Friday, August 31, 2012

Ironman Louisville 2012 Race Recap Part 2- How I got there

It may have been a shock to some of my followers for me to have completed an Ironman this year.  I really didn't blog about it aside from a mention here or there about completing a century ride as a prerequisite, and I didn't sign up until 5 weeks out from the race.  I didn't follow an official training plan, so how did this happen? 

I feel like this race was the cumination of both a lot of hard work, and things working out extremely favorably for me, as well as a huge amount of friends who were doing the race this year who I could rely on for training assistance and on course support.

I have always thought it would be cool to do an Ironman.  I thought I would never do one because I couldn't swim and was terrified of the water.  Well, in 2009, I did my first tri, and realized that while I am a terrible swimmer, CAN'T has nothing to do with it.  I was training with lots of athletes who had completed Iron distance races, and they seemed so busy with their training.  I had thought this would be the perfect thing for me to work on that first year that Soren was in full day kindergarten, and chose a race that was early, so that I could train through the school year, and race either right at the end of the year, or be already into my taper when school let out for the summer.  That meant that IMKY wouldn't really be an option.  Since it is at the end of the summer, I would need to do the bulk of my training when I have both kids out of school all day and Ryan is in full riding season.  I attended the 2011 IMKY, and was overwhelmed with how awesome it was.  I wanted to do it.  I selected a race, St George 2015, and that would be my race.   With its timing, I thought maybe I could maintain a level of fitness throughout the summer and even do IMKY a few months later.  I asked a couple IM coaches about this, and it seemed plausible.  It just seemed wrong to live so close to the race course and not do it.  Ryan wasn't completely opposed to it, since it was so far out.  That would be the plan, and I would be patient like I was with getting to Boston (that took 8 years).  I could wait a few years, right?  I started training for Boston, and was plenty happy with that.  Running makes me very happy, and I was getting to live my dream.  I couldn't be happier.  I was swimming 3x/wk and doing trainer rides up until taper time.

It got to be spring and friends here were training for IM already.  Erin was running with me doing training for TX.  Cristina was getting signed up for Louisville.  My neighbor Jennifer was talking about how cool it would be to just train for an IM and sign up at the last minute once she was ready.  I couldn't agree more, but didn't know how that would work since they sell out so fast all the time.  My training was going perfectly, and I felt really strong.  I was thinking I would maybe PR even.  I went out to Boston, and while it was an amazing experience and an opportunity to live my dream, the heat caused me to slow down.  I finished with a personal worst, but tried to not be too hard on myself.  I finished, and lots of people didn't.  It was the fulfillment of a dream, so that was very cool and exciting too.  I signed up for the Derby half hoping to at least run a fast half as a result of all my hard work, but it was too soon.  I was pretty fast, but still no elusive 1:37 or even a PR.  I wasn't rested enough, and was again being hard on myself, but tried not to get too down.

I switched gears to triathlon training.  Ryan and I had planned 2 cycling tours, the Horsey Hundred and the Michigan Mountain Mayhem, with Kent and Valerie.  I was going to do the 75 mile ride of the Horsey Hundred, and the 65 mile ride of the MMM.  That would prepare me well for Muncie, I thought.  Then I learned that St George would not have a full Ironman after this year.  I wasn't terribly worried about it, figuring that I am sure there would be more options in a few years with the popularity of the sport growing and races selling out so quickly. 

On my first 50 mile ride of the season, I had initially planned to do an iamtri ride that rockstar Amy and Alan were coming down from MI to do.  Erin and I had also talked about riding together, but she overslept.  After a comedy of errors with road closures due to construction and a walk event, I missed the ride, but my time spent driving around gave Erin enough time to get ready, and we had a great ride in IN.  That night, I went out to dinner with Amy and Alan.  Amy made mention of how her sister was signed up, and hadn't been training.  Hmm.  What exactly did she mean by "not been training".  We talked about what it would take, a century ride, and several 80-90 miles rides.  The gears started turning.  Amy told me about long swims and just told me to train like I would for a marathon for the run since I already knew how to do that.

I completed a very hot Horsey Hundred with Valerie.  I even ran a mile afterwards.  It went great.  Two weeks later I had the MMM.  I went through lots of internal debate on what distance to do.  I think I even posted about it.  I upgraded my distance from the 100K to the 160K.  It would be a full century plus some, with a burley elevation gain.  If I could do that, maybe I could do the IM.  There were still spots available, which blew my mind!  I felt like it was calling to me.  I completed the MMM and had a blast.  It was hard, but I was so glad I did it.  Ryan asked if I felt like running a marathon after, and I made the mistake of saying, "no". 

I continued to train and prepare for Muncie.  Slots were still available for the IM.  I asked Ryan about it, and we didn't have the money.  We had started a kitchen remodel based on our tax refund that we still hadn't received in full.  My neighbor had gotten the green light to sign up, and the weekend after MMM she invited me to do an 80 mile ride with her and Terri.  I bailed on it.  I did 44 miles.  After the MMM, I was toast, and my tri bike came away rather damaged, and had been left in MI.  We got hailed on, and at that point, I stopped, and went back to the car.  I am thankful that I did, because I was able to rescue Ryan from a barn where he and his group were shivering in the cold from a very close thunderstorm.  Water streamed over the roads.  Jennifer finished her ride due to riding away from the storm while Ryan was going into it.  More training.  Ryan and I had a discussion that we could revisit the IM after Muncie.  I stopped bothering him about it.  If it was still open and we were OK on funds, I could do it, but I didn't tell anyone.  I consulted with many of my friends who were training for it or had completed it, and they thought I was on track.

When I arrived at Muncie and learned that the race had been shortened, I was devasted.  I needed this day not only to finally break 6 hours, but to show Ryan that I was on the right track to getting to the IM.  I cried to the woman at the "solutions" tent about how I hated the OLY distance, and that this wasn't going to help me show my readiness, OR be the training race that I needed it to be to be able to sign up for IM.  I had a decent race, with an awesome bike pace, and a decent swim.  My run was just OK.  My pace was still what it would have been had the race been the full distance, I felt.  Oh well.  It was still fun.  I thought about racing again the following weekend at a local 70.3.  Ryan was not amused since he wanted to have the day to ride since Muncie caused him to skip.  I was exhausted when we got home, and couldn't eat much.  My temperature felt all out of whack, and I was freezing in the house.  I thought maybe I had gotten so used to the hot temps that I couldn't stand the air conditioning.  I went to church the next day and still didn't feel better, in fact, I felt worse, and had a fever.  We had the final stage of our kitchen remodel set for Monday, planned to be on a day off, and I was thankful for that.  I felt miserable.  Tuesday, I took the kids to swimming lessons, but by that afternoon, I was not functional and went to the dr.  I saw Ryan's doctor, who was also a triathlete.  I was diagnosed with strep, and sent home with an antibiotic.  Wednesday, I woke up, and was not functional.  I couldn't stand without my chest being in pain, and was crawling around with two screaming hungry kids and I had to call Ryan to come home before he had even arrived at work.  He took the kids to swimming lessons while I slept.  I woke up and felt even worse!  I took my temp, and it was 102.7!  WOW! Adults don't run temps that high.  I called my dr's office, and they wanted to see me.  I drove myself so that we were all not there and I was re-diagnosed with pneumonia.  NO!  I had told my doctor that I was training for the IM, and he felt like this shouldn't discourage me, although it did.  It would have been super easy to just be done for the summer.  There were times that I thought I was.  I was so upset.  There is nothing worse than having a dream taken away.  I had felt like I was so close, and then this happened.  I had to take over a week off of everything.  It just made me want it more.  I was determined to not let this derail me, as it easily could have.  My first workout back was a long swim, 1.5 miles.  I did some running, and a shorter ride over the weekend.  It was hard, but I felt like the rest had been beneficial.  I would just plug along and see what I could get accomplished, and then see if there were spots.  Things were ramping up nicely.

I was talking with Cristina on the phone and she mentioned that there were less than 50 spots left.  Really?  Ryan and I had a talk.  We looked at the funds.  There were none.  I went to bed that night and prayed that our missing money would show up before the IM sold out.  I had just felt like one of those spots should be for me!  I called my mom and she agreed to give me an advance on my Christmas present, but it wasn't enough.  I went about my day the next day, still pushing on.   I went to my mailbox after all the errands, and low and behold, was the missing money!  I burst into tears in my driveway and jumped up and down!  I offered prayers of thanks!  I left a message for Jennifer and called Ryan.  I drove straight to the bank, where they informed me that I couldn't deposit it without Ryan's signature too. Ack!  But at least I had the check, and all I had to do was return in the morning.  WTC doesn't take checks either, so it wasn't like the money had to be in the account for me to sign up.  I figured I would talk to Ryan about it one last time.  However, while I was waiting for him to get home so I could, I saw a f/b post that there were less than 10 slots available!  I started to storm badly, and the lights were flickering.  OH NO!  What if we lost power while I was trying to sign up???  An IM race application is more like an essay.  I was frantically try to fill out the fields with insurance info, emergency contacts, interesting stories, ect before the slots sold out or we lost power.  Thankfully, we never lost power (although the neighboring city did), and I got signed up.  I was pumped.  And then I freaked out.

I got calls and emails from friends making sure that I knew what I was in for.  You can't fake and IM, and I knew that.  I had 5 weeks, and was going to need to take a week off long road riding to do a mountain bike race.  I tried to do as much trainer riding during the week, but I feel off my mountain bike and injured my intercostal muscles.  Seriously????  I had just paid the money and now I am freaked out.  I went back to Ryan's doctor, and he gave me and anti-inflammatory and assured me that I would be fine.  I also got caught up on all my shots, since I was there.  To do my long runs in the week, I maxed out my daycare time on the treadmill, and then finished the balance with the kids in the stroller.  I put my trainer on the back patio so that I could ride in the heat and watch the kids play on our playgroup.  I felt nuts, but I was getting the job done.  Jennifer invited me to do a 110 mile ride of the course that Saturday with some ladies.  I was so thankful for that!  It was a big jump in mileage, but we were at do or die time.  I completed the ride and while I felt tired, hungry, and sore, I was super excited about the accomplishment.  I was slightly annoying too, with how thrilled I was!  I had a blast, and learned a lot about nutrition.  I realized that I was not eating enough.  Also, we finished the 110 miles in 6:41 minutes, which was faster than I did the MMM, which was shorter.  Also, we were only out just under 8 hours.  That meant that if I wanted to race and take that many stops and for those durations, I could and still be OK.  I had been thinking 2 hour swim, 8 hour bike, and 5 hour run for 15 hours total.  Doing this ride made me think I could do it a bit better, if I could stop less! 

Jennifer also brought me to an open water swim in the Ohio.  I was super thankful that I live here and I could go to my tri club's OWS where you have the opportunity to jump off the actual dock for the start of the race.  I was sketched out about that.  It took it me a few minutes to jump in, but the water, although dirty and brown, wasn't terrible to swim in.  It was quite warm and comfortable.  Since it was a club swim, we had kayak support so I felt safe.  I did 1.3 miles that evening.  It was brown and gross, but I felt super ready!

I did a taper following my marathon taper.  I biked based off of what Becky thought I should do.  I am so thankful for knowledgeable friends with experience to get me through!

And that was how I happened to prepare myself for my IM.  I would have to say that it is probably anrather unorthodox approach, with no official training plan or coach, and goes to show how much it is mental and not physical to being able to do it.  I did have an extensive network of support, between Ryan and my friends with experience.  I was just so excited and blessed to have this opportunity, that I was not going to throw it away.  The pain of regret hurts so much worse than that of failure.  I HAD to try it and give it my all.  I also feel so blessed because the day really went perfect.  I had a better swim time than I could imagine, my bike time was also was exactly where I thought it would be, and my run was incredible!  I never thought the day would go so well, and I am so thankful for it.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I am so glad I did not have to sign up so far in advance, that I could wait until I was ready to pull the trigger.  This was MY day.  I needed that so much!  Things will probably never fall into place like they did this time around.  Thanks to everyone who helped along the way! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ironman Louisville 2012 Race Recap, Part 1

What???  Yes, you read that title right.  I took one of the last 10 spots available for IMKY, for my FIRST IRONMAN, and ran with it, about 5 weeks ago.  I have been pretty busy over the last month and a half not blogging since Muncie.  I will go into the back story of HOW I managed to be finding myself signed up for the 2012 Ironman Louisville in a second post, but for now, I wanted to just write the race recap while it is fresh in my head.  You will probably pick up a little on how I got here just from what I write, but hopefully in the next couple of days I will fill you in on the rest.  It is also a weekend long event, with expos, athlete dinners, underpants runs, gear check, post race breakfasts, ext.  I'll do a separate post for the underpants run, but breeze through everything else leading up to the race.

Thursday was the first day that the expo started.  Cristina and her boys were coming down from MI to stay with us and go to the expo that afternoon.  The excitement was really building.  We took a few pictures at the expo.  As we were getting checked in, they told Cristina that "her family could wait for her to finish checking in".  I am not sure if they thought I was part of her family and not racing at first, but the two of us and the 4 kids between the two of us were quite the sight in check in.   We just ignored that comment and went through getting our bibs, caps, and chips.  Keira had a major meltdown over having to sit in the stoller in the "athlete only" area.  We got really awesome backpacks as part of our swag.  Then, it dumped you out into their store.  They had so much stuff to buy.  You really would have had no problem spending another entry fee or so on gear.  I was really too nervous to buy much gear lest I jinx myself.  I did buy a new visor to wear on the run, as well as some stickers. 

We were given 5 different gear bags, Morning Clothes Bag, Bike Gear, Bike Special Needs, Run Gear, and Run Special needs.  It looked like a triathlon exploded in our living room once Cristina and I had all our stuff out to pack it up.  I planned to change clothes between each discipline, where Cristina wore the same thing all day, so I had a lot more stuff.  It was still a lot regardless:

Friday night we had a athlete meeting.  It was immediately following the athlete banquet, which I skipped due to cost.  Ryan and I had not eaten as a family in several days, so we went out to eat at Q'doba before I met back up with Cristina outside her hotel for the rest of the weekend.  The meeting wasn't terribly exciting, but it did make me feel a lot more nervous about it.  Especially the swim.  It did give me  a chance to meet up with one of my Aquaphore teammated Susan, who is a rock star.  This was her 54th Iron distance tri.  Amazing is all I have to say.  The second picture is of Jane, with Cristina and I.  Jane did Boston and MMM this year too!  We were glad to run into more of our MI friends at the meeting.

Saturday morning was the underpants run and gear check.  I will go over the underpants run separately.  Lots of pictures have already been posted to their facebook page if you can't wait for my recap.  I did have the perfect outfit this year, though ;)  My kids had a church activity in the morning, and Ryan had a different church committment so I was able to head down by myself.  I actually started to cry when I put my bike and things in the car.  It was a crazy feeling to drop off everything and have it just sitting there overnight.  I could have access to it in the morning, but I have to admit I had one of those "what if there is a tornado that drops down and blows everything away" type scenarios pop into my head.  Silly, I know, but tornado bad dreams are not new to me.

That night, we had Cristina, Kari, and all the kids over, plus my parents for dinner.  I had been joking all week calling it the dinner from "Signs" (which was on, BTW, on Thurs, and then everyone understood why), because it was the craziest pre-race dinner ever.  Cristina and I ate what WE wanted to eat for our pre race dinners, me- grilled chicken, pasta, marinara.  Cristina- sweet potatoes and chicken, the kids- pizza.  Everyone else had some combination of those things.  It was pretty much a carb fest.  We had all carbs.  Even the vegetables I made (corn) were starchy.  We cleaned up everything, and then got ready for bed.  Amazingly, I slept pretty well.

I got up bright and early, and got a ride from my neighbor Jennifer and her husband Chris.  Chris was doing the tough job of Ironman supporter, and enjoying getting some laughs out of our stress.  We found a parking spot outside of transition, and we were right by my friend Alan, from MI!  We pumped up our tires, but the realized that we needed to go back to the car and get our special needs bags and drop them off there, not at the swim start.  We rushed back to the car to get them, and then back again before being driven down to the swim start. 

Having Chris drive us saved so much time.  We didn't have to walk the .75 miles or so from the transition area to the start.  We got our bodies marked:

We were so thankful that Erin and Dan were already there with several other landsharks, and they had saved us a spot in the swim line!  Sweet!  We squeezed in, and then waited.  It was a while, but it was nice to be in the big group.  Here is Erin being calm with Jennifer and I being "freaked out"

 I think I would have gone nuts if I didn't have people to wait with.  I tried to call Cristina, but I couldn't get through to her before I had to drop off my morning clothes bags.  We had Terri, Rhonda, and Jennifer in our little group of ladies that all started pretty close together.  Jennifer offered a prayer, and we all started to cry.  It was an incredible feeling to being so close to acheiving a dream, and to be living it.  Before the race, the played "My Old Kentucky Home" and sounded a bugle like at the Derby, as well as the Star Spangled Banner.  It was very cool and emotional. 

So, I didn't need to get pushed off the dock.  I did a practice swim a couple weeks ago where I jumped off this very dock, and I took more than just a few seconds before jumping in, and thought Jen was going to push me in.  I was able to get into the water without going completely under, thanks to my mad skills at being able to keep my face dry at all times that I learned as a child.  It was great because I didn't have to worry about my goggles falling off and I could keep an eye out for other people jumping.  There were two lines, and about 6 people jumping every 2 seconds.  It was crazy how fast it moved.  You swim around Towhead Island, turn, and then come back to Joe's Crabshack to exit.  Probably the most memorable thing for me on the swim was that I swam into the island twice.  I found it funny.  It was gross to put my hand into mushy ground that I was not expecting.  I tried to get over to the right some more and still veered into it the second time.  I had to be careful because up ahead there was a low hanging tree branch that I didn't want to swim into.  I got around that, and then continued.  It was a little conjested between the island and KY.  There was a sandbar ahead, and I did swim over to it to stand and walk a couple steps.  I took this opportunity to unfog my goggles, and they were fine from this point on.  I made the turn, and it was really light out now, and I could see the line of bouys ahead.  I actually swam surprisingly straight, and had a decent time of following the course.  It was sort of boring during the swim, and I was anxious for it to be over.  I looked at my watch a couple of times, just trying to figure out how much longer I thought I would have to be in the water.  I didn't start the stopwatch at all because we started so quickly to the start of the race, that I figured keeping my eye on the time of day and cut off times were more important.  I could math in my head (so I hoped) as the day went on.  The field opened up on the IN side of the island and then as we headed downriver.  It was a lot easier to swim and not have people swimming over me.  It didn't get conjested again until the swim exit.  That was sort of terrifying, with people crowding to get out. The clock said 1:43 something!  WOW, this was faster than twice my 1.2mi swim time!!!!I was so thankful to grab and hand and be pulled out of the water to the stairs.  I cried a little running to get my gear bag for the bike. It was a long jog to the transition area, but there were so many people cheering, it was incredible. I was so excited to be out of the water.    I looked over my shoulder and saw Rhonda behind me.  I was so excited that I nearly tripped over a tent stake, but I was fine.

T1.  This went really quickly.  I took of my swimsuit, put on my shorts, top, shoes, helmet, and belt of fuel, and took a gu in the tent.  I ate a sandwhich and drank a gatorade as I walked/jogged to get my bike.

Bike.  The bike course started out great.  I was so excited!  I had biked this entire course once in training, so I knew exactly what I needed to do and where.  I knew where my bike gave me fits (yeah, it needs a new cassette and I didn't want to buy one this close to never needing to ride it again, ha ha, just kidding), and how to deal with it.  If you look at my splits, my first two were pretty fast, and then my second two a lot slower.  This was in part due to the fact that I really wanted to get that first lap over and then take my time on the second.  I was paranoid beforehand that I wouldn't make the cut off time that was at mile 60.  There was also a tailwind heading away from the city, and it is relatively flat towards the beginning, the hills come later.  There was a lot of support on the bike course.  I was so much earlier than I had told my family to come and see me, so I wasn't sure if they would find me at all out there or not.  I had a blast on 1694, the out and back section.  I really felt like I owned that road, and passed a lot of people on the descent just coasting because I knew the road very well.  It was crowded, so I had to be very careful.  When I got to 393, I saw the sign that my cub scout Jacob had made for me and that pumped me up.  Towards the end of 393, I saw Jennifer and Terri's families, and my friend Amy from MI.  I didn't think my parents would be there this time since it was so early, and they weren't.  My assumptions I gave them were on slower speeds and having a later swim start.  Oops.  I enjoyed not having to stop through La Grange.  Ballard School Road was hard.  My bike acted up a little when I was completed crossed over, but I never dropped my chain at all.  I probably stayed in the bigger ring more than I should have to avoid dealing with it, but it felt nice on the legs to stand up a few times on some of the hills.  I saw Keira's primary teacher's father directing traffic at 42 and 53.  the funniest thing was that the blinking traffic sign that said "left turn ahead"  also said "Go Jennifer H #343".  That is my neighbor.  Awesome!!!  I did 393 again, and saw my friends from church who had made the sign, Jen's family, and then saw my parents!  It was awesome.  I was so glad I saw them so they at least knew where I was.  After this, I had special needs.  I completely stopped, and took several minutes here.  I had packed a peanut butter and nutella sandwhich, 8oz gatorade, and a regular 12oz plastic bottle of Dr Pepper, that had all been frozen and were in a colapsable free cooler.  It was amazing, but my DP STILL HAD ICE IN IT!  I couldn't drink it all because it was so frozen!  I had a few bites of my sandwhich, leaving the crust, took a bunch of trash out of my pockets, took salt tabs (which I did every hour with a gu, and a bonk breaker bar every hour, but on the half throughout), moved a bunch of stuff from my pockets to my front box, and stuffed my spare tire and cartridges in my back pocket, along with the gatorade, and headed out.  It was starting to get hotter, and I was going through fluids faster.  I was glad I had my gatorade with me.  I stopped again and drank it at the next water stop when I refilled my bottles.  I kept telling myself that I had to be careful because I still had a marathon today.  I stopped again around mile 80 to use the bathroom.  It felt nice to walk around a little and then reapply sunscreen.  I could feel my back and arms getting hot, but figured it was all part of the process  of becoming and Ironman.  I was slowing down a bit, but I still felt good.  I remember passing Thornton's and thinking that it was all downhill from there and cheering for myself out loud.  Somewhere right before mile 100, there was someone who was playing Eminem's "Not Afraid", and I started crying.  I bought this song to add to my playlist while training.  It was a huge pick me up, and I kept singing it in my head until I got to 329.  That is MY street.  Literally.  You take that exit from 71 to get to my house, and it also happened to be mile 100.  I didn't tell my family to come and see me there, but they did!  It was the best feeling to see my husband, kids, and parents all out there!  They had missed me on the second lap too of 393 because I was still ahead of schedule.  I was tired, but I felt like a rock star the whole way back into town.  It was so fun coming into transition because of all the cheering. I pulled into transition a little after 4pm, and my actual moving time was under 7 hours.  My official bike time was 7:06:11

T2.  This was the long transitition.  I had to go the bathroom really bad.  I ran from the tent to the porto potties and then back to the tent.  I could not wait to get my cycling top off.  I had so much stuff in the pockets.  I couldn't wait to get all the weight off.  A volunteer helped me clean off my feet,  and tried to help me with my CEP socks.  Those were SO HARD to put on.  I almost fell backwards off my chair with my helper pulling so hard on those socks!  I did get them on, and I was so glad.  They felt great on.  I didn't put on tri top, and just decided to go with my sports bra because it was so hot.  That turned out to be a great call.  I did forget to grab my salt tabs for the run and take my anti inflamatory that I had been prescribed for a mountain biking fall (yeah, totally skipped that race recap), but had my gus and race belt so I was fine.  I saw Jennifer just enter the changing tent, and I yelled to her, but she didn't answer, so I headed out.

Run:  I really had no idea what I would feel like on the run.  I had been doing my long runs on Thurs, and my long rides on Sat, with only really short runs after them.  Those short runs had been quick, but my  legs were tired the whole time.  I walked to the sign that said, "run out", and then started running.  There were so many people down there cheering.  It was incredible.  I was so pumped.  I had to keep checking my watch to slow it down a little so I didn't go out too fast.  It was like as soon as I started running, my body just knew what to do.  It knows how to run a marathon.  My plan was to do 26x1 (or .9ish), with a rest at every aid station.  That is what I did.  The aid stations turned out to be a little sooner than each mile, according to my watch, and in the beginning, I wouldn't walk until I took the first sponge or cup, but then towards the end, I would walk at the the first trash can until the last.  I really enjoyed the run course.  I love running, I really do.  It was an out and back, two times that went by UofL and Churchill downs.  It went up 3rd/Southern parkway, which was an area that I had trained on a lot.  I really liked that you could see runners the opposite direction almost at all times.  I saw tons of people I knew on the course, and it really helped my spirits.  I had been taking the salt tabs on the bike, but then stopped, so I am not sure if it was the combination of that plus all the caffiene from the gus, but I had to stop a LOT to use the bathroom and pee.  It was crazy.  I didn't like the perform.  I tried that at one point, and it cramped my stomach, but it didn't really affect my pace, but did require a bathroom stop.  I think I stopped 4 times to use the port o potties.  I didn't like waiting for an open one, so there were some that I skipped, and I felt like that made me run faster to the next.  I saw Alan first, and then I think Cristina, going the opposite direction.  I also saw Terri, Rhonda, Jennifer, and several others on the run.  I kept seeing Susan from team aquahor, and every time she was so encouraging.  She kept telling me how great I looked.  It was a crazy feeling, because I was tired, but I wasn't really getting any more tired or sore as it went on.  I had a friend Jessica walk with me a bit at the aid station where she was working.  That was great.  I just kept ticking off those miles.  The first loop was longer than the second, because it had a section that went over the 2nd street bridge that we didn't have to repeat.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be to run just yards from the finish line and then turn to start my second loop, since I was already just over halfway done. I saw Kari, Monica, and Amy as I ran by, and gave them hi fives.  I passed up special needs since there wasn't anything I needed, and just kept up my running from aid station to aid station.  It was working so I just kept doing it.  It got cooler as the sun went down, so I needed less sponges, and I cut back a little on the water towards the end because I didn't want any more stops, and I felt pretty good.  I remember the point when I realized I was going to break 5 hours on the run.  That was a good feeling, I think around 4 miles to go.  This was the happiest I have ever felt at mile 22 of a marathon!  That was the point where I knew without a doubt that no matter what happened, I was going to finish this thing!  I was even thinking that I might even break 14 hours, which would have been unreal.  Monica came and ran with me for a little bit with just under a mile to go.  When I made the turn onto 4th street and could see the finish line, my face just lit up with a huge smile.  It was an incredible feeling.  I didn't break 14, but I finished the run in 4:53:21, for a total time of 14:03:34!  I couldn't believe it!  I started crying just after I crossed the line.

I hope my finisher pictures look OK.  I was excited I didn't have anyone on my right or left as I approached the line, but I was gaining on the people in front of me trying to finish strong.  I had several people say they recognized me from my pink socks!  Love those things.  I was also super excited to see my husband and mom on the side of the finish line, waiting for me.  I really was worried that they wouldn't have been able to find me since I was so off on my predictions. 

It was such an incredible day.  I can say I really enjoyed the whole thing.  I really felt like I had a "home field advantage" since I was familiar with nearly the entire course.  This day could not have gone any better.  I am so blessed to have been able to do this.  I had prayed about it a lot, and I know the decision to sign up was made very last minute, but I had been wanting this for a long time, and training hard since last November for something, and this is what it was.  Last year was so hard, in so many ways.  I feel like everything just came together perfectly to give me this fabulous day.  I could not have asked for anything more.  It makes all that hard work that I felt had been wasted earlier on races that didn't turn out so well worth while.  I am so thankful for my husband for letting me do this, and for the support of my family.  I am thankful for the well wishes, calls, emails, and facebook messages watching out for me.  I don't think I could have done it if I hadn't had such a huge network of friend who were also training for this so I had people to talk to about it, even if I had to work out alone.  While I didn't have a coach or an official training plan that I followed, I had friends to help me out and guide me along the way.  Am I going to do it again?  Not anytime soon.  I can't wait to just RUN!