Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ironman Florida Race Report: Run (the finish!)

I could see mile marker 24 up ahead. My knees had been hurting for who knows how many miles. They only hurt when I ran though, and that hadn't been much in this second loop. They hurt on the inside near the kneecaps. I'd never felt pain there before, but in all my research to figure out what caused my outer knee pain (IT band) I'd read about runner's knee, and it sure seemed to be the same pain that I'd imagined came with runner's knee. It struck me as a tad bid funny that I developed this in my first marathon, but not funny enough to laugh. I think laughter on the course at this point would probably only be related to hysteria.

An older woman had passed us after she'd started jogging at some point in the last mile or so. I think she was probably the trigger that made me want to start jogging at mile 24. A guy passed us who was running fairly fast and had his arm bandaged up. Our guess was he was only behind us because of the time he'd spent with medical. He was clearly going to book it to the finish line.

The thought of the finish line had made me remove the reflective stickers that were visible from my front. I could totally picture my face in my finish photo just being a big blur of light caused by the flash reflecting off my hat! I'm glad I did this because my first loop run photo actually does show a minor reflection on the hot pink reflective sticker that was on my IT band wrap.

Mile 23 had me feeling a little stiff. I dropped one of my fuel belt drink flasks and bending over to pick it up was a bit of a chore! In addition to the stiffness, knee pain, and those awful blisters on the balls of my feet, I was also feeling a lot of pain in the joint where my right pinky toe meets the rest of my foot. It felt like a really bad blister there too. Almost immediately after the race, I felt a lot of pain in the tendons in front of my right ankle too, but I don't remember that hurting during the actual race.

Emotionally I was feeling kind of blah. I was happy that I was about to finish, but I didn't feel as excited and thrilled as I had during every time that I had visualized finishing the Ironman. I didn't have goosebumps or feel overwhelmed. It was more like waking up on day three of the bar exam. Sure, it's the last day of three intense days, but your so spent that it almost doesn't matter. I felt like all the walking I'd had to do was a big letdown. It was frustrating. I'd been able to run 20+ miles in my last long run three weeks earlier, and now I was tapered and it was race day. If I wanted it to be, this could be the last day I had to run for the rest of my life! But there I was, walking.

I was still using the yoga chant to help me avoid focusing on the pain and to just focus on breathing and moving forward and staying as positive as possible. Ohm namo guru dev namo. It was on repeat in my head and it had a calming but also empowering effect. I wasn't sure if my friend Artemis was still at her yoga class, but I was sure she was still sending me good vibes. I was so thankful for all my friends who had supported me through my training and through race week. My friend Jennifer had taken my frantic call the previous night when I had my pre-race freakout while Dave and Lauren were at the the volunteer meeting. (The freakout only lasted about 30 minutes, so they missed it!) Having just done her first marathon, she was the expert here and reminded me that no matter how overwhelming the race seemed at that very moment, once the race started, it was just like any other training day. My body would be on autopilot. It really was! Mentally I'd imagined Jennifer running mile 10 with me. Yay for having invisible friends on that course! Even while chatting with Mac and Ricardo, the yoga chant had been going through my head and it felt like that was what kept me moving forward.

When I told Ricardo my plan to start jogging at mile 24 with me, he said he'd give it a shot too. I was glad to have the company, but at the same time I was so determined to jog at that point, that I knew I would've done it anyways. As soon as my foot was even with the mile marker, I started jogging.

I really focused on my mantra as I jogged. Ohm namo guru dev namo. Ohm namo guru dev namo. I managed to tune out the pain and thought about how great I'd feel having really given it my all by jogging the last 2+ miles. There were a few volunteers out on the course still. As they packed things up, they said congratulations and asked if we needed anything. I no longer had the energy to thank the volunteers for their efforts. I smiled when I could, though given the darkness I'm not sure they could tell that I wasn't really ignoring them.

After maybe two or three minutes of jogging, Ricardo slowed to a walk and shouted "You go girl!" to me. I've always had mixed feelings about that phrase, but this time it made me smile. I passed someone walking, and he said something encouraging to me too. I passed another walker who told me "good pace!" I gave them a thumbs up; it was all I could really manage. Honestly I felt like a little bit of a jerk for passing people, as though I was rubbing it in that somehow I suddenly had the energy to jog. But the other athletes were incredibly supportive and cheered me on as I passed them, even if it was just a whispered "good job" as they struggled to keep walking towards the finish.

As I jogged, I was breathing faster. The chant no longer fit rhythmically. Not knowing if this was going to ruin my oneness with the universe, I dropped the last word of the chant. Ohm namo guru dev. I could handle that with my faster breathing. Breathe in - ohm namo; breathe out - guru dev.

As I got closer to the turn onto Surf Drive, I saw a handful of spectators here and there. They cheered for me too. I waved with my thumb-up, hoping they would know how much I appreciated them. The volunteers were great, because they helped us with whatever we needed all day long. The volunteers really wanted us to succeed. I can't quite explain it, but somehow it seemed that the spectators were almost more invested in helping us finish than the volunteers were. Maybe it's because the volunteers had jobs to do, whereas the only job the spectators had was to cheer and motivate us. Even though it was dark out there and there was maybe only one spectator every 100 meters or so, the spectators were so excited - so thrilled to see us near the finish - that it helped me remember what I had accomplished today. I no longer felt lame for walking so much. After all, I was doing an Ironman! I felt awesome and amazing, and random strangers were telling me that I was awesome and amazing.

A woman sitting on her balcony saw me coming, and as I passed another walker, she shouted out to her friend across the street "Look at her go - she's still got energy!" My smile kept getting bigger and bigger with every comment I heard. I passed the woman whose jogging had inspired me to start jogging again. I was amazed that I was passing people. It made me feel pretty awesome, though it also seemed like sheer luck. Somehow I'd gotten a second wind. People shouted out things like "You're an Ironman!" or "You are made of Iron!" or "You're awesome!" to me as I jogged past.

As I came across the quasi-aid station that had been blaring music painfully loud earlier in the night, the music suddenly seemed the perfect volume. And they were playing my song! The two times that I did a long run with my ipod, there were three or four songs that really got me moving, and when they came on, I'd hit repeat a few times. One of them was ABBA's Dancing Queen.

(Go ahead, hit play. It'll help recreate the moment better as you read.)

Hearing Dancing Queen must have helped my body kick into overdrive. I sped up and my smile got even more gigantic. I was about to burst with excitement and happiness. As I sped up, more people cheered for me. A guy wearing a dress was dancing in the street to Dancing Queen. I managed to squeeze on "awesome song" on an exhale and high-fived him. I picked up the pace and with each step I felt stronger.

You can dance. You can jive. Having the time of your life. .....

Even with Dancing Queen motivating me to run faster, my brain was still using the ohm namo guru dev chant to keep me moving at all. The mantra was giving me the life I needed to be moving; the song was the icing on the (gluten free) cake. I was still moving faster and faster and I was thinking about how I really was having the time of my life right in that moment. This was the most fun I'd ever had on a run.

I was nearing another turn, as there was a very short block right after the ABBA dancer. Another guy pointed me in the right direction and shouted "You can pass 6 more people who just walked past; you can catch them!!!" I managed to thank him though I had the feeling he was one of those people who says "the top is right around that corner" when you're hiking uphill, even though the pinnacle of the mountain is really another mile or two up. I couldn't see the group he was talking about yet, but I picked up the pace even more.

By now there were spectators all over the place. It was so strange to suddenly see so many people! Suddenly I saw the group of walkers ahead of me. Oh how sweet that would be to finisher six people closer to the top than to the bottom. I knew it didn't really matter what place I finished, but at the same time, this was technically a race and I was on a roll. I ran harder, hoping to pass them soon. I wouldn't be that jerk who passed people in the finish chute, ruining everyone else's finish photos. I wondered how fast I could run. My breathing was so fast. Ohmnamogurudev. Ohmnamogurudev. I reached them. I ran in between a couple of them and then realized I should really run around them, so I took to the outside of the group and felt even more awesome as I realized I was adding more distance to my run and passing people. I was so elated I wasn't even wondering "how much farther?"

It wasn't long before I realized it was silly to have even wondered if I could pass those people. I smoked past them as my pace kept increasing. I knew it was silly but I had to know how fast I was running. I wanted to know if it was just my imagination or if I really was kicking butt. I glanced at my watch and saw the pace: 10:00. SWEET.

Even though I didn't think it was possible, my smile got even bigger with each stride. I felt like I was bouncing at this point. Running/bouncing toward the finish of my incredibly long day, each step in tune with Dancing Queen which was on repeat in my head. That 2.4 mile swim felt like it was yesterday, I could barely remember the frustration of the flat tire, and my knees and the blisters no longer hurt.

I could see the big tall structure that was lit up near our hotel. I still couldn't figure out what it was, but I knew I was near the finish. Plus there were tons of spectators and I could hear Mike Reilly rallying the crowd. Ohmygosh. I was about to finish a freaking IRONMAN. I was having the time of my life. This was the best feeling ever. I almost didn't want it to end! I'd imagined this moment so many times and here it was, exactly as I'd pictured it.

As I made that incredible last turn to go towards the finish chute, I could see two people ahead of me. I slowed down a smidgen not wanting to catch up to them in their moment of glory but I was so energized it was hard to slow down much. I crossed a timing mat about 75 meters from the finish as I heard Mike Reilly dub the people ahead of me with the word Ironman. I figured the timing mat must have been to let Mike Reilly know who the next person coming was.

I heard something about Sacramento and knew Mike Reilly was now talking about me. ME! I started high-fiving everyone on my left, hoping that's the side Dave was on. I didn't stop to look for familiar faces though. I was smiling so much and Dancing Queen's "having the time of her life" line fit so perfectly. I put my arms in the air like a good champion, and just before I crossed the finish line, I heard Mike Reilly say, "KENDRA, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

FIRST RUN SEGMENT 6 mi. (1:12:25) 12:04/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 7.4 mi. (1:31:10) 12:19/mile
THIRD RUN SEGMENT 5.6 mi. (1:25:22) 15:14/mile
FINAL RUN SEGMENT 7.2 mi. (1:42:55) 14:17/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (5:51:52) 13:25/mile

SWIM 1:20:58
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 19:01
BIKE 7:24:45
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 19:12
RUN 5:51:52
OVERALL 15:15:48


  1. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! i can't believe how strong you look crossing the finish line. AMAZING!!!!

  2. So now that its "old hat" when is the next?

  3. Beautiful!


  4. ok this made me tear up, I won't lie. YAY for you, AGAIN!!! Having dancing queen running through my head might have prompted some of those tears. :)

    Also -- "Not knowing if this was going to ruin my oneness with the universe, I dropped the last word of the chant" = HILARIOUS. Oh, the things you think about when you're deliriously exhausted!

  5. I love the chant - I use the yoga breathing too when the pain just overtakes you! Beautiful race report!!