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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Half Assed Iron Man

Promises made and promises lost my sisters. On this day of all Tuesdays, I’ve been thinking a lot about the paths we take in life and how one moment indeed can define us as much as a thousand of them.

Last week I was scheduled to race the Penticton Challenge. Physically I was strong and (somewhat) ready. I had trained for months with my fabulous coach (shout out K.B.) whose arms are indeed as perfect as her soul.

But as the race day drew near, I just “did not have it”. Something in me could not get into the idea that this triathlon would be mine. Sure, I could just go and do the race- but really? You can’t “phone in” a Half Iron man distance triathlon. After swimming for 1.9km, you cycle 90km and then run 21.1km.

This would be the second time I totally lost my mind in an endeavour of this nature. Last year I did my first Half Iron Man triathlon and finished in last place. Make no mistake- it was awesome. If you don’t believe me…. Read this.

But this year something had shifted. I was ready for the race’s physical challenge but mentally my mind was elsewhere. Perhaps it was because this year’s race calendar had been full? Perhaps I had been working a bit too hard?  Perhaps I just did not have “it”…. You know, the Mojo, the charm, the spell that usually takes over a few weeks before a race and BAM you are hooked and good to go.

I am not sure what it was last week that made me change my triathlon mind, but I did. And so I decided a week before my race to just NOT do it.

I should preface this by saying this behaviour is not in my character. I am not a person who backs down easily from any challenge. In life there are those of us who run into the burning building and those of us who run out. I would count myself the former.

Be it work or play, sport or shoe sale- I am someone who definitely shows up.

And so it was a bit out of character for me to BACK DOWN on this, the Penticton challenge.

Mentally how would I cope with the idea that for the first time in my relatively young racing life, I had walked away from a challenge?

On a practical note, what would I do this weekend? Here I was locked and loaded with endurance to spare and nowhere to put it?

The practical solution came easy.

Vancouver has many a race every weekend. Could I compensate for my Half assed Iron man with a three-day event that would make up the distance?

Certainly. Could I “mix and match” a series of races and come up with the 70.3 miles of swim, bike run without ever leaving the Vancouver lower mainland?


This past weekend Vancouver was hosting the Lululemon Sewheeze half marathon.  I bought an entry bib (or shall I say and entry bracelet?) from some lovely girlfriend on Facebook and spent 4 hours in line on Friday morning at the Seawheeze pop up store in search of the perfect racing outfit.

Do not judge my sisters… I was grieving the loss of my triathlon and trying to shop my was through my decision. Retail therapy is genius.

And so on Saturday morning, I suited up with 10,000 other sisters… believe me there were maybe 100 men in this race- Seawheeze is an estrogen fest to run for glory.

The race was a glorious one and I must admit- indeed it erased any doubt in my mind regarding my triathlon misgivings.

I had a good run (not a great one) and my medal matches my outfit. This cannot be wrong in any universe.

ON Sunday, legs a bit weary, I strapped on my cycling shoes and Bella (my bike) and I raced the demons away in Coquitlam at the Mountain Equipment Co-Op Century ride. Nothing chases away the devil like a 100km ride through the rolling hills of the Lower Mainland.

That is until 4 hours into the ride you find yourself walking up said hills with your bike because the 20% grade is meant for someone with greater stuff than I. By greater stuff I mean a motorbike or a drug doping scandal.

For some reason, the race organizers thought that a few very steep hills would add to the challenge. Make no mistake- I can bike a hill. Just last week, I cycled up Cypress Mountain.  I am not adverse to hills- I don’t; speed up them but I can do them (with a bit of Bitching and moaning to power me through). But a 17% grade hill followed by a 20% grade hill in the middle of the race is really the devils work.

There I was, in the middle of nowhere pushing my bike up a hill in bike cleats- this was the equivalent of walking in heels… to Whistler.

No fingers pointed- I signed up for this course….

I should say that as I write this, the memory of pushing my bike up a hill with bike shoes on is quickly fading. .

The scenery was epic.

My first half of the ride was glorious. My legs were stiff but I was ready. But 30km in- I lost touch with a pack and wound up riding the remaining race alone. “No, matter,” I told myself- “I ride alone all the time”.

The problem with riding alone on the country roads of Coquitlam was that MEC in their infinite wisdom had failed to mark the course clearly. Getting lost on a back road in British Columbia indeed tests the soul as much as it tests the legs. 

And so I spent 20km wandering through Coquitlam looking for race markers wondering whether a cab would drive out this far to get me.

It was indeed somewhere around the 70km mark that I faced my own HEART OF DARKNESS.

You see, I backed out of the Half Iron Man because I did not have the mental will for such a race. There I was with a half marathon run on my legs and 70km of bike riding behind me lost in Coquitlam with no cell phone coverage and somehow I found my way home.

I called my fabulous coach (who had likely finished the race an hour or so before) and asked for directions. Graciously- she let me rant and then talked me home. With new directions in tow- I made it safely across the finish line 90 minutes later- 120km on my bike’s odometer. This was a century PLUS ride and I had found my way.

I awoke Monday morning with a plan to swim 1.9km in order to complete my own personal triathlon. There was no need.

For some reason I had banished the doubt. I had washed away the urge to perform and had risen to my own occasion.

No evidence this week- but I learned a lot, my sisters about what it really means to be an athlete. As someone who always is a little slower than the pack- I often wonder if I am making the same mark as the others in the race.

But this weekend with a half marathon race and a century ride- I learned that in life- sometimes we do readjust our expectations and the world indeed accommodates. Sometimes a moment on a country rode is more significant than 8 hours of racing for glory.

Because in life as in any sport- it’s not how you start…. It’s not even how you finish…. It’s WHO YOU ARE along the way that makes the rubber hit the road.


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