My favorite sentence of 2013- ‘Amy Coppens- You are an Ironman’! The announcer yelled this out as I crossed the finish line at Ironman Canada in Whistler, 13hrs-52min-31seconds after I started my day. It has been a very long year of training and dedication and words can’t explain the feeling and sense of accomplishment I had on that day. As a lot of you read in my last blog- this accomplishment meant more to me than just the physical accomplishment, it was a way to honor the memory of my younger brother Rhys and as I travelled the course on race day I turned to thoughts of him at numerous times and each time I gained the strength and determination I needed to keep pushing on. I wore a bracelet that my cousin had given to me as a gift 2 years ago with a picture of Rhys on it on my right wrist and in moments when I was starting to wonder if I could finish I glanced at his picture and it was like a weight was lifted. That was my motivation while I was out on the course on the long stretches, not to mention running past 2 men running as a team, 1 with a prosthetic leg joined by a string to another that was blind, all I could think when I saw them was ‘wow’. There were also moments when I reminded myself that I was running for all those who no longer can, not just Rhys and not just those that have left us too soon, but those who physically can’t, due to illness or an injury. I reminded myself many times how blessed I was that I could get up every day and go out there and do what I love, and so I raced for them too.
And then there was my amazing family and friends that came out to cheer me on! My cheer crew on the course was 19 people strong with the youngest being 9 weeks old! Surprised by a last minute appearance by my sister and her fiancée, I was surrounded by my family the nights before the race. Race day brought out some amazing long time friends that had also made the trek to Whistler to cheer me on, and I can honestly say they made my race what it was! With the way that the course was set up, I was able to pass my cheering squad at least 3 times on the bike and the run and every time I saw them I gained more energy, not to mention a laugh or two by what the show they were putting on! (older brother, bikini top- enough said!) Crossing the finish line to see all of them was such an amazing feeling. Everyone there knew what the day meant for me, and it also meant something for all of them as well, especially my family. There were more laughs, now smeared in tears but they were the good sort of tears, the kind that you get from feeling a sense of release and a surge of emotion. It was amazing.
As per usual here is my race day recap from the big Kahuna itself!
The morning started out early with a 4am alarm clock. Luckily I had gone to bed at 8:30pm the night before, not the best sleep but at least I had a lot of rest. I was surprisingly calm the night before the race. By 4:30am I was up and seated in the kitchen of our suite seated at the counter while my dad cooked me my pre-race meal (eggs, chicken, hummus and a piece of toast w/ coffee). My family slowly began to wake up and let me know they had done their own ‘ironman’ the night before (12 bars in Whistler to be exact) They were troopers! Getting up and ready, as they had to leave the same time as I did so that they could walk the 1hr walk down to the swim start. I got my last minute items together and we started out at 5:15am to head towards to shuttles. I left my family at the gates to the shuttles not really knowing how my day was going to go, but feeling supported and loved and repeating my mantra as stated by my dad numerous times to me the days leading up (also a Rhys favorite saying) ‘you’ve got this’. I had my numbers written on me, dropped off my special needs bags and hopped in line. Next up- Alta Lake! Standing in the water before the swim I had a surge of emotion, “here we go” I thought, “you have a long day ahead of you, take it one step at a time.” The swim start was pretty interesting, the start line ran perpendicular to the beach, and so depending on where you wanted to seed yourself you had to potentially swim out to the middle of the lake. I was conservative and stayed close to shore and with the 1 minute warning walked out to neck height. The gun went off and it was everyone for their self! Ever imagine 2600 people swimming at once- it IS as crazy and hectic as it sounds. It was the first time in a mass start I had worry wash over me, but I just pushed it aside and powered through checking always for some space to move into, usually only to be overtaken again but I just kept pushing. Before I knew it I was at the first turn and it was relatively smooth sailing after that. I definitely held back a bit, I knew I had an intense bike ahead of me and I didn’t want to blow it all on the swim. After 1hr and 32min I was out of the water and into transition- 1 down- 2 to go.
The bike was the part of the race that I was most nervous about. A part of me knew I could get through it, but this was no ordinary bike course. Within your first 20km we ascended 1440ft, coming back down it was rolling hills and a slow descend of over 1000ft, out on to a straight away for 40km only to finish off your last 35km ascending once again one climb at a time another 1500ft. It was a battle. I knew it was going to be and I knew I just had to take my time and be smart about it. I wasn’t in it to win it, I wanted to make sure I still had some gas in my tank for my run and I knew nutrition was going to make or break me on a bike course like this. I kept my head straight and focused on my task at hand. My stomach began to turn after kilometer 60 and I had to lay off my nutritional beverages and stick to gels- good thing I put quite a few extras in my special needs bag, along with some baked potato that my mom had cooked up for me. Aside from its difficulty it was a beautiful ride, it was long and grueling and I cant even begin to get in to all that went through my head during that 6 ½ hours. It was a lot of ‘you’ve got this’, ‘take it your pace’ and ‘just get through it.’ My last 20km were a whirlwind of emotion, I was done the worst of it, I knew Id finish this piece of the race and I was so pumped! All I wanted to do was get my runners on and get off my bike!
Getting off my bike, seeing my family and friends waiting for me at the transition was an amazing moment. They all knew how nervous I was about that leg and I felt their relief as well that I had made it through. I high fived and gave a couple quick hugs and a kiss to my youngest fan baby Georgia before heading into transition 2. A lovely volunteer helped me get ready for my run, which was amazing as I was a bit disoriented! Once I was out of that tent I knew I was on my way! ‘Okay…” I said to myself, “only 42km to go”- the final stretch. I couldn’t get over how good my legs felt, considering. The run course was less than flat and I petered out on a couple of the first hills, coming around my first corner to my amazing cheer squad, a couple more high fives and I was on route! The run was a steady pace and a couple walking breaks when I needed them. I made sure to stop at all the aid stations and fuel up and keep myself cool, by pouring water on my head. Coca-Cola every 2nd station and the eventual soup broth towards the end were my saviors in nutrition and energy not to mention some gummi-bears in my special needs bags.
I pushed through that 1st 20km, being sure to smile the whole way! I was doing this! I felt I had all the reason in the world to smile! My 2nd lap was even stronger, I thought to myself “lets get this done!” and I picked up my pace! I was ready to hear them call my name, I was ready to be an Ironman! I caught my cheer squad off guard with my pace, they caught me with about 5 km left and cheered before running across a couple parking lots to the finish! As I rounded my final corner and I heard the music get louder, I passed another athlete walking towards the finishers chute, I looked at him and said “come on, you got this, you need to run it in! The finish is right there!” He smiled and picked up his pace, I kept up mine, I had my eye on the prize. I came through that finishers chute hearing my name, hearing my family cheer, I couldn’t see them with the glaring lights, I raised my hands over my head, my eyes welling up with tears (not the first time that day) and I crossed the line as the announcer exclaimed “Amy Coppens, You Are An Ironman!”
A medal was placed over my head and I tried to gather myself as another wonderful volunteer met me, she helped me grab all my things and take me through all the mayhem. I made my way for my family on the other side of the fence as soon as I could! I did it, they did it, we did it! I hugged my mom, tears down my face I knew she got it. I looked at my dad and we hugged and I said ‘you were right dad, I had this.’ More smiles, and tears, hugs, high fives, a couple sips of beer. I was on another level, it was so unreal and yet real. The end of an amazing day, hard fought and I couldn’t have asked for better company to share it with. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, pain, tears, smiles, all of it. I loved every minute of my day. I thought back to standing in Penticton 3 years before, and here I was finally amongst those few that can call their self an Ironman. It was a moment I will never forget.
Thank you to everyone that sent me messages and followed my journey, your support was amazing and I felt so blessed and honored to have such an extended support crew!
ACTUAL TIMES ON RACE DAY:
Swim: 1hour and 32minutes
Transition: 9 minutes
Bike: 7 hours 19 minutes
Transition: 8 minutes
Run: 4hours and 44 minutes.
TOTAL RACE TIME: 13:53:31
Originally posted on: Blitzconditioning.com