|Photo by Mindy Randall|
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
IRONMAN MARYLAND 2017
Worrying about jellyfish stings I prepped with “Safe swim” before getting my wetsuit on. Sue and Owen were with me by swim start as we watched the sunrise. I had been told that the PC athletes were getting a 10 or 15 minute head start and only found out right then, that we would only be given a 2 minute head start. As we approached the start area and were told to enter the water I then realized we were only to be given a 100m lead and would have the best swimmers in the race right behind us when the cannon went off. Here I was about to swim my longest distance ever with 1000+ athletes on my tail. I should have asked at that moment to go back with other swimmers of my own speed. But I didn't. And then I saw the jellies all around me. I immediately took my hands out of the water and dug my feet into the sand. I'm not blaming this on anyone. I should have been more assertive in finding out exactly how things were going to go.
Then BOOM! It was on. I started swimming and the bodies were on me in less than 30 seconds. For 20 minutes until the first turn buoy, I was being hammered. Over and behind me, I was getting hit and kicked. No one grabbed me, but for about 10 secs I honestly thought I was going to have to stop. I managed to settle my breathing down and remembered what worked in the past. Each time someone touched me, I relaxed and glided with my arms by my ears, while still kicking. At the first turn things settled down for a bit, but for the remainder of the swim bodies would often seem to just swim into and over my path. Maybe it was my own misguided swimming?
The first lap was good in terms of time, along with the first leg of the second lap but then I realized the current had picked up. I went down the outside lap very quickly and then turned to the finish. Then I really found out how fast the current was. I aimed for the finish chute, would take a few strokes and then look up only to be aiming far down river. During the second lap I also passed over a jellie and then got stung on my foot. Nothing bad, it just pinched for a few minutes. Dealing with the other swimmers was much more of a worry.
I was aiming for a 1:53 swim and instead ended up out of the water in 2:07:58. What should have been a 4224 yd swim came up as 4900 yds on my watch. I think the course may have been a bit long, but obviously, my sighting was way off. When I exited the water, I used the wetsuit strippers and then ran off to change for the bike.
I was actually able to run to T1 to grab my bike bag and get changed. I took a lot longer than planned, taking 10:36 to get changed and onto my SEVEN. It was a pretty long run through to get my bike and get out. I was happy at the number of bikes still left in transition as I was thinking I was one of the last out of the water.
The bike course is extremely flat but at spots, is subject to some fierce winds. The first 10+ miles takes you through Cambridge and then out to the high school where the first water stop is. Once I left the high school and headed out, the wind from the south kicked in. It was pretty strong. I was only able to maintain about 13mph for the next 20 miles or so. Once I reached the bottom of the loop and started heading back north, I was able to maintain some faster speed (15.5-16 mph). Unfortunately, both the cadence and power were not being picked up by my Garmin, so I had to do my best to work by “feel”. The fuel stops were all well run and I was able to get both water and Gatorade each time without having to stop. I can’t put a bottle anywhere, so I have to pour what I can into my aero bottle and then drink what I can before ditching the bottles. Every 45 min or so I consumed either a honey stinger GINSTENG or an un-crustable sandwich. When I got back to the high school I hit bike special needs. Just before that, Sue and Owen were there and what a happy sight it was to see them.
I refueled with my bottle of prepared Carbo-Pro, more sandwiches, and another bottle of Honey Stingers. I also grabbed my spare tube, just so it didn’t go to waste. After a stop in the porta-potty, I was on my way for lap 2. The winds seemed stronger now, but for some reason, I felt stronger as well. My average speed was down a bit but I tried to stay a bit more aero. This is when I started to get some added confidence as I was starting to pass other cyclists, some of whom had passed me earlier in the race. Using 20 inch wheels I have to turn my wheels 35% more to go the same distance as a cyclist with 27 inch wheels. Not taking anything away from them, but each pass gave me more and more confidence. All in all, I was able to pass 8 cyclists. Once I started heading back north again, I was able to pick up some good speed. At one point though when I seemed to be all alone, a large hawk swooped down near me and circled around. I seriously wondered if it was going to dive at me. It then flew away, but for a little while I was wondering if I was being followed.
When I reached the 100 mile marker, I just had to go a little bit until the hairpin turn back into town and past the last water stop. I rode by and got my last bottles and realized I was about to complete my longest bike ride to date. Kind of cool, since I had just completed my longest swim ever.
All of a sudden I felt something crawling inside the bake of my bike jersey. I kept trying to lift it up and get whatever it was to leave, but no luck. I had already been stung by a jellyfish, so what the heck, why not a wasp. I cycled hard to get back to transition and was “happy:” to see the bike course was coming up a bit short. This was “ok” to me since I had felt I had swum further than 2.4 miles. Just outside of transition I could see both Sue and Owen again, which was a real boost to my morale. My bike time was a 7:48:33, which was only about 5 minutes off my goal time. The time of day was about 4:45pm, so I had made the bike cut-off (5:30pm) by plenty of time.
When I racked my bike, I lifted off my bike jersey to see a nice big wasp fly out. Lucky no sting. I had grabbed a bag of chips from my special needs bag and proceeded to eat them walking “fast” to get changed for the run. I actually felt pretty good, but knew I was going to need a 6:40 marathon in order to finish under 17 hours. I knew that was a tall order with a stand-alone marathon PR of 5:50, but I was going to give it my best shot.
And now, for the run. I got my run gear bag and went into the changing tent. I was surprised how good I felt being upright after being on my bike for almost 8 hours. Again, the change was a lot slower than I had hoped. I did a full change, getting into running shorts and a singlet. I got some sunscreen on, a visor, sunglasses and proceeded to put my headlamp into my run belt as I headed out of the tent. I had 3 fuel-belt bottles of CARBO-PRO along with enough Honey Stingers to keep me going for the run. Just as I left transition, I saw my friend Arlene who was helping with sunscreen. I had her smear my face and shoulders and off I went. The time of day was 5:04pm, which meant I needed to complete the marathon in 6 hours 41 minutes to make the cut-off, since I was in the water at 6:45am. This was going to be a TALL order, but I was willing to “go for it”.
They had a water stop outside of transition, but at this point, I was good to go. There would be sunlight for about the next hour and a half and then some dark times ahead. OK, my first mile was a 15:06. If I could maintain that, or even a bit slower, things would be OK. Not long outside of transition, I met up with my dear friend Woody Freese. He is from MA and we have raced together a number of times and even done a couple of training rides. Not soon after meeting him, Eric Randall showed up. Both Woody and I were on lap one, but Eric was already on lap two. The course winds up into a residential area and even and then to turn around that is sort of surrounded by corn fields. Along with the amazing volunteers who run the aid stations, Rebecca Redmer and her son Luke were there again this year at Longboat Estates. He is one special kid who really helped to boost my spirits. More so on the next lap, which I’ll mention in a minute.
I headed back to loop around transition, but my pace was starting to suffer. Most of my mile paces were in the 16:30 or slower range, which weren’t going to get me there in time. I managed to meet up with Woody again and we stayed together until we returned to transition. We have to run around there and then down into the downtown area of Cambridge. The hardest part is that you pass by the FINISH LINE 5 times before actually getting to go into the chute. As I went downtown things were still hopping and the cheering fans were a real boost. At this point, I was at about 10 miles into the run, but really slowing down. I went back through transition and then back onto the darker streets to start lap 2. It was time to get my head-lamp on and see what I could do with fewer people on the course to talk with, to, or even at. By this time, my mile paces were up into the low 17:00 which was a bad sign. Again the aid stations were awesome, some with music and all with food and now also chicken broth. With the sun going down it was getting a little “cooler” but nowhere near cold.
By now I had to start making some decisions. It was obvious I wasn’t going to make the 17:00 hour deadline. My friend Adama Guesso, working for WTC. was on the course along with another friend Eric Knight volunteering down by the finish line, both basically said, if I wanted to make the cut-off, I needed to GET moving. As I passed Rebecca and her son again and then to the turnaround, it was DARK. They had huge spotlights out, but there were still really dark sections. It was at this point, I was thinking I was the last one out there. After the turnaround I realized I wasn’t and I passed other runners, including “NUT”, Heather, but my fate was determined. Luke came up to me and was on rollerblades and asked if I wanted some company. The bummed part of me wanted to be alone, but the rest of me said, “SURE”. Dare I tell him, I’m thinking of stopping? I decided I’d try a bit more. I got back down to the next water-stop, asked who was in charge, and told her I wanted to withdraw. At this point I had done 16.2 miles in about 4:35:59 and been racing for about 14 hrs and 45 min.
I think I need to explain why I QUIT.
It was dark and I was a little dizzy, but nothing where I thought I would fall. I had promised Sue through all of this, that I would never do something risky (like race an Ironman? LOL) where I might be feeling unsafe.
Now, I am 100% sure, I could have kept going and finished the 140.6 miles. It would have been well after midnight, but I know I could get there, but here is the thing. I want to again complete an Ironman under the RULES for the day. The rules were simple, cross the finish line in under 17 hours. I didn’t want to cross and say I finished the distance. I didn’t want a medal, hat, or t-shirt I didn’t earn.
There were MANY successes that day. I completed my longest swim ever and longest bike ever and then proceeded to run 16 miles. I think what I was most happy about was that I was racing for almost 15 hours and I did not hear a single person make any reference to my short-stature. I certainly heard a few people yell, “Be the Hammer!” One athlete passed me and mentioned that she had seen the video about me Ironman produced for the “Welcome Night” and said it was great, but wondered why it also didn’t mention that I was 51 years old!! If you don’t know, we have our ages written on our calf so other athletes know if they are coming up on an athlete from the same age-group.
I do feel I did FAIL in that I did not reach my primary goal of finishing a 140.6 Ironman distance race. I DO NOT consider the day a failure. Ten years ago, I had no desire, goal or dream of being where I am today. I hope that both children with dwarfism and able-bodied children as well, see me out there and think, “WOW! I can do anything if I want to bad enough.”
Will I race an Ironman again someday. I sure hope so!!
A long list of thank-yous. Sue, Owen, Kat Bateman, Achilles International, Tri-Achilles NYC, Achilles Boston, Brian Hammond, Travis Hawkins, Dick Traum, Pingree School, Seven Cycles, Champion Systems, Blue Seventy, Hed Wheels, Surf Butta, Gerry Boyle and Claire Cloutier, the race-director of the first multi-sport race I even did back in 2009. She never thought twice about me entering her race.