You would think that after pushing the body and mind to its limits, you would just want to crawl up into a ball and collapse. I thought I did, but that lasted all of 5 minutes. So instead, I am sitting on my balcony watching the Ironman Athletes slug out a 42.2km run. And. I. Am. In. Awe. Not only for what they are achieving, but also the camaraderie I can see from here – pats on the back and words of encouragement to fellow competitors.
But I’ll take a break from that and share my thoughts on today – sorry it’s a long one.
For three long years I have lusted over the idea of competing in a half-ironman event, or an Ironman 70.3, as it is formally known.
I first decided to compete in one after only 6 months of involvement in triathlon. A friend at the time was training for the full iron distance event. At first I thought he was crazy when he would tell me about the distances of the race. But, the more I though about it, the more I started to think differently… I want to do that…I can do that…
In true Rochelle fashion the decision was made. I set about researching different courses and was spoilt with many exotic locations to choose from, as I was living in London. After a few months pondering my options I decided on Mallorca — crystal clear waters and Sangria post race. It wasn’t a hard decision.
As I was a newbie to the sport I was being conservative and giving myself plenty of time to train; it was June 2013 and the race wasn’t until May, 2014. In hindsight, it was lucky the race wasn’t until 11 months later, because it allowed me to hover over the registration button. Next payday I’ll register, I would say to myself, it won’t sell out just yet…
In the end, my procrastination paid off. Before I took the giant step to commit and register, I discovered I had breast cancer.
ButI don’t need to sit here and rehash the whole breast cancer journey — most of you have been there every step of the way, and most of you have known how driven I was to get back to this point of competing in my first 70.3.
There’s been frustration, from having my fitness taken away and having to start from scratch…a few times. But each time I thought of the professional athletes who have had to deal with injuries. Breast cancer was my injury. If they could get back to the start line, so could I.
So here I am. On the other side of that invisible point that never left my sight.
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” ― Molière
There have been obstacles, and I’m feeling every bit of glory right now in my achievement.
I had three goals for this race.
1/ To start.
This might sound obvious, but it is that time of year when sickness is circulating and a cough and sniff from the person next to you can be your undoing. Also, I’m a bit clumsy and in the two weeks leading up to the race I rolled my ankle walking King…anything can happen.
2/ To finish.
I didn’t doubt I had the physical ability to finish, but things happen. Bike malfunctions or crocodile attacks are unforeseeable…
3/ To finish between 5:45-6:00hrs.
When people asked my goal time I always said under 6 hours. I knew 6 hours was “achievable” and allowed for the unknown. Anything else was a dream.
Today I raced to my abilities and accepted the ‘unknowns’, finishing in at time of 5:57.
So here we go… Cairns Ironman 70.3…
It wouldn’t be Tropical North Queensland without some tropical weather. And boy did the sky open up and show us the goods. As the rain droplets fell just before 5am, they were put down as “passing showers”, but less than 30mins later the first downpour arrived.
I was lucky to get through my swim and 20 minutes on the bike before the next downpour started. And it continued for most of the ride. For the next 70km I could hardly see 1 meter in front of me, as my glasses don’t have built-in windscreen wipers. Each time the rain stopped I hoped that the lenses would dry out, but then the rain started again. My special Oakley lenses that improve viability and definition on the road were no help to me. It was a wild, windy and wet ride. But I kept pushing and with 30km to go I was overtaking people on the home stretch.
All things considered, I had a goal for 3:00-3:15hrs for the bike – it’s not my strength. So to finish in 3hrs 33sec, in those conditions, I was stoked. I knew I was on track when I set off running for my sub-6 time, but how far ‘sub’ could I get.
It was a 2-lap course of just over 10km to make up the 21.1km run. The first lap I managed to keep the pace I wanted but on the second lap my stomach was starting to rumble. Four-plus hours of gels and energy chews were starting to take its toll. I passed one of the supporter tents, which had some inspirational messages pegged into the ground. One said: “Never Trust An Ironman Fart”. I laughed…but I thought it may be good advice. So in the last lap I made four port-a-loo stops. I knew this would affect my run time, but I was willing to sacrifice a few minutes to end the race “fresh”.
With 5km to go I told myself, it’s just a parkrun left. With 3km to go I told myself, it’s just a run to Wednesday morning training. With 1km go, I told myself it’s just a warm up. And then my feet touched the soaked carpet of the finish shoot, and the end was in sight.
There’s a saying: “Never do things by halves.” However, when talking about Ironman, I think it is one scenario that doing something by half is still looked upon as being an enormous achievement.
As I get back to watching the Ironman competitors and my fellow Pursue Club members tackle the run, I’ll leave you with a list of “thank yous”.
There’s no Oscars music to drown me out, so this could take a while.
To my partner *gush*:
Thank you for putting up with me while I’ve been Nancy-no-fun as I’ve struggled to stay awake past 8pm for the past three months; for accepting my unenthusiastic attitude towards any entertaining that would affect my 8 hours of sleep; for putting up with my hissy fits on the bike when I’ve doubted my ability; and for all the Tuesday morning River Loops and Sunday long rides. I dedicate my bike leg to you.
To the Pursue Triathlon Club and Coach Andy:
If it wasn’t for the Club and Andy I wouldn’t have competed today. I kept thinking: “Maybe next year I would be ready…” But he encouraged me to believe I was already ready. To everyone in the club for their encouragement while training and company on the long Saturday runs, I dedicate my run to you.
To the Grimsey Brothers – Codie and Trent:
Swimming has been my battle, but thank you for pushing me to stay in the 2-minute lane, even when I wanted to drop back to 2.10. It wasn’t the swim I had hoped for, but I got it done, and all the training you gave me put me in a better position for the rest of the day. S0, I dedicate my swim to you.
To my friends who trained with me each time I had to rebuild after treatment and surgery:
Mark, my running encourager, and Scott, who patiently reminded me how to use gears on a bike after taking 12 months off. Thank you.
To may family:
Last, but not least. For flying up to Cairns to support this big event and everything else from when I was born until now (there’s too much to mention so hopefully that sums things up). It was a tough day spectating. Yes, the weather while racing was hammering me, but they stood watching and cheering in the conditions also. Thank you!