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I am a (completer of the 26.2 miles of the) Ironman World Champion (marathon course)!

August 28, 2011

Yesterday I ran 26.2 miles.  No, not a marathon.  A marathon is a race and I was not racing.  But I did cover the marathon distance and I choose to do so on the same course where top triathlon athletes from around the world run each October.  The Ironman Championship is held in Kona and having now run the marathon course, it is all the more impressive that the elite triathletes do this run, the best in well under 3 hours, after swimming 2.4 miles in the open ocean and riding 112 miles through the harshness of lava-bordered lonely highways.  All I had to do was the run and I had all day.

(Below: The day after my long run, Sagan and I went to check out the Lavaman Triathlon.  Sagan enjoyed picking berries from the bushes while professional athletes ran right by him, largely unnoticed.)

Heading out before sunrise and leaving the famed Kailua Bay pier at 6pm, I felt pretty good despite the rigors of 3 not-so-casual 10 milers in the previous 6 days.  Really, there wasn’t much to the run.  The vast majority of it was comprised of 2 long out-and-backs, about 11 miles south of town and 15 miles north of town.  Most of the miles are along Ali’i drive, a touristy 2 lane beach road, and the Queen K, a major thoroughfare with high speed traffic.

(Below: Beginning the run taking a start photo of myself and feeling a bit dopey, partly from being up hours before sunrise and partly from the embarrassment of taking yet another running geek picture of myself…)

Unlike my rough outing on Thursday, Saturday’s run went according to plan, which was to run as slowly as necessary to complete the route without walking any meaningful pieces.  I figured it would take upwards of 5 hours, considering tired legs and heat and the weight of a hydration pack.  Breaking from my habit of including far too many mile-by-mile impressions and tribulations and minor successes and failures, here’s how the day went:

I ran and ran and ran, for 4 hours and 29 minutes in total, without anything remarkable happening, good or bad.  No big bonk, no runner’s high, no close calls with wildlife or traffic, no injuries or life-changing psychological or emotional break-throughs or break-downs.  Just a solid, steady, long run and a lot of “I’m-a-serious-athlete-too” nods from cyclists along the way, most of whom have probably run the same roads during the actual Ironman, or soon will.

(Below: at the Natural Energy Lab where, when plans failed to generate massive amounts of power from differences in ocean water temperatures, the cold water was put to use to re-acclimate airsick lobsters flown in from the Atlantic, presumably before boiling them alive.)

I must say that there is something special, something slightly bizarre, about running solo down long stretches of highway when nobody else is doing so.  It feels extra hard core and sure seems tougher than running around a neighborhood or on a track or in a park or even on mountain trails.  Not necessarily more fun (it usually isn’t) or even harder (the track can be a killer).  But pretty much unrivaled for gritty masochism.  The rush of the traffic, the unrelenting affects of full exposure to the weather, the certain knowledge that many of the cars rushing past will cover fewer miles that day than I will, while being fully dependent on my fitness, determination, and planning.  This was only the second time I’ve covered the full marathon distance all on the road outside of a race (Questa to Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico in 2009 was the other).  Unlike the first time, which took 5:15, this time I was able to really run the full distance, clocking a 9:11 mile 25 and, after completing the 26.2 mile planned run, even finding some energy to run-walk another 1.25 miles back to the car.

A good morning of running, with some serious tan lines and appropriate (but not horrible) soreness to remind me that 26.2 miles is a serious run, even when taking it easy.  Today, other than an easy 3-miler to stretch out, was all pizza and pancakes – guilty pleasures that I’ve been avoiding in the final stretch of this training block.  Tomorrow back to training.  And more broccoli, less cheese.



From → 15M or more

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