Ok, I'm finally going to finish my Redman report. I don't have a whole lot to say about the bike. It was windy, very windy at times. It was tough and there were a few times I seriously considered getting off my bike, sitting down on the side of the road and waiting for someone to come pick me up. Of course I didn't. I kept telling myself to make it to each aid station and then I could quit if I still wanted to. By the time I made it to the aid station, refueled and talked to all the volunteers I was always ready to go again.
The hardest part was going back out for another 56 mile loop and seeing all the athletes finishing their last loop. But I kept going and when I finally finished that 112 miles I was never more ready to get off that bike. There is definitely a moment when you feel like you might never want to get back on a bike again.
I had a slow transition to the run but figured I could use it after the bike ride. The volunteers were great again and had everything laid out for me. I started my first 13.1 mile loop just as the overall winner was crossing the finish line. In some ways it was inspiring to see him finish, in other ways it was a little discouraging knowing how far I still had to go.
My first 6.5 miles of the marathon went pretty well. My legs actually felt better than I thought they would. I still ran a few minutes and then walked some just to make sure I would feel ok on the second loop too. As I was reaching the 6.5 mile turnaround I saw 2 of my teammates just in front of me. It was great to see them and know they were doing ok and also to know I wasn't too far behind them.
I went into the turnaround with a couple of guys who happened to be on their second loop. Army guy said the 3 of us should stick together and "get each other home" I then had to tell them that I was only on my first loop so I wasn't really headed home yet. Army guy said if I would get him home he would get me to the turnaround. For the next 6.5 miles we ran and walked together. We talked and kept each other going as much as possible. For 6.5 miles I forgot to look at my Garmin and just ran and enjoyed Army guys company. We thanked all the volunteers and said something to every athlete we passed. I think that helped pass the time too.
Army guy told me he was hoping to finish in 13 hours so when we had 2 miles left and he had 20 minutes to make his goal I told him to go ahead and run the rest of the way in. He said time didn't really matter and he'd stay with me. I didn't even know how to respond to that. The sun started to go down so we picked up some glow sticks and tried to run as much as possible but ended up walking a lot of the last mile. Finally the trail split - one way to the finish, the other to the 13.1 mile turnaround. We said goodbye, he wished me good look on the rest of my journey and I congratulated him on his finish. The next day I looked up his time and saw that he finished in 13:01. I'm sure he would have been under 13 hours if he hadn't stayed with me.
As I went through the turnaround and picked up my special needs bag I saw my coach and teammates who had done the half. I was so excited to see them and it really gave me the energy to keep going. My coach walked with me a little to see how I was. He asked about another teammate who I had passed a ways back and I told him he didn't look too good. Koach told me to tell him to hurry up and that his koach was waiting for him. This was the first time I realized how much our koach really did care that we finished and that we did well. I knew then that he was proud of me and that kept me going through the next few long, dark hours.
I never found anyone else to run with. There weren't many of us left out there at that point. Except for some lights that had brought in and the aid stations it was very dark and a little cold. But I found that I enjoyed being out there, alone under the stars. My mind wandered and I was able to reflect on this incredible journey that was quickly coming to an end. At this point a lot of people were hurting, many were walking and if they were running it was more of a shuffle than a run. But most managed a few words as we passed. "Great job" turned to "just keep moving" or "you're almost there".
The aid stations and the volunteers were amazing. They were just as enthusiastic toward us as they were toward the winners. Someone would always run out to meet you and find out what you needed so by the time you got the aid station it was ready for you. There was a group of high school kids who wrote all the names of the athletes who were left in chalk on the trail. They really spent a lot of time making us feel important and like athletes. My favorite aid station had to be tailgate with the game on tv and beer in the cooler. On the way back I seriously considered a beer but I don't think that would have turned out too well.
In the last few miles I was alternately so happy I was almost laughing and overwhelmed with emotion at the idea that I was about to finish 140.6 miles. There were a few tears and a few laughs mixed in together. At one point I practiced running with my arms over my head for the finish line - just to see if my arms would still go above my head. Than I laughed at myself for running in the dark practicing my ironman finish.
With a couple of miles to go I could hear the music and the announcer at the finish line. I was so close. I tried to run the last few miles but I started feeling sick so I walked some. I have never been so happy to see a sign as when I saw the 26 mile sign and then the sign pointing the way to the finish line. I made sure to run now and listened to the announcer saying it was my first iron distance triathlon and my first ever triathlon. "Against the Wind" was playing and I remembered that I loved that song. Crossing the finish line was a surreal experience. My teammates were there with high fives and my koach. They put the medal around my neck and my koach gave me a huge hug and it was over. I think I was so surprised to be there I was just in shock. I had finished. 16:03. I didn't know what to say, I didn't cry, I didn't scream. I just tried to take it all in and remember every feeling of this moment.
I had done it. I proved to myself that I have what it takes to finish, to compete in an ironman. I wanted to believe that I had what it took, but I didn't know until the moment I crossed that finish line. Then I knew that my life had changed, that anything was possible, that I was so much stronger than I had thought.
I waited for one more teammate to finish and and spent some time time talking to my koach while the soreness set into my body. Once I sat down I thought I would never be able to get up again. When we left, after midnight, there was still one guy out there. We learned the next day that he finised at 2:30 am. He was an older man and they allowed him to stay on the course even though he was way over time. He was so over time that they had to shut the aid stations down and a volunteer followed him for 2 hours in a truck making sure he was ok. The high school kids felt bad that they had to leave while an athlete was still out there so they left some food and stuff for him. They also wrote him notes on paper plates. One said, Ironman is not a race, it's a state of mind. You are an inspiration." I think that says it all.
Ironman is for everyone, 18 or 70, man or woman, the winner or the last person to cross the finish line. We've all been through the same journey. I can't imagine anything greater than crossing that finish line - except doing it again next year - in 14 hours.