When I (finally) crossed the finish line of the Israman triathlon, it had been hours and hours of telling myself "just keep going." For over 7 hours, I was in the lead, everything going to plan in this challenging race, my first Iron Distance day.
I swam well, climbed well into the mountains, paced well through the elements of the bike course, fueled consistently, and got off the bike with no doubt I was going to run a marathon.
But when I started running and there were no longer cold, swirling winds or a big climb in my face, it was just me and the (very downhill) road, that's when it hit me that something wasn't quite right. Well, maybe that wasn't the first sign. A few hours earlier I coughed something red into the Negev Desert and told myself it was the sports drink given out on the course. I later found out the drink was clear. And then there was the sign the night before the race when Laurel and I discussed whether Chrissie Wellington would start the race if she started coughing the night before, as I just had.
Anyway, back to the mountain. It was me and a few other runners from the half ironman course running down this mountain and I kept having to stop. This was supposed to be the fast part of the course and here I was walking and dealing with a tight chest, a cramping back, and struggling to get deep breaths. Mentally, I was strong though, and I was in first place by a big gap, so I just willed my way down. About 2/3 of the way down the mountain there was an out and back cross country trail section where I crossed paths with Laurel. By the way, this run course is not fast even though it starts with the big downhill. She looked strong and i could tell she was making her way up to me. I figured it would be fun to run together the rest of the way. But when we started the loops at the bottom of the mountain, I realized that I just wasn't moving very fast. I wanted to walk and regroup more than I wanted to run my pace. It wasn't like I was bonking or feeling nutritionally off. I had no stomach ache. But the only pace I could run was a very slow one. Laurel passed me at about 20k and she was floating. There was no way I could stay with her. So I just carried on, watching the k's go by, and eventually got to the end after several very slow miles.
After a short finish line celebration, I stumbled back to our hotel, happy to be done, but pretty demoralized to feel so spent by running so slowly. I couldn't wrap my head around how far I was from my fellow pro triathletes who run routinely 3 hours, not 4 hours in a marathon. I thought, maybe I'm just not cut out for this. Maybe I don't train hard enough. Maybe I'm not tough enough.
But I knew I was fit and prepared and mentally strong. What I didn't know is that I raced with PNEUMONIA. I won't go into the details of the diagnosis or the ugly days that followed the race, but it feels good to be safely back home now and recovering. Just to give some background, Des was diagnosed with pneumonia 2 days before the race. As his co-chief caretaker, we definitely shared germs, and I knew when one of his coughs landed in my mouth 10 days before the race that I was either going to get lucky or get sick.
I got a little of both.