Ten miles. That’s all I had left… ten miles.
To that point I had powered my body 130.6 miles through the swim, bike and run of Ironman Coeur d’Alene, with now only 10 miles remaining for the perfect race, I could hold on no longer. My body quit. Without notice. I had stopped running, my body so drained that it involuntarily gave up, succumbing from a world of hurt to a complete stop.
I replayed in my head how I had seen my wife only a few miles earlier at the half way point of the marathon. “You’re doing great,” she had said. “Keep this pace up and you’ll break 11 hours.” I chuckled when I thought about the words she had followed me with as I ran away: “But you have to negative split the marathon.” I laughed because I knew what that meant. It meant I was not on pace for a Sub-11 Hour Ironman; I was on pace for slightly over. But with that I took away the positive attitude. I can do this. I can hold onto this race.
But that was 3 miles ago. Now, disappointment clouded my thoughts. That’s when I realized that where I had stopped was directly in front of an aid station. I had been in that much pain that I hadn’t noticed.
Thirsty, a bit dizzy, and very hot, with my heart pounding even faster, the first thing I saw at the aid station was a tall plastic cup, the kind given out as a souvenir at a minor league ball game. It was filled with ice water and sitting toward the back of the table. Not thinking clearly, I skipped over the display of Dixie cups, each set in a line and half full of water, and went directly for the big cup. With two hands I tipped the cup back and started drinking. The water felt like spring water, cool and crisp, refreshing and even rejuvenating. After downing half of the water in the cup, I set it back on the table. I had been far too tired to realize that the cup had probably belonged to a volunteer.
Just then I saw a tray of bananas, each but a few cut in half. Banana was all I thought about. I could already taste it. On a mission, I took a full banana, peeled it, and gobbled half, then the other. It was just what I needed.
Within seconds I tried to get my race back with a slow jog. Maybe, I thought, I could still finish the race in a respectable time. The more I tried to run, the more it hurt. Just keep going, I coached myself thinking back to my wife’s words of staying positive. Still, my pace was far slower than it had been before stopping. But a minute later that would change.
Fueled anew with a banana and mountain water, my pace got faster until I was running with more and more stride. Within a mile I was back to pace, again with the dream of a break out race. I held on, and held on, through far greater pain than imagined, to finish in just over 11 hours.
It was a ten miles I will never, ever forget.