Saturday, 9 March 2013

Karen writes: Part 3 - IM the aftermath

Over the finish line.  It's all over.  Well, not quite, and a week later there is still a sense that there has to be more to come, was that all?

First, what happens after you race (limp, hobble, jog, stride etc) down the finish chute and go under the arch, get your name called out, and at last can let your legs slow down. For me, I was full of fresh energy on that last bit, I raced across the line, saw nothing except a blur of light and dark and red in the final moments, heard nothing except a roar of strangers voices, and then I stopped. After 15 hours 42 minutes of constant motion I came to a crashing halt. There was a strange sensation of 2 years of effort piling up like countless dominoes, tick tick tick behind me, stopped.  I got a medal hung around my neck, and a towel draped around my shoulders, and a volunteer came and took my arm and tried to lead me to the scales to check my weight, but I resisted, I wanted to walk a bit. Experience with finishing events like marathons has taught me that my body cant just stop suddenly, I need walk to let it settle down a bit or I feel nauseous and faint, but after a few steps I realised that I didn't feel anything like I normally did, I felt fine, probably because the marathon was more of a walk than a run.  The volunteer was very patient, asked some careful questions I think to check that I wasn't just being a bit flaky after my effort, he let me pace back and forth a bit, keeping in catching distance (these people are called 'catchers' apparently) until I was ready to be a good little athlete and come along and then took me to the scales along one side of the finishers tent.  I hopped on the scales, they looked at my pre-race weight, there was 500g difference and I was told I was fine and taken off for drinks, and food.  I tried some rice, but that didn't seem to want to go down, so I gave up on the healthy option and took a bread roll with lots of butter, and a chocolate muffin, looked wistfully at the massage tables then went to find the whanau instead, it had been a very long day for my girls, and I was later than I had planned so I felt I really should see them so they could get to bed.

Outside I caught up with the whanau, and went to find Kate who had been in for ages already and didn't look like she had run a race at all, then into the car and back to the house.  My big girl who will furiously deny being tired even if she can't keep her eyes open held my hand and said "I'm so tired mum, I want to go to bed".  Girls in bed, I headed for...the fridge.

Food has been the overwhelming pre-occupation for months now, so I guess it made sense that it should be afterwards too.  I started with V8 vegetable juice, then would have a little graze (bit of watermelon), feel like I would never eat again, get furiously hungry and eat a minuscule bit of something else, decide I wasn't interested...and so on.  I did make myself drink lots, and that pretty much happened overnight too, I woke up frequently thirsty and I noticed that the roof of my mouth felt like it was burned.  I put that down to all that sticky sugary stuff in my mouth all day, even though I rinsed with water after each gel, and of course the coke and salty chips during the run.

Oh was that post event shower nice, I stretched tentatively in the warm water with dire warnings ringing in my head about over-stretching damaged muscles, and was in bed at about midnight after a catchup with Kate and her wonderful team of supporters who she kindly loaned to me too.

On Sunday morning I woke up early and didn't feel like sleeping again, I heard a noise downstairs and decided to follow my stomach to the kitchen. Kate was having tea and scrambled eggs, that made perfect sense at 5am.  I had more vegetable juice, leftover salmon, egg, for the first of several breakfasts, then a little while later went out and had a walk interspersed with some gentle 200m runs.  My body felt really good, the only other signs of effort were a chafe mark on my neck from the wetsuit, and a blistered small toe which was already shrinking away.  I went down to the edge of the lake, there were other people out who were obviously the previous day's Ironmen, we exchanged tentative smiles and left each other to our own worlds.  I read the painted signs that children had done in support of their athletes which were displayed along the roadside still, and pondered the overheaped rubbish bins from the celebrations the day before.  There was a rather beautiful broad wooden seat close to the swim start which looked over the lake, I sat there and just dwelt in my slightly foggy remembrances for a bit, trying to make sense of all of the effort to get to this point and the fact that now it was all over.

House cleaning done, car packed to go, a quick visit to the expo to look at the 'finisher range', I bought some IM transfers for the girls and for me to wear on the back of my leg at the upcoming Rotorua marathon.  Then I needed more water, and wanted a hot pie so badly I just had to have one at about 10am, and then it was the 4+ hour trip home.

Sitting in a car is not to be recommended, holding that slightly curved position seemed to cause more grief to the joints and muscles than the event itself, but a bit of moving around and all was well again.  More water, more food, my handbag was full of food and every so often I would dig into it and drag out something, have a I was glad I wasn't driving because I went through pockets of extreme tiredness where my eyes declined to stay open, then I was suddenly alert, and of course, hungry, again.

And home. The dog was very happy to see us, she obviously hadn't had so much fun at the dog hotel.

The rest of the week, I'm still not eating sensibly, I'm allowing myself some leeway for now, in the past if I tried to tighten up on the eating too early I just made myself miserable and made worse choices due to extreme hunger. I'm still drinking lots of water and sleep is a bit erratic, my sore mouth responded to some sort of antibacterial mouthwash and tablets of 'good bacteria', I've since read that it was due to mouth breathing dehydrating the cells.  The blister on the little toe has gone and I sadly washed the last trace of my Ironman number tattoo off my arm days ago.

Yesterday, Friday I had a short run with youngest daughter which felt good, today there was a family cycle to Beachlands and an evening swim, so nice to be on the bike or in the water to play, not train.  Tomorrow is my first proper run with the Te Puru runners, I deliberately wont have breakfast and wont take water with me to make sure that I don't get tempted to do more than a few km.

Anyway, here's the evidence, the certificate has arrived, now I have to think about my promised tattoo (what, where?) and importantly, signing up for next year. Entry opens in a week and I am now sure I shall want to be there for the 30th Ironman anniversary.