I’ve had a goofy grin on my face all day. I’m back home from racing Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I got home late last night and stayed up doing laundry and looking through my pictures. I did five loads. I also made a smoothie at midnight with no concern for being noisy or disruptive now that I’m living alone again. It felt good to be in my space after an incredible week away. Today, I’m just grateful for the experience I had and where I am right this minute.
This race was the hardest of the five Ironman events I’ve done. Mostly it was tough because of the windy conditions. One of the turn buoys blew away on the swim, and we faced 29 mph gusts and 15 to 20 mph headwinds on a large stretch of the bike. I had many moments on the bike when I wanted to quit, but then I thought about how Coach Cass described me as tenacious and I thought, “No way in hell am I going home and telling anyone that I stopped.” I had to force myself to get all thoughts of missing time cutoffs and not finishing out of my head. My mantra this race was, “Keep me safe. Keep me moving. Keep me eating. Keep me drinking.” It was a prayer really, said for all eight and a half hours that I was on the bike.
I was safe, and I did keep moving, but my eating and drinking on the bike were sorely lacking because I was too afraid to take my hands off the handlebars. It was that windy. So when I managed to get off the bike and start the run, I was concerned that I’d hit the wall super early due to poor nutrition. I decided from the beginning to alternate between a Gu and water and pretzels and Powerade. So every other aid station, I had a Gu. That’s something like twelve Gu shots on the run, which is way more than I normally have. I risked upsetting my stomach, but the gamble paid off. I got through the marathon 36 minutes faster than I did last year and posted my second best time despite the crazy winds on the swim and the bike. I was thrilled.
I had a ton of fun this year. I met Mike Reilly, the Voice of Ironman, at the airport. I enjoyed all of my time with Mom. I got to see my friend Rey in Spokane. I loved introducing Dave to the phenomenon of Ironman. It was a perfect week, despite the tough race conditions.
Leading up to the race, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t finish, not because I wasn’t ready, but because life is too good right now. The goodness continued through the week and continues even today. I’ve been at work today, enjoying the cases I’m working on. I’ve loved being back here with people I care about. I’m looking forward to another weekend – the third in a row – with Dave, as he’s flying in tomorrow to spend the Fourth of July with me. I’m excited about our plans this weekend with my family and our friends. I’m excited about the new TriDot training program I’ll start next week towards the Portland Marathon. I’m excited that Dave will be moving here in just one month. I’m excited that I have my big race behind me and can focus again on writing and playing the guitar and seeing more my friends.
How did I get here? This time last year, I was packing a big part of my life into a plastic bin and just hurting. Today, I feel like the best parts of my life are yet to come.
More and more, I’m realizing that Ironman isn’t about racing. It’s about life. Sometimes the course just hurts. Sometimes it’s all you can do to keep pedaling and not quit. Then that bit passes and suddenly you’re on your feet running, and, much to your surprise, the running feels good. Your mind shifts from thoughts of failure to the sweet anticipation of the finish line that you’ve craved all season.
I need to remember that when this sweet season passes and things get hard again, whenever and however that happens. It’s not all hard or all easy. It’s just all part of a race that is worth every bit of the effort.
Each Ironman I’ve done is special in its own way. The first was special because I did it with four women I love and showed myself that I can do the seemingly impossible. The second was special because I proved to myself that the first finish wasn’t a fluke. The third was special because I got to do it with Erin by my side. The fourth was special because it was my fastest and because that success came in a season of my life that was hard. And the fifth? Well, it was sweet to find within myself the determination to work through the toughest conditions I’ve ever faced and to reach that finish line where Mike Reilly, Mom and Dave were waiting for me – cheering, beaming and loving me to the end.