Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Volume III: Mim for the win

I got my feet out of my cycling shoes and did my fancy, graceful, rolling dismount (apparently the only transition-specific skill I have). But while the bike handoff was lovely, the first few steps afterward were not. "It's the Ironman shuffle!" some jokester yelled at me. Great. I can't even walk now? This had never been a problem in training, but of course I'd just ridden 12 miles farther than I ever had before.

I "shuffled" into T2, where I found that being dry (and coherent) makes a world of difference. I took my time anyway, because the plan here was to get BodyGlide everywhere. Luckily, all the chafing scars from my training provided a handy roadmap of where I would need it.

When I stood up again, I could walk just fine. And as I left the tent, I saw the most beautiful sight: The race clock showed I still had about seven hours and 15 minutes to finish the marathon. I had been thinking I was down to more like six hours and 15 minutes. So I guess the lesson here is never give up, because there's always a chance you're not doomed after all but just really bad at math. 

Striding toward the run start.
I felt like skipping, but I had decided to walk for a while to loosen up my legs. There sure was a lot of pressure to run, though. The music was pumping, people were streaming by me (where were all these people even still coming from?), and spectators were shouting things like, "You can do it! Just try a jog!" The bonus was that I was going slow enough heading toward the run entrance for Mike Reilly to call me out over the loudspeaker. He yelled my name and said, "Keep up that pace, and you'll make it!" I highly doubted that, but I wasn't worried anymore. I could tell I actually had quite a lot of run left in me.

T2 time: 8:04


I had altered the marathon plan a bit, and given myself a new rule: I absolutely had to run some portion of every mile, and preferably about half of it. (There was an earlier plan about running to every aid station and then walking a bit before running to the next, but I realized that was going to have me running up lots of hills, which would have been pointless, as I could walk them almost as fast.)

The new strategy worked wonderfully. I was finding the switch between walking and running to be kind of painful, so I made sure to run for a good, long stretch before walking for a good, long stretch. My stomach felt on the verge of revolt a couple of times, but I discovered that if I didn't run for a quarter mile or so after every drink I took, I could keep it happy. At one point I made the mistake of trying solid food. It was literally a quarter of a potato chip, but it made me queasy for almost half a mile. The aid stations had cookies, pretzels, oranges, bananas, PowerBars…ugh. No, thanks. I had nothing but sports drink and water the rest of the way.

The early miles of the marathon were where, I think, it paid off to be 40. At 40, you are patient. You are experienced. You are—dare I say it yet?—wise. I could have run way more and way faster on the first loop. But I held myself back. I didn't even think about running uphill. I stopped to walk even when I kind of wanted to keep running. I was disciplined about drinking fluids but listened to my body. I thought about foot speed and form and checked out my shadow to make sure I still looked good.


At mile 14, I had the chance to change socks and put more BodyGlide on the hot spots on my feet. Ahhh. I also grabbed my jacket and tied it around my waist for when it got dark. It was already starting to get a little cool. I could hear Mike Reilly calling out, "YOU are an Ironman! YOU are an Ironman! YOU are an Ironman." They were finishing fast and furious now, but some of us still had a long way to go.

The course was a 6½ mile route that had to be done four times, and that third time was the toughest. I was desperately jealous of all the people heading back the other way. Some of them looked awful, but they still had hours to get to the finish, and there was no question they would make it. I tried to look on the bright side. I was still running every mile, my shadow still looked pretty darn good, and I still had time. Every now and then, a little pain would crop up somewhere, and I'd think, "Okay, who was supposed to be praying for my right hip/left foot/right ankle? They're falling down on the job." Then I'd giggle to myself; God would say (apparently), "No problem, I got you covered"; and the pain would go away. 

There was a nice man volunteering at the timing mat near mile 20, and I told him, "I LOVE this turnaound." He told me it was still a few minutes before 10 p.m., which was fabulous news, because now I was one of those people heading back who was definitely going to make it. "We're definitely going to make it," I'd tell people as we passed each other on the course (we were all friends by this point). I started feeling sorry for my friends coming the other way who weren't doing as well. I heard one woman say, "This is turning into a death march," and I thought, YES! It is! And bring it on, because I am in the best death march shape of my LIFE!


Shortly after passing the turnaround, another great thing happened. This 19-year-old kid ran up to me and started a conversation. He wanted to talk to someone to take his mind off the race, and that's exactly what I had been hoping for. Beau had done something like a 1:03 swim and a 6:30 bike but had been vomiting his way through the run (and that's the story of how I ended up running five miles stride for stride with someone who's normally a sub-3-hour marathoner).

I encouraged him to switch to water at the aid stations for a bit and walk for some long stretches with me afterward. Then we'd run, and I went with his pace, which was a bit faster than mine had been, but it was fine because it was the home stretch, and the moment to run faster had finally arrived. It was such a huge help. Not that either of us wouldn't have made it without the other, but we both would have been cutting it mighty close. I actually coached him to the point where his stomach felt decent for the first time in the marathon, and at that point, he took off like the jackrabbit he was, and I never saw him again. I couldn't even find his finishing time, because "Beau" must have been a nickname. Ah, well. Thanks, whoever you were. 


The last, dark, lonely, winding mile was a lo-o-o-ng one. It was actually hard to tell where you were supposed to turn in some spots (at least for the directionally challenged), and a lot of the volunteers had left their posts. I had one guy tell me I just had two more turns and I was there, which was incorrect by about five turns. I knew I had plenty of time and wanted to save the rest of my running capacity for the very end, so I slogged along. I wondered if my family was worried. I wondered how I looked for the finish line photo and what I should do when I got there. I felt like I needed a plan or something, but I had not given it any thought. I had prepared for everything but the end.

Then suddenly I did make the last turn. Lights! Music! The crowd roared! THE FINISH LINE WAS RIGHT DOWN THERE! My feet started moving on their own, and the spectators closed in, wanting high-fives. I floated down the last few blocks, slapping every hand in sight. I wondered vaguely if any of them belonged to my family, but everything was a blur. I remembered to send up a prayer of thanks. You could not wipe the grin off my face. I wished the road were longer so I could get more high-fives. I went through the arch. I could pick out my husband and kids' voices yelling but didn't know where they were. And then I was there. "YOU are an Ironman!"

Medal, shirt, hat, picture. I was jumping up and down. My family was hugging me. Michael came flying at me with tears in his eyes. And he said (get this), "Mim, you did it! Look at this medal! I think you did win!" And I told him I thought so, too.

Run time: 6:48:52
TOTAL TIME: 16:34:07


  1. Oh happy day - I'm so so excited that you didn't make us wait too long for this part (jeez am I selfish! ha!)

    Happy happy tears in my eyes. WHAT an accomplishment. You are awesome!!

  2. Yeah, I made myself cry writing it, and I already knew what was going to happen. Thanks!

  3. Your dad thinks that you should take all of your blogs and make it into a book. It has been so much fun to read your story, and we still wonder if you drank any of that chicken broth that scared your dad and me so much! Anyway, we think that you are awesome!

  4. Tears -- happy ones. Thanks for sharing this amazing story! And congratulations again! :)


    p.s. You're finish picture looks great!

  5. I love seeing that gorgeous smile, you look truly happy, pure of heart and mind, and what a win for your body, too! Congratulations on writing a great story and capping it off so timely...truly treasure this lifetime accomplishment; I know you will, and much deserved! AK

  6. That is all kinds of awesome, Julie. Congratulations. You are an Ironman!

  7. It made me tear up, too! Congratulations!

  8. Also, I think this might be your guy:

    Beau Behrens
    Bib 2825





  9. Awwww! So. SO. Happy for you, Julie!
    You make me realize I still have unfinished business to take care of!! :D

  10. Christine, that must be him. The age is right; it just means his birthday is later in the year. And he said he was from the area. But the little punk totally exaggerated his swim and bike times to me! Suppose he was really that fast a marathoner? Glad to see he was an official finisher.

    Jen, that would be a blast for me to watch you go through it again. But only if it's right for YOU!

    Mo-thurrr, I specifically answered the chicken broth question (just for you). No!! Only sports drink and water.

    Thanks, everyone!

  11. Crying now. YOU are my hero! Wish I could have been there.

  12. Julie, I think I had a cut and paste error on the bike time. I think it was 6 or something. You should check. The run and swim were not the same, and I pasted them that way. I'm sure the total is right, so he beat you by about 7 minutes.

  13. I loved the video of you giving everyone a high five. The smile on your face was precious. This story made me cry; I'm such a sucker for happy endings.

    You are a winner; you always have been and always will be!


  14. WOW! Julie, you are awesome!!! CONGRATULATIONS!

  15. Such an awesome experience and race report. You're really a gifted writer. This was so inspiring and downright funny, it really made my day to read your RR. Congrats again!!!