Friday, November 03, 2006

Ironman Canada 2006: The Race Report

First of all, I'd like to thank the universe for saving my life when I had my car accident that horribly snowy and icy day earlier this year on February 16, 2006. I was driving to Toronto from Montreal to visit my sick mother, a six-hour drive away, but I never made it. Click here for full story. I'm much better now ...

Secondly, I'd like to thank the universe for giving my mother a new liver and another chance at life.

Inspired by my diabetic mother, I joined Team Diabetes Canada last November to participate in Ironman Canada believing that every step I took would help my mother and a lot of other diabetes sufferers in their daily struggle against this disease.

Soon after I joined, my mother was unfortunately diagnosed with liver cancer. Having already lost other beloved members of my family to cancer, and also having raised over $22,000 for cancer research through Team in Training, the meaning behind my participation in Ironman Canada increased exponentially. I asked the universe to help my mother.

The universe answered my call and found her a new liver to help in her fight against cancer. She is presently coping well with the transplant and her diabetes has also stabilized. Cross your fingers that the cancer is gone. Please send her good vibes. I admire my mother incredibly for the strength and courage she has shown throughout everything she has undergone this year -chemotherapy and a liver transplant. She has never complained nor given up hope and I love her so very much.

I knew I had a big challenge ahead of me to become a triathlete as I did not swim and had to overcome a childhood fear of water. I also had to radically increase my cycling mileage from the measly 50 km total I had done in 2005. Would my leg muscles remember all those miles I had done 13 years ago?

The car accident put a nasty glitch in the training - I was forced to take quite a bit of time off. I hadn't even started my real IM training program yet and there I was, more than a month later, struggling to get my fitness level back with the simplest of workouts, albeit my injuries (whiplash and concussion) for which I am still receiving treatment.

When I first signed up, Metalboy, a friend of mine who had participated as a member of Team Diabetes Canada last year at Ironman Canada, was more than a little surprised that I wanted to go for the BIG ONE during my first tri season ... But those who know me also know how intense and passionate I am when I commit to something.

Well aware of my notorious reputation for undertraining, he warned me, "You have to do the miles." And so I tried ... kinda ... well, as much as possible ...

I could have given it all up after the accident but I didn't want to let my dream slip away that easily. I had to do it this year, not next year, and not sometime in the distant future. We only have the moment and moments slip away so preciously - there may not be tomorrow. My dream became more vibrant than before and even more meaningful. As my friend, TurtleBoy, agreed, I needed something BIG and GOOD to counter all the bad. I needed to reaffirm LIFE and find hope, strength and courage within it not just for my mother, but for myself.

I learned to let go of my fear of water by not thinking and just doing. I realised there were more important things in life than letting my fear control me. I worked hard to get my swimming up to par. I wasn't fast but felt triumphant when I swam the entire 4 km IM distance in the pool. A week before the race, I finally tried my wetsuit out in the murky waves of Lake Carmine, Vermont, and forced myself to swim an hour and a half albeit the difficult choppy and windy conditions.

By mid-April I was well enough to start accumulating mileage on my bike. Over the summer I tried to rack up as much distance as possible but ran out of time and motivation. I accomplished only a handful of rides 90 km or more, topping out at 130 km, before I forced myself to do one last long pinnacle ride in August. I completed 190 km on flat road, farther than I had originally planned. Mapless, I had gotten lost on the country roads. Thank goodness for my cell phone and a friend to tell me how to get back home, even though the route meant a scary ride on a dark highway full of fast cars ready to hit me.

I admit being lazy with my run training, often getting in only one run/week and only topping out at 22 km twice. A far cry from what was necessary to complete the marathon portion of the Ironman well but I hoped to rely on my body's past marathon experience.

Perhaps I'm just lucky or ferociously tenacious. Perhaps it was my refusal to accept the odds stacked against me, but I completed Ironman Canada in a much better time than I could have ever dreamed, and without a spiffy light bike or the help of a fancy doo-dad heartrate monitor. I listened to my body ... I listened to my heart and soul ... and I believed.

Nothing is impossible.

August 26, the night before :
Super late night. Should have been in bed sleeping but I was too nervous. Trying to figure out nutrition and the details of what to arrange in my special needs bags were a daunting task. I finally got into bed and managed a measly 2-hours sleep.

August 27, morning prep :
Up at 4 a.m. Went down to the hotel lounge to scoff down tea with fresh hot waffles. Thank you Super-8 Motel for opening up early for us triathletes! Then shortly after 5 a.m, KillerChops and I met up with a teammate from Team Diabetes and headed down to the transition zone together. I dropped off my special needs bags on the way and made a pit stop to get body-marked.

I mosied over to the transition zone to add the last things to my bags. Time to put in my contact lenses ... OOF! It was going to be a long day for my dry little eyes. I pumped up my tires and checked over my bike, filled my copycat Bento box with pre-cut pieces of granola bars, plopped my E-load filled bottles into the cages, and then went back to get a good luck hug from KC. It's great to have support!

Time to change into my wetsuit. Bodyglide around the ankles, back of the neck and shoulders. I pulled my sleeves up as high as they could go on my shoulders. I just hate that locked-in feeling when stretching out during my swim. Knowing that I had gotten a chance to dip myself into Okanagan Lake on Friday calmed my angst.

The Swim Leg - 3.86 km :

I met a gentleman at the Team Diabetes Welcome Supper who was in charge of the swim leg: measuring it, putting out the buoys, coordinating the safety support team, and also watching from land with a telescope. Quite intricate planning! His swim fairies came and magically set up the course overnight.

Though this lake tends to get rough in the afternoon, it was beautifully calm and serene this particular morning, quite the opposite of what I swam in on Friday.

The swim course reknown for its very wide mass start consists of three segments - 1612, 450, and 1800 metres.

I ran into some fellow Team Diabetes members while we waited for the cannon to go off at the start on the beach. We exchanged hugs for encouragement. I don't know if they appreciated them but I for sure did. I was too excited and nervous!

The moment was so incredibly surreal ... I couldn't believe where I was, what was about to happen ... Was this an impossible unrealistic dream? Were the odds going to defeat me?

I tried not to think about it and looked around at everyone suited up in black, some evidently quite emotional and hugging their partners who were also doing the IM. Triathlon couples. How sweet. How cool!

The air was quite fresh, 11C, but the water seemed a decent temperature and actually felt comparatively warm on my feet and legs. I started at the left side of the back of the pack in hopes of not being tossed around too much. I had heard a lot of stories and didn't want to get caught in the throes of the infamous "washing machine".

My heart beat faster with anticipation as the start got closer. Not wearing a watch myself, I heard someone say that we would be starting in a few minutes. Though the crowd seemed surprisingly relaxed, I could not have been the only nervous one. I still couldn't believe that in a few brief moments I would be racing Ironman.

The MOMENT had come.

Don't think. Just do. Nothing is impossible.

BOOM !! Off went the canon!

Though far away from the faster swimmers, I still got booted in the mouth, elbowed hard, and whacked often in the back and legs. At one point, I was stuck shoulder to shoulder swimming beside another racer wondering if we would ever unstick and go our separate ways ... and then there was the breast stroker with the wicked glide who carried on right alongside me for the longest while. How could she go that fast ... or was it just I going slowly?

Big boats and buoys marked the two turns of the triangular course. As I reached each turn, the friendly divers gave me an encouraging thumbs up. I waved back and smiled underwater. This had to be my favourite part of the swim course.

Still quite new to open water, I tried my best to sight efficiently and from time to time I was lucky enough to draft behind someone briefly before either he or I went crookedly off. And strangely so, I seemed to be leading my own little pack of swimmers who drafted contentedly behind me. Sigh ... few opportunities to draft meant no real chance to take it easy and catch some free speed but I felt consistent and smooth and I was happy with that. I was not drowning.

My swim was actually quite relaxing, peaceful, and surprisingly, lacking awareness of time. I soaked it all up and enjoyed the moment, totally in awe of my reality yet still entrenched in surrealism.

I swam and swam and swam. Perhaps I felt oblivious to time but not oblivious to distance. How many strokes would it take to get me to the finish? I remarked on the constant movement of arms churning around me. The kayakers watched us closely, like shepherds guarding their flock on the long journey home. Sometimes they and the swimmers even exchanged comments. I made it round to the last turn - wow, only 1800 metres to go alongside the last long row of small buoys.

I finally approached land. It was exciting to see the other swimmers come ashore. I swam until my hands hit bottom. I heard a kind gentleman's voice. It was a volunteer telling me to be careful standing up as I could break my ankles on the rocks on that part of the beach. I took this as my cue to stand up. I was out.

YES!!! I finished the swim!!!

I was ecstatic! I slid my goggles up and started peeling off my wetsuit as I ran in the sand towards the transition area. I felt heavy and my shin muscles were tight and sore but I didn't care because I had made it!

Swim Division: 122/143
Swim Overall Place: 2051/2352
Swim Time: 1:31:32
Swim 100 m Pace: 2:25

Transition 1 :

I had heard about wetsuit strippers and it was fascinating finally encountering some since I hadn't a clue as to what to expect. Two girls told me to lie down on the grass. I exclaimed, "I have zippers!", and WHOOSH, off went my wetsuit in one quick motion. Like a well-oiled machine, the kind volunteers then grabbed me by my arms and quickly pulled me back up onto my feet. WHAM! Reality hit me ... no more wetsuit ... I had FINISHED the swim and I was doing the Ironman! I felt overwhelmed and then the surreal feeling came back. I scurried over to pick up my transition bag and headed straight for the change tent.

Originally, I had wanted to wear my tri top and shorts under my wetsuit but the morning's cold temperature nixed that idea. Nothing worse than starting out on the bike leg thoroughly soaked and miserably cold, and of course, I hadn't thought of bringing arm warmers. Heck, I didn't even own arm warmers! Good thing I had brought along my bathing suit to wear under my wetsuit, thus allowing me to change into comfy dry clothing. This may have cost me extra minutes during transition but I wanted to ENJOY the bike leg.

The volunteers were very helpful and one in particular crammed my stuff back into my bag as I glugged down a small bottle of E-load. I smeared a copious amount of sunscreen all over my body since I didn't want to relive my wicked 7-hour sunburn experience of July's Magog Half Ironman. I ran out of the tent to the racks and grabbed my trusty bike, Freida. Oh, I was so proud to be able to run while holding her by the back of her seat only, like a real triathlete! I ran over the timing mat and mounted at the bike start line, then off I shot down Main St. into a cheering throng of spectators!

T1: 10:59

The Bike Leg - 180 km :

Some flatter segments, lots of rolling hills, tons of pretty scenery and two LONG mountain climbs. A warm 22C quickly rose to a blistering 31C. The sun shone brightly and there was little cloud coverage to give us a break. We were lucky it wasn't too humid but it was still HOT!

I had prepared two 750 mL bottles of E-load for my ride and had also brought lots of powder for refills. Knowing that I cannot stomach Gatorade, the sponsored electrolyte drink on the course, I had come well-prepared. I ate some granola bar pieces as soon as I got comfortable on my bike and the horde of cyclists racing down Main Street started to unbunch and form a single file. I grabbed my bottle to chase down the granola pieces. YUCK!!

While prepping the night before, I discovered some weird mold growing on the bottom of one of my water bottles. No problem! With lots of sudsy bar soap and some tricky hotel facecloth manouvring, I got rid of that nasty mold. I rinsed the bottle thoroughly ... or so I thought.

Soapy E-load is absolutely disgusting but I was thirsty so I made myself drink it. Since my plan was to stop to fill up as seldom as possible, I didn't want to waste this bottle. Totally incompetent at grabbing water bottles from volunteers while still cycling, I opted to stop at the aid stations to refill my bottles with E-load. I must have hydrated amazingly well as I needed to make four potty stops during the bike course. Wow, quite the luxurious 4-star potty service - volunteers held our bikes while we relieved ourselves. I'd recommend going back.

Check out the elevation chart:

Richter's Pass:
A long and arduous 1250 m climb over 11 km. I slowed to 8 km/h at times when it got steeper - ugh! Freida, my bike, weighs 30 lbs. with bottles and tri bars. She's a trustworthy and comfortable old steel model with down-tube shifters and was put together and given to me by my trainer and friend, Dirk, who's done 22 IM's. Yes, 22!!

Five years ago, Dirk trained me for my first marathon, Quebec City, and after I completed it, he gave me Freida since he thought I should ride as well. I joked to him , "Maybe I should do an Ironman as a present to myself when I turn 40." He replied, "Why wait?" He was right ...

Anyway, I am proud of Freida and her 12 gears. She's a good reliable friend. Though I couldn't spin quickly up the 6.7 % average incline and had to be careful not to mash my quads, I still managed to climb the mountain consistently and not really any slower than those around me. Ha! to those super duper expensive light bikes out on the field with me. Proof positive ... As Dirk says, it's the motor, baby, that really counts!

I encountered a totally hilarious gentleman with amazing uplifting energy. He rode a fixed-gear bike decorated with an old-fashioned bell and long streamers coming out of its handlebars. The steepness of Richter's Pass seemed a moot point to him as he double-backed for a while only to climb easily back up again and catch up to me. He was racing to lend support to his wife who was doing her 2nd IM and proceeded to point out the pretty cyclist in yellow not far behind us. Yet another triathlon couple - so totally romantic! He dinged his bell and we made ice-cream truck jokes. I said, "I'd like a soft vanilla, please!" Dang, I had forgotten my wallet at the hotel!

Hyper-aware of penalties and possible expulsion from the race, I did my best to avoid drafting and would drop back appropriately when being passed. Either the "no drafting rule" didn't seem to apply during the steep climbs or we were all just working way too hard to even care, thus ignoring the rule and taking forever to pass each other, often bunching up together. Heck, were any officials even watching us? Did I follow this rule in vain?

The cool thing about difficult uphills are the incredible downhills. I should have been afraid after seeing the crashed bike at the bottom of one of the steep descents but I wasn't. I needed to make up time for my slow cycling and lack of training mileage in my legs. These descents meant FREE SPEED. How thoroughly exhilarating to hit a top speed of 70 km/h!

I tried not to think too much during the bike course and just focused on moving forward, getting over the next hill, climbing each one efficiently and descending quickly and safely. And I tell you, there were a lot of hills.

I ran over at least three Gatorade and/or water bottles and luckily avoided way too many gel wrappers littering the course. Recipe for a BAD accident and total disrespect for the environment - humph! I saw one fellow ahead of me carelessly chucking his empty bottle and litter from his jersey pockets onto the road and I wanted to scream at him, wishing I was an official so I could penalize him and get him expulsed.

I saw countless cyclists walking their bikes, out of spare tires and CO2 cartridges, and others unhappily changing their flats at the side of the road. My trusty Freida, I adore you - you did not fail me during the race and have never given me a flat, even during training. I was so sure that Murphy's Law would prevail, but you stuck by my side and remained true. Thank you.

I thought climbing Richter's Pass would present one of the hardest mental challenges during the bike course. I was wrong. The out-and-back to the special needs aid station at Kilometre 120 almost killed me. Talk about boring and never-ending. Having not studied the course map and not having checked out this section by car, I expected it to be only a short few kilometers. It was a painful 20 km.

Funny though that the most boring part of the course also gave me the biggest laugh later. I was watching the cyclists doubling back on the course when I heard a man exclaim, "Oh that wasn't a good idea!" The man got up from the ditch at the side of the road and brushed himself off. I screamed out to ask if he was alright. It was Mike, a Team Diabetes teammate and 5-time Ironman who had fallen off his bike. He later explained to me his brilliant idea to cycle back up the side of the ditch after an impromptu pee break. Haha! During an entire 226 km race, I catch Mike in his only stupid moment.

I got to the special needs aid station and grabbed my bag. I had prepared a peanut butter sandwich. I took three bites out of one half, barely chewing them before making the compulsory swallow, and then chucked the rest. I looked at the granola pieces I had prepared in a baggie and chucked that too since I had not even been able to eat half of what was in my Bento box. The high heat and extended physical exertion was taking its toll and I felt my stomach shutting down. I knew I had to be really careful from this point on. I took some more salt tablets and filled up with more E-load.

I was happy to finally finish that wretchedly boring section and headed out onto more open road towards the last major climb. I reached back to grab a gel but then unfortunately realised that I had lost my race bib. Probably at some potty stop. Oh well, there was no turning back. I wondered what I was going to do but that soon became a moot point as I had to concentrate and stay focused for what still lay ahead.

Ride, ride, ride ... I shoved one last granola bar chunk into my mouth and chewed it like cardboard because I knew the next climb was fast approaching. No more solid food from this point on.

Yellow Lake:
Though a little less steep than Richter's Pass, the Yellow Lake climb was still long and arduous, especially this late in the bike leg. The road wound through the trees in a way that fooled us into thinking this was only a slight incline but our bodies knew the truth. The closed lane of traffic offered us safe passage. Countless cars were parked on the paved shoulder on the opposite side of the road. The supportive spectators formed a long line of beautiful encouraging faces that cheered us to the top of this last long climb.

When the Yellow Lake climb started around 135 km, I told myself, "It's almost over, I just have to make it to 155 and then it's all downhill." I repeated that several times all the way up to the top, keeping as steady a pace as possible on the steeper portions while allowing myself to push a bit harder where it leveled out a bit, even for a few seconds.

Ugh, it's almost over ... don't think, just do ... don't think, just do ...

I hit the top and whoosh, DOWN I went ... Down, down, down ... around each bend. I pushed where I could but found myself braking occasionally, weary of the winding road and wiping out. I knew this was one place though where I could make up time for my slow climb and I passed many cyclists more afraid of the fast descent than I.

I felt the exhilaration building in me as I flew down that last 35 km. I had survived the toughest parts of the bike leg and now knew I had it in the bag. I hit the last 10 km stretch where the course flattened out and whizzed by the mass of excited spectators lining both sides of Main St. I felt strong! I felt invincible! And I was flying! I rounded the last bend, screeched to a halt at the dismount line, and jumped off my bike, passing it to a volunteer to rack. I made my way through the gate of the transition area.

Bike Leg - 6 minutes at Mach 4

Bike Division: 119/143
Bike Overall Place: 2040/2352
Bike Time: 7:20:33
Bike Pace: 15.3 mph

Transition 2 :

I grabbed my next transition bag and ran into the change tent. I didn't have much to do, basically just change my shoes and shorts. No, I'm not one of those triathletes that can hop out of my shoes and leave them on the bike, but I do have mountain bike shoes which are easy to run in. (I would have had proper racing shoes had I not lost ONE of them last year ... a brand new pair too!)

Dilemma! I had no race bib and not anticipating this loss, I had not bothered bringing my second race bib. Think quickly, think quickly... "Excuse me, I lost my race bib. Would I be able to get another one?" No luck, the volunteer had no replacements, no "write-on" bibs. Think quickly ... I unpeeled my race number from my cycling helmet and pinned it to my shirt. It wasn't big nor easy to read, but it was better than nothing and would help identify me.

I put on my cap and water belt, downed a gel, then ... woohoo! The friendly lady came back and told me that everything was alright. I just had to let the officials know when I crossed the mat leaving the transition zone. Yay! My timing chip would identify me and that was good enough. Cool! I was on my way!! Only a full marathon to go!

T2: 10:45

The Run Leg - 42.2 km:

I felt like a pig in sh*t and couldn't believe I had made it this far. Dirk and MetalBoy both told me that if I could make it to the run, I would finish. I was ELATED !!!

The first part of the course is a short out-and-back designed to give spectators a chance to join in on the fun and cheer their lungs out. Go Team Diabetes! I showered myself in their encouragement while I could since I knew how much farther I still had to go.

The crowds thinned as I made my way down Main St. and so did the excitement. I became increasingly aware of my reality. Oh my gosh, I still had to run 37 km!!! I was very tired and it was still a blistering 31C. The false flat of Main St. that ascended ever so slowly felt like a mountain and the strong headwind served only to make the challenge of what I still had to accomplish even more daunting. A huge gust hit me and my body felt overwhelmed by exhaustion. I needed to walk a little bit. My body rang out in alarm and cried "no more", like it has at the end of every marathon, but I still had so far to go. How would I be able to do this?

I thought about Dirk's pep talk before I flew off to Penticton. "Treat the marathon like a bunch of little races, 26 one-mile ones." I wrapped my mind around this firmly and continued trudging along, walking the uphills and even some of the downhills (to save my knees) and also when the 40 km/h gusts of wind were too overbearing.

It was fascinating to see the faster runners coming back along the course and I imagined reaching that same point later on in the day. How would I feel? I heard my name being called. It was Paul, an athlete also being trained by Dirk, who was running back. We stopped and gave each other a big hug and it lifted my spirit. What a wonderful surprise.

It was a pretty little course, surprisingly not flat at all but with rolling hills. It passed by quaint residential areas but mainly by water and trees ... So nice to see spectators out on their lawn chairs cheering us on. Many stayed to encourage us all day, and upon my return after the turnaround, I sought comfort in their faces and smiles again, knowing that they were with me during the most gruelling leg of the race.

My wrist stung as the salt from the sweat ran into the cut that the Ironman participant ID bracelet made. I licked my wound from time to time to remove the salt and stop the intense stinging. I had enough pain to deal with already. I didn't need this.

I forced myself to drink my bottle of E-load and swallow my last salt tablets during the course. I allowed myself to walk through every aid station to recuperate a bit and take a mental break. I was grateful for the chicken broth as I had more and more difficulty ingesting the electrolyte drink.

Having to make potty stops told me that I was well hydrated. I would not become one of those unfortunate ahtletes that I saw at the side of the road either heaving, on the verge of collapsing or already horizontal. There would be no ambulance to fetch me or help me out since I would not need it. And as the day progressed and I passed more and more runners, the ambulances came more frequently and became almost commonplace.

When I got to the halfway point, I was a little disappointed, not with my effort, but just with the time. I hadn't expected to take as long as that for a half marathon. But I reminded myself that the name of the game was *to finish*, and now having no doubt that I would finish, I tried to calculate in my mind ... If I pushed a little harder and got an even split, maybe, just maybe I'd be able to pull a sub-15 Ironman.

Because of my car accident and condensed training period, I had refrained from thinking about finishing time at all. I had made jokes to my friends about how I'd like to crawl over the line at 16:58 and not at 16:59 since I didn't want to be dead last, but secretly, I harboured horrible fears that I would not finish at all.

A window opened. I changed the name of my game and turned around on the course with new-found exhilaration.

The pain was incredible during the second half. Let's not even talk about the exhaustion. I tried to block both of these sensations out of my body - mind over matter. I started walking less and ran down all the downhills to take advantage of the free momentum just to gain a few precious seconds. It didn't matter anymore how much my knees would hurt. I was on my way *home* and was utterly determined to make SUB-15.

Other racers cheered me on as I passed them, and incredibly, I seemed to run past enough of them. I was far from being a gazelle but I felt consistent with my "faster" pace. I ran with a chap from Prince George, B.C., for a while, and though he seemed a stronger runner than I because of his naturally faster pace, I lost him when he ducked into some bushes to relieve himself. I told him he'd catch me at the next aid station as I would need to slow down, but something clicked in me and I didn't. I pushed forward.

As the sun set and night fell, the winds died. I had no tailwind to push me, something that I had hoped for. New tactic - I started breaking down my race into smaller components. Aid station to mile marker. Mile marker to aid station. I forced my last gel into my stomach with great difficulty. My body told me that I needed more energy. With trepidation, I started drinking Pepsi. Caffeine and sugar. Would it help me? 17, 18, 19 ... 20 miles. I made it. Now for the REAL BEGINNING of the marathon.

My mind insisted on my pace, amazing not only myself but also other racers and spectators who cheered me on. I felt relentlessness yet I felt like a contradiction. I looked and felt relatively strong but my shin muscles in both legs were completely cramped and my feet were on fire. Walking was no longer an option as it made me want to scream with pain, so I had no choice but to keep running, the lesser of two evils. I envisioned SUB-15 and carved it into my mind.

I hit Main St. and kicked up my pace a notch. I was excited as I knew how close I was to the finish. Mile marker 23. I had just over 5 km to go ... Getting closer, getting closer ... Then I saw KillerChops! He asked me if I had run that pace all the way and I exclaimed, "No way!" It was about 9:23 p.m. and I still had over 4 km to go. A sub-15 hour finish was a now a definite possibility! So afraid that my legs would fail the new pace I had set, I concentrated even harder.

I saw my friend Paul again. He had finished and was walking back to his hotel with his bike and bags. "Could you take my water belt, please?" I asked him. I wanted to feel unencumbered as I crossed that finish line and at the moment, the belt with the now empty bottle distracted me.

As I ran towards the bottom of Main St., the enthusiasm that emanated from the spectators several rows deep was palpable. There were plenty of high-fives and loud shouts of encouragement but I was too focused to appreciate them fully. I was in a bubble and had to focus all my mental energy to continue the pace I had set. I continued to pass runners. I hit an aid station and walked through quickly, taking my last sips of Pepsi.

I could see the Finish Line in the distance but then the course veered off Main St ... Oh no! The fun and exciting out-and-back I had run at the beginning of the marathon suddenly became a horrible stretch of pure torture. Though there were a lot of spectators here too, it took everything in me to keep pushing when my body needed so much to stop. Last aid station, no more Pepsi please, just the need to walk a few paces to collect myself enough to make it to the turnaround of this section. Last bend, then just a little farther ... I pushed hard down home stretch and managed to pass a few more runners. As recommended, I tore the reflective tape off my jersey in preparation for a finishing photo free of "flash strips".

Though I was very close to the finish, I needed to know the finite distance that remained, some tangible number that I could hang onto instead of feeling like I was seeing a mirage that stayed the same distance away no matter how much I ran towards it. I screamed out, "How much farther?" A man screamed back, "Just run towards the bright light and loud music and there's the finish!"

I looked at the light and it was MAGICAL and almost blotted out the screaming spectators who lined the final stretch with their shadows. I heard and at the same time, didn't hear the music and cheering. I saw and didn't see the spectators but I definitely felt their warm presence. And in that incredibly surreal yet poignant moment, I realised that I was at THE END. I felt overcome by an omnipotent force and I charged like a powerful lion towards the Finish Line.

"Bonnie Mak, an actress from Montreal, you are an Ironman !"

I leapt through the race tape and ROARED!!

I felt in exaltation, overwhemed with emotion and thoroughly exhilarated that I did not allow this race to defeat me. Right away, two women appeared by my side and took me by the arms. I lowered my head in front of another volunteer who kindly placed my finisher's medal around me neck.

I continued bending over ... OOF!! Out shot the Pepsi and more from the aid stations. I apologized to the volunteers who never let go of me and was happy they had jumped quickly out of the way. They walked with me as I wobbled and got me some water and then I saw KillerChops. He took over the task of making sure I did not fall over or pass out as I felt very unstable. As we walked out of the Finish Area, I looked up at the stars with teary eyes and sent my wish out to the universe to heal my mother and make her well again ...

Run Division Place: 78/143
Run Overall Place: 1305/2352
13.1 mi. Split: 2:51:35 (13:05/mile)
Run Time: 5:32:32 (12:42/mile)

Yes, a 10 min. negative run split! Woohoo! All those past marathons I've done were good for something!

Total Time: 14:46:19
Overall Place: 1768/2352
Division Place: 105/143

177 DNF's - 7.53% of those who started did not make it

Thank you to all my friends and family who believed in and supported me, and also to all my Coolrunning Montreal and Multi-Sport buddies. A special thank you to KillerChops for coming out to share my first Ironman experience with me and for taking care of me afterwards when I had trouble keeping my balance, almost toppling over a few times. Thank you also to GB and JKR for your special help with my fund-raising campaign - your generosity of spirit touches me. And lastly, thank you to my two sons and my mother, the people I love the most in the world, just for being you.

Will I do another Ironman? ... What do you think?


Anonymous Killerchops said...

You're a shining example of what you can do when you put your heart and soul into something you believe in. You are very welcome for my support and you will always have it. I am sure I will be seeing you at the finish line at the very least....once again. Stay true to yourself and what you believe in and you will always be ahead of the pack.

3:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not bad..... nah, i'm impressed, really impressed. Not sure you ate anywhere enough..... like 1 pbj sandwhich and a bunch of gu's, e-load is magic stuff!... so if you train properly, got a lighter bike, got the right amount of calories/nutrients....maybe some sleep th enight before.... you could probably save any an hour or so! Do you have the stomach for the training again? Good job, nice report, huge congrats!

8:07 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hurling in public!!

Truly an iron-attitude.

Congrats on your hard work, perseverence, and obstacle overcoming attitude.


10:38 a.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home