Someone once asked me what kind of support system is required when training for an Ironman race. I paused for only a brief moment before recalling the date June 22, 2014. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hot Sunday afternoon en route back from a 200 kilometre ride, and I was starting to feel unusually tired, unhappy, and heavy. I wanted to burst into tears, as every pang within my body started to scream. We still had 50 kilometres to go, but after failing in the calculation of my hydration and nutrition, this was going to be a long, bonky ride home. As I slowed down to almost a snail’s pace, two of my training partners rode up beside me for support. For the remainder of the ride they stayed with me, even tolerating my cursing, spitting and delirium. At one point Vince literally pushed me up Cardiac Hill – a mountain of an incline just outside town. It was one of toughest rides I’ve ever done, and really the only reason I lived to tell about it is because of those who were willing to literally push me up a mountain. They are the same people who greet me with smiles at 6am on the pool deck, who find time to laugh with me between gruelling sets, even though sometimes we’d rather cry, and the people who have seen me shoot snot out my nose, with multi-coloured gels caked onto my cheeks, and salty sweat dripping off my nose.
They are there for pool sets, where you just don’t think you can do one more, and they step up and pull you along, worker harder, so you don’t have to. They are there on long runs, looping back, because no one gets left behind. They don’t pass judgement when you have to run into the bushes every five minutes, or look at you differently when you put ice in your underwear, puke up your breakfast, pee in your shorts, or otherwise start taking off your clothes in the middle of anywhere, because they have all been there before. They have been there through your breakthroughs and your breakdowns, and it’s because of this that we share a genuine and unique bond.
Beyond the high fives, hugs and other moral support, my training partners also play an integral role in the execution of my training plan. Whether that’s by pushing me, challenging me, or otherwise, simply lending me a set of wheels, or a chocolate peanut butter ball when I’m feeling bonky or cranky. They also lend me expertise that you won’t find it any book or online blog. It’s a simple gesture but I’ve come to learn that the advice from a veteran Ironman athlete is simply priceless.
At the end of the day, my passion for this sport is often fuelled by the people I do it with day in and day out. I have often said that I don’t know if I could do what I do without their support. Sometimes knowing they are there, whether it’s beside you or kilometres ahead of you, enduring the same challenge, makes this journey that much easier.
Just this past weekend, after a long 94 kilometre ride, we had a 45 minute brick run that I was dreading. No part of my body wanted anything to do with it. But as I looked over at Katrina, who had just completed her longest ride ever, I figured the least I could do was run alongside her as she finished her milestone.
Sometimes we do what do, not because we want to, but because someone else’s journey that day is more important than how we feel. So, with lead in our feet and pain in our legs, we trudged along together, grumbling and mumbling, yet all the while knowing we would make it out alive.
As the season ramps up, the gruelling workouts are just beginning but for every one that I accomplish I know there will be sweaty, gritty, salty hugs or high-fives waiting for me on the other side – and that is something worth getting up for.