The worst miles of the whole race were 13 and 14.
As an ironman, I'm still learning- confidence in myself, pacing, and just simple strategic grounding.
I was gastronomically challenged, just slightly, but the stomach was not happy. As I ran back out on the second loop, having struggled in my last two ironman runs in Arizona and Lake Placid, I was worried. And the pressure was mounting. I was still moving up, but now there so many people because first loopers were mixed in with the second loop runners.
I guess Margit thought I looked kind of 'leaning' to the right. I'm not sure. I'm not leaning in any of the pictures and I don't think I was running like Lee Majors (yeah, I'm that old, folks).
But then something happened. I know my second loop was slow, and - well, it was slower than the first- but I settled down and kept the keel of the ship pointed forward and refused to trim the engines (much). I continued to work as hard as I felt I could as I crossed the road and went by the trio of Obama signs for the second to the last time. I took sponges at every station and poured them on my head (as I had done on the first loop). I continued taking small amounts of water. At mile 14 I poured ice into my cycling jersey pockets. When I took my next Clif Shot, it was almost solid from being cooled.
I was struggling a little bit as I wound through the neighbourhood, but at the same time, I was in the back half of the marathon and I was still running. Margit, Ian, and Steve had made a sign for me that Ian had-'Go, Daddy' and then, 'no more walking.'
There would be no walking. My left calf was really sore because the hamstring was so tender, but at the same time, as long as I didn't make any weird changes in direction, I knew I'd be fine.
I'd had two miles or so on Steve on the first loop and I saw him again as I was headed out. I noticed the twins I'd seen on the first loop were now gapped. There was a lot more traffic- runners- this time- they seemed to be everywhere, because by now all two thousand of us were out on the course. I kept taking sponges at every stop. At mile fifteen I finally started taking coca cola, just a mouthful. It's best when it's hot and carbonated, and it was at some of the stops.
I went across the road, ran to the aid station, took more cola. My calf nearly cramped, but I was able to ignore it. Turned onto the sidewalk and I wanted so desperately to get in the park so I could get to the turn around. I was still taking electrolytes, but I was almost out and at the first aid station inside the park I had half of what remained. There was no real wind now, the sun was still well up in the sky and I knew that I was finishing in the daylight. I was also still passing people, although I did get passed twice on the way in.
I babied the turn-around and the calf thanked me. Then I took my last Clif Shot, went over the encouragement mat, and this time I saw the message.
Not long after that I almost got hit by a boat.
No, I was not having an hallucination about the swim. The park is a national park (or state park). There are side roads off the main one we run on and as I went by one side ride, a car pulled out right in front of me and then a pick-up truck turned in right behind me. I was inside the truck, that is, on its left, and it was pressuring me farther inside thanks to the big ass rear-view mirror.
I looked over my shoulder as the truck started to pull away and saw a boat trailer's leading sidebar inches from my right leg. I speeded up and yelled at the driver. 'I shouldn't have to speed up to avoid being hit by your boat. Back off.'
The truck backed off, but my IM marathon was almost ended by a boat. That would have been a story.
Out of the park, I knew two things now- PR yes, sub-ten, almost no chance.
I ran as fast as I could. At one point just out of the park my stomach turned over ominously, but I was able to fight that off and then I was back across the road, in the neighbourhood, running. The one second before the right hand turn seems kind of downhill. Then, as I took the next left-hand turn and was in that final section of neighbourhood I was passed by a woman. Normally I'd have fought it, but at the left-hand turn I'd almost lost my calf in a major way. I kept it steady.
Then I was across the road, up the little hill and headed back towards the Sunset Inn. I took cola at the last aid station, and when I got to mile 25, I opened up my stride again.
The last turn, back onto the main road, my calf twinged so badly that I was ecstatic there were no more turns. I started revving the engine, picking up speed as I went by Alvin's Island. I was passing people, but they were still on their first loop. I just kept picking up more speed, people were cheering and saying look at that-
And then some guy who I outran in the marathon by over eight minutes, some guy in my age group, blew by me with two hundred and fifty yards left. That sucked. At least he put enough distance on me to be well out of my picture when I finished and they had time to put up the finisher's line again. I saw Margit and Ian as I ran in, going hard.
I broke the tape at 10:08:36, which was a PR by a little less than 17 minutes (on the same course). My hamstrings (what was making my calves hurt) were so shot I let two people who were there hold me up. Unfortunately they were both over 5'9", so I had to stretch up to let them support me. Within thirty seconds I was ready for my finisher's photo, and gladly took a Guinness from my wife.
So, was this a good race ? Good question...