Help turn Ironman into an enduring selfless endeavor.
Apparently, I have been remiss to report my IM Arizona results to all... So here goes. First of all, so much credit goes to my partner, my sweetie, love of my life and chief supporter, my wife Rebecca. She has in so many ways inspired me through the years of training and this year's long season leading up to IMAZ.
Also thanks to my Team Sheeper friends and training partners who encouraged me along the way. The triathlon community is a great community and Team Sheeper is the best of the best in every way.
About the race... I have over 15 Ironman 70.3 races under my belt (Half Ironman distance for those not in the know), and had two PR's this year at that distance. My fitness level on the bike and in the water has greatly improved but my run fitness coming off a year of knee surgery has lagged. All in, I believe at 50, I have the best fitness of my life. But I still had doubts about Ironman.
The first hurdle is the mental battle of swimming 2.4 miles with about 3,000 of your closest friends in a body of water about 100 meters wide. Following some good advice, I started in the top 1/4 of swimmers wide right, following the right sweep of the course. I got hit a few times as hard as I've been hit, but swam strong and determined at a steady pace exiting at 1:13, pretty much on the pace I had hoped for.
The bike was to be the sweet spot of the day... but for the unbelievable headwinds on the three-loop course leading out of Tempe to the top of Beeline highway. It's a gradual climb but the headwinds made it arduous. I followed my plan to stop at mile 66 to get off my bike and eat. But a couple of other unscheduled stops (one puncture, one bio-break) put me well behind my average speed goal going up into loop number three. I ended up working a little too hard - given I had a marathon ahead of me - for that last loop and ended with a 6:17 ride, about 20 minutes slower than I anticipated for the course. Mind you, this was my first full IM, so I was focused on staying below 200 watts, not on a time, but we all still have our goals.
T2 was the day's turning point. Off the bike, I felt for the first time a tightness in my legs that I had not completely anticipated. In the transition tent, as I put on my running shoes, I had NO idea how I would run even the FIRST mile, let alone 26.2. I had trained up to 20 miles of running and knew what I was in for, but off the bike, 7 1/2 hours into a race and I didn't think I could run a mile.
But I had a goal, and nothing was hurting in a way pointing to injury, so out I headed onto the run course, seeking that first mile marker. The first four miles were out and back, leading "home" to the finish area, so I thought that would be my first milestone. I ran each mile (shuffled as necessary) and walked through each aid station taking water and whatever fuel my stomach could handle (not very much until mile 10 or so).
And so it went. I ran one mile, 26 times. Each mile was its own challenge. But each mile I knew "I can do anything for ten minutes.' So each mile I counted down from 600 (ten minutes) substituting every even "10" with the words "thank you." That was my mantra. "Thank you." Thank you to my wife who supported me through long training sessions all season. Thank you for the chance to live and prosper such that I can take on a challenge such as this. Thank you for my healthy family. Thank you.
In a two-lap course, there are many tempting opportunities to just stop. To quit. To be done. My "thank you's" carried me to mile 22 or so and then I knew that it was not only possible just quite inevitable that I would finish. I might not finish in a time I had "hoped" for, but I would finish. As so many had told me, the first IM is about finishing.
So at about 8:24pm, 13 hours 24 minutes after the swim start, I came up to the final chute, the final 100 meters of elation, cheering crowds (my mom and step-dad among them), and the finish line. 13:24:25 is the official time. But for me, it was finishing a journey, completing a task that was an unknown. Proving to myself that preparation and determination could take me to a feat that even during the event itself, I was unsure if I could accomplish.
Here's to going to beyond your known limits. Here's to the power, love and gratitude of family and good health. And here's to Rebecca, the love of my life, my partner, and biggest motivator.
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