(Ironman Race: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running. 140.6 total miles of hell. Yes, all in one day.)
- I spent the long weekend down in lovely Panama Beach City, FL watching two great friends complete their first Ironman race. Knowing how difficult and challenging a day it is, both physically and mentally (which is why you’ll never find me signing up for one!), I’m inspired and awed by them.
- And speaking of which, my friends had the best IronAttitudes around! They were always smiling, always — no matter how tired or hurt or sore — happy to have the opportunity to be out on the race course enjoying this day that they had earned through sweat equity, which is a testament to what awesome people they are.
- I was a volunteer IronStripper. Well, I suppose the official title is “wetsuit peeler” (I like the sound of stripper better … I’ll never again have such an exotic life). And it was fun! I was a little grumbly about volunteering, but I’m glad I was peer-pressured into it because it was an amazing experience to be a small part of helping the athletes achieve their goals.
- After seeing athletes of all shapes and sizes out there, a part of my brain thinks, “Well, Laura, you know you could do this too…”. Luckily, the rest of my brain, the sane part, shuts down that thought process before it can get me into too much trouble.
- Probably the most heart-breaking moment of the race was seeing the athletes who didn’t make the swim cut-off (all athletes had to be out of the water 2 hours and 20 minutes after starting). One woman missed it by less than a minute, probably less than 30 seconds. To be SO CLOSE and then not get to continue on the race that you likely trained almost a year for? I cried my own tears of regret and pain for her.
- While this doesn’t make me want to do an Ironman (or even any triathlon, really), it does make me want to get back into shape. I’m realizing that my identity as an athlete isn’t just something left over from my younger days, but something that’s a part of me that I’ve really been missing. Like a chunk of my soul has been in hiding, but I’m ready to try and coax it back out into the light.
- I am SO DAMN PROUD of my friends. They earned that medal and so much more (they got pizza, too!) — they earned the right to feel special knowing that so few accomplish what they did. And I was privileged to be a part of their day.
- The most difficult part of my day was all the IronMathing I had to do: given occasional split times from the course, I calculated out where they would be at any given time and that really hurt my brain. I might need another day of recovery before I’m back to normal.
- A funny IronStory: we were sitting in the host hotel lobby for a bit before heading back out to the course, and all of a sudden a very fit, very anxious athlete runs by in his socks, shouting at the man behind the front desk: “Room 541! Room 541! I need my key — I forgot my running shoes in the room!” I felt so bad for him (though not bad enough not to have a laugh at his expense), but he was luckier than most seeing as how he was staying in the same place as the transition area. Any other situation and his race would have been over. Or he would have run a marathon shoeless, I suppose.
- If you ever have the opportunity to spectate at an Ironman race, you should do it. It’s an amazing experience watching ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Once the elite athletes are done and probably napping, the finish line is where you witness the sheer jubilation that comes with the culmination of months of training into one very long day of racing. The unmitigated joy, utter exhaustion and a dozen other emotions, rushing over the athlete’s face as they run down the finishing chute … wow. You’ll have goose-bumped arms and be awestruck, guaranteed.
- All I can say is that this IronDay was one of the best ways that I could have spent my vacation time. Being around friends, cheering them on, sharing in their IronCelebration — really, is there anything better?
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