IMoo - The Run

As I reached the dismount line there was a volunteer to take my bike for me so I could run into Monona Terrace. I moved quickly through transition, stopping only to get another coating of sun screen for the run. My legs were feeling great and I was in high spirits when I saw my cheering squad waving down from the top of the terrace.

There was a huge crowd gathered along the run course around the capital building and through downtown as I made my way out onto the run course. Now that the athletes were running, there was a tangible connection with the spectators. I was getting high fives from little kids, seeing people dressed up in outrageous costumes, and hearing more cowbell than even Christopher Walken could ask for. I was floored by how many people were cheering for every single athlete who went by. Compared to any other triathlon I've done, this was a major spectacle.

As I made my way towards campus, I started seeing some of the female pros and faster age groupers coming in to finish their first loop. Gina Ferguson was looking very strong and had a huge lead over Hillary Biscay. I was cheering some of them on as they went by. It was inspiring seeing their performance and mental focus.

By the 10k turn around on State Street, everything was going smoothly. At each aid station along the way I walked through to make sure I was able to drink and eat without choking on it. I was alternating taking in coke, gatorade, and water at the aid stations along with some pretzels, grapes, and bananas. Not too much, but everything was going down well enough. My gels that I was carrying weren't appealing to me however. It was a bit hot out and the wet sponges they were handing out were helping to keep me cooled off. With the brief amount of walking and a pee stop at mile 2, I was just under 10 minute miles, which was where I wanted to be at this point of the run. Ideally I would bring that pace up gradually throughout the rest of the marathon and be closer to 9 minute miles by the end. I got a huge cheer from my family at the turn around and began my way back to the capital.

I made another pee stop at mile 8 and then made my way along the Ford motivational mile. There were handmade signs lining the path and an electronic sign displaying messages. The message were fun to read, but it really didn't compare to the cheering crowds, which were completely absent during that stretch. I was also beginning to have a hard time drinking the coke and gatorade. I decided to go to just water and fruit, which was all that was appealing to me at that point. But within a few miles those too were beginning to make me nauseous. I slowed my pace in hopes that I could keep it down because I didn't want to lose my nutrition. However, the pain in my stomach was becoming unbearable, and I went off to the side of the path feeling like I needed to vomit. Nothing came up on the first attempt, but after trying to run again I was able to get it out on my second try. In fact, I vomited three times. Other than the acidic taste in my mouth, puking made me feel better. I decided to walk to the next aid station to give my stomach a chance to settle down. A volunteer who had seen me vomit asked if I was okay and told me there was a med unit at the next aid station. I declined any help because I new that if I accepted it, then my race would be over. With a little over 7 hours until the race cutoff, I knew that even if I had to walk the rest of the race I would have plenty of time to finish.

Once I got to the next aid station, I drank some water and it went down okay. I started to run again, but a little slower. I had just lost all the calories I had consumed in the past few hours, and I wanted to make sure I got some fluid back in me so my stomach could handle eating something. This is about where I saw my family again. I didn't want anyone to worry about me, especially since I was starting to feel a little better. Allison ran along side me for a bit to get a status report, and I let her know what had happened and to expect that my pace would be slower while I recovered.

I made it to the half marathon turn around, just meters away from the finish line, only to round a cone and head back out onto the course. This is where the party ended and the real race began. At this point, I had been working a few hours more than my longest training day. This was beyond uncharted territory. I was falling off the map.

At the first aid station, they were starting to serve chicken broth. I was all over that. The warmth and the salty goodness were helping, although I was beginning to feel stomach pain again. I walked for a bit after the aid station but started running again when I saw my family. I had appearances to keep up. I'm pretty sure I stopped for some high fives and hugs since my race for time was pretty much shot at this point. Now I was in it to finish. A bit further down the road I began to walk again, and I continued to walk from there on out. The arches of my feet were hurting a lot, since I had started running with arch supporting inserts a month earlier and wasn't completely adapted to them. But that wasn't what was forcing me to walk. I would have run through that pain. What was making me walk was my stomach.

As I reached each aid station I wasn't able to drink coke or gatorade, but I was loving the chicken broth, water, orange slices, grapes, and bananas. Though my stomach was hurting, I was still hungry and food was going down okay. I figured that if I kept on walking my stomach would eventually settle and I would be able to run again. At mile 18 I had to pee again and I felt confident enough to eat a gel, which actually went down okay. By the time I reached the turn around point at mile 19, I saw my family again. Allison was looking for another update, and I let her know that I was getting some food down, but I was pretty sure that I would be walking the rest of the marathon. As I passed by I told everyone, "Only 7 more miles." I really meant it, but they all thought I was being sarcastic. But 7 more miles did begin to feel longer and longer.

By mile 21 it was starting to get dark. Mysteriously, I had to pee again, the fourth time on the run and the seventh time all day. My stomach started getting worse at the motivational mile. I tried throwing up again, yearning for the brief reprieve from the pain, but nothing came up. I had about 4 miles to go at this point and I just wanted it to be over. With 17 - 20 minute miles though, it was far from over. A distance that normally would be an easy jaunt was now a test of determination. My energy was completely sapped. I would stop occasionally to try and vomit, again with no results. However, by mile 24, after drinking a little more fluid that I new would upset my stomach, I finally was able to vomit. That helped, but no where as much as it had on the first loop, and I was again in the same circumstances just a few minutes later. At this point I resolved to not put anything in my stomach until this was over. I took some water to swish out my mouth, and didn't feel like swallowing it either.

It had been really hard to walk through the crowds on the second lap, but it was especially difficult as I got closer to the end. Once I saw the capital building as I turned onto State Street, I knew I didn't have much further to go. So I put my discomfort aside and started to run. It wasn't much of a run, but I was able to take it in all the way to the finish.

As I crossed the finish line, I heard over the loud speaker, "Stephen McKenna from Ann Arbor, Michigan: YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Now that was pretty sweet. The last stretch coming into the finish I was able to forget the pain momentarily. I saw my family and got a big boost, soaking it all in.

Some volunteers guided me through the finishing shoot and within a minute I was sitting down, trying to sip some water. My Ironfans, who had been following me around all day for 14:00:55, mobbed me. They were so happy to see that I had made it, and I was definitely happy to see them.

After all the hugs and congratulations, I started focusing on my stomach again. It still hurt a lot and the water wasn't going down easily. I decided that I wanted to check into the medical tent. I new that my stomach would settle eventually and that I could manage it myself, but they're there to help and I figured they would know how to make the pain end as soon as possible.

I was put into triage, where I found out that I had lost 5 pounds during the race. I needed to get re-hydrated. I sat in triage for maybe 15 minutes, but things still weren't improving. They decided to move me in to get care. I got to lay down on a cot and three of the most attentive, awesomest people ever took care of me. Slowly, over the course of an hour and a half, my stomach began to settle and I was able to start sipping on Sprite and water. After I finished a bottle of each, I felt well enough to stand up again and walk around. And I had to pee, which was a good sign. They discharge me and I was on my way.

I drank one more Sprite before bed and by the next morning I was scarfing down food like nothing had happened. Except the roof of my mouth was really sore. Come to think of it, so was the rest of my body. But it felt good.

It just felt good.


Congrats on finishing, Steven! Even if it wasn't the outcome you were hoping for, it's quite an accomplishment to push your body through all of that and still cross the finish line. Your training hasn't been in vain. I remember struggling to finish the marathon I ran last year. I can only imagine adding all of those biking and swimming miles to the feat! Best of luck in your continued training and future events.

-brahm (fellow weendure user from southeast MI)

You are an Ironman! Thanks for doing this for us so we could spend time screaming at you all day long. It was awesome! Looking forward to WATCHING you again someday. :-)

call me sappy, but reading that brought a tear of pride to my eye. you are truly inspiring.

That actually brought tears to my eyes... congrats on a job well done!

Your accomplishment is a testimony of your character.. your willingness to test your mind, soul, and body in this way shows what a strong and determined man you are!!
you are inspiring to me..may we all learn from your bravery and courage..



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