Ironman Report Part 4: Run – mindfulness
As I walked into the T2 I heard a volunteer say there were 100 bags still on the racks. I was surprised there were so many behind me as I did not seem to see them on the way back. Anyway I picked up bag number 1495. I walked into the change area and was interested in seeing a fair few competitors there. Maybe they were around me and I was just in my own head for the whole ride. As you can see there was a lot more thinking happening now as I started the run.
In the T2 transition I decided to go for a full change of clothes with the exception of the arm warmers and cycle thermal t shirt. I thought I had an ice tea to have but I forgot to pack it. I put on the Six Foot Track Tri top, R4YL cap, racing glasses with clear lenses, Line break skins, a pair of black shorts and ankle socks. Slipped in the middle tri pocket the red North Face spray top and right pocket was the home for a second contact case of salt tablets and panadols. I wrapped a long sleeve thermal top around my waist and strapped on my Garmin above my watch, wearing two timing pieces – one for real time and the other for pace.
Then I looked at my left foot. I had a problem. I could not get my cycling shoe off. The volunteer and I just looked and wondered what to. My cycling shoes had two Velcro flaps and the top had a corrugated strap passing through a mechanism that clicks as the strap progresses through. For some reason the strap had passed through too far and the release mechanism would not work. After three attempts, the last almost taking the back of my heel, provided me a foot to put on the second Hoka Tarmac so I could start the run. After a slow walk to the exit, checking the time (4:20 pm) and eating some food I was on the way.
The run was an attack on my senses and I needed to be mindful about what I needed to do. Runners are close to you, people are all over the course cheering there is a huge buzz at the aid stations and I passed the finish chute 8 times with music blaring and hearing the announcer declare “You are an Ironman” to all the finishers ahead of me. As I ran past this area several times I refused to look ahead neither at the finishers chute as approached it nor to my right as I ran past it.
I had formulated several plans for the run but never got around to posting them because I could not make up mind. In the end this was a good idea as I had to use all the options. The course involves four just under 10 km loops. From the transition we went towards town past the swim start, along the river foreshore of Town Square and the finishers chute. Then we diverted right along a road and up a hill to circle through the park adjacent to the break wall and back through the finisher’s area back to the transition area. From here the western side of the course involved heading out along Settlement Point and returning through one of four chutes 400m to the west of the transition. There was a specific chute for each lap and as I went through I received a different coloured wrist band.
Lap 1 was during daylight with a cold strong wind blowing in my face as I headed to the western side of the course. This is why I wore the clear sunglasses so I could wear them into the evening protecting my eyes. The plan was to use the Martin Fryer inspired 12 minute run and 3 minute walk at 12, 27, 42 and 57 minutes past the hour in real time and walk through the aid stations and the hill up on the loop around the to the break wall.
The first and the second lap felt great with people saying things like “go Six Foot Track runner”…he will know how to finish” – which gave me confidence. There was an aid station every km 2km and just varied what I had each time.
I had a Cadel bar in my pocket which I flicked to 21b on the hill section of the course which was the location I was to see the family for each lap till the finish. The spray jacket was weighing on my back and I moved it to the right pocket and that felt better. My back was hurting from the ride and at one stage I laid down on grass holding my knees and pulling them back towards my face. This stretched out my back and the issue was gone for the rest of the run.
Towards the end of the second lap I could feel I was off balance and thought this is not good. In fact I thought if I did not arrest the situation there was a possibility I would not finish. I was not being mindful as to what was happening to me.
I started to take note of all the factors influencing my body. My mind was being distracted in trying to see the time for my run walk routine. I was wet from sweat not cold. I was aware of the wind and was stalling putting on the thermal top, though I had rolled up the arm warmers. I was sick of Gatorade, water, coke and gels but I was still fine with bananas and watermelon. My toe which was sore in the first lap had warmed up. I had had a panadol at 4:10pm on the run and was ready for another one after 7:10 pm and I had forgotten to take my salt tablets thus far into the run. I was mentally distracted as I felt I needed to finish sooner rather than later as the family had to drive home that night after the race and I was worried for them.
In short, I had dropped the ball by not being aware of what was happening to my mind and body. Fortunately I thought I have been in this situation before but I had to act decisively if I was to rectify the situation. I know this is sounding a bit melodramatic but I was really quite concerned because I was only at 18 km and the wall normally hits after 30 km into the run. I was in newish territory now 11 hours into a race. I found out later I ran the first lap in 1:10 hours and the second lap in 1:30 hours.
21b said to me after the race when he was speaking to me on this lap I was slurring my words.
I needed a plan. Firstly I abolished the run walk routine and vowed not to look at my watch till the end of the race when ever that would be. The plan now was to run from aid station to aid station, walk for a few minutes and then run to the next aid station. After collecting my wrist band for the second lap I had a 1500m run to the next aid station. Once there I decided to force down some more nutrition. I had three cokes, banana and a gel which I gagged on and I almost threw back up.
Conscious of the fact that it would take a while for the nutrition to sink in I started off for the next aid station. I felt bad because now I was being rude ignoring all the cheering around and support, even friends on the course (some of whom I have had a chance to offer an apology). It was a matter of moving forward hoping I had done enough to stall the wobbles and hopefully reverse the situation.
Before the next aid station was the section of the course with the special needs bag. My plan was to use the bag at the end of the third lap when I was in the 30+km region. I decide to act on the lap I was on because things might deteriorate too much by the time I got back. Normally there was a volunteer at the bottom of the hill who would message ahead to have a special needs bag ready. When I reached the base of the hill there was no one there.
Once at the top I asked for the bag and fortunately I was able to find it for them. I sat down on the ground and had some of a ‘real’ Gatorade and felt that if I had something of substance in my stomach over time I would come well. There is a photo of this. There was a honey sandwich which I started to eat and it was like glue and a forced down as much as I could. I handed the bag back to the volunteer and I ain I would be back for it on the next lap.
I struggled to my feet and saw 21b was watching me in the distance – hence the few photos. I told him I was struggling and potentially in trouble, meanwhile he was on the phone to friends in Sydney relaying what was happening. Jenny and 18g were a bit further up the road. I went past them mumbling and headed down the hill to the next aid station. By the time I got there the family had taken a short cut to be there for me. They had found a good spot and I thought they had found a good place to be a spectator on the course. When I went through an aid station I felt obliged to take something from a volunteer – they took it as a sort of competition to have their offering taken by a competitor.
By this stage I was now into my third plan for the run course. I thought back to my PMC run for Gosford to the Opera House in 2009 and how wobbly I was at Chatswood. I had some food there and it took till almost St Leonards before felt better and that was after an hour of walking. So I thought I just needed to walk. I did not feel stable while running and felt better while walking.
At this point Ian for the third time was cheering me on – the only energy I could muster was the raising my hand in acknowledgement at this stage. He stopped to offer me salt tablets when I said I was struggling. I said I was fine and that reminded me to take a salt tablet and panadol at the next aid station. Soon after Big Chris passed by me for the second time offering me encouragement. I thought now was the time to put on the thermal top in case the coldness was effecting me.
I felt like if I threw up I would feel better but could not bring myself to do it and I did not want to lose the effect of the salt tablet. I then decided to sit on the loo for the next aid station. I rationalised at least I would get a rest but in reality I just wanted to have a sleep. Time was being suspended now and though I was not in there very long I did feel a bit better when I emerged
There was no pattern to my running I would walk for a lot and jog for what seemed like a few seconds and I did this though the next 4 aid stations after the honey sandwich. I finally reached the chute to pick up my third wrist band. 21b later said I had done another lap in 1:30 hours.
On this final full lap (I still had 10-11 km to go) there one aid station to go before the special needs bag area and felt I was now running more than I was walking. I also felt good because the cut off for starting the third lap was 10:10 pm and though I did not know the time I was sure I was well ahead of that. The next cut off was at the end of Settlement Point at 11:10 pm which I felt as long as I continued to improved I would be fine.
I got to the aid station, managed some banana and watermelon which were going down well. AT the special needs bag station I stopped and sat on the gutter speaking to the family while a consumed a peanut butter sandwich. It went down better than the honey sandwich the lap before. 21b said later I was still slurring a bit but was moving better. I jogged down the hill to the next aid station and the family was there again.
Now I wanted a bit more a system to my running as I still had over a lap to go and just wanted to finish. So I adopted the street light routine of running a certain number of street lights and then walking a few while identifying the next street light I would run again. Every lap I finished left less people on the course and I was running more I was starting to pass more and more people who were walking.
I came in to the car park area just after the transition heading west and the runner in front of me face planted from tripping on one of those small speed humps. I was aware of them and was careful but he like me was a bit wobbly and laid face down for several seconds. I called out for first aid and by the time they got across he was up saying he was fine – as you would – no one wants to be pulled off the course. A bit later I saw a big guy wobbling on the road in front of me – probably what I looked like- and I stopped to help him. I gave him my dates and said he needed to force food in if he was going to finish and I pressed on. On my return from the out and back I saw he was still moving through the course. Clearly I felt my brain was starting to function better.
As I walked through the fourth chute collecting my final wrist band I had less than 2 km to go. I jogged and walked through to the next aid station in the car park of the swim start not really feeling anything except perhaps a sense of relief. After the aid station I thought of my family and friends, crossed myself and said three short prayers and a Zen meditation I often say to myself and made my way to the finishers chute – this time knowing I could have a look.
I ran into the chute and stopped to walk greeting all the supporters on the right hand side of the chute and soaking up the atmosphere and music. I could not find the family but saw Ian to the right just before the ramp to the finish. After giving him a big hug I looked to let the runner behind me finish and I slowly jogged up to the finish line. I did not hear them say ‘Martin Pluss you are an Ironman’ but knew I had made it.
I stopped at the top of the ramp on the other side of the banner, exhaled a big breath of relief and spotted my catcher Pamela Green who has been a huge supporter of my triathlon journey. She placed an Ironman towel over my shoulders and I was given my medal by one of the fire burn victims who had an official involvement in the Ironman. Pam heard my family calling out to me from the side and she took me over to see them and I introduced her to them. Pam guided me around to the get my race chip removed and the finisher’s photo with the medal and then took me to the refreshment tent.
I sat with Paul and Di Every, who were still around chatting. I loved every mouthful of some pumpkin soup, ice cream, fruit salad and a cup of tea. I spotted a massage tent and decided to head outside to Jenny and the kids. It was great to see them and after chatting for a few minutes Jenny and 21 b had to head back to Sydney and 18g was staying to look after me.
I had finished my Ironman at 10:10 pm in 15:18 minutes 1:40 hours ahead of the cut off with a run time circa 5:54 hours. I headed back into the race compound for my massage and back to the hotel when I realised I had not turned off my Garmin – so much for mindfulness.