I took a big chance and faced a fear by standing in the front of the swim start, thanks to some encouragement from Julie. I'm not a fast swimmer so I wondered if I'd be drowned, but this was a small group and I stayed to the left just in case.
FIGURE 3: ME LOOKING AWFULLY CONFIDENT ABOUT MY BOLD START POSITION!
When the start happened I leapt into the water with much enthusiasm. I swam hard the first bit and kept my head down, also thanks to Julies advice. I was gasping a bit for air, but unlike times before I kept at it rather than stopping or going onto my back. Within a while I was into my rhthym of breathing and strokes: 3 strokes, breath, 3 strokes, sight/breath, and so on. My mind always wanders when swimming, but I kept pulling my thoughts back to what I was doing. I think this is the best swim I had in regards to keeping on track and staying focussed.
It was hard to swim to the second buoy because the sun was shining directly at us. For some reason they had a small buoy and a large one, I swam to the small one (with others) and had to make a sharp left turn to go back then swim around. I think I'll write to the director about having two buoys out there...
I did, for the first time ever, almost swam over top of someone. I would never do this intentially of course. I had my head down and was doing my thing when I felt a body partially under me. A fellow had stopped for whatever reason and I didn't see him. I apologized, as did he and I went on my merry way. I always think it's sweet when something happens and both people are apologizing. Just reinforcement that we are all out there doing our best and not trying to intentionally disrupt another.
At one point I was saying a Buddhist chant that we do in our meditation group just to keep my mind from wander. My group was actually having a Mindfulness Day that day so I figured it was my way to contribute as well.
The swim felt pretty fast, but my time wasn't any better than other times. Maybe the second best time I've had in a half at 40:44 minutes.
FIGURE 4: ME SUCKING WIND AS I RUN TO T1
I got out of the swim and ran to T1. It's a bit of a distance, but nothing unusal. I was sucking wind the whole time, but finally got to my bike and got going.
FIGURE 5: ME TRYING TO TAKE A BREATH AND CALMLY GET MY CLIP INTO PEDAL WITHOUT FALLING OVER
The ride...well, this is where things start to go a little pear shaped. Compared to the last two half Ironmans I've done this ride was the toughest. There is a lot of climbing here. I wasn't afraid or intimidated by it because this is what I ride regularly. I did, however, want to push myself as much as I could at the same time as being smart and having some leftover for the ride back and the run.
I was doing okay for the first while, although my legs were burning from the get go. I said to myself, keep the burn happening it means you are working hard, but watch the heartrate on the hills. I was having issues with the little number they give you to put on the top tube of your bike. It kept flapping at my knee. I remembered the pictures of Katies leg from the same type of thing and thought, screw this and ripped the number off and put it into my bento box. I felt much better after!
I saw Keith get off his bike and work on his derailler and was quite concerned about that, so that filled my thoughts for a while. I also saw him almost hit the road sign and was worried that his head was more focussed on his bike than going straight and he might get into an accident. I was grateful when he passed me after a while because I knew he was ok and back in the race.
Soon enough more passing started. Usually I don't mind being passed, but after a while the negative thoughts started bombarding me. I knew I was getting farther and farther back and I was starting to get a little ticked at that. I was fighting the negative demons in my mind. I would question why I was out there and why I was still racing the same as when I first started. Then I would chastise myself for the negativity and jumping to conclusions about my racing when I wasn't even at the turnaround. It was an all out war in my head.
I've practiced mindfulness and staying present for quite some time now so pulled out some tricks to keep me centred. This worked although I was still being hit with negative thoughts and having to push them away. I was fully aware of how much energy this was taking away from my ride, but it seemed there was little I could do to stop it.
I was almost at the turnaround when I spotted a truck on the road edge with it's hazard lights going. I sometimes have troubles seeing clearly when I'm racing because I have prescription glasses on and I think with my head position in aero I start going crosseyed or something. It's bizarre, I know. So as I get closer to this truck I see a placard in the back window which I have to close one eye to read. It says, 'Ride to Conquer Cancer Ahlete In Training'. Ahhh. The truck is moving very very slowly so I have to go over the rumble strips (so not good on the hoochie coochie after so many kilometers of riding) and try to pass him! I am also praying i don't get a 10 minute penalty for going over the white line that I'm not supposed to go over.
As I pass the beaten old pickup truck, I see an older dude on the front seat puffing away on a ciggie. I was not pleased to get a few lungfuls of his smoke and was coughing a bit. As I got by him I saw someone doggedly riding a bike in front. She was definitely not a cyclist (if one were to judge by her attire), but she was doing her best with head down and hair hanging in face. It was actually a kind of Fellini moment. All I needed was a clown with red balloons to pop out of the trees...
Instead I had the aid station RIGHT THERE! AAAAGH. I yell for a banana and they give me a FULL banana with a bit of the peel pulled back. What the heck? How can I eat this.... TURNAROUND!!!!
Yup, as I was contemplating the banana I noticed the turnaround was immediate from the aid station. I grabbed onto the banana and my handlebars and turned left quickly hoping I wouldn't fall over. I was so flustered and preoccupied with all that was going on I didn't even check for traffic! Not good. I took a couple bites of the banana and tossed it again hoping I wouldn't get a 10 minute penalty for littering. I didn't know where else I would put it and it was close to the aid station.
After the turnaround I noticed my watch said 2:04 hours. I was thinking "Holy crap, if this ride is going to take me four hours I'm going to be totally pissed!" It had been a headwind on the way out and honestly I thought I had a headwind on the way back. No idea. I knew I would have some nasty climbs on the way back, but that this was more of a downgrade so I decided to take full advantage.
I pedaled my arse off on the way back and seemed to have some good speed. I sort of stopped twice to check on a fellow racer who was walking (his chain broke) and to tell the aid station that he needed assistance. Other than that it was go, go, go.
My mind was more quiet for the ride back, thankfully, and I found I was singing some Prince and Meatloaf songs. What a combination eh?!
Finally, I was back in T2. My watch said 3:36 hours for the ride, but my official time is 3:42 with the two transition times put in there.
I didn't feel too bad as I headed out on the run...but things were about to change.
I ran past Linda, Shannon, Dad, Jen, and Dale and was so happy to see them! It is amazing how smiling faces can lift your spirits!
I'm not sure of my run pace, but my heart rate was up there. I can say I was pushing it, but it didn't feel unreasonable. It took me a little while to settle into a groove but eventually I did. I passed Keith a little bit in and he told me he wasn't having a good day. I reminded him to take it step by step and that I was happy he was there.
The course was nice as it was down in the park, but the climb out of the park was the worst hill I've ever encountered in a race. I didn't bother to run up it as it was so friggin steep. My power walking kept me right behind the one person I did see walking up there so I figured it was all good.
FIGURE 6: AFTER THE FIRST LAP, NOT FEELING TO SHABBY AND POWERING UP THE MINI HILL
My first lap went by fast and I didn't start feeling my low back till near the end of it. It was starting to get warmer out, but really it was a gorgeous day for racing. Jen said my time was 1:07 for the first lap, which I thought was pretty fast for a race - the best I've done in a 10k race was 0:54.
Shortly after I started running the second lap the pain train started to derail. My low back and right glute (the icky one) started to complain to me. The complaining got louder. Then the fatigue hit, and my mind started to go into the negative zone again.
This time I started to recite (in my head) one of my meditaiton chants. This kept all thoughts at bay and kept me in a good pace, when I could run. I had to walk on this lap and was not pleased, but told myself I had to power walk and would only do that for a few feet before starting to run again.
There were two volunteers who came up to me when they saw me walking and started to assess what was going on and encouraging me. I said I hurt, but was ok and just needed a very short pity cry. To be honest I wanted them gone so I could do this, but I was also thankful that they were so kind. Shortly after I started thinking about Tigger and that's when the tears came and I couldn't breath. I realized this SO was not helping so started back with my chanting and focused on my technique.
I did this for the rest of the race and it got me through. Trust me, thoughts of quitting were very near the surface, but I knew that my discomfort was not a good enough excuse and I had to push myself to keep running.
Finally I was done. Time: 6:50. Give me my friggin medal and let me pass out!!!
FIGURE 7: GOT THE MEDAL - I DID IT! ALSO TRYING NOT TO SPEW!
FIGURE 8: ME AND MY POP AFTER THE RACE - I WAS SO HAPPY HE WAS THERE!
After the race Jen and Dad made sure I was ok and kept me walking. I hurt like I never have after any Ironman race. I wasn't sure I could get any solids in me either, but needed something. At one point I was talking to a friend of mine and nearly passed out. Jen saw me folded over and Carl with his hand on my back asking if I was okay so she jumped up and came over to help me out. I sat in the shade and started eating Linda's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Ginger Cookies that she'd made for me. (Thank you a million times!!) I swear, they were miracle cookies because even though my body hurt like a son of a gun, my dizzieness and fatigue started to go.
We then waited for Keith to come in and cheered him on.
So you may be wondering after reading this why I was upset or having to figure things out. I did succeed in some areas of this race. I hopped on the pain train and stayed on till the very end. I have now gotten off the pain train with no need to ever go back on it and am handing back my ticket. Oh, I should mention that I did leave absolutely everything I had on the course!
I think my ride time was likely pretty good considering the hilliness in comparison with the other races I've done. However, I was still in the back of the pack. I'm really not happy I was in the back of the pack - but the thing that bothers me more than that, was that I cared I was in the back of the pack! Weird, I know.
Thing is, I wanted this race to be about me, and not what others were doing. I didn't want to care that I was in the back, again, but I did and I do. Those thoughts just don't fit into my values or how I normally think. So I'm quite upset by this. I want to race and I want to work hard, but I want to have fun too and not be concerned about the other competitors.
Is it possible to race and not be concerned about others? Because if I can't do this, then I choose not to race because it's no longer fun.
I'm also disappointed because I've been doing this triathlon stuff for 3 years now and yet I see no great gains in my racing - again it's the whole back of the pack thing. Okay, that's partially true. I do see large gains in my mental ability - had I not been mentally strong my day would have been done part way on the bike. I would have stopped, but rather I acknowledged the negativity, tried to beat it back and kept going forward. I also know that my biking improved, although perhaps not as much as I thought it would.
Urgh. This race was so frustrating for me. I had such a battle happening in my brain and there still is! I pushed so hard yet didn't do much better than normal. I was bombarded by negative thought which is so not how I want to be! I'm not sure where to go from here. I mean, I am doing Ironman Canada - this is something I have to do for myself and to honour Tigger. After that though, I'm not sure.
Lots to think about.
Now to get back into a more positive write up.... Thank you so much to Jen and Dad for coming so far to be cheerleaders!! I am very appreciative of that fact and it's because of you two that I wasn't a Grumpy Gus! Thanks to Linda for being here and being so thoughtful in baking me gluten free cookies - they saved me! Thank you to Dale for seeing me race and missing part of your soccer game to see me finish the first lap of the run - you are a sweetie! Thanks to Shannon for sticking around after his race and cheering us too. Congratulations on 2nd place in your AG!! You are a rockstar mister!
After the race I had a wonderful dinner with Keith, Linda, Shannon, Melinda, Dad, Jen and Dale. It was so great to be with this amazing group of people. It helped put things in perspective in that this was only a race and friends and family are way more important!
FIGURE 9: DINNERTIME! (L TO R: Linda, Jen, Moi, Dale, Keith and Shannon (orange shirt))
Thank you as well to everyone who gave me their well wishes - you helped me get through this race.
Peace out my wonderful friends!