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Straight Through to the Finish Line (Ironman Canada)

The moment that something hits you like a ton of bricks can be overwhelming, overpowering, a brutal reality, and like a ray of sunshine all at the same moment.  How you deal with the ton of bricks, makes all the difference in the World!  Do you allow it to consume you?  Do you sit an dwell on it?  Or do you stare it in the face, and head straight into the pile of bricks? Maybe for some its a process.  Me?  I am an “all steam forward” kind of girl.  The ton of bricks in this case, was the fact that I was half way through the marathon of Ironman Canada, upset, dealing with relentless pain, and BAM…. realized…no water.  Pains of dehydration?

Anyone who has done an IM gets to the point, at some time during the day, that they figure, can it get any worse?  So…”what the heck, I’ll try it” takes over.

With my hubby leap frogging me on his scooter, and pushing me, mile after mile….to just go ONE more mile, I thought, at the next aid station, I am taking in a FULL cup of water.  I knew I would finish the race, even walking, but I wanted AT LEAST a PR from 2010, if possible.  (Doesn’t everyone)  I came up to the next aid station, and proceeded to take a big cup of water.  I didn’t just take a tiny sip, I drank the entire thing as I walked from one end of the station to the next.  It was forced.  Drinking it was awful!  The taste was putrid to me.  I continued on my way.

At the next aid station, I realized that I was starting to come to life a bit, I drank.  Another big cup of water.  This one tasted a bit better than the last, and I could tell, my mood was improving a bit.  I saw the Hubs just past the aid station, and he told me to grab some Coke at the next stop.  I have learned from not only myself, but from friends, that flat Coke, can sometimes be like drinking liquid gold in times like this.  I could feel my stomach becoming less crampy…(no that isn’t a word, but sometimes I have to use my “me-ness” and create a word) so I started to run a bit.  Not bad.  It was a slow pace, but at least I wasn’t feeling that stomach pain of the fist 14 miles.  I trudged forward.  I saw my Scooter Boy again, and he told me our friend was right ahead of me, and he still wasn’t feeling good.

I kept up with my drinking plan at the next aid station, and added in a cup of Coke and 2 pretzels.  A new woman started to emerge. The girl, that came into this race, feeling so good and confident, was coming out of her fog.  I was starting to feel really great!!  My pace picked up little by little.  Luckily for me, the physical part of this wasn’t muscular.  It was all digestive/dehydration.  My body was not tired, my legs felt fresh, and I was feeling really positive that I could finish this IM strong.

I caught up with my friend, and walked a bit with him.  He wasn’t feeling good, and I told him to drink if he could.

The more and more I drank, the better and better I felt.  By the time I was around the 16-17-mile point, I was feeling great!!  I continued my cup of water and cup of Coke at every station.  I was becoming more and more social again with people along the course, aid station volunteers, and medical teams.  Talking, waving, and thanking them for being out there to support us.  Not that I was necessarily being anti-social, but when you are in such a dark place inside yourself, most people retreat.  For me, this means I get quiet, and not my bubbly self.  Mostly because the way I process things of agitation, pain, sadness, upheaval, annoyance, sorrow, and uncertainty  is to recognize it, strategize how to get through it, and walk right straight through the damn mess.  That’s my Fierceness.  That’s my Fearlessness (Abhaya)  That’s my Me-Ness.  And that’s exactly what happened on this day.

Pain/misery/sucky race + realization/determination/ambitiousness = PLAN OF ATTACK

And my plan was hydration!

By miles, 17,18, 19, I was cruisin’!  I was smiling.  I saw my hubs, and he said, I looked refreshed, and new.  I had that normal spring in my stride.  I was loving this race again.  Loving this run.  Loving Ironman.  I had to get over the one small fact, that my time was not going to be as I planned, but that it would indeed be a huge PR, if I could maintain my current pace.  I passed people one by one, cheering them on as I passed.  A lot of them were not looking well.  Getting tired.  Blistered, beaten by the day, the clock, the sun, the course.  A few of them asked, how I was looking so fresh?  I just kept encouraging them to keep moving!

NOW was when I wished I hadn’t given the Napalm flask to my hubs.  NOW I wish I had just kept it!  Because even though, the abdominal pains were gone and I was feeling on top of the world, I was running a little low on energy.  Energy that would’ve easily come from a few ounces of gel.  Again, knowing this was now out of my control, and that I ALONE made the decision to NOT hold onto the gel flask, I owned it, and kept moving forward.

Coming into town was surreal.  I was starting to hear the announcer, his sweet French accent waiting to call me across the finish line.  The music, the crowds.  I kept up with my pace with a huge smile on my face.  I waved, and thanked every single person I saw sitting out by the side of the road, cheering me on.  As I came into the last aid station, I saw my long-time-forever-friend (our gracious host while in Penticton)  She screamed and grabbed me after both of us realized who we were, with her offering me a Coke.  We laughed so hard!!  She hugged my sweat drenched & salt covered body without even giving it a second thought.  And when I said, “I am all sweaty and gross” her sweet daughter ran to me, arms open wide, and said “I DON’T EVEN CARE! I want a hug!”  It was a rock-star moment for me!  And was EXACTLY the last push I needed to get to the finish line.  Right around that time, a guy that had been running on and off with me, caught back up to me.  We ran our entire way through the last winding streets.  Talking about the day.  He was exhausted and hurting.  He told me, that no matter what, he was going to keep up with me until the end.  We came into the last mile.  That bittersweet start/finish area I talked about.  This time, feeling completely used up, as we passed by the finishers chute and back out to the turn around on the Lake Drive.  He noted that this part felt like torture.  And that he was having a hard time keeping up.  I…like I do with my friends when we run and I push them to a faster pace, did what I always do…started talking to him.  Asking him where he was from, who was he here with, how many IM’s had he done?  I kept him talking, so he wouldn’t think about how he felt.  We ran by the restaurants filled with spectators, and from out of nowhere I hear a loud, rowdy, raucous coming from one of the restaurants.  Friends!!  Cheering for me!!  My “friend” running with me, says, “Wow!!  You’ve got some great fans!”  We round the last part of the course, and head towards the finish…again, more friends, yelling my name, cheering loudly, carrying me right down the road.  I had learned that this was my new friends first Ironman, so as we neared the chute, I tell him to go.  GO!  Go run through, and breathe in every single second of this part, because one; your pain goes away immediately as you start down that chute.  Your entire day of suffering, distress, worry, anxiety, aching muscles, fatigue, tiredness, all disappears.  And you are left with the most euphoric feeling.  And two; you only get your first finish of an Ironman, one time.  I wanted him to have his moment.  He of course, being a total gentleman, pushed me forward, and said, “NO, go for it!!”  And I did!  I ran down the row of madness.  Deafening sounds of the bells, horns, clapping, screaming, music and the pounding that is an Ironman finishers chute.  I soared, with my arms out by my side, floating, high-fiving and with an enormous smile on my face, right through the banner, and through the finish!  Remarkable!  That is a feeling that I could relive over and over.  It’s those certain days that play over and over in your mind.  Distinct, finite, precise memories that never fade from your mind.  Days like, graduating college, getting married, getting your first pay check, having your children, buying your first home and finishing an Ironman.  I don’t care if it’s your first or fiftieth, what time you finish, if you PR, having the best day ever or the worst, that is a day you won’t easily forget.  After all of the hard work, sacrifice, resolve, steadfastness and loyalty to your sport, your training plan, your family, your coach, your training partners and to yourself, to cross that finish line is like sweet rain.

Of course crossing the finish line to see your friends and family there is incredible!  The laughing, tears, hugs and party that ensues afterwards is priceless and unforgettable!!

I did PR this Ironman by 1 hour and 16 minutes!  I immediately told my friends and family that I was done with these RIDICULOUS distances, and that I would NEVER do another Ironman.  They laughed.  My husband laughed the hardest because he knows me too well!  Of course two days later, I was singing a different tune, and considering which IM will be my next.  That’s just how I roll!!

*Special thank you, first and foremost to God for giving me the physical ability to be able to race, swim, bike and run.  For continually whispering in my ear that day, that He had me.  Phil 4:13  For keeping me able-bodied, strong, and giving me the courage to start the race! “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb 12:1

To my Scooter Boy. He has stood by my side in good and bad, and REALLY bad.  He has held my hand, my heart, my body, my laughter and my tears.  He encourages me every single day to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.  He is my biggest supporter and biggest fan.  I wake, daily, thankful for this man in my life!

My family.  They are there cheering me on no matter how crazy the race day may be.  They encourage me, hold me up, and call me out.  Their calls, texts, emails, signs they made, cards, fist pumps, high-fives and praise are so amazing.  I am proud to be a Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister and Aunt that they can look up to.

My coach.  When I thought all was lost, he was a voice of reason.  He pushed my ass hard.  Made me work for this, and was great at promoting and encouraging me at every workout, every day.  He told me from day one, I had to be “game on” in order to finish this Ironman on such a tight training time frame.  His plan was straight forward.  He listened to me about workouts, injuries, and some days…just lamenting about having a bad day or bad attitude.

And my friends.  Every single one of you are amazing.  Thank you for being there for me.  For training with me.  For allowing me to vent, cry on your shoulder and laugh with me, for supporting me no matter what!  And for those who train with me, for keeping me motivated and driven to reach that finish.  It’s nice to have people who can hold you up, and vice-versa.   Each of you, is a huge piece of the puzzle of my life.  A thread in the fabric of my existence, and I adore every single one of you.

***And special congratulations to ALL of my friends/training partners that finished that day!  Well done, my friends! Well done!! (And the friend leap frogging me all day, yes, he had an incredible finish….not too far behind me) 

Coming out of the fog, and LOVING the run!!

Feeling Great!!

Signs from my Family….Take THAT Chuck Norris!!

That’s Right!!

Family and Friends

My Finisher’s Victory Leap!!

All Worth the Bling

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