Monday, December 3, 2012

The Run

I believe I left you hanging once again in transition.  That's fitting, given the meaning of the word don't you think?  Ok, ok...

I was very happy to get off the bike- or at least some of me was.  It was a relief to be on my feet and not on my seat.  The transition from bike to run is more quick than the swim to bike, mainly because the distance you have to travel is shorter.  I found my Run Gear bag no problem, found my patch of grass, dumped it all out and again immediately had a volunteer there to help me.  I could hear some of my fans cheering for me from the bridge that overlooks the transition area, and I was so happy! Again the volunteer told me not to worry about my stuff, that he would get it all back in the bag.  Such service!  Off I went to the porta-potty before starting the run.

My brother just HAD to get a picture of me on my way to the porta-potty!
After I came out of said porta-potty I again had a roar of cheers from my fan club, so I gave them a little bow.  I was having fun.

Just passing through, ladies...
I went through the changing tent again, keeping my eyes straight ahead so I wouldn't have to see any naked ladies, straight to the sunblock applicators.  Being an hour ahead of my schedule I had to consider the additional sun exposure and didn't want it to be a factor.

To see a map of the run course, click here.

As I ran throught the Run Out arch the clock read 7:38 (as in, seven hours, thirty-eight minutes into the race).  The bike ended up taking me 6:01, not able to make it under six hours, but thrilled that I knocked an entire hour off my goal!  I wondered if I could run a 4:20 marathon and finish under 12 hours?  That is a 10-minute mile average.  My goal was to do the run in four and a half hours, or an hour and a half for each of the three loops, which is just over that pace.  I had never ridden for 112 miles and tried to run a 10-minute mile. "I'll figure it out as I go," I told myself.  The plan was to walk the aid stations, at first being the key to slow me down, then knowing eventually it would be the key to survival.

Off I go, starting my run!
I mistook the aid stations for being mile markers and thought I had already gone a mile when the first aid station came up.  Nope.  Once I got to the Mile 1 sign, I knew this was going to be a long run.  I was going too fast at 8:30 mile pace.  As we rounded a turn, I saw another "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" sign.  There were a bunch of people around so I pointed to the sign and said, "That's for me, I'm Kerry Sue!"  The guy behind me soon passed me and said something like, "So, you're the Kerry Sue with all the signs!  Some buddies and I are going out to get drinks later tonight.  I'm going to get to tell them I met you."  Well, that was a bit of an ego-booster.  It was embarrassing, but also made for a fun moment. 

The second aid station soon came up, with me wishing it meant mile 2 already, but I knew better.  I looked for my friend Matt, who was serving cups of ice towards the end of the station.  I stopped to chat with him.  He commented on my good bike time, and I told him that now I had an extra hour for the run.  Alright, I better get going, I thought, so continued on my way.

At the mile two marker I decided it was time to walk.  Oh...that felt so nice.  I knew my support crew would be right around mile three, so I set a point to start jogging again.  Right before aid station 3 was a hill, so I decided to walk the short hill and aid station.  I could see my son, Konnor standing on the other side of the aid station and he was so excited to see me.  Aw, that just made my mommy heart melt. 

Around mile 3

There was my crew:  They had the huge banner, were armed with cow bells and signs, and were just so electrifying!  I let them know this was going to be a long marathon.  Just so they knew we were all in for. I started running again as I rounded the corner.  My daughter Kaylin trotted behind me for awhile, clapping and cheering for her mom.  Again my heart melted and I just loved it!

A mile later my left foot was hurting, as though my laces were too tight.  So I stopped and loosened my laces and kept going.  Meanwhile, Ken was on the bridge above me and wondered what happened to me.  He saw me take off and knew I was ok.

At each aid station I would take at least water.  Every now and then I would take a couple grapes or an orange slice.  After the first loop I was taking cola and water at each station.  I figured the water would balance the diuretic qualities of the cola.  I needed the sugar and caffeine, and couldn't stomach solid food. 

Where was I...oh yes, still on my first loop.  At the far end of the course we crossed another bridge, where it smelled like there were sewer issues going on.  Kind of gross.  I was walking in between each aid station at this point, getting passed a lot and taking in "running my own race".  I wasn't going to let the fact that all these people (oops- there goes another one from my age group!) pass me.  Have fun, enjoy the moment.  You're doing an Ironman for crying out loud.  It just makes for a better story.

At mile five I was just not feeling good all over.  I remembered the electrolyte tablets I had in the pouch on my race belt.  I also remembered what Steve had told me about them and how he had felt before taking them.  It seemed like I fit the same description, so I took one at aid station #6.  Everyone tells you not to try something new on race day, and taking electrolyte tablets was something new for me.  It ended up being the saving factor of my run.  So, it pays off to not always listen to advice.  Just every now and then; I wouldn't recommend always doing that.

There was a hill right after the aid station, so I walked it.  There was a lady who looked like her plan was to speed walk the entire marathon.  We kept going back-and-forth with each other.  While I walked up the hill she passed me again.  Oh well.  There was another "Ironwoman Kerry Sue" sign along the path, so it took my mind off of being passed by a walker.  Run your own race, Kerry; which includes walking, too.

Soon I came to the point I knew I would pass by my crew again (the course was kind of like a figure-8, with them being in the center of it).  I saw Konnor again looking out for me, running down the hill with me while taking a picture with his ipod.  What a cutie pie.

About mile 7

Each loop was just under nine miles, and I was just over half way done with the first loop.  The course then took us back away from the crowds, then a couple sharp turns and we were back.  At the end of my first loop I was able to catch a glimpse of Steve.  He was having a great day, yay!  I wished that my crew could be there too, but the crowd of people was so thick that they were an adequate substitute.  The only spectators that were irritating were the ones who told me not to quit when I walked passed them.  Um, does it look like I'm quitting?  I'm walking.  I'm moving forward.  I'm not giving up, just walking.

The second loop was similar to the first, but I was taking electrolyte tablets every three miles.  I should have taken them every two.  Oh well.  I was soaking it all in along the way, reminding myself over and over that I was doing an Ironman.  A real one, and I was going to finish under 13 hours.  It was just a matter of by how much.

I've always been one to do math in my head while I run.  "If I run this, then I will finish with that" and using fractions to help mentally visualize the distance.  So after mile seven, I knew I was over a quarter of the way.  After the first loop, a third.

About mile 12. This became my normal form: walking.  My brother said the lady behind me was one of many who passed by their support crew headquarters and asked to have their support as well.  She was excited to meet the infamous Ironwoman Kerry Sue. :)
On the second loop I passed the halfway point.  I was just under two and a half hours.  Good grief, a five hour marathon?  Each mile kept coming, and I was going to conquer this with a smile on my face.  One thing that I feel I missed out on was getting a buddy.  I had heard stories of meeting other competitors along the way.  I saw a lot of people walking/jogging together and was bummed I was still by myself.  I had tried a couple of times to strike up a conversation, only to be ignored or passed. 

I kept wanting to pinch myself; I had dreamed of this day for over a year now, and here I was getting to live it.  I thought of my friend Amanda who said, "Just think, you get to play outside all day."  And that is how I felt.  My back was hurting, I had cramps thanks to being a girl, but I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  By the second loop my group was able to let me know that Pat had started the run too, and was going to finish.  What a relief!

The second loop was quicker than the first, as I made mental notes of where and how long I walked when I was on the first.  Now that I was popping pills on a semi-regular basis I felt fine and could always tell when they were wearing off.  I tried to walk less, jog more.  The sun had set, and it was getting dark.  Everytime I passed the Special Needs bag I was relieved not to need anything.  Even though the sun had set I wasn't cold.  On I go.

Third loop.  Two-thirds done.  The thought occurred to me that the longer I took on the run, the more of my money's worth I was getting.  Ha!  I continued my routine through the aid stations:  as soon as I approached it, I let myself walk; then bypass all the other goodies to get to the cola; if it wasn't cold, take a cup of ice and add to it; accept the water cup; drink the cola, then swish the water in my mouth; spit it out; drink another sip and swallow; pour some water on my hands; at the end of the long line at the aid station, get your booty into gear and start running.  This was the routine except for the third aid station on the course; On that one I would keep walking to enjoy the cheers of my support crew.

Mile 23! Only 3.2 more to go!
I enjoyed the last loop the most, and probably for the most obvious reason: To finish!  But it's not that I wanted the race to be over, I just wanted to be able to officially be an Ironman!  I changed my Garmin back and forth between race time and run time.  It was going to be close to five hours for the marathon, but maybe I could get under.  I was coming close to where my group was going to be, and Konnor was again waiting for me at the corner.  I was walking, and planned to walk until I passed the aid station they were near.  Konnor encouraged me to run a little.  I smiled at him and just said, "Sorry buddy, I'm walking."  So he walked with me.  It was a very precious moment.  As I passed my crew at mile 23 they all shouted that they'll see me next at the finish line.  Woo!  Sounds great, I'll meet you there!  I kept up my aid station routine, then started to jog.

I was hoping I could jog the last three miles, but I just had to walk a few more times.  When I reached the Mile 25 sign, I let myself walk just 30 seconds and somehow my body just knew.  It knew it could go a whole mile; It knew I could bypass the final aid station; It knew that it could go faster than ever before.  With a smile plastered to my face, I ran and ran and ran.  Almost there.  Almost to my family.  Almost to the voice of Mike Reilly. 

The spectators lining the last half mile were blurring by.  At the finish line turn off, I excitedly told the volunteer pointing runners to their loops that I got to go "that way"- I got to finish!  He gave me a high-five as I passed him, and I started jamming.  My legs felt like they had just been filled up with electricity, and my feet had to keep up.  I passed so many people on the short distance to the finish.  And then I saw it- I saw the finish line.  I heard Mike Reilly.  I decided to hold back going through the chute so I wouldn't finish at the same time as the man in front of me.  I looked for my family, heard Kaylin but wasn't able to high-five her, but got the next girl's hand just passed her.  I saw the clock click to 12:33:00.  That means under five hours for the run!  Here I go!

Then I heard it:  "Kerry Sue, from Clovis California, first-timer: You're an Ironman, Kerry SUE!"  Yes, yes I am. Official time: 12:33:06.

A volunteer immediately draped a foil blanket on me, "So you don't cool down too quickly."  She was a sweet older lady who had been prepped on the finish line collapse.  It's a physiological effect of the body moving for an extended period of time only to come to a screeching halt when you finish.  That's why they keep you walking after you cross the line.  Otherwise the blood rushes to the head, causing collapse.  That, and the mental line being reached of finishing, I suppose! 

No collapse was in store for me.  A young man put my medal around my neck, albeit backwards.  Oh, that's so lovely.  I felt fine, I was thrilled, and I could hear my mom cheering for me: "I did my job, I have Kleenex!" (I had told her that her one responsibility would be to have some tissues ready for me at the end.  I am a notorious blubberer at finish lines.)  The volunteer who still had a grip on my arms and navigating me nicely said, "I suppose that lovely lady over there yelling at you is with you?"  "Yes, that's my mom," she let go, and I walked over and took the tissue, gave her a hug across the barrier and just sobbed.  "I did it, Mom!" "Yes, yes you did, Honey." 

The volunteer resumed her grip on me and guided me to the water bottle hand out, which I took; then to the hat and shirt table.  I got my size, still being herded through the chute by my personal guard.  Next was finish line photos.  She offered to hold all my stuff, including my used tissue, while I had my photo taken.  I made sure I tucked the tissue into my hat so she wouldn't have to.  That would be so gross.

Ok, Kerry, smile nicely for the camera.  Don't look like a crazed-pyscho lady.  I know you're excited, but this picture is going to last forever.  "Cheese."  Back went on my foil blanket, all my goodies, and made my way to the finisher area.  I was still feeling really good, but where did my family go?  I bypassed all the perks: the massage, the food, the hanging out with other finishers.  I just wanted to see my people.

It took me awhile, and at first I went to go look for them but remembered what my mom always told me: If you get lost, stay in one place.  So I went back to where the athletes were let out and just waited.  Then I decided to sit down.  After awhile I asked a man standing nearby if I could use his phone to get in touch with my husband?  Sure.  I called, but no answer.  I tried my mom.  No answer.  He suggested I try to text.  He got his phone ready since I didn't know how to use it.  I noticed it was my mom's number.  I let her know where I was, and the man seemed to feel obligated to make sure I was "found".  Just a few minutes later I saw my mom with her "mom face" on, looking frantically for me.  Just behind her was Ken and my brother.  I called out to them, they found me and came running over, grinning ear-to-ear to see me.  Oh, the love.

My poor eyes- first the water from the swim, then the wind from the ride (I had glasses on, but they still were watery).  My face was a bit chapped from the elements as well. 
But that's enough of that- it almost sounds like I'm complaining!

"YOU'RE AN IRONMAN, KERRY SUE!!!"  So, this is what it feels like?  It must be all the training, because it didn't feel like as big a deal as I thought it was going to be.  I thought I would be near death after finishing and unable to walk.  But here I was, chatting away, and could even walk.  I was so excited to tell them about all the compliments I received on the signs Jason and Ken put out.  They had the banner with them, so I insisted we take a group picture:
L to R: My aunt Betsy, brother Jason, cousin Tammy, husband Ken, me, son Konnor, daughter Kaylin, uncle Bill, friend Celeste, my mom, friend (and future Ironman!) Matt.  Not pictured: Ashley, Mike, and Gia (she was there at the finish, but stayed to wait for Pat) 

Ken went and got my bike for me while I waited for Pat.  I really wanted to see him finish, and Gia said he should be there in about an hour.  I decided to go get my Gear bags so I could keep walking.  Tammy came with me and told me some of their adventures of spectating.  It was a really, really great day.  We decided to celebrate back in my room after I took a shower.  I was super stinky at the moment.

Slowly everyone started to disperse, and slowly my head was feeling a little woozey.  So I apologized for making the others wait that long, but I had to get going.  I was sad to have missed Pat's finish, but so glad to know he stuck it out.  We were really IRONBIRDS!

So, what's next?  That's a good question...


  1. Inspiring! Love it.
    I will always bow upon exiting port-potties for the rest of my life . . . cheering fans or not.

    1. Ha! It makes the experience so much better, I highly recommend it. :) Btw, I'm following your blog now, too!

  2. I am so glad Ken got the video of you finishing. Wasn't quite the same as seeing you firsthand, even though I had wiggled all the way to the front in the finish chute. I wanted to see my baby sister has she crossed the line. They must have called your name just as you ran by me cause I heard "Kerry Sue Brown, you are an Ironman!" I got my camera and phone ready but never saw you :-(, you must have just passed by. This video was the first time I saw you cross the line and you know what? I cried my eyes out :-) So proud of you baby sister, you have made your brothers very VERY PROUD!

  3. Kerry, I have enjoyed reading your blog. You have inspired me to start my own to recount the fun we all had in Arizona! What a great idea to remember all we went through that day and leading up to it.