Full of gusto, I made my way out of T2 to run 26.2 miles. If you’re noticing a theme, it’s not an accident or an exaggeration. I was happy the entire day and every time I transitioned into the next sport, I got even happier (yes, it’s possible).
I was on to my favorite and strongest of the three sports, but truth be told, I haven’t run a full marathon since the 2011 Boston Marathon. I had multiple 20 mile runs in this training cycle, but 26.2 miles after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of cycling – now that was going to be a different story.
I immediately popped some salt/electrolyte pills and started my first Gu. My Gu intake isn’t like most people’s, I slowly work at it over 20 minutes or so rather than taking it in all at once. Thus, I’m usually always holding something sticky in race photos.
I ran, waved to my family, fed off of the crowd’s energy and simply put one foot in front of the other. I was running a marathon!
The IMCDA run course essentially repeats part of the cycling course, consisting of two out and backs. Wait, what’s that? It repeats part of the cycling course? Then that can only mean one thing…HILLS! It wasn’t long until we met those hills and I changed my game: short strides, pump the arms, relax the face, and don’t try charging up it as it would only waste valuable energy.
The first loop felt like long hill, a bit of flat, another long hill, a bit of flat, all repeated over and over until the turnaround at the top. It felt completely manageable as I just ran as to how I felt comfortable, stuck with my fueling plan of one Gu every 45 minutes and only stopped at a bathroom once. I made my way back downtown and once again saw Chicken Face cheering me on – he’s the best!
As I turned back around to start the second loop, that’s where it started to set in. Mentally, I knew how much climbing I had ahead of me, my body was starting to really feel the fatigue and it was time to pull both my mental and physical game together. With no choice but to buckle down and get ‘er done, I ran…or whatever you call a brisk cadence of left-right-left-right.
I stopped at the run special needs bag to get more salt pills and soon started another round of hills. When I met the first real climb, I knew that this second loop was going to be a different game. I pushed for as long as I could, but I knew I didn’t want to unnecessarily waste energy, so I walked a bit of the hill. I would take every sponge, run through every hose and smile at everyone who would give me a “woot!” I heard people say, “Nice pace!” and “Looking strong!” and whether or not they knew what they were talking about, every single positive comment fueled my mental game as you work through the final grueling climbs and miles.
As your body begins to break down, it becomes a mental game to make it to the end. I would make goals to “walk until that tree” then run. As we reached more hills, I began walking every aid station and using it as my rest, then made a deal with myself that I would run once I was out of it.
My frequency to the port-a-potties also increased later in the run, during which, I would shove my Gu into my bra while taking care of business. However, after said stops, I realized that I was getting a bit light-headed and dizzy. Why was this happening? I’m fueling…or so I thought. It took me a while to finally remember that I had shoved my Gu in bra, which also meant, I hadn’t fueled within the last 45 minutes. Crap. When you’re in this stage of the game, every calorie counts and I had missed a whole chunk of fueling due to my bathroom break.
As soon as I got to the next aid station, I looked for a Gu (not a Roctane…just a regular Gu). I opened it and shoved it down. But for some reason, ever since that mishap, I couldn’t get my fueling back on track and my dizziness increased. All I could think about was the fact that I didn’t want to pass out, get an IV, or any sort of treatment or help that would DQ me from the race. So in an attempt to forgo my dramatized outcome, I tried everything and anything at the aid stations to see what would work.
Flat soda — I haven’t had soda in 13 years, but I tried it here to see if it would be the “jet fuel” everyone raved about. Meh, I didn’t feel a difference.
Chocolate chip cookies — I don’t eat dairy but I had it here. At first, the cookies were a nice change in flavor, but soon I had to chuck it because it tasted like dirt.
Pretzels – I thought the salt would help, but when I ate them I thought I was eating chalk.
Grapes – Maybe these little gems would do the trick? Nope, tasted like warm mush.
Orange slices – YES! Sweet, sweet, orange slices! I don’t think these provided the caloric intake I needed, but I just bit into them like a five-year-old, never actually eating any of the “meat,” and just drinking the juices. Glorious orange slices.
I made my way on my “try anything and everything at the aid station to see what works” rampage, I continued to make multiple bathroom stops, walk the aid station, and make mental goals to make it to the end. I remember seeing my friend Darren on the way back into town and he shouted, “You’re almost done!” and I just cursed some random mumblings.
As I got closer to the finish, the realization that I was about to complete an Ironman began to overtake me. It’s as if every ounce of mental and physical fatigue escapes from your body and you’re suddenly running on fresh legs.
Two miles out, I became focused and just pumped my arms and got lost in my head – you’re almost there.
One mile out, I realized that this was it. I was going to do this. It’s really happening.
A half mile out, volunteers started shouting, “Your almost there! It’s all down hill right around the corner!” I got choked up and couldn’t quite run and breathe at the same time.
As I turned the corned and entered the final stretch, I could see the blue finish line waiting for me. The crowds were roaring, but I couldn’t hear anything. I saw my dad and my sister screaming, “GO PAGE!” My face bounced back and forth between tears and smiles. My leg turnover increased as pure adrenaline and emotion overwhelmed me.
I saw my husband right near the finish.
I couldn’t believe it.
I pumped my fists in the air.
Page Williams. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
FINAL IMCDA RESULTS: 12:14:21
19th AG / 109th F / 664 OA
It was pure happiness unlike anything that I’ve ever felt as I achieved a lifetime dream. I put my head in my hands and cried.
A volunteer congratulated me and escorted me to get my medal, finisher’s gear and photo. He then handed me off to another medical volunteer to see how I was feeling. I told him I felt fine, just tired. Still able to walk, I grabbed the highly coveted pizza and walked out of the gates, sat on the grass and waited for my family. When they arrived, I couldn’t be happier to see them. It was a combination of Ironman joy and being with my family (who were there every step of the way), that emphasized that this was one of the best days ever.
It was a long journey to that finish line, and perhaps my honeymoon high is shading the tough parts right now, but I can confidently say that the Ironman changed my life. I’ll share more about why in a later post along with my post-race thoughts, but I can tell you this, if there’s something you want to do, do it. Don’t be afraid to take those risks, challenge yourself and make sacrifices for your goals.
On Sunday, I fell in love with a sport that tested every ounce of who I was and because of it, I see my future in a whole new light.
Thank you to my amazing husband, my parents, my sisters, my nephew, my entire family, my coach, my friends, and all of you for your support. This truly has been a journey that I will never forget.