Can I talk about my transition again? It felt like it took forever - but I'm really so proud. I did it in under five minutes! I actually forgot that as you dismount, a volunteer takes your bike and racks it for you. So I nearly shouted, OH, THANK YOU! at the volunteer.  I hop-scotched quickly through rows of bike-to-run bags calling out my number. A volunteer pointed it out and I grabbed it. I passed another girl in my age group and remember her saying go get 'em! I found an empty chair in the changing room, warned the volunteer I was stripping, switched from tri shorts to run shorts, grabbed my ziploc of goodies, cruised out of the hotel, stopped for a slathering of sunscreen and cruised out of T2 in 4:49.

I will preface this by saying my run was not what I had hoped it would be. I expected to finish at least 45 minutes faster than I did. I was really primed to finish an hour faster than I did. My hopes were up and I was ready for a personal best. It didn't happen. My legs would not do what my brain wanted them to do. My run strategy may have been foiled by the heat, my nutrition or fatigue. I'm still sorting it all out and it's really a "wholenother" post.

I can't explain it: I wasn't happy with the results, but overall, I was a happy runner. I had two really low moments, but overall I was having a good time. How could I not? I AM DOING AN IRONMAN! Florida is an out-and-back-and-out-and-back - about six miles to the turnaround each time. It's easy to break up the segments: tri-club row and beach road > flat neighborhood > beach road-to-moonspinner > state park and back. 

The tri-club row and the beach road is lined with crazies. Cowbells, DJs, dominatrix divas dressed like something from a Britney video, string lights and people out in their driveways in lawn chairs cheering on runners. I got a whip on the booty from a diva, I got a high-five from Jay Ma and boost from seven little kids in a row with pom poms. The lower lagoon neighborhood is lined with la-goonies: a live band, a karaoke station and an aid station with everyone dressed as Charlie Brown. The live band was singing: Don't Let a Grown Man Triiiiiii, the Peanuts station had every college game score, there was a parrot in a bird cage under a car port watching runners go by. There was also a chance to play Ironman Roulette - a tray set out with shot glasses and a sign that read: PICK ONE: IS IT GATORADE? WATER? OR VODKA?

 B-Double-E-Double-Are-You-In

B-Double-E-Double-Are-You-In

The beach road to Patches to Moonspinner was my favorite part. Mainly because I knew that Ace, Dirty Spice and Airwrecka were waiting. Plus, there was a spot in between buildings, where the wind was blowing off the ocean and it smelled salty and sandy and beachy. It gave me a lift each time I passed.  Patches is where I'd been posted up for the past two years watching Jen attack the same course. It's a bar and athletes literally run through the outdoor patio area of the restaurant. Our home base was the Moonspinner and my crew was posted up nearby. They had a cooler and the loudest mouths on the course. I swear I heard them all the way into the park.

That state park is something else.  I don't know what it was about it that made it seem endless. It feels a little like a desert. The roads are uneven and there is no shade. You think that around each curve is the turnaround - and it's not.

I actually started feeling normal on that first pass into the park. I usually give myself about four miles to get my legs under me and get my mechanics and my rhythm. I was cruising along between aid stations aiming for a 10-minute mile and giving myself 44 seconds at each station to put ice in my bra, ice down my pants (#ironmanain'tpretty), take a sip of cola and go.

I caught up with Brian, one of our Moonspinner neighbors. We swapped bike stories (he told me he puked twice on the bike - hastagtoomuchinformation) and I trotted past him. On the way out of the park I passed a fellow Wilmington runner heading in. Then, I looked up ahead and saw a miracle: a runner wearing a tri top that said RUAH. Ruah is my one word for the year! I caught up with him and exclaimed: I can't believe your kit says RUAH! Ruah is my one word. Look it's written on my arm! He explained that a friend of his owns a yoga studio in Richmond, VA named RUAH YOGA. I proceeded to tell him all about my one word: that it is the Hebrew word for breath of God, the Holy Spirit. I chattered away about how our church picks one word to focus on each year - instead of resolutions - so that that word becomes part of our character. I think he got tired of my chatter and stopped at the Base Salt tent. He passed me a mile later, but I passed him back at mile 14 and made sure he stayed in the rear view for the rest of the run. (#yougotchicked)

Coming out of the park is like coming into the light. I think there were angels singing. Or, it may have been Jen. Yes, even Jen sounded like an angel out of that park. I picked up my pace a little here and started enjoying the runners and the sights again. Did I mention that my crew had made signs and chalked the pavement?  EV-ER-Y-WHERE. I laughed and pointed at most and said HEY, THAT'S ME! I pointed to the one that Alecia made of me as Vanna White and suddenly the spectators started chanting Van-NAH, Van-NAH, Van-NAH! 

I hit my first low point about a mile from special needs.  I couldn't wait to get there and take off my visor and shades, dump one of my nutrition bottles, grab my cranberry red bull and some licorice and head out on the last lap. It didn't last long, but I felt grumpy and irritable. Which means: EAT A CALORIE.

MY ADVICE FOR IRONMAN:
if you’re grumpy, eat a calorie.
if you’re woozy, down some salts.
if you’re happy - SING!
keep moving forward and have fun!

My volunteer at special needs was AWESOME. I asked her to read my bag as I poured items into it and pulled items out. She walked with me as far as she could as I grabbed a ziploc full of what I needed, included the aforementioned red bull and licorice. Plus, a card that was included in my 140.6 box. It read: BETH ANDROO. You. Are. An. Ironman. I poured the RedBull into my hydration flask and drank the rest. I sipped on that for the next four miles, took some salts every other aid station. 

 Ace giving me a low five in the dark.

Ace giving me a low five in the dark.

I was great again until I got back out to the park. I remember seeing Jen on her skateboard in the lagoonie neighborhood and telling her I had at least 10 miles left in me. Which was great, because I only had nine to go. But, out in the park, in the dark before the turn around, I looked at my watch. I was at 12:09.  I had missed my A-Race goal. I did the math and even on a good Friday morning run, I'd be pushing it to make a 13-hour goal. I was disappointed and discouraged. I felt like I had let myself down, let down my crew. All that training and this was my result?! I felt like Chris Berman would say: C'MON, MAN!  I growled at myself and adapted a new goal and vowed to make it by 13:15.  I came out of the park and asked Ace to run with me for 10 steps - that I was discouraged. He said, don't be discouraged. You are doing this! You are an ironman! I will see you at the finish. He cried. I cried. I re-framed the situation and thought: I only have five miles to go. I do that every Wednesday at the track.

He must have relayed my discouragement to Sunshine Spice because she snuck up at every corner. At Patches: I see you, Beth Androo. Keep running. Keep moving. Near the hotel with the wind tunnel and salty breeze: I'm back, Bethie. You are amazing. You are strong. At Every. Other. Corner. In the Lagoon: C'mon, I'm not letting up. I see you. I'm Renee in your head. I kept running because A) I didn't want her to see me walk, B) I was afraid that the people around me were getting mad at me and were chasing me and C) I wanted to sprint to get away from her. I only stopped twice in the last five miles. At some point, I think with 1.5 miles to go she finally said: this is where I leave you. I will see you at the finish. When you see the Vomitron, you know you're there!

That last mile was just like the start of the day. It was quiet and loud. It was calm and frantic. It was quieter on the beach road and a lot of the tri groups had packed up. Before the race, my nephew Parker had written me a note. A few weeks earlier, he had been gvien the WEEKLY WARRIOR award at camp. It meant that he had shown RESPONSIBILITY. PERSEVERANCE. COURAGE. RESPECT. In the note he had written: BE THE DAILY WARRIOR. I was responsible for the mile I was in. I had persevered for 139 miles. I had the courage to start and the courage to finish. I respected myself and the distance.   I began to repeat the words responsibility, perservere, courage, respect. I am a warrior. 

The DJ was still there on tri club row and he made an announcement: Okay parents, cover your kids' ears because this one just has to be played. Suddenly Britney's WORK B!TCH was echoing between the buildings.

I turned the corner and I got goosebumps. Over the DJ, I heard Mike Reilly at the finish line. I saw the lights at Alvin's. I heard the crowds in the finishing chute and I saw the VOMITRON! I was so excited to veer to the right at special needs and head into the finish instead of back out to the run. I started shouting there and fist pumping and high-fiving strangers. I AM GOING TO BE AN IRONMAN! I yelled. HELL YEAH! I DID IT! I AM AN IRONMAN. I AM AN IRONMAN!

Finally, I heard: ELIZABETH ANDREW: YOU. ARE. AN IRONMAN! I jumped for joy and then I danced across the finish line. I call it the MDOT TWO-STEP.

I wobbled past the bright finish lights and Roger was my catcher. He hung the medal around my neck and said: Great dance!  I thanked him as he handed me my finisher's hat and tee. I had my picture taken and gave a woop woop to Sunshine and Airwrecka and Jay Ma who were all on the other side of the fence.  Ace was waiting at the exit and he picked me up off my feet. I'm so proud of you! That was your hardest one you've ever done and you did it! I cried again.

I checked my watch and the official splits as we ate pizza and I soaked my legs in the pool: I finished my run in 5:23:52 and my overall was 13:13:54. I was giddy. It wasn't my goal or a personal best. But....it was an IRONMAN.

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