Ironman Canada Recap: Run and Post Race

RUN – 4:16:36 // 9:47 min/mile pace

I hadn’t given much thought to the run until I started running. I anticipated that my legs would feel like shit, but that no matter how tired I was I’d feel amped and excited to be off the bike. Little did I know, neither of these things would ever happen. As I ran out of transition my calves burned with fatigue, but from practice long bricks I knew this would pass. Other than that, my legs felt damn good! As I made my way to the turnaround I thought consciously about being conservative and still having a long way to go. But I didn’t feel amped and wasn’t running too fast, I just felt ready to execute the plan.

Heading back to Main Street I saw my family hooting and hollering and I gave them some waves and cheers. And I tossed my sweaty heart rate monitor at them since my run Garmin doesn’t sync with it. Now THAT’s love: Watching a triathlon for an entire day AND holding the most disgusting sweaty HRM strap that you’ve ever seen.

My run felt good and strong up until mile 4 when we started along Skaha Lake. Luckily I spotted Meghan again before I started loosing it, because she got a great photo of me looking like a real triathlete who runs!

After the first hill along lake my stomach got seriously unhappy. My legs were much more agreeable to running than I had planned for them to be, but every time I tried to get my pace below a 9min/mile my stomach pressure grew. After 5 or 6 miles, I don’t really know how long, that tolerable pace dropped to more like 9:15. And at some point I stopped focusing on pace and moved on to survival.

That sounds dramatic, and I never for a second doubted my survival or eventual arrival at the finish, but the impact of each running stride made my stomach hurt considerably worse and worse. It felt like I was going to give birth to everything consumed in the 48 hours prior (and that was A LOT of food) through my belly button. I ran when I could, and when the cramping got too bad I walked until I could breathe air into my lungs normally again. I started walking through every aid station, from start to finish. And to pass the time the moment I left an aid station I’d start planning my strategy for the next one. Water? Pepsi? Gel? Ice? Sponges? I didn’t count aid stations like some people do, but I picked them off one by one and always executed my plan.

Up until mile 13 I felt fairly down on myself for walking so much, especially since my legs and body still had so much left. I tried to stay positive, but it was hard. I thought about how everyone was hurting in his or her own way. I thought about the challenges I battled this year to make Ironman come true for myself, and that I owed it to myself – and even more so to everyone who believed in me – to believe. I told myself the smarter my decisions were and the quicker I pulled it together the faster I’d be done. I wanted to make my friends and family proud. So I got to the turnaround and kept going. Whatever it takes.

At mile 15 I was felt the first signs of true fatigue and a lightbulb went on: I realized that during training I had never completed a run over approximately that distance. Of course my stacked weekends and long weeks made up for that in fitness and in strength, but in the moment all I could think about was that my body didn’t know how to run 10 more miles. Again. I tried to shut that thought down as quickly as it came on. Hurry up. The faster you move the faster you’ll finish! Walk. Run. Whatever.

At mile 17 for the first time in hours I realized I could run almost normally without wanting to curl up into a ball. Then between mile 18 and 19 the pain went away. All of a sudden, gone, and from that point forward it was game on. I still walked the aid stations to get calories and hydration. But I finally felt like I was running and I had fun with it! Don’t misunderstand, I physically felt far from awesome for those last miles; by that point I was officially tired, my momentum had been broken with slow middle miles, and I still didn’t know what to expect from my legs. But I savored coming back into town, I waved at all of the groups cheering, and I thanked the volunteers that were still out there handing us ice, sponges, and water. I passed some runners and got passed by others too. I told everyone “good work.” After a long gradual hill back into town it was downhill the rest of the way. I sped up and tried to finish strong.

Running in at mile 25-ish you see the finish to your right, and then have to turn left and run a mile-ish out and back before you’re truly done. I anticipated the last out and back taking forever, plus longer. Last year as a spectator everyone looked to be in so much pain at that point, so tired, so done. Like that single last mile might truly break then. I dreaded feeling that way, thinking that last mile would be the longest of the day. But when I arrived I didn’t feel that way at all. That mile and teasing out and back was my favorite, and the quickest part of the whole run. People cheering, the wind off the lake, the noise of the finish, and being able to appreciate -for just 8 or so more minutes – everything accomplished that day while still participating and being part of it.

I saw my parents. I heard Alanna and her husband. I spotted neon and saw Garth, Courtney, and Thomas. I saw the clock, and I picked up my legs to make it in under 11:36:00. I know that everyone in the stands was going wild for every finisher but I didn’t see anyone or hear anything in particular. I had dreamed of the moment I’d hear, “Arielle, You Are An Ironman,” for a year, but in the moment I hardly cared about or heard it being said. That moment was my most selfish of the entire day, and all I could think about was that I, myself, had done this. It wasn’t about hearing that I’m an Ironman, it was about knowing in my heart that I am. And I did. And I didn’t even cry.

FINAL TIME 11:35:57 // 7th AG 

POST RACE

After the race we got my things, which was seriously the hardest part of my long day. Trying to carry a bike, and 3 heavy bags full of wet clothes was just plain tough and I stopped every couple hundred feet to give my arms a break. A volunteer chuckled and told me that I looked really tired. Thanks lady. She laughed, and ushered me through. We loaded up the car – which was luckily parked close by – and went to dinner at the bar at the Lakeside Hotel.

The restaurant was playing the finish line live on a huge projector so we got to watch everyone roll in at 13 hours, 14 hours, 15 hours. I got pizza and could hardly eat 2 pieces, which would be the theme for the next 3 or so days. But I could drink! So I had 2 beers and ice cream. Then we celebrated with champagne at home.

My predictions for my feeling at the finish were twofold: 1) I’d feel awesome, amped, and pumped up, and would want to celebrate all night! Or 2) I’d feel exhausted and defeated and hurt and I’d want to retreat to bed immediately. Again, I was wrong. Instead I felt accomplished and content. I knew I could have done better, but I also knew that I had done exactly what I was supposed to do all day long. I had proved to myself that my training had paid off. I felt satisfied and at peace. I was impressed with how fit I never knew I was and how far I’d come.

When things quieted down at home, and I finally showered and went to bed, I couldn’t believe the day was over. The year of training had gone by so quickly, and the day had gone by in what felt like minutes. For the weeks leading up to the race I referred to it countless times as what would be “a really long day,” but in the end it wasn’t. It absolutely flew by. I had also said countless times, “no matter what happens it will be fun out there,” in an effort to convince myself. In the end I was finally right.

That night, and the next one too, I barely slept. By body was thrown off from an early morning, late night, and a full day. The stiffness and soreness went away after day 2, normal eating resumed on day 3, and at this point there are very few signs left that just over a week ago I completed my first Ironman.

And I’m not sure if I should change the title of my blog now, because at this point I’m no longer on the way. I’m there!

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11 responses to “Ironman Canada Recap: Run and Post Race

  1. AWESOME recap lady, you are seriously such an inspiration! For one tiny little moment I thought “maybe I could do this someday?” and that is coming from the girl who doesn’t know how to swim or own a bike so that is a pretty big deal :). And 7th in your age group for your first Ironman!! DANG! I predict a Kona qualification in your very near future.

    • Thanks Lauren!

      A year (and a half) ago I didn’t have a bike either. You can totally do it. I strongly believe that ANYONE can do an Ironman. You just have to want to do it enough that you’ll follow the plan to get there!

  2. WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. I am speechless. I imagine if I ever do anything like this (and that is a BIG IF), that I would totally cry at the finish. I love the way you talk about feeling such peace in that moment though, and how sure you were of yourself as you crossed the finish line and as you reflected on how truly awesome the accomplishment was. SO beautiful and so very, very inspiring!!

  3. elizabethkalifeh

    awesome, awesome recap. I’m glad it was long. For real!! I felt like I was right there with you. CONGRATS CONGRATS CONGRATS!! i honestly can’t imagine doing a triathlon, much less an ironman. You really are an inspiration. And ditto on the AG! holy crap on your first one!?!?! I hate that i missed you at HTC, but reading this, really, no words.

    • Thanks Elizabeth! I promise, if you want to do one you CAN do it. Truly. And I’m sure our paths will cross again (in person) someday. I hope your ankle is feeling better!

  4. mrshallberg

    Damn. Just… Damn, girl. I’ve never known anyone that’s done an Ironman and it was so interesting, as well as inspiring to read your posts 🙂

  5. good thing I was not there – I would have cried for all of us! so proud of you..

  6. I’m so glad I was able to read this. You got the correct wordpress account for me!

    I love that you got out there, and got the job done, and that you didn’t freak out when things didn’t go EXACTLY to plan. I think a lot of people would have focused on the cranky stomach and let it ruin their race, but it seems like you stayed in control.

    My husband keeps predicting that I’ll make the move from running to tris, but at the moment I’m happy just running 🙂

    • If you ever do try a tri, I predict you’ll do more than just one. Just like running, it’s so fun (and addictive) to watch yourself improve and get better and better. Thanks for the support!

  7. i absolutely LOVED this recap. It couldn’t have been any shorter and still captured it all! It was perfect. I am in awe at how you were so at peace during and after the race. I can only imagine there is so much build up to it and yet you were able to control your emotions and trust your training! I truly believe that must have been such a huge part in having such a killer day and a SUPER fast time. I will definitely be thinking about this as I go into my race next month. I get so high and low and down on myself, but I think I can really learn from you in how you just stayed focused and executed and when things changed, you made a new plan and executed that. Thank you for sharing this! And CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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