Now that I am home from Subaru Ironman Canada and have had a little cry about what was a pretty difficult race day, I can now reflect on my very human performance that was dug out of heart as opposed to talent.
When this year started, I did not even know if I would race an Ironman. I had rehabilitated my heel enough to be able to run, but running a marathon was a big question mark. As the year progressed, I kept getting faster and fitter and Subaru Ironman Canada became a reality. My swimming and biking were both better than ever in my entire career. My run was no longer my ‘weapon’ but I was executing some fast quality workouts and some longer runs that helped to build some confidence. Last year, I “participated” but this year, I was going to “race”.
I did not sleep a wink that night before the race. I was nervously excited – sort of like Christmas morning. I had the swim of my life thanks to the fact that there were about 60 pros and so I had lots of fast feet to draft. There was a big pack of men just a body length ahead of me at about 800 m into it and I tried desperately to grab on. I finally got onto that pack at the turnaround and I finished the swim close enough to Belinda Granger to hear her name on the loud speaker and only 90 seconds behind Andrea Fisher. I was over the moon. Now the plan was to use some of my newly found bike strength to minimize the gap to Granger.
I worked as hard as I could on the bike – I never let up – I pedaled hard up the hills and hard down the hills – but I was still losing huge amounts of time to Granger. It was as if I was on a mountain bike and she was on my Cervelo P3C!
I worked my way past Andrea Fisher on Ritcher’s Pass and began to gap Sarah Gross and some others, but the deficits were growing the harder I pushed. I reminded myself of my little ‘life thoughts’ – anyone can keep going when the going is good, but a true champion keeps going when the going gets tough – well the going was very tough and I maintained my charge toward the end of the bike.
I got off the bike 30 minutes down on Granger – it was as if I had spent the whole season watching T.V. rather than pedaling hard up and down the hills in Caledon. Trust me, I have worked very hard on my cycling to take a bit of pressure off of the running but obviously, Granger’s cycling was approaching Tour de France quality with her new 4:52 course record! Wow!
I headed out onto the run believing that I could run everyone down. Truthfully, I never really felt great on the marathon but I told myself that I would still run fast and get as close as possible. But, my body was saying ‘jog’, my brain was saying ‘race’ and my heart was saying ‘do your best at this single moment’. And so, I ran the best that I could. I stopped looking at my watch because that wasn’t making me happy and my goal is always to race with joy. I was gaining time but that didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to get to the finish line. I could not push any harder. I challenged myself constantly to run faster and I tried so hard, but my effort was far greater than the output. Somewhere in the last hour of the run, my heel started to fail me – I had no spring – my foot was hitting the ground with no toe off. I have run through that feeling so many times before and continued to push trying desperately to get to that finish line and maybe snag 3rd place. But it was like I was trying to run as fast as I could with a leash around my waist and I wasn’t going anywhere. It was so frustrating for me to not be able to race with the speed and intensity that used to just flow so easily. So, I returned to basics – just do the best you can do with what you have. I raced with heart and I finished what I started.
I crossed the finish line with a mixture of disappointment, joy, gratitude and pride. I was disappointed that my racing performance did not reflect my training efforts. I was happy because I was true to myself and I never let my ego in the way of finishing. I was grateful for this incredible gift of sport which has enriched my life with so many blessings and given me a way to touch people’s lives. And I was proud of myself for persevering and finishing what I started when I so desperately wanted to crawl under a tree and cry. I am human. I am not a machine and my race on Sunday was very human.
I would like to say that I will train harder and come back stronger but I think that my body is sending me a very clear message that my foot does not want to run longer than 2 hours at the moment. That sounds so sad but then I remember the absolute joy I had when I did my first pain free 30 min run this year. I said to myself that was all I needed – I just wanted to run. I love smashing out sub 3-hour marathons after 180 km bike rides but my body won’t let me do it right now. And because that it all I know and that is how I race, I declined my spot to race at the Hawaii Ironman this October. I cannot ‘jog’ the marathon. I am a racer and I will be back on the big Island when I am ready and healthy to ‘race’ every inch of that marathon with the same determination I did when I placed 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th there.
The good news is that since I can still run a fast half marathon, I am good to go race Subaru Muskoka 70.3 on September 14th. But for now, it is time for some recovery and some long dog walks with Dave and Brunswick and Madison.
Thank you for cheering. If I could race on good wishes alone, I would win every race in record time.