December 5, 2011

Ironman Arizona - The Run

*Note: This is the longest post yet!  I tried to keep it short, but I just couldn't!  :)

For those of you doing IMAZ in the future, here's the low down on the course.
The run course consists of 3 loops of a little over 8 miles each.  The loop makes kind of a crazy figure 8 that goes up and down the tempe bike path and up, over, and down 3 bridges.  While many people say this course is pretty flat, I would totally disagree.  To me, for the most part, it felt like I was either going up or down with a few flat parts in between.  While the "up" parts are not major hills (with the exception of Curry Rd), they still take a toll on your legs and you can definitely feel them, especially towards the end.

The Run:

I headed out of the change tent and ran to the run start and right away the crowds were amazing!  Everyone was ringing cowbells and cheering and it was just a great way to start the run.  As I headed out, I could hear people shouting my name and it took me just a split second to realize that my entire family was straight ahead!  My eyes focused on one person mom.

I haven't mentioned this on my blog yet, but my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer.  After having a double mastectomy a month ago, she started her FIRST chemo treatment on the Tuesday before my race.  She had a really difficult time with the chemo and actually spent 4 days in bed battling nausea and being sick.  It was really hard watching my mom go through that, especially since there was nothing we could really do for her.

So...when I saw my mom, standing there with my family, cheering me on, I immediately started crying (I told you I was a complete mess this entire race!)!  I ran right up to her and said, "I can't believe you came," and gave her the biggest hug I could without hurting her!  Then, I hugged my sisters, my dad, my niece, and my nephews, and tried to wipe the tears away from my eyes, but they just kept coming.  Then, my youngest sister hugged me again and said, "You can do this!  This is what you do!  Erik and your boys are right up ahead!"  I hadn't seen my husband since the swim start so I was excited that he was here with my boys and I took off running!

I was scanning the crowd and pretty soon I saw them!!!
 I started crying again because I was just so happy to see them!  My boys ran up to me and I gave them the biggest hugs I could! Then, I kissed and hugged my husband and took off again!

I stole this pic from her blog.  You can read her post about it HERE!
The first part of the loop consists of a steady incline up to Priest Dr, where you turn right, cross over the bridge, and head back on the other side of the lake.  As I was coming up to the bridge, I saw non other than the famous EMZ.  She was saying, "Aimee, it's me Emily!"  I thought that was so cute because I totally recognized her before she even said anything!  I was so excited to see her in person that I went up to her and gave her a hug (Sorry Emily if I got smelly sweat on you!)

Then, I saw Peanut next to her and gave her a hug too!  :)

So, I was running along when I looked at my Garmin and realized I was running at a pretty fast pace.  I slowed it down and told myself to take it easy because I still had a LONG way to go.  My plan was to get water at every aid station and sip on my EFS every other aid station.  Well, when I took one sip of my EFS I immediately regretted it.  It tasted so gross and my stomach kind of grumbled when I drank it so I knew I needed a new plan.

As I was running, I was in complete shock about how great I felt and just hoped that it would continue.  I was taking in water and my endurolytes, and I took my first gel at the 45min. mark.  As I choked it down, I almost immediately threw it back up!  OH NO!  I knew that was not a good sign, but hoped that it would pass.  Then, about a mile later, my stomach started really hurting.  I made it to an aid station and immediately went to a port-a-potty.  I ended up being in there for about kidding.  My stomach was so upset and it was not pretty!  After I was done, I felt much better, walked to get some water, and tried to run again.  Immediately my legs started screaming at me!  It was like they were saying, "Hey, we just got a break and you want us to run again??"  Seriously, my legs felt like they were on fire and they HURT so bad!  My calves, my hamstrings, my quads all burned and I had never felt anything like it.  I started walking the "ups" and trying to figure out what to do.  My running pace had slowed significantly and I started getting really hot.  I took off my arm warmers, stuffed them in my tri pocket, and just kept plugging away at the miles.  Then, before I knew it, I was ready to start my 2nd loop!

My dad, niece, and sisters waiting for me to pass by

As I ran by the transition area, my family was once again there, cheering me on!  Seeing them again gave me a complete energy boost!  My mom wasn't there this time because she needed to go home and rest, but it was great to see everyone else.  I told them I didn't feel good and my stomach hurt, and they said, "That's alright, you're doing great!"  Even though I knew I wasn't doing "great," it was nice to have their words of encouragement!

As I ran further down the path I saw my husband and boys again!  I told my husband how I was feeling and he said something like, "It's o-kay, this is what it's all about!  You can do it!"
It was so awesome to have them there, supporting me along the way.  Honestly, I don't know what I would have done without them there.  Seeing them after every loop was just amazing.  And for some reason, when I would see them, the pain I was feeling would just go away...even if it was just for a couple of minutes! :)

The second loop was much harder for me than the first.  I really was NOT feeling good and I had no idea what to do about it.  The only thing I could think of was that swallowing all the Tempe Town Lake water was reeking havoc on my stomach.  At the next aid station I decided to try eating a banana.  A short wile later,  my legs started feeling better and I got excited!  BUT, it was short lived because my stomach was not happy with me.  I started getting really nauseous and I started getting that metallic, sour taste in my mouth and had to walk.  I was hoping that it would pass, but unfortunately it didn't.  As I was crossing over the Mill Ave. bridge I got the urge to throw up.  I tried to hold it until I was over the bridge, because it was a narrow walkway, but I just couldn't.  Without going into too much detail, that banana came straight back up, and pretty soon my stomach was completely empty.  Amazingly, I felt MUCH better after I threw up and I started running again!

My stomach continued to feel a little wonky, but I was happy to be running again.  Granted, I was running pretty slowly, but I was running!!  

Here's a funny thing about this picture.  The guy behind me, in the blue suit, was with me throughout the first 2 loops.  I have no idea how he did an IM in that suit, but he did and it is pretty amazing!
After I threw up, I passed him on the course and he said, "There you go pink!  Way to get back in the game!"  He must have seen me throwing up on the course.  I did a little fist pump and just kept going.

From that point on, I just tried to stay at a level where I wouldn't throw up again.  I tried to drink water, but even that wasn't settling well in my stomach.  I would run when I could, then walk when I needed to.  I kept getting cold, then hot, then cold, then hot again.  I was constantly taking off and putting on my arm warmers.  I felt like you do when you have the flu with a fever and how one minute you're shivering and the next you're burning up.  It was really, really annoying!

Finally, I made it to the beginning of the 3rd loop.

 ONE LOOP TO GO!!  I was sooo excited to finally be on my 3rd loop!!  As I passed by transition again, I heard someone say, "Go Aimee, I tri to be me!"  I turned around and tried to see who said it, but I couldn't tell who it was, so I kept going.  It definitely made me smile though! :)  Then, I saw my two sisters sitting on the sidelines and they were like, "Aimee, Aimee,  you're  here!"  I knew I had taken a long time to do that last loop, longer than my family probably imagined, so I thought that's what they were talking about.  I ran up to them and told them I had thrown up and I just didn't feel good.  They just kept saying, "We know, it's o-kay, you're almost finished!"  I asked them if everyone else had left and gone to dinner and they said yes, but that they'd be back for the finish.  Because I wasn't using them and was sick of carrying them around, I gave my handheld water bottle and all my Hammer gels to my sister, then headed off for my last lap.

**As a side note, it turns out that there was some kind of delay on for tracking and my family didn't know where I was.  They thought I had either dropped out or was in the medical tent.  Apparently, my dad tried to find me at the med tent and my husband had left to head to his parents house to drop off our boys so he could come back and find me.  They were all really worried about me.  So, when my sisters saw me, that's why they were soo excited!!  After I left, they called my husband and my family and told them I had just started my 3rd loop.  Everyone was so happy that I was o-kay!  

A couple of miles into the last loop I had to pull over again to throw up.  My stomach was pretty much empty at this point, so I started dry heaving.  It was so painful and I was just so tired of feeling sick.  Another girl came up to me and said, "How ya doing mama?"  I mumbled something like, "Not so good."  Then, she proceeded to tell me that she had just thrown up too.  She asked if I wanted to walk with her for awhile and I said, "Yes."  So, we walked and talked.  She told me this was her 7th IM, but that it would probably be her last.  I told her this was my first and then she said something that stuck with me.  She said, "Enjoy that finish shoot.  My first IM I just ran right through and I didn't get to really experience it, so take it all in and just enjoy it!"  I made a silent promise to myself that no matter what, I would take her advice.

About a mile later, I started feeling better and told her I was going to try and run.  I thanked her for helping me through that rough patch and wished her luck on her finish.    During this time, just like with the bike, I stopped looking at my Garmin completely.  At this point in the race I did not even care about my time.  I had no idea how long I had been out there and that was o-kay with me.  All that mattered was that I kept moving forward towards the finish.  I KNEW I would be an Ironman that night, even if it wasn't the way I had hoped it would happen.

So, for the entire last loop, I vowed to thank as many of the volunteers as I could.  The volunteers are truly amazing.  They are there...all day and night...helping us along the way.  At several aid stations, there were girls that seemed to know who I was.  Every time I walked by, they would say, "Good job Aimee" or "I'm proud of you!"  It was nice to have some personal encouragement out there.  So, thanks if you're reading this and you were one of the ones that cheered me on out there! :)

There was one particular aid station that had lots of people dressed in drag and there was this guy that was dancing and cheering everyone on.  His energy and encouragement was amazing and I looked forward to seeing him every loop.  At the last loop, I walked right up to him, grabbed his hand, and said, "Thank you for being out here for us.  You are amazing and it really means a lot!"  He said, "No, YOU are amazing!  You're the one out here doing it!  You can do this and you WILL be an Ironman!"  It was awesome!

Giving my boys one last hug before the finish!

Right after that aid station, I was greeted by the biggest surprise!  My husband, boys, dad, and sisters had crossed over to the other side to cheer me on for the last half of the loop.  IT WAS AWESOME and just what I needed!!  I gave my boys the biggest hugs and told them that I would see them again soon!

I had 4 miles to go and I wanted to try and run as much of it as I could without getting sick again.  Then, before I knew it, I only had 1 mile to go.  I could not believe it!  I got so happy and knew that with every step forward it was one step closer to the finish.  At the last aid station, I stopped to give a young boy, who had been volunteering there all day, my glow necklace.  I didn't need it anymore and thought he should have it!  It was fun to do that and he had a huge smile on his face as I ran away!  

With 1/2M to go, I saw Kathleen walking up ahead of me.  I was soo excited to see her because I hadn't seen her all day and was wondering how she was doing!  I ran up to her and said, "Kathleen!!"  It turns out she was on her 2nd loop!  We walked and talked for a couple of minutes and I said something like, "We're doing it!  We're going to finish!"  It was really neat for me to share that moment with her!  I wished her luck with her last loop and headed to the finish!

Finally, I came to the point where you can either go straight to do another loop, or turn left towards the finish.  The same guy that had been at that junction all day was still there!  I had given him a high-five every time I passed him to start a new loop and this time I went up to him, gave him a huge high-five, and said, "I finally get to go left! Yay!"  He said, "Right on!  Woohoo!" It was hilarious, because woohoo is something I say all of the time! :)

As I turned left, I suddenly realized how dark it was.  I ran through a parking lot and there was no one around.  It was actually quiet and I LOVED it because it gave me a chance to really absorb the fact that I WAS FINISHING my first Ironman!!  I ran about 100 more yards, and the finisher shoot came into view!  I remembered what the girl had told me about taking it all in and enjoying the moment and that is just what I did.

IT WAS AMAZING!  Everything that you read and hear about the finisher shoot is true.  It is loud, it is exciting, it is emotional, and it is amazing!  I heard my sisters and dad cheering for me and gave them high-fives as I passed!  Then, as I ran through the shoot I gave EVERYONE high-fives that had their hands out.
My husband took this picture.  I know it's blurry, but I love it! 
Then, I heard it..."A teacher from Denver, Colorado.  Aimee Youngblood, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

I DID IT!  I really did it!  I finished happy and did not need to go to the medical tent...that was my goal and I met it!  I was grabbed by some catchers, wrapped in a blanket, and brought to the line to get my finisher picture.  

It's true what they say about the finish too..after you cross that finish line, you don't feel anything but pure JOY.  My stomach didn't hurt, my legs didn't hurt, and I just felt so completely happy!!  I could not believe that I just finished an IRONMAN!!

My younger sister, me, my older sister!
These are my biggest supporters!  I know it was a VERY long day for them out there, but seeing them on the course meant more to me than they will ever know.  My husband is truly amazing and I COULD NOT have done this without him.  He is my support, my rock, an amazing father to our children, and the love of my life. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have him in my life.  And, I cannot thank him enough for all he has sacrificed and done for me in order to complete this crazy IM adventure.

My sisters were there ALL day cheering me on!  Their support and encouragement throughout the day was just amazing and they gave me the "pick me ups" I needed to keep going!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I also want to thank all of you out there in bloggy land for your support, advice, and encouragement throughout my journey.  And, after the race I was taken aback by all of your emails and FB posts congratulating me.  It was overwhelming and just awesome!  Thank you! :)

So, I'm not going to say that I'll "never" do another Ironman, but it will definitely be AWHILE before I take one on again.  The training and time commitment is just a lot, and it took away so much time from my family.  BUT, the experience was absolutely amazing!!  Although the day didn't quite go as I would have liked, I met my goal and I did it!!  I finished!!!  And, knowing that I did something millions of people will never even attempt to do feels AWESOME!!
Out of all the shirts I got for this race, this one is by far the best! :)


Kacie Darden said...

Ironman marathon is TOUGH! Way to stick it out! I love the "way to go pink." Perfect!

Congrats on your finish! Enjoy the recovery!

Molly said...

Great job and awesome RR!!!! It's really one of those awesome experiences, I'm SO glad you enjoyed your finish ;)

misszippy said...

You rock, Aimee! What a great day you had, puking and all! I really, really love that your mom came. How meaningful that had to have been for you. This will be a day you'll hold onto forever!

giraffy said...

You're amazing, your recap's made me teary eyed! Congratulations!!!

Jill said...

Oh my gosh, I was reading every single word with great detail. You are freaking amazing and I am so so sooo happy for you girl. You sacrificed so much to be able to call yourself an Ironman...and what a great job you did doing so! Love the shirt, wear it often :).

I was going to email you to see if you wanted to run today...but holy burrrrness, way too cold for my thin blood. Tomorrow doesn't look much better and I work on Wed. Hopefully next week!

Congratulations, girl! :)

Alisa said...

Oh man, I know what it's like to get sick during a race, it is NOT pretty or fun. Way to get through it, not stop and continue on your way to becoming an IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm glad to hear you say that you aren't in a place where you would "never" do one again. I like to hear that rather than "OMG I'd never do that again."

Way to go lady! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jen said...

Congrats, Aimee!

I got seriously choked up reading this - it's so inspiring. I hope to someday take on such a challenge.

Caratunk Girl said...

Way to stick it out!! I think the run is the toughest part!!

You are freaking awesome. I got choked up reading this!!

Christi said...

Wow, that was an incredibly tough run. Congrats for sticking it out and becoming an Ironman!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on pushing through and finishing in such a great time!! Looking forward to my first next November! You are an inspiration!

Whitney said...

Congrats again on your awesome race! I've really enjoyed your recaps and you did a great job of sharing the highs and lows of the race. Ironmanlive did kind of suck that day and I worried about friends dropping too because it wouldn't update their splits.

Teamarcia said...

Congrats again IRONMAN! THis was amazing to read. Beyond cool that your mom was there cheering you on. Way to go pink, indeed! So freaking proud of you!

Betsy said...

Congratations Ironman Aimee! Loved your race report and seeing you out there in your TriBellas gear even if you didn't know it was me :)

Puking and keeping on is totally bad ass by the way!

trifitmom said...

i have tears in my eyes. i am so happy for you

Jennifer Harrison said...

Congrats to you! What a great series of race reports for your IM! I loved reading all of them. I did IMAZ too and loved it....AND I agree with you, the run is NOT flat....esp x3!

Congrats again on your finish and ENJOY your rest and off season!!!! :)

TriMOEngr said...

Such an emotional day. Can feel it all right along with you in all of these posts. Just loved it! Congrats on becoming an Ironman! Way to gut it out (quite literally)!

Stephanie Anne said...

So awesome, you are amazing!!

I loved the recap, you are such an inspiration. I cant wait for tri season to start!

Deb said...

I cried. I love it. You are amazing. And, you are an ironman.

Michael said...

Wow, congrats!!! Such an amazing story. So cool that your Mom was there after all she was going through - that would have made me cry too, but boosted my spirits at the same time.

I still can't quite even imagine the Ironman. To start in the day and finish at night is just crazy! And to be sick through most of the run - you are one tough cookie!!

Congrats Iron-woman!

Julie said...

Aimee I read this on my lunch hour but for some reason can't comment on my work computer...need to stop reading while I try to eat any way as there was far to much crying! I'm so happy for you and I loved reading your story! You overcame all that was put in front of you and I just loved watching you cross the finish line!

Keeping your mom and the rest of your family in my thoughts!

DRog said...

Way to go Aimee! Great RR and outstanding effort - HUGE Congrats on the IM! way to go


*Sarah* said...

Wow!! Thanks for sharing. It makes me want to try an Ironman...I've thought about it for years. I enjoyed reading your posts! :)

Dawn said...

:D I cannot smile big enough while reading this.
You DID it!!!!!

Shannon said...

brought tears to my eyes!! so proud of yoU! :)

Anonymous said...

I have truly enjoyed reading your IMAZ race recaps. They've been incredible. Your spirit shines through in each and every one. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment!

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Great job! That's awesome that you had so much support and that your mom was able to make it!

Born To Endure said...

Awwwwwww way to go girl, you are amazing!!!!

Anne-Marie said...

Congrats!! Loved reading this. You did totally awesome! And you're so hardcore for sticking out the marathon through the stomach issues.

Thanks for the heads-up on the run course too!

Hope you're enjoying some R&R with the family now that IM is over! :)

Missy said...

That was me, yelling! I saw you, thought you looked like the girl on the blog I stalk,:-) then read your name and it clicked. It was you! Sad how slow my brain works sometimes, crazy how fast you looked. I thought you looked amazing and would have never guessed you were having GI issues.Way to gut it out. Awesome Job!!

Jason said...

Just incredible. Congrats again. I am sorry that I missed a lot of the first loop of this report because of your story about your Mom. It reminds me of my story with my Dad.

Please do not hesitate to contact me about this b/c you can't do it alone.

Congrats to you!

Kirk said...

Great race report! I hope your Mom is doing better.

That Tshirt deserves a special place in the closet. Its not every day you get one of those.

Kelly said...

Big congrats to you, Ironman! It was so great to follow your journey and I am beyond excited for you!

Jill Costantino said...

SUPER CONGRATS What an accomplishment! Your family must be so proud of you too.
Congrats, congrats, congrats:)

Colleen said...

Okay so I have to admit that I've had tears running down my face as I read this. SO AWESOME!

First, the face that your mom was there was amazing! I can't imagine how great that was to see her.

I love that your sisters, and hubby, and boys and dad were all there and really "there" throughout the course.

I'm so sorry that you had stomach issues, but you never gave up. It's amazing what meeting someone out on the course, walking with them for a little bit and regrouping can do for the soul!

That finish line is something you will never forget! Congrats Aimee... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I had goosebumps reading this, this is truely awesome, congrats on so many levels!!! And surviving a brutal run with all the stomach issues, now you can brag for the rest of your life



Congrats on the Pukie as well

Trish said...

Woot Woot Aimee!! Congrats! I've loved your recaps. As I was reading this last one, I teared up a little! I am so happy for you. IRONMAN!!!

TX Runner Mom said...

I just found your blog and looking forward to reading more! Congrats on IMAZ!!!!!

Lauren said...

Congrats on such a hard race!! I look forward to meeting you at some Tri Bella events in the near future!

Brandi said...

Amazing Aimee! I've goose bumps and tears in my eyes. You're truly an inspiration! Congratulations!!

Andrea said...

*wiping away tears* Awesome. So inspiring!! I just now read all of the race posts - so well written. When you describe coming through the finishers chute and then the announcing of your name - well, I nearly stood up and cheered! Aimee, you ARE an Ironman.

Anonymous said...

I'm just catching up on blogs, so I know this was posted a little while ago, but this post was so amazing and inspiring! Way to go, Aimee! Hope your mom's treatment is going well...

bobbi said...

Not sure how I never found you before, but you've got a new follower :)

It took me all afternoon to finish this from the begininning, but it was well worth it for sure. Sitting here with tears in my eyes - what an AMAZING accomplishment!! Congratulations Ironman!!!

Kathleen said...

Wow, great report. You brought tears to my eyes. I hope your mom is doing OK. How wonderful she was able to see you race.
It was great seeing you on the run. Looking forward to getting together soon!