...is to see how far you've come. When I switched into running shoes and made my way out of T2 I had travelled 114.4 miles along my ironman route, and yet was back at the beginning. That's the irony of transition. You labor and strive and progress and then you return to where you began. However, the beauty of it all is that each return to the start brings a marked change in your perception of where you began. Wetsuits in heaps, bikes askew with dramatically less shine, aero bottles empty, some hearts charging forward, some relenting to call it a day, all 2/3rds iron.
114.4 miles of iron, hundreds of miles of training and millions of miles away from the days of having my five year old virtue sold for Monopoly money. That's a lot of miles. Tiring at times, crushing at others, refreshing yes, and at times downright ecstasy producing. When someone sets your value at play money, it takes a fairly long journey to prove them wrong, and to find what is right. I spent a lot of years trying to persuade those people, and thereby hopefully myself, that I was worth more then what their currency allowed, but in an economy of hate, it is very difficult to find purchase to move forward.
Training for ironman resets the table. If you allow it to, ironman is a forge that will burn away even the most encrusted dross, it is fire and pressure that can crack the most stubborn chains, and for me it was a tool used by a masterful God to set me free.
I love C+
Hyphen Girl came home with her report card yesterday. A brilliant montage of A and A+, "she's wonderful" "an asset to our 7th grade class", "a pleasure to teach". all hidden between the back seats of the minivan. I found the report card this morning and brought it inside beaming with pride at my 13 year old daughter.
"Holy buckets of ice, HG, you smoked your report card!"
"But I got a C+ in math".
Here by a peculiar twist of fate my daughter was missing the awe of the forest due to the prescence of one struggling tree.
In my old economy of hate there was only my shortcoming of B+ in a montage of A's. That economy was miles ago, and that is why I could grab HG up in a bear hug and express to her how very proud I am of how hard she works, what a beautiful, kind young woman she has become and how much I love her.
I am not them. I spent years playing by their game, struggling against their poverty of value, and yet, thank god, never entirely selling out.
Perhaps this is why I could swim amongst the waves smiling and tossing with the seas. I had nothing to prove. Perhaps this is why I could cycle along, largely unimpacted by my diminished average speed. I had no contraints on time. Perhaps this is why I arrived at transition with a smile on my face and a little laughter with the volunteers. Life was beautiful and I felt at peace. Perhaps this is why, following that first peg leg mile of running I began to fly. Mile after mile clicked by with the gracious help of volunteers and spectators. I only allowed myself to contemplate the next mile, resisting the urge to look at the big picture until it had shrunk to one mile remaining. I ran each mile, pausing to power walk the aid stations.
Cola, chicken broth and sugar cookies are my new best friends.
Ok, that would be lame, but oh how those three things carried me along. In spite of Gatorade being a primary sponsor on the course, the aid stations served C-O-L-A, but a tired brain doesn't really care where the caffeine is coming from, only that the stimulant is there. At mile 4 I picked up with Collette, a massage therapist from Carolina. She asked me if this was my first Ironman and what I would do with a nauseous stomach. I told her that it was my first attempt, and I had no idea, but that cola was handy at helping you burp and as far as I know, there is nothing so satisfying as a nice burp when your stomach is queasy. (learned that with 160 weeks of morning sickness). She and I ran along together, up to the park and back toward the 13 mile turn around. At about mile 10 she expressed concern that the turn around was enough to make her want to quit, or at least that's what she feared. No chance, just get back to mile 14, then there is no turning back. Besides, we were dressed like twins with black shorts, blue singlets and pink running hats, my twin and new found friend couldn't quit. We lost each other at the turn when I stopped to chat with The Tribe, but she finished in 14:04. Yea!!
Understandably impossible, I felt as though I was running slightly down hill with the wind at my back through the entire marathon. Everytime I thought about stopping to walk, it just seemed easier to run. I planned to run until I couldn't run any longer, but that time never came. There was no wall, no fatigue, I ran as if the weight of the world had been pulled off my shoulders.
I ran across Iron Jenny and Robo Stu, then Kahuna and Tridaddy, how fun is that?! On the second lap I ran along with Triboomer, and Tridaddy, and Kahuna and I just kept running mile by mile. At mile 20 I called Taconitehubby to let him know I was at the turnaround and that I was feeling great. At mile 22 I ran across an oppossum, glad they were friendly. At mile 23 I watched a fellow athlete veer off into the road and oncoming traffic.
"Dude!" "Dude!" It was as if he had fallen asleep and was sleep running. My shouting jarred him and he jumped back onto the running route.
I called TH at 23 to let him know I was 3 miles out so he could deliver the kids to the Gatorade finish line.
At mile 24 I resisted the urge to reflect on the long journey to this place, knowing that I might break down crying hysterically and not be able to finish the course. Just one more mile. Just one more mile. I could now see the bright lights of the amusement park half a mile from the finish line.
Then, at mile 25 I could hear it. "Jane Doe, you are an Ironman"
I kept moving forward, but the emotion was starting to get to me. How is the world did I get here? The final mile closed quickly and I passed the turnaround point and headed up the finish chute. High fives and arms extended.
Go Trimama, Go! You made it! Go!
Then it hit me. Where are my kids? I have to find my kids. I was asking spectators, anyone, as I made my way up the finish helix. I didn't want to miss my kids. Then, at the top of the helix the finish line was finally visible. There was the huge inflated Gatorade. I glanced over my shoulder, no one was coming. I had the chute all to myself. Then I saw The Tribe! They came springing out to meet me and we grabbed hands and made for the tape. And all of that emotion hit at once. Every doubt, every don't quit, everything flooded like a Tsunami. I reached over to hug Hyphen Girl and SLJ, and I collapsed. Totally. The catchers ran to help. And I cried. The poor Tribe looked on dumbfounded, and Trihubby (who had volunteer access to the finish chute) ushered them aside, allowing the volunteers to take me through the finish area. With medal, and finisher bag collected, The Tribe rejoined me and Trihubby's hug allowed me to collapse and cry for a few moments more. I had done it! We had done it! I was an ironman!
I wish I could personally thank every one of you in the blogosphere for all of your help and encouragement. You made the training a wonderful experience and the finish line sweet.
To the Florida Tri Geek Alliance, you guys are just plain awesome. This week will go down as one of the sweetest ever! The only fault is that it was not nearly long enough. I love you guys! Wildflower makes parting do able, and may there be many reunions in the future.
To Kahuna, my music loving, tattoo buddy, life triumphing brother, thanks for bringing it all together and seeing us to the finish line. We got here on our own training, but how sweet it was to finish as a team. It's better than Everest, it's like the State High School championship.
To Trihubby, Taconite Boy. What can I say? None of this is possible without your love and support. Thanks for all the meals you cooked, the dishes you washed and the nights you gave up when I crashed way to early in the evening. Thanks for investing in all of my equipment, but far more for investing in me. You believed in me from that first "little" ten miler, and you believed in me in my first sprint last year. You encouraged me to sign up for Florida, never doubting I could make it. I couldn't ask for a better training partner, lover or friend. You are a great father and an incredible man. My life is richly blessed by you. And finally, thanks to my creator and God who allowed me these moments in time, who loved me enough to not leave me in an abyss but who graciously brings me daily through transition and into new life.