The 16th hour

Last night, I became an Ironman. Conditions were brutal from the sun, the heat, & the wind but we persevered. I have to say the most memorable part of my Ironman experience wasn’t working through the conditions or hearing ‘Donna Adams, YOU are an IRONMAN (although it was pretty great from what I can remember), but it was what refer to as HOUR 16 (although it was more 15-16).

I am beyond amazed at the bonding that occurred between those who had cramped, were dehydrated, had GI issues, or was plain out spent (like myself, I believe I may have pushed a little hard on the bike – I’ll tell you why later). I’ve never been so touched by so many people’s stories – their 140.6 journeys, injuries, support family & friends, & the tips they gave for the first time Ironman finisher… the support we had for each other was contagious!

Let’s step back to a little earlier in the day out on my bike for a minute, I was rockin’ the bike out before hitting a ton of wind 10-20 mph (great for a 112 mile ride) at around mile 66. It was 97 degrees according to the Garmin – heat index was in the 100s. Now I stopped to pee at the aid station, get a thing or two from special needs, & about 15 miles before that, I hit a bump causing me to stop because my front brakes were off / probably 15-20 minutes total lost time there. Then I was making good time when at about 75, I started noticing people dropping – laying on the side of the road, sitting there, stretching out cramps, vomiting, it was all going on. When I arrived at the aid station around 80, I felt as though I needed to let them know of the two separate road-layers I saw. They got in the car & headed out & I grabbed an extra bottle of water to cool myself or just in case… Well, it turned into a just in case bottle – about 6 miles down on the right was a man who stopped to help a woman – I ended up giving them the bottle of water & he asked me to let the next aid station know about her & that she was severely dehydrated… In the process, there were a couple more & I took mental note on my Garmin & about 8 miles later, I finally hit the next aid station where I was able to let them know in case the cop I told didn’t hear me when I passed by earlier. Yes, I probably lost another 15-20 minutes but, I’d rather make sure people are safe or getting the help they need & I would hope someone would do that for me.

My first run lap of 8 miles was good – then in an unexpected turn of events my feet started killing – I have 2 theories, 1) the new Newton’s backs are too thin making them cut into your foot (even though I’d done 3.5 hour runs in them earlier) or 2) fine dirt from a section of our run got into my shoes creating friction at critical seams in the from & back. They’re pretty bloody right now & need to be cleaned either way. Besides that & the weight I didn’t lose from my knee injury, that made for a long ass run on my feet (despite folks thinking I was bigger to begin with & losing weight – I’m a little burnt out on ‘you’re an inspiration’! Anyways, I walked, especially when my knee popped a couple times & went backwards a couple times – yep, my body was keeping it interesting!

Needless to say, I kept getting slower … And slower… And I’d pick it up just to get slower again… I felt like I was in hell… But then as I built friendships with those in similar situations or worse, I realized I was not alone… that we all had heart, & we were DETERMINED to either become a 1st time Ironman or repeaters. It was dark (really dark, scary, and creepy in a couple parts), getting cooler (not really but you know it was a mental thing when the sun went down), we were in our glow necklaces, and we were moving forward on our last lap – some faster than others, and some slower than others. We talked about friends and family, worries about the race, and anything that would help keep our minds off of whatever we may have been going through, mentally or physically. Then questions come up, are you a 140.6 vet or is this your first time? It was amazing to hear about other athlete’s finishes. I will never forget hearing from one (or two) athlete(s) I was walking with, “make sure you take it all in because I didn’t and I don’t remember hearing that I was an Ironman”… I did just that – I don’t really remember the voice of Ironman saying, ‘Donna Adams, YOU are an IRONMAN’ either – and he warned me that sometimes it’s said early so listen but I got caught up in the chute, the crowd, the high fives, the cheering because I AM an Ironman & I’m honored to have been out in the trenches till the end with those competitors who were just that, competitors! We fought hard, through pain, GI issues, or whatever may have placed us in the elite group of the 16th hour. We supported each other the only way we knew how – through positivity and continuing to place one foot in front of the other.

I am honored, privileged, & humbled to have been in this group through the day – remarkable athletes with remarkable hearts & I don’t think I truly understood what it takes to be an Ironman – finishing in the 16th hour, I know now… I dont think I can accurately describe it in words. And the respect I showed before, by not wearing the m dot logo, I will now do so proudly – just like so many others who battled the heat, wind, & sun in Texas, May 19, 2012… Because I am an Ironman!! And I’m glad I came in the 16th hour because standing on the other side, it just doesn’t do it justice! To those out there with me, WE did it!!