Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkinman 70.3 Race Report - aka The road to Crazytown

Pumpkinman Half Iron distance - September 7th, 2014 - South Berwick, Maine

Wow...I don't even know where to start. I've been mentally composing this recap since the race and it's now exactly one month from that day. If I thought training 12+ hours a week was putting me through an emotional roller-coaster, I had no idea what the actual day had in store for me. Let me back up a bit since it has obviously been a while since I last wrote and a lot has changed. I'll also warn you, this may be a bit choppy. And long. Did I mention long? I should really split this into a few posts, but I know I will never write more than one part of a recap, so here you go. I also don't want to forget any of my memories of that weekend, so I'll just be throwing things in as I go. Also, I'm going to add some song videos as I go so you can just click and listen if you want.

This spring as the swim class I've been taking for a while was winding down, I found out that the pool would be closed for renovations over the summer and there wouldn't be any classes. Bummer! My teacher is so great. She has helped me with my swim so much. She manages to really push me and I leave feeling like I got my butt kicked, but always feeling so positive. I had it in my head that I would be seeing her almost right up until my race. I knew I could do it on my own, but I was sad anyway. I signed up for the South End Fitness Center, because I had heard they had a nice, non-crowded pool. Since I tend to go during off hours, most days I had the entire 6 lane 25 yard pool all to myself. It was actually kind of lonely and sometimes a little creepy due to an overactive imagination - WHAT WAS THAT SHADOW ON THE BOTTOM?!

Anyhow. I decided I needed some positive specifically-triathlon support. I wasn't getting it at the gym, it just isn't their thing. I didn't have my swim teacher. My hubby was already exhausted by his new business and my training trickery. "You want to go for a ride?" is now known to mean, "hey, how 'bout 90 mins moderate with 8 X 3 minute hill climbs?" It also means I was now doing my rides solo. About 2 weeks after my last blog post I went to a triathlon expo and met a few tri teams. Wheelworks Multisport stuck out to me as being the perfect balance of newbie welcoming, but also really committed to training and racing their best. I found out they were having a fundraiser night a couple of weeks later and was pretty much sold on the team as soon as I arrived. I signed up that night. It's been great having them as a resource and even better having them around before races. I feel so much more calm as part of a group for some reason.

I quit personal training. It was not an easy decision, but I'm even more sure it was the right one now.

A few months later I quit that gym entirely (I had two gym memberships before that point). There was no need to have that membership if I wasn't doing personal training anymore. I had to have a gym with a pool and the one I was using had plenty of cardio and weight equipment. Plus, I'd save so much money I could take an occasional spin class at one of the awesome spin boutiques near me if I really missed it (my one hesitation to canceling the fancy gym).

I became a big girl and marched myself into Belmont Wheelworks and asked for help getting shoes and clipless pedals (which may sound confusing to some of you, but they're actually the shoes that click into the pedals and attach you to the bike). I had the chance to work with some great employees and had a cleat fitting for my shoes and later, a bike fit. I took away a ton of great info. The bike fitter also 100% solved some major neck pain I was having by putting me through some drills to fix my form (and the death grip I had on my bars). Did I mention this was a month before my race? If it wasn't for procrastination, I'd have nothing to do tomorrow...

Let me do my best to recap the training. It was usually Monday off, a run and swim on W, F and Sun and a bike on Tu, Th, Sat. Sometimes the Sat bike or Sun run was replaced by a bike/run combo (brick). It is a lot. I knew it was a lot. I had days where I loved it and I had days where you couldn't pay me to do my workout. Skipping workouts sucks for so many reasons. The guilt. The knowledge that you only hurt yourself and your race. Knowing that no matter what you do, you will short something. Your training. Your personal life. And no matter what you do you'll still be tired. One day I was laying on the couch fighting a cold, exhausted and I just started crying. My apartment was a mess, I had food for a few meals I needed to make (big bulk meals to last the week) that was in danger of going bad and no energy to deal with any of it. Luckily the Hubs is the worlds best tri Sherpa and came to the rescue. For all the ups and downs, I learned a lot in the process.

As race day approached, I was crawling out of my skin. It was taper week. I felt like I needed to squeeze in just...one...more...long...ride....but it was the last thing I was supposed to do. My workouts were pretty much to keep me loose and ready to go. Nothing too big. I had work to distract me Monday through Thursday that week, but way too much time to think otherwise. I got really good at math. Anyone who spent ANY time around me knew my worries about the course cutoffs. Each leg has a limit. If you don't make the time cutoff, you will get pulled from the race. This race has a slightly shorter allowed time than some others, but it's also not as difficult as some. I figured, you win some, you lose some and went with the race that looked the best. Here's the cutoff breakdown and what it meant for me:

Swim: 1 hour after the last wave starts (approximately 8:30am)
Bike: 12:30pm
Run/Finish: 3pm

I knew I would most likely be starting in a wave around 7:25 (and I was right). So, here's the worst case scenario. I hoped for a 45-55 minute swim, but knew I could take an hour if I had a bad day. That got me out of the water at 8:25 and onto my bike by 8:30. That gave me 4 hours to finish the bike and in theory, at 14mph minimum, plenty of time. I had ridden the course before and could hold 16-17mph, even more with the bike shoes and pedals. If I had a bad day 14 would be all I could do. I felt confident I could make both those cutoffs with room to spare, BUT if I took the entire time allotted, it only left me 2:30:00 to run the 13.1 miles. My personal best at that distance is about a 2:37:00. This scared me and I had many dreams about it over the week leading up. My best case scenario would put me just over 6.5 hours. Worst, a bit more than 7.5. I spent hours calculation and recalculating paces and predictions. It ended up being totally pointless (DUH).

Friday I started my vacation and ran through my list of gear, did a final check and then packed my race bag. We'd be leaving to stay in Ogunquit on Saturday morning. It was crazy hot and humid for early September and storms were forecast for early in the weekend. I begged the weather to be nice to me on Sunday, then cleaned up my bike and took it for a quick spin to make sure everything was working okay.

Saturday I woke up with the sun and tossed and turned for hours. There wasn't any point in leaving early since both check in at the hotel and the packet pick up weren't until later in the afternoon. By late morning I finally asked if we could just go and take the scenic route. That should kill time and we could stop for lunch on the way. Next time I will have an actual plan for nutrition the day before. Breakfast was small (an english muffin? I forget) and then lunch didn't end up being until 2:30pm. Dinner was at 7:30. Ideally I would have had big meals earlier and a lighter dinner. We headed to packet pick up and then back to Ogunquit to pick up some groceries and then head out to dinner.

Ogunquit for lunch 

Thunderheads at packet pick up.

Then it was the worst part - the night before when you're in for the night. It feels like SO LONG to be nervous, but there's really not much to do to distract yourself. I lurked around facebook and someone posted Diana Nyad's TED talk (check it out, it's awesome). Two things stuck with me. First, was when her swim got tough, tough to the point where everyone "knew" it was impossible (it wasn't!), her friend leaned over and, seeming like she was going to tell her to give up said, "Find a way."

Find a way.

Second, she talked about listening to the Beatles' "Imagine" over and over during her swim....for like nine hours. She sings a little bit of it to drive her point home,

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." 

I think I listed to that song at least 10 times before I went to bed. I felt like, at the very least, I had finally mentally conquered the swim. I had great swims all summer. I had even brought the horrible 15 minute 1/4 mile swim from last year's Cohasset tri down to 9 minutes this year AND I loved every second of it!

I looked around for some positive quotes and inspiration and tried to fall asleep around 10:30. That's when the stomach problems started. I was running to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so until 2am. I finally slept until 4am and then got up to get ready for the race. 2 whole hours of sleep. I felt mostly okay, so I ate the oatmeal I brought with me. And then promptly threw it up. Now I was freaked out because I really had no idea what was going on. Was I sick? Was it nerves? I'd never had this happen. I decided I would try and race under two conditions. #1 I had to keep down 2 Honey Stinger Waffles and a bottle of Heed drink before the race. #2 If I started vomiting (or worse!) during the race it was Game Over. The temps were predicted to be in the mid 70s by the run portion but I knew it would probably be hotter. It would be dangerous to race sick like that.

Somehow the Hubs and I made our way through the dark windy back roads to Spring Hill in South Berwick and I kept my nutrition down. We arrived at 5am, but transition didn't open for a bit. I got my timing chip and got body marked and walked around for a few minutes. As they open the transition to let us in they turned on the music. The Beatles. Here Comes the Sun. I almost cried.

I was already feeling pretty emotional and had been humming "Imagine" to myself on the way. It was such a beautiful gentle song to start the day, the sun was just barely cracking the horizon.

I teared up and just stopped for a second to be grateful that, no matter how the days ends, I got a shot at it. I have the time and money. I have my health.

I had plenty of time to set up and talk to my neighbors and use the porta-potty a couple of times. By then I ran into a few of my teammates and felt pretty good about that too. I always joke that the very worst part of the morning is committing to leaving the transition area. It's so hard to decide that everything is there and that you have what you need for the swim! It's silly. You need a wetsuit, goggles and your cap. Hopefully you have your timing chip on already.

We headed down to the swim start. Seriously, how beautiful is this? I stopped being so nervous because I was in awe. I was just anxious to start.

The swim 1.2 miles (.6 miles X 2 loops):

As I started, a song came on that I hadn't paid attention to much. It didn't strike me as a big, Go Go Go! start the race type song, but it set the mood perfectly.

It was great. I did the swim in about 54 minutes. It was not a fast swim for me, but it was a huge success is so many ways. I started the swim towards the back and on the inside. I didn't feel like being swum over, but I also was confident enough to hold my line close to the buoys. I really didn't want to swim extra. The course is set up like a triangle. You swim counter-clockwise - out two buoys, turn, across two buoys, turn, back in two buoys and the repeat the course a second time. I got to the first buoy, halfway to the first turn and started to feel fatigued. I wondered if I was really going to make it. How could I come all the way here and THIS?

Find a way.

Yes. Diana Nyad. Find a way. There is no way I can't go the distance at some speed. Stick to the plan. I wanted to swim by effort at a moderate feel. I knew I could do that easily in under an hour. Pushing it in my first long swim could spike my heart rate to start the bike. I'd save maybe 5 minutes in the swim. If I stayed relaxed on the swim and started the bike calm, I could bank SO much time for the run on the bike course. I reached the turn buoy and started along the long back stretch. I favor breathing to the right, which gave a a view of pine trees, a few cottages and the mist. It was perfect Maine. I thought of my family up in Union. I thought of Owls Head Light and Spruce Head. I daydreamed about my trip up there at the end of the week to visit everyone. I turned towards the shore to see if I could spot the Hubs, but all I could see was a mass of color and hear cheering and cowbells. So exciting, but way too early to get too worked up! I was singing "Imagine" to myself and cruising right along. I passed the midpoint buoy along the back and realized I felt great. As I rounded the turn and headed back to shore I knew I had it. A second loop would be a piece of cake. I poked my head up as I turned and was actually able to wave to the Hubs and have him see me as I headed out for the second loop.

I'm the creeper in the second blue cap, looking directly at the camera instead of, you know, swimming...

Finally out. Yes, I am like, 4th to last out of the water and there was a wave behind me.

I finished the swim feeling great. I know I can take quite a bit of time off next year. I wanted a controlled swim and did exactly that. No panic. No safety stroke needed.

Coming out of the swim is a huge hill up into transition. It's actually it's own timed mini event with a prize. I didn't give it any thought, other and not falling on my face going up it.

Transition 1 was pretty uneventful. Wetsuit off. Helmet, gloves, sunglasses, socks and bike shoes on. Clipped on my run number so I wouldn't forget it later and I was pretty good to go. I took a big gulp of water from my extra bottle and ran my bike out.

Yes, it's like me and the tumbleweeds here.

Bye now! Feeling good!

Bike 56 miles:

The bike course is shaped kind of like a lollipop. You ride out 8 miles, then you do a 20 mile loop twice and then ride the 8 miles back for a total of 56. I did the 8 miles each way and one loop during a preview and even pre-bike shoes and pedals I did okay riding in my sneakers. I always feel kind of yucky riding after swimming. My stomach gets kind of funny. I took the first few downhill miles easy and drank some Heed. I ate a couple of Honey Stinger chews to get a bit in right away and started to get up to speed. At that point a guy passed me and cheered me on. I kept about 30 feet behind him but had him in sight for a long time. I knew, being so far back in the swim and not being particularly fast at anything would mean I'd be pretty lonely on the bike. Luckily I did a lot of loooong rides by myself. Some were pretty ugly and I was grateful to have made it through them. I was feeling pretty good at this point, so I continued to eat and drink and push the pace. I was keeping 16-20mph on the flats and 25-35 downhills. Even the medium uphills I kept to 10-12mph which was great for me. I knew there was a bigger one I'd see at 20 and 40 miles.

Some people complained about rough pavement, but I thought it was mostly great. The only place where I was forced to ride on the rough parts was the first and last mile, which was on a closed road and you could move around a bit. There were parts of a busier road where the shoulder was very rough, but if you rode just to the left of the white shoulder line you were good. That's what I did and it was fine. The cars gave me plenty of room and a couple of people cheered me on. Bikes do have the right to ride as far into the lane as needed for safety and I did that when I needed to. I'm also used to riding with traffic in the city, so I can see how others aren't used to it. Mostly the roads were very rural and pretty. There were plenty of trees and fields. You go by some farms and a beautiful golf course. Families sit in their yards to watch as if it's a parade. People were even pulled over onto the dirt shoulder sitting on their tailgates to cheer. Families were out with their kids, dogs and coolers with cowbells, hoses and bubble guns. I was amazed at the spectator support on stretches of road with nothing but trees. I was mentally prepared to see NO ONE for a long time. This was such a nice surprise. I was overwhelmed again. At some point I made it up the bigger hill around mile 20 and started a very nice long downhill to the start of the second loop. As I made the turn onto loop 2 I checked my time. And rechecked. I think I checked like 5 times. An hour and 40 minutes? No WAY! I felt like I could go faster and could make a 3 hour 15 min bike! I couldn't believe it.

Loop 2 was really lonely. While on loop one I had the company of everyone doing loop 2. Now I was really on my own. I picked off a few people but sadly they were doing the Aquabike (swim and bike only) and would not end up being company on the run later. Mile 35 is where I started what I called bargaining. My left groin area started to HURT. Like, CAPITAL LETTERS HURT. Right at the top of my inner thigh. Why is this happening now? I shifted forward and back to ease the pressure but it just moved the pain elsewhere. I told myself, only 20 more miles. Only? REALLY?! So I did 5 miles at a time. Just 5. I felt good otherwise. I got to 40 and made it up the hill again. People were stopped all along the side at the aid station, but I kept on going. I crested the top and knew I was home free. It's all down hill and a few miles of flat. Just a little hill at the end. Around mile 45 I started to feel weird. Like a switch was flipped. I wasn't sure what it did, but something had changed. By mile 48 I was convinced something was wrong with my bike. It was wobbling. No flat. Nothing seemed wrong. By mile 49 I realized something was wrong with ME. I was causing my bike to wobble. But that wasn't scary. What was scary was that I only realized something was wrong with my body by noticing how it was causing my bike to act. I ate some chews and chugged my water. What else do I have? Am I missing something? I felt so weird, like I was a spectator to my own body. I could only guess at what was wrong but for some reason I couldn't feel what it was. I also knew I had slowed wayyyyy down. I was seeing the minutes tick by way faster than the miles. All of a sudden my huge time gain for the run was gone. I need that time! I saw my mph dwindle down to 10-12. I asked my legs to go faster and they didn't. I felt nauseated. I felt thirsty but that water wasn't helping. I was oblivious to what I knew to be my major nutritional problem in long hot races. Salt. I was losing a ton and taking in hardly any. Even on a cool day I didn't have close to enough. On a day like I was having, I was at about one tenth of what I should have consumed. I'm not sure how I even functioned at that point. Somehow I made it back and barely swung my leg over my bike to dismount without falling.

 I ran into transition and was encouraged by a bunch of guys who had already finished. I sat down to change shoes and looked up to see the Hubs standing at the fence. He looked concerned. Like, a sad, urgent concerned. He asked if I ate. If I drank. I look at my watch. It was 12:26. I had barely made it. I was stunned. At that point I knew I was in trouble. I started to tear up and said, "I'm not going to make the cutoff. It's at 3. I can't run a 2:30:00 half marathon. Not like this." He just looked at me and said, "you've got to go. Now. Just don't stop. GO."

I grabbed my visor and ran out of transition. I hear the marshalls saying the last bike had just barely made it in. There is one person behind me exiting. The volunteers are screaming, "we've got a runner!" I have no idea why. I just start really really running, because I just need to get out of there. A lady at the driveway entrance cheers us out and waves her poms poms. I try to smile at her.

The run:

I got through the first three miles okay. I have no idea how. I saw the hubs at mile 3 and he was happy to see me that soon. "Just keep moving! Don't stop!" I said that no matter what I was going to finish and told him I'd see him in 5 miles. This is where the course starts being hilly. There wasn't a lot of shade and it was hot. I asked for salt tabs at the first aid station and after a little while I felt much better. I tried to start doing run 4 minute, walk 1 minute intervals like I had practiced to get myself up and down the hills. I got to about mile 4 when I noticed that I could not, for the life of me, pay attention to the time. I'd start my 1 minute walk and then realized it had been 4 minutes. I'd get going again, only to repeat the same. Soon I was mostly walking. I came up to mile 5 and realized that almost every person around me was on their second loop. So many people were running back towards me, only a couple of miles to the finish. I was going to be alone again and for so long this time. It was a bit demoralizing and I felt defeated. I know I'm supposed to run my own race, but you have to understand I was 6 hours into the race at this point. I had been in some sort pain for HOURS. Like, 3 or 4. I just couldn't really think anymore. Around mile 6 I stopped for a bathroom break, dropped all my gels onto the floor (one in the urinal, ew!) and then could barely get my shorts back on. I wanted to cry. I walked out to the aid station and drank some gatorade. Why I didn't ask for more salt, I have no idea. I am sure it was the cause of my fuzzy brain and my dead legs. I had plenty of calories and fluid. I ran down the road and into a subdivision to turn around on loop one. As I ran along, there were so many funny signs. I can't remember the first ones I saw other than "Margaritas Ahead" and "Remember, you paid for this!" The aid station at the cul-de-sac turn around was awesome! They called it The Oasis. There were not margaritas there, but there were more port-potties and all the gels, snacks, drinks and ice cold sponges you wanted. Oh! I forgot about that part! All along the run course were little kids with their parents handing out sponges that were soaked in ice water. People, you saved me! I can't even tell you what a huge difference it made. Plus the kids were so cute about it. These weren't even the volunteers, just nice people who were excited about the race. Anyway, back to The Oasis. These people were seriously so nice. It was clear I was struggling and they all encouraged me. I told them that I was sorry, but only on my first loop. I felt bad they would be waiting for me. They just said, "we'll be here! See you soon!" I walk/ran back to the main road and turned down it to head back to where the Hubs was waiting. As I ran down the hill I laughed so hard. There was a group of guys pulled over to the side, just yelling at us. Yelling and yelling encouragement. When I passed them the first time they were blasting this song. At least I had something funny stuck in my head.

By the time I got to mile 8 where the Hubs was, I was Done. With the running. Done. I had joked about the funny things I was going to yell to the Hubs as I got the the crazy place in the race but I had nothing. I hurt so bad but was numb. My hips killed. I was just kind of shuffling. I had all sorts of stomach pains. I thought I had a headache but I wasn't even sure. I wanted to be done so badly. The finish was .1 mile away but I still had one more 5 mile loop. I walked by the Hubs and he followed me.

"I'm not going to make the cutoff. 3pm is in 40 minutes. I have 5 miles left." He told me he was coming with me. I said okay, then I stopped walking and looked at him. WHAT?! "I'm coming WITH you, I said. Let's go!" and he starts running. In flipflops and jeans. I wasn't thinking straight and I started shuffling too. Then I hugged him and sent him back. Beyond the fact that it was outside help and could get me a DQ or a time penalty (like I NEED my time to be any longer), it just felt wrong. I needed to do this solo. Plus, I felt like I was on another planet and it felt really weird to be around someone who was still "normal." I was so sad to leave him. It felt like 5 more miles was so far. I felt so sick. I can't really rehash those miles because a lot of it is hard to properly put in words. This ended up not being an athletic race for me, but an emotional mental toughness race. I wasn't able to race like I was physically able, but I was able to dig really really deep and see what was left. It was kind of ugly at times. I did a lot of questioning about myself, my identity, who I am. I though of the people back at work who are unable to do any of what I was doing. People who were proud of me just for showing up. I pictured all of their faces and knew I could not go back and tell them that I quit. That it was too hard. On and off I ran and walked and thought. At about mile 10 one of the race directors pulled up next to me in the golf cart. I knew it was 3pm and I had prepared myself to hand over my timing chip. I would get a DNF but I could still finish the distance unofficially. Instead he checked in and urged me to push as much as possible. He mentioned working towards the time cutoff, but since I was still kind of fuzzy-brained I didn't ask him what I meant. Weren't we at the cutoff? I did, laughing, say, "I'm last, huh?" (yes) I did my best to run and he said he'd check back in. I saw him go ahead and talk to the few who were just up ahead of me and then leave. I was never so happy to run back onto the main road, a straight shot to the end. As I exited the side street I could hear it. Around mile 11/11.5. Music. An MC. Cheering. It was the finish line. It was SO close but at this rate, my run shuffle would take me close to 30 minutes to go the 2 miles to there. I just kind of stopped and looked at the ground. I was SO FAR behind the cutoff. There was no way. It was like watching my dream slip away. It was so close I could hear it. I felt desperate to get there but my feet would not go. I was going to go 69 of the 70.3 miles and not make it. Almost 8 hours at this point. I remembered the quote I had posted on facebook the night before:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
- Theodore Roosevelt

Somehow I got moving again and about 10 minutes later a pickup truck came towards me and stopped. It was the same guy who had check on me. I stopped. Here it is. I'm going to have to give my chip back at mile 12. 12!!! I wasn't mad at them at all. I knew the cutoffs going in and they had been more than generous so far. I was just disappointed. He gets out and says, "So here's the thing....(I wait for it)....we're going to let you finish."

OMG. I'm going to finish! Officially! I'm starting to realize that the may have also changed the course cutoff that day to 3:30pm. I'm not sure, really. I thank him and tears spring to my eyes. I joke about not crying and he's like, "you have 10 minutes! Go!" Haha. I realized I had no idea if I was really at 12. He tells me I have less than a mile. I take off up a hill. OUCH. But I don't really care. I get to the last aid station and round the corner. I know it's just up the hill. I can see the tent and hear the music. I hear the man who was just in front of me finish. I stop at the bottom of the biggest hill ever. Maybe not biggest ever, but it was cruel. I walked so slowly and so carefully up this hill. The finish chute is literally at the top. I'm not even sure I can walk up it. I'm so overwhelmed. Cars full of other athletes are leaving and people are hanging out their windows literally screaming me up the hill. I see a woman with a walkie talkie at the top. She's wearing a pink jacket and I realize she was the lady with the poms poms from the start of the run. She waves them and yells, "You got this girl! I told them we weren't leaving my runners out there! I'm so proud of you! I'm going to run with you down the chute!" I'm just stunned. I'm in the finish chute. She stops about 1/2 way down and I run in alone.

Total race time: 8:21:33

It's at that point I hear the MC announce "the pride and joy of Boston!" and my name. I hear him change the song. Now, if you know me and know how sappy I am, you know that my very favorite daydream is that I'm winning a race and a certain song is playing for me. The song always changes, but the daydream's the same. I'm coming down the chute and so much is happening that I can't really make myself listen to the song. I see ALL of the volunteers from the aid stations that drove by me as I passed their area waiting at the end. The see the ambulance and the drivers cheering and putting on the light and sirens. I see the Hubs and a few spectators, including one guy with a Boston Hub on Wheels shirt waiting and yelling "YEAH BOSTON!!!" Then, I start laughing when I hear the words and realize what it is.

"Weeeeeee, are the champions, my frieeeeend, and weeeeeee'll keep on fiiiiiiiighting, til the eeeeeend"

How appropriate and awesome. Also note: I now sappy-cry every time I hear that song. Sorryimnotsorry.

The announcer is telling everyone how we're all champions. We all fight for something and finishing is a win, from the winner to the very final finisher (me). I thought I'd be crying at this point when imagining the finish, but I don't. I feel like I'm watching it all happen. It was unreal. The lady with the poms poms (I wish I knew her name!) hugs me and tells me she's proud of me. I tear up and thank her. I'm given a finisher medal, and awesome finisher shirt and a gatorade. The pom pom lady leads me to the harvest feast. Food! I forgot all about it but they have food for me! I assumed I was kind of too late for that. I explained I never picked up the Hubs meal ticket that I purchased for him and she waved us on to get food. I ate and then the guy from the Shipyard beer tent comes to offer all of us beer tickets. I forgot I got a free one, but the Hubs ended up getting one too. We sat and ate and drank and chatted with the volunteers. That was one awesome thing about being last. We got to actually got to know some of the cool people who volunteered. It was so nice. Even though their day was mostly over, they still insisted on taking care of me. One insisted I not only have dessert, but sit and let him get it for me. When I discovered possibly the most horrifying blister of my life that had consumed my right pinky toe (how did I not feel THAT?! RIP pinky nail) one of them insisted I let him run up the hill and get an assortment of bandaids. The Hubs had to get my bike from transition (no one would let me go) and then they were like, "Eh! Just drive your car down the hill and put your stuff in here!" Haha. There was no saying no. By the time I left, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends and family. I didn't want to go, but it was time. For like the zillionth time, my favorite Zac Brown Band song came on the radio.

As we drove back to Ogunquit I felt happy. It was the worst I had technically and athletically executed a race ever. I was sick. I messed up my nutrition. I didn't follow my run plan. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was the most vulnerable I had felt ever. I was out there and risking being pulled with everyone knowing it. DNF. Did. Not. Finish. The only way I could move forward was to truly believe that there was a purpose to what I was doing. I was finding a part of me that I really needed to REALLY race this distance. I knew instantly I'd be back next year even though I was too scared to admit it. Instead of wanting the challenge of the race there was a fire now.

We spend the next few days cruising around the Ogunquit area, eating lobsters and drinking rum punch at Barnacle Billy's and relaxing. Monday I could barely shuffle, but I marched myself and my finisher's shirt allll around Perkin's Cove.

I will definitely be back next year. The difference in how I feel about my body and training and how much I learned in that race is enormous. I can't wait!