Who Dares Wins!
As I reflect on my Ironman race in Arizona, I recall having a plethora of emotions ranging from excitement, doubt, solitude, misery, worry, elation and, of course, satisfaction. Many ups and downs were experienced along the journey of this day but I would not have had it any other way. The sport of triathlon is a daring sport no matter the distance. It brings out that quality that lives inside all of us that pushes us to succeed, that drives us to perform and that dares us to try something new. The Ironman Arizona race was that attempt at something new. Attempting to race this distance a second time, striving for a PR, changing my nutritional strategy, training for a longer period of time and racing on an unknown course were all daring for me.
On the morning of race day, I walked around in flip-flops, which is part of my normal race day routine. However, I did not consider the weather conditions that morning, which were brisk. I don’t recall the air temperatures being too cold but after walking around for an hour in flip-flops, my feet started getting cold. Thus, one of my first emotions of the day was worry! Oh no! How am I supposed to start the swim with cold feet? The temperature of the water was in the 60’s and I was already going to wear a neoprene cap. To resolve this issue, my husband decided to take me back to our car to get warm. Wise idea! This plan worked wonderfully and I was back to being a happy camper. However, when I arrived back to the transition area, everyone was lined up and started entering the swim. Holy moly!! I was late!! After a quick kiss to my husband, I began to sprint to the swim start. I tried to find Bob H. and Kevin M., but to no avail. I was searching desperately for some the ET Cheer Crew and some last minute high fives and smiles, but again to no avail. This was not exactly how I had planned my morning prior to the swim start, but hey, at least my feet were warm!
The swim went well. Surprisingly, the water temperatures did not affect me. I was cold at first but I just held my focus and I got through it fine. The start felt like a mass start just like at Ironman Wisconsin despite the start being classified as a rolling start. There were swimmers everywhere and hitting, bumping and thrashing were part of this routine. Around the halfway mark on the swim, I started to gain my own pathway. Athletes were spreading apart further away from one another allowing more room and an opportunity for a more steady, tempo pace type swim. Overall, the swim went great!
Next up, the bike course. I was looking forward to riding this course because I knew it was easier than riding the Ironman Wisconsin’s course, which is highly technical. The Ironman Arizona race was a three-loop course that contained one long hill. Climbing it was not overly difficult and racing down it was awesome since it allowed for a fast pace. Wooohoooo!! This was fun! But the fun slowly started to turn into doubt and misery. Not long after starting the bike course, the clouds came in and rain settled in for the entire bike ride. Not just a gentle sweeping rain, but instead a forceful downpour. My feet were getting cold and over time they began to numb. This was my doubt. How do I start my run with numb feet? I had raced with numb toes before, but never both feet. I was really concerned. This is the part of the race where I was praying to the heavens above. My feet were numb, my clothes were soaked, and the rain kept blowing sideways through my eyeglasses and interfering with my vision. Thankfully, I held my composure through the majority of the ride, but I was miserable and ready to get out of the rain.
As I entered the transition tent, the volunteers at the race pampered me. My volunteer was the nicest lady ever! She took my shoes off, even dried my feet for me, helped me with all my stuff and even asked if I needed food. These volunteers were a class above all others in my opinion. Not just the transition area but throughout the entire race. They really tried to go above and beyond their call of duty on that day especially with the weather conditions.
To my amazement and enlightenment, my socks from my run gear were dry and warm! My prayers had been answered. I put on those socks and I felt like a new person. My feet began to warm up and I had a renewed sense of self and attitude. Happy Camper Chilly Pepper was back!
Now that I had my mental game back, I was ready for the run. In my opinion, the run is always the most challenging part of the Ironman race. It is the last leg so you’re already tired and possibly sore and it is easy to start out too fast. Despite these challenges, I did a good job of pacing even though I wanted to walk around mile 17 or 18. I stayed focused and had a lot of positive self-talk to keep pushing forward. Around mile 22, I was still running and at this time, I asked one of the spectators the time of the day. He said it was 6:44pm. Thankfully I was still mentally coherent to apply a bit of math and I thought to myself, “Hey, I only have 4 more miles to go. I could possibly get under the 12:30 hr mark. Let’s do this!” There was nothing that could hold me back or stop me at that point. I had too much focus on the prize, the prize of that finish line! I remember I just wanted to see mile marker 25 and then I knew I was home free. Then there it was and the finish line was only a few minutes away! When I arrived through the beginning of the finish, all of the screams, smiles, cheers, spotlights, announcers and spectators were incredibly loud and thrilling. This was the moment that always resonates with me and the moment that I relive over and over. The physical and mental hardship experienced to arrive at this point makes this moment so humbling and heartfelt that it is forever embedded in my memory.
Thank you to all the Experience Triathlon cheer crew who came to the race: Jim, Cheryl, Cathy, Pat, Beckie, Chris, Dave, my husband, Alex, and to all the supporters at home especially my coach, Joe LoPresto, who kept me going strong during those long training months, and Laurie Schubert, who gave me a great nutritional plan. Thanks to Kevin M. and Bob H. for keeping the long training hours fun and for making the race much more exciting because we did it together! WOOT!
Who Dares Wins! Racing is hard and it is challenging. That’s why we do it! As the old saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” No matter the race, whether it is a 5K or a full Ironman distance, racing is tough and as much as it matters to try to perform well, it matters MOST that you performed at all and got to the start line. There is a risk. You may not perform to the best of your ability and you may not beat your time goal, BUT you may also knock it out of the park. If you don’t try to dare yourself, how will you ever know your potential as an athlete? I was fortunate to have a solid race and my racing strategy paid off for me, but honestly, the fact that I dared myself to compete in this race was winning to me.