It’s been four weeks since my half ironman in Victoria. One month goes by so quick at this time of year. As training mileage goes up, the pace of life goes up. It’s train, work, train, sleep, eat, repeat. I almost start to feel a bit robotic in my routines and wonder if and when I’ll have time to do the simple things – a load of laundry, vacuum, or even visit with friends. The fact that I have time and energy to sit down, reflect and write is my impressive feat for today. Others would argue it was the 40K time trial in the morning or the 12K run in the blistering heat this afternoon, but to me, that’s just part of the routine – part of the final four week push to Ironman.
Although it was a month ago, Victoria is still quite fresh in my mind. I remember the days leading up to the race being very hectic. Work was keeping me more busy than usual and I was, at times, literally flying from one event to the next. There were late nights in the office, travel days down to the coast, and fitting training time in became a bit exhausting. Then there was the back and forth with the bike shop trying to get my new time trial bike, race ready. I don’t think I could have thrown anything else into the mix – I was firing on all cylinders.
Once I got to the island though, things seemed to settle down and then it was just a matter of going through the routine motions before the race.
On race morning, I was calm, relaxed and ready. As always, I showed up as early as possible to allow myself the time to go through my rituals of tinkering with my bike, strategically laying out my transition spot and methodically putting on my wetsuit.
By 6:08 a.m., the rolling start to the swim began, and I seeded myself accordingly, hoping to churn out a 35 minute time. Within 100 metres I thought I might just be lucky enough to survive. The water was chaotic and everything turned into an all out hammer fest. I don’t know where some people were going, but at least three people swam over top of me, at least twice I was kicked or punched in the face, and I had to put my goggles back on my eyes, all the while trying to keep swimming. It was like being caught in a stampede and if you stop or stumble, you’ll get trampled, or in this case, drown. It was, by far, the most aggressive swim I’ve ever been in, and for the first time since I’ve been racing, I felt uncomfortable in the water.
As I reached the last turn buoy to come back to shore, I took a wide turn, desperate for some open water. Although finding some feet and taking advantage of the draft would have been to my benefit, I just needed some space and was really hoping not to be clobbered for the swim back.
As I approached the swim finish chute, I was certain that after spending half the swim trying to out muscle all the flailing, my time would be slow. But as I ran up on shore, and looked down at my watch, there is was, 35 minutes. I was stoked. Maybe an aggressive swim works for me.
Running into transition, I reminded myself to slow down a bit, take a few deep breaths and not to hammer out of there. I’ve been working to slow my transitions down a bit, which is the exact opposite of what most athletes are striving to do. I’ve been known for my blazing transition times. I don’t have a tea party – it’s get in, get out. But knowing my race times aren’t within seconds of a podium finish, I’ve tried to allow myself to slow down just a bit. It actually makes for a much smoother transition for me if I’m not red lining at 100 miles per hour when going from the swim to the bike and bike to run. Still, looking back at the times, they were fast, but at least I allowed myself an extra 10 seconds to breathe.
The bike course, same as last year, was technical. There were quite a few tight turns, lots of small rolling hills and not much of an opportunity to settle into a rhythm. Just as quick as I got into the TT position, I was sitting back up again to climb a hill or turn a corner without taking out a competitor. Nonetheless, I hammered through it and felt the wobbly in my legs coming into transition.
While racking my bike, I could hear my family cheering me on from the sidelines. The sound of their voices put a pep in my concrete legs as I threw on my shoes and hat and fumbled with my race belt. Having a support squad on race day, especially family, is one of the best feelings about racing. I don’t know if they will truly ever understand how much their support impacts my day.
My run felt strong. Other than my traditional stop in the porta-potty at the first aid station, I tried to keep up a consistent pace and rhythm. There were moments of pain and wanting to walk, but I wouldn’t allow it. Over the years, just as I’ve seen physical gains, I’ve also grown stronger and tougher mentally. There is no quitting. It’s all about taking one kilometre at a time, and finding ways to get through each one.
By the time, I hit the final stretch, I was ready to celebrate. As per every race finish, I flipped my neon hat backwards and enjoyed hamming up the crowd and every last step through the finish chute.
My final time of the day was 5:41:07, which is a bit slower than last year, but when I break it down, overall I had a stronger race. My wins were a great swim, shaving 20 seconds off my run and placing 15th in my age group.
As I look ahead to the full Ironman in four weeks, I’m certainly feeling the effects of seven months of day in, day out training. I’ve got nerves and butterflies in my stomach every time I think about it. The workouts are big and sometimes the road looks really long. I’ve been here before, but it doesn’t change the anxious feelings. It’s almost like clockwork. I know there will be at least a few meltdowns and there will be at least a few workouts where I question why the hell I’m doing any of this. These final weeks is crunch time – it’s kind of like being thrown at a wall and seeing if you break. And with every last workout, I might feel some cracking, but I’m not willing to break – at least, not today.