There were people all along Ali'i Drive cheering. I smiled almost all of the first 10 miles.
I finally got through with the 10 mile run through the support of the crowd. I passed H and fam again near the start again and got more encouragement. H kept telling me I was doing great, telling me I looked good ( thanks honey, didn't feel like I looked so good.ha!). I was still smiling. The sun was setting over the ocean, it was really beautiful and reminded me of my run in Melbourne...I felt overwhelmed. How lucky was I to do two triathlon races in the last 7 months, both with stunning sunsets over the ocean while I was on the run in an Ironman Triathlon?! I met a woman who was super friendly in my age group and we ran/walked together for a few miles. She was an Aussie and very sweet. It was her 2nd Kona race and only her 3rd Ironman. She started running in her 50s and did her first IM 2 years ago (she qualified in a half this year). She was also two years older than me. Wow, I could've gotten really discouraged when she eventually ran away from me but I actually felt happy for her that she found the Sport late in life and was already a rockstar! Plus she was an Aussie...so how could I be envious and resentful..
When I got to the Queen K it was starting to get dark..the next 13 miles were the most emotionally and mentally challenging for me. Fatigue was really setting in, the time where my mind could play tricks on me. However, somewhere along the line on the run I made the decision to just enjoy myself, soak up the experience. It was the first time in the seven Ironman races that I took the pressure off myself to pull off a PR or place in my AG or qualify for Kona-I am at KONA! I felt a huge weight being lifted. I knew I would finish the race and have a smile on my face..screw my time. I guess the only thing I really prayed for, asked my mom and sister for (they are in heaven) is please I don't want to be last in my age group! Then putting that in the back of my mind I trudged on, in the dark to complete my goal.
My stomach by now was working overtime in the potty department. I probably stopped 6 times to go, sometimes at the porta potty, sometimes in the bushes. There are advantages to running in pitch black I suppose! It was so dark at times I could not even see the road in front of me. I was not so happy during this part of the run. I couldn't even see the Orange cones supposedly showing where to run. The road was closed but I at some point they opened parts of it because I started being blinded by headlights, which confused me even more! Mumbling under my breath for gods sakes, the is the World Championships and they can't even provide light on the highway for safety? The runners in front of me and behind me were unable to be seen unless they had a glow stick or headlamp on their heads. My biggest fear was tripping and falling. I tend to trip and fall when I run sometimes. It is usually over rocks and trails but darkness was a whole nother ball game. Still doing my walk/run, I think I started to slow down for fear of getting hurt. Just get to your Special Needs bag I told myself because in it I had a headlamp. I was regretting not putting it in the bike to run transition. Finally, I got to the turn for the "Energy Lab", a road with a bunch of large mysterious looking buildings with huge solar panels. The road is about 3 miles long, an out and back which can provide insufferable heat for all the athletes that run through there in the daytime. For me however, it was nice and cool, the goal being get to my special needs at the end of this road and my headlamp. As I turned onto the road I yelled to someone is this the right way? It should have been a no brainer with the huge spotlights on the corner but I was totally disoriented by the darkness and fatigue from being out there what seemed like forever. I felt grumpy, I started hating gels and wishing it was over. This was my lowest point. I chatted with a couple of women along the way but honestly most of the people on the Energy Lab road looked like Zombies to me..
I got to my Special Needs bag, pulled out my headlamp and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this would keep me from falling over my own feet the last 7 miles of the marathon! The light went on-yes! Then about 10 minutes later, the battery died. Are you effing kidding me?! I threw the headlamp in the trash at the next Aid station. I was pissed at myself for not changing the battery. It had sat in the closet a long time. Oh well, time to get over it and carry on..the good news is that once I turned back on the Queen K to run back to Kona, the moon came up! Now I could see the distant lights of Kailua-Kona. I felt uplifted immediately. I was only a few miles from the finish line!!
Rounding the corners in town, I got disoriented and kept asking Is this the right way? Am I going towards the Finish? I could hear Mike Reilly's voice getting closer. Finally I turned the last corner and knew where I was, I was running down Ali'i Drive to the Finish Line. Then I saw H and family!! He told me I was almost there and enjoy the moment! Funny, about 3 miles to the finish I wondered if everyone had gone home at the FL. I was so late, maybe the crowd was small. As I ran down the finishers chute OMG there were hundreds of people screaming, pounding the sides and I was so overcome with emotion I started crying. I ran as fast as I could the last 200 yards. I am not sure why..I think I just wanted to finish strong..the thrill of the finish line is indescribable!
From seeing the Finish Line for the first time in Kona in 1997, when I thought it was an impossible dream, this Ironman World Championships Triathlon to trying for 10 years to qualify...here I was 17 years later. I heard Mike Reilly say "Debra Wess-60 years old mother, grandmother-YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!