Ironman Arizona 140.6 - The Run
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
This is the final post to my 2019 IMAZ race recap, yay! But in case you missed it, click a link below to get caught up:
Part 1: The Anticipation I had massive anxiety before the race. It wasn't pretty.
Part 2: The Swim A long murky swim that I absolutely hated but survived nonetheless.
Part 3: The Bike 112 miles on a full bladder and the beginning of GI issues. Yuck.
Part 4: T2 & The Run
Goal: 6 minutes
My feet landed on the ground without collapsing. Success.
A volunteer appeared out of thin air to take my bike and I headed to the tent, surprisingly not walking like I was wearing a diaper. Another volunteer surprised me with my bag and I collapsed on a seat, as if I hadn’t been sitting for the last 7 hours (its different…).
I dumped the contents of my T2 bag. Removed helmet, shoes, socks. Toe looked good. Roll on new socks. Happy Ice cream shoes, bib belt, fix hair into high bun, visor, go! The volunteer asked what I needed. “Does my hair look ok?” “Looks great” “Can you take my bag?” “You got it girl, good luck Honey Stinger.” And I’m running.
It’s just a marathon.
Official Transition 2 time: 5:03 (niiiiice)
Distance: 26.2 miles
Goal: 4 hours 48 minutes, 11 min/mi
My legs felt like they were full of sand but I looked at my watch and I’m running fast so I know they’re fine. It’s a weird thing to go from bike to run, you think you’re going slow but actually you’re holding a pace you have no business attempting to maintain, so I purposely slowed way down to save some energy for the long night.
Fortunately, the rubbing on my toe and saddle chafing were a non-issue. And my legs loosened up too. Though the GI issues did not.
I saw my crew and their posters and cow bells and they were cheering and the kids were dancing. Oh my heart! Specifically, I was worried this day would be rough on Blake, but he was smiling big and that gave me all the energy!
I told him I felt good and would be running at least a 10k despite persistent GI issues and then I actually heard a few strangers gasp. This community…they get it.
My favorite part about the run is that you’re surrounded by people and you’re moving slow enough that you can actually interact with them. And everyone’s cheering. They’re yelling GO HONEY STINGER!
A 10k later and motivated by the people I’m passing looking worse than me, I decided I had another 10k in me so I vowed to keep running the entire first lap. It’s just a half marathon.
A girl in a tutu started running with me to give me a salt stick and explain how to use it. I’ve never used one before, but can’t pass on free stuff!
At the next aid station it was time to deal with the crap.
I grabbed a cup of pretzels and a cup of ice and hunkered down in a porta-potty for a couple precious minutes. It wasn’t completely useless, but I’m not saying I was relieved either.
Isn’t that disgusting? Bunkered in a porta-potty with ice and pretzels and a urinal a foot from my mouth? Good thing I left my shame at the starting line when I stood in a puddle of my own urine so whatever.
I got back to running and saw Darren. He ran with me until we got to the next aid station and I’m not sure anyone was more excited about the day than him. His energy was infectious.
I saw Brent and told him I was having the same issues he had at his Ironman and that I was just going to “trust the fart”. Then he warned me about the dark corner coming up. Said not to let my mind play tricks on me because my pace was crushing this run. And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
A few miles later, the sun was almost down and I was entering that dark corner when the runner in front of me pulled off course and started puking his entire nutrition plan. Ouch.
I continued to take in a cup of Gatorade Endurance and a sip of water at every aid station plus a gel every 3rd but I was getting so sick of the sugar. Not sick like vomit; I just wanted to stop eating. But I knew I still had over 2 hours of running so I forced it down anyways.
After the dark corner, which was in fact so dark that some runners were wearing headlamps (you ran an entire marathon with a headlamp for 1 dark mile??), we were rewarded with a steep climb that had everyone around me groaning.
You didn’t have to guess what their pain was. It was a battlefield and everyone was gripping their weak spot. I saw bad knees, racers gripping their hips, some swinging only one shoulder. A couple hunched over from a painful back, and others testing every possible way to land on their feet to avoid the blisters on their sole. Meanwhile, I’m still cruising by at a 10 min/mile pace without pain and with a smile on my face.
Before I knew it, I could hear the finish line. I could hear Mike Reilly calling in Ironmans.
At the fork in the road I turned left. It wasn’t depressing, but it could have been. I hadn’t earned the right to turn towards the red carpet. Yet.
It was very dark now and truth be told, the racers around me seemed in a mental darkness too but ridiculously peppy spectators helped by crowning us with their glowsticks and positive energy.
I saw Brent first. He asked if I’d run the whole lap. Yep, just walked the aid stations. I gave him my glowstick for the kids. Then I saw Brandon and his family. I caught Hobie’s eyes and told him “I am SO glad you’re here.” And his face got brighter than the glowstick.
Then I heard the rest of the kids and the cheer they made. You guys have no idea what all this did for my moral! I was uncomfortable almost the entire race, but I felt confident and it’s without a doubt thanks to all of these amazing people.
Back in a dark corner, I tried the chicken broth Brent raved about. It’s ok but it didn’t feel like it gave me enough fuel, plus didn’t help the sloshing I was starting to feel in my stomach.
This is where the run took a turn for the worse. I continued to say “You got this Honey” to every woman I passed, but the second lap was nothing like the first.
Most of the spectators were gone and everyone I passed was miserable. We’re trying to stay positive, but we’re in actual pain. My calves were tightening and I was conscious that the pads of my feet weren’t thrilled to keep moving, but my brain wouldn't give in to the complaint.
GI issues continued to slow me down so I let myself give the porta-potty one more chance, but you guys, nothing. NOTHING! It’s a complete waste of time and just screwed my overall pace so I made another promise to myself: No matter what you think you feel, TRUST THE FART!! And keep running.
I crossed the bridge, and started cramping. I remember Bari telling me that means I need salt, so I pulled out my free salt stick but it fell to the ground.
Everyone around me gasped! Because they knew I had to bend over and there’s a chance I might not be able to get back up. A legitimate fear I had myself.
I go for it.
It hurt even more than I thought it would and my legs barely lifted me up. A guy walking next to me actually said “I don’t think I could have done that.” And I guess there's truth in every joke...
My calves had had it. It was another turning point in the run. About 7 miles to go and my calves were spent. From here on out, every single step felt like pulling a muscle, but I pushed through it anyways, licked the salt and the cramps went away. Thank you Lord.
I saw Brent and Blake again and they ran with me. I told them what hurt. Brent said “trust the fart” and I said "I'll have to because I’m gonna run this whole thing."
I’ve gotta pause for a second to talk about my brother. Leading up to race day, Brent always wanted to talk race strategy. My fueling plan, workout schedule, how I felt on my long days. But I wasn’t struggling with the workouts, I was struggling with lack of sleep and stress over Blythe’s health, and trying to keep a tidy house, clean laundry, and social engagement (I really could have benefited from a coronavirus lockdown then…) But on race day, Brent was like a coordinator of spectators, directing our family to the places he knew I’d need the most support. He was at the bottom of the false flat on the bike course to give me a mental push up that hill. He sprinted across the bridge to meet me before I ran into lonely dark corners. He was the first face I saw starting the second lap, which could have felt so depressing.
He knew where all the worst parts of the race were and magically appeared just before I entered them. My mind never went to a dark place because before I’d get there, Brent would appear with a word of encouragement and a description of what to expect so I was prepared to handle the darkness. Thank you Brent. You’re the reason I didn't walk.
With positive vibes, I entered the dark corner and passed a 19-year-old and that felt pretty stinking good. Then I drank some more chicken broth that was so hot it burned my tongue. Why would they do that to us?
I pushed up the last hill. Me and a blind runner and his tethered buddy were the only ones still running. We’ve got this!
My calves hurt so bad! The pads of my feet felt like I’d been dancing in high heels for 4 hours in my tallest stilettos. But I wasn't stopping. I reached a gnarly downhill section. I embraced gravity and picked up my pace to what probably looked like a sprint and saw my family at the base.
Only a 5k left! And wow. Every step a negotiation.
Nearing the end, I was on the verge of tears. My mind saying over and over: I can do anything for a mile. I can do anything for a mile. And Brent appeared out of the darkness one last time.
He ran next to me. I said I couldn’t talk because my calves and feet hurt too bad. He said its ok, its right up ahead. He took everything from my pockets and told me to straighten up my jersey so I’d look good in pictures. He said Dad was filming the jumbotron. The family was at the last curve, his and Brandon’s kids were still there. Everyone was there to see me finish. He said I did it. It was already done. This was the end of the road. He reminded me to soak it all in, then peeled off to let me have those last moments alone.
I turned the corner and there everyone was. They’re all saying my name. They’re saying I did it. Strangers are yelling “Go Autumn! Go Honey Stinger!” I will never forget that.
The carpet turned red and the lights were blinding. I soaked in every last step before I was an Ironman. I remembered the training and I remembered the sacrifice.
I got to the finish line and stopped.
One more step and it’d all be over. I’d be an Ironman.
I took a breath and crossed the threshold, feeling full relief. I looked up at the stars and thanked the Lord for getting me through it. It was over!
And I was an Ironman.
Official Run time: 4:48:28 (awesome)
Official Finish Time: 13:53:42
30th of 59 F30-34
Mike Reilly didn't say those special six words to me, "Autumn Plourd, you are an Ironman!" but its ok, I'll hear him say it some day...
At a book signing! Not a finish line! Goodness, no.
And the next day everything hurt. But that's a whole 'nother story...