Saturday, November 20, 2004

Amazing what you find in the cracks of the sofa

I found a word document on my laptop from August of last year. It brought back intense memories.

July 1, 2003

I’ve never done an Ironman. I don’t know what race day will feel like; I can only guess. It’s that way with a lot of things, in my life and probably in yours. With less than 26 days to go, I can offer this: I believe the preparation will have been the challenge, and race day just a reflection of the previous 299 days.

I began this journey with two goals, finish the one triathlon distance missing from my resume, and to silence the voices inside my head which say I can’t. The one’s who say I’m a fraud and that there is nothing remarkable about me.

July 27, 2003

As for the race, the finish time doesn't even begin to tell the story. As the canon sounded and the race began to U2's "Beautiful Day", the helicopter overhead taking pictures, I watched the first surge of swimmers go. In retrospect, all strategy aside, I'm glad I got to see that. It was incredible. It was also chaotic.

Following the initial surge, I and a couple hundred of my newest friends pushed off to start. The very first physical feeling of the race was a searing pain in my left foot as I pushed off on the edge of a sharp rock and punctured my foot just below the fleshy part. It was the first test of day, and I would learn throughout the day that in a way all tests of my will, all difficulties would be the same, in that they tried to force me into thinking about the race as a whole and question my ability to overcome this monumental task. In the end, the answer also proved to be the same: Live in the moment and don't worry about what might be. Maybe my foot will be too sore to run, maybe it won't, but right now I'm swimming, and it isn't affecting that one bit.

The first leg of the bike I rode pretty conservatively. My plan was to ride so I could run. The test on lap one was to keep my ego in check as rider after rider went cruising by me. Maybe I'd catch them again, maybe not, but either way that wasn't in the plan. On the second loop I began getting bad indigestion, and by mile 71 it kept me from eating, drinking, or getting on my aerobars. Once again the voices started telling me that even if I somehow struggled through the rest of the bike, there was no way I could run, so just stop now. The lack of nutrition led to leg cramps the second time past Whiteface, but I just focused up the road and told myself to keep going easy and it would come back to me. As soon as the nausea began to pass I was able to put down a couple of GU packets and some Gatorade. By the three bears I knew I was going to make it in and give the run a go.

Once again I took a leisurely transition to allow myself to recover a bit. I set out with a strict run plan of 12 minutes run, 2 minutes walk, something I've practiced numerous times. An amazing thing happened as I exited the oval for the run; I actually felt good. Not just capable of shuffling, but really ready to run. And now I was not alone, I had the crowd on my side.

The next 4 hours were incredible. I had one scare at the first mile point when both hamstrings cramped simultaneously, but with a lot of encouragement from a fellow racer I was able to first shuffle, then walk, and finally run my way through it. It was a scary moment as I was literally stopped stone cold, like a mannequin, in the middle of the road unable to move any direction. As I started to move and my legs relaxed I knew I was going to finish. No matter how bad it got from there, and I was fully aware that there would be more pain, I was able to overcome it. The doubt was completely gone and I think I smiled the whole way. I remember so many feelings, so many nameless people (and many named like Cait whose cheers came through loud and clear..."Is that JOEL? You look great!") who were all cheering for me in that nasty weather. The volunteer who was so concerned that nobody had a GU packet available when I came by, that she chased me down the course and actually caught up with me a 1/4 mile later, even though it obviously hurt her physically to do so. I wasn't flying, but I was still running 7:50 - 8:00 minutes per mile at that point and she wasn't an athlete. I was just overwhelmed by the dedication. I'm attaching my finish photo, because I think it says it all. (the young man is my nephew Corey) I'm feeling rejuvenated, albeit tired, but I don't think this high will ever fade completely.