140.6 miles of fun...yes, now that I've had a few days to digest everything and wrap my head around the experience, I can say I had fun! Mind you, not fun like jumping on a trampoline until you pee your pants or a pizza eating contest type of fun, but as much fun as you can have while working your butt off for over 13 hours and eating only gu while doing so.
The whole event was amazing...I couldn't have asked for a better race. My mental preparation really played a big role in how I raced. I didn't get too "high" and didn't get too "low"...I stayed really even keeled and just enjoyed it as much as I could.
The day started with a 4am wake-up call (ok, more like 2am when I woke up to pound a gatorade and some food...huge help, so I didn't have a super big breakfast and thus big belly/poopy problems later in the morning...I wasn't able to sleep after that) and a 5am shuttle ride to the race start. It was CHILLY...it was high 40's low 50's and not the kind of weather that leaves the water beckoning. My family and friends were not pleased to be sitting on the cold concrete wall waiting for the swim start! I got to the start, dropped off my special needs bags and put air in my tires/prepped my bike and then was off to watch the pro's swim start. I stood there shivering (I claim it's because I was cold, mom says it was nerves and adrenaline) and eventually put my wetsuit on to stay warm. I was weirdly calm the whole morning and only had one big wave of nausea come over me. It was great to have my friends and family there to distract me and make me laugh. Making my way to the swim start I was looking for my fellow Nashvillians, Ben and Sarah, I couldn't find them, and figured it may be better to be alone and not get worked up anyway...so I stood there waiting, waiting, waiting for the gun to go off.
The gun went off at 7am and we were off...the beginning of a very long day! I had positioned myself halfway down the beach and towards the middle/back of the crowd...don't want to get kicked in the money maker! ;) The water was cold at first, but completely forgot about it as I was wrestling people. It was super choppy (so windy!) and it was a tough swim. I kept my cool and made sure to breathe every third stroke and just got in a groove. I would have to take action every now and again and push someone off me or side slam someone to get them off my back, but it really was pretty uneventful. The first lap felt great, I had to tell myself to slow down because I was so jazzed...I hopped out of the water, jaunted over the timing mat and splashed back in for round two. Round two was a lot choppier, the wind had picked up and made the "waves" bigger...there was a lot more lake drinking this time around. I also had a little more difficulty swimming in a straight line...I'm pretty sure I logged 3 miles! I continually told myself to take it easy and apparently I took my inner voice to heart because my second lap was a good two minute slower...oops! Not to mention EVERYONE would stop and do the breath stroke around the corner buoys...so annoying...it was a complete traffic jam...at one point I yelled "swim people!"...there's my aggressive side coming out, sorry! I finished the swim in 1:18, 2 minutes faster than what I planned, so I am happy about that!
The transition was great, there were wetsuit peelers that threw you to the ground and ripped off your suit...little did I know that I would have to sprint through the transition area in my bathing suit!!! At that point I saw my dad and brother screaming for me...I looked at them exclaiming "I didn't know I'd have to run in my bathing suit, yuck!!"...they laughed that I would think about something like that during my transition. I sprinted towards the changing tent hoping no one was looking at my thighs! The volunteers in the tent were most likely sent from heaven...I was so jostled from the swim that I couldn't stand very well to put my clothes on. I ripped my suit off and stood there pretty much stark nekkid as I tried to pull spandex on my wet body...a real wrestling match! After some struggle she sat me down and literally put my socks and shoes on for me...asking me what I needed in my bag. I told her to avert her eyes as I applied body glide (she laughed) and then I was off...Orby, here I come! My whole crew was there as I got to my bike and took off...I teared up a little seeing them!
"Go out slow, go out slow, high RPM's, high RPM's"...was my mantra during the bike. Yes, people were passing me and as they did I would say to myself, well at least I swam faster than you (whether it was true or not, it helped)...I would also envision someone I know from Nashville that is a better athlete than I when they passed...saying "oh, there goes Lynn/Kevin/Tammy/Richard...hey guys!" knowing that I would never catch those people in real life, so why would I try on race day? This kept me going at my own pace and riding my own ride. Sarah and I kept seeing each other on the course, so it made for a fun ride because we would chat for a little bit. I was on with my nutrition and drinking, so much so that I had to stop 5, yes 5, times to tinkle. Probably could have saved myself 10-12 minutes had I just let 'er rip, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I came to mile 63 where special needs was located and refueled my food stock and filled my bottle with my gatorade I had mixed (much less sweet than what they have on the course). I couldn't find anywhere to place my PB&Honey sandwich, so I stuffed it down my top (it was in a baggy, hush). A few miles later after I consumed half my sandwich, I put the rest back into my top...apparently half of it was falling out because I heard someone on the sidelines exclaim "ewww, that's gross"...I looked around thinking "what's gross? I wanna see!" and then looked down and realized she was talking about me and my boobie smashed sandwich...whoops! The ride went as planned until about mile 75ish. My IT band on my right leg started KILLING me. My left IT band would hurt during training every now and again, but never anything major and never on runs...but my right IT band, this was something new...and it's the one that has hurt me before while running. I was super nervous about it and was in a lot of pain when pedaling. There were times in the last 30 miles where I would literally grunt and groan aloud...I eventually stopped at mile 105 to put on my IT band wrap but it didn't do any good. It was difficult to hold a 15mph pace on the flats...I was pissed. I couldn't push any harder, my knee hurt so bad. By the time I got to T2, I was soooo ready to be off that god forsaken bike! Again, there were my brother and dad at the transition and my brother said he has never seen me look so angry in my life...and this is coming from the guy who used to pin me down and spit in my face! I dismounted my bike and there were mom, Meghan, Katie and MV...I ran over and gave them all a hug and then trotted to the bike/run transition bags...all the while wondering what my knee was going to do on the run. Bike was 7:05...I had planned on 7:00 back in January and secretly in my head thought I could do 6:45 after all the training I put in, but I would gladly take the 7:05 if it meant my knee would hold up on the run...(stay tuned...ok, read below).
Much better than T1...stripped my diaper shorts off and opted for my tri-shorts. I pretty much mooned everyone outside the tent I'm pretty sure. T2 was much quicker than T1...I glided up my feet, put on fresh socks, shoes, visor, stretched my IT band and was off (oh yeah, after another potty break...I was sooo hydrated!).
After a few test steps my knee felt fine, absolutely great...hallelujah! I kept my IT band strap thingy on for the first 13 miles just in case (until I realized it had rubbed me raw and I was bleeding down my leg...not pretty, and I'm sure people were exclaiming "ewww, gross" again). I am never a good judge of my pace when I first get off the bike. I felt like I was going super slow, but clocked the first mile at 9:30...30 seconds faster than my planned pace. I made myself slow down (or so I thought) and continued to hold sub 10:00's for the first 16 miles at least. I was pumped...I kept wondering "when am I going to hit the wall?"...but then would force myself to think something positive. I did exactly as I had planned and walked through each aide station...the walks did get a little longer as the miles ticked off, but I would always start running by the end of the station, no matter what (at first I would start running prior to the end of the station). I got to see my family 4 times on the run (and the bike for that matter) and they were huge motivators! By the third time I saw them I had no energy left to high five and wave, I could simply nod and smile to let them know I was acknowledging them. The second loop of the marathon proved to be tougher (obviously, right?) the rain came through and soaked us and by mile 20 I was starting to feel the pain. I made it to mile 20 without having to do any extra walking, but mile 21 was uphill and I couldn't force myself to do it. I run/walked the hill and then kept running as we turned around and went back down. It was around mile 23/24 that I found the wall. Luckily I didn't smack right into it, but it was there and I was trying my best to push that stupid wall away. I managed to run up until mile 24 where I started to do more run/walking...giving myself visuals as to where I would start running again if I started to walk (it worked). I ran a quarter mile or so with a man who asked "what mile are you on?" (some were on 24 while others on 12ish) and I said "gasp, twenty, gasp, four"...a huge smile came on his face and he said "CONGRATULATIONS!"...I thanked him and smiled, just knowing I had done this! Right at the end of mile 25 someone said "three more turns and you'll see the finish line"...I knew I was there, and I picked it up knowing the end was near. Three more quick turns and there it was...the streets were lined with people and everyone was cheering. I quickly became emotional after holding everything at bay all day long...I would choke up and do a quick sob and then I would laugh and smile, over and over all the way to the finish line...I was this weird manic/depressive for the last .2 miles. Someone yelled "keep smiling" and I did...I crossed the first timing mat and threw my hands in the air and waved and and smiled through the finishers chute. I saw my family and friends and waved and smiled at them...then 13 hours, 12 minutes and 34 seconds after my toes hit the water, I crossed the finish line. I think I said "oh my god"...but I'm not really sure. I barely heard "Tilghman Carroll, from Nashville, Tennessee, you are an IRONMAN!" because my family was screaming so loud...I cried like a baby at the finish line (and am tearing up just thinking about it). I got my finishers medal, t-shirt and hat and then saw my family waiting there. I broke down again and we all cried and hugged and cried. My dad surprised me the most with his water works...everyone was so happy I had survived and came through unscathed (relatively). My marathon was a 4:32...this was a huge shock because with the exception of my 4:04 PR 6 of my 8 marathons have been within 4 minutes of 4:30, that means I ran my average marathon time after swimming and biking all day...absolutely crazy!
I can't tell you how amazing this whole experience has been. All the training leading up to it and the event itself. I could NOT have done it without the help of my friends and family there...it was the biggest motivator knowing I would get to see them and try to make them proud. The race was fantastic and all the volunteers deserve a medal themselves...they were all so nice and accommodating. I couldn't have asked for a better day, rain, wind, cold water and all...everything went off without a hitch and I ran the race I had been envisioning for months. I am so happy I did this and know that I will probably do another one (no one ever said I was sane)...hopefully Coach will work with me again!
There are loads of pictures I want to post and can't choose just a few, so you can choose or yourself...see my pics here...