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Ironman China « Donna Phelan's Blog

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Ironman China

I’ve just returned from my trip to Ironman China. I guess by now, everybody’s heard the stories about the 2km/hr currents in the river, the 112 degree temperatures, and the death march on the run. But part of what makes this race so special is the reward of overcoming these obstacles…or as they say, “the greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.”

I can’t say for sure if the swim went as I expected. It would be interesting to see an overhead shot of where I actually swam going around the 2 loops of the swim. The currents were the worst I’ve ever swum in, and I undoubtedly lost some time zigzagging around the course. I came out of the water in 3rd position, about where I expected, but with a little more time down on the leaders than I would have liked.

Just after exiting transition on the bike, I had the feeling that my rear tire wasn’t fully inflated. I asked a guy riding next to me what he thought, and he said, “no mate, you’re still shook up from the swim, that’s all”. Ok, just my imagination playing tricks on me. A couple of kms later, Edith Niederfriniger rode by, and after about 30km came Charlotte Paul. I thought for sure I had packed my bike legs when I left Subic, but I began to think that maybe they had missed the flight. At around 50k, the bike course made it’s way through a small village with some short steep descents. I stood up on one of the climbs and I knew right away something wasn’t right. My wheel was making a squeeking sound and I seemed to be stuck in quick sand. I got off my bike and tried to spin the wheel but it wasn’t moving….yup, my brake had been rubbing for 50km. Grrrr. Well, the rest of the ride seemed much easier after that, and 12 bottles of Gatorade later, I came off the bike in 6th place. My imaginary slow leak was also completely flat when I went to pick up my bike a few hours later. I know, I know…an important lesson learned on checking my bike race morning!

By the time the run started, it was 112 degrees, and I knew from my experience in China last year that it would be a day of running steady and controlled. Coming out of transition, I moved into 5th place, and from then on my goal was to keep a steady pace that would enable me to hang on to top 5 without blowing up. Like most people who did the race will tell you, the marathon at times was like running in a sauna.

I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that at times I felt like walking like so many others were doing. It’s in races like this that it becomes more of a mental game for me than physical. I think of all the age group athletes who work full time and are out there giving it there best. I think of how much I enjoy doing this, all the hard work I’ve done, and how badly I want to get to the finish line. And I think of another quote that a wise doc once told me a few years back, “The strongest man in the ring is the one who gets up again when he physically can’t.” So I think, ok I’ll be that person, let my body quit and I’ll keep going…

With about 12k left to go, I passed Kim Loeffler and moved into 4th place. I hung onto this position for the rest of the run, and was very happy to finally cross the finish line in 4th place. I was also very happy for Tereza who finished 3rd, for Jocelyn who had an amazing race to finish 8th, and for Matt who showed how strong he is mentally, made the most of what he had and never gave up. And to the other guys, I know they’ll be back with a vengeance, some important lessons learned, and will never experience another race as tough as China. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

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