The first couple of miles of the run course were fine. Real problems happened at mile 13. My left hamstring spasmed and I almost fell over. If you had been watching, you would think that I had ants in the pants.
A volunteer told me that I needed to get salt into my body. She tried to convince me to have some chicken broth from her table of snacks.
I would rather fail at this then eat treif.
What to do, what to do?
I couldn’t run, but I could limp!
I kept trying to stretch out the leg and think of salty foods I could eat.
Hours before the race I ate a steak.
On race morning I was still full, so I didn’t have any breakfast. This did not affect the swim.
I had three on my bicycle: water, Gatorade, protein solution.
I made sure to have about half a bottle of each because I knew without any sodium in my stomach it was going to cause problems later on.
It was now “later on.”
I drank a full cup of coke. Normally, I take a sip, but nothing about this day was normal. The soda was warm. It was syrupy. It had sodium. I limped on.
Base salt sample table.
“I need salt!”
They handed me a chapstick size vial of pink salt. “Here’s hoping everything I’ve ever said about race nutrition was correct.”
Soon the limp became a walk.
So at this point I started to worry about the midnight deadline.
(What midnight deadline?)
The cut off. The one where they turn out the lights.
No medal, no finish, no refund.
I texted my wife, who was tracking me.
What does the tracker say my estimated finish time is?
(They can do that?)
Yes, in real time.
She didn’t answer.
(What do you think she was doing?)
I don’t know...probably something important, like watching our kids.
What to do? What to do?
Then I realized, “Yutz, you are holding a cell phone. Look yourself up!”
The app predicted my finish at 11:11 p.m.. I got this.
I was cautiously doing my speed walk, but now the predicted finish time was 11:17 p.m..
I start to run calculations in my head.
(If train A leaves the station...)
If I keep at this pace...
(and train B leave the other station...)
I can just walk and I have this by 11:50 p.m.
(How fast does...)
YIKES! I didn’t go into the water at 7 a.m!
I have 17 hours from the point I crossed a timing mat into the water.
What time did I start?
The race started at 6:40 a.m.. If I started at 6:47 a.m...
(You need to finish by 11:47 p.m.)
Game over, man, game over.
Five Ironmans, 20 Half Ironmans, six marathons. I have never failed and I wasn’t about to start now.
I’m doing the walk/run combo. Two minutes on, two minutes off. The predicted finish was now 11:20 p.m. What time did I start the swim?
In pitch dark while trying not to trip over anything I find it on the app: Start time was 6:53 a.m.!
I’m walk/running with the zombie army of the dead. Groups of first timers and veterans. All hoping to hear announcer Mike Reilly call out their names.
Predicted finish 11:22 p.m.
I’m stopping at every aid station table.
Volunteers calling out what they are holding up to our faces:
I sip coke, then I sip water.
Coke because after 16 hours its all my stomach can absorb. Water to rinse out the aftertaste.
Predicted finish 11:25 p.m.
I take off my backpack and put on the Ironman costume. I started my jog into the Olympic Stadium. The crowd was deafeningly loud. The spot lights were blinding.
Twenty feet from the finish I stopped in front of the announcer Mike Reilly. The man who tells each finisher that they are an Ironman...but not me. Not on this night.
Our eyes lock. Time stops. I can feel my heart pause...
By David Roher
David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher & a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: [email protected]