In the transition tent, I change out of bike gear and into running gear. The last thing to go on: my shoes. A pair of Hoka Bondi 2s. Well broken in, trained in, with socks I’ve trained in. Of three models of shoes I used in training, I had no issues with these. And I wore them on my longest training runs. That is why they were selected as the marathon shoes.
I walked out of transition ready for my 30-90 run-walk ratio, which would give me a 6:15 to 6:30 marathon. This is where my training was, and I’ve learned do not try and do more than where you are.
The first mile has a few short up-hill sections right at Tempe Town Lake, not bad, but I could feel it.
I also felt a weird sensation, pain in my left foot at the arch. So I took a quick stop to make sure there wasn’t an issue. The shoe was on right, the sock was smooth, but I could feel this pressure on my left arch. Nothing I could do about it, so on I went.
One of the hardest parts of a triathlon for me, mentally is the start of the run. I swam a bit better than mid pack for my age group. I biked just under mid pack. But I run much slower. Which means just about everyone I come off the bike with goes right by me. But I stayed with my plan. I could feel that tight tension in my quads by mile four. When I ran I focused on engaging my glutes and hips to take some pressure off the quads. It usually works. It wasn’t helping much here.
Assessing where I was, at mile six, I was going to have two main issues over the last 20 miles. One my quads were getting very grumpy, and two, my left foot was really starting to get uncomfortable.
Despite this, I kept up with a slow version of my 30-90 split and trudged through the halfway point about 3:15. I say about as my Garmin dropped out a few times going under bridges.
Right after the half way point is special needs. I called out my number and picked up two small bottles of pickle juice and my headlamp. I stopped again to check on that left foot. Still could not see anything causing the discomfort/pressure. But it was there, and getting worse. I decided to walk mile 13-14 and take it easy over those small hills on this two lap course.
I resumed my ratio at mile 14 and had a couple of decent miles. But at mile 16, almost right at the marker, I simply could not run. For the next 10.2 miles I walked. I tried to go into a run three or four times, and never got more than four to five strides. It was, in short a death march. Every step my left foot screamed, my quads groaned, and now my back was hurting too. Probably from compensation for the foot and quads. Oh, yeah, and the knees started to ache.
I tried to keep smiling. When 10-time Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington was asked why she always had a smile, she said it makes it hurt less. She is right, but smiling took energy too. So I tried. I tried to thank the volunteers at aid stations, and keep my humor. I did math, multiplying double digit numbers to keep the mind off the pain.
Mile 20. Just a 10K to go. You are almost there. You’ve got this. It’s all downhill from here. If you’ve done any kind of race you have heard well - meaning volunteers, spectators, and even other competitors say these things. When you are in a slow walk 6.2 miles is an eternity. I do NOT want the hear this. And it continues. Just five to go. You look great. No, I don’t. I look awful. It takes an insane amount of effort just to move my leg forward. But forward we go. Off the bike I had a great chance for a PR time. At mile 22.5 my PR time was gone. Finally, mile 25. The longest mile in the history of man. Oh, I know a mile is 5,280 feet. But this mile defies logic. It seems never ending. It goes and goes and goes. Finally, I can hear Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman. Telling person after person they are an Ironman. Dammit, that gets me emotional. I can’t figure it out, but there is something about finishing an Ironman. I mean, I get it for your first. I was confused why it happened on my second. I really didn’t expect it on number three, but there it was. Maybe because the run, death march was so hard, and I still got through? Maybe the joy on so many first timers? Maybe the nice guy I shared some miles with that was on number eight, Ironman being his new vice, five years sober. I told him, that was way more impressive than the Ironman! Great job dude, wish I got your name.
Well, there it is, the finishing chute. Try to run, you’ve got to run through the finish. Somehow I managed a pathetic jog, and went through the finish. And for the third time in my life, Mike Reilly called out: STEVE SMART YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!! I will not lie, I love that. Almost 16 hours. My slowest Ironman thanks to the death march. But hearing that, makes it worth it.
I am an Ironman. Again. For the last ten miles I really was thinking maybe this should be my last full Ironman. But the finish is magical. And I’m planning on what one I’ll do next.
Many, many years ago when I was really into bowling, there was a tournament known as the Peterson Classic. It was held at a dump known as Archer 35th Recreation on Chicago’s south side. In a less than desirable neighborhood. The tournament was intentionally insanely hard. Great bowlers would leave shaking their heads with scores they hadn’t shot since they were little kids. And there was a sign up that said, Mr. Peterson This is the next to last time I’ll ever bowl in your tournament. I think the Ironman is a lot like that. This is the next to last time I’ll ever do that to myself.
Next: Undecided. Evaluate. Must....lose....weight....
Next: Undecided. Evaluate. Must....lose....weight....