Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Episode 3: In which I roam the streets of Tempe looking to score some coke

Right, run next. Getting tired just thinking about it but that might be the first full meal that I’ve been able to eat in a few days combined with “champagne” and wine. Oh yeah, and it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve slept through the night. People, I’ve said it before and I’ll say again, it’s not normal, it’s not sane, it’s probably not healthy. But you’re waiting to hear what it’s like to run a marathon after a 180 k ride and a 4000 metre swim.

IT.WAS.FANTASTIC. for a bit. Then it sucked, it sucked so much my Dyson bowed down to the sheer suckage of it all, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Second dresser was no Gwen but I managed to get changed, pockets loaded with sugar and set out into the setting Arizona sun. My plan was to walk 100 steps and run 100 steps. The plan worked brilliantly. I felt strong, powerful, dare I say, iron-liscious as I set out on the first of 3 loops around Tempe Town Lake. It is a crazy weird rambling route and I’m still now sure how it worked even having run it 3 times so, for those who also attained Iron status on Sunday, bear with me as the chronology might be off. I doubt you guys knew what you were doing too. Things I remembered from the first two loops:

1. Janus charities had sponsored a tent for spectators to make signs for their athletes. Anita and Andreja made the best sign for Alex and I and I spotted that on my second time past. I saw so many signs with so much love and support that I found myself slowing to read them all.

2. Any race with a pirate aid station, (pirates direct from Tuscon) a Wizard of Oz theme station, a western theme aid station, complete with mock saloon store fronts and Johnny Cash on the sound system, is pretty much all right with me.

3. The Jon Blazeman foundation had a station. Jon died of ALS but not before he completed an Ironman, with swim fins strapped to his hands as he had no longer any control over them and rode his bike barely able to change gears or brake. The next year he was in a wheelchair watching. That was his last Ironman. Every time I saw them it put it all in perspective.

4. There are a billion bridges over Tempe Town Lake and I was never sure which one I was one.

5. I can’t go from metric to imperial without losing my mind.

6. Seeing Anita, Andreja, Faith and Sedona on the run meant more to me than I can ever express.

7. There is a very bitter 7 time Ironwoman out there – she’s lucky he dumped her for that 27 year old and I’m glad she’s still in touch with the step-kids, they sound great.

So that takes me 2/3 of the way through the marathon.

As I passed the finish chute heading out to lap 3 I distinctly remember looking back at it and imprinting that image on my mind. I wanted that chute so badly. I had, I figured 2 hours to get back to it taking me to 16 hours. Not fast but within the 17 hour time limit.

The last lap for back of the packers like me is lonely and dark. Unbelievably there are still people out cheering you on, and, as it was 9 pm some of the university students were out wandering the streets looking for whatever it was we looked for back then. I was still feeling wonderful and thinking that I’d switch it up to 200 paces run/100 walk somewhere around the lap half way mark. That might allow me to make my goal of a sub 16 hour Ironman.

About 1 mile into the race you come across a fantastic aid station with massage tables. 500 metres or so before that I came across my Iron challenge. Standing on the sidewalk on a dark stretch of Tempe my gut exploded with cramping the likes of which I haven’t experienced since my wedding day. (great story there, if you’re not the bride or groom).

Now, it get’s graphic – look away if you want but this is the reality of pushing your body to the limit.

I stood there clenched, sweating, desperate. I had to make the aid station but I wasn’t sure if I could walk. We had been warned about public urination etc. at the race meeting. Tempe is beautifully clean and wants to keep itself that way. I had to make an aid station for the sake of all that is holy and beautiful in Arizona.

Something got me that 500 metres to that lovely, now mostly deserted aid station. Porta potties were right at the edge. Oh sweet sweet porta potty. We need not go into details. I had a small container of Vasoline in my pocket to speed my journey but I was starting to worry about how it was all going to hold up.

I grabbed some chicken broth and coke – I did not dare any food at this point. I had 3 hours to make the cut off and those 180 minutes suddenly weighted heavy on me. Regardless of GI issues I was still feeling strong when running. This was still doable.

What wasn't doable was a 17 hour finish for the ones just going out. I had no idea what to say to them. I as counting to 100 over and over again as I ran/walked, raced my plan. I could see my shadow as I went and I knew I was listing to the left and suspected I may have been foaming at the mouth. People yelled encouragement and I tried to wave my left hand to acknowledge the gift. I had no encouragement for the others.

As I ran/walked on the chaffing quickly became unbearable. I can’t even begin to describe it but next time a baby cries from diaper rash, he/she has my full sympathy - and baby isn’t running a marathon. The race became an agonizing trip from aid station to aid station looking for vasoline. I still don’t know where the vasoline went and I’m worried that it might suddenly reappear. I am a vasoline sponge.

The whole imperial measurements thing was confusing the hell out of me – I had no idea where I was and everyone who told me I had X miles and X minutes until midnight was, in my deluded mind, liars. I had no idea if I could walk it in with 2 miles to go and one hour – I had no idea what a mile was. The pirates were drinking beer and eating hamburgers.

My low point came about 2 miles, or 2 km from the end. I have no idea what time it was, I’m not even sure where I was but I was crying to a wonderful grandmotherly woman who led me to the porta potty and left the jar just outside the door. I was certain I couldn’t make it, they were certain I could.

Actually, I thought that was the low point. It wasn’t. The low point came just a little later when one of the many blisters that had formed on my feet broke. I could hear the finish line. I was broken, battered and so determined to get there that I thought about crawling the rest of the way. Sheer force of will somehow got me down the path and around the corner. At one point I could hear the finish line, hear Mike Reilly announce Ironmen in and I stopped and just took the moment in. Then I started to sprint and I rounded the corner and saw the lights and the hands reaching out to slap mine and I ran screaming “yeah, yeah, yeah” slapped hands, heard Mike say “Susan, you are an Ironman” and, best sight of all of the day, saw Alex wearing that damned grey sweater with the hood over his head. He was waving and came over and gave me the hug of a lifetime.


  1. Yay!!!!! I'm SO (!!!) glad you made it!!!! You are an Ironwoman!!!