So here is the recap.
We rolled into Arkadelphia and went to pick up our packets. Brent was staying with us so he just met us at the hotel. A nap was in order; probably not a whole lotta sleepin' going on the night before a race. Just a little 30 minute power nap and that should do it. I have to tell you that I have a unique alarm on my phone. It's titled...SONAR. Yep, sounds like you're on a submarine and it throughly freaked Brent out. I think it's funny, but I guess if you're not used to it, you could have an adverse reaction to it.
It's important to find pre-race food that works for you and when you do it's like magic. So Chris and I brought our dinner from a couple of LR restaurants. Everyone in the lobby was asking where we got the delicious smelling food. We told them they would have to go to LR to get it. When we finished, Chris and Brent went to drive the course while I stayed and prepped my bike and layed out my clothes for the next day's festivities. I certainly didn't want to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off in the morning; my brain was not going to be working. So the boys got back and we proceeded over to The Cracker Barrel to meet the Mooneys, JConn and Michelle. Had a great time and I was pretty relaxed when we left.
4:00 a.m. Saturday
Alarms across the room started going off: sonar, Chris' gentle wakey wakey alarm, wake up call on hotel phone, then the actual alarm. Wow, did I ever sleep harder than I thought I would! Highly unusual. Which translates into: I was not anywhere close to in the mood to go do what I was about to do. I paid a lot of money to endure this kind of pain - why do I continue to do this to myself? Because the feeling is pure bliss when you know you have in fact endured that pain. Shower then down to the lobby to warm up breakfast and eat (which I made because again, I know what has worked for me in the past). Back up to the room to brush the pearly whites, load up the bikes and gear, then off to the races!
5:30 a.m. Saturday
We arrived at the transition area. We both got pretty good spots and I saw that I was right across the rack from Marianne. Up until recently, I had only heard her name. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. I like training with her because she is faster than me and it gives me a challenge. Lord knows I need to be challenged, so keep up the good work, Marianne! We get our bikes racked, put our transition bags down and head over to get our chips and body markings. You know these volunteers have been out here for awhile already and are sincerely smiling and happy which really helps. Things are going well so far! After getting marked we head back over to the transition area to set up. Our little cluster of women are getting everything all laid out just so. Then all of the sudden there is a woman who is unhappy that not everybody's "stuff" is on the left. She was treating this like it was some big time event and making the rest of us uncomfortable. We all just tried to be as accomodating as possible without giving in, but she wasn't having it. She had gotten there late and was a little unhappy that she would have to go to the end of the rack. So she thought she would just squeeze herself right in between me and another woman. I was fine with whatever, getting through the swim was the thing consuming me at the time. Marianne pulled me to the side and said, "Hey, I don't think I have a picture of you yet. Let's go over here so I can take one." Then she said, "Don't get caught up in the transition area conversation. That's why I pulled you over here." Again, thank you Marianne! It really is all a learning process. I decided to go for a very short warm-up run and before I knew it, it was time to head to the water. Oh my freakin' nerves!
6:45 a.m. Saturday
It's go time! Was I ready for this? Well, one thing I can say is I didn't feel as small a fish in that pond as I did in Kansas. I crouched down in the water (the water temp was warmer than the air temp) and just thought, "You're in the lake with your friends having fun." Marianne waded over and crouched down next to me and held out her forearms. On her right was written FLY and on her left was written BELIEVE. For some reason I felt just a little more calm. No matter how hard I try to start at the back this year, I've ended up in the main stream. I was sure I had a good (for me) position. I was on the outside and what looked to be behind everyone. They started the countdown and my heart started pounding in my ears. My goal was to get back to shore before Chris and Brent took off (their event started an hour later). HERE WE GOOOO!!! Stay calm and breathe easy, don't flail your arms, flutter kick, rotate your body, let your hands glide through the water and propel yourself forward. So much to remember and I seem to forget it the minute I take off it seems. I was puttering along and then WHAM! Someone kicks me in the forehead. I decided to slow down and let people pass until I felt comfortable. I had a really great swim, not the most impressive time. I made peace with the water and found a great rhythm. Before I knew it I could see the shore with Chris and Brent still there. I made it! I loved having them there yelling for me. What a rush! The rest was going to be cake! And I looooove cake!
Lost track of time now....
I got to my bike and there was a woman who just looked at me and said, "I thought I was going to be the last one out of the water". What the hell do you mean by that? Aren't we supposed to be out here supporting each other? I mean all the fast competitive people are already out on the course. How about a "Great job #78" instead? I hope you like looking at my backside, because I'm about to pass you on the bike! I gather myself and make what I think is a fairly quick transition. Get on my bike at the mount line and take off. I had ridden this course 3 times already, so I knew what I was in for. I felt fairly certain I knew when to cut loose and when to be conservative. Every volunteer and police officer I passed got thanked. I even started joking with them. I've been on every side of an event; volunteer, official, cheerleader and participant. I know what it's like to be out there for hours trying to be accomodating and helpful. At some point you forget how to smile and get tired of repeating yourself. So I try to add a little comic relief and appreciation. I hope it helps them remember why they choose to do this and hope that they make the choice to do it again.
Marianne and I leapfrogged on hwy. 7 and I hopped over her one last time and didn't see her again for awhile. She came blowing past me telling me that she had dropped her chain. Here I thought I was Miss Superstar Bike Rider! Well, not so much. So I finish the first loop and start the second. As I was riding past this one volunteer for the second time, I started singing Henry the Eighth - "Second verse same as the first". He seemed to get a kick out of it.
On the second loop, my knees started talking to me and my back was whining. "Don't make me stop this car" in my dad's voice was all I could hear above all that complaining from my body. I popped a couple more Advil and tried to convince myself that I was not in pain. I made the last turn before the transition area and saw Chris finishing his race. GO LUVBUG!!!! You Rawk!!! They announced him coming down the chute - " And here comes Chris...Christopher Ironman Irons". I'm so proud of you, baby!
Well, just a delightful 1/2 marathon to go. It sounds so much better to say it that way than to say 13.1 miles to go. I ran out of the transition area and there was D'Wonn and Jo! Jo ran beside me for a bit and I needed it badly at that point. I started off and felt amazingly good. The 3+ miles uphill were a bit of a challenge, but I paced myself. I made sure to give encouragement to most everyone on the course, hoping they would reciprocate and I could feed off of that. I hit the turn around point and headed back toward the finish - DOWNHILL. Yeah Baby! I crested the hill and at the bottom I saw Chris, Jo, D'Wonn, Brent and Gary all cheering! I passed a woman that was watching and said, "I like the downhill better". Jo made a comment about my running skirt and Gary, in his British accent, asked, "Are you wearing a skirt?". I flipped it up in the back as I ran by and said "Yep". The cruel irony about the run is that in the 1/2 you get to see the finish line, but you can't go. Oh well, I didn't have anything better to do, right? I passed by everyone and their words pushed me up the hill. That woman I passed minutes before said, "You look just as good going up the hill". Thank you nice lady! I trudged on up and I finally got to the turn around again. I made the turn and said to myself, "Only 3 more miles. Let's do this thing"! Then I hit the wall - HARD. Oh no! Not now! My body heard my words and started closing up shop. Pulling all the plugs and turning off all the lights. I started shutting down and I was sincerely convinced I was not going to finish. My knees were on fire and my gut was clenched so hard I was surprised I was still standing upright. I hung my head and started walking. I thought to myself that if I just keep moving forward then I was still making progress. I looked up and saw the 11 mile sign and decided when I got to that sign I would try running again. I got about 40 feet before I started walking again. Just then a man came running past me that I had passed earlier and said, "Come on! We only got a mile left"! I got back on my horse and saw the 12 mile sign. I just couldn't fathom walking to the finish line. I started over the crest of the hill that everyone was waiting at and kicked it in! I thought my knees were going to buckle. "Finish Strong!"...and I did!
It was all surreal and I knew I needed to eat something even though my stomach was knotted with cramping. I mean when you burn about 3400 calories then only give your body about 400-500 during that burn, you have to expect it to be a little upset with you. I got over to the food tent and I kid you not, the woman looked at me and said (in her most enthusiastic voice she could muster), "We have some lettuce, Italian dressing, bread and baked beans. Oh! And oranges!". My heart sank. You have to be friggin' kidding me! I didn't care if I ever saw another orange in my entire life. Was I really that slow? 100 out of 121? I guess that makes me not last though, eh? Good enough.
I have some things to work on, transition time and nutrition to name a couple. A tweek here and a tweek there (everywhere a tweek tweek?). Seems like there is always something to work on, but if we ever reached perfection what would we have left for to stride? Besides, it's all about the journey and nobody ever really gets there, do they? Is that what we really want? It seems like we're always asking, "Are we there yet?". Just stop asking and
ENJOY THE RIDE.... and the swim and the run!
Thanks for reading!
This is for you, Sarah.