I ran into T2 and hit the second aisle...and saw number like 682, 624, 718. SHIT! I went down the wrong second aisle. We came in the opposite way we went out...so I continued down the row of bikes and looped back around to my spot, wasting precious minutes.
Stripped the helmet, slipped on the zoots, grabbed a gel and headed out as quickly as possible into the heat.
It was blazin'! The sun was beating down. The typical breeze was stagnating. It was 32 degrees C. That's 90 for us folk. And we were running on blacktop. That always increases the temperature a couple degrees.
The run was also a four loop course. We'd been warned that it may be a little short. I can tell you, that after that first loop, I knew this was not the case. I ran, gel in hand, stopping at each aid station (I believe there were three) to take a sip of water and dump a cup over my head, onto my arms, down my neck. It was so hot. And my stomach was bloated. I was incredibly grateful for the snug fit of the fast skin uni. My legs felt really good though. And I kept trying to determine who was on what lap, who was ahead and who might be behind.
I headed into the crowd of spectators. I spotted dad and waved. I noticed he was snapping pics with his phone. Yeah, the camera battery died while i was on the bike, so unfortunately, no pics of the run except the pro ones. I heard some cheers for USA, the team manager told me to breath from my diaphragm. What a strange thing to remember. I told him I was bloated. He told me I was fine. I kept running.
I dumped a cup of ice down my top on that second loop and let it settle in my belly button before shoving it down my leg. I cheered for every USA suit I saw. Anything to keep my mind off the heat. Toward the end, I took in that gel. My tummy had settled. My fingers were still swollen, but I knew I wasn't going to pass out or puke, so I just kept the legs moving.
Time for lap three. This lap, I was determined to catch a couple of the girls I'd seen in front of me from the second lap (though I didn't know they'd only been on their first). It wasn't far into the third lap where I saw my bike motivator ("come on, USA. Push it, ok?") walking. yes, WALKING!!! I grabbed his arm. "Come on, run with me". And he came along. We kept a good tempo. "Where you from?" "Virginia, you?" "Cincinnati". Anything to keep his mind off the pain he was feeling. Then I got distracted and started cheering for some of the girls I'd met. "You're awfully joyful..." he said.
My response? "We're in Australia. Racing. And going into the last lap of the run. What's not to be joyful about?" and as we approached the next aid station, I added that I would be stopping to get some water. He stopped too. And when I began running again, he just said "wow. got get it, girl".
As I came into town for the last lap, I saw dad and waved and smiled and held up my finger and said "one more". the team manager looked at me this time and loudly say "Hey Amanda!" and then a bit more calm "Great race!". Then I saw the team bike mechanic at the turn around and said "hey, Chad! There better be a Guinness with my name on it tonight".
I stopped for a few jelly beans, some water, electrolytes on that last lap. A French guy I'd seen a few times on the bike passed me and said "Come on Lindsey, focus. Take it home". I tried. It felt like I was moving so slowly. My legs were beat up and the finish was so close. It was auto-pilot.
As I came into the final stretch, the Team manager handed me an American flag and said "nobody passes you now" so I took all I had left in me and ran as hard as I could to the finish. (seriously, check out the link and watch the video of me finishing. it's hilarious).
It wasn't a PR (or maybe it was since I've never raced this distance before?) but it was incredible to just be there racing with athletes from all over the world. SO many people had told me it would be "the trip of a lifetime" and I kinda thought it hogwash...but really, I lead a pretty charmed life. And it really was an experience of a lifetime.