Monday, December 27, 2010

IMWA: The Aftermath

Smiling through the pain!

Immediately after I crossed the line, a volunteer was reaching out to me to help guide me to the recovery area - only I didn't realize that and thought she was trying to give me a high five. She wasn't, but I gave her one anyway.

I couldn't believe I was done.

Another volunteer draped a finisher's towel around my shoulders and together they started to walk down from the finishing deck and back to the bag check and food tent. I tried to tell them that I was fine, that I could still walk, but they weren't having it. "We have to do this for everyone that crosses the line," they said. "You could be fine now, but a minute from now, you could fall flat on your face!"

Probably true.

Someone handed me a Pepsi, a banana and a finisher's medal. The volunteers congratulated me one more time and then I was released to grab my belongings and put together a plate of food on my own. I was all smiles and adrenaline.

By the time I got to the food tent, my legs were starting to shut down. I was shuffling. I managed to hobble over to a table and bend - stiffly! - into a chair. Another kind volunteer brought me a plate of pasta and fruit salad, which I picked over. I was starving, but after all of those gels and sports drinks, my stomach was not in any condition to digest real food. I picked over the food a bit and hobbled out of the tent into the receiving area where Kristine and Weilun were waiting.

Random kid asked me if I won. I did not win.

When I found them, I flopped down on the ground - literally too sore to move. After a long while, I started to get cold (and wanted to be out of my salt-stained tri-suit), so we gathered my belongings and set out on the most difficult part of the entire day: the eight block walk back to our chalet.

In dire need of a Reese's peanut butter cup.

Waiting outside the finisher's tent for that long was a mistake; it gave my body time to stiffen up, and stiffen up it did. My legs were buckling every few minutes. If Kristine hadn't been there for me to lean on as I shuffle-stepped my way home, I would not have made it. 

During the month-long lead-up to the race, I had pictured rewarding myself with a massive, pasta-and-beer victory feast. We had even gone out the day before to buy all of the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately, my inability to eat stuck with me through the night. We (well, mainly Kristine) slaved away in the kitchen, hoping my appetite would turn around by the time dinner was ready - but I couldn't really handle more than a few bites before collapsing. I was so tired I couldn't even eat.

The next morning, I woke up and promptly ate all of the pasta we had cooked, plus a normals-sized egg-and-fruit breakfast.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention just how sore I was that next morning. Oh. My. God. I woke up and almost killed myself trying to make it fifteen feet from the bedroom to the bathroom. My legs simply refused to bend - or support the weight of my body. I could not move around the apartment without crawling along a wall. Even the smallest step was a gulp-inducing challenge. Getting in and out of the car was next-to-impossible.

Check out that sun burn!

We eventually went to pick my bike and transition gear and I was disappointed to see that most of the other competitors were walking around just fine. Sure, there were a few out there stepping gingerly, but I  think I was the only one in legitimate need of a wheelchair. I think that's what trying to run a marathon (after biking 112 miles) with little or no marathon training will do to you!

That evening, we attended the event awards ceremony and then packed our belongings into our (surprisingly nice) rental car for a week-long road trip along the southwestern coastline. It was at least a week before I could walk without hobbling and probably a full two weeks before the soreness faded completely. Ouch.