My Ironman Journey – Take 1

The road to Ironman started in July 2011. I was training for my first half marathon and started following a few blogs where people were training for Ironman Lake Placid. I was reading along and following their adventures so of course I had to cyber stalk them on race day.

I followed them and others all day checking their stats and watching the live camera feeds. When I switched over to the finish line camera, that’s when it happened. From reading along I knew the distances these people were covering, they had swam 3.8 km, biked 180 km and were now finishing off their 42.2 km marathon. Sure, I could read the distances but I really had NO idea what training for something like this really meant. But, when I saw these random strangers making their way to that finish line, when I heard the famous Mike Reilly calling out their name and telling them “You are an IRONMAN”, I was instantly hooked! It was at that moment that I knew this was something I HAD to do. This is what I had been looking for all along.

I finished my first half marathon that October and started training for the 70.3 Ironman Muskoka. I knew that I had to work up to Ironman so this was my stepping stone. 2012 I had many firsts, from biking on a “road bike” to actually biking on the back roads. I learned how to swim for triathlon, this was very different than “Swimming” in my parents pool as a kid and the running continued. I raced in two shorter triathlons that season to prepare me for Muskoka. I even spent a weekend up there training with a great friend who battled the hilly route with me.

During training, Ironman Mont Tremblant took place and I tagged along with a few other team-mates. I wanted to be there for them and support them on their very special race day as they had been there for me at mine. Being a spectator at that event was an absolutely incredible experience and I was so lucky to be there to share their day.

The day after the race, another team-mate and I signed up for 2013. We were doing it! As the days went by more and more of my friends and team-mates signed up. I think by race day there were about 11 or 12 Iron Canucks racing that day.

Training for this race, I was terrified and filled with self doubt. I had serious concerns about being able to make it in time. My finish time for the 70.3 race was 8:51 and that wasn`t going to cut it at Ironman. In the Ironman you have 17 hours to make it to the finish line but that also includes various check points throughout the day.

Once you start out on your swim you have two hours and twenty minutes to get out of the water. This was a snap for me, I did the swim in 1:34 so I had plenty of time. The time never stops it was about an 800 meter run to the transition tent so you have to move fast! Once you grab your bike and get out on the road, you have to finish the bike and be over the transition line by 5:30pm. I squeaked through at 5:27pm. Yes, you read that right, I had 3 minutes to make it! I owed the volunteers at the last climb a huge thanks as their encouraging screams and cheers helped me push and climb and fight my way up that last hill. Saying it was going to be close really doesn’t cut it, but I tucked into aero and biked like I had never biked before. I went the fastest I had ever gone on a bike that day with no fear, just determination.

I returned to transition where I rolled over the line, handed over my bike and ran to the transition tent. I changed like the wind and started out on the run. By this point I was already an emotional mess but I wasn`t giving up, quitting was never an option. I saw my family and friends as I made my way on the run route and I remember Patricia saying “you’re doing it!”. If the bike was bad, the run was worse. Mentally and emotionally I was done. Physically my gi system was a disaster, too many salt pills, not enough water and some poor nutrition decisions came back to haunt me. I tried to run but every time I got started my system would turn over. My legs felt like bricks which was to be expected but it was my GI system that wouldn’t let me pick up the pace. I stopped at every aid station but it didn’t matter, things had gone sideways.

During the day because there were so many of us racing I got to see a lot of familiar faces and for me, this is one of my favourite parts of racing, seeing my friends. But today, every time I saw someone I got upset, I felt like a failure and a fraud. I knew at that point things weren’t looking good for a finish but I still kept going.

I made my way to the two turn-around points all the while racers and volunteers encouraging me to keep going. I already knew it wasn’t going to happen and I had such heartache I cried off and on walking back to the village. It was dark by that point and the clock was still ticking. What I didn’t know at the time was that to continue on for the second loop of the run, racers had to be through the chute at 9pm. As I made my way across the road leading into the village I spotted a race official. I asker her if I could still make it through and she said “I’m sorry, no. The chute closed at 9”. It was 9:42pm. She pulled me off the route at that point and we made our way to the command centre to hand over my timing chip. I found my husband and parents along the way and as soon as I saw them I broke down again. I was apologizing, I felt terrible they had come all this way, waiting all day and wouldn’t see me cross the finish line.

I handed over my chip and that was it. My race was over! I waited at the finish line as I knew my team-mate Morgan was close and I wanted to be there, I wanted to see her cross that line and I’m so glad I did. I was so proud of her and the rest of my team-mates.

I don’t remember falling asleep that night but I remember how I felt when I awoke.

determination Tony was travelling home the that day so I dropped him off at the airport and made my way back to Mont Tremblant. We were all going out to dinner to celebrate. Everyone was amazing and supportive, I was heartbroken. I couldn’t stand sitting there, everyone was an Ironman and I wasn’t. I had already started to formulate a plan on my 21 km walk. I was going to come back in two years, you know give myself more time to get faster but I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t wait another 24 months to do this. I sent Tony text telling him that I was seriously thinking about coming back next year and his response sealed the deal. “It’s not how far you fall, it’s how quick you get back up” so with that I registered then and there. And so began my journey for redemption.