screen: "RESUME" or "SAVE" or "DELETE". Whew. I hit "resume". But then it popped up with the "BATTERY LOW" warning!! NO!! I started to panic a little bit. I knew I was ahead of target with an average so far of about 10:35. But how would I ever know if I was on track without a watch!??!!

It was about that time that I also realized my blood sugar was dropping. I know because I get this thing with my vision where I can't see what's directly in front of me. It's like there's a hole in my line of sight. After a little while that is replaced with stars. After a little while that is replaced by a headache. It's either blood sugar or just a simple migraine...but since I had 3 Gus in 3 miles and this was just a short time later, my money was on blood sugar. I took another Gu at mile 5 or 6 and it went away!

It was at this point, once again, I was reminded I really wasn't alone. God had gotten me this far. He had given me the desire to do this thing. He had give me the ability to train. He  had given me the strength to get to this point. He wasn't going to abandon me and He didn't need a watch. There is a scene in "Facing the Giants" where the coach blindfolds a football player (Brock) and tells him to do the death crawl with another player on his back. Brock thinks he can make it to the 30 yard line but the coach tells him to give his VERY best, and Brock says he will. As Brock is fighting down the field, the coach is right there with him yelling "YOUR VERY BEST BROCK, YOUR VERY BEST". I knew that when my watch went dead, as it surely would, I would be forced to just give my very best without having the comfort of knowing what that was looking like.

Shockingly right about the time my watch went dead (mile 7) I caught up to the girls again. They were stopped at an aid station for the bathroom or for fuel. I very briefly considered trying to stay with them, but I knew that wasn't going to happen so I just reminded myself "YOUR VERY BEST BROCK" and kept running my race.

The run is all a bit of blur after my watch went dead. I remember hitting the North Shore and thinking "okay, here we go...2.5 up and 2.5 down. That first uphill (Barton) was a booger. But when Dwayne and I drove it the day before he told me that was NOTHING compared to what I had done many times in training and it was super short. He was right. I was at the top before I knew it...and then going DOWN! Up, down, up, down....the bright side was that the party was HAPPENING on the North Shore! Someone was shooting fireworks off and people were out in their yards. There is a section that goes through a golf course community (HUGE HOUSES). There was a back yard full of bounce house type stuff with a viewing party going on. Before I knew it I was coming back over the pedestrian bridge.

About the halfway point I got to see one of the teenagers I coach. That was cool because I was feeling strong and felt like I was running strong when I saw her. I had only allowed myself to walk some aid stations, but NO hill walking at all. I was feeling exceptionally good. Four out, four back, 2.5 up and 2.5 down and DONE!!

I really lost track of how much I was eating and when. I should have gone to drinking Coke (instant sugar rush of energy) but I knew once I started I couldn't stop and I was feeling good so I put it off. When I got to the end of the highway there was a person in the parking lot with their radio blaring. It was a song Dwayne introduced me to when we were dating and a song he would play when we'd run hills together (on his phone, on his arm)....Fix You by Cold Play. When I heard it I just wanted to cry. Dwayne doesn't fix me, but God does. Then on the way back I kept seeing these signs "touch for power" and "THIS IS YOUR DAY...GET WHAT YOU CAME FOR!" (something I say a lot). The river was beautiful and the run felt easy.

Then I realized I was doing it again...it felt easy. I had slowed down. "GIVE ME YOUR BEST BROCK" ("It  HURTS!") "THEN YOU HAVE TO NEGOTIATE WITH YOUR BODY TO GIVE YOU MORE! IT'S ALL HEART FROM HERE!" PUSH. DIG. GET THIS DONE. Hills are coming, you have to give what you have NOW. I had no idea where I was time wise so I started asking people what time it was and trying to do some math.

If the race started at 7:30 and it took me about 15 minutes to get in the water, then I started at 7:45. The problem was I was starting to lose the ability to do simple math. With a clear head I know that means glycogen stores were gone and I needed sugar, but at the time I just kept trying to count. But I wasn't sure what time I stared so it was a little arbitrary. (DO YOUR BEST BROCK)

About mile 19 or 20 I saw my Train. They were at the bottom of a little hill waiting for me. When I got there Bilbo said "You are going to CRUSH your time!" But then I heard Daisy say "YOU HAVE TO KEEP RUNNING...Hit it like a metronome." They all ran up the hill with me and I heard one of them say "good Lord I can't believe she is still running!" (something to that effect) They told me Dwayne was on the other said waiting for me. I knew the next time I saw them would be the finish line!! I wanted to stop and tell them just how much they all meant to me and how much it meant to me that they were there and how much I loved them. But I knew I needed to keep running.

I turned the corner, hit the bridge and saw my daughter. I almost started crying. She started running alongside of me and telling me how proud of me she was and how much she loved me. I think out of everything that happened all day that was probably my best memory. There were a lot of really amazing things, but I really think that one topped them all. I knew she had to be hurting from standing and walking all day and she was carrying a bag of stuff and she isn't a runner. For her to run along side of me was just amazing to me. She told me Dwayne and Jaws were waiting for me at the bottom of the next hill.

When I got there however, he wasn't there. As I started up I saw them! Jaws started telling me "this is just like Monte Sano" (Dwayne had to tell her that because she couldn't have known that was one of our training runs.) He said, "you have to keep running. You can't stop. You'll make it if you keep running." I asked him "2 up and 2 down, right?" He said yes, but then he said I was past 21. I thought for a few seconds and said, "that's five...so 2 up and 3 down??" (Hey...I COULD do math!) He told me yes and to KEEP GOING.  He left me at the aid station where I stopped and got some water and Gatorade. (Looking back, I should have taken Coke.) In that last 5 miles I walked twice other than aid stations for a few seconds. Both times when I started walking I could hear Dwayne's voice on all our runs "YOU WILL NOT WALK!" and I heard Daisy's voice "Hit it like a metronome" and I heard Ashley's voice "I'm so proud of you!" and I heard God's voice (not literally) "Be strong, be courageous." I knew I was tired, but I didn't hurt anywhere. I started saying out loud "NOTHING BUT YOUR BEST BROCK...NEGOTIATE WITH YOUR BODY TO GIVE YOU MORE"

When I got to the pedestrian bridge I knew it was about a mile to the finish. I saw a couple of friends who cheered which gave me the final little push I needed to get to the crest of that bridge, then it was going to be all down hill from there. I knew I had walked and I had no idea where I was time-wise. When I got to the top of the bridge I started telling myself to dig in and give all I had. I focused in on my form and on my leg turn over. I picked up the pace until I got to the fencing of the finish line. I mentally checked in to make sure I was pouring out every ounce of energy I had left. Check. I heard people screaming and knew my Train was out there cheering me in. As I got close to the finish I thanked God for getting me there and promised I would be happy even if I didn't make my goal. I crossed the line, WHOOPED! Got my medal from a volunteer and then saw my husband there waiting for me yelling "YAAAY"!! I hugged him and sort of fell into him, and then he said "you made it!' It took me a second to realize he didn't mean "you made it to the finish line"...he meant "you made your goal!" And that's when the dry tears came.

God gave me the desire, gave me the strength, and I pushed to get to the line!

I got my finisher's shirt and hat. I took my finisher's picture, and then took another with Dwayne. Then I went out to see my "Train" and give STINKY hugs to everyone. I'm sad I didn't get pictures with every one but we were standing in front of the row of port o potties which smelled almost as bad as I did at that point!! Two of the seven had to hit the road for the long haul home so they took off. The rest of us went back to the apartment for me to shower and change then went to get food. I would have really liked to go back to the finish line at midnight, but I was acutely aware that everyone had been up all day and I was certain Dwayne had probably paid a small fortune for parking already so I decided midnight finishers would be just fine without me.

Run Time 4:59:45 (11:26 pace)
Total race time 12:51:33, 28th in my age group out of 109 official finishers and 144 total registered (several DNFs and DNSs), 226 gender rank out of 710, and 936th out of 2254 (including wetsuit swimmers).

I know this post has been a novella but I simply must add in my thank you's.

First and foremost, thanks to God. I know all good things come from Him. This was certainly a good thing. Thanks to all the coaches I've had in the years leading up to this race. Each of them gave me bits and pieces I needed to make this goal happen. (Next Steps coaches-too many to list but especially Jennifer who was the first person to teach me how to run up hills; Caneilia Patterson who coached my very first triathlon group, Coach Brooke who helped me learn to swim, Coach Eric who gave me a "love" of hills and so much more, Coach Martha who got me to Tahoe and instilled in me the need for FOOD, Dave P who really helped me with the bike portion of this race, Swim Smooth, Jeff and Jennifer who helped me with the swim and Coach David Glover who wrote the plan I based my training loosely around). Thanks to my Train for being there with me all day long and to all the people who followed me on Facebook and the tracker all day. Every time I was temped to walk I was reminded that people were certainly watching....and you were! Thanks to mall the Drs I saw trying to get my shoulder back to normal. Special thanks to Andrew Walker at Physio Works who figured out it's really a matter of weak rotator cuff muscles. Thanks to Iron Tribe Fitness for helping make me strong!! Huge thanks to Tony Akexsnder for working me in at the last minute for a very crucial massage!! Thanks to Bicycke Cove for keeping my bike in top shape and to Fleet Feet Sports for filling all my running needs. Thanks to ROKA for making a superior product and having the best customer service people I've deskt with in s very long time! Thanks to Daisy who has been with me through every step of this process. She had to hear about IM training ad nauseam, and she ran with me and biked with me and helped me see that I really did have a chance at my goal.  Thank you to my daughter for running with me and for being proud of me! Thank you especially to Dwayne who was with me every step this time around. He did all my long runs with me and took me on insanely hilly runs, telling me I could keep going when I didn't feel like it, when I didn't want to. He believed in me and told me over and over I was going to make it. He also documented the whole experience and was there at the finish to tell me I had made it. (My daughter and husband also had to live through taper madness which seemed especially bad this time!)

The bad thing about thank you's is that someone is always left out. I know I'm forgetting someone incredibly important. If that someone is you, I'm terribly sorry...please do not take it personally, I'm just a cad and forget everything!!

Tri kit--Tri Zoo (trizoo.org). I got compliments all day long and it was exceptionally comfortable all day.
Swim Skin-ROKA pro elite. LOVED IT even though the zipper broke. (They are replacing it.)
Goggles-AquaSphere Kaimon
Bike-Trek Speed Concept 7.5
Wheels- Zipp 404 with a power tap power meter
Watch-Garmin 920XT Tri bundle (it went dead because I had some things turned on that should have been off---GLONAS and activity tracking)
Shoes-Brooks Transend
Fuel-Tailwind, Rotane, Gatorade Endurance
Electrolytes-Base salts
Anti-chaffing-Chamois Butt'r Her and Body Glide
Sun screen-Bull Frog
Sun Glasses-Tifosi
Bike Shoes-Bontreger HiLo
Helmet--one that keeps my head safe....I have no idea what brand it is! :D

If you are still reading, I'm so very sorry you have insomnia. Try melatonin instead.


Up next....what's next and a video of the videos and pictures!!  :D

Thursday, October 1, 2015

One Step Closer...

Saturday I ran the McKay Hollow Madness 25K for the third time.

In 2011, the first year I trained to run McKay (sort of), the race was cancelled because of a bad storm on race day. I went out the following Monday and ran it on my own. I stopped a lot and took video and pictures, until my phone died. It was the first time I had seen many parts of the course. (This is why I said I "sort of" trained for it, I didn't have any idea how challenging many parts of this course really are.) Funny...I was just looking back at my training log (AKA Garmin Connect). Leading up to that race I ran the NOLA Half Marathon in late February (my 2nd half marathon ever) and then didn't run more than about 4 miles until MHM. So...I really didn't train for this race. In my mind back then I had trained for it. That's funny!! Anyway...the total time was 4:10 and the "total moving time" was 3:36. It was WET that year. With all the rain there were streams and puddles and just a lot of water to navigate through and around. It was foggy, chilly, and I was alone.

In 2012, leading up to this race I was training for my first 70.3 (NOLA...see a theme?). I was doing a lot of running and biking and swimming. It's funny I didn't feel as "trail ready" that year. The course was a bit drier that year and it was warmer.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't dry, as you can tell from the pictures, there was mud, but I wasn't even wearing gators and the mud was barely up over the top of my shoe on one foot. That year I didn't stop to take pictures and had a finish time of 3:36. (My moving time was 3:22...the other 14 minutes was at the aide stations kissing my husband, refilling my bottles, and catching my breath at the top of Natural Well.) I remember it being really warm.

Sadly, I didn't get to race in 2013 because I was battling my shoulder injury. From September 2012 until...well, really until almost September 2014* this shoulder has been a major issue for me. In the spring of 2013 I was trying to figure out what exactly I needed to do in order to do what I wanted to do and, sadly, that didn't include running McKay. Then in 2014 I was recovering from the shoulder surgery I had in January of that year. Which brings me to this year, 2015.

Well, before we get to this year, I want to revisit my 2011 self. I had completed two half marathons and one trail race (Xterra Dirty Spokes 5K). When I went out to run the McKay course by myself I was feeling really spunky. I pretended to be David O'Keefe and fully imagined myself giving Katie a run for her money in 2012. Oh how I wish I could go back and talk to that 2011 self... When I first started running I was making such great improvements that taking off a couple of minutes per mile seemed like a normal thing. It's just a couple of minutes per mile.  HA! The faster you get the harder it becomes to take a couple of seconds per mile off your best time. But, I digress...

I started this year with the goal of setting a PR on the course. I planned to train on every section and train hard to find :30/mile to get my finish time down to 3:30 or less. I'll skip the details, but that didn't exactly happen in reality the way it did in my mind.

I went to bed the night before the race not sure what would happen, but I knew I wanted to give my best effort and be happy with the results.
It was much colder this year than the past years I've run this course. I have developed Raynaud's in my feet and could feel them going numb from the cold before the race start. Ordinarily that wouldn't be a big deal but, with Raynaud's, when the feeling starts coming back it's very painful. I told myself to be ready for it.


I wrote the above right after the race but stopped writing it and haven't come back to it until now. The sad thing is that I don't remember the details of the race the way I would have if I had written about it right then. The big things that stick out in my memory are that I still didn't break 3:30. In fact I got SLOWER! My time this year was 3:43. At one point I thought I might have broken my foot because the pain was just getting worse and worse. It turned out that it really was the Raynaud's. One factor that made this year slower was the mud. It was ridiculous. Mountain Mist was muddier, but this was a very close 2nd.

Even though I was a bit disappointed that I didn't even come close to my goal,  I had to take a step back and realize every year presents new challenges, especially on trails. This year ended up being about pushing forward even when I desperately wanted to quit.

As I said, I didn't break my foot, but ironically, Bilbo DID in fact break hers on this course!! She apparently kicked a rock a little less than 1/2 way through and ran on a broken foot the rest of the time (about 9 miles)! We had to take her to the ER right after the race!!

Next up: what I have been up to lately!

*Funny, this was written in March and I apparently felt like my shoulder was doing pretty good when I wrote it. Maybe I hadn't really started swimming again? I have struggled with this stupid shoulder all summer and it's still not "right".  Here I am THREE YEARS after it first started causing me trouble and it's still a thorn in my side! :(

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mountain Mist (AKA Mountain Snow)

I have considered this post many times but haven't sat down to write it for a number of reasons, not the least of which has been time.

Mountain Mist was the hardest race I've ever done.  Yes, harder than IMLT.  Don't think I haven't given that a lot of thought.  IMLT took me right at 16.5 hours to complete.  It was 28* at the start.  My shoulder had been injured for a year.  It was at altitude.  There was close to 2 miles of elevation gain on the bike. I BARELY made the bike cut off.  Over half the run was freezing cold again.  I wasn't sure if I could finish it, but really only because I wasn't sure about the bike portion (climbing at altitude was a complete unknown to me).  Despite all of that I felt well prepared and I thought I should be able to finish it.

Grand Slammers "before"
I went into Mountain Mist having no idea if I could finish it or not.  My legs were exceptionally tired from the other Grand Slam races I had completed leading up to that one and I had been having trouble with my right IT band.  I had not been running very fast at all and I wasn't sure I was recovered enough from Recovery (ironic).  Mountain Mist is set up to be hard.  There are strict cut off times and you can not dally in this race or you simply will not make it.  I hadn't been on about half the course and to top it all off it was incredibly muddy on race day.  Other than IMLT I can't remember a race I was more nervous about than this one.

A couple of days before the race I ran across an article on confidence.  He said:
Effective confidence comes from within, it's not the result of external events. You succeed because you've chosen to be confident. It's not really useful to require yourself to be successful before you're able to become confident.
It got me to thinking.  Confidence that is born OUT of success is not confidence at all, it's pride. The very definition of confidence (Merriam-Webster) is: "a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something"... CAN DO/WILL DO, not did do once. Confidence always looks AHEAD and gives birth to success!  That was an epiphany to me.  I didn't have to be certain I would finish this race to be confident.  But I did need to have confidence to run the race with all I had.

"Bandit on Board"
I had run every other race in the series with my sweet friend, the girl with the broken foot, only this time she didn't have a broken foot, she had a bandit on board (about the size of a pea for the first race, an acorn for the second race, a cumquat for the third race and a peach for this race...are you getting what I'm saying here??).  We had talked before the start and she told me I needed to just run on because she might be slower to start out but when we hit the back half she would hit her stride and she'd be able to speed up.  (More on this in a little bit.)

The day before the race it POURED down rain (in fact, I think it rained two days leading up to race day).  The night before the race a light dusting of snow covered the mountain.  That sounds beautiful, and it was, but it was also a muddy mess.  I have never seen that much mud in my LIFE.  I was certain I would have nightmares about being swallowed up in a mud pit.  But I am getting ahead of myself

The race starts at the Monte Sano Lodge.  I was in the back portion of the pack at the start line so the announcer of pre-race instructions sounded more like the teacher in Charlie Brown (wha wa wha wha wa wa).  Then I heard the Star Spangled Banner start up.  It was pretty cool because the crowd of cold and excited runners quieted down from the front to the back in a wave as we heard the song.  At the end the only sound that could be heard were the sweet words of our National Anthem.  I love that.

And then the sound of the gun went off and the racers were running...or shuffling as it were until the crowd thinned out a bit.  The course has been changed in the last few years to start on the road for a little bit before we head onto a gravel road in the woods.  This helps the faster runners get out front where they need to be before the trail narrows.  I was taking it nice and easy to start out because I knew I would be out there all day.  The girl carrying the peach inside of her was off like a bullet!  So much for "you better run off and leave me because I might be going slow to start"!

I can't say I remember too much at the start other than wishing headphones were allowed (they aren't but I sure did see a lot of them out there).  I don't usually run with music, but I also don't usually run for 8 hours either!  The really unfortunate thing was that I had listened to a catchy song from "Into the Woods" just before getting out of my car and the song snippet that lodged itself into my brain was "I really hate to ask it, but do you have a basket".  If you've seen the movie you should know the scene...Little Red Riding Hood is...well, I digress.  Trust me when I say it was the most ANNOYING ear worm that I could have had in my head THE ENTIRE EIGHT HOURS I WAS RUNNING!!!  Over and over and over again.  About once an hour, like the gong of a clock "AGONY, far greater than yours" would intercept (also a song from the musical), but it would quickly be replaced by "I really hate to ask it..."

Just when I thought the song snippet would drive me mad I heard a woman talking behind me to anyone who would listen.  Loud.  Incessantly.  Without breathing.  I didn't understand how she could be talking that much without inhaling.  I was stuck in a line of runners going down a hill in the mud on a single track of trail.  "AGONY, far greater than yours..."  I never wanted ear phones so bad on a run.  At some point I caught up with some friends but my experience with them was that they would conserve at the beginning and then take off at the end when I was beat down so I didn't want to stay with them.  I went into this race believing I would run my own race start to finish so when the trail opened up and we hit the first aid station, I ran straight through it since I was wearing my camelback.  I was far ahead of the average pace I needed, but I knew I would lose time later so I was grateful for the cushion.

Before long we were on unfamiliar territory, Powerline.  Everyone talked about how muddy it was, but I didn't think it was bad at all.  We had a GREAT view of what I found out was MY STREET.  I thought back to a time when I was in Officer Candidate School for the Army Guard.  I was NOT a runner then.  One morning we ran by my house and I made the comment that behind that window was MY BED.  I caught a lot of flack for that statement from my TAC officer and had to pay dearly later on because he thought I was saying I wanted to quit.  The thought on that day really was "what am I doing here, I could be in  BED" but the thought I was having on Powerline as I was looking down on my street was "WOW, I GET TO BE RUNNING UP HERE!!"  I loved it.  For a brief moment my thoughts were silent as I reveled in the sheer joy of running.

And then we hit K2.  "AGONY, far greater than yours....I really hate to ask it but do you have a basket..."  I really need to learn to pick my pre-race music better.  I chatted with a guy I had met a year ago not long after my surgery.  I was still in my sling and he had just had shoulder surgery of his own.  Here we were a year later taking on THIS challenge.  It dawned on me that my shoulder wasn't even a thought in my mind.  Even going up this beast of a hill I had to smile.  I am stronger than I was.  That is a wonderful thing!

Before I knew it I was at the 2nd aid station.  I had just emptied my camel back -right on time- so I refilled with water and my baggie of Tailwind.  I was so grateful for the aid station volunteers.  They helped me get the pack off my back and then filled it up, emptied the baggy, shook it up and helped me get it back on.  I was in and out in a matter of a couple of minutes!

Next section, Stone Cuts.  It was in this section I started having what I was hoping was a telepathic conversation with Bilbo (the athlete I coach who was also doing the Grand Slam races).  I was reminding her of how far she had come and how she didn't need to be scared of this section and how she didn't need to worry about the other sections that were to come later on.  She just needed to keep moving forward and stay on top of the average pace per mile needed to make the cut off.  When she didn't telepathically answer back the ear worm song crept back in.

Several times up to this point I had passed and then been passed by an older gentleman who I found out had done MM fifteen times!!!  Every time he passed me I was sure I wouldn't see him again, but then I'd catch up and pass him back, sure I would see him again in a little while.  Before long we were at the third aid station-the first cut off.  I was there in PLENTY of time but I still wouldn't allow myself to think I had it made.  At that point I was almost 18 miles in and still had the hardest sections to go.  My right IT band had started hurting any time I was going down hill.  It wasn't bad, but I knew what was coming up.

About that time I heard someone yell "GO DANA!!!!!" and then I heard a dog barking.  It sounded like my daughter but I knew it wasn't her because she had planned to go sky diving that day and we were basically in the middle of the woods.  But, as I got closer I realized it WAS MY DAUGHTER and my granddoggie!!!!! She had to look up the race, find the map, navigate all through the woods to find me just to cheer me on.   I hugged her neck, patted the dog and kept going...sobbing like a baby! Seeing family on the course when I expect it is amazing.  Seeing her out there at that moment gave me such a HUGE boost.  I found out later she had tried to find me at the first aid station but she couldn't find that one at all.  Then she hiked out to the second one but I had already gone through. All that trouble she went through to see me will probably be one of my all time favorite memories.

As I crossed the road I hear my peach-bearing friend say hi.  She was at the aid station feeding her little bandit.  I knew we were about to be on her favorite section of trail so she would catch up with me.  And that she did.  As we were going down Bluffline I was sinking into more and more IT pain as she bounded past me with more energy than she had any right to have at that point!  We caught up to two more friends and had a nice chat about how much we didn't like being out there at that particular moment in time.  But, what are you going to do at that point?  You can't sit down and quit.  You have to get out of the woods somehow.

I came into the fourth aid station with my camel back completely dry-perfect timing.  The plan was to refill here with a full baggie of Tailwind and then top off at the next station, skipping the last one altogether.  Once again there were volunteers there to help me, but the person who filled my pack this time was being careful not to overfill it.  Unfortunately it wasn't filled with enough water to make a good mix of the Tailwind (it was WAY to concentrated).  I decided it was fine because I probably wouldn't drink as much in the next section as I thought I would since it was the most challenging part of the course.

In short order I was running with my new friend, "Fifteen".  We played leap frog for a bit with him passing as we went down hill (because I was in a good bit of pain) and me passing as we went up (because that felt pretty good).

Then we got to Waterline.  If there is one reason I wouldn't want to do this race again, this section is it.  You climb a hill, cross a stream, then you have to ROCK CLIMB up the side of a mountain.  I was thankful for Fifteen being right behind me because he told me which trees to grab on to and where to put my feet.

You know when I said it only hurt going down...this was the exception.  It hurt to rock climb too.

I had "run" this section once before, but I didn't remember it being THIS horrible.  It felt like I was climbing a cliff.  When I FINALLY got to the top, and I was still under the average pace I needed, I allowed myself to smile believing I would certainly make it to the finish before the cut off.

As I came into the last aide station I made the decision to only top off with water because the Tailwind concentration was so high in my pack from the last fill up.  That was an error.  When the nice volunteer filled it, she filled all the way up.  Since I did drink more of the of the concentrated mix than I realized, when the pack was topped off it diluted the mix of Tailwind quite a bit.  Thankfully I had a Huma gel with me which I went ahead and took in.  I "only" had about 6 miles to go, but they were incredibly TOUGH --MUDDY-- miles.

At first the general trend was uphill so I was able to run and feel good (and even pass quite a few people).  But then we hit some (MUDDY) downhill sections that were increasingly PAINFUL.  Many of the guys I passed passed me back here, including "Fifteen".  I caught up with a friend who I thought would be about done by then.  On one uphill section her calfs seized up.  While I was struggling going down she was struggling going up.  We caught up with another grand-slammer and made a little train until we got to the base of the last up-hill section (Rest Shelter).

There is a bench on this section called "Kathy's Bench".  I found out there is a "thing" that once you pass this bench you "must" run the rest of the way.  Two friends (one of whom was REALLY sick with a cold/respiratory crud) were sitting, gathering energy to run up the hill.  But as our little train neared they decided it was time to move out.

The decision was made to that let that "thing" go and power walk up the hill.

As we got close to the top we could hear the aid station music urging us along.  There was an angel from Heaven sitting on the bench at the Rest Shelter who said "only 1.? miles to go!!".  That was all I needed (coupled with the familiarity of the next section of flattish trail leading to the finish) to push me right by that last aid station.

My goal was to run in no matter how tired I felt.  There was a gal up ahead of me who was doing a walk run interval so I made it my secondary goal to reel her in little by little.  Every time she walked I got closer, but every time I got close she ran.

Then I head the sweetest sounds from far away...CHEERS and COW BELL RINGING!!!  That sound was as forceful as the pull of winch drawing me in with a power that certainly wasn't coming from my legs.  FINALLY after a full day of "I really hate to ask it, but do you have a basket" and "Agony, far greater than yours" I was blessed with another thought, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary...they will run and not grow weary...I will RUN and not grow weary...I AM RUNNING and I AM NOT WEARY".  All I could do was smile and thank God for giving me this strength, this blessing, to run and not be weary.

Every time I heard the RING and WOOO WHOOO I was filled with energy to get to that finish line.   There was one little bit of down hill that I had to gingerly step down, but then it was a sprint to the finish (my average for the race was 15:31...my finishing kick went from 9:30 down to 7:15...it didn't just feel like a sprint, it was a sprint!).  I ran across the mat at 7:52:29, right into the open arms of a friend who scooped me up in a big ole bear hug as I cried my eyes out.

As I opened my eyes I saw Bilbo.  It took me a couple of seconds to understand what that meant...she didn't finish.  My first fear was that she was hurt, but then she told me she didn't make the first cut off and I scooped her up in a big ole bear hug as we cried together.  As strong as she is on that day it wasn't quite enough.  She wasn't alone, there were 32 starters who didn't finish that day for one reason or another.

Grand Slammers "After"
I know you are wondering...did the Girl with the Bun in the Oven finish?  Naturally.  Less than 20 minutes after me.  She is unstoppable, even with a bandit on board!

That was the hardest thing I've ever done to this point in my life.  I loved it.  If I could go ahead and sign up for next year I would.  For now I'm focusing on McKay Hollow 25K, and after that IM Chattanooga.

Thanks for stopping in.  Now go train!

My shoes. Nuf said...