I thought it would sound pretty awesome to hear that after 10 years away from the game but, quite honestly, I was in such a world of pain and relief that I don’t remember it other than as vague background noise.
While many people think that the “You are an Ironman” proclamation as you cross the finish line at an Ironman is some kind of big, epic, life-altering thing that it will be forever burned into your memory, I really don’t remember hearing it specifically. I just remember the huge sense of relief and that I could stop running. Anyone who has run with me very much knows that it hurts me: my feet weren't made for running so it will always hurt, either a little or a lot, depending on the day. If I run more than about 90 minutes on a hard surface, I will be hurting or limping the reast of the day. So, a marathon is going to hurt. Well it sure did! But by the time I got to the last 2 miles, I really wanted to keep running with no walk breaks. Part of me just wanted to over with and the other part of me wanted to prove that I could tough it out. I kept remembering a quote from Canadian triathlete Samantha McGlone after her one and only appearance at Ironman Hawaii:
I kept running because it was the fastest way to get to the finish line. It didn't hurt any more but it didn't hurt any less.
Samantha McGlone (and I've likely slightly paraphrased a little here)
Regardless, the finish line might not be pretty (see picture!!) but it is full of meaning:
How did my race go, though? It was OK. I knew going in that I was a bit undertrained for every part of the race. Due to a badly timed hamstring injury in October, I had to stop running for about 10 days and cut back on my bike training since even riding was an irritant. So, those two weeks where I should have had my peak training volume, I was actually having to cut back. The result was an unplanned longer taper than planned and a little lower endurance fitness than I would have liked.
On the positive side, the enforced break allowed a little healing to take place and allow for the more important goal of getting to the start line healthy enough to finish without risking further and potentially more damage. What I feared would happen was that I would go into the race a little undertrained and a little flat. But the fitness base was largely there and I did have years of fitness and a fit of athletic ability to fall back on. My primary goal of a podium finish was still realistic. An age group win might not possible be without enough run training but I knew the podium was still a possibility.
Without all the tedious details of how a nearly 13 hour race day rolled out, it is done and here are the things about it that make me pretty damn happy:
I was happy to make it to the race start healthy. My last attempted Ironman race start wasn't good as I'd spent all of the previous night in the bathroom, sitting or laying on the floor, vomiting up pretty much everything I had in my system. The result was my one and only DNF (did not finish). This time, I wanted to avoid that happening again.
I am pretty darn happy to have had a podium finish! I managed 2nd place in my age group and I posted a faster time than all of the women in the next age group down so it was a pretty good result overall.
A was happy to prove to myself that this sport is still in me somewhere, somehow.
This past year, I truly enjoyed the training journey overall.
What's next? It doesn't really matter right now other than to realize that there will be something more, maybe not another Ironman for a bit but there will be more swimming, biking and running. First, though, there will be some much-needed rest and some pro-active work to develop a solid foundation to ensure a future of safe and sound swimming, biking and running.
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