26.2 mile RUN: 6:35:41 / FINISH: 16:17:48
"It's 4:45pm and I am on the RUN course of Ironman," should have been all I could think as I crossed the timing mat that signified my transition from T2 to the RUN. But the truth is that all I really cared about was finding a Port-O-Potty before I got to the business of running. Thankfully there were several just outside of the RUN timing mat so I took my much needed break and then headed out on to the run course.
I passed Jim and Cathy and shared the "Mile 109 Flat Tire" story and I could see the look of relief cross Jim's face to see that it was a mechanical that held held me up and not a nutrition problem. I smiled for Jim's camera, gave Cathy some thumbs-up for her COW BELL and made my way onto the run course to start my marathon.
My goal was to run 5/1 intervals. Run 5 minutes/walk 1 minute until I could no longer manage and adjust from there. Early on, I decided that 6:00 hours was my magic Marathon number. 1:30 per 6.5 mile leg of the out and back course. For the first 13.1 miles, I kept that pace dead-on. Keeping my stride short and quick and I got lots of compliments from on-lookers and fellow racers on how STRONG and GOOD I looked. All I could do is laugh in my head because I knew that I looked "STRONG and GOOD" because I was only on my first lap and surrounded by much faster athletes who were struggling on their second laps.
The biggest and best surprise of the race day came just before Mile 3 of the Marathon. As I eased onto Red Cross Street to head downhill, I saw a Mint-Green Honda Element crossing the street. When I saw that car, my first thought was "I will have to tell my friend Keri that somebody in Wilmington, NC has the same color Honda Element that she does" and it was at that moment that the passenger of that car stuck her head out the window and yelled "GO HOLLY!"
I was flabbergasted and laughed. My friends Keri and Greg drove 6-hours down to Wilmington to cheer me on at Beach2Battleship! Since Keri had already made the LONG trip to Lake Placid in July to cheer me on at IM USA, I never expected or even thought of asking her to come to this event. Keri, Greg and my husband Jim coordinated this surprise behind my back and it was a WONDERFUL SURPRISE!
I was so lucky to get the chance to HUG both my sister Heather and my fiend Linae as they passed me on the Run course and I know they were both relieved to see that I had made it to the RUN. I saw Linae at about Mile 4/9 and she was looking good to me but little did I know that she was starting to suffer some significant achilles pain. She gave me a big hug and never said a word about how she was hurting. Then about Mile 5.5/21.5 I saw my sister Heather. She was on her last 4.5 miles of the Marathon and she was looking good and we gave each other BIG hugs and kisses and I told her "Go FINISH strong! I'll meet you at the Finish Line myself in 21 miles!."
At around Mile 10, I began to notice that I was having problems keeping my 5/1 intervals and was resorting to 1 minute rest breaks in the middle of the 5 minute RUN so I adjusted my watch and switched to 2 minute RUN / 1 minute WALK. By making this shift early on, I was able to keep my pace up around 13:30 per mile through to the 13.1 mile mark and Special Needs.
There I stopped and got my gloves, grabbed a can of RED BULL from my bag and started my second lap. I was having to walk more of the climbs on the second half of the course but I was able to resume my running once I was on more level ground. By the second lap, I was clearly slowing down and I just stayed focused on running my 2-minute intervals and power walking the breaks and getting under 15:00 for each mile. As long as I was under 15:00, I was keeping a good buffer of time between myself and the 17:00 mark.
My "Smiley Face" because every Marathon needs some humor!
The entire marathon, I kept my focus on the MILES, knocking them out - one at a time - not thinking about the FINISH LINE or THE RACE CLOCK except as they related to that magic "15:00."
I saw my friends and family on Water Street outside of the Hilton at Mile 16 and they gave me the BEST CHEERS AND COW BELLS! It made me giddy and I totally soaked up the energy and gave them all "low fives" as I jogged passed them. The smile from that moment stayed on my face for the next mile - until the bottom of the next hill. LOL
I hit Mile 19.5 and the last time at the "turn around" at 9:40pm and as I looked at my watch, that is when it hit me fully for the first time. I had a 2.4 hours to go just 6.7 miles - "This is really going to happen! I am going to to be an IRONMAN!" It was exciting to realize but made myself quickly put the thought away. I still had 6.7 miles and ANYTHING could happen between now and then. Now was not the time to lose focus especially since it was getting harder and harder to run for 2 minutes.
Those last 6.7 miles, I struggled but I knew I wasn't struggling alone. Everybody who was on that course, many of whom were still headed for the 19.5 mile turn around - was doing whatever they could to keep moving. The AID Stations were great and they would cheer and yell and get whatever you needed. I stuck to water, a GU at the top of every hour and lovely salty Chicken Broth and that worked out well for me. But my left achilles was beginning to ache considerably and I was walking more than I was running.
Miles 21-23 were the first 16:00 miles that I saw that night and they scared me a little. I knew I couldn't help but slow down because I didn't want to risk injuring my achilles and not be able to even walk but I really wanted to finish the race with PLENTY of TIME on the race clock. So I just kept trying to run, as much as my left achilles and my aching quads would allow. 30 seconds of running, 1 minute of walking - 20 seconds of running - 30 seconds of walking all while saying "Just Keep GOING!"
When I got back to the Hilton for the last time, the crowds on Water Street were pretty thin - and then I heard the COW BELLS! It was my family and friends and they were screaming and cheering and ringing those damn bells and THAT is when it really hit me. I was at Mile 23 of the Marathon of my first 140.6 distance triathlon and it was only 10:30pm. I WAS GOING TO BECOME AN IRONMAN!
I pumped my fist in the air and I somehow found some energy to run past my friend and family and I yelled out "I'll meet you at the F*@*#&$G Finish Line!" or so I am told. I thought I said "G-D Finish Line" but that is not how anybody else remembers it! LOL
"I'll meet you at the F*@*#&$G Finish Line!"
Then next 3 miles were tough but I was running/walking on a cloud. My achilles was aching but I just wanted to get to the finish so I just kept moving on. In the last 6.5 miles I passed 4 people on the run course - that is how determined I was.
The last 2 miles of the course took me up and over two bridges. It was pitch black and deserted except for the Volunteers who were still pumped and cheering and wonderfully supportive. As I hobbled down hill on the last bridge and took a left into Battleship Park, I was actually "Thankful" for the quiet. I hobbled the last half mile and then a volunteer came up next to me and quietly said "You see those lights up there? That is the Finish Chute. Just 2/10th of a mile to your FINISH, Congratulations Ironman."
That's when I found the energy to RUN - not hobble but RUN. And as I came closer and got near the lights, I heard the yells and the screams and the COW BELL and I heard the race announcer saying "I'm told we have Holly Shoemaker turning the corner and approaching the FINISH CHUTE and Hey, there goes our entire cheering section - I'm need to see this...." and around the corner I came and there on the LEFT were all my friends and family - Linae, Shawn, Ron, Keri, Greg, Cathy...and as I crossed the finish line, I followed the advice of one of my TRI-DEAD friends and I made sure to look up! To see that FINISH and I raised my arms in the air - I did it! I DID IT!
16:17:48 - I AM AN IRONMAN!!
My sister Heather actually caught the FINISH on Video and posted it to the end of her own Race Report: HERE!
I AM AN IRONMAN!
Heather and Jim were on the other side of the Finish Line and as the Volunteers wrapped me in a mylar blanket, congratulated me and hung a finish line medal around my neck and gave me a Finishers Shirt- all I did was search for Jim. I saw him first and I smile and he hugged me and we kissed quickly and then I turned and there was Heather and we hugged and then I was surrounded by Cathy and all my friends! It was much less spectacle than I would have experienced at IM USA but in that moment, I was with the people who I loved and the people who really understood how much went into this finish and IT WAS PERFECT!
And that is the VERY LONG race report for a VERY LONG race.
And YES, I have to say it...
LIFE is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!