Having just completed Ironman UK – which was a brutal course, 90% male FYI, and many first timers – I can honestly say that I sat
for many days post race reflecting on just that question…..’Why do I do this?’ – ‘Who do I run for?’……
I dreaded the race for many months – having signed up to keep a friend company – knowing the weather could be grim, the course was a
tough one, and we would be dealing with jet lag and travel with children. My ‘A’ race being Cozumel – nice, warm, flat, beautiful Ironman course – obviously
Ironman UK was going to provide me with a slightly sub standard day out 🙂
Having said all that, Ironman UK surprised me. Not the course – it was just as hellish as I expected it to be. The weather! Big pleasant surprise! It was an almost perfect
race day. Cloudy to start, and early the start was (6:09am – I will explain in a bit) – then sunny and a high of 26C – little too hot for the run, but I will take it over
rain, cloud, wind and cold!
So, 6:09am start. Ironman UK starts at 6am – no idea why – I am sure they have their reasons. First time I have raced, or experienced a late Ironman start.
The athletes were being filtered into the water down a narrow ramp. In water start, about 350m from the shore. As Nicole (said friend) and I strolled casually
down the ramp at a very slow rate, we came to the conclusion that we would be sprinting to the start area, 350m away if we were to start on time.
The scene that followed was quite simply something that strongly resembled the movie, The Titanic. I started asking athletes nearby if they had seen Jack and Rose, or a piece of
a piano I might be able to hang on to, as I felt like we were ship wreck survivors, waiting to be plucked from the North Atlantic. The water was a chilly 62F – and the extra
10 or so minutes of wait time was not an ideal way to start our race day.
Next, the 90% male field started thrashing about like they had never swam before – holy mother it was a rough, mash up, type swim. Making it through the first 1,000m of
that swim was a feat in itself. Bring on that brutal bike course I say!
2 loops of the swim done, on to the bikes we go – through the mud and into T1, which of course is not T2 – T2 is many kms away in a village called Rivington – I would be
visiting T2 many hours later.
Bike, though brutal, with 3 loops of a monster hill that lasts for approximately 5km and reaches grades of 14%, was beautiful. Most roads were not closed to traffic, and looking
over your right shoulder instead of your left is a little tricky, having never done it. At one point I was very nearly hit by a car as I crossed straight over an intersection and a little
car tried to make a right turn directly in front of me – the ‘bobby’ directing traffic had clearly not seen me and at the last minute made the car stop dead in its tracks. At that
point of the race, having done 2 loops and still dreading the 3rd loop of the dreaded bastard hill, I may have actually preferred that ‘being hit by a car option’. My bike time
sort of indicates a possible crash, mechanical or two, or just plain – ohmygodthisisahardcourseandishouldhavetrainedmore – sort of mantra!!????
Anyway, bike tick, on to the run course. Hot sun, a little sunburned from the bike, I ventured off onto the roads of Rivington/Bolton. It was feeling pretty good and hot
by then – obviously perfect timing – running in the heat is absolutely my least favorite pass time. Oh well, that is Ironman. Long day, ends on a run course, often in the heat.
Suck it up buttercup I hear you say.
Many loops of a horrible ride, and even more loops (4) of the horrible run course – 4km up hill x 4 loops – that’s a lot of uphill running. It may have been
slightly less than 4km, it felt like 10km on each loop, however long it was, it was up hill.
Good side, and how this story started. The spectators – primarily, 3 of my 4 kids, my wonderful partner Scott, Nicole’s family and the hundreds of other nameless, happy, cheering,
encouraging people. The spectators are the ones that help you keep moving forward. A very positive feature of a loop course is the fact that you see your family members
often. My teenage son Sam, 16 and often grumpy, moody and typically teen, was grinining from ear to ear on every single loop. My two little girls Madison and Teddie, yelling,
‘well done Mommy, we love you!!’ – how does life get any better than that.
So this is why I run, and why I do this (this being Ironman specifically).
Though the training time often keeps you away from your family – ironically it bonds you firmly together at an event like Ironman.
Though the dread of a 12 – 15+ hour day often overshadows the actual day, as you head towards race day – race day is what it is and you always have fond memories, (even if it is usually a few days later!).
Though the unknown is often terrifying and no one ever really knows what may transpire on race day – we are strong, determined, athletes, and will ALWAYS finish.
It was seeing the photos others took of me while racing, on Facebook a few days after the race, that initiated my reflection.
My conclusion is this. I MUST enjoy these races! Every single picture of me is with a very broad smile across my face. Every single picture of my family members shows them
with very broad smiles across their faces. In spite of everything. The long gruelling day for me. The waiting for them.
Ironman makes me proud of the person I am. Ironman makes me proud of myself as a mother. Life doesn’t give you much of that these days.
PS Nicole qualified for Kona – happy tears shed – shame I will not be ‘keeping her company’ on that one!!!! 🙂