Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ironman Canada 2009: Iron Wife

The plan for 2009 was to take a break from IM, to stick a bit closer to home, and to work on some DIY projects such as building a deck.

While I was fully embracing the 'vacation' from IM, D was feeling a bit wistful about the decision. I think we have Robert and Dennis to blame, and all those post run coffee conversations about racing and training...haha! I finally said to D "if you are not racing only because of your agreement with me, then I think you should just do it. But you still have to build the deck!" And so it began. :)

So this year I was happy to be in the role of Iron Wife- ultimate supporter and cheerleader extraordinaire!! As it turns out I had one of my most favorite IM experiences- not only because I got to cheer on my rock star hubby, but because I knew so many people racing and really got emotionally invested in their races!

We stayed in a gorgeous suite of a home up in West Bench. Our great friends JR and Hallsy hooked us up and it was perfect. Away from the noise, surrounded by nature and a big fenced back yard for H-dog. We arrived in Penticton Tuesday evening and after picking up some groceries unwound and relazed in our cozy abode. We spent race week pretty much relaxing, enjoying the IM hype (we embrace it!) and spending time with great friends. On Wed we were at the beach so D could swim and I ran into our friends, the Burgi's, we made when we were in Kona last October. I could hardly believe it was them- but the 4 little mini's Burgi's were a dead give away. I could write an entire post about these guys, we love them so much and it feels like we've been friends forever. We had a great catch up chat while the boys swam and then Tania and I went for a little dip ourselves. It was her first swim since last year and my first one since IM Calgary, but the water was so fantastic it felt great to be out there.

Friday I called my bud Hallsy to go for a ride. I had brought my bike all the way to Penticton, I had to at least do a ride! It was great to have a friend to ride/chat with. We toodled out to OK falls and back. It was hot, sunny and windy. Add the great conversation and I would call it the perfect day for a ride. I have to say that race week when you are not racing is really quite a gloriously enjoyable time!! lol.

We missed the carbo load dinner because they were sold out of tickets. I was a bit bummed since we love going to all the IM dinners etc, but we hit Earl's instead and had some Beers and Fries. My pre race secret- even though I wasn't racing I decided I needed to carbo load haha!
Race morning I was awake at 4am. I think I was worried the alarms wouldn't go off so I just laid there until 4:30 and then got up. I felt great- of course- since I had no pressure! D said he didn't sleep well (thanks to H-dog) but he was eager to get down to business. D had a quick breakfast and I enjoyed not having to force myself to eat that early. We headed down to the race site at 5am and I gave D a kiss, a go gettum and headed to find a parking spot. Just as I found a reasonably good spot my phone rang. The screen said "Husband Extraordinaire". Uh Oh. Someone forgot his bottles in the fridge at home. So off I went back up the hill to fetch them. I was so glad that I was able to be there to do it. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been if we were both racing!

Bottles in check, we kiss goodbye and I am off to find a parking spot. It is now 6am and the crowds have arrived. So I decided to drive out to the Starbucks on the highway and just walk in. At least I could get coffee :) I also picked up drinks for Tania and her 4 kids (yes 4) who were at the swim start holding a place for me. As soon as I stepped out of my truck I saw my friend Alan- everything happens for a reason! We had a little visit on the walk to the race start. On the way I found Hallsy and her friend Amanda and we all went in search of Tania and the kids amongst the throngs of spectators. Eventually we found them and joined them in their awesome spot. It was such a different experience to be on the other side of the fence. I could physically feel the nerves of the althetes looking out at the water and thinking about what is coming.

I didn't see Darin, but I did see my friend's Robert and Lorna. It gave me goosebumps and teary eyes, they had such a rocky journey getting there. Robert had heart trouble a few months ago and had to have his heart stopped and restarted to correct it. Certainly an acceptable reason to take a pass on IM. But he didn't. His wife Lorna crashed her bikes a few weeks ago and she had 20-some stiches and all kinds of bruising and soft tissue trauma. Yet she too was down there on the beach, ready to tackle one of the most physically gruelling one day events on the planet. Kudos to them.

So off they all went, and we headed to get a spot at the bike start. I was really greatful to be with Halls who knows the course like the back of her hand, and knows where and when to be in the best spots. We saw JR and D both starting the bike with good swim times behind them. D was out in 1:02, a PR for him! Then we picked up our vehicles and started out towards Richter. We had a few delays along the way and I was worried I was going to miss D. As it turns out I had just gotten out of the truck and walked about 5 steps when he came over the top of the hill. Woo hoo! He looked great and had a huge smile for me!

Next we headed to the out and back, but the drive took forever as we were on the race course and bikes were riding 5-6 wide, forcing us into the oncoming lane. I was so nervous about either running into oncoming traffic or taking out a bike I dared not lose focus for even a second! I didn't see D on the road on the way to the out and back so I knew he had beat me there. I parted ways with Hallsy and headed up to the exit of the out and back to wait. It was very hot! Thankfully I didn't wait long to see D coming up the road. Just like clock work! He still looked great and was eating a banana, so I knew he must be feeling ok. Off I went again towards yellow lake. I found a spot to park down Green Mountain road and ran up the hill to a steep part where I knew I would be able to see D. Once again it wasn't long until I saw a figure in the distance, standing up and dancing on the pedals. I knew it was my man and I was so excited to see him riding strong as previous years he had bonked on Yellow Lake. I cheered him on as he went by and then ran back down the hill, jumped back in the Jeep and headed into town via Green Mountain road. I made it to town at 1:00 and knew D was hoping to get there by 1:30. I went up to the house and checked on H-dog, then drove back down to town, jumped on my bike and made my way to the out and back on Lakeshore Drive to wait. D was there soon after, and I was also able to see both Robert and Dennis- all the GP boys rode strong! D was running at a blistering pace and I said a prayer that he wasn't going out too hard.

I was starting to feel a bit bonky myself as I hadn't eaten since my Starbucks breakfast sandwich. I headed out on Main street and realized I would not be able to catch D before he left town. I called Hallsy to see where she was and it turns out they were only a block up- eating- and they had extra to share!! Woo hoo!
We sat on main street for a while and I was able to see a lot of people I know running. Chris looked rough but was moving forward like a trooper. Katie flew by running like the wind. JR came by and smiled for the camera.

Hallsy and Amanda headed to OK falls to the turn around and I headed out on the run course to meet up with D. I knew I wouldn't beat him to the turn around so I did some math in my head and figured I could catch him about the 18 mile mark. I got to the marker, parked my bike, took off my helmet and minutes later saw a figure running towards me that I knew was him. He was still running like an animal and looked sooo strong. I gave him a yahoo and headed up the road back towards town. It was great to see more people like Robert C and Jill. I made to mile 22 and stopped for a pee/water break. D came through right on time, and I told him I hadn't seen anyone in his age group up this far. I took off on my bike again and soon came upon a guy who was indeed in D's age group. I waited a bit and when I saw D coming told him to catch that guy!
I could tell he was on that fine line- he looked like he was putting everything into keeping his pace and I prayed he'd hold on.

I zipped into the out and back on Lakeshore, ditched my bike and bag and waited to see D. When I saw him come around the corner I knew he was hurting bad and he started to walk. I ran up and yelled "don't walk! You just have to run to the end of the street and back- GO!" he started jogging but I could tell he was seriously close to falling off the edge. I jogged a little with him and let him go. I saw him take a gel, I guess he knew he was on "E". After the turn around he was walking again. I ran up and yelled- run!!! You are so close just keep going- count your steps, one foot ahead of the other, gooo! He started jogging again and about 400m from the finish stopped and put his hands on his knees, bent over. I ran over and grabbed his arm, practically throwing him up the road. I could see his eyes were going in different directions and I knew that the lights were on and no one was home. I could also see another guy coming up behind that I suspected was in his age group. Run babe! You are almost there! He started jogging again and got to the Power Bar arch when the guy passed him. I saw that he was, indeed, in his age group so I screamed one more time RUN!!! But I could tell that he was running on fumes. I was so happy for him to finish, 9:38 a personal Best and 3rd in his age group.

I met up with him and walked him to the massage tent where he just kept asking to sit down. It was so funny- he was really out of it and they kept asking him questions. He just kept saying 'can I just sit down for a minute?" " I just need to sit for a minute" Can I sit?" Poor guy.
Post race we headed back to the house, showered and D took a nap while I walked H-dog. I was anxious to head back down to see the rest of the competitors finish but I knew D needed to regroup. We eventually made it back down, had some great food (and beers for me) and cheered in a bunch of our friends including Jordan and Lorna. Watching all the competitors running that final mile really reminded me of how tough that race is. We didn't stay until midnight as D was fading fast and I was pretty tired too.

Being a spectator was such a good thing for me. I really needed the reminder of what it is all about, why I decided to start the IM journey in the first place and how much it has added to my life. I think I lost sight of a lot of the important stuff recently by focusing too much on results and time.

Monday we went down to the expo to pick up pictures and D bought us finisher jackets. There was no year on the jacket so I decided I could wear it :)
We then had a super fun day- we went floating down the channel, had an awesome lunch, bought lots of wine and enjoyed the beauty of a summer day in paradise!

The awards dinner was a blast. We sat with Danny and Tania and I laughed and smiled so much my face hurt afterwards. It was so fun to see D get his award (trophy, a new watch and MORE wine which we gave to the Burgi's). It was also awesome to see Jill on the podium and to hear Katie's name called (I cheered so loud!) even though she wasn't there.

D and I should probably have gone home and packed up for our long drive home, but we cracked a bottle of wine and sat and enjoyed our last night and celebrated the end of the season. I think we even got a little drunk LOL.

D did qualify for Kona but opted not to take the spot. Prior to the race when I would ask him "what if" he said he'd decide if and when. After the race he was very clear that he was not going to take the spot. As he put it, he had left everything out on the race course and put his body through so much pain, he couldn't imagine doing it again in 6 weeks. I couldn't blame him for that, although I challenged him on it, just to be sure he wouldn't regret it.He said he was very happy with his day, and his whole season, and was ready to take some time off. It has never been his life goal or dream to do Kona, and after being there last year and seeing how hot, humid and tough it is, I can see why he wasn't eager to go.

After the race a lot of people, after congratulating him, were asking him all kinds of questions about how he trains. People we know and complete strangers. I thought it was kind of funny to hear him answer questions like who is your coach? How many hours a week do you train? etc. D is the antithesis of a type A triathlete. Let's just say if he posted what he does on a typical triathlon forum he'd get ripped to shreds. But then again I don't think D has ever even been on a triathlon forum, save for when I show him something I have read.

I think one of the reasons D does so well is because he truly loves training and racing. He doesn't get stressed out, or grumpy. He doesn't obsess or over-analyze. He approaches everything with a positive attitude and never gets hung up on what doesn't go right. He has fun, enjoys what he does and everything else is a bonus. (this is a concept I am still working on grasping).

D has never had a coach (except coach Troy haha), doesn't have a training 'program', he works an intense full time job that involves a lot of travel, and always puts his family before anything. He doesn't do swimming drills, bike intervals or track workouts. Anyone who looked at what he does would probably say it's all wrong, yet he consistently places at or near the top of his field. It's right for him, he's happy and we're happy so it is what works. And we have a fine looking deck to boot!

My goal for the upcoming year is to embrace this simplicity. To enjoy more and 'train' less. By that I mean continue to swim, bike, and run, but more because I want to rather than because I have to. I am going to run stairs and hills with my bootcamp, play with my neices, run dog intervals with Harley and bike with friends without regard to what a program says I should or should not do.

I might even hire my husband to coach me. LOL

Congratulations to all the people who overcame, endured and broke through limitations to train for and complete the Ironman. You are an Ironman for the rest of your life, it is an accomplishment that no one can ever take away from you. It is also proof that you can achieve anything that you dedicate yourself to 100%. Allow that realization to open up possibilities in your relationships, your career and your life!

But enjoy sitting on the couch eating junk food for a few days first :)


cherelli said...

Love your posts Amber, this was a great spectator RR, very positive. What an amazing Summer you have had, I hope you enjoy your Fall too. :)

Julie said...

Extremely well written, Amber! Yours is one of the few I like to read all the way through. :) :)

You and D are a true team -- I can just picture you trying to will him across that finish line before that other guy! Man, that's love! :) :)

Charlie Browne said...

Nice to meet you out there and way to go D!

Kelly B. said...

Shoulda grabbed his butt...that would of put a hop in his step those last few meters!!
Good job cheering! And good job Darin!! I was SOOOO excited he might go to Kona...but you gotta do what's right for you!!

Runner Leana said...

Great job on being a fantastic spectator. Sounds like you had a great day! Congratulations to D on an amazing race!