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.
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 though...my mom.
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 stole this pic from her blog. You can read her post about it HERE!|
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 5minutes..no 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 Ironman.com 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.
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!|
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!|
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! :)|