With a less-than-dreamy race under my belt, I thought it wise to revisit my original list of goals for some post-race perspective. Here’s the original list, along with the results from Ironman OZ:
• Get to the start = Done!
• Get to the finish = Done!
• Better my own best time = Nowhere near a PR.
• Set a new swim PR = Sorry Nick & Natalie, no cookies this time!
• Smile for the camera = I believe I did manage to smile more than I grimaced.
• Smile more than I wince throughout the day = Same as above; even though it hurt, the overall takeaway was enjoyment.
• Run a kickass marathon = Um, not exactly.
• Remember the words of support, motivation and humor from my friends, family & fellow athletes when I need them most = Heck yeah!
• Have the strength to push beyond my expectations during the high points and to pull myself out of the low points of the guaranteed roller coaster of race day = I did pull out of the lowest lows, though not as seamlessly as I would have liked. I didn’t have much energy to push during the highs – but in retrospect I now know I was getting MJ’s flu.
• Remain coherent enough to continue thanking the volunteers throughout the day, even/especially through the last miles of the run = Done!
• Make the top-five podium in my age group in an Ironman race = Not even close; I was 16th.
• Someday, some way, gain entry into Kona = This was definitely not my someday.
• Forget about all these goals during the race and simply swim, bike and run my heart out, to the best of my ability on that particular day = This one is a bit of a toss-up, but all-in-all I’d have to say I gave it what I had on the day.
• Make MJ proud = Done!
Of course, as I collapsed crying into MJ’s finish-line hug, she said she would have been proud of me regardless of the result – but she was particularly proud to see me keep on truckin’ despite feeling so lousy. Overall, I have to say I accomplished a good deal of what I set out to achieve. It’s easy to feel discouraged when a race goes awry, but it’s also important to keep it in perspective and remember how kickass it is simply to attempt, and complete, an event of this magnitude. It is not exactly normal, nor anywhere near commonplace, in the range of things a person might choose to do on a Sunday.
I’m also certain that my lackluster performance was in no way a reflection of MJ’s coaching. I was in great shape and perfectly prepared for the event – both in terms of my physical fitness and the mental and emotional support she provided – and I would follow her IM training plan again in a heartbeat. My problems stemmed from my Achilles injury and the onset of illness – in fact, I’m writing this one week post-race and almost a full week into my own battle with the flu.
It’s been a long while since I've had a truly good race and a good result. It can be hard to swallow a disappointing race, especially an Ironman, when so much time, energy and expense go into one single day. But “good” can mean many different things, and what I experienced in Australia will certainly provide good learning for my future races – along with a handful of life lessons that are not to be undervalued. While out on the run course, in some of the darkest moments, I decided it was time for me to "retire" - that perhaps I am too old for this, perhaps I no longer have the competitive drive and physical talent of my earlier years in the sport. But anyone who's ever raced an endurance event knows that these feelings are both incredibly common and exceedingly short-lived. All that hoo-hah goes out the window within 24 hours of crossing the finish line. As a matter of fact, I’m opening my calendar right now to look for my next race…