Dear god, if there was a moment when I wanted to kiss the ground and hug my running shoes, it was the second the hell on earth of riding against gale-force winds ended and I got off my bike. Because right then I knew I was going to finish. I knew I was going to be an Ironman.
And let me tell you: That is a freaking amazing realization.
Suddenly, everything was beautiful: The way Tempe Town Lake looked in the sunset light, the sound of feet hitting the pavement, the incredible support from the volunteers and spectators (Kimra, I cannot tell you how good it was to see you at that first aid station), the really tall guy in the sinewy tri suit who left transition with me. (Seriously, though, he really was very pleasant to look at.)
I cruised through the first 13.1 miles of the run, chatting with people, asking them about their personal stories, cheering for them, smiling uncontrollably. I was moving along pretty steadily until about Mile 14 or 15, and then it hit me that the day would be over soon, that everything would come to an end.
And since I am a weirdo who doesn't
make good decisions operate like most other people, I decided to walk. Because I wanted to savor every second and think about where I've been this year and what Ironman meant. (Also, my hamstrings were starting to bother me a little. And I didn't want to look like I was dying when I crossed the finish line, which would probably send my parents into cardiac arrest.)
Around Mile 18, I got really cold and asked a volunteer for a space blanket. She ended up making me a poncho out of a trash bag instead. I spent the next few miles laughing hysterically to myself. Because when I got this tattoo last fall to immortalize both my favorite song and my first Ironman ...
... I didn't think the more accurate description of my race would be: "And I am wearing a trash bag on the desert plains all night."
Thankfully another aid station had space blankets, so I was able to update my look. I finished the last four miles of the run with three random guys I had never met before in my life: Jason, JM and Carlton. They were also wearing space blankets. We walked in a line, four abreast, and made each other laugh. It was pretty freaking awesome.
|Superheroes in foil!|
Can't think of a better group to finish the day with.
As we got closer to the finish line, we could hear Mike Reilly's voice and the roaring crowd. Layla, Thai and Carlos materialized on the sidewalk, running next to me for a few feet. (Let me remind you: Thai is very pregnant. Very, very pregnant. I was worried babies were going to be born at that moment.) And then I saw Coach Mark and his wife, Teresa, cheering for me. (Mark had done the race too and finished hours ago, but still waited for my slow ass.)
I got rid of the space blanket (because photos) and headed for the finish chute.
I went straight to my parents, who were waiting on the sidelines. My mom was crying, and she kept saying: "You did it! You did it! You are an Ironman!"
|These guys: I'll never, ever forget them.|
... and put my awesome hideous green jacket back on because I was freezing. (See? Now I will really never get rid of that thing.)
Seriously so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my family and friends.
|Aren't they the best in the world?|
I don't know how to describe the joy of Ironman. There are no words. All I can say is that it is even better than this, if you can believe it:
(I know, right? Thank you to Ron for the amazing image!)
Run: 6:02:46 (new marathon personal worst!)
Total race time: 16:20:28