And it's about as long as race day was. But....
Pre-race: Excited and happy, but not nervous. Nancy did my body-marking and that was a really nice personal plus -- my body-marker was my good friend. Number 768 on both arms, age 53 on my calf (I love it that younger guys can see my age when I pass them), "V" on both hands -- "Virgin," Nancy explained. I figured that under my gloves, diluted with sweat, those "V's" would be gone by the end of the day, which was very fitting. She also put Vaseline on the places I couldn't reach, sea-nettle protection. Sleeveless wetsuit, you see.
Swim start: On time, en masse, although I hung back and started when I was beyond reach of getting kicked, run over, or cussed at. We had to swim over the sea-nettle net and then we were thrown to the wolves (more on that.) A hundred yards or so out, past the dock where Nancy was leaning over the rail cheering me on, left turn and we were out to sea. Well, river.
Murky, nearly-opaque, semi-salt water. Bright buoys, plus canoes, kayaks, jet-ski's, lifeboats, even cabin cruisers, every hundred yards or so, impossible to go off course. Warm water. Within the first 5 minutes, the first silky caress of sea-nettle tentacles on my bare inner forearm ... damn!! Ouch! Right through the Vaseline! Well, it just itches and burns a little. I'll live. Oof, there's another one. Ouch. I ran into one at least every minute or two. With most I just felt the head and slapped them out of the way, or kicked them (they don't seem to sting hand or foot skin.) Little ones didn't penetrate the Vaseline, but larger ones got wrapped around my arms with their burning itching sting. But I was swimming well and apparently not going anaphylactic or anything, so what was one to do besides keep on going and getting out of there? I certainly was not going to flag a boat and whimper, "I got stung by a jellyfish" when everyone else was up against the same thing (at least those in sleeveless wetsuits, and one brave girl who wore just a swimsuit.)
Swim finish: 1:25:06!!!! Are you kidding me??? God gave us outgoing tide to make up for the sea-nettle curse. EVERYONE beat their expectations by about 20 minutes. I did a happy-dance on the chip mat.
T1: Drying off, changing clothes. Meat tenderizer on my itching, burning arms. It must take a while to help. Potty break for the road. Time 11:09.
Miles 1-7 or so: Flat, slight headwind, average 18.5mph, there's supposed to be almost no wind so after the turnaround I'll be flying.
Miles 8-15 or so: I thought we were going into the headwind on the way out? A guy passes me and calls out the same question, so I know it's not just me. My arms still itch and burn from the sea nettles.
Mile 20: A "saddle sore" problem I got a few weeks ago wearing the wrong shorts is starting to tell me it's not healed up yet. Hmmm.
Mile 22: Wonder if I can do a saddle-sore jiffy-lube on the fly? Leaning on my aero's, opening my Vaseline tube, squeezing some onto my fingers, slowing to 12.5, wobbling some on the bike... a van comes along, oh great, the RD. "Hey, Ellie, what's going on, you taking a vacation or something?" I abandon the jiffy-lube idea.
25: OK, "uncle." Stop in a porta-pot and put about a quarter of a cup of vaseline you-know-where. Better.
30: Touring the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge now. There will be 2 loops of this. Now and then I pass a biker but they are few and far between. I was 3rd to last out of the water so there's practically no one left out here. Scenery is lovely but kind of passive.... flat, marsh grasses, tide pools.
40: So where's the Wildlife? I have seen one egret and a lot of roadkill (raccoons, possums, something that could be either a fox or a fawn, too dilapidated to tell.) They should call it the WildDeath Refuge.
50: Washboard Road. That's not its name but it should be. My husband better not want any "whatnot" for a month. This hurts.
60: Birdwatchers with long-range binocs peering out into the marsh. I slow down and call, "Anything good?" Hey, if there's an eagle or something, I wanna see it. "Just some yellowlegs, shorebirds." Nah, that's not worth getting off the bike for. Especially now that the road has smoothed out.
DID I MENTION THAT THE PREDICTION OF 7mph BREEZES WAS, NO DOUBT, A RUSE TO KEEP US FROM WORRYING??? It is friggin' WINDY out here!!!! My average has dropped to 16.5. I can't get the bike over 16 and frequently not over 14. And, as back home in Garrett County, MD, the headwind persists no matter which arc of the loop I'm on. The omnipresent, omnidirectional headwind has followed me here. Contrary to the belief of Western Marylanders, Garrett County is not the only place on earth where you can do an out-and-back or loop course and have a headwind the whole time.
My "saddle area" hurts. My arms still hurt from the sea-nettles and I ride one-handed and scratch with the other, alternating. The meat tenderizer did not work, although it is what they said to use. Now at aid stations everyone is telling me I should have used vinegar. I itch badly.
Mile 70: Special-Needs Stop!! Yay! I don't need much, just refills on my peanut bars (Lance brand, that must mean something), my bottle of iced tea (except it's warm), my homebrew energy gel. The guy with the mike jokes around with me. "So, Ellie Hamilton from ACCIDENT????, Maryland.... what do you have in your special needs bag, if it's anything you can share?" I shoot back, "Share? Forget it. You gotta bring your own lunch. This is mine!!" He laughs. He asks, "What's written all over your shorts, for petesake?" "All the good wishes from my friends." I read some and he repeats them into the mike. "Burn down the miles! We believe in your amazingness! Ellie's gonna be an Ironman! Against The Wind from her husband! And many more too numerous to mention... if you want to read Ellie's shorts, catch her at the finish. And by the way, if you see her age on her leg, Ellie is dyslexic. That's supposed to be 35." I yell "WOOOHOOO!" and take off again, feeling renewed.
75: Well, that stop helped for about 5 minutes. Ow, this saddle thing is serious. Maybe I'll get a new saddle, a smooth one w/o this strategic pressure-relief cutout... the sides of said cutout are pressing right where my legs.... well, you know. I keep standing up, sitting back on the saddle, stand up, sit back. Ow. And, whoever is sticking a lighted matchstick under my left second toenail, you might as well stop, because whatever you want, I'm not giving it to you.
80: 20 more miles and I'll have a hundred. 20 miles is a piece of cake. Then 12 more. 12 miles is hardly worth putting my bike shoes on for. Except I already have them on. 20 bottles of beer on the wall, 20 bottles of beer....
19 bottles of beer on the wall, 19 bottles of beer....
18 bottles of beer on the wall, 18 bottles of beer....
Washboard Road again. Owowowowowowow..... even if he does want "whatnot" within the next month, I won't need it after all this vibration. Except it hurts. Stand on the pedals. Enjoy the bumpy effect on my voice like a toddler, "Yuhyuhyuhyuhyuhyuhyuh...."
A big Chesapeake Bay retriever patrolling his yard comes stalking down his driveway at me. True stalking, head down, neck thrust forward, gaze intent, tail out behind, legs stiff, gait stealthy. "Dog," I yell, "if you chase me you're dead meat!!!!" Up comes his head. Down goes his tail. Out goes the glint in his eyes. He turns and saunters back to his house. Must have been something in my voice.
15 bottles of beer on the wall... Get me off this bike. I will do anything to get off this bike. Even running a marathon sounds like a plan.
10 bottles of beer on the wall.... I hear gunshots. "Hey, over here, I'm over here!!!" Anything to get off this bike. I see guys out in the marsh shooting skeet. They must be trying to make the best of there being no wildlife here. Oh, that's right, it's a refuge.... even if there were any wildlife, they couldn't shoot it. Well, they can shoot *me* if they want.... Just get me off this bike. My back hurts now too. The person with the matchstick to my toe gave up, though. I'm tough, I would not tell them anything.
NO BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL!!!! 100 miles!!! Zowie!!!
12 bottles of beer on the wall, 12 bottles of beer.... How long do I have left? Let's see, at 16mph, 12 miles, 16 times 12 is, hmmm, can't figure that one, divide it in half, 8 times 6, 48, double that, 96, an hour and a half? for 12 miles? Nah, that's wrong. How do you do this math? Oh, wait, I'm not doing 12 miles 16 times, I'm doing it at 16mph. Oh. OK. Try again. At 16mph, 12 miles in... Forget it. My math brain got tossed up there with the skeet. OK. If I'm managing, say, roughly 5 minute miles (random figure), 5 times 12 is... 60. 60 miles. No, I only have 12 miles left, what went wrong there? Screw it. I'll just get there when I get there.
10 bottles of beer..
5 bottles of beer...
NO BOTTLES OF BEER....
AND I'M THERE!!!! You can take this bike and throw it in the dumpster, I never want to see it again.
Bike time: 6:53:09, Against The Wind.
T2: Change all my clothes. A metaphorical thing. Exit the tent. No husband. I told him 4pm and I am way ahead of schedule. He's not there yet. He has no idea how well I've done. Or if I'm still out there. Or he heard my thoughts on Washboard Road and has left me. T2 time 6:54.
Walk the first mile. 17 minutes. 25 bottles of beer on the wall....
Miles 2-8: run 5 minutes, walk 2. Except sometimes I walk through the 5 minutes, too.
Mile 9: Screw running. I'm keeping up a brisk smooth walk but I've got a blister coming that hurts when I run. I want to finish this thing.
12: Sing. That will help. I can't think of anything. Amazing Grace, I can remember that. The 3rd verse is perfect: "Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." Over and over and over.
14: "I'm a redneck woman, ain't no high-class broad..."
15: "Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya..." (From my friends... remembering their posts about a virtual hand-holding circle around me.... ) "Someone's singing, Lord, kumbaya...."
16: 10 bottles of beer on the wall, 10 bottles of beer....
Tentatively try jogging. Hey, it doesn't feel bad at all. The hot spot on my foot starts again but with 10 more miles, even that's not going to stop me now.
Mile 19: Special Needs. I have no special needs except for a dry bandana, which I cleverly packed. I have blown my nose on my current one so many times it has a life of its own. Steve is there to meet me. He had gotten to the bike finish half an hour early, waited and waited, checked the bike racks, saw mine already racked, and relaxed. I thanked him and didn't tell him about Washboard Road. I hear the loudspeaker announcing finishers but I still have 6.2 miles, an out-and-back. It's 9:30pm. Do you know where your children (wife, husband, Ironman, whoever) is? Quick math. If I walk 15-minute miles with a little jogging I might have an hour and a half left. I tell my husband an hour and a half.
Mile 20: Start jogging again. 6 bottles of beer on the wall... I am able to job without walking. Quick stops at aid stations and jog on. I check my watch and discover a wild chance of hitting 15 hours. Holy $h*t. No way.
22: I pass runners ahead of me, and coming back from their out-and-back, who are trudging,struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe they pushed too hard earlier, or maybe they didn't train enough, or maybe they trained too much, or maybe they are sick today but came out and did it anyway. Whatever is causing their immobility, I don't have it... I feel fine, except for heavy legs, sore quads (I didn't run over 16 miles training), hot spots in both arches, and an icky stomach from where I tried a Cliff Shot and re-learned not to try something new during a race. Saltines and chicken broth at mile 23 fix the nausea. Skip the rest of the aid stations. If I keep running (or whatever you call this) I could, just maybe, just barely break 15 hours. I'll probably just miss it but it's worth a shot. I do not walk anymore. Short, quick steps that don't flex my feet much (blisters in my arches) or make my legs stretch out (hamstrings.)
26: Into the stadium where we have to go 3/4 of the way around. 14:56 by my watch, quickly becoming 14:57. Crap, even 10-minute pace, which seems impossible, would mean about 2 minutes for 600 yards. AARRGGHH!!!! NO WAY!!! I can't do it! Yes I can, I will, I'm this close... I put the hammer down. Put the pedal to the metal. One more push.... rounding the curve, I see the clock at 14:58:xx and see I'm going to make it under 15 hours. They're calling my name now, and cheering, and telling me I've broken 15 hours, and I'm waving my arms and then stomping a war dance on the chip mat and Steve is there putting my medal over my head. I didn't see the clock because of my war dance but my watch says 14:58:19. I have done it. Finishing with my head up on two feet RUNNING and doing a war dance at the end!! I am totally amazed.
I'm an Ironman! And it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be....
After: The massage guy talked me into a massage. I was good at first, lying on my belly, but when I turned onto my back I started to shiver. Violently. Teeth chattering. Legs jerking like constant knee-jerk reflexes. I can't stop. I am not cold but my hands are. The massage guy puts my space blanket and 3 cloth ones over me and coaches my breathing. I continue to tremble violently. Steve, a paramedic, counts my pulse (90, not bad) and checks my skin turgor (OK.) I wonder if I needed more sodium out there -- I was aggressive enough with Succeed capsules, I thought, but take 2 more of them with a few gulps of Gatorade (which is ice-cold so I don't want much of it.) I feel mildly anxious and a little dizzy. The massage guy calls the EMT's over (they have only had one patient the whole evening and they all came trooping over like they'd been asked to a keg party) to check my blood pressure. It is OK. Both lying flat and sitting up. I feel better sitting up and my muscles begin to quiet down. Maybe a hot shower. I get a girl (who turns out to be a paramedic and a nurse) to go with me, I don't want to be alone in there. My hands are frostbite-white. The water is not warm enough and I figure it will just make me worse (they must have some kind of anti-litigation, anti-scald device on the showers for the high-school kids.) But I rub myself briskly with towels and blankets and put on my warm sweat clothes. I am better immediately. I guess mostly I needed to get out of my sweaty clothes. That, and maybe the salt capsules are kicking in. But I am able to walk back across the gym, out to the truck, climb into the truck, and stay awake for the 45 minute drive back to the campground. Whatever it was, I got through it.
More: Next day (Sunday) I felt like I'd run a marathon but that was about all. A little tired. A tad sore, like I was undertrained for the marathon. My arms still itched from the sea-nettles. Awards for first place female 50-54 (I was the only one), champion grand-masters female (over 50... again, I was the only one. A nice clear-glass plaque with the race logo and my place etched on it. A ceramic USAT plaque in a base with a sculpted champion holding arms overhead in victory. A copy of James Michener's epic novel Chesapeake, which I asked the race director to sign. Plus my medal and finisher's shirt. Plus the ill-fated wetsuit-that-might-not-be.
Day two (Monday): So tired I feel ill. Legs so sore I can hardly move. That mysterious second-day fatigue and soreness, I've had this before. My jellyfish skin is OK now.
Day three (today): I'm fine! Not tired! Not sore! Drove into town (about 45 minutes), did a whole bunch of errands, came home and cleaned out our truck thoroughly, vacuuming, washing vinyl, cleaning the upholstery... I wouldn't want to run a 10K but I feel normal. This whole thing was hard but a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Will I do this again? You bet. I am 95% sure that I will. It was one of the most fun, most satisfying, most challenging, most gratifying things I have ever done. I'm sorry it's over. I want to do it again!
Ellie, jubilant on Maryland's Eastern Shore