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.

1 comment:

LeAnn said...

Youre an awesome athlete Bruce. Pretty fast one too!!! I liked to do one, anyone, in the next coming years. Just to say I did one and move on. I remember looking at Honolulu marathon and going...I cant possibly do that? But I did it twice. Yes, anything is possible!