Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada RR: The Run & Finish

If you haven't read my swim and bike race report, click here. Read that before starting this post :)

I know you were on pins and needles after that first part ;) Sorry for the delay. I would have had the run section up Tuesday, but it was a long day of travel and no computer time. We left Summerland just after 7 a.m. and arrived in Seattle mid-afternoon, where we spent a few hours exploring and eating before our flight. Space Needle, Salumi's (omg - I ate a sandwich on good ol' fashion white bread; that's like against my religion haha), the Fish Market, and of course the original Starbucks. It was fun to check out the scene, but it wasn't so fun getting home to Laguna Beach at midnight.

Anyway... back to the race...

Run 4:31
My goal was 4:00. After I sort of regrouped in T2, I was "ready" but unsure. The mental battle was beginning. As I ran out, I heard Jordan Rapp's name being announced as the winner, and then I saw him run by me in transition, heading toward the lake to cool off. It was hot as can be out there, and he'd just run a 2:53 marathon. Holy crap. After that quick distraction, I came back to reality and the fact that I had 4, maybe more, hours ahead of me.

Within the first 1/2 mile, I was getting very emotional. Then I saw my family and John. I stopped briefly by them and started crying pretty hard, telling them my bonk situation. They all started tearing up seeing me so emotional. Seeing them emotional made me more emotional, and I knew it was time to make a decision: run away and go for it or give up right then and there. You know me... I could't quit.. it wasn't THAT bad. So I ran.

It wasn't just my family and John that inspired me at that point, it was everyone in my life -- my athletes I coach, friends, co-workers, family, everyone who's sent message on FB and Twitter, my grandma, etc. This Ironman was bigger than just me, lots of other people were involved and I wanted to show them that it's possible to carry on and FINISH even when it seems impossible. Erica, my athlete who was also racing, was especially on my mind. This was her third attempt at IMC, with the first two resulting in DNFs (issues out of her control, but nevertheless she had unfinished business). I was more than confident that she WOULD make it to the finish line on Sunday, and that alone was enough to get me there as well. (I'm crying just thinking about this now haha.) I wasn't dying and my legs were working, so I'd find a way to get through the run no matter what. Done deal.

I got going. It was HOT. I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running on pace (in the 9’s) so that helped boost my mood. However, I knew my nutrition had been severely disrupted, and that the lack of calories on the last part of the bike was probably going to affect my ability to reach my goal effort/intensity on the run -- just not physiologically possible. I'd have to stay in a low-intensity zone while trying to refuel if I wanted to survive and not completely bonk to death. That said, I settled on a goal of maintaining a running pace of 9:00-10:00 miles, and I'd walk the aid stations while trying to choke down any calories. That was realistic and the best idea at the time. In truth, that wasn't far off from my original plan of a 9:09 overall average.

The run course itself wasn't so bad, but the heat was. And when I hit Skaha Lake it seemed to go up another 10-15 degrees. It had to be 90-100 F out there, with little to no shade. I had the EXACT same thoughts as Jordan Rapp, according to what he wrote on his blog, "And on a day when Skaha Lake serves as nothing more than a continual tease, ceaselessly inviting you stop running and take a dip..."

People who lived along the marathon route were outside with hoses to spray down the runners -- what a relief that was! Thankfully that section was fairly flat, and because it was an out and back, it was a good distraction to watch runners going in the opposite direction. I had seen the top pros while still in town, which is always a treat, but watching AGers is something special in itself. I had so much respect for everyone who was so far in front of me and running strong. Like when I saw Rachel Ross whizz by looking like she was as fresh as being on the first mile. Amazing! Can I be like that one day????

I also saw my friend Christian who did the Epic5 this year, Kiet, Matt Q, and many others. I even had a runner, Mary, come up to me and say she reads my blog! That was super special for her to take the time to do that, and meant a lot to me :) Another special moment was running into PunkRockRacing Ron. It was our first time meeting in person -- fitting :) I told him my whole story of the issues on the bike. While talking with him, I think I had willed my way to feeling better on the run and was optimistic that I could stick to my plan.

But after I passed Ron, the reality was, I was still feeling nauseous and queezy. Nutrition-wise I wasn't doing well with calories, and I the exercise physiologist in me knew it was only a matter of time before that'd start really taking its toll. I attempted some pretzels, sips of cola every now and then, water and endurolytes. I tried my hardest to muster down a gel, but it wasn't happening, same thing with banana and sports drink -- wouldn't stay down. So pretty much pretzels and a little cola were the only calories I had on the entire marathon. Even at a low intensity, that was not enough AT ALL.

In attempt to not to get too wrapped up in how crappy I felt, I started thinking of everyone in my life again. And as I watched runners going in the other direction, heading home, the one person I was thinking of and waiting to see was Mike, my training partner. But no sign even as I got closer to the turnaround. Meanwhile, it was starting to get more hilly. I had to walk some of the hilly sections.

I was nearing the turnaround, and still hadn't seen Mike. Weird. I was praying he was OK. Mike had to get an emergency root canal on Friday before the race, and the procedure went fine, but it was still a "trauma" to the body, so who knew if it'd play into his performance on Sunday. I would later find out, it did take a toll. Then I saw him. He was maaaaybe a mile ahead of me, and walking :( There was a good chance I'd catch him.

At the turnaround I got a BIG surprise. My dad and John were there waiting for me. John ran with me a bit and said some things that not only brought (happy) tears to my eyes, but gave me a big burst of energy. I had reached the halfway point and was ready to head home, happy that I'd seen my boys!

Then ahead in the distance I saw Mike. My other boy! I caught up to him; he was walking. I made him start running again with me, and I told him my whole story of the swim and bike and the flats ughhhh, hoping that help distract him from the pain he was in (root canal aftermath was wreaking havoc). He was in shock to hear my story, and he felt so bad because he knows more than anyone how badly I wanted that 6-hour or faster bike split. While we ran together, it felt like "home" and was comfortable... I imagined it being just one of our regular training runs, and I was at peace.

Unfortunately it wouldn't last for the rest of the race. Mike had to stop and walk again, and I tried to keep running. But at around 18 miles, I was having to walk more than just aid stations and hills. It was during that time that I started walking/running next to random people, and we'd feed off each other's "energy." It's pretty intense to share moments like that with complete strangers. Some tough folks out there. Makes me tear up just reminiscing.

Toward the end, I was starting to fade and felt delirious. I had hit a wall big time, was feeling sick, and I was pretty much running on empty. At times, I felt like I do when I have the flu. The walking segments were increasing, but I refused to only walk. I had to keeping running. I knew my goal of 4:00 was out the door, but I could still make it in before 8 p.m. and definitely keep the marathon sub-5, so that was the new goal.

As I finally reached downtown Penticton, as expected, the energy of the crowd allowed me to find a way to run the last 2 miles at a 9-something pace. John later said I even looked OK at the point, but I don't believe him ;) The final stretch of the marathon was a blur, yet I remember it so well... every sight, sound, smell. I will hold that moment dear to me forever. You can never repeat your first Ironman, and, damn, is the finish a special moment. Despite having no energy to spare, I found a way to smile big down the finishing chute (I think).

I saw 12:45 on the clock, and thought, "Heck, after all I've been through today, and all that time spent on the side of the road during the bike, that ain't so bad. Mission accomplished."

But right after finishing, my body knew I was done, so it was done. I crashed. Headed to medical to chill out, hoping I'd score an IV but no such luck. Shoot! Barely choked down a cup of chicken broth, and then all I wanted to do was leave there to be with my crew at our home. I could barely stand up, but I wanted medical to release me, so I pretended I was feeling "great" again :) I peaced out, and my family took me home. I was still nauseous, but an hour or so later I was able to eat the better part of a couple pizzas, and I shared my story with loved ones, while I listened to the stories they had from the day.

I'll repeat what I said in my last post: In the end, my Ironman wasn't an ideal day "on paper," but to me it was a perfectly un-perfect day and one that I'll cherish forever. I wouldn't change a thing. I think it's the adverse moments that made it even more special for me. It was a challenge like none other, and I came out a stronger person.

I'm ready to do another one....


  1. Way to keep positive through so many obstacles, Tawnee! Congratulations!!!!

    Sorry I didn't get to meet you - next one :)


  2. HELL YEAH!!!!

    perfectly un-perfect... I like it. Thats how these races go!

    Glad to see the stoke for the next one!

  3. It was a brutal day out there with the winds and heat. Any finish in that is an accomplishment. Great seeing you for a second on the run!

  4. Tawnee, like the perfectly unperfect day part, I too had one of those days. And like you, I could only do coke, water, and pretzels, the watermelon was yummy too! I think we had identical ironman experiences. 12:45 in those conditions is a great starting point for your IM journey.

  5. Congrats on overcoming everything! Great race report

  6. Good way to gut it out. You never know what you'll get on race day. I like how you talked about trading energy with random strangers. For me that was Mike from Vernon. We "ran" / walked together for much of the last quarter of the run. The chicken soup is great, that kept me running (mostly) slow and steady on the way back. Unlike you, I'm not ready to do it again.

  7. Congrats on your first IM!

    so what's the next one? Join me next August in NYC. You can still sign up if you raise money.

  8. Congratulations Tawnee!! You have been an amazing coach and are an awesome chica!!! I am so sorry to hear your race didn't go as "planned" and am happy to hear that I was able to give you even a small aource of inspiration! I could not have done it without you - cheers to our first IM finish!!!!

  9. Made me cry! I want to do one next year - I am just not quite sure which one yet! Great job out there = real inspiration!

  10. I got so touched and inspired reading this that I just signed up for IMC for next year! Hope the weather will be cooler!


  11. Hey Tawnee! I'm new to your blog. Your IMC story is phenomenal. Every time we go out there, there's an element of fate that determines our race. The amazing thing is how you handled every hurdle with grace. Congratulations on a successful finish!

  12. Congratulations - you are AMAZING! This is such an inspiring story/journey! Super Congrats!

  13. IM is all about persevering - nice job to stick with it, despite the obstacles. And it's always nice to have some extra motivation for next time, eh?

  14. Hey Tawnee! Mary here- you did awesome all things considered and you handled all the obstacles like a champion and to me that is more important than some time on the clock. You never threw the towel in. Keep it up!

  15. Awesome. Congrats again!

  16. Congratulations. Great account, well written.
    Tattoo next ?

  17. Congrats on the finish! Really enjoyed reading the 2 race reports!

  18. girl I LOVE your attitude. you are amazing. so proud of you for finishing and battling a tough tough day. like kiet said, this is just the beginning for you and when things line up for that great day, you will have so much mental strength to draw upon having overcome what you did at canada. either way, you're an ironman!!! congrats!

  19. Strong work dealing with those bike set backs. The experience is going to make your next Ironman so much easier. Congrats!

  20. Finisher!
    Race it faster next year!

  21. Tawnee -- just listened to the EP podcast -- take a look at Hammer Nutrition -- I had the same experience several years ago regarding highly-concentrated syrupy-sweet gels and drinks during adventure races -- I now swear by their Hammer Gel and HEED products for all training and competitions -- ymmv, of course, but definitely worth trying.