Monday, June 25, 2007

The Big One


Rested and relaxed (see Saturday's post). Carb loading was a bit setback because I started to get some serious stomach cramping. It wasn't the- oh my god I hope there are porta potties every 0.5 miles- it was the- if I eat anything I just might throw up from the pain- kind of cramping. Since I had an ulcer back in January I wasn't too pleased about this development, but there wasn't anything I could do about it so I just ate what I could and went to bed early.

Race Day!

Wake up call was 4am. The first thing that I did was check the weather. It was 9 degrees warmer than was predicted and I decided to make a last minute wardrobe change. I was going to suck it up and wear my tri-suit alone instead of the long sleeved cycling jersey that Miranda brought for me. This would require a bit of nutrition rearrangement from my T1 bag, so I was eager to get to transition early. I had some coffee, took a shower, ate a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and left for the race. Stomach was still really iffy. I didn't know if it was nerves, a bug I caught from the lake water, or a virus but I was hoping it would work itself out. I had my wonderful support crew (Miranda, Mom and Dad) to help me with my stuff and we headed out to transition to meet Paulo and Jonny.

I was very excited to race and got all my things taken care of in transition by 5:30 or so thanks to Paulo who was able to get into transition to help. It was VERY windy so we found some shelter on a stage and just relaxed for about an hour. It was nice to be out of the earshot of the speaker. Kept the nerves down. At 6:20 I put on my wetsuit in prep to go to see how bad the waves were going to be. But I knew the answer. 20 mph winds don't make for a calm lake.

Wetsuit donning:

Pre-race pic with Paulo

I walked over to the swim start. As I said goodbye to my family and friends and walked over to the beach by myself I got all choked up. It was really here. Thousands of people who have all been training and waiting and dreaming about this day were making their way slowly to the water. 2200 people were about to have their lives changed. It was awesome.

I had talked to Jonny and Paulo and Coach Angela and we all agreed that I was to start as far right as possible at the front. So I made my way over there and was relieved to see that there weren't many people there. And among those that were there were my friend Margaret and her man Glyn, and my CTC friend Mike. It was so nice to have a big hug from Margaret 5 minutes before the start. Again, I was out of earshot from the microphone so we watched our HRMs for the time. When it got to 6:59 and change, I started my watch. It was really happening...

Who wants to be an Ironman today?

Boom goes the cannon

Swim: 1:13

I had no problems practicing in the waves. I actually really liked it. But at the race it was different. I couldn't get into a rhythm, the waves were slapping me in the face, I was swallowing water, I felt helpless. I was 10 minutes into the race and I already thought it was over. How could I make it through this swim? I poked my head up and saw crowds of swimmers pulling away from me. Finally I just made myself snap out of if and started to swim. High turnover, as Jonathan instructed me to swim into the waves. I never really got into a good rhythm until I hit the turn buoys and it was a mess there. People everywhere. No one was moving. Finally I made it around the second buoy and cut inside the buoys to find open water. Finally I started to really swim. It felt good. I put my head down and just swam long and smooth all the way in. To get free water I had swam quite a bit to the left of the pack and had to swim a bit extra. I was really afraid to see my time at the turnaround. I was sure that it would be at least 45 minutes. It felt like 2 hours. I popped out of the water and looked at the clock. 36:00. Oh, thank God.

I jumped back in and decided to make the next loop a game. Reel in the swimmers. I started to work my way through packs. It kept my mind off the waves. Find swim packs and get around them. I was comforted to see the strokes of the swimmers around me. I was in packs of good, strong swimmers. It was a good sign. The second loop went really well. I was a bit surprised to see that the loop was slower than the first by a minute, but getting out of that water under those conditions in 1:13... I was ecstatic. Honestly, I was just so relieved to be out of that washing machine that I would have been happy with any time. Something I hadn't heard since I was out of earshot of the microphone was that the conditions were so bad that they offered a duathlon to anyone who didn't feel comfortable with the swim, or couldn't make the second loop.

T1- 4 minutes and change

Stomach was in complete knots. I was supposed to eat a gel in transition, but I was so nauseous that I couldn't think of it. I ran to the strippers, grabbed my wetsuit and then was greeted by one of the many angels of my day. My T1 volunteer. I don't know what it is about that brutal Ironman swim, but to have someone take my hand and say- "don't worry, I'll take care of you", just totally settled me down. She was such a sweetheart. Helped me get my stuff on and I was out on the bike in 4 minutes.

Bike: 6:38

The first loop of the bike leg was my second mental challenge of the day. I was strictly instructed to GET MY HEART RATE DOWN. I was also told by a lot of friends that you can't go too easy on the first loop. It took so much mental discipline. I had done heaps of bike training. My cycling was solid. But I had to hold back to save it for a run I wasn't sure that I could do. It was torture! I got on the bike and my HR was 180. I soft-peddled, and I mean REALLY soft peddled for the first 12 miles. I was getting passed like a salt shaker at a cardboard eating contest- I was passed by at LEAST 300 people. It was so hard to let everyone go. But with the speeds of these people, I thought I would be seeing a lot of them later in the day. My heart rate never really came totally down, but I made a little bargain with my coach (in my head of course). I was supposed to do the first loop under 150 BPM and the second under 160 BPM. I just decided to keep both under 160. When I had my first power bar I realized one reason for my high heart rate. My stomach was in serious pain. The power bar tasted like battery acid. I tried some gatorade. It was worse. Oh shit. It was going to be a long day.

Thankfully, I had done a century ride a couple months ago with GI distress as well. So I knew the absolute minimum amount of food and liquid I needed to keep going in the cool weather. I could make it through on 150-170 calories per hour and 10 ounces of liquid. So that became my plan B. Minimize the pain by minimizing the input.

Soon I realized that plan B couldn't be any nutrition I was used to because I couldn't tolerate the pain of powerbars or gels. So I found my saving grace. Bananas. I ate half a banana at every aid station. I'd never trained with it, but hell, it worked! And that was all that mattered.

Honestly, the pain didn't really bother me too much. It just hurt when I thought about eating or drinking, or actually was eating or drinking. Other than that, I was enjoying the bike course so much that I had a permagrin on my face. I passed a couple high school kids and became "crazy smiling lady" for the next 4 times I saw them on the bike and run. I was having a really good time. But the course was brutal. Brutal but absolutely gorgeous with wonderful support from the communities

The crazy low caloric input really dropped my HR like a stone. The first loop my HR was 185 going up a hill on the out and back. Loop 2 was 162. I was right on the fringe of bonking. But I still felt good. Keep on rolling...

The second loop I gave myself a little more heart rate freedom. The stomach was still in total knots and I hadn't peed yet (but I could feel the bladder filling so I knew I wasn't in dire dehydrated status), but I felt strong and was ready to pick it up. I thought the hills would never end on the second loop. I kept asking people- is this the last one yet? Finally it was. And I got back to the "easy downhill 10 miles into town". Yeah, maybe without a 20mph headwind. It was a bit tougher than I had hoped, but it gave me the opportunity to do some more passing. I had finally started reeling people in in the second loop and it felt really good.

I really pushed the last 12 miles because I wanted to make it into T2 by the 8 hour mark. That would give me 5 hours in the marathon to come in under 13 hours. I pushed it, made it into T2 at 7:58 and was so, so happy to get off that bike. My knees were hurting, my ankles were killing me, and my feet were in a lot of pain and my stomach was in knots and bloated like CRAZY. How about a marathon, huh?

T2- 4 minutes

I ran into T2 and my legs were shaking. I grabbed my T2 bags and asked a volunteer where the bathrooms were. "You just passed them sweetheart". You know the last thing you want to hear when you have been in your cycling shoes for almost 7 hours and your feet are cramping? You just passed up the bathrooms. Turn around in those death vices you call shoes and run back that way. Oh god, I thought my feet were going to explode. After the potty stop I quickly transitioned with my second angel, the T2 angel, and was off on the run in 4 minutes.

Run- 4:36

I knew this was going to hurt and hurt bad. I had run 4 miles in the past 8 weeks. One of those miles included my right knee totally locking up. Paulo said I would be able to run it, I would just have to be able to tolerate more pain than most people. My joints weren't used to the pounding.

The run started to be brutal at mile 1. Uh oh. Bad sign. The first mile was 10 minutes and change. I was okay with that, but disconcerted that I was already feeling knee and ankle pain and I looked 5 months pregnant from my bloated belly. Ok. I need to eat. I am not ahead on my nutrition like I was supposed to be. What looks edible...


It was a good try at least. I had 2 chips ahoy and it was like battery acid again. But I needed to stay positive. I couldn't worry my parents. On with the smile! It was easy to keep the smile on my face because of my secret weapon. My T-shirt. I knew I needed a lot of crowd support to get me through the run, so I bought a shirt that said- "I have a fever and the only prescription is MORE COWBELL!". The crowd loved it. I heard my name more times yesterday than my whole life combined! It was so awesome.

When I saw Paulo at mile 4 I was not looking good. I believe I told him- "I am in so much pain". He said- "keep running".

Angel #3

I didn't really talk to many people during the run. I had to stay so focused to keep going. But I did talk to one guy at mile 5. I told him about my stomach, and he offered me 2 tums. If for some wild reason you read this, Angel #3- you saved my race! One mile later the stomach stopped hurting- for the first time in 24 hours. And an amazing thing happened. I got thirsty. I had started drinking coke at mile 2, and now I started to walk through the aid stations. At every aid station I had 1 cup of gatorade, 1 cup of coke, and 1 cup of water. It was getting hot, and I was getting dehydrated.

Angel #4

Right when things started looking up I heard cheering. It was Angel #4. Miranda. She was my run angel. She was on her bike and for the rest of the marathon she would cheer me, then bike a half mile ahead, and then cheer for me again. She cheered me right up the hill I was going to walk up. And that was such a confidence boost. But on the way back, mile 7.5, the knee locked up. Oh, shit.

I looked at Miranda and said- Is this supposed to hurt this badly? She said- YES! It means your doing it right!

She was absolutely amazing. Whenever I felt like my body hurt too bad to keep going she would bike up and cheer me on. And by mile 10 everything hurt. Both IT bands, both ankles, my feet, my hips. The only thing that didn't hurt was the kneecap I broke!

I kept up the routine of walking the aid stations and drinking as much fluid as I could. Coming into town was such a boost. I was smiling so big at mile 12 coming through town that my cheeks hurt! (and I was smiling really weird:)

The pain didn't matter. I was having the best time of my life. In a crazy, twisted way the pain helped. It was like a personal challenge. I was beating it. I was conquering my fears. I was running the Ironman marathon.

When I hit the turnaround, I realized something crazy. I was in unchartered territory. My longest run EVER was 14 miles. When I came up through town I was at mile 15. Holy shit, I'm still running.

When I passed My parents I was so happy. The next time they saw me would be at the finishers chute. What a weird feeling. I was in so much pain that I wanted to finish, but I never wanted it to end. It was like getting to the end of a great book. You never really want to put it down.

I saw Paulo and was still smiling. I got the- "just keep running" comment again. OK, I will.

But then I hit a bit of a low point at mile 17. I started to get shooting pains in my left knee. I made a bargain with myself. Ok, you can walk 10 steps and take some Tylenol. But of course during that walk I would see Margaret going the other direction. That really helped. You can't walk- people are watching you! I picked it up. But holy hell was I in pain. When I got to the mile 19 aid station I stopped to walk so I could drink and everything seized up. It took absolutely every ounce of mental and physical strength to get moving again. That did it. I had only one choice to make. I was going to run the last 7 miles or walk the last 7 miles. I could no longer transition between the two. So I told myself...

Suck it up, princess, you're almost done

And from that point on, I not only ran, but I ran faster. I forgot about the pain and just soaked everything up for the last hour. Miranda was cheering me on, I had a smile on my face, and I ran right through every damn aid station. The only pain that I felt was an ever growing blister on my pinkie toe. It was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I think it was my saving grace. It was an intense pain, and I think it totally tricked my mind into forgetting about all the throbbing joint pains going on.

When I turned the corner and saw mile 25 I just about lost it. I got all choked up and knew I was going to make it. I could hear Mike Reilly in the distance and knew it would be my name he was calling soon. I ran faster. At mile 25.5 the blister on my foot exploded and my shoe started turning red. I ran harder. Then I made the turn to the finish. The crowd was huge. I think I started throwing my hands up into the air with about 0.4 miles left. It was the best damn mile I have ever run. When I got a block from the finishers chute out came my dad with the cowbell, he ran me to the entrance of the chute with a huge, proud smile on his face and then said he'd meet me at the finish. Then I hear it. Jodi Thomson from University Heights, Ohio, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

And then I tripped over the finisher's mat and almost took a faceplant onto the pavement. Would you expect any less from me?

Total time : 12:37.05

The Aftermath:

Paulo and Jonathan both had VIP passes and met me at the finish. I went right to the med tent for little rub down and to see the damage on my foot.

You know it's bad when the volunteer who has been taking care of Ironman finishers all day looks at your foot, recoils, and says- wow, that's gross.

What you can't really appreciate is that the entire toe, bottom and top is a blister. Nasty.

I then hobbled home and ate pizza, slept 1.5 hours and woke up in a world of hurt. A WORLD OF HURT. Everything hurts. But that's not what this blog entry is about. It's about ending the best 10 months of my life with the best 12 hours of my life. They say it's not the destination, it's the journey. Well, I think it's both. The journey was amazing, and the destination was exhilarating. I am an Ironman. I'll be back at Moo in 2008, but it will never be as good as the first one.

(Thanks to all my training buddies, friends, family, and Coach Angela for making the hardest year of my life the best one)


mobilepaika said...

Great job! Thanks for posting the pictures.


Paris said...

You're awesome. I really mean it. I do!

codewordX said...

Nic race report, and job well done!


Ellie80 said...

woohoo! Jodi you are an IRONMAN!!!! And in such style! Great read and thanks for sharing the journey!

Curly Su said...

great report, jodi. brought tears to my eyes...

runningman said...

Hey jodi,

First of all congratz on your race, awsome job! I was also doing my first one in CDA and what really brought a smile to my face was that I remember seeing the crazy shirt saying MORE COWBELL!! ha ha I actually got a chuckle out of it while going through my own pain/discomfort. Thanks for the laugh, it helped. I have yet to put up a RR but I will in the next couple days.

Andy said...

Amazing job! I freakin' love that shirt, too. Heres to a speedy recovery!

Jen_runs said...

Wow! I've got goosebumps reading your report. It's almost enough to make me want to do one. Almost ;-)

Congratulations! Savour your journey & enjoy the recovery time - you deserve it!

Judy said...

Congrats!! I really enjoyed reading your story. You did GREAT!!!!! WOOHOO! And your run is amazing after not being able to run for so long prior - imagine what you can do when you get to train!!

Angry Runner said...

Good Lord, Jodi!!! I was cringing while reading about that run...holy shit you are one tough chick. Congrats! Can't wait to read more.

Matt Collister said...

Jodi, Great report. I've never seen a blister like THAT! Congratulations on your finish.


JenC said...

Way to persevere through tough conditions! I will think of you all day next month when it is my turn.

Congratulations Ironman!

Mallie said...

WOW. That's really all that needs to be said. You killed it. WOW!

teacherwoman said...

What a wonderful race report. Congrats to you, Jodi! It must have been quite an emotional ride!

Wes said...

That beautiful, wonderful, sometimes grimacing smile in all those pictures just says it all. The only thing that comes close to doing an Ironman (I can only imagine), is having a friend become Iron.

TriSaraTops said...

Amazing race and report! You are awesome. That finish line is like nothing else, huh? I wish I could bottle that up and sell it... :)

Congrats, Dr. Ironman!

TriSonq said...

Great report JT.

Tripped over the finish line?!? Classic.

Better to trip over the finish line than to never get there.

You're awesome!

Papa Louie said...

Jodi, Congratulations, you are an Ironman! The angels were on your side helping and cheering you on. You ran a great race and thanks for the inspirational report.

E-Speed said...

Jodi I am so happy for you! You really proved how tough you were out there. 12:37 with some sort of intense pain the whole way. That says a lot about you. You rock girl!

DaisyDuc said...

WOW, what a truly awesome story. So incredibly motivating the way you put pushed on through all the pain.

All that discomfort and you were still smiling the whole way. You deserve some serious cowbell!!!!

rory duffman said...

Wow, you really love violent movies don't you!!!

kelli said...

jodi, you are just a "blogger" friend, but the proud feeling i have for you is immense. congrats on a great first definitely "sucked it up, princess!"


B Bop said...

Wow! It's been great following your cyberjourney to the finish line. You are badass, Dr. Ironprincess Jodi!!

Cliff Tam said...


Great race report. Ouch on the bike but that was a smart move trying the banana to get the calorie in.

Good job on the run.

dawnawanna said...

Good job!

I worked aid station 1 on the bike course, we had a lot of fun out there. I really enjoyed helping out the athletes as much as possible.

We saw a family with orange t-shirts that said "More Cowbell" Were they with you?

Kim said...

CONGRATULATIONS IRONWOMAN! what an incredible accomplishment! you certainly rocked the race. nice work!

Briantryintri said...

You rock!! Congrats!

g. lo said...

aw+-esome job....I followed your progress via ST board. Your first IM...hold on to the feeling

Charlie said...

Jodi, Thanks for leading the charge for all of us first time CTC IMers this year with such courage and toughness. I will expect no less from myself thanks to your example. You are inspirational. Again Congratulations. You earned this.

Bananas are the best.
Great Race report.

Charlie said...

Two more things.
Congrats on that first marathon.

Can we see you medal? or do I have to get my own?

Jessi said...

Congrats on a great race! I was telling my fiance how clever you were to come up with that cowbell slogan, at which point he directed me to Youtube to watch the SNL skit. Even if you didn't come up with the slogan, pure genius to wear it on a t-shirt during the run!

jdz said...

From a (mostly) lurker on ST - Congrats!!! I also signed up for my first Ironman right after doing my first sprint ... We're all a little nutty eh? Hope you're enjoying the time off!

P.S. Black labs named Maddie are the BEST dogs ... we have one too! :)

Kolla said...

That is the best IM race report ever - Jodi you are an inspiration!

Anonymous said...