Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's About Dang Time You Blog! - The Real Meaning of Pain, the run...

On my way to 26.2

It's been a bit tough getting enough time to write this portion because I want to do it justice, but I have been traveling for work and it is not lending itself to any long periods of writing! Dang work, what do they think - I have to do this for a living. O wait, I guess I do!!

I have also been debating on how much to share. This part is hard because I don't want to have too much TMI, but I also wanted to truly share what happened to me out there, if nothing else but for a good laugh and for the benefit of those who have not done an IM so they are more prepared for the part that seems to really have so much happen from mile one to mile twenty-six point two.


This sensory was given to us for a reason, and a ver important reason at that. From very young we are taught to stop doing whatever is causing the pain to avoid further injury or permanent damage. You touch the pot, it burns you, you take your hand off and end the pain.

For some reason, we triathletes seem to not only defy the rules of pain, sometimes we revel in it. We embrace it and we learn just how much of it we can take. I knew this run would be new levels that I had never tapped into in my world of pain previously, and I was right. More on this later.
T2 was also a blurr, and this time I remembered sunscreen! It felt good to be off that bike, but only for a moment, then the reality of running set in. I passed my family coming up the hill out of transition and it was so nice to hear them yelling for me. It lifted my spirits. We headed out ali drive for a 5 mile out, 5 mile back stretch before coming back into the heart of town again. I couldn't believe how good my legs felt during those first 5 miles. I splited my miles and tried to calm down when I had some close to 7 minutes (7:06 & 7:10 ish). I stopped once along in a non-populated the side of the road and forced myself to try and pee. Guess what - I did it..right there on ali drive while standing (which I think is wayyy more embarrassing than doing it on the bike). I just didn't want to take the time to stop and go in a pot-o-pot, and this was the answer I saw most readily working for me, so I just freakin did it. From then on, my shoes were soaked and I had yet another FIRST of the day, peeing while standing in public. Yes, I was truly on a road to no shame.

We made a turn at the end of a 5 mile stretch and headed back into town. This is when I got to see many of my teammates from MAO, I also saw Lauren Hensler, an amazing athlete in the 35-39 from Pittsburgh and Deb Cully, also from Pittsburgh. Lauren was cheering me on all the way. Every time I would see her, she would say "Have a day, Kim, Have a day." I knew what she meant. My interpretation is that she meant - have an unbelievable race out there, put one together, one even you don't know if you can put together, don't be afraid to just go out there and do it. It meant a lot to me to hear someone of her caliber encouraging me like that. I decided , if it was even remotely do-able, dang it, I was going to have a day, and it was today people, right here, right now.

Once in town again the crowds were cheering loudly and I was still maintaining my heart rate and having great splits right in the 7:40-7:55 range. Everything seemed to be going great and I was thanking God every few minutes for it while eating salt tablets and sucking on gels. Every aid station I took water to drink, and ice to dump down my sports bra to keep me cool. It seemed to be working and the vog finally looked to be rolling in around mile 11! Yes! It might cool down I thought!

We started to make our way up Palani hill which was very steep and my heart rate climbed again. I noticed a girl in front of me walking in my age group and her coach was there walking with her. I passed and did not look back, but I could hear her starting to run. By the time we were up on the Queen K, she began to run alongside me and asked if I minded. I of course, would take all the help I could get! She agreed and we set off, mile by mile, hitting around 8 min pace. We talked a bit here and there, but around mile 13 IT hit. I think by now many of you have gathered what hit, and it wasn't pretty. I told her I need to find a bush - like stat. She asked if I could wait until the next aid station and I told her absolutely not. I saw a workable bush, and ran over and squatted as fast as I could. Nothing to wipe with - no matter, I would just get going again as fast as possible. It's all good.. It's Ironman good.

I see her up ahead, but just take it one step at a time. I knew I wasn't going to do any sprinting up to her, so I just set off to keep the distance constant and keep up my routine, one mile at a time. Somewhere around this point my quads are starting to really hurt. When I say really hurt, I mean hurt like a knife was being stuck in each one and ripping down every time I took a step. I'm not sure why they were fine, and then all of the sudden, went to so incredibly painful. I decided to pay no attention, it was what it was, and I pressed on.

The miles came and went and eventually, I could see the turn to the energy lab. I knew mile 18 would be at the bottom, but I wasn't going to make it that far without another stop. I ran into a port-o-pot this time (fortunately), and they even had paper, how nice. It was starting to get dark like it was almost night now and it was a strange sky. As I headed down the hill past the weird solar structures, I passed Desiree Ficker coming up the other side and thought about cheering for her. By the time I decided it would be ok to encourage her, even though she probably wasn't having the race she wanted, it was too late, she was gone. Next time. At the bottom of the energy lab I was still no closer to catching my partner, but I could see her at the turn around and we gave each other a nod. I had to stop again before picking up my special needs bag. This time the port-o-pot was propped open with a big orange cone and I decided I didn't even have the energy to move it!! I just went in, sat down and watched as people ran by!! It was humbling, but this is IM I thought again. I got up, got my bag, and kept running.

Coming out of the lab around mile 19 I came to the miracle mile where family had written messages to motivate and get you through the tough parts. Kyle wrote "You have Iron Strength" My Mom wrote "Go Kim" or something of the like. Either way, it was awesome to see things come up that pertained to me and I thought of them waiting back in town at the finish line. I just wanted to get there (preferably as soon as possible!).

When I finally crested the hill I heard Liz cheering for me "Go Kim!!" It felt good to have someone say my name, and I pressed on. I knew these last miles would be the hardest 10k of my life, but I had done 10k's many many times before, and I wasn't backing done. The miles kept coming and I kept checking my pace. I fell of 8 minute pace at times, but I didn't care, I just tried to take it one mile at a time, repeat my routine and the aid stations and focus on catching my partner from before. My quads were defnitely ripping in two, I could feel them..."why were they so mad" I would ask myself. Then I would let it go, clear my mind, and press on again. When I saw mile 22 I was starting to really hurt, I was getting closer to Robin I could see I was reeling her in and if I could only get to mile 24 I could do ANYTHING for two miles right!!

Let me digress for a second and go back to what I started with, a discussion about pain. It is there to protect us, but I think some of us teach ourselves to deal with pain in different ways. Sometimes we can overcome, sometimes it is just too much. Running pain is like nothing I experience elsewhere. It beats you down, fills your psyche and plays with your mind. I am convinsed that in those last miles, it was the months and months of overcoming pain in training, teaching myself to deal with pain, and thinking about the many people watching me, my grandpa watching me from heaven, and me fulfilling what I was born to do were the only reasons I kept going despite the pain. I saw it in the faces of other runners, and it inspired me and reminded me that I was not even close to alone. I felt it in their labored breathing as I passed them and I wanted to tell them, we can make it, we will make it, but sometimes I was in too much pain and too focused to speak.

When mile 24 came into view it was a revelation. It was the most perfect mile 24 sign I have ever seen and I wanted to stop and kiss it. I was 10 feet from my former partner and I finally ran up along side. She told me to go ahead, she was having trouble, I told her I had been having trouble for the last 6 miles and I wasn't going anywhere, let's do this thing together if we can.

We came running down Palini hill and my quads screamed in agony. We were a little over a mile to go and I was going to finish this thing. I didn't care about place, or times, or anything else except for finishing. It's funny how your mind does that, it erodes you down to the basics. At some points you care about times, but not in those last miles, you want to finish, end of story.

I was pulling away going down hill and I wondered if Robin would respond. As we turned left onto the flat of Kuakini road, I heard her coach yelling for her to go & kick it in. She came past me with fury and I had a decision to make in that moment. I evaluated my state, and it wasn't good. I had made it this far standing, but if I started going now, with almost a full mile left, it could get ugly. Real ugly. I let her go. Those of you who know me, know how hard that was for me to do. It was a tough decision, but I decided finishing upright and smiling was the goal, and I was about to achieve it. Going now might have implications like crawling or even worst, not making it. I wasn't willing to risk it at mile 139 of a race. If this was my 100th Ironman, and I knew it was for a top 5, trust me, it would have been a different story. Not today though, today was my day to finish and that was the end of the story. Right then I heard Meridith, Lauren's sister, yell "Kim, put it in this last mile, you can break 11 hours!!" I looked down at my watch and I'll be danged, she was right 10:52! I started picking it up.

Glancing at my heart rate monitor it was 170, no worries, I was almost home. When I made the turn up ali it was like everything started to change. I was in pain but it was starting to fade, the cheers started carrying me. I was flying. Pumping my arms I was putting it all out there, it was time to bring this home. I heard the announcer and the crowds became thick on both sides. Someone yelled for me to take the sponge out of my bra which was keeping the raw skin from rubbing. Yep, didn't need that anymore, it was time to finish. The lights were blaring along both sides, the sound was rising, I was running up the ramp with a smile as big as the world. It looked like I had only run a mile the way I was moving!! This was it!! I was finishing the Ironman!! I pointed up at the sky ever so briefly to acknowledge God & my grandfather, it was instinctive. I didn't know what I would do at the finish, cry, scream, loose my mind. It was all happening, the moment I thought about forever was finally happening and in a second, with a flash of the camera, it was over. They butchered my name, but nothing mattered. The AMAZING volunteers grabbed me and all the pain came rushing back. I had just run a 3:33 marathon, and I had no idea at the time, for an overall time of 10:56, and most importantly, I finished. I am an Ironman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They walked me in to the tent and asked me how I was doing. I could barely respond it hurt so badly. I also had to go again, like now, like yesterday and there was someone in the port-o-john. This was a problem. The ladies asked if I could go to the other one. NOPE, I told them, not an option... I would never make it. After an eternity, they came out and I quickly waddled in. When I came out they suggested I get weighed. I lost 4 pounds, not a ton, but not good either. They suggested I talk to the doctors and I decided I was too tired to argue. Once they heard what had happened on the course and how weak I was, they decided an IV would probably be a good idea. Over the course of the next two hours I was given two bags of IV fluid, my legs wouldn't stop shaking and at one point I found myself in my bare feet in a port of pot having to lower myself down using my hands on the sides with a women holding my IV bag outside. I thought "this is it, this is rock bottom" I'm kind of a germ-a-phobe, and I had to laugh at my situation which was sooo not funny, and yet so funny (I know Beth enjoyed laughing about it!). I was in bad shape, I'm sure there were people in much worse. I was an Ironman, that was all that mattered and this too would pass.

Seeing my family outside the Medical tent was so awesome. They had been through so much that day and I was sorry they had to wait the extra two hours for me to get revived & treated but it was what it was. I didn't get any pictures taken in front of the backdrop wearing my medal, but I thought I would live, I just wanted to go home.

I learned so much about myself that day, and about the power of the human spirit. I saw and experienced things I never thought I would. All in all, I wouldn't have changed a thing. I had good times, and tough times and rock bottom low times. I gutted it out, just like everyone else out there, and I did what I came to do. I was so thankful to be safe, and with my family.

The next day was hobbling around, eating a little food and trying to get back to "normal" and Monday was beach day with the whole crew. It was amazing. We played in the water and chatted about the day's events. Thank you so much for watching me during the day, and thinking of me, and praying for me, and rooting for me and believing in me. You guys are so wonderful and you helped me make it to the finish. You were part of my journey every step of the way, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

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