The days leading up to Ironman Canada had everyone’s eyes on the sky and the weather app on their phones. With the forecast changing hourly, we were all hoping for the best, as Friday rolled around everyone began to expect the worst. I woke up that morning to cool morning air with a sky full of clouds that were not going anywhere. It was a day I will always remember as one of the toughest mental battles I have fought.
7:00am the 4km swim began, and we were off, limbs flailing as we fought the choppy waters to the first turn. 2 more laps later, I began my push back in to the beach and it was a PUSH, with the water always trying to pull me over, and the waves picking up in intensity, I began thinking about the bike leg that lay ahead of me and the rain that was now steadily coming down on my head.
In the change tent I took some time to get dry before changing and heading out on to the bike, although I learned quickly my efforts were in vain as it continued to pour down rain as I rode out towards the first major climb of the day up the Callaghan Valley road. Freezing cold and wet I realized that any goal times I had in my head should no longer be my focus, my mantra of ‘just keep going’ and ‘you’ve got this’ took over as I pushed on hoping my cold muscles wouldn’t give out on me. At the same time I did notice how much stronger I felt overall on the bike compared with my first attempt at this climb in 2013. At the top of 1000ft you’d think I’d be happy to be heading down but I was dreading the cold, fast, wet descent that awaited me. Tapping my breaks every so often to keep them dry, I zoomed past fellow riders working up that climb, some having given up and standing by their bikes crying, others with determination mixed with apprehension on their face, I saw a couple bikes in the ditch from what looked like a nasty crash. ‘Steady’ I thought to myself.
At the bottom of the climb I tried to pull out my gels only to realize my hands were so numb I couldn’t get them open. I ended up pulling over taking off my soaking wet gloves and thinking if this was what the day was going to be whether or not I wanted to go on. I was emotional to say the least coming in to Whistler again, my mind racing as I shivered on my bike, wet, cold and feeling a bit defeated. I looked for my family and didn’t see them, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought to myself that it was probably for the best as at the end of the day I was alone out there for the next bit and had I saw them I may have decided to join them.
Outside of Whistler I stopped for a bathroom break and to pull out some nutrition with my numb fingers, it was beside Emerald lake as I saw other riders zipping past that my competitive spirit reared its head again and I thought- If they are going to keep going, so am I! I won’t be leaving this course unless its in the back of an ambulance. I was off again. Coming in to Pemberton there you could start to feel the heat of the valley and it was such a welcome warmth compared with the 2 degrees at the top of Callaghan! I knew that while this valley was a welcome respite, it was not going to be long before I was going to be on the last leg climbing another 2000ft back in to Whistler to finish off- Knowing that climb almost crushed me in 2013 I tried to just stay focused on my current task at hand, pedalling and eating as my nutrition plan took a serious hit on the 1st half of the bike I tried to catch up my calories for the climb and run. I would later learn this wouldn’t be enough.
The climb back into Whistler surprised me, I felt strong my legs were with me the whole way and I found myself passing many other athletes. Coming into Whistler of course we had a head wind- It couldn’t be an easy finish, nope not today. Coming off the bike, the sun had finally come out and it was time for the run.
I asked my volunteer in the tent if a lot of people had dropped out and she said yes, quite a few. I thought to myself, well you have made it to your favourite part, I knew I was going to finish and I knew the run was my strength. I headed out on that course ready to rock and roll! Maintaining a steady solid 4:50pace my first 10km I felt awesome! Shortly after that I realized my body was not happy, as my stomach began to turn I found my self thinking, I AM NOT having to stop this race because of my stomach, not after all of that! I started to slow it down and tried to walk it off. I slowly realized that anytime I tried to push my pace my stomach was not happy. Taking on soup broth helped but it was not going to be a fast run for me. Just Finishing was now top of mind. I saw my friends and fellow athletes on the course, looking pretty haggard as well, we had all fought a tough battle on the bike and you could tell. The next 20km were a blur of attempting to run, slowing down, trying not to vomit and taking on whatever I could to keep my energy up and my stomach calm. With the last 12km to go, I started to feel a bit better and decided to push it as the rain came down again and I began to shiver.
I started out slow and as I neared the centre of town I slowly sped up and up. I started to hear the finish line- you can always hear it before you see it- it was within my grasp, the day was almost over and I didn’t quit, I was going to be an Ironman again! I knew I was going to see my family again soon before the finish line and I was so pumped when I came around a corner and saw them! I was so close! As I looped up and in through the centre of Whistler to many cheering spectators I turned it right up and could not wipe the smile off my face if I tried. Coming down the final ramp I turned left and was on my way down the finishers chute. I was motoring, smiling and the crowds were so loud, I heard the announcer calling me in and people reached out their hand for high fives- I took all of them! As I crossed the line, my best friend Cynthia was there ready to catch me and put my finishers medal around my head, it was the best way to finish a race.
As I pulled myself together at the finish I couldn’t stop smiling. Coming out of the finish area to my family I was so excited to see them again, hugging my mom, it all came back and the tears began to flow- all of the emotions of the day flooded over me. I took a moment to let it all out. Immediately putting on warm clothes we started our way back to the condo- the day was done. It was now time for the hot shower I had been dreaming about all day on the course, some pizza and beer!
My final finish time was 13hr and 10min. 50minutes faster than IM Canada 2013. But not nearly where I hoped I would be. Which is probably why it took me so long to write my race report. I had higher hopes for my time, and the athlete in me has been feeling stuck on them. Deep down I know that there will be another Ironman and I will hit those target times. I guess what I have realized after meditating on this the past few months is that, I may not have beat my goal times that day, I did beat a lot of mental chatter and physical barriers, I can honestly say I have never talked so much to myself in 13hours, and had to pull myself out of my own head as much as I did that day. I still hit a personal best, and even more so I proved to myself that I won’t give up. No matter the circumstances, I have it in me to power through and I proved it. And at the end of the day, that is my biggest WIN from Ironman Canada.
“It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done”- Nelson Mandela.