Pain is Temporary; Pride is Forever!!
What do the following have in common? Beach, hot weather, a firefighter, yellow painted toenails, and the best cheering section in the world. They all share in my wonderful memories of my first half Ironman race experience at Racine, WI. Some are funny, some are painful and some are heartfelt. They all tell the story of my day, a day which will last with me forever!
It was 4:50am and I was already at the transition area. In fact I arrived before they opened the area for athletes. I’ve never arrived so early at transition before that day but I had developed a bit of race nerves that morning. I couldn’t sleep well the night before so I decided to just get up early, beat the crowds and get a great parking spot.
I knew the day would be great when I found out the Lake Michigan water temperature was 66 degrees. That may sound a little chilly to many of you, but considering the forecast for the day was 90 degrees, I was welcoming slightly colder water. And the best part was there were no waves!! This had been my worry. Racine does not have break walls in the lake to prevent nasty waves from hitting shore; thus, I had a concern about swimming in choppy waters. But not today! YAY!! In fact, I learned that this year’s race was one of the smoothest waters they’ve had in many years. I was extremely thankful.
One of the fond moments I have is walking along the beach heading north to our swim start. I was walking with Coach Joe, Suzy & Sue along the way and we were admiring how calm the water appeared. Smooth as glass. We were anxious to get in the water and begin our race and it was soothing to be with friends at that moment. And everyone seemed to love my toes! I had them painted yellow for the ET colors and had 70.3 & ET painted in black over them. I had fun getting them painted and it was even more enjoyable having people admire them.
My race began at 7:30am and I was finally doing it. I was finally racing the half Ironman. This race had been on my mind for a long while and I was thankful it was here because I was ready to ROCK IT OUT!! I knew I was physically ready! Coach Joe did his magic on me and gave me a great training plan all year long. I worked with Laurie, the team dietitian, for my nutritional plan that day. And it all came together as planned. I felt great coming out of the water especially because I saw the best cheerleaders in the world…the ET cheering section. They were everywhere and I absolutely loved it. I felt I was racing for my team. Not just for myself, but for them. There’s no better rush for me than seeing my ET peeps. My bike portion was strong. I tried to hold back as much as possible knowing that a half marathon was approaching and I needed to save my legs for the run. During the run, when I circled around for my 2nd run loop, is where I needed to dig deep into the far reaches of my soul. This was literally the hardest run of my life. My body was starting to hurt in places where it never hurt before. It was very hot and I had been moving for five hours already yet I still had six miles to go. UGH!! But I finished strong and two of the happiest moments I will forever cherish is the ET crowd cheering me on towards the end and most importantly, my husband seeing me at the finish line and giving me a big hug & kiss.
I have a great team!! I didn’t complete this race by myself. It was a consolidated effort between the entire coaching staff and athletes at Experience Triathlon and their significant others. Thank you all for supporting and encouraging me throughout my training and race to ensure I mastered my goal. Yes!! I’m an Ironman 70.3 Finisher!!!
Throughout the race, there were two special moments that I really want to share because they touched my heart. There was a woman amputee athlete who I never officially met, but I was checking her out the day before the race. I first saw her during Saturday’s race talk. She was standing in front of me and she had a metal prosthetic leg from mid thigh on down. I was envisioning how she’ll complete this distance. How painful was this race going to be for her? Well, the next day, I caught up with her on the bike portion. As I passed her on the bike, I yelled, “You inspire me!” She gave me a quick grin back. I cherish that memory. I hope I made her feel good that day.
Another special memory didn’t become special until after the fact. At my last half mile of my run approaching the finish line, there was a firefighter on the course. At first I thought he was really a firefighter who was trying to help someone on the course or was working. I remember saying to myself that this guy is in the way. Doesn’t he know he’s walking in the middle of a race? After the race, I learned that he really was a firefighter but was also an athlete in the race. He biked and ran in full gear with his tank on his back and full firefighter uniform. He wore his uniform in honor of those who perished on 9/11. Wow, did that hit home!! He even sacrificed his safety because at that point of time on the run course the heat index was over 100 degrees. Yet this guy was walking in uniform with a tank on his back to honor his fellow Americans. WOW…that was special!!
Pain was just temporary for me that day. As a friend told me, “It was a mental toughness day… You finished… You win!” Those words are so true and now I have my finisher’s medal and awesome pictures to look back upon to be so proud of my accomplishment. I’m proud to have raced with that firefighter, proud to have inspired the woman with the prosthetic leg, and proud to have raced for Experience Triathlon. Most importantly, I’m proud that my husband could see me finish at the finishing line. These are my best memories of my race and I will cherish them forever.
Congrats, Cathy, on your amazing accomplishment on a super tough day in Racine! Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m certain it will inspire others to give it a Tri! – Coach Joe
Enjoy all the 2011 Racine 70.3 photos at our Photo Gallery