Always say "never"

After years of screaming "I'll never train for or do an Ironman" I broke my rule. I should have known: "Nevers" always come true.

Originally I was going to do The Grand Columbian International Long Distance (“Nice”) and upgraded in August to a Full just to see what so many of my friends had experienced.

So my goals were pretty rudimentary: experience it, finish it, have fun and no GI probs.

It was a very intimate race—about 65-70 IM racers; only 10 of them women (I’m no dummy!) I did have to figure out a way to break the size of it up into bite sized pieces--something I figured out in the 11th hour. Originally a sprinter, the process of working up to Long-D has been a challenge, but rewarding.

On race morning it was 45d but clear; the water was in thigh 60's, and the swim was beautiful—we were surrounded by rock cliffs and sun, and at the swim Go!, a fan of birds took off into the sky right over us, which you could see when you breathed to the left. Water was smooth, beautiful (warmer than the air) and I had no panic attack, the latter helped along by keeping an eye on the natural beauty.

For the bike I did something I picked up from Coach Gordo's web site which I HIGHLY recommend. I broke the bike up into four sets of 28 miles. Ea. time I reached 28 mi. I set my computer back to 0. Let me tell you--that made the bike almost painless! I get so overwhelmed by all the miles to go I can snort and trantrum for hours.

There were some nasty (typical) headwinds but the scenery is primal and open and freeing. And the smell of sage. Delicious. So the bike ride goes by and the second quarter is always the hardest, psychologically. At 60 miles I picked up my special needs bag and filled my bento box with roasted almonds, spice drops, pringles, a few peaks of dark Toberlerone chocolate, a water bottle filled with Coke (and one with Perpetuem), and called the 3rd 28 my "cocktail party." Yes, there were winds, and I peddled downhill going 15 mph—but the last 30 miles were along the river, with the bordering cliffs, tail winds, a few eagles, no flats and it was a spectacular end to the bike.

The run. Sigh. The run. The first half went pretty well. I got a funky (*new!*) achilles twinge that made me wonder what I was in for but I stretched my calf and it subsided. The weather was obscenely kind to us—in the low-mid 60s, a clear evening, no heat. I’d rather run on a path, gravel included, but when I saw my time I was finally convinced that gravel is slower. Duh. I broke the run up into mile increments, dedicating each mile to someone in my life, wishing something positive for them; but by the 18th miles I was just pulling them in pacers and practically arguing with them. (I think I told my dead beloved grandmother that she wasn't helping and had to send her away; she was a worrier).

The piano fell on the second half of the run. Especially the last six miles--a whole 10k, no way! The last five felt hopeless; at four I thought I was going to pass out; at three I was channeling past relatives I've never met; at two I was thinking, "Last Ironman Ever" but I was also looking with awe at the lit wall of rock cliffs along the Columbia, and using my light stick to point to the stars and the big dipper so the runner behind me wouldn't miss them. And then there was the laser light show on the wall of the dam as I ran from the path up to "ground level."

So in retrospect, what I remember more about the run was the beauty of it—the sky at dusk, the smell of sage, the rock walls, the stars, the big dipper, the light show. The pain is a distant memory and I am only regretful that I don’t have a spot at Ironman Canada.

Final score: Swim: 1:01 Bike: 7 1/2 hrs Run: 5:11 Total 13.55
It was a strangely grand adventure.

But now I know …