I left off in Part 1 after what felt like a spectacular 56mi bike ride, despite the return of the right knee pain devil and some other completely weird aches and pains. Luckily for me these pains tend to disappear once I'm off the bike, so I was really glad when that happened right on cue on Sunday.
I'm going to be honest right from the start: I didn't pay enough attention to the elevation profile of the run portion of this race. I'm sure I looked at it long ago, saw the hills, shrugged them off and never looked again. It turns out there's a reason for the name "Toughman" and I suspect that has everything to do with the fact that you run around the base of the new Croton dam and then make your way several hundred feet up to the top. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
The run started out great! My friends Erin and Mookie (is that the right spelling? No idea) were cheering like crazy for me in the first half mile and Erin trotted with me for a bit, checking in. That was really nice, and then I was on my own for a bit. I trotted along, really feeling good for a mile or 3, running into my bike buddy, Carolyn, but losing her somewhere in the Van Cortlandt Manor as I trotted on ahead on the shaded, soft, mulch trail. My legs loosened quickly and I was ready to crush it....until the nausea hit. I felt sluggish and sloshy and worst of all, I needed to burp but couldn't. I tried to make myself burp, but that was too close to making me nearly hurl. I went through a LOT of long, uphill miles on dirt and road with a horrendous mental battle against the nausea, a pain in my left upper ribs and the hills. The worst part was that my legs felt GREAT, they wanted to tear up those hills, but I was hurting and doubting from the waist up. The pain in my chest/ribs/stomach on the left side was alarming. Sometimes I hate knowing anatomy so well because I was going through a checklist of what could be wrong. Several miles went along like this in my head:
"You're probably having a heart attack, you have pain in your left shoulder. You might want to stop."
"No, it's gas, just keep going."
"I'm definitely dying."
"I should stop and find help."
"Okay, I'm just going to walk to that tree....oh, the pain is gone. Hmm, not dying."
It went on and on like this for quite some time, with me dying to burp or hurl or some combination of the two until I hit an aid station and a very small child gave me a salt tab and flat Pepsi at the top of the dam. I was walking here and there, just absolutely miserable, but in good company because so was everyone else. I have never seen so many people walking and we were not slow runners. The hills were grueling and once my stomach settled, I reminded myself that this was MY race. I had a piece of duct tape on my bike that said just that, it was a reminder not to follow anyone else's lead in this race but my own. I refused to stop and walk just because others were walking up the most ridiculous hill around mile 9 because I knew I had the legs for it. I walked the section between two cones on that hill, about 8 ft, and never stopped running again. The last few miles were great because the course tucked back into the trails and was quiet, and suddenly I was all alone. The applesauce packet I'd been holding the ENTIRE TIME became the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted, though I still sipped gingerly, worried it might fight back (it didn't). I hadn't taken in a single calorie the entire run until that point. I'd passed a number of my old walking mates as I regained my mojo and was running through neighborhoods and Van Cortlandt Manor on my own. There were a ton of aid stations on the run and it was fun to pass them again and hear "wow, you're looking strong!!" Once I got back to the road section with a little over a mile to go, I could really feel the heat, despite dumping tons of water over my head and back along the way. Bless those lovely people with the sprinkler who held it up so I could wash some of the salt from my face as I ran by. The final 2 miles included a nasty uphill, a road crossing at a big intersection (thank you Croton Police Dept!) and the sunny and hot train overpass and park drive. I ran toward the murmurs I knew to be a finish line announcer, but I have to say it was difficult. I was going through an assortment of reactions to what I'd just done. There was the initial "well, I'm never doing that again" followed by a little disappointment in my time (I had no idea what I was getting into and hoped for sub 5:50) but luckily that was followed quickly by the realization of how challenging the course was. We'll call that the moment of acceptance. I had Erin and Mookie cheering again with about 0.2 to go and I was searching for Dave and his camera, but didn't see him. I was briefly worried that he'd miss my finish, but he was waiting on the other side of the finish line to get great pics. I bolted down the grassy finish chute, so, so happy to be finished and stop moving forward. 70.3 miles and 6+ hours is a long time to be moving your body forward. I have so much more respect for Ironmen and Ironwomen now that I have an appreciation for what it feels like to do HALF that distance. Whew.
So the run was hideous, I think I'd really enjoy running that course with a settled stomach and without stabbing pain in my shoulder because it was truly beautiful. For the record, I knew it wasn't a heart attack or anything serious (just gas! Ha!) or I really would have stopped and sought help, I'm not an idiot.
As a sub 1:38 half marathoner, it pains me to share these stats, but here they are anyway:
I still managed 7th in my age group on the run, which goes to show you what terrible runners triathletes are. Ha!
Elevation gain was no joke at 1223 ft, also the same amount lost ( ouch, downhill makes me nauseous on a good day)
My first and last miles were exactly the same at 8:15! Things were real ugly around mile 6.
While I've moved on and am pretty proud of my accomplishment, I'm still annoyed that my stomach nearly did me in. I have lots to work on in terms of fueling and over-hydrating. I am most happy with the fact that I definitely had the legs for this race, they weren't the least bit cranky the entire time. I'm curious now how much I can improve on a flatter course with a better fueling plan.
I recovered so quickly that I was a completely normal person by Wednesday and have forgotten most of the terrible bits and am secretly hoping to find one more late season race in the area...