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Race Result

Racer: Jen Tallman
Race: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Date: Sunday, June 21, 2009
Location: Coeur d'Alene, ID
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Female 30 - 34
Time: 16:34:27
Overall Place: 1995 / 2153
Age Group Place: 89 / 100
Comment: Why do I attract bad weather???

Race Report:

0400, June 21, 2009, My fingers found the snooze on my alarm. I was awake, having slept better than the previous night when I had been plagued by crazy time warp dreams. My chest felt tight with anxiety, and I wanted a few minutes to breathe before the day got rolling.

There was something about knowing what was ahead of me that made this race seem bigger and more impossible than last year. Even coming off of a significantly improved performance at Triple T, there was something about having been there and done that that made the whole task seem insurmountable. I almost wished that I was still the excited ignorant girl who bounded joyfully into the journey last year, having no idea what it was really all about until it was over.

I centered myself, changed into my tri shorts, warm up pants, a pink sports bra and my finisher's sweatshirt from last year. I was making every attempt to remind myself that I could DO THIS! I walked out into the kitchen and slammed an organic energy drink. I grabbed my two smoothies that I had prepped the previous night and distributed my race nutrition into my special needs bags and into a bag for things that I needed to put on the bike. I was going with a plan similar to last year's. A high calorie mix bottle for each loop of the bike and each loop of the run, and a choice of almond butter and Jelly or mashed avocado for the bike and bike special needs bag.

I climbed in the back of my Jeep to let Les drive and give Corby some space for his long legs. I set up my ipod and we blasted Eminem's Lose Yourself all the way to town. We found a prime parking spot just off Lakeside on 2nd St. Corby grabbed my bags, and Les took pictures the whole way as we walked to Java, the only coffee place that opened at a reasonable hour for race day (4am). I got my mocha, and I chatted with my sister, who called at 5 to wish me luck. It was less of a surprise this year than it was last year, because she was calling from Louisiana instead of Italy. It was still so great to talk to her!

After coffee, we walked down to City Park where crowds of fit people were baring their arms and legs to marker wielding volunteers who were efficiently marking muscled limbs with race numbers and ages. The temperature was in the upper 40s, and I was not excited about taking my shirt off to get marked. When I did, the wind bit into my bare skin. I did not let my mind wander back to the warm bed I had left a little over an hour ago.

After I was marked, I enthusiastically pulled my sweatshirt on again and led the way to transition so that I could add food and water to my bike, put a few things in my transition bags, and get my tires pumped up. I hoped that the valve stem extenders would cooperate, unlike they had last week. I was not in the mood to mess with them, and I didn't have TFE tape with me.

With my bike ready to go, I just had to drop off special needs bags on the other end of the park, drink my smoothie, put on my wetsuit and wait for the gun. Special needs bag drop off was a bunch of boxes, labeled with number ranges down at the end of the park where the first part of the run loop would pass. I dropped each of my bags, and walked back to the wall near the beach.

I drank 32oz of smoothie, but couldn't drink the other 32, because my stomach was feeling really full and nervous, despite 3 trips to the porta johns so far. I just hoped that I had gotten enough food in before the race.

I watched the pro race go of at 0625, and decided that it was time to put the wetsuit on. I lubricated my wrists, ankles and neck with body glide and slid into the neoprene cocoon. Before I could zip up, Taz, from East Coast Bicycle Academy the Ironman mechanic team, came up. She wished me luck, and we talked while I zipped into my wetsuit and then layered a jacket over it to ward off the wind that was kicking up some significant chop in the water.

I remembered swimming in the wind and chop in Mexico every afternoon at yoga TT. I remembered how the waves rocked me gently as I swam, and I decided that this would be just like that, and not like the struggle that was my practice swim on Thursday.

The clock edged towards race time, so I dropped my shoes and socks in my dry clothes bag and made my way through the crowds of spectators to the cold damp sand of the beach. The chill was so deep in my feet that I wanted to hurry and get into the water so that I could warm up. That struck me as funny at a race that is known for cold water temps. This year the air was cold and the water a mild 65 degrees.

I stood at the top of the beach for a minute and looked around at the crowd of red and white swim caps that were lined up along the beach. The colors reminded me of match heads....hmmm fire would be nice right about now.

I picked a spot in the crowd up near the front but a few rows back and right on the buoy line. It was similar to where I seeded myself for Placid, and I had a wonderful easy swim there. I milled around and listened to Mike Reilly pump the crowd up for the start. Time pressed on.

0700, the gun went off and I followed the crown into the water. I had space, so I dove right into swimming as soon as it was deep enough. I got a more realistic taste of the mass swim start than last year. While I didn't experience any injuries, it was a much more turbulent experience. I was kicked, smacked, and had my goggles knocked loose three times before the first buoy. I just stayed calm and kept swimming my swim.

The water was rough, and I didn't feel that same amazing draft that I'd felt in Lake Placid. I looked for someone to draft off of, but it seemed that everyone near me was breast stroking, which always pisses me off in a triathlon, because the big froggy kicks take up a lot of space in the water, and it's not like you're out here by yourself!

I was relatively straight, though I was forced to take the inside on a few of the buoys on the way out, and I ended up drinking quite a bit of lake water when my breath pattern would coincide with a swell. I made the first turn buoy quickly, and had to fight the wind to stay in a straight line to the next turn. Once I hit the return, I rode the wind back to shore, getting beaten by other athletes along the way.

When I came out of the water to hit the timing mat for loop two, I didn't catch a glimpse of the clock, but I was pretty sure I was going faster than last year, or at least on pace with it. I was back in the water quickly with a slight adjustment to my goggle straps from where they had gotten knocked loose.

The second loop was pretty much the same as the first. The crowd thinned a little, but it was still a jostling experience, and the wind seemed to be picking up. When I came out of the water, I was disappointed to see 1:34:?? on the clock. That was slower than last year! I remembered Ryan's words to me the day before, "If something goes wrong, don't lose time thinking about what can't be changed. Just focus on the road ahead." I put the swim behind me, reminding myself that Lake Placid's water was smooth as glass... aside from the downpour that started halfway through the swim.... I guess every race has it's personality.

I ran up the beach to transition and headed for a wetsuit strip team. I left my goggles and cap on my head this year to avoid having the goggles inadvertently ripped during the wetsuit stripping process. The two women expertly removed my wetsuit and I went to grab my T1 bag. I found it and was guided to the women's change tent.

The heat inside the tent was a nice contrast to the chill outside. I wasn't even going to mess with carrying arm warmers in case I got cold. Those babies were going on right away! I found a seat, dropped my bag and started pulling shoes, socks, arm and knee warmers out. A volunteer came up and helped me dry off a bit, get the jersey on over my damp torso and then slip on the arm warmers. Ok, maybe slip is a bit generous. The wool just wanted to stick to my arms, so she really had to muscle them up. While she did that, another volunteer loaded my jersey pockets with my emergency kit (kleenex, bandaids, mole skin, and hand gel), endurolytes, and my knee warmers.

Just as we got my jersey loaded up, the woman next to me said,"hey! Great jersey!" I am accustomed to comments on the Where the Wild Things Are jersey, so I looked up and started to say thanks. Then I saw that she was wearing the exact same jersey! I laughed, said,"You too! We're twins!" She smiled and handed her bag to a volunteer. I made sure my HRM was in place, handed the bag back to the volunteer and went in search of Contessa. She was right where I left her on the rack, so I grabbed her and ran for the mount line.

The first part of the bike course winds through the heart of town, so the streets are lined with Ironfans cheering and waving signs. Last year I was really pumped up by the spectators, but this year I felt disconnected and deep within myself. I rode out of town on Coeur d'Aene Lake Drive where the wind was coming off the water and pushing my bike sideways. I managed to stay aero and keep control.

I hit the first climb, and though I was feeling fresh, I kept in mind the 112 miles and took it conservatively. I enjoyed the rollers back to the turn around, and the view of the lake was beautiful. The clouds did look threatening though. Oh PLEASE don't rain on me while I am biking!!

I followed the course back through town where the buildings sheltered me from the wind. I was a little more relaxed, so I enjoyed the crowd more, but I still had this underlying fear that this was going to be one long hard race. Adding to that was the fact that my stomach was feeling a little gross from drinking so much lake water. I like to start taking in calories about 5 miles into the bike, but I wasn't sure when I was going to be able to do that.

The course took us out of town through neighborhoods and strip malls. It was mostly flat, and I felt good pedaling. I didn't have my Garmin or my bike computer set so that I could see speed. I had forgotten my regular watch, so I had the Garmin screen that showed me the time of day, so I could watch myself in relation to cutoffs. If I needed to, I could check my HR, but I was feeling like I could go all day.

Strip Malls and gas stations gave way to trees and well.... trees. Idaho has a lot of trees. I was getting passed a lot and for some reason kept thinking that the last person in the race was gaining on me and pretty soon I'd be racing with a SAG vehicle behind me. I told myself what a ridiculous thought that was. There were certainly people who used the entire 2:20 to get through their swim, and they were not going to pass me. I decided to tell myself that all theses people passing me were in danger of burning out early, while I would have plenty left for the run. At mile 13, my ex boyfriend passed me, and it was fun to know that I had beaten him yet again in a swim. At mile 16, I forced myself to drink some calories. They didn't sit well, but I told my stomach to HTFU and deal. We weren't going to quit based on a little lake water.

There were more rollers now, and I knew we'd hit the hilly part soon. We turned right into Hayden Lake Country Club, and I knew to get ready for a few climbs. I reminded myself that it was nothing like the course in Lake Placid. I just needed to manage my momentum wisely and stay steady.

The wind out here was the worst it had been all day. It was steady and gusting strongly. It knocked me back and forth across the right lane of the road. I stayed aero to minimize how much of me it could grab. My shoulders and neck started to ache. I put the pain aside. I was on loop 1, no time to start complaining about pain.

There were people here and there on the course cheering us on. Some set up music, some had even rented porta johns for us to use. There is even one place on the course where the property owner keeps a porta john, banner and table set up as a year round aid station for people training on the course. And my initial impression was that Coeur d'Alene wasn't as amped to have us as Placid... Maybe I was wrong...

Like last year, the bike was turning out to be a lonely task. We encouraged each other as we passed each other, but there was little conversation as we twisted and turned through rural roads, battling gravity and the wind. The course changes directions many times and I wondered how it always happened that the wind was either blowing against us or across us. I remember two short sections of less than a mile where the wind came from behind, but they were just teasing.

I had the inkling that I needed to pee since mile 18 or so, but I didn't want to stop, since I was fighting the wind, unsure of my speed and trying to make up for my slow swim. I wasn't sure if I could get over the mental block and pee on the bike without the assistance of the rain from Lake Placid. Already being soaking wet made it so much easier to pee on the bike. I decided I would try it. At about mile 26, I hit a short climb where no one was behind me, and I held my breath and let it go. It actually came easier this time than it had the first time in Placid. From that point on, I was able to keep releasing excess fluid as if I had trained that way. Who knew?

After what seemed like a million turns, I finally saw some cones and a police car, and knew that I was approaching a timing mat! I made the u-turn around the cones and rode over the mat as it chimed, recording my progress for all of the people following me at home. I was happy to be headed back to town, but I had to push aside the dread that filled me as I contemplated fighting the wind for another 70ish miles.

My neck and shoulders were in terrible pain, and I wished that I could stop for a massage. My Left IT band had also begun to hurt. I thought about how it may not have been the best idea to tweak my fit 2 weeks before the race. I let go of the things that couldn't be changed and pedaled.

Trees gave way to a suburban landscape of strip malls and houses, then to quiet tree-lined streets where signs of encouragement dotted the medians and the lawns. When I reached town, spectators cheered us on as they huddled inside of their sweatshirts and jackets. Some wore gloves and hats.

Just as I came down NW Blvd, I got passed by several pro men who were returning from their second loops and getting ready to start their marathons. Oh to be where they were! I wished that I only had 26.2 miles to go. I saw the signs that indicated which lane went to the second loop and which went to transition. When I got back there would only be a sign for transition. I checked my Garmin and verified that I was on track to beat the cutoffs. I did not want to meet race officials here and get pulled off of the course after 5:30pm.

I relished the less windy conditions in the city, but quickly passed on to Couer d'Alene Lake Drive where the wind pressed hard against my right side as it came in from the water. There were cheerleaders in volunteer shirts jumping and yelling, and a band of men in kilts playing the bag pipes. I though how appropriate the forlorn sound would be if they were still out on that stretch after dark as the hours grew short and strides slowed.

I made it to the turn around, and I was thrilled to see the special needs bags. I had managed to drain my bottle of gel/perpetum, and I was eager to get another shot of energy drink. 63 miles done 51 to go. A volunteer grabbed my bag and called out to me. I rode up to her and quickly switched bottles and drank deeply from the one containing energy drink. I tossed the empty back into the bag and clipped my numb feet back to Contessa's pedals. It had felt good to stretch a bit, but now it was time to finish this ride.

I rode back to town, concentrating on keeping my balance in the wind. I prayed that the wind would die down, but it continued to shove me. As I headed back out to the hills of Hayden Lake, I pondered if I would be able to run with the increasing burning in my left ITB and my numb feet. I wasn't sure if my feet were numb from the bike or from the chill. Either way, I told myself that I was going to be fine.

Traffic was thinner on the second loop. Spectators were also not as numerous. The chill and the thickening clouds were likely sending people indoors. Back out at Hayden Lake, I played leapfrog with a couple of women. I would pass them on the climbs and they would pass me on the descents. The heavier of the two of them, called out to me as she passed me for the last time, "I'm heavier, so I can go faster here!" It was amusing.

I made small goals of 5 miles, then 1 mile. I kept visualizing the turn around, and thinking that it was just up ahead, around the next curve, or over the next crest. I ended up leapfrogging with a guy who was 28. I forgot his name before I even finished biking, but we conversed a bit. His 3rd Ironman, and he was feeling discouraged and cold. It cheered me, to cheer him. I just knew that to feed the negative would defeat me.

After numerous turns down roads that all looked identical, I finally saw the cones marking the turn around! I knew that meant that there was about 20 miles to go. I told myself to pace myself, because that was more than an hour of riding to go. I also reminded myself that a 20 mile bike ride was NOTHING!

My mood was elevated knowing that I was headed back to town, and was no longer winding through seemingly endless nondescript roads with the wind tossing me about and chilling my hands, feet and face.

I watched each mile tick away on the garmin, and I watched the minutes tick away. I was disappointed to calculate that I would be getting into town about the same time as I had in Placid. I didn't seem to be improving over last year, and I began to wonder if sub 16 was possible for me this day. As if the conditions weren't challenging enough, a soft steady soaking rain began to fall. With only 15 miles to go, I just kept pedaling, reminding myself that I love to run in the rain.

I began to prepare for the marathon. My knee was screaming and I couldn't feel my feet from the ball forward, but I knew I could run. What I wanted to do was throw in the towel, get a shower, a massage and take a nap. I began to question what I was doing out here. Did I belong here among all of these fit fast people? Was I fooling myself to think I am an athlete? Some deeper voice within answered that I could say anything I wanted in this moment as long as I kept moving. That voice does not know the word quit. It does know that at a soul level, I am an Ironman, and that I belong in the race no matter where I find myself.

My energy came back some when I saw the high school, the stores and the beginnings of the city. The last mile on NW Blvd was over quickly, and I saw Corby on the corner as I rode by. He snapped a picture that I did not smile for. I did not have smiles for the camera this year. I know from the pictures that I, in fact, looked as hollow-eyed and distant as I felt.

All lanes lead to transition! I rode up to the dismount line, grabbed my Garmin off the bike, handed Contessa off to a volunteer and limped off towards the bags and then the change tent. I landed heavily in a chair, and two volunteers rushed to assist me with my change over. One massaged my neck and shoulders while the other helped me into my socks, shoes and jacket and helped me out of my helmet. I attached my Garmin to its wrist strap and attached it to my wrist. I changed it from bike to run, stuffed my unneeded stuff into the bag, and made my way towards the exit. One of the volunteers called out that I should walk a bit before I ran, but I only heard Ryan's voice. "Try to run the whole marathon. I am learning from Bob that you just have to keep running, even if it's the slowest most ridiculous run. It's too easy to start walking and keep walking, so run as much of the marathon as you can."

I vowed right then that no matter what I was going to run 26.2 miles. My feet were still numb and my ITB was on fire. I walked towards the arch that read run start, gritted my teeth, and started to run. I made an agreement with my mind and body that the mind could do whatever it wanted to as long as the body kept running until it crossed the finish line.

I ran through the park along the back side of the expo. People had written messages on the sidewalk in chalk. Someone had drawn two penises and had captioned them, "Don't go soft, now!" and " Keep it up!" I hurt too bad to laugh.

I passed the first aid station less than a mile in, and I took some water. The volunteers there had themed the aid station "road work." They built a giant man from cones and barrels, and had modified street signs to say motivating things. I kept running and spilled a good bit of it. I decided that I would walk that aid stations until I had finished my water or food and thrown away my cup, so I didn't get dehydrated.

At the first mile my feet were still numb and my knee was feeling fragile. I made the turn around and headed back through the park. I saw a lot of fresh looking fast people who were on their second laps, and I was awash in jealousy. I let my head think what it wanted and my legs keep running, while I sat back knowing that I was racing MY race.

I passed special needs, where I could get my bag on my second loop. I almost wished I could get into it now, because there was a second jacket in there, and with the rain having soaked through the one I was wearing and the wind still beating at me, I was longing for another layer.

The next aid station, I took water and Coke and some pretzels. My body totally rejected the solid food. Nothing dramatic, I just registered disgust. I was amused by the volunteers who were playing jazz and Zydeco music and wearing huge bras decorated with all manner of sparkly things. They had Mardi Gras beads and were dancing. Their sign read "Mardi Bra!" I think I managed a smile.

The sidewalk was lined with spectators who cheered us on, and I hoped that they would stick around for my second loop. I needed all the support I could get. The energy in town was motivating, and I felt more connected as I ran slowly by. I was scared that I didn't have time to make the finish. I had let go of the sub 16 goal, and I had adopted the goal of improve over last year.

I could tell from the looks on people's faces that I did not look good, but they told me I looked strong, and I knew that I was. I prayed for my legs to just keep running. It could all be over in 6-7 hours. 24 miles to go. It was around that 2 mile marker that the feeling started to come back into my feet. My upper body was still chilled, but my legs felt warm.

We ran through an exclusive waterfront neighborhood. People were having parties in their yards and were cheering us on. Others had set up speakers outside of their doors or inside of open windows to provide music. Some people were sitting in folding chairs just watching, but saying nothing. I got angry, thinking, "If you're going to be out here, CHEER, we're not some kind of freak show." Though, I guess to some we sure are. Most of the population wouldn't even attempt one leg of this race, and we were all out here doing all three. I know swimmers, cyclists and runners, who would take on this distance in their particular sport, but very few who will entertain the idea of the combination.

I often hear the questions, "What is your best event?" or "Which is your favorite?" My answer to the first is always, "I'm equally mediocre at all three, but constantly improving!" My answer to the second is, "Triathlon is my favorite sport. The three are not separate sports. They are inextricably linked. A race of any single piece of my sport leaves me longing for the rest of the event." Then I usually say that the bike leg has an extra cool factor, because I LOVE my bike!

At this point in the race I was still happy to have left the saddle though. I headed out of town on Lake Coeur d'Alene Drive again, and I told myself that I only had to see this section of trow one more time. The road was lined with signs that people had made for their athletes, and I searched the sea of white plastic for mine. The wind had blown a good portion of them over. I did finally locate the one I had made for myself, but I never did see the one that Les made.

I kept my pace steady, watching my Garmin to make sure. My legs ached, and my knee felt wobbly. At times, I was performing a sort of limping run to keep it from giving out altogether. I was happy to feel that despite the rain, I was not getting any blisters! I took water at aid stations, and I kept drinking from a bottle of perpetum that I was carrying.

The volunteers were playing music, and the first aid station on this section had a hippie theme. They also had Mylar blankets!! I eagerly accepted one, and within a half mile, wished that I hadn't. I couldn't figure out how to keep it around me, while still using my arms in the running process. I didn't want to DNF because the Mylar blanket slowed me down.

I finally managed to get it tied around my neck like a shiny silver superman cape. I though of some of my old crazies from the police dept... not the ones I worked with, the ones who wore aluminum foil to keep the CIA from reading their thoughts.... I probably looked like one of them.

I was glad that it was June 21, and that daylight would stick around until late. If only it was warm. I finally made it to the foot of the long hill, at the top of which would be the turn-around. I kept running, went around the cone, over the timing mat and started gingerly back down the hill, telling my knee to keep holding me up.

I reached the Ford motivation station, and I was looking forward to reading Eileen's message, which was, "F-U, Dermataoctapus!" I crossed the mat that was supposed to bring my message up on the screen, but nothing appeared. Maybe on the second loop...

I was eager to get back to town and see the crowd again. I was looking for any inspiration I could get. I thought a lot about the people I knew all over the country watching me on the computer... My yoga friends, co-coworkers, mom, Eileen, my coach, my bike fitter, my teammates, my classmates, Bob and Karie at the RV park, and my other friends at home. I told myself not to let them down, but I really didn't want to let me down. it was one thing to DNF Bay Swim, and something else to DNF Savageman, but Ironman? That would be a devastating thing.

The parties in the neighborhoods were getting bigger and louder as the revelers drank more and more. They were funny, and very sweet to try to hand us cups of vodka and beer, which I declined to take. I did think of my Chimay Grande Reserve in the fridge at the RV...

The spectators on the streets were few in number, even as I moved into the heart of town. The fences that had contained hundreds of people pressed onto narrow sidewalks now stood in crooked lines, containing no more than bits of litter swirling in the ever blowing wind. It was I saw Les, who cheered me on, and took pictures that I did not smile for.

I ran down the hill into the park to begin the second loop. I told myself that I couldn't quit now, 13.1 miles is nothing! Les ran down the hill along the sidewalk and met Corby in the park and the two of them cheered me as I limped by. I had to laugh at Les running... especially running faster than me! I was glad that he was into the race.

I hadn't been entirely sure of the quality of the idea of taking a three week road trip to do an insane endurance race with my ex-husband, but he had been helpful, and quite the cheerleader/photographer/race sherpa and RV co-pilot. I was grateful that he had come along.

I made my way past the transition area and towards the road work aid station, as I approached, the volunteers were calling out what they had to offer. I only wanted water, and as I grabbed a cup from the man, he told me that they could fix my Mylar blanket to be more useful, and they could do it quickly. I agreed, and 4 volunteers surrounded me. One grabbed my race belt, two untied my cape, another grabbed scissors and a transparent blue trash bag. The one with the scissors cut a head hole in the blanket and passed it back to the two who put it over my head, followed immediately by the trash bag, into which they tore arm holes. My race belt magically reappeared and they all yelled, "GOGOGO!!!"

I started running again, feeling almost immediately warmer. Running in a trash bag brought back memories of NOVA championships in crew in my senior year on the lightweight eight. To make weight, we embarked on a five mile run in late May wearing layer up on layer of winter gear and trash bags. After the run we lay in the driveway and allowed our bodies to sweat. I had never felt so awful or thirsty in my life, but we vowed not to drink anything until after weigh in the next day.

Thinking of dehydration, I checked my Garmin, whose battery was barely hanging on, and saw that my pace was dropping little by little. I did some quick calculations, and I abandoned my goal of improving on my time and decided I just wanted to finish. I had been stopping at porta johns on the run, because I was afraid to be wet and cold from peeing on myself now that the rain had stopped and the temp was dipping into the low 40s. I didn't think I had time to spare for any more breaks, so I decided to stop drinking. I knew I would get dehydrated, especially in the trash bag, but I knew that I could finish out the last 10 miles without water. I would just get to the finish and see if I could get an IV in the medical tent.

After that decision, I completely shut down to anyone outside myself. I didn't need the aid stations, the other athletes, or the silent spectators. I had already abandoned the idea of meeting another Ironangel like Ben from Lake Placid. It was too late for that. This was all me.

My mind thought up elaborate ways for me to cheat my way to the finish, which I found funny. If I cheated, the entire experience would become worthless. I held fast to my agreement with body and mind though... think whatever you want, just keep running.

I ran past the signs, through the aid stations, up the big hill and across the timing mat. My Garmin died somewhere around mile 20, and I had no idea what time it was. People who were walking were passing me, and I felt nothing. I just kept running. 5 miles to go. I can run 5 miles in my sleep. One step at a time.

The road was dark and damp. The flood lights were spaced widely, and I was reminded of River Rd in Placid. I would not walk here though. A volunteer placed an orange glow necklace around my neck as I ran past the still paralyzed motivation station. I kept running, finding energy to joke a bit with the volunteers who asked what I needed. A medal. That was what I needed.

I called out to volunteers, spectators and other athletes, inquiring the time. Intense fear gripped me. I knew I was going slowly, though still running, and I feared that the hands of the clock were moving much faster than my feet. Everyone assured me that I had time, but I did not believe them. I was dizzy with dehydration, and I could smell the stench of Ironman in a trash bag with every step.

I ended up running next to some girls who were walking who assured me that we had time. They were each doing their second Ironman as well. They complimented me on my dress, and I joked that it had been custom tailored by the volunteers at the road work aid station. They decided to run, and left me with the advice to remove the dress prior to my finish picture. I said that I wouldn't do that, because this is real. Besides there will be more finish pictures to come...many more.

I missed the sign for mile 25, so I was surprised to round a corner and see the signs saying 2nd loop right and finish left! A volunteer was directing us all towards the finish and announcing that this was it! 7 blocks! It was nice to really be in the home stretch, because I had been ready to punch just about everyone who had announced that I was "almost there" or "in the home stretch" for the last 15 miles.

There on Sherman Ave, I could see straight down to the lights, the clock, the crowd. People were lining the street on both sides. Music was blaring from the finish line and Mike Reilly was calling off the finishers!

My pace picked up a bit, and I began to feel what I had been longing for all day... all year. The tingle of excitement, the rush of joy... Spectators looked at me as if I was some sort of superhero, and they stretched out their hands to high five me. I ran faster, unsure if I would collapse at the finish or remain standing.

I stepped across the mat that identified me to Mike, so that he could announce me. Under the archway that began the finisher's chute, packed bleachers on both sides, spectators banging and stomping, cheering wildly, reaching for high fives... I don't remember the song, because all I could hear was Mike Reilly, calling out, "Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer..." and as I stepped onto the final timing mat, " You are an Ironman!" I reached my arms up high, perpetum in one hand and two fingers held up with the other, signifying the second finish of many. 16:34:27... Seven minutes and 11 seconds faster than last year.

Two volunteers caught me, got me a shirt, medium.... Someday I'll be fast enough to get there while they still have smalls. My medal was placed around my neck, a pewter pine tree on a green Ironman ribbon. I was handed a finisher hat, and guided to the finisher photo area to pose with my medal. At this point, I decided to abandon my homeless costume. I took off my finisher's hat from Lake Placid that I had worn for the marathon, and held them both up, since I had somehow missed this photo op at Placid.

I remained standing, but my legs were very unsure how to walk. I got a massage, and decided to forgo an IV in favor of watching the last finishers. I barely got back to see the last official finisher, but stayed as the clock ran down, and a final Ironman crossed the line in 17:04:?? I cried for the heartbreak that it must be to miss such a grand goal by so little. Another finisher gave this man his medal, since the medals are only doled out to those that cross before 17:00:00.

It is difficult not to be disappointed about the finish. I wanted sub 16 so badly. In better conditions I would have had it. I content myself with knowing that, had this cold, windy, rainy day been last year, I would not have made it, or at least would have cut it much closer. Placid's balmy downpour had nothing on the brutal wind and chill here.

I am heading undaunted into training for the next one. Ironman Arizona 2010!

There are so many to thank for getting me to another Ironman finish line... Mom, for helping me fit it all into my life and for keeping the pups while I am gone. My friends who cheer me on in training and races. My teammates and friends at Team FeXY, RATS, and Kingstowne Striders for the workouts, the socials and inviting me into the fold and sharing your knowledge even though I can't keep up with you YET! Les and Corby for being there with me! To Rev. Elease who helps me keep things balanced. To my IVISD classmates and faculty for lifting me up. To all the people who bought guns from me, so that I could afford to get out there and get back and get some finisher gear! To my co-workers for taking up the slack while I was gone. To Capitol Hill Bikes for the time off, the borrowed Zipps, and the paychecks. To Bob at Wheelie Fun for setting me up on my awesome road bike, for the encouragement and for the new Veritas TT bike (coming soon!!). To Ryan, my coach, who stuck with me through a very personally challenging year, who provided the path to another Ironman finish, encouraging words, and without whose advice, guidance and generosity I would not have been able to do this again. You are all awesome, and to those of you who haven't done an Ironman, a little piece of mine belongs to you.