It has been a whirlwind of racing the past few weeks. I had two races in one of the local race series and had a much improved bike segment and finished fourth in my age group in each race so was feeling a little more confident in my chances of getting onto the podium at the Gay Games.
Making me less confident was finding out that the guy that beat me for the gold medal at the previous Gay Games (2006, Chicago) was returning. My interrupted training and lack of taper added to my doubts about podiuming in my 45-49 age group.
Due to jet lag, I only had an hour's sleep before the triathlon. In retrospect I definitely should have done a better job warming up as I felt very sluggish during the swim. The start was a bit rough and after about 100 metres I saw a pair of feet, slightly faster then me, I wanted to follow. Problem was some dude, swimming the same speed as me on my left, was (unintentionally) blocking my attempts to angle toward those feet and yet was not drafting off them himself. Finally I just reached across his back with my right hand to grab his left shoulder and pulled myself forward and across his back toward those feet. All's fair in love and war. I followed those feet to past the half way point before I decided he was not taking the most direct route to the swim exit and forged my own 'as the crow flies' path.
Always a bit surreal is going from the swim to the bike. During the swim, I am isolated with my own thoughts, unable to verbally communicate, creating my own reality. Popping out of the water and there is the sudden sound of the spectators cheering and clapping. Abruptly I pulled from my internal world to the external. I very quickly strip down my wetsuit to my waist as I'm running as fast as I can -- too fast -- toward my bike. Perhaps twenty seconds later I'm at my bike and I feel totally sick. I don't know if it was the sudden change from horizontal to vertical (I'm a delicate flower and very sensitive motion sickness), my lack of medicinal cookie, jet lag and lack of sleep, or just running too freakin hard for 20 seconds, but I felt soooo sick.
Nevertheless, onto the bike course for 4 flat loops to make 40 kms. I couldn't push quite as hard as I would have liked because I was feeling so horrible. I was hoping it would dissipate during the bike, but no such luck. About 6 guys passed me during the bike and I figured at least 2 of them looked to be in my age group. I tried to go with them but they just rode away from me; my body was not responding -- it seemed more concerned with making me feel sick. I tried as best I could to mentally block out the nausea, but it was pretty fierce.
I quickly made my way through the second transition and out onto the run. Nausea still demanding my attention. I could see 3 guys about 15 seconds ahead running together. They became my target. Very slowly I started to gain on them. But pushing my body hard for over 2 hours was not making me feel any better. In truth I was feeling even more sick. My race became very much a mental battle during the run. My body was sending the hugest "lay down!" signals I've experienced in quite some time, but I kept telling myself that "bronze is just ahead, keeping digging, Buttercup". In fact, I had no idea in what position I was, but I needed that potential to exist to keep the hurt on.
One of them dropped of their pace and I caught and passed him at about 2.5 kms. I was in a world of nearly all consuming nausea by that point and forgot to look to see his age. I kept pushing as I slowly gained on the other two. The were running shoulder to shoulder and I caught them just before the half way point. I recognized one of them from the Out Games last year -- a young Danish guy (where he caught me on the bike, I didn't let him get away, and then outran him), however the other guy, a German, looked about my age. I passed them but the German guy did not drop. I could feel my pace dropping off and realized I forgotten to grab my gels for the run. The German guy came back past me -- I asked his age -- he laughed and said he "wasn't going to tell" -- bugger knew I was hurting and now he was teasing me -- but before I could say 'Bitch!' he laughed again and said "42" -- I said "go get 'em".
I made it to the finish line a hurting puppy and re-grouped with friends but I was pretty much a mess and they had to take care of me. Nausea, shaking, goose bumps. Martin, who won the overall race (again!) asked me a couple of times if he should get the paramedics but after about 20 minutes I was feeling much better and another 20 minutes later I would never have known I was sick at all. The body is a strange, perplexing, wondrous thing. At that point I was up to checking out the results board and was tickled to get a bronze medal in my age group. It made all the hurt worthwhile.
But my week of racing had only just begun -- the following days I raced the 10k road race (6th), 800 metre swim (4th), 5,000 metres on the track (7th), and 5k road race (bronze!). I then hopped on a flight home to race the following weekend in the Provincial long course triathlon champs where I finished 3rd and earned a qualifying spot on the Canadian team for the World Long Course triathlon champs in Las Vegas in 2011. Then the following weekend I won my age group at the Toronto Island sprint triathlon.
And now its taper time for Ironman Louisville. Less is more so that I'll arrive to the start line rested and ready to tackle what is widely considering the most difficult single day athletic challenge. In spite of losing 5 weeks of training in the spring and another week in early June, I'm feeling pretty fit -- but not as fit as last year, nor not as fit as I was hoping when I made my goal finish time of 12 hours. For that to happen, everything has to go right for me -- the weather cannot be oppressively hot and humid as is probable, I cannot have any mechanical problems, and most importantly I need my body to be having a good day and the side effects from my meds minimal. If all that happens, I can swim 1:20, bike 6:15, and run 4:15 and add 10 minutes for transitions = 12 hours.
But that is not my primary goal. Getting to the finish line before the midnight cutoff is the goal. It has been as much an emotional journey as physical during these months of preparation and I will do whatever it takes, I will never give up and am willing to go deep, deep into an unknown world of pain to accomplish my goal, to cross the finish line. There are only 2 ways to leave an ironman course -- across the finish line or by ambulance. Which will it be for me?
You can follow me online on Sunday August 29 at www.ironmanlive.com.