A Note from Fatty: A huge thanks to everyone who has sent me their stories from the 100 Miles of Nowhere. I’m going to be spending time today compiling my favorites, and posting them tomorrow. I’ll be putting a new story up every hour or three, so each one I post will have at least a little while as the lead story. In other words, tomorrow will be a good day to check back often.
Another Note from Fatty: As I was posting Parts One, Two and Three of my Ironman story, a lot of you — along with me — were asking for The Runner’s take on the day.
So here’s her story; it’s a good one. Enjoy!
Back in the spring of 2000, I was vacationing on the beautiful big island of Hawaii when the Ironman seed was planted. I had never done a triathlon and the furthest I had run was 22 miles, in a failed attempt to train for the St. George marathon. As I walked the beaches of Kona, looking out at the ocean where the IM competetors would swim and drove down the the Queen Ka’ahumanu highway and saw the occasional cyclist on the lone stretch of windy road, something clicked.
I wanted to experience this for myself.
Shortly after returning from Hawaii, my life took a turn. My husband was sick and unemployed. I had to find employment and try and keep my family life in some type of order. Ironman triathlon training was not in my realm of thinking. It was all I could do to just keep me and my family above water.
At this time my good friend and training partner Lynette started competing in Ironman Races. She would travel all over the world doing IM races in exotic foreign countries. When I wasn’t working, I would train on the bike and run with her. I would do “brick” workouts with her. I felt like I was training for my own Ironman.
My Ironman at this time in my life were the trials that I was enduring. As the years passed, my life returned to “normal.” Exercise had saved me. It was my escape from the realities of my world.
In April of 2009, I received a phone call from Lynette, informing me that Ironman was coming to St George. Here was my chance! I would never have the money to go somewhere exotic to compete in an Ironman. How could I pass up the opportunity to do an Ironman in my own backyard?
I somehow managed to scrape up the $550 and clicked YES on the internet registration form! I was in and committed. I had 13months to train.
Not a problem, right? I had successfully completed the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race four times, completed the 200+-mile LOTOJA cycling race, ran in a dozen or so half marathons and one full marathon. Along the way, I had also completed several sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. I had little doubt that I could finish the bike and run.
But the swim? That was a different matter.
Like many runners, I started swimming when I was recovering from a running injury. This was quite the feat when you consider that I didn’t know how to swim at all.
In the beginning, it was a chore to even swim one length of the pool. Thanks goes out to my friends Bry Christensen and Jilene Mecham for their patience with me in the pool in those early years. Needless to say, I never became much of a swimmer. I could swim forever, but I could never go very fast–I was the energizer bunny of the swimming world.
I knew my swimming needed some serious work. So in October of 2009, I joined Golds Gym and began swimming 3 times a week at 0500. I would have to be to work by 0700. Now that shows dedication… Getting up at that awful hour to do something you hate! Sadly to say, I never really got any better at swimming. My swim time only got slightly better after 7 months of training! In retrospect, I probably should have hired a swim coach.
After Fatty and I got engaged, I ramped up my Ironman training. One weekend in January, we had gone to St. George to try out the bike and run course. It was on the run course that Fatty made that ominous statement–the statement that would change the course of his training over the next several months: “pfff….this ironman training isn’t very tough. What’s all the fuss about? Anyone could do an Ironman!”
Within days of that post, the Timex rep contacted Fatty, offering him a slot in Ironman-challenging Fatty to practice what he was preaching! Being an awesome fiancé, Fatty wanted to know what I thought: would I rather have him cheering me on the sidelines or competing along side me? What a sweetheart.
I, without a doubt, wanted him by my side (relatively speaking), suffering with me!
St. George Ironman
Now for the story that you had asked for…
Saturday, May 1, 2010 started early…0315 to be exact. I awoke from the best pre- race night of sleep I’ve ever had. One quarter Ambien was the bomb! The reason why Fatty couldn’t do his “business” in the bathroom prior to leaving the motel was quite possibly because I was in the bathroom all morning; I have no problems with pre race pooping. Just say the words, “Swim…Bike… or Run” and my overactive bowels kick in.
As we boarded the buses, my thoughts and fears were centered on the swim. Actually those fears had permeated every fiber of my being for the past 13 months and had now had come to a head. I was a wreck and had been for days. In fact, the last thing I said to my coworkers as I left work on Wednesday, was that I hoped I wouldn’t drown. It sounds overly dramatic, but I was serious.
And if I didn’t drown, would I make it out of the water before the cutoff? 2:20 to swim 2.4 miles…could I do it? After all, the last time I swam 2.4 miles in the pool, It had taken me 1:50.
I know from past experience in open water swims that I tend to panic and hyperventilate; during one of my previous triathlons, a man on a kayak came up to me and asked me if I was okay. Of course I was okay, I had said. What might have given him the idea that something was wrong–the gasping for air and the frantic doggy paddling I was doing?
Would I panic today when the cold water hit me? Should I add 20 minutes on to my 110 minute projected swim time for a panic attack? That would put my time at 2hrs and 10 minutes.
And what about swimming in a straight line? The lane lines on the bottom of the pool are monotonous and boring….but they keep me swimming straight. During another swim portion of a previous triathlon, a man on a kayak had to chase me down; tapping me on the shoulder with his oar, he told me I needed to turn around…I was swimming in the wrong direction! After redirecting myself, he chased me down again and told me I was still off course! Uuggh!
How much time would I need to add for swimming in the wrong direction? Would I even make it to the bike and run portions? Do you understand the fear and anxiety that I was experiencing?
Fatty tried to sympathize with me, but since he has little experience in triathlon swimming he hardly understood. All he would tell me was I would be fine; The Aqua Sphere wet suit would carry me through the swim.
Through the entire training process, I have always been a little jealous of Fatty’s swimming ability. The first time he got in the pool, he was able to swim a mile! He kept up with me and wasn’t even breathless! I knew Fatty would do fine! I also knew he loved the idea of the wetsuit and how it made him so sleek and fast–like a super hero, I think he said.
But the wetsuit didn’t make me feel like a super hero; it made me feel like a sausage in sausage casing!
As we pushed our way through the crowd of triathletes dressed in wetsuits, I struggled to put my neoprene swim cap on. My friend Angie looked over and laughed at me….she said I had put in on wrong. I thanked her, took it off and put it on again. Fatty then informed me that I still had it on wrong.
Boy, was I thankful I had that funny-looking neoprene hat that I didn’t know how to put on, though. The water was 58 degrees, after all.
When we finally got to the water’s edge, no one was getting in. What the heck? Didn’t they know it’s better to get in and get acclimated?
I dragged Fatty into the water and we swam out to the start line. We positioned ourselves in the back and hung on to a kayak. It was an incredible experience to see almost 2000 people, most of them running down the boat ramp, entering the water and starting to swim. After a few minutes, I looked over at Fatty, gave him a quick kiss, told him I loved him, wished him luck and started swimming
After taking several strokes, I looked up to see Fatty’s purple cap way out in front of me. That was the last time in many, many hours that I would see him. I knew he was off to a terrific start!
My swim was actually uneventful, which is good. I never panicked. My breathing stayed nice and calm. I only got kicked and hit a few times, nothing scary or catastrophic.
As for swimming straight, that was a different story. I would zig-zag from the buoys to the boats. Nothing too dramatic–the man on the kayak never had to chase me down.
I was swimming with a pack of people. It was a bigger pack at first and quickly dwindled as the faster swimmers pulled away. I didn’t feel like I was the last person in the water, because there was always a person swimming near me. My fear of not making the cutoff faded.
Then, as I was making the final turn of the swim leg and I could see the boat ramp ahead of me, the leg cramps set in. My calves and my feet were very unhappy. I tried to flex my feet and legs and push against the cramps, but then my kicking became erratic. As I was coming into the boat ramp, my left foot curled up into a claw-like position.
I was glad it was over. I don’t know how much more I could have taken. The cramps were definitely becoming worse!
As I stumbled up the boat ramp, I was confused. Where was I supposed to go? What was I supposed to do? I walked up to a man with a helpful look on his face and just stood there. I had forgotten how to speak. He was kind enough to help unzip me. He was a little leary of pulling down my wet suit. In retrospect, I think he was scared he might pull off everything I had on.
Thank heavens the wetsuit came off and the bikini stayed on. I hate to say it, but I don’t think I would have cared or noticed at that moment if it had come off.
As I exited the water, I did notice the gigantic clock on the boat ramp with my time on it. I don’t know how Fatty could have missed it. He must have been a little delirious too. My time was 1:36. Awesome! I was way ahead of my projected swim time, and I was alive!
My brother and son were there, yelling encouragement. They informed me that Fatty was only about 20 minutes ahead of me! Twenty minutes?! He must be having a fantastic day!
As I was handed my T1 bag by a very helpful volunteer, I realized how cold I was. My hands had no dexterity. I was still slightly confused as I dumped out my bag of stuff.
I immediately grabbed my Fat Cyclist bib shorts and DZ nuts and headed for an outhouse. Once inside that stinky, dirty, and very small building I realized I was sopping wet and very cold! I was quite the sight, I’m sure, balanced over that stinky hole in the toilet, trying to put DZ Nuts on my chamois in my lycra shorts and then pull them up over my very wet butt with my very numb hands!
I eventually succeeded, exited that small building, put on my Fat Cyclist jersey and attempted to put on my arm warmers. I might add that was very hard to do too with numb hands and wet arms. I didn’t even try to put on my cycling gloves over my clawlike hands.
As I was finishing my ordeal of dressing, another swimmer came and sat down by me. A volunteer was wrapping a blanket around her. Her lips were blue and she was shaking uncontrollably. That’s when I realized that some people were really suffering from the cold water swim. I sang a quick praise to the people of Aqua Sphere for their awesome wetsuits, and another to Lynette for suggesting we buy neoprene swim caps.
I would later find out I was the 1500th person out of the water. Nineteen hundred swimmers had started. That meant there were only 400 people left in the water.
Which meant I had the potential to pass a lot of people on the bike.
As I hopped on my bike I had a huge smile on my face. I had survived the swim and was now on my bike, and I felt fantastic.
The first 40 miles felt great. I was constantly in the “fast” lane, passing people. I must have hurt a lot of egos that day with my age — 42 — tattooed on my calf and a “Fat Cyclist” jersey on my back as I passed men of all ages and sizes.
At mile 52 I pulled into the “special needs” station. I had been looking forward to sitting down, eating my subway sandwich and drinking my Mountain Dew.
As I pulled up to the lady holding out my bag, I stopped and tried to unclip from my bike. Thank heavens my right foot unclipped or that poor lady would have been doing more volunteering then she had expected in the form of being a cushion for my fall. My left foot wouldn’t unclip. I looked down at my foot and realized my cleat was still clipped into the pedal, but my shoe was coming off my clip!
I was worried I might break the cleat completely off the shoe. Then I would have been in a real pickle! So I remained clipped in, while standing on one leg and trying to open my bag and extract my sandwich.
Needless to say I was a little shaky.
The volunteer was nice and tried to hold me up right while I negotiated my sandwich. After taking a bite, I realized how stupid I must look…dah…take off your shoe, Lisa, and sit down. So that is what I did.
A nice man helped me remove my foot from the shoe and I sat on the road and ate my sandwich. As I looked around, I realized I was the only one sitting and eating. Those crazy people…didn’t they realize they have 50+ miles to go on the bike and then a marathon to run? Why don’t they stop and rest a minute? Are they trying to win, or finish?
The sandwich was a little dry, but the Mountain Dew tasted fantastic, and so did the Cheetos. As I was preparing to leave, I realized my water bottles were just about empty. I thought this “special needs area” would be an aid station with Gatorade and water.
So I decided to feel my water bottle with Mountain Dew (bad idea?), then I had the nice volunteers help me get my shoe on and my butt back on the seat, and I was off!!
The descent into St George and into the second loop of the course was fast and fantastic. The wind was at my back. I got into a nice tuck and was flying. My speeds were often in excess of 45mph. But for some reason, those TT bikes would still go sailing past me like I was standing still. As I was descending and resting my legs, I wondered if I should have taken that break after all. I had plenty of time to rest my legs before the 2nd loop started.
The start of the 2nd loop was good. I could tell I was a little more tired and a little slower. As I went through the park in Ivins the wind started to pick up. I thought to myself, “This could be real bad. Oh well, at least I got one loop done without much wind.”
On the other hand, I was still passing people. The people that could catch me were nice and we chatted briefly. (?)
Then, at mile 80, I felt a funny twinge in my stomach that quickly turned into pain. Every time I took a breath, it felt like a knife was being jabbed into my rib cage. Oh crap. How will I ever be able to run with two knives jabbing into my belly?
Over the next few miles, the pain intensified. I tried to take slow deep inhales with long exhales. The pain felt like a double side ache. I actually felt like I was blowing up like a huge balloon.
Where was all this gas coming from? The Mountain Dew? The Shot Bloks? The Pro Bars? The Subway? The fruit snacks? I had to get rid of this gas or I was going to explode!
Then I remembered I had GAS-X in my jersey pocket. I had read an article on Wednesday before the race that said GAS-X is a must for triathletes to help aid in stomach discomfort that they can experience during the event. I actually laughed. I’ve never suffered from stomach problems in any of my training runs or events. My friends and I actually have a tradition of running 8 miles to our favorite bakery, eating hot, greasy apple fritters and drinking mountain dew before running back the 8 miles home. I’ve never gotten sick from that; I actually am faster on the way home.
But while I was packing I found some GAS-X in my medicine cabinet and because of the article, I threw it in my bag. Lucky I did.
As I pulled up to the aid station in Gunlock, I pulled out the GAS-X and took the two that I had with me, as well as 800mg of Ibuprofen. The gas subsided a little as I proceeded up the two big climbs on the ride.
As I made the final descent into St George, the gas had eased off significantly. When I took a deep breath, I know longer felt like I was being stabbed with daggers. The pain was still there, but tolerable. My problem was that I was scared to eat or drink anything! I was scared that it might bring the gas back with a vengeance.
But it’s not a good idea to not fuel before the last leg of an Ironman, either.
As I made the last turn off of Bluff Street onto Diagonal Street, I saw Fatty. He had a big smile on his face and he looked great. I still had a few miles left on the bike and I still needed to transition, and Fatty was 2.5 miles into the marathon! I would never catch him!
The T2 transition went smoothly. A nice volunteer helped me take my shoe — the one still stuck in the pedal — off and took my bike. I took my time changing. The gas pains were returning , so I took a few more GAS-X that I had in my transition bag. I also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my bag, so I took that with me for the road.
When I left the changing tent and started running, I saw my brother and son. I ran over to them and hugged them. It was so nice to see them, and their hugs energized me!
While I was running to the first aid station I attempted to eat my PBJ sandwich. I had the same problem Fatty did: the peanut butter got stuck in my mouth. Needless to say, the PBJ sandwich ended up in the first garbage can I came to!
The first few miles were slow. I felt like I was running with lead legs. My goal was to run a mile and walk a minute. I quickly changed my aspirations to “run when I can, walk when I can’t.”
The aid stations were phenomenal! There was a rock band at one, loud 80s music being blasted from another. All the volunteers were fantastic!
As I started to climb the hill at Red Hills Pkwy, Lynette’s daughter Mckenzie was there cheering me on. She was fantastic. She ran part way up the hill with me, encouraging me every step! I asked if she had any Tums she could spare; I was a quickly expanding balloon. She didn’t have any, but said she thought her dad, Cory, did. I started searching for Cory in the returning runners. My stomach was beginning to balloon out again.
Then, when I reached the top of this particular hill, a funny thing happened: I farted.
I was embarrassed at first, hoping no one had heard it, but the relief I got was amazing. I have never been so happy to fart in my life. I apologized to anyone I passed and passed gas by!
As I descended down to mile five, I ran by my son and brother again. This time they were holding up signs and cheering me on! I love you Guys; you rock!
Right after I passed them, I saw Fatty coming the other way. He was still looking strong and still about 3 miles ahead of me! We gave each other a quick peck on the cheek and professed our undying love for each other and kept running! I also explained quickly to him why his wife looked liked the Goodyear Blimp, but that I thought I had found a solution and that I prayed the condition was only temporary! He looked relieved.
Right after seeing Fatty, I passed Cory. He didn’t have any Tums with him, but he had some in his special needs bag. I asked him to grab me a couple. At this time he was only about a mile ahead of me.
As I ran/walked past my brother and son for the second time, they decided to join me on the trek up the next hill. It was so nice. I explained my gut problem and how the GAS-X was helping, but I didn’t have any more. They said they would run to the store and buy me some for the next time around. What guardian angels they are.
As I descended into St George to start my second lap, I could hear the announcer calling out finishers’ names! How sick and wrong to do that to us poor slow people! It was demoralizing to a degree, but at the same time, I knew the end was in sight…only 2+ hours of running left.
As I came to the turn-around point to start the last thirteen miles of the run, I was able to get a few more GAS-X from my special needs bag. I quickly downed them. I then caught Cory who also gave me a few Tums! Within a mile, I felt better. I actually picked up the pace and started passing people again.
As I came upon my brother and son, I was running strong. I told them I didn’t need the GAS-X at the moment; I was feeling good. They informed me that Fatty was only a few minutes ahead of me! wow…could I actually catch him?
At the turn around point at mile 20, Fatty was leaving it and I was entering it. I yelled for him to slow down so I could catch him. It didn’t really look like it was going to be a problem since he was walking.
The Final Six Miles
Fatty and I had spent months speculating on how we wanted the Ironman to end. In our dreams we would meet up around the half way point on the marathon and finish together. And here we were at mile 20 and together. It sounds like a sappy love story with a happy ending and that is exactly what happened.
The last 6 miles could have been horrible, the demons might have showed their ugly faces, but it didn’t happen. We walked when we had to, we ran when we could. When we came upon my brother and son, they accompanied us on our trek up the hill.
We laughed, I farted, we had almost made it. What a fantastic Ironman experience.
As we crossed the finish line together, I couldn’t fight back a gigantic smile! Elden and I had accomplished what we had set out to do. We had trained hard and we exceeded all our expectations.
We fought this battle and had won!
I’m sure Elden and I will have more mountains to climb, but together we can do anything! I love you Elden and I’m so proud of you!