I have spent the last year training, and now that the long day of the race has come and gone, I have had time to reflect. I have read a lot of race reports and seen hundreds of Facebook or other social media commentary about Ironman Chattanooga. I am taking a different approach to my race report since I am quirky and have my own blog site. I spent the last year being self-absorbed with all things triathlon and what is more self-absorbed than a blog post. I feel I learned more about myself and have become more appreciative of my family, friends and fellow racers.
Q&A with Ruth Marie Oliver, Red Bull, racer 1009:
Was there a time that you thought you couldn’t finish?
Heck, yes! Coming back into Chattanooga between mile 100 and T2 my lower back was hurting so bad. It was a tight ball of frustration and hurt. At around mile 110 someone yelled at me, “You can do this! Riding 116 miles in an Ironman will only be done by y’all!” I started to tear up because most unique sports stories make me cry and the four extra miles made Chattanooga different than all other Ironman races. I knew if I let my emotions take over, I would surely wilt. I checked my watch at mile 112 and I still hurt, however someone said while passing me, “I am ready for a different kind of pain”. This tortured my mind, something else will hurt, there will be a new kind of pain on the run. I rolled into T2 and gingerly trotted to the changing tent. I sat in a folding chair which felt like a LazyBoy recliner to ready myself for the run. First, I walked slowly one foot in front of another, then I trotted, then a slow jog on the the run course. Seeing all the Huntsville volunteer girls gave me hope and encouragement on the run! Only then, I felt like I could finish the journey to becoming an Ironman.
Did you pee on yourself?
No! I peed at the second to last aid station on the bike course and the in T2. Next question!
How was your first marathon?
WOW! I can’t believe I survived run in only 5:39. Along the way, I was encouraged by the runners, the spectators who lined the course, the volunteers and my personal support team lead by Sandy & CK. I ran with a lady from Richmond, Virginia named Jessie. She and her husband were both competing in Ironman Chattanooga. She gave me a dose of encouragement and bravery to keep running. I ran with her for miles on the back half of the marathon course and then met her again in the finisher gear tent the next day. I also loved all the yard parties being hosted in the north shore neighborhoods. I would high five the former frat boys while “Red Solo Cup” or “Eye of the Tiger” bleared from their audio systems and promised to return for one victory beer after the race. I hope they are not still waiting. I also was reminded on the course that run, walk or crawl across the finish line, they would call me an “Ironman”. I am sure the next marathon I run, I will not act like a ham as I cross the finish line.
Was there anything during your training that gave you the extra confidence to keep going?
I think this is a trick question looking back on the year I have had. I was definitely inspired, motivated and encouraged my by friend Rhonda Cox. Jen DiCarlo and Amazon have been there almost every step of the way giving me the courage to keep going. Of course Sandy Henson planted the Ironman seed in my head, gave me a few tons of fertilizer and gallons of water to grow the Ironman dream into maturity. One more encourager was Lara Fiscus, a complete stranger to me until this year. I met her after a long swim at the Southeast YMCA in February. I was discouraged and being an Ironman finisher seemed too lofty of a goal of me to achieve. Lara, a two time Ironman finisher, encouraged me that day and each time I saw her throughout the year. There are countless other encouragers that came into my life this year. But most of all, my parents gave me resilience and tenacity to do almost anything my little brain could conceive. I feel like training started on the cotton farm many years ago!
Will you run another Ironman?
If you asked me the day before Ironman Chattanooga I would have said, NO! And the day after my answer would be… maybe. The thing I really want to do next year is volunteer at Ironman Chattanooga. The volunteers made the race for me. I know that Ironman brand races are a multi-billon dollar business but they wouldn’t happen without thousands upon thousands of volunteers. I was helped and encouraged by volunteers. Heck, the team of volunteers from Huntsville made my race so memorable. I want to be a volunteer to give that joy and encouragement to other racers.
Are you getting an M-Dot tattoo?
Maybe, need to find the right place to put the darn thing! I want Isaiah 41:10 ESV incorporated into to the tattoo. That verse is “fear not for I am with you”.
The course for Ironman Chattanooga was longer than the traditional 140.6 mile course. So obviously it would have more controversy and drama leading up to race day. There was a hotel scandal, a bike course controversy of extra miles, heck the sun didn’t seem to rise early enough to start the race at the traditional time. During the race some crazy person in north Georgia put tacks and oil on the bike course. All of this made the stories more epic and the memories more vivid. The extra miles were hard and my body did hurt. When the day was over I crossed the finish line, I thanked God for getting me that far and was pleased with my over all time, 13:39:21.