Welcome to my blog which focuses on my life in Taiwan.
(Photo: Cheng Ching Lake (澄清湖), Kaohsiung)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Reflections on My First Ironman
I participated in my first Ironman in Kona, Hawaii in 2004, nearly four years after I took up the sport as it were. Initially I only did the small and free races (Peaman, Mango, etc.) and my first bike cost me about $6 (an amalgamation of different pieces of junk). I was a volunteer in Hawaii who could not work there and so I started really small. The first time I paid any money on a regular basis was when I joined the local Masters swim workouts. I learned a lot from that, especially from the 101 classes with Steve. In late 2003 I at last bought a second-hand Kestrel, which in spite of being ideal for someone about 6 inches shorter than me, at least looked sufficiently good to get me through the cycle check-in at any "proper" race (i.e., the ones that everyone did, in spite of the relatively high entry fees). I qualified for the Ironman by racing at the Olympic distance (the first Honu race). Had it not been for the shorter distance (I was relatively fast at shorter races), I would not have qualified. There were several other contenders for slots who were much better over longer distances like a half Ironman. I had hoped to finish in 15 hours, and I still thought I would after I finished a hard and windy bike ride and my feet hurt so bad I had to sit down in the changing rooms for at least ten minutes. So I only started the run at almost 5 pm, but I thought I could make it in about 5 hours or so. However, after about 5 miles, which I largely walked, my stomach hurt quite badly and I told my family when passing by that "it would be difficult". I struggled and become more and more devoid of any kind of energy. Many chicken soups around miles 8 to 10 (around Palani going up) probably helped. I walked and plodded on in the dark. I entered the Energy Lab at about 9 pm, just as Harry was coming out. He was worried for me, although he still thought I had a chance. I knew I had a chance, but I had to try really hard to go faster than walking pace. Leaving the Energy Lab at 10 pm, I still had 7 miles or more. I ran fairly consistently down to the Costco turnoff (Hina Lani), as I had no choice otherwise. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I made it to Ross at the top of Palani (at about 11:23 or so). Now I felt I should be able to make it, and eventually I did, but with only 17 minutes to spare. When I reached the chute, I did not have a set of acrobatic leaps planned. In fact, I was concerned I might just collapse from exhaustion and get all dizzy from looking around at everyone. I also felt a little ashamed, since I was one of the last to finish (maybe only a dozen more after me). Surely I could have done better than that. However, here I was, momentarily making contact with the crowds, but knowing that I still had more to do - to get to the medical tent alive. It is hard to know how to feel when you seem completely out of your depth. I had had a lot of successful little races, but I had never put myself through something like this. For some it had seemed so easy, yet for me so difficult, yet I did it. At the awards dinner the next day, I truly understood the meaning of "Anything is Possible." Now I wonder what is the next challenge that lies ahead.
I was born and grew up in the south-east of England, and as a child was a keen golfer. During my first year at university as an economics student, I became very drawn to Asian students and their respective countries. This led to further studies in the economics of developing countries and later the study of the Chinese language in Taiwan. In 1985 I married Hsiu-chin, and while we made Taiwan our home, we also lived for several years in Hawaii. It was there that I took up triathlon, completed the Hawaii Ironman in 2004 and took part in many smaller races. While I have gained much experience as a translator of Chinese, over the years I have developed a passion for other East Asian languages and cultures, including, but not limited to, Thai and Japanese, as well as other Chinese dialects. We currently reside in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where I continue with language learning and triathlon training.