I handed my bike off to a volunteer that will take it back to it's home on the rack and by the time I get to the long rows of run gear bags, another volunteer has already seen me coming and grabbed my bag for me. What service! Seeing as I just rode 180km on my bike and was about to run a full marathon, I was in no hurry to get out of that change tent. I sat myself down on a chair and took my sweet time. One more stop for a pee break and I was back out through those run course arches and away I went.
Let me start by saying that I had very little expectations for my run. I'm not a strong runner and in training all my runs off the bike have been torturous and pushed me to my limits (and they were usually no longer than 30min long). So, my plan was just to run from aid station to aid station stopping to drink at each one and eat every second one. However, I wasn't going to be hard on myself if that didn't work out because I had eight and a half hours to complete that marathon and I figured even if I was walking backwards or on my hands and knees, I could do it.
Out I went. Not surprisingly the crowds of people (still there and as thick as they were 7 hours ago) gave me a huge boost. As the day has proved, my "awesome" training, and never forgetting to smile was by far the most important training I ever did. With my smile back on from ear to ear, looking fans in the eye as they encourage me forward, I am light on my feet and breeze through town looking for my personal cheering section which I know is just up the road.
As I get there, I take a few seconds to walk, hug them, kiss them and hear them tell me they love me, then I wave again and say "see ya at the finish line!". Anthony did ask how I was feeling and for the first time I did a mental scan over my body to figure that out. It was a little hard to breathe but I chalked that up to the layers of gear around my chest. My heart rate monitor, sports bra, jersey.. plus a little exhaustion made things a little tighter in the chest than normal. But I'm fine.
I was feeling great. Surprised, I did a double check as I got further and further out on course, and yup, I was feeling great. Stopping at the first few aid stations seemed unnecessary, but I stuck with the plan and it probably was the reason for my continued success throughout. With the exception of some serious bloating from the Gatorade and likely some other side effects of 10hours of exercise, I couldn't have been better.
The cool thing about the out & back run is that you get to see the entire race ahead of you as they make their way home (or at least you do when your me). Searching through faces kept me occupied as I shuffled along and I saw all the familiar faces - Suzanne (housemate for the weekend), Esther (LETC), Jeff Savage (who had a brutal day including a spill off the bike), Scotty Jones, Gabby, Amanda (LETC), Dave Pool, Connell (housemate for the weekend) each one of them waving and sending "good luck" as they get back into their own race.
I lucked out on the run as the wind was at my back heading out. Slowly but surely I made my way out walking through the aid stations, drinking, eating and walking up the hills but keeping a decent pace otherwise. With every mile marker I was shocked that I was still on pace for my 5 hour marathon. I made it to the turn around in 2:31 hours but starting to feel the day wear on me. Amazed again at the size of the crowd and the commitment of some familiar faces that I've seen throughout the day at various places on course. Particularly the couple of guys in wigs, coconut bras, grass skirts and doing the hula. They made me laugh every time.
Out of no where I teared up as I rounded the half way point. I was headed home. I was on the last half of the Ironman marathon. Then I had a very sobering thought, I was really far from home. Not feeling defeated or struggling, just a simple "sigh… I have a long way to go".
I had given myself full permission to walk all the way home if I had needed to. I had no time goals, simply finishing was all I wanted and that was not going to be an issue today. Feeling overwhelmed by the support and by my entire day, my legs continued to give me more and more. I walked up hills and through aid stations, but without question or hesitation, my body continued to give me what I asked for. I just kept running.
With 12km to go I did some simple math and it looked like I could make it home posting 13 hours and change on the clock. Feeling the weight of the day, it was going to be tough, but I thought for sure it was within reach. I dug deep and kept running at pace and as planned, but about 30mins later, everything started to really hurt and I cared less and less about breaking 14 hours.
The mean thing about the Ironman Canada run is that the last half of the marathon is generally uphill. Mean right? Once I got onto South Main, within sighting distance of downtown, the uphill slant, in the dark, in the cold and 13 hours and 30 mins into my day, I was walking, things were hurting and there wasn't anything that was going to change that. This is Ironman, it hurts.
The hurt got worse and as I tried to adjust the gear around my chest to help with that ongoing discomfort since the beginning of the run, I finally clued in that the thump I took in the swim earlier likely had a lot to do with the aching ribs and bruising skin. Duh.
Needless to say, my legs, hips, calves, blistered feet, bruised abdomen, aching shoulders and general hurting skin was less a hinderance and more a motivator to, as I said to myself many times in the last 30 minutes, "get this over with already". I knew as soon as I peaked the small incline onto Main Street, the crowds of people would bring me home. And I was not disappointed.
I kept running. I heard people cheer me on by name (it's on your race bib). I turned down Westminister and turned the corner down Winnipeg St. The streets are gated to keep the crowds from piling onto the course and the people are screaming encouragment. The lights are bright but I can barely see anything, I'm zoned out now. I know I'm so close, but i'm just not there yet, 2 km to go. I pass the grandstands and head out for one last pass on Lakeshore before turning around to run the final glory mile. Natasha, Jen, Rudy, Anthony - they are all there yelling so loud but in my head it plays back like a movie where you know they're screaming, but you don't hear any sound. Their arms reach out and I high five them. My smile is gone, there is no energy left to make anything else happen except put one foot in front of the other. Still running.
Anthony ran with me for a little, but I think he stopped because I wasn't looking at him anymore. Just get me to that finish line, that's all I could think.
I finally reached the turn around. I stopped running, I looked ahead and started smiling. I walked for a minute looking at the spectators, thinking about what I was doing. I let it soak in for a second and then I started running again. This time, the hurt was gone and it was like I had wings. Angel wings to be exact.
In no time at all I was running in the night sun of the finish shoot and right ahead just a few feet from the finish I see Anthony yelling and cheering and on que, he holds out Mom's t-shirt with my picture on it that says "Go Sarah Go".
I crossed the finish line with Tash on the other side to catch me. She's crying as much as I am.
After 5 years, 14 hours and seven minutes. I am an Ironman.