Spanky and the Gang--two of my fav, fav, fav pop songs came from this little group with great melodic charm: Sunday Will Never Be The Same and Lazy Day. No way to listen to either of these tunes without singing along. Not great jogging songs, okay, but you are not always going to be jogging. Right now, I'm not jogging at all!
Once I crossed that finish line at 4:41 p.m. I only had two thoughts: to find Patient Spouse and that I really, really, really wanted a shower. I was covered in a delightful mix of salt, sand, Gatorade (from being splashed), sunscreen, Bodyglide, Sharpie, sweat, AccelGel (no matter how hard you try, some of that stuff ends up on the outside of you) and pure grime. I don't mind getting down and dirty with the best of them, but this was something new.
At the finish line, they handed me my cool medal and a really nice running hat with the event logo. I think Chris Lieto was hanging around helping hand out medals (since he had finished his race, winning it, about 345 hours before me) but everything was such a blur.
I hobbled over to where I had last seen Patient Spouse (about 120 yards from the finish line) but he was not there, so I hobbled again (the right IT band still talking nasty to me) to the place we had designated during the sprint race the day before as our meeting place, and he wasn't there either. This second location had a nice, empty bench so I decided to sit and then to stretch out on it--oops! That was my empty water bottle in my fuel belt digging into my back, so I sat up to remove it and then lay back down. Within a couple of minutes Patient Spouse arrived with a fresh bottle of water, and was concerned that I was lying down. Was I okay? Actually, with the exception of my nagging IT band, I felt pretty good. We exchanged sweaty kisses and he looked remorseful for forgetting to bring both my morning clothes bag (with the wind, I was starting to get a little chilled from my sweaty state) AND the peanut M&Ms he had bought to bribe me to the finish line.
We hobbled (well, I hobbled and he walked) first to the finish line to cheer on a couple more finishers, and then to the food tent where I snagged the very last piece of cheese pizza that Papa John's was giving to the finishers (the rest was pepperoni, and although I was feeling pretty good, just looking at the pepperoni slices made me feel a bit queasy). We sat down to eat and halfway through I got really chilly and decided to go into transition where I had a lightweight running jacket in my transition backpack. Once at my spot, it seemed silly to leave without taking it all out with me. So I loaded up everything in the pack, slung it on my back, grabbed the wetsuit and flung it over the back, and slowly wheeled my way out of the checkout and back to the eating area, where I finished my cheese pizza and my water.
One of the things that concerned me on the race was that I didn't have to use the portapot after mile 26 on the bike. Once I finished the bike, I told myself I should go (and thought that it would not be a bad idea) but wanted to get to my first walk break on the run before I stopped. Of course, the first walk break did not coincide with a portapot, and by the time one did, I was more than halfway through the run and really didn't need to stop that badly. In my mind, I told myself I wasn't hydrating enough even though I had consumed 36 oz of Gatorade before the swim, another 36 oz on the bike, and I was drinking water and Gatorade like a thirsty fish at every single walk break I took. I didn't ever bonk or feel dizzy, and I honestly don't think I could have drank any more than I did, but it just goes to show how much moisture your body absorbs during this kind of exercise on a warm day.
After that, we walked back to the finish area and cheered on a few more later finishers and then started the slow walk back to the hotel area (about half a mile). I was actually surprised I felt okay--no doubt both hamstrings, calves and IT bands were sore, and my back a little sore, but the rest of me felt okay. I was probably suffering a bit from post race confusion, as I always do, but I think I communicated in whole sentences during the walk.
We stopped by our car on the way to load up the bike so we wouldn't have to deal with that later. Then we wandered the hallways to our room (we were a long way away from the door) and when we got inside, I went straight to the bathroom and ran a hot bath. Stripped off my sweaty gear and took a long, hot bath and washed all the salt and grit off me while Patient Spouse went to pick us up dinner from a local Italian place. I wasn't all that hungry--I really had eaten well during my race--but the cheese manicotti was too good to pass up and the chocolate cake was manna from heaven. I had one glass of wine which nearly knocked me on my rear. At 10 p.m. I was in snooze land and woke up the next day feeling refreshed, if a bit stiff and sore on the lower parts of me.
Since then, I have done nothing but walk a lot and I did go for a 1100 yard easy swim the Wednesday after the race which really helped loosen up my muscles. I have lost all the little aches and pains of the day, and I plan to start back with some easy recovery runs and bike rides this weekend, before I start on May 1 to train for my marathon this winter, and to shave off some time on my sprint tris planned for this summer (hopefully one in June and another on Labor Day).
Looking back on the entire past year, here are some mental tidbits:
1. The race was hard, but it was really not THAT hard. In retrospect, I could have pushed farther and gone harder and faster, but I am glad I did not. This was my first one, and I wanted to finish upright, happy, uninjured and wishing I could do another one. That is what happened, and so the plan was perfect.
2. The entire process was hard, but again, not THAT hard. I truly believe any able bodied person with on real significant health issues can train and do a 70.3. It requires a lot of commitment with your time, and also with your money (face it, wetsuits, bikes, tri gear, running shoes--you can do less expensive, but you can't do free). But there is no reason to say "I can't do this." Trust me on that one. If I can, you can. Remember Yoda: "do, or do not. There is no try."
3. Believe it or not, I would LOVE to do another one of these. However, I simply can't give the time commitment again right now for training. My Patient Spouse, my clients, my friends, my family, my stepkids, all had to deal with me being gone to workouts six days a week, including weekends and holidays. To ask them to do it all again would be too much. So I'm taking a year off of that schedule, at least, and then once our last daughter graduates high school next year, we'll see. The desire to do another one, and do it faster even when I'm older, is there.
4. And double believe it or not, I would love to think about a full ironman. THAT I know can never happen as I will never have the time to train for one of those unless some stranger dies and leaves me a pot of gold so I don't have to work for a living. But I just want to point out that this race did not leave me with anything but a desire to keep going. It was that much fun.
5. Finally, and I have mentioned this before, I will point out that the best part of all this was the journey and not necessarily the destination. The destination was 8 hours; the journey was a year. I learned so much about myself during that time. Because of my work and family schedule, most of my workouts were done accompanied only by my iPod and a watch. I learned to trust my body to get me where I needed to go. I learned that being tired was not the same thing as being exhausted. I learned to push through being uncomfortable, being weary, being frustrated, and being disappointed. I learned to fall down and get back up again (literally and figuratively). I learned from my mistakes. I relished my little victories, sometimes being only one second shaved off my 25 yard pool sprint time. I enjoyed watching muscles and tone appear in areas of my body where I had never seen them before. I learned to appreciate the sunrise, the moonlit run, the sunshine dancing on the lake waters as I rode by, the gentle quiet of a gym pool late at night when you are the only one there, the silky feel of the water as you glide down and back. The simple joys of well fitting goggles, of a downhill rip on the bike after a hard climb, of a run through a gentle misting rain--things I would have never felt or noticed if sitting in front of a TV or computer. The world is lovely. Go see it.
I'm not done with the blog, although I will change its name now as I prepare for my first 26.2 miles of hoofing it.
Here's hoping all of you will find the joy and strength to get to your own personal finish lines.