As I ran out of T2, I started my Garmin Forerunner. I was carrying a throwaway water bottle and I started drinking from that. I also finished my Cheez-Its and a Gu gel while walking. My nutrition plan for the run was to have a Gu gel every 5 miles and to drink coke, water and Perform (IM’s Gatorade) as needed on the course. In previously triathlons I have had other food and it just never settles well with me and I didn’t want to risk feeling like crap (well, any more than normal after 114 miles). I finished my snack and then started running. I was keeping a decent pace, but I was totally babying myself and walking more than I needed to. I ran about a mile and then started a run/walk combo that I changed up about a million times over the next 25.2 miles. Most consistently I was doing 2:00 run/:30 walk. I would walk through each aid station and drink whatever I was craving, but stuck to the Gu every 5 miles and resisted the urge to snack on pretzels, chips, oranges or anything else on the buffet that each aid station provided.
I saw Paul around mile 4. He looked so strong! I was so so happy to see him too and wish I had bothered to ask what loop he was on. Time and math in my head was kinda hard to focus on so I was convinced he was just about to finish his first loop. Turns out he was about to hit the finish line.
The run was 2 loops. A 13.1 mile loop is a looong way. The course was also super disorienting to me. I didn’t study the course map very well, so I kept getting confused where I was and when I would be crossing back over to the other side of the lake. This got harder on the 2nd loop when it was dark and I couldn’t read my watch well. I would speed up thinking I was approaching an aid station or the bridge, only to remember I had to go through this park or that road first.
Overall, the first half went well, I was run/walking and drinking coke and water (I did not like the Perform, but would choke it down every once in a while). I was obviously tired, but I felt good and knew I could keep up this pace… but despite feeling good, the toughest point of the entire day was reaching the 13 mile marker. Yes, I was half done.. but I was ONLY half done? Holy cow. It felt like I had long way to go (and well, I did.. since my half time was about 2:45-3:00). I was also REALLY hoping to see Paul at the 13 mile marker, since there was a big crowd of spectators there, but I didn’t. I knew he HAD to be done by that point (but he was busy being the BEST HUSBAND EVER by taking my bike back to the hotel room!). I finally saw him around mile 15. I was so happy to see him with that medal around his neck, but also SO envious that he was done! I was still in a low point feeling like I had forever left, but seeing him helped a lot. I was doing this! I’m about to be an IRONMAN.
Around mile 12 I started to see chicken broth come out at the aid stations. I hesitated at first, but MAN, salt sounded SO good. I knew it would either make me feel awesome or make me feel terrible, but I was hankering salt hard so I went for it. The verdict? AWESOME. Not every aid station had it, but I was alternating chicken broth and coke. It was the magic elixir and I started to feel awesome. I was also starting to realize that if I didn’t kick it up a notch, I wasn’t going to finish at my goal of 15 hours. I had slipped into doing more of a 2:00 run/1:00 walk and so I started just trying to run as long as I could and when I would walk, I would speed walk. I got a ton of compliments on my walk pace and a lot of cheers from spectators telling me to keep it up. Whenever I would switch from speed walking to running, I would get even louder cheers which was the absolute best kind of encouragement 😀 Once it got dark, spectator support was pretty minimal on the course. Obviously, everyone wanted to be at the finish line. The aid stations on the run every mile are what saved me. Not just from the food, but from the enthusiasm and support. It was really fun to listen to the music and hear the conversation. I had been alone in my head almost all of the race and the aid stations made it FUN.
FINALLY around mile 22, I could hear the finish line on the other side of Tempe Town Lake. I cried like a little baby. It was kind of hard to make out, but Mike Reilly’s voice is something you can’t mistake. Hearing him welcome all the finishers across the line and knowing that MY MOMENT was just mere miles away totally made me sob. I started to run even more now. I actually ran a negative split during the marathon and when I got to the fork in the road (runners starting their 2nd loop go left, finishers go right)… holy crap I was so fired up. After the fork, we still had about a mile which was the longest mile of my life. I wanted to pass everyone that I could, but I also wanted to make sure if I was passing them, I had enough room so that we each had our moment at the finish line.. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s photo… and well, I didn’t want them to share mine 😀
I booked it and kept looking behind me. There were absolutely NO spectators because at this point everyone was at the finish and it was also very dark out. If someone didn’t know about the Ironman, they would have thought I stole something the way I was sprinting and constantly looking behind me. I could hear the music in the distance, I could hear Mike Reilly. (I’m totally shaky writing this again!) I entered the chute and saw Paul waiting for me. I waved (it didn’t even occur to me to stop and kiss him, oops!) Someone was standing in the finish chute and it also didn’t even occur to me that it was Mike Reilly! I blew past him and was smiling so hard at hearing my name “COURTNEY CISE, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”.
Best. Day. Ever.
Marathon Time: 5:48:33 (woof.)
Finish time: 15:13:56
Paul’s finish time was 10:57:24. So proud of him! After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and my shirt. Paul, who had already been sitting around for 4 hours, lol, was patient and let me get one of the free massages 😀 He was also a rockstar and had already taken our bikes back to the hotel room which was FANTASTIC. If you have spectators, definitely give them your bike ticket so they can do the same for you. It allowed us to be able to hang out at the finish line and then head straight to get some food without having to deal with them.
Hanging out at the finish line was almost more fun than crossing it myself. The energy is indescribable. I had just lugged myself 140(.6) miles and yet somehow I was dancing and screaming and singing my heart out. Seeing the final finishers is an awesome moment. The will and determination is incredibly inspiring! And who doesn’t love a good dance party?!
Once midnight struck and the finisher’s chute was closed, we headed back towards the hotel. Not so coincidentally, our hotel was directly across from an In N Out Burger. Food has never tasted so amazing.
That night, I slept for about 2 or 3 hours. We got back to our room probably around 1:30am and I just couldn’t turn my brain off. Plus, I still had a gallon of coke and 15 hours of adrenaline coursing through my veins. We had set our alarms for 4:30 am so we could go get in line for Finisher’s Jackets, but I didn’t even need the alarm. We had heard of them selling out and well, turns out we couldn’t sleep anyway. Standing in line for the jackets, wearing our medals and swapping stories with all the other finisher’s: I can’t think of a better way to spend 5am on a Monday morning.
So before you ask: Yes, I am DEFINITELY going to do another one and no, I don’t have a tattoo.. yet. From my experience every hour of training, every dollar spent, every tear shed and each moment of doubt was totally worth it. If anyone has any questions at all, I would be MORE than happy to answer them. I promise that talking about this race is one of my absolute favorite subjects 😀
You can also check out my Ironman video from FinisherPix on YouTube. This is the best $20 I have ever spent. I love being able to relive that finish line moment whenever I want.
My official photos aren’t very good… I promise that I am simply holding back tears and not about to barf. I ended up snagging my favorite finish line photo from watching the video stream and taking a screenshot.