T2 and The Run: a.k.a. The Cool Down
As I always say, there is nothing like getting off your bike and getting to stretch out your legs. It feels GREAT! I was now ready to do 26.2 miles of stretching out my legs. After getting off my bike at the dismount line, I dashed through the arches leading to Transition and was greeted by a volunteer who offered to take my bike and my helmet as well. Awesome! I usually have to run around with my Pterodactyl helmet on until I get to the change tent. The grass in transition is not the famous Texas St. Augustine grass that has a wide blade and can be rough on the foot. It is some kind of soft carpet grass. Being bare foot, it felt great between my toes. Soon, it was on to hot pavers and down rows of bags to find mine and dash into the change tent. All I had to do was get shoes on and get my cycling gloves off.
My change tent volunteer started pulling my shoes out of my bag and I asked her if there was a towel available. She found one quick and started to dry off my feet and in between my toes. I kinda felt like Jesus in some strange way. I got my socks and shoes on and my gloves off and put some hot Butt Butter down my shorts to prevent any chaffing. I grabbed my Fuel Belt that had my hat attached and headed for the exit. I grabbed a quick cup of water and I was out in the sun. After turning my race number around, I wrapped the Fuel Belt around me and got my hat on as I crossed the timing mat. Total time: 5:04. Again, kinda long, but hey, I wanted dry feet.
It was now right around 2:30 and I was an hour ahead of schedule and out on the run course right about the same time I was in Cozumel. Who starts running a marathon at 2:30 in the afternoon??!!?? Well, I did last week. I wanted to settle into a pace that was slightly slower than normal and a pace that I knew that I could maintain. After running 150 yards down the sidewalk on The Woodlands Waterway, we had to scramble up a steep dirt hill to a parking lot. I walked up it with everyone else because we did not want to turn an ankle. Once on level ground we ran through the GE parking lot and towards Aid Station #1. I was really looking forward to Aid Station #1 because all of my Team in Training friends were running the Aid Station and I needed some TNT love.
Cool water on the Arm Coolers and down the hatch.
Boy, did I get some love! Lauren, Tim, Sarah, Jay, Audrey, Kim, Nancy, and Angela were all there to cheer for me, give me water, load my tri top with ice, and give me hugs. I felt like a rock star going through there! They were surprised to see me so early and they really took care of me. I exited the parking lot and got on Lake Woodlands Dr. and started to head over the bridge to North Shore Park where we started the swim. I have run this route so many times that it is not funny. I was on auto pilot. I just concentrated on keeping my pace manageable and my heart rate under control. The ice in my tri top felt great and at the next aid station just over the bridge, I got water to pour on my Arm Coolers. Ahhh! Wow that felt great with the breeze that had picked up. Sadly, we were running on the street rather than the run path that was just on the other side of the trees. Shade would have been nice. The course turned the corner onto Panther Creek Dr. and my normal landmarks, the three foot bridges, were on the run path and not the street. There was an aid station that looked like it was being run by cowboys and I asked the volunteers not to spray me down with the hose to keep my feet dry. Just before we got to The Woodlands Parkway, the course took us through the grass and onto the run path. Shade! I was in my groove at this point and even though some of the fast people who were on their second loop were passing me, there were plenty of people who I was passing. I saw a halogen lamp just off the path and a huge grin spread across my face. I would be off this course before they would have to turn that baby on!!!
It is amazing what a smile can do when you are tired. All of a sudden, I had energy that came out of no where. I kept that smile on my face as long as I could. I even started to get a bit teary eyed. We came out of the trees and were on the South Shore end of the lake. At this aid station, I grabbed a cup of the PowerBar Perform and gulped it down along with some water. After running across the dam bridge and seeing people riding in on the bike course just on the other bridge, it was back into the trees for a bit and then back on the pavement when we exited the trees and turned into the South Shore neighborhood. The next aid station was manned by men in hula skirts and coconut bras and plenty of lovely ladies who had been leid. South Shore has some crazy big houses in it. I wondered how these people felt about having to be prisoner in their homes all day for this race. About this time I saw my friend Wilmer who I had seen along the side of the road on the bike course. He had gotten a wheel from one of the pro women who was going to call it a day. How awesome and selfless its that! Wilmer kept on running and he seemed to have a good pace. As I was finishing running by the lake, a motorcycle with a cameraman on the back pulled up next to me and smiled back as he was filming. Oh yeah, I still have that stupid grin on my face. I waved to the camera. They slowed down to catch some of the people behind me and then drove up again. They probably thought, "Who is this idiot girl who is so frickin' happy to be running a marathon in this heat???"
After going around the corner, there was a timing mat. About this time I saw Wilmer again but now he was walking. I told him that he was doing great. I had cheered for him last fall at Ironman Cozumel and I told him he was still going to beat me to the Finish Line. Running through the next aid station, I saw my friend Theresa and she was thrilled to see me. I got more ice for my tri top and more PowerBar Perform drink. Next, it was down the sidewalk and on to The Woodland Waterway. There were more spectators sitting on the hill, hanging over the bridge and on the balconies of the condos along the Waterway where we finished the swim that morning. The crowd support was great! They seemed to be pretty wild across the way at one of the bars. Time for Shot Bloks.
It was a long stretch to the next aid station because we had to get off the Waterway because there was very little room to have an aid station. I got passed my Michael Lovato on this stretch. I told him good luck and he thanked me. After getting to the end of the Waterway, we ran past the Anadarko office building and aid station #7. Dang it! I got my feet wet trying to pour water on my Arm Coolers. The run route took a detour from what had been on the original run map and rather than going over the foot bridge to the other side, we ran around the building on street level to take Woodlock Forest Drive over The Waterway and then around another office building to get us back on the Waterway and heading down towards Landry's restaurant and towards The Woodlands Mall. I saw Michael Lovato again and he was walking and trying to stretch out his hamstrings. I was now feeling hot spots on the bottoms of my feet around the ball of my foot. Ugh! I saw Cat Morrison being led by a cyclist on the course. She was in first place and I gave her a shout out. Just the day before, Brian Brode (a.k.a. TriBoomer) got a picture of me and Cat. Very cool! At Aid Station #8 at the turn around was run by The Parrot Heads and I saw my friend Andrea that I had done my first Team in Training event with back in 2000. It was awesome to see her since I had not seen her in a few years. I also saw my TNT friend Coach Bill Dwyer and he got some great pics of me. I had that stupid smile on my face again. Heading back on the Waterway, the wind was really whipping around the one of the office buildings. The shade was great, but I felt like I was being pushed backwards. Near the spot where we got back on the Waterway, we had to cross some grass to get on the sidewalk rather than on a trolley path. I did not want to twist my ankle, so I took it slow.
Passing Goose's Acre Bar on my first loop around mile 7.
Once back on pavement, I settled back into my pace and made my way towards the Goose's Acre bar and America's restaurant where everyone was out on the patio. It was wild and fun. Those spectators were already drunk and having a good time. There were also water misters that gave us a cool spray. Hmm, my feet are hurting more. Running toward the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, we had to run up a hill to get on street level. Not real fun. I took some water from my Fuel Belt and made my way to the street to run towards Market Street. I grabbed more water and ran past the Special Needs bags. Now I wish that I had stuck dry socks in a bag, but oh well, lesson learned. I saw my friend Norma and she told me I was looking good.
Heading out for Loop #2.
Running to Market Street was electric! The crowds were off the hook and I could hear Mike Reilly bringing in Michael Lovato in for his finish. It was time to head out for loop two and as I ran down Lake Robbins Dr. I saw my friend Jeff Zavala from Team in Training, Rachelle's family (Rachelle was staying at my house for the event) and the Go Mitch Go! Team that was there with Mikey Thompson (also staying at my house). They all gave me lots of love. Now it was on to see my TNT friends at aid station #1 again. After getting the royal treatment and getting back out on the road, lo and behold Coach Carrie ran up next to me. "There's my girl! Dang, it took me this long to catch ya?" I told her that I was way ahead of schedule and that I had some blisters on my feet so she should stay on her pace since I had to keep things in perspective with the pain. She was looking great and she asked if I was going to breakfast at Greyhound's in the morning and we both said we would see each other there in the morning and I sent her on her way. I was finding that it was more painful to stop and walk and then start running again rather than to keep running, but I had my plan of walk breaks to get ice, and fluids in. Back on Panther Creek I saw more people I knew and got lots of encouragement before hitting the run path and getting some shade. I was going slow, but I was passing a bunch of people who were walking. Somewhere between South Shore and The Waterway, Wilmer passed me and he had found his running legs again. I was now at the half way point and the sun was still high in the sky. Theresa gave me some motivation and sent me through the aid station and on to the Waterway. It was hot, but the ice and the Arm Coolers were great. Little did I know that the temperature got up to 91 degrees that afternoon. I was now trying to keep my eyes peeled for Rachelle, Mikey, and Greyhound. I knew Ryan was done, so I looked for him on the sidelines. I saw Rachelle at aid station # 7 at the Anadarko building and I gave her a shout out. "Abracadabra, Homes!!!" She gave me a wave as I ran by. I saw Coach Bill for more photo opportunities and made my way to the turn around by the Parrot Heads. Just past The Goose's Acre bar, I saw Coach Tim, my Masters Swim Coach, and Lauren who swims with us and works at Lululemon along with Mike Moore who stayed with Rachelle, Greyhound, and me when we did the Galveston 70.3 race. I was loving all of this crowd support! Up that nasty hill again and towards Market Street and out on to loop #3.
Going through Aid Station #1 on my 3rd Loop!!!
I saw Jeff again. The Go Mitch Go Team cheered me on. Just before crossing the street and heading through the parking lot, I saw my TNT friends Judy and Karla who I had coached through their first Olympic distance triathlon. Loved those hugs. I took a longer walking break at Aid Station #1 maned by my TNT friends and walked a bit with my girlfriend Lauren. My blisters were smarting pretty bad. I finally had to get running again and I vowed not to stop until the aid station on Panther Creek. Once there I decided that I needed a bathroom break and wouldn't you know that the port-o-can was out of paper and there was none to be found. Ack! Oh well, it's not like I hadn't peed down my leg all day. My last time down the run path, I was passing more people which is laughable because I was doing the Ironman shuffle at this point. I was also smiling again because I was through this area without the halogen lights being turned on yet. I WAS ALMOST DONE!!! The pain of my feet were getting to me and I lost track of what mile I was at between 21 and 23. Theresa told me to get going and to finish strong as I was leaving her aid station with a new load of ice down my top.
Coming back from Aid Station #8 and the Parrot Heads on the Last Loop.
One more time on The Waterway. I was now having to resort to a mantra to keep going at my pace and to run through the pain of my feet. "Drop it like it's HOT! Drop it like it's HOT! Drop it like it's HOT! Drop it like it's HOT!!!" Rachelle had shown me this Sundrop soda commercial the day before and we all agreed to do the hand pump in the air if we saw each other on the course.
Now I was using this just to get through the pain. I tried to keep my stride as normal as possible. Across the other side for the last time! I saw Coach Bill one more time and he said I was looking great. I looked at my watch and I could hardly believe the time that I was at. This was going to be a HUGE PR!!! One last time to see the Parrot Heads. I saw a couple of other racers I recognize from local races and I was passing them. WHOO HOO!!! I was starting to go faster. One last time past Goose's Acre and seeing Mike Moore who was yelling his head off for me. One last time up that awful hill! Picking up speed now. One last time on the stretch past the Special Needs bags and to see my friend Norma. And my my last turn on to Market Street!!! I was booking it now. Damn the pain, I was almost done. On the last curve to head in to the Finisher's chute I heard, "MOM!!!" I looked around and it was Bud in his banana costume and El Esposo. They had made it! I yelled back that I was done and kept running. Around the curve and over a timing mat. Mike Reilly was calling out my city of origin and recognizing Team in Training. "Elizabeth Garcia, YOU are an IRONMAN for the 3rd time!!! Way to go!!!"
Just a few strides from the Finish Line!!!
I jumped over that Finish Line and gave out a shout...and then I couldn't move. My volunteer catchers grabbed me and helped me out of the way and I told them that I probably should get to to the medical tent because of my blisters. I got my Finisher's medal, I got my timing chip off, I got my Finisher's photo, I got my Finisher's hat and shirt and then I saw Bill Crews. Bill is a TNT tri/marathon coach with me and he is a leukemia survivor and one of my honored Teammates. He gathered me up in his arms and I broke down in tears. I told him thank you and between the sobs he thought that I said I hated him. I quickly had to set him straight that I did not hate him but that it was so good to see him. My TNT friend, Audrey, showed up next and gave me a big hug and I asked her to go find the kid in a banana suit and to let my family know that I was going to the med tent.
Total Run time: 4:48:27 (11 min/mile pace) Finish Time: 12:18:42 18th Place in my Age Group out of 71 finishers, Women 40-44 87th out of 480 Female Finishers 574th out of 1998 Racers who finished.
2686 Racers signed up for this Inaugural event. 2160 got into the water that morning to begin the race. 1998 finished under 17 hours and three more came in just after the clock struck midnight. That means 159 people did not finish. I am surprised that it was not more. It was a hot and humid day and if you're not from around here, it could have messed with you really bad.
But wait! This is not the end of the story. Tomorrow I will give you the post-race happenings and what went on inside the Medical Tent. My buddy Johnny Tri from Vegas always says it wouldn't be a good race without me having to make a visit to the Med Tent. So check back in tomorrow for all the details.
P.S. Did I smile too much?