Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ironman Reflections

Today. It's the day after Ironman Hawaii. For some, it's a celebration. For some, it's a day of relief. For others, it's a day of questions. And for me, it's a day of recommitment. I worked yesterday, but every free moment I got, I couldn't help but check the leaderboard at I enjoy learning how the race unfolds -- will the leaders win the race on the bike? will they lose the race on the run? Will someone put in a legendary performance? (as was the case this year) Almost everyone who has done an Ironman knows what it's like to suffer through that mass swim start, finding a comfort zone only to face the long hard miles of the bike. Then, after your body is screaming from the aero position, you finally get vertical again, knowing you still have to run a marathon in a depleted-energy state. I question my sanity many times during Ironman. It's a constant mental struggle: evaluating how my body is handling it and deciding how how hard to go or whether to keep going. And having barely finished the Kona race once, I have experienced what my race demons really are (long story: read).

Because I tried and failed to qualify at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I found myself checking another set of data points in Ironman Hawaii this year. I was interested in the performances of the women who DID qualify from my age group at IM CDA. In a strange way, I was rooting for them, knowing they raced smarter and faster than I did that day. But now, after seeing the results, I have been reminded of the true test that Ironman Hawaii is. Of those four women, it appeared that one didn't start (or never finished the swim), one never finished the run, and the other two finished over an hour slower than at IM CDA. I felt their pain. I remembered my own experience at Kona. The "what if"s: what if I fueled differently? what if I relaxed and slept better? what if I trained differently? But then I remembered how I felt that morning. I HAD trained in the heat. I HAD practiced my fueling regime. I HAD done what I needed to do to finish well. I HAD been confident in my race prep.

But Kona is a different planet altogether. It's like being a high school valedictorian at MIT. Square one. Everyone there got there because of hard work. Kona is the true test of wills. You may only read about the great performances: this year, Chrissie Wellington broke Paula Newby-Fraser's 17-year-old course record (by about a minute). However, for the age groupers, the great performances are rare. Kona chews up Ironman triathletes and spits them out a different person than they were at the starting line. Even those of us who didn't toe the line. Today, reading the results just made me want to go back more than ever. My first time, I was conquered by the course. If I ever get my second chance, I intend to make it count.

No comments:

Post a Comment