Once I got off the bike I was greeted with very helpful encouraging volunteers. I was very shaky and could barely walk at first, luckily I had support from a very bossy volunteer that rushed me thought T2 like the tent was on fire, she didn’t give me time to consider what I was about to go attempt to do. She helped me get out of all my gear and get back into run clothes. I couldn’t think about what I might want to wear on the run so I just ended up putting everything on, this ended up being another thing that turned out well for me. It feels a bit like there were a lot of happy accidents that helped get me out running the marathon before I had time to think about what I was doing.
I was still feeling pretty horrible and run down the first mile. I hadn’t had a chance to grab anything to eat in transition while being rushed so I was still bonking pretty badly. I told myself to just jog to the first aid station and figure it out from there. My legs started to loosen up a little I couldn’t be believe how tight they were from being so cold and riding for so long (that is the longest I have EVER been on my bike!). I made it to the first aid station and grabbed chicken broth, coke and a cup of chips. They all tasted SO good, I was obviously craving salt and very calorie deficient. After eating everything I started to feel a little better and was motivated to run to the next station, so I could eat more. I did the same thing at the next aid station. And started to feel like I was getting a little full so even though I wanted to keep eating a bunch I figured I would have different issues if I didn’t slow down my consumption. At this point a couple miles in and some food in my stomach I was feeling ok again. At that point I knew that if nothing else went wrong I could finish the race. I also started talking to people again, thanking volunteers and staying in the moment and enjoying the experience of doing an ironman.
Cory was great support on the run, he brought his bike and leap frogged me often to check in on me and see if I needed anything. He also had a few items in his backpack in case I needed them on the run (gloves, ear covers, gels, head lamp, etc) you aren’t supposed to get outside support during the race but they made it very clear to us that we weren’t getting our special needs bag back and I didn’t want to lose gear that I like. So I broke the rules a bit, sorry Ironman, hope I don’t have to give my shirt back! (lots of people were getting warm gear from family and friends at this race and the officials didn’t say anything, I think they were more worried about people going hypothermic)
The course is pretty scenic for the first few miles as you make your way from Squaw Valley to HW 89 and there is a lot of spectator support so that was nice. I knew I had dug myself a hole on the bike so I was conservative and methodical about the run. I walked every aid station and any hill that was “steep” I made sure to run all downhills, flats and shallow up hills. By the third mile I had settled in for the long-haul. It was nice to see Cory periodically so I could look forward to seeing him and that really broke up the run.
The run is made up of two out and backs with the first significantly longer than the second you run about 17 miles in the first loop and 9 in the second . The most scenic part of the run was the portion that you run on the Truckee River Bike Trail right next to the Truckee River. It was beautiful in this section but also very hard for spectators to get to, so it was pretty quite along there. I did get to see a lot of friends due to the out and backs so it was fun to see how great they were doing and cheer them on a bit.
The volunteers were handing out mylar blankets to runners and people were wearing them as capes and even wrapped around their legs. I was warm enough to go without but I felt so bad for the runners who looked miserable and cold. The volunteers were great, making sure people were ok and handing out steaming cups of chicken broth. It was scary to see people laid out on stretchers being taken off the course because of hypothermia. Around this time I passed a friend of mine who was just wearing a tri-kit she was shivering and looked miserable. I knew Cory had another jacket of mine and some hand warmers so I told her to keep an eye out for him and I would send him back for her. It made me feel good that we might be able to help a little and not just leave her miserable. The rest of loop one trudged on, it was dark so I couldn’t enjoy the view anymore but I did talk a lot to other athletes and everyone was very encouraging. As I got back into the village at Squaw Valley I spotted my parents in the crowd, I knew they had been worried about me so I took a minute to give them hugs and let them know I was alright and would see them at the finish line.
It was a little painful to have to run right by the finish line but turn the other way and head back out into the darkness. I was feeling good that the long loop was done and I knew what I had to do. I stuck to my walk/run plan although my definition of “steep” hill was a little looser at this point. By the time I was heading back for the last time I knew that I was going to make it and was ready to be done, it was getting colder and a mist was coming off the lake that hurt my lungs at every breath. Ironman projected a giant M-dot shaped light on the mountain, I could see it from a couple miles out, it was a great reminder that I just needed to get it done.
Running into the village the last time I started to get the elated, happy, energized feeling, I knew I was almost there and I couldn’t believe I had stuck with it all day. I saw Mike Riley even gave him a high five but just like at Coeur d’Alene I couldn’t hear him call me an ironman. Guess I will just have to keep doing these things until I actually hear it! There really is nothing else in the world like the finish line of an Ironman.