Thursday, September 4, 2008

IMKY '08 Part 1: Broad Strokes

I have to admit, there is a part of me that wants to document every single moment of this day. But the part of me with the stronger voice prefers to prefers to paint in broader strokes, focusing on the things I want to stay with me and in the foreground of my memory of this event. Of course, I have PLENTY to say about this, so I will wax philosophical on all those topics in separate posts in the coming days. But for now:

Ironman Louisville 2008 in Five Easy M.F. Hard-Ass Pieces

1. Play of the Day: Sharing the Start Line with TriBloggers!
I can't express how wonderful and peaceful it was to have Kim and Mary at the start line. I'm fairly certain that if they weren't there, I'd have thrown up or otherwise talked myself into some sort of pit of despair.

These two are such wonderful, spirited women with great outlooks on sport and life. I'm so grateful to have met them and to have seen them out on the run course -- my own spirits buoyed every time I saw them.

That, and Mary's title and caption for this pic pretty much nail it.

2. Swim Kicker
According to my friend, Mary Beth, I left 883 people behind me on the swim. I am a mid-pack swimmer! Woot! The swim itself was actually fairly uneventful: I got punched in the head once, lots of hands on my feet -- nothing out of the ordinary, though I was unprepared for all the butt-grabbing. I can't ever remember that happening in any other race. There was also something very unnerving about swimming in a shipping channel. Like Mary, I had mysterious red spots all over me when I got home. *shudder*

3. Hills and Wind and Heat -- Nemeses No More!!!
Making the bike cutoff under these conditions was a victory in itself. And then the wind picked up on the second loop. Oy. The toughest parts:

Miles 18-28. This section had some of the steepest sustained climbs of the course. An out & back jaunt, it also meant you could really get screaming down those hills. I don't know if it was my mountain biking fearlessness or the quality of my bike, but I flew past a LOT of people on the downhills (maxed out at 40+mph -- I heard pros got up to 50+). There was one crashed cyclist that I saw on the side of the road -- we were all still pretty bunched up at this point in the race, and a lot of people were not placing themselves in the lane safely. I can imagine that she got clipped in the crowd.

Bonked on the 1st Loop. My pack of electrolyte pills bounced out of my bento box sometime in these first 40 miles. Then I let my nutrition get away from me. Then I got really slow and my mood started to sink along with my avg speed (I needed to keep it above 13mph). I remembered reading somewhere that you should pay attention to your mood on the course because it's a sign that you need to take in more calories. This was the only time on the course that I felt bad and like I never wanted to do another Iron-distance race again. Then I ate a gel and guzzled some gatorade and things started looking up.

Acorn Hill. Holy mackerel. This crappy little hill pops up after a tough section in the loop (steeper hills, no shade or breeze). You have NO momentum going into it and even though it's short, it. is. steep. I pedaled up it on the first loop; decided to conserve my energy and walk it on the second loop. Jeebus, that little thing was a monster!

8:23:21 is a LONG time to sit on a bike seat.

4. Running the Numbers
Once I knew I would make the bike cutoff, I pretty much had no plan for the rest of the race. My original goal heading out on the run course was to finish under 17 hours. My legs actually felt good enough to run, but I was having some weird stomach stitches for the first hour, so running was out. I did run for a bit headed toward the "false finish" -- where they run you within yards of the finish line before sending you out for the second lap. And though I knew from Pigman that walking would potentially be more painful than running, I knew I could walk the whole thing and still make the course cutoff. Of course, I ran whenever I saw cameras and for the last point-two because, well, I have my pride. I'd like to think that if there was a hard midnight deadline like other IMs that I would have run enough to make that. I guess I'll know for sure next time. (That's right, I said next time.)

5. The Distance Between Your Ears
There was a point when I was about 5 1/2 miles from the finish and there was a man behind me -- coming the other direction on the out & back -- who was about 6 1/2 miles out from the line. I saw the sweep van pull up beside him. I was too far away to hear, but I knew what conversation they were having. I kept repeating in my head, "Don't get in that van! No, don't do it! You're so close!" I desperately wanted him to keep going, and I really wanted to punch that driver for putting the offer on the table for that guy.

Then the man stopped walking and reached for the door.

I only cried three times on the course. Twice I teared up because I was just so happy to be there and knew that I would finish. But the tears only streamed down my cheeks one time and it was for this man. There is something painfully heartbreaking to witness a person give up.

About an hour later, the van pulled up beside me.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"I feel fine," I said. Then, with perhaps too much force: "Keep driving."

He laughed and drove on.
. . .

Yes, this was a long, painful day. But even just a few days later, I don't really remember so much of the physical discomfort -- though I was definitely a lot more than uncomfortable. What I remember is how high my spirits stayed. I think this is what got me over that finish line. Except for bonking on the first loop of the bike, I smiled BIG for most of the day and almost all of the run.

At the pre-race talk, Lance Watson, a multi-sport coach, told us to treat ourselves well on race day. He'd just come from IM Canada where he saw one dejected face after another. "Don't give up on yourselves," he told us. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I spent the two weeks before crying and beating myself up for not training harder. I had been incrementally giving up on myself every day leading up to the race.

So I smiled instead.

And I never gave up on myself.

And I finished.

And then I tripped three steps after crossing the finish line.


Jen said...

Holy shit to high hell are you AWESOME! Race report: totally worth the wait. I'm tingly and smiling like a silly fool in my cubicle right now from reading the thing.

Of course, I'm taking you out to dinner sometime so I can hear all about it in person.

And I LOVE that you're alredy talking about doing another one of these! Whooo-hoooo!

Go Mom Go said...

Thank you! Your story was wonderful and I can't wait to hear more. Have you decided when you will do this again? Did you sign up for Lou next year?

I was thinking of all of you out there on Sunday. I would check out my watch and think...they should be here. Or whatever.

Rest up. Recover. Tell us more.


Jen said...

And one more thing: you know what's worse than having your butt grabbed? Being the butt grabber. (Looks away in shame... Yes, I've been a butt grabber. I didn't mean to, I swear!!!)

Anonymous said...

Umm...yeah, totally teared up while reading this, especially the part where you told the van driver to "keep driving"!

Oh, and you look like superwoman in your race photo, love it!!!

stacey said...

You have no idea how much of an inspiration you are to some of us!

In a room by myself, I couldn't help clapping for you. It scared my cat. :P

Wendy said...

Brava, Krissy! Brava!!!

Duane said...

Nice! Very nice!

00badness said...

I didn't know you could tell the sweep to keep driving! That was your ass kicker coming out and telling the driver you were about to kick his.

Mary Sunshine said...

"Keep Driving!" Words to live by. I'm so crazy proud of you!!!

You are a great athlete AND a gifted writer.

I should have pushed myself to try to keep up with you....nobody, not one person, grabbed my saggy, middle-aged ass. ;-)

Can't wait to hear what your next adventure will be.