Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finishing What I Started

This past Sunday I swam, biked and ran my way through Chattanooga, TN during my 10th Ironman. As I was treading water (more like holding onto a rope, trying not to get swept down the Tennessee River) waiting for the canon to go off, I sincerely believed I could win the race.  This was the first time in my career that I truly, with all my heart, thought I could make this happen.  Not necessarily because my training had been so great or that I had the results all year to suggest as such.  But rather simply because I believed that I belonged and that if someone had to win, I was as good as any to be that person.

I didn't win.  In fact, I didn't even come close.  As in the winner of the race, Carrie Lester, was done, showered, had eaten and was taking a nap by the time I found my way to the finish line.  Not only did I not win, I didn't make it onto the podium at all and in fact, for much of the marathon, just finishing was in question.

So what happened?  Well a multitude of things happened.  I made some execution errors on the bike.  Some caffeine errors, perhaps.  I definitely forgot how long an Ironman is and possibly didn't give the distance the respect it deserves.  My body didn't want to cooperate physically and then I let the disappointment of not having the day I wanted, take over me mentally.  So in other words, nothing really happened.  I just didn't have the day that I imagined and there were many women that were faster and that beat me.  And that's okay.  This is sport and sport doesn't always go the way we hoped.  But despite what turned into one of my slowest IMs (as a pro), the fact remains, for the first time I BELIEVED.  And that is pretty big.  Pretty darn big.

My day started to go south on the back half of the bike and the marathon was a struggle pretty much from the first step.  26.2 miles is a LOOOOONG way to feel bad.  It's especially long when you are running a good 1:30-2 minutes/mile slower than you want to be.  I waffled between dropping out or sticking it out for much of the first half.  I didn't need to prove to myself that I could do an IM and I have more races this year so why slog this one out?  But then it dawned on me that quitting really isn't an option and so I accepted that, as slow as it might be, as poorly as the results would look, as damaging to the ego that it would be, I was going to finish what I started.  So I thanked the volunteers (you have a lot of time to chat when you are trotting along), I made friends with age groupers on their first loop, I ate all the good stuff at the aid stations that I usually skip, I cheered for each pro lady and each of my teammates as they ran past me, I thought a lot about how racing is a privilege and, well, I just kept plugging along.

The bike went well until it didn't.  On a positive note, the course was awesome and there were lots of pigs, horses, goats and sheep to look at.
That's my "let's hope for the best" smile when starting the run.  Well, one can always hope...
The best part of the day?  This one right here CRUSHED IT.  And we toasted her great day with Little Debbies afterwards.  I highly recommend peanut butter cream pies.

I am very happy that I made the decision to finish.  I'm not criticizing the pros that drop out to save it for "another day" but that really just isn't me.  Plus I got to see a side of Ironman racing that I don't normally get to see.  It brought a lot of perspective to my experience as an athlete.  So onward and upward - luckily I get another shot soon in Arizona!

Huge thank yous to the village that it takes to get me to the starting line each race:  A great group of sponsors.  The homestay families that take me in all over the country (Hal and Cheryl - you were AWESOME!).  My own family that has seen me through every up and every down since I first put on a pair of running shoes and decided racing was a fun way to pass the time.  To a wonderful group of QT2 teammates and friends that make me laugh and help me keep it all in perspective.  And finally, to Tim, Kristen, John and the entire 441, for seeing me through the hardest time in my life and for helping me learn how to live, REALLY live, again.  Maybe one of these days I really will win one of these things to make you all proud.  In the mean time, let's keep having fun.