Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stubborn is Good

It is finished.

All the training, the stressing, the careful time management, the body break-down, the 2-a-days...and the endorphins, the rush, the accomplishment, the reward of crossing the finish line...over.

How did it go? How was it? I was asked these questions numerous times over this past week as I've recovered, both physically and mentally, from finishing the Ironman in St. George on May 1. I CAN say that I am glad I did the race; I cannot say, however, exactly how it went. Because I checked out. For the most part. Here is what I remember:

Enter the pre-dawn chill: me, armed with my yam and bag of gear (wetsuit, water, food, caps-2 for the cooooold water-, goggles, and BodyGlide), I boarded the bus to the start of the swim. I know I am going to meet 54 degree water; a deep-water, mass start; hoards of hopped-up triathletes; and long porta-potty lines. Yet, I am strangely happy and excited. The race had been lurking in the back of my mind for the entire year that had passed since I had signed up, not to mention the months of training my body and mind.

The bus ride was strange: every single seat had two people in it--except mine. No one sat next to me. I looked out the window at the dark sky as I ate my salted, buttered yam in near silence. The athletes around me zoned out, slept, meditated, or whatever they did for the 25-minute ride up to the reservoir. I kept my poker face on as my nerves keyed way up to redline.

Off the bus, to the bikes: my back tire needed air, I needed to use the porta-potty, I felt obligated to eat my yam, though I had no appetite whatsoever, and I couldn't find anyone I knew. My hubs finally found me and noted my look of focus-panic; he filed that one away for future reference. When I finally got all my stuff together, my body sausaged into my wetsuit, my two caps on, and my goggles situated, it was time to get into the water and wade/swim out to the start line.

6:58 a.m. and I suddenly noticed my safe bubble of two or three feet of swim space had been reduced to two inches. I looked around to exit right to a less crowded area, and BOOOOM! The starting cannon went off. Have you ever seen carp spawning? Flop, flop, slap, slap!? Well, that is what a deep-water, mass swim start of 2,000 amped-up, freezing athletes looks like. It was a collective thought of: "The sooner we start swimming, the sooner we can get out of this water!" Off we went.

All was well--if you consider mass chaos "well." A few minutes into it, I got a sharp whack to the head. 'No biggie,' thought I, 'I've been smacked before.' But then, it happened: one second I am swimming, the next, I was completely underneath another swimmer. 'Ah, roll out, roll out!' Water polo training kicked in, and I attempted an evasive maneuver. Alas, the swimmer stopped and began to tread water--with me underneath his (her?) foot. I was stuck! I could not get away for a couple of seconds. I looked up from 3 feet or so underwater and saw the water churning, the swimmers leaving me. And I panicked.

I have never panicked in the water. Ever. Yet, there I was, head barely breaking the surface, dry-heaving, hyperventilating, wild-eyed: a full-blown panic attack. I am a SWIMMER!! Swimmers do NOT panic in the water!! I very, very nearly called for a kayak rescue...and then I had a coherent thought. It went like this: "Really? REALLY??? You are going to quit NOW?? Seriously. You're not 10 minutes into this pinnacle event of physical and mental endurance, and you give it a measly ten minutes?!?! That is totally lame." Well, ok, then. I guessed the sooner I started swimming, the closer I'd be to the finish line. I figured I had about 2 miles to go. So, I swam. And swam. And swam.

When I got out, I was cold, incoherent, confused, and...did I mention cold? It took me a full 20 minutes to realize what I needed to do next and then actually do it (whereupon my hubs took it upon himself to worry about me; his two paramedic friends assuring him that I "did not look good at all.") I finally emerged from the transition tent, shivering, bike-gear-clad, confused; yet I managed to get on the bike and pedal. With teeth chattering, goosebumps an inch high, and food in my pocket, I began the ride.

For most of the next eight (yes, that says 8) hours, I checked out. I pedaled, ate, pedaled, peed, pedaled...well, you get the picture. I thought about everything and nothing. I noticed my surroundings, yet I was strangely detached. My body registered its complaints: stretch out back, use potty, get bum off seat (please! just for a minute!), put more sunscreen on: and still I pedaled. I saw the hubs, the children, and some good friends, and pedaled. One more turn of the crank was one closer to the finish line.

At nearly 5 o'clock in the afternoon, I peeled myself off of my bike. My bum was defeated after those 112 miles. A lovely volunteer took my bike, another helped me balance so I could get those dang bike shoes off (note: right foot asleep; tread lightly!), a third handed me the most clear, cold drink of water I have ever had. I got my oh-so-comfy running shorts on (good-bye bike shorts waistband!), laced up my running shoes, got some of those fabulous volunteers to put more sunscreen on, smooched the hubs, and I was off. Only (!) the marathon was left.

Running felt good. Oh, so good! I took some time to talk to my right foot (wake up! wake up! you have a job to do now! hold me up!!) and went off up the hill. I truly believe that the race organizers went out of their way to find every blinkin' hill in the area and then make sure our course covered them ALL as many times as possible! I believe they were trying to make us call, "Uncle, uncle! Ok! I give!" But, haha, it didn't work. I ran.

And ran. And, yes, you've guessed it: I ran. I ran up, I ran down. I was stinky, sweaty, sunburnt, and hungry for food that I could sit down and eat. I needed to fix my sock, but I knew that if I stopped to fix it--which would require sitting down--I may not have gotten up. Sitting sounded so NICE. (just not on a bike seat...) I did not sit. I ran. The sun went down; I ran. A hill: I ran. Another hill: still running. Took in bananas, chicken broth, water, larabars, about 1/8 of a gu, (yah, spit THAT out!); rinse and repeat. It got dark, so I turned on my bum light.

The last 6 miles: I got excited! Last round! Horse to the barn! I hit the last big uphill; up and over--ah, I can see the town! I can hear the finish line! They're still cheering! Oh, hurry, hurry! I checked back in. I felt the breeze, ran by the walkers, noticed the night sky (violet), and smiled.

10 o'clock. Bedtime. After 15 hours (and 3 minutes), I crossed the finish line intact. My mental state was alert; my body functioning. People cheered; I saw a sign with MY name on it. I heard the announcer's voice over the PA system: "Angie Goodwin, YOU are an IRONMAN!!!"

Yes. Yes, I am.


eebs said...

you are an ironman. I would have liked to sit by you on the bus.

cynthia greenhalgh said...

YOU ROCK! And yes, I printed the picture of you and your toned abs so that I could have daily inspiration. Great job!

cynthia greenhalgh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

you should write a book! not necessarily about the ironman...but you are a good writer! I felt like i was there! :) I wish i were there. All my sisters say it was pretty incredible! you can stay with me when you come do the Kona Ironman! :) congratulations! I am so happy for you to accomplish such an amazing feat! and holy crap, I would have freaked out if there were me in the water!