Three years ago today, Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin and I were all in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We were all racing our first Ironman and having an experience that I think we all agree felt blessed from its inception. By this time of night, the girls were all done, but I still had a little time left on that course. I was running the streets of Coeur d’Alene, amazed by the crowds and the endless music blaring from boom boxes in the hands of spectators, and I was beginning to realize that my Ironman dream was going to be a reality.
All day, I watched the clock, my greatest challenge. Even if my body could go the distance, I wasn’t sure that it could go the distance in the allotted time of 17 hours. I knew I could do a fast swim and buy myself some extra time on the bike. I needed every minute I could get. I thought that if I could get off the bike by the 5:30 p.m. cutoff, then I had a great chance of finishing, but the bike was tough for me, and I didn’t know how it would go.
Throughout Ironman training, I struggled with the bike. Biking feels foreign to me. It took me a long time to learn basic skills. For example, it took me a year to get into my aerobars. I installed the aerobars in July of 2006 on the way home from the Marble Falls Triathlon, and I got into the aerobars for the first time on July 22, 2007. I wrote about it on the precursor to this site. Most people do it in minutes or, at worst, days. It took me a full year of trying. Don’t ask how long it took me to learn to drink water while biking. To this day, I struggle with reaching for my water bottle while pedalling.
For me, being on the bike requires tremedous focus. I feel out of sorts and insecure when I am on it, and I took all of that awkwardness and insecurity with me to Coeur d’Alene. I could see the bike being where my day fell apart. Would I get a flat and lose precious minutes? Would I crash and lose precious confidence? My spirit could not handle getting back to transition and being told that I would not be able to start the run. I had to get off the bike in time start the run.
Somehow I got through the 112-mile ride without incident, and I made my way out onto the run course to test my legs. And they worked. I ran the first 10 miles checking my pace each mile and chuckling to myself about how good I felt out there. It was hard, but my body was ready, and I was having fun. That was half the dream. The other half was finishing.
As day turned to night, I wondered if the goodness I felt would hold up. I wondered if I would hit a point at which I could go no farther. I wondered if all the work of the last year would pay off. It did.
I finished in 16 hours and 33 minutes, less than half an hour under the 17-hour cutoff. I just barely made it, but I made it proudly and happily and feeling great.
This is me with Mom and Jeanie just moments after my finish.
This picture is the three of us the next day, heading to the closing banquet.
I don’t have words to describe how I felt of completing my first Ironman. Satisfied? Proud? Relieved? Hopeful? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. All of that. Ironman was all of that and more.
I love thinking back to that time and recalling the confidence I felt as a result of that experience. Three years ago today, I felt the most confident I have ever been. I look at these pictures, and I can see that confidence.
I want that feeling back. What will it take to reach that confidence level again?