All of us running in the green and purple have a distinct competitive advantage. Because we're running in support of a cause that every one can get behind, we get support from voices known and unknown all along the way.
At no point in the race did I need the motive force of the "Go Team!" cheers more than I needed them on the run.
I came out of T2 as my watch chronograph ticked past four hours. I can do this, I thought to myself. A sub six hour race was within my reach.
Watch time was now 11:30 AM in the morning. The day was heating up. The forecast called for a high of 85 degrees. It was humid.
The run course was amazingly well supported. Stations with Gatorade, water, cola, chips, pretzels, and gels were set about a mile apart. A few wet sponge stations were put into the mix - volunteers took thousands of sponges, soaked up cold water out of rubber trash barrels, and handed them to red faced runners.
This was welcome relief for my sweating head which was also crusty from saltwater and sweat residue.
I continued to concentrate on my nutrition for the first run loop. My cramping stayed confined to the bike. If I stayed hydrated and well fueled, adding in some sodium intake according to my original plan, I had a shot at pulling this off.
It was not to be. A different set of circumstances conspired against me this time. My sweat from the heat and the humidity, the wet sponges, and the cold water I poured on my head all seemed to find a comfortable home in my shoes. My feet were strapped into wet and squishy messes.
By the time I realized I was blistering and tightened my laces hard to adjust, it was too late.
First the left foot. Then the right.
Looking back now, I feel like a bit of a blister wimp. My mind's eye imagined horrible sores forming into festering and bloody messes. In actual fact, I've got a quarter coin sized poofy pad of fluid on my left foot and a dime-sized pad of fluid on my right.
But like the cramp on the bike, it was distracting enough to alter my run pace and intensity. I tried to 'run around' the blisters. I shifted my stride in order to strike more toward the outside of my foot with each step. Boy, I'm paying for that two later as my feet are the sorest part of my body. The cheers of encouragement from Coach Rodney and all of our supporters helped me immensely.
All in all, I ran 20 minutes slower than I needed to and knew I was capable of doing in order to hit the finish line before the clock ticked past six hours.
It's easy for me to be all "woulda, coulda, shoulda" at this point. I can tell myself that my heart, lungs, and legs were up to the challenge, it was just my feet that had a bad day. Maybe that's true, maybe not.
In any case, it's all got to come together on race day. And this is how it came together for me on this day.
Run time 2:17:51.
You know what? The finish line still felt damn good.