Ok here is the report of the most incredible race I have ever had. My race partner and very good friend Linda and I arrived in St. George very late Tuesday night. Wednesday we get checked in, pick up packets, check out the town of St George and drive all over in search of all the we need for the week. Thursday included going for a swim in the lake that looked straight out of Jurassic park and felt much colder than what the temps were saying. Going back to the expo to meet up with fellow athletes and then driving the bike course. While doing that we realized the course was daunting, but doable. After we had the Athlete Briefing. Friday consisted of getting gear ready to check in and driving the run course – that is when we all felt like this was going to more than the average Ironman. Really? And I thought Ironman was the “ultimate challenge”. Saturday morning came very early and due to the double transition, we were bussed out to the lake so we had to be on the busses by 4:30.
At 6:50 a.m. we were in the water. We were told it was 58 degrees, but something told me that it was much colder than that. Nevertheless, I have raced in that temp many times and never had an issue so I line up and take my position up front ready for the chaos and washing machine. The cannon goes off and so does the race. Usually after the first 200 meters or so some kind of order happens. Not at this race. After 500 meters we turn straight into the sun. This is the longest stretch of the swim and with swim caps the same color of the buoys everyone continued to work for position. I continued to swim strong and maintain my form as best as I could. Finally we round the last turn and I can see the boat doc. Then I felt as if my right calf was in the grips of some terrible creature. I reach back and realize I am having a horrible cramp. I try my best to relax and get through the swim. Into the change tent I am aware that I am having a hard time walking but figure that once I am on the bike I will warm up and all will return to normal.
On the bike, I am working to maintain focus and get ready for the challenge ahead. I am aware that my calf is not releasing and I am not able to push my heal down at all. That being said I know that I have a very tough ride coming up and sticking to the plan will be critical. I am all to aware that the car ride did not do the climbing justice by the end of the first loop. With a long down hill and a great tail wind, I decided now I would take stock on the calf issue. I realize that not much has changed and things are still locked up. I tried my best to stretch and get on with the business of the second loop. Early on in the second loop the wind has changed directions and now we are going right into a head wind as we head up the hills. I stick to the plan and keep my heart rate right where it is and as much as possible try to flex my foot and stretch my calf. This course was by far the most challenging ride I have ever done on my bike. I am about an hour slower than my usual Ironman ride, but I am getting ready to head back to town and see what my calf is going to let me do on the run.
When I arrive in town, I am getting off the bike and realize this is going to be a real test. Right off the bat, the run is up hill for several miles. The run is two laps with a two mini loops to be complete on each leg of the lap. It is a great chance to see all the other racers. I knew that my good friend Bob Cranny was having to walk the marathon due to hip surgery and that because he is such a strong swimmer and cyclist he would be well ahead of me on the run. My goal was to run until I could catch him. While the bike had lots of hills, the run had just as much. Several long hills were 2 miles long. The good news on a good day was that for every up hill there was a downhill that could have made for some good running. Unfortunately, on this day every step made the calf hurt even more. I would not say that I was running. After about 15 miles, I had resorted to running 8 minutes and walking 1. At about 17 miles, I caught Cranny and walked with him a few miles. Walking was not helping so I decided to try to return to walk running. After that I noticed a sharp pain in my foot that was not letting me run very long at all. I tried to paying attention to the pain but didn’t have much luck so I resorted to counting steps. I would “run” 100 steps and walk 100. By mile 22 there was no more running at all. I had more of a wobble with a forward motion. By mile 25 I knew I was going to have to walk/wobble across the finish line. I started to try to remember why I do this thing called Ironman. I remembered that when I was 16, I watched my first Ironman and thought it was amazing. I was intrigued by what it took to get through a race. I became familiar with the stories of Julie Moss crawling across the finish line, Wendy Ingram/Sian Welch crawling across in a race for 4th and 5th, Dick and Rick Holt and Chris Leigh. My journey was not about a personal record or a qualifying slot. It was about going to the place where the mind makes happen what the body can’t. It was about seeing if I had what it took to have that kind of focus and determination. It was about seeing what I was really made of – on purpose. It was about choosing an experience rather than waiting for one to happen to me. As I wobbled across the finish line, I remember lots of cheering, cameras and the Voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly once again declaring me an “Ironman”. Through my tears and pain I was aware that I got what I had wanted back when I was 16. While this was my 4th Ironman race this was the first to take me to that place. I feel certain that my foot is broken but won’t know until Tuesday. My calf is still rock hard. I am an Ironman!