Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Never say never

I sit in the comfort of my own room, on my own bed, beside my finally quiet pup. Two days ago I witnessed countless triathletes complete an endeavor I’ve always watched from the sidelines as a spectator, perfectly content to remain that way. In years past, my parents and I would make our way over to Coeur d’Alene, arriving well after the athletes had entered the water. Many had already transitioned onto the bike. I’d never witnessed the swim start, but after seeing video of the chaos, I thought I better see it in person. In all the triathlons in which I’ve competed, I’ve only been accustomed to the wave start. Never have I imagined having to exert myself just to find my place in a crowd of thousands of athletes about to enter the water.

Athletes waiting to begin their day...
What a wait.
The professionals started out nearly forty minutes before the thousands of age groupers who were to follow. The stronger professionals had completed one loop of the 2-loop swim just as the national anthem was sung. Before I had even registered what had happened, the mass of green and pink swim caps began to move. Soon after, the water churned. It looked like a wave of ants scuttling across the sand. Yet here, thousands of athletes jostled for position, for air, for space. Ironman CDA had begun.

I made my way to the bike exit to watch how athletes handled themselves having just come out of the cold water. Some shivered. Others guzzled down food. A few smiled and cheered. The ambient temperature still hovered just over 50 degrees. Some had decided to forgo the warmer clothing for sunscreen, while others clothed themselves in layers. After about an hour, I made my way to the bike aid station where I would not only spectate, but also encourage athletes on the bike course.

People respond so well to a smile. My teammates and I made every effort to support the athletes on to the aid station, having just positioned ourselves at the top of the hill. I noticed how athletes responded to our encouragement, to the music with an uplifting beat, to our smiles. Anything to get people’s mind off the present and use their energy to propel themselves up the hill to the beat of the music. Later, I moved back to the aid station where athletes held out their hands for water, energy drink, and food. To serve these athletes who had exerted countless hours to get to where they were, to help in whatever way they needed, made my time seem fleeting. The sun had finally come out and the temperatures had climbed to well above 70 degrees. These people weren’t done yet. If they hadn’t already started their second loop of the bike course, then another 56 miles awaited them before they could set foot on 26.2 miles of pavement.

I don't know who motivated who: There was no way I was
going to stop cheering when I had athletes like her smiling
back at me! Photo by Jayne Anderson.
Temperatures climbed quickly, making the aid stations pretty
important places for athletes to refuel and hydrate.
Photo by Jayne Anderson.
Before my day of spectating and volunteering came to an end, we hopped in the truck to make our way back to the city where athletes were racking their bikes, donning their shoes, and heading out for a marathon finish. I had the opportunity to spot a teammate on his way to the transition area. He looked strong making his final descent. We caught his attention, gave him some cheers, and let him find his rhythm as he prepared mentally for what was to follow.

Sherman Avenue had filled by the time we arrived. The first professional had just rounded the turn and flew to the finish line. I watched, like I’ve always done before, how pro after pro crossed the line, looking as though they could run another 5 miles. I have always thought it must be these kinds of finishes that convince people they can do it, too. Last year I walked along the run course and witnessed those who did not exude that strength, but instead shuffled and walked in pain to just get it over with. I think of these images and am certain these are the ones that have convinced me I will never put myself through this. Though family, friends, and teammates told me to “never say never.” I still say never.

Two days ago I witnessed countless triathletes complete an endeavor I’ve always watched from the sidelines, perfectly content to remain that way. Two days ago I watched my teammates I’ve trained with all winter and spring finish something I’ve always said I’d never do. Two days ago at least twenty people asked me if I had plans to sign up for 2013, and at least twenty times I said absolutely not, that I would never put myself through such pain. Yesterday, the idea started to gnaw at me, melt away that wall I’d put up at least five years ago while watching my first Ironman CDA.

I said “never.” They said, “Never say never.” Yet here I sit, in the comfort of my own room, on my own bed, beside my finally quiet pup. This morning, I did the unthinkable. I pulled up that online registration. I gave my information, paid my money, said my prayers. I clicked that final button.

I’m racing Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013. Let the “fun” begin.

The homestretch...Sherman Avenue.
I don't think it'll look like this next
year. I'm guessing it'll look even better...
if I'm still conscious by then.
I don't know if I should be thanking these people or not, but I thought I better give them credit for helping me make my decision. You guys better hope I don't regret it later!

Craig, Jayne, Bryan, Josh, Mike, Matt, Virginia, John, Sandra, Robin, Kari, James, Kathi, Erica, Haley, and most importantly, the parents.

To myself: Meghan, when you forget why you decided to do this, watch:

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