The run is also three laps of like 8.5 miles each. It's actually a figure 8 type thing but not even that straightforward. It was downright confusing. But I wasn't concerned with that. I only cared about running one single mile. I had discussed my plan with Maritza the day before and the strategy was to take one mile at a time and to walk through every aid station. She convinced me that by doing the walk breaks from the beginning, I would be able to run the whole race. So all I thought about was the mile in front of me. That was the only thought I let into my head. I mean, I was tired. My legs were sore and I could NOT think about the 26 miles I had to run. Thankfully, my mind participated in this game without a fight. I would see the signs for laps 2 and 3 that said "Mile 16" or whatever, and I would think "Hmm, that's strange. Because I'm only running a 3 mile race." (or whatever mile I was on). This worked pretty well for the whole first lap. I also distracted myself with the scenery- the sun was getting low and the waterfront park was really pretty for the most part. I saw Kelsa Lynn again and this time I recognized her! I continued on and walked through the aid stations and enjoyed the scenery. I had decided after the first three miles to ignore my Garmin and watch and just run. I was glad I had it so I could look back later on my splits but it wasn't useful at all during the race.
Due to the confusing maze-like course, and combined with my tired mind, I can't honestly remember when or where I saw my family and friends. I know it was a lot and it always seemed to be in a different spot. Once they were on the bridge, then they were down by the water. I found out later they were down by the water the whole time but that doesn't seem right?? Anyway, they cheered for me and I high-fived them as I passed by. I know I saw them a couple times on the first loop. They had signs and music and everything. BEST spectators on the course. I saw all the pictures and some videos later and they were cheering and making noise the ENTIRE day, not just for me. I know how much those other athletes appreciated it! Plus, after they told me all about their day I know they had a blast out there. Win-win.
I began my second loop and was still feeling ok. My legs were tired but I was still running and only walking at the aid stations. I stopped at the porto potties a few times but can't remember when/where. The sun was setting on the second loop and the sky was gorgeous. I saw Kelsa again and this time she jogged along next to me for a minute and encouraged me along. It was great! It grew dark and I was getting a little mentally drained. My mile-at-a-time thing wasn't really working anymore and now that it was dark there was no scenery to distract me.
Around mile 12 or so there was a "Message Board" where your timing chip relayed your number and a special message came up on the big screen for you. Zach and Maritza and Inga had apparently done this at the expo on Saturday so I was excited to see my message. The first time around I missed it, but this time I thought it would be there for sure. I didn't see it, I didn't see it, so as I ran past it I kind of craned my neck backwards thinking maybe it was delayed when WHAM. Asphalt. OUCH. What? What just happened? I stood up and looked down at myself and looked around. I tripped on a curb. I was scraped up on both legs and my hands were stinging. Ouch! Ouch!! WTF??? I looked around and someone asked if I was ok and I said yes and started running. F*ck. I ran off and it started hurting, stinging. I could feel blood running down my leg. F*CK! I was SO MAD. I felt stupid. I was in pain. I knew I had bad road rash and I knew how this would feel after the race. I was worried that I was hurt beyond just the surface wounds so I tried to focus on my knees and legs and see if it hurt. Of course it f*cking hurt! I was like 11 hours into a f*cking triathlon! I was sore as hell! I tried to differentiate and I figured I wasn't seriously hurt. But I was pissed. My jaw tightened up and I ran on. I think I started running faster. Oh I was so pissed. I wasn't pissed about the sign, I was mad at myself. I was embarrassed and I was frustrated. I mean, did I really need another challenge at this point?!?! Dammit!
I saw Zach right away and I was so fired up. I stopped and laid into him "I F-ing Fell!!" and I shoved my bloody hands at him. "Because of that F-ing sign!!" He probably asked if I as OK, I don't remember. I said "Where's Melanie?" his step mom, who is a nurse. He told me she was right ahead.
I didn't see her, so I stopped at the next aid station I came to and asked the very first volunteer where the medical station was. I was told at the athlete meeting that every aid station would have medical help. Turns out, this was bullshit. The volunteers were very nice and they tried to help but they didn't have a medical kit. Let me paint the picture for you here because this whole stop was very bizarre. So, each aid station had a theme. There was a pirate aid station, a cowboy one, and this one happened to be Prom. Which sort of came off as Evil Prom. So the volunteers were shouting around trying to locate the non-existent medical kit and they were ushering me this way and that "Bob, get her the medical kit!" "Where's Jim? Jim!! Get this girl some help!" and everyone was relaying this message which made the situation seem way more serious than it was. It was dark and kind of chaotic as I moved from one person to the next. The highlight of the Evil Prom aid station was an Emcee type guy wearing this awful suit and announcing into the microphone cheesy things about the runners. So he gets into the act: "Help this girl! We need Medical!" Jesus. Nothing weirder than a guy in a plaid tuxedo and 1950s glasses yelling "We need Medical!!" into a microphone. God that was weird. So in the end, there was no medical. I got a cup of water and some napkins. I mopped up as much blood as I could and got a good look at my awful scrapes and got out of there. What a waste of time. I was probably only stopped for like 3-4 minutes or so but still.
I saw Melanie and the others right after that so I ran right up to her and held my hands out. This time I started crying when I said "I fell!" I told her that the aid station didn't have anything to clean me up and that I'd just used water. She very calmly held my hands up close to her face (it was dark remember) and then looked at my leg. She told me "You're OK" and that I could just clean it up when I finished. Hearing that from her was the permission I needed to keep running. I didn't need to stop at the next aid station, I just needed to finish the damn race.
I thanked her and ran off and without even acknowledging the others. Maritza wasn't going to let me go so easily though! She ran along side of me and I was still kind of crying. I said "I just can't believe I've done this before" referring to when I fell at CIM in 2006. She said "I know you did. And what happened last time?" "I qualified for Boston." "You F***ing Qualified For Boston!!!!" I laughed. She was right. It was going to be ok. She told me, "I'm going to see you two more times, and then you are going to be an Ironman.." and then she yelled "I love you!!!" and was gone.
I ran the rest of that second lap scared of falling again. I suddenly realized how dangerous it was out there in the dark with so many curbs and turns and obstacles. I ran slowly at times and carefully watched my step. I was still pretty mad and especially at having lost so much time at that one aid station. I still walked through the aid stations but my hands hurt so bad I couldn't really grab stuff. I just grabbed cups of water and that was it. I'd been eating my Clif Blocks and continued to do so even though it kind of hurt. I had some bananas too. I wasn't smiling anymore, and I wasn't thanking the volunteers. I was just moving forward. I just wanted this to be over with already.
Finally, I finished up the second lap and knew I was starting my last lap. This made me happy. I also knew I would be seeing my family and friends again soon and I was determined to show them that I was OK. I gave myself this little pep talk: "I know you fell, I know you're pissed. But that doesn't have to ruin this for you. You can still enjoy this experience! You're going to be an Ironman, Jen. You're going to do this." I smiled as I passed my crew and they screamed louder than ever. I ran along waving and saying "No high-fives!" haha.
On the last lap I saw Kelsa one last time and was so thankful she'd stuck around. I told her about my fall and that I was going to be OK. I continued on and started counting down the miles. I don't think I saw a 20 mile marker but then I saw 21. I did some math and figured if I could maintain 11:00 miles I could finish the race under 13:40. It is hilarious to me looking back that after an entire day of working my ass off that I was still doing math and that I cared about a totally arbitrary number. This is how I work though. I'm all about the math and the numbers and the constantly-evolving strategy. In fact, I was this focused and this practical the entire race. I never once stood back and looked at what I was achieving. I was never emotional about it. At any given moment, I was just racing. It was "Where is the next aid station" "How's my pace" "I'm going to grab a water" "I can pass this guy." Very practical.
With just a few miles left I tried to rally some emotion. I knew I was going to finish, but I was so focused and so tired and it was too soon to celebrate. Even with four, three miles left, I knew I still had a ways to go. I took Coke at the aid stations and I even had to stop at a porto potty with about 3 miles to go. You'd think I could hold it but it was urgent. I decided after that not to stop at the final two aid stations and to run the rest of the way to the finish. I saw my crew one last time and Maritza said "Next time I see you... Next time I see you!!!!"
When I crossed back over the bridge for the last time I really made myself think about the finish. I was almost there!! I didn't get emotional but I did start smiling. I was happy to be passing by the spectators and volunteers one last time. I knew some of the people around me were on their second or even first laps and it felt amazing to be on my last lap. I was almost done and it was obvious. I was psyched that I was still running- so many people were walking, or hobbling, or shuffling. I was running. And I was smiling. I could see and hear the finish line from about a half mile away and my smile got even bigger.
I finally felt my chest tighten and my throat clench with emotion as I made the turn at the sign that said "To Finish" and pointed others "To First ,Second, Third Laps." I made that turn with pride and I felt tears coming. I could hear Mike Riley and the crowds and the lights were so bright. It was just ahead, only a couple hundred more feet. I thought, "This is it! This is the finish!" I ran through a parking lot and up toward the corner and I didn't know it but most of the family and friends were standing there screaming and cheering. I rounded the corner and there were bleachers and lights and there was the finish line. I found out later that Zach and Maritza were right there in the bleachers right along the side. They were crying and cheering but I was in my own little world. I had a nice space between me and the runners ahead and behind me so I had my moment. I was smiling and crying and just as I had imagined for months I heard "Jennifer Barnes, from Portland Oregon, you are an Ironman!" and I pumped my arms and ran through the arch, throwing my arms up! I immediately buried my face in my bloody hands and sobbed.
Run: 4:42:43 (10:48 pace)
Total time: 13:41:09
Place 55/72 AG (W25-29)
After the finish line I proceeded through the blur of volunteers giving me my medal, taking my timing chip, wrapping me in a space blanket. I didn’t mention my scrapes to the first volunteers because I wanted to see Zach and my friends and family first and I didn’t know if they would let me or how that worked. Finally I saw Zach and Maritza and got big hugs. Then there was everyone else, and more hugs. There was crying and hugging and laughing and examining of wounds. Everyone was so nice. At one point they were sort of assembled in a half-circle around me and just started cheering! Ha ha. It was hilarious and embarrassing and incredible.
I didn’t want the celebration to end but I knew I had to deal with the road rash. I finally asked a volunteer where the Medical Tent was and she pointed me in the right direction. Zach walked me over and it went downhill pretty quickly. I was hurt a lot worse than I’d thought, really deep gashes in my hands and the knee was just gross. I also started feeling really nauseous and dizzy within a few minutes of the finish so I spent some time in the med tent recovering. I finally got out and barely managed to hobble to the restaurant next door with my friends. Instead of the beers I hoped for I had some chicken soup. The whole aftermath was a bit of a let down, but things got better the next day and we had a great rest of the trip. I’ll do a long post-race blog next because I want to talk about the recovery period and how it felt –both physically and emotionally- in the days since I became an Ironman.
But first, pictures! Lots of pictures.
Starting the marathon:
Already got my big hug from Zach, now everyone else gets a big sweaty hug:
This was right after I left. Love, love, love this picture:
First lap (that's easy to tell because it is light out!)
Passing lots of guys:
End of the first lap. Sun is setting:
Second lap (that's easy to tell because I'm covered in blood!)
Minutes after the finish, all I wanted was a big hug:
Thanks for reading. Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement all along.
I'll be back in a few days with some post-race thoughts and I know you all want to see some more graphic pictures of my road rash (ha). I am healing up though, and I enjoying my recovery time and I'm eating a lot of cookies (thanks, Alisa!) and drinking lots of wine (thanks, Emily!) and generally being lazy and self-indulgent. We're having a party tomorrow night and I can't wait to see the Portland girls and all my friends here who I haven't seen in a while. Zach's parents from Montana are in town for a couple days, and then we have lots of fun Christmas plans too. Lots to look forward to.
I've thinking a little about the future, but not too much. I'm trying to live in the moment. :)