I believe it is important to always set new goals for yourself, whether it is personal, spiritual, physical, work related, health related, whatever. We all need something ahead of us to strive after, to motivate others and ourselves and keep us moving forward, to keep us from becoming bored or complacent. That is how I got here to Ironman MontTremblant. I had completed many triathlons already, run a few marathons, qualified for the Boston Marathon, and even ran an ultra marathon once upon a time. So it only seemed logical to try and complete a 140.6mile Ironman Triathlon. It was the next big thing, and I had made it my goal to compete in one and finally get to “join the club.”
I am going to try my best to describe how incredible it was to finally get to hear the announcer say my name over the loud speaker followed by those four magical words “you ARE an Ironman.”
I had worked my butt off all summer to hear those words. I had just swam, biked, and ran for over 14 hours to hear those words. I sweated and cried and laughed and pushed my injured foot across the finish line to finally get to hear my name included with those four little words.
Crossing the finish line was easy, but getting there…well, that kind of sucked.
The 2.4 Mile Swim:
I had been really nervous about the swim. The last open water race swim that I had to wear a wet suit in is when I experienced the first panic attack of my life. I felt like I couldn’t breath. I rolled on my back trying to rip the wet suit off of me just to try and gasp a breath of air. I thought I was going to drown, and ended up doing backstroke for the remaining length of the swim.
So, I would say I definitely had reason to be worried about this open water wet suit swim with thousands of people swimming around me (and over me!) while getting kicked in the face and knocking my goggles off (twice!). It was brutal. Thankfully though I did not panic. I actually stayed pretty calm and was able to enjoy the swim. My dad stayed by my side the whole time. We got out of the water together and ran to the transition tent to change for the bike portion.
The 112 Mile Bike:
Biking has never been my strongest area, which really puts me at a disadvantage since this is the longest leg of the race. The race was in MontTremblant, Quebec, Canada. So as the name would imply, there were lots of mountains. Go figure. There was nothing in my Texas home of beautifully flat planes that could prepare me for this.
The bike consisted of two 56-mile loops. In those first 50 miles I felt great! I was going at a comfortable pace that I knew I could maintain. I felt strong and energized by the crowd. Then we turned in to the last 10k portion of the loop. This portion was a series of climbing hills that this Texas girl couldn’t believe. Everyone in sight was standing up on their bike, moving 2mph just trying to make it to the top, only for it to plateau into the next hill to climb up with no downhill in sight. When reading course description the night before, I remember this portion being summed up perfectly as “the road to Kona either begins or ends here.” Meaning you made your time here or you lost it and gave up on the hope of making it to Ironman Kona. It was murder.
This is where my knee pain officially took over. It was all I could do not to dwell on how much it hurt with every rotation. The second loop of the bike was uncomfortable and painful and hard. My time dropped significantly. I had to fight back tears as I daydreamed of getting of that dreadful bike and moving on to the run. Never in my life had I looked forward so much to running a marathon. I just kept thinking, “It’s only a marathon. That’s all I have left to do. 26.2 miles is all that stands between me and the finish line.”
I finally made it to the marathon. I was ready for this. This, I had done before. This, I knew I could do. Running was my strength. I was prepared for this.
What I wasn’t prepared for was pulling my Achilles’ tendon. I remember noticing it felt uncomfortable on the bike but was more preoccupied by other things to even begin to worry about it. But as soon as I started the run the pain came on strong. I tried to ignore it for the first mile, hoping it would loosen up and go away, or at the very least lessen. It didn’t. It only increased and I had to stop and walk. I was so discouraged. My body felt great. I was not feeling weak or faint or sick. My nutrition was good. My muscles weren’t abnormally sore or tight. I felt like I could keep running and go faster, but my Achilles wouldn’t let me. And that, my friends, was the worst part. I had looked forward to the run so much, knowing that I could do better, but I was being held back by a pain that I couldn’t control.
Because this wasn’t something I had never experienced before, I didn’t know how far I could push it. A fully torn Achilles’ tendon was not something I wanted, so I took it much slower than anticipated. I enjoyed the beautiful mountainous scenery. I talked to the people at the aid stations. I interacted with energetic crowed of spectators and really got to experience the true motivational spirit of the Ironman. I continued this pattern of running a little, walking a little, running a little, walking a lot, all the way to the top of the town where I could hear the roaring crowd of people at the finish line, and then I ran. There was no pain in my body could slow me down at this point because I could see it. The goal of all my hard training for the last 6 months was in sight, and I knew I was about to claim my title as an Ironman.
Hand in hand, my dad and I crossed the finish line of his twelfth Ironman, and my first, and I finally got to hear the announcer say, “Angela Smith, you are an Ironman.”
If you read all of this then I hope you leave inspired to go out and do something great. You really can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Put yourself to the test and really make today a great day. Figure out what it is you want, and then I encourage you to go after it and “Run Like Kale!”
Coming up I will have a post that is focused more on my Ironman training process and how I did it on a completely clean, vegan diet. Stay tuned to hear more about that and to get some “kaletastic” recipes!