I might not have visions of grandeur, but for a little while there I thought perhaps I might have developed super powers kind of like the main character in “Unbreakable”. I travelled to Ironman Canada last week, my second Ironman in two weeks, and unfortunately it did not go so well, and I did not complete the day by crossing the finish line. I found out that I was not a super hero after all.
It all started with a train being 7 minutes late in Lausanne. I have taken the train in Switzerland quite a few times now, and have only witnessed a 2 minute delay once, for which the conductor seemed very apologetic. In Canada if a bus comes within a half hour of a scheduled time you can celebrate, and be thankful that it was your lucky day. So 7 minutes, maybe that was the first sign. Then there were some flight delays, missed flights, an extra very short overnight stay in Vancouver, and two days later I arrived in Penticton, Canada. All good so far. It meant a very quick couple of days doing some pre race interviews, and getting my stuff organized, and not thinking too much about feeling good or bad, but just getting in a few short workouts.
Waiting for the train
Race morning was cool, but nice, and there was a prediction of a high temperature of about 21 with not much wind. Perfect. I went down to the water about 20 minutes early, to get in a bit of a swim, and not feel rushed. I asked a fellow athlete to zip up my wetsuit, and as she was doing so I hear her say “uhh… this is not right”. She called over another person to give her a hand, and a minute later I had two people standing behind me, struggling to do up my zipper which had jammed. Five minutes later I had 4 people trying to help me out, while the race announcer made the 10 minutes to race start call. I started to think of my alternatives- get another wetsuit- so asked if the race announcer could ask if anyone had a spare suit, close to my size. Meanwhile the zipper is completely jammed, and I am half done up. The 5 minute to race start announcement is made. Ok, my next option was to try to get out of the suit, and swim without a wetsuit. It would be cold, but doable, and I would lose a bit of time on the swim, but it is a long day, and I could still be ok. With 4 minutes before race start one of my helpers says “ok, it is kind of done up, it should hold, swing your arms a bit and see what happens”. So I do a few arm swings, and it seem to hold, so I just hope it holds for the 3.8 km swim. If not and it opens up then I figure I will have to try to get out of mid swim, and just leave it floating somewhere, and finish without the suit. I just hope the kayakers out there don’t see the potentially floating empty suit and start a body search. Ok, my imagination was in overgear. I tried to refocus. I made it t to the start line, part way in the water, the gun went off, and the race was on. So far so good, I tried to get into a good swim rhythm, and not think too far ahead. The swim was pretty calm compared to the pre-swim beginning of my day. I exited the water first woman, ran to the wet suit strippers and said “ my wetsuit is jammed, just pull as hard as you can!” I was lifted off my feet as 2 guys janked the zipper up, but it did not budge. I felt like I was on a trampoline as I was lifted a few more times, with each attempt to get the zipper open. No hope. OK- “scissors, does anyone have scissors” I yelled. The volunteers found some scissors and proceed to cut me out of the suit. Yup, cut me out of the suit, This was definitely a bizzare day. The universe would later remind me that at one point I had a nice cozy suit on, and perhaps should have left it on, the zipper was a sign.
Finally onto the bike, I started to push the pace early, trying to find my rhythm, and build a bit of a lead. All was fine till about 70 km when my legs started to not enjoy the ride so much anymore. My lead was still growing, but so was the weakness in my legs. By 100 km I was barely making it up even the smallest hill, and my legs felt like they weren’t even there. I was in quite a bit of trouble, and am surprised I did not fall over I was going so slow. I must admit, this is were I made a couple of big mistakes, bigger than usual. I stopped eating at the regular intervals I usually do, and I started thinking too much. And thinking not so happy thoughts. Of course low blood sugar means more negative thoughts, and more negative thoughts meant I focused less and less on the process, and more on how badly I felt and what might happen. By now instead of a nice balmy afternoon, the temperature started dropping, the roads ahead were damp, then wet, then it started to rain, then it started to hail. Hmm, where was my warm wetsuit now? Maybe I should have kept it on for the bike ride. The hail was bouncing off my arms, deflected by the goosebumps, and as I headed down the long, fast descent into town I am not sure what was causing my wheel to wobble more- the gusty wind, or my teeth chattering from the cold. This was the final straw, I was hanging on by a thread, trying to get my non existent legs to pedal, and now I was cold as well as just barely moving forward.
I must say thank you to the volunteers in the transition tent, who saw me come in, unable to talk because I was so cold. They were super, two took my hands and started to rub them to get some blood back into them, while the third gave me a huge bear hug saying “I hope this is ok, I am going to try to warm you up using body heat”. I am not sure I would want to be hugging a wet, cold, cranky, hungry stranger, but this lady was a trooper. After some serious help getting my socks and shoes on, I shuffled out onto the run course, not fully sure why, since my mind checked out long before that, and I left my body somewhere on the downhill into town. It is very hard to think straight mid race, so I am still not sure if the decision to call it a day early into the run was a wise one. It definitely was not an easy one, and neither was accepting the disappointment in the pit of my stomach for the next week.
Is it left foot, right foot, or right then left? Who cares, I can't feel my feet anyway.
Well, the universe tried to tell me that maybe I should not go, starting with that seven minute train delay. Then it tried to warn me that 21 degrees forecast in Canada can easily mean 9 degrees and hail, and wearing a wetsuit might have been smarter. Or maybe I am just trying to come up with some answers why some days a race is more about survival than racing, and why some days it comes together while other days you fight for it, and some days there is not enough fight in you to get the job done.