Alaskaman (part 2)

The first part can be found here

The volunteers brought me my prepared transition bag while I racked my bike, and I quickly handed them the containers that I needed to be filled with water. After I finished getting ready and was waiting for them to finish with my water pack, Andrew came into transition and started heading out just as we finished getting my stuff together. My lead had just been wiped away, but I wasn’t too concerned as I knew this race probably wouldn’t be decided by a matter of seconds anyway. I had no idea what to expect starting the run, but my legs and body actually felt fantastic! I had more energy than I have had in almost all of my races this year, and it took a lot of restraint to not take out the first mile too fast.

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I kept myself to just around a 7 minute-mile and was quickly pulling away from Andrew. This was a situation that I had only hoped for, and while my body felt great, my stomach started to disagree with my positive thoughts. I soon needed to ask a nearby volunteer on a bike where the next bathroom would be. The answer was at least 5 miles. At 2.8 miles into the run, I knew there was no way I would be able to get much further without stopping, and I headed into the bushes to “do-the-deed”. Luckily, I was a bit prepared for this, as I had packed wipes with my running gear. I was not prepared for how bad my stomach would revolt. After a minute or so, I saw Andrew pass by and I knew there was no way I could go with him. Very soon after, I began vomiting and had to sit on the ground before feeling as if I would pass out. It didn’t take long for my sitting to turn into laying on the ground hoping that somehow my body might start cooperating. After a few minutes of this, another volunteer approached on a bike to check on me. I still wasn’t okay and continued vomiting much of the orange Gatorade I had consumed on the bike.

As I laid there, he asked if I wanted him to call for EMTs. For the second time that day, I felt that I was on the verge of not being able to finish this race. I continued to lay there for what felt like forever (actually probably closer to 20 minutes), and watched 2 more athletes eventually pass by. Eventually, I got it into my head that I could – and would – still finish this race. After a tough mental pep talk, I swallowed my pride, vomited for maybe the 10th time, and got up to start walking. For the next 4+ miles, I walked while numerous athletes began to pass me. I occasionally attempted to run, but although my muscles still felt great, there was immediate rebellion from my stomach. Just before mile 7, salvation revealed itself in the form of a proper bathroom. After this point, my stomach issues were almost fully resolved and I was able to start running again!

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Those bells were so annoying.

The first aid station on the run course came at mile 12, and I was running full steam ahead the entire way there! My walk had now turned into easy sub-7 minute-miles with no issues to speak of. My quickest mile in that portion came in at 6:09 in what felt like a huge downhill, but was likely flat or slightly down. I stopped at the aid station to drink a bit of coke and started off again to mile 14.5 where my support crew would be waiting. I continued on at this pace, but I knew it wouldn’t last the rest of the race. While my stomach was feeling much better, I had not been willing to test it yet by eating or drinking much of anything more than water. I arrived at mile 14.5 feeling a bit fatigued, but able to keep going. Both Timothy and Mike joined me for the out-and-back section that would bring us back to mile 20 in the same location at the base of Mt Alyeska. I really started to feel the lack of nutrition and fatigue on this out-and-back. While some sections I was able to continue cruising at a good pace, many uphills and some flats I was forced to stop and walk. We eventually made it back to the base of the mountain. We refueled our gear and after a quick medical evaluation, we started up Mt Alyeska.

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The first climb on the mountain is easily the most brutal of the entire mountain. In fact, it was hardly on a trail at all. It was a section added recently to cut down the distance of the course a bit, but in doing so, had us going up around 25% grades on a rarely used path. I had to stop many times to catch my breath but eventually made it up this climb. The course then changed into a relatively “tame” rocky 15-20% grade. We continued on, and while I would like to say that I conquered the climb to the top with ease, it would be a lie. I struggled at many points and frequently had to take breaks to stop and regain my composure and my breath. We did make the climb though, and after a quick picture at the top, we began the descent back down, since this race decided once wasn’t enough. After and few minutes of the descent, we made a stop at an aid station directly across from the finish line that we would be returning to later.

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After some more refueling, Mike and I headed out for the remaining 2 miles of descending. Luckily, although I had a lot of fatigue, my legs still felt relatively good and I was ready to descend quickly. Over the next couple of miles, we were on a mission. We mainly only stopped for me to pour cold water into my shoes when my feet overheated. We ended up passing another athlete and before we knew it, we were at the base of the last climb. My body was far from fresh, but my mind was ready to tackle this mountain for the last time. I don’t think I stopped for more than a few seconds at any point in the last climb and frequently had to resort to my hands and knees. With about half a mile to go, we passed the first female athlete and continued on what seemed like endless switchbacks. My calves had started cramping towards the end of the descent earlier, but now they threatened to seize regularly. On an attempt to run on one of the last few switchbacks, my left calf seized and Mike caught me to keep me from falling. I have no doubt I would have been on the ground or worse without him. We continued up the last few switchbacks hearing my friends and family cheering for me. As I saw the finishing arch, I forced myself into a trot and finished the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon, clawing my way back into 5th place Overall.

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While the result may not be what I had dreamed of in the highest moments of the race, I am thrilled to have been able to achieve what I did during my darkest moments. This race, from start to finish, was spectacularly run and defines extreme in this sport. The Alaskan environment was surreal throughout and it simply took a look to either side to see sights worthy of any postcard. If the weather had taken a turn for the worse, I am positive that many more people, including myself, may not have finished – not to mention if any wildlife had decided to come our way on the course.

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Finishers and support crew.

After the race, I spent time relaxing and eating with my support crew. I could not have made it through this race without them, as well as knowing that there were so many people back home cheering me on during the race. The RaceJoy app that was used for my tracking during the race would often alert me that people were “cheering” for me while I was riding and running. I never checked my phone during the race but was overwhelmed by the hundreds of well wishes that I had received during the day. I am truly blessed to have such a supportive community of family and friends that care about my goals and aspirations.

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Rebekah, my mom, and one of the many volunteers who gave me encouragement during the race.

Our remaining time in Alaska was spent relaxing, packing up, and enjoying the sights (and food!). After returning home, I will have a couple weeks off before I start work at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge. I will decide on my goals for the rest of the season in this time. I am also in the process of deciding on a potential coach for the future. For the past couple years, I have made the excuse that I was “uncoachable” due to my crazy schedules as a nurse. This is about to change a bit, and although I believe I am very knowledgeable about the sport, I know a professional, objective eye can help me work on my weaknesses as an athlete and help me realize my potential. I know this was a long post, but thank you for your support and following along on my journey!


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