The calm continued for me as the days led up to Ironman. The complete sense of well being I was feeling was something I have never experienced before a race. I am not sure where this feeling was coming from. Maybe my new vitamin “cocktail” that I have been on, maybe because this wasn’t my first Ironman or maybe just the fact that everyday, as I wake up and prayed about this race, I had the over whelming feeling of God saying, “Paula…do not fear. I have you.”
Race morning as I sat in the quiet of a 4am kitchen eating my Elvis bagel (I have to have this before every race) I felt some nerves creeping in. It’s a big day out there. Was I ready? What was I doing? Hubs turned to me as we sat in utter silence and said, “you doing alright babe?” And as small tears leaked from the corner of my eyes, I shook my head. No.
I went down stairs and started gathering my bags to leave the house. Body marking started at 5am. I wanted to leave our friends house on the West Bench at 5:30am sharp. I was in no rush to get down there and stand around. It only makes me more nervous.
We left on time, and I was again feeling at ease. The morning was stunning!! The day before the race with its wind and clouds had made me wonder how our race day would be. It’s always unpredictable, and those passes are known for their weather changes. I guess that’s what happens when you climb into the mountains…different weather patterns. But Sunday, race day, it was phenomenal! I couldn’t have ordered up a better day.
I went through body marking in the sea of athletes making small talk, but mostly walking in the quiet of anxiousness.
I met up with some of my friends also racing that day. We chitchatted quietly. Talked about what a fabulous day it was looking like, gave hugs, had some small moments of tears, held hands and gave one another a lot of encouragement.
Ironman and triathlon is such an amazing sport. I love that it is such an individual sport and not so much a competition between athletes. It is of course, at the pro level, but us AG’ers are generally out there to beat our own clock. We are racing ourselves, our past IM times, outrunning injuries, sickness, aging, past mistakes, bad habits. We only have the weight of our old self, our pre-IM, pre training self on our backs chasing us down. The encouragement you receive from others is true. Oftentimes competitors are not looking at you like apiece of meat. So the well wishes are honest and from the heart. I truly want all of my friends and other athletes to have the race of their lives. You make some great friends when training this long for a race. And the friends you have that are other athletes…that bond just thickens. You see and know what one another is going through out there, and you appreciate their struggles, and hold them up on their bad days, as they will hold you up on yours.
There is something so magical standing on the beach with 2600 other athletes ready to dive into the water, which is really diving into what, may become a 17-hour day for some. It’s quite. Calm. Muscles are being warmed up, but not a lot of words are being spoken. Only, “good luck,” “have a great day out there,” “be safe,” “have a great race,” and “see you at the finish” You congratulate others around you that you don’t even know, or give them that nod that says, “you rock! you’ve come this far, you are going to conquer this beast!”
When you are standing on that beach, knowing you have prepared for this entire day, you feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as a sense of trepidation. No one can honestly predict how his or her day will go. You can only have faith in your training, and faith that God will hold you up out there, bringing you home to the finish. And if not…this wasn’t your day, not your race, but you have to keep moving forward and not give in or give up.
What is it about these big days? Every time I read someone’s account of it or write about it myself and then re-read, I feel the emotion welling up inside. It really is remarkable. At any level, really. The stories out there on the course, be it an Ironman or sprint distance, electrify the air. (Does that even make sense? Electrify the air…..hm. I’m keeping it). I love this. Great pics and a great intro. Can’t wait to hear more details, even though I know many of them!! Way to rock this, sister. Your passion and can-do spirit, along with that adventurous nature, always inspire me.
Another good one. I’m finding that your stories about this are contagious for me. It’s making me want it. Especially when you were writing about the friendships you made with other athletes, how you all know what each other went through to get to that point . . . only another athlete like that could truly understand.