I left T2 behind me, determined to finish. I was going slow. Very slow. I would describe it as a “window shopping with my wife for a new pair of shoes” type of pace.
This was partially out of necessity, and partially out of strategy. I needed to do some running tonight in order to finish (there was not enough time to just walk the whole way). But, I wanted to relax enough to allow my stomach to start moving again, and to catch up on hydration.
The run course has some hills, but is mostly flat. It runs from the downtown Capital area onto the University of Wisconsin campus. It includes a lap around the Capitol Building, a lap in the UW Football Stadium, a few runs down State Street (party central) as well as some trail running. Here is the course layout. It is a two loop course.
There was an aid station just outside of transition. I was carrying a Gatorade bottle and I grabbed a cup of water. The water was going down. The Gatorade wasn’t.
I kept walking. I started feeling a little better. I tried to resist to urge to move any faster. I needed to give my body a break. But the walk did speed slightly.
I reached the next aid station. There would be a lot more food and hydration options on the run course. It was time to examine the buffet table.
Bonk Breakers, pretzels, chips, cookies…none of that sounded even slightly appealing. Then I noticed the fruit. I avoided the banana (that failed on the bike course) but the orange slice was good, and the grapes were great. Got a cup of those, and cup of water. I gave up any hope of drinking the Gatorade and tossed the bottle. By mile 2, I was jogging slowly. By mile 3, I was running. My plan was to walk the aid stations and the hills. I would run the rest for now.
I noticed that another runner and I kept passing each other, so we started talking. It was a great distraction and she pushed me a little harder then I would have otherwise. She truly power-walked the hills and ran the rest. I kept falling behind at aid stations since I always had to ask for the grapes, but I would then catch up. The course was beautiful and it just flew by. We got to run a lap thru the University of Wisconsin Football Stadium, past fraternity row, an extremely hilly and winding Observatory Road, and an out and back on State Street which is party center in Madison, and it was just rocking! It was the fastest 6 miles of the day. By mile nine, I was slowing a bit, and we parted ways. However, I was excited to see that I had already made it so far. My stomach was on the edge, but mostly behaving itself. I was starting to pee again, so my hydration was getting back on track. I was able to start popping the salt tablets regularly. Overall, I was less shaky and light headed. I was also making pretty good time! If I could just complete a half-marathon at this pace, I could probably walk the rest of the way.
We moved onto a much quieter part of the course, a lakefront walking trail thru campus. It was quite tranquil and gave me a chance to reflect on the day. There were highs and lows, but this was living up to everything I hoped it would be. There were hardships, challenges, and adversity, but it was still such a wonderful event to just participate in. I remembered what I kept repeating to myself earlier in the day. The victory was having the courage to line up at the start. Everything else was the celebration of my journey. I had lost sight of that, but I would not do so again. This was an event to enjoy and savor. It would not be repeated. I was fortunate just to have the opportunity and the health to participate. I found the calm that I had lost. That same sensation I had floating on my back and looking at a perfect blue sky. I had made it to my dream, and I was enjoying it again…
The miles kept clicking by. The pace slowed a little, but not much. I was walking the hills and the aid stations, and running the rest.
Soon, I was back on State Street heading towards the Capitol. I didn’t notice just how cool this course was on mile one, but I was certainly enjoying it now. Streetfront restaurants were packs and everyone was cheering as we ran by, heading straight for the Capitol Building. We did a lap around it and headed towards the split. I started running towards the chute and saw the sign.
“Second Lap-Turn Left, Finish-Go Straight”.
I could see the Finish. I could hear Mike Riley yelling “You Are An Ironman”. But, he wasn’t going to be saying my name. Not yet. It wasn’t my time. Not for a few more hours. But I would be back. And the next time I would be here, I too would be an Ironman…