Despite feeling antsy all day the day before, I slept like a baby from 10.30 pm till 4.30 am. I woke up feeling pretty good, calm and chilled out. As if it was just another day. I think at this time, the thought of doing a whole 70.3 Ironman has not quite sunk into me. Not even when I was carrying all my stuff that I packed the night before into the car – the bike pump, bike shoes, swimming bag, everything. Not even when I was already IN my trisuit. I felt nothing.
Got to race site, and started arranging all my stuff at the transition area. I was still so sleepy and blur that I had forgotten my race belt and number when I left the transition area. I was chit chatting with Gary and my parents. Even took potatoes from Gary (the sweetie made me race snacks!) and placed them back next to my bike. Then only had a last minute look in my bag pack before handing it in to baggage storage, and noticed my race belt sitting in there. Ran back to transition and placed it there. Phew!
It wasn’t until Gary wished me good luck, and I said “See ya later” to my parents, did I suddenly realise, “Holy Sh*t, later could be more than 7 hours from now!”. I put my swim cap on and suddenly felt a whole lot more nervous than I did in the morning. All of a sudden I wished I trained more, I wished I ate more yesterday, I wished I slept more, I wished I DID NOT SIGN UP. #sweat
But friends were there, all happy and jolly and rearing to go, so I tried to soak it all up and brace myself for what lay ahead. Little did I know, I had NO IDEA what I was in for.
The SWIM start was delayed. So what was supposed to have been a 7:41 am start became an 8:01 am start for my age group. It was a deep water start, and considering I had not traded in water in centuries, I quickly took note of the fact that a bit a practise, even trading water, could be handy. It took me a while to realise what I needed to do.
Ready, set, GO, and we were off. I caught a glimpse of my watch and it showed 8:02 am. One of the good things about starting with all the women is that less of these big burly men will come slapping me in the face and kicking me in my gut. But that being said, it didn’t take long before the guys from the next wave caught up with my tortoise speed and started jabbing into my sides without so much as a “hello”. haha…
Anyhoo, I kept swimming, swimming, swimming. This was a distance I have NEVER swum before. I repeat, NEVER. the max I have ever done is 1.5 km and that was probably once in a triathlon some years back. In training, I’d be lucky if I got 1 km in. I just dread it. But there’s one thing I am quite good at, and that’s keeping going during race day, so as not to “lose face”. Heh. It was a LOOOONGGG swim. I remember seeing the buoy and thinking to myself, “oh, that’s not too bad. I can totally do this” before realising that was the buoy to turn back to the transition, and that the second and 3rd turnaround buoy were so far away I could not see them yet. This is where I go “Happy thoughts, Karen, happy thoughts”.
Some time later, I finally make my final right turn at the 4th buoy and it was all hi-speed strokes from now on. (A least as hi-speed as my arms could manage). I swam as hard as I could and got myself, clumsily, onto the pontoon at the finish. Checked my watch and saw 8:54 am. Boy, was I pleased!!
Onto my trusted bike! Strapped on my shoes and guess what? The velcro strap on my left shoe breaks. GREAT! Haha…nvm, at least still got one strap, just strap on, eat gel, wear glasses, wear gloves, wear helmet, stuff gels and potatoes into pockets and go, go, go! With my shoe’s velcro strap flapping in the wind…
I felt good! A little winded from the swim, but good. Can pedal well. Weather was great! I drank my Gatorade and went on my way. First loop was good. I was almost at the end when I realised I was finishing it well under my 2 hour target. I knew then I was going to do my bike leg in under 4 hours. I was determined to do so.
The second loop wasn’t so forgiving though. The sun was high up in the sky and my back was starting to hurt. The soreness in my lower back was becoming more obvious and I was starting to suffer. I was chewing on my second potato and had already taken my gels at 60 km and I was on the verge of giving up. I felt a strange feeling coursing through my body – a sudden weakening of my limbs. I think this must be what Gary calls “Bonk already”. I bonked. Hard. And I had freakin’ 25 km to go. I kept bouncing back and forth between giving up after my bike ride, or carrying on. I was so sure I had no more energy left to run. But I tried my very best to push those thoughts aside and concentrate on finishing my bike.
Slowly and painfully I finished off the clicks one by one until I finally came back to the transition area. I was still unsure about running. Until it came to me. I spent 200 freakin USD on this race so I am going home with a damn medal! And that decision was final.
Seeing Gary at the end was definitely inspiring and it made me push off on a strong run!
Running has always been my forte. Or so I thought. Running AFTER swimming 1.9km AND riding 90 km was a different story. Throw the scorching mid day sun burning at about 40 degrees C above your head to top it off and you got yourself a long, painful 21km to go. I started off okay, with my new Garmin watch showing me that I was doing an average of 5.40 to 6.00 minute pace. Right up till about 4 km. Again a wave of fatigue started to wash over me and I recognize the horrible feeling of “hitting the wall”. My feet felt like bricks. I found it difficult to even hold my body upright, I was dragging my sorry bum through the route and it felt miserable. I chugged down isotonic drinks at the next drink station and ate another gel and found temporary relief from the pain after that. It worked for about the next 4km or so but soon after that I felt sluggish again. I pep talked myself all through the way, hoping to see friends I know so I can divert my attention away from the pain.
Finishing the first loop was tough, but the second loop was a nightmare. My only motivation was getting that medal and seeing my parents and Gary at the end. My feet were in so much pain. Just. A. Little. Bit. More. was all I could chant to myself. I spotted Phuitin and tried to egg her on, motivating myself in the process. I then spotted Warren as well, and they ran with me for a while. I tried to chat up some European guys (unfortunately the slow ones aren’t the best looking ones :P). And finally I saw it. The bridge. The 20km sign. The FINISH LINE.
Oh the sweet sweet smell of VICTORY! I could not describe with mere words how I felt when I ran through the Finish. It was heavenly. I saw my parents, I saw my friends, I saw Gary. It was the best moment ever. :D
The Ironman 70.3 was an extremely humbling experience. I now know the amount of hard work needed to complete and excel in this sport. I now look up to full-blown IronMen (My brother being the God of them all) in awe and admiration. Will I attempt the full IronMan? At this moment it feels like that’s asking for too much. I don’t think I am mentally prepared for such an event. I can’t even figure out what I would like to train tomorrow, let alone for the next whole year. I will leave that race for a time when I am mentally prepared, and have got about 15 grand lying around to buy a new TT bike :P