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The Run – Goal – 4:00-4:30
Coming into this run, despite all the pain on the bike, and despite what my body was telling me about its hydration levels, the plan remained the same. Training had convinced me that I should be able to average somewhere between 9:00/mile and 10:30/mile on this marathon. So coming out of the gate, I decided to give my legs a test to see exactly where they'd put me on that spectrum of paces.
As I've said before, a plan is just a list of things that probably aren't going to happen.
I stormed onto the run course with a fierceness. I had cast aside all doubts about what the bike and the heat had done to me, choosing only to believe that I had the legs to start laying down some fast miles. The legs, as expected, felt numb and confused by the conversion to running, but they were turning over a good cadence. I was moving quickly and getting a lot of positive heat from the spectators lining the course. Lots of people were telling me how great I looked and that I was running strong. I began to genuinely believe that this pace was here to stay. The first mile clocked in around 8:30.
The second mile felt similar. Legs still reeling, but without a doubt they were functioning exactly as I expected them to be capable of. This was going to happen. My Fantasy Dream PR. A reality.
And then reality struck.
As the second mile concluded, my Garmin chirped at me and told me how much time had elapsed. And it wasn't altogether reassuring. Just under 10 minutes. Ok...so maybe the Fantasy Dream PR wasn't going to happen, but at this pace I was still definitely going to break 12 hours.
And then the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion.
I can remember only one time in my athletic career when hitting the wall has happened so suddenly and unexpectedly. The last 2 miles of my second 50k. One moment cruising towards an almost certain sub-7 finish, and the next moment stumbling around like a drunk man lost in the woods.
This wasn't nearly so dramatic, but it was exactly as sudden. Here I was preparing myself to settle in and maintain my 9:00-10:00 minute per mile pace, and then somebody pulled the parking brake. Everything I had planned, everything I expected....EVERYTHING. It all came to a screeching halt in a single moment in time as I realized some things.
It was really hot. I was hurting. I was likely dehydrated. And I was suddenly walking. Something was definitely wrong, and I would discover exactly what that was in a few miles, but we're not there yet. The next several miles were made up of sporadic attempts at maintaining my target pace, interspersed with dejection, deflation, and walking. Aid stations were particularly time consuming. It seemed like I needed everything they had. Ice...cold sponge...water...some fruit...SOMETHING had to make me feel better. Additionally, my stomach was pretty upset, so I definitely was getting lazy on the fluid intake.
And the walking became more and more frequent. Each time I walked, I tried to limit how long I let myself rest....only 10 seconds this time....Ok, we'll go to that mailbox....but everybody up in my brain knew that I was in trouble. Nobody had yet come to a consensus on why everything was falling apart, but we were pretty sure it was happening.
Things were kinda rough until I reached the turnaround point for the first lap. It was at this point that things got REALLY rough. I had to pee, and since the course was mostly in neighborhoods, relieving myself in the bushes wasn't really an appropriate option. I finally got to a portajohn and went to do my business. The problem was that I was so dehydrated that I was only able to manage a few drops. And what's worse...the urge remained. I don't want to go into too much detail, but I'll just say that it was incredibly uncomfortable, and I suspect I'll know this feeling again when I'm in my 50's and start to develop an enlarged prostate and urinary retention.
|The face of "Hurt"|
The next 4-5 miles were very likely the low point of my race. Since I was basically unable to urinate, I realized exactly how screwed I was. I began trying to take on more fluid, despite my upset stomach, but I feared that it was too late to fix the problem and salvage a graceful finish. Between agonizing trips to the portajohn and frequent walking, my day was rapidly turning into an epic blowup. I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to PR, even though I had an hour and a half of extra time budgeted to accomplish this.
Around mile 10, I ended up finding a stranger to run with. We both were moving about the same pace, so we started the small talk and formed a temporary running co-op. I warned him about my urinary difficulties and frequent lavatory stops, but he didn't seem to mind. I think my legs were in a little better shape than his, but he kept me moving just as much as I kept him moving. He and I stayed together through the halfway point of the race, but he got a little bit ahead of me during special needs(which, for the record, I have almost no recollection of). I ended up catching him within a mile, only to discover that he had started having GI problems. At this point, I still hadn't peed, but the painful urge had left me, and I was actually able to hold a steady pace consistently. So when I caught up to him, completely stopped at the side of the road and unable to continue for the moment, I made the tough call, wished him well, and continued on my way. I didn't see him again for the rest of the race. I think his name was Jason.
|Almost halfway...feeling a little better!|
The only high points of my first lap were when I saw the rest of my friends. Delaware passed me coming the other way. Then Adam passed. And for the first time since I left the beach that morning, I saw Alan. Or rather...first I heard him. In his typical good ol' boy Texas accent, he yelled, "Hey Danno! Kill the bear!" I was so excited that he was still in the fight that I let out a celebratory yell and a fist pump! His story ...where he started and how far he has come to be here today ...it is a really inspirational and uplifting one. I am proud to say that after training for a year and losing 60 pounds, he is now also an Ironman. And I can't think of a person who deserves it more.
Now that I had rehydrated enough to where I didn't feel like I was constantly passing a kidney stone, I actually felt quite comfortable comparatively. I knew that I was a long way from being properly hydrated, but it was good enough for now. I found that I was able to maintain about a 12 minute per mile pace for exactly 12 minutes, at which point I'd allow myself to walk the aid station, recover some strength, catch my breath, and then do it again. One reason this was possible is because it was finally starting to cool down, with the sun sinking low on the horizon.
As I neared the turnaround on the 2nd lap, I noticed that I had been yo-yoing back and forth with the same girl. I'd pass her, then she'd pass me, etc etc. Around mile 18, I decided to say hello. She was a local and this was her 7th time doing this race. Her PR was like 11 hours or something ridiculous, but she'd been having IT band pain today, which is why she was moving my speed. This was kinda humbling, but I was grateful for some company. We started chatting and I noticed that our pace was actually pretty good. We were managing sub-11 miles, which for me on that particular day was impressive. She was definitely the one keeping me moving though. She'd mercifully allow us to walk the aid stations, but as soon as we were through, I'd hear “Come on Danny, let's get moving.” She was certainly the stronger runner, but she pulled me through miles 20-24 under 11 minutes apiece. The plan was to stick together and shoot for a 12:45 finish. Again with the whole “plan” thing...
At mile 24, I was hurting. Bad. She was doing everything she could to motivate me, to pump me up, to remind me to get my breathing under control, to insist how disappointed I'd be afterwards if I let up now...but it just wasn't enough. For the last time she said “Come on Danny, you've got this.”
But I didn't.
The gap between us slowly increased, she disappeared into the darkness, and once again I was a man alone. With two of the most painful and teeth-gnashing miles left between me and the finish line of my second Ironman. I could've just chilled and walked it in. That would have been easy. But there was no way in hell I was going to let that happen willingly. I wanted 12:45...for whatever reason. We had only chosen that time arbitrarily, since it seemed attainable...but now it seemed like it meant everything. So I pushed...
|The last 2 miles felt exactly like THIS.|
After she dropped me, my pace fell but I was still moving. The effort level required to run, even barely trotting, felt like I was dragging a dumptruck. I was dead set on running the remainder of the race, but my body would still give out on me from time to time. I was yelling at myself. I was grunting. I was cursing.
"No Danny...not now...we're almost there...you've got this...NO"
And I'd continue the struggle.
There was now one mile remaining and I was desperately flinging my body forward towards the finish line. I'm sure I looked like a total train wreck. Slumped form, pale as a ghost, eyes glazed over, muttering incoherent things to myself, running form occasionally breaking as if I might collapse, only to start shambling along once again.
It had been a day of ups and downs, and a particularly ugly marathon, but I finally rounded the last corner and entered the finishing chute. In the darkness, the lights were blinding. I saw good friends who had been out cheering for us all day, I high-fived spectators on both sides, and I charged towards the line. Once again, emotion, relief, and pain all combined into a single victory yell as I crossed the finish line.
Final run time: 5:05:46 – My slowest marathon to date, at an average pace of 11:40 min/mile.
Overall time: 12:46:26 (Previous PR was 13:29)
It's funny what we can make our bodies do...and then moments later what we absolutely are incapable of making our bodies do. I remained upright through 26.2 excruciating miles, yet the moment after finishing all of this, with a volunteer standing there ready to help, my ability to hold my own weight left me. To say he “helped me to a chair” would not be giving him enough credit. Let's just say that without his support, I would have been on the ground rather quickly.
Thinking back to my Coeur d'Alene finish and remembering the whirl of thoughts and emotions that overcame me in the minutes following that race, it is sad to think that I was so dehydrated and delirious after Ironman Florida that I lacked the capacity to contemplate anything deeper than answering the volunteer's questions concerning how I felt and whether I needed to go to the med tent. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that anybody who saw me finish probably knew I needed to go. I still hadn't peed, so I knew I needed fluid. My hands were tingling, so I knew I needed electrolytes. I couldn't walk on my own yet, so I knew I needed...something...
The good news about my med tent visit? I was out of breath, but not because of my asthma. I didn't need my inhaler or any type of breathing treatment afterwards, so I officially validated the effectiveness of my once-a-day Singular tablet and the preventative use of my inhaler. Hooray!
In the med tent I drank fluids, got a few Tums to replenish my calcium, and snacked on a banana and pretzels. Not sure how long I stayed there, but eventually I was finally able to stand and I walked out under my own power. My mother was waiting for me and together we continued on to the post-race area where I proceeded to stuff my face with pizza and finally...FINALLY....I was able to pee.
|Finisher photo AFTER my med-tent recovery.|
We collected bags, gear, and my bicycle and walked back to our hotel. At this point I still hadn't really contemplated anything that had happened that day. Some things had gone well, but many things had not. I missed my target time by 45 minutes, but I had a new PR by almost 45 minutes. I sat in bed and tried to watch the online video stream of the finish line, but it was clear I would not be able to remain awake for much longer. With a lingering sense of accomplishment and vague satisfaction, I drifted off to sleep and didn't wake up for about 12 hours.
This concludes the race report. Just like after Coeur d'Alene, I'm soon going to write about my impressions and thoughts after the race as well as talk about “What's Next?” for me in the coming year. I want to thank everyone for all of your support before, during, and after this race. Knowing how many of you were following along during my race was a HUGE motivator for me, and at several points during day, this knowledge was very likely the only thing keeping me moving. Whether you followed on Facebook, Twitter, or the event website updates, if you left me a comment after I finished, or if you congratulated me in person when I got home, I want you to know how much your support means to me. Thank you so much!
Bear Killer Extraordinaire