So where was I?
Ah yes…trying to figure out how I was going to get through 26.2 miles without knowing if my legs were still attached to my body. Good times!
I slowly made my way onto the run course, out of town along the same route we did for the bike (so this would be the 3rd and 4th time I would traverse this stretch of road/hills). Thankfully there was an aid station at the first mile so I could hydrate and get some food. I decided early on that I was going to need to walk through every one of them to ensure I was taking in what I needed. I grabbed water, ice, a small cup of Coke, some Gatorade (some of which was already warm which, let me tell you, is super gross to drink) and pretzels. I remembered the same regimen from Arizona, and it seemed to work well with my stomach and keep me going.
Once again, after the nice downhill out of town, there is a gradual uphill before evening out a bit near the ski jumps. The crowds were still great through the first few miles before we came upon a fairly big downhill. The downhill is steep and as I was hobbling down it, my brain immediately said:
Crap. I’ll have to go back UP that sucker on the way back.
Ok, fine. Stop fretting about it right now. Put one foot in front of the other and take it one mile at a time.
The route then took a left onto River Road for the out and back portion of the course. This is where a true test of wills comes into play. It’s mainly farmland out that way with very little crowds and shade. It was really hot. The volunteers had given us sunscreen when we went out of transition both times, but it had long worn off since I was constantly dumping water on myself and using the sponges to tuck in my tri top to try and stay cool. Aside from a triathlon club that had set up some speakers about halfway down the road, it was pretty quiet.
I would hear people talking around me and started to notice that everyone was walking at some point. Everyone. I tried to keep smiling through the rough parts and run as much as I could, but I felt like I just had nothing left in my legs. I would put together small goals for myself, like running from one telephone pole to the next, or to the next aid station. I honestly thought I was going to be out there forever.
I made the turn-around to head back towards town and again, just kept taking small portions and doing a run/walk combo. My watch had died before the bike was done so I had absolutely no concept how slow I was going, and I tried not to care. At that point, I knew all of my goals were long gone and that it was going to be a victory to finish the race in one piece.
I got back to the main road and looked to my right to see that hill looming. When Rob ran part of the course a couple of days before, he indicated there were some “hills” but again, didn’t tell me just how steep they were. I looked up and laughed – there was no way my legs would run up that thing. So I walked the entire hill, as did most people around me.
I was mad.
I was frustrated.
I was hot, tired and didn’t want to be out there.
And I still had a LONG ways to go.
Once I got back into town with more of the crowds, it helped to give me a bit of a mental boost which was a nice break from my brain yelling at me about how awful I felt.
I could see the Oval and hear the finish line, which again was uphill from where I was, and I again walked. I rounded the corner by Mirror Lake, and saw Rob and the girls standing out by the Lake Placid Brewery (I so could have used a beer at this point).
I stopped to talk with them and let him know I was having a tough time. He told me Matt’s advice was to keep eating and stay hydrated, and I assured him I was doing just that. I said I was having to walk a lot and that I would be later than I was expecting to finish. They sent me on my way to tackle the last 14-ish miles.
I passed by the special needs area (I didn’t have anything for myself there) and continued up hill (yep, more hills) to the turn-around, and finally got a bit of shade and a downhill as I made my way back towards the finish area.
It was tough to have to take a left turn back onto the course, while watching some of the super fast folks head into the Oval for the finish. But I just kept telling myself “one more loop…”
Just like with the bike, I’m not sure if it was better or worse that I knew what was coming. Everything on the 2nd loop felt like it took longer to get to than the first, but I also started counting down the miles instead of up. Once I got back onto River Road, I knew I was within striking distance and would definitely finish.
I met a lot of nice people along the way – we chatted as we walked through aid stations and tried to encourage each other. Some of them were only on their first loops with a very long afternoon/evening ahead of them. I said to one man that this was harder than childbirth – to which he laughed and said he was going to tell his wife that! ( I warned him that he should probably preface that with that was just MY opinion so he didn’t get smacked – ha!)
I remember looking around and seeing a lot of people on the side of the route, either getting sick or trying to stretch out their cramped legs and wincing in pain.
Everyone was soaked from dumping water on their heads to try and stay cool.
Everyone was walking.
Everyone looked miserable.
I remember passing the 20 mile mark on the road (which was just past mile 6 on the first loop) and hearing a woman say to the man she was with ” it’s 6:30 right now. We have 5 1/2 hours to do the last 20 miles. It’s going to be tight, but we can do it…”
At that moment, I realized how thankful I was to be almost done. I couldn’t have imagined being out there for 5 or 6 more hours. I also tried to do the math in my head of what my finish time might be – and then I quickly stopped and remembered it didn’t matter.
Back up that massive hill for the last time and I was so happy to be done with it. The crowds starting to get bigger as I got back closer to town. They had some great music playing right before I made the uphill climb to do the last out and back and they were playing “Tootsie Roll,” my jam from college!
I started to dance.
Albeit mainly with my arms but when they say “To the left, to the left…to the right, to the right…” I did that as I walked by.
I got lots of cheers and people commenting about how they had no idea how I could be dancing 23 miles into the marathon at Ironman.
I have no idea but it helped get my endorphins going and I loved it.
Rounding the corner back onto Mirror Lake Drive, I could taste it. I saw Rob and the girls one final time, told them I just had a short loop to go and that I’d see them at the finish. So many people cheering, yelling my name and I heard “Go Green!” several times as well. I waved and said thank you to everyone, and high fived the kids along the way, too.
I continued to run/walk as I made the last turn-around and onto the downhill portion. Once I knew there was just over 1/2 mile to go, I picked it up as much as I could and honestly, I couldn’t hold back my emotions. I was so excited to be heading into the finishing area, and onto the Oval.
I held my head high, as I thanked the volunteers and entered the Oval to even louder cheers of my name, high fives and screams. I started to scream myself, with my hands in the air, knowing what I had just accomplished. I looked around to try and take it all in as I rounded the corner and saw the finish line and could hear Mike Reilly.
I was by myself as I came down the final stretch and looked to my right to see Rob and the girls and it was all I could do to choke back my tears and blow kisses to them as I ran by.
I heard Mike Reilly announce my name and say the words I had been waiting to hear for 13 hours that day:
Erika Myers, You Are An Ironman!
I had such a rush of adreneline after I crossed the finish line that I didn’t even feel the pain I had felt for the 13 hours and 8 minutes I had just endured.
My wonderful volunteer congratulated me, got me a space blanket (which I did NOT need!), my medal, shirt and hat, and walked me over to get my picture taken.
They asked if I was ok as they brought me over to where the food tent was, and I assured them I felt fine. I went over to see Rob and the girls before I got a Diet Coke and some pizza before heading out of the finishing area.
I slowly made my way up the hill where they were waiting (who put stairs there? Just mean) and sat down to take it all in, and eat the pizza. It was fun to watch more people finish and see how excited their families and friends were.
I did not want to get up, but everyone was hungry and we needed to go eat.
I got my bike and bags and received lots of “Congratulations!” as I walked out of the transition area for the last time. Rob took my bike and bags and I pushed Emily in the stroller as we made our way into town. I had several people stop me and comment about how a mother’s work is never done, even after just finishing an Ironman! I was humbled by it, but truth be told…I was happy to have the stroller to lean on for support as I tried to walk!!
We got back to the car, put everything away (except for my medal which I refused to take off) and went to a BBQ place for a late dinner. We sat next to another finisher and compared notes about the race. I wasn’t able to eat or drink much, as I was still trying to get my body to calm itself down, so we headed out and back to the cabin.
I was so thrilled to get a nice, long shower and to just lay down. After about 1,500mg of ibuprofen and catching up on some text messages, I tried to sleep and thankfully got a decent amount.
Monday morning I knew I had to get up and moving to help get the lactic acid out of my legs, so we headed into town. They had a breakfast before the awards ceremony and we went to the merchandise tent one more time. I debated about a finisher’s jacket but honestly, I didn’t like it and didn’t want to spend $120 on something I wouldn’t wear. I did get some Lake Placid souvenirs which I liked better than the Ironman stuff!
We went back down to Mirror Lake beach to let the girls swim a bit after a long day for them on Sunday. It was amazing to see that everything was already taken down and you’d never know there was an Ironman swim with 2,500 people there just 24 hours prior.
I proudly wore my finisher’s shirt, along with many others walking around town. It’s almost a badge of honor and although I’m not a showy person, there was no way I wasn’t going to make it known what I had just accomplished the day before.
It started to rain so we opted to head back to the cabin to get things packed up and rest a bit. I took a short nap with Emily while Rob took Julia on a short hike. We headed out for dinner and after failing at one place, we ended up at a nice place on the water, sitting outside and had some ice cream afterwards and called it a night.
Rob did a training run on Tuesday morning before we headed out on our way back home. It was bitter sweet to leave Lake Placid. I had worked so hard for so many months to accomplish my goals, and now it was all over with. Life moves forward and it’s easy to get immediately caught back up into the daily grind.
I am still not totally “ready” to move on completely. I still love talking about my experiences and have really only told the story of the entire day twice and now on this blog. I honestly cry every time I relive the moments I had, both good and bad. It’s an extremely emotional experience, and one that’s hard to fully explain.
Part of me wants to try another one, maybe on a flatter course. Part of me wonders if my body and mind could handle the training again. Part of me sees there are some that are still open this October and thinks “hmmm…” but I’m not sure that’s wise. I have a sprint triathlon next week and I’ll see how I feel and go from there.
Oh and damn skippy I’m getting a tattoo to commemorate my 2 Ironman finishes!!!
If you’re still reading this lengthy and long-winded recap of my experience, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to everyone who supported me through this craziness, who gave me words of encouragement, who wore the “Erika Will” shirts, who cheered me on from across the country. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate it and thank you just isn’t enough to show my gratitude.
Before I go, just a few special thank yous:
- To my coach, Matt, for getting me to the finish line and putting up with me for almost a year. You’re amazing and I owe you so much!
- To my parents – you were there in spirit with me the whole time and have supported me since day 1, through early morning swim practices to random running races and both Ironmans. THANK YOU!
- To my team and sponsor, Coeur Sports – this is an amazing company who is beyond supportive of all of us and I’m so thankful to have been chosen to represent them. These women are inspirations to me and I’m humbled to be on the same team as them! Heart and Courage always!
- And of course, to Rob, Julia and Emily: your love and encouragement throughout this whole process was incredible. Dealing with long training sessions, helping me through rough patches when I didn’t think I could do it, dealing with how tired and crabby I was…I couldn’t have done it without you all. And I certainly would NOT have made it to the finish had I not had your smiling faces to see along the way. I love you all beyond words!
Now to figure out what my next goal is…but until then, I get to play Sherpa for Rob’s 70.3 in less than 2 weeks and I can’t wait to see him cross that finish line!
THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!