Tuesday, August 30, 2011

IM Canada Race Sentiments

No racing logistics in this post, just feelings...before I forget. First of all, unlike full Vineman and IMCDA, where I also failed to go under 10 hours, I feel no shame or embarrassment. In the last three weeks, I've come to learn that racing an ironman is a part of life, but not life itself. Just like at full Vineman, I went into Canada totally confident in my training, my strategy, and my ability to break 10 hours or at least come very very close. At race check-in, once I learned that I was #1000, this feeling of "this is oh-so right" came over me. This was going to be the race. I can't think of a better mentality to carry into an ironman.

Race morning, my attitude felt just like it did at IMOZ, my best ironman. Jill and Taylor left a note on my transition bags wishing me good luck, and to suffer...it was a good start to the day. Everything was just in sync and I conducted everything I needed to do in a calm matter, and I carried a quiet confidence. I never felt rushed and I was at the swim start early so that I could swim out into the lake. Once I was about 200 yards from shore, I took a moment to pray for my friend Jeff, and to have a quick chat with mom (as I'm accustomed to doing before almost all of my races). Then I headed back to shore and not long after, it was go time!

I remember rounding the last buoy of the swim, and thinking, I nailed the swim. Each time, it felt hard, I focused on the task at hand, I tried to keep my stroke long and strong, or I tried to inject some speed to make it even harder. Jeff popped in my head and I thought, as promised, I pushed that swim, even when it hurt.

Ironically, though my bike race was unfortunate, there were a lot of highlights. First, so many competitors came up on me and said, "YOU HAVE THE COOLEST NUMBER!", and they were so genuinely excited that it always filled me with that ironman race magic that competitors give to each other. Second, a guy (John) comes up on me and he looked over and said, "I read your blog and I like the stuff you write about" or something to that effect. John and I have been racing against each other for probably over 12 year, but I've never spoken to him because race day always brought on our game faces. When John took the time to shout what he did to me, when I was feeling horrible, it gave me a much needed boost. Also, I've always had so much respect for John as an athlete (this guy can ride and run like a banshee) but like I said, game faces just always made things a bit too intimidating. So John, if you are reading, thank you for telling me you like my blog, I have mad respect for you and that compliment, paid at that moment, did more than you probably know. I was in awe of the women out there on Sunday. I've never seen so many women mix it up with the boys and come out on top. One woman came up on me and she took the time to say, your pedal stroke looks so smooth and beautiful. I struggle a lot with cycling, and I have never considered myself a cyclist. To be told that I look good on this machine that I've always thought I had no affinity was a bit shocking to hear, but injected me with some good race mojo. And finally, I've never ridden a bike course that was so well spectated in the least likely of places, deep deep into the course. There were TN multisport athletes dressed in speedos and afros, and of course, there were Taylor and Jill telling me to suffer more!

I was in a world of hurt coming into T2. My initial thought was I can't run a marathon after barely making it through the bike, and throwing up all of my nutrition. Once again, Jeff popped in my head, and that's all I needed. I was going to finish at whatever cost (other than death, I've come close to learning that lesson and never again). For the first time, I wish the course wasn't so well-spectated. I knew a good ole vomit-fest was working its way up, and sure enough, right at the crowd tipping point, it all came out. But rather than hearing, eeewww or gross, I heard so many people shout to me, "You got it out, now start running! You can do it!" I was carried on by the crowd for the remainder of the run. And as I ran, I saw friends, or newly made friends from the bike ride, and with each exchange, my quiet confidence came back, and so did my enjoyment and love for this sport and the people. I saw my teammates, and knew they were struggling, but they were keeping up the good fight, like I knew they would. On the way back, I saw John ahead walking, very unlike him and his mad run skillz. I wanted to return the favor and give back to him the strength he handed to me on the bike. I slowed, patted him on the back and asked if he was taking care of himself nutritionally, and I told him he doesn't have to prove anything to me, I've seen him crush dreams on the run. And then further up the road, I saw my friend Tyler, who is doing his first ironman. Tyler is a former college swimmer and he has a HUGE engine. I was actually shocked to see him walking, he is just so tough. I made a decision to break my goal of not walking once I got to him to exchange some words, I mean, when are we ever going to be in THIS moment again. After Tyler, with each person I passed, some memory of the past three years of trying to break this damn 10-hour barrier and getting a Kona slot would pop into my head. Without knowing it at the time, I guess I was saying goodbye to this 3-year project, and leaving it all out on the course. My walk down memory lane was brief as I entered another world of hurt between miles 22-24 and I just focused on not walking and getting to the finish. And then when I heard the announcer say that I had a chance to break 11-hours, the mushy, sentimental stuff was replaced by an instinct to race, to get across that damn line under 11 hours. And I did with 29 seconds to spare.

8 comments:

Jill Costantino said...

SUPER congrats Mr. It was fun cheering for you! You are SO inspirational! Just think you've convinced Taylor to sign up for a 10k! AWESOME! Way to go out there. It was great meeting you in person.

Anonymous said...

Tran, you're a bamf. Hope to swap stories sometime next week! See you tuesday. happy training, bro.

Michelle Simmons said...

You really do have an amazing attitude! I have a very high level of respect for you. :)

GO 2 JAPAN said...

Kudos to you and all the wonderful energy you supply for those around you!

Libby said...

Love the joy and peace this post conveys. You are in a great place mentally it seems and I love that. In the end I've discovered its way more about the journey than the goal and theres way more cammeraderie when the focus is on the experience. Thats what I love about tri the most: that shared experience of suffering. Sometimes it amazes me how total strangers (and especially friends) can share such a moving connection on that special day called race day.

GoBigGreen said...

you know that 10 hours is going to come when you least expect it! I just know it will. Thats a hard thing to put away since its such a long day but i am proud of you for pulling thru and using such positive visualizations and thuoghts to get you thru the race!
You have alot more in you, I know you do. Its just a matter of time and 10 will be yours! Oops I mean 9:59:xx!

Matt said...

your one tough mofo, and always a smile to boot! Was fun hanging with you. Enjoy some downtime Buddy!

Charisa said...

Racing on heart is sometimes the best way.