Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Part 4 of my Ironman Cozumel Experience-- The Final Chapter

The goals I set for myself when I race aren't necessarily private and personal, but I also don't talk about them a lot. If someone nails me down and I feel it's appropriate with that person, I may mention what times I want to hit or other details of my race plan. However, my reasons behind the goals are personal.  The why behind all of this is between me, myself and I. That's all there is to it. I have grown up in sport, I stepped away from competition for a number of years and now I'm back into it and the reason I keep on trying is found deep inside me. And, those reasons are strong and powerful. But they must be kept to myself. They don't mean anything to anyone else and while I try to be open and honest in this blog, I do not tell all.  I think all that matters is that I say and assure you that this meant an incredible amount to me.

That is why the day after my Ironman on 12/1 was almost harder than the 10 hours I spent racing.

Ironman day is hard. You start full of uncertainty, excitement, anxiousness and to some degree, a bit of fear. Once moving, much of that dissipates for me and I just do what I do. All day long, I swim bike and run. I train for that and on race day, I just get out there and execute. The pain and fatigue are inevitable, but I train for that too. My mental strength takes over and I fight back and fight to the end.

My results this time were very good. I am proud of my racing and proud of how I placed. I was 3/ 93 in my agegroup. 24th women with all the Pros mixed in  and 188th out of the entire male/ female field. I'll take it!

I don't plan to do a lot more Ironman racing {though don't' hold me to anything, it's only been a week } and I had a HUGE goal of 'ending' out on the Big Island. The Ironman site predicted 3 spots for my age group. Our age group was the largest women group. And so on. I could only hope. I was 3rd in TX by just a few minutes and now 3rd in Coz by only 4 minutes. I was thrown in the penalty tent for 4 minutes ( grrr...), and they shortened the swim on my by 1/2 mile costing me a bit more time to try to put a lead on folks too. I was feeling a little short-changed.  But that's the way it went  and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.

Monday morning arrived and I was in Miserable pain. Walking was a joke. My abs hurt, my arms hurt, my shoulders were sore and my legs, ha! The were just stiff and sore! My feet hadn't swelled too much....yet. Believe me, by Wednesday on our travel day, they were unrecognizable. Stiff balls of puff from my calves down.

We hustled out of the condo and hit the beach. I was happy and relaxed for a while. But the slot allocation was set for 4pm and after about 1:00, my stomach started swirling again. I needed to know....


I walked over to the wall where the guy was hanging pieces of paper with the results printed out. I didn't care about that part. I knew my time, my place, and a few other details. What mattered was the piece of paper off to the side. The one that read: SLOT ALLOCATION.

And with this, my heart broke. I felt a HUGE lump in my throat and I had to make eye contact with Mark so he'd know where I was, and take off around a corner by the pool. I DO NOT like to be seen feeling sorry for myself or being emotional because I "lost" or anything like that. I am private and to myself about those things. I was disgusted with myself, but I seemed to be out of control of my reaction and the tears just came.

Again. Again I was 3rd by a teeny bit over the course of a huge day and again, they had two measly spots for us. Hey, that is life in this sport. It is not easy to get that coveted spot on the Kona starting line and it's getting harder. More and more Ironman races around the globe = fewer and fewer spots at each race.  The number of starters in Hawaii isn't increasing. It's nobody's fault. These numbers are based on a % of the people in each group that starts on race day. Clearly, many more men take on the 140.6 mile race than women. But it's still hard to see 5 & 6 spots for some of the male groups vs 2 in ours. C'est la vie.

I walked around the corner where I was out of sight and away from the crowd. Hundreds of athletes were starting to come in. Mark found me and we talked a few things over. I was so sad. I really just felt sad. The amount of time and effort that went into this last Ironman, surpassed all before. I am not alone in that. That is the name of the game in Ironman, it takes everything you have to get it done well.  Hundreds of others around the corner could tell a similar story too. Of course, that didn't make me feel better. I spent several minutes feeling sorry for myself, sad at the notion that my final Ironman was done and realizing that it probably just wasn't meant to be.  I had to get a grip.

For those of you who don't know how it works, this is the deal. From 4:00-5:00 the people who won their spots can show up to this spot, with their cash in hand, and accept their Spot to the World Championships. After that, it gets a little more complicated. However, the easy part is this. For my age group, there were two spots allocated. I was 3rd. If either of the top two women said, "no thank you" to their spot, it would go to me next.  My friend Karen won our age group and I knew she was going to Kona. As I said in my earlier blogs, I was thrilled for her. She worked tirelessly towards this goal and earned big time. I didn't know the woman who was 2nd but after they called my age group, I saw Karen and another woman up at the table smiling and hugging and I just assumed.

From 4 to 5:00 was really really long. And, I didn't have any hope.

Mark had wandered around and found some people to talk to. I was strolling around by myself. I spent a few minutes sitting by the pool talking to Cameron.  Trying to stay busy, I walked  over to mark and met these great people and we chatted about the race, about her desire to get to Kona as well, and our mutual understanding of things made me feel better and distracted me a bit. Part of me wanted to just leave. I honestly thought there wouldn't be a single chance for a spot from an older age group to land at my group. People take their slots and that is that. My age group was the biggest, but I still had lost all hope. The award ceremony started at 6:00 however, and I knew I should stay for that. Top 3 were podium finishers and it's always a thrill to be honored that way. As I said, I was very happy and proud for what I had accomplished. I didn't want to short - change myself of that. I just took deep breaths and kept it all in perspective and thought hard about the amazing experiences I have already had in Hawaii.

Then, something happened that I will likely never forget. It's something small that may seem like nothing to most of you reading. But to me, it was very touching and a moment I'll remember.

My son Tommy walked over with a look in his eye. My kids knew I was sad. They watch me train and hear me talk about things. They live this with me and know how much it matters. They understand how it all works.  Tommy is about to turn 12 on Friday. He's a spirited little boy who is big into sports, his friends and just being a "typical" pre-teen boy. (whatever that means :) ) But he is also, and always has been, the most sensitive and caring child. His heart is huge.

He walked over to me and very gently took hold of my arm. I looked at him. Very quietly he said, "Mommy. She hasn't come yet. The 2nd place lady isn't here."
It was 4:40.

My eyes widened and I inhaled. Really?

He just smiled and said, "Maybe you will get it Mommy."

It felt so sweet to me the way he did this. The fact that he was paying enough attention for nearly an hour at that point to know this. The poolside was very crowded and the athletes were coming in and out and there was no true organized way they were gathering.  But, he knew.

The waiting became harder again. But now, I had a small smile. A hope. I was watching the crowd like crazy. I talked to my friend Karen, who had won, and she confirmed what Tommy said and she told me what the girl looked like.

With about 5 minutes to go before 5:00, I walked over to the guy in charge of things. I said, "I just wanted to confirm that there was still a spot left in my age group."
He asked me my age, and my name.
Then he smiled, turned to me and put his hands on both my shoulders and said, "Stay Calm. And, get your money ready."

Ok, I almost just cried again as I wrote this.

I stood nearby and waited. The kids  & Mark were next to me. Finally...

They called my name. As they had for all the other athletes accepting spot, the crowd cheered and yelled Congrats.

Totally psyched. I was happy happy happy.

Mission Accomplished!

The End!!!


Damie said...

awww!!!!! so awesome. congratulations!

Beth said...

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Love this. And, well deserved! :) x

Mary IronMatron said...

I second Jen, WELL DESERVED!!!!
This made me teary. xoxoxo

Trailmomma said...

Just rediscovering your blog after a long blog reading hiatus. Congrats! This story almost brougt tears to my eyes. One special boy indeed!